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Would You Choose Me?

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When John Watson was fourteen years old he presented as an Omega.

He can still remember it clearly. The process hadn’t been a slap-bang-this-is-what-you-are-enjoy sort of thing. It had been scents subtly changing, certain instincts slowly setting in, and alpha boys and girls suddenly noticing him more and more as the days passed after his birthday. He was well aware of the process, it was his body after all, and he knew things were changing. He remembered hoping and praying the entire time that he was making a mistake and would turn out to be an alpha, or at least a beta.

He had nothing against omegas, he just didn’t want to be one. Watson men were alphas through and through, not nacy-boys, or at least that was his dad always started ranting about when he saw an omega actor on the telly, or got a wiff of one in the shops. Those times John would duck his head in shame, cheeks red as he wished he had the courage to stand up to his father, to say he didn’t see why omega and alpha men should be treated any differently.

He never did though. In the Watson household, holding your tongue was one of the first things you learned to do.

 

***

 

When John Watson was sixteen years old he had his first heat.

It was awful. His father had refused to let him buy the things he needed to get him through it, insisting, as he swayed drunkenly, that no son of his would take it up the arse. John had suffered for three days, alone in his room, stuffing himself with fingers and frantically tugging at his cock. It was nothing like the heats he’d seen in porn. His mind didn’t go blank with lust, and he was very much aware of just how much he ached to be filled and pleasured. His hind-brain screamed for something, anything to kill the craving with in him, while his forebrain (with a voice far too much like his father’s) rebelled against the thought.

In the end, after three days of sweating and crying and coming till he was dry, it was finally finally over. He’d emerged from his room, shaking and starving, his mum was kind to him, feeding him up and promising to draw him a bath. Then his father had walked in.

He’d taken one deep sniff of the air, although related alphas and omega wouldn’t find each other’s heat scents attractive they could still smell them, and he’d given John the look. It was a look he knew well, a look that meant he was about to be laid into.

After a snide commentary over his fairy of a son, and other statements that John had blocked out long ago, he headed out to the pub, as usual. John cringed at the thought of what his father would say to the other bar patrons when he was a too many pints in.

 

***

 

When John Watson was seventeen years old he had his first time with an alpha.

A new family had moved in next door. John had watched idly from his window as the moving truck pulled up in front of the new house. An Indian family climbed out, stretching and chatting animatedly. It was a typical family; mother, father, a son and daughter. The son was on the other side of the car so John couldn’t see him clearly, but the daughter was in view. It was too far to see details; all John cold see was long curly hair and the suggestion of high cheek bones. It was enough to peek John’s interest.

They met one day when John was sitting next to the large tree in his back yard, avoiding his father, who was in one of his moods. It was a chilly day and he was shivering in a too thin coat. He saw the girl come out of the house and shiver, before making her way quickly to the bins at the back of the yard. On her way back inside she spotted John and did a double take, before giving him a tentative smile.

“It bloody freezing, why are you outside?” she called, making her way over.

John smiled back and made his way over to the fence. His first impression was right.

“I’m John,” John said, smiling his most charming smile.

“Aashriya.”

The wind blew then, rustling the leaves and making John shiver harder. Aashriya’s scent washed over him, clean and crisp, with a hint of something musky that he couldn’t pin down, and alpha. She was an alpha. John felt his spine snap straight. No alphas, that was his rule. Aashriya’s brow furrowed slightly, obviously wondering what caused the change.

“You should probably head inside, it’ll only get colder.”

John felt himself bristle. It was so typical of an alpha, giving him orders as if he couldn’t take care of himself.

“Nope, I’m fine,” he said, his voice as chilly as the weather. With that he sat firmly down on the opposite side of the tree, his back to his new neighbor. There was a beat of silence, then he heard her walk slowly away.

 

After that chilly afternoon when they first met, he had only caught glimpses of Aashriya. He felt bad about his reaction. Yes, he said no alphas, but he still felt like an arse. He wanted to apologize. Just because he didn’t associate with alphas didn’t mean he had to be rude to every single one he met.

He finally saw her again on his first day back at school. Apparently, Aashriya was not only in his year, but in his class as well. He saw her standing there that first day, looking awkward and very nervous as she took in her new surroundings. She spotted him and gave him that same tentative smile she had the first time they met, and John found himself walking over to say hello.

 

Aashriya was the polar opposite of the two alphas he knew best, the two who’d shaped his entire world view. She was kind and considerate, where his father and Harry were mean spirted and brutish. She never ever used her secondary gender as a reason behind her actions, whereas Harry and his father’s favourite refrain was ‘it’s the instincts Johnny, you know I can’t help it’. Soon John found himself questioning everything he’d learned about alphas from his sister and father.

“That’s so old fashioned,” Aashriya would say. “My secondary gender doesn’t dictate how I act no more than my primary gender does. I’m not some mindless animal who can’t control what I do.”

“That’s bullshit,” she said, as they lounged on her couch watching telly so John could delay heading home. “My father’s an omega and he could kick your dad’s arse any day.” She’d winked at him, and John had laughed despite himself.

Slowly, as John spent more and more time at Aashriya’s house, and with her family, he found himself rethinking everything his parents had hammered into him about what being an omega meant. He found himself beginning to relish in his secondary gender, rather than detest it. He still wasn’t totally comfortable, after all which seventeen-year-old was ever totally comfortable with themselves, but Aashriya had helped plant the seed, which was something John would always be grateful to her for.

 

One year later and John found himself on a couch with Aashriya, alone in her house, snogging hurriedly as one of his hands slowly slid up her skirt. He and Aashriya had grown steadily closer as the months passed. She had the wicked smile and a black sense of humor that John always found attractive, and her house had turned into a haven of sorts.

Soon he was on top of her on the couch as her hands unbuttoned his shirt. He buried his nose in her scent glad, inhaling the clean crisp smell, and nuzzling the skin as he felt her own nose against his neck.

Like many first times it was awkward, but the giggling and sheer affection they held for each other made it fun. The pride he felt as Aashriya shook and cried out below him made it even better, and he saw that same wicked grin as he came apart himself. It was amazing, better than he could have ever imagined, and certainly better than wanking.

For two months, it was bliss. They were drunk on sex and on each other, snatching moments behind the school and at whoever’s house was empty, exploring what they liked and experimenting with new ways to get each other off.

Then, came the devastating news. Aashriya’s father had gotten a job in Wales, and the entire family would be moving before the end of year. Aashriya cried as she told him and John held her and stroked her hair, giving a her a sweet kiss to make her feel better. Soon the kisses turned into more, and he found himself under her as she rode him slowly. Their eyes locked the entire time.

John’s own eyes felt suspiciously prickly weeks later, as he watched her family’s car drive away. He and Aashriya hadn’t been in love with each other (something they both knew), but she’d been the first positive alpha influence in his life. She’d helped him learn to accept himself, which was something he’d forever be grateful to her for.

 

 

***

 

When John Watson was thirty years old he joined the army. He’d finished his bachelor’s degree and internship at Bart’s, and quickly found out that the army was the best place to get away from his slowly disintegrating family and feed the adrenaline addiction he’d been smothering since he was a boy.

Soon his life became a whirl wind of blood, fighting and drowning in the adrenaline of stopping a comrade’s bleeding while under fire.

Being an omega in the army wasn’t easy to the say the least. He was put on military grade suppressants, which stopped his heats, and masked most of his scent. They didn’t cover it totally though, which lead to posturing alpha’s eager to show the omega ‘their place’. That didn’t last very long once John had kicked the biggest alpha’s arse with ease.

He made Capitan and something began to grow between him and his C.O, a clam beta with a thousand-yard stare.

Then a bullet tore through his shoulder and everything went to hell.

 

***

 

When John Watson was thirty-nine years old he met Sherlock Holmes.

One accidental meeting with Mike, seeing a messy flat, and shooting a cabby later, John found himself at dinner with a mad alpha with the most gorgeous cheek bones. Sherlock’s scent was amazing, a mix of freshly fallen rain, with an un-namable crispness to it, all which was underscored with a rich, chocolaty undertone. John had noticed the amazing scent as they sat in Angelo’s. He flirted, of course he had, only to be shot down. If Sherlock said he was married to his work John wasn’t going to push. He liked the man, and wanted to move into 221b. Friendship would be enough.

Or so he thought. As the two of them grow closer and closer John found himself wanting. Sherlock was brilliant and beautiful. An alpha who was strong and domineering without being pigheaded. He looked at John as if John was a person, not just some perspective mate, which John hadn’t experienced since Aashriya from so long ago.

Sometimes he thought Sherlock felt the same way, but as quickly as that thought came John shoved it aside. He heard Sherlock berate romantic ties too many times to count, and he wasn’t about to wreck the healthiest friendship he had in his adult life with his own assumptions. So, he filled his days with hours at the clinic and chases through London with an amazing alpha, and was content. At least that’s what he told himself. If he stood closer to Sherlock when some omega made eyes at him, or stood closer than usual to alpha clients just to see Sherlock frown and call him away for some unnecessary task, well John was only human.

