“Tell me again why I let you talk me into these things,” John said, crossing to the windows. He pulled the sheers closed, followed by the heavier drapes.
“It’s obvious, John. You have more —”
“Experience, yeah. Meaning I’m not about to do something stupid, like forget food,” he said, firing a smug grin at Sherlock, who gritted his teeth and tried to ignore it. He made few enough mistakes that he could let John get away with a little teasing, or so he told himself.
Always cautious, John examined the faint gap where the curtains didn’t quite meet. He folded one curtain over the other and used his foot to slide a stack of file boxes up against the fabric, pinning it in place.
Sherlock tried not to huff impatiently. John had been putting off the experiment forever, as if he had an endless series of excuses: long day at work, needs a hot shower, not one but several cups of tea, read the newspaper, and finally it was half ten and they still hadn’t begun. Any minute now, he’d notice the time and put it off until tomorrow, as he had for the past three nights. Sherlock needed to find a way to prevent that.
His first thought was to hide all the clocks, but that was absurd. They didn’t have any, because they both wore watches, carried mobiles, and had laptops — including the one that Sherlock had set up for the experiment, complete with a screen resolution that could be read across the room.
John turned away from the second window, brow creased in a frown. Frustrated, Sherlock jumped down from the back of his chair and went right for John, thinking to drag him into the experiment before he could say another word. He’d done this so many times before, overwhelming John (and anyone else, truth be told) with his very presence. It was, he had learned, the easiest way for him to get his way.
But a small instinct tugged at him from what he was learning to call his dino-brain, that primal, animal voice that urged him to forget his martial arts and bite fleeing criminals instead or (worse, in Sherlock’s opinion) made him want to bury his face against John’s neck and inhale the scent of his pack leader.
Neither of them had forgotten the incident with John’s laundry, for two very different reasons.
That instinct prompted him to clamp his mouth shut before he could order John to get on with the experiment already. He looked away, watching John with his peripheral vision instead of looking at him directly, and lowered his head, turning slightly to expose the side of his throat.
John went very still. Sherlock could feel his attention suddenly sharpen, focused entirely on the pulse beating just beneath Sherlock’s skin. John opened his mouth to speak, but just sighed instead. He was close enough that his breath slid over Sherlock’s throat, sending shivers down his spine.
“All right,” John relented, walking past Sherlock as he unbuttoned his shirt. “Let’s get on with this. That is, assuming you remembered food.”
Sherlock snapped, “Of course I did.” He went right for the kitchen, trying not to think about that shiver, trying not to watch as John pulled off the rest of his clothes as he prepared for the change.
“Danger, hurt, chase, hide — A bit pessimistic, aren’t you?” Sherlock asked, skimming the list of words that John had typed up for their initial language development session.
John looked at him, and there was no way a velociraptor could possibly be that expressive. But Sherlock could read his disapproval in the subtle way his crest feathers slicked tight to his skull. Then John cocked his head to eye the page Sherlock had filled out, before his yellow-gold eyes flicked back to regard Sherlock with disdain — or as much disdain as he could summon while covered with feathers. Surprisingly, it was quite a bit.
With an irritated sigh, Sherlock said, “Fine. We’ll work on your list first.”
John hissed briefly and walked to the computer, careful to keep his scythe-claws raised. One errant touch would shred the carpet and score Mrs. Hudson’s hardwood floor. He had to bend his head almost straight down to see the keyboard. Watching him type with two claws was physically painful for Sherlock.
“You need to learn to touch type,” Sherlock snapped, disgusted, and sat down at the table. He turned the laptop so he could use the built-in keyboard, wondering what John had started typing. G-E-E-T-T-O-N?
Sighing at the nonsense, Sherlock cleared the word doc and said, “All right. Your list. Danger.”
After a moment’s consideration, John growled, crest rising sharply all the way down to his... Shoulders? Withers? Sherlock leaned back to look and rested a hand at the very base of John’s neck to feel the underlying structure of bone and muscle. Definitely withers, if he were referring to a horse, but the joint wasn’t designed similarly. Probably a vestigial remnant of wings — or would that be a precursor?
The sharper, heavier crest feathers dipped low over the back of Sherlock’s hand as John’s growl faded to a low rumble. His spine arched and dipped under Sherlock’s touch, pressing up against his fingertips, encouraging him to scratch the skin beneath the soft, downy undercoat. Sherlock turned in his seat to better reach along what he supposed counted as John’s shoulders. Someone had to have an anatomy chart of velociraptors, or at least dinosaurs in general.
