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This, I Vow

Chapter Text

Mist swirled through the trees as moonlight cast a dull glow over the forest floor. The night was silent; no prey dared to move from their hiding places and not even the owls ventured out of their hollows in search of prey. A chill hung in the air like the telltale sign of a first winter’s snow. After more than a decade of warmer weather and mild seasons, a bitter winter was beginning to settle in.

A large, dark brown wolf sat in the clearing; his head held low, his greying ears pricked forward as his paws twitched with anticipation.   Ah… there…  The soft crunch of leaves reached his ears as paw steps inched closer, yet he remained still and silent.  A dark figure appeared in the shadows at the edge of the clearing as it surveyed their surroundings - not trusting the eyes and ears of the forest.

“Were you followed?” the figure spoke with an ominous tone. It's eyes shone in the dark as it seemed to pace restlessly back and forth.

The wolf tilted his head with a serious glint in his golden gaze, “It is not I, dear brother, who should be concerned with being followed… Is it done?”

The question hung in the air as the figure finally stepped out into the moonlight; a second wolf. His black and grey pelt shivered and resettled as a breeze rustled the leaves under paw. His ice blue gaze was fixed on the other wolf as he sat and rested his tail over his paws. The tension in the air between them thickened as the moments passed by, an eerie sign of things to come.

 

“No need to worry, Harrison… Everything has been taken care of,” he finally replied, letting his features settle into an expression of vague disinterest. The black wolf glanced down at his paws and studied the earth beneath them as an odd smile crossed his features.

The brown wolf, Harrison, looked skeptical, but his brother let out a low, dark chuckle as he lifted his gaze to meet him once again. “Is there something that amuses you, Harlan?” Harrison questioned, raising an eyebrow. Clearly his brother must know something he didn’t.

 

“Oh, dear brother, is your faith in me so easily lessened?” the other wolf smirked wickedly, a hint of betrayal flashing in his blue eyes as he turned away and started back into the shadows.

A rush of anger sparked in the brown wolf’s eyes and his heart thundered in his chest with fury. Harrison sprang to his paws and leapt forward to block Harlan’s path; his hackles raised and his teeth bared. “This may be some sick and twisted game to you, but, if you’d dare to remember, there are still lives at stake!” he snarled, digging his claws into the cold, soft earth.

Now, it was Harlan’s turn to cast the skeptical glances, “Do you truly wish to shed light on that discussion, Harrison? After all, the blood on our hands is thick enough as it is. Yet, now, you want to show concern for ‘all the lives at stake’? Truly, brother, becoming a father has made you weak…”

With a furious snarl, Harrison lunged for his brother’s throat, but his claws only swiped at earth as he slid across the open forest floor instead. The black and grey wolf had slipped out of danger with subtle ease; a menacing sneer playing at his lips, “Temper, temper, brother mine. Must this all end in violence?”. His tone was dripping with malice as he taunted his younger brother. ”Anger does you no favors, Harrison. What’s done is done. Keeping the Blackwater Clan in power takes a certain determination. One you seem to have forgotten,”

In the blink of an eye, the wolves began to twitch and shiver from nose to tail tip and their pelts shuddered heavily. The transition was smooth as their paws twisted into hands and feet, and their lupine forms became human. Their thick fur coats gave way to soft, pale skin that shone even in the shadows. Where there were once considerably beautiful creatures of the forest, now stood seemingly ordinary men.

 

Harlan’s long black cloak whipped in the breeze as he drew it around his chest to shield himself from the cold. He was a tall, pale man with jet black hair that fell in thick, messy waves halfway down his back. He still had the wolf in his brilliant blue eyes as he stared at Harrison’s cleaner-cut figure. While they shared similarly chiseled features, his brother’s close-cut facial hair and warm honey-colored eyes were framed by thick brown locks that settled lightly over his shirt collar. He wore plain black trousers and a simple black dress shirt beneath a waistcoat fashioned from a red and black tapestry material. His long black tailcoat was open down the front and the tips of the coattails settled around the backs of his calves as he stood tall and proud. The picture of nobility, Harlan thought to himself in disgust.

“I am not proud of the horrors we have brought upon our family, Harlan” Harrison spoke as he clenched and unclenched his fists, drawing their argument back out into the open, “but, we can’t change the past. Only our futures are ours to write, now. Let us not speak of this, again,”.

Of course… What easier way to dismiss your sins… Harlan glared at his brother for a moment before a smirk slid over his lips, “As you wish, brother mine,”. With a curt nod and a quick shuddering shift back to his lupine form, Harlan turned toward the forest and vanished, leaving his brother alone in the clearing once again.

Harrison felt the wolf fighting to break free as his frustrations with his brother mounted. Had they truly crossed such an unforgivable line? He shook his head to rid his mind of the thought.   No, he is right… What’s done is done. No matter where Harlan stands, I have to protect my family, as well as my honor…  No one could know about this night. The lives of those he loved depended on it.

Chapter Text

Fridays were for slacking off. At least, they were if you asked Sherlock Holmes. His father, on the other hand, begged to differ. It was the last day of the week that the young man was expected to devote to his studies and he had no intention of doing any such thing. The carefree attitude toward his schooling was reflected in the clothing he wore as well, as the fabric of his plain linen shirt and black trousers were loose on his body; his bare feet the finishing touch. The breeze tousled his already messy dark brown curls as he linked his hands behind his head and lay back in the cool grass. Closing his eyes, he let out a hum of contentment and basked in the warmth of the sun caressing his pale cheeks. Yes… today he would relax, enjoy the first real sunny day of the year, and forget about the things from his school days that he deemed completely useless. What did it matter to him if the earth orbited the sun or not?

 

With a quiet chuckle to himself, Sherlock crossed one leg over the other and allowed his mind to wander. His senses tingled with the wondrous sensations of the garden surrounding him as the smell of clover and chamomile washed over him. As he breathed in the warm promise of spring, his thoughts drifted to the garden party that his father was hosting the following day. It would be an extravagant event as per usual, Sherlock was sure of it. His father never did anything half-heartedly. Family and friends from all over London would be in attendance and he felt the familiar prickle of anxiety at the thought of what would be expected of him regarding his long-term betrothal to Molly Hooper.

 

As the only heir to the aristocracy that was the Holmes family, Sherlock had been promised at a young age to be wed to the daughter of the second-most powerful family in London. The mere thought of such a daunting prospect was enough to make the young man’s stomach churn. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the poor girl - he and Molly were great friends, actually; he just never could picture himself spending the rest of his life sorting out mundane affairs and playing house with her at his side. The whole charade of such a domestic lifestyle just seemed to be beneath him in a way that he couldn’t quite explain. Was it normal that the very idea of doing the same thing day in and day out made him cringe? He had never been one to find comfort in the everyday activities of life, much less enjoy them, unless he had very good reason for doing them. This usually only came about for experimental purposes in order to observe how or why certain things were done.

 

This blatant disconnection from an ordinary lifestyle was just one of many things that made Sherlock Holmes different from anyone else he’d ever met. He considered himself a man of science and logic, proclaiming that only the weak-minded found joy in domesticity. To him, sentiment was a hindrance, emotional affairs were monotonous and absurd, and the idea of having either of those invade his brilliant mind was utterly appalling to say the least.

 

As Sherlock felt his mood beginning to sour, he huffed out a sigh and shifted his thoughts back to tomorrow’s garden party. No matter the irritation that awaited him in his fake romance with Molly, he always looked forward to these sorts of events because parties almost always promised new people for him to observe and analyse. His impeccable deduction skills made it easy for him to be able to outline a person’s entire life story within minutes of seeing them. Making these deductions and sharing his discoveries with his ‘fiancée’ made it easier to pretend that they actually had some semblance of a relationship. Tomorrow, they would go through their usual routine where they sat with one another for the first portion of the event as he fed her stories about their guests, making her laugh and shake her head in disbelief; then, he would excuse himself from her presence when it was appropriate and he would probably sneak off into town as the evening’s excitement began to fizzle out.

 

The thought of heading into town made his spine tingle with anticipation and Sherlock arched his back up off the grass, stretching his arms above his head as he flexed his lean form before sitting up.

 

A soft rustle in the grass behind him caused him to freeze in place. The sound would’ve been entirely inaudible to anyone else, but he sensed something coming up behind him as he closed his eyes and focused his hearing. Ah... There it was again. The gentle sound of pawsteps slipping delicately towards him. He could practically see the creature in his mind’s eye as its powerful haunches coiled and it sprang from its hiding place.

 

With all the grace he could muster, Sherlock slipped out of the way just before he caught sight of the grey and tan wolf lunging over his head. The creature’s body contorted in midair and became a man in the blink of an eye; bare feet skidding to a halt as the newcomer slammed his fist down into the earth.

 

“Damn it, Holmes! How the hell do you always know?” he swore, unashamed of his naked appearance as he pulled a pair of loose trousers from the pouch that was belted to his hip. They had all taken to wearing them as a way to carry a spare change of clothes with them after a shift. Pulling them on, he straightened up and rolled his broad shoulders. The muscles in his bare chest flexed and pulled tight with the motion. He was an inch or two shorter than Sherlock, when he stood to his full height, with shaggy brown hair and dark brown eyes to match. His expression was a mix of aggravation and envy all rolled into one.

 

Sherlock smirked and rolled his eyes, dramatically, “Hmph... what are we up to, now, Vic? I do believe it’s something like ‘Me: twenty-three; you: zero’ if I recall correctly.,”. He let out an amused chuckle, “Surely, one would be able to remember that my exemplary skills of deduction have never failed me, nor have they ever been matched. My senses are also more in tune than yours have ever been what with the way you take them for granted. I would have been able to hear you coming from a mile away,” he answered with a dismissive wave of his hand. Not a week seemed to pass by without Victor Trevor trying to best him in some way or another.

 

His friend flashed him an irritated smirk as he sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re amazing; an absolute genius,” his voice dripped with sarcasm before he changed the subject, not wanting to feed Sherlock’s ego any more than he could help. Victor crossed his arms over his chest; his build was stockier than Sherlock’s, but Sherlock knew he could take him in a scuffle. “So, are you looking forward to the party tomorrow? Surely, you’ll be glad to see Molly after such a long time apart. It’s been almost a week since she’s been able to come around, hasn’t it?”.

 

Ugh, again with the Molly business…

 

Sherlock shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose. Her absence hasn’t really bothered me too much, to be completely honest. I don’t have any use for romantic attachment,” he answered, already knowing exactly what Victor was bound to say in response. The two young men were as different as night and day; where Sherlock despised the idea of being stuck in his role as an aristocratic diplomat, Victor flourished in the position and took great pride in what he was meant to do with his life.

 

Sure enough, the other man shook his head and raised his eyebrows, “I’ll never understand you, Holmes. We’ve been the best of friends for years and I still can’t figure out for the life of me what goes on in that funny head of yours. To each their own, I suppose, but I gotta admit, I think you’re barking mad,”. Vic paused, offering his hand to Sherlock in order to pull him to his feet as he let out an exasperated chuckle. “You’d have to be bloody mental to not be chuffed with the situation you’ve found yourself in. You’re an Alpha, you’ve got a gorgeous fiancée, and I can’t think of anyone that you can’t outwit. Why, I’d give my left leg to be in your shoes,”.

 

“Then, by all means, you are more than welcome to take my place,” Sherlock retorted, “however, I believe you may be way out of Molly’s league with your eloquent language skills,”. He heard Victor’s obvious snort of protest and ignored him in favour of continuing his rant. “Honestly, even for a Beta, you sound more like a savage barbarian than an educated member of England’s most respected aristocratic circle,”.

 

“Yeah, well at least I’ve got the good sense to know when I’m handed the greatest offer a guy like you or I could ever hope for,” the other stated simply. Sherlock knew he was being a bit unreasonable, but he couldn't find it in himself to care. He was an Alpha and Victor was a Beta, his second in command and head of pack security in times of trouble all while being groomed to take Sherlock’s place in the unfortunate event that something should happen to him. Perhaps that would be a better alternative for everyone involved? If all else failed, the young Alpha supposed he could fake his own tragic death, Victor could take his place as Molly’s intended, and they’d all live happily ever after, after all.

 

Beside him, Victor let out a heavy sigh and glanced over his shoulder at the dense outcropping of trees that marked the border of the Holmes’ territory. The tree line wrapped all the way around the Holmes’ estate and served as the boundary line between Sherlock and Victor’s family homes.

 

As Sherlock followed his friend’s gaze, he knew exactly what was going through his mind. “Perimeter run?” he asked, stepping up to stand beside the shorter man.

 

Nodding once, Victor cast a sideways glance at him and stretched his neck from side to side. “I thought you’d never ask,” he answered Sherlock with a smirk. “Come on. Last one to the tree line is a mangy mutt,”.

 

Sherlock felt the familiar surge of his competitive streak kicking into high gear; every inch of his skin prickling with the rush of the shift springing to life in his veins. “You’re on…. Hope you enjoy the view,” his last words were shouted over his shoulder, stripping off his shirt -trousers be damned; they had a hole in them anyway -and clenching it between his teeth as he burst forward at a dead run. He knew Victor would be pissed at him for taking off without him, but he didn’t care. The faster he ran, the harder his heart pounded in his chest and he felt the wolf rip through his body, shredding the remaining fabric covering his lower half. His hands and feet became heavy paws pounding into the earth beneath him and his entire body shivered while his skin was consumed by thick, grey fur as he allowed the wolf to take him over completely.

 

*****

 

It was late evening by the time Sherlock padded out from the trees at the back of his family’s land; his muscles contracting in shivering ripples as he made the transition back to his human form. He pulled a pair of charcoal trousers from the bag on his hip, slipping into them with ease before he tugged on the same linen shirt from earlier in the day. His skin prickled with the thrill of the shift and he could still feel the wolf at his back, begging to be freed once again. Deep down, Sherlock knew that if he could retreat into the wolf forever, he most likely would. He found human life far more tedious and exhausting than his time spent in his lupine form. When his paws met earth, he felt a sense of calming freedom that he had never experienced in his human life. All of his senses exploding with activity, muscles and sinew being stretched to their limits, the quiet of his own mind that he could never achieve while human. Being allowed to just simply exist without any interference in his mind; being able to think and breathe and feel without anyone in his head telling him what he should be doing and why he should be doing it…He was quite certain that there was no other high like it in all of the world.

 

As the young Alpha bounded up the stone steps leading to the back entrance to his home, he felt the soft breeze caress his aching shoulders and he rolled his neck in a languid stretch. The cobblestone walkway was hard and cool on the soles of his bare feet in comparison to the lush density of the back lawn. He reached the back door and turned the handle slowly and quietly, slipping inside with as much stealth as he could muster.

 

“And just where have you been, young man?” a sharp, feminine voice snapped from somewhere over his shoulder, causing him to wince.

 

As good as he was, Sherlock should have known he would’ve never been able to evade the ever-watchful gaze of dear old Mrs. Hudson, his family’s caretaker and cook. He turned slowly and offered her his most apologetic smile as he opened his arms in a gesture of sincerity.

 

“Just went for a perimeter run,” he said through a wide smile, but Mrs. Hudson didn’t budge. She just stood with her arms crossed, staring him down like a mother bear. He could tell she wasn’t exactly cross with him, but he also knew that she looked after him and fussed over him now just as much as she had when he was a small boy. It was all he needed to know to realise what she was going to say next.

 

She clicked her tongue and let out a heavy sigh as she shook her head in disbelief. The older woman moved toward him with purpose and steered him by his shoulders, pushing him into a chair at the small table in the center of the kitchen. He allowed himself to be pulled this way and that and sat down just as she instructed. “You’re always rushing about, coming home at all hours of the day and night,” she tutted, petting his curls briefly with one hand before setting herself to work around the kitchen. “You even missed dinner again! That’s the third time this week, young man. You won’t be doing yourself any favors if you don’t start eating a few proper meals. You’re practically skin and bones as it is, Sherlock,”.  

 

As she said the words, her soft, caring eyes swept over his torso and she gave him a weary look. Everything in her tone and posture told him that Mrs. Hudson was worried about him and he knew he would never be able to convince her to feel otherwise. He let her prattle on at him about his being too thin and how his hair was getting too shaggy - “It really does need to be trimmed, dear; you’re starting to look a bit feral, if you ask me,”. The more she talked and made a fuss over him the more he felt himself scoffing in response, no longer able to hold in his irritation.

 

“Mrs. Hudson, let me assure you, I am perfectly fine and healthy and am more than capable of looking after myself,” he interrupted at long last, causing the woman to huff out a breath as she placed a bowl of soup and a few pieces of bread in front of him.

 

“All right, love, all right. Just trying to look after you while I can, you know,” she answered; her voice still just as soft and kind. Her wrinkled hand rested on his shoulder for only a moment, then stroked the curls at the nape of his neck before she turned back to the kitchen counters. The sink was full of soapy water and she had stacked up the pots, pans, and dishes from that evening’s dinner as she prepared to wash them up for the next morning.

