"OMG! OMG!" Jane braced herself for the onslaught of singular letters. She nodded a smile at the Omega who'd been sitting in front of her on the train and finished pulling her suitcase down.
The young Omega had turned an alarming shade of red that would have put Jane to mind of high blood pressure when she'd still been a practicing doctor. "I can't believe this. You're Jane Watson. I love your books. I just… in Crystal Sword… I cried when Jarl Olafsen jumped into the vortex to save Father Bridget from the Queen of Air and Darkness. Then when he returned in Under the World Serpent pregnant with their baby… reading the Sword and Cross series saved my life in high school. And your Xenomorphic Alien series. And your new stuff… it's okay too." She looked so young and earnest.
Jane realized that the Omega was in her thirties and her heart sank.
She wasn't that old. She felt old. Older than sixty-two.
"I'm sorry I made you cry." Jane ignored the creak in her shoulder from the old war injury, which had hurt since her thirties dammit, and put her rolling suitcase onto the floor in front of her. There was whispering behind her at this point. She was lucky she'd made it this far with a set of large sunglasses and a John Deere tractor baseball cap that she'd picked up in the American Midwest on her last book tour.
Behind her an Alpha was saying, "They never should have cast Miller to play Jarl in the movie. He and that woman from Orphan Black didn't have a lick of chemistry."
Another couple was whispering that she really was a Beta. There'd been rumours a few years back that she was actually an Alpha. Also, rumours that she was in league with the devil. Southern Baptists had picketed a few of her book tours. At least they weren't going over that old rubbish about Mary.
Jane was glad to be able shuffle off the train. She signed autographs. Had her picture taken with a few people. She was glad that she'd arranged for a taxi to pick her up.
The Alpha driver, Maddy, chattered away at her as they went down smaller and smaller roads. They clearly didn't get very many celebrities out on this part of the Sussex Downs. Although, Maddy assured her she was in good company. "Sherlock Holmes, who was as a famous detective up in London. He lives up the way a bit. Keeps bees. Probably best to stay out of his way. Bit peculiar. Way a city folk I suppose. Excepting yourself, a course. But I hear you were a country Beta to begin with."
Jane kept on a polite smile. Maddy let her out at the pleasant cottage she'd seen in the brochure. Jane took in her own luggage. There wasn't enough to fuss over. She sighed as the door closed behind her and closed her eyes for a good long moment.
The thing was she loved writing. Really she did and talking to her fans was lovely. If only it didn't make her feel like all her best years were somewhere behind her.
She made herself a cuppa and explored the cottage. It didn't take long. There wasn't much to it, which was the point. She set up her computer by the wide window overlooking the sea. There was no internet to check. That was unfortunate.
She wrote a blog post that she couldn't post about how that was unfortunate because she couldn't think of anything to say. She went for a walk along the beach.
It was solitary. Good. It was all good. After the ugliness of her split with Tiffany – and why had she thought dating an actress half her age would be a good idea - Jane needed solitary.
She climbed back up the hill to the cottage. She sat in front of her computer. She did a writing exercise describing the bones of her hand moving. She did a writing exercise describing waves on a beach. She rested her forehead against the table.
She pulled out her e-reader and read in the garden. It was nice. Bees buzzed in the rose bushes and she imagined the grizzled old copper who lived up the road. He'd be short and round, and look a bit like Poirot, but without the moustache and Cockney, not Belgian. So, not much like him. He'd be an Alpha. Married three times. Divorced because of the job. Forced to retire. He solved a case once that had him in the papers. Maybe did some interviews on telly. He had a book of clippings about that case, but never allowed visitors past the front door to show it.
She imagined him puttering in his garden while she didn't get very far reading in hers and fell asleep.
She wasn't napping because she was getting on. She wasn't that old. Her gran lived to be one hundred and three. Jane had at least another forty years to look forward to. Though to be fair, gran had been a bit dotty for the last ten of those.
She failed to write some more the next day. Went for another walk on the beach. Failed to write some more. Sat in the garden imagining her neighbour puttering about. She wrote a short story about him solving a petty crime involving missing Christmas roast. It was rubbish.
She went for a walk up the lane, but didn't see much of her neighbour. Another stone cottage nestled between two hills surrounded by a low fence and riots of flowers. She could see white bee hives positioned where they'd get the Southern exposure.
She went back to the cottage. Failed to write some more.
She had a book of hikes. She went for a hike. Maybe her problem was the beach. She was climbing over a stile when a very posh, very peeved voice said, "Do not move! You'll kill the Queen!" She froze and looked around.