That could warrant a trip to the museum. There was always something interesting hidden away at the museum. Of course, he wasn’t allowed into the British Museum anymore, but no matter. He could disguise himself with ease, and they’d never realize he’d been there until it was too late.
Sherlock shifted as John’s weight pressed against his leg. John was surprisingly heavy, for a velociraptor; Sherlock’s dinosaur-form was much more sleek. Perhaps it was a carry-over from their human selves?
The thought suddenly reminded Sherlock of an important question. “What color am I?” he asked John, looking down in momentary confusion. When had John’s ended up with his neck and jaw resting across Sherlock’s lap? And at what point had he put his free hand on the soft, fine feathers between John’s brow ridges?
John blinked before his head came up so abruptly that Sherlock jerked his hand back to avoid hitting himself in the face. They both looked away from each other. Sherlock felt his cheeks go warm and forgot how to breathe. John’s tail lashed in agitation.
Then, with a very expressive growl that sounded more like a cough, John stabbed a claw at the keyboard. He repeated the growly-cough-thing again and typed D N G R R.
With a sigh, Sherlock said, “They’re vowels, John. You’re not allergic to vowels. Let’s at least do this properly,” and began to correct the velociraptor’s spelling.
Thinking it safer than being in arm’s reach of his velociraptor flatmate, Sherlock was sprawled on the sofa. “Lithium.”
A velociraptor’s sigh, Sherlock reflected a moment later, sounded oddly human.
“Lithium,” he repeated, pencil poised against the appropriate square on the periodic table he was drawing (from memory) on his notepad.
John sighed again.
“That’s what we used for helium. Really, John, pay attention.”
He heard the sound of typing, but that wasn’t an answer.
Sherlock’s first impulse was to take away the laptop, but John seemed to respond better to persuasion, not commands, which was counter-intuitive, given his military experience. He was obviously taking this ‘pack leader’ business far too seriously. Still, Sherlock had used it against him successfully, and it wasn’t as if anyone else were around to witness.
“Please?” Sherlock asked, trying to sound less commanding, if not actually achieving a measure of politeness. “We did your list first,” he added, and heroically resisted the temptation to add descriptors to the mention of John’s list — things like Boring or Dull or Really, John, are you that paranoid? For god’s sake, we’re velociraptors — everyone ELSE should be screaming danger.
John coughed and hissed.
Sherlock noted a glottal stop under the atomic symbol for lithium before he realized it was a laugh, not a proposed word. He twisted to look over at John, who had his head cocked as he stared at the laptop.
Now, what? Sherlock wondered, rolling off the sofa. He went to see what John was doing.
To his horror, he realized John must have accidentally accessed the browser history (because he certainly had no idea to access it intentionally). There on the screen, in huge 640 x 480 resolution, was Sherlock’s web history. Peppered amidst the obituary searches and hacks of various pharmaceutical companies were very, very bad things.
Velociraptor mating habits, for one.
Not that it had produced any useful hits.
Accustomed to being faster than John, Sherlock reached out to slam the lid closed, only to freeze as John’s fang-filled mouth closed threateningly around his arm. John growled, and Sherlock fell to a crouch, shoulders hunched, head bowed, free arm pulled close to his chest, all before he even realized he’d moved.
When John abruptly let go, Sherlock shivered at the absence of hot breath through the silk sleeve of his dressing gown. He sat down on the rug beside John, painfully aware that doing so put him that much further below John’s height.
John’s muzzle pressed against his shoulder for a moment before he walked off, toe-claws clicking loudly once he reached the hardwood floor. Earlier, they’d pushed the furniture aside to clear a space for John’s change. Now, he laid back down in that space, curled up muzzle-to-tail, back to Sherlock, obviously preparing to resume his human form.
Sherlock turned, knowing he should go somewhere else and not watch, but he scooted to the very edge of the rug and sat there in his dressing gown and pyjamas, arms wrapped around his legs, and watched as John’s body changed, feathers disappearing into winter-pale skin stretched tight over muscles too well-defined for a pensioned, invalided soldier who got no real exercise other than keeping Sherlock from killing himself on mad chases through London.
