Ah, the last chapter! But, since this was originally only supposed to be a oneshot…haha;)
For this whole section, I listened to Julie Fowlis sing "Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A' chuain". Give it a try—it's gorgeous.
What was he doing? I had no idea what he was doing.
But, as confused as I was, I made myself stay still.
For the first time in ages, Sherlock seemed calm and rational again. And he hadn't leaped up and started pacing, hadn't insulted Molly, hadn't even looked toward his violin or his phone…
But what did he want Mycroft for?
"Come, sit back down," Sherlock invited, beckoning to Molly. "He won't arrive for a few minutes."
"Okay," Molly said, brow furrowing. She set my phone down on the little side table, pushed the blankets around, curled up in the corner of the couch again and covered herself.
"All right, so…" Sherlock took a breath, and visibly re-focused his attention. "So what happens next, then?"
"Erm…" Molly flipped the book back open, found the place, and flashed a smile at him. "The Fire Swamp."
"Fire Swamp?" Sherlock frowned. "Those two things don't usually go together."
"No, they don't," Molly smiled. "But it's not…actually…your run-of-the-mill swamp."
"Do go on."
So she did. Buttercup and Westley, after both tumbling down the hill, hurried along until they could dart into one of the most ancient, unpleasant and snarled forests a person could imagine. Sherlock did not interrupt once as they encountered the Flame Spurts, the deadly Lightning Sand (I could swear he held his breath through that part, just to prove to himself he could do it as well as Westley), and finally the battle with the ROUS's—Rodents Of Unusual Size. Then, at long last, the two lovers made it out alive—a feat never before accomplished by anyone else.
Noise at the outside door.
Sherlock and Molly both turned toward it.
Mrs. Hudson came up the stairs, followed by a black-suited Mycroft.
"Sherlock," Mrs. Hudson entered happily. "Your brother's come to see how you are."
Mycroft entered the room and cast about it, arching one eyebrow. Sherlock just looked flatly at him.
"Interesting," Mycroft commented, clasping his hands behind his back. "I see you've driven poor Dr. Watson to exhaustion."
"Molly," Sherlock cut in. "May I present my brother, Mycroft Holmes. Mycroft, this is Miss Molly Hooper."
Both of Mycroft's eyebrows went up now as he stared at his brother. Molly put out her hand to Mycroft.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Holmes," she said pleasantly.
"Ah. Yes. The pleasure is mine," Mycroft reached out and took her hand—and I could almost be certain I saw a semblance of an actual smile on his face. Just a semblance, mind you.
"Do you mind if I awaken Dr. Watson?" Mycroft asked. "I just received a text message from him."
"I sent that," Sherlock said.
"I wondered," Mycroft admitted.
"I knew you'd come more quickly if it was from John," Sherlock said.
"Now why in the world would that be true?" Mycroft sneered.
"Do you want it or not?"
"That depends. You haven't told me what 'it' is, yet."
"Go to the chair by the fireplace," Sherlock pointed to it but didn't look. "My jacket. Left inside pocket."
Mycroft stood where he was for a moment, eyes narrowed. Then, he stepped over, picked up the coat, and dug in the pocket.
Molly watched it all curiously. So did I.
Mycroft withdrew a shiny black smart phone, and held it up. I saw it with absolute clarity.
I stopped breathing.
It was Irene Adler's phone.
Mycroft turned slowly to his brother.
"It is," Sherlock said, watching his own fingers rub back and forth against his thumb.
"And what do you want me to do with it?"
"I don't care what you do with it," Sherlock said flippantly. "And I don't care to know what has been done with it, either. I don't want it. Get it out of here."
"Really," Mycroft said, his eyes mere slits now. "Are you trying to pull something here or are you—"
"No, Mycroft, I'm much too tired for that at the moment," Sherlock sighed. "And I'm otherwise engaged. You do want it, am I correct?"
"Then take it and be off. I don't want to look at it."
Mycroft stood, eyes fixed on him, for what seemed like an age.
Then, he hefted the phone, put it in his own pocket, and lifted his chin.
"Very well," he said. "Thank you." He looked down at Molly, and attempted another smile. "Good day, Miss Hooper. Very nice to meet you."
"Thank you, sir," Molly answered, obviously realizing that no one was going to fill her in.