Then it happened.

After exposing a circus for what it was, being kidnapped and rescued by a truly magnificent Sherlock, John found himself trudging up the stairs of Baker Street. He was eager for a long bath and then some time alone to relive his rescue with a few things altered for his pleasure.

He’d made it halfway across the living room when a long hand on his shoulder stopped him and turned him around. Sherlock had been quiet all the way home, not in his usual post case analysis way, but in a somber manner unusual for him after a case. His face was unreadable as his eyes flicked over John’s face, taking in the cut at his temple and bruising on his jaw.

To John’s surprise, Sherlock pulled off a glove and gently traced the bruise over John’s jaw, titling his face up to see it better. John swallowed hard, his heart and mind racing. This close, Sherlock’s scent enveloped him, making him feel comforted and safe.

“Are you alright John?” Sherlock asked quietly, their eyes meeting.

John nodded, unable to find his voice. Sherlock’s eyes continued to roam over his face, his thumb slowly sweeping over John’s cheek. At the delicate gesture, John’s breath caught and Sherlock’s eyes locked onto his, widening in surprise when he noticed what he was doing. He immediately ripped his hands away from John’s face, his eyes dropping to the floor.

“I-I’m sorry John. I didn’t mean to- I” Sherlock took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, before looking up at John. “Good night John,” he said, his shoulders stiff and eyes sad.

As Sherlock swept passed him to get to his bedroom, John gently caught his wrist.

“Sherlock. Sherlock wait.”

He felt surprisingly calm for what he was about to do. This thing that had been building and building between them since that first night in Angelo’s was cresting and John finally felt brave enough to move it forward.  

Sherlock still had his back to John, his shoulders ridged and arm extended in John’s hold.

“Come here Sherlock,” John said softly, gently tugging on Sherlock’s wrist.

The detective slowly complied, his eyes still downcast. John took Sherlock’s hands in his own, giving them a squeeze and chuckling when he realized the man still had only one glove on.

“Sherlock,” he whispered, ducking his head and peering up into the man’s eyes, hidden by his fringe of hair. “Its fine you know? It’s all fine.”

With that he rose onto his tiptoes and kissed Sherlock Holmes softly on the lips.

Sherlock froze for a moment, before he was pulling John closer and kissing him back. John smiled into the kiss and cupped Sherlock’s face gently, trying to put everything he was feeling into it. Sherlock’s lips were soft under his own, and John kept the kiss light and sweet, wanting to keep the moment gentle.

When he carefully pulled away, Sherlock was smiling softly, his eyes glowing. Unable to help himself, John stretched higher and planted a kiss on Sherlock’s nose. The detective blinked at him for a moment before chuckling softly and pressing a kiss to John’s cheek.

“I’m going to wash this blood off. Order a take away while I do?” John asked, sliding his arms around Sherlock’s waist.

Sherlock nodded his cheek pressed against John’s head. “Indian?”

“Anything.”

John gently pulled away, and pressed one last peck to Sherlock’s lips, which turned into another and another until they were both smiling to wide to continue. Taking a deep breath, John forced himself to head into the bathroom. If he stayed longer he’d just keep kissing and kissing Sherlock. Just before he stepped through the bathroom door, he looked back at the detective. Sherlock was smiling softly to himself, his eyes bright. Feeling lighter than air, John ducked into the bathroom.

 

Things progressed beautifully after that. Sherlock proved to be a very affectionate boyfriend, stealing kisses and twining around John like a vine after he’d had a long day. John loved every bit of it; lying on Sherlock’s chest on the couch, with his nose pressed against Sherlock’s scent gland, snogging until they were breathless and panting, with Sherlock sprawled over his lap as they sat in his chair.

There first sexual experience happened on the couch, after Moriarty had threatened to blow them up at the pool. It was coincidentally the same night John realized he was in love with Sherlock. It was messy and frantic and absolutely glorious, with Sherlock on top of him and their hands curled around each other’s cocks. Afterward, Sherlock had looked up at him with soft eyes and kissed John long and deep. John had wanted to say it then, but he didn’t want the first time he told Sherlock he loved him to be over shadowed by Moriarty, so he’d kept his mouth shut. It was something he’d regret with all his heart in the months following.

Their first time going ‘all the way’, a phrase Sherlock scoffed at in a way that made John laugh fondly, was after Irene Adler had sauntered into their life. John was uneasy those few weeks Irene was around. True, Irene was an alpha like Sherlock, but alpha and alpha relationships weren’t unheard of, and if any two people were to go against social convention it was Sherlock and Irene.

Sherlock had destroyed John’s doubts one evening after explaining to John that as intriguing as Irene was, she was a woman, and they were both gay. Then, he’d pulled John onto his lap and proceeded to whisper exactly what he wanted John to do him once they got to the bedroom.

They’d barely made it, and John found himself over Sherlock and in him. He knew it was Sherlock’s first time, so he took it slow, and kept it sweet. Everything slowed down as they rocked together, their eyes locked and lips meeting for slow, deep kisses. John used every skill he had, his hands, lips and the motion of his hips to make Sherlock shake apart below him.

After, as they lay twined together, Sherlock’s head pillowed on his chest, John had thought about saying it then. He didn’t. John thought they had all the time in the world, and he wasn’t going to rush such a large step in their relationship.

 

***

 

When John Watson was forty-one years old, Sherlock Holmes jumped off a roof, and John realized they’d never had enough time at all.

Chapter Text

“Please, keep your eyes fixed on me. Will you do that for me?”

“This phone call- it’s my note.”

“Sherlock!”

Falling, twisting tumbling. A sickening crack, like snapping bone, and blood, so much blood. The smell filled his nose and made him gag as he crouched over his best friend, his alpha, his lover, his Sherlock.

Blank, bright blue eyes stared at him. He had to check for a pulse, check for- for-

Hands pulled him back, up and off. No! NO! He had to get to Sherlock had to-

The hands held him tight, dragging him away. There were so many of them, yanking at his trousers, his shirt, even his hair. He glanced down and quaked in horror. The hands were rotting; made of gray molted flesh and long yellow nails. John gagged and struggled harder, frantically looking towards Sherlock’s body, as if the dead man could help him now.

Slowly, sickly, Sherlock’s bloody, broken corpse sat up, blood dripping off his hair and down his cheek bones. John tried to open his mouth to scream, but it was silent, everything was so eerily silent.

Nurses leaned over Sherlock, dabbing at the blood on his forehead. They seemed unperturbed that a man who’d just plummeted five stories was sitting bolt upright in their midst. John stared in horror, sagging against the hands as Sherlock slowly turned to face him. Their eyes met and a sharp ringing filled John’s ears as nausea swirled in his gut. Sherlock’s eyes were a chilling blue.

“Sher-

Slowly, Sherlock began to smile, his teeth stained red with blood. John’s words died in his throat as Sherlock’s smile got wider and wider, stretching past normal limits, until the edges of his smile brushed the corner of his eyes.

“Good-bye John,” Sherlock hissed.

He collapsed back onto the pavement, like a puppet with cut strings, and John screamed.

 

John sat up with a gasp, the scream lodged in his throat. For one awful moment, he couldn’t breathe, and sat gasping hard on his tiny bed.

Slowly the world righted itself and his breathing eased somewhat. John buried his face in his hands and curled over himself. The beige room was silent save for the soft sobbing coming from the huddled figure on the bed.

After a few moments of indulgence, John sat up, his face set and hard. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and scrubbed the tears from his face. Grimacing, he slowly stood and hobbled over to the bathroom to get ready for the day, the silver handle of his cane clutched tightly in his hand.

 

***

 

John limped down the road, grinding his teeth with every step. It was Sunday, the day he visited Sherlock’s grave. Ella had told him the visits needed to stop, that making a habit out of it wasn’t healthy. That had been his last appointment. As much as he knew he needed the sessions, he couldn’t stomach having his grief being picked apart any more. In the back of his mind he knew that Ella was probably right, but he would bloody well visit Sherlock if he wanted to and he didn’t see why he should feel guilty over it.

Sherlock’s grave. Not Sherlock. Sherlock was dead.

 As he limped down the pavement, cane clutched tightly in one hand, he idly wondered what Ella would think if she knew he still visited two years after-after it had happened. The image of her disapproving face made him shake his head and grind his teeth harder as he shuffled into the tiny flower shop.

The beta clerk behind the counter gave him a knowing, if slightly pitying smile. She’d recognized him from the blog the first time he came in and complimented him on it, before emphatically telling him she didn’t believe Sherlock was a fraud at all. John made it a point to get his flowers from here just for that.

“Morning Lynn,” he said quietly.

“Morning,” the woman behind the counter said, smiling kindly at him.

John gave her a twitch of his lips, smiles felt wrong on his face these days. Sighing he headed over to the rows of freshly cut flowers in green buckets set against one wall. He picked a different type every time.

