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"And so then she said she wanted to get together and talk- you know what that means." Surya rolled her eyes. She twirled a cherry on the stem in her apple martini glass.
A tall young man with dark curly hair strode down the pavement outside the pub, laughing with his mates. Molly watched wistfully. Not Sherlock. She doubted he had ever been so carefree. She wondered if he had any friends at all. There were so many little details about him that she hadn't a clue about; little details that were in fact incredibly important.
"Molly." She heard the irritation in Surya's normally mellow voice.
"Sorry! No, I heard you, Melissa wants to talk. Are you going to patch things up then?" Molly sipped her vodka tonic.
"Maybe. I dunno. She's lovely, and we have fun, but she can't handle my schedule. And I just can't be bothered with a fuss. You know. So close to finishing up and all."
Molly nodded, understanding. Another thought occurred to her. "Is it- I don't know if this is too personal to ask, I'm sorry if it is, but does it matter that she isn't your soul mate? She can't be, wrong name and all." She gestured to the delicately curved letters of the name "Maria" marking the inside of Surya's forearm.
Her friend shrugged. "It's different for me, Mols. Do you know how many women I've met named Maria? Sherlock was a fair sight easier for you to wait for. If I meet the right one, that's great, but…" She shrugged again, and smiled. "I want to have kids before I'm forty. I can't wait to meet the right Maria until I'm eighty. So I'm going to live my life and if I fall in love with a beautiful woman who makes me happy, I'm not going to fight it because of a name..or a delicious tingle that runs through my whole body," Surya added dramatically, running her palms down over her belly and thighs.
Molly laughed, her cheeks warm, and she threw her straw at her. Her description of her first meeting with Sherlock, and the spark of the soul marks touching, might have been over the top.
Surya threw the straw back at her. "Has he been in touch? Or the creepy brother?"
"No. But if he's in clinic, then that's not unexpected. And I think, with my studies, and his sobriety- as hard as it was to have him taken away right after finding him…maybe it was actually the right thing to do. Time apart to take care of things. If we were destined to meet, then we should again, right?" Molly trailed off. She chewed on her bottom lip. Her eyes sparkled, and she took another gulp of her drink.
Surya popped the garnish of her cocktail into her mouth. "It is the right thing to do, and you know it. And you have the dreams to keep you company some nights, you said. That is the one part that makes me a little jealous, I gotta admit. I don't think I'll ever remember more than a quick flash of a past dream without my soulmate. But on the positive side, I don't have your hassles either, and I think I prefer a happy waking world. Cheers."
She raised her drink with a grin, and Molly clinked her glass to hers with a matching smile.
That night, she thought she would dream again of the lovers in the cave as she had been for so many nights lately, but instead she found herself back at the French university, not in the laboratory but in a salon, taking tea.
She sat by her husband in a hard wooden chair while he debated merrily with her teacher Henri, one of the few who had supported her experiments and lofty goals. Henri sat back, stroking his white mustache and beard, cheered by the exciting minds. Her love Pierre was not cowed by the respected scientist who came from such a long line of scholars, and the professor seemed delighted by it. She watched them argue, as great friends and peers did, and warmth flowed through every corner of her being.
Her other self observed them and knew that something had begun that night when they sat in an informal circle, chatting as colleagues, and challenging each other's ideas about physics. Phosphorescence was of monumental concern to Henri; the infinite nature of it, the possibility of energy absorbed in one form being released into the cosmos as light seemed a miracle to him. And as he spoke, it became a miracle to her too. Less so to Pierre whose soul was pragmatic rather than poetic, but within the triangulation of their thoughts, hypotheses were born and new heights reached.
It seemed almost inevitable then that she should lose them both within a few years of that historical peak. After you have reached the summit, there is only decline.
Molly felt wetness of her cheeks and an undefinable ache in her chest when she awoke. She scribbled a few lines in the notebook she had begun keeping by her bed. She would search for information as usual on the internet later, but now, she was too overwhelmed by the strangest sensation: desperately missing people she barely knew or had never met in this life.
