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A Most Convenient Mate

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     As Sherlock walked through the door of 221B, he knew he was not alone. He looked up to meet the eyes of the man currently sitting in his chair and drinking his tea.

     “Thank you for joining me Sherlock. I was starting to think that you weren’t coming.” Mycroft took a final sip of his drink before replacing the cup delicately on its saucer.

     He narrowed his eyes at the intruder. “Get out." 

     “That is hardly the way to speak to family is it? What would Mummy say?”

     “Oh look, you’ve eaten another whole cake. That was the third one. Today.” Sherlock responded in falsetto before removing his coat and tossing it vaguely in the direction of the coatrack. “Why are you here? Don’t you have genocide to commit?”

     “If you would simply answer my calls then this,” Mycroft gestured mildly around the room, “would be unnecessary.”

      “This is dull.”

     “Dull is hardly the word.” The chiding tone of Mycroft’s voice rubbed Sherlock exactly the wrong way.

     “Dull. Boring. Unnecessary.” Sherlock fell to the couch with a petulant expression. “I can think of 47 things that I could be doing at right this moment that would be more useful than this conversation.  Fix it now, so I may return to my Work.”

     “It’s the law Sherlock.” Mycroft resisted the urge to yell. He knew this conversation was never going to go well but that would only make it impossible. “You knew this was coming. It’s not exactly a surprise.”

     “Then maybe you should stop shoveling cake in your mouth long enough to change said unnecessary law.” Sherlock hissed at his brother.

     “If only it were so simple Sherlock.” His brother sighed. “Despite what you seem to believe, I don’t actually control every part of the entire country. Family law falls a bit outside of my area. I can assure you that I have done everything within my power to prevent this from coming to pass. It is now out of my hands, and technically you really should have been registered years ago.”

     “I shouldn’t have to be registered at all!” Sherlock shouted, indignant.

     “The Omega Protection Statute may be a relic of a bygone era but it is still very much in effect. Every unbound omega must be registered for bonding by the time they reach 21 years. You are 32 years old Sherlock. I gave you as long as I could to find a suitable Alpha to bind to; you have had ample time to pick a mate of your own- a full decade more than most. Despite what you seem to think I'm not happy about the situation either, but I am being far from unreasonable here.”

     “Dull.” Sherlock hissed. “I have no need of a mate.” He spat the last word with obvious distaste. “While some may enjoy the idea of being smothered by some overlarge oaf with a superiority complex, I haven’t the time to worship at the feet of some Alpha while there is Work to be done. You need to fix this. Now.”

     “I cannot just ‘fix it’ this time Sherlock.” Mycroft shot back. “You have come to the attention of the Project Committee. I have been informed that you have 3 days to present yourself, or you WILL be found in contempt. Not only could it affect my standing but you will lose your right of first refusal altogether.” Mycroft was desperate to make Sherlock see how dire the situation had become. “Is that what you want? Whatever alpha they set in front of you, without even the token option to say no?”

     Sherlock's eyes were angry slits as he stood to look at Mycroft. “You know what I want. I want to live my life. If you can’t fix it for me, I will have to find someone else.” 

     The omega turned on his heel and stormed out of the flat, leaving his brother frowning behind him.

*****

     Molly Hooper was always one of the first to know when Sherlock was in a truly foul mood, even if she didn't know quite what brought it on. He tended to sweep into the morgue like a rabid bat, ready to commit all sorts of atrocities on her poor corpses in the name of scientific inquiry.

     Right now he was glaring at the sample under his microscope as if it had personally offended him.

     Licking her lips Molly hesitantly offered, “If you wanted to talk about it…?”

     “It would not be with you,” was the instant response.

     “Oh. Of course.” She looked away.” I just thought I would offer. It can be good to talk about things that are bothering you. “

     “You wouldn't understand.”

     “Well. Ok. But if you change your mind, well, I’ll just be over here then.” She turned away, back to the unfortunate Mr. Douglas currently cut open on her table. A while later she was fully focused on the task of removing the liver, had in fact just plucked it from the body, when Sherlock spoke.

     “Are you attracted to alphas?”

