Word Count: 3400
Written for this prompt:
Lestrade gets turned into an actual silver fox. And still manages to be awesome.
And these pictures:
This appears to be the first in a series....
The night was cold but clear as Mycroft Holmes walked up the steps to his front door, the porch light fighting with the street lights to make strange shadows around him.
One of which shouldn't be there.
He paused, letting the light angles play in his head to determine what had thrown the odd shadow when the shadow itself moved into the light and sat on its haunches watching him.
A fox. Not your usual vulpes vulpes red urban fox of London, a larger and darker one. Dark underfur , mask, and ears, lighter guard hairs giving it an overall silver sheen, darker tail with a splash of white on the tip that was curled around its feet as it sat there like a cat, regarding him.
A "silver" fox, native to North America and the forested tundras of the former Soviet Union. So wha t was one doing on a doorstep in Kensington?
Man and fox watched each other for a long moment.
Mycroft did not think this was a wild animal, seeing as it was quite calm in his presence. A domest icated one from the Russian experiment, a pet lost and waiting for someone to take it home? That seemed unlikely, it had clearly been waiting for him and had taken a conscious decision to step into t he light and sit down.
Which meant that this was not precisely a fox, instead it was a sufferer from the rare and dangerous disease of lycanthropy. But why would a were be on his doorstep?
It wouldn't be a foreign agent, if any country had a functional were in its intelligence service it wouldn't want to break the cover in this fashion. A request for asylum would seem the most obvious reason for this encounter, but why here, why now, why him?
He climbed the last step, but stopped as the fox began to stand up.
He pointed his umbrella in unmistakable threat. "No closer. While the chances of infection are less than 20 percent, the failure rate of the conversion is closer to 45 percent and I do not wish to risk that."
The fox's reaction showed it was most definitely were, had there been any lingering doubts in his mind.
The intelligent brown eyes seemed to dim, the beast dropped its head and turned to walk away, the long brush tucked between its legs, sorrow and despair in every line.
Much safer to leave it, whatever entanglement this animal represented it was best he was not involved. His anonymity was important. He could report the incident and it would be followed up, it wasn' t as if a large silver fox was a usual sighting, if it turned up elsewhere it could be caught.
But who was it? Why was it here? Why him? If it went away, maybe they wouldn't find it, maybe he would never find out.
And if there was one thing that defined Mycroft Holmes, was his reason for being, was his talent, his value, his driving force... it was his need to know.
"I didn't say leave. Just keep your distance. I'm sure you understand why."
The fox hesitated clearly debating the issue, then turned to face him, staying standing, still uncertain of its welcome.
"So what do you want? You have a message for me?"
The fox tilted its head then turned and put one paw on the front door. Well that was sensible, there really was no reason to be conversing out here on the street. While Mycroft had no particular feelings about were he knew the prevailing attitude was very much against them. To be seen conversing with an obvious lycanthrope was to bring unwanted negative attention and he abhorred any attention at all.
He stepped to the door, umbrella still guarding. He didn't think it would suddenly attack him - for one thing it would be a decidedly uncertain and foolish method of assassination - but it was best to take precautions.
The fox backed up a little to give him room, and waited to be invited in, delicately wiping its paws on the mat before stepping inside.
Then ruined the effect by trotting to the unobtrusive side door, the one to the living/dining area where visitors did not normally go.
So someone who knew the layout of the house. It was not a normal floorplan for this type of townhouse having been extensively modified many years before he had bought it, so while it was possible someone who had not been here knew where that particular door led to, and that the more obvious living room was not much used, it was not likely.
Mycroft Holmes did not knowingly number a were amongst his small circle, who could it be?
Someone he had not known for long, but long enough and at a level that they would be willing to expose themselves to him. It did not seem anxious, it so far had not tried to give him any kind of message or communicate much, so it did not seem it was someone who wanted his help. But someone who thought he needed to know their were status. That was not something you imparted to a casual acquaintance. And you didn't tell a colleague by showing up on his doorstep at 7 o'clock in the evening!
He absently put his umbrella in the stand as it was clear now he was in no danger of a deliberate attack. The fox seemed a little more relaxed as he approached it; it made no move to come close to him but trotted calmly through the door he held open for it.
He waited in the doorway to see what it would do next and once more it surprised him. Instead of sitting or lying down, instead of exploring the area or sniffing the chairs or table, it made directly for one of the chairs and hopped up onto it in one neat jump, sitting once more on its haunches with its tail dangling over the side.
The chair it had taken was not the obvious one with its back to the side wall, but the one nearer the kitchen, the one anyone would have thought would be used by the house's owner. But the fox had not sniffed the others to know which had Mycroft's scent, it had gone straight to that chair, as if it had done it before.
"So Inspector Lestrade" said Mycroft Holmes "this is an unexpected pleasure."
The next time they met it was in the same room, around the same time, but not at all in the same manner.
For one thing, they were both human.