When John rolled over, the darker tan of his arms and hands and face and throat seemed almost jarring. Sherlock reached out and ran his fingertips over the back of John’s hand and over the first tan line at his wrist, where the skin went from a slightly ruddy brown to a softer tone, and then farther up, over the soft skin at the inside of his elbow, to the much more dramatic line at his bicep.
The flat was absolutely quiet. Sherlock rubbed his thumb across that faded transition point — not the sharply defined tan line of, say, a wedding ring, because not all of the T-shirts John had worn in the desert were identical, despite being military-issue, or perhaps he’d rolled some of them up higher on some days.
His skin, Sherlock finally noticed, was surprisingly soft.
John’s inhale sounded very loud. He twisted around to look back at Sherlock, but didn’t move his arm at all. For once, Sherlock had no idea what was going through John’s head — no ability to read his thoughts in the subtle shifts of his facial muscles or the dilation of his pupils or the sound of his breathing. He fell back on generic knowledge, and it finally crept into his head that petting one’s naked, not-gay flatmate on the floor of the living room was not on the list of socially acceptable situations.
It probably wasn’t acceptable for a velociraptor, either, especially when the velociraptor being petted was one’s pack leader.
Though Sherlock had been petting John before, and he’d seemed to appreciate it almost as much as Sherlock had. For different reasons, certainly — Sherlock doubted John was at all interested in cataloguing the different qualities of his own feathers, which was all Sherlock had been doing. So perhaps petting was an incorrect term. Examining was better. More accurate.
Which was what this was, Sherlock decided upon further reflection. So he didn’t jerk his hand back as if he’d been stung, and even deliberately continued the touch for another three full seconds before he pulled his hand away, pretending not to notice as John went tense.
“Tea with your sandwiches?” Sherlock asked, standing up and stepping over John’s prone body to go get the sandwiches out of the fridge. John had made certain to lay in a good supply of food before the night’s experiments. He was useful that way.
“Um,” John answered helpfully.
Sherlock looked back, just as John was standing, and the image seared right into Sherlock’s memory before he could close his eyes and turn back — both of which he did do, though it was most definitely too late.
“Yeah,” John finally said.
“Go correct your typing. You have abominable spelling as a dinosaur,” Sherlock ordered, firmly telling himself not to turn around again until after John put some clothes on. His trousers were right there on his chair. What was taking him so long?
“I’m going to let you think about that statement for a while,” John said, his voice slightly higher and lighter. Hiding his laughter. Sherlock could picture every detail of his smile, the way his eyes crinkled and the corners of his mouth turned up, the way his head tipped back just slightly, and he turned to confirm his suspicions before reminding himself he hadn’t heard the rustle of fabric.
No, not at all.
Well, at least now he had a matching back-view image stuck in his memory, to go with the front-view.
“You didn’t show me this list before the experiment,” John said between bites of his sandwich. He looked at Sherlock over the edge of the notepad.
There were crumbs on his lip. Sherlock stared at them, counting them, and wondered if perhaps he were broken in some way. He should have been processing the results of their experiment, but he was apparently still in data-gathering mode.
“We both made lists,” he finally said, upon realizing a response was required. “It’s not my fault your list was so...”
“Given that we find ourselves courting death at least twice a month, I don’t think things like ‘run’ or ‘duck’ are boring at all.” John made an irritated gesture with his mug before taking a sip. The crumbs shifted, some of them disappearing, either adhering to the mug or getting swallowed or moved around, and Sherlock was staring again. “How often are we going to discuss chemistry as velociraptors? You do realize without thumbs, you can’t adjust your microscope or hold a test tube, don’t you?”
“You’re the one who picked the language experiment,” Sherlock countered, knowing it was childish, but it was the best answer he could come up with on short notice. “I wanted to go to Anderson’s house.”
“Yes, but think how embarrassing it would be to end up in a zoo,” John said, trying to sound sharp and failing miserably, because he was struggling to hide a grin.
“I can pick locks.”
“One, not with claws. Two, not if you end up naked in a cage, because your lockpicks would be in your coat pocket, hidden in the bushes at Anderson’s house.” Then he looked thoughtful, and the grin appeared fully. “Of course, you couldn’t get into nearly as much trouble in a cage. And Mycroft would come to collect you eventually.”
“What do you mean, me? You’d be right there with me.”