     Molly almost dropped the organ in her hand as she stared at Sherlock, who was still staring intently into the microscope. “I’m sorry?”

     Sherlock sighed. “Do you. Find alphas. Attractive? Do try to keep up.”

     “Well. I mean.” Molly could feel her cheeks burning. “That’s a bit of a personal question isn’t it?”

     “Boring. Why do you like Alphas? A beta woman such as you doesn’t seem like the type.”

     “A woman like me?” Molly sputtered, offended.

      Sherlock looked up from the microscope, shooting an exasperated look at the flustered woman. “Yes, a woman like you. While you apparently cannot follow a simple conversation, which you initiated I may add, you do possess some small amount of intelligence.  Your biology does not require you to select an alpha so it’s purely personal preference on your part. The important question is why. Why, out of every possible choice presented to you, would you choose an alpha over a beta when frankly that seems much more your speed?”

     “I-I don't know.” Molly stuttered in embarrassment. “I mean, they are known for being sweet and strong. An alpha will always protect you no matter what. They will keep you close because you are precious to them.”

     “That sounds like a description from one of your torrid little novels. It’s obvious you have no first-hand experience here” Sherlock snapped. “But even then, some might call that smothering and possessive; a constant presence always at your back, breathing down your neck.”

     “Well maybe, some might think of it like that. But it’s terribly romantic to imagine having your safety and happiness being someone else’s highest priority” Molly defended herself. 

     “Boring” Sherlock dismissed. “That sounds utterly revolting. I would say that I thought you were above that drivel but in the end, that would be a lie.”

      “That’s not fair” protested Molly weakly. “What has you in a snit about alphas all of a sudden anyway? Is it for a case?” Molly couldn't think of any cases that might need the details of her hidden fantasies but who really knew with Sherlock.

     “I have to register” Sherlock stated shortly.

     Molly’s mouth fell open. “You?” she asked incredulously.

     “Even you are aware that I am an omega.” Sherlock muttered. “I haven’t got a choice unless Mycroft gets off of the cake long enough to do his job which, let’s be honest, isn’t going to happen.”

     “Didn't you have some kind of special dispensation? I thought for sure with your brother...” Molly let the sentence trail off.

     “Apparently not.” Sherlock snorted as Mike Stamford walked into the room.

     “Well,” Molly started with false cheer, trying desperately to find a bright side, “if you have to register at least you know that they will find the perfect match for you. People like me… we have to make the best go of it we can.”

     “People like you bore me to literal tears” Sherlock snapped. “What do you know of bond mates? Nothing. I have no desire to be bound to some random Neanderthal with more between their legs than their ears.”  Sherlock began to pace back and forth as the words flowed out of him.

     “I don't need some alpha thinking to tell me what I can and cannot do. I get enough of that from Mycroft but at least now I don't have to worry about popping out a steady supply of pups for Queen and Country,” gesturing wildly around, Sherlock startled Mike enough to send him scuttling backwards towards Molly. Neither of the betas had seen Sherlock like this before, and yet he continued to yell.

     “I’m an omega not a brood mare. I do not need to be bound ‘for my own protection’ since I can obviously do just fine protecting myself. There is no reason for me to sacrifice my Work to spend the rest of my life under the thumb of some random alpha, chosen by a committee that will most certainly take out its frustration on my brother by giving me the very worst options to ‘choose’ from. It’s barbaric, and I won’t be a part of it.”

     Sherlock threw himself onto one of the stools, uncharacteristically subdued from his rant. Molly approached him slowly. “I’m sorry Sherlock. Really. I had no idea.”

     “Exactly,” he responded icily, “you have no idea. So keep your insipid little notions about a so called ‘perfect match’ to yourself. Frankly, I haven’t the time.” Turning away to straighten his jacket and regain his composure he called over his shoulder. “I need a fresh cadaver. As recently deceased as possible, I have an experiment on post mortem bruising that pertains to an actual case, which is my actual job.”

     “Of course.” Molly quickly pulled her soiled gloves off as she went to tap on her computer keyboard. “It appears that we have one on the way actually. Time of death was only 15 min ago. He should be here shortly.”

