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Dog Days

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"And all of this because of some project from twenty years ago?" Major Barrymore sounded torn between disbelief and annoyance.

Sherlock nodded. "That, and a murder. Really, Major, I just explained it all to you, weren't you listening?"

The major glared at him. "Well, excuse me for struggling to accept that one of my most-trusted scientists was a murderer - and just after learning that he blew himself to bits on a landmine! You may not believe it but some people do find that kind of news upsetting, Mr Holmes."

Sherlock shrugged, supremely unconcerned by the man's demeanour. It was hardly the first time someone had accused him of being unfeeling. In his opinion, Frankland deserved what he got. A good scientist knew when an experiment was fruitless and would never have to resort to such methods as randomly drugging people in a forest just to cover up a murder. In fact, a good scientist would manage to conduct his experiments without having to murder anyone at all.

Next to him, Lestrade shifted his weight from one foot to the other, clearly uncomfortable in this place. Perhaps the realisation that these kinds of facilities existed without the public knowing about it had upset him. Still, there was nothing to be done about that - Lestrade's presence today was necessary. The entire explanation of the case would go over much better and be accepted more easily by Barrymore if an actual Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard was present to verify the facts. Privately, Sherlock rolled his eyes. Bureaucracy. What an immense waste of time.

As Barrymore turned to Lestrade for further explanations about the murder of Henry Knight's father and the subsequent drugging of the son to keep him silent, Sherlock turned away from them and moved to the window overlooking the laboratory. Part of him was itching to get a closer look at some of the experiments being conducted in there. All this data, scientific break-throughs no one would ever even learn about ... it was a shame to see them all go to waste, locked away in this underground facility where he couldn't get to them. Perhaps he should try to bully Mycroft into granting him unrestricted access. He dismissed the idea with a small twist of his mouth. Unlikely.

Something was wrong, he thought, studying the reflection of the room behind him in the glass. Something was missing ... no, someone.

"Where's John?"

"Didn't you hear him when he excused himself?" Lestrade asked. "He's gone looking for the loo."

Ah, that explained his absence. Sherlock frowned. He would have to have a word with John about his tea consumption. Surely drinking that much tea couldn't be healthy? His bladder barely got a chance to empty before he drowned it in tea again. Making a mental note to bring the subject up at the next opportunity, Sherlock turned his attention back to the scientists on the other side of the glass.

Small genetic experiments such as Doctor Stapleton was performing on glowing rabbits held no real interest for him - anyone could make a rabbit glow in the dark, provided they had a rabbit, a laboratory, the necessary equipment and a handful of glow genes. It was hardly a challenge.

What Sherlock was interested in, was the entire rest of what was going on down there. Cloning was fascinating and might one day be relevant to the Work, but the chances of a scientific breakthrough in human cloning, coupled with the odds of said human clone growing up to become a criminal, were barely above zero. He doubted he would have to worry about any such thing for the next thirty years at least and by then he might well be either dead or no longer interested in crime-solving.

Still, there were other experiments being conducted here, genetic improvements and augmentations of medicine, vaccinations, drugs, ... the list was endless. He had noticed that some of the animals appeared to have been tampered with in ways that went far beyond luminosity and he would be quite interested to take a closer look at some of the reports on these experiments.

Movement at the other end of the lab drew his attention and he watched as John stepped through the door, looking relieved and eager to go home. There was a wary expression on his face as he looked around the lab and Sherlock wondered if he was still upset about the whole drug thing. Oh well, all of that would soon be forgotten.

Catching sight of him behind the glass, John grinned at him and started making his way across the room, dodging scientists and lab tables as he went. He had just covered about half the distance when one of the lab assistants, immersed in reading a report as he walked, completely neglected to watch where he was going and ran straight into John.

Sherlock jerked instinctively, despite knowing there was nothing he could do to stop the inevitable as John lost his balance and got knocked into one of the smaller, moveable lab tables on wheels, which promptly slid away from underneath him. John tried to hold on to the edge and prevent a fall, but only succeeded in dragging the table down with him with a resounding crash.

The sound of dozens of instruments hitting the floor and several glass vials and dishes shattering on the tiles added to the horrified shrieks of the scientists.

Sherlock only became aware of the fact that he had left the room and raced into the lab when he was already shoving the first unlucky lab assistant aside.

"John? John! Are you all right?! John!"

A lab bench blocked his view and he jumped over it, using one hand to catapult himself across the cluttered surface and sending sheets of paper flying everywhere. He didn't give a damn about the mess, though, all his attention focused on John and the terrible things that could happen to him if he came into contact with any of the substances that had been in the glass dishes and vials. There may have been some unknown new virus or a very well known but dangerous virus in them, not to mention the very real danger posed by shards of glass and sharp metal instruments such as scalpels.

There was a pained yelp and then silence and as Sherlock whirled around he fully expected to see his best friend's unconscious form on the floor.

Well, he was not completely wrong. The body on the floor was certainly unconscious.

While all around him chaos erupted as other people gathered around the scene, Sherlock wrestled down his utter disbelief at what his eyes were showing him and did the only thing that seemed to make sense. He pulled out his phone and hit speed dial, speaking the moment someone answered.

"You can patronise me later, just shut up and listen. This is an emergency. There's been an accident at the lab. I need one of your cars at Baskerville ASAP, and possibly a vet. Your brilliant scientists just turned John into a dog."



*****



The first thing John became aware of was the stench. That, and the noise. They assaulted his nose and ears mercilessly and he groaned, wincing at how weird it sounded. More like a whine, somehow. But god, the stench. Someone had definitely overdone it with the disinfectant. It burned all the way from his nose down into his lungs with every breath he took. How did other people stand that?

And the noise ... there were at least a dozen people all talking at once, their tones ranging from excitement to panic, and he vaguely wondered what all the fuss was about.

How had he ended up in this situation anyway? He carefully opened his eyes but closed them immediately as the blinding light stabbed at his retinas. Ouch.

Fine, time to take stock then, and try to recall what had happened. He and Sherlock had been investigating a case, he remembered. Out of London ... oh right, the Baskerville military facility. Underground labs, hallucinations, Bob Frankland blowing himself up. They had gone back to Baskerville to tie up some loose ends before returning to London. Judging from the smell and the light, they were still in the labs. So why was he lying on the floor?

It took a couple of seconds but the memory gradually came back. Someone had slammed into him, he had fallen, there was a table involved somehow and glass shattering.

'Oh bloody hell.'

He must have been knocked out, probably by hitting his head somewhere. He supposed there was a chance that he had come into contact with some kind of chemical.

"John? John! Can you hear me? John."

'Oh god, could someone please turn down the volume?' He squeezed his eyes shut as if that would somehow block out sound, and tried to cover his ears with his hands.

Immediately, he realised that something was very very wrong.

This didn't feel like his hands at all. Had he somehow lost control over his body? Were his injuries worse than he thought? Had he actually been in a coma and this was a hospital room somewhere?

"John!"

And would Sherlock please stop shouting at him?

Admitting defeat, John opened his eyes again, blinking several times as the room swam into focus. Weird. The world looked slightly out of distortion, somehow. Perhaps he had suffered a concussion. Ignoring the discomfort for the moment, he tried to make sense of what he saw.

He was lying on the floor and there were several pairs of feet surrounding him. One of them looked familiar and their owner appeared to be wearing a long dark coat. Oh, good, that was Sherlock. John allowed his gaze to travel up the man's body until he found his face. The expression there made him reel back.

Sherlock looked ... completely shell-shocked.

Maybe something in his own face must have given away his confusion, because Sherlock crouched down in front of him, his eyes intent and piercing - and filled with a strange mix of fear and surprise and undeniable fascination.

"John?"

Oh god, why was he shouting like that?

"John, I need you to stay calm," Sherlock said. "Can you do that for me?"

'Yes, anything, just stop talking so loudly,' John thought. He opened his mouth to reply but his tongue wouldn't work and a distressed whine was all that emerged.

Sherlock looked concerned and was actually reaching out for him now, very slowly. John watched the progress of his hand warily. What on earth was Sherlock doing?

"You've come into contact with one of the experiments during your fall just now," Sherlock told him, thus clearing up the question of their location. Still Baskerville, then. "Some of it has entered your bloodstream. The effects are quite... remarkable. I need you to remain calm while we try to figure out what to do. Can you do that?"

John wanted to reply, to ask what the hell was going on, but his tongue and larynx still refused to obey him.

"No, no, don't try to talk, I'm afraid you're not capable of speech at the moment."

Sherlock's voice was shockingly gentle, far too kind and calm for John's liking. He never sounded like that. Something had to be extremely wrong for him to take on such a tone now. His distress only increased at the thought. Calm? How was he supposed to remain calm? Why wouldn't anyone explain what was going on?

Sherlock's hand came to rest on his head just then and John all but jumped out of his skin in surprise. This felt wrong, too. Admittedly, Sherlock had never put a hand on his head before, so there was no real point of comparison, but John knew his body and this was not how being touched by anyone should feel. It was as if either Sherlock's hand or his own head was wrong. And since Sherlock looked fine, that only left John himself.

All right, that was enough. Time to get up off the floor and find out what the hell was going on here.

He shifted, tried to get his legs under him and push himself up with his arms - and failed.

Confused, he tilted his head and looked down on himself, trying to figure out what the problem was. A yelp escaped his throat as he caught sight of what looked like two thin, furry legs ending in paws. He tried to move his right arm and the right furry leg jerked in response. John yelped again, twisting his head this way and that to take in the rest of his body.

Fur. Four legs and fur and a tail and not a hint of anything that John would recognise as being his own body. His hands and feet - no, his paws! - slid and skittered across the tiles as he tried to scramble away, somehow certain that it would all turn out all right if only he got away from where he currently was.

"John! John, stop!" Sherlock ordered and he froze, his panicked thoughts stilling momentarily as he stared at Sherlock's face. "Listen to me, John, and try to stay calm."

'Calm? I can't stay calm, how am I supposed to stay calm? This is not my body!!!' John wanted to scream but all that came out of his mouth was a panicked noise somewhere between a howl and a yelp and he shrank back, startled by the sound.

"As I was just trying to explain to you, you came into contact with one of the experiments being run here," Sherlock repeated gently. "It appears that somehow, the oh-so-clever people working in this lab have turned you into a dog. Now please try to stay calm so we can try to find a way to turn you back. Your panicking isn't helping."

'I'd like to see you trying to remain calm when you wake up in the wrong fucking body', John thought. Then Sherlock's words caught up with him. A dog. He had been turned into a dog. This was insane. This was completely and utterly insane. If this was another one of Sherlock's jokes, if the mad bastard had somehow drugged him again ...

The sound of another familiar voice interrupted his furious thoughts.

"Sherlock, I don't think that's going to do much good." Lestrade. That was Lestrade. Greg wouldn't lie to him, John knew. He would never agree to take part in one of Sherlock's insane experiments, particularly not one such as this.

Lestrade moved to crouch next to Sherlock, who gave him an irritated glare but didn't say anything. "Unfortunately, Sherlock's right. Bloody hell, John, you should see yourself. I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't been there and seen it happen with my own eyes."

Well, that wasn't exactly helping, either. John glared at him, feeling even more off-kilter now. What on earth did he look like?

"Maybe we should show him?" someone else said and John turned his head in that direction, noticing that a whole group of people was gathered around them. "Seeing is believing and all that. Does someone have a mirror?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Idiots."

He pulled out his phone, held it up to John and snapped a picture, then turned the device around and showed it to him. "There, does that help?"

John stared.



*****



Sherlock was about 98 percent certain that he had never before been so surprised in all his life. Granted, there had been that incident with the octopus at the London Aquarium once and the thing with the fire-extinguisher and the boiling eggs when he was younger, but nothing had ever surprised him quite as much as turning around with the full expectation of seeing John Watson and finding himself staring at a dog instead.

Maybe that was why his first reaction after ending his phone call to Mycroft had been to ask in a rather odd tone of voice: "What breed is that?"

Lestrade, who reached him in just that moment stared at him in utter disbelief. "Is that really the most important question here, Sherlock?"

He shrugged. "One of them, yes."

"How about asking 'What the hell happened to John?' instead?!" Lestrade snapped and turned his furious glare at an unlucky scientist who just happened to catch his eye.

Sherlock didn't bother looking away from the body slumped on the floor as he responded. "I thought that would be fairly obvious even to you, Lestrade. As you can plainly see, John has been turned into a dog. No doubt one of the many questionable experiments being conducted here is responsible. I suppose he must have cut himself on a piece of glass and the substance entered his blood stream that way."

He approached the body cautiously, but the dog - John - did not move. He was breathing, though, which laid at least some of Sherlock's worries to rest. Curiously, he picked up one of the front paws, examining it and the corresponding leg. "Just as I suspected, there's a cut. He's bleeding. Get me some bandages." The last sentence was barked at one of the lab assistants who scrambled to get the first aid kit.

By then, Major Barrymore had also joined the ever-expanding group of onlookers and been informed of what had happened. Sherlock ignored him and all his effusions on the subject and focused on John, who remained both unconscious and canine. The woman returned with the first aid kit and Sherlock found himself disinfecting and dabbing at the cut just above John's front paw on the inside of his foreleg. He must have cut his wrist as he fell, thankfully missing the major artery there. The wound was about two centimetres long and hardly more than a scratch, as far as Sherlock could judge. Even a simple adhesive bandage would be an exaggerated measure. All the more surprising that such a - rather superficial - injury had sufficed to turn John into this. The things science could do!

"Well?" he then asked, returning to his original question. "What breed is it? Don't claim you don't know, the parameters of any experiment on DNA would require absolute attention to detail about the breed and the specific animal in question."

The young lab assistant who had handed him the first aid kit was already leaving through papers. "Uh ... it appears to be a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Sir."

Sherlock raised his head and stared at her. She shrugged and handed him the papers. Clipped to one of them was a picture of the very dog the DNA sample stemmed from - precisely the same dog that was now lying on the floor in front of him. Sherlock sighed. Well, at least one mystery solved so far.

Just then, the dog gave a low whine. After a second of silence, everyone started prattling at once, the scientists excited, Barrymore and Lestrade worried. Sherlock remained silent, waiting a couple of seconds and watching John stir. Then, leaning forward, he carefully nudged the dog's shoulder. "John? John. Can you hear me? John!"

John's initial reaction to finding himself on the floor and in the wrong body was not very promising, but Sherlock quickly abandoned all attempts to distinguish between "John" and "the dog" - mostly because they were one and the same at the moment and anything else would have been simply ridiculous.

Talking to him as if he were simply a person - and Sherlock hoped he still was - seemed to be the most obvious course of action, so that was exactly what he did. Lestrade's interference annoyed him but seemed to calm John somewhat. And the idea of showing John what he looked like seemed to have some merit, so he snapped a picture and showed it to him.

"There, does that help?"

John stared at the phone, apparently taking the picture in. Sherlock wondered what he thought of his appearance.

"If it makes things easier for you, I suppose you could have turned out far worse than this breed," he pointed out. "By the way, your fur is ginger. Dogs are colour-blind, aren't they?" he addressed one of the scientists.

"Yes, Sir, but we've been working on resolving that issue," the man said. "There's a chance he isn't afflicted with vision impairments."

Sherlock sighed and turned back to John. "There, you heard him. Bark once if you can see red and green."

John looked at him and made a kind of whimpery noise, but nodded his head.

"I don't think he knows how barking works," the scientist chimed in. "The vocal cords would have been completely restructured, it will take some time to adjust to all the changes. I'm afraid this includes his senses and ability to move."

"You are moving like a weak kitten, John. Well, puppy in your case," Sherlock told him, watching as John tried very hard to glare at him. How charming.

He snatched his phone back and googled information about the breed his best - and only - friend had been turned into. "Oh, this is fantastic, John! Looks like your breed was designed specifically for hunting ducks. Ducks, criminals, barely any difference there. Now tell me, what does it feel like?"

Silence.

"Oh, right, you can't talk," he said, realising his mistake. "Can you bark Morse code?"

John chose that moment to discover how growling worked - it probably came naturally to him, considering how much of his human time had been spent growling at Sherlock's antics up to now.

"I'm going out on a whim here and say that he means 'no'," Lestrade commented, chuckling.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Yes, thank you for your input."

Just then, his phone chimed with a text message. "There is a car waiting for us outside," he said. "My brother is surprisingly fast at times. Probably had a bloody Quick Reaction Force waiting around the corner the entire time I've been working here." He turned to Lestrade and pierced him with his glare. "You would know, of course. He sent you here to have an eye on me, after all."

"Now, leave me out of this." Lestrade raised his hands in a defensive gesture.

"Sir, you can't just take the dog with you," one of the scientists interrupted what would have been a scathing comment on Sherlock's part.

"Oh really? And why not?"

"The specimen needs to be studied carefully - we've never turned a human into an animal before. This requires twenty-four-hour observation and detailed notes as well as regular examinations and responsiveness evaluations."

Sherlock stood and turned to face the man, taking in the eager glint in his eyes. "And after that? Are you going to put him down and cut him open to extract his brain, too?"

The scientist hesitated, apparently giving the idea some thought. That was a mistake.

Sherlock stalked towards him and came to a halt very much inside his personal space. "Over my dead body. I'm taking John with me and I'll be keeping an eye on him while you lot work on an antidote to reverse this. And if you try and stop me...," he paused and looked the man over from head to foot, "... well, I'd like to see what animal I could turn you into. A lab rat, perhaps?"

He waited until the scientist had backed off a step, then turned his attention back to John. "Come on, try and get up. You know how to crawl, this will hardly be different. Your body already knows how to move, all you have to do is listen to what this form is telling you."

John was looking around with wide eyes, gaze skittering from one person to the next, and clearly visible tremors wrecked his body.

"Too much input," Sherlock concluded, rounding on the people gathered around them. "Get out! All of you, now! Barrymore, you'll go ahead and make sure every door is opened the moment we approach. Lestrade, stay here and help me with John."

He turned back to the confused and obviously terrified creature on the ground, not bothering to look up and watch as the others quickly fled the lab. "All right, John, let's try this again. Your brain is already aware of your limbs, all you need to do is accept the knowledge and make use of it. If you want me to, I can give you a leg up, so to speak."

John tipped his head to the side and tried to scramble to his feet again, but coordinating four legs and a tail - which he wagged about rather aimlessly and seemed to be confused by - was not nearly as easy as the common dog made it seem.

Sherlock sighed. "I'll take that to mean that you can't get up on your own. Come on, then. And do try not to bite me out of reflex when I grab you, alright?"

John whined, but stopped his pathetic attempts to get up, allowing Sherlock to approach him and bend over him. He grasped the dog firmly around his chest and lifted him off the floor, grunting at the weight. According to his research, a fully grown Toller could easily weigh 18-25 kilograms. He'd guess John to be on the heavier side of the scale, which wasn't very surprising. In most species males tended to be larger and heavier, after all.

"There, all four paws on the ground now?" he asked, slightly breathlessly.

"Looks good from here," Lestrade informed him, having bent forward to get a better view of John's legs.

"Okay, try and put your weight on them and keep yourself upright," Sherlock instructed him, keeping his voice low and calm. "I'm right here, holding you up, but I won't do all the work and I will let go once you can stand on your own."

It took several attempts, but finally John seemed to have figured out how four legs and paws worked and was able to stand - still a bit shakily, but on his own.

Sherlock slowly removed his arms from around John's body - not a position he had thought he would ever find himself in. He stayed bent over him, though, ever watchful in case he lost his balance and fell again.

"Do you think you can walk? Try to decide on which leg to move first, the rest will follow along."

"This is crazy," Lestrade commented from where he stood several feet away. Disbelief was etched all over his face, as if he still hadn't come to terms with the situation. Sherlock wondered what it was like, taking this long to adapt to a new situation. Oh well, ordinary people and their ordinary minds. He would spend his time carefully watching John and making note of absolutely every tiny detail. As far as he was concerned, that was a far better use of his time than spending all day wrapping his mind around the idea that his best friend was suddenly no longer human. That much was a fact and he saw no reason not to accept it as such and move on.

He watched as John took a small step forward, stumbling slightly as all three other legs attempted to follow up at the same time.

"You're still in the mindset of someone walking on two legs," Sherlock observed, making a mental note of that as he caught John around the middle to keep him from falling. "Try to imagine yourself crawling on your hands and knees. How would you move then? The motion sequence should be very similar."

Another attempt was made and John seemed to at least manage to focus on Sherlock's instructions and tried to follow them. The stress about the entire situation still had him shaking from head to paw and he didn't dare move fast, but along with Lestrade's gentle encouragement as he kept several paces ahead of them, they finally made it all the way to the lift. Once inside, the doors closed and the cabin set in motion, promptly causing John to lose his balance again.

He made a sound very much like a whimper and ducked, instinctively tucking his tail between his legs and inching into one of the corners.

Sherlock and Lestrade shared a look.

"I bloody hope your brother has a solution for this," the DI said gruffly, gesturing at the shaking dog at their feet.

"If he doesn't, he'll find one soon enough," Sherlock told him. "And if he doesn't, I will."

The lift came to a stop, the doors opened and Lestrade stepped out and raised one hand to the motion sensor to keep them open while Sherlock coaxed John out into the hallway.

"There, come on, one of Mycroft's despicable cars is waiting for us. You have express permission to shed hair all over the seats." He grinned as he imagined the look on Mycroft's face when he saw the reddish dog hair all over the expensive leather.

Lestrade cleared his throat. "Sherlock..."

"What?"

"You might at least try to sound like you're not excited about all this? Show some sympathy?"

Sherlock frowned. "Not good?"

"Definitely not, no," the DI confirmed.

It sounded wrong and he realised he had inadvertently been waiting for a 'bit not good' from John. But of course John couldn't talk right now. Sherlock looked from Lestrade to his best friend and back again and wondered if maybe this might turn out a bit less amazing than he had initially thought.

Chapter Text

Everything was too much. Too different, too loud, too unfamiliar.

John was reeling as he carefully set one foot - no, paw - in front of the other, following Greg and allowing himself to be guided by Sherlock's hands at his sides. The detective was following him in much the same way a parent would follow a child as he took his first steps, hands hovering to both sides to immediately catch him if he fell. The sensation caused a certain comfort and made him feel a bit surer about his movements.

Sadly, it did nothing to lessen the sensory input.

The smell of disinfectant was overwhelming in the lab, burning in his nose and making him unable to smell anything else, which was terribly disorienting. He had never before relied on scent, but this new body came with instincts of its own and the lack of a proper sense of smell left him reeling and feeling insecure and afraid for no reason he could determine.

Then there was the noise. Everything was too loud - shoes scuffing against the floor tiles, the hum of heavy machinery in another room, Sherlock's and Lestrade's breathing, the terrible sound of the lift coupled with the sensation of the ground vibrating beneath his fee- paws. He let out an involuntary whimper as he heard the hoisting winch groan as the lift lurched into motion.

He tried to ignore it all, but there was a dull pounding in his ears that he couldn't place and the unfamiliar noise did nothing to make him feel at ease. He tried to stay as close to Sherlock as possible, the dark coat, black shoes and trouser-clad legs being the most familiar things to him right then. Sherlock was talking to him, something about Mycroft and a car and shedding, and Lestrade's tone was admonishing as he spoke. But his words were directed at Sherlock and John was too distracted by the general sound of their voices to pay much attention to their words.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, they passed yet another door and were outside. Fresh, clean air that smelled strongly of recent rain assaulted his nose and John breathed in eagerly, pressing his nose to the ground and sniffing, letting the scent of rain and mud and asphalt wash away the lingering stench of disinfectant.

The sound of a car door being opened made him raise his head and he spotted the black car parked next to the jeep they had arrived in.

Lestrade said something to Sherlock, then turned to John and crouched in front of him. "Listen, mate, I'll take the Jeep back to the inn. Looks like Mycroft's people already got your stuff, so don't worry about that. I'll join you at the inn in a couple of minutes, all right?"

John stared at him, trying to work through the meaning of the little speech. Had Lestrade noticed that he wasn't really paying attention before? Had Sherlock? Probably. Sherlock noticed everything.

Thinking of ... John looked around and found the detective right next to him, a scowl on his face as he stared at the car as if it had personally offended him.

He turned his head closer to Sherlock, his nose brushing against the heavy wool of the Belstaff. Without even thinking about it, John took a breath.

The olfactory onslaught almost had him stumbling back as a heretofore unknown part of his brain - probably one that hadn't even existed earlier today - immediately started dissecting each and every scent he had just inhaled and his mind reeled with information.

Mud and rain and moss and leaves and wood - scents of the forest, which was no surprise considering they'd been walking through it only last night. The stale scent of cigarettes was a surprise, however, but it was faded and he quickly realised it was nothing but the remnants of the smoking habit Sherlock had given up on not so long ago. Apparently, the scent was too deeply ingrained in the fabric of the coat to dissipate any time soon - or possibly at all.

There was more, a lot more, and he wanted to press closer and just breathe, dissect and analyse every last little trace - he hadn't even started on Sherlock's own scent yet - but Sherlock was already moving again, marching towards the car. "Come along, John. The sooner we get out of here, the better. I don't want any of these imbeciles to try and conduct ruthless experiments on you."

If he were human, John would have snorted and pointed out the obvious flaw in that statement - that Sherlock himself would not hesitate to experiment on him out of sheer curiosity.

Since he was not human, all he could do was follow his friend. He did so slowly, carefully picking his way across the asphalt and towards the waiting car. Sherlock had already reached the vehicle and was holding the door open, watching him expectantly. John ignored him and his obvious impatience, too distracted by the feel of the rough asphalt beneath his paws. Cool and rough and smelling of wet tar, it made for a startling contrast to the slippery tiled floor inside the building they had just vacated. He felt much more at ease out here, with fresh air and the sun on his body and firm ground beneath his feet.

Finally, he reached the car and stared into the dark interior, the scent of leather and diesel oil and expensive fabrics assaulting his nose, along with too many other scents he could not immediately name. All of them hinted at lots of money and power, however.

"Can you get in on your own?" Sherlock inquired, startling him from his thoughts.

John blinked and tilted his head to the side, trying to figure out how best to go about getting inside. Theoretically, he knew a dog would jump onto the seat, but he wasn't sure if he could do that, not at all confident in his ability to handle this strange body well enough to avoid injury or landing in an undignified heap. He raised his left front paw to the floor of the car, followed by the other and pushed himself up, looking inside.

Without the sun blinding him, the interior became visible and he found himself staring directly at Mycroft, who sat on the other side of the car and was watching him with a look of mild curiosity "Ah, John. I have to say, I did not expect us to meet again under circumstances such as these."

John huffed at him and was stuck contemplating how to get the rest of his body into the car.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Sherlock muttered and a moment later John felt himself being grabbed around the waist and unceremoniously lifted into the car and onto the seat. "The moment we get home, I'll chase you all around the flat until every movement feels as natural to you as breathing," Sherlock grumbled, getting into the car and sliding past John to sit opposite his brother.

Mycroft made a face at the sight of John on the expensive leather, but before he could open his mouth and say something about it, he caught Sherlock's glare and subsided, apparently choosing to ignore the issue for the time being.

John allowed himself to plop down on the seat with another huff, taking a moment or two to sort his legs out and almost jumping out of his skin when the driver, who had been waiting by the side of the car, carefully lifted the end of his tail and moved it aside so he could close the door without it getting caught. Startled, John edged away from the door and closer to Sherlock - the only thing his mind registered as familiar and safe at the moment. When he lowered his head to rest on the seat, his nose was all but pressed to Sherlock's thigh and his breathing deepened instinctively.

Underneath the smells of the forest and the smoke he had noticed earlier, there was Sherlock's own scent, a heady mix of leather, chemicals, the tea he had had for breakfast, and something that reminded John of the air just before a thunderstorm. It was utterly intoxicating. It smelled like home.

He flinched as the door on the driver's side was opened and closed, and then again when the engine came to life. Before today, he had always considered Mycroft's cars to be almost eerily silent, the engine hardly more than a low background purr that could easily be ignored. Now, he realised it were his own ears that had deceived him and he distantly wondered whether any other car would be painfully loud if even this one made for quite the uncomfortable collection of sounds already.

A low whine rose in his throat and he fought to quench it before it could become audible to the two men sharing the back seat with him.

All of this - the noise, the sensory input, the entire twisted experience of being in the wrong body - was too much. He kept his eyes fixed on Sherlock and his nose pressed to the man's thigh, using him as the only anchor that prevented him from being swept away by the rising tide of fear in his chest.


*****


"Well?" Sherlock said, after he deemed the silence between him and Mycroft to have gone on for long enough.

His brother looked at the heap of fur on the seat and raised one eyebrow. "Fascinating. Very fascinating indeed."

Sherlock grit his teeth. "That is all you have to say?"

"Pray tell, what would you like me to say?" Mycroft inquired, a hint of steel in his eyes.

"Now there's a long list of possible replies," Sherlock growled. "How about you start by explaining why you thought turning humans into animals was something you should waste tax money on? Or better yet, what you intend to do about the abysmal security of this facility?"

"Abysmal?" That seemed to have caught his brother's attention.

"It took them over twenty minutes to realise I had accessed the building using a stolen ID," Sherlock pointed out. "Despite the fact that the ID had your photograph on it."

He watched with satisfaction as his brother narrowed his eyes, coming close to flushing with anger and embarrassment. Not that Mycroft would ever allow himself to react so blatantly, but the moment when he overruled his body's instinctive response was clearly visible. He decided to get in another dig while he was still ahead. "And speaking of security, the safety conditions inside the lab were practically non-existent. Leaky pipes caused John to be accidentally drugged during my experiment that involved drugging him on purpose. It utterly upset the parameters of my experiment and I can't imagine you want your scientists to go about their work while under the influence of dangerous hallucinogens."

"Ah yes, your little experiment," Mycroft drawled, raising his other eyebrow and looking at John pointedly. "You are one to talk about unethical behaviour, brother dear, considering you slipped your flatmate what you thought was tainted sugar just to prove your point."

"It wasn't tainted, though, and I made sure he was exposed in a controlled environment. The same environment that later turned out not to be controlled at all, as is your responsibility to ensure. And I'm not the one who decided to engage in interspecies experimentation."

John shifted next to him, moving his head to press closer against his leg and Sherlock turned to look down at him, still experiencing a moment of surprise at the sight of ginger fur and floppy ears. It was decidedly surreal to see brown eyes where he was expecting blue ones. Regardless of the colour, they were fixed on him. He thought the expression was the same it usually was - quiet exasperation (most likely at being talked about as if he wasn't there) and a soft fondness that never failed to puzzle him. At the moment, however, the most prominent sentiment was distress and Sherlock could hardly fault him for that.

He turned his attention back to Mycroft, speaking even as he reached out to gently rest one hand between John's shoulder blades, his fingers sinking into the coarse fur the same way feet disappeared in a particularly fuzzy carpet. "Regardless of that, I want you to set them to turning John back. I realise developing a serum to reverse the effects will take time. I refuse to keep John anywhere in the vicinity - the temptation to experiment on him would be too strong for some of the more ruthless among the group."

Before his brother could formulate a response, the car rolled to a stop in front of the inn and their driver got out to open the door for Lestrade before moving around the car to load their luggage into the trunk. Sherlock had given the DI the keys to his and John's rooms with instructions to bring their belongings down. They had already packed this morning, anticipating to depart for London immediately after finishing up at Baskerville.

John flinched as the driver slammed the trunk lid closed and Sherlock actually tightened his fingers in his fur for a moment. Of course. He should have expected the improved senses. At least that explained why John had been moving so gingerly all the way from the lab to the car. He had assumed it was due to lingering unsteadiness on his feet but now it became glaringly apparent that the sensory input must be quite overwhelming.

"Hello Mycroft," Lestrade said, interrupting Sherlock's musing as he climbed into the car, taking a seat next to the man which put him on the seat opposite John.

"Detective Inspector Lestrade," Mycroft greeted him calmly, turning his piercing gaze on the unsuspecting DI. "I believe I do not have to reiterate that none of the events that have transpired here, nor any of the words spoken in this car, are ever to be repeated to anyone but the people already in attendance."

Lestrade blinked. "What?" It took him a moment to translate the underlying threat. He huffed out a breath. "Yeah, right, of course not. What, do you think I'm stupid? If I told anyone about this, they'd have me committed to an asylum right away. Not to mention that you'd probably kill me yourself if I so much as thought about breathing a word of it to anybody."

"Oh, don't exaggerate, Detective Inspector," Mycroft admonished him calmly. "Why would I kill you for doing such a thing?" There was a pause that was just long enough before he continued. "I have people for that."

Lestrade blanched and Sherlock snorted. "If you are quite finished making threats, brother ...?"

"Indeed. Let us return to the issue at hand." Mycroft gestured at John. "I agree with your estimation of the situation. We will, of course, require a suitable cover story for both John's absence and the sudden presence of a dog in your life."

"Even the imbeciles at the Yard would eventually notice the difference, yes," Sherlock said mildly, completely ignoring Lestrade's outraged "Hey!".

"Well then, John's sister has checked into rehab again and he has gone to Scotland to be close to her and offer his support," Sherlock suggested. "He will be gone for an indeterminable length of time and I will of course be getting regular texts and e-mails from him."

"I shall have one of my people procure the necessary travelling documents," Mycroft agreed. "Which still leaves us with half the problem."

Sherlock shrugged. "That's easy enough, isn't it. Mummy."

The brothers shared a long look. Finally, Mycroft gave the tiniest smile. "They will of course have to be informed."

"I'm sure they won't mind the white lie. Let's say they are travelling or renovating the house. A dog would get in the way of either activity and your schedule does not allow for a pet. Therefore, the task of looking after their dog has fallen to me. Have Mummy call me when I'm at a crime scene or at the Yard to enquire after him and they'll swallow it easily enough."

Several moments passed in silence as Mycroft contemplated every possible outcome of their plot, checking for loopholes. Sherlock had already calculated the risk in his head, of course, but his brother's mind was more strategy-oriented and therefore better suited towards politics and constructing long-term lies.

Finally, Mycroft nodded and both brothers relaxed a bit. "Very well."

Sherlock turned to Lestrade. "You will of course be required to help in this endeavour," he pointed out. "Just play along and it will be fine."

Lestrade rolled his eyes. "As if there was anything else for me to do. John is my friend, of course I'll help. And I'll do it right now by pointing out what you have apparently forgotten."

"Oh?"

"Mrs Hudson," the DI said. "She knows both you and John and would certainly want to talk to him if you claimed he was away for a prolonged time. You might consider telling her the truth."

Turning the suggestion over in his mind, Sherlock looked at Mycroft. His brother shrugged. "If you consider your landlady trustworthy enough, I do not see how it could become a problem."

"I do," Sherlock said calmly.

"In that case, our work for the moment is done. I will dispatch someone to organise the necessary equipment that comes with owning a dog, including a collar and dog tag. We wouldn't want anyone to mistakenly take John for a feral, ownerless dog and have him put down. Similarly, if he does get lost, he needs identification so he can be returned to your care."

They shared a long look. Next to Sherlock, John gave a low whine and nudged at Sherlock's leg with his nose, his tail thumping against the upholstery. Apparently, he approved of the plan such as it was.

The rest of the car ride passed in silence.



*****



They arrived at Baker Street in the early afternoon, the car gliding to a smooth stop at the curb right in front of the door to 221b. Personally, John had always found it slightly suspicious how Mycroft's cars never had any trouble finding a parking spot - one always seemed to become magically available at whatever destination they had just reached. Today, however, he did not feel inclined to ponder that little mystery. Most of his attention was taken up by Sherlock and the fact that they would finally get out of this car.

Sherlock, having been confined to a car with his brother for several hours, did not sit still long enough to allow the driver to even turn off the engine, let alone get out of the car and open the door for him. The moment the vehicle stopped moving, he threw open the door and jumped out onto the pavement. John struggled to get up and crept forward until he reached the outer edge of the seat. The distance from here to the pavement did not seem very great, but he still hesitated, wondering if he was going to fall flat on his face if he tried.

"Do you require assistance, John?" Mycroft asked from his seat opposite him.

John huffed. Well, if that was what it would come down to - being manhandled out of a car by Mycroft Holmes - then he would rather take the risk of a bloody nose, thank you very much.

Before Mycroft or Sherlock - or possibly even Lestrade, who was just sucking in a breath to speak - could do anything, John took the leap ... and was perhaps most surprised of all to find himself standing quite firmly on all four legs, the way a dog was supposed to.

"See, you're already adapting to the situation!" Sherlock told him from where he stood waiting by the door, bouncing on the balls of his feet and looking very much like a dog ready for a walk himself.

John couldn't help it - he rolled his eyes, hoping the gesture would convey the same meaning it always did, despite the different body. And yes, all this would take some getting used to, but he was clearly stuck in the situation now and there was no point in whining about it. They would find a solution soon enough. They had to.

Sherlock smirked at him and opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Mrs Hudson opening the door. "Oh, Sherlock! I thought I heard you!" their landlady exclaimed and hugged him. He kissed her cheek in greeting, then made to sweep past her. "Come along, John!"

John did come along, but only made it to the front door before Mrs Hudson took notice of him. "And what's that now? A dog? Really, Sherlock, I'm not sure your flat is a suitable environment for any living being, including people, and you're bringing home a dog? And where is John?"

"Actually, that is something we should discuss inside," Sherlock told her before turning to the driver who had just unloaded their luggage. "Upstairs, just put it in the sitting room."

He didn't give the man a chance to protest and simply marched inside, leading Mrs Hudson into her kitchen with a firm hand on her back. For lack of a better option and because he would not miss the following conversation for the world, John followed.

"I'm not saying I'm not glad to have you back, it did get a bit dull without you two boys here, but I do wish you would have told me about bringing home a pet in advance," Mrs Hudson said, automatically starting to make tea and putting together a plate of home-made biscuits and shortbread once they were in the kitchen. Sherlock took a seat at the table and watched her, waiting until she wasn't holding the kettle with the scalding water in it before he spoke.

"There was an accident at a military research facility we were investigating," he explained in that matter-of-fact tone that would have been suitable for teaching a chemistry class but that hardly fit their current situation. "I doubt you would understand my explanation of the specifics even if I were allowed to tell you, but the short version is that this dog here is in fact John."

Mrs Hudson, having just turned towards him with the plate of biscuits in one hand and several napkins in the other, gasped and made to fan herself with the napkins. In her surprise, she accidentally moved the wrong hand, attempting to fan herself with the plate instead. John, who had been standing right next to her, unsure of where to go, found himself in a sudden rain of baked goods.

Before his rational human mind could scramble forward and suggest helping her pick up the mess (something Sherlock would never do), his nose and rumbling stomach swiftly overruled  it and John pounced, going straight for the shortbread which smelled utterly divine.

"Oh!" Mrs Hudson gasped at the mess. And then again: "Oh!" when she saw John clear the floor, picking out the shortbread with gusto. Sherlock, for his part, sounded suspiciously like someone muffling laughter in his sleeve.

Several seconds passed in which the only noise came from John and the biscuits crumbling in his mouth.

"Well," Mrs Hudson said weakly, moving to sit in the chair opposite Sherlock. "He always did enjoy my shortbread most of all."

John, his mouth stuffed with the very same, raised his head to give her an apologetic look, then tried to shrug. He glanced at Sherlock, who was staring at his landlady as if she had just confessed to having murdered someone and hidden the body beneath the kitchen floor without his knowledge.

"Oh, shut your mouth, young man," she admonished him. "Be a dear and get that tea, would you? I'm afraid my hands are a bit shaky right now. I don't want to spill anything. And try not to step on the biscuits on your way."

Sherlock, apparently still in shock about the unexpected easy acceptance of the situation, did as he was told. When he was seated again, Mrs Hudson reached out and covered one of his large hands in hers. "Now, you must tell me how to use this Internet you young people are so fond of. Mrs Turner mentioned something about recipes in there and I do believe I will have to try my hand at dog biscuits."

Complete silence followed that statement and it was quite difficult to tell whether Sherlock or John was more surprised.

Then, Mrs Hudson tittered. "Oh, you! After all the things you have done, do you really think turning your partner into a dog is going to send me into hysterics?"

Sherlock opened his mouth, closed it again - and didn't respond. John noted he also didn't comment on the 'partner'-thing but that was probably because Sherlock simply did not understand that Mrs Hudson had not meant it in regards to a work relationship.

"Now, how long is this going to last?" the landlady asked as the silence was just about to become awkward.

"I don't know," Sherlock said. "Such a thing has never happened before, according to the scientists there. It is unlikely that the effects will reverse on their own, so we shall have to wait for them to develop an antiserum. Isn't it great?!"

He was beaming and threw his arms out in genuine excitement. John, who had just been about to return his attention to the biscuits on the floor, grumbled at him.

"And how many people know of this? I wouldn't want to accidentally tell anyone, people would think me fit for bedlam!"

"Only my brother and Lestrade know," Sherlock told her. "As far as anyone else is concerned, John is visiting his sister in rehab and I am looking after my parents' dog."

Mrs Hudson nodded and patted his hand. "In that case, you better get him upstairs and settled in. I'm sure after all that excitement he will want to rest. Isn't that right, John?"

It was, so John whimpered at her, hoping she would take the sound as agreement.

"Fine," Sherlock said and got up. "Come along, John."

Chapter Text

Seeing as John had just managed to jump out of a car all on his own, walking up the seventeen steps to 221b was no trouble at all and he reached the door before Sherlock, only to realise that he would have to wait for him to open it.

Unless ...

Using the door to catch his weight, John hopped upwards and pressed his paws down on the door handle, using all his weight to tug it down. There was a click and the door gave way beneath his weight, swinging open and allowing him to return to all fours and enter his home.

"Well done, John," Sherlock said behind him, unmistakable approval in his tone. "Opening doors will come in very handy in the future, we shall have to experiment on how quickly you can do it and which handles will work best."

John huffed at him - experiments, experiments! Wasn't there anything else his madman of a flatmate could think about? Like maybe returning him back to his human form as quickly as possible? This was insane and uncomfortable and he was ready to be done with the entire thing, now that the initial shock had worn off. At least he no longer felt on the edge of a panic attack.

He decided to ignore Sherlock for the moment and focus on taking in their home with every sense he had - first and foremost his nose.

The scent of chemicals was biting, as was the disinfectant he and Mrs Hudson regularly put to good use in the kitchen, but mostly the flat smelled of old furniture and wood and dust, all of it covered in layers and layers of his and Sherlock's combined scent. That was quite amazing, actually. He had never before realised just how much space he and Sherlock shared.

The only furniture that seemed to have mainly his or Sherlock's scent clinging to it were their respective armchairs. The sofa which, if asked, he would have claimed was Sherlock's space, actually smelled strongly of them both, bearing testimony to the fact that John spent more time on it than he had been aware of.

There were clear traces of scents leading everywhere, as obvious to him as long threads of yarn marking the way. With his nose pressed to the ground, John followed one of them through the sitting room, into the kitchen, around the kitchen table, down the hall and all the way to Sherlock's bedroom, where it was cut off by the door. Feeling that it wouldn't be right to intrude on Sherlock's territory like that, John turned and followed the trace back into the sitting room, so focused on the scent he almost bumped into Sherlock where he stood in the middle of the room.

"If you're quite finished?" Sherlock said, sounding impatient.

John grumbled, brushed past him and jumped up onto his armchair without a second thought. Only when he felt the soft cushion beneath his paws did he realise that he had accidentally done what had seemed impossible hours ago as he tried to get into the car.

Sherlock looked delighted. "See! Your motor skills are already improving as your brain adapts to its new tasks. I wish I could try it, too; we could time our reactions and see if it would take me similarly long to adapt or if I would manage it faster due to my superior mind."

By now, John was used to thoughtless exclamations like that, so he merely rolled his eyes and flopped down on his chair, resting his head on the armrest and watching as Sherlock finally took off his coat and scarf and hung them next to the door.

"Really, John, was that necessary?" Sherlock complained, bending forward to examine his coat more closely. "You got hair all over my coat! Just look at that! Ginger hair is quite impossible to miss on black clothing. Do be more careful."

John wished he could grin - it seemed he had just discovered a delightful way to punish Sherlock if he went overboard with the experiments or anything else. There truly was an upside to any situation if you looked long and hard enough. And apparently, he had just found this one's.

"On second thought, don't." Sherlock strode across the room and dropped into his own armchair, watching John over steepled fingers, his eyes gleaming. "We can conduct an experiment to find out which fabrics are particularly vulnerable to dog hair and which ones are most resistant to clinging hairs."

And there went that punishment idea. John decided he really should have known.

"Now tell me, are you experiencing any discomfort?" Sherlock demanded. "Nausea, dizziness, disorientation, confusion, tiredness, fever?"

John gave him a long, blank look.

"Oh right, can't speak. I keep deleting that," Sherlock said, waving a dismissive hand. "Just nod if you're experiencing any of the former."

He didn't move an inch.

"Good. How about an elevated heart rate? Trouble breathing?"

John huffed, glaring at him. As if he wouldn't somehow find a way to make it obvious if he was in medical distress!

"You do seem to have calmed down since we arrived," Sherlock noted. "You were shaking quite badly indeed when we left Baskerville, and the car seemed to have been a rather disturbing experience as well. The noise, I assume?"

John gave a low whine of agreement. That much noise just shouldn't be allowed. He was glad to be out of the thing, though of course he could still hear the cars outside Baker Street and all the way to Marylebone Road. Hell, now that he was concentrating on them, he could hear even farther. He picked the loud engine of a bus out of the cacophony outside and tracked its progress down Marylebone Road until it was impossible to distinguish from general traffic. Below that was the rumbling of the Underground as a train came to a stop in Baker Street Station.

Thoroughly amazed, John got up and hopped of his chair, cocking his head as he tried to decide on another sound to focus on. There was a wet dripping coming from somewhere below that sounded like it might be interesting, so he followed the sound towards the door.

"John? Where are you going?"

Oh, right, Sherlock was still there. And holy shit, his voice should be outlawed. John turned to look at him, then jerked his head towards the door, and continued on his way, ears perked forward as he returned his attention to the dripping.

Descending the stairs was a bit more complicated than the other way round, but he managed it once he understood that he wouldn't tip forward all of a sudden. Behind him, he could hear Sherlock following him downstairs, his breathing was calm but something about him told John that his flatmate was curious. Well, he'd just have to wait and see.

Not bothering to wait for his flatmate to catch up, John bounded down the hall towards Mrs Hudson's door, finding that it opened quite easily beneath his paws.

"What the- John!" the landlady cried, sticking her head out of the kitchen to see who had come. "What is going on? Sherlock?"

"I believe he has heard something, Mrs Hudson, though I cannot say what," Sherlock explained, stepping through the door and watching as John stopped in the hallway and tilted his head, trying to determine which direction the noise came from. Ah, yes, the bathroom. He followed the sound of the dripping in there and towards the washing machine. The sound came from behind it, he was absolutely certain.

Whining and turning his head to check if Sherlock was still there, he pawed at the gap between the machine and the wall.

"Good lord, you haven't hidden anything dead behind there, have you, Sherlock?" Mrs Hudson asked, immediately jumping to the most likely conclusion.

"I'm sure I would remember that," Sherlock said, stepping closer. "Come on, John, move aside, I can't see with you blocking the way."

John backed off, watching as his friend squinted into the gap.

"The floor is wet," he noted mildly, sticking his arm behind the machine as far as it would go. "There seems to be a small leak in one of the pipes. I suggest you call a plumber and have it fixed before the pipe bursts and floods the entire bathroom."

Retracting his arm, he stood and turned to John. "You heard the water dripping from our sitting room?"

John nodded.

"Impressive," Sherlock said, sounding like he meant it. "And very interesting indeed. Your senses will most likely improve further as you continue to adapt to them. We will have to experiment on that, see how far your hearing range goes." Suddenly, he grinned. "This is fantastic! You can spy on Mycroft from all the way across the street!"

'Well, I guess I should have expected that', John thought as he watched Sherlock actually make a note in his little notebook. 'I may look like a dog, but in truth I have been turned into a guinea pig.'



*****



A little while later, they had returned upstairs and Sherlock was busy conducting another experiment, which consisted of placing several objects on the coffee table, telling John to stay there and then walk away himself, only to then name one of the objects. He walked into his bedroom and - from the sounds of it - pulled his covers over his head before speaking. He entered the bathroom and turned on the shower before muttering one word. John remained in the sitting room, his ears perked as he waited for Sherlock to speak, and then pushed the object he mentioned off the table.

A pillow, Sherlock's scarf, a rubber ball, the skull, a kitchen rag.

Following each word, Sherlock would come bounding back from where he had gone, racing up the stairs from the front door or down from John's own room, look at the object on the floor and exclaim "Excellent, John!" as if John had just won gold in the Olympics or something equally monumental.

Their little game was interrupted by the arrival of a car. Truthfully, it was interrupted before the car arrived, because John recognised the sound of that engine quite clearly - he had only just escaped it roughly two hours ago, after all. Just as Sherlock was about to go and hide in 221c or somewhere equally ridiculous, John whined and turned his head towards the window.

"Oh, what now?" Sherlock demanded.

John hopped onto his usual chair and turned his eyes towards the door expectantly. Outside, the sleek black car rolled to a stop.

He watched as Sherlock pulled the curtains aside and looked outside, muttering a curse. "Mycroft."

It was indeed Mycroft and now that he was ensconced in their flat, surrounded by their own familiar scent and reasonably safe from having a panic attack, John was finally able to pay attention to what his nose was telling him about the other man.

Mycroft smelled ... well, he smelled exactly as he looked - like someone who spent the great majority of his time in an expensively furnished office doing Very Important Things. That, and a strong whiff of authority and pastries. The latter made John hide his face in the arm of his chair in case his expression somehow betrayed him.

"Isn't there some sort of law prohibiting you from haunting me twice in one day?" Sherlock demanded from where he had taken a seat in his own armchair before Mycroft could even open his mouth to say 'Hello'.

"And a good afternoon to you, too, brother dear," Mycroft said, walking further into the room. One of his countless lackeys followed behind with a large box, which Mycroft gestured for him to put down on the coffee table. He did so and retreated back downstairs to wait by the front door. "I have made the necessary arrangements, set up the relevant papers and informed our parents of the situation."

John dared to raise his head again to watch his every move, feeling suspicious. There was an air of amusement to Mycroft's presence. He couldn't quite explain how he figured that, because the older Holmes brother looked the same way he always did. Then Mycroft opened the box and pulled out one of the assorted items in it. "And, of course, I have brought all the necessary equipment."

He was holding up a brown leather collar, looking sturdy and suitably scuffed as if it had seen its fair share of use already. A round dog tag gleamed on a ring attached to it.

"This holds the name we agreed on and on the backside is your phone number, so if John gets lost for any reason, all he has to do is find someone with a mobile phone and a bit of compassion," Mycroft explained. "I trust that shouldn't be too difficult."

John blinked. They had agreed on a name for him? When had that happened?

Sherlock stood and took the collar from his brother, examining it from every angle. "I suppose that will do," he conceded. "John?"

John stared at the leather with a mix of contempt and apprehension. He didn't like the idea of anything around his neck, but intellectually he knew that a collar was necessary. He huffed a sigh and resigned himself to his fate. At least it would only be for a little while.

Sitting up straight, he allowed Sherlock to close the collar around his neck and fasten the buckle.

"Do tell me if it feels too tight," Sherlock murmured, running a comforting hand down John's neck and over his shoulder in a gesture that was clearly unconscious.

John had no way of telling him that any kind of restriction around his neck would feel too tight, so he merely focused on his breathing and struggled to adjust to the weight around his neck.

It was not as bad as he had feared, which was a definite plus, but he still didn't like the feel of it very much. It wasn't too tight, though, and he felt in no way restricted in his ability to breathe. A bit more confident thanks to that fact, he gave Sherlock a curt nod.

"Is that all?" Sherlock asked, turning his attention back to Mycroft. "You're very welcome to leave at any time. I'm sure we're preventing you from starting yet another war somewhere."

"Charming," his brother said, sounding not charmed at all. "There is, in fact, another matter. In case John should lose his collar, due to any circumstances whatsoever, we will require another method of identification. The easiest option would be a chip underneath the skin-"

At this point, John bared his teeth and succeeded at growling.

Mycroft raised one eyebrow and continued unperturbed: "... and the other option would be an identification number tattooed to the inside of his ear."

Several things happened at the same time: John learned how to growl louder and how to flatten his ears and make the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and Sherlock inserted himself between Mycroft and John in one fluid motion, his own teeth bared as if he were a dog himself. "No."

Several seconds passed in which the only sound was John's continued growling.

"... or perhaps we can make do with the collar and trust that John will find his way back home in the unlikely event of his losing it," Mycroft offered, clearly realising that he was in acute danger of being bitten by one of the inhabitants of the flat - which one was still up for debate.

Sherlock didn't respond but John stopped growling, though he did keep his teeth bared to indicate that he was happy to resume doing so at any time.

"Very well," Mycroft said. "I shall be leaving you now. And Sherlock, do try to remember that being unable to speak does not mean you can assume you are being given consent to do whatever you like. Have a good day."

In response, Sherlock took an ashtray from the desk with the clear intention of throwing it. Fortunately, Mycroft was not in fact suicidal and therefore left without saying another word.


*****



Their first evening back home passed in a rather uneventful manner. Sherlock spent some time going through the box of things Mycroft had left behind, pulling out various items such as a food and water bowl, a large bag of dog pellets that John decided smelled surprisingly appealing, several tennis balls, some sort of plastic contraption called a ball launcher, apparently used to propel said balls as far as possible without tearing out one's arm in the process, and a large dog bed that Sherlock put in front of the fireplace between their chairs for appearances' sake.

Last of all came a lead, made of brown leather that fit John's collar and the length of which could be adjusted. John wasn't very happy with it, but knew of course that a lead was unavoidable if he wanted to get out of the flat.

Now that the Baskerville case was solved and the excitement following John's unexpected transformation had calmed down, Sherlock was clearly getting tired, though he did try and hide it. At any other time, John may have been none the wiser, but now he could literally smell the exhaustion radiating off his friend and he wondered how best to order him to go to bed.

In the end, he decided that pantomime would have to do, so he jumped off his chair and went to inspect the grey dog bed wedged between Sherlock's armchair and the fireplace. He sniffed it but could detect nothing but the scent of new fabrics and Mycroft's lackey who had packed the box. John gave a low yelp to get Sherlock's attention, then flopped onto the dog bed.

"You do know you have a perfectly suitable real bed upstairs, don't you?" Sherlock asked.

John shook his head, got up, walked over to where Sherlock was still standing by the coffee table, and nudged his leg in the direction of the dog bed.

If anything, Sherlock looked mystified - not something that happened often. "It's a bit small for me, John. Granted, you would have fit on that even in your human body, but I really don't see what that's got to do with me."

Good lord, the man was being extraordinarily thick right now. John decided to blame the exhaustion - of course Sherlock hadn't slept at all these past four or five days. Grumbling in frustration at his inability to communicate his meaning, he nudged Sherlock again, then walked towards the kitchen, where he turned and gave him an expectant look. Sherlock tipped his head to the side, regarding him thoughtfully. "So this isn't about the dog bed, is it?"

John nodded, then took another couple of steps into the kitchen. When Sherlock didn't move, he whined again.

"You really should bark Morse code," Sherlock muttered, finally following him. "This is going to be very tedious indeed."

John rolled his eyes at him, then continued through the kitchen and into the hall, stopping in front of Sherlock's bedroom door.

His flatmate followed him, opening the door and looking down at him with a look of curiosity "You've been in here before, John, it's still the same room."

'Oh, for god's sake!' John thought, moving until he was behind Sherlock and pressing his head against his legs to propel him forward and into the room.

The detective froze halfway to the bed. "Is this your way of sending me to bed?"

John barked happily. Finally! That had taken ages to get across. Really, what was going on in Sherlock's head? He must be very tired indeed if he couldn't make a simple deduction such as this.

Sherlock snorted. "Your attempts at pantomime are pitiful at best, John. Though it is good to know you have retained enough of your personality and thought patterns to still feel the inclination to mother me. I really don't see the point, however. I don't feel very tired ... at all."

That last claim may have sounded more sincere if he hadn't been interrupted by a yawn. John huffed at him and nudged him towards the bed.

"All right, all right, but only because there is nothing left to do," Sherlock grumbled. "Always so bossy."

John merely panted happily, hoping that conveyed his agreement adequately, then turned and left his friend to his own devices. If he didn't go to bed, he would hear it and simply return to enforce his point.

