Actions

Work Header

A Study in Sentiment

Work Text:

As he limps toward the sidelines of the ballroom, John Watson curses himself once again for having agreed to attend the evening’s festivities. It’s plain to see that it’s already a crush, and the ball has hardly just begun. Even before the war, he’d never been one for this sort of thing, and now… well. He shifts as much of his weight as possible onto his cane and surveys the back wall of the ballroom through the crowd, in hopes of finding himself a seat. If only Harry hadn’t gambled away the entirety of the family funds, including his inheritance, he wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

But thinking like that is entirely pointless.

If only Harry had been smarter. If only he’d been the heir rather than the spare. If only he hadn’t become a soldier and gotten himself shot on some godforsaken Spanish plain.

As his mother used to say; if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

And he’s not far off from being a beggar himself if he doesn’t see this through.

That or eat his pistol.

It should likely concern him the degree to which the appeal of latter option has grown of late, but he can’t bring himself to give a damn.

Someone calls out his name and he tenses, forcing himself to plaster his best approximation of a polite smile upon his face as he turns about to face them. He relaxes as soon as he catches sight of the Viscount Stamford’s round, jubilant face.

“Stamford,” he greets his old friend with a palpable sigh of relief.

“Watson!” Stamford grins, grasping his extended hand and enthusiastically clapping him on his good shoulder. He always has been the considerate sort. “What are you doing here, old chap? You’re not one for a crush like this.”

John quirks a rueful smile.

“Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about Harry’s latest exploits.”

“Ah yes,” Stamford winces. “Come to think of it, I did hear she had some recent misfortune at the gaming tables. Dreadful business— Is it really so bad as that then?”

John silently inclines his head.

“Ah,” Stamford offers a sympathetic shake of his head, then squares his shoulders. “Well, nothing for it then! Find yourself a bondmate with a decent dowry and you’ll be able to pull yourself out of it.”

“Who’d want me for a mate?” John questions with a grimace, despite having come with just that purpose in mind. Stamford may have landed himself the daughter of a Duke, despite his rather homely countenance, but he’s the good sort, with far more to recommend him than meets the eye. A good name, though not lofty, and a more than respectable income; not one for gambling, whoring or otherwise carousing. Though John is likewise disinterested in such illicit exploits, neither has he the title or purse to weigh in his favour.

“Oh, come now,” Stamford bolsters him with the nudge of an elbow. “Despite Harry’s best efforts to tarnish it, the Watson name still has it’s worth. And you know as well as I that, in the end, the title will fall to your heir— if not to you directly — what with Harry’s choice of wife.”

Though he knows that Stamford means only to bolster him, John instinctively bristles at the implied slight against his beloved sister-in-law. It reminds him all too well of their mother’s dismay when Harry had insisted on marrying her wife, despite the unfortunate assurance of her sterility as a beta. Be it as it may that it assures his own eventual inheritance (sooner rather than later, the way that Harry carries on) the very idea that Clara— the very soul of kindness and patience — might be considered inadequate over her inability to bear children, seems to John an inexcusable wrong.

“My Anna will find just the right match for you!” Stamford continues, oblivious to John’s vexation, as he turns to survey the crowd.

John’s anger dissipates, replaced by a small bubble of hope that rises in his chest as Stamford catches sight of his wife and shepards John in her direction. With Lady Stamford’s support, he may just have a chance at securing a decent match. With her breeding and vivacious personality, the circles in which she moved were far elevated above John’s own, despite having been rendered a mere Baroness by her marriage.

“Mr. Watson!” She exclaims warmly as she extends a gloved hand in greeting. “Oh, but it’s Captain Watson now, isn’t it?” She casts a worried look toward his cane. “Surely you shouldn’t be out on your feet just yet! I had heard you were quite grievously injured.’

“I assure you my lady, the worst has long since past, and I am as recovered as I’ll ever be.” He offers with a soft smile as he bows deferentially over her fingers. “And I’m afraid I have no choice.”

“My Dear,” Stamford smiles brightly. “Watson here is in search of a mate.” He casts an eye about and lowers his voice. “It seems that he has only his good name left to recommend himself. Harry’s squandered it all.”

“Oh my,” she frowns, her free hand coming up to flutter against her breast in disbelief. Like her husband, she recovers quickly. “Well! If that’s the case, leave it to me to be your first line of offence,” she smiles and winks, “I’ll lead you safely into battle.”

“If only all my commanding officers had been half so enchanting,” John quips with an answering smile in reply and her laugh tinkles out like fine crystal.

“Do take Captain Watson to rest that leg of his, Darling,” she directs her husband. “I will scout out our quarry and formulate our strategy.”

“As you command,” Stamford draws himself upright and taps his heels together in a mock salute. He cocks his head toward a nearby doorway. “This way Watson. The library here is well-appointed, and open to all, though most forgo it in favour of dancing and gossip.”

John follows gratefully, eager to be off his aching leg.

“There is someone who is given to frequenting it, but you know, I think you’ll like the fellow,” Stamford muses aloud with an enigmatic smile as they near the end of the long hallway and stop at a nondescript door.

“Oh?”

“Oh yes,” Stamford confirms as he opens the door and holds it open for John to limp through. “Smart as a whip— it’s a shame he’s an omega, really. Dreadful waste of a fine mind.”

John stops short in his tracks, gaping over his shoulder at Stamford in disbelief.

An omega?

There’s a figure perched on a ladder near the mantlepiece, clad in the distinctive pale silks and cream pantaloons of an unmarried omega, caught in the midst of liberating a particular book from the highest shelf. Stamford steps through the doorway behind John, forcing him to shuffle forward, then redirect his stare up at the figure just as they begin to speak.

“For the last time Mycroft, I refuse to be para—“ The young man begins irritably. He freezes in wide-eyed embarrassment as he turns his head toward the doorway and registers that it isn’t, in fact, ‘Mycroft’ who’s encroached upon his domain. “Oh, Stamford! My apologies. Hello,” he stammers and blushes prettily; a faint dusting of pink blooming across his cheekbones.

His impossibly beautiful cheekbones.

The boy's features are an odd jumble that shouldn’t work together in the slightest, but combine to give him a somewhat fey appearance. Quicksilver— almost cat-like— eyes, plush bow lips, those cheekbones, and a milk-pale complexion; all topped off by a riotous jumble of dark curls. Not as terribly young as he’d appeared at first glance, but still rather newly out.

He’s breathtaking.

The young man’s strange eyes fix on John, as Stamford begins to introduce him, giving him the uncanny feeling of being placed beneath a microscope.

“Lord Sherlock, might I— “

“Spain or Portugal?” He disregards propriety, and interrupts Stamford to question John directly.

“Spain,” John answers automatically, “I was injured at Vitoria.” He looks to Stamford in surprise. “Did you tell him about me?”

“Not a word.” Stamford shakes his head and grins broadly.

John scrunches his brow, turning back to frown perplexedly at the omega. “How did you— ” He begins to question bluntly before remembering himself with a cough, and looking to Stamford expectantly. Stamford stares blankly back at him for a moment, then starts.

“Oh yes! Lord Sherlock, might I present my good friend, Captain Watson? He's the brother of the Viscount Sondes. Captain Watson, this is Lord Sherlock Holmes.”

“Captain Watson,” Sherlock smirks at the formality, but politely inclines his head.

“Lord Sherlock,” John bows respectfully, then rights himself with his cane. “Forgive me, but how did you know?”

