John was surprised at how quiet the flat was when he returned home from the surgery. Sherlock was sitting in his customary chair, reading the papers and occasionally checking his phone. He barely looked up when his flatmate entered the room, only giving a grunt to recognize that he was there at all. Then his eyes again lowered to the paper.
But there was another noise, John realized – low and quiet and comforting – familiar, but a noise he couldn't quite place. It seemed to be coming from Sherlock's chair, but not from Sherlock himself. And the detective was wearing his trench coat, a behavior he only reverted to on the coldest of days: usually he lounged around the apartment in either his suit or his bedclothes, depending on how much he wanted to scandalize any unexpected visitors. It was the middle of summer; Sherlock wasn't that much of a masochist.
"Aren't you boiling in that coat?" John asked, trying to keep his voice companionable instead of combative, as he headed for the kitchen to look for the iced tea he'd made. He prayed silently that St. Bart's was out of severed hands as he opened the kitchen, and breathed an audible sigh of relief as his prayer was answered.
Sherlock didn't reply, and John poked his head into the living room to see that his flatmate's attention was not actually focused on the paper in front of him, but instead something in his lap. The monotonous noise had become louder and more insistent, somehow, and Sherlock was matching its tone with his own soft humming.
Curious, John put the pitcher of tea back into the fridge and padded into the living room, standing in front of the detective who, recognizing the doctor's interest, obligingly pulled aside the edges of his coat.
Nestled in Sherlock's bony lap were two tiny kittens, purring loudly and nuzzling at his silk shirt. One, a calico, poked her head up to look curiously at John, her bright green eyes glittering in the light of the room. The other, an orange tabby, merely pressed closer to Sherlock's warmth.
"Sherlock . . . kittens? Really?"
"They were in the park by themselves, hiding in a bush. Their mother is dead, judging by the fact that their coats haven't been tongue-bathed in nearly two days. A male and a female, approximately five weeks old, only recently weaned. Both are of average weight for their maturity and do not suffer from any intestinal diseases. We will have to get them castrated when it is appropriate to do so," Sherlock replied almost mechanically, the tip of his finger gently caressing the forehead of the calico.
"And you want to keep them? You don't even like people."
"I like animals better than people. Animals don't lie," Sherlock said quietly.
John sighed. He'd never seen Sherlock actually show affection for any creature; it couldn't be a bad thing.
"Okay. So what do we name them?"
"Sarah and Watson," Sherlock whispered, smiling sadly.