A/N: Originally this story was supposed to come out in February, except I didn't have the patience to do it, but I began on it once more some months later. I would like to thank MizJoely for holding my hand then, and for OccasionallyCreative for also helping me forward of late, and Liathwen for having the final word on this piece, helping me edit. This story has mature themes in it of course, as one would expect, be warned when reading it in that case. It is heavily inspired by one of my favourite books and I dare say if you've read the book you'll recognize which one. I hope you enjoy, since I gave a great deal when writing this, parts of me which I'd love to have back, haha. Read on!
'The path has never seemed so slow, and yet I fear I am nearing its end.'
"Just buy me a coffee."
"I can't do that – you know I can't."
"It's only a coffee. Anyway, you owe me."
He laughed, clutching her frail hand against his chest, his heart pounding soundly, while he heard hers diminish. Slowly his wife's brown eyes fluttered shut, causing tears to spring unwillingly from his own, while he held her close, breathing in her scent, breathing in every last thing about her.
Steam rose high up to the top of the ceiling, the barista grinding the coffee beans unbothered by the loud spluttering the machine made. A woman sat not far away by a small round table, wearing a beige polka dotted blouse, her eyes barely open while she waited for her coffee. People kept passing her table, some of them hurrying to fetch their cups - others taking their time, often they were together with someone, unlike her.
She had no plans, at least those plans she thought she'd have fell through. Her eyes only drifted around the place, a small smile plastered on her face, because she'd chosen this place specifically. Here the music wasn't too obnoxiously loud, drowning out any attempt at conversation, even the baked goods were handmade in the shop itself, the waft of fresh dough clinging in the air.
Sometimes she liked to imagine how it would be to work in a coffee shop, the sort of job that prompted people to ask you out for a coffee, the sort of job where terrible jokes seemed appreciated instead of ignored.
Honestly she hadn't been so much ignored, as she'd been bluntly bashed down with a cool, "Black and two sugars. I'll be upstairs." And then there was the glass shattering moment of "your mouth's too small now" in front of Mike Stamford, subsequently her boss - and some complete stranger with a cane, both of them witnessing her humiliation.
If she'd had any suspicions before that she'd become fourteen again, they were confirmed by the fact that she kept on gawking at him, kept on acting the opposite of a professional around the tall, very intelligent, very fit – 'consulting detective' who summarily reminded her of how her fourteen year old self hadn't won Marcus Young's heart in the end, despite frantically trying to.
She hadn't wanted to fancy him, no - she was supposed to be focused on her work, but then he swanned in with his dark coat.
Somehow she'd rather him tell her "No" upfront, instead of making her overanalyse his words until she thought 'black and two sugars' – meant – 'I thought you just wanted to give me coffee.' The man did have his moments, since there were some things that made him seem a bit off, and when she'd just started there he'd been particularly strange about her, appearing even a bit wary. At first she thought it was because she had a rather high post for a woman, and was rather young compared to some of her colleagues in the same field. Everyone else had despaired for her when she'd gotten the post, because the last pathologist he'd promptly chased out, turning the person into a nervous wreck.
He hadn't lived up to her expectations, looking rather taken aback when he first appeared, slowly becoming stony-faced, before he began to deduce everything about her – down to her coffee habits, wrapping it all up in a flourish by ending his speech by saying her name, ruining the magical moment by telling her he'd read it off her ID. After that he'd walked off, leaving her for some few minutes to recover, until she recognized she fancied him without a second thought. There was just something about him, something she couldn't quite figure out; obviously she wasn't about to either – hence coffee alone.
The barista suddenly nodded at her, beckoning her out of her seat, and she went to grab the cup only to be stalled, "Madam, someone's paid for your coffee-," she said, handing her the three pounds back.
Gaping for a few seconds, her brown eyes darted about the place, only to be surprised not to find a head of dark curls anywhere, though the barista soon clarified, "The old gentleman in the corner - he's the one."
"Oh, thanks," she said weakly, irritated that she'd hoped for him to show up, even though he shot her down.
Her eyes went to the corner seeing the old man alone with his cup, wearing a rather fine dark suit, looking somewhat uncomfortable. Molly brought herself forward; still clutching her money in her hand bemused, "Umm – thank you – I-,"
"You can have a seat, if you like?" he said with a gravelly sort of voice, smiling briefly up at her, gesturing with a wrinkled hand to the other empty chair by his table. She wasn't one for having coffee with strangers like this, but considering what she'd been through today, she did need someone to distract her thoughts.
"Thanks," she said sitting down in the chair slowly, dropping the pounds in her purse, letting the coins clatter into the bottom without much thought.
When she looked up she found the old man looking at her, making her grip her cup more tightly out of sheer nerves.
"You looked like you needed a cup," he said, breaking his stare, the corners of his eyes crinkling up.
She tried to seem baffled, her eyes falling on her cup, as red rose in her cheeks. Apparently even a stranger had managed to see that she was troubled by something - "Is it that obvious?" she said with a laugh.
"Yes," he said with no further explanation.
"It's just been a long day," she said, hoping to distract him from asking, not wanting to delve any deeper into the subject than she'd done most of the afternoon. There was no real point lying to him, but she didn't feel it appropriate to start blurting out her innermost thoughts to a complete stranger.
"He's an idiot," he said, abruptly stopping her fidgeting, "Obviously," he finished off, taking a long sip from his coffee. Perhaps this man was a trained counsellor of some kind, going from coffee shop to coffee shop seeking out single women in their thirties, spewing out the same line every time with various levels of success. Nothing in his tone suggested he was trying to sway her, but it was the familiarity of which he said it that made her a bit surprised nonetheless.
Straightening in her chair, she shook her head, "There's – there's really no one," she said, clearing her throat soundly.
"I find that hard to believe," he replied, leaning back into his chair with an appraising look, like her face was giving away everything.
"Why?" she asked, her brows knitted together.
"Because the second the barista told you someone had bought you a coffee you looked rather happy - of course that was until you saw me."
She almost knocked her coffee over, horrified that in just a few seconds he'd managed to have read her thoughts, her eyes wide as saucers, "Oh God – I'm sorry – I didn't – I'm happy you bought me a coffee! – It's – it's just…" she had shown her cards with that outburst, seeing the look of triumph on his face, and she frowned, "Umm…"
"Some idiot is distracting you from enjoying it. I suggest you drink it, might help you forget the man," he said, nodding towards her untouched cuppa.
Molly did take a long sip, burning her tongue in the process, though she tried smiling through the pain, unsure how to proceed in a conversation when she knew there wasn't any point at trying to be secretive, "He's – just different," she said with a sigh.
That was perhaps the understatement of the year, but something flickered in the older man's eyes, until he bore an enigmatic smile, as if he was about to solve all her problems, "Some men don't understand until the very last minute."
Time was already running out in her books, the minute had long since slipped past Sherlock Holmes a long time ago. Throwing in the towel seemed easier, and she almost spoke those very words out loud, when she felt a hand clasp her wrist. She almost drew back in shock from the man's grip, torn between wanting to leave instantly at such an action or stay to hear him out. Once more he began to speak, "Molly Hooper-," she blinked foolishly at that, not understanding how he could know her name, his grip tightening around her, her pulse throbbing soundly against his, "If ever – ever – the day comes that you find something strange – I would like you to do me a favour…"
There was softness in his eyes, despite his vice grip, "How – how do you know my name?" she said in one breath, paling slightly. Maybe he was one of those people she'd been warned about, one of Sherlock's enemies of some kind, the people who might want to harm her, but the man seemed to know what she was thinking again, shaking his head slightly.
He let go of her hand to her relief, something shifting in his eyes that turned darker, "Just do me a favour and please touch it," he said, not looking at her now, his eyes on the table.
"Touch – touch – what?" she said holding her wrist, still feeling his hold bite into her skin, but before she knew it he rose quickly from his seat, ignoring her question.
"Until we meet again," he said rather breathlessly, walking away in a hurried stride, until the door banged shut behind him, and she saw him walk past the window of the café. Molly stood up from her seat, half of her wanting to follow him and the other half of her wanting to forget the entire ordeal. But when he disappeared from view she sat down, finishing the rest of her coffee, all while wondering what had just happened.
Fluorescent lights glimmered briefly above her head, making her mutter to herself while she squinted at the blood sample through the microscope. The brightness of the lab always made her forget sometimes, last time she'd been reminded to look up it was still light outside, the sound of the city busy, but now all of that had dimmed down, a brief leaf floating past the window, reminding her of the dreary autumn weather that would greet her when she finally abandoned her post. Not that she'd remembered to bring her umbrella if a torrent of rain would flood down anyway, nor was she really troubled by the weather. In truth, it was the furthest from her thoughts, yet she'd rather be burdened by it than anything else.
Molly wasn't unhappy with the state of things, since for once being stuck in the lab was a good thing, despite dabbling in mundane tasks she'd regularly put off for another day. Now she was just trying to make one of her publications ready. Even if it was months before she needed to turn it in, though she still required some notes to be done beforehand, hence the samples she'd been studying for hours.
She knew why she was somewhat pleased despite appearances, and that was because for once Sherlock wasn't breathing down her neck, constantly throwing out an array of poorly shielded insults about her ex Jim from IT who'd made a devastating comeback. There were enough of people breathing down her neck these days. One of them was currently banished to the hallway, standing with crossed arms outside her door - so she certainly didn't require him on top of it.
