This is a fill for a prompt on the kinkmeme, for Sherlock/Molly knotting. An odd challenge, but one I couldn't resist giving a try. This uses the Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics universe, with the Omega (Molly, in this instance) being in heat and Sherlock as the Alpha top for her. (Betas are neutral, without heats.) You can suppress heats with pills, which may or may act as birth control. In this version those are two separate medicines. It's all very animalistic, so just go with it. Google ABO dynamics for detailed info on the omegaverse. This is going to be pretty filthy, with knotting, rough sex, and dirty talk. And a teenage (18+) back story between them, because I felt like it. Thanks for giving this kinky fic a chance!

"I'll never be like that."

"Of course you will, Sherlock. All alphas are. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"What do you know? You're a beta," the young man spat. "No one expects you to turn into a brainless ape, mating with whatever omega is thrown at them. Mother isn't trying to select a mate for you. Not that anyone would have you."

Mycroft folded up the newspaper he'd been reading and set it aside, while glancing at the clock. He could feel a headache growing, a stab of pain in his temples that was increasing by the minute.

His nineteen year old brother sulked on the sofa in the suit their mother had nagged him into. If the omega and her parents didn't turn up soon, he'd have to return to the office and miss meeting his future sister-in-law. Mother assured him that the girl was listed as a suitable match for Sherlock, but he doubted any agency could find someone that could tolerate his little brother's foul moods and questionable social skills, along with his furious intelligence.

Sherlock fumed silently, and tapped his feet on the floor, knowing the habit aggravated his brother. He'd been up all night examining specimens he'd swiped from a crime scene in Clapham. He'd gotten a nice lot of samples before the Met realized he wasn't one of their technicians and had him driven home in a squad car, for the third time that month.

"It's for the best, Sherlock. You don't have to have children right away. Or ever," he asserted, as Sherlock opened his mouth to protest. "But bonding will center you and focus the alpha aggression in a productive manner. Fighting the urge to bond will only increase inappropriate behavior."

"Marriage is a trap, and love a joke, and you know it." Sherlock glared, and they both knew he was referring to their parents' agency-matched but still failed marriage. "Besides I'm on suppressants. I can barely smell anything half the time. I can control the urges."

"That's not enough if there's a compatible omega in full heat nearby. You'll bring it out in each other. If you're going to play at being a scientist, you cannot ignore basic human biology-it's chemistry, Sherlock."

"She won't like me," he said under his breath. "And I won't like her," he added, louder this time. It wasn't that he hadn't fantasized about having an omega of his own, about riding her in her heat until she begged for his knot. But once he passed the sexual portion of the fantasy, he couldn't imagine what to do with one. There were experiments to be designed and abandoned warehouses to explore. An emotional mate tagging along sounded incredibly unproductive. The function of a knot was to tie you to someone else, and Sherlock had spent years trying to break free.

The doorbell rang.

Sherlock stood and swallowed, eyes wild, and for a moment, he looked very young to Mycroft. His long curls were unwashed, one lock bouncing over his left eye. His limbs were all angles and awkward proportions. He would undoubtedly grow out of it but currently he resembled a scared teenager in the only suit his father left behind when he walked out.

"Lovely place you have here, oh my. The garden is remarkable," her mother simpered. "I'm delighted to finally meet you. We didn't know if we'd find anyone clever enough for our girl. I know they say letting an omega read too much is bad for them, but I could never say no to her. She is very bright. I was never much for books myself. The agency didn't give us many details, but they said your son is something of a genius."

"Some say so." The elegant silver-haired woman inclined her head graciously. She leaned over to pour another cup for the slim young woman who sat stiffly on the sofa. "Tell me, Molly, do you think you're ready to be bonded?"

The brown-haired girl looked up from her fidgeting hands. The house was too luxurious and well-decorated for her to feel comfortable in. There was shabbiness around the corners that suggested the most prosperous times for the family had passed. The house smelled wonderful though, the way her house smelled when she baked bread. Only that wasn't this scent. This was something better and deeper, with a sharp spice to it. She inexplicably felt a burst of energy, and wanted to get up and run from the room, to search the halls. Instead, she forced herself to sit still and smooth her dress over her thighs.

"I've just graduated. I want to go to university. But eventually I would like to have a family."

