A/N: I really should learn to write faster but work and real life do tend to get in the way. Sigh. Anyway, here's the latest instalment and I hope it's to everyone's tastes. For those who've been following this story faithfully, thank you so much. Your readership is what keeps me going to fulfil my goal of finally finishing a full piece of fan fiction. x

Chapter 11

The two brothers faced each other in silence while Molly looked on, drying her hair nervously as though the movement itself would set either of the brothers off. Sherlock's hard, steely gaze silently combated his brother's nonchalant yet knowing look. It felt as though the very air around them was going to crack.

"So, should I go put the kettle on?" asked Molly, feebly attempting to break the ice.
"If you would be so kind, Miss Hooper," Mycroft answered, smiling in her direction. "Perhaps you could run by the shops and get us some biscuits too…"
"She stays here," interrupted Sherlock, "We have biscuits in the tin above the tea, haven't we, Molly?"
"Um…yes, of course…" she replied, wishing she had stayed behind in Sherlock's room. It felt like a volcano was about to erupt out here.

Mycroft smiled at his brother in the sickening way Sherlock detested.

"I don't think you want Miss Hooper to be privy to the conversation we are about to have." Mycroft said calmly.
"She stays here." Sherlock repeated.
"So be it." Mycroft said, folding his arms. "Some tea would be lovely, Miss Hooper."

Molly gave a nervous smile and quickly escaped to the kitchen. The two brothers said nothing whilst she made the tea. It was so silent that even the clinking of teaspoons against the porcelain of the saucers seemed deafening. Sherlock had griped and grumbled many times about his irritation with his brother, but she had never witnessed it firsthand. Molly made a mental note to never again be in the same room with them both.

When tea was brought out and everyone was settled, Mycroft turned to Molly and asked:

"So, Miss Hooper, as my brother is not inclined to speaking with me, I should like to ask you instead, what are you doing here in Baker Street?"
"I don't know, to be honest." she answered. "I was in hospital one day and here the next."
"Oh, for God's sake, Mycroft," Sherlock snapped, "She was not safe at Bart's and I brought her here."
"You will need to elaborate, Sherlock. Lest people think the infamous detective has gotten a little overprotective."
"What do you mean, people?" Sherlock literally spat the words out.
"Evelyn Lancaster," Mycroft replied calmly, "I've just had tea with her. That's how I got wind of the little hospital heist you pulled."

Sherlock let out an exasperated sigh and sank deeper into his armchair, his fingers impatiently tapping against the arm rests.

"Nice to see you've been talking to Evelyn," said the detective.
"And you've not been talking to her enough, apparently," Mycroft remarked smiling.

The tall and lean figure of Mycroft leaned forward in his seat, placing his elbows on Sherlock's desk. Sherlock dodged his brother's unmoving gaze upon him, choosing to remain sullen and observing the floor.

"Have you forgotten, Sherlock, why I'd sent you to the gala in the first place?" asked Mycroft.

His sullen-faced brother did not answer. Molly could see Sherlock's jaw muscle twitch from how tightly he was clenching it.

"No." he answered quietly.
"Then why are you being so antagonistic? You owed me a favour and you fulfilled it. But it only marked the beginning of the case, brother. And we both agreed it would be beneficial."
"Yes, I know." Sherlock could not argue.
"Our little act of public relations at the gala was to ensure a smoother transition into it all and it seems you have completely undone your part in the plan."

Molly's mind was cast back to the gala. She was reminded of their awful meeting with Evelyn in the middle of their dance. What had been the plan and what had been the undoing? It was all very unclear to Molly.

"It's a good thing she's not caught on to what I've got on her, Sherlock, but you…" Mycroft's voice dropped to a whisper, "Your cracks are beginning to show."
"I have no cracks," Sherlock retorted, whipping his head up to stare at his brother.

A wry smile appeared on Mycroft's face as he glanced flittingly to Molly before turning to look back at his brother.

"Then I suggest you restore your flat to normal, send Miss Hooper back and concentrate on what is salvageable of the case, Sherlock." said Mycroft coolly.
"I will solve the case, Mycroft. But Molly is not safe."
"How has her safety been compromised?" asked Mycroft, raising his eyebrows, "More importantly, how is the safety of Miss Hooper part of this equation?"
"She was poisoned, Mycroft! By the very woman we are trying to hunt." Sherlock replied, almost roaring at his brother.

This was news to Mycroft, which was rare. Hardly anything slipped him by and so this piece of information intrigued him. There was no reason he could think of as to why Molly Hooper would suddenly be involved. She had never been in Evelyn's line of sight or radar and therefore would never have been a target. He failed to make the connection, which made the poisoning incident a sudden spanner in Mycroft's perfectly calculated works. He was now silent as he processed what his brother had just told him, albeit a little dramatically. He bowed his head to think but from the corners of his eyes he caught Molly's hand reaching out tentatively for his brother's shoulder, patting him gently as though to soothe him. And it seemed it worked. His brother's face softened and his head angled ever so slightly in the direction of the pathologist.