     “That will do nicely.” Sherlock nodded with sudden apparent delight. “I should have just enough time to pop out for the riding crop.”

*****

     His leg hurt. Oh, he knew that according to both his doctor and his therapist, there was nothing physically wrong with the leg. Unlike his shoulder, it hadn’t actually gotten injured in the firefight that got him shipped back home early. It certainly didn't feel that way though. Every step was agony.

     John wanted nothing more than to lie in his bed and not leave it again; which, incidentally, is the reason he was limping through the park. The temptation was strong and it was one of the rare clear and sunny days in London; he decided to escape the sad little room he now occupied in search of brighter pastures.

     He heard a voice yell his name. “John! John Watson!”  Turning around he saw a red faced and rather portly man attempting to flag him down.

     “Mike!” he called in greeting. “It’s been ages! How are you? How are Helen and the girls?”

     Mike laughed, wheezing a little from the unaccustomed exertion as he cuffed John on what was thankfully his good shoulder. “Good as always, they are keeping me on my toes. How about you? Last I heard you were off getting shot at. What happened?”

     John blinked, surprised. “I got shot.”  He replied, carefully neutral.

     “Oh.” Mike looked away, embarrassed. “Sorry about that.”

     Shrugging it off John replied. “Don't worry about it. I knew what I was signing up for. I just wish I could go back and finish up my tour with the rest of my mates. I don't know how they will make it without me,” John joked weakly.

     Mike looked at him sympathetically. “Having a bit of a rough time then?”

     If it had been anyone other than Mike Stamford, John would have brushed his concern to the side. But Mike was one of his oldest and dearest friends, even if they had fallen out of touch in recent years. He had helped John immensely after the death of his father and he knew John just a little too well to pretend nothing was wrong. “A bit, yeah.” was his response.

     “Come along then.” Mike turned to continue down the path. “Let me buy you a pint and we can have a chat, yeah?”

     Surprised, John glanced at his watch, half past noon. “It’s a bit early for that, but” he looked at Mike’s hopeful face. “Ok, yeah let’s do it.”

*****

     The pub was off of the beaten track; laid back and with the kind of atmosphere that instantly put John at ease while he waited for Mike to bring their drinks.

     “This is a nice place.” He commented as Mike slid into the other side of the booth.

     “Yeah, I like to come here after work now and again when I want to relax with a pint before heading home.” He handed John his drink, and surprised him by handing over a basket of chips as well.

     “Thanks. What are you doing up this way today anyhow? Saturday classes?” John busied himself with his food.

     “No, nothing so horrifying” Mike smiled. “I was just returning a few things to Moll down in the morgue.”

     “Do I want to know?’ John asked with a laughing groan.

     Mike took a sip of beer. “No, not really,” he hummed, “but I’m not even the worst one for nicking interesting bits and pieces from the morgue these days. There’s a pretty stiff competition there now.”

     John groaned at his friends’ awful pun. They settled into a companionable silence as they each nursed their drink, caught up in their own thoughts.  Eventually Mike looked up at John. “So what have you been up to since you got home?”

     John thought of the little beige room and the gun hidden safely in his desk. “Not too much really.” He admitted. “I guess you can say that civilian life doesn’t seem to suit me so far. With my injuries I can’t really go back to work as a surgeon. Nerve damage, my hands just aren’t steady enough now.”

     Mike nodded with sympathy. “That’s rough Johnny boy,” he said, even though it sounded slightly odd from a man who was actually a year or 2 younger than himself. “Have you thought about setting out your shingle somewhere? Surgery isn’t everything, and I always thought you would make a good GP.”

     “Where?” asked John with a bitter laugh. “I live in a halfway house for injured soldiers because my commission won’t even cover the cost of an apartment on my own. I certainly don't have the funds to set up a practice from nothing.”

     “There are clinics all over London.” Mike pointed out. “You are a damn good doctor. You will find a place.”

     John sighed. “Yeah,” he responded. “Probably so. But I'm just having a hard time remembering the point of it all. It’s not like I really have anyone out there waiting for me.”

     “What about Harry?”

     “She very politely welcomed me home from the airport and introduced me to her new wife Clara. Then she just as politely apologized as she dropped me off at the halfway house and said that it would probably be best if I didn't come around without calling first.”

