Greg’s fingers trembled slightly as they performed the familiar dance across the silk of his necktie. He only wore suits and ties for dark days – court appearances and funerals, the one exception being his wedding.
No, he thought with a small snort. In retrospect that was a dark day too, a flowery indoctrination into ten years of lies and angst. He flexed his left hand reflexively, still unused to the lightness of his fourth finger.
Sherlock had known. Of course he had known, not just about the PE teacher but about all the others, probably even a few Greg didn’t know about. Sodding bastard had probably known by the way Greg itched his nose or from the mud on his trouser cuffs the very first time Colette had so much as looked at another man. Sherlock knew, he always knew.
Greg didn’t care what the papers said, didn’t care what Donovan or Anderson swore – Sherlock Holmes was the farthest thing from a fraud. He was a genius and a bit of a tit but never a fraud. If he had stuck around a little longer he could have easily proved it, Greg had no doubt in his mind about that. But no, suddenly he wasn’t everybody’s hero anymore and so he threw himself off the nearest rooftop and-
Greg clenched his fists and tried to steady his breathing. He hadn’t even cried after his own father had died, he was not about to lose it over a friend’s suicide.
Colleague, he corrected. Sherlock Holmes didn’t have friends.
It was a small sorry affair, just a generic graveside eulogy by a young preacher who kept stuttering and balancing his bible in one hand to wipe the other sweaty palm on his robes.
Religion hadn’t played any role in Sherlock’s life; Greg couldn’t see why it had to play any role in his death either. The kid kept rambling on about an afterlife and a higher purpose and all that nonsense and it took all Greg had to keep from openly rolling his eyes. Though that’s exactly what the man in the pine box would have done, if he were standing there with them.
No, Greg thought. There was no conceivable way Sherlock could have been there to roll his eyes, because if he had been in possession of any sort of life force by which to roll his eyes there wouldn’t have been any need for a funeral.
Greg felt a pricking in the corners of his eyes. No, he was determined not to cry. He scanned the small group of mourners for something, anything to take his mind off the consulting detective in the casket. After a moment his eyes landed on Molly Hooper.
He hadn’t even thought about her. The poor girl had been absolutely mad about Sherlock, if there was anyone who could be taking this harder than John it was her. My Dearest Sherlock, that was what the tag on her Christmas present for him had said.
Greg searched her eyes expecting to see absolute devastation, puffy redness and running mascara. But strangely enough, she stood at the graveside as stoic as anything. Her expression was calm and her eyes were clear and free of tears. Her face was clean of makeup as her hair curled softly around her shoulders; she wore a simple black dress paired with a soft-looking grey cardigan with pearl buttons. She actually looked quite lovely.
After the service, he approached her. Partially out of concern for her, and partially because she seemed like the safest option. John was standing by the grave looking lost, Mrs. Hudson at his elbow sobbing uncontrollably. Greg wasn’t ready for that conversation just yet. Mike Stamford was making awkward conversation with that bloke from the Italian restaurant Sherlock had frequented. Mycroft and Mrs. Holmes had left the moment the preacher had stopped speaking, ducking into a dark car and speeding off into the London afternoon. Even after working together for years Mycroft still made Greg’s hair stand on end. It felt wrong to just get up and leave, not just yet, so he found himself meandering towards her.
“Hey Molly,” he said quietly, making her jump.
“Oh, hello Inspector,” she said. She smiled, the gesture not even coming close to reaching her eyes. She looked so small and fragile; Greg was reminded of a porcelain doll his mother had kept on their mantelpiece when he was growing up. He tried to remember what had happened to the doll after his mother had died, but drew a complete blank.
He coughed. “Considering the circumstances, I think you can call me Greg.”
She smiled again, this time making a slightly more convincing show of it. “Alright Greg.”
He nodded and glanced back to the grave, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“I er, knew how much he meant to you. I just wanted to give you my condolences.”
“Oh we aren’t-,” she stopped, color draining from her face. “I mean, we weren’t…”
Greg felt a pang of sympathy. Poor girl, hadn’t even truly hit her yet. He pulled a hand out of his pocket and placed it on her shoulder gently.
She let out a heavy sigh, slim shoulder bowing beneath his hand.
“Er,” he said, trying to find the words to make everything okay. “Do you wanna grab a drink?” he blurted, spouting the first idea that came to mind.
She blinked twice, jaw dropping slightly in surprise. “Ah, sure,” she said slowly. She smiled for a third time, this one genuine. “A drink actually sounds fantastic right about now.”
“Great,” he said, beaming until he realized his hand was still perched on her shoulder. He yanked it back, coughing as he shoved it back in his pocket.
He hadn’t considered it much, but if he had to guess he would have pegged Molly as a white wine sort of girl, or something sweet and fruity. Imagine his surprise when she slid onto the stool and ordered a black whisky on the rocks.
“Crown Royal if you’ve got it,” she said to the bored-looking bartender.
She laughed at Greg’s shocked expression. “What’s that for?”
Greg tried to compose himself. “Oh, I dunno. Guess I would have thought you were more of an appletini sort of girl.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Those are a waste of a clean glass if you ask me.”
Greg laughed, a loud bark that surprised even him.
Molly grinned, teasing. “Alright Mr. Judgment, what’ll you have?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “London Pride of course. Anything else is treason to the crown.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sure, what Englishman doesn’t like a lukewarm pint of sewer water?”
She giggled. The bartender finished pouring her drink, sliding it to her carelessly so it sloshed slightly on the oak bartop. She picked it up and took a sip, closing her eyes as she swallowed and smacking her lips slightly. She let out a small happy sigh.
Greg wrinkled his nose and gestured to the tumbler. “Smells like lighter fluid.”
“Oh try it for yourself,” she said pushing it towards him. “Like my dad always used to say – it’ll put hair on your chest!” Her nostalgic smile was quickly replaced by a look of sheer horror “Not that I’m saying I have hair on my chest!” she quickly corrected, then blushed a deep scarlet.
Greg let out a guffaw.
“Not that I-I mean, he was just-oh piss it!” She covered her face with her hand in embarrassment.
Greg continued to laugh, deep hearty laughter that brought tears to his eyes. After a few moments Molly’s shoulders began to shake with a fit of giggles.
They laughed liked this for a solid minute, drawing a mean-spirited sneer from the bartender as he slid Greg’s pint towards him.
Molly’s giggles died down first, still beaming she took her cocktail napkin off the bar and dabbed at the laughter tears that still clung to the apples of her cheeks.
As she pushed a rogue strand of hair behind her ear and took another sip from her drink, Greg was suddenly struck by how beautiful she was. Sure, maybe not in an Irene Adler way that knocked the wind out of you, but in a quiet way that you could almost miss if you weren’t paying attention.
Sherlock wasn’t a genius, he was a moron. Here he had this sweet and utterly perfect girl who wanted nothing more but to be able to love and cherish him, and he was a complete arse to her. And now he’d gone and killed himself, leaving her behind to mourn him like a widow in some Jane Austen novel. She didn’t deserve that.
She looked up and quirked an eyebrow at him and he realized he was staring. His gaze dropped to a small nick on the bar as he grabbed his drink and took a swig.
They talked for a few more minutes until Greg remembered the massive pile of paperwork waiting for him at his desk. He was still under investigation for his involvement with Sherlock and had to do a review of all the cases he had ever worked on and transcribe the consulting detective’s exact involvement. It was the stuff of nightmares really.
Greg held the door for her on their way out of the pub.
“See you around, yeah?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied.
There was an awkward moment where Greg wondered if he should hug her or shake her hand or something. Luckily she ended it by giving a quick smile and a little finger-wiggle of a wave before turning and making her way down the sidewalk.
When Greg reached his office, he saw his desk was clean and free of paperwork. In the middle of it was a note:
“Your investigation has come to an abrupt halt and your name has been cleared. Thank you for helping with Sherlock all of these years.
Greg sighed a breath of relief.
His relief was short-lived however; because he was reinstated to the force just as all hell broke lose. In the wake of Moriarty’s death, his network had begun wreaking havoc on society. Greg almost found himself wishing the madman was back, because at least with him there had been order, a method to the madness. This was just unadulterated chaos.
He trudged down the halls of St. Bart’s, utterly exhausted. In the two weeks he’d been back he’d slept maybe twenty, twenty-five hours tops.
He pushed open the door to the morgue, lost in a daydream about early retirement. Molly looked up from the corpse in front of her.
“Oh, hello Inspector,” she said with a cheery grin.
She somehow managed to look like a little ray of sunshine, even though she was literally elbows-deep in some poor sod’s chest cavity. Greg on the other hand was sure he looked a mess, and tried to remember the last time he’d showered. Three days ago?
“Hey Molly,” he said, hoping the morgue smell would mask any errant body odor. “I told you, call me Greg.”
She smiled. “Well Greg, if you’re looking for the results on your John Doe I’m just about done with him,” she said, nodding to her current project.
He nodded, stepping closer. “What’s it look like?”
“Poison,” she replied, using her elbow to gesture to a chart on the counter, which Greg picked up and began examining. “Hydrogen cyanide, final cause of death was cardiac arrest stemming from atrioventricular block.”
“Cyanide? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
She raised an eyebrow. “I try not to kid around when I’ve got my fingers in someone’s left ventricle. But yeah, hydrogen cyanide, most likely from concentrated appleseeds.”
Greg frowned. “Appleseeds? I thought that was an urban legend.”
She shook her head. “Nope, very true. And now thanks to the internet, finding out how to extract it is easier than ever.” She pulled her hands out of the man’s chest and stripped off her blood-smeared gloves.
Greg looked up at her from the chart, shaking his head in amazement.
“I know this sounds like a line, but what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”
She furrowed her brow. “Er, sorry?”
He set the chart back, leaning on the counter and folding his arms. “I dunno, why’d you end up wanting to work in the morgue?”
Her brow smoothed and she smiled faintly. “I think it’s because the dead are the best storytellers.”
Seeing Greg’s confused expression, she laughed. “It’s like what Sherlock does-I mean, did,” she corrected, smile disappearing. “I mean, I’m not clever like him and can’t tell someone’s life story from the way they hold their purse, but put a dead body in front of me and I can tell you about who they were in life. Take this man for example. I took a tissue sample of his lung earlier and could tell he used to smoke quite heavily but has stopped within the past three years. And look at this,” she said, moving towards the body and pointing at something inside the chest.
Greg blanched (he had been actively trying to not look at the body) but he obliged, moving to stand next to Molly and peer inside the hole.
“See the way this artery has a little sort of lump on it? It’s been sutured shut after surgery. He had double bypass surgery about a year ago now. Now normally after that sort of surgery you’re put on a strict diet, but judging by the plaque buildup here-“ she said, using her green-lacquered pinky nail to point to some yellowy stuff in a partially opened artery, “He wasn’t exactly following the diet.”
Greg nodded, slightly awed by the complexity of the human heart. He would have been more impressed if it weren’t for the fact that during her speech he had become acutely aware of how close he was standing to Molly and how she smelled faintly of flowers and vanilla.
“You’re wrong you know,” he blurted suddenly.
Her eyebrows shot up in confusion.
“You are clever, brilliant really. Sherlock Holmes had nothing on you,” he said sincerely.
Molly blushed and beamed, looking down. “Oh, it’s just textbook stuff really. I’d call it a party trick but none of the parties I go to have dead bodies for me to dissect. Well, most of them don’t,” she said with a teasing grin as she looked back up at him.
That grin made his stomach flip a little as he laughed.
As their laughter died down, Greg’s mobile began to beep. He rolled his eyes.
Molly smiled. “Duty calls.”
He nodded. “It’s also figured out texting,” he said dryly as he pulled the phone from his pocket and glanced at the screen. “Oh for the love-“ he clenched his fists. “Another one. Thames.”
She made a face. “Oh dear, that’s no good.”
“No, no it isn’t,” he said, scrubbing a hand over his face. He grabbed the autopsy report from the counter where he’d dropped it. “Well thank you for this. I’m sure I’ll be down again shortly,” he said as he made his way to the door.
“Looking forward to it!” she called, and then cringed. “Well, not the autopsy part.”
Greg left St. Bart’s with a stupid grin spanning his face.
Luckily enough, Greg’s killer had gotten sloppy during the Thames murder and several witnesses clambered forth to give their account of the story. The next day his team was able to arrest and book Thomas LaBrea for three murder charges. Greg shuffled home, collapsed on his bed, and slept for sixteen hours straight.
He awoke in the wee hours on Sunday, his day off. He looked at the clock and made a few grumbling noises, knowing that even though it was an ungodly hour he was probably morally obligated to get up and be productive. He got up and showered, throwing on an old pair of jeans and a faded t-shirt with the Met logo on the front, then padded to the kitchen to make breakfast. He wasn’t a good cook by any means, but he managed scrambled eggs and bacon without burning himself or setting anything on fire so he considered it a win.
He took his meal to the sofa and flicked though the channels while munching on a strip of bacon, or “artery-clogging goodness” as his Da had called it. He suddenly recalled the goopy white plaque in the corpse’s artery the day before and blanched, setting the bacon down on the edge of his plate. He stared at it a moment before guiltily picking it back up and popping it into his mouth. Worth it.
As he chewed he again wondered how someone like Molly could be so sweet-looking while digging around in a dead man’s chest. With anyone else it would be creepy but with her it was…Greg searched for the right word. Sexy?
He furrowed his brow. Actually, sexy was the word he was looking for. Did he really find Molly Hooper sexy? He thought about it. Cute definitely. Also beautiful. But sexy? He flashed back to her looking up at him over the corpse, smiling brightly over the gaping chest cavity. He swallowed. Actually, it was pretty damn sexy when he thought about it.
He sat and mulled this over for a few moments before shaking his head and flipping on the TV.
An hour later he was about bored out of his skull. He snorted, suddenly understanding why Sherlock had taken to shooting at walls. He decided he had to get out of the house.
When he found himself on the doorstep of 221B, he began to regret this decision. Still, it had to be done. He rang the bell, praying that no one would answer.
Almost immediately the ebony door swung open revealing Mrs. Hudson. Yet another prayer that failed to be answered.
“Er, hello Mrs. Hudson. Is J-“
“Detective Inspector!” she cried, pulling him into a tight hug. Greg was impressed and somewhat alarmed by the fierce upper body strength hidden beneath such a frail exterior.
After what seemed an eternity she released him, her eyes shining with tears.
“It’s been ever so quiet around here,” she said, trying to steady her voice. “Seems like I haven’t had a proper drugs bust in ages.”
Greg forced himself to laugh. Mrs. Hudson had always reminded him of his Gran, and he couldn’t stand to see her cry.
“Er yeah, I’ll see what we can do about that,” he said lamely. “But I was wondering if John was around?”
Her face fell and he gave himself a mental kick.
“Oh dear, I thought you had heard. He’s been staying with his sister, hasn’t come near the place since…since…” here she finally let out the sob she had been holding in.
Greg’s heart sank. “C’mon, let’s get you inside,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder and guiding her back into the empty building.
