A/N: Hey everyone. Another update. Don't worry, I left out most of the details of this case, so it doesn't get too gruesome.
Still, if you have issues with violence against children, then you might not want to read this.
The smacking noises of Toby happily eating his food followed Molly into the living room. The long camel night gown billowed behind her. It wasn't her own. She would never buy something this exquisite (even though now she could afford it, she reminded herself) for just walking around the house. It was Sherlock's, of course, and she only wore it because it still smelled a little like him. And she really missed his scent.
He had been gone for almost two weeks now, the latest case making it a necessity.
'The Pied Piper of London', John had called it on his blog.
Normally, John summarized the cases after they had been solved. But those entries now weren't a summarization. It was a call to arms. He only posted short notes, basically proclaiming that they were on his heels, that no matter where he hid, Sherlock Holmes would find them.
Child murder, Molly thought, shaking her head in disgust as she slowly walked over to Sherlock's chair. Could there be anything more horrific?
With a sigh, Molly sat down in the chair, letting her fingers slide over the grey leather of the armrests. What John didn't post on the blog was how much they already knew. Two child trafficking rings were fighting for dominance in the most ghastly way possible. They stole children from each other, killed them and carved the word 'Rat' into their foreheads. They had tried to construct the story of o lunatic, one man taking the old German tale of 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' as inspiration for murder. The children which had been found all over the country (thank God they at least decreased in number. It had been 14 in Regent's Park. The traffickers seemed to guard their assets better every time some of them got snatched away) had always been 'arranged' on stages of open-air theatres (Cornwall, Bedfordshire and Stratford-upon-Avon) to display a scene from the tale. But Sherlock had already seen through the scheme back in London. It had been too sloppy for a passionate killer, he had told her when he had packed that evening. John had been disgusted by his words. Of course Sherlock was cold and distant as though he couldn't relate to or understand how horrible this crime really was. A murder was a murder, no matter who got murdered, he had said and Molly had thought from the expression on John's face that he had been about to punch him in the face. But he hadn't, and now they were travelling all over the country to stop the murder.
John was the one who sent her little messages that they were alright every day. He had actually opened a group in the messaging app so he could text her and Mary at the same time:
Found another one. 6 this time. This is sick.
We found a trace but were too late. They had already gone. There were cages. Cages!
Sherlock got punched by a parent today. He still doesn't understand why. Makes me want to punch him again.
God, we were too late once again. 4. Each pair holding one another in their arms…
Sorry, I shouldn't text something like this. It's just…I can't believe someone would do this. What is wrong with the world?
I think it starts getting to Sherlock. He doesn't sleep.
Don't worry, I'll feed him, no matter how much he protests.
Neither Mary nor Molly ever texted back. Mary had told her that John called before he went to bed every night, making her talk about her day. To get a feeling of normality, no doubt.
A part of Molly wished Sherlock would do the same. But not a word. She tried very hard not to be hurt by this, for she had anticipated it would happen once he had a big case. Still, it stung being ignored and that little voice whispered things that scared her.
Molly sighed and closed her eyes.
Never doubt me again, he had ordered her. And she shouldn't.
Determined to get her mind off of Sherlock, Molly jumped out of the chair and reached for her mobile and called a number.
"Hi there. Everything okay?"
"Yeah…well, no. I'm going nuts here, all by myself and no word from him. Can I come over?"
"Sure. Could use the distraction, too. Bring vodka."
Without delay Molly brushed off the night gown, folded it over the chair and hurried out of the flat, shouting over to Toby to be a good boy. He looked after her, licking his mouth. Finally, some peace. All that nervousness in his human had been very unpleasant. Taking a look around, Toby spotted the camel night gown and trotted into the living room. Jumping onto the chair, the feline busied himself with building a comfortable bed by working his claws through the cashmere…
An hour later, Molly and Mary were lying on John and Mary's bed, a tray with a half-empty bottle of vodka and two shot glasses between them. They hadn't spoken much, but the silence around them wasn't uncomfortable. On the contrary. Having Mary close to her made everything a lot easier for Molly. As she watched Mary filling their shot glasses once more, their eyes met.
"You know, I am disappointed in you", Molly said with a smirk.
"Why?" Mary asked, handing her one of the glasses.
They clinked glasses and drank the alcohol.
"I really thought you were giving me an earful about Sherlock. I actually had prepared arguments. I made index cards."
Mary snorted, refilling the glasses.
"Do you have them with you?"
Again, they drank and Mary sank back into the pillow, staring at the white ceiling.