Peter wasn't a problem per say, except for the fact that he was quiet. If she ignored the moments he'd shift loudly in his seat when he kept proper watch over her in the lab, often disturbing her work with a sound, cough, or a recon of the interior of the lab. In the end, the both of them agreed that Moriarty wouldn't jump out of some random cupboard. Well, Peter had walked out at that comment, so on some level he must have agreed with her.
She suspected that working for MI6 made one less likely to talk, one's life filled with constant secrecy, but when she was in broad daylight in the lab, she hardly thought she was unable to take care of herself. But being on the list gave little allowances for such ideas. A list she never thought she was important enough to be on, though apparently she was a possible target according to Mycroft Holmes who'd set up Peter with her – if that was his name at all – he'd just grunted it when she'd asked him. It felt inappropriate having someone hang about her flat without her knowing his first name after all.
Molly was never alone these days. It wasn't exactly something that brought feelings of gratitude, but she knew Mary and John were worse off. Last she'd heard from them they'd both been livid at the arrangements, voicing their opinion rather loudly, to her amusement. She reckoned there wasn't much point of making a fuss on her part, since at least she didn't have two to three people following her around if she went shopping – just one who changed every week.
They all had to sleep of course, and they all went by the name Peter. Otherwise she would be very confused if only one man did it on his own, besides impressed of course. Despite there being some disadvantages, she was rather pleased that Peter checked the toilets before she went, since she hardly liked the idea to be snuffed out like that.
Peter hadn't found that comment amusing at the time, considering the grim expression on his face after he'd told her it was 'clear' in the ladies, jerking his head for her to enter.
Trying to pretend everything was normal was rather tricky, since people at work were hardly unaware of the state of things, none of them understanding why she of all people was involved. But considering the number of times Sherlock kept appearing these days, they hardly needed to think hard about it.
Every time he did show up, besides being a right git – he'd look at her expectantly, like she was about to tell him Jim had popped round for tea and biscuits in the morgue, not that she wouldn't put it past him to combine something mundane and morbid.
She knew the main reason Sherlock was snapping at her, and frankly snapping at everyone - because he was under pressure. It certainly didn't help that his brother was breathing down his neck either. The pair of them were obviously having a domestic of some kind, since when Mycroft had dutifully informed her that she was a 'pressure point', Sherlock had looked at his brother like he was about to threaten with violence, while she'd stared at the pair of them bewildered.
"Okay?" - was the only thing she could say to that, assuming it had very much to do with her helping him 'dying'.
Not that there wasn't a whole lot of people involved in that, including Mycroft, who she assumed was well-protected enough from before, not that Sherlock was showing any levels of affection towards him at all. Her only conclusion about their domestic was that it was most likely connected to the drugs or the murdering, both valid reasons to argue with one's little brother, as She wasn't ecstatic about either topic; one of them had after all provoked her to slap him. After that incident he'd reverted to his old self around her, less likely to apologize, more likely to throw biting comments.
The only positive thing about this alteration was that she didn't revert back to her old gushing self, trying to please him at every turn, but instead she gave him back as good as he gave. She only hoped that when the Moriarty-conundrum was out of the way, all of them would be acting like themselves again, even if it did sound like wishful thinking. Ever since he'd returned, she'd felt responsible for it, as she'd sort of let him in. The fact that none of them saw Moriarty returning as remotely feasible seemed reasonable before, she'd had him on her table after all, and dealt with him herself, but he was still out there somehow. He was still alive, still causing trouble and terrifying all of them in some way or the other. She knew she should be more afraid, but she couldn't see how Jim could use her anyway, despite her importance.
All of a sudden the sound of people yelling was heard in the hallway. Immediately she looked up, dropping her petri dish causing it to shatter, as she recognized the more discernible voices.
"Now is not the time!" said Mycroft Holmes, his usual sleek tones sounding rather harried.
Quickly Molly snapped off her gloves, furrowing her brows as she listened to their 'conversation,' rather amused. She knew she wasn't supposed to find it funny, but it felt normal hearing the Holmes brothers shout at each other, except for Bart's hardly being the place right for arguing loudly.
"I think there's no time better than the present, don't you?" spat the easily recognizable voice of Sherlock, whose voice was several octaves higher than his brother's, if it was even remotely possible.
Standing up from her stool, she walked gingerly to the door, knowing she'd most likely have to end their quarrel, something that she'd gotten fairly accustomed to these days.
"I would not do that if I were you!"
She'd barely gotten the chance to understand what he couldn't do, when the doors to the lab banged open, however they quickly banged shut again, letting her only see a sliver of Sherlock's face, while she jumped back slightly. Mycroft didn't seem like one to ban him, but obviously he had, though she certainly had tried to do the same for some time now, with not much luck unfortunately.
"Sherlock Holmes! Behave! For once in your life – can you at least pretend to be patient?"
"I have waited long enough!" shouted Sherlock, in such a volume his voice echoed in the hallway, causing Molly to blanch.
Obviously this wasn't about him not being allowed in, since something must have gone wrong, for she could practically imagine the spit flying out of his mouth, and at that she sprang out of the lab, her face set.
"Could you please shut up? Do you want the whole of Bart's to know you're having a domestic?" she asked in a furious whisper.
Both men's heads whipped toward her, their glares dropping before they threw each other peculiar looks, "We were perhaps a bit inconsiderate in the volume of our voices then, Doctor Hooper?" said Mycroft, breaking the silence with a smirk.
She stifled a laugh, "A bit?" she said, glancing at Sherlock who was staring fixedly at the wall, shifting awkwardly on his feet, before he walked off, his dark coat flaring behind him.
The least she expected was some baleful comment from him, instead he was brooding silently, anger visible in his walk, before he was out of her line of sight.
"What's wrong with him?" she said, turning to Mycroft, "Is everyone alright?"
But she hardly expected him to tell her anything, for she assumed she was on the bottom of the list of the people in the know, though she'd garner some information or so she hoped. Mycroft was always harder to read, despite his blatant concern for his brother, which she found made her actually rather like him.
He drew a deep breath, "Yes – yes – they are all in good health, Molly. He is just a bit impatient regarding a…current development. I – however – am used to things going slowly," he said with a thin-lipped smile, soon giving a curt nod to Peter who returned it (she barely noticed his stoic figure).
The minute he looked like he was ready to leave, she hurriedly said, "There's nothing you need from me, is there? I mean - is there anything I can do?" She really felt unhelpful these days, rather more of a burden than anything, though she didn't know if Mycroft would accept her help either, since he was hardly helpless.
He stopped short, twirling the umbrella in his hand, as he turned to face her, looking thoughtful, "Actually there is."
It was a simple square-shaped box, barely a fingerprint on it except hers, which now covered the smooth black surfaces. Nothing about it seemed unusual, though there was not much information she could garner from a box. Few people could look at it and figure out the contents, except one man who she hardly had at her disposal. Sending him a text or perhaps even a photo of said box wouldn't earn her points with Mycroft, as he'd specifically told her not to touch the item. Of all the things he'd ask her to do, especially since he had the MI6, the CIA and supposedly the entire British government at his disposal (according to his brother) – 'safekeeping' sounded like someone else's job. He had been very persistent when she'd suggested someone else might be better equipped, "No one would ever suspect you have it."
When she'd first been told not to touch it, she'd pointed out flatly that it was in her hand, getting a tiny laugh from Mycroft who pointed out – "It's only the items container, I'm afraid." And after that he told her to end her shift, promptly making her stuff the box into her bag, causing her to be a bit more vigilant than usual while Peter escorted her home.
Technically she shouldn't even be holding it in her hand, but she couldn't help be curious about it, since there was one loophole in his request, "Ah – and Molly – this is important – under no circumstance must you touch this item." There was no harm to have a look after all, as that was the opposite of touching it, whatever it was. Curiosity proved to be a better master of her than restraint, though now holed up in her bedroom she had little else to think about. Slipping it open, she waited with bated breath to see a noxious formula in a tiny bottle or perhaps a simple USB containing some documents that might be the end of Moriarty, except instead of either of those fantastical objects – she was staring at an old fob watch. It was hardly the stuff of legends, the anxiety that had bubbled in her stomach drifting instantly off at the sight of it.
Her daydreams of saving the day fizzled off, and she was left with a plummeting stomach instead. Had Mycroft just handed her a family heirloom? It was gold, the shine still present on its rather blank surface, revealing no curious loopy engraving, or anything that told her much, except the sound of the slow tick that it was still working.
She snapped the lid shut, intending to return it to her bag, as her curiosity was sated now, but when she stood up from the bed, the box still in her hand, she remembered briefly the words 'touch it'. Molly had almost forgotten about that odd afternoon when she'd met that old man, concluding that he had to be the husband of a deceased she'd handled, since when she questioned Sherlock he'd said, "I have many enemies," leaving her briefly paranoid, until he shortly added, "I hardly think they'd be interested in you, Molly." Reluctantly she opened the box again, staring at the watch, wondering if it would reveal any dark secrets, but it just sat innocently in its satin interior, ticking.
