A/N: Here is the bonus chapter! It takes place after the events of Sherlock Holmes's 7 Paw Stories: John. Hope you enjoy reading! Reviewers are loved :)
Edit: this chapter was kindly betaed by Anbessette!
Sherlock Holmes' 7 Paw Stories: Game over or continue?
Sherlock had very slowly recovered from John's bullet. He'd had to pretend he was needed for a case in Denmark for a week, which turned out to be a month and of course since he was supposed to travel incognito he couldn't contact John and tell him where he was. Of course.
In fact, he had spent a month bored to death in St Andrew's Hospital, Northampton, until he was told he could walk around safely. He hadn't specified he intended to chase criminals through London, but considered he'd wasted enough time already. He was lucky the bullet hadn't hit any bones or major nerves, or he'd still be stuck in hospital.
He was still limping though, and had told John he'd been stabbed in the leg in Copenhagen – which, on second thought, wasn't very clever a lie, since John was a doctor. Sherlock still couldn't walk around the flat half-naked or dressed in only his horrid blue robe, for fear John would find out his injury hadn't been caused by a blade.
Naturally Mycroft had known and, as usual, meddled. Sherlock had been forced to tell him the truth - omitting the whole tiger part, though. He had to explain that yes, the bullet had been from John's gun, but John hadn't actually known he was aiming at his flatmate, and Sherlock certainly did not want him to know. Ever.
Now that he was back in 221B, everything was back to normal. Almost. John glanced at Sherlock suspiciously whenever a cat was mentioned in conversation, and was even trying to trick him now and then into admitting he had indeed transformed into a bloody tiger. Sometimes he seemed to forget about it altogether, and Sherlock had no doubt the poor doctor was doubting his sanity and berating himself mentally for ever thinking the experience had been something other than a dream. But then there were those times when he suddenly seemed to wonder. "Won't you tell me all about your case in Denmark? I'd like to put it on the blog." "Sherlock? Where did the Cluedo box go?" "I've been thinking... do you like to be petted?" To which Sherlock had very kindly retorted: "I'd advise you stop thinking, John, if it's to utter such nonsense."
Tonight though, Sherlock was missing John's nonsense, even if he would never admit it. The doctor had come back very tired after a hard day at the clinic, and Sherlock had been very bored all day – in other words, he'd been so insufferable over dinner (which he didn't actually eat) that John had gone up to his room, slamming the door and saying he was going to bed early.
Sighing dramatically, Sherlock stretched on the couch. He was finding the night so uninteresting he actually considered going to bed. He was pushing the door to his room when he heard a scratch coming from the living-room. He froze and frowned. John wouldn't scratch at the door, would he? He turned back and opened the door to the staircase. Something big and fluffy rushed in, almost knocking Sherlock down on the way.
In the middle of the living-room, completely panicked and bamboozled, stood a stout and plushy feline with long, dense fur, ochre with dark vertical bars on the torso and forelegs. His chin and throat were white, merging into the greyish silky fur of the underparts. Concentric white and black rims around the eyes accentuated their rounded shape. With its long tail, short legs, very low ears set wide apart and unusually short claws, it looked positively ridiculous.
"You're an otocolobus manul. What's an otocolobus manul doing in Baker Street?" he asked dumbly, as if the cat would answer him.
The manul mewled loudly, and Sherlock's brow furrowed.
"Don't be so noisy. It's three in the morning, and I've been told people sleep at this time of the night."
Since the cat didn't seem to be leaving, he closed the door and went to sit on the sofa, studying the animal closely.
"Pallas' cat, they say. But you're a weird cat. You're so fluffy you look fat, and I've never seen such a flat face – as if you'd just run into a window without noticing the pane."
The manul snarled and prowled, and Sherlock thought for a second it would lash out. He sent it a haughty look, arching an eyebrow.
"I have a riding crop. My flatmate upstairs has a gun. I'd suggest you keep your attitude in check."