“Obvious!” The omega hops down from his perch and advances on John, eyes bright with excitement. “Your cane isn’t an affectation like so many alphas favour, but rather a necessity. Despite what everyone assumes, however, your leg suffered only a minor injury; it was the wound to your shoulder that nearly killed you. The leg is merely the most noticeable of the two. Regardless, obviously wounded in battle. But where?”

“We can look to your person for clues. Your complexion is far darker than befits a member of the beau monde, and your hair is clearly several shades lighter than it’s natural hue, which only further exaggerates your colouring. Frankly, as my Aunt Violet would say; you’re brown as a nut.”

“Perhaps I’m merely a gentleman farmer,” John finds his voice to wryly suggest.

“Please,” the omega unabashedly rolls his eyes. “It’s November— even if you had spent every day of the summer months out of doors, the effects of the English sun would have long since faded by now. Your tan is too deeply set, nor does it extend past your wrists or below your collar; judging by the lines of contrast briefly visible when you reached up to adjust your cravat. Men in the fields are given to stripping off their upper garments now and again while working, leaving no visible boundary to their colouring. Why would a man remain so fully dressed under the heat of the blistering sun so as to form such lines? Because they have to. A uniform.”

“So; we know that you’re a soldier, injured, and only recently returned to England, with lightened hair and darkened skin. The Empire has been engaged in an ongoing conflict against Napoleon’s forces on the Iberian Peninsula, with it’s markably warmer climes, for some years now. Which brings us to my original question: Spain or Portugal? Perhaps you would you be willing to answer a few questions for me. I’ve been trying to get my hands on more details about the conflict, but Mycroft is a dreadful bore and insists the information isn’t meant for ‘delicate eyes’.” With that, his mouth snaps shut and his monologue ends as abruptly as it began.

John stares at the young omega, stunned, then blinks.

“That was… amazing.”

“Really?” It seems Sherlock’s turn to goggle, as he stares at John with comically raised brows.

“Yes, absolutely,” John nods decisively. "Extraordinary. Quite extraordinary!”

The rosy bloom returns to Sherlock for an encore appearance. 

“That’s not what people usually say.”

“And what is it that they usually say?” John questions curiously. Sherlock hesitates, his gaze skittering briefly sidelong as he bites his lip.

"Generally some expression of surprise that my brother has allowed me out in polite company."

From Sherlock’s tactful delivery, John can imagine the exact nature of such ‘expressions of surprise’. He imagines some of the pompous prigs of the ton that he’s had the misfortune of knowing being on the business end of such a verbal dissection. Try as he might, John can’t hold back the burst of laughter that bubbles up from him. Sherlock struggles to keep a straight face, but quickly dissolves into giggles of his own, and Stamford joins in with a genial chuckle of his own.

They pass the rest of the evening ensconced in the library before the fire; Sherlock chattering away at a mile a minute, as if desperate to expunge all his built up thoughts and observations now that he has a captive (and willing) audience.

To John it seems as if mere moments have passed when a footman appears at Sherlock’s shoulder, leaning down to whisper in the omega’s ear. John spares a glance at the mantle clock and is startled to find it gone midnight. Sherlock pouts slightly at the man’s words but obediently rises from his seat regardless. John and Stamford respectfully follow suit.

“I’m afraid it’s time for me to bid you goodnight Gentlemen.” Sherlock imparts with a touch of… regret? His impossible eyes fix themselves on John in particular. “It was lovely to make your acquaintance Captain Watson— I do hope our paths will cross again soon.”

“Yes,” John offers dreamily without thought, than catches himself and clears his throat, “It would be my utmost pleasure my lord,” he hastily adds.

With a small smile and tilt of his head, Sherlock absents himself silently from the room. In a daze, John follows Stamford back out to the main ballroom, where Lady Anna swiftly descends upon them in giddy excitement.

“Oh Captain Watson!” she smoothly attaches herself to his arm and informs him happily from behind the flutter of her fan. “I’ve discovered several lovely prospects for you to consider. I’ll ensure that you’re invited to all the necessary engagements coming up, so that we can introduce you to them all.”

“Oh,” John starts, dragging his mind away from thoughts of Sherlock Holmes and forcing himself to focus on her instead. “I am utterly in your debt, my lady.”

She beams at him approvingly and snaps her fan shut, jauntily tapping his arm with it.

“Mark my words Captain, we’ll have you bonded before the season is out!”

He forces a smile to his face and hopes fervently that it appears suitably grateful.

He’d entirely forgotten the purpose of his attending this ball to begin with.

 


 

And so the Little Season draws to a close and then Christmas comes and goes. By the time all the Marriage Mama’s and their children return to town, and the Season proper commences, a small tradition of sorts has established itself.

John attends what feels like an endless stream of dinner parties, routs, assemblies, and balls — he puts on a proper face; engaging in cordial conversation with all the lovely, proper, appropriate young omegas paraded before him. And then, the moment that he’s able, he steals away in search of the venue’s library, garden or observatory, where he’s sure to find Sherlock.

Sherlock; who, within a bare handful of weeks, John can privately admit to himself that he’s fallen completely, hopelessly in love with.

Which would be all very well and good indeed, if not for the small, rather significant matter of Sherlock being the only sibling and ward of the notoriously supercilious and powerful Duke of Westminster. Currently considered the single greatest prize of the marriage mart due to both his fortune and breeding— pursued by all only the most loftily titled alphas; the comfortably heeled and fortune-hunter alike.

Utterly and entirely out of John’s reach.

He can’t even say that he’s surprised; it’s par for the course when it comes to his luck. Though, on the rare occasion that he allows himself to think upon it, he wonders at the unlikeliness of his infatuation. He’s always been a staunchly pragmatic man; without any tendency — or patience — for dramatics, and a preference for blandly, conventionally attractive bed-partners. And Sherlock is nothing if not dramatic, down to his very countenance. He’s mercurial in the extreme; prone to bouts of melancholy, widely interspersed by manic bursts of energy.

Be that as it may, it’s undeniable that they’ve somehow slipped into an intimacy unlike any John’s ever shared with another. He may not have a hope in Hades of offering for Sherlock, but he’s grateful for the honour of his friendship nonetheless. For being able to sit and bask in the presence of that brilliant mind, and enjoy every precious moment that he can— even if his hands ache to touch.

Some nights he listens to Sherlock ramble for hours about an extraordinary array of topics; from the mundane to the macabre. Others they sit in silence; the omega lost in the fathomless depths of his own thoughts, or stubbornly entrenched in an extravagant sulk. Still others they play games and exchange stories, like children whispering in the dark of the nursery, whilst the adults of the house engage in reveleries below.

He often finds himself sharing details of his life, and thoughts that he’s never before uttered aloud to any other living creature. Any sense of hesitance or self-doubt drowned out by the undeniable faith that Sherlock seems to place in him in turn, entrusting even the darkest of truths to John’s ears.

”I was meant to have my coming-out last season, you know,” the omega confides off-handedly one evening, as he engages in one of his impromptu ‘experiments’. John hums absently in response, carefully monitoring with a mixture of mild concern and bemusement as Sherlock kneels alarmingly close to the hearth of their current haunt, iron poker in hand. He’s not sure what relation Sherlock’s belated entrance into society has to this latest caper; and given that Sherlock is often given to wild non-sequiturs, he’s far more preoccupied with ensuring that his madman doesn’t inadvertently set himself alight.

“But as it so happened,” Sherlock continues, “I broke my arm falling from a tree on our estate in the summer months, and developed something of a troublesome fondness for laudanum during my recovery.”

