A/N: Well, here it is, part 2, the end of the story. Hopefully I'll be equally inspired by "His Final Vow". Thanks for reading and reviewing, everyone!
Molly was conflicted. On the one hand, she very much wanted to tell Sherlock why Tom had left her, broken off the engagement, and essentially told her he never wanted to see her again. On the other hand, she was uncertain as to Sherlock's motives for showing up on her doorstep. Was he here as a friend, the friend he'd finally shown himself to be since his return from the dead? Or was he here because he was annoyed that she'd missed work for an entire week? Obviously he'd come to the lab looking for her regarding a case, it didn't take a consulting detective to figure that much out.
In a perfect world, Molly thought distractedly as she tried to decide whether to tell Sherlock what had happened or not, he would be in her flat because he was glad that she and Tom had broken up. No, wait, that didn't sound right, even in her own head. Sherlock would be in her flat to declare his undying love for her, now that her inconvenient fiancée had finally buggered off. He'd take her into his arms and kiss her senseless and...
No. Molly forced her rampaging imagination to back down. Sherlock was here as a friend. That was all.
The question was, how would he feel about her after she told him why Tom had broken things off? It would only make things awkward between them again, just when they were finally beginning to be comfortable around one another. Well, she was, anyway. Sherlock had certainly been comfortable enough in the past to deduce her boyfriends (strange how he'd restrained himself where Tom was concerned, for six whole months!) and order her around...and come to her when he needed help in the most desperate, important way she, quiet little Molly Hooper, had ever helped anyone in her life.
That memory was all the nudge she needed to make up her mind. "So the thing is," she blurted out, just as Sherlock seemed about to stand up and leave, "I've been thinking about breaking up with Tom for ages now. But it didn't seem right, breaking up with someone just because you're worried that you're settling. I mean, I was perfectly certain I was in love with him when he proposed, that's why I said yes, of course."
She rushed on before Sherlock could ask why she'd changed her mind. "So there we are, the two of us, at John and Mary's wedding, dancing, having fun...and suddenly I notice you're leaving." She gazed at Sherlock with a look that was half-curious, half-challenging. "I thought, oh, he's going out to have a smoke – well, that's what I told myself, even though I saw that you looked sad. Then I told myself it was none of my business, that it was just you didn't like parties and even though you'd found a case at the John and Mary's wedding and she seemed awfully keen on helping you instead of pissed off that you'd interrupted things. So I told myself maybe you were sad because it was, well, sort of an end of an era."
He twitched a bit when she said that, an irritated look crossing his features so swiftly that, if she hadn't been studying him so closely, she would have missed it. She ignored his reaction, not allowing her instinct to want to help him, to find out why that phase seemed to bother him, overcome this rare opportunity to ramble on with him as a willing – or at least tolerant – audience. He'd asked, she was answering, and she was grateful that he didn't snap at her to get on with it.
Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that tears were rolling down her cheeks as she spoke, although she was proud of the fact that her voice remained steady. "So I had a glass of wine. Then I had another, and another, and the next thing I know, I'm giggling like an idiot while Tom helps me get into the car. I think I passed out, or at least fell asleep, because then we're back here, and he's gotten me out of my clothes..."
A pained expression crossed Sherlock's face and he raised one hand in a pleading gesture. "Please, Molly, I promise to listen to everything else, but spare me the details of your sexual escapades, if you don't mind."
She blushed and shook her head, wiping at her eyes. "Oh, no, nothing like that," she hastened to assure him. An embarrassed memory of telling him that she and Tom were having lots of sex flashed through her mind; when would she get the hang of casual conversation where Sherlock Holmes was concerned? She'd never blurt something like that out to anyone else, even her girlfriends! "No, I just meant, he was putting me to bed so I could sleep it off. I was in my pyjamas, he was tucking me in, and he kissed me and told me he loved me."
She drew in a shaky breath; this was the hard part, the part she most wanted to keep to herself. But she'd told Sherlock this much, and if she stopped now or tried to make something up, he'd know. And she had to tell him. She couldn't bear not telling him, not letting him know the truth, even if it did damage to their friendship. It was far better than living a lie, and Molly Hooper had been doing enough of that for the past six months, thank you. However, what came out of her mouth was, "Would you like a glass of wine?" Without waiting for a response, she jumped up to her feet and hastened to her sparkling clean kitchen. She pulled two glasses out and set them on the counter, then turned to the refrigerator to pull out the chilled bottle of Riesling she'd been saving for a special occasion. Well, this was about as special as it was going to get, wasn't it?
When she turned to grab the corkscrew from its drawer, Sherlock was right behind her, and she gave a squeak of surprise. "S-sorry," she stuttered, in a way she hadn't with him for years. "I didn't hear you." While she spoke, her hand automatically opened the freshly repapered and organized drawer, then pulled out the corkscrew.
Sherlock took it from her and deftly began opening the bottle. Both remained silent while Molly watched him work. Some part of her wanted to make a joke about what a wonderful sommelier he would make, but the words stuck in her throat. Just as well, since she knew it was just another sign of her nervousness, another way to put off saying what needed saying. What had needed saying for so very, very long now.
