A fill for Lexie's prompt: Sherlock returns post-Reichenbach to find Mycroft has placed Molly in witness protection.
"Where is she, Mycroft? You promised she'd be safe, along with the others. I was an idiot for trusting you to handle even that much. The signs of your interference are all over her empty flat."
Mycroft Holmes folded up the newspaper and set it aside while the doormen silently dragged his younger brother out of the Diogenes Club and dropped him on the pavement. With an annoyed sigh, the British government plucked his umbrella from the stand and strolled out the door to join Sherlock. He smiled politely at his long-missing brother and extended a gracious hand to the car door as the luxury vehicle rolled up immediately.
"A lot's changed since you vanished into the web, Sherlock. You couldn't expect the world to remain frozen for you. She couldn't wait forever. Besides, she doesn't want to see you. Why should you care anyway? You broke her heart and used her for her job. Leave the woman alone. She isn't your concern anymore. She's got a new life, for good."
Sherlock's eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. He searched his brother and his possessions with his eyes, but as usual, saw very little to deduce. Except one thing…Mycroft was the same as ever in physical form, and that included a small tell in his right hand.
Mycroft slipped into the car and his brother slid in after him, slamming the door shut and grinning in a smug way they both knew well.
"When you said she didn't want to see me, your hand drifted down toward your pocket briefly before you righted it. It always does that when you have the urge to consult your phone, send your PA off to check on things, to cover for you. You know where Molly is, and it's got to be close enough that I worried you. You wouldn't let her be that far out of your control."
"Not so much a deduction as it is a shot in the dark, wouldn't you say?" Mycroft said blandly. He retrieved his mobile, and thumbed over the screen, his hand cupped and blocking his typing from view. "A guess. Sloppy. Almost…cute. Perhaps your years on the run have dulled your skills. If you truly needed to see Dr. Hooper again, you should be able to find her, I would imagine. After all, our witness protection programs are only local and you managed to fake your death with almost no assistance from me. Finding one woman shouldn't be hard. But why do you need her? Pathologists like her are so common."
Sherlock rapped on the glass dividing the driver from the passengers. The car smoothly pulled over to the curb, and Sherlock hopped out. He looped the scarf around his neck again, and met his brother's gaze. He smiled sweetly, but his eyes were cold and furious.
"If you ever call her common again, I'll tell Mother the doctor thinks you may have diabetes and are being tested again. She'll swoop down to London immediately like last time. You won't have a moment's peace for a month."
"You wouldn't dare."
"I would dare everything."
Mycroft's only response was a raised eyebrow. He tipped his head in acknowledgment of Sherlock's small victory. The car door slammed shut and then Sherlock disappeared into the crowd.
The irritated sneer dropped from Mycroft's face and he relaxed into his seat. His mouth curved in amusement.
That went rather well, he thought. Perhaps the phone business was a bit ham-fisted but he didn't seem suspicious. Still…
He dialed his PA's number after reminding himself of what her name was that week. "Alaura, we're going to getting a visit from my brother sometime in the next day. It won't be announced, no. But when he breaks in, do tell the guards not to shoot him. But…don't make it too simple either." His smile grew wider.
"He gets terribly bored when I make it easy for him."
A day later, Sherlock stepped out of the taxi along the quiet tree-lined street in Craster, a small village thirty miles south of the Scottish border.
It was Alnwick he'd seen Mycroft type into his phone, despite his brother's mistaken belief that his thumb was blocked. In the window's reflection he'd seen the movements of Mycroft's fingers and worked it out. Alnwick wasn't much to go on, since it was an airport and she could have gone anywhere from there, but it was a beginning. With the clues (and a helpful but rough visit to his brother's office), he was able to track Molly Hooper, now called Merideth Vernet, to the village where she was hiding out and apparently working in a fish shop.
Fish, he sneered as he approached the door of the cottage. Leave it to his brother to find a placement for Molly that would waste every one of her abilities and make her miserable. He would fix that. He knocked on the door impatiently and heard familiar light footsteps nearing the entrance.
Molly opened the door to find a rather battered and shabby-looking detective in an overcoat on her step.
"Oh- Sherlock, you're home!" Molly threw himself in his arms, and then remembering where she was, dragged him into her little house. Once he was through the door, she felt abashed that she hugged him so joyfully and so easily. Molly took his coat from him, and clucked over the bruises forming on his left cheek. She retrieved alcohol and cotton balls from the bathroom and dabbed at the closing cut on the bridge of his nose.
