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The Six Steps of Courtship

Chapter Text

1)Sustain

2)Protect

3)Shelter

4)Scent

5)Mark

6)Bond

 

 

Disguise is the most effective way of obtaining information , Sherlock reminded himself through gritted teeth. He only had to bear this ridiculousness for a few weeks in order to track a pattern and catch a serial killer.

 

But good Lord, was it ridiculous.

 

He adjusted his fake glasses and the simple, grey waist-length jacket he normally would not have been caught dead in. He understood Lestrade's insistence that he did something to alter his appearance, but he couldn't help but be annoyed that his costume wasn't even remotely fun.

 

He checked the time on his cell phone before deciding that it would alright if he showed up a little early. After all, his alter ego was supposed to be eager to find a mate. Or at least not abhor the idea.

 

Sherlock wanted to vomit.

 

The restaurant hosting this stupid social event was close to home and easy to find. He located the coordinator, a middle aged beta woman (two cats, one child at university, no husband), and gave her his alias.

 

“Scott Williams?” he said, letting the pitch of his voice raise slightly at the end, as though he was unsure if he was supposed to be here.

 

She smiled reassuringly and checked his name off a list. He scanned it for half a second and promptly memorized the name of everyone in attendance.

 

“You're a little early,” she said, flashing a smile that was probably supposed to be knowing or conspiratorial or some other such nonsense. “Don't worry, you aren't the only one whose anxious to get things started. We've booked that back end of the restaurant, you can go take a seat or start mingling if you like.

 

He smiled his false gratitude and pretended to push his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.

 

He wondered what 'Scott Williams' would do in a social situation and decided that he would probably try to find another omega and try to start some sort of nervous conversation about 'trying to find a mate these days' or 'babies.'

 

He located a rather depressed looking young omega girl and did just that.

 

“Would you believe that I'm too nervous to start chatting up the alphas?” he started as he joined her.

 

She smiled, looking slightly more upbeat now that she wasn't standing alone in the corner of a social gathering. “Same,” she said, offering a hesitant smile. She held out a hand. “I'm Samantha.”

 

“Pleasure,” Sherlock said. “I'm Scott. Have you been to one of these...things...before?”

 

She nodded, looking a little depressed at the idea. “Yeah, I haven't had any luck yet.”

 

“This is my first,” Sherlock said, trying to sound sheepish about it. “I've given up on the traditional ways, and going out to bars and chatting someone up seemed too risky, so...”

 

“Dating services,” Samantha supplied. “Yeah, I know that story.”

 

Sherlock wasn't surprised. That was the story of any omega that had to resort to these organized events to find a mate.

 

'Matchmaker,' your online source for finding true love.

 

Sherlock had shut the computer in disgust when Lestrade e-mailed him the link to the dating site.

 

Thank God it was a serial killer. Otherwise, it would not be worth it even the tiniest bit.

 

“I'm surprised you're unbonded,” Samantha said as more alphas and omegas filtered in. “I mean, you're young and attractive...” she realized that Sherlock was looking at her with an annoyed expression. “I mean, I'm sorry! You know what? Not my business.”

 

Sherlock quickly schooled his facial features into something warmer. “Oh, no worries. I've just had some bad luck with some really awful alphas in the past.”

 

“I see,” she said sympathetically.

 

Sherlock was bored of Samantha.

 

Well, Sherlock had been bored of Samantha the moment he looked at her. She was a bottle blonde with a pet Siberian Husky and an unhealthy addiction to reality television. She also appeared to suffer from an undiagnosed, but mild, form of bipolar disorder. Unless she had a mood shift in the middle of the evening, she wasn't going to be of any entertainment at all. And shifts weren't usually sudden, so the chances were very small.

 

Sherlock decided to talk to the alphas.

The tiny omega instinct inside of him was screaming that walking into a crowd of unbonded alphas alone was a very bad idea, but Sherlock cheerfully told that tiny omega instinct to shut the fuck up. How else was he going to find a serial killer if not speak to the suspects?

 

….......

 

They were all annoying.

 

Every single one of them.

