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A Statue in The Temple of Mendacity

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Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warnings: lots of very dark sad boy but still a BAMF John, Some hopeless lost Sherlock later and one of my typical endings that will probably make some of you cringe. I am trying this out as a T, because there is nothing graphic - lots of subject but very little hottie bits - there are also some bits that you may not wish to eat during (she does deal with dead bodies you know) - there is a partially written suicide note for any trigger happy people - don't read that part. Oh and if you find the shedding of the uterine lining to be one of those unmentionable horrific things that must not be ever allowed in print, please grow up before you read this, grin. That's all I can think of to warn you about, but my stories do have an overall 'expect anything' sort of tingle -so you were warned.

The Statue in the Temple of Mendacity is a complete work. Book Two - Offerings in the Temple of Mendacity  is a WIP. If that offends you, please stop reading at The End until I finish Book two. Sorry for any confusion, but I had planned to stop. By the time I got to the intended ending, a whole second book and a nest of plot bunnies had infested this world. Thank you for reading. I'm glad you are here.

[ Molly, you promised.]

[I know but, he won't talk to me. I can't force him.]

[Of course you can. Try wearing something that doesn't look like it was owned by a blind grandmother and just landed on you. Use the card I gave you. Take Mrs. Hudson, she will show you what to buy. Kill two birds. I know she will be fine at least, but she is a possible in to JW.]

[You want me to dress like Mrs. H? You think John…never mind. I will call her. But that card was only for emergencies!]

[Mrs. H. dresses elegantly for her age. She would never advise you to wear things that belong on her. Give her a chance. She knows what is conservative yet fashionable. You are beautiful; you just never think you deserve to express it. Treat yourself, and it is an emergency.]

[You think I'm beautiful?]

[I always have.]


[No. I don't have to see you in flattering garments and mocha plum lipstick to see you.]

[I dressed nice at Christmas and all you did was roll your eyes.]

[Not true. I kissed you.]

[Because you were being horrible. You're being that way now too.]

[J has not left the flat for 3 weeks. He has a gun and access to all sorts of deadly things. Please. Molly. He's a man. Remind him.]

[What are you saying? You want me to shag John to cheer him up?]

[God no. But it wouldn't kill you to smile at him a bit. Flirt just a little. Look pretty and take him for coffee. Just enough to remind him he's hungry. Then send him off on a nice hunting trip. A bit of snogging always cheers him right up.]

[Smile. I can do. Flirt? Maybe. There will be no Snogging. How dare you treat me like some tart on order.]

[Don't be ridiculous. All I am asking is that you get him out in some fresh air and remind him why he thinks he exists. He hasn't had a date in 7 months and he looks like a bag of bones. I am not asking you to do anything unseemly. You go out shopping, buy some nice things, splurge, Take a nice older lady to lunch or a spa, request her fashion advice, make her feel useful. Then use that to guilt John into taking you to dinner. Be charming. Make him feel like he's not boring. Kiss him on the cheek and wait to see if the procedure needs repeating. He's a fine hunting dog. Coax him out of the kennel and set him on the foxes. That is all he needs. I am not expecting you to pretend you're madly in love with him. He wouldn't buy that anyway.]

[God, you are a horrible man.]

[Have you read his blog?]

[I did.]

[Molly. If something doesn't change. This is all for nothing.]

[I will never be able to do this. You know I am ghastly at it. God, I couldn't even get you to take me for coffee with a bag of thumbs. What makes you think I will have any better luck with him?]

[Molly, you are quite good at it, in fact. I was just being… complicated.]

[It's fine. Nobody wants to date the creepy girl from the morgue. Certainly not a posh like you.]

[I am an idiot. John isn't. And the morgue bit was actually quite hard to resist. Your friendship mattered too much to chance the pain I would have caused you.]

[Lol. When …and I do say when, not if. I lose my job because of you. Will you still bother with me?]

[Oh God. Molly. He just posted again. Please, anything you want. Just do something.]

From the Blog of John H. Watson

Posted: 18 minutes ago

People keep stopping by, wanting things. I have no idea what to say anymore. I don't need anything. I don't want anything. I honestly don't care. I am just waiting. I have no reason to move on. Nobody needs to think they are responsible or that they can do anything to make this better. I don't care if I am pathetic and I don't care who disapproves of me. I am just asking to be left in peace. Can't everyone just let us both rest in peace?

[I just read it. It doesn't sound good, does it? Calling Mrs. Hudson now. I will do what I can but no promises.]

[Counting on you. Will be in touch soon.]

Chapter Text

Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Molly felt like a terrible person. It did make her feel better that she'd bought Mrs. Hudson the most divine perfume ever and she had treated them to hairdos, new makeup and thirty minute massages. She hated to admit that Sherlock was brilliant. Mrs. Hudson had made her feel special. She had fussed over colors and all sorts of labels that meant nothing to Molly. She insisted she try on things Molly thought were ugly until she was zipped in and then she and the garment transformed each other.

They did discuss John. Mrs. Hudson became her instant allied secret agent when Molly let it slip that she was thinking of asking him to take her to dinner.

"Oh would you? God. if there is anyone who can understand what he's going through, it would be you. I know Sherlock would be so disappointed in his poor John, but I haven't the heart to say mum to him. Set him off and I will be cleaning up a mess that will break my heart. I just know it. I have even started knocking these days. Used to just pop in. Always knew I was welcome. He just sits there. Like a lost little child. You should go right up there and ask him. He can't turn you down in this outfit."

Molly blushed and shared a conspiratorial giggle. "He has to take me out. I feel like a princess."

"Of course he does, dear."

Molly did actually want to go out on a nice quiet date. John would be perfect; there was no pressure because it was just John. John was sweet. John was nice. Was.

John answered the door and blinked without recognition. "Yes, may I help you?"

"John?" She looked down and blushed. "What do you think?"

His eyes squinted and his arms crossed. "About what? Exactly?"

Molly's smile fell. "John? I…I. "

"What is it you want? I am busy. I have a life, not much of one, but I don't need any more of you people knocking on my door…"He stopped as a tear crawled down her face. "Molly?"

She nodded. "I wanted to invite you to a dinner date to celebrate that…"She swallows and takes a deep breath. "I looked like someone who might be able to get one," she finished quietly.

"My God, what have you done? I didn't even know you! Come in?"

Molly smiled, so far so good.

"Mrs. Hudson and I spent the day treating ourselves. But now I sort of feel that all dressed up and no place to go feeling and I was just wondering if maybe we could go to dinner?" she blurted out before she lost her nerve.

John's face said no instantly. "Look Molly, I appreciate the thought, but I am not interested. I'm sorry." He smiled politely. "You should take Mrs. Hudson," he added.

Molly spoke to the floor, "She's tired and her hip…from all the walking today. It's just dinner. I'm not asking for a real date or anything. Just a fun, friends type of thing. Just for fun?"

He sighs, and his stance widens slightly. "She put you up to this didn't she? God, I don't need this. Look Molly, I am the last person in the world right now who would be any kind of fun. I don't need this pity thing everyone keeps trying. I just want to be left alone. By you, and my sister and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade and everyone who has some thought in their little do-good hearts that I need to set foot out of this flat and it is going to magically transform my life into some survivable happy place."

"But, I…"

"No. Thank you. But no. You look very nice and it was very nice of you…but you came to the wrong door looking for any measure of fun. I'm sorry. Don't take it personally," John says ushering her out the door and closing it behind her.

Molly stood on the landing in shock. Her phone buzzed. She dug in her purse and pulled out her phone, looking at the text.

[Don't give up. Appeal to his Captain Rescue side. Make him feel like a heel.]

Molly slipped the phone back in her pocket. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door again.

Chapter Text

Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door again.

"Yes, Molly? I made myself perfectly clear."

Molly shook in fear. "Yes. I was just wondering if you would explain to me, what is so wrong with me?" She giggled and let some very real tears swell into her eyes. They were actually about Sherlock but she had to use what would work. "You see, I know it is something. But I don't understand. Nobody ever…unless they are murdering lunatics. And I always assumed it had to do with the fact I work in the morgue, which understandably limits my options, I suppose. I really thought that, with you, maybe just as friends, you could overlook that a little. I thought you wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with me. I spent all day, trying to look like – and you didn't even blink. Just No. So I thought maybe, if you could find it in your heart to tell me, like a doctor giving someone bad news, you could explain…and then I would know if it was something that could be fixed or if I need to face that this is my life. Without him. Forever?" Molly stood waiting for his answer, she didn't meet his eyes, but her shivering had gotten more pronounced and she tried very hard not to let the parts of the truth she had just revealed swallow her whole and make her race down the stairs in very genuine tears. She feels humiliated and the fact she is failing Sherlock and he is watching her be humiliated, had brought her one of those despair bombs that sometimes threatened her cheery demeanor, but which she rarely allowed anyone to see.

John sighs and looks at her. He shakes his head and stands aside. "Maybe you should come inside. Again. I will make us tea."

Molly nods and takes a seat on the edge of the sofa. By the time John brought the mugs of tea in, she had herself mostly braced for whatever John would say to her. She had lots of practice hiding things from Sherlock and managing to push down her feelings until she was in the privacy of her own flat where only Toby, the cat, would see her cry.

John took his seat and sipped his tea, not knowing how to begin.

"You can just blurt it out you know? I'm used to that. I should have asked him, if I wanted the unvarnished truth. I'm not pretty, but I am not scary looking either. Do I smell or something? Must be the morgue chemicals and I don't notice them anymore."

John looked at her like he wanted to crawl under a rock, then his face just melted into a sad smile. He chuckled as she sniffed various parts of her body. As she looked up at him in confusion, he finally gave himself over to a hysterical sort of snuffling hiss kind of laugh. Molly waited patiently but his mirth was a little infectious.

"Oh boy." He finally got himself under control. "Sorry. You know I can't remember the last time I laughed. I really can't."

"Well, I guess that means I am at least a little fun. Or funny."

"Poor Molly, I've been an arse, haven't I?"

She grins. "Maybe a bit. I kind of have a type, I guess."

"Oh God. That's…" He laid his head back until tears came out this time.

Molly giggled and sipped  her tea. John takes a deep breath and doesn't move for a few moments like he is zoned out. Finally he looked over at her and sat up, really looking at her and she smiled politely, waiting for him to come up with another excuse to push her out the door.

"I can tell you one thing. Sherlock was a damned fool. You are a lovely, gentle, kind woman. You don't smell. But I lived with Sherlock by the time we actually met so I may be a bad person to ask. Been told this flat reeks, but I don't notice. I may be immune to odours at this point." His finger keeps going to his mouth as he speaks. It waves in the air to accent his words, then back to his lips, as he continued "But. I did see you once, before and there was no lingering scent impression that would have made me wrinkle my nose. The truth is there isn't a damn thing wrong with you, Molly Hooper."

She cleared her throat. "But you said no."

"Well yes. But it isn't about you. I am boring and I am not worth your time. I don't have a heart any more. He took it. So an evening with me would be, without doubt, the worst date you have ever been on." He smiled and there is a little spark of life in his eyes but it is fleeting and seems a bit like a ghost light in the distance.

Molly widened her eyes. "I dated Jim Moriarty. And I didn't date Sherlock, but spent more time with him than any other female, while he fell in love with you. So for you to have the honor as the worst date so far, well you should at least earn it if you want to claim it. I can't imagine how you would plan such. I think it would have to involve some sort of hospital stay at the very least."

John leaned forward and giggles a bit again. He stopped and looked up at her. "How did I not know you are so funny?"

Molly swallowed. "I was always tongue tied around him. Or he made me tell the most horrible, inappropriate jokes because all I could think about was…sorry." She took a deep breath and looked away.

"All you could think about was how spectacular and unreal he was?" he said as if to the wind.

"Yes," she whispered.

"How long has it been since you went out on a date, Molly Hooper?"

"I bet you can guess. I am more than a little afraid of men in general  and a lot afraid of my ability to pick them."

He made a grunting noise and sipped  his tea as if he's considering it all. He balanced  his cup on his knee and stared off into the distance. His face went from pleasant, to confused, to something a bit darker, though Molly has no idea what is taking place to make it happen. She sat quietly watching him expectantly.

"So why would you knock on my door? I've killed people. I have been in this flat slowly going insane for months. I have no job. Long past my prime. I'm short and you know my revolving door dating history. I'm not him. I am this close to suicide and you know it. So what possesses you to doll yourself up and knock on my door, twice. "

Molly hadn't expected to be put on the spot. She mumbled, "I'm not sure. You're nice. I think you are very nice, well most of the time."

His head turned and his eyes narrowed. "So a pity fuck? Is that where this is going? Someone put you up to this or you thought a little shag for the dead soldier might make him snap out of it? Is that your plan?"

Molly cleared her throat and felt her face burn. "I didn't plan that far ahead. No. I am not planning to…shag you. I said friends."

"Well you should plan, little Miss Molly. Because that is precisely where this will go. Take my word, I can turn into quite the charmer and you will regret it. You will think things are looking up and you will think you have made me a little better. I will be for a while. I will want to please you and you won't know what to do with it and then some little bit of you will start to hope and expect. But one day, my wait will come to an end. And you won't want to understand, but you already do. Probably the reason you are here. But when I follow him, and I will, just accept it, it is fact. It will hurt you more. The thing is, I won't care. So I have to ask you, why you would even consider sitting here and considering me as a potential anything." John's voice never raises and there is no anger in his words, But his calm, rational delivery makes her feel foolish again.

Molly opened her mouth to say something. She had no idea how to answer, but his words play out in her mind and she stands up. She takes her cup into the kitchen and her deer in the headlights face is plastered onto her expression as she walked back through the sitting room. "I was wrong. You are as cruel as he ever was. The thing is, he couldn't really help it, any more than I can help that sometimes I can't figure out how to say what I mean. This isn't one of those times. You win. I don't want to go out with you anymore. I didn't come here to be your …it doesn't matter. See, you are doing this, on purpose. I just wanted one bloody nice evening, with a nice man, who I thought might maybe understand a bit. But that man doesn't exist. This is who you want to be now. This is who he died for and when you do get around to it, you'll make it for nothing." She shook her head and picked up her purse as she said her peace.

John stood and spun."You bitch. It wasn't my fault he died."

Molly opened the door to the flat and leaned on it. "No. I didn't say it was your fault. I said he died for something. I wanted you to know. He didn't jump off the roof because he was sad and moping. He jumped because if he didn't, Jim had left orders to kill you and Mrs. Hudson and Greg. So you go ahead and blow your brains all over this horrible wallpaper. I will still be the one who makes your Y incision and I will probably cry when I get home. But that time won't matter anymore than this time. I will always remember that his John, made me feel nasty for bothering to give one piss about life and death. I can't make you feel anything; I never counted to anyone but him. I was stupid to want to spend one sodding minute here, because he cared about you so damned much. So much more than he ever could about me. I loved him longer than you. But he didn't die for me and I still wouldn't dishonor him like this." Molly waved her hand around the flat and then she turned and rushed down the stairs.

Chapter Text

Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

John stands there with his mouth hanging open. He hears Mrs. Hudson stomping up the stairs. "I hope you're pleased with yourself. I'm ashamed of you. That poor little girl had stars in her eyes all day, looking forward to having a nice boy compliment her. I encouraged her, thinking it would do you both some good. I always thought you kept him in line. Such language to that poor dear. And you some kind of doctor. You have no taste in women, young man. Best stick to your blokes. She is such a lovely girl too." Mrs. Hudson frowned and continued extoling the virtues of Molly all the way down the stairs, intermingled with hip complaints.

[I tried. Can't explain. He called me names! He told me that any date with him would end in a shag. I think I hate him right now. I forgot all my clothes at Mrs. Hudson's.]

[We can't give up on him.]

[I told him about the snipers.]

[What did he say]

[That may have been when he called me a bitch.]

[He didn't.]

[Molly, you misunderstood. He wouldn't.]

[Look, I am at my full humiliation quota for the day. Any more and I may be the one you have to purchase a headstone for because I know you would not bother to trouble anyone for me. So how about we just take a break and not subject the doormat to any more mud for this evening. You will say something and I just can't brush it off right now. ]

[You're wrong about that. I would bother.]

Molly sighs as she reads his last text, but didn't bother to answer. She is exhausted when she gets home and decides a lie in would be her sole plans for the next day. Her phone is put on the charger and she then turns it off. She heads to bed and stays there most of the next day, tears randomly interspersed with sleep.

The touch on her shoulder startles her and she blinks in befuddled wonder as she looks into the eyes of Sherlock. He takes one look at her, pulls her into his arms, laughing, and whispers softly, "You wouldn't answer me. I told you I would bother. I'm sorry he hurt your feelings."

She looked up at him in wonder. "You came home, for me?"

He looked at her and laughed again. "Yes, mostly. I wouldn't miss this face for the world. You look like a clown got sick all over your cheeks."

Molly brought her hand up to her cheeks, "Oh my god. My makeover. Bloody hell." She dashed to the bathroom and more curses were heard just before the shower started.

Sherlock was sound asleep by the time she exited her emergency makeup removal session. She let him sleep and cooked. He awoke to the smells of her Shepherd's pie which her land lady, Mrs. Brewerton had taught her to make from scratch.

They talked and she gave him the full run down on all things John Watson. By the time he left, she was calmer. He had pointed out that John didn't have anyone. Maybe it was his own fault at this point, because everyone had certainly tried, but they agreed that she would have to use other methods to help John survive until Sherlock could return. The next thing she knew, a long black car pulled up and swept him away again. She offered to go with him.

"I may not look particularly dangerous, but I can remove a human heart in about forty seconds when I have a mind to," she says softly as she hugs him and he allows it indulgently, just as he once had with Mrs. Hudson.

"I need you here. Even more. Show me your little pathetic broken kitty face? That's nice. Yes that should do it. He doesn't have a chance. Now, it came to my attention that the last proper kiss you have had belonged to someone we shall not name. I love John, but I want you to always remember that I care about you almost equally." Sherlock bent his head to Molly and his lips enveloped her and his kiss stole her very breath, making her knees weak and her eyes roll up in her head with delight. Sherlock smiled at her and planted an extra kiss on her forehead like a sigil of protection. Then he turned and was swallowed by one of those long black Jaguars that announced Mycroft Holmes in rather grand elegance.

Molly called Mrs. Hudson to retrieve her forgotten items from their shopping adventure. She invited her for lunch and they ate in a pub just around the corner. Mrs. Hudson apologized for John's behavior and Molly just shrugged acting like she couldn't care less.

"In my whole life, nobody ever called me that. Not ever. I dated a psychopath and even broke up with him. Jim tried to kill them, still called me after, and it never came to that. As far as I'm concerned, John doesn't exist."

"Shame. But I do understand."

John was standing at the top of the stairs as Molly exited Mrs. Hudson's flat. He cleared his throat and asked very calmly, "Molly? May I see you, up here for a moment?"

Molly turned  and looked  up at him using the exact face Sherlock made her practice. "Sorry. Not interested," she said quietly and quickly exited. She is lucky to get a taxi before he gets down the stairs. She carefully pretended not to notice him calling out that he only wants to apologize.

The next day at work, flowers arrive. 'Please forgive me, John'

She sets them on her desk and sends a text. Lestrade calls her later in the day asking if she would like to meet him and some other yard birds for drinks at a local pub to celebrate the retirement of Detective Inspector Herman Clutterbuck. Molly agrees, she knows the fellow who is retiring. He's very dull and sturdy but never had been impolite to her. She brought him a gift of gardening gloves and he smiled and thanked her by name.

John Watson makes a surprise appearance. He looks a bit sheepish and out of place as many people make a huge deal of welcoming him. Molly pretended not to notice and carefully shuffles around the room dodging him in such an obvious fashion that Lestrade even picked up on the game.

"Dare I ask why?" Lestrade mused  in her ear.

"Oh. Hello. Why what?"

"Why you maintain as much space as possible between you and our most woebegone lost soul? He's been trying to talk to you all night."

"Oh. That. You might not speak to him either if I told you the truth. So let's just say we are not meant to occupy the same postal zone." Molly said and smileed up at Greg.

"You look very pretty. Care for a spin?" Lestrade deflected.

"Sure. I'd like that."

The music is slow and soft. Greg Lestrade made small talk about cases then suddenly blurted, "Says he said somefing stupid. Just wants to apologize. Maybe do me a lemon and let him?"

"I feel a set up? Did he make you invite me?"

Greg grinned his amiable little-boy-caught face as he looked  up at the ceiling and groaned a little. "Let's call it suggest. I about fell over when he agreed to show up. Said if you were here, he'd pop in. Course I am a cop so had to stick my nose in a bit farvver and he caved and told me what a utter wanker he'd been."

"Oh, it's fine. Hoping he will bugger off doesn't seem to be working."

"Thank you."

Molly sat at one of the tables alone. It didn't take long for John to ask permission to sit. Molly kept her face cool and waved her hand in a slightly Sherlock way conveying that she couldn't be arsed to care one way or the other.

John went through a very long rambling, not completely coherent speech. Molly looked over at him and said, "You were very mean."

"And I am dreadfully sorry. Dreadfully."

"Accepted. Now you can go away and not be bothered with me again." She acted bored. Who knew being such a wanker worked? Sherlock is a genius.

"I'd like to stay here, if that is ok. I don't want it like this."

"What do you want it like, John?" Molly asked in a distracted way.

"How did you know about the snipers?"

She fingered the edge of her glass. "Mycroft. Wasn't news to you. I could tell."

John fidgeted uncomfortably. Then his head dropped  and his eyes focus a little and his body language changes. He leaned  in to her and took her hand waiting for her to turn to him. "How do you feel about you and I getting so cabbaged that we have to make up a new word for the condition?" His voice is lower and seductive.

"It's me, actually," she says.


"How do you feel about you and me?"

He blinked, still confused. "I feel like I have been rude. Oh, grammar. Wow, that brings back…never mind. Look, I just wanted to make up for the other day, have a few drinks. That's all."

Molly smiled and filled in sweetly, "Tell our secrets and wake up wondering how two people who excelled in medical school could have made such pudding of their livers?"

"Something like that. Exactly like that. Every drink, a toast, to the tosser who put us here."

Molly laughs a little at that. "Warning. You get mouthy with me again, Dr. Watson, and I promise you, I can remove a man's heart in approximately forty seconds."

"Hmmm. Sexy. I can make a woman's orgasm last for thirty minutes." He murmured, softly kissing her hand suggestively.

"Bollox. Don't forget there is a DR in front of my name too. I won't fall for that kind of man brag."

"Believe me or not. I have references."

"Who would not ever leave you, if that were remotely… possible."

"Who had to put up with a certain Consulting Detective cock blocking. Besides, I don't bother to do that for just anyone."

"Ah. There is the heart of the matter. I'm just Molly. Not special, so I get the drunken discount sex? I will stick to the discount drinky-poos."She said and tossed back her drink. John did too and slammed his glass on the table.

"Molly? Molly." John swept her hair from her face. "Kiss me."

"I am not good enough to date. That equals not good enough to snog. Besides, someone wonderful kissed me recently after your epic fail. I'm kind of holding on to it." Her fingers brushed her lips and she sucked the bottom one in. More drinks are delivered by Lestrade with a wink and she sighs, waiting for John to ask her out. He seems to be having some mental battle about it.

John steps back. He looks around the pub and finishes his drink. "Well, that settles that. Umm. Here. I don't know what was in my head but I hope you and your new friend can maybe use these."

She looks down at what he slides across the table. "L'elisir d'amore, the London Opera House? Wow. I will have to go shopping again."

"Probably. Enjoy." He said in a clipped tone and without another word turned and walked away. She picked up the tickets and looked at them. She glanced back up and searched the room. He had vanished.

Chapter Text

Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Molly made her way to the door but not before being stopped by four people for friendly less-than-sober goodbyes. By the time she was out in the night air and checked her phone, John Watson had disappeared. Baker Street was only four blocks away, and another six would take her to 221. It is early and the foot traffic was still on the busy side. She began walking.

By the time she arrives the lights were down upstairs. She stands on the street looking up for a long time. Finally she knocks on the front door. She hears movement, like someone coming down the stairs. John opens the door and looks startled. Molly didn't say a word, she steps in the door.

"You left and you didn't exactly explain these tickets. Why would you by me tickets?"

"For you and your new boyfriend. Simple?"

"Maybe. If I had one. So two is a waste."

"But you said someone kissed you and you wouldn't kiss me?"

"I usually go out with someone before I kiss them. Or at least get properly asked. He was sort of an exception. He gave me a pity kiss. You didn't ask me out, so I have no reason to kiss you."

John furrowed his brows and blinked several times. "Oh umm." He looked up the stairs and back at her.

Molly went up to the flat door and John stood in the entryway, completely flummoxed. She grinned and looked back at him. "I thought we were planning to get cabbaged?"

"Oh. Right. Um. Scotch is all I have about then, so if you'd prefer. We could go…" He said mindlessly walking up the stairs. He stops at the door and his shoulders slump. "Not what it looks like."

Molly picks up the piece of paper on the coffee table and reads it out loud as if reading a poem to the class. Her voice is steady but more in shock than because she is capable of dealing with the situation.

Everyone knew this day was coming. It is nobody's fault and nothing could have been done to prevent it, not any more. Knowing him, he has set the afterlife into pure chaos. He functions better with me by his side so this is just me taking my logical place. I belong with him and I'm only wasting my time and everyone else's trying to sift through these ashes. If he was a fake, this is what I deserve. If he wasn't, then this is where I belong. Either answer you want to fill in is fine. It's all fine.