Luckily, Sherlock did not require any further nudges. Once he had closed the door behind John, there was the sound of clothes rustling as he took off his suit and exchanged it for pyjamas (at least that was what it sounded like) and then there was the sound of a body hitting the mattress and after that, silence. John sighed to himself. The mad wanker had clearly been close to collapse for hours now. If it wasn't for this stupid accident in the lab, he would have been out like a light hours ago, that much was certain.

Huffing to himself, John made his way out of the main flat and up the stairs to his own bedroom. He managed to open the door on his own, jumped onto the bed without bothering to switch on the light and discovered one great advantage of being a dog - there was no need to get changed or brush his teeth before going to bed. Instead, he could simply wriggle underneath the covers and curl up in a warm ball of fur.

He closed his eyes, hoping he would fall asleep quickly, but of course now that there were no distractions in the form of Sherlock's movements, his brain started focusing on all the other sounds his ears could pick up.

There were the cars outside - fewer of them now that most people were already home and in their beds - interspersed with the buses and Tube. There were some pedestrians walking along Baker Street and the raised voices of a couple mid-argument across the street. And, most annoyingly of all, there were Mrs Turner's married ones next door, making use of their bed in a way that had little to do with sleeping.

John tried to groan but it came out as more of a mix between a whimper and a growl, which wasn't very surprising, really. The sound of their neighbours going at it and enjoying themselves immensely by the sounds of it only served to remind him that he was certainly not going to get a leg over until this entire catastrophe was dealt with and he was back in his own body. He couldn't even get a wank in, for fuck's sake, because even if he found something convenient to rut against as he had seen some dogs do, there was simply no way he would manage to clean up the mess afterwards and he would never live it down if Sherlock found out.

Thinking of wanking and Sherlock led his thoughts down a predictable path and he wondered if his new and improved hearing would allow him to find out if his flatmate ever ... 'Oh fuck this. I'm not going to be thinking about that!'

He curled up a little tighter beneath the blanket and tried to think of something, anything, that wasn't Sherlock pleasuring himself. Next door, proceedings reached a crescendo. John decided the world was unfair in every way.

Chapter Text

John woke the moment the sun crept across the horizon and the first light of day made it into his room. He kept his eyes closed and listened for any sounds from downstairs, but Sherlock was still sleeping - if he concentrated, he could hear him breathing. Incredible.

Since there was no point in lying about in bed now that he was awake and because he was actually feeling a bit peckish, John shook off the covers, jumped off the bed with a quiet 'thump' and went down the stairs and into the kitchen. It was then that he remembered that he was incapable of making his own breakfast on account of not having opposable thumbs anymore. For a moment he thought about returning to bed but his stomach was growling and now that he was only one level above her and awake enough to pay attention, he could hear Mrs Hudson snoring softly in her bedroom downstairs, so getting her to help him was not an option.

'Well, Sherlock's woken me at the crack of dawn often enough' he decided. 'Time for a little payback.'

Before he could change his mind, John crossed the kitchen and walked down the hall to Sherlock's bedroom. Getting the door open was no problem at all, now that he had figured out how to do it. He was a bit surprised that Sherlock didn't wake from the sound of claws on wood, but the detective stayed out like a light. He was buried beneath the covers, barely visible except for his hair and his left hand, which dangled over the edge of the mattress.

John nudged it with his nose.

No response.

He nudged it again, a bit more insistently, and whined. Sherlock's fingers twitched but he stayed resolutely asleep, his breathing deep and even. The dull pounding sound John had heard the day before was audible again and John finally managed to place it. It was Sherlock's heart.

The realisation made him freeze and for about a minute all John did was stand in front of the bed and stare at the heap of fabric hiding his best friend while he listened to his heart beat steadily in his chest.

'There's the final proof, then,' he thought. 'He's certainly got one and it's in perfect working order, too.'

Before he could start waxing poetry about his discovery, John decided it was high time to finally wake his flatmate. It was time to embrace his new form and do what any dog would do.

He licked Sherlock's hand.

He even tilted his head to manage one broad swipe of his tongue across Sherlock's palm.

The hand disappeared beneath the covers with a muffled complaint as Sherlock jolted awake, heart rate spiking for a moment as his body fought to catch up.

John barked.

"John? What is it? Did something happen? Are you hurt?" As he spoke, Sherlock sat up, eyes wide and alert already.

He shook his head and walked back to the door, then turned and whined, jerking his head towards the door.

"What is it?" Sherlock asked again, glancing at the clock. "It's half five in the morning, John, what are you doing awake?"

Despite his questions, he swung his legs out of bed and got up, idly scratching the back of his neck as he followed John out of his room and down the hall. John made a mental note of the sound of Sherlock trailing after him, feet shuffling thanks to his too-long pyjama trousers. He probably wouldn't tread on them if he bothered to pull the trousers a bit higher instead of wearing them low on his hips.

John shoved the thought aside and approached the box of things Mycroft had brought the day before. Most of the stuff Sherlock had taken out was strewn across the floor. He picked up one of the bowls and looked at his friend expectantly.

"Food?" Sherlock asked. "You woke me at half past five in the morning, after a case, because you want breakfast?"

John nodded.

Sherlock groaned but reached for the bowl and the bag of dog pellets, complaining under his breath as he did so. "First you want me to go to bed. I do what you want and you wake me up at the crack of dawn. Is this some kind of revenge for the sugar thing? I said I was sorry."

Actually, he hadn't, but obviously that was what he had meant by saying that it wouldn't happen again. John rolled his eyes at him and picked up the second bowl to give to him as well.

"Ah yes. No tea for you for a while, I'm afraid," Sherlock said, filling the bowl with water and putting it on the floor by the entryway to the kitchen before filling the food bowl with pellets. "There you go. I hope this is the correct amount, but given your size and approximate weight, this should be sufficient."

John only listened with half an ear, too busy trying to figure out how dogs drank. He tried licking at the water but somehow that didn't work so well and it took him a while to figure out how to go about it. He had never paid much attention to how dogs did certain things, so he was surprised to find that he could curl his tongue backwards and form a kind of bowl with it to pour water into his mouth. Incredible.

Once he had gotten the hang of it, he happily lapped away. He had barely noticed how parched he was until Sherlock had given him the water. He should have known better - the last time he had drunk anything had been the day before at breakfast, what felt like an eternity ago. No wonder his throat was dry as the desert.

His thirst satisfied, John turned his attention to the dog pellets which had smelled rather enticing the night before. They still did and while his human brain was appalled, it was easily overruled by his canine taste receptors and he had no qualms about eating them all.

Sherlock chuckled. "Are you aware you are wagging your tail, John?"

He was?

John paused in what he was doing to turn his head and found that Sherlock was absolutely right. He tried to stop, then started doing it again. There was food, he was allowed to be happy about that, damn it.

And there was also the possibility that he did not quite know how to make his tail stop wagging.

Deciding to ignore the issue for the moment, John happily continued eating until his bowl was empty, then all but shoved Sherlock towards the fridge. This was a definite disadvantage to his new body - if he had been human, he would have made breakfast and either forced Sherlock to eat something or simply waited for him to be distracted enough to eat by accident when a full plate was set in front of him. That little trick had worked surprisingly well so far and John was not very happy about not being able to use it at the moment.

Luckily, Sherlock got the hint that getting anything done without eating breakfast first was not an option, so he made himself a cup of tea (much to John's astonishment - he hadn't been sure Sherlock knew how to do that) and one piece of toast, which he ate with a thin coating of butter and nothing else. John supposed that was better than nothing and given the rebellious look his friend was giving him, this was the best he was going to get.

"There," Sherlock said. "I have had breakfast and tea. Can I at least take a shower and get dressed before you decide to bully me into anything else?"

John sat in front of him and tried to look innocent.

"I'll take that as a yes," Sherlock told him and turned back towards his bedroom.

John watched him go, then turned around, went into the sitting room and hopped onto his chair. It was no problem to curl up on the seat with his head resting on the armrest, and he closed his eyes to doze for a while. After all the work he had already done this morning, he thought he deserved a bit of a rest.



*****



It seemed like only a minute had passed when he heard his name being called and opened his eyes, but Sherlock was freshly showered and dressed to go out. John hadn't expected that - usually, Sherlock couldn't be bothered to even get dressed, let alone leave the flat unless there was a case. As far as John knew, there was no case. He certainly would have heard it had a mobile gone off.

"Time for a walk," Sherlock announced, grabbing the lead from where he had set it on the coffee table the night before and approaching John.

John stayed where he was and gave him a look that clearly showed how very unhappy he was about the prospect of being kept on a lead outside.

To his surprise, Sherlock's face softened and he shrugged. "I can't help it, John. You know we can't risk it. Just consider the advantages - you certainly won't have to worry about not being able to catch up with me if we have to take down a runner. In fact, I'm quite sure you could do that all on your own. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is bred for hunting, after all. And what are most petty criminals to me but sitting ducks?"

John snorted - there really was no way he could argue with that, even if he had a voice.

He allowed Sherlock to fasten the lead to his collar and hopped off his chair. As he moved towards the door, the weight of the lead was impossible to ignore, but didn't feel as restrictive as he had feared. He sped up, experimentally straining against the lead. It did nothing to cut off his air supply and he felt better immediately.

"Not so fast," Sherlock said, sounding amused. "Do give me time to put on my coat first."

Reluctantly, John paused by the door and waited until Sherlock had shrugged on his coat and grabbed his phone off the table.

Finally Sherlock nodded and John bounded out onto the landing and down the stairs, pulling his friend along in his enthusiasm to get out of the house. If Sherlock had any complaints, he didn't voice them.

John barely waited for him to pull open the front door before squeezing through the gap and trotting out onto the street, sniffing the air excitedly. Today, everything seemed much more bearable. He supposed that his mind had had enough time to adapt now, filtering the noise and scents down to a less overwhelming level that could be dealt with. It was still a bit much, though, and John longed for someplace a bit more quiet, so he strained towards Regent's Park. Sherlock followed without protesting and John quickly stopped straining against the lead and adapted his tempo so they walked side by side, as they were accustomed to.

They had barely reached the entrance of the park when Sherlock's mobile went off. Frowning, he pulled it from his coat pocket. "What is it?"

"Got a case for you," Lestrade's voice came over the line, bringing home again how much John's hearing had improved. "It's right around the corner from Baker Street. I would've come to get you myself but I can't leave right now."

"Where exactly?" Sherlock demanded.

"Other side of Regent's Park, past the drinking fountain on Broad Walk. You can't miss it."

Sherlock looked down at John, who tilted his head. He nodded. "We'll be there in twenty."

He hung up just as Greg said: "What do you mean 'we'...?"

"Well," Sherlock said. "Looks like our friends from the Yard are in for a surprise. Remember to act as if you've never met them before, will you?"

John rolled his eyes - as if he would forget! Before Sherlock could continue with the reminders and cautions, John sped up and dragged him along past Marylebone Green, ears perked as he searched for the usual sounds of a crime scene. Cameras clicking away, passers-by gasping in shock and excitement, police radios crackling and beeping - none of it should be hard to make out.

He dragged Sherlock down half of Broad Walk before the first sounds of unusual activity reached him, and he promptly turned in that direction. Sherlock let himself be pulled along, walking in long strides and appearing rather amused by John's eagerness to get to the action.

They reached the crime scene just as the twenty minutes Sherlock had promised Lestrade were up, and the DI hurried forward to greet them. "Sherlock! That was quick." He spared a glance down at John. "And I see you brought company." He held out a hand for John to sniff, ignoring the way Sherlock's eyebrows rose in surprise at the display of acting skill.

Lestrade smelled very much the way he looked, John decided. Copious amounts of coffee, paper, exhaustion, nicotine and - surprisingly - a hint of cinnamon.

"Well, come along then," he said, leading them towards the crime scene tape. "I'm afraid John will have to wait at the edge. Can't have dog hair contaminating the crime scene," he muttered, low enough for only Sherlock and John to hear him.

Just then, Sergeant Donovan poked her head out from the tent they had set up over the body. "Is that a dog?!"

"No, Donovan, quite obviously this is an ant-eater," Sherlock told her, rolling his eyes. Lestrade muffled his laugh behind his fist, pretending to cough.

"Since when do you have a dog?" Donovan demanded rudely, marching towards them. "Did John get fed up and found you substitute?"

Sherlock gave her a haughty look. "Since yesterday. And John is visiting his sister."

"Why do you have a dog? Psychopaths and animals don't go well together, haven't you heard?"

"Oh really? You better call my parents and inform them that I cannot possibly look after their beloved dog while they're on a well-deserved holiday then," Sherlock told her, pretending to pull out his phone. "Mother will be so disappointed."

Donovan glared at him. "And do you think a crime scene is a good place to bring it?"

"Him," Sherlock corrected. "Well, the other option is leaving him alone at home. You have seen the state of my kitchen the last time you were forced to come by, haven't you? Do you think my flat is a good place to keep a dog in unsupervised?"

"I think your proximity is a generally bad place for anyone to be in, pets included," she snapped.

"How good for everyone involved that your opinion is of no interest in this matter, then."

Sally rolled her eyes. "Couldn't your parents have found anyone else to play dog-sitter?"

He shrugged. "My brother works in an expensive office where they barely allow people in, let alone pets."

"I didn't even know you have a brother," Sally said.

"The things you don't know about me could fill many books, Donovan. Here, hold this." He handed her the end of the lead.

"Excuse me? What am I supposed to do with that?"

Sherlock gave her an innocent look. "As you so astutely pointed out, I cannot take him to the crime scene, so I am giving him to you to look after until I'm done inspecting the body. I trust you are capable of that much, at least."

"Lestrade!" Sally implored, turning towards her superior. "Tell him he can't do that."

"Well, he does have a point," the DI pointed out. "Just look after the dog for a couple of minutes, all right? Look at him, for god's sake. Hardly a chore, is it?"

Donovan turned to look down at John, who looked back at her and wagged his tail, trying to look especially harmless and friendly. Something in her face softened. "Oh, all right. At least tell me his name, then."

Sherlock grinned. "Johnny."

'Oh, wait until we get home, I'm going to kill you for that' John thought.

"Seriously?!" Donovan asked, scandalised.

"Yes, isn't it great? I don't even have to bother remembering a new name. Turns out he responds to 'John' just as well." Sherlock sounded as excited as John had ever heard him about a triple murder.

"Your parents named their dog after your flatmate?"

Sherlock frowned at her. "No, don't be silly. Johnny here is three years old, which means they got him a full two years before John and I met. Don't be preposterous." Turning toward Lestrade, he continued: "Can we get to work now or is me having a dog more important than another one of London's many inhabitants turning up dead?"

"Oh, for fuck's sake, go ahead," Sally grumbled, squatting down next to John. "In the meantime, I'll show your Johnny here the difference between you and normal people."

Sherlock didn't bother to respond, merely said "Johnny, stay." and marched towards the body ahead of Lestrade, who had to hurry to keep up.

John watched him go with equal parts annoyance and disappointment. He didn't want to stay here and have to wait and he despised being called "Johnny" - which Sherlock was aware of, the bastard. Also, on some weird fundamental level he did not quite understand, it felt absolutely wrong to watch Sherlock walk away and not follow him.

He only realised he had shown his distress when he felt Sally pull him back by his lead. He hadn't even noticed he was straining against it, trying to follow Sherlock despite his order to stay put.

"Down boy," Sally told him. "You won't get to chew on that body, no matter how nice you think it smells."

For a moment, John thought she was talking about Sherlock, who did indeed smell very nice. Then her actual meaning became clear and he promptly stopped pulling and sat down instead.

Sally preened, obviously thinking this was somehow down to her being the voice of authority. John got up again and moved closer to sniff her leg. Might as well get something out of this, such as some information. And once he knew her scent, he'd be able to recognise her even if she came up behind him if the wind was blowing in the right direction.

To his surprise, Donovan smelled rather good - of coffee and shower gel and some kind of hair product. Apparently she liked hand lotion and used it regularly. It smelled like honey. The hand holding his lead dangled just above him and he raised his head and licked it without bothering to think about it. It wasn't as if she'd ever know this was him, after all, and he was curious if the lotion tasted like honey too. It did, a little.

Sally pulled her hand away and wiped it on her trousers, laughing. "That tickles."

She didn't seem too put out, though, because a moment later her fingers found his right ear in the most delicious scratch. He leaned his head into her hand and wagged his tail, closing his eyes in abject pleasure. Ohhh, this felt good.

For a moment, he wondered what it would be like if Sherlock's long fingers... no. Best not to go down that road, not even in his mind. Dangerous things lay buried there, just waiting for him to approach, he knew that.

"Good boy," she murmured. "You like that, eh? Bet the freak doesn't bother petting you at all. Probably has no idea how physical contact works unless he's touching a corpse. I feel kinda sorry for you, being subjected to that all the time. But your human namesake puts up with the same shit all the time. There's got to be something in it for him, don't you think? Well, you wouldn't know, I suppose. Drives me up the wall, Sherlock does, with his rudeness and his mightier-than-thou attitude. Would it kill him to act decent for a change?"

John gave a low whine, hoping to sound comforting. He knew what Sherlock was like, after all. Better than Sally did, in fact. And even though he couldn't disagree with her, he did know that there was more to his friend than his outward prickly shell.



*****



Sherlock sat back on his haunches, dispassionate eyes roaming the body on the ground as he searched for additional clues. So far, the case was perfectly straightforward - nothing to explain why Lestrade had asked for his help in the first place - but he couldn't help but hope for that one small detail that would elevate the murder from straightforward to fascinating. It happened sometimes, when a perfectly normal murder turned into the work of a serial killer or some bizarre cult was involved, but those cases were few and far between, much to Sherlock's private annoyance.

He opened his mouth to say as much to John before remembering that John wasn't there to hear him. Well, hear him he probably did, but a reply would not be forthcoming.

It was a very disturbing thought, in its way, and Sherlock raised his head and glanced towards the edge of the crime scene where he had left John with Sergeant Donovan. The sight that greeted him made something in his stomach clench tight and he fought to keep his breathing pattern normal as he watched John all but leaning into Donovan's hand.

Somehow, stupidly, Sherlock had assumed that John's new circumstances would at long last put a stop to his womanising ways, but now he was forced to admit that, if anything, John had suddenly gotten even more attractive to the female population - and some of the males too, judging by the way two of the crime scene techs were staring at him.

Of course Sherlock was aware that none of them knew they were looking at John - none of them saw anything but a medium-sized, adorable dog. The urge to pet him would be immediate and Sherlock himself had already found himself struggling not to bury his fingers in soft warm fur, snatching his hand away almost every time he caught himself reaching out. Though more tactile than him when it came to people, John did not seem to like being touched all that much as far as Sherlock could tell, preferring to nod at people instead of shaking their hands. He wondered if that was another remnant of life in the army, where you learned that shaking hands might be a greeting but might also be used to draw you closer and stab you with the knife hidden in your opponent's other hand.

Still, the strange and unwelcome urge to reach out and let his fingers glide through the dense fur along John's back or down his neck made Sherlock's fingers twitch. He shook his head in annoyance. Clearly John was already getting petted enough by Donovan. He would have to have a word with her about touching other people's pets, though he had a distinct feeling that his relinquishment of the lead into her hands had somehow included a permission to pet. Ugh. Hateful, pointless social norms and niceties. How was anyone supposed to know which gesture held what meaning, especially considering how fluent the borders between meanings were in this language without words? Sherlock hated the imprecision of it all.

He got up from his crouched position on the ground, stretching strained muscles as he surveyed the scene surrounding the body. There was nothing there to catch his interest, nothing to indicate anything but what he had already deduced had occurred here. What a shame. There was always the chance of something interesting about dead people outside their homes, but this one was so obviously a father-son quarrel he really didn't know why Lestrade had bothered to call him at all.

"What's that?" a nasal voice demanded, making Sherlock turn his head to look in the direction of the speaker.

Anderson had finally caught on to what everyone else had already noticed. "Where does that mutt come from and what's it doing at my crime scene?"

Sherlock sneered at him. "If you actually made use of the eyes in your head, you would not only have noticed that dog far sooner but would also realise that it is very much a groomed, well-cared for, thoroughbred dog, Anderson. The specific breed in this case being a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever."

"And of course you could tell all that at a glance," Anderson said, sounding sceptical.

"Of course not," Sherlock retorted, rolling his eyes as blatantly as possible. "I know because I brought him with me."

The other man glared at him, crossing his arms. "So arriving at crime scenes and poking around isn't enough for you anymore, is it? Now you need to mess them up even more by contaminating them with false evidence?"

Sherlock snorted. "After you've been over a crime scene, there's hardly anything left to contaminate, Anderson. And how is my dog going to do that from all the way over there, exactly?"

But even as he spoke, he could see the way Anderson was eyeing John - wary, faintly disgusted, but mostly afraid. Scared of dogs, then. Hardly a surprise. Sherlock imagined that many animals took offense to the likes of Anderson, keener senses immediately picking up on his true nature as a disgusting human being. What was that saying again? 'A person not liked by animals and small children is not to be trusted.' Clever man, that Carl Hilty. He made a mental note to orchestrate a run-in between Anderson and a two-year-old to test this theory.

"I don't see why you had to bring a dog to a crime scene in the first place," Anderson hissed at him, clearly running out of valid arguments.

Sherlock sighed. "Because I was already out walking with him when Lestrade here called me in. I do live just across the park. Surely you are aware of that - unless your sense of direction is as lacking as your professional skills."

Before Anderson had a chance to respond, he turned around and looked at Lestrade. "Are we done here? I've already told you everything about this. He was killed by his son, an accident as they fought, possibly over money. Hardly challenging. I am sure you will find the son very distraught and ready to confess now that he has had a couple of hours to get over the first shock and fully realise what he has done."

"Yeah, fine," Lestrade sighed, waving his hand in a shooing motion. "Go play with your, uh, dog."

Sherlock rolled his eyes at him but stalked away to where John was sitting in the grass by Donovan's side.

John jumped up at the sight of him, wagging his tail and moving forward to lick his hand. Sherlock made a mental note to commend him on his acting once all of this was over.

"He's a cute dog, I'll give you that," Sally said as she handed the lead back to him. "How long is he staying with you?"

Sherlock blinked at her. Was Donovan making small talk? He eyed her warily, but she appeared sincere. He shrugged. "It depends. A couple of weeks at least. My parents are on holiday and afterwards they'll have workmen in the house for renovations; he'd only get in the way."

She grinned. "I didn't know you had parents. Always half suspected you crash-landed your UFO here by accident."

He snorted. "That's the best you could come up with, really? I'm disappointed, Sally." He idly switched the lead into his other hand. "Come on, Johnny. Time to resume our walk."

Chapter Text

John wagged his tail excitedly as Sherlock reclaimed his lead from Sally and started to walk away. Finally! He had no idea how much time had passed but it had felt like an eternity, him being forced to stay behind and wait for Sherlock to finish examining the body. And while having his ears scratched by Donovan was fine, it was nothing in comparison to having Sherlock right there and moving.

He noticed his tongue was lolling and tried to drag it back but his excitement was almost overwhelming. Was this how dogs usually felt about having their owners return to them?

He blinked. Sherlock wasn't his owner. Sherlock was his friend, and right now may be pretending to be his owner, but they were equals. He needed to remember that.

The moment they were out of sight of the police, Sherlock bent down and removed the lead from John's collar.

"There you go," he said. "Have a run, but stay on this field. Your ability to read signs is severely compromised and dogs are not allowed to run free in every area of the park."

John barked once and took off, excited to finally stretch his legs. He hadn't had a chance to run in this form yet and something in him was straining to see how fast he could be.

The wind whipped through his fur and he barked again as the sheer joy of running at top speed took him. He all but shot across the large field, swerving every now and then to avoid random trees or people stretched out on picnic blankets.

Looking around, he realised he had run much farther than he had expected, so he circled back and returned to the distant dark speck that he just knew was Sherlock, who had continued to walk along the path, completely unhurried and apparently busy with his phone.

John bounded up to him and jumped around him just because he could. This was fantastic! He hadn't know it was possible to run this fast, had never achieved this kind of speed even during his days playing rugby.

"I take it you are seeing the advantages of this form?" Sherlock inquired mildly. "I shall have to remember to bring a ball next time so you have something to chase after."

John thought he would be quite happy to chase after Sherlock himself, but had to concede that this might be a very short race indeed. He wondered if chasing a ball would be as exciting as plain running had been. Perhaps there was a way to test that theory?

He bounded off again, making for the nearest copse of trees. After a bit of nosing around, he found what he had been looking for. A stick. Perfect!

He grabbed it between his teeth and ran back to Sherlock, who had progressed towards a nearby bench and raised an eyebrow at the sight of the stick.

"Really, John?"

John dropped the stick at Sherlock's feet, privately amused at the idea of making him bend down to retrieve it.

"You do realise that we have a perfectly acceptable assortment of tennis balls back at the flat, do you?" Sherlock inquired.

'Yes,' John wanted to tell him. 'But they're no use to us there when we are here.'

Since he couldn't speak, he settled on whining and nudging the stick with his nose.

Sherlock sighed. "Very well then."

He bent down, picked up the stick, and stood. "Ready?"

John whuffed at him.

Sherlock grinned. "Go fetch!"

And he threw the stick as far as he could.

John ran. With his eyes fixed on the stick he tried to calculate where it would start to descend and extrapolated a likely landing zone, then sped up in order to reach it in time.

He didn't quite manage to get there in time to snatch it out of the air and almost somersaulted as he tried to stop and pick it up off the ground.

Gripping the stick firmly between his teeth, he raced back to Sherlock, tail wagging and his blood coursing through his veins. This was fun!

He came to a halt in front of Sherlock, eyeing him expectantly.

"What, again?" Sounding both amused and slightly exasperated, Sherlock gripped the stick.

John would have grinned, a sudden mischievous thought occurring to him, and he refused to loosen his grip. As Sherlock tugged on one end of the stick, he pulled on the other, completely unable to stop his tail from wagging as they engaged in a stubborn tug of war.

"You'll have to let go eventually if you want me to throw it again," Sherlock told him, rolling his eyes at the apparent pointlessness of the exercise. John noticed his friend didn't for a moment relent his grip on his end of the stick, though. It occurred to John that perhaps Sherlock secretly enjoyed playing with him.

He did relent the stick after a while, wanting Sherlock to throw it again. This time, Sherlock chose another direction and John raced after it.

As he crossed the footpath on his way back, there was a sharp sting in his left front paw and he yelped, dropping the stick in pained surprise.

"John?" Sherlock called from the bench. "What is it?"

John whined, panicked. What was it? Had he been stung by a bee? He raised his paw, trying to look at the underside, but his coordination was not up to the task yet.

Footsteps came rushing towards him and moment later Sherlock dropped into a crouch next to him. "Here, let me see. Stay still."

One hand grabbed John's ruff to reinforce the message and he froze obediently as Sherlock's other hand clasped his paw and gently turned it so he could take a look. The scent of blood reached his sensitive nose and he whined again.

"It appears you stepped onto a shard of glass," Sherlock told him. He was clearly trying to sound calm but John could smell the worry and cold fury radiating off of him. "People these days! Dropping their litter everywhere as if there wasn't a perfectly serviceable bin three feet away."

John huffed. While he may agree with the sentiment expressed, he was more concerned with the possible havoc a dirty piece of glass could wreak in his body, never mind all the other dirt that may have gotten into his system via the cut.

"We better get you to a vet," Sherlock said. "My limited medical knowledge does not extend to canines and I do not dare patch you up myself with what supplies we have at Baker Street. Can you walk?"

John tried, but having barely adapted to walking on four legs left him quite incapable of compensating for one unavailable limb.

He shook his head.

"All right," Sherlock said. "We'll get you there another way, then. Don't wriggle around."

He stuffed the lead into one of his coat pockets, shoved his arms under John's unresisting body and unceremoniously lifted him up.

John yelped in shock and almost wriggled out of his hold out of sheer surprise but managed to stay calm just in time. Sherlock adjusted his grip a little, huffing out a breath. "You are heavier than you look, John. Perhaps I shall take you on walks more often to slim you down."

John gave a half-hearted growl at that, but didn't have the energy to protest as Sherlock swiftly carried him to the nearest park exit where he set him down and hailed a cab with an impervious wave of his arm.



*****



"No pets on the seat," the driver said as Sherlock wrenched open the cab door.

"Don't be ridiculous, my dog needs to be seen by a vet immediately," Sherlock snapped at him and rattled off the address to the nearest vet. Sometimes, knowing every street in London was awfully handy. "I'll pay double the usual fare if you get us there in under ten minutes."

He lifted John into the cab before the driver could protest any further. At least London cabs had enough floor space for him to fit comfortably, and this one was cleaner than most. Mornings were a supreme time for catching clean cabs, he had discovered.

He leaned back in his seat, took note of the time, and kept his eyes on John for the ride. He was utterly incapable of resisting the urge to reach down and stroke his hand through the thick fur of John's back every now and then and saw no reason to stop himself. Any concerned dog owner would be attempting to keep their pet calm in a high-stress situation such as this one.

Sherlock suspected he was more stressed than John, however, who stoically sat between his legs, facing ahead and keeping his weight off his injured front paw.

They came to a halt in front of the required address after nine and a half minutes and Sherlock made good on his word, throwing the money at the driver and telling him to keep the change as he pushed open the door and lifted John out of the cab.

He marched through the automatic doors, straight to the front desk, and snapped: "I need an immediate appointment. My dog has suffered an injury."

The receptionist - young, with a fake smile and fake posh accent and fake designer jeans - had the gall to demand further information, so he huffed at her and, with a quick glance at the clinic's layout, marched right past the front desk and towards the examination room.

"Sir, you can't just-!"

He ignored her, pushed the door handle down with his elbow and seriously startled a middle-aged vet in the middle of filing paperwork by barging into the room and lowering John onto the table.

"He has injured his left front paw," he said, before the woman could do more than open her mouth and snatch in a breath. "Make him better."

John gave him an incredulous look, mirrored by the vet.

Behind Sherlock, the receptionist appeared. "I'm sorry, doctor, he just barged right in!"

"I noticed," the vet said, rolling her eyes. "It's fine, Jenny. You know how people get about their pets."

She smiled politely at Sherlock. "Now, sir, I understand you are worried about your friend, but there are certain rules and one of them is registering at the front desk. That's what it's there for."

Impatience made him roll his eyes at her. "Whatever for? There were no other patients, neither in the waiting area nor in here with you. I will not let my dog suffer for a moment longer than necessary for the sake of paperwork and I refuse to let you, as a a registered vet, do any different. If dealing with a cut from a piece of glass is beyond your abilities, tell me so immediately and I will find a place with someone who is actually competent."

He saw John rolling his eyes before slumping on the table with a huff. Luckily, the vet couldn't see his expression from where she stood, but to Sherlock the message was all too clear: 'Don't be a prat.'

He drew a breath and bit the bullet. "My apologies. I'm dog-sitting for my mother and she is a fearsome woman to behold, particularly where Johnny here is concerned."

John turned his head to stare at the vet with soulful eyes. Sherlock had no idea how he did it, but the woman visibly melted.

"Very well then. But I'm expecting you to pay the bill immediately."

Sherlock waved a dismissive hand. "Fine. Now fix him."

She glared at him but her unwillingness to let any animal suffer came to his aid and she went to work.

Sherlock crossed his arms and watched as she carefully inspected the wound.

"Your dog is very well behaved," she said absently, stroking John's head with one hand. "What did you say his name was?"

"Johnny," Sherlock said shortly.

"Well, he may be well-trained but no one likes pain. Can you come here and hold on to his head while I extract the glass? If he tries to bite, things might get messy and we should try to avoid that."

"He knows better than to bite the hand that heals him," Sherlock told her. John wasn't stupid, of course he wouldn't bite her! Silly woman.

She rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you'll understand why I won't take your word for it. Now hold on to his head or I will call my assistant and he'll be muzzled."

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" With a huff, Sherlock moved forward and grabbed a hold of John's head, making sure to keep his grip gentle. "Now be a good boy and don't move," he ordered.

John rolled his eyes back to give him an incredulous look. Sherlock wondered if he was being fanciful if he interpreted it to mean 'how stupid do you think I am?'.

Sherlock circled his thumb along John's cheek in wordless reply. The warm fur felt nice to the touch and while he knew John had suffered far worse injuries, he still wanted to distract him as best he could.

John held perfectly still as the vet carefully extracted the shard of glass with a pair of tweezers, but a cut-off whimper escaped him anyway.  Sherlock tightened his grip a little and allowed himself to run his fingers through the short fur beneath John's ear twice.

"Has he had his shots?" the vet asked as she started cleaning the wound.

Sherlock hesitated. What to say? John was fastidious about getting all sorts of shots at the appropriate times and had bullied Sherlock into getting his as well. Arguments such as 'With the sheer number of times you get injured in grimy alleys, we're not slacking on your tetanus shots' had been difficult to disregard. But how many of these shots should a dog have? Would they harm the human trapped in this body or even prevent Mycroft's scientists from restoring him to his correct form?

"Yes," he said before the silence could drag on too long. "We're very fastidious about that."

The doctor nodded and proceeded to disinfect the wound before going in search of bandages. "Has he been neutered?"

Sherlock almost choked on his own breath. "No."

"Would you like to have it done?"

He thought of the endless parade of John's girlfriends. He thought of watching John flirt with any woman who happened to end up in his vicinity. He was sorely tempted.

And then he caught John's eye. "No, thank you. I'm not at liberty to make these kinds of decisions."

The doctor shrugged and carefully applied the bandage. "Very well. The injury was not as serious as it looked and I've removed all dirt particles. Make sure he doesn't use this paw for a day or two to give it sufficient time to heal. He will attempt to walk despite the injury and you should let him once that time frame is over. If he doesn't show signs of improvement after three days, come back and we'll take another look. If his paw feels hot to the touch or he starts behaving differently, come back immediately."

"Thank you." He wondered if he had done a sufficient job at hiding his relief but judging by the look the woman gave him, she wasn't fooled.

"Your manners take some work, mister, but I can respect a man who makes his pet a priority." She held out her hand.

Sherlock, mildly surprised, reached out and shook it firmly before moving to scoop up John. "Come on, Johnny. Let's get you home. I'll have to tell Lestrade if he has a nice murder for us, he'll have to relocate the crime scene to the flat."

John made a noise that sounded like a snort and headbutted Sherlock's arm in response. The vet simply looked horrified, which might be the cause of John's reaction.

Sherlock tried for a benign smile. "The criminal classes never rest, Doctor. Someone has to stop them. Now, you said something about immediate payment?"

Chapter Text

John hated being injured. Hated it.

He had thought he was done limping after Sherlock had cured his psychosomatic leg injury, but there he was again, unable to move and grumpy because of it. The feeling was only increased by the fact that he had run quick as the wind only moments before the accident. It was supremely frustrating. He wanted to run again! Now that he had had a taste of it, he wanted more. There had to be some upside to being a dog and he was sure this was it: sharper senses, increased speed.

To be robbed of one of these advantages so soon after discovering it was simply unfair.

He lay curled up in his armchair where Sherlock had deposited him upon their return. The madman had absolutely refused to let John take so much as a single step unaided. And since there was no other way for Sherlock to aid him, that had resulted in him carrying John around like a sack of potatoes.

Sherlock had huffed and puffed and complained about John's weight and John had been able to hear the strain in his voice and increased heart rate, but the stubborn man had refused to let him down.

And now John was curled up in his armchair and watched as Sherlock paced the room, muttering to himself.

That is to say, he would have been muttering to himself, were it not for John's superior hearing.

"... utterly unacceptable behaviour. I'll do something about it, just you wait and see! What are bins even for if people don't use them? What are people's brains good for if they can't even grasp the straightforward concept of trash disposal?!"

And so on.

John wished he could speak so he could point out that Sherlock himself had a terrible track record of throwing away anything and clearly didn't care about waste separation. Since he couldn't, he simply lay there, his head on the armrest of his chair, his injured paw on the edge of the seat, and watched as Sherlock paced and ranted.

It was touching, in a way, how angry Sherlock was about his injury. In moments like this, it was easy to imagine that he did care after all. No, that wasn't fair. John knew he cared. It was easier to see now, though, as if his changed form somehow gave Sherlock the freedom to be more honest about his sentiments than he would have been otherwise.

Or perhaps it simply put John in a better position to figure them out.

Apart from the rant, Sherlock's very scent had carried undertones of anxiety and worry during their trip to the vet's and the entire ride back to 221b, only to be gradually replaced by fury along the way.

He was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of the door to Mrs Hudson's flat opening, followed by her footsteps in the hallway and then on the stairs.

"Cooey!" she called, knocking on the door frame before entering. "Good morning, boys! Sherlock, it's barely 9 am and you're already running a trail into the carpet! Have you had breakfast? I'm sure John would have bullied you into it by now if he could talk."

"Oh, he managed to convey the message clearly enough anyway," Sherlock told her with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"There's a good boy," Mrs Hudson said, automatically falling into the trap of talking to John like he wasn't capable of understanding complex sentences.

She stepped closer to pat his head, then noticed his bandaged paw. "Oh dear me! What happened?"

"Just a little accident on our walk this morning," Sherlock growled. "I'm contemplating the merits of finding the culprit and making them walk over shards of glass themselves to see how they like it. Barefoot, of course."

Mrs Hudson tutted, sitting down on the armrest of John's chair and ruffling his fur. "Pish-tosh, Sherlock. Finding every person in London who litters! You could arrest half the population and still not make a difference."

Sherlock hmph-ed and continued pacing and muttering.

"Don't you mind him," Mrs Hudson told John, her hand running along his spine in a wonderfully soothing motion over and over again. "He's just worried for you, the dear. Has got his heart in the right place, that one, though you wouldn't know it from the way he usually behaves." She winked and jerked her head in Sherlock's direction. "Not to worry, though. Despite his many odd quirks, he's never shown an interest in bestiality, though I hear there's much to say in favour of doggy-style."

John's mouth dropped open in scandalised horror.

A short glance at Sherlock confirmed that even his usually unshakeable friend looked suitably thrown.

"Mrs Hudson!"

"There's no need to sound like that," she chided. "I was just saying..."

"A lot of nonsense," Sherlock completed her sentence firmly. "What did you come up here for, anyway?"

"Oh, I just wanted to make sure you had something to eat. With John being unable to force some food down your throat every now and then, I'm quite worried you'll waste away."

"Don't be ridiculous, I can look after myself perfectly well."

Mrs Hudson and John sent him identical looks of disbelief. Sherlock ignored them.

"Stubborn boy," the landlady said softly, scratching John's right ear. He tipped his head back in bliss. "You make sure he eats something, John, even if you have to drag him to the fridge by his sleeve."

 He nodded vigorously, making her laugh. "That's my boy. Now then, I'll leave you to it. Sherlock, do remember that John needs some kind of exercise even if he is to stay off his paw until it heals. Time to put that big brain to use and find a way to play with him."

She patted John's head one last time, got up from the chair and was gone with another pat to Sherlock's back.

"That woman," Sherlock muttered once she had descended the stairs and they had heard her door close. "I'm almost glad I never met her when she was still a young woman; she must have been an unstoppable force of nature."

John barked in agreement.

"But she's not entirely wrong," Sherlock continued and for a moment John could feel his heart stop as his mind instantly jumped back to their landlady's scandalous remark. "You do need something to keep you occupied. Let's see what we can find."



*****


About an hour later, Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade entered 221b with a feeling of amused dread. Granted, he had only seen Sherlock and John this morning and they had both seemed fine, but who knew what might have happened since then.

He was therefore not remotely prepared to find them in the sitting room, their chairs pushed closer together than usually, each of the flat's inhabitants in his respective chair, engaged in an obviously very serious game of tug of war with a ratty old towel.

Sergeant Donovan, who entered the room behind him in a grumpy mood due to her enforced presence here, stifled a gasp.

"Do I even want to know what you are doing?" Lestrade asked, exasperated.

"I would have thought it was obvious," Sherlock said, not even bothering to look up. He was trying to stare John down, his grip on the towel unrelenting. "I'm trying to figure out for how long Johnny here can keep up a consistent pressure of his jaw. It might be useful in taking down a suspect and holding him in place until you lot arrive at the scene."

"And here I thought we had caught you acting human for once," Donovan sighed. "Can't you just play with him like a normal person?"

"As you can see, I'm combining the entertaining with the useful," Sherlock countered. "This gives me greater working knowledge of his strengths and keeps him occupied without moving around too much."

"Yes, what's up with his foot?" Lestrade asked, having noticed the bandage.

Sherlock frowned at him. "It's a paw and he cut it. Incidentally, I need you to find the person responsible and arrest them."

"For what precisely?"

"Littering."

The DI pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "Sherlock, I cannot arrest someone for littering!"

"What are you good for, then? This person did not dispose of dangerous glass shards in the bin but rather on a footpath in Regent's Park. Which is why I had to take Johnny to the vet this morning."

Sherlock glared past Lestrade at Donovan. "Do you have anything to add?"

"Don't look at me," she said, raising her hands defensively. "I'm the last person who'll get in your way if you want to arrest people for littering. Have fun convincing the lawmakers to make it a capital offence, though."

Sherlock looked at her as if she had just grown a second head. "Donovan, you are brilliant. Now get out, both of you, I need to call my brother."

John made a yipping sound and Sherlock tugged hard, pulling the towel towards himself. "Ha! Got you!"

Lestrade had a sudden urge to bury his face in his hands and wait until the world decided to make sense again. "Please, Sherlock. Try and be sensible. I know John is currently away and thus unable to do whatever he does that turns you into a functioning adult, but could you please give it a shot anyway?"

Instead of replying, Sherlock threw John one end of towel again and waited for him to grasp it with his teeth. Only when they were back to tugging back and forth did he respond.

"What do you want?"

"Any additional information you would like to share on our murder from this morning?"

Sherlock sighed. "I already told you everything. His son killed him in an argument over money. How hard can it be to find and arrest him?"

"Oh, we found him all right," Donovan said, crossing her arms. "Turns out he's dead as well."

"Suicide?"

"Only if he managed to literally stab himself in the back." Lestrade held up a close-up of the wound.

Sherlock glanced at the picture and then took a longer look. "Interesting."

He beckoned with one hand. "Give it here, I want a closer look."

John gave a hard tug and the towel slid out of Sherlock's grasp. John let out a triumphant bark and wagged his tail.

Sherlock accepted the picture from Lestrade and gave John a dark look. "It's not a victory when I'm not paying attention."

John whuffed.

"I think he disagrees," Donovan said, smirking, and stepped closer to ruffle John's head.

Sherlock transferred his glare to her before returning his attention to the picture. "I think we can safely assume that it is unlikely he stabbed himself. Do you have a time of death or even an estimate?"

"Sometime in the early morning hours," Lestrade told him. "I've got some PCs canvassing the neighbourhood. Perhaps we'll find a witness."

"So he died after his father. Perhaps he killed him and returned home to find his own murderer already waiting for him."

"But what possible motive could there be? Unless that person also helped with the disposal of the father's body."

Sherlock shook his head. "There were no signs of a second person at the site. No, the father was killed right there in the park. I suppose it is possible that someone witnessed the murder and confronted the son, or that he confided in someone - the mother might be a potential suspect, but women rarely murder their grown children. Stepmother?"

"I'll have someone look into it," Lestrade promised. "But it's not your style to just sit here and come up with theories. We can do that ourselves. I come for you when I need hard evidence, Sherlock."

"Well, I'm not leaving Johnny here on his own, obviously, and he can't walk. So either you bring the crime scene to me or you learn some patience and wait two days until we're ready and willing to leave the flat again."

"Or maybe we'll try the novel approach of solving the case on our own," Sally suggested sharply.

He gave her a look of utter disbelief, then shrugged. "You can certainly try. Do let me know when you have, so I'll know not to waste any mental energy on it."

Lestrade sighed. "Could you two at least try to get along for once?"

"No," they said in unison, making him roll his eyes.

"Fine. Donovan, could you wait for me downstairs? There's something else I've got to talk to Sherlock about. In private."

"Gladly." She petted John one last time and left.

Lestrade waited until the front door had closed behind his Sergeant before turning back to Sherlock and John. "How are you two doing? Everything all right, John? Getting used to this whole mess?"

John whined at him and tilted his head to the side.

"I'll take that to mean 'as well as can be expected'," Lestrade said. "Fair enough."

"We're fine," Sherlock grumbled. "Really, Lestrade, I do know how to take care of a dog and I am perfectly capable of communicating with John no matter how non-verbal he may be."

John made a sound like a snort at that. Sherlock pretended not to hear him. "The injury is annoying, but we can keep ourselves entertained well enough. There are a ton of non-intrusive experiments I can run that don't require John to move about much. As soon as he's back on his paws, we'll stop by the Yard for an update on the case."

Lestrade nodded.

"Was there anything else?"

He hesitated. "Well... I was just wondering... how long do you expect this situation to last?"

"The vet said he'd be back to his normal range of moveme-"

"Not that!" Lestrade interrupted. "The entire John-being-a-dog thing. Christ."

"Oh." Sherlock thought for a moment. "I don't know. Mycroft has his best scientists working on it, but they're currently preparing a number of test batches. Obviously I refuse to let them use John as a guinea pig for any half-cocked serums they managed to cook up since we left yesterday. Unless they can present us with a solution that is as free of risks as possible under the circumstances, they won't get within a five mile radius of him. It might take a couple of weeks. I'm sure we'll adapt."

John whined and dropped his head between his paws, looking resigned.

Lestrade reached out and patted his back. "Patience, John. We'll be laughing about this over pints soon enough, you'll see."



*****


The remainder of the day passed in a series of naps interspersed with Sherlock being his usual crazy self.

John, long used to being idle as Sherlock went mad with cabin fever, spent a lot of time curled up on his chair, on the floor, on the sofa, and sometimes even in the surprisingly comfortable dog bed. To his pleased surprise, he had discovered that dogs were masters at sleeping when they set their mind to being lazy. Not quite as good as cats, of course, but close enough.

Unfortunately, Sherlock kept rousing him for a whole collection of experiments and games.

"No, you're not eating out of your bowl, John! It's boring and too quick. We need something to keep you occupied so you won't get bored. Here, I stuffed your food into this kong!"

Needless to say, John was not impressed. While the ingenuity of the manufacturers of the kong was admirable, he was hungry and this required him to work for his food, which didn't quite fit in with the relaxation he had had planned for the day. The part of his brain that was unmistakeably canine, on the other hand, was ecstatic.

The result was that John found himself on the floor, disgruntled, plotting revenge, and salivating as he tried to extract his dinner from the kong. And all the while, his tail was wagging without consulting him!

Sherlock, sitting cross-legged on the floor across from him, found the whole thing hilarious. The bastard even had the nerve to keep time with a stop watch.

"I realise I'll have to refill it several times for you to get the required amount of nutrition out of this, John. Do you think this will keep you busy for over two hours?"

John glared at him over the kong but was too busy to even try and reply with a sound that wasn't panting.



*****



Once he had finally eaten his fill and an astonishing two hours and eighteen minutes had passed (and forty-eight seconds, as Sherlock insisted on pointing out), John ended up letting Sherlock examine his teeth, eyes, ears, paws and claws.

There was no harm in it, after all, and Sherlock's touch was gentle and careful. He even went so far as to give him verbal warnings such as "I'm going to turn your ear inside-out, make a sound if this hurts" and "I want to touch your canines, don't bite my finger off".

After that came what felt like an entire questionnaire, specifically designed to be answerable with clear 'yes' or 'no' options - or in this case, whuff or growl.

Sherlock inquired after his mental state by asking "Would you describe yourself as feeling-" and then listing a number of emotions with sufficient pauses in between for John to 'tick the box' to confirm.

He asked about the pain in his paw and told John to alert him if anything felt wrong and also to let him know when it was time to change the dressing or at least inspect the wound.

"I could take a picture and show it to you," he suggested. "If you're having trouble seeing it yourself." He grinned. "Dog or no, there's nothing stopping you from being your own doctor after all."

John snorted but felt inclined to agree.

He waited for Sherlock to get lost in his notes before deciding that now was a great time to exact his revenge for the kong. He sneaked out of the sitting room and down the hallway, pushed open the door to Sherlock's bedroom and followed his nose to the chest of drawers.

It took a bit of maneouvering, but he finally managed to pull open the correct drawer. There before him was Sherlock's carefully arranged sock index.

If John had been able to smirk, he would have done.



*****



That night, Sherlock stayed up late. He went over the notes he had taken on John today, trying to somehow keep the dog separate from the man in his mind as he sifted through the information.

So far, John's character was positively and absolutely his, though a part of him seemed to respond to stimuli dogs would experience in a similar manner. Sherlock supposed that could be expected and wasn't anything worth worrying about.

In fact, Sherlock was more worried about the process of turning John back into a human than John's current situation. And, if he was honest with himself, his own reaction to suddenly having acquired a dog in lieu of a flatmate.

It had been years since he had spent this much time with a dog but he had never forgotten what it felt like. Companionship. Trust. The knowledge that this one creature adored him just the way he was, that this one being would always be happy to see him no matter what. He had missed it immensely and having John, of all people, turn into a dog was both horrifying and also oddly pleasant. Sherlock liked dogs.

Which was why he now found himself in a bit of a pickle. He really, really liked dogs. And he really liked petting them. And now here he was, sharing a flat with a dog with fluffy red-and-white fur, his fingers itching to touch.

Sherlock knew that was a bit not good.

This was John, after all, and petting John was not something he would have ever considered.

'Liar'. Fine, so perhaps he had. But it had never - fine, rarely - made his fingers itch like this, the constant urge to reach out and pat his head, stroke his back, scratch that spot behind his ears he knew perfectly well dogs loved having scratched. He even had evidence that this was also true for John-the-dog, thanks to Sally Donovan.

Perhaps he really should start keeping John and John-the-dog separate. John and Johnny. Yes. His flatmate and his dog.

And while Sherlock was itching to pet Johnny until his fingers fell off, he knew that John would not be very happy with such an endeavour. It just wasn't done. The mere idea of a belly rub became incredibly awkward the moment he mentally replaced the canine form with the human one.

So he would have to content himself with what excuses he could get away with. Petting Johnny in public so as not to seem like a neglectful owner, sneaking in little touches in private under the guise of checking him for injuries and-

Sherlock paused, an idea occurring to him.

Grooming!

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers had mid-length fur, so grooming was definitely required. He mentally reviewed the items Mycroft had had his minions deliver and wasn't surprised to find that various brushes and combs had been included.

All right then. But how to convince John? It would probably be best just to present him with a fait accompli.

Yes, that would work. He would grumble and complain and glare at Sherlock and then he would do what he always did, which was to give in and let Sherlock have his way. Particularly because in this instance, Sherlock knew that he had all the right arguments on his side.

Grooming was important. A shiny coat mattered and was a sign of a healthy and well-cared-for dog.

Sherlock would not be seen in public with a dog that could somehow lead people to assume he was neglecting his companion. The Yarders would never shut up about it if they thought he wasn't capable of caring for a pet. Particularly since even they had heard about the correlation between violence against animals and serial killers.

Well, that settled it.

He had the perfect excuse to pet as much as he liked and John wasn't even on solid moral ground when complaining about it. Perfect!

Sherlock glanced at the dog bed next to the fireplace. It was empty.

Frowning, he looked around. Where had John gone? And how? He wasn't supposed to walk!

A noise in the kitchen drew his attention and he leaned sideways to look past John's armchair.

John was under the kitchen table, sniffing the ground and chair legs, his tail swishing back and forth in a manner that Sherlock would have classified as absent-minded. It wasn't a fast movement similar to a full wag, rather a steady, lazy back-and-forth, the physical equivalent to the way one might hum under one's breath while completing a task.

The idea made him smile.

"John, what are you doing?"

John ignored him, proceeding to sniff the rest of the kitchen. As he emerged from under the table, Sherlock saw that he wasn't using his injured paw at all, hobbling along on three legs instead.

"Ah. I see you finally trust your balance enough to attempt a three-legged walk," Sherlock observed. "Do you think you could manage longer distances like this?"

In reply, John returned to the living room and sat down in front of him, tilting his head to the side quizzically as he looked at Sherlock. After a moment of contemplation, he nodded.

Sherlock nodded back at him. "Good. It has occurred to me that you will need to be able to move if I am to take you on walks. And unless you somehow manage to learn how to use a loo made to accommodate humans, the park will have to do."

John glared at him, clearly unhappy with the idea.

Sherlock wondered how best to cheer him up and inevitably his mind returned to science. "I could take samples, see if there's a difference between regular dog excrements and those of dogs who are formerly human," he suggested.

The look John gave him could have been used as a murder weapon.

"No?"

John actually managed to lift his eyebrows, or rather the place where his eyebrows would have resided on a human face.

"Not good?"

A head-shake.

Sherlock huffed. "Fine. But it would have been extremely interesting."

John huffed and flopped down on the floor, his head coming to rest on Sherlock's right shoe.

The weight was a surprisingly pleasant addition, as was the warmth seeping through the leather. Sherlock only regretted wearing shoes at all and decided to go barefoot more often inside the flat.

As it was, John didn't seem to plan on moving anytime soon, so Sherlock laid aside his notes, reached for the scientific journal he had started reading earlier that day, and settled in for a quiet evening at home.

When he went to bed several hours later, bullied there by John insistently pulling on his trouser leg, Sherlock decided that while he missed having John talking to him, he certainly didn't lack the soothing effect of his companionship.

Chapter Text

The next morning, John discovered the latest drawback to being a dog: his inability to go to the bathroom whenever he wanted.

As such, he applied his paws to Sherlock's door and then used the tried and tested method of licking Sherlock's hand.

Sherlock grumbled and made a spirited attempt of continuing to sleep by pulling his hand under the blankets and turning his back to John. John retaliated by jumping onto the bed and breathing hot dog breath right in Sherlock's face.

"Ugh."

John barked.

"What is it this time?" Sherlock muttered, not even bothering to open his eyes. "If there's another tap dripping somewhere, go lap it up or something."

John hopped off the bed, headed into the sitting room and retrieved his lead. He pointedly dropped it on Sherlock's face.

"Again?!"

John gave a whuff.

Sherlock, at long last, opened his eyes and glanced around for the alarm. "It's not even quarter past five, John!"

John picked up the lead and dropped it on Sherlock's face again.

"We're going to train you to use the loo," Sherlock groaned. "Fine. Get off me so I can get up. You're undermining your efforts to bully me into a normal sleep cycle."

At this point, John really didn't care. He hopped off the bed and bounced on his paws, waiting for Sherlock to extract himself from the bed and get dressed.

"I take it you don't want to waste any time having breakfast," the detective sighed. "Fine. Can I at least get dressed? I'll be quick about it."

John barked and went into the sitting room, glad the door to the hall was always open. He bounded down the stairs, listened for Sherlock's movements, and waited. He didn't have to wait long for it to happen.

"JOHN! What have my socks ever done to you?" Sherlock called down the stairs.

John huffed a laugh and then bounded back up when he decided the lazy git wasn't moving fast enough.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," Sherlock grumbled at him, closing the last button on his shirt and pulling on his suit jacket before reaching for his coat. "Where's your lead?"

John found it on the floor of Sherlock's bedroom and brought it to him. He barely waited for the lead to be fastened to his collar before proceeding to tow Sherlock down the stairs and to the front door.

"My, aren't we impatient. How's your paw today?"

It was fine, as far as John was concerned. He wasn't putting too much weight on it and ignored what little pain he felt from the injury. Part of him wondered if perhaps dogs simply healed faster or if it was due to his having been turned into one, but most of him was focused on getting outside and finding a convenient tree.

Sherlock allowed himself to be dragged to Regent's Park and didn't even try to protest when John very insistently demanded to be released by biting the lead.

"We'll have to do something about this privacy issue," was all he said as he unhooked the lead but John wasn't paying attention. It was early in the morning, his bladder was bursting, and there was a copse of trees conveniently close to him. Sherlock could wait.



*****



Sherlock waited. It was early morning and he was surprisingly tired and currently trying not to doze off on a park bench.

John had disappeared between some trees precisely four minutes and eighteen seconds ago, and while Sherlock would have liked to follow him and make sure he was all right, something about John's behaviour this morning told him that any attempts to do so would be met with anger.

Privacy.

Not a concept he had expected to spend much time pondering. He and John had never adhered to any strict personal boundaries. Well, Sherlock admitted, he hadn't and John had simply accepted it as a fact. He barged in and out of the bathroom even when John was in there having a shower, he entered John's bedroom without bothering to knock at all times of the night, and the list went on.

So perhaps he could understand why John did not want him around right now when he was already forced to endure the indignity of using a public park as his bathroom.

Sherlock supposed he was theoretically expected and required to follow him with a plastic bag, but John had already made his opinion on the subject clear. And breaking some trifling little law was hardly something for Sherlock to bat an eye at.

