Fic: Your Refuge in the Night
Rating: PG15 (future references to drugs, violence, sex, etc)
Summary: With nowhere else to go and no one left who understands, Sherlock keeps in touch with a scattered few over the time he is chasing down the last of Moriarty's web and they are fighting their own battles back home.
Additional Notes: This is going to be a series of ficlets connected under the premise up there, focusing on the relationship between Sherlock and various characters over the three-year period between Reichenbach and Sherlock's return. No particular chronology, sporadic updates, etc, etc. Hope you enjoy! Title is from "Please Come Back Home" by Erik Bledsoe.

Come Home - Molly

Sherlock steps into the safe house Molly has set up for him while he's back in London. The first thing he notices is that it's damp, and the floors creak whenever he crosses the threshold, but he's only planning on staying long enough to catch a particularly vicious con artist that hadn't left the city when his master did. Then it'll be on to the next one - the next criminal, the next hunt, the next city, until there are no more to hunt and no more places to hide.

It's been months already, but it shows no sign of stopping; this vicious cycle spins on, the web thickens and twists, and sometimes he wonders if this was the right choice. Particularly now that he is here, the place where he began, and now that he has seen...

His eyes squeeze shut, but the data doesn't delete. Can't. He's learned in the trying. Some things were too strong for even his powerful mind. Some things fell into the deep spaces and never were able to find their way out. Some fell, and were held there, protected in the dark by forces he couldn't himself begin to explain.

When his eyes open, it's to hear the door knob jiggling as a key twists in the lock. There's only a moment of fear, when he forgets that no one knows him anymore and wonders how they could have possibly found him so fast when I was so careful, so very careful - but Molly appears in the crease of the door as it opens, and he relaxes as she closes it and turns slowly to face him for the first time in four months.

For a moment they stand there in the dim light of the hallway, sizing one another up. Even in the dark, they note the changes - she's let her hair grow long; a new tan sits uncomfortably on his face; all the little details that mark their time apart. They are abruptly struck by how real all of this suddenly seems, and the long days rest more heavily in that moment upon their shoulders than they ever have before. But still, they don't speak of it.

At last, she breathes a heavy sigh. "It's good to see you, again." She takes a step forward, then hesitates, her arms raised just slightly. She lowers them awkwardly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear instead, and instead gestures into what he assumes is the living room.

"Is it -"

"It's good to see you, too," he finally says, haltingly, and she jumps a little in surprise at the unexpected interruption.

A tense smile flashes on her face, but it's gone in an instant, and as the light of it fades from her features Sherlock is struck by how tired she looks. Things that were easy to miss in the first once-over when he was so weary himself, but things even she's been working to hide. But not from him - deep circles ring her red eyes, and her gait is shuffling as she starts forward into the living room. All signs of sleep deprivation and deep emotional stress, but he does not understand, why, when she has been here all this time and just keeping a secret at most -

"Is it alright?" she begins again, patting one of the mildewing pillows. Dust or worse rises into the air, and she teeters backwards, turning an apologetic eye in his direction. "I couldn't find much better on such short notice, and we're running out of funds as it is..." She trails off, looking as lost as her words as she stands in the middle of the empty room, the scent of dust and decay all around her. He narrows his eyes, deep concentration settling into the wrinkles of his forehead as he gives a passing, distracted nod and devotes his attention instead to the woman who he has known for so long, and really never known at all, for all his deductions and intelligence.

After a few moments of this strained silence, she gives a weak laugh. "Sherlock, why're you staring at me? Not enough people to deduce in your travels?"

"Plenty," he replies, and for a moment they're both shocked at how raspy his voice sounds, vocal chords unused to the extended conversation. He clears his throat. "Plenty of people." Just none that counted. None I... none I care...

His face remains unreadable, and it's up to her to abandon the subject and instead pull a packet from the bag at her side. She hands it over the coffee table in the center of the room, and he sits down with it on the opposite sofa. "I got the information you asked for on Andrews. You should be able to... uh, get him tomorrow. There are also train tickets; you should head to Belgium for Morgan, who's next on the list. It leaves at eight, so you're sort of on a time limit..." While she speaks, Sherlock rifles through the file. Pictures of his target, schedule, profile - his eyes widen fractionally. She's done her homework. Much more than asked.

He looks up, but she's still rattling off instructions that he's only half-listening to. It's all in the file, anyway.

"'ll want to get the hotel number, too, I don't think we're going to be able to get you a house while you're there -"

He's flipping through directions to Andrews' place of work when two photos slip out from the bottom and flutter gently to his lap. He picks them up, peers closer. Almost drops them again.