Two hours later he left with Harry’s address, a tin of biscuits, and the promise that he’d be back later in the week to help clean out some of Sherlock’s things. He was not looking forward to that, but he couldn’t very well just say no to her. He felt terrible for her, left alone in that chilly old house. Before he left he had changed the batteries in her smoke detector for her, something apparently Sherlock had always done for her. Once again Greg wished he could punch the bastard in the face for offing himself like that. His left fist flexed around the tin of biscuits as he walked, just as on board with this idea as his brain was. He had seen enough suicides to not think of it as a selfish act in general, but in Sherlock’s case it was. Too many people counted on him, and he had bailed at the first sign of trouble.
And now Greg was seemingly left to pick up the pieces, one by one. Starting with Moriarty’s spider web, and ending here, in front of Harry Watson’s front door.
It was a small townhouse with peeling paint not far from Greg’s old place. The place Collette now shared with the bloody PE teacher.
Fist now clenched so tightly around the biscuit tin that it was bound to leave marks, Greg lifted his right hand and rapped on the door lightly.
A minute later the door creaked open revealing a stout blond woman in a pink terrycloth dressing gown. She winced and raised a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. She smelled like a brewery.
“Ah, hello,” Greg said, as cheery as possible. “Is John here by any chance?”
The woman blinked, then turned slightly back towards the house. “John!” she bellowed. “Door!” She then shuffled back inside, leaving the door ajar.
Moments later the space she had vacated was filled by John, who didn’t look much better than his sister. His cheeks were sallow and his eyes dull. His beige jumper seemed to hang on his already slight frame and he looked tired. So, so tired.
“Oh, Greg,” he said, voice slightly raspy. “Hi. Come in,” he said in monotone, gesturing towards the interior.
Greg hesitated before stepping across the threshold. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the dimness of his new surroundings.
The place was nearly empty. A brown leather sofa and a wheeled desk chair sat in the living room across from an ancient television on a wooden Guinness crate. One wall of the room had a few bookshelves, empty save for a few dime-store romance novels, a wilted potted fern, and a dusty framed portrait of John in his military uniform. The whole place smelled like mothballs and cold medicine.
John sat down heavily in the desk chair leaving Greg to awkwardly perch himself on the sofa next to an annoyed looking ginger cat.
“So,” Greg said, desperately trying to ward off the inevitable awkward silence. “How are things?”
John snorted. “Couldn’t be better,” he muttered.
“Right. You back at the clinic?”
“I go back Monday.”
“Well that’s something then.”
“I hate the clinic.”
John sighed and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms, eyes wandering around the room. Greg reached a hand out to stroke the cat but was stopped with a loud hiss. He withdrew his hand, shoving it in his jacket pocket.
After a few moments, John spoke. “I’m not his widow you know. I don’t need you lot barging in here with your condolences and your casseroles and whatever-”
“That reminds me, Mrs. Hudson sent these bisc-“
“-I’m a grown man. Sherlock Holmes and I were flatmates. He left eyeballs in the microwave and played the violin at ungodly hours of the night and he was a fraud of a detective-“
“You don’t honestly believe that rubbish do you?” Greg asked, bewildered.
“Oh now it’s rubbish? Now it’s ‘rubbish’? Says the man who arrested him for just that!” John hollered, slamming his fist down on the arm of the chair. The cat leapt from the couch and darted into the other room.
“I was doing my job,” Greg said through gritted teeth. “It’s protocol.”
“Protocol my arse,” John sneered. “If you hadn’t arrested him and validated every piece of shit that Kitty Riley printed he’d still be here.”
There it was. John had hurled his gauntlet in Greg’s face.
“Do…do you really believe that?” he whispered, utterly shocked.
John’s face crumpled. “I…no. I just – I’m sorry. That was wrong.”
Greg shook his head. “No, you’re right. I was the one who set everything in motion, I should have known.”
“I have to go,” Greg said abruptly, standing. He held out the biscuit tin. “Mrs. Hudson sends her love,” he said absently before walking out of the dingy house.
His thoughts raced as he stalked down the sidewalk. It was his fault wasn’t it? He could have told Donovan and Anderson to shove it, pledged his loyalty to the consulting detective. But he’d buckled, fallen to peer pressure like some twelve-year-old girl.
Sherlock Holmes wasn’t quite the man of steel he made himself out to be, Greg had known that. Despite the odd sleeping habits and utter lack of empathy, he was a human being with real human feelings. And yet Greg had led the mob, torch in one hand and pitchfork in the other, to the front door of one of his dearest friends. He couldn’t imagine what that kind of betrayal felt like.
He was the reason Sherlock had jumped.
He had killed Sherlock Holmes.
Story title taken from a song in the musical Anyone Can Whistle.
A concert performance of it by the incomparable Bernadette Peters: http://youtu.be/IF3QCI4C2wk
In which Molly is the voice of reason and Mrs. Hudson is a match-maker.
Greg stumbled down the sidewalk, lost in thought.
youkilledhimyoukilledhimyoukilledhim rang through his head like a mantra until it enveloped him, became the sound of his every footfall and heartbeat.
His well-meaning feet led him several blocks south to his favorite pub, just down the street from the Yard.
He landed heavily on the oaken barstool, its squeaking protest sounding like an echo of his thoughts – you killed him.
“Pint of Pride, keep ‘em coming,” he muttered to the barkeep.
A few moments later a lukewarm glass was pushed into his hand, he gladly downed half its contents in one solid gulp.
“One of those days?” a small voice asked behind him.
He turned in his stool and spied Molly Hooper sitting at the other end of the bar, tumbler filled with amber-colored whiskey in hand.
As rotten as he felt, he couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her sipping straight whisky. “Yeah. You?”
She wrinkled her nose. “I could’ve done without it” She studied his face. “Er, do you…it’s none of my business I know, but do you maybe need to talk about something?”
He turned his gaze back to his glass. You killed him. “Nah, I’m alright.” He turned back to her and quirked a smile. “But I did always hate drinking alone.”
Nearly soundlessly Molly stood up and moved to sit on the stool beside him. “Now you’re not alone,” she said quietly.
A few drinks later Greg decided he actually did want to talk about it.
He really couldn’t help it, Molly was an exceptionally good listener. She didn’t interrupt, just sat and listened and watched him with those warm brown eyes of hers, occasionally sipping at her drink. He found himself telling her everything – how he had first met Sherlock (the man had somehow managed to sneak into the Yard and break into the evidence lockers, high as a kite and babbling about how the victim had never worn high heels), to the day he had first met John Watson (Though he stopped just short of telling her he knew John had killed the cabbie. That was one secret he would take to his grave), and finally of that afternoon when he realized he was directly responsible for the death of one of his dearest friends. It was here, and only here, that Molly spoke.
“You don’t honestly believe that do you?” she asked, eyes wide with disbelief.
He laid his head down on the cool wood surface of the bar. “It’s true,” he whispered. “It’s true, it’s true, it’s true.”
He ignored her, kept mumbling against the bar.
“Greg!” she yelled. Molly Hooper rarely raised her voice, but when she did it didn’t matter how drunk or miserable you were – you listened.
Greg rolled his head on the bar so he could look at her. He blinked a few times, attempting to make her stop spinning.
When she realized he wasn’t moving his head from the bar for love or money, Molly let out a heavy sigh and put her own head on the bar so she could look him in the eye.
“You did not kill Sherlock Holmes,” she said through gritted teeth. “Suicide – from the Latin sui- for self and –cide for killing. Self killing. I wrote suicide as the cause of death on his death certificate, do you take me for a liar?”
“Shut up. If anyone is responsible for it, it’s Moriarty. You did your job and Sherlock understood that. John’s hurting right now and I understand that but it gives him no right to spout such hateful, hateful lies. You were willing to investigate one of your best friends because there was a tiny chance he might have been a danger to society. You put your duty above yourself and that is one of the most noble things I have ever witnessed.
The Met is lucky to have someone like you.”
The detective blinked several times before raising his head from the bar. “D’you really think that?”
She raised her head and nodded. “Absolutely.”
He looked at her in wonder for a few moments. She twitched her mouth and looked down, blushing slightly.
“You speak Latin?” he asked finally.
She looked up and rolled her eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous.” She took a swig of her drink. “No one ‘speaks’ Latin anymore.”
Greg awoke the next morning to the shrill ringing of his mobile. He blindly reached out his hand to swipe it off the nightstand and realized two things. One, his phone was not there. Two, neither was the nightstand.
He cracked open a bleary eye to his living room. He was sprawled out on the sofa fully clothed, his mobile was on the ground beside it. He snatched it and answered.
“Lestrade,” he growled. His tongue felt like sandpaper.
“So you did survive,” drawled the bemused voice on the other end. “Mind you, it was a bit iffy there for a bit.”
Greg’s eyes flew open and he pulled the phone from his ear to look at the caller ID. Moooly Hgepr it read.
“Molly?” he asked, voice raspy with dehydration.
She giggled. “Sorry, you made me promise to give you a wake up call. Also, you wanted me to be the first one to know if you died in your sleep. I’m going to take that as a compliment, I guess.”
He groaned. “I’m so sorry. I guess I was a bit of a mess last night, yeah?”
“Nah, not too bad. You did try to fight a lamppost though.”
“Christ.” How embarrassing. He didn’t remember much, but he was pretty sure he hadn’t been that drunk since Uni.
“To be fair, apparently it had it coming,” she teased. “Said it reminded you of ‘the PE teacher’ or something, whatever that-“ she stopped. “Oh. Never mind.”
He winced. “Yeah, I’m really sorry about that. I don’t…I’m never like that.”
“No, I know,” she said quickly. “Happens to everyone. Remind me to tell you about the time I got smashed after final exams and danced on a-, nope, never mind. On second thought that’s something you really don’t need to know.
Greg laughed, though it was cut short by a splitting pain in his head. He made a small squawk of pain.
She tutted. “Poor thing. Well I’ve got to get to work, but make sure to drink plenty of water alright?”
He smiled. “Sure. And thanks for the wakeup call. You’re an angel.”
She snorted. “Hardly.”
Greg was running as fast as his body could possibly take him. He knew he would regret it later, his joints would make him wish he had called out one of the younger guys. But he couldn’t risk it, by the time dispatch sent backup the man would be long gone. So he pushed on, chasing the man down sidewalks and through back alleys. The man seemed to possess an inexhaustible wealth of energy.
Without warning the man made a sharp right turn, running in the front doors to St. Barts. Greg followed, his scuffed leather loafers making sharp squeaks echo through the empty halls. The man went straight for the stairwell, up and up and up each flight until he reached the top. The detective was gaining on him by this time, as the man pushed open the door to the roof Greg’s fingers just grazed the back of his dark wool coat. The tall figure ran to the very edge of the rooftop, feet finally skidding to a stop.
Greg opened his mouth to call out a final plea for the man to stop, but the words got caught in his throat. He gaped like a fish out of water, unable to speak.
The suspect turned then. He gave Greg a shark-like grin before turning back to the ledge and stepping off.
Only then did Greg’s throat unclench itself, allowing his strangled cry of “Sherlock!” to ring out across the rooftops.
“Sir!” Sally cried, shaking his shoulder and jerking him awake. He jolted upright and winced at the pain of the crick in his neck. He rubbed his hand across it, blinking and orienting himself.
Sally looked thoroughly shaken. “You fell asleep at your desk. Again,” she added pointedly.
He made a face at her. “Thanks,” he muttered, rolling his shoulders and hearing the joints crack. He looked up at the clock. 4pm. That was a bit embarrassing.
She folded her arms. “You need to get some proper sleep. I’ll take care of the arrest reports, just go home and go to bed.”
He wanted to protest, but to be honest he wasn’t really in a position to turn down having her do his arrest reports.
He stood up and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “For once you may be right,” he said lightly, intending it as a joke. Judging by the glare she gave him she did not take it that way, but he didn’t particularly care. He slipped on his mackintosh and left, making his way out into the crowded street.
He blinked in the dull afternoon light, unsure of what to do. He needed sleep, but the thought of heading back to his empty flat and falling asleep alone in the middle of the afternoon seemed bleaker than ever. He chewed on his lip, thinking.
He had promised to help Mrs. Hudson clean out 221B he thought, shuddering at the lingering memory of his daymare. Still, a promise was a promise. Plus, she could probably use to company as much as he could.
He was right of course.
No tears this time, but the hug was just as intense. She also insisted on making him dinner, correctly assuming that his diet of late had consisted of carry-out and vending machine nibbles. As she busied herself in her kitchen, Greg made his way up the familiar stairs to the flat.
He sucked in his breath as he crossed the threshold. It was exactly the same as it had been the last time he had been there, when he had come to arrest Sherlock. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting really, John had basically grabbed his clothes and left while Mrs. Hudson seemed terrified to enter. But newspapers littered the coffee table, a book on exotic fungi lay open on the sofa. Even the Union Jack pillow was in its usual chair, slightly squished as if someone had just been sitting on it. Realistically there was no reason for the flat to look any different, but Greg still felt a pang as he cast a weary eye around the cluttered living room. A little dust here and there was the closest thing to evidence that something terrible had happened there, that it had been the epicenter of a tragedy.
Naturally the cleaning was short-lived, about a half hour in Mrs. Hudson came up with a steaming pot of chicken alfredo and a loaf of garlic bread.
They set up their meal at the now clean kitchen table, an act that seemed surprisingly natural. If Greg didn’t think about it too hard, the flat was quite cozy. He had spent hundreds of hours there talking over cases, bickering with Sherlock, conducting fake drugs busts. It was only his last memory of it that was unpleasant, and Mrs. Hudson’s warmth made up for even that.
After finishing their meal (which was heavenly) the pair talked for a few hours, reminiscing on better times. It was cathartic for both parties and the conversation flowed easily.
Greg looked down at his watch during a short lull in the conversation. “Blimey, it’s nearly ten thirty,” he remarked, wondering where the time had gone. He glanced around the room and chuckled. “Didn’t get too much cleaning done did I?”
Mrs. Hudson waved it off. “I’m not in any hurry dear. John was kind enough to empty out the fridge before he left so it’s not like anything’s going to be rotting.” She smiled up at him, giving his hand a squeeze. “You’ve done more than enough love, I know how hard you’re taking this.”
He smiled weakly at her. “I’ll come back on my next day off, see if I can at least clear the trash out. Did you want to sell his lab equipment?”
She made a face. “No, that would be wrong. I was going to donate it. Any ideas on who would want it?”
“Actually,” he mused. “I might.”
He pulled out his mobile and scrolled through the contacts, stopping at Moooly Hgepr.
St. Bart’s wouldn’t be in any need of lab equipment would they?
Her response was swift.
Always. Why do you ask?
I’ve come across the holy grail of lab stuff and it’s looking for a good home.
Oooh, shut down a meth lab did we? :)
Well no. It’s Sherlock’s old stuff.
Mrs. Hudson nodded to his phone. “Who’re you talking to?”
He shifted slightly. “Ah, you know Molly Hooper from the morgue right?”
Her face lit up. “Oh yes, she’s such a charming girl isn’t she?”
Greg nodded. “Yeah, yeah she is.”
The landlady’s smile grew sly. “Also single, last I heard.”
Greg flushed slightly. “Ah-“
“And you’re officially divorced now…”
She clapped her hands together. “Oh you two would make a darling couple!”
Greg coughed, now blushing deep scarlet. “Yeah but-“
“So you’ve considered it too!” she crowed.
Of course he’d considered it. Since the incident in the bar where he’d made a proper fool of himself Molly Hooper had consumed the majority of his thoughts.