"Your police contact information is all here. To be perused at your leisure, at your new flat. Mother insisted on the housing, by the way. I'm well aware you'd prefer to choose your own home, but she will not be satisfied unless she knows where her child is living. If the flat's unacceptable, try to remember to forward the new address before disappearing. But it is a large place in London, paid for a full year already. A gift." Mycroft's mouth was pinched and his nose wrinkled more than usual. It appeared one of the new admits to the clinic had vomited in the foyer where they stood, and the staff hadn't done a thorough cleaning job. "Would you like to use my mobile now to call anyone, perhaps?"
"No. Cigarettes." Sherlock opened the exit door, and grabbed the packet of Marlboros from Mycroft's pocket. His own hands were empty, his small amount of belongings having already been moved from the clinic. He hopped off the stoop, and had his cigarette lit by another discharged resident waiting on the pavement for a taxi. Sherlock tipped his head back in bliss, the smoke curling in his mouth and nostrils.
He inhaled deeply, letting the flavor roll over his tongue. His mouth watered, and he relished the hit of nicotine. Some of the instantaneous effects were no doubt psychosomatic but it was delicious all the same. The sun soaked his face as he stood and slowly enjoyed the tobacco while Mycroft watched.
"Your first cigarette as a free and sober man. Congratulations," Mycroft commented sardonically, leaning on his umbrella.
Sherlock sucked in the last of the smoke, exhaled, and dropped the butt to the ground, grinding it under his heel.
"And the last. I've quit." He ignored the tug of dependence, and stuffed the packet in the bin in front of the building. A long black car rolled up in front of them. A black-suited man jumped out of the vehicle and opened the passenger back door.
"Time to see your new home, brother. I believe you'll find it sufficient. It's on Baker Street."
"That was amazing. We've been sitting on that case file for two years. I thought Holmes was taking the piss about what you could do, but the son in law just confessed."
Sherlock sighed impatiently. "And we haven't even left the building yet, Mr. Lestrade. The evidence was all there in the folder, waiting to be deduced. Imagine if a real detective had been at the crime scene."
"It's Detective Inspector, actually." He crossed his arms. "And several detectives were there. Working their arses off. Someone had to collect the evidence you just looked at."
Sherlock sneered. The idea of working regularly with slow-witted coppers was becoming more preposterous by the minute. "Look, if you-"
The silver-haired man held up his hand in surrender and smiled disarmingly. "I already said it was amazing. That not enough for you? Truth is, we could use a fresh eye, every now and again."
"Obviously," he replied loftily. "And I know people have to collect evidence. One of your staff has the deplorable habit of using their teeth to adjust their gloves, causing tearing and possible contamination." He displayed one photo of a hand holding a weapon, where a slight mark on a crime scene technician's gloved finger bore a suspicious resemblance to a bite. A second photo, from further away, showed the same technician moving a piece of evidence.
Lestrade stared at the photos. "That is…frightening, actually. I'll have a talk with him. I do mean that. Thank you."
It wasn't just the people collecting evidence that concerned Sherlock. In the folders of evidence he rifled through before choosing a few to impress D.I. Lestrade with, several bore the distinct stamps of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.
And several of the most recent post-mortem reports held the gentle cursive signature of Molly Hooper.
His throat tightened at the sight of it.
He had been back in London for three weeks and he had still not told his soulmate where he was. And he didn't know why. Did he?
As he bid goodbye to Lestrade and hailed a taxi, he felt momentarily lost. He knew London geographically like no one else: the tunnels, the sewers, the alleys, the rooftops, the side streets. But when he slid onto the seat and the cabbie looked at him expectantly in the rearview mirror, his mind went blank.
He wondered if he had saturated his mind with chemicals for so long that he had fried some neurological pathways beyond repair. Was he too damaged for anything but the automated spewing of the knowledge he'd spent so long accumulating? What if he called out the address of Barts, and ran down to the morgue? What if he walked straight into the morgue, found his girl waiting for him, took her in his arms and kissed her until they melted together?
The cabbie cleared his throat pointedly. "Mate?"
Sherlock barked out, "221 Baker Street," and spent the rest of the ride home trying to delete from his mind the fantasy of finding Molly waiting for him in his bed when he got home.
The sun was high in the sky before the lovers separated reluctantly to forage for food in Persa's meager supply.
"What shall we do now? They'll never notice your bones aren't among those beneath the waters of rock." She fed him an olive from the clay bowl.