"I see," said Mycroft finally.
"What?" asked Sherlock.

Rising from his seat, Mycroft walked towards his brother's armchair, towering above him. He took a good look at Molly and then at his brother.

"I don't know how you've managed to bring Miss Hooper into all of this, Sherlock but I can see now she is in imminent danger. It still begs the question why, but I will leave it for now…"
"She's in danger because Evelyn is a psychotic witch who likes playing games." interrupted Sherlock, rising too from his seat and meeting his brother eye to eye.
"This is feeling all too…personal, for my liking…"
"What are you implying?" Sherlock muttered through clenched teeth.
"You really need to calm down, Sherlock. This is how cracks show." Mycroft replied.
"I will not have my best pathologist at the mercy of a ruthless ring leader who deals with devils just because she's a spoilt, bored brat."
"There you see, it is plainly obvious why she'd taken such a fancy to you…"
"She can take whatever fancy she likes, Mycroft, but I will not deal with her that way again."
"She only wanted a dance, Sherlock, and some attention. It was the perfect way in."
"Just a dance!" Sherlock scoffed, "Do you know anything about women like her?"
"Do you?" asked Mycroft.
"Sherlock, enough." said Molly calmly but firmly. Her hand reached out for his arm, pulling him back from his brother.

Sherlock was shocked at her intervention and turned to look at her.

"Your brother is right. Everything you've done, at least from what I've seen from my end…has been without a logical explanation," Molly began, "And I know you're always logical. So calm down and tell us what's going on."
"Miss Hooper is right," Mycroft continued, "There is something you're not telling us. But I suspect it's because there's something you've not even realised yourself."
"I don't know what you're implying, Mycroft, but I am not losing an asset to my work to a crazed woman out to waste my time."
"An asset?" Mycroft repeated.

Molly unknowingly released her hold on Sherlock's arm. Perhaps she too had been getting carried away with her own feelings. She was, after all, just an asset to Sherlock, his source of information, his key to the morgue and his provider of resources.

"If Ms Lancaster really is a threat, Sherlock, then she'll know where to find me. She'll know that you've taken me." Molly said quietly.
"She already does." Mycroft added.
"Then I think your brother is right. I cannot stay here." said Molly. "Let your brother take me somewhere else to recover."
"I agree. Thank you, Miss Hooper, for being a voice of reason." Mycroft remarked, with a nod of respect to Molly.
"I don't know what case it is you have with her, Sherlock, but I'm not getting involved. At least not any further." Molly said, "Sherlock?"

Sherlock was silent. Inside, he was distraught. Something about Molly being out of his sight completely unnerved him.

"I'm just going to get my things. Let me know what to do next, Mr Holmes," she said, nodding to Mycroft before running to get her things.

When Molly had gone off, Sherlock sat back down in his armchair, still not saying a word. Mycroft pulled up a chair in front of him and studied his brooding brother.

"You'll keep her safe?" asked Sherlock quietly.
"Yes. You have my word." Mycroft answered.
"Evelyn drugged her, Mycroft. She almost died." Sherlock said, staring angrily at his brother.
"I suspect, brother," Mycroft remarked softly, "You are responsible for putting Miss Hooper in this situation."
"Me?" Sherlock responded incredulously.
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
"Molly is just my pathologist."
"A pathologist, brother, not yours."
"I work only with the best."
"Is that really the reason why, Sherlock?" asked Mycroft knowingly.

Sherlock grew mum and turned from his brother to stare blankly at the daybed before them.

"I thought Evelyn was joking, or being dramatic," said Mycroft, "But I think she was right."
"Right about what?" asked Sherlock, his eyes fixed ahead of him.
"That a particular crack is showing, Sherlock." said Mycroft.

Molly returned to the sitting room with her bag of things. Standing awkwardly by the door, she smiled briefly as the two men turned to face her.

"I'm ready," she said, nodding to Mycroft.

Sherlock stood up and strode briskly to her, stopping short before almost knocking into her. He just stood there, barely an inch from her. She looked up at him warily, unsure of what he was about to say.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay here?" he asked her quietly.

Molly was not expecting him to say that and stared back at him wide-eyed. She looked hard at him, studying him and simply could not place his words. What had he been up to all this while? From asking her to dance, to injuring her, to kidnapping her from the hospital, how did all these events add up? To top it all off, it seemed to have culminated in Evelyn Lancaster's singular aim of hurting her

"I'll stay if you tell me what's really going on," she whispered.

Sherlock turned to his brother, whose face remained expressionless.