The cat stared, and the look it sent him didn't please Sherlock at all. It was almost insulting.
"Playing smart, are we? Well. Fine. Have it your way."
Standing up, he went back to the kitchen and pretended to resume his ongoing experiment. In fact, he was very interested in the manul, and in finding out how it got there in the first place. Finally, something to distract him when his selfish flatmate was leaving him to his boredom! He grinned like a child.
The manul wasn't quite as happy. It was walking in circles in the living-room, apparently very lost and out of place. Finally, it couldn't take it anymore, and joined Sherlock in the kitchen. It jumped on a chair which teetered under its weight. Sitting down, it looked even rounder, and ever sillier.
He extended a hand and waited. The manul tilted its head to the side and sent him a questioning look. Sherlock grew impatient.
"Your paw. Give me your paw."
It complied grumpily, growling. Sherlock was beaming.
"You're obedient! Wonderful. I wonder if you'll do. For John, I mean. Would he want you as a pet?"
He poked his nose. The manul snarled and bit him.
"You...! Maybe I should just use you for an experiment after all. I had in mind testing the effects of citric acid on different types of skins. Yours must be more resistant than human skin – shall we find out?"
The poor cat jumped back in horror, as if he actually understood what Sherlock was saying. Or maybe it was just the Cheshire cat's grin on his face that scared it. As it tried to get away, Sherlock pulled it closer by the paw, and it fell from the chair with a loud yelp. This surprised the detective, who hadn't truly meant to hurt it.
"Calm down! I was joking, joking! What am I saying? I'm talking to a cat. This is absurd."
It suddenly dawned on him that this was not the first strange feline adventure he'd had this year. He eyed the manul suspiciously, scrutinising.
"Do you already have a master? Is the joke actually being pulled on me?"
The cat rolled its eyes, and successfully escaped Sherlock's grasp, retreating to a far corner of the living-room moodily.
"Are you sulking? Come here. I'm not going to experiment on you. You look like a smart cat – no, scratch that, you definitely don't look smart."
The manul hissed and glared daggers at him.
"... but you seem to understand what I'm saying. To a certain extent."
Since the cat wasn't coming to him, Sherlock fell back on the couch broodingly.
"Fine. You're dull too, in the end. I shouldn't have had too much hope."
It didn't seem to bother him a manul arrived from God knows where was still in his living-room as he was about to try and take a nap. To be fair, said manul had a powerful death glare, but other than that didn't look very frightening. Sherlock curled on the couch, his back to the cat. It was so much like John, he thought. It snapped, but would eventually come back, of that he was absolutely certain. He wasn't sure how long it would take, though, and that was bad news for for his unoccupied mind that craved something to think about. Apart from the obvious 'Why is there a manul in my flat in the middle of the night?'
About thirty minutes later, Sherlock heard the cat move about and finally settle in front of the couch, looking right at him – or, more precisely, his back. Still, he did not turn. Forty-five minutes later, it had moved closer and was almost touching the couch. Finally, after a whole hour, Sherlock felt a paw on his left shoulder and smirked. He turned abruptly and picked it up under the front legs, holding it high above him. The manul howled and growled, baring its teeth. Sherlock snorted. The jaw was short and had fewer teeth than other felids.
"I'm sorry to tell you the lack of the first pair of premolars doesn't make for a very terrifying growl."
The manul's eyes turned to slits and it shut its mouth instantly. Sherlock gaped.
"You have a sense of... pride? I'm afraid that's rather misplaced on your part... You should aim for fluffiness. You're rather fluffy, after all."
This didn't seem to please the manul in the least, and it wriggled its legs, trying to scratch Sherlock's arms and face. Sherlock pouted.
"On edge, are we? Maybe I should just put you back outside and you can get it all out on the street."