 

And none of them looked like serial killers. None of them even looked particularly threatening. He sincerely doubted that the sixty year old alpha intent on making it through the evening in a state of constant intoxication was capable of five vicious omega homicides.

 

He wondered if it would be possible to use a plastic fork to kill himself when said sixty year old man grabbed at Sherlock's arse.

 

Just a few days , he reminded himself. Just a few days to find a pattern, to increase the suspect pool to a reasonable enough size to try and figure this out. Tonight was a bust, but tomorrow night might yield something useful.

 

He had never hated his gender more than when his fellow omegas started talking about their dreams of children and pretty homes with white picket fences.

 

Sherlock had been fighting that stereotype since he first presented and these idiots seemed to be doing everything they could to reinforce it.

 

He wondered how long he was expected to stay before getting the hell out of there was socially acceptable.

 

He checked his watch and cursed quietly but colorfully when he saw that only twenty minutes had passed since he'd stopped talking to Samantha.

 

After deciding he would leave after he deduced everyone at least once, Sherlock was startled out of his thoughts by the sound of loud bickering joining the alpha/omega gathering in the back.

 

“Harry, I thought I made myself clear--”

 

You did make yourself clear, Johnny, I just didn't listen.”

 

--that I do not need you to interfere in my love life!”

 

“Well, you're not doing anything about it, so someone has to.”

 

“Jesus, Harry! You said we'd have a nice quiet dinner and then you drag me to this ridiculous--”

 

“It's not ridiculous! I met Clara through Matchmaker.”

 

The pair, a younger brother and older sister, obviously, quickly became the focus of the awkwardly chatting group. Both were short, stocky, blonde, and alpha. The beta supervisor trotted over quickly, a clipboard in hand.

 

“Can I help you?” she asked, looking a tad ruffled.

 

“John Watson,” the sister said, pushing her brother into the fray. “I'm just dropping him off. I'll come to collect you in a couple hours, Johnny!”

 

“I can just get a cab!” the brother, John, called after her retreating form.

 

“See you soon!”

 

John sighed, ran a hand through his short blonde hair, and moved toward an available seat, supporting his weight on a cane as he attempted to maneuver with a heavy limp.

 

John sat down and conversation resumed amongst the others. He obviously wasn't interested in finding a mate, but a rather unattractive red haired woman in her late twenties was desperately attempting to flirt with him. He kept shutting her down, but she kept protesting.

 

Sherlock searched his memories from the evening before he found her.

 

Omega. Single, of course. Rejected by nearly every desperate alpha here. Never been in a serious relationship. Biology and anatomy major, currently unemployed. Owns ferrets. Has unhealthy obsession with ferrets. Possible reason for not having had a relationship. Name? Irrelevant.

 

But Sherlock didn't like her bothering John. Couldn't she leave the man in peace? He really didn't want to be here.

 

She finally gave up and John was alone again.

 

He was immediately accosted by a cute if over energetic young man in his early twenties. John looked interested for all of seven seconds when the young man said something that made John look extremely uncomfortable.

 

The young man just got out of a serious relationship and was using Matchmaker to try and get back at his ex. He was bonded but trying to dissolve it and complaining about...oh, his pregnancy. Well, no wonder John was uncomfortable. The poor man didn't want to be here in the first place, much less get involved in such a messy situation.

 

And what was an unbonded, pregnant omega doing out unprotected? The idiot was going to get himself kidnapped.

 

The young man finally left and John breathed a visible sigh of relief.

 

Sherlock decided that he would pity the man and ward off other advances by taking shelter in John's apathy for the rest of the evening. Anything was better than being in the clutches of Grandpa Grabby Hands and the other, more obnoxious, alphas in attendance.

 

“Scott,” he said, sitting down. “Scott Williams. You want to be here just as much as I do, so let's pretend that we're engrossed in conversation so everyone leaves us the hell alone.” Sherlock cast a significant glance at the red head and the pregnant guy, who had moved on to seeking comfort from some of the other omegas.

 

John managed a small smile.

 

“John Watson,” he said, fiddling with his cane as he sat.