From the door, a short harsh laugh was heard. The three adults and the girl on the sofa looked up, startled. Her face flushed, and the room was suddenly too warm.

"That was a no. No she isn't ready to be bonded. In case you missed it, Mother." A lanky young man strolled into the parlor and flopped down onto the chair opposite the sofa. He pushed a curl back from his forehead and sneered at the girl across from him. His light blue-green eyes took her in and he sighed.

"How on earth do you think I could bond with her, Mother? Look at her fingers, and the scuff on her left shoe. Marry a chronically clumsy nail-biter who still wears a retainer at night? It's like you don't know me at all."

He smiled sweetly at his mortified mother. Molly's parents stared in shock, and she cringed backward, in horror and a little bit of awe at the strange boy with magnetic eyes. How on earth did he know those things about her? The agency had told her next to nothing about her potential mate; that was the standard before an initial meeting.

She had learned something though, during their one-minute-long acquaintance.

The scent was coming from him.

The boy- Sherlock- continued his devastating assessment of everyone in the room, to her parents' growing irritation. He was commenting on the sporadic shaking in her father's right leg when a well-dressed man in his mid-twenties entered the room and cut him off.

"Apologies, miss. My brother was up rather late last night due to unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps we could arrange another meeting that would be more-"

"Get stuffed, Mycroft. We're finished here." He eyed Molly. "Aren't we?"

Her hands shook, she was so angry. She didn't take it to heart when people were rude to her- not much, anyway- but showing disrespect to her parents was the last straw. She stood and grabbed her clutch from the coffee table. "I believe so. Thank you for tea, Mrs. Holmes. Nice to meet you as well- Mycroft, is it?"

Molly shot one last unhappy glance at Sherlock and ran from the room with her parents hurrying after her.

The scent faded from her nostrils as she stormed out the door into fresh air, and she felt the loss at once. The heat gathering inside her faded, and a cold shiver rippled through her. Molly paused on the pavement, and looked back at the house.

Her father opened the car door and held it for her. "What is it, sweetie? Have you changed your mind?"

Molly squelched the rush of disappointment. "No. He hates me. This was all a mistake. I want to go to uni, please."

Mother sank into the sofa as Mycroft saw them out. Sherlock dropped onto the chair again, and smirked proudly.

His mother caught his eye. He expected to find steely anger in the eyes that mirrored his, but found something much worse: tears.

"I just want you to be happy, Sherlock."

His throat felt tight and words escaped him. They sat without speaking until Mycroft returned to deliver a blistering and tedious lecture on decorum that Sherlock would ridicule for years to come.

While he was wandering the hallways, following the sound of polite voices, his nose caught a scent. It was like vanilla and lemons and fresh linen, but not quite that. Something good that had led him straight to the parlor where a petite girl sat on the sofa, her legs neatly crossed at the ankles and her shoes bearing the signs of too many classes in a chemistry lab like his own.

His first instinct had been to push aside the people between them and to bury his face in her neck. To swipe his tongue over her pulse and press his teeth into the soft skin until she purred for him and offered him everything.

Omega. So that's what the fuss was really about. The scent touched a deep, low cord in his gut. Warm, sweet, mate, taste, mine. Her scent was like soft candy melting in his mouth. And for a moment- a second- a heartbeat- he had wanted nothing more than to do exactly what his mother wanted him to do.

But it would ruin everything. He couldn't be what they wanted, and he didn't want to be a posturing alpha, only good for breeding, hunting and protecting. Spending days locked in the heat cycles, endless copulating. And bonding, a tie he'd never escape from. He had plans for his future.

And the omega girl who smelled like home wasn't part of that. He hadn't even tried that hard to run her off, Sherlock reasoned, and ignored the odd sense of disappointment that plagued him.

He locked himself in his lab in the shed with the specimens he'd collected the night before, and he refused to come out for three days. He filled his nose with the scent of death and chemicals until he knew again with certainty that that was where he belonged. Anything else was a lie.

She'd never bonded. That was unexpected. The family was not well off, but she was intelligent, fertile, generous in spirit and enjoyed domesticity. Omegas weren't as rare as they used to be, but still, she ought to have been married by twenty-two, twenty-five at the absolute latest.

And yet Molly Hooper remained single at the age of thirty.

