Fingers through his hair pushing it back from his forehead wake him up.
John can feel exactly where Sherlock sits on the edge of the bed with a hand buried comfortably in his hair. When he opens his eyes and turns he can see Sherlock’s smallest finger of his opposite hand locked in the small fist of their young son.
“You’re home,” John manages to mumble through a yawn before shutting his eyes once more as the tension leaves his body in a sudden flow. He’s not exactly sure how long he was asleep for, but it couldn't have been for very long.
“Case ran later than expected.” Sherlock answers the unasked question promptly making John focus on him again. “I should have been here for his feeding.” He then mentions by way of apology and greeting.
John smiles sleepily, shaking his head; the pillowcase tugs on the slightly longer strands of his hair he keeps meaning to get trimmed. “No, I like feeding him. It’s fine.”
Sherlock smiles down at him briefly, his attention alternating between John and Hamish. “But you need rest.” Sherlock continues, his thumb rubbing softly against John’s temple. He presses compulsively into the touch he is beginning to feel starved for like before. “I’ll bathe him for the night, you rest.”
Sherlock’s soft words encourage him to glance between his mate and child with renewing energy. Sherlock has a bruise blooming on one of his cheekbones and he lifts a lethargically heavy hand to brush his fingers softly over it. “You’re okay?”
“A superficial blow,” Sherlock assures him as he moves his hand to the back of John’s head, cradling it as he leans down and presses his lips against John’s, taking active part in a very slow and tired kiss.
Despite the softness, John can tell that Sherlock is interested in more than a mere kiss by the way he holds him and nuzzles against his cheek, but Sherlock won't push him for more, more than aware that John hasn't been all too interested since the birth.
It was obvious just how tired John looked daily between taking care of Hamish, the home, and consulting with the GP overlooking his patients for the moment.
As Sherlock kisses him one last time and begins to pull away John lets him go a little reluctantly with a relaxed smile. Sinking back into the mattress and pillows to watch as Sherlock carefully lifts Hamish into his arms, to see all that attention and intensity for his son only at that moment.
With Hamish off the bed and in the capable care of Sherlock he sprawls out and lets himself drift off into a light doze. He has the vague idea to ask Sherlock about how his case went before sleep tries to claim him in his struggle to remain awake.
Waking to a startling bang of plastic against ceramic he leaps out of the bed and rushes towards the noise where he soon realizes is their bathroom.
Fearing the worst John pushes the open door further only to see that Sherlock had kicked the baby tub out of their larger tub and now cradled Hamish to his naked chest. John can only blink slowly as he tries to put all the pieces together between the worry and adrenaline to make sure Hamish was unharmed.
“Christ, what happened?” John manages to breathe out in relief, completely thrown by what had disturbed him and what he was now seeing, going from hearing something violent to seeing something so crushingly tender.
“Hamish decided to relieve himself in his bath.” Sherlock frowns down at Hamish who doesn't seem all that bothered in the change of baths or sudden noise, easily resting his head back against Sherlock’s chest after he’s been shifted slightly and stares wide eyed at John.
John begins giggling when his son gives him a stern look, making him grin and causes Sherlock to glance up and watch them interact wordlessly with each other. He also won’t be forgetting Sherlock’s brief shocked expression when he first walked in and he doubts he ever would.
“So you decided to spread the mess all over the floor.” John teases as he carefully steps further in, avoiding the wet puddle before he sits on the edge of the tub.
Sherlock frowns up at him, still holding Hamish securely to him. “I panicked,” he admits a little grudgingly, look demanding a change of actions.
John laughs again as he continues to see the evidence displayed for him. Sherlock has a pout coming along and John is prepared to distract, “Well go on and bathe him with you then.”
Soon he holds their son while Sherlock fully strips and fills the bath. Then he fondly watches as Sherlock carefully and meticulously washes Hamish who is lulled to sleep by light touches and warm water and familiar hands.
Transferred into his arms once more, John dries Hamish as Sherlock gets out to dry and dress himself.
With Hamish dressed and asleep in his cot, in his room, John makes his way back to the bathroom with the intention to mop up. Instead he finds Sherlock has dropped his used towel on the floor and was now using his bare feet to drag it across the tile in his attempt of cleaning.
Resting against the door frame he waits for Sherlock to finish and come to him. When he does, Sherlock corners him outside the bathroom and presses close and mutely asks for permission. He can tell Sherlock is balanced on the balls of his feet, ready to pull away if he needs to.
The fluttering inside of his chest, the blush traveling across his body, his arm curving around Sherlock’s shoulder as he answers by pulling them closer together feels overwhelming in a good way.
Sherlock whines, something that sounds beyond desperation, before he muffles it himself firmly against John’s mouth.
In bed Sherlock slowly reminds John with both word and touch how desired he really and truly always is.
The bed feels far too large. He still wasn't used to sleeping in his own bed, especially one meant for two adults, after sharing with Sherlock more frequently since their more recent and permanent cohabitation.
It is exhausting to go day after day not with Sherlock. Because once again, Sherlock was no longer here, beside him, and this time it has been far more traumatic.
He can’t stand Hamish’s whimpering anymore. He couldn’t take him calling for his papa every morning, every afternoon, every night, every minute John spent with him without Hamish really knowing too much.
It was not something a parent should have to go through with by themselves.
“Daaaaah,” Hamish whined between hiccups, “pa?” As if Hamish really understood what the situation was. He wouldn't, not at this age.
John squeezed his eyes shut tightly, running his fingers gently over Hamish’s forehead. It’s not like John could give him the honest answer now and have him understand, which was that he didn’t know where his papa was but that he wasn't here now and nor would he be back.
The tightening in his chest lets loose little by little until he can finally open his eyes, forcing himself to calm down.
“He, mine – now.”
John sucked in a shuddering breath. Hamish said a variation of this almost every night, right when they were about to go to bed and his interpretations of the words only got wilder.
“I don’t know, Hamish.” John replies cautiously this time, hating himself a little more today than he did yesterday. “He didn't tell daddy anything.”
“Now. Now” Hamish demanded a little more in whispered words, turning onto his side to try and look up at his face.
“No. I don't know.” John repeats, hoping harder than he’d ever had before that his son wouldn't hate him for it.
Already his son couldn't remember the night John came home without Sherlock. How John had come home cold and shaken, smelling of iron, petrol, and blood. Blood that smelled of his papa that made Hamish cry uncontrollably the closer John held him in overwhelming desperation.