After swallowing, he remarked, "And their monster broke my shackles, no doubt." He smiled wryly and kissed her palm. Warmth suffused her body. Andros cupped her cheek and kissed her breathless, before feeding her an olive in return. Persa laughed softly, eyes shining.
Andros stroked her arm in thought as they sat by the remains of the fire. "We have your boat, your hooks, and my skill with the inks. We can go anywhere. We could stay here, but if the king hears tell of a ghost- or a fisherman- with my face on these coasts, a visit from his men will come soon."
Persa nodded. "I know. I have no fear of leaving this place behind. It was a cage as much as my home. After my parents- after they were lost- I had nothing but my dreams and the hope of you, and the stories I would tell myself." She looked away, her voice husky.
"Poems and stories like the bards tell in the marketplace?" Intrigued, Andros set down the bowl. "Tell me."
"No, not half as clever. Just fancies. Little tales."
"I demand you tell me," Andros said imperiously. "And since bards ply their gift for coin and I have none, I shall have to offer something else in exchange." He squinted as though deep in thought. "A kiss for every line. That is a sound offer, I should think. Do you accept?" Before she could respond, Andros took her in his arms and captured her lips. He stroked the crown-shaped lines of her soulmark as their mouths melded together, meeting again and again, and she shivered. Her hands slid over his arms and she lost count of the kisses.
Persa was about to push her mate onto his back when he lifted his mouth from her and murmured, "An advance payment. A story, wife."
And so Persa laid in the circle of his arms, and told him tales of the adventures she imagined for herself on the nights when she was so lonely in the cliffs she thought she might go mad. She told him of the years spent hiding away from the hands and eyes of men after her parents were lost to a storm. In her cave by the sea, the girl grew to be a woman, as her longings and dreams of the past flourished.
She conjured showers of gold and snake-haired women and lusty gods; magical crones who shared only one eye between them; evil-tongued prophets and heroes to thwart them with cleverness. In her dreams, winged horses took flight and every human had a fighting chance at survival, even when the gods plotted against them.
Her fevered imagination created the impossible and her enthusiasm infected Andros. She told her tales, growing more animated as her reservations fell away and she saw the light in his eyes. The arrogant young man in the market whose cold beauty had intimidated her was gone, and in his place sat only her husband, her soulmate, embracing her dreams.
Reaching the climax of the story, Persa punctuated the heroine's sword slice with the swinging of her arm against his chest. Andros laughed, and found he couldn't stop. His face was less perfectly handsome as it crinkled but she preferred it this way.
She was contemplating how much he made her ache when she realized she heard voices in the distance.
Her gut seized in fear. Persa jumped and clapped a hand over Andros' smiling mouth. He froze.
She lifted a finger to her mouth silently. His eyes widened. He understood.
She nudged Andros downward and he sat. Persa crept quietly to the entrance, her light form making no noise. Peeking out, she listened for a moment and then crawled back to him, whispering.
"On the beach. They're making sure you were taken. Soldiers."
Andros's head snapped toward the entryway. He swallowed hard.
She whispered again. "I know another way around. We can watch, to be certain they believe. But you must follow me carefully and stay down."
She led Andros down the eastern side of the cliffs, down a path so steep Andros turned green when he approached it. Persa gripped his hand and they tiptoed down the curved path, through a narrow tunnel, and back inside the lower caves where they were invisible again. They breathed easier then, out of sight.
They eased along the wall, listening. They sat and waited for the men of the king as they near the beach near the rock of chains.
The word carried on the wind. Other words were lost in the grumbling. Persa peered out.
She heard the word "shackle" and saw a man with a spear speaking to a similarly dressed man and nodding. Their bodies were relaxed, and she heard one of them mention beer. Nothing she caught of the conversation suggested suspicion about the boy they had left to die on the rock the day before.
And they were unconcerned with the older man who stood quietly on the beach behind them.
He was taller than the soldiers but slim, his nose strong and proud. His robes, flapping in the wind, displayed the moderate wealth of a skilled merchant. His face suggested hawkish pride and such stubborn arrogance that even if Persa had not seen Andros by his side that day in the marketplace, she would know him at once as his father, Casso, the great scribe.
The soldiers left him alone, trudging along the sand without a glance back.
Casso's face was set in stone as he stared at the cold sea that had stolen his son.
Persa drew back into the cave, grabbed Andros's arm and pushed him forward to look.
