A/N: The final chapter, at last! Get your tissues. Thank you to my readers, reviewers, cheerleaders, and most especially MizJoely taking my crap and making it legible. Any mistakes contained herein are my own. And a special thanks to dietplainlite, who is such a SWEETHEART, and who I love whole heartedly. 3

Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes.


"What are you doing?"

Molly does her very best not to let her agitation show as Sherlock's footsteps stop just inside the door to his flat. The question he issued was with the tone of a man that knows exactly what he is seeing and yet still holds out belief that he may be wrong. Turning around and facing him isn't an option, not yet – if he gives her a pleading look and takes the duffle bag from her hands, she may give into him. No one else has such a way of weakening her resolve, and Sherlock certainly uses his sway over her to his advantage.

"I'm packing," she answers, in the process of picking up the sofa cushions and checking under them. So many of her things have migrated around his flat, including Toby. He's moved into Sherlock's room as though he belongs there, sleeping on the detective's ankles or even on Sherlock's pillow, practically nose-to-nose with his favorite human. Toby is going to be livid when she takes him home: she hasn't even been able to catch and place him in his carrier.

Astonishingly, she finds two socks (mismatched), a bracelet, one of Toby's toys, and a phial of God knows what under the couch cushions. She cleans everything out, making a mental note to vacuum it out the next time she nags Sherlock into leaving the flat and letting her clean, stuffing her things into the bag. She sits it on the floor to replace the cushions, still determinedly avoiding eye contact with the suspiciously quiet Sherlock.

"Why are you packing?" he finally asks, sounding honestly baffled.

Firmly she answers, "Because I need to go home." She doesn't tell him why, because he's a bloody genius, he has to see it. It's far too easy to fall into a lull – no, a life - where she becomes a significant part of Sherlock's own. She nags him about eating and bothering John when he's at work, makes him speak to his parents regularly and assists in experiments. On quiet nights, when he's not on a case, they sit half-tangled together on the sofa, watching crap telly or B-rated horror flicks. Sherlock likes the old ones with silly monsters and terrible special effects, most of them in black and white and beautifully grainy.

Slipping into the role of a girlfriend or live-in or whatever it is she could be to Sherlock – living this life and yet knowing she is something less – it hurts. And to be honest, it scares Molly down to her toes. How many times has Sherlock let her down, broken her heart, lied or cheated or used her? She's forgiven him for each, oh yes, but after this last time – after Janine and the drugs and nearly getting himself killed twice – Molly doesn't want to trust Sherlock.

She just doesn't think her heart can take anymore. She feels like a coward, hates herself for it and wonders where proud, strong hearted Molly Hooper has gone. But Sherlock has always made her something else; a mouse, a coward, a whisper in the background. This is no different.

For a time, Sherlock watches her. No movement, no speaking: just his eyes tracking her movements, his chest and shoulders lifting and dropping with each inhale and exhale. Finally, after Molly has finished poking around under the sofa and moved onto picking through the mess on the coffee table, Sherlock sheds his coat, hanging it on a wall hook. His scarf is next, unwound and neatly hung. His gloves he takes off one at a time, Molly watching as he tugs each finger out – the movements somehow sensual, making her teeth set on edge and heat flare in her gut – until his hands are bare and he's tucking the leather into a coat pocket.

Wordlessly, he shuts the door. How rare: it's normally left wide open, awaiting Mrs. Hudson or John or Mary, a client or Mycroft or Greg stopping for a case or a beer or to ask Molly for relationship advice. He walks into the kitchen, and Molly hopes against hope maybe he's going to be adult about this, about her letting her escape before her feelings grow even stronger and she can't leave. Because as it stands now, going to sleep in an empty flat, knowing Sherlock is across the city and all alone, it's going to break her heart.

Instead she hears the sound of the second door shutting, the click of a lock and thump of a deadbolt. He comes back around, the old floor creaking under his slight weight as he advances on her. For a moment Molly only watches, eyes widening; by the time she realizes he's reaching out it's too late, and now he's taken her by the arms.

"Molly," he says, and just that. Just her name, but there's so much there. She can read it in his tone and eyes and the hesitant way his fingertips push into her skin, can see all the things he pushes down behind his lungs and into his stomach so they can't escape. His ribs are a cage that hold more than organs captive, keeping the truth of his humanity, the vast range of his caring and kindness and longing away from the world. She's always been able to see past it, past his too-pale skin and ever shifting eyes, his words that are often cruel and thoughtless.

For such a long time, it was enough. Especially after his little admittances, the way he clung to her hips and choked on my Molly, mine, all mine, as though he's starved for all the warmth she'd love lavish on him. But she aches for sunlight and rich earth, a place to grow strong roots. Nothing can live on truths left unspoken from fear, on a single sentence (the one that mattered most), on nine hours of sweat and sex and the kind of lust she'd always thought was fictional until it was his hands on her body and his mouth tracing the thin skin over her pulse.

She wants more. And if Sherlock can't provide it, well, she can be happy alone – even if it means leaving St. Bart's, leaving London, leaving England. He'll haunt every footstep and breath and thought she takes away from him, a ghost with electric eyes and an almost shy smile, the one she likes to think he shows to only her. But he is not the reason she lives and breathes, and she refuses to waste her life away on a man who is too scared of his feelings to actively pursue them.

"I want to be more than a glorified assistant," she announces, defiance in her eyes. Doesn't he see what this does to her? What he does? "I'm always going to be in love with you, Sherlock, but I deserve more than – than whatever we're doing here. Because we're not just friends, that's obvious, and I know you care for me. But you keep me at arm's length, and you know what? It's your choice to make, I'm not about to force you into a relationship. But you can't expect me to simply settle for living off your scraps when you feel like throwing me a bone!"

Sherlock leans down, brushes his mouth across her temple before quietly asking, "What precisely did Mycroft say to you?"

Molly's hands and heart tremble with a restless kind of fury. Why did she have to fall in love with Sherlock bloody Holmes, out of all the men in the world? It's not fair that he can see everything so clearly, not when she'd like to keep some things to herself.

"Nothing I didn't already know," she doesn't actually answer. Trying to shrug his hands away proves futile, and when she presses her palms to his chest, her traitorous fingers take a grip on his shirtfront. "Sherlock, please. Please don't do this."

She doesn't cry. Her tears were shed hours ago, into the handkerchief Mycroft pressed into her hands with an almost sorrowful look. "I am sorry," he'd said, appearing utterly uncomfortable with her raw emotions. "But you will both end up wounded if things continue as they are, Dr. Hooper. I think you already know that. Do know that if he were different – or perhaps, if the situation he has put himself into were different – that I think he could have been happy with you in his life in this capacity."

Could have been happy. The but he won't actually be happy with you was implied, thankfully left unsaid. Once upon a time, Sherlock had made her voiceless and small. Now it is Mycroft Holmes that does the job, looks inside her and finds her unworthy, wielding his fantastic mind to debase one foolish woman of her notions regarding his brother.

And it hurts.

"What did he say?" Sherlock takes the side of her face on one large hand, fingers burrowing into her loose hair. He forces her to look up and see him not trying to hide his emotions, leaving his anger and fear and worry on display. "Tell me. Please."

It's the please that does it. She's heard him fake it a hundred, a thousand, times. Please can you open the lab for me? Please may I borrow your expertise for an experiment? Please may I examine this corpse your boss specifically ordered I not be allowed near? More rare are the ones that ring true, that come from the heart and hold no fabricated charm.

"He told me that I'm fool for allowing you to use me as some kind of security blanket. That I've grown too emotionally attached to you and our current living arrangement, and that now that you're back on your feet I will soon find myself being forced out of your life and back into the usual slot of Dr. Hooper, pathologist, to be used when convenient for Sherlock. He's right, isn't he? You've told me yourself that Mycroft is never wrong, that he's more brilliant than even you. So that's that, and if you'd just let me go I'd like to collect my things and –"

Sherlock kisses her. It's the opposite of the one that sparked their almost brutal union on the sofa after Tom left her; there is no blazing lust, no desperation for skin and pressure and the emptiness inside her body to filled. This has so very little to do with sex, and much more to do with a pouring of emotion from one person to another.