John knew Sherlock would hate the sentiment of flowers. True, Sherlock could be romantic when the mood hit him; dancing in the living room, romantic dinners at Angelo’s for no reason, but things like flowers he didn’t really see the point of. Still, John felt it was a tradition he wanted to uphold, taking flowers to Sherlock’s grave.

Mashing his lips into a thin line, he surveyed the flowers. There was everything from carnations, to roses. The white roses caught his eye. They were lush and full, and looked pretty fresh. The price wasn’t the best though.

“Three of the white please,” he said, flicking his eyes to Lynn.

“Excellent choice John. We just got these in this morning.”

John twitched his lips again and waited patiently as she selected three of the biggest ones and carefully wrapped them in brown paper.

Tucking the flowers into the crook of his arm, he headed out of the shop and stopped dead in his tracks. There, across the street, was a very familiar black car idling softly. John scowled and turned away, marching down the pavement. This was the third time in the week he’d seen Mycroft’s car and he wasn’t in the mood. Not today of all days.

Glancing over his shoulder he saw the car slowly tailing after him. John gave Mycroft the one finger salute over his shoulder and kept walking, his cane thudding loudly on the pavement with each step.

 

***

 

John stared at the black stone in front of him. The wind bit at his cheeks and tugged at his coat. He’d have to make this visit quick.

“So here I am again,” he said ruefully to the headstone. “It’s almost two years to the day you know.”

The head stone remained impassive. John sighed and unwrapped the flowers from there paper. He carefully set them against the stone, and removed last week’s wilted bunch.

“I-I miss you. I know it’s been two years and Ella will have my arse if she knew I was here, but I am. Here that is. And- I miss you.”

John swallowed hard, blinking against the pricking in his eyes. He inhaled sharply, trying to remember Sherlock’s scent. He lived in constant terror that he’d forget that mix of chocolate and crispness that made him weak in the knees. He had a few of Sherlock’s shirts and a scarves, but Sherlock’s scent had long since faded.

“God Sherlock. Why’d you- why’d you have to-

His words trailed off as he stuffed a fist into his mouth, biting down to suppress a whine of pain. It wasn’t always this bad. Usually he’d chat with the stone, tear up a little and leave. Today, John could feel a full break down coming on. He needed to get back home, where he could curl up in bed with one of Sherlock’s old shirts and let himself go.

He legs refused to work. John stood frozen, a fist mashed against his mouth and an arm clamped around his belly as he struggled to hold it in.

He couldn’t.

The sobs broke free, tearing out of mouth and scratching his throat. He pressed a hand hard over his eyes, as tears squeezed out pasted his eye lids and dripped into his palm. His shoulders shook with the force of his sobs as he grieved over his alpha, his detective, his Sherlock.

An innumerable amount of time later, he looked up at the stone. The gold letters glinted in the light and the white roses stood out starkly against the black stone. John scrubbed the tears form his face and took a deep breath, pressing his face hard against his palms.

“I-I’m gonna go know Sherlock. Today’s a bad day and I need to be at the surgery later. I’ll be back next week.”

He walked over to the stone and patted a corner of it gently.

“I love you.”

Executing a sharp about face, John turned and marched out of the grave yard, leaving the cold headstone with the words he wished he could have said to the man below.

 

***

 

That night John dreamed of Sherlock again. Although, did it really count as a dream if it actually happened?

They’re making love. Sherlock’s on his back with his legs wrapped around John. The detective smiled at him as John slowly thrust his fingers in and out of his body, gently stroking Sherlock’s prostate. Sherlock shook with pleasure below him, his curls wet with sweat, and pulled John down for a deep kiss. The kiss was slow and hard as John gently worked his fingers in and out of Sherlock, keeping the movement slow and gentle.

Sherlock smiled at him again, his eyes warm and filled with love as leaned up for another kiss. His scent filled John’s entire space as they moved together, making John’s cock throb and his heart clench. Sherlock licked over the scent glands on John’s neck, and very gently nipped at the skin. John marveled at the fact that he’d finally found an alpha he trusted enough to be in such close proximity to his bonding area.

He kissed Sherlock hard, trailing his lips down his lover’s neck and licking over Sherlock’s own scent gland. It was too soon to bring up bonding, but John hoped one day he’d be licking over a bond mark, and have his own.

Sherlock pulled him up and brought their moths together again, before pressing his lips to John’s temple.

“I lo-

Sherlock’s words fade away as the scene changed.

They were on the couch now, with John straddling Sherlock’s lap as the detective fucked up into him. They’re both sweating, barely undressed after a wild chase through the streets. Sherlock’s trousers were off and his shirt was hanging open, revealing his smooth chest and belly. John was in no better state, his jumper and shirt left behind somewhere on the stairs and his jeans hanging off one ankle.

Sherlock thrust up hard into him, his hands tight on John’s hips. John grinded down onto Sherlock’s prick, clutching tight to Sherlock’s shoulders as they moved together. Sherlock leaned forward and licked over John’s nipple, making him cry out.

“You like that?” Sherlock panted, smiling wickedly at John.

John’s return grin morphed into a moan as Sherlock licked over his nipple again, then sucked. He could feel Sherlock’s knot begin to swell, and fucked himself harder on Sherlock’s cock.

“Y-you know I do,” he gasped, throwing his head back.

They kissed, long and filthy. Pulling back, John cupped Sherlock’s face gently in his hands, his thumbs stroking over Sherlock’s cheek bones.

“God, you’re gorgeous,” he growled, snapping his hips in a circle.

Sherlock blushed and kissed him again, nipping at John’s earlobe to make him moan.

“John I- I lo-

John’s eyes snapped open wide as he woke up.

In a series of contradictions his cock was hard and he was crying. He rolled onto his back, ignoring his situation and jammed a knuckle into his mouth to stop the sobs.

The cruelest part of his dreams wasn’t having Sherlock so close again, although that was torture all on its own, it was the almost ‘I love yous’. The fact that even in his dreams he couldn’t get the one thing he wanted the most.

He rolled onto his side and stared blankly at the wall of the bedsit. He wished, with an awful, bone deep ache, that he’d told Sherlock he loved him. Maybe that would have stopped him from jumping, maybe it would have made Sherlock come to John instead of going up onto the roof, maybe it would have-

John cut those thoughts off as he climbed out of bed and grabbed his cane. Those thoughts were useless now. Sherlock was dead. He wasn’t coming back, it was over. His only hope was that wherever the mad bastard was, he knew John loved him.

 

***

 

John huffed as he limped into Angelo’s. It was sentiment of the lowest order, but John was a sentimental man. That was the only way to explain why he’d come to Angelo’s today, unless he just enjoyed torturing himself. Sherlock would scoff at it for sure, him coming to this restaurant on this day, but Sherlock wasn’t here, so what did it matter.

Wincing at the thought, John pushed open the door and let Angelo’s overly cheerful greeting wash over him. He would have been expecting John, no doubt. John only ever came to Angelo’s for one reason anymore; to celebrate his anniversary with a dead man.

“I have your table already John, nice and private,” Angelo said, beaming.

John apricated Angelo’s excessive happiness, although it grated on his nerves. He knew it was to make him feel better, and though it didn’t work, John still apricated the effort. It was better than Angelo being overly sympathetic anyway.

He smiled as best as he could as he was lead to his table, a booth tucked into the back of the restaurant where people hardly ever sat. It was perfect for John to celebrate his love and hide his grief. He’d had their first anniversary, after it had happened, at his and Sherlock’s usual table by the window. It hadn’t ended well. John had spent the entire dinner feeling exposed, torn open. It didn’t help matters that the other diners kept staring at him, wondering if he’d been stood up and seemingly baffled that someone would come to a restaurant to eat alone. A table at the back solved the latter problem at least. The torn open bit he’d have to work out on his own.

He cracked open his menu, though he knew he’d order the same thing he always did. The food arrived quickly and John ate slowly, staring at his plate and trying not to think too hard about Sherlock. He was still trying to reach a middle ground where he thought enough about him that he wouldn’t forget anything, but not so much that he’d break down in public. Having that happen once was enough.

“Hello John.”

The world came to grinding halt. John’s eyes went wide. That voice, that voice. It couldn’t be.

John’s head snapped up and he swallowed hard.

No. No it- no.

Sherlock stood in front of his table, dressed in his usual suit, his hands clasped tightly in front of him. A loud ringing started in John’s ears as he sat frozen. It had finally happened, he had finally gone insane. He blinked hard, trying to remain calm, but the vision remained. Over Sherlock’s shoulder, John saw Angelo gaping in horror, one hand clamped over his mouth as he stared at Sherlock.

It was real. Sherlock was there.

John stood up so fast the table wobbled. He staggered out of the booth and toward Sherlock, arm out stretched. He had to touch, had to know if he was real.

His hand slid around the warm fabric of a sleeve and a choked sound spilled out of John’s mouth.

John,” Sherlock said, his voice rough.

John looked up into his face, at cheeks, nose, lips, eyes. Sherlock’s scent wafted over him and suddenly it was too much. Spots of colour clouded John’s vison as his knees gave out. The last thing he felt was Sherlock clutching his arm tight as he slid to the floor.

