This was written for a prompt on the Sherlolly meme:

"Like a knight going off to war, when Sherlock goes off to fight Moriarty's network, he takes a favor from Molly Hooper.
(Of course, favors are normally *given* but Sherlock isn't really one for manners.)"

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Sherlock leaned against the sill and blew smoke through the screen. It was a risk, remaining in the window but it was past midnight. Some things were worth it. Nicotine was one of them. If he didn't crack the window open, Molly would smell it and wake up and shout at him from the bedroom. She'd want to know what was going on, and she might hear him leave.

It's better if she doesn't know, he reminded himself. There might be…a scene. Crying and feelings. That sort of thing. He didn't need distractions. Not when he was so close to getting his life, his freedom, back. He might die trying, but at least there would be no more hiding, suffocating with secrecy.

It was time. Mycroft had cleared him for transportation to Northern Ireland, where the latest tip placed Sebastian Moran. Moriarty's favorite hitter had moved quickly, mobilizing his employer's organization after his sudden disappearance three months before. A meeting was set for Belfast, and Sherlock Holmes intended to be there to strike at the resurgent heart of the criminal world. He was ready to make a move. The waiting game had frazzled his nerves and driven him to several four-patch days. But it was finally time and there was nothing left for him to do but wait for the car to arrive.

He scanned the room again in the darkness, challenging himself to deduce even with poor visibility. He shouldn't bother, since he would delete most of the details. The bookshelves almost in total disarray, but with the pathology-connected books gathered in one section closest to Molly's favorite side of the sofa. (He pushed away the thought that the other half of the seat had become his.) A pile of ignored bills on the coffee table (they would be paid by his brother despite her protests on the matter). The thick folder of files she'd brought home from St. Barts, pretending not to notice when Sherlock would explore the more interesting autopsy details. The Amanda Quick romance novel with the spine split and the pages more worn in the overtly sexual chapters. (It was amusing to deduce that one in front of her. Her brown eyes had a cinnamon tint to them when she was flushed and embarrassed.) The red ceramic bowl on the table by the door, where she dropped her keys every time she came home, along with hair ties and other odds and ends from her pockets. From his perch by the window, Sherlock could see glints of blue and silver and gold atop the overflowing pile in the bowl.

It was a collection of small items she'd accumulated over the years. She swore every week that she was going to toss out the keys leftover from old gym padlocks, and the broken hair ties, but Molly never got around to it. His pathologist seemed to abandon all sense of order whenever she walked into her flat every night. She was ruthlessly tidy in the morgue and the laboratory but her flat was chaotic. Clean, but in an order that made sense only to her, and to Sherlock who saw the underlying patterns of placement.

"Besides, it's fun!" Molly explained to Sherlock, who looked at her in disbelief. "You never know what we're going to find in my flat. Last year, I found a package from my mum atop the fridge, that I'd never opened. I put it there so Toby wouldn't get at it, and I forgot it. It was brilliant, getting a Christmas package two months late." Then Molly made a face, and smothered a laugh with the back of her hand.

"It was food, wasn't it." Sherlock rolled his eyes as Molly laughed openly and nodded.

She was a bit ridiculous sometimes, with her bad jokes and complete inability to disguise her feelings. But she didn't get angry and shout as much as John did when it came to body parts in the kitchen, and so he tolerated her.

You could get used to anything, he thought. Even Molly Hooper who he thought would drive him insane with her attentiveness and worry the first week he stayed with her. She relaxed after a couple weeks, and she and Sherlock found a rhythm in living together. He learned to knock before entering her bedroom (to confiscate her toiletries for experiments, naturally), and she learned to not wake him when he fell asleep on the sofa. She was chattier than John, as a flatmate, which was annoying, but when he'd had the flu, she rubbed his back and didn't chide him for being whiny the way John did. So both had their advantages as flatmates. He had always trusted her, but slowly, he began to actually know her.

