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A Goose in the Study

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Dr. John Watson remembered his initial meeting with Sherlock Holmes years ago as if it were yesterday. It wasn’t easy to forget the unsettling way the man had gotten the measure of him with just a single look. “Afghanistan or Iraq?” he’d asked to start with, already knowing about John’s service in the war. “How do you feel about the violin?” was the follow-up question, already knowing John was in the market for a flatmate and wanting to prepare him for what Sherlock thought the worst would be. “Have a goose?” came the final question, just to make sure their flat wasn’t going to be disrupted by a squawking menace hell-bent on eventually finding John his soulmate.

“No goose,” John had reassured him in the sort of tone that implied he didn’t expect one showing up, either. If there was a soulmate out there for him—one single person with whom he would bond wholly and unquestionably for the rest of his life—surely he would have been led to the person by now in his life. He’d made it through school, medical school, and the war without a single goose pecking at him irritably or, for that matter, a goose leading someone else to him. By now, it seemed unlikely for one to ever show up. In fact, the man standing in front of him had probably already calculated the odds of it happening.

Sherlock had nodded at John’s answer. “Good. Don’t expect one to show up for me either. By the way, the name’s Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street.”

And from that moment onward, John Watson’s life had never been the same. He’d had adventures, helped solve mysteries, even been nearly blown to pieces a time or two. But not once had a goose appeared. Not even when he and Sherlock had become more than just flatmates.

Of course, John didn’t know what exactly they were. What did you call a man you loved and respected, a man you admired and cared for, a man you lay in bed with every night and wanted to wake up beside every morning, a man you’d die for in a heartbeat? That was always what John had imagined a soulmate would be to him. But there was no goose. It was pretty clear by now that there would be no goose.

But a part of John wondered if the goose wasn’t coming because of the physical relationship he and Sherlock enjoyed—or the lack thereof. Sherlock didn’t do kisses, so they settled on rubbing their noses against each other’s like eskimos did. Sherlock didn’t want sex, so they enjoyed mutual or solo masturbation sessions. Sherlock didn’t seem to have a sex drive at all, really, so they relied on John’s kinks alone in the bedroom. Sherlock was as accommodating as he could be, and John as patient and understanding as he could be. And somehow they not only made the arrangement work but were very happy with what they had.

There were times John fell asleep in Sherlock’s embrace, feeling more than fulfilled, feeling like his life could not possibly be any more complete. But there were also mornings he stood in the shower, rubbing one off with images in his head of Sherlock Holmes and also of people who weren’t Sherlock Holmes. The woman working the cash register at the Tesco round the corner with the beautiful auburn hair and flower in her hair. The muscular security guard in the lobby of Scotland Yard who joked about having to give John a pat down. A certain detective inspector with whom he and Sherlock frequently worked. That last image typically made certain John finished quite quickly.

No matter what went through his mind and no matter what they confessed to each other, their love could not be diminished. John genuinely meant it in his heart when he nuzzled Sherlock and told him he couldn’t be happier. And John believed him when Sherlock nuzzled back each time with an “I love you.” Being with Sherlock was as heartwarming and pleasing as it was exciting and fascinating.

But everything changed the morning the goose arrived.

Woken from a sound sleep to the sound of crashing, John sat bolt upright in bed. His initial thought was for Sherlock’s safety, but the man was safe beside him in bed, though looking just as shaken and concerned. Evidentially, there was an intruder in the flat, and that could not be a good thing. As John got out of bed, his mind raced with thoughts of assassins and bombs and psychopathic murderers. As Sherlock got out of bed, he grabbed a metal pipe with a hose attached to it.

For a moment, John stared. “What is that?”

“Half a vacuum cleaner. Obviously,” Sherlock replied, as if John were stupid for not recognizing it and as if it were commonplace to keep half a vacuum cleaner beside one’s bed. John’s firearm was locked securely in a safe downstairs where it wasn't doing him much good, so he supposed the half a vacuum cleaner would have to do for the moment. He wasn’t about to let Sherlock go first, however.