You all proclaim that you want to see me happy. Well, I am sorry, but this is me happy. I have been set down in a strange landscape without a map and I am just lost. I want to go home. I know where it is, but everyone seems to feel I have no right to choose. I must do the normal thing, the average thing. I must wander in the dark and live tortured every day, longing for home, because that is what you're supposed to say.

I've always been a bit stubborn and I just have no fear of it because whatever is there or isn't there doesn't matter. He's there. I will take any imagined or never fathomed answer without complaint. Even if all that happens is that I wink out never to exist again. That frankly feels like a gift in comparison to one single hour here.

Were we a couple? I have no idea. I love him. I never kissed him or even spoke of my feelings. It has come to be known to me that the man died for me. I don't think I have to ask any more if the feelings were returned. He died for me. Now I am going to do the same thing for him and I am not depressed or delusional in this decision. Of course I am gutted in sorrow, but I'm not a stupid man, I know this seems like the actions of an irrational fool. Blame that if you will then, but don't blame anyone else and certainly not yourselves.

All I am…

The letter ends and Molly stands silently. She tosses the letter back on the table. She crosses her arms and takes a deep breath before she speaks. "How is this not what it looks like then? Looks a lot like goodbye…to me. Gun on the table, note, insulin, barbiturates, morphine you plan ahead, I will give you that."

"There are sterile pack scalpels too. Slit my jugular before I shoot myself, right here." John says pointing at the back of his head. He grins and actually chuckles uncomfortably.

"You think it's funny?"

"God yes. You should see your face."

"Well, I will really be chuckling when I see yours neatly folded as I fire up my Stryker saw." Molly pulls out her phone takes a picture of his letter and begins texting.

"What are you doing?" John demands.

"MMph? Texting Mycroft and…" John takes her phone and throws it up in the air, as he grabs his gun, cocks it and fires. The phone explodes and the pieces land with a clatter. Molly screams involuntarily.

"Did you send the texts? Never mind. Why would you tell the truth to the man with a gun in his hand? This isn't anyone's business, Molly. It isn't your's either. Should I be expecting company? If so, I suggest you leave, unless you want to watch. It is my security blanket. Note isn't finished. Not finished! There are dangerous people on this block. This is part of my escape kit, by whatever method I deem necessary. If you have labeled me, I'm afraid you have forced my hand. Mycroft won't do to me what he did to Sherlock. I won't be.."

"You shot my phone." She squeaked.

John is quickly packing away all the items and he grins and says, "Phone had it coming."

Molly looks down in his duffle bag and tilts her head. "What is all of this? How many people are you going to kill?"

"Uhem. Or save. Doctor first, the assassin part is just a sideline." He is moving around the flat tucking things into the bag then sets it by the window in Sherlock's room. "So it's been 13 minutes. Either Mycroft is getting slow or you didn't actually send that text?"

Chapter Text

Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Molly sighed and shook her head. "You didn't give me time. I can't believe you shot my bloody phone!"

"Really?" John blows out his breath, and leans on her shoulder in relief. "That's. Good. So. Shall we cabbage on?"

"John, were you going to…tonight?" She hasn't caught up. "Why?"

"Ok. No. Possible. Probably no. Fuck if I know, " he says as he pulls out two shot glasses and sets them in place of the items she'd seen earlier.

He raises his glass and says, "To Sherlock." He slugs the liquor back in one swig. Molly does the same, making a face. She feels she needs it after walking in on who-knows-what here at 221.

Molly and John drink several shots and it is going to her head a little. She is no light weight but keeping up with Johnny's-gotta-gun was simply going to have her blacked out in less than an hour.

"Let's play 'Wit's End' for drinks?" she says as he fills her shot glass again.

John fills his glass, sets the now half- emptied bottle on the table and he smiled and shrugged, and then said in a confused tone, "I don't think I have ever heard of that one. How does it go?"

"Oh it's easy. We played at Uni all the time. First sit over here." She patted the couch and he moved next to her. "Two parts. One person asks a question…about anything…and usually there is more than one player, but this will still work. The person who asks the question touches the person they want to answer, which we only have each other for an option but so long as contact is maintained, the person being touched has to answer and keep talking without any distraction, it doesn't have to be the truth, it can be silly, or embarrassing or anything. But the idea is for the person answering to get the person that ask the question to laugh or stop talking because they can't think of anything to say, lose their wits. Between the touching and the scrutiny, the person who asked the question is trying to make the other lose their wits too. So the one who asks has to keep a straight face and the only thing off limits is tickling, because that makes most everyone laugh, and pain, such as pinching is ok too, but nothing that would harm, but in the meantime, the one being touched is trying to get someone else to laugh or be shocked with a funny, ridiculous or even a shockingly true answer. Whoever loses their wits first has to have a drinky-poo, then they get to ask next. Do you have a timer?"

"Yeah, I think I do. When you say touching though, give me some idea what that entails?"

"Oh it can be anything really, I mean you can't grope and molest the speaker, but my roomie was kind of noted for fanny slaps, but her best move was that she was a magician with neck rubs and nobody could keep speaking once she got hold of a knot. James Heckford had a secret weapon that he pulled out when he was losing badly, as in once he got a bit bashed, in that he had a bit of a footy-fetish and could make anyone jerk away or giggle when he'd lick toes, but he was pretty competitive and that was a bit extreme. Most people do something silly, but some use the serious approach. It just depends."

"What if I kiss you?"

"Well obviously that wouldn't work beings I have to talk. You can't tape their mouths shut or try to feed them or any of that sort of thing. It is mental power, which goes progressively south because of the drinking. Not physically preventing someone from carrying on, so to speak."

John smiled at her wickedly and shrugged, sitting back down and placing the kitchen timer between the glasses. "What happens when the timer goes off and nobody has lost their wits?"

"Well in a bunch of people, everyone drinks, to keep it interesting. Beings anyone not picked wouldn't have much fun otherwise. But with two, the turn just passes."

"Ok. You're going to lose, but we can give it a try, until I get thirsty. You go first. Ask me something." He holds his hands out offering her access and consciously pulling his face into a placid stoic mask.

Molly set the timer and held it while she thought. "Tell me the most frightening thing that ever happened to you as a child?" She set the timer down and held it until he began speaking.

"Well, let me think here for a second. Oh, there was a cat that lived next door and I was about ten, I think. My sister takes me out of the house one night to go peek through the curtains of these two old drunk men who lived up the way. They used to argue and at night they would be drunk and it was entertainment for half the neighborhood, because they did the most amazingly ridiculous things. Food fights, throwing things and the most creative and entertaining curses, ever to grace the day. This night they were being boring, just glued to the telly and sipping tea. We started home and there is the cat, having been run over. Anyway, Harry's torch lands on it and there is an eyeball of the poor…hey Ouch?" John grabs his chest in protest, absolutely speechless that her first move was a twisted nipple which he hadn't experienced since ATR.

"Drink," she says smugly.

John complies watching her and shaking his head with a small grin. "Playing like that are we?"

He resets the timer, his voice is low and silky as he asks, "Tell me your deepest darkest fantasy…about Sherlock." His eyes narrow waiting for her to react.

She takes a deep breath and nods for him to let go of the timer. "I have a lot of those, John Watson. Probably the worst is that he comes to the morgue in that silly coat of his and he doesn't say a word, just shuffles me into the cold storage in that intimidating way he...had." John takes her hand and bends his head to her palm, kissing it then looking up at her as if he might be cataloging her reactions. Molly ignores him, not missing a beat. "And the lights are off and he slams the door on us and pushes me up against the wall yanks my skirt up and my knickers down and takes me right there. But of course, it isn't really a fantasy, so much as a memory. Because he used to do that all of the time—"

"What? You're joking!"

"Yes. I am. Gottcha. Drink." She raises her chin, pleased with herself and hands him his glass.

John grumbles as his brain goes from pure shock to understanding. "Yes. Yes, you did. That, was bloody brilliant. Very sneaky. You were just pulling my chain?"

Molly shrugs, and plops her chin on her hand. "Doesn't have to be true. My job is to make you lose your wits with what I say."

John bursts into laughter and is still chuckling as he says, "I see I am going to have to step up my game a little here or you are going to have a very drunk man on your hands and it will not be a pretty sight, I assure you." He makes a face as he takes his shot and shivers a bit afterwards. "Now where were we? Oh, your turn."

Molly looks at the ceiling and around the room. "Who was your greatest lover of all time and why?"

John takes a deep breath and his tongue worries his lower lip for a second before he nods for her to let the timer begin. "This has to say between you and me. I can't have this getting around. But it was a man." He glances at her shyly and Shivers just a little as Molly puts her hand gently on his knee and lets her fingers twist toward his thigh. "He had an enormous cock. He was completely insane in bed, had no boundaries. He could suck like a tornado and you have met him." John looks her in the eye and whispers, "Mike Stamford."

Molly's face went from almost neutral to the tiniest display of almost hurt to pure horror as she gasp, "NO!"

John hands her the glass and shakes his head with mock pity. "No. But that is a very delicious color of pink you turned when you thought I meant Sherlock. Bottoms up."

She lets her breath out and takes her punishment. "That one should require a double. I will never get that picture out of my head. You are only the fifth person to ever make me drink." She grins at him and sets her glass down refilling it. "That was very naughty."

"Not as naughty as this." John pulls her over on top of him and nips at her neck sliding his hand along her chin. "Give me six good reasons you won't let me make love to you tonight. I know you're aroused. You want too. I want to. Six. Good. Reasons."

Chapter Text

Author: Howlynn Realm: Sherlock Story Title: A Statue in the Temple of Mendacity. Summary: Molly counts. She Promised to help him. But, the reality of saving Sherlock ends up leading to places she never expected. Sherlock needs her again, but this time she must save John.

Character/Relationships: John and Molly would never have noticed each other if he were not dead. The thing is, Molly knows he isn't and she never expected things to get this complicated.

I Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

"Not as naughty as this." John pulls her over on top of him and nips at her neck sliding his hand along her chin. "Give me six good reasons you won't let me make love to you tonight. I know you're aroused. You want too. I want to. Six. Good. Reasons."

Molly's breathing lurches in and out of her lungs and she fights to say something, because the truth is, she can smell him too and he is giving off some very tempting male perfume and the way he's positioned her, it is obvious that this question is only a joke if he can't talk her into a different sort of game. "Because, we've had too much to drink." She begins holding out her thumb and trying to ignore his hands that seem to be roaming awfully close but just short of that line of molestation, which is just making matters worse in fact. "Two, because I am terrified I would wake up to you dead if I disappointed you." That was harsh enough that she hoped he would react, but he just kept looking up at her peacefully watching her come apart under his gentle gliding fingertips.

"Three, because I think you would regret it, which would make me feel horrible. Four, because I saw a side of you that isn't very nice and you hurt my feelings and five because it would feel like cheating on him….and.. Oh God John, you have to stop…"

"Drink." He whispered with an evil grin and he reached behind her and handed her the glass, but his other hand was still up under her skirt and very blatantly on her arse. She accepted it and drank, trying to move, but he stilled her. "Let me show you, why you should rethink that. One kiss, Molly. I will stop then. I swear. But, one kiss. Please," he purrs as he is already pulling her down toward his lips tossing her empty glass away somewhere on the couch without any further regard for its whereabouts.

His eyes are focused and if a robotic voice had stated 'target acquired' she couldn't have felt more helpless to the sudden guiding charm he directed at her.

As she leans forward, her crotch naturally slides against his and the state she found him in was tantalizingly firm. She has barely grasped this dizzying connection when his lips close to hers and he sucks all the breath from her lungs then breaths into her as if doing some reversed rescue breathing. She is startled to stillness at these sensations and his tongue gently darts between her lips and then he pulls her down harder pressing his promising willingness to please her eagerly against her dampening knickers and entering her mouth like no man had ever bothered to realize she could want. He demands all of her with skill and hideously aching claim.

He takes over all her objections and there is something so filled with raw power and visceral lust that her wits have completely collapsed into a mewling heap of wanton need that the sixth item on her list stops existing. A new list is forming, all leading to yes, when he flips her backwards and follows her down onto the couch, urgently begging her consent and receiving it without interference.

He finally backs away and she can see the regret on his face. She realizes that she is making a horrible mistake and startles at the thought of explaining this near life-bomb to Sherlock. "Oh god." She stands and does her best to smooth her clothing back into order. "John. That was the most. Um. I just.."

He is next to her and his hands are roaming more than freely now as he whispers softly, "That was just a kiss. Let me worship you. Come upstairs with me. Don't think. Don't make excuses to deny what you know we can have. He's not here. He didn't want us. We are left behind and we have to survive that truth. Give me one chance. I swear to you there will be no regrets. Just this night, forget with me? Let this one moment, not be about him, for us. Let this be ours. I need you."

Molly spins and meets his eyes, shaking her head trying to figure out how to make her exit, because she knows she won't be able to stop if he puts his mouth on her again. It is too much. He could sweep her away from all reason with one more kiss. "No. Please. We can't. I should go. That was unbelievable and I can't even explain how hard this is to say, but you and I don't care about each other and it …it …we would both be sorry and then say it was because we were cabbaged. Then the next thing I know you would stop speaking to me—"

"No. I wouldn't. Your right. We aren't madly in love with each other. But what we love is…dead and we both are going to die of sorrow if we don't find something, lovely and beautiful and good, to make all the shattered things we feel stop burning us up from within. Not saying it's the most brilliant plan, or without flaws. I am a little drunk and so are you, but not enough that I don't know what I'm saying. We will take it as it comes because all I can think of, just this second, is you. And it means something. Don't know what, but something. For the first time. Since." He swallows and shakes his head and his voice grows husky. She knows he's fighting tears, by how his voice hitches as he continues, "I want something. For the first time since that day. I'm not having a piss at you here. I swear it. You're the first thing I have felt in what feels like ten lifetimes. Please, God, don't say no. I can't...just...please...stay."

"Maybe it isn't yes or no. I can't think, John. I have to think this through. I mean…I want to say yes, but I just can't. I am too drunk. I am too full of things I have no idea what…if we hurt each other, the price is too high. I need to go home and you need to take a moment and just think too. I can't trust it isn't just the booze and that would make me…I have enough trouble just—"

John steps back from her, face warping into calm. His eyes meet hers for a second then look at her chin. He inhales sharply and nods. He rubs his face, as if to wake up or be more sober. "Ok. I understand. It's fine. I can call you a cab, at least, after I destroyed your phone. I will buy you another. In fact, take my card and pick out whatever you want." He reaches into his pocket and moves away determinedly searching for his wallet. "Or you could stay. I would sleep on the couch or, you could have his room, I wouldn't disturb you…that would actually be fine. I'd like that. We could have breakfast…and…"He looks at her and seems to shrink a little, "or not. Wallet, wallet, oh, let me check in here."

"I have money. It's fine."

"Alright then. Call you a cab?"

"No. I'll just walk to Bart's. My neighbor works there, if I don't find one on the way. She has a car and she's working. She's a nurse. She will give me a ride when she gets off work."

"Long way. You shouldn't be out alone, without a phone. Please." His face seems like he's trying to figure out how to tell a patient bad news. "Just. Could you stay? I will worry…"

"I don't think so. John. I need the walk and some space, because I have no idea what this is and I wasn't prepared…at all…it isn't no…or even yes. I am …just…sorry. I'll come round tomorrow and we will sort it out in the daylight. I sort of care too much about you to…screw it up or expect the wrong things. That's all. That's all. You know I would like to. You said the other night it would go here. I should have listened…or maybe…I don't know."

"My fault there. My fault here too. I don't know either and I deeply apologize for my behavior. You have tried to be a friend and I keep …Jesus, I am as bad as him. Sure? About the cab I mean? I'd feel better…"

"Oh, well. Ok then."

"Good. How about a nice strong tea while you wait?" John runs his fingers through his hair and dials for the cab. Molly stands by the window, trying to make up her mind about leaving at all. John has been very closed lipped and perfunctory in his mild thoughtful actions while they waited. He picked up all the bits of her phone and put them in a little bag. He takes the glasses and the nearly empty bottle into the kitchen. He asks about her schedule. She answers but can tell he's not really paying attention. She has changed her mind several times as she sipped her tea when a high pitched squeal of breaks followed by a tooting horn, gives her the strength to make her exit.

As she pulled away, she glances up to the window and sees his face. He smiles and waves at her and she grins and returns it. She takes a deep breath and scoots down in the seat to nap a bit for the trip home. Her head is spinning and her mind is dancing on the edge of dosing as she thinks of where she wishes she were right this minute. She sighs, not wanting to think about what she just turned down. She aches with desire as she thinks of him. How did Sherlock stand to be near him all that time? She had always thought him to be like her, a little boring and too eager to please. That impression is changing rapidly. John is a lot more than she expected. Oh, yes, leaving was very hard.

She smiled as she thought about tomorrow. Maybe he was right? Maybe they could somehow heal each other a bit. Of course the big issue that she didn't want to think about would come round and spoil it all. When he found out that she knew Sherlock wasn't dead, he would have every right to hate her. And God, it really would be like cheating on him, somehow, because Sherlock is alive. He'd also said whatever it takes.  Was that almost permission? He said he cared for her almost as much as John and he was in love with him. In the end she would lose, one way or another. She would lose John. She would even lose Sherlock because he would blame her for not being selfless, faithful little doormat-Molly. Still, it could be worth the pain to for once have a lover who really wanted to please her as much as they wanted to please themselves. That kiss had been volumes of promised pleasures.  She had never been kissed like that.  Even Jim had been all gentleness and sweet shy touches.

Tomorrow she would say yes. Damned the torpedoes and the inevitable storms, she was going to take something just for her. This wasn't about Sherlock. He pushed her, yes, but she didn't want John because of Sherlock telling her she should shag his depressed flat-mate.

She honestly wanted John because he was about as plain as a stick of dynamite. He might not seem very dazzling hiding in the shadow of Sherlock's spectacular display, but that didn't mean that the package gave away the inside. Inside, John Watson, was pure power and strength. He would destroy himself for someone he loved and that made him too good to be forced to suffer Sherlock's pretend death alone. Maybe, once Sherlock was back, he would think about her sometimes. That would be enough, really. Just to be with someone like him and have that memory, and even when he moved on, to see that little recognition in his eyes once in a while. That would be something.

She smiled, thinking of him looking down at her from the window. She wondered what he was doing right this minute. A trickle of dread fired a horrible thought that made her breath catch. What if he wasn't there tomorrow? What if she went there tomorrow and discovered that he had returned to the activity she had interrupted? She hadn't said no, but she had rejected him. He was pretty drunk, even though he handled it well. A depressed person, full of a substance that acted as a depressant who she just rejected. She pictured him at the window. His smile had not reached all the way to his eyes. The little wave, just an innocent gesture, unless it was the last glimpse she would have of him in life.

She sat up and her mind could picture his slumped posture, a small tremor before the deep breath of resolve. The sound of gunfire not aimed at her phone this time. There would be that crack as a projectile broke the sound barrier for the second time tonight in 221b Baker Street. Then a few thumps and muffled knock sounds as his agonal respirations cease then silence as the smoke from the discharged gunpowder wafts along unseen air currents now perfumed with blood.

If she waits until tomorrow and sentences herself to his post mortem, and because she cares she will, she would suck her feelings deep inside and be so gentle and respectful with him. It won't matter and he would probably think it funny that she would place his heart gently on the scale to weigh it. But she would always know that she could have done another thing and it might have mattered.

What would it do to her mind knowing that if she hadn't let fear put her in flight mode, that she would have known his warm living body as a source of pleasure rather than bits to be catalogued. Would she memorize the measurements as she would have memorized his first genuine post-coital smile? Of course, and then one day there would be no text from Sherlock and something cold in her would just know. He would be gone too. Her fear would end them both. Poor little Molly, so afraid of a moment of joy that she would walk away from bliss, rather than stand up and take something she needs as badly as he does.

It isn't even exclusively sex that she needs. She needs someone who needs her. Who could possibly need her more? Molly scoots forward and knocks on the little window as she says sweetly, "Excuse me, I have changed my mind. I think I forgot something and it really can't wait until tomorrow. If you could be so kind as to turn us around and drop me off exactly where you picked me up, I would appreciate it very much."

Chapter Text

The driver smirked and nodded. It was nearly one am by the time she tentatively tried the door to 221 and was surprised to find it unlocked. She closed it softly, locked it and sniffed the air. She tiptoed up the stairs and turned the handle quietly, letting herself in. If he was asleep, she would just tuck in on the couch. She let her eyes adjust to the dim light.

He is sitting there, in his chair, with his back to her. "Sneaking into an armed man's flat is a very good away to get shot, dear Molly Hooper."

"You weren't going to shoot me," she says softly taking a single step in toward him.

"True. Why did you come back?"

"Because. In the cab, I just couldn't wait to come back tomorrow. I realized you were right and I don't want you because of him. I wasn't even thinking about him. I mean obviously, we wouldn't know each other if not for Sherlock, but that kiss. Right now my mind and a lot more of me is all filled up with John Watson. I was afraid, that's all. I'm not afraid. Well that isn't…true. But, what I mean is, whatever that was, or wasn't… or might be, I want to find out, even if it isn't anything…I just want to find out, if there is something, and if I came back tomorrow, and you weren't here, I would hate…myself. I'm rambling, please say something."

"How did you know? That I wouldn't be here?" he asks, voice hollow and distant. He raises his hand and in it is his Browning.

"Oh, God." She swallows and she feels a little dizzy, like she's going to be sick. "Does this mean I'm too late?" She has a thousand things she wants to say, but all she can think is he's going to be cruel to her like Sherlock was to him and she deserves it for letting him be in so much pain and everything good she tries to do just ends up as useless as a chocolate teapot.

"Not if you don't want it to be. Nick of time, I'd say. But you aren't doing me much good clear over there."

Taking a deep breath, she slips off her shoes and quietly walks around to face him. He still has the gun in his hand and it makes her nervous. He looks up at her and smiles a little, his finger is on his lips again and the gun is held loosely like part of his hand.

Her eyes dart to it and she asks, "Are you going to put that down?"

"Take off your clothes for me." He says looking at her steady as his finger and the gun slide back and forth on his lip.

"What?" she says, giggling nervously?

"You heard me. I want to see you. Don't take your eyes off me and take off your clothes." It sounds gentle but it is also every bit a command.

"John, I am not … I don't think…"Her head shakes and she sighs, frustrated.

"Are you afraid of me?"

"A bit, I think, yes. Could you put that down? We could undress each other?" she suggests hopefully eyes locked on the gun and how his lips touch it like it is part of him.

"Sorry. New game. Not the way it's going to work. You're afraid of me and that's ok. For now. Your heart's racing. See, there might be one of us in the room who is bluffing right now. It isn't me. I want to know why you're here. You said no. But here you are. You may be here because you do want to be. I happen to think that isn't the case. I think you have been put up to this in some way. I think someone told you, to come back here. I don't think you want to be here at all."

Molly shakes her head and whispers, "I don't know…what you mean."

He smiles patiently, and his voice is clear but gentle still. "I hope that I am wrong. If so, you will overcome your modest giggles and you will look me in the eye and you will take off your clothes to prove you actually want to seduce me. You will probably find my attention and the little bit of danger very arousing. I do. So let me watch, or I will let you watch. You don't have to stay. It's up to you. Forensic Pathologist. So used to the after effects, want to see the process? You can report it to whoever made you come back."

Molly can't stop trembling, he is as calm and sure of his misimpression as if he were noting he'd put too much salt on his dinner. "I know the process. Please…please. Nobody made me and God…how can you say something, so damned evil to me? You're like Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Molly regrets coming back. This isn't stoking her engines. She is feeling like she may faint or vomit at the very least.

"Noted and no argument in your analogy. You have four choices. You can try to overpower me. Not recommended. You can march out the door, probably the smartest choice. You can take off your clothes. In which case I will immediately put the gun down and we won't give it another thought, probably for hours. That is my favorite, by the way. Or, you can stand there and call my bluff if you want to. This is a limited time offer and the clock is ticking down, only to be stopped if garments hit the floor. You personally, are in no danger, by the way."

"Fine. You are not a nice man and this is not…remotely what I came back for. I thought you might be…"She unzips her dress and with a deep breath she squirms out of it and throws it to the floor.

John smiles and his breath seems to catch. She glares at him and unhooks her brassiere. She puts on her hurt broken kitty face, trying to make him feel guilty. It sort of works as she slides her last semblance of modesty off her arms and holds it against herself for a second before letting it fall. She is sliding her knickers down as quickly as possible and finally she stands before him, mortified, until three little words transform this from embarrassment to something she is sure she will burn in hell for.

"God. You're. Beautiful." John stands and he looks down at the gun for a second before clicking something and dropping it in the seat behind him. He takes a step toward her and his head tilts in appreciation as his finger worries his lip again. "I am serious, Miss Hooper, You are absolutely breathtaking. Why have you been hiding this under such bulky nightmares. Jesus. Jesus, you are so far out of my league."

He steps closer to her and shakes his head in wonder. "I'm sorry. I am an idiot. Dr. Henry Jekyll, reporting for duty. He was the nice one by the way."