He sighed. “I’d be no good for her. I’m too old, I work too much, and…” he floundered for a moment before sighing and lowering his eyes to his lap. “She deserves someone better, someone more like Sherlock.”
Mrs. Hudson’s smile fell and her eyes became sharp. She grabbed his chin between her thumb and forefinger, turning his head up so he could look her in the eye. “Gregory,” she said sternly. She reminded him so much of his Gran in that moment, she had been the only other person to call him Gregory. “Completely ignoring the ‘too old’ comment which is bollocks, you would be a catch for any girl. You’re honest and kind and compassionate and every bit as good of a man as Sherlock Holmes. What’s more, you’re here and you can be here for her.” She released his chin and leaned back in her chair, folding her arms.
His phone vibrated and he looked down.
Oh. Yeah, I’m sure we could use it. Thanks.
Mrs. Hudson raised an eyebrow and pointed to his phone. “Now are you going to ask her out?”
Greg opened his mouth to protest. But something stopped him. What did he have to lose? He was a fifty year old divorced copper whose best friend had just committed suicide. If he was already at rock bottom, what was one more rejection?
He tapped out his reply and showed it to Mrs. Hudson, who nodded her approval. He sucked in his breath and hit Send.
No problem. So on an unrelated note, would you maybe want to go out to dinner with me sometime?
He sat back, staring at the screen. His fingers trembled slightly, and he inwardly chastised himself for it. He had asked Colette to marry him with less hesitation than this, why was asking Molly out so nerve-wracking?
Mrs. Hudson smiled happily at him and began clearing their dinner dishes, humming to herself.
Greg worried at his lower lip with his teeth, staring at his phone and willing for her negative response to come so he could move on with his life. Mrs. Hudson began chattering on about her nephew’s latest cricket match, but Greg couldn’t even feign interest in it.
Minutes ticked by, until Greg realized the lack of response meant he had his answer. He stood up, more disappointed than he should have been.
“Er, I’m going to take off. Anything you think I should take to John?”
The landlady thought about it for a moment. “The skull,” she said finally. “Sherlock would want him to have it.”
“Right,” Greg said quietly. “And maybe the violin?”
He went into the living room and looked to the mantelpiece. The skull was not there. A small circle in the dust was where it had sat. “Hm, looks like John took the skull,” he called to Mrs. Hudson who was still in the kitchen.
“Not surprised,” she said sadly, walking into the room drying her hands on a ratty dishtowel that looked like it had acid burns in it. “How about the violin?”
Greg glanced around the room and furrowed his brow. “Don’t see it. He probably took that too, come to think of it.”
“Well,” Greg said awkwardly. “I guess I really should be going.”
Mrs. Hudson nodded, then pulled him into one of her crushing hugs. It was abruptly interrupted by the vibration of Greg’s phone. He pulled it out of his pocket quickly and read the message.
Sorry, I was in the shower. But yes, I’d love to go to dinner with you.
Greg reread it twice before receiving an elbow to the ribs.
“What did she say?” demanded Mrs. Hudson.
He turned the phone to her, she squinted and read the message. “See!” she cried triumphantly. “I told you so.”
“Yeah, yeah you did,” Greg said beaming. He pulled her into another hug and kissed her cheek. “Thank you. I’ll be back soon.”
He very nearly skipped the entire way home.
In which things go from bad to worse.
Greg was sure he was dying. The restaurant was stiflingly hot and he ached to take off his sports coat. He didn’t, because he was about 97% sure his shirt had sweat marks around his armpits right now and that would probably be the final nail in the coffin for this date. He shouldn’t have taken Sally’s advice on the restaurant choice, he really shouldn’t have. Not only would he probably have to mortgage his flat to pay for the meal, but the candlelit ambiance was absolutely nerve-wracking. The fact the place was the approximate temperature of Satan’s armpit was merely the icing on the cake.
Molly on the other hand, looked lovely. She was wearing a simple violet dress with a pale blue wrap. A tiny pearl hung from a delicate silver chain just below her collarbone. Her hair was down, looking impossibly soft and shiny. Greg knew the other restaurant patrons were just as confused as he was about why a guy like him was out with such a beauty. At least he could be reasonably sure it wasn’t going to happen again, she seemed slightly uncomfortable in the formal setting and had remained rather quiet the whole evening.
She looked up at him from over her menu and gave him a small smile. “So, do you come here often?”
He stifled a snort. “No, not exactly. More of a dodgy sandwich from the corner store in-between shifts kind of guy.”
She laughed. “Same here. My mum worked as a waitress in a place like this when I was a kid. Used to make me come in and bus tables on busy nights.”
Greg groaned. “So this was a terrible idea.”
“No, no!” she said quickly. “It’s not all bad memories. Just a bit stuffy you know?” She wrinkled her nose a bit.
He let out a heavy sigh. “Christ, I was hoping you’d say that.”
She giggled. “You know, I could actually go for a kebab right about now.”
Greg placed a hand over his chest melodramatically. “A girl after my own heart!” he cried. He stood up and offered her his arm. “I know the perfect place.”
She smiled and took his arm.
Both sighed with relief as a chilly blast of November air hit them on their way out the door. Molly shivered; Greg removed his jacket and placed it around her shoulders (relived to see that he had not in fact left sweat stains on his shirt).
After stuffing themselves with some truly excellent lamb kebabs they got ice cream (mint chocolate chip for Molly, Rocky Road for Greg) and walked to a little picnic area that overlooked the river. During the walk over their conversation had turned from work-related banter to a game of Have You Ever…but both were too shy to ask anything really salacious.
“Er, lemme see. Ever stolen anything?”
Molly laughed. “I dunno, the answer to that could have serious consequences considering your position at the Met,” she teased.
He grinned. “I’m off duty. Not my problem.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well in that case. Yeah, when I was fourteen I nicked a lipstick from a Boots. Other girls said I was too much of a goody-goody to do it so I proved them wrong. Actually, I proved them right. After they left I snuck back into the store and put it back where I found it.”
This was the most endearing thing Greg had ever heard and it made him grin like an idiot.
Molly smirked. “Oh shut up. Anyway, my turn.” She thought about it for a moment. “Ever kissed a bloke?”
Greg opened his mouth to deny it but snapped it shut when he remembered. A blush crept across his cheeks.
Molly clapped her hands together and let out a giggle. “Aha! Caught you. Drunk dare at Uni?”
Greg coughed and looked down, blushing harder. “Uh, no.”
The smile fell from Molly’s face. “Oh I’m sorry. I shouldn’t tease. Are you er, bisexual?”
Greg jerked his head up. “No, nothing like that.” He grimaced. “Alright, so a few years back Sherlock and I are working a case. He says his suspect frequents this one gay bar looking for couples he can pay to let him watch, ah, them. So he and I go in to scope it out and I lean on the bar to try and look casual as I’m having a look around it out when all of a sudden he grab me by the arse and hauls me in for a snog. By the time I even realized what was happening our guy comes up and propositions us and I had to arrest him.”
Molly had kept her hand clamped over her mouth for the duration of the story until finally the laugh she had been holding back burst forth, loud shrieks of laugher that echoed across the water.
“Oi!” Greg said, mildly offended.
She shook her head still laughing and placed her hand on his forearm as tears began to roll down her cheeks.
After a few moments she was able to catch her breath. “It’s not you, it’s just that,” she said wiping her eyes with her sleeve, “To him that was probably the most natural way to go about it!” she finished, beginning to laugh again.
Greg chuckled. “Actually you’re right,” he said, beginning to laugh harder. “Coulda warned me though couldn’t he?”
They laughed like this for a few more moments before finally calming down.
Greg inhaled deeply, abs aching in a wonderful way. He glanced down at his forearm, upon which Molly’s pale hand still rested. She looked at it too before blushing and beginning to pull it away. Greg caught it and slid his calloused fingers between her soft ones.
She looked up at him with those warm doe eyes and bit her lip.
“Can I-?” he began to ask, she cut him off with a quick nod.
He leaned in and cupped her smooth jaw with his other hand, pressing his lips to hers in a chaste kiss. She tasted of mint ice cream and tea, an utterly intoxicating combination. Greg moved to end the kiss but Molly leaned forward, pressing a hand to his chest.
And then Greg’s phone rang, making both of them jump.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Greg groaned.
Molly blinked dazedly a few times. “Duty calls?”
Greg frowned at the called ID. “No…it’s my landlord.” He hit the answer button.
Molly watched as his face grew more and more serious and the color drained from his flushed cheeks.
“I’ll be right there,” he said, his voice barely more than a raspy whisper. He hung up the phone, stunned.
“What…what’s wrong?” Molly asked nervously.
“There’s been a fire at my flat,” he answered, staring across the water.
Molly gasped and covered her mouth. They sat like this for a few moments, completely unable to process this information.
Greg blinked after a minute, somewhat coming to. “Erm, it’s kind of a shite ending for a date but I guess I have to go, the fire crew’s there…” he trailed off.
She nodded. “Of course.”
Despite her protests, Greg made sure to drive Molly home first and make sure she made it through the door okay. She gave him a sad little wave before she entered the building.
Greg drove back to his flat slowly, as if biding his time would fix everything.
He was not so lucky.
Three fire trucks and about a half dozen police cars were parked haphazardly in front of his building, where sure enough the right hand-side of the third floor was blackened with soot, the windows were broken and leaking smoke into the cold night air.
The building’s other occupants were huddled across the street, most of them still in their night things. Greg felt a pang of sympathy as he saw the little girl from the second floor clutching a battered teddy bear and sobbing into the hem of her mother’s dressing gown.
More people endangered because of their close proximity to him.
He wandered towards the scene until he came across Dimmock talking to one of the firefighters. Greg vaguely recognized the man from a while back, but couldn’t put a name with the face.
Dimmock’s eyebrows shot up as Greg approached. “Fucking hell Lestrade, you had us all worried sick. We all thought you had been inside when it happened.”
Greg shook his head. “Is it under control?”
The firefighter nodded. “Yes, we got the fire out pretty quickly, and it doesn’t seem like there was much structural damage. The smoke did a number on the place though.” He ran a hand through his short hair, leaving traces of ash in the blond strands. “Sir, I hate to be the one to tell you this but we’ve recovered traces of what looks to be a Molotov cocktail. This was arson.”
Greg nodded, he’d figured as much. Moriarty’s web was still as strong as ever.
It was a long night, one that ended with Greg kipping on the sofa in his office. It would have to do until insurance put him up in a hotel. And then…well he didn’t really want to think about what would happen after that.
He awoke after just a few hours sleep stiff, sore, and not at all rested. He went to the locker rooms and showered, grateful for the change of clothing he kept in his locker. He dawdled around the offices killing time until the rest of his team began to trickle in.
Judging by the pitying looks everyone gave him, Dimmock had spread the news of the fire. Greg didn’t want to deal with that, so he retreated to the safety of his office.
A few minutes into his solitude, there was a slight knock on his door. He sighed. “Come in.”
The door opened and Molly stepped in, looking even more timid than usual.
He blinked in surprise. “Er hi,” he said.
She gave him one of her twitchy smiles. “I ah, I thought you could use a coffee,” she said quietly, placing a paper cup on is desk. It smelled heavenly.
Greg softened. “That’s perfect, thanks.”
“And I accidentally nicked your coat,” she added, holding up his navy sports coat.
“Didn’t even realize it until you’d left.”
He chuckled. “First the lipstick and now my jacket? I’ve got my eye on you Hooper,” he teased.
She rolled her eyes as she held out the coat to him. He took it from her, fingertips lightly grazing her wrist. He flashed back to their kiss the night before and felt a small fluttering in his stomach as he draped the coat over the back of his chair as nonchalantly as possible. Not like that was going to happen again, after he’d made a complete cock-up of the night.
She bit her lip and looked down, playing with a lose thread on the sleeve of her jumper.
“I heard about the flat” she murmured. “I mean, it was quite bad wasn’t it?”
Greg shrugged. “It didn’t spread to the other units, that’s all I was worried about.”
“But yours sounds like it’s out of commission for a while…”
“I’ll live,” he replied dryly.
There was a tense pause as both parties considered their next move.
It was Molly who finally spoke. “I ah, I don’t really know how to say this but I um, I just wanted to say I did have a nice time last night,” she said in a rush. “I mean, yes that was a terrible way for it to end, and yeah the beginning wasn’t too great but uh, the middle-y bit was actually quite nice…” she trailed off hopelessly, her cheeks flaming.
Greg’s jaw dropped slightly. “Molly, are you trying to say you’d like to go out again sometime?”
Her bottom lip completely disappeared between her teeth as she nodded.
He chuckled. “I took you on the worst first date imaginable and you still want to have another go?”
She smiled a little. “I wouldn’t say ‘worst’ first date. I went out with Moriarty a few times, remember?”
Greg snorted, then quickly sobered. “He never hurt you, did he?” he asked hurriedly.
She shook her head. “No, nothing like that. Just a bit weird, I ended it.”
“Good,” Greg said. “Otherwise that man would be thanking his lucky stars he’s already dead.”
“So,” Greg began. “How does tomorrow at eight sound? Nothing posh, maybe just some Chinese and a movie?”
Molly beamed. “Sounds perfect.”
There was another awkward pause as the pair grinned at each other like idiots.
“Well ah, I’ve got to get back to the morgue,” Molly finally demurred. “I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”
“Right. Ta for the coffee.”
She smiled and ducked out of the office, leaving a very awestruck detective in her wake.
Greg was allowed to return to his flat that afternoon.
It was a sorry sight, everything in the living room and kitchen was charred beyond recognition. The rest of the place had serious smoke damage as well as water damage from the firefighters’ efforts to stop the blaze.
His dresser hadn’t been too badly damaged, so he managed to save some of his clothes and a pair of loafers. He told the fire chief to bin the rest of his things.
“Might as well start fresh, yeah?” he said, his smile not quite reaching his eyes. In truth there was not much to be saved. His furniture was mostly thrift store junk he’d picked up after the divorce, and the fire had destroyed the one box of pictures he still had.
“You sure?” the chief asked, voice edged with pity.
“Yea-actually, hang on.” He retraced his steps to the bedroom and pulled the quilted afghan off the foot of the bed. It reeked of smoke but was otherwise untouched. He gingerly folded it and tucked it into his bag of clothes.
His gran had knitted it for him before he went off to Uni. Greg vividly remembered his high school graduation party, the stacks of money-stuffed cards from well-wishers stacked on the kitchen table with the lone lumpy package in the middle. He had faked a grin as he opened it, allowing himself to be pulled into a rib-crushing hug by Gran.
“To keep ye warm love,” she whispered in his ear. He grumbled a noncommittal response to her and shoved it to the bottom of his trunk as soon as she left. He hadn’t pulled it out until the night after her funeral when he had cried himself to sleep beneath it. It had lain on the foot of every bed he owned after that.
“Now I’m sure,” he muttered to the fire chief. Without so much as a glance back he trudged out the door and down the stairs to the car where he unceremoniously dumped his bag in the boot. He slammed it shut, taking pleasure in the satisfying bang that echoed through the still closed-off segment of street. He turned and collided with a figure hurrying down the sidewalk.
“Oof, sorry,” he muttered.
“Greg?” the figure asked.
He looked up. It took everything in his power to not kick the tires of his car and curse the gods above.
