John doesn't know why they're bothering to have him identify the body. Sherlock's face is practically famous, even without the deerstalker.
Was, he doesn't think.
They didn't want him walking alongside Sherlock's hospital cart, but John hadn't let that stop him. He made frantic excuses as to why he should be there, insisting he was Sherlock's brother, and, when that didn't work, his cousin. He didn't think any of them believed him for a second but his determined, desperate eyes had won their begrudging permission.
Their permission. They. Them. It had always been John and Sherlock and them. John and Sherlock and everyone else in the world.
Now it's just John.
He didn't have any documents to prove his relation to Sherlock, so he'd had to sit outside the operating room in an uncomfortable hospital chair. Not that that mattered; he couldn't feel much anyway.
They'd drawn the blinds for god knows why. John was the only living thing outside. He supposed they hadn't wanted to disappoint him when their pathetic attempt at emergency resuscitation didn't work. John should have been obliging but instead he was angry, insulted. He is a doctor, after all. An army doctor. He knows what death looks like.
He'd just never expected to see it on Sherlock.
But that isn't true now, is it? In Sherlock's line of work, there's always a pressing and very real sense of danger, like every adventure, every breath could be your last. Maybe John had always expected to see Sherlock dead someday. Maybe he'd just prayed he wouldn't have to.
If he had prayed, actually, really prayed, would he still be here?
John had waited outside the room for what seemed like days, legs apart, elbows on his knees, face pressed into open palms. He tried to think of nothing, and then everything, finding neither of them helpful, and it was almost a relief when a soft-spoken nurse approached him, tapping him lightly on the shoulder to rouse him. Her face was stoic, and John was glad. If she'd been crying, he probably would have cried too.
"3:38," she had said in a quiet voice. Time of death, John knew, but only the official one. The real time of death had been accompanied by the shattering of a body on pavement. "We'd like you to confirm his identity," she continued.
And so here is John Watson, looming over the foot of a hospital bed. Sherlock is stretched out in front of him, wrapped modestly in a green paper gown, V-neck wide and open enough to show the entirety of his thin neck, making it appear longer, more fragile. Sherlock's usually pale skin is bone white and ghostly, a startling juxtaposition against his ink-dark hair, matted with blood, somehow even darker now. His eyes are gracefully, thankfully closed, and John knows he should be grateful for this but he can't be, can't help wishing that his final memory of those eyes, piercing and ice-blue, isn't them staring lifelessly at nothing as their owner lay bleeding on the pavement outside St. Bart's.
"Mr. Watson," says one of the doctors, but John doesn't turn to look. "Is this man Sherlock Holmes?"
John opens his mouth to speak, but his lips are dry, and they crack and bleed. Instead he nods, a heavy, definite nod. Yes, this is Sherlock Holmes.
Was, he doesn't think.
John licks the blood from his lip as the doctors and nurses shuffle out of the room. When everyone is gone, he nods again, this time to convince himself, but when he tries to raise his head, he finds it just sinks down again.
This is probably a good time to cry, he thinks, and he does, although he only manages a couple of tears. They are bitter and painful and don't help at all, but he knows Sherlock would have told him to get it out of the way.
"Tell me what's wrong."
"Molly…I think I'm going to die."
"…What do you need?"
"If I wasn't everything that you think I am, everything that I think I am…would you still want to help me?"
"What do you need?"
John freezes at the doorstep of 221B. He and Mrs. Hudson are just back from Sherlock's funeral, and he realizes with a horrible certainty that he fully expects to see Sherlock looking down at them from the staircase the minute they open the door. Sherlock, beaming, the hint of a smile curling the corner of his mouth, Sherlock waiting for John to arrive, to tell him about their next case, their next adventure.
Mrs. Hudson notices something wrong when John doesn't follow behind her. She starts to ask what's wrong, but John looks at her with eyes shaking, panicked and round and terrified. Mrs. Hudson adopts a look of sympathy.
"I understand, dear. You're worried you'll see him around the house. I've been feeling that way too, recently. I always think I hear his experiments at odd hours."
John nods, but that's not it. He isn't afraid of seeing Sherlock. He's afraid of not seeing Sherlock, of having to face the reality that he's truly well and gone.