 

John woke up to commotion. He was on the floor, although he had no memory of getting there, with his head pillowed on hard thighs. Sherlock’s scent was all around, causing him to instinctively turn toward the source. The musky scent filled his lungs and his mind reeled at the fact that this was actually happening. Sherlock was here. The anxious chatter of the other patrons swirled around him. There was too much noise, it was too much and Sherlock- Sherlock was-

He pried his eyes open and came face to face with Sherlock peering anxiously down at him.

“John! John are you-

Bile rose in John’s throat. Sherlock was really here, which meant- it meant that-

“You,” he choked out, “You- how could-

The other diners had pressed in close around them. John blinked up blurrily at the other faces, feeling exposed, his breathing ragged as he tried to process what was happening. Someone took his wrist, presumably to take his pulse and John flinched hard, curling in closer to Sherlock as instinct made him seek out a familiar, protective scent.

He stared up at Sherlock as the detective growled at whoever had touched him. Once the hand fell away, he turned his gaze back to John. Their eyes locked. The detective looked tired, with dark circles under his eyes and sallow cheeks. He’s real. He’s here, he’s here, he’s here-

A broken whimper made its way past John’s lips, and Sherlock’s eyes narrowed.

“Angelo, get all these people out of here,” Sherlock growled, his eyes never leaving John’s face. His voice softened, “Come on John, breathe with me, nice and slow.”

John focused on his breathing, trying to calm down and dimly aware of Angelo guiding the other diners back to their seats.

“There’s my office in the back if you’d like privacy,” Angelo said quietly.

Sherlock nodded, eyes still locked on John.  John stared back, taking in the deepened wrinkles at the corners of Sherlock’s eyes and lips.

“Can you stand John?” the detective asked quietly.

John nodded and sat up, blinking hard. His panic was slowly receding and anger was taking over.

Sherlock reached down to help John to his feet. John ignored him, and rose shakily to his feet, grabbing his cane. He saw Sherlock’s eyes widen at the sight of the metal pole clutched in John’s fist, and John bristled.

“John I-

“Not here Sherlock.” John snapped, limping off to Angelo’s office.

By the time the office door swung shut behind Sherlock, John’s blood was boiling.

“How could you?” he spat, whirling around to face the detective.

“John I-

“You let me think you were dead for t- two years and-

“Please just-

“How could you be so-

“I never meant-

“Oh really! Because-

“Please let me explain John!” Sherlock cut in, sounding desperate.

John crossed his arms in front of his chest, taking a deep breath. The anger put everything into sharp focus, smothering the panic that his dead alpha was standing in front of him. He nodded once, his jaw tight with rage. Sherlock looked at him desperately for a moment, before striding over and taking John’s hands. He inhaled deeply and his shoulders sagged with relief as John’s scent hit him.

“I had too, John. Moriarty was on the roof with me. He would have killed you, Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson if I didn’t,” Sherlock said in a rush, his eyes wide and glued to John’s.

John ripped his hands out of Sherlock’s and shoved Sherlock out of his space. He stalked over to Angelo’s desk chair, sinking slowly into the seat as he tried to process everything.

“So,” he said after a beat of silence, “You jumped so Moriarty wouldn’t kill me, Greg and Mrs. H,” John clarified, his voice hollow.

Sherlock nodded, his lips tight. “He had snipers on you three I-

“Why’d you make me watch?” John said, his head snapping up to look at Sherlock.

Sherlock blinked at him.

“Why did you make me watch? Why the phone call? Why put me through that?”

“John I- I was-

“And why couldn’t you have told me after? Why leave me to suffer for. TWO. YEARS!” John cried, his voice cracking.

“It was too dangerous! It was bad enough Molly kn-

Everything froze.

“Molly. Knew,” John cut in, his voice was flat with rage. The ringing in his ears was back as the truth of just how deeply he’d been deceived began to sink in.

Sherlock’s jaw snapped shut and he swallowed hard.

“Who else? Who else knew?” John asked, a strange sort of calm sweeping over him.

Sherlock was silent, biting his lip and looking stricken.

“Sherlock,” John said, his voice low, “Who. Else. Knew?”

“Mycroft, Molly,” Sherlock whispered, after a beat of silence that made John want to scream.

John squinted at him, Sherlock was leaving something out.

“And? You’ve been lying for two years don’t you think it’s time to stop?”

Sherlock winced and nodded, staring at the ground. “Some members of the homeless network.”

John inhaled sharply through his nose. “So, Molly, Mycroft and the network were allowed to know, and I wasn’t.”

“It was too dangerous. If Moriarty’s people-

“It wasn’t too dangerous for Molly Hooper to know, but it was too dangerous for me?”

“They knew how important you are to me,” Sherlock said, anger beginning to creep into his voice, “If they found out I was still alive they would have hurt you to get to me.”

With each word, John felt his hurt and anger grow. Mycroft had known. Molly had known. The homeless network had known, but somehow John hadn’t deemed good enough to be in the loop.

“You. You,” the anger made John choke. “You thought it would have been better to leave me to suffer and grieve for two years. You thought it would be better to have Mycroft, Molly and the fucking homeless network in the loop, but not me! I thought I mattered more than that!”

“That’s why I couldn’t tell you!” Sherlock shouted, tugging at his hair. “If I had told you-

“What! What would have happened?” John shouted, his chest heaving, “Molly and Mycroft and so many others knew. Did anything happen to them? DID IT?”

Sherlock was silent, his face blank.

“No, it didn’t. Molly is fine. Mycroft is fine. Only I had to mourn you for two years.” he stalked towards the door, needing to get out of here.

“Oh, you seemed to be mourning just fine on your date.” Sherlock spat after him, venom in his voice.

John froze, and spun around to face the detective, mute with shock.

“The polished shoes, the product in your hair, the careful shave. It’s as plain as day John,” Sherlock sneered.

John knew that sneer, it was the sneer that meant Sherlock was hurt and trying to hide. John’s rage swelled. What the fuck did Sherlock have to be hurt about?

A humorless chuckle left John lips, “I was here celebrating our anniversary you fuck, but thanks for that Sherlock. Thanks so much.”

“John,” Sherlock, sounded horrified.

Good.

Clenching and stretching his fingers, John strode out of the office and through the restaurant. The cold January air hit him hard. Roughly zipping up his jacket he stalked down the pavement resisting the urge to scream. Sherlock lied to him for two years and then had the audacity to be angry at John. Grinding his teeth John turned toward home, it was a long walk, but he needed to think.

Back at the restaurant, his cane gleamed dully where it leaned against the desk in Angelo’s office.

 

Chapter Text

John answer your phone- SH

John I’m sorry - SH

John I don’t want to do this over text. Can I come over? -SH

Answer your phone at least- SH

John please- SH

You’re being stubborn- SH

John- SH

 

fuck off Sherlock

 

***

 

John rolled over in bed, his eyes feeling gritty from lack of sleep. It had been three days since Sherlock’s return and John’s phone hadn’t stopping buzzing for more than ten minutes at a time. The detective had kept calling at first, but John couldn’t bring himself to answer. Sherlock had stuck to texts since yesterday.

A part of John hated what he was doing. Sherlock was back, he was alive. John was getting the very thing he’d spent years bargaining with an indifferent God over, and he was turning away. He couldn’t help it though, he was just so angry.

Angry with Sherlock for making him watch as he fell, for making John mourn for two years. Angry with Sherlock for trying to jam himself back into John’s life without giving him any recovery time. He was just so fucking angry. It was a simple word, a word that seemed almost too trivial to describe how he felt, but it was true. It was so exhaustingly true.

John’s phone buzzed again and he warily stretched out an arm to snag it from the bedside table. A new row of texts form Sherlock greeted him.

 

John come home- SH

You don’t live here anymore- SH

You’re back at the bedsit aren’t you? -SH

I can explain I promise- SH

 

The time stamps on the texts made him pause when he saw they’d been sent in the wee hours of the morning.  ‘The git wasn’t sleeping’, John thought, quickly followed by ‘he made me mourn for two years, let him lose a little sleep’.

Scrubbing a hand over his eyes John refocused on his phone. The last text made him sit bolt upright in bed.

I’m coming over- SH

John was hitting call before he knew what he was doing.

“What the fuck are you doing?” John hissed as soon as the call connected.

There was a pause before Sherlock answered. “I’m coming to see you.”

John swallowed hard at the sound of Sherlock’s voice. How many nights had he lain in this same bed and wished he could hear that deep baritone again? He shook his head, now was not to time to get sentimental. The man had lied to him for two years, he’d made John think he was dead.

“And what makes you think you can?” John croaked, hating the way his voice wavered.

John,” the sound of traffic came through the line, “I’m almost there, please let me explain.”

John wanted to say no, he wanted to refuse and tell Sherlock to go back home, but the words wouldn’t come.

“John?”

“I- alright. Fine,” he felt proud at how steady his voice sounded, or maybe he was just numb.

“Thank you, John,” Sherlock breathed down the line.

