Thank you to Cleo_Calliope for her lovely cover!!
Arriving home from France after over a month of being away, Dr John Watson thought that maybe he would settle in, unpack, fix a nice cup of tea and put his feet up. Next on the agenda, he might share a romantic dinner with his new bond mate, alpha sentinel Sherlock Holmes, followed by a night of passionate sex in his own bed.
The last thing Dr John Watson, omega guide, wanted to be doing on his first day back in London was to be cooling his heels in a guide cell at the London Sentinel Tower. But that was where he was currently residing. Sitting on the hard mattress, head in hands, John sighed and remembered what happened after they’d left Grand-maman’s home.
Once they had reached Calais, they’d had a bit of a wait because the train was delayed. While they waited, John had watched all the travellers coming in from Paris and decided he’d like to go too, if only for a day. It was surprisingly easy to divert his sentinel because once there John learnt that Paris was Sherlock’s most favourite city after London.
John had visited the French capitol on school trips but going with Sherlock was a whole different kettle of fish. Instead of just a day, they’d spent a magical week exploring parts of the city he never knew existed, enjoying five-star cuisine and making love every night in a suite at the Hôtel Ritz. But the call of his cases eventually caught up with the detective and they regretfully packed up and turned toward home.
Once more on the road, there had been no trouble in Calais but when he and Sherlock were pulled over as they disembarked the train in the UK, they realised something was up. The two customs officials demanded their passports, looked at them carefully and finally asked them both to get out of the Mercedes.
Sherlock was annoyed and didn’t bother to hide his irritation. Elegant coat swishing theatrically around him, the sentinel slammed the car door, held out his arm for John and possessively pulled him close to his side as they were asked to walk to an office inside the cavernous building. Sherlock in a full-blown alpha snit was a sight to behold. However, John was worried and he picked up a similar feeling from Sherlock despite all the dramatics.
The two officials escorting them from the car brought them into the office and flanked the door once they’d entered, effectively blocking it. Another customs officer was sitting behind a table with two chairs in front of it. He gave them a jittery smile, greeted them politely and indicated that they should sit. However, Sherlock had refused and glowered at all the officials, doing his best to use his alpha pheromones to intimidate the betas in the room. He succeeded quite well, making everyone jumpy and uncomfortable.
“What is this all about? You have no right to detain me or my omega without telling us what is going on. We have nothing to declare so you’d best let us go about our business.” Sherlock was using his most posh tones, literally looking down his nose at the poor man with a threatening manner. The official nervously darted his eyes around the room, trying to find a way to avoid Sherlock’s angry gaze.
”I’m sorry Mr Holmes, Mr Watson. It’ll just be a moment and we can return your passports.” It was clear to John that he was lying, but Sherlock’s attitude wasn’t helping.
John frowned at his alpha, poked him in the side and pulled him down into one of the chairs. “Stop it, Sherlock. There’s no need to scare the shite out these people. They’re just doing their jobs.”
But that was before six extremely tense Protectors walked in, armed with tranquilliser guns and tasers. John wanted to slam his head down on the table and start beating it against the hard surface. His stomach knotted in despair. Why had he thought the Tower wouldn’t be waiting for him?
His head stayed up, though, as one of the Protectors bravely took a step forward and read from an official document. His hand was shaking, John noted with interest. “Guide John Watson, you are being placed into the custody of the London Sentinel Tower to answer numerous charges that have been placed against you by the Sentinel Alpha Prime of London, Moira Hayes.” There was more but John tuned it out.
The doctor had expected to have to deal with the Tower at some point, just not so soon. He could tell his bond mate was getting ready to explode and start telling everyone the Protector had undoubtedly wet his bed until he was ten or had impure thoughts about his mother.
However, it was very apparent that this time John couldn’t avoid being taken into the Tower’s custody and he’d rather not have the Protector take his humiliation out on him. John put a hand on Sherlock’s arm and squeezed lightly.
Sherlock picked up on that right away and subsided with an angry huff. John absolutely loved being bonded. He could control Sherlock with a thought. It went the other way as well, but right now it worked to his advantage.
Sighing heavily when the man finished speaking, he sat back and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Fine. You’ve got me. What’s next?” The Protectors had been bracing themselves for some kind of outburst and were surprised when John gave up without a struggle.
One of the Protectors moved over toward John but then backed away as Sherlock growled. Standing at a respectful distance, the beta looked indirectly at Sherlock and held out some handcuffs. “He’s supposed to be restrained, Alpha. If you will please put these on him, I won’t have to touch him.”
The man also refused to look at John while Sherlock was behaving so possessively. Only a complete fool purposely set off an alpha who was being protective of his omega.
John sighed again. “Sherlock, we both knew this was a possibility, though I didn’t expect them to meet us practically at the border.”
Sherlock deflated and clutched at John’s hand. “I know, John. I should have anticipated this also. What do you want to do?”
John thought for a moment and eyed the Protectors standing nervously around. They were incredibly tense and John’s empathy was telling him they were ready for anything he might do. “Put the cuffs on me and follow me to the Tower. Can you contact Mycroft to get me a solicitor?” He could feel the Protectors relaxing at his answer.
Sherlock looked miserable but nodded reluctantly. Standing abruptly and scaring everyone in the room, Sherlock snatched the cuffs from the Protector who then backed quickly away.
Sherlock stared deeply into John’s eyes. The doctor could tell his alpha was silently vowing to do everything to get him out as quickly as possible as he loosely snapped the handcuffs on John’s wrists. The sentinel stepped back, radiating frustration and anger.
Glaring at the Protectors, expression as hard as flint, Sherlock spoke quietly but intensely. “If anything happens to my bond mate, you will wish you’d never been born.”
John nudged Sherlock and made the alpha look at him. “I think they get the message. It’s all right, luv. I can tell they don’t want to hurt me and they’ll be careful. You and I are bonded now, and there is nothing anyone can do that will ever change that. Just follow us in the car and see if you can get in touch with Mycroft.” He stretched up to give Sherlock a quick kiss and turned toward the Protectors.
”Let’s get this show on the road, lads.” Back straight, he walked toward the Protectors, who surrounded him and led him from the room. He didn’t look back for fear his resolve would weaken.
They took John through a private hallway and were careful to keep him out of sight of any of the public. Two dark coloured saloons with tinted windows awaited them at the end of their walk and John was helped inside. The further they got from Sherlock, the more the Protectors relaxed, which was rather funny. John was more of an actual threat than Sherlock was, but betas automatically kowtowed to alphas and never to omegas. They respected omegas but didn’t defer to them. As he was driven away from the station, John turned to look out the rear windscreen and searched for their Mercedes but didn’t see it yet.
He could feel the separation from Sherlock like an uncomfortable stretching of his skin and wondered how bad it would get if they were apart for very long. Newly bonded pairs needed to stay in close proximity during early days. Separation at this early a stage in their bond could cause paranoia, anxiety and some painful physical symptoms if the separation went on too long.
This was common knowledge and true for sentinel/guide pairs as well as alpha/omega pairs. John wondered if it would be worse since he and Sherlock were bonded as both. He needed to do research to determine the veracity of this, but he remembered from medical school that if an omega were pregnant and deprived of his/her alpha for long, the blastocyst might not implant or he could miscarry if it had implanted. John seriously wanted to prevent that and so would do everything necessary to sort out his problems with the Tower as quickly as possible. He planned to cooperate fully.
John didn’t remember the trip from the station to the Tower. His mind was completely caught up in worry about what could possibly happen to him. Would they actually imprison him and if so, for how long? He knew he was being stupid to worry so much because he had no idea how sentinels dealt with those who had broken their laws. It was hard enough to accept that he was under their jurisdiction simply because he’d been born a guide and there was nothing he could do about it.
On top of everything, he wondered if they were going to try to prosecute Sherlock as well. He was instrumental in John’s escape from the Tower. Douglas had seen them leaving and must have told his sentinel. Would they overlook it or charge Sherlock, too? His stomach was tied in knots of worry and he had to stop himself from chewing on his lips in anxiety.
Arrival at the Tower was anti-climactic to say the least. They pulled into an underground car park instead of parading him through the front doors like last time. John was thankful for small favours as he was helped out of the vehicle.
The Mercedes screeched to a stop just beside them and they waited as Sherlock got out of the motor and stalked toward them. The alpha was still angry and despite the guard’s protests, he gathered his omega to his side. To John’s surprise, the Protectors gave up trying to separate them and ushered both of them into a lift that took them to the ground floor entrance area and then to the bank of lifts further inside the building.
John could see more of the entrance room this time as they were marched through. There was a reception area off to one side he’d not seen at all the first time he’d been there that was actually rather attractive. It looked very new, in fact. Had it just been added? If so, that was fast work on the part of the new administration.
The second thing John noticed about the Tower was that the emotional atmosphere was considerably lighter and had a more positive feel than before. The lobby area was still dark and imposing but the sense of oppression had evaporated. Just having Fitzhugh gone seemed to have removed the poisonous mindset from the Tower, which was heartening.
