3 weeks later-

Sorry about the ankle. Bad luck.

John grimaces at the phone and nearly throws it at the wall. He hates these text messages. And hates the 'anonymous' sender even more.

"Who's that?"

Molly Hooper gives him a weak smile. John is pleased to see a (friendly) familiar face. Lestrade stopped by a few days earlier to wish him well, but the conversation quickly took a bizarre turn to chastisement over recreational drug use. (More specifically, recent hospital lab records that the DI played a role in making "go away" for John's sake). Despite John's assurances of taking only prescribed painkillers, he didn't miss the forced tolerance in the DI's discerning eyes. Thus ended his last visit, until Molly, of course—and left him filled with questions, frustrations and irregularities that he had neither the ability nor energy to address.

John's existence has been shaken to much more elemental levels since his injury. Eat. Sleep. Shower occasionally. Wish Sherlock would stop playing his bloody violin. Yell when the pistol makes an appearance, lest he get his head shot off, etc. But mostly, the doctor has endured solitude intermixed with Mrs. Hudson coming to fuss over the positions of the pillows under his foot or whether he has taken his medication or not.

The young medical examiner repeats her question, brow raised. John shoves the phone back into pocket, shaken back into the present.

"Uh, no one. Harry," he lies. He won't come clean about Moriarty's texts to Molly of all people. She nods and takes another sip of her tea.

"So your ankle's feeling better?" she says, forcing brightness back into her voice.

John shrugs. "Good days and bad days. I get by. Have to use this bloody thing again, though." He taps the cane propped up against the coffee table.

"Yes, well, that's alright. You're used to it at least." She doesn't seem to recognize the indiscretion of the comment, innocent as it was.

"Hmmm." John looks away when his former limp is brought up. Psychosomatic, indeed. At least he won't need that useless therapist for this time around. Unless to vent his frustrations regarding his present flatmate. No, not even then.

John lies back on the sofa and holds in a sigh. He's sick of talking about his ankle, and even more exasperated lying here useless and terribly bored. Crap telly is pleasantly numbing, but only for so long. Molly doesn't look very entertained either, despite his best efforts.

"Sherlock's out?" she asks.

John nods. "Uh, yeah, I guess he is." Sherlock had been gone a lot lately. Whether to further his bribery with the homeless network or out solving cases on his own, (he has consulted very little with John in the last few weeks), and it wears on the doctor. There is a distance between them now. Unspoken, but there.

At his admittance of Sherlock's whereabouts, Molly wilts before his eyes. John hates the dejected look on her face and the sag of her shoulders. In her own way, she's too pretty, too kind, and too lonely and exposed for a man as aloof and detached as Sherlock. John wishes he could tell her that her affection is as pointless with Sherlock as it was with Moriarty. He wishes he could ease the unrequited nature of her adoration. He is a medical doctor, after all. He doesn't like to see suffering of any kind, especially in the people he cares about.

"You know," he says, "you should get out more." Shit, that's not what he wanted to say, or how he wanted to say it. He intended some sage advice that she should live her life and Sherlock and dead people weren't the best of company, but it all came out wrong.

Molly gives him a strange look. "But that's why I'm here," she defends weakly. "To see you. After all, we are friends."

You're not here for me, Molly, and we both know it. You're here nursing a broken heart. You're here nursing an addiction and I hate watching you suffer.

She looks at her feet. "Maybe you're right. Truth is, I just don't…trust…many people these days. Since Jim…I'm not sure I can even trust myself."

It's a painful admission, and John takes it in quietly. In their own ways, they're both hurting from rejection.

At length, he says, "you're a good person to have around, Molly."

She offers him the barest of smiles and plays with the handle on her teacup. "You're just saying that because you're nice."

"Yeah, well there is that."

They both share a quiet laugh. Then John just says it.

"What about me?"