"Oh, Sherlock," she sighs, caressing his jaw. Opening her eyes, looking at him, that would be a mistake at this point. Giving in wouldn't be an option, as she already would have done. "I know you care. I know. But we both know you don't want me, not in that way."

"I do." He pulls her close, enfolds her in not only his arms, but his warmth. It's a strange embrace, somehow more than any other he's ever shared with her, as there is no uncertainty or moment of hesitation, no sense that he is holding something back. It feels to Molly as though portcullises have been lifted and she is being allowed into the inner most sanctum of Sherlock's mind, heart, and soul.

"I will never be... average," he haltingly begins, tucking Molly's head under his chin. "And yet I find myself desiring very average things. To wake with you beside me, or a pillow smelling of your shampoo; to bicker over take-away and television shows and body parts in the fridge (though I suppose that isn't terrible average, is it?); being nagged at to eat properly and call my mother. I want... I want to know that if I reach out I can touch you, any way I like. To feel your hair sliding through my fingers, or the way our arms brush when we walk together. Or to do this –" Sherlock's voice drops to a hoarse, ragged groan as those clever fingers Molly admires so well runs half-way down her arm, finding space between their bodies to slide in and cup her breast. She can see the vein in his neck throbbing, hard and fast, can hear his heart picking up speed as he weighs the clothed mound in his palm.

His thumb brushes across her nipple just once, rasping the rough knit of her jumper against the sensitive flesh. Immediately it pebbles, so tight and hard that it aches with a sweet fierceness, making Molly's knees weaken and her lungs quickly expand; the sound of her shivery gasp seems to propel Sherlock onwards, makes him give a heavy exhale before he slowly – so damn slowly, as though he's wary, frightened of her rejection – drops his hand down and pushes under the hem of her jumper. He palms her soft stomach and the dip of her hip into her waist, that feminine curve that Molly herself admires in the mirror while dressing or in particularly well fitted clothing.

His fingers trace over the notches of her ribs one at a time, his quick breathing ruffling Molly's hair. She's hot, distressingly so, as though the heat has shrunk her skin and made it too small for the muscles and bones and organs it covers. Sherlock skims his calloused fingertips over and under and back again, all along the underside of her breast, before tracing the outer sweep of round flesh. Molly finds herself rising onto her toes, pressing against his chest and stomach and hips, into his questing fingers. There's a whine, high and trembling, rising out of her throat as she twists, urging Sherlock on.

"Your discarding of a brassiere when at home drives me mad," admits Sherlock, finally rolling her nipple between thumb and forefinger. It sends a shock wave of heat all the way to her cunt, making Molly throb and ache in time her heartbeat. "After you bathe, when you wear that bloody robe and your hair is wet – I want to tease you through the fabric, until it's wet and almost transparent from where I've had you in my mouth – I want to fuck you while you're wearing it, opened and see it framing your body, still damp and warm from your bath, hot where I'm inside you –" Roughly he pinches that sensitive tip, and Molly practically writhes. His words, the images they provoke, the painful sort of pleasure she likes so very well, it's all left her panting as though she's ran several blocks while spots flicker at the edge of her vision.

Not even three minutes, and Sherlock has turned her into a mess of want and need and please, Sherlock, please: Molly wants to resent him for it, she does, but he's breathing hard too, and the arm he has around her back has grown so tight to be just painful enough that Molly questions her own body. Had she always like this and not known? Her lovers in the past, they were tender and sweet, especially Tom: but she remembers university and a sometimes lover named Kevin, who was rough and sloppy when drunk; she thinks of how he'd bite her clit, hold it between his teeth and suck until she screamed, or she'd begged him to pull her hair and ride her so hard she had bruises on her thighs come morning.

She stopped seeing him when her roommate saw bruises in the shape of hands on her hips and arse, thought she was being brutalized and insisted Molly stay away from Kevin. She'd done so, yes of course she had, because there was still this great well of choking shame that bubbled up inside her when she thought of a big hand fisted in her long hair, pulling her head back while Kevin whispered all sorts of filthy, violent, beautiful things in Molly's ear.

But now here's Sherlock, who's never asked what she likes because he's Sherlock bloody Holmes and he reads her arousal and physical responses as though they're a playbook of how to make Molly Hooper embarrassingly wet. Maybe he remembers, on some subconscious level, the way she'd gone half-wild when he pushed her against the cold storage lockers in the morgue all those years ago, how she'd suckled his bottom lip when he curled a hand around her throat and held in her place. Maybe that probably forgotten, endlessly unspoken of encounter set the tone for the explosion that occurred when they finally did give into the lust; for sex that was half-brutal and completely desperate, even that last time in the morning, when pulled her tight against his chest and loved her so slowly and thoroughly that tears had spilled down her cheeks.

"I want you," Sherlock plainly admits, resting his cheek on the crown of her head.

The heat is still there, of course it is, because lusting for Sherlock has become so much a part of Molly's life that it's an unconscious action like breathing or the beating of her heart. At the moment it's tempered by a fierce sort of emotion, one that causes such a brutal ache in Molly's chest that it can be nothing but love. She feels as though her chest is too small to hold all this emotion, this boundless passion and adoration and tolerance and acceptance, this indescribable weight and joy that is love.

She doesn't for a second think it'll be easy, because he's Sherlock and she's Molly and their relationship swings between effortless and brutal from one hour to the next. But that's all right, because he still makes her smile and she drags him a little closer to his once completely closed off emotions with every passing day. She's still afraid of being hurt and let down, but what's the point of living if she hides in a bubble and never actually lives, allto keep from being broken?

So she answers honestly and simply: Molly says, "I love you."

It's the only answer she's ever needed, when it comes to Sherlock.


"What is that?"

Molly glances up at Sherlock in a distracted manner, before turning her attention back to the present she's wrapping. "St. John and the others have a completely ridiculous amount already, but there has to be enough for both the children and the adults. There's the yearly Christmas Eve battle, and last year I got stuck with foam swords. Never bring a knife to gun a fight, or you end up with a dart stuck to your forehead and the first causality of the 2012 Hooper Civil War."

"Is there a particular reason you wage war with toy guns and children?"

Shrugging, Molly bites the tip of her tongue as she lines the wrapping paper up just right before applying the first strip of tape. "Because it's fun," she answers. "We enjoy it as much as the kids. Beats the hell out of a stuffy dinner and awkward conversation."

"Mm," Sherlock agrees. He hangs his coat and scarf before retiring the bedroom. When he returns he's clad in clean pajamas and a robe, his bare feet lightly slapping the floor as he returns. He stokes the fire and adds a log before taking his violin out, moving to the window. He begins to play something soft and sweet, a piece that reminds Molly of quiet nights and dark mornings, skin sliding comfortably against skin and the sensation of breath rustling her hair.

"Molly?" He doesn't quit playing while speaking.

"Yeah?" Up on her knees, now, Molly is too busy making sure to cut a straight line without tearing the wrapping paper to look at Sherlock.

"My parent's home is less than two hours away from your brother's, by train. If you'd like to come. For Christmas, of course. Though if you'd rather return to London as you usually do, I'd understand. Baker Street, as always, is at your disposal."

Extremities go numb and a buzzing picks up in the back of Molly's skull. Shock like this is much like receiving a head injury. Sherlock is asking her to his parents for the holiday? The man celebrates Christmas for the sake of everyone else, or so it has always seemed, and the last time he visited his parents it was done only because his mother managed to guilt him into it.