 

Sherlock dipped the bread into his bowl of soup and tucked into his dinner. Watching his caretaker go about her nightly routine, he allowed himself to sit and deduce her. Mrs. Hudson was an elderly woman who took pride in a clean house, well-prepared meal, and making sure he looked presentable as best as she could. As he watched her now, he could see the ghost of old age creeping in on her body the way that night envelops a sunset and covers it from view. As much as he’d like to deny it, his lovely caretaker was starting to succumb to the realities of her age. In testament, her black linen dress draped delicately over her bony shoulders and it seemed far too loose in some places. Sherlock briefly wondered if there might be a chance in getting her to eat a few more healthy meals of her own as a compromise for all the things she seemed to be asking of him.

 

An equally soft smile played at the corners of his lips as he closed his pale eyes in silent acknowledgment of her concern for him. “Thank you…” he whispered, catching her glancing over at him before giving him a smile of her own.

 

“You’re welcome, dear,” Mrs. Hudson whispered back. She went back to her soapy dishwater, changing the subject and brightening up their conversation once more. “Why don’t you tell me all about this grand party you’ll be taking part in tomorrow,”.

 

With a quiet sigh of indignation, Sherlock turned his attention pointedly to his bowl. It wasn’t that he had no interest in the party - quite the opposite, in fact - but, it seemed that everyone that had asked about it had used the subject as a precursor to discussing his upcoming marriage.  He had just silently reprimanded himself for taking this woman for granted and, not three minutes later, was irritated with her, again, so he tried to push his frustrations aside in order to appease her.

 

“What would you like to know? Seems unlikely anyone of consequence will be there and even still I’m sure Father will have me pretty pinned down no matter what may come up,” he answered as he dipped another piece of bread into the soup.

 

Mrs. Hudson let a quiet giggle slip as she glanced over her shoulder at him. “Surely it won’t be all bad, dear. I’m certain you’ll find ways to amuse yourself. You might even try joining in during the socializing, you know? There are all sorts of things you can learn if you’d just give people a chance. You never know what you might be missing,” she smiled through her words and caught the skeptical look he threw her.

 

“Dull, Mrs. Hudson. New people are rarely intriguing and are almost never worth the effort it takes to strike up a conversation. I believe I have all I need already in that area,”.

 

With her eyebrows raised and a hint of superiority about her, the older woman held his gaze intently.

 

“What?” Sherlock asked, furrowing his brows and pulling his features into a disapproving scowl.

 

Narrow shoulders shrugging, Mrs. Hudson shook her head, “Oh, nothing, love. I just think that you may be putting the cart before the horse is all,”. The ridiculous wording prompted Sherlock to roll his eyes in response; he hated when people spoke in such silly phrases.

 

“Meaning?” his voice was softly laced with irritation at the way his attendant looked at him. She didn’t reply right away, but sat in silence as her eyes narrowed softly at their corners. He had seen this look a hundred times - not quite pity, more like she was waiting on him to come to a realization that she herself had long come to terms with. With a snort of indignation, he crossed his arms in a childish fashion.

 

Once it was clear that the young Alpha wasn’t going to entertain her musings, she sighed and shook her head once more. “Oh, Sherlock, dear… I know you aren’t happy in your arrangement with that girl your father’s promised you to, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option you’ve got, love. You may not feel anything for her, but I would be willing to bet my next month’s wages that there’s someone out there for you.” Her words were annoyingly endearing, making him cringe inwardly, as she winked at him and her eyes crinkled with delight at the thought of him finding someone to share his life with.

 

He cringed inwardly. Another snort. Another sigh.  Couldn’t anyone else see how mind numbingly boring the entire idea truly was to him? Affections… Emotions… Feelings… Ugh…

 

A light smack to his shoulder brought him back around as Mrs. Hudson appeared behind him, scolding him for his quick dismissal of the idea. “You’ll see what I mean one day, young man. Just you wait and see. One of these days, someone will come along that will wipe that arrogant look right off of your handsome face and have you hanging on their every word. It may never be Molly Hooper, but just you mark my words,” she said with a cheeky sort of smirk.

 

Sherlock couldn’t help rolling his eyes one final time before he backed his chair away from the table. Why was everyone so insistent to have a say in his emotional affairs? Or lack there of… “Mrs. Hudson, please….”

 

Looking into his eyes and studying their quiet plea, the older woman relented with a weary sigh and picked up his bowl before carrying it to the sink for a wash. She heard him push his chair back under the table and, over her shoulder, she called out to him softly, “Your father was looking for you earlier. He asked me to tell you he’d be in his study before heading off to bed. Think he’s looking to speak with you before you turn in,”.

 

Sherlock stilled in the doorway, listening, before he nodded once and thanked her again for looking after him. Turning on his heel, he made his way to the left and down the corridor that would lead him to the main staircase in the foyer.

 

Chapter Text

The narrow corridor stretched out ahead as Sherlock made his way up the single staircase to the main floor, past Mrs. Hudson’s living quarters and a series of linen closets. He walked out into the foyer and took the steps of the grand staircase two at a time, his long legs enjoying the stretch. Turning to his left, the young Alpha continued on until he reached the large oak door of his father’s study. The heavy door was open, but he paused in the doorway as he surveyed the man standing before him.

 

His father, Harrison Holmes, was leaning over a large oak desk where several papers and maps were scattered over its surface. Sherlock’s father was tall with chiseled features, much like his own, and his long black hair was streaked with silver waves. He was dressed in his usual attire - a crisp white shirt beneath a grey waistcoat, dark trousers, and boots,  - causing the younger man to give himself a quick once-over in the mirror on the opposite wall. Sherlock did his best to smooth out his windswept curls and dismissed the state of his clothing since there was nothing that could be done about his current state of dress. When he deemed himself at least somewhat presentable, he cleared his throat to announce his presence.

 

Harrison raised his head, seeming to finish the trade report he was reading before his eyes followed. “Ah, Sherlock, there you are, my boy.” he greeted him, warmly. He beckoned him into the room with a wave of his hand and turned his attention back to his paperwork.

 

Sherlock crossed the room and peered over the desk at the stacks of papers. “You wanted to see me, Father?” he asked, glancing at Harrison’s face as he spoke. With the garden party happening tomorrow, he was pretty sure that his father was most likely interested in discussing exactly how he expected Sherlock to behave during the festivities. The older man didn’t even spare Sherlock a glance as he nodded his head in confirmation.

 

“Yes, yes, I did. I was going to discuss this with you during dinner, but, as usual, you didn’t quite make it in in time for us to eat together,” Harrison stated plainly, a hint of disappointment in his voice. Sherlock’s shoulders slumped slightly in an admission of guilt. Before he could apologise, however, his father waved the unspoken words away with a polite gesture and a shake of his head. “Not to worry, boy, I’m not one to harbour hurt feelings as you know. Besides, I do know that this sort of life isn’t exactly what you would desire for yourself so I have no problem indulging your need to stay well away from it as often as you possibly can. With that being said, however, I’m sure you know that tomorrow is quite an important day for our family,”.

 

Sherlock felt his entire body tense in apprehension, but he tried his best to keep his expression neutral. It wouldn’t do to take his frustrations out on his father. Yes, he had set the arrangement up by the time Sherlock had turned sixteen, but he had done so with their pack’s best interest at heart. By marrying his son off to the upcoming Alpha female of the Riverend pack, he was making the choice to unite their packs and bring about a sense of security for future generations. The whole idea made perfect sense really but Sherlock wished, rather selfishly, that it hadn’t had to come at his expense.

 

In an attempt to relax his posture, Sherlock let out a steady breath and made an effort to seem fixated on the task at hand. This garden party would be the first social event that he and his predetermined fiancé would be attending as a unit; their debut as the future Lord and Lady of the Blackwater estate. The words alone were enough to cause Sherlock to wrinkle his nose in distaste, earning him a slight chuckle from his father as his eyes snapped up to see a hint of amusement on the older man’s face.

 

“My son,” Harrison sighed, smiling fondly as he shook his head. “Do you still detest my decision that much?”. The question held a trace of sadness in it that Sherlock couldn’t quite make sense of, so he pushed it out of his mind.

 

Clearing his throat, the younger man gave a polite shrug, trying to force as much nonchalance into the gesture as he could. “Not at all, sir,” Sherlock lied, “I only wonder if we are, in fact, making the right decision. Uniting our pack with the wolves of Riverend; are you certain it’s the best path for our family to take?”.

 

Even as the question was leaving his lips, Sherlock knew he had lost the debate on the subject before it could even begin properly. The argument he had presented hung heavily in the air, mocking him once again. As much as Sherlock despised the thought of tying himself to someone for the rest of his life, his usually brilliant mind always seemed to betray him and let him down when it came to arguing the relevance of his freedom. Instead it kept rehashing the same old concern time and time again.

 

Harrison’s eyes searched the young Alpha’s face for a moment before he forced a tight smile over his features and Sherlock knew exactly what he was about to say. It was the same thing he always said when they had broached the subject many times before. “Sherlock,” he began, cupping a hand over his son’s shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Sherlock, you’ve always challenged me to keep my eyes and mind focused on the most promising opportunities for our family; it’s a trait in you that I have always admired and been proud of. Now, as you know, I have always taken your opinions and thoughts into consideration because I have always respected your intellect, You have a natural ability to understand the things that most would find to be far beyond basic comprehension. However, as we say in the railroad industry, sometimes common logic outweighs intellect and comprehension ten to one. For example, your uncle and I have submitted an offer of £637,000 to secure the railway lines in the east. We hope to buy them out and connect the new lines to our current routes in an attempt to cut trade delivery times in half. Now, intellectually it may sound like quite a large sum of money to offer up in an effort to make a move that will not result in any increase in clientele. But, if you take a moment to apply common logic to the situation, we are only going to be doing ourselves a favour in the long run by cutting down on delivery times by making such a move. This should allow us to increase the amount of deliveries we make per month, therefore leading to an increase in profits overall, which benefits everyone in the long run. Apply this perfectly sound logic to your current situation, and I believe you will see exactly where I am coming from as a leader,”.

 

Sherlock clenched his jaw, subtly, and resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the ridiculous analogy. While his father’s words were true and completely sound, Sherlock couldn’t help but feel a sudden rush of irritation. He was struck with the realisation that Harrison had actually been speaking to him in a tone that most would reserve in an attempt to reason with an unruly child. He let out a scornful snort and cocked an eyebrow in his father’s direction.

 

“Ah, yes, the old trains and trade analogy. I’m sure you think that you are conveying a very inspirational message by trying to shed light on how sometimes the most undesirable action can produce the most desirable outcome. However, each time I hear it I am only reminded that I am quite simply just one of your many trains, barreling along a track already laid out for me - one that I may never deviate from, might I add. Meanwhile,you charge ahead, pulling levers to switch my direction to suit your needs.” Sherlock growled out, unable to hide the prickling sensation of anger that was settling deep in the base of his spine. When he had first climbed the massive staircase in the foyer the young Alpha had been eager to get their conversation over with so that he could rest his tired muscles. Now, he wanted nothing more than to run. He wanted to tear out of that office and out into the night as the wolf ripped through him once more, allowing his primal instincts to overtake his mind and body, shutting off his humanity until he was ready to cope with it again.

But, it wouldn’t do to lose his cool. He had to keep reminding himself of that. Ignoring whatever was falling from his father’s lips, Sherlock turned on his heel and let his anger carry him down the corridor until he reached his suite. With a heavy hand, he slammed the door closed and turned the lock before scooping up his trusty violin and dropping down onto the large window seat, overlooking the grounds. He reached for the small bookshelf to his left and withdrew the bow from its resting place with one hand while he plucked mercilessly at the strings with the other.It wasn’t long before he drew the bow across the strings and allowed his aggression to seep into his fingertips, losing himself in the melody of his own mental compositions. Tomorrow would come and he would go through the motions, smiling when he was supposed to smile and nodding when he was supposed to nod. Then he would continue the ridiculous song and dance. He would kiss Molly’s hand and parade her around as if he weren’t kissing his life goodbye, essentially throwing away everything he had ever believed in. But tonight, he would take care of himself. Tonight, he would play.



----------




The afternoon air was warm with a cool breeze that lifted Sherlock’s curls ever so slightly as it made its presence known. They were halfway through April and the weather was beginning to even out, leaving the chill of winter behind while more sunshine and warmth spread throughout the countryside. The dreaded engagement party was well underway now and Sherlock found himself sitting stoically at a table beneath his and Molly’s canopy, surrounded by a host of lords and ladies from the surrounding areas. Molly sat beside him, her yellow party dress flowing out elegantly over her chair as her long brown hair was fixed into a delicate braided bun at the crown of her head. It was no doubt a nice look for a young lady her age. Sherlock himself wore a pair of dark grey trousers with matching waistcoat over a deep purple shirt; the light grey dinner jacket and pressed cream-colored cravat the perfect accent pieces to complete the ensemble.

 

Trying his best to drown out the mind-numbing conversation taking place around him, Sherlock let his mind wander to the thought of the interesting cases his friend, the Detective Inspector, would have for him by now. With all of the planning and decisions being made for the silly engagement party currently taking place, he hadn’t been able to make his way down to Scotland Yard to see what London’s criminal class had been up to in nearly a month.

 

A subtle kick to the shin shook the young Alpha from his thoughts and his fiance cleared her throat softly beside him. “Lord Ellinburg was asking about your family’s intent to purchase the eastern railway line, my dear,” Molly stated, blinking up at him with a shy smile. Realising that everyone else at the table was staring at him expectantly, Sherlock coughed into his fist and pressed his lips together into a tight line.

 

“Ah, right. My apologies,” he began, offering up a polite smile. “Yes, my father has made an offer to secure the eastern line as an addition to our current assets. As he says, the more trade lines connected by the same ownership the better. Less chance of miscommunication or disagreement that might delay timely deliveries that way,” he answered, adding a wink for good measure as the gentlemen at the table nodded along in agreement.

 

“Quite right, my boy! Precisely the track that I assumed ole Harrison’s mind was on. Smart man, your father is. You’ll do well to learn everything you possibly can from him,” Lord Ellinburg boomed, his obnoxious volume proving to be a steady irritant to Sherlock’s ear drums.

 

He forced a tight smile as he raised his tea in a silent toast to the older man’s words before taking a drink. The conversation around him droned on into more talk of railway lines and trade routes interrupted every so often by the occasional inquiry toward Molly concerning their upcoming wedding the next spring. The very idea sent an unpleasant shiver down Sherlock’s spine and he closed his eyes in an attempt to shake the thought from his mind so that he could think back to the small file of cold cases hidden in the drawer of his bedside table. As the young Alpha pored over mental images of the evidence notes in his head, he had no idea just how long he had been lost in his own mind. Sherlock glanced at Molly and flashed a quick smile in her direction. The action earned him a skeptical smirk before she gave him a subtle nod of approval, knowing full well that he was seeking her permission to excuse himself from their present company.

 

With an enthusiasm he hadn’t quite possessed until now, Sherlock slapped his hands down onto his knees and pushed himself up from his place beside Molly, bringing his hands to clasp together in front of him. “Well, it’s been such a pleasure meeting you all and I do hope we can continue our conversation another time, but I really must go and find my father. I do hope you’ll excuse me.” he stated as he flashed a brilliant smile to the small group he had been forced to entertain beneath their tent. He dipped his head in farewell and slipped out into the light of the afternoon sun.

 

Turning to survey the rest of the grounds, the young Alpha felt each of his senses prickle with excitement. Just a little while longer and he could slip off into the heart of London, seek out Detective Inspector Lestrade and let his deductive instincts run wild through the city streets. As much as he loved the feel of earth under his paws, Sherlock had to admit that his love for his country’s capital was stronger. The life of an Alpha - and impending marriage to Molly Hooper - may have been his birthright and primary responsibility, but London was his mistress. The more deeply he fell for her charms and enchantments, the harder it was becoming to part with her.

 

He walked along the makeshift path between the rows of tents, scanning the various groups of guests as he half-heartedly pretended to search for his father. A small part of him felt that he should feel guilty about the little white lie that he’d told, but he just couldn’t take another moment of the ridiculous musings of his fiancee’s friends. He didn’t blame Molly, of course - she had a duty to be socially inviting and entertaining, after all - but, he didn’t see how that should mean that he had to be, as well. He shook his head to clear his thoughts, refusing to focus on something so pedestrian; Sherlock Holmes had more important matters to concern himself with once he could break away from the party.

 

He slipped behind a group of women and found himself shuffling along through a group of his father’s closest friends and confidants. He hadn’t actually intended to seek out his father, however, and he ducked his head in an attempt to pass by unseen. His father’s voice drifted up from the center of the group and Sherlock dove quickly out of sight behind one of the nearby tents. If he was caught by this group, he wouldn’t stand a chance at making it into London before dark. He had spoken with his father this morning over breakfast - all traces of their conversation from the night before forgotten - but, Sherlock had no desire to push his luck any farther.

