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Regency Mills and Boon with a Side of Steam

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It would surprise no one to know that Lord Sherlock was a fussy infant. Perhaps he knew that his Alpha father had died fighting the French in one of Britannia’s eternal wars with that vexing nation. He was only an infant, but in later years, no one would have doubted he was capable of it.

As a fussy infant, he would not take milk from any of the Betas brought in to feed him. He wailed at his Mother.

His older Brother, Duke Mycroft Holmes, only nine and already the head of their household, said, "He's bored." He made a complicated pattern with a string between his hands and little Lord Sherlock stopped wailing for as long as he was entertained, which was not long. Duke Mycroft had studies and was well aware of the obligations he would have to take on. His Mother was sure to tell him of them. If he on occasion looked out the window and looked upon the air ships plying the sky above London on their way to Britannia's colonies, he made himself turn to other matters.

While Lord Sherlock never had such discipline. He never needed to. He was a fussy baby.

Until one day, the surprise was that he had stopped wailing. The child of a servant had crawled into Lord Sherlock's crib and was curled up with him. The Dowager Duchess had been uncertain about taking on an Omega in such an unbonded state, but from then on little Joan Watson had a job, which was quite simple. Keep Lord Sherlock entertained.

When they were little, where one was to be found, the other was not far behind. They slept in the same bed. They played the same games. If Joan was older, she needed that advantage, for Lord Sherlock even in short pants was very clever.

But they were never brother and sister.

Duchess Holmes made that very clear to little Joan. The blood of kings ran in the Holmes veins. Admittedly from the wrong side of the blanket, as the first Duchess Holmes had wielded her heats wisely, but the blood of kings nevertheless. It was where the Duchy had come from.

When he was old enough, Lord Sherlock glared at the world as he was sent away to school. He was cast out for deducing the secrets of the Headmaster. He said, in his high clear voice, "I was bored." He was sent to another school. He was pulled out after deducing the reason for the influenza outbreak the previous season. Duchess Holmes decided that private tutoring was called for.

Sherlock grinned at Joan. He said, "I told you I could do it."

She laughed and laced her fingers with his in their nursery room bed. "I never doubted you.'

Lord Sherlock grew tall and brilliant, a striking high born son of the estate. He presented Alpha, which had his Mother in paroxysms of glee, two Alpha sons.

He ignored the Lady Omegas of neighbouring estates that his gleeful Mother trotted by him. But she comforted herself that he was young yet.

Sherlock insisted Joan come with him – this being a minor description of the wobbly that he threw – to his adult's room on the family floor. She took lessons with him. Although, she never did learn more than passable piano to his violin. She was his first and only dance partner.

Joan grew up not particularly tall. She was bright, but not brilliant. She was not a servant, but she was not a daughter of the house. She wasn't below stairs. She wasn't above stairs. She supposed that she stood on the stairs. On the landing perhaps. Sometimes, she'd listen to the small music box that Sherlock had given to her the previous Christmas and wonder just where she belonged.

There were duelling hopes on Holmes estate.

Below the stairs, they hoped that Joan would present as an Omega, for as the cook said, "If there is anyone who could tempt our Lord Sherlock out of his constant studies into infernal calculating machines and whatnot, and into a good clean rut, it would be our Joan."

Above the stairs, Duchess Holmes was sure to put a tincture, just a drop, of wormwood into Joan's morning tea each day. It was servant's work, but she trusted no one but herself in this regard.

Duchess Holmes had her way, as Joan presented Beta.

Then the Duchess had a harsh conversation with her about the reality of her situation. It was after all, time Lord Sherlock went off to University and learned to be civilized or at least marginally civil.

Joan left a long tear stained note that boiled down to being sixteen and needing her own life and wanting to make her way in the world.

At the time Lord Sherlock was engaged into creating a machine that would churn out cyphers. He was high in his Mind Palace, leaving messages for Joan that she would never read, because they were both in code and only in his own head. If he hadn't been, he might have found her before she'd gone far. But by the time he'd emerged, and read her note, it was to discover that her airship for the West Indies had already set into the breeze.

He made plans to follow her.

Then came word that that airship had been attacked by pirates and all aboard had been thrown off the ship and into the waves far below.

He didn't say anything when his brother told him. He was deep in his Mind Palace looking for Joan, but she kept turning away from him. He never did say anything on the subject.

The Cook told the Housekeeper, "He's pining, is our Lord Sherlock, he hasn't eaten hardly a thing in weeks."

His Mother told her eldest, while stabbing an embroidery hoop, "He's malingering. I understand that Joan was his especial friend, but it is time to make newer and better friends."

