John Watson was riding his horse across the fields of Carterhaugh.
He had ridden across these fields countless times before.
Sometimes galloping across the open terrain as fast as he could, his horse's nostrils flaring as both their breaths became labored. Forming clouds of hot steam as the cold early morning air stung his face and John laughed until his lungs hurt.
On other occasions he would go at a more leisurely pace. Turning his horse this way and that. Trotting along slowly. Seeking the shade of the trees and hills to eventually make his way to Ettrick Water where he would doze on its banks surrounded by the smell of wildflowers as the sun warmed his limbs and the rushing of the river sang him to sleep.
Today was not a day of leisure. He could not afford to go slow.
Today, he wasn't laughing either.
An all too familiar feeling had started to creep underneath his skin and was making him feel as if he was a stranger in his own flesh. As if he was wearing borrowed clothes. Like a jacket that was too tight and he couldn't wait to tear it off.
John shivered as he felt a slow trickle of sweat drip down his back. With a shout and a swift kick to its flanks he spurred his horse on to go even faster, but as the horse sped up on the uneven terrain John was jostled in the saddle most violently and, spurred on by the movement, another unwelcome wetness was starting to make itself known at his backside.
His heat was very close.
John swore underneath his breath, the wind rushing by stealing the words from him, and with one hand still tightly on the reins he used his other to wipe the sweat from his eyes.
He had been in heat before. Of course he had. But this time it was different.
His father's threats still echoed through his mind. He was eighteen now. Eighteen and the omega son of the lord of Carterhaugh. This time he would share his heat with one of the alpha lords of the surrounding counties and bond with them. This union would ensure the Watson family even more wealth, land and power over the area.
As far as politics went it was the right thing to do.
It felt wrong.
John was terrified. He did not wish to bond. Ever.
Right now he had his freedom. He could ride out whenever he wanted. He could swim in the rivers. Hunt in Carterhaugh's forests. Drive his horse on until he felt giddy with the excitement of speed and dizzy from the vast openness of the world and all he had yet to discover.
Once he became a bonded omega he could do none of those things. Especially not if he bonded to one of the lords. An omega was far too valuable a possession to have them riding around the countryside unattended. All on their own.
Once the bond-bite was given he'd be tucked away in some castle. Used whenever he was in heat until he had produced the correct number of heirs. The bite-scars on his neck as close to an actual chain as could be.
He had made himself no illusions that he might find an alpha who would be understanding and grant him liberties.
He had met the lords of the surrounding lands. All of them alpha's at their finest. Aggressive, possessive and cruel.
There was only one alpha he could trust now and he was making his way to him as fast as he could.
And as John spurred his horse on once again his stomach cramped, his vision went blurry and he groaned as another rush of wetness made itself knows between his legs.
He prayed to every god he knew that he would get there in time.
5 months earlier
It was an exceptionally warm day. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun beat down on John Watson's head and neck as he slowly made his way across the open fields of Carterhaugh on horseback.
He had once again snuck away from under his father's watchful eyes to go out riding, but as sweat dripped into his eyes and his clothing stuck to his flesh he was starting to regret his truancy.
His horse was having a difficult time as well. Its head low to the ground and every breath it took just as labored as the next as its hooves scraped the ground with every pace.
John patted the side of its neck reassuringly.
He had originally planned to ride all the way to the river, but with the sun torturing them both so violently on the open plains that lay in between Carterhaugh Castle and their goal he had decided to make for the wooded area to the north instead where they would be able to find some shade much sooner.
It was an area where John hadn't really been before. There were old ruins there and the old folktales told that they were the ruins of an old fairy castle and those who were to travel there would run the risk of being captured by the fairy queen...... or some nonsense like that.
John didn't really believe in old-wives tales. He was a practical man who believed in what he saw and, so far, fairies did not feature on that list.
So he slowly made his way towards the tree-line as the Scottish sun tried to burn him alive.
He heaved a sigh of relief when finally trees started to appear on his left and right and under their leaf filled branches the heat did not feel quite so murderous anymore.
Another couple of hundred meters further the trees started growing denser still and the climate underneath them actually turned pleasantly cool.
Small flowers sprung up all over the ground. Protected by the much larger flora that surrounded them. The sound of birds singing could be heard on all sides and to his right John could faintly hear the sound of a small forest brook.
