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The Trouble with Sentiment

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Sherlock was dragged up on the stage by the leash attached to his collar. He stumbled a bit, his hands bound behind his back as punishment for earlier shoving an Alpha away in defence. His breaths were shaky, and he swallowed thickly, trembling slightly. The bruise on his side from being kicked wouldn’t show up until after he was sold, and they would make sure he sold.

He didn’t want it – god how he didn’t want it.

He and his family had lived in the country and had avoided being found. But he’d still been taken, and the auction house had had trouble selling him since. It had been nearly three years now, so finally they resorted to other means.

He hadn’t eaten in four days, making him docile, and he was exhausted. So, by the time they dragged him onto the stage, he just stood there, looking out over the crowd, waiting, because it would happen.

***

John had gone to the auction with Mike just to keep him company. He wasn’t looking for an Omega – god, he had enough problems just looking after himself – and he certainly didn’t want a slave on top of that. Mike, however, seemed very keen about the prospect. So, John had agreed, going along and sitting with him but not purchasing a number. And he had been pleasantly bored until a boy of around eighteen had been dragged onto the stage, his dark hair contrasting wildly with his pale skin.

“He’s mine,” John whispered to Mike, who only grinned and placed the first bid for him.

“You can pay me back later,” Mike promised, patting John’s knee in a friendly gesture.

***

Sherlock swayed slightly where he stood, quickly corrected by a smack upside the head by the Beta holding his leash, barking at him to stand straighter. He did so, glancing up at the crowd and watching a few hands get raised.

He looked down at the stage. So, it would finally happen, then. He’d be sold. He sighed, closing his eyes, wanting to not be there anymore.

They’d only just decided to try selling him a couple months ago, having got bored of him, he supposed. The runners of the auction house moved about a bit, and liked having younger Omegas around.

He heard his price climb steadily, though it eventually tapered out, slowing down.

***

“Please,” John whispered, his hands clenched tightly. “Please keep bidding, Mike.” He could see how uncomfortable the boy was on the stage, how malnourished he was.

He flinched outright when the Beta handler smacked him, and John was half tempted to run up on the stage and beat the man. Somehow, he refrained, sitting tensely on the edge of his seat until it was just Mike and one other man bidding, and finally it was just Mike.

“Any other offers?” the auctioneer asked. “Going once, twice… sold, to number 384.”

John let out a long breath of relief, squeezing Mike’s arm in thanks.

“Come on then,” Mike said, “let’s go get you your Omega.”

***

Sherlock shifted his arms a little, the ropes on his wrists cutting into his skin a bit more than they had been all day – he wouldn’t be surprised if they were bleeding.

He heard what he assumed was the word ‘sold,’ but it sounded more like ‘cold’ to his ears, having spaced out a little. Before he knew it though, his arm was gripped tightly and he was hauled off the back of the stage to a back collections room, shoved inside to wait. He leant heavily against the wall, sinking down it to the floor, exhausted.

***

John followed Mike to the main booth, where they did an exchange of money for ownership papers. John went through the process of filling them out, then shook Mike’s hand and departed with the promise of paying him back soon.

A Beta led John around behind the stage, into a small room loaded with sold Omegas and a few Alphas that were there to collect their purchases.

John stood in the middle of the room, his eyes falling on the boy in the corner, whose knees were pulled up to his chest, his head hung in defeat. Swallowing thickly, John walked forward, crouching down beside him.

“Are you alright? My name’s John. If you’d follow me, I would like to get you out of this place,” he said quietly, his hand resting lightly on the boy’s shoulder.

Sherlock was half dozing in the room when he heard someone talking near him, not quite making out the words. He felt a hand on his shoulder and flinched a little, tugging at his wrists with a wince. He dragged his eyes open slowly, his dazed gaze falling on a blond Alpha, a bit older than himself, but he was nowhere near awake enough to try and guess accurately.

“Mmm,” Sherlock hummed, trying to sort out what he had said.

The Beta that had led John over growled in annoyance. “Got other things to do, hurry along for the man!” he said shortly, taking up Sherlock’s leash and yanking it. Sherlock pitched forward and fell onto his chest on the floor, wincing at the pain in his side, his head spinning. He didn’t move, eyes closing again as he lost consciousness.

