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The Pretence of an Unacknowledged Truth

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John blinks at the first spritz of bonded scent that Sherlock sprays directly at his face. None of it goes in his eyes, thankfully.

“How long does this last for?” he asks, trying to overlook the way his jeans are suddenly that little bit too tight. Shit, that stuff is intense. Not to mention fast-acting.

Sherlock warned him about that particular side effect before he agreed to this, but he still can’t meet the man’s eyes now. Not with his cock so eloquently giving away his body’s most well-concealed desire. Oh God, why did he agree to this? He’s bound to get found out, a lie based on a truth he can’t ever acknowledge, he’s going to play the role too well and what then? He’ll be out in the cold, searching for a new flatmate.

Possibly worse than the inappropriate erection is the overwhelming feeling of safety and contentedness. A dangerous thing to ever feel around someone such as Sherlock Holmes. He can only imagine what their real bonded scent would be like (yet more dangerous territory), but this synthesised one will work well enough to fool Sherlock’s family. Except perhaps Mycroft, but he’ll be too amused at their antics to rumble them, no doubt.

“It will be necessary to apply it daily while we’re in my mother’s home. I don’t plan for us to stay for more than three days, that’s just about all I’ll be able to tolerate, I think. Particularly at Christmas time. As well as that, it should afford me enough time that I won’t go into heat before I can get back on suppressants.”

Sherlock turns his back to spray the scent over his own neck, and John takes the opportunity to adjust himself, eyes nearly rolling back in his head at the first touch of his hand. He’s going to need to do something about that and soon.

It wouldn’t do to tackle Sherlock to the floor and just rub against him, it really wouldn’t.

“Oh,” Sherlock says, turning back towards him. “That’s rather stronger than I expected.”

A dull pinkish colour creeps its way over Sherlock’s cheekbones, spreading up to his temples. His eyes gleam, his mouth is parted in surprise. John bites back a moan at the sight of him.

“That was the idea, right? Test it out now and see if it’s viable?”

Sherlock nods tightly, teeth biting into his lower lip. His right arm moves and John glances down to see his hand wave in front of his own trousers for a split second before he draws it back to his side, curling it into a shaking fist. John grins. A chink in the armour. Sherlock’s as hard as he is and he almost touched himself without thinking, catching himself at the last moment.

It’s going to be an interesting three days ahead, after they perfect this compound and set off for Sherlock’s Berkshire ancestral home. Tough, but interesting. Very interesting.

“The… the…” Sherlock blinks rapidly, his head nodding forwards as if he were dropping off to sleep rather than just trying to get himself back under some semblance of control. “The initial effects should wear off within an hour, once our bodies acclimatise to the new pheromones.”

“Right,” John says, because his tongue feels heavy and he can’t say much else. He’s actually aching at this point, if he could just relieve some of the pressure… “Do you mind if I-?”

He gestures at his jeans and Sherlock shakes his head quickly. “No, no, by all means, as long as you don’t mind if I…”

The silent room is abruptly filled with twin buzzes as they both unzip themselves and then a sigh of relief (John) followed by a low groan of satisfaction (Sherlock).

“I think,” John says, swaying on the spot and then stumbling backwards until he hits a solid wall that can prop him up. “I think you made the first batch a bit too strong.”

“I agree.” Sherlock’s eyes flutter shut as he strokes himself. Over his underwear, unlike John who has shamelessly pulled himself out to try to gain release.

As Sherlock moves his hand the waistband pulls down and that small glimpse of the head of Sherlock’s cock (evidently still decently-sized, for an Omega) is enough to send John right over the edge with a startled cry. He closes his eyes and keeps stroking, making it last, because bloody hell, it’s never felt like this before outside of a heat.

Distantly, he hears Sherlock come too, giving a deep, drawn-out moan as he does. John wonders what that moan would feel like against him, around him even while he was inside Sherlock. Christ, if Sherlock were in heat right now, he’d probably be coming again at the mere thought.

They’re not in heat though, and eventually the haze of lust and pheromones clears, leaving them awkward and exposed in each other’s presence. The rush to completion is over and John feels ridiculous, oddly sensitive as he tucks himself away and zips his jeans with fingers that tremble and slip.