Chapter Text

Molly giggles a little in relief. Her eyes flash down at herself, she's so uncomfortable. Tears march down her cheeks in pure liberation. She wipes them away quickly and after several deep breaths, "I would feel better if you were in a similar state, you know."

"I warn you, not much to see, in comparison. Unless you like scars and impeccable hygiene, there isn't much to go on about." He pulls his jumper over his head and removes his checked shirt and vest. He watches her carefully as he unbuckles his trousers and slides his plain pants off in one swoop. He stands up and holds his arms out doing a little turn.

"Liar. You look…well very nice. You don't do much for showing off in your bulky jumpers either, but I like them anyway. You do have a lot of scars. I knew about your shoulder, but…where did you get all those."

He tilts his head back and laughs. He begins pointing to various puckered areas large and small. "Let's see, Kabul, Herat, Mazari Sharif, Shahi-Kot, Operation Medusa and that one hurt, let me tell you. Christ, I honestly don't remember this one or this one, the leg was in Operation Panther's Claw and the final trip to fun city happened during Operation Moshtarak, thus ending my very promising career as a surgeon, until Sherlock spent an hour proving it was all in my head. Oh and these, Sherlock, Sherlock and Sherlock. And that is the full inventory of Three-continents Watson."

"Why are you called that? I have heard it before and was too shy to ask."

He smirked and it was absolutely adorable. "I…it isn't a very nice story. Let's just say, I have a problem keeping my trousers zipped and have had some rather ruthlessly nosy friends."

"You have been caught shagging on three continents?"

"In public. What can I say? My looks don't pull much action, so I developed my…er charm. Word got around. I prefer to say I have bled and wept on three continents. It is equally as accurate, just not the truthful reason behind my name. So, want to keep trading exploits? I am very interested in yours by the way, or should I… "He pulled her forward and pressed her body to his, "take you upstairs and taste every square inch of you until you beg me to stop."

"Oh. Well, the last one sounds like the best option." She buried her face in his neck and inhaled.

John bent slightly and scooped her up bridal style. She giggled. He grinned mischievously and tossed her over his shoulder before slapping her behind. She squealed and declared he had just pitched her romantic visions out the window. He slapped her fanny again and chuckled as he carried her up stairs like a sack of potatoes.

He dumped her on the bed and spread her legs and without any preamble he entered her. She uncertainly allowed him, but after barely four thrusts he stopped and grinned. "Just sampling. Yes, that was delicious. I do think that this model will suite me quite well. Now, let's check under the hood."

Molly didn't make many coherent sounds for approximately three hours. By the time John could wait no longer for his own pleasure, she had been bent, nibbled and invaded in every orifice, some more than once and she was a new practitioner of the twenty-three minute orgasm. She was not even reasonably interested in right or wrong. She had long passed the point of caring if this was the stupidest thing she'd ever done.

Molly watched John shudder and let out an explosive string of nonsense in an estimated three languages. He turned beet red as his long postponed pleasure seemed nearly as painful as any of the wounds his scars might have offered and then he collapsed and offered her a cursory clumsy snog as he chanted her name and thank you in mumbling breathless bliss. They both were asleep before any more could be said.

His snoring awoke her and she needed the lav desperately. She fumbled and wiggled out from under him and snuck down the stairs naked. She made two quick mugs of tea and returned upstairs to find him sitting in the bed, holding his head like it would explode. He seemed almost surprised to find her handing him a cuppa and grinned sheepishly. He reached in the bedside table and offered her two pills.

"That's a bit much for a hangover, don't you think?" she stared at the pills dubiously.

"Trust me. I'm a doctor and this is alcohol induced concussion, I'm just not sure which one of my frontal lobes is going to finally swell enough to actually crack my skull. Jesus, I think my eyes are packed in glass. The only thing that could possibly make them worth opening is you naked in my bed. Do you know you are a vision in debauchery?"

Molly laughed and swallowed the pills. They lay peacefully for thirty minute then he rolled over and smiled. "Come on. I am having sex with or without you, in the shower in two minutes. I prefer the 'with you' option."

Molly grinned and followed the mad man down the stairs. The sounds they made echoed. He washed her hair and scrubbed her back in a delicious seductive way. He was all smiles and jokes and then suddenly his face grew serious. His hand slid upon her throat and he cupped her head and looked directly in her eyes, "I am so sorry about last night. There was no excuse for me to question your motives like that and I am profoundly ashamed to have frightened you in any way. I must not drink like that again, not around you. I hope you know that all of that, the stupidity bits, had nothing to do with you? I have been pretty useless for a while now. I don't regret this at all. Not for a second. I just hope you don't either."

Molly searched his face and chewed her lip for a second. "Lots of people did tell me to call you and check on you. But I would never do this…unless it was what I wanted. I knew what I was getting into. I do know how bloody horrible it's been. I was scared for you. I won't lie. But, I really wasn't scared of you."

"Good. That's good. I just have to say, you have no idea what…this. I mean. I don't want this to be a one off, if there is any hope that, we could. No. I'm not doing that. Not putting you on the spot like that. Just know, right now, I feel almost, almost, like this could be a pretty wonderful day. I'm looking forward to it. Honestly. So thank you, for that." He reaches around her and turns off the taps and hands her a towel.

"I feel like that too," she feels shy saying it, but the truth is, she hasn't had much fun in a long time. She was afraid to go anywhere these days because she had been cautioned about keeping her guard up. She wasn't recognized or hounded like John had been right after, but she could hardly go to the store for weeks that she hadn't heard something or seen another headline that either broke her heart or made her heart throb in anger.

She had slipped into defense mode at all the 'poor little Molly' whispers she pretended not to hear. She had survived it, but she had become less interested in the many people who smiled to her face and rolled their eyes behind her back. Most of them at work had seen her with the man who stole the crown jewels and they all knew she had fancied Sherlock. She had become a little stand offish about invitations. She did understand what John meant, because she was looking forward to a lovely day and just having someone near who didn't hold onto the false things that they had said in the papers.

They dressed and headed out into the city for phone shopping and lunch. Molly had several texts waiting and snuck into the loo to answer them.

They were all from Sherlock and she read them and carefully answered them with one text.

[All is fine, but it was a danger night and he broke my phone, shot it actually. He's fine. I'm fine. But he's right here so please lay low. Will explain later. He's having fun, so don't worry. We both love you very much.]

[Molly. I am so sorry. You didn't have to put yourself in danger. That is such a rare part of him, I never imagined he would threaten you harm. God you must hate me. Are you sure you are ok?]

[I told you anything and I guess I meant it. I'll keep him safe. You keep you safe.]

Chapter Text

She deleted the texts and smiled as she sees John, standing unobtrusively by the door, hardly noticeable to the people who walked by him. But when he spots her, his face lights up and she sighs in pleasure, confident that this compact, scarcely conspicuous man had just made her world a lot more exciting. She pauses, memorizing that smile, delighted that she has put it there.

"You're going to think I'm horrible, but is there any chance that you might fancy a trip back to my flat for a bit of shagging?" he whispered low and sounding as if he thought she would probably turn him down.

"That sounds almost too good to be true. But if we are going to do this…well more. I mean I am not saying I expect that. But if we are… if you aren't bored or tired of me or anything. I need to make a rule. Well, two actually."

He snickered his eyes flash to her as he speaks, "No shooting your phone?"

"That is the second one. Actually. But if you take up, what you thought about last night, you have to give me thirty days. You have to stop shagging me for thirty days so I have time to know it wasn't me. It wasn't my fault. If I have a lovely shag with you and then…that. It would destroy me. I want this with you, and I know that I can't make it… fix that…I'm just asking you to not take me with you? Sort of?"

John's face darkened for a moment and she was sure he was going to turn into the Hyde version. His voice was low but not unkind, "Ok. I can see that. I would hate to hurt you and of course you know I would understand, far too well, in fact. In return, we have honesty. Both ways. So if you get to the point, you can't stand the sight of me. You tell me, this is the last time. Because, I want the last memory to be…well…not average. Has to be extraordinary. Deal?"

Molly returned to her own flat that night wondering what that crazy man could possibly hope to call extraordinary. Twenty-six minutes was already in the realm of spectacular.

Her phone rang exactly ten minutes after she arrived home. She was in the lavatory, of course.

Molly gave Sherlock the basics of what had occurred, leaving out one detail that she just couldn't bring herself to say.

"So, you are play-acting dating him? You don't have to do that. Introduce him to one of those little snippy nurses you try to pretend are your friends ," Sherlock suggests.

"No. I can't. Yet. I mean, if you think about it, that wouldn't be very nice. I think it is better to keep it simple. I mean if they really liked him and he got in one of those…moods again. He might hurt someone."

"True. But he could just as easily hurt you and I can't let that occur."

"I have to assume, that that was the worst. I mean, he was horribly drunk. I managed. If it's me, then I can control the argument a bit too. I mean, if he just dates some nobody and she were to throw him over. At the wrong time? He would just be gone, we would never have a clue why."

"Oh for God sakes, I can't stand this."

"Then you have to let me tell him."

"Impossible. He would find me. Or try something equally stupid. I know him. It would hurt him more to know I left him behind. I'm not strong enough to say no to him if he offers to come."

"There is only one person who can fix him. It's not me. Are you sure that you are strong enough to face …what today almost was?"

There is a pause there. Sherlock sounds unsure as he asks, "Almost? I don't understand. This day has no sentimental mark on the calender that I am aware of. What could a day almost be that your advice could affect?"

"The day of his post-mortem?"

The phone is dead silent. Molly refuses to break it.

"I see what you mean. You do realize there could be…unexpected complications, if you propose to actually date him."

"Besides the gun and the personality shifts and the bag of treasures he's amassed you mean?"

Sherlock lets out a frustrated growl. "Sex. If you are dating him, he will expect sex. Are you saying that something has changed since our first conversation? Because I can speak with surety here, the man may seem like mild little sweet John, but he does something to women and he doesn't give up once he's on the scent. It is like a disease with him. I am sure that half of the women he brought home could not deal with his insatiable appetite. I am not joking here. It has been seven months and his libido will most likely rebound in a way that may boarder on insanity. If that desire is focused on you…I shudder to think how it would end."

"I am not some innocent little lost lass here. He isn't going to corrupt me."

Sherlock sighs, "Dammit you are so sweet and naive. Look at this logically. He has already shown you a propensity to belittle you. He has superior physical strength. He was never completely rational when he had not found frequent outlet for his base needs. He shot your phone last night. He's suicidal. He has nothing to lose. I don't dare attempt to put this delicately because you will find some way of sticking flowers in it and pretending not to understand. You are setting yourself up to be raped. I mean it, if he were to break, it wouldn't be a matter of dubious consent because he was pushy and you were too polite to say no. That kit you described, doesn't just frighten me for him."

"What are you saying? You want me to forget it?"

"No…I don't know. If you date him, stay with him on his bad nights. Are you prepared to have consensual sex with John? Because I am not asking that of you. And if you choose to play coy then prepare to have that choice removed from you. He could keep you in a state of near coma indefinitely."

"And then you would hate me for it," she whispers.

"No, I wouldn't, but I would blame myself for putting you in the position in the first place."

"You wouldn't be my friend anymore. You will abandon me."

"Not the way you think."

"Tell me. I deserve to know. So I can think ahead. I know you, maybe better than anyone. I know what you can be like when you get...hurt. You wouldn't stand by me? You'd never look at me again, not even as your friend. I'm not a fool Sh…" She remembers she's not supposed to use his name. "Sorry. But you always act like I am stupid. I keep hoping someday you will… but you won't. Just poor little stupid, Molly. Wonder what I can't talk her into risking today."

"Don't think you can predict me. I trust you and I care about you, but don't think you can use this against me. Don't you dare play with me. I know what I owe you. I owe you my life."

"Piss off, Sherlock. I don't want your IOU. I care about you. I have all along. There is no account balance to be paid off with pity kisses and pretending you...I just wanted you to respect me. That's all. If you can't ever figure that out...never mind. I'll do whatever I have to to keep him alive. Maybe'll figure out this boring friendship stuff,"Molly snaps then sighs deeply. They both hold on the line not speaking.

Sherlock for once, gives in and breaks the silence first. "I don't mean to be so hard. So cruel. Not to you. You already have my respect. If it were otherwise, I wouldn't have so much trouble telling you what I want. Which is why I can't ask you to take such a risk. It's like flipping a coin on your lives. I'm calling this plan off. I will figure something else out. I know he's unstable and unpredictable. He always has been. He's much more damaged than he pretends. I know him. I didn't know he would be so long in his grief for one friend when he has had so much practice at dealing with death."

Molly is just as unhappy with the idea of failing as she is with the idea of Sherlock figuring out that the ship has already been sprinkled with pixie dust and she's just counting stars for her heading. "So now you want to give up? I'll give him a ring and tell him he's a really great guy but... I've decided to date girls now? Or I just want to be friends? Oh, how about I'm married to my work?"

"The free witch lessons seem to be working for you, Molly. Bravo."

"The teacher notices? All my hard work is paying off, after all," she replies bitterly.

"High marks to be expected...wait, this is getting us no closer to solving our problem. Moving on, shall we? Here is why you must not continue, just hear me out. John is used to getting his way. He can be very subtle, but he sucks people in and before you know it, you discover a need's difficult to explain. John is more clever than I when he wishes to manipulate people. He doesn't even realise it, but if one method fails, he doesn't stop, he just changes tactics. He can be so patient, but once he sees it is not working, he can be much more agressive. In his current state of self-destructive grief he could be volitile. It could easily take an ugly turn, Molly. I fear there are some dark sides to my John. If you came to such harm, by anyone's hand I would kill them slowly and they would scream until every vision of them harming you was wiped away. If you came to such harm by his hand, I would have to end him. I would make it quick for him. Then I would abandon you. Because, I would have to follow him."

Molly sniffs and her voice shakes, "And if it's consensual? If I were to keep him alive and that was my last resort, if I choose it. What then?"

"I would never ask that of you. Never."

"I know, but..." Molly says but can't seem to find the words to explain that it's to late to worry about that now.

"I don't want you to take the chance. It is to much to ask."

"If you do respect me, you will let me decide. I'm not giving up. No matter what you say. Figure something out or just tell him the truth, but I can't tell him to push off and hope he takes it well."

"I don't know what to gratitude ... I. Molly, I'm so...I didn't dare..."he stumbles for words, relief and fear clearly not something he is used to dealing with often.

Molly for once is relieved to hear a knock on the door. It is probably her landlady. "Ok. I have to go. There is someone at the door."

Chapter Text

Molly opened the door and John grinned from behind a huge bouquet of flowers. "Oh God, what did I do? Already? I brought flowers if they will in anyway be useful in my deep sincere apology?" He looked at her chin, face calm.

Molly laughed. "Get in here, you bloody git. I was watching a sad movie and it made me think about my Dad and you must have an ego the size of Canada to think it is always about you. But thank you for assuming you were automatically in the wrong. That will cut down on the bickering and save time for shagging," she says boldly.

"Oh. Now I see the creepy part you warned me about. You are a true to life mind reader? Yes, it is a bit creepy. But God it will save time for shagging too. I mean I thought last night was some sort of miracle one shot thing, but if we are going to make a habit of it. Mind if I have a go?"

Molly wiped her tears and took the flowers as he followed her into the flat talking and cracking jokes about their delicious disaster of a first date. "By all means."

John hams it up, squinting his eyes and fondling her breasts as if he were tuning her in. "I see…I see that you want to rip my clothes off and have me on your carpet, then you will be hungry so we will go to dinner, to absorb enough calories for another fantastic marathon shag?"

Molly rolled her eyes, "Better make dinner on the quick side though, I have to work tomorrow. We have to set our priorities."

John takes a deep breath and sighs in wonder. "God I love the way you think. You are brilliant. You know that, right?"

"Finally noticed that, did you?"

He chuckled and lifted her blouse, one of her old ones that involved a lot of sassy but ridiculously garish cats. "You camouflage it under all this crap. God that is horrible? Where did you buy that? The ugly store of never getting laid?"

"It was a gift." She said lifting his jumper and examining it with a critical eye. "What color is this exactly? Vomit or Baby poop?"

"I believe it was called sunflower. But, now that you mention it, it might give your cats with the plastic bobble eyes a fair chase to the rubbish heap."

"I don't care. They both performed their ultimate function." Her eyes twinkle and her head cocks to one side a little.

"Warmth?" he purrs, enjoying wrapping his arms around her and feeling hers.

"Quick exit." She teases.

"Ok, my turn to make a rule. No matter how much you like them, I won't be wearing tear away stripper trousers." Her eyebrows shoot up into an 'oh really' look. John clears his throat and raises his finger to her nose. "Not in public ,anyway."

Three weeks pass and every day, John fills up her world. Then before she blinks, they have celebrated the three month point. She and Sherlock have only been able to have rapid clipped conversations. She hasn't had time to send him extensive updates and he has been very quiet, which was honestly his normal volume of communication. She worries when her phone is silent for days, because it could mean anything. She never has any idea where he is. He was satisfied that she was handling the John situation in some capacity and evidently Mycroft had also confirmed that John seemed to be a bit better.

Sherlock was absolutely right about John's appetite. The strange thing is, that in those first three weeks, Molly had had more intimate encounters than she had had in her whole life combined and she didn't mind. The more she had of him, the more she wanted. She was not put off by his near constant desire. She was blossoming on it. The way he looked at her, every time, made her feel beautiful. He said it at least thirty times a day.

For her birthday, John took her to Angelo's and Molly was surprised when he seemed to know who she was. "Oh, so bitter sweet. So romantic, his two lover's in love." He said and neither John nor Molly had the heart to correct him. It made both of them feel terrible because every time the poor man came to the table he got all teary.

The one year anniversary of Sherlock's suicide was a hard day. Reporters had done stories and somehow gotten a picture of John and Molly kissing at Regent's Park. Molly didn't want Sherlock to see it but there was nothing she could do. She tried to prepare him.

John and Molly and Mrs. Hudson had a picnic at the graveyard and Mrs. Hudson brought a candle in a tall glass container. John brought little toy bees on wire and stuck them in the ground and smiled when a breeze made them appear to be fluttering around his grave.

Molly brought Daffodils. They looked pretty with the bees. She looked at the real flowers and the fake bees, and cried a little for the man buried here, and the shadow of one who wasn't.

Lestrade showed up and seemed really embarrassed that he was caught coming with a little flower arrangement and a hand full of newspaper clippings of the most recent crimes he'd been working on.

He joined them for the picnic and before long he was making them all giggle at some of Sherlock's antics from the first days he'd met him. He had heard John and Molly were together soon after they had taken up with each other. His divorce was final now. Molly was sorry for him, but she and Sherlock had spoken many times about Greg. After that he was always invited to dinner at Mrs. Hudson's.

She had never met someone like John and the more she discovered about him, the harder it got to lie to him. There had been no more relapses into his cruel side. Four times a day was average for a workday and on her days off, they barely left whichever flat had been closest. They didn't spend every minute repeatedly working toward the goal of her reaching her full thirty minute promised orgasm. But they spent it literally in worship of the other. There was touching and cuddles and kindnesses that all amounted to a languid ever-building foreplay.

Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson teased them about being the love birds. They both found it uncomfortable. It was hard to say what they were exactly.

The opera finally rolled around. He'd purchased the tickets so early he'd gotten remarkable seats and it had been lovely. It was Molly's first absolutely exquisite romantic date in her life. Mrs. Hudson had taken Molly off one day to help her select a gown. It was a gown. It wasn't a dress. It cost more than her whole wardrobe before Sherlock sent her shopping. John went to a tailor in Soho and ordered his first bespoke suit for the occasion. She and John and Mrs. Hudson had made a day of it when the garments were ready for the final fittings.

John paid for her gown, though Molly had insisted she had every intention of paying for it. She finally relented; there wasn't much reason to bicker over which of them spent Sherlock's money. Molly had the emergency fund and because it had been noted that keeping John happy was its purpose in general, she hadn't felt guilty. John quietly admitted with tears in his eyes, that Sherlock had left him very well to do, though he wouldn't go into detail.

He had looked up at her so sweetly and then broke her heart. "He left me his estate. I haven't touched a fucking quid of it all this time. Let me do this. Let me take just the smallest pleasure in doing this. He would have loved to see you in this. Purple was his favorite color and I know he would have loved this on you. So you have to let me do this one thing. For him? For me? I want to think that he would be happy for us and maybe this is my first step to making peace. I don't know. I have so damned far to go. But this is right and I won't let you say no to me. I didn't expect to be here to use these tickets. I wouldn't have been, if not for you. I'd like to think he sent you to me. We never paid any attention to each other. Then all of a sudden, when I had no more left, there you were." He pauses and twists his neck and clears his throat. His head drops into his hand and he shudders, chin trembling. Then he sucks in a deep breath and is again almost in control.

"I know it's stupid. I know it is so bloody stupid, but just let me believe it for now and let me have my little sentimental idiocy that maybe, wherever the glorious bastard is, that maybe he cares enough to watch over me a little and send me you. Just let me have that. I am buying you the sodding dress and that is the end of it." John had broken down three times during this speech and Mrs. Hudson had snuffled into a tissue for almost two hours. Molly was absolutely gutted.

Molly was shocked when Mycroft stepped out of the tailor's shop, a garment bag thrown casually over his shoulder. He greeted them cordially and delayed them with pleasantries for almost ten minutes. It was very strange and Molly should have known better than to shake his hand. There was a card with a date and time only.

She is summoned.

She debates about telling John. But when he asked her what Mycroft had passed her, she just hands it to him without a word.

Chapter Text

John has at least one bloodhound in his ancestry because he is on the trail instantly. Molly convinced him that it probably had to do with the post-mortem examination or it had to do with the small investment Sherlock had kindly left her. John insists on going. Molly deferred him, saying she didn't want Mycroft nosing around about them as a couple. He'd been the same way about Sherlock and at least he gave her the courtesy of setting an appointment a week in advance. He had allowed her to reschedule when one of his kidnappings were inconvenient and that was how they did it now.

"He just bloody kidnaps me." John grumbles.

"Well, I set my foot down with him and we have been fine ever since. I have been at this for nearly five years now. Mycroft is fine to me. He always has been. Sometimes he was nicer to me than Sherlock ever was. He even offered to let me stay in a safer flat, when Jim kept calling. I didn't, but he offered. I am a big girl, John. It's fine."

The encounter was not fine. The encounter is horrible, in fact.

"Molly Hooper," he stated as his only greeting.

She took her seat and tucked her hair behind her ears, declining his offered refreshments. "Hi. Well, here I am. You called? What did you need, Mycroft?"

Mycroft smiles and she wonders if he is a cat person, beings he seems to have all the features of Toby about to consume a still twitching mouse, head first. He sighs and his lips press into a thin line. His chin rests on his fingers with a casual posture, but his other hand taps on the arm of the leather chair and his eyes seem to find several places in the room to look other than her face. "Sentiment is a complex kettle of soup. Murky, boiling, alluring. How was the opera?"

Molly sits ramrod straight, hands carefully folded in her lap. She is well aware he is not asking about the opera alone and she doesn't wish to talk about John."It was lovely. There was no soup involved."

"Ah? Indeed? I would be much more convinced of that had I not happened to catch the late feature in which I was, how shall I say this, most intrigued by certain declarations made by Dr. Watson of a romantic nature toward your person. Your very naked and rapturous person I might add."

Molly swallows and her heart sinks. She was so tired of having to lie to Sherlock about what was taking place between she and John, but now Mycroft would use this against her. How dare he sit there and act like her privacy had no restrictions to his invasions. "You watched us have sex, in other words."

His faced pushed down in a mock frown that made her skin crawl. "I also watched a broken man force you to disrobe at gunpoint, my dear. I was most concerned. Of course we have been closely monitoring the situation. As of last week Baker Street is now on full audio as well. I thought it would be an act of consideration to make you aware of this fact."

Molly's heart drops again and she can't stop her fingers from reaching up to fiddle with her hair. "Oh God. You didn't tell Sherlock that, did you? Not about all of that, did you?"

"Good God, of course not. My brother would kill him. Did you not realize there would be a loyalty conflict if John harmed you? "

"But, that was your interpretation and yet that didn't bother you. You knew what he was seconds away from doing. Don't say you didn't see what I walked in on. You didn't care until he said he loved me?" Molly looked down at her hands. "So if he kills me or himself, it's fine, but if he cares for me, that is a problem?"

"Both are a problem, or at least have the potential? I was confused about why you went back. We were in fact on high alert for intervention. This was a nightly occurrence, by the way, and he had yet to complete the act. We were about to take control of John. It seemed warranted at that time. Then you returned. If he forced himself on you, why would you return? Obviously you find some measure of enjoyment in your activities with Dr. Watson, yet you are quite aware of my brother's feelings for him. I am not beyond bounds to suggest the doctor deeply returns those feelings. How do you imagine that will turn out for you, once he returns?"

"I imagine they will both forget I exist for the most part. It was just said in the moment, you know, things like that are said, sometimes. It isn't the end of the world if he happens to care a little for me. It's helping him. He is eating again and he's even talking about going back to work."

"Very true. I am delighted that you are such a practical woman, Molly. Sherlock is very fond of you. I know he put you up to this. The fact that you would do such a thing for my brother, knowing that at some point you would be required to step aside, has earned you a place of innumerable accolade within my own heart."

"I am sure it is a very…" She searched modifiers, discarding; shriveled, minute, withered, desiccated, cold, stony and empty, "…exclusive space."

