Chapter One: Hunt
The first time Sherlock Holmes knew of Dr. John Watson existence, he had scented him before he had ever seen him. He had been in the lab at Bart's, when he heard the bustle of two men coming down the hall. One was Mike Stamford, a frequent acquaintance of Sherlock's. He scented of antiseptic, decaf coffee grounds, cheap aftershave and a wife's even cheaper perfume.
The second man Sherlock scented was earthy, and it piqued his interest straight away. He smelled of sun and sand, and a bit of wind. Mycroft had often admonished when Sherlock was just a cub that one cannot "smell" wind and sun, but Sherlock did. It smelled fresh, slightly burned; seeping into pores and branding an earthy scent into skin.
As they entered the lab Sherlock feigned disinterest, only allowing a quick glance. The way the man carried himself—Soldier? Absolutely. Recently returned, skin still tan. The sand and sun made sense, Afghanistan… Possibly Iraq. Sherlock inhaled deeply but quietly, as scenting gave him more of a view into a person and their being than eye sight. The man was clean, healthy, free of disease. He had a limp, but it wasn't from a physical injury. Psychological trauma? Interesting. Barely on the surface of his skin was a light scent of cheap detergent coupled with strong bleach and generic shampoo. Sherlock dimly thought it had all the trappings of a hotel stay.
Ah yes, that's why Mike brought him here.
The scent of sunshine and sand gradually grew dimmer as the weeks drew on, and Sherlock found himself oddly disappointed. John still smelled unique. Unique in a way Sherlock found eternally interesting. He smelled of rain now. London streets were slick and gray, the rain soaked into concrete and dust, and it absorbed into John's skin just as easily as the sand had.
Everyone else around Sherlock smelled… false. Fabricated lotions, cosmetics, cologne. John was… earthy. There was just no other word for it. It made Sherlock feel homesick, in an odd way. The loss of the woods, the moss on logs and the thicker mist in the air. The wolf inside raked claws against his ribcage. Yes, he missed it. Mycroft would probably howl in approval at this confession. But John was here and smelled of home. John had no use of false scents. He showered simply (light soap and shampoo) and laundered even simpler (exact minimal measurement of detergent, generic, no fabric softener). No aftershave, no cologne.
But Sherlock noticed that tonight, there was cologne.
"I'm headed out. Don't wait up."
Sherlock looked up from his phone, mid-text to Lestrade. He frowned. "Oh?" He asked, eyes not leaving the screen.
John raked a hand through his hair, sheepish smile. "Uh yeah. Date. Told you. Remember?"
Sherlock waved his hand dismissively. "Right. Cheryl?"
"Sarah." John breathed exasperated, his 5th time correcting Sherlock on her name. "But right, like I said. Don't wait up." And with a snatch of his coat and a wink, he was gone.
John returned at 2:12am. Sherlock quietly lay on the couch, so still and ears perked for every sound John made. But it wasn't the sounds that Sherlock ended up focusing on, as always, it was the scents.
John smelled of sex. Of sweat and cum and arousal. His pores stank of alcohol, he had been drinking but he wasn't drunk. And he smelled of her. Of vanilla hand lotion and female deodorant. Everything false and fabricated.
The rain was gone.
Sherlock's heart ached and the wolf howled.
The moon was beautiful. It was full, hanging like a bright silver disk just above the edge of the trees, and it was easy to imagine the Lady looking down on the dark Earth below, seeing every everything, even sensing the still forms of the hunted, frozen in the deepest shadows. A slight smile curved Sherlock's lips as he looked up between the branches, taking in the sight along with several breaths of needed oxygen.
The transformation was quick and smooth, as always, and Sherlock pawed the ground, lifting the dirt and inhaling deeply. He wasn't bulky or powerful; he was swift, sleek and darkly beautiful. His power came from his mind; he made for a cunning adversary. When he was a pup the other pack cubs had called him trickster. 'He didn't fight fair' they cried to their nursemaids, pawing a torn ear or bloodied snout. Mycroft had eyed him carefully, but he had never been punished for his… unconventional tactics.
Sherlock bared his teeth in a grin at the memory.
He was finely muscled and lean. His coat was glossy and curled. Dark but not a true black, a hint of navy in his fur at the edges and he blended into the night as comfortably as the stars. He possessed a thick ruff around his neck, tangled and annoying and he found a dark humor in the familiarity between it and the mufflers he wore daily around his neck.
He listened and stilled. He had taken two train trips and rented an off road vehicle to indulge in this and he couldn't afford to be scented, much less seen. He didn't indulge in this need very often, perhaps twice a year, but the wolf was frustrated more than usual. Snapping and acting out inside him it was beginning to affect how he worked.
It affected how he treated John. And that was unacceptable. He had to indulge the wolf in this.
He started at a light pace. It had been so long since his last transformation he needed to familiarize with the body once more. The learning curve was quick, and within minutes he was at a pace that was purely instinctual. He ducked and swerved and wheeled around logs and rocks like he had always known they were there. The wolf howled and Sherlock humored it, lifting his head he howled along.
It wasn't long before he came upon what he had come to do. He slowed his pace as he scented the air. A burrow of hares was close. He huffed the ground, pawing, scenting. Always scenting. He lowered his body, ears flat, and he waited.
"Rabbit? Where did you get rabbit around here?" John asked, a half smile on his face and he looked inside the box.
Sherlock smiled easily back, "Come John. Lots of shops around here provide it, if you know where to look. Have you tried it before?"
John shrugged and closed the box. "No, never had. Experiment?"
John's eyes widened a fraction. "Oh? Cooking now are we?"