The Protectors were less nervous as well now that they were back on their home turf and especially since they seemed to sense that John was not going to cause trouble. Though John was less sure that Sherlock wouldn’t because he was practically vibrating with alpha anger and worry. He did his best to soothe and calm his sentinel and Sherlock responded by pulling him close and burying his face in John’s hair as they waited for a lift.
John and Sherlock were brought to the same guide cell he’d been in before. The doors’ lock clicked and they stood in the rectangular cell, just looking at each other.
John held up his cuffed hands and Sherlock unlocked them with a key he produced from a pocket somewhere inside his ridiculous coat. He threw the handcuffs on the table as John rubbed his wrists.
“Were you able to get in touch with Mycroft? Did he recommend a solicitor?” John sat on the bed and put his head in his hands as Sherlock began to pace.
”Anthea is contacting our family solicitor and she will find someone who specialises in Sentinel Law. There’s a problem however. Apparently each Tower is independent of the other and there is no consistent codified law between them. All criminal prosecutions are kept internal and private between members of the Tower. Finding someone who knows London Tower law history might be difficult. But I expect we’ll hear something one way or another soon.”
This could be bad. If they couldn't find a solicitor to represent him, could he handle this on his own? With Sherlock to help him and if they could be allowed access to London Tower law history, they might have a chance to present a credible case, given enough time. Hopefully, Mycroft and Anthea could find someone for him who at least was familiar with Sentinel Law and its precedents in situations similar to his and could give him some advice.
Sherlock’s phone rang, interrupting John’s thoughts. He guessed it was Mycroft and the conversation took just a moment before the sentinel rang off.
“Mycroft has found a solicitor for us. An alpha sentinel named Graham Givens. Apparently there are no real specialists in sentinel law but he’s the closest thing Mycroft could find.” Turning toward John, his face was wreathed in concern. “He can’t meet with us until tomorrow, though. I’m afraid we’ll be here until then.”
John shrugged. “We’ve been in worse places, luv. As long as we’re together, it’ll be all right.” The doctor was resigned to spending a long night in the Tower. It was uncertain if Sherlock would be allowed to stay with him. Someone was going to have to talk to them sometime and he would have to be patient.
“How is Mycroft doing, by the way?” John hadn't asked about him for a few days and was curious. Mycroft had gone home from hospital with Anthea before John’s heat had finished and he’d not had the chance to thank him personally for saving his life. He knew Sherlock had done but it wasn’t the same. As far as John was concerned, Mycroft had redeemed his earlier behaviour and now had a clean slate with him. And he wanted to start off in a positive way by letting Mycroft know how much he appreciated his sacrifice.
Sherlock was back to pacing and answered absently. “He’s doing very well and is almost ready to go back to work. Anthea and Mummy are feeding him too much and he’s probably getting fatter as we speak.” John couldn’t help but laugh at the old joke and straight away felt lighter in spirit.
There was a knock at the door and the lock clicked open. A short, older man wearing glasses and carrying some papers came in and closed the door behind him. John and Sherlock both noticed at once that the lock did not reengage and they shot quick glances at each other in bemusement.
The stranger peered at Sherlock in mild surprise and then introduced himself in a friendly manner. “Good morning! I’m Second Guide Prime Tom Elliot and I’m here to ask Guide Watson some questions. I suppose you’re his new alpha sentinel? My congratulations to the two of you. You’ve both chosen well.”
John and Sherlock stared at him in confusion as he sat himself in one of the chairs, put down his papers and noticed that the handcuffs were sitting on the table. His eyebrows rose and he put a key on the table, looking at the two of them with an amused expression. “I guess you won’t need this, then.” Smiling he pulled a biro out from his shirt pocket and started to sort out the papers.
”John’s not answering any questions without a solicitor here. And he’ll be here tomorrow.” Sherlock was adamant.
Elliot frowned a bit and then shrugged. “That’s fine with me. I can always come back later, but it will mean John will have to stay overnight and not be able to go home this afternoon.”
Before either of them could react to that statement, Elliot continued. “What I want to speak with him about has nothing to do with the charges being laid against him. It has to do with his history as a guide. I’d also like to test his abilities as much as I can, though I doubt I’m strong enough to determine his rating. We’re planning on asking Ailbert Mitchell to come down from the Edinburgh Tower to test you properly, Guide Watson. But that will have to be another day.”
John stood up, completely astounded. “Go home today? You mean I can just answer some questions and then I can go home?”
The guide blinked at him and nodded. “Certainly. Moira and James aren’t in the Tower at the moment but will be here tomorrow. They’ve been taking a goodwill tour of all the other Towers as the new Sentinel Alpha Prime and Guide Prime. They’ll want you to come back in then and your solicitor can meet you at that time.”
“Then what was all that with the Protectors at the station?” Sherlock was getting angry again and John reached out absently to soothe him.
“We didn’t want Guide Watson disappearing on us before we had the chance to speak with him,” Elliot turned and addressed John directly. “You are rather sneaky, I understand.” Then, to the doctor’s shock, the man winked at him.
John was completely bewildered and suspicious. “Okay. This is just getting too weird. What is going on? Why aren’t you treating me like a prisoner?”
Guide Elliot set down his biro and sat back in the chair with a serious expression. “Technically you are our prisoner but we, meaning the new administration of this Tower, prefer not to treat you like one at the moment. Colin Fitzhugh and his Traditionalist cronies are no longer in charge and his ham-handed treatment of you was not universally popular.
“Everyone here knows what Fitzhugh tried to do to you and your alpha in France and we were extremely distressed to hear that he tracked you down and assaulted you. We hope he will be prosecuted within the fullest extent of the law and put away for a long time.
“As an omega guide living in London, by ‘normal’ civil and criminal law, you are under the jurisdiction and protection of our Tower, whether you want to be officially associated with us or not. This is recognised by all governmental and civil authorities and they support us in this. Even though you are technically up on charges, which you will answer to when the time comes, we consider you one of us and want no harm to come to you.” John acknowledged this with a hesitant nod.
Elliot approved John’s acceptance and changed the subject. “In the meantime, we have made some changes since you were last here. I’m sure you’ve noticed the emotional atmosphere in the Tower? I know you’re more than sensitive enough to pick up on it.”
John hesitated and then nodded. “Yes, I did notice. Things seem…lighter somehow. More positive than before. Frankly, it was dismal and depressing the last time I was here.”
The man smiled, eyes sparkling behind his glasses. “I knew you’d be able to feel it. Hopkins owes me 5 quid.” Elliot sat forward and took up the pen again, then turned toward Sherlock as if he’d forgotten him and made shooing motions.
“You, young sentinel. You need to leave now. But come back later this afternoon, say around 5 pm, and you can take your guide home.”
Sherlock turned to John; concern easy to read on his face. “John? I don’t want to leave you but I don’t want you to have to stay here a minute longer than necessary. Do you trust him to do as he says?”
The doctor stared at Sherlock for a moment and then turned his attention to the other guide. Extending a tendril of empathy, he was shocked to find the man’s shields almost completely down. Carefully he pushed forward and could feel immediately that Elliot was being totally honest with him.
The sensation of reading another guide’s emotions wasn’t wholly alien to him as Forrester had allowed him to practice with her. But he pulled back quickly and made sure his own shields were firmly in place.
John looked up at his alpha and nodded. “I think we can trust him, Sherlock. He’s being honest with us and I want to cooperate so I can go home.”
Sherlock hesitated for a moment, glancing back at Elliot and then seemed to make up his mind. “All right. I’ll go home and unpack our things, then come back to collect you at 5.”
Turning to the older guide, he narrowed his eyes in warning. “If he’s not ready to go then, I’ll come looking for you.” He then kissed John lingeringly and left the room abruptly, coat flaring out behind him.
“He’s a feisty one, isn’t he?” Elliot observed with admiration and some humour.
John couldn’t help but give him a rueful smile. “Yes, indeed. And he’s quite a handful when he gets going.”
Elliot got a far away look in his eyes and grinned. “The best ones always are.”
Bewildered, John sat down in the chair and took a deep breath. The weird stretched feeling of separation from his alpha was making him feel jittery. “So, what do you need from me?”
“Well, I now know from personal experience that you can read an individual’s emotions and can do it carefully.” He wrote down something and flipped through the rest of the papers. “I’d like to start out by asking you about your family.”
John spent the next few hours answering general questions about his early life. Elliot asked when he’d manifested as a guide and when he’d presented as an omega and how he’d ended up a level four beta empath instead. The guide was surprisingly non-judgmental about the lies John’s family had told the government.
He reassured John about it. “Please don’t worry, John. None of this information will he used to harm anyone. Your family is not the first or the last to hide a child’s guide status, though I hope it will be happening less and less now that we’re going to be offering schooling and benefits to guides who come in willingly.”
Lunch was delivered as they continued to talk about John’s family and places where he’d lived. Elliot was interested in where they had finally settled after his father had retired from the military and had been intrigued that the village they’d ended up in had no Tower nearby. He was surprised that John had not met another sentinel or guide before he’d joined the army.
“It’s clear you’ve had some training, though. You’ve got disciplined, strong shields. Who trained you?”
John was uncomfortable discussing Forrester. He frowned, trying to decide what to say to him. “All I can say is that yes, I had some training but that is classified information that I can’t discuss with anyone. Can we please leave it at that?”