Without really contemplating her actions she picked it up, feeling the weight of it in the palm of her hand, opening it up to see the dials and Roman numerals. Being handed a family heirloom wasn't what she really expected, since obviously Mycroft was just giving her something to do, but now she at least didn't need to be hysterical. She was about to put it back, when she suddenly heard a peculiar sound. Looking at the dials, she saw them spin around faster than normal, the sound of ticking increasing, until the dials and numbers were just a blur. When she intended to drop it, she suddenly found herself dizzy, her own head spinning as she watched the fob watch glow, light pouring out from it.
Molly was never given the chance to drop it.
Stretching out on the settee Peter yawned, his back made a sound crack as he rose up go to Miss Hooper's bedroom. She was usually up at seven every morning, though today she was obviously having a lie in, but he wasn't one to leave anything to chance.
He knocked soundly at her door, "Miss Hooper?" he said.
There was no answer.
He knocked again, a bit more persistently this time, soon leaning his ear against the door, hearing no shuffling or any sort of dissatisfied groan inside, causing him to slip his gun out of his holster, except when he carefully opened the door – he was stunned to find it vacant.
She groaned shifting against the – grass – blinking awake she found a blue clear sky looming over of her, instead of the regular opaque ceiling she'd been accustomed to be greeted by every morning. Molly lifted herself up with her palms; aware she was shivering slightly, despite the sun shining strongly. Her head was aching, making her squeeze her eyes shut, while she tried to recover. What had she been doing again? She hardly remembered anything, though she knew with a quick glance downward that she'd been wearing clothes. Now she was starker's in the middle of what seemed to be a forest, barely covered by a bush. There were only green trees surrounding her, a grassy ground and a large rock at her side, none of them told her much, except that she wasn't in her bedroom. Neither could she be in London, hearing only the sound of birds chirping instead of cars driving past, and she remembered rather vividly that she did the thing she wasn't supposed to do. For around her neck she felt the cold chain belonging to the fob watch, but she hadn't recalled putting it on at all, though she knew there was no point wondering about that, until she found a way out.
Molly was about to find her feet when a dog approached her, wagging its tail happily, soon jumping at her face, persistently licking her cheek. She almost laughed, though she hurriedly tried pushing the dog away, convinced its owner would show up any second, but the dog barked at her in return, still trying to greet her. When she was on the verge of verbally telling the dog to bugger off a voice spoke, "Why are you naked?"
She gasped, horrifyingly aware that the dog who'd been blocking her from anyone's prying eyes skipped off, tail held high, while she quickly drew her legs underneath her chin, shielding her body with her hands on places her legs hadn't covered, "Where – where am I?" she said with a croaky voice, ignoring the question, since she certainly didn't have an answer to that problem, while the dog had run off from its master again, circling her, until she felt his cold snout on her back.
Waving the dog off with a free hand, it soon leaped off again, stopping by a pair of feet. Molly looked up at a young boy slightly baffled, his hand holding at the dog's collar tightly, while he stared at her unabashedly, not a hint of colour in his cheeks, "You're outside of London," he said with furrowed brows, clearly unconvinced she was in any kind of trouble, though Molly wasn't entirely certain if she was.
"That's where you're from, isn't it?" he added, seeming if not a bit excited, waiting for her to clarify.
She only gaped, "I'm outside of London?" It was a stupid question really, since she vaguely understood she wasn't, but she couldn't help herself. After all, she was allowed to be a bit agitated, anyone would be in her state.
He wrinkled his nose, "How can you not know that?" he said, disappointment seeping out of his every word. Irritation flooded her slightly at his clear distaste with her lack of knowledge, and she saw that he was hardly older than ten years old, even if she spoke rather clearly and precisely for his age.
Frowning, she was about to come with a quick retort, until she realized she was essentially at his mercy. She had no clothes, no phone, no money, and she was as clueless as he apparently was – "Umm – I was – I was in my bedroom."
"That explains the nudity," he said nodding, biting at his lip with a pensive look on his face, still seemingly un-phased, especially after her announcement.
Perhaps other people wandered around the woods naked from time to time, and he happened to come across them, though she didn't enjoy the silence that fell over them, the dog occasionally barking, his heavy breathing disrupting the silence, before she reluctantly said, "You couldn't fetch me some clothes could you?"
He stared at her reproachfully, his eyes narrowing, until his face stopped tensing up and he said, "My mummy's clothes will fit you – you can come with me if you want?"
Immediately her eyes were drawn down to her predicament, "Umm – I think it's best I stay here - actually," she said, rather flummoxed, aware that unlike the boy, his parents might not greet her nudity so normally.
He gave her one last look, before he hurried off, the dog bounding after him joyfully, letting her sit alone and naked with her thoughts.
Clearly she really wasn't supposed to have touched the fob watch, but she couldn't wrap her head around the fact that the fob watch might have transported her somewhere; that would be beyond mad. She didn't have any other explanation really, stuck only with vague memories of having touched it, and nothing else. Neither was she suffering from any symptoms of having being drugged, since her head didn't ache, nor was her vision hazy. Looking down at the watch, she picked it up in her hand, marvelling over the fact that it just remained normal, like when she'd first touched it.
Some time passed before the boy returned again, clutching in his hand dark yellow coloured dress, "My mummy used to wear this. It's too small for her now, so she won't miss it," he said handing it over to her without another word, his eyes lingering on the dress.
Gratefully she took it, breathing out thanks, only to look up to see him still staring at her intently, while she tried not staring in return. The boy looked oddly familiar, a fact she had wanted to plainly overlook upon seeing him, since she knew she had no time to waste, as everyone was hopefully looking after her, "You don't mind – turning around?" she said to him, as his dog reappeared at his side, its red fur rather windswept.
Blinking at her several times, his eyes soon darted elsewhere, "Oh," he said softly, swiftly turning around, prompting his dog to do the same, but she was sure she heard him mumble, "It's not like I haven't seen everything already."
She ignored his comment, almost throwing out that he probably had a computer, but she got to her feet instead, pulling on the dress, relieved to feel the soft fabric covering her. It wasn't nippy out, but it certainly didn't feel right walking around without something on; she was rather confused she had to admit. There didn't seem to be a trace of brown in the trees, or grass, and last she remembered it was clearly autumn, though maybe she'd been out longer than she thought. Hurriedly, she tried to wipe at the stains of grass and mud clinging to her bare legs, soon giving up as they made little difference anyway, "Where exactly am I?" she asked, hands on her hips, while she had a look around, unable to discern anything familiar.
"Sussex," said the boy turning around, giving the dog a small pat on the head for having staying put.
"Really?" she said gaping slightly, unsure of how to take the news. She wasn't that far away, but she'd probably have to borrow a phone to get back, "You don't have a phone on you?" she asked.
"Sorry?" he said, his nose crinkling up.
Molly shook her head; he was probably too young to have one, "Oh well – do you mind taking me to your house? So I can borrow your phone?"
Once more he looked at her thoughtfully, after all she had the advantage of being taller than him and older, but she knew she hardly could be considered threatening, "Fine," he said slowly.
They began to walk, him leading her with his dog running ahead of them both, often running back, jumping at the boy or her legs, while she tried to understand what was going on. There had to be a logical explanation, one better than a magical fob watch, since this could easily be a crude joke down by Moriarty himself, distracting everyone with her disappearance rather than focusing on what else he was doing in the city. She needed to fix that immediately, reassuring everyone she was alive and well, but she hoped they hadn't noticed her absence (or well not really). Sighing, she decided not to worry too much and began to walk besides her rescuer, "I'm Molly Hooper – what's your name?" she said, smiling down at the boy who looked at her briefly, before his blue eyes were fixed in front of him.
"I'm Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes."
It took her a few seconds before she heard what he had said, nodding slightly, until she abruptly stopped walking, her eyes widening instead, "Sorry?"
The boy stopped, turning around to look at her curiously, a grimace soon on his face, "Mummy calls me Will – my full name is William Sherlock Scott Holmes, but I'm not fond of Will or William – or Scott – I like to be called Sherlock."
She really tired not to stare, taking in the sight of his dark curly hair or his startlingly blue eyes, and his rather long limbs, even the way he spoke, "Because – because of Sherlock, right?" she said, thinking his parents had named him after the famous man, though he was perhaps too old for that, but maybe Sherlock had done them a favour once. After all, it wasn't such an unusual name, even if her insides were squirming nervously – maybe they were related? Maybe that's why they looked alike? Holmes wasn't a very strange name either.
His brows connected, "No, that's what my parents named me. Is that a problem?" he said, seeming annoyed.
"No," she said in a low voice, "I just…there's – a – I've got a friend who's called Sherlock – he's a consulting detective…"
"What's a consulting detective?" said the boy Sherlock rather quickly, his eyes brightening, seeming for once rather pleased to be around her, since now she was rather cool company.
She took a large breath, breathing soon out of her nostrils, trying to calm herself – "He's someone that Scotland Yard asks for help when they're out of their depth, like a detective…"
"Must be often then," said the boy with a grin.
"Sounds," she started, faltering – like something he'd say.
Her mind raced - she had gone mad that was it! She had gone absolutely mad, but here she was, the sensation of the grass poking her bare feet rather real, and considering his appearance – another impossible thought crossed her, "Sherlock?" she began, feeling his eyes on her again, "What year is it?"
Another look of bafflement crossed his face, "1987 – why?"
The dizziness returned, except this time she just fell to a heap onto the ground to Sherlock's confusion.