Mycroft rested his chin on his hands, perusing the file on the young pathologist. The Barts photo was up-to-date and showed her wearing an unflattering pair of glasses. Despite the glasses and severe ponytail hairdo, she was attractive. He remembered thinking that the brown-haired girl would have been too fragile for his brother anyway, but he flipped through gruesome post-mortems she'd performed, and he wondered. Several of her papers had been published in journals that he knew Sherlock read regularly. She refilled her suppressant and birth control prescriptions regularly since finishing her undergraduate studies, despite remaining unbonded and not even dating, as far as he could learn.

Sherlock had been complaining to Mother about the quality of the lab he was being permitted to use at the university. His consulting detective career was absurd, really, but it was a vast improvement over passing out in gutters with a needle in his arm. If he wanted to play crime-solver until it was time to assume a role in the world with his brother, Mycroft would humor him. It was an ideal transitional time. A mate would stabilize Sherlock even more, but he had never agreed to meet another agency match after the first one.

Perhaps a new venue for Sherlock's experiments is in order. Stamford is still at Barts, he mused. The doctor had been two years behind him at Oxford. He'd be happy to help. A chance meeting between him and Sherlock somewhere, a casual invitation. The Barts facilities are top-notch; he won't pass up the chance to use their lab. And their morgue.

Mycroft closed the file, and sipped his coffee in thought. The simplest plans were the most effective ones.

An alpha detective and an omega pathologist. A balanced mated pair.

Obvious solutions should not be ignored merely because they're obvious. He picked up his mobile and asked his PA to find Michael Stamford's mobile number.

After her one ill-fated attempt to find an alpha, Molly plunged into her studies and stuck to beta boyfriends from there on out.

She lost her virginity to her third boyfriend, a future banker who often introduced her as his "little omega." The habit irritated her, and she took to suppressing her heats again, a habit she'd left off at his request. He loved the times when she was mindless with need, but the brief periods of sexual madness always left her unfulfilled, despite his technical proficiency as a lover. By the time he proposed, she realized the inherent problem in her situation.

She didn't want to be with a beta. The chemistry was always off. She wanted to feel the overwhelming heat for her alpha that omegas were supposed to. She wanted to feel his body crushing hers into the mattress, and she wanted his knot in her, filling her, locking them to one another. When the time was right, she wanted to have his baby and feel that primal connection, the strands twisted together. She wanted to feel out of control and taken, pushed to the limit until she couldn't think or doubt anymore.

She wanted to be free, and to know that her mate was with her in the wildness of the cycle. With her beta boyfriend, he stayed behind whenever she slipped into heat.

It was lonelier than not having a boyfriend at all.

When she entered medical school, she left him behind altogether, and that was that.

A week later, Sherlock strolled into the morgue of Barts, and came to a sudden standstill. The scent was everywhere. Hampered by the wafts of chemicals and decomposition, but underneath it all was the strong smell of an omega female. A very familiar one.

Bloody Mycroft. This has him written all over it. The pills, why aren't they working?

The slim woman in the white lab coat looked up from the clipboard in her hands and frowned. She set the chart on the table by the body and walked toward him.

"Sir, family aren't supposed to be in here. If you're here to identify someone, one of the other-"

She froze. Her brown eyes widened. Her footsteps ceased and he could pinpoint the exact millisecond she recognized him. Bright spots of color bloomed in her cheeks and a hand flew over her hair, smoothing down the stray strands of her ponytail. Her scent heightened with her anxiety. It held the same sweet notes he recalled, but now there was a darker, more mature tang to it. As they stared at one another, the scent grew stronger and Sherlock was annoyed to feel his body respond against his wishes.

Molly's hands fiddled with the buttons of her coat. She unbuttoned the top two, and swallowed hard. Her cheeks grew redder and he saw sweat form on her brow.

"I'm sorry, I don't feel well." She fanned her face with her hand. "Actually I was supposed to have today off, but my colleague had a flat tire and couldn't get here so I was called in."

"Mycroft," he swore. This was vintage brotherly maneuvering. Sherlock had received a text just that morning from Mike Stamford that he was cleared for using Barts' facilities. He forced himself to focus and turned his assessing gaze on the woman. "So you're the pathologist. Educated here at Barts, you've got a cat, and you live less than a mile away. Still unbonded."

"Yes." Molly shuffled over to her desk and sat down quickly. She unbuttoned her labcoat the rest of the way and shrugged it off. "Must be coming down with something."

