Sherlock is visited by three women after being nearly-murdered: the first startles him enough his heart nearly stops again. The second throws papers down on his bed and calls him names. The third almost makes him forget the other two even exist.
Sherlock bared his teeth and prodded the buttons on his morphine drip—but of course, as it had already dosed him minutes ago, the device was incapable of doing so again. It was "fool proof," as they say—designed to keep pain-mad patients from over-doing it and killing themselves. It made sense. Or, it would—if he wasn't singularly pain-mad himself.
He gritted out a tight sigh and rolled his eyes up at the bright white ceiling, his gut tightening as chills raced across his bare skin. His hand fell back down onto his blankets, which only covered him up to his waist. He swallowed hard. The low beeping from the machine to his left created the sensation of a bee crawling through his hair. His bed felt stiff, the pillow like a board beneath his head, and the air smelled and tasted sterile, like that cleaning fluid they used in schools to clean up vomit off the floor. It was making him sick to his punctured stomach. Or liver. Or lung. Or…whatever it was. He swallowed again, the driving pain in his midsection throbbing deeper, deeper…
Panic grabbed him and cold sweat broke out all over his body. Oh, he was going to be sick—
He blinked. Frowned. Forced himself to focus.
A small, white-clad figure in the doorway. Light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Pale face, quiet mouth; large, bright, watchful brown eyes, and hesitant hands gripping each other. She stood slightly-off balance, as if she'd been hurrying, then come to a quick and silent stop.
The tension in Sherlock's gut—and forehead—instantly eased.
"Molly," he sighed—aware that his deep voice came out tired and soft but unable to do anything about it. She answered his frown—a sharper expression—met his eyes and stepped into the room.
"I came to see you," she said. She cocked her head and ran a critical glance across him. "Where's the rest of your gown?"
"Oh, they…" Sherlock sighed again and glanced down at the tubes criss-crossing his chest. "They took it off a while ago to get at me, then they…" he gave a weak half-smile and his eyebrows shrugged. He blinked slowly. "…forgot to come back, I suppose."
"That's rubbish," Molly bit out, striding up to his right side and taking hold of his blankets. "A chest wound and emergency surgery and they leave the upper body exposed? Not even thinking about shock, blood-loss, hypothermia, pneumonia…" Swiftly, she moved his hands off the top of the blanket, unfolded it and then lifted it and spread it out, covering him all the way up to his shoulders. Sherlock sucked in a startled breath—which shot agony through all his limbs—but warmth enveloped him, and he let the breath out slowly. Hazily, he watched Molly as she efficiently tucked the blankets in around his shoulders, all the while avoiding his gaze. His brow dully furrowed.
"Molly," he said. "What's wrong?"
"This nursing staff is incompetent," she answered, still vigorously tucking. "I'm going out there right now and telling them so. And I'll get your shirt back."
"No, what's the matter? With you?" Sherlock clarified, pushing back another wave of pain.
Molly's mouth tightened and she slowed, staring straight down at the edge of his bed. She didn't answer.
"Your hands are shaking," he observed, blinking slowly again but endeavoring to watch her face. "And you're in too much of a hurry. What's wrong?"
Her face tightened into something of a wince, and she lifted one shoulder. She opened her mouth, almost spoke…
She saw them. Out of the corner of her eye.
Slowly, she turned her head, and stared at the papers strewn out across Sherlock's legs. Sherlock's throat tensed, and he watched her.
She shrugged stiffly again, then glanced at him—not enough to make eye contact.
"I've seen those. All over town," she remarked—with a lightness that hurt him. "Somebody bring them in so you could sign them?"
"Janine," Sherlock answered.
Molly swallowed reflexively. Nodded once and looked down again.
"She waved them in my face, actually," Sherlock said. "And called me all sorts of awful things that I'm too polite to repeat."
Molly just nodded again, not looking at him. A throb of pain passed through Sherlock's chest once more.
"They're lies, you know," he murmured. "All of them."
