A/N: I've done absolutely no painting. But what I have done is upload the companion piece to this fic! *insert party poppers here* Anyway, it's called Nadir, it's on my page, and not that I'm blowing my own trumpet or anything but I actually really like the last line. So you should all go read it. I know some of you have already, and thank you for your super lovely reviews! And for the previous chapter reviews as well! This last A/N is just going to be chock-a-block with thank yous. Just one big thank you to everyone that's kept me company during this weird almost two weeks. I've loved reading your reviews and chatting to you and without your encouragement, this whole process would have been a lot longer. (Though I daresay half my house would be decorated by now.) Anyway, that's that for now, I'm off to do some painting, I hope you enjoy this.
She's pulled her armchair into her bedroom, so she can keep a comfortable watch over him. If she lies down next to him, she'll fall into too deep a sleep. If she nods off in her chair, well, the weight of her own head can easily nudge her back into consciousness.
She doesn't want to look at his face, cut, bruised, battered, and yet she can't tear her eyes away from him. That face, the face that made her heart skid to a halt when she was fifteen, the face that can still make her heart skid to a halt if he catches her off guard, is probably never going to be the same again. He'll heal up just fine, if he manages to stay alive, but he'll have tiny silver scars scattered over his once perfect skin.
Molly reaches out a hand and brushes his hair away from his forehead. She's been here too many times before, and she has sat by his bedside while he hovers somewhere between life and death every single time. She realised long ago that she was never going to have a proper relationship, that her attachment to Sherlock would prevent her from giving herself to anyone other than him. The sad thing is, she can't just leave him. She knows full well he'd have died years ago, were it not for her, and she can't have that on her conscience. She can't kill the man she loves, even if it means she never finds true happiness of her own.
People, usually spiritual people, or up-their-own-arse people, sometimes talk about having a purpose in life. Molly never talks about her purpose, but she has known what it is for a very long time. She remembers a silent night in a boarding school and the slow and steady rhythm of his heart. She remembers the needle marks, and the intoxicating heat, coming from the fire. She remembers him coming down the next day too. Remembers how she wasn't exactly sorry to be leaving him behind at the station.
Yes, Molly's purpose in life, given to her by the God that paired her with Sherlock on that stupid school trip, is to keep Sherlock Holmes alive. It's no easy task, but she's been doing a pretty good job until now. She has no intention of letting that change, either, and so she sits, and waits, her hand reaching for his, because she needs to touch him. She needs to know that he's still here with her. She's given up more than he'll ever realise for him, and prays (because the last time she did so, her prayers were answered) that they won't get found out. She could lose her job over this. She could be struck off. She could be barred from working in the medical profession ever again.
There is a slight pressure on the back of her hand and Molly glances down. Sherlock's fingers are squeezing her hand ever so slightly. She almost cries in relief, but, with her free hand pressed over her mouth, she manages to suppress her tears.
Slowly, ever so slowly, his eyes open. A hot tear trickles down Molly's cheek and she doesn't bother to wipe it away. In the back of her mind, a nasty little voice has been saying 'What if you never see those eyes again? What if by this time next year you've forgotten what colour they are?'. The voice is muted, and Molly sniffs as another tear escapes, rolling quickly down her skin.
"Thank goodness you're here," he breathes.
Molly wipes quickly at her eyes, not wanting to break while he is so broken.
"I'm always here," the crack in her voice gives her away, but his expression doesn't change to his usual scornful one. "You know I am."
"I know," he says weakly, and with a trembling hand, he raises her hand to his lips and kisses her knuckles. Molly holds in a shiver, and his eyes raise to meet her own. "I know you are. I just wasn't expecting to live."
"Thanks," she says bitterly, though she does not take her hand from his.
"Molly," his voice sounds a little more like his own now, his baritone sometimes breaking through. "My odds were never good. It's not a reflection on you. This," he gestures towards himself, "me, alive, that's a reflection on you. You're brilliant."
She relishes in the praise, because it is so rare that he gives it to anyone, let alone her. And then he says something that makes her heart freeze, and her arms feel like dead weights.
"I'll never understand why you weren't accepted at Edinburgh. Administrative error. Must have been."
