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Breathe You In

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John slips into the hospital room as softly as he can, pushing the door closed behind him.  He stands beside it for a moment, quiet and still, contemplating the thing he is about to do.  It is dangerous, risky not only to his budding medical career but also to his personal liberty.  The thought sends a spike of fear through him, but he cannot deny that the excitement that follows feels good.  He takes a deep breath, steels himself, and moves further into the room.

There is only one occupant: a gaunt, pale young Alpha Sentinel, stretched out unconscious on the narrow hospital bed.  Tubes run to his arms, providing him with life-giving nutrition and hydration, and he is hooked up to a heart monitor which beeps out the steady rhythm of his pulse. 

John saw him being admitted, was the junior doctor on rotation when the young man was initially diagnosed.  Drug overdose, they had said.  He was already nearly unconscious when he had been brought in, apparently found passed out in his flat by a police officer.  His heart had not beaten so calmly then; tachycardia off the scale, like nothing John had ever seen in university.  He flailed and called out and struck viciously at anyone who got close to him, terrifying in his semiconscious delirium until they had strapped him to the bed.

And of course the blood test came back positive for a truly shocking concentration of cocaine.  Needle tracks and deep bruising in the veins of his arms made his method and nature clear.  So, drug overdose ultimately resulting in coma; obvious.

The hospital Guide had assessed him, as was routine when a Sentinel came in demonstrating any kind of problems with consciousness, and had stated that she could detect no hint of a zone.  John had stood by, baffled, as she announced that this Sentinel was fairly weak in ability and did not need her help.

But John Watson, junior doctor and Omega, saw something else.  This young Alpha was a drug abuser, yes, and had clearly overdosed.  But he was also a Sentinel, one so powerful that John could feel the echoes of his mind even through the shields he maintained, shields strong enough to have kept his Guide nature from becoming apparent for many years.  And the Sentinel was caught in a zone so deep that his mind could not free itself, pulling him down into a trance state that looked indistinguishable from a coma.

John had not mentioned anything to the senior doctor attending the case.  He was a junior doctor, which meant that his unsolicited opinion was only slightly more valuable than that of the janitorial staff.  Also, even if he was believed, they would ask how John was aware of the Sentinel’s zone.  And he had spent far too long hiding his Guide abilities to casually give himself up now for the sake of a junkie Alpha Sentinel.

All of which does not explain why John is standing in the Alpha’s room now, looking down at him as he drifts, locked in the zone and unaware of anything around him.  The Alpha appears malnourished, with dark circles beneath his eyes and skin so pale and thin that it looks as if it will tear like tissue paper from the slightest touch.  His hair is long and greasy, falling on the pillow around his head in limp dark curls.  Despite all this, though, John can still see that he is beautiful.  He looks like a fragile work of art, roughly handled and damaged.  Whether or not he is broken remains to be seen.

John draws a slow breath.  He cannot leave the Alpha like this, locked in a zone and unable to come out.  Never having gone to the Tower himself, all he knows about Sentinels is what Harry passed on to him from her own Tower lessons.  Scant details from her early years, shared in quiet giggling whispers on her brief trips home; less and less as time passed, as Harry became thinner, greyer, giggles and whispers alike dying out until eventually she refused to speak of it entirely.  But John vaguely recalls being told that if a Sentinel stays in a zone too long it can damage their abilities, render them unable to access the zoned sense again in the future.

Even if John could find a safe way to convince the hospital Guide that the Sentinel might be zoned, he does not know if the man has that kind of time.  So instead he has decided to try to help out himself.

If he is caught, he will almost certainly be kicked out of the medical program, forever losing the right to practice medicine.  Junior doctors are not permitted to participate in these types of procedures, and are certainly not allowed to initiate them without informing the senior doctor.  But, more disturbingly, if John’s Guide abilities are discovered he will be sent to the Tower for Guide training.  And, with Harry’s warnings still ringing in his ears even after all this time, John is desperate to avoid that.  Especially when he remembers the way that his sister gradually disappeared once she was sent to the Tower, eroding and turning inward before his eyes.

John has no idea how to do the thing he is about to attempt.  He has some idea how dangerous it is, but he reasons that it cannot be much more dangerous than leaving the Sentinel in this condition.  He has read a few books on the topic and discussed it with Harry a few times, when they were younger, but his practical knowledge is nil.

He has already decided that he will only drop a portion of his shield.  His empathy is powerful, that he does know, and if allowed to flow unchecked he might cause significant damage to the Sentinel.  Harry had been able to teach him that much, carrying snippets of her own Guide training home to share with John; the basics of shielding, how to filter and interpret the constant flow of information his ability brought him, the value of guiding.

Letting instinct guide him, John places his hands on the Sentinel, one resting gently on his clammy forehead and the other on his skinny chest, just over his heart.  John notes with concern that he can feel the troughs and ridges of the Sentinel’s ribs even through the hospital blanket, and then pulls his mind back to what he is doing.  He closes his eyes and lets his shield drop slightly, allowing a tendril of his empathy to unwind and touch the Alpha Sentinel’s mind.

Flashing lights, flaring bright as the sun.  Screams, honking car horns, voices raised in anger.  Colors, vivid throbbing pulses of chromatic glow washing over the world.  Thumping bass and screeching guitar and the blaring of sirens.  Light is stabbing at him, piercing his eyes and slashing directly into his brain.  The clang of metal against metal, the harsh scrape of metal against the pavement.  A voice whispers somewhere nearby, and the sound scrapes across his ears like sandpaper, shaking the earth like a thunderclap.

John nearly recoils at the intensity of sensation churning in the Sentinel’s brain, the cacophony pounding on his mind like nothing he has ever felt, but he holds firm.  He allows the sensations to wash over him, making no attempt to direct or even categorize them at first, simply letting himself become accustomed to the incredible influx of information.

Time passes, although John has no idea how long, and eventually the onslaught of sensory overload starts to stabilize.  It is still horrible, overwhelming, intense, but it feels more bearable than before and John is ready to try to help.  The first thing to do, he recalls, it to identify which sense is zoned.  The nature of the Guiding is dependent on the sense involved, so that is where he will start.

Slowly, carefully, John lowers his shield some more, deepening the connection between his mind and that of the Sentinel.  He starts to pay attention to the sensory information that is coming to him through the connection, struggling to remain conscious and aware in the face of the intense blasts of sensation.  He attempts to identify the basic type of sense underlying the chaotic swirl of information, mentally sorting each separate image and feeling that jolts him into the appropriate sense category.

Gradually, John is able to detect a theme in his sorting, but it is not one that he expects.  The sensory information he is drawing from the Sentinel is clearly both visual and auditory in nature.

Is it possible that this Sentinel is zoned in two senses at the same time?

John has never heard of this, had always assumed it was not possible.  Certainly Harry had never made any mention of it, back when she would still speak of her training.  On the other hand, there is so much he does not know about Sentinels and Guides.  Maybe it is just something uncommon that no one has thought to bring up with him.  As far as most people know, he is nothing but a regular Omega; as a result, there is quite a lot of information on a wide variety of subjects that no one cares to tell him.

John is not sure what comes next, how to use his own abilities to guide the Sentinel out of the zone, so again he allows instinct to guide him.  He focuses on the visual input first, because it seems to him to be the most jarring.  He lets his empathy push against the Sentinel’s mind more firmly and tries to send visions of calm things, simple everyday scenes, picnics on the beach and children playing.  He vaguely remembers Harry telling him that this was the strategy the Tower taught.

The Sentinel’s reaction is immediate and powerful.  The visual sensations get worse, flying through John’s brain at a speed that renders them incomprehensible.  And at the same time the Sentinel brings up his own shields, shoving hard against John’s empathy in an attempt to force him away.  The Sentinel’s shields are incredibly strong, and John can tell that if he had not already established a connection there would be no way he could reach the Sentinel’s mind through them.  As it is he has to drop his own shields further in order to resist the push and retain the connection he has already created.

John stops sending his visions, and almost immediately the Sentinel relaxes his guard.  The visual sensory overload is worse now, though, and John wants to kick himself.  He pauses, maintaining his connection with the Sentinel’s mind but doing nothing else, and considers.

Adding visual input was clearly not the answer, so what might help instead?  He tries to imagine the Sentinel’s perspective.  What would he want, if he were the one locked in that vortex of sensory information?  The answer comes to him almost instantly, and it seems so blindingly obvious that John cannot believe he had not thought of it earlier.

He turns his attention to the Sentinel and draws the visual sensory information back to himself.  Again he has to take a moment to get oriented, but eventually he is able to focus on each piece of information as it flashes through his mind.  He waits until he recognizes an image – car headlights, vivid and piercing and growing larger with each second – and he labels them, pushing the name of the vision into the Sentinel’s mind along with an image of a car.

Again the Sentinel’s shields batter against his connection, but he ignores it, focusing instead on the effect on the sensory overload.  This time, his attempt does not seem to be making it worse, although he cannot tell if it is helping.

He resumes his focus, identifying any visions that he can and providing names and other information to help the Sentinel organize the information in which he is drowning.  Absently, he continues to make adjustments to his shield and the connection he is maintaining with the Sentinel in order to provide the maximum amount of help.  The Sentinel’s attempts to force his connection away seem to be fading as the chaos of his mind decreases.

Suddenly, all at once, the visual sensations disappear from the Sentinel’s mind.  John sways, disoriented as the flow of information through his own mind stops all at once, and has to grab the bed rails to hold himself steady.  The Sentinel must have snapped out of the visual zone, he realizes after a moment.

John replaces his hands on the Sentinel and widens his awareness, and immediately sounds thunder through his head as he focuses in on the Sentinel’s auditory overload.  This time he takes a moment first to consider what might be helpful, instead of trying to remember secondhand information he got years ago.  The only idea that occurs to him is to try to decrease the intensity of the sounds.

John allows his connection with the Sentinel to increase until it is as strong as he can make it.  He waits, bracing himself, and then creates a blanket of white noise, pushing it through the link he has forged and wrapping it around the Sentinel’s mind.  John can heard the sound, a low constant static roar, and he does not know if he is hearing it in his head or if he has somehow managed to actually make a real, audible sound using his empathy.

The Sentinel fights, struggling against their connection with his shields once more, but John barely feels it.  He holds the noise steady, all of his attention focused on the slew of auditory sensations still filling the Sentinel’s mind.  As he listens, he is sure that the intensity of the sounds is decreasing.

This time, when the riot of sound winks out of his mind all at once, John is somewhat prepared for it.  What he is not prepared for is the way that the Sentinel’s mind almost immediately fills with sensation again.  It is neatly organized this time, information from all five senses pouring in in a flood cold bright beeping Omega smell rough blankets hard mattress hospital pain arms empathy Guide and thoughts flashing through the Sentinel’s mind almost faster than John can even perceive them.

He feels a mental touch against the connection again, not a shield but a light questing touch which sinks easily into the empathy link he has created.  For a moment he is aware of the Sentinel’s extreme focus, echoing with hints of personality, sharp and hard and quick, but then there is a sensation of awareness, as if the Sentinel is looking back at him through their connection.

Shocked, John severs the connection all at once.  His empathy recoils, snapping into his mind with a silent crash, and suddenly he is aware that at some point during the guiding he completely dropped his shields.  His empathy oscillates almost out of his control as he fights to bring them back up, and he can feel the force of it straining his mental discipline to the limit.  He struggles, silent and still, to control his mind before the push of his mental power escapes him and injures someone.

Minutes pass as John fights against his own mind, but finally, finally he is able to get his shields in place.  Once they are up, locked and strong as always, he relaxes.  He opens his eyes and is shocked to find himself standing beside the Sentinel’s bed, hands still resting gently on his head and chest.  He feels exhausted, like he has run a marathon, but he is not even breathing heavily.  The Sentinel still appears to be unconscious, and his heart monitor declares that his heart rate is still calm and steady.

John looks at his face, but he cannot see a difference.  However, he feels certain that what he has just done has saved the Sentinel’s abilities, and possibly even his life.

John lifts his hands and smooths down the front of his scrubs.  He should go, does not want to be seen here, but he is reluctant to leave the Sentinel’s side.  He dithers for a moment, and then turns toward the door.  Which is just opening.

A Beta nurse steps into the room, looking at the chart in her hands.  John freezes.  The nurse raises her eyes and stops, looking at him curiously.

“What are you doing in here?”

“I was… ah…,” John makes a vague hand gesture, “I was just checking in on this patient.”

The nurse narrows her eyes.  “You’re not his doctor.”

“No.  But I was here when he was brought in and I just… I just wanted to see how he was doing.”  John swallows.

“I see.”  The nurse looks at him for another moment.  “You’re an Omega, aren’t you, love?”

John bristles at the diminutive, but keeps it off his face.  As an Omega, he has had to become accustomed to being treated like a child, but that does not mean he likes it.

“Yes.”

“I see,” the nurse says again, regarding the Alpha Sentinel where he lies on the bed.  “Well, then, I think I understand.  But let me tell you, dear, this one’s not worth it.  He may be an Alpha, and even somewhat handsome, but he’s also junkie and that sort doesn’t change.”

John clenches his jaw, remembering the incredible deluge of information that thundered through the Sentinel’s mind just before he broke the connection, the speed with which that mind assimilated information and drew conclusions.  Junkie or not, the man lying on the bed beside him is remarkable, and John is offended at this Beta’s casual dismissal.  He does not respond.