Cautiously, he led the way down the stairs. The destruction was evident from the onset, with a shattered vase of flowers here and splintered wood pieces that most likely had formerly been one of their chairs there. Wishing he’d thought to put on a bathrobe, John felt exposed in just a pair of flannel pants and slippers. But he was able to navigate around the broken mess around him. Waste bins were overturned. Pictures were off the walls, broken and scattered about. The pile of mail was now shredded paper covering the general wreckage like large snowflakes.

And that was when the goose showed itself. An imposing figure in white feathers, it waddled out to them with its large wings spread and its beak open. It hissed angrily, causing John to recoil and bump into Sherlock, who dropped the half of a vacuum and proceeded to trip over the hose portion, taking John down with him. John landed in a puddle of flower vase water, receiving a scrape on his arm from a jagged piece of wood. But that was nothing compared to the vicious bite the bird gave him a moment later.

Sherlock yelled at the goose to go, which had absolutely no effect. Then he yelled at John to make the goose go, which had the same result. Then he armed himself with the closest thing to a weapon he could reach: a small, plastic, yellow sandcastle shovel. John barely had time to register how strange it was to have such a thing when the goose charged at them again.

Clicking its beak menacingly, it chased them from the foyer to the study to the kitchen and back again. It was a terrifying blur of white feathers, black eyes, and a bright orange beak that seemed not only unmanageable but inescapable.

“What is this?” John asked repeatedly, confused and not at all used to Sherlock being able to provide a quick solution.

“Perhaps someone sent it to us as a gift for an early Christmas dinner?” Sherlock hypothesized.

“But it’s April.

“Perhaps we’re meant to fatten it up in the meantime?”

John dodged an attack from the beak by swinging himself around the banister at the base of the stairs. “Seems unlikely, Sherlock!”

“What is more likely? That it is food for us or that it is here to find one of us a soulmate?”

That was a fair point. “But which one of us? It’s attacking us both.” It was, in fact, attacking everything in sight. From his limited understanding, soulmate geese only attacked the person they were meant to lead. Perhaps this one was confused or particularly angry to find it had appeared in the wrong flat?

There was a fresh wave of panic and terror as it flapped a wing and sent half of Sherlock’s latest chemistry project flying. Sherlock wasn’t fast enough to save it from crashing to the floor, but none of the chemicals caused an explosion or even a noxious mixture. Before John could take in the extent of the damage, the goose was off again, making a determined beeline for John’s laptop. John dove for the item, but the goose had already pecked the keyboard twice before he got to it, denting the metal casing significantly, sending a few stray keys flying, and catching John’s arm with a third peck.

Deducing a pattern to the goose’s madness, Sherlock went for his most valuable possession and snatched his violin before it could come to harm. He raised it aloft as he jumped onto a chair. In bare feet, he stood with one foot on the seat of the chair and the other on the arm of the chair, relatively safe until they realized that geese, of course, can fly. As the angry, feathery beast came at him, Sherlock had no option but to jump off the chair and hope the couch could cushion his landing. With the forethought to swing his arm wide, he saved the violin from harm, but he faceplanted on the couch so hard John winced. When Sherlock raised his head, there was blood on the couch cushion beneath. He pressed the sleeve of his pajamas to his nose. From across the room, crouching behind the roll top desk, John could tell Sherlock’s nose was broken.

John darted to the kitchen for an ice pack, the goose honking and flapping after him. John managed to hand the pack to Sherlock before zig zagging to the side as the goose came crashing into the coffee table.

“What’s all this racket?” Mrs. Hudson called. As they heard her footsteps on the stairs, John and Sherlock exchanged a look. They both realized simultaneously that the soulmate goose must surely be there for her. It was, of course, the only logical explanation. It had the address right but the flat number wrong. But when she arrived in the flat, the goose didn’t even seem to register her presence.

Mrs. H, however, could not fail to notice the goose. “Oh, I just knew you two were meant to be!” she said giddily, clapping her hands and turning at once into the romantic she always seemed to pretend she wasn’t.