"He told you he loved you," Sherlock said as he filled the two glasses to just past the half-way mark, then recorked the bottle and handed it to Molly to return to the fridge. Without waiting for her to respond, he took the glasses and returned to the sitting room.
Molly gaped after him for a moment, then shut the fridge and followed. The glasses had been set side by side on the coffee table, rather than across from one another, and she took the hint, moving to sit next to Sherlock on the sofa. She took a sip of her wine – a bit of Dutch courage, as her father would have put it – and watched Sherlock do the same. When both glasses had been returned to the coffee table, Molly finally spoke. "Yeah, he said he loved me." With eyes fixed firmly on her feet, she went on. "He said, 'Love you, Molls' and I said…I said…"
She took a steadying breath and another gulp of wine, rushing the words out almost before she'd finished swallowing, still staring down at her feet. "I said, 'Night, Sherlock, love you too. Took you bloody long enough. Been waiting five years to hear you say that'. Only of course I was so drunk I kind of slurred the words, at least, Tom told me I did when I woke up the next day."
That had been a very, very unpleasant afternoon. One of the worst in her life. Tom, sweet, loving, ordinary Tom, had, for the first time since they'd known one another, shouted at her. And she'd shouted back, one thing had lead to another, and here it was six days later, Molly Hooper with a broken engagement and no one to blame but herself.
There was a look in Sherlock's eyes as she rambled on about the fight, about the terrible things she and Tom had said to one another, about the way she'd practically hurled the engagement ring at him when he demanded it back, and the quiet way he'd taken the keys to her building and flat off his keyring and laid them on the coffee table – a look that Molly was finding very difficult to read. And she'd become quite the expert at reading Sherlock Holmes. She chalked it up to her own chaotic emotions; how could she tell how another human being was feeling when she was so torn up herself?
"You said you were thinking of breaking things off with Tom," Sherlock said slowly as Molly's outpouring of words finally stalled and ended. "If that's the case, then why…"
He fell silent, either trying to find the best way to ask what he obviously wanted to ask, or else thinking better of the question. Molly helped him out by responding, simply and quietly, "Why am I upset? Do you mean, did I figure out that I really did love him and now I want him back?"
By the way he averted his eyes and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, reaching out to fiddle with his wine glass but never fully raising it to his lips to take a drink, Molly decided she'd asked the right question. With a quiet sigh she leaned back on the sofa and contemplated, yet again, her feet. "No, Sherlock," she finally said. "I'm not upset because I love him and I want him back. I'm upset because of how badly I buggered this up, that I hurt Tom and lied to myself and everyone else about how I felt. About him and about you. I said I'd moved on, when all I'd done was find a shoddy physical imitation without even half the brainpower of the man I really wanted to be with. The man I loved," she added softly. In for a penny, in for a pound – and really, it wasn't as if he couldn't figure out where all this was going.
"Is that why you looked so distressed at the wedding?"
Molly looked over at Sherlock sharply, to find that he'd joined her in visually contemplating her feet, or perhaps his own, or perhaps some speck of dirt she'd missed when hoovering the carpet. "I wasn't…well, I didn't think I was, not much," she said with a disconcerted frown. Every time she'd seen Sherlock at the wedding, he was either looking at John or Mary or both – or at the maid of honor, that tramp Janine. Who, Molly reminded herself, had left with some other bloke, so maybe calling her names mentally wasn't necessary. Just because it had seemed that she was flirting with Sherlock at the wedding – and worse, that he was doing the same with her – didn't mean that was what had actually happened.
"You didn't seem to like Mary's friend, Janine; why is that?" Sherlock asked, either reading her mind or much more easily following her train of thought.
"Because you seemed to like her quite a bit," Molly admitted, keeping to her new policy of strict honesty when answering questions Sherlock put to her. Unlike that glorious day when she'd helped him with his cases and discovered that the 'Jack the Ripper' skeleton was a hoax. She winced a bit, thinking of how she'd lied to him about her relationship with Tom, about how happy she was – and how disappointed she'd been when Sherlock hadn't called her on it. Just kissed her on the cheek and wished her well, when all she'd wanted him to do was push her up against the wall and snog her senseless. "I was jealous, and I had no right to be. Still don't," she added, willing her voice to remain steady in spite of the fact that tears were once again threatening. "I know that. But I just…you needed to know. That I was lying when I said I'd moved on. The truth is, I don't know if I ever will. But that's my problem, not yours, and I hope you don't…please don't stop coming round or asking me for help, because I'll always be there for you, I hope you know that…"
"Molly." The quiet sound of her name on his lips silenced her more effectively than if he'd shouted or slapped a hand across her mouth. She took a deep, shuddering breath and returned her gaze to her feet. Her toes, she noticed were still a bright, cheery red, although there was a noticeable chip on the left side of her right big toe. She wondered if Sherlock would deduce the way she'd dropped the bottle of vinegar on it two days ago, when she'd started in on degreasing the kitchen.