“Do I look like an idiot?”
“Shall we go back to our first date? I said danger, and you came running.”
“After your brother kidnapped —”
“Changing your mind about chasing Mycroft?” Sherlock asked hopefully.
“Did you say ‘date’?”
Sherlock stared at him, running back through his memory. Had he said that? He couldn’t quite recall, but he wasn’t memorizing everything. “No, day, night, of course, that is,” he said in a rush.
But John was still staring back at him, head tipped just a little to the right in that way he got when he was actually putting things together. Usually, Sherlock loved those moments, especially if the morons from the Yard were present, because while Sherlock could outsmart them simply by breathing, John was ordinary, and still smarter than any three of them put together.
Now, though, it was... disconcerting.
“Sherlock,” he said slowly, and three-quarters of the remaining crumbs disappeared as he licked his bottom lip.
Panic seized Sherlock. He had to stop himself from growling.
“I thought you’re not —”
“No!” Sherlock barked, because there was nothing John could say that Sherlock wanted to discuss. He rose, shoving his chair back across the kitchen floor. “You — finish eating,” he said, pointing at the remaining couple of sandwiches as he quickly went for the living room. “I need to process this.”
“Sherlock, I just wanted to talk.”
“No time. Mrs. Hudson will be up soon. Go get breakfast with her.” Sherlock snatched the laptop, disconnecting the external velociraptor-resistant keyboard, and turned back to go to his room.
John’s expression had gone all... all worried and all... expressive. “Are you all right?”
“Fine. Fine!” he insisted, eyes fixed on the laptop screen — not difficult at this resolution. He refused to look up again until he was in his bedroom, ignoring John’s concerned shout. He kicked the door closed and sank back against it with a sigh of relief.
Obviously being a part-time velociraptor was affecting him. He’d need to determine exactly how to best prevent this sort of... incident from happening in the future.
There had to be something useful on the internet. He was too old to be having some sort of... intimacy crisis. This had to be a simple, miswired response to pack dynamics — some holdover from his velociraptor-form. He was definitely not attracted to anyone, and that included John. The fact that he’d been touching John in both forms proved that, because it was obviously a scientific analysis of the differences between human and velociraptor skin.
Steadfastly refusing to think of his also-obviously-scientific mental snapshots of John (naked, seen in good light, absolutely nothing hidden), Sherlock changed the monitor’s resolution back to something much gentler on his eyes and opened a new tab to Google. Dinosaurs were very much like birds — feathers and all — so perhaps that was a better place to start.
Reminding himself to clear his cache and search history this time, he typed avian sexuality and pressed enter.
After three days of being trapped in the flat by rain and a lack of imagination on the part of the criminals of London, John usually stopped keeping track of Sherlock — a habit reinforced by the constant creation of noxious smells and odd fumes that sent John running from the flat with the warning that he wanted to come home to a standing building and not a burnt-out wreck. He was so easily manipulated, it was almost laughable.
Unfortunately, it was also a bad idea, at least on this particular afternoon. Sherlock’s grasp on the wrench slipped at just the wrong time, sending his hand skidding right into a bolt that must have been welded in place. He growled and glared at his bloody knuckles, twisting around on his back to look under the bed.
Rust. Of course.
That, at least, he could handle. Absently licking at his wounded hand, he jogged downstairs, wondering what would best break down the rust without damaging the structural integrity of the bolt. Then it occurred to him that he should probably also consider the finish on the bed, but had it been varnish or polyurethane or simply a patina of age and polishing oil?
The full moon was approaching, and now that Sherlock was accustomed to his velociraptor form, he wasn’t looking forward to being trapped in a cramped attic with its low ceiling. At least John’s room was a bit more spacious, once all the furniture was removed or made velociraptor-friendly.
Distracted by his thoughts and the taste of his own blood, he breezed right through the living room and started to assess the chemicals in the cabinet where John had put a skull-and-crossbones sticker. Hydrochloric acid should work fine, though he didn’t have much left. He’d have to paint it on and scrub with a toothbrush, which would be tedious. Or there was the solution of aqua regia — he had significantly more of that, but he vaguely remembered dissolving something gold in it. He’d have to precipitate it out, which meant a minimum of twenty-four hours.