"Give Dr. Watson my regards," Mycroft said.
"Go away," Sherlock ordered. Mycroft cleared his throat, dipped his head, turned, and left.
"You really ought to be nicer to your brother," Mrs. Hudson hissed as she passed by the couch and followed Mycroft down the stairs. Sherlock's jaw tightened.
"Why should I?" he asked. "He's pretentious, overbearing, sarcastic, manipulative and altogether unbearable. I haven't been able to stand him during the entirety of our acquaintance."
"So?" Molly shrugged. "We're nice to you."
Sherlock's head came around.
But Molly's bright eyes regarded him with a shy, teasing look that would have disarmed anyone. Sherlock took a breath, straightened, and turned away in his most aloof manner.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he muttered.
And I started breathing again. Although—I confess I had almost had a heart attack in the interim.
He had given up her phone.
Just like that. Called his brother over and handed it to him, as if it was no more than a borrowed book or an old jacket he didn't want anymore.
What had caused that?
Something Molly had said, or did? Or some miraculous undercurrent in the story?
I couldn't fathom it. Couldn't even believe it. But the wonder and amazement inside me were growing with powerful pressure.
I listened. And I watched.
"Okay," Molly said, finding her place again. "So…We're out of the Fire Swamp."
Sherlock paused—and finally spoke.
"Indeed," he murmured.
I let out a breath. It shook. But neither of them noticed.
"Keep going?" Molly asked. Sherlock regarded her indignantly.
"Is that the end of the story?"
"Then of course you must keep going," he chided. "Or I really will snatch that book from you, you know."
"No you won't," Molly said, pulling it closer to her. "You wouldn't dare do that."
His eyes blazed.
"Oh, I wouldn't?"
She quickly shook her head.
"I shouldn't let you."
He leaned closer to her.
"You wouldn't have a choice."
She lifted her head haughtily.
"It is my book."
"It is not irrelevant," she retorted. "I shan't read if I don't want to."
"You started this whole thing."
"I know how the story goes," she said. "I'll only go on if you say please."
He stopped—though his tall frame still leaned toward her. His eyes narrowed, just like Mycroft's had.
"What is this?" he demanded, his voice low. "What are you doing?"
"I'm not doing anything," she said lightly. "But you must say please."
He looked at her sideways.
"I've never taken you for a dictator," he remarked.
She just smiled.
And his gaze flicked all over her face—her forehead, her eyes, her mouth. Back to her eyes.
"Very well," he finally said. "Please, Miss Hooper. Continue."
I was inches away from leaping up and cheering.
She had taught him to say please! His mother and father and older brother had failed miserably—he had doubtlessly been an impossibly-headstrong child—and all other attempts made by every other human being had been terrible failures. Certainly, he had used the word before, in turn of phrase or to top off a sentence—but never with true sincerity as he asked for something important—not that I had heard.
Until this evening. This miraculous evening.
Containing my excitement was getting very, very difficult for me. Very.
"All right," Molly murmured, quietly beaming. "Since you asked so prettily."
And she found her place again, and began to read.
Darkness gathered into the room, leaving me in complete shadow. The fire crackled softly and sleepily, and the lamp on the little table cast warm, subdued light over Sherlock and Molly as the story wound on. She had turned to face him, and they sat in mirrored positions—though Sherlock sat nearer the middle of the couch, closer to her.
Buttercup and Westley, though they had escaped the Fire Swamp, were quickly captured by Humperdinck and the six fingered man, Count Rugen. Buttercup was spirited back to the castle, and Westley was taken to the depths of Humperdinck's Zoo of Death, to be strapped to Count Rugen's life-sucking torture device. I saw the skin around Sherlock's eyes tighten as Molly read out one of the grueling torture sessions.
But then, when they reached the part where Buttercup confronted Humperdinck, refusing to marry him—Molly sighed, and let the book droop.
"What? What is it?" Sherlock asked quickly.
"I can't go on anymore," Molly croaked. "My voice is done up."
"Oh," Sherlock said—then paused, as if uncertain. "Well, are you…Do you not wish to continue?"
"Can you read for a while?" she asked, holding the book out to him. "I do like these next parts."
Sherlock took it from her, inadvertently scooted even closer—toward the lamp and toward Molly—and tilted the pages to the light.
