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The Family Way

Chapter Text

Mummy was delighted.

Of course, she felt keenly for her poor boy; propelled without warning into the throes of a heat just days before his sixteenth birthday. But even as she banished Father to sleep at his club and cut short Mycroft’s visit; as she ran up and down stairs fetching damp flannels, water and protein shakes and even as she striped beds and packed away the last of the Christmas decorations, Violet Holmes allowed her thoughts to wander to flowers and favours, and found time to phone Foyle’s and order the latest copy of the Almanach D’Alpha with one thing foremost in her mind: A Bonding

Sherlock was devastated.

Of course, he had deleted everything he’d ever learnt at school about secondary gender characteristics and reproduction within thirty seconds of leaving the class so it had taken him some hours to recognise that the sweet ripe smell that filled his nostrils was in fact emanating from his own body. Even the vivid flush that transformed his usual porcelain pallor to a deep rose and the light sweats that left his skin damp to the touch he attributed to the unexpectedly mild December. It was not until he felt a warm oily substance flush from his body that the terrible reality hit him: he – the brilliant, enigmatic, favoured younger son of the Holmes line was presenting – as an Omega.

*******

In all Sherlock’s heat incapacitated him for four days. As Mummy observed to Father as she gave him the all clear to return home, as first heats it was unremarkable. The isolated location of the Holmes manor meant that there was no danger of a gang of young unbonded Alphas gathering on the road outside or worst still attempting to force the doors and windows as sometimes happened in more populous areas. Sherlock’s heat had not found him alone or uncared for. His mother had attended to his every need even to go so far as to procure the necessary implements to ease an unbonded Omega’s discomfort (if only such things had been available in her youth); he would soon be up and about again.

But Sherlock was not soon ‘up and about’. As the days passed, Sherlock remained in his room, curled in a tight unhappy ball under his bedclothes, unresponsive to all urging to get up, to wash, or to reminders to eat or that it was time to go back to school for the new term. Father tried to tempt his son with home-made biscuits and his favourite sweeties, while Mummy first cajoled with promises of a new microscope and when this failed threated him with Mycroft, but Sherlock remained immutable.

Oblivious to the outside world and the entreaties of his parents, Sherlock trawled through the recycling bin of his mind for everything and anything he might have ever known about Omegas. The results were scant but no less depressing. In the past, he recalled, it had been common for wealthy Alphas to keep a number of Omegas in what amounted to seraglios, but in recent years their birth rate had fallen drastically and this practice had died out only to be replaced by another form of prison. Omegas, particularly while unbonded, were to be kept in confinement, away from any society other than their close family, too vulnerable, too precious to be left unguarded. Things had changed he conceded, attitudes were modernising gradually, along with developments in heat suppressants and birth control, his mother was living testament to that, but there was one thing even she had not avoided, Omegas were breeders – their sole function in life – to reproduce.

Sherlock shuddered, the thought of bonding disgusted him, the thought of breeding made him physically sick, yet even now his mother (his MOTHER!) who called him ‘darling’, and her ‘best boy’ could be phoning up some old crone who knew the pedigree of every unbonded Alpha in the western hemisphere who would have him plucked and fucked sooner than you could say “knife” he turned his face to the wall. His life was over.

Mummy was beside herself; her dazzling though admittedly downright infuriating son was fading before her eyes. He had always been lithe but after ten days without food he was positively skeletal. Finally, when not even his birthday roused his interest, she determinedly braved the stale fug of Sherlock’s bedroom, curled up on the bed beside him, and pulled the reluctant bundle into her arms.

“Darling, speak to me, tell me what’s wrong, we’re all so desperately worried about you”

Overwhelmed, exhausted and completely unaccustomed to such displays of mother love Sherlock managed to stammer out the crux of his despair.

“I don’t want to be bred… breed…bonded”

“Oh Lovey! Is that what’s bothering you? You don’t have to worry about that just now, that’s a long time off”

Sherlock had never thought his mother an idiot, but now he raised himself slightly, looked at her and wondered “I don’t mean now, I know we’re not living in the dark ages. I mean ever”

“Darling, I was exactly the same when I presented; it all seems too big to comprehend but... I’m not going to say you will change your mind but you might. There’s nothing quite like having a little person growing inside you, knowing you and your Alpha have created a whole new life”

Sherlock collapsed back on to the bed with a retching noise that was not entirely put on. Mummy tried again. “You can’t imagine how delighted Father and I were when we found out you were on the way, even more than with Mycroft”

Sherlock sat up again “More than Mycroft?”

“Mycroft was easy, we hardly had to try at all” Sherlock retched again though entirely for show “But you, you kept us waiting almost seven years, we were so pleased when you finally decided to put in an appearance. But after that we lost your little sister and Father and I decided we were blessed to have two healthy children. Even when I was young the fashion for Alpha/Omega pairs having dozens of children was on the way out and your Father encouraged me to concentrate on my research. I promise you, we won’t make you think about bonding until you are good and ready. Father and I will make you an appointment tomorrow with Dr Graham and fix you up with some first class suppressants and no one at school will be any the wiser”

“Promise?”

“I promise” Mummy kissed her boy’s tear stained face “Now hurry and get washed and dressed and come downstairs before Mycroft finishes all your cake”.

*******

The next two years passed uneventfully as Sherlock completed his schooling and managed his secondary gender with suppressants. There appeared to be a number of minor side effects but the Holmes were unsure whether the tears and tantrums were as a result or anything more serious than the usual teenage moodiness or Sherlock’s natural belligerence. Mummy had certainly not given up hope of a bonding (or grandchildren) and both she and Father were united in their belief that all their youngest needed was time to adjust to the idea. Like most Alpha/Omega couples of their generation Siger and Violet had had an arranged bonding, though it couldn’t have been more successful. As Siger loved to observe (to his sons’ universal embarrassment), it had been love at first bite. He doted on the vivacious Violet Vernet and deferred to her with such consistency that casual observers often mistook her for the Alpha of the pair. Despite his traditional upbringing he had been adamant that she should continue her doctoral studies after they had bonded and although Violet had never worked outside the home, she had published a number of ground-breaking papers and was still highly regarded in her field. The more traditional amongst their people had been scandalised but while the Vernets had always been considered eccentric, their lineage was impeccable and the status of the Holmes family put Violet above censure. Both Father and Mummy were convinced that just as successful a union was obtainable for their sons.

Sherlock had managed, if not entirely to delete the fact he was an Omega certainly to pay it no attention, however it came back to haunt him when he applied to university. At school his imperious nature had him identified as a late presenting Alpha or possibly a moody Beta and he did nothing to disavow this impression. But UCAS required a blood test, and the blood test could not lie. As a result, despite his universally acknowledged genius and his projected grades (which were nothing short of astonishing), one by one polite, and more often not so polite, letters of rejection from the finest Universities in Britain, and then France, Germany and the US began to arrive. The fact of the matter was that no university would admit an unbonded Omega to their halls. Sherlock sank into despondency again, it had only been a stay of execution, not a reprieve, all hope was gone.

This time Mummy wasted no time in calling in the big guns. Mycroft, not quite yet the British Government but by now at the very least a large municipal authority was deployed to spell out the facts of life – not reproduction – but the futility of Sherlock attempting to live as an unbonded Omega.

“You know as well as I do” Mycroft addressed the mound of blankets that contained his younger sibling as if it were a public meeting “heat suppressants are not a permanent solution, you have been taking them for over two years and their effectiveness is known to dwindle over time. Your body is already showing signs that you are building up a resistance to the drugs. I am afraid, little brother, you have a stark choice. You either bond willingly to an Alpha on your own terms or you run the risk of being force bonded to the first stray Alpha that catches a whiff of your scent”.

Sherlock did not deign to reply so Mycroft carried on “No university would run the risk of having an unbonded Omega studying alongside mainly Alpha undergraduates, there would be chaos”

Sherlock closed his eyes, his back turned to his brother, why didn’t the fat prig just go away? Mycroft however was not to be dissuaded, in his own way he cared deeply for his brother and was genuinely worried about him.

“I know you are averse to bonding” Here Mycroft was on uncertain ground, he was disinclined to bond himself, but as an Alpha, unlike his younger brother, he was master of his own destiny “but as a Holmes Omega you will have the pick of eligible Alphas and can dictate the terms of your contract. Any agreement could address matters of education, child bearing, birth-control, intercourse…” Mycroft trailed off, any other condition was beyond him.

Sherlock opened an eye “all the terms?”

Mycroft agreed “I can’t see why not, we’ll have the family solicitor draw it up, make sure it is water tight”

“And Mummy and Father will agree to this?”

“Of course they will, they want the best for you, in their own peculiar fashion”

“Bring them in”

Sherlock made them swear, Father on the Bible; Mummy on all three volumes of Principa Mathematica, that they would allow him a free hand in the terms of his bonding contract. Thus sworn, the Holmes family disbursed to their separate tasks, Sherlock to his revision, Mycroft to have a discrete word with the Master of his old college; Father to engage the services of Wilkins and Wray, his solicitors and Mummy to pen a notice for The Times to present the Omega Sherlock to the world. Channelling her inner Mrs Bennett, she extolled his virtues while completely disregarding his faults – after all she had known he could not have been born so beautiful for nothing!

As Mummy had anticipated the announcement in The Times generated a level of excitement hitherto unseen in Alpha/Omega circles, in fact the queue of Alphas calling to pay their respects to the Holmes family quickly came to resemble Oxford Street in the January sales. Omegas were scarce, reputably less than one to every five Alphas of bonding age and that a family such as the Holmes had produced one made Sherlock a great prize indeed. His antecedents and connections alone would have made him the most eligible Omega for decades, but his looks, intelligence and wealth acclaimed him the catch of the century. Every family that contained an unbonded Alpha threw their cap in the ring. Mummy was forced to hire a team of assistants just to answer the telephone.

But just as quickly as it had arisen, interest in the fabled Holmes Omega waned. The word on the street was that the terms of the bonding contract were bizarre… ridiculous… untenable! For amongst the standard items regarding property and settlements the contract included a clause that gave Sherlock complete control over his reproductive cycle and in which his chosen mate forfeited the right to withhold permission to use birth control (Sherlock had hoped to include compulsory sterilisation but such an operation was unheard of in Alphas while Omega physiology made it technically impossible). The terms were outrageous and as the year progressed it became increasingly apparent that no family of the first water would allow their Alpha scion to enter into an alliance where there was no possibility of an heir, however well connected the Omega was. It was scandalous.

By April, the Holmes were forced to lower their expectations and trawl through the list of applications from Alphas they had initially rejected. Reluctantly (after all an oath had been sworn) the terms of the bonding contract were made public with the invitation to whatever potential suitors were left to attend an open house in June. “A viewing” as Mycroft referred to it though not in his mother’s hearing.

To the Holmes amazement there remained a small number of Alphas apparently prepared to accept the bonding contract, a collection it seemed almost entirely of ancient relics or impecunious younger sons, and when the day came, they paraded in quick succession before the Holmes as one by one Sherlock revealed their unsuitability. The first a compulsive gambler, the next almost bankrupt, the third borderline alcoholic, he deduced the neo-Nazi by the polish on their shoes and the serial adulterer by the cover on their mobile phone, he diagnosed congenital syphilis and chronic bed-wetting, and exposed in quick succession a secret wife, a secret husband and a penchant for necrophilia (although Mummy intervened when Sherlock demonstrated a unhealthy interest in that one).

Mycroft’s machinations had secured an unconditional offer to read Natural Sciences at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and Sherlock had grudgingly expressed his gratitude. Though only his grades were unconditional, the offer was still dependent on Sherlock having bonded by the start of the Michaelmas term, something that was looking increasingly unlikely. By August the Holmes had exhausted all possibilities and Sherlock was also becoming more and more worried. Although he tried to deny it, his body was becoming progressively more resistant to the mainstream heat suppressants and he was often aware of a slight sweet smell around him that no ordinary cologne could mask. There were other symptoms, too, which he was to ashamed to disclose to his parents and he was tempted to seek illegal suppressants if he but knew where to obtain them. Once again he took to his bed.

Mummy did the unthinkable and called Uncle Rudy.

Three days later, Rudy appeared with Victor Trevor and his parents. Victor was rather unprepossessing for an Alpha, quiet and diffident, to Sherlock’s satisfaction, he appeared malleable and manageable and in that respect not unlike his own father. The Trevors had been visiting their property in Australia which explained why they had missed the furore about Sherlock’s presentation and were delighted that their son was considered a suitable mate for such an illustrious Omega without realising how many Alphas had come before him. The Trevors were not an old family and assured the Holmes that there was no vital need for an heir. They had money that was true but the origins of their wealth seemed cloaked in mystery, and although Sherlock deduced its criminal providence, he kept his own counsel. Even he realised that Victor was his last hope.

After introductions and (in Sherlock’s opinion) a lot of mindless small talk, Uncle Rudy produced the bonding contract, and handed it to Sherlock who turned immediately to the tell-tale clauses. There they were, in black and white “maximum of three shared heats a year, unlimited birth control, separate bedrooms, tertiary education, post-graduate research”. Sherlock looked up at the expectant faces, first Father, then Mummy, Mycroft and Uncle Rudy on the one side, Mr and Mrs Trevor on the other and finally his gaze rested on Victor, he smiled:

“Acceptable”

Chapter Text

Sherlock’s agreement to bond with Victor provoked a flurry of activity in both families. Mycroft was once more dispatched to Sidney Sussex College to advise the Master of the news (Sherlock’s A level results being at this point a given). Mummy rehired the personal assistants to work with the bonding planner, who claimed that she would move mountains and work miracles to have the ceremonials organised in three weeks. Father, Victor and Sherlock attended the register’s office to post notice of the impending bonding then Sherlock and Victor went together to visit Dr Graham where Sherlock was fitted with a contraceptive implant only after reluctantly agreeing to come off his heat suppressants and making a last minute bid for sterilisation. He might have asserted that the bonding was acceptable but it was still a compromise.

The Bonding Ceremony was everything Mummy had ever dreamt of. In the late summer afternoon sunshine the garden at the Holmes manor was stunning. Sherlock had grown again over the summer looked divine in a new black suit and purple shirt, the warmth of his impending heat giving a bloom to his cheeks that made him even more handsome. Victor too seemed happy and relaxed which added to his charm. All the guests proclaimed the perfection of the match while secretly rejoicing that it was not their Alpha child that was bonding to the notorious Omega.

The culmination of the cultural proceedings came as Sherlock’s father pulled open the Omega’s shirt to expose his neck above his left clavicle; Mr Trevor pushed his son forward as Victor feigned hesitation (an obsolete ritual as no Alpha had ever been known to refuse) but then placed his opened mouth above his betrothed’s scent gland and firmly bit down with his teeth. Sherlock let out a sharp cry and the guests broke into a round of applause as Victor first lapped at the bleeding bite wound and then moved to kiss his new mate on the mouth. Almost immediately Sherlock noticed his body’s metabolism begin to change, his heart rate quickened and his internal temperature soared. He noticed subtle differences in his scent as it became entwined with that of Victor. He would be in full heat in a matter of hours. Likewise Victor’s body was preparing for bonding rut, he felt light headed as blood began to settle in other parts of his body. Not wishing to waste any time, the registrar led the bonded pair, and their witnesses, to the little table where they would sign the bonding contract which completed the legal formalities.

Photographs followed then the wedding party moved on to the traditional bonding breakfast with speeches, toasts and cake, before Victor led Sherlock on to the floor for the customary ‘first dance’. Their short engagement had not left time to rehearse any extravagantly choreographed performance but Sherlock was an excellent dancer and to his delighted surprise Victor was equally accomplished. Together they twirled and spun and sashayed around the dance floor to rapturous applause until with a great flourished Victor dipped Sherlock before pulling him into a clinch. Hot and breathless Sherlock allowed himself to be held close and melted into Victor’s arms. Perhaps Mummy was right, he wondered, and there could be such a thing as love at first bite? But then he felt the urgency of his impending heat and attributed his feelings to the imbalance of chemicals in his body. He broke away from Victor to dance with his own father, and then a dutiful turn with Mycroft, and before too long Victor called him over to tell him their car had arrived and accompanied by a certain amount of ribald jostling and bedroom humour the newly bonded couple departed into the night.

Mummy had done what she perceived as her duty by her Omega son and in what had been an excruciating session for both of them had gone through the ancient manual Mummy’s mother had given her on the eve of her bonding thirty years earlier. Complete with charts and diagrams, the presence of his parents’ handwritten annotations in the margins had only added to Sherlock’s embarrassment though he had been wise enough to take his own mental notes. Privately, Sherlock conceded that Mycroft’s rather succinct advice ‘to lie back and think of England’ was probably of more use.

The Trevors had gifted their son and his new mate a bondmoon in a luxury development on the south coast. The apartment, set in a beautiful but isolated location, was furnished to the highest standards and contained everything required to ensure the newly bonded couple would be undisturbed for the length of their bonding heat. Sherlock, tense and fidgety with anticipation throughout the drive from his parents’ manor found that his nervousness dissipated on his arrival at the resort. His Alpha was handsome, he smelt delicious and Sherlock could not wait to leap into bed with him and make love for hours. He was of course in full blown heat and no longer a rational being.

******

To Sherlock’s great surprise he found much to be said for bonded life, primarily because immediately after the ‘bondmoon’ and their first shared heat he and Victor went their separate ways. Part of the bargaining that had secured Victor as a mate was the guarantee that Uncle Rudy would arrange for Victor’s promotion within the civil service. Rudy was true to his word, and on his return from Sussex Victor found he had been appointed a permanent undersecretary at the foreign office and his presence was required on an official visit to Canada.

Meanwhile, Sherlock, along with all his worldly possessions which now included a cap and gown and several new chemistry text books went up to Cambridge for the start of term. His rooms in Cloister Court, overlooking the gardens, were light and spacious and he thought they would do very well. But most of all they meant to him freedom; freedom to study, to experiment, to learn, to become the person he was meant to be before his detestable biology had intervened.

Sherlock memorised his text books in just over twenty four hours, it would have taken less time but he discovered in this new situation he was expected to at least appear to eat breakfast and dinner. The course work was a doddle but not all the professors were idiots and Sherlock recognised that he could learn something from one or two of them. Most of all he had access to world class laboratories, and while he was required to be resident in college for fifty-nine nights a term he was not obliged to be asleep so had plenty of opportunity to carry out experiments of his own devising.

However, life at Sidney Sussex was not without its cross to bear. Unlike sixth form where his presented status was well below the radar, here he found his reputation had gone before him and the entire college body, from the most junior porter to the Senior Fellow, were all well aware that he was an Omega, largely due to the unfortunate gossip that had surrounded Sherlock’s quest for a mate. Few members of the college had ever met an Omega to whom they were not related to either by birth or bond. The Betas and those Alphas who remembered their manners regarded Sherlock with a kind of benign curiosity but to his dismay a small but vocal band seemed determined to make things as unpleasant for him as possible. Ascribing to the ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche’ stereotype of Omegas they took every opportunity to remind Sherlock he had no business being at university at all.  

The ringleader of this boorish behaviour was one Sebastian Wilkes, who in addition to the antiquated prejudices against Omegas he had inherited from his undistinguished family, harboured a new grudge as one of the Alphas Sherlock had rejected (on the grounds he was a chronic bed wetter) was Wilkes’ cousin. He delighted in pointedly referring to Sherlock’s Omega status at any opportunity claiming to ‘smell peaches’ or some other ripe fruit when he was in the room (which was nonsense as Sherlock’s bonding had neutralised his sexual allure for any Alpha other than his own), or asking if anyone one else ‘was feeling the heat?’ which always caused a titter amongst the more immature Alphas.

Sherlock kept his head down and avoided Wilkes and his friends as much as possible but when, after being cautioned for missing Hall too many times in the previous week, Sherlock reluctantly took his seat at the breakfast table only to receive another barrage of gross innuendo from Wilkes, Sherlock snapped.

“You should try to find time to go back to your rooms before breakfast Wilkes; you really shouldn’t turn up smelling like a dog fox to Formal Hall. And it seems that your latest conquest is another Alpha, how very daring of you, although you being particularly ill endowed in the trouser department I find I’m unable to identify them from the way they are walking this morning”

This last remarked was delivered by Sherlock in full voice using the acoustics of the old building to maximum advantage. The surrounding undergraduates collapsed in laughter and even some of the Fellows bowed their heads and smiled behind their hands.

“Freak” Wilkes spluttered “no wonder your family had to pay a nobody to mate you” but his words were lost amongst the continuing laughter. From then on Wilkes and his coterie maintained a hostile silence when Sherlock was around, which bothered Sherlock not one bit.

******

Outside from term time Sherlock lived at his parent’s house where Victor joined him for the Christmas and Easter holidays at least some part of which were taken up by Sherlock’s heats. From the little he had managed to recall from his Sex Ed at school, Sherlock had been under the impression that Alphas favoured the ‘wham, bam, thank-you Ma’am’ approach to intercourse so was most disconcerted to find that Victor, although initially rather awkward, was a gentle and considerate lover who was determined to ensure that Sherlock enjoyed their being together. Like most young Alphas Victor had limited experience and as Sherlock had none whatsoever their lovemaking took on an almost experimental quality which enabled Sherlock to tolerate his Alpha’s advances in a way he had not anticipated before their bonding. Sherlock even began to appreciate the benefits of sharing his heat with a warm and responsive human being as opposed to a silicone phallus.

Mummy, always concerned for her sensitive Omega boy, whom she understood much better than he gave her credit for, was relieved to see that Sherlock was not finding this aspect of bonded life too distressing and was more than willing to offer advice and suggestions to promote marital harmony; which Sherlock endured solely as there was nothing like he and Mummy embarking one of their ‘little talks’ to send the resolutely single Mycroft scuttling from the room.

Sherlock survived his first year at university without incident and applied himself to his required studies sufficiently to pass his exams with flying colours. As with Christmas and Easter, Sherlock spent the Long Vac at his parents’ manor, Father and Mummy were away much of the time having discovered line dancing holidays, Mycroft descend for a fortnight to take a brief respite from work and generally get on Sherlock’s nerves. Victor visited too, between assignments, for what Sherlock had come to think of as ‘heat service’. Thus Sherlock was on his own when, just before the start of his second year, he received a letter from the Dean inviting him for a drink at his club. Immediately Sherlock thought of a number of reasons for this request, all of them not good. Had the college changed its mind? Had there been complaints? Had something in Sherlock’s behaviour jeopardised his position? The explosion in the quad at the May Ball had been unfortunate but untraceable surely? Had anyone linked the noxious smell in the JCR to his (so far failed) attempts at scent masking? Chemistry was so tempting. So it was with some trepidation on a Wednesday in the second week of September that he boarded the train to London.

Fortunately the Dean was a jovial Beta and appeared genuinely pleased to see him. A sherry was offered which Sherlock took mainly out of nervousness and promptly forgot, just wishing that he could voice his impatience as the Dean enquired after his mate, his parents, his brother, his parents in law and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

“You will be aware, I know, that your admission last year was something of a departure for the college, had it not been for your brother’s influence with the Master and the recommendation of your own School it may never have happened at all. However, despite the deplorable actions of certain members of the undergraduate body who seem to confuse privilege with intelligence, the SCR have unanimously voted the experiment a success” at this the Dean paused and smiled at Sherlock, who allowed himself to relax slightly “such a success that we have decided to repeat the process. All things being equal we will be joined in the Michaelmas term by a Ms Hooper, a newly er…” here the Dean coughed loudly and the words ‘bonded Omega’ remained unsaid but Sherlock heard them anyway.

“It has been suggested” The Dean continued “that as she is also reading Natural Sciences, you might take her under your wing a little, show her the ropes, make sure she doesn’t run into any of the kind of unpleasantness that you had to put up with, that sort of thing. Her husband seems quite possessive of her”

Sherlock thought quickly, he’d no real wish to be saddled with a fresher but at the same time he was curious that there was another Omega about to enter the college, the fact that she had negotiated an education implied she was a kindred spirit, and it wouldn’t do any harm for him to bank a bit of the Dean’s goodwill for the next time he blew up a lab.

“Certainly Sir, I will invite her to tea as soon as I’m up”

******

Despite regretting his promise, Sherlock, invited the new Omega to tea in his rooms, even going as far as to sacrifice a small portion of the chocolate cake Mummy had sent back with him. Molly Hooper was every inch the typical Omega that Sherlock wasn’t, pretty and petite, neatly dressed and with long brown hair, she favoured ‘A line’ skirts, mohair jumpers and sensible shoes, but she went up in his estimation when she ignored the cake and went straight to admiring the small collection of Erlenmeyer flasks and petri dishes on his desk which comprised his latest experiment.

“What are you working on?”

Sherlock hesitated, this was a private project, not connected with his studies, he was uncertain if Molly could be trusted with its secret, but then he reasoned she was a scientist and another Omega, and would be discreet.

“I am attempting to synthesise an effective long term heat suppressant”

“A what?”