Lord Sherlock didn't say anything.

Years passed.

He did not grow civil.

Somewhat the reverse.

During the years of war with that little Corsican upstart, Duke Holmes occupied a minor position in government, while Lord Sherlock did something no one talked about on the continent.

However, once the little upstart was put in his place, the Duchess rubbed her hands and said, "I shall be throwing a ball in honour of the visit of Czar Alexander. It was his mechanicals after all that turned the tide of war after all." Her meaning could not have been clearer.

Mycroft sighed. Sherlock ranted.

Nevertheless, a masked ball was arranged at their town house in London. Everyone, in particular every Omega of any breeding, was invited.

Sherlock threatened to run away to Tibet.

Since this had been his favourite threat since a very young age, his closest relatives ignored him.

On the night of the ball, everything gleamed. The Czar was dashing in military uniform. The music was enticing. The costumes splendid. The room was a mad crush of Alphas and Omegas spinning in time to the music.

Sherlock wanted to dance, but he'd promised himself years ago that he'd take only one partner and he was not breaking that promise now.

Sherlock watched his brother spin the latest craze, Viennese waltz, with one simpering Omega after Omega in their pale blues and greens. Everyone was pallid.

Sherlock was in black. He was always in black. He crossed his arms and determined that he would not leave his pillar.

His Mother said, "Sherlock, Sherlock! Are you listening to me? If you do not talk to at least one Omega, I will put something unpleasant in your tea." Which was not entirely an idle threat.

It was then that he spotted the Omega Pirate with the tanned skin and the sun bleached blond hair. Her costume was perfect, if pirates were inclined to rich red velvet and black leather. She was even wearing a much scuffed cutlass with an ugly gash upon the hilt.

He said, careful to appear not too eager, "Fine!" and went up to the Omega Pirate. Her perfume was overpoweringly strong. Although, she could not be said to be the only one so doused that evening. He said, "Dance with me. If your next dance is available." He considered a moment. "Even if not, dance with me."

The Omega Pirate looked him up and down in his simple black costume and black domino mask. She said quite evenly, "If I had promised my next dance, which I have not, then I would keep my promise." She held out a red gloved hand.

He pulled her out onto the floor. He bowed to her curtsey. They spun in slow circles for a time. "I can tell from your gait that you've spent many years in the air."

"I am a pirate," she said, as she gently tugged at his right shoulder to correct their course away from a slower couple. "While you I'm guessing are dressed as a spy."

"Don't guess," he snapped holding her arm up high and spinning her out and then back again, "it's a shocking habit. You should always observe based on facts." Then he saw the way her lips were quivering. "You're laughing at me."

"You observed that did you." Her thin lips quirked in a way that he'd have known even if he wasn't him. He did wonder briefly if his Mother had already snuck something into his tea, but her shoulder was warm and real under his hand.

The song ended. They remained on the dance floor. The next dance was a rapid polka. They raced about the floor, never needing skaters pose, but always flying faster and faster.

The Master of Ceremonies called the next song, Sir Roger de Coverly.

Sherlock had no patience for a set dance right now. In addition, the red feather on her hat had been brushing against the Omega Pirate's neck as they moved.

He pulled her through an open door into the garden and would have leaned down to inhale where that feather had brushed, but that she pushed him back with her folded fan like it was a sword. "Sir, we've just met. I don't even know your name."

"Enough of this pretence. I know exactly who you are." Sherlock pushed her arm up only to find her fan now pressed against his neck.

"No, I don't think you do, or you wouldn't be doing that while we could dancing." The Omega Pirate had a false smile stretched across her lips. "I just want one night of dancing."

"Lord Sherlock," called a very annoying and unasked for interruption.

He turned around to face the most ill-timed servant in the history of time – except for that one time in Paris. "What?"

"Your Mother, Her Grace, is looking for you," came the rather weak reply.

Sherlock turned back to the Omega Pirate, but she'd abseiled off. "Typical," he muttered and stalked off to find where she'd gone to.

He found her red mask in a crumpled heap by the front gate. He picked it up and brushed his fingers through the cloth that had so recently been warmed by her skin. He smiled in a way that might have worried some if they'd seen it.

Inside the ballroom, Duke Holmes said to his only Mother in the world, "Sherlock was dancing with someone and you interrupted him. What were you thinking?"

The Duchess glared at the mad crush of her ballroom. "Miss Nemo is no one. She is not on the guest list. The only report of her that I can find is she might have a wealthy estate of some sort in the West Indies. What are the West Indies to us?"