He frowned, and was glad for the long coat that disguised his reaction to her pheromones. "You're in heat. Surely you recognize the symptoms."

She gulped down the bottle of water on her desk, and brushed a sweaty hair back from her forehead. "No, I'm not due for a few weeks and it's suppressed anyway. It can't be that." She yanked open the drawer, pulled out a packet of crisps and ate them quickly, followed by more water.

Sherlock felt the haze growing and the discomfort centered in his groin.

Discomfort, like hell. He was throbbing, his cock surging against the fabric of his trousers insistently. His fingers curled into fists, resisting the urge to touch himself, and he breathed deeply. "There are other alphas at Barts. You need to get out of here."

Molly looked up from the desk, her eyes shining and dilated. "Why? I want to stay here. I'm glad you're here. You weren't very nice back then. But you're being nice now. You grew up."

Before Sherlock understood what was happening, he was backed against the wall, with a very distracted pathologist sliding her hands under his coat and over his chest. He lifted his hands to brush off her hands and somehow wound up sliding them around her back to cradle her bum and press her tight against his groin.

She looked up at him under her eyelashes, and beamed.

"You smell good. God, you always smelled good. Like Christmas cookies and campfires, and oh that's stupid. That's not it at all. You just smell-"

"Right," he finished for her. The irresistible pull of her heat tugged at him, and he found himself burying his nose in the crook of her neck. Yes, it was right. There were still notes of vanilla in her scent, but there was something richer and darker now, like ripe berries. The comforting trace of chemical in her scent, the one that reminded him of bubbling beakers of strange fluids, of every lab that had ever been his home away from home. The places where I belong, he thought.

"Home." His tongue slid over the salty skin and he sucked a red mark into her throat. Satisfaction surged in him at the sight of his mark on her. Molly arched against him, with her arms trapped between them.

"Yes, take me home," she begged and beyond all thought, he agreed.

There was a fleeting moment when they stepped into her flat when her hormones ebbed, and they were able to look into each other's eyes clearly. Molly slipped her hands into his, and summoned her resolve.

"I'm home, I'm safe. If you don't want to stay, I won't hate you. Much," she laughed, her cheeks still flushed. Her eyes glittered and her fingers tangled with his. "I'm on birth control. God I don't even know you but I want this. I want you. Do you still…?"

He answered her with a rough kiss that was long overdue.

They managed to get the door locked and the blinds closed before their clothing disappeared in a frenzy of popped buttons and kicked aside trousers.

Molly fell back onto her bed and appreciated through the daze of heat the way his blue eyes roamed over her body, and lingered on the curly patch of hair between her legs.

"I can't think," he said, kneeling on the bed over her. "And fuck it if I don't even care. Open for me."

She bent her knees and parted her thighs to show him how soaked she was, how her thighs shone with the overflowing wetness. Sherlock slid his hand over her mound of curls and let his fingertips delve between the slick folds. Recalling the basics of sexual stimulation he'd gleaned from women's magazines (strictly research, he'd reassured himself at the time), he explored the landscape of her pink flesh. Molly moaned and gasped beneath his touch but then wrenched his hand from her labia.

She sucked on his fingertips and he became keenly aware again of his cock thickening more than he'd thought was possible. The need to be inside her was becoming painful. She stroked his hardness and grabbed hold of his shoulders.

"I just need you to fuck me, fill me now. Please, Sherlock."

He was between her thighs in a flash, her calves draped over his shoulders, and his chest hovering over hers. Before she could plead with him again, he buried his cock into her wetness and let raw alpha instinct take over.

He thought the madness would abate when they'd given into the mating drive, but it only increased with every thrust. He rocked inside her, while Molly moaned and writhed.

Her face contorted in passion, she dug her nails into his chest and shoulders, scratching him and forcing him to pump harder. Her wetness slicked the way, and their bodies slid together too quickly, making friction difficult.

Without a word, Sherlock stopped and withdrew from her. Molly whimpered and grabbed at his chest, until he used his alpha strength and flipped her body over. He dragged Molly up onto her hands and knees, and he steadied them with a hand anchored in her hair.

Every fear he'd had had vanished when he plunged into her, and Sherlock felt the return of his early teenaged fantasies. And there had been some really creatively raunchy ones before he shut down that side of himself. He squeezed his fingers tighter in her tangled hair, and she wiggled her hips against his groin, trying to impale herself on him again.