Andros watched as his father took in the sacrificial rock where the chains still rattled, broken now. The man stood very still, his pale eyes locked on the isolated place where his son had died. He studied it calmly.
After a long minute, the scribe simply turned and followed the path that the soldiers had taken up the beach. His stride did not falter.
Bitter anger carved Andros' features into ugliness. Persa felt the force of his ire and grief inside, through their new connection.
She slid her arms around his waist and pulled him back into the cave, soothing him with her warmth.
"Not even a tear. 'Control, Andros. We're not animals, Andros. Pride, Andros, we are the best at what we do.' Sentiment is not useful, according to my father." Andros's hiss caught in his throat. His arms tightened around her. He buried his face in her hair. His voice was muffled when he spoke. "He wouldn't even look. When they came for me. His boasts are what drew them to take me but when they collected me for the reaping, he couldn't even look at my face."
Persa smoothed her palms over his back. She couldn't wash away his sorrow or find the words. She'd been away from other people for so long, but she held him and instinctively the spark flowered between them, easing his despair. But within their bond, Andros understood and accepted her comfort. She felt his pain ease, though the ache didn't vanish entirely. His father's love and pride in him and his skills had mattered greatly. But healing would come with time.
Andros straightened, and she felt him marvel at her. Persa smiled. He squeezed her hand.
"We're free now. Choose our stars to navigate by. Where shall it be, my lady hero?"
"My god, what an insane shit he is." Davison accosted Molly as she arrived at the morgue to begin work. "How does he get psych clearance?"
"Who is? A patient?" Molly fumbled with the pile and then gave up, dumping them on her desk.
"No, the skinny prat who came with the D.I. He's been working with New Scotland Yard for a few months. Have you not met him then? Look what the hell he left with the body!"
The outraged pathologist brandished in his grip a black riding crop.
Molly's mouth dropped open. "What? Is that-?"
"Stamford says he has permission apparently. It's for the Met, for a bloody case. I've seen the detective fella do some weird shit but this really is something else. I need you to back me up on this when I talk to Mike."
"But it's for a case, you said- was he using that weapon on the body?" Her eyes widened as the visual flooded her mind.
"Bruising pattern, he says. 'Let me know if they form within thirty minutes.' He left his mobile number. Can you believe the cheek?" Davison frowned at the tool in his hand and then cringed. "Oh fuck me, do you think he uses it for not just corpses? What kind of weird freaky sex stuff is the Met involved with?"
His mouth twisted in exaggerated horror, and Molly burst into laughter. Embarrassed, she clapped a hand over her mouth to smother her giggles. Davison's frown turned into a sheepish smile. He started to laugh in spite of himself.
They were still shaking in laughter a minute later when a deep voice carried through the morgue and into the office area where they stood, sending shivers down Molly's spine.
"I've forgotten my riding crop. You didn't by any chance bring it into the office in a rare show of efficiency, have you, Davison?"
Her stomach clenched and turned over and Molly worried for a few seconds that her afternoon meal might wind up on the tiled floor.
Davison straightened up, and hollered toward the front, "Yeah I've got it. Any reason why I should give it back?" He grinned toward Molly, expecting an answering smile but found her wide-eyed and shaking.
Molly slowly approached the entryway into the main morgue, knowing what she'd find before she turned the corner.
Sherlock Holmes stood in the center of the St. Barts morgue, tall and slim, but stronger than she had seen him last, almost five months before. The person she had left in his hospital bed had just come back from death, and looked like it.
The man before her was fifteen pounds heavier, with his hair trimmed to keep the curls from falling into his eyes. They fell over his head and brushed the royal blue scarf looped loosely around his neck. He wore his overcoat unbuttoned, and she could see that lean muscles beneath his shirt had replaced many of the painfully thin hollows from before. As she stepped through the doorway, he turned expectantly with brows raised and she knew the exact second he understood it was her and not Davison walking to him.
His skin paled but for the vivid spots of color on his cheeks. His lips parted and then closed again. Her chest ached with happiness to see how healthy and completely clean he was, his gaze bright and pure, the blue-green irises unclouded with no bruises below to mar the flesh.
But the lingering questions made her eyes well with unshed tears.
"So. What sort of case requires beating a body with a riding crop, eh?"
Sherlock glared at Davison over her head. "Heard the laughing. Assumed it was one of your nurses. Stupid, making an assumption." His glare intensified.