"No!" she half shouts, flapping a hand and sharp pair of scissors at Sherlock's back. "I mean yes! I mean, no, I don't want to come back to Baker Street. Alone, I mean, yes I want after. But with you. Um, yes, I'd love to come to Christmas at your parents. Yes. Yeah. Of course!"

Shut up, Molly. Biting her tongue and cheek in quick turns, it takes a great effort not to explode into excited and startled rambling. She's flushed and off-guard, not having expected such an invitation from Sherlock. It's never seemed his style, really.

"Good. Dinner will be at seven, quite enough time for you to see the children on Christmas morning before you leave. I booked a ticket for you." Though he never stops playing or looks back, in the reflection of the window glass, Molly can see Sherlock's smile. It's small but bright, and his eyes are much happier than she's ever seen before. "Your presence will go a long way in earning my mother's forgiveness over dinner."

Tension snaps tight through Molly's stomach. "What are you planning, Sherlock?" she asks, wary. It would be just like Sherlock to plan some big, brilliant, utterly stupid event that will leave his parents furious before attempting to kill two birds with one stone by having her show up for the holiday and please his mum to pieces with her arrival. Especially if it's an indication of their current relationship, and not simply a friendship... friends that are more than friends... if it's not the complicated relationship Molly currently thinks of she and Sherlock's relationship as.

"Oh, Molly," he sighs, spinning on one heel to give her a long suffering look. "We both know I'm bound to do something utterly atrocious."

"Not if you don't speak," she teases.

Though Sherlock huffs and sticks his nose in the air, switching from the soft and sensual piece to something furiously quick and difficult, Molly catches sight of his grin before it can be wholly suppressed.

Sherlock plays carols and Molly sings along, warm and happy as she tapes paper into place, ties bows and ribbons, and sticks cheerful tags on each package, be it small or large. She's never looked forward to a holiday as much as this one, at least not since before her father passed away.

It'll always be like this, she decides, and for once she doesn't doubt it.


"Come on, Toby. Come out from under the bed." Lying on her stomach, Molly stretches her arm into the space between the boxes crammed under Sherlock's bed. Toby hides amid the tight passages of the cardboard labyrinth, his eyes glowing in the darkness and the only bit of him she can actually see. He growls angrily at her searching fingers, darting further into the abyss and out of sight.

"Don't bother with the cat, Molly. Mrs. Hudson has agreed to come up and watch him while we're gone."

Pushing herself out, Molly props herself up to look over her shoulder. Sherlock is leaning against the door frame, and there's mischief glittering his gaze.

"Why didn't you tell me that when I told you I was going to try and get him into his carrier?"

He shrugs. "I thought I'd like watching you wriggle around on the floor."

"Sherlock!" Molly's really not sure if she should be frustrated, flattered, or amused.

"My hypothesis was right: your bum does look fantastic in those jeans."

Somewhere between Molly's mock scoldings and Sherlock's teasing, they both end up on the bed. Taking advantage of his much longer limbs, he twines around Molly, until she suspects he is a vine and she won't ever be released again. Honestly, she isn't terribly upset with idea.

"I have never comprehended a situation like this before now," he announces, fingers thoughtlessly twirling and twisting locks of Molly's soft hair.

"What situation?" Opening her hand, she palms a portion of his back, relishing in the solid comfort of his body. She'll have a miserable time sleeping without him, now that she's grown used to it. Here's to a night of tossing and turning.

"I will see you tomorrow, and yet I'm quite anxious about your departure." His voice holds a deep frown. "Yet I don't understand why. It's wholly illogical."

Not bothering to resist a warm, happy smile, Molly buries it against Sherlock's shirtfront. "Love isn't logical," she finally responds, giving him a squeeze. "But don't worry, everything will be fine. Have you told your parents I'm coming?"

"You should take a later train." Sherlock wriggles down, pushing up the soft fabric of Molly's Christmas jumper so he can find the softer flesh of her stomach. Pressing his mouth to the spot just above her belly button, Molly feels a slight tug at her denims before the button pops open and the sound of a zip being draw echoes through the quiet room.

"I already have my ticket," she counters. Yet she lifts her hips when Sherlock leans back and tugs, pulling the denim down her thighs and knees and past her ankles. Her knickers went with, so she's bare below the waist. Propping herself up on one elbow, Molly watches as Sherlock rests his cheek against her thigh, his own gaze focused on the slow trek of his fingers as they move up the opposite thigh and towards neat curls.

"There's no reason you have to leave so early in the morning," he continues, brushing his thumb down the seam of her lips. Molly's breath catches and her legs automatically part further. Setting a fingertip on her clit, Sherlock rolls his eyes upwards too look at Molly. "But if you're set on taking the first train out, I suppose I ought to stop doing this, shouldn't it?"

Molly's entire body spasms as he flicks his finger back and forth.

"Later train," she babbles, reaching down to take a handful of his hair. "I'll go later. Don't stop. Please."

"Good." He turns his smug face into the space between her thighs, giving a pleased sort of sound at his first taste of her. "Especially since I changed your ticket in for another one."

"Slut," Molly accuses, curling a leg over his back.

"Yes," he agrees.

Despite the change in her departure time, Molly still almost misses the train.

Missing something? Sherlock texts not five minutes into her ride. Blinking, Molly looks around. Bag of presents and her one suitcase, she already turned in her ticket, Toby stayed at home...

No? she tentatively questions.

His response is a picture of her knickers dangling off one long forefinger.

Molly squeals, startling the woman next to her. Hastily she swipes the picture away, blushing violently. And, yes, fighting back a ridiculously smug grin.

You're an arse, she sends.

Says the woman living with me.

Molly doesn't have a response to that. At least, not one that doesn't involve girlish giggling she has a very hard time stuffing down. The woman beside her looks Molly up and back down, before smiling widely.

"Boyfriend?" she asks.

"Yeah," Molly confirms, and spends the rest of her trip utterly dumbfounded that she just called Sherlock her boyfriend – and it's the truth. Christmas miracles, indeed.


"You're the one that chose to go to your parents a day early," Molly points out, toeing the spigot of the bathtub. It's a massive old claw foot, and she takes advantage of the spacious bubble baths it provides every time she visits her brother's home.

"You should have stopped me," grumbles Sherlock. "Mum's forced me into a hideous jumper that she made. And I had to converse with Aunt Imogene."

"Oh no, conversation with your family. How terrible." Molly grins at the ceiling, propping her elbow against the edge of the tub. She holds the phone close enough that Sherlock can hear her, but far enough away that she probably won't drop it into the water. Hopefully, at least.

"Are you mocking me?"


"As I suspected." Faintly, on Sherlock's end of the line, she can hear the creak of old floorboards. She wonders where he's hiding, and if it was a favorite place to seek refuge when he was a child. "Is that water I hear?"

"Astounding deduction," she can't help but tease. "I'm in the bath."

There's a long moment of silence. Sherlock sucks in a sharp breath, and Molly can practically see his fingers pecking a nervous pattern against his thigh. "I could take the car and be there in a few hours."

"Well, I'd be out of the bath by then, I'm sure. Besides, I'll see you tomorrow."

"With my parents. I assure you, nothing destroys an erection like the presence of my mother."

"If she didn't, I'd be terribly worried."

"Even those words together feel wrong on the tongue. Mother. Erection. No, I'll not be saying that again. Make note of that Molly, in case I need to make space in my mind palace."

"Noted," she responds, a mere second before the bathroom door is hurled open. Molly shrieks, flailing and very nearly dropping her phone, as her youngest nephew Timothy barrels inside the hot, steamy room.

"Molly, what's wrong?" Sherlock is demand, voice gone sharp and worried. "Molly?"

"Sorry, Auntie!" Timothy half shouts, shedding his Iron Man pajama bottoms as he goes. "I gotta pee, though!"

"Timothy James," she yelps, "what have we told you about knocking?"

