The story is now complete. Thank you to everyone for being patient and following The Falling. Extra special thanks to Emcee and Lexie for their unending support and beta'ing on chapters like this one.
Thanks to LunarianPrincess, Kendrapendragon, Raxacoricofallapatorian, christallh, Francesca Wayland, huzzah, Vi-Violence, lirbarygirl157, ebonyfox, Mione W.G., Elliesmeow, Calicar, T'erek from Earth, Empress of Verace, MorbidbyDefault, Miss Writer Girl, rocking the redhead, hihiyas, Lono, Howling Shadow, starshortcake, Adi Who is Also Mou, MystiStar1, susieqsis, and more for the recent reviews. You help keep me going. Much love!
General trigger warnings for this chapter: violence and blood, similar to last chapter. Oh, and sex. Really earning the M rating now.
The wolf watched and waited, scanning the Colony grounds. He was ready, and hungry for the kill.
He shifted on the outskirts of the area, leaving behind his clothing and the vials of distilled inflammatory fluid. There would be time for fire later, but this was the time for pleasure, for reveling in the hot flow of blood. His weaknesses melted away when he shifted into wolf in the forest; no doubt, no hesitation, no mercy for prey. Not even the grey-haired old one he hunted now, tracking them from the stream into the field.
Moran padded through the trees under the cover of darkness, the sound of his paws disguised by the rising winds. Snow fell, blocking out the stars in the sky, and the moisture in the air made the smells more powerful.
Human footsteps shuffling over fresh snow put Moran on alert. He paused at the edge of the Colony and his golden eyes burned in the dark. In the far distance, he spotted a short ash-haired man hauling buckets of food to the residents who gathered around the gates of the quarantine. He sniffed, picking up the odors of stewed rabbit and dried apples.
Meat wasted on the dead, the wolf thought. Yellow-haired man and the rotting ones die later. Meal first.
Moran turned back toward his prey, who had crossed the field and entered a cabin. Smoke rose from the chimney, smelling of wood and a trace of charred beef. The wolf followed, trotting through the tall grass and keeping low to the ground.
He scented the door, noting the smells of healing herbs inside the cottage.
The red cloaked one smells of herbs too. Witches and healers, he thought.
Inside he could hear one heartbeat, one body moving through the home, preparing for the evening meal. Beef was roasting over the hearth, and the cook had added wild garlic and pepper to the pot.
More waste, the wolf fumed. The man inside him was melting away. Meat should be bloody. Raw. Living. Its own spice.
His muzzle dripped, and he growled.
Inside the cabin, the footsteps stopped. The floorboards creaked and the feet approached the door. The shutters above Moran's head flew open; he pressed his long body flat against the cottage, invisible to anyone above.
No need for mindfog, he thought with a sneer. These fools are blind on their own.
The hunger gnawed at his belly, but he forced himself to wait a moment, to savor the anticipation.
Moran heard a muttered "Huh," and the shutters closed, the rusty hinges squeaking.
You see nothing, you hear nothing.
You are nothing.
Moran drew himself to his full wolfen height, elongating the muscles of his back and legs before dropping into a tight crouch.
He sprang at the door, shattering it into splinters with one devastating crash of his huge paws.
The wolf landed inside, and with a swipe of his claws tore the throat from his victim, ending a scream just as it began. His great jaws snapped and old bones crunched between his teeth. Blood spurted and he gulped it down happily.
Soft, wet, warm, gushing meat. Yes, good.
Sherlock raced through the woods on four legs, knowing he wouldn't make it in time.
Moran had had too long a head-start, and it was impossible to pinpoint exactly when Moriarty's right-hand wolf had left the Lupercalia.
He came across definite signs of someone crossing through his territory and over the dirt path. The scent trail wound through the woods, and the thin layer of snow on the ground created mud that held footprints easily. The human shape of the prints surprised him for a second before he recalled Moriarty's remarks about having his man use the Crescent swamp gas to make the fire more devastating. The vapors distilled to liquid form required only the tiniest spark to cause a bonfire.
Can't travel as wolf while carrying vials, can you, he thought. Well I can, but not you lot.
Sherlock had long ago devised a pouch with a strap that he could loop around his neck to tote small items when he wanted to travel on all fours. He rarely used it, but now he found himself wishing he could show Molly the clever invention when he saw her again.
If he saw her again.
She would appreciate the cunning loop and release-catch of it, the exact measurement of the strap that wouldn't choke him as man or wolf. It was rather genius of him.
I'll make her one to match when she's wolf, to hold her herbs when she goes gathering, he resolved.