Well, that was easy enough. It had been some time since he’d done this, but it was basic chemistry. He didn’t even need the internet or his textbooks. He found a pen and scribbled some notes on the table, mentally reviewing the process, and then started to gather his supplies. Once he had the gold out of the aqua regia, he could refine it back into an appropriate acid to break down the rust on the bolts.
“What’re you doing?” John asked suspiciously as Sherlock was carefully breaking pellets of lye into smaller pieces.
When had John got home? Surprised, Sherlock pinched one of the lye fragments with tweezers and moved it toward the beaker. “Precipitating gold into a solid state.”
John’s brows shot up. He looked at the pile of sodium hydroxide pellets skeptically. “You’re not wearing gloves. Or goggles.”
Sighing, Sherlock tipped his chair back on two legs and pulled open one of the drawers. There were gloves somewhere in the kitchen, though this was apparently the silverware drawer.
“Not there.” John pushed Sherlock’s chair back down onto all four legs and opened another drawer. After digging through the contents, he handed over thick black gloves and splash goggles. Sherlock hated both, but he took them anyway.
As soon as he pulled on the first glove, his hand started to overheat, and he just knew he’d end up dropping something, his fingers were so clumsy. Anyone else would’ve been satisfied with Sherlock wearing simple latex or nitrile gloves, but John knew too much about the chemicals Sherlock was using.
“We should tell Mrs. Hudson,” he said absently, tugging the goggles in place. He hated the gloves, but he absolutely loathed the goggles. They pressed against his cheeks and the bridge of his nose and inevitably gave him a headache.
As soon as he looked back down at the sodium hydroxide pellets, the headache hit, because his eyes attempted to focus on the minute imperfections of the plastic lens. He closed his eyes and pulled the goggles off, blinking.
“Tell — Tell her what?” John asked, turning to stand behind Sherlock, examining the gently bubbling beaker. The reaction had begun, but it wouldn’t really get started until the solution reached a pH of 2.8.
“About us. So we can be here, not upstairs.” He dropped the goggles and used the tongs to transfer another pellet fragment into the beaker. As it bubbled and dissolved, he reached for a small tab of phenolphthalein paper, only to knock over the whole stack. “John,” he complained, making an impatient gesture.
“I can’t work like this! Get me one of these test tabs.”
John came around the table, opposite Sherlock, and looked at him suspiciously. Sherlock stared at him expectantly, until John finally sighed and reached across the table to pick up one of the tabs. “I’m not holding it for you. I’d rather keep all my fingers.”
Sherlock almost snapped back that he would surely heal — though truthfully, he had yet to conduct intentional experiments on their ability to regenerate and heal — before he realized he didn’t want to take any chances with John’s health. “Set it here,” he said, gesturing to the table beside him.
John had to lean so far over that the whole table rocked. He dropped the tab approximately where Sherlock had indicated and immediately went back to fussing with the cabinets.
Sherlock frowned at him. Why hadn’t he just stood next to Sherlock, as he usually would? That was much more convenient for them both. Besides, they were packmates. It was appropriate. Comfortable.
He watched John for a few more minutes as he finished rearranging the cupboards, set up a pot of tea, and started heating a pot of beans. Then John left the kitchen, circling around the other side of the table, opposite where Sherlock sat... as if he were avoiding Sherlock.
But that couldn’t be. Could it?
No, Sherlock decided. He picked up the smallest pipette and used it to draw a single drop of the solution. John wouldn’t avoid Sherlock intentionally. He was probably just tired from shopping.
Or John was avoiding Sherlock.
That was the only possible conclusion, Sherlock decided two days later, after precipitating nearly an ounce of gold out of the aqua regia, burning two holes in the kitchen table, dissolving the finish off a silver plated cake knife, and ignoring all inquiries regarding abandoned wrenches under John’s bed. For two days, Sherlock had watched as John had kept a careful distance from him, minimum two feet. Most of the time, he managed to keep furniture between them.
Case in point, the kitchen table. One night, Sherlock deliberately sat right at the corner, his back to the cooktop, the sink to his right, and watched as John probably put an extra half-mile on his trainers going around the long way as he prepared tea and dinner. If Sherlock ate at the living room table, John ate in the kitchen. If Sherlock moved to the kitchen, John excused himself and went upstairs to his room, or went to read in his armchair.
The sofa might as well have been a crime scene. John wouldn’t go within three feet of it.