"I only have one nurse friend that visits here, Holmes," Davison corrected. "My other friend is a respiratory technician."
"Visits," Sherlock scoffed.
"Sherlock," Molly said. "Don't. Please." Davison's sexual hobby wasn't their concern. His partners were aware of his non-monogamous ways, and her coworker's personal life was none of her concern.
"Wait, so you do know him?" The doctor was puzzled.
Sherlock stripped his gloves from his hands, shoved them in his pockets, and strode toward them. "Of course she knows me. I'm her soul mate. And I'll be taking her for a walk right now, as I've no desire to kiss her where you've shagged so many of your conquests."
In the elevator, Molly pressed the button to the top floor, and threw herself into his arms, sliding her arms under his coat before he could say a word.
"I didn't come back." Sherlock wrapped his arms around her. "I realize that you probably feel a good deal of anger toward me. My brother informed my mother of your existence and she's spent the last few months badgering me about contacting you and informing me of what would have been the proper course of action. I did want to contact you. But I felt other matters had to be attended to first."
"No, I actually agree. I hated it, but I do. Oh god, your mother knows about me..." Molly lifted her head up, and caressed his cheek. The elevator reached the top level, and the doors opened. She grabbed his hand and led him to the roof exit. "Alright, that's a step. Though- I am rather upset about you apparently running around with the Met the last few months, long enough for Davison to acquire a hatred for you! Everyone seeing you but me." She sighed. "How did I never see you?!" Molly grabbed the folding chair and opened the door, propping it with the chair. She shivered as the cool night air touched her bare arms.
"You didn't see me because I made certain I was aware of your work schedule, and I went there only rarely. You follow a pattern and you stick to it, and I am the best at deductions, of course." Sherlock smiled proudly. He slipped his coat off and stepped onto the roof. Molly stepped out behind him. "Though there was one close call, and there was always the chance of someone mentioning me- I accepted that risk. I didn't intend to stay away for long. I saw you once, almost a month ago. You were leaving with a woman with long black hair, dark eyes and a pink coat. She works here."
"That's Surya; she's one of my best mates. I can't believe you, you-shit!" Molly laughed, and then shivered. Gooseflesh rose on her arms, and she rubbed them. Sherlock draped his coat around her snugly and led her to a spot on the roof. With unspoken agreement, they sat and Molly leaned into him, tendrils of her hair blowing in the breeze across his chest.
Over them, the night sky stretched into infinity. She settled against her soulmate, marveling that he was here with her. The confusion of the last few months faded as she nestled into the crook of his arm. Stiff at first, Sherlock studied her curiously and then relaxed, pleased with the waves of contentment flowing through his inner connection to Molly. With her pressed so close to his body, interpreting human behavior and feelings was so much easier.
And contrary to everything he had ever feared, he didn't feel weak or like he was living in the past at all. The spectre of his parents' botched marriage receded further.
When he peered down at her, Molly's big brown eyes shining, Sherlock believed that he had hope for the future. He wanted her, in his flat, in his arms, laughing with him instead of that idiot from the morgue. He wanted her to be with him in his bed when he came from a case, and he wanted to be at the door when she came from Barts, to do…whatever it was she did when she came home. He wanted to find out. That was the exciting part. He needed more data.
Sensing his growing excitement in the spark of energy moving between them, Molly nuzzled his chest and slipped an arm across his body. She gazed up at the stars. "This is my favorite place, you know. It's always been comforting to me, to be able to look up. I can find my way through the stars. Since I was little."
"I never had much use for astronomy," Sherlock admitted. "I've deleted most specific information related to astronomy from my brain." He stroked her arm, his fingers finding her soul mark unerringly.
"Your loss," she teased. "Do you see that constellation- those stars there- and there- follow that curve down and up and around- and then down across. And then that star over there and there."
He frowned and shifted. The floor of the roof was growing cold under his legs. "Too complicated. I was under the impression that constellations were pictures that were self-evident to ancients in the sky."
She laughed softly. "Yes, that one is a bit complex. I'll show you it on a computer later. It's called Andromeda. Do you remember it?"
He stilled. "I…it sounds familiar."
"Andromeda was a princess chained to a rock as a sacrifice, in mythology. Let's try another constellation that's much easier to see. The bright one there, right there, there and there- it looks like a large tilted W, actually."