He can't stay here, not at 221B, not feeling like this.
"I'll send for my things," he says, voice cracking slightly, and catches no more than a glimpse of Mrs. Hudson's surprised face before turning on his heel and darting away.
After several blocks of walking, he realizes he has no idea where he's going.
Scotland Yard, he thinks, but then dismisses the idea, Sherlock was there far too often. Out too, then, is Angelo's, and any other of Sherlock's usual haunts. He crosses off the hospital early on his list, but revisits the idea. It's the place Sherlock died, after all. It makes perfect sense.
He can't expect to see Sherlock alive there, John thinks, hopes. He heads towards the morgue.
"I saw him today. In the graveyard."
"Oh? Was he okay?"
"He's pulling through. Told me to stop being dead."
"Maybe you should listen to him."
"You know I can't. Nobody can know I'm alive; not Lestrade, not Mrs. Hudson, and-"
"Especially not John, right, you've said before, but that's not what I meant, Sherlock. Can't you…give him some hope? Some reason for him to keep moving on?"
"Hope is the worst thing I could give him right now. Hope distorts reality, makes it seem gray compared to the fantasies. Can you honestly say that, if he thought there was some hope that I'm alive, he wouldn't pour all his energies into finding me?"
"No…no, you're right. He'd follow your memory to the ends of the earth. We can't tell him."
"Thank you. For understanding."
"If it were John in your position, you can't say you wouldn't rather hope him alive than think him dead, can you?"
"I…no. I wouldn't say that."
Molly assures him that Sherlock's body isn't in any of the bags, but John insists on opening all of them anyway.
When he's identified every last corpse as not Sherlock he sighs in relief and looks up at Molly. She's wearing an unreadable expression, something between pity and discomfort.
"Sorry I…" John starts. "You must think…I've just come from the funeral but…"
Molly's soft eyes are bright in the florescent lighting.
"It's pathetic, I know," he tries again, "but I've been afraid of seeing him around, where I've seen him alive. I can't even live at the flat anymore. I just had to be sure I wouldn't see him dead, too."
"It's not pathetic!" Molly says as soon as John is finished, her voice louder than she expected and echoing of the walls of the morgue. John looks oddly at her. "It's not, not at all. You've just lost someone important, nobody expects you to act normally."
John sighs, but smiles slightly, a phantom sincerity. "Thanks, Molly."
"A-any time," she finishes awkwardly. She hadn't expected him to thank her.
A silence follows, both of them relishing in the eerie quiet of death surrounding them. Molly had wanted to deliver babies, when she was younger, wanted to witness the beginning of life, but after working in the morgue she understands that this is, very much, a part of life too. It's the opposite side of the spectrum, but it's just as inevitable, just as powerful, and Molly finds an odd comfort in it.
John's voice breaks through the stillness, a slight tremble in his usual tenor. "Do you…have his clothes?"
Molly nods and goes to the filing cabinets. There's a whole drawer, just for Sherlock, that he'd taken over just before his own disappearance. It's full of files and carefully labeled test tubes; it's almost as if it's been business as usual for the detective. But Molly knows better. Everything in that drawer is an effort to find any last connection to Moriarty, anything putting Sherlock in danger, anything preventing him from returning to John.
She reaches to the back of the drawer and pulls out pile of clothing, wrapped in plastic. She sets in on an autopsy table in front of John. He looks at her warily, hands hovering over the package, and Molly nods approvingly. He seizes it, the plastic crackling loudly as he pulls off the tape and unwraps the clothing, laying each piece out in a neat column.
Sherlock's scarf is blue-black and stiff with dried blood. His pants, somehow still in pristine condition after the long fall, perfectly creased, his shirt, collar spotted with dirt, dusty black jacket, shoes scuffed and devoid of their usual shine. The coat is last, and John touches it as little as possible, laying it out in its entirety. The top and bottom hang off the table; Sherlock was always just too tall for his own good.
John traces a finger around the arm hole of the coat, as if he's considering putting it on, but he withdraws quickly. It would be too close to Sherlock, too much like stepping into him.