Sherlock doesn’t appear to be quite as embarrassed as he flops back onto his bed, panting. His trousers are still undone, revealing his pale thighs, the stark contrast of his skin against his black briefs (of course, Sherlock couldn’t be a boxers man with those tight trousers he wears), a wealth of evidence glinting on his abdomen as he throws his forearm over his eyes.

“Much too strong,” he says, not moving his arm. “I’ll make adjustments within the hour… when I can move again.”

John lets out a short laugh, letting himself slide down the wall until he ends up slumped gracelessly against it.



Sherlock makes adjustments within three hours in the end, finding himself far too comfortable and satiated to even consider moving after the first hour and then after the second.

For his part, John actually goes to sleep against the wall of Sherlock’s bedroom.

He wakes to Sherlock sitting up on the bed, fully-clothed, and considering him with his head angled to one side.

“What?” he asks, rubbing at his eyes and ignoring the flare of heat in his stomach at being the focus of Sherlock’s undivided attention.

“Is it…” Sherlock trails off, looking away to one side for a second before meeting John’s eyes again, determined. “Is it like that, in heat?”

John takes a moment to wrap his head around the question itself and Sherlock’s reason for asking it.

Sherlock must have experienced heat, he’s an Omega for Christ’s sake. Surely he must know? John knows Sherlock is currently on suppressants (although not currently currently as he’s had to stop to get the bonded scent to work), but he doesn’t know how long he’s been on them for. As long as they’ve been flatmates, certainly. Perhaps Sherlock has only ever had his presenting heat? That would be long enough ago that it would cause Sherlock to ask the question, he wouldn’t have much idea what it was like, particularly if no one shared that first heat with him.

Mycroft has alluded to Sherlock’s virginity before. John had assumed it was a dig at Sherlock’s lack of interest in sex, not a complete personal dearth of it.

It seems ludicrous – such a striking, sensuous creature starved of touch. There is Sherlock’s personality to contend with, though.

The answer to Sherlock’s question is a resounding ‘no’, of course. That masturbation session was intense, but it’s nothing compared to being in heat. They were both pretty desperate there, losing their control as desire overwhelmed them, and the payoff was fantastic. John can see why Sherlock would think the two feelings were analogous. But heat is about a hundred times more extreme. In Sherlock’s bedroom, that was an itch. Hot and close and intolerable, to the point where they both needed to do something about it. So they each had a very satisfying wank and remained very separate while doing so, despite the pheromones in the bonded scent urging them together.

Heat is another thing completely. Heat isn’t comparable to an itch, and it certainly doesn’t let you stay separate. It’s this all-consuming need to fill or be filled, to join with another person in the most carnal way imaginable and know them. To become one, to share the experience, to give yourself over entirely to the other person, to give them what they need and trust them to give themselves to you in return. You’re not done after a single orgasm, you don’t get a rest afterwards. You’re knotted, tied together, with every movement and breath capable of triggering another orgasm, another wave of need. And once the knot subsides, you’re compelled to do it all over again until the heat finishes, which can be anywhere between one day and seven (the maximum on record).

It’s relentless, unstoppable. It can be the most detached fuck of your life, a means to an end, or it can be the deepest and most abiding connection you can make with another soul, bonding yourself to them for life.

Sometimes, John shivers just thinking about bonding during heat. But he’s never met an Omega he’s felt so strongly about that he would want to do it. Until Sherlock, that is. He’d bond with Sherlock tomorrow if he thought Sherlock wanted him in the same way. He’d stay with him forever. As it is, Sherlock seems by turns disgusted and mildly terrified at the very thought of being overcome by his baser urges.

From the way he speaks, Sherlock abhors both the sexual and emotional connection. It’s obvious in the way he’ll sift through evidence at crime scenes, picking out motives like Alpha-jealousy or Omega-desperation with a sneer. He’ll scoff at advertisements for birth control and heat aids that come on late at night, he’ll roll his eyes at news stories about celebrities and who they’re bonding with or just sharing their heats with. Fair enough, John does that last one too.

But it’s never been more apparent how little Sherlock cares for their basic biology and for John’s feelings than when he asked, quite bluntly, if John would keep up the pretence of being his bonded mate when Mycroft called in an untimely favour that would necessitate him to return to his childhood home for Christmas.