John stood up quickly, shoving the Beta back and growling at him, standing possessively between the boy and the handler.

Don’t touch my Omega again, or it will be the last thing you do,” John threatened, his voice a deep snarl.

Casting a glare at the Beta, he crouched down again, quickly undoing the collar from around the boy’s neck and tossing it aside. He reached into his pocket for his knife, efficiently slicing through the ropes that bound the boy’s wrists. After he had made sure that absolutely nothing else was binding him, he rolled the boy over and lifted him up, carrying him from the room without a backwards glance at the abusive men inside.

Sherlock came awake a small bit when he felt himself moved; he was a light sleeper now that he’d been in that place so long. He whimpered a little as he was lifted, his arm hanging limp and his head just staying fallen back where it was, not bothering to try and move much.

He heard the noise of the auction hall fade away, and shivered a little when a cool breeze brushed past his skin, wearing nothing but a dingy pair of jeans.

“Hmm,” Sherlock hummed again, not able to work his eyes open.

 “You’re alright,” John promised when he felt the boy stir. “I’m taking you home; I’ve got you.”

John shifted the boy’s weight in his arms, thankful for his military training and for the fact that the boy weighed practically nothing as he raised an arm to quickly hail a cab. As soon as one pulled up, he set the young Omega inside, climbing around to the other door to get in.

“221B Baker Street, please,” John told the cabbie, reaching out to press his fingers against the boy’s wrist, taking his pulse. He was concerned with how weak it was.

Sherlock’s brow furrowed a little, shifting slightly with a wince, the partial boot print on his side making itself more known. He felt something press against his wrist and moved both of his arms in front of himself, curling up on his uninjured side, protecting the bruised and somewhat scabbed and bleeding wrists.

John sighed quietly, his body reacting to the pheromones the boy was producing, the ones that were begging for help, and his few years at medical school were also insisting that he do something.

John reached out, gently combing his fingers through the boy’s errant curls, soothing his fingers down his neck and to his shoulders. “You’re alright. I promise, you’re alright.”

Sherlock faded in and out, the touch on his neck and shoulders warm and unfamiliarly gentle.

Eventually, the cab pulled up in front of his flat, and, after paying the fare, John got out, lifting the boy back into his arms. He pounded on the door with his boot, unable to fish his key out of his pocket. A few moments later, the door was opened by his surprised Beta landlady, and he stepped past her into the building.

A small noise came out of Sherlock as he was lifted again, and he curled up in the man’s arms.

Sherlock heard another voice for a moment, warm air wrapping around him – inside somewhere, then. It was only after he was laid down again that he went completely limp once more, falling asleep all the way.

John stepped back from the bed, sweeping his gaze over the unconscious boy, checking for injuries. He had seen the wrists already, but he knew other wounds couldn’t be far behind with the treatment he had been getting.

A quick inspection showed a large bruise on the Omega’s side, the shape of a boot evident, and it made John’s blood boil. Instead of getting angry, though, he walked into the bathroom, running a rag under warm water and returning to the boy’s side, gently cleaning the wounds on his wrists and then bandaging them when he was done.

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Sherlock slept for several hours, used to being woken up every hour or so the last few days, never allowed full sleep. When he started to wake up, the first thing he was aware of was the ache in his side, and then the soft bed under him, and that he was covered with an equally soft blanket. His forehead creased a little, fingers flexing slightly as he felt the bedding under them.

John had retired to the living room after he had finished caring for the battered and abused Omega, lying across the couch with his head on the armrest nearest the hallway so that he could hear if the boy woke up.

John stared at the fireplace across from him, wondering why on earth he had spent so much money on a boy who couldn't even walk. 

Why you? What's so special about you? John wondered

A few minutes later, John heard the bed sheets rustle, and he pushed himself up, padding into the bedroom with a soft knock on the door.

Sherlock heard the knock and dragged his eyes open slowly, an unfamiliar room slowly coming into focus. He swallowed, turning his head over to look at the partially open door, seeing a face peering in at him. He blinked once, a confused expression on his face.

"Mmm... wha- wha’s going on?" Sherlock mumbled quietly.

John stepped into the room, walking slowly over to the bed in hopes of not frightening the Omega.

"Do you remember anything from yesterday?" John asked quietly, reaching out to run a comforting hand through his hair, able to feel his distress. "I purchased you from that horrible auction house. You're safe now."