Sherlock reached the bend of the stream as it neared the Colony, and he smelled fabric rolled up with the unpleasant odor of another dominant wolf. Ears perked for threats, he nosed at the bundle of clothing.
They were Moran's, and underneath his musk was another scent, one that Sherlock knew very well.
He carefully nudged the pockets of the man's coat, and heard the soft clink of containers bumping one another.
Moriarty wasn't bluffing about the fire, but he'd known that was unlikely.
But Moran had left the vials behind in his arrogance. Sherlock observed the trail leading from the clothes to the Colony, into the field beyond.
Leading straight toward the cabin where Molly's Grandmother lived.
Pick off the weak older female and then John Watson and the baker, he imagined, and then an easy mass killing in the caves where the victims of the Falling huddled. A tidy plan, and simple plots were usually the best.
His paws were too clumsy for the job; sometimes being human was actually useful. The air around Sherlock blurred and he fell to the ground, nude and human. He grinned and scooped the vials from Moran's pockets
You can only afford to be arrogant if you're as clever as I am, and you aren't, Moran.
Carrying the vials cautiously, Sherlock traced the wolf's path through the field. Approaching the cabin's ruined door, he knew once again that he was already too late.
The night stank of blood and carnage and marrow cracked from bones.
"My my, what big teeth you have, Moran! And yet still you spill so much blood on the floor. Didn't your family ever teach you how to hunt and dine properly?"
Moran lifted his massive head from the body, tearing flesh from the belly. Gore coated his muzzle and throat. The body was mangled horribly but with the clothing shredded, the truth was clear. Sherlock remembered sitting in this cabin and deducing Grandmother, to Molly's embarrassment.
The greying dark hairs he'd spotted in the pillow indent, the ones that were clearly not Gran's but her bedmate's, were now scattered around the cabin.
"Came looking for the person in charge, I suppose," Sherlock commented as Moran stood, a growl pouring from his throat. "Smart to take out the leader of the Colony first, keep them confused and frightened without guidance. Only Angelo wasn't the leader, and this isn't his cabin. What a terribly common mistake, Moran."
Sherlock smirked and rolled the vials between his fingers, and the firelight reflected on the glass. Moran tilted his head, realizing what the man held. The growl ceased, and the wolf took a step back from the savaged body of the baker.
Sherlock stepped farther into the cabin and strolled around the room. He noted the food in the hearth and casually lifted the lid to take a look at the meal.
Moran watched him warily, waiting for the right second to pounce. The man walked deeper into danger, instead of running or shifting.
Sherlock saw the confusion in his wolf eyes, and smiled.
Despite the calm in his tone, Sherlock's eyes bled to yellow as he spoke. The wolf and the man were at war now for dominance. "Moriarty is dead. I'd offer to let you walk away but we both know that's a mistake. To the death then. But as man or as wolf? What shape will you be when you join your beloved master Moriarty?"
Moran threw back his head and howled, a winding call that would be heard for a mile.
Sherlock flicked the caps off the vials, and was ready when the wolf sprang toward him. In a blur of motion, he heaved the contents of the vials at the wolf, all the while calculating the arc of the wolf's jump. Then he dropped the vials and waited until the very last second, until the wolf was upon him.
He leapt aside. The beast's paws stretched for Sherlock's throat, and a razor sharp claw grazed his neck.
But his measurements had been flawless, and the angle of his stance before the fire perfectly chosen.
Moran crashed past Sherlock and landed in the hearth. His huge torso crushed the flames, but it only took a spark.
The wolf burst into flames, the fire blazing over his body before a breath had left him. Ragged screams tore from his throat, and in a desperate last act of self-preservation, he tried to shift back to human. His body was covered in the thick grey fur of his wolf, but his face and limbs were human and ghastly. Moran thrashed on the floor, the fire eating up the air around him. He choked and cried out, but the firepower of the Crescent vapors was merciless.
Sherlock bolted from the cabin and into the night.
Already John Watson was running from the caves and waving his hands. Behind Sherlock, the cabin itself was alight and only a few pitiful shrieks from Moran were heard before the roar of the burning blocked out the sound.
"Get the buckets! We can use snow and earth as well to smother it!" John shouted at the others rushing behind him. The quarantine gates had been shoved open when panic set in. Sherlock noticed how the man remained sensible even in an emergency and inwardly approved.
"Don't bother," Sherlock responded, as the shorter man ran to him. The cabin became a huge bonfire as they watched. "There is an accelerant that will make it nearly impossible. The fire will burn itself out within an hour. The swamp gas does anyway, and I've no reason to believe the distilled form will be any different."