"So, no objections?" Molly asked after a pause.
Molly's eyes widened.
The surprised tone in Molly's voice made Mary look at her. Then she folded her arms behind her head.
"Seriously. You're old enough. You know him better than anyone else. You're strong enough to be with him, even though I had my doubts. And he genuinely cares for you."
"He told me he loves me."
Molly blushed as Mary smiled at her.
"Wow. Hadn't thought he would ever say the dreaded L-word. All the better. What made him say it?"
Oh, bummer. Now Molly remembered that she had kind of forgotten to tell Mary what had happened before that horrible case had come along.
She cleared her throat.
"I bought Baker Street for him."
Mary, who was looking at the ceiling again, blinked several times, trying to get this sentence to make sense. Obviously she failed in that attempt, cause she turned her head and looked at Molly all confused.
"I bought Baker Street for him."
"Yeah, I've heard you say it. The 'huh?' meant 'how-the-hell-is-that-possible-with-you-being-a-pathologist?'."
"Oh. My bad."
As Molly giggled, Mary rolled onto her side and rested her head in her hand.
"What didn't you tell me?"
Molly took a deep breath.
"Remember that Irene Adler woman we talked about at the dinner that night you've come back from the honeymoon? Well, she really did survive and as a thank you for me saving her life she gave me some money."
Mary seemed satisfied with that explanation. She rolled back onto her back.
"That was very nice of her. No wonder Sherlock was so jealous. She really must like you. It doesn't happen every day that a criminal gives you money, I assume. May I ask how much?"
Molly took a deep breath, looking at Mary with her big brown eyes.
"Two million pounds."
Mary went back to blinking.
"Are you kidding me?"
Molly shook her head, grinning.
Suddenly, Mary jumped up.
"Holy fuck, Molly! You're a bloody Millionaire! Why didn't you tell me?!" she screamed and ran around the bed to jump on top of her best friend.
Molly squealed and laughed as Mary hugged her tight, laughing and shaking her.
The vodka bottle fell off the tray. Luckily, Mary had sealed it after she had refilled their glasses.
"Get off of me!" Molly begged as Mary bounced up and down on top of her. "I can't breathe!"
Instantly, Mary stopped.
"Are you saying I'm fat?"
Molly laughed and pushed Mary off of her. The blonde rolled onto her back, her neck coming to rest on the vodka bottle.
"Molly Hooper, Millionaire. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
"Stop it. Most of the time I forget that I have it. And most of it is fixed, anyway."
"Yeah, I can see that it's easy to forget 2 million pounds. Would happen to anybody."
"Oh, shut up."
"So, you bought your boyfriend a house. I hope he was…grateful."
Molly saw how Mary twitched her eyebrows and rolled her eyes.
"Yes, he is good in bed", Molly said unnerved.
Why did everyone want to know?
"The best you ever had?" Mary inquired casually but with a glint of mischief in her eyes.
"Well, I love him like crazy, so of course he's the best."
Now Mary snorted.
"Good sex is a question of technique, Molly. Don't be so naïve."
"So John isn't the best you had?"
"Of course he is."
"Oh, why is that?" Molly asked with a raised eyebrow and Mary pushed out her chin defensively.
"Because he has a hell lot of experience."
Molly just looked at her. Mrs. Watson pressed her lips together, then she snorted.
"Fine. The love-thing helps."
Molly laughed triumphantly.
"It absolutely does."
Mary just rolled her eyes.
They fell quiet then, both thinking of the men they loved.
"I hope they're okay", Molly said into the silence.
Then she felt how Mary's fingers interlaced with hers.
"Of course they are."
"How's John holding up?"
Mary had told Molly on the phone that the case gnawed on him.
"Well, most of all he's angry. He had to look at those poor children and had to talk to their parents. They've been so close and yet had failed to save any of them…no wonder it gets to him. It's a good thing Sherlock's with him. He needs someone with a clear head by his side. Someone who can think rational. He'll keep him from doing something stupid…"
Molly heard the pain in Mary's voice. She wished she could be with him, just like Molly wished to be with Sherlock.
Feeling for her, Molly moved to lay next to her, rested her head in the crook of Mary's neck and wrapped an arm around her small waist.
"He'll be fine", she said. "Sherlock wouldn't let anything happen to him. Not in a million years."
Mary pressed a kiss to her forehead before she rested her cheek on top of her head.
Again, silence. For a long while.
Then Mary giggled.
"If they could see us like this. John would definitely like it."
Molly giggled, as well.
"Men and their threesome-fantasies."
