Panthera Pardus

Chapter 1: Bond Initiation

This had to be the hottest day on record… John was sure of it. He honestly couldn't remember feeling any hotter his entire life. It felt like he was inside an oven. And it didn't really matter where you were… whether you were in the sun or in your tent, the heat didn't relent. And so, John had picked the best spot he could, under a pomegranate tree on top of a low hill. There was a slight breeze, just enough to cool the sweat on his brow, but it was still scorchingly hot. The Afghani sun beat down relentlessly on the cracked dry earth and its inhabitants. It had to be close to 110 degrees… possibly more.

He was glad that all operations had been put on hold for the day. Negotiations were taking place and a cease-fire had been called. Therefore, it was time for some R&R and a bit of cool down. The men under his command were all lounging or cleaning up or getting some letter writing done back at camp. John had told them he was going for a walk, and they'd all given him strange looks as though to say, 'In this heat?'. And John had gone for a walk… to the top of the hill about one klick away where the breeze was a little stronger.

John stretched, his muscles shifting under his green sleeveless shirt. What would really be great right about now, would be a nice pint, he thought. Of course, the peace couldn't last though because it was just then that John heard a low growl. He opened his eyes, and trying to not make any sudden moves, lifted his head to look around. At first he couldn't see anything, but then a small shift in the bushes nearby drew his eye. He slowly sat up, reaching for the knife he kept in his boot. Even though a cease-fire had been called, he wouldn't past some group of guerillas to attack.

More shifting from the bush and a flash of something black. John moved into a defensive pose, crouched low to the ground, his knife held steady in his left hand, his right stretched out for balance. That was when he caught a glimpse of what was stalking him, and his heart sped up. This wasn't a guerilla attack. In slow sinuous movements, the black panther slipped from the bush. He was all grace and agility, teeth and claws, flashing golden eyes and iridescent black fur. John shifted so that the stalking panther was always in front of him.

The closer it moved, the faster John's heart beat, until finally he yelled at the panther, "Come on! What are you waiting for?!"

The panther, who was only a few feet away now, paused and hunkered down, preparing to leap. John steadied himself, his knife at the ready. It happened in the blink of an eye. One moment the panther was several feet away, the next John's knife had been knocked away and the panther had him pinned, one paw on each shoulder. A sleek muzzle pushed up against John's neck, and John expected teeth to bite into his jugular at any second. He waited… but nothing happened.

The panther kept him pinned, but did not move to harm him. In fact, the muzzle that kept scenting at his neck and underarms was now licking at the skin around his neck. The large sandpaper tongue rough against the day old stubble. What the hell was happening?

John tried to push against the panther, but it growled and bit lightly at the skin, not enough to break through, but definitely enough to get the point across. The panther settled down on top of John, its warm heavy weight covering him and holding him down. Great, what am I supposed to do now? he asked himself as the panther started to lick his face.

He lay still for a few long minutes, debating when would be the opportune moment to shove the panther off and make a run for it, but was spared the decision when another panther showed up. The first, still settled over John, growled and dug its claws into John's shirt. John grunted a little as the claws poked at his skin. The second panther growled back, but didn't make any moves forward. Instead, it lowered its head and let out a huff of air, never taking its eyes off of the first panther. The first panther growled again, but lifted its weight off of John and moved into a more defensive position, as though to say, 'This is my human, back off!'

The second panther growled again, and paced back and forth a couple of times before standing still once more. John watched the two interact while staying as still as possible. The second panther never moved any closer, and the first panther seemed reluctant to leave John's side. Finally though, the second panther let out another huff then turned and trotted away. The first panther loosened up a bit and turned back to John, who was still trying to remain as still as possible.

One massive paw came up and batted at John's shoulder, trying to get under his arm. He did it again, as though trying to roll John over. John obliged by rolling over and lying still once more. The panther moved back over top of him and licked at the back of his neck a few times before biting down. John cried out and tried to move away, but the panther held him down and growled before letting go and lapping at the blood that had been released. John, panting from the pain, realized just how lucky he was that the panther hadn't broken through the spinal cord. In fact, the large black cat seemed content to clean up the mess it had made, as though to say 'sorry'.

Finally, the panther moved away from John. John remained laying on the ground while the cat made to follow its brethren. Just before entering the bush though, it gave John one last look, then disappeared. John sat up slowly, amazed to have survived the encounter with not one, but two black panthers. He wasn't quite sure what he was going to tell the medic who would be patching up the bite on the back of his neck though. "Oh, yes, a panther bit me then licked up all the blood and left." With that thought, John rose to his legs and stumbled back down the hill to camp.


Two Years and Four Months Later

Sherlock heaved out a long-suffering sigh as he heard Mike Stamford's distinctive footsteps outside the door. There was someone with him… someone, a male, who used a cane. Apparently that comment this morning about it being difficult to find a roommate had gotten through that thick skull. The door swung open then, and both men walked in. The stranger made a comment about the lab being different than in his day. Doctor then… Sherlock glanced up at that moment and froze. He'd almost given up looking. However there he was… the very same man who he'd marked as a mate nearly two and a half years ago in the Afghani desert.