A tall thin Beta of about her age with thick silver shot black hair was pointing at the second step down. She jumped around the bees, presumably a young Queen, having a honeymoon with a drone on the step.
She stood there watching them for long moments until they decided to fly off.
Jane realized that she wasn't wearing her glasses or the cap. She steeled herself for recognition. The Beta sniffed. "You're less of an idiot than most." He glanced down at her shoes. "You're a Londoner. You live in Westminster and take regular walks in Regent's park and along Regent's canal, but have been visiting the country for a vacation… no… Work… something solitary. Writing, but it hasn't been going well given the state of your nails."
This was a bit creepy truth be told. Her residence was not public information. She opened her mouth to say something. Anything, but he held up one long thin finger in front of her face. "Do not speak. I must exercise my mind if I am to keep my instrument supple. And those who rent the cottage down the lane are my only fodder."
He looked her up and down. He grabbed her hands and twisted them right and left. It was so extraordinary, she had no idea what to say. She just stood there like a lump while he examined her and then began to declaim – that was the only word for it – the most odd facts about her life. Nothing that would ever have been in a blog or that horrid biography that came out three years ago. He knew she liked raspberry jam and only tolerated apricot. That she'd had her shoes resoled at that place in the Baker street station, but had gone back twice because the first time hadn't been quite right. There were all sorts of things like that.
He wound down, crossed his arms and said, "Well? How did I do? You must be precise as to where I have been incorrect."
She clapped. "No, that was… well, I don't have a bull dog, that's my sister's and it will hump my leg and coat, but other than that. That was fantastic." It felt oddly wonderful to have a stranger not know her and know her. A very attractively put together stranger.
His lips curled. "The dog. Hah. There's always something." Something in him had eased a little. Her reaction, she supposed. He looked her in the eyes and said in a tone normally associated with Henry V rousing the troops, "There's a wild hive in the woods. Would you like to see it?"
Since she was in no mood to be her own company, she said, "Yeah. It's better than that the cottage."
"Ah, solitude." A smile flashed across the Beta's face and she realized that she still hadn't gotten his name.
She felt odd doing it, but she held out her hand. "Jane Watson."
He looked a little abashed and coughed. "I'm Sherlock Holmes. I… suppose it has been a few years. Good. Good. Always hated when I was recognized. Took away from the Work." The way he said it, the Work was not only capitalized but had little fireworks around it.
"Detecting. I heard," agreed Jane with her hand curled around his and she was reminded what she liked being alone with just Betas. Shaking a Beta's hand or just breathing in their scent. It was as comfortable as a sweater. The sort of scent that said something good was going to happen. That things were going to get done. The pleasant feeling of his thumb's brief stroke along the back of her hand, made her think of other sorts of things too.
She hoped so.
"Ah, Madison White. She does like to gossip, which is… was invaluable in my line of work." Sherlock set off across the Downs. The hive was more than a short hike away, but she didn't mind. The company was good. Eclectic. Explosive. Alternatively excitedly explaining the nature of everything and companionable silence. Attractive.
He was lonely. Jane was not a detective, famous or not, but she could see that.
They walked back a different way and he explained the best way to obscure footprints. She wished she had a notebook. She could use that somewhere.
As they came to his house, he waved her in after him. She followed him into the most cluttered nest she could have imagined. She looked at the dagger piercing correspondence to the mantle and the Persian slipper full of nicotine patches and said, "This… is nice."
He hummed and shifted about in a cabinet, emerging with two small glasses and a stoppered bottle. "Here try this. I've been experimenting."
Those weren't the most inviting words in the world, but she took the glass and sipped what he handed her. It was delicious. Ambrosial.
A wide white smile spread across his face. "Mead according to an old Roman recipe. I've been… tinkering with it."
It was only natural that she sat down on the only free chair. Sherlock cleared a space opposite her and they sipped. Chatted. At some point, her stomach made its needs known. No takeaway in the country. She opened her mouth to say she needed to go, but Sherlock had already rocketed into the next room. Calling back, "Not hungry myself, but yes… I suppose." He emerged back with a cutting board, what appeared to be a Kukri knife, a loaf of bread, cheese and sausage.
She murdered herself some cheddar. They kept talking. He was easy to talk to. Sarcastic. With no patience for fools. A Beta just like her. There was none of the tense pressure of talking with an Omega or worse an Alpha. It was all so easy.
She wasn't sure how she even got onto the topic of Mary. What could possess her to talk about her. "I've dated a few Omegas over the years, but I was only bonded once, a long time ago now… she was murdered."
