Sherlock had made it through an entire pack of smokes and the sun was just rising when the shimmering started. Over in the corner, farthest away from Sherlock, the air wavered until a man appeared. Tall, dark, and handsome, in a brown pinstripe suit and a pocket watch in hand, Sherlock instantly recognized him from the story Marie had told him so long ago. "Sir Thomas Klinberg, is it? Sherlock Holmes." Sherlock introduced himself through the haze of his nicotine poisoning, sitting up straighter and watching the ghost with inquisitive eyes. He hadn't seen many ghosts other than Marie, and he found them all very fascinating. Thomas narrowed his eyes at Sherlock, stowing the pocket watch.

"You have no idea what you've done, have you?" The lawyer asked, staring at Sherlock. The suit he was wearing reminded Sherlock of Mycroft, which would not do. Not at all. It reminded him of Mycroft's arrogance, and a sneer fought to take over Sherlock's lips. "Marie was nearly fragmented just to protect you, and here you are, wallowing in your own filth, smoking and burning your life up as if it didn't have such incalculable value." Thomas snarled.

"Nearly?" Sherlock commented, stubbing his cigarette out viciously and sliding off the bed, worry permeating his tone. Guilt showed in every inch of his body, but it wasn't good enough for Thomas.

"Yes, nearly. It's a miracle she wasn't shredded, but she's alive. No thanks to you." Thomas barked, stepping closer. "She's in isolation and won't be released for three days." He spat the word 'isolation', knowing how awful it could be, especially at this time of year. He'd had plenty of ghosts that were on his register end up there- every agent did. He had gone to pick up one of his friends, a long time ago, who had since found the eternal peace and had left, so he knew that isolation was a horrid place. It was almost more cruel than shredding. Almost.

"What is isolation?" Sherlock fired off instantly, and Thomas grimaced.

"There are two locations- one is in the Arctic Circle and the other is in Antarctica. Ghosts are taken to a spectrum that only the strongest and oldest of ghosts can cross in and out of, and they are left there. Depending on the offense, some ghosts stay for a day and some stay for months. Marie got very lucky, but she will be weak. Don't expect to see her for a week at least." Thomas took off his hat, worrying the brim of it as he and Sherlock settled into grim silence.

"Does she still have her soul?" Sherlock asked, his voice a lot quieter and more frightened than he wanted it to be. He blamed the drugs later, but Thomas took it as a sign of true fear for a friend, which made him more lenient on Sherlock. He only raised a questioning eyebrow, wondering how the scrawny young adult in front of him had come to that conclusion. "The ghost that came to question her…he reached into Marie. He- he grabbed her soul in his hand. He squeezed it." Sherlock cited, the anger rising in his tone as quickly as it did in Thomas' face.

"Describe him at once. I was aware that Marie had been paralyzed, which is illegal, but not to such an extent, which is much more serious." Thomas ordered, and Sherlock relayed an incredibly detailed description, down to the stains on the man's clothes and the color of his eyes. Thomas took it all in and then nodded to Sherlock. He was still angry with him, a seemingly worthless human that had gotten Marie in trouble, but he was helping him bring the Inspector to justice.

"Thank you," Sherlock said finally, after a period of awkward, less tense silence. Thomas sighed, putting his hat back on and winding his watch.

"Of course. Marie seems very attached to you. I'll see to it that she heals." Thomas informed him, getting ready to depart. It seemed like both he and Sherlock were protective of Marie, but they couldn't protect her on their own. Thomas handled her physical aspects, whereas Sherlock was her mental and emotional support system. Maybe one day they could work together, but Thomas had the very pressing matter of getting an Inspector shredded to attend to. Sherlock said nothing and Sir Thomas Klinberg vanished without a trace, leaving Sherlock to his worries.