They had gone through the formalities of tea and weather and how was your day, and now it was time to talk about the real reason Lestrade was here.
"I admit that I was surprised. And rather annoyed that I hadn't seen the pattern in the days you were not available."
"Well... it isn't as if those are the only times I'm out late. And even if you had known me.. umm.. before, there do seem to be more murders around the time of the full moon."
Mycroft looked at Lestrade, considering. It was three days after the full meaning that he must have changed that morning when the moon set. He looked a bit tired but not ill and he had not been moving like a man in pain, so he must be quite used to the change by now.
"I know you were not were at the time you met Sherlock, the background check would have flagged that. You seem to be quite at home in that body so I'd say some time between 12 months and 4 years?"
"A little over 3 years ago. The dogman killings"
"Ah, the children killed by a were, at first thought to be a rabid dog? One of those partial changes where the sufferer ends up part man part dog and insane while changed? That was who bit you?"
"Yeah. Someone had spotted him running from the kill and we had the dog squad out trying to track him. The dogs were going mental, bystanders raging around with silver knives tied to broomsticks waving them at the dogs, I was trying to manage the crime scene when this... thing leapt out of someone's front yard and next thing I knew I was on the ground and it was trying to tear my throat out. It was only that I was bigger than your average twelve year old that saved me: I was strong enough to hold the jaws away after that first bite. That and one of the uniforms snatched a knife-on-a-stick from one of the vigilantes and stabbed the thing."
Mycroft noted the hitch in the voice and the way Lestrade's head turned a little as he told the story. The telling was matter-of-fact but the memory was clearly still very painful indeed. Not surprising, to go from respected member of society to pariah, to "disgusting animal" in a few minutes mustbe quite an ordeal.
"I take it the Met did look after you?"
"Sort of. They did a blood test and saw the antibodies, but you can't tell if you have the disease until the full moon. So I had to wait four weeks with everyone tiptoeing around me and pretending nothing had happened... but there were enough conversations that stopped as I approached to know it wasn't going to be easy. Then when the moon waxed to full they put me in the isolation chamber to see what happened. So I got to go through my first change with half a dozen blokes watching me, and spend the next three days being fed through a bloody hole in the door and pissing in the corner."
The indignity was still raw it seemed. Mycroft could not blame him, to be naked and in pain and no one willing to come near you could not have been easy.
"But they didn't force you to resign."
"No. It was a full change, and it was caught on the job, and I wasn't disabled as such so while they gave me some pretty strong hints that I should ah.. do the right thing, they didn't kick me out. I did use up most of my sick leave working out how to manage the change though, and no help from the bloody Met then!"
"You have found ways to cope though, as you are listed as full time and you would not have enough sick leave to be off four days a month."
"I was expecting to be forced out I admit. I was lucky though, the Super had a cousin who was were. He told me about it after my third change when it was clear I was planning to stay on if I could, saying that if I could work out how to make myself useful he'd be willing to let me try.
Apparently the cousin is a normal lyker, standard grey wolf. Costs a bit to feed and chews through a motorcycle tyre a month but otherwise spends most of his time asleep in front of the fire. Even gives doggy rides to the local kids, so the Super knew the beatup about how weres are slaves to their "animal nature" and are less than human when on two legs is all bullshit. So he was willing to give me a go. I just had to prove I was still able to do the job."
He knew he'd have to prove himself. Find a way to do his job when he couldn't talk, couldn't type, couldn't even make a cup of coffee. Because even though the Super was on his side, he'd be out on his ear if he couldn't persuade them a copper was a copper, two legs or four.
The Super had told the others that they should co-operate if he wanted to go on a case with them, but Lestrade knew that what a Superintendent said and what people did were two different things. He didn't want to chance his luck with people who didn't really know him but would a suitable case just fall into his lap when he was changed?
Well it did, but not until the fifth change, and it wasn't his team, it was DI Wilson's, but it was a case and he took the chance.
He'd changed in the first aid room - the nurse had to know he was were, it was a notifiable disease after all - and managed to make it down to the car park just as the team was piling into the cars. He picked the one the DI was in, his report would be make or break after all.
"Shit! It's the bloody werewolf!"
"That's Detective Inspector Werewolf!" said one wag getting a nervous laugh or two.
"That's enough" snapped Wilson, striding into the mess of them, "the Super says he's still on the job, so he's still on the job. Come on, get moving, we've got a job to do!"
Lestrade hopped into the car, ensconcing himself on the back seat. There was a pause as no one else was willing to get in there with him until DI Wilson climbed in and yelled "Come ON already. Stop being such crybabies and get in the bloody car!"
"In the car? with him? But what if he bites us?"
"Oh come on Vinnie, this is Lestrade. He doesn't eat anything unless it's smothered in vinegar and served with chips."
With the DI as a bulwark between the coppers and the fox, the others clambered in and the cars headed off to the crime scene.