Now John runs his fingers through his son’s dark curls, willing himself not to pull his son in tightly and frighten him just as they were going to sleep.
Tomorrow he’d have to make sure Hamish slept in his own bed. As much as they both enjoyed the comfort, he knew it wasn't right for Hamish’s development. It was one thing to sleep between his parents after a nightmare; it was another to be used as a crutch.
As soon as Hamish falls asleep John softly rolls out of bed, careful not to jostle the bed and wake his sleeping son, footsteps light in his exit.
He did this every night. Because John couldn't sleep.
When he did fall asleep it tended to be interrupted by nightmares.
So he sets about cleaning the living room instead. Picking up toys and books, moving shoes out from under the couch and near the door, sitting in his armchair and staring across at the one Sherlock had always favored as he attempted a short break.
After making the living room look ordered yet inhabited, that never lasted past nine in the morning on a good day, he moved on to the kitchen.
The kitchen, that now lacked odd experiments on the table or inside the fridge or on the counter, left him feeling as if he’d stepped into another dimension each time. He washed every plate, cup, and utensil by hand as he ignored the emptiness of the room. It was a new habit he’d recently picked up.
Afterwards he would sit on the couch and pull out his notes from work and read through them, keeping an ear out in case Hamish woke up or Mrs. Hudson needed his help.
Every once in a while he had the sudden urge to leave Baker Street, just get them out and start somewhere new.
But it was the only place his child knew, the only place where he could have fond memories of a father who committed suicide before he was old enough to know what it really meant.
Like scheduled, Mycroft quietly entered the flat, hardly making a sound as he climbed the stairs and pushed the front door open.
John glances up to look at his brother in law, the familiarity causes him to relax a little.
Because Mycroft was as composed as always when John wasn't and hasn't been for a while.
“He’s asleep.” John croaked, having long been quiet with only whispered words to his son over an hour or two ago.
“I am aware.” Mycroft assures him, walking over to Sherlock’s armchair and sitting down gracefully. “But you aren't John, yet again.”
Licking his lips and reshuffling papers in his lap he forces himself to finally meet Mycroft’s eyes. “I have a lot of things to do.”
Mycroft is quick to reply. Surprisingly not yet tired of having the same conversations. “Things like cleaning? Things that someone hired could come and do for you while you're both not here?”
The anger is quick and uncontrollable. “I don’t want some stranger coming in here!” John snaps, hands clenching tightly into fists pressed against his thighs.
“They could come in while you were at work and Hamish with me. You'd never need to interact.”
John shakes his head vehemently, refusing to see it for the logic it was. He didn't want anyone coming into his territory. It was hardly his anymore with Sherlock gone, no matter what the documents stated. He knew it was a ridiculous worry, but centuries of instincts couldn't exactly be ignored for words on paper.
“I want what is best for you both.” Mycroft continues, speaking carefully. “Let me help. I can while you take the time to rest and see a therapist. I’ll personally see to this flat being clean myself. What you're doing is not healthy, it will only continue to make things worse.”
He doesn't know if he can trust Mycroft or not. Once, what now feels like a long time ago, John would have trusted him with absolutely everything. But now the more he saw him the further he wanted to be from him. Because nothing truly felt right to him anymore, except for Hamish.
Because Mycroft would always do what he had to do, even if it meant destroying their family to keep it alive. Even if it meant he didn't react right to Sherlock's death and caused John to doubt him and then push for his well being.
“I’m sorry. No.” John shakes his head. “I can keep this flat up by myself, thanks.”
“What about the therapist?” Mycroft pushes with an undercurrent of urgency. He has brought this part of the conversation up every night he visits.
John swallows thickly. He knows he needs to talk about these things, would with his family if he could bring himself to. “I don’t know where to start.” He admits, looking up at Mycroft, more than a little lost. He clarifies at the unchanging look on Mycroft's face, “It doesn't feel like Sherlock’s gone. The bond I mean.”
“Hamish, daddy made this for you.”
“You don’t want to make your daddy sad, do you?”
John snorts from where he stands at the sink shaking his head, “You’re manipulating him.”
Sherlock turns from Hamish to John. “You said you couldn’t get him to eat and asked me to try.”
“Yes, but that’s a bit mean don’t you think.” John faces his mate and son. They’re both staring at him, equally open, equally fascinated with John’s voice. “Besides, he’s gotten it into his head that you feed him dinner now.”
“It’ll work.” Sherlock assures him, the light in the kitchen making his eyes look as if they’re glowing before he’s ducking back down to tempt Hamish with his spoon.
John watches with fond amusement anyway,“You can’t guilt him into eating.” He abandons the sink and sits at the table to watch anyway. He should probably record this.
Sherlock gives him a pointed look, a clear challenge accepted, before turning his attention back to Hamish who is waving his hands in front of him.
“Where were we before your daddy interrupted? Yes, you don’t want to make him sad. It only makes you sad too.” Sherlock spins his tale with Hamish’s attention now fully on him as he continues his altered excuse for baby talk.
Because our son is not an idiot, John. Look at him, he clearly understands our tone of voice so why not get him used to being spoken to like a human and not an animal.
Sherlock brandishes the baby spoon in his hand in soft swoops, this is where Sherlock wins and Hamish fails through the distraction of watching. Soon Hamish’s mouth is surrounding the spoon with food.
John breathes half laughing and half surprised, “Christ, it actually worked.” as he watches the two repeat the motions with less fanfare now than before.
“Children generally don’t want to displease their parents. It’s only a matter of years before Hamish begins to choose what is best for himself, despite his parents’ concerns and opinions.” Sherlock turns to look pointedly at John.
Running his tongue over his lips John taps on the table counter ignoring the hidden remark, he’s not about to get into that conversation again. “So we start to guilt him.”
Not surprised by John’s evasive maneuver Sherlock is prepared to continue their uncomplicated conversation. “I found it made quite the impression on me,” He admits as he carefully makes sure Hamish isn’t eating too quickly that it becomes a choking hazard.
Moving to rest his elbows on the tabletop with his chin in his hands John stares at Sherlock, wondering if it’s still possible to guilt him into anything at this point. If his mate still has shame in some regards.
“It wouldn’t be as effective.” Sherlock assures him, light humor lacing his tone as he looks up at John with a small smile. “Everything I do has its purpose.”
John is too entertained in watching their son be fed by his father to argue his latest statement.