Three days is a long time in the absence of life or warmth. Time seemed to freeze and stop and go backwards in isolation, so much so that Marie didn't know if days or seconds had passed. If there were any other ghosts near her, she was so numbed and frozen that she couldn't tell. Through it all, there was a constant ache in her chest, where her soul was, that wracked her with shivers and agony. She would never forget how she had literally seen cosmos swirl in front of her eyes when the Inspector had squeezed her soul with all his might. It had been like the moments right before she'd been murdered all over again- there was the paralyzing fear, the desperation, and the mind-numbing pain. She wasn't even sure that she wasn't hallucinating when she suddenly felt Thomas in front of her, felt him rubbing her arms in an attempt to wake her up. "Marie? Can you hear me?" Thomas was glowing- he'd sunned for a full twelve hours before going to retrieve Marie. It had taken him two days to get the Inspector shredded, and so he'd barely had time to make the proper arrangements before picking Marie up.

"Thomas?" Marie had whispered, eyes flickering and then wincing against the light from Thomas' glow. She was used to the dark now, and light hurt.

"Yes, it's me. You're free to go and I'm getting you out of here. It'll hurt though, so just stay with me, ok?" Thomas told her, scooping her up before Marie could protest. In truth she was so weak that she didn't even realize Thomas was carrying her until they made out of the locked spectrum and back into the others. Thomas took her to the Andes Mountains. They were cold, but not freezing, like the Arctic. Even then Marie screwed up in a ball, gasping at the change of light and temperature. How she had ever been able to go to a desert was beyond her, then. Once Marie could lay flat on her back, exhausted (a process that took a day or two), Thomas picked her up again and took her to Seattle. It was cool there, but not cold. Once again, Marie went through the painful process of adjusting to the temperature.

"Thomas? Did you ever get to Sherlock?" Marie was finally able to whisper after Thomas took her to a temperate zone. She'd done nothing but gasp with pain for the past few days, and she sounded so distressed now that Thomas yearned to calm her down. When souls were damaged, so were ghosts, sometimes for years afterwards. Isolation wouldn't have been nearly as bad if Marie's soul hadn't been compressed.

"Yes, I did. Everything's fine." He soothed, squeezing her hand when she squeezed his.

"Thank you. Thank you so much, Thomas," she whispered, and his grip tightened.

"The Inspector who violated you was fragmented. I saw to it personally." Thomas told her, and Marie forced her eyes open, blinking at him with an expression confused with exhaustion. "How is your soul feeling now?" he asked, trying to remain brisk. Marie frowned, and her other hand slowly found its way to the bullet wounds on her chest. She rested it there, out of energy to do anything else.

"I feel shaken," she managed finally, still sounding confused. "I feel lost," she added, and Thomas' grip tightened further yet.

"Why do you care so much for that man? For Sherlock Holmes?" Thomas asked, and Marie smiled with her eyes closed, even though it was weak.

"He could see me. I was at my grave for the first time, my body freshly buried, and he could see me. He's never given up on me since." Marie whispered, her free hand clenching down over the bullet wound on her chest.

"Marie," Thomas sighed disapprovingly, scooping her up again. "Brace yourself," he told her, and then, quickly rippling through spectrums, Thomas took them to a rainforest. The effect was immediate- Marie screamed, curling into a ball and shuddering as the humidity and heat pressed down on her. Thomas, knowing that it was his duty, gathered Marie up into his arms to keep her from thrashing and hurting herself. They sat that way, crumpled onto the rainforest floor, for another day or so.

Thomas- thank you. I could never do this alone. Marie settled for telepathic conversation rather than actual talking- translating her thoughts into words would take too much energy when she was already so tired.

What are friends for? Thomas asked her quietly. He stayed with her throughout her ordeal, even when they went to a desert. To Marie, it felt as if her insides (mainly, her soul), was being kicked around like a football. When she finally did get over the heat change, she had to sun herself for several days. Thomas only had to leave once- and that was because he had rounds to make. He was still an agent of the Ghost Council and he still had responsibilities. Besides, all Marie was doing at that point was lying in sand-dunes, wincing as the sun went through every particle of her body.

It took Marie another several days to be able to stand up and go through spectrums on her own. Even with the constant sunning she was still pale, with hollowed eyes. She shivered all the time, and the edges of her being flickered without her permission. Despite how awful she still felt, Marie knew that Sherlock would be worried. She needed to see him, to know that he wasn't dying of an overdose on the floor of his room. Thomas was very wary, worried that Marie would lose focus in her weak state and try to take Sherlock, but Marie was adamant that she could handle it. After all, her strict self-restraint is what had saved her from being fragmented in the first place. "As long as you're sure." Thomas offered one last time, as they stood in the Gobi Desert, Marie getting ready to depart.