"A lucrative colony and someone Sherlock was actually dancing with." Duke Holmes gave up on the intractable rock of his Mother and went to pay his respects to the Czar of all the Russias.

Sherlock found Joan, neither dead nor a dream, but now somewhat more sensibly dressed, clutching a pint in a very dodgy sort of pub down by the airfields north of London. She said, "How did you find me? Should you even be here?" She looked around the pub, which was considerably less raucous than the ballroom had been.

Sherlock shrugged. "I have network that I hire from time to time to observe goings on."

"From this I observe that you, sir, are a spy." She waved a finger in the air and ordered another pint and a cold meat pie.

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment." Sherlock followed this observation, more by rote than anything else. "I am not hungry."

She raised her eyebrows and moved her pint about on the table a bit. "What I said before still counts. You don't know me. You knew a prepresented child. Even my adult scent is new to you. You don't know the things I've done."

"You were captured by pirates in the West Indies. Mixed Spanish and French crew by the faint lilt your accent has picked up." He picked up her wrist, tanned by a far harsher sun and rubbed his fingers across the soft skin. She shivered. "You convinced your captors to make you a part of their crew," as the meat pie and pint arrived, he raised his eyebrows, "I know your ways of old.

She tilted her head to concede the point and wielded a fork at him.

"You became the Captain when," he brushed his fingers over the covered bones of her shoulder where an injury was hidden from him, "the previous one, an Alpha, given you wear his coat, thought that Beta meant easily controlled. You Betas and your friendly scents." She sighed and leaned into his hand. "By the way you walk and dance, you are more at home in the air than on land. There that's enough to go on so far."

She placed her hand on top of his. "That is as impressive as it always was." She pointed with her fork to an old air pilot by the fire. "If you tell me about the old lump, I'll give you a bite of my pie."

"I'm not hungry." She smiled blandly at him. He told her about the old sailor home from the sky and received a bite he didn't particularly want.

When they were fed, the night was not much older and the secrets of the pub's inhabitants were well divined. They went dancing. Not at the ball, but a place that Sherlock happened to know where quite literally a dance brall was going on. They bralled. They jigged. They waltzed very closely and when the hours closed the place down they went back to her airship.

They danced a little longer in her cabin to the music of a small music box that had once been a Christmas gift. The ship shifted slightly on the breeze. Dancing gave way to kisses as naturally as breathing. They peeled off layers of clothes. She had new scars. So did he.

The perfume offended him so he washed it off her revealing the clean breeze of her Beta scent. Nothing to drive him mad. Just the steady hand at his right side.

He whispered, "You aren't my first. I've done things too. I…" She silenced him with a kiss.

She said, "Let me try to deduce you." She proceeded to be completely wrong.

He said, "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!" He glared at her. "You're laughing at me."

"You deduced that did you." She breathed in the scent at his neck. "I took an old shirt of yours when I left, but this is better." She pushed him back onto the bed and straddled him. She pressed slowly down onto him. There were no jokes about Alpha cocks. No words at all. Just the clean warm feeling of her surrounding him. His heart was pounding and he felt safe. Cared for by someone who knew him better than anyone. She pulled gasps out of him with a grin. She rolled her hips, squeezing him as he urged her on.

When he came inside of her, it did not feel like this was their first time. It felt as familiar as a particularly beautiful sunrise above the clouds.

Afterwards, she curled up with her head on his chest. She said, "What a wonderful end to the evening."

He pulled her knee further across his legs. "What end? You are kidnapping me into a life of piracy."

He felt her eyelashes sweep across his chest in a delicate caress. "I'm not actually a pirate anymore. I'm just a merchant."

He shrugged. "You're still kidnapping me."

"But," she propped herself up on her elbow, which meant she wasn't touching him, but did improve his view, "I'm a Beta. There's… no point to this. If I'd presented as an Omega…"

"Then you'd have tried to be my mistress or something equally moronic." He kissed the knife wound on her right breast. "You could as easily have been an Alpha and then this," he kissed the bullet scar on her right shoulder, "would be illegal. Irrelevant because you are my Beta and you are kidnapping me."

She squirmed as he took advantage of something he'd learned from an Operatic American spy in Warsaw. Joan was singing soon.

In the morning, Sherlock was thoroughly kidnapped to points west. He did send for some clothes first with a note.

The Duke folded the note and decided not to share it with their Mother until Sherlock was well out of British airspace. In any case, he had other issues.

In particular pondering the diplomatic incident of waking up sore and satisfied in the bed of the Russian Czar.