After another silent moment, the nurse nods her head toward the door.  “Run along now, sweetheart.  I won’t report you, but take my advice and forget about this one.”

Without a word, John marches past the nurse and out into the hall.

When he comes back to check on the Sentinel three days later, during his next shift, the room is occupied by an elderly Beta man recovering from a heart attack.  No one can tell him what happened to the Alpha Sentinel, and it is only then that John realizes he never got the man’s name.  When he checks the computer system, furtively looking at patient records while the nurse is off getting coffee, the only name he finds is John Doe.

Four years later, when the laws are finally changed, John leaves his position as a senior doctor at Bart’s to join the Royal Army Medical Corps.  And if he still occasionally finds himself thinking about a skinny, drug addicted Alpha Sentinel with dark curly hair and the most amazing mind John has ever encountered, no one has to know.

Chapter Text

It takes an embarrassingly long time for John to recognize the Alpha Sentinel the next time he sees him.

In his own defense, by then it had been more than a decade since an untrained Guide and junior Omega doctor had risked his career and, all unknowingly, his life, to pull a skinny young junkie Sentinel out of a zone so deep as to be undetectable by most.  Since then John had experienced loss and triumph and pain and joy.  He had seen both the faces of war, terrible and glorious by turns; had formed soul-deep bonds of friendship born of fear and trust and the unmatched fire of cheating death yet again; had seen those bonds dissolve into the desert sand and felt empty and powerless as he watched his friends die beneath his hands, unable to save them for all of his talents and training.  He had felt his soul singing beneath the thunder of gunfire and reveled in the tang of blood in his mouth as he crawled through choking dust, and he had felt the sucking well of despair drawing him downward when he had woken in the hospital, patient rather than doctor for the first time in his life, and been told that he would never feel that again.

Plus, the Alpha Sentinel was older, taller, and much more healthy-looking than the last time they had met.  And John had never seen his eyes.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that John’s first thought, when he limps behind his old friend and colleague Mike Stamford into the lab at Bart’s and sees the lanky man bent over a microscope, has much more to do with his desire to end this excruciating attempt at normalcy without talking to one more person than it does with identifying the stranger.

Until, three shuffling steps into the room, the stranger’s scent hits him.

It is rich, deep, heavy, and unabashedly Alpha, filling John’s senses with the smell of gunpowder and oak and peat, and his mouth immediately floods with saliva.  The urge to submit, to bare his throat and stomach to this stranger, to lick his wrist, cascades over him.  His knees actually wobble, so strong is the feeling, and he is grateful for the support of his cane in that moment, for the first time since he got the bloody thing.

Despite being an Omega, despite having been in the army and exposed to more macho Alpha bullshit and aggressive domination attempts than he ever expected to see in his lifetime, John has never felt something like this before.  He has to swallow rapidly to stop from drooling on his chin, and it takes him more than one long slow breath before he can recover enough to pretend to be normal.  Because, after everything he has been through in his life, everything he has done, everything he has fought so hard to achieve, he will be damned if he allows himself to be that weak.

The Alpha does not appear to notice, instead barking a request at Mike.  John barely comes back to himself in time to hear the Alpha saying that he prefers to text, and Mike telling him that he does not have his phone.   John’s brain, treacherous bastard that it is, responds before his conscious mind can help it, offering his own mobile to the stranger in a subconscious attempt to please this remarkable Alpha.  He does manage to prevent himself from simpering as he hands it over, but it is a near thing.

John’s fingertips tingle as the mobile leaves his hand, and he suddenly becomes aware that the Alpha is also a Sentinel, and a very strong one at that.  His power resonates in John’s mind with a force he has rarely encountered, ringing clearly in his head despite the strength of his own shields.

But somehow it is not until much later, long after the Alpha Sentinel has laid bare the details of John’s life, his recent past, his current need, his gender (but fortunately not his Guide ability) and his family problems, after the improbable man has given himself an equally improbable name, after John has somehow agreed to a meeting and possibly a flatshare without ever managing to finish a sentence, after he has looked into those stunning aquamarine eyes and felt their intensity pierce him to his very core, that John manages to connect Sherlock Holmes to the junkie Alpha Sentinel he saved so long ago.

It comes to him that evening, as he sits alone in his dismal bedsit, enclosed by boring walls the exact same shade of beige as his boring existence.  The Alpha Sentinel, Sherlock Holmes, is the single most interesting thing to happen to him in more than a month, for all that he interacted with the man for less than five minutes.  And John’s own reaction to his scent, although annoying, is also interesting.  Because it is rare, unprecedented even, for John to respond that way.  He had a reputation, in fact, during his time in the army.  The untouchable Omega.  Suppressed his heats, rebuffed all advances – sometimes physically, if necessary, and many an Alpha soldier learned the hard way that no really does mean no, thank you very much – and gently declined more politely tendered offers of companionship.  He had heard of this kind of thing, the Omega swoon, the immediate and near uncontrollable need to roll over for an Alpha at first scent, but he had never experienced it.  Until this afternoon, he had believed it to be a fabrication of the entertainment industry, some combination of Alpha wish-fulfillment and an excuse to keep Omegas in the kitchen.  Now he knows better, although he has no intention of allowing this to affect his own behavior in any way.

John stretches out on his bed, letting his thoughts drift, vaguely considering getting up and making something for dinner even though he knows he will not bother.  Unbidden, his mind wanders as it often does into the past, to that young junkie Alpha Sentinel, with his hollow face and his dark curly hair and his quicksilver thoughts.

Like a bolt of lightning, the realization strikes him, propelling him upright on his hard mattress with a strangled wordless shout.  Sherlock!  Abrupt, insane, electric Sherlock, with his powerful Sentinel talents and his ability to know everything about John from a glance and his cheekbones you could use to slice through paper (if you were so inclined).  His age, his bizarre character, his skills and abilities.

Fucking hell.

After all these years, John finally has a name to go with his lingering mental picture.  That Alpha Sentinel, barely more than a child, addicted to drugs and zoning so deep he nearly burned his mind out entirely, has somehow managed to become the beautiful dynamic man that John met this afternoon.  Sherlock Holmes.

And now he wants John to share a flat with him.

John leans forward, elbows braced on his knees, and rests his face in his hands.  He must admit that the idea holds more than a little bit of appeal.  He has thought about that Alpha Sentinel a few times in the years since he helped him.  More than a few, to be perfectly honest.  He has wondered what became of him, whether he got off the drugs, whether he ever got in another zone and permanently damaged himself without John there to help him.  The opportunity to finally get to know him beyond that brief glimpse into his mind, even now, so long after, is a potent motivator.

Despite the fact that John has been harboring some lingering… interest in the mysterious Alpha Sentinel this whole time.  Despite the fact that if John wants to keep his Guide nature a secret – and he does – being in close and regular proximity to Sherlock Holmes is not likely the best way to go about it.  Despite the fact that even remembering his scent makes John shiver.

Fucking hell.

He will go, he decides eventually.  He will at least meet the man and see the flat.  It seems rude to just disappear with no explanation.  And who knows, maybe it will be a shithole and he won’t be tempted after all.

He glances around his dim, plain, tiny little bedsit.

Yeah, right.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

The evening that he meets Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street, John is insulted, dragged to a crime scene, insulted, ditched, kidnapped, offered a bribe, insulted, tricked into texting a murderer, taken to dinner, insulted, dragged on a foot chase halfway across London, tricked out of his psychosomatic limp, insulted, and ditched again.  Then he uses his Guide abilities for the first time since the war to track them, the killer and his new flatmate, Alpha Sentinel and obvious lunatic Sherlock Holmes.  He witnesses a truly stupid scene between Sherlock and the murderer in a darkened building during which he is certain that the idiot nearly swallows the damned pill (Had he seriously never seen The Princess Bride?  How did he not recognize the set up?), and shoots a man dead to save him from doing something irreparably stupid.  Of course, then he gets an opportunity to call Sherlock an idiot, so that is almost worth it.

All in all, it is the best night he has had in a long time.  Years, probably.

Sherlock’s deductions are amazing, both when he is explaining how he identified John’s background, his “brother’s” divorce and drinking habits, and when he is spouting out information at the crime scene as if the dead woman had left a helpful dossier lying around for only Sherlock to see.  The confusion over Harry’s gender is funny, mostly because Sherlock looks so incredibly put out when John explains that Harry is a female beta Guide, not a male Omega as he had assumed from the name and the possessive phrasing of Clara’s inscription.

Being left at the crime scene is not as funny, nor is the kidnapping.  However, after everything he has experienced, John is not an easy person to intimidate.  A warehouse, especially a darkened cluttered one like the one to which he is brought, offers myriad opportunities for concealment and makeshift weapons, if it comes to that.  And being an Omega who needs a cane to move around gives John an advantage, because it means he is often underestimated.

However, physical defense turns out not to be necessary and he leaves the confrontation with nothing worse than a bad taste in his mouth and the knowledge that his therapist’s notes are not as private as he had assumed.  He finds himself doubly glad he has never told her anything of substance.  He returns to what he already knows will be his new flat, although he thinks he might resist a bit longer for form’s sake, and Sherlock is already there abusing nicotine patches and rifling through a dead woman’s lost luggage.

The only really unpleasant part of the night comes when they are at a charming little Italian restaurant called Angelo’s, John eating and steadfastly ignoring the candle on the table while Sherlock observes the building across the street.  The smell of Alpha pheromones is thick around him, likely heightened by Sherlock’s excitement at having a case.  It is probably wrong that Sherlock should be so delighted by a serial killer that he starts shedding pheromones, and John knows it is wrong that he himself should be so aroused by the scent that he has to pinch himself hard on the thigh to keep himself from getting an erection right there at the table, suppressants or no suppressants.  But knowing that does not stop John from enjoying it, just a little bit.

Then he opens his mouth, thinking he wants to get to know his intriguing new flatmate a bit better now that they have a moment to breathe.  Except that, within a few sentences, his treacherous hormone-soaked brain manages to twist the conversation, and like a complete idiot he asks whether Sherlock has a girlfriend.

Sherlock’s response is a gruff, “Not really my area,” and it pleases John far more than he thinks it should.  And then he goes to respond, hoping to move the conversation to a safer track now, but instead just digs himself in deeper.

“Boyfriend, then?  Which is fine, by the way.”

“I know it’s fine.”  Sherlock’s response is a little too abrupt to sound completely natural, and he gives John a look from the corner of his eye.  John nods, mentally kicking himself and his disobedient brain for even going down this path in the first place.  Then he sees Sherlock stiffen, turning to look at him more fully.

“John, listen, although I am flattered by your interest I think you should know I consider myself married to my work and I’m not looking for a romantic relationship-,” Sherlock says, disdain obvious in his tone.

John holds up a hand to forestall him.  “No, no, I wasn’t, I didn’t mean-,” but Sherlock does not hesitate.

“I thought I made that clear in the lab yesterday.  I know that you are an Omega, but as you managed to return from a fairly lengthy tour of military duty unbonded I assumed you would possess the necessary self-control to cohabitate with an Alpha without any… entanglements.”  He fairly spits out the last word, disgust clear in his voice, and John is suddenly so furious that he cannot speak.

“I… that’s not… how can you…,” he sputters.  Sherlock rolls his eyes and sighs, clearly irritated at having to deal with John’s stupidity.

John stops, swallows hard, collects himself.  He leans forward over the table, bringing his face closer to Sherlock, who watches him with one eyebrow raised.

“First of all,” he spits out in a vicious whisper, “I was not asking, or offering, or whatever you thought I was doing.  I was just making conversation, trying to get to know you better.  Secondly, do you really think that the problem with an Alpha and an Omega sharing a flat is the Omega’s self-control?  Seriously?”  Here Sherlock opens his mouth as if he is going to respond, but John refuses to stop now that he has the prat’s attention.  “And finally, you have nothing to worry about.  I am not interested in a relationship with an Alpha, and even if I were I would know better than to seek one with you.”

Sherlock’s eyes widen and his nostrils flare.  “Oh… I… yes, right.  Good.”  He sounds startled.  Serves him right, the arrogant sod.  “Glad we got that settled.”  John nods, finally relaxing his glare and straightening up.  He looks around the room, but no one seems to have noticed their little discussion.

Then Sherlock is jumping up from the table blabbering something about taxis, and there is nothing for it but to go haring off through London, leaping across rooftops and running from police. 

It makes John’s blood sing like nothing has done since the war.

When they return to the flat, breathless and laughing and high on their own recklessness, John’s body nearly betrays him again, undoing all the work he did in the restaurant building those walls.  Sherlock is panting, a light coating of sweat glistening in the hollow of his throat, and the smell of him nearly brings John to his knees.  Sherlock looks at him; John cannot tell if he is imagining the fire in his gaze, almost thinks it would be worth the risk to find out.  But then the buzzer sounds and John discovers that the heat in Sherlock’s eyes was the joy of being proven correct as Angelo hands him the cane he left in the restaurant.

And the moment is interrupted by the “drugs bust”, during which John pretends to be surprised.  He cannot say why, but he does not want Sherlock to know that they have met before, that John has seen him scraping rock bottom, overdosing on drugs, not in control of his senses.  He feels instinctively that the Alpha would not react well to that knowledge.

Finally, of course, Sherlock leaves again, disappearing in a cab without a word.  The police are exasperated but unsurprised, and no one but John is concerned that something might be wrong.  He has to wait until they leave to stretch out with his empathy, as Lestrade and several members of his team are Sentinels and would detect it immediately.