That comes out wrong too. In fact, he's surprised and horrified the words even came out his mouth. Blame the painkillers. A proposition is not what he had in mind for Molly Hooper. Sure, she's pretty and wears her wallflower persona as well as any shy girl he's met. He even finds her poor conversation skills and uneasy humor endearing. A sort of opposite side of the spectrum from Sherlock. Still…it's Molly. And John is in a deep hole now.

Molly's head cocks just slightly to the side. "What?"

John blinks. You prat, can't back out now. He licks his lips unconsciously. Tries to maintain eye contact.

"Uh, would you consider going out with me? Sometime. For a bite to eat. If you want."

Molly sets the teacup down on the table and has trouble meeting his earnest gaze. "You're just saying that."

"No, I mean it. We get on well enough. And it might do us both some good."

"Ok. Yeah. I'd like that. When you're able, of course."

That sad look never quite leaves her eyes, but for a change, Molly Hooper looks hopeful about something other than Sherlock. For his part, John is relieved that he can meet someone outside of the flat decidedly prettier than Mycroft.

Molly makes an excuse to go, and John eases himself off the sofa to show her out, despite her protests. They both nearly collide into Sherlock as he catapults up the stairs.

"Hello..." John mutters, leaning heavily on his cane. Sherlock ignores him as he tears his scarf off and throws it on the table. He leaps into the armchair, legs pulled up against his chest. His fingers tap chaotic rhythms on the armrests.

Molly bites her lip and leans over to wave at him. "Nice to see you, Sherlock."

He gaze briefly darts in their direction before he's lost again in the turmoil of his mind. Molly shrugs it off the best she can and goes down a few steps. After a moment, she turns and looks back up at John.

"Oh, I almost forgot. Let him know that the DNA results came back."

John's brow rises. "From the Cambridge case?"

"Yes." Molly lowers her voice. "It wasn't the victim's DNA. In fact, it doesn't match anyone."

"So there's nothing in the database? A first time offender, you're saying."

Molly nods. "Or the first time he made a mistake."

"He?"

"Yes, male."

"That is interesting news. Thank you, Molly."

John watches her exit the flat before he hobbles painfully back into the sitting room. He glares at the consulting detective.

"That was rude, Sherlock."

An icy blue gaze settles on him.

"Hmmm? What?"

"She said hello. You ignored her."

"It was Molly. So what?"

"Yes, but…" But she's hopelessly in love with you, Sherlock. Why must you patronize her?

Sherlock's eyes narrow. "But what?"

John shakes his head. "Nothing." He collapses on the sofa again and picks up a newspaper. "Ah, look at this. Jewelry shop robbed."

"Boring."

John reads another headline. "Missing Arabic prince."

"Call Mycroft."

The doctor sighs and lays the paper down on his lap. "So what have you been up to, then?"

Sherlock looks at him and shrugs. He stares back into the kitchen and the room becomes deathly silent again. Defeated, John begins resumes reading.

Suddenly, "Molly spoke something to you on the stairs. What was it?"

John puts the paper down again and glances up. "Oh yeah. The DNA results don't have a match in the system. I'm referring to the Cambridge case, of course."

"I know what case!" Sherlock snaps.

John's forehead creases. His flatmate is notoriously mercurial, but today seems worse than normal.

"What do you plan to do, then?" the doctor asks, keeping his tone even.

Sherlock doesn't answer him, so John returns to his reading.


It's night. Sherlock is in his bedroom, pacing across the floor. Papers are littered everywhere, in sharp contrast to the pristine condition in which he, (and Mrs. Hudson, on occasion), normally maintains the room. He runs a hand through his mess of dark hair before the pacing starts again. For a man who finds presentation critical, he is remarkably disheveled at the moment. He's still wearing his typical dress pants and shirt, but the latter is unbuttoned to the chest and the tails no longer tucked in at the waist. The coat has been long since abandoned on the bed, amid the documents.

He releases a frustrated groan and stops in the middle of the room, eyes closed and fingers resting at his temples. Frozen. Thinking. Desperately reasoning. But it's like a fog that won't go away. No amount of nicotine patches and recreational drugs can help him sort through this problem. Like a train hurtling out of control, his pushes through the images in his mind. Some have to do with the daunting case at hand. Most do not.