Sherlock sat quietly for a moment. "Yes, I see it."
Molly slid her hand into his, warming her fingers. "That one is called Cassiopeia. Named after a queen. Andromeda was her daughter. Does the constellation remind you of anything?" She asked.
Sherlock turned to her. Cassiopeia. Casso. " I wasn't certain of how many of my dreams you shared when we were apart. There are countless lives. But it seems that one kept coming back to me, for some reason. The constellation looks like the mark that was our arms in that life." He smiled, remembering how Andros and Persa's arms had pressed together as they made love, their soul marks identical to the crown in the sky.
"Yes!" Molly said excitedly. His coat slid off her arms as she moved around. "You remember it- us- being together. Do you remember what happened after Andros and Persa left their shore?"
"They never went back, they never saw Casso again. They sailed northeast, likely close to the modern-day Lebanese or Syrian coast. I've performed calculations. They-"
"We fished. Andros was a poor learner at first, but eventually they caught enough to trade for inks and treated papyrus."
The memories flowed back. Sherlock cradled her face, and he leaned in, his forehead pressed to Molly's. "Andros wrote down Persa's tales. Her heroism, and the stories she created in her dreams."
"And then the story became a myth carried to and known in Greece. Though apparently some details were changed by others over the years, like gender. But people remembered Persa and Andros in some form." Molly smiled, and a tear rolled down her cheek. "The stories were passed on. Generations, centuries."
Sherlock's breath mingled with hers. He pulled her in closer and he hauled his coat up over her shoulders again. The thought of her wrapped in his clothes, his scent, pleased him.
His throat tightened. He felt the old panic rise up in at the loss of emotional control but he pushed it away. Her courage ran through him.
"You slew the monster. You saved me." He tilted his head and her lips brushed his. The heat of her want rushed through his body and then they were sprawling on his coat on the roof, with their mouths wild against each other and their hands roaming.
Molly gasped and laughed as he nibbled her neck. "Silly man. We saved each other."
Another hour was spent on the rooftop in soft whispers and exploratory kisses before Molly convinced Sherlock they'd be more comfortable back at her flat.
The next morning, in the light of day, away from stars and stories, there were other considerations.
"So, do you want to get a coffee, and then maybe a film?"
"Do you think that's necessary?" Sherlock pouted.
"Yes. I would like to have an actual date." In Molly's head, she fretted but knew Surya would rightfully give her hell if she backed down on asking for what she'd been complaining about missing out on all these months.
Sherlock towered over her with his best wounded puppy look. But she refused to budge, and they agreed to meet that night for a real date after work. He walked with her back to Barts. She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him goodbye, and purred when he turned the chaste peck on the lips into a five minute snog against a wall.
"I see congratulations are in order. Ah, but no plans to cohabitate. Taking it slow. Yes, that's wise with Sherlock so recently out of- well, that's a private affair."
"Mycroft." Sherlock uttered the name as a curse. "I don't need a ride and I haven't been arrested. Why are you here?"
"The rooftop was hardly discreet." His brother affected a relaxed pose, tapping his umbrella tip on the ground, but Molly knew better by now. He was needling Sherlock. "Neither is this public display. Is the new bond giving you too much enthusiasm or is this a fetish you managed to keep hidden? I'm honestly curious."
"Mycroft!" This time it was Molly, her face pink. "You apologize. That's hardly decent. And- oh."
A wave of déjà vu hit Molly. She remembered the sensation as she stood in the lab with Mike Stamford and felt time overlapping as she realized that she recognized his soul in the face of the happy Polish governess from Marie's life.
She felt that eeriness anew, the recognition of a soul out of time in a face she already knew. This occurrence lacked the simple joy of that first time.
"I know you," she said dumbly.
Mycroft's brow wrinkled. "Yes, Miss Hooper?"
"No, I mean I know you. From before."
"Molly." Sherlock's arm encircled her waist. "Explain."
"I understand now, I think," she told Mycroft. "You're Casso- aren't you?"
"Ah." Mycroft's lips formed a straight line.
Sherlock shook his head, a stubborn line forming between his eyes. It couldn't be. But he felt the truth ringing in Molly's recognition. The memories of the past were there, but he so often avoided the thought of the scribe, of the father who had abandoned Andros to his fate. Rage rose in him.