The five year old, in the process of relieving his bladder, looks over to Molly. He surveys his aunt, head and wet shoulders above a frothing mount of bubbles. "But I really had to go," he insists, pulling a little pouty face that is makes Molly turn into a gullible mess. "That's lots of bubbles, Auntie. Can I get in, too?"

Molly isn't sure if it's the sound of the toilet flushing or Timothy's question, but Sherlock bursts into rolling laughter.

"Oh my peanut butter and jelly, are you talking to a boy?" Hopping forward, Hulk underwear pulled up but pajama bottoms tangled about his ankles, Timothy nearly trips and falls into the water. He appears both horrified and gleeful. "Without clothes on?"

Sherlock sounds as though he may be choking.

"Get out, Timothy!"

"Daddy!" The boy shrieks, jumping and hopping as he pulls his bottoms up, running a bit crooked as they fabric is dreadfully twisted. "Mummy! Auntie's naked talking to a guy and they ain't married and you said only married people were naked together and she's in trouble!"

Molly's head sinks under the water, muting the sounds of Sherlock's mirth.


The children wake Molly at four. She sends them back to bed by saying Santa will be cross if they don't sleep longer, before jamming a pillow under her head and dive bombing once against into a deep sleep. She's briefly awoken forty-five minutes later to her sister-in-law sternly, and a bit savagely, instructing, "Take your skippy little bums right back to your rooms and stay there until morning!" The sound of childish defeat echoes in the halls.

The first rays of dawn provoke shrieks and howls of glee. The children wake their parents, before making a quick stop at Aunt Molly's door. St. John slams inside, followed by Timothy and little Lilibet, who is barely three and really doesn't understand what's happening. She's just following along in her big brothers' footsteps.

The boys tackle the lump of blankets that is their aunt. "It's morning, it's morning!" they shout, shaking Molly while bouncing up and down. At the side of the bed Lilibet begins to whine, unable to climb into the tall bed on her own.

"Up, up! Up, now, please!" she demands, making grabby hands at Molly.

"Arrgh," Molly acknowledges. She hoists the little one into bed, folding her up in the blanket and closing her eyes. "Are you sure it's morning?"

"Yes, the sun's come up!" answers St. John.

"It's time for presents!" howls Timothy, flailing.

"Hi," coos, Lilibet, content to cup Molly's cheek in one hand while lying nose-to-nose.

"Hi, baby. Boys, are you sure it isn't a fake sun?"

They giggle. "No, don't be silly!"

"I'm quite sure it's only that the moon is very bright. Let's go back to sleep, to make sure."

"Get up, get up! It really is morning, we promise. Right, Timmy?"


"Presents?" questions Lilibet, brown eyes huge and hopeful.

Shuffling past the open door, Stacy calls out, "I'm making coffee, Molls."

Molly blindly follows the promise of caffeine.


"Hello!" Juggling her far-heavier-than-before-receiving-all-her-gifts suitcase and the bag containing the rest the presents she has to give out, Molly beams over the top of her scarf at Mrs. Holmes. "Happy Christmas!"

"Molly?" the older woman questions, eyes gone wide with shock.

Closing her eyes while swallowing back a groan of frustration, Molly tips her chin towards the sky. "Sherlock didn't tell you he invited me, did he?" she asks. "That man, I even asked him if he had – I'm so sorry, I can go, it's really no trouble."

"Oh, Molly," Mrs. Holmes whispers, taking hold of her shoulders. "Did he tell you about his plan? What he was going to do?"

A frigid lump forms at the pit of Molly's stomach. "Plan?" she questions, praying he's only exploded an appliance out of boredom and not done something terrible. "What plan? I – I'm sorry, I don't –"

Without warning, she's jerking into a tight hug. "He'll be fine," Mrs. Holmes whispers with a strange sort violence into Molly's hair. "Don't worry, dear, he'll be fine. He always is. He's clever, my boy, and he'll – he'll be –"

Even without knowing exactly why, Molly is quite sure the world is dropping out from her.


It's Will Wiggins that explains everything, pinching his still bleeding nose and shooting scared looks towards the furious Mary Watson. Not just what happened before Molly's arrival, but Sherlock's entire plan – or what he knows of it, at least.

Sherlock's last text, sent an hour ago, has far more meaning.

John and I are stepping out; don't worry, everything is under control. She assumed it was a spur of the moment case, a few hours of dashing around and solving crimes before Christmas dinner. Now it's clear that it was meant for this moment, when she learned of his plan and where he's gone.

"I really ought to check your blood," Wiggins bursts out, giving Mary a scared little look. "Sherlock'll be cross if I don't check on you and the fetus."

"It's a baby, and over your cold, dead body are you touching me, Wiggins." Mary toys, threateningly, with a cleaver. Wisely, Wiggins directs his attention elsewhere.

"Don't no one worry," he says, wiping crusted blood from his nostrils. "Sherlock's got everything all sorted out. He'll be back in no time."

"We're locking him in his room for a year," Mrs. Holmes hisses, clearly bouncing between rage and worry.

"He's a grown man, Marilyn, we can't ground him."

"I gave birth to him, and so yes, I damn well can!"

Molly fully intends on assisting his mother, when the time comes.


News comes two hours after Molly's arrival. She's chewed the inside of her mouth so raw it's bled, and Mrs. Holmes has crossed deserts with her pacing. The shrill jangling of the house phone breaks the uncomfortable silence. Molly suppresses an urge to lunge for it herself, instead grabbing Mary's hand in a terrified grip.

"They're fine," she whispers furiously. "They're both safe. Sherlock is always one step ahead, no matter what..."

"Mikey? What's happened? Are you boys okay?" Mrs. Holmes clings to the handset as though it is the only thing that will keep her alive, her knuckles turning white. Her husband leans close, trying to listen in.

The very second Mrs. Holmes sways, dropping a hand down to brace herself, Molly knows. Something terrible has happened. She leans forward, still clinging to Mary, praying – hoping – so greedy, she is, but don't be Sherlock, please God don't be Sherlock –

"What... do you mean?" Mrs. Holmes asks slowly, her words so painful and almost slurred that Molly can't tell if it's only shock or a stroke. "Mycroft this – can't be –"

"Marilyn?" demands Mr. Holmes, his hands trembling. When his wife slowly pushes the phone towards him, her glassy eyes empty and full of tears, he quickly takes it. "Mycroft, what's happened? Your mother –"

"He invited you to Christmas?" asks Mrs. Holmes, her voice so terribly thin and fragile. "Sherlock did? I never thought he'd find someone – but I always hoped, and I'm glad he – that he finally –" she chokes on a deep, ugly sob that comes out of the blue. Balling one hand into a fist, she presses it hard against her mouth, saying no more.

"Sherlock?" Molly whispers, trying so, so hard to be brave. "What's... happened to Sherlock?"

Mr. Holmes lowers the phone, and the electronic beep of it being turned off echoes loudly throughout the silence of the room.

"Mycroft recovered the laptop. John is on his way here. Sherlock – Sherlock shot Charles August Magnusson. He's dead. Sherlock is in custody."

Mrs. Holmes crumbles in on herself. Mr. Holmes simply sits, too stunned to move. At Molly's side, Mary gasps, a hand hovering over her mouth before she slowly looks to Molly. And Molly – Molly who so recently believed that everything was going to be wonderful – she simply stares ahead, unseeing, blood filling her mouth.


Mycroft Holmes has barely entered his parent's door before he's rushing at Molly, much like a bull in an arena. "Did you know about this?" he hisses, taking her by the upper arms. The force he uses to shake her rattles Molly's teeth, and on another day, at another time, she would be astounded that he would do such an out-of-character thing. "Did you know his plan and not tell me?"

"Mycroft!" Mr. Holmes sounds positively horrified, jolting upright at the sight of his eldest son man-handling a woman.