The blood fairly freezes in John’s veins as his mind absorbs the unexpected revelation. While most physicians are quick to dispense the tincture for any number of maladies, he’s borne witness to the wretched conclusion of it’s abuse in the hellish wards of the military hospital in Spain. Sherlock carries on with his tale nonchalantly, oblivious to John’s growing consternation as he attempts to fish a smouldering silken slipper from the flames— one he himself had tossed in only moments before.

“All the arrangements had already been made for the ball — though thankfully the invitations had not yet been dispatched — when Mycroft became aware. He and Aunt Violet claimed an unexpected recurrence of my childhood infirmity of the lungs, and I was packed off to the country. Once I was successfully weaned from it, of course, I made a miraculous recovery; lest any busybodies wagging tongues suggest consumption. But it was far too late in the season by then for me to make my entrée.”

John listens with but half an ear; his mind churning through every moment spent in Sherlock’s company, searching for any small hint of a previously unbeknownst affliction. Sherlock glances back over his shoulder then, prompted perhaps by some noise or minute change in John’s breathing.

“You needn’t concern yourself Captain,” he cuts off John’s spiraling thoughts. “I’ve not touched the concoction since. Mycroft has banned it from the premises of our household entirely.”

“Good,” he nods brusquely as relief floods through him, disguising his ferverence with a rough cough. “That’s good.”

Sherlock inclines his head and fixes upon John with those sharp, quicksilver eyes; the shadows cast by the crackling flames transforming them into dark pools of unfathomable depth. Uncharacteristic shyness flickers across his features, and he nibbles lightly at his lip before he speaks.

“I’ve come to consider it an unexpectedly fortuitous misstep.”

“Oh?” John cocks his own head in confusion.

“You’ve spent the last five years fighting on the peninsula; a world away from the townhouses and assembly rooms of London. Were it not for my slight… misadventure, had I come out when I was meant to, our paths might never have crossed that evening in the library.” His mouth quirks into a crooked little smile. “I find that I cannot bring myself to entirely regret my actions, given the outcome.”

The words settle over and about John as he considers them, like the gentle embrace of warm counterpane. Indeed, had things gone differently, Sherlock might very well be long since bonded; already in the midst of his confinement with some other alpha’s heir.

While that future will inevitably still come to pass, they have had this time together in the meanwhile. His heart flutters slightly as he offers a soft, tremulous smile of his own.

It’s then that Sherlock realizes that the slipper — still dangling precariously from the end of his poker — has graduated from smouldering to fully aflame. He curses effusively and drops it on the marble hearth, snatching up a nearby cushion with which to beat the flames into submission. John barks a laugh and rises to assist him.

Once crisis has been averted, John holds the poor, ill-used cushion by one corner and eyes it’s singed embroidery.

“Well, this is most definitely unsalvageable.”

"It was unforgivably gaudy anyways," Sherlock dismisses flippantly as he throws up the window sash to air the room. "The Lady Fitzgerald has both the taste and needlepoint skills of a common magpie. Really, I’ve done society a great service; ensuring that no poor soul need ever subject their eyes to that monstrosity again."

John finds himself once again helpless against the laughter that bubbles up inside him.

“It is bloody hideous, isn’t it?” he agrees with a breathless giggle, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.

Sherlock grins as he plucks the eyesore from John’s hands and flings it through the open window, out into the dark of the garden below.

Abominable.”

 


 

For all their camaraderie, there is one subject that they never address directly: the profound divide between their circumstances. They only ever come close the once, owing to the Lord and Lady Stamford’s ability to host an exceptionally diverting rout. So diverting in fact, that John is unable to slip away until much later than usual; having spent the lion's share of the night on Lady Stamford’s arm, politely conversing with a number of marriageable young omegas.

He isn’t sure whether he’ll find Sherlock in the library, or if he’s waited too long, but sure enough, he finds the omega sprawled lackadaisically on the divan, absorbed in a book that appears to be — he squints at the spine — in German?

“You weren’t at the Earl of Wycombe’s fete,” Sherlock complains in lieu of greeting, slapping the book shut and rising to return it to the shelf. “I waited for you.”

“Of course I wasn’t,” John laughs genially as he settles down at Stamford’s lovely new chess table. He’d been looking forward to playing with it. “I was at Almack’s that evening.”

“Almack's?” Sherlock’s brows draw together in confused displeasure, as though John has just confessed that he was otherwise preoccupied visiting Bedlam. “Why on earth were you at Almack's?”

“Because I was fortunate enough to be granted a voucher. And besides; it hardly matters where I was, be it that I wasn’t invited to Wycombe’s,” John explains. “Wycombe has thirty thousand a year and his brother-in-law is the Lord President of the Privy Council. He’s certainly not going to invite the likes of me to his dinner party. Just because you’re invited to everything—”

“Well, of course I’m invited to everything,” Sherlock sniffs imperiously as he seats himself at down opposite John, and John has to smother a grin. For someone who purports to loathe society, and eschew it’s expectations, Sherlock can be something of a snob.

“Just because you’re invited,” John continues, “it certainly doesn’t follow that I should be. We’re hardly a matched set,” he adds with an awkward laugh.

Sherlock looks oddly lost at that.

“No, of course not,” he murmurs, frowning down at the game pieces.

And they speak of it no further.

Everything else remains unspoken; the fact that — for surely, Sherlock is able to read it all from the knot of his cravat, or the slight shabbiness of his waistcoat — it’s quite clear that John is in rather dire financial straits, and actively searching for mutually beneficial match.

That he’s almost certainly settled on Miss Mary Morstan, the charming omega daughter of a wealthy banker. One who will cheerfully pay a handsome sum for the privilege of his future grandchild to one day bear the title of Viscount Sondes.

That, soon enough, Sherlock himself will inevitably wed a suitable alpha; far wealthier and more titled than John Watson might ever hope to be.

And that these meetings of theirs will then immediately cease, for propriety’s sake.

If, on occasion, it feels as though perhaps their gazes have lingered a moment longer, or grown a touch more heated than appropriate, John rationalizes that it’s merely a concoction of his hopeful mind.

 


 

As the months pass, what’s perhaps strangest, or rather, most difficult about their anomalous friendship is maintaining the fiction polite formality in the company of others. Even if Sherlock’s card weren’t perpetually full from the moment he steps into any ballroom, it would attract far too much attention for the lowly Captain Watson overstep his bounds to ask for a dance.

Instead, when Sherlock deigns to socialize — or, more truthfully, is strong-armed into it by his brother or Aunt Violet — John can do no more than watch covetously from the sidelines as Sherlock twirls about the dancefloor in the company of other Alphas.

He tells himself that it’s a sort of inoculation against the dreaded eventuality of Sherlock bonding with another.

But sometimes, when the longing is just sharp enough, it pushes him into small lapses of judgement. Which is precisely to what he would ascribe his actions at the Lady Somerby’s annual masquerade. He’s always been a straightforward man, never one for deception; even of the harmless, frivolous sort of a masquerade. But one does not turn one's nose up at the tacit support of one if the ton's chief patronesses.

So he finds himself wandering the back corridors of the Argyll Rooms, to avoid the inane tittering near the entrance; where the bulk of the guests preen over the cleverness of their costumes, and try to surmise which Raja is actually a Duke, or shepherdess a certain dowager countess making the most of her widowhood. Towards the end of the corridor, he catches the faintly spicy scent of an omega’s perfume. As he rounds the corner, he comes across a tall, lithe figure swathed in a swirling, feathered domino of all black; fidgeting with their bejeweled mask in the shadows.

“Careful,” he cautions, “or you’ll ruin your disguise.”

The omega starts and freezes, pivoting about slowly about to face him. With the wisp of dark curls peeking out from beneath the domino’s hood, it puts him in mind of Sherlock— if he were to have even a modicum of interest in any sort of social fripperies.

