AN: I'd claim this as a great victory (only two months since I last updated!? Gasp!) but this was still slower than I wanted. I kept trying to decide how season 3 was going to fit in my world before deciding that I didn't care and was just going to write what I planned before it came out! So there!
Many, many, MANY thanks to the three poor souls who agreed to beta and Brit-pick for me! The lovely pvivax, who fixed my grammar and gave me confidence. The wonderful bearsanddragons, Brit-picker extraordinaire! And the brilliant vikihogg who made me re-write a scene because my geography was wrong! Thank you all so much for putting up with me. And of course, thank you LadyCorvidae and broomclosetkink for putting up with me when I text you at the wee hours of the morning to cry. You are, quite frankly, the best.
"Are you okay?
It was the question on everybody's lips and frankly Molly was starting to get sick of it. She'd thought it was nice when her brother had arrived at her flat, frantically banging on her door and ringing the bell, those words the first thing out of his mouth as he engulfed her in a bone crushing hug. Everyone had wanted to know if she was alright or not. Her friends from Edinburgh, her coworkers old and new, the press who had latched onto the 'Earthquake in London' story and blown it into epic proportions. Even Greg had called her from Australia, his voice almost frantic over the line.
"I just heard the story on the radio. Are you-"
"I'm fine," she yawned, rubbing at her eyes. It was three in the morning in London. She didn't know how far ahead of them Australia was, but for Greg's sake she hoped it was a decent hour where he was. In any case she wasn't certain she would be forgiving him for this, even if he did sound worried. "It wasn't as bad as the papers made it sound."
"Not as bad!? There was a bloody earthquake in London! Right at Saint Barts! You could have been killed!"
Killed? Yes. But not by an earthquake, she thought with a frown. Her nose wrinkled and she rubbed her brow, not enjoying the thought of lying to her friend. While she didn't want him to think she was crazy, she didn't relish having to lie. Though, would Greg think she had gone mad? He seemed to think that Sherlock was somehow still kicking around Baker Street. Or something.
"I'm fine, Greg," she assured him, deciding to skip the lie and truth altogether. "I got out before there was much damage. How's Australia?"
The abrupt change in subject silenced him for a moment. "It's... It's good," he said, voice suddenly going hesitant. Brow furrowing deeper she frowned, wondering why he didn't sound happy. When he left she had thought this was some sort of holiday trip with an old mate. "I ate kangaroo for the first time last night."
Making a face, glad he wasn't there to see it, she rolled over and tried to get comfortable on her pillow again while keeping her phone to her ear. "Aren't those endangered?"
"Not all of them. Or maybe they are, I don't know. They sell the meat in shops so it can't be that bad. Though I've been told that it's mostly the tourists that eat it."
"Have you tried crocodile too?"
"No," he sighed and she could almost picture him, rubbing the back of his head and smiling awkwardly. "Don't think I will. Something seems wrong about eating a giant lizard."
Yawning heavily, she rubbed at her eyes again and wished she knew a not rude way of hanging up. She had work in the morning. "So, what time is it there?" she asked, hoping he'd take the hint.
"Afternoon. We just finished a late lunch, me and... Well, we got back in the hire car and I heard the news on the BBC. Just had to call and make sure you were alright. Why, what time is it back home?"
There was a long pause. "In the morning?"
"Yup," she yawned again, popping the P. "Three sixteen actually."
"Oh shit. Christ, I'm sorry, Mols!" Greg said, his voice rising slightly. "I was just so worried and-"
"It's fine," she soothed him, allowing her eyes to drift shut. "It's not a problem, Greg. I'm fine though. Everything's fine."
"Right... Well... I'll e-mail you, okay? I don't think I'll be here much longer. Another week at most. When I get back I'll buy you a pint next time we're down at the pub to make up for waking you. Promise."
"Okay. Ta Greg," she yawned. Rubbing her eyes again she rang off and faded away into blissful sleep once again.
Yes, everyone she knew wanted to know if she was alright or not after her little 'earthquake' scare. Everyone but the one person she wanted to hear the words "Are you okay?" from the most.
Her ghostly companion Sherlock was missing.