"Ask for it," he commanded.

She arched and presented herself to him, lifting her butt high. "Sherlock, please, I can't…just fuck me, please."

"What do you need?" He nudged the thick head of his cock against her entrance, teasing her.

Molly buried her face in the pillow and groaned. Her face was cherry red when she turned it to the side and whispered something.

"Louder," he ordered testily. "Can't hear you." He stroked his shaft and coated the tip of himself with her moisture again. Her scent was everywhere, mingled with his.

"Come in me, I need you to come in me." Molly's voice grew more confident and demanding. Her head tilted toward him and she bucked back against his hardness. "Stop playing, and give me your cock, I've waited long enough. Fuck me, give your cum, Sherlock." And the hunger in her eyes had him back inside her before his name had fully passed her lips.

Her eyes snapped shut and her head thrown back, Molly rocked, taking every inch of the cock he pounded into her. His hips snapped ruthlessly against her ass, until her thighs were shaking with the effort of staying up and open. He was unforgiving in his mounting, and it was everything she ever wanted.

The base of his cock grew harder and thicker with every plunge into his omega, her hormones driving his knot to grow larger. The last few thrusts were slower as he fought to press his length all the way inside her with the knot forming. He rammed himself into Molly, his knot stretching her to near pain, and she wailed as the knot swelled and finally locked them together. With his final short thrust, Molly let go and let the shivers shake through her body. She quaked around his cock, her muscles clenching and stroking the orgasm from him to join with her own.

Sherlock winced with the force of the orgasm, the first one he'd had in months. Redirecting most of his sex drive into work seemed like the stupidest idea in the world when the ragged rush of pleasure short-circuited his brain. He came and came, so hard he saw spots dancing before his eyes. Molly squeezed tight around him, milking the cum from him, and drawing temporary relief from the torturous heat. She breathed a sigh of relief as he filled her and the grip of his hands on her hips relaxed.

His vision cleared, and Sherlock shifted downward, rolling them both to the side instinctively. He was knotted firmly inside Molly, and nothing had ever felt more right.

Every few minutes, her pubic muscles would flex and massage him until more cum spilled into her womb. The haze came and went. His thoughts would gather but then another mini-orgasm would suck his intelligence away for a few more minutes.

Sherlock slid his arm around the omega, his thumb brushing over her reddened nipples. Molly craned her neck around and grinned happily at him.

"Are you alright?" Her brows rose expectantly.

"Am I…alright?" He laughed and then hissed as the laughter caused his cock to rock deeper into her. "I fuck you into the mattress, pull out a good amount of your hair, bruise you, and you ask if I'm alright." He laughed again, a brighter sound than she'd ever heard from him in their limited acquaintance.

"I am…intensely alright. Hmm." He rubbed at the fingertip bruises he'd left over her hips and ass. He didn't even remember dragging his fingernails over her back, but the spread of the hand matched his. He'd scratched down the small of her back at some point while he fucked her. He should be more disturbed, he supposed, about the marks and what had happened, but he felt…happy?

The knot lessened as his cum poured into her, and eventually, his cock slipped out of Molly. She sighed and sat up. "I've got to get a drink before the heat comes back. I'm dying of thirst. I thought I knew, but I didn't. This is…" she blushed and Sherlock was amazed. How could she blush now after everything that had happened? People were so strange.

"Let me get you something to eat." He followed her to the kitchen, gingerly touching his groin. Despite the punishing amount of sex they'd just had, his cock still reacted to his touch.

"You don't even know where I keep things in my cupboards," she reminded him, chugging a glass of water.

"I'm supposed to feed you. I know that." He frowned and then shrugged. "And most people's cupboards fit a functional pattern that's easy to work out. You're short, right-handed, you drink a lot of tea and coffee, and you don't cook large meals. That's easy to note. So…" He paused and spun around. "Here. Cups." He reached for the cabinet to the right of the refrigerator, and opened it, revealing a row of mugs. "And the tea will be next to it." He opened the next door, revealing boxes of teas and a bag of ground coffee. "Snacks will be on the other side, above the stove." He opened the door and grabbed an armful of boxes.

Molly laughed. "That's incredible, actually. Is that how you, um, you knew things about me from the beginning? I know you're a detective from Mike's message about someone visiting the morgue, but I've never seen anyone do something like you did when we met."