"Mother Hudson's in the caves, thank the gods. What happened?!" John grabbed Sherlock's arm and dragged him back away from the flames. "And why the hell are you naked?"
Sherlock glanced downward. Oh right. Modesty. Some human things he would never get the hang of.
The taranga dancer Irene and a few of her fellow travelers arrived moments later, but held back, hovering in the brush around the Colony. Sherlock scented and heard their arrival and waved them away.
Irene lifted one elegant eyebrow at the burning cabin, and Sherlock nodded curtly. Irene tipped her head in appreciation and addressed her cohorts.
"Oh he is good. I'm tempted to recruit him for a new ringmaster, but the little red-hooded one is for him. And I fancy the Lupercalia is overdue to have a ringmistress." She grinned at the festival musicians, who groaned and trotted after her obediently when she dove back into the forest.
John held Grandmother tightly while she wept against his chest. His wife Mary stood by, tears running down her face.
Sherlock was rather proud of himself for offering an alternate cause of death for her baker. She wouldn't have wanted to know about how he was torn up. He was being considerate, he was certain of it.
"The dear man," Grandmother muttered again and again. "Such a death, to burn."
"Angelo would've smothered to death before the flames got to him," Sherlock added helpfully.
"Sherlock," John said, his voice hard. "Not now."
"What?" Sherlock frowned. "When the fire burns down, don't go in there. I'd like to take some samples of the residue before it's destroyed and the remaining floor boards will be unsound even if they appear intact. Also there may be some leftover body-"
John's steely expression cut him off.
"Oh. Right. By the way, your wife isn't going to die."
"What?!" John's eyes widened, and Mary's head jerked up. Her blue hood fell back and her bright eyes looked fearful.
"Why would you say that? I know my lot."
"You don't have the plague, Mrs. Watson. You aren't contagious so you can remove that hideous cowl. You have poisoning from nashia root. Obviously some people will still die as a result of it, but you're not that far along, still got most of your fingers and toes. Stop drinking from the wells and it'll work its way out of your body over time. Not sure how long yet. You'll be fine."
Mary's mouth moved without making a sound. John gently let go of Grandmother and turned to Sherlock. He grasped his arms and looked him dead in the eye.
"Are you certain?"
Sherlock raised his brows at the physical contact. "Positive. I can show you the data at my cottage. The wells are poisoned. Drink fresh water from rivers and streams until they sort out the wells."
John's hands clamped down on Sherlock's upper arms. For a small man, he was surprisingly strong. Without a word, he hugged Sherlock tightly. Then he remembered Sherlock's nudity and stepped back.
"Oh bloody hell. Put some trousers on, man, before my wife decides to leave me for the man who saved her life." John laughed and swept Mary into his arms, kissing her deeply. She sobbed and kissed him hungrily, starved for affection after months of only the safest touches. He caressed her cheek, smoothing his thumb over the pale scars where the Falling had marked her.
"I'll never be as I was," Mary said softly, tucking her head into the crook of his neck.
"You are more beautiful than you have ever been, love." John and Mary kissed once more, and then returned to hug Mrs. Hudson. The older woman's head spun with the news of the great discovery so soon after her terrible loss.
"I cannot conceive of it. So much death and evil." She squeezed Mary's hand. "But this, this is a miracle. The Falling is no more."
Sherlock slipped away while the women cried and hugged. John waved, and he returned the comfortable gesture naturally.
He raced through the woods, with a quick stop to fetch clothing from his cottage. On the quick journey to the Village, he realized with a start that for the first time in over three hundred years, he had a friend.
Two friends? He considered. But Molly was more than a friend. She was companion, she was mate, she was sunshine and the forest and the scent of home.
He hurried to the center of the Village to find it bustling with activity again, the people flooded back to the town square. The Lupercalia dais remained, but the rest of the gear was being packed away.
"Bad weather, m'dears," Irene called out to the ones returning, charming them with her wicked eyes and red lips. "We'll return soon enough, but early snows and a fire, poor luck for a revel."
There was no sign of Moriarty's corpse, and the pool of blood where he'd died was covered with mud and straw. One look between Irene and Sherlock told him she'd taken care of the problem.
The disappointed people staggered through the alleys, brushing soot off their clothes and heading for the taverns for their usual variety of entertainment.
Sherlock followed the distinct scent of Molly through the little streets and to the stoop of a potter's shop. He smelled the other female, Soo Lin, there as well, and realized it was her establishment. He let himself in the unlocked door.