"If I can't handle it, I'll come back here." Marie told him, and Thomas offered her a reassuring smile. "Thank you. Again." Marie told him gratefully, and Thomas waved a dismissive hand.

"I am always at your disposal." He told her formally, unable to shake his heritage. With a shaky smile, Marie picked up a spectrum and disappeared. She would now be fragmented if it meant that she could protect Thomas- he had saved her life. If he hadn't worked her back into normality, she probably would have gone insane and would have joined the darker spirits of the world. Gathering her strength, Marie made it back to Sherlock's university and found his room, gritting her teeth at the onslaught of pain.

Sherlock was sitting on his bed, shaking and sweating, and yet staring determinedly at the wall across from him, flexing his fist around a stress-ball one would find in a therapist's office. He was clearly going through withdrawal, and yet Marie knew that he was doing it for her. Sherlock, with all of his senses on fire from his withdrawal, noticed the shimmering air that Marie was trying to force into masking her presence instantly, and he slid off the bed, eyes flicking over it. "Marie?" He questioned, sounding daringly hopeful. Unable to hold onto the air, Marie wisped together in front of Sherlock's horrified eyes. He instantly went to move forward, and Marie scuttled backwards, half passing through the wall before Sherlock stopped and backed off.

"Stay there," Marie cautioned uselessly now that the damage was done, voice hoarse. Never before had she wanted life more than that moment. Sherlock's heart and soul were thundering in an attempt to get over his narcotics abuse, and she could feel it, see the ripples it made in the air. The simple fact that he was alive tested her, and it hurt.

"What happened to you?" Sherlock fired off, voice terrible. He could do nothing- he couldn't get closer to Marie, he couldn't nurse her back to health, nothing. He had never felt so powerless, and he hated it. Marie grimaced, hugging herself when she flickered again.

"When a ghost expends too much energy near a pocket of life, such as your college campus, Inspectors are sent out to make sure that a ghost isn't taking human lives. I got so angry with you that I released that energy on accident, and an Inspector came." Marie whispered, and Sherlock made a frustrated noise, squeezing his stress ball until his hand ached.

"If I had recognized you, or his presence, you would have been shredded." Sherlock summed up, leaping to the end, and Marie nodded silently. "Thomas said that you nearly were, however. What happened, are you hurt? He mentioned something about paralyzing, and-!"

"Sherlock," Marie interrupted his increasingly hysterical rant, voice just as soft and soothing as it had been when she told him stories to help him sleep. "Calm down. You're in withdrawal, aren't you?" She asked sadly, and he gave her a tense nod, pacing on his side of the room to burn off his body's itching need for narcotics. Her reminder of the war he was waging helped him calm down a bit. Withdrawal was unlike anything he'd ever experienced- it took away his filter, his logic, and his order, until he was an emotional, high-strung mess. It took effort to keep himself together, even now. "I didn't know this before what happened to me, but apparently, a ghost can reach into another and grab their soul, which paralyzes them. You can still think and hear and feel and all of that, but you are frozen. That technique was used long ago to bring ghosts into submission, but it is no longer used because it can damage the soul, even when a ghost is innocent."

"That's the same process as shredding, isn't it? They take your soul in their hands and then they-," Sherlock made a violent motion with his one hand, unable to finish the sentence. Marie grimaced.

"Isolation is horrible, but if he hadn't paralyzed me I would have been fine." She tried to say it firmly, but she shivered half way through, destroying any ideas in Sherlock's mind that she was strong at that moment.

"And your soul is damaged now." Sherlock nearly accused, now working the stress ball with his long, elegant fingers. Marie shivered. "How bad is the damage?" Sherlock threw out there, wanting to hug and kill and shoot up all at the same time.

"It was compressed and cracked slightly by the squeeze. I- I can try melding it back into shape, but that will take time. And it will hurt. But if I do get it back to roughly its normal size, sunning will finish off the healing process. I'll be a bit more…spacey, but I'll be the same old Marie, I promise." Marie hastened to comfort, seeing absolute terror in Sherlock's eyes when she told him that she was going to reach inside her own body to meld her soul back into shape. It sounded horrible.