“Heat suppressant, surely you’ve used them”

“Yes of course” Molly answered quickly, colouring slightly, “At school, after I presented, before I bonded. It was the ‘long term’ I was questioning”

“Long term use causes tolerance in the heat suppressants that are currently available; they lose effectiveness after two to three years of continuous use. So within three years of presenting Omegas are faced with a stark choice, go it alone and manage increasingly traumatic heats on their own while at the same time being at risk of forced bonding if they are left vulnerable. Or they can barter their independence and hope to secure a bondmate who will at least treat them as a person and not a possession. Whichever way you look at it, this situation makes second class citizens of all Omegas”

“I don’t agree, I don’t consider myself second class”

Sherlock snorted “of course you are. You wouldn’t even be here without permission of your Mate”

Molly was not easily cowed “I agree that society doesn’t always get it right but I love my Alpha and he loves me. He’s totally supportive of me and the decisions I’ve made, there’s no way he treats me like a possession”

Sherlock thought of the Dean’s description of the Alpha in question but said nothing. They finished their tea and he walked Molly back to her rooms, stopping only to introduce her to a couple of Beta female freshers (one of whom he had deduced was a cat owner, the other newly engaged) that he thought would be suitable friends for her.

Having not exactly ‘hit it off’ Sherlock was surprised when Molly issued a return invitation. Enticed by the promise of scones, Sherlock duly made the visit.

Molly’s room was not dissimilar to Sherlock’s only a lot tidier, the scones freshly made and the conversation majored on science so was quite agreeable. Sherlock reluctantly admitted his research was making slow progress “I need more data, if this was a sponsored project then I could access the samples I need, but all I have is myself”

Molly gasped “You’re experimenting on yourself?”

“It’s not as bad as it sounds, Molly, I just draw some bloods, as I’m going into heat and immediately afterwards, identify the chemical changes and use that as the basis of my antidote. Something to counteract the chemical change that the body won’t get used to. But I’m just one bonded Omega, I might not even be typical, I need more data. I don’t suppose…”

“No, Sherlock, don’t ask me that. I know the work you are doing is important to you, and obviously not all Omegas are as lucky as I am. But a world where Omegas didn’t go into heat, it’s not right”

“What’s not right Molly is we have to live like this. I bonded with Victor because I had to, end of story. I don’t love him” the word love carried audible italics “He is a necessary evil”

“Sherlock!”

“Well maybe that’s a bit harsh; he’s an acceptable evil. But if I had the choice I would never have bonded and I certainly never intend to breed. The brain is all that matters, everything else is an appendix”

“I love being at the university and pursuinging my studies, but I’m not like you, Sherlock, I also love being bonded and I do want children, just not yet”

“So you included this in your bonding contract; that your Alpha will wait”

“No, it’s just a verbal agreement, we discussed it before we bonded and he was fine about it.”

“But the contraception” Sherlock touched his left forearm “you’ve got an implant at least”

“No, not that I think it is any of your business, but we’re managing quite well with…Captain Condom” Molly turned bright red as Sherlock burst out laughing “I don’t believe I just said that. I know you’re a cynic” She continued “But there is such a thing as trust in a bond. Jim is my Alpha, I’ve place my life in his hands, so if I trust him with my life I trust him to take care of this, and that’s an end to it”

Sherlock rolled his eyes, but said nothing so Molly went on “You may change, the old body clock will get ticking and you’ll long to hear the patter of tiny feet. Or more likely to pass your brilliance to another generation. Never say never Sherlock”

“You sound just like my mother”

“Your mother!” Molly clasped her hands together in delight “I’ve heard all about her, combining family with her doctoral research, publishing her books and raising two children. She is such an inspiration. I’d love to meet her”

This Sherlock could do. His parents seemed fascinated with something called Bumps, he suspected it dated from their own time at Cambridge and they visited for it every year. He promised to introduce Molly to his mother then, and made his escape.

Despite being the only two Omegas in college, Sherlock and Molly’s paths rarely crossed, they were in different years and following different tracks within their field. In addition Molly had a dispensation to spend two nights a week at her marital home, while Sherlock avoided as much as possible all situations where he might be expected to socialise. However they were cordial when they did meet each other in the corridor or common rooms and as Sherlock’s time at the University drew to a close, Molly took time to call on him before the Easter vacation to wish him well for his upcoming Tripos.

They talked briefly about Sherlock’s plans after graduating, he was almost guaranteed a research fellowship on the basis of his work so far but Sherlock was undecided, there was much about college he found frustrating and part of him had had enough of its stifling atmosphere but he was still hedging his bets. He then made the mistake of asking Molly what she thought she would do at the end of her degree.

“Not work, of course”

“Why ever not? You’re clearly not an idiot; you’ve made it thus far”

“I supposed I’ve never considered what happens after I graduate, getting my degree is as much as we’ve discussed”

“But you must have thought about a career – before you presented that is”

Molly took a deep breath and then said quickly “I always wanted to a pathologist, like Quincy” Sherlock looked at her blankly “it was an American series; I used to watch reruns during the school holidays. Quincy was a medical examiner; he was always discovering the deceased had actually been murdered. I loved it”

“Then why don’t you go for it, surely...er”

“Jim?”

“Yes…Jim… surely he’d be happy to wait a little longer before reproducing. It sounds like the ideal occupation for you Molly; working with the dead is your natural milieu”

“I’ll take that as the compliment you thought you were giving, thank-you Sherlock... I think, maybe I will talk to Jim about it”

Sherlock sailed through his Tripos as predicted and as he began to take notice of his surroundings again became aware of college gossip.

“One less Freak in Hall next year, even if they don’t get rid of you” Wilkes addressed Sherlock directly for the first time in nearly three years.

Reluctantly, Sherlock let himself be drawn “What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you heard, your little friend’s dropped out, apparently her Alpha saw sense and now she’s in pup. No more ideas above her station for her. Pity your Alpha’s such a eunuch or we would have been spared your company”

Sherlock was confused; did Wilkes mean that Molly was now pregnant? What had happened to her agreement with…what’s his name…Captain Condom? He suddenly realised he had not seen her about all term, and when he rushed to her rooms, he found them occupied by a Japanese exchange student and all trace of Molly gone.

There was only one way to find out, Sherlock waited until late that evening when the Beadle was on his rounds, then slipped the lock on the Academic Office, within seconds he was memorising Molly’s details from her personal files. Utilising his preferred escape route from college, he set off through the darkened streets to a village some five miles from the centre of Cambridge. On the walk he worked on a plan of what he should say and do on his arrival. He dismissed the idea of throwing stones at the window, that only seemed to work if you knew the right room, and wondered how sophisticated the house alarm would be. But as it happened, although it was after midnight when he arrived at the address, the lights were on and at least one of the occupants appeared to be still awake. With some trepidation Sherlock rang the bell, and after a few minutes a man, presumably Molly’s Alpha, opened the door.

“Mr Moriarty” Sherlock began “You don’t know me but…”

The dark haired Irish Alpha cut him off “Oh I know you; I know exactly who you are Mr Sherlock Holmes. You’re that disgrace of an Omega who’s been filling my Mate’s head with all kinds of insubordination. Coming between an Alpha and his Omega? You should be horsewhipped. Well Mr Smart Arse, there’ll be no more of your pernicious influence. My Molly’s having our baby, the first of many if I have anything to do with it, and that’s an end to it. Now get away from here before I call the police and have you arrested for harassment”

With that the door was slammed shut and Sherlock was left on the step looking up at the silent house. As he did so he thought he saw a slight ghostly shadow at an upstairs window, but he couldn't be sure, and when he looked again it was gone.

Chapter Text

Sherlock was not much given to introspection and if he had any regrets regarding Molly’s fate it was that he had not urged her more strongly to take control over her own sexual health, but, he reasoned, she was an adult and he was not her keeper. She had placed her trust in the untrustworthy and must live with the consequences.

In June he graduated with First Class honours and took the chemistry prize but despite the clause in his bonding contract Sherlock did not take up the offer of a research fellowship. Cambridge had lost its charm for him and he was glad to leave.

******

For all his prodigious intelligence Sherlock had never given much thought to life post-graduation. He spent the summer as in previous years at his parents’ house. He and Victor made a further visit to Dr Graham to renew the contraception implant and Sherlock experienced a feeling of gratitude almost strong enough to be called love for his mate, and resolved to try to be more affectionate towards him, although this did not materialise into anything demonstrable in their subsequent shared heat.

His parents returned from spending the summer abroad and to their dismay found their adult son in residence, upsetting the staff and generally making the place untidy and with no apparent plans to move anytime soon. Mr and Mrs Holmes decided ‘something needed to be done’. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Sherlock wandering into the drawing room covered only by his bed sheet, as they entertained the Home Secretary. Mycroft took his brother’s actions as a personal slight, although as the Home Secretary was a middle-aged unbonded Alpha, the sight of a scantily clad Omega wandering around the house was possibly not as damaging to Mycroft’s prospects as he supposed.

Mycroft gently reminded his parents that amongst their property portfolio they owned a town house not far from the British Museum that would provide suitable accommodation for their son and his mate. The existing tenants were given a generous incentive to persuade them to move out and with an equally generous incentive (a state of the art laboratory in the basement) Sherlock was persuaded to move in.

Sherlock was thrilled with his new abode, he quickly took up residence and once he had installed a fridge and one of the sitting room couches in his laboratory he declared himself well pleased. On the rare occasions he ventured upstairs he found fresh food in the kitchen and clean clothes in the wardrobe but he never stopped to wonder where they came from. As far as Sherlock was concerned the laboratory was the only room that mattered, it was his kingdom and he quickly set to work replicating his extra-curricular experiments from university while perfecting his computer hacking skills.

The drawback of the house in Montague Street was that his parents seemed physically incapable of making a visit to town without calling on their younger son. In addition to the innumerable friends and acquaintances that depended on Mr and Mrs Holmes presence at bondings, baptisms and funerals, their devotion to West End shows meant that hardly a week went by without Sherlock being winkled out of his cellar to listen to his parents’ chatter. Mycroft also demonstrated an annoying habit of dropping in unannounced (he had a key), ostensibly to ensure that his brother was safe while his Alpha was away but in reality to check, in light of certain experiments at university that Sherlock believed his brother to be unaware of, that he had not set fire to the furniture or turned the cellar into a Meth lab.

The irritation Sherlock felt was compounded by the regularity with which his parents’ and his brother’s visits collided. It appeared they were quite happy sit in Sherlock’s house and drink tea and eat cake for hours completely immune to Sherlock’s efforts to encourage them to leave.

******

It was early autumn, Sherlock had been living in Montague Street for almost two years, Mummy and Father were on their way to the theatre and Mycroft was trying to convince Sherlock to accompany them in his stead, when Mummy, who was ignoring her children and reading a newspaper suddenly exclaimed in a voice that cut through their squabbling.

“Goodness, the Darlingtons have been robbed!”

It appeared from the report that Priscilla Darlington’s house had been burgled and her extensive collection of jewellery, including the famous Romanoff rubies had been taken. Mummy waved a copy of the Daily Mail under Sherlock’s nose and he glimpsed a photo of a rather grand dame looking not unlike the late Queen Alexandra with ropes of rubies and diamond necklaces around her neck and a huge Russian style tiara on her head.

“I always thought they were the last word in vulgarity although of course worth a fortune. It says here the house was left unsecured by workmen on site”

“Nonsense, it’s an inside job” Sherlock said dismissively without looking up.

“What on earth do you mean?” his mother replied but Mycroft gave him a curious look “Come, little brother, do share”

“None of them have any money, their youngest son’s a compulsive gambler, that much was obvious when he came courting me. I can’t imagine their circumstances have improved any since then” aware that he had their attention Sherlock took a deep breath and continued at speed “Lady Darlington has a new lady’s maid; you can tell in the more recent photographs, her hair looks untidy and her clothes not as well cared for. That could be because she is short of money but that’s not something new, while standards in her appearance have only slipped recently so a change in maid is more likely. I imagine her previous lady’s maid, who’d been with her for years either died within the last twelve months or retired – I favour the former... She doesn’t like the new one, engaged on her behalf by one of her sons, probably the youngest, he’s her favourite so she wouldn’t challenge his choice but at the same time the fact she doesn’t like the woman means she was easily persuaded to go abroad without her maid and of course it saves money which as I said there is a distinct lack of in that family… She has a lot of jewellery and doesn’t travel with the best pieces so they were left behind when she went away. Her son’s been trying to get his hands on them for years so faked a break in and planted the evidence that made it look like an opportunistic crime caused by the workmen’s neglect. He’ll wait for the fuss to die down before he tries to offload them, Mother’s very upset but will claim the insurance and bob’s your uncle, everyone’s in funds again until the next gee gee throws their rider at the last hurdle.

“Really?” asked Father “you got all that from the photographs?”

“There are several, they each tell part of the story” Sherlock replied holding up the paper to show his father the double page spread.

“So what’ll happen to the gems?”

“Probably be broken up and shipped to the Middle East. Like I said the youngest son is an unlucky gambler who is heavily in debt; he’s almost certainly using money lenders who will either know how to dispose of stolen goods, even as unique as these, or will know someone who does. The police need to investigate the maid, she’ll have something to do with this, possibly as a relative of the fence, and the Lady who gave her a reference will have either never heard of her or not exist. No wait…” Sherlock peered closely at the photographs again “there’s something else…the jewellery in the more recent photographs is obviously fake. Ha! If Boy Darlington thinks he can settle his debts with gold plate and paste then he’s in for a nasty shock. It looks like his mother has got there before him. If he has any sense he’ll vanish before his creditors discover the substitution”

“Really Sherlock!” Mummy exclaimed taking the paper back from her son “I can see nothing of the sort. In any case, the Darlingtons are one of the oldest families; Roydon Darlington was at school with your cousin Algernon. The reporter says the carpenter didn’t replace the lock correctly and that’s how the burglars got in”

Sherlock sneered “You can’t believe anything you read in the Daily Mail!”

Mycroft leant over and took the paper from his brother’s hands and hummed thoughtfully “there is something though…I might just have a word with a fellow I know at Scotland Yard… if only to eliminate the possibility”

Sherlock leapt up “I’ll come with you”

Mycroft put him down instantly “I’m not about to call on Scotland Yard at half past four on a Saturday afternoon and even if I was you know you can’t be involved. The police would never take the word of an Omega, even a bonded one”

Sherlock flounced back onto his couch, “It’s so unfair” he said, sounding exactly like his fourteen year old self, but there was nothing to be done.

Mycroft took pity on him and promised to at least keep his brother informed of the police response. His parents finished their tea and shortly all three were gone leaving Sherlock to his own devices again.

Even more tiresome than the company of his own family were the increasing number of visits from Mrs Trevor. For various reasons, which Sherlock suspected would not stand much looking in to, Victor’s parents had permanently relocated to England. Mrs Trevor had taken to ‘popping in’ on a regular basis regardless of whether her son was at home more often than not finding Sherlock in his pyjamas conjuring up alarming smells and small explosions in his lab. He had recently decided to catalogue as many varieties of tobacco ash as he could obtain and as a result a noxious haze hung over the whole ground floor of the house.

Mrs Trevor had always considered Sherlock too thin (she was of the traditional opinion that Omegas should be plump with hips that were best described as ‘child bearing’) so she usually brought a box of soft sweet cakes with her which Sherlock, to his great annoyance, found impossible to resist. Although as he would forget to eat as soon as his mind was elsewhere, Mrs Trevor’s attempts at fattening up her son-in-law were ultimately unsuccessful.

Sherlock loved to complain that these constant interruptions took him from his work but if he was completely honest there was little to keep him gainfully employed. He pottered around his laboratory flitting from one experiment to another. He perfected the science of deduction and worked on his safe cracking technique but nothing staved off his boredom for very long. The usual manner in which Omegas filled their days held no appeal for him. Omegas sole responsibility in life was to keep their Alphas happy and the nurseries full. They had children and kept house, they shopped; they were delivered to the homes of other Omegas where they drank tea and exchanged gossip. They talked about clothes and boasted about their children and their Alphas. They might (as in the case of Sherlock’s mother) study privately but what they didn’t do is work. In determining not to have children Sherlock had created a void in his life that society did not permit him to fill.

A few weeks after the conversation regarding the Darlington robbery Sherlock emerged from his laboratory to find, Mycroft had let himself into the house and was making tea in the kitchen.

“What are you doing here?”

“If that is the welcome I get, then I assume you won’t be interested in hearing the news I have received from my contact at Scotland Yard”

Sherlock had already hacked into the police records so had a pretty good idea what Mycroft was about to say, but he kept that to himself and tried to look innocent as he asked Mycroft to carry on. Slightly appeased Mycroft continued “Detective Sergeant Lestrade tells me that Roydon Darlington has disappeared, the maid has been arrested and to use his turn of phrase is singing like a canary. She turns out to be the girlfriend of the cousin of one of the biggest crooks in the capital”

“Ex-girlfriend one supposes now”

“Quite” Mycroft went on “The family are ruined and Lady Darlington has gone to live with her former maid who turns out to be not dead but running a boarding house in Bognor Regis”

Sherlock groaned “There’s always something”

******

The Darlington robbery awoke a spark in Sherlock and his list of pastimes now included scouring the newspapers in the hope of finding another case on which to exercise his deductive prowess. He didn’t have to wait long. He found the report of a tragic accident involving three children who had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sherlock looked at the photograph of the grieving mother, he read the accompanying article, he booted up his computer and read further coverage online. He perused the council’s safety inquiry and examined at the photographs of the gas heater, he hacked into the post mortem and toxicology report, he researched insurance claims in the area, he looked at the photograph of the mother again and came to the conclusion the children had been poisoned deliberately.

Sherlock’s Holy Grail – a heat suppressant that worked indefinitely – continued to evade him but his attempts at scent masking had proved more successful. While his first effort had been labelled ‘eau de vagrant’ by Mycroft, and the second had caused a large number of stray cats to congregate outside the house in Montague Street, Sherlock had now manufactured a spray that would effectively disguise his scent, and his Omega status, and was stable enough to allow reapplication while he was away from home. The downside was that it masked all scents leaving him disconcertingly odourless however in trials Sherlock had passed for a Beta and that was all that mattered.

Dressing in his smartest suit and spraying himself liberally with his home produced scent masker Sherlock, with a sense of thrilled anticipation, took a taxi to Scotland Yard. He retrieved a file from his mind palace and on arrival asked to see DS Lestrade, giving Mycroft’s name. The desk sergeant suspected nothing.

Lestrade kept him waiting half an hour but listened to Sherlock politely as he outline his suspicions regarding the mother. Lestrade took notes but gave nothing away and Sherlock had the good sense not to reveal all his sources. He would have left the police station rather dissatisfied had he not deduced that Lestrade was also unhappy about the case, so instead he felt elated. He had been taken seriously by a detective, so much for Mycroft!

The British judicial system not being known for speed it was some three weeks before Sherlock learnt that the mother had been arrested and a further five months before the case came to trial. The conclusion was just as Sherlock had deduced, the mother had used her own heart medicine to fake the symptoms of poisoning to give credence to her claim she had been unconscious in the same room. Insurance, compensation and a desire for revenge on her ex-husband had all featured in the crime and she was sentenced accordingly. Lestrade phoned Sherlock to thank him for his intervention. Sherlock responded with his thoughts on the disappearance of a wine merchant called Peter Vamberry which proved accurate, and when the Met were baffled by the murder of three members of the Tarleton family (dead in the attic which was locked from the inside) Lestrade bit the bullet and phoned Sherlock Holmes.

After that, Sherlock became a regular participant in the Met’s investigations, not always by invitation. His lack of scent and his ability to deduce the most significant information from the most trivial of clues caused the Scotland Yarders to refer to him as ‘Freak’, but they were idiots. If Lestrade was aware of Sherlock’s true secondary gender he chose to keep it to himself; when he was promoted to Detective Inspector on the back of their combined successes, he had all the more reason to stay quiet.

Sherlock did not court publicity for his work, he had a website but it did little to engage the public, but this did not prevent his involvement becoming known within police circles and amongst the victims. Some months after the Tarleton case he opened the front door of Montague Street to a harassed looking woman who introduced herself as Mrs Farintosh and Sherlock had his first client.

******

The next few years settled into a comfortable routine, there were cases and chemistry, contraceptive implants and shared heats with Victor, tea with his parents and spats with Mycroft. Occasionally on her visits Mummy would mention almost wistfully some friends of their family who’s Omega had reproduced but Sherlock felt no regrets on that score.

Victor was still largely working overseas with Sherlock declining to acknowledge how much of this convenience he owed to the benevolence of his Uncle, and more lately his brother. On one rare occasion that Victor was home when his mother visited Sherlock left them chattering on the sofa and returned to his lab. Sometime later he heard the front door go and assuming that Mrs Trevor had left he began to climb the stairs in search of biscuits when he saw out of the corner of his eye that rather than Mrs Trevor leaving, Victor’s father had arrived. He stayed very still and quiet and surveyed the scene. Victor looked pale and embarrassed his mother quivering with anger while his father sounded like he was pleading.

“Just think about it Vic, to help your old dad”

“Nonsense, he shouldn’t have to think about it, it’s his duty to his parents”

“What about my duty to my mate?” Victor sounded unlike himself, close to tears even.

“That shouldn’t come into it…” the rest was lost as Mrs Trevor lowered her voice but the tone still conveyed her anger. Sherlock thought he heard something like ‘rut’ and ‘defence’ but couldn’t be sure. He shifted slightly and the step beneath him creaked and the Trevors as one turned towards the basement stairs and abruptly started talking about the weather. Then a loud bang and a burning smell wafted up from his lab and Sherlock ran back downstairs to deal with the mess. When he re-emerged Mr and Mrs Trevor had gone and Victor was sat in the drawing room reading the newspaper his colour back to normal.

Sherlock didn’t delete the conversation and had planned to examine it more closely but then became engrossed in the mystery of a Russian babushka and then a second apparent suicide caught his attention and his time was taken up badgering Lestrade to involve him in the investigation so it completely slipped his mind until he was forced to spend some time with Mycroft and he thought to ask his brother about it.

“Really Mon frère and who has been talking to you about the Rut Defence?”

Sherlock muttered something about a case and Mycroft continued “the Rut Defence was put forward, although not always successfully, in a number of high profile cases of Alphas accused of murder, grievous bodily harm, or rape. In a nutshell it relies on the premise that an Alpha in rut is not compos mentis and as a result cannot be held accountable for their actions. In the case of Regina v Ambrose, the Regina in this case being Victoria, Ronald Ambrose was acquitted of the murder of an itinerant Alpha who broke into the residence where Mr and Mr Ambrose were spending their bondmoon. The smell of another Alpha so close to his Omega at this crucial time caused Ronald Ambrose to react with unbridled violence, it was said that the interloper was torn limb from limb.

“It is a somewhat archaic law although still on the statute books, it is still cited sporadically I believe in the former colonies. Twenty or so years ago an Alpha brought a successful action against the parents of her Omega, stating that the terms of the bonding contract she had entered into were untenable. The Omega apparently had formed an attachment to another Alpha, a younger sibling who had given up her claim. The bonding contract had insisted that the Omega be allowed to remain in contact with this Alpha, obviously in a platonic way, and her mate had agreed. However she later successfully argued that having bonded and bitten the Omega she was in fact in Rut at the time the contract was signed and therefore without legal capacity. The judge ruled in her favour, and declared the bonding contract null and void. Your in-laws would no doubt have heard of this as they were in Australia at the time” Mycroft paused and gave Sherlock and inscrutable look “Of course, in Britain and mainland Europe the bonding contract is usually signed on the evening before the bonding ceremony and therefore the Rut Defence would not apply although if I recall correctly yours was signed as is the Antipodean custom immediately after the bonding bite. I wouldn’t want to think of anyone talking about a rut defence in relation to you, little brother. I suggest you be careful, be very careful indeed”

Sherlock dismissed Mycroft’s scare-mongering. Some months had passed since the overheard conversation and nothing more had been said. He thought of his Victor with his slight paunch and the little bald spot at his crown that Sherlock found oddly endearing. He thought of his mate’s tolerance of Sherlock’s idiosyncrasies and his gentle love-making even in the midst of heat. He thought of the visits to Dr Graham (they were due to go again later this year) and how Victor had never protested or demanded his rights as an Alpha. He thought of Molly, and how her Alpha had treated her, and he knew he had been very lucky indeed and had no need to be afraid.

******

Victor was away again, this time on a trade delegation to Lisbon leaving Sherlock to continue to work on his heat suppressant experiments between texting Lestrade regarding the suicide cases (both were frustratingly elusive) when an urgent knocking even Sherlock couldn’t ignore brought him up from his cellar.

He swung the door open to find a short but sturdy Alpha on the step; something about his stance suggested military, something about his demeanour suggested medical and he was leaning heavily on a cane. His bland scent of a bonded Alpha was drowned in bitterness and grief, and something, someone, much younger. Sherlock was almost overwhelmed with the amount of data.

