Here's the last chapter! It's long though, so…rejoice! Haha:) I truly hope you enjoy it—please leave a review! Thanks so much!
The night's dew began to fall
Each bloom yielding softly to the droplets.
The wind blew in a fragrant breeze
Bringing life and renewal to each field.
The girl tunefully sang her song
Quiet and peaceful like the June dew
And this chorus constantly repeated
"My love is on the high seas..."
-Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A' Chuain
Molly stared at the gleaming black headstone. The wind gently rustled through the very tops of the ancient trees that loomed over the gravesite. A warm day. She only needed a light jacket. With her eyes, she traced the bold, white writing carved in the stone, though she hardly saw it.
Two weeks. Two weeks since he fell. One week since the funeral. It was Sunday again, and she had the entire, empty day off. The whole day to sit by his grave, instead of just the evening time.
But today, she had purposefully left her phone at her flat—because twice, driven half mad by its deafening silence, she had been tempted to throw it against the wall.
She took a deep breath. A turtledove cooed sadly in the branches overhead. Molly stepped forward, and laid her single red rose down on the fresh earth, beside all the others. There were seven of them, now.
She let go of the delicate stem, straightened and blinked back hot tears, then swiped at her face. She squeezed her eyes shut, her whole chest caving in.
She gasped sharply, covered her mouth, and stepped around his grave, trying to take more deep breaths. Finally, her head stopped spinning, and she stuck her hands in her pockets. Shakily and slowly, she trod through the cemetery, weaving between the mossy, leaning sepulchres, heading toward the far back gate.
It hung halfway open, leaning crookedly and stuck into the earth. She maneuvered around it, trying not to catch her jacket on the sharp latch, and strode out into the slanted, late afternoon sunshine.
She followed a path through tall, thick green grass, through a gap in the stone wall and out onto the road. She glanced back over her shoulder at the still, shady graveyard, hemmed in by gnarled trees. Her whole heart panged. She turned, and kept walking.
For a long while, Molly trudged with her head down, watching her feet. Finally, though, she lifted her head and glanced across, over the wall and into the lush, rolling, sunlit meadows around her, and up to the flawless blue sky streaked with pure-white clouds. The wind, freed from its confines, blustered up to her, carrying the scent of rain.
She was glad he had been buried in a country cemetery. He had lived so hemmed-in by London chaos, battered about by wickedness and noise, never resting, never pausing to simply enjoy anything. Out here, everything was peaceful. Quiet.
He deserved that.
Molly staggered, and fell sideways against the ivy-covered wall. She bent her head, screwing her eyes shut, battling back another intense wave of pain.
For what seemed like a long while, she just leaned there, concentrating on breathing in, then breathing out, breathing in, breathing out…
She straightened, tightened her jaw, folded her arms and kept walking.
Finally, the road opened to her left, and she looked up to see a white-washed, thatch-roofed old pub, with a few cars parked out to the side of it. She glanced up at the sky. She ought to stop in for tea—her legs felt shaky, since she hadn't eaten anything all day.
She sighed, strode forward and ducked through the open door. The breeze ceased. For a moment she paused, letting her eyes adjust. She stood in a little entryway, where a few hats and coats hung on pegs. She wiped her feet on the mat, took three steps forward and one step up, and found herself in the dark-wood, low-ceilinged pub.
Ahead and to her left waited the battered bar. To both sides, near the west wall of windows, stood several small tables and chairs. The room to her right was full of people having tea. To her left, however, only a couple middle-aged men sat at one table, each reading a newspaper. The other two little tables sat empty.
"Afternoon, miss," the smiling, bearded bartender approached her. "What can I get you?"
"Tea, please," she said. "I'll sit just there."
"Be right out," he answered, and turned to set to work. Molly sighed again, took off her jacket and draped it over the back of one of the chairs. She sat down, her back to the door, facing the men with the papers. She let her mind drift, and leaned her left shoulder against the warm glass of the window. Absently, she studied how the warm sunlight through the panes cut patterns across the table and the floor.
She could not start crying in here.
