Hospital, two days before the wedding.
"John, I'm sorry."
It was his voice, the voice that John thought he wouldn't be able to hear again. Sherlock Holmes came back from death. He was paler and thinner but he didn't change a bit except his ginger hair. Was he a spirit or flesh and blood? John couldn't tell.
After three years... a betrayal... a deceit... The first year could be described in one word, painful. John had managed to survive thanks to his resilience and friends like Mrs. Hudson, Molly, Greg, and Mike Stamford...even Mycroft Holmes, too. They shared the pain together, feeling the emptiness left behind after Sherlock's fall. The detective didn't dare to get too close to John but his eyes followed him. He could've punched the detective in the face at this moment. Lestrade's face was ashen after he recognized the ginger-haired man. The DI looked as though he would faint anytime when Sherlock tapped his shoulder. Donovan shrieked and fainted. She was lying on a trolley with a paramedic checking on her.
Everything was not real. John couldn't care less about the return of the sleuth. Mary was being wheeled out of their flat. Ignoring his former flatmate, John hurried towards Mary's ambulance. His eyes briefly met Lestrade's in thanks. It was Greg Lestrade who had saved the day.
John needed a medical care, too: a bullet had grazed his shoulder. But he refused the hands of a paramedic and crawled into Mary's ambulance. She was unconscious, though her heartbeat was stable. Her face was swollen; she was as pale as death; her breathing was shallow and irregular. John stared blankly at the oxygen mask that fogged when she breathed. To his surprise, Sherlock jumped up and closed the door. Through the window, they could see Alice McCarthy's body was wheeled out of the empty flat. A coroner's van was waiting.
Mary was in an emergency surgery for four hours. A hemorrhage inside her brain... She had hit her head hard on the marble top of her vanity and the floor again. Mary's parents were in shock. When they rushed into the hospital, Mr. Morstan almost punched John, but Lestrade stepped in and explained that it was Alice M. McCarthy. John stared outside the window trying to remember what had happened a few hours ago.
Three hours ago...
Alice had accepted Mary's apology very graciously. Mary decided to follow John's word and changed her bridesmaid ten days ago. Alice wanted to look around their new flat so that she could decorate their flat perfect to surprise the couple after the honeymoon. Mary couldn't refuse and John tagged along; he couldn't let Mary with Alice alone.
Alice was very friendly, exclaiming about Mary's choice of wall papers, painting, furniture, picture frames – girl stuff. For twenty minutes… they'd covered the sitting room, kitchen, dining room, guest room and finally walked into the master bedroom. John yawned, thinking that he might have been overreacting since he met Mycroft. Mary gave him a nudge and asked,
"John, would you like tea?"
Before John said anything, Alice welcomed it. She asked for her "usual" and Mary got out of the room. A minute of silence…John flinched when he realized a click of the door: Alice had locked the door. She turned around and smiled.
"Well, John Watson. I've never expected this."
Her voice was quiet, calm and cold. All of a sudden, the doctor found himself staring blankly at the Browning pointing at him.
"Alice, what the hell…"
The woman cut in.
"Well, Mary won't be here for another ten minutes. She always takes ten minutes to brew tea of my usual. Let's settle the old scores before she comes back. I really don't want to hurt her, John. She has been a big support for me after my fiancée died."
John's face had a look of horror. It didn't feel real.
"I thought you'd know, John, my fiancée, Richard Brook or do you know him by James Moriarty? How pleasantly surprised I was to know that you were her boyfriend when she introduced us at the Fox? That wasn't our first encounter. Did you know we had met before?"
John couldn't think of anything. Where could he possibly meet Mary's best friend? Alice's eyes were those of a tigress, never losing her prey once she sets her eyes on.
"I was one of the red dots on your heart at the pool. There's another. When your detective friend faked his death three years ago, my rifle was aiming at your head… The day when I lost my Chard."
Her face was gleeful. She gestured John to move towards the window. They could hear sirens getting closer. She softly laughed at John's clueless face.
"You can't believe me. My flower shop is a disguise. I used to work as a sniper for Richard."
She thumbed off the safety catch of her Browning. She was an expert. She wasn't bluffing. John could see it.
"My father's. Still useable. He left the army as a colonel. I couldn't get the usual rifle. Too conspicuous."
John chocked out,
"Because your friend, Sherlock Holmes didn't die, John. He didn't stick to his end of the bargain."
She stepped towards John and said,
"Five minutes left. We don't have much time, John… Let me introduce myself again. I am Alice M. McCarthy. My middle name is…"
The door burst open. Someone had kicked the door. Alice turned around and shot instinctively, using one cartridge empty. John felt a burning on his shoulder. A stary bullet had just grazed his shoulder. Mary's pale face peeked in; she screamed when she saw John bleeding. The man barked at her to get out but Mary didn't listen. John froze when he registered who the man was. Only his hair was different. It couldn't be him. John was at his grave last weekend with Mary.
John felt the ground swaying. He felt as if he would throw up. Sherlock Holmes's answered.
"Her middle name is Moran, John."
Alice Moran McCarthy changed the cartridge in a couple of seconds; her lips twitched into an evil grin.
"Welcome back, Mr. Holmes. It's always nice to see old friends."
"Miss. McCarthy. Just drop the gun. You don't have to do this! The police is out there. Surrender and save your life."
"In due time, Mr. Holmes. After I finish your friend…"
Sherlock was trying to reason with her.