The Alpha looked straight at Sherlock with the bluest eyes that Sherlock had ever seen.

“Mr Holmes?” The man asked “You don’t know me but…”

Chapter Text

“Mr Holmes? You don’t know me but…”

Sherlock was spellbound, he’d been about to shout at whoever was at the door for disturbing his solitude and experiments so noisily instead he was transfixed, completely immobile apart from his eyes which flickered up and down, left to right as he absorbed the myriad deductions that flew at him from the Alpha on his doorstep…(ex-military…yes! Echo of military hair cut but longer than regulation length… but favours the style… discharged one… no… two years ago. Wounded on active service…how? Injury to leg…no! Cane…why? Bonded Alphas not allowed to serve in the Army…so when?)

Sherlock’s thoughts bounced against another wall in his mind palace... (No family to speak of…trauma surgeon but not anymore… still in medicine… General Practice now most likely…bonded after leaving the army…how come? Widowed…bonded to a much younger Omega… had to be… yet unlikely…no money, no position. Omega died suddenly… recently…childbirth? No! Terminal illness or tragic accident but why would that bring the Alpha to his door? No! What then…it had to be MURDER!)

“Mr Holmes, do you think I could come in?”

Sherlock opened his mouth with no idea what he was about to say…what came out was “Afghanistan or Iraq?”

The Alpha didn’t answer the question; instead he asked again “Mr Holmes, do you think we might take this conversation inside?”

Sherlock returned to earth, realising in quick succession that he had kept the Alpha on the doorstep for at least five minutes where anyone could see them; that he couldn’t remember if he had turned off the Bunsen burner in his lab downstairs and that he hadn’t reapplied his scent masker after his shower that morning. He spun on his heels and fled down the stairs to the basement laboratory looking for the quickest way to disguise his scent. He sprayed the atomiser around the room and into the air and was walking into it when a polite cough from behind him brought him to a halt. The Alpha had followed him down the stairs and was now watching Sherlock with a soft look of amusement.

“You don’t have to do that. I know”

“You know?”

“I know you are a bonded Omega, you don’t have to alter your scent for me”

Sherlock’s thought processes ground to a halt again and he blinked steadily for a minute or two.

“Afghanistan”

Sherlock came back online “I take it you are here regarding the death of your mate. How may I be of assistance Dr…?”

“Watson, John Watson. I suppose you can tell I’m widowed from my scent, although I hardly notice it now myself. Was it a lucky guess with my profession or did something give it away? A slight tang of antiseptic?”

Sherlock scowled, not sure if he was being teased.

“I never guess. I deduced it!” he announced proudly, drawing himself up to his full height and satisfactorily towering over the Alpha, something he’d not experienced before. He quite liked it.

The Alpha, Dr Watson as he now knew, smiled again and moved further into the room while still maintaining a respectful distance as an Alpha should with a bonded Omega.

“Mr Holmes, as you rightly surmise, my mate died recently. Two months ago she was killed in a drive by shooting. She had stopped by an all-night convenience store, on the way home from her book club. The friend who was hosting that night didn’t live far from us but not in a very good area. It turns out the shop was part of disputed turf between two gangs, the Horton Brothers and the King Crew. The police found CCTV footage from the night of the attack; it clearly shows one of the ringleaders of the Hortons, Romani emerging from the shop immediately behind her. The police concluded that he was the intended victim and Mary’s death was collateral damage, a tragic case of wrong place, wrong time. They brought some notable members of the King Crew in for questioning but no one has been arrested it seems everyone has an alibi. A number of weapons have been recovered none of which is the gun which was used to shoot Mary”

“You would like me to investigate the murder?”

“No, well not exactly. There’s something else, something I haven’t told the police” The Alpha paused and took a deep breath “it’s a long story, Mr Holmes, perhaps I could sit down?”

Sherlock immediately sprang to action, fluttering around the lab, moving papers and equipment from the couch, piling it untidily on the table to make a space for the Alpha then he pulled up a stool for himself and sat down too and waited for Dr Watson to continue.

“You probably realise that I am a little unusual to have been a bonded Alpha. I’ll admit that it is something I never expected to be”

The Alpha paused, swallowed audibly and then continued.

“I have no money or connections to recommend me. Until quite recently I was a career soldier, an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers. As I am sure you are aware, bonded Alphas are excluded from military service due to the risk to their Omegas should they be killed in action. I made up my mind that as I was never likely to bond then the army would be my family.

“When I first met my wife, I didn’t know how to place her, I assumed as an unmarried woman in her thirties she was a Beta, even though she didn’t smell like one. Certainly she did everything possible in her manner and conversation to confirm that impression, with me, with patients and the whole team at the surgery. I think I should add at the time we met I was not in a good place. I had been invalided out of the army and was struggling both physically and mentally. I took a job at a NHS surgery as very much a last resort and Mary, well Mary was the one good thing about the whole situation. She was the nurse practitioner, excellent at her job and had that dry, wry sense of humour that medics enjoy. We took to spending time together, she made me laugh and drew me out of myself, we were dating even before I realised it. Though… I often felt that I didn’t really know her… despite this, and despite the fact she was a Beta I began to wonder if a long term relationship between us would work.

Sherlock shifted on his stool, he’d no interest in love stories and courtship history, he’d already deduced a great deal about the mysterious nurse and wondered how he could persuade the Alpha to get to the point, though Sherlock suspected that he would not get far if he tried to railroad the dogged Dr Watson.

“While I was still mulling over the idea of formalising the relationship between us Mary changed, almost overnight she became anxious and distracted at work, this went on for a few weeks and then she went off sick. Of course I hadn’t known her very long but the other staff commented on it, that it was out of character. I was worried about her, naturally, but then she sent me a text, asking me to come round to her flat that evening. I went thinking she wanted a consultation but instead when I got there she just asked me straight out” he shook his head “I still, don’t quite believe it, but she asked me to bond with her”

Sherlock, jumped up off the stool. “What! How old was she?”

“She would have been thirty-four”

“Thirty-four…and not bonded…a widow? How did she survive?”

“I know it sounds unbelievable but if you let me continue, Mr Holmes, I’ll tell you what she told me”

Sherlock groaned inwardly at further delay but sat back down again.

“Mary was a very late presenting Omega; she didn’t reach maturity until she was almost nineteen at which point she had already started her nursing degree. Her presenting heat occurred when she was staying with a Beta friend who was already qualified. The friend helped her to cope and obtained a prescription for heat suppressants from her own GP so Mary managed to avoid declaring her status to the authorities and continue her studies until she finished her training. She was an orphan, which worked to her advantage in this situation as she had lived independently since leaving care and she had no relatives who might detect her status and try to use it to their advantage. As you know, heat suppressants lose their effectiveness with continuous use and Mary realised that, in her words, her days of freedom were numbered, she would have to give up nursing and find a mate. Then, again in her words, a miracle happened; she was approached by a rep from a pharmaceutical company who asked her if she was willing to take part in the trial stage of a new heat suppressant.

“Mary knew that it was risky and highly controversial but she told me that she felt she had nothing to lose. She went to the clinic as directed and after what was in her opinion a rather perfunctory medical was given six months’ supply of suppressants. They came in blister packets made to look like the common contraceptive pill, I guess. In return she kept a record of her physical health and any symptoms or side effects that she experienced. There were none. Mary told me that she fully expected that the effectiveness would diminish over time as is the case with heat suppressants but they never did, she was able to work, complete her further nursing studies and live exactly as she wished at least until around fifteen months ago when she went for her routine appointment at the clinic to find that it had closed down. And not just closed down, vanished without trace.

“Mary was no fool, she told me she knew that the clinic was almost certainly operating outside the law and under the government radar. It had moved address several times over the years and although she was told this was due to lack of funding, it was obvious to Mary that the work of the clinic was high dubious and despite its apparent success there had been no publicity about the trial or publication of its results. She tried everything she could think of, but the phone numbers were unobtainable and the contacts untraceable. She had no real idea what might happen once the suppressants left her system but she suspected she was about to go into heat for the first time in fourteen years. As you know, an Omega can go it alone but unbonded heats are a terrible ordeal and only get more difficult as the Omega gets older. Mary had no family to negotiate a bonding contract with a suitable Alpha, no-one to protect her; she knew she would be vulnerable to a non-consensual bonding with the first Alpha who found her. So she asked me to bond with her.

“I was amazed, surprised, delighted. We did the traditional thing, though perhaps our friends were surprised at the short engagement but still public wedding, private bonding; our child was conceived on our bond moon”

The Alpha leant his head back breathing deeply as if the memory of his happy bonding had renewed the pain and grief its breaking.

Sherlock had no time for this, he was up again, pacing the room and firing questions at the exhausted Alpha impervious to his distress.

“So you are telling me that your mate, Mary, took heat suppressants for fourteen years without interruption? And that when she stopped taking them she had suffered no ill effects? Or impairment to her reproductive capacity? And was able to go into heat normally and conceive a child?”

“Yes, that’s more or less, I did play a small part in the last bit”

“Do you know what this means?”

“Of course I do, I’m a doctor. That’s why I’m here”

Finally, thought Sherlock, finally the crux of the matter. Though in part he grieved too, not for the death of this unknown Omega, but that here, in his own city, an Omega had had access to the very thing that he had devoted years to trying to perfect. If only he had known about this earlier, he could have tried to replicate the formula, and what a difference to his own life it would have made. Then he realised that Dr Watson had started talking again.

“The night Mary died I was at home with the baby. It was the first time Mary had been out alone since the birth. I wasn’t worried, she’d promised to be home early. I knew…I knew the instant my mate died; the death of a mate isn’t as life threatening to an Alpha as it is to an Omega, my only symptom was a sudden breathlessness but I felt the bond break and the pain was excruciating. What happened next is something of a blur. I wanted only to get to Mary, I think I had got as far as the front door when some other instinct kicked in and I remembered I could not run out on a ten week old baby. I put together some things, nappies, milk, lovey, a couple of changes of clothes in a bag, you might be surprised Mr Holmes, just how much a baby needs just for a short trip, and took it all round to Mrs Whitney, our neighbour.

“This took much longer than I expected, and by the time I got out onto the street and started to look for a taxi, the police had arrived. They took me first to a police station and then to the mortuary where I identified my wife’s body. I couldn’t have told you how long I was out but apparently I got home about six the following morning. But then, when I got back from the hospital, I realised our flat had been searched, not obviously but very thoroughly if you know the signs, which I do.

Sherlock was immediately alert, everything Dr Watson had told him had piqued his interest but this, this took things to a new level.

“Mary knew about you, she followed your website closely. There’d be something in the papers that caught her eye, you weren’t named of course, but she’d show me and say I bet that’s one of Sherlock’s, or that’s got Sherlock’s fingerprints all over it. I wondered if I should be jealous but she told me not to be silly, you were a bonded Omega.”

“There’s something else” Sherlock was positively thrumming with excitement and impatience. “Something you’re not sure whether to tell me”

At this the Alpha seemed to relax “There is something else, I might have known I couldn’t keep it from you. I can’t quite remember how it happened but I think Mary said she went out one night, missed the last bus or something anyway she forgot to take her tablet. She panicked a bit, but it was fine, no heat, so that got her thinking and after that she decided to experiment, deliberately missing one or two tablets a month. Perhaps she always thought something like this would happen and it was best to have a safety net. It bought her a little time, not much; she had enough tablets for around five months, but time enough to bond with an Alpha of her choice”

Five months’ tablets, Sherlock wanted to smash things, what he would have given for the chance for just one of those tablets to analyse, his heart sank.

“After we bonded Mary took me more into her confidence. She had a USB drive she kept hidden which had all her notes and records of the clinical trials she’d been involved in on it, I think that was what they were looking for, whoever broke in. She used to say to me John if anything ever happens to me I want you to take this to Mr Sherlock Holmes.”

The Alpha was openly crying, tears rolling down his cheeks as the telling of this story had opened a floodgate of emotion he had kept bottled up for two months. Sherlock at a complete loss in the presence of the weeping Alpha did what his family always did at the sight of emotion. He went and made tea. He wanted to be sympathetic he really did but as he willed the kettle to boil his only thought was of total despair and frustration that once more the chance of discovering an effective heat suppressant had eluded him.

When he returned with the tea, the Alpha had calmed himself.

“Do you think your mate’s death was anything to do with the clinical trial?”

“I honestly don’t know, I didn’t think so. When I was with the police, answering questions it seemed just another random killing. Like I said, wrong place, wrong time. But then I got home… I am convinced someone had been in the flat. Mary kept the USB and the pills in a bureau with a secret drawer, the papers had been slightly disturbed, I would swear to it”

Sherlock perked up; perhaps all was not lost after all. “So you still have the USB?”

“Yes, I don’t know what made me do it, but before I went out I slipped them into the lining of my daughter’s Moses basket, they weren’t in the flat”

“Them? You said them?”

“The USB and the tablets, I’m sorry I didn’t say did I? When Mary stopped taking the suppressants just before we bonded she had about forty left. They are what she wanted you to have. That’s what she used to say to me, give them to Sherlock Holmes, bonded Omega, graduate chemist and consulting detective, the only one in the world.”

Sherlock could hardly contain himself, he wanted to turn the Alpha upside down and shake him until his pockets revealed their secrets, where were the tablets, surely he had them with him?

“I don’t have them with me”

Sherlock started, had he said that out loud?

“Apparently I have trust issues, despite Mary’s wishes I wasn’t going to trust you until I had met you. They’re well hidden"

"Is that safe?"

"I can look after myself, if you can. I will bring them to you tomorrow evening around seven, if you don’t have anything else on and you are willing to get involved”

“Nothing I wouldn’t drop in a heartbeat” Sherlock tried to be suitably grave but his glee was impossible to contain “I’ve been trying to get in on these murder suicides, you might have seen the coverage in the papers, but the police are idiots”

“Yes, there’s been three of them, hasn’t there?”

Just then they heard the front door of Montague Street slam shut, Sherlock and Dr Watson looked at each other with a questioning ‘didn’t we shut that’ look, as footsteps came clattering down the stairs and a breathless, silver haired policeman burst into Sherlock’s laboratory.

“There’s been a fourth” Sherlock answered the Alpha “And there’s something different this time”

“Where?” This was addressed to the detective, for all his fascination with Dr Watson’s story, his mind was now entirely given over to the suicides.

“Brixton, Lauriston Gardens”

“What’s new about this one? You wouldn’t have come to get me if there wasn’t something different”

“You know how they never leave notes? This one did. Will you come?”

“Not in a police car. I’ll be right behind”

The detective muttered his thanks and was gone.

Sherlock did a victory dance and sprinted up the stairs to get his coat before suddenly remembering the Alpha who once again was just behind him.

“You’re a doctor. In fact you’re an Army doctor”

“Yes”

“Any good?”

Very good”

“Seen a lot of injuries, then; violent deaths”

“Mm, yes”

“Bit of trouble too, I bet”

“Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much”

“Want to see some more?”

The expression on the Alpha’s face revealed just how tempted he was, but he shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry, Mr Holmes, I’m a retired ex-army doctor with a daughter who needs picking up from the child minder in the next half hour. You go, I’ll see you here tomorrow at seven”

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock spent the next twenty-four hours in manic activity. He followed the detective inspector to the building in Lauriston Gardens; he examined the body and pronounced the deceased a serial adulterer from Cardiff. He ran from the crime scene shouting something about pink, leaving a collection of infuriated police officers behind him. He spent a highly unpleasant hour searching through the skips, hoppers and wheelie bins of SW9 until he found a bright pink suitcase, he returned home, stopping only to purchase a pay as you go phone with twenty quids’ worth of credit. He used the burner phone to send a text to Jennifer Wilson, stopped off at an Italian restaurant owned by someone who owed him a favour (in fact several) and went on wild goose chase before accosting a bemused American tourist in a black cab. He landed back at Montague Street, trying to act as if he hadn’t forgotten all about the appointment until fifteen minutes earlier, seconds after the Alpha from the day before arrived at his door.

“Ah, good, you’re here”

“Mr Holmes” the Alpha greeted him formally, moving his cane into his left hand before holding out his right.

“Sherlock, please” the Omega ignored the proffered hand as he put his key to the front door, almost falling flat on his face as it swung open beneath his touch “I must learn to close this door”

He was aware that beside him the Alpha had stiffened, shoulders back, the soldier in him on high alert.

Cautiously Sherlock pushed the door fully open, only to be greeted by the sight of Detective Inspector Lestrade, looking quite at home sat in the hall chair while through the open door to the kitchen behind him Sherlock could see a swarm of officers rifling through the cupboards and from the noises below he could tell there were others in his laboratory.

“What are you doing?”

“Well, I knew you’d find the case. I’m not stupid”

“You can’t just break into my house”

“You can’t withhold evidence. And I didn’t break in, I’ve got a warrant…this” the policeman paused for effect. “Is a drugs bust”

The Omega was outraged “Seriously?! Is that the best you can do? You could search this flat all day, you wouldn’t find anything you could call…”

He broke off, distracted by Dr Watson gently tugging on his sleeve.

“Mr Holmes… Sherlock” The Alpha’s voice was low, barely above a whisper, but no less intense “you probably want to shut up now”

Sherlock spun round; ready to turn on his companion but then stopped abruptly as he recalled that this was a man who had also had his property thoroughly searched for no apparent reason. He swung back to the police officer.

“This is childish”

“I had a reliable tip off that you’re synthesising a controlled substance in your own lab. I’m not sure I believe them but I had to check it out…and anything else you might be hiding…like a suitcase for example”

“What, so-so-so you set up a pretend drugs bust to bully me?”

“I know you’re hiding something, I suspect it’s not the kind of banned substance that we were led to believe, but work with me on this one and I’ll get the sniffer dogs to stand down”

Sherlock had no choice but to agree when Anderson appeared with the suitcase taken from its not particularly effective hiding place.

There followed yet more frenzied activity that Dr Watson found hard to keep up with. The Omega’s e-book was fetched from his laboratory and the Alpha was pressed into service, reading the label on the pink lady’s suitcase and explaining the significance of a neonatal death to the mother. All the while he was being dazzled by the workings of the Omega’s mind as Sherlock fired off random deductions and insults in equal measure leaving the baffled police half in awe and half in outrage. He managed to understand that that the deceased had a smart phone and if it was possible to trace the phone then they would likely find the killer but like most new technology he found it difficult to fully comprehend.

But then another of Lestrade’s cohort appeared at the door and asked in an offhand way “Did anyone order a taxi?” and in the blink of an eye the Omega was gone.

The police officers milled around aimlessly now the focus of their investigations had vanished before they too melted away. The Detective Inspector paused briefly to acknowledge the disappearance to John, and then he took his leave.

The Alpha, whose computer expertise was limited to two fingered typing of patients’ records and googling the football results was left alone in the house watching the red dot moving on the map on the e-book screen. Despite having only met the man twice he felt now so attuned to the Omega he knew instinctively that Sherlock was at risk. With the instincts that kept him alive on the battlefield and the injured alive in the medical tent, he grabbed the computer was out of the house and hailing a cab before his thoughts caught up with his actions. By some miracle a black cab drew almost immediately and then John was on his way; following the dot on the screen and barking out directions to the driver while at the same trying to reach DI Lestrade on his phone.

The rest is history; he cased the building as if he was once more back on manoeuvres, until he spied his quarry on the other side of the quadrangle though clearly through two windows. The shabbily dressed little man with his flat cap and sinister smile and the Omega, the one that Mary admired, and trusted her Alpha to pass her secrets to, poised to do something, take something and he knew he had to stop it…he raised his illegal weapon, bending his arm slightly to ensure the correct trajectory…and fired.

******

 

John had hung around in the shadows long enough to observe the Omega’s interaction with both the Detective Inspector and the ambulance services. Just as he had decided to head off into the night he was button holed by an expensively dressed man who he assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, to be Sherlock’s Alpha. Sherlock came bowling over to them and after a short verbal spat which revealed an epic sibling rivalry to put that of Cain and Abel in the shade, the mysterious Alpha stuck his nose in the air and left taking his glamorous Beta assistant with him.

The Omega complimented him on his shot, indicating that as ever he had missed nothing about the doctor’s involvement in the night’s events, and then smiled at John and said.

“Dinner?”

John’s mind race through up to a hundred reasons he shouldn’t say yes, not least that Sherlock was a bonded Omega, but this rare night his daughter was with his sister-in-law, and he had just killed a man, he needed time to process that and rid his scent of the evidence, so he smiled back and replied.

“Starving”.

Sherlock took his new friend to an excellent Chinese restaurant, far enough from the scene of the crime for the police to leave them alone. The Omega appeared to know the proprietors quite well and the food and the service was superb. They were shown into a booth at the back, giving them the required privacy to discuss the cabbie and John’s own ‘case’. Later, under the guise of sharing a fortune cookie, John slipped Sherlock the small package containing the pills and a memory stick that was clearly marked with the letters A.G.R.A.

“Agra?” Sherlock mouthed.

“Place in India” John shrugged “no idea”

They finished their meal in companionable silence, it was getting late. The Alpha had work the next morning and even Sherlock was in the early stages of a post-case crash. They paid the bill and left the restaurant. Parting company on the door step they shook hands and John walked off in the direction of the Tube station while Sherlock flagged down the first unoccupied taxi to begin the first leg of several detours he had planned.

Arriving home much later Sherlock found his house had been secured, no doubt his brother’s work, and one of Mycroft’s minions waiting for him with the keys. Sherlock waved him off and went inside and there leaning just inside the doorway was the Alpha’s aluminium cane. Sherlock thought he might keep it as a memento.

 

******

 

The next few weeks passed uneventfully apart from persistent interference from the Trevors. Mr Trevor was obviously worried about something and when Victor was home he was often to be found secluded in the office with his father. It occurred to Sherlock that he might bug the room but he could not summon up the required enthusiasm and then he was distracted by a case brought to him by none other than the obnoxious Alpha of his university days, Sebastian Wilkes. A case that nearly ended badly for Sherlock and one that made him regret the absence of a short ex-military Alpha who was handy with a gun.

Victor’s mother was also much in evidence as she had taken it upon herself to refurbish the house in Montague Street. As Sherlock, at his own admission, was not a natural homemaker and he was conscious that Victor spent a lot of time in impersonal hotel rooms he acquiesced to this scheme, then immediately regretted it when for the next nine weeks a barrage of architects and draftsmen, then carpenters, plumbers and electricians followed by painters and decorators tramped through the house disturbing his peace and eating his biscuits.

As a result, Sherlock kept himself busy in his lab, the only room the builders and Mrs Trevor were barred from and therefore his only place of refuge. He had begun to analyse the tablets given to him by Dr Watson, with a modicum of success and was engaged in securing a supply of the compounds he had detected, not as straightforward a process as he would have liked and one that involved him engaging the services of various nefarious characters he had encountered in the course of his criminal investigations.

After an interminable time, the building work was pronounced complete and Mrs Trevor gave a reluctant Sherlock the guided tour. The ground floor had a tastefully appointed dining and drawing room, the first floor had two identical master bedrooms complete with en suites and a purpose built ‘heat room’ with every imaginable facility and wipe down surfaces. The second floor held the guest bedrooms and bathrooms but it was with a great flourish she led Sherlock to the third floor which had been reordered into a bedsitting room complete with kitchenette and shower room.

“The nanny’s flat” she announced with pride.

“Granny flat??” Sherlock tried to imagine under what circumstances Mrs Trevor’s mother or, God forbid, Grandma Vernet, would take up residence in his attics.

“No dear, a Nanny flat, much easier to attract a good nanny if there’s accommodation available”

Sherlock stared at his mother in law, she had obviously gone mad, unless… “Good idea, I suppose if we ever come to sell”

He promptly deleted the entire conversation and with his synthesis of the heat suppressant temporally stalled he turned his attention to the data stick. The documents Mary had created were in cypher but not encrypted and presented only a minor challenge to Sherlock’s code cracking skills. She had kept a detailed record of her appointments, consultations and medication, the addresses of the clinics she had attended. It was by and large dry stuff and Sherlock gained very little from it. He noted that Mary had occasionally encountered other Omegas involved in the drug trials when visiting the clinic and had recorded these encounters in a kind of journal. The consultants it appeared had tried to remain anonymous (surely they couldn’t all be called Smith) but she had done her best to describe them in as much detail as possible and Sherlock found this intriguing but inconclusive.

*****

Sherlock pottered around his laboratory making some but not extensive progress, and during this time he and Victor were called to Dr Graham’s clinic for their regular appointment. Sherlock was not at all happy to enter the consulting rooms and find, instead of the androcologist who had treated him since his adolescence, a younger man in the doctor’s place.

“My father retired six months ago and I’ve taken over his practice. I’m sorry you weren’t informed I’m afraid his records were in a shocking state. I’m Richard Graham otherwise known as Dr Richard or Young Dr Graham by some of dad’s older patients though I’m closer to fifty than forty”

The man was full of overfamiliarity and cheesy bonhomie which grated on Sherlock’s nerves.