When John drops his shields, the cab is just at the edge of the range at which he can sense anything.  He can tell, though, that Sherlock is excited and triumphant.  He cannot get a read on the other person in the car.

John chases them down in his own taxi, using his empathic abilities to track Sherlock’s progress through the city and barking directions at his genial cabbie.  This is the first time since that day in the hospital that he has had any kind of connection with Sherlock, and the feeling of it, even slight and superficial as it is now, seeps into his mind like a drug.  He wants to open himself, sink his empathy into Sherlock’s mind and create a true connection, bathe in the mercury flash of his thoughts, drown in the overpowering rush of his senses.

This impulse is like nothing John has ever felt before.  He resists through sheer effort of will, keeping his mental touch feather-light, grazing the edges of Sherlock’s power without going closer, dipping in to taste; it is one of the most difficult things he has ever done.

They stop, finally, and John gets close enough to reach the cabbie with his empathy.  What he finds is a dark, roiling pit of emotions, hatred and fear and love and regret tumbling around and through each other, churning together to create a froth of bleak despair and malice that flows across the man’s mind with vicious intent.  John slams his shields down, recoiling from the contact as he would from a venomous snake.  He does not need to use it to track them anymore, anyway, and that brief contact tells him all he needs to know about the cabbie’s intentions.

He runs, finds, shoots.

The night ends with Sherlock seated in the back of an ambulance, shrouded in an orange blanket and rattling information off to Detective Inspector Lestrade.  John has stashed his recently discharged weapon in the most cunning and ingenious place he can come up with – it is stuffed into the back of his trousers, safety very firmly engaged and muzzle wrapped in a torn scrap of his vest to keep it from burning him – and is watching the exchange.  He sees the moment Sherlock realizes what has happened, and he chooses to attribute to pride the warm little frisson that stutters up his spine at the expression of wonder on Sherlock’s face.  He curbs his impulse to preen and concentrates on looking mild and nonthreatening as Sherlock approaches.

They are laughing together again before they cross the crime scene tape.

Being introduced to his kidnapper as his flatemate’s brother comes as a bit of a shock.  John smiles and nods, polite, as the two snipe at each other.  He cannot get a read on Mycroft now any more than he could in the warehouse, which is disconcerting.  As far as he can tell, the man is a Beta with no obvious Sentinel or Guide abilities.  About as mundane and straightforward as it is possible to be.  This strikes John as an unlikely description of Mycroft Holmes.  He itches to reach out with his empathy and prod a bit, but he knows better than to ever do such a thing in Sherlock’s presence.  The man is powerful and observant, and would certainly notice.

Ultimately, though, he has to let the mystery of Mycroft Holmes walk away unsolved.  They have Chinese food to eat and fortune cookies to deduce.  And John is looking forward to it more than he has looked forward to anything in a very long time.

Chapter Text

They settle into cohabitation easily, smoothly, like pulling on a soft, familiar pair of pajama bottoms at the end of a long hard day.

John does most of the cooking and cleaning, assisted sometimes, not by Sherlock, but by Mrs. Hudson, the sweet elderly Beta woman who is their landlady and unofficial part-time housekeeper.  Sherlock, unsurprisingly, is a total and unrepentant slob.  Sometimes John wonders if Sherlock was looking for a new flat when they met because the old one was so full of dirty dishes and piles of laundry that he could no longer reach the sofa to flop dramatically upon it, and finding a new flat seemed more logical than bothering to clean.

Initially, John resents it; Sherlock is an Alpha and he is an Omega, so of course Sherlock expects him to take care of the domestic chores.  However, it does not take John long to realize that Sherlock treats everyone like that, regardless of gender.  He really, truly does not care about a person’s gender status.  To him people are either idiots who bother him, in which case he is harshly rude to them, or they are idiots who leave him alone and get on with things, in which case he does the same.

Also, although John would never admit it to anybody in a million years, he takes some satisfaction from seeing to Sherlock’s physical needs.  He chooses to attribute it to the doctor in him, rather than the Omega.

Gradually, John realizes that some people do not fall into either of Sherlock’s categories.  Mrs. Hudson is the only person with whom John had ever seen Sherlock engage in any kind of physical affection, offering the occasional squeeze or kiss on the cheek.  Lestrade is treated with more respect and deference than anyone else, although it is possible that he does not realize it since even when Sherlock is being respectful he is still curt and rude and insulting.

John himself is clearly in another category as well.  Sherlock listens to him, sometimes; seeks his opinion, occasionally; even complies with his requests, though rarely.  Oh, Sherlock still calls him an idiot all the time, to be sure, but fondly, without heat or rancor behind his words.

John is far more pleased with this than he thinks he should be.

Living with Sherlock is an exercise in self-control for John, in several ways.  Because even though he thinks that Sherlock likes him, even though he gets more respect and kindness from the man than anyone else, Sherlock can still be an obnoxious berk when the mood strikes.  He sulks about the flat, says cruel, cutting things with no provocation, and belittles John at every opportunity.  Fortunately, John has a lifetime of self-control to draw from during these times.  Growing up an Omega has given him a nearly impenetrable thick skin when faced with arrogance, condescension, and even direct insults.  It serves him well as Sherlock’s flatmate.

Doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to throttle the prick sometimes, though.

But it is the rest of the time that is the real test of John’s self-control.  When Sherlock is happy, when his mood is high, when he is striding around the city hot on the trail of his next clue or snapping out a rapid-fire string of deductions at a crime scene, that’s when John’s ability to control himself is stretched to the limit.

Because when he’s not being horrible, Sherlock is beautiful, incredible, fascinating.  And John is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

The entire flat smells of him.  John stakes his claim to one specific chair early, and takes care to rub himself all over it when Sherlock is not in the room.  He needs to have at least one place he can spend time that does not reek of Alpha, of this specific Alpha, although it is only somewhat effective.  Somehow, no matter how much time John spends breathing in the smell of Sherlock, he never gets accustomed to it, the way people typically do when smelling the same thing for a long span of time.  The rich odour constantly curls into his mouth and nose, insidious, making him salivate, making him crave.  His only real escape is to lock himself in his room or leave the flat entirely.  And although he often does both of those things, he cannot bear to be apart from the maddening bastard for long and always winds up back in the sitting room, in his chair, trying to figure out whether it helps to breathe through his mouth instead of his nose.  It doesn’t.

Watching Sherlock deduce is even better, or even worse.  It is the only time John sees him deliberately using his Sentinel abilities in any kind of organized way, sinking into his own mind as he focuses his senses, zeroing in on miniscule bits of environmental detail that even the other Sentinels on the police force, highly skilled in their own right, have not detected.

Sherlock sees microscopic traces of dirt in grains of wood, smells the lingering hint of week-old perfume against a sofa cushion, feels the slightly springy texture of a patch of newer paint, invisible and identical to the rest of the wall.  He can taste the slightest disruption in the air, hear the tiniest sound.  And, even more impressive, he does all this with no Guide support, dropping deeper into his senses than anyone John has ever seen but never losing himself, never zoning.

He is truly incredible.

But then, somehow even more impressive to John, Sherlock can take all the random bits of information he gathers using his enhanced senses and combine them to draw conclusions that are almost never wrong, to identify criminals and solve mysteries.  And this skill has nothing to do with him being an Alpha, or a Sentinel.  This is all him, his amazing lunatic genius brain sorting and organizing the crazy volume of data his senses collect until the answer is obvious, a rational necessity, and it takes John’s breath away every time he sees it happen.

Sherlock sheds pheromones when he is truly enjoying a case, wrapped in the thrill of the mystery, riding the high of being right, being the smartest person in the room.  John wonders sometimes if this is part of the reason that being around Sherlock at these times is so thrilling for him.  He cannot get enough of it, wants to roll around in it, bathe in the scent, lick it from that flawless alabaster skin.

He wonders whether he is emitting pheromones of his own, betrayed by his body’s natural response to the luscious Alpha smell with which he is constantly surrounded.

Sometimes, after a particularly intense case, he catches Sherlock looking at him with an expression he cannot place, peeking at him out of the corner of his eye.  He wonders how he smells to Sherlock at that moment, whether his Omega scent is powerful enough to register, whether Sherlock’s Sentinel ability is making it more intense for him.  He wonders whether Sherlock likes it, or whether it disgusts him.

He never mentions it.

But even more than he wants to touch Sherlock with his hands, to cover himself with his scent and taste his sweat and feel his skin, John longs to touch him with his empathy.  He aches to drop his shields and reach out, to touch Sherlock’s mind with his own, to feel the mental connection he felt once before, a lifetime ago, when he used his untrained and untested abilities to guide a helpless but brilliant young Sentinel out of an impossible zone.

John has learned quite a bit about Sentinels and Guides in the time since he first encountered Sherlock.  Nothing official, of course.  Nothing that might draw attention to his own Guide status.  He has been told many times that the Tower is not that bad, that Guide training is no more rigorous than any other intense specialty instruction, but John cannot forget the way that Harry changed after she went, turned inward and bitter, the way that she would sneak drinks from their parents’ supply whenever she came home, slam them back with her eyes squeezed tight, gripping John’s hand like a vice and making him promise to never never go there.

So his investigations had always been casual, haphazard, collecting whatever crumbs of information fell from the lips of any Guides with whom he conversed without making it obvious that he was interested, reading his sister’s books in secret.  He cobbled these scraps together into a picture, and from there he started to stretch and test his own limits.  The first time he tried to put any of it into practice was when he guided Sherlock back from his zone, and he still knew practically nothing at the time.

And then he went to Afghanistan.

The things John learned in Afghanistan were many and varied, from the sublime to the terrible.  He learned the soul-deep satisfaction that came from saving a life, seeing someone up and walking around, laughing and talking, who would have been dead if not for him.  He learned the bitter despair that came from failing to save a life, from working as hard as he could, fighting with all his will, only to watch the patient slip away into oblivion.  He learned the intensity of friendships that could only develop in an environment in which lives were at risk every day, issues of gender muted (though never entirely eliminated) in the face of the rush of adrenaline and joy and horror that swept them all with such unpredictable regularity.

But the most valuable thing he learned, the most unexpected and useful, was how to be a Guide.

His teacher was a tiny old Beta Afghani woman, a civilian from a parched desert village his unit had occupied for several weeks before moving on.  The locals had adopted the troops, offering a significantly warmer reception than they had yet received at any other village, and this fierce little old lady had had a lot to do with it.

Her name was Afsoon Mata, though everyone addressed her as A’na, and she was the most respected member of the village.  Her word was law, and the other villagers doted on her with such love and devotion that some members of John’s unit had speculated whether they had stumbled upon some kind of strange Afghan cult.  John had immediately recognized her as an incredibly powerful Guide, her empathy manifesting itself instantly when the troops had arrived in the village, scanning the whole lot of them in the blink of an eye.  More surprisingly, she immediately recognized the same ability in John, making her the first person to ever see through his shields and the only person in John’s life besides Harry who knew what he could do.

She recognized that John was untrained, and took him under her wing instantly.  Somehow, despite the fact that she spoke only Pashto and John only English (apart from a few Pashto swear words) they had no trouble communicating.  She simply forged a link with John using her empathy, something which John had not realized was possible between two Guides until she had done it, and then they were able to share information using a communication method that went beyond mere language.

A’na taught John more in those few weeks than he had ever imagined about himself and his ability.  She showed him how to control and harness his power, how to regulate his touch, to brush the outside of a mind without intruding, to sense emotions without forging a connection.  She showed him how to guide a Sentinel out of a zone, but also taught him that the method was different, personal, for each Sentinel.  This, he understood, was why Sentinel-Guide bonds were so important.  A bonded guide would know exactly the method required for his Sentinel, making the guiding more powerful, more effective.

She shared memories with him using their connection, another thing John had not thought possible.  She showed him her husband, an Alpha and Sentinel.  She let John see the bond they had shared, a true Sentinel-Guide bond, an unbreakable mental connection such as John had never felt.  He ended that session with tears streaming down his face, heart aching and full of someone else’s love.  She had laughed at him and wiped the wetness away with one gnarled hand.

On the last evening before the unit moved on, John had gone to A’na.  She had allowed him to forge the connection between them, to guide their path, to offer his memories.  He could feel her pride at his newly developed skill flowing between them, and it had given him courage.  So he showed her what he had never shared with anyone else: that long-ago day, his triumph, his successful guiding of the zoned Alpha Sentinel in the hospital.

Her astonishment when John shared the nature of the Sentinel’s double zone was huge, and John understood that she had never seen anything like it either.  He moved through the experience, sharing his own reactions to the Alpha Sentinel, his choices, the depth of the connection he accidentally created in his distraction and the ultimate success of his unpracticed guiding techniques.

Only when he was finished did John become aware of all the emotions in her mind.  There was pride, and fear, and happiness, and concern, and wonder.  He could gather through the bond that what he had done was more dangerous than he realized, that he may have risked both their minds, both their lives in his attempt to save the remarkable Sentinel.  He also understood that she was amazed and impressed by his success.

She gazed at him and spoke a single Pashto word, while through their connection her emotions thundered.  John did not understand the word, but he could feel the meaning behind it anyway.  She believed that one day, when he truly mastered it, John’s ability would be the most powerful she had ever seen, would outstrip even hers.  Her pride shone like a beacon.  She was calling him “son”.