"Poor thing! Naked in the middle of the woods," said a woman's voice, real concern leaking through her every word.
"I wonder why she was there to begin with. It's rather strange," said a man's voice.
"Perhaps, but she must have gotten into a spot of trouble of some kind? She looks too nice, and anyway, Sherlock vouched for her, you know how he can be…" returned the woman's voice, while Molly slowly woke up on a sofa, realizing she wasn't in her bed this time either after a very strange dream, which she realized with a grimace might in fact be real (or felt very real at least). She lay down again, swaddled in a blanket, trying to think, while she listened to the people talking, another voice joining their conversation.
"Sherlock has gotten himself a friend, then?" it did not belong to Sherlock, and she opened her eyes to see a round-faced boy with a perpetual frown on his face, holding a book in his hand. He looked eerily familiar, though the "Shut up Mike!" someone spat was certainly not the name she was used to him being associated with. There he was, the scrawny looking boy, her saviour looking very putout.
"Yes, Mycroft – if Sherlock has found himself a friend, it wouldn't help for you to scare her away," said the woman who was clearly their mother, hovering between the pair of them, pinching Mycroft's cheek with affection, before she took hold of Sherlock's small shoulders fondly.
Molly willed her eyes shut again, she was clearly dreaming, except the wetness that suddenly took place at her cheek confirmed she wasn't, and she opened her eyes to see dog again resting his paws on her blanket, "Redbeard!" cried Sherlock, soon appearing by her side, about to pull the dog away, "Oh, you're awake," he said, suddenly he cleared his throat, throwing his brother a rather uncertain look, gathering himself slightly, before he smoothly said, "Obviously."
She stared, there was not much else to do, especially when she saw Mycroft snorting in the distance clearly not convinced of his brother's attempt to shield his excitement.
Their mother tutted, her blonde short-hair framing her sweet face, as she said, "Sherlock dear – let her have some air –," he soon walked away, slightly disgruntled, clearly wanting her to speak more of this consulting detective, though she knew she wouldn't be able to say much about anything right now, "Molly, dear, do you want some food? You're probably starving?" said his mother, looking at her with clever blue eyes, the same she saw in Sherlock's young face.
Soon a tall gangly man appeared by their mother's side, obviously their father, as he clutched a cup in his hand, "We'd love to have you over for lunch – you might regale us your obviously thrilling tale… Before we get you home safe and sound, of course," he said smiling.
Her eyes darted from Mrs. Holmes to Mr. Holmes, before they landed on their younger sons; one was trying not to look excited, the other was ignoring them all, standing by the window with his nose into a book.
She swallowed, recognizing that she needed a moment to herself, "I couldn't borrow your toilet for a minute?"
Molly wasn't denied a visit, hurriedly locking herself into the bathroom finding it rather difficult to breathe. Pinching her arm repeatedly did not help – it hurt – that was certain, "I'm not dreaming," she said faintly, leaning against the wash, seeing her reflection in the mirror on the wall, she looked much the same. She at least hadn't changed from what she last remembered, "It's real - it's very real – why – how?" A million questions appeared in her head; no form of rational thought could conjure up an actual explanation, other than witchcraft and other things she didn't believe in, but all of a sudden her answer came in form of a smarting pain. There was something heavy and warm against her chest, trembling she fished out the fob watch again, snapping it open to see once more – the dials spinning – the numbers jumbling up, until she saw it glow, the light shining into her face.
"Okay," she said, catching a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror, watching herself fade away, before she saw no more.
Her eyes met with darkness upon opening, the cold biting at her, as the dress was a flimsy shield against the gust of cold wind in the air. Teeth chattering, she rose to her feet, grateful the dress was still on her, as she found her bearings. Around here were remnants of a garden, the ground trodden down, the bushes only branches with few half-rotten leaves clinging to them, all of it at the front of a red-bricked house. Stepping onto the stony path leading to the house, she uncertainly called out, "Sherlock?"
The wind was her only answer, its howl clear in the moonlight that shone down upon her, what once was summer, gone. She scrambled towards the door, the cold nipping at her feet, every step a form of torture, before she found the doorknob, and turned it, the door creaking soundly. Molly carefully shut the door behind her, finding herself in a darkened hallway, a clutter of shoes on the floor and coats hanging on a coatrack. Walking further in, she was soon in a sitting room, which she recognized, but the same warmth it radiated was gone, no fire kindled in the fireplace, no light shone, yet she could see through the lack of light – a shape sat on the sofa she'd once occupied. He was bent forward, his elbows leaning on his knees, as his hands were in his messy dark curls.
"Sherlock?" she said in a small voice, causing him to look up, she found a different face this time, an older face; streaks visible on his cheeks and dark marks beneath his eyes.
He looked like he hadn't slept for days; there was no brightness in this boy's eyes, all of that reduced to red, teary ones – "You – you?" he stammered, his eyes large in disbelief and his voice thick with emotion. All of this was unfamiliar to her, only having him bare his soul to her once, in such a way that had made her ache, but this display crushed her spirits more than it should. She didn't know if what she was real, if it all wasn't in her head, but she felt it deep down, felt that this was more than a dream, more than an illusion.
"What's wrong?" she asked, hesitating only for a moment.
In the distance she heard snoring, though it wasn't much of a stretch to understand that it was in the middle of the night, and by the look of him, he should already be in bed, but she did not feel tempted to send him away, "Nothing," he said drawing his shoulder back, his expression almost haughty, before he began to look somewhere else, like his eyes were unwilling to believe she was there, bent upon ignoring her presence.
Bravely, she stepped forward, carefully sitting down on the sofa besides him, putting some distance between them, knowing he'd be uncomfortable if she were close, "You're lying," she whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
His eyes were only fixed to the wall, staring numbly into the distance, the redness even more evident from her position now.
"Am I dreaming?" he said, his eyes soon appealing to her, "You're wearing the same dress – there's even still mud on your leg."
Feeling conscious of his staring, she tried to straighten herself out a bit, though she knew it was futile, especially when she tried to wipe the mud off her legs, reminding herself that she'd already tried that, laughter unwillingly springing from her lips. Clamping a hand over her mouth, she tried to still her laughter, before she said, "I think I've gone mad."
He whipped his head toward her, his eyebrows raised, "Obviously I am," he said, his face soon in his hands, his shoulders once more hunched, and she almost reached out for him, but she withdrew her hand, clutching at herself instead.
Molly wasn't supposed to say it, for saying it would mean there was a grain of truth in it, and she was still half-convinced it was in her head, but she needed to tell someone, perhaps he would understand, maybe he'd figure out a solution, despite just being a boy.
"No," she said, "You see…I think I'm travelling in time."
Lifting his face from his hands, he stared at her gobsmacked, before he began to grin, "Okay, maybe not," he said in one breath, laughter starting to flow through him, until it unexpectedly died down, his face austere once more, his eyes fixed on his folded hands, "They had to put him down today," he said in a small voice, the voice of a child.
She stared, almost unable to believe he'd ever been this innocent, but she didn't speak, for the look on his face was more than she could handle, "He – we – we were – I thought one of my neighbours was up to something and – that stupid dog – followed me – we got caught and – he – he bit him to protect…" he said, his voice rough, a tear dripping down his face, though he seemed to be fighting against it, his shoulder shaking slightly.
"I'm so sorry, Sherlock," she said, finally putting her hand on his back, except he immediately jerked away from her touch.
"Why are you here?" he demanded, through gritted teeth.
Molly shrugged slightly, a small hollow laugh slipping her lips, before she said, "I don't know."
He looked less angry now, the sternness of his brow diminishing, as she pressed her lips together, her eyes turning to him curiously. It was a sight to behold really, him – like this, "You really don't know," he said softly, his gaze intent, "Do I – do I know you in the future?"
"How – how do you know-," she started shocked. The look he was giving her was a familiar one, one she faced almost daily sometimes, at least these days, and she said, "Yes."
"What do you do then?"
"I help you."
"How?" he said in disbelief, "How can you help me?"
"I'm your pathologist," she said with a tentative smile, meeting his gaze.
His eyebrows rose, "You work with dead bodies?" he said, "You?" She almost laughed, though she stilled it, not wanting to make him think she was laughing off his pain, one thing she never wanted to do.
"It's a nice job," she said lightly, "It's a bit quiet, mind you."
Once again he laughed, and she felt relief pouring through her, as she giggled in return, but once again the damn broke, the haunted expression in his eyes returning, "It's all my fault – I shouldn't have – I shouldn't have brought him along…" his jaw clenched.
Carefully she tried putting her hand on his back again, and he didn't resist this time, a real wave of sobs wrecking through him, but as she did this, she felt another round of familiar warmth at her chest, and she wanted nothing more than more time.
"Can you hear that?" she said, hearing the loud ticking once more, almost drawing her hand back.
When Sherlock looked up to answer, the warm caress had disappeared from his back, and he began to wonder if he really had dreamt her, this woman who appeared in his dreams when he needed it the most.
Amber light filled the playground, the sun stretching its last ray of lights upon his face, while he sat on a swing unfurling a newspaper, using the diminishing light at his disposal. His brows furrowed as he soon threw the newspaper aside groaning, "Boring!" The paper hit the sand with a flourish, spreading grains aside, coincidentally hitting a pair of unshod feet.