Molly stuck her head out of the backroom door to see who'd entered and an embarrassing squeak popped out of her mouth. He heard Soo Lin laugh softly in the back room.
"Sherlock." And then Molly was in his arms, climbing him and dragging his mouth down to crush against hers. His thoughts of verbally conveying his intentions disappeared as their arms locked their bodies together.
"He's…he's dead?" she asked, breathless.
"Dead and burnt. Angelo as well, as it happens, but the rest are safe."
Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she squeezed him tighter, smelling the soot on his skin.
"Thank you. Thank you for saving the rest of them, for everything. For finding me in the woods." She kissed him again.
He stroked her hair and reacquainted himself with the taste of her neck. He kissed the mark on her throat. "You are welcome. But I think it is fairer to say that you found me."
Once, a long time ago in the mountains of the west, there lived a young boy who loved the spring. Hunting was better in the summer but the days of first-green, as his mum called it, those were the days when everything dead came back to life and filled the cracks formed by winter's ice. Ants crawled from the dirt and flowers bloomed on the vines of the cottage where he lived with his family. He would spend all day on his belly, studying the new buds sprouting from the earth and observing the tracks insects left in the soil.
As the boy grew older, he realized wolves didn't concern themselves with the patterns of the worthless animals, and that he was a freak even among his own breed. He roamed the forest, using his keen nose to scent out plants to collect instead of deer to take down with his teeth. There were days for hunting, and he loved the thrill and the tastes, but he needed to understand more of the world. He needed to know the how and why of things.
His older brother shared his curiosity, but ultimately Mycroft moved on, having reached young adulthood. He was no longer able to share close quarters with a fellow dominant wolf like their Father. Mycroft's gifts were outpacing their father's, and he needed his own territory or their instincts would force them to fight. Sherlock didn't understand why he had to go so far though, and abandon people who needed him in the western woods.
When he reached maturity, Sherlock struck out on his own, seeing the growing distrust in his father's eyes. Sherlock could control his own wolf, and stay a logical man; why couldn't his own blood kin? But the beast inside them was too strong, and it drove his father to view his offspring as enemy. Mother kissed him goodbye with tears in her eyes, and begged him to send word when he found his own territory and settled down.
"You'll take a mate of your own, and have babes, and I'll come and visit if your woman's amenable to it. Every wolf has to make his own clan eventually, you know." She packed his favorite books and tools into satchels, kissed him once more, and that was the last he ever saw of his mother.
They were caught in the mass slaughter of wolfkind inspired by Moriarty's mad attack of the Prince.
I will never have a pack, he promised himself when he heard of their deaths. Upholding his arrangement with Moriarty was simple. He never wanted another friend after making the mistake of trusting Llewellyn.
Never take a mate; never be part of a clan that makes me weak. I don't need anyone. You've done me a favor, you fool.
The years passed and without realizing it, he grew gaunt and grim.
He buried himself in experiments and theories, deleting the past as the years receded from him. In the woods, he lost himself in impartial knowledge and watched the world change from a safe distance.
It wasn't until a red-hooded woman with big brown eyes stumbled into his forest that he realized he'd grown hollow. With a scent like a healer's garden, she filled him up and made him view the subsequent days as a new adventure. Even the people she drew to her were less loathsome than most humans, and he found, much to his chagrin, that he liked people.
Not that many, granted. But he'd spent hours in the company of John with minimal annoyance, once he decided that the man had no sexual interest in his Molly. Her spirited grandmother reminded him of his own mother with her practical, good-hearted charm. The baker Angelo had accepted his oddness with a shrug, and he was shocked to feel a genuine pang of regret about the man's painful death at the hands of Moran.
How could a woman so seemingly simple, sweet and ordinary be the most remarkable person he'd ever known? That she was of the blood was an unthinkable blessing, if he believed in such things. His mother had faith in the old gods of the wood, and offered prayers to them. Sherlock never uncovered evidence in the forest to make him believe in anything at all until he found Molly.
He was not a praying man, but for her, he could make an offering of himself.
It was understood by anyone who looked at them that Sherlock and Molly's lives were already intertwined.
The winter months passed, and Molly made the journey to his cottage once a week to assist with experiments, and to study his 'friend' the skeleton. They researched the aftereffects of the Falling, and she shared her healing challenges with him.
Restoring the victims to health after long-term poisoning was entirely new to her. Sherlock wasn't a trained anatomist, but his chemistry knowledge and agile mind saw solutions sometimes when she had stalled out. He didn't always know the answer, but Molly found he was brilliant at asking the right questions.
