It is cold and white.
Cold; the ability to feel, nerves firing, synapsis creating sensation. White; eyes open and registering colour. Blinking; pupil's dilating, reacting to light source. Surprised breath; air in, lung's filling, throat dry.
Conclusion: Not dead.
Surprising. The fall from that height should have killed him.
No obvious pain but head clear. No drugs. Coma? No. No stiffness or muscle atrophy. Shifting, skin sticking, cold increasing. Air slipping over skin, unhindered.
Secondary conclusion: Naked and lying on metal table.
Light not dimming, faint lines and dimples appearing. Ceiling tiles. Smell of antiseptic and death. Been here before.
Final conclusion: Mortuary.
Did kill him.
A joke? John's revenge? Did he figure it out? Molly would be in on it too, then. Possibly Lestrade.
Course of action: Wait and see what happens.
Cold increasing. Shivering. Extremities numbing.
Revised course of action: Sit up.
Sherlock flinches at the voice and jerks to a sitting position. His head spins at the sudden movement. Ah, head trauma. That would do it. He blinks and shakes his head, like he can shake everything back into perspective. The nausea and revolving room soon dissipate until he can look straight without his eyes crossing.
The first thing he sees is that he was right. He's lying – sitting – on a dissecting table in the mortuary. The second thing he sees is Molly, sitting cross legged across from him on the second table.
"I knew it."
Molly tilts her head slightly, "What do you know?"
"Oh, don't play this game with me. You and John! You've set me up to scare me. Or confuse me, one of the two. Well it hasn't worked. I figured it out."
Molly's expression turns amused. It looks odd; Sherlock has never seen her amused. Nervous, yes. Hesitant, yes. But looking like she holds all the cards? No. Never. She looks like she knows everything.
That she knows.
"You've figured it out." She says and it's not a question.
A flutter of doubt is ruthlessly squashed. "Yes. This is all some sort of revenge that you and John have cooked up to get your own back."
"Revenge for what?"
Sherlock's breath leaves him in an explosive gust. "For jumping." He says shortly. Really, this should be very obvious by now.
Molly's smile dims and Sherlock has the absurd feeling he's just said something stupid. She looks disappointed. No, incorrect. She looks hurt.
"Do you think we could do something like that?"
No. "Yes." Liar.
"When if you didn't jump the others would be killed by three snipers?"
"Ye-" Sherlock stops, his mouth working, still trying to finish the word even as it lodges in his throat.
Molly continues to stare at him, seemingly waiting for him to finish. Or just do something. Sherlock can feel his heart stuttering. Impossible.
"How?" He eventually gets out.
Molly smiles sadly. "Oh, Sherlock," she says, and it's not an answer, "I'm God."
That isn't an answer either.
There's a curious pause, like the world holds its breath, and then Sherlock is laughing. "Wh-what?" He manages to wheeze out, before he descends into giggles again. Impossible, totally and completely ridiculous. This is the weirdest form of revenge he's ever come across. Funny though.
It takes him more time than it probably should for his laughter to abide, but when it does Sherlock has to dab at the corner of his eyes.
He takes a big breath and releases it, feeling better than he has since this has started. Then he looks to Molly, half expecting her to look rueful at being caught out, or John to pop through the door because really? Really? That's what they've come up with?
Molly hasn't moved at all. She's still sitting there like she knows everything and is just waiting for Sherlock to catch up. It's a look Sherlock knows he's worn on many occasions and he doesn't like being on the other end of it.
He can feel irritation starting to well.
"I'm God." Molly repeats.
Molly laughs and props her chin in her palm. "Nothing is impossible."
"Come off it." Sherlock snaps. "You honestly expect me to believe…" He trails off. The sentence is too ridiculous to finish.
"No," she says, "of course not. I expect you to deduce."
This has gotten old, fast, and Sherlock is not feeling comfortable anymore. He would storm out, away from this madness if it weren't for the fact that he is currently naked and the papers have been lambasting him. No need for any more fodder, not that he cares.
Besides, there's always a reason. Molly is playing this game for one and Sherlock is curious enough to play along to see why.
"You're Molly." He says, exasperation bleeding in.
Molly smiles and quietly points out, "You see, but you do not observe."