There was a beat of silence and John ended the call, his hands shaking.

 

***

 

By the time Sherlock knocked on the warped door of his room, John was showered and dressed; the thick jumper and jeans felt like battle armor. Just as John put the kettle on, there was a rap at the door. Into battle then. Swallowing hard he opened the door to reveal the tall, imposing figure of the detective.

The first thing that hit him was Sherlock’s scent, that crispness underscored with a chocolate musk. He’d smelt it at the restaurant, but then it had been mixed and covered by the scents of the others in the room. Here, alone in the bedsit where he brought no one, Sherlock’s scent was stronger, filling up the space and curling around John.

John swallowed hard and tried not to be obvious as he inhaled deeply, drinking in as much of the scent as he could. A tiny, primitive part of his brain wanted to grab Sherlock and bury his face in the man’s neck to drink up more of his scent. He silenced that stupid part of his mind and focused on the man himself.

Sherlock didn’t seem to be fearing any better. His nostrils were flared wide, and he was focused on John with that laser precision that made something swoop low in John’s belly. He’d forgotten how potent that look was. Control, he had to stay in control. He locked his knees and gestured for Sherlock to enter the flat.

Sherlock seemed to be having a harder time than John at controlling himself. He staggered into the flat, keeping his body turned to John, his lips slightly parted and eyes wide.

John,” Sherlock said, lurching toward him.

‘My scent’s affecting him too’, John thought as he side-stepped Sherlock and headed into the kitchenette.

“None of that now Sherlock. You’re here to talk, no scenting,” John said, keeping his voice level, and ignoring the ache within him.

Sherlock nodded, swallowing hard, his eyes darted around John’s little room. John cringed at the thought of what Sherlock was deducing. He made two cups of tea on autopilot, trying to figure out what Sherlock was about to say.

He plunked the cups hard onto his desk and sat in his desk chair, arms crossed and glare ready. Sherlock hesitantly took a cup and looked around the room, before sinking onto John’s bed, sitting stiffly.

“Well,” John said after a beat of silence, “What did you want to say?”

Sherlock’s eyes flicked from side to side, move to John and then finally selected onto his own lap.

“There were snipers on you, Les-

“Yes Sherlock, I know that. What I don’t know is why.” John spat.

“I was taking apart Moriarty’s network.” Sherlock said, eyes on the floor and shoulders slumped. “I had to make sure there wasn’t anything left of it. Any- anyone who might come seeking retribution. It- it took longer than I anticipated.”  Sherlock’s voice had gone whisper soft.

John swallowed hard, his own eyes glued to the murky grey sky visible from the window.

“And why leave me out?”

Sherlock’s fingers tightened around the mug, his knuckles going white. “It wasn’t safe for you John. I couldn’t risk Moriarty’s people finding out.”

“So, you think I wouldn’t have been able to keep it secret?” John asked, his voice hard with anger.

“No it wasn’t that! I-,” Sherlock cried, looking up at John with wide eyes.

“We were partners!” John shouted, jumping to his feet, “All this explanation about Moriarty doesn’t explain why you couldn’t tell me! And don’t give me that shit about it not being safe! You now damn well I can take care of myself!”

Sherlock opened his mouth to reply, but John cut him off. Now that he’d started he couldn’t seem to stop the words from pouring out of his mouth.

“You told Molly and Mycroft and the fucking homeless, but not me! What was it? Is it because I’m omega? Hum, think the delicate little omega can’t protect himself? Is that it?” John shouted, panting with rage.

Sherlock shot to his feet, his own face flushed with anger. “Of course, that’s not why!” Sherlock hissed, his words coming out machine gun fast as he got angrier, “If you really think that your secondary gender makes a difference then you mind must have gone soft while I was go-

“Yeah that’s nice. Real nice, Sherlock keep going!” John said with and ugly laugh. “What do you expect me to think? I spent all this time thinking I mattered. Now I see how wron-

“It’s because you mattered!” Sherlock roared, his voice echoing through the flat. “It’s because you matter the most! Mycroft can take care of himself and his resources were valuable to the operation. Molly- Molly spent her entire time with Moriarty being under estimated. He would have never thought I’d use her in a plan, let alone once against him. The homeless network, they-they know how to fly under the radar. They’re off the books, hard to track. All of them- all of them I was willing to risk, but you- you John. I could never risk you.”

Sherlock was panting by the end of his tirade, his eyes bright. “Now do you see why? It’s not because you are an omega,” Sherlock sneered, twisting away from John and pacing in a circle, “You’re the chink in the armor, the one thing I couldn’t let Moriarty’s web touch.”

John stared at him, his mind whirling with Sherlock’s words. “I-I was your weakness,” he murmured, his voice hollow. The words made him feel sick to his stomach.

“Yes, John.” Sherlock whispered, turning back to John.

He gently took John’s shoulders in his hands, bending his knees to peer into John’s eyes. “Now do you see why?”

This close Sherlock’s scent was overwhelming. John could see how gaunt Sherlock looked, the dark circles under his eyes. John tore his gaze away from the detective’s, staring into the middle distance over his shoulder.

He’d always thought of him and Sherlock as equals, that they kept each other right, supported each other. He’d thought of himself as an asset to the work, not a weakness. He had thought Sherlock didn’t tell him because he wanted to work alone, or play it close to the chest. The truth was much harder to swallow; he hadn’t told John because John was a weakness, a hindrance to the work.

A choked breath tore pasted John’s lips as the truth of the matter set in.

“I- I think you should leave now Sherlock,” John said quietly, still looking away.

Sherlock fingers tightened ever so slightly on his shoulders. “What?”

“Please Sherlock,” John said, cringing as his voice wobbled.

“But John-

“Just go!” John cried, his eyes starting to sting.

Sherlock recoiled, taking a hasty step back, his hands falling to his sides. “I-

John wordlessly pointed to the door, fighting to keep his emotions in check until Sherlock left. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sherlock’s nose twitch at the distress colouring John’s scent. That was rare, alphas could only smell distress if the impending crisis was going to be massive in an omega. He saw Sherlock make an abortive gesture to reach out to him, then turn and head for the door.

Something stopped the detective short.

“Oh John,” Sherlock’s voice was laced with sorrow.

John froze when he saw what Sherlock was looking at. It was Sherlock’s old scarf, hanging neatly on the hook next to John’s coat. John’s stomach tightened and felt dreadfully exposed all of a sudden. The feeling increased as Sherlock gently took the scarf off the hook and brought it to his nose.

“You’ve been wearing it.”

John had had enough. He strode past Sherlock and yanked the door open, angrily gesturing for Sherlock to leave. He could feel Sherlock’s gaze on him, though he resolutely kept his eyes focused dead ahead. Without another word, Sherlock walked out the door, the scarf still clutched tightly in his hand.

 

***

Five days later and John was still ignoring Sherlock’s texts. That didn’t seem to stop Sherlock, or even give him pause. Everyday John would wake up to row of messages sent from absurd hours of the morning, and then throughout the day. John wondered when the detective was sleeping.

He had just gotten out of the surgery and checked Sherlock’s latest row of texts, debating if he should respond. John knew he couldn’t ignore the man forever, and the last thing he wanted was another surprise visit form Sherlock.

His hand was tight around his phone when it started ringing. John felt his stomach drop into his shoes, and he stopped dead on the pavement. A woman behind him ran right into him and swore under her breath, as the two of them stumbled. John mumbled an absent-minded apology, his eyes glued to his phone. He slowly turned it over to see the cracked screen, and relief flooded through his veins when he saw Harry’s name flashing across the screen.

“Harry?” he said hesitantly. He hadn’t seen his sister since the disastrous week he spent with her after Sherlock’s funeral.

“Johnny!” Harry crowed down the line, making John wince. “How are you?”

“I’m fine…how are you?”

“Doing alright.”

John was happy to hear she sounded sober, if a little over enthusiastic.

There was a beat of silence on the line.

“Are you free?” Harry asked, before it could get too awkward.

“Umm-

John really really wasn’t in the mood for Harry’s antics. He was tired, stressed and still had to decide what to do about Sherlock. He must have been silent for too long as Harry’s voice came through the line again.

“Jesus Johnny, it’s not for a social call. Lord knows we’re both pants at those!” Harry said, her laugh crossed between genuine amusement and bitterness.

John immediately felt guilty. “No, it’s- I ca-

“I have an old friend of yours who needs some help.” Harry cut in, clearly getting annoyed with his mumbling.

An old friend? That brought John up short. Who the hell could that be? It couldn’t be any of his old army mates. They knew of Harry, but wouldn’t approach her out of the blue. He wasn’t in touch with any one from uni, except Mike for the occasional pint, which hadn’t happened in months. Maybe it was one of their friends from Secondary school? John suddenly went cold, what if it was Sherlock?

“Meet us at the café around the corner from my place. Don’t dawdle now,” Harry said sounding sly, and about to hang up.

“Wait! Harry!” John shouted, ignoring the people staring at him as they walked passed.

“Yeah?”

“Is it- You have to tell me-is it Sherlock?” John asked, his voice shaking.