No ordinary Omega would ask that. No Alpha would agree to it, for that matter, and yet John had acquiesced, like he always does. He agreed to go along with it, to save Sherlock from his mother’s tears and his extended family’s prying.

John is personally of the opinion that they’ll still pry, and instead of being able to simply give the truth, he and Sherlock are going to have to construct and maintain a complicated, elaborate façade. That didn’t put Sherlock off when he explained it though, no, he just waved a dismissive hand and insisted that the lie would be simpler in the long run.

After this morning’s rather telling experiment with the bonded scent, John isn’t so sure. In fact, he’s more certain than ever that his own hopeless, unrequited feelings are going to get dragged up and torn to shreds.

He sighs. Sherlock is waiting for an answer to his question still, his furrowed brow the only sign of his impatience.

“No,” John ends up saying, “Heat is much, much more. In every possible way.”


John shrugs. “I can’t, Sherlock. It’s not something you can put into words easily, it’s an experience.”

“Ugh, and you call yourself a writer.”

Sherlock smiles slightly as he says it, taking some of the sting out of the words. It’s clear from his face that he’s not satisfied with John’s answer though. If anything, he’s got his ‘plotting’ face on. John recognises that one exceedingly well.

It always heralds bad things.


The second batch of bonded scent that Sherlock devises is much less potent. Very diluted. When John gets his dose (self-delivered this time, thank you very much, Sherlock) the next day after the old compound has worn off, he feels only a minor stirring below the waist. It’s as much a relief as it is a disappointment. He and Sherlock never really did address the fact that they both had a rather impressive orgasm in the other’s full view yesterday, getting off (at least a tiny bit) because of the proximity and the delicious voyeuristic element. John definitely felt Sherlock’s sharp gaze on him before they both closed their eyes and gave themselves over to pleasure. The noises were also immensely helpful. And the scent. Okay, fine, everything about it was arousing, and John is actually very disappointed that they apparently won’t be repeating it today.

“How do you feel?” Sherlock asks when he’s sprayed himself. “No detail is insignificant.”

That may be so, John thinks, but some details are personal and not to be shared lightly. That disappointment is one such detail, for example.

“Warm,” he says instead. “Energetic, like I could chase serial killers all day long.”

Sherlock smiles at that. “I may have to keep some of this back then. How do you feel about me, specifically?”

Oh, isn’t that a loaded question. John swallows thickly, his automatic smile in reply to Sherlock’s dropping. “Um, fond? Protective.”

“Protective or possessive?”

Both, definitely both. Truth be told, he feels like himself but exaggerated. He’s always felt these things for Sherlock, the bonded scent has just ramped it up a bit. It’s just the same as when they come back after a solved case, John giddy and adrenaline-drunk, Sherlock high on his own genius, reaching new dizzying heights with only John to tether him to the ground so he can’t float away. John loves him best in those moments.

“Both,” he answers honestly. “What about you?”

Sherlock deliberates, tapping a finger against his lips. It’s a bad gesture for John’s mental health, drawing his attention there immediately.

“Also fond,” he says, frowning as if the feeling confused him, “and warm all over too. I- I feel…” he breaks off, shaking his head. “It’s too ridiculous to say.”

“Hey,” John says, reaching out to take hold of Sherlock’s arm. Sherlock jumps a little at his touch. “What happened to ‘no detail is insignificant’?”

Sherlock grits his teeth, folding his arms (somewhat awkwardly with John still holding onto one of them). “Fine, I feel cherished, are you happy? I feel loved and cared for, like a pet.”

Sherlock spits the last word with enough vehemence that John takes his hand away from him at once. Sherlock doesn’t like to be touched when he’s in a mood like this.

“Calm down,” John says, raising his other hand to join the one he just took off Sherlock, holding both palms out in a placating gesture. “It’s just the compound, if it’s not right, we can always-”

“Oh, but it is right, John,” Sherlock snaps, half turning away from him, arms still folded defensively over his chest. “This is the natural exacerbation of our respective biological imperatives. The protective and dominant Alpha and the weak, submissive Omega.”

Just like that, the puzzle pieces begin to slot together. John’s picture of Sherlock becomes a little less blurry.