“And if I did?” They ask. “What would happen then?” Their voice is unfamiliar to his ear, but odd, as if somewhat forced. Perhaps they’re just the bashful sort.

“Well, that’s the whole point of these things, is it not? Pretending to be someone else for the evening; freed from the rules or restrictions of one’s true identity?”

Behind the mask, their eyes drop pointedly to the simple eye mask he clutches in his own hand. Despite the obstruction of their features, he knows with a bone-deep certainty that they’ve raised one brow.

“Well,” He laughs unabashedly, caught out. “I’ve never had much skill at pretending to be anything other than myself.”

“An admirable trait,” they respond with a smile as he fits the mask to his face and efficiently ties it in place.

An impulse strikes him, and he turns it over in his mind. The omega is almost certainly one with whom he could never hope to engage with under normal circumstances… but as he just said himself; this is the entire purpose of masquerades, is it not? Surely there is no harm in allowing himself such a small indulgence.

“I suppose your card must be full?” He questions, before his better sense can override desire.

The Omega tilts their head, peering out at him unreadably from behind their mask. His heart pounds in his chest as immediately he regrets the leap. Why on earth would this lithe, elegant creature want to associate with a short-statured, broken and penniless alpha such as himself? Just as he opens his mouth to stammer a quick pdeflection of his presumptuous question, they flash a still-blank card in his direction with a genteel flick of their wrist.

“I do so happen to have a free dance.”

Neither of them make any attempt at the customary polite conversation as they navigate through the steps of the cotillion, but he is left with no doubts as to the focus of their attention regardless. Their gaze remains fixed on him all the while; boring into him intently from behind that glittering black mask. The focus is almost hypnotic; he finds himself so driven to distraction that he even forgets to look for Sherlock in the crowd. As the last notes of the dance fade away, he finds himself in loathe to yet bid his mystery partner adieu.

“Would you perhaps…" his voice creaks, rusty from disuse, and he pauses to clear his throat. "Might I interest you in a turn about the garden?"

"You may," they murmur agreeably, slipping their hand through the crook of his offered arm.

The path is well lit with charming little lanterns, and there are more than enough fellow guests about to preserve an air of propriety. As they walk the gravel path arm in arm, John finds himself at a loss for words once again. Despite his desire to remain in their company, it’s admittedly difficult to surmise an appropriate topic of conversation when you’re entirely unaware of your partner’s identity, and he feels little desire to engage in the usual veiled flirtation that’s commonplace at these sort of affairs. As they round a well-kept topiary alongside the walkway, the omega startles him by grasping his sleeve and pulling him into the small, shadowed nook just behind it.

It all happens very quickly; before he can question their intentions, they duck their head down and press their soft lips gently against his. As the momentary sense of alarm subsides he closes his eyes and leans into the kiss; forgetting himself for a moment in the simple pleasure of human touch. When the warm tip of a tongue extends to hesitantly trace his lower lip he opens to it willingly, reaching up to slip his fingers beneath their hood and into a soft cloud of curls.

His mind fills with thoughts of Sherlock, he pulls back immediately, gasping.

“My sincerest apologies,” he stammers, even as the Omega sways forward after him, offering a tiny mewl of protest. He jolts backward a step, removing himself to just outside their reach.

God, what the hell is he doing?

He’s in love with one omega, as good as promised to another, and here he is in the dark corner of a garden with a third; taking unacceptable advantage of what’s clearly an innocent. He hasn’t the faintest why they’ve chosen to try their hand at the seductive arts with him, but it’s clearly a sweetly naive experiment nonetheless.

“No,” he shakes his head, digging his heels in firmly as they clasp his forearms and try to tug him gently back into their sphere. “I’m afraid that I…" he hesitates. It is, perhaps, unwise to make grand confessions to masked strangers, in an open garden where others could happen upon them at any moment.

But something within him needs to say the words, unwise as it may be. And with this masked stranger in particular he feels a strange sense camaraderie. "In the interest of being entirely truthful; my heart belongs to another.”

Saying it aloud for the very first time is equal parts thrilling and terrifying, setting his heart to racing as though he's kicked it to a gallop.

"Ah." Behind the mask their eyes widen slightly and their hands fall away as they steady themselves upright. “I see.”

"And I'm afraid that I am overdue to meet them,” he announces abruptly, rapping his heels together and offering a brief decorous bow. “I apologize for any unintended offense."

They incline their head in silent assent one last time. And with that he pivots sharply and retreats. When he hazards a final glance back over his shoulder, those shadowed eyes remain unwavering, intently watching him go.

 


 

He arrives at the evening's agreed upon meeting place shortly thereafter, first for once.

“Oh ho,” he exclaims when a flushed and strangely dishevelled looking Sherlock finally makes his appearance, bursting into the room as though the devil himself were on his heels. “No disguise?”

“You know how I feel about such drivel.” Sherlock smiles tightly, folding himself down onto the bench beside John.

“Of course,” John agrees, forcing a smile of his own as his traitorous mind immediately drifts back to the garden, and the thoughts of Sherlock that had flashed through his mind.

The swell of guilt is immediate and pervasive.

He ruminates on it, fingers contracting into a tight fist at his side to quell the growing tremor in his hand. It isn’t a matter of unfaithfulness, of course — he and Sherlock certainly haven't any sort of romantic arrangement between them. No, what he's done is a betrayal of trust, not physical fidelity.

While he cannot boast Sherlock's intellect, even he is well aware that the founding tenent of their friendship is one of equality. He's not oblivious to Sherlock's gender, certainly, but he's always maintained staunch control over his alpha instincts. Sherlock trusts John to see him as more than an object of lust.

By imagining those lips against his as Sherlock’s, he'd given in to his baser urges and violated that trust.

So mired is he in his own thoughts, it takes him some time to realize that they’ve fallen into an uncomfortable silence, thoroughly uncharacteristic of their usual rendezvous. He shakes himself and casts about for something to say, and his eye catches on the ashen cast of Sherlock's cheek.

“You look a bit peaky,” he frowns. "Are you alright?"

“I’m fine.”

“You’ve been getting into some sort of mischief, haven’t you," he sighs, preemptively raising a staying palm. “Don’t tell me; I'm sure it’s best I remain ignorant.”

“Yes,” Sherlock is quick to agree. "Best not."

Rather too quickly in John's estimation, considering how long he'd nattered on about his newfound lock-picking skills over the last fortnight. Given that was downright illegal and Sherlock hadn't been modest about it in the slightest, just how bad might tonight's mischief possibly be? A thought occurs to him then, thinking about where he himself has just come from, and his hand drops limply to his side.

Perhaps it's an entirely different sort of mischief Sherlock's been getting into.

He considers Sherlock's flushed cheeks, and unusually rumpled appearance. While Sherlock may lack romantic interest in John, it does not naturally follow that the young omega is without any urges of his own. Perhaps he's set his cap at another alpha more to his liking. His stomach twists at the thought of Sherlock hiding away in some dark corner, tangled in the embrace of some young, attractive, infinitely more suitable alpha. Having to cry off to go visit with his sad, broken old friend.

Yes. Now that he’s taken a moment to consider it, that’s doubtless the case.

He swallows against the sudden prickle in the back of his throat. Their time together was always bound to come to an end sooner rather than later.

 


 

It’s nearly the end of the Season when the Duke of Westminster himself hosts a ball at his townhouse off Grosvenor Square, to which John’s startled to find an invitation delivered to his apartments. He and the Duke hardly travel in the same circles, and John will certainly not flatter himself to think that the Lady Stamford’s support has elevated his own social status to quite such a degree. Sherlock must have arranged it somehow.