Mycroft chuckles and rolls his eyes upward as he leans back in his chair to contemplate something above her head. Molly's eyes follow his, searching for what he could be looking at, but she realizes he's just being dramatic and he startles her when he speaks again. "With diplomacy skills like that, I can assure you that should the dead body business ever lose its mystical draw, that you need look no further than my office for meaningful employment. We have a rather remarkable benefits package, in fact, should the need for a change of scenery arise for any reason."

"Well, that is very kind, but I can't imagine that my skills would be of much use. According to Sherlock, your department rarely needs to search for a cause of death."

Mycroft looks at her, dropping his chin and wrinkling his forehead, but his eyes are truly amused with her. "Careful, Miss Hooper."

"Sorry," she says and shrugs a little looking at her shoes.

Order restored, he acts as if something has just occurred to him, but the piece of paper he examines then slides across his desk to her, says he is deliberately trying to bring the subject up, and only pretending it is chance. " I have also arranged for a token compensation package for your efforts in this matter, though I do not wish you to misconstrue my appreciation to be taken as payment for services. However, something must be recompensed for the quantity of Dr. Watson's…uhem… attentions you have been borne to seemingly endure."

Molly is furious, because what he said and what he seemed to mean were in exact opposition of each other. "I don't want that. Don't do that. This isn't some dirty little order. Not for me. Sherlock never asked me to do that." She slides the paper firmly back across his desk without looking at it.

He looks a little offended but at once recovers into a mocking sneer that is hard to misinterpret. "Didn't he?"

She glares at him across the desk and he blinks and folds his hands on the desk like a headmaster about to address a pupil whose behavior has disappointed him.

"Molly, please let me be explicitly clear here. Protect your heart from John Watson. You can't control how he feels and I do understand that. But you must not forget the ultimate goal of your endeavor and set yourself up for a crushing heartbreak. I do understand, my dear, more than you probably want me to. If things were what they seemed, this would be the romance of fairytales and little girl's dreams. But things are not what they seem, are they?"

"No." she agreed calmly. Her life is nothing but lies. She is trapped in mendacity and there is no escape. She lies to Sherlock. She lies to John. Now, she is hedging Mycroft's questions. Worst of all, she has begun to lie to herself. She is turning to stone and promising things she can't hope to see through to keep two people she loves alive. She is praying for this whole situation to end and begging that it doesn't end too soon while fearing each day it will conclude in some tragic slip that will burn them all .

"So, I do know you care, very much, for them both and there may come a time for you, in which you would like some distance. The money will be set aside whether you want it or not. I do see your distress and it isn't my intent. I honestly am simply planning for an inevitable moment. Dream things that are possible, my dear, and forsake the things that will kill you in the end. Perhaps you will treasure a new dream, at some point in your life, and my token may give you the means and freedom to find it."

"I still don't think it will be necessary, but thank you for, trying to… put it…a little nicer. I haven't told Sherlock. I haven't told him that John and I, have grown closer than I expected. Closer than he asked me to be." She can't meet his eyes, but it is left in such a way that the unspoken question of whether or not Mycroft has been sharing an X-rated video stream with his brother hangs loudly in the air.

Mycroft lets the question go unanswered as he studies her. Whatever he wanted seemed to be satisfied finally and he drops his eyes and addresses her in a more gentle tone than he had been using. "He has asked. He does know. He has known for some time. I did not go into vulgar detail, but I did mention that you were seeing to John in a way that proved a loyalty far beyond measure."

Her breath escapes noisily and she leans into her hand in humiliation. "Oh God. How did he take it? What did he say?"

"He asks that I put myself at your disposal and protect you as best I can." Mycroft says with a sympathetic tilt to his head and an almost chastised look of vulnerability.

"Thank you. Very nice. But I am not with John as some job or order. It started that way. But it isn't that now." Molly stands and paces a little, her hands hold the back of her arms protectively. "I do want what is best for them both. I want them to have a happy ending. They have both been through so much. You don't have to pay me to get me to go away, Mycroft. I thought you would know me a little by now. All this time. Everything I risk, my job, my life maybe, was for them. I don't have to be the one who wins at all cost. I know that I will have to lose. But that doesn't mean that none of this matters. It matters. John can take Sherlock and Sherlock can take John, from me. But you can't take this. It's mine. Just like helping Sherlock is mine."

"I don't understand what you mean." He says frowning but not in an angry way.

"It means nothing. But it's everything to me. It means that for a little while, I mattered. I belong to them both now. They both have my heart and that means… whatever makes them happy, not me, them…that …is what I want too. Unconditional love, doesn't have conditions. Maybe that's the part you can't understand, Mycroft. The only thing I have ever known you to love is Sherlock, and you don't offer it with an open hand, like a gift. You love him with chains and it isn't the same. So, don't make this whole thing something I'm ashamed of. I'm not ashamed. I matter. Not as much. Not everyone can see why, even me sometimes. But I do. "Molly says and walks to the door, not waiting to be officially dismissed.

She turns at the last minute and takes a deep breath, "Sherlock sees me and I see him. You know, even Jim must have seen something, because he killed all those people, and he never once threatened me. Here is another bit for your file…that you keep on me. You let Jim go. You had him and you hurt him. He had hundreds of people who he ordered around and any of them could have got him sorted. But he didn't call them. He showed up. At my flat. That was when there was a technical malfunction on my monitoring devices and you let him go and didn't worry about me. I wasn't that important, was I? I almost turned Jim away."

Mycroft has spun his chair and comes around his desk looking pale and horrified. "You foolish—"

Molly shakes her head and holds up her hand, "You're so sure. You always are. That's why you miss so much. I can't decide sometimes, what's right or wrong, but when I figure it out, I do the right thing. I don't always like it, but I do it. I didn't turn Jim away. I'm so glad that I didn't. Sometimes, everyone needs a friend. Even him. I know what you did to Jim and so do you. But, I don't think less of you. I helped him. And I have helped you. But anyway, when he left, he said one day he'd repay me. I never expected him to…not really. See Jim had all these people who were afraid of him, and he was afraid for any of them to see him, that…vulnerable and broken. He even fooled you."

"You knew what he was and you gave him sanctuary? Is that what you are saying? To me?" Mycroft is amused when he's truly furious.

Molly shrugs and rolls her eyes. "Yes. And he did pay me back. See, none of this conversation would be happening now, if I had not let him in. Because, he told me. That was how he paid me back and it worked out much better than I expected. Four people are alive right now because I made him fish and chips and treated his wounds."

"And that justifies your betrayal of my brother, in your mind, does it?"

"Just two days before Sherlock stepped off the roof, Jim called me at work, and he said he was in trouble and… he wanted to say farewell. He said he had figured out his problem and would I meet him for lunch. So, I did. He told me he was going to make Sherlock choose. He said that I needed to get over Sherlock and find someone nice and boring, like John. Isn't that funny?"

"Most amusing. Is there a point to this riveting tale?"

Molly shook her head and sighed, then swallowed and shifted her weight. Her voice was calm and she tried to be patient with him, beings he still wasn't paying attention to the right parts. " Jim told me that he was going to make it easy, because he was so tired. He said I was going to be his last good deed. He wanted me to know what a selfish, coward Sherlock is. Jim was going to prove it to me, so there would never be another moment of my life spent thinking I could love a man I didn't know. He said I was an angel and I only see the good in everyone. It isn't true, but he said he was going to show me how easy it is for angels to loose grace."

"Tell me exactly what he said." Mycroft is close and his eyes are narrow.

Molly closes her eyes and she can almost hear Jim's voice, "He said it like this, 'Either way, Sherlock falls, and my story ends. I have sent many on before me, to prepare my way. Time for new adventure. A new place to rule, because I own this hellish, boring rock now. You wouldn't let me pay you back and I won't leave any IOU's behind. Those left behind are the ones who suffer. I am going to leave you and one day, Molly Angel, you will suffer. One day, when you understand what a grand kindness I am doing. Not right now, I know, and it is Ok. You will bring me daffodils, because you know they are my favorite. They are blooming now. If you have any peace to make with him or me, this is your last chance. That is part of my gift to you, little angel hidden among the dead. You will be seeing me soon and I know you will be gentle with me. I am going to show you evil. I mean, the only difference between the genius you love and the one sitting before you, is that I admit what I am. I will be right. But you have to see it with your own eyes, and then they will be open for the rest of your life. Sherlock will let people who truly love him, die for him, when he has the power to stop it, and he will not even feel remorseful.' I knew that I couldn't stop him. But I knew how very wrong he was about your brother."

Mycroft is silent for a few heartbeats. Molly can hear Jim, going on and on about Daffodils.

"Daffodils" (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed - and gazed - but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Mycroft reaches out tentatively as Molly recites the poem, and rests his hand on her shoulder. "Go on Molly, tell me the rest."

Chapter Text

"Go on Molly, tell me the rest."

"I didn't have any idea what to do. I didn't understand it all…even. John and Sherlock show up to the lab and demand I give up my lunch to help them. I tried to talk to Sherlock. I tried so hard to reach him and tell him that I would help. But he didn't understand, or he didn't want to. He said, 'what could I possibly need from you?' and the way he said it, made it perfectly clear that …everyone was right. I was nothing to him. He might care for John a little, but in the end, he would prove Jim right. It killed me. Jim cared more about me than Sherlock ever would. That was one of the big moments in my life and it was so unimportant, just like me. I lost all faith in your brother, right then. I didn't understand how he turned everything I tried to do for him, into this constant show of how incredibly ridiculous I am to him. I went to get crisps and I texted Jim. I told him, that he didn't need to prove anything to me, that I believed him. My eyes are open. Then…I texted him that I didn't want to watch three people who added love to the world, be taken for one who didn't. I asked him to take me, instead."

"Dear God. Why would you even—'

"Because, there wasn't one person in the realm of Daffodils, who saw me or needed me, in any way. All my life, the only one who saw me was my father and he was my whole world and it wouldn't matter. Not like it would if he killed you and John. I didn't know if the third person would be Mrs. Hudson or that woman, who he said was dead at Christmas, but who really wasn't, but who was dead again, but if she wasn't, Jim would know. But everybody loves Martha Hudson, everyone. I barely knew her, and I could see that. Sherlock threw that American out the window, for her."

"Yes, and I am still, to this day, dealing with…never mind. Moving on?" Mycroft says looking at his watch.

"Jim texts me a few times. The answer was no, of course. I work late. I hear about the arrest. The escape was on every news program and all those horrible…not true, things they were saying. I don't believe it for a second, but I was just glad that I was out of all reasons to care. He frightened me, lurking in the dark, like he was. Sherlock had caught on by then and here he was, the part of him, the best part of him, that he only lets me glimpse every once in a while." Molly walks to Mycroft's bar and pours two glasses of amber liquid without so much as a blink. She hands one to Mycroft and sips her own.

"And you decide once again to help him, despite your new resolve to encourage and protect the psychopath trying to kill him?"

"I offered. He said, he was going to die. He knew. He didn't know it all, but he knew." Molly settles into a comfortable chair, takes another larger sip of her drink, leans her head back and closes her eyes. "He had lost his grace Mycroft and found it at the same time. He was a terrified child and all grown up, finally, in that exact moment. He didn't just demand either. He was questioning everything about himself and he was not questioning right from wrong. He would die for John alone, that's the only person he thought was in danger. Jim didn't even need three, because he didn't understand Sherlock at all."

"So, you helped him. After everything? That makes no logical sense of any kind."

"Not to you. You observe, but you don't see. There were two names missing from the sniper list. Haven't you wondered? My name wasn't on it. And now you know the real reason why. Why was your name not on it?"

"Setting a sniper on me, would be a good deal more complex than just giving an order, my dear."

Molly smiled, "No, it wouldn't."

"I assure you, my security measures are more than adequate." Mycroft smirks.

Molly leans forward and looks him in the eye, "Sherlock says you are the most dangerous man I have ever met."

Mycroft smiles as if this is high praise. "He exaggerates. I am a simple civil servant."

"Last time I checked, a Strategic Relationships Manager does not require security measures, nor do they have the power to break into someone's flat, decorate it with tiny cameras and keep files of peoples every utterance with no questions ask about why. I looked you up, Mycroft. You don't exist. You have no titled position of any sort within the British Government. But, here we are, and you are not even close to the most dangerous man I've ever met. Jim could have had you shot too, if he'd wanted. Why were you not on the list?"

"What difference does it make?"

Molly finishes her drink and smiles before standing. "That is the point. Figure it out."

"Miss. Hooper, kindly take your seat."

"Mr. Holmes, if I can get in here, so can the most dangerous man I ever met."

Mycroft blusters with frustration. "He's dead. Moriarty is dead, unless you have something more you would like to share?"

"Yes, Jim's dead. But the most dangerous man I have ever met, isn't dead yet. I… am dating him. How do you suppose it will turn out for you, when Sherlock returns? John is a soldier and he has no war. It will kill him to know he just missed it, because he wasn't invited. If he breaks when he does find out, in the wrong way, I don't think 'more than adequate' will be enough. But, you probably know everything, and I'm just silly little Molly. Don't pay any attention to me." This time, she did leave and Mycroft didn't bother to stop her.

Chapter Text

She didn't take the car door opened for her and offered. She didn't want to be driven home like some call girl sent on assignment. She bought daffodils from a street vendor and placed them on the grave. "I miss you, a bit. Sometimes, I think Sherlock does too. I don't know what to do. Your present is very hard to unwrap."

She walked all the way home, to John's flat.

John was waiting. One look and he is on his feet. "What did he say?"

"Later. I don't want to talk about it now. I don't even know how."

He put his arms around her. "What can I do to make it better?"

Molly looks up at him and whispers, "Call me in sick for at least three days and let's sneak away, where he can't find us, where he can't watch us."

John wilted in annoyed and horrified realization. "My God. I'm so sorry. He's been watching us. I am going to have a very serious talk with that man. No wonder Sherlock hated his guts. "

"No. He didn't hate him, and Mycroft wasn't trying to hurt me. He was a little afraid that this wasn't … my choice. But it is. No matter what, this was always my choice."

John blinked and tilted his head. "What could you possibly mean by that?"

"He saw the first night. It looked…odd." Molly shrugged in misery.

John blinked more and then it dawned on him what she meant. "And he waited this long to rescue you from a deranged gunman?"

"It wasn't the deranged gunman he was rescuing me from at all. It was. You said something, the other night and…It doesn't matter because it isn't true and I set him straight and that is all to be going on about."

"I said something?" his face crumpled up into confused concentration. "What the hell could I have said?"

"Nothing. Okay? It was just a huge miscommunication and I feel about this tall right now. He was trying to be thoughtful but he just comes off exactly …exactly like he's not meaning to and who cares. I really don't want to talk about it." Molly pulled away and began gathering her things.

"Wait. Where are you going?"

She turned and sighed. "I am tired. I'm going to my flat for a bit. Entertain him with brushing my teeth and sleeping for…forever," she says waving her arms indicating the invisible eyes that seem to be all around them. "Realizing what a show we must be, has kind of put me off the thought of that sort of activity, a bit. It's fine. I just need some time to get used to the fact that anyone besides us might be timing me or judging what we do. It's awful. It hurts. And there isn't anything we can do about it. It's not your fault. It's mine too. I dated Jim. Even dead, he's a danger…or his men are at least. It is the only safe option and he's right to have concern, even if it is just a precaution. He's just keeping us safe. I hate that it has to be this way, but I will be fine with it if I can just think for a little while."

"But…" John looked like he was going to be sick. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and wiped his face with his hand.

Molly sighed and she looked at him and tried to smile a little. "Just for tonight. My head is throbbing. I am sick to my stomach and I am probably going to have a good cry. My monthly has arrived and I don't have enough for the night. I am a lost cause for the evening. Please don't be angry or look at me like that. A good night's rest is all I need."

John stared at her trying so hard to study her and she just felt an ache of exhaustion seeping into her. She stood at the door, waiting for his judgment.

"Okay. It's good? Really? Tomorrow? I will see you tomorrow?"

"Absolutely. You have made an addict out of me. I promise."

He swallowed and nodded searching her face to see if she was even considering not returning. He crossed his arms and grinned sheepishly. "Serve them right if they have to refund the tickets to the little side line peep show the government is probably running."

Molly laughed at his joke, partly out of politeness but also because the picture of Mycroft having to sort that out was a bit funny. She arrived home and didn't bother to brush her teeth, she cried herself to sleep wondering how either John or Sherlock would ever forgive her for doing the best she could.

John woke her with a kiss and a hot cup of tea. Molly sat up in confusion. "What are you…How did you even get in?"

John blushed and looked a little ashamed, "Well, Sherlock could pick locks, but I am very charming. I stood it as long as I could, but I didn't want to rush you. Your landlady thinks we are engaged by the way. She is expecting an invitation to the wedding."

"Oh. Lovely." Molly frowned.

"Are you mad?"

She shook her head. "No…I'm just wondering how long I have before she starts thinking we snubbed her and kicks me out or worse, offers to help me plan it all. She can be a little hard to put off at times. What time…Oh no. I have to be at work in three hours."

"Actually you don't. I called you in with a doctor's excuse. Right now I need you to pop in the shower while I pack your suitcase," he whispers and winks at her.

"I don't have a suitcase, and I have to work. Who will cover?"

"Nope. Doctor's orders and I already cleared you. Five days and we are telling nobody. We are off for some private time. Big brother is not invited. Why don't you have a suitcase? Everyone has them." John says then touches the side of her arm. "I am kidnaping you. You said that was something I could do to make it better."

"I. But, it won't be the most romantic moment to have a romantic …kidnaping."

He looks confused then he figures out exactly what she meant and shakes his head as if she is far to repressed for this century. "I am not some horrified little child here. Unless you are experiencing pain during activity, that has no effect on my determination to shag you silly. Oxytocin is one of the best cures for menstrual cramping and it is a completely natural occurrence. We aren't living in the dark ages, sequestering our women and mumbling about magic curses."

Molly flushes, but avoids what he just said. "I've never been much of anywhere. Where are we headed?"

"Off the British Government's radar. It's a secret."

"How will I know what to take?"

"I am taking you straight to hell. That's your only hint. I am also packing for you so you need to only worry about your girly bits and accoutrements. Pack carefully, there are no real shops. I mean we aren't camping, but it can be a bit of a bother if there is something you must have."

Chapter Text

At half past ten they stood on Platform 1 of Paddington under the beautiful arch built in 1854 waiting to board the sleeper to Cornwall. John had spent the day teasing her about going to Hell. She quirked her head and told him he was being mean about his insistence that Hell exists in Cornwall.

Finally, after settling into their compartment he explained where they were actually heading. "There are no cars, no crime and there isn't much to do other than take long walks, watch waves, and exist. I used to go here as a child to visit Aunt Ida and Uncle Winston. Ida is my mother's sister. Their kids are a bit older than I am, but we used to have the grandest times. It is the place I was probably the most happy. Thought of just leaving London and going there when…he…But, I didn't have the ambition. The Isles of Scilly are like the spiritual gatekeepers of peace. Bryher is the smallest. I need to see it again and I am hoping that Hell's Bay will do for you what it has always done for me. If there is a storm, it is quite a show watching the waves crash in. There is only one hotel, which is often booked to the rafters or empty. We happen to be going on an off time, so I called my cousin who still lives there and we are expected for dinner and a little family howdy time, but other than that, we will have absolute privacy. Mycroft won't find us. The reservations are made in my cousin Kipper's name and there is no mobile service. The hotel has satellite internet, but if we don't log on, we won't have any bug infestations or any tails courtesy of Mycroft. It is a very tight place. There are less than 100 residents. I may be related to most of them, so be prepared."

Molly watches John as he speaks of their destination and his face has softened and his eyes are far away. She hasn't seen him this calm ever. Even when he was with Sherlock, they were usually on some case and dealing with Sherlock was not terribly conducive to inner harmony. "It sounds…just wonderful. Thank you. It sounds like this is a really important place to you…and…well…that you want to share it with me…"

"It's probably a little boring. I just thought all the glitter of Paris or the hustle of Brussels wasn't what we need right now. I wanted this to be more about us alone, rather than tourist schedules and crowded restaurants."

"It sounds lovely. I think you picked the perfect surprise." She squeezed his hand in reassurance.

"I am very glad. I know it's just stupid for me to have been so worried, last night, but I couldn't help but get that little skin crawl of fear that…It crossed my mind. A lot, actually, that this is not something I want to lose. I pictured it. You leaving or growing bored with me. I am ten years older."

"I'm not leaving. You make it sound like I can't do math. I knew how old you were, it's not new information. "

"I wondered if I am wrong to see how much I need this, so clearly. I know that we, well, I know I was just not in the best place to start any relationship. I am still on pretty shaky ground if I want to be honest about it. But I do want you to know that I am not just…on a lark for a warm bed. I don't think you are either, and I want you to know that I would never treat you like that. Casual, I mean."

"You know, there isn't anything wrong with casual. I am not one of those females who think everything is permanent. What we have is kind of perfect. I mean, we have fun and you are right, neither one of us is over him. We won't be for a long time—"

"But that is just it. You are the only one who could understand that. I will probably always love him. Not only that, but instead of it causing us problems, it's the very thing that brought us together. I don't have to hide how important he was to me. Not from you, because instead of being jealous and his ghost driving us apart, it's almost like it's guiding us." He is studying her, wondering if he's saying too much.

"Well that may be pushing it. If he were guiding us, wouldn't there be evil criminals and bodies involved?" Molly tries to lighten the conversation.

"That sounds about right. But, I think discovering that we have played porn stars to the British Government might count toward Sherlockish twists. I mean if any other girl I dated became aware of that fact, even now, I am sure at least two of them would have the means to disfigure me in a way that should not be mentioned." He smirks.

"Be careful. I do have a Stryker saw." Molly grins.

John nods as if he really should be a bit afraid. "Keeping that in mind. So Tea or sleep?"

They had a wonderful night exchanging silly stories of childhood and even landed on the subject of quirky former lovers. The knock on the door seemed far too soon, but John hopped out of bed and was smiling and tipping the steward before Molly comprehended where she was and why the bed was lurching. The smell of tea, had her up and making a quick trip up the corridor. John had breakfast all set out and the upper bunk folded back into place when she returned.

They sat facing each other balancing bowls of corn flakes, and cups of hot tea as they watched the sun come up. The ferry to the Isles of Scilly seemed sturdy and all business. Scillonian III was her name and Molly felt a flutter in her heart for her father as they pulled out of harbor. She wondered if he had missed this feeling of adventure just over the horizon when he pulled up anchor and opened his chip shop, so he could raise her.

There was another boat ride and quite a pleasant walk to the hotel. They took a late lunch at the cozy little bar all decked out in teal ocean blues and salt-washed wood floors and wicker. "Kind of New England meets Jamaica. It's very laid back here," John commented as he wiped his mouth with his napkin.

"I love it. I wish my flat looked like this, all open and cheerful."

They spent the afternoon, just walking. John stopped several times to talk to people. Most of them politely gave him their names and a detailed report on how they were connected. Molly lost track of it entirely once they got much past second cousins and John smiled and nodded politely. They stop by a tiny stone cottage and arrange to have dinner with Kipper the following night. They begged off that they were tired from travel and head back to the hotel. A few drinks, then it is off to see what absolute privacy might lead to, between two adults, who had rather extensively broad sexual boundaries.

The day is bliss. Molly always dreamed of making love on a windswept beach. John, true to his word, knew every nook and cranny of this island and soon found them a relatively private place with which to indulge her. She is mortified to discover that sand is not romantic when it discovers skin normally protected with a double clothing barrier. They giggle as they finally shower it all off and John slathers them both up with cream to relieve chaffing.

The evening is full of rowdy drinking and rich food, built mostly around freshly caught fish. It is glorious and welcoming and on occasion she could pick out an eyebrow here or a nose there or sometimes just a certain headshake that reminded her of John Watson. The next morning, John announces that he is going to be giving a few family check-ups, due to the fact his relatives were all complete bollocks at visiting the mainland for anything less than emergency amputation.

Molly laughs and decides she will grab a book and have a walk on the beach, poke around the ruins and when she got tired, she would flop down and read. She has her head bowed and is swept away somewhere in 1930's Chicago when John tickled her ear and handed her a perfect pink rose.

He plops down next to her. "I am in love with you." He says without preamble.

Molly's breath hitches, and she stares out to the water, stunned. "Oh. I thought."

"No. It wasn't just then. I thought I had better tell you. Give you time to make your excuses," he says trying to make it a joke.

"We shouldn't go too fast, John." She puts her hand on his knee. "Things could change."

"I see. Is there any hope that those feelings might be returned, someday?"

She hesitates, "Oh John. They already are. But we can't just…we have to be careful. I do think I love you, but it might be like this place. Not quite real, but a lovely idea."

He picked up a handful of sand and let it slowly filter through his fingers. "It feels pretty real to me. Having found it. I would like to think I won't let it slip through my fingers."

Molly sat quietly, her fingers feeling the warmth of the sand as they drug wavy lines in the surface. John picked up a stick and wrote 'Molly and John' in the sand. Molly leaned on him and his arm slips around her.

So low it just carries to his ears, barely above the breeze, she asked, "What would you do if he came back?"