Then she kissed him on the forehead and severed their connection, so gently John barely felt it, just like falling asleep.  The next day his unit left the village, accompanied by cheers from the children, waves and smiles from the villagers.  A’na did not come out to see them off; she had already said her goodbyes.

John never saw her again, but he thinks of her often.

He thinks of her when he watches Sherlock sink into his senses at a crime scene, when he can feel even through his shields that Sherlock is so deep inside himself that he is completely oblivious to the rest of the world.  On the extremely rare occasions that John has had to use his empathy in proximity to Sherlock, usually to find the idiot when he’s run off after a suspect himself, and on one occasion to locate a murderer who was hiding in an abandoned building before the man could attack either of them, he sends up silent thanks that she taught him the skill of brushing the edge of a mind without making the connection.  He is certain that is the only thing that has prevented him from being found out, especially given that he spends almost all his time with the most observant man in the world.

And even that little taste of Sherlock’s power, that tiny sample of the churning brilliance that is Sherlock’s mind, is enough to send John reeling.  He craves, craves, that feeling, that connection, with a power that is impossible to deny and nearly impossible to ignore.  He still remembers, even after all these years, how it felt to be inside that mind, and he wants it like a drug.

Sometimes he thinks he should leave, move out and find another job, another way to fill his time, but he cannot do it.  It is too late, was already too late the day he met the crazy bastard in the lab at Bart’s, was far too late by the time they looked at the flat.  He is stuck, pulled into Sherlock’s orbit like a comet around the sun, and he does not even have the will to try to break free.

This relentless pulsing desire that John feels, for the touch of this incredible Alpha on his body, the touch of this amazing Sentinel on his mind, keeps him almost constantly on edge.  However, today John is on edge in a way that he has not been for quite a while.  A year in fact, almost to the day.

He takes suppressants to keep his heats under control.  They are extremely effective, eliminating the periodic hormone-induced sex frenzies to which Omegas have been enslaved by their biology since the beginning of time, and simultaneously preventing pregnancy should an Omega choose to engage in sex outside of their heat cycle.  They are, in John’s professional medical opinion, the single greatest invention of mankind.

It was the development of these suppressants that eventually prompted the changing of the law to allow Omegas to serve in the military, for which John will be forever grateful.  In fact, the ability to safely medically inhibit heats has led to many social changes, allowing Omegas to take an equal stand in society – at least on paper, if not yet in practice.

However, the suppressants are not perfect, and have one major drawback.  In order to maintain reproductive health and avoid doing any kind of long-term lasting damage to the hormone cycle, any Omega taking the suppressants has to quit for at least two weeks, once per year, to allow one heat to occur uninterrupted.

Once the law had changed, the military had to find ways to accommodate this need.  John had spent many a yearly heat in a military medical facility equipped for such things, writhing and sweating with his arse stuffed full of silicone while outside Beta guards wearing breathing masks kept any enterprising Alphas from getting too close.  He had done it again shortly after returning to London, before he met Sherlock, this time in a civilian clinic established to cater to this very need.  The cycle is familiar, and although annoying, John can handle it.

He is familiar with his body’s pattern.  He knows the timeline, almost down to the hour, and knows what he needs to do.  He makes a reservation with the clinic for one week from now, intending to quit taking the suppressant immediately.  He knows from experience that it takes at least a week for his body to shake off the chemical control and gear up for a heat, often more, and he is prepared to deal with it.

He mentions it to Sherlock when he schedules the reservation, just to make sure he understands that John is going to be unavailable for a week.  Sherlock’s reaction is typical.  He growls about how annoying it is that John is abandoning him for something so tedious, his tone and expression making it clear that he feels John is not applying himself, and would be able to use his mind to overrule the demands of his body if he simply made the effort.  At John’s patient explanation that he is required by law to do it, and will not be granted further refills on his suppressants unless he does, Sherlock huffs out an exasperated “Fine!” and returns to whatever foul-smelling experiment he is conducting in the kitchen.

Two days after quitting the suppressant, John realizes his mistake.  He has been in close proximity to Alphas during this time before, of course, with no adverse effects.  While in the army he could not have escaped them if he had tried, as more than half of his unit were Alphas.  But, he is starting to realize that his own feelings toward the Alpha in question seem to make a difference. 

He first notices it two mornings in, when he comes downstairs and is instantly hit with a wall of the most delicious scent he has ever encountered.  The smell is deep and rich and strong, filling his senses until he cannot think of anything else, and he closes his eyes as he draws lungful after lungful, still standing in the kitchen doorway.  He almost lets his head roll back on his shoulders, wanting to just lose himself in the gorgeous odour.  He starts to rub his own stomach softly through his shirt, the touch unexpectedly sensual.

Then Sherlock walks past, not pausing or even looking his way as he moves through the room, and John suddenly realizes that the smell is Sherlock, his natural Alpha smell, only magnified by one thousand.

Immediately after that, he realizes he has an erection.

These two pieces of information jolt into his mind in rapid succession, shocking him out of his daze like a wet rag across the face.  He jerks his hand away from his stomach and shakes his head, and then practically sprints to the bathroom to take a long, cold shower.

John flees the flat as soon as he can that morning.  Sherlock does not have a case on, and he is in one of the blackest moods John has yet seen him in, snapping and vicious when he deigns to speak at all.  It helps, somewhat, to have Sherlock being so awful; John is able to remind himself that the way his body is reacting is all chemical, that it is still Sherlock, aloof and unavailable despite his scent.  As he leaves the flat, Sherlock shouts out something that John cannot hear, but the tone is uncomplimentary.  John shivers at the sound of his voice anyway.

Five more days until his reservation at the clinic.  He is not sure he can wait that long.

John stays out all day, wandering the city.  Around lunch time he starts to notice that his enhanced sense of smell is not limited to Alpha pheromones.  He can smell everything.  The tingle of fresh cut grass, the harsh odour of cigarettes, wafts of food from street vendors and restaurants.  The combination makes him nauseous, and he does not eat.

As he walks, he keeps an eye out for other Alphas.  He should not be emitting heat pheromones yet, he knows.  Despite his body’s reactions, his cycle is not that advanced.  But he watches anyway, just in case.  Several times he passes Alphas in the street, but none of them show him any special regard; he gets the once over a few times, but that is so typical that he pays it no mind.

When he gets home, the smell of Sherlock assaults him on the stairs.  He has to stop, gripping the railing hard with one hand, and make a physical effort to control his own reaction to it.  After a moment he continues up.

Sherlock is standing in the center of the sitting room when he opens the door, staring at him.  He looks frantic, his hair fluffed and standing on end from where he has been running his hands through it, his too-tight shirt wrinkled and damp.  His eyes meet John’s and John freezes, locked in place by the intensity of that gaze.

Silent, Sherlock stalks forward until he is right in John’s face, never breaking eye contact.  John swallows and holds himself rigid, fighting the nearly overwhelming urge to bare his throat to this Alpha, to rub against his chest and roll his face along that gorgeous length of pale neck.

Sherlock’s eyes fall closed and he draws a long, slow breath in through his nose.  Slowly, carefully, never making contact with John’s skin, Sherlock moves around him, sniffing.  He smells John’s throat, his hair, the back of his neck, his hands.  He drops to his knees and sniffs directly in front of John’s crotch, moves around and sniffs his arse.  Through it all, John remains immobile, frozen, completely unable to compose a single thought.

Then Sherlock stands, whirls around, and strides into the kitchen without a word.

John remains where he is for a few moments, blinking stupidly, his mind reeling.  What the hell just happened?  From the kitchen he can hear the clink of glass, the tick of the microscope as Sherlock adjusts it.

He cautiously peeks his head into the kitchen, and Sherlock is there, seated in front of his microscope, peering intently into the eye piece.  John waits, but Sherlock does not look up.

“Well, I’m off to bed.  Good night then,” John says into the silence.  His voice sounds false, forced cheer ringing loud in his ears.

Sherlock does not react.

John climbs the stairs to his room slowly, aroused and confused and embarrassed.

Sleep is a long time coming.

The next morning, John wakes to a truly horrible stench.  The smell fills his room, gathering at the back of his throat with every breath and making him gag.  John climbs out of bed and throws on a pair of jeans and then races down the stairs.

One floor down, the smell is even worse.  It smells like rotten eggs and rubbish that has been left out in the sun.  His eyes water and he gags again.  The smell is so intense that he almost expects a visible haze to fill the room, but the air is clear.

John moves toward the kitchen, fighting a strong impulse to flee as the smell intensifies with every step.  Inside, he sees Sherlock, sitting calmly beside the kitchen table that serves as his lab bench, still wearing his wrinkled shirt and trousers from last night, scribbling something in a notebook.  On the stove is a large pot cooking over a low flame, and John has no trouble identifying that as the source of the horrible smell.

“What the hell are you doing?” John asks, his over-loud voice breaking the silence like a gun shot.

“Experiment,” Sherlock responds, waving vaguely without looking up.

“Well get rid of it!”

“What?  No.”  Sherlock looks up at this, confusion obvious on his face.

“Sherlock, that may be the worst thing I have ever smelled in my life, and I won’t have it in the flat.  Get it out.  Now.”

“Interesting,” Sherlock murmurs, making another note.  “What exactly would you say it smells like, John?”

“Burning rubbish and sulfur,” John answers immediately.  “And I can’t take it another second, so get rid of it.”

“Hmmm,” Sherlock responds, writing furiously.

John waits, but Sherlock does not move.  His anger is growing with every horrible breath he draws, his enhanced senses making sure he gets a full dose of the terrible odour each time.  After a few more breaths, he snaps.

John marches past Sherlock, who is still writing, and grabs the pot from the stove.  He turns, seeing Sherlock look up out of the corner of his eye, and without hesitation slops the thick syrupy contents of the pot into the sink.  The smell that wafts up makes him gag again, and for a moment he is afraid that he is about to add the smell of vomit to the miasma already filling the room, but he manages to hold it back.

Sherlock squawks angrily and jerks the pot out of John’s hands, but the damage is done.  All that is left of his concoction is a thin layer on the inside of the pot and some residue in the sink.  John is fiercely glad.

“John, what the hell?”  Sherlock shouts, clearly furious.  “That was important!”

“I told you I couldn’t take it, Sherlock.  What the fuck is so important that it’s worth smelling that?”

“The smell was the point!  I needed to cover up-” Sherlock chops himself off mid-rant, looking away quickly.

“Cover what, Sherlock?” John demands, his heart suddenly racing.  Sherlock shakes his head.  “Goddamn it!  What?”

“You, alright?” Sherlock shouts back, eyes flashing.  “I needed to cover the fucking smell of Omega.  It’s everywhere, John!  It fills the whole flat, and I can’t stand it.  I can’t think straight, can’t concentrate.  I needed to find something that covered it up, because I can’t take it anymore!”

John recoils as if slapped, the vitriol in Sherlock’s tone cutting into him like a knife.  His anger is gone, evaporated in an instant and replaced with a hurt like he has never felt before.  He takes one staggering step backward, watching blankly as the expression on Sherlock’s face starts to slide from anger into something else, and then spins on his heel and bolts from the flat.

Chapter Text

John steps onto the street in a daze, barely aware of himself.  The morning light is weak, sun filtered through a layer of clouds nearly low enough to be called fog, and the world looks pale, washed out around him.  He shivers.

The terrible smell fades from his nostrils as he stands, blinking and trembling on the steps in front of the flat, and as it does some clarity returns to him.  He is suddenly and instantly aware that he is cold, wearing only the t-shirt he slept in and a threadbare pair of jeans.  He is not even wearing shoes.  He hugs himself and rubs his hands briskly on his upper arms, but it barely helps.

He cannot go anywhere like this.  It is far too cold to be out in short sleeves.  He left his wallet upstairs too, along with his shoes.

But he cannot go back to the flat, either.  He cannot look at Sherlock, or even think about Sherlock right now, knowing what he does.  Knowing that Sherlock finds him disgusting, finds his scent so abhorrent that he would rather smell that awful stuff than be exposed to John’s unaltered Omega odour.

If that’s how Sherlock feels, John is going to have to move out.

John hears himself make a tiny high-pitched whining sound in the back of his throat, and wrenches his thoughts away from that path.  He will not think about it right now.  He can deal with it when the time comes.

In the meantime, John decides he will sit in Speedy’s Café for a while.  They know him there, and will let him stay despite his lack of shoes and money.  That way he can avoid Sherlock, avoid the terrible smell in the flat, and stay warm.

John selects a table near the back, hoping that Sherlock will not see him there if he should happen to leave the flat.  He sinks into a chair, willing himself not to think, not to dwell on what Sherlock said to him, on all the possible repercussions of that revelation.  Instead, he tries to focus on the pleasant smells of the café, the oddly warm atmosphere in Speedy’s, which seems comfortable to him now despite his bare arms and lack of shoes.  He is partially successful, and after a bit he manages to drift into a disconnected haze.

John is not aware of how much time has passed when a tall, broad-shouldered man stops beside his table.  Adrift as he is, it takes John a moment to realize that the man is looking at him, leaning in, almost looming over him where he sits in his chair.  Ordinarily this type of thing would annoy him, but right now he can barely find the energy to care.

The man shuffles closer, says, “Hi there.”  John turns his face up, opening his mouth to ask the man to leave him alone, when the scream of a siren grabs his attention.  He jerks his head toward the front of the café as the siren gets louder and louder.  An ambulance coasts past and then stops, almost directly in front of Speedy’s.