John seeks out the library immediately upon his arrival, determined to enjoy every last moment he has with his friend to the fullest. As expected, he finds the omega already awaiting him, curled up indecorously in one of the reading chairs by the mantle, staring distractedly into the flames.

Ah, so it’ll be one of those nights then.

He seats himself into the chair opposite, sighing contentedly as he sinks in to it’s plush embrace. The rickety wooden chair by the hearth in his own rooms certainly doesn’t compare. Even if Sherlock’s wrapped up in his own mind all evening, there’s no harm in John hiding out in here all evening. Mary is most certainly not in attendance, so he needn’t spend time playing court, and it’s wildly unlikely anyone of this set will note his absence. He settles back comfortably and allows his eyes to drift shut.

They fly open again almost immediately as a warm weight settles on his knee, and he stares in shock at the sight of Sherlock climbing into his lap.

“Sherlock!” He exclaims; as utterly scandalized as he is painfully, shamefully aroused. “What in the devil are you doing?”

“I should like to kiss you,” Sherlock offers plainly as he better seats himself atop John's thighs.

“I beg your pardon?” John sputters. He attempts to remove Sherlock from his lap, but the omega stubbornly resists, and proves himself to be surprisingly stronger than he appears. “Sherlock, this is most irregular!”

“You enjoyed kissing me before,” Sherlock protests with a sullen pout, and John freezes in place.

“I’m sorry?”

“In the garden,” Sherlock elaborates. "Your pupils dilated, and your heart-rate increased.”

John stares, hands going limp against Sherlock’s hips as realization begins to sink in. Quite suddenly his mouth seems unaccountably parched. He licks his lips.

“In the garden?”

Wordlessly, Sherlock arches sideways over the arm of the chair, and reaching down to retrieve something wedged beneath it. As he brings it up to eye level, the object resolves itself by the light of the fire to a familiar black, feathered mask. The breath catches in John’s throat. Sherlock had been tangled in the embrace of some alpha that night, just as he had dreaded.

His.

“That was you.”

“Yes,” Sherlock confirms, dropping his eyes to stare intently at the fabric of John’s waistcoat; the only tell of any sort of self-consciousness. “I hadn't intended it as any sort of trickery,” he rushes to add. “I'd only meant to use the disguise to gather some observations on the influence of perceived anonymity upon social behaviour. But then you didn't recognize me and… It was only meant to be an experiment.”

“An experiment?” John questions, heart beating loudly enough in his ears to nearly drown out the sound of his own voice. Sherlock nods, continuing to avoid John’s eyes as he continues, reaching between them to fiddle with one of John’s buttons.

“You’re the first person who’s truly enjoyed my company, rather than just tolerated because of my station, or bloodline, or fortune. I’ve found myself experiencing… feelings of late. Of the sort that I’ve never felt before now. Toward you.”

”I thought it perhaps an unavoidable biological attraction at first; best ignored until it fades away. But it hasn’t. Instead I find myself perpetually consumed by thoughts of you, and an incessant desire for your company. It’s grown almost impossible to think clearly without your presence. I’ve begun to suspect that perhaps you have feelings of a similar nature toward myself as well, but I couldn’t be sure— there was no way to test my hypothesis without risking our friendship entirely. Until the opportunity presented itself that night. But then you confessed...” he trails off, finally raising his eyes to meet John’s gaze. “I thought at first that you meant Miss Morstan, but then… You meant me, didn’t you?"

John refuses to answer. This is a road that he cannot allow himself to trod upon; one that only leads to heartache. He sits up a touch straighter and warily clasps Sherlock’s hips, gently applying a forward pressure in a renewed effort to unseat the omega.

“No Sherlock. These feelings… it’s biological, just as you said. They’re very natural, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but they would be better suited directed toward someone else.”

“Oh, do stop being noble,” Sherlock rolls his eyes and mulishly pushes back. He cups John’s face between his hands, stroking it pleadingly. “I love you. And you return the sentiment; I know that you do. Please. For once let me have what I want, not what my brother or someone else tells me that I do.”

John closes his eyes, feeling his resolve crumbling away beneath those warm palms. He opens them again and looks to the door. In all these months that they’ve been meeting, not once have they been interrupted or intruded upon, and it seems even more unlikely here in Sherlock’s own home.

“Please John.” Sherlock repeats himself quietly, leaning close to press soft, featherlight kisses against the curve of John’s resistant mouth. Hearing his Christian name from Sherlock’s lips stills something in him that’s never before quieted. With a final wary glance at the door, he tightens he buries a hand in those gleaming chestnut curls and pulls.

The meeting of their mouths borders on violent, both of them gripping hard and crushing the other close. The culmination of every protracted moment of longing that’s built up between them over the last several months, it’s a simple thing to lose one’s self in; air becoming little more than an inconvenient obligation. He explores the bewitching curve of those lips worshipfully, savouring the indescribable taste of Sherlock’s mouth. Sweet, but tart; as decadent as biting into a ripened plum in the dead heat of summer.

John struggles with the neatly tied cravat at Sherlock’s throat, cursing fashion and the peerless skill of the omega’s abigail all at once. His unsteady fingers working determinedly until the knot finally gives. Crisp white linen unfurls in his hands, and he impatiently tugs it free and casts it away, shoving aside the starched collar beneath to expose the creamy expanse of Sherlock’s bare, unmarked neck. John stifles a growl at the sight, barely containing the instinctual alpha impulse to sink his teeth in and claim.

He quells the urge by pressing his mouth to it in a series of hot, sucking kisses. Sherlock pants, arching his head backward to provide better access, his pulse hammers beneath John’s tongue. The alpha’s control falters briefly, and he nuzzles against the scent gland in the junction of Sherlock’s neck before scraping his teeth over it— gently enough not to bruise, but hard enough to wring a sharp gasp from the omega.

Sherlock’s hand rises to clutch tightly at the back of John’s skull, long fingers scrabbling in ashy-gold locks. His free hand grasps John’s, pulling it away from his hip to tug it downward, pressing it against the fall of his breeches. John mindlessly follows the direction, groping at the small, hard ridge straining against the fabric, muffling his own groan against the warm neck beneath his lips as Sherlock responds to his touch with a broken moan.

At that very moment, the library door swings open unexpectedly. John rears up in horror as the Duke of Westminster himself enters, in the company of two other gentlemen.

"Fuck." He snatches his hand back as if burned, his arousal never having been more firmly or abruptly quashed in all his life. Sherlock slumps in his lap; flushed and panting for air, looking inexpressibly beautiful, and thoroughly debauched.

Sherlock!” The Duke thunders apoplectically, whilst the older gentleman to his right sputters.

“Why, I never!”

Sherlock rolls his head to face the doorway and languidly greets them without rising— as though he and John have merely been partaking of a lovely tea service.

“Hello Mycroft. Lord Wycombe, Fitzmaurice.” He smiles smugly before swanning from John’s lap to slouch against the arm of the chair, casually crossing his ankles as he makes introductions. “John, might I introduce you to my brother; the Duke of Westminster, and the Earl of Wycombe and his son, the Viscount Fitzmaurice; my intended betrothed.”

“Your what?” John hears himself asking dumbly, his limbs growing heavy and numb; the entire tableau taking on the surreal quality of an unpleasant dream.