He stayed missing for three days. Just long enough for her to clean up the mess he'd made and start to worry. The flat seemed too quiet without him rattling about. Turning up the telly and leaving the radio on did nothing to fill up the silence. She played Adele's Skyfall at full volume just to annoy him – she was feeling a bit mean as well to be perfectly honest – but he didn't appear to snipe at her or to turn down the noise himself. Sitting and eating her dinner while watching telly she couldn't help but miss her ghost a little bit.
Dinner time for some reason was especially hard. If he had been there, his presence next to her, he would have demanded she turn the telly over to something less idiotic or his violin would be screeching his displeasure upstairs. If he had been there he would have interrogated her about all the ways her new job at Kings differed from Barts and demanding that she bring him home parts. He would have frowned over her eating so much take out and whined that she had forgotten to purchase milk. Picking at her chicken tikka she sighed and dropped the carton on her now battered coffee table. Dammit, for all of his unpleasantness she missed the bastard.
Where was Sherlock?
Could he be gone, gone? For good? She hoped not. Not without saying goodbye at least. He wouldn't leave without saying goodbye would he? God, she hoped he wasn't gone.
Sherlock's words of rage and fear haunted her in the days spent without him. She couldn't stop thinking about them, obsessing over what he could have meant. Lingering outside of St. Barts after leaving her new job at Kings, she looked at the old pathology wing and spent her time wondering. If Sherlock hadn't really meant to commit suicide, if he'd wanted to live, how would he have done it? What part would Mike have played?
A thousand million scenarios played through her head, each one more ridiculous than the next. Walking past the doors she had once entered she stopped to stare at Moriarty and let him stare at her in return. Besuited and calm, he gazed at her with glassy eyes, his hair carefully smoothed back. Giving her a wicked grin, he crooked a finger at her, gesturing for her to enter.
His smile was like a magnet. Her stomach lurched and she took a step towards the doors, their gazes locked. Wider and wider he smiled as she got closer and closer to the doors until she was less than a foot away.
"Hi!" he cooed, wiggling his fingers at her in a wave. "Have you come to play?"
She gazed at him for another long moment and reached for the door. Freezing as her hands touched the knob she frowned deeply and very slowly took a step back.
Instantly Moriarty's smile turned into a glower. "Molly, come inside," he ordered but she shook her head no.
Turning, she stumbled and quickly walked on. His gaze was heated on her back, his mad laugh following her until she turned a corner and vanished from sight.
Mike was at the cafe just as he promised he would be, the box of her things at his feet. Thanking him, she offered to buy him a pastry before sitting down across from him.
"How are you liking Kings so far?" he asked, stirring his tea and smiling kindly at her. "Settling in well?"
"It's great," she assured him. They spent an hour talking of the equipment and staff, of all the little quirks that a new job had that you never expected until you started there. Realizing she'd stretched her story of the nice girl who worked reception and handled the paperwork too long, Molly grew quiet and stared down at her cold tea for a long moment before speaking again. "What about you?" she asked, voice quiet. "How are you holding up?"
"We'll be fine," he smiled in return, his own drink long drained. "Getting the morgue and lab back up and running is going to take longer than expected though. The spills have been taken care of, but the equipment damage was quite extensive and the insurance company is being difficult about paying out. Not to mention all the paperwork that's been lost. Really it could be months, maybe even a year before we're ready to open back up."
She shook her head, reaching across the table to cover his hand with hers. "That wasn't what I meant, Mike. How are you? Are you safe?"
Stilling under her touch, Mike's eyes went soft as he gently patted her hand. "Don't worry about me, Molly. I'm going to be fine. I'm going to be just fine."
Sherlock was waiting for her when she returned, his face grey and his hands steepled before him as he sat in his seat. The room seemed to brighten as she entered the flat, his eyes darting to her and taking her in. "You were late coming home," he said. His eyes took in the box, lip twitching. "You stopped by Barts."
"Sort of," she agreed, setting the box in her hands down by the door. She toed off her shoes, donning her jumper before going to settle on the couch. "Mike and I met at a cafe near Barts where he gave me my things. He cleaned out my desk and locker for me."
Despite his mouth twisting in displeasure at the mention of Mike's name, Sherlock nodded and stood. "Good." Going over to stand by the front windows overlooking the street, Sherlock stared down at the passing people and cars for a minute before raising his hands. Obligingly, his violin appeared in them and he began to play. It was something soft and sweet, a tune she hadn't heard before.