He decided to dismount and, leading his horse by the reins, made his way on foot towards the welcome sound of moving water.
The brook was beautiful.
The tall trees grew all the way to its edge and as their mighty bows swayed in the wind above the water the sunlight that filtered down through the moving leaves made a dazzling spectacle on the gently flowing water beneath.
Like diamonds in motion.
John laughed excitedly, kicked of his boots, hoisted up his kilt and waded in until the water reached the middle of his thighs.
It was colder than he had expected and his skin turned into goosebumps. He didn't mind much. After the heat of the day it was a welcome cold.
Still laughing he lent down to the surface and splashed two handfuls of water on his face and down his neck before drinking his fill.
Letting the clear water cool him down inside and out.
His horse stood just on the edge of the water whinnying at him nervously.
John laughed again. Softer this time, so as not to frighten it again.
'Come on then', he said as he extended his hand towards the animal, 'I bet you could use a wee drink too.'
For a moment the horse hesitated, but soon the soft tone of voice and assuredness of its master calmed it down and it gingerly lowered its neck towards to river to take a well earned sip.
John smiled and turned his face up towards the light of the sun. The leaves above casting a pattern of wildly moving shadows on his face.
Today was turning out to be a good day after all.
After some well earned rest John had decided to go and explore the area on foot for a bit. He was curious to see if there even was such a thing as fairy ruins out here.
He had left his horse loosely tied at the rivers edge so it still had some room to walk around, drink from the water, graze underneath the trees or find some shade.
The terrain was uneven and John had to watch his footing as on more than one occasion the toe of his boot got stuck underneath a tree root hidden by the underbrush almost causing him to fall over.
He made his way zig-zagging through the trees for almost an hour, but to his disappointment there was no sign of any ruins. There were just more trees, flowers and birds and at one point he even saw a deer shooting away. It had been a beautiful creature with a strange white pattern interwoven with its brown coat. For a moment he had lamented not bringing his bow with him, but the creature had been so fast it would have been gone before he had had an arrow ready and aimed anyway.
He was about to turn back to his horse and ride back home before his father would get so mad about him leaving that he would lock him in his room for the next couple of days. Which would make sneaking out just a small bit harder. When the trees suddenly made way for a meadow.
Like the brook the meadow was beautiful and John's jaw dropped slightly at the sight of it.
Knee high grass waved at him invitingly in a soft breeze and flowers in every color imaginable were dotted across the landscape in mesmerizing patterns.
He had to explore this almost otherwordly place.
And so, with a smile on his face he stepped amongst the waving grass as the green blades and flowers tickled the hem of his kilt.
While traversing the meadow John soon realized that a lot of the flowers in the meadow were flowers he'd never seen before.
Being an omega he had been forced to spend a lot of his time indoors studying and botany had been one of the courses his tutors had been forced to teach him. He had been younger then. This had been before he had found out all the ways to secretly sneak out of the castle and go on all kinds of adventures. However hard his father tried to prevent this.
John however did take some pride in his knowledge of the variety of plants that grew in Carterhaugh, but he only recognized an embarrassingly small fraction of the large variety that grew on this strange meadow.
He recognized some medicinal plants. Used for healing wounds, some could be ground up to make a salve that would cool a burn, others could be ingested when you were experiencing stomach cramps.
There were also less friendly plants growing along the edge of the field. Toxic flowers. Ingested in large enough amounts they would kill you. And then there was 'Maiden's tear'. Every omega knew the small blue flower with its thorny leaves. Taken in just the right way it could abort an unwanted pregnancy. Take too much......and it would not only take the baby's life, but your own as well.
John shivered, his thoughts turning to his upcoming 18th birthday and the threat his father had made.
'Either you choose your own alpha lord of I will choose one for you.'
He closed his eyes tightly and turned his head away from the 'Maiden's tear'. He did not wish to think on his future problems right now.
The whole point in sneaking out was to find some kind of escape from them. If only for a little while.
He made his way back to the center of the meadow in order to examine the flowers there.
There were a couple more familiar flowers here.
There was corncockle, some anemones, Cuckoo flowers and corn flowers and he even spotted some red roses.