He looked up startled to find her, the sunlight hitting her dress, making her almost seem to glow, creating an eerie quality to her that he cannot define, which spreads warmth through him, despite the vague comparison to such fictional things as angels.
She is no angel; he can see her, yet…
"It's real, isn't it?" she said, a flush in her cheeks, her appearance just the same, just like he remembered. There's no visible change, except the look in her eyes, they've been crying he notes, and he remembers why. It's curious she would cry for his benefit, this figment of his imagination that he's always thought would be stronger than him. Confusion is palpable in her face, and she has just asked the question he wished to pose. She cannot be real, despite his parent's insistence that she'd been there, but he'd always thought they were humouring him and his fantasies, like they told him Redbeard had gone to a farm. But she is there, standing in front of him, "Molly?" he said, his throat dry, as he stilled his movement on the swing, uncertain of what to do or say in her actual presence.
Her laughter fills the empty spot, before she occupies the vacant swing besides him, starting to move like some otherworldly fairy, about to lure him to his death, like in all those fairy tales he once read.
She abruptly stops swinging, digging her bare feet into the sand, "I touched something – something I shouldn't have," she said, the grin once there disappearing, soon grabbing for the paper he'd thrown aside, her arms long enough, "Are you looking at-," he took it out of her hands - "cases?"
"What do you mean you touched something?" he said, tossing the paper aside, wanting her to go on instead of distracting him.
Her eyes are fixed on the sand, a tired look all of a sudden on her face, "Your brother Mycroft told me not to touch it-," she said sheepishly, "And here I am, or well not for long though…I suppose… so what's new with you?"
He was torn between wanting to ask her more, and being impressed, "You don't listen to him?"
"Should I?" she said, clearly astonished by this.
He'd always been used to people listening to his brother, letting him order them around thinking they were doing it out of their own desire, a master manipulator his brother was, "Obviously not – he's an idiot," he said with a frown.
"He's your brother," she said, as if that made it any better in his ears.
"Still an idiot," he said kicking at the sand, his hands clenching around the swing's rope, "He thought I was being stupid for deducing – since he means he does it so much better than me."
There was real disbelief in her laugh, it was just the sort of reply he had hoped to come from her, as she looked at him rather seriously, "You're not stupid – don't you ever think that – that's probably the only reason to call you an idiot, really…"
"Really?" he said with a wry grin.
"Yes, really," she said nodding.
He couldn't help looking at her, the conviction so clear in her bright brown eyes, her pink cheeks thoroughly stirring some feelings in him that he didn't want to face, until he looked away, "You're travelling to the past…then why aren't you in your own past?" Clearly he was on the right route, according to her bemused expression, "Why are you in mine?"
"I don't know," she said looking at her feet, "Nothing makes sense – maybe it's just a dream-,"
And in that instant he did something he'd felt tempted to when he'd seen her last, a thing he did repeatedly in his dreams – he touched the hand resting in her lap – it was warm – soft – "No, it's real," he said, his voice a higher pitch than he wanted, his cheeks colouring despite himself, as he hastily drew his hand away.
The grin on her face made it seem like she understood something, and she probably did, something in her eyes told him she did, but he looked away nervously, not wanting to ask. When he finally summoned the courage to speak, to ask her more about who she was, he found the swing empty.
City lights twinkled above her, the asphalt hard against the soles of her feet. She recognized where she was - the middle of London; a rather unfamiliar sight, since it wasn't the London she remembered. There was something about the way other people roamed, the faint sound of music, the sounds wafting through the air telling her it was a different time, a different place, like always. But she was glad the temperature wasn't unfriendly for once, though she wondered where he was. She was bound to find him, if she really was following his time, retracing his steps somehow, even if at all seemed impossible. Molly was still in disbelief, though reluctantly she had to admit, while she evaded tiny shards of glass on the pavement – that perhaps she really was there.
That all of this was real, and not some figment of her imagination, but she wondered if he'd remember this, if this would at all change anything. She wasn't supposed to change anything, at least that's what she'd learned from watching film, but she'd already told him too much really. Instead of trying to find him, she was trying to find her flat, knowing it was a really stupid idea, but she liked it better than standing still being ogled by random blokes who leered at her through the darkened streets.
Maybe it was her time; maybe if she walked to her flat she'd find Peter asleep on her sofa – "Molly!"
Wheeling around, her arms crossed over her chest, she stared at the much taller man who sprinted towards her – young man – his curls were wilder, his voice deeper, but he was still not fully, "Sherlock?" she said, knowing it was him, yet she still felt wary. Not that anyone else was shouting her name out on the streets anyway.
"Oh my God – it's actually you – I didn't – I'm not – I-," he blurted out, causing her to stare.
He looked utterly overwhelmed for a minute, turning silent, until his expression altered, and he was observing her coolly. Now he looked rather more alike the Sherlock she did know, except he wasn't saying anything, or being particularly clever, "Do you live in London?" she asked, trying to encourage him to speak.
Sherlock smirked, a look that suited what he wore, since he bore a tight fitting dark jacket and a pair of dark trousers. They were a stark contrast to his clothes earlier on, jumpers and loose baggy trousers, all of which looked picked out of his mum, but this – he'd certainly chosen himself. Yet, she still wasn't prepared for the packet of cigarettes he fished out, soon propping one of them into his mouth, "Yes – so – you're you, then?" he said lighting up the cigarette, his eyes drifting over her form, "Obviously."
Molly found herself rather missing the shyer version of him, raising her brows instead at this person who she barely recognised, this person who was obviously trying very hard to be cool. It was different from him propping up the collar of his coat, or other things - this was certainly new.
"My flat's not far from here – you can borrow some shoes," he said taking a long puff of his cigarette, smoke hanging about him, "If you want…"
The way he said it, felt like it was a cover for something else, and she was glad her arms were crossed over her chest, since he'd probably think her erect nipples meant something else than it being a bit nippy, "How old are you?"
"Eighteen," he said, without blinking, his eyes gleaming in the dark.
"Right," she said, recognising a poorly concealed lie when she saw one, but she wasn't too bothered by it. He couldn't actually be hitting on her, just like that either, "Okay – so…studying in the city?"
She began to walk, and he easily caught up with her, his long legs allowing for that, "Yes, very dull," he said.
"Moved out from your parents?"
"Yes," he said sounding bored.
Her pace was slow, finding no need to rush, though she was shocked to find his large, firm hand on her lower back, just above her backside, "What are you doing?" she asked, while he helped her forward.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" he murmured, leaning closer to her.
One of her eyes immediately twitched, "Are you flirting with me?" she said incredulously.
The hand that had been innocent, slid down to her bum, cupping her arse through her dress, causing her to jump out of his hand, "I'll take that as a yes – Sherlock – I'm just borrowing shoes, nothing else," she said, stopping in her stride.
His smirk was wide, "It's not a question of borrowing, but taking – you only need to take it once," he said with a suggestively raised brow, while she stared at him properly stunned, uncertain how to reply.
Instead of saying anything she began to walk ahead of him, mumbling to herself, "I feel like ringing your mum."
"Oh – God – don't-," he blurted out, making her eye him, as he began to sound much like that young boy again, though he'd clearly learned his mistake, since the cool was gone with that blatant show of fear of his own mother.
"I won't… just - just let me have some shoes," she said, struggling not to yawn, for she had begun to feel very tired, unsurprising since technically she should have been to bed ages ago, but then again – ages ago - was years until.
"Of course," he said, throwing his cigarette aside, before he cleared his throat, his hands stuffed in his pocket, as he walked alongside her, "So if you're from the future…what year do you come from?"
"I've realised that if this is real…I can't tell you – and since it feels very real, I think it's best I have some secrets. You're not supposed to know anything anyway."
She's supposed to disappear already, for every time before this has been shorter, like she's blinking out of existence, vanishing from view like a ghost, perhaps she'll only be a shadow in the end, a mere blink in his line of sight, barely getting out a word, except she's still there.
He seems to know as well, fidgeting a ridiculous amount with the key when they arrive at his front door, his eyes constantly seeking hers, checking if she's still there.
Opening the door he allows her to go ahead up the stairs, "It's the first door to your right," he said with a small cough, while she let her hand glide over the banister.
It's a strange place to be really, a time and a place where it seems, Sherlock, the younger version of him – likes her, but it is perhaps because she is a puzzle. He doesn't know her, she only keeps walking into his life in brief instances, he doesn't know every irritating little detail, and as he unlocks his door, she wanders inside about to soak in the sight of his flat.
Passing the threshold she's amazed of how empty it seems, only a large bed and a desk, both cluttered with textbooks and papers. On the middle of the floor there's a set of cardboard boxes, all of them stuffed to the brim with objects and other books. It's an empty flat compared to his childhood home, or 221b, devoid of anything really, "You've just moved here, haven't you?" she said, looking around, seeing the pristine walls, and smelling the faint scent of cigarettes in the air.
"You noticed," he said smiling briefly, as he shut the door behind him, his head turned towards it, before he looked at her again, clearly still anxious at the thought of her departure.
"It's a bit obvious, though," she said biting her lip, "Not exactly a deduction, as much as common sense."
There's a brief moment that he's just staring at her, his gaze open, unwavering, leaning against the door, a ghost of a smile on his lips and she feels the need to rush, "So, where do you have the shoes, then?"
Instantly he scurries off to one of the boxes, picking up a pair of simple sandals that look about her size, handing them over to her gingerly.