"Yeah. Most men don't even know what to do with just one."
The girls laughed. It felt good. Helped to get their minds off of things they couldn't change at the moment.
"I googled Irene Adler, by the way."
"You spend way too much time on the internet", Molly sighed.
"Prettier than me?"
Molly snorted and lifted herself up so she could look down on Mary.
"Are you serious?"
"I just wanna know your type."
"My type are high functioning sociopaths with curly black hair and ocean eyes that can look right into your soul…and have a penis."
Mary rolled her eyes.
"I mean women."
"I'm not gay! Or bisexual, for that matter."
"So? You still have an opinion."
Molly wanted to roll away from Mary, put she had wrapped her arm around her and held her tight.
"Let me go, Mary!"
"First you tell me I'm pretty."
"You are pretty."
"Prettier than Irene?"
"Yes, fine. Prettier than Irene and every other woman I have ever seen."
"Why don't I believe you?"
Molly struggled to get free and Mary struggled to keep her pressed to her side. When Molly tickled Mary's sides, the blonde yelped and jumped out of bed.
"Unfair!" she protested while Molly snickered and sat up against the headboard.
The women smiled at each other. Then both their phones beeped and the smile was wiped off their faces. They exchanged a worried look, then they hurried to look at the message.
It's over. Thank God. Horrible. Just horrible.
A second later, Mary's phone started ringing. Molly heard how she took a deep breath before answering.
Molly sat down next to her and as she saw tears falling from her best friends lashes, she took her hand in hers. John's voice echoed from the phone but Molly couldn't understand what he was saying, so she watched Mary's face closely, observed how worry turned into relief…and worry again. Their eyes met and Molly tried a supporting smile.
"No, she's here with me…"
The tone in Mary's voice sent a jolt of panic through her system.
Oh God, Sherlock…
Her hands were shaking as she took Mary's phone and pressed it to her ear.
"John? Are you okay? Is Sherlock okay?"
"Hi Molly. Yes, we're both fine. At least physically. Molly…could you come?"
"Why? What happened?"
John cleared his throat, still his voice sounded hoarse.
"A little boy died in his arms today. He hasn't spoken much since. Only said that he wants to stay for the funeral…I'm worried. Never seen him like this."
Molly squeezed her eyes shut as the pain rushed through her. While she fought with tears, Mary wrapped her arms around her.
"Could you come, please?"
"Yes, yes, of course."
"Thank you. I'll text you the details."
"Okay", Molly said weakly and handed the phone back to Mary. They spoke a few more words, she told him she loved him and then they hung up.
"I'm coming with you", Mary declared and the tone implied that she wouldn't have it any other way.
They didn't talk much as they drove the M5 down to Plymouth, except to ensure the other that her husband/boyfriend was alright. Mary had borrowed her boss's Volkswagen transporter and the loud noises coming from the back didn't allow much talking, anyway. It was past 9pm when they arrived at the hotel John and Sherlock were staying. After Mary had parked the car, they took their bags out of the back and headed towards the entrance. John had already told the receptionist that they were coming so there was no fuss when they demanded the room keys (John had texted them that they were still at the local police station, being interviewed).
The rooms were on separate floors, so Molly and Mary said goodbye in the elevator.
"Good night. If he gives you a hard time, don't hesitate to call, okay?" Mary asked, holding the door open with one hand, her neon blue bag in the other. Molly nodded and smiled bravely. After the doors slid close, the smile fell. Fumbling with the key in her hand, she watched her reflection in the polished doors, wondering if she really looked that pale.
When she stepped into the room and closed the door, she leaned against it. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, catching a whiff of his after shave. Longing mixed with worry and she switched on the light and put her bag on the bed. Despite the mess in his flat, Sherlock obviously kept hotel rooms clean. Most probably to keep the maids from snooping around. His locked suitcase seemed to prove her assumption.
A white shirt hung over the chair by the little desk and Molly couldn't stop herself from picking it up and pressing it to her face, inhaling.
Then she realized that this might be a tad overdramatic (they had been separated only two weeks, for heaven's sake) and put it back where she had found it. With a sigh she grabbed her bag and unpacked her few belongings. After this was done, there was nothing else left to do, so she sat down on the bed, waiting for him to arrive, all the while being nervous. She had no idea if he would appreciate her coming or if he'd be annoyed…or worse. Sherlock wasn't a man who shared his feelings easily, especially his weaknesses. And he would consider feeling the loss of a child a weakness, wouldn't he?