Elliot looked a bit frustrated but nodded. “I understand. May I ask if this person was Tower trained?”
The doctor thought for a bit and nodded. “There was some Tower training but not much. That’s all I can say.”
Looking down at his papers, Elliot sighed. “I suppose that will have to do. Now, I’d like to try a few tests before you go. I know your alpha is eager to collect you.” He grinned at John. “He’s the kind that will try to take this place apart if you’re not on time.”
John flushed. “He’s not normally like that. It’s just that we’re so newly bonded.”
Elliot chuckled and looked nostalgic. “I remember what it was like to have a new bond with my sentinel. He was very protective at first, too.”
Sitting up straight, he sobered and declared, “Now, let’s see what you can do.”
John was very intrigued by the tests and forgot the real reason he was there while Elliot put him through his paces in an attempt to learn what John did and didn’t know about being a guide. Elliot indicated that they would need to repeat these tests over a period of time with different people to get accurate results, but he wanted to get started.
After some basic tests on how well he could read various emotions, Elliot decided to test his shields. “We already know you can sense the emotional atmosphere of a specific area and can read people individually. Now I want to try to get some rough measurements of how strong your empathy might be.
“Make your shields as strong as you can and let me know when you start to feel pressure against them.” The guide set a timer and the test began.
John wondered what he was supposed to feel. Was it like what he’d felt when he was under assault by the three guides in front of the chemist’s shop? It had been hideously painful. Had they been able to combine their talents together to make one attack three times as powerful? Was that even possible?
John waited and waited, watching Elliot closely. The man began to look a bit strained and then beads of sweat began to appear on his forehead. After a few more minutes, John began to feel a slight pressure against his shields and told Elliot, who stopped whatever he was doing. He punched the timer’s button, let out a relieved breath and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.
Looking at the timer, he whistled. “Well, that just might be a record. We’ll have to check to be sure and do more trials, but it certainly would explain how you could stand up to and defeat three guides at once.” He looked up at John with admiration. “Your shields are incredibly strong. I could barely scratch the surface and I’m rated a fourteen.”
John’s eyebrows went up in surprise. He had heard the top rating was twenty and Forrester had been a thirteen. She had not been able to breach his shields, either. She had shown him various mind disciplines to practice in order to strengthen his shields when they’d first met and he’d done them dutifully. It hadn’t taken long for him to show progress at the time. John wondered what other guide techniques he could learn from this man and if he would be willing to teach him.
“I’d like to try the same thing but with me touching you. Will you allow this?” John was surprised at how carefully and respectfully Elliot was treating him. Nodding, he gave permission.
Elliot put a finger on John’s wrist and closed his eyes. Within a much shorter period of time, he could feel pressure against his shields and indicated that to the other man, who blew out a breath and smiled. “That’s a relief. I wasn’t sure if I’d have the energy to do that again for long. I’m a much stronger touch empath than not, as you can tell.”
John was fascinated at the difference. He had no idea that touch could aid in projecting empathy.
“I’ve got more questions to ask because I need a few minutes to rest before we continue.”
Elliot asked questions about how John had used his empathy in the past. Had he ever used it to force someone to do something against their will? John was able to answer a definite no to that one, not knowing that was even possible.
Had he ever projected false feelings in order to manipulate anyone? John admitted that he had, since he had done that very thing quite a few times while on the run. Specifically, he recalled how he’d played Deeds and Wilson in his office when they’d come to serve the Warrant of Custody. The doctor worried that he may have violated some guide code of ethics and hoped his ignorance would be taken into consideration if they were to judge him for it. Should he mention the invisibility trick and how he could sweep long distances with his empathy looking for danger? Maybe that should wait for another day. It sounded like he’d be in testing for some time.
More questions along a similar vein followed and he answered as honestly as he could. Finally, Elliot pulled out the timer again. “Maybe we shouldn’t try this right now as I’m still bloody tired, but it should only take a few moments. I want you to try to get through my shields but I want you to be careful. It’s easy to injure someone this way. I’m sure you remember what happened at the chemist’s shop.”
John interrupted defensively. “I honestly don’t know exactly what I did there. I was very upset and they were hurting me.”
Elliot held up a hand and nodded. “I understand. Those guides were expecting to have rendered you unconscious immediately and no one would have even noticed them picking you up. But you were able to resist them and fight back. And without training! It’s astounding, to be honest and there are quite a few sentinel/guide researchers who want to test and question you about that incident.” John sat up, alarmed.
Elliot held up a hand and stopped him from speaking. ”The only time you absolutely must discuss that incident is when you answer to the charges the Tower has laid against you. You are not obligated to talk about that with anyone else unless you want to do so.”
John subsided, relieved. For a moment he had been afraid he was going to be spirited away to some laboratory where he’d be examined in uncomfortable and possibly painful ways.
Elliot eyed him narrowly, concern on his face. “Okay? I’ll start the watch then and you can begin.”
Taking a deep breath, John let it out slowly and sent out his empathy. Immediately he encountered a very strong shield. He took a moment to be impressed and rather humbled that Elliot had chosen to lower it so completely earlier. Right now it felt like he was encountering a solid stone wall. Well, there were ways around a stone wall. One could be sneaky and try a circuitous route or just try to bull straight through. He decided to go straight through and find out what happened, leaving a sneaky attempt for later if necessary.
But he had to be careful so he started slowly and pushed. Nothing happened, so he pushed harder and harder. It was very difficult to tell if he was getting anywhere but he kept increasing pressure until he was suddenly through and there was nothing in his way. He felt Elliot’s shock and he pulled back promptly, realising he had closed his eyes somewhere along the way. Elliot was drenched in sweat and was breathing as if he’d just run a race.
John was alarmed at the man’s purple face and stood up to come around and check on him. “Are you all right? Here, let me help you.”
Elliot waved him off. “I’m fine. I’d appreciate it if you’d get me a towel from the bath, though.” The guide took a deep breath and John could tell that his heart rate and respiration were slowing as he handed him a towel.
Wiping his face, the older man took in a lungful of air and huffed. “That was rough, though. I don’t think I’ll try the next test, which would be to do that but with you touching me. I’ll let Mitchell do that instead. You breezed through my shields as if they were paper. I’ve never met anyone as strong as you and I’ve met many very strong guides.”
John didn’t know what to say and sat down again at the table while Elliot regained his breath. The other guide smiled at him. “Don’t look so upset. You didn’t hurt me at all and this is excellent information. I didn’t tell you but I’m also the Tower Archivist and it’s probably been centuries since we had anyone as strong as you here. If you were trained, I think you’d be unbelievable. In fact, I’d like to try something else, since we still have some time. Are you game?”
Uncertain, John waffled for a bit. It was close to 5 pm and he was getting tired. “If you don’t think it will take too long, I’m willing to try whatever you suggest.”
“Just a few minutes and we’ve got the time.” Elliot put his biro in the centre of the table and left it there. “Okay. I want you to try to move this pen with your empathy.”
John was shocked and a little perturbed. “You mean you want me to try telekinesis? Isn’t that a little far fetched?” He’d never heard of such a thing as being possible and he was extremely sceptical.
Elliot looked at him wryly and gave him a smirk. “So says the man who knocked five people unconscious with the power of his mind alone.”
John flushed in embarrassment. The older man was right. Just because he’d not heard of it didn’t mean it wasn’t possible. “Okay. You have a point. I’ll give it a try. Any suggestions?”
Elliot just shook his head and looked at him expectantly. Heaving a sigh, John focused on the biro and decided to visualise it moving, similar to the way Forrester had taught him to visualise in order to make himself invisible. He imagined the biro rolling across the table and sent out his empathy toward it.
Disappointingly, it stayed put. Now it was a challenge and John concentrated harder and gave it a stronger push. To his complete astonishment, it wobbled and then stilled. He pulled back in shock and stared at Elliot, who was clearly trying hard to contain his excitement.
“Did you move the table?” John was suspicious but didn’t pick up any feelings of deceit from Elliot.
The older man shook his head. “No! I wasn’t touching the table and the floor in this part of the Tower is stone. I doubt there was an earthquake, either. And I wasn’t breathing hard on it. Give it another go and see if you can roll it a few inches.” Elliot was grinning and the excitement was infectious.
John couldn’t believe he’d done that. It must have been a total fluke. Still sceptical about it, he’d try again just to prove it didn’t really happen. Telekinesis was something out of fantasy or the cinema, not anything that could be found in real life.
Feeling foolish, he focused his mind on the pen, took a deep breath, visualised and gave the biro a huge push. To his total astonishment, it flew off the table and hit the wall.
Elliot gave a shout of pure excitement and retrieved the pen. “Oh my god, you can do it! I knew you could! Hopkins owes me 100 quid now!!”
John’s mouth was open in total shock. How had he been able to do that and not ever know it? How could he tell Sherlock? He paled and his heart was racing in dread. Would the Tower want to imprison and experiment on him because of this?
Elliot noticed his fear immediately. “No, no John. Please don’t be scared. No one will badger you about this or try to experiment on you. It stays here in the Tower and will go nowhere else unless you say otherwise. Okay?”