"Well, an experiment I suppose." Sherlock supplied begrudgingly. "Cooking is science John. I would think I would find following a simple rabbit stew recipe almost…"
"Dull?" John smiled, walking over to his chair and plopping down, newspaper in hand.
"I was going to say educational." Sherlock lifted the box from the table and set it on the counter. He hesitated on his next words; he had to choose them carefully.
"You have another date tonight?" He asked as casually as he could manage, beginning to clear the countertops.
"Uhh…" John was in mid-article, he marked his place on the paper with his thumb and turned his head toward Sherlock. "No, not tonight. Why, cooking for me are we?" There was a smile in the question.
Feeding you. The wolf snarled. Laying my kill at your feet.
Sherlock shrugged his right shoulder. "Yes, I suppose. Interested?"
"You cooking? Of course, this is something I need to see."
The wolf was sated and quiet. It was in the beginning annoyed that the rabbits were stripped and cooked. Rabbit was meant to be eaten raw. To be torn with fangs not cut with a dull blade. But it fell quiet when John began eating. John was delighted and helped himself to seconds. The wolf bristled with pride and Sherlock's pulse quickened. It had been a long time since both he and the wolf were in agreement.
It became a monthly outing for Sherlock. Taking two trains, sometimes three, he never went into the same woods twice. He hunted, only once coming upon the scent of a feral wolf pack. He backpedaled slowly, the markings of this pack were fresh. Feral wolves were crazed, hardly maintaining their own pack dynamic. Sherlock was swift in his escape from the area and made a mental note this was not an ideal location for future hunts.
He hunted hares, then water fowl and moved onto an adolescent boar. Once a month he would prepare his kills for John and John ate it greedily. John favored meaty and salty flavors, so Sherlock stuck to stews and chilies.
It was a delicate balance he had to play, indulging the wolf and maintaining his human control. He had one slip, a small growl that had managed to escape his lips when Lestrade's arm lingered against John for too long. The two men stared at him and Sherlock played it off like he was clearing an irritation in his throat.
He thought about texting Mycroft. Inquiring his pack leader about this new instinctual urge to provide for John. But he knew what the Alpha would say, and it scared the hell out of him.
The urge came to a head one night. He had brought back two hares and John had begun to prepare to dice the vegetables when he reached alongside Sherlock to grab the cutting board. His blonde head passed in front of Sherlock, and the wolf struck. He bit the edge of John's neck, canines striking the tender flesh. Before Sherlock could come back into himself John had cried out in surprise, cupping a hand over his neck he used his other arm to roughly shove Sherlock away, eyes suddenly dark.
I'm sorry. The wolf shrank back.
"I-I… John I apologize." He offered weakly, collecting himself. He smelled no blood, he hadn't drawn it, but he knew he was oh so close.
John rubbed his neck, checking his palm. "Jesus, what was that about? That hurt."
The wolf let out a whine of stress. Sherlock cleared his throat.
"I don't… I don't know."
"Is that how they teach you to kiss where you're from?" John's cadence was light hearted, meant to be a joke, but his tone was dark.
"Maybe." He tested, taking a step back, giving John space. What was happening to him. He was losing control.
John eyed him carefully, laying the Chef's knife down on the board he took a step toward him and Sherlock straightened and stilled. John raised a hand to Sherlock and rested it on his face, fingers lightly tracing his neck. Sherlock scented the air. John was excited, his pulse had quickened, eyes dilated but he wasn't fearful. He was apprehensive…curious even. The wolf wanted to nuzzle and nip that hand but Sherlock reined him in. He forced his eyes to remain impassive. Cool gray eyes regarded John steadily, and John's thumb grazed along Sherlock's top lip.
"What are you." John whispered.
Run! The wolf howled.
And Sherlock did.
He had run, a blur of a gray coat going down the stairs and John's voice calling his name. He made it to the street, dark and crisp in the fall air and scaled the building before John could even make it to the front door. He watched John hesitate at the sidewalk, eyes scanning the streets for him. He hadn't thought to look up where Sherlock stood. John called his name once more, waiting a few beats before he headed back inside with a slam of the front door.
He reluctantly knew where he had to go.
Anthea had greeted him warmly at the door, as if they had been expecting him and Sherlock begrudgingly realized they were.
"Ah, brother dear. Do sit. Anthea, thank you love, I'll take it from here." Mycroft said warmly. Anthea nodded and slid the parlor door shut. "Oh, Sherlock." The Alpha began to pour himself a scotch. "What a mess."
Sherlock's face burned, his breathing steady. "And just how much am I to assume you know?" He asked sharply.
"Oh … Just your monthly jaunts to the countryside. Different sides every time, very clever of you. Just like I taught you."
Sherlock set his jaw and remained quiet.
"And hares, Sherlock? Might I ask why such a weak animal? Hardly a worthy animal for one to hunt. Why not a stag?"
Sherlock huffed air sharply through his nose, as if he'd heard an amusing joke. "I wasn't looking to get killed. I was looking for… Dinner."
Mycroft smiled gently. "Ah yes, for you and Dr. Watson, is that right?" He set his glass down on a coaster. "Tell me, why are you here?"
His Alpha had asked a direct question, and he was compelled to answer by order. "I bit him… Tried to. Not me, the-," Sherlock waved his hand and dropped it on the armrest. "I didn't break the skin." He continued, feeling Mycroft's eyes bore into him. "I lost control for but a second. But I feel John is… Let's just say suspicious."