It’s as he’s wiping down Hamish’s dining chair that he hears the person they were waiting on entering from downstairs and making their way up to 221B. Can clearly hear sharp measured steps and knows his mother in law has arrived and is hurrying to them.
“Where is he?”
John can’t stop his smile as he turns to face her, cleaning rag still in one hand. She doesn’t seem bothered by his state and quickly snatches him into a tight welcoming hug, in his own home.
“Fighting Sherlock against clothes I imagine. I got kicked in the chin this morning.”
She laughs, pleased to hear her grandchild has spirit. “I’ll join them up there, I believe you need to find your coat.” She mentions as she walks out of the kitchen and into the living room where there is a disaster zone caused by Sherlock entertaining Hamish with his toys.
Sherlock comes down soon after, running his hands chaotically through his hair. “This is entirely on you. I was not that difficult a child.”
Unable to hold in his laugh at such a statement, John brandishes his hand around at the mess surrounding them. “You’ve been wrong before. Now help me find my coat. Somehow it’s always lost, unlike yours.”
The coat is discovered to be hidden in the depths of Hamish’s toy box. Presumably left there after John had dropped a screaming Hamish into Sherlock’s lap as he turned to find something to distract the boy from his tantrum over his hands being wiped from the melted chocolate of his cookie.
They’re both saying goodbye to Hamish, who is watching them with solemn eyes as they put on their coats. “Why do we need to go anyway?” Sherlock asks, disgruntled as he noses along Hamish’s head before dropping a kiss at the top.
Rolling his eyes, John shakes Hamish’s hand between his fingers a good few times before replying. “Friend from Uni has a friend who needs your help. Something about a dog I think - but not really just about a dog!” John hurries to finish as he catches Sherlock’s look and they say their final goodbyes.
“Oh, come on. You need to get out of the house a bit! Lestrade told me about the Harpoon Sherlock, and the blood. Don’t think I don’t know what you did with the pig.” John shudders slightly before locking up behind them. Once they’re further down the street he continues, “And don’t even get me started on Mrs. Hudson! I mean, really, Sherlock? You couldn’t have let her know gently? You’ve been a menace and Hamish is starting to join in!”
Still snarking as they arrive at their destination, John silences Sherlock with a hand on his arm before leading the way inside and giving their name. He then has to spend their short wait watching his mate fidget in his seat.
He doesn’t really understand why his mate isn’t doing any more of the interesting cases he continued to take even during his pregnancy. Almost as if Sherlock didn’t want to spend time away from Hamish and John.
It’s been a week with the new medication prescribed to him. He’s been taking it long enough for its effects to be noticeable, especially since he’s aware to know what to look for. It really just makes him question and fail at getting answers repeatedly during his downtime.
John no longer feels his ghost bond pulling him to someone that was no longer there, his instincts to go to his Alpha were effectively being numbed to a dull tug that was so easily ignored. He didn’t know what to feel, only that he was beginning to truthfully feel apathetic about the whole ghost bond situation.
“What have I said to you about playing with your food?”
Hamish glances up, grimacing at him. “Not hungry.”
A pang of something he can’t quite identify, but that feels like regret, strikes him sharply and suddenly, not really knowing how to react to it. “What do you mean you’re not hungry?” He ends up asking sharply.
“Not hungry.” Hamish pouts up at him, his bottom lip starting to quiver a bit.
He doesn’t have time for this. John woken up with the same persistent headache he went to sleep with and he’s tired with a bone deep ache. But he still has to get Hamish off to Mycroft before heading into work.
“For daddy,” John manipulates gently as he sits beside his son. He’d always had trouble convincing Hamish to eat, especially when he claimed he wasn’t hungry. Sherlock, the thought of him hurts in a different way than it has lately, usually managed to trick Hamish into eating.
Slowly Hamish eats his porridge, giving John an indulgent look every time he murmurs encouragement. It brings a small smile to their faces when he’s finished and the morning starts out successfully.
It’s when Hamish has been dropped off with Mrs. Hudson a few hours later. When he’s been fed dinner by now, making John want to be home as he looked forward to sitting down and looking through and sharing what Hamish had accomplished that day.
Tired, with his mind occupied and his system drugged, he was taken by surprise to come face to face with someone he hadn’t expected to see in his living room next to his son.
His father, sat on his couch, reading a book to Hamish.
The first reaction he had to seeing the estranged man was anger. The second was shame when their eyes finally met.
“He’s a bright boy.”
Cautiously John steps closer, unsure of what to do. He doesn’t perceive any danger beyond discomfort over the estrangement. “Yeah,” he answers instead.
“Your landlady let me in.” His father glanced over at the doorway John had just entered through.
“She just let you in?” John asks before he could stop himself, taking the decision to engage almost instantly.
His father presses his lips tightly together. “Mycroft, you know him, called for me. Said he needed to tell me something.”
John’s breath quickened. What was Mycroft doing now? And being forced to think about Sherlock wasn’t helping, he already felt guilty enough.
It’s uncomfortably silent for a long while, no one making a move to talk or a move at all.
“You didn’t tell me you had a son.”
“Shit,” John mutters, running a hand through his hair before shrugging off his jacket. “Why would I have?” John demands of his father as he finds his footing.
“It would have been nice to know I had a grandson.” He stands up. From several feet away it is obvious his father is still much larger than him.
Hamish holds on tightly to the book he had been half holding before, glancing up at them with a curious expression, lacking any sign of fear.
“You gave up that right to know.” John snarls carefully, sure not to frighten Hamish with his reaction. He’d never been overly aggressive, but that was slowly changing with their new circumstances.
“And how did I do that?”
John is breathing deeply, forcing himself to calm down. “You refused to go to my bonding ceremony. You threatened Sherlock when you… found out, about us. You didn’t come to my graduations!”
“You can’t blame me for my reaction. You were too young and he was too old.” His father replied with a matter of fact tone John clearly remembered was the norm when his father was actually sober.
“I was in love with him!” John cried out. “The least you could have done was to try to get to know him!”
“It was inappropriate.” His father snapped, sounding exasperated. “You were a smart boy. I couldn’t understand how you could have gone and found someone so much older. All I could think about was what kind of messed up person would be interested in someone a decade younger than them. What kind of person did it take for that to happen? And when I expressed my concerns, John, you admitted you’d been sharing your heats with him! Before being bonded! What was I supposed to think?”