John couldn't stifle the yawn that urged to get out. It's been a hell of a long day, he mused as he looked out of the window, watching the illuminated streets of Plymouth pass by. There was a cold air coming from the seat next to him. Sherlock was still stoic as a rock. John had had to do most of the talking when they had been interrogated by the Yard and the local police. He had just stood there, staring at his reflection in the mirror. Greg had thrown John a glance at which he had shaken his head, telling him it would be better not to call him out on his silence.
So here they were, driving back to the hotel at midnight, that 'thing' hanging in the air.
John knew he wouldn't want to talk to him, either. That's why he had called Molly. He knew she would be able to help him. She had done miracles in the past with her quiet character and those soft brown eyes. He had no doubt that she would be able to guide him this time, as well. Still, John had to try:
"You've done a good thing, Sherlock", he began, watching the man next to him stiffen in his seat, "you destroyed two child trafficking rings in two weeks. That was good."
Sherlock's jaw clenched.
"We saved many children from being kidnapped. And the ones we lost…"
"Yes, thank you, John."
"You talked a lot today. Aren't you tired of hearing your own voice? I certainly am."
"Look at me, you buffoon."
With an unnerved sigh and an annoyed roll of his eyes, Sherlock turned his head to look at John. His eyes were pale in the dim light of the passing street lamps.
"You couldn't have saved him or any other of those poor kids. It's not your fault."
"Why would it be my fault? I wasn't the one who abducted and killed them."
"Glad we're on the same page", Sherlock said in his annoying, ironical tone and turned back to the window.
John sighed. He should have known there was no way of talking to him about it.
"I'm going home tomorrow morning. You'll be all right on your own, won't you?"
Sherlock glanced over to him for a second.
"Of course I will."
John shook his head. He really hoped Molly would get passed that thickhead of his and make him accept that it really wasn't his fault.
Sherlock watched his reflection in the polished doors of the elevator as he drove up to his floor. He was relieved that he didn't look half as tired as he felt. But he wouldn't sleep tonight. He already knew that. His eyes were still spooking around in his head. That tear-filled blue eyes, so full of fear, confusion and loneliness…
Sherlock cleared his throat, trying to get this image out of his mind palace. But it was no use. The little boy was there in his foyer, his face dirty except for the lines where his tears had rolled over his cheeks. Short brown hair, messy and just as dirty as the rest of him and the medieval robe he had been put into.
Blood mixing with dirt.
'R /' carved into his forehead. They had interrupted them in the middle of work. His screams had guided them. That little boy's scream had saved the rest of the 9 children (and many more in the future) that had been held captive in the forgotten catacombs of St. Andrew's church, echoing through an opening in the cobble stone ceiling for air supply.
Little Tommy Brown…
The elevator made a ding and the doors slid open. Sherlock cleared his throat once again and walked down the dim lit hallway to his room. Maybe there was something on the telly that would empty his mind for a while, he thought downhearted and unlocked the door.
As he switched on the light and his eyes fell on the bed, he froze.
For a fleeting second, he thought she was an illusion. His mind had escaped his control so many times today, maybe it had done it again. Then she smiled at him shyly, leaning against the headboard, and her voice rippled through him like warm raindrops.
He just looked at her. Her hair was put into a side braid, the baby blue blouse and the beige trousers crinkled from the long drive to Plymouth. She had kicked off her shoes, having been put next to each other in front of the bed. Her empty bag was lying on top of the closet. Her flowery scent lingered in the air and for one moment Sherlock felt an overwhelming need to run his nose along her neck, from the crook all up just below her ear.
"What are you doing here?" he asked instead as he shrugged off his coat and scarf to hang them on the door.
"John called", Molly answered truthfully and Sherlock nodded, his annoyance stated with a raised eyebrow.
Of course he had. Bloody John Watson.
"I'm fine, despite what John might have told you", he insisted while he opened his suit jacket and hung it over the chair.
"Oh, I know."
Their eyes met.
"I can see that you're absolutely fine."
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you, Molly", came his reply.
Without another glance in her direction, he walked into the little bathroom. Molly heard the lock click and closed her eyes.
On the other side of the bathroom door, Sherlock put his hands beside the sink and closed his eyes as well. When he opened it, his eyes fell on the green toothbrush next to his. In a weak moment, he reached out and let his index finger run over the colored plastic.
After he had washed up and taken a moment of silence to calm down, he exited the bathroom, only to find Molly standing in front of it with her arms folded behind her back. She smiled at him as they passed and he caught a whiff of her shampoo. His fingers tingled, but he didn't stop to reach out for her.
