And, the last piece in the sequence, Two. (Confusing, I know - first Three, then One, now Two - I ain't so good with numbers). There might be a one chapter follow-up to this one, so stay tuned... I'm not sure I like it just yet...
She thinks about him all the time.
It's been over three months now since she last saw him, and nearly a year since he plunged off of the rooftop of the hospital and straight into the rhetoric of mainstream cultural myth. She sees his face in the papers, in the tabloid rags and even in the Sunday Times, accompanied by headlines like "The Man Behind The Myth" and "The Reichenbach Hero: Did He Fake His Own Death?". Sometimes she buys a copy, giving the man behind the counter a couple quid for a paper, staring mostly at the photos and wondering exactly where the detective in the funny hat has gone.
She doesn't think he'll come back. She knows that it's pessimistic, that it's defeatist - that maybe, just maybe, he'll find a way to defeat Moriarty and come back (after all, if anyone could do it, wasn't it him?). But in her heart of hearts, down past where she keeps all her irrational and unfounded hopes and dreams, she can't help but think that she won't ever see Sherlock Holmes again.
So she buys the papers and she brings them home, staring at the photos while holding a hand over her still flat stomach, eyes fixed on a man she used to know. She wonders if those cheekbones are genetic or if that mop of unruly black hair can be passed on. (She doesn't wonder about the eyes, though - those razor sharp and electric blue eyes...)
He thinks about her all the time.
He doesn't mean to. He doesn't sit alone, moping like an adolescent schoolgirl moaning over a crush, constantly preoccupied with thoughts of unrequited love. Besides, the business with Moriarty means he can't ever even just sit still - he always has to be on his toes, three steps ahead, ever vigilant and ever aware of potential hidden daggers in dark alleyways and the possibility of poison in his coffee.
But he thinks about her anyways. Little snippets, little flashes - the sound of her voice as she stammers out a response to him in the lab; the way she would roll her ankle nervously when standing next to him; the feel of her skin pressed against his, warm and tender and somehow familiar, always leaving him wanting more.
He doesn't love her. He's not sure he loves anyone - or that he ever really could. What he does know is that she counts. She counts and she is important and he won't let any harm come to her, not now and not ever.
So he checks in on her. Sometimes he'll ride the train with her, to or from work, watching her read the paper or play games on her phone or just sit there, contemplative and silent in the middle of a crowd. Sometimes he'll wait in the chip shop, picking away at his overcooked food, looking at her with his periphery vision as she orders take away for one. Sometimes he'll even follow her home, on the nights where she works until long past midnight, an invisible guardian staving off the harm that comes for single, white women alone in the dark.
He comes and goes, leaving London for Budapest when he hears mention of a man who can get anything done, then heading to Sarajevo when he gets wind of whispers of a consultant who will orchestrate crime for cash, and then onto Moscow, and Nairobi, and on and on and on. He works hard to track Moriarty down, but it's hard work to do as a dead man, a ghost without any real identity, a man without a home.
When he finally returns to London, months and months later, he finds an infant in Molly Hooper's arms.
He can't say he isn't surprised. He'd observed things, little clues, when he'd been watching her from afar. No more coffee in the mornings, no more sushi on Friday evenings with the other staff, no wine on Sunday afternoons when she'd sit in her flat alone with a book.
But this, this is different. Before it had just been an idea, a theoretical concept, only one potential outcome out of a million. He had been content to only think of it scientifically, with a objective eye and a removed approach. Molly had stopped drinking wine. Molly had stopped drinking coffee. Ergo, Molly was pregnant. Cause and effect.
But now... now he doesn't even really know what to think.
He watches her with it - with him, he supposed. A little tiny human, seven or eight months old. From what he can tell, the boy is strong and hale and healthy, a mass of black curls upon his disproportionately large head, a fine young specimen of the human species. Molly seems to be a good mother, an attentive mother - always there when her son fussed, or yelled, or cried. He finds it strange to see her acting in such ways, the mousy little pathologist that he'd known for so long, to be taking control and asserting herself as the sole caretaker for another being's life.
She looks happy, playing with her son. Her cheeks are red, her eyes are bright - she is a new woman, a different woman, a woman with purpose and meaning in life. She tickles him under his little chin and the boy laughs, one of those pure and honest laughs that only the very young can ever achieve. They look normal - ordinary - and he suddenly finds himself thinking (insanely) that maybe ordinary isn't such a bad thing to be...
For one brief moment, watching her with her child, a picture of quiet domesticity, he wonders what it would be like to be a father. How easy it would be, to step across the road to the park where they are sitting, to take that smiling and laughing baby into his arms. How simple it would be to become like all other fathers across the world, rocking his child to sleep in the night, playing with him in the day, caring for him like all the fathers in all the years before him. He could become ordinary, just like all other men, normal, so normal.
But Sherlock Holmes isn't like other men, and never will be.
So he stays on his side of the road, unseen on his bench, watching a woman he once knew play with a child he'd never know.