 

The young Alpha brushed the heavy curls from his face and stood up to dust his trousers off, before attempting to blend back into the next crowd of party goers. He glanced to his left before he stepped out into the open, but stopped dead when a powerful scent jarred his senses. Lifting his nose and closing his eyes, he tried his best to pinpoint the curious smell while everything else blazed on around him. It was an interesting scent, that was for certain; something Sherlock had only ever come in contact with a handful of times in his life. A quick whiff of it sent his head swiveling to his right and, as he opened his eyes, a small group of men in military dress caught his attention.

 

The four soldiers were huddled together in a semi circle in the shade of a small copse of trees while a few young women crowded around them, batting their eyelashes and trailing curious fingertips over strong shoulders; obviously each girl looking to capture the affections of a soldier of her own for the evening. While three of the men were happy to be lapping up the attention, the fourth seemed to have found himself isolated as he was currently being backed against a low hedgerow by an overly friendly blonde woman.

 

The sun glinted off the soldier’s sand-colored hair as he raised a hand to rub over the nape of his neck and it didn’t take much to be able to see that the bold advances were clearly making him uncomfortable. The woman reached out a delicate hand, placing it against the soldier’s cheek, and a look of unpleasant surprise flashed briefly across his face before he schooled his features into a more neutral expression. The lopsided smile he gave her next seemed to be accompanied by a gentle rejection as he took her hand from his cheek and patted it in a sympathetic gesture. He released her hand and dipped his head toward her as he made to step around her, but the young woman didn’t seem to take his dismissal lightly. She turned as he stepped and forced herself back into his personal space, this time bringing her hands to the collar of his uniform as she straightened it unnecessarily; the stiff green fabric a striking contrast to the vibrant red of his uniform coat. The woman fiddled the topmost brass button between her thumb and forefinger as she used her right hand to brush the blonde’s short fringe away from his forehead. The intimate contact seemed to spark hostility in the soldier and he drew his head back, quickly turning away from her. As the next words left his lips, Sherlock could tell that he had raised his voice and sharpened his tone and, if his lip reading skills were in working order, the man strongly suggested she find someone else to harass with her affections. He had furrowed his brow as she apparently dismissed the severity of his suggestion, but something in the man’s demeanour pushed Sherlock into action and, before he knew it, he had left his hiding place and had struck out in the direction of the agitated soldier.

 

As the young Alpha drew nearer to the couple, he could tell by the ornamental embroidery on the sleeves of the man’s uniform that he was a Captain by rank - definitely information that was about to prove useful. He raked his eyes over the man and his uniform quickly before he threw himself into the ‘fray’ and gathered any last minute information that he could - army doctor, also useful ; he could tell by the way he handled himself: a soldier but a healer all in one.

 

Sherlock slipped around the back of their group and put on the best theatrical performance he could muster as he stepped out and called a cheerful greeting to the soldier. “Ah, Doctor! There you are! I’ve been looking for you ever since Smith tipped me off that you’d be in attendance, this evening,” he smiled, cheerfully and expectantly as the couple’s heads whipped around to focus on him.

 

“Um… hello, I don’t believe we’ve -“ the soldier started, certainly looking puzzled, and the young woman at his side glared daggers at their interruption.

 

“Oh, come, now! Surely you’ll remember our conversation from that old pub on High Street, The Red Lion, I believe?” Sherlock supplied, graciously, still wearing the warmest smile he could muster.

 

No doubt the poor army doctor was concerned about his memory as he gaped at the tall, slender man approaching them, but Sherlock was hopeful that he would figure it out in a moment or two. He had strolled right up to them, presenting his hand for the doctor to shake and, the moment their hands slotted into place, the Alpha gave the other man’s calloused fingers a gentle squeeze and a knowing look finally passed between them as realisation dawned on the shorter man’s features. Sherlock hadn’t deduced just how much shorter the other man was from afar, but he would guess he dwarfed him by at least half a foot. The sudden discovery lent the man quite an endearing quality as he smiled back.

 

“Oh, right! The Red Lion, how could I forget. Please, forgive my memory,” the soldier replied, dipping his head and tapping a finger against his temple, “One too many weeks spent in the blazing sun in the middle of the desert will leave you a bit fuzzy, I’m afraid,”. His words were light and he had a playful air about him as he spoke, but he never took his eyes off of Sherlock - obviously trying to discern as much as he could while they were so close.

 

Sherlock fixed the soldier with what he hoped was an inviting look as he subtly quirked an eyebrow at how easily the doctor fell into the charade. “Knew you’d remember,” he smiled, then gestured back the way he’d come with a wave of his hand. “Would you care to join me for a walk? I would most certainly like to revisit our previous conversation as I believe a few new developments have been made while you were away,” Sherlock mused, watching a smile spread across the soldier’s face as he nodded in acceptance before turning to excuse himself.

 

Sherlock, then, allowed himself a moment to appreciate the other man’s handsome features as he took in the rest of him, as well. While his sand-colored hair was cut shorter, it seemed to have grown out past its regulation length and he had obviously shaved that morning, as evidenced by the impeccably smooth look of his cheeks and jawline. While the man seemed to only be a few years older than Sherlock himself, his lightly weathered features suggested he had seen more during his military career than most men could ever see in their entire lives. The state of the uniform he wore spoke volumes about the amount of value he placed on his military service as he appeared to treat the garment like it was the fanciest article of clothing he had ever owned. For all Sherlock knew, it very well might have been. His jacket and trousers were perfectly pressed and his boots were polished and well looked after, as well.

 

The soldier turned back to face Sherlock again after calling out a farewell to his mates, but the young Alpha had already set out in the direction of a narrow, unmarked path with his hands clasped behind his back, leaving the shorter man to follow along in his wake. It didn’t take long before his footsteps caught up to Sherlock and he fell into step beside him. As the soldier opened his mouth to speak, the taller man held up a hand to silence him - without even sparing a glance in his direction - before he could begin spouting off any obligatory words of gratitude.

 

“No need to thank me,” he started as they came upon the old, worn-out trail he ran every evening on his perimeter patrol. His feet took up the familiar path as comfortably as if he were slipping into his old, blue silk dressing gown; his newfound companion matching him step for step. “You were clearly looking for a way to escape the advances of that horribly obnoxious young woman and I found myself able to provide you with one. It was all quite simple, really; no great sacrifice on my part, so we can skip the pleasantries and, simply, bid one another good day, if you wish. It’s all the same to me,”.

 

Sherlock’s words were precise and to the point, much like the man himself, and he spoke with an air of finality and superiority. It wasn’t something he did on purpose in order to make himself seem more important or more intelligent than his peers, but rather, it was just simply who he was as a person. As the Alpha continued along the trail, he became painfully aware of the fact that he hadn’t yet received a response to the rather blunt statement he had made.

 

Glancing to his left, his gaze fell on the warm face of the soldier beside him. The other man’s curious eyes were fixed on him and his lips were parted in an expression of pure, unadulterated wonder. Sherlock let out a huff of amusement and smirked; he was no stranger to these sorts of reactions, but it was something else entirely to see his new acquaintance so taken aback.

 

The soldier cleared his throat, his expression falling into slight concern as he seemed to find his voice. “So, what, that’s it for it, then? You just waltz in, whisk me out of the mess I’d gotten myself into, and then go on about your business. It’s just a bit odd, don’t you think? I don’t even know your name,” he questioned, searching the taller man’s face for signs that he was justified in his confusion.

 

Sherlock shook his head with a chuckle and glanced at the man beside him, “Yes, actually.  As a man who doesn’t normally concern himself with the trivial day to day musings of the common man, I call that quite the compromise. Problem?”. He stopped in his tracks, turning to face the soldier as the air between them crackled with an unidentifiable tension; its very presence enough to set the Alpha on edge.

 

The shorter man stopped, as well, staring up into the swirling depths of Sherlock’s crystal gaze. The intensity reflected back at the Alpha was enough to make his brow furrow in concentration as he tried to pick apart exactly what was going on in the soldier’s mind. A feeling of mutual intrigue had settled between them and the taller man had to admit that he was surprised by the adamant curiosity on the soldier’s part.

 

A knowing smile graced the soldier’s features and he held out his hand, offering up a handshake in acknowledgement of his desire for camaraderie. “Captain John Watson, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers,” he stated, dipping his head out of respect.

 

Sherlock stared at the invitation with his eyebrows raised in utter disbelief before taking the calloused hand in his own and giving it a firm shake as he finally spoke, “Sherlock Holmes, upcoming Lord of the Blackwater estate and reigning mind game champion,”.

 

The man that Sherlock now knew was called John barked out a laugh and the edges of his mouth turned up curiously as they shook hands. “You’re Sherlock Holmes?” he grinned in disbelief, adding an eye roll for good measure as Sherlock narrowed his eyes mischievously, “Bloody Hell, of course you are. You’re the one they’re all talking about then… the pompous prat poor Molly has been promised to. I should’ve know really, what with those cheekbones and that overly posh get up. I mean, who the hell else could you be, hmm?”. John teased, closing his eyes and shaking his blonde head, his smile still plastered lazily on his face.

 

“I beg your pardon?” Sherlock countered, rather indignantly as his eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up into his curly fringe, “That is not an accurate representation of me at all, I’ll have you know, and I am quite offended that an intelligent man like yourself would take part in listening to such ridiculous drivel in the first place,”. The young Alpha straightened his posture and withdrew his hand from the soldier’s as he clasped both of his hands behind his back once again in an attempt to smooth his ruffled pride.

 

Before Sherlock could get too worked up, however, John was waving a hand at him through another fit of laughter. The soldier patted him on the shoulder in an attempt to console his newfound friend as he fought to catch his breath. “No, no, sorry, I’m only having a go at you, I promise! I’m only messing you about, mate,” he giggled the apology, clutching at his side with his free hand, obviously aching from the heavy bout of laughter.

 

The taller man snorted in faint disapproval, but it seemed to fade rather quickly as the sound of the soldier’s laughter settled in Sherlock’s chest, warming him up from the inside out. He filed the sound away to analyze later on when he was alone and let his defenses relax a little in the comfort of the easy camaraderie. “Well…” the Alpha began, a small smile breaking through his previously icy expression, “I suppose I can be a bit arrogant, every once in a while,”. The simple admission earned him yet another one of John’s heartwarming chuckles.

 

“A bit every once in a while?” he grinned, fixing Sherlock with a knowing look. John let out a sigh of amusement before he swallowed thickly; his shoulders tensing slightly as he seemed to choose his next words carefully. “We all have faults, you know. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either; just another glorious perk of being human,”. The soldier’s voice was gentle and kind as he spoke - a doctor’s caring tone - and he seemed to search Sherlock’s eyes for any sign that he may have crossed a line in his observation.

 

The Alpha stared back intently - the irony of the soldier’s words not lost on him - as he chewed his bottom lip, studying the other man carefully. John seemed to have a genuinely kind disposition, despite his military background and apparent affinity for wartime service and, yet, he had something dark and draining hidden in his eyes. The man was most definitely puzzling and it set Sherlock’s mind racing in a hundred different directions. Something about this man was different than anyone else that Sherlock had ever met, and he was determined to find out what exactly it was.

 

“A sound observation, Doctor Watson,” Sherlock conceded with a respectful dip of his head. He jerked his chin over his shoulder in the direction of the continuing perimeter path and smiled as he turned his attention back to their walk. He took several steps before he realized that John had remained rooted to the spot, staring after him with intense curiosity. As he glanced over his shoulder once more, Sherlock’s lips drew up into a teasingly, interested grin, “Coming, Doctor?”.

 

The soldier shook his head to free himself from his reverie as the words drifted back to slap him across the face. John jogged to catch up with the taller man and a wide grin split his features as he looked up at him, a determined glint in his eyes. “Lead the way, Mr. Holmes.”

Chapter Text

“So, how did you know?” John finally asked, looking down at his boots as they continued along the path. The sun had begun to set and, before the abrupt change of subject, they had actually been discussing the many different processes that were involved in keeping up the vast apple orchards that bordered the property. As the shorter man’s question derailed the Alpha’s previous train of thought, Sherlock soon realised they had almost made it to the large pond at the very back of the Holmes’ estate.

 

In an attempt to mask his discomfort at being put on the spot, the taller man cut his eyes toward the soldier beside him and smirked, haughtily. “How did I know what?”

 

“How did you know that I was a doctor?” the blonde questioned, looking up at him then; the tip of his tongue flicking out to lick over his bottom lip before pulling it in between his teeth in concentration.

 

The taller man closed his eyes - damn, was he handsome... - and smiled to himself as he breathed out a sigh. “I didn’t know… I saw . The way you handled yourself as you were being harassed by that rather ridiculous young woman -“

 

“Mary,” John interrupted, causing Sherlock’s eyes to snap open as his attention locked onto his companion out of curiosity. “Her name is Mary…. we… we had a thing once, but that ended quite horrifically, if I’m being honest,”. He rubbed the back of his neck and ducked his head as he looked out over the fields before them in an attempt to hide the pink flush on his cheeks; the neck-rubbing a nervous habit the poor man seemed to have whenever addressing something he deemed to be completely uncomfortable. Sherlock made a mental note of the gesture and nodded to convey his understanding. John glanced back up at him with an embarrassed smile; his deep blue eyes not quite meeting the young Alpha’s. “Sorry, sure you didn’t really care to know about that… you were saying?” he prompted, urging Sherlock to continue his explanation without trying to probe too deeply into such a humiliating emission.

 

“Ah, yes… the way you handled yourself when being confronted by Mary ,” he suppressed a sneer, clearing his throat in order to go on, “you have a kind and gentle disposition. You were never cross with her nor were you ever cruel to her no matter how hard she tried to press your limits. You were gentle with her and even empathetic toward her apparent desire for intimacy with you, but you always kept yourself well out of reach emotionally. That trait alone is indicative of an exceptional bedside manner that one would see when observing a doctor dealing out especially devastating news to a patient or their family and friends. You are clearly used to being in such situations and are actually quite comfortable where most would feel like they were suffocating under the stress of it all. Second of all, you were quick to catch onto the little charade I had fabricated in an attempt to help you out seeing as how you fell into character as if it were as natural as putting on a beloved old coat. You think on your feet and are used to taking initiative without question when the time calls for it, often going above and beyond the call of duty when necessary. It’s a highly desirable trait in a soldier and even more-so in a doctor. A man who can think on his feet is less likely to lose a patient on the operating table when he is under immense pressure on the battlefield. A military doctor is expected to be able to function in exceedingly high stress situations and you, Dr. Watson, seem to excel in each of those fields. Which also leads me to presume that you are, no doubt, highly decorated for your efforts, which I’m sure are very well deserved, I might add. So, in addition to this rather interesting development, I’m also inclined to believe that you must have seen a lot of violent deaths… Many traumatising situations probably spring to mind… ”

 

“Yes, definitely… enough for a lifetime,” John choked out, finding his voice hoarse and dry as he seemed to realise that his mouth had been gaping open for most of the deductions much like that of a dumbfounded fish.

 

Sherlock hummed in agreement as he kicked at a small rock. “Oh, yes, I’m sure… absolutely. However, you still have a desire for more… that’s why you’re going back for a third time,” he finally answered, testing out the information as he glanced nervously at the shorter man.

 

John furrowed his brow and blinked rapidly as he turned to speak. “Wait… How did you know- no, you know what? Never mind. I don’t think I want to know,” he huffed, shaking his head in disbelief as he stared at Sherlock intently - a hint of exasperation in his usually pleasant voice.

 

The young Alpha’s entire body went stock still and he clenched his jaw as if he were bracing for a heavy impact. This was it. This was exactly the reaction Sherlock had expected. This was the moment that John would change his mind and realise exactly what sort of freak Sherlock actually was. Why couldn’t he ever keep his damned mouth shut? One day, maybe one day, he would finally come to the realisation that his unnatural sixth sense wasn't considered impressive; it was immensely terrifying for humans. In his world, it had been a gift. Alpha children usually grew to develop one uniquely special skill as they came of age. His uncle had been graced with an unfailing level of charisma - an unrivaled ability to charm his way into anything he desired; his father had a knack for combat: he could replicate attacks and defenses by observation alone. Both perfectly sound abilities that had garnered their family great successes over the years. Then, there was Sherlock and his deductions . While members of the pack had first been mesmerized by the ease and accuracy of his clever observations, they soon began to withdraw from him over time. Feeling exposed and irritated as some of his observations caused rifts between packmates - Sherlock briefly recalled an incident where he had humiliated a cousin by publicly deducing his jealousy over Sherlock’s unwanted engagement to Molly, and he soon found himself ostracised by no fault of his own.

 

Realising the severity of the harsh silence that had settled between the soldier and himself, he felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach as he swallowed thickly. “Doctor -“ he began but was cut off as the soldier suddenly began to speak.

 

“You’re fantastic… Absolutely bloody brilliant, do you know that?”