Thus, he waited. His phone was dreadfully silent and message-less at this hour of the morning and he missed receiving odd texts from John during the day. Was it possible to teach a dog how to send text messages? He would have to investigate the possibility.

With his phone refusing to cooperate and Lestrade unaccountably not answering his texts, Sherlock resigned himself to people-watching.

As it quickly turned out, the park did not have many people in it at 5:30 am.

Sherlock made a mental note to train John and his bladder to keep to a schedule more suited to the average Londoner.

Speaking of ... a speck of red drew his eye and there was John, emerging from the trees in a weird and oddly amusing half-run, half-hobble. Ears pricked, tail wagging, his ginger coat shining in the early morning light, he looked like the very picture of a happy dog.

"Can we go home now and come back at a civilised hour?" Sherlock asked as John came to a halt in front of him.

They could. And they did.

Two hours later, after Sherlock had given John his kibbles while he himself took a shower and after John bullied him into eating something, they returned to the park.

This time, Sherlock brought a short piece of thick, knotted rope, and a tennis ball.

Now that he was no longer in a hurry, John stayed by his side and Sherlock shortened his strides to accommodate his limping friend.

"You know, John, after I cured your psychosomatic limp, I really didn't think we'd end up in this situation again," he commented idly, watching a wary cyclist making a huge detour around John, as if all dogs were just itching to throw themselves under the wheels of oncoming bicycles.

John gave him a look.

Sherlock shrugged. "I was just pointing out that we do keep ending up in this situation. If I were to take you to Angelo's tonight, I assume you still wouldn't want a candle on the table?"

The look became a glare.

Sherlock held up his hands and told himself he wasn't disappointed. "Just checking."

They continued along the path. Every now and then, they came across other people with dogs and Sherlock watched in interest as they approached John, sniffed at him and left, looking mildly confused. Sherlock wondered if there was something about John that felt wrong to them, if they somehow knew that he wasn't supposed to be a dog.

"Can you understand them?" he asked. "The other dogs, I mean."

John whined and tipped his head from side to side.

"I'm assuming they don't talk in complete words and sentences like we do," Sherlock said. "But do you understand them?"

John thought about it for a bit, then nodded, then shrugged.

Sherlock hazarded a guess. "You think so but you can't be sure for obvious reasons?"

John nodded.

That seemed reasonable enough. "Well, that seems quite similar to what the two of us are doing right now. And it might come in handy. Do you think you could develop your understanding of other dogs if you were to spend more time with them?"

John whined and shrugged again.

"No, you're right, I don't really think you'll have occasion to spend much time with other dogs and it's unlikely one will become relevant in a case before your situation has been resolved."

They walked in silence for a bit. Every now and then, John stopped to sniff at a patch of grass that - to Sherlock - looked no different from the patches of grass surrounding it, but clearly John found them fascinating. He spent a particularly long time on a large stone before returning to Sherlock's side and shaking his head, ears flapping. Sherlock made a mental note to ask him about that once he was back in his human body and able to answer questions verbally.

Sherlock pulled the tennis ball out of his coat pocket. "All right then, let's tire you out a bit. I researched your breed and it appears that Tollers are working dogs and love fetching things. Particularly ducks, which is why they're so useful for the duck hunt, obviously. Now, I'm going to throw this and you are not going to injure yourself any further while fetching it. Agreed?"

John barked, his eyes fixed on the tennis ball as if hypnotised.

Sherlock nodded, pulled back his arm, and threw.

John ran after it, completely disregarding his paw, although he was not half as fast as he had been the day before. Sherlock had a very clear memory of John racing across the lawn on their way back from the crime scene. He had been incredibly fast, much faster than Sherlock had anticipated, and he had cursed himself for not being ready to stop the time. He would have to make up for that another time.

"What a cute dog!"

Sherlock blinked and turned to regard the speaker. Two women stood nearby, their gazes going back and forth between him and John, who was just trotting back to him with the ball. A quick deduction told him they were business women on their morning jog before going to the office and that neither of them posed a threat. He didn't bother learning more.

"Thank you," Sherlock said, unsure what was expected of him.

"What breed is that?" the taller of the two women asked.

He told her and watched as they both nodded in clear incomprehension. Obviously neither had heard of Tollers before.

John sat next to him, dropped the ball at his feet, and wagged his tail once as he regarded the women.

"And he's so well-trained!" the other woman said. "Some dogs just jump right at you, you know?"

Sherlock had no idea how to respond to that, so he simply said: "Johnny knows how to behave himself."

"Ohhhh, Johnny! Is that his name?!"

"Clearly," he said shortly, mentally detracting several points from their IQs.

"May we pet him?"

Sherlock hesitated and looked down at John. John looked back at him and wagged his tail. Of course.

"If you want," he sighed and made a sweeping gesture at them. "Have at it, Johnny."

John got up and trotted forward to sniff their hands and allow them to quite thoroughly pet and cuddle him, amongst many exclamations about his soft fur and beautiful colouring and 'isn't he a sweetheart!' and 'gosh, what a darling!'.

"Do you come here often?" the taller one asked, looking at Sherlock and twirling a strand of brown hair around her fingers.

"It's the closest park to our home," he said, disinterestedly.

She smiled bravely. "Well, we tend to run here on the regular, if you ever find yourself wishing for some company."

The sentence hung between them for a bit. Sherlock noticed John was staring at him. It occurred to him that there was more to the woman's statement than met the eye.

"I'm sure that won't happen," he said firmly. "Now if you'll excuse us, we've still got some ground to cover today."

"Oh, of course. Have a good day then."

They said goodbye and continued on their way, in the opposite direction. Sherlock stared after them in some confusion before looking back at John.

John barked once and made a huffing noise that sounded suspiciously like laughter.

Sherlock frowned at him. "What? I don't have the time or patience to watch women fawn over you for the entirety of our walks every day."

John shook his head, looked in the direction the women had gone and nudged Sherlock's leg.

"Me? What does it have to do with me?"

John rolled his eyes and gave him a pointed look.

Surely he couldn't mean...? Sherlock shook his head. "Oh for god's sake!"

He picked up the tennis ball and threw it as forcefully as possible. "Here, shut up and go fetch."

John did.



*****



They finished their walk two hours later, only getting delayed four times by people who wanted to interrogate Sherlock about his cute dog - and, much to John's amusement, Sherlock's schedule.

John wondered if Sherlock was aware of the fact that a handsome man with a dog might as well hold up a huge sign saying 'Approach me about interesting dating opportunities'. If he hadn't known before, surely he could not be left in any doubt about it now.

And yet Sherlock didn't seem impressed or particularly pleased. Instead, his comments once the people trying to chat him up had left sounded increasingly annoyed. John could actually smell the discomfort radiating off of his friend. The women trying to talk to Sherlock under the guise of petting his cute dog had all but drowned in pheromones but John hadn't smelled even a hint of any such thing from Sherlock.

'Well, he always said it wasn't his area' John thought and decided to enjoy the attention directed his way.

Despite being cuddled and petted by a collection of gentle hands, his favourite part of the walk was - surprisingly - chasing after the tennis ball Sherlock kept throwing for him. It was great fun, even though he couldn't run as fast as he would have liked. Several people had commented on his bandaged paw and Sherlock's curt explanation about glass shards in the park had been met with sympathetic outrage.

Now, after two hours of chasing a ball and sniffing around trees and grass whenever an interesting scent caught his attention, John was quite content to find that Sherlock had turned back towards Baker Street.

"We'll have to go grocery shopping," Sherlock told him as they exited the park and he refastened the lead to John's collar. "Care for a quick detour before we return home?"

John nodded and allowed Sherlock to lead the way to the closest Sainsburys, mentally resigning himself to waiting outside. He wondered if Sherlock even knew how grocery shopping worked. Usually, the man would have bullied him into doing it or simply waited until Mrs Hudson went for the shops to ask her to bring along some things for them.

To his surprise, Sherlock didn't tie him up outside the shop. "It's going to start raining any minute now," the detective pointed out, nodding at the sky, where indeed dark clouds were forming. "I'm not letting you get wet on top of being injured."

John wanted to tell him that he appreciated the gesture but didn't think the Sainsburys management would, but there was no way of doing so. He sighed and tried to stay as unobtrusive and close to Sherlock as possible.

"Now, you have a better idea of what we're low on," Sherlock said, picking up a basket. "So I'll let you decide."

Since it was still before noon on a workday and most people were in fact at work, the Sainsburys was mostly empty, which gave them an advantage. They made it almost all the way to the till before an employee noticed them.

"Sir, you can't bring your dog in here!"

'Uh-oh' John thought, but it was already too late.

Sherlock turned and gave him a haughty look. "As you can see, I most certainly can."

"But dogs are not allowed inside our store."

He shrugged. "Perhaps you should reconsider your policy. Either way, it's raining outside and there is no shelter being provided for pets. I will not leave my dog out in the rain just because you lot don't like animals."

"It's a sanitary thing, sir."

"Which is why he is staying close by my side, not touching anything apart from the floor, and being perfectly well-behaved," Sherlock told him firmly.

The man remained unmoved. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid it's a company policy, sir. I have to ask you to take your dog outside."

"Fine." His gaze caught on something on one of the nearby shelves. "And anyway, why don't you tell your tale of company policies and sanitariness to the cat over there?"

There was indeed a cat sitting on top of the shelf, looking down at them with an expression that could only be described as 'severely judging'.

John and the employee stared at the cat in disbelief. The cat stared back in abject boredom.

"How the hell did it get up there?" the employee said to no one in particular. John was more interested in how he could possibly get it down and thoughts of a sanitary environment had absolutely nothing to do with it. Here was something that rubbed him wrong in all the important ways and he wanted to chase.

He never got the chance to take the thought any further because Sherlock whirled around and used the store employee's distraction to march right to the till, dumping his intended purchases in front of a bemused cashier.

He raised an eyebrow at the young woman. "Unless you want me to leave without paying?"

She grinned and said in a low voice: "Personally, I don't like that policy either. And he's a very cute dog, sir."

Louder, she added: "Cash or card? That'll be ₤17.25 please, and we must ask you to leave your dog outside next time."

Sherlock handed her the money, grabbed the bag with his groceries, and marched towards the door, where the other employee was waiting to make sure he actually left. John smelled his annoyance, but didn't much care for it. It really was raining now and the idea of waiting in the downpour held absolutely no appeal to him.

"Perhaps I should tweet about this," Sherlock suggested as they passed the employee, clearly miffed. "Sainsburys encourages animal cruelty by forcing owner to leave his injured dog out in the rain. Bet the internet would love that."

John whined at him and hoped his flatmate would stop being an arse so they could get out of there and go home.

"Wait here," Sherlock ordered as they stood under the very small overhanging roof right in front of the entrance. John watched as he stepped forward and raised his arm in an imperious gesture that appeared to be absolutely compelling for cab drivers in all of London because one slid to a halt at the curb almost immediately.

Sherlock opened the door. "Hop in."

John did, doing his best to spend as little time in the rain as possible.

Sherlock gave instructions to the driver and closed the door and off they were. John returned to the same position they had adopted on their last ride in a cab, sitting between Sherlock's legs so he would take up as little space as possible.

To his surprise, Sherlock started stroking his head in an almost absent-minded manner, like any dog owner might to keep their companion calm during a car ride.

The drive only took a handful of minutes and when they reached Baker Street, John found himself oddly disappointed. He told himself it was due to being cooped up inside again. It certainly did not have anything to do with the sudden absence of Sherlock's warm hand stroking down the back of his head and neck.



*****



John lay down on the sitting room floor and watched as Sherlock unpacked the groceries for the sheer novelty of the sight. He honestly couldn't recall a single time where Sherlock had voluntarily gone shopping, except for that one time when he had left without a word and came back three hours later with two dozen bananas. John had never found out what that particular experiment had been about. Somehow, it had never seemed important. Just another incident in living with the nutball that was Sherlock.

His ears perked up as Sherlock turned to look at him, another demonstration of his uncanny ability to know when John was thinking of him.

"Judging me, John?" He sounded amused.

After a moment's contemplation, Sherlock reached into the box Mycroft's people had brought and pulled out something large and brown that smelled utterly divine to John's canine nose.

"Here, why don't you do something for your teeth and have a go at this?" Sherlock suggested and threw it towards him.

It landed on the carpet about a foot in front of John with a soft 'thunk' and he approached curiously. Bone, definitely. The scent was extremely penetrating. Something to chew on, probably.

John gave an experimental nip and realised he was salivating.

Oh well. Best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

He settled down, his tail wagging rapidly as he started gnawing.

After a couple of minutes, Sherlock finished rummaging around in the kitchen and joined him in the sitting room, stretching out on the couch in his usual thinking pose.

Now that most other noises were gone, John found it much easier to focus on Sherlock's breathing and the steady thud of his heart. It was a bit surreal to know that he could hear it from several feet away, but mostly the sound was simply grounding.

With all the danger he and Sherlock regularly got themselves into, there was something reassuring about the steady sound telling him that Sherlock was unmistakably alive and well. That, and nearby.

Experience had taught John that bad things happened when he and Sherlock were apart. So far, he had been abducted and held at gunpoint, he had been abducted and strapped to a bomb, Sherlock had been abducted and almost made to swallow poison, Sherlock had been drugged by that terrible Adler woman while John was in another room ... He didn't want to have to add to the list.

Knowing that Sherlock was only several feet away and being able to hear and smell him all the time soothed something inside of him and he did not dare to question it too deeply.

Instead, he simply accepted that he felt happier and less tense when Sherlock was nearby. And now he also had all those canine urges that made him want to stay close, that revelled in being touched and petted by Sherlock, that made him sit next to him, made him press his nose to Sherlock's leg or rest his head on Sherlock's feet.

He didn't know how to stop that and found he also didn't want to. For all intents and purposes, he was a dog at the moment. And this was what dogs did. There was no point making anyone suspicious by behaving oddly. And he rather liked the excuse to stay close to Sherlock. He liked his large hands on his head and back, liked breathing in air that was so full of Sherlock there seemed hardly any oxygen in it. And he wished he could have more.

That was definitely the canine part, John thought. Wanting to be touched, to be petted, to be praised and treated with affection.

What was more, Sherlock seemed to do so almost automatically sometimes, like that moment in the cab earlier today. A warm hand stroking over his head, fingers curling in his fur ... he wished Sherlock would do that more often.

Part of him was uncomfortable at the thought, but mostly he was uncomfortable with how much he liked it. Affection was nice, touch was nice, and he liked having both directed at him - but he wasn’t used to the idea of Sherlock being the person providing all of this.

And what did it say about Sherlock that he seemed to know how to treat a dog, that he didn't seem to have his walls up the same way he did around people? He still treated John like he always had, in most ways, still talked to him the same way, still used him like a sounding board. But now he also threw tennis balls for hours, allowed himself to be bullied out of bed and made to eat and dragged around parks and endured strangers flirting at him. All for John.

It was a bit humbling when he thought about it.

And of course there was that other canine part of him, the one that had had him struggling against his own nature in the supermarket today. Perhaps it was a part of the dog whose DNA had been used in the experiment John had accidentally encountered, but for some inexplicable reason he absolutely hated cats. And the idea of chasing one had been incredibly tempting.

'Note to self: try to avoid cats unless you wish to pay Sherlock back for something' John thought. Having Sherlock chasing after him as he chased after a cat was a very funny mental image, however, and he decided to keep the idea for later. One never knew.

Chapter Text

The following morning saw John relieved of his bandage, the shallow cut on his paw having healed sufficiently to no longer cause him any problems. In retrospect, he supposed his initial inability to walk had mostly been shock and the fact that he hadn't even been fully used to walking on four legs yet, much less feel comfortable enough to switch to only using three of them.

At any rate, he was glad to be rid of both the bandage and the injury, and Sherlock seemed equally pleased to see him firmly back on his feet - or paws, as it were. They went for a quick walk in the park so John could go about his business and then hurried back home. Sherlock seemed eager to move and John wondered how much of that was due to his friend wishing to avoid any more women trying to flirt with him.

"Well then, since you're back in action, how about we go see what Lestrade has been up to?"

Sherlock was almost bouncing on his feet and John was happy to oblige him. This was what they did, after all, and a dog keeping company with the police was hardly special.

He was happily surprised when Sherlock started packing a messenger bag he must have unearthed from the half-forgotten stash in one of the kitchen cupboards.

"I have no idea how long we'll be there, so I suppose we better take some things for you," he said as John watched him pack a large bottle of water, a bowl, the tennis ball as well as the ball launcher, another chew bone and - John wagged his tail - a bag of dog treats.

"You're only getting those if you deserve them," Sherlock reminded him. "I'm sure the imbeciles at the Yard will try to make you do all sorts of tricks. Try to remember that you're a very well-trained dog."

John nodded and went to find his lead while Sherlock pulled on his coat and slung the strap of the bag over his shoulder.

"Ready?"

John barked.

They took a cab to the Yard and Sherlock masterfully ignored the curious stares they got as they entered the building.

The lift ride upstairs reminded John uncomfortably of his very first minutes in this body, when everything had been overwhelming and scary. Even now, the machinery still rattled and clanged far too loudly for his taste but he remained calm, sitting next to Sherlock with the lead dangling loosely between them.

When the doors opened, he remembered to follow half a step behind since Johnny the dog had never been to the Yard before and therefore wouldn't know the way.

Sherlock was a familiar sight on this floor, so people barely paid him any attention anymore when he arrived. Today, many looked up at the sound of the door opening and gave a quick glance to see who it was only to end up staring at John.

He felt their gazes on him as he followed Sherlock to Lestrade's office and made a determined attempt to avoid them.

"Ah, Sherlock! I was wondering when you'd show up," Lestrade greeted him as they entered. He nodded at John. "And I see you brought your ... uh ... friend."

"Can't leave him alone in the flat all day long," Sherlock said, greeting Donovan, who was currently pinning printouts regarding their latest case to the cork board, with a nod. "He likes to chew on things and I wouldn't want John to come home and find our kitchen table short of a leg or two."

Lestrade snorted. "I thought destroying the flat was your job."

"That, too," Sherlock conceded, bending down to unhook the lead from John's collar.

John went and greeted Donovan with a brush of his nose against her knee, wagging his tail as she reached down to pat his head with a "Why, hello there!" in a tone of pleased surprise.

After that, he crossed the office towards Lestrade. In the general chaos of his sudden transformation, he had hardly paid any attention to the man.

"Er, what do I do?" Lestrade asked.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Hold out your hand for him to sniff and relax. He won't bite. It appears he likes being petted, or perhaps that's only when women do it, so maybe try that."

John turned his head and gave him a half-hearted glare before sniffing at the hand Lestrade held out to him. Warmth, steadiness, quiet competence, nicotine and stress and too much coffee - Lestrade smelled exactly as John would have expected. He gave his hand a friendly lick, wishing he could laugh at the surprised 'Oi!' that garnered him, and then went to lie down in a patch of sunshine seeping through the window.

"Now that that's done," Sherlock said, impatience clear in his voice, "would you care to tell me everything you've got about our double murder?"



*****



John droned out most of the ensuing conversation. He couldn't contribute anyway, other than by perhaps actively running after the perpetrator once Sherlock told him which person to go for. Knowing that Sherlock would be busy for quite some time, John decided to do his own investigation.

At the earliest opportunity, he followed Donovan out of Lestrade's office. She returned to her desk and sat down, so he took up position next to her. It didn't take a genius to know that the Sergeant was more than just the woman who got annoyed with Sherlock for simply existing. John suspected he might feel the same way if someone without a medical degree were to walk into the clinic where he used to work and try to tell him how to do his job.

"Hey Johnny," she said when she noticed he had decided to join her. "Trying to get away from His Highness for a bit? Can't blame you."

She reached down and patted his head. "You look perfectly fine for someone who's spent several days in his company. Is he treating you well?"

John whined in the affirmative, though he had no idea if she understood.

"Oi Donovan, since when do you have a dog?" someone called.

"Since you stopped using your eyes, Perkins!" she called back. "He belongs to the freak. Didn't you see them come in half an hour ago?"

Within moments, they were surrounded by almost everyone else on the floor, other Sergeants and Constables milling around in order to get a good look at the dog.

John quite enjoyed being the centre of attention for once. It wasn't normally the role he found himself in, not when Sherlock was standing next to him and being brilliant, and that was fine. He didn't want the kind of attention Sherlock got. But he wasn't above letting people admire him.

"Are we sure he isn't rabid?" someone asked.

Donovan rolled her eyes. "Why not let him bite you and find out?"

She ruffled John's fur. "Don't worry about these idiots. You're perfectly well-behaved. It's not your fault you have to live with Holmes of all people."

"He's adorable," a young blond Constable said, bending forward and holding a hand out to John. He nuded it with his nose and she giggled. "Oh look, that blaze on his face is perfectly symmetrical!"

"Can he do any tricks?" someone else asked.

"Why don't you ask him?" Donovan asked, exasperated. "Maybe he'll write you a bloody list."

John would have liked to laugh but wagged his tail instead. If only Sherlock knew that Donovan had just as little patience for idiots as he did. But knowing Sherlock he probably already did.

"Does anyone have any treats?" Sergeant Perkins asked.

"Why, yes of course, I always keep a stash of dog treats in my desk in case someone happens to bring a dog to the office," the young constable said, shaking her head at him. She didn't stop petting John for even a moment, though, and he panted happily.

"What's his name, anyway?"

"Johnny," Donovan said and John promptly turned to look at her, ears perked like any dog would when hearing his name.

"Seriously? The freak got a dog and named him after his flatmate?"

Donovan explained about Sherlock's parents.

John thought it all sounded reasonable, but had to wonder why no one thought it odd that two people who had named their sons Mycroft and Sherlock had then gone on to name their dog Johnny.

"Can we make him do tricks?"

Someone said: "Johnny! Sit!"

John looked around for the person trying to order him around. Perkins, of course.

"Sit," he said again.

John didn't move a muscle. Sherlock had told him to remember that he was a well-trained dog and well-trained dogs didn't listen to just anyone who happened to give them orders.

There was laughter among the officers when nothing happened.

"I said 'Sit', you stupid dog!" Perkins snapped, trying to inflict his voice with the sound of authority.

John gave a demonstrative yawn and turned away.

"This dog isn't trained at all," Perkins said, clearly flustered.

Just then, there was the sound of a door opening and then Sherlock's voice.

"Johnny! Heel!"

John squeezed through the legs of at least four people before moving to Sherlock's side.

Sherlock reached down and scratched his ear. "Sit."

John sat.

"Dogs listen to those they respect and you have not done anything to earn Johnny's respect, Perkins," Sherlock said, looking vaguely amused. "Donovan, Lestrade said you are to accompany us to St Bart's. I need to take a closer look at the bodies."

She sighed and got up, far less reluctantly than she usually would, John thought.

"Come along, Johnny," Sherlock said and made for the lift. John kept close to his side, occasionally brushing Sherlock's Belstaff.

Sherlock waited until the lift doors had closed before turning and smiling down at him.

"Good boy."


*****



They entered St. Bart's hospital through the back door, the one closest to the morgue.

"No point in having them make a fuss," Sherlock said. "People get unreasonably upset about dogs in hospitals."

"Yes, how unreasonable to not want dog hair and who knows what else in a sterile environment," Sally sniped, rolling her eyes at him.

She wasn't exactly ecstatic to be stuck with the freak on this trip, but Lestrade had wanted her to accompany Sherlock to the morgue, reasoning that Holmes was as likely to run off after a lead immediately as he was to report back about it. Usually, John would be the one to send Lestrade a quick text about what they were up to or about what Sherlock had found if the freak couldn't be bothered, but John wasn't here. It was therefore the sensible option to have someone accompany him and alert the Yard of his findings. And since Lestrade was tied up in a longer phone conference with the Chief Superintendent about this most recent murder, the thankless task fell to Sally.

Well, not quite as thankless as usually, she thought, eyeing the dog beside Holmes. The freak hadn't bothered with a lead and Johnny didn't seem to require one, simply walking beside him as if it didn't occur to him to be anywhere else.

And really, that dog was ridiculously adorable with his reddish fur and white chest and white blaze and floppy ears. He looked a bit like a fox, she thought, and decided to look up the breed as soon as she got the opportunity.

For now, though, she was stuck freak-sitting.

Holmes pushed open the door to the morgue and strode in as if he owned the place, Johnny at his heels and Donovan following reluctantly.

The young pathologist, a mousy woman Sally had seen around on occasion, turned as they entered and almost dropped her clipboard in surprise. She fumbled awkwardly to catch it and promptly flushed bright pink.

"Sherlock! Hi! I, uh, didn't know you were coming in today."

She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, blushing further.

'Oh dear' Sally thought.

"Molly," Sherlock greeted the young woman. He gave no sign that he was in any way aware of her obvious crush on him. "I need to have a look at the bodies that came in two days ago. Father and son, murdered shortly after one another."

"Uh, sure, I- wait, is that a dog?!"

She stared down at Johnny, who had sat down next to Sherlock and was sniffing at his coat.

"This is Johnny," Sherlock introduced him.

"Johnny?!" she repeated, clearly amused. "Isn't your friend-"

"John is in Scotland at the moment," Sherlock said, sounding annoyed. "Meanwhile, I'm looking after my parents' dog. Whose name happens to be Johnny. Can we move on to the dead bodies now?"

"Uh... yes, of course, sorry," Molly stammered. "Just... uh.. make sure he doesn't touch or lick anything. Or get out of this room. I don't think he'd be welcome in any other part of this building."

"Luckily, I only need access to the morgue and the lab," Sherlock told her.

"I was just about to start on the son's autopsy, if you'd like to watch," Molly offered. "We have been pretty swamped lately or I would've done it sooner."

"No, that will be fine. I don't have anything else on at the moment."

Sherlock turned to Donovan. "Sally, could you watch Johnny here for a while? I won't have anything for Lestrade until I've seen both bodies, so there's really no point in you simply standing around here, waiting. Take this bag." He unslung the messenger bag from his shoulder and handed it to her. "There's water and a bowl, a chew bone, his lead and some toys in there. And a handful of dog treats, if you're feeling generous. Why don't you take him for a walk in Postman's Park round the corner?"

Sally blinked. "What, me? And how do you expect me to do that, since he doesn't seem to listen to anyone who isn't you?"

"It's a matter of training," Sherlock said and turned to the dog. "Johnny, this is Sally. Sally is in command." He pointed at her as he said so.

The dog whined, looking from Sherlock to Sally and back.

"Give him an order," Sherlock suggested.

Doubtfully, Sally stared down at the dog. He was looking at her again. "Johnny, heel."

He came to her side immediately.

Sally couldn't decide if she was pleased or simply surprised. Sherlock was smirking. "Was there anything else? No. Good. He loves chasing tennis balls. There's a ball launcher in there so your arm won't fall off. He's unlikely to get into fights with other dogs, but try to keep him away from any cats. Or female joggers. For some reason, we have been accosted by them on every single walk we've been on."

Sally gaped at him. Objectively speaking and when he kept his mouth shut, Sherlock Holmes was an attractive man in an expensive coat with an adorable dog. And he really had no idea why women kept talking to him? Oh boy.

"Fine," she said, deciding to make a wide berth around that particular can of worms. "But if he runs off, I'm not taking any blame."

"He won't," Sherlock told her with absolute confidence. "Johnny knows where he belongs."


*****



Sherlock stood by the autopsy table, watching Molly extract the patient's liver.

"So, how long are you going to be dog-sitting?" she asked as she placed the organ on the scale.

"As long as my parents require me to."

She nodded. "And how long will John be gone?"

Sherlock tilted his head, trying to figure out if she had an ulterior motive for asking. But this was Molly; he doubted she had ever had an ulterior motive in her life.

"I don't know," he settled on saying. "He wants to 'be there'-" he made a face at the term "-for his sister while she is once again in rehabilitation. John believes his presence will be a steadying influence and help her keep to her sobriety."

"And you are okay with that?"

"I can hardly claim he hasn't got a point when his presence is indeed influencing my sobriety."

Molly smiled at him as she reached in to extract the stomach. "You are much more relaxed when he is around."

"I'm not sure if that is a good thing," Sherlock found himself admitting. It was odd, the way he sometimes found himself opening up to her. Perhaps it was because there was no danger of her telling anyone else about it.

"Everyone else seems to think so," Molly said. "There's no shame in enjoying someone's company."

Sherlock chose not to respond to that. He had a strong suspicion that he was well past enjoyment by now and he didn't relish the thought of anyone else catching on to it.

He was saved from further conversation about John by Lestrade, who poked his head into the room and went: "Oi, where has Donovan gone?"

"I asked her to take Johnny to the park," Sherlock said calmly. "Can't have a dog in a hospital, Lestrade.  Apparently it's against the rules."

"Right." Lestrade cleared his throat, doing his best to avoid looking at the open body on the slab. "Listen, can I have a word with you?"

Sherlock sighed. "Now?"

"Don't worry, I won't get to anything interesting in this autopsy for a while yet," Molly assured him. "You're not going to miss anything by stepping out for a couple of minutes."

Resigned to a conversation he was sure he didn't want to have, Sherlock left the room with Lestrade right behind him.

They waited until the door was shut behind them and they were sure they had the hallway to themselves.

"Well?" Sherlock demanded. "I thought you were tied up in a phone call."

Lestrade looked awkward, which he never did when it was about the Work, so this was going to be a personal conversation. And Sherlock didn't even need a quarter of his IQ to figure out what it was going to be about.

"Wrapped it up early. I just, uh ... is John all right?"

"He's perfectly fine," Sherlock said. "As fine as anyone can be in the wrong body. I've designed a questionnaire for him so I can check in on his mental state every evening."

Lestrade blinked. "You have?"

"Yes of course. There is no telling what this transformation might do. Perhaps it's merely physical. Perhaps it will slowly affect his brain and he will lose his sense of self and become increasingly canine."

The idea seemed to horrify Lestrade, though Sherlock strongly suspected not half as much as it horrified him. "You think that's possible?"

"I don't know!" Sherlock snapped. "Which is why I've been trying to treat him like a dog in public so no one will get suspicious and like a person in private so he won't forget who he is. Do you know what it's like to spend twenty-four hours a day with a dog and having to remind yourself that you're not supposed to pet him because a) your flatmate isn't the touchy-feely type and b) treating him like a dog might make him forget he's not actually supposed to be a dog?"

Lestrade looked completely taken aback by the sudden outburst. "I ... had no idea."

"Well that's hardly a surprise," Sherlock growled at him. "Do you know how many trains of thought I follow at any given time? I'm standing right here, having this tedious conversation with you while at the same time I'm unable to do anything to return him to the body he's supposed to be in, while also having to solve your bloody murder and the only thing I can do is watch a bloody autopsy and send John off to the park with Donovan. And here you are, asking me if he is all right!"

He shut his mouth with an audible click, his chest heaving.

"Feeling better now?" Lestrade asked and his sarcasm fell completely flat.

"Not at all."

"Thought so."

They shared a wry smile.

"Have you heard anything from Mycroft yet?" Lestrade asked. "Does he at least have an estimate?"

Sherlock shook his head. "Amazingly, this is the first time in my life where I really want him to give me a call. It's also the first time that he can't lord his superior connections over me and I can't even enjoy it."

"I'm tearing up just hearing about it," Lestrade snarked. "But you still haven't answered my question. How is John doing?"

"Fine," Sherlock sighed. "He's eating fine, he's drinking enough water, I take him for walks at least twice a day, he still bullies me into eating and sleeping and I know Mrs Hudson has been sneaking him treats behind my back. He seems happy enough, but he would obviously prefer being himself again."

"Understandable. He will be fine. But Sherlock ..." Lestrade hesitated.

"Yes?"

"I think you're forgetting something."

"Oh?"

Lestrade sighed. "Look ... you and John have a rather unique relationship. You're close. And a lot of that is because you talk to each other all the damn time. You don't shut up, ever, either of you. But now he can't talk back. Listen, from what I've seen, you guys work because he follows you on your mad adventures and you listen to him when he tells you to be sensible."

Sherlock thought about that for a second but couldn't find anything obviously wrong with that statement. "And?"

"And that power balance is seriously disturbed right now. He depends on you to give him food, exercise, entertainment. And he can't give anything back. So he bullies you to eat and sleep, but he always does that. And he can't do any of the other things he usually does. He can't talk back at you, he can't do anything to stop you from racing head-first into danger. The only thing dogs can do is be affectionate. And you're denying him that outlet."

Sherlock blinked at him. "Have you met John? He's not the affectionate type."

"Usually, he gives people a smile and keeps you reasonably reasonable and patches up the odd wound here and there. Don't tell me you haven't noticed that people relax when he's around. He's got a great bedside manner. And now he can't do that, so what he does instead is let people pet him and make them happy. People like petting dogs, in case you somehow missed that. There are studies and everything."

"So I hear," Sherlock said, not bothering to mention that he had read all of them.

Lestrade shrugged. "There you are, then. He's being affectionate in the only way he can be right now. And you're blocking him by refusing to pet him beyond the absolutely necessary. It puts both of you on edge. And whether or not you pet him will not make a difference to his mindset possibly becoming more dog-like when he's already got everyone else stroking him at every possible opportunity."

Sherlock had to concede that there was something to that.

"Fine. I'll consider it."

Lestrade nodded. "Good."

"Was there anything else?" Sherlock asked warily.

"No, that's all. Get back to your autopsy and tell Donovan what you and Dr Hooper have found, okay? Don't just run off."

"If I did, John could possibly track me by scent alone," Sherlock pointed out. "He's certainly inhaled enough of it these last few days."

"Still, there's no need to chance it."

They nodded at each other and Lestrade turned and walked away, leaving Sherlock alone in the hallway with some interesting new ideas to consider. Perhaps it was time to make use of that comb and brush Mycroft's people had packed.


*****



Postman's Park wasn't very far from St Bart's hospital. It also wasn't very large, but Sally knew there weren't any other parks around and it would do well enough to exercise a dog. Anything was better than the hospital, after all.

She smiled down at Johnny, who seemed happy enough to be out and about and didn't seem to mind having her at the other end of his lead.

He did stop several feet into the park and turned to give her an expectant look, however.

"Did you want something?" Sally asked, puzzled. His gaze was transfixed on the bag Holmes had given her.

"You're not getting any treats for simply walking," she told him.

He blinked at her.

Sally opened the bag and rummaged around in it. She wasn't entirely sure about unleashing him, but there had to be something she could do to entertain him with.

It didn't take long for her questing fingers to curl around a short piece of thick, knotted rope. When she pulled it out, Johnny wagged his tail in obvious enthusiasm, his ears perking up and tongue lolling.

She grinned. "Okay then."

They played tug of war for a while, until her arms hurt and she felt she couldn't possibly hold the rope for another moment.

"You're relentless," she gasped, laughing as Johnny shook his head vigorously, the rope still gripped in his teeth.

They continued on their way, Johnny carrying his rope and pausing every now and then to sniff at a lump of grass or park bench.

Sally found it very relaxing to be ambling along aimlessly, the dog beside her and the sun warming her back. "And to think I'm getting paid for this," she commented, grinning. "I'm starting to think the freak should never give you away, Johnny. Though the real John probably won't thank you if he has to clean up after Holmes and you."

Johnny whined at her.

She bent down and grabbed hold of the rope again. "Let go."

He did and she returned it to the bag. "Okay, I think we need to exercise you more. Holmes told me to let you play, so I assume you're going to come back when I call. Don't make me regret this."

He held perfectly still as she unhooked the lead and remained by her side afterwards, though he he did roam a bit more whenever an interesting scent caught his attention.

Sally took the time to rummage through the bag for the ball launcher and tennis ball. She pulled both out rather triumphantly.

"How do you like that, Johnny?" she asked. Instantly, all his attention was on her and the contraption she was holding.

Sally grinned at him. "Fetch!"

The ball flew through the air and the dog set off, racing after it at impressive speed.

Sally watched him find the ball and run back to her, ears flapping and tail wagging, and decided that this was quite possibly the best workday she had ever had.

Chapter Text

John was exhausted.

Not in a bad way, just pleasantly tired after an active day. Having Sally take him to the park had been a brilliant idea on Sherlock's part. The strong smell of disinfectant had been rather unpleasant to his sharp nose and he hadn't relished the thought of sitting around the lab for hours while Sherlock was next door watching an autopsy.

Instead, he had gotten to spend most of the afternoon in the park with Donovan, who had played fetch with him until they were both too tired to continue and who had then found a bench in the sun where she could sit while John explored the surrounding area of the park. Every now and then, she had fed him treats and even remembered to fill the bowl Sherlock had packed from the water bottle in the bag. It had really been rather nice.

That hadn't stopped him from missing Sherlock, though. Since Baskerville, they hadn't been separated for longer than half an hour at a time, except for when they slept, and being this far away from him for hours on end had set John on edge. He wasn't sure how much of that was his usual reluctance to be apart from Sherlock and how much of it was the canine part of his mind longing for the presence of what probably counted as his alpha.

John snorted at the idea. There was nothing about their friendship that could be so easily defined. It wasn't a case of Sherlock leading and him following. Quite often, Sherlock ended up depending on John, after all. They had more of a balance to their interactions. Then again, an alpha without a pack was nothing.

And now it was all wrong. John was severely incapacitated in his ability to lead Sherlock anywhere. He just about managed to get him to eat and sleep, but there was nothing he could do when Sherlock was unnecessarily rude to people or behaving like a general arse. And there also wasn't anything he could do when people treated Sherlock badly, which happened all too often. The mean comments, the insults, the whispers behind his back.

John wanted to offer comfort, make a jape about the common idiots who didn't know brilliance when it stared them in the face, and couldn't.

The only thing he could do was act like a dog and ask Sherlock to play with him and pet him and show him affection in return. And Sherlock had so far drawn a line between their interactions in public and their interactions in private. It was a bit blurry at times, such as the cab ride with Sherlock's hand on the back of his neck, but at home the rules were quite clear. There were no unnecessary touches. Sherlock treated John like ... well, like he was John. Which was good, John thought. He wanted to be treated like himself. But he also wanted to act like himself and Sherlock made that impossible by refusing any superfluous contact.

When they returned to St. Bart's hospital, John therefore made it a point to greet Sherlock as enthusiastically as possible, winding around his legs and nudging at his hands and knees.

"My god, he actually likes you!" Donovan commented, sounding scandalised.

Sherlock snorted, bending down to ruffle John's fur with both hands. That felt very good indeed. "Why wouldn't he? I feed him, I provide entertainment and shelter, I pay attention to him all the time. It's hardly difficult. And he tends to be friendly with people."

John didn't listen to what Sally said in reply, too busy sniffing at Sherlock's hands and trying to figure out what he had been up to. The autopsy, of course, but there were other, weaker scents that were much harder to analyse through the haze of disinfectant. Some of them smelled of chemicals, so he assumed Sherlock had been working in the lab again.

Molly came in, bringing a new cloud of scents with her, and John listened half-amused and half-saddened to how her heart rate picked up at the sight of Sherlock. The poor girl. He knew that reaction well enough.

"I'll have the results of the other tests in a day or two," she told Sherlock before turning to John. "Hi there, Johnny."

He wagged his tail at her and went to greet her. More disinfectant, something flowery that must be her perfume, low-grade arousal - no doubt the result of being exposed to Sherlock for hours on end - and a hint of sweat, as could be expected after a long day at work. Oh, and cats. Faint but definitely there, a persistent scent that told him Molly had at least two cats of her own. He was almost glad for the disinfectant now.

"I think it's time to get Johnny home now," Sherlock said. "Text me the results as soon as you've got them. Sally, thank you for looking after Johnny today."

"Uh... you're welcome, I guess," she stammered, clearly surprised by his genuine thanks.

He slung the messenger bag over his shoulder. "Come on, Johnny. Time for your dinner."

John tilted his head to the side and whined at him.

Sherlock sighed. "And mine, if you insist."

John decided he could very well live with that and followed Sherlock out the door and into a cab.

Once at home, Sherlock filled John's bowls with water and food and even ate two slices of toast himself, which took less time than John's own meal.

While he was still happily crunching away, he kept throwing glances at Sherlock, who was rummaging through the box of dog supplies still on the kitchen table.

John finished his meal and experimentally licked the bowl in case he had missed any crumbs.

"Are you quite finished?" Sherlock asked. He seemed to have relocated to the sitting room while John wasn't paying attention.

He followed him there and was surprised to find Sherlock kneeling on the floor, holding a brush.

"You've been running through the park for half the day and getting petted for the rest of it," Sherlock pointed out. "Not to mention yesterday and the day before. It's high time for a bit of grooming."

John tried not to seem too eager as he approached, but it seemed ridiculous to even pretend that he didn't like the idea.

"Sit," Sherlock said. "I'll start with your back and work my way down. You'll have to stand for some of it later, but this will do for now."

John did as he was told and tried not to shiver as Sherlock carefully ran the brush through the rough coat of fur on his back.

This felt good! Wonderful, even. It reminded him a bit of the scalp massages you got at the hairdresser's, except this wasn't confined to his head. If he was a cat, he was sure he would be purring already.

"Is this all right?" Sherlock asked quietly, running the brush down his back again.

John nodded emphatically.

"Good."

For a minute or two, Sherlock worked in silence and John basked in their closeness and the relaxing sensation of the brush on his back.

"Lestrade pointed out to me that I may have been wrong in keeping my distance from you at home," Sherlock told him in that calm, matter-of-fact tone he used when he was trying to pretend he didn't really care. "I thought you would want me to continue treating you the way I always have, but Lestrade believes it would upset the balance of our ... our friendship, since you've been robbed of most of your agency by your transformation."

John was glad he couldn't speak. He had no idea what to say in response, so he just whined quietly and turned to look at Sherlock.

His friend shrugged. "Lestrade labours under the belief that being able to express yourself through touch may help your mental stability and make you feel less stressed about your situation. Do you concur?"

John blinked. Did he? Well, not two hours ago he had been worried about the power imbalance of their relationship, and now here was Sherlock, telling him the exact same thing. And John absolutely agreed with him, so he nodded again and nudged Sherlock's hand with his nose.

Sherlock's lips twitched. "I'll take that as a yes, then. This shouldn't be too hard to do. I like dogs. I like petting dogs. You happen to be a dog at the moment and it seems you enjoy being petted - you certainly didn't object to half of Scotland Yard's finest fawning over you. I'm sure we can come to an agreement."

Instead of giving any sort of verbal response, John turned and pressed his forehead to Sherlock's chest.


*****


Sherlock had to admit that perhaps Lestrade had had a point.

The slow, methodical motion of his arm as he dragged the brush through John's thick fur and the sensation of John's chest expanding and contracting with each breath under his hands was relaxing in a way Sherlock had not anticipated.

He worked carefully, trying not to pull at the hair, pausing every now and then to carefully disentangle the slightly longer strands.

John seemed utterly relaxed, leaning into his touch with absolute trust and every sign of enjoyment. That was good, Sherlock thought. As a tactile man, he had been itching to run his hands through the thick fur all the time, and now it was readily apparent that John did not mind in the slightest. Perhaps his transformation had also eradicated the few remaining personal boundaries between them. He wondered what would happen when John was back in his real body. Would the boundaries return?

Sherlock shook his head at himself. Of course they would. They were allowing touch now because John needed to know that he was allowed to be affectionate with Sherlock in the only way he could be right now. That was all there was to it. And once he had regained his human form, he would also regain his ability to speak, to physically drag Sherlock out of danger or stop him from running right into it.

They would be fine. Touching a dog was in no way comparable to touching a human body, after all, and Sherlock wasn't so stupid as to get the two confused, but he couldn't help but be aware of the person residing inside that body.

"Okay, time to stand up so I can do your stomach and legs," he said, mostly to distract himself from his confusing thoughts.

John did as he was instructed and Sherlock carefully continued his work. Still, John jerked at the first touch of the brush against his stomach.

"Sorry," Sherlock muttered, adjusting the pressure a little. "Is that better?"

John made a complicated sound.

"I have no idea what you're trying to tell me with that," Sherlock confessed. "Does it hurt? Is it making you uncomfortable?" He paused, considering. "Does it tickle?"

John gave a low bark.

Sherlock grinned. "I'll try with a little bit more pressure, see if that will help."

He did so and continued, aware of John twitching every now and then, although he was clearly trying to stand still.

"You're doing very well," Sherlock told him, mostly because he didn't know what else to say. "And look at all that hair!"

He held up the brush so John could see the hairs caught in it. "I'm going to add them to my collection in the bathroom."

John turned his head, rolled his eyes at him and flicked his ears in a way that suggested wry amusement.

Sherlock smiled to himself and started working down John's legs. "Can you turn around? Thank you."

He finished brushing down the strong legs. "You know, if it was up to chance which dog you turned into, I would have expected something more along the lines of a Corgi."

John huffed at him.

"Oh, be honest, John. You and I both know that a Corgi would have a better legs-to-body ratio to your human form than a Toller."

The look John gave him was definitely venomous.

Sherlock smirked, glad to be back to teasing his friend. "There's no need to look at me like that. I'm just telling it as it is. And I will have you know that Corgis have an excellent character and are known for their bravery, relentlessness and independent thought."

He finished brushing John's tail with a flourish. "There. Now turn back here and sit, I haven't done your chest yet."

John turned to face him and sat, giving him a stern look as he did so.

Sherlock felt compelled to offer something in return for this invasion of privacy. "When you're back to your human form, you're welcome to brush my hair to balance this out."

His friend tilted his head as if considering that.

"But I won't be put on a lead, no matter what you say," Sherlock continued, secretly amused to see John visibly taken aback. "I'm joking. Now hold still."

He brushed the white fur on John's chest, admiring the neat diamond-shaped form of it. "Very symmetrical," he observed. "You really are an exceptionally handsome dog."

He wasn't quite sure but he thought John preened.


*****


A short while later, Sherlock found himself sitting on the sofa instead of his usual armchair, watching the telly with his feet on the coffee table. To be fair, not a lot of his attention was focused on the programme. There was some sort of documentary about orang-utans on, but he was mostly waiting for the news to come on.

John was stretched out next to him on the sofa, his head resting comfortably on Sherlock's thigh as if that was its usual place. Sherlock had a feeling that it might become that very quickly indeed. He also suspected that he really wouldn't mind. And since John had been the one to put his head there in the first place, clearly neither did he.

The advantage of this position, of course, was that Sherlock could let his right hand rest on John, his fingers gently stroking through the soft fur. The physical contact was soothing, a closed loop of his hand on John's upper back and John's head on his thigh.

To a stranger looking in, this would have been a perfectly reasonable position for a person and their dog to be in. Sherlock supposed that the people in the know might not feel the same way.

As if his thoughts had summoned her, he heard Mrs Hudson's door open and close downstairs and her footsteps on the stairs a moment later.

Sherlock noticed two things: Firstly, John didn't so much as twitch a muscle and secondly, Sherlock liked that more than he cared to admit.

"Hoo-hoo," their landlady said as she entered. "I thought I'd just check up on you boys, see how you're doing."

Her eyes lit up as she caught sight of their companionable position on the sofa. "Ohh, look at you! What an adorable picture you make!"

"If you say so," Sherlock said calmly, pretending to be very interested in the mating habits of orang-utans.

That, as it turned out, was a mistake, because it meant he didn't notice that Mrs Hudson had brought her camera upstairs until he heard the quiet 'click' of her snapping a picture.

"Mrs Hudson!"

"Oh, hush you. John can put it on his blog when he's back to his correct form and tell everyone about how splendidly you watched after your mother's dog and look how adorable the two of you are together!"

Sherlock snorted. "You're trying to be cunning. Stop it. It's not convincing anyone."

John raised his head at that, looked at Mrs Hudson, shook his head, and promptly returned to his previous position.

"See? John agrees with me."

Mrs Hudson smiled fondly. "You two. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later."

"If you say so," Sherlock said again. "Was there anything in particular that you wanted?"

She shook her head and stepped a little closer. "Oh, nothing important, really. I have been baking this morning and I thought perhaps you would like to try these dog biscuits I made."

She reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled one out, offering it to Sherlock.

"What am I supposed to do with it? I'm not the dog here."

"No, but theoretically speaking he is your dog. So you get to feed him."

Sherlock rolled his eyes but offered the biscuit to John.

John eyed the treat for a moment, sniffed at it and ate it off Sherlock's palm immediately. He wagged his tail in approval and Sherlock actually flinched as a wet tongue licked his hand in search for any morsels John might have missed.

"John!"

Mrs Hudson giggled like a schoolgirl. "Oh, I think he liked that!" she commented, somehow managing to make even that innocent observation sound lewd. "Here, I brought a whole tin of them. I'm so glad you boys gave me a laptop for Christmas, Mrs Turner next door showed me this website where you can find all sorts of recipes!"

She patted John's head and ruffled Sherlock's hair before he had a chance to duck away. "Anyway, I better be going back down, I just wanted to bring you these and see how you were doing, but you seem to be getting on just fine. Have a good night, boys!"

She placed the tin on the coffee table and left.

John immediately turned his head in the direction of the tin and snuffled loudly.

Sherlock sighed and leaned forward to grab it. "All right, all right, I get the message. But you can forget about eating all of these in one go. You heard Mrs Hudson. She's going to try all those recipes she found and we're the guinea pigs in this experiment, so you better save some space in there for all that food."

John looked at Sherlock, then at the tin in his hands, and back at Sherlock.

Groaning, Sherlock opened the lid. "Oh, what the hell. But don't complain to me when you get sick."

John didn't, but that was because by the time he had eaten about a handful of the biscuits, Sherlock had recovered from his momentary puppy-gaze-induced weakness and shoved John's head away so he could close the tin again.

"There, that's enough. Can't have you getting fat. No, don't look at me like that, you're not getting any more of those today. And don't even think of trying to open the tin on your own, or I'll be forced to tape it shut."

John whined but obviously resigned himself to his fate. He returned his head to Sherlock's thigh and seemed to still be chewing or at least making chewing motions with his jaw, which felt decidedly odd.

Sherlock was glad when the documentary ended and the short intro to the news started. Just the distraction he needed!


*****


The BBC news were the usual collection of international and national affairs, politicians being either idiots or arseholes or both, bizarre events, and finally the weather.

"Less than half a minute coverage," Sherlock commented, shaking his head. "Finally there's a boring murder that suddenly becomes a very interesting murder and they hardly bother to mention it at all."

John, who had stopped chewing, looked up at him with big brown eyes - the wrong colour always caught Sherlock slightly off-guard - and gave a low huff as if to say 'what did you expect?'.

"Yes, I know, but come on, John! Is it too much to expect at least some interesting news in the news to make them earn their name? Not that any of this is actually news to me, mind. Mycroft has been stressing about that election for weeks."

John just gave him a look.

Sherlock sighed. "Oh well. I was hoping they might mention something about the victims' backgrounds or circumstances that I don't already know. I haven't had time to do much research on them yet. Molly hasn't gotten back to me about the tox screen results from the autopsy yet and it will likely take another day or so for her to do so. In the meantime, I have a son who apparently killed his father in Regent's Park and then went home to be murdered by someone else. Unless he somehow succeeded in literally stabbing himself in the back, I think we can rule out a suicide."

John gave a nod at that, clearly agreeing with him.

"So what would cause the owner of a reputable, well-established, medium-sized company to get into an argument with his only son in Regent's Park? He lived in Barnsbury, why would he come to Regent's Park at such an early hour of the morning?"

John didn't respond but Sherlock hadn't expected him to anyway.

He sighed again. "There has got to be something, something I'm missing. If they wanted to talk in private, they could have done so at home or in Bingfield Park which is located right next to their home. So what where they doing in Regent's Park?"

After a moment, he gasped. "Oh! John, fetch me a map of London!"

John raised his head and stared at him as if he were stupid.

"Oh, right, right, sorry, it's a habit." Sherlock gently shoved his head away and got up, marching to their desks and rummaging around until he unearthed a battered map of London.

He spread it out on the floor so John could look at it, too. "So, here is Regent's Park. This is where they found the body," he said, indicating a spot in the eastern part of the park, close to where Chester Road met Outer Circle.

Sherlock moved his finger across the map north-east to Barnsbury. "And this is where the victims lived."

John nodded in what looked like an encouraging manner.

"So what were they doing in Regent's Park? Nothing. Mr Forsythe had no particular reason to come to Regent's Park, as far as we know, unless he was merely passing through. Now, if we draw a line from his home to the crime scene and then extend that line, where do we end up?"

He stabbed the map with his finger. "Baker Street."

They looked at each other. John tilted his head to the side, his ears perked forward.

Sherlock smiled grimly. "Mr Forsythe was in need of a consulting detective." He paused. "Unless of course he fancied a visit to Madam Tussauds and wanted to beat the inevitable queue of annoying tourists by showing up in the early morning hours."

With a flourish, he closed the map and threw it in the vague direction of the desks. "It makes me wonder why he didn't use his car or public transport or at least a cab."

He thought for a moment then pulled out his phone. "I'll ask Molly to send me a picture of his feet."

John tilted his head the other way, clearly questioning his reasoning.

Remembering that John couldn't very well make suggestions or ask questions right now, Sherlock elaborated. "It may be he simply liked walking. The autopsy showed he was quite fit for his age, so perhaps he merely opted to cover the distance on foot. If so, his feet will bear testament to frequent walking being a habit."

Molly, of course, was already at home for the day but texted back promising to send him the required pictures first thing in the morning.

The delay was intolerable. "We're so close to a break-through and Molly chooses today of all days to be unreasonable!" Sherlock complained.

Another idea occurred to him. "Come on, John, let's go visit the morgue!"

He leaped up, suddenly filled with purpose once more. If Molly couldn't give him what he wanted until morning, then he would go and get it himself right now! It was brilliant!

He made it barely two steps before John had bounded across the room and moved to block the door.

"John..."

A head-shake.

Sherlock frowned. He hadn't expected dissent from John. Not in this. "But I need to know, John! All I need to do is take one look at his feet and I'll know for sure if he walked a lot and thus confirm the likelihood of his coming to us on foot. And then we can question his widow and close acquaintances to further confirm the habit."

John shook his head again, turning to look at the clock on the wall and giving Sherlock a pointed look.

"What? So it's late evening. When has that ever stopped us from going out?"

John gave an audible sigh and looked at Sherlock as if he was missing the point.

"This whole not-talking thing is becoming very tiresome indeed," Sherlock said.

John stepped forward and very carefully grabbed Sherlock's wrist between his teeth. His touch was gentle, the faint pressure of his teeth barely stronger than fingernails lightly pressing into the skin.

"John?" Sherlock didn't quite know what he was asking. Clearly walking out the door right now was a bad idea. While John's grip was extremely gentle, there was no denying the knowledge that the raw jaw strength of a dog was more than sufficient to snap a wrist without much effort at all. Not that he really thought that John would do such a thing, but that didn't mean he would ever underestimate John's stubborn nature.

John gave a small tug.

Sherlock, curious and intrigued, shuffled a step forward.

John tugged again and so they continued, all the way to Sherlock's bedroom.

"Are you sending me off to bed again? John, it's not quite midnight, I really don't see wha-" He paused, a sudden explanation occurring to him. "Oh! Right, you're right. Can't question the widow, she'll be asleep. I keep forgetting that boring people insist on regular sleep schedules."

He faltered a little. "I suppose you're trying to tell me that since I can't question the widow until tomorrow morning anyway, there is no point in looking at the feet now, either?"

John released his wrist and nodded.

Sherlock's shoulders slumped. "Fine. But if you keep ruining all my fun with your logic, you and I will have to have a serious talk." He paused. "As soon as you regain your ability to speak."

To his private relief, John merely rolled his eyes at him and then nudged him toward the bed.

"Yes yes, all right. You are quite bossy as a dog, John. Relentless. Like a dog with a bone, one might say."

The look he got in response to that was one that said that John was utterly done with his shit.

Sherlock grinned. "Fine. At least let me get changed before you knock me unconscious with a particularly vicious tail-wag or something."

John barked lowly.

"I'll take that as agreement."

He collected his pyjamas and went into the bathroom to get changed, quietly amused at how easily John had talked him out of rushing off to St. Bart's - and without uttering a single word, too! He really was a force to be reckoned with, and being a dog hadn't changed that in the slightest.

Sherlock got changed, brushed his teeth, and returned to his bedroom.

John was still there, sitting in the middle of the room and waiting for him, probably to make sure he really went to bed instead of sneaking out of the window or something equally ridiculous. Sherlock chose not to admit that that idea had indeed crossed his mind.

Chapter Text

Sherlock hadn't really expected to sleep that night, but apparently John's insistence on regular hours was already rubbing off on his transport. After only succumbing to sleep in the early hours of the morning the previous night, he had fallen asleep last night before John had even left his bedroom and a glance at the clock told him that he had in fact slept through the night. It happened rarely enough, so Sherlock supposed he had been overdue for one.