“My betrothed. It was to be announced at the culmination of tonight’s festivities. But, oh dear,” Sherlock looks down at his dishevelled garments and splotchy, reddened neck as if in surprise. “It does appear that I’ve been quite thoroughly ruined. I suppose now you’ll have to insist that I marry Captain Watson instead, Mycroft. Unless of course, Lord Wycombe, you’re content with possibility of a cuckoo inheriting the family seat.”

John gawps at Sherlock in utter shock, struggling to reconcile the sweet, soft omega, who’d crawled beguilingly into his lap scant minutes ago with this steely-eyed creature. A startling realization breaks over him and he looks up at Sherlock accusingly.

“You knew that they were meeting here.”

Sherlock’s eyes flick toward him, softening momentarily.

“Of course I did,” he confirms with a wrinkle of his brow. “How else was I to have you?”

Despite the ice that's seized his veins, John can’t help the stirring of something warm inside his chest at the bare honesty of the confession.

“If you would be so kind as to grant me a private audience with my brother Gentlemen,” the Duke bites out as he gives the bell-pull in the corner a sharp tug. A footman materializes almost immediately. “Ainsworth here will show you to my private study.”

“My Lords,” the footman bows, “this way please.”

The Earl bustles out immediately, muttering indignantly under his breath as he departs, but Lord Fitzmaurice steps forward, advancing upon Sherlock instead.

“Well done Sherly,” he grins rakishly, dragging his eyes appreciatively along the length of Sherlock’s body, lingering on the bared stretch of his neck. “How deliciously wanton. I never would have known you had it in you. What a shame— we could have had such fun together. When you tire of this Watson chap and want a bit of fun, do come calling.” He brazenly lifts a hand and reaches out to stroke Sherlock’s cheek.

“Unlikely,” Sherlock sneers, flinching away from the touch.

John rises with a low growl, the indelicate situation in his trousers thankfully little more than a fleeting memory.

Not you, Captain Watson,” the Duke commands icily without turning away from the sideboard as he pours himself a generous snifter of brandy. Fitzmaurice smirks as he offers Sherlock an exaggeratedly decorous bow, then briskls vacates the room in his father’s footsteps.

John drops back into his seat like a stone.

 


 

Much later he marvels over the evening’s events in wonderment as he rides back to his rooms in the Duke’s own curricle.

Sherlock is going to be his.

It’s almost impossible to imagine, despite the fact that he stood next to Mycroft Holmes, in a ballroom crowded by the creme of the beau monde as the man had announced — to the shock of all in attendance — the engagement of his brother to Captain John Watson.

Engaged.

To Sherlock.

He pinches his thigh, hard, suddenly sure that he’s caught up in the throes of a particularly fantastical dream. Nothing happens aside from the sharp twinge of pain in his leg, so he closes his eyes and rests his head blissfully back against the cushioned seat.

 


 

He’s deep asleep when he’s jarred awake by a shadowy figure climbing over him in his bed. He starts violently, reaching up to grasp the figure’s arms, grappling them off his chest and to pin them against the mattress.

He freezes as his eyes adjust to the dim light provided by the smouldering remains of the fire in the hearth, and he realizes the identity of the intruder.

“Sherlock? What in the bloody— “

He’s cut off as Sherlock arches hard beneath him, crushing their lips together. He groans in surprise, instantly and undeniably aroused, despite himself. After a moment his mind asserts itself and he forces himself to pull back. Sherlock squirms prettily against his hands, and his cock stirs to life beneath his nightshirt.

“We didn’t finish what we started in the library,” Sherlock offers petulantly.

John stares down at him, than looks toward the window, where a sliver of moonlight peeks through the curtains as they billow slightly on a cool breeze. The window he’d most assuredly shut before retiring to bed. He turns back to Sherlock and arches a brow.

“So you… stole out of your home in the dead of the night. To break into my rooms.”

“Yes,” Sherlock blinks up at him as though that were an entirely unremarkable course of action. After a beat, his tongue darts out to lick at his plush lower lip, and he pants slightly as he shifts his hips beneath John’s. Realizing then that he’s still pinning the omega down against the mattress, John rears back onto his elbows, releasing Sherlocks wrists as if burned.

“Jesus. Sherlock, I could have attacked you! Pray remember, I was a soldier.”

“You wouldn’t have,” Sherlock argues, making no move whatsoever to move out from beneath John’s thighs as expected. “Even asleep, you’d subconsciously recognize my scent.”

John makes to move off the omega’s prone body, but Sherlock quickly winds his legs about his hips, halting the motion. His long long legs, John’s baser instincts helpfully take note of. John swallows, shifting his weight to hold his groin as far away from Sherlock’s as possible, desperately willing his eager cock to subsist, to no avail. As it had in the library, he feels his resolve slowly crumbling… until his nose catches the faintest hint of a familiar scent. He stiffens.

“Sherlock,” he cautions sternly, “I told you. We can’t.”

“We’re engaged now,” Sherlock protests, “I don’t see why not.”

“Because,” John forces his lust-addled mind to reason. “Your heat is coming on; I can smell it. You could… I could get you with child.” He offers bluntly. Beneath his nightshirt, thankfully out of sight, his traitorous cock contradicts his objection, twitching immediately at the very notion.

“No you couldn’t,” Sherlock insistently contents. John is momentarily affronted by the implied slight to his virility before realization dawns on him suddenly. Oh— omegas are notoriously sheltered, and Sherlock is just barely out of the schoolroom. Perhaps he doesn’t realize how…

“I understand the mechanics of reproduction,” Sherlock interrupts his train of thought with a truly dramatic roll of the eyes. “But I’ve taken an infusion.”

“You’ve what?”

“An herbal infusion, of my own devising, meant to suppress my oestrus. It’s efficacy is somewhat questionable, as I haven’t had the opportunity to test it until now, but I’m confident it will work. But in the event that it doesn’t take, it will hardly matter by the time the child arrives. At least half the guests in attendance this evening likely believe I'm already increasing. They think there’s no earthly reason Mycroft would have consented to the union otherwise. I imagine there are already being made as to how ‘early’ our first child will arrive.” Impatiently, Sherlock slips his hand down between them in an effort to ruck up John’s nightshirt. “Now that that’s been addressed, if you could just— “

“No,” John repeats firmly, smoothly rolling off of Sherlock and disrupting his efforts.

“John,” Sherlock whines plaintively as he attempts to follow. He grasps John’s hand in his own and drags it downward to press it against the hard bulge in the front of his pantaloons, as he had in the library. “I want you so badly.”

“No Sherlock,” John insists again, though more gently than before. He tugs his hand free to cup Sherlock’s face, drawing it close to press tiny kisses along the sweet curve of his cheekbone. “We’ll wait, love. I don’t want your first time to be a hurried tumble in the dark, and I refuse to take any more of a risk against your honour. I want to take my time and spread you out on our marriage bed, as you deserve.”

“Yes,” Sherlock breathes, eyes glazed and molten. “Alright.”

 


 

Creeping down his own drainpipe in the dead of the night to sneak through the thick midnight fog blanketing London, to return his little burglar home, is one of the most ridiculous things that John has ever done. He says as much, giggling helplessly as he helps Sherlock scale the rose trellis beneath his bedroom window.

Once Sherlock is safely back inside, he turns to leans upon the sill and, with a thoughtful expression, opens his mouth to speak.

“Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone. And yet, no further than a wanton’s bird, that lets it hop a little from his hand like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves, and with a silken thread, plucks it back again. So loving jealous of his liberty.”

John blinks incredulously.

“Is that… Shakespeare?” Even in the hay moonlight, the hot blush that stains Sherlocks cheeks is obvious. It’s painfully becoming, and the loveliest sight he’s ever seen. John’s heart feels suddenly full to bursting. “Are you my Juliet?” He teases.