“Hey Collette,” he mumbled.
She gave him a small smile and tightened her grip on the elbow of the gentleman standing next to her. “You remember Neil right?”
The PE teacher.
He nodded curtly. “Yeah. Hi.”
She frowned. “Are you doing an investigation? I didn't think fires were your division.”
He shook his head. He had told her his new address, put it on the fridge for her and everything. She’d probably binned it along with every other reminder of him about five seconds before Neil had moved in.
“I live here. Well, lived here.”
She quirked her brow and looked up at the blackened square that had been his flat.
“Yeah. One of Moriarty’s friends left me a present.”
Collette gasped and something akin to sympathy crossed her face. “Oh Greg, I’m so sorry.”
“That’s a shame man,” Neil commented.
“Yeah. It’s a shame.”
“You weren’t home when it happened were you?” Collette asked, sounding actually somewhat concerned.
“Nah, I was out. On a date,” he added, taking a small measure of satisfaction in the shadow that crossed her face.
“Oh. Well that’s good then,” Collette said, nearly pouting. “Well Neil and I really have to be going. Good seeing you Greg.” She began steering the perplexed Neil away. “Good luck with the flat,” she threw over her shoulder.
Greg slumped into the car and thumped his head against the steering wheel a few times for good measure before starting off.
It wasn’t until he got to the hotel his insurance had put him up in that he truly decided that the universe hated him. He had been on enough CSI investigations to know that under a black light the entire place would have shone like the sun. The carpet felt waxy beneath his bare feet, the shower barely dribbled, and the mattress seemed to be stuffed with cardboard and small pebbles. After several minutes of tossing and turning he got up and retrieved the old afghan. He buried his face in it for a moment before he lovingly stretched it across the foot of the sorry excuse for a bed. Only then did he manage to fall into an uneasy sleep.
He was up on the roof of St. Bart’s with Collette, looking out at the twilight sky.
“Isn’t it lovely?” he asked.
“Yes, yes it is,” she answered. “Watch this.”
He turned towards her and watched in horror as she drew a small pistol out of her pocket and inserted it into her mouth. With a quick wink she blew the trigger.
He stumbled back, aghast.
“Lestrade!” someone called below.
Greg ran to the edge of the roof and looked over. Sherlock was standing down on the street grinning like a maniac.
“Sherlock I need help!” Greg yelled desperately.
The man on the ground clasped a hand around his ear. “What was that?” he called back.
“I need your help!”
Greg cupped his hands around his mouth as he took a step forward and suddenly he was falling, falling, falling and Sherlock’s grinning face was getting bigger and bigger and-
Greg woke up in a cold sweat, afghan clamped tightly in between his clammy palms.
In which John gets set up on a blind date and Molly and Greg have sexytimes.
“I really don’t mind.”
Greg leaned back in his chair, cradling the phone in between his ear and shoulder.
“Molly, I made an awful mess of the other night. Just for a change of pace I’d like you to have some fun. C’mon, what would you like to do?”
She giggled. “I’m so boring though. I can’t think of anything besides plain old dinner and a movie.”
“That works for me. Anything you want to see?”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in seeing the new Saw film? I’ve been meaning to get around and see it.”
Greg started. “Er, really? You don’t strike me as a slasher film fan.”
“Well I do work in a morgue, most of them are quite tame compared to my daily caseload.”
“Fair point. That sounds great, pick you up at seven?”
Greg hated horror movies. Every one of them reminded him of some sick individual or another he had come across in his time at the force. For every nameless victim onscreen he saw a distraught family left in their wake, a nasty murder trial, and mountains of paperwork.
But he was determined to make things right with Molly, so seven o’ clock that night found the Detective Inspector picking up the beaming morgue attendant for the seven-twenty show.
Seven forty five saw the Detective Inspector closing his eyes and gritting his teeth, wishing for the film to end quickly. The sixteen-year-old honors student had just had her left hand eaten by rats and was screaming bloody murder onscreen. While the blood and
gore was quite fake, the screams really got to him. There is a certain sound in the register of the human voice that is only accessed when one is in mortal peril, and this B-movie actress had somehow found it. He fought down the small measure of bile rising in his throat and dug his fingers into the armrests.
After a minute he felt a small warm pressure on his left hand. He opened his eyes just in time to see Molly’s pale fingers lace themselves with his calloused ones. Her face was still fixed on the screen; a small smile was playing its way across her lips. He watched her for several moments, admiring the way the dim light from the screen danced across her cheeks and lit up her eyes. As the scene changed, she turned her face towards his and gave a small smile.
She leaned towards him. “Enjoying yourself?” she asked, the whispered question tickling his ear.
He nodded. “Yeah, yeah I am.”
After what seemed an eternity the film ended and Greg and Molly exited the theatre hand in hand. Molly was grinning from ear-to-ear.
“That was great, what a riot!” She cried as they reached the sidewalk. “Although that scene with the machete was all wrong, he would have sliced her femoral artery right in half and ended the movie right there.” She grinned up at Greg. “Did you like it?”
He nodded. “It was great,” he lied. “Chinese?”
“Sure.” She sighed contentedly, leaning into Greg almost imperceptibly as they walked.
“Is that John?” she asked after a few moments, squinting at a figure up ahead.
Sure enough, the loping figure ahead revealed itself to be the good doctor. Greg tensed, unsure of what was to come. They hadn’t exactly parted amicably, and that had been months ago. Still, he forced a smile as the man limped closer.
“Heya John, how are things?”
The army doctor looked up in surprise. “Oh, hi Greg. And…Molly?” he asked incredulously, looking at the close proximity of the pair. Molly and Greg blushed in unison, making John grin.
“Fantastic!” he crowed.
“So how long has this been going on?” John asked with a smirk.
Greg coughed. “Ah, well, it’s only really our second date.”
John’s eyebrows shot up, but his smile remained kind. “Ah, I’ll let you two be on your way then. See you round, yeah?”
Greg nodded. “Yeah, see you.”
They parted, and Molly and Greg remained quite the rest of the walk to the restaurant.
After they were seated, Greg could see something was bothering her.
“What’s up?” he asked.
She worried her lip between her teeth for a moment before answering. “It’s just, he seems so lonely doesn’t he?”
Greg blinked. “Who? Oh. John?”
She nodded. “I mean, Sherlock was really all he had, wasn’t he? I don’t think he’s been doing so well.”
Greg shrugged. “I dunno. Haven’t talked much.”
Molly cocked her head. “Do you think he’s seeing anyone?”
Greg started. “Um, no clue. Why?” he asked, slightly worried.
“Well my cousin Mary split with her boyfriend recently, I wonder if I could maybe set them up.”
Greg was in uncharted territory, so he nodded blandly.
“Problem is, they’re both so shy.”
“What about a double date?”
Half a nod, interrupted by an eyebrow raise and a small sputter. “With who?”
She rolled her eyes. “Us, silly.”
Greg’s mouth hung open, partially because it seemed a ridiculous proposition but also in slight shock that they were now an “us”.
“Oh. Ah. Sure?”
“Great!” she beamed happily and opened her menu.
Now Greg loved to see Molly smile, but he couldn’t help but think that particular smile wasn’t worth it. By the time the foursome reached the restaurant, John’s limp had gotten so bad he had tripped twice and Mary’s eyes seemed filled more with pity than attraction.
Only Molly seemed oblivious to this, she happily chattered away as the group slowly moved towards their destination. But by the time they reached the table, even she seemed to realize it was an exercise in futility.
Greg ordered a bottle of red wine for the table.
“Oh, just water for me,” said Mary. “I don’t drink.”
The other three at the table gaped slightly at this statement. Mary didn’t notice, she buried her nose in her menu. “Excellent salad selection,” she murmured.
Greg raised his eyebrows at Molly; she gave him a pained look. Greg sighed.
“So Mary, what do you do for a living?”
She looked up and smiled. “I’m a veterinary technician.”
“Ah, that’s great. Our John here is a doctor, spent several years as an army doctor in Afghanistan,” Greg said enthusiastically, slapping John on the back. John choked on his wine.
Mary smiled. “That’s wonderful, you must find your work so fulfilling.”
“I hate it.”
Her eyebrows shot up, but she quickly recovered. “Well, I can imagine it is taxing at times.”
John grunted noncommittally. Mary bit her lip and went back to her menu.
Molly sighed. Greg tried again. “Molly, any interesting stories from work?”
She turned and looked at him queerly. “Greg, I work in a morgue. Not exactly pleasant dinner conversation. How about you?”
Greg shrugged. “We had another of those weird break-ins.”
John looked up. “How are they weird?”
Greg shifted in his chair. “Well, the thefts have been very specific pieces of antique jewelry. And one budgerigar.”
Mary choked on her water. John sniggered behind his hand.
Greg grinned. “It is actually pretty funny.” He launched into the story, camping it up enough to keep the foursome laughing through the salad course.
Once Greg had finished, John had to wipe at his eyes with his napkin. “Ah, that is too good. But you said they were all Austrian diamonds? Do you mean mined in Austria or set there?”
“Actually both I think.” Greg frowned. “I know they belonged to the Austrian royal family, but anything before that seems fuzzy.”
John looked thoughtful. “You might want to look into where they were from originally, could be some sort of nationalism statement.”
“Actually I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll look into it, thanks.” He pulled out his phone and sent Sally a message.
“Ah, John?” Mary asked timidly. “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
She bit her lip for a moment before she spoke. “I told myself I wasn’t going to ask this, and you don’t have to answer but…” she paused. “What was Sherlock Holmes like?”
Molly sucked in her breath and flushed red. Greg’s heart stopped. All eyes were now on John, who was silently looking down at his empty salad plate.
After a few moments, Greg and Molly went on the defensive.
“How about this weather we’ve been having?” Greg asked quickly.
“So I was dissecting a frontal lobe today-“ Molly started.
“He was the best man I’ve ever known,” John said quietly to his plate.
Greg and Molly fell silent.
John looked up. “He was a good man too. They’re not the same thing you know.”
Mary nodded solemnly. “Of course.” She looked down bashfully. “I know this sounds silly, but I followed your blog religiously. Your work uncovering the scandal with the HOUND project was fascinating.”
John smiled. “You think so? We were flying by the seats of our pants that time.”
“That’s what’s so brilliant about it, you were incredibly brave to go in not knowing what you were up against.”
John laughed. “Bravery isn’t the word I would use for it. Although I was drugged at the time so I’m not the most reliable witness.”
Greg gaped at this exchange. He had avoided mentioning Sherlock all night in fear of it setting John off, but now the army doctor was excitedly explaining how the drugs worked to an enthralled-looking Mary. He looked happier than he had been in a long time.
Greg looked over at Molly, who looked just as stunned. She reached across the table and squeezed Greg’s hand, grinning from ear-to-ear. Greg shook his head in amazement, and then leaned in to whisper in her ear.
“How on earth did you intend to lighten the mood by bringing up a brain dissection?”
She rolled her eyes and swatted his arm.
The conversation lasted well into the night, past dessert and coffee. John and Mary animatedly discussed old cases while Greg and Molly played a light game of footsie under the table. Both had enjoyed a few glasses of wine and were feeling quite playful.
After the check came, John offered to take Mary home. Mary accepted, blushing a light pink as she took his offered arm.
As the walked away Greg let out a low whistle. “John three-continents Watson.”
Molly quirked an eyebrow. “What?”
“Nothing.” He took Molly’s hand in his and squeezed lightly. Molly blushed.
“Erm, I don’t suppose you’d like to come back to mine for ah, coffee?” she asked timidly.
“But we just had coffee,” Greg teased, giving her a lopsided grin.
She gave him a wry smile. “Fine, I’ll show you my etchings.”
“I’d like to see a lot more than your etchings,” he murmured.
Molly looked up at him, brown eyes twinkling. “I think that can be arranged.”
The cab ride to Molly’s seemed an eternity, especially since propriety dictated against fooling around in the backseat. They politely held hands the entire way, even though every nerve in his body was crying out for more.
Molly lived in a charming little flat about a mile from St. Bart’s. Her living room was simple and kept very neat, with the exception of her bookcase in the corner which was positively overflowing and had several piles of books surrounding it. A small black cat was perched in the windowsill as they came in, eyeing them haughtily.
“Don’t mind Persephone,” Molly said lightly.
“She looks like she minds me,” Greg remarked. “Nice place,” he added, glancing around.
There was an awkward pause.
Finally Molly tentatively stood on her tiptoes and circled her arms around Greg’s neck.
He inclined his head until their lips met gently. He wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his hands on her lower back. She was so soft, and she fit perfectly in his arms.
She let out a soft moan and pressed closer to him, running a hand through the bristly hairs on the back of his neck.
After a few moments Molly pulled back slightly, panting. Her pupils were completely dilated, and her cheeks were flushed once again.
“Bedroom?” she asked in a husky whisper that went straight to Greg’s prick.
“Oh God yes,” he replied, letting her lead the way down the narrow hallway.
Molly’s bedroom was painted a soft blue; her nightstand and dresser were painted a crisp white. Her bed had a brass frame and was topped with a blue and white cotton quilt.
Greg fell against the bed heavily, pulling Molly down on top of him. She giggled and nuzzled his neck as they kicked their shoes and socks off. The rest of their clothes soon followed.
Molly’s body was absolutely exquisite. Her pale skin was impossibly soft, and her small breasts were round and perky. He ran his hands across the curve of her hips and down her slim thighs, causing her to quiver with excitement. Grinning at his effect on her, Greg stroked the inside of her thighs, this time coaxing a small moan out of her. He then placed a hand on either side of her hips and placed a small kiss on each thigh before dipping his lips between them and finding the small nub that made her gasp and arch her back. He teased her with his tongue for a minute or two before sucking down hard.
“Oh!” she cried, her hips bucking up towards his mouth. “Greg, Greg,” she panted.
“There’s condoms in the nightstand. Put one on so you can fuck me properly.”
Were he not achingly hard he would have laughed out loud at Molly’s directness. Instead he quickly complied.
To his surprise, Molly then flipped them so she was straddling him. She placed her hands square on his chest and lowered herself onto his erection in one fluid movement that left Greg dazed and breathless. She then began to move, starting slow but quickly gaining speed.
God, she was so tight and hot. Greg didn’t stand a chance. Before he knew it he was coming, stars exploded across his vision as he cried out. A few strokes later Molly followed suit, swearing loudly as she rode it out.
Neither one could form a coherent sentence for several minutes afterward; they just lay side-by-side panting and occasionally muttering something along the lines of “Wow” or “Damn.”
Finally it was Molly who spoke. She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair, trying to tame the wild mess that their antics had created. She still looked a bit dazed, though some of her timidity had returned. “Ah, you know you’re welcome to stay the night if you want,” she said quietly.
He propped himself up on one elbow. “Do you want me to leave?”
She shook her head. “Not at all.”
“Then come back here,” he said gently, pulling her down into a kiss. Afterwards she curled herself into his side with her head resting on his chest. He wrapped an arm around her and placed a kiss on the top of her head. “You are full of surprises, Molly Hooper,” he murmured before falling into a deep sleep.
The calm before the storm: Greg and Molly spend the day together.
It all happened in slow motion.
Greg was stopped at a red light, drumming his fingers on the wheel of his squad car. It was a little after eight, and he was finally off duty. Though it had only just begun to grow dark, the streets were virtually empty.