John jumps from his seat and bolts out of the café, paying no attention at all to the tall man, who shouts “Oi!” and tries to grab his shoulder as he passes.  He emerges just in time to see the paramedics heading into his building, carrying a stretcher between them.  His mind filled with thoughts of Mrs. Hudson lying injured or dead, John darts in behind.

But they are not moving down the hall toward Mrs. Hudson’s flat.  Instead, they are trotting up the stairs to the flat John and Sherlock share.

John’s heart stutters in his chest and he tears up the stairs after them.  The terrible smell still lingers, but John pays it no mind as he bursts through the door of the sitting room immediately behind the paramedics.

The first thing he sees is Mycroft, standing beside the fireplace, his gaze directed downward at something that is blocked from John’s view by the paramedics in front of him.  Mycroft’s face is pale, drawn.  He looks frightened, John realizes, and that knowledge sends a spike of terror through him.

Mrs. Hudson, clearly in perfect health although also obviously scared, stands just in front of Mycroft.  She is pointing toward the floor, and the paramedics rush forward and kneel where she is indicating.

And then John sees Sherlock.  He is on his knees on the carpet, his head resting on the seat of John’s chair.  His face is slack, mouth open and drooling, arms dangling limp down the front of the chair.  He is clearly unconscious.

As John takes this in, Mycroft is saying, “Mrs. Hudson, I told you the paramedics are not necessary.  I am familiar with this problem of Sherlock’s, and I can take care of it.”

“I just thought… I mean, look at him, the poor dear,” Mrs. Hudson responds, wringing her hands.  “I thought, he probably needs a hospital.”

“Mrs. Hudson, I assure you, I can handle this.”  Mycroft turns to the paramedics and his voice hardens.  “Gentlemen, thank you for your time, but your services are not needed.”

The paramedics do not respond, and one reaches forward and rests his fingers on Sherlock’s neck to check his pulse.

And John feels two things, almost simultaneously.  The first is a sudden stab of sensation from Sherlock, a sharp pulse of power in reaction to the touch.  The second, right on the heels of the first, is a fairly strong empathic push directed at the paramedics.  This second sensation, John realizes after a moment, is coming from Mycroft.

The unexpectedness of this jolts John from his daze, and he suddenly realizes what has happened.  Sherlock is zoned.  For the first time since they met, Sherlock has sunk too far into his enhanced senses and lost control, and he is zoned, right here on their sitting room floor.  And Mycroft, boring plain Beta Mycroft, is apparently a Guide with empathy nearly strong enough to rival John’s.

John also realizes that any additional input, especially from a stranger – such as when the paramedic touched Sherlock’s neck – is the last thing Sherlock needs and will almost certainly drag him deeper.

“Sir, you need to let us do our job,” one of the paramedics says to Mycroft, apparently shaking off the push with little difficulty.  He leans forward, raising one hand as if to grab Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Stop!” John shouts.  Mycroft’s head jerks up as if he has just noticed John is there, and Mrs. Hudson’s hands come up to cover her mouth.  The paramedics do not react.  John watches the hand descend toward Sherlock’s shoulder as if in slow motion.

He drops his shields.

“Stop!” John yells again, this time pushing his empathy into the command with all the force he can muster.  He feels it in his head, a deep pulse resonating inside him like a gong, and when his vision clears the paramedics are sprawled out on their backs several feet away from Sherlock.  One is clutching his head with both hands.  The other appears to be unconscious.

“John?”  Mycroft sounds hesitant.  John feels Mycroft reach out with his empathy, a soft caress against his mind.  He ignores it.

“He’s zoned,” John says.  “I can’t tell which sense, but he is definitely zoned.  Those two idiots would just have made it worse.”

“I… yes, I know,” Mycroft responds after a moment, his mental touch withdrawing.  “This has happened before.  I can help him.”

“I’ll do it,” John says immediately.  A bright flame of possessive jealousy flares inside him, and he takes a step toward Sherlock, putting himself between the unconscious man and Mycroft.

“John, no.”

John barely suppresses the growl that rises in his throat at that.  He feels himself falling into a fighting stance, but he cannot seem to stop it.  “Yes.”

“You don’t understand.”  Mycroft looks desperate.  “Sherlock’s zones are not like other Sentinels.  It’s dangerous.  I’m the only one who has ever been able to safely help him.”

“That’s not true.  I’ve done it before.”

“What?”  Mycroft cocks his head, baffled.  “When?  My surveillance-”

John cuts him off by stepping forward and grabbing him by one wrist.  They do not have time to discuss this, as every second lost makes the zone more dangerous for Sherlock.  But he needs to do this, needs to help him.  The force of his desire to touch Sherlock with his empathy, to connect with his mind and protect him in his zone, is so strong that John cannot even begin to deny it.  So he will convince Mycroft using another technique.

From any kind of distance, John would need some active participation from Mycroft in order to do what he is doing.  But when they are in direct physical contact, it is not necessary.  He opens himself, reaching out with his empathy to touch Mycroft’s mind.

The sensation is strange, as this is the first time he has attempted this since A’na taught him the technique and Mycroft’s mind is very different from hers.  He waits, letting the unfamiliar pulse and flicker of another mind wash over him until the pattern becomes clear.  Then he moves in, sliding his empathy forward into the natural breaks and gaps in Mycroft’s defenses, melting through the wall rather than breaching it, until they move in synch and the connection is forged.

John allows Mycroft a few seconds to become accustomed to the feeling, relying on the Holmes ability to synthesize information and quickly draw conclusions to help Mycroft understand what he is doing.  Then he opens his thoughts and pushes the memory at Mycroft: a young unconscious Alpha Sentinel junkie, a young untrained Omega Guide doctor, the connection they had established, the guiding he had done.

John can feel Mycroft’s shock through the bond, although he cannot tell whether it is shock at the memory he just shared or at the connection itself.  He can feel Mycroft’s distress, his concern.  He can feel that Mycroft is resolved to guide Sherlock and will absolutely do what is necessary, but that he is reluctant, afraid.

Then, shockingly, a memory starts to unfurl in John’s mind, and it is not one of his.  Mycroft has picked up on the technique incredibly quickly, and John has just a moment to wonder whether he will regret teaching such a thing to Mycroft Holmes before the memory takes him.

He sees Sherlock – skinny, young, probably not more than eight years old – unconscious on the floor of an opulent room.  An older man bends over him, resting both hands on Sherlock’s face.  The man jerks, twitches, calls out, but his eyes do not open and his hands do not move.  Then he screams, a long horrible ribbon of sound, and collapses beside the unconscious boy.

The next scene shows Sherlock slightly older, maybe ten, again unconscious.  This time he is outside, at the edge of a pond.  A young woman kneels beside him, one hand on his face and one on his shoulder.  The woman’s eyes are open but blank, unseeing.  Tears are leaking down her face in a constant stream.  Her mouth opens and closes, but no sound comes out.  Then she jerks her hands off the unconscious boy as if burned, shrieking and laughing hysterically.  The last thing John sees is the blood that wells up as she starts clawing at her own face.

Next, John sees Mycroft’s own hands, resting on a teenaged Sherlock’s chest.  He feels the guiding, as Mycroft reaches into Sherlock’s mind and forges a connection.  It is weak, his connection, a stuttering shaky thing, like a candle flame in a breeze, and he can feel Sherlock fighting it with all his might.  Mycroft sinks into Sherlock’s senses, the whole time struggling to maintain his tenuous connection as Sherlock shoves it away.  He helps him sort, organize what he is sensing; it seems to go on for ages, each improvement tiny and hard-won, until the zone ends with a sudden snap.  Mycroft’s connection shatters, the jagged ends whipping around out of his control, and he sprawls backward, his vision going black.  When he wakes, his nose is crusted over with dried blood and Sherlock is gone.

The memory ends, and John gently severs the connection.  He opens his eyes and steps away from Mycroft, looking around.  It feels like hours have passed since they started sharing memories, but John knows it has likely been less than a minute.  Mrs. Hudson is watching them, her hands still up in front of her mouth, and the paramedics are still lying on the ground where they fell.

“You do keep on surprising me,” Mycroft says.  John looks at him sharply, but he appears to be speaking entirely without malice.  “If you believe you can help him, be my guest, Doctor Watson.  Now you know the risks.”

“First, can you help me lay him down?” John asks, looking down at Sherlock’s form.  Mycroft comes immediately to his side and together they gently maneuver Sherlock out of the chair, rolling him to rest on his back on the carpet.  Then Mycroft moves back, giving them space without being asked, and John is grateful.

John kneels beside Sherlock, placing one hand on his forehead and the other over his heart.  He hesitates, glancing at Mycroft, and moves his hands to unbutton Sherlock’s shirt.  Then he replaces them, the one on his chest this time directly on his skin.  A wave of warmth rolls through him at the contact.  John does not know why, but it feels correct.  His eyes fall closed.

Cautiously, John reaches out with his empathy and brushes against Sherlock’s mind.

Fireworks of colour fill his mind, bursting and spinning madly out of control.  Throbbing splashes of burnt orange, bright crackles of white and purple, great spikes of sickly brown, slender ribbons of palest pink.  They pulse and blink and twirl around and between each other, filling up all of the available space in his head, blotting out every thought.  Some are complimentary, dancing together with delicate balance; others are in clear opposition, warring and vying, crashing into fragments as they fight for dominance.

John lets the visions wash through his head, making no attempt to categorize or understand what he is seeing.  Gradually, carefully, he lets more of his empathy unfurl, broadening the link with Sherlock.  Each time he does, the intensity of the visions increases, but John ignores them in favor of focusing on the connection he is establishing.  It comes easily, painlessly, until John has sunk almost the whole of his power into Sherlock’s mind.

Only then does he attempt to make sense of the information he is getting from Sherlock.

The colours are almost overwhelming, hammering against his brain.  John watches, disconnected inside himself, as they wind together and apart, exploding and reforming in a roiling sea of chromatic waves.  He watches, and watches, waiting for the colours to resolve, for some clue as to which sense is currently dominating Sherlock’s brain.

Nothing changes.

John considers.  He does not believe the colours are indicative of a visual zone, despite the visual component.  Last time, when that happened, Sherlock relived actual visual experiences, and this is far too abstract.  But then, what other sense might cause this type of reaction?

John selects a colour, the burnt orange that appears to be fairly dominant in the array, and focuses his attention on it.  He tries to pull it closer to himself, and he feels Sherlock react to his interference by trying to bring up his shields automatically.  John lets his empathy flow outward almost absently, strengthening the connection against the pounding of Sherlock’s shields without really thinking about it as he concentrates on the throbbing orange colour.

As his attention shifts, he becomes aware of emotions, flashing small and quick through his mind like tiny fishes when he tightens his focus on the burnt orange.  Hurt, exasperation, adoration, love, frustration, betrayal; they dart through his thoughts with more frequency the harder he concentrates.  A few words pop unbidden into his mind, scattered through the emotions, each one dragging a whole ocean of meaning behind it: Beta, paper, rosewood, ink, salad, brolly.

And then John knows.  Mycroft.  Somehow, the burnt orange colour in Sherlock’s mind represents Mycroft.

He lets his focus widen again, orange swimming away from him as the whole constellation of colours expands into his mind once more.  He allows it, lets it wash over him as he considers.  He cannot help until he knows which sense is zoned.  Unlikely to be sight, certainly not sound.  What else…

The answer hits him all at once.

It is smell.  Sherlock has zoned on his sense of smell.  Somehow, though, in his zone he is experiencing smells as colours, almost as if he has synesthesia.  John wonders whether he always experiences smells this way, or whether it is a product of the zone.  Ultimately, though, he supposes it does not matter.

He considers what he knows about the sense of smell.  Smell is processed in the limbic system of the brain, the same area that is responsible for emotional processing and memory.  It makes sense, then, that strong smells would trigger memories and emotions as well.  And that may be important, he thinks, for the guiding he will have to do.

Considering his options, John finally decides that he will identify a smell that is pleasant for Sherlock, one with positive associations and memories, and intensify it until that is all Sherlock can smell.  Then, maybe, he can decrease the smell and guide him out of the zone.

Course of action selected, John directs his attention back to the colours churning through Sherlock’s mind.  The most common colour, taking up the vast majority of the space, is an awful brown colour.  John shies away from it by instinct, the shade of brown foul and unpleasant, bringing to mind vomit and rubbish.  But it is the colour currently dominating Sherlock’s sense of smell, so John narrows his focus and draws the colour to him.

Emotions: sadness, humiliation, loss, frustration, fear, anger.  Words: burning, chemical, sulfur.  John thrusts the brown colour away from his senses quickly, his mind recoiling from the terrible associations.  He thinks, maybe, that this is the horrible-smelling concoction that Sherlock created, the smell that is still filling the flat, the thing he would rather smell than John’s Omega scent.

This thought nearly disrupts his concentration, and for a moment his connection with Sherlock wavers as he fights off the wave of despair that threatens him.  Given how strongly Sherlock seems to hate the brown smell, he must truly abhor John’s odour.  But he pushes it away from his mind, redirecting his focus on the colours pounding through Sherlock’s thoughts.  Sherlock needs him right now, and that is all that matters.  He can deal with the rest later.

He selects another colour, a soft pale green shade, and draws it out.  This time the feelings are gentle, muted.  Happiness, belonging, and relaxation; fresh-baked scones, dust, and lavender.  Mrs. Hudson.  John files that away as a possibility, but although all of Sherlock’s associations with Mrs. Hudson are positive, they are also fairly weak.  He is somehow certain that a very strong association will be necessary to draw Sherlock out of this zone.