"Are you asking me for permission?" said Mycroft, "That's certainly a first."
"I can keep her safe, Mycroft." Sherlock said, a dogged determination in his voice.
"No, you can't." Mycroft responded calmly.

Mycroft reached for his mobile phone and began scrolling through it. When he had found what he wanted, he handed the phone to his brother.

"Read this and see if you still think you can keep her safe."

Sherlock grabbed the phone and pored over its contents. As he scrolled through the messages in Mycroft's phone, Sherlock's' eyes widened in horror. They were messages from all of Mycroft's secret eyes and ears that had been tracking Evelyn's every move. Mycroft had immediately upped the surveillance around his brother right after his tea with Evelyn. Mycroft had a sinking feeling their plan had gone completely awry and that Sherlock could be in danger. Instead, the messages revealed that yes, while 221B was a definite target and Evelyn was going to strike within the next twelve hours, the real cause for horror was that the target in question was Molly. As he read on, he discovered the details behind Evelyn's covert but elaborate instructions to draw Sherlock out of the flat so as to get to Molly. Everything was planned out to the littlest detail and it was going to happen before the night was up.

"Go. Go with Mycroft." Sherlock said, handing the phone back to his brother.
"What's going on?" asked Molly, worried from Sherlock's face that turned white from fear.
"I'll tell you another time, I promise." He said, looking earnestly at her, "But for now, Molly, go with Mycroft."
"All right…" she said, looking in Mycroft's direction.

Mycroft returned his phone to his pocket and observed the pair. His brother's error was so glaring and yet, it evaded Sherlock completely. It was good in a way. Not realising his great error meant Sherlock could still focus and be effective. Mycroft was not going to say a word, but just as he cared for his brother, he also cared for those whom his brother cared for.

"The wisest decision you've made in a long while, Sherlock." Said Mycroft.
"I certainly hope so." Sherlock replied, looking hard at his brother.

Mycroft understood the look and returned it with a nod of assurance in Molly's direction.

"I will keep her safe, Sherlock. I promise you. But now, I need you to focus and stay in the game." Mycroft moved closer to the door and continued, "If you want Miss Hooper to really stay safe, then finish this Evelyn business as we had discussed. I cannot keep Miss Hooper in hiding forever."
"I understand."

Mycroft bade his brother goodbye and led the way out of the flat. A car had been readied and Mycroft's plan to protect and provide Molly with hospital care was already swiftly under way. As the sound of Mycroft's footsteps and that distinct tapping of his umbrella faded down the stairways, Molly looked up quickly at Sherlock, smiling gratefully.

"You took great care of me. Thank you." she said.
"You're welcome." That was all he could say.

They stood with each other, with renewed awkwardness and could not really keep their gazes on each other. Molly sighed softly to herself whilst Sherlock bit the insides of his mouth and stared out of the window.

"Well." Molly said at last, "Bye…then, Sherlock."

In a flash, she was out of the flat, walking quickly down the stairs so as not to delay Mycroft any further. Sherlock remained fixed in his spot, listening to her fading footsteps. Before he let it fade it too far, however, the detective suddenly sprung into life again, charging down the stairs. Just as he reached the main door of 221B, he saw Molly standing beside a sleek black car where one of Mycroft's bodyguards was just about to get the car door for her.

Before she could set one foot into the car, he rushed to her side and held her. He crushed Molly to himself and wrapped his arms tightly around her, planting the softest kiss on the edge of her temple.

"Be well, Molly Hooper," he whispered, before releasing her.

Stunned, she staggered back when he let go of her. The rush of his embrace sent a warm rush of blood to her face, filling her with nostalgic affection she had promised to never feel again. Taking a deep breath, she fought back the rising wave of emotion that flooded her ribcage, smiling kindly at the detective before her. Without a word, and because she could not find a response, Molly got into the car, out of sight from Sherlock.

As she sank down into the luxurious leather seats of the car, Mycroft, who was seated beside her turned to her with a knowing half-smile. He had seen his brother's farewell to his pathologist and the depth of Sherlock's emotion only translated to the gravity of his error.

"You are definitely in danger, Miss Hooper." Mycroft said to Molly, "If you believe in a higher power, I suggest you pray to it now, for the sake of us all."

As the car drove out of Baker Street, Mycroft peered out of his tinted window to where Sherlock was still standing. Molly followed suit and turned back to look. She felt a little thud in her chest and quickly returned her gaze to the front. Mycroft observed her and sighed.

"May God help us all," said Mycroft, as he began making calls.

Sherlock watched the black car grow smaller and smaller before turning a corner and disappearing from the street. His eyes grew hard as he took a deep, calculated breath. Slowly, he returned to his flat and stood in front of the mirror at his mantelpiece. A wry smile crept across his face as the cogs in his mind began to turn.

"You want a dance?" he whispered bitterly, staring at his reflection, "Then a dance you shall have, Ms Lancaster."