 

The unexpected praise struck Sherlock like a bolt of lightning. Shocked out of his own head, he quickly glanced over at his companion and was surprised to see admiration and amazement in his curious smile. Never in the young Alpha’s life had a look like that ever been directed at him and Sherlock felt a furious desire to keep John Watson’s praise and attention all to himself. He smiled back, sensing the pull of his obsessive nature threatening to consume him, but he tamped it down. As he cleared his mind, he became painfully aware of the fact that he had yet to say anything in response to the offered praise.

 

“Doctor Watson, I must thank you. I am extremely flattered by your kind words,” Sherlock began, voice coming out much steadier than he felt, “and I do hope you can forgive me my ignorance. I am not usually met with such interest,”.

 

The soldier tilted his head, thoughtfully. “Oh? Well… What do people normally say?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow in confusion.

 

The face John made pulled another laugh from Sherlock’s chest and he bowed his head before looking off in the direction of the setting sun. “‘Piss off’,” he quoted, casting a genuine smile at the army doctor before both men found themselves lost in a fit of highly inappropriate giggles.

 

It felt good to laugh, Sherlock thought to himself. He couldn’t remember a time when such an outburst had taken hold of him so completely. He was sure he had laughed like this at some point as a child, but all recollection of such an occurrence was lost on him. As his companion clutched at his elbow for support, something inside of him came unhinged, allowing him to feel a happiness he hadn’t known in many years. He smiled over at John, admiring the creases at the corners of his eyes and the way a particularly stubborn portion of his fringe fell just so over his forehead. Sherlock’s body reacted before his mind could reprimand him and he brushed his fingers over the soldier’s hand where it gripped his suit jacket. He heard John’s gasp before he could even comprehend what he was doing, yet he couldn’t help but relish the look of surprise on the other man’s face. His eyebrows were raised in question and his lips were parted as if he wanted to speak, but wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say. The warmth and familiarity of the soldier’s hand beneath his own sent a shiver down Sherlock’s spine, reining him in once and for all. He coughed suddenly, nearly choking on his own breath as he patted John’s hand once before extricating himself from the soldier completely. In an attempt to re-establish at least some semblance of his self-control, the Alpha raked his long fingers through his perfectly coiffed curls and let out a heavy sigh before daring to look at his friend.

 

The blond’s eyes met his once again, but only briefly as he quickly looked back down at his well-polished boots. The stiffness in his posture and the way the fingers of his left hand flexed nervously gave Sherlock the idea that something about their dynamic had shifted. Something had happened in that moment; something new and interesting and Sherlock had seen it reflected back at him in the deep blue depths of John’s oceanic eyes. The shorter man cleared his throat and tipped his head in the direction of the sunset on the horizon, acknowledging the time.

 

“It’s getting a bit late,” John sniffed, still not looking the young Alpha directly in the eyes. “I suppose we should make our way back, Mr. Holmes,”. The smile he wore now was seemingly more strained and more self-conscious than anything the soldier had exhibited before. Sherlock furrowed his brow at the evident shift in his demeanour, but dipped his head in agreement.

 

“Quite right, Doctor,” he replied, frustratingly aware of the naked apprehension evident in the set of his features. His jaw had tensed yet again making it hard for him to seem as relaxed and unaffected as he had at the beginning of their conversation. Before turning to lead them back to the front garden, Sherlock spared a glance up ahead - the vibrant red and orange hues of the sunset glinting off of the pond in the distance - as a flash of yellow eyes caught his attention. They fixed him with a pointed stare before the animal slipped into the cover of the trees; grey fur and an all-to-familiar scent piquing his interest. Victor… The young Alpha blinked in faint curiosity. His friend must have noticed his absence and taken it upon himself to run the perimeter, only to come across Sherlock and John on their walk. Had he seen…? No, nothing had happened. Not like that , anyway, and the idea that Sherlock was even entertaining such a thought was pure nonsense. He snuck a glance at the soldier out of the corner of his eye, but he had already turned away, walking back in the direction they had come. Sherlock turned his attention back to the treeline, scanning the darkening forest for any remaining traces of the Beta wolf, before turning to join John in the walk back to the manor.

 

The two men walked along in silence for a brief period, neither seeming to know exactly what to say. The weight of it all closed in on Sherlock like a cage; how could something so trivial affect him this much? It shouldn’t have mattered to him whether or not he established a friendship with John Watson. It shouldn’t have even mattered to him whether or not John found him pleasant to be around or not. Sherlock Holmes did not do attachments of any kind. His family and packmates were bad enough as it was. Hell, one could even say that his lifelong friendship with Victor was more of a camaraderie of sorts built on pack bonds and a Beta’s sworn diligence to the safety and security of their Alpha. The truth of the matter was that he had had many a knock-down drag-out with Victor over the years and not once had he ever been as bothered by them as he was at this precise moment with John Watson’s silence. He was startled to find that he was even beginning to feel a sense of desperation in relation to his companionship with the soldier; a terrifying willingness to go to any lengths necessary to draw John back to him, to make him laugh again.

 

Sherlock heaved a sigh of resignation and looked down at his feet. “Doctor Watson, I feel that I owe you a most sincere apology. I am aware that my actions were quite inappropriate where you are concerned and you have my unfailing reassurance that it will never -“

 

The same familiar pressure on his elbow cut the Alpha off mid-sentence and he gaped quizzically at the man beside him. The soldier had stopped dead in his tracks, one hand on Sherlock’s arm and the other scrubbing over the back of his neck as his cheeks flushed pink. He shook his head gently and winced slightly at the words tumbling from Sherlock’s lips.

 

“N-no… that’s not - what I mean to say is…” John fumbled over his words, growing more frustrated with himself by the second. He pinched the bridge of his nose and blinked his eyes as if the action alone would clarify what he was trying to say. Blowing out a heavy breath, the soldier pressed his lips into a tight line and shrugged. “Look, I’m not really good at this sort of thing, you know? I mean, I’m not exactly great at letting my guard down… so, this is a bit new to me. It’s my fault for buggering that up back there. I know you were just reacting to me and, at twenty-four fucking years old, I should be able to respond like a normal bloke, but sometimes it takes me a while to… you know, loosen up,” he finally said, watching Sherlock’s face as he seemed to be trying to gauge his reaction.

 

The Alpha gave him a tight-lipped smile and hummed in agreement with the other man’s half-truth. “Mm, yes, I know the feeling all too well. It’s difficult to accept someone else into your personal bubble. We put up these walls and build up our defenses almost as if we are going to war with anyone who might come close to cracking our ridiculously over-exaggerated exteriors,” Sherlock considered, nodding as each new revelation came to light. John wasn’t angry or embarrassed by the situation; he was interested, intrigued… maybe even curious as to where it might lead.

 

The final thread unraveled in Sherlock’s mind and he felt a sudden jolt of determination wash over himself at the realisation. His eyes shifted to meet John’s as the soldier slowly and tentatively extended his arm to him.



Chapter Text

In the 24 years that John Watson had been on this earth, no one had ever taken the time to find out who he really was. No one knew what made him laugh, made him cry, made him feel. While many knew that his father was dead and gone, no one knew that he had a strained relationship with the mother and sister he had left behind when he had joined the army. Of course, the army had been what had strained their relationship to begin with though, hadn’t it? After losing his father in the Bhutan War, John’s mother had been absolutely horrified to find that he had decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.

 

For John, joining the army had been a way of honouring his father’s sacrifice. He had only been eight years old when his father had passed, but the burden of caring for his family had fallen on his shoulders regardless. Looking back, he was amazed at all he had been through in his life and, honestly, he couldn’t really understand how he’d overcome such hardship. Life had been rough - really, really rough, but, at ten years old, John had been whisked away and given a miraculous opportunity to make a name for himself, as well as to ensure his family’s well being. In fact, one miracle had led to another and then another and so forth until John had found himself in the exclusive company of the one and only Sherlock Holmes. The contemptuous aristocrat had waltzed right up to him as John had been struggling to fight off his ex-lover’s advances, and sparked something in the soldier that he hadn’t felt in a very long time.

 

Just as no one had ever known about the details of John’s difficult past, no one had ever known about the internal struggles that he had faced each and every day of his adult life. John himself was perfectly aware that he was different in his more personal endeavours - a fact about himself that he had seemed to know all along - and had no trouble with being attracted to men and women alike. However, your sexual preferences weren’t exactly something you went about shouting at the top of your lungs in this day and age no matter who you wanted to share your bed with. Besides, even though John was more than comfortable with his bisexuality, it was still a fact that he preferred to keep separate from his position in the military. Sure, as a private he had thought about experimenting, but it quickly became clear that if he wanted to advance through the ranks he would keep his urges and preferences to himself. The friends he’d made in his regiment knew him and, thankfully, didn’t mention anything if they had their suspicions, but the higher ups had made him well aware of the fact that they expected him to remain professional in his service above all else. Although the words hadn’t been spoken directly, their intent had been crystal clear. So, John stuck to courting women during his time abroad, leaving any and all thoughts of exploring his sexual identity behind him. That was, until now.

 

As they stood side by side on the gravel path leading back to the front garden of the Holmes Estate, Sherlock stared blankly at John’s outstretched arm. His curls were sticking up in places from the assault his fingers had brought on them and his seafoam eyes had widened subtly. His lips were parted as if he had intended to speak, but he seemed to have forgotten how. The sight of Sherlock looking so vulnerable like that had nearly taken the soldier’s breath away.

 

Just as John began to worry that he had overstepped, the taller man cleared his throat and found his voice once again. “Forgive my hesitance, Doctor Watson,” Sherlock smiled politely, ducking his head in what seemed to be embarrassment, “you have managed to do something that no one else has ever done before,”.

 

John licked his lips nervously, arm still awkwardly outstretched with the crook of his bent elbow presented to his companion. His eyes darted from side to side in a self-conscious manner as he realised Sherlock was not going to elaborate on his own. “Um, and that would be?” the soldier prompted, inquiringly.

 

The small grin that spread across Sherlock’s chiseled features was positively the most endearing thing that John had ever seen. Although it seemed warm and lighthearted, the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. Something about the way that his brow furrowed ever so slightly and the tightness of his cheeks gave way to something tinged with sadness. With a shake of his curly head, he waved his hand in an attempt to dismiss the subject. Oh, no… He wasn’t going to shake John off that easily.

 

“Come on, out with it,” John prodded, nudging Sherlock’s ribs gently with his elbow. He smiled warmly as the taller man met his gaze and found the gesture returned somewhat shyly; definitely not the reaction he had been expecting.

 

Sherlock sighed and closed his eyes. “You surprised me,” he stated; the admission much like ripping off a particularly tough bandage. It must have been difficult for him to admit that something - or rather someone - had taken him by surprise.

 

John had to admit the whole idea that he had done something that the other man deemed to be so unexpected was quite the stroke to his ego. Getting one over on Sherlock was definitely something to be proud of. The man had a reputation for being the most perceptive man one could ever meet and that made him rather intimidating. At the moment, though, John felt confident that they were, for once, on equal footing. He smirked and let the back of his outstretched fingers brush over the cuff of the other man’s jacket as he chose his next words carefully.

 

“Mm, well it isn’t every day a man can say that he’s been able to surprise you,” the soldier answered, quietly. Sherlock’s eyes flicked to the light contact at his wrist before trailing up John’s arm to meet his gaze. Fighting the urge to look away, John channeled his courage and winked at the taller man. The gesture gained him a slight chuckle from Sherlock who rolled his eyes in a rather nervous way. The blonde extended his elbow once again, offering it to the younger man. “Come on, humour me,” he encouraged, “Let me walk you back. If you’re worried someone will see, I’ll be discreet. You can even shove me into the hedgerow if anyone comes up on us. No one would ever even know I’d been with you,”.

 

He kept his words and tone playful in hopes of lightening the mood and it seemed to be working. Sherlock lifted his head and laughed wholeheartedly when John suggested that he push him into the shrubbery to keep them from being seen together. The sight of Sherlock laughing would have been enough for the soldier, but, then, the taller man hesitantly slipped his arm up and hooked it around John’s elbow and that was just fine, indeed. His heart rate quickened and he felt his cheeks flush as if he were fifteen years old again; his back pressed against the stone wall of the school building, biding his time until he could slip his hand up Catherine Eddington’s dress.

 

Now, however, he was not fifteen and this was not Catherine Eddington. He was a grown man - a soldier - and this was Sherlock Holmes; a man with more elegance and sophistication than any woman John had ever laid eyes on, and yet a hint of something dangerous hung around him in a tantalizing haze that drew John in and drowned him in his own curiosity.

 

They walked along in comfortable conversation, making small talk, as they made their way back to the front lawn. Night was beginning to settle in around them - the lamps along the walkway already lit - and John found himself completely entranced as Sherlock talked about his childhood. He had lived his entire life in the comforts of the Blackwater Estate, never knowing anything less than the best teachers and lessons money could buy. He had always been looked after and seen to without much hassle it seemed; such was the life of a young lord. However, what had interested John the most wasn’t the vast knowledge the younger man seemed to have acquired, but more so the passion he seemed to hold for the act of learning itself. The longer Sherlock talked, the more animated he became; his free hand flailing about this way and that as he explained how he had come to test a few of his own theories in various scientific experiments.

 

John couldn’t help the smile that spread over his own features as he watched Sherlock’s demeanour change before his very eyes. The once standoffish behavior from before had been replaced with an open, excitable personality that exploded into a flurry of fast paced explanations that held an unguarded charm; it was something that the soldier found himself taken with instantly. Seeing Sherlock so at ease sent a warmth spreading throughout John’s chest. His gaze wandered over the taller man’s features, taking in his strong cheekbones and ethereal blue eyes that were so very different from his own. Whereas John’s eyes were dark and stormy, Sherlock’s were much like frosted glass - scattering light yet blurring images of anything beyond.



A jarring motion forced him back to the present and it took John a moment to register that Sherlock had actually stopped dead in his tracks, staring straight ahead, completely transfixed on something only he seemed to be able to see. John tilted his head in an attempt to follow the other man’s line of sight, but found that it wasn’t much use.

 

“Sherlock?” he prompted, placing a hand on his partner’s forearm where it rested in the crook of his elbow. “Are you alright?”

 

The soldier’s eyes searched Sherlock’s features for a sign of something that would clue him in, but came up short. He gave Sherlock’s forearm a tight squeeze and startled a bit as the taller man shook himself suddenly, drawing in a quick breath through his nose.

 

“Ah, sorry! So sorry, Doctor, just a um… just a bit of a distraction that’s all. Thought I heard something,” he replied, blinking rapidly as he shook his head once again before allowing his usually guarded temperament to return.

 

John cocked an eyebrow and frowned. He wasn’t sure what had just happened, but he was fairly certain that he didn’t like it at all. What had caused Sherlock to check out like that?

 

“Are you sure you’re alright?” the soldier pressed lightly, not wanting to upset his companion any further, but also knowing that he wouldn’t be able to let it go so easily.

 

Sherlock sniffed and plastered on a particularly fake smile, as if that would really convince John. “Of course!” he brushed off the question with a tip of his head, gesturing toward the party ahead. “We should be getting back. No doubt someone will be looking for you,”.




**********



“What the hell does Sherlock think he’s doing taking a human off like that? Is he crazy? He’s going to expose us all!”

 

The anger in Victor’s voice had been clear as a bell, echoing in Sherlock’s mind and assaulting his senses. Molly had been completely caught off guard by the outburst as Victor pressed into her personal space, her eyes wide and searching. Had she been paying any attention at all, Sherlock figured she might have been the only person he knew that might be able to deduce the strange pull that he felt toward John, but, fortunately for him, she had been more than a little preoccupied with their other guests at the time.

 

“Umm… I’m not quite sure what you mean. I haven’t seen him in the last couple of hours. I just sort of assumed he’d gone into town… Why? What’s going on? What have you seen?”



He could sense the confusion turned concern in Molly’s words as she seemed to register that something was not quite right. Originally, Sherlock had planned to slip away from the grounds to take up his familiar trek into London in hopes of meeting up with Inspector Lestrade who would no doubt have something far more interesting for him to do. Then, John Watson had caught his attention and Sherlock supposed he had indeed been rather careless. He had made a bit of a spectacle of himself in front of that horribly boring woman… and he had in fact made a point to deduce John himself within an inch of his life. Yes… he was giving too much of himself away. His abilities were unnatural and he wasn’t doing himself any favours by parading them around for others to see and take note of. He would have to be more careful.

 

While each of those things were incredibly true, Sherlock couldn’t rid himself of the memory of Victor’s blazing amber eyes peering out at him from the boundary line of the Estate. His gaze had held a plethora of accusations and hard hitting questions that Sherlock knew he wasn’t quite ready to be confronted with. As his Beta, Victor would have been able to read the changes in Sherlock’s elevated heart rate and sense of self-awareness. Vic would know that something had shifted deep in Sherlock’s chest and he wouldn't hesitate to press the issue as soon as he tracked the young Alpha down. Vic would demand to know what was happening and what Sherlock was planning to achieve entertaining such a ridiculous notion… and Sherlock knew that he wouldn't be able to contend with such an onslaught of intrusions. He needed space. He needed time to process what was happening in his head. He needed -

 

“Sherlock? …………. Are you alright?”