He feels the dark flush with his face burning. “You were supposed to be happy for me.”
“That my teenage son had plans to bond so young with someone who could easily overpower him in everything? No, John. I was worried. I had perfectly reasonable fears. Would he let you finish your education? Would he begin breeding you so young that it could have been as dangerous for you as it was for your mother? Or maybe he just wanted to use you for your heats?”
John bites his lip, remembering the issues that cropped up after his mother had become a mother and what it did to his father and their family.
“Can we not talk about this?” He pleads, lifting a trembling hand to cover his eyes and wipe away at sweat collecting on his brow and under his fringe.
His father falls silent almost immediately, watching him carefully.
John takes the opportunity to sit beside Hamish, kissing his son’s temple fiercely before he sits back and Hamish pushes closer into his side better to recline against him.
“Are you getting help?” His father asks gently, sitting down in John’s armchair as if he knew the opposite one was out of bounds for him.
John sharply glances up to meet his father’s gaze. If they shared one thing in their entire lives, it was that they had both lost their mates much too early. “Therapy,” John nods, “medication,” he swallows thickly.
“Good,” His father murmurs as he links his fingers in his lap, leaning forward and staring at them both. “That’s good. I didn’t do that.”
John snorts quietly. His father had been more into self-medication with the liquor.
Hey guys. Don't forget it's Father's day tomorrow.
He leans against the wall of the stall, heel of his foot tapping on the damp tiled floor in apprehension. He really doesn’t want to see the results resting in balance on the seat of the toilet. So he continues to stare up at the light fixture, waiting for the last person to exit so he can be alone once more.
John’s long been finished running his hands over his face and hair; he did that on the way to the store as he commuted to lessons. He could have avoided this, knows he should have been more careful. Should have kept the schedule for his pills so he wouldn’t be in this position now. Lesson learned.
In his defense, it had come as a surprise to him when Sherlock had arrived in time for his heat. They hadn’t been on great speaking terms, John’s lingering resentment to the situation slowly solidifying a wall of no communication between them. There had been a while where he couldn’t even think of his mate without getting angry or feeling rejected. Looking at him had been unbearable.
They were both so stubborn.
But there he waits now, alone in a public stall. In the cramped restroom during his lunch break, waiting on a stupid little stick to tell him his fate without Mycroft finding out. The last thing John needed was for his mates family to find out about this. They were all eager for grandchildren he was not ready to have.
In fact, thinking about children now made him feel physically ill.
Especially because he didn’t want to be the only pregnant Omega studying here. Being a bonded one here, at his age, was cause enough for a few of his classmates to simply not take him seriously in his choice of studies. They already thought he was there to waste this opportunity only so few got.
But John was eighteen and he had every intention of still becoming a doctor despite being an early bonded Omega. Especially because he was not ready to have children. In fact, he was pretty sure neither was Sherlock.
In a fit of panic he snatched the test up before shoving it back in the box and wrapping it in paper to hide in the trash. He couldn’t see, he didn’t want to see. He wanted this to be a nightmare he could just wake up from. Something he could laugh about with Sherlock in the near future.
Looking down the whole time he avoided looking at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands before hurrying out of the room and the learning center. He didn’t want to be alone for this. He didn’t. No matter what the results actually were, he needed Sherlock with him.
Rushing out into the rain he pulls out his phone and begins dialing Sherlock, only to be directed to his voicemail over and over again. He stops trying to contact him at that moment of blinding frustration. Surely he’d have time later, after they drew his blood for testing.
He's not wrong.
“What do you want?” is snarled just as the ringing stops, informing him Sherlock had finally picked up after so many attempts.
John glances around him wondering if anyone could hear Sherlock now that he was in the clinic’s waiting area after having been seen to. Bonded pairs sit around and behind him waiting as he tries to hide himself between a vending machine and water fountain for privacy.
Heat rushes up his neck and cheeks and he starts speaking with a wavering: “Um, Sherlock?” where the last syllable gets stuck in his throat.
“John? I thought it was Mycroft again. John! Are you there?”
He clears his throat before nodding and speaking. “Yeah, look, are you busy?”
“I just took a case. I cou-“
“Oh, okay. I’ll just-“
“No. What do you need? John, where are you now?”
The urgency in Sherlock’s words, the familiar tone, he really can’t help it with everything happening so suddenly.
“I’m at the clinic,” he manages to choke out before he slams his palm over his mouth to keep any unwanted noises and his trembling in check. Hearing Sherlock’s voice makes him feel like he’s safe to let his emotions run because Sherlock would be calm and logical. But he wasn’t alone with Sherlock.
They’re silent for too long, not even the sound of breathing from across the phone line makes it through.
“Why? I’ll meet you there. John, why are you there, are you hurt?”
“Please, I’m sorry. I’m waiting for my results and I don’t want to be alone.”
The line remains silent of noise for only a short while longer. “I’ll be right there. Wait for me.”
John nods before finally saying okay and lowering his phone to wait. He can’t sit, nerves too high to allow that. He spends his dual wait worrying that Sherlock wouldn’t make it in time to be with him to get the results.
It’s one less worry he should have had because Sherlock finds him quickly after arriving very shortly of disconnecting their call. He silently wonders how he did it, if maybe Mycroft was involved after all, yet again.
“How certain are you?” Sherlock inquires, taking the chance to look over John as he hasn’t been able to in what has felt like so long.
John can’t admit it, he’s terrified, but he has a feeling Sherlock already knows as he takes his hand and pulls him towards a pair of vacant chairs. “I wanted to tell you. In case, you know. I don’t want it.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow slightly and then he’s nodding, turning towards John and blocking everyone else in the room. His hand comes up to rest against John’s neck while his head ducks down to come to eye level.
“Did you not receive the birth control?” Sherlock asks, worry and suspicion drawing his eyebrows together.
He shakes his head. “No, I got them.” Pausing, he glances away. “I didn’t take some of them. I was so stupid,” he snarls under his breath. “I let everything distract me.”
Too ashamed to look at Sherlock, he glances at his own hands tightly clasped together in his lap.
“John, look at me.”
He does, jaw tight as he composes himself
Sherlock kisses him briefly with closed lips before nodding almost imperceptibly. “We’ll get through this. I meant it all, John. I want you safe and I need you to know that I love you despite anything that happens.”
Swallowing tightly, John shakes his head. He wants to still be angry with Sherlock for sending him away and getting used to the distance. Doesn’t want to see the logic behind living in a secure place where Sherlock’s clients and enemies can’t get to him while he forces his way into the business.