Sherlock narrows his eyes, irritation evident, "I am observing."
Molly holds out her arms, invitingly. "Then what do you deduce?"
Sherlock rises to the challenge by raising his chin, eyes darting from head to toe, cataloguing everything that Molly is and should be.
Sherlock tries again. And again. His glances becoming almost frantic as nothing that is Molly is recognised. He has felt this panic before, with Irene, but not to this degree. At least then he could pick out perfume and lipstick, the way her hair was coiffed. It told him nothing he hadn't already deduced, but it was something.
Now he has nothing. He can't even pick out where Molly has bought her clothes from.
It is beyond unnerving.
Sherlock sniffs and turns away, feigning nonchalance. "I've recently suffered from a massive head injury." He continues, even though it pains him to do so, "It may take me a while to get everything straight."
Molly chuckles and props her chin in her palm again, her elbows planted on her knees. "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." She says, like it means nothing and yet everything.
Sherlock's breath catches and then he turns back to her with a look of impatience. "Don't quote me back to myself; borrowing intelligence. It just makes you look stupid."
Molly raises an eyebrow, "How did I know you said it, though?"
That has Sherlock pausing, but only for a second. "Easy. John told you. Next question."
Molly's smiling again. "John told me?"
"Yes, yes." Sherlock is definitely impatient now. "You're both in on this…this…whatever it is." He scoffs, "Come on, do you really expect me to believe you're God?"
Molly doesn't move, but Sherlock can see the laughter glinting in her eyes. "I have learned never to ridicule any man's opinion, however strange it may seem."
That makes Sherlock pause and he looks over at her again. "Molly, one would think it was you who have suffered the head trauma."
That makes her laugh out loud, her head tipping back. It is an action so not Molly that Sherlock has to fight the curl of wrongness in his chest.
"How did I know about the snipers?" She asks once she's calmed down.
"Lestrade caught them and they confessed. A miracle, I know. But not impossible." Sherlock sniffs.
"And how did I know you were sad?"
This is getting repetitive. "You already explained that. Your dad."
"Do I have a dad?" Molly asks innocently and Sherlock is about to snap that yes, of course she does, everyone does or at least did because he's dead now, when he pauses. Molly is waiting patiently but Sherlock can't answer because there's something…
"What do you know about me?" Molly asks quietly.
"You were here before I ever started working as a consultant," Sherlock says immediately. But it's the only thing he can say because it's the only thing he knows.
When it comes down to it, when he really thinks about it, he doesn't know. He didn't even know Molly's dad had died until she'd told him. She'd always been there, in the background, and Sherlock has never thought about who she was or where she came from.
How had he never realised?
"I-" he says, fighting against a bloom of doubt, "There's…everyone..." He says, like it explains everything. Explains why he's never thought to look into who Molly is and why he's never realised.
Molly smiles at him. Fond and all-knowing.
It's that, the way she looks, that has Sherlock wanting to back away. "No." He denies. "No."
"You still don't believe?"
"I don't believe because this is impossible." Sherlock snaps. And really he wants to throttle her, to stop her from saying anything else because this is big. This is bigger than anything he's ever had to deal with. And no. He's not even going to think this. To try and explain because this is madness. This is all a joke, it has to be.
"I believe in science and the art of reason, not…not-"
He's panicking. Short, shallow breaths. Not enough oxygen. Blackness encroaching on the edges of his vision, causing him to blink rapidly. Hyperventilation.
"Then how are you here Sherlock?" Molly asks softly, "How does science and reason explain you sitting here, alive, when you should be dead? You're not on drugs, your head's too clear. You have no muscle atrophy and stiffness so you haven't been in a coma and yet you've no injuries. You thought so yourself, Sherlock."
He can't breathe. He can't breathe!
She's looking at him sadly again and Sherlock he…
He can't explain it. He's never been in a situation where he can't explain exactly what's going on and why but this…it's just. There's everything. It's the universe and the beginning and the end and every outcome to every action that is, was and never will be. It's every thought and feeling and prayer. Everything that's said and not said. It's eternity and the absence of. It's impossibility and possibility. It's good and bad; holy and evil; science and doubt and blind faith. It's warmth and cold; truth and lies; deduction and guesswork. It's love and hate; regret and guilt; light and darkness and void and Sherlock doesn't realise he's crying until arms wrap around him, holding him in place as he lets out body wrenching sobs.