He continued to play as Molly placed her takeaway order and came back into the sitting room. Taking a seat on the sofa, she gazed over at Sherlock, pulling her knees to her chest. "Sherlock?" The music paused mid-note, his head tilting towards her to let her know he was listening. Wrapping her arms around her knees she looked at him for a moment, sending him a wobbly smile. "Please don't vanish like that again. Not without telling me how long you're going to be gone for or not without saying goodbye first."
Starting to play again, he continued the slow, sweet song before coming to a pause again. "Don't go to Barts ever again. Stay away from the building too. As far as possible."
Neither of them spoke the name but both of them thought of the man then. Moriarty. She could picture him behind the glass doors, his face warm and inviting as he gestured for her to enter. For just a moment she had wanted to as well. Wanted to pass through the wide doors and into his embrace and-
She shivered, gripping her knees tighter. "Deal," she whispered.
With a nod he began to play once more. The music rose and fell, swirling through the flat like cherry blossoms in the wind and leaving a feeling of peace behind. He played that song quite a bit in the days that followed. The sweet sound becoming familiar and friendly to her as it kept her company through the day. Once she asked him what the song was and he had shrugged, carefully putting away his violin.
"Just something I've been composing," he said, voice casual as he snapped the case shut and carefully set it aside.
"Oh," she gasped, eyes going wide. While she had known he was a genius, she hadn't realized he was talented enough to write his own music. The knowledge made her feel a little useless, thinking of her once again abandoned knitting hobby. She'd gotten a bit carried away with a scarf she had made, the length of it turning into something out of Doctor Who rather than something she could easily wear about. The ghost in her flat was more talented than she was. It was a sobering thought. "Does it have a name yet?"
He looked at her then, his blue eyes boring into her. Straightening, he gazed down at her, an unreadable expression on his face. "Molly," he said and then abruptly vanished. His footsteps echoed above her then, as he walked about and did whatever it was he did in the privacy of the upstairs room.
Standing in her now silent sitting room, Molly bit her lip and wondered what her ghost had meant by saying her name. Was he telling her the name of the song he was writing or trying to tell her to mind her own business? With Sherlock it was so difficult to tell sometimes. For a moment longer she debated going upstairs and requesting he clarify but in the end decided it didn't matter. If he had been telling her off she'd only get annoyed with him. And if he had named the song after her, well...
She'd be terrified.
Tranquility filled the days that followed. Kings was just as nice a hospital as Barts - in some ways their facilities were better - and she had started to make real progress towards her research topic. Now that Sherlock was back, her home life fell into a soothing routine full of takeaway, telly, and bickering with Sherlock over how many brain cells an average episode of Downton Abbey killed. He, of course, preferred QI.
Yes, things were finally starting to look up once more and Molly was content with life again. Which meant that everything was destined to fall to hell. In the most spectacular way possible.
It started on the tube.
London was a strange city. Multinational and ever evolving, it was a strange mix of all nationalities, races, and a blend of old and new that could only be found in ancient capital cities. Honestly, that was one of the reasons she liked living in London, this mix of all the ages. Yet, even this teen was odd for the morning commute. He'd gotten into the same carriage as her at Regent's Park, face resigned as he shuffled into a corner in the crowded space. Dressed in Doc Martins, ripped and faded jeans, a dirty blazer featuring an awful lot of safety pins, and a t-shirt with faded black marker all over it, Molly was mostly surprised at how sad the punk youth looked.
While she was used to seeing people dressed like punks – though perhaps not to this extent in recent years – she'd never seen one look quite so sad before. Yet there he was, sniffling and looking as if he might start to weep as he stared at a young girl in a Ramones t-shirt, looking sadder than she could bear. Frowning, as the carriage slowed for Oxford Circus, she waited until the carriage had emptied a bit more before sliding over to his side. He ignored her utterly, wiping at his nose with the back of one of his grimy hands.
Unsure as to how to break the great taboo of enquiring after strangers in public, Molly smiled at him weakly before sighing and deciding to go all in. "I like your hair," she said, turning her smile brighter. "It's very red. Does it take a lot of trouble keeping it that colour?"