John. Damn him. It was inevitable, Sherlock supposes, that his flatmate would question his past. Frankly, he gives John credit for putting up with his behaviors as long as he has—most others Sherlock has effectively driven away. John is different. He wants purpose. He wants to help. It keeps him tied to the detective, even at great personal cost. It's these moments of torment (weakness) that Sherlock is reminded (reluctantly) of his humanity. Guilt is a cruel master.

Sherlock's thoughts drift to the scattered papers surrounding him. They're the random collection of notes and files from the Cambridge case, and there's nothing in it—nothing—that moves him any closer to discerning a culprit, let alone a motive. It's infuriating for a man who handles frustration very poorly, as the bullet-hole ridden flat walls can contend.

But there's more to it than that. Lestrade never asks for much. In fact, his constant submission and humiliation on the part of Sherlock's greater investigational skills provides Sherlock a constant reward, a drug in and of itself that he desperately craves. It's an acceptance of his brilliance, and a hunger for further displays of it.

And Lestrade is not alone. For his strict rationality and masochism, John's almost as bad as the fans. It's the anticipation in John's eyes; the hope that Sherlock has caught the scent and is ten steps ahead of everyone else. For many cases—most cases, actually—that's true. It's Sherlock's claim to fame, as the papers so frequent state.

But this is different. His intellect is on the line. Perhaps more. There are eerie similarities between this girl and his past, and he can't sort out the details with any sense of clarity. There was no reason for her to die. Professional jealousy? Why bother? She was only a student after all. Angry lover? Lestrade insists the boyfriend is guiltless and John confirms the sentiment. Dead ends.

Blue eyes snap open. The room is dark, save for a lamp on the nightstand. Sherlock pushes the remaining papers from the bed onto the floor in a bout of juvenile anger. The nature to destroy, hurt, and punish he understands all too well. He has witnessed it over and over again. But there are varying degrees of the nature. Sherlock keeps a tight rein on it. Most killers don't.

He feels unclean. Sullied by the filth he can't remove and can't see past.

Sherlock begins to undress. Slowly peels away the shirt, then his pants. Walks into the bathroom and tries desperately to ignore the mirror's reflection. Almost succeeds, until, in his periphery, he catches a glimpse of the line of nicotine patches along both arms. In disgust, he tears them all off with a wince. They were making him nauseous anyway.

Sherlock turns on the shower and steps inside. Breathes in the steam. Hot water cascades down his pale naked flesh, which is already reddening from the heat. He's happily lost in the water. It's a loud cascade around his senses, deadening him to his thoughts and the world. It nearly hides the truth which has become so obvious. Sherlock feels himself teetering on the edge. John will learn more about him, and there is little he can do to prevent it. The case remains unsolved. He is a failure. He can't find the link. They are all counting on him. Waiting. Hoping. He hates those pitiful looks. Damn them all! Dull, unthinking creatures.

And perhaps more unsettling of all—there's someone out there who's outsmarted him. Who knows his mind and is playing a horrific little game.

Sometime later, his heart racing, Sherlock turns off the shower. He goes to the opposite side and slides down against the slick tile. Sits almost like a child would, knees pulled up and head resting in his folded arms. His dark mop of hair has straightened from the water, and he brushes it out of his eyes. It will dry soon enough. But for now, Sherlock doesn't care.

He would care if he knew that he was being watched. The camera is well placed—very well placed, so there's no shame that even someone as astute as Sherlock does not suspect it. Far away, the viewer sits and watches, leaning forward, hungry for every second as it unfolds on the monitor. The viewer is very good at discerning human behavior—on par with the prized quarry on screen now. And to see Sherlock so vulnerable—his beautiful, taut form glistening with drips of water—puts the viewer over the blissful edge of release. Utters a small cry, and then slowly recovers. All the while, the viewer never stops watching.

In a breathless voice, comes the whisper, "Sherlock, you're mine."