“Who’d want me for a flatmate?” Sherlock looked up from his microscope.
“Ha,” Stamford chuckled. “Could have left off the ‘flat’ part, there.”
“Hm? Oh, very funny. Your wit never ceases to amaze me,” Sherlock rolled his eyes. “You know where I stand on that, Stamford. I’m bonded to my work.”
“Yes, so you’ve said. What about another alpha, then? There’s always lads looking for a place to stay once they’ve left home, or uni.”
Sherlock shook his head. “I don’t want a dominance battle in my front room.”
Mike shrugged. “You’ll just have to advertise, then. Beta-flatmate wanted. Idiots need not apply?”
“Precisely.” Sherlock capped the beaker he was working on. “The last thing I need right now is a distraction.”
John chewed his lip as he looked in the estate agency window. There wasn’t much in his price-range. Less when you considered he was about to be hit with a lot of expenditures. There was no way he could consider a flat-share. As soon as they realised...
He’d be kicked out for sure. No one wanted to be associated with someone like him. He knew it was ridiculous to even be in his position – he could still sort this out, it wasn’t too late.
But he knew what his decision would be, even before he knew for sure this was what would happen.
John left the high street, and headed for the park. He needed space to think. If he couldn’t find somewhere soon, his only real option now was to leave London, and he’d only just arrived. This wasn’t exactly what he’d planned -
“John? John Watson?”
He turned, eyebrows raising in surprise at the man on the bench. A face from the past, but a welcome one. He smiled.
And an hour later they were in a cab, on their way to see someone who was, apparently, also looking for a housing solution.
Sherlock glanced up. And relaxed a fraction as he looked at the visitors. Stamford, back so soon, and... someone else.
Soldier. Doctor. Tired. Stressed. Money worries. Family worries. Lots of family worries. Beta.
Ah. A solution, then.
“John, this is Sherlock Holmes,” Stamford introduced them. “Sherlock, John Watson.”
John nodded, keeping his distance, but Sherlock was already coming forward with a hand held out to shake.
There was the tiniest hesitation.
So tiny it barely happened.
Possibly the man himself didn’t even know he had done it. It was equally possible that no one who wasn’t Sherlock Holmes would have noticed the pause. There was a fraction of a second’s hesitation before John lifted his hand and shook Sherlock’s.
But it was enough.
Sherlock looked back at the lab table, and picked something up to cover the racing of his mind. The man didn’t look like an omega. He barely smelled like one. He had to be on scent blockers of some sort, but why? Why would an omega his age be on blockers? Why was he here about a flat? Why wasn’t he bonded?
There were too many questions.
“How do you feel about the violin?” Sherlock asked, settling on a question that seemed relatively harmless.
John blinked. His stance adjusted minutely. He was definitely a soldier. And only recently discharged. An omega soldier? At least that explained why he needed somewhere to stay… “Erm. I’m sorry, what-”
“I play the violin when I’m thinking,” Sherlock said, staring at him, eyes flicking to the unbroken skin on the man’s neck, his ring-less hands, his greying hair. “Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end... would that be a problem?”
“Problem... wait, are you-”
“Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other, don’t you think?” Sherlock looked at him in the face, again.
Handsome. Broken nose. But not beautiful and slight and feminine, as omegas usually were. John Watson was broad, and muscular, and masculine, and none of this made any sense at all.
“Flatmates.” John swallowed. If Sherlock had been in doubt before, this small, silent, panic would have confirmed it. Omega, moving in with an alpha? It wasn’t done. It was never done. Stamford didn’t know John’s gender, that was the only explanation. He would never have suggested, otherwise...
“Obviously.” Sherlock didn’t smile, exactly, but he adjusted his face so it was slightly less standoffish.
John frowned, just a touch. “Right. Ok. It’s only for a few weeks, you know? Until I get someone where permanent?” He was making that up. He needed a permanent place. But he didn’t want it to be with an alpha. Omega. Omega afraid.
Sherlock’s blood gave a slight rush at the possibility of sheltering an omega… a rush which quickly died as Sherlock internally rolled his eyes at himself. He wasn’t interested in that sort of thing.
Temporary worked, though. John Watson wasn’t outright refusing. He must be desperate. Sherlock was known to put people off within weeks. This was ideal. Temporary arrangement. Yes. That worked.
“Fine. Temporary is… fine.”
“Ok then...” John adjusted his cuffs. “What’s the address?”
It wasn’t the smartest idea, John knew. He wasn’t stupid. This could go very sour very quickly. But, with any luck, he’d be out of the place in a few weeks, and somewhere... else. If anyone would have him. Really, his options were to live alone, or to try his sister. And she wasn’t exactly the sort of person John would choose to live with.
He clenched his fists as he walked. He’d been found out.
That alpha - Sherlock Holmes - knew what he was. John had seen it in his eyes when they shook hands. Read it in his face. That look of curiosity. That why aren’t you bonded look. That puzzlement over John’s scent, his build, his job history.
It was inconvenient. But not a disaster. He’d been read before. Usually by medical professionals who knew what they were looking at. His scent-blockers were prescribed by the army, and he had enough stockpiled to last him about a year.
And he didn’t have heats to worry about.
Living with an alpha wasn’t a smart idea. But if it was that or homelessness, John would take it. It was only for a few weeks, after all.
He’d been living as a beta since he was eighteen, to the best of his abilities. There were some things you couldn’t avoid. Heats, for instance. But as long as you walked the walk, and didn’t smell too appealing, and you pulled your weight as if you were a beta, hardly anyone noticed.
John hated his secondary gender. He hated the expectations, the mess of heats, the way people thought you should be at home, cooking. He was as much a man as any beta or alpha.
Except, right now, there was one major difference.
John let himself back into his army hostel, and into his room.
He put his suitcase on the bed, and started gathering his things together, tipping what he didn’t need into the waste-bin. At the bottom of the bin, amongst the screwed-up bits of paper, and mars bar wrappers, were two thin strips of cotton and plastic, each with two pink lines showing on them.
If anyone found out, John would be riddled with shame. No, not if. When.
Everyone was going to find out, sooner or later.
He’d just have to find somewhere to live, by himself, before Sherlock Holmes found out.
No one wanted the shame of living with a bondless omega. A so-called Fallen Omega. Especially not an alpha. No one wanted to be close to a ruined omega and their bastard to be.
John pinched between his eyes.
His fingers came back wet.