His sat up straight in his chair as if he was a dog waiting for a treat then he sank back. "I'm not going to solve it for you. I don't do that anymore."
"Nothing to solve," she said. "Though, at the time, it was quite the mystery. I came home and there she was. Shotgun blast to the head. Grizzly. I'd seen worse in Afghanistan, but this was Mary. Except… she let that word linger in her mouth, "it wasn't."
His eyes widened beautifully. He leaned towards her across the table with his long fingered hands clasped together. "Be detailed and I can already tell this is out of order, and you call yourself a writer. What kind of writer starts in the middle?"
She laughed. He sounded like the critics of her last novel. "Mary and I had worked together at the surgery. She was a nurse to my Doctor. Such a nice Omega. Funny. I hardly noticed that when we bonded, there wasn't even a single telegram from her family. I thought it was because I was a Beta. This was twenty years ago." He waved off that detail. "Then my first book was published." She didn't say it was on the Best Seller list. She didn't say that people bought it in droves. That she couldn't get on the tube without seeing it in hard cover clutched in someone's lap. She didn't want to say that. "It got a little press. One evening, I came home from an interview to our flat and there was a dead Omega in Mary's clothes with Mary's general build. But I was a doctor. We'd been intimate. I knew my own bonded. I told the officer I didn't think it was it was her."
Sherlock leapt out of his chair and went to the fireplace. He fiddled with it. A gas flame came on. She hadn't even realized that she was cold until he did it and warmth blossomed out of the fireplace. "They didn't believe you. Who was the detective? No, let's see, if you were living in Westminster at the time, twenty years ago, evening shift, that would have been… most likely Bradstreet."
"How did you even… yes, it was Detective Inspector Bradstreet. How did you… you really are amazing." She was making an idiot of herself, she knew, which gave her an increased sympathy for her fans.
"Hmmm… yes, well, you… yes. Pity it wasn't Lestrade. He'd have brought me in. Possibly, but we were deep in the Moriarty business." He pushed the small table between them away and pulled his chair closer. Their knees were touching. "Continue."
She breathed in and breathed out the scent of a Beta. That lovely voice of his. The feeling of warm bony knees bumping. "They told me I was in denial. They did," she air quoted, "tests, and determined it was her."
"Ah, that would have been Anderson." Sherlock sneered at someone she'd never even met.
"I doubted myself, but when I arranged the funeral, I couldn't find any information on any of her relatives." His knee brushed against hers. Slipped slightly between her knees. "The more I dug, the more it was as if she'd just stepped into being a few months before she started working at the surgery. No pictures. No mementos. Not even old tax records." She rested her arms palms up on her legs, leaning forward, "I hired a detective, but he didn't find anything."
"Hmmm… this is an extremely cold case, but I suppose, if I were to…" His fingers were almost close enough to touch her hands.
"Oh, I know what happened." She couldn't let him think there was still a mystery.
Even if it meant he leaned back and glared at her. But before she could go on, he said, "She faked her own death. That much is clear. This occurred after the publication of your novel, which clearly was gaining you some prestige. Your manner of avoiding speaking of it could not be more telling. Your pictures would have been in the media. If Mary was in hiding and your notoriety exposed her. She needed to not only disappear, but be thought to be dead. That she provided a body to set the scene is certainly indicative of her nature." He clasped his hands in front of his face as if praying to some higher god of detection.
In that moment, Jane somewhat doubted such a being existed. She waited with baited breath to hear what she already knew.
What she got was a question. "Shot gun blast to the head. How was the body positioned?"
"Knees bent… I…" She could visualize it, that corpse on the floor, even after all these years, but the words to describe it were… she was a wordsmith, she should be better at this.
He gave her an aggrieved sigh. "Show me."
There was nothing for it, but for her to lie on his oriental rug next to the snarling bear skin and show him. There was nothing for it, but for him to push her this way and that on the floor. His wide fingers were very pleasant. It felt very pleasant being handled by this Beta she'd met this morning. He asked her various questions. She answered him. He finally said, "Classic execution style for organized criminals operating out of the US North East. Mary killed professionally. Retired, but retained her old skills."
"Yes," said Jane, pushing herself to her elbows. "The police came to me a few years later. They'd found her actual body. This time with dental records and fingerprints." She sat up. "So… I forget how we even got here."