"Hm, yes. I would imagine. And yes, it was you Sherlock. By Our Lady, all of our teachings and conversations on this and you still can't see it. The wolf inside is you, not some inward demon taking control when it deems it necessary. The more you deny, the more separate the two the more likely of a feral—"
"I'm quite aware." Sherlock snapped, he couldn't meet Mycroft's eyes.
The brothers fell silent. Mycroft took another drag of his scotch.
"Why—Do I feel like this. With John. Only John." Sherlock said barely above a whisper, but Mycroft heard loud and clear.
"Brother, we don't always get the luxury of choosing our mates. Sometimes the Lady chooses them for us. Which is what this could be."
Sherlock continued on, as if Mycroft had never uttered the word. "He wasn't scared. Not a trace of fear in his scent. He was surprised, but curious." He paused. "I trust him, Mycroft."
"Does he trust you?"
Sherlock hesitated. "I don't know. Yes, with his life if you were to ask him. But he would tell you he doesn't know me. I'm his friend, and yet I'm a stranger. I don't know how he stands it."
Mycroft crossed the fireplace, resting his arm against the mantle. "He is a unique human, indeed." He finished his drink. "Go home, Sherlock."
Sherlock stood, trying to make eye contact with brother, but the Alpha denied it. "I have to ask—if I can tell him. Please."
Mycroft gave him a sad smile. "No, Sherlock. I can't allow that. You should know that. Humans, even a unique one, don't understand."
"Anthea does." Sherlock did his best to take the bitterness out of his voice.
Mycroft eyed him carefully. "Anthea is an exception. A small exception. And it took years, Sherlock. A foundation of trust you can't even begin to imagine. Between your trust issues and Doctor Watson's… I can't imagine the foundation won't crack much less receive the permits." Mycroft smiled at his own play on words. Sherlock glowered. "I need to protect the pack." He stated simply. "This is a serious matter Sherlock. You cannot disobey this order."
"You can trust John, Mycroft." Sherlock stood his ground, squaring himself against Mycroft. "You said he was my mate."
Mycroft didn't take the bait. "I said he could be, Sherlock. And I hope he can someday prove his loyalty to you. And to us. Good night, dear brother."
The parlor door opened as if on cue, and he was lead out the door.
He timed his arrival back at the flat the next morning, knowing John would have left for his day job. He fiddled with his phone, a distractedly annoying habit he had developed, willing a text to come in. He needed a case, a distraction. The website was bare, even John's blog, while wildly successful, hadn't cultivated as many legitimately leads as of late.
He showered, and proceeded to pace the flat nervously in his robe. The hours ticked away and the sun sank behind the city. His mind supplied him with multiple possible ways he could get through this with John.
What are you?
John had provided the question. And while he had fled (bad idea, not at all suspicious) he came up with six reasonable responses to give, depending on John's first initial interaction with him when he came home.
If he comes home. He could be with her. The wolf paced inside his mind's eye. Hunt for him. Track.
Sherlock huffed sharply, perishing the thought. John would come home.
He heard the keys in the door at dusk, and an odd panic filled him. He shouldn't be standing awkwardly in the living room, waiting like this. It was intimidating, he should be casual. Casual where? His eyes searched frantically, before he quickly made it for the couch. He held his phone, tapping nonsensically to give the illusion of being engrossed and forced his body to appear lackadaisical.
John made it up the stairs, and Sherlock scented the air as he always did when John came home. Where he'd been, what he'd eaten, who he'd touched, was always just a scent away. But John had a different smell on him, and Sherlock forced his eyes to remain on the screen. What is that? The wolf pawed anxiously. It was unfamiliar, foreign and oh so sweet.
"Evening." John said, not as warmly as he usually did, but it was a greeting nonetheless. "Back again?" He pulled a small army bag off his shoulder and gripped it in his hand.
Sherlock kept his eyes and fingers busy on his phone. "Yes. Obviously." He motioned dully to the couch. It's in his bag, what is it it's in his bag. The wolf huffed against him.
"Everything—Alright?" John asked, making his way to the couch. "You ehm, left in a hurry last night."
"Ah yes. Things do come up."
"Hm, right." John nodded exaggeratedly, biting his bottom lip. Sherlock waited.
"Whelp, good night then." John turned, swinging the bag across his shoulder he headed out into the hallway to the stairs to his room.
Good night then? Sherlock had six possible reactions from John and—that wasn't one of them. The wolf eyed the bag suspiciously as John turned the corner, but Sherlock ignored it for now.
"Good night John."
He woke up in bed with the pleasure centers of his brain firing off every synapse. He bolted out of his deep sleep, inhaling deeply his body involuntarily shuddered.
It was dark, around 3am he had to guess. He lifted his head and huffed several times. That sweet smell was back. Not just sweet, but sharp and Sherlock followed the scent.
He was silent, the flat on Baker street, which normally creaked and moaned on pressure points in steps on its old flooring, let Sherlock pass without a squeak. He knew this flat, knew every weak floor board. He needed to be stealthy, silent. He scented the air, huffing, huffing—it was close. The scent was close and strong.
He found it on the kitchen table in an unassuming glass jar. Dried herbs and flowers, ashen and brown. That wasn't there before you idiot! his brain supplied frantically.
But it was so enticing... it drew him... before he knew what he was doing, he found himself pulling the jar to him and opening it. The scent came out even more pungently and hit him between the eyes. He wanted to rub against the dried flowers and leaves in the jar... to take them out into the moonlight and roll in them. Plunging his hand into the jar, he pulled out a handful of the dried plants, unaware he was growling and had forgotten everything else.
The sound of a gun's hammer being pulled back brought him into reality.
"I fucking knew it."
