Disclaimer: All characters are property of ACD, Marvelous Mark Gatiss, Steven "The Grand Moff" Moffat, the BBC, et al. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: I cannot believe it took me a year to finish this bloody thing, but here it is - enjoy!


Paper Fortunes

By Alice Day


CHAPTER FOUR

Sherlock and Lestrade shoved their way through the panicked people running for the exits. "We need to get upstairs to the exhibit," Sherlock yelled over the din.

"Easier said than done," Lestrade yelled back, grunting as a frantic celebrity elbowed him in the side on her way past. Clouds of acrid smoke rolled out of the main gallery; sniffing, he realized it was the same kind that had choked a swimming pool months ago.

He still remembered the worried phone call from Sarah Sawyer, which prompted him to check Sherlock's website. As soon as he realized what the lanky git was planning, he called the Yard and scrambled a CO19 firearms unit, lapsing into the gutter French learned from his Brittany cousins as soon as he finished the call. The SFOs showed up hot on the heels of what he later learned was a Special Forces team, just in time to find a shaken Sherlock and John climbing out of the water and the architect behind the bombing spree long gone. As it turned out, John had been loaded with what looked like Semtex but was actually an array of weighted smoke bombs; Sherlock muttered later on that he should have known Moriarty would never risk his own neck that close to one of his devices. "What about Molly?"

"What about her?"

Lestrade grabbed the detective by the arm, dragging him to a stop. "For once in your life, Sherlock, stop being a complete arse," he ordered. "If the thieves grabbed her, she's in danger."

"I know that," Sherlock said, shaking his arm out of Lestrade's grip. "I also know that Moriarty is working as a consultant on this heist, which means the thieves know about her crush on me, so her disappearance is a deliberate distraction. They have no reason to kill her, so she'll be fine - well, probably."

"Probably?"

That earned him an eyeroll. "Right now, we need to focus on the exhibit."

The DI fought down an urge to punch the other man. "Sod the exhibit," he said, stepping back. "I'm going after Molly."

"Oh, for God's sake - she survived Moriarty, she can survive a simple art heist," Sherlock snapped. "But if you're that concerned, by all means go find her. Judging by their previous work the thieves undoubtedly have a temporary command centre, most likely in one of the administrative offices on this floor - she's probably there."

With that he dashed through a doorway into a stairwell. Growling, Lestrade spun on his heel and jogged towards the glass doors marked "Administration."

###

"What?"

Molly startled when the blonde leapt up from her chair, one hand flying to the headset. "When? Damn it all! Can you still get to the target? Well, go, you idiot - and tell Foster I need him."

The thieves on the other end must have cut off the conversation, because the now furious blonde turned towards Molly. "It seems that I may have underestimated your Mister Holmes," she bit out. "I'm needed on the floor - you, my wee doctor, will stay here and stay quiet, understood?"

She slid a hand into her jacket pocket, touching the pistol outline there. Molly gulped and nodded, trying to look utterly cowed. If this mad bint would just leave, she could stand up, slip her arms free of the chair back, and run like hell-

She almost moaned when a dour-looking ginger jogged into the room. "You wanted me, aye?" he asked in a Midlands accent.

"Yes - keep an eye on her and monitor communications," the blonde ordered, handing over the headset. The ginger - Foster, Molly remembered - put it on, giving Molly a quick but thorough once-over before turning to the comms unit. "And if she tries to talk, gag her."

"Yes, ma'am," Foster agreed, his gaze drifting to Molly again. Something in his look made her feel as if she'd been lightly coated in slime.

The blonde smirked at Molly. "Sorry to leave you like this, doctor, but it just goes to show - if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." Touching one manicured finger to her forehead in a salute, she left.

Molly sagged back in her chair. She'd been so close-

No! Do not start panicking now - that's utterly useless. Observe Foster, Molly. What do you see?

Obediently, she tipped her head down, hoping the gesture would look docile while she studied Foster through her eyelashes. He appeared to be in his early thirties, slightly overweight but with solid muscle underneath the flab. She noticed he handled the comms unit gingerly, as if he wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

Low level flunky, she thought. Hired more for muscle than brains?

Most likely. Unimportant enough that he could be pulled off the main heist and given what is essentially a babysitting job.

Oi!

Oh, don't be ridiculous - he'd be babysitting anyone they captured. More importantly, it gives you a better chance of escape. Especially as - yes, I was wondering when he'd show up. She could have sworn the voice in her head sounded amused.

At the far left edge of the window into the hallway, she saw a flash of something. And then again, as a face carefully edged into view. Grey hair, brown eyes, grim expression.

She blinked once, hard. Oh, look, my date's here, she thought, forcing down another stream of hysterical giggles.

For God's sake, don't react. You'll give him away.

She jerked her head down, staring at her knees with Lestrade in her upper peripheral vision. He glared at Foster, then pointed at himself, and down the hallway.

He needed to get past the window. Which meant-

Oh.

Yes, a distraction. For the first time since all this started, the voice sounded...approving? You can do this, Molly. If it helps, just act as you do around me. You know - insipid.