Her gaze darted up to his. Her frightened brown eyes shone. She fixed on him. He didn't look away.
"I had to get close to her so that I could solve a case," he explained carefully. "When she discovered I was simply using her, she got angry. Wanted revenge. And…she got it, I suppose."
Molly stood frozen for a long while.
"Really?" she finally whispered. "None of it's true."
"Not a word," he said, lifting his eyebrows. "She has quite an imagination."
Molly looked at him a moment…
And the fear faded. She almost smiled.
"Now I might say something impolite about her," she muttered, her voice hoarse.
"Oh, don't waste your breath," Sherlock advised, unable to help his own smile from creeping across his lips. "Hardly worth it."
She ducked her head again. Sherlock's middle tightened as a new spasm of pain needled through his organs. He closed his eyes briefly, then re-focused on Molly.
"So tell me, then," he pressed. "What's troubling you?"
"Well, I've…" she began, looking elsewhere again. "Honestly, I've had a bit of a hard time of it. Recently. I've, er…" She took a swift, bracing breath. "I've got un-engaged, and then you turned up in a drug-house with your system pumped full of all sorts of revolting toxins—"
"That was for a case," Sherlock mouthed, but he hardly made any sound. She went on without paying attention.
"—and then this…mess with…your girlfriend or your…not girlfriend or…whatever she was," Molly gestured helplessly—and then her eyes filled with tears.
A jolt, like electricity, shot through Sherlock's frame. Every nerve in his body flashed to high alert.
"And then here I am at work," Molly kept on, her voice trembling. "And all of a sudden everybody's running around and I hear somebody say 'Sherlock Holmes has been shot,' and 'He's gone to surgery,' and 'Now he's flat-lined—they've killed him—"
"Molly—" Sherlock tried, alarmed.
She covered her face with one hand and choked on a sob.
"Molly, Molly…" His right hand fumbled under the covers—
But all at once the painkiller kicked in.
The room swam.
His hand came free of the blankets. With all his strength, he reached up the few inches—which for an instant felt impossible—and his hand blundered into hers.
He curled his fingers around three of hers and held on.
"Molly…I'd appreciate it if you'd sit down before I fall over," he advised.
She didn't obey for a moment. His head reeled.
Then, she eased sideways and sat down on the edge of the bed, furiously swiping at her face, but not pulling her hand loose of his. He was glad of that—he was sure he'd tip over and hit the floor if she let go.
Sherlock took a deep breath, endeavoring to clear his head, which had now fogged a little. But the pain had receded almost completely, leaving a lovely warmth and ease behind. His whole body relaxed. Now, he just needed to focus on speaking in complete, coherent sentences.
Which…might not be possible. Now, when he gazed at Molly, her whole appearance looked very soft and bright, and she had a halo around her head. She had such pretty eyes, especially when she was crying...
But something about that didn't seem right. It twisted inside him, turned his heart upside-down…
"I wish you wouldn't cry," he suddenly admonished. "It upsets me intensely. Do stop it. You're making me miserable."
She gave a watery giggle and shook her head, wiping her face again.
"I'm quite serious," he insisted, moving his fingers as he searched for a better grip on her hand. "Don't do it."
"I won't," she promised, sniffing and lifting her head.
"Good," he said. "Because I…Did I tell you I learned something about you, Molly?"
She looked at him, lifted her eyebrows.
"Well, not about you Molly. Another Molly," he amended. "There was a…Did you know there was a woman on the Titanic named Molly?"
"I…think so…" Molly nodded.
"Well, there was," Sherlock said, the edges of his vision blurry. "She was…Well, I'll tell you first that she didn't die."
"That's good," Molly said.
"Yes, not dying is best," Sherlock agreed. "She was very disagreeable to quite a lot of her fellow passengers—new money, American, all that sort of…thing."
"But I like her," Sherlock decided. "Because when everybody else was in their lifeboats, swimming away…" He squeezed her hand and gazed into her eyes. "Molly told them to go back. Said they ought to go back and pick up the men. The men who were freezing. And dying. In the water. In the dark."