Sherlock's hackles rose as he could feel the tension suddenly in the air. His back was to John, who stood several meters back in the flat, practically up against the wall.
He carefully sat the jar back down on the table and smiled grimly. "Wolfsbane. God, you're so clever. You always surprise me."
"Shut it." John snapped. "Turn around. Make a sudden move and I will end you. I promise."
Oh, I believe you John. There was fear now in the air. But it wasn't John's
Sherlock turned, slowly as John had asked. John was steady, and Sherlock took in how strong he looked. He had squared off against Sherlock, fighting position, gun raised straight at him, his other hand aiding supporting in gripping the bottom of the weapon.
How do we fix this? The wolf asked anxiously. Instead of dozens of answers in which he normally had he only had questions.
"How—how did you know-" Sherlock started to ask.
"What, about wolves?" John spat. "Had dealings with your kind back in Afghanistan. Took out my whole squad. Desert wolves. Taliban forces suddenly turned into monsters before our eyes." John's eyes were murderous and the wolf shrank back.
"Tore them apart. Made me watch then let me live. Not sure which is worse." John didn't blink. "Is that what you were going to do Sherlock?"
Sherlock shook his head, "No… John I'd –I'd never hurt you."
John gave a bark of a laugh, it was strangled and Sherlock flinched at the noise. John yanked down the collar of his shirt, revealing a dark, black bruise at the crook of his neck. "Oh, is this you not hurting me." His voice was venom.
"John…" Sherlock started carefully. "That's different. I'm different." Oh God, Mycroft was going to have his head, if John didn't blow it off first.
"Yeah. Different. Sure." John's eyes were shiny in the dark. He used his gun to motion into the kitchen. "What about all your forest friends?" His question was open and Sherlock hesitated, wondering where this was going.
"I'm a doctor Sherlock. I know wounds. No pellets, no snare markings. Deep, one shot puncture bites breaking their necks. Hardly any blood, it's so quick. Only one creature I can think of who hunts that efficiently. That cleanly."
"I hunted, yes." Sherlock stated slowly. "Only animals. Only ever animals, John."
"And what, brought back the kills to your den?" John asked darkly.
"I brought them back to you."
John's chest heaved in an uneven breath he hadn't voluntarily taken. "Why."
Sherlock was this far into truth, he couldn't back pedal now. "I needed to provide for you. Hunt for you. Feed you."
"Are you trying to be funny?" John asked dubious. "Because we know it doesn't suit you."
"No. I'm not—No. The wolf, inside—John, it's complicated." He felt exhausted.
"I've got all night."
"Can you please, put the gun down. Please? I won't…I would never." He left it at that.
John's fingers relaxed and Sherlock could see his brain working. His eyes revealed nothing and it unnerved the wolf.
He dropped the gun to his side but pointed a finger at Sherlock. "You stay there."
Sherlock nodded and stayed silent, allowing John the next move.
"How many of you? You have a pack, yes?" John leaned up against the wall more eavily now.
Sherlock weighed the consequences of his answer heavily. "Yes, I belong to a pack. I can't tell you how many."
John bared his teeth in a sarcastic grin. "Ah, sure you can't. And why is that? Government secret?" And it was like a light went off in John's mind, his eyes widened. "Govern-… Jesus Christ, Mycroft…Of course."
Sherlock was filled with dread, his heart beating briskly in his chest. "John, you have no idea what you're getting into. You can't even begin to understand. I barely understand it. Pack dynamics are complicated. Roles and rules, you know I don't subscribe to them. This is dangerous. John, this whole conversation is dangerous."
John considered the information, nodding. They fell silent for a beat, before John's next question. "Why did you bite me?"
"I didn't." John glared and before he could say anything Sherlock added, "I didn't. The wolf did."
"But that's you, Sherlock."
He shook his head, frustrated. Why didn't anyone understand. "I'm different. There's two parts, instead of one. Sometimes we agree. Most times we don't. Again, complicated."
"Again, all night."
Sherlock shifted his stance and his peripheral didn't miss the twitch of John's fingers on the gun at his side. "John, I've gone years without the wolf. It's there," Sherlock motioned to his mind. "He keeps me sharp, wary. He's instinctual, observant -and it's saved my life more than I can count. But with you," Sherlock found himself struggling for the right words, and settled on truth. "With you he fights to get out."
"What, to kill me?"
"Never." Sherlock breathed quickly, horrified. He hoped the tone carried across to John. "Provide, John. Provide and protect."
"And why me?" John asked sharply, his posture suddenly rigid.
"Again, complicated." But Sherlock continued before John could protest. "Your scent. You smell like the earth. The first time I ever saw you, you smelled of sand. You know that? I asked you Afghanistan of Iraq and explained it away because of your tan and training but it was so much more than that. And now you smell like rain. Sometimes like the London fog, which carries in the scents of the wild from kilometers away. And it just clings to you. In your skin and hair." Sherlock waited a beat before continuing on. "You're loyal and show no fear. You've protected me. You've killed for me. I talk to you even when you aren't here, because I can't bare the thought that you are not by my side. I can barely comprehend the notion. When I'm with you-I'm home." Sherlock felt naked.
John wouldn't meet his eyes, rubbing his trigger finger against the grip as a comfort. "That—I think—is the most honest, open thing you've ever said to me." John said quietly.
Sherlock continued in a softer tone, with every earnest fiber he could find. "I'm sorry… About Afghanistan. I'm so sorry that happened to you. No one should ever face that. You must have been terrified."