"I remembered you didn't have any shoes, and I thought if you ever-," he stopped speaking, and she felt her own stomach make a startling swoop. He was just a boy; she knows that, yet it's the intention behind it, the hope, which struck a cord.
"You got them for me?" she said, holding them in her hands, unable to hide her smile, as he meets her eyes.
She avoids his stare by pulling them on, of course the pair fit perfectly, and as she knows upon wearing them – that she most likely won't have this effect on him in the future, though technically, this was her future.
But if it all were real, for every second of it felt real, the cold, the warmth, then maybe he'd remember. He had to remember this, or else, she didn't know how to feel when she returned. The last couple of years she'd trained herself to not be in love with him, getting engaged, distracting herself with work, doing everything in her power to not be under his spell, and yet right here, right now, she felt she was slipping beneath it once more, the feelings only dozing underneath her skin, awaiting to be kissed awake.
"Is it alright if I sleep a little?" she said in one-breath, afraid he'd think she was suggesting something, for his face instantly paled, "Sleep that is - just sleep, Sherlock – nothing more."
A hand went through his dark curls, scattering them around, though they were already messy, "The bed is over there – umm – of course you-,"
"Yeah," she said laughing, "I saw that, despite the rubbish."
He scoffed, "It's not rubbish."
"Alright, I'll sleep on top of-," of course when she began saying that, he walked over, clearing away the books and papers, stacking them together, before he settled them down on the floor, "Thanks…I'm just going to have a lie down, I feel like I haven't slept in ages."
"Yes, you do look tired."
"I'm old," she said, settling down on the sheets with a sigh, letting her eyes close, "Not that old…but old."
The bed creaks, and she feels the weight of him appear at her side, though she doesn't protest, allowing him to lie besides her innocently, her mind arguing against the idea. It wasn't long ago he was just a child, but then again, not long ago he'd been an adult, the lines had certainly blurred, her reality shattering around her.
"You don't look old," he said, making her open an eye at him, considering his honest expression.
"Thanks," she said, "I do use some cream."
But when she shuts her eyes once more, the hand she finds on her breast is certainly not welcome, softly cupping her in his hand, his hand trembling slightly, until he immediately drew back, as she threw him a beady eye, "Sleep…Sherlock," she snapped, "You're just a kid…"
"Ah, but I'm not-,"
Frustration framed his features and she was struck that she couldn't wrap her mind around him ever having been – randy – married to his work, as he was. All of her assumptions flew out of the window with his behaviour, his words breaking his future ones. Though his age was perhaps the reason, it was difficult to sustain logic and keep up appearances when so young. Relaxing against the bed, she heard him breathe heavily besides her, his shoulder brushing gently against hers, as she felt him properly lie down, "If – the next time you come – I'm older – can we?" he said, anticipation looming in his words.
She felt like laughing, though no laugh shook out of her, "Why me?" she said, "There's probably loads of girls-," There was, or at least that's what she'd always seen, some of them slipped past his exterior, though not deep enough, and others he turned down, like her.
"You're not any girl," he said, it would have been a cheap line, it was in some ways, for she'd heard something like that when she was his age, "You're different…"
"It's just because you don't understand," she said, closing her eyes tightly, hoping she'd vanish soon.
She didn't want to have this conversation with him, letting her think there was any hope in the future that she wasn't other than what she already was. Molly knew she mattered, she knew that, but not in the way she wanted to.
Not in the way she hoped.
"If you knew me – you wouldn't want to – I promise," she said softly, feeling a tear almost leak out of her eye, though she forced it back, not wanting him to see her cry.
If he'd forget everything else, he'd remember her crying, it would just be like him to delete everything of value, but keep the things that he'd hold against her.
"Then let me know-," he said, "Please."
She smiled weakly at him, crossing her arms over her chest, "Haven't you figured me out yet?" her eyes clinging to the ceiling, not wanting to see his face.
"Your clothes are from my mother and your shoes are from me. The only thing you seem to own is that – watch."
"It's not mine."
"I thought so – it looks too expensive."
Grimacing, she stared at him, glad to see him make fun of her, letting her thoughts linger elsewhere, "Are you telling me I look poor?"
He rolled his eyes, turning onto his side facing her, as he leaned against his hand, "Your hair hasn't been recently cut – the length tells me you don't often go to the hairdresser. Also your nails you do on your own – of course that means you don't care-,"
"Okay, you're right about that, but that's… because I don't see the point. I work with corpses all day long, they won't notice my nails anyway-,"
"Exactly," he said.
She allowed herself to look at him properly, "You're clever…has anyone told you that?" yet.
"Yes – they do – but you know everything about me already, don't you?" he said, his eyes staying on her lips, and she lets her lips part, like she is waiting, frankly she's always been waiting, but it's wrong, she knows it is, yet she allows him to close in, let's his breath hover across her mouth, but instead of that familiar swoop overtaking her stomach, she feels warmth on her chest again.
Sherlock swallowed, dropping down onto his side, feeling only the warmth she left behind on the mattress, a groan escaping his lips.
Slipping - it feels like he's falling, like one of those dreams, those instances where his mind tries to warn him, except he continues to plummet, the loud ruckus of his mind ebbing away, even his breath stopping, but his venture into perpetual tranquillity is disturbed. It's like a drop into the ocean, the ripples spreading about, until he feels the slaps across his face, the pain spreading to every spectre of his being, forcing his eyes to flicker open, as he sees her, pulling at him, shaking him, "Wake up – wake up – we've got to get you-,"
"It's all my fault-," she continues faintly, "I couldn't – I couldn't stop this-," he feels the speckles of hot tears drift into his face – "Sherlock – Sherlock-," he sees only dark.
She's sitting in a chair to his left, her eyes set upon the floor, a plastic cup half-crushed in her hand, before her eyes drift up towards his face, though she does not move toward him. Nothing about her has changed, down to the muddy streaks across her kneecaps, or the frilly dress he once thought was 'pretty' – childhood impression indeed, but it's not those tiny details that makes his breath flitter away, it's the way she looks at him, believes in him.
He didn't understand it properly when he was young, but he needed that, he needed her, he needed someone to give him something to yearn for. But he doesn't want to yearn for her, no, it's obvious that he's a broken man in the future, a future he barely wants to walk into, for he knows she will be constantly in the shadows, walking behind him steadfastly.
"You're really here then-," he said, removing all emotion from his voice, though his coldness diminishes when he soundly coughs, his body arguing against his revival.
A brief glance at the clock alerts him that more than five hours have passed, his narrowed eyes turning towards her, "Why are you still here?" The heavy fob watch is still hanging around her neck; she's fingering the chain, a curious expression on her face.
She shrugs briefly, her face impassive, "I don't know… I thought…I thought I could stop this...I hoped I would."
"Stop what?" Her grimace tells him all, the judgemental glance in her eyes superseding everything, "I don't need a sermon. I hardly care for one, tired as I am-," he said, shutting his eyes, shutting her out – "not that you'd tell me anything of value anyway, I've heard enough already-,"
"I thought so," she said.
He's awaiting the punch line, waiting for her to tell him something; some line that she thinks will fix him.
There's nothing to be fixed, only his boredom.
"Come on…let's get it over with," he said groaning as he shifted himself to a better position on the hospital bed, hearing the machine beep soundly in the background.
"What's the point?" she said, there's a strain to her voice, as she draws for breath, her eyes attempting to blink away the tears, and he's instantly filled with regret, almost unable to look her in the eye, "What's the use? You'll do this again anyway…you might be clever, but you're just bloody wasting it right now. Your flat – your – look at you-," she doesn't hide her tears, doesn't try to shield him from her gaze, boring down on him. It's not judgement like he wants to see – it's disappointment. "You're so much better than this – so much-," she stops shaking her head, her fingers shakily drying at her eyes.
"Why do you even care?" he spat, his ire rising, "What does it matter to you whether I am alive or not?"
Instead of drawing inward, she leans forward in her seat, staring right at him, "Because I know why I'm here…I know exactly why."
"And?" he said with a raised brow, his nostrils flaring.
"Because you need me."
He freezes on the bed, shutting his eyes briefly, "I don't," he said, but she's still there when he opens his eyes again, perhaps she's not even really there, perhaps she's in his mind, like always, a figure to remind him – to remind him – he has a reason to live.
She doesn't argue against him, leaning back into the chair, something shifting in her eyes, and all he wants, all he truly wants is to bridge the gap between them, but he keeps his tongue, locking those words in place.
"Why would I need you?"
Except when he waits for her answer this time - the chair is empty and the crumbled plastic cup is on the floor.
How many hours have passed, how many minutes have gone where she hasn't had a minute of rest? It feels like she's been wandering for a very long, keeping watch, and when she appears in a white clinical room she's hardly surprised. She recognizes the theme immediately, slowly gathering her strength, as she spots him on the bed, listlessly reading a book, dark marks underneath his eyes, sweat on his brow. But there's this bored determination set in his face, like he's willingly enduring his solitude in this white room, wearing clothes that match his environment. Carefully he lifts his eyes, they are back to that familiar gleam, that spark, which he not long ago lacked, filled with only resentment and self-loathing, "Of course," he breathed out, setting his book aside on the bed, but he does not stand up to greet her.