He wondered how many other people would refer to a good night's sleep as an "all-nighter" while working through until dawn was simply the norm.

Of course, all of his idle musings on the subject were quickly suspended by John bounding into his bedroom, tail wagging back and forth like a flag in the hands of an overly enthusiastic football fan.

"I'm already up this time, there's no need to lick my hand today," Sherlock said quickly, before John could get any ideas.

John merely huffed at him, walked back towards the hallway, then returned to the bed and continued going back and forth.

"Yes, yes, I'm getting up, no reason to get impatient. Good lord, if I woke you up this early every day, you'd be in a miserable mood. Now go lie down in your dog bed and calm down while I have a shower and get dressed. I'm not taking you on a walk in my pyjamas."

He threw back the covers and stumbled into the bathroom, stripping off his pyjama trousers and letting them pool on the floor, already forgotten as he stepped into the shower.

A dash of cold water brought him to full wakefulness and Sherlock wondered idly when he had last had a lie-in. He didn't usually waste his time by lazing about in bed, but thought the last time might have been the day they had been called to Buckingham Palace by Mycroft. Perhaps he should schedule one for the near future, tell John to take himself on his walk and enjoy the look on his furry face.

Sherlock snorted to himself and went through the routine of lathering his body and hair, paying particular attention to the latter.

By the time he made it out of the shower and into dry clothes, he was wide awake and contemplating how long he would have to wait for Molly to arrive at the morgue so she could get back to him about Mr Forsythe's feet.

He poured kibble into John's bowl, filled the other one with fresh water, and absent-mindedly made himself a cup of tea and a slice of toast with honey. He only realised he had accidentally eaten breakfast when he put his empty plate in the sink and noticed that John was giving him a rather smug look.

"Don't you look at me like that," Sherlock grumbled. "It's your fault my transport has decided to betray me and it's absolutely unacceptable."

A quiet thought in the back of his mind reminded him of the little problem he had been struggling with before they got the Baskerville case. Sherlock decided to ignore it - best to let sleeping dogs lie, as it were. If he was lucky, his transport had gotten the message and would leave him in peace for another couple of months at least.

Unaware of Sherlock's thoughts, John merely rolled his eyes and went to collect his lead.

Sherlock sighed and checked his phone for any messages from Molly, then slipped it into the inside pocket of his jacket. "Fine, let's go. Where's your ball?"

John brought him the messenger bag and held perfectly still while Sherlock hooked the lead into his collar and rummaged through the bag to make sure they had everything. "All right, got it. Come on then."

He couldn't help but smile at the sight of John eagerly bounding down the stairs ahead of him. There were worse ways to start off a morning.


*****


An hour later they returned home, John panting and Sherlock wondering how far scientists had come in the development of robotic limbs. He thought he might like to invest in an arm to throw tennis balls.

He had barely closed the front door behind him when John went rigid, all his attention on the stairs. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

"What is it?" Sherlock asked quietly.

John didn't even turn to look at him, merely turned his head so he could take in as much of the stairs as he could, and started pulling on his lead.

With no other option, Sherlock followed him. There was no point trying to be quiet; the sound of clawed paws on the wood was impossible to miss.

The sitting room door stood open. Someone was inside their flat.

"Try not to bite them until we know what they want," Sherlock murmured. "We're trying to make a favourable impression."

John made that half-snorting, half-huffing sound again that meant he thought Sherlock was being ridiculous and - in this case - that he had never cared about what sort of impression he made.

They proceeded up the rest of the stairs and into their flat as if they didn't have a care in the world.

"People usually call ahead," Sherlock said calmly.

The man sitting in his leather armchair smiled benignly. "So I've heard, but I didn't expect you to be out at seven in the morning. My apologies."

Sherlock frowned at him. "And the fact that I was out did not make you consider leaving and coming back at a later time?"

"I am rather pressed for time at the moment," the man said apologetically.

"And what brings a recently retired accountant to my flat this early in the morning?" Sherlock inquired, sliding the bag off his shoulder and carelessly throwing it onto the sofa before slipping out of his coat. "I would like to add that I find it preposterous of you to attempt to lie to me. No one who has recently entered into his long-awaited retirement is in any way pressed for time on a Tuesday morning."

He bent and unhooked the lead from John's collar.

John promptly started forward to sniff at the stranger's trouser legs before giving him a look full of contempt and moving to sit beside his own armchair.

Sherlock smiled and settled into John's armchair, letting one hand rest casually on John's hand.

"Well? What can I do for you?"

The man was eyeing John with the tense look of someone not used to being around dogs. "Let me make sure I have gotten this right, first," he said. "You are Mr Sherlock Holmes, are you not?"

"Yes," Sherlock confirmed, feeling bored already. He gestured at John. "This is John."

The man frowned. "I was under the impression your assistant and blogger's name was John."

"Indeed."

"But this is a dog."

"Well spotted."

"But if John is a dog, then who writes your blog?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Good heavens, man! The dog is called Johnny. My flatmate and blogger, John, is currently away on family business. Surely you are not suggesting that this dog here is capable of typing any blog entries whatsoever."

It was gratifying to see the man flounder a bit. "Well... no. I was merely taken off-guard. I apologise."

Sherlock sighed. "Can we return to the issue at hand then, Mr... ?"

"James," the man introduced himself. "Harold James."

"Well then, Mr James, what appears to be the problem?"

Mr James leaned forward, some of his primness replaced with honest concern as he spoke. "Until recently I was employed in a very respectable company as an accountant, as you correctly deduced. I am very good with numbers, always have been, and was passionate about my work, so I sometimes brought it home with me. Upon my retirement, I found some files that belonged to the company still on my desk at home, so I looked them over to see what they were about before returning them. It was then that I noticed some discrepancies."

"You suspected fraud?" Sherlock asked.

"Embezzlement," Mr James confirmed. "I can't be sure, for the files only showed a very small portion of the money movements within the company and I have not had a chance to look at any of the others. I was not the only accountant in the company by far and this was very subtly done, which I believe is why nobody ever noticed anything."

"And have you talked to your previous employer about this?" Sherlock inquired. Embezzlement could lead down very interesting roads or very boring ones and he was hoping for an interesting case here.

Mr James looked saddened. "I tried, but when I called his office I was informed that Mr Forsythe had unexpectedly passed away."


*****


A quarter of an hour after Mr James had so casually and unknowingly announced his connection to Lestrade's current investigation in the sitting room of 221b, Sherlock was pacing up and down between the desks and the kitchen.

"Murder, embezzlement, another murder ... oh, this is shaping up to be very interesting indeed!" he exclaimed.

"Tell me, Mr James, is it possible that your former employer may have been aware of the creative book-keeping happening in his company?"

"He might have been, yes," Mr James replied. "He had a very good eye for numbers himself, having started the business on his own as a young man and developed it into the company it is today. In the beginning, he had to do it all by himself until he hired me to take over the accounts so he could focus on further expansion. In fact, that is why I am here today. I didn't think much of his death when I first heard of it, except for the usual sadness one can expect, but then I heard on the news that he had been murdered and that his son had likewise found a violent end. That made me curious and once I learned where he had been found, I suspected he might have been on his way to-"

"To see me," Sherlock finished. "I thought as much when it became clear that there was no other possible reason for him to have walked all the way to Regent's Park from his home so early in the day."

"He has always admired your talents and I frequently saw him reading your website and your companion's blog," Mr James said. "When I heard he had been found in Regent's Park, it seemed the only logical conclusion."

Sherlock felt no small pang of satisfaction at having been correct in his deduction. The feeling increased when John nudged his hand in silent appreciation. He scratched his friend's ear in response.

"I thank you very much for bringing this to my attention, Mr James. If you would be so kind to leave your card for me so I can contact you if I have further questions, I would be much obliged."

Mr James, knowing a dismissal when he heard one, promptly rose from his chair and handed Sherlock his card. "I am glad to know you will be looking into the matter," he said. "I know Harrison would have appreciated your efforts, no matter what you may unearth."

Sherlock nodded, tucking the card safely into the front pocket of his shirt. "I'll do my best. In the meantime, may I suggest that you do not make contact with any of your former colleagues? In fact, I believe you may profit from a holiday out of town, preferably somewhere no one would come looking for you."

The former accountant blanched. "What are you saying?"

"You know what I am saying. Someone has been embezzling money from this company for what might be years and it has now cost the lives of your former employer and his heir. As the former head accountant, you may be another target on this person's list. I suggest you make yourself scarce. Do not tell anyone where you are going and keep your phone with you at all times in case of an emergency on your end or further enquiries on mine."

Pale-faced and trembling, Mr James shook Sherlock's hand, gave a small, polite bow, and left.

Sherlock waited until the front door had closed behind the man before stepping to the window and watching him walk away. "If he has any sense, he will hail a cab quite a bit away from here," he mused.

Then he turned back to John who was watching him expectantly.

"Well," Sherlock said. "What do you think of that?"

John gave a low bark.

"Yes, it certainly was unexpected. How often have we had valuable leads waiting for us right in our own home?"

Smiling, Sherlock continued pacing. "Oh, this is fantastic! So many angles! I know the son killed his father in an argument. But was he also responsible for the embezzlement? Did his father merely believe him to be? Was that the cause of the argument or where they fighting over some unrelated matter? And if so, who was responsible for the death of the son mere hours later? I wish Lestrade would hurry up and show me the crime scene pictures so I could strike suicide off the list of possibilities."

He saw the way John tilted his head. "Don't give me that look. Stabbing oneself in the back is perfectly possible, depending on how desperate one is to make it look like a suicide and how intelligent the person in question is. I was willing to admit it is unlikely last night, but considering this surprising twist, I will not take anything for granted now. No, I'll have to see the photos as soon as possible."

Sherlock pulled out his phone and sent a quick text to Lestrade. "Perhaps we can hail a cab to the Yard so I can take a look immediately."

John whined and shook his head, nodding towards the window.

Sherlock turned. It had started to rain. "So what? It's a bit of rain, it will pass."

The rain got stronger even as he spoke and he could see dark clouds balling up in the sky. This wasn't the usual sombre grey of light rain and the occasional drizzle London got so frequently soaked in. These were the kind of clouds that meant business.

Sherlock groaned. "Wonderful. With a thunderstorm over our heads, it'll be absolutely impossible to catch a cab."

As if on cue, it started to hail.

Sherlock glared at the window, hoping against hope that his personal opinion could sway the weather. It couldn't.

With a huff, he flung himself onto the sofa for a sulk.

"Finally there's something fun going on, the case is making wonderful progress, and then we just have to have one of our rare thunderstorms," he growled. "It is in every way hateful, John."

John whined at him and moved closer, nuzzling at Sherlock's hand that was dangling off the sofa.

He sighed and turned his hand around to stroke John's chest, which was the closest part he could reach.

"At least you've already had your walk today," he muttered. "Imagine going out in this weather. Tollers are supposed to love water, but I think even you would draw the line at hail."

John responded by shaking his entire body in revulsion. Sherlock felt the corners of his mouth tilt upwards. "Now, what are we going to do with this dreadful day?"


*****


They spent the day lazing about the flat and playing hide and seek. Sherlock would take one of John's tennis balls and rub it in various spices he unearthed from a drawer in the kitchen and then hide it somewhere in the flat for John to find by scent alone. Other times, he stuffed the kong with treats and sent John in search of that, the treats being his prize for finding the kong.

Mrs Hudson came upstairs in the early afternoon to watch telly with them and she and Sherlock spent the time arguing about the people on the show, some sort of scripted reality thing that made Sherlock despair of the existence of intelligent life in general and of mankind in particular.

When their landlady produced one of her herbal soothers for herself and Sherlock to share, John gave them both a stern look.

"Oh, don't be like that, John," Mrs Hudson said, reaching out and patting his side. "Let an old woman have her fun. And you know perfectly well that it is very impolite not to share."

John grumbled lowly, transferring his glare to Sherlock.

"Don't look at me, it's impolite to refuse anything offered by your landlady," Sherlock promptly said, accepting the joint from the woman in question with a smirk. "It will be very interesting to see how a dog reacts to the scent of weed in the air."

John flattened his ears at him and pointedly trotted off to the other side of the room where he curled up in his dog bed, hiding his nose under his tail. Perhaps he could just sleep through this entire thing and claim ignorance on the matter if questioned later on. There was certainly nothing he could do about it now short of eating the damn thing.

In the end, John had to retreat all the way up to his own bedroom to escape the penetrating scent of the weed. He knew that marijuana was not particularly harmful and that Sherlock's cigarettes were actually much more vile, but something in him rebelled against any form of recreational drug usage. He could hardly chide Mrs Hudson, who claimed it was healthier than any pain medication a physician could prescribe for her hip, but he did object to Sherlock fogging his brilliant mind with the stuff.

Since neither of the two made any move to stop before the entire joint was gone, John retreated upstairs and curled up on his bed where he could doze surrounded by his own scent with his nose buried under a pillow so the joint wouldn't get to him quite so easily. He had even nudged the door as far closed as he could without actually letting it latch shut. The last thing he wanted was to be locked in here and having to rely on Sherlock to get him out. It would feel too much like a punishment for protesting the weed and he honestly had no idea what its effect on Sherlock would be. Perhaps he would forget John had a problem with opening certain doors, perhaps he would completely forget about John at all and zone out, get lost in his Mind Palace or start a ridiculous experiment that would result in the destruction of yet another toaster.

Shuddering, John curled up a little bit tighter and listened to the sound of the rain smashing down outside. It sounded like standing right next to a waterfall but he knew from looking out the window that it really was nothing but strong rain hammering down onto the buildings and pavements - and, in many cases, the unlucky inhabitants - of the city.

The noise was almost deafening. He had to pay close attention to hear Mrs Hudson's voice as she told Sherlock goodbye and walked down the stairs to return to her own flat.

There was the sound of a window being opened and John waited half an hour before venturing downstairs.

Sherlock had opened one of the sitting room windows that were mercifully not being hit by the rain and had aired out the room a bit. The smell of the weed was still there but quickly being drowned in the scent of clean, fresh air, rain, wet pavement, and the usual scent of car exhaust that even a whole day's rain could never quite eradicate.

"Can you still smell it?" Sherlock drawled.

He was reclining on the sofa, his dressing gown wrapped around him like a silk cocoon. Every limb of his seemed loose and relaxed and John wondered if this was what Sherlock used to look like, in the dark days of his drug addiction.

John nodded, flicking his ears this way and that. With the window open, the sound of the rain was even louder than it had been upstairs.

He trotted over to the window and rose on his hind legs, propping himself up with his front paws on the window sill so he could look outside. The street was empty and there were few cars about but that was normal for Baker Street. He could hear the sounds of cars on Marylebone Road, but even there the traffic seemed muted and less heavy than usually. People who had nowhere to go tended to stay put in this kind of weather.

He breathed in deeply, enjoying the clean air. With this nose, he could actually smell the gradual decline of the percentage of weed smoke in the air and it was glorious. He would be able to find the scent again anywhere, now that it was stored in his mind, but for now it was being erased from the flat by slow degrees.

"Can I close the window now or do you wish me to freeze to death first?" Sherlock asked from the sofa. "Bit of an overreaction, that form of punishment."

Grumbling, John turned away from the window and hopped onto the sofa. There wasn't much space left, what with Sherlock taking up so much of the surface on account of his unreasonably long legs.

John found a spot, though, and couldn't be bothered to care that said spot was to lie between Sherlock's legs with his head resting on Sherlock's abdomen.

"I'm not sure if this is you trying to keep me warm while the flat airs out, or you trying to punish me further by applying pressure to my bladder and refusing to let me get up," Sherlock mused, reaching out to stroke John's nape.

John gave a low humming noise in response, quietly surprised at his own ability to produce such a sound at all. It vibrated along the back of his throat and he closed his eyes blissfully at the sensation of Sherlock's fingers in his fur. He would never get tired of that, he just knew it. And in this position Sherlock's wrist was very close to John's nose, that scent of his close and reassuring, his pulse audible through the thin layer of skin.

Sherlock sighed quietly and stayed where he was, his fingers at John's nape the only part of him that moved beyond the steady rise and fall of his chest.

John's ears turned in the direction of the window as he became aware of a car turning into Baker Street. It stopped right in front of 221b. He stayed where he was, listening to the doors opening and closing.

A moment later, the piercing noise of the doorbell ringing shattered the calm atmosphere.

"I'm not moving from here," Sherlock informed him. "I don't care who it is, they can damn well talk to me while I'm lying down."

Mrs Hudson opened the door and they both heard her greeting someone. A moment later, Lestrade's voice floated up the stairs.

Sherlock sighed. "Can you still smell the weed? And more importantly, do you think he can?"

John lifted his head long enough to shake it before returning to his previous position.

He supposed he should get up and move away, but he was just too damn comfortable right where he was. Lestrade would probably have a field day with their current position. As it was, he was basically catching them cuddling on the sofa. In broad daylight, no less! But if Sherlock wasn't bothered, why should John be? So he stayed put.

Two pairs of feet came up the stairs but John already knew that Lestrade had brought Donovan. He had heard her low greeting to Mrs Hudson. But since Donovan had no idea that John and the dog Johnny were one and the same, she was even less of a reason to get up.

"Sherlock, are you there?" Lestrade asked, marching into the sitting room with Donovan following behind. "Gosh, it's freezing in here."

"Johnny likes the scent of rain," Sherlock informed him, turning their attention to him.

Lestrade took one look at the cosy picture of them on the sofa, opened his mouth with a gleeful look on his face, glanced at Donovan and remained silent.

Sally, on the other hand, couldn't keep her mouth shut. "Wow, Holmes, you actually look like a human being there."

"Ah, my disguise is working," Sherlock promptly said. "Thank you for confirming. I shall make it a point to always wear a dog from now on. What do you say Johnny? Walking is overrated anyway. I'll just carry you around all day. Or perhaps I'll ask two of Mycroft's minions to carry this sofa everywhere."

John wagged his tail half-heartedly in response.

"I thought you'd be up and about, working the case," Lestrade said, apparently opting to ignore the confusing display in front of him. "I half expected you to have re-enacted the crime scene right here in the sitting room."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "No point. I didn't even have to leave the house to work the case. When Johnny and I came home from our walk this morning, the lead was waiting for us right here in the sitting room."

"What?"

Sherlock sighed and told them about Mr James' visit and the interesting things he had to say about Mr Forsythe and his company.

"So we are dealing with embezzlement, a patricide, another murder that was probably done to cover up the embezzlement, and in all likelihood our killer isn't done yet. I must say, Lestrade, this case is exceeding all my expectations. And to think I considered it a boring and straightforward affair at the crime scene!"

"I'm so glad you're feeling entertained by this mess," Lestrade said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Thank you. Now, have you brought the pictures of the son's crime scene?"

Lestrade glanced at Donovan, who reluctantly pulled the file out of a large handbag. "Here you go. Knock yourself out."

"Thank you," Sherlock said, accepting the file and opening it with a flourish.

John's field of vision turned pale yellow as he was forced to stare at the outside of the file.

"Huh," Sherlock muttered, flipping through the assorted photographs. "Interesting. Well, that certainly confirms it. Definitely a murder. I was wondering if perhaps a suicide at this angle was possible, perhaps in an attempt to frame someone, but this wound was definitely not self-inflicted. And he was found lying face-down?"

"Yes," Lestrade confirmed. "Spread out on the kitchen floor with the knife in his back like that."

"So he had no way of falling backwards onto it and then turn around on the floor. It would have taken his whole weight to drive the blade in that deep," Sherlock noted. "Therefore, he must have been attacked from behind. If he had fallen onto the knife himself, he would have been found on his back or perhaps his side. No, this was definitely murder."

"Well thank you for that masterful deduction," Sally told him snidely. "I really don't know how we could have figured that one out on our own."

"I'm merely confirming a theory," Sherlock replied, not at all perturbed by her attitude. "If it had been self-inflicted, you would have had quite some trouble figuring that out."

"Anything else you can tell us?" Lestrade asked before the two could start arguing.

"Well, he definitely killed his father, though it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, judging by the crime scene."

"Do you think he wanted to stop his father from finding out about the embezzlement?" Donovan asked, frowning.

Sherlock handed the file back to her and shook his head. "If he was behind it, who killed him and why? No, I think Forsythe junior had something else to hide that he didn't want me and by extension his father to find out about. It will all come to light soon enough now, I suppose."

"So whatever he was hiding is something worth killing for?"

"In the eyes of the murderer certainly - unless he was killed by the embezzeler."

"Oh good," Lestrade groaned. "That'll narrow it down."

Sherlock shrugged. "We'll find out what it is. As soon as this deplorable rain lets up, I'd like you to take me to the second crime scene. Perhaps the victim's flat will tell me something more. If we're lucky, it will be enough to at least make an educated guess about what he was trying to hide."

"If you say so. I'll see what I can do. But give me a heads up, Sherlock. I can't just drop everything and ferry you around whenever it strikes your fancy. I do have other work to do as well."

With a theatrical sigh, Sherlock nodded. "Fine. It won't be before tomorrow, anyway. It's close to evening already and Johnny here will no doubt want his dinner and perhaps a very short and wet walk soon."

John whined in agreement, thumping his tail against Sherlock's legs. He was getting hungry and a walk sounded good, even if it was a very very short one into the back yard so he could relieve himself.

Lestrade grinned. "Have fun getting soaked. Just walking the three steps from your front door to the car is going to get us half drenched."

"Then you best get it over with as soon as possible," Sherlock suggested, waving a dismissive hand before settling it back in its previous place on John's nape.

John promptly went boneless, the soft massage of those long fingers at his neck and the back of his head too blissful to make him pay any attention to their audience.

"I have to hand it to you," Donovan said quietly. "Your people skills may be crap, but you take really good care of your dog."

Sherlock, having closed his eyes in a clear dismissal, smirked. "My mother would have my head chopped off if I did otherwise. Also, dogs are better people. Haven't you noticed?"

"I'm starting to," she said. "See you tomorrow."

"You go ahead, Donovan," Lestrade said. "I want to have a word with Sherlock in private."

"Only if you give me the keys so I can actually wait in the car. I'm not going to stand in the rain just so you can have a chat."

He threw them to her and she caught them with one hand. John found his eyes tracking their flight trajectory and was almost disappointed to see them land safely in Donovan's hand. He would have quite liked something to chase.

They waited until Donovan had left before Lestrade spoke again.

"Listen, are you guys all right?"

"Yes of course," Sherlock said, not bothering to look at him. "Why wouldn't we be?"

"Well..." Lestrade floundered a bit. "I mean... look at you! The position you're in right now! Don't you think you are, I don't know, blurring the lines a bit? Getting your wires crossed?"

Sherlock opened one eye to give him a confused look. "No. Why would we? Clearly we are a man and his dog spending a nice afternoon on the sofa together. I really don't see why any of that should be of concern to you."

"But you aren't just a man and his dog," Lestrade hissed through clenched teeth. "And I'm starting to fear that you are both forgetting that. Because the John I know wouldn't be caught dead in this position." He gestured at them.

John thought that was a rather offensive comment about his character and gave a short warning growl.

"I don't think John agrees," Sherlock said calmly.

"No, I think he agrees very much but doesn't like me saying so," Lestrade retorted. "The implications practically write themselves here. John, if you were in your human form, I bet my meagre pension that you wouldn't be in this position right now. And here you are."

"You're the one who suggested we needed more physical contact," Sherlock snapped at him. "And now suddenly that isn't okay anymore? Are we making you uncomfortable? Because John can get up any time he likes and he has a wide range of options when it comes to making his opinion clear to me. So unless he or I object to the way we handle the situation, I'm going to go right ahead and do whatever the hell we both like and you can keep your comments to yourself. If that is not too much to ask."

The Detective Inspector held up his hands in a defensive gesture. "Fine. But I think you're both going to be in for a huge surprise once John regains his own form, and we all know who's going to be caught in the middle of the fallout. So maybe think about that the next time you snap at me for being concerned for you both."

They glared at one another across the sitting room.

"Was that all?" Sherlock finally bit out.

"No, actually," Lestrade said, crossing his arms and making a visible effort to calm down. "I wanted to ask if you have heard from Mycroft about ... well, this. Has there been any progress?"

Sherlock shook his head. "Not yet. It will take at least one or two weeks for them to come up with an antiserum and then there will be a testing period to ensure it isn't harmful or has any undesired side effects. Until then, all we can do is wait and go on as we have."

Lestrade sighed. "All right then." He stepped forward and around the coffee table, reached out and patted John's back. "Hang in there, John. I'm sorry if I sounded a bit harsh just now. You know I'm only worried for you both, even if that lanky git here doesn't quite seem to get it."

John whined at him and turned to lick his hand.

"Apology accepted," Sherlock translated, not quite able to hide his grin as Lestrade pulled his hand away with a disgusted "Oi!".

"At least one of you is reasonable about this," Lestrade said, shrugging. "More than I could have hoped for, really. Have a good night, boys. Remember to call ahead, Sherlock."

"Shut the window before you go?" Sherlock requested.

The DI rolled his eyes but did so, leaving them alone in their darkening flat as the wind turned and the rain started hammering against the window panes.


*****


They spent another half hour on the sofa after Lestrade had left, listening to the rain pouring down and not moving beyond the occasional yawn.

About fifteen minutes into it, Sherlock quietly asked: "Do you think he's right?"

John made an inquisitive noise.

"About us blurring lines," Sherlock went on, trying to somehow put his confusion into words. "I am not used to this much physical contact with anybody, but I find I don't mind touching you at all. Do you think it will be difficult, going back to the way we usually act around one another once you're back in your human body? Do you think we'll have trouble adjusting?"

John blinked at him and gave what Sherlock by now knew was a shrug.

He smiled. "I don't know, either. I suppose we'll find out soon enough. In the meantime ... you really don't mind this, do you?"

Instead of answering, John pressed his head a tiny bit more firmly to Sherlock's abdomen and closed his eyes again.

"I'll take that as a no, then."

Sherlock wondered if the relief he felt was somehow noticeable to John, wondered if that bothered him. He wondered, too, where it came from. Why should he be worried about any of this? They were friends. Currently, one of them was a dog. Physical contact was important; canines communicated mostly by using body language, after all. And Sherlock had always enjoyed the company of dogs. They were honest. They didn't even know how to lie. No matter if they liked you or hated you, they made sure you knew either way. It was uncomplicated and thus in many ways preferable to humans with their conflicting signals and their expectation of you to understand the things they left unsaid.

Sherlock relaxed again. No, this was good. This was pure and clean and simple. He had never felt an urge to pet John before this whole mess, after all.

Well, he might have wanted to reach out and grasp his hand sometimes, just to hold on to something. But that was very straightforward, too, and he had never considered actually doing it. And John certainly wouldn't have let him do it. Come to that, John wouldn't let him touch him like he was right now, either, if he somehow objected to it. Lestrade could go and sod himself for making Sherlock question any of this.

Another quarter of an hour ticked by in quiet companionship before Sherlock finally sighed and set up. "All right, off with you. I don't know about you, but I spent an entire afternoon with your head on my bladder and could do with a visit to the bathroom. And judging by the low level of water in your bowl, I'm assuming so do you."

John got up, stretched and hopped off the sofa, already moving toward the door.

Sherlock stared out into the rain. "Seeing as you're not getting your lead, I suppose this means you don't intend to go on a walk, either?"

John nodded.

Sherlock smiled at him. "All right, give me a minute and I'll open the back door for you."


*****


John barely spent five minutes outside and even though he had tried to stay under the meagre shelter of the overhanging roof, he was still rather wet when he squeezed past Sherlock to get back into the house.

"No reason to get my trousers all wet," Sherlock grumbled good-naturedly. "Wait here."

He dashed up the stairs and got a towel, knowing both John and Mrs Hudson would have a lot to say about water droplets leading through the entire house.

Towel in hand, Sherlock returned to find John exactly where he had left him, dripping water on the carpet and looking miserable.

"Come on, let's get you dry first, unless you're particularly eager to draw the wrath of Mrs Hudson down on both our heads."

John huffed at him but remained perfectly still as Sherlock gently started to towel him dry, taking care not to accidentally pull at his fur. "There, that should do it. Go upstairs and lie in front of the fire for a while, that should get you nice and dry."

John bounded up the stairs with a low bark, leaving Sherlock to close the door and follow him at a more sedate pace.

He had to admit that the entire situation was ridiculously domestic. They didn't argue, even though they could have found endless ways to do so. They didn't succumb to cabin fever despite the heavy rain, and indeed they had both seemed to thoroughly enjoy their lazy afternoon on the sofa.

Yes, Sherlock mused, all signs were definitely pointing to domestic bliss. Too bad that one of them was a dog and the other a self-professed sociopath.

He entered the sitting room to find John sprawled in front of the fire, looking like the picture of domesticity. Wasn't this what everyone wanted? A comfortable home and a dog in front of the fireplace?

Sherlock chuckled to himself. And to think that he of all people had gotten it without even trying!

His stomach rumbled and John instantly raised his head and gave him a gleeful look of barely suppressed triumph.

"This is your fault," Sherlock complained. "I never used to be hungry so often until you started bullying me into eating all the bloody time."

John clearly wasn't impressed with this assertion. He simply wagged his tail at him, the bastard!

Oh well, there was nothing for it. He didn't have anything to do besides watch the rain and contemplate possible secrets Mr Forsythe Junior might have wanted to hide from his father, so he may as well make something to eat. At least it would take up some time.

"The sooner this day is over, the better," Sherlock muttered. "Even this type of rain can't make it through a day and a night and then continue on. It will have to ease up sooner rather than later."

Chapter Text

The thunderstorm reached its peak intensity just after midnight. John lay on the dog bed in the sitting room, listening to the rain hammer down on the roof and pavement. The noise was almost overwhelming even on the first floor, which was why he had opted to stay well away from his own bedroom where the roof was that much closer.

A clap of thunder made him jump and he pressed his head down between his front paws, hoping to somehow dampen the noise a bit. It didn't help.

The actual thunderstorm wasn't even the main problem, he admitted wryly to himself. No, the real issue was that with all this noise, he had no way of making sure Sherlock was fine without seeking him out. Usually, once the sounds of traffic had calmed down at night, he could hear the man's heartbeat even while up in his room. But now? Nothing. He had stayed in the sitting room in hopes that the increased proximity would help, but the cacophony outside drowned out every other sound.

John hadn't gone for longer than an hour or two without hearing Sherlock's heartbeat since this entire thing had started, a calming reminder that Sherlock was alive and nearby. The longest he had gone without the sound had been at the park with Donovan, and even then he had known precisely where Sherlock was and what he was likely to be doing.

Now, though ... well. Sherlock was many things, but mostly he was fixated on his work and his bedroom window allowed access to the fire escape. No sane person would consider leaving the house in this kind of weather, but Sherlock had never made any claims to sanity and John could easily spend hours listing all the hair-raisingly dangerous things his friend had gotten up to over the course of their friendship.

As another roll of thunder shook the house so strongly he could feel it in his bones, John gave up and did what he had already known he was going to do. He went to Sherlock's bedroom.

The door was slightly ajar, the lights out, the curtains closed. Sherlock had switched off all the lights in the flat before going to bed but John didn't need his eyes to know his friend was still there. Not when his nose could smell him so clearly, his familiar scent like a beacon.

"Can't sleep?" Sherlock asked, his voice low and gravely.

John hadn't realised he was still awake, but wasn't surprised to find him so. Even to human ears the thunderstorm had to be rather loud.

He whined in agreement and hopped onto the bed before he could think himself out of it.

"Is something the matter?" Even as he spoke, Sherlock was already reaching for him, running one hand down John's right front leg.

Since he could hardly explain what the problem was, he whined again and navigated his way across the bed, feeling out Sherlock's precise position under the covers and noting happily that he was lying on his back in much the same way as he had done earlier today on the sofa. John nudged at one of his friend's legs with his nose until he shifted it aside, then flopped down and resumed the comfortable position they had been in this afternoon.

"I'm not cold this time," Sherlock informed him calmly, but didn't protest as John shuffled up a bit until he could rest his chin on Sherlock's abdomen.

And there it was. Strong and steady, too close to be drowned out by the storm raging outside: Sherlock's heartbeat.

John relaxed.

A handful of quiet seconds later, yet another clap of thunder made him flinch.

"Oh." He knew that tone. That was Sherlock's 'I've figured something out' tone. "You dislike the storm?"

John whined in agreement.

"I suppose it must be very loud to your ears," Sherlock mused, running his hand from John's head down his neck and along his back in a seemingly absent-minded manner. "Unfortunately, I do not have any suitable earplugs I could offer you."

Another clap of thunder detonated above their heads. John jumped.

"Thunder does sound a bit like bombs going off, doesn't it?" Sherlock asked quietly.

John whimpered in agreement.

The hand on his back briefly tightened in his fur before returning to its gentle stroking. "You are not in a war zone anymore, John. If you need my scent to remind you of that, I'm right here."

John shook his head. If this was about scent, he could have stayed in the sitting room. The entire flat was drenched in Sherlock's scent, he couldn't escape it if he tried. But his friend deserved to know why John was invading his bed in the middle of the night, so he raised his head, looked Sherlock dead in the eye - or where he judged his eyes to be - and very pointedly pressed his head to his chest with his ear right above Sherlock's heart.

Realisation dawned. He could hear it in the way said heart picked up speed for a moment before settling back into its usual rhythm.

"Oh. You can hear that? Well, of course you can, your hearing is fantastic. I suppose you can usually hear it from the sitting room?"

John nodded and raised one paw to point upwards.

Sherlock's hand stilled. "From your own room, too? Incredible." He chuckled. "And to think I thought you might not be able to hear me talk from up there."

John huffed in amusement. It had taken him some time to adjust to his senses, but he had to agree that, looking back, it really was a bit ridiculous.

There was a thoughtful pause as Sherlock considered John's revelation. Finally he said: "It calms you, hearing my heart. And you couldn't do that with the storm."

His voice was matter-of-fact, a statement rather than a question. His hand continued stroking up and down John's back and neck.

John relaxed into the sensation. The next thunder barely made him twitch.

Several long minutes passed in silence. When Sherlock spoke again, his voice was quiet.

"I used to have a dog when I was a child. An Irish Setter. His name was Redbeard. I didn't much care for the company of other children but I loved playing with him." He sighed. It sounded a bit shaky. "He had to be put down when he got cancer. I was eight."

John was almost glad he couldn't respond verbally, but he shifted a little closer to Sherlock all the same, offering comfort in the only way he could. It was quite enough.


*****


By morning, the storm had passed and pale golden sunlight filtered into the room through the gap in the curtains. John woke slowly, surprised to find he had fallen asleep at all.

He felt warm and cosy and surprisingly well-rested, so he assumed he had gotten more sleep than expected. There was a warm hand tangled in the fur on the back of his neck and his pillow was gently moving up and down.

He blinked.

Not a pillow. Sherlock's abdomen, rising and falling with each breath he took. Judging from his even breathing pattern, sluggish heartbeat and utterly relaxed body, the detective was still asleep.

John shifted a bit in case he was putting too much weight on Sherlock's bladder - and froze. Perhaps not all of Sherlock was as relaxed as he had assumed. Through the twin layers of his pyjama bottoms and the covers, there was an unmistakeable hardness pressing against John's body.

If he were human, he would have laughed. There it was, the final proof that Sherlock Holmes was just another human male. Let him sleep and give him a bit of warmth and friction, and his body will respond the same way as everyone else's.

John huffed and got up before Sherlock had a chance to wake up and feel embarrassed. There was no point making things awkward. He wasn't silly enough to ascribe any meaning to it. Morning wood happened, whether you wanted it to or not.

He hopped off the bed and decided to take the chance and sniff out Sherlock's room. His flatmate certainly had no qualms about going through John's things, a little payback was only fair.

His nose close the floor, he stuck his head under the bed and sneezed at the cloud of dust that greeted him. Time for Mrs Hudson to pretend not to be their housekeeper again.

To his great relief, there seemed to be no dead things under there. Books, pieces of notepaper, the odd dropped biro. The usual.

John pulled his head free and turned his attention to the rest of the room, sniffing at the night stand and biting back a growl at the unmistakeable scent of tobacco. 'Just you wait until I'm human again', he thought. 'Those cigarettes are as good as flushed'.

Next to him, Sherlock rolled over onto his stomach and gave a low moan.

John raised his head to see if his friend would wake, but when Sherlock merely sighed and slept on, he turned back to his examination.

There was surprisingly little clutter in Sherlock's bedroom. Despite the way he frequently turned the sitting room and kitchen into hurricane disaster areas, he kept his own room rather neat. John found a stray sock half wedged under the dresser and a half-empty packet of tissues under a chair. There were no further cigarettes to be smelled anywhere, much to his relief. Perhaps he could find a way to open the night stand drawer and spirit them away without Sherlock noticing until it was too late.

He left the bedroom and trotted into the kitchen to lap a bit of water from his bowl. It was getting stale; he would have to make Sherlock give him fresh water once he got up. God, he missed tea.

Speaking of ... there was no food left in his bowl, either, unsurprisingly. His stomach growled.

John turned around and cantered back into Sherlock's bedroom, barking once in an attempt to wake him.

Sherlock grumbled into his pillow.

John barked again and propped himself up on the bed so he could reach Sherlock's back and nudge him with his nose.

"Shut up," Sherlock groaned, which John took to mean that he was awake and would get up in a minute. He barked again just to make his point.

"I liked you better when you were still human," Sherlock complained and tried to sit up. Apparently, this was when he noticed his current physical state. He cursed. "Bloody fantastic."

John pointedly returned to the sitting room, intending to at least try and give Sherlock some privacy to deal with his problem, but judging from the stream of quiet curses and the sounds coming from the other end of the flat, Sherlock had gotten up and marched into the bathroom, apparently determined to ignore his erection until it went away on its own. John didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed and then found himself wondering why he should be.

He could hear the rustling of fabric and the sound of the shower curtain and then the pipes creaking as the water started flowing. More muffled curses ensued and John winced in sympathy. Cold shower, then. If Sherlock was anything like him, he'd be in a right pissy mood for a bit.

John decided to give his friend some space and bounded down the stairs, hearing noises from Mrs Hudson's flat. They had slept longer this morning and the landlady was already up and about. John found himself momentarily inconvenienced by the doorknob but Mrs Hudson heard him and opened the door a moment later.

"John! What a lovely surprise. Good morning!" She bent down and ruffled the fur of his neck with both hands. He wagged his tail and licked her wrist in greeting.

"Are you waiting for Sherlock to give you your breakfast?" she asked as he followed her into the kitchen. "You must be so hungry, you're usually up earlier than this. This past week you were both already out and about by the time I got out of bed!"

He watched with interest as she opened a cabinet and pulled out a plastic container. "Here, I still have some of the new dog biscuits I baked yesterday. Have one."

She offered him one of the treats and John happily crunched it down, barely pausing to chew.

"Good?"

He wagged his tail and gave an enthusiastic bark.

Mrs Hudson tittered. "Well, we wouldn't want you to starve, would we?" She gave him another one.

"MRS HUDSON!" Sherlock bellowed from upstairs. "Stop sneaking John treats before breakfast!"

"Oh, you can't get anything past this one, can you?" she sighed, rolling her eyes good-naturedly before yelling back: "Well, you better feed him, then!"

John yipped at her, gently head-butted her thigh in lieu of a goodbye, and made his way back upstairs to where Sherlock was already waiting, his hair still dripping wet.

"Traitor," the detective grumbled at him. "First you wake me and then you go get your food elsewhere. What am I going to do with you?"

John tilted his head and tried to look innocent.

Sherlock snorted. "That's not going to help. Here, eat your breakfast. I put fresh water in your bowl, too, don't bother thanking me. And I'm telling you right now that we are going to use our walk today to visit our murder victim's home. It's time we solved this case."

John gave a vague hum, too busy eating to pay much attention to Sherlock, who promptly disappeared into the bathroom again in order to blow-dry his hair.

A quarter of an hour later, they were off, taking their now customary route through Regent's Park and enjoying the crisp air. The ground was still wet from the rain but the air smelled fresh even for London standards and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful morning and John happily walked by Sherlock's side, taking in the fresh scent trails they came across. The rain had washed most of the old traces away and there hadn't been many people out and about at this time of the morning yet.

Sherlock threw the tennis ball for him for a bit and John found that wet grass made him slip and slide much more than he would have expected to. Sherlock at least seemed to find it hilarious, though he finally took mercy on him and returned the ball to the bag. "That's enough of that now. We'll take the right turn up ahead. I want to go past Mr Forsythe's crime scene on our way to his widow."

They continued on their way, walking past the left turn they usually took to return to the flat. John made sure to watch his step in case there were any further glass shards on the ground and when Sherlock gave a low chuckle he looked up in confusion. "I doubt you will step into another shard, John. But interesting that you decided to watch out for them now when the possibility of glass didn't bother you in 'our' part of the park."

John shrugged but had to concede the point.

A noise caught his attention and he turned his head. Up ahead, the path made a bend around some trees and bushes and he could hear the sound of footsteps approaching. There was a familiar rhythm to them, at least a dozen boots hitting the ground at the same time. He wasn't surprised at all when a moment later a group of soldiers rounded the bend. A bunch of cadets out on their morning run, if he had to guess.

He moved to the side of the path in order to let them pass and accidentally walked right into Sherlock, who wasn't moving at all. Confused, John looked up at him.

Sherlock was staring at the soldiers, his head tilted ever so slightly, his attention completely focused on them.

And then he licked his lips.

John blinked.

The scent hit him at almost the same time as Sherlock's slightly elevated heart rate. That in itself was a surprise, but the scent ... he had no way to describe it because humans had no way of consciously picking up on this, but he could smell the change as Sherlock's body released a small dose of hormones.

Testosterone, oxytocin, adrenalin ... he had smelled some of these before, back at the lab on Molly.

Arousal.

John felt his jaw drop and he turned his head this way and that, looking from Sherlock to the approaching soldiers and back again. 'Seriously?'

He nudged Sherlock's leg and gave a low bark, finally startling the detective out of his downright ogling - good lord! - and causing him to move aside.

"No need to be a bully, John," Sherlock chided, turning his head to watch the soldiers run past.

One of them gave him a long look in return and winked. Sherlock's breath hitched ever so slightly. A human wouldn't have noticed but the sound didn't escape John's sensitive ears.

He stared at Sherlock in shocked amusement. This was ... unexpected. And a confirmation of a question John had tried very hard not to think about. But, well ... Sherlock had never said men weren't his area, had he? That part certainly wasn't a huge surprise. But ... soldiers?

'Guess that explains why he was so giddy when we broke into Baskerville' John thought. Back then he had thought he had imagined Sherlock checking out Corporal Lyons, but apparently he hadn't.

"I take back what I said earlier," Sherlock grumbled. "You being a dog is infinitely preferable to you being human. I don't even want to know what sort of commentary I'd be subjected to right now if you were capable of speech."

John thought that was rather unfair and huffed at him, but had to admit that he would very likely have teased Sherlock about it at least a little.

Soldiers, indeed. Was that why he had taken to John so quickly? Did that mean that, in some way, Sherlock found John attractive? He had always ignored Mrs Hudson's comments on the matter, but now it occurred to him that the landlady had known Sherlock for years before John had met him, and perhaps she knew something he didn't.

There was, of course, no way of testing that theory as long as he was in this canine form and once he got his real body back - if he got it back - he would lack the senses to literally sniff it out. And if he didn't get his body back ... well, it would be a moot point then, wouldn't it?

As he followed Sherlock along the path, John allowed himself to imagine it. Never getting out of this body, forever being trapped as a dog, living the rest of his life by Sherlock's side like this. It wasn't a complete nightmare, but it also wasn't an idea that gave him joy. He wanted his own body back. He wanted to walk and talk like a human and have opposing thumbs and cook his own food and not be so dependent on Sherlock for everything.

But well, if it came down to it... there were certainly worse things than being Sherlock's dog. He clearly liked dogs and by his own admission even used to have one of his own, and he was taking good care of John and treating him wonderfully. But, well, what about John's life expectancy? Had it been shrunk down to that of an average dog? Were eight to twelve years all he could hope for? Or would he retain his human life span and just stay with Sherlock for the rest of both of their lives?

That didn't sound so bad, but John rather suspected that even Sherlock would eventually need human company to keep him sane. And factoring in this latest revelation about him, there was a good chance he would sooner or later meet someone who tickled his fancy and embark on a relationship.

John didn't even want to imagine that. Sherlock, bringing another man into their flat, into their lives ... into his bed. And John, whose ears were sensitive enough to pick up on what the neighbours three houses down the street were getting up to, would have no way of not knowing every single detail of it. The mere idea of that was enough to make his hackles rise. No, he would not let it come to that. Perhaps it was the canine part of him, perhaps it was him being a selfish bastard, but Sherlock was his and he would not share him with anyone else.

Now if only he were human and able to do something about it!

John blinked, torn from his thoughts as the ground under his feet changed from the distinctive asphalt of the park's walkway to the rough stone plates of London foot walks.

Without noticing, he had followed Sherlock all the way past the crime scene and out of the park. A moment later, Sherlock bent down and refastened the lead on his collar.

"Sorry about that, I know you'd rather have it off," he murmured for John's ears only. "Remember, when we reach our victim's house, I want you to gather as much information as you can about what you smell and hear while we are there. Alert me if there is anything suspicious. Do you think you can do that?"

John gave a reassuring yip and nudged Sherlock's hand. He felt he could do anything.

Chapter Text

A brisk walk of about forty-five minutes put them in the immediate vicinity of Harrison Forsythe's home in Barnsbury. Sherlock spent some time looking at the houses and the street, but seemed unable to find anything of interest because he did not linger nearly as long as John had seen him do on other occasions and soon proceeded to the house in question.

He rang the doorbell and John sat down next to him, trying to look as cute and harmless as he possibly could in case Mrs Forsythe didn't like dogs.

Movement inside the house alerted him that someone was in fact at home, and half a minute later the door was opened by a woman in her mid to late sixties who had made a hasty and entirely unsuccessful attempt at washing her face to hide away any traces of recent tears. John felt his heart go out to her immediately.

"Hello?"

"Mrs Forsythe?" Sherlock asked, putting on his most polite voice. "I'm sorry to bother you so early in the morning. My name is Sherlock Holmes and I am here because of your husband."

"I ... Harrison?" she stammered. "Haven't you heard the news? My husband has unexpectedly passed away."

She sniffed and looked about to start crying again.

"I am aware. My condolences," Sherlock said with surprising gentleness. "That is why I am here. I am a consulting detective and frequently work with Scotland Yard. In this case, however, I believe your husband was already on his way to consult me when he was murdered." He looked pointedly up and down the street. "May I come in?"

"Oh, of course. I'm sorry, I should have offered." She opened the door wider and Sherlock stepped inside, John close at his side.

"I hope you don't mind me bringing my dog along," he said casually. "We were on our morning walk when I decided to come by."

"That's no problem at all. What a handsome dog you have!" she exclaimed. John wagged his tail at her and got his ears scratched in return.

She led them into the sitting room and offered Sherlock the sofa and a cup of tea, both of which he accepted.

Mrs Forsythe bustled off into the kitchen and returned with a tea tray laden with two cups, a pot, cream and sugar, some biscuits, and a bowl of water for John.

"That is very kind of you," Sherlock said, placing the bowl on the floor for John. His voice sounded much warmer than it usually did when he was talking to strangers.

"Oh, it is nothing. Harry and I used to have a dog, back when Benjamin was still a little boy." Her lower lip started to wobble. "And now they're all gone and I'm the only one left."

She burst into tears.

John whined and tugged at his lead until Sherlock let it go, allowing him to walk over to the armchair Mrs Forsythe sat on and put his head on her knee.

As with most people in emotional distress, the presence of a warm, cuddly dog provided some much-needed comfort and she absently patted his head as she tried to regain control over her feelings.

"I am so sorry, Mr Holmes. I don't usually blubber about like this, but the last few days have been an absolute nightmare."

"Quite understandable," Sherlock said with surprising tact. John gave him a questioning look but Sherlock pretended not to notice.

It took a minute or two for Mrs Forsythe to be able to hold back her tears, but after blowing her nose once more, she straightened her spine and faced the issue head on.

"Mr Holmes, if I understand your earlier words correctly, you believe my husband was going to consult you on some matter?"

"Yes. Your home and the place where he was discovered in Regent's Park are on a direct line to my address just south-west of the park, so it seemed the most logical explanation. I have since come into the possession of further information regarding a potential fraud case at his company. Did he tell you about that?"

She thought for a moment. "He did appear unhappy about something at work but he would not tell me what it was. I assumed his impending retirement had put a damper on his spirits. He built that company from the ground up and I simply thought he could not bear to let it go, even though Benjamin was willing to take over from him. And now the police say that Benny killed him! His own father! I just cannot believe it, Mr Holmes. My son is not a murderer. Was... I should say, seeing as he has been murdered himself."

She fought back a sob and John nudged her leg with his head, giving her his most soulful look and whining softly in commiseration.

Mrs Forsythe ran her hand down his back and then scratched his ears again as she gathered herself. "Please, Mr Holmes, if there is anything you can do, I would be most grateful for your help. I just want to know what happened to my husband and son."

"You can rest assured that I will do my best to find out what precisely happened and why," Sherlock said calmly. "But I cannot promise you that you will like what I find out."

"Well, I hardly see why I should blame you for whatever you find," she said firmly. "I do not believe in shooting the messenger, as the saying goes. To be quite honest with you, I do not believe that anything you find out could be worse than what I am already going through." She drew back her shoulders. "Ask what questions you like, and I shall do my best to try and answer them."

Taking that as his cue, John gently slipped away from her and, as Sherlock distracted her with questions about her husband's walking habits and daily routine, quietly sneaked out of the room to have a good sniff around the place.

The house was one of these old, quintessentially English homes that had not been much updated since the seventies and still held floral or circular patterns on the wallpapers and small tables with crotchet works and knick-knacks scattered across every available surface. There were thick carpets he could feel himself sinking into and heavy drapes to both sides of the windows. Almost every room held a wooden cross somewhere on a wall, hinting at strong religious sentiments of at least one member of the family.

Mrs Forsythe - or perhaps a cleaner - kept the house free of dust and generally in a clean state. Some of the walls held family pictures but they were too high up for John to see clearly and he was much more focused on what his nose and ears were telling him. Despite his advantages regarding the lack of colour blindness, a dog's eyes simply weren't as good as a human's, better suited for keeping track of moving objects than focusing on still images. His nose, on the other hand, could tell him quite a lot.

The house smelled mostly of the people who lived there, naturally, and so while Mrs Forsythe's scent was very strong and clear, he could still easily pick up traces of an older man, certainly her husband, and a younger male relative, likely the son. There was an interesting addition to the son's scent that kept John's attention for quite a while as he tried in vain to figure out what it was. Something ... clean. A kind of powder, perhaps. It was hard to describe and he had no idea how to make Sherlock aware of such a thing, not without being able to speak.

He traced the scent up the stairs and to a closed door that most likely led into Benjamin Forsythe's childhood room. No doubt he had still made use of it when coming over to visit his parents. The scent did not grow stronger, though, leading John to conclude that whatever had caused it could not be found inside the room.

He returned downstairs and continued his exploration but found nothing else of interest, so he returned to the sitting room, where Sherlock was just rising from the sofa.

John had been too absorbed by his nose to focus on the conversation being carried out in the sitting room, so he had no idea what Mrs Forsythe and Sherlock had been talking about, but the older woman looked reasonably collected and was almost smiling as she shook Sherlock's hand in farewell and bent down to scratch John's ears once again.

"Thank you very much for stopping by, Mr Holmes. If there is anything else I can help you with or you learn anything new, please do let me know."

Sherlock promised to do so, bent to retrieve John's lead, and a moment later they were outside and on their way home.

"Found anything interesting?" Sherlock asked.

John tilted his head and whined.

"Right, no talking. Don't worry about it, I believe I have found a solution for that. It will be tedious, but much better than me having to guess at what you are trying to tell me. I'll show you when we get back home."

Unable to talk as he was, John had no other option than to accept this and keep pace as Sherlock turned back the way they had come.


*****


They returned home almost an hour later, having dawdled in the park for a bit. John pretended he didn't notice Sherlock looking around a bit too casually in the hopes of perhaps catching another glimpse of the soldiers, but they were clearly long gone.

Once back at the flat, John barely waited for Sherlock to remove his lead before flopping down on his dog bed, panting. The long walk and the visit to Mrs Forsythe's home had been interesting and as fun as visiting a grieving relative of a murder victim could be, but he was glad for the rest now.

Sherlock, meanwhile, seemed not the least bit tired. In fact, the outing seemed to have energised him. He took off his coat and scarf and hung them on their usual hook before rushing out of the flat and down the stairs to visit Mrs Hudson. John could hear him rummaging around and Mrs Hudson's confused questions that were - of course - met with no reply whatsoever, before the detective came back up the stairs, carrying a box in which things slid around and made clacking noises.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Sherlock opened the box and emptied it out in front of him.

John stared in surprised delight at the pile of Scrabble tiles that tumbled out of the box.

"There," Sherlock said, sounding very satisfied with himself. "This should help us communicate much more efficiently. I can read most of your opinions in your behaviour and various sounds you make, but actual hard evidence is too important to be open to miscommunication. Do you think you can spell out what you noticed in the house? I'm particularly interested in any scents."

John thought the Scrabble tiles may be one of the best ideas Sherlock had had all year. Now if only he knew what it was that he smelled at the Forsythe's house!

He started off easy, using his nose to slide the tiles around on the carpet and pushing most of them aside so he could form the words.

husband    wife    son

Sherlock frowned. "No one else?"

John shrugged, shook his head, shrugged again.

Using his front paw, he pushed the tiles of Mr and Mrs Forsythe away, leaving the word "son" on their sitting room floor.

"You found something unusual about the son?" Sherlock inquired.

John nodded and started arranging more tiles. An entire sentence was harder to do and took longer, but he wasn't overly concerned with correct grammar, so long as he got the information across.

smelled weird    sth clean    powder maybe    source not in his room

Sherlock frowned down at the tiles. "Interesting. While you were in the park with Donovan the other day, Lestrade called to tell me they found a suspicious white substance in the son's flat. I wonder if the tests on that have already come back."

He pulled his mobile from his pocket and sent a quick text to Lestrade. "Did you find anything else?"

John shook his head, then hesitated and rearranged the tiles into a row of crosses.

"Yes, I noticed that too. Very religious, the Forsythes, it appears." Sherlock tapped his pursed lips in thought. "Very interesting indeed. And quite observant of you. I expected you to be more focused on any smells than the wall decoration. Did you hear anything of interest?"

Again, John could only shake his head.

"That's fine, I wasn't really expecting anything. What's your opinion on Mrs Forsythe. Possible suspect?"

John huffed and shook his head vigorously.

"I agree. That woman could not have hurt a fly, much less her own son. I believe we should pay a visit to Mr Forsythe's company after lunch and have a good look at his employees."

In a seemingly unconscious move, Sherlock reached out and ruffled John's head. "Very well done, indeed. Good boy!"

John, quite helpless to the pleasure the words and action caused, found himself wagging his tail and pressing his head against Sherlock's hand, turning it this way and that in an attempt to lick his wrist.

"This licking thing really needs to stop, John. What is it about wrists that's so interesting?"

Having them right there, John made use of the Scrabble tiles once more: strong scent there cant help it

Sherlock sighed. "If you say so. But try to keep that little fact out from under Lestrade's nose, he's starting to get on my nerves."

He ruffled John's head again and got up, leaving the tiles on the floor as he walked into the kitchen and started making tea.

A sudden thought occurring to him, John waited for Sherlock to leave the room before rearranging the tiles again. He only spelled out a single word, then formed some of the remaining tiles into a question mark behind it. Once done, he barked to get Sherlock's attention.

"What is it? Did you remember anything else?" Sherlock asked, coming closer to see what John had written.

In cheerful, colourful scrabble tiles on their sitting room floor was the one-worded question: soldiers?

John had the unexpected pleasure of seeing the great, unmovable Sherlock Holmes blush.

"Oh, shut up, John."


*****


John dozed for a bit, quite happy with himself. He had contributed to the investigation despite being a dog, even though he was not quite sure in what way his findings had contributed anything. But Sherlock had seemed quite pleased with the information.

And of course John had finally gotten one up on Sherlock, which was always worth celebrating. It happened so rarely and certainly never in the way it had today. But this morning, thanks to morning wood and ogling soldiers, Sherlock had seemed more like an ordinary human than any other time John had ever seen him, and it had been mesmerising. John had never seen this side of his friend before and now that he knew that such a side existed in the first place, he wanted to see more.