Saying goodbye at the end of those days became harder each week, with their bodies pressing closer and close together, reluctant to part. Each time his lips brushed over her throat, he was tempted to sink his teeth in and make her finally his.
But he waited while she focused on bringing the Village back to life and health.
When the heavy snows came, he traveled to her home in the Village and sat by the fire with her to share meals. She was more relaxed in her home territory, and he learned that the cheerful healer had a mischievous streak that showed itself at inappropriate times.
While she stewed the rabbit meat he had brought her, Molly hummed and sang the filthiest ditty he'd heard in centuries.
"I don't even understand why the milkmaid would do that with the maypole," Sherlock observed. "It seems the author merely wanted to find a convenient rhyme for 'lass.'"
Molly giggled, and continued seasoning their meal over the fire. Though she was less anxious at home, the nights when he visited her small cottage were even more difficult, because her bed never more than a dozen paces away from them. It was impossible not to think of taking him to bed, when she spent every night alone under the covers dreaming about it.
They supped at her table, while he deduced the secrets of the villagers for his own amusement, and Molly and Sherlock gradually learned each other.
The Village recovered slowly, but in the spring, the people shook off the stiffness of the cold and broke soil for sowing their gardens. Ice no longer formed in the wells, and the widows gathered around the center well that was now free of nashia, safe for drinking and washing. The merchants opened their shutters to let fresh air in, and in early March, Soo Lin reopened her pottery shop full-time.
She was whole and content, with only a slight limp in her once-fractured leg. Her ribs and arm healed within days, but she had to stay out of sight for a much longer period to disguise that she healed unbelievably quickly. Shadows of grief for her lost brother darkened her lovely eyes, but Soo Lin was at last free.
"I think I'm going to visit the coast," she told Molly, chatting in the shop while customers browsed her shelves. "I haven't been in- well, in a very long time. I was born in the mountains but when we were children, we stayed with a cousin by the shore. We built villages in the sand and made up stories…" She drifted off, and Molly knew she was thinking of her brother again. "Well, it doesn't matter. I am going to do it, in the summer. I'll return in time for the harvest fest, and we can catch up over cider."
She smiled, and Molly realized it was the first time Soo Lin had ever before spoken to her of the future. Soo Lin changed the subject to the influx of people to the Village, no longer frightened away by the plague.
The Colony was empty by midwinter, and young Peter moved back to the Village. The boy had survived and his recovery was complete.
Molly marveled at the resilience of children, watching him run down the cobblestoned road. She was surprised and pleased to find Michael Stamford accompanying Peter's mother to a town meal in April. Michael never spoke of the strange events of Lupercalia.
She suspected that even though he got away with it, he wanted to forget about setting Farmer Movingian's barn on fire that night. The structure burned to the ground, but no people or animals had been killed. His sensible mind put aside the curious events of the Lupercalia, and he worked happily alongside Molly and the Watsons, who had moved into the Village inn. John and Mary helped prepare medicine for those still struggling with the symptoms of the Falling, as they healed.
The Village recovered, and in the spring, Molly came to Sherlock.
He noticed the disturbed bushes along the path to his cottage, and cocked an ear. Only chirping birds and scurrying moles were heard. Sherlock tracked the smears of dirt on the rocks by the stream until the footprints took a familiar shape, and he smiled. The breezes were gentle but strong enough to carry her natural fragrance on the wind. He jogged toward the cottage, glad he'd donned clothing by the river after his four-legged run through the forest. Molly still found it jarring when he walked around naked after a hunt.
She likes the look of my body though, he thought smugly, hopping up the steps. Ridiculous human modesty, it really is a pain in the…
His stream of thought came to a stop when he opened the door and found the ladder to the loft open.
Following her scent, he glanced up to find a pair of legs poking through the door in the ceiling.
"Hello!" Molly's bare feet dangled, with flowing red fabric draped around them. "Finished my rounds early and wanted to see if you've got the results of your butterfly pupa study."
"Really?" He closed the front door behind him.
Molly leaned forward until her face was visible to him below. She tucked her hair behind her ears, and laughed. Dimples formed in her cheeks. "No, not really."
Her hands moved, rustling her scarlet cloak, and untying the strings. She pushed the fabric away from her body, letting it slide over her legs to drop onto the floor below. Sherlock saw now she hadn't been wearing a stitch of clothing except for her hooded cape.
He felt strangely uncertain. "You mean now?"
"Yes, Sherlock." Molly's smile shone in the dim light of the loft. She stretched out a hand and crooked her finger in an unmistakable gesture of invitation.
His clothes were discarded in a blur and he was up the ladder within a few seconds. Molly scooted back from the opening, and rolled over to move on her hands and knees toward the mattress. She glanced back to find him kneeling on the floor nude, watching her crawl.