Here. You're here, he thinks as she strokes his spine.
"Oh, Sherlock." Molly says fondly, "I never left."
And it's true. She's a presence that he's been missing since he was four and he realised that he was different. Since the first person called him freak and threw a stone when he pointed out the obvious. Since he wondered how faith could possibly exist and instead turned to reason to live his life by.
He's breathing heavily, but his mind is blank. For the first time since he can remember nothing is jumping out at him, making him catalogue them. He can recognise the little things of course. The warmth of Molly's arms, the slight backwards and forwards motion as she rocks him. The smell of her from where his face is buried in the crook of her neck. The vibrations in her chest as she hums something that his ears just can't translate but makes his soul relax.
It's things he thinks anyone would be able to catalogue.
They stay like that for a long time. Or, possibly, for no time at all. Sherlock finds that now he's accepted it, it's a lot easier to just go with it. He wants to stay like this, possibly forever, wrapped in this presence of absolute. But, eventually, he gets restless.
Molly pulls back before he can do much more than stir.
He should probably feel embarrassed – he's just cried like he's never cried before – and yet he doesn't. Instead he feels calm and relaxed. There's nothing in him demanding he move or think or do anything.
"Yes, much," he says and then hesitates.
"Go on," Molly nudges, "ask."
Sherlock has so many questions. So many things he wants to know and wants answers for.
"Aren't you supposed to be a man?"
Molly laughs. "Would you like me to be? I can take whatever form I wish."
Sherlock looks at her and tries to imagine Molly as anything other than Molly. "No…" he says eventually.
Molly smiles and it gives Sherlock the same feeling of warmth that John's look of awe does. Like he's been profound and said something to be proud of. Like he's something to be proud of.
"Is that it?"
"Why me?" Sherlock blurts out. He debates for a moment whether he should be embarrassed or not, but settles on ignoring it and continuing. "Why me?"
"Why not you?" Molly counters.
"Well, because I…because…"
Molly sighs and her shoulders slump. "You matter, Sherlock."
Sherlock scoffs, fighting down his discomfit, "Of course I matter," he says and it comes out scathing, "half the crimes in London wouldn't have been solved if it wasn't for me. The police are a bunch of nitwits and incompetent morons and-"
He's cut off by Molly's hand gently cupping his cheek as she leans across the gap at an impossible angle. "You matter, Sherlock." She says seriously
And really, that's all there is to it.
Sherlock closes his eyes. He can't take the tenderness in her gaze anymore. It's so different to everything Molly has ever been and yet is her.
"Have you always been Molly?" He asks. "Molly stutters and can't hold a conversation without backtracking at least twice. I would have thought you'd be more…"
"Have you always been Sherlock?" She counters. "I fulfilled a role in your life that you needed and yet didn't know you needed."
Sherlock raises an eyebrow in disbelief, his eyes cracking open a sliver, "I needed a medical examiner who had feelings for me and yet could not do anything about them?"
"You needed someone to help and guide you." Molly says and clarifies with a quick "Someone you'd let help and guide you." when he opened his mouth to argue the point.
Sherlock can't argue with that. Molly has done so much for him over the years. Letting him experiment on the bodies to solve cases. Being there with her crush to remind him that he's wanted by someone. A friend and a guiding voice, even when he spurned both. And lately, ready with a shoulder so he could pour his worries, his doubts and fears, out.
She's more than he's ever realised and he feels a prickle of shame at how he's treated her for all these years. How much he's turned his back when all she wanted to do was help him.
By the expression on her face Sherlock knows that Molly knows what he's thinking, and that he's forgiven.
It's almost more than he can take so instead he asks "Is this real?"
"Is anything real?"
"That isn't really an answer." He points out.
"That isn't an answer you wanted to hear anyway."
Sherlock smiles, a twitch of his lips, but it quickly drops. The room is silent, not that it's been anything other. It's only now that he realises that he can't hear people talking outside the doors or the whirr of the air conditioning. Everything just is. He swallows hard.
"Will I be able to go back?" He means for it to come out strong, like he expects nothing else. But instead he whispers it. He drops his gaze because he just can't look Molly in the face.