 

The steady weight of the soldier’s voice caught hold of his thoughts and pulled him from the depths of his mind, startling him into the present. Sherlock blinked open his eyes and found the comforting blue of John’s grounding him to the real world. Before he knew it, he was apologising for his mental absence, hoping against hope that he could hold off the approaching storm; that he could hold onto this curious thing between them, grasping in the dark for a lifeline to anchor this feeling to. He had been correct in his previous assessment: he needed more time, but, most of all, he needed it with John ... and, for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out why.




**********



As they resumed their return to the scattered tents, John could see that the atmosphere of the party had changed entirely. The oil lamps that had been strung overhead were now lit, casting a warm glow over the scene where the entire middle of the gathering area had filled with couples, dancing and smiling and laughing as a string quartet played cheerily off to the side. As the music floated on the breeze and wrapped around them, John found himself feeling quite grateful for the distraction. Something had happened during their walk, but he wasn’t quite sure what it had been.

 

He glanced sidelong at Sherlock who was eyeing the musicians with rapt curiosity. The wary look on his face suggested that he was critiquing their skill and choice of song until he finally - and albeit maybe a bit begrudgingly - gave a short nod of approval, conceding that he would forego criticizing their talents for the time being. The gesture caused a chuckle of amusement to slip from John’s lips and he covered his mouth with the back of his hand; silently begging forgiveness for his ‘rudeness’ as Sherlock turned a bewildered expression on him.

 

“Might I ask what you find so desperately amusing?” the taller man asked, a hint of self-consciousness in his strong baritone.

 

John bit down on his bottom lip as he returned Sherlock’s stare. A silly grin fought to break through his attempt at calming himself and he shamelessly let it show. Shaking his head fondly, he saw the deep furrow between Sherlock’s brows smooth as realisation began to dawn heavily on him and John figured it might be best to explain before his companion could come to his own conclusions.

 

“It’s nothing, just -“ he began, but cut himself off mid sentence. It wouldn’t do to hide his thoughts from Sherlock anymore than it would to come right out and tell him the truth. He took a deep breath and swallowed audibly before continuing. “You’re extraordinary,” he stated, proud that his words seemed to take the great aristocrat by surprise, yet again.

 

Second time in an evening…

 

John tamped down the smug smile that threatened to break through his resolve and he continued on before Sherlock could interrupt.

 

“You were watching the musicians. You were sizing them up, seeing if they were worth the space in your head before you committed to listening to them. Now, my only guess is that you’re either incredibly particular about the stuff you subject your brain to… or, you play. So, which is it?”

 

Sherlock narrowed his eyes in curious suspicion before blinking his eyebrows up into the curls falling across his forehead. He gave a huff that could have meant that he was impressed, but more likely he probably just found John only slightly less stupid than most people he had met before.

 

“Excellent observation, Doctor,” he answered in a rare moment of unmasked praise. He met John’s gaze with his own and seemed to study him for a moment, no doubt trying to piece together how such an ordinary man had figured out something so intimate about him. “I play the violin when I’m thinking. It helps me to relax; helps me to free up my mind, if you will. The familiarity of the rhythms and patterns in the music help me to shut off the parts of my mind that are unnecessary to my work and allows me to focus on the matters at hand. You see, music, unlike most forms of art, has a science to it. It’s about methods and formulations; there is a necessary precision to it that I find highly productive to my needs,”.

 

The honesty and straightforwardness of the answer gave John a sudden rush of confidence and he couldn’t resist the urge to test the waters by putting himself out there, even if only a little bit. He cleared his throat and tilted his head, regarding Sherlock in a way that made the taller man straighten and stand to his full height.

 

“Your ‘needs’, hmm? So, it is true; a man as brilliant and sophisticated as you are does, in fact, have needs, then?” John mused, sounding thoughtful, as he fixed his eyes on Sherlock with a teasing smirk.

 

The taller man’s expression faltered for only a moment - his crystal eyes blowing wide at the tactile innuendo dripping from the question - before schooling his features into a more serious manner. His gaze swept over the soldier’s body, most likely analysing the data he could find there.

 

John was well aware that he was being studied and picked apart, so he let Sherlock look his fill; waiting for him to choose his next words carefully so as not to give too much of himself away. Deep down, John knew he was being reckless, but what should it matter? He would be shipping out the next afternoon so why not take the risk?

 

Somewhere behind them, the song that the remaining guests had been dancing to ended in cheers and applause, only to be followed up with a new one just a few moments later. As the new dance began, Sherlock finally broke eye contact; his gaze flicking in the direction of the dancing couples. John turned to look, as well, admiring the elegant way they turned and twirled around one another. He glanced at Sherlock once again and smiled at the hint of longing he could see written on the other man’s pale features. If Sherlock wasn’t going to acknowledge his previous attempt at flirting, then he would just have to try a bit harder.

 

Without giving himself time to overthink his decision, John slipped his arm free from Sherlock’s and tugged the taller man gently out of view. Before Sherlock could interject, John offered his hand and smiled brightly.

 

The familiar furrow between Sherlock’s brow had returned, once again, and John fought the urge to press his thumb to it in order to smooth it out. Instead he raised his eyebrows and dipped his head to his companion.

 

“Dance with me,” he said, the words more of a gentle command than a request. “I can tell that you want to. You’re a musician; if you can’t play, you at least want to dance. You can try to pretend that it’s all science and calculations if you’d like, but that doesn’t stop the truth from showing all over your face. You like to dance and, if I’m correct, you’re pretty damn good at it, too. So, take my hand and let’s dance,”.

 

Sherlock stared at him in disbelief. He didn’t speak at first, but when he made an attempt, it wasn’t much more than a stutter.

 

“Doctor, I -“

 

Nope. This won’t do. He’s not getting out of it that easily.

 

“John,” the soldier stated, earning a look of confusion from his friend.  “Call me John, and stop thinking about it. I know you may not be used to this sort of thing, and neither am I, but I can tell you're interested and so am I. So, just let me try, yeah? If I’m a rubbish partner, you can call me out on it and tell me to sod off, but at least, give me a chance,”.

 

He extended his hand further, keeping his gaze focused on Sherlock. He tried not to let his insecurities show, but he was sure the young lord had already deduced them, by now anyway. There would never be a time when John would be able to fool Sherlock and, somehow, the thought made him smile.  

 

Sherlock looked at John’s outstretched hand and then back to his face. The look in his eyes held a sneaking hint of suspicion, but John could only assume it to be a natural reaction. However, after a moment, long, pale fingers spread out over his own and John pulled Sherlock in close. He kept his right hand tangled with the fingers of Sherlock’s left as his own left hand settled on the other man’s waist.

 

Focusing on the music, John led them in a moderately paced waltz. It was a bit tough to get used to, at first, having to look up at his partner as he led, but they found their way easily. He turned them in a circle and smiled up at Sherlock who huffed out a quiet laugh.

 

“What?” John asked, squeezing Sherlock’s fingers between his own, teasingly.

 

Sherlock looked down at him, pointedly, but the expression held no heat as he fought to keep the silly grin off his face. The walls he’d resurrected seemed to crumble a bit as a genuine laugh rumbled up from his chest.

 

“You were correct. I do love to dance. In truth, I’ve never been led like this before, and it is a very different experience. I mean, you are quite short,” he finally stated, allowing his own playful nature to slip forth with a cheeky grin.

 

John’s mouth gaped open in mock horror as he did his best to look offended. “Oi! Not all of us can be as tall as you are, you posh prat,” he chided, good naturedly as he squeezed Sherlock’s hip playfully. “You should know, though, that height isn’t everything. They don’t call me ‘Three Continents Watson’ for nothing, you know”.

 

As John scrunched his face up in a silly sort of growl, Sherlock’s defenses shattered and he finally allowed his laughter to overtake him. The sound filled John’s chest with a sense of pride that he hadn’t felt in a very long time and he felt his breath hitch in his throat.

 

Sherlock was even more handsome and admirable like this and John was beginning to realise that there was no way he could possibly let a chance like this slip by without at least trying to take it further.

 

“You’re something else,” he said, the words tumbling out before he could stop them, causing Sherlock to glance back up at him with a look of pure confusion. “I have never in my life met anyone quite like you. You’re blunt, but charming. You project an ice cold exterior, yet you laugh and I can’t help but feel warm all over. You are by far the most intelligent man that I have ever met, but I don’t feel like a fool in comparison. What on earth are you doing to me…?”

 

John was only vaguely aware of the fact that his lips were parted in awe as his eyes searched Sherlock’s stunning face for answers he wasn’t sure he even wanted. There was something incredibly special about this spectacular creature and part of John was afraid to find out what it was. He was used to being ordinary. He was used to being the one no one paid any attention to because every move that he ever made was predictable and habitual and boring. John hardly ever deviated from his normal routine, yet here he was, dancing with another man - no, not just any man; a lord - at a garden party he hadn’t wanted to attend in the first place. His life always had a way of getting him to exactly where he needed to be and he had decided long ago to stop questioning the events that unfolded. Never in a hundred years would he have guessed that a row with Bill Murray over a stupid party would’ve led to a night like this. Not after his unfortunate encounter with Mary. Yet, in waltzed Sherlock Holmes with his piercing blue eyes and unruly, dark chocolate curls; curls that were tickling over the backs of John’s knuckles as he let the pad of his middle finger trace tiny patterns on the back of the other man’s neck.

 

Sherlock’s cheekbones were flush with a pink hue now at John’s assessment of him and a small spasm ran through his shoulders at John’s intimate touch. He attempted a smug smile that might have been believable if it weren’t for the way his long fingers clenched into the fabric of John’s uniform coat. The soldier tilted his chin up and arched an eyebrow at his partner’s subtle bluff.

 

“You don’t have anything to say?” he prompted, “No witty retort? No scathing insult to my average intelligence?”

 

Sherlock chuckled and took the lead; he slipped his hand into John’s, spinning them around once more as the soldier had done earlier. “It isn’t that; although, no I don’t believe it would be in my best interest to insult you no matter what I thought of your intelligence,” he stated, matter of factly. He chewed his lip, seemingly doing his best to look thoughtful, almost as if he were weighing his options. With a sly smile, he waggled his eyebrows, teasingly, at John before he could roll his eyes too heavily.

 

“Ta, you daft arse,” John chuckled, fondly; letting his fingers thread through the silky curls at the nape of Sherlock’s neck,  once again. A soft sigh slipped from the aristocrat’s lips. “And to think I just said all those really nice things about you, too,”. He sighed dramatically and gave the curls a gentle tug; the taller man let out a small, unintelligible sound that John was almost certain had been a whimper. The sound was music to the soldier’s ears and he let his eyes slipped closed in contentment as he pulled Sherlock closer to his chest.

 

“I’m glad you said those things…” the other man answered. His voice was quiet and he sounded completely blissed out. “Thank you for being so kind and understanding and for taking the time to actually listen in lieu of getting offended. I know you claim that you’ve never met anyone like me before, but I have to argue that you are indeed the more novel of the two of us,”.

 

It was John’s turn to laugh now. He barked out a short, disbelieving chuckle before he coughed once to clear his throat. “You are aware of what that word actually means, right?” he asked, settling his cheek into his partner’s shoulder. The expensive fabric was soft against his face and he couldn’t help the calm sense of security that washed over him. Sherlock’s shoulders shook with yet another quiet bout of laughter and John closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of his partner.

 

He longed to stay just like this, wrapped in the safety of someone he could be himself around, someone he could spend his days with. He longed for a time without duties and without war, but that was a wish too big to be granted and John knew that, no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to keep himself from rushing back to it, anyway. But, for tonight, he could allow himself this one luxury. Tonight, he could let himself dream.



Chapter Text

Darkness. 

 

Miles and miles of shadowy darkness swam in and out of Sherlock’s vision, as far as his eyes could see. The smell of blood and damp earth clung to his fur like a second skin, declaring war on his senses. The stench set his entire body on high alert, but he tried his best to keep his wits about him. He just had to think… He parted his jaws in an attempt to taste the air; mentally recoiling as the bitter tang of ferrous oxide and the beginnings of decay threatened to suffocate him. The assault was hell on his sensitive nose and he redirected his central focus to his surroundings. If he could just figure out where he was and what was happening, he could… He could, what? What exactly could he do? He had no idea where he was, what had happened to him, or - dare he say so - whether or not he was even alive

 

At the sudden onslaught of fear and uncertainty that gripped his mind, Sherlock flexed his paws, coming to the realisation that he was lying on his side, as his claws grappled for purchase in the damp soil beneath him. He thrashed and growled as he struggled, growing irritated in his failing efforts. The young Alpha could feel the lean muscle and sinew ripple beneath his pelt, giving way to the sudden discovery that, while his limbs were free, the rest of his body was restrained by thick, leather straps binding him to a great stone slab. 

 

Sherlock…

 

A flicker of light at the edge of his vision caught his attention and he blinked open his pale blue eyes. ‘ That voice,’ he thought. Something about that voice sent a shiver down Sherlock’s spine, gripping his attention and manipulating him in ways he never thought possible. ‘ I know you! Where are you?’ His gaze flicked this way and that, blazing over every inch of his surroundings; the earth beneath his paws had given way to dusty, stone flooring and he found himself in what appeared to be the remains of an ancient cathedral. 

 

‘Please!’ He pleaded with the voice, desperation becoming evident in his thoughts. ‘ Please, I need to know you’re safe…’

 

Sherlock blinked hard, feeling the familiar sting of tears welling up in the corners of his eyes as he suppressed a deep growl. The sound had sprung up from the depths of his soul and he flicked his ears in intense concentration, making every effort to contain his emotions. He would not cry… He would not show weakness and he would not - could not! - let anyone see his heart…

 

Sherlock…? I can’t breathe… I need… I need…

 

The Alpha’s eyes snapped open, once again, and he felt his heart shattering in his chest. He had to help; he had to do something. His entire purpose in life had shifted, realigning itself with finding the whereabouts of the mysterious voice, almost as if his life depended on it. ‘ Where are you? Let me help you, please! Just let me find you and I’ll… I’ll…’

 

As if on cue, something shifted in the atmosphere and Sherlock felt the separate entities of his mind and body being wrenched apart. The pain of a hundred bones breaking at once being overtaken by the torturous sensation of his skull being smashed in. A howl of pain and agony pierced the air and before he could cry out for help, he awoke with a start. Gasping for air and drenched in his own sweat, the whispered plea of the mysterious voice still echoed chillingly in his ears.

 

The damp fabric of his soft linen shirt clung to his human skin and his heart hammered as if it were attempting to beat right out of his chest. His shuddering breaths began to subside as he pressed a hand to his sternum, feeling the evidence of his fear. It had been years since Sherlock had had a nightmare; the last one he could remember had spawned from his first shifts as his body adjusted to the pain and suffering of contorting itself into a new and unnatural form.  

 

Reaching out in the dark, his hand settled on something warm and comforting and very much alive. He turned on his side and felt his breath catch in his throat as his eyes fell on the sleeping form of John Watson tucked in close beside him. His eyes were closed, his blond hair tousled up in a mess, and his left hand was balled up into a fist where it was tucked up under his cheek. His right arm was sprawled out to the side, almost as if he had been reaching for Sherlock in his sleep. The sight sent a surge of something that felt suspiciously like fondness through his chest and he let out a heavy sigh. Lying beside John and feeling the warmth of his body so close took Sherlock further and further away from the terrifying depths of his dream.

 

The evening had passed in a haze of contentment; dancing with John beneath the glow of the garden’s gas lamps had been an experience Sherlock had never thought possible for himself. How was it that, after all his time on earth, one person could come along and make him feel things that he’d never dreamed of? It was true that he had once felt the stirrings of interest in Victor as they had grown and matured together, but, knowing the sort of trouble that particular interest would cause, Sherlock had managed to lock that part of himself away without a second glance… But there was just something about John Watson. Something he couldn’t deduce and that feeling alone bothered him more than he cared to admit. Why now? What made John Watson so… special? Different? Attainable? Something about the man had begun to fill a deep void in Sherlock’s soul that he hadn’t truly been aware of until now. But, what was it…?

 

Closing his eyes and settling into a deep breathing exercise, Sherlock reached out with his mind; picking through the events of the previous evening. They had danced, John had flirted - shamelessly in the end if Sherlock was honest with himself and, once the music had come to a close, Sherlock had offered John his elbow and the two of them had slipped off into the night. 

 

Finding a certain amount of wolfish confidence in the dark of night, the young Alpha had snuck into the family kitchens and re-emerged with a rucksack filled with sandwiches and cakes, a tall flask of hot tea, and a bottle of wine that he passed to John before hitching the pack up higher on his shoulder. He had been caught by Mrs. Hudson, of course, who had waited up for him as she always did. Although she didn’t ask, Sherlock was certain that she knew what he was up to judging by the touch of affection that graced her smile before she kissed his cheek on his way back out. Deep down, he was thankful for her silence. If all he could hope for was this one night, then this one night was what he would take and he would endeavour to make the most of it.