“I think as this is the first time I’ve seen you I’d better give you a full MOT”

Sherlock bristled at the reference to motor vehicles but he submitted to the examination.

The doctor took Sherlock’s pulse and blood pressure and listened to his heart and lungs. Sherlock immediately resolved to give up smoking but the doctor didn’t pass comment. His height was measured and then the doctor said.

“Shoes off and pop on the scales for me”

Sherlock did as he was told and heard the doctor make a disapproving sound as he looked at the scales “Rather underweight for you height, sure you’re eating enough?

“I’ve always been slender” Sherlock replied, annoyed at having to justify himself to the odious man.

“Well watch your weight; you don’t want to get too thin. I know what you Omegas are like, always worried about losing your figure”

Sherlock bristled again and made a mental note to seek out another doctor as soon as possible. With a fair amount of unsolicited advice about the long term effects of contraception and the percentage decline in an Omega’s fertility once they were over 30, which Sherlock deleted immediately, he succeed in leaving the clinic with a fresh implant in place. Victor was also highly eloquent in expressing his dislike of the new doctor and was rewarded by Sherlock with a kiss and dinner at Angelo’s.

******

Between cases Sherlock found time to continued his work on Mary’s memory stick, and finally after a couple of weeks had something of a breakthrough. He came across a mention of a Mr Fairdale Hobbs, a name he thought he recognised, a name so unique that it was unlikely to occur twice in the same city. An internet search revealed that Fairdale Hobbs was a twenty-eight year old Beta male who had committed suicide by hanging about twelve months previously. There had been some question of suspicious circumstances but the police had no conclusive proof and the case had been dropped, however from Mary’s journal it was clear the Hobbs had been another Omega concealing his secondary gender through the same unregistered clinic as herself. On a hunch, Sherlock googled all the names he had deciphered and found records of two more possible matches with individuals who had died unexpectedly in the last year. A third match appeared not in the death columns but in the bonding announcements of a regional paper, Sherlock deduced everything from the age of the Omega – thirty-eight. But at this point his investigations were put on hold, as Victor returned from his most recent overseas assignment in time for Sherlock’s heat.

As a bonded Omega of twelve years standing, Sherlock no longer experienced anxiety around the sexual side of bonded life. He regarded the need to share his heats with his bondmate in the same light as he regarded the need to eat and sleep – an inconvenient distraction from The Work but an unavoidable necessity to ensure his transport’s continued functionality. He was conscious that fate had dealt him a favourable hand in an Alpha who was accommodating of Sherlock’s requirements and not one to make unreasonable demands in return. Sherlock knew he could have fared a lot worse in the matrimonial stakes (he still remembered the fate of Molly Hooper) and assumed that he had had the good fortune to mate with the one Alpha in existence with an indifferent sex drive.

Therefore he was utterly blindsided when Victor became an entirely different Alpha during their mating, rough and aggressive, taking pleasure without giving it and leaving Sherlock bruised, sore and somewhat bewildered. This confusion did not lessen when Victor failed to return to work after the heat but hung around the Montague Street house, being alternately angry and solicitous, ignoring his mate in hostile silences but then invading his personal space, bringing him hot chocolate instead his usual coffee, enquiring after his health, then ignoring him again, holed up in the study with his parents while Sherlock, needing time to heal, slept in his laboratory and tried to stay out of his way.

Finally, as the fifth day of Victor creeping up behind him to sniff behind his ears and the back of his neck drew to a close, Sherlock pulled himself together and turned on his Alpha.

“You’re sniffing my scent glands as if you expect something to have changed; I haven’t been out of this house so it isn’t anything to do with the external environment... I’m not using different shampoo or deodorant … we haven’t changed the laundry so there’s no reason for an alteration in perfume… and neither have I amended my dietary intake, if you exclude the hot chocolate… I’m not ill…I’m not on medication so what is it? What is it you are expecting to smell? What might have caused my scent to change four days after a heat?”

Sherlock’s eyes widened in shock and accusation as he deduced the answer to his own questions “Pregnant! You think I should be pregnant.”

Instinctively Sherlock’s hand went to his arm and the implant concealed within it.

“The doctor… the new one…that must have been it… should have guessed he was an Alpha supremacist from the way he parted his hair…doesn’t agree with birth control for Omegas…thinks they should be permanently in pup like the old days...what did you do? Offer him money to fit a defective implant…couldn’t be proved of course…no contraceptive is a hundred per cent reliable… but you expected it to fail and that’s what has given you away”

Sherlock watched as his Alpha crumpled before him, shaking and crying Victor spluttered.

“Th.th...They made me do it. Mummy always said…said I should…never have agreed to the contract… wanted, she wanted to use the rut defence… said I could claim not to be… not to have been in my right mind… no Alpha in their right mind would have agreed not to breed. But I said no… I refused, Sherlock… I refused… I said I loved you and I was lucky to have you…”

“But what then, what changed?”

“It’s father… it’s all going to come out, where he got his money from…how he made his fortune… there’s going to be an enormous scandal and we… he’ll be ruined. He said that your family will get the bond annulled… that they would make us separate… but if there was a baby then they would get Mycroft to hush everything up… for the sake of the grandchild…”

The alpha continued, not realising that with every word he was condemning himself in his bondmate’s eyes

“They’ve been on and on at me for months… every time they visited… and then Dr Graham retired and everything fell into place. Father knew Richard Graham thought his dad was soft on Omegas; it didn’t take anything to persuade him to refit an old implant instead of a new one”

Sherlock looked at Victor and suddenly the words of an old poem that had somehow escaped deletion came back to him ‘this is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper’.

“If you had talked to me, told me what was going on, Mycroft would have ensured there was no scandal. But you didn’t because in the end you’re an Alpha and you’ve put your own desires first…and you have destroyed everything there was between us”

“Don’t say that” Victor was begging now “we can still be together… it needn’t change anything… the baby… you can still be yourself”

“You don’t get it do you Victor?” Sherlock was coldly furious but his voice betrayed nothing “the only reason we bonded in the first place was my refusal to breed. We had an agreement, you have violated it, you have violated me. As far as I am concerned our bond is over”

Victor lurched forward, grabbing hold of Sherlock by the arm. Sherlock tried to shake him off.

“Let go of me”

“Never, you’re my mate…we’re bonded… you can’t throw that away”

“Watch me”

“Sherlock, please… I beg you… don’t leave me”

For Sherlock listening to his Alpha grovelling was almost as repugnant as his betrayal, and all he could think of was to get away from it. He wrenched his arm free from Victor’s grasp and was up the stairs, out of the door and into the night before Victor could register what his mate was doing.

It wasn’t until he was halfway across the park that Sherlock realised he had left the house without his coat, his phone or his wallet. His instinct was to hail a cab but without money the only place he could go was Mycroft’s and he had no wish to be exposed to his brother’s satisfied ‘I told you so’s’.

He continued running, careering past the occasional late night walker, through the park and out the other side until he reach the Edwardian facade of Russell Square tube station, it was nearly midnight, and for London eerily quiet. As an omega Sherlock had never used public transport and had only scant knowledge of how it worked, but he knew he needed to get away from Victor, he could sense his Alpha was not far behind him, and where better to lose someone than London’s extensive underground network. The fact he had no money was no deterrent, the normal barriers were too high but in an adrenaline fuelled leap he cleared the disabled gate and began to descend the staircase – and in his panic missed the sign that warned passengers of the 175 steps to the platform.

The descent seemed endless. Sherlock, usually fit and full of restless energy, had not accounted for the after effects of the recent mating on his physical ability and stamina. Halfway down he was in agony and had to stop to catch his breath. The delay costs him dearly; he reached the bottom only to discover that Victor, having taken the lift, was waiting for him, throwing his arms around Sherlock as he emerged from the stairwell.

At this time of night the station was practically deserted and only a handful of bystanders were there to witness the two men struggling together. In typical British fashion a few chose to look away, not wanting to get involved in something that might turn nasty, while another one or two recognised the protagonists for what they were and were reluctant to come between an Alpha and their mate. One surreptitiously got out his phone and started filming while his friend more sensibly called the police.

But a couple of others decide it was right to intervene and pulled the wrestling Alpha and Omega apart. Once he was free Sherlock stood to one side and addressed his mate.

“It’s over Victor; it was over the moment you chose your family over our bond”

“I won’t let you go”

“It’s not up to you anymore. You've broken the terms of our contract, I'm within my rights to leave you”

“I can’t live without you”

“You don’t have any choice”

“Oh yes, I do Sherlock, oh yes I do, and your life depends on mine” and in that instant Victor broke free from the man who was holding him and hurled himself onto the tracks just as the midnight train to Oakwood rattled into the station.

******

It was all noise and chaos. The screech of the braking train, the screams of the man on the rails, the shouts of those watching in disbelief as a man died before their eyes that the falling of another man to the ground writhing in agony was almost overlooked.

Sherlock’s Alpha was dying, the pain was beyond excruciating as Victor’s body was crushed beneath the wheels, and every blow echoed in his Omega’s body. Sherlock did not breathe; his body in shock and his heart still. His Alpha was dead; the bond violently torn apart, and Sherlock lifeless on the ground.

Chapter Text

Everyone agreed that Sherlock had been lucky, very lucky indeed.

That his collapse had been witnessed by a trauma nurse who, averting her eyes from the horror on the tracks had seen Sherlock fall to the ground.

That her date for the night was a fourth year medical student with a keen interest in cardiology.

That between them they were able to detect the faintest of heart beats and perform CPR.

That the station not only had a defibrillator but that someone knew how to use it.

That when the police arrived to break up a fight they were able to radio for an ambulance.

That UCH, the closest hospital had an Accident and Emergency Department, and more importantly a specialist neurological centre.  

Very few Omegas survived the traumatic death of their Alpha, and those who did often did so with permanent physical and mental impairment. Even with these events conspiring to keep him alive, Sherlock’s prognosis was exceedingly poor. He was taken to intensive care and placed on life support – the next few hours would be critical.

 

******

It was several hours before the body of the deceased man was recovered from the tracks and almost twenty four hours before the police had a provisional identification. As soon as the SOC officers entered the name Victor Trevor into their records Mycroft Holmes’ assistant received a notification. Anything to do with Mycroft or his immediate family had an automatic ultra-alert.

Mycroft’s first reaction on hearing the news of his brother in law’s passing was to assume that his brother was also dead. Although it was not completely impossible he knew that the likelihood that Sherlock had survived the violent death of his bondmate was several thousand to one. Unwilling to go himself he dispatched two of his most trusted operatives to the house at Montague Street, when they reported it unoccupied he issued instructions for a wider search of his brother’s usual haunts. Much later Mycroft cursed himself for wasting precious time when on reading the report himself he noted a two line reference to the effect that an unidentified white male aged around thirty had been taken from the scene to University College Hospital condition unknown. He call for a car and gave direction for the driver to take him directly to the hospital, barely allowing for the faintest glimmer of hope when the receptionist directed him not to the mortuary but to the Intensive Care Unit.

Seeing his brother unconscious, intubated and hooked up to various drips, drains and monitors Mycroft came closer to feeling remorse than he had at any other time in his life. Naturally, he had been fully cognisant of the dire straits that his brother’s in-laws had found themselves and had been waiting patiently for Victor, via Sherlock to appeal to him for help. Help which he had intended to magnanimously bestow in return for his brother’s undying gratitude and future favours. Instead he had over played the waiting game and it had cost Victor his life and had brought Sherlock perilously close to death. Even now, as he made arrangements for his parents to cut short their line dancing holiday he feared he would be required to greet them with the worse possible news.

******

On their return Mr and Mrs Holmes took up vigil at the bedside of their desperately ill son, taking turns to doze fitfully in the chair while the other kept watch for any signs of improvement. While Mummy railed against the world and spent hours researching cures and explanations, Father sank into a deep melancholy that cut all who witnessed it to the quick. Mycroft, when he could escape from his duties in Whitehall, also took his turn in watching his brother, ostensibly to allow his parents some respite and a chance to go home, change and sleep in a bed for a while, he would use the time to speak calmly but authoritatively to his brother as if by the sheer force of his will he could make him wake up.

Sherlock had been placed under the care of Dr Michael Stamford, an expert in Omega health, who alongside lecturing at Bart’s, still consulted on unusual or difficult medical cases. Early on Dr Stamford had spelt out the severity of Sherlock’s condition to the Holmes in blunt but not unkind terms; this was not the time to mince words.

“An Omega whose mate dies in old age or after the bond had been weakened by a long period of illness is better able to survive the severing of the bond through death. But Victor Trevor died violently and before his time, the bond was strong, and it is calling your brother to follow it”

******

It was entirely due to Dr Stamford’s expertise that Sherlock remained alive, although unconscious, through those first crucial days. However as the days became weeks, it appeared Sherlock might never regain consciousness. His overall condition had not deteriorated but every slight improvement was met by an adverse reaction. Six weeks after Sherlock’s incapacitation, Dr Stamford called the Holmes to a case conference; it was early as Mycroft had business to attend to, so Anthea was with him, although she kept her distance as Dr Stamford discussed a possible course of action.

“I would like to contact Professor Llobet. Before he retired he was of the Institut Guttmann in Barcelona and is considered the leading specialist in Europe on crisis in bereaved Omegas. Unfortunately he no longer travels and it would be out of the question to take Sherlock to him. However I would like, with your permission, to seek his opinion over the phone, once I have arranged an interpreter”

Mycroft’s reaction was predictable.

“Dr Stamford, if this Professor Llobet is the expert you say he is there is no question that he will see my brother, and will see him as soon as it can practically be arranged”

Mycroft glanced at his watch it was just after nine a.m., he raised an eyebrow to his assistant who quickly left the room.

“Professor Llobet will be here at noon. I suggest we reconvene then”

Leaving Dr Stamford open mouthed, Mycroft followed Anthea from the room.

******

Salvador Llobet was unimpressed to be whisked from the golf course where he had intended to spend the day to be brought first by private plane and then helicopter into the heart of London. He had, however, dealt with enough imperious Alphas in the course of his career that Mycroft Holmes, when they met, held no terror for him. He knew the type, arrogant and used to getting his own way, though the Professor was slightly mollified when Mycroft addressed him in fluent Catalan.

Although retired, he was at heart still a doctor whose nature was above all to care and, wherever possible, cure, and these instincts took over the moment he was brought to Sherlock. So he carried out a thorough assessment of the unconscious Omega. He read the detailed reports of the incident that had caused Sherlock to fail. He perused the patient notes, the charts and records of treatment; he checked his vital signs, with increasing pessimism; although stable, there had been no significant improvement in the Omega’s condition since he had been brought into A & E that fatal night six weeks earlier.

He turned to the Alpha again; observing the shadows under Mycroft’s eyes that denoted the sleepless nights and the constant migraines of the past month and a half, beneath the haughty exterior was a brother who cared deeply. Finishing his consultation he gathered the Holmes family and Dr Stamford into a private office. When he spoke he did so in cautious English, he wanted no misunderstandings, he had already concluded there was only one possible course of treatment, and that was not without risk.

“There is no doubt Mr Holmes that your brother is dying; the longer he is in a coma the less likelihood there is of him ever regaining consciousness. Even if his body functions without the life support he will remain in a persistent vegetative state”

Mummy gave a little cry, Father and Mycroft matched each other in grimness of expression. Mike stood slightly to one side, he had witnessed such scenes many times over the course of his career, they never became any easier.

Professor Llobet allowed his words to sink in before continuing “There is one possible course of action but it is a radical intervention and I would not suggest it if there was any alternative”

Mycroft spoke first “Name it”

“That a new Alpha be brought in to bond with the Omega; cover the bonding mark with one of his own and obliterate the remnant of the former Alpha that is poisoning his system and causing it to shut down”

The idea was so unheard of that initially the Holmes were stunned in to silence. Finally Mummy, shakily but with an undeniable strain of hope in her voice said “A new Alpha?

The Professor nodded, pleased that his proposal had not caused too great an outrage. His pleasure premature as Mycroft leapt to his feet.

“Professor, let me clarify this. You are suggesting, that my brother, in his fragile and depleted state enter into a bond with the first Alpha available”

“Not the first, no, but certainly one of the first”

Ever since the disaster Mycroft had felt something he refused to name as guilt regarding his brother’s plight. It had made him angry and for the past six weeks he had been looking for something or someone to focus his anger on, at last he had found it.

“This has to be the most preposterous… obscene… suggestion that I have ever heard. That you, a renowned medical practitioner…”

But Professor Llobet had not flown over seven hundred miles against his will to be insulted. He swiftly interrupted Mycroft.

“Mr Holmes! Be assured if I was able to cure your brother with a steroid injection or a course of antibiotics we would not be having this conversation, but there is no pharmacological treatment. He could remain in a coma for a month, a year or a decade but in the end you will reach the point where his life support is turned off.

“Imagine if you will that a bonded pair are in a not dissimilar situation to conjoined twins that share a vital organ. One of the twins dies, and the vital organ dies with him, the only hope for the remaining twin to survive is a replacement organ should a suitable donor be found. Likewise the only hope for your brother is that a suitable replacement Alpha be found.”

The Spaniard had the satisfaction of silencing the Holmes for the second time in the space of a few minutes. It was Mummy who spoke first this time.

“Professor Llobet, we appreciate your counsel, but if you had any idea of what we went through to get an Alpha to bond with him in the first place…”

“But it would be simpler now” Mycroft thought out loud “there’s not the difficulty of the bonding contract”

“No!” Father said quite sharply “We must assume that his wishes would be unchanged”

“Then the idea is moot” Mycroft said “As who on earth would want to bond with him”

Seeing that the family were beginning to come round to his suggestion Professor Llobet thought it wise to leave them to their deliberations. Dr Stamford too excused himself, he needed air, a strong dose of caffeine and a chance to catch up with the crossword before he could face what he suspected would be a difficult afternoon.

******

Russell Square Gardens was conveniently close to UCH, it was pleasantly warm and taking his paper Mike made his way to his favourite bench.

It took Mike a few seconds to acknowledge that the short, military looking man with a walking stick that had just passed him was known to him, and a few seconds more to come up with a name.

“John! John Watson!”

The man paused, turned back and looked straight at him. Mike got up and hurried towards his old friend, not wanting him to disappear.

“Stamford. Mike Stamford. We were at Bart’s together” He said holding out his hand.

The man shook it. “Yes, sorry, yes, Mike. Hello, hi”

Mike grinned, suddenly aware that the passing years had taken their toll on his waistline.

“Yeah, I know. I got fat!”

“No” John heard the lack of conviction in his voice.

“I heard you were abroad somewhere, getting shot at. What happened?”

“I got shot”.

Mike felt himself colour a little. Had John Watson always been such hard work? He was sure he would have remembered it if he had. He changed tack.

“And someone mentioned you bonded. How’s that going?”

It was on the tip of John’s tongue but he didn’t say it. Instead he calmly informed Mike that his mate had died suddenly, eight months before. Mike was immediately solicitous.

“Look have you got time for a coffee?”

John thought to himself ‘why not?’ it wasn’t exactly as if he had anything planned and he had plenty of time before he was due at the child-minder’s. They got coffees from the little kiosk at the edge of the park and went back to sitting on Mike’s bench.

They caught up a little, their worlds had diverged so greatly since their student days that they struggled to find anything in common. Though Mike’s specialism in Omega health did spark John’s interest, which lead Mike to be brave enough to ask.

“Do you think you might, I mean would you ever consider bonding again?”

John laughed bitterly.

“You should know just how unusual it was that an Alpha like me found a mate in the first place. What Omega is ever going to bond with me?”

Mike couldn’t help but chuckle to himself.

“What?”

“Well, you’re the second person to say that to me today. More or less”

John was intrigued “Who was the first?”

*****

John argued to himself that he accompanied Mike back to UCH for purely professional reasons. He was in general practice; it was his duty to keep abreast of advances in the clinical care of Omegas.

Mr and Mrs Holmes had returned to Sherlock’s bedside, but when Mike tried to introduce them to John he found his friend staring intently at the patient. John was shocked to see the Omega whose intelligence and vitality had sparkled and crackled like electricity when they had met a few months earlier lying motionless in the bed, a mass of tubes and machines monitoring his every function and measuring the life in him. Even without examining them closely Dr Watson could see that it was not good.

“What is it?” Mike asked, disconcerted by the expression on John’s face.

“I know this Omega. This is Sherlock Holmes; I consulted him a few months ago regarding a personal matter. He was well, bonded, and happy. What happened?”

“His Alpha committed suicide, six weeks ago, he’s been in a coma ever since”

John grimaced, he knew without asking what the Alpha’s death had done to his mate.

“But he’s still with us?”

“Yes, just about, stable but no signs of improvement. Salvador Llobet examined him earlier and suggested a controversial treatment, but the family are undecided”

“What Professor Llobet has suggested” Unnoticed by either Mike or John, Mycroft and the professor had entered the room and were stood behind them. “Is that the family engage an Alpha to mate with my brother in the hope that a new bond will counteract the injurious effect of the severing of his old one. I assume that is where you come in”

“What?” John spun round and came face to face with the Alpha he remembered from the night of the cabbie’s death. “You assume what?”

“That you are here as a suitable mate for my brother”

“You are joking”

“Not in the slightest. My parents, Professor Llobet and I were discussing with Dr Stamford how difficult it would be to find a suitable Alpha to mate with my brother. Now here he is just after lunch with an old friend, clearly a widowed Alpha. It is not that difficult a leap”

“You don’t know a thing about me and I know hardly anything about your brother yet you are suggesting I enter into a bond with him.”

“But in fact I know quite a lot about you don’t I Dr Watson? I know that within twenty four hours of meeting you were sufficiently energised by my brother’s company that you had abandoned your walking stick to run after him when he was in peril. I know also that your admiration for my brother was so apparent from the first instance that if he hadn’t been already bonded I might have expected a happy announcement within a week. I think we can safely say that, for all your protests, the match would not be an anathema to you”

“I’m a doctor, what you are suggesting is completely unethical”

“What about your oath, Dr Watson… First do no harm?”

“This is hardly a situation that Hippocrates could have envisaged”

“That might be said of any number of modern medical advances”

“Surely this is academic, that Omega can’t be strong enough to endure a bonding heat?”

Here Professor Llobet intervened “It is unlikely that the patient would have the physical capacity to go into heat. We would of course monitor his reactions. A mild suppressant should be sufficient to prevent any adverse symptoms. The Alpha though would have to be secured to prevent any danger to themselves or others”

The room was silent as the implications of this comment sunk in.

“Your brother isn’t capable of consent, he can’t agree to bond”

“My brother is a widowed Omega, a thing which is such a rarity that this situation has very little in the way of precedent. He is once more under the protection and authority of his family. My parents and I must act in his best interest… Dr Watson, you are man of strong moral principle, with nerves of steel, who my brother knows and likes. I suspect you have already saved my brother’s life once, having done so would you decline the opportunity to do so again?”

John looked at his watch, was it really only ninety minutes since he had walked through the park? “I need space to think”

“Of course” Mrs Holmes stood up “Perhaps we could leave you here with Sherlock, come along” This was directed to the men “I’m sure we could all do with a coffee”

Leading her husband and son, she left the room, Professor Llobet followed behind. Mike was the last to leave. Giving John’s arm a quick squeeze he said, apologetically “Yes, they’re always like that” then he too was gone.

******

Left alone, John spent a while staring out of the window before pulling up the chair recently vacated by Mrs Holmes and sitting next to the unconscious Omega. His thoughts turned to Mary, if roles had been reversed and it had been he that had died in the drive by shooting would he have wanted another Alpha to claim her, if it had resulted in her life being saved? The answer was ‘yes’. Not an unequivocal yes, he wasn’t ready to think of Mary with anyone else, but he hated the thought of her light extinguished when it might have been prevented.

He thought then of the night of the serial killer cabbie, how he had known instinctively that Sherlock was in danger. The argument was a strong one; having killed without compunction to save the Omega’s life once it seemed absurd to refuse to act to save him a second time.

He took hold of Sherlock’s hand, pale and cool, and began to talk to him. Conventional wisdom confirmed that coma patients could hear what was said to them.

“Well Sherlock, would you be happy to bond with me, if it saved your life? Or would you resent and distrust me? Could it even work?”

Beneath the paper thin lids the Omega’s eyes were moving rapidly.

“Can you hear me? It seems like you are responding, if only I could know if it is in fear or encouragement. I promise you Sherlock, if we bond, if you recover I will never force you to be my mate”

From the corner of his eye John thought he caught a glimpse of Mary, leaning against the far wall, a tear rolling down her face as she looked at the dying Omega. It was enough to make up his mind. He got up and swung open the door to where the Holmes, Llobet and Stamford were waiting in the corridor.

“Ok, let’s do this”

While it was clear to John that Sherlock’s brother was something of a Machiavellian style fixer, he had not grasped the full extent of his powers until the family and the two medical professionals gathered once more in the private consulting room where they had met earlier.