"I'm not supposed to do this," says Molly from behind him, "but you can have that, if you want."
"Oh, no," says John, putting his hands up in front of him. "I couldn't."
"You should take it," she tells him, lifting the coat from the table and folding it into a neat square. "I'm sure he wants you to have it."
She realizes her mistake a second too late, but John doesn't seem to notice. Rather, his eyes grow wide, blue-gray and glittering under the phosphorescence, and he takes her hand, curling his fingers up her palm, holding it tight.
"Thank you," he whispers, taking the coat and cradling it in his arms.
"What did you do with my coat?"
"Aren't you wearing it?"
"You know what I mean. The other one. The one in my drawer, it's not there anymore."
"I…I gave it to him. To John."
"…Oh. Was he…was he alright?"
"He's seeing you everywhere, Sherlock. He looked at all the corpses to make sure he wasn't hallucinating. I thought, if he's got something of yours, it'll help."
"I slipped a bit, just one word. I said you wanted him to have the coat, not would have wanted him to have it. But he-"
"You have to be more careful from now on! Promise me you will be."
"I promise, Sherlock, but John didn't think about it like that."
"…What do you mean?"
"It's the way he looked at me when I said it, not like he had any hope or anything, just like…"
"Like what, Molly?"
"…like he's found someone who understands."
"I've gotten a position at a children's hospital," says John a month later. "It's nice work. Relaxing. Just sniffles and things."
Molly looks up from her cadaver. "That's wonderful, John. Any luck finding a new flat?"
"Found a little place on Cavendish," he says happily. "It's a bit steep, but I can afford it with this new job."
"That's really great," Molly says sincerely, setting down her scalpel and turning to John, who is staring wistfully at something in the corner of the room. The riding crop, Molly realizes, Sherlock's riding crop. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," says John, turning to her and looking startlingly unperturbed. "Yeah, I think I am. I think I'm…I've finally…"
"Moved on?" suggests Molly. John's mouth shifts oddly.
"I suppose," he agrees, a little bit sadly. "I never thought I'd be able to do anything without thinking of him but it's…surprisingly easy now, you know? Thinking about him won't bring him back. Does that make me a bad person?"
"No," she says. "It makes you human."
"You were right. The coat helped."
"How did you-?"
"On days when he's here I can smell drink. Today I can't."
"Did Mycroft drop off the files?"
"They're in your drawer."
"Um, Sherlock…I know what you're doing is dangerous, but if you need any help…"
"I can't ask for that from you, Molly. I can't endanger you; John needs you just as much as I do. And it would be taking advantage of your feelings."
"Jim took advantage of my feelings, Sherlock. For you, it would be helping a good friend. Two good friends. I know you've never noticed it because you've had John, but I knew you before, and I've always been willing."
"Thank you. But…when John was at my funeral, standing by my grave, he said…he said that he was so alone, that he owed me for saving him from his loneliness. The most you can do for me is to make sure that he's not alone again."
Weeks pass, then half a year, and in between meeting John by day and Sherlock by night, Molly Hooper realizes that she is what both of them need and neither of them want.
The two of them aren't used to depending on outsiders, she knows. They'd made a tiny little nest for themselves, one that others occasionally visited but never occupied. Their own world, made up of pieces of adventure, of warm, ringing laughter in inappropriate scenarios, of biscuit wrappers from snacks only John could coerce Sherlock to eat. They needed each other like they needed air.
They still do.
But now for Sherlock, there's no John, and for John there's no Sherlock. There's only Molly, for both of them, and she doesn't understand how she's avoided not one, but two emotional breakdowns in the past year.
Molly loved Sherlock, once, but she doesn't anymore. That would be masochistic. He'd made it clear a long time ago that any romantic intentions directed towards him from anyone are aspirations of absolute idiocy. But sometimes she sees him in the darkness of the morgue, his pale face vibrantly white, even in the yellow light of his desk lamp. Sometimes she watches his icy eyes dart violently back and forth from under long, dark eyelashes, tracing the outline of some microscopic evidence, and she wonders if she isn't an idiot anyway.
Maybe they're all idiots.