"Yes," he said easily, answering before she could even say it, as if he doesn't want her to know he's recovering, not really. He looks older in a way, not in looks, though she notices the ruggedness of his face, sparse hairs growing above his mouth, "…I'm sorry about that."
There's a faint flicker of amusement on his face, of course it's probably just a faint memory to him, unlike her who still feels the empty ache in her stomach, the pull which seems to endure, "Good – you should be," she said, swallowing, ignoring the tiny frown setting on his mouth.
"I thought you might pop up at some point. Convenient too, as I'm bound to the bed," he said, smirking, trying to achieve some laughter from her, but she's not able to laugh about it, not yet.
"Why?" she said.
"Why?" he echoed.
"Why did you quit?"
"Had to," he quipped, "You were quite upset."
His smile falters, because she can't find it funny, she won't, still standing rigidly in place, her arms hanging at her sides. Sherlock's brows knit together, before he said in a small voice, "Sit with me."
She reluctantly sits by his feet, "Do you mind coming closer?" he continued, his eyes turning to his side, "Please?" And with a sigh she moves to sit beside him, brushing against his side, though soon shifting away from him, not wanting to be too close.
Those blue eyes of his are fixed on the wall, glassing slightly over, as he begins to speak, attempting to break her silence, "I saw you."
But she doesn't interrupt him, she sees that by his now bowed head he wanted her to, "I saw you in the city, except it wasn't you. You had no idea who I was, and for many minutes I convinced myself I saw wrong, except you accidentally bumped into me, apologizing, unlike everyone else who didn't seem to care if they did, which is why…I'm here."
"I don't remember that," she said gently.
"I've been keeping an eye on you ever since – well – it's rather difficult from where I am at the moment-,"
Despite herself, she laughs, "Really?"
"Of course – can't have you going anywhere else, can I? I'm obviously… going to need you-," his voice breaks, as he promptly swallows, still not looking at her.
"Yeah…" she said, "You are."
None of it needs to mean anything, she's just glad to be there, glad to be at his side to push him forward, and when he grabs her hand, she doesn't pull away, "Good," he said, "…Molly?"
"Hmm?" she said, relishing in the warmth in his hand, feeling him clench hers a bit firmer.
"I'm not good with-," he drifts off, her mind racing slightly, as he lets go of her hand all of a sudden.
"I know," she said with a nod, "You've never been…"
"I mean – you - I don't – It's been… it's been years," he says, his expression flatly awkward, and it takes her almost a minute before she understands what he means.
"I haven't really done… anything," he cleared his throat.
"Well – we don't need to -," she began.
"That's strictly your fault-," he said.
Both of them turning to each other, "What?" before they look away from each other, neither of them speaking, shifting awkwardly on the bed.
She broke the silence however, un-eager to let it go on, not knowing when she'd disappear again, "How is it my fault?"
He rolled his eyes, his annoyance blatantly obvious in every aspect of his face, "Indulge me for a minute – if I showed up like you did – what would you do?"
"That's – that's not really my fault – anyway you could still-,"
But he stops her there, his eyes on her, "I made my choice long ago, Molly Hooper. I won't do relationships." There's that familiar grimace on his face, the dislike of the word, it's a promise she knows, but what will it really mean in the end – she knew how promises couldn't always last, promises were only what they were, none of them written in stone.
She stares at their entwined hands, "You – you won't-,"
"I won't – what?"
"Wait…" she whispered, "And it's fine, it's absolutely fine really, because I don't want you to… wait."
He blinked at her slowly, "But…you have."
"That's my fault – not yours."
"You can't carry everything alone, Molly."
She looked down at their once more entwined hands, "I'm not."
"You need me as well, you know…"
"Why…would you think that?"
"Because you're still here," he said, his smile soft, and she's grateful when he pulls her in, letting her rest against his chest, clasping her close to him, breathing deeply out, as she lets her eyes shut, "I don't want you to go," the words are spoken softly, for some seconds she almost believes it's her own words, except they're his. Once more she feels the warmth, and it's like he knows, his grip on her definite, except she's still sliding out of it, despite his whispered words of, "Stay."
He draws the bow over the cord, trying to still his mind, despite hearing the sounding mumbles from the man downstairs – he really needs to move – the flat's too small, too impractically placed, despite the vicinity, but she hasn't even started on her job yet, it's just gotten available, after him redoubling his efforts to make Mr Richmond quit his post, not that it was very difficult at chasing the man out, despite Mike Stamford's frustration, he'd been losing a pathologist once a year really; twice in one year – was perhaps – hard to bear.
He knew he didn't have to be so difficult at the start either, since her age didn't fit either, though he hardly expected it to take so long. His only clues were her appearances, brief though they were, all of them spreading further and further apart, until he became convinced that he'd never meet 'her'. Maybe he wouldn't, he barely knew what to when he did have her; what was one supposed to do, really? The thought barely resonated in his head, he couldn't wrap himself around it, but the concept gave him relief, a great one.
Hearing a creak on the floorboard, he immediately turns, and he half-hopes to see her walking in, but there's no one. It's like he knows what she would say if she did come – that he shouldn't be alone, especially now, but he wished her a silent Happy New Year instead, re-adjusting his bow on the strings.
Venturing back into the morgue he goes to get his riding crop, awaiting Molly to pop out any second, still keeping her cheery disposition despite his words. He doesn't want to turn her down, but he has to, he's afraid what might happen if he doesn't. And he's unsurprised to find her standing in the morgue, he only nods at her, "Molly-," stopping short, when he sees what she's wearing – "Oh."
The corpse is still laid out - "he was nice" – and she looks at him, seeming to catch on, "I was a bit distracted that day," she said, "Just a bit."
He pressed his lips together, "You just asked me for coffee," he said, unable to keep his shock down, blurting the words out.
She looks at him, her cheeks slightly red, "What's…wrong?" he said, for he sees her eyes, red – streaked with tears on her cheeks, and he doesn't recall her crying their last time, but she shakes her head quickly.
"Have you – you haven't-," she's seen something, he can see it in her eyes, in the way she carries herself, and it scares him, but she ignores his question.
"You can trust John Watson," she said grinning, her smile not reaching her eyes, "Promise."
"How far are we? How-,"
Her eyes dart around the morgue, "Some years…" she said, a tear suddenly slipping out of her eyes.
Immediately he steps forward, closing in on her, until he's wrapped around her, feeling her sigh against his coat. It's something he's wanted to do for so long, and it feels wonderful to have her so close, to have her near at all, but it's her silence that troubles him.
"You're lying – why are you lying?" he said into her hair.
She doesn't answer, her arms slipping into his coat, her fingers digging into his back, and it hurts, but he enjoys it, enjoys the feel of her, the feel of her lips, as she seeks out his mouth, softly, carefully, before he's caught in the motions, finding delight in her mouth, but she blinks out of sight all of a sudden, like she's been dragged out of there.
He feels only air where she has been, his eyes closing for a minute, until he hears the door to the morgue bang open, and Molly appears, "Oh – you're – you're still here-," she said with an easy smile, it hurts seeing her like this, knowing he's causing her hurt somewhere.
"Needed to retrieve my riding crop," he said looking at the floor, soon darting out of the door, forgetting to bring it entirely.
One disastrous event after the other; Molly wasn't supposed to have seen that, to have been there at all, as Mycroft had promised him the opposite of course, but Christmas. She didn't have any family, barely any friends, and he felt heavy in his stomach for not understanding, for feeling pity. He needed to change his ways, he couldn't go on torturing her, letting her become an invisible entity before him, just because she wasn't her.
She was the same woman, except, she wasn't.
When he opened the door to his bedroom, about to see if John's scavengers hunt has indeed made a clutter he blinks at the sight of her on his bed, laid down with a wide smile on her face, before he quickly slips inside, smacking the door shut behind him at the sight.
In her hand he sees the phone, of course she'd find it, and he's rather frustrated she has, but she just looks at him with it in her palm, "The woman, right?" she said.
This isn't at all like last time, whatsoever, as she looks beyond pleased to see him, a hint of red in her cheeks, her dress even more crinkled than usual, and a faint smell of - "Do you like her?" she asked, grabbing his attention to the present.
"Jealous?" he said, glowering at her.
She frowns however, "No."
He stares, faltering, "No, the woman was…interesting."
Molly gives a brief nod, soon staring at the phone, before she said, "I know the passcode."
"Are you going to tell me?"
Her smile was wide, wider than usual, like she'd just figured something out, and he really hated her for it, "It's actually quite obvious…on the tip of your nose," she said standing up, glee evident on her face, "Even I thought it back then, but I thought it was a bit on the silly side."
"Sherlock, you alright in there?" said the voice of John, the door to his bedroom springing open, but he kept it in place with his hand, his eyes into slits as he looked at her.
"Yes," he said with gritted teeth, unable to keep his frustration hidden.
"Okay," his friend said, sounding hesitant, "Just shout if you need anything, I'll be here all night."
Sherlock frowned, "I won't," he said, his hand dropping from the door, before he turned to look at her, "I have everything I need here."
The faint red in her cheeks increase, spreading to her visible chest, as he smirked, soon gathering her close in his arms, taking the phone out of her hand, "I want to tell you that-," but his hands found air in the end, while the door to his bedroom door bounced open, "John – not now."