The teen blinked for a moment, before turning to her slowly. Eyes wide and bloodshot, he stared at her for a moment. "Are you talkin' to me?" he asked in a south London accent that seemed far too small for someone who looked so fearsome.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have bothered you," she apologized automatically. Despite wanting to move away and forget about ever bothering the poor kid, the carriage was full and in motion again. Sighing, she realized that she wouldn't be able to move away until Piccadilly, maybe not even until Charing Cross. The teen was still staring at her though and she smiled at him weakly, deciding to take another shot. "Sorry, but I was just wondering if you were alright? I'm not used to seeing weeping punks on the Tube."
Wetting his lips, the teen stared at her for another moment until he managed to speak. "I died in 1976," he whispered. His voice was soft but she could hear it easily over the noise of the underground. His brown eyes bore into her and time seemed to slow down, the rest of the world fading out as the two of them stared at each other. "It was July. I was goin' home with me mates from the Roundhouse when I fell off dah platform. Gave me a cracking headache, it did and then the train came and I died."
Her tongue felt heavy in her mouth, everything about her feeling slow and stupid with only one thought coming to mind. "Why are you on the Bakerloo line then? If you were up at Chalk Farm shouldn't you be on the Northern?"
He shrugged. "Went to Regent's and got a bit drunk. Musta made me a divvy, considerin I fell off." Licking his lips again he stared at Molly intently, narrow eyes wide. "Nobody's ever seen me before. You one of them, whatcha call 'em, medium types?"
Shaking her head slowly, she frowned then nodded. "Must be. You're not my first ghost after all."
"Knew it!" the teen grinned. Color began to bleed back in around the edges, the noise of the carriage coming back. Dimly, Molly realized that the voice on the Tube was announcing her stop of Elephant and Castle. "Think you could help me with somethin'?"
Blinking, the world seemed to be moving too fast around her the colors and sounds blurring at the edges. The punk teen in front of her was the only solid object and she gasped, grabbing her chest for air as the world spun. "Of course," she found herself saying with no real idea how the sounds passed her lips. "How can I help?"
"That's ace!" the punk kid was grinning, moving with her through the chaos of the world. "I was at this brill concert before I died. Saw some blokes named the Ramones and, cor, I fell in love. Keep seein shirts for them about, they musta got famous. Could you figgur out a way for me to take a listen to their records?"
The doors to the platform had opened, the sea of people moving out towards work and Molly pushed with them. Gasping loudly she felt fresh air fill her lungs as she left the carriage. Staggering and breathing heavily, she made her way to a wall and braced herself against it as the punk teen followed her. He looked paler, not as real outside of the carriage though his face was just as arresting.
Breath caught, world returning, Molly looked up at the punk teen as he began to fade away. "What's your name?" she asked, smiling at him.
"Ricky. I-I mean, Richard miss."
"I'll be back with mp3s, Ricky and we can listen to them on my way back home after work."
Ricky grinned at her widely, lips pulled back into a smile hanging in the air for a moment after he faded. Like a Cheshire cat out of Wonderland, Molly thought to herself as she righted herself and hurried for the world above.
A world that was suddenly filled with ghosts.
As if a veil had been lifted, Molly exited into a London controlled by the dead. The city seethed with ghosts, their number beyond counting. Men dressed in cavalier garb with funny wigs and wide lace collars walked the streets with women in full dresses and parasols. Roman soldiers marched, heedless of the buildings or cars while people dressed in war era garb wandered listlessly around. Drenched in blood, missing limbs, and perfectly fine they controlled the streets, the living their temporary guests.
There were so many, so very many of them. The layers of history, the generations of dead who had walked these streets before her were there now, milling, chatting, minding their own business. The majority of them didn't seem to notice the living moving among them but a few looked at her oddly, squinting as if she were something odd and new. One reached out for her, their face mangled and gored, the distinctive greatcoat of an RAF pilot covering what had been a stick thin man's body and it was all Molly could do not to scream.
Ducking back out of his reach, her back hit the trunk of a street tree and nearly collapsed against it. The RAF ghost looked about for a moment, her chest froze as she realized he was searching for her, but then he gave up. His face blurred for a moment and suddenly he was handsome and whole again, looking about him one last time before he hurried off along the street.