"It was you. You left- you left Andros to die on the rock. It was Casso's boasts that put him there and then he just walked away. I should have known it was you. Typical."
"Oh don't be a child, Sherlock. It wasn't me, it was Casso. If you were to be held accountable for everything your past self did, you wouldn't ever sleep at night. And I remember some of your lives better than you do, dear brother. "
"Oh please." But he wondered. Mycroft had met his soul match in uni and had had enriched access to his distant past for twenty years.
"It was Casso's greatest regret. Andros was his pride and joy; he loved him more than anything. He would have died in his place if he could have. He had dreams of moving beyond that village, of creating his own legacy and with his and his son's skills, he could accomplish it. But then the king came and took him, and Casso was left with nothing," Mycroft said simply. His voice was calm and his poise controlled, but his eyes were stormy. "Twenty-five years of building a business to be passed on to absolutely no one when he died of a broken heart a few months later. Millennia have passed and it's still one of his- my- greatest failures. I failed to protect you."
Sherlock felt Molly's tears before he saw them streaming down her face. "You failed. She didn't."
"What?" The one word slipped out between gritted teeth.
"I. didn't. die . Not then. My soul mate saved me. Cut me from the rock. There was no sacrifice. No watery grave."
Mycroft stared in shock. The handle slipped from his hand, and his umbrella landed on the pavement with a thud. The noise shook him from his stupor and he awkwardly scrambled to pick it up. "Andros… lived?"
"Right, so you're off the hook for that one. He and his soul mate Persa lived happily ever after. They're in stories. We'll send you a link. I think we're done here."
"Oh. Fine." Mycroft appeared to gather himself, nodding and checking his messages on his mobile.
But to Sherlock, the icy veneer that his brother wore was clearly flawed- the tremor in his right hand, and the graceless scraping of the umbrella and the off-rhythm steps his brother took to the car.
"I don't know your brother well, but he seems shook up. I'm sorry I blurted it out like that. I didn't think- it just surprised me, the memory coming on so fast." Molly pulled out a tissue and wiped her eyes. "You didn't recognize his soul."
"I try not to think about Casso." Andros's father generally inspired irritation in him.
That should have told you he was Mycroft, his brain chided him.
"We travel in the same soul circles often, isn't that what they say?" He tried to recall where he'd read it. Must've deleted the title. "We're bound to run into familiar souls everywhere we go."
"Are you going to avoid the subject with Mycroft?" He felt her disapproval in their growing bond.
"No. Why should I?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Nothing's going to change. He's been acting like he's my father my entire life. It makes too much sense. This reincarnation business really is a pain in the arse sometimes. Hardly worth the trouble."
Molly poked him in the belly with her finger and he kissed her breathless in retaliation. His hand slid down around her arm to caress the place where his name branded her, a sprawling constellation of letters. She stroked the tidier soul mark on his arm in turn, following with her fingertips the path laid out until the energy sizzled between them.
After a long heated moment, Molly pulled away.
"So, our first date tonight. Being mired in all this past business so much lately. It's rather exciting, not knowing what's going to happen, don't you think?"
"Well, you don't know what's going to happen. Give me sufficient data, and I'll be able to deduce everything precisely."
Incensed, Molly yelped, and Sherlock laughed before leaning in for one more kiss goodbye.
Epilogue - one year later
"Oh, did I tell you, darling, finally someone's renting C! A married couple. Not a large space but they haven't got children so it's cozy and perfect for them."
"That's fantastic, Mrs. Hudson. They don't mind about the mold?" Molly poured a cup of tea for her guest and herself before sitting down.
"A service came out, and did wonders about that. Can't ever tell there was a problem." Mrs. Hudson beamed, and helped herself to a biscuit.
Molly smiled, hoping the new couple in 221C weren't too noisy or in the habit of cooking odd-smelling foods. It was difficult enough adjusting to her new home without dealing with inconsiderate neighbors.
The flat at Baker Street had been her home only for a month, and she was still settling in. Negotiating living with Sherlock Holmes was a daunting task. He might be her soul mate but he was a nightmare of a flatmate. They had finally settled on buying a second refrigerator for his experiments, a small used one where he could keep his questionable items and where they would not be mistaken for dinner ingredients.