To his right there was a screech of tires and Greg turned his head just in time to see a little red car drive straight into a lamppost. Without thinking, Greg flung himself out of the car and rushed the wreck.
The car was a tangled mess of fragmented metal and broken glass, and the engine was already starting to smoke and spark.
“Detective Inspector Lestrade, I’m here to help!” Greg called as he reached what was left of the driver’s side door.
He tried the handle but the door wouldn’t budge. He yanked and yanked furiously as the smoke grew thicker.
The lamp overhead gave a weak flicker, illuminating the inside of the car for a moment. Greg’s heart stopped.
Inside, slumped against the steering wheel was Molly. She had bits of glass in her hair and there was a small rivulet of blood trickling from her right ear. She wasn’t moving.
“MOLLY!” he screamed, desperately trying to wrench the door open. It was no use, he was no match for the twisted metal of the door. He could only watch helplessly as the sparks from the engine found the fuel they were looking for and the car erupted into flames.
Greg opened his eyes. He was in an unfamiliar bedroom and was covered with cold sweat. He blinked twice and sat up, trying to orient himself.
“Sorry, I think you were having a nightmare,” a small voice said beside him.
He turned and saw Molly sitting beside him with mussed hair and a small pillow crease mark on her cheek. She had the bedsheet pulled up to her collarbone for the sake of modesty. Her large brown eyes were filled with worry.
“Christ, I’m sorry,” he said meekly, running a hand through his damp hair.
“S’alright,” Molly yawned. “What was the dream about?”
“Um, work,” he lied.
She nodded. “Ah, I know the feeling. When I first started at Bart’s I had a recurring dream where I cut into someone and then realized they were still alive.”
Greg snorted and leaned back into the pillows.
Molly let out a very catlike yawn, stretching her arms up over her head and cracking her back. Greg watched as the thin sheet slid from her shoulders and pooled in her lap, leaving her pale breasts exposed. She turned back at him and smiled, a small flush creeping up to her face as she saw the direction of Greg’s gaze.
“You don’t have work today do you?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Nah, got the weekend off.”
She nodded. “Erm, I don’t suppose you might want to do anything today? I mean, I know you’re a busy man and-“
“I’d love to spend the day with you Molly,” he said, cutting her off.
She smiled her sweet smile. “Good.”
They dozed for a while longer until Greg’s body insisted that it was time to get up. He pressed a small kiss to the top of Molly’s head before maneuvering his way out of her embrace. She let out a sleepy mumble and immediately curled herself around Greg’ pillow.
Greg chuckled and looked around the room. His clothes were scattered all over the floor, as was Molly’s. He hesitated, unsure of how much he should dress. He didn’t feel comfortable wandering around Molly’s flat stark naked, but getting fully dressed also felt wrong for the occasion. He finally settled on just his boxers and a t-shirt, which seemed casual enough while also covering up enough in case the landlord or someone decided to come barging in.
That being settled, Greg padded out into the hallway in search of coffee. As he turned the corner into the kitchen Persephone darted out in front of him, swiping a paw at his calf as she passed. Greg stumbled and stubbed his toe on the baseboard, which caused him to swear under his breath.
Persephone sat down in front of the refrigerator and looked over her shoulder at Greg. “Mrow?” she asked innocently, as if she hadn’t just taken a swing at him.
“I could have you tried for assaulting an officer,” Greg grumbled, massaging his toe. “But I suppose you just want breakfast, so I’ll let you off with a warning.”
Persephone cocked her head and yawned widely. Greg nudged her aside with his foot just enough so that he could open the refrigerator door. She purred loudly and began to twine herself around his ankles. He searched for a moment before finding the can of cat food with its pink rubber cover partially hidden behind the milk. He retrieved it and dumped its contents into the red ceramic bowl on the floor. The smell of the brown paste made Greg’s eyes water, but Persephone immediately buried her face in it. Greg scratched her ears for a moment before returning to his original search for coffee.
Molly was just beginning to stir by the time Greg returned. She gave him a sleepy smile and rubbed her eyes. “I must still be dreaming,” she said lightly as he sat down next to her on the bed and handed her a steaming mug.
“I wasn’t sure how you took it so I left it black, but I can go fetch some milk and sugar for you if you’d like.”
Molly shook her head and smiled. “I drink it black so this is perfect, thank you.” She held the mug under her nose and inhaled deeply. “Mmm.”
In that moment, Greg felt at peace in a way that he hadn’t been in a long time. Though he and Collette had only been legally divorced for a few months, they had been separated for the better part of two years. He knew that they had not been entirely unhappy in their ten years together but he still would have been hard-pressed to remember a time when he had been this thoroughly contented with her.
Molly closed her eyes and drank deeply from her mug, making another happy humming noise as she did so. An errant stripe of light from in between the blinds caressed her face and crept into her hair, creating a small halo in her messy brown waves. Greg desperately wished that he could have been a more creative man so that he might paint her and capture the moment forever.
Once she had finished her coffee she rolled out of the bed and ran a hand through her hair. Greg could help but stare at her pert pale figure as she stood up. Molly saw him looking and blushed lightly before turning to the dresser in the corner.
“So,” she asked as she rummaged through the drawers. “What would you like to do today?”
Greg had considered this as he was making the coffee. “Well, there is something that we should do, although it’s probably the least romantic thing in the world.”
Greg scratched the back of his neck. “Well I did tell Mrs. Hudson we’d come by to pick up some of the stuff from Sherlock’s flat.”
Molly was silent for several seconds so Greg decided to backpedal.
“I mean, we could do that any time not just today. Or I could do it, you really don’t have to come because it’s-“
Molly cut him off. “No, it’s fine.” She turned towards Greg and hugged a t-shirt to her chest. “I think he would-“ she paused. “Yes. Let me just get changed and we can go over.” The look on her face was completely unreadable.
Greg nodded, unsure of what to say.
Mrs. Hudson seemed to be in better spirits that day. She pulled Molly into a vise grip of a hug when she answered the door and winked at Greg over Molly’s shoulder. Once again Greg was reminded of his gran, and once again he kicked himself for not visiting her more often.
“Come in, come in,” the landlady said as she ushered the pair into the foyer. “I just put the kettle on.”
Greg opened his mouth to protest, to say they were only there to pick up the things that were to go to St. Barts, but Molly gave him a pointed look and he quickly closed his mouth.
They were led back into Mrs. Hudson’s tiny kitchen and presented with tea and a plate of slightly stale biscuits. As Molly and Greg politely sipped their tea Mrs. Hudson slipped into the chair opposite them and clasped her hands together.
“Oh it’s so good to see you both,” she said cheerfully. “Especially together. Molly dear, I’ll have you know that this one was rather on the shy side when it came to you. Took quite a bit of convincing on my end to get him to ask you out.”
“Really?” Molly asked, giving Greg a sly smile. “I didn’t know that.”
“Well not that much convincing,” Greg said defensively. “I was just, you know, waiting for the right time.”
Molly grinned widely and squeezed his hand under the table. Mrs. Hudson made a crowing sound. Greg bit the inside of his cheek to keep from beaming.
They chatted for the better part of two hours. Over the course of their conversation Greg could see the spark beginning to return to Mrs Hudson’s eye and the sorrow that had been clinging to her since the funeral seemed to lessen ever so slightly. She was not the kind of person who enjoyed living on their own; she thrived on filling the halls of 221 with laughter and being able to care for its inhabitants.
Once again, Greg silently cursed Sherlock for being such a selfish, arrogant prick. Didn’t he realize there were people who counted on him, who were utterly lost without him? People like John and Molly and Mrs. Hudson and Greg too if he were being completely honest with himself. Their lives would forever be separated into before and after, with and without. They would have been infinitely better off had they never met the late consulting detective.
This last thought gave Greg pause. Would they really have been? Had it not been for Sherlock, none of them would have ever met each other. Mrs. Hudson would still be with her atrocious husband. Greg couldn’t even begin to imagine what would have happened to John. It was actually more than likely that he would have decided to take his own life like so many of the other veterans Greg had been reading about in the paper recently. Greg would have probably still been with Collette, vehemently denying the clues that she had been habitually unfaithful to him. He might never have met Molly.
He looked over at her as he considered this. She was in the middle of animatedly talking to Mrs. Hudson about a biography on Robert Ripley that she had just read. She caught him looking at her and smiled, squeezing his hand under the table without pausing from her story.
“It’s really quite fascinating, he unintentionally created one of the best records of how different cultures around the world honored and prepared their dead,” she gushed.
Greg smiled to himself. It was true: without Sherlock he most likely would never have met Molly. Yes they might have crossed paths on occasion at work, but he never would have met the real Molly. He never would have seen her get dressed up for the Christmas party, never would have seen her toss back whisky like it was water, never would have had positively mind-blowing sex with her. Though they had only been seeing each other for a short period of time, Greg could already scarcely imagine life without her. From the moment he’d seen her at Sherlock’s graveside she had consumed his almost every thought. She was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark world and she made Greg feel twenty years younger.
If the mess that was Sherlock’s existence had been the force which brought Molly into Greg’s life then all of the irritation, exhaustion, and anguish had been worth it.
The book Molly is talking about is called A Curious Man by Neal Thompson. It's a fascinating biography about Robert Ripley (creator of Ripley's Believe it or Not!) that I highly recommend.
Eventually the threesome made their way up the stairs to the empty flat. Mrs. Hudson headed straight for the mantelpiece and ran her finger across it. She frowned.
“In need of a dusting,” she murmured to herself.
Greg stuck his hands in his pockets. It was going to take absolute ages to pack the entire thing up. He looked over at Molly, who was still standing in the doorway fiddling with her mobile.
“Alright?” he asked her.
She looked up and pursed her lips. “’Of course. I ah, I should be the one to pack up the lab equipment, yeah? I’m sort of the one who knows what everything is.”
Molly nodded decisively and headed straight for the kitchen.
Greg’s heart sank. He hadn’t really thought about it, but Molly was most likely still in mourning for Sherlock. Greg was a rebound for her of sorts, which made him uncomfortable.
Unsure of what to do while Molly was packing up the lab equipment, Greg sauntered over to Mrs. Hudson, who was staring at the dust on the mantel and looking determined not to cry. He awkwardly wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and after a moment she gratefully wrapped her arms around his waist. She was so tiny, Greg would almost have to stoop to even be able to rest his chin on the top of her head.
She let out a shaky sigh. “I never had children. Those boys were the closest thing I had, and now they’re gone.”
“I know,” Greg said.
They stood like that for a long time. Neither Greg nor Mrs. Hudson cried or spoke, they just stood and absorbed the curious sense of comfort that arises from shared grief.
Eventually they broke apart. “I should go see if Molly needs any help,” Greg said quietly.
Mrs. Hudson nodded.
In the kitchen, Molly was once again typing away on her phone. She looked cross; her brow was furrowed and her lips were pursed to the point of near-invisibility. A cardboard box sat on the countertop filled to the brim with equipment.
“Well you made quick work of that, didn’t you?” he asked lightly.
Molly jumped, causing her phone to fly out of her hands. It skittered across the floor and hit the wall with a small thump. Molly swore under her breath and bent down to retrieve it.
“Christ, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you,” Greg said. “Did it break?”
Molly wiped the screen on her trousers. “No, it’s fine. Shockproof case, I drop it all the time.” She gave him a smile, although she seemed obviously distracted.
Greg didn’t have time to worry about it though because his own mobile began to ring shrilly.
Greg grit his teeth and answered.
“Sally, you know it’s my day off-“
“I know sir, but you’re going to want to come down here for this one. We have a man in custody right now who we have reason to believe is connected to Sebastian Moran.”
Greg’s stomach dropped. “I’ll um, I’ll be right there.”
He stuffed the phone blindly back into his pocket and turned to Molly.
She didn’t give him a chance to speak. “Go,” she said quietly. “Mrs. Hudson and I can finish up here.”
Greg hesitated before giving her a kiss on the temple. “I’ll call you when I can.”
He drove to the Yard in a daze. He’d heard the name Sebastian Moran a few times since Moriarty’s death, but it had always just been a sort of vague ominous whisper. Anderson had speculated at one point that it was the name of an operation rather than a person, but Greg had a hard time taking Anderson’s theories seriously after Sherlock’s death (which of course, Anderson had theories about).
Greg had naively hoped that the worst of Moriarty’s web had been taken care of, but from the looks of it there might have been an entirely new spider waiting in the wings.
When he arrived at the Yard he was greeted by a positively livid Sally Donovan, which to be perfectly honest was not unusual.
“That monster in there spit in my face! Just hocked a giant one in my face!” Sally snarled. “Got in my mouth an’ everything, now I have to go down to St. Barts to make sure all my jabs are up to date. I swear, if I get polio or something because of this, I’ll kill him.”
She shoved the man’s folder at Greg before stalking off down the hall muttering under her breath.
“If you get polio because of this I think we have bigger things to worry about than your killing him,” Greg called teasingly.
Sally flipped him two fingers before slamming the door behind her.
He looked through the case file, which was only a half-page long. Officers had busted an abandoned building that was well-known for housing heroin-addled squatters and made three arrests for possession. As they were frisking the fourth man they found in the building he had hissed “Sebastian Moran will be hearing of this.” Though he didn’t have anything on him, the name-drop was enough for him to be held for suspected criminal conspiracy, though it was a shaky charge at best. Fortunately for Greg (but unfortunately for Sally) saliva was now considered a biohazard so he could technically be charged with assaulting an officer.
He stopped inside the observation room where Dimmock was stationed. The DI was sitting with his feet up on the table and a newspaper on his lap. He saluted Greg with his coffee cup as he came in.
“Hey mate, sorry to call you down here on your day off. Guy’s not saying anything, but we figured we’d let you talk to him before booking him.”
Greg nodded and looked through the one-way mirror. He was almost a little disappointed to see that the man in the interrogation room looked perfectly ordinary, save for the white plastic spit mask that now covered the lower half of his face. He was a little on the thin side with an unkempt mop of straw-colored hair; his eyes were dark and restlessly roamed around the small room. For their first suspect to be even remotely connected to Moriarty in months, he was a bit of a letdown.
Greg squared his shoulders and entered the interrogation room. The other man’s eyes paused their manic movements for a split second before returning to their journey around the space. Greg sighed and eased into the chair opposite him.
“I am Detective Inspector Lestrade,” he said. “Would you please state your name for the record?”
The man didn’t seem to have heard him. Greg gritted his teeth.
“According to my officers, during your arrest you mentioned the name of a suspect we are currently looking for.”
Again the man ignored him.
Greg inhaled deeply through his nose and continued. “The man I am referring to is Sebastian Moran. Any information you have on him could be considered extremely valuable to us, and considering the fact you are looking at charges on assaulting an officer could also be considered extremely valuable to you.”
For a moment Greg thought he was going to be ignored again. But the man’s eyes took one last lazy turn about the room before ever so slowly coming to rest on Greg. Though the detective inspector couldn’t see the man’s mouth behind the spit guard, he had the distinct feeling that he was smiling.
“You don’t get it do you?” the suspect said in a surprisingly high-pitched voice. “You have no idea just how lost you are without your little consultant.”
The hair on the back of Greg’s neck stood up almost painfully fast. “What do you mean by that?” he asked carefully.