They had come a long way since the disastrous Christmas party when he'd realized how utterly blind he had been. How could he recognize an emotion he had never felt and didn't want to feel? It wasn't fair. Every centimeter of her that night was etched into his mind, from the snug black dress, to her red lips, to her artful waves, to the Christmas bow pinned in her soft hair. He couldn't delete any of it. He couldn't fathom why, but when Molly had accused him of saying horrible things, her usually cheery and admiring voice cracking, he knew he had broken something.

And now he was leaving.

Sherlock stubbed out the cigarette in an ashtray that used to be a teacup saucer, and found himself nudging open the door to Molly's bedroom. He could see her arm dangling over the side of the bed, and her long fawn-colored hair spilling across the pillows. Her breaths came evenly, her chest rising and falling beneath the purple flowered quilt.

He neared the bed, and lifted her arm up, resting her hand on her stomach. She sighed in her sleep, her face smooth and peaceful as he let go of her fingers. He wondered if he should shake her awake and say goodbye, say thank you, do whatever it was that normal people were supposed to do. But instead he quietly stood watching her for another minute, until he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket.

Sherlock turned and slipped out of the room without a backward glance. The message was from Mycroft, of course. Even he would condescend to text in situations like this. He was downstairs in the car.

Accompanying me to the first train, Sherlock mused. Big brother must be getting sentimental, seeing me off himself.

Sherlock grabbed his coat off a chair, and headed for the door. He lifted his hand to reach for the doorknob but paused and turned to look back one more time.

Light breathing could be heard from the bedroom.

It's easier if I go, if I never come back, Sherlock reminded himself. No more heads in the freezer, no more words that make her cry, no more mocking the idiots on Crimewatch while Molly laughed, no more-

Moonlight reflected off something in the bowl by the door and caught his eye, cutting off Sherlock's train of thought. The assortment of unmatched earrings and rubber bands and used batteries had buried something larger and solidly colored. Recognition tickled at the back of Sherlock's mind.

He dipped his fingers into the pile and tugged on the metallic gleam. It was pliant to the touch, and as he pulled it free, Sherlock realized it was a bow.

He turned it over in his hand, frowning. A silver Christmas bow, with a tiny hair clip glued to the back. She'd made it herself, he could see, the rough edges of the glue showing around the metal clasp. A single short hair had been trapped in it. He studied it. She'd pulled the clip out hastily that night, and buried her hopeful, whimsical bow in a pile of forgotten, useless things.

Without thinking, Sherlock pocketed the bow and ducked out the door, closing it behind him.

In the car, Mycroft waited, his face lined and weary. The logistics of breaking down Moriarty's empire weighed just as much, if not more, on his brother. The spider's web was vast and frightfully resilient.

"You took approximately two minutes longer than required to get from the flat to the car. Problems?"

"None." Sherlock's eyes took in his brother's form, noting the signs of excessive caffeine intake, more frequent nightcaps, and the massage he'd had that afternoon. "Stress getting to you, Mycroft?"

"Not at all, dear brother. We had discussed leaving all of your personal items in case you're captured. Do you plan on leaving that with me? It would be wiser."

"Leaving what?" Sherlock's left eyebrow rose.

"The item in your pocket you've been touching since you got into the car."

Sherlock yanked his hand out of his pocket, the silver bow staying behind.

"No, it's nothing. Doesn't matter. Unfinished business. Part of a puzzle I'm working on. I'll get back to it when we've finished Moran."

"I'll look after her, naturally. In case you disappear again, as you are prone to doing."

Sherlock looked up, startled. "Who?"

Mycroft smiled his arrogant grin that never ceased to make his brother want to take a swing at him.

"Shut up, Mycroft." Sherlock buried his hands back into his pockets.

His thumb slid across the slippery bow, and he tucked a finger into a curl of ribbon. He remembered the way her hair shone against the silver, and how his forehead had almost brushed the bow as he leaned in to kiss her cheek.

He chewed on his lip, and envisioned Molly's reaction when- if- he opened the door and returned to the flat, after this little war was over.

"I'm not going to disappear. I was never very skilled at goodbyes." Sherlock smiled in the darkness of the speeding car. "But I think, perhaps...I can manage a proper 'hello again.'"