John nodded once. "Not so much terrified as feeling insane. Impossible to explain to my command. Part of the reason I was discharged. You know, other than the bullet." He shrugged his left shoulder for effect. "But I found others who had been discharged, who told similar stories. Did some research… But honestly couldn't tell if you if feel any saner."
"Research?" Sherlock inquired.
John loosened his grip on the gun, before deciding on locking the safety and putting it down on the desk. Sherlock hadn't realized how much tension was in his body until it flooded out of him at John's decision. "Yeah, research. That'll have to be discussed on another night. Too bloody tired right now."
"Another night? There will be others?" Sherlock asked, eyes searching. "You'll stay?"
John gave him a cautious look, and licked his bottom lip. "Yeah, Sherlock. This is… weird. To say the least of this situation. But I understand, about needing to protect your family. Or you, ehm," John waved his hand awkwardly. "Pack. Yeah, sure of course I do. You couldn't have known that I would already have known about all that. But I'm here and I'll stay. Of course I'll stay."
The wolf brimmed with elation but Sherlock repressed any showing of outward emotion. "Thank you." He said with a clear of his throat.
John nodded. "Yeah, sure." John gave a grim smile and carded a hand through his hair. "That was a hell of a thing though, your confession about me. How are we going to handle that?"
Sherlock frowned. "Confession?"
The doctor gave a half smile, shaking his head. "Christ, forget it. It's late. I'm exhausted and feel like hell. I'm going to bed."
Sherlock didn't miss how John gave him a wide birth while passing him to head up the stairs to his room. The door clicked shut behind John and Sherlock felt the dread fester back inside him. Confession? What confession? Hadn't he simply stated the obvious truth?
"Good night John." He whispered, for the second time that night.
A few quiet, awkward days passed before a case was brought to them by Lestrade. It was a simple case, just skimming the briefest of Lestrade's notes gave Sherlock two solid conclusions that could play out as the end result of it all. He took it, it was better than nothing and it gave him an excuse to go out. And even more of an excuse to bring John along with him.
John hadn't been necessarily distant, not at all as much as Sherlock had presumed he would be. He did take great pains to avoid Sherlock's touch. Passing a phone or tea kettle he would nimbly maneuver his fingers so as not to connect with him. The wolf grieved the loss of contact and Sherlock reluctantly agreed with it. He didn't realize how often they made physical contact until it suddenly vanished.
John's scent hadn't changed at all as the wolf had darkly reminded Sherlock's brain with the awful thought of his so-called "confession". That John might retaliate against him by hiding his natural scent. Spraying cologne or applying product to his hair. But John did none of these things, and as fall turned into winter, the rain became heavier and more frequent and John soaked it up, almost leaving Sherlock breathless.
They finished with a few hours of sunlight left when John had asked about dinner. He'd smiled and nodded in agreement; an excuse to keep John at his side was always appreciated.
They ended up at a pub neither of them had tried before. It was dim and smoky and the wolf hated it. There was only one entrance he could see and very few windows. It felt more like a natural den than he would have liked to admit, but he liked knowing where the exits were.
Not good The wolf alerted him.
He caught the scent briefly, which stilled him as his senses came into focus, pushing back the traces of smoke that drifted in from the sidewalk, the alcohol, and body odor that permeated from the pub. Another wolf, not of his pack, feral, and he curled his fingers around John's sleeve and a low growl escaped his throat.
"What? What is it?" John asked quietly, but his voice was elevated, alarmed.
Too many people, too many scents and Sherlock struggled to find the wolf in the crowd. Getting rusty, out of practice the wolf snarled, and it was true. He felt off his game, threatened and John was with him. He had to protect John.
Their food was placed in front of them but Sherlock was already pulling John out of the booth. "Yes, alright." John sighed. "This is getting old hat, you know." He stated bitterly, tossing notes onto the table as Sherlock led him outside. He huffed the air, inhaling, trying to find the source. But it was either gone or he had truly forgotten how to hunt when it really counted.
The cab pulled them up to 221B Baker and Sherlock felt the wolf pace in his mind, circling again and again in a symmetrical stalking pattern that wouldn't stop. Impossible to calm in this state, too agitated to reason or quell.
John followed up behind him. Standing in the kitchen he stretched his arms wide. "Okay well, we're home. Mind telling me what that was about? Danger, I presume?"
"You presume correctly." Sherlock muttered, curling a finger down on a blind so he could view the street.
"Yeah well, what are we talking here? Something from a case or something—else."
"Else." He stated bluntly. John sighed heavily.
Sherlock turned and took several long strides until he was face up against John. He must have moved quicker than intended as John jumped at the sudden invasion of personal space.
"John—I need to do something." His face was only an inch away.
John swallowed, nervous? Sherlock took a step back, and John relaxed. "Yeah, alright. What's that?"
"Would you trust me to do something, if it was to protect you?" He kept his tone as even as possible.
"I uh—" John hesitated, and Sherlock's heart dropped. John's eyes shifted quickly, thinking. "I suppose-"
Sherlock leaned into John, who went rigid at the motion. He felt the brush of skin as Sherlock touched his cheek to him, rubbing in one smooth motion along his jaw line, turning his head slightly as he did so. John's left side tremored ever so slight, and Sherlock repeated the motion, rubbing against the other side of John's face, jaw line and neck. Sherlock's scent was sharp, musky and fresh. It was unique to him and he needed to mark John. The wolf had tried, with the bite, but that wouldn't be acceptable to John at the moment. Sherlock knew this scent of his was undetectable to John, reserved only for other wolves as a claim scent.
He hadn't realized that his hands were on John's hips, as he pulled back he jerked his arms away and took a few steps back, his pulse racing.