Mummy and Father were so thrown by the situation which demonstrated such blatant disregard for tradition that they were relieved to leave the negotiations to their elder son. Having persuaded the Holmes family that this was the only possible course of action Professor Llobet now set about persuading all the parties that time was of the essence.

John protested “It’s hardly something that I can do right away, I have to take leave of absence from my work”

“That has been arranged” Mycroft spluttered “I mean… that can be arranged”

John gave Mycroft a knowing look “I’ll make my own arrangements, thank you very much. Also I have a ten month old daughter, I have to find someone to look after her while I am…indisposed”

In unison the two Holmes Alphas spoke together.

“Nanny”

“Martha”

Mrs Holmes explained.

“Mycroft and Sherlock’s old nanny, she left us when she married and moved to Florida, the marriage ended unhappily and she returned to London a few years ago. She lives in Baker Street, I’m sure she would look after your little girl for you. She’d do anything to help Sherlock; he was always her darling”

“You seem to have an answer for everything”

As that was indisputable nobody spoke.

“Give me twenty-four hours and I will be back here at three tomorrow afternoon”

Mycroft nodded “I’ll send a car for you and arrange for Mrs Hudson to collect the child from your apartment in the morning”

“You don’t know where I live”

Mycroft made an exasperated noise, but said nothing.

******

It was a sad fact that Rosie was so used to various child minders and day care that she went off with Mrs Hudson without a backwards look at her father. John had tried not to mind, or worry that he was about to gift his daughter with a stepparent, even if it as one she would never meet.

Once John had the apartment to himself, he had showered, set up the answer machine and an out of office on his email account, paid some pressing bills and checked the window locks. He had packed a few items into an overnight bag and sat down to await the car. After the bonding, they had four hours to get John to the secure unit where he would see out the bonding rut under close guard to prevent him from ravaging any innocent passer-by. Where he was going it was unlikely that he would need much in the way of clothes.

At precisely 2p.m. a rather smart black jaguar containing Mycroft’s assistant had arrived to collect him. Feeling rather like he was on his way to the gallows, John spent the journey into the city in silence.

He was greeted at the hospital by an apologetic Mike Stamford, John did his best to reassure him that he wasn’t acting under duress, but had freely decided to assist the distressed Omega in any way he could. Mike took the lift with him but they parted at the door.

He heard Mrs Holmes babbling some words of gratitude and felt his hand firmly clasped by Sherlock’s father. Behind them John’s eyes met Mycroft’s “Ready?” he mouthed.

“Ready” John replied.

“A little privacy please” John said as Mycroft moved towards his brother and began to tug at the neck of the Omega’s hospital gown. “Do you really think there’s a place for bonding rituals in these circumstances?”

Looking almost chastened, Mycroft stepped back, while Mummy turned and ushered her husband and her older son out. She leaned over Sherlock and kissed him, whispering just within John’s hearing “it is for the best darling”.

Turning to John she said “I just hope he forgives us” and left the room.

Thankfully alone John paced the room a little, breathing deeply as his therapist had taught him on his return from Afghanistan. Then as he felt his equilibrium return he went and stood by the Omega’s bed, squared his shoulders and whispered to himself “Soldier!”

And leant over, placed his mouth over Sherlock’s scent gland…and bit.

Chapter Text

‘I could get used to this’ John had thought sat in the back of another sleek black Jaguar that purred up the M23 back into central London. John had spent an unpleasant four days in a secure unit just outside Brighton, but had awoken on the fifth day with a clear head and all passion dissipated. He had showered, shaved and been treated to a slap up breakfast and despite feeling as if he had done ten rounds with Mike Tyson he reflected that he had endured far worse in Afghanistan and at least he had come out of this ordeal with no permanent scars or disabilities.

After almost a week apart John was desperate to see his daughter and he instructed the driver to take him straight to Mrs Hudson’s home in Baker Street. However the father and daughter reunion did not go as John had envisaged on the journey. Rosie was distraught when he tried to pick her up, she clung to Mrs Hudson as if her life depended on it and screamed when he tried to prise them apart, refusing anyone but the older woman to comfort her, and when she finally stopped crying she surveyed her father from the safety of Mrs Hudson’s arms with the most baleful look that a ten month old could muster.

“It’s your scent” Mrs Hudson told him “she doesn’t recognise it”

John was frantic; he had considered the effect his bonding again might have on his daughter but had reckoned that she was too young to have much memory of her mother. In truth, Mary’s scent had started fading from his own the moment she died, but it appeared that it had been eradicated entirely by his new bond. John gathered up Rosie’s things and attempted to wrestle his screaming daughter into the waiting car, puce with embarrassment and desperately trying everything he could think of to quieten her, but Rosie was having none of it.

“Why don’t I come with you, help you to settle her?”

John wanted to hug Mrs Hudson himself, he was so grateful. Mrs Hudson grabbed her coat and handbag, and got into the car next to the howling Rosie and all three of them, and the driver, set off for John’s house in the suburbs.

It was clear the moment they crossed the threshold that John and Rosie could not stay at the house. John had had no idea that mingling his scent with another Omega would turn his home into a no-go area, but the smell of decay was overpowering and he could hardly stop himself retching in the hallway as soon as he opened the door.

Mrs Hudson, a brisk and efficient Beta, apprised herself of the situation immediately.

“You can’t stay here. Come back to Baker Street; the upstairs flat is empty. Go and wait in the car while I put some things together for you. Now, where do you keep your suitcases?”

******

Sherlock did not make a miraculous recovery as a result of the new bonding. It took a further four days for him to regain consciousness. He opened his eyes, uttered one word and then fell asleep, but this small breakthrough was enough to give his parents and his doctors hope. While he remained under twenty-four hour observation in the high dependency unit, over the next few days his periods of wakefulness became longer and more frequent and Dr Stamford began to be cautiously optimistic. Little by little Sherlock began to be more responsive to his surroundings; he was lucid and capable of speech though the effort still left him exhausted. The physiotherapist in charge of his rehabilitation worked with him on his body strength and the psychologist worked on his mental capacities until finally, after a further two months in hospital, he was discharged.

******

Immediately his parents took him to convalesce at their home in the country. Cocooned in his familiar haunts and surrounded by the scent of his loving parents Sherlock slowly began to heal in both mind and body. Sherlock seemed to have only hazy recollection of the events that preceded Victor’s death and his subsequent hospitalisation and Mummy believed it wise for things to remain that way. At least until her boy was much stronger.

Mr and Mrs Holmes, mainly through Mycroft, had begun to piece together fragments of the events that had driven Victor to suicide and left Sherlock in a catatonic state, but they knew the picture was far from complete, so when Sherlock, a few days after his arrival in Sussex, walked into the dining room where they were eating breakfast and asked “What happened to the baby?” they had no idea what their son was talking about.

Mummy recovered first and managed to say “Darling, whose baby?”

Sherlock shook his head and made a frustrated noise “I don’t know. I can’t remember”

Father leant towards Sherlock and gently rested his hand on his son’s arm. “Was it your baby, Sherlock, did you think you were in the family way?”

Sherlock looked first at Father, and then at Mummy as the mists in his mind began to clear.

“Yes, it is my baby, I thought I was having a baby, but it isn’t showing” he looked down at his still flat stomach.

“Oh Darling” Mummy was heartbroken at this further indication of how her son had suffered “You were so very ill, you had every test imaginable while you were in hospital, there wasn’t a baby.”

Mummy got up and pulled her son into a close embrace while Father harrumphed a bit and patted Sherlock’s arm again but after permitting their embrace for a few seconds Sherlock wriggled free, grabbed a piece of toast and fled.

Mummy had feared that the revelation that he was not with child would cause a setback in Sherlock’s recovery but on the contrary he seemed to rally after hearing the news. He voluntarily appeared at mealtimes and could be coaxed into eating a reasonable portion. Father busied himself in the kitchen producing all manner of sweet treats that tempted Sherlock’s appetite until he began to gain some of the weight he had lost during his crisis. He strictly adhered to the exercise programme prescribed by his physiotherapist and when Sherlock attended his fortnightly out-patient’s appointment, Dr Stamford announced that he was well pleased with his progress.

******

Over the years, Mrs Hudson had occasionally been in contact with Mr and Mrs Holmes and their boys, but since Sherlock’s illness the calls had become more frequent. It was from Mrs Hudson that John had learned that Sherlock had regained consciousness, and of the slow but steady progress he was making. John was not above seeking information from another source and regularly timed his lunch hour to coincide with Mike Stamford’s. Although Mike was wary of breaching patient confidentiality Dr Watson gently reminded his friend that he was now technically Sherlock’s next of kin which made the information more easily forthcoming.

As Sherlock improved, John wondered if his presence would again be required at the hospital, or if Sherlock would ask for him. He even went as far as to consider if Sherlock’s restoration to health would ultimately trigger a heat, a thought which filled him with dread. But as the weeks turned into months and no call came the events at UCH became distant, as if they had happened to someone else.

Mycroft liked to keep what he referred to as a ‘weather eye’ on his brother’s new Alpha. Mycroft’s personal assistant provided her employer with regular updates and while he had no requests for assistance from John he was ultimately responsible for the smooth removal of John’s possessions to Baker Street when the temporary stay became permanent.

John, realising that Mrs Hudson could not be expected to take on the responsibility of caring for an energetic toddler full time decided to advertise for a nanny and was amazed to secure the services of a well-qualified and experienced young woman for such a reasonable salary. It never occurred to him that his brother-in-law had any hand in her recruitment.

His grief concerning Mary became indistinguishable from his guilt at bonding with a non-consenting Omega. To be alone for the rest of his life seemed fitting punishment. He had his daughter who had finally accepted that the man with the unfamiliar scent was her father and was flourishing under the care and attention of the nanny and her unofficial granny Mrs H. He had his work in a trauma unit not far from Baker Street, a new set of friends, mostly Betas, who knew nothing of his second bond, it was a good life and he determined to be content with his lot.

******

The loss of Victor had devastated Mr and Mrs Trevor but even this tragedy could not prevent Mr Trevor’s arrest for fraud, blackmail and conspiracy to murder. Mycroft had personally overseen the interrogation and in Mr Trevor’s blustering defence of his actions had obtained something of a confession from him. It seemed that Victor, and by default Sherlock, had been innocent pawns in the game to prevent his father’s downfall. With the family wealth confiscated and bank accounts frozen, her son dead and her husband facing a length prison sentence, Mrs Trevor exiled herself to her family in Australia.

The house in Montague Street was shut up. It was unthinkable that circumstances would ever allow Sherlock to return there. Even after fumigation it seemed every room was permeated with his deceased Alpha’s scent. Mycroft arranged for his brother’s possessions to be conveyed to his parents’ house, which included the contents of his laboratory and his violin. Mummy admitted she was moved to tears when she returned from a shopping trip to find her son playing a work she knew to be his own.

Sherlock never mentioned Victor but the lament he was composing spoke of lost hope, of betrayed trust and painful memories.

Amongst the contents of the laboratory were the experiments Sherlock had been working on at the time of Victor’s death, including his notebooks and hand written records. Commandeering the conservatory as a makeshift lab, Sherlock set to work in perfecting the formula he had recreated from the sample heat suppressants he found amongst his things. Using his own knowledge and additional research he began to see how and why the heat suppressants had been so effective. Before long he had a stable product that was ready for clinical trials, in the absence of an alternative he had no compunction in using himself as a guinea pig. Furtively he began to test the drug and was pleased with the results, there were no obvious side effects and he continued to be free of a heat. He was aware that as a subject of these experiments he was hardly ideal, but as his health improved it became less likely that his lack of heat could be put down to his past illness, and more that his heat suppressants were working. Sherlock was ecstatic, and eager to find a way of testing his discovery more widely.

******

Detective Inspector Lestrade had been a concerned and conscientious visitor while Sherlock was in hospital using his authority to give him access at times when other visitors were not permitted. Although their relationship had started as purely professional there was mutual respect between the two men and while Lestrade was apt to refer to Sherlock as a ‘right royal pain in the arse’ he had been genuinely affected by Sherlock’s illness.

The illusion that Lestrade was ignorant of Sherlock’s status was now unsustainable but as with the United States military between 1994 and 2011 the policeman adopted a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. On hearing that Sherlock was much recovered he applied to Mycroft for permission to visit him and enquired if a few neglected cold cases might prove a suitable distraction for the convalescing patient. Sherlock feigned indifference during Lestrade’s visit, but as soon as he had left and Mummy tried to tidy the files away he batted her off and got down to work.

He had solved the mysterious outbreak of mass hysteria at the Abbey School before the Detective Inspector had even reached the M25.

By the time Lestrade had reached his desk at New Scotland Yard, Sherlock had eliminated three of the four possible suspects in an armed robbery on the Cornish Riviera. But the effort had left him exhausted and when Father appeared with a plate of shortbread and a mug of tea he consented to put the files away.

******

The weeks went by; Sherlock continued to make progress, to the extent that he occasionally found the energy to feel bored. His experiments with the heat suppressant were going well with no noticeable side effects so apart from occasionally tinkering with the dosage there was little Sherlock could do in that area without further clinical trials. Unfortunately he had no practical means of facilitating these though he supposed Mycroft would, and he pondered on his older brother’s possible reaction without coming to a decision.

He had steadily worked through the cold cases provided by Lestrade, deducing facts that should have been blindingly obvious, and pointing the detective to satisfactory conclusions, though there were some cases he suspected were likely to remain cold for ever.

While he waited for Lestrade to visit again with another batch of unsolvable cases for him to solve, Sherlock found himself at a loose end and decided to tackle another round of mind palace maintenance. The trauma of his illness had caused considerable damage to his mental records, which needed to be renovated with care. He worked his way down the corridors cleaning and tidying until he came to door marked ‘secondary gender’, which he presumed contained everything he had ever been told about Alpha/Omega dynamics. Out of curiosity he tried the handle but the door was locked and when he finally forced his way in he found a room ornately decorated in the style of an Ottoman Empire harem but otherwise completely empty.

The discovery of this room and the total absence of content prompted Sherlock to go in search of information, not from his Omega mother, but his much more approachable Alpha father, whom he found in his second favourite haunt, the library.

Sherlock went straight to the heart of the matter. “Omegas used to be held in harems. Why? Because of their scarcity?”

Father didn’t seem surprised by his son’s sudden line of questioning. “Goodness me no, quite the opposite. There used to be far more Omegas than Alphas, so polygamy and multiple bonding was actively encouraged for the sake of the Omegas’ health and protection”

“Really?” Sherlock asked, trying to fit this image with his own experience. The only Omegas he knew were his mother and her friends.

“Years ago couples used to have huge families, fifteen or sixteen children and often multiple births, at least as many Omegas as Alphas, often more”

Father stood up and reached for one of the ancient reference books on the shelf behind him, it was the Almanach d’Alpha 1949 and he let it fall open at random.

“Let me see, here, this is one of the old Alpha families... The Hon Bertram Carlyle, bonded Eugenie Weston 1918 issue, listen to this Sherlock… son Derrick b. 1919 (A); daughter Mathilda b. 1920 (A); daughter Cordelia b. 1922; son Marcus b. 1923 then there’s Everard in 1926 all Alphas, Majella and Francis twins 1928 both Omegas, then two more Gerald in 1930 and Sylvia in 1932 also Omegas and two younger children Jaspar and Felicity early teens in 1949 so unpresented, though they were almost certainly Omegas”

“Why do you say that?”

Father thought for a moment “I don’t know. The younger children always were in those days, it just was. Let’s check shall we?” He turned back to the shelves and plucked out the Almanach for 1959 turning rapidly to the entry on the Carlyle family.

“Here we are” He ran his finger down the column “Yes, son Jaspar born 1935, Omega, and Felicity 1936 she presented as Omega too. So eleven children in all, not by any means as large as families had been but five Alphas to six Omegas. I remember that being the norm amongst my parents’ friends. There’s an entry here for the eldest son Derrick, let’s see, born in 1919 he would have been forty in 1959” Father flicked over the page. “Derrick Algernon Carlyle, bonded 1943 Lisette Faramond born 1926, only seventeen poor girl, issue.. . 1944 Theobald, then Veronica in 1947, Rachel in 48 and Richard in 1950. Eloise in 1952, shame… they lost her in 1953, then Alfred and Julian in 1955.Just the six for them by 1959, let’s have a look at 1969. Funnily enough, your mother wanted to get rid of these old books when Grandpa Holmes died but I knew they would have their uses. Now where’s 1969?”

Sherlock helped his father to locate the missing volume and looked up the Carlyle family himself.

“What does it say, son?”

“Derrick and Lisette Carlyle, had one more child, Louis born in 1959, in 1969 only he and his twin brothers are unpresented, the five eldest are all Alphas”

Father was already at the stacks looking for 1979.

“Here we are! Alfred and Julian born 1955, remarkable, both Alphas, only Louis out of that brood presented as an Omega”

“So in one generation the ratio went from 5:6 to 6:1”

“Well, that seems an extreme example, but from what I recall it was around the 1950s that the number of Omegas began to decline”

“What about Derrick’s children’s children?”

“The eldest, Theobald would have been 35ish in 1979. Ah, here he is, bonded 1970 Armand Corbett, he was a distant relative of your mother’s on the Vernet side, born 1950, issue son Maximillian 1971, and two daughters Isabella 1973 and Belinda in 1975”

Sherlock fetched the 2009 volume from its place on the shelves and quickly found the entry he was looking for.

“Maximillian, Isabella and Belinda have all presented as Alphas and unsurprisingly remain unbonded well into their thirties. You know the family, is there anything singularly repugnant about them?”

“Your mother knows them better than I do, but I remember Armand as a charming fellow and his Alpha was an okay sort of chap, the children were pleasant enough when they were little”

While his father was talking Sherlock flicked through the following pages of the Almanac absorbing the information on the rest of the Carlyles.

“Fascinating, all eleven children of Bertram and Eugenie Carlyle survived infancy, bonded and had issue, whereas of Derrick and Lisette’s seven children, only the three eldest Alphas and Louis the Omega are bonded. There are six other grandchildren in addition to Theobald’s three all born between 1970 and 1990 and all nine had presented as Alphas by 2009”

“And none of them bonded?”

“Not one, according to the Almanach, of course the information might be out of date now but I would be surprised if any of them have found a mate. You see what this means?”

“What?”

“I’m not sure, but somehow over the last hundred years the Carlyle family have gone from a hundred percent bonding rate to zero. If they are typical, then both Alphas and Omegas will be virtually extinct within the next seventy years”

Sherlock glanced at the volumes of the Almanach now spread over Father’s desk “I need more data”

Father was delighted to see his son so animated for the first time since Victor’s death and rather curious himself. “Care for an assistant?”

Sherlock looked at his gentle Alpha father and smiled “As long as it doesn’t interfere with your baking”

******

Mycroft came to visit and was a little envious of the camaraderie that his father and brother displayed while engaged in what Mummy referred to rather sharply as their ‘research’. Not a fan of the country, or holidays, and with no wars to start or settle Mycroft couldn’t resist sticking his not inconsiderable nose in.

As an Alpha, and a high ranking government official he had both private and public concerns regarding the survival of his own subspecies and it occurred to him that his brother might have hit upon something. Of course Sherlock’s methodology was all wrong and the work haphazard and unsystematic. Mycroft would have started much earlier than the 1950s; the Almanach d’Alpha had been published every decade since the 1740s, though as the earliest edition in the Holmes library was 1839, he would begin there.

******

To Sherlock’s feigned indifference and Mycroft’s secret delight, Detective Inspector Lestrade appeared with several cold cases and one that was still tepid.

“Drive-by shooting, newly bonded Omega”

“Stop” Sherlock put his hand up to Lestrade “I know this case, thirty four year old newly bonded Omega, shot dead outside an all-night convenience shop, supposed victim of gang violence”

“Yes, well, almost, except that it wasn’t a convenience shop it was a garage, and the Omega wasn’t thirty four, he was thirty seven”

“What?” Sherlock grabbed the file from Lestrade and read aloud “Cecil Forrester, black, Omega male, killed 11.45p.m. 25th April, Bensham, Gateshead. Wait…”

Sherlock was momentarily confused; he needed to check his facts. He slipped into his mind palace, it had been badly damaged during his illness and renovations were still ongoing but for some reason the room containing the Watson case had been relatively unscathed. He emerged ready to berate the inspector.

“It’s a different case” He flew over to the laptop open on the desk and began typing furiously. “Here” turning the laptop and presenting the screen with a flourish so not just Lestrade but also his parents and Mycroft could see. “Mary Watson, thirty four year old recently bonded Omega, shot dead in a drive-by shooting, innocent victim of territory dispute between local gangs. Are all your colleagues idiots Gavin?”

“Hold on a minute, yes, the system brought up a match but there was nothing to connect the two. Mary Watson was a respectable nursing professional, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, whereas Cecil Forrester was a local rogue, quite a bit of previous and when we recovered the body he was found to be in possession of Class A drugs”

“Imbeciles, it’s not just the manner of the killing that connects the two it’s the circumstances of the victim, Graham. Newly bonded Omega!” Sherlock shouted at Lestrade “Newly bonded Omega!”

The startled policeman took a step back to avoid being caught by the Omega’s waving arms. Mycroft took pity on him.

“What my brother is saying Detective Inspector, is that while on the surface there seems no connection between the victims of two drive-by shootings twelve months and three hundred miles apart, there is the undeniable fact that for an Omega to be newly bonded in their mid-thirties is extremely unusual and for two such individuals to die in similar incidents is highly suggestive”

“If it’s an obvious gangland shooting” Sherlock’s voice had returned to normal but he was still pacing “Why’s the case still open? Young black man? Who mourns one less dealer on the streets …unless… it’s his Alpha…won’t let up…friends in high places, causing a stink with the Chief Commissioner, am I right?”

Mycroft had picked up the file from where Sherlock had abandoned it next to the laptop. “Unlikely as it might seem, Cecil Forrester was bonded to Letitia, eldest child and heir of Lord Backwater, and if you count being a High Court Judge and a Member of the House of Lords as having friends in high places then you are right”

Lestrade sighed “Letitia Backwater swears that her Omega was clean, yes he’d been in trouble with the police in his youth but all that was behind him, they were trying for a family. She wants answers and her father's hassling everyone to make sure she gets them”

“Lestrade, I need you to arrange access for me to speak to Letitia Backwater. I want to find out more about Cecil, how he survived unbonded until he was in his thirties, I have my suspicions but I need to be sure, and I need to know what he was doing the night he died. How soon can you do that?”

“It shouldn’t be too difficult, according to the Chief, Letitia is currently at the family home in Kensington”

“Excellent, I’ll come back to London with you”

Mummy had heard enough “William Sherlock Scott Holmes, you will do no such thing. You’ve had a life threatening illness, you’re barely out of hospital, and you still get easily tired. Siger, Mycroft back me up”

There followed a cacophony of argument from Sherlock and counter-argument from Mummy with Father trying to mediate between the two until Mycroft stepped in “Perhaps if Sherlock was to have an escort, to take someone with him, to ensure he was not at risk of overstretching himself”

Sherlock gave a squawk of outrage and began to protest more verbally but then paused.

“Fine. I’ll ask Dr Watson.”

Chapter Text

“Fine. I’ll ask Dr Watson”

Mummy opened her mouth to speak then quickly closed it again as Mycroft quelled her with a look. It had been six months since the doctor had bonded with their unconscious Omega. Sherlock’s new bondmark had healed cleanly, well before he had recovered enough to notice the change. Both Father and Mummy had waited with baited breath for their son to ask them about his recovery but no enquiries had come.

There passed a series of knowing glances between the three older Holmes, and DI Lestrade, until Mummy finally broke the silence.

“Dr Watson?” she asked.

“If you insist on my having an escort, Dr Watson is the obvious candidate; being both a medical practitioner and a former soldier”

Mycroft took up the questioning “Are you sure that is the only reason, brother mine?”

Sherlock shifted uneasily. “Also Dr Watson has a vested interest; his Omega was the other victim”

“And…?”

“What is this? The Spanish Inquisition? All right, as you wish, I’ll admit Dr Watson has proved himself useful on a case before”

Sherlock was determined that he would not reveal just how much he wanted to see the Alpha again, and have another chance to impress him and hear himself admired. He closed his mouth tightly, folded his arms and stared down his older brother until Mycroft sighed and let it go.

******

No amount of pouting or posturing would convince his parents, or rather, his mother to allow Sherlock leave with the Inspector. After more wrangling and an aborted tantrum Mycroft negotiated a compromise. Lestrade would go ahead to secure permission from Scotland Yard to bring in a consultant and instruct a Liaison Officer to prepare the Backwater family for a visit then Sherlock, accompanied by Mycroft would return to London the next day. Still dissatisfied Sherlock dismissed the Inspector by simply turning his back on him, leaving the more solicitous Mycroft to show Lestrade out.