She looks down at the carpet. She cannot lie to his face, not now he knows her so well. She has always wondered about what might have been, had she taken the place at Edinburgh. Sherlock would be dead, she knows that, but what about her life outside of Sherlock? Because she does have one. It's not much, but she has one.
Before she knows what she's doing, her lips are moving, and words are falling from them, three words that she has kept locked away for years and years.
"I was accepted."
Sherlock attempts to sit up, but winces, and Molly pushes him back onto his pillows. He doesn't fight her, but his eyes have changed colour, just a little. She knows what every shade means. This particular one, bluer than usual, brighter, means that the penny has finally dropped. His face is ashen, his jaw slack, and Molly knows he doesn't want it to be true. He shakes his head, just a little.
"Yes," Molly whispers.
Molly doesn't repeat herself. She doesn't need to.
"Why?" he demands, his voice cold.
"How many times did I save your life, back in the early days?" Tears are falling freely down her face now, and she doesn't bother to wipe them away. It's time he realised just how much he means to her. It's also time he realised just what he's put her through over the last fifteen years.
"I lost count," Sherlock confesses, staring at the ceiling. "Too many times, probably."
"And who would have been there if I hadn't?"
Sherlock's answer is so quick, and so honest, that it shatters Molly's heart.
"Promise me we'll never be here again," Molly pleads, her voice growing stronger. She leans forward in her chair, still gripping onto Sherlock's hand desperately, with both of hers now. "Promise me I will never have to resuscitate you ever again."
"You never had to in the first place."
"You know what I'm asking." She sits back in her seat, Sherlock's hand falling from her own, and at last he meets her gaze.
"I can't promise anything."
"No one can promise that they won't die."
"Look, everyone thinks I'm dead anyway, so I won't have to die for the foreseeable future."
"But what about after that?" Molly argues. "What about when you're back from the dead and the press are all over you again, and Kitty fucking Riley is begging you for the exclusive interview? What then? What about when the next Moriarty comes along because he thinks he's cleverer, or stronger, or more powerful? What then?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Sherlock says, his shoulders shrugging slightly.
Molly fixes him with a hard stare, and, for the first time, she witnesses Sherlock squirm uncomfortably.
"I can't stop," he says at last.
"I'm not asking you to."
"I can...try to be more careful."
"I will be more careful."
"Good." Molly takes his hand once more and he responds immediately to the touch, holding on tightly to her as though she is his anchor to life. And, she supposes, in some ways she is.
"I just..." she begins, but she doesn't know how to explain herself. She has no right to tell him how to live his life, and it shouldn't be her problem if he winds up killing himself, and yet it is. "I just need you," she finishes, heat rising unpleasantly in her cheeks.
"No you don't," Sherlock sighs. "I'm the last thing you need."
Molly shakes her head.
"Edinburgh, Molly! Edinburgh! How could you turn that down?"
"Because I'd never have forgiven myself if you'd died while I was five hundred miles away!"
"You see?" Sherlock says quietly, reaching out for her hand. "You don't need me. Not even a millionth as much as I need you."
Molly blinks the tears from her eyes and swallows, trying to process Sherlock's words. She doesn't want to cry in front of him. She hates crying in front of him - he just doesn't get it. She stands, and Sherlock's eyes follow her.
"Don't go!" He blurts it out and Molly freezes, looking down at him. He seems to regret speaking before thinking, but Molly thinks he should do it more often. It's part of being human, after all, and it's a particular part that Molly has turned into an art.
"I was just going to make some tea," she says lamely, gesturing towards the door.
"Don't go," he says, more softly this time. He reaches out for her hand. Molly has nothing to say, and so she allows him to pull her over to the bed, so she can lie next to him, his arms wrapped tightly around her small frame. She can feel herself succumbing to sleep, the regular movement of Sherlock's chest behind her a constant comfort. She can feel his breath on the back of her neck, and she knows, at last, that if she goes to sleep now, he will be fine in the morning.
She doesn't open her eyes, but issues a soft "Mmm?" in response.
"You won't leave me, will you? Ever?"
"No," Molly sighs softly. "Never."
"Good," he replies. "That's good."