AN: Well here's the last chapter finally. As I've told some of you, it just wasn't right at all and I decided to give this fic a hiatus and rewrite it later rather than put up a chapter I disliked. Hopefully it was worth the wait! To make it up for you, I'll be putting up several Sherlock oneshots that have been moldering in my "unfinished" folder for a long time-including a little Sherlolly one. Thanks so much for sticking with me, lovelies!
Moran's trial goes off without a hitch, exactly as promised, if you asked anyone except Molly Hooper or Sherlock Holmes.
John and then Molly testify the first day. When it is her turn she takes the stand with a sour stomach and shaking hands, and she refuses to look toward the defendant's chair, because if Moran smirks at her she's sure she'll lose all her nerve.
"Please state your name for the court."
Molly takes a deep breath and looks out into the gallery. And without having to search at all, her eyes fall on Sherlock.
She's still not used to his shorter hair, but it's dyed back to its old color, and he's wearing his familiar old clothes. He looks like Sherlock again and not a stranger, and she smiles to see him. He doesn't smile back, but that's all right. She finds she's calmer now, she can speak.
"Molly Hooper," she says, returning her eyes to the attorney.
Shortly after her testimony the court is adjourned for the day. Molly hurries out to the corridor to intercept Sherlock and John, but instead encounters only one of them.
"Sherlock left early," says John apologetically.
Molly stops short and her smile fades.
"Oh," she says.
There's pity in John's eyes and, right, yes, that's familiar. It's been a year and some change, but she remembers the pity.
"Right, uh. Okay," she says, and ungracefully turns around and goes.
Sherlock testifies the next day, and he takes the stand confident and cool and smiling because this is the last one, this is the last day of this long hunt and then it's over.
He calmly delivers the story written for him by Mycroft's people (one of the few plus sides to Mycroft, this) and answers the attorney's questions (also written by Mycroft's people) about where he was for the last year. It isn't until they've moved on to questions about the night of the "dinner party" that he looks out into the gallery.
There is John, of course, but also, a few rows away, is Molly.
John had reprimanded him when they met back at the flat the evening before. "Molly was disappointed. Have you two even spoken since you came back?" When Sherlock said nothing, John simply shook his head and left him to his petri dishes and pipettes.
"Ah, yes, that's correct," Sherlock says now in response to a question put to him. "Dr. Watson was unaware of my plan at that point."
Molly this morning is frowning and looking at the attorney rather than him ever since he looked up. He looks away again and back toward the attorney, but his attention is still on the mortician biting her lip in the gallery.
"But Miss Hooper was aware?"
"Minimally so. I had her arrange for the dinner to happen and instructed her to bring the camera, but nothing more."
He hadn't answered John's rebuke for the very good reason that he didn't have an answer; he has never hypothesized before he's finished thinking, and he's not about to start now. But as he watches Molly out of the corner of his eye, when he thinks about her that night holding his camera in her cupped hands under the table as a career criminal threatened her, Sherlock Holmes feels a tugging under his ribs—familiar by now, he can admit that finally—and thinks that maybe he's ready for a hypothesis or two.
When the jury goes to decide on their (predetermined) verdict, Sherlock goes out to the corridor to find her. Instead he finds only John. There were not many people in the courtroom so there isn't much searching to be done.
"Has Molly not come out yet?" he frowns. John gives Sherlock one of his impenetrable looks and shakes his head.
"No. I saw her come out, but she went another direction. I think she left."
"Ah. Well, I suppose there isn't much suspense as to the outcome."
John nods mildly. "I suppose not," he says. "That must be it." It doesn't take a Holmes to know he doesn't believe it.
After the trial, Sherlock seems to John to be thinking about something very hard.
Ever since he came back he has, of course, acted a little preoccupied, as he used to when he was formulating an experiment but had not yet gotten out the glassware and the Bunsen burner. But since the trial, he has been Sherlock on a case.
His phone rings two days after the trial, and because Sherlock is at the window playing his violin, John goes and answers it. After a moment he snaps his fingers in Sherlock's direction to get his attention.
"Hey... hey Sherlock. Sherlock. Lestrade has a case."
Sherlock lowers the violin, though it is still tucked under his chin. "Yes, and? What is it? Is it a murder?"
John hesitates, remembering Sherlock's previous unwillingness toward dealing with a murder. "Well, yes," he says. "The body's at the morgue already. Should I tell him we can't do it? Or do you want to talk to Lestrade?"