A few minutes later, Mycroft returned to the library to find his brother earnestly tapping away at his laptop bringing up what appeared to be various NHS personnel records. When Mycroft enquired what he was doing, Sherlock replied.

“I need to establish the whereabouts of Dr Watson; this seemed the most obvious place to look, unless you have a better suggestion”

“Quite unnecessary for you to break the law Mon frère, his current residence is 221 Baker Street”

“221 Baker Street? Hudders’ place?”

“Yes, the good doctor and the infant are in occupation of the upstairs flat”

Sherlock paused briefly to consider this information before discarding it as of no interest. He had deduced on their first meeting that Dr Watson would be much more at home in the city than the suburbs; the death of his Omega had undoubtedly paved the way for the move. Nanny Hudson owned property in central London that was divided into flats, that Dr Watson had been the person to respond to whatever advert she had placed in the Standard or London Listings was not significant. He did not share his brother’s opinion of coincidences and rather thought that the universe was liable to be very lazy indeed. He was merely glad that he did not have to demonstrate his computer hacking skills on this particular occasion.

******

John had just arrived home after a twelve hour shift and was looking forward to a couple of rest days when Mrs Hudson popped her head out of 221A to inform him he had a visitor. At this time in the afternoon the nanny would be with Rosie in the park and he had been hoping for a shower and a little space for himself before resuming parental duties. He seldom had visitors, the combination of a disruptive working pattern and lone parenthood not being conducive to an active social life.

He climbed the seventeen stairs to his front door slowly, speculating on whom he might find behind it and the likelihood of it being anyone he actually wanted to see, namely a tall slim and fascinating Omega therefore he was disappointed to open the door and find an efficient looking Beta waiting inside until she turned to face him and he recognised her as Mycroft Holmes’ assistant.

Anthea was brisk and to the point.

“Dr Watson, tomorrow you will receive a visit from my employer’s brother who requires your assistance with a case. I note that you are off rota for the next two days so there is no need to take action to ensure your availability. Mr Sherlock Holmes will meet you here and you will accompany him and Detective Inspector Lestrade to the house of Lord Backwater to interview his daughter. I should warn you that the investigation concerns the death of an Omega in similar circumstances to your own and that if you are likely to find this distressing you had best get that out of your system at some point between now and tomorrow morning. Understood?”

John fought the impulse to salute and answer “yes Ma’am”

“I assume that I have no say in the matter?”

“None whatsoever”

“And is Sherlock…Mr Holmes…is he well?”

“I have been given to understand that Mr Sherlock Holmes’ health is much improved although he tires easily and his sensory perception is not fully recovered. The purpose of you accompanying him in this investigation is to ensure his safety and monitor his wellbeing. There is one other thing”

Here Anthea’s cool façade cracked a little.

“Mr Holmes, Mr Mycroft Holmes that is, asked me to advise you that his brother has no recollection of the events surrounding his illness or his recovery and that the family are eager that things stay that way, at least for the time being.”

“What? Nothing? No hint? No change in scent? No instinctive pull?”

“Apparently so, whether that will be the case once you are in each other’s company remains to be seen, however you are to take your lead from Mr Sherlock Holmes, and if he gives no indication or acknowledgment of your bond, you are to do the same”

It was a lot for John to comprehend and as he silently allowed the information to sink in, Anthea continued.

“Mr Holmes may not be aware of your status but that does not lessen your duty of care to your Omega, he has been very ill, and you are to do nothing to jeopardise his continued recovery.”

“And if he does acknowledge the bond?”

“Then we will cross that bridge when we come to it”

******

Sherlock was up and washed and dressed by quarter six the next morning. As he stalked impatiently into the kitchen of the Holmes’ house it took a while for him to realise that none of the other members of the household were awake.

He clattered around the kitchen thinking this might have the dual benefit of both waking his parents and convincing Mummy that he had eaten breakfast but to no avail and another hour passed without anybody in the house stirring. He flounced into the sitting room and flung himself onto the couch in preparation for a major sulk, he toyed with the idea of cranking up the hi-fi system but realised that he didn’t really want to disturb his parents’ slumbers just to get his fat lump of a brother out of bed.

Father appeared around seven-fifteen and made a tray of tea for Mummy and put coffee on for himself. Sherlock almost screamed with frustration when the tray, the coffee and Father disappeared back upstairs.

By nine o’clock the rest of the Holmes were assembled around the dining table fussing with eggs and toast and marmalade as if they had all the time in the world, which they had, as Mycroft had ordered the car for ten-thirty to avoid the rush hour traffic.

Finally a grumbling and resentful Sherlock and a patently unimpressed Mycroft were on their way to London.

******

Sherlock had intended to pass the journey in silence but he also wanted to lay down some ground rules for which it was necessary to address his brother:

  1. The car was to go directly to Baker Street.
  2. The car and Mycroft were to depart before Sherlock rang the doorbell.
  3. There was no need for Mycroft to come in, or even to get out of the car.
  4. He, Sherlock, did not require a chaperone.

Mycroft acquiesced to these demands with a slight nod, secure that his brother’s every move would take place under his watchful eye.

Sherlock deliberately waited until the car had disappeared into the London traffic before knocking on the door. It was answered by an effusive Mrs Hudson and Sherlock allowed himself to be hugged and exclaimed over, briefly, before making his way upstairs where the doctor was waiting for him, watching him approach and causing Sherlock to feel suddenly shy.

Dr Watson held out his hand and Sherlock shook it politely wondering why he felt so disconcerted. He followed the doctor into the sitting room; it was compact, neat and tidy, not unlike Dr Watson himself. They exchanged a few words but neither man had much small talk and Sherlock was disappointed to find John stiff and formal, with none of the easy camaraderie from their previous meetings.

His illness had left Sherlock’s ability to distinguish scents compromised, and the sensory records in his mind palace were still waterlogged, but he could tell that Dr Watson’s scent had changed, it was no longer the distressed smell of bereavement of a year ago and not quite the contented smell of a happily bonded Alpha but there was definitely the trace of a Omega mingled with Dr Watson’s own unique aroma.

Bonded again? Had the doctor so little care for his Omega to have bonded again so quickly? It seemed out of keeping with his character but Sherlock reasoned that Dr Watson had a daughter and needed to provide her with a mother.

There were signs all over the flat that a small child was also resident at 221B Baker Street, the folded high chair at the end of the dining table, the stair gate leading to the upper floor, a bib on the back of the radiator and small pair of wellingtons just inside the front door. Of the child herself there was no sign and he wondered if Dr Watson had deliberately sent his Omega and daughter out of his way before he arrived.

Once they were out of the flat and into a taxi on the way to meet Lestrade in Kensington John surreptitiously assessed the condition of his Omega, pale, too thin, slightly manic but otherwise marvellously well compared to their last encounter. He wondered if they would make the whole journey in silence but Sherlock had news to impart.

“The suppressants, the ones you gave me, it was simple really; the answer isn’t to make us less like Omegas but more like Betas. Betas don’t experience heat so if you can isolate that particular hormone you can produce the same result in Omegas, that’s how the medication Mary took worked for years and I have replicated the formula. I have been taking them myself and I am optimistic I may never have another heat again”

John’s heart sank, well that answered one question.

******

Letitia Backwater was a tall, well-built woman, impossible to mistake for anything other than an Alpha, though at twenty three much younger than Sherlock and Dr Watson had expected. She was still clearly affected by her bereavement, with red rimmed eyes large in a pale face, which was thin and tense. Lestrade introduced Sherlock as a consultant and his companion Dr Watson, and left the questioning to them.

Skipping the niceties Sherlock launched straight into his interrogation.

“Tell me about your late Omega, what kind of man was he, what do you know of his background?”

Fortunately, Letitia Backwater was up to the task.

“My father had Cecil investigated before we bonded, he wasn’t... I mean it wasn’t exactly the kind of match Daddy would have liked for me, but he was realistic enough to know that I was lucky to bond at all. Cecil’s family was very different to ours and he didn’t have the happiest of upbringings. He was born in Newcastle, something of an afterthought, his mother was over forty and she already had three other children in their teens. Cecil was neither loved nor wanted, he was very much left to bring himself up and things got worse when his mother died. He was only twelve. From what Daddy learned Cecil’s father had always been a drinker and this got worse after he was widowed. By that time the three older siblings, Alphas, were all going down the same road. They never showed any interest in Cecil until he presented as an Omega then they decided to try to sell him to the highest bidder. So Cecil ran away”

“Go on”

“He was only fifteen, but quite tall, he said he could pass for older. He had a friend from school that had moved to London, he thought he could find her so he went there. He was very naïve, he thought living in a city like Newcastle had prepared him for London, and of course it hadn’t. But he was resourceful; he’d always had to look out for himself, in the beginning he lived on the streets, and got in to trouble, petty theft, vagrancy, that sort of thing. But never drugs. He always said, he couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, to not be in control. He said it with such conviction I believed him and his police records bore it out. That’s why it’s not right, that they found drugs on his body, he never used and he never dealt”

“How did you meet?”

“Through friends” Letitia answered and then coloured slightly “I’m sorry you get used to the party line. We met on the internet, just chatting at first, liking the same bands, the same books, he was interesting so different from me but older and more experienced…it wasn’t romantic not at first. I never dreamed he was an unbonded Omega, until he told me”

Her voice was full of tears “He asked me if I had ever considered bonding and I said I’d love to but I’d never met an Omega. That’s when he told me. I couldn’t believe it at first, it was a dream come true. I already liked him so much it was just a short step to being in love him. He told me he was afraid, he said things were dangerous, that people like him were getting wasted. I think that’s why he chose me because he thought our family could keep him safe, but we couldn’t. Daddy didn’t like him, not at first but Cecil won him round. I have two younger siblings, both Alphas, I never expected to bond, my family is well off and well-connected but we don’t have anything like the money and status that would secure an Omega these days, I was amazed when Cecil said he would like to start a family. I never thought I would have children and now I never will”

Letitia Backwater was crying openly now and both Lestrade and Dr Watson felt her pain.

“Take you time” the policeman said kindly, ignoring Sherlock’s exasperated sigh.

“Cecil wanted to get out of London that was the only condition he made about our bonding. I was happy to agree, especially when we talked about somewhere to raise children. My grandparents came from Northumberland and the family still owned a property there, my father signed it over to me as a bonding present, we moved in immediately after the bondmoon”

“Ms Backwater, can you tell us about the night Cecil died?”

The Alpha wiped her eyes and blew her nose, took a deep breath and started talking again.

“We’d had a busy day. The house we had moved into had been empty for a few years, it was habitable but needed improvement, we’d spent the day drawing up plans and measuring rooms as we had a meeting with the architects in the morning. Then about seven o’clock Cecil said he had a craving for chicken. It was silly really, we didn’t have any in, it was getting late and I thought it could wait until the next day but he was determined, so determined I couldn’t help but wonder if it was an indication of something else, that he might be pregnant so I decided to indulge him. I should have gone with him but he just picked up the car keys and was gone in an instant. That was the last time I saw him alive.

“The police told me he had had a message on his phone. They said it was to arrange a drop but that doesn’t make sense, like I said Cecil didn’t do drugs, when I first met him he wouldn’t even take an aspirin.

Lestrade chipped in “there’s a copy of the message in the file” handing a paper to Sherlock who read aloud.

“Feeling the heat? Hard to suppress working like ants in time available. Can you meet the demand? Me? I will at least try eight. 54.951935-1.617333. obviously a skip code – he went in search of suppressants”

“But why …we were so happy”

John leaned forward and said gently “I’m sure you were, but Cecil had lived as an unbonded Omega for twenty years. It is hard to let that go.”

Sherlock picked up on this “Did he tell you how he lived undetected for twenty years? He must have said something? Someone must have helped him?”

“I'm sorry, I can’t think of anything”

Sherlock was on his feet “Nothing? Nothing at all? Weren’t you even curious? Think Woman!”

“Sherlock!” Both Lestrade and John turned on the Omega and he slumped back into his chair.

John took over. “Ms Backwater… Letitia… I know this is distressing but we want to find out what happened to Cecil as much as you do. If you can think of anything, any information that might be useful, any name from Cecil’s past”

Letitia Backwater shook her head sadly, and then looked up.

“The medical! Father wanted him to have a medical before we bonded but Cecil wasn’t registered with a doctor, he said he’d not been near a doctor since he left home, I asked him what he did if he was ill and he said Dr Grey looked after him, no not Grey something similar…”

Sherlock cut her off. “Could it have been Graham?”

“It could have, yes I think it was”

Sherlock stood again and John and Lestrade took this as their cue to leave.

“You will find out what happened, won’t you” Letitia pleaded catching hold of John as he followed Lestrade from the room “I know people are saying he got what he deserved, but that’s not true, Cecil wasn’t like that, he was lovely. You two don’t know how lucky you are to have each other”

John’s mouth tightened into a grim line and he said nothing, it was left to Sherlock to say “I’m not his mate”

******

Sherlock deduced the likelihood of it being the same doctor as his own at 82% worth making enquiries. A phone call to Scotland Yard established that Dr Graham had retired to Surrey. Both John and Lestrade declared it too late to descend on the old gentlemen that day and for once Sherlock chose not to protest, the trip to London and the interview with Letitia Backwater had been surprisingly taxing, and although he was for some reason loath to part company with Dr Watson, on the whole he was content to take a cab to Mycroft’s and even more happy to discover his brother was not at home.

******

Sherlock had supposed he could prevail on Mycroft for a car to Surrey but John had decided all things considered it was time for the Omega to become a little more familiar with the workings of public transport, they took the tube to Waterloo and from there the train to Weybridge. Lestrade was not with them as the visit to Dr Graham was not officially part of the ongoing investigation. The address they had been given was not far from the station and John and Sherlock made short work of the walk.

Dr Graham had moved to a modern bungalow in the prosperous town of Weybridge but once inside it obvious that both the property and the person were run down and neglected. Sherlock was taken aback to find his old androcologist so changed. He calculated that the doctor was well into his seventies but he looked much older, a frail shadow of the successful Harley Street specialist that Sherlock had known all his life.

Dr Graham welcomed them unquestioningly and showed them into an untidy sitting room. He gave no indication that he recognised Sherlock and the detective wondered if the doctor was still in command of his faculties, or if the journey would provide a complete waste of time, a suspicion that was reinforced when he spoke to them.

“I wasn’t expecting you; I don’t usually get a visit from the police until the anniversary”

John answered him, unsure what to make of this comment. “Dr Graham, I think we should be clear that we are not the police, Mr Holmes is a consultant detective and I am his assistant. We are here because we are investigating the death of an Omega called Cecil Forrester, and we think you were known to him.”

“You think he was one of my patients? I don’t have my records any longer, but it is not a name I am familiar with”

“It could be that he used an assumed name” Sherlock’s heart sank, if that was the case it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

“And why would he do that?”

“Dr Graham, Cecil Forrester lived most of his adult life as an unbonded Omega, we believe he was able to do this because he had access to unlicensed heat suppressants. We are trying to establish if that was the case, and if so, where he obtained them”

“You have the gall to come here and suggest that I, a respected medical professional was supplying illegal drugs?”

John backtracked on Sherlock’s behalf, apologising to the older man and stood up, as if ready to leave but Sherlock wasn’t finished with Dr Graham.

“What did you mean? When we came in you said you usually got a visit from the police on the anniversary? What anniversary?”

The old doctor sighed, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

“I am not the Dr Graham that your deceased Omega knew; I think he was referring to my son”

Sherlock was startled “Richard?” his voice betrayed his disbelief.

“No, certainly not Richard, my younger son David, he is, was, also a doctor, but of chemistry. I think your Cecil meant him”

“Your son David was a chemist who worked on heat suppressants” Sherlock was confused, as a graduate chemist himself, how had he not known of this work?

“David was a chemist who worked for a large pharmaceutical company, the heat suppressants were a side-line he kept to himself. I know about them because when he graduated in chemistry he told me that would be his life’s work. I never knew he succeeded until you told me just now.

“Sit down Dr Watson, make yourself comfortable, and you Sherlock, it’s a long story and an old one; it goes back nearly thirty years.

“It concerns a family called Vanpoule; they were our neighbours when we lived in Hampstead. They were an old Alpha family but had lived beyond their means for years, what wealth the family had had had been dissipated through the various generations and not been replenished either by luck, hard work or a prudent marriage. Henrik Vanpoule had no trade or head for business, and no inclination to economise. To make matters worse he was a traditional Alpha who didn’t believe in limiting the size of his family, he had eight children, all needing to be educated and provided for in a way that Vanpoule thought was their due. By the time we knew them it was clear the family were on their uppers.

“I do not share Vanpoule’s views on children. My mate and I had been blessed with two boys, and I considered our family complete. The eldest Richard was a hard working but unimaginative boy, keen to follow me into medicine and I was pleased to encourage him, though I suspected his motives were mercenary rather than altruistic. The younger David was quite the opposite, bright and engaging, loved by everyone. Of course Richard was jealous, but I was delighted when he also started to talk of medicine as a career.

“Our David was only a few weeks older than Joseph, the Vanpoules’ youngest. Mrs Vanpoule struggled with all her pregnancies, was quite worn out the poor woman, the last one was particularly difficult and my own Omega did try to offer some comfort and support, even though she had not long had her own confinement, and as a result David and Joseph were inseparable almost from birth.

“Joseph was the most beautiful baby, and as you will appreciate I have more than enough babies to compare him with. It was obvious right from the start that he was gifted with an enormous amount of intelligence and charm. I feared for my boy then, but Joseph seemed as devoted to David as David was to him. We used to call Joseph his little shadow, because wherever David was Joseph was never far behind. Even when they went away to school they wrote to each other more or less every day and counted the hours till they could be together again.

“But as they got older the more worried I became. I was almost certain that Joseph would ultimately present as an Omega, my mate thought so too. We tried to prepare David for this possibility but he just laughed and said it would be fine, that they had already agreed to bond when the time came. Of course it wasn’t as simple as that.

“We are not an old family, we were comfortably off, Monica, my Omega, had some money of her own and I had been saving and planning for years and had funds available to secure a mate for our first born, Richard, but there was nothing in the kitty for David and even if there had been he would not have been considered a suitable match for a Vanpoule Omega. Perhaps if he had been hugely wealthy, they might have accepted what they considered his low birth but that wasn’t the case. And Henrik Vanpoule was never going to allow Joseph to mate for love”

Dr Graham paused, looking into the middle distance, the memory of those two happy boys clear in his mind.

“Dr Graham, what happened?”

“Once Joseph presented as an Omega all contact with David was forbidden. Letters were returned unopened and Joseph was sent to stay with an Aunt in the country. I had a most unpleasant interview with Henrik Vanpoule which put me firmly in my place, but even I was shocked when they announced that Joseph was to bond with an Alpha more than three times his age, and who had been bonded before.

“We expected Joseph to have a favourable contract, if ever an Omega deserved to finish his education it was him, but his intended was insistent on an immediate bond with no strings attached. Joseph was young and came from good breeding stock that was one thing at least that could be said for the family. The Alpha wanted heirs and lots of them, and so did Henrik. There were seven older children all Alphas and nothing to bargain with, so they did a deal, the Alpha agreed to provide an Omega from amongst his relatives for the eldest Vanpoule child as part of the match with Joseph.

“Of course it was a disaster. Three weeks after the bonding ceremony Joseph took the only way out.

“My mate and I were terrified to break the news to David but it was as if he already knew. I never saw him shed a tear, or show any signs of grief. All he said was if he had his way no Omega would ever suffer again as Joseph had. But he changed, became hard and unsmiling, he threw over medicine and went to study chemistry, graduating at twenty and had his doctorate by the time he was twenty four. He worked for a short time in America and then returned to Britain. He became distant, my mate worried, she thought he was working too hard, that although he never mentioned it he had never got over Joseph’s death. The last time I saw him was at his mother’s funeral. I am sorry to say we argued, over the subject of heat suppressants, Richard was there and that made things worse, his views always being the extreme opposite of David’s”

“Dr Graham, I need to speak to David, where can we find him?”

The old man gave a joyless laugh.

“Your guess is as good as mine. Nearly three years ago David walked out of his laboratory at lunchtime and disappeared. His home, possessions, bank accounts are still untouched. His company reported him missing, the police opened a file but as to where he is, even if he is still alive, no one has any answers. That’s why I thought you were here, about David”

Sherlock pressed his hands together as if in prayer. It was too much to take in. The disappearance of David Graham, the deaths of Cecil Forrester, Mary and the other late bonding Omegas had to be connected. He needed to get away, to go somewhere quiet where he could assimilate all the information that was buzzing around his brain. There was just one more question.

“Dr Graham, what was the name of the Alpha, do you remember? Who mated with Joseph Vanpoule?”

“The Professor? He’s long dead, but I’ll never forget his name. It was Moriarty, James Moriarty”

Chapter Text

It took John almost an hour to manoeuvre an unresponsive Sherlock out of Dr Graham’s house and back to Weybridge station.

At some point towards the end of the interview Sherlock closed down, his eyes had glazed over and he had become mute and motionless. It was left to John to make their goodbyes to Dr Graham and manhandle Sherlock up from the chair and out of the front door. John wondered if he would have to relent and get a taxi to take them back to the city but while he was reluctant to touch the Omega, John found that by taking a firm hold of Sherlock’s elbow he was able to guide him, much as he might a blind person, the short distance to the station.

Once Sherlock was safely on the train and propped against a window in a corner seat John felt able to relax. The train was practically empty and John leant back in his own seat, keeping a watchful eye on the oblivious Omega opposite him. John noted that while Sherlock to all extents and purposes was staring at some unseen fixed point ahead his hands appeared to be trawling through an invisible filing cabinet, every now and then pausing to examine an item more closely or turn an unseen page, before batting the object away. He seemed to be calm and providing no obvious cause for concern so John downgraded his attention and turned his thoughts instead to Dr Graham’s parting words.

“Don’t think I don’t regret what happened” he’d said “when I look back I often wonder if I could have intervened, if I could have been more forceful with the Henrik Vanpoule. Joseph had no one in the world to protect him apart from another teenage boy. I was that boy’s father and I let them both down.

The old man had paused for a moment to wipe his eyes, although no tears had fallen.

“I don’t agree with the indefinite use of heat suppressants, I believe that to know the exquisite intimacy of a shared heat is very nearly the most perfect, sublime experience that any human can enjoy. But everything is all wrong, out of kilter in this world now. I might not have approved of David’s research but that doesn’t mean I approve of bonded rape and sexual slavery, or mating Omegas so young it is tantamount to child abuse. Omegas must be free to make a choice”

Those last words from the eminent physician had cut John to the quick and he’d been filled with a fresh sense of guilt and shame over his bond with the unconscious Omega.

******

The journey back to London was little more than half an hour and they were soon approaching Waterloo, John realised he had no idea what he was supposed to do with Sherlock for the rest of the day, it was clear though that he could not leave the Omega to his own devices. With some difficulty he bundled Sherlock into a taxi and he directed the driver to take them to Baker Street.

Travelling through London Sherlock began to come round slightly; he blinked continuously for a couple of minutes and then surveyed his surroundings through squinting eyes as if he had never seen the inside of a taxi before.

By the time they were deposited on the pavement outside 221, Sherlock was more or less able to make his own way to the front door. John quickly unlocked it and called for Mrs Hudson to come and relieve him of his burden.

The landlady opened the door of her own flat and immediately took charge.

“Bring him in and put him on the couch, he’ll be fine, he’ll be in his Mind Palace”

“His what?”

“Mind Palace, he’s always had one, ever since he was little. It’s where he stores his knowledge and does his thinking. Don’t you worry; I’ll phone Anthea and let her know he’s here”

John helped his landlady get Sherlock horizontal and declining her offer of tea took off to his own flat knowing that an afternoon spent in the company of his daughter was just what he needed to forget his cares.

Sherlock lay on the couch for a while before abruptly sitting up and demanding biscuits and beginning a rapid text conversation with Lestrade which continued long after his brother’s assistant arrived to collect him.

******

Mycroft with no hint of an ulterior motive agreed to invite the Detective Inspector over to his house the next morning.

Duly summoned, Lestrade was shown into Mycroft’s office promptly at nine o’clock. Mycroft had already been at his desk for five hours and had broken the back of the day’s work, at least until Washington woke up in four hours’ time. Sherlock was still in his dressing gown.

Lestrade, in response to Sherlock’s messages, had brought with him two files retrieved from the police records and a grumpy ex-army doctor who was far from happy at having his work schedule reorganised at short notice and without his permission, and not about to hide it. He glared purposefully at Mycroft though his gaze softened when it alighted on Sherlock.

The Inspector had taken the time to familiarise himself with the cases overnight and was happy to present a résumé to the brothers and John.

“It seems your Dr Graham was being economical with the truth when he told you Joseph Vanpoule took the only way out. He wasn’t referring to suicide or at least not strictly speaking, Twenty-seven years ago Joseph Vanpoule murdered his Alpha and brought about his own death as a result. There was no question of doubt; his finger prints were all over the knife”

Sherlock took the file from the Inspector and quickly scanned the reports.