The doctor stared at him, eyes wide and mouth dry with fear. He sent out his empathy and found Elliot with his shields down again. The other guide was completely sincere and meant exactly what he said.
Relaxing somewhat, John pulled back and blew out a breath, adrenaline still coursing through his system. “Thank you. I don’t think I’d do well as a guinea pig, to be honest.”
“I understand, John. Neither would I. I just want you to be aware of what you can do and I’m here for you if you want to learn more. From what I’ve read in the ancient books kept in the Archive, there are other aspects of this skill that you might be able to do, such as picking up and manipulating tools. It would likely take a lot of practise to perfect anything that takes fine motor control, but it has been done before.
“There are accounts of powerful guides doing what you just did in the Archives. But it’s been centuries since any guides have been recorded being able to do this. I don’t think we have time to show the manuscripts to you today, but just think about it, okay? I know that you do dangerous work with your sentinel and having these skills would be invaluable. If you want the training, I’ll be happy to do what I can to help or find someone else if you’d rather.” Elliot looked so hopeful that John had to smile at him.
“That’s extremely generous of you, but I need to deal with the charges the Tower has laid against me first before I can consider doing anything. Until I know what kind of punishment they’ll give me, I can’t make any plans.”
Clearly disappointed, Elliot sat back and nodded. “I’d almost forgotten about that. Well, you’ll be meeting with Moira and James sometime tomorrow afternoon. I’ll ring you when I know the exact time. I can arrange for you to meet your solicitor here, as well. There are many soundproofed offices on the ground floor. If you’ll let me know what time the solicitor can meet with you I’ll make sure a room is set aside for you.”
John considered this and nodded. “I don’t know any of the particulars of when we’re to meet with Mr Givens. Sherlock is handling that right now and I’ll let him know. It’s probably best if we meet him here instead of his office so he can sit in on the meeting with Ms Hayes and Mr Douglas.” John looked up in concern. “Do you think they’ll want to keep me here after informing me of the charges?”
“I’m sorry, John, I don’t really know for sure, but I seriously doubt it. You’re safely bonded and you’re staying in your sentinel’s territory. I’ll be willing to tell Moira that you’re sincere in your desire to face the consequences of your actions. She’ll listen to me.” John believed him and sighed in relief.
Elliot checked his watch and stood up, papers clutched tightly in his arms. “It’s time I took you to your sentinel. Maybe I can show you to the Archives in the next few weeks. Also, Mitchell will need to test you at some point, but there’s plenty of time for that.
“Please, try not to worry too much, John. It’s just my opinion, but you’re an exceptional guide. The actions you took to preserve your freedom so that you could bond to the alpha sentinel of your choice will be taken into consideration, I’m sure of it. Moira is a compassionate person, unlike Fitzhugh.”
John nodded and followed Elliot out of the room and down to the lifts. He was exhausted and all he could think about was a cup of tea, dinner and a cuddle with Sherlock.
Sure enough, Sherlock was pacing the lobby area, waiting impatiently for John. It was 5 pm exactly when they stepped into the reception area and the alpha headed straight for John and wrapped his arms around him. It wasn’t until the doctor breathed in his alpha’s scent did he realise just how much he had missed him. His arms went around Sherlock’s torso and hugged tight as the pain of separation began to dissipate.
“You all right, John? You were afraid but then you calmed down. I almost came up there to get you, you were so upset. What did he do to you?” Sherlock was angry and was giving Elliot a hard stare.
John pulled back and looked up at Sherlock. “Not here, luv. I’ll explain later, but Elliot isn’t to blame. Please, let’s go home.” John’s plea jerked Sherlock’s attention away from the older guide and without a word the sentinel swept his guide out of the lobby and into the lift to the car park.
Once they were home, John wanted to collapse on the sofa but instead headed straight to the kitchen to make tea. Mrs Hudson, who was out for the evening, had left them some food that thankfully included biscuits and milk. The routine soothed him and he was completely calm when he was finished with his preparations, extremely thankful that Sherlock had left him alone with his thoughts. John had sent him to sort through the post and it had worked well as a diversion.
When he’d settled on the sofa with Sherlock and a large tea in front of them, he told his alpha all that had happened.
To say that Sherlock was astonished was an understatement. “You could move the biro with your empathy? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Do you think if I showed you the inner workings of various locks, could you manipulate them to open? Imagine the possibilities!” Sherlock’s eyes were gleaming with excitement.
John’s head had started pounding while he’d described his day. Rubbing his eyes, he sighed and put his head back to rest on the sofa and closed his eyes. He realised he was very uncomfortable with it all and didn’t want to think about it. ”Maybe later, Sherlock. I’m really worried about tomorrow and what might happen.”
“Well, I’ll ring our solicitor in the morning and arrange to have him meet us an hour before we’re to meet with the new Sentinel Alpha Prime. You said Elliot would let us know when Hayes and Douglas wanted to meet with us?” John nodded and found himself beginning to fret again. He needed to do something to distract himself and Sherlock was sitting right there. An early night sounded very good and would help with the headache, as well. Smiling, he reached out for his alpha who reached right back with great eagerness. Distraction accomplished.
It was the first time he’d slept in Sherlock’s bed, though they’d actually done very little sleeping. When they’d finally made it to the bedroom from the sofa, they’d spent much of the night making love and had finally fallen asleep.
Once he was fully awake the next morning, John noticed that Sherlock had made space in the room for all his things. The sentinel had unpacked John’s suitcase, brought his clothes downstairs and put everything away in the cupboard and dresser. Even John’s weapon was placed in the nightstand at the left side of the bed, which was John’s preferred side.
Yawning and relaxed, John shuffled into the kitchen to fix breakfast for them both. Sherlock was in the shower and John had begun to set the table when Mrs Hudson came into the flat. John hadn’t seen her since they’d fled London, over four weeks earlier. After the welcome hugs and kisses were over, John rescued breakfast and invited her to join them.
She gladly agreed and began to fix the tea. “Oh, I brought in your post. It was delivered early this morning.” She pulled a few envelopes out of a pocket in her dress and began to pour the tea as Sherlock finally arrived, dressed for the day, dark curls dripping.
John was looking hard at a very fancy envelope addressed to him as his alpha gave him a quick kiss. “I wonder who sent this. There’s no return address.” He began to open it when Sherlock gasped and snatched it from him. Turning toward Sherlock in surprise, he reached to get it back but stopped when he saw the expression on his sentinel’s face.
”It’s from Mummy.” His face was pale with anger. “Let’s have breakfast and we can deal with this later. You and I have a lot to do today and this should be at the bottom of the list.”
John reluctantly agreed. He wondered what could have made Sherlock so angry but knowing the letter was from his alpha’s mother made everything clear. The woman was an interfering nuisance and he didn’t want anything to do with her. He supposed he’d have to meet her some day as she would be grandmother to any children they might have, but hoped that day was far in the future. There were too many things to sort out first and he preferred to deal with one irritation at a time.
They sat down to enjoy John’s cooking and to catch up with events. Mrs Hudson was delighted to hear about their bonding and congratulated them profusely. When John told her about the possibility of being prosecuted by the Tower, she grew upset and offered to help in any way she could.
”There’s really nothing you can do, though thank you for offering. Just knowing you’re here and keeping things together is a huge help. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us while we were away.” John was incredibly grateful and expressed his affection for their landlady.
After Mrs Hudson went back downstairs John’s phone rang. It was Elliot, who let him know Hayes and Douglas wanted to see them at half two that afternoon. John arranged to have a room available to meet their solicitor at 1:30 pm and rang off.
While Sherlock rang Mr Givens, John sat at the table and tried to calm himself. His stomach was churning and the breakfast he’d just enjoyed sat like a rock in his stomach. The reality of the situation hit him hard with the phone call from the Tower. When Sherlock told him their solicitor would meet them at the scheduled time, he felt somewhat better but was still full of nervous energy.
The post was on the table in front of him and he stared at it, mind vacant. There seemed to be mostly bills and he really ought to go through them but didn’t feel like it at the moment. Sherlock had gone over to the sofa and begun to go through a stack of folders that looked to be Met case files. Resting his head on a fist, John watched Sherlock curiously for a few moments.
“Where did you get those files? I don’t remember seeing them earlier.”
Sherlock answered absently as he flipped through the papers and photos. “Lestrade dropped them off yesterday afternoon. It has to do with missing pairs of twins. I’m trying to sort out which ones might be connected to my case.”
“Oh. Well, let me know if you need any help.” Sherlock hummed in acknowledgement and kept turning pages, obviously deep in concentration. John sighed and turned his attention back to the post.
There were indeed many bills as well as a letter from St Bart's. John’s hand hesitated for a moment as he reached for it. It was likely a termination letter. He’d not been at work for a month and he’d not called in, either.
Opening the envelope he discovered that it was definitely a letter of termination. The hospital deeply regretted having to let him go due to excessive absenteeism and the lack of communication, etc. It wasn’t like he hadn’t expected it but it was sobering. He’d never been so irresponsible before and he felt he owed them an explanation. Well, there was no time like the present.