Bastard. She gritted her teeth, then took a deep breath. Raising her head, she put on what she hoped was her most pathetic, vulnerable expression. "Please," she murmured, forcing a weak warble into her voice. "Please, just let me go, I won't tell the police anything, I promise."

Distracted, Foster looked at her. "Shut up, you," he ordered.

"Please, I don't want to die. I'll do anything, just let me go." She tacked a little sob onto the end of the sentence, letting her breasts quiver with it.

As she'd hoped, Foster tracked the movement, his attention focused on her cleavage. He licked his lips, then glanced back at the comms unit. And then back at her.

Torn between business and pleasure, I see. The hook's almost set. Gentle, now.

"Please, I don't want to die," she repeated faintly. "Please. I'll do anything."

Foster's expression changed, shifting from dour to lustful.

And you have him. Now reel him in.

The thief stood stood up, swaggering over to her. "Boss said I could gag you," he muttered, resting a hand on his belt buckle. "Didn't say with what, now, did she?"

His meaning sank in, and Molly wanted to retch at the thought. The tears glittering in her eyes were real as she nodded, trying not to imagine the taste, the feel of what would be in her mouth if this didn't work-

But it will work. Get him in range, and you'll know what to do.

You can do this, she chanted to herself. Damn it, you can. Show them all, Mols - you can do it.

Grinning, Foster fumbled with the belt buckle, undoing it with a soft click. His fly zip was next, revealing y-fronts in the gap and a soft but growing bulge underneath the white cotton. "You want it, don't you?" he breathed, sliding a restraining hand around the back of her neck.

Lean back against it.

"Yeah," Molly whispered back, rocking her head towards the hand as she stared at her target.

He huffed out a chuckle. "Give it a nice kiss, then."

Now.

She snapped her head forward as hard as she could, driving her forehead into Foster's cock and balls. The thief screamed shrilly, fingers yanking at Molly's hair as he staggered back. She used the momentum to push backwards, gripping the chair back with her hands as she curled her body up, tucking her bent legs against her chest for a second before driving them directly into the thief's groin.

This time Foster keened, a thin sound, before leaning forward and vomiting on her legs. She recoiled, kicking against the floor until she was against the office wall. He sank to his knees in the space she'd just vacated, both hands clasped protectively around his injured groin, before tumbling over to the side.

Revealing a grim Lestrade, fire extinguisher raised for a blow. "Bloody hell," he said, astounded.

Molly couldn't help the manic laugh bubbling up in her throat. "Hello, darling," she gurgled. "Having a good time?"

"Oh, it's a corker," the DI quipped back at her, lowering the extinguisher. After pulling out his cuffs and securing Foster, he went to her side, fumbling a pocketknife out of his coat and cutting through the plastic ties binding her to the chair. "You all right?"

"Oh, lovely," she said, her tone still bubbly and over-bright as she rubbed her reddened wrists. "Got kidnapped at gunpoint in the loo because my ex thought I'd be a good distraction, then this blonde Scots bint tied me up, and then this arse wanted me to polish his knob for him. All part of an evening with Sherlock Holmes, eh?"

And then there didn't quite seem to be enough air in the room. She started hiccupping, and the hiccups turned into tears, and somehow Lestrade had his arms around her and she was crying into his shoulder and feeling like a complete and utter prat. "I'm sorry," she gasped, struggling to stop the tears. "Oh, God, I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm doing this. I mean, I'm safe now, right?"

"Emotional release," Lestrade murmured, rubbing her back in slow, wide circles. "Perfectly normal - all that adrenaline has to go somewhere. Christ, if you weren't sobbing on me, I'd wonder what was wrong."

Molly laughed shakily at that, but took him at his word. After what felt like a lifetime, she finally pulled away, swiping at the wetness on her cheeks. "Thank you."

His expression changed, turning remorseful. "You shouldn't be thanking me," he said. "This is my fault - I shouldn't have let you wander off alone like that."

"You didn't - oh, bollocks, Greg."

He gave her a startled look. "Don't you see, I was angry," she explained, rubbing her forehead. "You were both treating me like a child, not telling me anything, just letting me wander around like some brainless twit. When you finally told me you'd seen some of their agents, I had to get away before I started shouting at you, so I walked off." She huffed, plucking at the stained silk of her dress. "And walked right into their trap. Stupid Molly."

A warm, calloused hand covered hers. "You're not stupid, Doctor Hooper," Lestrade said, his voice calm but intent. "As a matter of fact, you're bloody smart, not to mention brave as all hell. I've known veteran DCIs who couldn't have done what you did tonight, all right?"

She thought for a moment, then nodded. "That was a bit good, wasn't it?"

He grinned at her. "Yeah, just a bit. Tell you this much - if things ever go pear-shaped, I want you and John Watson on my side."

"What about Sherlock?"

"He can get his own bloody side."

Behind them, Foster whimpered in pain. "Now, how about we find ourselves some nice sturdy constables and turn this nonce over to them, Mrs. Peel?" he added.

Molly grinned back. "Sounds wonderful to me, Steed."