He hates being an Omega. He hates being seen as the lesser gender, a slave to his body and his impulses, there for an Alpha to take and use. So he takes the suppressants, he supresses his nature but never denies it. He doesn’t masquerade as a Beta, no, not Sherlock. That would be beneath him, obfuscating the truth.

It’s not the bonded scent that causes this particular wave of affection and longing to swell in John’s chest.

Before John can begin to reassure him and tell him how wrong he has it, Sherlock is speaking again, still in that awful, bitter tone. “My family will love you. A big strong Alpha for reckless Sherlock, a doctor and a soldier, what better protector could he have? Eight years older too, just the sort of man young Sherlock needs to beat him into obedience!”

He stops his tirade and looks at John through forlorn eyes, communicating without words that his anger isn’t directed at John.

John already knew that.

“Sherlock,” he begins, soft voiced and edging closer to Sherlock. He wants, needs to lay a hand on him to provide comfort. Sherlock will be more receptive now he’s spent his rage. “Sherlock, you’re not weak at all. For God’s sake, you’re the most imposing figure in any room you happen to stride into, coat billowing like some old-fashioned action hero!”

He reaches out tentatively, taking Sherlock’s right wrist in his left hand. Sherlock may be slender, he may be delicate – fine bones, thin skin – but he’s deceptively strong. He can best John in a fight three out of five times not because he’s a rippling mass of muscle but because he fights smart and he uses his wiry strength and agility to his advantage every time. He’s not defenceless physically, not by any means.

“My coat doesn’t billow, John, because I button it. You’re starting to sound like the dreck you put on your blog.”

John huffs a laugh, but he won’t be distracted. “I’m trying to tell you something, listen to me without insulting me for once, okay? You’re hardly a frail little flower to be shielded from a stiff wind, Sherlock, you know that. And the only reason you even need a protector sometimes is because you are a reckless little shit and you go running into dangerous situations like you don’t know better!”

“That’s why I have you,” Sherlock says, quiet and subdued, eyes cast down and watching John’s hand on his wrist, the thumb rubbing back and forth absently.

“Exactly. So what do you care if your family see me that way? Since when do you care how anyone sees you, or- or us? We’re just us, we’re not what any of them say we are.”

Sherlock blinks a few times and brings his free hand up to cover John’s, raising his head to bestow a heartbreakingly lovely smile upon him – closed mouth, barely there. John sees it though. John always sees it.

“You’re right, John. I don’t call you a conductor of light for nothing.”

And that is as close an admission as John will ever get that he’s managed to be just that little bit smarter than Sherlock. He’ll take it.

“I need to check your scent properly,” Sherlock says after a moment of looking at each other. A moment that dragged on a full minute too long. They’re standing close together, John’s hand still around Sherlock’s wrist, Sherlock’s hand still anchoring him there. It would be a simple matter for Sherlock to lean in and inhale deep enough to check that the bonded scent rings true and for John then to do the same to him.

It’s a very intimate thing to do for a pretence, John can’t help but feel. Scenting is often done to check readiness and to raise arousal before sex, both in and out of heat, and it’s always done before a bond is made and to reaffirm a bond after separation. It’s not something you do with your flatmate with whom you have no bond beyond that of friendship.

Sherlock reads his hesitation instantly, of course he does. “Oh, that tiresome taboo about scenting. If it makes you feel better, I got a good lungful last time you were in hospital unconscious. And after you first moved in, while you were sleeping.”

John should feel violated by that revelation, but societal conventions and personal boundaries have never meant much to Sherlock. He knew that moving in.

It’s wrong (it’s so wrong), but it sends a small thrill down his spine actually, to think of Sherlock scenting him while he was unaware. It’s also confusing. Why would Sherlock do it twice? He can allow curiosity after they first became flatmates, sure, but to do it again when John was injured in hospital? If anything that’s like reaffirming a bond they don’t even have.

“Why?” he asks, doubting he’ll get a straight answer.

“Why not?”

“Oh, you know, small matters really. Invasion of privacy, my lack of consent, our lack of a bond.” John keeps his tone mild; he’s not upset, after all.

“Please, we have a bond, John. Do you really think we don’t?”

“Not the kind that requires scenting.”