John waits for her to say more. He has to swallow because his throat kept trying to close. Finally he kisses her ear and replies low and carefully, "He's not coming back, Molls. I'm sorry, but he's just not. That bag you saw me packing the first night? It wasn't just what you thought. See, I had it in my head that I needed to be ready. I told myself he was just away. I could make it through the day by planning for when he came and got me. I kept thinking that maybe he was off on some case for Mycroft and I was pretending. I packed things I might need. I kept waiting for a message telling me to come. I wanted that so much and every time I could get my hands on something I might need, I drug it home and put it in the bag."

He smooths her hair and kisses her temple. Molly looks up at him then buries her face in his neck. John speaks slowly and deliberately, "Every day I was just waiting. But, at night,…every night, I would be so disappointed. Sitting there, ready to go, everything I could need, from plasters to pain killers to an unmentionable amount of cash in six currencies. I kept saying, just one more day. I had been sitting with the bag and writing that letter for a long time. It was part ritual by then, the letter or the hope that escape bag represented. Every time I resolved to end it, I worried that he was on a plane right that moment. I could almost see him, bursting in the flat, not bothering to explain a damned thing and just demanding I go with him. I imagined his expression when I showed him that I had been expecting him. It would have pleased him, and yet he would have barely acknowledged that he expected any other outcome. Off we'd go without another word and he would find some item I forgot and we would bicker. He would say something like,' I gave you all that time to prepare, how could you forget to pack dental floss?' It was all I had, that little shadow of hope."

"You don't do that around me. When we are away from each other, do you?"

" Only once since. Soon after we started seeing each other. But, I promised you. I was so horrible to you. I know that. Don't know why you gave me a chance. But, that one night after we had, begun. I came to the end of my delusions. Reality kept showing me that I was going to lose my mind. Mycroft tried to tell me about the snipers. But, my guilt was too big. It was that last big story, about how he'd been cleared of all charges and Greg broke down, announcing it."

Molly nodded. "I remember."

" I knew then, really knew, was absolutely sure, he wasn't coming. Mycroft was busy crushing all the things crawling out of Moriarty's damaged web. Greg had spent months under fire to clear Sherlock's name. What did I do? I sat in a chair and blubbered and gave up on life. I had been utterly useless, and as horrible as I could be to anyone who wanted to help me. So, I decided to quit faffing around and I used to text him and I did that night. Last time, in fact. But, at the last second, and I mean the last second, I thought about you. I promised you. I kept meaning to tell you for days that we were done. But, I just couldn't get to the point where I didn't want to do one more day, with you."

Molly squeezes him, "I have never been so happy in my life, John. I have never been with anyone who I feel so easy with. I don't want to lose you."

John watches the waves and his eyes follow some seabird that flies close to the surf." I would have taken his place in a second, but I didn't get the choice. I would turn back time, and do it now. We didn't get to have any say in his bargain. I don't…God, you know how much I don't want to accept the truth. But we are alive and he isn't. So, I have two choices. I can follow him or I can take the life he left me and try to…make it worth his effort. I love you, and no matter what could have been, it doesn't make this less real. Just because neither one of us will ever forget him, doesn't mean, we have to avoid any hope for a little happiness. Feeling something good, doesn't erase him. But, just existing and never trying, doesn't honor him much either. You were so right about that."

"I'm sorry I said that. I didn't mean it. I have no right to judge you and I don't. You are better now and don't blame that all on me, because you would have found something. You're so strong. It was a terrible time for you and everyone…I mean everyone, has those moments."

"You don't. You get mad sometimes and you cry, but you don't ever stop being cheerful and caring about people. He did see more about you than you think he did. I ask Sherlock once, why he didn't ask you out." John smiles and plays with a strand of sea-grass, sticking it in his mouth like a toothpick.

"Do I even want to know…what he said? I mean, it had to be something…just awful." Molly says closing her eyes and wincing in expectation.

"He said, 'Because she would let me push her around until I ruined her, and I would never forgive her for it. Besides, she would make me sentimental for her when she finally did leave me and it would distract me. I break people, John. Precious things must be admired from a distance, that is the whole concept behind museums,' and I told him he was an idiot. He said I should ask you out." John leans back in the sand stretching out clasping his fingers behind his head.

"But, you never did. Can I ask why? You have dated a lot of girls since I knew you." Molly leans back on her elbow, but towers over him creating shade on his face with her head.

"Couldn't. Bloke code. You were still, his girl. Even if he didn't know how to process you as a living breathing person who might not appreciate being admired and never touched." he says and looks at her with a little regret at what he's about to say, "It took death for that rule not to apply and dating you meant I was admitting it was real. That is one of the reasons it was so bad the night we were drinking. I wanted you so badly. I made my play for you and then you left, but it dawned on me what I had just done. I even used it, his death, as the clincher to get you in my bed. So I had nothing more to wait for. I then got it in my head that he was alive and everyone was playing some horrible game with me, I didn't need to search out some motive for the supposed conspiracy because I was far too drunk to think logically. I fixed that by telling myself, you were playing with me too. Which in my mind, my drunken mind, justified my actions. All a bluff."

Molly looked at him like she was reliving that night in a way that didn't happen. "Don't. Because I saw your eyes. It was not a bluff. I was only gone for half an hour. Tell me the truth, what changed."

John frowns and shakes his head. His lips press between his teeth and he lets a heavy breath out through his nostrils. "Hard to explain."


Chapter Text

He nods. "Ok. Has to be I suppose. You should know, the truth of it. Rather it not, but, just remember I love you now. I didn't then. Not yet. This could, probably will, change things."

"No, it won't."

"I hope. Anyway." He clears his throat. "Ok. If you and I dated, as friends, maybe he sent you and he was alive. But, I screwed that up, and we were jumping into sex. I had somehow associated that to mean that I really knew he was dead and was refusing to follow, because I was a coward. He did not want to die and he did. I did want to die and kept making excuses. I was drunk and that tends to fuel my, indiscretionary nature, and I was angry with myself. I was losing him, once and for all and it was your fault and I had been a gentleman and that was going to be my last interaction with a human being. There is a thing I do, very hard to explain, but I flipped the switch, put it in gear and let it all just fall away."

"You flipped on Mr. Hyde?" Molly asks.

John nods and looks miserable. " I heard the downstairs door open and my heart heard the soft way you walked up the stairs and I was so certain it was Sherlock. I was surfacing. Third step from the top squeaked and he would not have stepped on it. It was you and I hated you for not being him. I could have done anything I wanted to you at that moment and there would have been no consequences, not for me. I sort of gave up and in a terrible way. I just. Let. Go."

"Four choices." Molly says thinking them through again. "But, I didn't pick the one you expected."

"No. You…did not. You picked the least likely. You picked the only one I didn't plan for. The first choice, in my mind was for you to walk away, and I would have let you do that. But, people don't do that in that situation. I knew you wouldn't. It was there, but it didn't count. You doing what I requested was a wild card and it didn't count. I told you that you were in no danger and it was a lie." He says and his breath is beginning to race and deepen.

"You wouldn't have hurt me. I will not believe it. You wouldn't."

He swallows and his Adam's apple bobs several times. He breaths deeply and opens his eyes and turns his head toward her. "I wish that were true. We said no lies between us and if this ends us, then so be it, because we can't move forward if you don't genuinely know who I can be. Who I was, right at that moment."

"It doesn't matter. You don't have to—"

"Yes I do. And you will see why very soon. So trust me on this, how I feel has changed but it doesn't change that I had something in common with Sherlock." John closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, his face stops contorting with nerve impulses defining him and he opens his eyes and they are suddenly steady. He looks at her directly and she realizes there is nothing of the John she knows and adores here right now.

"Hello, Mr. Hyde." She whispers and sits up before she realizes that by moving away, she has just told him that she instinctively recognizes he is dangerous.

His voice is different, more like Mycroft's or Sherlock's, but harder and with so little inflection he sounds like he isn't completely alive. " Mine came from years of practice, just like his. He had emotions, Molly. He really did. I don't know what happened to him but he had at some point learned to turn them off. It protected him. But, he got trapped there. He couldn't turn them back on. He wasn't in control, at all. He had lost control. I can do the same thing you see. You recognize it. You cleverly named it. I can shut myself off entirely, not feel anything, I can be exactly empty. I have always been in control of it. It is a tool, nothing more. I wasn't just an army doctor, and perfecting this tool was a life or death necessity. The problem is that it is also seductive. It is easy to get lost here. It is an angry servant who has all the patience of a black vacant cave. There are things in my life that I should feel terrible about doing. I feel nothing. I know about it and I know how I should feel, but I don't. I do not make decisions in this mode because emotions are necessary to judge right from wrong. When you returned, this side was making decisions. There is no right or wrong here. People who get stuck here, do not live socially productive lives. They can't love, or feel guilt, or know emotional pain. It doesn't exist. I have a deeper version than Sherlock did, his cracks were not sealed and I wanted to fix it. The problem for my emotional side is that I did fix it. I didn't know, my timing would be at the worst possible second that it could happen."

"Please, turn it back off."

"I will once this is said. The emotional coward can't do it and is determined to explain something stupid to you. Leave or undress, half the choices. Two others. Physically attack or stay and watch is how it was presented. Those two led to the same area. Attack and you would have been overpowered, thus volunteering for a much more succinct ending to the evening. Stay and watch, and it would have been a game of intimidation and been a much more dubious encounter, but do note that this side of the barrier does not affect physical response, only the means by which they are obtained. The only favorable part, is I would not have killed you. Not much of a virtue there, but it is a line in the sand. That is what changed in the thirty minutes you were gone. An order to terminate life was issued by the emotional side and handed over to the logical side while in a reduced capacity. Emotional side did not have the strength of will to stop it because even the fact he could contemplate the desire to harm you established that there must be an end. The only possibility, to return to control, was the wild card. One, impossiblle abort button, and you pressed it. The emotional side is a coward and didn't want to die so much as end the guilt and pain. An inner battle of wills so dark and terrible and free to carry out the emotional cowards command, by any means necessary. The rudder could not steer a sinking ship. Imagine a drunken bar fight within and emotion was losing. Emotion had curled up like a little cry baby and given up."

Molly shivered and rested her chin on her knees, her arms folded protectively. "John. Please come back. I want to go back to the hotel now, please."

"Don't like me much do you? You shouldn't. This is who you threw a lifeline to." The eyes glittered and looked her up and down and sighed with regret. "It was very nice knowing you, Molly. Very. Nice."

Molly scrunches her eyes closed and rocks herself. She would not cry but she could not look at him any longer. Mycroft had no idea what would be coming for him. But, she was pretty sure it would get her first and it would be horrible.

The waves lap on shore and Molly waits for him to say more horrible things.

The voice that speaks next, is gentle and filled with regret and deep sorrowful fear. "I am so sorry, but it is important to me that you actually see that. You will probably never see it again unless you are in danger. Or there is some overwhelming disaster and my emotions are getting in the way of saving lives. It has always been a tool for me. Nothing more. But, as I was not getting over …him, I …started using it as a crutch, only didn't realize how close I had come to letting it have control. I was honestly not expecting you. I did ask you to stay, and it would not have been like that. I really was fine and I would have been delighted wherever you decided to sleep. I had really had such a good time but then I did, just like it told you, I curled up in a ball and I said enough. The critical voice in my head started up and you had given me a nice evening, no thanks to me, and how long will this last, a week or two dates? Did I really want to wait for the inevitable? I would screw it up. Me. Not Sherlock. Because, any of the times he interrupted my dates…all I had to tell him was, No."

Molly looks up and John is smiling looking up at the sky and a tear leaked from the corner of his eye. She sags into a more relieved posture. "It isn't a full split personality. Not yet. But, it is going there and you are afraid?" Molly asks.

"Sometimes when Sherlock wasn't on guard, his emotions had begun to bubble up unexpectedly. I got so frustrated with him, but I only gave up on him once. I will never forgive myself for it. Not ever. Because I gave up on him and it was the last thing I said to him, face to face. If he had died, in that other frame of mind, just a cool, logical, calculating robot, then maybe I could accept what I did to him. But I opened that damned door and I hurt him so badly that it all flooded out and it may have cost him the whole game. If I had just walked away, just accepted what he said, then he would not have been distracted and he might have found some way to win. I will never get to take it back and it might be something that I won't ever fix."

"It wasn't your fault, John."

"My life was used against him. My own words took away his best weapon in the most crucial battle he ever fought. On the phone with him, I could not get there. My emotions kept control. If I could have just thought clearly, it might have saved him, somehow. I have always relied on my ability to think under any circumstances. I failed. He was terrified. He cried. He didn't want to die. But he was still braver than me. He did it. He stepped off that roof against everything he wanted. I just stood there. Legs of rubber and that logical side of me didn't come. It betrayed me. You did his post-mortem and I know you afforded him every respect. But I wasn't there. I should have been and had every ability to make it happen. He would have done it for me. But it was just gone, it was suddenly faulty and I don't know why."

"You're being too hard on yourself. It will destroy you. None of that is even true except that you were used against him and you had no control of it and it wasn't just you."

John stands abruptly and puts on a wide smile, wipes his eyes, and shakes his head. "Thank you. For saying that. I don't want you to be afraid of me. I'm pretty sure I have this all under control. I know my limits and will never take a chance and surpass them around you again. But, I am a bit of a coward about some things, now, which is new. I always thought I was a good man, and I proved myself wrong there. That is so hard to tell you. I love you. I'm not ashamed of it. I am pretty damned chuffed about it. But, if I should happen to lose my mind, anytime soon, I want you to know. I'm trusting you, as a fellow doctor, to be aware of these symptoms and the fact there are marked personality changes. If we see, or you see, anything that concerns you, I bank on you to walk away. You're all I have, so I can't."

Molly fiddles with the sand and nods as he speaks. "I'm not walking away."

"Yeah, ok. Um. We said honest and, believe me, I have not wanted to tell you any of that business, but had to be done. Now I am going to go walk up the beach here for a bit. Give you some time to think. If we are still together, I will see you back at the room. We will have a nice dinner and we won't talk about this again, unless it's necessary. If you decide, you can't deal with my baggage, just go to the desk and explain you would like a second room. I won't bother you. I'll stay here, out of your hair and take a different train. You can leave me a note, or I'd prefer not, if that's good, because you don't have to explain. And I love you, by the way. Either way."

Molly watched him walk up the beach. He was far out of earshot by the time she spoke. "I'm not leaving, you idiot. I love you more than you'll ever know and I will only walk away when the tall bloody idiot finally decides he's tortured you enough. I don't care how scary you are. You don't scare me, John."

Chapter Text

She sat in the room for two hours waiting, trying to decide what to say to him when he came through the door. A mean grin curled onto her lips. She tucked all her things away as if she had left, then folded a blank piece of paper and placed it on the bed.

She took off her clothes, and stood there without a stitch, waiting for him to return. She heard him, just outside the door. She stepped as far into the corner as she could. He would pick up the paper, see it was blank, turn in confusion and find her posing seductively.

She began to worry he lost his key. "Please don't let him get the manager," she whispered.

Finally the key slipped in the lock, and then she hears the sound of the door opening. He stood there for so long she was tempted to peek round the corner. He sighed and tossed the key on the table. She heard the door close softly and then he stepped into the WC and there was no sound at all.

She waited. She changes poses, because her arm is tired and whatever he's doing, this is not exactly working out as she'd planned. She assumed that all that walking had hastened his bowels, which she didn't want to interrupt, but then she started to be worried. This was taking too long. It was supposed to be three seconds of let down and a happy surprise, not fifteen minutes of silence while he cracked to pieces.

Molly takes a step around the corner, but the door is partially closed and the light is off. Her stomach flutters with dread. Her mind catalogues all the quiet ways to die and why else would he be sitting in the dark, but to asphyxiate, bleed, or slip into some drugged coma. She pushes the door open and flicks on the lights.

"Jesus!" he yells.

"No. Were you expecting him? Why are you in the bathtub, in the dark, with your clothes on?" Molly asks taking tiny steps toward him, in terror he is up to something she's not going to like.

He lays back and lets out a sigh of relief and then starts to chuckle. "As soon as you explain, everything gone, note on the bed and naked in my loo, I will explain the tub bit."

Molly sits on the edge, giving him the once over before speaking. "I am in your loo starkers because you did not read your note."

"What's it say?"

"It doesn't say anything."

"Then how do I read it?"

"You don't. But you didn't look at it."

"If it's blank why should I look at it?"

"Because, then you would have turned and seen me and I would have whispered 'surprised' and then you would be pouncing on me and I would not have been standing out there looking and feeling stupid that you're floating a loaf in here or something, wasn't a very good romantic surprise, then I peek and see the light is off and my heart falls with all the things going through my head and I can't even breath—"

He pulls her into the tub on top of him and says, "You're breathing now, but only out. Two deep breaths and then, I am kissing you."

He kissed her several more times before revealing that he used to sleep in the bathtub when he was sick because the cool porcelain on the back of his neck felt good and would settle his stomach and sooth his head. In the army, he often had to sleep rough and he always picked a cast iron tub over a floor or even a bed because stray bullets didn't tend to go through them. He had prepared himself that she would be gone and wasn't very surprised when he saw the evidence. He just wanted a cool dark place to rest for a while.

"I was just dozing off, and you almost gave me a wardrobe malfunction of the brown trouser variety."

"I'm very sorry. This didn't work out quite how I planned. I feel ridiculous." Molly squirms around in discomfort and settles on him in a straddle. She snuggles down and lays her head on his chest.

"Better?"he asks the top of her head. "Good. Ok, this is going to sound unappreciative, and it is not meant to, but you really do need to let me know if I have missed something here. So just tell me the truth and we will deal with it together, but I do have the right to know what I am getting myself into just for the purpose of disclosure."

"That sounds like a very serious subject." she teases.

"Are you clinically insane, Molly Hooper, or perhaps your sense of self-preservation atrophied at some point? Because I am without any understanding of how the conversation out there leads to this place, in which you are comfortable to be here. To put it in perspective, I had a small hope that perhaps you would give me a chance, and you would still be here to talk it all out. The expectation was, you would see that I have some major work to do, and you would ask questions and then we would try to form a game plan about our future." His hands move up and down her spine and his voice is filled with amusement as he continues, "So, help me out a bit and please explain what unfathomable thought process, went from me out there laying out my entire arsenal of reasons for you to get away, while you can, to you are in my bathtub naked."

"I love you." She says softly.

"Thank you, that is amazing and I love you too. But, if you look at the facts, PTSD, combined with grief, have done quite a number on me. I handed you a realistic and truthful picture of my probably deteriorating mental state. I am in no condition to be worthy of someone like you. The fact is, I am going to require years of therapy and I am not completely confident that I'm stable…or safe to be around. Once I enter treatment, my license will more than likely be pulled, which will plunge me into a rollercoaster, because it will take away the one thing that has always allowed me to have purpose. You took all of that in, and your answer is, this? I am wondering if I am the most damaged person in the room, after all."

Molly sighs, but doesn't move. "You are making me feel as if you are asking me to leave. You told me all of that, to frighten me away, and you think that telling me how close to broken you are will make it all so easy. I think that the only reason you are even thinking of these things is for me. You never wanted help, this whole time and it's just now that you are noticing that you aren't fine. But, if I do leave, you won't do any of it. I don't think you are really meaning to, but you are testing the waters and I can tell you now that that is much more scary. What you will do to yourself, is more than likely use me as proof that it isn't worth doing. I know what you tried to make this. It was a test run. You didn't think I would see it for what it is. But, I do."

"You think you know everything? You think you're Sherlock Holmes, deducing me?"

Molly shakes her head. "Not like him, no. He set details in a big bowl and threw them in the air and made sense of them. I could never do that, but it doesn't mean I don't see things others don't."

"What do you think you see? What if you see wrong? You didn't see Moriarty. When I think about you alone with him. Do you know how much danger you were in? It makes me sick. He could have used you against him just as easily as he did me. It was pure luck you are here at all, you know. But, I am more concerned that you are making the same exact mistake now. What if I can't do this? What if I can't be fixed?"

"You can be."

John scrunches up his face in pain, closes his eyes in frustration, "You don't know that. Don't say you do, because you don't. I would rather be dead then take a chance of hurting you. It hadn't crossed my mind as much, because we have been sort of taking it day to day, but I wanted to tell you I love you and that made me think about futures. I want one, with you…but I don't want it to end up with me going round the twist one day and harming you. Not worth it. This isn't how I planned this trip. But, I gave you all the information to make the right decision and you made the one I want of course, but the wrong one."

Molly sighs, and stands up, extricating herself from the tub. She grabs a robe and slips it on and ties it. "I am not making a mistake, but I don't have any idea how to convince you. You are basically saying that the only possible reason I could care for you is because I'm crazy. You think I have some, thing for emotionally damaged guys, and maybe I do. I mean, Sherlock then Jim and now you. "

John stands and rests his hands on her arms and pulls her close, gently bumping foreheads and looking at her with a relieved kindness. "Yes."

"Then look at what has been happening to both of us since this began. You act like you told me some big secret out there. You didn't. You clarified some things. But, everyone knows you are not stable. Everyone. Did you really think that wasn't obvious? But the part you are missing is that you have come a very long way since then. You are more stable now than you were. It isn't like you got worse being around me. If you want to get rid of me, I won't stop you. Just say it, but before you do, maybe you don't know this, but it has been a two way street here. You make me feel special and desirable and even pretty. You make me feel lucky, just to be around you. You are funny, thoughtful, caring, smart, brave and I know you are good. The best. Don't take my word, he saw it. He loved you. If the smartest person, who loved almost nobody, picked you, why do I have to be crazy to see it too?"

"But, you are basing it on something we will never know. He and I never had a chance to find out any of that."

"Yes. You did. People don't do that for people who they don't love more than themselves. It doesn't have to be said out loud to be true, and saying it out loud doesn't make it true. I have always been stubborn and you won't scare me away. But all you ever have to do is ask, and I'll go."

"So, I guess you're staying then?"

"Glad we got that sorted." She says flippantly and then giggles.

Chapter Text

They take a local water taxi to St. Mary's and have dinner. This time they dine to the sounds of a local teen band that specialized in folk music. She and John danced a bouncy silly version of something that John knew well. She'd only seen that sort of dancing on telly. They passed these days, without a cross word or any more discussion of how much he feared he was breaking. It felt like they had slipped into a dream version of life. The pace was slow and yet it didn't drag. There was no storm but they watched the waves in Hell's Bay. When the tide was out it is possible walk to the facing island of Tresco. They spent too long there one day and had to wade back.

Molly felt the tension in her seep away and she loved watching John who had reached near celebrity status as Bryher's visiting doctor and yet someone who belonged among them.

Molly dreaded leaving and having to go back to the real world. She had held this terrible secret that silently ruled their lives, but here, it was far away. For a few days, she could let herself pretend and imagine a life like this. She could let her heart whisper what a wonderful man she was with.

"I have one last thing to show you." He said after breakfast on their last morning. They trudged along in a brisk wind and Molly was certain even the light was burning as a shield from the harm of the world. Finally they arrived at a high stone maze.

"It's beautiful." Molly said. The scenery was breathtaking and the stones seemed a little mysterious but not ostentatious like Stonehenge. It wasn't even as big as the ones across on Tresco. This was small and forgotten and Molly could have built it herself.

John took a deep breath and they very carefully walked through the stones, around and around. When they got to the middle, John faced her and his eyes matched the deep north blue ocean. He swallowed and cleared his throat. "When I was young, we came here and at the time we dreamed and right here it seemed like it could all come true. Well, I wanted to be a doctor and I wanted to be a soldier. Those dreams were born here. When I met Sherlock, I looked in his eyes and I saw this place. Out there, the shallow water is so like his eyes, always changing color. Even when the tide goes out it is his grey eyes. For me, now, the two memories will always be sewn together. So this is the only place that the three of us could sort of exist all at once, to me. I don't know if there is any magic in the world, but for me, if there is, it's here. This place, it's plain and ordinary like me. But, I am betting on the magic."

Molly is a little lost and says kindly, "It's beautiful. I like thinking about you here and still a little boy full of dreams and…oh, sorry."

"Maybe I am." His eyes look at her directly and his lips curl into a smile. "You see, I know that this is rushing and I almost decided not to do this at all. I don't mean to push you or hurry you. Your right about going slow. It's the smart plan. So, it isn't now or never. The thing is, I always knew when I did this, it had to be here and I don't know when we…We are here and it feels both real and magical so…" John rolls his eyes and blushes as he gets down on his knees and reaches in his pocket. He looks at the little box and takes a deep breath then has to push it out.

"Ok. I know. I know that this isn't what you, no scratch that. " He takes another deep breath and begins again. " Molly Hooper, you have brought magic to my very dark world. I don't want an answer today, so stop trembling. I am not putting you on the spot. You don't even have to look at it if you don't want to. Just take the box and know that this is the place I asked you to do me the incredible honor of considering the idea of being my wife. It doesn't have to be now. It can be, but I …anything you want. You know me. The best and the worst. I will protect you with my last breath. I will try to never hurt you in any way I can prevent. Just put this idea on the table and know it is meant with all my heart. I am not perfect, but I am…here…on my knees…wanting you to understand that I do love you and I do think we could make a life…worth who knows how much. Maybe we could look back someday and say that we took the broken terrible things that have probably nearly killed us both and we did something good. Please, just think about it?"

Molly feels sick. She wants to shout yes, rip open the box and never look back. But she can't even begin to sort the emotional disaster this sweet man has just caused to burst. She holds the box and tears well and spill in her silent misery.