“It says both bodies were found in the study, which was locked”

“The police arrived about five in the afternoon and estimated that Professor Moriarty had been dead for about three hours, though death was not thought to have been instantaneous. Rigor had begun but wasn’t very advanced. Joseph’s death had occurred later but it was a hot day and his body was still warm so it was harder to pinpoint an exact time. Although he had probably lapsed into unconsciousness the moment his Alpha died.”

“An open and shut case then” Mycroft observed.

“Not exactly” Lestrade looked over at the file in Sherlock’s hands “There were a couple of anomalies that caught the local bobbies’ attention and they called in the Yard”

“Anomalies?” John asked, if he was going to be dragooned here, he thought he might as well join in.

“The afternoon of the incident the police received a series of 999 calls regarding a disturbance at the property. This was 1986, the calls were from a phone box; domestic violence wasn’t such a priority for us back in the eighties. The Cambridgeshire force took two hours to respond”

Sherlock took over, reading from the file “When the two officers arrived they found the front door wide open but the study door locked and no key, there were signs that someone had been trying to force entry, but the house was deserted. One officer started to search around but the other had the bright idea of looking through the keyhole. He saw the body of the professor on the floor. It was a solid wooden door and they had to use the axe they carried in the police vehicle to break the door down and gain entry. That’s when they discovered there were two bodies inside”

Lestrade took the file back from Sherlock and extracted an aerial photograph of a large detached house set in its own grounds.

“This was no densely populated housing estate where everyone knows everyone else’s business; the house was on the outskirts of the village with no immediate neighbours”

John grasped the point Lestrade was making “So for anyone to claim to have overheard a domestic incident they must have been in the garden, if not in the house itself”

“Exactly”

“And the second anomaly?”

Mycroft was ahead of them “The key to the study. If it had been in the lock outside the police would have been able to open the door, but it wasn’t on the inside as the officer would not have been able to look through the keyhole. I assume no key was recovered from the study?”

“None that is recorded”

“So at least one other person was on the premises that afternoon”

“Yes, Cambridgeshire police came to the same conclusion but were unable to establish who. In the end the facts were as I stated, Joseph Vanpoule stabbed his Alpha to death, and died as a result”

The three men sat silently contemplating the tragic events nearly thirty years ago. Each one speculating what Joseph had gone through during his short bond to warrant such drastic action.

“There’s something they missed” Sherlock said in exasperation “The police miss things all the time there has to be something else”

Lestrade let the insult ride took two photographs from the second file and laid them out on Mycroft’s desk. They were of a slim white male aged around forty with dark hair and the hint of a receding hairline. The first was the kind of head and shoulder shot found on an ID badge or passport; the second showed a full length picture of what was possibly the same man caught in motion and looked like a still image taken from a CCTV.

“Dr David Graham, age 42, left work at HRZ Chemica Ltd, in Slough 12.30pm on 21st April 2011 to fetch a sandwich and disappeared”.

“Abducted? Absconded? Murdered?” Sherlock fired off the words like bullets.

Lestrade shrugged “If he was murdered whoever did it has covered their tracks very successfully, no clue, no motive, and more importantly no body has ever been found. Abducted? Likewise no ransom note, no motive. Absconded? Again no indication, David Graham worked on a number of developments for HRZ Chemica. Highly lucrative for the company but nothing controversial or sensitive, and nothing went missing when he did”.

“What do we know?”

“The investigation traced some CCTV footage of him leaving the HRZ’s plant at 12.31, he went to a nearby cash point, bank records show he drew out twenty quid so nothing unusual there. He then went to a small café around 300 metres from his work place. That’s an image of him entering the place but we’ve never been able to pick him out leaving…21st April 2011 was the Thursday before Easter, people were heading off early for the long weekend, with or without permission, David’s absence was written off the same way. His assistant had booked Easter week off and his colleagues assumed he was on holiday too without anyone bothering to check with HR. You may not remember this but there were two long weekends in a row that year due to the royal wedding and the May Day bank holiday. Like most of the country a lot of the staff at HRZ were taking advantage of the extra day to take leave and it wasn’t until the following Thursday, two weeks later, that David Graham was reported missing. The perils of the single life”

Sherlock turned to his brother “What have you got on David Graham?”

Mycroft stalled “I assure you that the government does not habitually keep information on every scientist in the country”

“Wrong!”

Mycroft sighed audibly and gave a half-hearted roll of his eyes, revealing without question to both John and Lestrade his sibling relationship to Sherlock. He turned to the laptop open on the desk and tapped in a few commands before angling it so that all four of them could see the screen.

“It is unnecessary to remind you that everything you are about to see is to be treated in utmost confidence. Unnecessary because there is little in our records on David Graham that isn’t easily available through google and Linkedin. He was an extremely able research chemist with a sound body of work on the hormone treatment of certain cancers. He lived a quiet life, had few friends and was so unremarkable that he could go missing for two weeks before anyone noticed.

“Except there was something”

Mycroft sighed again “There were a couple of items that might pique your interest. David Graham lived a life of inordinate simplicity, he rented a tiny flat in Slough for nearly ten years prior to his disappearance, he rode a twelve year old bicycle to work, he didn’t own a car, and used public transport for journeys where it wasn’t feasible to cycle. He apparently had no hobbies and no social life apart from trips to the local library, though he made a point of visiting his father in London at least once a month”.

John started.

“What?” Lestrade asked.

“It might be significant” John answered “Dr Graham said his son was distant, that they hadn’t seen much of each other before David disappeared”

“Well either he’s covering or David’s visits to London were not as a result of filial duty” Mycroft gave a wry smile “What is suspicious is that at the time of his disappearance David Graham had little over £200 in his bank account”

“Suspicious?”

“Where the authorities get suspicious is if an individual has a lifestyle that is direct contradiction to their income. David Graham was a single man with twenty years continuous employment in a reasonably well paid field but had no savings or assets to show for it. For goodness sake!” Mycroft stabbed at the first photograph with his finger. “The man turned his collars!”

“Drugs? Gambling?” John suggested.

“Or running a research clinic on the side”

“The second point of interest is that David Graham a member of a far right, Alpha supremacist organisation”

All three men exclaimed in disbelief.

“You mean Richard”

Mycroft gave his brother a withering look “David Graham founded the Alpha Genome Research Association for the collective advancement of the Alpha sub-species”

“A.G.R.A!” John exclaimed.

“Never heard of it” Lestrade said.

“A.G.R.A was the name written on Mary’s memory stick, the one she left for Sherlock. But that doesn’t make sense, she was a closeted Omega, why on earth was she involved with Alpha supremacists?”

“I’ve never heard of it” Lestrade said again “And I’ve come across all kinds of cranks and some right nasty pieces of work in my time”

“That is understandable” Mycroft smiled at the Inspector as if he was particularly pleased with him. “Very little is known about A.G.R.A, occasionally it would take a lease on premises in the poorer parts of London, but it never advertised for members, never held a rally and never caused trouble. You will not be surprised to learn that there are tabs kept on all manner of extremist organisations and subjects of concern… religious, political, racial. No known Alpha Supremacist has ever been connected with David Graham or identified as a member of the Association. Quite simply it doesn’t exist”

“Clever” Sherlock’s voice held a note of wonder “Very clever. Where better to hide a clinic providing Omegas with illicit heat suppressants than behind a supremacist organisation. Most right minded people would steer clear of it, and those Alphas who might be interested would be too busy with their own factions and infighting. Very clever”

“But someone knew about it” John said “And knew enough about it to scare off David Graham, or worse, and has been systematically eliminating every Omega who ever used his treatment”

“What I don’t understand” Lestrade added, opening himself up to ridicule from Sherlock “Is why keep it to himself, he obviously cared passionately about civil liberties and the welfare of Omegas, he lost his childhood sweetheart to a forced bonding and he put all his energy, time and money into developing this wonder drug that could change the lives of Omegas for ever, why not go public?”

“Why not indeed?”

Mycroft was about to continue but Sherlock was on his feet, dressing gown swirling as he skittered round the room, arms waving, talking over his brother.

“That’s it, that’s it, we’ll go public, give a press release, conference, anything to grab attention… announce to the world the discovery…advertise for participants for the clinical trials… I’ll front it, offer myself as bait… an Omega who’s got above himself… they won’t be able to resist the temptation to close me down…that will flush whoever is behind these killings out”

“No!”

Sherlock simultaneously stopped twirling and talking “No?” He tried to ignore the Alpha’s instruction but found that he couldn’t. It was such a bizarre experience he nearly missed what John was saying.

John directed his reply to Mycroft “Your family engaged me to ensure that your brother didn’t come to any harm during this investigation and that includes taking unnecessary risks and now he’s talking of offering himself up as bait to a serial killer, maybe more than one. Yes, we’ll go public, I can see that makes sense but we are keeping Sherlock’s name out of it. If you need a public face I’m sure the British Government has a spare fake ID I can use”

“Well that’s very brave of you, Dr Watson, very brave or very stupid”

“I’m a soldier, I can handle myself. Just provide me with a believable ID and a place of safety for my daughter; I want her out of harm’s way while this is going on”

“I’m sure that Mummy and Father would be delighted to host your daughter at their house in the country so that can be arranged. As for ID, I don’t see why we should put the powers that be to the trouble of creating a fake persona when we have a real one available, Dr David Graham, back from the dead!”

******

Three short telephone calls set the wheels in motion. Rosie and the nanny to Sussex, Police Liaison to the elder Dr Graham and the story to Mycroft’s press officer. The press release was published online by the British Medical Association and was duly picked up by the broadsheets by the end of that week. The Daily Express ran a story as an end ‘the End of Civilisation as We Know It’ attention grabber although as most journalists were Betas it did not temper the scaremongering with any sympathy.

The mocked up contact details for ‘Dr Graham’ were monitored by a team of Mycroft’s minions who trawled through the numerous hate emails that ranged from the bizarre through the vitriolic to the downright dangerous. These were dealt with accordingly, with the usual suspects, embittered single Alphas, and surprisingly a small number of Omegas being detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. In the emails allowed through were a number of heart-breaking messages from teenage Omegas who were facing imminent bonding to the extent that Sherlock declared he would market the drug himself whatever the outcome of the case but there was nothing that appeared link the current activity to the past.

Mummy reported that the Watson party had arrived safely and John schlepped out to Sussex every three days to visit them returning with a contented air about him and little parcels of goodies from Mr Holmes’ kitchen. Sherlock refused John’s invitations to accompany him. Sherlock claimed to have had sufficient of his parents’ company to see him through the next five years but if he was honest he found the idea of watching the Alpha playing happy families from the side-lines oddly unpalatable.

Finally seventeen days after the press release (by which time Sherlock was almost out of his mind with frustration and boredom) the four of them gathered in Mycroft’s office again to review an email that the young Beta who John privately referred to as minion Carl had singled out as being of interest.

Mycroft read it aloud to the others.

“Dear Dr Graham. I was thrilled to read in the paper that you were well and working on your suppressants again as I was one of your patients until you closed your programme. You may not remember me but at the time you knew me as Toby’s Mummy. If you are able to consider me for further treatment I would be forever in your debt, as I am sure you will appreciate, the past three years have not been easy ones”

“Genuine?”

“It would appear so. The email address is a recently registered gmail and the IP address is a Starbucks on the Earls Court Road but there is no reason to suppose it is anything other than it claims to be”

Sherlock took the print out from his brother and studied it carefully.

“Single, white female Omega, early thirties, native English speaker, educated, middle class, cat owner”

“That doesn’t sound like our serial killer”

“Serial killers like to offer an element of surprise but in this case, unlikely as it is Gavin, you are corrrrrrect” Sherlock tossed the paper towards Mycroft’s desk; it missed and fluttered to the floor “Really Mycroft if that’s the best your minions can come up with I despair of the entire secret service. Let me know when you have something worth my attention”

Sherlock turned to make a dramatic exit but his attention was distracted as John bent and retrieved the paper from where it had fallen at his feet.

“And you say this is definitely the real thing?” John directed his question to Mycroft who nodded.

“As much as we can be certain of anything”

“Then we need to bring her in”

Sherlock opened his mouth to speak but was stopped in his tracks by John putting up his hand.

“Sherlock” John’s tone made it clear that he was in no mood for argument. “we're bringing her in. If this Omega really is one of David Graham’s test subjects, then someone out there wants her dead”

Chapter Text

The British Government and Scotland Yard concurred with John’s view and eventually Sherlock agreed that for want of any other leads it would at least pass the time.

The general consensus was that the originator of the email was either resident in London or living within easy commuting distance. A reply was sent inviting the Omega to Baker Street at eleven o’clock the next morning when Mrs Hudson would be at her Zumba class and out of harm’s way.

******

Only John and Sherlock were at Baker Street for the appointment. Lestrade excused himself on the grounds that the interview was of a precautionary nature rather than part of an ongoing case and tactfully did not want to overwhelm what might be an anxious Omega. Mycroft was of the opinion that he had already devoted far too much time facilitating his brother’s whims at the expense of his own business on the world’s stage and to be present at the Baker Street meeting sounded dangerously close to ‘leg work’. Mycroft certainly had no wish to spend a morning in the wilds of NW1, however interested he might be privately in the outcome of the investigations.

Sherlock arrived in a car once again provided by Mycroft. Although he claimed to be going quietly demented living at his brother’s house he had been unable to persuade either Mycroft or his parents to allow him his own property again. As the alternative to Mycroft’s was Sussex he kept his grumbling to a minimum and took comfort in the fact his brother’s house was a large one and their paths needn’t cross very often.

Mrs Hudson let Sherlock in on her way out and smiled fondly as the Omega bounded up the stairs to 221b ready to start laying down the law to John. He was met with the brusque direction to stay out of sight until John had assessed the situation and considered it safe. Sherlock attempted an argument but John was having none of it and Sherlock was forced to concede defeat and retire to the kitchen to alternatively sulk and nose through the cupboards.

The doorbell rang at precisely 11.00 am and John went to answer it, pausing only for a reassuring touch of the Sig tucked into his waistband before opening the door.

On the doorstep of 221 Baker Street stood a dishevelled man of indeterminable age with straggly grey hair and a full beard. John was so taken aback he couldn’t stop himself blurting out.

“You’re the Omega?”

John was confused, he may not have Sherlock’s deductive powers but he was a doctor and had served in the army and every sense available to him was telling him the visitor was an Alpha.

“No, John” Sherlock had somehow crept unheard down the stairs and materialised in the doorway. He reached past John holding his hand out to the stranger. “Dr Graham, I presume”

******

David Graham had peeled off the long grey wig though it appeared that the beard was his own and was sitting in one of John’s armchairs. Sherlock sat opposite him, hands in prayer position as he silently observed the Alpha, while John made tea, having first established that there was no threat either to his Omega or himself. The uneasy silence continued once John joined them, until it was finally broken by their visitor.

“How much do you know?”

Sherlock didn’t need to be asked twice.

“I know that you were in some way connected with the death of Joseph Vanpoule and his Alpha, I think that you were at the house that afternoon and I suspect it was you who tried to break the door down and also contacted the police. There was no telephone at the house, or there was but it was in the study which was locked, so you ran between the house and a telephone box some distance away making increasingly more desperate calls to the police. You weren’t bonded to Joseph but you were in love with him and you were sufficiently attuned to know when his life expired, and sensible enough to get away once you knew it was hopeless.

“Joseph was a highly intelligent boy; he would have had a contingency plan in the event of his presenting as an Omega. Probably that you and he would bond with or without his parents’ consent but you never got the chance. So he came up with something else. I think Joseph sent for you; he couldn’t contact you directly so he must have had an accomplice, probably a relative. He told you to come to the house on that day at a specific time, so the killing of his Alpha was premeditated and he thought your presence necessary. He thought you could save him.

“I know that following Joseph’s death you vowed to dedicate your life to developing an effective heat suppressant, spurred on no doubt by the fate of your friend, which would grant Omegas like him the freedom to live independently. You made life choices regarding work and education that allowed you to access the resources you needed and had been successful. Over time you gathered around you a small number of closeted Omegas on which to trial the medication. I know that three years ago you suddenly and without warning abandoned your work and disappeared without trace, I believe the intention behind this action was to ameliorate an immediate threat, not just to your own life but to those around you. Am I right?”

David Graham had rather the look of a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car but he rallied and was able to reply.

“Yes, more or less. Joey was convinced he would turn out to be an Omega. He had all the characteristics, six year age gap between him and the next youngest, elderly multigravida mother, and seven older siblings, all Alphas. It was constantly on his mind.

“We had talked of bonding; Joey knew I’d treat him right. But he presented at school, the Vanpoules whisked him away to an Aunt’s in Cambridgeshire, I never saw him again. The Aunt was a typical Vanpoule, no money and keeping up appearances but her Omega was sympathetic. She smuggled the letters between us.

“Joey said if he was forced to bond against his will he would kill himself, and I never doubted him. No histrionics, he said it quite matter of fact. But the letter he sent after he’d bonded…Mr Holmes, Dr Watson, you have no idea, what Joey went through, the man was a satyr and should never have been allowed to bond again. The Professor had money and Joey said if he killed himself, he would just find another impoverished family with no scruples and buy a new Omega, if the Professor died then he would sign his own death warrant, and Joey really didn’t want to die.

“Joey used to borrow my father’s medical journals and we’d read an article by some Spanish doctor about how an Omega might survive the untimely death of a mate. I think that was Joey’s plan but you know it all went to hell.

“Somehow Joey got a letter to me telling me to be there at three in the afternoon on a certain day. I caught the train to Cambridge and walked to the village. Found the house, front door wide open and a dreadful groaning sound coming from the study. But that door was locked, it was solid oak and I couldn’t shift it. I’ve never understood, why leave the front door open so anyone could walk in but lock the study door? I assumed it was locked from the inside, but I read the report of the inquest. The police took that room apart and they never found it.

“The rest you know, I went there to save Joey but I couldn’t”

Even after nearly thirty years David Graham’s face revealed his pain.

“Tell us about the suppressants” John asked gently.

“I went back to school, chucked the idea of medicine for chemistry, the old man wasn’t happy but he knew my reasons and in his own way he accepted them, at least he supported me through university. Did my doctorate on the effectiveness of Beta hormones in treating ovarian cancer in male Omegas, which led to my discoveries.

“Spent a couple of years working in Connecticut, fine-tuned the suppressants there” He shook his head at the memory “tried to get the company interested in clinical trials but no one would touch it. I ran it passed a couple of my senior colleagues and a friend at Imperial, they were encouraging but all said the same thing. It could never go to market without clinical trials; there would be no trials without Omegas, no Omegas without government sponsorship and no government would dare to rock the boat where Alpha/Omega dynamics were concerned. So no dice”

“Came back to London, same story, every road I tried was a dead end. It didn’t help that I was a complete ignoramus when it came to Omegas, I’d never even met one apart from Mrs Vanpoule and my mother and I wasn’t about to start discussing heats with either of them.

“So there I was, one breakthrough drug that might end centuries of misery for Omegas and I had no idea if it bloody worked, excuse me”

John nodded sympathetically. “Very frustrating for you”

“Too right, felt like I was letting Joey down all over again”

Sherlock gave an audible groan at the amount of sentiment in the room and said bluntly.

“Moving on”

“Sherlock!”

“It’s ok, there’s a lot of ground to cover. I had a flat share with the guy I mentioned from Imperial, Charlie. The University had a community programme for students, feeding the homeless, the like. Charlie mentioned this kid he’d met, he thought he might be an Omega but Charlie couldn’t be sure. We tracked him down. That was Cecil, he was street wise and had lasted longer on NHS suppressants than most but they weren’t working so well and he’d had a few pretty close shaves. He was wary but he was desperate enough to try anything.

“Cecil moved in with us and ended up staying two years. I started him off on the suppressants, to begin with we were both terrified I’d end up poisoning him or something but it went like a dream, and it wasn’t just that he stopped having heats, Cecil changed, became more confident and relaxed, and grew taller and stronger.

“Cecil did okay out of living with a couple of nerds, he’d had next to no education, we practically had to teach him the alphabet, but he got work as a barista, did some courses, learned to drive. I was working for Londpharma and they were always after sales reps, I pointed Cecil in their direction. He was actually very good at sales. Lots of Alphas in the medical world and they fell for his charm without ever realising why.

“But he was just one Omega. They should have been queuing round the block to take part but I just couldn’t reach them. I tried advertising but got no response. Most Omegas are so sequestered by their parents they wouldn’t have seen it anyway. You don’t realise Mr Holmes, just how lucky you are with your Alpha.”

David Graham had turned his head towards John as he said this.

Sherlock waited a moment for John to speak and then corrected their visitor himself. “We’re not a pair.”

David Graham looked puzzled. “Oh sorry, my mistake, Where was I?”

“Struggling to carry out a clinical trial” John prompted, his voice sharp.

“Yes, that’s where Cecil came in. He was happily going all over the country flogging Londpharma’s goods, and very occasionally he ran into an Omega who was looking for help and he brought them to me, and of course he found Mary. She was more than guinea pig; she was a qualified nurse. She helped in the clinic I set up. I’ve no medical training, I still worried I’d end up killing one of the participants so Mary did basic checks and a few other routine tests that didn’t need to be sent away to a lab. She was great” He turned to John “please believe me when I say how sorry I am for your loss”

David paused while John acknowledged his condolences with a nod.

“After a couple of years I was still trialling the drug on a handful of orphans and runaways. Mary worked as a trauma nurse, this was before she met you Dr Watson, dealing with teenage Omegas coming in to have their stomachs pumped, if she got a chance she’d pass them my details and few did come our way. That’s where Raymond came from”

“Raymond?”

“Raymond Fairdale Hobbs, the first victim.

“Londpharma merged with a number of companies over the years and ended up being taken over by HDZ who relocated the research department to Slough and me along with it. Cecil and Mary and later Molly kept things ticking over. It was better to keep the base in London…”

“Wait” Sherlock interrupted “What Molly?”

The name brought a flash of associations, the scent of lily of the valley, punting along The Backs, and tea with his parents at Grantchester. Sherlock blinked and shook his head distractedly.

“Molly, she was different to the others, she’d been bonded but was estranged from her Alpha. He’d treated her very badly, something to do with a baby that never was. He’d fooled her into giving up her place at university and when she found out she’d left him and gone back to her family. They were very supportive and didn’t force her to reconcile with him. Molly had studied natural sciences for a couple of years and she helped me prepare the meds and I came down once or twice a month with fresh supplies, it worked pretty well for a while and I began think we’d enough data to go to N.I.C.E. and apply for a licence.

“Then everything went to hell again, there was a fire in the building and my office was badly damaged. Getting new premises was hugely difficult and we ended up in the middle of nowhere, that building got condemned because of the drainage and every place we looked at turned out to be unavailable. That’s when we came up with A.G.R.A, that was Mary’s idea and it worked, briefly. Then there was a gas leak, then subsidence, then asbestos, every place we rented we were out of in less than six months. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence but the break-in left me in no doubt.

“The place was trashed but I could hardly go to the police, I was supplying unlicensed medication. Ours wasn’t the only office broken into that night and the police started sniffing around. Opportunist break-in the police said but a week later I got an anonymous message. Close down the programme and clear out or it wouldn’t just be the premises that got it.

“I decided to ignore it, cleaned up the office, business as usual, then exactly one month later Raymond was found dead. I went to the police at once, told them it was suspicious, but was on a hiding to nothing. Classic history of mental illness, two failed attempts as a teenager, estranged from his family. No-one was going to believe that it wasn’t suicide.

“So I did what they wanted, I disappeared, perhaps I was a coward but I thought if I couldn’t save Joey I could at least save my Omegas… except I didn’t did I?”

Sherlock and John could say nothing.

******

After David Graham had left having assured John that yes, he had somewhere to go, no, he wouldn’t disappear again and yes, he would leave a contact number, Sherlock flung himself dramatically onto John’s couch and closed his eyes, dead to the world.

By now John was quite used to the Omega’s idiosyncrasies so he pottered around his flat, attending to a few small tasks and using the time to make a record of David Graham’s story. He made tea and toast and placed a cup at Sherlock’s elbow. Throwing it away, cold and ignored, an hour later.

Meanwhile Sherlock trawled through the corridors of his mind palace following random snippets from the conversations with David Graham and Dr Graham before that, dismissing false leads and backtracking from dead ends until he unexpectedly came to a door marked Cambridge. The door was stiff as it had been unopened for many years but unlike other rooms that had been damaged by his illness the contents were intact, albeit covered in a layer of dust. His cap and gown hung on a hook just inside the door, his early experiments with heat suppressants were on the desk by the window, it was clearly his room in Cloister Court, but the chairs and rug were from the Dean’s club along with the faint aroma of sherry. He tasted the scones eaten in another Omega’s room and saw the face at the window of the house five miles outside Cambridge.