John’s heart rate picks up at Sherlock’s words though, he can’t help it. The idea of being bonded to Sherlock always does this to him. It’s a good thing he’s holding Sherlock’s wrist and not the other way around or Sherlock would surely know by now. From the sly look in his eyes, he probably already does.

“But this act of ours, it’s going to require it. I need to check the bonded scent, John. Now, I’m asking you perfectly politely: may I?”

John rolls his eyes and tilts his head to the left. “You only needed to ask,” he says, feeling curiously vulnerable with his head turned away from Sherlock, unable to watch as he leans in and-

The cold tip of a nose bumps into his neck. John stifles a giggle and then a moan when he feels Sherlock inhale deeply, nose and mouth against his skin. Surely his mouth doesn’t need to be right there, does it? Right over a perfectly credible place for a bond bite that would come after he bit Sherlock (Alpha goes first traditionally to assert dominance, and the Omega follows). He imagines it – his teeth marking Sherlock in the place where his scent is most powerful, most alluring, claiming him and letting all others know: this one is mine. Sherlock marking him in return, choosing him and making that choice explicitly clear with a bite that John would wear proudly, to be carried with him forever, faded but no less obvious after it eventually healed.

Oh, these are bad thoughts, these are very bad thoughts. He’s standing much too close to Sherlock to be having thoughts like those.

He feels Sherlock shudder against him and wonders if he’s not the only one.

“You done?” he asks when Sherlock doesn’t pull away after a good thirty seconds.

“Just being thorough,” Sherlock murmurs against his skin, every movement of his warm lips a gentle, whispery caress.

John begins to doubt the level of trust he has in his own knees at that point. He decides the trust is in ashes when Sherlock pulls away and he could swear he feels Sherlock’s tongue against his neck as he goes. But that’s impossible, so he begins to distrust his own senses too.

“Will I pass?”

“You smell like you’re mine,” Sherlock says off-handedly, apparently unaware of the shake in John’s exhale at his words. “Or, rather, like I’m yours. Isn’t that how it goes? Omega belongs to Alpha, not the other way around.”

John doesn’t answer immediately. He flicks his head to the side in a gesture to order Sherlock to do the same. Defiance is written all through Sherlock as he bares his throat to John. It’s there in his eyes, the jut of his chin, the rigidity of his body. John enjoys the moment he feels Sherlock soften and lose some of that tension – the moment he lays a hand against the curve of Sherlock’s neck (ostensibly to steady himself) and leans in close to breathe him in.

Sherlock smells fantastic, a heady mix of their two scents. The smell of Sherlock is almost indistinguishable from his own in the compound, but John knows Sherlock’s scent too well to not be able to separate them. There’s the lingering sandalwood of his expensive soap underneath the salt of as-yet-unwashed detective, there’s sweetened tea, sweetened coffee, the pine of the kitchen table that doubles as Sherlock’s lab bench, the distinctive stale air of St Bart’s morgue, London’s damp, smog-filled atmosphere. Sherlock smells as sterile and unattainable as he does familiar and homely, a never-ending contradiction. He’s never predictable, never obvious.

“You smell like us,” he says against Sherlock’s skin, indulging himself by letting his mouth skim over Sherlock’s pulse point, fancying that the beat he feels is fractionally elevated from the resting rate he knows so well. “Nothing more, nothing less. Mine, yours, doesn’t matter.”

John steps back, feeling cold as they separate. A remnant of warmth rushes through him when he sees Sherlock’s eyes open – they were closed as he scented him.

“We’re ready to meet the family, then,” Sherlock says grimly.


The train journey is nearly unbearable. From the moment they step off the platform at London Paddington and onto the train, John feels the stares. In fact, it starts long before then, but John only really notices it in the confined space of the carriage.

He’s used to the stares, although he’s not usually the recipient. Sherlock always turns heads wherever he goes, that’s just his lot in life. Even on suppressants, Sherlock’s dulled scent as an unbonded Omega gets him plenty of attention. Add to that his infuriating physical attractiveness and he’s quite the eligible bachelor.

The problem is this: he’s utterly indifferent to the fact. John wants to strangle him sometimes, he really does. Sherlock seems to have no idea how difficult it is to stand at his side and not want him with such intensity that it’s like walking around feeling sick all the while.