His jaw works. No sound escapes, and to his ears her voice seems glaringly loud in the dark and empty room as it rises over the sudden pounding in his ears. "Molly," he manages at last, and it comes out a whisper. She stops instantly nonetheless, and her eyes immediately go to the two Polaroids in his hand.

John, glorious, unforgettable John - at lunch in a cafe, his eyes downcast under the harsh afternoon light as he hunches over his food. John, again, blurry but visible - it's him, really him, god, how is it - as he shuffles down one of London's many streets. And Sherlock can read it all, just as clearly as he ever was able; the limp in his leg and the strain in his shoulder, the pain and loss in his haunted eyes that he never could quite hide. Not from him, nothing from him. To Sherlock, John was an open book, and as his thumb ghosts over the gloss he realizes how much a tragedy their narrative has become. How fiercely he dares to hope for a better conclusion at the end of its pages; one that does not leave them as irreparably shattered as this broken man who stares up at him from the photographs seems to be.

Her dark gaze slides back to his, and in the silence that seems to be their mode of functioning, they regard one another.

And abruptly, in the moments it takes him to fly over her sad face, he knows the cause behind her lowered eyelids; understands the pale cast to her skin and the wan tint of her lips. He is destroying an empire, but she is picking up the pieces of the destruction he left behind. And it is much harder to put something together than it is to break it.

"Molly," he says again, and it's a revelation in the air, a breath of wonder and a praise and a mourner's lament all in one. Molly did not attend his funeral, he knows, if only because they cannot rest in peace themselves until it is all finished. Here, clothed in the black of this wretched, forgotten flat, and away from the prying eyes of the public, they do their mourning - in the seconds it takes for Molly to slide a hand over the fist he has clenched at the edges of the photographs, until his fingers relax and he expels a breath he did not realize he had been holding.

"It's just - just in case you ever need a reason."

He swallows, nods fractionally. Does not meet her eyes again. "Thank you." It's for more than the reason, though he does not tell her just how much lately he's been needing a reason.

She stands, hand withdrawing, and the centimeters between them are almost desperate as they move towards the door. There's a wealth of words in that quiet space, and another touch that could be delivered just so. Enough to sustain. Just enough, until the end. But they are not those people. She is not the young, naive girl who had pined after him for years, and he is not the detective who dismissed and manipulated her for his own ends. She is much more careful with her heart after all that she has seen, and his is somewhere outside his body, now, sitting in an empty flat, making tea and reading or blogging or whatever it was John did without him these days. No, they are these people, now, who will not allow themselves to break so far before the finish. There is work to be done.

But it's enough, to share their deep even breaths, and feel the warmth brought by the truth of their cause in the shadowed figure of the only other one who knows. A certain comfort, and a weight, that brings them down to earth and focuses them on a path that is so easy to lose, in the many miles between his cities and the many smiles she sends a broken man who can never quite smile back.

There is so much they are waiting for, but they are strong enough to see it through.

She leaves, but that weight does not. It's just another added burden that sends a tired shudder through his limbs as he starts upstairs to catch a bare hour of sleep before it all begins again. Their vicious cycle, their rising action, the long journey that lay ahead for impossible distances - but had an end in sight.

Yet as he passes the kitchen on his way up, weak moonlight filtering through the shabby curtains, it becomes a little closer. A red flower, fresh and still just barely glistening with dew, sits on the table, a splash of color in a cold, dark place. The two pictures lie side by side, and just at their edges, a crumpled piece of paper.

In crisp, neat handwriting - trembling just slightly, but he knows it through its twists and curves as one he's seen on many autopsies, and he will not forget it even now - the words curve over the center.

"Come home."

He heaves a sudden sigh, as something low and deep stirs within him at the words. A craving, an urge; a longing he has never felt while in the city he calls home. But maybe it's because it's not home, if home lies somewhere in that flat with that man, and not these mere, agonizing miles away. And oh, if only it were that easy, to cross those distances and find the solace he's been chasing with a gun in his hand and determination in his eyes.

And yet, her unshakable faith reminds him of another who had always believed in him. And because they deserve something for it - they all, every single figure who still cries out to him in his nightmares and whose threads he still feels tugging on the ache inside his chest - and maybe because he wants to feel that, too, he takes a pen from his coat pocket and scrawls a message back.

"I'm trying."

It's the least he can do, but somehow, he feels that this too, will be enough. Enough for the people who do not rest until the work is done. Who cannot truly come home until it is over.

Enough for those who have a reason - a renewed reason, that sings fresh in his mind as he sleeps his first dreamless sleep in weeks - to fight.