Molly is peeling back the skin of a dead woman's toe when John strolls in, beaming smile on his face and bouquet in arm.
"I've got a date," he says in a higher pitch than normal, bobbing the flowers (lilies) for emphasis.
"Oh?" Molly replies, replacing the skin and zipping the corpse up.
"She brought in a child with a dislocated shoulder. Not her child, I mean! She's a private tutor. Single."
"Asked her out, did you?" says Molly with a proud smile.
"Other way round, actually," he responds, flushing a little but looking incredibly happy. "It's like there was this…instant attraction between us."
"What's her name?" Molly asks.
"Mary," says John. "Er, I've actually got to meet her now, I just thought I'd let you know."
Molly grins. "Thank you, John. I hope you and Mary have a great time."
John nods. "I hope so, too."
"How long has he been seeing her?"
"I was wondering when you'd be asking that. A few months now."
"You've been wondering—did you just assume I've been too afraid to ask until now?"
"Haven't you been?"
"No I…no, that's not it. I just didn't realize-"
"…Sherlock, don't tell me you didn't pick up on it until just now? He's been seeing her for ages!"
"You didn't tell me."
"I've never had to tell you things before. Usually you can tell what he's thinking by the chocolate wrappers he leaves behind, how was I supposed to predict you wouldn't catch-"
"His cologne changed a few months ago, I thought it was because of the job but that must be it…stupid, stupid, so bloody obvious…"
"Sherlock, don't beat yourself up over it."
"You don't understand, Molly, I've made a mistake. Failing to notice something so apparent, I must be losing-"
"That's not honestly what you're upset about, is it?"
"Why wouldn't it be? What else do I have to be upset about?"
"Maybe the fact that John's moving on, starting a life without you?"
"How would that upset me? John's my friend. I'm supposed to be happy that he's moving on."
"…what do you mean?"
"You've just said it, haven't you? You're supposed to be happy. That means you've acknowledged that you're not. Happy, I mean."
"Where's the point in me being happy? I'm hiding from everyone save you and Mycroft, I can't be seen in daylight, and the only thing preventing me from returning is Moriarty's sniper squad and if I confront them directly they might…"
"They might…hurt him."
"And you're doing all this so you can go back to him, I know. But doesn't it bother you that he might not be there to return to? He could marry Mary, move away, have a child."
"No, Sherlock, he wouldn't, not if he knew you're alive. The point is, he doesn't, and you can't expect him to be tied down to your memories! He needs his own life to live. He would choose you in a second, even with the danger of being with you, but you're choosing his safety over his happiness."
"So what am I supposed to do, then?"
"You have to let him move on. If you're going to allow him to continue to think you dead, you need to accept that."
"I can't let him know I'm alive, Molly. You know I can't."
"So let him go."
"It's not like I'm in a position to do anything else."
"I know. So come here."
"…Molly, you know I'm not really-"
"No, you're not. But you need this. Not from me, but I'm all you've got right now, unless you want me to call your brother."
"That's the very last thing I want you to do."
"Then come here."
"…oh, Sherlock, you're so cold!"
"The morgue isn't exactly known for its warmth."
"There's the Sherlock I know."
John Watson looks dreadful as he dashes into the morgue, and considering Molly has just finished with a bludgeoning victim, that's saying something.
The chill of deep winter has set in around London, and the cold rush of air as John bursts through the doors raises the hair on Molly's arms. His boots are soggy with slush, murky brown snow dripping off of them onto the polished floor, squeaking loudly with every step he takes. Normally Molly would scold him for such a messy entrance, but his eyes are hollowed, set above the dark shadows of sleep deprivation, and he looks to be in no sort of temperament to be told to wipe his shoes. What he does look is tattered, in shambles, panicked yet somehow resigned.
The resignation becomes more obvious when John stops suddenly, a few feet away from Molly's autopsy table, staring desolately at the floor. He opens his mouth and says in a toneless voice:
"I'm going mad."
The admission is quiet, submissive, and all Molly can think to respond with is, "What?"