The world seemed to grey, taking the living into twilight with them. Sound slowed as it had on the tube, the movements of the living and dead blurring as they drifted around her. A woman, alive, passing nearby seemed to see her pressed up against the tree and frowned. Looking to be on the verge of saying something to her, the woman's face slowly stilled and then went blank as she shook herself and continued on her commute.
Molly covered her face in her hands and tried to control her breath. She was hyperventilating, panicking. The lives of so many dead were blinding her to the world of life. A horse trotted down the street, a man dressed in an outfit she didn't even recognize perched proudly upon its back. He shouted at her in a language she didn't understand and vanished through a wall into a sandwich shop.
Sliding to the ground, Molly wrapped her arms around herself and wept.
"You alright, love?" a voice asked her. The voice was kind and patient. Sniffling, Molly wiped her face with her hand and looked up to meet the milky blue eyes of an elderly woman. Dressed in long floral dressing gown and wellies the woman smiled at her sweetly from under her tightly permed hair. "You look a bit out of sorts. Fancy a cuppa?"
Molly blinked and the woman went transparent, the street and it's inhabitants appearing through her before she went solid again. "You're dead," she whispered. Nausea rolled her stomach and she bit her bottom lip, trying to keep down breakfast.
"Oh bless. That I am, love," the woman said, smiling at her widely. "Heart attack I'm afraid. It was a few years ago, right after Christmas. So glad I managed to hold off that long, I've found it's better to be alive during Christmas. There's pudding if you're alive."
Shivering, Molly pulled her arms tighter around herself. "Why are you still here? Why are all those people still here? Shouldn't you all have… moved on or something?"
The woman glanced around them where the dead were milling with the living and gave a bit of a shrug. "I'm afraid I can't say for those lot, but I'm still here to watch over our Billy." She pointed towards a young man who was drumming on the street corner. "He's a musician and an actor," she said, voice full of pride. "But I worry for him. He's a gay man and his mum sent him on his way when she found out, heart of stone that one. Our Billy was staying with me when I nodded off and now he's all by his lonesome. I like to stay close and make certain he's alright."
Molly nodded, finding the woman's words soothing as she calmed down. Staggering to her feet, she leaned against the tree and tried to relax. "I don't know what's happened to me," she muttered, rubbing her forehead. "I didn't use to see ghosts but then I moved to London and my flat was haunted and then it turned out my work was haunted and-" She shook her head. "I don't know what to do anymore."
The old woman smiled at her sweetly. "A nice cuppa and a bit of Corrie always did me well when there was a problem at hand. If nothing else, your problem couldn't be nearly as bad as some of the ones those people face. Affairs, lies, murder, oh those poor people have problems," she said.
Smiling, Molly shakily got out her mobile. "I don't think that's going to help," she said. Gaze still a bit fuzzy around the edges she managed to get a text off to her new boss at Kings saying that she wouldn't be in. Fussing with her cab summoning app, she sighed as her request went through. Slowly she moved away from the tree, her hand still clutching the rough bark as an anchor, trying to keep her gaze on the ground. "I just called a cab, could you keep an eye out for it?"
"You called a cab? How did you manage that? You didn't even ring anyone on your mobile!" the old woman asked. She didn't wait for a reply though, going out to the street edge near her grandson. Becoming distracted almost instantly she beamed at her Billy, swaying off-beat to the pounding of his drums as Molly tracked her cab's approach with her phone.
If she kept her head down and didn't look at any of the living or dead she didn't feel quite as sick, she quickly realized. Eyes glued to her phone she concentrated on breathing evenly until the little cab symbol made its way to her location and a black car pulled up to the kerb. Summoning her strength, she darted forward, hauling the door open and plunging inside with a gasp. "221 Baker Street, please," she said, sinking down into her seat and covering her eyes with her hands.
The cab driver looked back at her, his brow furrowing. "You alright there?"
"Yes," she whispered. "I'm fine. Just coming down with a bit of something is all. Baker Street, please. The quickest route you know."
Shrugging, the cab driver nodded and pulled out into the congestion of early morning London. It would have been faster to take the tube back home – at some points it seemed like it would have been faster to walk – but at least in the cab it was quiet but for the cabbie's music. There were no shadowy dead and no press of life and she sighed, laying down on the back bench.