Sherlock closed his eyes when the hand neared him, feeling it move though his hair. His brows furrowed a little and he wet his lips.

"Mm... auction's tomorrow..." Sherlock mumbled, dragging his eyes open slowly and looking at the man.

"No," John whispered, continuing to gently comb through the boy's dirty dark hair. "I insist that it was yesterday. You blacked out a couple of times."

Sherlock winced a little, shifting on the bed. He swallowed thickly, letting out a breath.

John ran his fingertips lightly down the side of the boy’s face, skimming over a bruise that was forming high on his cheekbone. "I'm sorry, you must be starving. Come on, I'll make you some food and tea."

"Mm... been almost four days... don' even feel hungry 'nymore," Sherlock mumbled, trying to open his eyes more.

John's brow furrowed. "That's no good," he said, his fingers falling from the boy's cheek. "Stay here, I'm going to go make you some eggs and toast, alright?"

John backed from the room without confirmation, walking quickly into the kitchen to start fixing the meagre meal. He knew that it was nothing compared to what a normal Omega's metabolism could break down, but he had a feeling that this boy was going to have troubles with it.

Sherlock opened his mouth to protest, but the Alpha disappeared out of the door. He swallowed, rolling onto his right side slowly, the kick on his left.

Sherlock looked after the Alpha, able to smell him on the bedding that was wrapped around him, and he couldn't help the relaxed feeling he got from it. Quite the opposite of the almost fearful feeling he got from the Alphas at the auction house.

John poured a glass of milk while the toast was finishing, and then returned with the food to the bedroom.

Sherlock was lying there for a little while, starting to doze again when the man came back with a plate of food. Sherlock's stomach clenched at the sight of it, not having eaten in so long.

John set the food down on the nightstand.

"Here, come on," John whispered, reaching for the boy’s shoulders and easing him into a sitting position, leaning back against the headboard.

Sherlock winced as he was moved up into a sitting position, leaning back against the headboard.

"You can trust me, now. I'm a doctor. Well," John corrected, "I'm training to be a doctor." He reached for the glass of milk, setting the lip of the cup against the Omega’s lips. "Start with a drink of this," John instructed. 

Sherlock turned his head away from the glass at first, but his throat was dry, and he looked down at the milk. He sighed, taking a small sip of it, the milk almost felt thick moving down his throat. He winced as he shifted again.

"Hurts," Sherlock mumbled.

"That's because your throat is cracked. The thickness of the milk will act like a balm and make it better, I promise." John tamped down his rage at the fact that the boy hadn't been fed in four days. "Either that, or I'm taking you to the hospital, and they can treat you. Because I don't like seeing you in pain."

Sherlock let out a breath. It wasn't just his throat that hurt though, and he doubted a bit of milk would make his side stop hurting. Still, he took another mouthful of the milk, then another, setting his head back and licking his lips again.

Sherlock coughed a couple times, then shook his head weakly. "Don... don' want hospital..." He'd never liked the places, and that was before. Now, who knew what they'd say, or what would happen. He might just end up in a place like where he had been.

"We'll take it easy, then," John replied, wincing at the obvious pain the Omega was in. "You may as well lie back down. I'm not going to push your stomach with food right now."

He helped ease the boy down onto his back, pressing on his shoulder to keep him there. "I know your side hurts, but if you have cracked ribs, then it's best to stay on your back."

Sherlock winced as he was moved again, and he just wanted to curl up again.

Sherlock swallowed thickly. "Why... why aren't you like them?" he asked, lifting his hand to look at the bandaging on his wrist. He reached over for the glass, wanting a bit more. "And... I don't think they're broken again, jus' hurts," he mumbled.

John helped the boy take another drink of the milk before moving to check his bandages – he wouldn't take them off to change them until tonight.

Sherlock drank down a couple mouthfuls of the milk, which settled half uncomfortably in his stomach.

"Like who? The arseholes at the auction house?" John nearly spat the words, looking away so that he had time to compose himself before he went back to looking over the boy's wounds.

"Yes... like them," Sherlock breathed. "Not like... other Alphas," he mumbled, remembering being told not to expect better than he had already, and that the one difference would be that instead of being locked in a room alone through his heats he'd be taken during them.