"I saw him," says John, not looking at her still. "Mary and I were on the bus, going on a date, and I saw him from the window, I saw him, Molly. I knew it wasn't him, that it couldn't have been him, but…"
Slowly, he raises his head, his eyes round and shaking, looking at Molly desperately. He starts to approach her but his leg is trembling and his ankle folds under him, sending him tumbling towards the floor. He breaks the fall with his elbow, which will surely develop a bruise in the next hour.
"John!" cries Molly, running to his side and helping him up. "John, it's okay, you're alright."
John chokes back a dry sob. "But I saw-"
"Shh," coos Molly. "You didn't see anything. There wasn't anything there."
He swallows. "I had to cancel on Mary. She said it was fine but I could tell she was upset. She's probably-"
"No, no, John, she's not angry. She'll forgive you, just take her out again. Everything's fine."
"Just like him, though," says John gloomily, just the slightest hint of humor in his voice. "Just like Sherlock, to be dead and still ruin my relationships."
Molly doesn't laugh. She wonders if she is supposed to.
She pats his back instead, feeling John becomes calm, taking long, relaxed breaths. He exhales slowly, like he's letting out a puff of smoke from a cigarette, and says, in a hauntingly level voice:
"I'm going to ask her to marry me."
"They're bloody engaged! It's only been a few months, not even a full year!"
"It's your fault, you know."
"My fault? Just how is this my fault?"
"If you hadn't pulled your little publicity stunt, he wouldn't have panicked himself into proposing! Seeing you from that bus window was the last straw; he thinks if he doesn't start a family he'll never be able to forget you."
"He's correct, of course."
"Of course he's correct, Sherlock, and that's your problem, too. You don't want him to forget you."
"I don't want him rushing into a marriage that won't work out because of something like this!"
"How do you know it won't work out?"
"I've seen her, Molly. She's far too domestic for him. She's blonde for god's sake, and not natural either. She tutors children. She's lead a privileged, sheltered life. She'd never be able to understand him, or his past in the army."
"Domestic beats dead, Sherlock."
"But I'm not dead!"
"He doesn't know that! You can't just keep reminding him of your existence by appearing randomly in the street! He'll think he's mental! His wife will think he's mental!"
"She's not his wife yet."
"Sherlock…look, if you want to be a part of John's life, all you need to do is reveal yourself. He'd trade his own safety to be with you in a second."
"…I can't, Molly. It's too dangerous right now."
"Then let him marry her, Sherlock. For whatever reason, you're no longer a part of his life anymore. Until you can come back safely, leave him be."
"I said you're right, Molly. I can't keep tying him down."
"He'll have a beautiful wife and children, a wonderful home, perhaps a dog…"
"Stop, just…stop. You can't-"
"Can't what, Molly? Give up? Let him live without me? Isn't that what you were just telling me to do?"
"I didn't think you'd agree with me! I thought you'd defy me completely, say to hell with the dangers and run to him!"
"The world doesn't operate like a novel, much to your disbelief."
"But yours did, Sherlock! Yours and John's. You had adventures. You saved people."
"And maybe this is me, saving John."
Mary is likely very beautiful as she walks down the aisle, her father's arm threaded through her own. She's probably the most gorgeous bride Molly has ever seen, but, as everyone else's eyes trail Mary's approach, Molly is watching John.
He looks as good as he ever has since Sherlock's death, healthy and handsome in his army uniform. (Mary had apparently insisted.) The dark shadows are gone, and in their place is a rosy complexion, a shy smile lifting his cheeks and lengthening his glowing blue-gray eyes. To everyone else at the wedding, he's the happiest man in the world.
But Molly catches the fleeting glances he tries to hide, tries to pass off with a wink to the crowd or a cough. They're all directed towards the empty spot a few feet away from him; the place where his best man should be standing.
Where Sherlock should be standing,
When Mary reaches him, when they stand side by side and arm in arm as their vows are being read, John stops looking over his shoulder. He says "I do" with confidence and follows it with a deep kiss. The crowd cheers as the happy couple turns around.
A few family members come up to congratulate them, and as they do, Molly notices the tiniest flicker of hopelessness behind John's eyes. He glances once more at the spot where Sherlock Holmes should be, and upon seeing nothing there, he closes his eyes, longer than a blink but not long enough for anyone to be concerned. When he opens his eyes, the beaming look of happiness is back.