There was a shocked silence for a moment.

“Oh, Johnny no,” Harry said, her voice gentle. “If I ever saw that prick I’d punch him in the face, not take him out for coffee.”

John swallowed hard, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers.

“Just come alright? It’s a friend from secondary and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

There was another voice on the other end of the line, a woman’s, clearly protesting being kept a surprise.

John sighed, “Alright I’ll be there.”

 

***

 

John pushed open the door to the café, his mind awhirl over the mystery guest. He had narrowed it down to one possible suspect, but he didn’t want to get is hopes up. A whirl of mixed scents hit him as he stepped into the shop; the fresh aroma of coffee and the subtler, barley there scents of the other patrons. He immediately saw Harry, waving enthusiastically at him from a booth on the left. Her guest’s back was to him, all John could see was long curly hair and narrow shoulders encased in a camel coloured coat.  His heart sped up a little, could it really be….

He hustled over to the booth as the woman turned to face him, that fondly remembered wicked smile on her face. Her clean, crisp scent washed over him and John was hit with a wave of nostalgia. Aashriya was standing by the time he got to the booth and John found himself being pulled into a hug. She was taller than he remembered, and John found himself having to look up slightly when she pulled back.

 “I guess you remember each other,” Harry said, sounding amused.

“Yes, I guess we do.” Aashriya replied, shooting Harry a grin.

Her voice had changed, as John was sure his had too, but it still had that same wry lilt to it that John had found so attractive in his youth. He still liked it, but he was surprised to find it didn’t have the same effect on him as it then.

‘I wonder why?’ he thought sardonically, then promptly shoved the thought away as he slid into the booth next to Harry. Aashriya shot him a wink as she sat opposite them, and John felt himself smile for the first time in months.

“Ash and I ran into each other at the shops the other day and got to talking. She follows the blog you know,” Harry said, grinning at John.

John smiled tightly back. The mention of the blog stung, he thought enough about Sherlock without Harry bringing him up.

Aashriya laughed looking mildly caught out. “It was nice to see you having so much fun and the cases are so inter-

She stopped talking at the look on John’s face, and smiled kindly at him. “What would you like to drink John?” she asked, and John was thank full for the subject change.

“I’ll get it.” Harry said, standing up, “I know what John likes.”

She strode to join the queue, her cheeks red.

John and Aashriya looked at each other a moment, the awkwardness thick between them. John swallowed and gazed around at the other people, trying to think of something to say to break the awkward silence. The chatter and clinking of coffee cups and cutlery seemed unusually loud. He tried to remember why he thought coming would be a good idea.

“I-um- I heard what happened John,” Aashriya started hesitantly, cutting into his thoughts, “I’m so sorry that you were put through that.”

John nodded, his eyes glued to the table top. “Thanks- I- thanks.”

With a jolt, he realized she was the first person to apologize for what he went through instead of asking how Sherlock was doing since he’d returned. The first to acknowledge that John had been through hell and wasn’t ready to do celebratory cartwheels over Sherlock coming back.

However, as much as he liked Aashriya, he didn’t want to talk about what happened, with anyone.

They were silent for a beat, then John felt a warm hand curl over his and give it a squeeze. John looked up and Aashriya gave him a tiny smile.

“My brother opened a restaurant you know,” she said suddenly, clearly just as eager as John to change the topic.

“Really,” John said, trying to force enthusiasm into his words, “That’s wonderful.”

Aashriya nodded, taking a sip of her coffee. “Yup, he finally pulled his head out of his arse and decided what he wanted to do. Turns out he’s a remarkable chef.”

John found him himself letting out a bark of laughter as Aashriya grinned wolfishly at him and the ice broke. She kept up a steady stream of pleasant chatter, bringing John up to date on what she’d been up to, how the family was doing. She didn’t ask John much, which he was grateful for. It seemed his friend was just as perceptive as she’d been when they were younger, knowing when to press and when to hold back.

By the time, Harry was at the middle of the queue, he and Aashriya were chatting enthusiastically about their secondary school days. John realized he was actually having a little fun. It was nice to talk about something totally un-Sherlock related, it made him relax and the knots in his stomach -that had been there since Sherlock manifested in a restaurant- uncoiled.

As they chatted he observed his old friend. She still had the same high cheek bones and curly hair, though the frizz he remembered had been tamed into styled curls and the cheekbones she’d complained about in the past, insisting they made her face horse-like, were emphasized with some sort of shiny make up. Aashriya had aged too, just as John had. There were lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth, and a bit of grey at the temples, but it suited her. All in all, she was just as lovely as John remembered, the tempered, mature version of the girl he’d known so long ago, with the same dry sense of humor he loved.

Despite the easiness of her laughter, and her put together appearance, John though Aashriya looked tired. There were dark circles under her eyes and weary look in them in moments between her words. He was still debating if he should ask her if she was all right, when Harry slid back into her seat, shoving a latte towards John. He hated lattes.

“Well,” Harry said in a break during the conversation, “Did you ask him yet?”

Aashriya shot Harry a look, her mouth tightening slightly. “I don’t think now is the best time as-

“Nonsense Johnny would love to help,” Harry said, waving Aashriya’s worry away with a lazy gesture.

“Help with what?” John asked, his stomach tightening.

“Well you see- I mean I see now that it isn’t the best time to-

“Aashriya needs your help with a case,” Harry cut in.

“No, it’s fine,” Aashriya said, shooting Harry a look, “Now’s not the best time considering what- what happened.”

“It’s serious Johnny,” Harry said, with a grave face, ignoring Aashriya.

John regarded Aashriya, taking in her worry etched across her features. He wanted to help really but working a case would mean having to see Sherlock. The thought made his stomach clench.

“Life or death Johnny,” Harry said quietly, looking grim.

That defiantly meant it was serious, the last time Harry had looked like that was at Sherlock’s funer-

“Can you give me more details?” he asked, resigning himself to his fate.

“Are you sure?” Aashriya asked softly, her eyes filled with concern. “I’ll understand if you can’t John, really.”

John knew she was being sincere, but looking at her face, at the worry in her eyes, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to leave now and not feel like a complete prick. He nodded and gestured for her to continue. He could at least here what this was about then decide what to do.

Aashriya nodded and swallowed. “I’ll get right to the point. My girlfriend is ill, and she keeps getting sicker, and I’m beginning to suspect foul play.”

John felt his eyebrows climb high on his forehead, get to point indeed.

“Her name’s Renee, and we- um-

Aashriya’s voice faltered and she glared hard at the table. This time it was John who found himself reaching across the table to wrap his hand around hers.

“Can you tell me what symptoms she has, and why you think it’s unnatural?” he asked, his doctor brain kicking into gear.

“Well, she’s been very lethargic, and her- her body just seems to be shutting down,” Aashriya said, swallowing hard. She looked up at John her eyes bright with tears, “Her hair started falling out John, and she said her finger nails are coming loose.”

John felt his eyes widen in horror.

“I would have gone to the police,” Aashriya continued, “But Renee won’t let me, she refuses to believe someone from her family could be hurting her. I-I would go on my own, but I don’t have any proof.”

“That’s why I told her to ask you Johnny,” Harry said, moving to sit next to Aashriya and wrap an arm around her shoulders. “When I heard how serious it is, I knew you’d want to help.”

Harry was right, John did want to help. Aashriya was important to him, she’d helped him so much when he was younger, made him see himself in a positive light, he couldn’t bear to see her hurting.

“I’ll,” he gulped at what he was about to say, “I’ll talk to Sherlock and see if he’ll help. I’m sure he will.” John added, when he saw the look on Aashriya’s face. “Don’t worry Ash, we’ll help you,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze.

She gave him a watery smile back.

 

***

 

Outside the café, John and Aashriya stood alone. Harry had taken off for her flat, since it was just around the corner and Aashriya was trying to hail a cab. She’d offered John a ride home, but he’d declined once he learned they were going in opposite directions.

A black cab finally turned onto the road and Aashriya stretched an arm up, getting its attention. As she focused on the cab John found himself looking at her again. She was still reasonable fit, he noticed idly, taking in her long lean body under the camel coloured coat. She was dressed sharp, in a black blouse tucked neatly into a black pencil skirt, perfectly tailored to fit. Just from looking at the clothes he could tell they were expensive. Watching her hailing a cab, with the breeze gently blowing her curls and the sharpness of dress, he found himself thinking of Sherlock.

No, nope. Definitely not. He was not comparing his friend to his ex-boyfriend. She and Sherlock were different, totally and completely different. Sherlock was man and Aashriya was a woman, Sherlock was white and she was Indian. Aashriya actually cared about his wellbeing while Sherlock had left him for two years because he thought John would be a hindrance to his work and-

“Are you sure you don’t want to ride along?” Aashriya said, cutting into his thoughts.

“It’s fine really,” John said, trying to smile, though it must not have been successful considering the look on her face.

“Alright well, if you need anything you have my number.”