 

Sherlock noticed that he sat with his weight perfectly distributed, not favoring either side by either necessity or habit.

 

Interesting.

 

He afforded John Watson a closer examination.

 

“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Sherlock asked, annoyed that he couldn't make the distinction on his own.

 

John didn't flinch or jump. Instead, he froze. The look in his eye wasn't panicked. It was calculating.

 

Very interesting.

 

“Afghanistan,” John said, cocking his head to the side slightly. “I'm sorry, but how did you--”

 

“Did you work A and E before you deployed, or did you develop your skills by necessity?”

 

“Did my sister make me a bloody profile on that sodding website?” John demanded. “Because I swear to God--”

 

“If she has, I haven't read it,” Sherlock replied, affecting a bored attitude. “I'm simply very good at seeing that sort of thing.”

 

John laughed without humor. “Are you going to tell me that you're psychic? I think I'd rather sit alone than listen to--”

 

“I'm not psychic, I simply observe,” Sherlock interrupted, mildly annoyed. “You'd be surprised at what people give away about themselves simply by existing. I can read your military history in your haircut and suntan, and your medical history in your hands and habits. I also know you like dogs but are uncomfortable with cats.”

 

“Alright, how could you possibly--”

 

“Dog hair on your left sleeve. You're left handed, so you were stroking it. For quite a while, considering the amount of dander on your cuff. Your pant legs have traces of cat hair, as does your right forearm. The cat was affectionate with you, as cats are with all people who do not like them, and you were constantly pushing it aside with your arm. However, you never insisted on its removal. Therefore, you like dogs and are just mildly uncomfortable with cats. Not difficult.”

 

John turned away and let out a soft huff of laughter.

 

Unbelievable. Amazing, but unbelievable. Yeah, my sister's got a dog and a cat. I'm fairly certain that Checkers is actually the devil's lackey, but I have no proof.”

 

“Checkers?”

 

“My sister named a cat Checkers.”

 

“No wonder its in league with Satan.”

 

That startled a laugh out of John, a surprisingly high pitched little giggle infectious enough to force a deep chuckle out of Sherlock.

 

“You're not bad, Scott,” John said with a grin. “So, do you come to things very often?”

 

Sherlock's good mood shattered. “No,” he said shortly. “I don't have any interest in finding a mate. My brother insisted in a way similar to your sister.” He adjusted his lie effortlessly, not wanting to give John any encouragement.

 

John looked a little taken back at his sudden harsh tone. “Just chatting,” he said, holding up his hands in surrender. “Though that did sound like a bloody awful pick up line. Don't worry, I have no interest in a mate, either. Bloody annoying that everyone expects me to have a little housewife and seven pups by now.”

 

Trust me, it's more annoying that everyone expects you to be a housewife with your eighth whelp on the way,” Sherlock said bitterly. “At least you can get a job outside of childcare.”

 

“So long as the job is appropriately masculine,” John muttered. “Being a soldier worked well enough, but it's hell to try and convince a hospital to hire me. Alphas aren't horribly welcome in caretaker roles.”

 

There was a pause.

 

“So, is that what you do? Childcare?”

 

Sherlock almost told the truth before he remembered that his stupid fake profile did indeed say he was a primary school teacher.

 

“I teach third years,” he corrected himself before he ruined his entire undercover role. “They aren't as annoying as they could be, but it's hardly what I envisioned myself doing before I presented.”

 

“What did you want to be?”

 

“A pirate.”

 

John laughed. “Yeah, I could see why that might be an issue. You know, disregarding the fact that they aren't pirates anymore.”

 

“Of course there's pirate. Why, in the seas surrounding--”

 

“I meant the traditional sort of pirate, but you're right,” John interrupted before Sherlock could dive into the fascinating history of piracy.

 

The beta coordinator returned. “Why don't you all take a seat and decide what you want to eat? A waiter will be by to take your orders in a few minutes.”

 

Sherlock and John were already seated, but John took the opportunity to glance at his menu.

 

“Are you going to any more of these?” John asked, examining the pasta selection with interest. “Harry's signed me up for the next month of events.”