###

Of course, it wasn't as simple as that. By the time they'd exited the administration section, Sherlock had already rounded up the rest of the art thieves, assisted by the Tate's security staff and the undercover Met officers. Molly was taken to one side to make a statement, identifying the blond Scotswoman who'd taken her from the loo (one Margot Whitehead, wanted in at least five different countries for theft, and wasn't this going to be a feather in Sherlock's cap), and giving the police sergeant an account of what had happened with Foster. By the time she was finished, it was almost 2:00 AM and time to start her shift at Barts.

Upon hearing that, Lestrade tried to talk her into calling in sick. When she refused, he insisted on driving her to the hospital, then walking her down to the morgue.

"You don't have to do this, you know," she said as they walked down the basement hallway. "I'll be fine by myself."

"I know you will," the DI replied easily. "I'm starting to think I'm the one who needs protection. Hands tied behind your back, and you still took out that tosser."

Molly glanced down at her dress. She'd washed the worst of Foster's vomit off in the Tate's toilet, but the wine silk was still ruined. "Oh, dear," she sighed. "This was horribly expensive."

"Shame - it was beautiful," Lestrade admitted. "Not quite as beautiful as what's in it, of course, but still."

She looked up at that, surprised. She'd gotten used to Sherlock's brusque dismissiveness (or his deliberate, ingenuous flirting when he wanted something), or John's generic friendliness that was as easily delivered to a tree as to her. And on some level, Jim's shy, sly, utterly false adoration never really convinced her.

But this felt genuine. And for once she didn't feel the need to giggle, or deflect a compliment, or do anything silly. She could just accept it.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"You're welcome." He glanced around as they entered the morgue. "Look, do you have some sort of sound system around here?"

"Um, yes, in the lab - why?"

"Well, we never got the chance to dance, it being a ball and all." His grin was slightly crooked, and wholly disarming. "Might as well get some use of this monkey suit before taking it back, yeah?"

Upon further reflection, she decided this made perfect sense. They went over to the lab; while he moved stools and instrument tables out of the way, she found her portable stereo and her iPod, and cued up k.d. lang's "Love Affair" with slightly shaking fingers.

And that was how Molly Hooper found herself dancing in an unexpected place with a handsome man. It wasn't the handsome man she'd fantasized about, but reality turned out to be much better than fantasy, particularly when Lestrade leaned down and – ooh, yes, please - brushed his lips across hers. All right, so maybe there's something to be said for fortune cookies.

What the fortune cookie forgot to mention was the lab door banging open and Sherlock striding through, John on his heels. Startled, Molly pulled back, halted by the DI's arms still around her.

"Oh, good, you're here," Sherlock said, glancing at Molly and Lestrade for a millisecond and obviously dismissing the fact that they were in each other's arms and kissing as unimportant. "I need a female ankle, between fifty and sixty years of age, with moderate osteoporosis." When she didn't snap to, he made an impatient noise. "Sometime in this millennium, please."

Molly looked at Sherlock, then at Lestrade, who raised one eyebrow. Ball's in your court, it seemed to say.

"Right," she said. Gently unwinding the DI's arms from her waist, she walked over to Sherlock and punched him in the mouth.

The detective lurched back in shock, smacking into a lab table with an audible thud. "You hit me!" he exclaimed, clutching his jaw more from incredulity than pain.

"You noticed," she said sweetly, ignoring the throbbing in her knuckles. "Next time, don't come into my lab demanding body parts without authorization."

From the corner of her eye, she saw John had a hand over his mouth, trying to hide a grin. Satisfied, she spun towards Lestrade, who was beaming at her. "Greg, I believe the hospital caff is open. Would you like to get some coffee?"

The DI came over and took her punching hand, gently kissing the knuckles. The throbbing eased, replaced by a tingling sensation. "It would be an honor, Mrs. Peel," he said, offering Molly his arm. She took it triumphantly, and the duo swept out of the room like rumpled and stained royalty-

No. Like the Avengers, Molly thought. Which was much better.

###

Sherlock and John watched them go. "I'll be damned," the doctor said, still grinning. "Never saw that one coming."

He didn't notice the faint, approving smirk on Sherlock's bruised mouth. It had been fairly simple to arrange matters - insult Mycroft's taste in fashion while mentioning Molly's name, ensuring that Mycroft would have her followed and arrange for an appropriate gown, then persuade Lestrade to squire Molly to the ball instead while he did the real work behind the scenes. The thieves taking La Hooper hostage was unexpected, but ultimately worked out in everyone's favor (apart from the thieves, that is).

And now Molly would have a much more receptive target for her labradoodle-like affections, while Lestrade finally had a reliable sexual outlet that would do wonders for his mood. All in all, Sherlock was quite satisfied with the results of the evening.

"I did," he said smugly.

###

That evening, a chilly September rain fell outside Molly Hooper's flat, bringing with it an almost irresistible urge to stay in where it was warm and dry. Which made it that much more irritating when the smartphone on the bedside warbled its signal for an incoming text.

Molly's hand snaked out of the bedcovers, fumbling for the phone. Its screen read:

Need liver samples from G Livingston ASAP.
Have authorization.
SH

A salt-and-pepper head poked up, glancing sleepily over her shoulder. "Who is it?"

Molly smiled at the text. "No one important," she said.

And turned off the phone.