Sherlock sucked in a breath of air, the distinct scent that had drawn him to the man in the first place filled his lungs and the need to mark him, to get him away from Stamford was nearly unbearable. He could remember the day like it was only yesterday. Mycroft and he had been running through the desert in pursuit of an individual who threatened the peace talks. This was back when Mycroft truly was in a minor role in the government and still did some leg work. They'd passed by a camp of British Army soldiers and Sherlock had thought he'd smelled something, but had kept going. Eventually, Mycroft and he had taken care of their task and were headed back the way they had come when Sherlock caught a stronger scent. The scent struck him like a bolt of lightening and he broke away from Mycroft and rushed to the brush on the top of a nearby hill.

There, lying perfectly content under a pomegranate tree, was an ash blond soldier in a sleeveless shirt, camo khaki pants, and boots. His slow breaths indicated that he was almost asleep. There was something enticing in his smell that Sherlock couldn't resist. It wasn't like when he was hunting and caught the scent of prey… no this was much better. This scent woke a part of his brain that urged him to make this soldier his own… his mate. He'd never been drawn to anyone like this before despite having come across some appealing scents. His parents, for the ability to shapeshift was genetically passed down through their father, had told him about the mating urge, but he'd never thought it would happen to him.

He moved closer, shifting in the bush. That was when the soldier woke up. He didn't start and run away, no… instead he slowly and cautiously took in his surroundings before rising up into a sitting position. Sherlock, had he been able to in this form, would have smirked. The soldier had deep blue eyes, soft pink lips, and scraggly one-day-old stubble across his cheeks. He moved closer, and the soldier's eyes locked with his. Sherlock could hear the soldier's heart rate pick up, but the man did not turn and run. Instead he slowly rose to a crouched position and unsheathed a knife from his boot.

Sherlock mentally approved. This man was not afraid of him. He was a fighter… something that made him want him even more as a mate. He was short, shorter than the national average, and Sherlock could tell that he would fit perfectly under his own chin, as though they were made to be together. At first glance, the soldier appeared stocky, and while that was somewhat true, a second glance told of the layers of muscle that corded through his body. It was obvious that this was not the man's first tour of duty.

"Come on! What are you waiting for?!" the man yelled at Sherlock.

Sherlock stalked forward a bit more, then crouched low and pounced. One paw deliberately knocked the knife out of the soldier's hand before both fore paws came to rest against the man's shoulders, keeping him pinned in place against the hard earth. The scent was even more alluring at such close range, and Sherlock buried his muzzle in the man's neck, taking it in as much as he could and fighting the urge to rut against him. The man pushed against him, and Sherlock pressed back growling.

The man fell still again and Sherlock took the opportunity to take in his scent, sniffing at his sweat covered neck and underarms. Finally, he settled his weight on the man, mostly to keep him still, but also because the warmth against his underbelly felt quite good. The enticing scent was driving him crazy. Mine! he thought and licked a stripe across the man's neck. The salty taste of sweat was combined with hints of aftershave, gunpowder, tea, and (strangely) mint.

Sherlock! Mycroft growled, having finally caught up. Sherlock let out a low growl that stopped Mycroft from coming any closer. Sherlock, what do you think you're doing?

A primal part of Sherlock's brain just wanted to shout out MATE! MINE! But he supposed Mycroft had already figured that out by the way Sherlock was lying possessively over the man. Go away, Mycroft, he growled.

You can't take a mate now, Sherlock.

Why not?!

Because we have important work to do.

He is MINE! Sherlock growled, falling to base instincts to get his message across. He moved into a more defensive position over the soldier.

Mycroft let out a huff of air and lowered his head in deference to indicate he wasn't about to challenge Sherlock for the man. Then mark him as yours and let us be on our way. You can find him again later.

Sherlock growled again, but saw the logic in this solution. His rational brain knew there was much to be done and though he was loathe to follow Mycroft so blindly, he was the older of them and knew more about the mating call than Sherlock did. Come, Sherlock. We have things to finish. Mycroft said before turning to trot off and leave Sherlock to mark his mate in private.

Sherlock felt his muscles relax as Mycroft left and he let out a huff of air. Finally, he turned his attention back to the man who was lying as still as possible, his heart betrayed him though and told Sherlock that he was afraid. With one large paw, Sherlock swatted at the man's shoulder until he got the hint and rolled over. Then Sherlock got into position and licked at the back of the man's neck. The delightful ambrosia of tastes covered his palate once more and it took more control than he thought he really had to not change back to human and mate with the man here and now. Instead he sunk his fangs into the vulnerable back of the man's neck, just deep enough that it would scar and leave a mark. The man cried out, and tried to move away, but Sherlock held him down. After he was sure that the blood saliva transference was sufficient to begin the bonding process, he let go and cleaned up the leftover blood.

Once he was finished, he nuzzled once more at the man's neck then turned to trot away, stopping once to look once more at his mate before disappearing into the bush after Mycroft.