To John's surprise, Sherlock tucks his violin and bow quickly back into its case and jumps over the back of his chair on the way to the door. He's already dressed, so he's pulling on his coat and halfway down the stairs before John hardly knows what's happening.
"Uh, we'll take the case apparently," says John, hurrying toward the coat hooks for his own jacket.
"Tell Lestrade we'll be by the Yard directly for the case information," calls Sherlock up the stairs.
"We'll be by the Yard directly, he says," reports John, digging his keys from his trouser pocket and locking their flat door. "I guess he needed something to do more than I thought. I have to go or he'll make me pay for my own cab." He hangs up and runs after Sherlock, reminding himself that he should be glad Sherlock's trauma has apparently been so easy to resolve.
Sherlock snatches up the case notes assembled for him as soon as he bursts into Lestrade's office and pages through them in a perfunctory manner while, without looking up, he hurries Lestrade through the explanation with impatient noises and "get on with it" gestures.
Lestrade finally gives up mid-sentence. "I'd forgotten what an absolute delight you were," he sighs longsufferingly.
"Yes, fascinating. We'll just go to the morgue now, shall we?" says Sherlock, flipping the folder shut and tucking it under his arm. "We'll let you know when we have a lead."
He sweeps out of the office again, trailing an apologetically shrugging John Watson. Lestrade, who wasn't expecting anything else really, goes back to work.
The moment before Sherlock steps into the morgue, he knows exactly what he is going to say, what is going to happen. Between that and the moment after he steps in, something happens.
Molly is there. Of course she's there. She has her hair in a braid. Her right thumbnail is short and ragged-she's been anxious or preoccupied. Her fingertips are colored with the stain used for slides, so she's been doing work (rather absent minded work) in the laboratory recently. She has little gold stud earrings in her ears. She is wearing no lipstick and her lower lip is chapped, probably due to chewing. She's just come back from lunch. She's not currently on the diet that she goes on and off of. Or used to. A year ago. He hasn't had the chance to observe her closely enough to tell whether she's dropped it entirely since he's been gone. Her eyes are brown. Of course they're brown, he doesn't know how he ever wondered even in the middle of a firefight whether they could be anything else.
Behind him where he has stopped in the doorway, John coughs. Molly looks up.
"Oh, um. Hello, Sherlock. And John."
Sherlock tries to say "Hello, Molly," but instead he says "You've got the victim of the Wentworth case out already, yes?"
"Yes," she says, deflating just a little bit, Sherlock sees, but recollecting herself quickly. "Right over there. Gloves are on the gurney. Do you need anything else?"
He tries to say "Yes, how have you been?" but instead he says "No, that's all."
He conducts the examination of the body almost on automatic. Too much of his brain is dedicated to silent smothered bafflement.
When he's finished he leaves again with barely a muttered goodbye. He would have liked to at least smile at Molly. It doesn't seem to matter what he would like. He is deeply exasperated.
If John was having a hard time comprehending Sherlock before they got the case, it is nothing to how confused he is now. Despite how enthusiastic he had seemed to be about this case, he isn't paying very much attention to the crime scene. The policemen around them are watching skeptically, as they always do, but this time John's not sure he would be able to reassure them if he felt so inclined. Rather than his laser focus scanning everything, zeroing shrewdly in on seemingly arbitrary details, Sherlock is all but pacing the victim's sitting room, paying no more attention to it than he might have to their own flat.
"Is everything all right?" murmurs John when he feels like it has gone on long enough. Sherlock's head snaps up and he looks at John as though he'd forgotten he was there.
They look at each other for a few moments, until one of John's eyebrows goes up in question.
"I have to look at the body again," Sherlock says suddenly. John blinks.
"Right. Okay, so back to the morgue?"
"I'm going back to the morgue, but you aren't."
John rolls his eyes. "Right, don't want to distract you. I'll just go back to the flat, then. Lestrade's gonna love it when you need let in here again tomorrow though."
But Sherlock is already gone, stalking through the front door and back out onto the street.
The morgue is as silent as morgues tend to be before Sherlock bursts through the doors, and Molly nearly jumps out of her skin.
"Oh, Sherlock, hi again. Do you need me to get the—"
But his focus isn't flitting about the room or firmly over her shoulder as it usually is; he is looking straight at her, and she loses what she was saying.