John stands and puts his arms around her."Don't cry. Please don't cry. You don't have to say a word right now. Just… please, God, please don't say no. Tell me no, later, if that's what these tears are about, but just lets go home and one day, when the idea has had time to settle and you can look forward a little and one day you know for sure what you want, then you can let me know. I just need you to know that this is where I mean for this to go if you will have me…whenever you're ready. Ok?"

Molly sobs louder but she nods. John laughs then looks down at her. He tilts her head back and his cheeks are damp as well. "Is that yes to me or yes to thinking about it? Or just yes you hear me."

"Oh, this is just…the worst thing that could happen. No, I mean, I want to say yes. I do want to just say yes, but I can't. It's so unfair. I want this and I will never be able to… It's just so awful."

"A bit lost here? Breathe and maybe try it again," John says.

Molly nods and tries to put her brain in order. "Ok… I want to say just yes, but if I do that and things work out badly, then I will think I should have thought about it more carefully. So I will think about it. Probably do little else, in fact, for the rest of my life. Nobody has ever ask me and this was so…dammit it is perfect and so are you…but..."

"But you need time to think. Knew you would. It's fine. As long as you need, I promise. We can talk about it all. It's just this is the spot, and now is the time, for you to be sure that this is just about you and me. I don't think either of us ever wants to forget him, and that's ok. His memory is welcome, always. However, what I feel for you… It isn't about Him, or his brother, or anyone. This is ours. Just ours and we will do this our way. Yes or no, it's only John and Molly. These stones are said to speak of time and destiny. All the time you need… to figure out, if you are my destiny."

Molly stepped back and nodded at him wiping her nose on her sleeve and sniffing. She looked down at the tiny grey box in her hand and without thinking she flipped it open and sighed. She watched it sparkle in the light of this place and hoped it had some way of sucking up a bit of magic that would somehow make this all turn out some way other than her heart being broken again.

"Is it? Ok? I can exchange it if you don't, if it's too plain," he says chewing his lip, hoping she is pleased but not confident he'd made the right choice.

"When I was little, I dreamed too. And this, is better than all of mine." Molly's voice was hoarse and squeaky.

"I wouldn't mind if you said yes now."

"Then for now, yes. But, you will be the one to change your mind. Not me. But, for a while, I'm going to wear this and show it to absolutely everyone and I won't regret it for a second no matter what happens."

John is too focused on the amazing, yes, and the emotional rush that has filled him that he can't quite understand what she means by the rest, so it doesn't matter. He slips the ring on her finger and he tingles all over as he realizes that his future just said yes. This is a life moment that changes everything in a blink. A death led here. Pain and sorrow led here, but only real magic could have made this small dream of a misplaced man become possible.

He kissed her and she kissed him back. Mycroft's words were still floating around and she knew it would all blow up like a bomb in her face. It crossed her mind that when Sherlock found out, he would have to come back. He would never let John marry her, when he was so in love with him. He would have to tell John he's alive.

It is not the greatest plan. It has a few flaws. But the tiny bit of truth that she didn't really want to look at very closely, was the fact that she actually did love John Watson and Sherlock Holmes enough to risk more than just life, but dreams to save them. Life ends, dreams go with the dead. She knew they belonged together and even though it would hurt, one day she knew she would look back and know that she had made their dreams come true. When the time came she would love them with an open hand, and it would hurt like brains on concrete, but true love needs no chains and no words.

In the meantime, she could always say that she had been asked. She could always have this moment of romance and the dream that if it happened once it would happen again. One day someone would come along and she had this perfect wonderful man to gage if any of the rest were worthy. She had this, and from now on, all the dull little creatures and people with sleepy droll lives had better be on notice that Molly Hooper would never settle for less. Maybe she loved Sherlock because he was dangerous. Jim certainly was and she had liked him very much. She knew Mycroft is dangerous and yet she genuinely enjoys his company most of the time.

John Watson is dangerous. He hadn't even hidden it. Maybe he was the most dangerous of all, and here she was.

Chapter Text

Half the town turned out to say farewell and Molly got to flash her ring and be congratulated. Maybe it wasn't going to be real for long, but while it was she was going to take full advantage of the fun. For right now, she wasn't the mousy little odd girl from the morgue or even that pathetic creature who was wasting her time waiting for a freak to notice she existed. They could all bugger off, because Sherlock would never be a freak to her. John would never scare her away, because maybe dangerous people liked her because they recognized something familiar. Not right away, she could fool anyone for a while.

But, Molly is a little dangerous herself. When she loves, she hands it over, and does it without guard or demand that it be returned. It didn't mean getting what she wants and it meant knowing terrible wounds and living with hidden scars. Loving someone was easy, but doing the right thing with that feeling was a hard battle to wage. She loves in a dangerous way and she could not regret that.

She knew peoples regrets in the end. She could see the answers in their overworked hearts and their final blank stares of loneliness. They had followed the rules and sometimes the rules really are wrong. She was at an age where she should be raising a family, but instead she was building a temple and sometimes she felt trapped there by all the broken rules and lies. One day she would, brick by brick, and day by day be finished with her life and her Temple.

The pathologist, who would read the empty statue of Molly, might not find evidence of child birth or a crowd of people weeping, but they would not find a heart filled with bitter regret or eyes that say none of it mattered. So many people wore expressions and lines that spoke a hard truth. They only saw all the important things at the moment they had nothing left to change.

She would rather be friends to extraordinary men, than ever settle for nobody, just to have somebody. She would love to marry John, but this day would always be a symbol of more to her, whether that happened or not.

She is Molly, the one who Sherlock Holmes trusted with his life, his secrets and his heart. She is Miss. Hooper, who tells off Mycroft Holmes and lives to tell the tale. She is Miss Molly Angel, who could mourn and miss a lunatic because he opened her eyes, even if he was wrong. She is Dr. Hooper, who Captain John Watson, M.D. has slipped a promise, that he would live, just for her, on her finger. It takes a bit of true love to agree to do something that hard for someone. Staying Alive. John might not actually marry her, but the important part is that he would be alive not to.

If she put all of that in a basket, she had to admit, fairy tales of love didn't hold a candle to the real thing. If she was very lucky, they would both forgive her for loving them so overwhelmingly much. She would not stop loving either one and one day, when her two loves were happy, all she would feel is happy for them. Maybe, if he paid attention, even Mycroft would understand.

God, London smelled funny. She had always liked it before, but returning from the fresh air out beyond Land's End made London air feel like prison for her lungs. There should have been a warning label on the soot. Exhaust fumes made the world look hazy and the constant movement of people suddenly felt oppressive instead of exciting.

"Do you smell that?" She asked as they exited Paddington.

"Welcome to London," he said back but wrinkled his nose in agreement.

"I don't want to go to work tomorrow."

"Then don't go. We will go to Paris instead," he suggested with several pecks on her cheeks and brow in the cab.

They discussed all the advantages of going to Paris for an early pre-honeymoon. By the time they pulled up to her building, John was actually not joking any longer.

"John. It's a lovely idea and we can talk about it. I have some holiday time, I never seem to take it, but not right this minute. I don't want to go to work, but I need to go to work."

"mmm." He opens the door to her flat, "Well, that makes a huge difference then."

She and John have tea and say bye in their traditional form. Molly, wrapped only in her robe flops on her sofa and turns on the telly.

It is fifteen minutes later that she startles and sees the man standing in the door to her bedroom. "Oh, God. Sherlock! What are you doing here? How long…"she takes a deep sigh and looks at the floor.

"Congratulations seem to be in order." He says as if he could care less, but Molly hears the control in his voice and the pain underneath that he's trying so hard to hide.

"Congratulations won't matter as soon as you tell him you're alive. Tell him. Please. I can't keep this up much longer." Molly's voice is filled with hopeless defeat because she sees at once that he feels betrayed and won't let her in.

"You have stolen my John. And he has stolen my Molly." He looks so amused, just like Mycroft.

Chapter Text

"You have stolen my John. And he has stolen my Molly." He looks so amused, just like Mycroft.

"No. But you need to stop this. Can't you see, he's jumping toward something because it feels more real, than you being dead. That's all. He's suffering and it's gone on too long. He's going to break if you don't stop his grief and I don't think you have any idea how much suffering that will bring."

Sherlock smirked and waved his hand toward the bedroom. "Is that what those ridiculous noises amounted to? Suffering? Funny, I rather thought they meant something else. Perhaps you aren't as skilled as you think? I seem to recall that the motive for that activity was not a painful experience…unless of course Irene is involved."

"You shouldn't have watched. God. You and your brother. You and he are determined to send me round the twist. I know I can't marry him, okay? But, I told him I would think about it to buy you some time. The thing is, if you wait much longer, I might not be strong enough to say no. I care about him. I love him and I'm sorry that it happened, but I have no control over this. You have put me here and I am trying to help, but it is going to destroy me…" Her voice begins filled with fire but by the last sentence, her anger has quivered and flashed out like consumed paper.

Sherlock swallowed and bowed his head. "I returned because I lost contact with you. I feared something had happened. Nice job throwing Mycroft's crew, by the way. I thought you were in danger."

"I am in danger. I'm dangerously close to thinking you don't understand that we are in danger of—"

"In fact, you were not. This was a waste of time. Except now, I rather am in danger." Sherlock opened her window a crack and flopped down next to it. He pulled hard on the cigarette as he lit it and blew most of the smoke out the window.

Her own anger comes to a full-stop. "What…what has happened?"

"In my frantic search for you, I have made a mistake." He spits out the last word as if it is disgusting. He blows a lungful of smoke up into the room and adds in a tone of philosophical boredom, " Only a matter of time before they figure it out."

Her world undulates as she realizes what her selfish actions could mean. "Oh. No. I'm sorry. I should have thought." She wilts internally trying to figure out how to fix it all. She doesn't know what to say and feels as jumbled in thought as she ever did around him.

" If I really were dead, you actually would marry John, wouldn't you? Because you want to? You actually have feelings for him?" Sherlock asks this staring away from Molly, as if he's perhaps talking to himself.

She can't think and begins rambling, "I do care and yes I would marry him and I'm sorry. But it doesn't change anything. He would never pick me over you. All you have to do is tell him. We can pretend to be engaged while you finish…your travels. Nobody will suspect now. They will blame his mood change on me." Molly says it softly. She knows it is true and hates it.

Sherlock nods. "And what about you? Me or him? Who would you pick?"

"I don't get a choice. As soon as he finds out that I have lied, then he will never …" she shakes her head and closes her eyes, not willing to cry, but not quite able to convince her face not to prepare.

"Good. Because he's never going to find out."

Molly's eyes fly open. "What are you saying?"

"Oh please, are we playing stupid again? I want you to marry him. I mean it. The chances of him ever finding out have just become very small. Makes it easier really. Now I can do what I must, without the two of you being a constant distraction." He says in his most aloof, snotty way.

"Sherlock, what do you mean? I haven't meant to…distract you…How can…" Molly is flustered; she crosses the room and goes down on her knees to perch next to him. "What do you mean, he won't find out? That was always the plan. From the first minute. Getting you back to John was what this was all about. I know you're angry, but this…" she holds out her hand and the small round diamond sparkles. "It's only real for me. You have to come home."

Sherlock finishes his cigarette and flicks it out the window into the garden. He stands and sighs, obviously not wanting to have this conversation. "I won't be contacting you anymore. You are correct. I can't expect this from you. You have been a true friend and knowing I am leaving you in the care of each other, my two true friends, is brutally comforting. Where… ever, I am, I will always think of you."

Her teeth are clamped tightly, giving her words a buzzing sound as if she is speaking a hornet dialect. "No. You are not doing this to me. Not now. Not after it all." She glares at him in fury.

"Tell me? Would you have helped me, if you knew then, how it ended?"

"You know I would. How can you ask me that?" Molly is angry. She feels her face burning; it always goes red when she is mad. Her heart is beating loudly and still picking up speed. "I won't lie to him for the rest of my life. Dammit. I love you both. I won't live like that. Is that what you think of me? That I can just forget and lie and ever think I was a good wife to him when it is all paid for, on your life? "

He bends down close to her, his voice a purr of control and his eyes almost laughing at her. "Give this to John, for me, won't you?" His lips touch hers and she steps back but he anticipates her and clamps her closely too him, demanding her submission and unwilling to let her go. She stops struggling and folds her heart into this kiss, trying to say all the things he won't listen to about how he has not lost anyone.

He looked at her as if memorizing her, and then he smiled. "This is goodbye, Molly Hooper. Curiosity killed the detective. I just wanted to know." He leaned in and kissed her forehead.

He opens the door and she grabs his arm stopping him, "You're going to do something stupid, aren't you?"

He looks over her head for a split second as if searching for his answer, then focuses his full attention back on her eyes. His mouth quirks up at the corners and he says dramatically, "No. I am going to do something brilliant, just as I always do. This is the last thing. I know how to finish it once and for all. You have just given me the motive to make sure it works. Lay low, pay attention."

"He's not safe yet, is he?" her voice sounds desperate and she can't help it.

"Not yet. But I will make sure he is. You will both be fine." He places his hand over hers, trapping her fist between his palm and his arm. Her grip softens and his tone softens a little, his eyes drop. "I do hope you have a happy life. Be patient with him, he can be a little stubborn and very bossy. Do act like he is amazing, and make sure he always feels wanted and needed. Because, he is so full of light and the world would be less beautiful without him. I would have been kinder to him, if I had been capable of it. I know you will be," he says gently.

Molly's eyes are wide and pleading. She shakes her head denying what he says, not wanting to hear this. "Don't say this. I won't let you throw this away. I am not enough to save him." Her throat is closing giving her an airy teen voice. She feels like a mouse squeaking, rather than someone capable of demanding Sherlock change his behavior. John would yell at him and order him and there would be no question that he would be obeyed. Molly is not able to put the same command in her tone.

"When you become parents, don't name any of them Sherlock. I was teased," he says as if he barely heard her, yet he is throwing children into the mixture as if he's fixed her tiny little problem.

Molly is shaking in fear and anger, choking on the sorrow of knowing she has hurt him and now he's going off to God-knows-where to give her a silly dream. She does know what he's offering her. She also knows she could never live with the price.

"But I will never know, will I? If you just leave with no intention of coming back, I will have no idea. Please, don't do this. I have never asked anything of you, but don't do this. I can't. I can't have…" She is using her last resort, he does owe her. Her mind is spinning, determined to say anything to keep him here, but her grip on manipulation is not strong enough. She is strong with John, why is she so weak with Sherlock.

Sherlock sighs and runs his fingers through his hair in frustration. "Yes, that would…I do see. Watch Paris. Trust me, you will know. There will be a terrible scandal in Switzerland and the next day, Paris will burn. You won't mistake it, now that you know to look for it. I'm trusting you. Mycroft doesn't know and he must not. He's forbidden this.  But I have no choice now. Do you understand?" his eyes lock back to hers.

Molly nods. "John could help you. You don't have to do this alone. Take him with you. What if I tell him? I could tell him the whole thing. He is all ready to go. He's been waiting, for you. He's all packed, just needing you to say you want him." She doesn't meet his eyes as she makes her covert threat. She hides it in temptation, but it is a threat.

"Would you really end his life so foolishly? Would you throw him away for nothing? Because that's all it would be." He turns his head and smirks as if he already knows her answer. "I think not. His blood would be on your hands alone. I don't think a bitter death is what you want for him, or do I mistake the sentiment behind that exquisite little stone on your finger?"

Molly looked down at the ring and Sherlock swept her hand into his. He bent very slowly and kissed the ring with reverence.

"Don't be fooled by its size. It is not a modest bauble. He spent a bomb on this unassuming perfect stone. He could have bought you something more ostentatious and pretentious for the same amount of money. But he chose this. A truly perfect diamond is almost priceless and I can assure you, the heart that gave it, actually is. You are, above all, practical. You won't tell him any more than you would throw this in the Thames."

"You're going to get yourself killed. This has all been for nothing. All his pain with no happy ending?"

He winked at her. "You and John take care of the happy endings, and I will take care of the tragic hero role. I'm already dead. Leave it that way.  Don't make him survive it twice.  Make him happy.  Be happy." He turns quickly and even though it is too hot for his old Belstaff, and he is dressed in the sloppy style of an east London hipster, his actions couldn't be more theatrical if he were in a swirly vampire's cloak. He pushes the lift button and the bell dings at once. As the doors close, he says loudly, almost a little desperately, "Just so you know, you're the only one he's ever dated who I think is worthy of him."

"Sherlock. Please?" She runs toward the doors.

Molly stands in the hallway, still in her robe looking at the closed doors. She can't breathe and has no idea what to do next.

Chapter Text

Molly stands in the hallway, wanting to go after him, but knowing that by the time she changed out of her robe, he would probably be gone. She didn't have the skills to follow him if he didn't want her too. She considers calling John, but what could she say? 'Hello, Sherlock is alive and he's going to be dead if we don't do something,' didn't sound like a very smart plan.

She would have to trust him, and hope he didn't stay gone. She whispers this comfort to herself, but her heart feels the flood of despair at her own attempt to read the situation with glasses of rose tinted optimism. If she told John, there would be no predicting his reaction. She thought of going to Mycroft and hoping he could somehow make Sherlock listen. He would never listen to Mycroft. If only he could talk to John. Sherlock would listen to him. Every possible solution had a matching problem until it swirled in her mind like garish horses at a carousel with knights unarmed.

She thought carefully in the shower. She reclines on her bed for a while, hoping for sleep or inspiration to rescue her from her throbbing head. She drifts on waves of hopelessness, terror and wishes. In her bed that still smells of John, looking at her ring, the conversation with Sherlock won't stop. It accosts her again and again.

She knows the easy path will be to follow his instructions, but she also knows it isn't the right path. Sherlock is wrong. John would not want this. Sherlock has no right to dictate everyone else's life. It had been a lovely time alone with only the sun and the sea and the wind to share John with, but he doesn't belong to her and he never could, so long as they are built on lies.

She gives up and rises from the bed, admitting she will be unable to fall asleep in this state of mind. She is too restless to sleep and she wants to be near John. Maybe she could get his advice without giving away what she needs to know. It is late but she decides to go to John's anyway. He won't mind her showing up. She dresses and is just exiting the lift when her landlady catches hold of her and beams. "Let us have a look then, love?"

Molly drew a blank, then with relief, she holds out her hand. "Oh, bless my soul, it's just right. Not too posh and not too miserly. The work of a quality bloke. I never would'a let him in, mind, cept I goh'a fine eye for quality. Don't you worry about that lit'le limp eiv'ver. That one is pure buh'on tuck leather, not a dodgy no-name overstuffed recliner. You hold on to that one, he's not brand new, but he's still got lots of comfortable sit left on him." Mrs. Brewerton had worked for forty-five years in a furniture store and she had single-handedly found all the beautiful floral designer furniture in Molly's flat.

"I believe he does indeed, Mrs. B." she said unable to stop her fondness for this older woman from lighting up her face.

Molly had honestly thought the sofa was hideous, but Mrs. Brewerton insisted that it was tasteful and sturdy as a brick. She had been correct and even if it reminded Molly of something that belonged in the flat of some elderly woman who served tea and gossip with lace doilies, it is still in perfect shape all these years later.

"I bet you'll 'ave a bit of padding sewn back on 'im in no time at all. Bit on the stringy side to my taste, but most men 'aven't the sense to eat a proper meal without a nice lit'le missus to get them sorted out. I will share my recipe book, came from Bertie's Mum, rest their souls. Can't find proper recipes these days, no 'ow, all this bloody microwave, bed-sit nonsense and 'orrid foreign take-away. I think we should start straight away, just get you in the 'abit of setting a nice table and making 'im feel like the world will come to a full-stop if he misses a good 'ome cooked —"

"That sounds delightful, and so very kind of you. I don't mean to be rude, but I've been called into work and it is sort of an emergency," Molly interjected when Mrs. Brewerton finally took a breath.

"Oh, that explains, you all showered and dressed at this dreadful 'our. Didn't think you would be starting out for a date. But, you never know these days. You will 'ave to set your foot down once you are wed, though, no proper wife could keep your hours…not with a good man sitting at 'ome waiting."

"I don't think it will be a problem. He's a doctor too, so we both have some strange hours. It isn't a nine to five profession, though I would appreciate it if everyone did decide to die at a decent hour."

Mrs. Brewerton looked appalled.

"Oh, not that I want anyone to, of course, I mean, I have to work when the work presents itself and not always at the times I would pick. That's all." She smiles uncomfortably and promises to contact her soon so that they could begin cooking lessons.

Molly would not have been terribly enthused about sequestering herself in her landlady's flat for countless evenings, but she had eaten Mrs. Brewerton's holiday dinners for years and though Molly could fry just about anything to perfection, that was also where her culinary expertise ended.

Molly caught a cab to John's.

She knocks on the door and notices right away that John is both angry and agitated with worry. "It's gone. I have been through everything. It is just bloody gone. I called Lestrade but I know I will never see it again. Why that? Bloody, hell, I will never forgive myself…"

Molly steps in the door, eyes wide. "I'm sorry, what is gone?"

"The violin. His bloody violin. Molly. Oh, God. They took his…violin." John squats down, taking a seat on the stairs to wait for Lestrade, and drops his head to his knees, his hands rake through his hair as if he is losing his mind. "I will never find it. I didn't keep it safe. I should have kept it safe. I should have kept him…safe." John is mourning the violin like Sherlock has died all over again.

Molly looks around the flat quickly while still on the landing. They didn't take the computer or the telly. She peeks through the kitchen door and sees Sherlock's microscope sits out on the counter exactly where he probably left it. "Did they take anything else? Have you checked his room?"

John looks up at her as if she has just poured salt on a whipped puppy's behind. "God, no. I didn't even think…" John stands and stumbles in his rush through the kitchen doorway toward Sherlock's room. He opens the door and disappears inside. "Bloody hell."

"What is it?" she asks while hurrying through the kitchen.

"They made a tip of it. I think they took some of his clothes." He says trying to right things and suddenly he gets a strange look on his face and rushes out of the room, bumping her enough that she has to sidestep to keep her balance.

When Molly follows, she finds John clutching the mantle and sobbing quietly.

She puts her arms around him and doesn't say a word. They stand like this for a few minutes and she can feel the shudders of pain ripping him apart. He takes several deep breaths and sniffs. He grows still, yet he's still tense with pure anger. Finally, John says, "What kind of person would want that? Who steals a God-damned skull? Who does that?"

"This happened while we were on holiday?" she asked.

"What? No. Went round the corner to grab a bite and needed bread and a few things, came back." Suddenly, he registered fully that Molly was there. "What are you doing here? Everything alright?"

"I…um. Missed you," she tried to sound cheery about that at least.

John nods and a lopsided smile appears like this pleases him. Maybe he is glad she showed up, but his attention is quickly locked back on the break in and his smile vanishes, replaced with a lost look of anger without a place to rage, "I just don't understand how anyone could want a skull. It won't bring much, if they can sell it at all. I mean, Mrs. Hudson heard nothing. I was gone an hour, at most. Other than the violin, the rest of it was just my sentimental rubbish. Who would break in here, leave things of value and haul off an armload of rubbish?"

Molly can think of one person who might. She makes tea and he accepts it. She watches him. He waffles among anger, barely controlled tears and going blank.

John digs around in the sitting room. He notices some small thing gone from time to time setting off a string of curses. He has checked his own room as well only to find it untouched. He sits in his chair finally in exhaustion; his finger settles to his mouth and she can see his mind plotting revenge.

Lestrade comes by and fills out a report, promising to turn it over to the proper channels. John is derisive about any hope that it will have priority. Greg takes his attitude patiently without offence. Years of being around Sherlock made people immune to irrational and accusatory tones.

'Prop'ably kids. Fink they will make a killin' on Ebay or such. Sell it to his bloody fans. " Lestrade says carefully looking to Molly for a clue what he can say.

"Yeah. I see some tosser wearing that coat, and I swear he'll wish he'd never heard the name. Vultures, whoever did this, and anyone who buys so much as a pair of his socks. Vultures. Not one person in this city believed in him, for months... and now they want to have…pieces of him. It's sick."

Lestrade grimaces, but lets the comment go. He had believed enough to clear Sherlock's name. He had arrested him, but had given them both fair warning that he'd been ordered to take Sherlock in for formal questioning. They could have run before he got there. But, sneaking off quietly wasn't dramatic enough. Had to chin his boss first and then run off as Sherlock's hostage, the mad bugger. "Worlds full of 'em. You have any idea what I should put the value to be?"

" I will have Mycroft send a valuation for the violin. Knowing him, it's worth a million pounds and not insured," John says exhausted and rubbing his eyes as if it is all his fault.

"Just for safety's sake, I am leavin' the skull off. You know who it ..I mean where he got that item? Saw it, but it never occurred to me to ask." Greg looks down, embarrassed.

John's eyes move unconsciously to the spot it had always occupied. "No idea. I don't have a clue. I was a bit afraid to ask considering what turned up in our refrigerator,"John says with a fond smile.

Lestrade rolls his eyes and they both laugh. "How about you, Miss Hooper? You were sort of his supplier for things along that line. Do you know?"

Molly giggled, "Well, I tended to supply him things that were a bit…"

"Fresher?" John interposes with a twinkle in his eye.

"Scarier and malodorous? God I thought Sally was going to have a seizure when we got back to the car that night she found eyeballs in the microwave. She couldn't talk fast enough about the violations in this flat." Lestrade jumps in and reminisces.