Molly slaps Mycroft with so much force her hand flares with pain before going static-y and numb. "Did I know?" she hisses, shoving the startled man backwards, with such force he nearly falls. "Did I know?" she shrieks, dreadfully close to snagging Mycroft's discarded umbrella and beating him about the head and shoulders with it.

"If I'd known about anything, I would have stopped him!"

"You risked your life and your freedom to fake his death –"

"I risked my life and my freedom to save him," she savagely corrects, teeth bared in a snarl. "I would never do anything to jeopardize his freedom, life, or safety!"

Breathing like winded animals and staring each other down as their crests of emotion fall, each watches as a portion of the rage fades from the other's eyes. Mycroft pulls himself together as best he can, though he's still ruffled and furious and terrified – Molly's grown so capable of reading Sherlock, that learning his brother's tells is quite easy.

"It's all your fault, you know," he says, and it takes a moment for Molly to realize he's speaking to Mary. Mycroft doesn't blink, doesn't twitch, doesn't so much as raise his voice. He only stares. "And if you believe in some kind of divine punishment once you die, know that you will burn."

There's not a word spoken for a long, long time.


"Be ready in twenty minutes. A car will be waiting." Mycroft hangs up as soon as this message is given, but Molly doesn't care about his shortness. They've all been short lately, in their own ways: after two weeks of waiting, he's finally managed to arrange the one thing she's asked for the whole time.

Molly goes outside immediately, jangling her keys in one hand and bouncing on her heels as she waits for the car. Passersby, people entering and leaving Speedy's, they give her strange glances. Who's this mad woman standing on the doorstep of a flat, jingling her keys and looking around so anxiously? They could stop and take pictures for all she cares.

The car arrives early. It's a sleek black thing, like a million other town cars. Molly has a door open before it's come to a full stop. The driver gives her a short, startled look via the reviewer mirror before lowering his gaze, shifting the car back into gear and pulling away from the curb one more.

The drive takes nearly an hour, and the house they arrive at is large, old, and well maintained. Outside the city, it has a lush green lawn and white chat drive. It seems peaceful and picturesque. Molly isn't fooled, not for one second. A beautiful prison is still a prison.

A burly man in stiffly starched uniform opens the door for her. "Ma'am," he greets, nodding once. "Please follow me."

She goes through two metal detectors, and before security is done searching her she fears there'll be a cavity search. Mycroft watches from a shadowy corner, keeping himself far out of the way of the sunlight spilling through the large windows of what was once simply a large parlor.

"You've got an hour," he says, the grip on his brolly far too tight. "Be grateful for it."

He takes her to a set of doors on the third story. They're painted white and have gilt work, but to one side is a key box. Mycroft presses a quick series of numbers before sliding an identification card, and Molly can hear the hiss and release of locks turning and hydraulics releasing. One handle is turned, and Mycroft nods once before opening the door and standing back.

The room is large and lush. A bed, a writing desk, a television, a seating area and table. There are books and board games and a microscope. Most importantly, there is Sherlock, seated in front of the fire place. His back is to Molly, and so all he hears are footsteps eaten by the thick carpeting and the sound of the door shutting, and locking, once more.

"Not today, Mycroft." He sounds tired, and his voice is hoarse.

"I'm not Mycroft."

Sherlock bolts upright so quickly he nearly turns the chair over. Gripping the back of it, to keep it upright or maybe, just maybe because he needs something to brace himself on, he stares at Molly. It seems as though he's drinking her in, looking up and down and back again, soaking in every detail and picking them apart, deducing the details of their time apart.

His throat works, hard. The first time he opens mouth nothing comes out, though he's more successful on the second. "It seems I've been misinformed."

Molly speaks much more steadily than she feels. "How so?"

"Mycroft said you were unwilling to see me."

It takes a great deal of restraint not to pound the doors down so she can scream at Mycroft Holmes until his ear drums burst. He told Sherlock she refused to see him? Was it a punishment, or was he simply too vain or cowardly to say, "I don't think I can arrange such a thing." Molly can comprehend not getting Sherlock's hopes up, but give him such a terrible lie...

"You should've known that wasn't true." She wants to run to him, to hold him close and kiss him so deeply she swallows his exhales and takes a bit of Sherlock's spirit inside. She wants to slap him so hard his neck breaks, because how could he be so goddamn unselfish? Save Mary and John and the baby, but what about them? What about their future, however unplanned and nebulous as it may have been?

"John and Mary told me. Everything." Twisting her fingers together, Molly looks down. It was hard to take in, the thought of Mary as an assassin. Madness, really. But Molly believes it because deep in her bones she knows it's true, has known there was something off about the beautiful, kind, cheerful woman from the very first moment they met. It's in the way she looks at the world and the people in, how sometimes she seems to not see strangers but shadows and enemies. There's a darkness that comes into Mary Watson's eyes, at times, and though Molly spent quite a long time ignoring it, there's no possible way she can now.

"Unexpected." Sherlock pushes his hands into his pockets. He's wearing a shirt and slacks under his robe, clothes Mycroft sent for and Molly packed. A man with blank eyes and broad shoulders had tried to do it, gone into the bedroom and opened the drawers. God above, but Molly had gone half-mad, shrieking at him to get his hands off Sherlock's things.

"I'll do it!" she'd insisted, shoving that much larger body out of the bedroom. Toby was hissing and yowling, clearly upset by the commotion. "Get out, get out!"

"Let her," Mycroft had ordered from the front room. No more argument was made, and Molly packed a large leather case full of Sherlock's things, keeping everything neatly folded and his socks organized the way he likes.

Now she says, accusingly, "She shot you."

A faint smile, one shoulder lifting in a weak shrug. "I tricked her into admitting her past to her husband. I suppose it's fair."

"You almost died, Sherlock. And now – now you've –" She can't say it, hasn't been able to even once. Sherlock is a murderer. Sherlock has committed a murder. A man was killed, and Sherlock pulled the trigger, knowing what he was doing and in no way protecting his own life.

Saving Mary, John, and the baby, that pleading voice inside her whispers over and over again. Saving them. Saving his friends.

The silence stretches, heavy and thick. Molly watches Sherlock's throat work, can see thoughts flickering rapidly behind his eyes. "Since Mycroft said you wouldn't... I hadn't thought of anything to say to you."

"An apology would be a lovely start." The crack in her voice is small, but it traces back to her soul, where it becomes a gaping chasm. It's an endless void of darkness and lost hope, a place where dreams and love go to die. Molly wants to go into it, for the very first time in her life, and almost hates Sherlock for it as much as she hates herself.

"Molly Hooper, I am so terribly sorry for the pain I've caused you. All of it, from the very beginning." Adam's apple bobbing tellingly, Sherlock looks away. He draws in a slow breath, seemingly seeking composure. "I never meant to hurt you. Not even once."

He's being honest, more open than ever. It's terrifying. Molly wants half-truths and outright lies, craves solid ground and normality. "What's going to happen?" Her eyes burn, and she swallows, swallows, swallows, trying to suck the tears back into her body. But they stay, blurring her vision, changing Sherlock into an indistinct shape.

This question finally provokes Sherlock into movement. Slowly he walks across the room, watching Molly as though looking for any sign that she doesn't want him close, doesn't want to be touched. When none comes he reaches out, pulls her against his body with a trembling exhale. One large hand runs over her hair and down her back, and through her clothing Molly can feel how it trembles.

"Answer me truthfully," he finally breathes, pressing his other hand to her throat. His fingers are on her pulse, waiting to see if he can catch the jump and race of a lie. "Please. Do you want a truth or a lie?"

"You've never given me a choice before," she tries to joke. It falls flat, of course, and Molly hides her face in his chest. He smells the same, feels the same, and just for a second she can pretend it's an awful dream she's just left. They're in Baker Street, waiting for a case or distraction, for Molly's shift to start or Mrs. Hudson to call them down for dinner.

"Tell me," he repeats, two fingers still pressed against her jugular.