The man snickered, a hollow wheezing sound muffled by the spit guard. “A war is coming, detective inspector. A war unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Everyone you love, everything that you hold dear is about to be ripped away from you. Moriarty will have his revenge.”
Greg felt as though all of the air had been sucked out of the room. His lungs felt tight, as if they were being clutched by two white-knuckled fists.
The man’s eyebrows furrowed and a small throbbing vein appeared in the center of his forehead. Though his cold eyes were pointedly fixed on Greg’s, they were glassy and distant. He wasn’t looking at Greg so much as he appeared to be looking through him. When he spoke again his voice was barely a whisper. Greg found himself leaning forward in order to better hear, although every fiber of his being was screaming at him to put as much distance between himself and the other man as possible.
“Farewell happy fields, where joy forever dwells,” the man rasped. “Hail horrors, hail. Infernal world and thou profoundest hell, receive thy new possessor: one who brings a mind not to be changed by place or time.”
Every muscle in his face relaxed as his eyes once more began to circle the interrogation room.
Greg stood up and walked out of the room, though his knees threatened to buckle with every step.
In the observation room Dimmock stood flabbergasted. On the floor next to his feet his dropped coffeecup leaked onto the now-forgotten crossword, though he didn’t seem to notice.
“What the hell was that?” he asked, voice shaking.
Greg opened his mouth but found that no words would come. He moved his shoulder in what he hoped was a shrugging motion and maneuvered his way out of the observation room. Out on the street his lungs began to work again and he gulped great mouthfuls of chilly London air before sinking to the curb and putting his head between his knees.
Moriarty will have his revenge.
Greg had questioned doomsday loonies before, even ones who’d spoken in verse. They’d all been creepy as hell to be sure, but none had ever gotten to him like this one before.
He rubbed his eyes, trying to calm himself down. There was no reason to get worked up over some heroin-addled pissant who talked like a Shakespeare villain. He was probably trying to work it so he could plead insanity and score drugs from the psych ward.
But he’d mentioned Moriarty.
A dead man. Dead men can’t seek revenge. Wasn’t that from Pirates of the Caribbean? Greg shook his head. It didn’t matter. Moriarty was dead and was therefore no longer a threat.
Still, when he went back to his motel room that night he couldn’t sleep. Even wrapped tightly in his Gran’s afghan he tossed and turned for the better part of two hours before finally giving in and flipping on the tv.
Sometime after midnight, during an infomercial for diet pills, Greg’s mobile rang.
He answered it mechanically.
“Greg? It’s Sally.”
“Hey Sally, what’s up?”
“It’s your suspect. The spitter. He’s dead.”
Greg’s jaw tightened as he stared blankly at the tv.
“Suicide. Stuffed a sock down his throat.”
Greg nodded. Onscreen a woman held up a pair of her old trousers which were now about eight times her size.
“Are you gonna be alright?”
Greg ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be fine. Try to get some sleep, okay?”
“Oh Greg, don’t be silly. He’s just Jim from IT.” Molly slapped Greg’s arm playfully.
Behind her, Moriarty gave Greg a wicked grin and flicked his forked tongue.
“Molly, please.” He tried to hand her his Gran’s afghan. It was the only thing that could keep her safe now.
Molly laughed and wrapped her arms around Moriarty’s waist and kissed his cheek, the skin of which was now rotting and falling away from his face. He lifted Molly up and began to carry her away. Molly waved to Greg from over his shoulder.
Mrs. Hudson appeared at his elbow, wearing trousers about eight sizes too big for her. She wordlessly handed him a sock.
When he awoke, the sky was just beginning to lighten. On tv, a man cut through a tin can with a bread knife.
The "farewell happy fields" quote is from John Milton's Paradise Lost.
And this is the spit mask I had in mind for the suspect: http://www.sptimes.com/2006/01/27/Floridian/The_reality_of_the_ma.shtml . They're quite common in the US, but I'm not sure if it's the kind the Yard would use, so apologies if that was inaccurate.
Greg's nightmares begin to infiltrate his waking life.
Just a head's up, there's a brief mention of abusive/controlling relationships in here. It's just a paragraph or so but I wanted to give you guys the trigger warning just in case.
The nightmares were getting worse. Every time Greg closed his eyes he was subjected to a barrage of upsetting images: Mrs. Hudson being tortured, faceless men in spit masks throwing Sherlock off of buildings, Moriarty strangling Molly with his bare hands. He was sleeping as little as humanly possible, and the dreams had started to interfere with his waking life. The smallest things like a door slamming or the shadow of a plane passing overhead could trigger a flashback to one of the nightmares and leave him in a cold sweat with his heart in his throat. His hands had begun to shake inadvertently from a combination of nerves and the caffeine he was using as a substitute for sleep.
The worst part of it was the overwhelming sense of worry that followed him everywhere he went. No matter what he did, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something horrible was going to happen.
More specifically, the feeling that something horrible was going to happen to Molly.
He couldn’t help it. While he knew that she was perfectly capable of handling herself (the woman had dated and subsequently dumped a criminal mastermind for Christ’s sake), he still felt that it was his duty to protect her. When the man in the spit mask had told him that everything he held dear would be ripped away from him, she was the first and only thing that came to his mind. She was the bright spot in an otherwise bleak life. He had no family, no home, and no close friends, but because he had Molly things didn’t seem so terrible. She was a force of pure, true good in the world and if anything happened to her it would be more than Greg could bear.
At first Molly had seemed to find his concern endearing. Her face lit up every time he showed up at work to surprise her with coffee, she replied to his texts immediately and answered every call even if it was just to tell him she’d call back later.
But eventually her seemingly endless patience began to wane.
The glowing smiles of surprise started to seem like they required more effort than before. Texts would go unanswered, the odd phone call might find its way to her voicemail. One night as Greg woke up from another nightmare in a cold sweat she tiredly suggested that he might be more comfortable sleeping in his own bed.
He had obliged, trekking across the city at three in the morning to the dingy flat he had just begun leasing, cursing himself and Spit Mask Man to the high heavens.
The worst part of it was the fact that he was completely aware of how inappropriate his behavior was. He had seen enough controlling and abusive relationships in both his private and work lives to know that he was toeing a very dangerous line.
But he just couldn’t stop. Every crying woman who came through the station was Molly. Every murder victim was Molly. Every unanswered text from her meant she was bound and gagged in the trunk of a car speeding down the M-1. Greg felt as if he was spiraling out of control.
Still, for the most part he and Molly were happy together. He felt comfortable with her in a way he had never felt before, almost as if he had known her his entire life. And in the midst of so much chaos and drama the universe still managed to grace them with the occasional night that reminded Greg exactly what he had and why it was so important to fight tooth and nail to defend it.
Tonight was one such night. He had managed to get off of work at a reasonable hour and when he got to Molly’s apartment she surprised him with an exquisitely cooked roast and a lemon tart that nearly made Greg’s eyes roll back in his head.
After dinner Greg insisted on washing the dishes and despite his protests that the cook should do none of the cleaning, Molly was humming to herself at his elbow drying them with a violet dishrag. After having gotten the plates satisfactorily dry she opened up the cupboard and stood on her tiptoes to place them neatly on the top shelf. In the cabinet Greg saw a bottle of Crown Royale, its blue satin bag sitting beside it. He smiled, remembering when they had gotten drinks together.
He turned off the faucet and dried his hands on the violet towel. “So, what’s with you liking whisky? You don’t drink much, but when you do,” he gestured to the cupboard, “you’re a professional.”
Her face fell and she bit her lip. “Just the Crown Royale. I don’t actually like drinking, but it reminds me of my dad.”
“Oh,” Greg said quietly, unsure of what to say. He knew there was more of a story there, but he didn’t want to pry.
She opened her mouth then quickly closed it again and gave him one of her tight-lipped smiles. “Ah, you don’t want to hear about that.”
“No, I do,” Greg said quickly before he could stop himself on grounds of discretion.
She searched his face for a moment before leaning back on the counter and giving a small sigh. “It’s just…when I was about five or six I started having horrible night terrors. Um, sort of like yours. Absolutely ghastly, I was afraid of going to sleep because of them. So to make me less afraid, Dad would come in at bedtime and read to me until I fell asleep. Then he’d turn off my light and pull out one of those headlamp things so he could read to himself over a glass of Crown without disturbing me.” She smiled fondly, lost in the memory. “Proust. He always seemed to be reading Proust in those days. But then I’d wake up crying and he’d put the book down and hug me and tell me everything was alright. He’d always smell faintly like Crown, and I just sort of grew to associate it with comfort.” She shrugged. “If I’m having a bad day I pour myself a glass and it never fails to make me feel warm and safe.” She looked up at him finally, brown eyes shining.
She looked so small and fragile, Greg was once again reminded of his mother’s porcelain doll. Suddenly he remembered what had happened to it. He had been helping his sister hang Christmas garlands on the mantle. He tried to drape a piece behind the doll, but then she started sliding off her perch. Greg froze, unable to move and stop the impending disaster. She tumbled end-over-end to the brick where she landed with a sickening crunch. As soon as he was able to move again, he had reached down and gingerly lifted her up. Her arm and leg had taken the brunt of the fall and we little more than rubble. Her beautiful face had a large crack running across it, and her little rosebud lips were chipped, leaving her with an eerie sneer.
“Oh Molly,” he said quietly, stepping forward and wrapping his arms around her waist. She pressed close, tucking her face into the crook of his neck and breathing deeply. He kissed the top of her head. “You don’t have to be afraid anymore,” he whispered into the shell of her ear.
He felt her smile against his neck before leaving a small kiss there. She moved back slightly and stood on her tiptoes so that she had easier access to his mouth which she kissed hungrily.
She ran her tongue across his bottom lip before giving it a quick bite, a sharp sexy nip that made Greg growl and pull her closer. Her hands slid up his body, coming to rest tangled in Greg’s silver hair.
He lowered his hands to her buttocks and lifted her off the ground, turning to set her on the kitchen counter. She let out a soft moan and wrapped one leg around his hips, pulling him closer. He tore himself away from her mouth to focus his attentions on her pale throat.
She leaned her head back and let out a sigh before turning towards him and whispering in his ear. “Would now be a bad time to tell you I’m not wearing any panties?”
He sucked in his breath and lowered his hands, rucking up her soft skirt above her hips.
True to her word there was now nothing but air between his hands and her, at least until he reached between her legs and began stroking her softly with his index finger.
Her eyes fluttered shut and her head rolled back.
That night as Greg was dozing off with Molly’s head resting on his chest, her hair illuminated by a shard of moonlight, he could have sworn he heard the front door open and shut. He lifted his head sleepily and Molly shifted at the sudden movement.
“ ‘S just the wind,” she murmured into his skin. “Front door always shifts with the wind.”
He lowered his head and closed his eyes contentedly, too utterly blissed-out to realize there wasn’t any wind. The night outside was as still as stone.
For the first time in what felt like ages, Greg slept peacefully. His dreams were quiet tableaus of exploring the city with Molly without a spit mask in sight. He awoke to the feeling of early morning light tickling his face and smiled, rolling over and reaching for Molly.
Her side of the bed was empty and the sheets were suspiciously cold. Greg sat up and winced as his back let out an audible crack. After a moment it registered that the bedroom door was closed and that two people were having a heated whisper conversation on the other side of it. It was too quiet for him to make out exactly what they were saying, but he could tell that one of the voices was Molly and that she was furious.
“-can’t believe you would…….unbelievable-….…did you…….think would……happen?”
The other person replied in a baritone voice too low for Greg to understand.
Curious, Greg stood up and yanked on his t-shirt. As he made his way to the door he accidentally stepped on the loose floorboard which made a sickening squeak. The voices on the other side of the door stopped abruptly and there was some hurried shuffling followed by the slam of a door.
Greg tentatively turned the knob of the bedroom door and peered out into the hallway. A flustered Molly stood before him in her dressing gown.
“Morning love,” she said breathlessly. “How did you sleep?”
“Good,” he said slowly, looking around. “Who were you talking to?”
Molly waved a hand absentmindedly. “Oh, just Darren from down the hall. Got a piece of my mail mixed up with his.”
Greg stepped out into the hall and looked around. “Bit early for mail isn’t it?”
She shrugged. “It was from yesterday.”
“Oh.” She was acting strangely and Greg had no idea what to do. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall.
“Do you not believe me?” she asked.
“No it’s not that-“
She furrowed her brow. “Really Greg, you’ve been so bloody paranoid lately. It’s like you don’t trust me.”
Greg gaped. “Of course I trust you. Mol, come on now. You know I’ve been going through hell at work.”
“And I haven’t? Greg, I work in a morgue for God’s sake! I cut open a four year old boy yesterday so that his mother could be convicted and sent to prison for drowning him!” She was yelling now, something Greg had never seen her do before. She took a deep breath before continuing in a shaky voice. “But you can’t take that stuff home with you, it’s not healthy. You have to live your life or else it’ll drive you insane.”
Greg was flabbergasted. He and Molly had had a few tiffs over the course of their relationship, but he had never seen her truly lose her temper like this. She was a powerful sight to behold with her cheeks flushed from anger and her eyes glinting with steel, a far-cry from Greg’s mother’s doll.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I just wanted to keep you safe.”
“I don’t need anyone to keep me safe,” she replied coolly. “I’m a grown woman, I can take care of myself.”
There it was. She threw the glove down softly, almost casually, and yet it landed with and enormous clatter that seemed to rock the entire flat.
Greg looked at her pleadingly for several moments as he desperately tried to find the right words to say. After nearly a minute of silence had passed, he finally spoke.
“I should go.”
“Yes,” Molly agreed. “I believe you should.”
Greg makes a phone call.
Unsure of what had just transpired, Greg decided to go home and lay low. As he trudged back to what passed for home these days he replayed the morning over and over again in his mind, cursing himself. He had taken Molly’s patience for granted and she had finally snapped under the weight of his paranoid delusions. She was a warrior, an oncoming storm, and he had treated her like a broken china doll.
Maybe he would see a therapist. Colette had always begged him to do it, but he had never found the time. She had said it was what would “save their marriage” but by that point Greg hadn’t particularly wanted to save it. (Never mind the fact that her not jumping every 20-something with a Y-chromosome in the neighborhood would have helped the marriage a lot more than him seeing a therapist ever would.) Yet he had scarcely been dating Molly four months and he was ready to move heaven and earth to save what they had. They could work through this, he just knew it.
Trying to respect her boundaries, he waited for her to call. In the meantime, he practiced what he was going to say and how he was going to apologize. He even got the number for a psychiatrist that Sally had recommended. He would do better, he would be better.
Still, when a full week went by without so much as a text message from Molly his demons began to rear their ugly heads. What if something was wrong, really wrong? He stared at the phone on his desk, nestled between piles of paperwork, willing it to ring, beep, or buzz.
It wouldn’t hurt to call just to check in, would it? It was technically his lunch hour, though he was still working at his desk. He hadn’t had much of an appetite lately. He could make one short personal call.
He picked his mobile off the desk and immediately set it down. No, he had to respect her boundaries. She was a grown woman, she would call him when she was ready to talk. He had sworn he would wait for her to reach out to him, because that was the respectful thing to do.