As he's pulled aside for his photo-shoot with Mary, Molly slips out the church doors.
"How was the wedding?"
"Oh, lovely. Extravagant. He wrote you an invitation, you know. He probably didn't know what to do with it, but still…nice bit of sentiment, don't you think?"
"No, it's…thank you, Molly."
"I think he was expecting you to show up, though. And I'm not lying this time."
Molly doesn't see John for months after the wedding.
When she finally does, it is the middle of a cool August day, and John is staggeringly drunk. Every step looks as if he's about to trip over his own ankles, and as Molly scurries over to the doorway to the morgue, he does, toppling into Molly's arms. He reeks of alcohol.
"John, what's happened?" says Molly, and even though she speaks softly, John still feels her voice pound in his ears.
"Had a fight," he says defeatedly. "With M—Mary."
"Oh, John," Molly sighs, patting his back fondly and pulling back to look at him. Immediately after she lets go, he stumbles forward. She grabs hold of his shoulders to steady him and slowly lowers him to the ground so they're both kneeling. Suddenly she notices a large, dark object folded over John's arm. "What's this?"
John holds the object closer to him. "The coat. Sherlock's coat. I've kept in on the coatrack at Cavendish Place…Mary wanted to wear it last night, as we were going to dinner…" He's visibly trembling now, eyes red with unshed tears and too many hours at the pub. "I wouldn't let her wear it. I couldn't! It was what he d-died in. The last thing he ever wore. I just couldn't…I can't…!"
Molly opens her mouth to reassure him, but she realizes quickly that there's nothing to say.
John sleeps in the morgue that night. Molly had looked at him disapprovingly when he'd asked, but ultimately, her sympathy outweighed her sense of workplace morality. Besides, if he wanted to sleep among corpses, who was she to stop him?
Sherlock's coat is folded under his head. It no longer smells like blood and Sherlock; since the change in ownership it has taken on John's scent, musky and sweet, something dark and blended and different every time, something like good coffee.
He thinks, just before he wakes, he can feel a cool hand run down his cheek, but when he opens his eyes, everyone in the morgue save him is cold and dead.
Molly started reading the obituaries soon after meeting Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock himself always seemed to know when someone interesting had died, and it benefitted Molly immensely to be on the same page as the genius detective, even if it was only a name or a place and time of death. She certainly never expected to see anyone she knew there.
So Molly Hooper is rightly surprised when, nearly six months after John's last visit, she recognizes a name. Suddenly, all the air is sucked from her lungs. Stripped of breath and shaking, she reads:
Mary Watson, age 31
Killed in car crash, March 19th, 20XX
Husband John Watson kindly requests privacy at this time.
At first, Molly is utterly terrified and unable to move. The date is from two weeks ago; why hadn't John mentioned anything? When she finally gains control of her motor skills, the first thing she does is take out her phone and, privacy be damned, call John.
Somehow, she isn't really shocked when she hears John's ringtone from the front room. Emerging from her office, she sees John peering sheepishly from the door. Every line in his face is more pronounced than usual; a visible sheen of red coats his face, hot and sticky from tears, his eyes tired and bloodshot. Sherlock's coat is held behind his back.
"Sorry I didn't invite you to the funeral," he says. "Wanted to keep it small."
"I'm so sorry, John," says Molly as kindly as possible. John smiles weakly.
"Me too. She was…visiting her mother. When it happened, I mean. I think the cabby was drunk."
"That's horrible," replies Molly. "I mean it, John, no one deserves-"
"We'd barely been married a year," John interrupts, and Molly isn't even sure John can hear her anyway. "We didn't have time to start a family, get to know each other completely! And the worst-"
John's voice cracks. A few fresh tears stream from the corner of his eye.
"The worst part is that I saw him at her funeral. Bloody Sherlock, Molly! I looked up at her casket and he was just there, looking into her coffin, like he was sincerely sad, or something. My own wife's funeral, and all I could think about was Sherlock! Why would I imagine that, Molly? He wouldn't even do that at my funeral!"