John exhales in forced steadiness, “Even if I get rid of your baby?”
Sherlock rolls his lips together before nodding and keeping eye contact to answer. “A clump of multiplying cells? If you can call that a baby. John if it would be best for you in the long run then I support it.”
Shutting his eyes he tips into Sherlock, anticipating the arms coming around him, and scooting closer appreciating the arm less chairs lined up beside each other.
“I want you to come home with me.”
John blinks slowly, not letting himself get his hopes up. “Permanently or just for today?”
“As long as we need,” Sherlock murmurs, arms tightening around him.
He'd like that. It’s not the miracle answer he was hoping for but he nods anyway.
It’s a white static noise that is first to greet him.
Normally it would have been relaxing, comforting even, but it’s not. Because his head is pounding with every pump of his heart, his tongue is swollen in his mouth as well as his throat, and his bed feels emptier than before.
Trying to open his eyes, he realizes how heavy they feel. He cracks them open, he is nothing if not stubborn, and comes to in a dimly lit room.
Saying nothing, moving absolutely nothing besides his eyelids, he glances around at all he can see.
The room is bare, a strict clean that is as familiar as home.
He was in a hospital, obviously.
There’s a deep set ache to his body, heavier than usual because it’s physical now. Trying to move his hand leaves him trembling in exhaustion and he knows moving his head is near impossible.
It’s Mycroft. He doesn’t care for the voice and who it belongs to.
There are only two people who he wants beside him at this moment and they were his son and mate. If he had the energy to demand for them to be here, he would have demanded, no matter how impossible it was.
He is too tired to think about why he is here. But presumably, that is what Mycroft is for.
As he attempts to reply, only bursts of air leave his mouth that have him cringing in pain. It all hurts, and he can’t speak.
He still can’t see Mycroft, and he has a feeling Mycroft won’t be moving to make himself visible. All he wants is to know why he’s here.
“It was a very close call.” Mycroft speaks in a tone not unlike calm, but there’s an underlying tension to his words. “You very nearly died. You must realize we cannot allow that to happen again.”
Managing to tilt his head, and he feels ancient as he catches a glimpse of Mycroft’s leather bound heels. Mycroft wasn’t facing him, it seems.
The heel shifts and Mycroft speaks once more. “It was very irresponsible of you. I didn’t think you would do such a thing, endanger your family in that manner, but you did and that is not acceptable.”
“Tell me,” he manages to say, and he gasps back the pain of speaking. Mycroft was frightening him with his words. What had he done? What happened? How did he endanger his family? He wouldn’t. Not ever.
It’s silent in the room, every sound but Mycroft is white noise to him.
“I know the last years have been nothing but difficult. I had hoped you would have gotten used to the change; I didn’t realize you would let something like this get so far. If I had known, I would not have allowed you to get close enough to so much as think it.”
He was not expecting to hear those words. “I didn’t do anything,” he gasps, wanting to say more, that Hamish needed him, but he couldn’t speak. He was getting what Mycroft was implying.
Mycroft knew what he wanted to say anyway. “Yes. He needed you. But not like this.”
And the past tense makes him forget about his exhaustion and pain. He sits up; his arms trembling and almost useless as he forces them in cooperating to push him up on the pillows.
A false start later and he’s rasping at Mycroft to let him see Hamish.
He knows Mycroft is trying to be kind and do what he thinks is best. “I’m afraid you can’t. You’re in no position to care for him and he is too young to see you this way. It will only disturb him. He is far safer where he is now.”
Angry and very confused and unable to voice his various questions: Why is he in this bed? What did he mean letting something get this far was the cause of it? He falls back to glaring at Mycroft.
He’d been busy, he was always busy. He didn’t have time to even entertain thoughts of suicide.
“I didn’t attempt suicide!” he shouts in a voice that doesn’t sound anything remotely like his own.
This brings him to the attention of the nurses keeping watch. As he attempts to sit up and try to figure answers out and explain what he last remembers, he sees them attempt to escort Mycroft out of his room. But he wants him to stay and convince him he never intended to act on those long planted thoughts.
“I didn’t do it! Let me see my son!” he shouts as Mycroft remains rooted in his spot. However, the look on his face is disturbed and a little sad. He doesn't believe him.
“I’m afraid not. Mummy and I think it would benefit you to be seen by professionals to help. Specifically for you without distraction so you can be safe and healthy. Only until you’re better, we need you safe and sound. It is of utmost importance.”
“You can’t do this!” He starts struggling feebly against the nurse, trying to get out of bed, but there are things in his arms that pull and hurt and he looks down to see tubes and needles and suddenly there isn’t white noise in the room any longer but beeps and hisses of machines.
Mycroft looks pained, and he’s never seen him look so regretful and guilty if he’s seeing things right.
“I can. I have to keep the family safe. Surely you can understand.”
His heart races painfully fast as he shouts for Mycroft to stop and come back, and take it back. It only makes the nurse to call for back up, and he’s sedated.
As his sight starts becoming unfocused and his body stops hurting from the painful sobs ripping through him, he wonders when he’d be allowed to see Hamish again.
“We need you to calm down, John. It’ll be okay,” is the last thing he hears before every noise begins blending together into one and becoming white noise once more.
Warning: Implied pregnancy. Talks of abortion. Open ending. You decide what happened.
Just so you know why there is a delay getting this story out. 1. I do not have a laptop/internet access all the time anymore. 2. I work and it takes up my free time I counted on to write. 3. This story isn't completely written like Carbon Year was when I first posted it. I'm actually writing this one as I go along.
Thanks for waiting!
“You need to be where?”
His breath hitches as Sherlock’s nose nuzzles behind his ear, eyes falling shut while his body just melts backwards into the couch, everything much more sensitive.
“He’s not due until dinner,” John assures him, tilting his head out of the way to give him more room as Sherlock brings his lips to his skin. “So I’ll have to leave before then.”
Sherlock hums, his lips sticking to skin, and it’s enough for John to twist and capture those lazy lips with his own while his hands much more aggressively help position himself nearer to Sherlock.
His heat, while subdued with suppressants, manages to make him crave the particular unrelated Alpha he’s been exposed to consistently for over a year.
He leans over Sherlock after swinging a leg over and kisses him hard before looping his hands into Sherlock’s belt and tugging it apart far more expertly now then when they had first started this part of their relationship.