She hesitated a moment and then pulled John into a strong hug. Her scent hit him again, making him think of warm summer days and lazing around watching telly on her old, saggy couch.

“Thank you so much John,” she said, her voice sounding choked, “I know it can’t be easy, but thank you so much.”

 John squeezed her and swallowed hard. This past week had been hell, and all he wanted was to go home and sort through it all in the quiet.

Aashriya pulled back, and giving him a kind look, she slid into the cab.

John waved as it pulled away, and turned to head for the tube station. Night had fallen while they’d been in the café and there was a chill in the air as he walked away. He zipped up his jacket, stuffing his hands in his pockets, contemplating what he had to do.

He needed to talk to Sherlock. He’d make it perfectly clear that this was just to help his friend and that was it. A part of him wished he could call Aashriya and say he’d changed his mind, but he knew he wouldn’t. All he had to do was think of her face as she talked about her girlfriend and he’d remember why he’d agreed to do this.

Shaking his head, he jogged down the stairs of the station, he’d call tonight before he lost his nerve.

Chapter Text

John sat on the bed in his little beige room, staring at his phone. He’d been home for two hours and had been putting off making this call since he got in. He’d drank a cup of tea, checked his email, puttered around the flat and generally been avoiding the inevitable.

With a sigh, he turned his mobile over and over in his hand, the cracked screen reflecting the street lights from the window and giving John quick glimpses of his tired face. He was acting like some lovesick teenager, worrying about a silly phone call, though lovesick was the last word he’d use to describe the way felt. Nauseous felt more appropriate.

Giving himself a mental shake, he swiped his thumb over the screen and squinted against the brightness of the generic background. His thumb hovered over Sherlock’s name in his contact list, the bastard was still under favourites, as John hadn’t been able to bring himself to remove him after Sherlock had jumped. It had felt too final back then, as if deleting Sherlock’s number would mean that he was really dead. Now, it just made John feel pathetic. He’d been mooning over a number , while Sherlock had swanned off to do who-knows-what with who-knows-who while he was away.

Clenching his teeth, he tapped the number and brought the phone to his ear. As it rang, John’s eyes fell on the digital clock on his bedside table, it was past eleven. A tiny, natural kernel of guilt bubbled up at calling someone so late. Having the ‘not before or after eight’ rule drummed into his ears for over a decade was not an easy thing to erase. The kernel was quickly swept away when he remembered just who he was calling.

“John,” Sherlock’s voice came down the line, sounding slightly breathless, as if he’d ran for the phone.

“Hello Sherlock,” John said, cringing at the overly stiff and formal tone of his voice.

There was an awkward pause as John felt at a loss over how to begin the conversation.

“I have a case-

“How have you-

They both said at the same time. John squeezed his eyes shut and blinked hard. The ludicrousness of calling his recently resurrected boyfriend for help on a case after throwing him out his flat days earlier was now beginning to hit him. This was a terrible idea.

John pressed the phone hard against his ear, his breath rattled loudly in his chest as he inhaled sharply and struggled to stay calm.

“A case?” Sherlock said, his voice flat.

“Yes- yeah, um,” John sputtered, trying to squash the worm of guilt in his gut. “An old friend of mine needs your help with her-

“Will you be working with me on this?” Sherlock cut in, his voice still emotionless, and clearly not in the mood for details.

“Well- yes. She’s my friend so I’ll bring her by, if you take it,” John said, pressing a hand to his forehead. He was seriously regretting offering to contact Sherlock, he should have just given Aashriya Sherlock’s number. Things between him and Sherlock were tangled and fucked up enough as it was, adding a case would only make it worse. Too much like the old days before-

“If you agree to work with me, I’ll take it,” Sherlock said, an edge to his voice.

John swallowed hard, his stomach tight with dread. He knew this would happen. As much as he’d tried convincing himself that he’d simply introduce Sherlock and Aashriya and withdraw, he knew that wouldn’t be the case. He’d fall right back into Sherlock’s world, just as he had at Bart’s all those years ago. Except instead of being an asset, he was a ‘chink in the armor’ now…

He’d say no, he had to say no. After being lied to for two years, put through the hell of having his heart broken over and over by this man, he couldn’t work with him. It was too fucked up, even for them, to dive right back into how things used to be only days after Sherlock returned. He wouldn’t.

“That’s the only way you’ll do it?” he asked. A flat ‘no’ was beyond him apparently.

“Yes.”

“That’s blackmail.”

“I need to see you.”

Sherlock’s response was so simple, yet so raw in its honesty, that it left John blinking into the empty space of his room for a moment.

“Alright,” he said with a deep sigh, “I’ll do it. Will you take the case then?”

“Yes,” Sherlock voice had reverted to the cool tones of earlier. “Bring your friend around to the flat at ten tomorrow and we’ll begin.”

“Got it.” With that John hung up, his heart pounding in his chest, and his stomach coiled into a huge knot.

‘Here we go again’, he thought as he dropped his head between his knees and clamped the bony joints hard against his temples, ‘back to the start.’

Except everything was awfully, unchangeably different.

 

***

 

John trotted up to 221 Baker street and saw Aashriya sitting at a tiny table in front of Speedy’s. He gave her a weak smile as he approached. He’d slept poorly last night, his mind too full of his conversation with Sherlock, and running over their encounters since Sherlock’s return. The conclusion he’d come to was that he was still angry as hell, and he wanted to know exactly why and when he’d gone from being an asset to a burden.

Aashriya smiled at him and stood up, giving him a quick hug. Once again, he felt a wave of nostalgia when her scent hit his nose.  

“I’m so glad he agreed to take the case,” Aashriya said, pulling back. “Thank you so much John.”

John gave her another smile, trying to make it genuine. From the look Aashriya gave him, clearly it didn’t work.

“Shall we go?” John asked, before she could ask any questions.

Aashriya nodded and swallowed hard, looking nervous as they headed for the worn black door of 221. John wanted to reassure her that everything would be fine, but he honestly wasn’t sure. He had no idea what kind of mood Sherlock would be in.

John was about to push open the door, when it occurred to him that he didn’t live here anymore. Sighing he knocked, the sight of the crooked knocker making his stomach clench. There was the sound of a door opening, too close to be thei- Sherlock’s door, then the door was flung open and Mrs. Hudson stood before him.

“Oh John!” was all he heard before the cherry print of Mrs. Hudson’s dress was obscuring his vision as he was enveloped in a strong hug.

Her beta scent washed over him, dragging John’s mind back to having a full English at her flat while Sherlock banged around upstairs and hearing stories about a younger, frisky Mrs. H that still made his ears burn. His eyes prickled as the hugged Mrs. Hudson back, resting his chin on her shoulder.

“I’m so sorry John,” Mrs. Hudson said, her voice muffled by John’s shoulder, “How could he do that you? How could he-

Her words were cut off by a sob and John swallowed hard, gently patting Mrs. Hudson’s back as he held her.

“I know, I know,” he murmured soothingly, unsure what he meant, but certainly sure he couldn’t answer her questions.

They held each other for a moment longer, until John remembered they weren’t alone. Gently untangling himself from Mrs. Hudson, he kept one hand on her shoulder and turned back to Aashriya. She was politely staring into traffic, ignoring them, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Mrs. Hudson, this is Aashriya, an old friend from secondary school.” John said, trying to restore some sort of normality to the situation.

Aashriya had turned around at the sound of her name, and gave Mrs. Hudson a smile as she and John stepped into the hall.

John swallowed hard as he stared up the stairs, the memories washing over him hard and fast. He could almost hear he and Sherlock laughing as they came home after a case, kissing on the way up the stairs, the adrenaline making them both crave each other, coming home from Tesco with bag handles digging into his hands as Sherlock’s violin music drifted down the stairs.

“You’re John’s friend?” Mrs. Hudson asked, cutting into John’s thoughts, as she and Aashriya shook hands.

“Yeah, he and Sherlock are going to help my girlfriend and I with a case,” Aashriya said easily, shrugging out of her coat.

“Oh, I see,” Mrs. Hudson said, brightening slightly, “Well go on up dear, he’s been banging around all morning.” Still looking slightly watery, Mrs. Hudson headed back into her own flat.

John gave Aashriya a tight smile and the two of them started up the stairs. The closer he got to 221b the stronger Sherlock’s scent became. John felt his omega instincts wake up, reacting to finally getting a concentrated dose of its alpha’s scent after so long. He smothered the urge to dash up the stairs and surround himself with as much of the scent as he could.

Knocking once on the door of the flat, John pushed it open and stepped inside.

The smell hit him like something solid, it was pure, concentrated Sherlock. Although he and Sherlock hadn’t bonded, they had been living together as alpha and omega. He’d become in tuned to Sherlock’s scent, had it ingrained into his system until it had felt like part of his own. Being exposed to it after two long years without felt like a punch to the stomach.

He swallowed hard, the door knob digging painfully into his palm as it clenched around the door handle.

“John?” Aashriya said, her voice filled with concern, “Everything all right?”

At the sound of her voice, John turned to look over his shoulder at her. He inhaled deeply, letting her scent dilute Sherlock’s and felt himself calm down. He was fine. Fine.  