How had this happened? How had they gone from perfectly happy flatmates to packmates to... this? Even strangers weren’t this distant, were they? John was acting more like Donovan or one of the imbeciles from the Met, just without the whispers.
So Sherlock took to going out at night, from the time John came home from work until he went to bed. He’d neglected his contacts among the homeless. They moved around too much, sometimes leaving the streets to enter various programs or moving away or just disappearing. A network was like any living organism, requiring constant tending to ensure it stayed healthy and efficient.
And if he was occasionally targeted as easy prey, well, that wasn’t his fault. Even in human form, his nightvision was phenomenal, and while he wasn’t as strong or fast as he was as a velociraptor, he hadn’t spent all those years taking judo for nothing.
But he couldn’t keep giving John the space he seemed to need. In the days leading up to the full moon, Sherlock felt like he no longer fit properly in his skin. He became very aware of John’s presence in the flat, something he assumed was expected between packmates. Behaving normally became even more of a struggle than it usually was.
Three days before the full moon, his resolve snapped. He was throwing clothes haphazardly into a suitcase, focused on getting back home (and wasn’t that ironic, thinking of the family manor as ‘home’) when John asked, from the doorway, “Has something happened?”
Turning from the wardrobe with an armload of shirts, Sherlock looked over before turning quickly away. These days, even watching John seemed to make him uncomfortable. “Full moon,” he said tersely.
“I know. I was going to ask what you wanted from the butcher,” John said uncertainly, taking a single step into the bedroom before he stopped himself.
“Get what you like,” he dismissed, before remembering that John wasn’t very financially solvent, and meat was far from cheap. “Do you —” he began, before he cut himself off, wondering if the offer of money would wound John’s pride. Then he wondered if he was supposed to care, since obviously they’d gone back to being strangers sharing a flat, and the offer of a loan wasn’t out of the question. Was it?
“You shouldn’t be traveling this close to the full moon, Sherlock,” John said after a long moment of silence.
Sherlock looked up at him — he couldn’t help it — and then quickly looked back down. “I’m going back to the estate.”
This time, the silence stretched long enough for Sherlock to pack the shirts, go back for the jackets, realize there wasn’t enough room for even half the jackets (not to mention the trousers), and begin sorting things into wearable outfits rather than packing by category first.
When John finally did speak, his voice had taken on that quiet, dangerous tone that usually meant Sherlock had ruined furniture or dismantled some electronic device John wanted to use. “When were you going to tell me?”
“I just did,” he said, finally emptying the suitcase. He fit two full suits inside, before he took one out and exchanged it for an almost identical outfit. He’d only have room for one pair of shoes, so he had to pay attention to matching the colors.
“It didn’t occur to you that I’d need to make arrangements to just pick up and leave town for a few days?”
Sherlock almost looked up — he did pause in his packing — but he managed to stop himself. “Why? You’re staying here.”
He knew that he was overstepping his bounds by separating from John over the full moon period. Sherlock lacked the indefinable quality that had somehow elevated John to leadership of their pack of two. It had nothing to do with age, and he suspected it had nothing to do with John having been changed first. No amount of research Sherlock had done (and he’d done quite a lot) had given him any useful insight into pack dynamics for predators, flock behavior for birds, or any other sort of group social hierarchy. But whatever it was that made John pack leader, Sherlock didn’t have it, and he wasn’t about to force John to tolerate his presence while they were both locked in the attic for four or five nights in a row, not when John could hardly bear to be in the same room as him.
“No. Sherlock, whatever you’re planning, no,” John said sharply. He took a couple more steps forward but stopped, looking down at the bed, now covered with clothes and hangers.
“And why not?” Sherlock snapped, barely holding back a growl. “This wasn’t your idea, John. You were perfectly happy hiding in the attic by yourself, so you can go back to it.”
Eyes wide, John stepped back as though he’d been slapped. “Sherlock —”
“I don’t need you,” Sherlock said, enunciating each word as distinctly as the sharp report of a bullet. He abandoned his efforts to pack and walked out, sweeping past John, who made no effort to stop him. Who said nothing at all, in fact, as he stood in Sherlock’s bedroom, watching as Sherlock grabbed his coat and left to go find a taxi.
Running helped. Hunting helped, though Sherlock was complete rubbish at it on his own. He couldn’t even scare a rabbit to death, much less catch one without John to help, but he really didn’t care.