But by that same token, they were in a relationship. It wasn’t extraordinary to ask for an occasional phone call. They had only been dating a few months, but even for that level of commitment it was unusual to go without contact for a solid week without extenuating circumstances. A “hi, just wanted to make sure you’re not dead” phone call would not be seen as too overbearing at this point. And if she was still cross with him he should probably be made aware of it so that he might try to remedy the situation.
Greg exhaled slowly and picked the phone up. He found her number and hit the call button, only to end it seconds later.
“Oh just do it you twat,” he muttered to himself, hitting the call button once more.
There was a half ring followed by a tiny click.
“I thought I told you not to call me while I’m at work!” Molly hissed from her end.
Greg started. “I ah, I’m sorry Mol. I just hadn’t heard from you and-“
“Oh, Greg!” she cried. “I’m sorry, your number comes up as restricted and I thought you were someone else.”
Greg relaxed slightly. “Oh erm, that’s okay. Who did you-“
Molly cleared her throat. “I’m at work so I can’t really talk. Why did you call?”
This was not how Greg had wanted the conversation to go. Already he had forgotten his well-practiced mea culpa apology, he now felt completely lost once more.
“I just…I missed you,” he said quietly. “Do you want to go out tonight? I think there’s another one of those blood bath films you like so much that’s out right now. ‘Course you’ll have to cover my eyes during the scary parts,” he said with a hollow laugh. His pathetic rambling was met with silence on the other end of the line.
“Listen Molly, I’m sorry about what happened last week,” he continued. “You were completely right, I am paranoid and that’s not fair to you. But I’m working on-“
“Greg,” she said, cutting him off. “Don’t apologize for that, I just overreacted.”
There was a small sound that Greg knew was her worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. It was one of his favorite traits of hers, but right now it just filled him with an impending sense of dread.
Molly sighed softly. “I hate to do this over the phone, but I don’t want to drag it out. I don’t think we should see each other anymore. I…we both have a lot going on in our lives right now and it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out.”
Greg was unable to speak, unable to do anything except clutch his phone to his ear.
“It’s not because of your night terrors or anything,” she said in a rush. “It’s sweet to me that you care that much. Most men in your position become hard after seeing such horrible things, but it’s only made you care more. I think that’s-“ she stopped and cleared her throat again. “It’s just not a good time for either of us to be in a relationship. Let’s go back to just being friends.”
“Friends,” Greg parroted hollowly. “Right.”
“I have to go now,” she said. “I’ll see you around, yeah?”
“Take care of yourself. Please. Okay?”
Greg closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. “Right. You too.”
The call ended, but Greg kept the phone pressed to his ear for several moments, trying to cling to his last remaining connection to Molly.
A month before that call Molly had helped him move into his new flat. It was small, dimly lit, and located above a noisy Indian restaurant; in a word, horrible.
But Molly had been her usual sunshiny self, coming over with a bottle of wine and a hammer to help him move in.
“Ooh, it smells like chicken tikka masala!” she’d said lightly. “You’re lucky, mine just smells a bit of formaldehyde. That and the odd whiff of weed from Darren down the hall.”
Greg smirked. “Do I have to get someone to do a drugs bust on Darren then?”
Molly laughed and handed him a glass of wine (well, a NSY mug of wine. Greg hadn’t gotten around to replacing his wineglass set). “Don’t you dare, he’s the best neighbor I’ve had in a while. Keeps to himself, never seems to have people over. Occasionally plays his trance music a bit loud but I can live with it.”
Greg rolled his eyes. “Ah yes, I always forget the clause of our oath that says it’s alright to ignore a crime if it means your girlfriend is happy in her living situation.”
It was the first time he had called her his girlfriend. His breath caught in his throat when he realized this and he opened his mouth to course-correct but Molly cut him off with a happy giggle.
“I do love that clause,” she said, standing up on her tiptoes to give him a wine-perfumed kiss. Greg had relaxed slightly and placed his free hand on her lower back, deepening the kiss.
After a few moments of languid kissing they had broken apart, both with flushed cheeks. Molly had wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in his chest, inhaling deeply. He had kissed the top of her head and surveyed the apartment, which now seemed considerably less sad.
This could work, he had thought.
It had felt like the beginning of something beautiful, and now it was gone.
Greg went through the rest of his day on autopilot, dully signing forms on his desk without reading them. At the end of the day he walked back to his flat, only half conscious of where he was going. With each footfall his shoulders sagged more; every step brought forth a new memory of his time with Molly.
Molly at work, weighing a man’s intestines with a laughably bored look on her face.
Molly in the kitchen making breakfast with Persephone rubbing against her ankles.
Molly breathless in the bedroom with her hair fanned out across the pillow, lips forming a perfect O.
He reached his flat after what felt like both an eternity and a nanosecond and immediately flopped onto his thrift store sofa. The springs made an unholy shriek as he landed and groaned their protest as he flung his head back into the cushions.
The gray-white walls seemed duller than ever. His eyes roamed aimlessly about the room, taking in each horrid detail. The water spot on the ceiling shaped vaguely like South America. The hole in the baseboard where either an average-sized rat or an elephantine mouse had chewed its way through. The bathroom door that didn’t lock (or properly close for that matter). It all seemed so much worse now.
The air was thick with the scent of something wet and spicy that usually would have made him hungry but now just made him feel ill. The room seemed so much smaller than it had been, and Greg felt that the walls were closing in on him. He had to get out of there.
He grabbed his phone charger and his grandmother’s afghan and left the flat, not even pausing to lock the door behind himself. There was nothing to steal, nothing left that had value.
It took him fifteen minutes to get to 221B. He let himself in with the spare key John had given him ages ago.
“Don’t tell Sherlock I gave it to you,” the army doctor had said conspiratorially. “But God knows you’re gonna need it at some point in the future.”
Greg snorted. He was pretty sure this wasn’t what John had in mind at the time. He padded up the stairs softly, although from the eerie silence he was fairly certain that Mrs. Hudson wasn’t home. That was a blessed relief. He adored the woman and had come to think of her as a second mother, but he couldn’t stand the thought of being around anyone at the moment.
The flat was just as he and Molly had left it the last time they were there, far tidier than it had ever been when the human hurricane that was Sherlock Holmes had resided there. It had even been recently dusted, which meant that Mrs. Hudson had been able to come up on her own.
He eased himself onto the worn leather sofa, which gave a small contented sigh. It was surprisingly comfortable; Greg could see how Sherlock had logged so many hours sprawled across it in absurd positions. He carefully toed off his shoes onto the scuffed wood floor and stretched his legs experimentally over the arm. Yes, this was much better.
A wave of bone-crushing exhaustion overtook him and he suddenly found himself struggling to keep his eyes open. He stretched the afghan over himself and settled back into the pillow.
This was as close to home as he was going to get.
That night he slept deeply, without so much as a single dream.
Greg thinks that he has to have hit rock bottom, for real this time. Then Sherlock returns.
Several chunks of dialogue in this chapter were taken from transcripts of The Empty Hearse. These lines belong to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, everything else is mine.
Days passed, then weeks. Greg spent most of his nights kipping at 221B, having dinner with Mrs. Hudson and helping to keep the flat tidy. Her company paired with the warmth of his deceased friend’s former home helped to ease the bone-crushing weight of his loneliness, if only a little.
He went to work. He closed cases. He consoled worried parents and crying children and distraught widows. He ate lunch at his desk and tried not to get crumbs on his paperwork. He tried not to think of Molly.
He assumed things would get easier as time went on. It seemed to reason that the longer he went without seeing Molly the less he would think of her and want to call her.
He was wrong.
Her absence was like a physical ache to him, one that caught him just below the ribcage. Her appearances in his nightmares only grew, and more mornings than not he awoke to the sound of his alarm drenched in sweat with her name hanging from his lips. Molly.
Mrs. Hudson was convinced that the only cure for his malaise (or Mol-aise, as Greg had been thinking of it) was for him to start dating again.
“I just hate to see such a handsome face filled with so much sadness dear,” she told him one night over a beef wellington that he had helped to prepare. Greg enjoyed cooking, though he scarcely did it on his own. It helped clear his mind immensely, especially when Mrs. Hudson was beside him twittering away about the latest neighborhood gossip.
He gave a wry smile and took a sip of wine. “Face filled with lines, more like it,” he said. “And besides Mrs. Hudson, you know you’re the only girl for me.”
He gave her a cheeky wink and she swatted at his arm with her napkin. “Do be serious Gregory. You’re not getting any younger, and you’re doing no one any favors by moping ‘round here all the time.”
“I just need a little time, ‘s all,” Greg said tiredly, trying to end the conversation. She was honestly as bad as his mum sometimes.
“You know, my friend Elsie has a daughter about your age,” she continued. “A widow, poor dear. I could give her a ring for you if you’d like.”
Greg took a sip of his wine and mentally started to count to ten.
“Come to think of it,” she mused, “I think Elsie’s son is single too, if you’d like a change of pace.”
Greg choked on his wine and spent the next minute trying to catch his breath.
“Mrs. Hudson, I am fine,” he finally managed to say. “Or at least I will be. Just give it time.”
For a few months following that exchange, it almost seemed like that could turn out to be true.
Then Sherlock returned.
For the first few days, Greg felt higher than he ever had. Sherlock was back, very much not dead, and with him had returned the excitement and verve that Greg’s life had been desperately lacking for the past two years.
There was a terrorist plot! Sherlock still couldn’t remember Greg’s name! Anderson was going completely mad!
Things were back to the delirious insanity that Sherlock called normality, and Greg felt downright euphoric. He didn’t even mind having to go back to sleeping in his own lifeless flat. There was a comfort in the chaos like Greg had never known before.
But as Greg should have expected, with the return of Sherlock to his life came the return of Molly. Should have expected, but didn’t. He saw smoke and was surprised to see the fire that had caused it.
The first time he saw her was when he called Sherlock in to take a look at the mystery skeleton. When the consulting detective arrived Molly was trailing behind him in the space that was usually inhabited by the good doctor. She looked shocked to see Greg and almost dropped her notebook.
“Er, hi Greg,” she said. She bit her lip and tucked a wisp of dark hair behind her ear.
“Hey Molly,” Greg said, giving her a quick nod before turning his attention to the caution tape affixed to the door. He didn’t trust himself to say anything else, not yet.
“This one’s got us all baffled,” he said to no one in particular as he stripped away the yellow plastic.
“Hmm, I don’t doubt it,” Sherlock drawled.
Once inside, it was almost like old times. Sherlock went right to work, dancing about the skeleton and processing details faster than Greg could blink.
At one point though, Sherlock broke the silence.
“Shut up John,” he muttered angrily.
Instinctively, Greg and Molly looked at each other in concern. Molly turned away quickly, scribbling something in her notebook while her ears flushed pink. Greg’s stomach soured.
A moment later he leaned over Sherlock, half-pretending to examine the skeleton. “This gonna be your new arrangement?” he asked quietly.
“Just giving it a go,” Sherlock replied.
“Right,” Greg said. “So, John?”
Sherlock stiffened. “Not really in the picture anymore.”
For a moment Greg bristled with anger. Mere mortals were so disposable to Sherlock, weren’t they? If he thought that he could toy with and abuse Molly the same way he had John…
But no, that wasn’t fair and Greg knew it. John wasn’t just a mortal to Sherlock, not the way Greg and Molly were. If John was really gone then Sherlock was hurting badly. Not that the stubborn bastard would ever admit to it, but that didn’t make it not true. He could pretend all he liked but without John things could never go back to being the way they used to be.
Molly had been eyeing the skeleton with keen interest since they had entered the dim room and the minute Sherlock stepped away from it she moved in. She ghosted her fingers over the clavicle, eyes scanning the specimen much in the same way Sherlock’s had.
“Male, forty to fifty,” she said to herself. Then she looked back at Sherlock. “I’m sorry, did you want to-“
“No, be my guest,” Sherlock said.
Greg was surprised. Perhaps Sherlock had matured some during his time away.
Sherlock bent his head and gritted his teeth. “Shut up,” he growled.
Greg looked at Molly again, but her eyes remained glued to the skeleton.
“It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
“What doesn’t?” Greg asked, as if there was any part of this that did.
“This skeleton,” she said. “It can’t be any more than-“
“Six months old,” she and Sherlock said in unison.
Greg’s jaw dropped slightly, both at the revelation and at the fact that Molly appeared to be keeping up with Sherlock’s deductions. He felt a small swell of affection for her underneath the queasiness and turmoil. She really was brilliant, there were no two ways about that. He should have told her that more often.
Sherlock produced the book, which he and Molly balked at together, and Greg couldn’t help but laugh. Molly could more than hold her own against Sherlock and he almost felt ashamed for worrying about him hurting her.
“I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining it to you,” Sherlock said.
“No please,” Greg said, beaming. “Insult away!”
Things may never be able to return to the way they once were, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Greg could almost picture it, Holmes and Hooper, working together to solve crimes while Greg waited patiently on the sidelines until given instructions on whom to arrest. The idea tickled him.
After breaking down the ruse Sherlock strode out of the room, coattails billowing behind him.
“Why would someone go to all that trouble?” Molly asked.
“Why indeed, John,” Sherlock called over his shoulder.
And then he was gone, leaving Greg and Molly behind.
Molly looked up at Greg, then down at her notebook. She flipped through a few pages and frowned.
Greg stuffed his hands in his pockets. He’d have to call his team back in to clean up the fake crime scene, but that could wait. Molly didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave and Greg wasn’t about to shoo her out the door.
“So, you the new John?” he asked lightly, trying to break the silence.
Molly blanched. “Goodness no. Just tagging along for today. He seemed so lonely.”
Greg nodded. “I’ll bet.”
He bent down to examine the fake diary and wondered if there was something she wanted to say to him. When she remained silent, he straightened up and added to his earlier thought.
“Still, you can’t blame John can you? Bit of a nasty thing for the bastard to do, not telling him. I’m not surprised he didn’t tell me, no one ever tells me anything, but t’ least he could’ve done was tell John.”
Molly shrugged. “It was a judgement call. He didn’t want to compromise John’s safety.”
Greg snorted. “John can handle himself.” He thought of all the times John had saved Sherlock’s life, of the perfect shot that had killed the cabbie.
Molly made a face and looked down at the ground. Greg stepped slightly closer to her. “How’re you taking all of it by the way?” he asked quietly. “Must’ve been as much of a shock to you as it was John.”
Molly looked up, startled. “Oh erm, yeah,” she said quickly. “Nearly fainted dead away when I saw him.” She gave a short laugh.
Greg was a police officer; he was lied to every day. But it wouldn’t have taken a minute of training for him to be able to see that Molly was lying to him right then. He felt as if the room were tipping on its side and everything was sliding away from him. His ears began ringing fiercely.
“You weren’t surprised,” he said slowly. “You knew. You knew all along.”
Molly’s ears went bright red and she turned away from him.
The doors in her apartment opening and closing in the night. The muffled conversation in the other room. “I thought I told you not to call me while I’m at work!”
“You knew all along,” he said again. “You were helping hide him.”
In the shadowy light he could see her wrap her arms around her middle, trying to shrink away to nothing.
“Oi,” he said, stepping around so that she was facing him again. He grasped her elbows and she looked up at him with tear-filled eyes.
“You lied to me. You lied to me day after day after day. Christ, at the funeral? At the bar? I was going through hell and you just stood there and watched!”