     Mike winced. “Ow. That must have stung.”

     Shaking his head John responded. “Yeah but I know how it is. Everything is still so new with her and Clara. There’s not really a place for another Alpha right now. Maybe if I hadn’t gone away...” John let the sentence trail off.  “But anyway, that’s not happening anytime soon.”

     “What about your army mates? Surely there must be a few around to form up with, at least for a little while. You know it’s not good for an alpha to go without a pack for too long. It starts to mess with your heads.”

     “No, no one else from my regiment was sent home with me, and I'm grateful for it. I’ve tried to talk to the others at the house but it’s no use, the guys there aren’t in the best of places either and I'm not going to push.  Maybe it’s just better this way.

     Mike hesitated before he offered his next suggestion. “You could always sign onto the Omega Project.”

     “No! God no Mike.” John shook his head “You know how I feel about that place.”  As nice as it would be to have a new pack of his own, the Omega Project was not the answer. It made his stomach queasy to think of basically forcing some kid to bond with him and spend the rest of their life taking care of an injured old war horse, just because he was a little lonely. “I'm twice the age of some of those kids. Talk about robbing the cradle.”

     “If they didn't want to bond they could always just use their rights to refuse the match.” Mike pointed out.

     “Twice. That’s exactly how many times they can say no, and then its whoever the project wants to tie them to, like it or not. You know as well as I do how that really works out, all of that talk about the ‘perfect match’ be damned.”

     It was true, Mike admitted to himself. Theoretically every match was supposed to be biologically cross referenced with all available alphas to ensure maximum compatibility. In reality however, many young omegas involved in the program found themselves permanently bonded to someone they would rather not sit with on the bus.

     Generally, the first matches were pretty good. The second ones were typically a fair shot as well.  But by the time an omega hit their third match, the right of refusal is all used up and they are stuck with whoever is chosen next. Sure, the alpha could object and demand a rematch, but it was rare.  There was generally a reason that third matches were third matches. 

     “It’s just the way of it John.” Mike sighed. “I don't like it either but it is an option.”

     “It’s barbaric, and I won’t be a part of it.” John snarled, startling a passing waitress as he slammed his hand against the table top.

      A light appeared behind Mike’s eyes as he smiled. “Funny, you are the second person to say that to me today.”

*****

     John walked with Stamford through Bart’s.  The man had refused to tell him anything about where they were going, trusting that his natural curiosity would keep John following behind.  John was fending off nostalgia as he looked around the hospital; he had spent many long days and nights here on the way to earning his doctorate.

      As they finally approached the morgue he noticed an odd sound. He was still trying to identify what it could possibly be as they entered the room; therefore he was completely unprepared for the sight of a sweat drenched omega, apparently doing his best to kill a cadaver with a riding crop.

     The man was beautiful, there was no denying it. Almost beautiful enough to distract from the fact that-“Why are you beating a corpse?”

     He stopped instantly, pivoting on one heel as he turned sharply to stare at John. Narrowed eyes raked over him, leaving him feeling strangely naked for a few brief moments. John could almost hear the wheels spinning in the man’s head as he looked between John and the infuriatingly smug Mike. With a casual toss he threw the riding crop on the table beside him and strode directly into John’s personal space.  

     The man smelled fantastic. John had been around other omegas before of course, even a few unbonded, but he had never smelled an omega that affected him quite like the faintly spicy scent of oranges and cloves wafting from the man in front of him.  John was so distracted that he almost missed it when the man finally spoke, “Afghanistan, or Iraq?”

     “How did you know?” he asked before looking at Mike, who held up his hands in mock surrender.

     “I had nothing to do with it John. This is sort of his thing.”

     A small huff drew John’s attention back to the man in front of him. “Don’t be dull. Answer the question.” He paused for a moment, adding almost as an afterthought, “please.”

     “Afghanistan.” John responded.

     “Hm.”  The man began prowling around him like a large, deadly cat. John suppressed his natural urge to keep his back away from the strange man. What was going on here? “Do you have any particular feelings about the violin?”