John swayed and blinked at him. "That-What was that?"
"Complicated." The only answer Sherlock could provide.
John contemplated the action, eyes downcast and searching. Sherlock tilted his head in a curious gesture before John raised his eyes up again. "I thought—I thought you were going to kiss me."
The wolf's heart stilled, for the briefest of moments. "It was… in a way." He said vaguely.
John brought a hand to his neck, gently rubbing. "Well, that was… different."
"Do you remember what you had asked? You had asked if that's how I learned how to kiss. Well it is. It's different. But it's—" He hesitated, faltering on the words.
John didn't let him drop it. "It's what?"
John considered this with seriousness Sherlock hadn't seen in him before. John took a step, closing the gap between them. Before Sherlock could register the movement, John circled an arm around Sherlock's neck, pulling him down, he mimicked the motion Sherlock displayed against him earlier. John rubbed his jaw line against Sherlock's, and down around his neck. Sherlock huffed a low animalistic groan, a feeling inside him stirring in what he once deemed dead and buried, and John mimicked the sound back, huffing against Sherlock's skin. The noise made the wolf reel with excitement, and Sherlock buried his face under John's neck, inhaling deeply.
"You don't know—what you're doing." Sherlock whispered against John's neck, so close he could taste the man's pulse.
"Affection?" John breathed.
"It's dangerous." Sherlock attempted to pull back, to shift away but he couldn't. John was against him, John was marking him and God, he felt like a wolf possessed.
John rumbled against him, "And here I am."
They stood together, their scents intermingled in the air of their flat, and what felt like hours was actually only 19 seconds before John finally pulled away from him. The wolf mourned the loss and Sherlock crushed the urge for a whine to escape his throat.
John checked his watch and sighed heavily. "Nearly 19:00. I'm still hungry. You owe me dinner." Leave it to John to break the awkward tension.
"Takeaway?" Sherlock asked, reaching for his phone in his pocket.
"Not… quite. No. Not what I was thinking…"
Sherlock frowned. "What then? Angelo's?"
"I was thinking rabbit?" John's eyes went downcast, before peering up at him timidly.
"We disposed of the rabbit the other day—" Sherlock paused, realization entering in his mind. "What, new rabbit? You want me to hunt for you?" He felt the rush of adrenaline enter his veins and if John were a more observant man, he would have noticed the dilation of his eyes.
"I'd like to—go with—if that's alright. Is that alright?" John awkwardly bit his lip with that same timid stare.
Hunt as a pack? The wolf was excited at the prospect but Sherlock felt the trepidation fill him. If he left with John to his "countryside" Mycroft would certainly know about how much John knew. If Mycroft didn't already know. But he hadn't received a call, much less a text, from Mycroft since their last meeting.
And what of hunting with John? John would see him. See him, his true self. No one outside the pack had seen him in his wolf state. Was that something too personal for him to bare?
Too personal for your mate? The wolf questioned.
He must have hesitated too long, as John's eyes fell and he shrugged. "It's fine. Really, I was just asking. It's fine." He gave a step back, embarrassed.
Sherlock ran his tongue along his bottom lip. "Not tonight. Tomorrow?"
John's head lifted with a smile. "Yeah?" He asked hopeful.
Sherlock nodded and gave a small corner smile back. "Yes. It's two trains to where I have in mind. We'll have to head early. Dress warmly. And in the meantime, let me call us some takeaway for tonight."
John's smiled widened, "Fantastic."
The train was blissfully quiet and essentially empty, and John slept through most of it. His head tilted toward Sherlock, the wolf rested his head on top of the doctor's, inhaling his scent that still carried strong traces of Sherlock's.
They reached their final destination and rented an older off road vehicle. They drove out of the town, and 5 minutes from their true destination Sherlock felt the anxiety fill back inside him.
John must have felt the shift in atmosphere as he asked Sherlock what was wrong.
"Just feel like this might be a bad idea." Sherlock stated matter of fact.
"You have a bad idea?" John laughed, but when Sherlock didn't respond he cleared his throat. "I'm sorry. We don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with." He added seriously.
"Not me. Mycroft."
John nodded. "Government secrets?"
"Something like that. I had asked before, if I could tell you about all this. He told me no. This could end badly."
"Shit." John looked out the window. "Well, I figured you out. Couldn't you tell him that? Could explain it to him. Explain about Afghanistan. Your brother is quick, he would get it. You wouldn't be in trouble."
They arrived along the bank of trees and Sherlock threw the gear into park. "I'm not worried about myself, John. I'm worried he might do something to do you. The pack is all Mycroft knows. It's his entire world, his sole responsibility to protect."
John reached out to his hands, which had gripped the steering wheel tightly, white knuckled. "Hey," He said softly. "Hey I'll be alright." John's hands brushed along Sherlock's.
Sherlock relaxed and released the wheel, focusing his eyes, "We're here."
John had dressed appropriately, with long cargo khakis, layered shirts along with a fitted military jacket and sturdy boots. He carried the small, military fitted backpack as well. Sherlock hadn't dress appropriately for the woods, as he was still dressed for the city with his muffler and long coat. But then again, Sherlock wouldn't need this wardrobe for today. With nimble fingers he unbuttoned his shirt alongside the SUV and scented the air deeply. No one for at least four klicks and Sherlock grinned.
"Going to ehm, do that here? Now?" John asked, his eyes scanning the wide open space around them anxiously.
"No one around for kilometers John. I'm sure of it. Besides, where else would I put my clothes for safe keeping?" He asked as he tossed his jacket and shirt into the back of the vehicle.