He thought he saw her, he was perhaps delirious, half-beaten to death and parched for thirst, but the vision that stood in front of him only relieved his thirst, a gentle hand put on his shoulder like a Samaritan. It couldn't have been her, no matter what his mind said.
He always thought if he told her that perhaps she would comprehend, though it was evident she didn't recognize what 'you do count' meant, and he should have understood that, she'd barely understood that years ago, obviously he couldn't change the future no matter how hard he tried. The only thing he could change was himself, trying to still his own constant impatience was the worst of it all, as he felt he was waiting for someone who would maybe never come. Mycroft's knowledge didn't ease him, for his brother knowing made him apt for mockery, but he didn't flinch at the crude jokes. He knew what he felt, and he'd been carrying it with him for a long time, and he was willing to continue doing so. But he never thought that he'd be faced with the day where she would stay.
Molly's disappeared. Be ready – MH
Sherlock had been keeping a closer watch than he needed to, his weakness blatant to him, since he knew they were close. She hadn't told him with words, though he knew it by the familiar traces of her face, the way her eyes met him head-on, unafraid and unshrinking. Every day since he had understood made it more difficult to be with her, putting a strain on him, which he spilled out on her, hardly managing to cover any of his frustration in her presence, reliving her mistakes.
He wanted her to understand, wanted her to know that when he said she counted – that she mattered – that he needed to tell her not out of necessity, not for her help, but because he wanted her to know. And now, he truly hoped she understood everything, his stomach churning as he entered her quiet flat. Only the tap in the kitchen dripping idly is making a sound, as he wandered through the rooms, trying to predict when she will come, or if he by some misfortune has lost her already. The expression on her face has changed at almost every meeting, from laughter to tears, and he doesn't know the source of either.
"Hello," a small voice said.
He almost didn't want to turn around, afraid that he will really be hearing things, but when he does turn she really is standing in the doorway of her bedroom. Taking a long hard look at her, he realizes that he has no idea of what to say, what to fill the minutes up other than breathing.
"You've known all this time," she said, speaking for him.
She slipped the gold chain from her neck, holding the fob watch in her hand, "It's turned cold – it's stopped ticking," she said, before her eyes meet his, "You…still used drugs."
Now he does know what to say, smiling, "No, I didn't."
It takes him seconds to appear before her, taking the fob watch out of her hands and throwing it aside without thought, hearing it shatter in the distance, as she is scarcely given the chance to say, "What?"
"Billy peed in the cup for me-," he murmured closing in on her, watching her shocked face with some delight, at least at this he could truly surprise her.
"Hardly paid any attention, throwing out sermons and it was quite easy faking it, even Mycroft was in on it, except for the shooting of course," he said with a slight grimace, watching her eyes widening.
"So I did change something?" she said after a minute, looking up at him as if he is lying, but he doesn't intend to lie to her any longer.
"Of course you did," he whispered, lifting up her chin, "You changed everything, Molly."
He stills the hands fidgeting with his bowtie, letting it rest instead, knowing there's no real point in twiddling any more with his appearance - he looks fine - John told him he does, has been for hours really, but he can't shake off the nerves.
It doesn't help that she's elected to keep her distance. He hasn't seen her for two weeks, and she keeps bearing this smile, like she knows something. But he doesn't ask, understanding that asking will only frustrate him more, though he hardly expects her to pop up in his room wearing the dress, "Molly – why are you-," he halts, taking in the sight of her, "ah – but-,"
He's almost convinced she's doing this for fun, expect those eyes of hers, they don't brighten with amusement, or light up in any way, their shine is gone, only hollow.
"What – what year is this?" she said numbly.
Sherlock barely knows what to with this, but he tries to distract her, almost wanting to ring her up, to make her explain, because she is not supposed to show up.
"Can't tell you, but it is important," he said smiling briefly, amused by knowing more than her for once, watching the confusion in her face, except it dwindles.
"You were recovering…" she said faintly, settling down into an available chair, as she looked down at her hands – "And you were at the hospital I'd just-,"
"…asked me out?" he finished off, his smirk disappearing, as he bent down on one knee in front of her, looking up into her face. This was once the face that bewildered him, that caught him off guard that one day.
Resting his hands on her knees, he said, "We're getting married today."
And slowly her face unravelled, the sorrow in it diminishing. He clasps her hand, "Spoilers of course," he said, his nose crinkling up slightly, "Though I think you might be in need of some."
He's rather surprised when she bends down, her lips brushing against his, and for a second he freezes, until he rather understands what Molly's been smiling about lately, forcing her to pull back, "Sorry – I-,"
"No, it's fine-," he breathed out deeply, "oh -," he grimaced, "that's why -," he didn't say it, the crinkle in her forehead one he didn't want to lessen, for she doesn't know, instead he laughs, knowing why Molly was insistent that he'd be good at the end "– a preview?"
She looked like he couldn't do that – that he couldn't kiss the corner of her swollen lips, the lips she'd been biting thoroughly, or sweep his mouth over hers properly, tasting the remnant of salt on her lips, before he dragged her forward by the back of her knees.
All humour was washed out of him, as he felt her deepening the kiss, unafraid now; her arms reluctantly holding onto him for dear life, like she was afraid he'd leave. He wasn't going anywhere, his hands slipping underneath her dress, hearing and feeling her gasp into his mouth, while he let his hands brush the inside of her thighs, leaving little trails on her skin.
She brought herself even closer, her nails digging into his back, reminding him that this was very real, that he was marrying her, and he stood up grabbing her with him, taking her along the familiar path towards his bedroom, with her pushed up against him, the fabric of her dress so thin, he could feel every part of her body against his.
He realizes there is no point, not enough time, something she seems to understand, dragging him with her towards the kitchen table, the equipment on the table scattering with a loud bang onto the floor. And suddenly he is resting between her thighs, his breath coming in ragged intakes, as he saw by the look in her face that she needed him. Sherlock rests on top of her, hearing her sigh against the weight of him.
He knows his way, he knows what she likes, but somehow it all feels different sliding up her dress, watching her awe of him, as his mouth put lingering kisses on the softest parts of her body, her hands clinging to his curls, before he soon gave an experimental lick of her, enjoying the familiar taste.
She smelled like a summer's day – rain - grass, vague scents all from his childhood, his past – all of them memories of their encounters – all of them flooding in. He wondered what time she was truly in, what thoughts she had, while he dipped his tongue in her heat, feeling her clench around him. She was everywhere and nowhere, but now she was there.
Every breath, every gasp for him to hear as he slipped his fingers inside her smoothly, feeling her tremble from the sensation. Instead of wasting any more time, he found his way home, thrusting into her, their hands tangled together, as she lifted her hips off the table to meet him at every thrust. Amazement, that was the look she gave him in return, besides disbelief when he began to whisper those words he knew she truly wanted, pure - deeper than any physical action could convey. Words she should have understood long ago, words he gave her almost daily in return, for never having to see her fade away.
He caressed her face in the end, letting her go, letting her fade away, for he knew he would have her at his side in the end.
"So…" she said grinning at him, her cheeks pink, while she took a sip from her champagne, showing off her ring.
He was already fond of the sight of it on her hand.
"That's the reason you were laughing in the bedroom, wasn't it?" he said frowning, while she giggled, "Any more surprises, then?"
She didn't answer, her eyes drawn to her own ring, before he closed in on her, letting her lean against him, "You're here now, that's what matters," he said, feeling her smile against him.
"It should have been me," Mycroft said across the wind, breaking his stare from her grave where her name was etched in the tombstone –
Beloved wife and traveller
May our journeys never end
"Yes, it should," he drawled, looking up at his brother whose mouth quirked briefly upward, "She would have hated you for it of course."
Mycroft's face twitched, unwilling to shed those tears that begged to come, for he knew how his brother felt, even if unwillingly, "She is missed Sherlock, no mistake," he said with pursed lips.
Once more his eyes are drawn to the grave, as he shrugged his coat closer, unwilling to stay any longer, but Mycroft calls his attention, taking something out from his inner coat pocket, soon handing it over, "I made a promise to her once…I will have to keep it now, I think," he said.
"Don't-," he began.
"You need to – you need her-,"
"What are the odds that I will-,"
"She told me it'd be fine-," said Mycroft plainly.
"Fine," he said roughly, pocketing the item, "I'll leave it up to chance."
"No, you're leaving it up to her, and that's hardly chance."
He wanted to do nothing more than to go back inside. His insides felt like they were about to burst open, for this was truly the end of them, the circle was finally broken. But he knew one thing - she was the same woman in whatever shape or form, whatever time or place.
If he'd done things differently, maybe they would have more time, though right now – for Molly in that coffee shop – they had all the time in the world.
The instant he felt like running back, to tell her everything, to tell her to be careful, he felt that familiar heat at his chest pulling at him, dragging him to another place where she was no more, the clock only ticking loudly reminding him.
He heard the floor creak, but he ignored the sound, letting his eyes stay shut, waiting like he'd always been, but now for something else entirely.
He didn't want to go to the hospital; there was no point, no one to see him off, but the creak became louder, and he opened his eyes reluctantly to confirm he was just hearing things.
At least now he is not alone in the end, for her hand is soon pressed against his chest, before he sweeps it into his hand, whispering to her that he got them that cottage she wanted so much. He can feel her pulse beat strongly against his wrinkled hand, his fingertips glued to it, until finally he's the one who fades away first.