“No,” Sherlock scowls, drawing away from the window. John quickly pulls himself up on the trellis and leans over the window sill in pursuit. He catches Sherlock's cravat one handed and tugs him back, pressing a fierce kiss against that prettily pouting mouth.

“We’ll soon have a proper nest of our own, my love. And a happier end than those two,” he promises with one last brush of his lips. “I love you.” And with that, he pulls away and carefully makes his way back down to the ground.

The realization comes to him, as he hurries home through the thick fog, that the entire course of the night his leg hadn’t troubled him once.

 


 

It isn’t all roses and sunshine of course. While Sherlock may not be bothered in the slightest about thwarting his brother's plans, for John the matter is far more ignominious. The following morning, John finds himself summoned back to the Duke’s home, to face the man’s cold-blooded displeasure.

“I’ve secured the Trevors’ agreement to ensure the events which occurred in my library will not be made known. As far as anyone is aware, yours is simply a highly unexpected love match, but unextraordinary in any other way.” The Duke informs them over a cordial breakfast, saying the word love as another might say consumption. He stares Sherlock down firmly across the table. “It will be a proper engagement, with a full reading of the banns. I’ll not have the family name sullied.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes gratuitously when John gives him a pointed look as the Duke helps himself to another portion of honey cake.

At the conclusion of the meal, Sherlock is summarily dismissed, whilst John is near-frogmarched down the hall to the Duke’s private study.

“Well, Captain Watson,” Duke addresses him tersely as they settle opposite one another at the man’s stately mahogany desk. “It behooves us to discuss the particulars of this engagement amongst ourselves as gentlemen. Though, you’ll forgive me if I have my reservations as to whether you are deserving of that moniker.”

John feels his face heat in mortification.

“I assure you, your Grace, we’ve not— “

The Duke holds up a staying hand.

“I’m sure I have no desire to know what sort of debaucheries you’ve engaged in with my brother, Captain.” He pauses to retrieve a sheaf of papers from the drawer of his desk. “In any case, the extent of your misdeeds is immaterial; the behaviour I witnessed taking place in my library is sufficiently ruinous in and of itself, and the damage has been done. I do hope, for my brother’s sake, that you don’t make a habit of disrobing and mauling young omegas.”

“Certainly not,” John protests in horror.

“How fortunate for us all that you’ve decided to begin now,” the Duke smiles bloodlessly. “I gather that you are attempting to imply that we need not concern ourselves with a premature confinement? Forgive me if I find the assurance to be one of cold comfort.

“Rest assured Captain; would it not attract considerably more scandal than the situation already at hand, and irreparably ruin my brother, I would not hesitate to call you out, as befitting of a scoundrel such as yourself.”

He pages through the bundle of documents briefly, then sets to copying the contents of one onto a fresh sheet. “You will of course receive my brother's dowry, in addition to the property I had intended to bequeath to him in the event of his marriage. The lion's share of his marriage portion will, however, be deposited to a trust in his name, from which you will receive a monthly stipend. I will settle any personal debts that you have incurred separately, as well as those against your family seat; providing that your sister sign the property over to your name post-haste.” He glances up from the page to look down his nose at John. “I do understand that to be the primary motivator of this endeavour.”

“I didn’t— I don’t… “ John stammers angrily, countenance reddening as his ire soars in the face of such an insulting accusation. “You may place the entirety of the funds in the trust, and leave the deed of the property in Sherlock’s name as well. And hang Harry’s debts! I realize that your Grace believes me to be a scoundrel of the worst sort, but the truth of the matter is that your brother himself is the prize in my mind— one which I never hoped or expected to attain. My regrettable actions were spurred forth by infatuation, rather than the pursuit of a fortune.”

He finds himself standing.

“I have no interest in any of your brother’s accompanying monies, except for the sole purpose of keeping him in a manner to which he is accustomed, and providing for his every want.” He stops to draw a harsh breath. “I love him.”

The Duke returns his pen to its stand and stares. He folds his fingers together before himself as he contemplates John carefully.

“Sherlock,” he questions. “You… love him?”

“I do,” John swallows and nods decisively.

“You’re serious.” The Duke leans back in his chair, visibly incredulous. His eyes narrow. “And if I were to do as you say, and draw up a contract this very moment, ensuring that not so much as a sixpence goes toward anything besides his keeping, you would not protest?”

“Your Grace,” John presses his palms to the smooth edge of the tabletop, and leans forward with grave seriousness. “I would write it out in my own hand.”

 


 

And so they are formally betrothed. Over the course of the ensuing weeks, as the banns are read, there are countless stolen kisses and caresses, and John frequently comes to regret his decision to wait to consummate their union. But when the arrangements have been made, and their wedding day finally dawns, he knows it was the right one.

Come evening, he’ll take Sherlock back to their new home at Baker Street; a generous wedding gift from Sherlock’s brother. It’s fully appointed and prepared for their arrival, and as his fiancé has all the restrain of a nesting magpie, already comfortably cluttered with an odd assortment of curiosities.

He loves it.

The wedding itself, on the other hand, far less so. Following the blessedly simple bonding ceremony at St. George’s, they adjourn to the Duke’s manse for a lavish venetian breakfast at his new brother-in-law’s insistence; a far more extravagant affair than John is entirely comfortable with. Harry herself makes an appearance, though he can’t recall having invited her, but he’s pleased enough to have the opportunity to present dear Clara to his new husband. Outside of that however, he hardly has the opportunity to speak to Sherlock; so bombarded they are with hobnobbing well-wishers. As the day drags on, he feels himself growing increasingly short-tempered by the festivities. By the time that they are toasted and seen off, he’s quite frankly chomping at the bit to be off.

And then, finally, they’re home; and in rather rapid succession, in their bed.

Finally.

He strips Sherlock out of his pristine white wedding suit, laying kisses upon every inch of newly exposed skin as the omega shivers delicately beneath him. Despite his eagerness all those weeks ago, Sherlock is oddly shy now, with the light from the fire and the candles on the bedside table as baring him fully to John’s eyes. Ivory thighs tremble slightly when he parts those long, colt-like legs, and he stops, propping himself up on one elbow.

“We can stop,” he offers, gentling Sherlock with a soft stroke along his side. “There’s no rush if you’re frightened.”

Sherlock shakes his head, silky curls jostling about violently. He reaches down to tug at John’s shoulders with pleading hands, pulling the alpha closer. John goes willingly, blanketing Sherlock’s slender form with his own.

“No,” Sherlock entreats, “please. I want you. So badly. I want everything. But I don’t know how,“ he turns his face into John’s neck and huffs.

“Ah,” John muses, realizing then that he’s gone about this all the wrong way. For all his posturing, Sherlock is nonetheless young, inexperienced omega. Full of urge and instinct, but innocent to the act of lovemaking. And, above all else, he’s Sherlock.

He needs to go at the pace of his own mind, and determine for himself what it is that he wants. With a flash of brilliance, he grabs hold of Sherlock’s hips and rolls onto his back, dragging the omega along to sprawl over top of him. “Go on then,” he encourages with a smile, “experiment on me.”

Sherlock stares down at him, hair adorably rumpled and cheeks endearingly flushed. He shifts his weight on his knees, seating himself firmly down upon John’s groin. He rocks slightly, as if testing the invitation. The movement rubs the hard length of John’s cock firmly through his breeches, and he lets out an involuntary groan at the sensation.

Oh.” Sherlock’s eyes widen at the sound, and he bites at his lip as he shifts his hips, rocking down against John once more. “That’s… um, very good.”