He knew of course that Sherlock would not be forthcoming with information and there was no way of asking, so John would simply have to hope for another opportunity to occur.

In the meantime, he took a nap, listening to the soothing sounds of Sherlock roasting a human toenail with his Bunsen burner.

Eventually, his phone chimed with a text message and Sherlock turned down the flame to read the text. John turned his head in Sherlock's direction to indicate he was paying attention, though he felt barely half awake, caught in the pleasant sphere between waking and dreaming.

"Lestrade says the results of the drug test were negative. The substance they found in the son's flat was some sort of skin powder. They're still trying to figure out what kind precisely."

John blinked. Skin powder. Was that what he had smelled at the Forsythe's home? He thought about the scent, tried to pick it apart now that he had a possible definition, and gave a hesitant nod.

Sherlock had been watching him. "You agree that this is what you smelled? I'm assuming it didn't occur to you because you don't usually encounter skin powder in your life outside of work and there were no hints of anyone having a skin condition anywhere."

John nodded again. Placing a known scent you encountered in an unexpected place could be quite difficult, but now that he had a word for it, he was absolutely certain this was what he had smelled.

"That doesn't make any sense," Sherlock said, more to himself than to John. "There were no hints of anyone having a skin condition, Mrs Forsythe mentioned nothing about a rash or anything of the sort, and Molly hasn't dug up anything relating to one either. So what was the son doing with skin powder?"

John had no idea, so he yawned and put his head back between his paws.

"Thank you," Sherlock grumbled. "That's very helpful indeed, John."

John stuck his tongue out at him and tried to go back to sleep until lunchtime. Let Sherlock figure that one out on his own. He wanted to continue his nap and then maybe curl up on the sofa with him and watch a film and let Sherlock scratch his ears. Perhaps he could put his head back on Sherlock's chest and listen to his heart. Perhaps he could arrange matters so he would end up sleeping in Sherlock's room again, be close enough to not only hear his every breath but also feel it.


*****


It was just past noon when Sherlock decided it was time to pay a visit to the offices of Harrison Forsythe's company and question the employees. By then, John was ready to go out and see something new, so he happily collected his lead while Sherlock was still putting on his coat.

They took a cab and reached the office building half an hour later and Sherlock marched to the reception desk with the air of someone who has important business to conduct and no time for anyone to ask silly questions such as "What is a dog doing in here?".

"Sherlock Holmes to see whoever is in charge of this place," he announced to the startled receptionist. The young woman took one look at him and then another, longer look for good measure before picking up the phone.

"A Mr Sherlock Holmes to see you, Ma'am," she said and listened for a reply before turning to him. "Can you give a reason for your visit?"

Sherlock scowled at her and proceeded to flash one of Lestrade's pilfered police badges, just quickly enough for her to see the word 'Police' but not long enough to get a look at the name and face on the ID. "I am investigating the murder of Mr Forsythe and his son."

The receptionist went pale and rapidly relayed the information over the phone. John could hear a female voice on the other end. A moment later, she hung up.

"Take the lift all the way up to the sixth floor, turn right. Mrs Munkeld is expecting you."

Sherlock nodded and breezed past the reception area towards the lifts. John kept to his side, trying to look as unobtrusive and inoffensive as possible. The UK in general was a very dog-friendly place, but offices in the city were an entirely different matter.

"I won't let them throw you out," Sherlock murmured as the lift doors finally opened with a 'ding'.

They got on and John took a moment to wonder at how blasé he was about using a lift. Minutes after his transformation at Baskerville, the short ride out of the lab back to the surface had turned him into a shaking, terrified heap of fur. And now here he was, standing calmly by Sherlock's side and completely ignoring the noise of the winches and wheels as they were transported upwards.

"Let's call your equanimity progress," Sherlock suggested, proving once more that John's thought process was entirely transparent to him if he put his mind to it.

John snorted and tilted his head at him in question.

Sherlock shrugged. "Your first trip on a lift in this body was under rather traumatising circumstances. Of course your mind would go back to that experience and compare it to your current situation. You have adapted impressively well. I do hope you will give me a very detailed account of what being a dog was like once you are back in your actual body."

John whined at him and rolled his eyes, but couldn't help but think 'If I ever get my body back at all'.

He just couldn't seem to let go of the thought, no matter how hard he tried. The longer this continued, the less convinced he was that anything could be done to reverse the effects of his accident in the lab.

The lift came to a halt and the doors opened. John firmly wrenched his thoughts back to the present and preceded Sherlock out into the hallway.

As expected, Mrs Munkeld was already waiting for them. She turned out to be a short, smartly dressed woman of slight build and sharp eyes. John could smell the stress on her despite a layer of freshly applied perfume. Losing the head of the company as well as his heir and successor in a matter of hours had clearly not done her any good, but he had not expected anything less.

"Mrs Munkeld?" Sherlock inquired, stepping forward. "Sherlock Holmes. I work with Scotland Yard."

"Hannah Munkeld," she introduced herself. "I know who you are," she added coolly, reaching out to shake his hand. "Working with Scotland Yard, eh? Isn't that stretching the truth a bit?"

"Not at all," Sherlock replied. "If you wish, I can give Inspector Lestrade a call and he can confirm that I have been involved in this investigation since Mr Forsythe senior's body was found."

John felt a surge of amusement at the sight of this small woman standing opposite Sherlock's six foot one. What she lacked in height, she made up for in personality.

"And do you usually bring a dog along for interviews?" she demanded, turning and leading the way towards her office, giving Sherlock no choice but to follow in her wake. He caught up to her with two steps and then had to shorten his strides so as not to overtake her.

John followed along, pausing momentarily to admire a red-headed woman who was standing by the reception desk, talking into her phone in rapid French. The language sounded so melodic, he would have liked to listen for a bit longer. Unfortunately, Sherlock tugged at his lead and John refocused on keeping pace and paying attention to the conversation at hand.

"As you yourself do not have a dog, I hardly expect you to understand why leaving him alone in my flat for hours on end is not a feasible option," Sherlock was saying. "As it is, Johnny here is perfectly well-trained and his chew-toys at home are far superior to any table or chair legs you may have in your office. The only thing he may lay waste to is your shortbread supply, if you have one."

That tricked Mrs Munkeld into a small smile. When she glanced down at him, John wagged his tail at her.

"In that case, I shall make an exception for him. We do not usually allow animals in the office. However, there are no treats of any kind available."

"Don't worry about that," Sherlock said, giving John a wink. "My landlady spoils him so much, I've been thinking about putting him on a diet."

John whined at him. Diet, indeed!

Once inside her office, which appeared to be right next to the one Mr Forsythe had occupied, Mrs Munkeld offered Sherlock a seat and a cup of tea.

"No thank you, I don't expect to be here long enough," Sherlock declined, settling into the visitor's chair in front of her desk with the air of a king sitting down on his throne. John sat on the floor next to him.

"Well?" she asked, leaning forward in her chair. "What can I do for you?"

"It appears that your employer was on his way to consult me when he was murdered," Sherlock said, not bothering to waste any time on pleasantries. "I have since learned that he suspected someone within his company of fraud. Can you tell me anything about that?"

Mrs Munkeld looked suitably taken aback. "Fraud? Here? No. I can honestly tell you that I have not heard anything of the sort. He certainly seemed rather stressed in the days leading up to his ... his death, but I thought it was just the usual pre-retirement worries."

"One would expect you to be aware of his suspicions. As his Chief Manager, shouldn't you be aware of everything that happens in this company?"

"My focus is on client management," she replied. "The accountants are responsible for the financial side. If anything, I would have expected him to approach one of them about the problem."

Sherlock nodded. "And do you think it is possible he did not talk to you about it because he believed you to be responsible?"

John could actually smell her shock. "Me? No. As I said, I am responsible for client management. I don't know the first thing about actuarial science."

They stared at each other in silence for a minute.

Bored with the quiet, John got up and walked underneath the desk to sniff at the woman's shoes before snuffling along her knee. She jumped, clearly surprised that he had moved.

"Oh, you startled me!"

"Is he begging to be petted again?" Sherlock asked, sounding like the very image of a fond, exasperated dog owner. "Just give his ears a scratch. He doesn't bite."

She did, albeit hesitantly, and John wagged his tail harder.

"It seems you passed inspection," Sherlock observed, sounding amused.

John hoped he had gotten the message. If that woman had had anything to do with the murders or the fraud, he would eat his dog bed raw.

He put his head on the woman's lap and let her pet him as she answered Sherlock's questions about what she did for the company, what everyone else did, who the key players were, what Mr Forsythe himself had done, and how well-prepared his son had been to take over.

It was a long conversation and he could feel her exhaustion and wariness in the way her hand moved only listlessly at times, as if she had forgotten all about him and was far away in her thoughts. He gave her a soulful stare, making the best puppy eyes he was capable of, and felt her mood lift a little in return.

Finally, when her hand had come to a complete rest on his head and Sherlock had run out of questions, John gently extracted himself and returned to his friend's side.

"Time to go," Sherlock said, picking up the end of his lead and standing. "Thank you for your help, Mrs Munkeld. I hope we will be able to take a suspect into custody within the week. In the meantime, please do keep an eye on the company's accounting. I'm sure the Yard will want experts to go over every single number and we wouldn't want any of that information to suddenly disappear in an accident because someone mistakenly put it through the shredder, wouldn't we?"

"I'll do my best to keep everything intact," she said, giving him a glare. "But I would like to point out that I do in fact have a company to run and can't be expected to spend all day babysitting the accountants."

Sherlock shrugged. "I was merely making a suggestion. Have a good day, Mrs Munkeld. We'll let ourselves out, thank you. Come along, Johnny."

John did, and they left the building in silence.

Chapter Text

They made a detour to the Yard on their way home.

Lestrade had not replied to Sherlock's second text message about the powder, so he wanted to stop by and inquire what took him so long.

John hopped out of the cab with an ease that suggested he had always been a dog and had never once had a problem with getting in and out of cars, and certainly not as recently as a week ago.

The speed with which he had adapted to his circumstances was impressive – Sherlock wondered how much of it was due to John's army training and general ability to adapt to new situations quickly. After all, he had easily settled into their life together as well, fitting into Sherlock's life as easily as if he had always been a part of it. By now, he could no longer imagine anything else.

As a matter of fact, Sherlock had to concede wryly, it was taking him much longer to get used to John being a dog. He called him by his name easily enough and looking after a dog was something he had grown up doing, so there was nothing new there.

He was still struggling sometimes, though, catching himself missing John at the oddest moments – such as when he found himself stretched out on the sofa with John using him as a pillow.

Sometimes, he simply forgot that Johnny the dog was also John the human, with all the senses and appearance of a dog but the intellectual capacity and personality of his human persona. Which was why Sherlock had thought nothing of indulging a little this morning when they encountered the soldiers in the park.

Mind over matter was all very well, but sometimes even he could not deny his transport. Considering the state he had woken up in this morning – and John's conspicuous absence – his body had clearly decided that he was overdue. Perhaps he should have expected that, given all the warning signs before he had taken the Baskerville case. There was only so long his transport would accept being ignored.

Inexcusably, it had completely slipped his mind that John was not only right there next to him but also perfectly capable of picking up on the smallest hormonal fluctuations in his system thanks to a nose that put any human to shame. Of all the ways to accidentally out himself ... Sherlock shook his head.

No, John had suspected, clearly. He had all but shouted it in his face on more than one occasion, after all, but clearly John had not expected that particular specification. Soldiers. He just couldn't help himself. There was something about men in uniform and a certain firm voice that pushed all his buttons. It was a blessing that John had never had occasion to put on his old uniform because Sherlock honestly feared he would lose all self-control at the sight.

If anything, John had seemed amused by the revelation, however, so Sherlock hoped it had not done any lasting damage to their friendship. After all, it was a purely academic preference and not something he ever put into practice. At least that was what he liked to think, but he could not guarantee to hold firm to that decision if John ever decided to test his limits.

'Perhaps I'd manage five seconds without jumping him, but only if my brain flat-lined from shock,' he thought sardonically, glancing uneasily at John.

His friend was completely unaware of his thoughts, ears perked and tongue lolling and his head swivelling from side to side to take in as much as he could. Sherlock wondered what the world looked and smelled and sounded like to him. He could only hope that John would be able to describe his experience once he was back in his human body.

As they approached the glass doors, Sherlock caught sight of their reflection and tried to see them from an outsider's perspective. A tall, well-dressed man with a weird face and an attentive dog with shining fur, perked ears and every appearance of perfect happiness. The lead dangled between them, slack. There was plenty of room but the dog did not pull on his lead nor did he have to be dragged along, keeping perfect pace with his owner and staying at a close distance, indicative of trust.

Sherlock blinked. They looked like the very image of a perfect unit of dog and owner.

He pushed open the door and the image disappeared from view as they entered the building and moved towards the lifts.

By now, hardly anyone batted an eye at him showing up with a dog. Clearly word had gotten around. In fact, some people seemed happier to see him than usual. He suspected it had very little to do with him personally, though there seemed to be some sort of irresistible magnetism to people with dogs. As a dog lover himself, he had frequently found himself wanting to reach out and pet one, and had equally often seen other people do just that and strike up a conversation with the owner.

It seemed that the usual rule of not talking to strangers in public was automatically suspended when that stranger happened to have a dog. He wondered if this was why people had been talking to him in the park so frequently.

He shook the thought off; it wasn't really relevant right now. Perhaps later there would be an opportunity to further examine this phenomenon, but right now he had a double murder to solve and a Detective Inspector to pester for more data.

He ignored the heads that turned in their direction as he and John exited the lift and marched to Lestrade's office - Perkins was scowling at his desk, clearly still miffed that John had not taken any orders from him. Sherlock considered giving John another treat for that one.

Pushing open the door to Lestrade's office, he took a moment to enjoy the sight of the DI flinching in surprise, a doughnut halfway between his mouth and the cardboard box on his desk.

"Doughnuts, Lestrade? Really? Isn't that a bit too clichéd?"

"I'll have you know that I can eat whatever I want. And you certainly don't get a say in it," Lestrade grumbled, then added "Hello John, how's it going?" when John, tail wagging, approached him.

Sherlock unhooked John's lead and watched with a twinge of what could possibly be described as fondness as John greeted Lestrade by very pointedly staring at his doughnut.

"Uh..." Lestrade said.

"Oh, just give it to him," Sherlock sighed. "If he gets a stomach ache it'll be his own fault for being so greedy."

John shot him a dirty look that had absolutely no effect on him.

Lestrade laughed. "There you go, John. That madman would have you on a strict diet if it weren't for us giving you some treats. I think he forgets that he's supposed to apologise to you for getting you into this situation in the first place."

Sherlock decided to ignore that comment. "I need access to Benjamin Forsythe's flat," he said over the sound of John happily munching on the doughnut.

"You've seen the photographs," Lestrade protested. "I can't just let you run around in there willy-nilly."

"You've changed your tune since we last spoke. Photographs aren't enough," Sherlock snapped at him. "Certainly not the ones that Anderson took. You can't even see the entire kitchen, let alone access and exit routes the murderer may have taken. I need to see it in person. Do you want this case solved or not?"

That, of course, was the key. Lestrade really did want it solved.


*****


Half an hour later found John sniffing at the door to the victim's flat as Sherlock carefully peeled back the police seal and inserted the key. Lestrade stood next to them in the hallway, looking as uneasy as if they were accessing the crime scene illegally instead of in the company of the lead investigator, who happened to be Lestrade himself.

John heard the lock click and expectantly raised his head, waiting for Sherlock to push the door open.

"Wait until I've had a good look around, then you can sniff anything you like," Sherlock told him. "Try to see if you can find that same smell you noticed in his parents' home."

John nodded and nudged his leg in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.

"This is so weird," Lestrade said behind him.

"What is?"

"You, talking to a dog like he understands every word."

"It's John, of course he understands," Sherlock said, sounding confused and annoyed.

John wagged his tail at him.

"Yes," Lestrade agreed. "I know that. But it's still odd. Not quite as odd as John being a dog, of course, but pretty damn close."

John turned his head to roll his eyes at him and noticed Sherlock doing the same. He huffed a laugh.

Lestrade sighed. "Fine. Don't mind me. Just ... do your thing. Lord knows there's no one who could possibly stop you two."

In lieu of replying, Sherlock stepped into the flat and immediately went for the kitchen.

"Stay in the hallway or the door, if you must, but don't enter the flat," he told the Detective Inspector over his shoulder. "We don't want your scent contaminating the crime scene. John needs to be able to actually smell something here."

"Oh, but you don't smell of anything, do you?"

"He's used to my scent by now, I should think," Sherlock pointed out quite logically. "After all, we share a flat that is drenched in both our scents and we have spent a lot of time in close physical contact since his transformation. It would surprise me if he couldn't filter me out by now."

John gave a low, confirming bark and nodded his head. Sherlock's scent was a comforting background detail, integral to his peace of mind but not actually something that overwhelmed his senses to the extent of drowning out everything else. He knew his scent intimately and it was therefore just a matter of separating Sherlock's scent from all the strange smells the flat had to offer.

The one he had been looking - or rather, breathing - for was very obvious here.

He waited for Sherlock to give him a nod of confirmation, then started on his way through the flat, nose pressed to the ground as he followed various scent trails through the rooms to see which led where.

There was blood and dust and chemicals - cleaning supplies and luminol, the stuff police used to make blood stains visible under black light - and various food stuffs, a half empty packet of forgotten crisps under the sofa and a cheese in the fridge that had become its own small ecosystem by now.

Clothes in the closet that smelled of laundry detergent and diesel exhaust of London buses, of wet pavement and stale cigarette smoke.

He found a stray sock under the bed, next to an open packet of condoms and a tissue graveyard that John took one look at and stayed well clear of.

And layered over all this was the clear, dry scent of something he could not quite define that he had found traces of in Mrs Forsythe's flat leading up to the victim's room.

Here, the scent was much stronger, not just in a way that suggested a fresher trail but in a deep, integral way that said whatever had caused it had been in the flat for long and frequent intervals.

He followed it through all the rooms, discovered it was most noticeable in the bathroom and wondered if it really was some sort of skin powder as Sherlock had mentioned. Perhaps something a woman used as part of her daily make-up routine? An after-shower body powder? He couldn't be sure.

There was a female scent to the flat, too, but slightly weaker than the other one and less noticeable.

It took him a while to realise that this was because the two scents were mixed. The female who had been here had also smelled strongly of that powder, but there were traces of it in places she had not been, meaning she was not the source of the scent, or at least not the sole source.

John followed the trail all over the flat, dimly aware that Sherlock had finished his own inspection and was now watching him with curious eyes.

Finally, he found what he had been looking for. Well, not exactly, but it suddenly clicked in his head where he had smelled that particular scent before.

John hopped onto the sofa and dug his nose between the cushions, smelling crisps and beer and sweat and the scent of Forsythe junior and finally, finally, he found something that was not so much drenched in but strongly connected to the clean dry scent. He couldn't quite reach it, it was too deep down the back of the sofa.

Luckily, his actions had not gone unnoticed.

"Here, let me," Sherlock said and a gloved hand gently pushed John aside as Sherlock stuck his arm down the back of the sofa and started probing around for the thing he wanted.

He unearthed some pins that looked like they belonged to a long-forgotten Battleship game.

"These?"

John shook his head and tried to stick his nose back between the cushions, growling in frustration at his inability to get what he wanted.

"All right, all right, I'll keep looking. Give me some space."

Sherlock tried again and John listened to his fingers brush along the fabric and scrabble in the narrow space. He noticed the precise moment Sherlock found what John had smelled because he froze the moment his fingers touched it.

"Oh."

He pulled his hand back, dragging the item with it.

"That's not what you smelled, is it?" he asked and John shook his head but nudged his hand.

"But it is related to what you smelled," Sherlock concluded and John nodded vigorously.

"Very interesting. Well done, John." He reached out and ruffled John's head.

"What is it?" Lestrade asked. Clearly his patience had abandoned him and he stepped into the flat, curious to see what it was that they had discovered.

"I do believe John has found our motive for at least one, if not both, of the murders," Sherlock announced.

"He has?" Lestrade asked, sounding like he didn't know whether to be doubtful or pleased. "Well?"

Wordlessly, Sherlock opened his hand.

And there, on his palm, lay a soother.


*****


"So, a baby," Lestrade said as they found themselves in his office once more, this time joined by Sergeant Donovan.

"Indeed," Sherlock confirmed. "His flat still had a faint scent of baby powder in the air. It took me a while to place the smell as I don't usually deal with babies."

"Thank god," Donovan muttered.

It was because of her presence that Sherlock didn't dare mention who had really smelled the powder but he was sure even Lestrade was smart enough to figure that one out for himself.

"He kept the flat very clean and did his best to hide all evidence of the child's existence, which, along with the fact that his mother did not mention any babies, leads me to believe he did not want anyone to know about it."

"So how do you know there was one, apart from the smell?" Donovan asked. "Baby powder can be used for all sorts of other things, not to mention adults with very sensitive skin."

Lestrade cleared his throat. "He found a soother."

"Down the back of the sofa," Sherlock added. "Really, I should have looked there immediately. People can be as clean as they like, but no one ever cleans down the back of the sofa. It was only a matter of time until something relating to the child slipped down there and was overlooked. Any good parent has more than one soother on their person at all times, so he would not have noticed one of them missing or, if he did, not bothered to spend much time looking for it."

"Much like hair ties," Donovan mused. "I keep buying new ones because the ones I have keep disappearing."

Sherlock shrugged. "An interesting comparison, but yes, that's the general idea. There are things that go missing without anyone noticing or caring, so they are simply replaced and pile up in forgotten corners of one's flat."

"I don't even want to know what could be down the back of your sofa," Lestrade said.

John chose that moment to give a low bark and wag his tail.

"I think neither does Johnny," Lestrade added, grinning.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Don't be ridiculous, Lestrade. He's a dog. He can't understand you and if he did, I'm sure he would be quite eager to get at the biscuits I'm sure could be found there."

"Biscuits?" Donovan echoed as Lestrade grimaced.

Sherlock shrugged. "Mrs Hudson keeps trying dog biscuit recipes and forcing them on him. At this rate, he'll grow fat before my parents arrive to take him back to their place."

"Yeah, when's that going to be?" Lestrade asked, crossing his arms and giving Sherlock a pointed look.

"I have absolutely no idea. As I told you before, they're travelling and will be doing some renovations around the house afterwards. I expect them to call and let me know once they have a clearer idea of when they will take him back. Can't have a dog around with all these strangers in the house, he doesn't much like intruders in his home."

"I'll bet," Lestrade muttered and it was quite unclear whether he spoke about Johnny the dog or John the human. Perhaps a bit of both.

"He seems perfectly okay with strangers," Donovan pointed out, bending down to scratch John behind his ears, which earned her a furiously wagging tail and a rough tongue licking along her hand. "Oi!"

"That's because he is in a strange place," Sherlock explained impatiently. "My parents' house is his territory, of course he would not tolerate strangers there as well as he does in a different place. By now, I should think he considers Baker Street to be his territory as well, but since we frequently entertain visitors when clients show up at the flat, he is used to strangers coming and going there."

John whined and nudged Donovan's hand with his nose, clearly hoping to be petted some more.

Sherlock watched him with a confused sense of betrayal, admitting to himself at least that he did not like the easy affection John the dog displayed towards other people.

A moment later, he had to struggle to hide his smile when John abandoned Sally mid-pet to return to Sherlock's side and lean against his legs, his nose pressed to his thigh and cheek rubbing along the side of his leg.

Sherlock reached down to stroke his neck. "Yes, we'll go home now. You need food and water and some rest after all the hard work I put you through today."

John looked up at him and blinked, then held perfectly still as Sherlock refastened his lead.

"Ask around among his friends and family if you can find out about any babies," Sherlock instructed Lestrade on his way to the door. "With special focus on any ex-girlfriends, of course."

"I'm not actually stupid!" Lestrade yelled after him.

Sherlock didn't bother to reply.

Chapter Text

They returned home and went about what had become their usual routine.

Sherlock gave John his food, foregoing the Kong this time in favour of the feeding bowl. While John ate, Sherlock ended up having a cup of tea with Mrs Hudson, who came upstairs "just to see how you're doing" and just happened to have a casserole with her.

It smelled heavenly and John found himself abandoning his almost empty bowl and sitting next to Sherlock expectantly.

"What?" Sherlock asked when he noticed John's gaze on him.

John stared at him and licked his nose, his eyes fixed on the fork loaded with pasta bake and mince meat Sherlock had just been about to eat.

Sherlock glared at him, opened his mouth and ate.

"There, I'm eating," he said. "You can stop mothering me now, John."

John huffed and stayed where he was, watching the fork go back and forth between the plate and Sherlock's mouth.

He gave a low whine, shifting his weight.

"Seriously, John, what-" Sherlock started, then trailed off, finally catching on. "John, are you begging?"

It was John's turn to glare.

Sherlock grinned. "You are! I have no idea if dogs are even allowed mince meat and pasta, don't look at me like that."

John didn't let that bother him and did his best to adopt a heart-melting puppy dog expression.

The detective didn't seem impressed. "That isn't going to work on me, John."

John tried to make the expression a bit more intense, perking his floppy ears forward as far as they would go and letting his tail swish back and forth on the floor. He could actually feel himself drooling but didn't care enough to stop. The food smelled heavenly and he really, really missed human food. A proper meal sounded like paradise right now.

"I'm not giving you any," Sherlock informed him firmly. "Stop that."

His tone made it perfectly clear that he would not be swayed, so John gave a disappointed sigh and slunk underneath the table, hoping a scrap might somehow fall to the floor for him to gobble up.

A foot nudged his side and he raised his head to find Mrs Hudson surreptitiously offering him a handful of pasta under the table.

He would have grinned if he had the ability to do so. Instead, he shuffled closer and carefully ate out of her hand.

"Very subtle," Sherlock said dryly. "Really, Mrs Hudson, what is that supposed to teach him?"

"Oh, let the poor boy have some pasta, Sherlock," she huffed at him. "He hasn't had a proper meal since this whole mess started, have a bit of compassion."

"Food is overrated anyway," Sherlock told her crisply and not quite convincingly. John could hear his stomach rumble and hid an amused noise at the sound.

They continued eating and John finally gave up on any attempts to get more of the wonderful pasta and mince, returning to his own bowl to eat the remnants of his dinner. He pointedly licked the bowl clean before hopping onto the sofa and curling up there.

He listened as Mrs Hudson and Sherlock finished their meal and to Mrs Hudson telling them all about what Mrs Turner next door had to say about her married ones and the holiday in France they had apparently left for that morning.

John found that particular bit of news to be a relief. He had grown a bit tired of having to listen to those two getting it on every night. He didn't begrudge them their love and pleasure, but it was a bit annoying having to listen in on them when he himself was on an enforced dry spell.

As it had turned out, even sleeping in Sherlock's room (or bed) was not far enough away for the sounds to fade. He could hear all the way to the end of the street, after all. Merely relocating within the same house did nothing to impact his ability to hear what was happening next door.

The conversation moved on from that to Mrs Hudson and Sherlock bickering about who was going to do the dishes. Sherlock, in one of those rare moments of gentlemanliness that only ever showed around his landlady, insisted on doing everything himself while she insisted it was her job to pamper him and John to the best of her ability and would he stop being so stubborn about it.

They ended up sharing the work and John watched in amusement as Sherlock was delegated to drying and clearing away the dishes she handed him.

After that, Sherlock moved to sit on the sofa, nudging John aside to sit in his usual spot and put his feet up on the coffee table. He had barely positioned himself before John shuffled around to put his head on Sherlock's thighs as had become their custom.

"Awww, look at you two!" Mrs Hudson exclaimed. "Such a lovely picture you're making!"

John whined, pointing his nose at her and then the free space beside him.

"I believe you have been invited to join us," Sherlock translated. "The news will be on in a minute."

"Oh, very well. I did mean to watch the weather report," Mrs Hudson said, trying and failing to hide her pleasure, and sat down next to them. John wagged his tail against her leg in welcome.

She patted his hip, since that was the part of him closest to her. "Oh, you are a lovely source of warmth, aren't you? I'm not surprised Sherlock likes cuddling with you so much."

Sherlock made a face. "I do not cuddle."

"Of course you don't, dear," she said in a tone that clearly conveyed she didn't believe a word.

John, determined to further undermine the wobbly ground Sherlock stood on, rubbed his head against his friend's hipbone and stomach before returning his head to its previous position on his lap.

Sherlock grumbled in wordless annoyance but a moment later his right hand came to rest on John's back and his fingers buried themselves in the fur of his neck, stroking gently without much movement.

John gave a contented hum and relaxed.

Mrs Hudson found the remote on the mess that was their coffee table and turned on the BBC evening news.

It was incredibly comfortable, John thought, curled up between two of the most important people in his life, with the gentle whisper of their breath, the twin sounds of their hearts beating, the warmth radiating off their bodies and the familiar voice of the news anchor droning on about the happenings in the world.

Every now and then, Sherlock would absent-mindedly brush his fingers through John's fur and send a pleasurable shiver down his spine.

The news changed to the weather report and then ended, but somehow neither of them felt like moving, so they zapped through the channels until they found a documentary on crime in the United States, which both Sherlock and Mrs Hudson had an interest in.

Sherlock kept commenting on the horribly lazy way the investigations were conducted or the documentary had been researched, adding details to the cases mentioned in passing, and generally improving the documentary's contents by adding at least two thirds more information.

Mrs Hudson, meanwhile, had quite a lot to say on the subject of crime in the South.

"Oh, I knew him," she said when the face of a fleshy man appeared on TV. "He came by sometimes on business dealings with Frank. Well, that's what I thought he was there for at the time, of course, and in a way he was. None of it was legal, of course. I think he was shot in the street a couple of months before you showed up, Sherlock."

Sherlock hummed. "I certainly never met him, but I think that was one of the cases your husband was a primary suspect in."

Mrs Hudson nodded seriously. "Oh yes, but in that case they couldn't prove anything and eventually they convicted one of his and Frank's other business partners for it. I think he's still in prison, too. The entire trial was a farce, of course, but they had to put someone behind bars and he had done enough horrible things in his own right to fully deserve it."

John listened with interest as they discussed people they had known and events that had happened long before he had become a part of their lives. Neither Mrs Hudson nor Sherlock had ever really talked about how they had met, but from what little he knew about it, they had never lost touch afterwards for whatever reason.

He wondered if perhaps Mrs Hudson had taken one look at Sherlock and instantly decided that he was someone worth looking after - a sentiment that he certainly understood and related to, though for slightly different reasons.

In one of the commercial breaks, Sherlock got up and rummaged around the kitchen shelves, finally unearthing a brown paper bag which he popped into the microwave.

A series of loud pops and a 'ping' later, he returned with a bowl of fresh popcorn.

"Since this appears to have turned into what John likes to call 'film night' and I have been told that this is the appropriate thing to eat during such an event ... have some popcorn."

Mrs Hudson was delighted.

John tried a morsel but found he had trouble chewing the popcorn and didn't much like it, so they soon stopped passing around the bowl and simply rested it on the sofa between them, safely held between John's legs and belly.

He got used to Sherlock's hand leaving his neck in favour of reaching for the popcorn and contended himself with a happy calculation of all the calories they had gotten the detective to consume that day. If this continued, they might eventually steer Sherlock towards something akin to normal eating habits.

When the evening finally wound down, it was already past midnight and Mrs Hudson had been yawning for a good hour before giving in.

"I'm sorry to cut this lovely evening short, but I do believe I have to go to bed or I will fall asleep on this sofa and I'm not young enough for that kind of thing anymore."

Sherlock promptly jumped up and helped her off the sofa and then even escorted her to the stairs.

"Oh, you're a darling, Sherlock. Thank you for a wonderful evening. I do hope we'll repeat this one day, perhaps when John is back to his usual form," she said, making Sherlock bend forward by tugging at his arm so she might kiss his cheek. "Good night, dear boy."

"Good night, Mrs Hudson," he said softly, kissing her cheek in return.

"Good night, John," she called towards the sofa.

John gave her a happy bark and wagged his tail, hoping she would get the message.

He could hear her quietly humming to herself as she made her way down the stairs and entered her own flat and felt something in his chest flutter with warm affection.

Sometimes it was easy to forget that Mrs Hudson had no one left but her sister, who didn't live in London and whom she therefore only rarely saw. And then on nights like this, John found himself reminded that while he and Sherlock may be the surrogate sons she had never had, Mrs Hudson was also the mother figure both of them needed. Baker Street without her would not feel like home. Sherlock had been quite right all these months ago. England would fall if she left Baker Street.

But on nights like tonight, it was easy to believe that they would always have this. On nights like this, it was easy to think that this was as close to perfection as a person could possibly get. On nights like this, John thought he could happily spend the rest of his life like this (minus the dog part) and never wish for anything else.

He yawned and watched with sleepy eyes as Sherlock collected the now empty popcorn bowl and put it in the sink before wandering towards his bedroom.

Sherlock paused in the doorway to his room when he noticed that John hadn't followed him and asked: "Well? Are you going to stay out here tonight?"

John hopped off the sofa and trotted towards him, tail wagging. It may not have been an explicit invitation, but with Sherlock you had to learn to read between the lines.

He followed him into his room and hopped onto the bed, flopping down on top of the covers and closing his eyes in contentment.

The room was warm and he could hear every move Sherlock made, the beat of his heart and gentle susurrus of his breath, the whisper of cotton and cloth as he took off his clothes and put on his pyjamas.

John made it a point not to look, partly out of politeness and partly out of a need for self-preservation.

He thought the noises differed from the usual sounds but couldn't be bothered to open his eyes and see why.

Sherlock retreated into the bathroom to use the loo and brush his teeth. When he returned, John deemed it safe to open his eyes and was therefore completely unprepared for finding himself staring at Sherlock's naked chest.

"It's too warm to bother with a t-shirt," Sherlock told him. "Stop giving me that look, I'm hardly going to get sick just because of that."

John blinked and shook his head, wondering what his expression had been like if this was the conclusion Sherlock had jumped to. For a moment, he was incredibly glad he was a dog and his face was therefore that much harder to read, because even Sherlock could not have mistaken his expression for anything but what it was if he had been human.

Then again, if he were human, they would not have ended up in this situation in the first place.

He decided not to comment in the limited way he was capable of doing so and simply moved aside so Sherlock could climb into his bed and drag the covers over him.

John curled up on top of the covers next to him, pressing his back to Sherlock's side and noting happily that he could feel his chest expand and contract with every breath the detective took.

"Do you know, I believe we will have to consider getting a dog once you are back to your human form," Sherlock mused. "I'm getting used to having another living being in my bed."

John was very glad he couldn't talk right now, but that didn't stop him from thinking that, if Sherlock wanted, he could have that even if there was no dog around anymore. All he had to do was ask.


*****


The next morning started in much the same manner as the one before had done, except that the lack of a t-shirt, coupled with the fact that the heating had turned itself off during the night, had made Sherlock feel a bit colder than he liked and so he had turned to the only source of warmth available.

As a direct result, John woke to find himself enveloped in the warm covers and with the form of a sleeping consulting detective curled around him.

Thanks to their notable difference in size, Sherlock had actually managed to curl himself around John in such a manner that he formed a half-circle around him, the thin covers the only barrier between them.

It was comfortable and warm and John thought he would happily spend a couple more hours in this way when Sherlock shifted in his sleep, accidentally revealing that his problem from the previous morning seemed to be back as well.

This time, there was no chance of politely sneaking off while he slept and John stayed precisely where he was and decided to doze for a while.

When Sherlock woke some minutes later, he did so slowly, which was a rarity, and then cursed quietly as he noticed the state he was in.

"This is getting annoying," he muttered into his pillow. "How come my transport keeps getting its wires crossed in this unacceptable manner?"

John gave a low apologetic whine, seeing as he couldn't very well answer.

Sherlock grumbled something unintelligible before sitting up with a groan.

"I do wish this would stop happening. You wouldn't know how to achieve that, would you?"

John turned his head and blinked at him. He had quite a couple of suggestions, actually, but rather suspected that Sherlock wouldn't like any of them.

"No, that's what I thought," Sherlock sighed. "Except for the obvious, of course, and I really can't be bothered."

John found himself wistfully wishing he himself were in a position where he could make an entirely different decision. He had been a dog for about a week now and it was starting to grate on his nerves.

There was neither time nor the opportunity to get relief and he really had no idea how a dog would even go about that, save for humping someone's leg.

For a wild, insane moment he imagined doing that to Sherlock, just to see his reaction, but then discarded the thought before he could start taking the idea seriously.

There were lines, after all.


*****


Sherlock grumbled his way through yet another cold shower, getting dressed and having breakfast, much to John's amusement, before letting John drag him out to the park for a walk.

He brought the tennis ball and throwing arm along and John was glad to get to stretch his legs a bit.

Half an hour into their game, he emerged from a copse of trees, his tail wagging and the tennis ball firmly grasped in his teeth - and stopped short.

Sherlock was standing precisely where John had left him, but he was no longer alone.

There was a man with him and just as John focused on their conversation, the man said "Oh, is that yours?" and pointed at him.

John bounded over to them, dropping the ball at Sherlock's feet and turning to regard the stranger suspiciously. He sniffed his leg for a bit - sweat from running, strong aftershave, and a whole load of pheromones. Of bloody course.

John turned away from him with a huff and moved to sit in front of Sherlock, effectively inserting himself between the two men.

Unfortunately, this manoeuvre brought him very close to his friend, too, and he noted with mild annoyance and no surprise whatsoever that not all the pheromones in the air were due to the stranger.

"This is Johnny," Sherlock said, gesturing at John. "Sorry about his behaviour. He doesn't like men."

The stranger opened his mouth - no doubt to point out that Sherlock himself was very clearly a man - but then decided otherwise and nodded instead.

"No offense taken," he said cheerfully. "Must be hard to get a date with him not liking other men, though."

Sherlock shrugged. "Johnny and I don't go on dates."

Which was true, John thought, but also sounded rather dismissive.

If the stranger thought so, too, he didn't let on.

"Well, perhaps you would like to join me for a coffee when you're free," he suggested. "You don't need to bring your dog."

Now that, John decided, was definitely dismissive. He bared his teeth at the man, just a little, and gave a low growl.

Sherlock put a hand on top of his head. "Shh." And to the man he said: "Well, you can see what he thinks about that. So that's a no, I'm afraid. Have a good day. Come along, Johnny."

John picked up his tennis ball and was all too happy to follow Sherlock.

"Really, John," Sherlock said as soon as they were out of the other man's hearing range, "was that necessary? I can assure you, I am not that desperate. Surely you didn't think I was going to let some random stranger lure me in for what was a thinly veiled disguise for coitus?"

John hadn't, but that was mostly because "coitus" was not the word that had come to his mind and in fact never would so long as the good old "fuck" was around.

He therefore refused to comment and simply nudged Sherlock's hand with his nose, offering him the tennis ball.

"Oh, very well."

Sherlock accepted the ball and they continued their game. But this time, John kept some of his attention on Sherlock and the path, ready to intervene should the stranger return or should someone else make an attempt.

By now it had become obvious that Sherlock was either completely unaware of the reason women kept approaching him in the park or simply pretending to be unaware so as to let them down more easily. However, thanks to their encounter with the soldiers the previous morning, it was equally obvious that his lack of interest did not extend to men and therefore John was starting to look at them as potential poachers on what was definitely his territory.

Of course neither he nor Sherlock had ever agreed to such a thing, but there he was, trapped in a dog's body and regularly overwhelmed by the dog's instincts. And one of them appeared to be the absolute refusal to tolerate potential rivals for Sherlock's attention.

And, judging by the way Sherlock's transport was repeatedly betraying him, it was only a matter of time until he met someone who struck his fancy or at least caught his attention long enough for Sherlock to decide that perhaps scratching the itch would help make it go away.

John did not intend to let that happen and while he told himself that this was entirely due to his unwillingness to have to listen to that, seeing as he had no means of escape, he knew that he wasn't yet ready to admit the other reason for his utter refusal of the very idea.

He shook his head at the endless carousel of thoughts circling through his head.

Now was most definitely not the time for this.

Perhaps that time would be never, or perhaps later this week.

But for now he had a tennis ball to catch and a grumpy consulting detective to play with.

Everything else could wait.


*****


They returned to the flat where John lapped up some water and then flopped down on his dog bed and watched as Sherlock paced the room.

Now that they were back in the flat where no wind existed to blow away the scent before it reached John's nose, he quickly discovered that the pheromones had not ebbed from Sherlock's system yet.

He could smell the hormones, the testosterone and pheromones and dopamine, all wreaking havoc on Sherlock's transport.

It occurred to John that his friend's restlessness had absolutely nothing to do with the slow progress of the case and everything to do with prolonged sexual frustration.

Up to now, John had not thought that this was a problem Sherlock ever had to deal with, but apparently he had been wrong about that.

Sherlock paced their sitting room like a caged animal, moving from the window past the sofa towards the door and back again, occasionally glaring at the wall or the people outside on the street before abruptly turning away and continuing his restless prowling.

After a while, John heard a car come to a halt outside, and a moment later there was the sound of the front door opening and someone climbing the stairs to their flat.

He knew who it was long before their visitor entered their sitting room, and it didn't take the sound of the tip of an umbrella tap-tap-tapping on the floor to tell him who had come by.

"I see you are already up and about," Mycroft said, not bothering to waste time on a greeting.

Sherlock wheeled around, the expression on his face suggesting his willingness to eviscerate anyone who dared disturb him. Somehow, he managed to indicate that this willingness went doubly where Mycroft was concerned just by the way he glared.

"To what do we owe the displeasure of your visit?" he snarled. "And don't say you are just dropping by. Baker Street is nowhere near any of your preferred locations or the shortest routes between any of them."

"What makes you think this address is not on the list?" Mycroft asked calmly, examining the nails of his left hand. "I would not go so far as to call it a preferred address, but I do come here quite often."

"And I dearly wish you wouldn't," Sherlock interrupted. "What do you want? Have your scientists finally found a solution?"

"It has only been a week, brother mine," Mycroft chided softly. "Even the scientists at Baskerville would be hard-pressed to develop a working and safe antidote in that short a time. The development of any drug, even one as simple as to help cure the common cold, takes up to six years. Surely you did not actually believe they would be this quick?"

"No, but I thought you might be able to terrify them into working faster," Sherlock drawled. "Or to just get involved yourself, give your brain some of that exercise that would be much better suited for your transport. I see you gained a whole pound since I last had the displeasure of your company."

John, who had perked up at the mention of a solution to his predicament, dropped his head back onto his paws. Clearly today was not the day he would stop being a dog. Well, so long as it wouldn't take six bloody years ...

"They might be faster if you allowed them to run some tests on-"

"No," Sherlock interrupted. "Absolutely not. He's not a guinea pig. I will not let anyone run any sort of test on him. They managed to turn him into a dog without doing any tests, they can bloody well reverse the effect without any tests as well."

Mycroft sighed. "As you wish." He turned to address John directly. "If you disagree with my brother, you are of course welcome to make your own preference known, John. I hope you know that it will be taken into consideration and that you will be suitably compensated for all the trouble this regrettable incident has already caused and is likely to cause you in the future."

John twitched an ear at him but did not otherwise react. There was nothing to say. Sherlock was right - he did not want to become a guinea pig and the idea of being poked and prodded by the very same people responsible for all of this was utterly abhorrent.

Nodding as if he fully understood what John was explicitly not saying, Mycroft turned back to Sherlock. "You are uncommonly tense for this early in the day," he pointed out. "Am I right to believe that this is related to your encounter in the park this morning? If you like, I can have the man's name and address discovered for you."

Sherlock snorted. "And do you really expect me to believe that you do not already have both in your notebook? It has been almost a full hour, after all. Plenty of time to spy on whomever you like and have their information delivered by one of your minions. I thank you to stay out of my life."

His brother raised an eyebrow. "That bad, is it? l did warn you, Sherlock."

"Yes, and look how much of an effect that had," Sherlock growled. "Was there anything in particular that you wanted to tell us or are you merely here to make all of us miserable?"

"I hardly think you can get any more miserable than you already are today," Mycroft observed coolly. "I merely wished to inform you that while the Baskerville staff has not yet had a breakthrough, they are working feverishly on a solution for our little problem and have a number of potentially working theories they are going to test over the coming days. Hopefully, we shall have a more definite estimate of how long all of this is going to take by the end of the week."

"Wonderful," Sherlock said in a tone that suggested it was anything but. "Good day, Mycroft."

Mycroft nodded at him. "And you, brother mine. I suggest you do something about your little problem, and soon. The tension in here is thick enough to choke on and I'm sure I do not wish to know what John's poor sensitive nose has to endure right now."

Sherlock snarled wordlessly, which seemed quite sufficient to get his point across.

With a final twirl of his umbrella, Mycroft left as quietly as he had come.

As soon as he was gone, Sherlock resumed his angry pacing, muttering to himself about annoying older brothers sticking their nose where it didn't belong and getting on everyone's nerve in the process.

John watched him in silence for a while.

Mycroft was right about one thing, though. The tension really was thick enough to choke on. He could almost hear Sherlock's muscles winding ever tighter, and he could definitely smell the hormones radiating off of him. A new wave of them clouded the air every time Sherlock ran his hand through his hair, thoroughly messing up his curls and making it absolutely clear that a cold shower was no longer going to suffice.

Finally, John had had enough.

This was going to drive them both up the wall if it continued for much longer. Whatever had set Sherlock off, his transport had clearly reached its absolute limit of endurance and would not let him continue in this vein any longer.

John decided it was time to do something, and if that meant sacrificing a piece of his own peace of mind, then so be it. At this rate, he would end up losing said peace of mind anyway, so he might as well sacrifice it for the greater good of getting Sherlock to let go of some of his tension.


*****


Sherlock felt about ready to claw his skin off. He had hoped he could avoid this for a bit longer, but apparently his transport was done waiting.

It happened sometimes, after months of peace, and he wished it wouldn't. He had certainly hoped it wouldn't happen now, while there was a case on and - more importantly - while John was a dog and ridiculously well-equipped to pick up on the state Sherlock was in.

"This is your fault," he told the dog in question, making a sweeping hand gesture to include this entire situation.

John tilted his head in a clear expression of 'How the hell am I to blame?' and rolled his eyes at him.

Sherlock huffed. "If you hadn't made me adhere to regular meals and a 'normal' sleep cycle, my transport wouldn't have insisted on making all these demands I don't have time for. Really, what is it with you and your obsession with me sleeping and eating regularly?"

John whined at him and gave a complicated shrug, which Sherlock took to mean that he had an answer but no possibility of properly expressing it at the time.

They eyed one another for a bit, but Sherlock wasn't really in the mood for a staring contest, so he turned away and went back to pacing. He supposed he should be thankful that John was a dog right now, because John the human would have proved too much to bear at the moment.

On the few previous occasions his transport had let him down in such a manner, he had been able to deal with the problem quickly and efficiently and without John noticing anything amiss, but as it was there was simply no way of hiding this from him.

He ran his hand through his hair in frustration and bit his lip to choke back a moan. It felt like static crackling down his spine, his follicles too sensitive for him to bear with equanimity.

There was a huff behind him and he turned to see John getting up and picking up his lead off the coffee table where Sherlock had thrown it roughly an hour ago.

He frowned - why would John want to go on another walk?

But John merely dropped the lead by the door and then nudged the box of tissues off the coffee table and towards Sherlock.

"What am I supposed to do with that?" Sherlock asked. "It's hardly useful for a ball game and I doubt you will have much fun playing tug-of-war with a tissue."

John rolled his eyes at him and nudged the box towards him again.

Sherlock grudgingly picked it up, glaring from the box to John and back. "Well?"

In lieu of an answer, John moved around him and pressed his head to the back of Sherlock's knees, pushing him forward.

Sighing, he followed his friend's lead and allowed himself to be steered out of the sitting room, through the kitchen and towards his bedroom.

"John?"

But John merely made a complicated rumbling sound in his chest and pushed him towards the bed before pointedly turning around. He left the room and a moment later Sherlock could hear him bounding down the stairs, followed by a muffled bark and then Mrs Hudson's surprised greeting.

Less than a minute later, she called up the stairs: "I'm taking John for a walk, dear!"

Sherlock stood in his room, his gaze darting back and forth between the door and the box of tissues in his hand, and felt utterly speechless.

Sometimes, he thought, John was not only incredibly perceptive but also impressively solution-oriented.

There were only so many things John could have intended for him to do and he was rather certain that blowing his nose wasn't on the list.

And now here he was, nerves stretched thin over a rack built from pure frustration, and John had devised a way to politely and discreetly offer him a chance at some relief.

All he had to do was take it.

It wasn't much of a choice, not with the way his transport had been continuously betraying him for well over two days in a row. He knew the signs and he knew it wasn't going to stop unless he did something about it.

Resigned to his fate and unwilling to waste the chance John had given him, he closed his bedroom door and went about getting some relief.


#####


His bedroom was surprisingly warm, the heating having finally kicked in. For once, he hadn't accidentally left his window open and Sherlock was glad for it now. Taking off your clothes was so much more comfortable when you didn't have to worry about catching a cold in your own bedroom.

There was no way he was going to keep his clothes on. First of all, he didn't want them to get all rumpled and sweaty, but secondly - and most importantly - he had been itching to claw out of them all day, quietly desperate to feel air and cool sheets on his skin and perhaps someone else's hands, too.

As that final detail would not happen today, perhaps not ever, he had to make do as he usually did. The only other person he could ever imagine touching him was currently unavailable.

He shed his clothes quickly. John would likely give him at least an hour, just in case, and that probably included time for a shower afterwards. He barely took the time to throw his shirt and jacket over the back of the chair next to his wardrobe before pulling off his shoes and undoing his trousers.

He'd been half-hard all day and the mere thought of getting relief, finally, finally, was more than enough to get him all the way there. His pulse was already speeding up, his breathing more laboured.

Sherlock pushed his trousers and pants down and allowed himself to all but collapse onto the bed, blindly groping around the top drawer of his bedside table for the bottle of lube he kept there for the very rare occasion that he might need it. He squeezed a generous amount onto his hand and finally - bloody finally! - wrapped that hand around his aching erection.

The moan fell from his mouth quite without his say-so, but with both John and Mrs Hudson gone there was no need to censor himself and he moaned again, pumping his cock twice before starting to move his hand in earnest.

The lube made it easy, a slick glide of skin on skin that effectively banished all other thoughts from his head. He let his thumb slide over the glans on every second stroke, new sparks of pleasure racing up and down his spine each time.

He let his free left hand trail over his chest, tweaking his own nipples one at a time, so firmly it was almost painful, and felt his cock pulse in response. This was going to be over soon, thank god.

He needed release, needed it desperately.

It was almost a mercy the current situation was as it was. If John had been human, there was no telling what Sherlock would have done. Perhaps gotten even more worked up and more quickly, too. It happened once in a while, after all, and he didn't want to imagine what might have happened if he had been this horny with a human John in the flat and so soon after running into a whole troop of soldiers.

Oh, god.

He groaned, his fist speeding up, thumb sliding over the slit at the tip of his cock with every stroke now. It felt too good to be allowed.

Of course, not wanting to imagine something and not imagining it where two entirely different things and he guiltily, desperately, found himself wondering - what if?

What if things were different, what if John were human right now? What if Sherlock had dared to ask for what he wanted?

His left hand moved down his chest, along his hip and he let his legs fall open, glad for his long fingers that allowed him to reach down and back without him having to do any contortions. He trailed his left hand along his right and past his erection, collecting some of the excess lube on the way, before circling his hole with one finger.

A whimper that would have been embarrassing if he hadn't been so far gone emerged from his mouth, an almost-sob caught in his throat.

"Oh, god. Please."

And what did that say about him, that he was now pleading with himself and some non-existent deity for release, begging for no one's ears but his own?

What if-?

He groaned, his thighs shaking with the strain. He was so close to the edge he could feel it at the base of his spine, waiting, waiting...

He imagined other fingers but his own, shorter, rougher, infinitely gentle but firm enough when they needed to be, much like the man they belonged to.

Just for a moment, Sherlock allowed himself the fantasy, thinking of bright blue eyes as he wriggled his finger and carefully pushed in.

He barely managed to get in past the first knuckle before he started to come, gasping and shouting as it swept through him, taking him completely by surprise.

His right hand flew over his cock, desperate to wring every last bit of pleasure from his body, and he shoved his left index finger in as far as it would go, feeling his muscles flutter and squeeze around it as his orgasm rippled through him.

Thick stripes of come streaked across his chest and stomach and he could feel the sweat beading on his skin but he didn't care, barely noticed, was too lost in a haze of pleasure and finally, finally, finally.


#####


As he lay there gasping for breath, shaking and too spent to even consider removing his hands from where they were, the first thought that finally trickled back into his conscious mind was that he was really glad John had gone out, because even he could not possibly misunderstand Sherlock shouting his name like that.

He groaned, waiting for his pulse and breathing to calm down, and finally very carefully moved his hands. The motion sent another shiver down his spine, the aftershocks of a truly spectacular orgasm travelling through his entire body like seismic waves.

For a while, Sherlock simply lay there, staring at his ceiling in wide-eyed amazement.

It had been ages since he had last bothered with getting himself off and even longer since it had felt even close to this. That didn't bode well for his situation in general, but he couldn't quite bring himself to care, not while his body was swamped with endorphins and dopamine and adrenaline, riding on the rush of release.

"Oh bugger."

With a low moan, he finally managed to move far enough to reach the box of tissues on his night stand, pulling a couple of them out and at least attempting to clean up the worst of the mess. That shower was looking incredibly tempting right now, just as soon as someone replaced the jelly in his legs with actual bones and muscles and sinews.

It took him several minutes until he felt able to get up and stumble into the bathroom on shaky legs.

The hot shower helped relax his muscles further, removing the lingering traces of tension. A generous application of shower gel and shampoo were sufficient to overpower the scent of sex and wash away the semen on his skin. He could only hope that John's nose wasn't good enough to detect them anyway.

And what if it was? John obviously knew what he had done, that was the entire point of his leaving Sherlock alone in the flat.

He would have to find a way to thank him for that.

Perhaps, once this whole thing was over and John was back to being himself, perhaps then they could ... Sherlock could ... they might ...

He shook his head helplessly, frustrated with himself.

What did it matter?

John wasn't interested and never had been, he had made that quite clear enough already. He may know for sure now that Sherlock was gay - he wouldn't go so far as to say 'liked men' since most of the time he didn't like anyone at all - and even, embarrassingly, that he couldn't help but be a bit turned on by soldiers, but that didn't necessarily mean that Sherlock was in any way interested in John. He was, though, that much was quite clear to him. But John was ears-deep in denial about him, so this would likely be his reasoning.

And if Sherlock wished he could have more ... well, that was his bloody problem, wasn't it?

In a way, it was easier right now. John being a dog had made it much easier to be around him. There was no desire to be felt for an animal, except for the wish to pet and run his fingers through warm fur and throw a tennis ball for him until it felt like his arm might fall off.

He enjoyed their quiet evenings on the sofa, loved that John the dog trusted him enough to put his head in Sherlock's lap without any hesitation whatsoever. Now if only the real, human John would be equally accommodating, or at least let Sherlock ...

He slammed a mental door on that thought.

There was only so much torture he was willing to put himself through and wishing for things that could never be was definitely not on the list.

It was bad enough that he had caved and been driven to having a wank like a horny teenager today, he would not make it any worse by wishing he could taste John, just once.

Sherlock resolutely turned off the water and reached for a towel.

Enough thinking about this.

For once, he was pleasantly relaxed, his muscles warm, his mind calm, and he did not want to think about or do anything except enjoy it while it lasted.

He returned to his bedroom, got dressed in fresh clothes, and inspected the bed. The sheets definitely needed a wash and the room a good airing.

He threw open the window and then carried the sheets down to 221c where Mrs Hudson now kept the washing machine and dryer for lack of any tenants. It wouldn't do to have a shower and air out the room if all John had to do was take one whiff at the sheets and quite possibly do a sperm count with his olfactory sense alone.

Sherlock didn't know just how sensitive that nose was, but dogs had so many millions of scent receptors he decided it was better not to take any risks.

It was a bit annoying to be so transparent, and he wondered if this was what people felt like all the time around him. Then again, it was also sometimes a bit overwhelming to know everything, whether he wanted to or not.

After all, if he knew all about John's sex life with his girlfriends just from looking at him, then surely it was only fair that John would know this one thing about Sherlock himself, wasn't it?