A truth or a lie. She wants a lie, wants it desperately, because she can't stand the thought of losing him and from all the silences and words left unspoken by Mycroft... Molly knows the worst is coming to pass. The very, very worst. But how can she go on, never knowing what's happened to Sherlock? Never knowing if he's dead or alive, in pain or ill or in danger?

"Both," she finally whispers, hooking a finger through his belt loop and hanging on tightly. "Tell me both."

A long pause. Molly listens to Sherlock's heart, a steady rhythm that is more precious than ever in this moment.

"I'm too useful for death and no prison can hold me. Mycroft has convinced certain peoples that I will be of better use to them out of the country. I'll be working undercover, and once the job is finished I'll be allowed to return."

Molly shudders, clinging to his words. They're too sweet, too hopeful, even spoken in the rapid and disinterested tone Sherlock uses. It's the lie.

"And?" she prompts, almost losing her breath from the fear.

"I'm being sent out of the country, just as I said. But Mycroft has assured me that the work I'm going to be doing – the government and people I will be dealing with... I'll last six months, at the most."

Sherlock has to hold her up, as Molly's knees have gone to jelly and spots appear in front of her eyes. There's static in her fingers and toes, an elephant sitting on her lungs. A cataclysm has just occurred, has utterly and completely destroyed Molly, and she has no defenses left, no strength to summon up.

"Oh God," she whispers, clinging blindly. Her knees are on the floor, and then she's on her back. Sherlock is over her, around her, blocking out the room, the sun, the future. "No. No, no, no, no – no, Sherlock, please, please don't – don't leave me –"

His limbs and weight hold Molly together when it feels as though she's being torn apart, bearing her down into the thick carpet. "It's the lie," he whispers hoarsely, shoulders shivering. "Don't do this – not because of me, Molly –"

She weeps, and thinks Sherlock does too. Somehow, and she isn't sure how as she didn't intend for it to happen and is fairly certain Sherlock didn't either, their mouths meet. There is no kiss, not at first, only an accidental brush and the taste of tears before desperation explodes into a furious sort of lust. She's ripping, tearing at his shirt buttons, pulling his hair, crying and gasping as he battles with her trousers.

"There's cameras," he gasps out, jumping when Molly digs her blunt nails into the skin above his ribs, trying to leave marks. She needs this, needs to scratch and bite and leave bits of herself all over him.

"Let them watch," she answers, pushing and wriggling until Sherlock's on his back and she's straddling him. "Let them see. I don't care." Her blouse is pulled over her head and tossed away, and her bra follows. Sherlock is making hungry sounds, his pupils blown wide and scared as he traces curves and lines he's come to know so well.

"The first time I saw you, I almost walked out of St. Bart's because I knew you would be too distracting. I promised myself I'd keep you at arm's length, no matter what – I thought I couldn't afford attachments – I truly am spectacularly ignorant." His smirk is sad and self-loathing, and he leaves his shirt and robe on the floor as he rolls them once more. The carpet is soft against Molly's bare back, and Sherlock's fingers pushing under her waistband are as painful as they are desperately wanted.

"I wanted to have you on a storage gurney," he admits into her breasts, scraping his teeth over the pale flesh until it glows red and livid. He sucks a mark into being, and then another, and another, on his knees to allow Molly to tackle his trousers. "I went into rehab thinking, if I'm clean she'll let me. Sometimes it was the only reason I stayed, why I didn't give into the withdrawal and leave, because you told me you didn't want me when I was high."

He remembers. Molly moans, not because they're both naked and he's sliding down her body, hooking his arms under and around her thighs as he roughly suckles love bites onto her stomach and hips; this is not a sound of pleasure, but of agony. He remembers. All this wasted time, and there's so precious little left...

"Why?" she mourns, the fingers of one hand caught in the carpet while the other knots in his hair. "Why did you – oh God, Sherlock – why –"

Sherlock worships her with lips and tongue and teeth. It's agonizing and beautiful and she's going to die, it's going to kill her, knowing this is the last time, the very last time –

When he finally rises above her, chin and cheeks shimmering with wetness, he doesn't need to coax her legs to wrap around his hips. "I'm a coward," he admits with a hand between their bodies. He pushes inside, makes Molly yowl and cry and cling to his arms and shoulders. "I'm a useless, arrogant coward, and I didn't want be hurt – I didn't want to hurt you, either – I break everything, Molly, everything, and now I'm going to break you –"

He sits back, and Molly goes with him. They're wound around each other, Molly in his lap and their bodies as close as they can possibly be. It is sex, yes, there's no doubt; but it is also so much more. It is anger and sorrow, a goodbye and a plea for it not to be the end. Molly is a raw, bared nerve, pulsing and throbbing with each flaring emotion and physical pleasure.

"I love you," she keeps repeating, holding his precious face between her palms and forcing him to look at her, to see all the truths. "I love you, I love you, I've always loved you –"

When he kisses her, it seems as though he's swallowing her words, tucking them inside to keep in a secret place.

It ends in near-violence and tears, exactly as it began. They remain together, sweating and panting, Molly with her forehead on his shoulder as she sobs as she hasn't since her father's death. In a way it's much worse than losing her father, as some realistic part of her had always known she would one day lose her parents and become an orphan. His diagnosis gave her time to process, to ease her into the grief and reality. But this? This is too sudden, too painful.

It's not only the loss of Sherlock, which is of such a magnitude that Molly will never be able to properly express it. It is also the loss of their future, of dreams like soap bubbles, fragile and short lived. There might have been a child, one day, or maybe a few. There might have been a wedding. They might have grown old together: Molly thinks he'd look dashing with gray hair, like his father. There could have been arguments and misunderstandings, silent moments of understanding and laughter.

"I love you," he whispers, and it's in the voice of a dead man that knows he has no further chances left. "I don't want you to ever think I didn't."

There's an en suite, of course, and they go into a quick hot shower. Sherlock's seed trickles down Molly's thighs, is washed away, and it hurts worse than any wound she's ever received. He washes her with touches that are reverent, his gaze somehow both far-away and focused entirely on Molly. After, they go back into the main room in towels, where Molly watches listlessly as he picks through her scattered clothing.

"It seems you'll need replacements." There are shadows under his eyes, and his empty smile dies a quick death. In his hands are a torn jumper, ripped trousers, a bra with a popped strap. Molly swallows hard, nodding, unable to speak.

Sherlock pulls out a pair of sweat pants that are much too long for Molly. He shrugs with an apologetic air, holding them out. "My clothes will have to do."

"I'm going with you," Molly announces, watching Sherlock's eyes grow round and shocked. "I'm not leaving until you do."

"No," he snaps, so harshly that once it could have made Molly flee the lab in tears. Now she doesn't even flinch. "There's no way –"

"I'm going with you, or I'll follow. If you have help, we can figure something out. We can get you out."


"I'm not sending you off to get killed, all alone and with no chance of survival! I'm not going to let it happen like this!"

The sound of Sherlock's fist slamming into the wood of the wardrobe is shocking and, yes, even scary. Molly flinches backwards, looking rapidly between his face gone scarlet in fury and his balled up fist. She's never seen him lose his temper so completely that he's resorted to physical violence, and the shock of it is like ice water being poured over her head.

"You're going to live," he snarls, as viciously as he might hurl insults. "Do you understand me, Molly Hooper? You're going to live. You're going to stay here and take care of John, Mary, and the baby; they'll need you. And you'll never tell them. Never. They can never know."

Tears return, choking and blinding her. This man. This complicated, brilliant, heart-breaking man. It's never been that he couldn't love, but only that he loves so completely and wholly that he always knew it had the capacity to devastate him. How clearly Molly understands him, now, and all the years he spent pushing away from her.