     “Not in particular no.” john shook his head, confused. “Why?”

     “I play when I’m thinking, sometimes for hours. I often don’t talk for days on end. Would that bother you?”

     “Why would it? It’s your own business what you do in your spare time.”

     “Potential bondmates should know the worst about each other.”

     “Now wait just a second.” John sputtered rounding the table as he gave in to his instinct to put some distance between himself and the omega. “Who said anything about bondmates?”

     “I did,” was the quick response. “Mike is aware of a rather difficult issue I am currently experiencing and now here he is just after lunch with an old friend, an unbonded alpha in need of a pack in fact,  one clearly just home from medical service in Afghanistan.  It wasn’t an unreasonable conclusion.”

     “And how precisely did you come to that conclusion then?”

     Looking at him evenly, the man eventually replied, “Military history is the easy bit, from the hair on your head to the way you hold yourself you scream soldier. However, you are also obviously familiar with the hospital; you have been in this room in particular several times before based on your reactions. That says student; so doctor then- far too obvious. You are still sporting a tan but not above the wrists so you were in uniform, not on vacation. That also indicates the shortness of time since you have been home, much longer and the lines would have faded away entirely. You move stiffly favouring your shoulder, that must be where you got shot, sending you home early. All of that adds up to two possibilities, one of which you confirmed when you answered Afghanistan.”

     John nodded, intrigued. It seemed perfectly obvious, said like that; even if he wouldn’t have been able to put that together on his own.  “And the rest of it then?” he asked with almost morbid curiosity.

     “Even those dunces down at the NSY could tell you are unbonded, no bond marking on your neck and a distinct smell that says that you are still available. You are holding your phone, I can clearly see an inscription on the back to Harry from Clara, so that implies that there is a bond there; most likely it was a gift since your name is in fact John. It’s a newer model and expensive but the screen is quite badly cracked. Not badly enough to render it unusable but enough to make replacing it worthwhile. If you were expected to join your brother’s pack then he would have made an effort to buy something new.

     As it stands, he feels obligated to help but wants to make it clear that another alpha would not necessarily be welcome at this time. This also implies that the bond is fairly new, they aren’t secure enough in their pack dynamic to consider an alpha from even blood family ‘safe’ quite yet.”

     He paused and looked at John quickly, as if to gauge his reaction before continuing. “So, soldier shipped back home early from the war, separated from his comrades in arms and not welcomed back into the family fold. You are displaying several signs of intense emotional distress, insomnia and that psychosomatic injury to your leg being the two most obvious. It’s common knowledge that any alpha without a pack for an extended amount of time suffers mentally and physically.  Beyond that, you are a doctor and intelligent enough to know the symptoms of the problem and the solution to it.”

     “Brilliant.” John muttered to himself before looking up. “But what does that have to do with bonding with you? I don’t even know your name. You don’t know me either. That is a little forward when we haven’t even been introduced.”

     “Where does one go to just get a pack?” he asked simply, “The Omega Project is the obvious choice, minimum fuss and priority for Her Majesties’ soldiers.” His lips pinched in obvious distaste.  “If you are willing to go there to choose a mate without so much as a conversation first, I don’t see why you would be opposed to rescuing me from their grubby grasping paws. Especially since I wouldn’t be charging you the frankly outrageous fee,” he paused a moment before continuing the thought as if it had just occurred to him, “unless you find me particularly unattractive?”

     John laughed dryly. “This is utterly surreal. Are you really suggesting that we bond forever because I’m lonely and you’re desperate?”

     The man moved closer to John, resting his hands on the table between them. Again John had that feeling of being strangely naked under the omega’s piercing gaze. “I know more about you now than I would be permitted to know about my so called mate before my bonding.  If the committee gets its bloodthirsty claws on me I wouldn’t even be allowed to see them beforehand. And make no mistake; if you say no, that is exactly where I will end up.”

     John looked up at the tall man. Biting his lip briefly he opened his mouth to respond just as someone burst loudly through the morgue door.

     Ignoring the startled doctors the man’s eyes latched instantly onto the omega. “Sherlock!” he barked. “Thank God, I’ve been everywhere. There’s a case. Will you come?”