The next colour is a deep rich red.  Safety, comfort, pleasure; chemicals, tea, wood smoke, rosin.  John thinks this might be the smell of 221B itself.  Also positive, also weak.

Another colour catches John’s attention.  Barely present when he first established his connection, it has been growing progressively more intense: a bright glittering gold.  He is curious, finding himself drawn to it.  He concentrates, focuses, pulls the colour to him.

Instantly, emotions start to flash through his head, faster and faster until they are filling his mind like a hurricane.  First joy, belonging, happiness, and friendship; then trust, safety, and love; next desire, possession, fear, anger, and lust.  They thunder through John’s mind, the strength of them shaking inside him, shaking him apart.  Then, the words follow: tea, wool, gun powder, home, Omega, mine, mine, MINE!

John clutches the colour close to him, feeling his love and devotion pour through back the link and into Sherlock’s mind without his control.  He lets his awareness of the world surface just enough that he can move, ignoring Mycroft’s voice murmuring in the background.  He is crying, weeping, can feel the tears running down his face but can do nothing to stop them.  He shifts, sliding up toward Sherlock’s head, and then leans forward until his forehead is resting on Sherlock’s, his nose on Sherlock’s cheek, his hands on either side of Sherlock’s face.  He squeezes his eyes closed again and feels the tears fall, splashing down on Sherlock’s skin.  Then he sinks back into the link.

The gold is stronger now, blooming in bright roses of colour all through the churning rolling mass of shades in Sherlock’s mind.  John exhales gently onto Sherlock’s skin and lets his body move, guided by instinct.  He feels himself moving upward, dragging Sherlock’s nose down his neck and into the hollow of his throat.

In Sherlock’s mind, the gold is growing, roses spreading into clouds, touching and merging.  John presses down against Sherlock, bringing his skin into contact with Sherlock’s mouth, making him breathe in John’s smell.  He hears a shout, somewhere, but it is not important and he ignores it.

Something touches his back, and John casually diverts some of his empathy to swat the distraction away, maintaining his connection to Sherlock with no effort.  In Sherlock’s mind glittering gold has overtaken the other colours, subsuming all of them one by one until only the sickly brown remains, and then burying that too.

John pulls himself up and back until his face is directly above Sherlock’s again, breathing softly with him, into him.  With each breath the gold seems to swell and pulse.  John pushes his name into their connection in time with the pulses, the breaths.

John, John, John, your John, Omega, Guide, yours.

Sherlock snaps out of the zone all at once, colours winking out of his mind as if they had never been.  John lets their connection expand, seamlessly and automatically shifting his empathy from the guiding to the link between them, the motion practiced as if they had been doing it for years.

Sherlock’s awareness rushes into the connection, merging and sinking in smoothly, his thoughts pouring into John’s mind with the strength of a waterfall.  He thinks about where he is, deducing who else is in the room, what is going on.  He thinks about the experiments he was working on this morning, a cold case Lestrade offered him, additional research he is meaning to do for his blog.  But these are only background thoughts, automatic.  Above them, above everything else, slamming through his mind and drowning out all the other thoughts, there is only John, John, John, my John.

John opens his eyes to see Sherlock looking back at him from two inches away.  He sucks in a breath, and then long arms are coming up to wrap around him and pull him down onto Sherlock’s chest in a tight hug.  He hears someone speak, but he cannot concentrate well enough to make out the words as Sherlock buries his nose in John’s hair and John’s face is pushed right up against his neck.

He smells so good that John cannot stop himself from extending his tongue and taking a little taste.  Above him he hears Sherlock hiss, so he does it again, and feels another wave of warmth shudder through him.  Through their connection, feelings of amazement and delight come from Sherlock, and John laughs out loud.

Suddenly, John is spun sideways as Sherlock rolls him over, coming to rest on his back with Sherlock sprawled half on top of him.  He raises his arms and runs them up and down Sherlock’s back, giddy with joy, as Sherlock nuzzles down the side of his face and into his neck.

“God, John, you smell so good,” Sherlock says, lips tickling John’s skin and sending a shiver down his spine.

“You – fuck! – you too,” John says breathlessly, as Sherlock licks a long stripe up his neck.

“I’m sorry for what I said, John.  I didn’t mean it the way you thought,” Sherlock says, suddenly serious.  He lifts himself up on one elbow and looks down at John’s face.  Through their connection, John understands the rest.  He understands Sherlock’s confusion over his own growing desire, his fear that John would never want him back, that John would leave, his pounding need to claim, to possess.

“I know,” John says simply, making no effort to disguise his own emotions, his lust and joy and desire.  His love.

“I was trying to smell you again.  That’s why I zoned.  I pressed my face into your chair and chased the smell of you through that stink I made, because I drove you away and I needed it.  I needed to smell you again.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” John says, bringing one hand to cup Sherlock’s cheek.  “I understand.”  He deliberately pushes his feelings through their connection, making sure Sherlock knows.

Sherlock gazes at him for a moment, eyes wide with wonder.  “John,” he breathes, lowering his face to John’s until their lips meet.

The kiss is gentle, soft, tender.  John parts his lips, and Sherlock’s tongue dips inside, caressing gently.  When the taste of him hits John’s tongue, though, he groans and opens his mouth further, suddenly desperate for more.

Sherlock growls into his mouth, pressing harder, and the kiss turns messy and frantic.  John spreads his legs, bringing one up to hook over Sherlock’s hip, and clutches at his back.

Then he hears the deliberate sound of a throat being cleared.

“Very impressive, Doctor Watson, if a bit unorthodox,” Mycroft says from somewhere beside them.  His voice is coming from a point low to the ground, as if he is sitting on the floor.  “I can see that you two have some things to discuss, so Mrs. Hudson and I will help these two gentlemen out and leave you to it.  Nice to see you again, brother.”

Sherlock grunts against John’s lips but otherwise does not move.  Through the bond John can feel Sherlock’s annoyance at the interruption, tempered with amusement at John’s mortification.  John keeps his eyes squeezed tight through the sounds of three people climbing to their feet and four people moving down the stairs, Mrs. Hudson exclaiming that it is about time they got together as the flat door swings shut.

And then, finally, they are alone.

Chapter Text

Silence falls over them like a blanket.  John keeps his face pressed into Sherlock’s neck, breathing his scent, drinking in the feelings of wonder and happiness that wash through their connection, letting the rising waves of warmth break over him.  He could happily stay here like this forever, he thinks.

But predictably, Sherlock cannot keep still for long.  After a short time John becomes aware of the spiky prickle of curiosity in Sherlock’s mind, and Sherlock pulls his head up, dislodging John from his warm little nook.  John clutches at Sherlock with both hands to make sure he cannot move away any further.

“John, you’re a Guide,” he says as soon as their eyes meet.

John smiles.  It always amuses him when Sherlock is flustered enough to state the obvious.  “Yes.”

“An Omega Guide, in fact.”

“That’s true.”

“I feel like…,” Sherlock pauses, brow furrowed.  His eyes wander, unfocused.  “I feel like I’ve felt you before.  The connection seems… familiar.”

John hesitates, swallows.  “I… uh… I guided you once, years ago.  When I was only a junior doctor, before the war.  You came in to Bart’s unconscious and they thought it was a drug overdose.  I could tell you were zoned, but the hospital Guide didn’t detect it.  So I sneaked into your room later and guided you myself.”

Sherlock is staring at John by the end of his explanation, wide-eyed.  “You did what?  I remember that!  I told Mycroft it was a zone!  He was convinced it was just the drugs because there was no record of a guiding done at the hospital, but I remembered….”  He tilts his head to one side, and his voice softens.  “I remembered the touch of a Guide.  It was the first time I had ever felt a connection I did not immediately abhor.  But when I woke, no one knew of the guiding.  Why didn’t you come back?”

“I tried,” John admits.  “But by my next shift you had been moved.  I never even knew your name, until I met you again in the lab at Bart’s.”

Sherlock’s gaze is wandering again as he digests this information.  John can feel the flicker of his thoughts through their connection but he cannot read any of them.  “Remarkable.  How is it that I never knew about any of this?”

“Well, you were unconscious at the time.”

Sherlock gives him a look.  “Not just that, the whole thing.  Even your Guide talent.  I never even guessed.”

John smiles.  “I don’t like people to know.  I’ve been hiding it my entire life; it’s sort of a hard habit to break.”  He watches Sherlock’s face as he speaks, wondering how long it will take him to put the pieces together.  Unsurprisingly, it does not take long, although the emotions John is inadvertently broadcasting through their bond probably help.

“Oh!  You never went to the Tower!  You have an older Beta Guide sister; it would have been easy to hide your talent with her around, and she could teach you the basics of shielding.  The Tower is not known for its kind treatment of Omega Guides, is it?  She helped you hide.”  Sherlock rattles this off in his typical deduction style, quick and clipped.  John grins despite himself.

“That’s about it, yeah,” he says, lifting his face to take another long whiff of Sherlock’s skin.  God but he smells fantastic.

Sherlock is not done, though, and shakes his head.  “But then where did you learn to guide?  Did you teach yourself?  No, that doesn’t make sense.  Where else?”  Sherlock’s eyes start to lose focus as he concentrates on figuring out the answer.  He looks adorable.

“Afghanistan,” John says before Sherlock can reach the correct conclusion himself.  A brief surge of annoyance flows through their bond and Sherlock’s brow furrows as his gaze sharpens.  He opens his mouth to say something, probably an insult, but before he can get it out John stretches his head up and captures his mouth in another kiss.

The taste of Sherlock is incredible; sweet and dark and smoky, like bourbon and honey.  John drags one hand up and threads his fingers through Sherlock’s hair, which feels like silk against his skin.  Sherlock kisses him back, pressing down until John is flat against the floor with the weight of Sherlock on top of him.

Then Sherlock breaks off suddenly, lifting his head.  “Afghanistan, of course!  That must be why your guiding feels so different from that of all the Tower-trained Guides I’ve encountered before.  Different techniques.  But…wait; that first time was before you went to Afghanistan.”

“Oh yeah,” John responds absently.  He is mesmerized by the sight of Sherlock’s lips, pink and moist and soft.  “I was pretty much completely untrained, that time.  I just made it up at I went along.”

“You what?  John, that’s amazing!  Incredibly dangerous, but amazing.”

“Hmm,” John answers, barely listening.  His body feels hot inside and out, burning everywhere that Sherlock is touching him; the floor is too hard beneath him, his clothes scratchy and rough.  He closes his eyes and arches up against Sherlock, pressing into the soothing firmness of him, bathing in his scent.  He cannot stop running his hands gently up and down Sherlock’s back, the texture of his shirt complex and fascinating, a landscape beneath his fingertips.

Distantly, John feels a pulse of confusion through the bond.  “John?”  Sherlock lifts himself up further and looks down at John, his eyes raking over John’s face.  John writhes under the scrutiny, the weight of Sherlock’s attention settling on him like a tangible force.  He wants Sherlock to scent him.  He wants to bare his throat.

He cannot think of a good reason not too, so he does, slowly tipping his head back until his neck is fully extended and closing his eyes, offering himself completely to the Alpha above him.

“Oh,” Sherlock breaths out, an exhalation more than a word.  The next instant his face is against John’s throat, his lips just brushing the skin.  He sucks in a long slow breath through both his nose and his mouth, moving his face slowly along the length of John’s throat as he does.  Another, and then another, each one slow and deep.

John shudders with every breath, feeling each pull of air sliding against his sensitized skin, soft and cool and tingling.  He loses himself in the sensation, lets it wash over and through him.  Sherlock, his Sentinel, his Alpha, is scenting him.  It feels more right than anything else in his life has ever felt.

Slowly, gently, John feels Sherlock’s teeth press into his skin, closing softly on the flesh of his neck just over his pulse point.  The feeling draws a long low moan from him, sending a scorching wave of fire through his whole body.  He feels a sudden, unexpected gush of wetness between his thighs and cannot stop himself from spreading his legs and arching up against Sherlock again.

Sherlock lets John’s skin slide from between his teeth and lifts his head.  John whimpers, squeezing him, trying to draw him back down, but Sherlock resists the effort.

“John,” he says.  His voice is raspy and broken, and the sound of it pulls John from his trance just enough to open his eyes.  Sherlock looks dazed, wrecked, his eyes wide and glassy, an expression of near panic on his face.  “John, your heat has started.”

“Mmm, yes,” John answers, spreading his legs further, until Sherlock’s hips are slotted between his thighs.  He can feel Sherlock’s erection, huge and hot, pressing into the crease between his thigh and groin.  Desire, desperate aching want, is filling him up now, and he grinds up against the weight of Sherlock’s cock as another flood of liquid drips down his legs.

“Fuck, the way you smell,” Sherlock sighs, his eyes fluttering closed.  He starts to lean down toward John’s neck again but then hesitates.  John whimpers, pulling him down.  “John, are you… are you sure you want me to…,” he trails off, breathing hard.

Through the bond, John can sense a tangled confusion of emotions coming from Sherlock: joy and fear and lust and desire and hope.  He almost wants to laugh; that Sherlock, the most observant man in the world, cannot pick up on this most obvious answer, that he does not yet understand John’s desire, his need.  But instead he smiles gently, focusing on his love, which he has never quite been able to quash in the past no matter how hard he tried and which has flowered into full force now, and deliberately pushes it through the bond.