The impression he gets is Sherlock’s full attention but his hands are still braced against the seat of the couch. A low guttural sound escapes Sherlock. “You’re in heat.”
John grins wickedly in return. “You’re not too busy, are you?”
In hindsight, their enthusiasm ensured the knowledge that the following activities were very terribly timed.
A surprised moan escapes from John as Sherlock’s knot made a much welcomed appearance even as he spread his legs a little wider in an attempt to accommodate the mass taking up space and pressing against him. But what was unusual, and something John managed to realize with the haze, was that Sherlock had bitten the back of his neck.
Not hard enough to pierce the top layer of skin, but hard enough that he would feel indents in the shape of teeth that would eventually bruise over. His medically altered hormone levels ensured the bonding gland remained unresponsive.
It still left him breathless, his heart thudding against his ribs, all while Sherlock held tighter and groaned into his hair. John felt another pulse of warmth inside that made him arch his back a little, inviting teeth to graze along the ridge of his shoulder.
The arm wrapped around his back that was holding him up against Sherlock’s chest loosened as Sherlock’s hand traveled lower to dip his fingers in the mess against John’s lower abdomen.
John pulls in his elbows to help gain enough leverage to remove his face from its plastered state against Sherlock’s shoulder, creating movements almost like bucking. Whatever thoughts running through Sherlock’s head at that moment make him flatten a hand firmly against John’s lower back as he circles his hips.
It takes John a moment to recover and catch his breath, by which point he is trembling uncontrollably and seriously doubting his future ability to remain upright for any length of time.
Carefully, he’s shifted and tilted so that his forehead rests on Sherlock’s collar and he’s held close. It’s almost unbearably hot as their skin remains touching, but it’s worth it to have Sherlock's hands running soothingly along his sides despite their impending rush.
The drive back to campus is silent. John keeps billowing out his shirt in a pathetic attempt to get Sherlock’s lingering scent off of his skin by mere air circulation. It isn’t working. Even after a quick shower.
He falls still, no longer fidgeting, knowing that his father is about to understand what his relationship with his boyfriend really is like.
Pressing closer to Sherlock (who surprised him by insisting on going with him), he feels comforted in the familiar body as he leeches warmth from it.
“He’s going to be furious.” So far he’s spent the drive coming up with increasingly desperate ways to keep his father ignorant of the situation or accepting of it all.
“Naturally,” Sherlock replies in a voice that confuses him a little.
He places it a moment later. “What are you planning?”
Sherlock turns to him, a grim look on his face, “He’s going to forbid you from seeing me.” John shakes his head, opening his mouth to say something before Sherlock is speaking once more.
“I can’t agree with that. I don’t just lay with anyone, I have a purpose for everything I do. Maybe it hasn’t been obvious, but I intend to ask him to accept me as your future mate.”
John can feel his jaw hang loose as he stares at Sherlock. He catches himself and closes his mouth while his hand unconsciously goes to the back of his neck where he can feel tenderness resulting from Sherlock’s bite.
He keeps still and watches silently as Sherlock reaches over, his fingers brushing lightly against the hand clasped over his neck.
“You mean that?” John can’t help but ask, a little breathlessly, a little hopefully, and a little disbelievingly.
“Of course I do,” he replies arrogantly before toning it down and looking earnestly at him. “Would you like that?”
John can’t answer. Not now. “Bit sudden,” he lets him know.
He attempts to see his life with Sherlock as his mate and yeah, right now he’d like nothing better, but what if it didn’t work? So he attempts to see his life without Sherlock, and he can see it working, but his chest aches at the thought of never having Sherlock a phone call away again.
“I know we’ve never talked about this, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than interested.” Sherlock looks frustrated as he speaks. “I suspected something like this would happen the moment we engaged in our relationship. Before it, really.” He hesitates with his mouth open, as if he’s holding himself back.
John watches as Sherlock blinks once, slowly, pressing his lips tightly together before loosening them and holding John’s gaze. Neither of them is paying attention to their surroundings. The cabbie is focused on the road, and the cars and buildings pass by them anonymously.
“John, you’ve become something essential to me. No, you’re fundamental to what my future will be. Whatever you decide; it’s been altered beyond repair, and I cannot fault you for that.”
John is not easily moved, but this, what Sherlock had just done, been completely honest with him, lures him in. He aches to hear more, to return the sentiments as eloquently, for his system has been shocked with the knowledge that he had been thinking these same things himself.
But John is careful, always has planned the important things. “Give me time,” he answers urgently under his breath, scooting closer to Sherlock. “You have to give me time. But I promise, I swear to you, Sherlock, no one can keep me from you as long as we care for each other.”
Sherlock laughs abruptly and quietly as his height curls over him. “I’m telling you my intentions; you don’t have to answer now,” Sherlock assures him. “I can wait as long as you need.”
This time John laughs.
John waits outside of the cab for his father to reach him. Sherlock is waiting inside the cab, surely regretting agreeing to stay hidden for only a moment longer while John explains.
“There you are, where have you been?” His dad demands as he slings an arm to pull John into a one-armed hug. “I haven’t seen you in months,” he says over John's enthusiastic greeting.
His dad pulls back, eyeing John, and John sees his head tilt slightly as if considering him. “I know this is something you’ll make fun of me for, but you look different, son.”
John licks his lips, shaking his head, ignoring that it’s probably the suppressed panic. “Nothing too different. Well, other than school and my boyfriend.” Bond Mate, his brain unhelpfully pulls up.
“Ah, yes, the boyfriend. What was his name? It was something, I swear was it Sherlock?”
John smiles, fears lowered as his dad remembers Sherlock’s name from the times he’s mentioned him, if not from their almost meeting a few years ago.
“Yeah, that’s his name.” John feels himself relaxing; his father didn’t seem bothered about John seeing someone.
“Well, when do I get to meet him? It’s been months hasn’t it? Unless it’s not decent to introduce boyfriends you’re not serious about.”
John laughs nervously. “You’re meeting him. I’m - Dad, I’m pretty serious about him,” he confesses, taking a step closer to his father. “In fact, he’s here. I brought him with me.”
His dad peers around them, squinting inside the cab.
Sherlock decides it’s time for his introduction as he steps out of the cab to stand beside John. “Mr. Watson,” he greets courteously. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Sherlock Holmes.”