Sherlock looked cross as he pulled himself into a kneeling position on the couch “Mrs. Hudson, if we are meant to be, why is the goose still attacking both of us?” Sherlock reasoned, hopping from one side of the couch to the other while the goose snapped at the spots his feet had occupied a second before.

Only then did it fully sink in for John. He loved Sherlock with all that he was. For years now, he had treated Sherlock as he were his soulmate. But if there was a goose in their flat, it meant that one of them was destined to be with someone else. John felt a sharp pang of jealousy as he thought about Irine Adler and James Moriarty. But he quickly dismissed both those possibilities when the goose turned away from Sherlock to charge at John with a loud honk. Racing around the table, John was convinced that the goose could read minds as well as see into souls.

The goose was clearly here to lead one of them to his true soulmate, and John felt sick at the idea of causing Sherlock any pain. But he knew, deep down, that the goose had to be there for him. All of this was his fault, and he’d have to deal with it. The thought of breaking Sherlock’s heart was almost too painful to imagine, but all the pecking and bruising and bleeding would only get worse. John’s pace slowed as he came to his realization, and the pecking goose took the opportunity to get him good in his bum. John yelped and turned around, but the goose just glared at him and honked again as if he were meant to understand what it was saying. Not even the great Sherlock Holmes could speak goose.

In an attempt to return the chaotic state of their flat to normal, and perhaps mainly because there was no other course of action, Mrs. Hudson made tea. She brought a tray out to them, intending to place it on what was left of the coffee table in the study. But the goose upset the service just as Sherlock and John each reached for a cup.

The broken ceramics and puddles of hot tea staining the carpet seemed to pale in comparison to the images described to them when Greg Lestrade called a minute later about a case he couldn’t make any sense of. As serious as the soulmate goose situation was, it was almost a relief to have a case to worry about. They agreed to be right there, but they didn’t mention the goose. Mrs. Hudson threw her hands up at the whole situation and retired to her flat.

John and Sherlock managed to get themselves dressed, though it wasn’t without disruptions. At one point, the goose grabbed hold of the sleeve of John’s sweater and the ensuing ripping sound ensured he would have to choose a different sweater to wear. It seemed to thoroughly disapprove of every pair of trousers Sherlock had, forcing John to trap the goose in the bathroom until Sherlock could finish getting dressed. “If it wants me to go into work half naked, who am I to argue?” Sherlock said with a shrug. His back to the bathroom door that the goose kept ramming into, John just pointed at a pair of trousers until Sherlock obligingly climbed into them.

Their hope was that the bird might stay put while they were gone, so they could deal with it when they got home from the case. But it insisted on following them down the stairs and right into the taxi cab. The driver wasn’t especially pleased, and they scrambled back out of the cab a quarter of an hour later with additional bites and bruises, an even angrier goose on their hands, and most of their food budget for the week gone to the gratuity.

The goose was, of course, no better behaved at Scotland Yard. It was a nightmare to force through security, though John noticed it didn’t seem to favor a certain security guard. After a struggle, Sherlock managed to get a hold of the goose. He carried it tight in his arms, tucked beneath his chin so that its head couldn’t easily peck at his face. It struggled, its wings and feet flailing, but Sherlock was stronger than he looked. John wondered if they might visit Molly in hopes of acquiring a sedative. Could it hurt to drug your soulmate goose? It wouldn’t be for long; just for the duration of the case when they’d be free again to figure out what the hell was going on.

Before John could suggest it as a course of action, the goose broke free. Chaos ensued in quick measure as the goose somehow managed to disrupt every desk on the floor simultaneously. Sherlock and John proceeded to race around, trying both to capture it and to avoid its beak without much success on either point. John managed to back it into a corner where Sherlock scooped it up again. It poked John in the shoulder, though, and its wing pushed a coat rack over onto a computer monitor as the goose struggled to get free.

But when his office door flew open and Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade appeared, the goose went limp in their arms. Curious, John stepped back and Sherlock set the goose down. It quietly made its way through the destruction to Greg and rubbed up against his leg repeatedly like a cat. Greg stared down at this. “No, no. This can’t be for me,” he protested, an absolutely stupid thing to say about a soulmate goose that was clearly marking him. It hadn’t singled Sherlock or John out so specifically as this. “Whose goose is this?” He tried to step aside, tried to push it away, but it snuggled right up to him affectionately. His cheeks went red, and he couldn’t lift his gaze from it to see who might be claiming the goose. Most likely, he already knew whose it was. He had made the call, after all.