“I’m fine,” he gritted out, turning back to the flat.

The second thing that hit him was how clean it looked. Gone was the mess John remembered cluttering the table, bookshelves and floor. Instead everything was neatly in its place; books upright on the shelves and stacked by height, the table clear except for a laptop set squarely to the left, no music sheets scattered around. Hell, even Sherlock’s chair looked better than usual, clean, the leather well-conditioned. His own chair looked well brushed, the Union Jack pillow set neatly on the cushion and Mrs. Hudson’s old afghan folded neatly over the back. It was eerie, as if Sherlock wasn’t really living here and it’d been turned into some kind of museum.

‘Mycroft’, John thought, the neatness reeked of Mycroft’s influence. He must have had the flat cleaned when he knew Sherlock was coming back. John felt his blood start to boil.

A wooden chair was set neatly between his and Sherlock’s arm chairs. The client chair. John scowled in annoyance and grabbed the chair, swinging back into the place at the table. Things were not back to normal and this was not their usual client meeting.

“Have a seat,” he said to Aashriya, gesturing to the couch and struggling to keep his voice neutral, “I’m sure Sherlock will join us shortly.”

He sat down hard next to her and folded his arms tight across  his chest. He was sure Sherlock had heard them come in, and was simply waiting to make some sodding dramatic entrance.

As if summoned by thought Sherlock appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, dressed in the usual crisp suit and purple shirt. At his entrance his scent got stronger and John clenched his fists, sucking a harsh breath in past his lips.

Their eyes locked. Sherlock’s eyes were a pale blue in the light as they bored into John’s, stealing his breath and making the world narrow down to nothing but Sherlock’s ever changing eyes. Sherlock stood frozen in the kitchen doorway, one hand lightly gripping the frame as his laser focus took John in. John swallowed hard, his nails digging into his palms as he resisted the urge to walk over to Sherlock and kiss him, or shake him. He wasn’t sure which.

He found his eyes wandering down Sherlock’s body and what he saw shocked him. The detective was thinner than John had ever seen him, his suit hung off his frame, the buttons on his shirt no longer fighting to stay shut. The once clingy trousers were loose around his thighs and bunched at the waist from where his belt was cinched tighter than usual. A belt. Sherlock was wearing a belt. He’d never needed one before, his bespoke trousers fitting like a glove.

Aashriya’s soft cough brought him blinking back to reality and the fact that he wasn’t sure how long he and Sherlock had been staring at each other. Sherlock’s gaze flicked over to her, his eyes hardening into his deduction stare as he took in the details. John braced himself, waiting for the usual deluge of information.

“You two are old friends then?” Sherlock said walking slowly over to his chair and sinking into it.

John blinked in surprise at the question. Sherlock rarely asked their clients questions first, preferring to tell them what he’d deduced then having them fill in what was left.

Aashriya glanced at John, realizing he wasn’t going to answer she said, “Um- yes. We were good friends in secondary school, but lost touch when I moved away.”

“And you need my and John’s help with a case involving your girlfriend?” Sherlock continued, slowly, almost painfully, stretching his legs out in front of him.

“Yes. Did John give you any details?”

“Some, but I’d like you to explain it again in our own words please.”

As Aashriya began telling Sherlock what she’d told John at the coffee shop, John found himself analyzing Sherlock with his doctor’s eye.

The man looked ill . The skin of his face was stretched tight over his cheekbones, there were dark circles under his sunken eyes, and then there was the slow, almost pained turn to his movements. What had happened to him?

“So, mysterious illness that you suspect is foul play,” Sherlock said, breaking John out his thoughts. He made to steeple his hands under his chin, then winced and carefully placed them on his lap instead. “Have you had any blood work done?”

“The family won’t allow it and Renee can’t leave the house to get it done.” Aashriya said, twisting her hands together on her lap. John reached over and placed his hands over hers, giving them a squeeze.

John saw Sherlock’s eyes narrow as he took in their joined hands and resisted the urge to let go.

“John and I will need to visit Renee of course, to get a better idea of what’s been going on,” Sherlock said, turning to stare into the middle distance.

“Her family won’t want that, they already think I’m asking too many questions.”

Sherlock hummed in consideration, “We’ll have to pose as friends then.”

Aashriya nodded, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Just act normally, try not to raise suspicion, and don’t tell anyone- not even Renee- what’s going on until John and I can meet her.”

Aashriya nodded, her eyes tense with worry.

An awkward silence followed, with Aashriya looking between John and Sherlock, waiting for them to say something, while Sherlock stared at John glared at his shoes.

“So-um- would you like to meet her tomorrow?” Aashriya asked, struggling to keep the meeting on point.

John felt Sherlock’s gaze leave him and glanced up at man. He was staring hard at Aashriya, clearly still deducing and surprisingly keeping what he found to himself.

“No. John will be in touch tomorrow to tell you what to do.”

Aashriya looked at John for confirmation and he nodded. What else could he do? He had promised to work this case with Sherlock, something he was starting to regret. Before he could say anything, Sherlock spoke again.

“Well I have everything I need for now. John will be in touch to set up the meeting,” Sherlock said briskly. He stood, winced again, and gestured to the door.

“Thank you for agreeing to help,” Aashriya said, holding out a hand to Sherlock.

Sherlock nodded and shook her hand firmly. John’s eyes followed the movement of their hands and he  was suddenly struck by the similarities in their long, slender fingers. In fact, seeing them standing next to each other John was struck by the resemblances between his past and current-

No, not current. He and Sherlock were not current.

The similarities between them made his head spin. He had noticed it a bit when he’d met Aashriya in the coffee shop, but seeing them side-by-side made it so blinding obvious that he had a type. It almost made him feel ashamed, for a reason John couldn’t pin down.

“Well, I’ll be going then John,” Aashriya said, turning towards him. Her lips were raw from being bitten and her eyes slightly red. Talking about Renee had clearly been more difficult than he’d noticed.

John stood up and without thinking about it, pulled her into a hug. Aashriya smiled and wrapped her arms around his waist, giving it a quick squeeze before pulling back.

“I’ll see myself out, it’s fine,” she said quietly, when she noticed John making to follow her down the stairs.

She glanced over his shoulder and her lips tightened. Taking a careful step back, she gave John a brief pat on the shoulder and headed out of the flat. John stared after her, flinching ever so slightly when he heard the street door slam a few seconds later.

He was alone with Sherlock.

Swallowing he turned to face the detective and froze at what he saw.

Sherlock’s hands were clenched into fists at his sides, his nostrils flared wide and his eyes burning with anger. John blinked in shock, why the hell was he angry?

It came to him in a flash, the hug. John felt the muscles in his jaw tighten, of all the old school, pig headed alpha reactions- he’d hug who he damn well wanted to!

“Don’t you dare,” he hissed, his left-hand flexing and unflexing as he struggled with his anger. “Don’t you dare give me that fucking fifteenth century alpha bullshit Sherlock.”

Sherlock’s jaw worked as he ground his teeth together. His eyes bored into John’s and John glared right back, his posture military straight. As much as Sherlock’s irrational reaction pissed him off, a tiny part of him was quietly thrilled he could still elicit such a reaction. God, that was fucked.

He didn’t know how long their stand-off went on for, but eventually Sherlock exhaled sharply, his shoulders slumping as the anger drained out of him. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and twisted away from John to glare out the window.

“Well I’ll be going then,” John said, trampling down on his own anger, “I’ll text when I set up the meeting.”

With that he made for the flat door that Aashriya had closed behind her. He heard footsteps behind him as he he twisted the knob, then a long, familiar white hand pressed against the wood next to head, stopping him.

Sherlock was so close John could feel his breath on the back of his neck, and Sherlock’s warmth along his spine. The man’s scent surrounded him, making him ache with painful memories of the past, of happier times spent pressed against this very door. John bit harshly into his lower lip, the pain bringing him back to the moment.

“I’m sorry, John,” Sherlock whispered, his voice hoarse.

“For what exactly?” he said harshly, “For acting like a pig-headed alpha just now, or for making think you were dead for two years?”

Sherlock exhaled sharply behind him, his breath rustling the hair at the nape of John’s neck.

“John I-

“I-I don’t want to hear it Sherlock,” John said, his own voice soft with sadness. He suddenly felt tired down to the bone. “We’ll work this case together, then- then-

The ‘we’re done’ stuck in John’s throat. He knew he should say it, he knew given what had happened it was what any sane person would do, but he couldn’t.

“Then we’ll see,” he found himself saying, cringing at the lame ending to a supposedly powerful speech.

Sherlock didn’t say anything, he merely pulled his arm back while still standing far too close to him.

John twisted the doorknob and yanked open the door, the movement pressing him against Sherlock’s chest for a moment.

He was on the first stair when he heard Sherlock’s voice again, so soft he would have missed it if not for the sorrowful silence that enveloped them both.

“I’ll do everything that I can John. Anything  that you ask of me to get you back.”

John continued down the stairs without another word.