“It was hell watching you go through it!” Molly cried, the force of her voice shaking the tears loose from her lashes. “I wanted to tell you, I almost did so many times.
But it would have put you in danger. I had to protect you.”
“Protect me?” Greg made a noise halfway between a laugh and a sob. “Oh that’s brilliant Molly, really brilliant.” He released her elbows and stepped back. He felt dizzy with anger and hurt and frustration, and the dim room swam before his eyes.
Molly hugged her notebook to her chest and closed her eyes. Tears slid down her pale cheeks and fell to the dust-covered floor.
Down the hall, an apparently oblivious Sherlock broke the tense moment. “Molly! Come along, don’t dawdle.”
Greg balled his hands into fists and shoved them into his pockets in an attempt to ground himself. “Go on, follow him. It’s always been him, hasn’t it? It’s always going to be him.”
Molly’s trembling rosebud lips opened, but no sound came out. Before she could say anything, Greg turned away and jammed his phone to his ear.
“Sally,” he barked as soon as she answered. “Get someone down here to clean this up. It was all fake. A lie.”
Molly stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
Once again, Sally saves Greg's neck.
Greg slammed the door of his car shut behind himself.
“AAAAAAHHHHHHHHUUUUGGGGGGGHHHH!” he yelled, rattling the steering wheel.
He let out another almost primal scream before slamming his fist down on the seat beside his thigh and slumping onto the steering wheel.
He was a detective. A real proper detective, not some arsehole freelancer.
And yet he hadn’t suspected thing. Not a bloody thing. His girlfriend had been orchestrating a vast, probably somewhat criminal, scheme right under his nose and he had been completely oblivious to it. He was a terrible detective. He ought to be fired and thrown in prison.
This revelation angered him and made him feel betrayed, but more than anything it made him feel wounded. Part of the joy he had felt with Molly had come from the fact that he had finally found someone he could open up to and be vulnerable with. She knew about his night terrors, knew about his gran’s afghan, knew about how much Colette had hurt him.
And he had thought he had known her too. He knew about her father and her own struggles with night terrors and the nights of her childhood spent bussing tables and the poetry she saw in the dead. But she hadn’t been open or vulnerable with him. She’d had a whole other side of her life that she’d kept hidden from him.
And the final crushing blow was the fact that that morning in her apartment when he had gotten close to finding out about all of it she had kicked him out. Rather than let Greg in on Sherlock’s secret, she had dumped him.
In the end, she had chosen Sherlock over Greg. It really was always going to be him.
Homicide was an evil, ugly thing and something no one should ever be glad for. This was something that Greg felt very deeply.
That being said, Alan Carter’s brutal, execution-style murder came at a rather convenient time for Greg. Obviously it was a tragedy that the man lost his life, but since it was perpetrated by a member of the Waters gang during one of their burglaries it meant that Greg and his team were now assigned to their high-profile case. This meant that instead of moping around in his shoebox flat chain-smoking and drinking himself to an early death he could employ the much healthier mechanism of working ninety-hour weeks and subsisting on nothing but crisps and bad coffee.
Clown masks. Fucking clown masks. How could a group of grown men in frankly horrific rubber clown masks successfully steal gold bullion from four different banks in a two month period? It was just bizarre and intricate enough to fully engage his attention and keep his mind off more depressing matters. This, coupled with the fact that Sherlock refused to take a look at the case. As if Greg weren’t frustrated enough with him to begin with, the bastard was too busy with bloody wedding planning to take on any new cases. This one would be entirely up to Greg and his team to solve.
He studied every detail of the gang’s previous break-ins and covered one wall of his office with post-its and photos of the suspects. He tracked down leads, he made phone calls, he made house calls. He fell asleep with case reports piled around him on the bed. When he was able to properly sleep, he was given a blessed respite from his nightmares; almost all of his dreams now involved him chasing the clown-masked gang.
While the volume of work he was able to accomplish was admirable, the quality of his investigation was at times questionable. He found himself nursing a hair-trigger temper that had a tendency to flare up at inopportune times, most notably during one afternoon in the interrogation room when Greg was questioning one of the gang’s known conspirators.
“I ain’t telling you nothing,” the man said. He was maybe twenty-two at the oldest, and still sporting a face-full of acne. This had been his mantra for the past two hours of interrogation, and Greg had passed his breaking point.
“Listen here you little bastard,” Greg said, slamming his hands down on the table and leaning in so his face was inches from the spotty child.
“Oi, police brutality!” the boy yelled in Greg’s face.
“I’ll show you police brutality!” Greg hollered, grabbing the boy by the front of his hoodie.
“Sir!” Sally cried, sprinting into the room and grabbing him by the back of his collar and hauling him out of the room.
He assumed she would release him outside the interrogation room, but she firmly held her grip on him until they were outside on the sidewalk. She gave him a little shove as she let go of his collar and he stumbled forward a few steps.
“Bit excessive, don’t you think?” Greg asked gruffly, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Excessive? Me?” Sally asked incredulously. “You threatened a suspect and nearly assaulted him! They could have you sacked for that!”
Greg shoved his hands in his pockets. “I wasn’t going to hit him. I just wanted to scare him.”
“What, like you’ve scared everyone else around here?”
Greg’s brow furrowed. “Eh?”
Sally crossed her arms over her chest. “For months now you’ve been stomping around here, snapping at anyone who crosses your path. You made the new girl, Winters, cry last week. I had to talk her down in the Ladies, she was ready to quit. I’m worried about you. Most of us are, at least those of us who don’t want to kill you.”
Greg let out a long sigh and looked up at the sky. “Be truthful Sally, even you want me dead half the time,” he joked lamely.
Sally’s lips twitched. “Maybe a quarter of the time.”
Greg reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out his cigarettes. He shook one into his palm and offered the pack to Sally, who refused.
He didn’t speak until he had lit his cigarette and taken a few drags.
“Molly knew about Sherlock,” he said finally. “She was the one who helped him stage the whole thing.”
Sally’s eyes bulged. “What, she helped him fake his death?”
Greg nodded and flicked a bud of ash to the sidewalk.
“Christ boss, I’m sorry.” Sally looked uncomfortable, and Greg knew she was trying to decide whether or not to hug him. Instead, she chose the safe option and patted his arm awkwardly. “Shit, that’s worse than I thought,” she added.
“Yeah,” Greg murmured. He looked up at the bland grey sky. A plane was passing overhead, probably just taking off from Heathrow judging by the direction it was heading in. That plane probably contained two hundred people, each of whom had a past and a personality and a multitude of secrets they had never told anybody.
Greg suddenly felt very, very small.
"Is it serious, you two?"
"Yeah. I've moved on."
It's a nice day for a white wedding. It's a nice day to start again.
Some dialogue in this chapter taken from The Sign of the Three. Once again, I do not own these lines. Also contains lyrics from Norah Jones' "Turn Me On".
Greg soon learned that it was very, very hard to be mad at Molly Hooper.
For starters, they worked together often. These days Greg seemed to end up in her morgue nearly once a week, and they were both consummate professionals. Though his heart gave a small, sad pang every time he saw her, it was easy enough to ignore when there was a pressing case to deal with.
And then there was the fact that being mad at her was like being mad at a golden retriever puppy. Once she looked up at you with those warm brown eyes, any anger you had been harboring for her simply evaporated. And when she fixed you with her gaze over a fresh bowl of brains while sporting braids that would Princess Leia jealous, you quite simply didn’t have a hope in the world.
Even when the cause for the concern behind her eyes was, once again, Sherlock.
“Is that brain?” Greg asked, feeling instantly queasy. Molly’ nonchalance while handling dead people’s organs was equal parts endearing and upsetting.
Molly huffed as if he was being unreasonable. She was standing close enough that he could just catch a whiff of the tea on her breath.
“I’ve just had a thought. What if John asked Sherlock to be his best man?”
Greg could not care less. “Well, he will. He’s bound to.” He stared down at the small lump of gray matter in her stainless steel bowl. He had never seen a brain up close before. If he weren’t so nauseous he might have found it fascinating.
“Exactly,” Molly said, obviously agitated.
Greg didn’t get it.
“So?” he asked.
Molly huffed again. “So, he’ll have to make a speech. In front of people. There will actually be people there, actually listening.”
Greg thought about it for a moment. True, talking to people was certainly not one of Sherlock’s strong points. And talking to a large group of people who were all staring at him quietly didn’t seem like something he would excel at either. But it was just a best man speech, how bad could it be? He could scarcely remember who his best man had been, let alone what his speech had been like. People get pissed at weddings, even if Sherlock was utter rubbish everyone would have forgotten about it by the time the dancing started.
“Well, what’s the worst that could happen?” he asked lamely.
Molly looked away distantly. “Helen Louise probably wondered the same thing.”
The name didn’t ring a bell. “Helen Louise?”
Molly looked down at the brain in the bowl and Greg instantly knew he was going to be sick. He excused himself, dropped the x-rays he had been carrying on the counter, and power-walked out of St. Bart’s. He hoped that fresh air would help settle his stomach, but the icy blast that hit him as he stepped out the front doors made his eyes water and the back of his throat burn.
He turned the corner into a nearby alley and retched violently next to a pair of rubbish bins. When his stomach was suitably empty, he straightened up and swiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he turned slightly.
A well-dressed man with wire-rimmed glasses extended a handkerchief to him. An expertly-manicured goatee kept his face from being disconcertingly forgettable. “I believe you could use this more than I,” the man said dryly in an indistinguishable accent.
“Cheers mate,” Greg said gruffly, wiping the soft cloth around his raw mouth.
“Anytime, Inspector,” the man drawled, flicking his intense blue eyes over Greg once before turning on heel and disappearing into the crowded street.
Greg was so disoriented that it didn’t even occur to him to wonder how the man knew who he was.
What he did wonder was what Molly was doing asking him about Sherlock. What exactly did she think he could do, give Sherlock public speaking lessons? He barely managed to squeak by during his own press conferences and was in no way qualified to give instruction in the subject. And even though Sherlock was one of his best friends, he hated him right now (at least more than usual). Unlike Molly, Sherlock was incredibly easy to stay mad at.
Of course, Sherlock’s best man speech was dead-woman’s-brain-in-a-bowl levels of disaster, just as Molly had predicted.
The ceremony itself was lovely. The church was a bit hot, but Mary looked beautiful and John was smiling so hard it looked like it hurt. Mrs. Hudson had sobbed into Greg’s handkerchief the entire time, which meant that Greg was left to clumsily wipe at the corners of his own eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. He always cried at weddings. Even now, after everything that had happened, he was still a romantic at heart.
The reception was a different affair.
In some atrocious twist of fate that could have only come about with Sherlock in charge of the seating charts, Greg was seated next to Molly and Tom.
Now Greg obviously wasn’t biased, but the man looked like a complete and utter twat. He was a gawky mess of elbows and ridiculous hair, and he looked to be about fourteen. Greg had heard that Molly was seeing someone else, but this was absurd.
To her credit, Molly looked lovely. Her sunshine-colored dress stood out against the sea of muted pastels that the other women in attendance were draped in. Her oversized hair bow would have looked silly on just about anyone else, but it worked for her. She was as quirky and charming as ever, though she kept biting her lip and looking over at Sherlock. She was obviously still worrying about his best man speech, which Greg could scarcely give two shits about in that moment.
It didn’t help any that Mrs. Hudson was sitting on his other side. She kept giving him piteous glances every chance she got, and more than once she had squeezed his hand and said “There there, dear.”
He grabbed the first waitress he saw and asked her for a pint right away. His new plan for the evening was to get as drunk as possible without making a spectacle of himself and without thinking too hard about the fact that he and Molly had started dating before John and Mary. The fact that they had introduced the two of them.
The fact that it should have been him and Molly up there at the head table.
He was three beers deep and thoroughly enjoying the show when Sherlock called on him and made him make a fool of himself. Though it was worth it to then see Tom turn around and make an even bigger fool of himself. A meat dagger? That one took the cake. And the mortified look on Molly’s face just made it all the better.
And at least Greg got to redeem himself. Locking down a reception hall was something he could do, and it was an excuse to get him away from that table and sodding Tom. He leapt from his seat and discreetly exited the hall, dialing Sally’s work extension on his way out.
“Sally, something’s gone wrong at John’s wedding.”
Sally made a squawking sound on the other end of the line. “What’s the freak done this ti-”
“Sally,” he said sharply. “Get me backup out here. Two cars, four officers if you can. On the double, but have them cut the lights and sirens about a kilometer away. Sherlock’s still working this one out and I don’t want to spook the murderer before he figures it out.”
“There was a murder at John’s wedding?” Sally asked incredulously.
“Er, not exactly,” Greg said. He cradled the phone between his shoulder and his ear as he began shutting the rows of French doors that led out to the garden. “But I think there’s going to be? I’m not sure. But Sherlock told me to put the hall on lockdown, so that’s what I’m doing.”
“Alright.” Sally’s voice sounded sulky, but she knew better than to question it. As much as she hated Sherlock she knew that when he demanded a lockdown, there needed to be a lockdown. “Be careful boss.”
“I always am,” Greg replied before dropping the phone in his pocket and turning to the wedding planner, who was lounging on the chaise and tapping away at her Blackberry. He flashed her his badge and she dropped the phone to the ground where it skittered across the tile.
“DI Greg Lestrade. I need to see the building manager immediately,” he instructed her. “And get me those two tall blokes from the serving staff, tell them to stand in front of these doors, no one in or out.”
She nodded and hurried away, Blackberry forgotten.
Once the murderous monomanaic mayfly photographer had been dealt with and the first dance had been danced, Greg treated himself to a few more drinks before calling it a night.
Before heading up to his room he paused in the ballroom doorway and surveyed the dancers. The music had slowed down and a woman’s rich, honeyed voice rolled out of the speakers. The song sounded familiar to Greg but he couldn’t quite place it.
Like a flower waiting to bloom,
like a lightbulb in a dark room.
I'm just sitting here waiting for you
to come on home and turn me on.
Mary and John were still dancing in the center of the room. It was clear that they were blissfully unaware of every other person in the room, on the planet even. Mary said something that made John smile and leaned in to give him a long, languid kiss.
Like the desert waiting for the rain,
like a school kid waiting for the spring
Mrs. Hudson sat in a chair on the outer edge of the dance floor with a pair of John’s aunts. She’d lost her hat at some point and Greg could tell even at a distance that she was regaling them with some juicy gossip. Her cheeks were flushed with drink and she was punctuating everything she said with a sharp gesture of her empty champagne flute.
I’m just sitting here waiting for you
to come on home and turn me on.
Sherlock was long gone. Greg was surprised that he had stayed as long as he had. The pretty bridesmaid that had been making eyes at him, Janine, was dancing with one of the men John had served with in the military.
Greg smiled at the scene and went to turn away but a bit of yellow in the corner of his eye made him look back.
There in the corner of the dance floor was Molly. She and Tom were pressed together and swaying in time to the music. She had her head on his shoulder with her eyes closed and she seemed like she was about to fall asleep on her feet. But a small smile still played at the corners of her lips, or at least the lights made it seem like it did.
Greg turned away and trudged up to his room.
Enough, he told himself. She’s happy now, with him, and that’s enough.
My poor heart, it's been so dark
since you've been gone.
After all, you're the one who turns me off,
you're the only one who can turn me back on.