"I'll wait over here then." John said quickly as he rounded the corner of the vehicle, his back pointedly at Sherlock.
Sherlock hesitated with the sound of John's tone. Was he embarrassed? Sherlock wasn't, but then again Sherlock had decided he was comfortable with his body and being around John. He resolved to let it rest.
He clicked his mobile phone to silent, and tucked it securely in his jacket pocket for safe keeping. Shutting the door he steadied himself, ensuring an even heart rate, he shifted and took a moment to clear his head as all the smells came into even sharper focus. He shook twice, and huffed loudly and he heard John turn around.
"Jesus!" John jumped back, and Sherlock caught the sudden spike of fear and adrenaline in the air. John collected himself just as fast and placed a hand over his heart. "I'm sorry." He said quickly. "Shit, I'm sorry. Just-I was expecting it but not really and just—wow look at you." He breathed.
Sherlock attempted, and probably failed miserably, at looking as unimposing as possible. He sat, but even in that position his head cleared John's waist. He lowered his head and perked his ears up, and he thumped his tail against the dirt twice. He'd seen domesticated dogs with similar postures be praised and cooed at. Sherlock didn't want to lower himself to the behaviors of a simple dog but he did acknowledge it would be a familiar and safer stance for John.
John approached cautiously, and again Sherlock thumped his tail twice. He knelt before Sherlock, who lowered his head more and rested it against John's chest.
I won't hurt you you're safe
He felt John's hand run along the side of his face before he pulled back, unsure. "May I?" He asked tentative.
Sherlock huffed and pressed his head against John, whose hands fell on both sides of his muzzle and along his neck. John combed a confident hand along his neck, appreciating the thickness of his coat. He reached his chest and frowned, "You're all snarled here." He said softly as his sure fingers raked through. Sherlock pinned his ears back, embarrassed. But with intimate care, a surgeon's care, John combed and detangled the fur, smoothing down the ruff. "Can't let those get too bad, they'll form knots and—well you know." John waved his hand and smiled. "I like it though. Almost like a mane. Almost like your mufflers!" He said the last sentence with a laugh.
Yes! I though so too Sherlock would have said, but all he could do was whine and hope John could have some understanding.
"Well, can we be off?" John asked as he stood and Sherlock followed suit. "I know you said nobody around for kilometers but all this bloody open space makes me nervous."
Sherlock understood and started off into the woods.
It was chilly when they entered the forest and even more so when they had gotten deeper inside. John kept up pace with him, even if he was holding back for the benefit of the human.
"Going a bit slow, don't you think?" John asked, as he skipped over a fallen limb.
Oh, you couldn't keep up with me the wolf breathed.
"Bet you think I couldn't keep up." John smiled, "Bet you I could. I kept up with you to try and catch that bloody cabbie. Over rooftops and cars. Give me a chance, I bet I could surprise you. Boot camp all over again."
Sherlock stopped and turned his head, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth in what he hoped John could interpret as a laugh.
"Laughing at me!? You prat! I bet you I could. Go on then, show me what you got!"
Sherlock squared his shoulders, focused his eyes straight ahead, and launched himself into the forest.
"Shit!" He heard John exclaim, before it was just the rush of wind in his ears. He bounded over moss filled logs, through a long stretch of long grass, weaved between a set of trees and down a stream. He slid but maintained control as he came to the bank of it. He lifted his head back in a moment of searching for John, but the human was too far back for him to hear or scent. His chest heaved in the excitement of the chase, but the wolf was disappointed with the lack of an adequate opponent.
"Hey." Like an electric shock, Sherlock jolted around to the voice, which was directly behind him, not a foot away. John was muddy, his breath borderline ragged and sweat was forming on his brow, blond hair clinging to his face. He bared his teeth in a grin. "I got you." And before the wolf could ask where what HOW!? John reached and bopped him on the nose, turned and ran off again.
YES! the wolf sang, and Sherlock took chase.
John had been right, Sherlock had entirely underestimated him. John looked strong and fit but he was also beautifully conditioned. He had no fear of low hanging branches or of jumping several meters from a fallen tree onto the forest floor. His sense of balance was impeccable, and they weaved along together against the boulders and moss floorings like a dance. It had been so long since he'd run alongside another pack member, Sherlock's muscles sang out in sweet relief.
Sherlock slowed finally when they came upon an adequately clean source of water at a full stream. He dipped his head and lapped up the water ravenously. John took the moment to sling the backpack from his shoulders and unzip, revealing a water bottle. He backed up against a tree and slid down, tilting his head back to drain the container. He sighed heavily and used his sleeve of his jacket to wipe his lips and brow.
Sherlock drank his fill and scented the air. Light was beginning to fade from the trees as dusk took over. John smelled of pollen, mist, moss and tree bark and everything so glorious Sherlock could get drunk off it. He lay next to John, Sphinx like; he crossed his paws over themselves and looked up at his pack member expectantly.
"I uh—" John smiled and put the empty bottle back in his bag, zipping up quickly. "Don't know if I have more of that in me today." He closed his eyes and rested his head against the oak. His pulse was still quick. "That was crazy." John placed a hand on Sherlock's head, and rubbed his fingers along the back of his ear.
Sherlock stilled, and felt a shift in John's scent that concerned him. Anxiety maybe? But he couldn't label it quite yet. He laid his head on John's lap and gave a soft sigh.
"I ehm," John cleared his throat, pausing. Sherlock waited. He noticed the shininess of John's eyes. "I never thanked you." He continued. Another pause, and Sherlock waited again. "For the leg. For you, helping me with my leg." John wouldn't look down at him, instead staring at the distance. "So ehm. Thank you." He ended awkwardly, biting his lip in that nervous way he always did.