She waited for him to say something, anything, else. To tell her that of course they could still be friends, because he wasn't responsible for her emotions. Or to tell her that he didn't feel comfortable around her in light of her confession. Something. She was braced for it, ready to hear the words, whichever ones came out of his mouth.
She was entirely unprepared, however, for the feel of his hand covering her own, stilling her nervously-twisting fingers. He squeezed gently, insistently, until she realized he wanted her to let him twine his fingers with hers. Her breath hitched as he glided his thumb across the back of her hand, and her gaze strayed sideways. She still wasn't quite ready to look at his face, but rather followed his arm upwards to his shoulder and from there paused on his neck.
"Molly, you know I don't do sentiment well. In fact, for many years, I didn't do it at all."
She nodded when he paused, still unable to lift her eyes any higher than his lips, watching as he spoke.
"But as I intimated at John's wedding, things I thought I never needed or wanted are turning out to be the things I can't seem to live without." He gave a silent huff of laughter, and his fingers tightened on hers. She squeezed back, to encourage him to continue, or at least let him know she understood. "I thought I was too late when it came to romance, Molly. Especially since you were engaged to a nice young man whose worst failing seems to be an appalling lack of intelligence."
Molly's snort of laughter was anything but silent. "But still not a sociopath," she said when she'd gotten her mouth back under control.
Sherlock sighed and ran his free hand through his hair. "No. High functioning or otherwise, much to my chagrin. At least if he had turned out to have ulterior motives or to be a criminal mastermind in disguise, I'd have an acceptable reason to come between the two of you. But since he turned out to be a boring, ordinary, dog-owning middle manager for a mildly successful investment firm, I decided for once to do the noble thing and stay out of it. Because I wasn't lying when I said you deserved to be happy, Molly Hooper. You still do. The only question is, do you think…" He paused, cleared his throat, and turned his head, causing her eyes to finally meet his. There was an air of vulnerability, of uncertainty, to him that she'd seen only once or twice before. "Do you think I would make a suitable romantic partner?"
"For me, or in general?" Molly asked. Because she had to know; there had to be no misunderstandings, not now. She wasn't going to get her hopes up only to have them dashed yet again. Not this time.
Sherlock's expression morphed into a very familiar scowl of irritation. "Of course for you, Molly; who else? Janine? John?" He shook his head. "Sorry, both taken and neither of them is exactly my type." He paused, as if considering his words, a bit of a wrinkle manifesting itself between his eyes. "Not that I've spent a great deal of time pondering what my 'type' might be, exactly, but ever since the night you saw me so clearly, and now that we've had the opportunity to spend time together away from the morgue and the lab…"
She'd never heard Sherlock rambling nervously before. It was, frankly, adorable, but Molly had the feeling that, if she didn't do something, it might go on almost as long as his Best Man speech had. So she caught his chin with her free hand, tugged him down so that their faces were level, and did what she'd wanted to do ever since first laying eyes on him: she kissed him.
Apparently there really was a God in Heaven, because Sherlock's eyes fluttered closed and he kissed her back.
When the kiss ended – as softly and sweetly as it had begun – Sherlock said, "I really am sorry that your relationship with Tom ended so badly, Molly."
"Yeah, me too," she agreed, feeling his arm come to rest tentatively across her shoulder. She leaned closer, breathing in the scent of him, so masculine and uniquely Sherlock. "But I'm not sorry about this, whatever it turns into. Because I love you, Sherlock Holmes. Always have, and I guess I always will."
He leaned his forehead against hers. "And since I now appear to be the type of person who believes in romantic love and sentiment, it is my turn to tell you that I love you as well, Molly Hooper. And I have for much, much longer than I was willing to admit until now."
She kissed him again at that, as much to stop him from saying anything that might ruin the perfect moment he'd somehow managed to set up for the two of them as to stop the tears that threatened to once again rain from her eyes. This time the kiss strayed from 'soft and sweet' into 'dangerous threat to mental and physical equilibrium' as Sherlock's mouth opened beneath hers, and his tongue darted out to meet hers as swiftly as her own quested along his lush, glorious lips.
The kiss ended with them both entangled together much more closely than they had been only moments earlier, faces flushed and breathing highly compromised. When Sherlock next spoke, however, Molly found herself wishing she'd kept kissing him silent, as his disgruntled question was, "Were you really having 'quite a lot of sex' with Tom?"
She refrained from rolling her eyes only when she saw how open and vulnerable his expression was. He wasn't chastising her for her indiscreet blurt the night of John's Stag, but asking something of her that wasn't, after a second's reflection, all that difficult to figure out. "Not nearly as much as I plan to have with you," she reassured him, seduced all over by the smile that lit up his features at her response.
Then she did kiss him, again and again, before finally doing what she'd waited so many, many years to do: she took him by the hand, led him into her bedroom, and showed him exactly what he'd been missing – and would never have to miss again.