First off, thanks to those that read and reviewed the last chapter!
Now, I am so sorry that this has taken me so long. I have had the hardest time getting this chapter right, plus RL was not making things easy. I won't go on about that though.
Anyway, this is a bit of an angsty one. Lots of drama. I hope you enjoy it!
Chapter five: Human frailty
As soon as Molly left the lab, Sherlock gave up his pretence of being interested in the specimen under the microscope and stood up, taking to pace about the room. He frowned as he thought about Molly's question: Why had he returned to the hospital? While it was true that he had yet to complete the fine details of his plan to bring down Moriarty's criminal syndicate, that was hardly reason enough for him to come back to Barts instead of moving on. As for him not knowing where else to go, well that was just rubbish. There were any number of places he could have found to hide. But none of those places had Molly. And, without Molly, he was all alone.
Just a short time ago this detail wouldn't have bothered him. In fact, he used to prefer to be on his own. Alone was good. Alone protected him. At least that was how he had felt before John Watson.
For the majority of his life, Sherlock had gone out of his way to avoid any human relationships. He didn't have friends, he had contacts, resources. That was all he needed. Getting a flatmate was only supposed to have been a sort of experiment, never would Sherlock have predicated making the kind of attachment with the doctor he had, despite himself, made. He had come to rely on John, to depend on him, to need him. With John, Sherlock had to admit that he was not as immune to feelings as he had always thought himself to be. It forced him to see just how much the small group of people he surrounded himself with did in fact mean to him.
People like Molly.
It had come as a shock to him just how much he did care for Molly. How much she really did count. He might never have admitted to himself how much had it not been for her humble declaration to the contrary. Sherlock had felt it physically when Molly had said those words: 'I don't count'. It pained him to know that he made her feel that way. Even now it caused a twinge in his chest to remember it.
Sherlock shook himself. He did not have the time, nor the luxury to dwell on such frivolous matters. Mycroft was right—as loathe as Sherlock was to admit it—caring was not an advantage. Caring is what had led him to the current predicament that he was in now. It was this feeling, this sentiment that had proven to be his Achilles heel. What gave Moriarty all the leverage he needed to make Sherlock jump from that roof.
He never should have let it affect the way he did. The way he was continuing to let it affect him now. He came back to St. Bart's because he didn't want to leave. He didn't want to be separated from the last person in the world that kept him feeling like he wasn't actually the ghost everyone believed him to be.
Perhaps he had succumbed that frailty of genius; the need for an audience to witness his greatness. Or maybe it was a more human flaw that weakened him.
Either way, he couldn't afford to be weak now. Not when there was a war to be one. He needed to leave. The sooner the better.
Sherlock was pulled out of his musings by the sound of footsteps coming down the corridor. They weren't Molly's; despite it being too soon for her to be back from the cafeteria, these footsteps were heavier than hers, most likely male, and there was a lagging to them, as if one leg was injured.
Sherlock's eyes went wide as it clicked his mind who the footsteps belonged to. He froze for a moment as the footsteps got closer, but quickly shook himself and whirled around heading for Molly's office.
He paused, feeling he was missing something—like he often did—and turned back. His hawkish eyes scanned the room, looking for the detail he had overlooked.
It was obvious; his jacket still hung from the peg on the wall next to Molly's. Sherlock back tracked and deftly plucked it up, then strode quickly, utilising the long length of his legs, to Molly's office and shut the door behind him. He didn't shut it completely however, leaving it open just a crack so that he could hear clearly what happened.
This might have been a mistake, he realised, because as soon as he heard that all too familiar voice call out Molly's name, the heart, that he had so many times denied possessing, twisted, almost violently, in his chest.
"All right, I'm back! I've got coffee; milk and three sugars. Just the way you—John." Molly was so shocked to see the other doctor that the coffee she was holding nearly fell from her hands. The playful smile she had been wearing on her face dissolved as she stared at John, perched on the stool Sherlock had been seated in when she left the lab.
Oh god, where was Sherlock?
Panicked, Molly's eyes began to flick around the lab.
"Everything all right, Molly?" John's voice startled her and her eyes snapped back to him.
She forced herself to calm down and be reasonable; of course John hadn't seen Sherlock. If he had he wouldn't likely just be sitting here now would he?
"Oh, fine. Yes," Molly replied. "And how are you?" Molly wanted to kick herself the moment the question left her mouth. How do you think he is Molly? He's just lost his best friend in the world. Or at least he thinks he has... Molly's gaze drifted toward her office; the door was ajar. She had no doubt that the Consulting Detective was hid away in there, listening to every word.
"Not so fine," John said, his voice sounding hollow; not holding the genial note Molly was used to hearing when talking with him.
Molly focussed sympathetic eyes on the man; he looked so worn down. His eyes were bloodshot and the lines around them seemed to have deepened significantly in the small time since she saw him last.
"I'm so sorry, John," she offered weakly.
His question took Molly by surprise and she blinked. "P-pardon? I don't understand. Of course I am. You have to know that."
John took a deep breath through his nose and stood up. "The only thing I know for certain Molly is that you weren't there today. Now if you are really as sorry as you say you are, why didn't you come to the funeral?"
Molly's lips parted, though she had no ready answer for him. It was the second time today she had been blind sided by that particular question. She couldn't use the same excuse she gave Sherlock; she couldn't tell John that going to the funeral would have been too difficult, because she knew it had to have been a million times harder for him. "I...I had to work," she said feebly, feeling ashamed of herself.