Sherlock explores John’s body curiously, no inch of flesh escaping his perusal. When he divests John of his shirt, his attention is immediately captured by John’s bullet wound.

“I’m sorry pet, it’s a rather ugly sight,” John covers the gnarled scar tissue with his palm. Sherlock tugs it away impatiently.

“No,” he contends, leaning in close to examine it, running his fingers over it curiously. “It’s interesting. And it brought you to me.”

“Never thought of it that way before,” John feels the beginnings of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“Well, now you will,” Sherlock announces imperiously, and that tug gives way to a burst of pleased laughter.

“Does that mean that I’ve taken a bullet for you,” he asks flirtatiously, rubbing his thumb in gentle circles against the smooth curve of Sherlock’s hip.

“Mm,” Sherlock hums, eyes fluttering as he shivers slightly at the touch. “Yes, I believe so.”

As John stares up at the beautiful creature above him, with those cat-like eyes glinting mischievously in the candlelight — his husband — he thinks that it feels like nothing so much as the truth.

Sherlock’s palms move on to glide across the smooth plain of John’s chest, and it’s light dusting of golden hair. His mouth quickly joins his hands; tasting John’s skin with lips, teeth and tongue in a slow, thorough manner that makes it rather obvious that he’s committing it all to memory. John squirms in a very pleasant sort of agony when Sherlock take one dusky nipple into his mouth, laving at it curiously with his tongue.

“The texture of the skin is different here, as is the taste.” Sherlock murmurs around the pebbled flesh, making John gasp when the small licks resolve into a gentle nip. One long-fingered hand returns to the light fur in the centre of his chest to stroke at it. “And the texture changes again here.”

John can’t imagine that being the subject of such dedicated scientific study has ever been quite so pleasurable for anyone before.

After what feels like an age, Sherlock’s hands finally trail lower, to where pale gold grows darker and coarser. He gives a pleased hum and shuffles backward slightly, to rest his bottom on John’s thighs instead. Long fingers don’t hesitate as they unfasten the falls of John’s pantaloons, and peel the fabric down to expose the Alpha’s thick, engorged member for the first time. His eyes widen at the sight of it.

“Will it— ” his throat bobs as he swallows, “...will it fit?

“It will,” John assures him, feeling the slightest hint of shame over the strong spike of arousal in his groin that the question elicits. He skims his hand up along one milky thigh. “We’ll make sure that you’re body is ready for it before we try.” He hesitates as his hand nears it’s destination, fingers coming to rest on the smooth curve of Sherlock’s pert little bottom.

“May I?”

Sherlock bobs his head shakily, and John sweeps his fingers down into the warm junction of Sherlock’s thighs, slipping in between the warm, damp folds hidden there. As his fingers make contact, Sherlock lets out a loud, startled moan. John marvels at the slickness easing his way, the hot, puffy flesh parting welcomingly beneath his fingers.

“You’re so already so wet,” he murmurs in amazement. He loses himself in it for a moment, letting out a deep moan of his own as he mindlessly strokes, dipping his fingertips into the eager little hole that embraces them with a soft squelch. John’s skin feels as though it’s suddenly grown a size too small; hot, and tight, and constrictive. Sherlock cries out at the intrusion, his inner walls squeezing John’s fingers all the more tightly. He pants, tiny puffs of air dropping from his lips with every tremble like ripe fruit from a tree.

“That feels…”

John’s eyes snap to Sherlock’s face as he trails off, watching for any sign of discomfort as he squeezes his eyes shut and pulls that plush lower lip between his teeth.

“Good?” John finishes for him, finding his own breath shortening with arousal. Sherlock’s head doesn’t nod so much as quiver.

“More,” he manages to force out on a gasp, arching his hips more sharply backward to provide John’s fingers greater access. “Please.”

John hardly needs the prompting, drawing his fingertips out momentarily to grip Sherlock’s hips and adjust him slightly higher on his lap, aligning the omega’s small, straining erection with his own. Sherlock whimpers, grinding his little cock against John’s as the alpha coats his fingers liberally with Sherlock’s own wetness before pushing back up inside the tight little passage. He drives his fingers in far deeper this time, pressing in slowly until he’s buried knuckle-deep, careful not to cause any pain.

He curls his fingers in a come-hither motion, stroking firmly against the bundles of nerves hidden behind those clinging walls. Sherlock keens, rocking his hips rhythmically in time with the motion, fingers digging into John’s shoulders for balance. With his free hand, John reaches up to grasp the back of the omega’s neck, pulling him down to capture his lips and conduct a taste test of his own.

By the time that John rolls Sherlock onto his back and spreads his legs anew, the omega is fairly vibrating with want.

He hooks Sherlock one knee over his forearm and grasps the base of his thick cock, rubbing it against Sherlock’s wet slit to make him squirm.

“Please,” Sherlock whines plaintively, tossing his head about on the pillow. “Come inside.”

And so he does.

With a slow, measured thrust, he watches his cock disappear into Sherlock’s body.

John drives in over and over again, his groin smacking firmly against backs of Sherlock’s thighs. As they rock together, desperate and wild, their skin grows damp with sweat, and he lowers Sherlock’s legs, bracing himself on his forearms for better leverage. Sherlock hums in approval, winding his legs about John’s waist tightly and pressing his heels encouragingly into John’s backside as the alpha thrusts.

As John nears completion, he feels his knot swelling and dithers, slowing his hips. While he knows it to be his responsibility as an alpha to bond his omega to himself, he's never done before, and he hesitates to cause his lover any pain.

"You're stopping," Sherlock pants, nails biting at the mean of John's shoulders. "Why are you stopping?"

"I'm going to…"

"Yes," Sherlock gives a frantic nod, arching his neck invitingly. "Yes, do it." The sight of it makes John weak, unable to resist the urge to bury his face against it, scenting him properly for the very first time. His hips resume their previous rhythm, snapping forward over and over, grinding deep to rub Sherlock’s swollen little cock between their bellies, until the omega’s thighs begin to tighten and quiver tellingly around him.

Beneath him Sherlock trembles, breath coming faster by the moment.

"John,” he murmurs feverishly. “John, I—”

“Yes,” John urges, “that’s it my love. That’s it.”

Sherlock cries out, body spasming as he reaches completion. Inside him, John’s member throbs as the snug passage constricts rhythmically around it. With a deep breath, John drives forward one last time, pushing the engorged knot at the base of his cock past the muscular ring of Sherlock’s entrance, locking their bodies together. He bares his teeth and bites; sinking them into the pale expanse of Sherlock’s neck and moaning brokenly as pulse after pulse wracks his body.

As he comes down, he nuzzles Sherlock’s shoulder, licking gently at the fresh bond-bite to soothe. Sherlock grunts quietly in acknowledgement, his hand coming up to pet clumsily at the back of John’s head.

“Alright?” He mumbles against warm skin.

“Mmm,” Sherlock hums agreeably, wriggling beneath him as he stretches as best he can beneath the weight of John’s body. John lifts his head, bracing himself on his elbows to lovingly brush sweat-damp curls away from Sherlock’s brow.

“Sleep now,” John encourages, conscious of the short, exceptional heat that his bite will induce within the coming hours.

“It’s our wedding night,” Sherlock pouts adorably. “Aren’t you meant to ravish me again and again until dawn?”

“There’s plenty of time for that,” he promises. “All the time in the world.”

“Promise?” Sherlock demands sleepily, limbs already growing limp and heavy with slumber around John’s body. John smiles down at his new mate, a wave of adoration unlike anything he’s ever felt before washing over him.

“God, yes.”