Taking a moment to screw up his courage, John dialled the head of his department at the A&E. John wasn’t sure if Dr Albright would be willing to even speak with him but he needed to try. It took a few minutes to get through to Albright’s line and when he did, the doctor himself answered. John nervously introduced himself and explained his call. Without going into too much detail, John explained that he was a newly bonded omega and that they’d unexpectedly ended up going out of the country for four weeks.
To John’s astonishment and relief, Dr Albright remembered him, had been very sympathetic and offered to allow John to submit a letter of resignation so he could be rehired later if he chose to apply. Greatly pleased, John thought that was quite decent of him and he thanked Dr Albright profusely. He’d always liked the older doctor.
“I had no idea you were an omega, John. You hid it well, I must say. I’m very happy for you and wish you and your bond mate the very best. Please do let me know how you get on and if you need a recommendation for an omega specialist. I suspect you’ll be starting a family soon? If so, I can recommend some excellent doctors.”
John blushed. He still wasn’t used to discussing his gender so openly. “Yes sir, we do hope to start a family in the near future. And I’d very much appreciate a list, if you don’t mind. It’s wise to start investigating omega obstetricians as soon as possible.”
He rang off, feeling much better about things in general and with a promise from Dr Albright to email him a list of omega specialists soon. Sarah was another possible source for information. She was a consummate professional but she was also an alpha. Sherlock hadn’t liked her and John didn’t want to cause his bond mate any cause for unnecessary jealousy. Alphas could be very touchy about their omegas, and even though Sherlock knew that he should be very secure in his bond with his guide and omega, the jealousy and possessiveness wasn’t rational.
Having mostly sorted out his work situation, John was thankful he’d not burnt any bridges there. The A&E had been a fascinating and challenging place to work, but it was probably a good thing that he wasn’t employed there now.
Putting his hand on his abdomen, he imagined the cells of his child growing and dividing. There were so many pitfalls and dangers at this point that he didn’t want to take any chances that he might miscarry. Taking it easy the next few weeks would be the ideal situation. He really hoped that he could keep his stress levels down as much as possible. It was going to be very difficult, though, until he knew what he was going to have to sort out with the Tower authorities. In the meantime, he would do his best to stay relaxed and calm for the sake of their child. He could do this.
In the meantime, the pile of bills wasn’t getting any smaller so he reached for the top one and began writing cheques and stamping envelopes. Ten minutes later the balance of his chequebook was considerably lower, but all the bills were paid. All that remained of the post was the letter from Sherlock’s mother.
John stared at if for a bit and then glanced over at Sherlock, who was completely absorbed in the case files. His alpha hadn’t wanted him to look at it until later, but he was curious. Why had she written to him? Certainly she knew by now they were bonded. Maybe it was a ‘welcome to the family’ letter. He smiled wryly and snorted a silent laugh. Not likely.
However, it made him think of his mum and Harry. He’d been in sporadic touch with them in the past month and they knew about his bonding with Sherlock. His mum had been so excited and thrilled for him and he smiled remembering the warmth in her voice as she congratulated him. She’d laughed and teased him unmercifully about grandchildren and then had burst into tears when he told her they were hoping to start their family soon.
Harry had been less than supportive but that was to be expected. She and Clara had got back together but it was too soon for them to start thinking about having a family. She was the elder and there was some jealousy. Another complication was that Sherlock did not like her and made no bones about it. John sighed again. It seemed to be the day for sighs. He turned back to the post and the final envelope.
The letter from Sherlock’s mother turned out to be an elaborately elegant invitation. As he read it, his blood pressure began to rise and Sherlock looked up in consternation.
”John? What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?” Sherlock abandoned his files and made his way quickly over to his omega. John glared at him and was surprised that steam wasn’t coming out of his ears at this point.
Sherlock paled when he saw what John was holding and John’s expression. “I told you that you should wait to read that! Why do you never do as I ask?”
Instead of answering what was obviously a ridiculous question, John glared even harder at Sherlock, opened the invitation and began to read. “’The Earl and Countess of Yorkshire cordially invite you to the bonding announcement party of their youngest son, Sentinel Alpha Sherlock Holmes to Omega John Watson. Please join us on Saturday, December 15, two thousand twelve as we celebrate the happy joining of these two as alpha and omega….’” There was more but John’s throat closed down in anger and he built up his shields for fear of accidentally lashing out. Sherlock didn’t say anything but it was clear he was very angry also. Whether the anger was directed at John or his own mother was unclear.
Finally John was calm enough to be able to speak. “Sherlock. Why is your mother inviting me to a bonding announcement party in six weeks? Doesn’t she think that I should have been consulted about this before she arranged anything that concerned us both? And did you know about this?” One of the best things about being bonded was he could tell immediately if Sherlock was lying.
“No. I didn’t know about it but it is typical of her to do something like this. Frankly I am not surprised.” Sherlock was clearly angry at his mother but also hurt. At first, John was shocked by that, but once he thought about it, he realised he’d be hurt too if his mum had done something like this to him. That helped quell his anger somewhat and he leaned into Sherlock’s side, putting an arm around his trim waist.
“Well, if she thinks I’m going along with this, she needs to think again. Look at this announcement. You’re an alpha sentinel and I’m just an omega.” He sat straight and looked up at Sherlock. “She does know I’m an omega guide, doesn’t she? Surely Mycroft would have told her.”
Sherlock looked intrigued and smirked. “It’s entirely possible she may not know. Mycroft has a perverse sense of humour sometimes and he might not have mentioned it to her for reasons of his own. I’ll have to enquire.”
The detective looked speculative and continued. “I think we should go to this, John. You have to meet my family sometime and this might be a perfect opportunity. She’s expecting you to refuse in an injured huff and accepting will likely take the wind out of her sails.”
John looked stubborn but also uneasy. “I thought I’d meet them during our preparations for the bonding ceremony. I’m not sure I’m ready. Your family is so different to mine. I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your family and their friends.”
Sherlock glanced down at him lovingly. “You could never embarrass me, John. You know how little I care for what others think.” He then looked closer at John, who lowered his eyes. “Ah, but I think I understand what the problem is now. I know an excellent tailor who would love to work with you. His shop is on Marshall Street, just a few streets away.” He held up his hand before John could say anything. “And price is no object, you know that, John. It’ll make you feel more confident when you meet my parents and so I’ll arrange an appointment for us.”
”But you don’t even know if I’ll be free to make that appointment, Sherlock! Please wait until we know more about what’s going to happen with the Tower.” The alpha reluctantly agreed. It was nearly time for them to leave for the Tower anyway.
They arrived early and waited in the very pleasant reception area for Mr Givens. John’s stomach was in knots again and he couldn’t keep still. Pacing helped a bit until Sherlock pulled him down beside him and handed him a magazine. Leaning against his sentinel helped calm them both until they watched the lift doors from the car park open. A tall, ginger haired beta with a briefcase arrived and headed straight for them. Holding out his hand, he introduced himself.
“Sentinel Holmes, Guide Watson? I’m Sentinel Graham Givens, from Givens, O’Brien and Mullins. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“My brother-in-law recommended you highly, Mr Givens. Thank you for coming.” The lawyer’s handshake was firm and businesslike and John liked him immediately. He was fairly young but clearly intelligent and had a sense of quiet competence that reassured the doctor. John’s nerves began to calm and the churning in his stomach eased somewhat.
The young man smiled. “Please, call me Graham. Mycroft was a mentor of mine at University. I owe him a lot and I welcome the chance to help you if I can.” John nodded in acknowledgment and indicated the lawyer should call them by their first names, also.
Givens rubbed his hands together and looked around the lobby. “So. Let’s get started. Did you say you had a room for us where we can speak freely?
They were directed to an office away from the lifts by the receptionist. It was a bit bare but contained a medium sized conference table with six chairs. There was a carafe of water on a tray in the centre of the table and a white noise machine, which they turned on immediately.
Givens set his briefcase on the table and opened it before he seated himself. John and Sherlock took seats across the table from him, anxious to hear what he had to say. The young man pulled out a folder and put it in front of him.
”John, Sherlock gave me some small idea of what kinds of charges you might be facing and I can give you some basic information. Through my connections with the Tower, I have been given access to previous cases that are similar to yours and I’ve summarised them here.” He put a hand on the thin folder in front of him.
”Apparently you’re likely to be charged with failure to obey a Warrant of Custody as well as assault on a number of Protectors. There also might be a charge of GBH based on what happened with the unbonded sentinel during the Hunt. There may be others but we’ll have to wait to find out. I understand it’s possible some criminal charges could be laid against you by the civil authorities because of the break-in at the terraced flats on the day you were taken. I’ll be glad to represent you for that also if it becomes necessary.”
”The crux of the matter is that John, as a guide, is under the jurisdiction of the London Tower and you have no rights but what the Alpha Prime decides to give you based on Tower tradition and precedence. And in the past, guides had very few rights. That’s changing for the country as a whole, but for an internal matter such as this, the Alpha Prime has complete say in what will happen to you.
“Each Tower has its own judicial approach and the punishments depend on the whim of the Alpha Prime. The only structure they share is the convening of a Tribunal. This group normally handle any major criminal matters within a Tower. Each Tribunal consists of a specific number of sentinels and guides and they examine and evaluate the evidence in a case. They will determine innocence or guilt and then the current Sentinel Alpha Prime decides the punishment.