He turned on the washing machine and trudged back upstairs. His hair was still wet but a glance at the clock told him John and Mrs Hudson would likely come back soon, if his guess of an hour was correct, and he didn't want John to have to endure the sound of the blow-dryer with his sensitive ears.

Instead, he decided to curl up in his armchair, pulling a book out of the shelf.

Less than ten minutes later he heard John and Mrs Hudson returning, their landlady chatting to the dog as if he were capable of answering - much the same as Sherlock himself did, he had to admit.

He smiled when he heard John bark in agreement to something Mrs Hudson had said, followed by her cooing over him and then the patter and clacking of his paws on the wooden stairs.

A moment later, John bounded into the room, wagging his tail at him and looking entirely too pleased with himself.

Sherlock felt he couldn't begrudge him that. He had really needed that time alone.

And so, when John came over to lie next to him and casually rested his head on Sherlock's foot to doze, Sherlock murmured "Thank you" and hoped John understood how much he was really thanking him for.


*****


John dragged Mrs Hudson through Regent's Park at a much slower pace than he and Sherlock usually took. The weather was nice and she seemed perfectly happy to be going for a walk with him. And this had the added bonus of leaving 221 Baker Street completely empty except for Sherlock.

In short, it was the perfect solution.

He only hoped Sherlock would come to the same conclusion and make use of the chance John had provided him with.

He tried not to think about it too much. There were some images he did not want in his head for the sake of his peace of mind, but this was much better than waiting until Sherlock cracked on his own and gave in to the demands of his transport with John right there to listen and smell the after-effects.

There was no way to tell how long it would take, but he added fifteen minutes for a shower.

"This is nice," Mrs Hudson told him as they ambled along the lake, watching a father and his two sons feeding the ducks. And the pigeons. And the sea gulls. And two swans. And some geese. John had the strong suspicion that the entire swarm of various birds was going to follow them out of the park and all the way home unless they ran like hell and took the Underground for most of the trip.

This was the area where dogs had to be kept on a lead. John was glad about it - part of him was itching to jump into the water and catch one of the ducks.

He was, after all, a Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever, and the entire point of Tollers was that they were specifically bred for hunting ducks. Better to be aware of the lead and resist the temptation.

He would not want to disturb the quaint late morning in the park with a swarm of discombobulated birds in a flutter.

Mrs Hudson took no notice of his interest in the ducks and was instead focused on something else entirely - unfortunately, it was the very topic John had been trying very hard not to think about. Pun not intended.

"Poor Sherlock seemed a bit tense today," Mrs Hudson said. "I could hear him pacing from my flat. Is everything all right? I noticed his brother came by shortly before you came to visit me, and we all know how much they rile each other up, but Sherlock was pacing all morning."

John whined at her and flicked his ears uncertainly. This was not something he could - or wanted to - explain to Mrs Hudson under the circumstances.

"It was a good idea to get out of the house for a while and leave him to his mood," she continued, unperturbed. "You haven't been apart since you left for Dartmoor. I suppose after a while you do want your space no matter how much you love the person you're with. Lord knows I had days where I didn't want to see either hide or hair of my husband for fear I might throttle him the moment he made a sound."

John let his tongue loll out of the side of his mouth, unable to come up with any better response. The casual mention of love had thrown him off-guard, as had the fact that Mrs Hudson had basically just compared her marriage to his and Sherlock's friendship.

Considering how her marriage had ended, he wasn't sure that was a good thing, but he suspected the ending was not the part she was currently focusing on.

In the distance, he heard the sound of church bells coming from the direction of St. John's church, of all places, announcing the full hour.

He tried to remember if there had been a moment when he had heard them earlier on their walk but wasn't certain.

Luckily, Mrs Hudson took that moment to glance at her watch. "We have been out for almost an hour! Don't you think it is time to go back? Or would you like to give him some more time to get over the cabin fever?"

John found himself glad once more to be unable to speak right now, otherwise he may have accidentally pointed out that cabin fever certainly wasn't the reason for Sherlock's tension.

An hour should have done the trick, though, or at least he hoped so.

He looked around and ascertained that they were still on the far side of the lake and would have to either circle it or turn back and go across the bridge if they wished to return home. At the pace they were currently walking, that was another half hour right there.

He nodded to himself. Half an hour would suffice. He could only hope that Sherlock still had enough brain activity left to actually take a shower. Perhaps it would remove at least some of the scents and make it easier for them both to pretend that nothing had actually happened.

John obligingly followed Mrs Hudson as she took the long way around the lake. They arrived at the gates just in time to see the father and his sons try to leave. They were indeed being followed by half the birds in the park as well as some that definitely didn't belong to the park but had apparently decided not to turn down the chance of getting free food.

John took pity on them and pretended to leap at the birds with a bark that had them scatter in a flurry of wings and loose feathers.

"Oh John, really!" Mrs Hudson exclaimed, but couldn't quite hide her amusement. He wagged his tail at her.

They returned home and John paused in the hallway for a moment, listening for any suspicious noises. Everything seemed quiet, so he waited for Mrs Hudson to unleash him and then carried the lead back upstairs.

The door to the sitting room was open and Sherlock sat curled up in his armchair, reading a book.

His hair was damp and he smelled of shampoo and shower gel that couldn't quite hide the still pretty high hormone levels, but there was no denying that he looked much more relaxed and a lot of the tension seemed to have dissipated. He seemed to be in a foul mood, however, most likely due to his annoyance at having been forced to give in to his transport's demands rather than ignoring them until they went away.

John decided to mark that as a win anyway and to not think about the whys and hows too much.

"Back already?" Sherlock asked as John dropped the lead and then all but collapsed onto his dog bed by Sherlock's feet. "Did you have a good time walking out with Mrs Hudson?"

John gave him a steady look and panted, wishing he could tell Sherlock about the ducks. He would have found that quite funny.

A couple of minutes of silence passed before Sherlock said, very quietly: "Thank you."

John nudged his leg affectionately and curled up to go to sleep.

Chapter Text

Around lunchtime Sherlock decided that John should earn his dinner, which meant he once again found himself eating out of the Kong, having to chew the almost indestructible gummy in order to get at the food hidden inside and making it spill out through the small opening in the Kong. It took ages but John found he loved chewing on things.

From the smell of it, Sherlock was still high on dopamine and not happy about it, a painfully contradictory situation to be in. Clearly he did not want to actually talk or think about it. The first words out of his mouth were a complete non-sequitur.

"Considering Tollers were bred for bloodsport, do you think you would enjoy hunting down a criminal in this form?"

John raised his head and looked at him, pondering the question. Chasing a criminal through London's streets on four legs instead of two? It sounded like fun!

He nodded, wondering if perhaps Sherlock had solved the case in the privacy of his mind and was now concocting some wild scheme to apprehend the killer.

It was moments like these that usually made John feel like he had aged ten years in just as many minutes, watching Sherlock engage a killer in some dark alley and unerringly cutting it uncomfortably close, narrowly escaping the flashing blade of a knife or a bullet whizzing past.

Once, they had chased a murderer onto a freight train laden with coal. He would never forget the moment when Sherlock had been balancing on the edge of one of the carriages, chunks of coal in each hand his only defence against a criminal armed with a lead pipe and willing to use it.

John considered the possibility of running up to a criminal like that, leaping at him and sinking his teeth into an arm or a leg to incapacitate them until someone arrived with a pair of handcuffs.

It sounded pretty amazing to him.

He nodded again, more vigorously.

Sherlock smiled. "Perhaps you'll be lucky and we'll get the chance to have a good run through the city soon, then. It's too early to make any promises, though. Lestrade still hasn't gotten back to me about the origin and identity of the baby, so we will have to wait for the Yarders to do their jobs to the best of their limited abilities."

John snorted.

"In the meantime, however ..."

Sherlock pulled out his phone and dialled a number.

"Mr James? Yes, this is Sherlock Holmes. I was wondering if you could e-mail me the details of the fraud you discovered. Yes, just send everything you've got and feel free to highlight the relevant parts. Do you have the e-mail address? Wonderful. Goodbye."

He hung up. "That should keep me occupied for a while. If someone has been siphoning money out of that company, I want to know how much. Perhaps we will find some interesting financial activity in the personal accounts of someone working for the company or otherwise related to it. Eventually, there has to be something to lead us to the fraudster."

John nodded and returned his attention to the Kong, This sounded like paperwork and paperwork was not something he was equipped to deal with at the moment. And, more importantly, he did have food to eat.


*****


Sherlock spent the rest of the day printing out the reports the accountant had sent him and brooding over them, comparing numbers and facts, values and accounts. Every now and then, John heard him mutter about this being a mess, but he never elaborated on it, even when he got frustrated enough to push away from the desk and start pacing the room again.

This restless energy was quite different from the one that had had him in its grip this morning, however. John knew this type. This was the "nothing in this case is making any sense so obviously I'm missing a piece of the puzzle and I want to know what it is" tension that usually happened shortly before Sherlock made some sort of mental leap and the entire thing unravelled into a stunningly obvious trail from cause to effect.

John sat up expectantly, waiting for the moment to happen.

It didn't.

Sherlock frowned and returned to the files, reading them over and over, but clearly finding nothing useful.

Finally, he pulled out his phone. From the angry way he tapped the screen, John assumed he was texting Lestrade and demanding an update.

They got one a little over an hour later, when Lestrade himself arrived at Baker Street, looking haggard and harassed and smelling of too much coffee and not enough sleep.

"We found the mother. Went through his phone records with a fine tooth comb and discovered he resumed contact with one of his ex-girlfriends several months after their relationship had ended. They were on the phone pretty regularly and emailing one another rather cryptically about appointments. She gave birth to a baby boy five months ago."

They shared a long look.

"His parents didn't know?" Sherlock asked.

"According to the child's mother, he didn't want to tell them," Lestrade said. "We haven't had a chance to talk to Mrs Forsythe yet."

"Wait a while before informing her," Sherlock said. "At least until we have a DNA test that irrefutably proves him to be the father."

Lestrade nodded. "The poor woman just lost her husband and son. I'm not going to dangle a potential grandson in front of her only to snatch him away at the last moment."

"How was the girlfriend?" Sherlock asked.

"Distraught. According to her, they had reconciled. She said they had talked about her moving in with him but he had been hesitant because his parents frequently came to visit and there was no way for him to hide the presence of a girlfriend and a baby if they both lived in his flat. She said they were talking about it and trying to come up with the best strategy to tell his parents."

"And did you believe her?" Sherlock demanded.

Lestrade nodded. "No reason not to. She seemed genuine. Even Donovan believed her and you know Donovan is as suspicious and cynical as they come."

Sherlock snorted. "That's one way of putting it, but I do agree that Sergeant Donovan has a good instinct for what is the truth and what is a lie, particularly when it comes to people faking emotions they don't have."

'Too bad she isn't equally good at telling when people are faking having no emotions at all' John thought. 'She might treat you differently if she did.'

"Careful there," Lestrade teased. "That almost sounded like a compliment, Sherlock. Would you like me to pass it on?"

"Do what you want with it," Sherlock shrugged. "Is there anything else she could tell us? Any possibility that she knows something about him siphoning money out of the company accounts?"

Lestrade shook his head. "Didn't ask her about it, but she did mention that he was absolutely willing to pay child support and apparently even set up a trust fund in his son's name."

"Interesting." Sherlock turned back to the papers on the desk. "How much money was that, did she say?"

"I have no idea. I'll tell Donovan to check." Lestrade pulled out his phone and sent a quick text.

"She'll have to get access to his bank accounts, but that shouldn't be too hard, seeing as he is one of our murder victims and himself a suspect in a murder investigation."

"I think we can update that from suspect to culprit," Sherlock said. "I have absolutely no doubt that he killed his father in the heat of the moment. Most likely to prevent him from approaching me about the case, lest I stumble upon the fact that his son was hiding an illegitimate child from his very religious parents. People have killed for less."

The Detective Inspector nodded. "True enough. We'll get his bank account statements and verify. I've put some of the Yard's best accountants onto the files you forwarded me, but it's going to take them a while to sift through everything we confiscated at Forsythe's office and compare the documents. Can't trust Mr James to not have purposefully omitted a piece of information that might implicate him."


*****


By the time Sherlock was done with the records, night had fallen and the sitting room looked like a paper factory after a minor hurricane.

Under John's watchful eyes, Sherlock had been brooding over the print-outs, writing notes into the margins and doing complex calculations in his head or - in some special cases - on paper, using formulas John could not remember ever hearing about in school.

He nudged Sherlock's elbow and tilted his head in curiosity, trying to make out the scrawl of numbers and letters in Sherlock's messy handwriting.

Sherlock smiled, seemingly not at all perturbed by the fact that John had shoved his head underneath his arm to get a closer look.

"Mother was a rather renowned mathematician," he explained. "Still is, actually. She publishes articles in various journals when the mood strikes her and has published a book as well. This is one of her formulas."

John gave a low whuff, wishing he had some way to express the notion of 'Well that explains where you got it from'.

He had always wondered about Sherlock's parents. A mathematician didn't surprise him at all. He wondered what Sherlock's father was like. He must be quite fearsome, to be happily married to a brilliant woman and raise two equally brilliant sons with her. John wondered at his profession. Astrophysics? But no, Sherlock didn't know shit about the solar system. Perhaps a chemistry professor or something.

Sherlock had gone quiet and when John twisted his head around to find out why, he discovered that Sherlock was looking at him with a peculiar expression on his face.

"I do wish I knew what you are thinking," Sherlock confessed quietly. "Reading your expressions is supremely difficult with all that fur in the way."

John snorted and playfully nudged his shoulder, then tilted his head again.

"You're curious," Sherlock concluded. "That is your curious face. The head tilt is very expressive indeed. But I do not quite get what you wish to know."

John snuffled at the paper still clutched in Sherlock's hand, nosing at the formula.

"Mathematics?"

He shook his head.

Sherlock nodded. "I see. Mother is quite brilliant. I suppose you might get to meet her eventually. She is a very nosy woman and has been pestering me to come visit for ages."

John whined, tilting his head to the other side.

His friend frowned at him. "You think I should go? You want to come along? John?"

John nodded, then continued to tip his head from side to side, frustrated with his inability to talk.

"I don't ..." Sherlock stopped. "Oh. You wish to know about my father."

Whatever action of John's had made him realise this remained unclear to him, but John nodded anyway, settling down on the carpet next to Sherlock, his head comfortably squeezed through the gab between Sherlock's right arm, torso and right thigh. He got comfortable and eyed his friend expectantly.

Sherlock snorted, moving his arm a bit to scratch John's ear. "My father is not at all what you may imagine. No crazy scientist, no dazzling genius. He is, and to my knowledge always has been, a completely average man, only distinguished by an exceptionally kind heart and the amazing ability to look at mother and our 'utterly brilliant madness' as he calls it, and see only something worthy of his love. My parents are the most devoted couple I have ever seen in my life. It is quite incomprehensible how someone like Mycroft shares the same genes, but then I shouldn't be one to judge, I suppose."

John gave a low whine and shook his head, nuzzling Sherlock's knee before turning to press his nose to Sherlock's chest, right above his heart.

"Is this your way of reminding me that I am fully capable of experiencing sentiment?" Sherlock inquired. "That may be so, but few people are worth my doing so, don't you think?"

John shrugged. He was beginning to suspect that Sherlock was far more emotional than he liked to admit. The warmth in his voice as he spoke of his parents, the contentment when he mentioned his father ... John had always imagined the Holmes parents as some sort of distant, autocratic figures, half-cloaked in shadow, moving in society circles far above his own station. To learn that they seemed to be perfectly ordinary people - genius mathematician aside - came as quite the surprise. He found he was glad to hear that at least there were two more people in the world whom Sherlock seemed to think well of without reserve. It was a rare enough gift to make John wish he could meet them and thank them personally for creating Sherlock Holmes and sending him out into the world for John to find.

Lying here next to Sherlock with his head shoved through the triangle formed by Sherlock's side, right arm and thigh, John thought there was no thanks that would ever suffice.

Chapter Text

That night, while Sherlock fell asleep with surprising ease, his body apparently adapting to a regular sleep-schedule, John stayed wide awake.

He lay curled up on top of the covers and regarded his friend in the dim light filtering through the curtains. Watching the rise and fall of Sherlock's chest and listening to the sound of his heart, John found it difficult to remember that a little over a week ago this would have been unthinkable.

Yet here he was, a dog curled up in Sherlock's bed, and by now he couldn't even tell which of these two things he would have considered less likely if someone had asked him a fortnight ago.

By now, the sound of Sherlock's heart had become a familiar and soothing background noise, his scent - formaldehyde, leather, hair product, (fading) cigarette smoke, the air after a thunderstorm - a trail John could have followed blind.

Since his involuntary transformation, he had learned more about his best friend than in a year of living with him. The soldiers came to mind first, being perhaps the most surprising revelation. But there were other things, too, small things that painted a much larger picture: the way Sherlock petted him, always so careful not to pull on his fur and unerringly finding the spots John enjoyed having scratched and rubbed most. The way Sherlock prioritised John's needs over his own, letting John drag him out of bed in the early hours of the morning to go for a walk, letting John stay with him during that horrendous thunderstorm, asking Sally to take him for a walk rather than forcing John to remain in the lab with its intense stink of disinfectant that had burned in his nose. His panic when John had been injured, his pride every time John mastered another thing that came naturally to real dogs.

In short, while John had ceased being human, it felt as if Sherlock had become more human in turn. Perhaps he always had been and this was the first time he was able to show it, but the end result remained the same.

And John could no longer pretend that he was not hopelessly enamoured with all of Sherlock.

It should have surprised him, this realisation, but instead it felt self-evident, as if he had always known it would come to this. Adoring Sherlock felt as natural as breathing and John no longer cared how much of that was due to the dog's instincts. He rather thought this would have happened either way, had probably been happening all along while he wasn't looking.

Sherlock twitched in his sleep and shifted, turning onto his side and flinging out his arm until his hand came to rest on John's back before lying still again. John could sense him slipping into a deeper sleep and wished with all his heart that Mycroft's scientists would find a cure soon. He didn't know how much longer he could take being this close and yet so far away.


*****


Sherlock woke to the sensation of being stared at. That didn't usually happen to him - he didn't make it a habit of sleeping when there was someone else in the room. Well, not until recently.

He opened his eyes, not the least bit surprised to find John looking at him. It was still a surprise to see a dog where he would expect his friend. Except that he would never have expected to see John's face upon waking in his bed. Hoped for, perhaps, in a rare moment of maudlin self-indulgence, but never expected.

"What," he murmured, "aren't you going to drag me off for a walk first thing?"

John merely looked back at him, tongue lolling, and gave a soft whuff that could mean anything. Sherlock thought he might need another couple of months of this to fully grasp this new way of communicating, and yet the idea of not seeing the real John, his John, for so long left him feeling bereft and unsettled. He had not known that it was possible to miss someone while they were right there.

Shoving the uncomfortable thought away, he sat up, pleased to notice that his transport seemed to be behaving this time. If he kept waking up hard and desperate, even John would eventually draw the correct conclusion and figure out that while Sherlock had no interest in bestiality, he could not claim the same about the person trapped within a beast's body. He would very much prefer if John did not ever find out.

Deciding that a strategic retreat would be best before John with his superior understanding of sentiment somehow read the damning evidence the same way Sherlock himself could read a crime scene, he stumbled into the bathroom, leaving John to slump back onto the bed, apparently in no mood to get up and go out that morning.

Yet out they went, once Sherlock had stepped out of the shower and reluctantly eaten a slice of toast while John munched his way through his own breakfast.

They went for their usual walk around the park before returning to the flat so Sherlock could gather the papers and equations he had worked on the previous night and then they were off to the Yard.

"Ah, there you are," Lestrade greeted them, yawning into his coffee as they entered his office. "I was wondering when you'd come to haunt me. Hullo John."

John nudged Lestrade's knee in greeting and allowed the DI to scratch his neck before going in search of Sally and the bag of treats she now kept in her desk. Sherlock watched him with an odd sense of fond indulgence, having resigned himself to the fact that John would always charm wherever he went, no matter what body he happened to occupy. Once his friend had left Lestrade's office, Sherlock turned back to the DI and pulled the documents out of his coat.

"The victim's accountant sent over the files I requested. I've started going over the numbers last night but-"

"What, you didn't finish them?" Lestrade asked, raising both eyebrows at him. "Usually you stay up all night with evidence like this to go through."

Sherlock glared at him. "I went to sleep, if you must know."

Lestrade smirked. "Did John bully you into going to bed? Who would have thought he'd have to be turned into a dog for that to happen."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Sherlock demanded, crossing his arms.

The Detective Inspector shrugged. "Nothing. But if someone had asked me two weeks ago to bet on how John could get you to voluntarily go to bed, him turning into a dog is not what I would have put any money on."

Sherlock snorted. "That says more about your lack of imagination than it does about either John or myself."

"So you're saying there are other ways he could have enticed you to go to bed?" Lestrade smirked. "Glad you're finally admitting it."

Sherlock rolled his eyes and decided to change the topic, acutely aware that John's hearing would quite likely allow him to pick up on their conversation.

"As I was saying before you decided to regress to a juvenile state of mind, I went over the numbers last night to see if there were inconsistencies. I ran them past several formulas and it does appear Mr James was correct - someone has been siphoning money out of the company. I only did a rough calculation and of course your fraud department will have to have a look at the numbers, but it seems over the past two years almost half a million has vanished without a trace."

Lestrade gave a low whistle. "That's half a million motives for murder right there. I'll have our accountants go over the files with a fine tooth comb. Do you have any idea who could have done it?"

"Not yet", Sherlock admitted, frowning. "I am reasonably certain it wasn't Mr James himself. There is a good chance we never would have found out about him if he hadn't shown up at the flat himself. And of course he has been very accommodating in handing over the files he still had in his possession."

"I sent a team over to the company yesterday to get the other files. Our boys should start working on them today, so I'm expecting some preliminary results by tomorrow," Lestrade said, checking his notes. "I also asked Molly to prioritise the DNA test on the child. The sooner we know if Forsythe junior really was the father, the better."

"And if he wasn't, there's a whole new avenue of enquiry open to us," Sherlock pointed out. "He might have discovered it was an illegitimate child and confronted the real father. That would give both biological parents a motive for murder."

They shared a grim look - it wouldn't be the first time a family dispute got out of hand in such a way.

Lestrade cleared his throat and looked away, trying to sound casual as he spoke again. "So, how are things with John?"

"Fine," Sherlock said shortly, still a bit tense after the DI's earlier comments. "He has adapted impressively well and seems quite content with the situation."

"Yeah, I can see that. If I didn't know better, I'd completely buy your story. It suits him, too, don't you think? Of all the possible breeds to end up as, I mean. But that wasn't what I meant."

He pinned Sherlock with a look that reminded him that Lestrade had not gotten his job merely for relying on Sherlock Holmes. "Have there been any developments in reversing it?"

Sherlock shook his head. "Nothing. Mycroft told me there have been some promising ideas but of course I won't let them do so much as take a blood sample until we are as sure as we can be that he will not come to harm during the process."

Lestrade nodded. "Good. That's good. Not the lack of progress, of course, but ... you're being a good friend, Sherlock." He made a face, clearly aware of how awkward he sounded. "Just ... keep in mind that John has a mind of his own and that he can give you his opinion."

"We've been using Scrabble tiles to communicate," Sherlock informed him. "It takes a while for him to arrange them, of course, and proper syntax is not high up on the list of priorities, but it works just fine."

"And what did he communicate?" Lestrade asked, visibly torn between amusement and concern for John's well-being.

"Data on what Forsythe's house smelled like and the general sentiments of his widow," Sherlock readily supplied. He hesitated, then added: "And a joke."

Lestrade snorted a laugh. "What joke?"

Sherlock sniffed. "It was private. You really wouldn't understand, even if I told you."

"I see. That kind of joke, eh? You've always been like that, the two of you. Entire conversations that leave the rest of us wondering what the hell you two madmen are talking about."

"Serves you right," Sherlock told him. "It's not nice to listen in on other people's conversations."

"This, coming from you!" Lestrade laughed. "Excuse me for not taking you seriously."

Sherlock made a face at him. "If you are quite finished?"

"For the time being. Now, did your brother give you an estimate of how long this situation is going to continue?"

"What situation?" Donovan asked from the door, entering the room with John following right behind her. One look was enough to tell Sherlock his friend wouldn't require any food for a while.

"My parents' continued reliance on me as a dog-sitter," he told her smoothly. "Lestrade was just asking how much longer you will be able to stuff Johnny here with treats."

Sally shrugged, utterly unapologetic. "Perhaps if you fed him better, he wouldn't still be hungry when you show up here in the mornings."

"He emptied an entire bowlful this morning," Sherlock informed her. "And I don't have to justify myself to you. Johnny is simply a glutton. Isn't that right Johnny?"

John whined at him but the look he gave him clearly said 'I'll make you pay for that one later'.

Sherlock grinned and bent down to ruffle his head. "Just as I said."

"Got any news for us, Donovan?" Lestrade asked, nodding at the files she was carrying.

Sally shook her head. "Nothing helpful. We haven't heard back from the labs about the DNA results yet and our accountants have barely started sorting the data we got from the vic's company, never mind actually going through it all."

"Sherlock told me he had a look at them last night. Did you say you ran some formulas, Sherlock?" Lestrade asked.

He nodded. "Just some basic arithmetic to see if there were any obvious patterns." He ran a hand through his hair. "I have a book on complex equations somewhere but I didn't get around to looking for it last night. I'll just have to make a phone call and get them this way."

"Know any good mathematicians, do you?" Donovan asked, pursing her lips sceptically.

"As it happens, I do."

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and scrolled through his contacts, hitting the call button once he found the right one and lifting the device to his ear.

As the connection was built, he watched John sit up with a curious expression, clearly suspecting whom Sherlock was calling. He hoped John would remember his role in their ruse well enough to play the part convincingly.

A moment later, his call was answered.

"Sherlock! What a lovely surprise! Is everything all right?"

He sighed. "Everything is fine, mother." He saw Donovan's mouth drop open and rolled his eyes at her. "I was merely wondering if-"

"Ohhh, how is my Johnny doing?" his mother interrupted, clearly also remembering her part in this game. "Let me talk to him."

"He's a dog, mother, he can't talk."

"Sherlock Holmes, don't be smart with me! Now put me on speaker. Can't talk, honestly."

Thirty-odd years had taught him that it was futile to argue with his mother, so Sherlock lowered his phone and put it on speaker, meeting John's curious gaze and noting his perked ears. "There you go. Don't tell me I didn't warn you."

"Johnny!" his mother said, adopting that annoyingly high 'I'm talking to a small child' voice people tended to use with their dogs. "How is my darling doing?"

John, bless him, all but jumped Sherlock in his attempt to get at the phone, barking and whining, his tail wagging so violently Sherlock thought he might have a couple of bruises to show for it on his legs later on.

"As you can hear, he's perfectly fine," he said, raising his voice to be heard over the general clamour of John acting like a dog who was looking for his owner in a small electronic device.

"Ohhhh, there you are. Good boy!" his mother cooed. "Sit!"

John sat, whining and stretching his neck as far as he could towards the phone in Sherlock's hand.

"Are you happy now?" Sherlock asked, affecting an air of exasperation. He barely had to act at all. "Are you convinced he's alive and well now?"

"Yes, yes, thank you, dear. You'll forgive me for missing my dog. I'd tell you to come visit but we've got workmen in the house all day and I know how busy you always are. But I expect you to come over once we're done renovating. And remember to bring your John along so-"

"Mother, he's not my -" Sherlock quickly tried to interrupt before the entire conversation could derail any further.

"Oh, I know he's not there right now. I'm just saying, once he's back from his visit to his sister, you should bring him 'round for dinner and-"

"That's not what I meant-" Sherlock started, but he might as well have not spoken at all. He could hear Donovan stifle a giggle.

"And of course you should stay the night and then we can-"

"Mother!" Sherlock snapped. "Not the point now!"

"Oh yes, right. What did you call for?"

He picked up the files from Lestrade's desk. "I don't have your book at hand at the moment, otherwise I would have checked for myself. I have a bunch of accounting ledgers here that might contain some inconsistencies. Now I distantly recall you having invented an equation for something similar."

"Well, not for false accounting, but we could adjust the formula accordingly," she said. "Let me get a pen and paper."

There was a pause and he heard her bustling about the house in search of writing material.

"Your mother is a mathematician?" Lestrade asked, astonished.

Sherlock blinked at him. "Yes of course. She's the most brilliant woman I've ever seen. She'll tell you she's only dabbling but I have her books somewhere in the flat. And they're still threatening her with a Nobel price."

"Threatening?" Donovan echoed.

"Hm, yes. She doesn't like people making a fuss."

There was a rustle at the other end of the line and then his mother was back. "All right, Sherlock, give me the numbers you want to run."

Sherlock did, grasping a pen and notepad from Lestrade's desk and unceremoniously sitting on the floor. This was going to take some time.


*****


They left the Yard hours later. Darkness had already fallen and John saw Sherlock blink as they stepped outside, clearly surprised by the lateness.

He had sat in Lestrade's office for hours, first running through a series of complex equations with his mother and adjusting them as they went along in a display of mathematical genius that had left even Donovan looking impressed.

"Guess he had to get it from somewhere," Lestrade muttered once Sherlock had finally hung up.

John had whined in agreement and then gone to lie down next to Sherlock, putting his head on Sherlock's thigh and settling in for a nice long doze while his brilliant friend applied the newly adjusted formulas to the numbers in the files Mr James had sent over.

Sherlock didn't seem to notice his surroundings, lost in a cloud of numbers and his own brain, but every now and then his hand would unerringly find John's head or back and give him a gentle stroke, as if Sherlock was subconsciously reminding himself that John was still there. Neither Lestrade nor Donovan dared to comment, but John rather thought that even if they had, Sherlock would not have heard them. And he himself couldn't care less.

They had stayed there on the floor of Lestrade's office as the regular day-to-day of the Yard had bustled around them and kept Lestrade busy with paperwork and interviews with suspects or witnesses of other crimes committed, police constables walking in and out of the office with files that required signatures and requests that needed granting. All of them stepped carefully around Sherlock and John in the middle of the room. It was a sign of how much time the two of them spent here that no one bothered to ask any questions about their presence.

Now the crisp night air hit their faces as they stepped out of the Yard and Sherlock flagged down a cab to take them directly to the London Zoo entry of Regent's Park.

"We can go on our walk and then go home," he said. "Any objections?"

John shook his head and hopped into the cab, being careful not to get too close to the seat to avoid leaving hair everywhere.

The cab ride passed in silence, their driver one of the less chatty cabbies. John was glad for it - he had vivid memories of what happened when a talkative cab driver got on Sherlock's nerves and wasn't keen on an encore while he was unable to soothe ruffled feathers.

They got out at the far end of Regent's park, near the London Zoo, and took the long way around. Technically, the parks were locked once darkness fell but Sherlock knew the gatekeepers' schedules well enough to avoid being locked in by accident. And of course even if they did get locked in, he would have no trouble picking the locks to let them out.

Choosing the wide Broad Walk which represented the most direct route to the other end of the park, they set off, enjoying the quiet of having the park almost to themselves, except for some late joggers who didn't pay them any attention whatsoever.

They stopped at the Ready Money drinking fountain for a few sips of water. John couldn't quite reach the fountain himself, so Sherlock offered him the water in his cupped hands. It wasn't the most dignified method but John found he rather enjoyed the added benefit of licking Sherlock's hands and watching his friend shake with barely suppressed laughter. Apparently he was ticklish. John filed that information away for later, just in case.

They continued on their way and it took barely ten minutes until they had to cross Chester Road to follow the Broad Walk further. Technically, dogs were not allowed in this part of the park, but neither Sherlock nor John cared - and particularly not this late in the evening, with no one around to complain.

Unfortunately, it soon transpired that they were not quite as alone as they had thought.

John had lagged behind to sniff around between some bushes when the sound of two fast heartbeats - neither of which belonged to Sherlock - and shoes on soft grass caught his attention.

He lifted his head just in time to see two darker shadows detach themselves from the hedges on either side of the path and move to block Sherlock's path. One of them greeted him in the traditional London way:

"Oi, mate."

Sherlock halted. "Are you talking to me?"

"D' you see anyone else?"

"Well, there's your companion over there," Sherlock said.

John wished he was human just so he could bury his face in his hands to avoid having to witness the carnage that was sure to follow.

"Oh, we've got ourselves a clown, Larry."

"Quite a posh clown, too," the one named Larry said.

"Gosh, your combined intellect is truly dazzling," Sherlock contributed to the budding catastrophe.

John shook his head but stayed in the shadows. Best not to put all their cards on the table until he knew how the situation was going to unfold.

"Quit the talking and hand over the money," the yet unnamed of the two demanded.

"What money?" Sherlock asked innocently. "You haven't said anything about money."

"Listen, mate, we can do this the easy way or the hard way," Larry, who was clearly a fan of stereotypes and bad films, growled.

Sherlock rocked back on his heels with the air of someone who had just been asked for directions in a city he had spent his entire life in and who was currently trying to recall the name of the place. John could hear his steady heartbeat and even breathing and relaxed a little. Clearly Sherlock wasn't overly worried. Then again, they regularly dealt with murderers; a couple of wannabe robbers were hardly worth getting excited over.

"Let me guess," Sherlock said. "The easy way is me handing over the money and then being beaten up and the hard way is me being beaten up before you take my money?"

"Bit of a smart-arse, are ya?"

"Merely used to a better class of criminal than you lot," Sherlock said, shrugging, and actually went so far as to nonchalantly put his hands into his pockets. "I have rarely seen two criminals with that level of incompetence. Did you practice in front of a mirror or does it come naturally?"

There was a short pause as they deciphered his meaning, followed by an outraged roar from the quicker of the two, and then they attacked.

Sherlock stepped out of the way of one of the fists flying towards his face and deflected the other with his arm. However, the move left him open for his first opponent's second swing. He managed to turn his head away to avoid most of the impact but still suffered a glancing blow across the cheek.

That was the moment where John thought it might be a good time to interfere.

He burst from the shadows, teeth bared and a low, dangerous growl emitting from deep within his chest.

There was a second of confusion as the two robbers paused to look around for the source of the sound. A moment later, they got their answer when John lunged at them.

No man is capable of remaining on his feet when unexpectedly hit by forty pound of dog running at full speed and his unwitting victim - Larry - fell backwards with a shout and - as he hit the ground - a grunt.

Carried by his own velocity, John rolled over him, accidentally slamming the man's head against the ground and knocking him out before his own body came to a stop in a muddy puddle.

Sherlock made use of the distraction by smartly bringing his knee up into a very sensitive region of the other attacker's body, who folded to his knees with a garbled moan of pain.

John, still growling, scrambled off the ground, shook most of the water off his fur and moved to stand between Sherlock and the two men on the ground, ducking low with his legs apart to give him a firmer stance. All he knew was the fierce fury at seeing someone try and attack his Sherlock, trying to harm his pack, trying to hurt what was his. He wondered which of the two to bite first if they were stupid enough to get up and try again.

They weren't.

Behind him, Sherlock was breathing heavily, his heart now beating much faster than previously. John could smell the heavy tinge of adrenaline. Finally Sherlock was reacting the way he was supposed to.

"Are you all right?" Sherlock asked, crouching down to take a closer look at John.

John turned and rolled his eyes at him in an unspoken 'Obviously'.

"You did bowl over one of them," Sherlock pointed out. "It is not unreasonable to think you might be injured in the process."

John huffed and shook his head, trying to somehow indicate that he was fine. He sniffed and nudged Sherlock's chin with his nose, careful to avoid his cheek.

"He barely hit me," Sherlock assured him. "It smarts a bit and might leave a slight bruise but that's all. I'll put some ice on it once we're home, if you insist."

John nodded, wanting to shout 'Of course I bloody insist, you moron!' and cursing his body for its lack of sufficient vocal cords.

"Come on," Sherlock said, rising and giving John's back another reassuring pat. "Let's go home before these two morons manage to get back on their feet."

John did a small half-hop to raise himself on his hind legs, his front paws pressed to Sherlock's thighs, and nudged at his chest where his phone was secure in the inner pocket of his suit jacket.

Sherlock shook his head. "Calling the police won't be any help. By the time they get here, these two will be well away. I'll inform Lestrade tomorrow and give him a thorough description."

John sighed and gave up - there was no arguing with Sherlock about this and he knew his friend was right. They couldn't stay here much longer if they wanted to make it out of the park before the gates were locked and staying would mean answering questions about what they were doing here at this time of night in the first place. He could already see Sherlock's completely straight face and hear his impatient voice as he answered 'Getting mugged by those morons'.

Best to avoid that.

They left the two wannabe criminals lying on the path and went home. Every so often, John would pause and listen for the sound of someone following them but everything was quiet and the only human sounds he could hear in his vicinity were Sherlock's own steps and heartbeat.

Chapter Text

"You do realise you are covered in mud, do you?" Sherlock asked idly as they passed through the gates, nodding solemnly at the gatekeeper who was in the process of pulling the keys out of his pocket to lock the park for the night.

John huffed. Of course he bloody knew! It itched horribly. He stopped, waiting for Sherlock to walk several paces ahead before shaking himself again, this time more violently. Some of the mud and drops of water flew off, but he wasn't optimistic enough to believe he had gotten rid of all of it.

Sherlock snorted as John caught up with him under the next street light. "You're a sorry sight indeed. Much more like a mongrel than a thoroughbred. If Mother could see you, she would have a fit."

John whined.

"And of course Mrs Hudson will have quite a lot to say about the dirt," Sherlock continued. "I'm afraid we'll spend tonight giving you a very thorough bath."

John sighed and resigned himself to his fate. At least he would be clean.

They turned into Baker Street and soon reached their front door. Sherlock unlocked it quietly and ushered John inside. Mrs Hudson's lights were already off and so was the TV. "Quiet now, we don't want to wake her."

Taking care not to make too much noise, they sneaked up the stairs and breathed twin sighs of relief once Sherlock closed the door to their flat behind them.

"Straight to the bathroom, if you please, John," Sherlock ordered.

John did as he was told and walked gingerly into the bathroom, trying not to leave too much dirty water in his wake. The puddle had been deeper than he had initially thought; his thick fur had protected him from noticing it at the time and perhaps his distraction due to their attackers had also played some part in it but now there was no denying that he had soaked up mud and water like a sponge and all the shaking in the world wouldn't help him get it out.

Sherlock followed him two minutes later, having taken off his coat, suit jacket and shoes and shoved up his shirtsleeves in preparation.

"I had a look through the box of supplies Mycroft's minions brought and found some dog shampoo. We'll use that rather than the human stuff - I'm not keen on finding out what that might do to your skin or fur. Any objections?"

John shook his head and Sherlock nodded, gesturing at the tub. "Good. Hop in, then, and try not to slip on the surface of the tub."

That was easier said than done, but John managed to scramble over the edge and into the tub. It wasn't very dignified, but at least he managed to get in on his own and didn't fall flat on his face.

Sherlock pulled the shower head down and turned it on, aiming the spray away from John while he waited for the water to warm a little. "One whuff if it's too hot, a whine if it's too cold," he instructed.

John nodded at him and Sherlock waited until the water had a temperature he considered suitable. He carefully aimed it at John's front paws. "How is this?"

The temperature was just about right and John remained silent.

"Good," Sherlock said. "I'll get you properly wet first and then work in the shampoo. Your face seems to have been spared, so we won't have to worry about getting any shampoo in your eyes. Let me know if there's a problem."

As the lukewarm water slowly soaked into his fur, John gave a contented sigh. It had been ages since he had last enjoyed a nice warm bath and he hadn't realised how much he had missed it. Usually, he showered in the mornings, but of course he hadn't had a bath or a shower since his unwitting transformation.

He lowered his head and looked down at the water gurgling towards the drain, watching in astonishment as what appeared to be half the soil of a medium-sized flowerbed flowed past his paws.

"You have entirely too much fur," Sherlock commented, using one hand to direct the spray and the other to carefully comb through John's fur with his long fingers. "How did you manage to soak up so much mud in so little time?"

John gave a low rumble and tried to shrug as best he could.

Sherlock shut the water off and reached for the shampoo. "Now, let's see if this will get you clean. And, as an added bonus, it appears you will end up smelling like ... apples. Huh." He eyed the bottle sceptically and sniffed it. "Pure chemicals, of course. I'd be surprised if any apples came within ten yards of this stuff. Perhaps it was shown a picture of an apple at some point."

John snorted and made a mental note to challenge Sherlock to create a better-smelling shampoo himself just as soon as he could talk again.

A moment later his train of thought was derailed when both of Sherlock's hands sank into his fur and started massaging the shampoo into the dense outer coat.

John thought that if he was a cat, he might have started purring in an embarrassingly loud fashion.

Instead, he merely arched into the touch, much to Sherlock's amusement. "Good?"

He gave a low rumble of affirmation and Sherlock snorted. "If my mind ever fails me, I could still find employment as a hairdresser or massage therapist, or so my mother likes to tell me when I am on hand to help with her tension headaches."

John huffed a laugh at the image that presented itself, then gave a low growl that surprised even him as Sherlock's fingers carded down his spine all the way from his neck to his tail bone. Suddenly, he was glad for his lack of human vocal chords - had he been human, this would have been a truly mortifying moan of pleasure.

As it was, he was wondering with no little alarm if dogs ever got hard and if so, how much it took for that to happen. He rather hoped he would not have cause to find out.

"Almost done with your back. I think you might also be losing a truly disgusting amount of fine particulates. Half of London's air pollution seems to have caught in your fur, John. This is a disgrace."

John looked down at the water swirling past his paws and had to admit that Sherlock might just be right about that one. The water had a distressingly grey colour underneath the foam.

"There, done with your back, now moving to your sides, so if you are feeling ticklish, please remember not to bite the hand that cleans you."

John wanted to tell him that this was ridiculous but then Sherlock's fingers moved along his ribcage and towards his hips and he jerked at the sensation.

"Told you," Sherlock muttered, not low enough for John to miss it, and continued working the shampoo into his fur before rinsing it thoroughly. All the warm water in the world couldn't stop the shiver running down John's spine.

He focused on standing still, only jumping a little bit as Sherlock's hands and the warm water moved to his chest and belly. Luckily, the fur there was shorter and had gotten less muddy than his long outer coat on his back and sides.

"Look at that, your fur is actually ginger under all that mud. There are even some white patches, who would have thought?" Sherlock teased. "Really John, one would think you rolled around in a mud hole for hours rather than having made the acquaintance of a single puddle."

John grumbled good-naturedly at him, then yelped and twitched as one of Sherlock's hands accidentally brushed against him as he tried to get the soap out.

"Sorry," Sherlock murmured and moved his hand a safe distance away. John huffed a deep breath and thanked the heavens for his water-logged long fur and all the foam. God, as if this entire thing wasn't embarrassing enough already!

"Almost done," Sherlock promised and turned to John's legs, aiming the shower spray against the direction of his fur to get as much dirt out as he could. "Your legs and paws probably needed a bath anyway. You've been walking through London and running around in Regent's Park for over a week now and we both know London isn't precisely famous for its cleanliness."

He carefully lifted each of John's paws and rinsed between his toes and under the soles of his paws. "We'll have to cut your claws, too, I see, once you're dry. Don't give me that look, Mrs Hudson will scold us both if you leave scratch marks on the floor."

John had a perfect answer lined up for that one - namely that he was not the one prone to destroying their flat - but naturally couldn't say anything, so he merely huffed and twitched a little.

"Don't you dare shake yourself in here," Sherlock warned. "You have enough water in your fur to flood the bathroom."

Oh, it was tempting.

John kept himself under control, though, and after washing out his tail Sherlock turned the shower off and reached for a towel. "There. We'll towel-dry you first and then get out the hair dryer, otherwise you'll have to sleep in front of a roaring fireplace and I believe you have views about going to sleep with wet hair, don't you?"

John did, although the idea of the loud blow dryer wasn't a very happy prospect. Once again, there was nothing he could do but resign himself to his fate and he did so with a sigh.

A moment later, the fluffy white towel obscured his sight and Sherlock worked his way from John's head down his neck and along his body, leaving his legs for last as he dried him with quick, efficient moves, careful not to pull at John's fur.

"You should see yourself," Sherlock said, snickering. "You look like an exploded poodle."

John turned his head to give him a look that clearly said 'Well thank you very much'.

"In fact, I think I'll take a picture," Sherlock told him and pulled out his phone before John could offer any sort of protest. "Lestrade will love this."

John wished he could groan.


*****


By the time Sherlock proclaimed John dry, he had taken another six or seven pictures and broken down laughing about the pure level of fluffiness John's fur had achieved in the process of the blow-drying.

"We're getting this framed," Sherlock announced, chuckling at a picture in which John looked astonishingly like a ginger cloud of candy floss.

John flopped down on the bathroom carpet and placed both front paws over his face in a clear demonstration of what he thought of that particular idea. He already knew there would be no escaping this. At least he had managed to gather some teasing material about Sherlock in turn during this whole adventure.

When they finally emerged from the bathroom - after Sherlock had indeed clipped John's claws and collected some samples "for science" -, it was already past midnight. They stopped just long enough for John to polish off a bowl of dog food and then promptly went to bed.

John curled up in his now usual place as soon as Sherlock had settled in under the blankets and they both sighed as they relaxed.

"Mmh, you do smell like apples," Sherlock muttered and John watched one corner of his mouth turn up in what was probably supposed to be a smirk but fell short and turned into a soft smile instead.

John huffed at him and closed his eyes, letting Sherlock's breathing and the familiar thud of his heartbeat lull him to sleep.


*****


The next morning, right after their walk, Sherlock deposited John with Mrs Hudson and instructions not to feed him anything for at least two hours. Naturally, the door to her flat had barely closed behind him before Mrs Hudson gave John a biscuit from the new batch she had made the day before.

John ate it with half-hearted enjoyment, still a bit miffed at not being allowed to accompany Sherlock on this morning's errant.

"What is that boy up to today? And that bruise on his face - he didn't have that yesterday. Has he been in a fight?"

John couldn't do much more than huff and nod.

Mrs Hudson tutted. "Oh, I do hope you got a chance to bite whoever it was in the arse. Attacking our Sherlock, I dare say!"

She muttered to herself for a while, leaving John to sniff around her flat and use every window facing the street to watch Sherlock flag down a cab and its progress down the street until it turned from sight.

He gave a dissatisfied whine and hopped onto the sofa to curl up on the cushions and eye the Sherlock-less room with a mournful expression.

"Don't look like that, John. He'll be back in no time at all, just you wait. Your man can look after himself for a time, even though you wouldn't believe it just looking at him," Mrs Hudson tried to console him, patting his back and ruffling his ears. "Now budge up, they're showing Skyfall on Channel 4. That Daniel Craig is a fine specimen of man, let me tell you."

John made some room for her to sit down and then lowered his head into her lap. It was a comfortable position but the scent was all off - he had come to associate this position with being drenched in Sherlock's scent. Mrs Hudson's smell of flowery perfume, flour and baking soda was nice but not the scent he would have preferred. Still, at least the film would distract him from worrying about Sherlock overly much. After all, he was merely doing what he did best - snooping around in other people's business.


*****


It felt decidedly odd to leave the house without John by his side. They had hardly parted since Baskerville. In fact, apart from the one time he had asked Donovan to take John to the park and the notable incident where John had decided to take Mrs Hudson for a walk, there had been not a single incident where they had gone anywhere without the other.

He spent most of the cab ride quenching down on the feeling that he had forgotten something essential.

Annoyed with himself for turning into a maudlin sentimental, Sherlock glared out of the window and tried to distract himself by deducing pedestrians, but it wasn't much fun without John there to delight in his conclusions and scold him for the more outlandish ones.

He realised he was thinking about John again and called himself to order. This was getting ridiculous!

'Focus, man!' he mentally scolded himself. The point of this trip was to walk into the building, bold as brass, and straight up to Forsythe's office to give it a very thorough inspection. Heaven only knew how many clues the Yarders had missed during their own visit to the premises. Bringing a dog along would merely have drawn unwanted attention. As it was, he was just another man in a suit on his way to the office. He even carried his laptop bag with him to complete the picture. There were several companies in the building, to the casual observer it would be impossible to tell which one he intended to visit.

The cab dropped him off right outside the door and he tipped the driver before getting out and walking into the building as if he had every right to be there.

Several other men in suits nodded at him and eyed his Belstaff with a mixture of appreciation and envy as he joined them in the lift but that was all the attention he got and they quickly turned back to their own thoughts or phones or Metros in the time-honoured tradition of the British. They didn't even seem to notice his bruised face.

The lift reached the floor he wanted and Sherlock got off with a vague mutter that may have been "Cheers" or "G'day" if you applied some imagination.

He pulled an electronic ID card out of his coat pocket and swiped it at the door lock, pleased with himself for remembering to borrow it from the victim's possessions at the lab. He would return it later with no one the wiser.

In the hustle and bustle of a work day that was just beginning and where half the employees had not yet had their coffee, no one paid him any mind and he walked straight through to the executives' offices without garnering a second glance from anyone. Perhaps once he had solved the case he would come back and give them some tips on how to increase security on their premises.

He pulled out Forsythe's keys, which he had swiped along with his card, and tried the office door. Locked. Good, that meant a higher likelihood of everything being as undisturbed as it could possibly be after the Yarders had gone through it.

Sherlock let himself in, closed and locked the door behind himself, and went to work.

He started by sitting down at the victim's desk so he could have a look around the office at all the things Forsythe would have seen every day at work and get an idea of how the man had organised himself. Sherlock started riffling through desk drawers for any interesting papers the police may have overlooked but they seemed to have been very thorough for a change. Considering all the effort he had gone to in coming here, he wasn't sure whether he approved of this sudden diligence.

The bookshelves on the walls yielded family photos with his son in pride of place, a Bible (why anyone would need a Bible in an office, Sherlock had no idea, but a quick flip through the pages revealed no hidden compartments or suspicious markings) and far too many books on business management. At least he had taken his job seriously and had been committed to his company.

Sherlock turned his attention to the drawers and filing cabinets on the wall behind the desk but these had mostly been picked clean by the Yarders. Still, he hadn't gotten his reputation by not being thorough, so he tried every single drawer. One of them gave him a bit of a fight as he tried to pull it open and he thought he heard the scrape of paper. It could be a piece of paper that had simply gotten stuck somewhere, of course, but Sherlock also hadn't gotten his reputation by assuming the most simple solution without confirming it.

He carefully pulled the drawer open halfway and reached inside, patting the sides and top.

A moment later, his fingers caught on sturdy cardboard and he smiled in satisfaction, pulling a file off the bottom of the drawer above. Some of the tape had come loose, causing one of the edges to scrape along the bottom drawer and alerting Sherlock to its presence.

"Not quite as diligent as they should have been," he murmured and flipped the file open.

He didn't manage more than a cursory glance before a noise outside the office drew his attention. Through the glass inlay on either side of the wooden door, he saw a red-haired woman giving a furtive glance up and down the hallway before she tried the door handle. It rattled but wouldn't budge and Sherlock felt a flash of gratefulness that he had thought to lock it behind him.

Something about the woman seemed familiar. He could have sworn he had seen her before. Usually, John was the one who remembered names and faces so Sherlock wouldn't have to, but the sight of her rang a faint bell and as he ducked behind the desk to avoid being seen if she tried to peek through the glass and a gap in the blinds he quickly ran through his previous visit here.

Had she been important? He frowned.

A moment later, he could hear her steps moving away from the office and decided he was done here. Shoving the file into his coat, he went and unlocked the door before stepping out into the hallway. He straightened his coat, locked the door behind himself and walked the five steps down the hallway to the office of Forsythe's right hand. Perhaps she had any new insights to offer this time around.


*****


"Mr Holmes," Mrs Munkeld said, clearly caught by surprise when he entered. "I didn't expect you to come by. How did you get in here?"

He merely shrugged and took a seat. "I have a tendency to get into places I want to be in. Incidentally, your security is abysmal."

"I'll be sure to inform them," she muttered. "And I see you didn't bring your dog this time."

"I wanted to spare him London during the rush hour," Sherlock told her smoothly.

"I see. Now, can I help you with anything?"

"Has anyone entered or tried to enter your boss's office since he was killed?"

"Apart from the police, you mean?" she asked. "Not as far as I know. It has been locked this entire time and of course there's no reason to go in there. The police took all the files and his computer with them, there is nothing anyone could have wanted to get or drop off in there."

Sherlock nodded to himself and settled back in his chair.

There was a knock on the door and another woman entered, carrying a tray. "Your tea, Mrs- oh." She noticed Sherlock and blushed, brushing a strand of red hair behind her ear. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you had a visitor. Would you like me to get a second cup?"

Sherlock shook his head. "No thank you. I don't intend to stay long."

"Mr Holmes is investigating what happened to Mr Forsythe and his son, Amanda," Mrs Munkeld explained to her employee, whose eyes widened.

"Do you know who did it yet?" She asked him as she poured a cup of tea for her boss. Her hands shook, making the cup rattle on its saucer. "Everyone wants to find out who did it and why. We've been watching the news and Carol brings the paper to the office every day but there isn't any information." She bit her lip. "You don't think they'll get away with it, do you?"

"Not while I'm on the case," Sherlock said and gave the woman a cursory glance. "Have you been with the company long, Mrs -?"

"Conall, Amanda Conall," she introduced herself. "I've been working here for almost ten years."

"And yet you bring the tea," he noted.

She shrugged. "There isn't a lot going on in my department right now - the police took all our files and computers away. We've had to start building entire new databases but I haven't got the head for all this programming. And everyone needs a cup of tea sometimes."

He nodded. "So would you say you knew the Mr Forsythes well?"

"Mr Forsythe senior, yes. He was very friendly, always liked to stop for a chat. He was very busy, of course, but he never made his employees feel like they were wasting his time."

"I'm guessing from your tone that the same can't be said about his son?" Sherlock probed.

Ms Conall hesitated. "Well, no one wants to speak ill of the dead, of course-"

"But?"

She glanced uneasily at Mrs Munkeld, who waved a hand for her to continue. "Well, he was very ... abrupt. I think it was the stress of learning everything so he could take over once his father retired. It seemed to be worse these past couple of months. I've found him asleep at his desk several times and he got very short with me when he woke. I think he was embarrassed."

"Quite understandable, considering you had caught him sleeping at work."

"Oh no, sir, that wasn't during work hours," she said quickly. "I was doing overtime and it was already dark outside."

Sherlock took this information in with a slow blink. It fit with what they already knew about Benjamin Forsythe's life. Apparently having to hide the existence of a small child on top of working a stressful job hadn't done his sleeping patterns any good. Clearly he should have tried getting a dog instead. It certainly seemed to have done wonders for Sherlock's ability to get a full night's sleep.

He shook the thought off and moved to get up.

"Well, I must be off. Thank you for your cooperation."

Mrs Munkeld waved his thanks away. "Oh, it's no matter. Thank you for stopping by and giving us an update."

Sherlock wondered if they had realised that he hadn't actually said anything at all on the progress of the case but decided not to draw their attention to that. Instead, he put on his best fake smile. "My pleasure. No, don't get up, I can find my own way out. Goodbye."

He left the office with a spring in his step, feeling as if the entire mess was finally about to make sense.

As he passed the ridiculous security, he typed a quick text message to Lestrade and hit sent just as the lift arrived. It was time to solve this case once and for all.


*****


Sherlock arrived home less than three hours after he had left, which, considering the notorious London traffic, was a surprisingly short amount of time. Of course such considerations did not save him from practically being bowled over in the hallway by John, who acted more like a dog than Sherlock had ever seen before, jumping up and trying - quite unsuccessfully - to lick Sherlock's neck.

"Stop that, John," he said, leaning back a little and using both hands to fend John off. "What has gotten into you? I've only been gone for a couple of hours!"

"He's been moping about the place ever since you left," Mrs Hudson announced from the doorway to her flat, watching John's bouncing, tail-wagging excitement with a knowing smile on her face. "I could barely get him interested in a James Bond rerun and you know how John likes his Bond films."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I'm unlikely to forget it."

John calmed down a little, looking slightly puzzled by his own reaction. Sherlock decided to ascribe this surprising behaviour to this having been their first longer separation where John had not known precisely where Sherlock was - and just after the attack in the park last night, too!

He supposed the bruise on his face must be a truly alarming colour now. It said something for the apathy of the general Londoner that no one had commented on his appearance during his little trip to Forsythe's office.

"Have you been behaving?" he asked John, who was sniffing at his coat with such interest it made Sherlock wonder what scents had gotten trapped in the fabric. If only he had a nose like that! The things he might be able to deduce then. Forget about perfumes, he would probably be able to pick each of them apart and list their ingredients in order of the amount included in the production process.