 

“My name is registered for the Friday and Saturday night gatherings, as well as a few Sundays. As to whether I plan on attending, it depends on how closely my brother watches me.” Actually, Sherlock was going to attend all of them to try and hunt a serial killer, but that didn't fit in with his story well.

 

“Jeez, what is your brother, the head of government intelligence?”

 

“Yes.”

 

John laughed. Sherlock didn't.

 

“Aren't you eating?” John asked, nodding at Sherlock's menu.

 

“No.”

 

John gave him a disbelieving look and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you really need to watch your figure,” he said sarcastically. “Seriously, you should eat. I can see your ribs through your jacket.”

 

“Not possible.”

 

“Hm.”

 

Sherlock sighed and picked up the menu, choosing something at random, which he then ordered as soon as the waiter came around.

 

Then he cursed himself as he realized ordering food had trapped him here for another hour at least, if he participated in all the social conventions that come along with a shared meal.

 

At least John wasn't the most horrible alpha in the group.

 

He also wasn't a serial killer, though, which made him considerably less important.

 

But speaking of horrible alphas....

 

A rather loud and annoying man whose mate-less status was explained solely through his obnoxious attitude sat himself down next to Sherlock and began making every lewd comment he possibly could. Not to mention several remarks about what, in his opinion, an omega's proper place is.

 

“Nice to have someone else cook the dinner, right?” he said to Sherlock when the food arrived. “I'm sure even without a mate you do your fair share of cooking and cleaning.”

 

“I really don't,” Sherlock said, sincerely and flatly.

 

“Why don't you come back with me tonight, beautiful? I can show you a thing or two about--”

 

“HEY SCOTT,” John said, interrupting overly loudly and with an extraordinarily false note to his voice. “HEY REMEMBER THAT INTERESTING THING WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT?”

 

Sherlock turned to John, doing everything he could to fight a ridiculous lop sided grin that threatened to crack through his composure.

 

“WHY YES JOHN,” Sherlock said, mocking John by being equally obvious. “I DO. LET US RESUME THE CONVERSATION, GOOD SIR.”

 

John wasn't as good at hiding his reactions and instead had to laugh into a glass of water as he pretended to take a drink.

 

Sherlock turned his body fully away from the obnoxious alpha, effectively cutting off any attempts of conversation from anyone but John.

 

“When can I leave without offending everyone?” Sherlock asked. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't care if he was offending anybody, but 'Scott' was supposed to be making friends.

 

“Well, I'd be offended if you left now,” John managed around his giggles. “After all, we were about to resume conversation about that interesting thing we were just talking about.” John dropped the volume of his speech slightly. “Honestly, if Douche-y McArseFace over there actually finished his sentence, I'm fairly certain I would have decked him in the throat. Not exactly a mystery as to why he's unbonded.”

 

“I appreciate the gesture, but there's no need to defend my honor,” Sherlock said, a tad harshly, on the defensive whenever someone feels the need to stick up for him based on gender.

 

John waved it aside. “Oh, I'm sure. I have no doubts as to your ability to take care of yourself, Scott. The only reason I interrupted was solely so I didn't get arrested for assault.”

 

Sherlock was surprised on how much it annoyed him that John knew him as 'Scott.'

 

He rather liked John. And John seemed to like 'Scott' enough that he might be able to tolerate Sherlock. Sherlock wondered if he should tell John the truth, bring him into the investigation. It would useful to have a doctor or a soldier around, and with John he could have both. It was awfully convenient.

 

Sherlock decided he would tell John everything. But not now. Not tonight. Tonight he needed to keep up a facade, to smile and socialize, to make plans to see people again the next night. Later, he would introduce himself to John properly.

 

Then the rest of Sherlock's brain caught up with his thoughts.

 

What?

 

Was he actually planning on starting a partnership? Sherlock “Alone is what protects me” Holmes was about to do something that could potentially backfire horribly.

 

Why?

 

He nearly left right then, intent on examining his motives and these weird...feelings...of camaraderie or friendship or some other such nonsense, but right then John smiled at him and giggled his surprisingly little giggle and he decided that it couldn't hurt to stay a little longer.