 

**********

 

A faint breeze drifted over John’s fringe and he turned his face into the crook of his elbow. The absence of his pillow and the dull ache in the small of his back perturbed him and he blinked open his eyes, blearily. As he cleared the sleep from his eyes, a wave of realisation washed over him. He was alone, that much was for certain, but it took him a moment to remember where he was… The dancing, the wine, the gazebo… Ah, that’s right.  

 

Stifling a yawn, John sat up from the nest of blankets bundled around and beneath him and he stretched. Grabbing at each of his wrists, he worked his arms up above his head and flexed his shoulder blades, relishing the satisfying crack of loosening joints. The stiffness in his muscles began to fade as he rubbed a slight crick from his neck and he hummed in approval. As he worked the kinks from his shoulders, he thought back to the previous night. They had cut through the back garden - where John had relished the beautiful sights and smells of flowers he couldn’t even begin to name - and headed in the direction of the large pond that they had passed before. Sherlock had snagged them something to eat from the house along with a stash of blankets from the barn and they had bundled those together on the floor of the large gazebo in order to bed down for the night. As they settled into the blankets, they had shared the tea and sandwiches, passing the flask back and forth until the last dregs of tea remained before popping the cork on the bottle of wine. They had drunk straight from the bottle - not minding the lack of wine glasses - as they shared various anecdotes about their own youthful experiences and John realized he couldn’t even remember when exactly he had drifted off to sleep. 

 

Shaking his head and running a hand through his hair, he took in the relaxing quiet of the morning. The sun was just beginning to rise and there was a hint of a chill in the air. The gentle nip of the morning breeze sent a slight shiver down John’s spine and it was then that he remembered that he had stripped down to his vest and pants. With a twinge of anxiety, he glanced around in search of his uniform as he gripped the soft blanket tighter into his lap.

 

“Behind you,” came the smooth, quiet baritone of Sherlock Holmes. 

 

The soldier snapped his head to the right to see the curly-haired aristocrat making his way toward the gazebo. Where had he been? He was clad only in a pair of comfortable black breeches and a lazy smile; he held his shirt limply in his right hand, his bare feet were pale against the dewy green grass. His glittering blue eyes stood out against the early morning light and the way Sherlock pinned him to the spot with a single look took John’s breath away. He knew he should say something in response, but he couldn’t seem to find the words.

 

“Your coat, John?” Sherlock finally prompted, gesturing with a nod of his head to the railing of the gazebo. John glanced behind himself to find his coat and trousers folded and laid out perfectly over the railing. As he turned back to thank the other man, he caught Sherlock eyeing him with interest. He flicked his gaze downward in a blatant display of smug curiosity before meeting John’s eye again and the soldier resisted the urge to tighten his grip on the blanket in his lap. 

 

“Uh, thank you… Thank you for sorting those out for me,” the soldier answered, clearing his throat in the process, “I don’t exactly remember much about last night, but I hope that I acted within reason and without any offense to you,”. John’s mouth went completely dry as a sly smile spread across Sherlock’s face. It wasn’t that John had actually thought that he had done something disrespectful, but addressing the matter gave him something to say.

 

The taller man gave him a flash of perfectly white teeth as he clicked his tongue with a cheeky wink. “Nonsense, Captain,” he smirked, stepping up into the gazebo and flopping back down in the blankets next to John. “You were ever the picture perfect gentleman… almost embarrassingly so, even,” he chided and gave John’s blanketed knee a good-natured shove.

 

He seems different this morning… Nowhere near as awkward or nervous… 

 

John smiled back as he allowed himself to be jostled. The other man closed his eyes - the newfound confidence radiated off of him in waves -  as he stretched himself out to his full length and John couldn’t help but let his eyes roam. Sherlock’s torso was lean and his chest was toned without being overly muscular. With strong, sinewy muscles in his arms and neck, he was all angles and chiseled lines; the sort of physique one would see in ancient sculptures and classic paintings. Sherlock Holmes was most definitely a work of art and, if asked to describe the man before him, John would have said that he was absolutely beautiful. Stunning, in fact… positively gorgeous… He let his gaze trail down his friend’s chest to the slim line of his waist where his stomach dipped and left a gap between the fabric of his trousers and his skin. 

 

John swallowed hard against the lump that had worked its way into his throat. The sparse dusting of hair trailing down Sherlock’s belly and toward his groin teased John into squinting his eyes just enough to make out the faintest hint of the curls peeking out from the man’s trousers. The sight made John’s mouth water and he clamped his jaw shut with an audible click. When had he begun gaping like a fish? And was Sherlock really not wearing any pants…? No! Don’t even go there, Watson… get it together!

 

Mortified at his own depravity, John cleared his throat again and prodded Sherlock’s exposed calf muscle with the ball of his foot. “So, where’d you get off to, this morning, hm? Bit rude, don’t you think? Whisking me off out here and then allowing me to wake up all alone?” he teased, fixing his face into a faux-pout as the other man cracked one eye open.

 

Sherlock huffed out a breath in playful annoyance and rolled up onto his side to face him. The set of his jaw had changed slightly and there was a glint of something different in his eyes; almost as if his mind had wandered off in a completely different direction. “Ah, just back up to the house to check on Mrs. Hudson. I wanted to make sure she had everything she needed for the day,” he answered, casually. Something in the way he said it made John wonder if he was telling the truth, but ultimately it didn’t really matter. John would be leaving out in a few hours and that would be the end of it. 

 

Fiddling with the edge of the blanket, John’s fingers worked to untangle the stringy tassels that had knotted themselves up during the night. He wanted to say something in response to keep the tone lighthearted; a playful inquiry about why Sherlock had to remove his shirt to check on Mrs. Hudson, but he just didn’t have it in him, now. It was true their time was growing shorter by the minute and something about this deployment began to give way to a large, Sherlock-shaped hole in his chest. He wasn’t ready for their time to be up. He wanted more afternoon walks, more nights in gazebos, more of those piercing blue eyes and chocolate curls… He wanted all of the things he’d never let himself hope for. The previous night had been wonderful; an evening of food and wine and stolen glances all cocooned perfectly within the wildly unexplainable haven that was Sherlock Holmes and the Blackwater Estate. However, that perfect sanctuary of hope and pleasantries wasn’t his; it was Sherlock’s. John Watson wasn’t a lord or an aristocrat of any sort. Hell, he wasn’t even a run of the mill civilian. He was a soldier and a soldier’s life was unpredictable, his feet always on a path forged by someone else’s political agenda. He’d never let himself want because it wouldn’t have been fair to drag anyone else into the unknown with him. It just wasn’t right to expect someone to give him their all and pledge everything to him when he himself wasn’t able to do the same. If John was completely honest with himself, he wasn’t even his own to offer to another person… If you went by the paperwork in his file, he was, for all intents and purposes, the property of the British government. Even as an officer, he was still just a cog in its grand killing machine; a number, a statistic.

 

Soft fingertips brushed against John’s hands and he sucked in a breath; the action pulling him out of the depths of his own mind. The tassel he’d been fidgeting with was beginning to unravel and he dropped the blanket back into his lap. Risking a glance at his friend, he looked up to see Sherlock watching him tentatively, a look of gentle concern on his face. Of course, he’d know… The man had a sort of sixth-sense about him that John couldn’t quite wrap his head around, but tried not to think too much into it. Whether John understood it or not, he still had it and could still read him like a book. 

 

“Your thoughts are quite loud,” Sherlock offered, capitalising on John’s silent query. “You’re worried… when you last mentioned your military career, you spoke with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Since then, something’s changed? You aren’t as sure as you once were, but what’s different?”

 

The question was innocent enough, honestly, but somehow John suspected that the other man knew so much more than he was letting on. He’s posing questions for my benefit… Allowing me to share my thoughts instead of taking them from me. He could if he wanted and, most likely already has unintentionally, but he’s still giving me the chance to trust him… Mulling the words over, it took John a few minutes to sort out what he wanted to share, but he eventually settled on telling Sherlock the truth. Why hide my cards now if he already knows my hand?

 

“Well, you are right, something has changed, yes… but I’m still very proud of my service and the things I’ve accomplished. I earned my way up the ranks quickly and honourably and I’ll always be proud of that. However, the exciting life of an army doctor still leaves much to be desired, especially with regard to other aspects of life,” John explained, hoping that he was making some sort of sense. 

 

Sherlock’s careful gaze studied his face and John noticed that the man’s right hand had settled on his left knee, anchoring him to reality with soothing strokes of his thumb in a way that John found both pleasant and comforting. The corners of Sherlock’s mouth lifted in a gentle smile and, with a subtle dip of his head, he encouraged John to continue. 

 

As he took a deep breath, John found that he was extremely grateful for Sherlock’s silence. Most people seemed to believe that in order to actively take part in a conversation, you had to respond and interject with questions for the person speaking. Sherlock, on the other hand, seemed to understand and gave John exactly the sort of acknowledgement that he needed.

 

“Military life is unpredictable and, at times, you aren’t even sure what you’re fighting for… but, you do it because you swore an oath to your country and the people in it. There are times, though, that I would give anything to take a step back and see where other paths might lead, you know? Lay down my rifle, trade in my boots, take up my medical bag and just settle in as a family doctor or something. I’d miss the touch and go of it all, but I’ve never really had the chance to be anything else if I’m honest. I don’t know what it’s like to lead a normal life. My dad died when I was really young - killed in action - and so, it sort of fell to me to look after my mum and my sister. I was only a kid, but sometimes life forces you to grow up pretty quickly and a friend of my father took me in. He was a doctor; he and his wife were really nice people. They were always good to me, but they didn’t have much. I always knew it wasn’t about me in particular, anyway; it was more or less his way of honouring my dad. So, he let me work in his office and took me on house calls when he could in exchange for helping keep my mum and sister out of extreme poverty. But, time passed. He and his wife had a child of their own - a son; lovely boy, too - and I knew I needed to do something with my life. The family got me into a medical program and there I made friends who were joining the army. So, naturally, I wanted a bit of adventure, too. My mum isn’t really a fan of it all, but I like knowing that I’m fighting to keep them safe, just like my dad did…”

 

John paused for a moment and sniffed. He’d never told anyone his life’s story like that and it surprised him how easily it had all come tumbling out. The past didn’t hurt as much anymore either and, for that he was grateful. The wounds were finally starting to heal.

 

“Your father sounds like he was a brave man,” Sherlock thought aloud, his voice warm and deep. His fingertips brushed John’s once again and, without thinking too much into it, John took the opportunity to slip his fingers into Sherlock’s as he pulled the other man’s hand into his lap. With his free hand, he began tracing light, random patterns over the pale skin of Sherlock’s wrist. He studied the tiny, light brown freckles dotting his friend’s skin and tried to think of what he’d been trying to say before his train of thought had jumped tracks.

 

“Hm, he was,” John replied, after considering Sherlock’s assessment. “He was very brave and died fighting for our country, but… he missed out on so much. I mean, yeah, he had a wife and kids, but it wasn’t like he was there for much of it. Not like I’ve got memories of family trips down to the coast or anything like that. It’s just… There’s so much more to life than all that he did or all that I’m doing now, and I’m probably dumping way more on you than you bargained for, but the more I think about it, the more I want out of life. For instance, all my mates have someone to write home to after the army drops us in the desert, but I can’t think of a single person to write to. The first time I shipped out, of course I sent letters to my mum and my sister, but it was rare to ever get a reply. The army and my being in it just doesn’t sit well with them, so I eventually just stopped writing altogether and that’s a sad fact when you can’t think of anyone else that might want to hear from you while you’re out getting shot at, you know?”

 

As the sudden admission left his lips, the soldier blew out a heavy sigh. He hadn’t actually intended to give that much insight into his own thoughts, but the truth was out there, now. If he was honest with himself, it actually felt good to tell someone else all about the things that troubled him and kept him awake at night. Even still though, he was almost certain that Sherlock was picking his brain now; looking for any deeper meaning behind the hint of regret that laced his thoughts.

 

Without looking at the other man, John turned Sherlock’s hand over in his and studied the lines on his palm.  Overall, their hands weren’t that dissimilar, but there were definitely differences. Sherlock’s fingers were longer and thinner than John’s own short, blunt ones, and Sherlock’s hands were larger than John’s in general. The comparisons truthfully amazed John and, when he’d first began to study the human body and all of the individual components that each human being was made of, he had to admit that he always felt extremely out of his depth. 

 

As he busied himself with Sherlock’s fingers, he waited patiently for the painfully blunt observations to be rattled off at lightning speed as Sherlock uncovered new deductions about him from the information he had just provided, but they never came. In fact, Sherlock was uncharacteristically quiet. If John knew anything about the man at all, and he thought he was beginning to, that fact just didn’t sit very well with him. 

 

“Sherlock?” John prompted, stealing a quick look at his friend. Sherlock’s unruly curls flopped unceremoniously across his forehead and his eyes were fixed on his own hand, clasped between John’s, where it was being studied and toyed with. His gaze was focused, concentrating on something deep in his own thoughts that John couldn’t even begin to uncover.

 

Gently, he squeezed Sherlock’s fingers in his own and drew the man’s attention back to him. 

 

“Hm?” Sherlock responded automatically, shaking his head slightly and blinking as if he were just waking up from a rather intricate dream.

 

“Are you alright?” the soldier asked, letting his thumb brush gently over Sherlock’s fingers in a comforting gesture. He hoped that he hadn’t shared too much and pushed Sherlock into blocking him out. 

 

The other man frowned at him for a moment before seeming to realise that he had gotten lost in his own thoughts. “Oh, right, yes sorry… Was just… thinking a bit,” he muttered with a hint of nervousness. He seemed as if he wasn’t sure whether he should say what was on his mind or not. In the end, however, he raised his gaze to John’s and flashed him a warm smile. “I was just thinking… You can write to me, if you’d like… what would you say to that?”

 

John’s lips parted in surprise and he felt his heart sputter in his chest. Sherlock wanted him to write letters to him… Sherlock wanted to keep in touch after John left the Blackwater Estate and had extended him an invitation for him to do so as often as he liked…

 

“Um, sure… that sounds… yeah, that would be great actually. I’d really like that, as long as you write back to me, that is,” John nodded, trying not to telegraph his excitement too much. Sherlock probably already knew it, anyway, but keeping up appearances still made John feel better about himself in the long run.

 

Sherlock let out a low chuckle and sat up, coming face to face with the soldier. “Of course, I’ll write back to you,” he answered, brushing the backs of his fingers over John’s stubbled cheek before cupping his hand to John’s face. The soft skin felt smooth against the rough of his cheek and it sent a low ache of desire through John’s chest. He leaned into the touch and cradled Sherlock’s other hand between both of his as he brought it up to brush a soft kiss over the backs of Sherlock’s knuckles. 

 

With a smugness he prided himself on, John couldn’t repress the grin that spread across his features seeing a slight shiver rippled through Sherlock’s bare shoulders as he looked up at the other man. Looking at Sherlock now, John relished the thought of the other things he could do to make the other man shudder. 

 

“Oh…” Sherlock whispered; his brilliant blue eyes blown wide with want as his lovely Cupid’s bow lips formed a perfect ‘O’. A faint blush was creeping up his neck and down his chest and a large part of John wanted nothing more than to press his lips to the pinkening skin and explore just how far down it could actually go…

 

What have you got to lose?

 

Taking his own advice for once in his life, John flicked his tongue out over his bottom lip and leaned closer into Sherlock’s space before pressing a chaste kiss to the rise of a prominent cheekbone. At the contact, Sherlock’s breath seemed to hitch in his throat and John felt Sherlock’s lashes flutter closed against his cheek as he nuzzled the kiss into the other man’s skin as if he could keep it there forever if he pushed it in deep enough. 

 

Strong hands found their way to John’s shoulders and nervous fingers danced over the nape of his neck. The sheer feel of it all spurred John’s courage on and he pressed a line of kisses along the strong line of Sherlock’s jaw, whispering his confession as he went.

 

“I know you know… You have to know with the way you’ve been looking at me, but yes… I like you. God, help me, I do… and I don’t want to end this here… Not without seeing where this could go. I’m tired of watching the world go on around me and I know it isn’t fair to ask you to wait for me, but - “

 

“Yes…” Sherlock gasped, cutting the soldier off as his lips found a particularly sensitive spot just below his ear. 

 

John’s heart faltered in his chest once again and he nuzzled his partner before brushing his lips against the shell of the other man’s ear. “Yes what, Sherlock…?” he asked, letting the tip of his tongue lap teasingly at the sensitive skin.

 

A groan rumbled deep in Sherlock’s chest and he turned his head to bury his face in John’s neck. “I want you...” he replied softly, pressing a nervous kiss of his own to the exposed skin at John’s collarbone. 