John's fingers continued to stroke Sherlock's neck and along his head and ears. They were short, soft strokes and the wolf allowed them. Something was maybe wrong, right now in the moment. John was anxious, suddenly upset. The strokes through his fur weren't for his comfort, but for John's. Weren't they having a good time? Sherlock's mind raced but he lay still, allowing John's ministrations.
The tension was so thick, Sherlock felt it shift a moment before the dam broke. "I was so alone. I was so alone and you saved me." And John began to cry. He pulled his legs up to his chest, hiding his face. Sherlock was forced to move his head and sit up. He gave an anxious whine against John, and the blonde man wrapped his arms around Sherlock tightly, burrowing his face into the thick ruff of his neck.
Sherlock tensed but sat still as John clung to him and cried. His breathing was shallow, and Sherlock knew John was trying to be quiet. He was never good with this. Not good with comforting and even less so with words to help comfort. But now, he literally didn't have words. He had no voice that John could understand. He only had his presence. He pressed into John, giving a hint of reinforced pressure as an acknowledgement of John's distress. He dropped his head alongside John's shoulder and back and gave a deep, long inhale and breathed out through his nose slowly in an attempt to calm him. John mimicked, taking a deep, long inhale right after the wolf.
We were alone too.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." And Sherlock closed his eyes briefly as John pulled away from him, eyes suddenly dry as stones but shiny as he wiped his face angrily with his sleeve. "Christ." He muttered and shook his head.
The tears were still on his cheeks, running lines down his neck. Sherlock reached forward and gave one light lap with his tongue along John's throat, bringing in the salty tears. John pulled back ever so slight. "Ehg, gross." John smiled though and laughed, and that was enough for Sherlock, who thumped his tail against the tree, breaking the tension.
John wiped his hand along where he had licked and laughed again. "Sorry but gross. No offense. Needs some getting used to." Sherlock let his tongue drop along side his mouth again and John laughed again and rolled his eyes.
"Okay, enough of that rubbish." John brought his hand to his eyes and rubbed once more, clearing his throat. "Time for dinner, yes?"
It was nearly dusk, and Sherlock worried John would begin to stumble as it turned into twilight. But John, as he did, surprised him. He followed in step behind Sherlock as the wolf scented the ground, searching. John was quiet, military training making him an exceptional hunter with his stealth and obedience. His breathing was hushed and leveled and his eyes were always searching. He made for an excellent pack member.
He scented upon a burrow a few meters away and puffed out a small breath, but it was enough to signal John to lay low. They both sunk into the moist grass and he heard John giggle nervously. Sherlock pinned his ears back and gave a huff into John's neck where John correctly interpreted it as a shut up! and he stilled. "I'm sorry but this is all pretty amazing." He whispered with a grin. Sherlock took in the soft, shallow breaths and dilated eyes and quickly pondered over their territorial sprint adventure of the day and realized for certain that yes, Dr. John Watson was very much a thrill seeker.
John impressively didn't shift an inch or make a noise in the solid 12 minutes they waited. He was patient and attentive, eyes always scanning ahead. The only part of them that moved was Sherlock's ears, as they switched from back to front with every passing flutter of noise. 13 minutes in the rabbits began to gather around their burrow, ready to fall in for the night.
The rabbits were large and well fed. Sherlock didn't imagine they had many enemies in this particular forest. He hadn't caught the scent of another predator aside from a small fox since they'd been here. But that certainly didn't mean they would be slow. He squared shoulders, pulling them taunt and launched himself. He caught one easily by surprise, the other four bolted in all separate direction. He snapped the neck of the one, dropped it immediately and wheeled around and caught the back leg of a second. It squealed and the wolf tossed it in the air and caught it by its neck and with a quick snap, it fell limp.
He carried the wilted rabbit over to John, who had sat up in the grass and watched him approach. The wolf had a bit of a strut as he dropped the rabbit in front of John and Sherlock admonished it. It was just a rabbit. A silly, fat rabbit that almost any dog could have caught. It was hardly anything to take pride in, as Mycroft had reminded him. But John looked visibly impressed as he lifted the rabbit carefully and began to stand up.
"Bloody hell. Amazing. You're simply amazing."
Sherlock felt his tail wag once and quickly shut down the impulse. No need for that to become habit when he was pleased. He lifted his head at John in acknowledgement.
"Right then. Home?" John asked as he gingerly held the rabbit by its hind legs, dangling at his side. "And ehm- hope you've been keeping track because I have no idea where we are in relation to the 4x4…"
Sherlock lifted the second rabbit in his jaws and jerked his head west, and started at a trot.
When they reached the SUV the temperature took a plummet just at the darkness finally settled over the area. John's left leg had begun to shake in nervous exhaustion, and he still provided Sherlock with privacy as he shifted back, and took his clothes from the back seat.
Sherlock was dirty, that was for certain. He brushed his hands through his hair and found bits of twig and brush entangled in it. He combed it out before John came around to check his status. He threw on his shirt, trousers and shoes and walked to the back of the 4x4.
"Good then?" Sherlock asked, clearing his throat. John had placed the rabbits in the box in the cargo area and nodded.
The ride back was more comfortable than the ride there. They were quiet and settled, and John rested his head against the window, checking his watch.
"Last train leaves in 24 minutes." John muttered quietly, eyes closing.
"We'll make it, trust me."
Sherlock grinned wide, he knew John couldn't see it.
And in the backseat inside Sherlock's jacket, a silent text came in.
What are you doing, Sherlock? M