i. A problematic arrangement, don’t you think?
The omega was good at hiding his scent. Anyone other than Sherlock would have missed it and, as it was, Sherlock nearly did himself. He was busy comparing mould slides so as to better distinguish the species common in London from those in Surrey when Mike Stamford ushered the man into the lab. A glance at the glowing expectation on Stamford's face made the reason for the intrusion obvious. A glance at the other only confirmed it. If Sherlock hadn’t been eyeing the stranger as a potential roommate, he would have gone no further than to register his tan, careworn face, his inconsistent limp, his military hair cut, and place him as a typical beta recently invalided out of his army career.
But since he was looking for a roommate, and Stamford was parading this man around with a goofy smile worthy of a matchmaker, Sherlock bothered to give the man a second look.
And that told a very different story.
“I’m not on the market for breeding,” said Sherlock, dryly. “I think we should get that squared away before you consider becoming my flatmate.”
The omega got his surprise under control remarkably quickly. “Duly noted. I’m not on the market, either.”
And that was worthy of a third, even longer look.
Mike stepped in, “Sherlock, this is my friend John Watson. He needs a flat and I know you have one to share, so I thought —“
“You are aware that I’m an Alpha,” said Sherlock to John. “Mike told you?”
John nodded again. “Yes. And if he hadn’t my nose works perfectly well.”
“A problematic arrangement, don’t you think? Should you ever go into heat.” He said it casually, but watched as John’s pupils suddenly contracted. “You are an Omega after all.” He sat back and catalogued John’s reaction to having his deception seen through.
John flashed from shock to anger. Oh, now he was offended. “What makes you think I’m an omega —“
Sherlock stepped away from his slides and looked him up and down, pointedly this time.
“Your beta smell comes from Confidence body wash — a popular brand amongst those who, for whatever reason, believe their own natural scent to be inadequate or off-putting. Of course, in my line of work I’d be familiar with it. As pungent as that is, a natural beta would still have undercurrents of their own personal scent, but you don’t. Ergo you’ve neutralised your natural hormones, probably though pills, though I don’t entirely rule out vigourous scrubbing.
“Who does that?” Sherlock asked, then immediately answered before John or Mike felt pressured to put out some poorly constructed theory “— Well, some Alphas: primary teachers, psychologists, paediatricians, people who wish to seem less intimidating. But you don’t act like a man who worries that he might frighten others. Look how fiercely you glare! And the army is hardly a place for those who fear they might frighten. And yet, your clothes show that you’ve cultivated blandness to nearly an art. No, you don’t mind intimidating people, what you fear is them noticing you in the first place. So other way around — you’re an omega who doesn’t want people to casually know this fact. Perhaps because you are worried that your smell will encourage people to notice that you are unbounded and unbred at what is, quite frankly, a remarkable age.”
Sherlock straightened up, suddenly aware of the logical error he’d just made. “My apologies, Dr. Watson, it’s obvious that you had no intention of luring me by subterfuge into fathering your children. It’s obvious from your chest and your hands that you are committed to avoiding parenthood.”
John gaped and sputtered. “Luring by subterfuge — of course, not! Do people actually try that on you?” he said after a second.
Sherlock raised his eyebrows. “Do people try that — yes. In the past. Once or twice. Apparently, I’m not without some appeal, though God knows I don’t try to encourage it.”
“From the way you greeted me, I should say not.” John had his arms crossed over his chest. Ah, there it was! That defensive scorn. In a moment John would pronounce him to be a consummate know-it-all and stomp right out of Sherlock’s life more or less as quickly as he’d come in. Predictable. Dull.
Sherlock returned to his slides, but John didn’t move. Sherlock looked up and met his eye. “Well?”
“I don’t think so,” said John, firmly. Everything about John’s posture and attitude said that he was ready for a fight. Perhaps he wasn’t so dull after all.
“You don’t think what?” asked Sherlock.
“I don’t think it will be a problem that you are an Alpha and I’m an Omega. I’m well familiar with the symptoms of heat and the ways of preventing it. I managed my status all my life, though plenty rough conditions. God knows, I’ve lived in close quarters with Alphas before. I really don’t see how sharing a flat with you would be more of a challenge. And, as you rightly and perceptively pointed out, I’ve no more interest in being bred than you have of breeding me. So unless you have some other objection, I’d like to hear about this flat share Mike says you have.”
Sherlock gaped. “You weren’t — you weren’t just put off by what I told you. That bit about how I could tell your gender by your body wash?”
John’s face opened up. “No. No, that part was brilliant! Mike said you were smart and perceptive, but that was, that was, quite remarkable. Well done!” The tension in the air broke as suddenly as it had appeared.
“Really?” said Sherlock, feeling an unaccustomed rush of pleasure. “You didn’t mind that I outed you like that?”
“I’d have had to have told you eventually anyway if we were to be flatmates, so I don’t see why I should be.” At Sherlock’s disbelief he went on. “Seriously. I’ve been covering up my smell since I was a teen. You are the first person to even guess that I wasn’t a beta. Well, outside of doctors who’ve examined me and those who’d seen it printed on my ID. And you explained it so simply that I could follow you. Makes it seem perfectly obvious now. That’s brilliant. Why would I hold that against you?”
Sherlock couldn’t help but feel a warmth in his chest. John thought he was brilliant! Which, of course, he was, but it was so rare to be appreciated for it.
John was still looking at him expectantly. Sherlock kicked himself for being momentarily off his game. “Oh, oh yes, the flat share. It’s 221 B Baker, wonderful location. The rent’s been reduced, did a favour for the owner a while back, so between your army pension and my job we should be able to comfortably afford it. Quite a charming place, well situated, large bedroom on the upper floor would provide you some privacy. You’ll love it.” Sherlock reached over and grabbed a pad of paper and scrawled the relevant information. “I’ll be by at 7 tomorrow, if you’d like to tour the place before agreeing to it. Now if you don’t mind I’m a bit busy.”
“See you then,” said John, taking the sheet. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Holmes.” And with that he left. Mike gave Sherlock a nod and followed him. Just outside the door, he heard John ask, “Did you tell him I was an army doctor?”
“Nope,” replied Mike.
Sherlock turned back to his slides, shaking his head in wonderment, a ridiculous grin plastered on his face. Just when he’d thought he’d seen everything. Perhaps he’d do a blog entry about this. Four Signs of Gender Overcompensation in Omegas.