“You will be allowed to testify in your own defence but will not be allowed to cross-examine witnesses. You will not be able to face your accusers. They will be examined by the judges. This is nothing like a normal courtroom and is a holdover from tribal times. Again, there is some movement to change but it’s a slow process.”
John was intrigued and surprisingly hopeful. At least he would be allowed to speak in his own defence and was certain he could explain the reasons for his actions. There were extenuating circumstances that, if allowed to be heard, could help his case. Even though he didn’t yet know the new Sentinel Alpha Prime, her guide Douglas had said he would be a friend to them. Possibly Douglas could put in a good word with his sentinel in the hopes she might be lenient with him when it came to handing down a punishment.
“The punishments for various infractions depend on Moira Hayes. She will be the one to determine what happens to you, John. These are some of the documents of similar cases involving guides.”
Givens opened up the folder and held up a piece of paper, making a wry face. “As you can see, there isn’t much recorded. Apparently you’re unusual for a guide in that you deliberately defied the Tower. I’m guessing most guides are of the disposition to not fight the Warrant of Custody.
“There were only two cases I could find. One from the 1970’s and one from the 1990’s. In the earlier case, the guide was sentenced by the Sentinel Alpha Prime to be confined to the Tower after bonding for no more than fifteen days.” John’s spirits rose. He could do that.
“However, in the most recent case, the guide was sentenced to three years confinement to the Tower after bonding.” The lawyer’s face was grim. “The Sentinel Alpha Prime was newly elevated and his name was Colin Fitzhugh. You’re very fortunate that he is no longer in charge here. I hope that Hayes will be much more reasonable.”
John was stunned and at the same time incredibly relieved. He had certainly dodged a bullet when it came to any punishments. At least he hoped he would get off lightly. Moira Hayes simply had to be more reasonable than Fitzhugh had been.
“I couldn’t find any cases where a guide deliberately injured or attacked other sentinels, even in their own defence. In this, you are again very unusual, Guide Watson.”
John’s chagrined expression made the lawyer give him as slight smile. “I did find a few mentions of guides accidentally causing injury, but those weren’t prosecuted. There are plenty of cases where sentinels caused injury or even death to guides, but usually in the throes of a bonding frenzy. Those sentinels were not prosecuted but there were a very few cases where a sentinel injured a guide deliberately. Those sentinels were sentenced to death.” John gasped and even Sherlock sat up straight in shock.
“That happened a very long time ago and this punishment hasn’t been enacted in living memory, thankfully.”
“I’ll be glad to go with you now when you meet with the Sentinel Alpha Prime and will advocate for you as much as I can but frankly John, you don’t need me. I’ll go in with you to the meeting and get the list of charges to explain to you, but there’s nothing else I can do for you. Neither Sherlock nor I will even be allowed to come with you to the Tribunal.” John glanced at his alpha, heart sinking. He would just have to go through with it on his own, then. That would be fine. After all, he was a soldier. Whatever the results of the Tribunal, he knew he would have done his best.
”John, do you know where we’re supposed to meet with Hayes?” Givens was gathering up his papers to return to his briefcase.
John shook his head. “I didn’t ask Elliot. I expect we can just wait in the reception area. Sherlock, do you have any other questions?”
“Yes, I do. I aided John in his escape from this Tower. Is there a chance they would want to prosecute me for that?” John had really hoped that Sherlock would not bring that up. The fact that he had an accomplice seemed to have been forgotten in all the craziness of John’s capture and subsequent escape.
“They certainly could do if they know it was you who helped John. Did anyone see you?”
Sherlock nodded. “James Douglas saw us leaving that night. He spoke to us and then stepped aside so we could leave.”
Givens’ eyebrows rose in astonishment. “That’s rather strange. Well, it’s clear they know you aided and abetted John’s escape. If they don’t bring it up, I suggest you keep quiet about it.”
They made their way back to the lobby area where they waited for a few moments and then were met by Guide Elliot. He ushered them to the bank of lifts and took them to the fifth floor. They moved into the newer part of the Tower where there was quite a lot of activity. John wondered what was happening that required so many people to be bustling about.
Elliot took them to a large conference room and asked them to wait. John’s palms were sweating and he was tired of all this uncertainty. He just wanted this all over with and he knew it wasn’t going to end for a while. Sherlock put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed, clearly picking up on his nervousness.
“Everything will be all right, John. You’ll see.” John appreciated his attempt at comfort but there was so much at stake. He gave his sentinel a grateful half smile anyway.
The door opened at that moment and the Sentinel Alpha Prime of the LondonTower and her Guide Prime walked in, followed by Elliot. Sentinel Hayes was tall, handsome and very fit, like most alphas John had met. She was dark-haired but there were wide grey streaks in her hair, indicating she was not young.
Of course they had both met Guides Elliot and Douglas before though Sherlock had not been formally introduced to Douglas. Neither had met Moira Hayes, but John clearly remembered seeing her at the alpha dinner meeting he’d been taken to the day he’d been captured. Sentinel Hayes had been the alpha who had challenged Fitzhugh and had managed to get in a few good hits before they’d been separated. She had subsequently challenged Fitzhugh officially to single combat, winning the fight and control of the Tower. John liked her already.
She began speaking before she even sat down. “Good afternoon, everyone. I don’t have a lot of time as there’s a press conference scheduled in about an hour. Good to see you again, Sentinel Givens. Nice to finally meet you, Sentinel Holmes and Guide Watson.” She reached out, shook their hands and smiled. “May I congratulate you on your bonding? I believe you have chosen extremely well and I expect to hear good things of you both.” Her delivery was quick and businesslike. John tried to imagine going through this with Fitzhugh and was glad he didn't have to do.
“First of all, Guide Watson, you’ll be facing a variety of charges based on what happened last month. Tom, please give Graham the list.” Elliot handed over a folder to Givens, who began to flip through the pages of legalese. John was surprised at how thick the folder was. Maybe there was one page for each charge? If so there were a lot of them. His stomach began to churn again.
“Guide Watson, to cut to the chase, if you don’t mind the pun, the main charges against you are evading the Warrant of Custody, escaping lawful custody and causing deliberate grievous bodily harm to individual members of the Tower in the pursuit of their duty.
“Graham can go over the charges with you at your leisure. We don’t intend to keep you in custody at this time, though we do request your passport to make sure you don’t leave the country.” John had anticipated this and had brought it with him. Though that wouldn’t have stopped him if he truly wanted to leave, but they didn’t need to know that. He brought out his passport and handed it over to Douglas.
“Now, I’m sure Graham has told you how we do things around here. A Tribunal will be convened in approximately six to eight weeks from now, depending on the availability of the judges selected. The judges will be senior sentinels and their guides from other Towers and they will be chosen by lottery.
“They will hear the evidence against you and determine your guilt or innocence. The statements taken from the witnesses are in the folder Graham has now but you won’t be able to cross examine them. Graham will not be allowed in the Tribunal nor will your sentinel. You must face this alone.
“When you are questioned by the judges, you will have to be willing to lower your shields completely so you can be examined by the guides for veracity as you testify. If you aren’t willing to do that, there are drugs that will be administered to ensure your cooperation. Once you have been questioned, the judges will make a decision. Then, if you are found guilty, I will determine your punishment. Do you have any questions?”
John was a bit overwhelmed by the rapid fire delivery of the information. Thankfully, Givens had prepped him for most of that. Having to lower his shields to strangers and making himself vulnerable was going to be hard, but he would do whatever was necessary to cooperate fully. There was no way he would risk taking drugs if he was pregnant. He’d know for sure by then but he still planned to cooperate.
“And then, there’s the other matter involving Sentinel Holmes.” John’s blood froze as she gestured to Elliot, who then handed Givens another folder. “These are the charges against your alpha sentinel, Guide Watson. They are fairly serious, as charges go. Breaking and entering, aiding and abetting the escape of a valuable asset within the Tower and assaulting two Protectors.”
John felt ill. He had hoped that they would overlook Sherlock’s involvement but he should have known better.
“So we’ll be holding a Tribunal for Sentinel Holmes, as well.” John glanced quickly at Sherlock, who was looking grim but resigned.
“We’ll prosecute Homes and I’ll make sure to give him the maximum punishment. Unless....” John’s attention snapped back to the Alpha Prime. “Unless you, Guide Watson, agree to come to the press conference and let the public know that the unidentified guide that escaped the first Hunt in twenty years is unharmed and safe.”
Speechless with astonishment and anger at the blatant manipulation, John couldn’t answer right away. By the time he’d gathered his thoughts, Sherlock was on his feet. “He will not expose his identity to the public. If it was revealed that John is the unidentified guide, he would be hounded unmercifully. We do dangerous work and this is an unacceptable risk. I won’t allow it!”
This last sentence was directed straight at John. It was an order from his alpha and John’s omega instinct was to obey him unquestioningly. But, as he’d told Sherlock before they’d bonded, he’d not allow his alpha to steamroll over him if he disagreed.
Before Sherlock could go on, John replied to Hayes. “I’ll do it.” John ignored his alpha’s outrage and surprise at his defiance as Sherlock turned on him.