"Deduction. Using smaller pieces of information to extrapolate a larger truth, the solution to a mystery. It's a scientific method, with supportable documentation."

Molly poured herself another glass of water and another for Sherlock. "Supported by whom?"

He smiled proudly.

"Oh, by you. Of course." She giggled. "I need to call work before the heat comes back. This is going to last a couple days and I'm supposed to be in tomorrow."

They ate handfuls of crackers quickly and were still licking the peanut butter from their fingers when the heat rose again, stronger this time.

"Why is it worse the second time? It's supposed to get better," Molly complained.

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure. I did a research paper once on omega hormone replacement therapies. Why don't you know these things, genius?" She cradled his head, tugging on his curls and moaning as his teeth fastened around a rosy nipple.

His tongue flicked over the pebbled tip. "Deleted it. Didn't need to know about mating, I thought."

"Some genius you are," she teased as he rolled her on her back and nuzzled at the damp cluster of curls between her legs. "What are you doing?"

"Experiment," he said, sliding his tongue through her sensitive labia. She must still be aching from the first mating, he observed, but still she pressed his face into her core and begged for more.

The experiment was cut short when his omega dragged his head up and demanded he fill her again.

"Complete madness," he mumbled before sinking into her again and again, until the hours blurred, and there was no more cohesive thought.

After three days, Molly's hormone levels tapered off and they woke up, sore and filthy after noon.

He had worked out while he was still tied to Molly on the first day that her heat came on and he could scent her strongly because they were compatible. It was one of the few bits of information he hadn't deleted about alpha-omega relations, probably because the day he'd first met Molly was etched so deeply into his mind. The suppressants will minimize the effects but they can't erase biology. Their bodies, their chemistry fit.

Her type of birth control wasn't reliant on the suppressants though, so he wasn't worried about pregnancy. He'd have scented a change in her if fertilization occurred.

Sherlock hopped out of bed, his valued clarity of thought returned in a single instant. The days had bled into one another, with him taking her in progressively more and more animalistic fashion and Molly thanking him for it. He seemed to recall fucking her on the living room floor at some point the day before, because they just couldn't take five more steps into the bedroom. He'd knotted her there, and they'd lain on the rug reading an issue of a pathology journal while they were tied together for a half hour.

He stuck his head out of the bedroom and scanned the carpet of the living room floor. Ah.

"You…might need to rent a carpet steamer." He paused. "Or replace your carpet altogether."

In bed, Molly groaned. "I really liked that one too."

He showered alone, while Molly ran around opening windows and cringing at various stains, assessing the damage.

Cleaned and dressed, she walked him to the door. The absurdity of the moment hit her and Molly giggled.

"What?" Clothed in his elegant suit and heavy overcoat, he was imperious and invulnerable again.

"It's just like a first date, only backward. First shagging and then I don't know if I should kiss you goodbye, or just…say goodbye." Molly wrinkled her nose and wrapped her dressing gown tie tighter around her midsection.

"I can't be a good mate. I knew that even when I was nineteen." Sherlock's deep baritone held a note of regret. He pressed a brief kiss to her lips before Molly could think of a response.

"I don't know how to be a good mate either. I don't know what I even want from you…beyond what we just had, of course." She grinned. "I think you liked it too. And whatever this is, it's still up to us. We're complete without an alpha or an omega. But it's nice to have one, isn't it?" She rose on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around his neck to tug him down to her. Their mouths met and their bodies warmed, pressed together and straining.

"It was an experience, yes. New information." He cleared his throat. "Female omegas expect pair bonding after a shared heat, typically."

"Who told you that? Some rubbish magazine?" Molly's eyebrows rose and she smiled mischievously. "Some omegas just like a good shag, you know."

He looked taken aback. "My research indicated-"

She kissed his lips, cutting off the words. "Someday, yes, I want that, but um, I'll settle for coffee for a start. We don't really know each other. But I like you, now that you've grown out of your little shit phase." She poked his chest through his coat.

"Coffee…okay. However you don't know me well enough to know if I've outgrown that phase." He was smug now, his blue eyes sparkling. "In fact, my brother would probably agree it's a permanent trait."

"I don't think I care for him then."

"Sensible of you." He smirked. "But after everything that's happened, I get the feeling he was always on your side."