His eyes burned hotly, and as she watched, bled to yellow-gold. She took in his nude form- the lean powerful muscles of his torso and the hardness thickening between his legs, and knew his insecurity was past. He bent forward onto his hands and began to crawl after her, a predatory light in his eyes.
Molly swung her head back around and hurried toward the bed, knowing the movement caused her hips to sway and tease. She crawled onto the soft furs, and laid on her back. Sherlock climbed over the furs and settled alongside her, facing Molly and slipping his arm around her waist.
He opened his mouth to speak, but whatever he intended to say vanished. Molly peered up at him, and looked her fill of his unselfconscious nudity.
"You're lovely." She tentatively caressed his belly, tracing the lines of muscle up and across his chest. Her fingertips grazed over his sensitive nipples, and he grew harder against her.
"Are men lovely? Some might say handsome," he replied, his thumb stroking her hip where his hand rested.
"Lovely," she insisted, her face stubborn. "Those dark curls. Cheekbones sharp enough to cut. Odd. I'm not saying it right, but you're a hard man to pin down. May have to research some more." Her fingertips skimmed over his jawline. "Construct a theory, or an entire study," she teased. "I'm going to have to get used to not being the pretty one in this relationship."
Sherlock frowned. Was she really so blind? "That's absurd. Your observation skills are rarely this terrible. They've developed considerably since you met me. You're beautiful. You have a fine mind. You're a skilled healer, and you're more tolerable than every other woman I've met in my life and-"
She cut him off with a kiss, her arm wrapped tight around his neck. She tugged him down to cover her and he shifted until his chest pressed against hers. Molly wrapped her legs around his waist and deepened the kiss. He tensed and then relaxed. They'd restrained themselves to safe, slow kisses over the past months, but the last barriers had been shed. She was his for the taking. Sherlock gave in and took everything she offered.
In a way, it was new to him, and he relished the discovery. Sherlock barely remembered the few frantic couplings of his youth, having deleted most of the unsatisfying and awkward counters. For Molly it was more familiar, her husband being only a few years gone. She'd felt unfulfilled in his arms, and since she'd learned to please herself in bed, she saw her late husband simply hadn't bothered trying at all.
Sherlock noticed everything, she realized, from the sharp intake of breath when his tongue found her nipple to the tensing of her belly when he licked his way downward. He missed nothing as he kissed and inhaled and tasted the expanses of her flesh. He grew so fascinated with her pleased yelps that he was reluctant to lift his lips from her sex even after she'd reached her peak, tugging on his hair. He was utterly wrapped up in his exploration, and disconcerted when Molly giggled and forced him to roll over on his back so she could reciprocate.
Molly took her time acquainting herself with his cock enthusiastically, not minding when he reacted to the extreme stimulation at first by yanking her hair.
She straddled his hips, sitting lightly on his groin, and admiring the man beneath her. Sherlock's eye color shifted with degrees of arousal, a fascinating indicator of his feelings. His curls were tousled and his mouth red from their heated kisses. The fading light streaming through the window shadowed the angles of his high cheekbones.
Molly cupped his cheek and rubbed his bottom lip. He nipped at the finger, and smiled when she sighed. She lifted her hips, allowing him to move under her, before reaching down to slide his cock through her fist, bringing him back to complete hardness. She teased the head of him with her wetness, and his eyes bled to gold.
Sherlock sat bolt upright and grabbed Molly by the hips. He rolled her onto her back in the furs, hiked up her leg, and sank his cock into her, fully sheathing himself in the tight heat of her.
Molly moaned and rocked her hips, adjusting to the stretch. Muscles ached in her thighs, making her feel like she hadn't used them in years.
Sherlock thrust into her, unevenly at first but then finding his rhythm with her guidance. Molly dug her nails into his shoulders and shifted her hips upward, allowing him to ride her harder and deeper. She slipped one hand between them to stroke the bundle of nerves in her folds while he plunged into her.
"I need, are you ready- I need," he said between gritted teeth. He pumped faster into her and Molly understood his real question.
"Yes," she said, kissing him. "Yes, now, I'm ready. Sherlock, please."
"Not this way," he said, pulling out of her and flipping her over onto her belly. Molly barely had time to bend her knees and rest on her elbows before he entered her again from behind, his hips slapping against her bum while he rode her. After a moment of frenzied thrusting, he wrapped one arm around her middle and hauled her up, so she was seated on his thighs with his cock still buried inside her.
"Closer, need you closer."