"When you're back to human, you will have to tell me precisely how much you were able to smell," he told John. "I want details, John, so you better use that brain of yours and remember it all."

John gave a low rumble that sounded like reassurance, though Sherlock could not quite tell what made him think so.

"Why don't you boys go out for a bit?" Mrs Hudson suggested. "It's a lovely day and I'm sure a bit of play in the park would do you both the world of good. And when you get back we can put some ice on your face, Sherlock dear. That bruise doesn't look good."

Sherlock sighed. "Fine. John, go fetch your lead and the bag, you know which one."

John barked and scrambled up the stairs, returning a minute later with both items. He had to navigate the stairs more carefully on his way down to avoid stepping on the lead or the strap of the bag but he managed it almost effortlessly. Sherlock smiled at the sight.

"You have adapted very well, John. A little more time and no one would believe you've only had a little over a week of getting used to this body."

"And hopefully no one will ever have to question it," Mrs Hudson chimed in. "Because as far as I'm concerned, I'd much rather have our John back in the body he belongs."

"He will be," Sherlock told her, trying to sound as convincing as he could. Much as he liked John the dog, he wanted John the man back. "Come on, John, let's go for a walk."

They spent two hours in Regent's Park where Sherlock threw the tennis ball until his arm hurt and John flopped down on the ground at his feet, panting heavily and making it very clear that if Sherlock threw the ball again, he would have to bloody well go and fetch it himself. They moved to the nearest unoccupied bench to rest and people-watch.

"I meant it, you know," Sherlock told John, staring across the great expanse of the lawn. "You will get your body back, even if I have to pester Mycroft about it every single day until it happens."

John flicked one ear at him and nudged his calf with his nose. Sherlock smiled. "You could shit on the carpet in his office to make your point."

The response he got was the huff and wheeze that he knew was supposed to be a laugh. He missed John's real laugh, the one he sometimes managed to startle from him in particularly ridiculous moments with high amounts of adrenaline coursing through their bodies. It had been far too long since he had last heard it.

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to glance at the screen. "Come on, then. It seems Lestrade has the info I asked him about. Let's go to the Yard and solve this case."

He took a moment to compose an answer for Lestrade as John wagged his tail at him before standing and stretching. He turned to Sherlock with an expectant look on his face.

"I'm right behind you."

Chapter Text

Lestrade was already waiting for them, looking much too tired for a man who hadn't even had his lunch break yet.

"Well?" Sherlock asked.

The DI wordlessly handed him a file. "This is all we found. How did you know?"

Sherlock shrugged. "Found it in his office this morning."

"We took everything we could find from there. How did you manage to find anything?"

"By looking."

Lestrade glared at him. "Fine. Be that way. Don't tell us poor mortals anything."

"Wasn't planning to," Sherlock said, ignoring the biting sarcasm on purpose. "I'm going to solve this case instead, if that's all right with you."

Lestrade leaned back in his chair. "Please, don't let me stop you."

In lieu of replying, Sherlock opened the file Lestrade had handed him and flicked through it, taking in the information with a satisfied nod before pulling the file he had discovered in Forsythe's office out of his coat.

"This is the one I found," he said and dropped it onto Lestrade's desk. The information inside was identical.

"But how's that possible?" Lestrade demanded. "How did he know?"

"No idea," Sherlock told him. "My best guess would be he noticed his son was a bit more stressed than he should be. Or perhaps he found evidence of his own. Forsythe Junior was good at hiding every trace but he still made mistakes. The pacifier behind the sofa comes to mind. And parents usually know more about their children than either party would like to admit."

"So he set up a trust fund in his grandson's name," Lestrade said, indicating the files detailing said fund. "And didn't tell his wife?"

"I don't think he even told his son," Sherlock said. "Knowing his father accepted the child might have reduced his stress enough to stop him from making yet another mistake."

"What type of mistake would that be, then?"

"The kind that gets you killed."

Sherlock stepped away from the desk and started pacing. "I think Benjamin Forsythe discovered someone was siphoning money out of the company and decided to find out who. I suppose he thought if he could present his father with both the evidence for the fraud and the person responsible for it, his father would be so grateful he would forgive him his illegitimate child." He rolled his eyes. "A simple case of lack of communication that resulted in the deaths of two men who should have known better."

"So you're saying Benjamin Forsythe didn't kill his father?" Lestrade asked, frowning.

"Oh no, he did. Blunt force trauma - they met in the park, he argued against his father's plan to involve me, he shoved his father who stumbled backwards and hit his head on the tree branch lying on the ground and died. Accidental manslaughter, I believe is what you call it. Your theory was he hit him over the head with the branch, wasn't it?"

"That was the explanation that made the most sense at the time," the DI defended himself and his team.

Sherlock shrugged. "To a cynic, certainly."

Lestrade snorted. "That's rich, coming from you. Okay, so you've explained Forsythe senior. What about the son?"

"He was conducting his own investigation into the missing funds and was killed by the person responsible for the fraud," Sherlock said. "Could have solved this entire case days ago, really. I went back to the company this morning, had a look around the office and a chat with the acting CEO, Mrs Munkeld, and another member of the company. You lot only took the bookkeeping files, didn't you?"

"Yes," Lestrade confirmed. "Why?"

"Just making sure. She said there wasn't much to do in her department as the police had taken all the files, which only proves my theory. Ms Conall had a lovely new pair of diamond studs. Bit inappropriate to wear to work with everyone in mourning for the CEO and his son, isn't it? Then there is of course the fact that she tried to enter Forsythe senior's office while I was in there this morning even though she must have known it would be locked. The first time I paid the company a visit, she was standing at the reception, talking on the phone with her mother. She was speaking French and saying that she had been overlooked for promotion several times already and thought that it was highly likely she would finally get one soon. With the two company heads dead, there's certainly a staff shake-up coming. I'm afraid she'll not get to enjoy it very much from prison."

Sherlock snapped his mouth shut, a nice contrast to Lestrade's open-mouthed astonishment.

"I'll say. That is quite the tale. And you got all that from an overheard phone conversation and a pair of diamond earrings?"

"Hm, I also had Mr James compile bios on all his former employees and he noted her exceptional skills at maths. Shuffling the numbers would have been easy for her."

"And you didn't think to mention any of this any time sooner?" Lestrade asked, sounding a bit miffed.

"As I just said, I didn't have any evidence until this morning. You should have seen her face when she asked me if we had made any progress on the case. Almost poured her boss's tea next to the cup, she was so nervous."

Lestrade gave in. "Fine. You do realise that none of this is sufficient evidence for us to arrest her, yes?"

"Yes of course. Which is why I plan to confront her with my theory to see how she will react. I walked past her desk on my way out - like many office workers, she keeps running shoes under her desk so she can wear them on her way home and her possessions were in one of those neat backpacks joggers use. My guess is she'll be running home from work, so all we have to do is find her address and wait for her there. Depending on her reaction, we can decide what to do next."

Donovan, who had so far been listening quietly with a doubtful expression on her face, snorted. "Well, as long as we have such a detailed plan..."

"Detailed plans have a much higher chance of failing," Sherlock told her. "Not having a solid plan leaves us with much more room to adapt to sudden changes in the situation and increases reaction times because no one has to disregard previously established plans first."

"Yes, fine, we get it," Lestrade said, holding up a hand to stop them before they could start arguing in earnest. "We'll confront her tonight, that will give us time to find out her address and get in position. It might be helpful to get a feel for the area she lives in, block off some escape routes in case she does a runner. Is that good enough for both of you?"

His tone made it clear that he would not accept anything but agreement.

Donovan and Sherlock both nodded.


*****


It was still light out when they arrived in Kennington and took up positions in a convenient communal area across the road from their suspect's flat.

John had found a nice, sturdy branch and had engaged Sherlock in a playful game of tug-of-war, much to the amusement of the Yarders, most of whom hadn't known that Sherlock knew how to play or would ever care to do so.

Naturally, he ignored the odd looks and whispered comments. It was a very quiet road with hardly any traffic, so he had taken John's lead off, secure in the knowledge that John wouldn't get himself run over - the very thought was preposterous, considering his superior hearing and human reasoning. At least John hoped that was why Sherlock let him walk free, though he suspected Sherlock had an ulterior motive. It wasn't hard to guess.

John glared as Sherlock gave the branch a particularly hard tug and bit down harder, dragging Sherlock around the area in a bizarre dance.

"Are you trying to induce motion sickness?" Sherlock asked him, panting ever so slightly. "Because if so, I have to tell you that it isn't working."

John shook his head, both to deny the accusation and to try and pull the branch from Sherlock's grasp.

Sherlock laughed.

"Are you going to keep drawing attention?" Lestrade demanded from where he sat on a bench, ostensibly reading that evening's Metro edition someone had left there.

"I'm just a man playing with his dog," Sherlock said through gritted teeth, his eyes locked on John's in a silent battle of wills. Neither was going to let go. "Meanwhile your team look like a bunch of men out for a date who have been stood up and are starting to realise they were all meant to meet the same woman. Hardly inconspicuous, wouldn't you say? The only one who seems to be getting into the spirit of acting casually is Sergeant Donovan over there."

He nodded at Donovan, who sat on a bench in the last patch of sunshine, nursing a to-go cup of coffee and appearing utterly engrossed in her phone. With her sensible shoes and jeans, she looked like she had never even heard of police operations.

John noticed Sherlock was distracted by the conversation and gave a vicious tug, wrenching his head to the left and putting some of his weight behind it. The branch slid from Sherlock's grasp and they both stumbled. John gave a muffled bark of triumph around the branch in his mouth. He wondered if he looked half as smug as he felt.

"Well done," Sherlock told him, moving forward and crouching down to ruffle the side of his neck and his head with both hands. "Good boy."

John dropped the branch in favour of licking Sherlock's bare wrist where he could reach it, then moved to press his forehead against Sherlock's chest, enjoying the sensation of his hands running through his fur.

He thought he wouldn't mind staying like this forever, safe and sound and feeling ... loved.

John blinked. Now that was ... that was ...

"Here she comes," Lestrade said under his breath, turning a page of his paper.

Sherlock adjusted his position so he could rise quickly and John took half a step back and the moment was gone.

He could hear quick steps approaching and turned his head to see a woman in her thirties jogging down the road towards the house opposite them.

"Wait until she gets her keys out," Sherlock said softly. "John, you know what to do if she runs. And for god's sake, mind the traffic."

John gave a reassuring rumble and leaned forward to snuffle at Sherlock's neck just below his ear. He thought he might actually hear the fine hairs there stand to attention. This was definitely something to further investigate later on.

But for now they had a potential killer to catch.

Amanda Conall reached her front door on the opposite side of the street with barely a glance in their direction and unslung her backpack to search for her keys. While she was busy, Lestrade put his paper aside, stood and crossed the street.

"Ms Amanda Conall?" he asked when he had almost reached her.

She looked up. "Who wants to know?"

"Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, Scotland Yard. I have some-"

She threw her backpack at him and bolted.

"Get her, John!" Sherlock shouted.

He didn't need to be told twice.

It had been ages since he had gotten to chase a criminal and here was a prime individual, her muscles still warm and loose from her run home. She still had a lot of strength left and there were no signs of exhaustion as she tore down the street.

Unfortunately for Ms Conall, she only had two legs and hadn't been bred as a hunter.

John all but flew down the road after her, hearing the shouts of the Yarders and several pairs of running feet, Sherlock's easily discernible as the ones in front of the group.

Reassured that his friend was nearby and probably having a lot of fun - Sherlock enjoyed chases - John put on another burst of speed just as Conall veered off the street and into a park. The soft earth and grass gave John the grip he needed and he closed in quickly. He could hear the swish of her ponytail and every gasping breath she took. He was barely running at full capacity now and having the time of his life. And then, finally, he was close enough.

John lunged and hit her in the back, just enough to make her stumble and fall. He managed to avoid crashing into her and performed a 1-80 almost on the spot, giving her a dangerous growl that made her think twice about getting up from where she lay on the ground, panting.

Sherlock reached them half a minute later, the Yarders following at varying distances. It was Sally who arrived first, grinning at the sight of John and Sherlock standing over the heavily breathing suspect.

"Ms Conall, you are under arrest on suspicion of the murder of Benjamin Forsythe."

John sat down, tongue lolling, and wagged his tail at Sherlock as his friend bent down and patted his heaving chest. "Well done."

"We should keep him," Lestrade wheezed. "It'd make catching criminals so much easier."

"I'm not sharing," Sherlock informed him calmly. "And need I remind you that this is only temporary? He'll be back where he belongs in no time. And besides, doesn't the Yard have its own dog team? Perhaps you should consider calling them in more often."

"Nah, they're only used for the big stuff," Lestrade said, taking a couple of deep breaths to recover. "Geez, I need to do more sports."

"Indeed," Sherlock muttered. John headbutted his leg in admonishment.

They dragged Amanda Conall up off the ground and led her away in cuffs. Now that her flight had been brought to a sudden end, all the fight seemed to have gone out of her.

"I believe you can get a full confession from her," Sherlock told Lestrade. "I've certainly given you more than enough to go on. Make a couple of assumptions and she'll be all too happy to correct you and give you the whole sorry tale. I suspect you might find the missing money on a bank account in France."

The DI nodded. "I don't intend to let her slip away now we've got her." He sighed. "And I still have to inform Mrs Forsythe of her grandson. Perhaps at least one good thing will come out of this."

They parted ways with nods of acknowledgement. Lestrade returned to where his team was waiting for him and Sherlock and John went the other way, deciding by unspoken agreement to take the shortcut through the park and find a cab home on the other side.


*****


The cab dropped them off outside 221b at half past nine after they had spent a solid hour and a half moving at a snail's pace through what was ironically called 'traffic' and more aptly nicknamed 'a bloody nuisance'.

Both Sherlock and John were thoroughly fed up by the time they got out, and also rather hungry, which might have added to their general bad mood.

"I rather envy you," Sherlock grumbled as he poured food into John's bowl and also over John's nose when he stuck it into the bowl far too soon in his eagerness. "I can't be bothered to cook tonight."

John grunted into his bowl, clearly seriously questioning whether Sherlock even knew how to cook.

"Oh, shut up and eat," Sherlock told him and dialled his favourite Indian takeaway. What he needed now was a proper Chicken Tikka Masala and a pile of naan.


*****


By the time Sherlock had placed his order and slumped down on the sofa to wait, John had emptied his bowl and licked his muzzle to make sure every last morsel was gone.

He didn't hesitate at all before trotting into the sitting room and hopping onto the sofa to claim his customary position between Sherlock's long legs. The idiot hadn't even taken off his coat yet!

John sniffed the thick wool and nudged at it with his nose.

"Hmm, I'll take it off when I have to get up," Sherlock muttered. "I might even be persuaded to hang it on its hook."

Considering how fastidious Sherlock was about his clothes, John rather thought he was exaggerating the possibility of this not happening.

He hummed a reply into Sherlock's abdomen and snuggled deeper into the couch.

Sherlock made a choked noise. "John, I'd appreciate if you could try not to move that much in this position."

John stilled and felt Sherlock relax again. Of course that was the moment the doorbell rang.

"Oh for god's sake," Sherlock moaned and got up, sliding out from under John's head with a sigh of annoyance that was badly belied by his rumbling stomach.

John listened to his progress down the stairs and his short exchange with the delivery boy ("Here's your foo-" - "Here's your money. Goodbye.") and the sound of the door slamming before Sherlock returned up the stairs.

"That was surprisingly fast," Sherlock observed. "They finally fixed their second scooter. I suppose Mrs Patel finally made her husband cough up the money."

He opened one of the kitchen drawers and rummaged around in between the tongue depressors, scalpels, bottle brushes, pH test strips and phone chargers until he unearthed a fork. He had already shovelled the first forkful into his mouth by the time he made it back to the sofa.

John sat up to make room for him and then waited expectantly in case Sherlock might be willing to share. After a couple of minutes, he gave up and flopped back down on the sofa. Clearly tonight was one of those rare times where Sherlock was actually hungry enough to finish his meal.

"Do you know, I think I might actually go to bed," he said when he had finished his dinner. "This normal sleep cycle is really messing me up, John. I blame you for all of it, I hope you are aware of that."

John gave a good-natured yip. He was fairly certain that of all the people out of their combined acquaintance, not one of them would agree that a normal sleep cycle was a bad thing.

They curled up in Sherlock's bed in their usual positions and John listened to Sherlock drift off to sleep and wondered how long this normal schedule would continue to hold.


*****


Sherlock watched John race after the ball, ears flapping and fur slicked back by his own speed, the early-morning sunshine glinting on his reddish coat. He couldn't remember the last time something had brought him this much joy or when he had last felt this content. It felt as if he and John had grown so much closer since Baskerville, as if they understood one another so much better now than they ever had before. Perhaps it was true that words muddled everything and turned communication into a mighty beast full of potential misunderstandings. Certainly Sherlock didn't think he and John had had a single serious argument since John's transformation.

He could admit that most of that was probably due to the fact that John was, quite literally, in no shape to yell at him over things that were decidedly Not Good, but he had other ways of expressing himself now. He certainly knew how to growl or otherwise express his opinion.

John came running back to him, the tennis ball grasped in his teeth. He looked ... happy, Sherlock thought, feeling a little amazed. He looked like a happy, healthy dog who was overjoyed to be playing with his owner. And yet, somehow, he also very much looked like John, whose face had this way of lighting up when he looked at Sherlock sometimes. He missed that.

John dropped the ball into his waiting hand and Sherlock placed it in the ball launcher and threw it again, trying to make the ball fly as far as he could. John was off like a bolt of ginger lightning.

Another dog came running in from the left, a black Labrador who seemed to have been unable to resist the sight of the ball flying across the lawn.

Sherlock watched carefully, muscles tense in case he had to go over there and intervene.

He watched as the two dogs circled one another, sniffing each other and wagging their tails. And then ... Sherlock watched in amazement.

They played.

Chasing one another around the lawn, nipping at heels and tail tips and fighting playfully.

He hadn't known John could communicate with normal dogs. The one time he had asked John about it, his answer had been rather vague. Perhaps John hadn't known either, seeing as they had kept away from other dogs as much as possible.

Sherlock looked around for the lab's owner and exchanged a nod with the woman who was just approaching him.

"Lovely to see them get along, isn't it?" she said, stopping a couple of feet from him. "That's a gorgeous breed you have there, though I don't believe I recognise it."

"Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever," Sherlock told her. "His name is Johnny."

She smiled. "Snicket seems to like him well enough." She turned to eye Sherlock curiously. "I haven't seen you around here before."

"We're not regulars. I'm only looking after him for a while." And how he wished that while would both be over soon and never end.

"Not much of a chore, is it?"

"None at all," he agreed, smiling as John tackled the other dog - Snicket - to the ground.

His phone rang.

"Excuse me," he muttered and pulled it out of his pocket, checking the caller ID.

It was Mycroft. Sherlock's stomach dropped.

"Yes?"

"We have a solution. I'll send a car to Baker Street to pick you up and take you to Baskerville. Bring John along and hopefully we'll have this all resolved by tonight."

Sherlock stared across the lawn at John, who was rolling around in the grass with every sign of enjoyment, all four paws in the air.

"Sherlock?" Mycroft's tone suggested he had been trying and failing to get his attention and was growing concerned.

"Hm? Yes, yes, we'll be there. We're in the park. Not that you need me to tell you that. Give us some time to get home and pack. I imagine John might like having some clothes at hand. That was surprisingly quick."

He could almost hear his brother's fingers drumming on the table - a bad habit Mycroft had been trying to break for years.

"Apparently reversing a known process is much easier than inventing an entirely new one," he said. "They tested it on some isolated cells with very good outcomes, or so I'm told. I'll meet you there and if anyone has been lying about their progress, we will know."

Sherlock nodded. "Agreed. We will see you in a couple of hours."

He hung up before his brother could say anything else and gave a sharp whistle.

John stood, shook the grass from his fur and came trotting towards him.

"Time to go?" the woman asked as her own dog barrelled towards her for a bit of petting.

Sherlock nodded. "Yes. We have some other engagements today. Have a good day."

"Bye," she said, petting John's back as he came to sniff her legs.

They turned towards home and Sherlock waited until they were out of hearing range before he spoke. "Mycroft called. Apparently, his scientists have had a breakthrough. He's sending a car as we speak. We're going back to Baskerville."

Chapter Text

John followed Sherlock home, reeling from Mycroft's news but still riding a strange high from playing with that other dog, who hadn't seemed bothered by him at all. Perhaps he had adapted so well that even other dogs were fooled now.

And just as he had found out about that and started to really enjoy himself, it was all over. Or would be, anyway. He didn't know quite how to feel about that.

Relief, certainly. He had no intention of spending the rest of his life in the wrong body. But there was also a strange sort of wistfulness and he realised how relaxing being a dog had been. There had been nothing for him to worry about - bills, taxes, food, work, the annoying little tasks of day-to-day life ... all gone. He had been able to simply trust Sherlock to do the right thing and provide him with everything he needed, and Sherlock had stepped up to the role without batting an eye, doing everything he could to make sure John had whatever he needed.

With the wistfulness came trepidation - he didn't like the idea of returning to Baskerville and he certainly didn't enjoy the thought of being poked and prodded and perhaps injected with something. Being a dog was not his preferred choice, but at least it was a stable state of being and didn't come with any potential side effects. There was only so much that could go wrong with being a dog but quite a lot of things that could go wrong with being transformed from a dog back into a human. John would quite like to have his own body intact and the correct shape, thank you very much.

He stayed close to Sherlock as they walked so the wings of the Belstaff brushed against his side with every step Sherlock took.

"Mycroft said we'll hopefully have you back in your own shape by this evening," Sherlock told him. "I'll be there and keep an eye on the scientists and if anything seems off, we'll stop the whole process."

John whined in agreement, feeling slightly reassured. Of course nothing would get past Sherlock. And Mycroft was too proud to have some lowly scientist undermine his words. If Mycroft said it would be done then that was what would happen. He might not like the older Holmes brother much, but he trusted in his pride and self-importance.

Once back in 221b, they went straight up to John's room and Sherlock dragged his duffel bag into the middle of the room. "I completely forgot to unpack this," he said. "Oh well, it seems Mrs Hudson did it at some point. Are there any particular clothes you want to have?"

John shook his head and sat down, watching as Sherlock opened the closet and started pulling out clothes. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt and jumper, one pair of pyjamas in case they had to stay overnight, a pair of socks and pants. John supposed he should have been embarrassed at the thought of Sherlock rooting around his underwear, but the fact was that he had done so ages ago and had probably already deduced what type of underwear John was wearing based on the way he walked or something.

"We'll pack your jacket as well and maybe a scarf. Is there anything else you want?"

John pawed at the towels.

"Right. Towels and shower things. A toothbrush as well, I suppose."

John thought about brushing his teeth with a longing he would have previously only experienced when thinking of a good night's sleep and maybe a nice long holiday somewhere warm and sunny. He nodded decisively.

Sherlock grabbed the bag and they migrated downstairs into the bathroom so Sherlock could collect John's things from there.

"Anything else?" Sherlock asked as they returned to the living room and he threw John's phone and charger on top of the rest and closed the bag.

John shook his head.

"Good. I'll just pack my own things. Let me know if you remember anything else."

He disappeared into his bedroom and John could hear him rummaging around, packing his things. He would have bet his right paw that at least one notebook would find its way into the bag.

Mrs Hudson came out of her flat and up the stairs. "Sherlock, there's one of your brother's cars waiting outside. Are we expecting him?"

"No, Mrs Hudson!" Sherlock called back. "John and I are going back to Baskerville. If all goes well, he'll be back in his real body in time for breakfast."

"Oh! How wonderful!" She clapped her hands together before moving to ruffle John's fur. "Oh, you must be so excited, John! And worried, I bet, what with these people experimenting on you. Never fear, love, I'm sure Sherlock won't let anything happen to you."

John whined at her and licked her hand, wagging his tail.

"Do you know, I think I will rather miss having a dog around the house," Mrs Hudson said. "At least one as intelligent as you. We should take one last picture ... Now, where is my camera...? Oh yes, on the mantelpiece. Sherlock, come here!"

"Huh?" He dragged his bag down the hall and dumped it next to John's by the door. "What have you come up with now?"

"I just thought it would be nice to have one last picture of the two of you like this," she said. "You make such a lovely pair."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "If you must."

He crouched down next to John, who sat up straight, his floppy ears slightly perked, and put his arm around him.

"Smile!" Mrs Hudson ordered, holding up the camera.

Sherlock smiled and John panted happily, tongue lolling as comically as he could.

"Fantastic! Thank you, boys. Now off you go and come back in one piece."

"We'll certainly try our best," Sherlock promised. "Don't worry, Mrs Hudson, I won't let any harm come to him."

"You're a good boy," she said and patted his cheek. "Now be off with you and good luck!"

She ruffled John's fur one last time as Sherlock picked up their bags and then they were down the stairs and out the door and getting into the car.

John hopped onto the seat next to Sherlock and put his head on his lap as soon as Sherlock had fastened his safety belt, mimicking their position on the long and hellish ride back home from Baskerville.

"Well, I must say the drive is already much improved this time around by a notable lack of Mycroft in the same car," Sherlock observed, stretching his legs in the spacious back-seat with a sigh. "Perfect. I suggest you get some sleep, John. We'll be on the road a while."


*****


John hopped out of the car with a huff of relief. Three and a half hours in a car were simply three hours too much for his liking. It had left him with too much time to think and to worry.

He didn't much like being back at the Baskerville military facility, though. The scent of asphalt and uniforms, of oil and gunpowder and burlap, was associated with too many uncomfortable memories.

The only thing that might brighten his mood was -

Sherlock got out of the car behind him, looked around and caught sight of a platoon marching towards the barracks. His breathing audibly stuttered. If John were human, he would have snickered.

Corporal Lyons, the same man who had met them on their last visit, was already waiting for them and John huffed a laugh at the way the young soldier eyed Sherlock like a child would a piece of candy. Sherlock, on the other hand, seemed to have remembered himself and John's senses and was noticeably reigning himself in as the Corporal saluted.

"Welcome, Mr Holmes. Major Barrymore and Mr, uh, Holmes are expecting you."

"I should hope so," Sherlock said. "Lead the way, Corporal. Come along, John."

They did as they were told, the hierarchy of their little group established with no trouble.

"Is he likely to be a threat?" Lyons asked, nodding at John. Clearly he wasn't used to dogs walking around without a lead and maybe a muzzle.

"Does he look like a threat?" Sherlock asked in return.

John attempted to look as adorable and harmless as he could when Lyons glanced at him. "No, sir. But this is Baskerville. If I judged anything here by the way it looked, we would all be in a world of trouble."

"Ha. Good point," Sherlock conceded. "Not to worry, though. John will only turn lethal if anyone tries to do either of us harm."

John thought this was a good moment to yawn and display his teeth. Lyons got the message. Apparently, so did Sherlock, who winked at John behind Lyons' back and grinned.

They entered the building and marched down several halls before entering the lift. John felt like he was going back in time. He only hoped he would come out of this in his actual body.

As the lift doors closed, John sat down next to Sherlock and felt marginally better when Sherlock put his large hand on his head, a tangible reminder of his presence, reassuring and comforting. They would get through this.

He listened to the lift descending into the sub-basement, trying to pick out any sound from the stories they passed. There was nothing. Whoever had soundproofed the place had certainly done a proper job of it.

Finally, they reached their destination and the doors opened, allowing them to enter the glaringly white laboratory.

An array of scientists was bustling about and all of them turned and stared at them as they walked past. John could feel himself becoming the centre of attention and hated it. He could hear people muttering to each other about motion fluidity and balance, coordination and reaction times.

He flattened his ears to his skull and glared at them, hoping they would get the message.

"Don't mind them, John," Sherlock murmured. "We'll have a nice long talk with Mycroft and Major Barrymore and until then they can natter on as much as they like. As long as they manage to return you to your own body, all of this will be worth the trouble."

John sighed but gave in - Sherlock did have a point there.

Lyons led them through another couple of hallways and into another lift and up at least two levels and then into a small conference room.

The hierarchy became clear the moment they stepped in and found Mycroft sitting at the table and Major Barrymore standing to attention with the expression of a man who is not very happy but knows better than to say so. John could smell the fear radiating off him. It was a sign of how terrifying Mycroft Holmes could be that Barrymore actually relaxed a little at the sight of Sherlock.

John could sympathise. There were very few circumstances under which being alone in a room with Mycroft was the preferable alternative to ... literally anything else.

"Ah, Sherlock, John. How good of you to join us," Mycroft said, somehow making it sound as if they had made him wait on purpose.

"We can't all arrive in helicopters," Sherlock replied. "And I'm sure you've had one of your minions track our car's progress. Or did you actually do it yourself?"

Mycroft smiled a supercilious smile. "I hardly have the time to track your every move, brother mine. I'd never get anything done."

"And yet you try."

John barked before they could really get started. If he waited until the Holmes brothers had finished arguing, they would starve to death.

"Yes of course. My apologies, John," Mycroft said, peering down at him. "How are you doing?"

John huffed and whined and wagged his tail.

"Well enough but he would prefer to be back in his own body," Sherlock translated. "Obviously."

"Quite understandably. I see my brother has been looking after you well. Is that grass in your fur?"

"John thought it might be a good idea to roll about on the lawn in the park just as you called," Sherlock said. "He had a bath two and a half days ago."

Mycroft curled his lips, clearly disturbed by the idea of anyone doing something so disgraceful as rolling about in soft grass and having a good time. "Very well. We shall certainly try to have this all sorted out as soon as possible. The team has made some promising progress and experimented on isolated cells with very good outcomes."

"How safe is the process?" Sherlock demanded. "John is a dog, not a guinea pig. I will not have him treated as such."

"Never fear, brother. My scientists assure me the experiments were quite enough evidence for them to feel confident in their doings. They will return John to his own body with a minimum of effort. Considering the speed of his previous transformation, it shouldn't even take all that long."

"Well, if they fail in some dramatic and potentially harmful way, I will make them suffer in ways even their twisted minds could never have imagined," Sherlock said calmly.

Mycroft's lips curled. "Faced with motivation such as this, I am certain they will find a way to succeed."

John wished he could feel half as confident.


*****


Sherlock stood with his arms crossed, keeping a watchful eye on the scientists who were measuring and weighing John and clearly having trouble adjusting their minds to the concept of a dog who could understand their every word perfectly well.

"You don't have to use dog commands," Sherlock snapped for the up-tenth time. "Just ask him nicely, for heaven's sake."

The young man looked up at him, then back at John, who was sitting on a table in the middle of the lab with an extremely patient expression on his face.

"My apologies. Would you be so kind as to lift your left front paw?"

John did and the young man examined his toes and claws carefully. "Have these been cut recently?"

"Two days ago," Sherlock supplied. "I cut off about a centimetre. In fact-" He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an evidence bag, "-I have the clippings here."

John would have liked to pretend he was surprised at this ulterior motive to keeping his claw clippings. As it was, he merely gave Sherlock an exasperated look.

"Don't worry," Sherlock said to him. "I also collected some fur samples."

John rolled his eyes.

There were some more measures and a teeth examination, which John found annoying and rather pointless. Why would they want to look at his teeth when he was unlikely to have them for much longer?

It was all very odd and he had a feeling that half of these examinations were simply being done in order to reassure him. If that was indeed the goal, they failed miserably.

He endured all the prodding and poking, though he flattened his ears and growled when they pulled out the needles.

"Sorry, John, but I'm afraid you'll have to let them draw a little bit of blood," Sherlock muttered. "We do want them to check if their procedure will work on your entire body by first attempting it on some of your cells."

John sighed and gave in, privately satisfied to notice that the young scientist drawing the blood was being very careful with the needle and also trying to stay out of the immediate reach of John's teeth. It was oddly flattering to be considered dangerous - being a floppy-eared ginger dog of medium hight who was called "adorable" and "cute" at every opportunity by everyone who saw him had been nice enough but sometimes a guy just wanted to be considered a threat, even when he was a dog.

'I wish they had turned me into something actually threatening' John thought. 'A tiger would have been nice.'

But then again, a dog was an easy animal to find a cover story for. Explaining a tiger in their sitting room might have required a bit more suspension of disbelief on behalf of the Yarders.

Far too soon, all the examinations had been completed and all the samples collected and sent to the next room for further testing.

And then, much faster than John with his personal insight into the sluggish pace of medical testing for the NHS would have expected, the lead scientist returned with a satisfied and uncomfortably eager expression on her face. "All tests have been completed to our satisfaction. We are now ready for the procedure."

'You may be ready,' John thought. 'But I am not.'

But of course that didn't matter.


*****


Sherlock stayed close by his side as they led him into a specially constructed sterile chamber. Apparently they were going to forego the whole 'stumbling over a table and crashing to the floor with a collection of vials and expensive medical equipment' this time around.

John breathed in Sherlock's reassuring scent and focused on his heartbeat which was barely elevated - clearly Sherlock was forcing himself to stay as calm as possible, knowing full well that John would be able to hear and smell any sign of unease coming from him immediately.

He had to admire his friend for his iron tight control over his emotions, though he no longer believed it was in any way due to Sherlock not having any. No, if recent events had taught him anything at all, it was that Sherlock was overcompensating for too many emotions rather than a lack of them.

A tediously long list of instructions followed, all of which starting with 'Do not' and boiling down to 'Just stay right here and don't move'.

John yawned to demonstrate his opinion on that but all the fuss was starting to make him nervous. He could feel his stomach clench with unease even as the scientists bemoaned their inability to hook him up to any device that would measure his vital signs for fear of disrupting the process of the change.

He barely listened to their explanation of what they were intending to do, too focused on trying to keep his breathing and heart rate at normal levels.

Sherlock crouched down in front of him and ruffled his fur one last time. "See you in a couple of minutes, John. If it helps, you have been a very good dog."

John wanted to tell him he had been a very good owner but lacked the words, so he licked Sherlock's hands and pressed his nose to Sherlock's throat instead, breathing in a full dose of his scent one last time. The knowledge that he wouldn't be able to smell this scent and hear this heart from across the flat anymore hit him like a punch in the gut.

Sherlock seemed to have some trouble detaching himself from him, too, and they stayed like that for a moment, one large hand cupping the back of John's head and holding him close.

"If you are quite finished," Mycroft said from the doorway.

They both turned to glare at him but Sherlock let go, rose and stepped back. "Quite. See you in a bit, John. How about we get some dinner from Angelo's on our way back to celebrate?"

John barked in agreement. Proper food! He'd be looking forward to a good Carbonara until this entire ridiculous procedure was done.

The two Holmes brothers lingered by the door, watching hawk-eyed as the scientist who had overseen most of the tests carefully injected the cure into John's front leg, at precisely the same spot where he had cut himself in the accident that had transformed him.

John eyed the needle doubtfully but decided to try and stay optimistic. It had been a very quick process last time.

The scientist backed out of the room and closed the door, sealing John in the chamber on his own.

He sat and waited, painfully aware that Sherlock was standing on the other side, unable to interfere or even see what was happening.

John waited.

And waited.

And then, from one second to the next, everything went black.


*****


Sherlock thought he hadn't even felt that helpless when he had rounded the lab table to find that John had been turned into a dog. Hell, he hadn't even felt that helpless when he had found John at the pool, strapped to a bomb and at the mercy of Moriarty, of all people. At least back then he had had a gun and been able to do something.

There was nothing he could do now, nothing but stand there and wait, staring at a too-white door and hoping fervently that John would come out of this all right.

"How long is this supposed to take?" he asked.

The assorted scientists standing around barely paid him any attention, muttering to themselves and writing calculations and notes on their notepads - a bit belatedly in Sherlock's opinion.

"I'm sure he will be fine," Mycroft said, answering the question Sherlock had not dared to ask. His voice was calm but Sherlock could see the whites of his brother's knuckles where his hands were wrapped around the handle of his umbrella.

Did Mycroft understand how much depended on this? Did he realise that, for some strange reason he had no wish to examine, Sherlock's entire being was bound and tied to the person behind that door? Did he understand that Sherlock had no intention of returning to his former life if anything happened to John?

He hoped not. Mycroft might try to stop him. Then again, if Mycroft did know, he would have made it very clear to the Baskerville lot that failure was not an option.

Sherlock hoped they had gotten the message.

He realised his palms were sweaty. Worse, his hands were shaking. He could still feel an echo of John's coarse-but-soft fur, could feel his warm breath on his neck and the cold, damp press of his nose on his skin. The thought of losing his dog was painful. The thought of losing John was unbearable.

He was panicking, there was no other explanation for this, no way of talking around it. His breath was coming too fast and his pulse was sky-rocketing and there was enough adrenalin in his veins to keep an entire platoon alert and ready to fight.

Clothing rustled and a moment later, Mycroft laid a hand on his forearm and gave a slight squeeze. It was an almost unprecedented expression of brotherly concern. Coming from Mycroft, it was equivalent to a bone-crushing full-body hug.

Sherlock stared down at the hand on his arm as if it was some strange new species he had just discovered, tried to focus enough to read all of Mycroft's day in his perfectly manicured nails and gently splayed fingers, and couldn't concentrate on anything but the rising terror in his chest and the warm pressure on his arm that was the only thing holding him in place.

"He will be fine," Mycroft repeated.

Sherlock choked out a breath, not sure if it had been supposed to be a laugh or not.

He hadn't even realised how terrified he had been of this moment until it arrived.

Sherlock opened his mouth to say ... something, but couldn't find the words.

Luckily, he didn't have to, for a moment later air hissed as the pressure lock was released and then the door opened and Mycroft's grip on his arm turned to steel.

"Let them check," he said quietly. "John will not want you to see him weak and bare on the floor. Let them see if he is conscious and give him something to wear."

He was right, of course he was, but Sherlock felt close to vibrating right out of his brother's grip and rushing into that room.

Standing there, in the endless seconds of uncertainty, of not knowing, Sherlock allowed himself to admit the reason for his fear, the answer to the question of why even breathing without John there seemed preposterous, why he would rather have John the dog than no John at all. At least here, in the privacy of his mind, he was free to admit the truth.

All the air rushed out of his lungs and he could feel himself swaying where he stood.

When the scientists started shouting in excitement and rushing about the place, he was only distantly aware of it.

After an endless minute, the lead scientist approached them.

"Mr Holmes, sir?"

"Report," Mycroft ordered.

"The transformation is complete, sir. Subject is alive and responding to stimulus. We are waiting for him to regain full consciousness and will then give him something to wear before performing some more tests to make sure everything is functioning as it should."

Sherlock could breathe again.

Chapter Text

Sherlock waited precisely long enough for John to be alert enough to drag on pants and a lab coat someone handed him before he barged into the room.

"John!"

And there John was, sitting on the floor, looking tired and a bit dazed but in full possession of all his limbs in the correct shape and proportion.

"I'm fine," he muttered. The words seemed heavy in his mouth, as if he were drunk. "My head hurts like hell, though."

"He probably hit his head on the floor when the transformation started," someone said but Sherlock didn't even pay them enough attention to figure out who was talking. He kept all his attention on John, tracing the familiar lines of his face and searching for any inconsistencies.

"Well?" John asked, one corner of his mouth turning up in a vague smile. "Do I look like I should?"

His voice sounded husky, as if he had suffered a terrible cold. His vocal chords were clearly still adjusting.

"I'm not sure about the ginger hair," Sherlock said, deadpan.

John's eyes widened and his hand flew to his head. "What?!"

Sherlock burst out laughing, feeling almost hysterical with relief. "It's fine. You look just like you did before the transformation. Incredible."

Now that John was out of danger and back to his correct body, Sherlock felt the first stirrings of curiosity for the process.

"Hm, I still have my scars, too," John husked and cleared his throat several times until someone got the point and handed him a glass of water. "Thanks." He drank a few sips and when he spoke again, his voice sounded much better. "Didn't think I'd get those back, actually. Could have done without them, really."

Sherlock snorted. "I'll bet. They're yours, though, and you have earned each and every one of them. It would be neither fair nor do you a service to take them from you."

"If you say so," John grumbled. "Still, a man can be vain every once in a while. And get that thing out of my ear," he snapped at an overeager scientist who had used his distraction to try and take his temperature. "Just because I'm not a dog anymore doesn't mean I won't bite."

Sherlock grinned and allowed the relief to sweep through him. John was fine.

A moment later, Mycroft came in.

"Ah, John. It is good to see you in your correct body again. I take it the procedure went well?"

"Better than I expected," John told him. "Thank you for making this a priority."

"Consider it the correction of a terrible mistake," Mycroft said. "And of course you will be thoroughly compensated for your trouble."

He waved away any and all protests and simply continued speaking. "Now, I know Sherlock has packed you some clothes but I'm afraid you'll have to wait until you are back at your temporary accommodations or at least in the car outside before you can change into them."

"What?" John and Sherlock demanded in unison.

"Do you expect me to wear this instead?" John demanded, plucking at the edge of the lab coat he wore wrapped around himself like a very unusual dressing gown.

"Of course not." Mycroft waved a hand and an assistant stepped forward, carrying a carefully folded bundle of clothes. "These are for you."

They stared at the bundle in silence for a couple of seconds, each thinking the same thing.

"Why?" Sherlock demanded in a slightly strained voice.

"Do try and use your brain, Sherlock," Mycroft sighed. "The guards outside witnessed a civilian and a dog enter the facility. They will therefore expect one civilian to leave. One, not two. Therefore, the civilian, i.e. you, will be accompanied by a soldier instead."

Sherlock could almost feel his blood rushing out of his brain at the very idea.


*****


John's head was ringing, he felt half-deaf and mildly nauseous, but it hardly mattered because all he could think was that after days of wishing for his own body back, he now found himself wishing to be a dog again or to at least still have a dog's olfactory sense.

The look on Sherlock's face at the sight of the uniform was only topped by the look on his face when it became clear that John would have to wear it.

John didn't much mind but he could almost see Sherlock struggling to stay composed.

'I wonder what he smells like now' John thought and caught himself breathing in deeply through his nose. Nothing. It felt like being blind, suddenly robbed of one of the two senses he had relied on even more than his actual sight. He hadn't even realised he was doing it while he was a dog but now it became obvious that he had seen things with his eyes but relied on seeing them with his nose much more. His hearing was back to human levels, too, and he felt like people sometimes did after getting out of a plane, their ears oddly clogged after the landing and change in air pressure that went along with it. He thought he might as well be deaf now.

He realised that Mycroft was waiting expectantly. "Fine," he said because there was nothing else he could say. "But I'm changing out of it as soon as we're back at the inn. I haven't been a soldier for almost two years."

It felt like no time at all since his discharge, but at the same time he couldn't believe it hadn't been in an entirely different life.

John finally got up from the floor, stumbling a bit and instinctively trying to use all four limbs before he remembered that humans were bipeds. This would take some getting used to - again. At least he hadn't forgotten how to talk.

He accepted the bundle of clothes from Mycroft's nameless assistant - not Anthea this time - and realised that Sherlock was very carefully avoiding his gaze. He stood leaning against a lab table several feet away, talking to the lead scientist and apparently questioning her on the process used to restore John to his actual form. John himself wasn't interested in that at all. He shuddered to think what his body had gone through.

"Don't get changed just yet," one of the scientists said. John thought he might be the same one who had examined him earlier, but without his nose to confirm it he was having trouble being certain. Yet another instance where he had paid more attention to his olfactory sense than his actual eyes, even though he had thought of it as "seeing" at the time. He rather felt as if he had caught his own brain lying to him.

"Let me guess - more tests?"

The young man shrugged apologetically. "We will need to check your blood pressure and heart rate, do a full lung capacity test and perhaps get an echocardiogram, check your reflexes ..."

He trailed off when he saw the look John was giving him.

"Well, as the person inhabiting this body, I can tell you that my heart rate and blood pressure are just fine but are unlikely to stay so if you do any of these tests. And if you come anywhere near me with a needle, you will see just how good my reflexes really are."

Embarrassed silence spread through the room as various people suddenly found it prudent to hide their hands in the pockets of their lab coats.

John saw Sherlock grin like a cat that had discovered how to use a tin opener. At least one of them was enjoying this.

There was a short pause before Mycroft cleared his throat and spoke. "John, your condition is entirely untested, surely you can see that we-"

"No," John interrupted. "Sherlock didn't allow any tests to be performed on me when this lot turned me into a dog - thank you for that, by the way - and I survived that just fine, so I don't see why I would let them do it now. I'm a qualified doctor myself, if I notice anything off, I'll have Sherlock drag me to a hospital, but I won't become one of your lab rats."

He took a deep breath. "Now piss off the lot of you, I want to get dressed without people gawping at me."

They filed out, muttering and murmuring and throwing disappointed glances over their shoulders. Mycroft appeared mildly put off, possibly because people rarely told him to 'piss off' in these precise words. Well, people other than Sherlock.

The detective himself lingered, giving John a carefully questioning look.

"I'm fine," he promised. "Let's get out of here and you can ask me as many questions as you like."

Sherlock nodded and one corner of his mouth turned up. "You might regret saying that."

"I'll survive."

A quick nod and then John was blessedly alone.

He flexed his hands and did some finger exercises to remind his brain how hands worked, hoping it would improve his fine motor skills. Only when he felt less like he had paws did he shrug out of the lab coat and start putting on the camos.

Dragging on clothes was easy enough, it was just putting limbs into holes, but doing up the zip on the trousers and the buttons on both trousers and shirt took some time and a lot of cursing, but he got there in the end.

He didn't even bother with the shoe laces and simply pulled them tight and stuffed them into the shafts of his boots after pulling them on. It would do for the walk to the car.

It was an odd sensation, wearing the uniform again. He smiled when he noticed the captain's epaulettes on them. At least Mycroft knew better than to give him anything other than his correct rank. Captains were not questioned. Captains went where they pleased and ordinary soldiers saluted them and were glad to see them walk past without stopping to give them orders or do a spot inspection.

John took a moment to straighten his uniform, not at all surprised that it fit him perfectly, and then threw open the door and marched back out into the lab.

"Time to go," he said and watched as Sherlock automatically turned, took one look at him and managed a very credible impression of a statue. A moment later his gaze slid away and settled somewhere just past John's left ear. John wondered if Mycroft had put him in camos out of spite.

Sherlock turned without a word to lead the way out of the lab but John caught his arm, making him freeze. "I should probably walk in front, seeing as you're the civilian here," he said.

Sherlock nodded. "Of course, John."

John was amused to note that his friend had to clear his throat before the words would come out right.

He and Mycroft fell back and let John go first.

There was an odd tension between them as they walked back to the lift and rode up to the ground level. Mycroft swiped them through with his access card and they emerged into another hallway before they finally stepped outside. John felt a bit unsure on his feet but he was wearing camos and army boots and it was easy to find back into the rhythm of marching like a soldier.

The car they had arrived in was already waiting for them and the driver hurried around to open the door, allowing them all to pile into the expansive back seat. Mycroft's nameless assistant got in the passenger seat, already typing away on his phone. John wondered if he was related to Anthea or if phone addiction was a job requirement.

They had barely closed the doors when the car started moving and only a couple of minutes later they were past the gates.

John breathed a sigh of relief. He certainly wasn't sorry to leave this place. If he was lucky, he would never have to come back.

"Right back to the inn, please," Mycroft told the driver.

"Yes, sir."

Mycroft pressed a button and the separation window rolled up, giving the three of them a bit of privacy.

"Are you sure you are all right, John?" Mycroft inquired.

"I already said so, didn't I?" John asked. "I won't say no to some mild painkillers for my head and I feel half deaf and blind now that my hearing and sense of smell have gone back to human standards. All I want is some peace and quiet, a hot bath and a good meal."

"And you shall have all three of them," Mycroft promised. "And the change of clothes you requested. Sherlock, you are uncommonly silent."

Sherlock was staring out the window at the dramatic landscape and didn't appear to be paying any attention to him.

"I believe he is already providing me with the peace and quiet I wanted," John said pointedly.

Mycroft stayed silent for the rest of the drive and John leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes and trying to focus on the sensation of being in his own body.


*****


They reached the inn only a couple of minutes later and John awkwardly unfolded himself from the car seat and got out.

He didn't suppose the innkeepers would be glad to see them after Sherlock had so recently dragged in Lestrade to investigate a dog but they greeted them quite cordially.

"A room for the night?" Garry asked, already rummaging for a key.

"No, thank you, we need to be back in London by tonight. John here requires a room to get changed in and perhaps a bath," Sherlock said, managing to indicate John without looking at him directly.

Two pairs of eyes turned to him and took in his appearance with no little surprise. "Didn't know you were with that Baskerville lot," Garry said.

"I'm not," John told them, shrugging. "Circumstances required me to dust off my old camos. Now, how about that bath? I won't say no to a good meal either."

"Aye, take this one and take your time. We'll have something to eat ready for you when you come down."

John accepted the key from the innkeeper and his bag of clothes from Sherlock and marched up the stairs.

When he sank into the hot bath several minutes later, it felt like being reborn. His head had stopped pounding quite so much and the vertigo of being too high up was fading. He lay back and slid down until even his face was covered in water and for the first time the lack of sound felt normal rather than worrisome.

He came back up for air and after a bit of a soak started washing up properly.

By the time he climbed out of the tub, he was feeling much more human again.

He got dressed in his own clothes, having less trouble with the buttons and even tying his shoe laces this time, and regarded himself in the mirror above the sink.

Blue eyes, greying blond hair, a bit of a stubble that could be left as it was for now - he didn't trust himself with a razor just yet - but definitely his face.

Meeting his own gaze in the mirror, John quietly admitted to himself that he had not believed he would ever see his own face again.

He took several deep breaths, collected the rest of his things and carefully folded the camo before carrying it all down the stairs. He handed the discarded uniform to Mycroft's assistant and soon found himself sitting in the dining room opposite a suddenly chatty Sherlock, shovelling hot food into his mouth as if it was pure ambrosia. It was one of the few vegetarian meals John had ever ended up enjoying wholeheartedly.

He focused on his food while Sherlock talked, going on and on about the precise process of the transformation with a light in his eyes that looked disturbingly familiar.

"Don't even think about trying to replicate any of that," John told him through a mouthful of broccoli. "I never want to hear anything about Baskerville and their experiments ever again."

Sherlock huffed. "But imagine the fun we could have!"

"I think I already had enough fun to last me a lifetime," John said calmly.

Sherlock's face fell. "Fine. But I want it on record that you are a spoilsport, John."

"And if we were keeping a record, I would be happy to write it down," John said, scraping the last morsels onto his fork. "There, done. Can we please go home now?"

Sherlock jumped up as if he had only been waiting for John to ask. "Of course."

They walked out into the afternoon sunshine, leaving Mycroft - or rather, his assistant - to deal with the bill.

"I'm not riding in a car with my brother for three hours," Sherlock announced as they turned towards the parking lot.

"Do you know, I don't think you'll have to," John said, pointing towards a nearby field where a helicopter stood, looking utterly out of place.

"Oh, good." Sherlock pulled open the car door before their driver could get there. "Back to Baker Street, if you please."

"Yes, sir."

John grinned, amused by the idea of anyone calling Sherlock 'sir', and climbed into the back-seat, moving along it to make room for Sherlock.

He pulled the door closed behind himself and with the glass divider between them and the driver raised, they were finally alone.

Neither of them spoke but the tension between them could have been cut with a spoon.

Finally, when they had left Grumpton far behind, John cleared his throat.

"Sherlock?"

"Mmh?" He turned his head away from the window to face John, looking ... expectant?

"Thank you," John said. "For ... well, everything really. Looking after me."

Sherlock shrugged. "You would have done the same thing for me."

"I don't - didn't - know the first thing about dogs. I wouldn't have done as good a job of it as you."

"You would have done your best and still excelled," Sherlock insisted. "You're a natural caregiver, John, and you certainly know how to mother me. Even as a dog you still managed to make me eat and sleep at regular intervals."

"So I did," John conceded. "And I'll keep going, now that I've finally got you used to a normal schedule."

Sherlock huffed. "I highly doubt you will succeed, seeing as I am no longer required to get up and feed you or take you out for a walk."

His expression turned a bit wistful. John wondered if he had purposefully left out their sleeping arrangements in his list.

"We could still go for walks," John pointed out. "Regent's Park is exactly where we left it and if we're bored with it we can run after criminals instead."

"You will have a hard time stopping me from doing that anyway," Sherlock said.

"Bad news for the criminal classes."

They chuckled a bit and fell back into tense silence. Sherlock turned to look out the window again and John tore his gaze away from his friend's profile and pulled out his mobile. Fully charged and ready to use, of course. The Holmes brothers never left anything to chance.

He opened his text conversation with Sherlock and scrolled through the past two weeks, quickly checking on the "conversations" they had been having. He would have to read them all at some point to see what Sherlock and Mycroft's minions pretending to be John had talked about, but for now he simply wanted to check that they were there.

He had a text from Harry, barely two days old, and since John usually took his sweet time responding - if a response was necessary - she wouldn't have been tipped off by the silence on his end. Harry knew that John sometimes didn't reply for ages if he and Sherlock were in the thick of a case or if his phone had once again been destroyed or forcibly taken off him by whatever criminal had gotten the drop on him. It happened sometimes and Mycroft was usually quick to supply a replacement which then went through the distressing process of Sherlock taking it apart under his microscope to remove all the bugs before John felt comfortable using it.

John opened his sister's message with some trepidation but was relieved to find it was just a funny picture she had found online and thought he might appreciate. He sent a laughing smiley back and put his phone away.

The silence dragged on all the way to London. It felt as if, in the days they had not been able to, he and Sherlock had forgotten how to talk to each other.

Chapter Text

They reached Baker Street by early evening and the only time Sherlock had spoken had been shortly before their arrival when he called Angelo to order their usual.

The food arrived while they were just unlocking the door and the general ruckus alerted Mrs Hudson to their return.

"Sherlock, John! Oh, it is so good to see you!" She came and hugged him as if she hadn't seen him in ages. "How are you doing? I take it everything went well? My poor boy, you must be completely exhausted. I see you already have some dinner for tonight, very good."

John barely got a chance to reply to her questions so he just let her continue talking and hugged her back, content to just enjoy being able to wrap his arms around another human being and hold them close. He hadn't realised how much he had missed this. Ever since he and Sherlock had gotten over the issue of petting, there had been enough touch to keep him fully content. Now that he was human again, he couldn't help but wonder what Sherlock made of all this.

He extracted himself from Mrs Hudson and promised to tell her everything in the morning, then followed Sherlock up the stairs.

By the time he stepped into the kitchen, Sherlock had already divided the food onto two plates and even produced two glasses of wine.

"I figured you might like to celebrate," he said when John gave him a questioning look. "Freedom at last."

"Good idea," John said, smiling. "God, this smells fantastic. That dry food and dog biscuits weren't half crap to a dog's palate but I'll be glad to never see them again."

"You still managed to get enough treats and beg other people's food off of them that I'm sure you weren't in any danger of starving."

"I certainly wasn't in any danger of getting fat, even though you kept claiming otherwise," John shot back.

They grinned at each other across the table and John felt a wave of relief. Perhaps they hadn't forgotten how to talk after all.


*****


Sherlock felt himself relax for the first time since they had returned to Baskerville.

He and John were back home and arguing about semantics, clearly everything was fine.

He swirled his wine around in his glass, took a small sip and put it aside. It did feel a bit like celebrating. He could still feel the last little flutters of panic at the mere thought of all the things that could have gone wrong today. Even the long drive back to London had not been enough to help him calm down completely, though not all of that was due to the things that might have befallen John during the process of re-transformation.

Sherlock closed his eyes for a second, trying to chase the image away. He didn't want to think about those bloody camos now, or perhaps ever. At least John could no longer hear and smell every detail of his transport's response.

He could only hope that he had been sufficiently composed and neutral. Bloody Mycroft and his perfectly reasonable excuse to torture him!

Sherlock tried to refocus on his dinner before he accidentally broke something in his frustration.

It was odd, having John back in the flat. Of course he had been there all along but it had felt different, having a dog there instead of a human. Even now, Sherlock found himself looking up and being surprised by the sight of John sitting opposite him, eating Carbonara as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. After days of thinking he could never get used to John being a dog, Sherlock now discovered he had gotten used to it much faster than he could have anticipated. And now here he was, sitting opposite his very human best friend and missing the clicking sound of claws on hardwood and the warm presence of a dog at his feet.

Before he knew it, his plate was empty and John was piling dishes next to the sink and running hot water to do the washing up.

"Don't bother helping, you've done everything while I couldn't. Take a break."