"Humperdinck screamed toward her then, ripping at her autumn hair, yanking her from her feet and down the long curving corridor to her room, where he tore that door open and threw her inside and locked her there and started running for the underground entrance to the Zoo of Death and down he plunged, giant stride after giant stride, and when he threw the door of the fifth-level cage open even Count Rugen was startled at the purity of whatever the emotion was that was reflected in the Prince's eyes. The Prince moved to Westley. 'She loves you,' the Prince cried. 'She loves you still and you love her, so think of that—think of this too: in all this world, you might have been happy, genuinely happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, not really, no matter what the storybooks say, but you could have had it, and so, I would think, no one will ever suffer a loss as great as you' and with that he grabbed the dial and pushed it all the way forward and the Count cried, 'Not to twenty!' but by then it was too late; the death scream had started."
Sherlock fell silent. Molly propped her elbow on the back of the couch, then leaned the side of her head on her hand. Sherlock lifted his eyes to her.
"He's going to die."
Molly didn't say anything.
"Is he going to die?" Sherlock demanded—though his voice stayed soft. Molly was silent just a little longer, before nodding.
Sherlock said nothing for a very long moment.
"Why…" he tried. "Why did you read this to me?"
"What do you mean?" she asked. His gaze sharpened, focused, fixed on her.
"Why?" he asked again. "Why bring me all this way—he cheated death countless times—only to have him killed by this fool in a pit where she can't find him?"
Molly reached out her hand and gently flicked the cover, smiling crookedly.
"Trust me," she said hoarsely. "Keep going."
Sherlock didn't move. Molly gazed up at him.
"Go on," she murmured. "You'll see. Promise."
Sherlock didn't do anything for several moments. Finally, though, he returned his eyes to the page, took a breath, and kept reading.
Reading, and reuniting us with Inigo and Fezzik, and telling of Inigo's learning of the six-fingered-man's location (in the castle, with the Prince!) and their needing the Man in Black to break in and complete Inigo's revenge. He read through their adventures through the Zoo of Death, and finally recovering Westley's body. They took him, then, to a hut where an eccentric ex-Miracle Man lived—one who used to work for Prince Humperdinck. Unfortunately, though Miracle Max admitted that Westley was only "mostly dead and not all dead," he could do nothing for them.
"'I'm sorry, I never change my mind once it's made up, good-by, take your corpse with you.'
'Liar! Liar!' shrieked suddenly from the now open trap door.
Miracle Max whirled. 'Back, Witch—' he commanded.
'I'm not a witch, I'm your wife—' she was advancing on him now, an ancient tiny fury—'and after what you've just done I don't think I want to be that anymore—''
Molly started laughing—very hoarsely, but enough that she had to cover her mouth.
"What?" Sherlock wanted to know.
"The way you're reading it…" Molly gasped.
"What's wrong with it?"
She shook her head, grinning.
"You're so…So…It's not right. So serious. You have to read it like…Like this…" She pulled the book back from him. " 'I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!'" she croaked. "And after what you've just done, I don't think I want to be that anymore!"
Her voice broke so badly—and squeaked like it belonged to a thousand-year-old-woman. She covered her mouth again, and giggled at herself.
At the sight of him, all the breath left me.
An accidental expression came over his face—soft and bright and fathomless. Directed entirely at Molly. And the best word I can use to describe it is affectionate.
Although I knew that was impossible.
It couldn't be possible.
But there it was. Right in front of me, and plain as day.
"Nonsense," Sherlock muttered, a small smile marking his mouth. "Give that back to me."
She giggled again, and let him tug the book out of her hands. His eyes lingered on her face for a second before he began the narration again.
Miracle Max finally agreed to help, with a magic pill that would bring Westley back to life.
An unmistakable—though minute—show of relief crossed Sherlock's face.
Inigo and Fezzik brought Westley back from death, but though he could speak, he could barely move any of his limbs yet. Using a few clever tricks, and under the guise of being the Dread Pirate Roberts and his gang, the trio forced and then sneaked their way into the castle—
Then, Inigo came across Count Rugen, the six-fingered man.
But instead of standing and fighting, Rugen fled.
And Inigo chased him.