John grins and for a moment, the tension is gone and they are all remembering better times. "That was the very night I decided to move in. Skull, riding crop in the mortuary, left behind, kidnapped by Mycroft and offered money to spy on this guy I have almost decided is a nutter, and the icing on the cake was we just got back from impersonating you, with a badge he nicked because he said he was annoyed with you, and here you were, in the flat, ransacking it with Anderson. Mrs. Hudson was in a tither and on that basis, I decided to move right in. Should have run screaming."

Lestrade shakes his head and looks at Molly, "And you're dating this idiot? Should have both your heads examined."

"Oh, I will do you one better," John leans forward and winks at Molly. "We. Are engaged."

Lestrade opens his mouth in shock, and then hits John on the back in delight. "That is fantastic. Wow, I am happy for you both then. Set a date?"

Molly shyly informs him, "Oh, not for a while. He just asked me this morning. We are taking things slowly." She extends her hand for him to admire her ring and blushes at the reaction.

"John, you clever tosser. That is absolutely lovely." He looks a little absent and wears a soft melancholy smile as he addresses Molly, "Well, I think that's the smart thing. Got all the time in the world to make sure. Wish I'd been so smart. Best of luck and all that. You have told Mrs. Hudson?" Greg says standing to leave.

"No getting around it. She helped me pick it," John admits.

"Well, you should be out celebrating or in celebrating, and I should be off. Far as the skull goes, it's probably best it not be mentioned. Hate to find out there were the remains of a missing person here all this time. How'd that look for bollocks?" Greg laughs a bit ghoulishly at the idea.

Greg lets himself out and promises to see them Sunday.

John says no more, his attention locked to the empty places in the room. All of the cheer seems to have leached away with Greg. They settle in on the sofa, but other than refilling tea and television comments, Molly might as well not be there.

John retreats deep into thought. His eyebrows crease and he fidgets but she can see he isn't going to be much for conversation. By midnight, Molly can see he is getting worse in his moody restless anger, not better. She has to do it, and the longer she waits the harder it will be. She tries to think of some way to bring it up, without it being a row.

She sighs deeply and leans forward, toward John. Her hand reaches out and settles on his knee. "I need to speak with you. But not here," she whispers, looking around the room knowing Mycroft or his cronies were probably making transcripts of all they say.

John looks at her and he clears his throat and shakes his head. "Not tonight, ok? Look, I know what it has to be about and I can't take any more bad news tonight and if it is good news, I don't want to associate it with…this. Sorry I blurted it all out to Greg, right in the middle of all that. " He waves toward the mantle and looks away.

Molly squeezes his knee. "Oh. No. It isn't about that. Look, I may know who," she whispers then looks around the room poignantly.

He blinks several times then studies her. She sees it dawn on him that she wants to talk privately. "Walk?"

They head toward Regent's Park and walk the outer circle. Near York Bridge they stop and sit on a bench hidden in the shadows. Molly twiddles her hair, but can't figure out how to begin.

"I assume you think this is Mycroft, who took it all, do you? Is there a reason he would break into my flat and steal things he could have asked for?"

"Ok, you are about to be really, really cross with me," Molly began tentatively, "but… You have to promise that you will hear it all before you get angry."

He grins at her like any indulgent boyfriend would do, hoping she hasn't cheated or decided to break it off. "Ok? What could you possibly tell me that would make me more angry than the missing violin? Are you handing me my P45, Molly?" he smiles at her as if to say she's worried about nothing.

"No, it isn't about us, not exactly. I am trying to figure out how to tell you, that I know who took it and so do you, if you think about it." She glances at him and grabs his hand for strength.

"So, Mycroft?"


"I have no idea what you mean. The Queen doesn't need Sherlock's violin and that's the only person I know for certain that Mycroft is acquainted with other than you. I did take your name off the list of possible criminal skull thieves."

She takes a deep breath. "What did they take that belongs to you?"

"It all belongs to me…now."

Molly leans forward, "List the things that were taken, in your mind. What do they have in common? Who would desire those specific items?" she asks very slowly.

He shakes his head in that blank way people do when you tell them they have cancer or any news that goes against everything they expect. "No. If I had any idea, I would probably be shooting him or her right now. That wasn't just a violin to me. It was his. He loved that damned thing more than he ever did any … human being… Oh, Jesus." He bends forward, voice losing its calm and sounding a bit queasy. "Molly? I need you to spit it out, because I am thinking you're trying to say he's alive and every time I get my hopes up like that…so stupid… but I am just now getting to be …rational, and then it will be something else and…"

"John. Get your hopes up." She searches his face to gauge the impact of her words before saying more. Nothing she will ever say, not the nonsense said after love-making or the things they said on the island will ever matter as much as the words she will say in the next few seconds.

Chapter Text

His face blanks as if the brain is on overload, then he blinks rapidly. He smiles in joy and it flickers out. He smiles again and he shakes his head as if he's hearing things. Finally his hand begins to tremble and his eyes close as he takes several deep breaths and evenly forces words to form. "What are you trying to say? You did his post-mortem. I saw the photos of his organs. There isn't much chance of surviving those procedures."

She squeezes his hand tight. Her words are slow and her voice is measured "No. I faked his post-mortem. Everyone had to believe it, but I had to agree to help for it to work. He never died. He would have, but we found a way to…keep him safe."

"Sherlock, is alive? It can't…I saw him die. He was dead. I don't understand why you are saying this. It can't be. Oh, god, is he safe? When can I see him? That was over a year ago, how do you know he's still safe?" John fires questions faster than she has any hope of answering.

"You need to calm down so I can answer."

He is hyperventilating and tremors are running through him. "Yes," he spurts nodding. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, holding it for a count of ten. He repeats it while she speaks.

It all bubbles out of Molly, all the things she has wanted to tell him so badly, just tumble from her lips in a random spew of information. "He was there today. In my flat. Hiding and watching, like his brother, and then he left and it was horrible and I think he's going to do something stupid and I can't…I can't do this for another second. He did it to keep you alive and he was always going to come home as soon as he could. Then today he told me…goodbye and lots of things about taking care of you and I begged him to tell you and he said if I told you and you die, then it is all my fault. But if I don't tell you and he dies, for real this time, then I will always know that that was my fault too, so the only way I can figure out to keep you both alive is to…"

John stands up and paces about halfway through her rambling. He has swiftly burned through relief and is rapidly hitting anger. He rubs the bridge of his nose and his voice is an octave too low as he tries to keep from exploding. "Where is he? You will take me to him right this bloody minute. Because no. No. The woman I love would not do this to me. So either you have lied to me all this time and you are not her…or you are lying now and still… are not anyone who could give a dammed about me. So, tell him to come out where I can fucking see him, or take it back."

"Please, lower your voice before someone shoots you in the head or Mycroft hears you. He knows too. I have begged them to tell you." Molly stands, reaching out to him as if to offer comfort. He holds up his hands to warn her away and she sits back down on the bench.

John looks up at the sky for a moment in silence then shoves his hands in his pockets. He turns to her and in a casual, conversational, bland tone says, "What did they say? Did either of them have the remotest clue that I was this close to blowing my head …did they really just let…"

"They…they sent me," she says gently, "and it helped, or it seemed to do, then it changed and…"

He wraps his arms around his head and leans back as if in agony."Oh, God. And I lost my fucking mind, thinking any of you were …" His arms drop and he gestures toward her, palm of his right hand waving in fury. "You let me bury him. You watched me fall in that hole in the ground with him and kindly tossed the soil on top of me, knowing I was as dead inside as any of your refrigerated clients. You all stood by every day and pretended to be sad and pretended to understand. Pretended you cared and were only trying to help. You were, in reality, just waiting to see if I could carry on, like a shell without a soul."

Molly is shaking her head and repeating 'no' to every statement but he isn't hearing a thing. He is beyond all reason and his logic has gone round the twist. She stops speaking and hopes he will wind down soon and let her explain in such a way that it doesn't include him ending in the basement of Bart's or in a padded room for the rest of his life.

"I am an experiment. To the three of you. How long can the walking dead keep breathing? How long will it take for poor John to catch up to our brilliant game and figure out he's putrid and stinking up the lives of everyone? I survived torture and war and fought with everything I had to live with that last bullet only to be sent home with nothing to have survived for, nothing left of the man I was. Except, I found him, and he picked me, as his friend, above all others. It was my job to protect him, even if it never went any farther than friendship. It was all fine. Until I failed. Even if he never could care, the way I did, how could he let me think I failed him? By all means, trick them, lie to the enemy. Of course, find a way to not die."

"It wasn't planned to hurt you. We didn't even know if it would work!" Molly tries again to speak over him, make him stop saying such horrid things.

His eyes dart sideways and a one-sided grin appears for a second as if he's looking for someone to share his humor. His lips clamp tightly between his teeth as he shakes his head. His voice goes back to a calm hard monotone as if he needs to explain the rules of life to her. "But you don't leave men behind. You don't leave them alive and wounded. You rescue them or if you know you can't you look them in the eye, you hear their last words and you do what you have to do. It is the kinder thing in the end. The right thing. One of you should have had the heart to tell me, one of you should have had a moments pity. Dear God in heaven that has got to be," John stops speaking and begins to laugh, but it is dark with self-hatred, "the best piss ever taken. I can't imagine anything…anything more cruel. Am I so worthless, not a one of you willing to put me out of my misery? I wish I had died in that damned desert. I wish I had never met any of you. "

"John, no…don't say things like that," she protests.

There are tears in his eyes now, he points at her and shakes his head. "No. Don't even speak to me. You and Mycroft…and him. Laughing at me while I slowly lost my mind. Watching me die minute by minute. Jea..sus! I've been the entertainment…Oh look…he's going to make such a mess for Mrs. Hudson. His brains don't match the sofa. Now she will have to replace the wallpaper."

She reaches up and twines her hair around her fingers. It is a terrible habit, left over from childhood, but right this minute she can't help it. She has to head his anger off. She tries to sound firm and determined with him, hoping her dry throat will make proper sounds. "John, it isn't like that. It just kept dragging out and now it is just …no matter what I do, there is no way to ever make it right, but I couldn't stand there and see it all come back because he took that damned violin. And he needs you and if I can't get you to see it, then it was all for nothing. He needs you. I don't know what he's planning, he wouldn't say, and I'm so afraid."

"Well. I don't think I give a damned." He bends toward her at the waist, defiance and dark humor in his wide legged stance and tilted head.

"Yes, you do." Molly meant for it to sound more certain than it did. The truth is, she wouldn't entirely blame him if he didn't.

He makes a reproachful noise in the back of his throat. He returns his stance to rigidly straight, folding his hands behind him and he emulates calm authority again. His head bows slightly and he looks like a fierce warrior about to address his troops for committing heinous war crimes. "Why should I? He doesn't trust me…he trusted you. You, not me. And the man who betrayed him to Moriarty. Mycroft sold Jim the artillery. I made a mistake, but I never betrayed him. Never. He hid from me. He spoke to you. And broke in the flat rather than just…boy, I have had people blow me off before, but this is a whole new kind of dismissal."

"It wasn't meant that way at all. Please I need you to stop being so cross and listen." She pats the space next to her, indicating she would like him to sit next to her.

He blows air through his nose as a no, then he looks up above her head and his eyes follow the traffic. He is speaking but not really to her. "God, this changes…everything. Everything. He left me on purpose and he didn't give a damned. I don't know who any of you are. He's not…not even my friend. I imagined it all, is what it amounts to. I mean nothing to him. He doesn't have friends, does he? Just one, my arse. And you. It was all fake. All of it." His voice sounds airy and toneless as if his heart has shattered and his life is destroyed.

Molly speaks quickly and earnestly, fearing he's going to leave before she makes him understand, "I know I'm giving up everything wonderful and everything with you to tell you. He will hate me for telling you. You do already and I don't blame you one bit. I don't… Mycroft will probably send his hit squad and I don't even care if he does. I don't care if you hate me…or if he does. But I don't know what is right or wrong anymore. I have been so sure that it was almost over, but it just keeps going on. I don't know if I am doing the right thing here. I only know what is wrong. And him fighting all this alone, while you slowly chew yourself alive is wrong."

"Fat lot of good that does me. You taking a year to decide that this was wrong." His right hand goes to his face and he touches his lips. He smiles and shakes his head as if he thinks the world has gone mad. He licks his lips before speaking. "For future reference. This was wrong. It was wrong in every way. I just want to tell anyone listening that you can all kiss my…arse. There is no grey area here. Keeping me off to the side and letting me fall apart, was wrong!" The last two words are said with gritted teeth.

"Yes. It was. You have to listen to me. Because it's important and it's true. He loves you so much and so do I. He only did it to keep you safe. Jim had the snipers. I told you. It was all real, all of it, except he managed to live, too. And all for you, even though this has broken him to be without you. I know you think this has all been against you, but it never was, never. He's been out there, alone all this time, doing probably horrible things to—"

"To prove he's smarter than all the rest of us," John interrupted her curtly. "Not about me. Not for me, either. If he knew anything about me or cared even this much," John says with bitterness and holds his fingers up. "And you. I loved you. I really did. God, I'm so stupid. Stupid. And I thought we were something special, something real. You slept with me. I know exactly how Mycroft works, you know. You and he having your little meetings. You on the Holmes' payroll, Molly? I hope you were paid by the shag. More profitable. Bit of a pervert here. Always thinking with the wrong equipment. Or were you taking one for team Sherlock? But it went too far today, well technically yesterday." His eyes are hard, hateful and watching her every reaction with great intensity.

Molly can't stop the way her eyes keep filling, but she won't break down at his words. They hurt, but they are the words of a wounded animal unable to see friend from foe. "Say whatever you have to, John. I know what you must think of me. I only did that because I wanted to, because I really did fall in love with you… no matter how hard I tried…I couldn't help it…" She stops speaking, and watches the ring bend the streetlight into brilliance.

John laughs at her and it feels like he's kicking her in the chest with every heartbeat. "Then why tell me now? You have a ring on your finger!" he said accusingly. "The fact you have lied to me from day one finally sink into your conscious a bit?"

Molly grips the bench as she answers, because all she wants to do is run away and cry. That's what she would have done in the past. She would have kept her head down until she arrived back home, but she would have gained nothing but a headache for her efforts. This time she doesn't have the luxury to run and hide. She has to face that whatever happens, happens. She has made her choices and she may have messed up or may be messing up right now, but she'd taken every step with the best intentions.

She speaks calmly, hoping if she explains carefully, he will hear something besides the fact that he has been cheated. They all cheated him out of a year of his life. He has wasted it in grief that never had to be, but she must keep it in her head that if she had not agreed, Sherlock would actually be dead right this minute. "He's in danger. You are in danger. I don't think that can possibly work out in any way that you are both alive if you are in the dark and he goes off on some suicide mission without you."

"It was evidently fine up until now. Carry on. You guys enjoy your James Bond lifestyles. None of you ever noticed me. Tell the British government, and his ghostly brother, there is always something they miss. Hope you're all very happy." He turns and starts to walk away.

She calls out to him,"Wait. Please. Don't you see? I can't live with it any more. I promised to help him. I promised to be yours and even though I know it will never mean anything to you again, it meant everything to me. You both do. Everything. I am terrified to lose you but I am more terrified of you losing each other. Forever."

He takes a few more steps then stops and spins, his expression scrunches into a comical squint of confusion."That doesn't even make sense."

"If you help him, then the two of you can forgive each other and that's all that really matters. I don't care about me. I'll understand. Anything you want but just…help me find a way to help him? If you really want him to die, then leave this mess for me to sort out. He won't listen to me, or Mycroft. I can't make him come here. I know he won't. He won't be happy I told you, but I did hope you'd at least listen."

John stands silently for so long Molly wants to crawl out of her skin. She waited for him to work out what she had said.

John comes over to the bench. He debates with himself silently for a moment then takes his seat. "Why not. Not much to lose." His body posture is stiff and he takes a deep slow breath and holds it for over a minute then blows it out his pursed lips.

Molly blushes, remembering much happier times in which she's watched him do this in order to remain in control when he is near letting go and wanting to build his desire by forcing his body to step back from the cliff's edge of pleasure. Her face relaxes as her mind recalls their last moments tumbling and giggling in her flat. She wishes she'd thought to tell him that it might be the last time before she suggested this walk. She still wonders just exactly what he considered above what they had already done with each other. "Please don't hate me, John. Even if I deserve it," she says without intending to have it escape her thoughts.

"I don't hate you." John said slowly with restraint. "I want to see him. At least once more. I am very angry to have been treated like such a tit all this time. But, you saved his life. I need to see him. If he'd jumped without you, he would be dead or something worse. You're right. I knew it was him. I could smell him when I walked in. I told myself it was just because they took his things. I could smell the soap and his sweat when he's on a case. His scent always changed and it always affected me. Something in me knew, it was more than chemicals stirred up by strangers. I wasn't smelling strangers. It just would not make the leap into something that could be real. I need to speak with him. More than I have ever needed anything. Please just, let me...see him."

"I don't know where he is. If I did I would be there now."

He goes on as if he hasn't heard her. "You had convinced me when nothing else could. The thing that convinced me was that we were together. I knew that if there was any chance, you would never…and damned sure not with me. So I walked in from our holiday so happy, for the first time since…then. I go out, for just a bit, and this piece of him, like a last bit of his actual life, his soul, was now gone too. It just felt like, all of a sudden, he was so... for all time... gone, but had only left a moment ago, his soap and his shampoo was all around me, and it was going to kill me this time. He's come before, hasn't he? Thinking stupid John wouldn't notice, never caring if I did. But you saved him. I would have died happily to do that. All these months and it crossed my mind every day, but for the last few. It was getting better. But, tonight when I got home from shopping, I was falling again. God, I want this over. He wins. You all do. One conversation. All I'm selfishly asking of anyone, ever again."

"I'm so…so sorry," she says, and reaches out for him and rests her hand on his thigh. She needs to connect with him and she turns toward him a little.

He looked at her and put his arm around her. He picks up her left hand and twirls the ring around her finger, he chuckles, and she watches him as his warm fingers manipulate the stone around and around. "I know. I could sit here and tell you all the bad things going on in my head and you kind of deserve them. But mostly, all I feel is like this lead suit has fallen away and maybe I won't drown if I can just get a breath of air. So, right now, you did some pretty evil and illegal shit to keep him alive and I sort of understand. I killed a man to save him about six hours after I first looked at the flat, did you know that? I didn't know a thing about him. He left me at a crime scene, he got me kidnapped, then made me aware that moving in with him could lead to drug busts. He took off again leaving me to deal with the police and then I shot a man and we laughed about it. I am not absolving you here, but at the same time, I can see where you got in a lot farther than you meant to and by the time you got here, you have lost some part of yourself." He drops her hand and stretches as if there is a crick in his back. His hand stays poised there for a moment then he pulls her too him with a friendly double squeeze.

Molly nodded, relaxing into his embrace and she's relieved that he is beginning to understand. "Something like that, yes."

"Take me to him, Molly," John's voice is mild, but she knows it is an order. His grip on her suddenly becomes less about comfort and takes on the feel of control or command.

"I don't know how to find him. I can only-"

"I need to see him, Molly. It isn't too much to ask. I will forgive you all of it and never bother you about it again, if you do this one thing for me. I will see him. I deserve that much at least. You must know something. Let's do this the easy way, shall we?"

"I can't just call a cab and give them an address. I don't know…" her eyes widen and she stops talking and closes her eyes.

John holds his gun under her chin."Don't do that. You will take me to him or I will shoot you right here. I have a lot of really bad things going through my head right now so please don't test my ability to understand right from wrong. In my previous job, my orders were not questioned. I am not used to repeating them. I don't want to hurt you. If he's watching us now, just signal him or whatever you need to do."

"John. Stop. You won't shoot me…" Molly's voice sounds a lot more sure than she feels.

"I brought this so I would be able to protect you from all the bad men in London. Funny how one thing leads to another, isn't it?" His eyes glow and every light of the night seem to gather in them.

Anger and jealousy's all that he sells us

He's content when you're under his thumb

Madmen oppose him, but your kindness throws him

To survive it you play deaf and dumb

-Bob Dylan - No Time to Think

Chapter Text

Molly sat on the dark bench, under a tree as the man next to her held her life in the balance of his sanity. Life around her moved along oblivious to her danger. Cabs and people rushing home from dates, pubs and late shifts, didn't notice the lovers in the shadows behind the hedges. They were nothing unusual, except for the cold oiled metal settled under her chin.

"I don't know where he is. He could be on his way to Paris or Switzerland. He could be at Mycroft's or anywhere. You don't need the gun. I didn't have to tell you anything, John. Why would I tell you all of this and hold back anything that could help us. God, this is so stupid." Molly is trembling but in anger more than fear. This is not her fault and she's the one having to smooth it all over. "Could you please turn Mr. Hyde off now and put that away?"

"You contact him somehow. Tell me!"

"Yes. He prefers to text. There is no cache storage on texts." She ventures a glance at him, but his eyes frighten her and she quickly looks away.

"Then text him. Get him here, now!" his teeth are gritted and she can tell he's reaching the end of a small amount of patience. His voice is low except for the slight buzz his clenched jaw creates.

"I can text him. But it doesn't mean he will come. I have no way of making him come here," she practically moaned in dejection. "He said, he wasn't coming back."

"Molly, please. Don't play with me. I don't want this. But, I will see him. Tonight. I will. Do? You understand?"

She would give anything not to have to argue with him right now, but she is a little terrified that Sherlock meant he would no longer speak to her at all. Her phone has been silent since he left. "John, I am trying to tell you—"

"Here, is where you need to understand, we are. I could just lose my mind, any second." He clicks his tongue twice and tilts his head like a pendulum. Then his eyes lock back on her face, too close and too intense for the reasonable voice in her ear. "I didn't have to. You could have stopped this from getting to this point. You lied. To get us to this place, all of you lied. This is what you wanted. You and I, we were going to be honest. Remember? The things I told you, were private, Molly. I really loved you. God, you're a cool little liar. Almost as good as him. Can't or won't? Whatever you promised him. Doesn't matter, with this gun in my hand. So don't play me like you could play with the man I was an hour ago. That guy you knew then, is gone. I will never trust a soul on this planet again. Why would I believe you can't find him now? Now, I want to see him and that is all I am asking for. Tell me where he is."

"If what I did was so wrong, then shoot. If you want him to die, just shoot me. You aren't the only one who has been miserable. Just dead? That looks pretty tame compared to destroying everyone's trust to keep him alive and living every day terrified this would be the day he bled to death in some horrid place and I would never ever know what happened or where he was. Every cadaver I have ever seen has had his face in my imagination. Because I knew any of them could be him. I had to prepare myself every day, to go to work. If he died here, in London, and his name was William Smith or Fredrick Graham, I wouldn't know until I unzipped the bag. Some days, when we were busy, my heart stopped and I prayed every single time I had to check someone in. If you want my help, put that away before someone sees you." Molly hasn't looked at him the whole time she spoke. Her eyes are fixed on a streetlight. It is probably from Regent's College, School of Psychotherapy and Counseling, and it is the only thing that she is holding onto. She has dared him to shoot her and if he does, a stupid streetlight from a place meant to help this sort of thing, will be the last thing she sees.

John lowers the gun, and slowly his grip on her relaxes, but he is still holding it. He wants to make sure she doesn't run away. "You still had hope. It was something you took from me. You could have told me."

Molly sighs. She turns her head toward him, and her eyes stream tears every time she blinks. "I wish it had been you. I wish it hadn't been me. But before you judge me, what would you have done? Wouldn't you have lied to me, to save him? We weren't even friends then, not really. I mean we knew each other, but he was the link. A few lies, or would you rather he be putrefying under that headstone right now? You said once that I knew the after effects and you were going to show me the process. I can give you a detailed description of what he would look like at this stage if he were in a sealed coffin for fourteen months. It is a very interesting description and even expensive ones sometimes leak, so that can add some details that even you might find offensive. No matter what you think of me, I don't regret that he's not doing those things. I would like to keep him not doing those things and I wanted to keep you not doing those things. If you are going to shoot me, bloody well get it over with. If you don't want to help him, then kindly take your hands off me so I can go throw myself on Mycroft's mercy."

She thinks it has worked. She has shocked him and brought him back from that edge again. She breathes slowly and deeply, watching the shadows move in the park. The wind gusts from time to time but it is a lovely weeknight in London and the hot summer air is growing chill.

The rain is coming and the wind feels icy in the September night as if all the heat and warmth is leaching out of the city while they sit here on this bench. The day had been so warm and it feels like she let the last day of summer slip through her fingers. If they were on a busier section or it was a little earlier, there would still be pedestrians. It is odd they have been here for so long without a single lost tourist wandering by. Not even a drunk has stumbled near them.

The traffic on Outer Circle and York Bridge is light. The student housing behind them is dark. A placid waterway is just in front of them. It's a narrow branch from the boating lake that stretches out and narrows here. They had come here often during the summer. It is too black to see the water now, but she could smell it, green and earthy. Just over two roads on Marylebone, she can hear the chaos of city life. She feels far away and detached from it all as she waits here in the shadows with her latest foray into poor luck in love.

He sighs softly, shakes his head and seems to decide to chance taking his arm away from her. She smiles a little, thinking he must be raging through countless mental barriers right now, trying to find faith in something. It must feel like torture to discover everything you trust and most of what you believe is a lie. She glances at him.