Molly

Sherlock sprung up from the couch making John, who had been dozing in his chair, jump. The Alpha was glad he’d put his Sig away after David Graham had left.

“The files” Sherlock started to disturb the papers on John’s desk.

John took over instantly locating the manila folders in the place Sherlock had put them when he had arrived. Sherlock grabbed the file on Joseph Vanpoule and began simultaneous rapidly flicking through the pages and firing off conclusions.

“Joseph Vanpoule’s Alpha was more than three times his age… he told David the professor should never have been allowed to bond again… so he must have been bonded before…there is every likelihood that he had children. Did they live with him? Where were they that afternoon?”

“Whoa! Slow down, let’s look at the file. If the Professor was three times Joseph’s age then he was in his fifties at least. His children could well be adults; would they still be living with him?”

“Possibly, you saw the photograph, it was a substantial house. Yes!” Sherlock had found the relevant note in the Vanpoule file. “Professor James Moriarty had one child, from his second bond, a son also called James… aged ten at the time.

“According to the file James junior was with a friend, a slightly older boy from the village. They spent the whole day out and about, swam in the mill pond and fished for tiddlers. According to the older boy his mother had made them a packed lunch and he and James were together all day”

“Just the two of them?”

“Yes, immediately suspicious. Easy to persuade one other boy to give you an alibi, particularly if you have some leverage”

“A ten year old though? That level of duplicity?”

“Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were ten years old when they committed a most heinous murder, as was Mary Bell. Never underestimate what a ten year old is capable of. Even if I can’t prove it, I strongly suspect that James was in the house when his stepfather killed his father, and it was he, for his own devices, that locked the study door”

Sherlock looked thoughtful for a moment and then said quietly.

“There was an Omega called Molly in the year below me at Cambridge; she was also reading natural sciences. I understood she left when she became pregnant”

“That sounds like the same Molly”

“The likelihood of two Omegas of similar age, name and circumstances is negligible. Crucially there is something else to consider. I briefly met her Alpha, they lived just outside Cambridge and his name was James Moriarty”

The name hung in the air, and then John said bitterly.

“So this Molly was the traitor in the camp, she betrayed David and Cecil, and all the other Omegas, she betrayed Mary”

“I don’t think so. If this Molly is James Moriarty’s estranged Omega then the instinctive pull between them would mean he would always know where to find her, and knowing that, he could always track down the clinic.

“His father was a ruthless man with no conscience and extensive wealth; there is every reason to believe his son has inherited all those traits. He created the difficulties David Graham had with his clinics and when that didn’t persuade him to abandon his research Moriarty killed or had killed Raymond Fairdale Hobbs as a warning. Even though David Graham wound up his programme after that such is Moriarty’s determination to keep Omegas in servitude that he is systematically bringing about the death of every Omega who took part in the trials, and he won’t stop until he has obliterated every last trace of David Graham’s work”

“If that’s the case, why didn’t he respond to the press release?”

“Because he knew very well that it was nothing to do with David Graham. If the news of the heat suppressant was in the public domain then it had to be a new developer. Which means we cannot hide behind David Graham anymore”

Sherlock knew with sudden and absolute conviction what he had to do as he heard in his head, complete with the lilting cadence of the Irishman’s voice, the words.

I know exactly who you are Mr Sherlock Holmes; that disgrace of an Omega…

“We need to draw him out, and I know how to do it”

Sherlock picked up John’s phone from the table and swiftly entered a number. It was answered on the first ring.

“Brother Mine. I have a little job for you.”

 

******

John was not happy; it was fair to say he was furious. He argued forcefully and at length with both Holmes brothers outlining the sheer lunacy of Sherlock’s proposal, the absolute guaranteed disaster of the plan but stopped short at enacting droit d’Alpha. To claim such privileges, in view of the manner in which he had obtained them, made John hesitate to exercise his authority and in doing so the battle was lost.

Sherlock was adamant that his scheme was the only possible means to engage with Moriarty and told John this in no uncertain terms at which point the Alpha declared he needed air and left. Sherlock was momentarily disconcerted by his departure before moving on with his plans.

Mycroft reluctantly agreed with his brother. Lestrade was told only the bare minimum and Mr and Mrs Holmes were kept in the dark completely.

******

John disgusted with the whole affair and wishing he had never heard of David Graham or Moriarty or the Holmes family for that matter went back to Baker Street and mooched around his empty flat until he came to the conclusion that he was sick of his own company and went down to Sussex to visit Rosie and, to Mr and Mrs Holmes’ dismay, see about bringing her home.

Sherlock, never at his best when playing a waiting game and missing the Alpha more than he cared to acknowledge, moped around Mycroft’s house until finally returning to his ongoing mind palace maintenance. There was something that had been bothering him ever since he and Father had carried out their research during his convalescence and the case of Joseph Vanpoule and his Alpha had resurrected it in his thoughts.

At the back of each volume of the Almanach was a section entitled In Memoriam, it gave the obituaries of notable Alphas that had died since the last edition, and one in particular had sparked Sherlock’s curiosity.

“Richard Ambrose, Alpha, born 16th June 1910, died 14th November 1940, bonded 1937 to Victoria Jenson born 11th May 1917 died 14th November 1940. Richard Ambrose was a bonded Alpha so exempt from military service but he was a qualified engineer and wanted to do his bit for the war effort so he took a post as clerk of works in an armaments factory”

Sherlock decided to discuss this with Father. It made no difference to him that Mr Holmes was in Sussex. From his mental filing cabinet he extracted a yellowing clip from a newspaper.

“This is Richard Ambrose’s obituary from The Midland Evening Telegraph, printed on 30th November 1940. At first I assumed that both Richard and Victoria were killed in the Coventry Blitz, but that wasn’t the case. Richard died as a result of a direct hit to his lodgings in the city centre, but his body wasn’t recovered from the rubble for two days. Victoria was at his parents’ house in Leamington Spa eleven miles away. At precisely 9 o’clock Victoria stood up, gave a terrible cry and dropped dead in front of her in-laws.

“Look at them!” he waved his hands at the illusory pile of books on the desk of the mind palace library. “Hundreds of them through the years, all dying within hours of each other. That’s what Joseph Vanpoule was afraid of. That’s the real curse of the Omega…not the heats, or the bonding or the breeding, it’s that if your Alpha dies before their time then you die too.

“So how did I survive?”

Mr Holmes smile was gentle but enigmatic, but he gave no answer, and when Sherlock opened his eyes he realised he was, as ever, alone.

******

Two days later, with still no word from John, and by which time Sherlock was almost beside himself with ennui, Anthea arrived to deliver Sherlock to his brother’s office.

A padded envelope had place of honour on Mycroft’s desk.

“You haven’t opened it?”

“It’s addressed to you, isn’t it?” Mycroft answered Sherlock's unasked question “We’ve had it X-rayed. It’s not booby-trapped”

Sherlock gingerly slid the paper knife through the flap of the envelope and took out a key and a mobile phone. The key was an old fashioned brass affair with an ornate bow shaped like a four leaf clover, or rather on closer examination, a shamrock. The phone, when Sherlock switched it on displayed one message:

“COME AND PLAY, THE LIE IN LEINSTER GARDENS, JM”

Chapter Text

The gun was Mycroft’s suggestion, though perhaps suggestion was not quite the right description as it was clearly not up for debate. Although Mycroft had acquiesced to the plan to confront Moriarty this did not mean that he was at all happy with it. He was privately enraged with Dr Watson for abandoning his brother in his hour of need. Even Detective Inspector Lestrade was on the receiving end of his vicious temper when he tentatively requested an update on the proceedings.

Mycroft had used all resources available to him to investigate James Moriarty thoroughly but had drawn a blank. Following the murder suicide of his father and stepfather the child James had been sent to live with relatives alternately in England and then in Ireland. Arrangements had broken down on a regular basis and he had been passed from pillar to post until the age of eighteen when he had presumably exited the system however the records were either incomplete or non-existent, a fact that was suspicious in itself.

Due to his substantial inheritance the younger Moriarty had no need of paid employment. He had followed his father’s footsteps into academia and was well known and well respected within the small circle of his specialist field but it was quite apparent this was neither his primary occupation nor sole source of income. The nearest thing to a scandal Mycroft could discover was Moriarty’s estrangement from his Omega, Molly Hooper. But even in that Moriarty was agreed to have behaved in an exemplary fashion by not forcing his mate to reconcile or insisting that they continue to live under the same roof. The pair seemed to have severed their ties, as far as they were able, in a civilised manner.

Notwithstanding the lack of concrete proof Mycroft had no doubt that his brother was absolutely correct. Moriarty was a very dangerous man indeed and he needed to be stopped.

Realising there was little to be done to avoid a confrontation Mycroft sought to control the potential for disaster by arranging for his brother to have firearms training. Omegas were prohibited by law from bearing arms however as the British Government, Mycroft was able to manipulate the records which allowed Sherlock to be issued with a standard MI6 Glock and have a leading police marksman to put him through his paces. Despite his lack of experience it was soon obvious that Sherlock was blessed with a good eye and a steady hand, all he needed was practice.

There was plenty of time for that. Sherlock idled away the hours waiting for Moriarty to call. He continued his various pieces of research and carried out a few experiments, he toyed with one or two cases and honed his shooting skills, not on the range newly installed in Mycroft’s basement but by painting a smiley face on the study wall and randomly firing bullets at it from all angles. He had hoped that this would infuriate his anally house-proud brother but was disappointed when the only response was a sigh as Mycroft observed wryly.

“Something to remember you by, little brother”

Wild horses could not have dragged the confession out of him, but if he was honest, in addition to the boredom, impatience and being resident in his brother’s house, Sherlock was feeling something akin to loneliness. Although he had not been in love with Victor, they had been bonded since he was eighteen and now that Sherlock had recovered his health he had time to reflect on the loss of his mate and regret all that had happened to part them.

He felt keenly the loss of the little house in Montague Street, his laboratory, his couch, the scarred workbench and the vague hint of an explosion in the air, he longed for the life he had led there, the cases and experiments, and the event that had changed his life, the afternoon he had answered the door to a short military looking Alpha.

Because if he was honest what he missed most of all, was Dr Watson.

******

Sherlock was tempted to call round to Baker Street on the pretext of visiting Hudders, but the thought of John seeing through this ruse was too shaming. Instead he threw himself into his work.

David Graham had provided a list of the remaining Omegas that had been part of his suppressant trials. They proved harder track down, they had after all been homeless runaways and often had not divulged their real names, but he had managed to identify two more to his satisfaction, and suspected an additional Jane Doe, all of whom had died unexpectedly and without good cause.

Rather than text, Sherlock decided to call by Scotland Yard to add his findings to the case Lestrade was compiling. The Detective Inspector, who had very quickly acclimatised to Sherlock appearing with a little help-mate at his side enquired nonchalantly.

“Right. So, John?”

“Not really in the picture any more” Sherlock’s reply did not invite discussion.

While not a master of deduction like Sherlock, Lestrade was more than capable of identifying the regret in the Omega’s voice and the sorry droop in his shoulders was enough to bring out the paternalistic side of the policeman’s nature and he resolved to have words with John as soon as he had a free moment.

Lestrade listened carefully to Sherlock’s deductions regarding the three additional Omegas who had died and agreed that it was likely that the same killer was involved, aware also that, as in the other cases, it was doubtful that there would be anything to link them to James Moriarty.

Lestrade, a Beta blessed with a wife that gave him the run-around with monotonous regularity found the whole Alpha/Omega dynamic both mystifying and oddly appealing. That a couple could be bonded to the exclusion of all others would certainly teach the missus a thing or two. As a long serving police officer he had seen the impact of inequality in the demographic first hand both in the rise violence between rival Alphas and in sexual crimes against Omegas. He knew enough of history to know that this change had escalated over the last forty years and rashly he ventured a comment to Sherlock along those lines.

While Sherlock was quick to dismiss Lestrade’s enquiry as prurient curiosity, he could never resist the temptation to show off his brilliance so over a cup of coffee he regaled the Inspector with the conclusions he had reached from his earlier research culminating with the declaration.

“The variable is contraception”

“Contraception’s hardly new is it though?” Lestrade said “I suppose the pill’s taken the element of chance out of the process. But how does that make a difference? There’s still more or less a fifty-fifty chance of having a boy or a girl, isn’t it the same whether they turn out Alpha or Omega?”

“A hundred years ago the average age for a first time mother, whether Beta or Omega was twenty-two, now for Betas it is twenty-eight and over half of all live births in England and Wales are to Beta mothers over thirty. Do you know the average age for an Omega?”

Unsurprisingly Lestrade did not.

“Nineteen years and eight months” 

Lestrade gave a low whistle “quite a gap”

“No-one is seriously investigating the decline in the birth-rate of Omegas. I’ve heard some suggestions blaming the effect of fertilizers and GM food but that is in relation to fertility in general and doesn’t explain why the ratio of Alphas to Omegas has become so skewed. Omegas can’t bond until they’ve had a presenting heat, up until around 1918 that could be as late as twenty-three, probably due to poor health and bad nutrition, but with good natal care Omegas would go on to have healthy children well into their forties. 

“It was something my father said when we looked at the impact on one of the old Alpha families. He said the younger children would be Omegas because younger children always were but he couldn’t say why. It wasn’t to do with birth order per se, they were younger, true, but I am certain it was because their mothers were older”

“Like Cecil Forrester”

“Of course, his Alpha called him an afterthought, a late blessing, born when his mother was already forty, and then there was Joseph Vanpoule, all those older siblings...and me”

“You?”

“Mummy was twenty-four when Mycroft was born, and he’s seven years my senior. Omegas have little choice but to bond young. There’s the risk of rape or forced bonding, plus until now heat suppressants have only been a temporary solution. Large families are rare; most couples can’t afford them so they tend to breed young, have two or three children and stop well before they reach thirty. The few Omegas around are late arrivals like Cecil…and Joseph”

“But wouldn’t the Alpha parent be older too, Alphas are usually older than their mate”

“Yes, excellent point Garry”  Sherlock thought back to some scrawled notes in Mycroft’s cramped shorthand he’d discovered left over from Mycroft’s own dalliance with research, and précised the findings for the Inspector.

(Mycroft’s studies had involved another famous Alpha line, the Smallwooods. Arthur had bonded in 1800 at the age of thirty, when Caroline, his Omega was 21 they had had eight children of whom six had reached maturity, presenting as three Alphas and following the usual pattern, the three youngest were Omegas. But Caroline had died in 1821 and the following year Arthur had bonded again to Octavia Thorpe, then aged 20 and gone on to have a further twelve children, eight of who reached adulthood, three Alphas and the five youngest all Omegas).

“I am convinced it is the age of the gravidae that determines the presentation of their offspring. Find a way of giving Omegas the choice to mate and breed later and you may begin to redress the balance”

******

Sherlock was in the house alone when the message came. Mycroft was at Chequers ensuring the Prime Minister’s attempts at meddling in the affairs of state of another dominion came to nothing. Lestrade was up to his eyes in a people trafficking case down at Tilbury Docks and John…well, John wasn’t on the scene anymore.

The pink phone bleeped, the message read “I’M WAITING”

Sherlock dressed carefully in his favourite Spencer Hart suit, a clean white shirt and wore his coat and scarf against the chilly early morning air. He quietly let himself out of the house and waved to the CCTV camera, wondering if his brother would note his movements, before walking to the corner and hailing a cab to take him to Leinster Gardens. Despite the hour, he didn’t have to wait long which implied that Big Brother was watching him after all.

Naturally he knew about ‘the lie in Leinster Gardens’, it was just the kind mystery to intrigue a boy like Sherlock growing up in the city. He had no idea how many people knew about it, he’d heard that even the hoteliers next door were ignorant and didn’t realised why their neighbours were so quiet.

When the taxi dropped him outside Sherlock could clearly see that the façade of no. 23 now boasted a new front door, barely discernable from the other but complete with a working lock. The key he’d received through the post fitted perfectly and the door opened silently into a room – or rather, as although it ran the whole width of the two houses it was no more than five feet in depth, a corridor.

It was deathly quiet and apart from the ambience of the city that came in through the roofless building there was little light. Sherlock stood still for a moment and allowed his eyes to adjust before edging slowly into the narrow space. The darkness made it hard to deduce anything from his surroundings though he was convinced he was not alone. A slight shift in the air around him betrayed the presence of another living creature though he could not be certain that it was human.

There was enough grey light for Sherlock to be aware that he made an easy target but he was confident that Moriarty hadn’t brought him to Leinster Gardens to kill him. There had been plenty of opportunity in the last few days to carry out an assassination if that was Moriarty’s plan. Rather he had brought Sherlock here to play with him.

“Well” said Sherlock to the darkness “Let the games begin”

******

“He..ell..llo ..Se..xxx.y”

Sherlock turned swiftly to face the direction he thought the sound came from. The quavering woman’s voice changed to a masculine Irish lilt emerging from the gloom.

“I’ve always thought this a marvellous place for a rendezvous, atmospheric and so handy for the tube”

Sherlock spun round again, the empty narrow space distorting the voice so he still couldn’t quite make out the position of the body it belonged to.

“Aren’t you curious as to why I invited you here?

“I know why, you’re going to warn me off, but not before you tell me what really happened at your father’s house the day he died” Sherlock moved slightly, completely alert, trying to pinpoint the whereabouts of his adversary, he needed to keep him talking.

“What makes you think I know more than the police?”

“You sent me the key; to pique my curiosity. What’s the point of getting away with murder if there’s no-one to appreciate how clever you are?”

“You sound like you already know the answer. Do share your theory“

“The police assumed that it was a straightforward domestic; Joseph Vanpoule killed his Alpha and died of shock. I think Joseph did plan to do harm to his Alpha that afternoon. I can think of three possible reasons that he sent for David Graham… no four. ..One, he needed back up; two he planned to run away with him; three he believed that David’s presence could save his life and four” Sherlock stuttered a little “he wanted to see his friend again before he died”.

“Go on, this is vastly entertaining”

“Let me think” Sherlock put his hands to the side of his head, willing himself into the mind of the teenage Joseph “You’re young… isolated… bonded to a much older man who repulses you, living in the middle of nowhere and the only other person you have contact with is a ten year old boy. That’s it!  Did you know what Joseph had planned? Not exactly but you took advantage of what knowledge you did have. You knew David Graham was on his way and you used the opportunity to murder your father and dispose of your stepfather at the same time. So how did you…ah…yes… the go between!

“Persuading Joseph you were on his side was easy. He was desperate, lonely and afraid. David Graham went to the house in response to the letter he received from Joseph. You must have read it before you posted it.

“But Joseph and the Professor were already dead when he arrived, so either Joseph changed his plan or you killed your father earlier”

“An inspired guess”

“I don’t guess.  Your mistake was taking the key away with you after you locked the study door to prevent David Graham getting in. It made the police suspicious but even then they didn’t consider a ten year old boy could have anything to do with it.

“You resented Joseph, beautiful and intelligent Joseph taking up your father’s time, displacing you in his affections, while no doubt your father, the eminent professor, strutted around, cock of the walk just because he had a new child mate he was going to spawn with”

Sherlock's own voice betrayed what he thought of the professor.

Moriarty’s shadow moved into Sherlock line of vision, it was either getting closer to dawn or his eyes were adjusting further to the lack of light.

“You’ve no idea how gross it was, him sniffing round Joseph, telling me to be pleased that I was going to have a brother or a sister, as if that was something to be proud of. I knew Joseph’s plan so I made myself scarce. There was a boy in the village I had a hold over, I made him cover for me.

“I came back to the house just before two. Father and Joseph were in the study fighting, they didn’t see me creep in, there was a stiletto on the desk, father used it for opening letters I picked it up and stabbed him in the neck. Joseph got the worse of the blood, my father didn’t die right away, Joseph flailed around shouting “what have you done, what have you done” and then he went down, it was all so like a Greek play.  I wiped the handle of the knife and put it in Joseph’s hand”

“You did this as a ten year old?”

“I was precocious. I locked the study door, left the front door open, thought it would confound David Graham if he did turn up. I went back to the mill pond; I was in and out of the water all afternoon, which washed me whiter than snow.  Carl was there alone but he told the police we’d been together all day because he couldn’t say otherwise”

“They never questioned your alibi?”

“Why would they?  Poor Carl, what a bore, I killed him later, as insurance”

Another murder so casually admitted did not surprise Sherlock; he made a mental note to investigate it later and continued with the case in hand.

“You dropped the key in the mill pond, they tend to be pretty deep, the one you sent me is a replica; made to fit the door of the empty house, nice touch”

“I thought you’d appreciate it”

“So that was the start of what? A vendetta against Omegas? Demonstrating Alpha supremacy? What?”

The Alpha shrugged “Why does anyone ever do anything? Because they can. You find something that keeps you amused, a little game to play, a puzzle to solve, anything to stop being bored. We’re alike in that Mr Holmes.

“When I discovered that Molly's new friend was David Graham, the David Graham from my first game all those years ago it really was inexcusable not to include him. But he started to make progress with his suppressants and he needed a friendly warning to back off. Chess is very dull if you never remove any pieces”

Moriarty had emerged from the shadows though he was still not completely visible.

“If you don’t abandon your research and destroy all record of your heat suppressants, do you know what happens to you?”

“Oh, let me guess. I get killed” Sherlock was almost disappointed with the way the conversation had turned.

“Kill you?” Sherlock still couldn’t see Moriarty clearly but he heard the sneer in his voice “N-no, don’t be obvious. I mean, I’m gonna kill you anyway someday. I don’t wanna rush it, though. I’m saving it up for something special. No-no-no-no-no. If you don’t stop your work, I’ll burn you.

“By the time I’ve finished with you you’re going to be so glad to be dead.  Sherlock Holmes! Sir Boastalot! The Omega who got too big for his boots! Who thought he could act God and meddle with nature and ended up killing his own kind! The Omega who drove his own Alpha to suicide, a salutary lesson for children everywhere…even big brther won't be able to save you, because Sherlock I will make you infamous, you'll be next week’s news!”

Startled Sherlock heard a noise to the right of him, and an image appeared projected onto the wall to his left, part of the front page of the Daily Mail but dated three days hence. The headline story read:

 

 

“SUICIDES LINKED TO OMEGA WONDER DRUG”

Top health officials discover cause of Omega deaths.

Hailed as breakthrough in the daily lives of Omegas everywhere, the metropolitan police confirmed they are investigating claims

that it is linked to the high number of suicides amongst Omegas who were involved in testing the unregistered suppressant.

Omega scientist Sherlock Holmes…

 

“If you read it in the papers it must be true. I love newspapers. Fairy tales”

Sherlock was dismissive “That doesn’t account for the shootings, Mary and Cecil and the other one”

“Oh don’t worry; I’ve got that covered too”

In the darkness the projector clicked again and another headline appeared, this time from the Daily Express dated for the following week:

 

“OMEGA DRUG – RIVAL GANGS BEHIND KILLINGS”

Police have linked the new Omega wonder drug to a spate of street crimes as rival gangs fight for control over the unlicensed substance.

Amidst claims of it's hallucinogenic properties that are not unlike LSD and which has led it to be in demand as the latest craze amongst young people.

Omega Sherlock Holmes, the scientist behind the drug was today said…

 

“And then there’s my personal favourite”

A third image appeared, back to the Daily Mail.

 

“KILLER SUPPRESSANT DRUGS - SUICIDE OF DISGRACED OMEGA”

by our special correspondent Kitty Riley

 

“I’ve left the rest blank, I haven't decided when and how you're going to kill yourself yet"

Moriarty paused for effect, ever the showman.

"Well, I’d better be off, so nice to have had a proper chat”

The Alpha’s voice was light, sociable even; it left Sherlock disorientated to the extent that he almost let him go.

“Stop” Sherlock felt beneath his coat to get a handle on the Glock.

“I beg your pardon?”

Moriarty was visible now, clear in Sherlock’s line of vision.

“You won’t get away with this”

“Oh dear me” Moriarty scoffed “You do fancy yourself a comic book hero”

“People have died” Sherlock’s voice was soft but determined. In contrast Moriarty bawled back at him.

“That’s what people DO!”

“I will stop you”

“No you won’t”

Sherlock stepped forward into the space Moriarty occupied; they were an arm’s length from each other now, though the light was still poor. He pulled out the gun,

“What if I was to shoot you now… right now?”

“Then you could cherish the look of surprise on my face” Moriarty’s grotesque expression emphasised his dismissive tone “Because I’d be surprised, Sherlock; really I would. Kill me and you take my Omega with me, remember her, little Molly, you wouldn’t want to do that would you?  In this game you can’t take the King without sacrificing the Queen”

“The Queen’s immaterial when you’re checkmate”

“Except we are playing a deadlier game than chess. Could you live with that Mr Sherlock Holmes, live with the fact you caused the death of an innocent Omega and completed the work I set out to do?”

The two men stared at each other down but as Moriarty had known all along it was Sherlock who caved first and lowered the gun.

“I thought not…Ciao, Sherlock Holmes”

And he was gone.