Sherlock had no idea how to tell him that the last thing he wanted was to take a break.

He walked into the sitting room instead but froze about halfway to his armchair as he caught sight of the empty dog bed and the kong next to it. His shoulders dropped and he drew a deep, slightly shaky breath.

God, he missed him already.

His hands shook with the need to reach out, to touch and pet or just casually rest a hand on a furry back. His body ached to stretch out on the sofa with the warm weight of his dog between his legs and a furry head on his abdomen.

Foolish sentiment. He never should have allowed it in, never should have allowed himself to get so attached. He had always known - and hoped - that the change would be temporary, but now he found himself completely unprepared for the aching loss of his four-legged companion. He had forgotten how much this kind of loss hurt.

He must have stood there for quite some time, unmoving, staring at nothing where a dog had been, because quite suddenly there was John's hand on his arm, giving a gentle squeeze that was in no way comparable to the very same gesture coming from his brother earlier that day.

"It's odd, isn't it? I didn't think I'd miss being a dog but now that it's over I do anyway."

Sherlock tried to smile but he thought it might have come out wrong. "You do?"

"Well, I'm not going to miss having to listen to Mrs Turner's married ones getting it on," John joked. "But it wasn't all bad. I certainly miss not having to pay any bills or taxes and being able to smell people lying to me."

"Ha. I'll bet. But really, John, listening to our neighbours having intercourse?"

"It wasn't like I had much of a choice. I could hear the trains rattling in and out of Baker Street Station."

He didn't mention all the other things he had heard or smelled. They had just about managed to skirt the awkwardness and Sherlock was grateful that he didn't bring it up just now.

"You'll get used to the peace and quiet in no time," Sherlock promised.

John snorted a laugh. "What, living with you? I don't think so. There's never been any peace and quiet in this flat and I wouldn't want there to be. I'd go spare within a week."

They grinned at each other and Sherlock felt the odd melancholy dissipate a little. His dog may be gone, but his John was very much back where he belonged.

John cracked a yawn. "God, I'm shattered. I think I'll go to bed. A good night's sleep should get me back into full working order. It certainly worked a treat the first time around."

Sherlock nodded. "Will you tell me about it tomorrow?"

"Anything you want to know."

Sherlock rather thought that might be more than John would be ready to tell, so he tried for another smile. This time, it seemed more successful. "I'll try and restrain myself."

John nodded, gave his arm one last squeeze and went upstairs.

It was barely 8pm so Sherlock busied himself with one of his books and then his case notes. He wasn't tired at all yet. Instead of sleeping, he would just sit here and read his book and update his notes and not think about another night that he had spent doing calculations with John curled up by his side, his head a warm weight on Sherlock's thigh.

Night settled in fully outside and when he finally decided to give sleep a try, it was already well past midnight.

He got changed, turned off the lights and slid under the covers.

His room was horribly, glaringly empty. It was quiet as a tomb. No soft breaths next to him, no warm body holding down the blankets, no presence to tell him that he wasn't alone.

Sherlock managed to stay there for a full eighteen minutes before he gave up and migrated to the sitting room.

He didn't sleep at all.


*****


When John trudged down the stairs and shuffled into the kitchen the next morning, bleary-eyed and yawning, Sherlock was sitting at his microscope, wide awake and fully dressed. He had clearly been at it for some time already - whatever 'it' was today. John didn't quite want to know.

"Morning," he mumbled and went to the kettle and then the fridge in his usual early-morning progression.

While he waited for his toast to be done and the kettle to boil, he turned to Sherlock. "Anything on today?"

"Mmh, Lestrade wants us to stop by the Yard. Apparently there is some paperwork and he might have a small case for me to look into."

"Want me to come along?" John asked.

That got Sherlock to look up from his microscope with a puzzled expression. "Of course, John. Besides, Lestrade will be glad to see you."

The toaster popped and John deposited the warm bread on his plate. "You haven't told him yet?"

Sherlock shook his head. "I thought we might surprise him in a good way for once."

"All right then. Just let me have my breakfast and get dressed properly and we can go."

"No rush," Sherlock muttered. "He won't be expecting us for at least another hour, seeing as this is when we are usually out for a walk."

"Oh. Right." John shook his head. Of course it was and of course Lestrade would think that was what they were doing.

He suppressed another yawn. While his motor functions were back to what they should be, he had slept terribly. Last night he had been too exhausted to really think about anything and had fallen asleep quickly, but then he had awoken in the middle of the night and not had that luxury. He hadn't slept a wink for the rest of the night, just dozed on and off and thought too much.

It was a sorry state of affairs all around. At least Sherlock looked alert and bright-eyed as usual, ready to take on the world.

John ate his breakfast, drank his tea and trudged back up the stairs to get changed and finally have that shave he needed.

By the time he returned downstairs, he felt ready to face the day.

Sherlock was already waiting for him with his coat on and scarf in hand.

"Eager, are we?" John asked, smiling. "I'm really looking forward to Greg's face when he sees me."

"Let's just hope he won't betray the entire thing in his surprise," Sherlock said as John pulled on his jacket. "Perhaps I should have warned him after all."

"Don't even think about texting him now," John said, following him down the stairs. "I want it to be a surprise. It'll be nice to see someone be simply happy for a change."

Sherlock flinched. "I am happy." His voice was quiet.

"I know," John said. "That's not how I meant it. I know you're happy. But you also lost a dog. I lost that, too. It's perfectly fine to be happy about one thing and sad about another at the same time."

They shared a soft smile and Sherlock turned to flag down a cab.

The ride to the Yard passed in companionable silence. John saw Sherlock's lips twitch every now and then and wondered if he was also looking forward to seeing Lestrade's reaction. He felt his own lips curl upwards in response.

Scotland Yard looked as it always had, the usual assortment of tired Bobbies huddling in its shadow with their cigarettes and eyeing everyone with bored suspicion.

Sherlock ignored them all, of course, and John had no choice but to follow him as he strode through the doors and towards the lift.

It was quite funny to see every head turn to Sherlock as he stepped out of the lift, and even funnier to see everyone's eyes move downwards to about dog-height before their expectation turned to badly concealed disappointment, quickly followed by surprise at the sight of John.

"Oi Holmes, where have you left your dog?" Donovan asked as they walked past her desk.

"With my parents, where he belongs," Sherlock replied. "I did tell you all I would only have him for a while."

"And he's been moping about ever since," John said. "Good to see you, Sally. Come on, Sherlock, time to see Greg."

"Whom?"

"Lestrade."

"Oh."

They left an office full of disappointed officers behind, not few of whom were wondering what to do with the dog treats in their desks now.

Sherlock led the way into Lestrade's office, barging in with his usual theatrics. "Do we need to have all this paperwork?"

"And a good morning to you, too," Lestrade said without looking up from his computer. "Yes, I'm fine, thanks for asking."

"Morning Greg," John said, grinning.

Lestrade's head snapped up. "John!" He beamed. "This is a surprise. I didn't know you'd be ... uh ... back so soon."

"Felt like ages to me," John shrugged. "Came back yesterday afternoon, actually."

Lestrade nodded, looking extremely relieved. "I take it everything went well?"

"Better than expected," John said. "But I'm never doing that again."

"I'll bet," Lestrade muttered. "Anyway, it's really good to see you."

Donovan entered his office and he adjusted his next question accordingly. "Did Sherlock tell you about his dog?"

"My parent's dog," Sherlock corrected, rolling his eyes.

"He did," John confirmed. "So did Mrs Hudson. And half of Scotland Yard seems to have been looking forward to seeing him today. I'm sorry to say I missed him but I hear he was exceptionally clever."

"Quite right," Sherlock agreed, an amused glint in his eye. "Did everything I told him to."

"Hm, we should borrow him again so at least one individual in our flat will listen to me," John shot back.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lestrade bury his face in his hands to hide his laughter as Sherlock gave an outraged huff.

"Well, it's really good to have you back, John," Lestrade said. "I mean, he's usually unbearable without you there, so it was a nice surprise to see Sherlock act like a human being with that dog, but there's no need to put it to the test."

"You do realise I'm still in the room and can hear you perfectly well, don't you?" Sherlock demanded, crossing his arms. "I came here under the apprehension that you had a case and some tedious paperwork for us, but apparently you merely wanted to, as they say, take the piss."

John laughed and patted his arm. "Yes, that's why we came here. And Lestrade, with heretofore unknown skills of premonition, knew I would be there to help him take the piss."

He turned towards the door. "I'll just leave the two of you to it and go for a cuppa. Care to come along, Sally? You can fill me in on all that I missed."

"My pleasure," she said and accompanied him out of Lestrade's office and to the break room that hosted the Yard's beloved coffee machine and kettle.

They sat down at a table with their cups and Sally gave John a quick rundown of all that she knew had happened, showing him the accompanying pictures on her phone. "So this is Johnny - he really was adorable. I couldn't even imagine Holmes having something as mundane as parents, never mind sitting their dog, but he really did a great job of it, I think. That dog adored him."

"I guess you'd have to see it to believe it," John said, feeling a bit uncomfortable at the idea that anyone thought he adored Sherlock - mostly because it was true.

Sally shrugged and stirred some more sugar into her coffee. "You wouldn't, I suppose."

John tensed. Did Sally suspect? "What do you mean?"

"Well, you live with him," she said. "I assume you've seen him act human."

"He's human all the time," John told her. "And he doesn't need to act for that."

"He certainly loved that dog," Sally muttered. "You should have seen them together. Do you know he kept checking on Johnny all the time? I don't think he noticed but I saw. He'd glance at him every other minute, just to see if he's still there. He does that with you, too, now that I think of it."

John frowned. He had never noticed that but he doubted Sally would lie about a detail like that. She was certainly a good enough copper to notice these things.

"Anyway," Sally continued, "I've never seen him so ... accommodating, I suppose. Do you know he kept lugging a bag around that was filled to the brim with dog treats and toys and whatnot? Not a single thing that belonged to Holmes for his own use."

"Mhh, he keeps his kit in his coat," John said absently, still amazed at this outsider's perspective of Sherlock the dog owner. At the time, it had all felt so natural, particularly once they had agreed that petting was perfectly acceptable. It hadn't felt as if Sherlock was going out of his way to accommodate John. On the contrary, he'd gotten the impression that Sherlock had stepped into a role that had merely been waiting for him to fill it all along.

"John?"

He blinked. "Huh?"

Sally grinned. "You had a bit of a thousand-yard stare going on there. Everything okay?"

"Yeah, fine. Thanks. Just thinking. Should we go back? I can't leave Sherlock alone with paperwork for too long or he'll contrive a way to set it on fire or something."

They got up and put their empty cups in the sink to be washed later before returning to Lestrade's office.

Nothing was on fire, but John noticed Sherlock's gaze flick to him for a split-second before flitting away again. He made a mental note to watch out for how often Sherlock did that and privately wondered if the reason their eyes met and held so often was because they caught each other checking if the other was still there without realising it.

While Sherlock, apparently done with the paperwork Lestrade had deemed it necessary for him to sign, flipped through the case file the DI hat given him, Lestrade pulled John aside for a private conversation.

"You all right?"

"Yeah, fine. Really, it couldn't have gone better. I mean, if all of it absolutely had to happen, it really went the best possible way. No lasting after-effects, if that's what you mean."

"I'm not worried about your physical health," Lestrade said, shrugging. "You look fine and apart from yourself, Sherlock would be the first to notice if anything was amiss. But mentally ... listen, this type of thing doesn't usually happen to people. No, scratch that. It doesn't happen, period."

John couldn't help but chuckle. "Don't worry, Greg. Of all the things that have happened to me, this is a long way off from being the most traumatising experience I've ever had."

"You've been to a war zone, I won't refute that you have your fair share of traumatic memories to choose from." The DI looked around to make sure that Donovan was back at her desk and that Sherlock was still absorbed in the case file on the other side of the room. "I'm just ... worried about you two, actually. You got pretty close there. Everyone with eyes in their heads could see it."

This was not a direction John had anticipated the conversation to take, though he supposed he should have guessed. He clenched his jaw a bit and stuck out his chin. "I'm not quite sure what you are saying here, Greg."

Lestrade definitely heard the warning in his voice and equally obviously chose to ignore it. "You know exactly what I'm saying. You were lying in his lap, for god's sake," he hissed.

There was nothing John could say to that. It was true, after all, though he didn't quite know how to explain to Lestrade that it was different. That being a dog had made a lot of things different.

"Just ..." Lestrade hesitated and glanced back at Sherlock. "Just be sure of what you're doing, is what I'm saying. Don't string him along."

John blinked. "I ... what?"

But Lestrade had apparently said all he wanted to say on the matter and returned to his desk as if nothing had happened. "Well then, Sherlock, got any thoughts on the matter?"

"I certainly think you're an idiot," Sherlock said smoothly. "He's clearly your man, you got that part right. But how it could have escaped your notice that he hid the goods beneath a fake bottom in his freezer is a mystery."

"Now listen here-" Lestrade began and John stopped paying attention. Clearly everything was back to normal and he was at liberty to think about the DI's words at his leisure.

Chapter Text

They returned home after Sherlock had belittled Lestrade for another series of smaller cases he really should have solved on his own and the ensuing arguments had ceased.

John had sat on a chair and let them get on with it, grateful for the distraction. He had quickly found that the Yard was not the place to really think about what Lestrade had said. No, he required the comforting surroundings of home for that.

When the door to their flat closed behind them and Sherlock picked up his violin to release some of his lingering frustration by abusing the strings mercilessly, John made himself a cuppa and settled into his armchair to think.

He hadn't expected this uneasiness between him and Sherlock after his re-transformation, though perhaps he should have. And he certainly hadn't expected to be chewed out by Lestrade over it - especially not in the way it had happened.

What had given Greg the idea that John was leading Sherlock on? Leading him where? No, he mustn't play stupid. He knew precisely what Lestrade had been saying and he didn't quite know what to make of the suggestion. It seemed odd for the DI to believe that John was the one giving Sherlock false hopes when, as far as John knew, he was the only one who had ever hoped that perhaps ...

Sherlock played a particularly jarring note, if it could be called that, tearing John from his thoughts.

He frowned. "I realise you haven't played at all while I was a dog, which I'm very grateful for, but you can't possibly have forgotten how to play entirely."

Sherlock blinked. "Hm? Oh, sorry. I was just ..." He made a face, clearly failing to find the words to describe what he had been doing. "Never mind." He raised the violin again and played something gentler, more soothing. John wondered if it was his imagination that made it sound like an apology.

Eventually, hunger made John venture into the kitchen to see if they had anything other than stale bread and leftover dog biscuits. To his surprise, he found a pot of stew in the fridge.

"Want some stew?" he called to Sherlock.

"Are you cooking?"

John laughed. "Nope. Looks like Mrs Hudson came up while we were out. Seems she thinks we might starve without her."

"I might have," Sherlock conceded. "You wouldn't."

"I'm not that great a cook," John said. "I'd have pasta for a week and then maybe switch to rice."

Sherlock chuckled. "Yes, well, I rather meant you'd find yourself a girlfriend to feed you up."

John rolled his eyes. "You do realise that cooking is not a skill genetically passed on to all females on the planet, right? My sister is just as bad as I am."

"Yes, John, I am well aware. My own mother is only allowed in the kitchen under strict supervision and is not allowed to carry out tasks that go beyond peeling potatoes. However, I do fully trust in your ability to find someone capable of cooking a decent meal in your long row of girlfriends."

"I'm not sure if that sounds any less sexist," John told him, wondering if he was imagining the hint of bitterness in Sherlock's voice. "But I get what you mean." He grimaced. "Well, Lucy cooked."

Sherlock looked puzzled. "Who?"

"The one with the nose."

"Oh. Good cook?"

"Don't know. It was all vegan."

Sherlock snorted. "Right. Was she the one who broke up with you because you ordered your steak rare?"

"I think it was more because of the steak itself rather than the state it came in, but yes."

They shared a look and started to laugh.

"So," John said when he had recovered enough to speak. "Care for some stew?"

"John, I'll cross oceans for Mrs Hudson's stew," Sherlock said as he packed away his violin. "Honestly."

Sherlock set the table while John heated the stew on the hob and unearthed some baguette that hadn't gone stale yet from one of their cupboards.

"God, I missed food," he sighed. "You have no idea."

"You could have fooled me," Sherlock teased. "Seeing you wolf down the contents of your bowl was an education in itself."

"Ha. A dog's palate isn't very refined, I have to say. But I still remembered what food is supposed to taste like, so while the dog food didn't taste bad, it's not something I would have gone for given the choice."

"And you didn't, considering how often you begged for scraps," Sherlock pointed out. "Don't think I don't know about all the times Mrs Hudson sneaked you a piece of sausage."

John gave him a perfectly blank look. "I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Of course you don't."

In lieu of a response, John refocused on his bowl of stew. He glanced at Sherlock every now and then, loathing the distance between them. The other side of the table seemed impossibly far away. And he still missed being able to hear Sherlock's heart beat from across the room.

How was it that a handful of days had so thoroughly succeeded in eroding all the distance between them where a previous entire year had failed? How was it possible that now neither of them seemed to know quite how to act around the other? It shouldn't make a difference, this short interlude of John-being-a-dog. And yet ... and yet.

All too soon they cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to be done at some point in the future.

He watched Sherlock dither in the living room, clearly unable to settle on any one activity.

John glanced at the clock. "Care for a walk through Regent's Park?"

Sherlock snorted. "Want me to bring a tennis ball?"

"Hm, we could play tug-o-war with any random stick."

Sherlock smiled but shook his head. "A tempting offer but I think I'd rather stay in, if you don't mind. Thank you."

"Of course."

John rummaged for his laptop and settled into his armchair to update the blog with a third-person account of how Sherlock had apparently gotten a dog to look after while he had been away and how sad he was to have missed it but that he had received some brilliant pictures and would you look at how adorable they were?!

He followed that with a general rundown of the case Sherlock had solved while he had been 'away' and concluded by saying that Johnny the dog was now back with Sherlock's parents and that Sherlock was moping about and pretending not to miss him.

He could almost feel the glare already that Sherlock was sure to send his way as soon as he read the entry.

He yawned and was surprised to find that he had spent hours trying to phrase the entire story as if he hadn't been there for all of it.

"Guess I'll call it a night," he said, shutting down his laptop.

Sherlock sat on the sofa, leafing through one of his boxes of index cards of god-knew-what. He gave no sign that he had heard John speak.

"Sherlock."

"Mh? Sorry. What?"

"I said I'm going to bed. Good night."

"Oh." Sherlock's eyes flicked to the clock. He looked mildly surprised to see how late it was. "Good night, John."


*****


John couldn't sleep.

There was no point pussyfooting around it. He had brushed his teeth, gone upstairs, got changed into a clean pair of pyjama bottoms (with a camouflage pattern - a joke gift from Harry), crawled into bed and now utterly failed to fall asleep.

His mind wouldn't stop going round and round in circles.

He tossed and turned, readjusted his pillow four times, got up to open the window and then again to close it when it got too cold in his room. Nothing seemed to do the trick.

Sighing, John lay back and stared at the ceiling, trying to think about nothing. Sherlock would have claimed that this should not pose much of a problem to him but of course it wasn't that simple.

And now he was thinking of Sherlock again. Great.

A quiet sound caught his attention. John froze, listening. Was that movement downstairs?

He glanced at his alarm. The glowing numbers proclaimed it was already gone two in the morning. He hadn't slept a wink. Great.

Admitting defeat, John got up. He would just go downstairs for a glass of water, he told himself as he descended the stairs. That was all.

Sherlock looked up when John shuffled in. His hair was a mess and at least he had changed into his pyjamas at some point, but he was clearly wide awake and probably hadn't even tried to go to bed. He was sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by books and pieces of paper in his own messy handwriting.

John sighed. "Can't sleep?"

Sherlock mutely shook his head.

"Me neither," John said, though of course that much was obvious. "It's awfully quiet in my room."

"Can't hear the neighbours shagging anymore?" Sherlock asked, one corner of his mouth turning up.

John snorted. "Not at gone two in the morning, thank god." He paused, drew a deep breath and ploughed on. "Can't hear you breathing, either. It's a bit disturbing."

Sherlock blinked.

Several moments passed in silence and John was about ready to walk into the kitchen for the glass of water he didn't want when his friend finally spoke.

His voice was very quiet. "My bed feels awfully empty all of a sudden."

John paused in his tracks and turned. Sherlock was very carefully not looking at him.

John breathed out.

"Would you care for some company?"

Sherlock shrugged and patted the carpet next to him. "If you like."

"Not quite what I meant," John said pointedly. "You haven't slept at all since I was turned back, have you?"

A mute head-shake.

"That's what I thought. Come on then."

He stepped closer and held out his hand. Sherlock looked at it for a bit as if he had never seen one before, then grasped it and allowed John to pull him up.

He made no move to go anywhere, though, merely stayed where he was and stared down at John.

"What?"

"John ... are you taking the piss again?"

"I ... what? No, why would I?"

Sherlock nodded down at his pyjamas John followed his gaze and groaned. Of fucking course. He had forgotten about the camo pattern. And Sherlock was making a visible effort not to let his eyes linger.

"They were a birthday gift from Harry. If anyone is taking the piss, it's her. I can get changed if you like."

"Don't be ridiculous," Sherlock snapped. "I was merely caught off-guard."

It was hard to tell in their gloomy sitting room but John thought the crests of Sherlock's cheekbones might be a bit less pale than they usually were.

John decided to back up a bit. "Okay, fine. Are you coming then?"

Sherlock relaxed. "Of course."


*****


Getting into bed didn't feel half as awkward as sleeping separately had. John had almost expected it to feel uncomfortable as well but clearly this was all about presence rather than what form that presence took.

"I'm not sleeping on top of the blankets this time," he warned. "Don't have a fur to keep me warm anymore."

"Did you shave your legs?" Sherlock joked as he pulled the covers back.

John gasped in fake outrage. "Just for that I'm going to wear my old combat uniform around the flat for a week."

Sherlock froze with one leg on the bed. "That's ... didn't they teach you about fighting fair in the army?"

"Sure they did," John said. "They taught us to only fight fair if we want to lose."

Sherlock swallowed and slid under the covers. "Hmph. Perhaps I should have a word with your old instructor."

"Is that a thinly veiled excuse to get onto yet another army base?"

"Jooooohn," Sherlock whined.

"Just asking," John laughed as he got comfortable. "Seriously, what is it with you and soldiers?"

Sherlock sighed. "They're just unbearably hot. I don't know why. I vaguely remember my mother having had a calendar of pin-up soldiers in her office when I was a boy. Perhaps the image stuck."

John tried to smother another laugh and barely succeeded. "Maybe I should take you to a military parade some time."

Sherlock made a muffled noise that might have been a whimper. "Oh, for the love of ... stop torturing me, John."

John grinned at the ceiling. "If you're a good boy and go to sleep now, I might be persuaded to show you some pictures from my time in Afghanistan tomorrow. We rarely bothered with shirts when we were off duty."

Sherlock groaned. "Keep talking and I won't be able to sleep ever again."

Taking pity on him, John decided to back off a bit - for now. "Fine. But really, you should have smelled yourself. Even those poor women who tried to flirt with you in the park didn't exude that much of a cloud."

He swore he could feel Sherlock blush. "Well, there was only one of me and a whole group of soldiers."

"True that," John conceded. "More than one of you and we would have ended up with such a crowd of admirers, we wouldn't have been able to walk."

Sherlock had mentally back-tracked to John's previous statement. "Which women?"

"The joggers who stopped to talk to you?" John asked. "You spoke to them for a couple of minutes. They thought I was adorable."

"Oh." Sherlock sounded puzzled.

"You didn't realise they were flirting?" John clarified.

"Of course not. Why would I pay attention to whether or not some woman is flirting with me?" That was clearly annoyance in Sherlock's tone. "As I have been telling you for ages, John, women aren't my area."

"Right. Thought you might still notice."

"Nope."

They lay in silence for a while. It was better than sleeping on his own, John thought, though he couldn't help but notice that not a lot of sleeping was happening now, either.

Sherlock fidgeted next to him and something - the back of his hand? - brushed John's forearm.

"Sorry," Sherlock muttered but a moment later it happened again.

John sighed. "This isn't going to work."

He could feel Sherlock turn into a statue next to him, not moving a muscle.

"Neither of us is going to get any sleep like this," he continued. "Let me ..."

He turned onto his side and shuffled closer until he was pressed against Sherlock's side.

Sherlock took a surprised breath and then relaxed.

"Like this?" John asked.

Sherlock turned to face him, his left arm tentatively moving to curl around John's side until his hand was pressed to John's back. "Yes."

John hid his smile in the curve of Sherlock's clavicle. His nose was half a centimetre from the soft skin of Sherlock's throat and from that distance even his poor human nose could catch his scent, though not nearly as nuanced as it had been before. He adjusted his right hand until it was pressed to Sherlock's chest, feeling the steady thrum of his heart through the thin fabric of his t-shirt.

They both sighed and relaxed a little more.

"Much better," Sherlock murmured.

"Mmh," John agreed. "Good night, Sherlock."

"Good night, John."

They slept.


*****


Waking happened slowly, softly.

This was a novelty in itself, as Sherlock usually went from being asleep to fully alert in a manner of seconds. Not today, apparently. He found himself drifting in a pleasantly warm haze between sleeping and waking, in that quiet warm corner of sleep where you are dreaming but aware of it. It was peaceful and quiet and he felt he could stay there forever.

It made him feel lethargic and lazy, comfortable and safe and without a care or need in the world. His ever-racing mind had fallen silent, still caught in the cobwebs of sleep, and there was nothing that could tempt him from this place.

There was movement next to him that pulled him closer towards waking, increasing his awareness of his surroundings. Someone was there - someone warm and safe with sleep-loose limbs and hot breath ghosting across Sherlock's skin.

The number of people who could get that close and not instantly make alarm bells ring in Sherlock's head was precisely one.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to stay in this sleep-warm state of relaxation for a bit longer, but of course now that he was conscious of the fact that John was right there, all traces of being asleep were fading fast.

Sherlock didn't want to open his eyes. If he did, John would be right there and Sherlock would tense or move or John would feel his stare - he didn't delude himself into thinking he might manage not to stare - and John would wake up and things would get Awkward with a capital 'A' and John would scramble out of bed with an apology and an excuse about breakfast or some other stupid nonsense and leave Sherlock alone in a bed that was suddenly too big.

He kept his eyes tightly shut.

Just a couple more minutes, that was all he wanted.

John sighed and shifted, one of his legs moving a little before settling again. The contact seemed to make all of Sherlock's nerve endings light up at once, making him very aware of the fact that his own legs seemed to have moved to accommodate John's right leg between them. He didn't dare move them away in case John woke up and since he didn't want to move anyway, he decided to use that as his excuse.

After all, this was John curled up next to him, with him - not quite around him, for it was impossible to tell which one of them was doing the curling - and that was John's leg between his, clad in nothing but thin pyjama trousers and ...

Here, Sherlock's train of thought derailed as he recalled the particulars about those trousers and the way they had looked on John's body last night.

He hadn't even registered them at first and then it had happened precisely as John had pulled him to his feet and he had almost stumbled right into him because ... well.

As he had told John in response to his good-natured teasing last night, he really didn't know what it was about soldiers. He supposed it was just one of these things, like how some people liked green eyes or curly hair. He certainly hadn't asked to feel so helplessly turned on by a pair of camos but there he was and it really wasn't his fault if they came draped around John bloody Watson like the wrapping paper on a particularly desirable present.

Sherlock realised that this may not be the best time to contemplate the sight of John in uniform. He had almost fainted at Baskerville, thanks to bloody Mycroft and his incessant meddling, and had tried very hard (ha!) not to think about any of that in the time since.

There were only so many ways a man could torture himself without losing his mind and he had already concluded a week ago that John in uniform would bring him to his knees in two seconds flat. Sherlock had no idea how he had made it out of Baskerville and into a car and all the way back to the inn without turning into a useless bundle of desire. Okay, without letting on that he had turned into precisely that.

And John knew - of course he must know, after that time in the park. And he had teased him about it only last night, too!

Sherlock bit back a groan. Any sound might wake John and this peaceful moment of bliss would end and he didn't want that to happen. He tried to snuggle deeper into the bed without actually moving.

Next to him, John gave a quiet sigh. For a moment, he had forgotten how close John was but the feeling of his hot breath on Sherlock's skin really didn't leave any room for error.

John moved a little and something - his lips?! Sherlock shivered - brushed against his clavicle.

"Mmmh, y' awake?" John murmured.

So much for not waking him.

Sherlock mournfully committed the time in between reaching consciousness and now to memory before opening his mouth to give some sort of reply but John shifted a little and all the air left his lungs because, god, he was so close!

He made a low noise that sounded embarrassingly much like a whimper. "No."

John chuckled and Sherlock could feel the vibration of his body from his shoulders all the way down to his shins. Oh dear.

"'m not gonna drag you out for a walk today," John promised, his voice husky from sleep.

"I'd like to see you try," Sherlock muttered, finally daring to open one eye just a little to take stock of his surroundings.

His entire vision was filled with John.

He blinked and opened both eyes, squinting in the dim light.

They lay facing each other, legs hopelessly intertwined, one of John's arms wedged between them and Sherlock's own arm still slung around John's waist as if it had any right to be there. And John's face was so close, chin pressed into Sherlock's shoulder and mouth just barely brushing his clavicle. Sherlock could see his hair, forehead and the tip of his nose out of the corner of his right eye.

It was one of those positions that couldn't possibly be comfortable if arranged but felt perfect if you woke up with your body warm and loose from sleep. He knew his right arm was probably asleep - it felt rather numb - and his leg was going to cramp if he stayed in this position for much longer but he wouldn't mind staying like this forever.

"D' we have anything on today?" John murmured, making no move to extract himself.

"No."

"Good. How late is it?"

Sherlock turned his head a little to judge the angle of the light shining through his bedroom window. "About eight."

"Too soon to get up." And John stayed precisely where he was.

Sherlock blinked, then decided to just go with it and relaxed. "Precisely."

He shifted his leg into a slightly more comfortable position and closed his eyes again. Let the world wait a while.

Chapter Text

John woke about two hours later with an armful of warm consulting detective and the amazement of discovering that Sherlock Holmes apparently enjoyed sleeping in. And doing something that could only be described as cuddling.

He grinned to himself.

The entire night had been slightly surreal. It had all seemed very logical last night when he had decided to simply invite himself into Sherlock's bed and Sherlock had latched on to the idea as if it was perfectly normal. And then it had made complete sense to curl up together as if the bed wasn't large enough for two adults to lie in it with a respectable distance between them.

And then earlier this morning they had just been so comfortable and it had been much too early to get up after the late night they had had, so why not stay where they were?

But now it was definitely later and there was no excuse to stay in bed any longer and certainly no excuse for them to be curled up like this.

He didn't want to get up.

That was what it came down to, of course.

He wanted to stay right here with his armful of Sherlock Holmes and not move.

Well, perhaps move a little. It rather depended on the type of movement, actually.

John tried to call himself to order because there were certain things you shouldn't be thinking unless you particularly wanted to put yourself in an embarrassing situation.

Of course that didn't really help him at all because now the thought was there and apparently planned to get comfortable in his head.

John thought he might actually have to get up eventually, even if it was just to go to the loo. If only he could bring himself to actually get up and leave.

Sherlock gave a sigh next to him and, against all laws of physics, managed to shuffle even closer.

There seemed an increasingly long list of reasons to get up and walk away while he could still walk. He didn't have a snowball's chance in hell if Sherlock happened to wake an-

"Stop it."

John blinked. "What?"

"I can hear you thinking," Sherlock muttered. "It's annoying. Stop it."

"You hate when people don't think."

"Mmh, usually. Not so much when they're thinking of ways to get away."

"I wasn't-"

"You were tensing your muscles in ways that suggested getting ready to roll over and out of bed. Stop it. It's distracting."

John rolled his eyes. "I can assure you I have no plans of getting out of bed."

"Good," Sherlock muttered.

There was silence for a moment.

"You really don't want me to get up, do you?"

"I don't think you can," Sherlock said and there was a grin in his voice. "At least, not unless I let you."

"Which you don't intend to," John concluded. "How am I ever going to use the bathroom?"

"I might be persuaded to be lenient if I get some form of insurance on your part that you will return. A token, if you will."

"A token?," John echoed, wondering if he was still dreaming or if his life really had become this surreal all of a sudden. There was no way in hell that Sherlock Holmes was flirting with him while they both pretended that being curled up in bed together was perfectly normal.

"Mmh-hm," Sherlock hummed in confirmation. "A token. Something you will give to me before leaving that I can return when you come back."

"I think I might be able to think of something suitable," John said quietly, feeling almost unbearably delighted at the idea of flirting with Sherlock.

"Is that so?"

Two iridescent eyes opened and focused on him with unerring accuracy. There was something daring and bright in them that John thought might be hope. He had no intention of letting that go to waste.

"Oh yes."

He tilted his head until their noses almost brushed. "Unless you have any objections, of course?"

"For some bizarre reason, none come to mind," Sherlock murmured and now there was something else in those eyes, something that kindled and burned.

John smiled. "But can you guarantee that you will in fact give it back when I return?"

"I think I can swear to it," Sherlock said, his lips about a hair's breadth away.

"I'll take that," John said and kissed him.

There were about two seconds of lips on lips, softly, and then Sherlock made a tiny noise and his mouth fell open and he pulled John closer and John's hands got tangled in Sherlock's hair and there was nothing soft about this.

Someone groaned, it wasn't quite clear who - perhaps both of them - and John had some trouble extracting himself.

"Something I didn't mention about this token," he murmured against Sherlock's mouth. "The interest rates are extremely steep."

"I'm sure I'll find a way to repay them at twice the usual rate," Sherlock replied, slightly breathless.

They grinned at each other and then John untangled himself to go to the loo.

The air in the bathroom was freezing, as if he had needed another incentive to hurry up, and he returned as quickly as humanly possible.

Sherlock was precisely where he had left him, stretched out on his side with his face half buried in his pillow, hair sleep-mussed and body lax.

"Mmmh, that was fast," he commented.

John smiled as he slid back under the covers to resume his earlier position. "Let's just say I was looking forward to getting my token back. With interest."

"I'm definitely interested," Sherlock told him seriously, shifting a little.

John groaned. "Yeah, I can feel that."

Perhaps they should actually talk about this but it seemed so much easier not to, and really what was the point when they both knew or at least suspected the truth by now?

He trailed his lips up Sherlock's pale throat and inhaled happily. "God, your scent. I was drowning in it all the time. You must have been horny for ages."

"Mmmh, every year or so my transport decides it's been neglected long enough. It happened shortly before we got the Baskerville case. The case and your transformation distracted me for a while but once we settled into some sort of a routine there was no putting it off any longer."

One of Sherlock's hands had wormed its way under John's t-shirt and was greedily mapping out the skin it found there.

John hummed and arched into the touch, nipping at the sensitive skin just under Sherlock's jaw in return. "I saw you handling that harpoon. Thought you were going to run someone straight through."

Sherlock shook his head. "Oh no, I'd have given it to you. I'm not the type to run others through."

So much for that question, then, John thought. "Hmm, guess we won't be needing a harpoon after all."

"Not if I have any say in it," Sherlock agreed, shifting a bit further until he was all but grinding against John's thigh trapped between his own.

"Uhn... god," John moaned. "So glad to know you prefer me over any harpoons."

"Or people," Sherlock added. "All these soldiers had nothing on you."

John growled. "That one guy who tried to flirt with you while we were out walking and you smelled like you were just dying for a fuck ... god, I think I would have actually bitten him if he'd tried to touch you."

Sherlock smirked. "Yes, I could tell, though I wasn't convinced that was the reason. Good thing he didn't."

"Let's stop talking about other people," John suggested, working his way down Sherlock's neck with his mouth and tugging at his t-shirt with both hands. "I'm more interested in the here and now."

Sherlock moaned. "Yes, let's."


*****


John's hands and mouth were on his skin and Sherlock felt about ready to implode. How long had he been waiting, hoping, wishing for this?

He had no idea where his t-shirt had gone but was determined to have John's end up in the same place. The attempt to remove it was hampered by John's unwillingness to let go of him and it took some negotiation to convince him of the merits of skin-on-skin, even if they came with the drawback of having to let go for a moment.

Finally, the t-shirt was gone and Sherlock pulled John with him as he rolled onto his back, moaning as John's warm weight settled above him, their bodies pressed together.

"Perfect," John gasped. "God, you're perfect."

It shouldn't make him blush, that compliment. He was well aware of his looks, knew people found him oddly attractive. But hearing it from John was different, more meaningful.

Sherlock groaned and kissed him again, hands travelling down John's sides to the waistband of his pyjama trousers. That bloody camo pattern.

"Off," he gasped against John's mouth. "Please, can these come off?"

"God, yes."

It was a race to see who could undress faster and Sherlock's hand shook as he threw John's pyjama trousers into a corner. "Too damn sexy," he growled. "Bloody Mycroft and his meddling. I almost pounced on you in the middle of the lab."

John gave a breathy laugh that turned into a gasp when Sherlock's hand trailed down his abdomen. "Is that so? You didn't even look at me."

"Oh, I looked," Sherlock assured him. "For about a second, which was enough to completely short-circuit my brain. I had to hold on to a lab table to stop myself from jumping your bones right then and there."

John groaned as clever fingers sneaked past the waistband of his boxers. "I wouldn't have minded but I think the scientists might have. Not to mention your brother."

"It would have been his own damn fault," Sherlock said, impatiently shifting his hips to get some friction.

They both cursed as their cocks slid against one another.

"Ugh, take your pants off," John moaned, tugging on his own. "And please tell me you've got stuff here."

"Stuff?," Sherlock asked, distracted by the way their legs moved as they shoved their pants down and kicked them off.

"Lube," John gasped. "Condoms."

"Night stand, top drawer," Sherlock murmured, mouth latching on to the warm skin of John's shoulder.

John flung out one arm and managed to drag the drawer open, blindly rummaging around in it until his hands came into contact with a bottle and small packet. He dragged his eyes open to confirm he was holding the correct items. Sherlock approved, knowing there could be god-knew-what in that drawer, including a bottle of chilli sauce or similar that neither of them would want on their cocks. He should probably remove all dangerous items from it to avoid accidents in the future.

"Hurry up," Sherlock demanded, catching John's earlobe in his teeth. "Or I might start without you."

He moved his hips for emphasis and cursed as desire shot down his spine like lightning.

John swore. "Jesus."

Sherlock smirked at him. "Will you hurry up no-oh."

His speech cut off as one slick hand sneaked between his legs and he let them fall open further, shuddering under the onslaught of sensation. "More, John, please."

"Anything you want," John promised, twisting his fingers in a way that made Sherlock's toes curl.

"Everything," he gasped. "I want everything."


*****


John froze, sure he had misheard. "What?"

"I want everything," Sherlock repeated, holding his gaze even as his hips continued their restless shifting. "We're doing this, yes? Once won't be enough, John. It will never be enough for me."

John gaped at him, unable to form words or even thoughts in response to this declaration. He tried, though. "You ..."

"Yes." And Sherlock looked so certain as he said it, as if no alternative had ever occurred to him, as if it was obvious. Perhaps it was to him.

John thought, rather hysterically, that he had never had a lover who wanted to have this conversation with two of John's fingers up his arse. But this was Sherlock, who never did anything the conventional way.

Sherlock, who was still looking at him and whose face turned increasingly serious with every second John failed to respond. Serious, and then sad.

John couldn't bear to watch it.

"Really?," he asked hopefully, because he had to be sure and Sherlock had to be sure.

This time, Sherlock averted his gaze. "I'm neither willing to nor capable of having sex with you and then return to the status quo, John."

John released a shuddering breath. "Me neither."

Sherlock's gaze snapped back to his, so he continued talking. "I wanted you the moment I saw you. But you weren't interested, you said it yourself, so I told myself I couldn't have you and that was that."

"I changed my mind," Sherlock told him, quite superfluously considering their current position. "I changed my mind the moment I realised you shot the cabbie."

John gave a strangled laugh. "Guess we're both idiots, then. Could have had this ages ago."

"Mmmh, I don't think we would have appreciated it quite so much then," Sherlock said. "Now will you please continue what you were doing?"

John grinned. "Impatient, are we?"

But he twisted his fingers and watched as Sherlock's eyes fluttered shut. God, this was really happening.

"Like this?" He could have watched Sherlock move for ages, could have spent an eternity enjoying the slick slide of his fingers and the way Sherlock shuddered beneath him.

"John?"

"Yes?"

"Shut up and fuck me."

Who was John to argue?


*****


They woke some time later and took a shower where Sherlock demonstrated that an entire pack of cigarettes was not the only thing that fit into his mouth and that yes, it was possible for him to deduce precisely when John would come.

"You do realise we don't have to make up for lost time all in one day, yes?," John asked once he got his breath back.

Sherlock snorted. "We can try, though. I could text Lestrade, tell him we're busy working on a case involving some shifty transactions."

"Transactions?," John echoed.

"Uh-huh. Very steep interest rates," Sherlock told him seriously. "I can already tell it's going to take up all my attention for at least another day."

John groaned. "Oh god."

Sherlock grinned. "So I suggest we get dry and have something to eat. I have a feeling we might need the energy."

"Is that so?" But John was already reaching for a towel. "Well, who am I to stop you when you actually want to eat for once?"


*****


They did eventually manage to migrate to the sofa, sated in every way and ready to relax for a while.

"You still haven't told me," Sherlock said softly. He was wrapped around John, his head resting on his chest, one of John's hands tangled in his hair.

"Told you what?"

"What it was like, being a dog. I'm curious."

John felt a fond smile tugging at his lips. "Of course you are."

Sherlock raised his head a little to look at him. "Will you tell me?"

Licking his lips, John thought about how best to start.

"It was ... disorienting, at first. Everything was jarring - too loud, smelling too strongly, the wrong perspective. The only thing that made sense was you. You smelled like home. It was the only thing that kept me from losing my mind in Baskerville and on the ride back. I don't remember any of that very clearly, I was too panicked. But I remember pressing my nose to your coat and breathing you in."

"You were shaking," Sherlock murmured. "Trembling all the way home. I wanted to kill everyone in that lab for what they had done to you."

John smiled. "I'm glad you didn't. They managed to change me back, after all. I calmed down when we got home. I had a better sense of my body and Mrs Hudson's calm reaction made me feel like perhaps it wasn't quite such a catastrophe after all."

"She's good at that," Sherlock confirmed. "Very cool head in a crisis. You should have seen her back in Florida when I had her husband arrested. Her first question was how quickly she could get a divorce and come back to England."

John nodded. "I hated the idea of a collar," he said. "I thought it would make it hard to breathe, would strangle me if I wore it, but instead it felt like I belonged to someone. Like I was yours. It was a reminder that I wasn't alone. When you took it off me at the lab, I was almost sad to see it go."

"I still have it," Sherlock said quietly. "You could still wear it."

"I think that might not be the best idea," John said. "And I doubt it would fit me now."

Sherlock shrugged. "I'll keep it anyway."

He fell silent, expectant for more.

John thought about what to say next. "My senses were so much better than you can imagine," he finally said. "I heard the trains moving in and out of Baker Street station, rattling beneath the city. I heard the "Mind the gap" announcements. I heard your heartbeat from up in my room at night when everything else was quieter. I could hear every breath you took and Mrs Hudson snoring and the neighbours down the street arguing. And my nose ... god, the scents. The pollution levels are terrible but the disinfectant in Baskerville and in St. Bart's was worse. I was so glad when you asked Donovan to take me out for a walk rather than forcing me to stay there."

"I guessed the smell might be a bit much," Sherlock told him. "I noticed you pressing your nose to my coat so I figured you might be trying to drown out one scent with another."

John nodded. "It was a relief to get back out, but I hated being away from you. Sally was good company but I'd much rather have stayed with you."

"Lestrade gave me a lecture when you were gone," Sherlock reminded him. "He wanted to make sure you were all right. Said we both needed me to pet you."

"I'm glad you listened to him," John murmured, stroking Sherlock's curls. "We both needed that."

"I think I got everything I needed this morning, actually," Sherlock said. "But petting you was certainly a good start."

John grinned. "No one can resist an adorable dog. We'll have to print out the photos Mrs Hudson took, put them on the mantle."

"So long as she doesn't insist on taking one of us like this," Sherlock murmured, tightening his arm around John's waist.

"Would you mind?"

"No but if Lestrade ever got his hands on it, it'd be up on every notice board of Scotland Yard."

They shared a look and burst into laughter.

"Perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad idea," John gasped.

Sherlock chuckled. "Perhaps later."

They lay in silence for a while before Sherlock nudged him. "Tell me more."

John told him everything.

Chapter Text

"Cooey!" Mrs Hudson called as she cleared the final step up to 221b some two weeks later. "Are you boys decent?"

John looked up from his paper and rolled his eyes at Sherlock. "Am I alone in thinking this or does she always seem a bit disappointed when she doesn't catch us snogging?"

Sherlock grinned. "No, I think she really is."

"I'm not deaf, boys," Mrs Hudson admonished them, bustling into the sitting room and indeed looking disappointed to see them sitting on opposite sides of the room. "And some of us have been waiting for you two to get your act together for quite some time."

Sherlock and John shared a look, both wondering how long the list of names hiding behind "some of us" might be.

"Was there anything in particular you wanted?" Sherlock asked.

"Mh?" Mrs Hudson paused in straightening a pillow on the sofa. "Oh, yes! The pictures are ready! Mrs Turner's daughter came by earlier and went to have them developed. You know I don't have a clue how to work these machines at Boots. In my day, we had to send them in and it took weeks to get them developed and we spent all that time hoping no one had their thumb over the lense when the pictures were taken."

"What pictures?" John asked, confused.

"Your pictures!" she exclaimed, waving an envelope as if that would explain everything.

Sherlock, naturally, was quicker on the uptake. "Are those the ones of Johnny?"

John wished he could admonish him for the hated nickname but the light in Sherlock's eyes at the memory of his 'dog' effectively robbed him of his ability to speak.

Mrs Hudson nodded. "I haven't looked at them yet. I thought we could go through them together, if you boys like."

John didn't need to see the look on Sherlock's face to know what the answer would be. He folded away his newspaper and went to join him on the sofa, leaving a bit of room so Mrs Hudson could sit between them.

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, you two should sit together," she said, refusing to sit until they budged. "Here, Sherlock, take the pictures and try not to flick through them by the second."

"As if," Sherlock muttered.

John playfully shoved him with his elbow. "Come on, get a move on."

Mrs Hudson sat down next to Sherlock and handed over the pictures.

John felt a spark of excitement as Sherlock opened the envelope and pulled out the photographs. He had almost forgotten that Mrs Hudson had taken pictures and now found himself curious to see what he and Sherlock had looked like together from an outsider's perspective. All the pictures Donovan had shown him on her phone had been of John alone.

Sherlock flipped the small stack around and they stared at the first picture.

It was of them lying on the sofa together, Sherlock's long form relaxed, his expression mildly amused as he looked at the camera. John was stretched out between his friend's legs, his head resting on Sherlock's abdomen.

To the casual viewer, it looked adorable, a dog and his owner cuddling together. Seen from the perspective of someone who knew that the dog was not usually a dog, it implied rather a lot.

John blinked. "Huh, I guess that explains why Greg yelled at me."

"Lestrade yelled at you?" Sherlock asked, surprised. "When?"

"When we visited the Yard after I was turned back. He got really hung up on that," John said, nodding at the picture. "Said I shouldn't lead you on." He grinned. "Looking at the picture now, I can see why he thought I might have been sending mixed signals."

Sherlock smiled back. "Mmh, I did wonder when you did that but then I thought you might only be getting more dog-ish in your behaviour because being a dog was taking over. It had me quite worried you might lose yourself if we didn't turn you back in time."

John sucked in a breath. "You never said."

"I didn't want to worry you," Sherlock murmured. "And, as it turns out, it didn't happen."

"I think I prefer this outcome," John agreed, winking at him.

"Oh, you two," Mrs Hudson said, smiling.

They both blinked, almost having forgotten her, and Sherlock flipped to the next picture.

It was part of a series Sherlock immediately declared would be called "The Bathtub Massacre".

"How did you get these developed?" John laughed, looking at the pictures of himself covered in foam or with his fur just dried and poofy, just like the ginger cloud of candy floss Sherlock had said he resembled at the time.

"Snuck them onto the SD card of Mrs Hudson's camera," Sherlock said, entirely unapologetic.

"Well, they are utterly delightful," their landlady said. "I'm glad you put them on the card, Sherlock!"

"We're not putting this one on the mantle," John said, indicating one picture in particular. "I look like a half-drowned Rodent of Unusual Size."

"A what?" Sherlock asked.

John grinned. "Ohhh, we're going to watch the Princess Bride. You'll like it."

Sherlock looked doubtful but let the matter drop in favour of going through the rest of the pictures.

"I like that one," John said a couple of minutes later. "I didn't even notice you taking that, Mrs Hudson!"

"Oh, that wasn't me," she protested. "But I had left the camera in your flat. Sherlock must have taken it."

"I'm not apologising," Sherlock said primly.

John grinned. "I wouldn't want you to. This is lovely."

It was a picture of John lying in a sunny spot on the sitting room rug, his fur glowing bronze in the sun. His eyes were closed and he looked utterly relaxed and peaceful.

"You looked so much like a dog there," Sherlock said. "The position of your limbs, the expression on your face ..." He trailed off.

John smiled. "It's a great shot, Sherlock. That one can definitely go on the mantle - and that one, too," he added when Sherlock flipped to the next picture.

It was the one Mrs Hudson had taken at the very end, just before they left for Baskerville. Sherlock was smiling his real smile, John looked like the very image of a happy dog, and there was something protective in the way Sherlock's arm was curled around him.

"I want a copy of that one," Mrs Hudson said. "I will ask Mrs Turner if she can have her daughter print that one again."

"We should take the one of the both of us and give it to Lestrade," John mused. "Just so that every time the Yarders forget you're human, he can show them this."

"Which picture of us would that be?" Sherlock asked. "Because I seem to recall us deciding that he'd put the one of us on the sofa on every notice board and there are lines."

John had picked another picture that Mrs Hudson must have snuck in at some point out of the pile. It was him and Sherlock coming home from a walk. Sherlock was bright-eyed and John's tail a blur, indicating he had been wagging it too fast for the camera to capture. Sherlock was also looking at John with the softest smile on his face.

"What is it?" Sherlock asked, leaning closer to see which picture had caught John's attention. "Oh."

John smiled, gently nudging Sherlock's shoulder with his. "Do you know, if we hadn't figured it out by now, I think this picture right here would have made me kiss you."

Sherlock blushed and his voice was low when he replied. "You still could."

Still smiling, John leaned over and captured his mouth in a soft kiss. "Brilliant idea. What are you, a genius or something?"

"Or something," Sherlock murmured and leaned in for another kiss.

They didn't notice Mrs Hudson leave.


*****


Yet another two weeks later, Lestrade rang Sherlock with a new case.

“It’s down near Battersea Park,” he explained, rattling off the address. “Found the body next to the train tracks, shot to death.”

Sherlock huffed. “The killer clearly used a passing train to camouflage the gun going off.”

“Must have been a professional,” Lestrade agreed. “Whoever it was dug the bullet out of the wall it got stuck in.”

Sherlock perked up. “Big caliber weapon if it went right through the victim. Interesting.” He did a quick mental calculation of the traffic at this time of day. “We’ll be there in half an hour.”

He hung up and got up from the sofa where he had been debating the pros and cons of joining John in the shower. It looked like he would have to postpone it for a later time.

He opened the bathroom door and walked into the warm wall of humidity John’s showers always generated.

“Come to join me after all?” John asked, grinning as he peeked around the shower curtain. “I was wondering how long it’d take you.”

“I was considering it,” Sherlock said, feeling his pulse speed up in answer to the heat in John’s eyes. “But Lestrade just called about a murder near Battersea Park. Want to come?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” John promised. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

Sherlock nodded and leaned against the bathroom door, crossing his arms. “I’m keeping time.”

John laughed and turned the shower off. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re going to wait outside and put together your crime scene kit. The last time you decided to wait in the bathroom, we arrived at the crime scene an hour later than planned.”

“Mmh, and I had a rather spectacular love bite on my throat,” Sherlock confirmed, smiling at the memory. “Right under my jaw so my scarf wouldn’t cover it at all.”

“Anderson looked a bit green,” John recalled happily. “Now get out before we end up repeating that.”

“That’s not much of an incentive for me to move,” Sherlock pointed out but did as he was told. They could always pick this up again later.

He put on his shoes and coat, made sure his ‘crime scene kit’, as John liked to call it, was fully equipped and ready to go, and was not at all surprised when John emerged two minutes later, fully dressed and his hair towel-dried. By the time they arrived at the crime scene, it would be completely dry.

“Ready?”

“Always.”

They headed down the stairs, called out a goodbye to Mrs Hudson in passing and Sherlock managed to hail a cab before he had even reached the curb.

It took exactly half an hour for them to reach their destination, just as Sherlock had said on the phone.

“Nice spot for a murder,” John commented as they got out of the cab. “No witnesses, lots of noise from passing trains ...” He trailed off and frowned. “Where’s Lestrade?”

Sherlock shrugged. “I don’t know. This is definitely the place.”

“Maybe they’re around that corner over there,” John suggested, pointing ahead.

They started walking, enjoying the sunshine. Sherlock reached out and grasped John's hand, relishing his ability to do so. John smiled and squeezed his fingers. In the distance, they heard barking.

“That sounds like a lot of dogs,” John commented.

“Battersea Dogs and Cats Home,” Sherlock told him, shrugging. “It’s straight ahead.”

John visibly suppressed a smirk as they turned the corner and the entrance came into view. There was no sign of any police activity whatsoever.

“What an interesting coincidence,” John said lightly. “One might almost think there’s no reason for any of Scotland Yard’s finest to be here.”

Sherlock tightened his grip on his hand. “John.”

“In fact,” John continued, no longer able to suppress his wide grin, “I don’t think there’s been a murder here at all. Looks like Lestrade pranked you.”

“John.”

“Perhaps someone gave him a hint,” John continued happily, dragging Sherlock along. “But what do I know? You’re the genius detective here. What do you deduce, Mr Holmes?”

They had come to a stop right in front of the gate. The barking was impossible to miss now.

Sherlock’s gaze flit from John’s face to the shelter door and back. “John ...”

Clearly he could not be suggesting what Sherlock thought he was suggesting.

“Go on,” John said softly. “Pick one.”

Sherlock forgot to breathe, forgot to move, forgot everything. All he could do was stare down at John’s face that was getting suspiciously blurry.

Finally, he managed to choke out: “Pick what?”

He needed to hear it, needed to hear John say it out loud so it would be true.

“Go and pick a dog,” John told him, smiling.

“... Why?”

John shrugged. “Because you love dogs. Because you miss having a dog. Because I miss seeing you with a dog. Because you have a heart the size of London and in this shelter are a bunch of lovely dogs in desperate need of some love.”

Sherlock blinked rapidly and John’s face got a little less blurry. Sherlock was distantly aware that his cheeks were a bit wet.

“But ... the Work ...”

John snorted. “If you have proven anything in the twelve days I was a dog, it’s that you are perfectly capable of combining the two.”

“Mrs Hudson ...”

“...is getting the flat ready as we speak,” John finished his sentence for him. “We might not be able to bring the dog home right away, it really depends on what the shelter thinks is best, but we can go in and pick one right now.”

Sherlock didn’t know what to say. Here was John, somehow having managed to lure him here and organise all of this without making Sherlock suspicious, just so he could surprise him. Just to make him happy.

“I ...”

“One condition, though,” John said.

“Anything.” The word was out of his mouth before he had even had time to process it.

John smiled. “Don’t forget to pet me every once in a while.”

Sherlock felt something rise in his chest, something warm and light, like a bubble of air. He thought he might drift away.

“No dogs in the bedroom,” he found himself saying. “And I mean it this time. I’ve already got everything I want in there.”

John nodded. “I’ll hold you to that. Come on then. Time to meet our new flatmate.”

He grabbed Sherlock’s elbow and made to steer him through the gate.

Sherlock refused to budge. The heady feeling was filling every pore of his being.

“John...”

“Yes?”

He licked his lips and let the words out with a sigh. “I love you.”

John’s smile softened. “I love you, too. Now come on.”

Smiling, Sherlock allowed himself to be led through the entrance. “Can we call him Johnny?”

“Over my dead body.”

"Mycroft? It would be nice if he followed my orders for a change."

"You don't believe he's a Good Boy."

"Never mind. I'll find another name."



THE END.