"This is my fault. MY FAULT!" Sherlock yelled, throwing his stress ball at the wall. It bounced back and rolled past Marie to rest against the opposite wall. "If I hadn't shut you out or kept secrets or even started using none of this would have happened. What is wrong with me? I hurt you and now-!"

"Sherlock!" Marie very nearly yelled it, but it cut him off of his rant that was full of self-hatred. Only then did he realize that he was gripping his hair in fistfuls, shuddering. "It's not your fault. I know that this relationship is borderline against the law for me, and yet I have and will always stay with you. That is my choice, not yours. Don't do this to yourself, especially when you aren't thinking clearly." Marie told him sharply. "Now, go and take a shower, clean yourself up, alright? For me." Marie requested, and Sherlock took a few deep breaths before giving a jerky nod, heading into the bathroom and shutting the door with shaking hands. As soon as he was gone, Marie started her search. She checked every single floorboard, ever cubby, the bottom of every drawer in the room, as well as in all of the books. She found decent stashes of both cocaine and heroin, along with plenty of syringes. She took that, along with the dealer's contact information, and took them to Death Valley and cast them into an alkaline pool, satisfied that Sherlock wouldn't realize their disappearance for a long time. The sun there helped her recuperate from being in Sherlock's presence, so she went back.

Knowing that what she was about to do was an invasion of privacy and yet if was for Sherlock's own good, Marie went completely invisible and snuck into the bathroom. Sherlock's shower curtain was a thick white material, thank goodness, so she could only see a general outline as he showered, still shaking, even under the hot spray. Marie checked every tile in the bathroom, behind the mirror, in the toilet, every place she could think of, and found a bit more. She took it without hesitation back to Death Valley and disposed of it. When she returned, invisible, she nearly ran right into Sherlock, who was darting around his room in nothing but a towel, gathering a set of pajamas to wear. He went back into the bathroom to change, leaving Marie standing there in surprise. It was obvious that Sherlock had grown up quite a bit in ten years, but seeing him almost completely naked was just another reminder that he was aging and she was not.

When he emerged, fully dressed and looking much better, he found Marie floating by the window, nearly disappearing in the faint light. "I forgot to mention this, but Happy Birthday, Sherlock." Marie said, and Sherlock actually laughed a true laugh as he sank down at his desk.

"Thank you, Marie." He said seriously, and she turned to offer him a weak smile. "You should go." He told her, and when she drew herself up, affronted, he added, "You're still weak and my presence must be agonizing. I'm not going anywhere, I promise. Rest." He ordered, and Marie deflated, rippling a bit when the sun went behind a cloud, casting her into shadow.

"Only if you do the same, Sherlock." She ordered right back, and only when he had promised to be safe did she disappear.

Marie returned to the nearest desert that still had sunlight and decided that she might as well try to fix her soul now. Thomas had told her about the process she'd have to go through, and she knew that it was awful. She knew that it would hurt. She even knew that there was a chance that she would have unnatural connections to the cosmos, to the universe. Thomas had told her old stories of ghosts who had been subdued and then could turn around and out-power ghosts that were centuries older than them simply because they had the forces of the cosmos trapped inside of them. It was odd- and another reason why paralyzing had been forbidden. Despite that possible perk, there was still a dangerous chance that Marie could hurt her soul even more. Souls were not made to be played around with or even touched- and for Marie to fix hers she would need to mold it like clay. The dangers were intense- but if she didn't mold her soul into somewhat of a normal shape, it would be cracked and broken forever. Eventually, that damage would affect her day to day activities until she would slowly go insane.

Settling down on a sand dune, Marie closed her eyes and drank in all the heat she could. Taking a deep breath, she slowly let her hands pass into her chest, a wince crossing her face as they nicked the twisted hunk of metal that was the three bullets in her heart. Inhaling quickly, Marie palmed her soul and shuddered. She could feel the pressures of the universe, every second of every life that had ever existed ever, and yet her life sang out the most. Gritting her teeth, starting to shake, Marie did what she had to. She took her soul into her hands like a ball of dough and rolled it to smooth the soul into a uniform size and shape, letting out a scream of pain that echoed around for miles. An odd sucking and pulling feeling, along with pain, radiated through her chest- it was as if her soul was trying to suck the entire universe inside it. It took a lot of effort to beat off all of creation to heal her soul, and even then, Marie could only handle making her soul malleable for a few seconds before her body forcefully ejected her hands back out into open space. The amount of energy she'd given off in just mere seconds was enough to make her woozy- Thomas had been completely right. It hurt. A lot.

