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Paid Down More Penitence

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She steels herself as she looks at the brass numbers. 221. Glancing down, she smooths her crisp linen shirt and finally makes herself reach for the doorbell.

She catches a glimpse of the curtain above moving. He's checking who it is, the landlady must be out or she'd've answered by now. Wonder if he'll even bother to answer, she thinks. She really has no idea where she stands right now, after all that's happened.

 A long minute later, the door's lock rattles loose and Sherlock's face appears. Those eyes pierce her, searching. His eyes are suspicious, but his words are disdainful.

 "I'm not allowed to do police work at present, Sergeant Donovan. Surely Lestrade has told you that."

"I'm not here with a case," she puts up her hands in an "I come in peace" gesture. "Look, I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to see me again, but all I'm asking for is five minutes. I'm here to apologize."

Sherlock brow furrows. He stares at her for another few seconds, then whirls around and heads back up the stairs - but leaves the door ajar behind him. Sally sighs and pushes through the door to 221 Baker Street, closing it behind her. She watches him bounding up the stairs for a second before following.

When she reaches flat B, the door there is also ajar. As much of an invitation as she's ever likely to get. She goes on in and finds him seated in his leather chair, hands folded, watching her like a hawk. She's briefly uncertain whether she should sit in the chair opposite him, but realizes she'd rather stand anyhow. She crosses her arms, an ineffective shield against his all-seeing gaze.

"Believe it or not, I am glad you're not dead."

He rolls his eyes.

"Oh fine, look, I'm trying to be nice here, yeah? Break the ice or something..." She paces over to the window to avoid looking at him. Avoid him looking at her.

"Don't exert yourself, Sally, we both know you're only moderately better at small talk than I am. Say what you came to say."

She snorts, but it might be more of an amused snort than an offended one.

"I'm sorry," she says plainly, shaking her head, "I fell for Moriarty's trick, I got you in a lot of trouble. For a long time, I thought I'd killed you, y'know." She finally looks back towards him, moving away from the window. Willing herself not to let the emotions from that time spill into her eyes. "If you feel like you still need to punish me, that's fine, but you should know that I have been punished a bit already. Took a few months of therapy to get my head back into the game."

Sherlock's head snaps around, and suddenly he's looking at her as a puzzle rather than a person.

"Therapy? Why?" He nearly murmurs the words to himself.

She barks out an incredulous laugh, throwing her hands up. "I should have known! You can't even understand that!" She allows herself to wander toward the other chair. "Did you really think I hated you so much that I wanted you dead? Or do you just think that I'm so heartless that I wouldn't care if my actions caused an innocent man to kill himself?" She sits down in the chair, shaking her head. All that time, all that guilt, all those tears.

"You didn't think I was innocent then."

She sighs. "I didn't at first, but look, you know that Richard Brook story didn't hold up very well. It might have taken a lot longer for the official investigation to come to its official conclusion, but I knew I'd screwed up maybe a couple weeks after you left. If that. So anyhow, I'm sorry."

Sherlock leans forward unexpectedly. The way he's looking at her makes her uncomfortable in an entirely new way - not in the being-deduced way, but almost in a being-pitied way. If Sherlock were to allow himself to be capable of pity, which she's pretty sure he wouldn't. But whatever the Holmesian equivalent to pity is.

"You saw the evidence that was available, and you drew the only conclusion one could logically draw from that evidence. Moriarty was very careful to ensure that the evidence did, in fact, point to me. You did nothing wrong, Sally. You did your job, and you did it well." She notices for the first time a weariness in his eyes. This is not what she expected him to say.

"Really? You really think that?" she asks, dubious. 

His expression sours and he leans back in his chair. She can feel the impatience coming off of him in waves. This is more comfortable, this is what she expects from him. "I am not in the practice of lying to make others 'feel better,'" he spits, "you of all people should know that."

She can't help it, she has to chuckle a little at how familiar this all is. How absurd and surreal, given that not three weeks ago she thought he was dead, but familiar. "I know, sorry, you're right. Well, thanks, then. For understanding. But I will admit that... Well, if I hadn't..." she bites her lip and starts over, speaking carefully. "My feelings about you did have an impact. Yes, I was simply following where the evidence led, but I definitely proceeded more quickly than I would have with a stranger. I would have come to the same conclusion eventually, but it might have taken another couple of days. I don't know if a couple of days would have mattered to you, but if it did, I am sincerely sorry."

Now it is Sherlock's turn to spring up and go to the window, but Sally has the distinct feeling that this is more about his innate inability to sit still without a sufficient puzzle to focus on than a dismissal of her specifically.

"It's impossible to tell," he finally says, "Yes, two more days might have given me enough of an advantage that I wouldn't have had to go so far as faking my death, but it might not have. We weren't as far ahead of Moriarty as I expected us to be, and he may well have had another trick up his sleeve. The newspaper article was already out there, after all." He looks back at her. "But thank you."

She stands up and begins to meander toward the door. "I don't have enough power that it'll do any good, but for what it's worth I'll be bugging them to let you back onto cases as soon as possible. We need you out there, you know."

He seems to accept it as the peace offering it was meant to be, and flashes her a small, but sincere smile. It's more than she's gotten from him in a very long time. He clears his throat.

"I'm... sorry too. I am only just now realizing how some of my past actions have hurt those who... care. Or cared. About me. Are we even now?" The apology startles her. The question startles her. She shakes her head.

"No. We're not keeping score like that. You're a prick, and you'll keep on being one, and I'll keep on being the bitch who won't stand for it. I'm probably never going to like you again, but I can respect you, and I think maybe you respect me. Maybe in a couple years I'll get a promotion and you can be a prick I won't stand for at my own crime scenes." She offers him a smile.

He looks away, out the window, playing with the back of his hair. "I did care about you, Sally. Back then. Just not in the way you wanted me to. It was a mistake to pretend that I did."

Her hand is on the doorknob. "Yeah, well. Let's hope you've learned your lesson. No more experimenting on people like that, right?"

"I don't make promises I can't keep."

"Yeah, great." She shakes her head, unsurprised, as she opens the door. "See you, freak."