John knew all too well how this was supposed to go. He had seen enough people on their goosedays to understand what had to happen next. The goose wouldn’t go away until there had been a proper kiss. And as Sherlock didn’t kiss, that left John with only one course of action. He gave Sherlock a pleading, helpless look, but Sherlock’s expression showed that he understood as well. He walked over to John, placed a hand on the man’s back, and carefully rubbed noses with him even though it must have been terribly painful with his broken nose. The sensation made warmth radiate throughout John, calming him for just a moment even though his heart was racing. Then Sherlock gave John a little push toward Greg.

Stumbling forward with equal counts of trepidation and excitement, John headed across the room to Greg. The silence of the usually noisy office spoke volumes; he was fairly sure all of Scotland Yard was watching. When he got to the man, the goose came for him, not biting or pecking his time but crooning its head against John’s leg in the clearest indication yet that this was the right course of action. Not knowing what else to do, John leaned forward. “I… uh…” He looked into Greg’s eyes, heart thumping wildly.

“Never thought… but I did hope…” Greg took the initiative and closed the distance required to pull John into his arms for a kiss. The kiss was as spectacular as John could have hoped for. Every bit of John felt alive, activated. He had received plenty of kisses over the years, but absolutely nothing that might compare to this one. He knew at once that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Greg. And, yet, regret and sadness lingered just under the surface. He felt a tear escape and slide down his face.

When they broke apart, Greg smiled, his head slightly cocked still. “Always loved you in this sweater,” said Greg, a bit sheepishly.

“Always loved you,” said John, too overwhelmed with emotion to do anything but let Greg know that the kiss had felt so right.

“HONK!” said the goose, which had not disappeared the way it should have done.

John and Greg turned their heads to look down. The goose was definitely still there, fixing them with a beady-eyed stare. John was confused. Everyone was confused. The goose honked again with what could only be annoyance. It flapped its wings at the two of them then it waddled back across the room and pecked Sherlock in the shin so hard the man yelped in pain. A bloom of red began to form on the trousers.

Alarmed, John rushed over to inspect the wound, realizing as he reached Sherlock that Greg was right on his heels. Sherlock hopped up to sit on the edge of Anderson’s desk. John rolled the leg of his trousers up to make an evaluation. And Greg leaned in behind John, just as concerned. John could feel Greg’s breath tingle pleasantly on his neck and feel Greg’s warm, supportive hand on his back as John pulled some things from his pocket. He used an alcohol wipe which both stung and removed a trickle of blood and then applied an adhesive pad to Sherlock’s leg. As confused as John felt right now, it felt good to revert back to just being a doctor, just focusing on the injury.

What none of them saw was the goose jumping up onto Anderson’s desk. It waddled over case files, sending papers flying. It knocked aside the stapler and a coffee mug. It spread its large wings wide. And it head-butted Sherlock from behind.

The tall man fell forward, right into Greg’s arms. Greg held him, partly shocked to have Sherlock thrust at him and partly surprised to find that Sherlock wasn’t resisting the touch. In fact, Sherlock was snuggling close, resting his head on Greg’s chest and shoulder and closing his eyes contentedly.

Up on the desk, the goose squawked and waggled its tail feathers in a strange way.

John felt a rush of affection for them both, not understanding what he was witnessing. But then, somehow, the goose was back on the floor, behind John, nipping at his ankles. John hopped in place and stepped forward, suddenly finding himself pressed against both men’s embrace. The very tip of his nose rubbed against Sherlock’s. His lips brushed against Greg’s. And, instinctively, John’s arms wrapped around both of them, and not just to steady himself.

Sherlock revealed the identity of the latest murderer two hours later. John made a phone call to buy a larger bed before lunchtime. And Greg moved his things into 221B Baker Street the very next day. They never again saw a goose.