Trembling with effort, Marie took a moment to take stock. She had molded her soul back into a ball shape, but there were still cracks, fine ones, but the cracks were there regardless. Gathering her courage, Marie managed to roll her soul for a few more seconds, erasing the cracks to a point where they would be safe (no soul would leak out of the cracks) before she slipped back into oblivion, the world going dark.

It took her two days to realize that she was floating in and out of spectrums, instinctively following the sun without her brain's permission. It was survival instinct and for a while, Marie just rode the path of heat and warmth until she could control herself again. When she did, she found a strange feeling in her chest. It was a humming, thrumming feeling, warm almost, in her soul. She had absolutely no idea what it was, and that was slightly terrifying. Needing advice, she sought out Thomas through a telepathic connection.

Marie? How are you? Is everything alright? Thomas fired off right away.

I'm doing fine, thank you. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't even have the question I have to ask you. Marie settled for, and Thomas paused, gaging the connection to see if he could figure out her question on his own. Thomas wasn't the oldest ghost around, that was for sure, but he had centuries on Marie. It didn't take him long to notice that something was different- she had something he hadn't felt in a long time.

Marie…you've got life power. A lot of it. How…? He managed, flabbergasted.

I molded my soul back into shape. It was more cracked than we thought, and something odd happened. Now I've got this feeling in my chest. Is that life power? What does it do? Marie questioned, and Thomas let out a slightly awed, slightly tired sigh.

Life power is the power you've been using to communicate telepathically with me like this. You've also been using it to travel in spectrums, to pick things up, things like that. Over time, older ghosts store sunlight energy into themselves subconsciously. Over centuries, that builds up into vast wells of power- enough to light things on fire and even to kill people. I've met very few people who have more than you do- you even have more than me. Use it carefully, alright? It will take a while to master its power. Thomas managed to explain it all in just a few sentences, and Marie mulled it over. This 'life power' sounded incredible, it made her feel incredible. According to Thomas, he'd told her that she would be weak for months after her ordeal in isolation and the slight crushing of her soul. However, she didn't feel an ounce of that aching then. She still felt tired and weak from molding her soul around, but she could already feel that pain passing. It was incredible.

How long does it last for? She asked, calculating. She could use this power to break Sherlock's addictions once and for all, she realized. Sherlock had no idea how powerful she had been before that mess, and now that she was even stronger she didn't even know how powerful she was. Despite that fear of the unknown, it didn't matter to Marie. Power was power, and it would help Sherlock beat his addictions. What other use did she have for it?

It depends on how you use it. If you heal wounds or try to reincarnate bodies, it will deplete instantly. Activities such as telepathic communications and traveling in spectrums won't take any effort anymore- not ever. You have so much and you will continue to add so much to it that those strains will never touch you again- unless you blow that much power all at once, which will definitely alert the Ghost Council. Nothing will happen to you, but they'll watch you like a hawk for the rest of your life and that will most definitely keep you from seeing your human friend again. Thomas warned her, and Marie was grateful for the warning. Thomas had years of experience over her and she treasured his advice more than anything else (besides Sherlock).

Thank you. I don't think I'll use it at all- I really can't think of a reason to. Not yet. She lied, and Thomas chuckled, the action making the connection shake a bit in his amusement.

Sure you can't. If you use it to help Sherlock, bear in mind that simply erasing the problem won't get rid of his temptation forever. He needs to conquer his demons on his own. Thomas told her, and Marie felt herself 'blushing' in embarrassment. That was the last time she would ever try to lie to him again.

Thank you. For everything. She said empathetically, and Thomas gave the connection a playful nudge.

Go. Fix your human. I'll contact you soon. He promised, and with another heartfelt thank you, Marie broke the connection. She sunned in her current desert (the Sahara) for a few more hours before returning to Sherlock.

A/N: Gah. Please tell me what you think!