Heavens knew she loved Sherlock and she was going to marry him, but after the Day of the Toe, he had slept on the sofa for a week. She had only let him return to bed that quickly because he had caught her at a weak moment and given her an outstanding back massage.
Life with Sherlock Holmes as her soul mate was never dull, she could grant that. Molly glanced at her watch. If only he wasn't always so damn late for tea.
"Excuse me a minute." Molly popped over to the window and peered out. Down below, a taxi pulled up. But instead of Sherlock, a fair-haired man jumped out of the vehicle and looked up at the building.
Disappointed, Molly pulled back. "Oh it's not him. Sherlock's case is keeping him late again."
"Not to worry, dear, I'll keep you company. He's a busy sort. The new renters are coming by, anyhow."
"Is that them? Or one of them." Molly watched as the man approached the door beneath the window she stood at.
"Oh goodness, I don't know. I haven't given them a key yet." Mrs. Hudson set down her teacup and wiped her fingers on a napkin. "Come have a look!"
Molly followed the landlady down the stairs out of curiosity. Before the man on the other side could even knock, Mrs. Hudson opened the door happily.
"John! Didn't bring the missus today?"
"No, Mary's at her sister's book club." The greying-blond man smiled and nodded politely as he spotted Molly hovering behind the older woman. "I thought I'd get the key so we can start moving-in tomorrow."
Molly felt the hairs of the back of her neck stand up, and a sense of the uncanny roll through her, the waking overlapping of time that she hadn't experienced in almost a year.
"Sure, sure, come in! Oh this is Molly Hooper, she lives in B with her young man- and that'll be him, coming down the way." Mrs. Hudson waved through the door, and Molly spotted Sherlock jogging across the street. He was texting as soon as his feet hit the pavement, and she could see his smug grin, the one that told her he had solved the case.
"Sherlock, come here, meet your new neighbor."
"Must I?" He grimaced.
"Oh don't be like that," Mrs. Hudson scolded.
"No, you should meet him." Molly slipped her hand into Sherlock's. He kissed her briefly on the lips. "This is John, he's moving into 221C with his wife, Mary."
"John Watson." He extended a hand to her fiancé.
Molly held her breath, hoping Sherlock would see what she saw.
"Ah. An army surgeon, I see." He shook the proffered hand and Molly saw his eyes flick over the other man's fingers.
"I was, yes." John grinned.
In this life, Molly thought. That wasn't your field of science before.
"Invalided home from Afghanistan. Though going by the state of your tan lines and your ring, I'd say you've recovered nicely and your soul-match marriage occurred after your military service. Within a few months, I'd say."
"Yes, I met Mary not long after I got back to London. Tan lines- you could tell that by tan lines? That's amazing."
Sherlock's expression remained cool but she sensed his pleasure at being appreciated for his skill. She remembered wondering so many months ago if Sherlock had any friends and finding out, much to her chagrin, that her suspicion that he did not was correct.
Hope blossomed inside her.
Sherlock tilted his head questioningly toward her. She smiled and ducked her head.
Mrs. Hudson shooed the group into her flat and she set her kettle to boil to welcome John while the new man quizzed Sherlock on the business of consulting the Met.
Sherlock quickly turned the conversation to ballistics, and a questionnaire regarding John's qualifications in the area of entry and exit wounds.
Molly listened to their chatter, eyes darting between them, while she felt the surreal sense wash over her anew. She remembered what she had learned of the universe from a teacher she greatly admired in another life:
Infinity, and the possibility of energy absorbed in one form being released into the cosmos as light. One energy becomes another. It was ever a miracle, and it still is.
I love playing with the idea of wild myths being based in true stories, so that's why I made Perseus and Andromeda real people, gender-swapped with the monsters all human.
The French lifetime is of course the Curies, Marie and Pierre, and their colleague Henri Becquerel, with whom they shared the Nobel Prize in Physics. Pierre died when he was only 46 when he was run over by a horse-drawn cart and his skull was fractured, much as I described Sherlock sensing early in the story in his dream. While I've based everything about these people on historical fact, I've used my imagination when it comes to feelings of course. There isn't a great deal of information about the personal relationship between Becquerel and the Curies, but Marie was his doctoral student and they worked together for a long time.
I hope everyone enjoyed the story. Thank you for reading!