Sherlock pushed her long hair off her back, around to the front, to expose her pale neck. He kissed and tasted his way across her shoulder.
Molly rocked on his lap. "Move, Sherlock, please."
Sherlock snaked his hands around to cup her breasts while his lips found the tender skin of her nape. She arched against his palms, pleading for more. He obliged, snapping his hips and pumping into her before giving into his basest instinct.
His mouth found the spot where he'd marked her months ago, and sank his teeth into it.
Molly cried out, and he thrust harder, pushing her to a second climax. The ripples tore through her and she barely felt the dig of his teeth.
His canines cut through the thin skin, and he sucked at the wound. The droplets of blood smeared and his saliva worked its way into her system.
Even in the heat of sex, Sherlock's skills of observation were without parallel. While he moved within her, he lifted his mouth and noted the precise second her wound began to close.
The blood had taken root within her; the potential within her own body, brought to life by his, was sealing the bite even as he watched. She would be wolfkind.
Sherlock wanted to howl with the primal pleasure of it.
Molly cried out his name again, the orgasm shaking her and squeezing his cock tighter.
He pushed her back to her hands and knees, and slid back inside her. He rode her until he came groaning, jerking his hips against her body and his eyes squeezed shut.
Spent and gasping, he fell onto the bed beside his mate, and pulled her tight against him. Before falling asleep, he summoned the energy to draw the furs over them both.
Sunlight streamed through the loft window, rousing Molly from sleep. The sun was high overhead, which told her she'd slept far later than usual. The bed was empty save for her and the pile of furs. Her body ached from head to toe, and fingertip bruises had formed where he'd held her tight when buried inside her. She tentatively touched her throat, and felt a semi-circle of a bite mark, almost healed. Molly blushed, remembering how wild they'd been with each other.
The skull grinned at her from the table by the bed.
"What are you so happy about?" She waggled her finger at it, and grabbed the skull. Molly opened the trapdoor and dropped the ladder down. She climbed down, holding the skull, and plunked it down on the table next to Sherlock's glass eye contraption.
Sherlock sat quietly looking through the lens, examining what looked like the remains of a chrysalis. He was still undressed.
"Your scent has changed," he remarked without moving. Molly saw his lips curve up behind the tool.
"Good morning to you too," she said, leaning in to kiss his cheek.
Sherlock dropped the glass on the table, and dragged Molly onto his lap, taking her mouth and kissing over her bite mark.
"Almost entirely healed. You're a natural. You'll be hunting within days."
Molly smiled. "I'm nervous about some of that. I mean, if I'll be good at that stuff."
"You'll be fine, it's instinctive. But if you failed to find food any time, I told you I would feed you. You're my mate," he said matter-of-factly.
"Mate," she said. "Do you see that as being the same as husband?"
He shrugged. "Human term. Has no meaning for me. A mate is everything to a wolf; it's life. Husbands and wives are just for human ceremonies and property inheritance. But if you'd prefer that term as well, I have no problem with it."
Molly summoned her resolve. "Yes, it's what I want. I would like us to get married. By a cleric. In the Village. Alright?"
Sherlock kissed her, amused by the worry in her eyes. If she wanted to cement her life to his even more thoroughly, who was he to argue? He stroked the healing bite.
A week later, Soo Lin wove lilac blooms into Molly's hair, tucking the flowers into the clasp that held back the waves from her face.
Molly smiled nervously. "Does it look nice?"
"It's perfect. You look like a goddess of spring." Soo Lin bent low so the others around them would not hear her whisper. "It's what the women in my clan did for the mating days. I don't know if all wolves did it, but we always did. I thought it was suitable."
"Oh!" The world of the wolfkind had its own culture and history and Molly was only beginning to understand the depth of her new life. "Thank you, Soo Lin. Last night I-" She dropped her voice lower. "I changed. And it was easy!"
"Like breathing," Soo Lin agreed. "We'll go for a run when I get back. I'll race you." She grinned, and Molly was again grateful for the gift of her friend.
"Why do I have to wear this? There's no function to it. It smells bad. I don't want it." Sherlock complained loudly.
"Just put it on, Sherlock." Molly glanced back to see John shoving a carnation into her mate's pocket. "It's traditional. No one likes it and we do it anyway, so just do it. Welcome to being a husband."
"Oh that's nice," Mary remarked from her quiet place in the corner where she'd been dozing. The sarcasm was so understated most usually missed it, but John smirked at his wife. She wrinkled her nose at him and he bugged his eyes comically at her.