Sherlock starving to death would solve both their problems.
With vague thoughts that bigger prey might be slower than the ungodly fast rabbits, Sherlock retreated to the forest. He wanted to sink into his instincts, to let his intellect slip away beneath the simpler, primitive brain of the predator he’d become, but even that respite eluded him. It seemed he could reach that state under very specific circumstances, ones he scientifically understood — a proper hunt, fear, bloodlust — but he had very little desire to appreciate science at the moment.
Last week, he’d finally given in and watched some horrible werewolf movie. According to popular culture, werewolves apparently didn’t remember anything they did during the change. What he wouldn’t give for that blissful absence of thought.
Sherlock flopped down onto the forest earth, realizing that this was what his life had become: moping around his ancestral estate because he couldn’t catch a rabbit and was a dinosaur rather than a werewolf.
It was raining just enough to be irritating, though his feathers kept him insulated. He watched the earth move under the impact of the raindrops, but couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to watch with any real interest. The effects of weather, soil density, all of it seemed so meaningless. He closed his eyes and wondered if he’d still be a velociraptor when he died.
At least maybe they’d get the skeleton right. Hadn’t there been some sort of controversy with another dinosaur with too many vertebrae? He’d read that when he was... six? Seven? He’d never quite deleted it, even though it had no bearing on the work that had, up until recently, consumed his life.
Then something hit the ground right in front of his muzzle, splashing mud and cold rain, and he smelled blood and kicked up from the ground in surprise, snapping and growling as his primitive brain lit up with fireworks. He tracked movement and lunged, only to get entirely bowled over, claws pressing into his underbelly, and he swiped and snapped but still ended up with the top of his skull slammed into the earth and sharp fangs breaking through his feathers to touch the skin just under his jaw.
The growl, low and furious, was familiar.
Sherlock tried to thrash free, his human thoughts taking over, because he needed to see John. It wasn’t possible for him to be here. He wouldn’t — he had no reason to come here, not when he had the whole flat to himself, without Sherlock to upset him.
With another growl, John bit just enough to draw sharp pinpricks of pain along Sherlock’s throat. His thoughts scattered under the instinct to go very, very still beneath his pack leader. Despite the very real threat of having his throat torn out or his intestines dumped on the ground, something in Sherlock was... content.
John was here. They were together. They belonged together.
Slowly, John stepped back, retracting his scythe-claws. He released his hold of Sherlock’s throat and growled again, the sound higher and less threatening.
All right? he was asking, in the primitive language that they’d developed. As if it mattered. As if he still cared.
Sherlock twisted around, throwing mud and leaves everywhere, and butted his head against John’s chest, almost tripping John in his effort to get close. He smelled of blood, but not his, and of rain and grass.
John exhaled, breath ruffling through Sherlock’s feathers as he rested his head on Sherlock’s neck. Awkwardly, he reached out with one forelimb and scratched his claws through Sherlock’s feathers. Sherlock’s eyes fell closed and he coiled up more tightly against John, around his legs, tail pressed up against John’s back as if to try and hold him closer.
But John finally nudged him away, using his muzzle to push Sherlock’s head deliberately towards whatever it was that had startled him out of his earlier despair. Sherlock tried to ignore the implicit command, but John’s sharp growl got Sherlock to open his eyes, and he saw the small, bloody carcass of a rabbit.
John had brought him food.
Sherlock untwisted and pounced on the rabbit, pinning the carcass with one foot as he tore half of it free, jaws crunching through bone and muscle and fur. He tipped his head back and swallowed, making equally fast work of the other half. He looked back to see John watching him, head cocked in an exasperated expression that Sherlock would recognize no matter John’s form.
Sherlock wasn’t given to any sort of emotional display, outside the thrill of a new puzzle to solve. Now, though, he ran the three steps back to John and pushed up against him with a little whine of contentment and gratitude and something that might have even been apology, things that neither of them had thought to put on their lists.
Instead of pushing Sherlock away, John just crouched down, steadying himself against Sherlock’s weight, and rubbed his muzzle over Sherlock’s back. His fore-claws curved gently around Sherlock’s feathers, scratching at the skin beneath. It couldn’t have been comfortable, but Sherlock didn’t want to move, and John made no protest. He just stayed there for the rest of the night, holding Sherlock close, silently forgiving Sherlock for running away.