Molly gulped, and tears welled up again.
"I told you not to cry," Sherlock objected sharply, urgency piercing him.
"I'm not, I'm not," she rasped, giving him a smile and taking his hand up in both of hers. She squeezed it and rubbed it gently, sending warmth up through his arm. It soothed him. Made him want to drift off…
He fought it. There was something else he needed to clarify…
"Speaking of mind palaces," he said, taking another deep breath. "You were in mine."
"Pardon?" Molly said. Sherlock blinked a few times, so he could see her. He liked seeing her. Loved looking at her. Especially when she was looking back at him. As she was now.
"My mind palace. Where I remember everything. Everything that isn't stupid or useless," he explained. "Where I tend to…run up and down a lot…in an emergency situation." He took a breath again. His whole body suddenly felt heavy. He sighed, and gazed back into her vibrant eyes…unwavering…relaxed…utterly contented to stay right here…
"As soon as the bullet hit me, you came…" he whispered. "You came, and told me what to do."
"I did?" she murmured.
"Mm," he nodded minutely. Rubbed his thumb against her hand. She responded—entwined their fingers. It felt good.
"You told me which way to fall. On my back. So…I wouldn't bleed," he murmured. Now, it was getting difficult to keep his eyes open. But he wanted to keep his eyes open. He wanted to look at her…
"You kept me awake," he said. "Told me not to go into shock. Taught me how to keep from dying."
"Glad I could be useful," she said—truly smiling this time.
He smiled back.
That felt good, too.
"You…were my Molly," he said. "You…came back for me. In the…cold. And the dark. And you…saved me again."
Sherlock watched a tear trail down Molly's face. She never took her eyes from him.
And suddenly, sorrow, in a sweeping, terrible rush, overcame him.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry, Molly."
"Oh, no," Molly muttered, wiping the tear away. "It's okay."
"No, it's not okay," he answered, with sudden realization. "Maybe I should have given you a kiss. A proper one. You would have liked that. You saved my life and I dragged you around poking through old bones and instead I should have kissed you. Or…given you a knighthood. Something."
"I…think the drugs are talking now," Molly observed. And her cheeks had turned pink.
"Tosh, drugs don't talk," he scoffed.
"Yours are," she answered.
"Nonsense," he corrected. "I'm perfectly lucrative."
"Lucrative?" Molly frowned. "Lucid?"
"That's the word," he nodded. "See, you know what I mean, anyway, I don't need to say anything. You always know what I mean."
She didn't reply. He gazed, and rubbed his thumb against her fingers again. Again, she tightened her hold on him.
The room swayed. He squeezed on eye shut.
"I have a headache. All at once," he said. "I think it's because Janine kissed me on the forehead. She's put a spell on me."
"What?" Molly chuckled, surprised.
"She's a witch. Or…something," Sherlock said, his thoughts stuttering. "You've got to break it, or this nail will go through my head."
"All right, well…it's been a while since I've broken any spells…" Molly said softly, grinning crookedly. "Not really my…area."
"Do your best, that's good enough for me," Sherlock said.
She considered him a moment, then sighed and shook her head.
"All right, why not?" she muttered, as if to herself. "You won't remember it anyway." She got up off the bed, her hands slipping loose of his. She reached out toward his face, and bent over him.
He gazed up at her, his gaze fluttering over her features.
She stroked his hair away from his forehead. Warmth flowed from her fingertips and across his skin. His eyes drifted shut.
She pressed her soft, warm lips to his brow, just above the bridge of his nose.
A thrill—gentle and tingling and pleasant, traveled all through his veins.
His headache vanished.
She lingered there for a long moment, and then she withdrew. She stroked his hair again. Oh, he wished she would stay there and keep doing that…
"Get some sleep, Sherlock," she whispered. She pulled back…and he heard her footsteps patter across the tile as she departed.
"How…could I forget?" he whispered…and finally let himself drift off into slumber.