"I've been meaning to talk to you two. I'll be living at Sherlock's cottage. We're going to make it bigger. But um, my cottage will be empty then. You're still living at the inn…"
John and Mary exchanged looks. "But that's your house."
Molly waved away their objection. "It's the healer's house. People come see me in the dead of night. If you live there, then they will still find a healer. And you need a home of your own, with the baby coming."
The couple stared at her, shocked.
"I'm a healer; I know the signs of a woman with child." Molly giggled. "I don't mean to be nosy, but I would love for you to move into my cottage. Please. Grandmother doesn't want it, and I would like to see a happy family there."
"Oh take the damned cottage already." Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Can we get on with this? I've got a jar of tongues soaking up vinegar and if I don't get home before nightfall, the experiment will be ruined."
They stood in the grass, with a few dozen well-wishers onlooking. With Grandmother and Soo Lin beside her, Molly offered her hands to Sherlock in the ritual fashion of their village. Sherlock remembered the motions she'd instructed him in, and offered his in return.
The cleric spoke the words over them, and wrapped the thick red ribbon around their hands, binding them to one another. Molly and Sherlock parroted the phrases when prompted, and she pretended not to notice when Sherlock sighed because the cleric mispronounced every other word.
After the ceremony, there were cakes and oranges to be shared, and toasts offered over ale at the inn. The joyful group began trudging back toward the center of town, and Sherlock hung back. He touched the arm of one of the men, who stopped.
"Did you think I wouldn't see you? Scent you? Obviously I would."
"Your mate invited me, Sherlock."
"That doesn't mean you should have come, Llewellyn."
The silver-haired man shook his head. "I haven't been him for a long time. You'd know that if you would speak to me. I never wanted to be the Prince. I'm Lestrade. Have been for ages."
"A name change means nothing. Why didn't you leave town with the rest of the Lupercalia? Even Henry left with them, and he was from the Village."
"I don't want to run forever. I like it here," he said defiantly, his chin stuck out as stubbornly as Sherlock remembered. "I like the people. The forests are rich and there's enough territory for both of us."
"You like the Constable you've been shagging." Sherlock's eyes darted toward Sally, who was waiting impatiently for them to start walking.
"So?" Lestrade smiled crookedly. "Not all of us live like monks. She's a good woman. I was a constable once myself. Might take up the law again."
"Does she know what you are?"
"No, she believes what the rest of the Village thinks now- that the shapechanging act was a magic trick. Maybe I'll tell her eventually. Don't know yet. Trusting is…still hard."
"Don't I know it," Sherlock said bitterly.
"Oh go cry to someone else," Lestrade said roughly. "I am sorry; I've regretted every day that I assumed you killed my son. What was I supposed to think, with you over his body? It was madness. I never loved anyone the way I loved him, and he was…" His dark eyes watered. "It never goes away. When you love like that. You'll understand someday. When you have your own child. When you watch Molly's belly grow big and you feel the babe kicking and you dream of their future? And then someone takes it away. It never stops hurting. But you were my friend, and I loved you as well. Being a hunter in the woods with you was some of the most fun I ever had. When I became wolf, they changed me to punish me. Idiots. They set me free. I could just be the hunter. No more sodding Prince."
Lestrade's face grew red as he continued. "So you tell me, Sherlock, when you become a father, what will you do if someone tries to hurt your child? When you hold your baby, and then you teach it to walk on two feet. And then to run on four legs. And if someone tries to hurt them?"
Sherlock stared at him in silence for a minute.
"I would kill them. Tear them into pieces without regret."
Sherlock's tense shoulders relaxed.
Lestrade nodded. "I'm not saying it's alright what happened, but can we, I dunno, get a beer and talk sometime? Like civilized wolves, you know?" He smiled, and his deep dimples held all the charm that had made the Prince a heartthrob among the dairywives in the Valley.
Molly. Sherlock saw her nearing, out of the corner of his eye. "Sometime. Maybe."
Lestrade exhaled. "Maybe. That's a start. That could be enough."
Sherlock felt something old and brittle break inside him, and he felt the urge to flee into the woods, to shut down the sensation.
Instead he held his ground. Catching Molly's warm eyes, he said to Lestrade. "Beginning is the hardest part. Ending is easy."
He turned to welcome his wife back into his arms.
In the forests, they ran. He showed her the secret places between the rocks and trees where he found moss and beetles to study. Deep in the woods, they found herbs she'd never heard of. They played in the streams, and when the fall came again, they rolled in the leaves.
The seasons turned, and the wounds of the time before healed cleanly. There would be other dark times and other stories born, but for Molly and Sherlock, every path in the forest led them back to one another.