The detective’s tone sounded desperate. “Consider this before you act. You wouldn’t have a moment’s peace if your name is known.”
“Sherlock, I have considered this. I’m guilty of all these charges. I know there will be punishment and probably some kind of imprisonment. We can’t both be confined at the same time so I’m doing this whether you want me to or not. “
Sherlock turned to Givens for help. “Can she do this? Does she have the power to determine whether the charges are dropped?”
Givens nodded. “She’s the Sentinel Alpha Prime, Sherlock. And the Tower is not a democracy. It’s basically a dictatorship.” The lawyer glanced at Hayes and then back to Sherlock. “She can do anything she likes and we have no recourse.”
Sherlock tried once more to appeal to John. “Please, John. This is too dangerous!” He lowered his voice and spoke in John’s ear. “Think of our child, John.”
The doctor registered a surprised reaction from Hayes at that statement but ignored it. “That’s just it, Sherlock. I am thinking of us. I can do this. The members of the press don't need to know my whole name. Also, you’re an expert at disguise and you have an excellent disguise kit. I’ve seen it. You can change my appearance enough to make it difficult to identify me, can’t you?”
Sherlock sat up eagerly, “Yes, of course I can do. But I’ll need some time and my kit is at home. Hayes said they had the press conference in less than an hour. There’s not enough, time.”
Elliot spoke up. “We have an excellent disguise department here in the Tower. Some of our members do need to go undercover occasionally.”
The Alpha Prime spoke up also. “Yes, that’s very true. Not all of us are glorified security guards all the time, you know.” Hayes was all business again. “Elliot, take them there and see they get what they need. Sentinel Givens, I suggest you return to your offices and examine the information you’ve been given. I need to go over my statements to the press. I have a lot to cover today.
“John. I know I’ve coerced you into this, but I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t felt it was extremely important that this issue with you and the public gets sorted out. Your situation and the lack of closure regarding what happened during the Hunt has been a public relations nightmare of unprecedented proportions. The press, the public and the government have been asking questions that we couldn’t answer and they weren’t accepting that.”
John paused before he left to follow Sherlock. “You know, you could have just asked and I would have been willing to help.” The doctor was trying hard to hold onto his temper but it was a losing proposition.
She gave him a smug smile. “Yes, I could have done, but this way we both get something we wanted. You get your bond mate out of trouble and I get to solve a major problem. It’s a win-win situation, if you ask me.”
With that, she swept out of the room ahead of John, who stood there stunned. Hayes was a talented politician and nearly as ruthless as Fitzhugh. His admiration for her prowess increased. She could have asked John to attend the press conference and he would have done without asking anything in return. In her mind, though, it would have made her indebted to him. But instead she just gave him Sherlock’s freedom and made them even. It was the ideal solution and he would take it with both hands.
He had hoped that maybe she would be lenient with him when his time came for punishment, but he wasn’t going to count on it. Everything she did was for the good of the Tower and if that meant he’d have to pay a heavy price, she would inflict it.
Quickly, he followed Sherlock and Elliot, who had managed to get almost to the end of the corridor ahead of him. Elliot opened the door to one of the offices and ushered them inside.
The room reminded John of a theatre backstage or at least the wardrobe department. Wigs, costumes and tables with large, well lit mirrors filled the rooms. Sherlock immediately took charge and seated John in one of the larger chairs that reclined. Elliot was removing a selection of makeup kits from a cupboard.
Sherlock looked down at him, face serious. “John? Are you completely sure? You don’t have to do this.”
”Yes I’m sure and yes I do have to do this. There’s too damn much going on and you need to stay free to take care of things if I end up confined. Even if I am identified, it’s a small price to pay to keep you safe and free. So let’s get to work.” Sherlock looked unhappy but nodded in agreement.
Elliot had stayed back until they had concluded their discussion and then approached with a couple of kits and placed them on the table beside John. “This makeup is safe for sentinels so I expect that you shouldn’t have any problems. Sentinel Holmes? Do you need assistance with this?”
Sherlock was already deep in his artistic, thinking mode. He answered the archivist absently. “Yes, I might. I would appreciate it if you would stay nearby in case I need something.”
He was looking critically and closely at his omega, eyes narrowed in concentration. “John, I’ve not got enough time to do a major change on you so it’ll have to be subtle. The most identifiable feature you have is your nose, so I’ll start there.”
John just sat back and let them work. After about twenty minutes, Sherlock straightened up and sighed. “Well, it’ll have to do.” The detective spoke to Elliot. “I think your idea of changing his hairstyle slightly was better than trying to use a wig. Without at least another hour to integrate a wig into his actual hair, it would have stood out like a sore thumb.”
Turning back to John, he tucked some hair back from his forehead. “The goal here is to make it seem that this is your normal appearance, without makeup, so no one will try to look closer at you in order to discover your true identity.”
He spun the chair to face the mirror. John’s eyebrows went up in surprise. If he hadn’t known who it was sitting in the chair, he’d not have recognised himself at all. His hair appeared much darker with a slightly different style. His eyebrows were thicker and nearly black. Somehow, Sherlock had made his large, wide nose seem smaller and thinner and his thin lips more full. The planes of his face were also sharper and his cheekbones higher and they’d smoothed out some of his wrinkles. The cleft in his chin appeared deeper, too. The detective had also given him a somewhat heavier beard, though he’d not overdone it. He was a masterpiece of makeup art. John looked sharp, dangerous and not at all like his usual self.
John beamed up at Sherlock, who had been staring at him a bit nervously, clearly worried about what he might say. “It’s brilliant, luv! The theatrical world lost out when you became the world’s only consulting alpha sentinel detective. No one will recognise me, not even my mum. Let’s go. It’s almost show time.”
Before they left, Sherlock handed him a shirt completely different to what he’d normally wear. The shirt was tight fitting and showed off his torso and accented his wide shoulders and trim waist. He laughed as he looked in the mirror. For once, his looks and dress reflected what he really was. Instead of soft and harmless, he looked sharp and rather lethal.
Elliot led them down to the lobby. Unlike the last time the Tower had held a press conference, this was to take place inside the new reception area in the lobby of the Tower. Apparently this was unprecedented. Non-sentinels had rarely been allowed into the hoary and hallowed grounds of the London Sentinel Tower and never had reporters and journalists been permitted access.
A podium had been placed in front of a large photo montage that had been recently erected against one of the walls. It certainly hadn’t been there when John and Sherlock had entered the lobby earlier in the afternoon. It artistically depicted sentinels and guides working harmoniously together. There were scientists, search and rescue teams, police, doctors, nurses, security and various other occupations depicted, even the military.
John realised it was to illustrate clearly what Hayes’ new agenda would be. She intended to woo guides in with the promise of equality and full partnership in the sentinel community. It was a brilliant strategy and John approved. It would be incredible if she could actually follow through and buck centuries of ingrained tradition.
The buzz in the room quietened as the new Sentinel Alpha Prime moved to the podium. John wondered how things would go today. It was a momentous occasion. What happened in the next hour might very well shape the future of British sentinels and guides for decades to come. What Hayes had to say was going to be groundbreaking and would finally turn the direction of the Towers fully toward the 21st century. And her success or failure as a leader could be determined within the next sixty minutes.
Moira Hayes seemed calm and in control as she looked out over the crowd of journalists and reporters seated and standing before her. John had seen her shaking with nerves before she’d left the recesses of the building for the podium, though. The announcement of her new administration would be her first and most important official public act. It was vitally important that she make a perfect impression in order to attempt to counteract the negative public opinion of Fitzhugh’s previous administration. It was clear that she was very aware of how pivotal the next few minutes would be for the future of sentinels and guides across the nation.
He shared her anxiety as he was ushered to stand behind her at the podium with Elliot and a couple of other Tower administrators, including Tower Secretary Wilson. John glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, but the man didn’t acknowledge him. That was good. The last thing he wanted was a fight with the man in public. He still wished he’d tased the officious oaf, however.
As she began her statement, Hayes made it clear that her new administration had little in common with Fitzhugh’s and that her methods would be very different to his. Then she officially declared the Tower’s withdrawal of support for the omega and guide rights rollback legislation that was to be voted on in the next session of Parliament. She condemned the legislation and all that it would have attempted to do. This created quite a stir with journalists and John felt heartened.
With her guide Douglas by her side, Hayes outlined the changes that would be taking place within the Tower in the ensuing months and years. She described how the Tower would no longer pursue unbonded guides but would actively work to woo and recruit with offers of real work, education, training and opportunities for a better life.
Hayes promised that all guides would finally be treated as equals to sentinels. No longer would they be bonded immediately upon identification but would now, for the first time in the history of the London Tower, be allowed to meet with potential bond mates and would be permitted to choose whomever they felt was most compatible. Finally gone were the days of forced bondings.
Hayes urged people who were jobless in the tough economy to come in to be tested, but assured them they would not be forced into being a guide if they later changed their minds.
She then asked for questions from the press and they came fast and furious. John watched in wonder as she shortly had them eating out of her hand. It was demonstrated to him again that Hayes was quite the consummate politician and he listened with growing admiration.