“I want you to,” John says, watching Sherlock’s expression as the words settle into his mind.  “God yes, I want you to.  Anything, everything, please.  It’s just you, Sherlock.  It’s always been you, right from the very start.”

“John,” Sherlock breathes, eyes falling closed, and John can feel him shudder in his arms.  Then he opens his eyes and his expression is suddenly hard, fierce.  The emotions flowing through the bond coalesce into one pure, glowing resolve: the intention to take, to claim, to possess.  When Sherlock speaks, his voice is powerful.  “My John.”

Before John has time to think, Sherlock falls on him, licking and sucking and nipping along the length of his neck.  One hand threads through his short hair, gripping tight, and Sherlock jerks his head back until his entire throat is bared.  John can do nothing except surrender himself to the onslaught, whimpering and writhing in Sherlock’s grasp.

Sherlock slides down his body, releasing John’s hair and dragging his hands down John’s neck to clutch his shoulders.  He pushes his face into one of John’s underarms, nosing the edge of John’s flimsy t-shirt sleeve out of the way and taking a long deep sniff.  John giggles, ticklish, and wriggles away from the feeling.

At John’s movement, Sherlock’s arms clamp around him like a vise.  “No,” he snaps, peering up at John, his mouth still pressed into John’s armpit.  “Hold still.”  Then he sniffs again, slow and deliberate, holding John’s gaze the entire time. 

And the power, the authority in his voice, in the way that he holds John immobile and takes what he wants, these trigger a pounding rush of lust in John.  He locks his gaze on Sherlock and watches, not ticklish at all now, as Sherlock drinks in his scent.  The throbbing need to give himself to this Alpha is building, pulsing inside him, and he keens as Sherlock noses deeper and sucks in another full breath.

“Yes,” Sherlock hisses, the lust in his voice echoed in the bond between them.  He slides lower, running his hands down John’s chest and pinching his nipples through his shirt.  They have never been all that sensitive in the past, but now John feels every touch like jolts of lightening, sparking pleasure through him.  Another gush of wetness and he arches up, pressing his rigid cock against Sherlock’s chest.

The feeling does not even begin to satisfy the hollow craving inside him.

“Please,” John gasps out, bucking as Sherlock twists his nipples in his fingers and presses his face into John’s t-shirt clad belly.  “Sherlock, please.”

Sherlock raises his head, looking up the length of John’s body with a truly wicked grin on his face.  He opens his mouth to speak, but he is cut off by the sudden bang of a door closing downstairs.  Sherlock freezes, eyes wide and startled.  He cocks his head to one side, gaze going blank.

Through the bond, John can feel a sudden spike of wariness.  Then Sherlock’s senses sharpen, and for the first time John can directly feel him using his Sentinel abilities; the sensation is nearly as arousing as his Alpha smell.  The focus, the incredible intensity of his senses is breathtaking.  Sherlock is listening intently, directing all of his attention to his hearing.  John focuses a bit, and realizes that he can faintly hear the sound of someone talking downstairs.

Sherlock jumps up suddenly, the loss of his touch almost devastating for John despite the connection of the bond that they still share.  He strides to the door of the flat and locks it with a sharp click.  Then he turns and paces back to John, barely contained power obvious in all of his motions.

“Not here,” he says as, with a gentle touch that belies the speed and strength with which he is moving, he carefully scoops John into his arms and stands straight.  Startled and giddy, John clings to him and laughs as Sherlock carries him through the flat and into his bedroom, kicking the door shut behind him.

Still moving with care, Sherlock gently places John on the bed.  He grasps the hem of John’s shirt and pulls it off over his head, tossing it carelessly onto the ground.  Then he moves his hands to the flies of John’s jeans and pulls them open.

The cool air feels incredible against John’s skin; the plush softness of Sherlock’s bedding caresses him.  He feels Sherlock pull his flies open and then slide his jeans and pants off in one long pull.  Instantly he spreads his legs wide, letting the cold air brush against him where he feels hottest.

John hears Sherlock hiss, and one ripping sound and a few thumps later his Alpha is on him again, nude, bare skin pressing against his.

And God!  It feels so good, so much better this way.  Sherlock’s skin is soft and smooth and warm where it rubs against his, the sweet caress of it infinitely preferable to the rough brush of clothes over his sensitized body.  John arches his back, pressing his chest up against Sherlock’s and grinding his arse down into the bed, stretching his head back to bare his neck again.

Sherlock’s lips and teeth close instantly on his neck, growl rumbling low and rough in the back of his throat.  He bites and pulls John’s skin, sucking hard, drawing blood to the surface in bright hot patches that John already knows will bruise dark purple later.  The thought of Sherlock marking him, claiming him like this sends a shocking bolt of pleasure through him.  He wants everyone to see, to know that Sherlock has chosen him.

One of Sherlock’s hands slides down his body to cup his arse, and John spreads his legs wider, hooking one over Sherlock’s hip.  The dull, empty ache inside him intensifies as Sherlock’s hand creeps around the curve of his arse cheek, closer and closer to where he most wants, needs, to be touched.

One finger gently brushes against his wet, sensitive opening and John sucks in a sharp hiss of breath, letting it out with a long, drawn out moan.  His knees draw up almost involuntarily, opening himself as wide as possible, and more liquid gushes out, directly onto Sherlock’s fingers.

“Oh John,” Sherlock says, voice low and heavy and rippling with desire.  He slips two fingers into John’s opening and John moans again, louder.  He can feel his passage spasm, clenching down around the intrusion, trying to draw the digits deeper inside himself.  It feels so good, so good, but still not enough.

“Sherlock, God!” John gasps, clutching Sherlock’s arms tight and bucking on his fingers.  Sherlock hums against his neck and thrusts his fingers in deep, once, twice, the slick fluid letting them slide in and out effortlessly.  When he pulls his fingers out John cannot help the whine that leaves his throat.  He twitches and bucks, squeezing Sherlock’s arms and thrusting up against him.

Sherlock ignores John’s desperation and leans upward away from him, bracing himself on one hand.  He brings the other, slick and shiny with John’s fluid, up to his nose and sniffs long and slow, eyes closed and an expression of sublime pleasure on his face.

“John, the smell of you… I’ve never smelled anything like it,” Sherlock says, opening his eyes and looking down at John with an expression of pure lust.  The bond between them pulses and throbs with it, John’s desire and Sherlock’s echoing back and forth between them, reverberating and heightening the feeling.  John just stares up at him, wriggling and panting, completely unable to respond.

Sherlock smiles and opens his mouth.  He extends his tongue and slowly, deliberately laps John’s slick from his fingers, holding eye contact with John the entire time.  John whimpers, thrusting up against Sherlock again.

“God, you taste incredible.  And it’s all for me, all mine,” Sherlock says, pulling his fingers from his mouth.  John, still panting, bites his lower lip.

A sudden spike of jealousy through the bond startles John, brings him up slightly from the haze of desire into which he has sunk.  Sherlock’s eyes narrow and he leans in closer to John’s face.

“Has any other Alpha ever touched you like this, John?”  As he speaks, Sherlock reaches down and thrusts three fingers into John’s passage.  “Has any other Alpha ever tasted you?  You were in the army.  Were there others before me, John?”  He hisses out the words, fierce and possessive, driving his fingers hard into John’s arse with each question.

John bucks and moans as Sherlock fucks him with his fingers, completely unable to respond.  Pleasure pulses through him in sharp jolts with each thrust.

“Answer me, John!” Sherlock snaps, another blast of jealousy shooting through their connection.  He works his fingers harder in John’s arse, fucking him roughly with his hand.

John tries to pull himself together, his whole body rocking with the force of Sherlock’s thrusts, pleasure crackling along his nerves.  Finally, he manages to gasp out, “No!  Just you, Sherlock, only you.”

Instantly, John feels a wave of satisfaction wash through their bond.  Sherlock’s thrusts slow, become gentler, but he does not stop.  John whimpers again.

“That’s right.  Only me.  Because you are mine, John.  Mine!  I am the only one who gets to have you, the only one to touch you and taste you.  I am the only one who gets to feel you here-” punctuated with a sharp thrust inside him, “-who gets to fuck you.  You.  Are.  Mine.”

“Yes, yes, God yes.  Yours, yes, yes,” John pants, barely aware of what he is saying.  Sherlock’s words and the fingers inside him feel so good, better than anything he has ever felt, but it is not enough.  “Sherlock, please!”  He needs… he needs…

Suddenly Sherlock’s fingers disappear from inside him.  John gasps and groans at the loss, opening his eyes.  Sherlock pushes up and back, getting up on his knees.  The bond resonates with fierce sharp need.

“Turn over, John.  You are mine, and I will have you.  Now.  Turn over.”

John stares up at Sherlock.  He hears the words, he knows what they mean, but he cannot respond.  He is barely in control of himself, and all he can do is jerk and twitch beneath Sherlock, silently begging.

Sherlock does not wait, just grabs him by the shoulder and leg and flips him over.  Instinctively, John spreads his legs as soon as he is face-down, bracing himself on his elbows and knees and thrusting his arse into the air.  He feels hot, so hot; his body is achingly hollow and yet somehow filled with flames.  The sensation of cool air brushing over his swollen opening makes him shiver.

“John,” Sherlock growls from behind him, and then John feels an unfamiliar sensation pressing against his arse.  He gasps and grinds backwards at the feeling, something firm and slick and agile teasing his opening, caressing the swollen walls of his passage.

It takes him longer than it should to realize it is Sherlock’s tongue.  Sherlock is licking at his opening, lapping his fluid directly from the source, moaning against the skin of his arse as he drinks it in.  The realization sends a shuddering wave of desire through him, and he feels another pulse of wetness.  He imagines it gushing out directly into Sherlock’s mouth, dripping down his chin, and moans.  He hears Sherlock moan with him.

Then the sensation is gone.  He feels Sherlock’s hands settle on his hips and something much larger nudges against his opening.  He moans again, pushing backwards.

“You want it, don’t you?  You want my cock inside you, want to feel it sliding in, pushing you open.  You’ve never been with an Alpha, have you?  Never felt an Alpha cock splitting you open, filling you up.  Never been knotted.  You want it.”  Sherlock’s voice is deep and dark, sliding over John’s senses like melted chocolate.  He feels the tip of Sherlock’s cock brushing back and forth across his open, clenching hole.

“Yes, yes, Sherlock please,” John says.  He knows he is begging, does not care.  “Give me your cock, give me your knot, please.”  He feels another blast of satisfaction through their bond, and then Sherlock pushes inside him.

He is huge, filling John like nothing has ever done before; not toys, not fingers, not his previous lovers.  The slow slide of it seems to go on forever, dragging against the walls of John’s passage in a long steady thrust.

“Oh God yes, oh God yes, oh God yes,” John hears himself chanting as Sherlock slowly pushes into him.  It feels better than anything else has ever felt, steadily filling the aching hollow inside him until it touches the place, deep inside, that makes John throw back his head and howl with pleasure.

Sherlock pulls back and thrusts in again, hard and fast.  John arches his back, pushing his arse up and grinding his face into the bed, moaning continuously.  It feels incredible, Sherlock’s cock inside him, filling him up over and over.  Pleasure so intense that it is nearly pain pounds through his body and he can do nothing but take it, a willing vessel for his Alpha to fuck.

This thought pushes him over the edge and he comes, his passage clamping down on Sherlock’s cock as he spurts hot semen onto his belly and the bed beneath him.  Sherlock’s hands clench on his hips and he thrusts faster, harder.

“John, oh fuck,” he gasps.  “You love it, don’t you?  You love how it feels when I fuck you.  I made you come, just with my cock.”  One hand settles on John’s head and Sherlock grabs his hair roughly, yanking his head up and backwards.  John moans.  “Do you feel my knot, John?  Do you?”  And John does.  He can feel his opening stretching further with each thrust as the knot at the base of Sherlock’s cock starts to expand.  “Do you want it?  Do you want to feel my knot stretching you open, stuffing you full?”

“Oh fuck,” John says, voice small and broken.

Sherlock shakes him by the hair.  “Tell me you want it, John.  Beg me for it.”

“Oh God,” John chokes out as Sherlock pushes in again, his knot bigger now, stretching John’s opening almost to the point of pain as it squeezes through the tight ring of muscle.  He feels so full, so fucking good that he can barely stand it.  “God, yes.  Fuck me, knot me, let me feel it.  Oh God, please!”

“Fuck yes.”  Sherlock pulls out and pushes in again, his knot huge now, stretching John’s tight opening further.  It feels so good, but it hurts too, and the combined sensations overwhelm John, making him whimper.  Without thinking he wriggles forward, away from Sherlock, blindly trying to escape the overpowering feelings.

He is yanked back by the hair, hard and merciless.  Sherlock falls forward on top of him, the weight of his body pushing John down onto the bed.  His teeth close on the back of John’s neck, and at the sensation John goes instantly still and pliant, his body Sherlock’s to use as he pleases.

With a snarl, Sherlock thrusts forward, forcing his knot into John’s arse, and bites down hard on the back of John’s neck.

John feels the sudden sharp pain in his neck, the stretch of Sherlock’s knot expanding inside him, Sherlock’s cock flooding him with come, his own body responding as he comes again; everything, all at once.  A sheet of white fire fills his vision as his awareness fades away, as he is shattered and destroyed by the pain and ecstasy shuddering through him, his vision breaking up into glittering shards of white that slowly fade to black.