Quietly she accepts the sweatpants, which are far too big. She rolls them several times at the waistband to keep them up, and then pulls on a soft, long sleeved shirt Sherlock hands her. He folds the cuffs up, allowing her the use of her hands. Meditatively, he traces each of her fingers with his own, perhaps memorizing the placement of scalpel callouses and the ridges of her knuckles.

The end comes all too soon. A knock, a pause, and the sound of locks unlatching as alarms are silently, briefly, kicked off, and then the door opens. A stocky man with a ruddy face and lowered eyes stands in the doorway. "Miss, Hooper, I'm afraid your time is up."

She yearns to scream and rail and fight. Instead she sucks it back, forces it down so far that maybe she'll never have to face it again. Sherlock doesn't need her to break apart, to fight any further against the inevitable: he needs her to be strong, and she will be. She must.

Jaw tight and nostrils flaring, Sherlock touches her face. It's a faint, tentative thing at first: Molly cups her hand over the back of his, pressing her cheek into his palm.

He whispers, "Thank you," and Molly's heart shatters all over again. "For... for everything."

"What do you need me to say?"

Sherlock draws her close, kisses her so softly, so sweetly that the battle against her tears is lost once more. "Say 'I love you, Sherlock,'" he murmurs fingers sliding through her damp hair. "And smile."

Closing her eyes, choking on so many other words and howls and sobs, Molly focuses on anything but this. She thinks of Sherlock and Toby playing in Baker Street, of violin music at four in the morning and body parts in the fridge; of long, silent hours in the lab and the companionship they shared during their work together. Each treasured memory is pulled up, until Molly is full of the very best of Sherlock and their time together. It's only then that she opens her eyes, and smiles as gently and lovingly and truly as she can possibly manage. "I love you, Sherlock," she vows, and hopes he understands how deeply she means those word.

The kiss he presses to her forehead is damp and gentle, and Molly balls her hands into fists to keep from clutching at him when she feels the tears that accompany it. Before she'd thought she had no strength left, but for Sherlock she'll do her best to move mountains: summoning up a courage born simply of a desire to not see him hurt any further, Molly takes his hand, pressing a kiss to his fingers before she pulls away.

Every fiber and atom of her being shrieks and howls at the wrongness of this moment, and she wavers. How can she leave him? How can she possibly walk away knowing he's going to leave and never come home? That he's going to die alone, in a distant country, with a whole life left unlived?

One step. Now two. Another, another; slow, at first, then slightly faster. Everything blurs together, and the air is suddenly full of her gasps as she tries valiantly to suck her tears back. The man at the door, with his buzz cut and fumbling hands, he's staring at his boots and looking as though he'd rather be anywhere else.

One foot is out of the door when Sherlock says, in a small, choked voice, "I love you, too, Molly."

There's a body at her back, keeping her from rushing back inside. When Molly whips around, beyond the solider turned prison guard's arm she catches her last view of Sherlock. He stands in afternoon sunlight, curls wild about his head, a dark halo where the light catches them, his hands limp at his sides. She's never seen him look so scared or vulnerable, and she never will again.

The door shuts and the locks automatically engage. So when Molly shoves the man away, he steps back, allowing her to press her hands and forehead against the door. She doesn't shout or scream, only presses her face against the wood that no doubt covers heavy steel, gasping softly as her soul is irreparably wounded.

The touch of a hand on her back shocks Molly into lifting her head, turning her tear-streaked face up to meet Mycroft's pitying gaze. There's understanding there, and a fellowship: for all his downfalls, this man has spent a lifetime loving his precious little brother, and now it is his duty to send him to his death. Molly hates him and pities him in equal measure.

"Come." He draws her away. Despite his shunning of human touch, he presses a hand to her back, as though worried she may fall. Molly doesn't blame him – she's staggering like a drunk.

On the ground floor entry, there's a flood of guardsmen and women. Boot heels snap together as Molly comes close, shoulders becoming rigid as hands snap to their foreheads. For a moment she thinks it's for Mycroft, right up until he gives a small noise of faint shock, and she understands that this is for her. Her last moments with Sherlock were viewed, every last intimate moment, and here are the voyeurs. Saluting her, offering all the comfort and support they possibly can.

They remain rigid as she passes by, nodding to them all as she gives shivery, choked off whimpers.

Mycroft opens the door of the waiting car. "I would do anything to change this," he tells her, his gaze directed up high. Molly follows it, and sees a curtain dropping back into place. Though she can't see him, she knows it's Sherlock standing behind bullet proof and mesh reinforced glass, watching.

Molly leaves without ever responding.


Molly puts her flat on the market, places the only furniture she cares to keep into storage, and finalizes her move into 211B. Mrs. Hudson is cheerful about it, teasing Molly and offering advice for living with a man. She seems to chalk Molly's forced cheer and general despondency up to missing Sherlock, who as far as she knows has been called away by Mycroft for secret work for the government.

"Bit likes James Bond, don't you think?" she asks while dusting. "Bet he's off insulting a dictator or some such. Silly boy."

It's difficult, but Molly does everything in her power to appear completely normal at work. She sings to herself and greets everyone with a smile, forces pep into her voice and energy into her movements. It bleeds over into her interactions with people, especially with John and Mary. There's a certain hesitation between them, now that Molly knows the truth, especially on Mary's part: she seems to be constantly waiting for Molly to lash out and banish the other woman from her life when they're together.

Molly wants to, but not for the reason Mary believes. It because Sherlock sacrificed his own life to save her and John's happiness,. There's something bitter and ugly that's taken root in Molly, a worm burrowed into the core of an apple, and she has no idea how to remove it... or if she even wants to.

At home she sleeps in Sherlock's bed, between his sheets, in his clothes. She weeps and mourns and struggles to find a reason to continue going on.


Upon receiving three days off in a row, Molly goes home, crawls into bed, and stays there. Toby wanders the flat, crying for Sherlock; Molly cries with him. In between those moments he stays close to her, seeking comfort as much as he gives it.

Halfway through the second day, Molly is rudely awakened by the curtains being pushed open and sunlight invading her cave. Hissing and blinking, she bolts upright, dislodging a yowling Toby. Mycroft stands in front of the window, impeccably dressed as ever. In his hand is a large, rather thick envelope, the sort reserved for paperwork and important documents.

Whatever he deduces from her appearance and surroundings, he wisely keeps them to himself. "Sherlock wouldn't want you to shut yourself away, Miss Hooper."

The glare she gives him is cold and furious. What right does he have to tell her what Sherlock would want? He might be Sherlock's brother, but Mycroft understood him the least.

"We have business to discuss. Don't keep me waiting."

Molly lies back down, just to be an arse. But Toby's gone and the sun is too bright (she lives in London, would it be too much to ask for some gloom?), and she's curious what business she and Mycroft could possibly share. She suspects it has to with Sherlock, and is drawn to it much like a moth to a killing flame.

She brushes her teeth and uses mouthwash, puts on Sherlock's blue robe and ties it shut, but otherwise she makes no effort with her appearance. Mycroft is in the kitchen, which is too quiet and clean in Sherlock's absence, setting up a tea tray.

"I suppose you haven't been eating?" he questions, shooting her a stern look of disapproval. Molly bites her tongue to keep from sticking it out. "Sit." He pours and passes her a cup and saucer, as well as a sandwich. Against her will, Molly's stomach rumbles, and she hasn't got the will power to refuse it.

Taking a seat across the table from her, Mycroft sips his tea and seems wholly content to watch Molly eat. It's only once the sandwich is half gone that he sets his cup down, pushing the envelope across the table. She eyes it warily, looking between the heavy yellow paper and Sherlock's brother.

"He asked me to tidy up his affairs. This is a part of it." A pitiful explanation that avoids telling her what this is all about. Damn the Holmes men and their love of dramatics.

Opening it, Molly pulls out a sheaf of paperwork. She begins to scan over it, brow knitting in a tight frown as between the exhaustive legal jargon, a picture begins to emerge. Her chest aches as though she's received a hard blow.