Now, Molly was the one leaning toward Sherlock, listening raptly. Sherlock read out deliberately, with precise feeling and great intensity as the villain and the hero darted through the castle, weaving down corridors…
Inigo, running with all his speed, rounded a corner—
And Rugen threw a knife.
It struck Inigo in the gut.
Inigo fell back against the stone wall.
Molly flinched—passed a hand over her eyes, then pressed her fingertips to her lips. Sherlock frowned hard.
I tried not to grimace, remembering that part in the film. I hated that part.
Sherlock hesitated, glanced up at Molly—doubtlessly thinking of demanding again what on earth she had been thinking of, leading him on about Westley only to have Inigo die…!
But apparently he thought better of it. He just remained very still, considered her expression (which gave nothing away) drew in a breath, and kept reading.
"'You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago…'"
I could sense Sherlock heating—saw the muscles in his strong jaw working when he paused.
The Six-Fingered-Man had made him angry.
He read now with fever as Inigo's mind battled with his weakening body—how he called up to the forefront all of the lessons his former masters had hammered into him. How he reached down and pulled the dagger out of his own stomach. How he pushed his fingers in and tightened down on the bloody wound.
Molly's hands closed to fists—Sherlock tilted even closer to her, unconsciously, and his rapid, earnest words burned.
"Power was flowing up from Indigo's heart to his right shoulder and down from his shoulder to his fingers and then into the great six-fingered sword and he pushed off from the wall then, with a whispered, '…hello…my name is…Inigo Montoya; you killed…my father; prepare to die.'
And they crossed swords.
The Count went for the quick kill, the inverse Bonetti.
'Hello…my name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father…prepare to die…'"
I could almost hear the battering clash of blades, feel the furious, repeated words "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya—you killed my father—prepare to die!" reverberating off the castle walls. Sherlock's voice built, Molly's eyes went wide, and the duelists flashed back and forth in our minds—Inigo all the time beating the Six Fingered Man back and back and back.
Inigo caught the upper hand.
He knocked Rugen's weapon away and sliced him on the left cheek.
" 'Offer me money,' he ordered, pointing his sword at Rugen's face.
'Yes,' Rugen whispered.
'Power too—promise me that!' He slashed Rugen's right cheek.
'All that I have and more. Please!'
'Offer me everything I ask for.'
'Anything you want.'
Inigo lunged forward, and plunged his blade through Rugen's chest.
'I want my father back, you son of a—'"
Sherlock stopped. Glanced up at Molly. Cleared his throat.
She smiled softly at him.
And he read ahead. Silently, just to himself. And just for a moment.
I knew he was reading the bit about Rugen dropping to the ground and dying, and Inigo gazing down upon his conquered enemy.
And then he let out a long, long, shaking sigh. Closed his eyes. And his shoulders sagged.
"Are you okay?" Molly asked him.
"Yes, yes of course," he murmured, keeping his eyes closed. "Of course I am."
"Are you tired?" She wondered, lifting a hand and touching the edge of the book, watching his face. He swallowed, and opened his eyes again.
"You look tired," she said. "I'm sure you're…Wait, why don't I…I'll get myself a drink, and you…I'll read the rest. Okay? There's just a bit left. I can manage now. If you want."
Sherlock just nodded.
"Okay…Okay, I'll…" Molly pushed the blankets off herself and got up, then hurried in her stocking feet into the kitchen. Sherlock sighed again, swallowed again. Then, wincing, he eased down onto his back, and laid his head on the armrest. But he kept his knees bent, to make room for Molly.
I heard a glass clink. I heard the tap run.
"Molly," Sherlock called, his eyes closed still.
"Find my phone, would you," he said. "It's there on the counter. John turned it off when he went in to make dinner."
I ground my teeth. Didn't move.
"Oh…" Molly said. "Sure…" She brought it back in, along with a glass of water. "Do you…" She held it out to Sherlock. He stayed as he was.
"Turn it on," he instructed. "Find my list of contacts."
She did as he asked. The screen blinked on, lighting up her face.
"Okay…" she said again, frowning. "I have your contacts—"
"Scroll down," he said. "Find the one labeled 'Her.'"
"Her?" Molly repeated, taking half a step back.
Molly gulped, and scrolled down.
"All right," she murmured. "Now what? Text her, too?"
"No," Sherlock said. "Delete it."
"Yes, Molly," he said firmly. "Delete that contact."