They’re all silent as John notices his father scrutinizing Sherlock and Sherlock deducing anything new about his father. John intently watches his father’s face for recognition or acceptance to figure out how to progress.
“Shall we go then?” John cuts through the silence, indicating to the cab still waiting.
“Of course,” Sherlock answers immediately, turning to look to him.
“Yes, okay,” his dad answers, not looking away from Sherlock as a frown grows on his face.
“I don’t know who it was or how it happened.”
“Only what it looked like. John, how sure are you?”
“As sure as I know the Holmes are behind this. I would never do something that horrible. Hamish - God, Hamish needs me. And I’m going to get him back. I know what Mycroft is doing. I just know it.” His fisted hands clench tightly as they rest by his sides.
“And what makes you think it’s that family, the same one you left yours for? Why?”
John shakes his head, a humorless smile appearing on his face. “It’s always them. I’m not sure how to explain it to make you understand. But Dad, they’re hiding something. From me, and not just Hamish. Something happened.”
John forces himself to lean back in slow increments to relax his body from the tense sitting forward position he had been in. He could see his dad swallowing back words, and - true to his fathers nature - once they were held back, they never surfaced.
“So what exactly do you think you’re going to do?” his father carefully asks.
“I’m going to get my son back, figure out why he was taken in the first place. I’m tired of being denied everything I’ve loved, and it’s about time I do something.”
“Where are you going?”
“I told you, I'm having lunch with someone who can help me. Someone who wants to help me. Trust me, he knows what he’s doing.”
They both rise to their feet at the same time. “And what makes you so sure? Could be taking advantage of you in this position.”
“Greg? No. No, Greg Lestrade is the only one I can trust.”
“Isn’t he the Inspector who was the last to officially see Sherlock before his sui-”
John doesn’t have anything kind to say to that. “That’s just what the media circulated.”
I figured you guys deserved something a little nice, and for the tags not to make a complete liar out of me. Because we're about to move onto the second half (or two-thirds) of this story, I haven't decided how far I'll take it yet.
And thanks again to Aubrey for her much much much appreciated help. Really, if you guys read this at all you should be thanking her.
I have a mate!”
The woman continues to circle him, slinking around and drawing nearer. He watches her closely for the deception she is about to admit to.
“A son too.” She continues for him. “And yet here you are, without either a mate or a son. Tell me, does it please you to know that your son will suffer for your absence? Leaving him alone to be raised by an Omega?”
It’s a testament to how being in a hostile environment has caused more of his subtler abilities to suffer. He snarls at her, pulling against his bindings hard enough to wind him. It won’t contain him for very much longer, but in the meantime it irks him.
“Is your problem with my mate caused by the fact that you have always been overlooked as an Alpha? Or is it because you could never keep up with any of us.”
She smiles sharply at him. “My problem with you is that you think that Omega is still yours. I think you should stop trying to get back to him so quickly. You’re getting sloppy. Sloppy enough for me to catch you and bind you. What is a few years of your lives when you are cleaning up a mess you made?”
He stills, watching her in utter silence. Refusing to say anything to her lecturing words, he mutely observes her movement as the seconds pass. He knew this was coming the moment she had incapacitated him.
“I detest dramatics,” he mentions as she begins cutting through the rope she herself had tied him with. Apparently she hadn’t deceived all of them after all.
It’s also expected when she reacts by smacking him with the back of her hand. “You’re one to complain about dramatics, Sherlock. You’re very lucky I was willing to chase you around while Mycroft handled your requests.”
“Sigerson,” He snaps with little to no thought. Sherlock is supposed to be dead, and any whispers of him living will ruin all he’s done, no matter that he brought it all upon himself for asking his brother for even more assistance.
“If you wanted to talk about schedules you could have left me a message. Not wasted my time by proving you could do this.”
Her eyes narrow at him, clearly displeased with his words. “This is your message. Fail and your son and Mate will suffer. What you have accomplished in this time will be useless to you.” She steps away with learned caution as he stands, rubbing feeling back into his arms.
He wants to deny it, that he’s been careless and endangered his family in the process. “How will this be useless? Someone else could finish and I could go home.”
“Because you do this for that son of yours. And that mate. Will you leave such an important task in another’s hands when it was you who painted a target on their backs?”
He stills, letting her words wash over him despite trying his best to ignore them.
“You made them your shield with your death. You made them what protects you. Their suffering and agony and their belief in their loss is what makes your task possible. And if you fail, just one small little thing to give you away, one tiny observable thing, and that son and mate of yours will suffer despite what you have accomplished with your lies and abilities.”
He stares her down, back straight and tall as he considers her words and agrees with them, wondering how many of her words were directly from Mycroft. He refuses to be lectured when he’s the one who gave up everything to keep those he cares about safe.
“Your words are useless if it is too late. If I have been watched and I have already failed in remaining unseen, then I need to go back home and protect them as only I can.”
She smiles at him. “You need only a decoy. My sister will help you.”
His eyes flash in fury. “I already said no. I have a mate.”
“And your mate, miles away will thank you for his protection. Will thank my younger sister for it. Take Molly as your mate in name only. No one on this side will doubt it. She can help you.”
Sherlock feels sick. He refuses to do it. He can still feel the bond with John and often focuses on that link when he can, wishing he had stayed with his son long enough to grow a strong paternal bond, one strong enough to let him know in his bones how he was.
“You’ll have to break-” She comes to a momentary stop at the sound he makes accompanied with the look on his face. “-weaken your bond to the point where he cannot detect you. Where it cannot be used against you.”
Stepping away he glances at his surroundings. The sun beats heavy against the walls and the room is hot and humid with the lack of circulating air. “You haven’t had a mate. What you suggest is something I cannot do.” His words are forceful, demanding to be taken seriously. “That bond is the only way I can keep them close. The only way I know what I am doing will be worth it when he realizes my deception. I will not make it worse by taking a false mate.”
He falls still, refusing to move an inch when Anthea calls when the woman in question to enter the room. She has an apologetic look on her face as soon as she sees him. But as soon as he opens his mouth it transforms into a serious, no nonsense set to her kind face. Sherlock hadn’t seen her in months. He expected her to still be in London.
When his mouth falls shut a timid smile replaces her frown. “There’s no need to break your bond, Sherlock.”
Anthea cuts in then, stopping Molly from both using his name and reassuring him in that matter. “I can tell you that Mycroft will do everything he can to keep them out of harm's way. He'll try talking John into breaking his so-called ghost bond he has with you. I don’t know what John’ll do though.”