John comes back to himself slowly.  The first thing he is aware of is a deep, lovely ache in his arse, which is still stretched around Sherlock’s knot.  The second thing is the feeling of Sherlock pressing against his back, spooning him, arms wrapped around him as they lie on their sides on the bed.  The third is the flood of beautiful feelings through their Sentinel-Guide bond, happiness and love and contentment and satisfaction.

Sherlock is holding him close, brushing his nose back and forth across a sore patch on the back of John’s neck.  And then John remembers the bite, Sherlock’s teeth closing on his neck right as he pushed inside and came.  It is a bonding bite, forging an unbreakable connection between them as a bonded Alpha-Omega pair.  John feels a surge of adrenaline rush through him at that realization.

“Mmm, you’re awake,” Sherlock says, still ghosting his nose back and forth over the bite.  His arms tighten around John slightly.  “How are you feeling?  Alright?”

“I’m tired, and a little bit sore, and very sticky.  And I think this might be the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” John answers honestly, after a moment of consideration.  Sherlock huffs a soft laugh against his skin.  John hesitates for a moment, and then says, “Sherlock, you bit me.  We’re bonded.”

“Yes, I know,” Sherlock answers.  He stops nuzzling John’s neck and licks across the bite instead.  John sucks in a sharp breath at the feeling, which is both painful and pleasurable at once.  “For some reason, I can’t stop touching it.  It’s the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen.”  He licks it again.

With the haze of the heat temporarily receded, John is able to take a moment to think about what this means, without the interference of his hormones.  When he invited Sherlock to scent him, to take him in his heat, he was not thinking about possible outcomes beyond the immediacy of his own needs and desires, awash with hormones and the pure joy of knowing that his feelings were returned.  But now, faced with the reality of the situation, John can think of nothing he would rather have than this.  He has been in love with Sherlock for as long as he has known him, since the very first time he touched his mind and tasted his personality.  Sherlock is perfect, in his incredible abilities and his amazing mind and even in his flaws, and John cannot imagine life without him in it.

And they are perfect together, too.  Sentinel and Guide; Alpha and Omega; Sherlock and John.  Yes.

“Perfect,” John says aloud, snuggling backwards against Sherlock.  Sherlock hums and licks the bond mark again, making John hiss.

“Yes,” Sherlock says.  His arms tighten around John until he is squeezing him in a firm hug, and he pushes his face against the back of John’s neck, nuzzling into the skin.  “You are.”

John feels himself smiling hugely, and he cannot control it.  He opens his mouth, intending to argue about which of them is perfect, but before he can speak Sherlock lifts his face and starts to lick and mouth along the side of John’s neck.

Instantly a hot wave of lust floods through him and a low groan comes out of his mouth instead of the words he intended.  He wriggles his arse against Sherlock, enjoying the feeling Sherlock’s knot moving inside him.

“Mmm, yes,” Sherlock rumbles, his voice deep and smooth.  He leans up and licks along the shell of John’s ear before moving to the patch of skin just behind it and sucking.  At the same time he drops one hand down and strokes John’s cock, which is hardening again as the heat haze starts to creep back up on him.  “God, John, the way you smell,” he purrs, hot breath ticking the short hairs on the back of John’s neck.  John shudders.

Sherlock’s knot has gone down just enough that his cock slips from John’s hole with a wet gush when he leans away.  Instantly John rolls over until he is facing Sherlock, leaning up to kiss him, pulling him down by the hair.  Their tongues meet immediately, the kiss hot and sloppy and wet.  John rocks his body against Sherlock’s, the need to be fucked and filled again already rising in him.

Sherlock breaks the kiss, rearing up onto his hands and knees over John.  “But as much as I love the way you smell right now, I know how to make it better.”  He grins wickedly, and John swallows, mouth suddenly dry.

Sherlock brings one hand down to John’s swollen opening and pushes three fingers inside effortlessly.  He works them in and out for a moment as John gasps and bucks, and then pulls them out, dragging his hand along the wet crack of John’s arse.

“Open your mouth,” Sherlock says, and John’s mouth drops open automatically.  Sherlock pushes one finger inside.  “Suck,” he says, and John does.  He can taste his own natural lubricant and Sherlock’s come.  The combination sends a jolt of desire through him.

Sherlock pulls his finger out of John’s mouth and smears his wet hand along John’s throat, working the liquid into his skin.  He moves his hand back down and pushes his fingers into John’s passage again, gathering the fluid he finds while making John moan and writhe, and then rubs it into the skin of John’s belly.

He does it again and again, fucking John with his fingers and then rubbing the mess of John’s slick and his come onto John’s neck, his chest, his armpits, his belly, the backs of his knees.  Over and over again he brings it to John’s mouth, making him taste it, making him eat it; until all John can smell and taste is himself and Sherlock, until he is a sobbing, writhing mess, until he is swearing and panting and begging for Sherlock to fuck him again, to fill him up, to pound him and knot him.

When Sherlock finally does, pushing the backs of John’s knees up until his arse is spread wide open and then sinking in to the hilt as his love and desire blazes through their bond, only one thought passes through John’s mind before it is completely obliterated by the pleasure.

This is perfect.

Chapter Text

John trots up the steps to the flat, humming to himself.  He feels invigorated, refreshed, as he always does after these sessions.  He opens the door and steps through, already shrugging off his coat.  The rich smell of Sherlock’s Alpha scent rolls over him as he enters the flat, and he draws in a deep breath, enjoying it.

He is completely unsurprised to be greeted by the sight of Sherlock himself curled up into a ball on the sofa, back toward the door.  Waves of irritation are flowing through the bond.

“Morning,” John says happily, hanging his jacket on a hook by the door.  There is no response, but he is not really expecting one.  He moves through the sitting room and into the kitchen without a pause, still humming as he fills the kettle and flicks it on.

He feels Sherlock’s irritation spike at being ignored, seconds before he hears heavy stomping footsteps from the other room.  He calmly continues to prepare the tea – two mugs, of course – and makes no effort whatsoever to repress the amusement that he knows Sherlock must be able to sense.

“You smell like him,” Sherlock says from just behind him, voice petulant.  John smiles to himself and drops a tea bag into the second mug before turning around.

“I would expect so.  I was in his house for more than an hour.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrow and he takes a long slow breath through his nose.  John can feel his senses sharpening, focusing with near total concentration on the odors he is drawing in.  As always, experiencing Sherlock’s Sentinel ability first-hand makes John feel amazed and almost giddy.

“You don’t smell like his house,” Sherlock says eventually.  “You smell like him.”

“Well, you know that physical contact improves the connection.  It’s much easier to maintain the rapport that way while we concentrate on other things.”

Sherlock’s expression hardens.  John fights down another smile.

“Where did he touch you?”

“We held hands.”  John loses the battle against his grin at the expression of disgust that passes over Sherlock’s face at this tidbit.

“Wash them immediately.”

“Yeah, sure.  Fill the mugs when the kettle’s done, okay?”  John wanders down the hall toward the bathroom, making no effort to hurry.  Irritating Sherlock with this is just too much fun.

When he comes back into the kitchen, hands clean and a bit damp, the kettle has clicked but the mugs are still empty, tea bags sitting dry inside.  John opens his mouth to make a remark about Sherlock’s apparent laziness, but before he can speak Sherlock is grabbing him by the head and kissing him hard.

John goes still in his hands, letting Sherlock claim his mouth, tongue sliding hot and slick against his.  A rush of warmth rolls through him and he melts into the kiss, earning a growl from Sherlock, who pushes him backward until he is pressed against the wall.

Sherlock breaks away, breathing hard.  “I don’t like it.”

“I know,” John answers, leaning up for another kiss.  Sherlock does not give it to him.

“I want you to stop meeting with him.”

John huffs a breath out through his nose, exasperated.  “Sherlock, you know this is a valuable opportunity for me.  There are things they teach at the Tower that I never had a chance to learn.  Important things; things that I’ve already used to save your arse, or have you conveniently forgotten the smuggling bust last week?”

“Mycroft never went to the Tower either.”

“No, but he had Tower-trained private tutors and learned all the same skills.  I’m lucky he’s willing to teach me at all, instead of just turning me in.”

Sherlock scoffs.  “He never would.  He knows what I would do if he did.”

“Still, though.  I’ve learned so much from him already, and there’s still more left to learn.  He really is a very skilled Guide, you know.”

“You’re stronger.”  And John can feel the spike of pride that Sherlock sends through the bond with this statement.  It makes him embarrassingly happy to know how much his Alpha and Sentinel respects his skills.

“Yes, in pure brute force.  But Mycroft is significantly more adept at subtlety and precision work.  He can do things using his empathy that I’ve never even imagined.  I really am lucky to learn from him.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes.  “You know the only reason he’s teaching you is because you can do things with the skills you learned in Afghanistan that he didn’t know were possible, not because he cares at all.  He just wants your knowledge.”

“Of course I know that.  We’re teaching each other.  We’ve even started blending the two Guide techniques, which allows us to do some pretty amazing stuff.  You should come watch sometime.  It’s remarkable.”

Sherlock looks down at him for a moment, silent, and then leans his head forward until his forehead is resting against John’s.

“I still don’t like it,” he says, voice quiet.  Through their bond John feels a hint of fear, of that ever-present insecurity that occasionally peeks through the veneer of petulance and irritation that typically cloaks Sherlock’s deeper emotions.  He cannot identify the specific source of Sherlock’s fear – that John will find Mycroft more interesting than him, that John will leave if he becomes skilled enough, that Sherlock will drive him away just by being himself – but it does not really matter.  They are all equally ridiculous.

A swell of love rises in John, involuntary and unstoppable as the tide.  He focuses it deliberately on Sherlock, letting it flow through their bond in strong, luminous waves.  He raises his hands and softly cups the back of Sherlock’s head, soft hair brushing against his palms.

“You silly git,” he says, and then he pulls Sherlock in for a kiss.  This kiss starts slow and gentle, soothing rather than inflaming, but then rises, rises until Sherlock is pressing John back against the wall once more, tongue thrust deep inside his mouth.  And through it all, John continues to push his love and passion for Sherlock through their bond; kissing, kissing, kissing him and not letting up until he feels Sherlock’s fear and irritation fade, replaced with burning desire that matches John’s.

“I still want you to stop going over there,” Sherlock says as soon as they break apart, mouth quirked into a crooked smirk.  John huffs out a laugh.

“Well, I’m not going to,” he answers.

“You’re pretty willful, for an Omega,” Sherlock says, pressing the length of his body against John’s.  John fights the urge to throw his head to the side and bare his throat, to whimper and grind into Sherlock’s thigh.  Instead he stares directly back at Sherlock, tilts his head.

“You’re pretty childish, for an Alpha,” he says.

Sherlock’s eyes narrow, and John feels a warm pulse of amused determination through the bond before Sherlock’s hand is in his hair, pulling his head to the side.  Then Sherlock’s lips and teeth are on his neck, and John loses track of the world for a moment.

The chime of a mobile phone snags his attention.  Sherlock pauses where he is sucking a dark mark into John’s skin for just a second, but then continues.  John gasps, bucking against the thigh pressed between his legs, until Sherlock lets his skin slide out from between his teeth and raises his head to look at John.

“You got a text,” John pants.

“I heard.  Probably Lestrade.  He mentioned yesterday he might have a case for me.”  Sherlock is, annoyingly, much more composed than John.

“Don’t you want to read it?”

“No.”  Sherlock leans down and attempts to capture John’s mouth in a kiss, but John braces a hand against his chest and holds him back.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?” John asks, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice.

Sherlock gently grasps the hand pushing against his chest and slides it down, down until it is resting on his hip.  He leans forward, dragging his nose along John’s cheek, coming to rest with his mouth hovering over John’s ear.

“John, if you think I’m going to take you to a crime scene while you still reek of my brother, you’re crazy.  First we need to get another, better scent on your skin.”  His warm breath ghosts against John’s ear as he speaks, and John fights down a moan.

“Should I go take a shower, then?” he asks brightly.

“Hmmm,” Sherlock hums, amusement and lust flowing through the bond.

Without warning, John finds himself spun about and pushed face-first into the wall.  Immediately, Sherlock is pressing against him, pushing him hard into the unyielding surface, pinning his arms at his sides.  John finds himself tipping his head forward and offering the back of his neck before he even realizes what he is doing.

John feels Sherlock’s tongue drag slowly up the back of his neck, eliciting a full-body shudder.  This time he lets himself moan, grinding his arse backwards against Sherlock’s prominent erection as he does.  Sherlock hisses, and seconds later bites sharply, directly on the purple mark that John will forever bear as a sign of their bond.

John’s entire body goes limp.  He can actually feel the strength leaving his muscles as Sherlock’s teeth pierce his skin, and at the same time a gush of warm wet liquid flows down his thighs.  He moans again, louder.

Behind him, Sherlock releases the bite.  He sucks in a sharp breath and then growls, deep and rumbling, as he licks and nuzzles at the fresh mark he has left behind.

“So, is that a ‘no’ to the shower?” John asks when he can speak again.

Sherlock chuckles, breath puffing warm against John’s neck.  He does not answer with words, but instead steps back and scoops John up into his arms in one smooth motion.

John giggles as Sherlock carries him down the hall toward their bedroom.  He rests his head on Sherlock’s shoulder, perfectly content in the knowledge that Sherlock Holmes, remarkable Alpha and powerful Sentinel, cherishes him beyond measure.  And in the knowledge that he feels the same.