Despite her best efforts, tears sprang to her eyes. More ghosts. More madness. She didn't understand what was happening to her. All she wanted was to be home in the safety of her flat. To go back to a time when she only had one ghost, as annoying and bad tempered as he might be. She worked with the dead, she didn't necessarily want to share her world with them.
Nearly forty five minutes later the cab came to a halt. Pushing herself upright she fished out her mobile, paid electronically and tipped the driver, before stumbling out. For a moment she wished that Sherlock would just open the door for her automatically as he would sometimes do, but she doubted that he would be expecting her right now. She hadn't a clue what her ghost did during the day when she was out, but she hoped that he wouldn't be too much of a pest. All she wanted was a cuppa, the rest of the package of Penguins, and a good long nap. Everything could be cleared up if she just had a cuppa and a nap, she just knew it.
Fumbling with the lock she, for once, dropped her handbag and coat in the front hall before trudging up the stairs. Considering that she was the only one in the building besides Sherlock, there really wasn't any point to carrying it all up to her flat. Especially when she was feeling poorly.
Rubbing her brow she shoved open her flat's door and staggered towards the bathroom. New plan. Paracetamol then tea, biscuits, and nap. Genius, if she did say so herself.
Opening the door to the bathroom she jumped, gasping and clutching at her chest as the door opened to reveal Sherlock glaring down at her. "What are you doing here?" he growled, face full of fury as he bore down on her. "You can't be here. Leave immediately."
"Shut up," she groaned, twisting to dart around him. Opening the medicine cabinet she rummaged about, looking for the blister pack she wanted. "I can't leave. There are ghosts all over London and I couldn't make it to work. I need paracetamol and a nap, not you hovering over me and being all cross. I'm sorry I ruined your day, but-"
"That's not it," Sherlock snapped. His eyes kept darting down the hall and he frowned, biting his bottom lip. "You can tell me all about your rubbish day later, but now you have to leave."
Her hands shook as she struggled to get the medicine out and she shook her head. "No, Sherlock. You don't understand. I'm seeing ghosts all over London. There's thousands of them, maybe even millions, and they're just out roaming the streets. Can you imagine what they'd be like in a hospital where people actually go to die? I'm staying home today, maybe forever."
Shaking his head, Sherlock growled deep in his throat. "I don't have time to explain! Molly you have to trust me when I say that you have to leave and it has to be now."
"Sherlock, no," she sighed. Getting two tablets out she popped them in her mouth and turned on the taps, leaning over to take a drink directly. Shutting the water back off she turned to face her hovering ghost, frowning as he glowered at her. "Can we please get along today?" she asked, voice pleading. "I know you must like it when I'm out of the flat but-"
"It's not that!" Sherlock shouted, reaching out and seizing her by the shoulders. A freezing chill shot through her body and from the way Sherlock winced and bit his lip she knew he had to be in pain too. "Molly run! Run now! There's an intruder in the flat!"
"What?" she gasped. Blinking, she gaped at him soundlessly until he groaned. Gripping her firmly despite the pain they were both in, he pitched her from the room.
"Run!" he shouted at her, eyes glowing and hair wild. "Now!"
Intruder? Her mind screamed as she stumbled over her own feet and headed for the door. Suddenly she was glad that she had left her belongings in the hall. She could grab them as she ran out, call the police and-
"No not that way!" Sherlock called after her, voice desperate as she ran into the sitting room. She could see tendrils of cold wrap around her, pulling her back towards the bathroom. "Back stairs, through my bedroom!"
She turned to look back to him, brow furrowed in confusion. She didn't understand, this way was faster considering the back door stuck and she was almost there anyway. Opening her mouth to tell him this, she stopped as she saw Sherlock's face go even whiter than normal, his expression growing panicked. He was looking at something behind her and as she turned back to look she saw a large black figure baring down at her, the butt of the gun in his hand racing towards her head.
Sherlock threw his hand out towards her as if trying to pull her away. "Molly!"
Molly moved to block the blow, but she was too slow. The gun butt struck her temple and she cried out, collapsing to the floor. Stars exploded behind her eyes, her ears rung with the sound of someone shouting her name, and then suddenly - blissfully - all went black.