Taking a deep breath, he refuses to slump forward, curl into himself at the thought of it. He knows what John will do, knows that their bond still works as a two way. He knows feeling Sherlock there must be nearly unbearable for John thinking him dead.
“If John decides to break our bond, then he will. But I will not do it.”
Molly is standing quietly to his side.“I don’t think he wants to.” She admits above a whisper. “You know him better than anyone. And even I know his priority is Hamish now.”
Sherlock swallows thickly. He can only imagine what he’ll go through as soon as John begins to dissolve their bond. What it’ll be like to have something taken from him as he holds onto it with his last hopes.
If John decides to break their bond then Sherlock will need someone there. Someone to make sure he doesn’t starve himself to death or waste everything by hiding in a dark room.
“You’ll stay out of my way,” he rasps at Molly before turning back to Anthea. “And you’ll go back to London and tell Mycroft to go fuck himself.” He seethes in waves of hatred for his brother at that moment.
Just another moment where Mycroft will be taking over his duty in protecting John. His decision to always keep away makes him sick of himself. How often does that have to be the only option for him to realize that he is the worst thing that could have happened to John?
Taking a step forward he flees the room by stalking out. He can hear Molly’s muttering behind him before she hurries after him. He will not wait for her. And if she gets herself killed, it is not his priority to keep her safe, not anymore. He did that by jumping. She brought herself here.
“I think you should be focusing on getting custody instead.”
John grunts, going through the complete index Sherlock had created of all his cases and things related to it, Greg's old work emails and notes that had been personally backed up by Sherlock were included in this.
“Can’t. Mycroft’s filed altered papers. Even got a Judge’s signature. On paper, we already went through this process and I lost,” he answered distractedly. It’s been a few days since he left the hospital and had Hamish taken away from him.
He’s been feeling a bit numb for the past couple of days. It’s better than the desperate ache that left him unable to function upon knowing he had his son had been taken from him. Yet he still feels the ache at the edges, always pushing it back.
With the knowledge of what pain he felt at being separated from his child, he focuses that anguish on trying to figure out what to do from here. He hasn’t done anything to harm himself, so by process of elimination someone else had to have caused this. Then, by extension of that, for someone to want to hurt him that badly there had to be a motive. That’s where Greg came in. Sherlock always said Lestrade was the best Scotland Yard had to offer.
There’s an outraged sputtering sound from across him before Greg finds his words. “Well that’s bloody illegal!”
John smiles humorlessly. How many times has he thought those exact words when it concerns the Holmes brothers? “Well, yeah. But it’s Mycroft. He has the country on a tight leash, and he probably called it national security and they let it happen like the idiots they are. But if my son is in danger, I need to know. I need to know why this is happening. I need to know why Mycroft would take him from me.”
They’re silent for a few minutes, John continuing to skim through targeted emails and Greg very clearly turning the other way from illegal activities. But he can feel the hesitation Greg is putting off, he’s about to be asked a personal question.
“Don’t you get tired of being forced to stay back? They leave you behind, mate. They keep things from you and you’re left without knowing what to do.” Greg is giving him an apologetic look, clearly regretting asking already.
John glances up at him, lines of anguish unable to be disguised. “You think?” He continues what he’s doing to keep from making eye contact until he sighs and stops, looking back at Greg. “Sherlock kept me away from his life after we bonded to protect me. A big part of me wanted to leave and start over, but I still cared for him very much. I thought about it a lot those first weeks. Thought I would always have done anything for him, which I discovered included forgiving him for that.” He smiles sadly, remembering Sherlock and that memory. It had been the hardest decision of his life up until he was left alone with only Hamish. “And now, I don’t know why, Sherlock again decided we’d be better off without him. Only this time it’s permanent. Because I pushed him.” He blinks furiously, maintaining control. “Not off the roof, but I didn’t want him to be involved with that case while at the same time I did. It must have been too much. I never considered there was something Sherlock couldn’t handle, and now we're left worse off and I can’t even keep my own son safe if I can’t figure out what’s going on.”
Greg steps forward then, closer towards him, brows furrowed with contained anger. “You kept him safe, John. I saw you, I watched you raise that boy by yourself. This was not your fault. Whatever was going on with Sherlock was big, and I think there’s a bigger story behind his suicide, which is why I’m going to help you”
John smiles thankfully at his friend, someone he wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for Sherlock. Despite their rocky beginnings - and didn’t everything start that way when Sherlock was involved? - they were real friends now. “I want to apologize for what happened after. What happened with -”
Greg is shaking his head, a conspiratorially small smile appearing on his face. “Sherlock was my friend as much as I hated him. And I did do what I could to make his way easier, but other times I made it as difficult as I could. Which is why if they realize I’m giving you all this information-- well, let’s not let them realize, yeah.”
John nods. Already leaving the comforting feeling of being able to confide in someone behind. He did have more important things to do, and that consists of through all the information he’s collected and try to make sense of it all. It’s a shame he couldn’t do what Sherlock could.
“Okay, so tell me again the evidence that made Sherlock guilty.” John demands, looking up at Greg. It’s only serious business from here.
Across from him, Greg clears his throat as he leafs through folders of the last few cases Sherlock had helped Scotland Yard with that were now undergoing investigation. “It wasn’t so much evidence, John.” Greg shakes his head. “He was never charged guilty. But he was wanted for questioning. Donovan and Anderson took their suspicion to the higher ups while I wanted to keep it as a possibility if we couldn’t make sense of the evidence we did have.”
Grimly, John reaches across the table for the folders in Lestrade’s hands. When Greg had arrived with the folders, he had insisted he would read through them and recite them to John. He hands the folders reluctantly, but John appreciates it either way.
Here he can see the piss poor evidence to go with the suspicion that Sherlock had orchestrated the kidnappings and findings.
He swallows the urge to cry. Sherlock hadn’t even wanted to do these last cases. Had raged around their flat complaining about being asked for something so mundane, unable to refuse. The last few months he had only wanted to spend time with them, Hamish and John.
Clenching his jaw in preparation he opens the first file.
It took me a long time to figure out the exact date the first part was to be set in because of a mistake in dates of the first two chapters that messed up all the others. I can't believe I didn't notice it until now.
So I want to apologize to everyone who's ever commented about the set up being confusing because, yes, it is.
Hope you enjoyed this chapter. And as always much thanks to Aubrey for her help.