Just the thought of not being alone during that time was nice, but not if it was one of them. They never did that during his heat though – liked to hear the Omegas beg for it, but never once laid a finger on them during that time; it was torture.

John sighed, "What's your name?"

"’m Sherlock," he mumbled.

"Hello, Sherlock. My name's John."

John brushed his fingers over Sherlock's side, feeling for cracked ribs under the bruise. He didn't find any, like Sherlock had suggested, but he suspected that the bones were bruised as well.

"I don't know," John answered after a moment, returning to their previous engagement. "I was raised in a family of Omegas, I guess." He shrugged, leaning over Sherlock to check a bruise on his shoulder. "My mum had me before she met my dad, and they decided to have another a short while later, even if Dad wouldn't actually be the father. All three of them were Omegas."

"Mm," Sherlock hummed, listening quietly. He winced when John pressed lightly on his side, trying to roll onto his other one a little and curl up again.

"Why... why were you even there?" Sherlock asked, his eyes trying to pull shut again.

"A friend of mine dragged me along," John explained briefly, letting Sherlock curl up. "I'm glad he did." He ran his hand through Sherlock's curly hair, even though it was filthy, and down his neck to soothe across his back. "Sleep if you need to. I'll be down the hall and will be able to hear if you wake," he whispered, instinctively pressing a soft kiss to the boy's temple.

Sherlock was asleep already by the time the hand was moving down his neck towards his back, breathing evenly, though it was a little raspy. He coughed a few times in his sleep, not stirring for anything else.

Sherlock slept for another couple hours or so before he woke up, blinking a few times and wondering why he had. It took him four seconds to realise why, and he lurched out of the bed, ignoring the pain in his side and quickly stumbled through the other door, which he hoped led to a bathroom.

Thankfully he was correct, and thankfully the toilet was the first thing there before he bent over it, his stomach flipping, and expelling its contents. He sat back when he was done, leaning against the cool porcelain of the tub, which felt nice against his flushed, somewhat damp skin.

John was on his feet as soon as he heard movement, and he winced when he heard the obvious sounds of retching.

"Sherlock?" John called, politely knocking on the bathroom door before he stepped inside, lowering himself to the floor beside the pale boy.

John reached out, resting his fingers on Sherlock's forehead to take his temperature. "God, you're burning up. What the hell were they doing to you?" he murmured, mostly to himself. "I need to get you to a hospital. Something else is wrong if your stomach can't even handle some milk."

Sherlock swallowed thickly, the foul taste still in his mouth. He shook his head weakly. "N-no... no hospital... don' want," Sherlock mumbled, his head rolling to rest on his shoulder as he leant sideways a bit. "’m jus’ tired." 

"Sherlock, please, you have to trust me." John moved so that he was crouching in front of the boy, reaching out to cup his cheek gently. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you, alright? And I will never, ever let you anywhere near an auction house again."

John’s eyes burned with sincerity, his thumb stroking Sherlock's un-bruised cheekbone. "But if this is what I think it is, you need a hospital."

Sherlock coughed a couple times, dragging his distant eyes up to meet John's. He swallowed, mumbling a little incoherently, shaking his head a small bit, wondering just what John thought it was.

"’m jus’... tired, jus’ wan' sleep," Sherlock murmured, his head rolling forward a bit. 

"No, please," John begged, not wanting to force the Omega to do anything. "I think there's a hole in your stomach lining from not eating for so long, and adding food right now is just going to make it worse. Sherlock, please."

Sherlock frowned a little, coughing again. Hole in his... what? He couldn't think straight. He was so tired, he didn't care, just wanted to sleep.

John cupped both of Sherlock’s cheeks, his panic increasing as he forced their eyes to meet. "Please, I want to meet the real you, when you're not starved and weak. I'm begging you to listen to me."

"Mmkay," Sherlock mumbled. "Mmkay..." he repeated, wetting his lips as he started to slip again, eyes pulling shut.

John reached out, reacting immediately. He wrapped his arms around Sherlock's shoulders and behind his knees, lifting him into his arms once more.

John paused in the kitchen long enough to grab his wallet and his keys and then he was gone, hailing a cab as soon as he was on the street.

"Bart's hospital," John instructed the cabbie, holding Sherlock against him with an arm across his shoulders. 