A bitter chuckle sounded from John. "Oh, right. And I just bet that Mike wouldn't give you the day off—hell, the hour—to attend the funeral of a man who supposedly meant so much to you." He shook his head. "That's a bollocks excuse and you know it."
Molly couldn't argue with him. He was exactly right; it was bollocks. But she didn't know what else to say.
Molly lowered her head down, unable to look John in the eye, and whispered, "I'm sorry. I truly am, John. I can't begin to know what you must be feeling right now—"
"Well, you should," John interrupted and Molly looked up at him with confusion. "I mean, you loved him longer than I did. You've been infatuated with the man for years and you couldn't be bloody bothered to come to his funeral. What kind of person—" John's words cut off as his voice cracked. He took a shaky breath and tried to compose himself.
Molly's heart broke for him. This is exactly why she had avoided going to the cemetery. She couldn't stand to see him in so much pain. Especially knowing that all she had to do was tell him the truth and she could end it. The image of herself storming into her office and dragging Sherlock out by his ear, demanding he apologise to poor John for all the suffering he put him through, flitted through her mind.
It would feel so good, she thought. Just being rid of all this, having everything out in the open. Then she would be free.
But, she knew of course she wouldn't do that. She couldn't. She had made a promise to Sherlock, and she would keep it. No matter how much it killed her.
"Oh, John," she said taking a step toward the man.
John held out his hand to stop her. "No. Don't. Just don't." He sniffed, pulling back the tears and cleared his throat. "Just answer me this, Molly, do you believe it?"
Molly blinked and shook her head. "I don't know what you mean? Believe what?"
"All of it," John said. "All the rubbish they're saying about him in the papers. That he was a fraud. A criminal. A monster. Do you believe it? Is that why you weren't there today? Because you've bought into all that shite like everyone else?"
Understanding hit Molly like a ton of bricks. It was perfectly clear now why John seemed so angry with her. "Oh. Is that what you think? That I've lost faith in Sherlock?"
"Well, what else am I supposed to think? You spend years acting as if the man hung the bloody moon and then you don't come to his funeral. With all of these bloody lies being flung about... Even Lestrade has doubts about him. He doesn't say it out loud, but I can tell, you know. So, what about you, Molly? Have you bought into it all as well?"
Molly was quiet for a moment, considering her words carefully. She licked her lips and cleared her throat. "Sherlock Holmes was a rude and arrogant man, whose constant need to prove his cleverness caused pain for many people. He was often inconsiderate, saying harmful things without a thought just to show off. I have no doubt about his capacity for cruelty." Molly paused, sparing a look at John; the other doctor's mouth hung open, in his eye a mix of outrage and sorrow. "But, I do not believe that Sherlock was a cruel person," Molly added and confusion flashed in John's expression. "I don't think that the things he did and said were meant with true malice. He was just a git who didn't know any better."
The ghost of something like a smirk quickly passed over John's lips. "Yeah. He certainly was that," he agreed with something between a sob and a chuckle.
"Sherlock Holmes was a great a man," Molly said.
"Yeah, and a good one too," John murmured wistfully.
"I could never doubt him. I believe in Sherlock Holmes and I always will. I'm sorry I wasn't at his funeral. I should have been."
John shook his head, swallowing down a visible lump in his throat. "No. I shouldn't have spoken to you the way I did. I was wrong. I know what a good person you are Molly, and I know how much you cared for Sherlock. I never should have doubted you're loyalty. It's just been so hard hearing the way people are talking about him now."
"I understand," Molly said. "I feel the same way. It makes me furious every time I see one of those headlines defaming him like that. All the while portraying Moriarty, sorry, "Richard Brook", as some sort of tragic victim. It makes me sick."
Molly blinked in surprise. "For what? I didn't do anything."
"Yes you did," John said. "You have no idea how good it is to know that I'm not alone. That there's someone else on Sherlock's side."
"I'll always be on Sherlock's side." There was a touch of resignation in Molly's voice that John seemed to miss—but the man behind Molly's office door didn't.
John blew out a slow breath. "Well...I should go, let you get back to your work."
Molly nodded with a small smile. "Yeah. Okay. Er, John. You know, if there's anything that you need, or if you just want to talk, I'm here for you."
John gave her a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Thanks, Molly." He walked over to her and gave her a tentative hug. "Bye."
"Bye, John." Molly watched John walk away; he was limping slightly on his right leg—the way he had been when Molly first met him. It seemed Sherlock's death was taking more than just an emotional toll on the doctor.
Molly felt drained from her encounter with John. She cast a look at the door to her office and her stomach clenched. She wasn't too keen on seeing Sherlock at the moment. Though, she had offered her aid to him willingly, Molly was still a bit angry with Sherlock for making her keep his secret from John. No matter how the Consulting Detective tried to rationalise it, Molly didn't understand why he couldn't tell John the truth.
Molly's cheeks were wet with tears that had fallen sometime during her talk with John, and she decided a trip to the loo to splash her face with some water was in order; it would allow her a moment to collect herself before having to see Sherlock.
She returned to the morgue feeling mildly better. She paused outside the door to take a deep breath. Even though she was sure that Sherlock would see through it anyway, Molly affixed a bright smile on her face before pushing open the door.
She needn't have bothered.
The morgue was empty.
Thank you so much for reading! I would be grateful for any thoughts you might have about this chapter!