"Is there anyone else in?" Sherlock says, looking up from her to scan the room.
"No," she says, bewildered.
He looks back at her. "Do you have your phone?"
"I-It's in my handbag," she stammers, blinking. When he just stands and waits, she bobs her head, then goes over to her handbag on the coat pegs to get the phone out. She carries it back over as he is pulling his own phone out of his coat pocket, for some reason, and she holds it out to him.
Sherlock shifts his shoulders restlessly but makes no move to take it from her.
"Turn around," he says gruffly.
He looks, she could swear, a little uncomfortable.
"Turn around." He clears his throat. "Please."
So Molly turns around.
He doesn't answer but she hears him tapping on his phone, and she doesn't know how she guesses, but before she knows she's thinking of it she looks up to the shelf where the camera used to be. She holds her phone and her breath. The tapping stops. Her phone pings.
I'm sorry about not waiting to see you after you testified.
It doesn't even occur to her to text back.
"It's fine," she says out loud, but not as dismissively as she might because she can feel that something important is happening here. There's an uneasy flutter in her stomach. "I know you probably had things to do."
More tapping behind her.
I didn't. I was deliberately avoiding you.
"Oh." The flutter turns into a weight. "Okay," she says in a small voice, but he's already typing.
You probably hoped that I would come talk to you before now.
"Yes, I probably did," she says, with a flicker of irritation. She sighs quietly. "I didn't expect it, but. I thought maybe you might just… well, text. I've been wondering about you. If you were okay." She bites her lip before she can say anything else, because that was silly, of course he was okay, it's just…
I needed to know what I was going to say, first.
"You could have told me that was why you were avoiding me. I wouldn't have minded." Again she regrets speaking as soon as she does, stupid, Molly, stupid, because it somehow sounds both desperate and possessive at the same time. But it's also true. He could have.
I should have.
That makes something break inside her with a tiny noise like the snapping of a twig. She wants to turn around and look him in the face, but it's still delicate, it's still important, even if she's mad, so she settles for staring steadily at the camera that isn't there.
"So do you know now?" she bursts. "What is this about, Sherlock? Because I was okay with being your lifeline while you were gone, I was. I mean, I am. But I wouldn't have waited for you to text me before all this, and I do now, so that means I must think something changed, but I don't know what it is. That I counted, maybe, as you said, but I don't know what that means. And if nothing changed, then are you just going to go back to coming in every now and then to flirt your way out of paperwork again like you used to, because—"
She is interrupted by the pinging of her phone.
Something did change.
Her heartbeat stutters.
"Okay," she says, and wow, she is surprisingly terrified, but her voice is calm. "What changed?" She stares at that text and really, really wishes she could turn around to see him, except that she never could read his face. Not when he was looking at her, anyway.
From behind her is a frustrated sigh. "Bloody hell," Sherlock mutters under his breath. Furious typing resumes.
Her phone pings. Sherlock is still typing.
What changed is that I got to watch you doing your job and drinking tea and reading books, without me around making you nervous. I learned things about you.
Her phone pings again.
I saw you nearly every day on that camera, and when I came back and no longer saw you it bothered me. Couldn't think why, except that it was a familiar routine which had been interrupted. But that wasn't it.
Molly is no longer breathing. Ping.
When I'm not around you I want to be. When I am around you it isn't enough. I think of things to say to you and want to know what you would say back. I want you to make me fill out my own paperwork.
The typing behind her stops. There is one more ping.
I've been considering all the evidence and I've finally formed my conclusion. But before I go any further I need to ask if you happen to still be in love with me?
Molly turns around. Sherlock still has his thumbs posed over his phone, and when she spins and looks at him, his eyes widen fractionally.
"Yeah," she says, very quietly.
They look at each other in silence for a moment.
"I'm… glad to hear that," Sherlock says.
He fidgets with his phone. Molly is still not really breathing but she can feel a smile that she can't control starting to pull at her mouth.
"Can I kiss you, then?" he says.
Molly nods. Sherlock takes one step forward and reaches forward to curl a hand around the back of her head, but Molly throws her arms around Sherlock's neck and stands up on her tiptoes and pulls him closer, and as they stand there in the St. Bartholomew's morgue, their phones still in their hands, no matter what Sherlock might have said, make no mistake: It is Molly Hooper who is kissing Sherlock Holmes.