Familiar flowers in and of themselves, but they looked quite out of place amidst the variety of wildflowers that grew there.
He decided to take a closer look and so he knelt down beside them. The grass tickling the inside of his knees and the back of his thighs again as his kilt rode up slightly.
One rose stood out in particular. It had a vibrant red color that almost seemed to be alive and instead of just having one flower adorn the top of its stem this one had two.
John had never seen a flower quite like it before and he decided he would take it with him. Maybe press it at home and study it further.
And so he stretched out his hand and with a firm snap separated the unique flowers and part of their shared stem from the rest of the bush.
'Do you always go around taking what isn't yours?'
The voice was deep, booming and soft at the same time, like a thunderstorm that hasn't quite started yet, but you can hear coming in the distance.
Startled, John immediately jumped to his feet at the sound of it and whirled himself around to see who it was that had managed to sneak up on him so.
As he turned around the smell of alpha immediately accosted his nostrils.
Silently he cursed himself.
How had he not noticed the stranger approaching sooner?
He was all too aware of his current situation.
He was an unbonded, unarmed omega, all alone in a field, miles away from home and almost an hours walk away from his horse.
If the stranger tried to overpower him he might not be able to fight him off.
The alpha was tall, but not overly muscular. His body lean and tight. His strength efficiently distributed only in the places that mattered. There was a wild mop of dark curls on top of his head that reminded John somehow of the strange wildflowers that grew all over the meadow. And then there were his eyes. Blue and bright as the sky, but deep as the waters of the Ettrick on a stormy day.
The stranger had a haughty look about him as he looked John in the eye, his arms crossed and one eyebrow raised questioningly.
John felt silly clutching the flower in his hand like some maiden, but he was not going to give in to this mysterious stranger quite so easily. He was resolved to stand his ground.
'I do not believe these flowers belong to you either, sir', he replied lifting his chin defiantly.
The stranger smiled a half smile, but it was gone before John was even sure it was there.
'I can assure you they do', the man said, 'you are in my lands now.'
'You are wrong, sir', John's reply, 'we are in Carterhaugh and my father owns these lands. If anything you are the one who is trespassing. And besides, there are many roses here. One more or less will hardly be noticed. Next to my father I am a lord of these lands also and I will not let some wild spirit tell me where I can and cannot go.'
There now was no mistaking the smile on the stranger's face.
'What is your name?'
'John Watson. Yours?'
A moment of silence. 'Just Sherlock?'
'Fine. Don't do me the courtesy of telling me your full name.'
'I will tell you my full name once you have earned the right to know it.'
'I will take your rose instead then.'
The smile on Sherlock's face had reached his eyes and they reminded John of two stars beneath pools of water. There was a smile on John's face too now.
'You can have it John Watson of Carterhaugh', Sherlock said as he took a step closer. John knew he should feel threatened by the gesture, but somehow he only felt a warm excitement that left a blush on his cheeks.
In an attempt to hide it he lowered his face and stammered through his words.
'S..s..since I already know half of your name.....I....I don't think it would be entirely fair to take the entire rose.'
And with that he carefully separated the two flowers from each other and held one out towards Sherlock.
Sherlock actually laughed at the gesture. A warm sound that not so much reminded John of an oncoming storm, but of a warm summers day. Clear and bright.
Sherlock took another step towards him and slowly closed his fingers around the hand that John held extended towards him.
His touch was warm and surprisingly soft.
Slowly he pulled the flower from between John's unresisting fingers and slipped it in between the folds of his own jacket.
'Thank you', he said and it truly sounded like he meant it, 'I will cherish it forever.'
'As you should. It is a gift from the lord of Carterhaugh.'
'Well then.....my lord....would you be so kind as to bestow another gift upon me?'
The alpha seemed safe enough. If he had wanted to overpower John he could have done so already. He wasn't sure what it was exactly, but Sherlock's presence made him feel calm and relaxed, but this last question did manage to unnerve him just a fraction again.
'It depends on what you're asking of me...' John replied. Stepping away minutely.
Sherlock just laughed again. The sound light and his posture unguarded and completely at ease.
'Just your company for the afternoon', he said, 'it's been a while since I've had someone to share a friendly conversation with.'
Grinning John stepped closer once again.
'It would be my pleasure.'