"What on earth happened to you? Oh, I'm just happy you're back. Why are you here? Not that I'm not glad you are, but I thought Mycroft would just send someone when he said it was all sorted, last night on the phone."
Sherlock sat uncharacteristically quiet, and Molly realized after a moment he was simply looking at her, taking in every inch of her in a way that was very familiar. After three years without him, she wasn't afraid though.
"Have your look then; deduce me. I rather missed it, actually." She laughed and a faint smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. She threw out the used cotton balls and opened the bottle of liquid bandage to apply to the wound on his nose. He flinched but remained still as she ministered to him.
"Well what do you see?" Molly said, wrinkling her nose. She squeezed his shoulder, unable to resist touching him to make certain she wasn't dreaming.
"What I always saw, Molly- you," he said, his voice as low and smooth as she remembered. His face had a few more lines, and his hair had grown longer and wild with curls. When he looked up at her though, there was an unfamiliar light in his eyes. "I saw you in Ankara, you know."
Caught off guard, Molly shook her head. "What? I've never been to Turkey, Sherlock. Are you alright?" She slid her hands through his curls, feeling for bumps. He reached up and wrapped his hands around her wrists. He pulled them down and held her hands together between his, holding her gaze all the while.
"It wasn't really you. I was looking for a source in the market, and there was a brown-haired girl at a stand, and she smiled like you. And then there was a restaurant in Florence, and there was a bowlful of oranges on the table likes the ones you used to eat at Barts. Your breath smells like oranges often, did you know that? I stopped in Beijing and nearly caught Moran but he slipped away. A bad informant. A maid in the hotel had hands like yours." His fingers tangled with hers now. "Small and strong. A tiny scar on the palm, below the index finger." His thumb stroked the pad of skin he spoke of, and Molly's heart raced.
"I kept seeing you everywhere. It was annoying at first. I tried to delete some of the information but I've known it too long, carried it with me. Too embedded in the drive. Moved on to Perth, visited a hospital contact there to stitch me up after a run-in with a leftover assassin. And there was an old issue of a pathology journal sitting on the desk, and an article you wrote was in it. That was six months ago. After that, you were in everything, wherever I went. It took me a few months to understand why." Sherlock released her and lifted his hands to cup her face. Molly swallowed hard, and butterflies rose in her stomach.
"Sherlock?" She laid her hands on his chest. "What are you trying to say?"
"Mycroft called you yesterday; then, he knew I would work out where you were, which means he was playing a game with me. Damn." Sherlock rolled his eyes, but broke into a crooked smile. "I suppose he thought I deserved a harder journey to find you after I hurt you for so long, so many times. He made me work to bring you back where you belong. Which is with me, if you haven't figured it out," he added.
"Oh I know that." Molly's face lit up and she threw her arms around him. "I always knew that, even though you were a clod about it."
He winced and gasped where her arms squeezed him. "Mind the ribs, Dr. Hooper. I've had a rough night." Despite his words, his arms snaked around her to hold her tight. "Everything has been sorted, as you said. I'm sure Mycroft can secure your position at Barts, and my name is being legally cleared as we speak. Are you sure you still want me? According to everyone, I'm an utter bastard and you are, after all, a nice girl," he said, his voice holding a familiar note of mockery.
Molly jumped up and kissed him hard on the lips until the detective was at a loss for words. She beamed at Sherlock. "I cut up dead bodies for a living and I'm in love with a self-proclaimed sociopath. What made you think I was a nice girl?"
In the cottage across the street, a man set down the telescopic lens and picked up his mobile. He typed out the message, pressed Send and returned to his vigil, averting his eyes discreetly when the couple he watched through the window tumbled, bodies molded together, from the living room into the bedroom.
Mission goal achieved. Send car? Pls advise.
In his customary seat at the Diogenes Club, Mycroft Holmes read the message and smiled.
There was still much to clarify in the public eye, and Sherlock needed to be legally brought to life. Time was of the essence.
But he would give them one day in the idyllic village before returning to the reality of London.
Hold position. Give them the night.
His brother and the girl who'd waited for him could face London and the world tomorrow. His power was more limited than his brother believed, in some ways, but he could give them tonight.