The manul stopped jiggling and sent him a pleading look. Sherlock's eyes grew wide and a flicker of juvenile wonder flashed through his pupils. Still lying down, he put the cat back on top of his abdomen. Its heaviness was balanced by the smoothness of its fur. Sherlock had never had a plushy toy – boring – but at this moment he understood for the first time in his life why children could enjoy having one.
To his surprise, the downy cat didn't bite him nor scratch him: it just sat there, squat and sturdy. Its big round eyes were too dark for a manul, though – a warm chestnut brown Sherlock found especially to his liking. He muttered as if to himself:
"I had no idea he liked cats so much – he rather struck me as the dog-type. Loving, faithful, so damn self-sacrificing..."
The cat didn't let him continue his rant. It suddenly jumped off and Sherlock gasped – had it gained momentum by pushing against his stomach or was it done on purpose for the sake of it?
Said stupid cat was now scratching the door like crazy, obviously wanting to open it but not quite managing to do so. He emitted a chirruping noise, calling for help with annoyance. Sherlock stood up lazily and walked up to it. He smirked and cast him a smug look.
"Are you stuck, by any chance?"
The manul hissed ragingly and was making such a racket that Sherlock thought it wiser to open the door – but not before testing his authority on the frenzied cat.
"Shall I open it for you, perhaps?"
It stopped scratching, seething, and sent him a truly intimidating and very dark glare. Unfortunately for the poor cat, it lost a most of its effect when considering the flat face as a whole, with its funny ears and hairy whiskers. Oh, Sherlock was having fun.
"Now, is that your way to say 'please'? I'm afraid you'll have to be a little more convincing than that."
They had a staring contest and Sherlock won. Distressed, the manul fidgeted. Sherlock arched an eyebrow and waited. He wasn't a very patient man, but he could wait when he knew he'd get what he wanted in the end. Reluctantly, the fluffy cat emitted an imperceptible meow.
"What was that?" Sherlock pressed on with mock innocence.
The manul mewled back angrily. Sherlock frowned, and it winced. It mewled again in a more pleading manner, but still disgruntled. Sherlock was actually very curious to know where the cat wanted to go, so decided to leave it at that.
"Fine", he said magnanimously as he opened the door.
Instantly the manul was running as fast as he could – which wasn't very fast – up the stairs to John's room.
"Wait, don't go there!" Sherlock admonished in a low voice, trying to keep it down. But in truth he found the idea of waking John up with yet another feline on his bed quite tempting and so followed the cat, grinning somewhat mischievously.
He was rather disappointed to see John's room was empty. The manul, on the other hand, was beaming, and jumped eagerly onto the unmade bed. Sherlock shook his head.
"That's no use. He's not here, in case you haven't noticed."
The cat sent him a puzzled look and he shrugged.
"You can stay here if you want. I think he'll like you. If he thought a tiger was soft and fluffy, he should be very happy with..."
He was interrupted by an exasperated yowl and was dumbstruck as the manul started hopping about – or tried to, anyway. It wasn't exactly light enough to hop and the mattress was squeaking ominously under his weight.
Sherlock walked into the room and came to sit on the bed, bemused. Maybe the cat was mad – could felines get rabies? His brain was so fogged up at the moment he wasn't quite sure. Looking at the bouncing manul on John's bed, he was even wondering if he weren't the mad one here. Contrary to his own assessment, he must have been tired after all, because it didn't even occur to him this whole situation was very similar to the one that got him shot in the leg.
Eventually the manul got weary and fell onto the mattress with a thud, exhausted and puffing. Sherlock observed as its chest rose up and down, up and down, looking like a giant and plushy fugu fish, and he couldn't help but giggle. The cat glared, but it looked so desperate Sherlock felt a twinge of pity for it.
"I can see you like John's bed. Is he hiding catnip somewhere?"
The manul closed its eyes in defeat. Sherlock picked a leg, held it up, and let go. It fell back onto the mattress limply. The cat was still breathing – quite loudly in fact – but it seemed to have gotten tired of it all and just given up.
"You want to sleep already? Dull..."