"When Sherlock became addicted, his trust fund was frozen. After, he was allowed to draw out only a month stipend, unless he could provide a valid reason for needing a larger sum. There is also the matter of his future inheritance, to be received when our parents are deceased." As Mycroft speaks he taps his fingers against the table top, a painfully familiar pattern.

"He didn't," she whispers, lips and tongue gone numb.

"As it clearly states, he most certainly has. He was very clear, Miss Hooper. Aside from a smaller portion to be given to the Watsons, all of his funds and worldly goods are to be bestowed upon you in the eventuality of his death. With a notable inclusion that should he be missing for a year, his estate is to be handled to the specifications of his will." Mycroft's gaze is hooded. "You will not be a billionaire, Miss Hooper, but my brother has seen fit to have you well taken care of. You will certainly never lack or want for anything."

She's shaking so badly that she drops the papers, and doesn't try to pick them back up. It's impossible to speak at the moment, so she cradles her tea cup between two hands – hoping she doesn't drop it, it's Sherlock's favorite set – gulping down the milky tea and wishing it had whiskey in it. She needs something stronger to brace her nerves and give her courage.

"I don't want it," she finally manages to spit out, shaking her head. "I don't need – give it to John. It wouldn't feel right, taking his money after he..." She can't say. After he dies. It's too cruel, too painful. It makes their situation far too real.

"This is a dying man's last wish, Miss Hooper. Are you truly going to throw it back at him?" Mycroft's words are spoken mildly, while neither his eyes nor expression give any clue to his true feelings on the subject.

Molly recoils, hurt and startled. She hadn't thought of it like that, only seen it is as a profit from the death of her love. Put in those terms, there's no possible way she could reject Sherlock's final attempt to see her unharmed and taken care of. "I didn't think," she admits, rubbing a hand over her face. "Of course I'll take it. I just – I just don't want – I don't care about money. I'd rather have him." Her voice cracks, thin ice that covers the wellspring of her grief.

"A sentiment I fully return." For the first time, Mycroft appears uncomfortable. There's a deep line between his eyebrows, and he's shifting in awkwardly in his seat. "This is quite personal, but I'd like to know – is there any chance of a child? After your, ah, parting with Sherlock, I had thought, perhaps..."

Molly's hands move to her stomach of their own will. They'd used no protection, and she hasn't taken birth control in ages. It made her sick, terribly so, and the mood swings and tears, nightmares and cold sweats simply weren't worth it. Still, the thought of a pregnancy never once entered her mind until Mycroft brought it up.

"I don't know," she admits, squeezing her eyes shut as she imagines the joy of having one last piece of Sherlock. Boy or girl; who it most resembles or takes after; nothing but its health and the knowledge that it's a child born from love matters to Molly. "I – I didn't think –"

"Research indicates it's too early to tell, anyway. We'll wait a few more weeks, then I'll have you set up with a doctor for tests. Mother and Father would be overjoyed, and I... I would quite like to have some part of him..." Mycroft trails off, shoulders drooping as he places a hand over his eyes. Molly allows him time and silence to recover, aware – even in the depths of her despairing grief – that she is not the only one suffering.

After the paperwork has been signed and initialed in all the correct places, Molly returns it to the envelope and hands it back to Mycroft. "Has he... left, yet?"

The answer she's given is, "Two days."

"Can I – please, can I see him off, I –"

"No. He doesn't want you there." The words hurt, jagged and sharp as a serrated knife. "He couldn't bear another parting from you, Molly Hooper. The last changed him, he's – he's resigned."

"I don't want him resigned!" she whispers fiercely. "I want him to fight!"

Smiling sorrowfully, Mycroft unfurls his hands. "Sherlock will always fight. It is only that he now knows he cannot always win."


On the day of Sherlock's final departure, Molly returns to work. She forces a sickening, disgusting amount of cheer into her face and words and interactions. Mike gives her probing looks across the lab, but asks no questions, for which she's thankful: though she tries to tone down the manic, almost hysterical force of her false cheer, Molly finds herself unable to do so. It's astounding, the way grief affects the mind and body.

Mary calls. "We're going to see Sherlock off, thought you might want a ride along. I know Mr. Uppity-Up Holmes said no one else could come, but he can go bugger himself."

Squeezing her eyes shut, Molly forces herself to laugh. "Oh, we've already said our goodbyes! Privately. I told Sherlock I wouldn't come, he gets uncomfortable when I cry. I wouldn't be able to keep myself from it."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah, but thanks. I appreciate the offer."

Molly tosses herself into her work. Her mind is racing, fighting at every chance to escape the confines of business and hurl into the abyss of knowledge. She wonders what Sherlock is feeling and thinking right now, and where he is. If he regrets asking her not to be there, and if he's thinking of her.

Carrying a tray of utensils into the sterilization room, Molly's mind has traveled to the thought of a child. One last piece, a Holmes to carry on the great joy Sherlock brought her. (Oh yes, there was pain, but it's far outweighed by the happiness.) There's a smile on her mouth, equal parts bittersweet and hopeful, when she enters the sterilization room.

Standing in an immaculate suit, hands in his pockets and dark eyes boring into her, is James Moriarty. The tray clatters to the floor, smaller utensils scatter and rebounding around her feet as he gives her a wide, bright smile full of wet white teeth and insanity. "Did you miss me, Molls?"

Sherlock Holmes is flying away to his death, and Moriarty has returned. There is no help coming, no savior on the horizon. It's only Molly and a madman, the bastard that used her to get close to Sherlock and tried to utterly destroy him. He's stepping forward, and she tries to run, to dart away, but he's got her by the hair and one arm, and there's no escaping. He kicks a scalpel out of the way, moving so close that there is little space between them.

"You've been naughty," he sing-songs, tutting mockingly. "And Sherlock's anointed his queen. Silly Sherlock, getting so very attached to his pets. Though I can hardly blame him – I saw the video from your last encounter with him, hot stuff. It's always the quiet ones, isn't it?"

Between one breath and the next, Molly makes her decision: if she's going to die, she's going to do so as fiercely as possible. She slaps Moriarty hard, so hard he stumbles and laughs, though unfortunately his hold on her doesn't lessen even in a little.

"Oh, Molls, already? I thought I'd have to eat you up to get you hot enough to play rough."

"Go fuck yourself."

"Naughty, naughty – I'd much rather be fucking you." He's close, too close, all menace and horrible intent. "I've got so much to learn from you, Molly. What makes you tick. You're not just his queen, you're the angel. His angel... but since he's gone, I guess that makes you mine!" Delight lights up his face, and Molly knows the true meaning of terror.


On a private landing strip outside of London, the plane carrying Sherlock homes lands before it ever really had a chance to leave. There is a sickening certainty in his gut which says this: Molly Hooper isn't safe, and every moment he's away from her puts her more and more at risk.

"Call Lestrade, send him and the rest of the Yard to St. Bart's." He's barking this order while disembarking the plane, taking the steps three at a time until his feet are back on the ground and he's running to a car. "Hurry! Now!"

"Sherlock?" questions John, who is flown past without so much as a glance.

"Call him now!" Jerking the car door open, Sherlock jumps inside the vehicle, next this brother. "He's gone after her," John and Mary can no doubt hear him telling Mycroft.

"Assuredly," the man behind the government answers mildly, though there is a particular gleam in his eye that suggests something destructive is about to occur. "Preparations were made for such an occasion."

There aren't enough preparations in the world to ease Sherlock, not now. Not until he's got her safe and sound at his side, and as far away from Moriarty or any of his surviving minions as possible.

"There's an East wind coming," he mutters darkly, brilliant mind furiously running over the logistics and possibilities. "Hang on, Molly."

She's saved him twice, now. It's his turn, and Sherlock can only hope he doesn't fail.

...Did I mention there will be a sequel? *dodges rotten fruit*