 

The weight of Sherlock’s words struck John like a heavy blow to the head and he felt the long lost stirrings of pure joy begin to fill his chest. The warm, satisfied feeling started in the pit of his stomach and began bubbling up inside of him and he couldn’t resist the urge to show Sherlock exactly how he felt any longer. If Sherlock wanted him, then John would do his best to give him all that he could.

 

He pulled back slightly and nudged Sherlock’s chin up with a bump of his hand. The man’s light blue eyes were clouded with an emotion John hadn’t seen in them before and he knew then that he had made the right decision. He glanced down at Sherlock’s lips, seeking silent permission before bringing their faces closer together. 

 

They made the promise without words, just the gentle brush of their lips… but both knew it meant “I’ll wait for you”.

Chapter Text

John settled into his seat on the train, staring longingly out the window. A few hours ago, he had been curled around the most handsome man he’d ever laid eyes on; kissing the breath from his lungs and memorising every last inch of Sherlock’s mouth with his tongue. He had caressed pale skin and threaded his fingers through dark chocolate curls as he tugged and dragged the other man down to worship him with his lips. He had ignored the stirrings for sexual release, pushing those thoughts aside in favor of pulling Sherlock’s head to his chest in order to hold him close to his heart. As he peppered his curly hair with kisses, he whispered promises he hoped to God he would be able to keep… 

 

Because, as it was, he was being cast off into an unforgiving desert to fight an unforgiving war that may bring about the most unforgiving consequences. He dropped his old army issue rucksack into the seat beside him and swore he could smell the dust and bloodshed of his previous deployments drifting from the worn canvas. In the blink of an eye, he was back on the battlefield; his dirty blonde hair plastered to his forehead by a sickening mix of dried blood and sand. His hands wrist-deep in the internal-turned-external organs of a fallen comrade, clinging desperately to his mask of professionalism as he tried to hide the anguish in his voice while he soothed a terrified soldier to an endless sleep… The painful, broken promises that ‘everything was going to be all right’ still haunted him to the day. 

 

As a general rule, John tried his best not to allow himself to think about what happened to his field patients after their passing, but at the moment he found that he couldn’t help himself. He had seen so many of his fellow soldiers killed in action and all he could think about were the ones they left behind. What happened after they passed? Did they have loved ones that were notified? Parents and siblings like he himself had… Families of their own perhaps… The whole ordeal had never really been much of a concern for John until now. He hadn’t had anyone to worry about before, but now he couldn’t keep his thoughts from drifting back to Sherlock. His  Sherlock Holmes; the handsome lord who was waiting patiently for correspondence ensuring that John had arrived to his post safely.

 

Pushing depressing thoughts from his mind, John slipped a hand between the lapels of his loosely buttoned uniform coat as he sought out the innermost breast pocket. Tucked safely against his heart was a solitary scrap of paper with Sherlock’s perfect penmanship scrawled across it, detailing his address and postal instructions. As he fingered the edges of paper, the urge to write overtook him and he pulled a journal and a fountain pen from his rucksack. Propping the journal on his knee, he steadied the pen in his hand before starting the first of many letters to his new companion. It wouldn’t do to use Sherlock’s name in the letters so as not to give their intimate nature away, so he opted for a term of endearment; the pet name acting as a codename of sorts.

 

The ink flowed from the pen as the tip danced gracefully over the paper; carrying John’s thoughts along with it:




My zarrgiya - 

 

On the train and thinking of you already. A bit not good, isn’t it? I know we’ve only just begun to get to know one another, but I couldn’t even last a few hours without wishing you were back in my arms… and if I am completely honest with myself, I actually never stopped. From the moment your lips left mine, I wanted and I wished… God, how I wanted… I would have given anything for just one more hour; one more hour spent drowning in your eyes, breathing in the delicious smell of your hair… one more hour just committing every last inch of you to memory so that I’d never forget even the smallest of details. Unfortunately, it is probably for the best that my wish was never to be granted. If I had been given that hour, I would have only begged for another and another until time had slipped away from me completely. Now, I know you aren’t one for all of the flair of the romantics, but please, indulge me. Even if it’s only ever in my letters to you, please just allow me to have these few brief moments of joy to shower you with affection. You’d be surprised at how much more sentimental and romantic a soldier actually becomes when faced with the unknown. We never know what may come in the days, weeks, or even months ahead, so some of us find it hard not to overshare our deepest emotions with those we care most about. I’m better with words when I’m writing anyway, so I hope you don’t mind. For now, I’ll let these words sit with you and allow you to process them for however long you need. I know it may be a bit overwhelming for you, at first, but I fully intend to make it my personal mission to make sure you get used to hearing these sorts of things every day for as long as you’ll allow me to say them. So… thank you in advance for allowing me this luxury.

 

On another note, I wanted to use these letters to get to know you better and to allow you to get to know me, as well. Your home is a beautiful place as I told you before, but I am ever so curious about the people you share it with. Mrs. Hudson is a very lovely woman and I am so grateful that you introduced me. The breakfast she made for me was wonderful and please thank her for the sandwiches she sneakily packed with my things. You had better keep your eye on her, my darling; she’s a sly one. I heard that remark she made about you and your ‘wild hair’... Sleep with one eye open or else you may wake up to her cutting off all of those gorgeous curls herself. (The thought of that just made me chuckle aloud… You would probably roll your eyes at the silly grin I am sure is plastered across my face at the moment, but that is just what you do to me… You make me happy. Just thought you should know.) Anyway, I was just wanting to ask about her story… How did she come to work for you and your father? She seems to have led a very interesting life of her own before coming to you, given the way that she carries herself and doesn’t mind telling you what’s what. (And, yes I’m smiling at the thought of the look she gave you after telling you off for adding more sugar to your tea… She is right though, it really isn’t good for you. I’m a doctor, I should know.)

 

Well, I imagine this is a pretty good start for my first letter to you… I wish I could go on for a few hundred pages, but you would probably find that extremely boring, knowing you. I do hope my letter finds you well, in any case, and that you are going to be okay while I am away. I know you can handle yourself, but I wonder if you can feel the quiet void that I feel… The one that seems to grow darker and even more quiet the further the train takes me away from you. Deep down, I know we will be alright, but I still feel entitled to a bout of selfishness this time around. I miss you more than you will ever know, even if that doesn’t seem possible given how short our time together was, but I do hope the feeling is mutual. I hope you miss me just as much as I miss you… I wouldn’t even complain if you missed me more, but I don’t see how that could be possible. I will write again once I am settled into camp, but I hope to hear back from you soon, as well. Please, stay safe and take care of yourself for me. Feel free to tell me about your days and the things you are doing and don’t hesitate to get all soppy on me… I’d actually really like it if you did... 

 

I’ll leave you with one last thought. At the beginning of this letter, I addressed you with a pet name of sorts. I would prefer to keep you as anonymous as possible in our correspondence just in case this letter may fall into the wrong hands at any given time, so I have gifted you with a small puzzle that I thought you might like to work out. Guess the language and the translation of the word “zarrgiya” and I will give you another one in my next letter to keep you on your toes. 

 

Until next time,

 

Captain J. H. Watson, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers



Signing his name, - a bit too formally perhaps, but he was proud and figured Sherlock would be too - he couldn’t help but shake his head. He knew he’d been way too over the top, but it couldn’t be helped. It had been one night - just one night! - but he knew that he had fallen hard and fast… so why hide it? The smile he wore was a testament to that feeling deep in his chest and the more he smiled, the more real the feeling became.  All that stood in the way was this deployment. They’d tough it out and then he could return home to Sherlock and they could sort everything out once he was home. 

 

The thought of actually being crazy enough to want so much more with another man gave him a thrill of excitement. It was something he had never allowed himself the right to want before and John found it invigorating. He had never even considered it a possibility to be in an actual relationship with a man, let alone one as gorgeous and as perfect as Sherlock was. 

 

As the train barreled down the tracks taking him further and further away, the smile he wore began to wane but only a little as his mind turned to serious matters concerning his newfound happiness. He knew that there were variables at play that he could try to ignore, but by doing so he would only be hurting himself and Sherlock in the process. He was off on a real mission to command real troops who would be dependent on him to keep his wits about him. As happy as he was, he still had a job to do; one that could prove fatal if he wasn’t careful. Shifting his bag and tearing the letter out to tuck away into a crisp new envelope, John scrawled the address to the Blackwater Estate along the neat parchment and addressed the letter simply to “SH” before heading up to the front of the car to drop it into a small post box for outgoing mail.

 

As he made his way back to his seat, a heavy hand clapped him on the back and spun him around, bringing him face to face with his friend and fellow party-goer from the previous evening, Bill Murray. 

 

“Watson!” the man barked, laughing as he pulled John down into an empty seat behind him. A group of soldiers had gathered and had apparently been discussing their time in London while John had been busy with his letter to Sherlock. “Where the hell did you get off to last night? Me and the lads didn’t have a bloody clue where you’d scarpered off to after Lord Holmes bailed you out of that nasty little tie up with Mary,” Bill mused, eyeing him suspiciously. “Fickle little thing isn’t she? Too much mouth for me! Don’t see how you ever stood that, Watson; you’re much better off now,” he paused as John forced a laugh and shrugged his shoulders in indifference. 

 

“Ah, it wasn’t all that bad,” John joked, feeling himself grow more self conscious about his earlier thoughts. His orientation wasn’t something he paraded around his regiment and he had no intention of letting anything out now. “You take it all in stride as long as it’s worth your while in the sheets; then when it isn’t, you cut your losses, don’t you?” John added with an air of finality to his tone. Of course that ideology wasn’t something that he actually believed to be true himself, but when he was dealing with a lot like this, he knew he could turn anything to sex and the questioning would be deferrred in favor of whoever could drum up the most attention with a good ‘kiss-and-tell’.

 

Of course, he was proven right within minutes. Matherson - a tall and bulky sort of man with ginger hair - was the first to speak up above the cat-calls and general noise of the others with a fantastically made-up scenario about how he had once bedded a woman in France who gave him ‘eleven orgasms in a single night’. He claimed that the only reason he left her behind was that she had an irritating laugh and he ‘didn’t want to be tied down’, but the lads all knew he was full of shit and booed his ridiculous story-telling. 

 

The usual scandalous secret-spilling commenced after that with Jones and Harvey - the young guns of the bunch - giving detailed accounts of over-embellished first times during their school days; followed by Stokes claiming that he had charmed more birds than any of the rest of them... Which was too unbelievable to be true, if John was honest, because Stokes was a rat-faced man with a rather large mustache and he couldn’t have weighed more than eight and a half stone soaking wet. Not to mention, the man was a bit of an arrogant arse who seemed to have the manners of an untrained badger with anger management problems. But, as each man took his turn and was picked apart in good fun, the conversation inevitably returned to John and his unacceptable silence on the matter.

 

“Alright, Watson, what gives?” Matherson finally blurted out, nudging John hard in the back. “You’ve never not had nothin’ to share before, so pray tell what’s got you stayin’ so secretive over here? Hmm? Cat got yer tongue or somethin’?”

 

With a nervous chuckle, John cleared his throat and shrugged his shoulders as he felt the eyes of every man in the group drilling into him. He didn’t have much to offer up without giving anything away, so he did his best to shake it off. “Jeez, come on, guys. Is this really all that we’re capable of? I mean, what happened to dignity? Swapping one raunchy bedroom exaggeration for another knowing full well that every bit of it is bollocks. I mean, there’s no way in hell that most of this stuff actually happened the way everyone claims it did,” he forced a laugh, feeling the warmth rising in his cheeks. The last thing he truly needed right now was to let this sort of thing get too far out of hand. His cover would be blown in an instant, but who was he kidding? It probably was already. It wasn’t exactly a secret that he’d been sitting over in his own little corner of the world, grinning like an idiot at the letter he’d been writing not half an hour ago. No way that went unnoticed…

 

The stunned looks of disbelief that were aimed in his direction cut through him like a knife through fresh meat, flaying him open for the world to see what he held inside. Matherson shook his head and the look of suspicion he’d held earlier quickly accepted John’s brush-off as confirmation that something was definitely amiss. 

 

“Seriously? Since when does ‘Three Continents Watson’ give a shit about dignity and whatnot? D’you go back to Mary or somethin’ after all?” Matherson pressed, eyeing John like the Captain had just grown three heads.

 

“What?” John spluttered, looking taken aback himself. “Of course not! Why would I do a stupid thing like that?”

 

Before Matherson could reply, Bill stepped in and held up a hand. “Now, wait a minute, Watson. Math’s right. You’ve been acting a bit strange since you showed back up this morning and he’s not the only one that’s noticed. Hell, even the Major mentioned it! So, what’s really going on? If you’ve not gone back to Mary, then who the devil were you writing to a while ago? Had to have been a girl judging by that stupid grin you had plastered all over your face, so who’s the lucky lady that’s got the Captain all worked up?”

 

John could feel the blood in his veins turn to ice in an instant. He tried to swallow but his tongue felt as if it had doubled in size and was now much too big for his mouth. Every instinct he had was telling him to run away from the situation, but logically he knew that such a thing would be impossible on a moving train.

 

Christ, I’m fucked… 




**********



Sherlock’s haunches flexed and his back paws kicked up dust and small pebbles in his wake as he dashed across the grounds of the Blackwater Estate. The sun had long set and he was late for the evening perimeter run, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care. After seeing John off that morning, he had slipped into town to purchase his own personal stash of parchment and a fancy new fountain pen to use while writing his letters to the handsome soldier. My handsome soldier… Sherlock corrected himself, letting his thoughts pore over the daring things they had promised one another earlier that morning. In their own little haven under the blankets in the gazebo, John’s hands had roamed all over his chest and and down his back, gripping and tugging him closer until they had been chest to chest. The soldier had kissed him and, oh, what a kiss it had been. Though Sherlock didn’t have any others to compare it to he was pretty certain that, as far as first kisses went, it was definitely everything he could have wanted and more. Still, the best part had been that the first kiss had undoubtedly been a warm-up for the others that followed. 

 

The first kiss John had kept chaste and soft, gentle and kind; almost as if he was giving Sherlock every opportunity in the world to change his mind. The brush of their lips had been delicate, to say the least; yet it still had sparked a desire in Sherlock for so much more. Lucky enough for him, John was more than willing to give it to him. As they first broke apart, Sherlock had opened his eyes just enough to see John gazing at him; eyes glossed over in the heat of the moment, his cheeks flushed, his lips parted eagerly. 

 

Upon locking eyes with the young Alpha, John’s lips had quirked up in a soft smile and he had raised his eyebrows in silent question. “Wanna do that again?” they had asked and Sherlock had nodded so subtly he was sure that John wouldn’t have seen it if the soldier hadn’t been focused on his reaction so intently to begin with. 

 

The kisses that followed had been so incredibly different, yet still hadn’t reached the hungry, hormone driven frenzy that Sherlock had always heard others swoon over. No, what he and John had shared together had been on another level entirely. The way John had laid him down, caressing his body as he’d worshipped him with his lips had been blissfully perfect all on its own. John’s thinner lips on his full ones had been wonderfully passionate and just as intense as any other; yet, Sherlock was convinced that matters of the heart had pushed the meaning of the kiss into a much deeper territory. Sure, he had felt the growing interest of John’s arousal thickening against his thigh - hell, he’d even strategically positioned his own away from John - as their kisses deepened and grew more intimate, but the real surprise came when John had simply ignored his sexual desires in favor of kissing gentle declarations of affection into Sherlock’s hair until his erection had subsided.

 

The honour in that simple action alone had struck Sherlock in such a way that made him confident that he had made the right choice to accept John as his own. He would wait for the soldier to return and they would figure out life from there. While it was true that being engaged to Molly would make things a touch more difficult, he knew that, as his friend, she would be the first to understand and wouldn’t expect him to go through with their marriage if he’d truly found the one he had been meant to love. His father and uncle were a different matter however, but he assumed he would cross that bridge when he came to it. 

 

Nearing the central rendezvous point at the outskirts of the orchard, Sherlock could already scent Victor on the gentle breeze. From here on out, he would have to be very careful in his own mind. In general, Wolfbloods, as they were called, communicated through thoughts alone; raising the question of mind sharing and other ridiculous theories. While the pack did not share one collective mind, they did possess the ability to read each other’s minds in order to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings on pack matters or to simply express themselves when the moment arose. Altering his thoughts so as not to give away the secret of his newfound relationship, he focused instead on Victor’s strong Beta scent and tried to block out all thoughts of John and their activities entirely.

 

‘You’re late, Holmes,’  

 

Victor’s voice echoed through Sherlock’s mind as he bounded over a hedgerow and dropped effortlessly in front of the Beta wolf. The Alpha shook out his pelt and tilted his head from side to side, stretching the muscles in his neck as he surveyed the surrounding area. Same old, same old scenery as usual. They hadn’t had an attack in generations, so the perimeter runs always felt a bit silly, but it did keep them aware of how easily their livelihood could be turned upside down in the event of such a calamity.