John smoothly lowers his Browning and tucks it back in his waistband, fussing with it and making sure the outline is concealed, just so, in the small of his back. Molly shakes her head and sighs. She leans forward as if she's ill then wipes her face and sits back up, refusing to look at him.

"I will never understand how you could…not tell me." His voice is so sad and hollow. "Does he hate me? What did I do, that he could hate me that much?"

"He doesn't hate you. He loves you more than his own life. He came back to London, searching for us. He said he's made a terrible mistake. He said they would figure it out and he kissed me, goodbye. He was so hurt by the ring but I'm not sure he was unhappy. You may think he just faked his death, but you need to think of the big picture here. He still gave up his life, John. He's still breathing. But imagine if the world thought you were dead, and you weren't."

"Can't be worse than the world thinking you're alive, when you aren't." John looked around as if he might pop out of the bushes. He leans forward, elbows on knees and face buried in his hands.

Molly reaches out toward him, but her hand doesn't quite reach, she hesitates, then with a deep breath and a scoot forward she lays her hand on his shoulder. "He didn't know. He didn't know this would happen. You never actually dated each other. You told everyone you weren't gay. He had no idea it would get so bad. He sort of expected your girlfriends to, distract you."

" I didn't have any girlfriends to be distracted with. Probably something about that in Mycroft's report."

"Maybe one." She mentions dryly.

"Okay. If you say so. The Holmes best plan. Kind of a terrible one, in retrospect."

"Thank you. Very nice. You can be such a bloody git." She glares at him.

"Not new information, Molly."

"You always told everyone that you weren't gay. How could he have known?" She asks.

John sighs, "Well, I'm not."

She looks at him, "Then what are you. I always wondered, just didn't bother me enough to ask."

"I'm nothing. I love who I love. Doesn't need a label."

"Fine. So have you loved a man before?" She asks with a shrug.

His lips shoot out as he chews the inside of his cheek. "Loved, yes. Had sex with, not really."

"How does that work, the not really?"

"Is this what we are going to talk about? Right now?" he asks her incredulously.

"Sherlock seemed to be making you cross. What would you like to talk about?" she counters sarcastically.

" The thing is, when did he know that it was not a survivable situation for me? That it was so bad? Did you keep it from him? Did Mycroft lie to him and say I was turning Baker Street into the party spot of London? Has he known all along? And he was fine with letting me rot. Did he know...what he'd done to me?  He left me to die?  My God, did he get my pathetic texts and just ignore someting I made so perfectly clear?  I almost wish...I'd pulled the tigger.  And saw.  You shouldn't have bothered to come back that first night.  It would have been kinder, you know?  One word, and this would have all been done."

"Really? One word you say? Like it is now? You are all better. It would have been worse if you had known and had to worry if every minute was the moment it became the truth. You're falling apart. You aren't doing better, John. This is not a picture of a healthy mind." She can't help but grin, but she does an impression of a hiccup trying to get her giggle under control.

"Well, now I'm not." He says belligerently, face not pleased at her response.

"So, when would it have been okay? An hour? When we were still hoping he wouldn't end up with some fatal impact damage we didn't anticipate?"

"I'm a doctor!"

"So am I," Molly says fiercely.

John sucks his breath in at how angry she got. "Yes. You are. The living, however, are not your specialty. Seriously, who was the best option?"

"The one of us who wasn't concussed, I should imagine. He was nearly hysterical. Well for him…"

"Which means catatonic."

"Yes. He hadn't expected to have to use this. He thought he'd win. But he thought Jim was going to make a mistake. Mycroft confirmed snipers. There wasn't just one. They were all over. Tracking you like locusts. Baker Street was a pretty busy place, considering you practically did nothing. You had, Mycroft's guys tripping over Jim's guys and Sherlock's homeless people were watching out for you. Some of them helped too. They were protecting you as best they could, by keeping a low profile and watching you and who else might be following you. There were the reporters and they had seconds trying to bump into you and get a quick comment of any kind. There were looky-loos. Greg assigned people on the street to deal with crowd control and jump in should a riot start. You weren't even staying there, but they all were."

"I'm sure Speedie's appreciated the extra traffic," John said with dead-pan charm, his reliable, off-beat sense of humor appearing with all its customary predictability.

"After the funeral? A few weeks? I called and called. Mycroft hounded Lestrade."

"Came himself. Mycroft was in my hotel room one morning. Like to have gotten himself shot. That would have made total pants of my special-class firearms certificate."

"So would shooting your fiancé in the head in the park," she scolds.

The doctor looks at his hands and then up at the streetlight. He began to speak twice but couldn't seem to figure out what to say. "We aren't in the park. Park's closed. I would not have shot you. I figured he'd come running to your rescue. Hoped he wouldn't show up guns blazing." He grins and speaks distinctly just in case he is near. "He's a terrible shot."

" Looks like the park to me. It's the foot-path. So. You going to help him?" she asks, hesitant but determined to keep talking until the answer is yes.

"He's not here. I haven't a clue how to find him. He's covered his trail for over a year. Take me months just to track him down. Doesn't sound like we have that kind of time. He won't come for me. He doesn't want my help. Facts seem to be getting in the way of me helping him." His voice is calm, but his head is bobbing around searching the darkness.

"What are you looking for?"

"Our tails seem to have dropped out of sight. Completely." He stands as if to stretch and uses the opportunity to look around. "They would not drop us. Not after getting a caning for losing us on our holiday adventure. I imagine Mycroft was livid. Hate to be in their job right now. They are bollocks in elusiveness. Been playing the innocent befuddled twat with them for more than a year now. Our holiday escape showed my hand, but it was probably blamed on their incompetence. They picked us up on the cab ride to your flat. Now they have backed off. They are either dead or its orders. Something's up."

"We have been here a little bit." Molly could use a trip to the facilities herself after all this.

"But all three? Two on me and one on you?" He is watching now with singular attention.

"Shift change? Breaks? He has a whole satellite, " she offers helpfully.

"Yes, Sherlock hacked it. Not exactly Google. Could be." He focuses skyward and moves three steps over, deeper in the shadows. " I was surprised he didn't find us faster. You said Sherlock made a mistake. And you said, you text him?" He shuffles through subjects with military precision.

Molly nods and reaches in her purse for her phone.

John watches her as if he expects her to run, or refuse. When she just sits there fiddling with her phone uncomfortably, he says, "Ask him if he took his violin."

[Did you take the violin?]

It is almost five minutes before her phone beeps. John spends most of it moving strangely, eyes searching, focus never returning directly to her face, edging around the tree and even stood on the bench for a moment to see over the hedges into the street. He's more alert and watchful than she's ever seen him.

She has noticed this quirk of his before, the way his eyes dart away from people as he speaks. She had always assumed it was a nervous habit, like the way she obsessively scrapes under her fingernails when she doesn't feel comfortable, but now she realizes it is more. John no longer wears the uniform, but he never stopped being a soldier any more than he stopped being a doctor just because he wasn't technically currently employed as one.

"Are London's bad men coming?" she asks, dropping into their silly relaxed banter and teasing him that she has caught on to his purpose.

"Hope they don't, because they will find that I am here. They better bring a lot of friends."

"What if they do? Is there a specific count to watch out for, just so I know if I should be afraid?"

He looks down at her, brow covered in wrinkles from his raised eyebrow. "Eight hand to hand, but I have thirteen rounds, so unless one happens to be over seven foot tall, I think we are safe at the moment."

Finally the phone's LED flashes that she has a text. "It's from him." She reads it out loud.

[It is mine.]

"Tell him that I am upset. Out of my mind with grief." He nods to her to do it.

[He's upset. He's out of his mind with worry. It's like he thinks he let you die all over again. Please let me tell him?]

"Nice." John says with a smile reading over her shoulder.

The reply is returned in moments.

[I told you if you did, it would get him killed. There is no discussion here. Work your magic. He won't care about its absence long. He doesn't even know how to play it.]

"Bastard. Tell him it is my sentimental attachment. Tell him…that you are afraid of me right now. A little truth can be a good thing." He flops down on the bench again, satisfied with whatever he saw or didn't see.

[I am afraid that only you can fix this. He is scaring me. Please come.]

[Then leave and no.]

Molly looked at John. He shook his head. "Ok? Tell him I have my gun, then don't answer him back."

[He has his gun. What should I do?]

[I assume you have your clothes on. Take them off. Distract him.]

Molly handed John the phone. He cursed. He looked around and handed it back to her.. "That didn't work. He's not expecting to hear from you now. He's going to think we're having a shag. I need to make him think it's life or death. Should have gone with a kidnapping or something. Damn him."

Molly grins and types rapidly. [That won't work. He took me on a walk. He has suddenly decided only you would steal the skull. That means I had to know. Mycroft's people have left us. I think he's crazy. It doesn't matter, he is crazy.]

[What is happening?]

Molly doesn't respond. John smiles as the next texts come in.

[Please answer.]

[Are you injured?]

[I don't have time for this. Answer me.]

[I am not actually worried, you know.]

[Not working. You're probably shagging.]

Molly grins at John, "Watch this."

[If I don't produce you in the next two hours, he is going to kill me and then himself. If he sees Mycroft's bunch or anyone from The Yard, he's says we will know much sooner if you are on the other side. Then he won't wait, so whatever you do, don't call people who will just make it end sooner. Maybe I can think of something. He wants you to come here. You have me located? He's hiding us from the satellite, but you have your nanny-cam I bet. If not, it means you are probably on a plane by now. I'm sorry if you are and if this is the happy ending to your hero. All my love forever, no matter what.] She hands John the phone. "Do you think that might work? Only hit send if you think it will work."

John reads it several times. He nods. "Molly, you are brilliant. I'm not going to shoot you. It was a bluff." He hits send.

She didn't mean to say anything but it popped out, "Second time. I don't think it was. You forgot the thirty-day rule."

John doesn't speak for a while. He seems very interested in the breeze stirring the newly fallen leaves. He chuckles and takes a deep breath. "You forgot the truth. I think that makes us even. Including the gun bit. He's actually alive, isn't he? I just sent him a text. Sherlock is alive."

She nods. "Evidently he is at the moment. Whether he's still in London or not, who knows. I'm so sorry, John."

"Yeah, me too. Not that he's alive, by the way. No matter what, I'm glad of it. I mean, you saved him and saved me, too. He put you up to what exactly?… asking me to dinner, at the least. Tell me about the rest of it? Don't have any need to lie to me anymore."

"Yes. The dinner. The clothes too, but I told him I wasn't going any farther than flirting. I was supposed to introduce you to some nurses from the hospital. I put him off on that, because I didn't want to give you up. Told him…it was because they couldn't handle you. I know you won't believe me and that none of it matters anymore. But the rest was just me. I kept our private moments from him for as long as I could.  I didn't tell him. I knew it would hurt him. Thank Mycroft." She shrugs and peeks at him, sucking her lips between her teeth and biting down.

"Mr. Information.  I have to ask. Why? You were very aware of how I felt about him. I don't understand you at all. Why did you let me keep going? I asked you to marry me and you said I would change my mind, but yes for now?" He doesn't sound angry now, but he does still sound lost.

"It doesn't matter. I just sort of wanted to pretend, because it was a nice thought. I really did fall in love with you. I really would say yes if we just met and it was normal. Even though I knew it would never matter, unless something horrible happened, and then I wouldn't be lying anymore and maybe it would keep me from having my heart broken forever. If I had someone to watch over and love, a way to keep doing what he asked of me, but so much more, then maybe it wouldn't kill me to have done so many horrible things for nothing."

Her phone beeped. [Give him your phone. John, this is between us, let Molly go.]

[You won't come if I do. I don't even matter to you.]

[This isn't who you are. This is wrong. Let me do what I must and just forget all of this. You were very happy a few hours ago. Don't throw that away on a stupid gesture. Marry her, be happy. Please, John.]

[You have no idea who I am now. Come find out. Or I will put your untouchable little museum piece in the ground]

"Who is in his grave? I have seen you there." He asks as he types.

Molly sighs and says, "Jim."

"That's just what I thought. So you and he, really were…"Johns eyes grow wide in horror but he doesn't look away from the phone.

"Hard to explain. He…he may have actually liked me, as a person. Like a friend. He was never mean to me. He asked me to bring him Daffodils, and I do. Nobody else does. He asked me to take care of him.  I cried for him too.  He wasn't born that way.  The man you knew and hated was a very thick shell.  He had a heart too, and it was ruined.  I really was gentle with him, when he came to me. He was smiling, you know. He was happy to go. He had never been happy here." Molly speaks slowly as if speaking of a person John had never met.

John does a double take and gives a noncommittal shrug, "Okay, that's…good. Creepy as hell, but good. Settles my bathtub question on the relative dynamics of the mental health issues, between the two of us. You should get a trophy. Not just a little one, but huge… tastefully huge, maybe a plaque, bit of engraving."

Molly rolls her eyes. "Says the gold medalist for the Hyde event of mental health."

He laughs, "True, but I'm still an amateur. You, my dear, are in the pro-leagues."

John has been carrying on a conversation with Sherlock this whole time. She leans over to see what he's typing now.

"Pay no attention to what I type. He's a stubborn demanding dick, that's all. I am not going to do any of this," he explained to her in his calming matter-of-fact way.

[I think she will be happy being buried right on top of Jim, under your fucking lie of a name. To think I cried for Moriarty, thinking it was you, you bloody sod. You going to let her die? I won't make it easy on her.]

[What do you think this will accomplish? If you are this angry, why do you even want to see me?]

[I am coming with you, of course.]

[No. You are not.]

[There is only one way you get to choose that option. Donate my body to science, maybe you can nick my head for a few experiments. Of course, if you can't be bothered to stop me, you ought to let me know ahead of time so I will know to blow out my heart instead. Actually, that would be more a' propos.]

[I know you are angry, but this is not the answer. Stop this. For me.]

[For you? You don't get to ask me that ever again, Sherlock. Really? Just let you disappear? I will just hang out and drink tea, because you think I am such a worthless coward? I see. I like my plan better. You see, the option is to die by your side, where I want to be, or die here, tonight – alone, knowing you never cared, wanted to be shut of me, didn't trust me, didn't need me. I don't want to live another day knowing that.]

[You know none of that is true.]

[ I could join the other side instead – want to face off and play? It would be your chance to finish the poor bastard you spent a year torturing. I bet they could always use a crack shot, maybe I will apply for the job. Just for personal satisfaction, I don't need the money.]

[John, this isn't funny. I would let you win. How can you doubt me like this?]

[Prove it. Take me with you.]

[You love her. You are bluffing.]

[All over town there are posters. I believe in… I guess you think you believe in me too. Are you sure? You thought you knew me a year ago. You thought I wouldn't believe. Fifty-fifty chance. Here's my move. I have never lied to you. For you, a hundred times, but never to you. I love you. Whatever you decide, I needed to say that. If I never have the chance to say it to your face, then so be it, it's off my heart.]

There is no response.

John hands Molly the phone. "Doesn't sound much like he's coming, Molls." His voice is rasp and gravel.

The wind picks up a little more and the sky clouds over, threatening and rumbling with cloud-to-cloud lightning. John kept his arm around Molly but it was just to help hold off the chill and reassure her that everything would be fine.

John sighs, looking at his watch. The deadline is fifteen minutes away. "When the deadline comes, Molly, I want you to take a cab home."

"What are you going to do?" she whispers, suddenly fearful again.

"I don't have a clue, but I don't want you here," he said looking straight ahead.

"That sounds pretty horrible. I could go with you."

His head swivels toward her as if she just said a Texan had just been appointed Prime Minister. "What? No. Hell no. Are you completely insane?"

"Yes." She flashes her eyes at him, dark with fear yet somehow shining with her humor, too.

"You are the barmiest woman I have ever met. You know that, right?" He enquires sincerely; hoping she understands him and appreciates that he is a bit in awe of her. "I wasn't going to shoot you. Never would have happened."

She leans over and bumps him, "Yes, you were."

"I wasn't."

"There's still time," she says and her cheeks round just before she flashes a full toothy smile at the fact she is aware that has two meanings.

He shrugs and shakes his head. He leans in as if to kiss her. His head snaps up, "Do you hear that?"

Her phone beeps. [Tell him to give you his gun and follow the sound of the violin, if convenient.]

John smiles. He stands and drops the heavy weapon in her lap. He kisses her on the forehead and cups her cheek in his warm hand. "Don't wait up. See you soon." He reaches in his pocket and pulls out something. "Oh, and you might be needing these. Gun's not much use without the clip."

She looks down at the Browning. "You threatened me with an unloaded gun?"

"I would not shoot you. I was bluffing. He was probably watching. It's why Mycroft's men disappeared. He ordered them off," John explains, his face bearing a few lines of regret on his forehead.

"You will come back? Won't you?"

He laughs as if he is going to dismiss her. He shakes his head and takes a few steps to walk away, the violin calls in the distance. He stops and looks back. She blows him a kiss.

John marches back to her and leans down close to her face. "I meant it, too. The things I said out there on the island? I really do love you. The answer is yes, for now. You keep that ring and as long as you wear it, I will know it means, maybe we can figure this out someday. Don't wait for me, but if you're still unattached when we get back, we'll talk." His mouth closes to her and she meets him with all the hunger they ever shared.

"Come home. Both of you."

He doesn't say more, but he gives her a nod. It isn't a promise, but it is enough for her.

John turned and searched the darkness, then trotted off toward the sound of a lone violin and the silent call of violence. Molly watched him and took a deep breath. She stood and headed home for a good cry and a huge bag of Quavers. She would rent 'Paint Your Wagon' and listen to Lee Marvin sing.

She knew she would worry, but at least whatever fate they found, they would find it together. She looked down at her hand and the ring sparkled in the streetlights. She had just luckily found a cab and settled herself for the ride to her flat, when the first huge drops patter on the top of the black and lime-green Fairway.

"Twenty-six Hooper, please," she says, searching the rainy night for a tall man and an army doctor, meeting in the shadow of a doorway or dashing down a mews.

Tomorrow, London would smell fresh and the drizzle would keep the streets shiny. Molly would go to work and life would seem a little dull, but at night she would dream of the sea and someday she would stay on Bryher Island long enough to see the waves crash in Hell's Bay. The storm won't frighten her because John's blue eyes will be in the sea and Sherlock's will be in the shallows.


The end


Thank you for reading.  Book two -- Offerings to the Temple of Mendacity -- will be up soon and takes off from this point.  If you like angst and messy lives -- Do keep reading.  I very much appreciate your comments and Kudos.  Here is a tiny preview to book two.




Offerings to the Temple of Mendacity

Book Two sneak preview

"You're a soldier of mercy, you're cold and you curse,

'He who cannot be trusted must fall.'"

– Bob Dylan, No Time To Think [Street Legal, 1978]

Molly awoke fuzzily to the sound of knocking. She scrambled out from under the covers and tripped, landing on all fours. Her dressing gown (actually Sherlock's) is at the end of her bed, and she quickly ties it around her, cursing that she must look a sight. The knocking gets louder and without thinking she throws the door wide in annoyance and demands, "What!"

The man turns and clears his throat, "May I come in?" he asks somberly.

"Greg. Umm, sure. I suppose." She stands aside, confused, but tries to give him an apologetic smile as she smooths her hair and wonders what he must think of her, not dressed at half-nine in the morning. "Kind of a late night and I have a shift tonight, so bit of a lie-in. Have a seat. Tea?"

"No, actually I'm here on official business. Could you have a seat? Please?" He motions for her to sit on her flower-jumble couch, intending to join her there.

She cocks her head at him, unable to figure out if he's found out about John's gun, or if someone has questioned something on Sherlock's post mortem. Either will get her arrested. "Am I in trouble, then?" she says trying to joke, but honestly just sounding scared and guilty. They may spend every Sunday together at Mrs. Hudson's, but if he has to choose between friendship and work, Molly knows he will do what he thinks must be done. He arrested Sherlock.

"No, love. Nothin' like that. Just come sit here." He smiles as if he's paying dearly for the gesture, and again motions her to have a seat. His familiarity jolts her and she finally registers his face isn't just full of hesitant regret, but pity.

Molly complies slowly, not taking her eyes off him. He only slipped into pet names when he didn't want to tell her something. After Sherlock died, he'd spoken this way to her. Her knees bend and the left one pops, making her feel suddenly old. He sometimes shows up for a hot cuppa and a talk, but Greg looks brittle and not like he has any secret party plans for Mrs. Hudson or deliciously funny gossip on his mind.

He takes his seat next to her, not even removing his mackintosh. It radiates a chill as if the world has turned cold. It dawns on her, he's going to tell her something awful. "Oh, God. Who?"

"I'm… so sorry." He takes a deep breath and his eyes are going shiny as his mouth forms the words, hesitant and gentle, shoulders hunched with weight, "It's John." His lips clamp between his teeth and his breath hitches. His face pulls into a grimace and he wipes his eyes quickly and sniffs his nose. His head shakes and he is not quite in control of himself.

She shakes her head, grins like he's telling her a joke, sees his face isn't displaying any mirth and then looks down to see he has taken her hand in his. "Is he hurt? What hospital?" Her mind at once fills in that Sherlock probably got John injured already. Greg is here to take her to him. He's like a kindly big brother, with a touch of overprotective father.

Greg's hand is cold from the rain and he's rubbing his thumb on her ring. It is still pouring outside and he is covered in dots of water his mac has repelled. They are shiny, silvery beads with glittering miniature images of her reflected in distorted glass. His body shifts subtly toward her more and she perceives a whiff of rain mixed with aftershave and damp wool. He looks back up into her eyes then away, his voice sounds hoarse as if he's been shouting, "Molly, this not easy for me, especially since you're…I…"

She nods, "He's been hurt, hasn't he? He's going to be okay, isn't he?"

Lestrade looks like his heart is about to break, his chin quivers and he looks ceiling-ward as he takes a deep breath, then shakes his head. "I regret to inform you, that John Watson has, by our best guess, perished," he says, reverting to his usual Yarder method of delivering news to loved ones. He'd wanted to say it kinder and not make it sound so much like a stranger, but he'd resorted to what he knew, to keep himself from making a cocked-up mess of it, trying to soften something that could not be polished.

Molly sat there, eyes wide, no response, as she attempted to digest the words. He's mistaken. John is safe with Sherlock. John couldn't be dead. She saw him trot off following the sound of the violin. What if someone found him before he reached Sherlock? What if Sherlock is hurt too? Nobody would know to look for him if they were both hurt in an alley, but no, to their best guess? What does best guess mean? John's missing but they think he's been killed? "Wha…What...happened?"

Greg swallowed hard and with a deep breath, said, "I wanted to be the one to tell you. We don't have a body… I mean, any remains, but that happens sometimes in these cases. People've got no idea how bad the current is. The Thames is never an easy rescue. Well, you know, you have had to examine enough of them. It looks placid but it's swift and cold. Happens all the time. Make a gesture, or fall in drunk. RNLI was dispatched. They were right there, but he never surfaced. Tower lifeboat station got the call, there were witnesses. Two of them were Mycroft's men. One happened to be trained in rescue swimming, he dove in right after. He had to be rescued, in fact."

"Not, my John." Her face begs him to clarify that he means some other John.

"God, I'm so sorry. They did all they could. He just never came back up. Set up a very generous search parameter with the officer in charge. Mycroft stepped in and got us some budget, they're spending a bomb trying. Got him a helicopter and they are still looking, but…could be days or never. Divers checking to see if he got snagged up, but we may never know. Even with all the- "

Molly can't process this information. She stands up but falls back down to her seated position. "No. No. It isn't fair. Someone pushed him. He wouldn't. He wouldn't, Greg. Not after…" Not after he finally found Sherlock. She reaches up and covers her mouth to stop from screaming. Did Sherlock abandon him? No, No he wouldn't be that stupid. It had to be a trick, unless… Did Sherlock refuse to listen to him? John was going to go with him? Did he throw John away? "I will die by your side or…" Oh, John. You gave me your gun, but you had the escape bag. You wouldn't do it this way.

"Oh, bloody hell, Molly. I can't tell you how sorry I am. I hate having to tell you, but there are reporters and it's gonna make the news, every hour, all day. They remembered him and Sherlock chumming about and it's all turning into a circus. They won't take long to figure out who you are. That damned picture…of the kiss. Didn't want you to find out that way."

"But, if they haven't found him, it could be anybody. It could be anyone at all. Lots of people look like him. They made a mistake, that's all," Molly declares, a false boldness and ease in her voice, yet an imploring mien creeping into her eyes, begging him to stop telling her something so stupid.

"Molly, he left a note, his wallet, and his phone on Waterloo Bridge. At six-fourteen, according to the time stamp on the footage, this morning, just at sunrise. He was seen climbing over the rails and he didn't wait around. Most take hours and two dozen people chin-wagging to either make their point or pull back. It's just a cry for help. John wasn't making a gesture. He got right to his intended plans. A lad here from uni, caught it on his camera phone. He and his friends popped out for the sunrise. Wasn't raining then. They were just out for kicks and having a laugh. The pictures clear and crisp. The bloody kids leaked it to the media…God, it's on every channel. Got no doubt," he says reasonably, in his most soothing voice.



Again, thanks for reading. I'm not on any rec-lists that I know of so thank you for finding me and giving me a chance. Hope to see you for the next game.  You can find the WIP here >>   Thank you all for your kind comments and Kudos, Howlynn