Molly stood still for a long while.
I bit down on my tongue.
Molly looked at the phone, and touched a few buttons.
"All right, that's done," she said, looking a little pale around the lips. "You want to tell me what all this phone business is about?"
Sherlock didn't answer. Didn't open his eyes. Nothing.
Molly held the phone, looking back and forth between him and it a few times.
I felt her resolve teetering.
Finally, she set the phone down on the table, as well as the glass of water. She plopped down on the couch, tossed the blanket around herself, and picked the book up again. She sighed, and ran her hand through her loosened hair. She regarded Sherlock, to see if he was listening—but he had not opened his eyes yet, and lay with his hands folded on his chest. She sighed again, and started reading.
Reading about Westley and Buttercup's reunion in the castle, and their final confrontation with Humperdinck—which proved the prince a coward. At long last, Inigo found them as well, and so did Fezzik, who had happened upon enough white horses to carry them all to safety. And the four heroes rode out of the castle grounds, and across the green, free country of Florin.
Sherlock lay motionless throughout. I was all but certain he had fallen asleep.
" 'It appears to me as if we're doomed, then,' Buttercup said." Molly read tiredly, barely above a whisper.
"Westley looked at her. 'Doomed, madam?'
'To be together. Until one of us dies.'
'I've done that already, and I haven't the slightest intention of ever doing it again,' Westley said.
Buttercup looked at him. 'Don't we sort of have to sometime?'
'Not if we promise to outlive each other, and I make that promise now.'
Buttercup looked at him. 'Oh my Westley, so do I.'"
Molly sighed heavily again, glancing up at Sherlock. She massaged her throat, and closed the book.
"And they all lived happily ever after," she mouthed. And I could almost swear that weary tears filled her eyes. She disentangled herself from the blankets, slipped off the couch, and stood up. She gazed down at Sherlock's pale face for a long time, holding the book against her heart.
"Changed my mind," she muttered, bending and setting the book near his hip. "You can keep it."
She gasped. He was already looking at her. His eyes keen and bright against the dark circles beneath them.
"In actuality…" Sherlock said slowly, carefully. "Rather than give me the book, I would much rather you…" His left hand moved half a centimeter. "As tomorrow is Sunday, I would much rather you came round for tea, and brought it with you. We will force John to read it to us again, as he has missed more than half of the story." His fingers closed. "That is, if you do not have any other…more pressing…engagements."
Their gazes locked for an interminable time. Sherlock's eyebrows twitched together, and his jaw tightened.
My chest hurt.
Did she know—could she possibly know—what a difficult thing he had just done?
I couldn't breathe. Couldn't do anything but pray that she would say the right thing in answer…
But she didn't. She didn't say anything.
Instead, she reached down, and touched the back of his hand.
His hand moved—turned reflexively.
She slipped her hand into his, as if it fit there. Sherlock's fingers caught through hers—curled around them. And she squeezed.
He watched her earnestly. Silently.
She smiled. A surprised, broken smile.
"As you wish," she whispered unsteadily, and swallowed hard.
He said nothing. But I saw his thumb drift softly across the back of her hand.
She picked up the book, but kept hold of his fingers. Or—he kept hold of hers. They stood for a bit longer like this, until she stepped back, and their hands slipped out of each other.
"I'll…I'll see you tomorrow, then," she said. "Goodnight."
He didn't answer—but it took a moment for his hand to drift back down onto the blanket. Giving him one last, warm, happy look, Molly retrieved her coat and scarf, and disappeared down the stairs.
Slowly, Sherlock folded his hands on his chest again, and closed his eyes.
I jumped, snorting inadvertently. Then, I wanted to curse at him. But I didn't.
"What do you think?" Sherlock asked.
I stared at him, then stifled a broad grin. I had to be honest. I couldn't help it anymore.
"You…" I shook my head once, then again. "You don't deserve her. You just…don't."
He settled his shoulders.
"As always, John," he smirked lightly. "You are right."
I shoved my covers off myself, stood up and stretched my legs, keeping my glee entirely to myself. And, as I walked past him toward the kitchen to make myself some tea, I heard my friend give a deep, unlabored sigh…
And I saw him fall into a deep sleep.
Thank you, thank you! Please review—I'd love to hear what you think, and if I should write in this fandom again!