"You were working your way up very clumsily to asking me if I had an Alpha or an Omega friend and I was stuck on the thought that I am no longer married to my work. We have, as it happens, separated." He glanced at the fire and then back at her. "I was once involved with an Alpha Dominatrix. An Omega sociopathic consulting criminal, who wooed by blowing up buildings." He smiled faintly. "In those day, I thought I wanted danger." That smile turned predatory, "But today, I would not averse to having sex with you here," he brushed those long fingers along her jaw, "now," he brushed his lips against hers, "here."
She was too old to be having sex on a floor of any sort. She was going to be having sex on the floor. She had enough sense to garble out, "No penetration without condoms or testing," and then gave up all pretence to any other sense of reason.
Sherlock had amazing focus. She didn't feel awkward over her scars or lines of life, mainly because he seemed to find the wear on her body fascinating. Because he had the same wear. He started with her toes. He muttered deductions about childhood injuries. Delicately tasted between those toes and made them curl.
Jane wondered why she'd never been with a Beta since her time in the service. This was lovely. No wondering if she was a poor second to heat or a knot or… she groaned. He'd made it to the backs of her knees and was trailing his fingers back and forth along the sensitive skin while he commented on high school football. She slid her fingers into his curling hair and gave him encouragement. It was also about the only part of him she could reach. She wasn't about to try stroking him off with a foot.
He worked his way up until he was licking almost delicately at her clitoris, which while not risk free was, "Oh, God, yes!" lovely. She was eventually able to reciprocate more than a scalp massage when he made it up to her neck. Not that he seemed to require much in the way of stimulation, burrowing his face into her neck and coming after a few strokes of her hand.
Afterwards, he dragged a blanket off the couch and it was strangely comfortable on the bear skin. Although, she was wondering if perhaps he either didn't own a bed, or had perhaps buried it under a pile of shite.
They murmured to each other. Stroked and moved. She blinked sleepily, but didn't want to wrest herself out of the cocoon. Found herself at some ridiculously early hour blinking awake on the floor. Sherlock was nowhere to be seen.
She used the bathroom, but he still was gone when she emerged. He also wasn't in his bedroom, which did have a bed, if piled high with several hundred combination locks.
She heard someone moving around upstairs and suddenly felt the sheer awkwardness of the whole situation and at her age. She slipped out the front door and did the walk of the satisfied home.
She took an extremely long shower and found herself smiling dreamily at a bruise on her breast. She laughed at herself. She was too old to behave like a teenager.
She pulled out her computer and sat in the garden.
She wrote the story of Mary. Except in this version, Detective Inspector Lestrade brought in a consulting detective. In this story, she and Sherlock raced around London finding clues. She stopped aghast when she realized that she was about to write the previous night's sex as a scene. Writers were horrible cannibals using elements from their lives. At least she was, but there ought to be some sort of line.
She looked up and realized that not only had she been sitting there unmoving for three hours, but Sherlock was gardening a few feet away from her.
He said, "Your roses are in terrible condition. Also, you don't have nearly enough flowers to attract the bees."
Which was how she spent the day with him getting garden supplies for her rented cottage. After she had him in for tea. Before she could get the kettle on, he had her up on her kitchen counter. As it turned out he'd already been to the chemist's and purchased an absurdly large box of condoms. The tile was cold on her arse and she had to think they looked absurd. The feeling of him filling her warm and alive. She groaned, "I do have a bed."
"Strangely," he shifted her hips and he pushed deliciously against her Grafenberg spot, "I was able to deduce that."
She was a bit wobbly making the tea later. Sherlock was absurdly smug. Actually, she was feeling fairly smug.
Then there was gardening.
They did eventually make into the bed. Although, he slipped back out of it around midnight, which was possibly her cue. Except, she found herself at his door the next day. He gave her and the bees a private violin concert. He'd written the piece himself. Something about criminals being morons. She was beginning to wonder if there was any accomplishment beyond him.
Certainly, their experiment in making each other come just by dragging the tip of the violin's bow over skin was a success.
She told him that she was supposed to be in the cottage all summer. They were both adults. She wasn't moving to Sussex, and he'd clearly left London for a reason. Still, this was lovely and the summer stretched before them.
She had time for whatever this was. She was also supposed to be writing something other than fiction in which she was clearly a Mary Sue in her own life. But when she tried to write only him, thinking she could file the serial numbers off later, it felt wrong.
She thought about that sometimes. The sheer stupid chance of meeting Sherlock like this. She wrote science fiction and fantasy novels. She thought about the reality where she never even met this brilliant person going on about megaliths or French poisoners and she didn't like to think about it. So, of course, she thought about it.
She'd been in Sussex a month, when Sherlock invited her to be his victim at a Criminology Conference in London. He'd be giving a talk on body language analysis, which given the way he was watching her was a bit intimidating.