He heard the door close and used the time to change into the old blue t-shirt and pyjama pants. Just as he was sitting on the bed and pulling the socks off his feet did Molly re-enter the room.
Sherlock wanted to ignore her, still telling himself he was fine, that he had remained unaffected by the events of the past two weeks and especially today.
But then she was about to pass him and he could feel the warmth evaporating from her petite body and before he knew it, his hand stopped her. It laid on her waist all of a sudden and he watched it as the fingers dug into the skin beneath the pyjama shirt, slowly turning her to face him. Gently but determined he pulled her to stand between his legs, staring at a happy duck taking a bath on her ridiculous pyjamas. Then her fingers carefully wandered into his hair and he closed his eyes and pulled her against him, burying his face between her breasts.
Her warmth enveloped him when she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and he inhaled her scent deeply.
God, how good she felt. How soothing the rhythm of her heartbeat was. How much comfort her embrace held. So much comfort…
For a very long time, Sherlock and Molly remained in this position. Not a word was spoken. Sherlock had his eyes closed while Molly worked her fingers through his hair, her lips placing soft kisses on his hair line.
Her warmth reminded his body of how tired it was and after Sherlock dozed off several times, Molly finally pushed him onto the bed, slipping in next to him and covering them both with the blanket. Before Sherlock could even think, she had switched off the light and pulled him into her arms once again and he gratefully wrapped his arm around her, burying his face in the crook of her neck.
Despite his comfortable and comforting position, sleep eluded him. There was still that weight on his chest…
"It's the first time I asked myself 'why'" he said into the darkness. "I never cared about that before. There was only the puzzle. But this time…I became emotionally invested", he breathed in disgust.
Molly moved her hand into his hair again.
"I started to care…that was my mistake. That's why it has taken me so long to figure it out. If I had solely focused on the puzzle pieces instead of looking at the picture, I would have found them sooner."
Molly didn't say anything. She only placed a kiss on his forehead.
"I need to divorce myself from feelings to work properly. But this is getting more difficult ever since I entered this relationship. Caring about you affects me in ways I couldn't foresee…"
Molly closed her eyes. She wondered if Sherlock could hear how her heartbeat thundered in her chest. If he broke up with her…a part of her was always prepared for this. But most of her would be devastated. The mere thought stole her breath away and she felt like she was suffocating when Sherlock pulled her close against his side.
"You humanize me, Molly Hooper", he whispered against her ear and his voice sent a shiver down her spine. "It scares me…"
She could hear how he inhaled her scent and felt his lips brush over her neck.
"You have to teach me, Molly. Teach me how to handle all of this."
A tear escaped her lashes and rolled down her cheek. He pulled her closer and she wrapped her arms around him, pressing his body against hers. There was a big lump in her throat as she placed her cheek atop of his head, his soft curls tickling her skin.
He wouldn't leave her. He wouldn't break up with her.
She had to tell herself this repeatedly to believe it.
Sherlock wouldn't run. He wanted to face his fears. He wanted to be with her.
Molly was so relieved she wanted to cry. But she swallowed down the tears as good as possible and tilted his head so she could leave small kisses on his forehead and his brows.
"You're doing better than you think", she whispered and in the darkness, they lips found each other for a tender, comforting kiss.
Sherlock rested his forehead against hers and Molly could feel that there was still more.
"His name was Tommy…" he started and Molly listened to his even, calm voice as Sherlock told her how they had entered the catacombs through the secret passage only to find the little four-year-old in the violent grasp of a man while another was carving into his forehead with a knife. John had shot the man with the back to them while Sherlock overwhelmed the other, little Tommy having been thrown to the ground carelessly. When the men had been taken care of, Sherlock had rushed over to the boy and without thinking, had taken the little, shaking body into his arms.
His voice didn't falter as he described in detail the facial features of the boy and especially his big blue eyes. Silent tears were streaming down Molly's face as he told her about the amount of emotions they had held, how afraid he had been as life left him.
Sherlock never spoke of his feelings.
It was merely a detailed description of events and John's failed attempts to save the child's life. But he didn't have to speak of his feelings. Molly could tell how deeply this had touched him.
The more emotions swirled inside him, the colder he was on the outside.
She knew this. And she understood that it was his way of dealing with things. So she didn't call him out on it. Neither did she try to ease his pain by telling him it wasn't his fault. It wasn't, of course, but if she'd be in his place, she would think so, too. It was all too fresh, he was still too close to look at it with complete logic.
Only time could help him at the moment. Time and reassurance that she would be there. No matter what.