Character(s): Watson, Holmes, Mr. Sherman, a badger, a stoat, a carter, and Toby.
Summary: Watson returns to the naturalist's shop after Toby's exertions are complete
Author's Notes: ACD-verse. Fill for the July 2 writing prompt: Animals, animals, animals. This was written very quickly. Beware spelling and grammar errors!
Word Count: 750
"A friend of Mr. Sherlock is always welcome," said he. "Step in, sir. Keep clear of the badger, for he bites." The Sign of Four
The badger was not happy. When he had been only a kit he had disobeyed his mother and ventured out of the burrow, and before he could make sense of the mass of scents surrounding him, he had been netted, wrapped in a sack, and brought to a hideous place with loud noises and obnoxious fumes and not a bit of soft earth to dig in or clean water to drink. His only companion now was a stoat, normally worthy only of scorn for being an entirely disrespectable sort of cousin (as his mother had always maintained). But he was fast forgetting his mother in this place; it was only through their long conversations at night that he could recall the way things used to be at all.
Diversions came occasionally. A twitchy human would enter every so often and take away the dog, and then bring him back and give the clinky round things to the smelly man who was always present near the cages. Once when the smelly man was absent for an afternon, very small humans had entered and started opening the cages. Three foxes and a couple of rabbits were loosed (with predictable consequences), but before the small humans could release the badger, then man had come back and chased them away. The stoat had been quite pleased with the addition to their food that night, but the badger had been troubled at what his mother would say. He had not been of an age to forage for himself before he was taken, but his mother had never brought back rabbit. His meals had been more civilized then: grubs and larvae that could be eaten in dainty bites, without requiring him to show his teeth (how his mother had nipped him to cure him of that habit!) and tear off bits of meat, leaving blood everywhere, untidily.
After a year or so he could barely remember what his mother had considered civilized. He took every opportunity to bite the man whenever he came near the cage, and as a consequence his food was offered more and more rarely, and even the stoat had ceased to talk to him. He barely noticed the unusual entrance one day of a human who was not the twitchy visitor, but a new man he had never seen before. The untwitchy man left with the dog (that was not unusual) and returned with him the next day. Again there was a clinking exchange, but the untwitchy man did not leave. He stayed, peering in all the cages and gabbling with the smelly man for a long time. Eventually he left, but returned shortly afterward, and to the badger’s amazement he picked up the badger’s cage and loaded it into a cart in the street. Dismayed at the new activities, the badger tried to bite his fingers, but could not quite get the angle on them. The untwitchy man gave more clinky round things to the smelly man and to the large human driving the cart, and then disappeared.
After so long in the dark, the sunlight was blinding. For a while the badger hid in a corner of his cage, but then a new scent made him sit up and look around. He had not smelled that since he was a kit! It was earth and green and wet, and barely a trace of the hard metal scents of the last year could be tasted. He was so enraptured by his nose that he forgot to try to bite the hands that removed his cage from the cart, and he was so confused by the change in surroundings that he did not even move when the door to his cage was opened. It was only when the cage was lifted and tumbled him out that began to move again. This was grass. It was soft. There was water nearby, and trees and shade, and a hundred other things whose names his mother had never taught him. He moved in a daze until he found himself under a large tree that made round things in the fall, round things that could be dug up and eaten. He didn’t know what they were called, but that was all right. He knew what to do with them, in the same way he knew what to do with his front paws. Snuffling around the tree until he found exactly the right place, he stretched out his claws and began to dig.