"Listen, Miss McCarthy. Moriarty, I mean, Richard Brook…had killed your father. He wanted to use your marksmanship and your father was in the way. He also had grudges against the old man."
Moran flinched and shook her head.
Moran aimed at John's heart.
"It was either you or him. Mr. Holmes. Now we have to close the deal. My Chard would never…"
Mary begged. Moran didn't even give a glance at her. She was focusing on John. Her fingers got tense.
"This is a closure for Chard. My man died three years ago, Mary. Now this man has to die."
She was about to pull the trigger when Mary stepped forwards.
Sherlock and John shouted at the same time. Moran shot for a warning to stop her friend. Mary got panicked and fell, while hitting her head hard to the side of the marble top of her vanity and the floor... A second of distraction. It was enough. Moran's body swayed with a gunshot. The glass of the bedroom cracked and everything stopped…
Alice Moran McCarthy slowly fell on the floor with her surprised look etched on her face. A crack shot. Lestrade didn't miss the chance.
Mary's surgery was a success. John was waiting at her bedside when she opened her eyes. Mrs. Morstan started to cry; Mr. Morstan hurried out to get a nurse. The doctor showed his thumb-up. No one had expected what happened next. John leaned closer to his fiancée and whispered,
"Mary, are you all right? I thought I had lost you, my dear."
Mary blinked her eyes for a few times and asked,
"I'm sorry. Do I know you?"
Everybody except Donovan and Anderson was present in Lestrade's division when Sherlock entered the office. The detective's name had been cleared long ago and he was welcomed with a big applause from the Yarders. He flinched, apprently not expecting such welcome. John followed the detective rather stiffly. Mary still didn't recognize him although she was recovering with little problem.
Sherlock was the usual himself when he deduced everything about Alice M. McCarthy and Richard Brook or Moran and Moriarty. The official registery showed only an initial M in the middle name. Given the McCarthy family was Irish, M could be for Moran and Alice used it as her alias since she started working as a sniper.
Years ago, Mr. McCarthy had found Richard and his daughter in her bed one night. They were 17 years old. Mr. McCarthy could've accused Richard of a rape yet he just couldn't: his daughter pleaded not to for she was so in love with Chard; and he was a good friend of the late Mr. Brook – that was why he had considered adopting the orphaned boy, Richard. Enraged, he gave up the adoption, and decided to move to America.
Richard Brook, a.k.a James Moriarty, had held grudges. He also knew how talented Alice was in shootings. It's up to guesswork: there was no clue as to how much Richard had been in love with Miss. Alice Moran McCarthy. Alice and Richard may have corresponded secretly. When Alice's family moved back to London, Richard knew he had to act before Alice met somebody else… After six months, there was a gas explosion which killed Mr. McCarthy instantly. Richard attended the funeral and acted as a grieving "son" who could've been adopted long ago. Since the funeral, Alice must've worked with Richard for years until the day of the fall. She had stopped working as a sniper, which made it harder to trace Moran.
Mycroft's CCTV spotted John, Mary, and Alice enter the flat. Alice's pocket looked too bulgy. Mycroft alerted Lestrade. Sherlock was back two days ago from Paris and had been watching John all along in disguise .
Sherlock added at the end. Richard Brook was also a suspect behind Carl Power's death. Sherlock had researched old records. His aunt was fired from the lab for mismanagement - a few items that could wreak a havoc had been stolen including the botulinum toxin. It was very likely that Richard's parents got suspicious of their son for Carl's death. Then their car slid off the road into a valley one winter night. Both the parents and his aunt died on the spot.
Airport. Three months later
Mary Morstan and her parents left U.K. after three months. The wedding was cancelled. She lost her memory of the latest two years, maybe from the impact of hitting the marble or the psychological shock of her best friend's betrayal. She didn't remember John or her London life at all. Her parents and John decided that it would be better for her to go back to America because she remembered her life in New York clearly.
John hid from a pillar and saw Mary and her parents enter the terminal at the airport. Sherlock was standing next to his friend. He cleared his throat and asked,
"She'll be fine, John."
John didn't answer but kept clutching the small box that had the ring. The detective pretended not to see it, turned around, and started walking.
"Let's go, John. Hurry. Lestrade texted me ten minutes ago."
John saluted at the direction that Mary had disappeared. He pocketed the box and followed the billowing dark coat. John knew why Sherlock had to fake his death. Mycroft, Lestrade and he had deduced why a few days after the funeral. He understood for the detective had been on a mission. However, he hadn't forgiven him yet. He just couldn't. The three years were hard for everybody. All the people were hurt and pained.
Someday, John knew he would have to "talk" it out with his friend, but not today. In the past three months he was licking his wound and barely had any time to think of his flatmate: Mary was his priority. Now was the time to start again. Sherlock had already moved to the old flat. John was to move in the next day. They were going back to their old life as the detective and his blogger. The two men caught a cab to Scotland Yard.
From the author.
What do you think? Some people guess that Moran could be a woman given Moffat and Gattiss always twist stories of the canon like they did in the seasons 1 and 2. I hope you enjoyed this. Reviews are so much welcome. Please let me know what you think:D
**UK Army: The Browning 9mm pistol has been in service since 1967 and is going to be replaced with Glock 17 9 mm from 2013. Alice's father must have had the Browning given his age.
**This story was loosely connected to Richard's story and Fall.
**Thank you so much for your reviews and comments!