A/N: I wrote this the day after HLV aired originally and I've been sitting on it, tweaking it, and pestering my husband with it since then. He really is the best beta and you all have him to thank for Sherlock being even half in character.

Sherlock swam back to consciousness slowly, drifting lazily through the drug induced fog of his mind. The first thing that he registered was the sound of breathing: thoracic, feminine. Then a scent: clinical, disinfectant, comforting. Muscles that had tried to tense at the realization of his not being alone relaxed again. Touch came to him next, the feeling of a hand clutched to his: warm, small, soft. He knew this hand. He knew the person attached to the hand. Why could he not put a name or a face to who it belonged to. Trouble focusing, memory loss, fatigue. Was he high again? He did so hate being addled in the brain when it was inconvenient.

Something must have given away his state of consciousness, a change in his respiration or an involuntary twitch, because a soft voice called to him.

"Open your eyes, Sherlock. Please. Show me you're okay."

Open his eyes? If only he could remember how to do that.

He struggled to peel back his eyelids only to slam them shut against the glare of the room. His hand felt a shock of cold as the person who had been holding it let go. He felt the loss keenly in a way that he could not describe. A noise of distress must have escaped him because the comforting grip returned quickly.

"It's okay. I'm here." The voice was hushed, reassuring. "Just turned down the lights, that's all."

Her other hand touched his face and he turned into the touch, greedy for more. A breath of surprise from the hand's owner brought a smile to his face and a name to his lips. "Molly."

Opening his eyes again Sherlock was met with a vision. Molly Hooper, glowing, with a halo of light around her and tears in her eyes. If he had believed in such a thing he would have called her an angel. His own personal guardian angel.

"Am I hallucinating again?"

His mouth felt full of cotton wool and the words were slow and slurred, but she seemed to understand them. A small smile turned up the corners of her lips and she drew her hand away from his face. She was sitting on the edge of his bed now, having moved there after dimming the lights. Her hold on his hand was firm with no sign of letting go any time soon.

"You tell me."

The fog in his brain was still there, but lifting incrementally. He took in her appearance with a more critical eye. Red eyes, blotchy face, dried tears tracks on her cheeks. She was upset about something. Her hair was still up in the ponytail from that morning but now had fly-aways hanging loose. Dishevelled, tired from a long day at work. For a moment he had the urge to tuck a wayward strand behind her ear. He let the moment pass unfulfilled.

"You've been crying," he managed. "I never picture you crying. Is it because I was shot?"

Her answer was more of a cough than a laugh and ended in a sniffle. "Of course, you great pillock. You died for a moment there."

He made a non-committal hum. It wasn't everyday that one came back from the dead... again. He had the passing thought to hope it wasn't becoming a habit. "You're not going to hit me again, are you?" Though Molly wasn't prone to violence, he was learning to err on the side of caution while she was overly emotional.

"I'm still very cross with you." Her tone was more playful and for that he was extremely grateful.

"Really? What for this time?." He met her gaze head on trying to appear more lucid than he felt. "You shouldn't be here."

Her gaze hardened for a moment before it dropped to the bed sheet. The fingers of her free hand idly played with the edge of his sheet, her other was still thoroughly intertwined with his own.

"Neither should you."

He could feel his mask slipping. His eyes slid closed. He would not be able to keep them open for much longer. Being shot did tend to make one just the slightest bit sleepy, as did the morphine.

"Worrying about me is a waste of time. All you'll have in the end are grey hairs" His eyes met hers once more to convey the seriousness of his words. "You'd be much better off if you didn't."

She gave a wry chuckle, void of any mirth. "So I should what? Not care? Like that's gonna happen. I tried that remember? It didn't work out so well." She leaned forward slightly, topping his serious tone with her own. "Promise me you won't do it again."

"'s'not like I planned to get shot." He tried being dismissive, but she was having none of it.

"Sherlock!" Why was his name always a reprimand when it fell from her lips? "That's not what I meant and you know it. Now promise me." Her tone softened. "The drugs, Sherlock. Promise me."

He blinked heavily before speaking. The pleading look she was giving him was made all the more unbearable by the sincerity behind it. "You know as well as I do the statistics of addiction. What you're asking is impossible."

Her face hardened. Keeping a tight hold on his hand she leaned away from him to fiddle with his morphine dose. He watch impassively as she reduced the dose, then pushed the controls out of his reach. "I bloody well know the statistics and I'll not have you on one of my slabs, do you understand me?" Her tone reflected the stony look she held him with. "I'll have that promise from you now and I'll hold you to it later."

He rolled his eyes in defiance but squeezed her hand once before nodding. She rolled the controller for his morphine back to his bedside and readjusted the dose to where it had been.

"Molly." It was a plea; for patience, for understanding, for uncountable things that he could not put a name to. "You really shouldn't be here. Distance from me is the only thing that keeps you safe."

His grip on her hand tightened unconsciously afraid she would seek that distance now and he closed his eyes again, afraid of what she might read in their depths.

He felt her brush the hair from his forehead and place a gentle kiss there. The fleeting thought passed through his mind that they could never seem to get the kissing part right.

"I'm here." There was steel in her voice. "I'm always right here. At arms length and no further. Some one has to keep you safe too."

He squeezed her hand one more time trying to convey a feeling that he would likely never be able to put into words. Sherlock could feel the pull of oblivion once more. He fought to hold onto consciousness until he was certain that Molly had left the room, then reached a hand out to turn down the morphine. Not all of the way, not yet, but soon. Though he had more often than not been the cause of them, Sherlock had always hated the sight of Molly in tears.