The cat reopened its eyes sleepily and blinked. With a lot of effort, it brought itself back to its feet, and scurried over to Sherlock groggily. It looked him in the eye, then let its head fall with a soft thud on Sherlock's injured leg. Sherlock jumped and bit his lips. Straight away the cat was looking up and eyeing him suspiciously. The detective stared in bewilderment. Had the manul known he was injured?
He was cut off as the chunky cat started rubbing its forehead gingerly on Sherlock's leg, so softly he only sensed the fur stroking him through the fabric.
"You're a weird cat," he said, frowning, but there was fondness in his tone.
Tentatively, he raised a hand and put it on the manul's neck – or back, it was rather difficult to tell them apart with all this fur. Still hesitant, he caressed it once, then again, until he was petting the big cat with wonder in his eyes. He caught himself smiling and stopped right away. He stood up abruptly.
"Right. Well, I should be going to bed. We don't want John coming back and finding me in his, now do we? You can stay here though. I'll tell him I've found him a pet in the morning."
The manul emitted a mewling sound of protest and tried to reach him with his paws again – but Sherlock was moving already and it lost its balance, toppling over the edge of the bed and crashing on the floor with a pitiful wail. In a second Sherlock was picking it up and putting it back onto the bed, pulling the blanket up so it would be more comfortable. He refused to think too much about what he was doing – or about John's reaction in the morning.
"You're completely useless, aren't you?"
A flash of sheer pain traversed the face of the manul and Sherlock was flabbergasted. It had seemed so... human.
"Are you... are you a man?"
He felt stupid the very moment he uttered it. Sighing, he stood back up to go, but this time the cat had successfully planted its claws into his sleeve and wouldn't let go. Sherlock gave up and sat back, but the cat still wasn't satisfied until he'd lay down on the mattress by its side.
In the darkness of the room, and sleep playing its part, he was soon petting the weird cat again, his mind buzzing with data and questions, trying to figure out this unlikely situation. It all stopped when through the fur he felt a heart beat, and a vibrating purr. It was incredibly silly and he knew it, but he was still hit by a wave of sentiment and couldn't help it.
"You're not a plushy toy", he murmured dumbly. "You're alive."
At this the manul, which was already falling asleep, opened its hazel eyes and peered at him through the shadows. Those ridiculously round eyes seemed to be calling him, and before he knew it, Sherlock was resting his brow against the cat's, closing his eyes. His hand running in the softer fur of the belly and chest stopped and revelled in the regular thumping and purring. It was radiating warmth and a sense of home, lulling Sherlock to sleep. His brain was still very active but quite chaotic, and was merely flashing words and concepts such as safety, pricelessness, marvel, John...
The latter seemed to remind Sherlock of something, and he frowned. Before his hard drive was effectively put on standby, he mumbled childishly:
"Maybe I won't give you to John after all..."
In the morning, Sherlock was very surprised upon waking up – precisely because it was morning, and he was waking up. He rarely slept an entire night. It got worse when he realized he was in John's room. With no trace of a manul whatsoever. He groaned and went down to the kitchen, where he found John running around precipitately, half a piece of toast in his mouth.
"I'm really late for the clinic, tried not to wake you up when I got my clothes – you should have told me you'd only sleep soundly in my bed. Is it the mattress? Or the upstairs bedroom? We can switch, you know."
Before Sherlock could say anything he was already running right past him to his jacket and briefcase.
"There's still some toast left, if you'd like any – who knows, you've slept, maybe you'll actually eat something willingly today! I'm off."
Speechless, Sherlock didn't quite know whether he should chase and grill him. When John suddenly popped his head around the door, he started.
"Oh, by the way, Sherlock. Please never buy me a pet : you're completely clueless as to what I would like. Later!"
And he was gone. Sherlock stared dumbly at the door, then grumbling, letting his head fall against the wall with a bang. I prefer resting my brow against a manul's to banging my head on the wall, was the very useful note his brain made.