Then the question John had been dreading was asked and the person doing the asking was the same omega activist John had seen at Fitzhugh’s press conference.
“Sentinel Hayes! How do we know that your new administration is going to treat omegas better than you have done in the past? You have yet to account for the whereabouts and well being of the last omega guide your Tower had in its hands and who is now missing. It’s been over four weeks and there has been no official statement regarding this person since before the Hunt was called off and Fitzhugh was removed from leadership of the London Sentinel Tower. Do you have any information about this unfortunate person?”
Hayes stood tall and imposing at the podium and addressed the questioner directly. “Mr Dean, is it? Yes, this Tower has a history of treating omega guides possessively.” The omega activist snorted in disbelief at that understatement. Hayes raised her voice and looked out over the crowd. “However, that’s also going to change. We will respect the rights of omega guides as we will the beta guides. They will always have a choice to be a part of this community if they wish. No more coercion.
“As the Sentinel Alpha Prime, I have the authority to create new laws or strike down old ones for my Tower. As of last week, the one that mandates automatic Tower custody of an omega guide has been rescinded.” There was a quiet murmuring from the crowd and a restless shifting as the press absorbed this information.
Dean was still standing. “That’s all well and good, Alpha, but what about the omega guide you had captured, the one that everyone saw abused and dragged away to the Tower? No one has seen him in over four weeks and there was a rumour that he’d been abducted and carried away by persons unknown. There is another rumour that he’s died in your custody. You must know something. The entire country wants to know what has happened!”
“I understand, Mr Dean. I personally won’t explain it to you but I will let the omega guide do it for himself.” The room erupted in shouts and exclamations as the reporters all tried to ask questions at the same time, many of them standing up in an attempt to get her attention.
It took a few moments for order to return to the room and then Hayes continued. “Before I ask him to come up here, I want you to please respect his privacy and know he will not answer questions about his full name or his family.” She turned to the doctor and gestured for him to approach. She spoke to him quietly. “Just do your best to answer whatever questions you feel are appropriate. I’ll be here as will James and Tom, in case you need us.”
With that, she stepped back to make room for him at the podium. He had given presentations before but this was incredibly different. It looked like a million people were all staring at him, filming his every move and it was terrifying. John stared out over the group, stomach in knots, and wondered where to begin. At least his shields were strong and very much in place. The emotional ambience of the place was a churning miasma of chaos and it wouldn’t do to get swept up in it all.
It was important not to reveal too much about himself but at the same time put on a good enough show to get the press off the backs of the Tower. It was vital that Sherlock not be prosecuted and he had to give his best performance. So where to begin?
He didn’t have to worry because they began shouting questions at him all at once.
He held up his hands, palms out toward them in a warding motion. “Stop. Please stop! Look, I’ll start this off the simple way. My name is John. As you can see, I’m just fine. Any damage done was minor and I’m fine.”
Someone he couldn’t see shouted at him. “Are you under any kind of coercion right now? Is anyone from the Tower forcing you to do this?”
John peered out into the crowd, trying to see who asked the question. “Um. No, I’m doing this willingly. No one is forcing me to be here.” It was pretty much true and not exactly a lie. It seemed to satisfy some but another question was shouted.
”We saw your capture. Have you been in the Tower all this time or did you escape?”
This was a tricky question and he made sure not to mention Sherlock’s complicity in his getaway. “I escaped the same day I was taken and I left the country.” This seemed to excite the reporters with the possibilities of adventure added to the story.
“Why did you come back?”
”I had heard that there was a change in leadership at the Tower. Frankly, I didn’t think anyone could possibly be as bad as Fitzhugh and was willing to take my chances to come home. I would have stayed away otherwise.” There were some chuckles at that.
A blond reporter that John vaguely recognised from the telly raised his arm to be acknowledged. “Are you bonded now?”
“Yes, I’m bonded to a sentinel I knew before the Tower found me.”
Dean spoke up and thankfully changed the subject. “John, you’re definitely an omega guide, right?” John nodded reluctantly.
“Obviously you successfully and understandably hid that you are a guide from everyone, especially the Towers, for most of your life. Were you also hiding your gender and if so, why?”
John thought for moment, trying to decide what to say. He decided to be straightforward. “I deliberately chose to hide because I would have been strongly discouraged from my choice of career had my gender been known. Things are somewhat different now, thankfully, but when I was growing up in the ‘70’s, if you were an omega, you were expected to bond young and have a family, not follow a career. Even though the reforms had given omegas more rights, the approved careers for omegas didn’t even begin to include what I wanted to do.
“I wasn’t going to let society dictate my life, so with the support of my family and use of heat suppressants, I was able to do what I wanted.” John felt a bit strange talking about heat suppressants to a bunch of strangers, but what he’d done to hide his omega status wasn’t illegal.
“You mean a career in the military?” John grimaced and nodded slowly. It wasn’t like they didn’t know that anyway.
Someone else asked, “Just to clarify your motives, why exactly did you hide and then run after the Warrant had been issued?”
John laughed a bit at that question. “Well, put yourself in my place. I had a career and a life. If I’d been captured and forced to live in the Tower, my life would have been destroyed and the career I’d worked so hard to achieve would have to be abandoned. Also, I had met someone by then.” The reporters moved forward at that bit of information, sensing a good story. John wasn’t sure if he should have mentioned that but it was a vital piece of information about his motivations.
“What do you mean, you met someone? You mean your new bond mate?”
John sighed and considered. “Yes. I had never wanted to bond before, but then I met an alpha sentinel and everything changed. He knew what I was and we were in the process of sorting things out. We were negotiating for our future, if you will and hadn’t yet made a decision about bonding.
“Then he was called out of the country for work. I wasn’t too worried, since the omega/guide rollback legislation wasn’t coming up for a vote for a few months. I thought we had plenty of time to decide what to do. It was then that the Warrant of Custody was delivered. Every decision directly affecting my future hinged on what my alpha wanted to do but he was gone. It was too important to discuss over the phone and I needed him to return first and give me his answer. So I ran to gain time.”
“Do you intend to sue the Tower for causing you harm? From the videos, it appeared you were seriously injured.”
John hadn’t thought of that and wondered if that could be used to negotiate with the judges or Hayes.
“I’d honestly not got that far ahead with things. I’ve just been back a short time. I seriously doubt it, though. I gave as good as I got most of the time, so I figure we’re even.” That felt like the right thing to say, mainly because it was very true and the press knew it.
“Do you support Sentinel Alpha Prime Hayes in her reforms?”
It didn’t take him even a moment to answer with complete honesty and conviction. “I think her ideas are absolutely brilliant. If she had been the leader of the London Sentinel Tower when I was younger, I would have seriously considered a career as a guide if it meant I could study the subjects I wanted. What she’s offering is unprecedented in the history of the sentinel/guide community and it deserves a fair chance to succeed.
“Every young person needs a good education and a challenging career to succeed in life. This is what she’s offering to those who have what it takes. Any guide or sentinel has an excellent opportunity here and I urge those who are the least bit curious to come in and be tested.” He was rather surprised by his vehemence and took in a deep breath.
“John! Would you be willing to be interviewed about your experience with the Tower and the former Sentinel Alpha Prime? The public is eager to know more about you.” And no doubt a scoop like that could make a journalist’s career, as well.
John’s mouth opened but nothing came out. There was no way he wanted to give a one-on-one interview to anyone. He’d hoped that this press conference was it for him. Turning, he gave Hayes a beseeching look. Did she want him to do this?
Hayes took that moment to step back up to the podium and put a comforting hand on John’s shoulder. “Thank you all for coming but I’m afraid we’re out of time. Any other questions can be directed to the head of our PR department, Sentinel Nicolas Reid, Tower Secretary Wilson or Guide Prime James Douglas. Thank you all so much!” Waving to the crowd, she took John gently by the elbow and led him out of the room, flanked by Elliot and Douglas.
John’s mind had blanked out for those few moments but was pathetically glad that Hayes had stopped the press conference at that point. He had no idea how to respond to that question other than a resounding “No!” He had a feeling that subject wasn’t going to be let go easily by the journalists and dreaded having to deal with it again.
Then Sherlock was there and John was gathered in a firm embrace. He held tight to his alpha and breathed in his calming scent. It was then he realised he was shaking from the adrenalin crash. Did he do well enough to ensure Sherlock wouldn’t be prosecuted? If it had all been for nothing, he didn’t know what he would do.
”You were brilliant out there, John.” Sherlock was proud of him, he could feel it. That was all he needed to know. Everything was suddenly all right, even if Hayes didn’t agree.
“Yes, John. You did better than we ever anticipated and your support of our reforms just about guarantees their acceptance. In fact, I would wager that we will start getting calls from prospective guides based on your enthusiastic endorsement.” Hayes was smiling gently at him, her eyes twinkling with amusement. John was relieved and wanted to test that she was being honest with him, but didn’t dare use his empathy on her with her guide standing right beside her.
It took just a few minutes to get the makeup off his face and they were on their way home. He’d have to shower to get the temporary dye out of his hair, but that was minor. Feeling restless and enervated by the experience, he looked forward to getting home and trying to relax. He wondered what the fallout of the conference would mean for him and Sherlock.