A body in the house, a tale of mysterious burglars who apparently preferred killing to nicking the Playstation, Lestrade knew his face looked at cynical as everyone else's. But there was no obvious pointer to the husband as killer. Lots of blood in the house but none on him, or his clothes, no clothes in the bins, no mysterious ashes in the yard or the BBQ.
"He could have thrown them anywhere" muttered Linton as they all gathered in the back yard, Lestrade included in the huddle mainly because no one was looking down. "He didn't have much time by his own admission, and Ahmeed just phoned me, the club secretary confirmed his time of leaving the darts game." said the DI. Linton grunted. "Maybe he did it naked? Came home, stripped off, wife was so shocked she just stood there as he cut her to bits like the Sunday roast?"
Lestrade left the huddle and looked around. He was still getting used to the way the whole world was different: the different perspective when your eyes were only two feet above ground, the different colours, and of course the smells. There had been dogs here not that long ago, and he could tell where Linton and Vinnie and the DI had been, he could smell the rubber gloves and the fluids from forensics, the bitter tang of old blood when they opened the door to the house... except the door wasn't open and he could still smell blood.
Not much, it wasn't like the reek from the house that had overwhelmed him earlier, but it was here somewhere. He lifted his head and concentrated.
It was odd, it was like seeing things in a mirror maze. So much information, he was sure with more practice he could overcome the weirdness, the distortion, but right now the scents smashed in on him: dogs and the fumes from cars and the smell of a cat on heat and flowers and someone's Vindaloo and someone else's vomit and the far sweet scent of a vixen.... And an eyewatering smell of camphor, what the hell was that doing in someone's back yard?
He trotted around the yard trying to pick up the smell of blood in the rich confusing air. The camphor was stronger here, mothballs thrown carelessly away? Or did someone want to mask the scent of blood?
Yes! There! He lifted his head.. no.. head down he cast for the scent under the vicious blow of the camphor and finally found it again.
There! An overgrown patch of garden, bushes and weeds and vines, prickly and thick. Impassable to a tender skinned bumbling human, but easy enough for a fox to slip into following the smell of blood.
The camphor was overlaid here, hiding the blood but if he concentrated he could ignore that. He snuffled and scrabbled, pushing aside branches and pebbles and leaves, there! The ground under him was broken up and recently too. The last few nights had been cold, the ground should be hard and frostbitten not broken and soft... He scrabbled his paws into the earth, pushing his muzzle into it and then suddenly something that was not earth and the smell of blood exploded in his face. Yes! He so far forgot himself as to yip loudly in delight before rushing out of the thicket in search of the DI.
There he was, looks like they were about to go home. No! Not now! He ran to Wilson's feet, yipping in consternation.
"What's that Lassie? Timmy's fallen down the well?"
"Shut it Linton! OK, so what's got you going then Lestrade? Under there? Christ. Come on, give us more to go on, that lot's hell for anyone over two foot tall!"
Lestrade thought for a moment. How to communicate, how to tell them what he'd found? He didn't want to disturb it more than he had already by pulling the clothes out, it was a slim enough clue as it was. He looked around and realised he was right by a flower bed lit by the kitchen window. He reached a paw out, cursing as he realised just how much writing was muscle memory as he tried to make readable letters in the soil.
The C looked more like an L, the L more like a C, the O was leaning drunkenly. "Christ it's bloody modern art!" That was Linton again, but it seemed he'd gone too far this time. As Lestrade managed the T and a messy H and ran out of room for the S DI Wilson said "Detective Constable Linton, I said shut up! So right now you find a shovel and clippers because you are going to get into that mess and dig out whatever the hell it is that Lestrade found."
There was a moment of tension with Wilson staring down his DC, promises of endless night shift and hours of data entry in his gaze. Linton muttered a very insubordinate "yes Sir" and went over to look at the mess he would have to fight his way into.
And startled everyone with his yell. "Bloody hell! It's cut already!"
The coppers crowded around as Linton pulled the cut bushes away. "The bastard's cut his way in and hidden the track, must have cut it earlier, so he could bury the clothes and the weapon. We've got him, premeditation right there!"
Forensics poured out of the house, floodlights were set up, and it wasn't long before the husband's bloody clothes were packed neatly in evidence bags and the husband was packed neatly into a car, both headed for the long tedious job of getting from crime scene to courtroom.
Wilson found Lestrade who was off in the shadows trying to avoid the bright lights which hurt his eyes and squatted down to look him in the face. "Good job Greg. I was a bit dubious but you pulled your weight tonight. Can't expect to have that sort of luck every month, so you had better come and chat when you change back. We'll work out what other groups can use your special talents, I've got some contacts in Covert and Gangs, maybe they'll be interested. And don't worry about Linton, he's always been an arse and if he doesn't lift his game he'll find himself on traffic duty."
Lestrade yipped in acknowledgement, and trying to show he understood what had been said and what had not been, he put forward a paw. The DI hesitated for a moment, fighting his instincts, then gravely shook Lestrade's hand.
It was a start.
Thanks once more to elfbert for bouncing around ideas.