The silence draws out.
"Do you want to?" Molly asks, equally as quiet.
At this Sherlock does look up. He stares at her blankly, "Shouldn't you already know?"
Molly grins, "Maybe I just want to hear you say it."
Molly chuckles, turning into full-blown laughter when Sherlock says, "You're actually going to make me say it, aren't you? You're worse than Mycroft."
"Fine." Sherlock pouts in irritation. But has to lick his lips before he can say, "I would like to go back."
Molly nods and pats his cheek, "Eventually."
Sherlock scowls. "Eventually? What eventually? Why not now? What possible reason could there be for waiting? And how are you going to explain it? If I'm dead? My brother won't believe just any excuse and John's a doctor."
Molly smirks and leans back pressing her hands together and resting her chin on the tips of her fingers in a mimicry of his own thinking pose. Sherlock almost feels insulted. Almost.
"I've got a bit of a problem for you to solve."
"Problem, what problem?" Sherlock scoffs, "What problem could you not figure out? Waste of my time, solve it yourself. Aren't you supposed to hold all the answers anyway?"
Molly chuckles, "I could, but it's a bit of a locked cage mystery."
"Ridiculous. I would have thought that you would know it's called a locked room mystery."
Molly smiles knowingly and hops down from the table. "Not this one."
Sherlock rolls his eyes, but he's still intrigued so he gets down off his own table. His legs seem to debate whether or not to hold him up for a moment before deciding that yes, they are going to work.
"So this mystery?" he asks.
"Say there's a tiger and a man locked in a cage." Molly says, "There's only one exit, of which the tiger is sitting in front of. The tiger can't die, doesn't need to eat or sleep and is ever watchful. If you opened the door then the tiger will escape. The man is unconscious. How do you get the man out of the cage without releasing the tiger?"
"That's not a locked room mystery. That's a riddle. I hate riddles."
"True. But what's the answer?"
"That's easy," Sherlock says, "You just make another door."
Molly raises an eyebrow.
"There's only one tiger. Make another door and it can't guard both. Open one and it'll try to escape while someone sneaks in the door it's just abandoned and drags the man out that way."
"And that's how you'd solve it?"
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Of course. As a purely hypothetical situation that's how I would solve it."
"What if it wasn't hypothetical?"
"Then I would have to investigate for myself how this cage is put together." He says carefully.
Molly smiles and claps her hands. "Excellent. I have a man and an angel you need to talk to."
Sherlock's eyes widen. "Now?"
"Of course now. Faster you finish your consultation, faster you can return home. And don't worry about explaining things. I'll make sure everything makes sense. After all, I can do that. You're still considered dead, but there's always another theory. That's how conspiracies are formed. And it's not like you're not smart enough to pull off faking your own death, especially since Moriarty's people are still out there and needing to be taken down.
"You've already proved that you have a network of people ready and willing to do your bidding and you're always here. How much more would it take to have people believing that the doctors helped you disappear, especially as John left.
"There were only us two, Sherlock. Who's to say that you hadn't already figured everything out and left me to arrange the doctors and nurses who were first on the scene? The passers-by who pulled a grief-stricken John away from you before he could even finish checking for your pulse? The reason why you made John stand exactly where you did so he couldn't see your landing? And the reason why the spot you did land in was one of the very few blind spots in the CCTV around the building?"
Sherlock blinks but can't fault the logic. "Fine. But please tell me you're not a conspiracy nut," he says and makes to leave and then realises that he's naked and has been this entire time. He stumbles to a stop and has to fight down a blush.
There's a mischievous glint in Molly's eye. "Not getting shy now?" She asks, "Even though you were prepared to walk through Buckingham Palace naked?"
Sherlock clears his throat and straightens his spine. "No."
Molly laughs and steps back. "If it'll make you feel better…?" She says, and then he's clothed.
Favourite shoes; polished black, smart, able to blend into respectable establishments, treads, good for running. Black trousers; sharp creases, tailored, new. Purple shirt; favourite colour, sans accidental acid stain. Coat; warm, needed, change in left front pocket, phone in right, crinkle of paper in inside pocket, possibly envelope or note. Scarf; unneeded, comforting.