 

‘Nothing for it, Vic,’ Sherlock replied, his own thoughts being cast out to Victor, ‘Mrs. Hudson needed some help and I obliged, that’s all,’. He brushed off the comment with a flick of his tail and raised his muzzle into the air. Closing his eyes, Sherlock took in a deep breath and cleared his mind. He sniffed and picked apart the different smells in the air, checking off all the usual scents to make sure that nothing was amiss. As he huffed out a breath through his nose, Sherlock turned his attention back to his packmate.

 

‘Coast is clear, here. We’ll start as normal and head around the back of the estate to make our way toward the pond and through the orchard before checking the rest of the grounds,’ he instructed, missing the wary look Victor had fixed him with completely.

 

The Beta wolf stood firmly in place as the young Alpha turned to start their route. Sherlock heard the huff of annoyance and knew Victor had dug his claws into the soft earth in frustration. He turned to face his second in command, flicking his ears toward him in question.

 

‘So, that’s all I get? You disappear off the face of the fucking Earth last night, completely bailing out on me for our evening patrol - I had to recruit Wiggins, by the way, after your little stunt, so thanks for that! You don’t tell anyone where you’ve gone or what you’re doing, but you take off on your own to do the morning run and now, you show up late for this one. What is going on with you? What the fuck were you doing, last night?’ Victor growled low in his throat as the thoughts flowed from his mind, completely blindsiding Sherlock with the bitter emotions clinging to them. ‘And DON’T think you can lie to me, either… I saw you last night… with the human,’.

 

With a sudden surge of dread, Sherlock’s blood turned to ice in his veins. The way the last words slammed into his mind with such a fierce venom chilled him to the bone. With the human… What exactly had Victor seen… and just how much? 

 

With an air of practiced nonchalance, Sherlock rolled his muscular shoulders before stretching his front legs out in front of him as he arched his back in a languid stretch. He couldn’t allow his packmate to sense the rising panic bubbling low in his belly. ‘Oh Vic, what does it matter where I was? Clearly, you handled everything very well and didn’t run into anything that would have garnered my attention, so why is what I was doing so important? There was a party; I indulged in food and drink and conversation with another individual before retiring to my room for the night,’ he stated, raising himself back to his full height; daring the other wolf to challenge his words. ‘And as far as you seeing me with the human, congratulations. You were able to observe a perfectly normal situation and deduce absolutely nothing of importance from said situation only to come out looking like the fool. So, yes, bravo, Victor; very well done, indeed. You’re really showing your strengths these days,’.

 

The snarl that ripped from Victor’s throat was only half threatening, but his next words sent a rush of adrenaline through the muscles in Sherlock’s paws and legs.

 

‘LIAR!’ he growled out; spitting furiously onto the ground as he drew his lips back, exposing his sharp fangs. ‘You know damn well that your presence on these runs is important! You’re the Alpha and I won’t stand for you shrugging off your responsibilities just because some silly little human bats an eye at you and calls you ‘brilliant’ for a few minutes,’.

 

In an instant, Sherlock’s temper flared and snapped. He sprang forward, instinct taking over as he pinned Victor against the dusty ground beneath him and bared his teeth against the Beta’s throat. It would go against pack laws for Victor to physically lash out in retaliation against the young Alpha but something deep in Sherlock’s gut wanted him to fight back. The insinuation that Victor believed himself capable of knowing what was going on between the Alpha and the soldier was enough to ruffle his hackles in an instant. No one could ever understand what he and John shared. No one outside of the two of them would ever be able to know exactly what they felt and he’d be damned if he let anyone even think differently. 

 

Sherlock snapped his teeth dangerously at the exposed fur and skin at Victor’s throat, eliciting a terrified yelp of surprise from his so-called friend, before pulling back to stare him down. The hard gaze that Victor was giving him was quelled by the scent of his fear, but only just. 

 

‘You know nothing of what happened with the human and will NEVER speak of it or him again. Do I make myself clear?’ Sherlock bit out, snarling with the last words so fiercely that saliva dripped onto the other wolf’s muzzle and he relished the look of it seeping into the dark brown fur. ‘Challenge my word again and you’ll see exactly what I can do to you… although, I’m quite sure you’re already very aware,’. 

 

With one final snap of his teeth, Sherlock turned over his shoulder once again and struck out on his own. His dismissal of the Beta was evident in the coarse fur raised along his spine in complete and utter challenge.




**********




By the time John and his company had reached their first stop, night had fallen and each soldier found himself dead on his feet. The train ride had been an uncomfortable one for starters and the meals they had been served could have been much better. The worst part of the ride had to have been the endless inquiries into John’s personal life. He’d be the first to admit that it had never bothered him in the past, but with the nature of his current budding relationship, things were quite different this time around. He had been able to explain away the situation by admitting that he was questioning his previous conquests and the loose life he had lived before due to the fact that he had met someone new that gave him the desire to remain monogamous, after all. Of course, the lads had booed his new venture into self-discovery, but hadn’t found it interesting enough to poke into it any further at the time. So, however bad it had seemed, John had to admit that traveling by train was much better than the ship they would be packed onto the next morning. He’d made this journey before and knew what to expect by now.

 

With a sigh of relief he tossed his things onto his bunk and hurried his evening wash along, not able to relax until he was finally settled beneath the blankets. The first time he’d ever tucked himself into bed and pulled the military-issue bedding up over his body, he had been met with the horribly unpleasant itch of the material and it had taken him several nights to get used to the feeling. 

 

Around him, his fellow soldiers were getting themselves ready for their last night’s sleep in their home country and John let his thoughts drift to Sherlock and what he might be doing at that same moment. Was he relaxing in a warm bath, rinsing the day’s grime from his pale skin or had he already turned in for the night? It was rather late, after all… Perhaps he was typically an early riser and preferred to get to bed early in order to take care of the important things he must do each and every day. The thought of someone as unpredictable as Sherlock doing such seemingly predictable day to day things made John smile to himself. There was no way the silly madman would be able to lead such a boringly plain life. John was sure of it… His unruly hair and wild eyes reflected the devious spirit that seemed to boil and bubble just beneath the surface of Sherlock’s perfectly posh exterior. 

 

There was something about Sherlock that pushed John to the edge of adventure and dared him to jump and it was exhilarating. The soldier knew that he’d already taken that first leap into the unknown with his enigmatic aristocrat and he couldn’t wait to see where it took him. In some ways, he had already been granted a teasing glimpse of what life with Sherlock would be like… especially in an intimate sense. 

 

John’s thoughts wandered dangerously close to indecent, skirting the edge before tiptoeing back to the safety net of domesticity he had chosen to limit himself to. It was better that way; John knew himself and, in turn, knew that he was playing with fire by even letting himself imagine. Allowing himself to think of Sherlock as a sexual being would only push his thoughts and feelings into an area that they hadn’t even considered yet, but a small part of John couldn’t resist. The soft moans and gasps Sherlock had let slip as they lay curled around one another, kissing and touching in the early hours of the morning had been enough to encourage John’s ever-interested cock to join the fun, making it nearly impossible to think clearly. Surprisingly enough, though, the urge to get off had been outweighed by the sheer desire to simply enjoy the man in his arms and make him feel like the most precious gift the world had to offer. The longer he’d kissed Sherlock and run his hands all over his strong, muscular body, everything he’d ever felt unsure of in his life had clicked and locked into place; ensuring John that he had indeed found a home for his heart, after all. 

 

A rustle of blankets to his left, accompanied by the soft snores slowly filling the room, let John know that everyone else had finally turned in for the night; leaving him alone with his thoughts. The quiet stillness of the room made the evidence of his growing arousal very prominent, tempting his left hand to drift teasingly to the waistband of his pants as he sucked in a shuddering breath. He felt his cock hardening beneath the thin material and couldn’t resist the urge to palm himself through the fabric as he pulled his bedding up over his head. 

 

Panting breaths soon filled the space beneath the blankets and John tried his best to stay quiet. He hadn’t touched himself like this in ages, let alone in his bunk surrounded by his fellow comrades, but the thoughts he’d had about Sherlock had left him aching and cold showers weren’t an option in his current lodging. As he slipped his hand into his pants to grip and stroke himself properly, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander to all of the filthy things that he might one day do with his handsome lord. What would it feel like, for instance, to have Sherlock’s perfectly bowed lips envelop his aching cock? Would it be the first time he’d ever sucked someone off? God, I hope so… Would he be shy and uncertain or would he pin John to the bed, taking control as he fell apart beneath his tongue?

 

Imagining Sherlock’s crystal eyes gazing up at him, filled with affection and lust as he worked his tongue over John’s erection, caused John’s cock to twitch and he fought to stay quiet. He stifled a groan, biting his lower lip as he quickened his strokes and brushed his thumb over the glans. A plethora of erotic imagery exploded behind his closed eyes as he imagined the tip of Sherlock’s tongue flicking over his leaking slit.

 

Oh, fuck… oh, fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck…  

 

John’s tongue flicked out to lick over his lips and, as his orgasm built, he knew he wouldn’t last much longer. Christ, what would Sherlock think of him now? Stretched out in his bunk, hand in his pants like a depraved teenager stroking himself to completion over a filthy fantasy… What would Sherlock do if he saw? Would he stare in shock or fascination? Maybe he would marvel at the sight of John’s eyes blown wide at the thought of Sherlock himself doing such sinful things to him. Perhaps he would lay down beside him and make John’s wildest dreams come true; taking him in his mouth, teasing his balls, and making him writhe with pleasure until he came… God, just thinking of Sherlock’s hands and mouth on his skin took his breath away. 

 

Fighting the urge to buck his hips up and fuck into his own hand, John tightened his grip and hurried his strokes as his balls drew up tight against his body. “Sherl-....” he whispered, barely even audible to his own ears. With his lover’s name on his lips, his mind instantly flickered back to the image of that wicked tongue on his cock and John’s orgasm crashed over him in an intense wave of pent up emotion. He swallowed a gasp and felt his cock pulse again and again as he stroked himself through the aftershocks that rocked his body. 

 

As John regulated his breathing and his heart rate returned to normal range, the sticky evidence of his release coated the fabric of his pants and the flat of his belly, cooling on his skin as he slowed his ministrations. He hadn’t come in his pants since his first attempts at wanking and a part of him felt like he should be ashamed of himself for such childish behaviour, but he couldn’t really find it in himself to care at the moment. He withdrew his hand from his pants, wiping the remnants of his depravity on the sheets before draping his arm over his still-closed eyes. 

 

God, what sort of man was he becoming? Was he really the type to stoop so low as to wank to fantasies of a man he’d only just met? A man that was honourable and kind; a man that deserved so much more than John could possibly give him, but wanted John anyway regardless of what he could or could not do. 

 

Apparently so…  

 

Without warning, the strong wave of emotion welled up within him once again, threatening to spill out over his lashes as he drew in a shuddering breath. The ten months of agony and longing that lay ahead of him seemed to sit on his chest like a lead weight, drawing strength from the sadness that seemed to envelop his senses; twisting them and torturing them with the depth of his loneliness. In all truthfulness, John wasn’t sure he had ever felt this lonely and empty in all of his life, but the one thing he could be sure of was the fact that he had never felt more wanted and desired in all of his miserable existence. 

 

With a pained sniff, he swiped his hand over his eyes and breathed out a deep sigh; only one word seeming to find a home on his lips:

 

“Sherlock…” 

 

**********

 

“John…”

 

Sherlock’s breaths came in short bursts as he leaned over the wash basin in his suite; his hand tugging and caressing his cock, imagining with abandon how it would feel if John’s were in its place. It amazed him how easily the instinct to chase his own orgasm had consumed him since he had suppressed every sexual urge he’d ever had in the past... However, the thought of John’s muscular thighs quivering as Sherlock tongued eagerly at the head of his cock was enough to force the young Alpha’s hand… literally. 

 

Oh, to be so bold…

 

After his hostile exchange with Victor that evening, he had rushed off in a fit of rage, barely paying attention to patrolling the perimeter of the estate. He had been angry and wrought with frustration that had only built and bubbled over as he’d returned to the house, long past dinner time. The moment he had sprinted away, he had only one desire in his heart and that was to find John Watson and explain away the aggravation that had mounted in his body, causing him to snap like a dry twig. No feeling in the world was worse than needing to see someone that you had no possible way of seeing when you needed them most. 

 

A small part of him wondered if he was even strong enough to withstand John’s deployment on his own and he had no idea how he was supposed to deal with the weaknesses that came with needing another person in his life. That had been enough reason in itself for Sherlock’s habit of distancing himself from other people and keeping them at arm’s length so that something as messy as ‘emotional attachment’ couldn’t affect him as it had done so many others.

 

Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he took in his flushed appearance; the blush on his stubbled cheeks flamed with desire and his curls were plastered to his forehead by a sheen of sweat that had broken across his forehead. His wild eyes even wilder as they were blown wide with arousal, and his lips were raw where his teeth had scraped across the sensitive flesh in his attempts to keep from being heard. 

 

In short, the man in the mirror wasn’t someone Sherlock had ever seen before. The things John Watson did to him and changed in his life had not been subtle in the least. The thoughts of sucking John off, the need to claim and mark and brand John as his own were thoughts that he had never entertained toward another person before. The thought of harnessing control over another person, over someone he cared about more than he cared for himself, was simply invigorating. 

 

His right hand gripped his cock tighter at the realisation and his body gave a pleasant jolt of arousal at his own desires being laid so bare before him. How was it that something so foreign and alien to him could send such a burning heat through his entire body, making him yearn for John’s touch in every sense possible. He had never wanted another person before in his entire life, yet here he was now, touching himself to thoughts of John Watson and wishing with everything he had in himself to be touched by him instead.

 

John...

 

His breath hitched in his throat as the thought of John seeing him like this crossed his mind. What would he think of the ‘brilliant Sherlock Holmes’, now? Reduced to his own animal instincts as he stroked himself and moaned under his own hand… He wasn’t so brilliant now, but he couldn’t help wondering what John would say to him… Would he still call him gorgeous and perfect? Even at his weakest as he took pleasure from himself and gave into his own depravity; allowing himself to become the one thing he had despised for so long?

 

The thought of John watching him was too much. He imagined the other man standing behind him in the mirror, navy blue eyes fixed on his own pale blue in the reflection. John in the mirror would rest his hands on the bare skin at Sherlock’s hips just above his open, low-slung trousers. He brushed his free hand over his own skin and moaned slightly, sliding his hand up his bare chest just as John had done that morning. As he touched himself, he imagined what it would feel like to have John’s fingers pinching at the hardened bud of his nipple instead of his own as the soldier in the mirror pressed hungry kisses into the crook of his neck, nipping at the sensitive skin to draw deep moans from Sherlock’s throat.

 

He adjusted his grip on his cock and felt a rush of heat burn low in his belly. He glanced down at the flushed head of his cock where his hand slid back and forth, dragging his foreskin up and over the tip before revealing it again. A drop of precome leaked from the tip and he used his thumb to smear it over the glans, groaning with abandon as he relished the sensation. He had never done anything this perverse in his life and he knew that a certain army doctor was the only reason he had given into his urges that evening, but the thrill he received in return far outweighed the guilt he knew was coming later. 

 

He licked his lips, feeling a strange pressure building up in the base of his cock and before he knew it, his cock twitched and he came with a shout. Thick stripes of come painted the surface of the washstand in front of him as he threw his hand out and gripped the edge to steady himself. A white heat pulsed behind his closed eyes and he felt his ragged breaths coming in audible gasps as he felt his knees threatening to buckle beneath his own weight. 

 

Lowering himself to the floor, Sherlock leaned back against the foot of the bed behind him as he fought to regulate the erratic beating of his heart. His entire body felt like he had just endured the most intense shift of his entire life, except it had been pleasure instead of pain that he had experienced with such intensity during the build up. 

 

Forcing his mind to reach beyond the parameters his orgasm, he let his gaze drift over the mirror where he fixated on a thick splatter of ejaculate dripping down the surface of the reflective glass. The fantasy John in his mirror was long gone, but the clear and present evidence of his debauchery staring back at him felt like an immediate slap in the face and Sherlock hung his head in defeat. John Watson was a weakness; something that Sherlock had not allowed himself to have in many, many years. John Watson made him do things that, in his right mind, he would never even entertain the thought of. 

 

As shame threatened to break through his rough exterior, Sherlock felt a growing warmth spread through his chest as the image of the real John Watson’s handsome face and golden blond hair surged to the forefront of his thoughts. The gleam in his affectionate gaze gave him hope and he knew that he had to hold onto as much of it as he could in the months to come. 

 

Giving into his primal urges couldn’t be seen as a weakness as long as he wanted to love John as his own, because it wasn’t. Learning the feel of his own body as well as familiarising himself with his own needs and desires shouldn’t be seen as an indecent act, but should be embraced as his own way of learning himself in order to share those discoveries with John when the time came. 

 

If the time ever comes…

 

The thought crossed Sherlock’s mind before he could stop it, but he shook his head to clear it away. He couldn’t allow himself to think like that. John Watson wanted him. John Watson cared about him and it was John Watson that he would wait for. No matter how long it may take…