It’s different now, because Sherlock smells like a bonded Omega, and John smells like his Alpha. The stares they’re receiving are envious, particularly those directed at John. A few of them are also incredulous, which puts John’s back up straight away because those looks seem to suggest he isn’t worthy of Sherlock. He doesn’t think he is, but these people have no right (and no data, Sherlock would say) to judge.

It’s annoying, but he can handle a couple of malicious looks. What he’s really struggling with are his own convoluted feelings. He and Sherlock each applied the synthesised bond scent right before they left and he’s got the same jumble of emotions and thoughts as before.

Sherlock is next to him, apparently unaffected, lost in thought like always when they travel and looking out the window. John meanwhile is fighting several impulses which, in no particular order include: nuzzle at Sherlock’s neck, glare back at every train passenger who gives them a second glance, stick his hand down Sherlock’s trousers, stick his hand down his own trousers, and punch every bastard who looks at him like they could take him. They couldn’t. It kills him that he can’t prove that very publicly right this second.

It doesn’t help that the bonded scent is like an ill-fitting suit. He’s wearing it but it’s not right and he knows it. He’s horribly self-conscious and even more aware of Sherlock beside him. Their thighs are pressed together. Their dominant hands are seven inches apart. Sherlock is breathing marginally faster than normal, likely due to whatever avenues of thought he’s dashing down before taking a corner at breakneck speed into another unchartered area of contemplation.

John’s blood seems to be humming beneath his skin, reminding him with every second how detached he and Sherlock are, their only point of connection being that small stretch of thigh. He presses closer and Sherlock turns his head, favours him with a quick, involuntary smile and turns away again.

John wants to scream.

On the upside, the whole sorry business does distract him from the hair-raising prospect of meeting Sherlock’s family. When he’s allowed himself to think about it (only for short periods, lest he go mad), he’s pictured all of Sherlock’s family as being more like Mycroft than Sherlock. He’s always had the feeling that Sherlock is something of a black sheep, something to do with his… colourful history and his obvious rejection of the particular comforts Mycroft likes to luxuriate in.

He knows Sherlock’s family is affluent, they’re currently headed to Windsor of all places, John wouldn’t have been all that surprised if Sherlock had said he lived next door to the castle. Stranger things and all that.

The chip on his shoulder is no doubt going to make itself known, no matter how many times Sherlock sourly insists that his family will like John more than they like him. The train journey is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to judging eyes that find him wanting, he’s certain.

He’s decided to just be himself, cliché as it sounds. The lie about being Sherlock’s mate will be difficult enough to keep up, he’s not going to think up more of a charade regarding himself on top of that.

If he uses the wrong fork at dinner, fine. If someone calls him on it, he’ll just stab them with it. Job done.

Sherlock’s low voice breaks him from his worries. “You’re thinking about this far too much.”

“Am I?” he asks, keeping his voice down to match Sherlock’s on the crowded train. “You’ve told me next to nothing about what to expect here, Sherlock. We’ve barely even arranged whatever backstory you want us to tell your family!”

Sherlock tuts lightly as though he couldn’t possibly find John more tedious. “We bonded last month after a long, successful friendship which turned romantic. You courted me like a perfect Alpha gentleman for five months and our bonding heat was the first we shared together. Satisfied?”

“Is it a bit... don’t you think that’s a bit contrived?”

Scoffing, Sherlock turns to look out the window again. “It’s traditional and wholesome, John. My mother will love it.”

“Are you a traditionalist?” John asks, because it’s so rare that they talk about this beyond Sherlock’s sneering asides about society and John’s patient acceptance of them.

He wants to know. Does Sherlock believe that you should only share heat with someone if you’re going to bond with them? Heat before bonding is generally accepted these days, encouraged even, to ensure compatibility in all areas. Unbonded pregnancy has gone up, sure, but unhappily bonded pairs are much rarer than they used to be.

Sherlock shrugs, not bothering to look at John as he speaks to the window in front of him, breath fogging up the glass. “I haven’t given it much thought.”

“You’ve never shared your heat with anyone, have you?”

John already knows the answer to this, but he’s hoping to get Sherlock to open up about the reason behind it.

“No,” Sherlock says, and he offers no more after that.