She said, "I'll pay for my own room," in a sort of panic at the idea of coming out to the world at being in relationship anything.
The look he gave her was what that comment merited.
They took the train to London together. He wore a wide floppy hat, a fake moustache, horn rimmed glasses and a disgusting mole next to his mouth. It had hairs sticking out and everything.
Jane felt quite bland with her cap and sunglasses.
One thing became immediately clear when they arrived, Sherlock was a bit of a superstar in this setting. Oh, Jane was recognized and a peach cheeked Omega asked if her next novel would have a mystery, but everyone knew Sherlock. He'd worked on every interesting case. Knew everything about everyone.
Known, but not liked. It was the questions people didn't ask. Advice about solving murders, thefts, kidnappings. Not a single one about bees or music or the relationship between Celtic and Sumerian languages, or some other bizarre fact.
Which made no sense. One of the benefits of being a Beta was people were inclined to like you. Overlook you. Pass you over. But in a likeable sort of way.
Then again, Sherlock referred to himself as a highly functioning sociopath three times and was more than bit of a prick. At least until she leaned up and told him that massive pricks did not get their pricks licked. When he forgot, she licked her lips at him. It was fairly effective.
The conference itself was in a bland modern building with bland rooms with tan walls and tan floors and dull uncomfortable chairs. She'd been in thousands of rooms like this at conventions. For Sherlock's talk, she sat in the front row in the seat Sherlock growled a grizzled looking Alpha out of so she could sit there.
She didn't understand half of it.
He was amazing. Alive and electric. Full of passion for his life's work. Oh, he loved his bees, but this was what he was made to do. Her heart ached to tell him that he wasn't done. That he should leave Sussex which was for the end of the story, not the middle, but that felt self-serving.
It only occurred to Jane later, after he pulled her to his side a dozen times through the rest of the conference, that he was showing off for her. Preening like an Alpha peacock. Handing out deductions in return for her admiration. A feedback loop that escalated.
She never did stay in that room she paid for.
They were one day back from the conference, walking along the beach, when they saw an Alpha in bathing trunks going into cardiac arrest. He had welts along his torso. Given that he was using precious air to say "Lion's Mane", it was clear what had happened.
She said, "I'm a doctor, I'm going to try to stabilize you."
Unfortunately, his heart stopped. She focused on CPR while considering her options. She wasn't a walking medicine cabinet, but she ordered Sherlock to do a quick search of the fellow's ruck sac. He unearthed an epi pen. She gave the Alpha a jab and kept up the sequence.
When she had the Alpha breathing again, she grinned up at Sherlock.
Sherlock was looking at her as if she was the amazing one. He gave himself a little shake and started in on if the Alpha'd seen who'd attacked him.
She wrapped a beach towel around the Alpha's shoulders. "Sherlock, he encountered a Lion's Mane. It's a jelly fish with poisonous tendrils. This was not a murder attempt."
Sherlock stopped talking. He was silent even after the ambulance came and went.
He didn't say much on the way back to her cottage. They got to her door, which he promptly crowded her against. "You saved that Alpha's life."
She took longer and longer kisses from him. They tumbled down onto the wooden deck chair, lips joined, hands moving. Rubbing Beta against Beta. No Alpha. No Omega. Just them and the sunshine and the bees and the flowers.
Anyone could have come along and seen her scars and sags. His scars and bony body. Their gray hairs. Creaking, popping joints.
Her pushing his trousers and pants off him. The awkward tumble off the deck chair into the dirt as she shimmied out of her own clothes. Her stroking his prick until it was ready for her to sink down on it and pleasure herself while he looked up at her with wide amazed eyes. He cupped her breasts in his hands and worshiped her skin with his lips. She could feel the sun on her arse as she pumped him in and out of her slowly. Drawing it out. Until by his gasp, neither of them wanted slow anymore.
They came together in the warm pleasant day. She flopped off him, as graceful as a fish out of water. Feeling a bit like a jelly fish. She kissed his shoulder just above a scar from a knife wound. "Come back to London with me when I go." She hadn't meant to say that. She hadn't meant to have sex in the garden. She hadn't meant to fall in love with a Beta who saw murder in a jelly fish sting.
He tugged her closer "I was already planning on it."
She snuggled against him and decided she really did have to get over herself already. "I suppose, I should mention that I'm…"
"Moderately famous. Yes, you were stopped three times at the conference. Also, I do have internet. Your silence on your writing could not have been more telling."
He didn't say much after that. Primarily because he was kissing her.
She liked that as a plan and kissed him back.