|"The Naming of Cats" - John/Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson - PG13
||[Jan. 16th, 2011|07:08 pm]
(lives between pages)
Title: The Naming of Cats
Pairing/Characters: John/Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson
Notes: This is a sequel to Something Completely Different (i.e. The One Where There Are Kittens Running Around the Mortuary). I had promised this follow-up not only to everyone following the 31 Drabbles of Solstice, but also to various and sundry of you still reeling from this set. After all, the Naming of Cats is not only a difficult matter, but an essential one (we may defer to Eliot even in this).
Summary: "Doesn't suit her," [Sherlock] says. "We'll discuss it over dinner."
They don't head to dinner first, because John finds it necessary to point out to Sherlock that, no matter where they go, a kitten, even one as polite as the tiny calico asleep in his coat, probably won't be welcome on the premises.
"We could go to Angelo's," Sherlock suggests, but John can tell by the way he shoves his hands even deeper into his pockets that he's already accepted defeat. "We haven't gone in at least a fortnight, and the staff aren't likely to mind."
"No, but the other patrons are. We'd do well to stay on Angelo's good side."
"It was an accident," Sherlock insists. "I'd had no intention—"
"—of spilling a pocketful of potentially hazardous tissue samples on the floor, I know," John finishes for him. "We're probably on the dining equivalent of a no-fly list."
"They were bagged and labeled," Sherlock mutters. "And in no danger of thawing."
Inside John's coat, the calico stirs, tentatively poking her head out to peer at them.
"If they hadn't been labeled," says John, wryly, "we might've been in the clear."
"She's not labeled," Sherlock points out petulantly, indicating the kitten.
"Sherlock, we'll be lucky if we can find a cabbie who'll let us take her."
"Then put her back to sleep, because I'm not walking the whole way back to Baker Street," Sherlock tells him, turning up the collar of his coat. "It's freezing."
John knows that the first thing they ought to do is take the kitten to a vet, but it's nearly six o'clock in the evening, and he can't imagine that a standard check-up on a seemingly healthy kitten would count as an after-hours emergency. It takes them ten minutes to coax the calico back to sleep by way of petting and scritching, during which time John watches Sherlock's delighted expression with no small amount of wonder. Their silent cab ride to Baker Street is interrupted only by the kitten's loud, content purring, which the driver thankfully can't hear over the sound of the engine.
When they arrive, Mrs. Hudson is waiting for them.
"Oh, let me see her!" she exclaims, holding open the door.
John unzips his coat once they're inside, handing the sleepy-eyed kitten over into Mrs. Hudson's care. She struggles a little bit at first, mewling in distress, and John can't help but wince as her needle-sharp claws catch in the chiffon of Mrs. Hudson's blouse. But Mrs. Hudson pays the damage no mind, instead gathering the calico to her chest, murmuring, "Shhh, shhh." The kitten calms at this, yawning, and tilts her head up to study the newest human in her life. She touches her nose to Mrs. Hudson's chin.
"She reminds me of our Gladys when she was small," says Mrs. Hudson. "That cat lived almost twenty years. She was the best mouser we ever had."
Sherlock clears his throat. "About the rent—"
John wants to clap a hand over Sherlock's mouth, but it's too late for that.
Mrs. Hudson sighs, exasperated, but continues scratching behind the kitten's ears.
"I'll give you a month's free trial," she says. "In the meantime, get poor John some supper, Sherlock, for crying out loud! I can hear his stomach all the way over here."
"That's thoughtful of you," John says, reaching, "but we ought to get her settled."
"I'll take care of her," says Mrs. Hudson, retreating back the hall. "Just this once."
"Thank goodness," says Sherlock, tugging John along by the wrist. "I'm starving."
"Cleo?" John asks, struggling to wind some noodles around his chopsticks. "Harry kept a calico koi out in the garden pond when we were kids. That was its name."
"Are you implying," Sherlock asks, "that she reminds you of a fish?"
"No," protests John, weakly, "but—"
"Your lack of creativity with regard to important matters never fails to astonish."
"Fine," John says, stabbing his chopsticks in for another go. "You name her."
"But we both ought to have a say," Sherlock points out. "She's ours."
John covers his eyes with his free hand, applying pressure to his temples with pinkie and thumb. Sherlock's public displays of affection are far more often verbal than physical, and they never fail to catch him off his guard. He sighs.
"What sort of a name appeals to you most? Simple? Elaborate? Old-fashioned?"
"It's not a question of what appeals. It's a question of what fits."
"She sleeps a lot," replies John, laughing. "But that's hardly helpful."
"She's young," Sherlock reminds him. "She'll grow out of that. She seems intelligent."
"Might turn mischievous," John murmurs, frowning. "Doesn't bode well for the rent."
"She's already quite attached to you. Didn't trust Mrs. Hudson at first. Wise."
"She's only a few weeks old, and you're saying she's wise?"
Sherlock hums, and it's a sound of neither agreement, nor disagreement.
"Hypatia? No, that's morbid," he sighs. "And she doesn't look at all like a Minerva."
John taps the edge of his dish thoughtfully. "Mo? After Molly. She did rescue them."
Sherlock wrinkles his nose in distaste. "Ridiculous," he snorts.
"There's nothing wrong with namesakes," says John, somewhat defensively.
"It's a kitten," Sherlock replies. "Not an infant."
Thank God, John thinks. We'd never manage.
"She's lucky," Sherlock murmurs. "If this were ancient Rome, she'd be called Felicia."
"My turn to object," John says. "She is lucky, but that sounds ridiculous."
"Yes, it does," Sherlock agrees, and leaves it at that.
They finish eating in silence. Sherlock pays the tab without any hint of resentment, however, and John breathes a sigh of relief as Sherlock takes his arm once they're outside. What's gotten into Sherlock, he can't guess, but this much is certain: he's more taken with the kitten than he'll ever let on, and if Sherlock can find room in that inexplicable heart of his even after letting John in, then so be it.
"She's upstairs," Mrs. Hudson whispers, seeing them in. "Poor little dear, all tuckered out. I've sorted out a litter pan and some food with the help of that nice couple next door. They've got a tabby, you know. Aslan. He hunts birds in my garden."
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock says. She's gone again before John can speak.
The cardboard box is lined with shredded up flannels (an old pair of the ill-fated Mr. Hudson's pyjamas, perhaps), and the kitten has made herself a nest of them. She's asleep on her back with her front paws drawn up under her chin. They stand and watch her for several minutes. Finally, Sherlock exhales, turns, and kisses John.
"What was that for?" John asks, tracing the line of Sherlock's jaw.
"Humoring me," murmurs Sherlock, and then, with a kiss slower and more lingering than the first, Bed. John had never supposed that assenting to a pet would earn him romantic credit. Good to remember. Perhaps Sherlock will want a fish tank next.
"I'm taken with her, too," John says. "It's not just you."
"No," Sherlock murmurs, frowning, and the mood dissolves a little. "Not just us."
"Of course, of course," says John, a touch impatiently. "Molly and Mrs. Hudson, too."
"Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock says, smiling the way he does when he's been clever.
"Out with it," John prompts, poking him in the ribs.
"And you're right, there's nothing wrong with namesakes."
John raises an eyebrow. "What—Gladys?"
"Precisely," says Sherlock, pecking John on the lips, and then, aloud this time, "Bed."