Sherlock woke up to the familiar motion of a vehicle, and he pulled his eyes open a little to see street lights passing. He licked his lips a little, looking around and seeing the inside of a cab.

"Where... where going?" Sherlock asked, tilting his head up a little and looking at John. His stomach was in knots, and he almost felt like he was going to be sick again, but what could there be left for him to sick up? 

John furrowed his brow, twisting a little towards Sherlock and brushing his fingers gently through the hair at his temple.

"Easy," John whispered. "We're going to the hospital, remember? You have a potential hole in your stomach lining." He was worried about the lack of short term memory the boy seemed to be having, realising that it was probably caused by undernourishment.

Sherlock blinked a couple times, looking around again.

"Mmm, n-no... no, no hospital," Sherlock mumbled, coughing.

The cab pulled to a stop then, outside of a white building.

Sherlock shook his head weakly, lurching up with a wince from the pain in his side, tossing open the door and spilling out of the cab, stumbling a little.

John quickly tossed a twenty at the cabbie and jumped out after Sherlock, catching him above the elbow and pulling him back against him.

"No, Sherlock, listen. You promised that you would go. You're going to die if you don't go in there," John whispered, bringing his other hand up to gently cup Sherlock's neck. "Trust me," he begged, his voice laced with emotion. "Nothing will happen to you."

Sherlock swayed a little, looking at John. He blinked a couple times, then bobbed his head in a small nod. They were turned towards the doors and started towards them, himself practically leaning against John for balance.

Sherlock’s stomach clenched as they got closer, and he doubled over, getting sick again on the pavement just outside the doors. He looked down at it, furrowing his brows when he saw the red mixed into it. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, which got a small smear on it.

"Maybe... need be here," Sherlock said, before his knees went out, and he collapsed again.

God, yeah, you think? John thought sarcastically to himself.

John's arm tightened around Sherlock when he collapsed, pulling him back up into his arms.

"Don't throw up on me, I haven't got a change of clothes," John teased as he quickly pushed his way inside, calling for help once he was in the lobby.

Sherlock groaned a little, muttering some unintelligible comment along the lines of how the jumper John wore might be improved if he did throw up on him, but he wasn't sure how much of the comment made it through his mouth.  

Nurses ran out from behind the reception desk, asking what had happened.

John explained the situation as best as he could, not knowing all of the details but knowing enough. "Look, I think his stomach lining has a hole in it. His vomit has been laced with blood. He needs a doctor, now."

One of the nurses ran off, two others pushing through the door with a gurney that John lowered Sherlock onto.

Sherlock felt himself set down on a bed, and tried to sit up a little.

"MmJohn... wha’s going… to happen?" Sherlock asked, swallowing thickly, the bright lights on the ceiling seeming too bright. "Hurts…" he said, not sure if he meant his stomach or his side; both perhaps? 

John trotted along beside the gurney as Sherlock was wheeled from the lobby, knowing he wouldn't be able to stay with him the whole time.

"They're going to take you in for surgery and fix the hole in your stomach," John explained, squeezing the pale hand reassuringly. "I'm also going to ask them to put some nutrients in you to help jump start your metabolism."

John looked up, seeing the operation doors at the end of the hall. "I promise that nothing will happen. If something goes wrong, they're going to have a very pissed off Alpha on their hands." He squeezed Sherlock's hand one last time before he reached his boundary and could go no further.

Sherlock's eyes widened a little at the word surgery, trying to sit up more, but a nurse pressed his chest down. His heart was speeding up in his chest, and he shook his head.

"I- no.... no, I don't want... please…" he said, still trying to get up from the bed. 

John heard a nurse call for anaesthesia before he turned away, and he rolled his eyes affectionately, though pain at the thoughts of what this boy had gone through to make him so afraid tightened around his chest.

With a heavy sigh and the hopes the Sherlock calmed down so that he would get better, John made his way back to the waiting room, filling out paperwork and finally resting in a chair against the far wall.

***

Sherlock strained weakly against the hands now holding him down, a small noise escaping him as he felt a needle slide into his arm. He squirmed, but something was pushed into the line, and he let out a breath, the lights around him getting halos around them before they went out altogether, his eyes rolling back into his head as he went limp on the gurney.