“Because that would require someone with whom I wished to spend it, it would be time-consuming and messy, and there would be a risk of pregnancy, even on a contraceptive. Why on earth would I want to do it?”

“For the experience.”

John has experienced three heats in his lifetime – the first was Hannah’s when he was twenty-one (she left him when he told her he was joining the army), and two were with Daniel in Afghanistan (an unfortunate suppressant-resistant Omega, the doctors could never balance the contents of his pill correctly. He was sent home after the second mishap and he’s ignored all of John’s attempts to get in touch since). The relationships ended badly because of poor circumstances, but at the time, the connection was irreplaceable. He can’t tell Sherlock, but he wants that connection back desperately.

“I have a working knowledge of the basic anatomy and several textbooks with case studies and first-hand accounts. My work hasn’t suffered from my lack of experience.”

“Oh sod the work,” John cuffs Sherlock’s shoulder, forcing him to make eye contact, “what about you personally, Sherlock? Do you think you haven’t suffered? Don’t you- Haven’t you ever wanted to be with anyone?”

Sherlock regards him coolly, his features smooth and bland. John is fully expecting a ‘no’. What he doesn’t expect is for Sherlock to say: “Yes, twice, if you must know.”

John gapes, slack-jawed in surprise. Sherlock reaches across and shuts his mouth for him with a quick press of his fingers against John’s chin. John’s teeth click together and he swallows audibly, still gawking at Sherlock.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” Sherlock says with an irritated huff. “I may not like it, but I’m not a machine, John, I’m still an Omega.”

“Yes, but you- You’re so… Who?”

A roll of Sherlock’s eyes at that. “Very articulate, well done. And I don’t believe that’s any of your business.”

John opens his mouth to reply I suppose not when an announcement from above lets them know that they’re approaching the station they want.

As they get off the train and into the waiting black car out the front (damn Mycroft), John’s whole perception is skewed off its axis and refusing to right itself.

Twice. So Sherlock has wanted a grand total of two people in his lifetime. It’s more than the zero figure that John had been expecting, but it’s a low number considering Sherlock has admitted to actually wanting people at all. John burns with curiosity. Who were they? Alphas, Betas? Male, female?

One must be Irene Adler. She seemed to be Sherlock’s perfect Alpha, a match for him biologically, intellectually, and in the looks department. Despite preferring Omega females, she made it very clear that she would make an exception for Sherlock, and yet he never missed a single suppression pill throughout that time, taking a small round tablet with his tea in front of John every morning like he normally did.

Perhaps that wasn’t for lack of wanting like John initially thought.

What about outside of heat, anyway? Has Sherlock had sex at all?

He can’t really just come out and ask that, he’s had his admission from Sherlock today. That particular question will have to wait for at least a year before Sherlock decides that he’s earned another straight answer.

So, Irene is one. He has no clue who the other person might be, so it must be someone before his time. There’s no one else he’s met since moving in with Sherlock that the man has expressed even a single iota of interest in. Besides himself, of course, but they’re not like that.

“Stop obsessing, John,” Sherlock chides eventually from the other side of the car, thumbs flying over his phone’s keyboard as he sends off a message to God knows who. Lestrade asking him about a case?

“I’m-” he gives up before he can even get started denying it. It’s a waste of time and breath around someone as perceptive as Sherlock. “I’m just a bit surprised.”

“Of course you are,” Sherlock says, boredom laced all through his flat voice. “You were labouring under the assumption that I simply have no sexual inclinations, or that my disdain for them somehow negates the fact that I have them at all.”

“And I was wrong.” John doesn’t bother phrasing it as a question.

“The evidence of your own eyes has failed you yet again.”

Sounds a lot like ‘you see but you don’t observe’. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you’re an idiot.”

Sherlock smiles. It’s an old and familiar joke between them, but John’s smile in return is more a show of teeth than one of mirth.

He’s missing something obvious here, and Sherlock has as good as told him that. A churning sensation starts up in his stomach – frustration and dread. Frustration with Sherlock (whose ability to speak bluntly is rivalled only by his inability to speak plainly) and dread for the three days ahead of him, having to deal with Sherlock’s family and with Sherlock himself while pretending to be his mate, all without giving himself away as the lovesick fool that he really is.

He just hopes he can pull it off.