And now here he was again. Two and a half years later and Sherlock had finally found the man once more. Regaining his senses, Sherlock looked back into the microscope and asked, "Mike, can I borrow your phone?" Sherlock interrupted, asking Mike for his phone because he'd remembered that he needed to text Lestrade… that and he needed a distraction from the man's enticing scent.

"What's wrong with the land line?"

"I prefer to text."

Mike checked his pockets for a second before replying, "Sorry, it's in my coat."

"Uh, here… use mine," the man said.

"Oh… thank you," Sherlock replied and moved to retrieve the phone from him.

"That's an old friend of mine, John Watson," Mike filled in.

John… finally there was a name to the face. John Watson… As Sherlock reached to take the phone, he had to steady himself. It shouldn't have been this hard to not pounce on someone, but it was. "Afghanistan or Iraq?" he asked opening the phone to distract himself.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Which was it, Afghanistan or Iraq?" Sherlock asked again, looking up into those deep blue eyes, which was definitely a mistake, because that only made the impulse jump. He couldn't decide which he would prefer, for John and Mike to just leave, or for just Mike to leave so Sherlock could have John all to himself.

"Afghanistan, I'm sorry, how did you…?"

At that moment, the ever-annoying Molly Hooper walked in with the coffee he'd asked of her, a welcome distraction. He gratefully took the mug she handed him and he made some off hand remark about her lipstick, not really paying attention to her as she walked out. All of his attention was on John. Mike had brought John here as a potential flatmate. And Sherlock would be damned if John was going to walk away from this. "How do you feel about the violin?"

"I'm sorry, what?"

Sherlock could tell Mike was giving John a grin that said, 'Look at the freak do his tricks.' "I play the violin when I'm thinking. Sometimes I don't talk for days… Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other." He looked up and smiled at John, trying to reassure him, but the look on John's face was anything but reassurance.

John turned to Mike, "You told him about me?"

"Not a word…"

"Then who said anything about flatmates?"

"I did," Sherlock replied casually as he moved to put on his jacket. He needed to get away, and get John to come to Baker Street. If not now, then VERY soon. "Told Mike this morning that I must be a difficult man to find a flatmate for. Now here he is, just after lunch with an old friend just home from military service in Afghanistan. It wasn't a difficult leap." Nonchalance… that was the key. If only he could keep up the façade.

"How did you know about Afghanistan?" John asked.

God! His voice! Sherlock was sure his voice would melt him. It was so soothing. He ignored the question though and proceeded on to the flat he was looking at. "Got my eye on a nice little place in central London. Together we ought to be able to afford it." Plant the idea in his head. Sherlock couldn't afford for John to say no. "Meet there tomorrow evening, seven o'clock." Now he really needed to leave, but he would have to pass John in order to do it. "Sorry, got to dash. Left my riding crop in the mortuary." This was it.., he would walk by John as though nothing was wrong. Oh but that scent! It made Sherlock want to bend John over the table and… NO! Wrong line of thought! Sherlock held his breath and walked quickly around John and towards the door.

"Is that it?" John asked.

Oh John, why won't you let me go? Sherlock thought. "Is that what?"

"We only just met and we're going to go look at a flat?"


"We don't know a thing about each other. I don't know where we're meeting. I don't even know your name." John's tone was cynical and wary.

I must fix this! Sherlock decided to put the full force of his deductive powers to work. If anything, this would make or break it. "I know you're an army doctor and you've been invalided home from Afghanistan. I know you've got a brother who's worried about you, but you won't go to him for help because you disapprove of him, possibly because he's an alcoholic, more likely because he recently walked out on his wife. And I know that your therapist thinks that your limp is psychosomatic, quite correctly I'm afraid. That's enough to be going on with don't you think?" he turned back towards the door. Out! He needed out! John's enticing scent kept pulling him back.

He reached the door and pulled it open to get a breath of fresh air before ducking his head back in and saying, "The name's Sherlock Holmes and the address is two, two, one, B, Baker Street. Afternoon!" he called before leaving.

Sherlock waited all the way till he got in the cab before letting out a long breath. That's it… either John would be curious enough to find out who he was, or he'd turn away and never look back. Sherlock could only hope that the bonding process he'd started so long ago would draw John to him. The bonding wasn't something that enslaved one being to another, but instead made one more aware. It allowed for mates to be aware of if their significant other was in danger or if they needed help. Sherlock had even heard of bonds being so strong, that the couple involved could practically read each other's thoughts. It took a long time to get there though and John and he were still very much in the beginning stages of a new bond. Just the initial bite had been done and John could still quite easily walk away from this. Sherlock wasn't so sure he could, but that was only because John is the ONLY one who he'd ever been attracted to in any way.

Only tomorrow would tell. Less than twenty four hours and Sherlock would know if everything would be okay. Less than twenty-four hours and Sherlock would know if his life would change forever.


A/N: So... new story here. I have a bit more written, but it needs to be edited. I hope to have another chapter out within a week. I have a very clear idea of where this story is heading, so hopefully there won't be too much delay in getting out the later chapters. I hope you enjoyed!