"You're wrong," Molly says at once. "He would do it, for you. He would do anything for you. Would have done."
John tenses slightly, and then relaxes, nodding a little. "You're right. It's not his fault I'm seeing things. But anyway, I came here to return this."
He holds out the coat. Molly meets his eyes with a questioning gaze.
"I'm realizing now that I need to let him go. I mean really, this time. I can't just keep thinking he's some guardian spirit, protecting me."
"John…" Molly says, a little more desperate sounding than she'd intended. "I can't. You keep it."
"No," John replies assertively, pushing the coat into her arms. "I mean it. It's taken nearly three years to see it, but I have to forget about him. Maybe marry again, start a family.
He smiles, a painful smile that pierces Molly's heart, but as quickly as it appears, the smile fades, to be replaced with a look of utter hopelessness.
"Ah, sorry, that was a lie. I don't think I can try this again. I've already lost too many important people. You understand me, Molly, you're probably the only one who does. That's enough, I suppose."
He embraces her briefly, planting a fleeting kiss on her cheek.
"Thank you, Molly Hooper. I'm going to go get pissed now; I might ask for the coat back when I'm drunk. Do me a favor and don't give it to me."
Molly watches helplessly as he heads for the door, Sherlock's coat still clutched loosely in her arms.
"You utter bastard, Sherlock, how could you?"
"Molly, I didn't-"
"No, just…no. You have absolutely no excuse."
"Please, believe me. I had no intention of being seen at the funeral. I lingered too long at the coffin, that's all. I know it's my fault."
"It is your fault. He's completely broken now."
"I would have prevented the death if I could have. That's honestly how I feel now, but Molly…"
"I…I wanted her dead. I wanted her gone. I thought maybe John would…"
"What, Sherlock? What did you think John would do?"
"I don't know. I just…I didn't want him to be with her."
"It wasn't just her, though, was it? You didn't really want her dead, either. You just want John to be yours only."
"Well I've got news for you, Sherlock. You can't have him because you're dead. You chose this path, whether to protect him or not, and if you're not willing to risk his safety for his happiness than you have no right at all to see him, or to go to his wife's funeral, or to even think about him until you've convinced yourself that you've made the playing field safe enough for him!"
"…you're right. You're absolutely right, Molly. I was convincing myself that I was keeping him safe. I was just too afraid of losing him again. But I can't do this anymore, and it looks like neither can John."
"Sherlock, you don't mean-"
"Yes, Molly, I do. Tell him to come here, June the sixteenth; exactly three years since I last saw him."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. I'm more sure than I've ever been in my entire life….why are you laughing?"
"Because you're an idiot!"
"Because it's taken you three years to realize that he needs you as much as you need him."
John walks into the morgue on the eve of June the sixteenth with a calm demeanor. He's developed a strict regime since Mary's death composed entirely of work, eating and sleeping, and he is looking forward to seeing Molly again, to seeing the one person on this earth who has an inkling of what he's gone through.
Molly, however, is not there as he closes the doors behind him. The fluorescent lighting crackles above him, revealing a pile of empty body bags and several wide, barren dissection tables. The door to Molly's office is open, though, so John walks toward it, yelling, "Molly? Are you in?"
"I have to thank you for taking such good care of my coat," responds a growling baritone. Framed in the doorway of Molly's office is Sherlock Holmes.
John manages to produce a tiny noise of shock before his eyes go dark and he falls forward. He's out before Sherlock catches him.
When John Watson comes to in Sherlock's arms, Molly is wavering at the door leading out of the morgue. She can hear John's desperate, disbelieving tone, and Sherlock's deep voice, oddly soothing. They talk for a while, and then suddenly there is silence.
She won't stay to hear the gentle weeping, the muffled moans of relief and pleasure, the sound of a body pressed against a wall, breathing hot and quick and alive. Tomorrow she will return to her office to find it exactly as she left it, minus a certain coat. Tomorrow they will both be gone.
Her role is now over, she knows. She is no longer needed, no longer vital. She only hopes that they'll both someday recognize what she's done for them; the words shared by day, and the things said in darkness.
Smiling to herself, Molly Hooper slips out of the morgue and into the waiting night.