After several minutes of sitting, staring dully at the tabletop where her hands rested, the barman came over with a tray and set down the tea things. She thanked him, and paid. She made herself pour out, put in two sugars and cream, and then listlessly stirred the light-brown liquid. Even her fingers felt heavy. Her whole body ached. She stared some more, watching the light reflect across her tea. She lifted the cup, and took a swallow.
"Blimey," one of the men exclaimed, slapping his paper shut. "What do you think about the fuss they're making over that detective?"
"What detective?" the other man muttered, still reading his own.
"That Sherlock something-or-other. One that offed 'imself by jumping off a building."
Molly's whole stomach clamped. Her hand froze on her teacup.
"Never 'eard of 'im," the second man said.
"Oh, come on now," the first man scoffed. "Where 'ave you been living, in a cave? It's been all over. On the telly, in the papers, on the internet. Seems this fellow worked as a consulting detective for years, takin' people's money—lots of money, mind you—and turns out 'e's a fraud. Fake. Complete fake. It come out all over, didn't you 'ear anything about that?"
The second man sighed, and folded his paper down so he could give his friend an exasperated look.
"Why would I need to, if you know so much about it?"
The first man sighed and crossed his arms.
"Seems a shame," he shook his head. "Quite a young fellow, too. Got so embarrassed that 'e got found out that 'e thought 'e 'ad to bash 'is brains out all over the pavement."
Molly instantly felt sick.
"Probably planned it like that, just to get attention," the second man decided.
"'ow d'you mean?"
The second man shrugged.
"That's what them blokes are like—them fellows what do all that elaborate footwork to fool people into believin' they're geniuses. They like the attention it gets 'em. That's why they do it. Then, when somebody tries to take all that away, they throw a fit, see? Like a spoilt kid. Gets everybody talkin' about 'im again. Just like you're doin' now. You're playing right into 'is 'ands. Don't give 'im the satisfaction."
"'e's dead," the first man retorted.
"Then 'e's laughin' in 'is grave," the second replied.
Molly slowly set down her teacup, ground her teeth, grabbed the edges of the table and pushed her chair back. She rose to her feet, fixed on the two men as her vision blinked scarlet.
"Patience, Molly," a deep, powerful voice purred, barely audible right behind her.
Every atom in her body went still.
Her eyes unfocused.
She stopped breathing.
And, for an instant, she was certain her heart quit altogether.
Without commanding any muscle to move, her head slowly, slowly turned, and she halfway glanced over her right shoulder.
A very tall, black shape perched just inside the door. Angular, pale, strong-featured face, half-hidden by a high collar; curling dark hair and eyes like blue lightning.
A face that turned slightly toward her.
A gaze that captured hers like a snapping snare.
"All good things come to those who wait, remember?" he said—his lips moving deliberately and delicately, his tone resounding through all of her bones.
She still did not breathe.
He flashed his black eyebrows at her. The right corner of his mouth quirked.
He turned and left.
Molly stood there, time utterly suspended, for three lifetimes.
Then, she knocked the chair out of the way, forgot her jacket, turned and pounded out the door.
She almost fell down tripping over the step, and then the threshold. But it didn't matter.
She could see his towering form, his fluttering black coat, as he strode away from her, across the parking lot toward the road.
Her breathing came in tense, painful gasps as she hurried after his long strides, cool wind catching her hair. Her mind spun, threatening to tear apart.
Suddenly, when they'd reached a secluded bend in the road, he raised both hands as if in exultation.
"Oh, it was brilliant, Molly," he shouted into the open air. "Utterly, completely brilliant. You were brilliant—I must say it." He dropped his hands, shook his head. He kept walking even faster, as if caught up in a discussion, gesturing all the while. "I confess, it took me by surprise afterward that the portion of the plan that I ought to have been fretting about was my own execution of it, because everything you touched turned to gold. You did exactly as I said, not differing an inch, and it played out marvelously." He tilted his head back and bared his teeth into the sunshine, closing his fists. "Oh, they will be talking about this one for years after I show my hand! Decades even." He barked out a laugh. "I defy any magician on any stage to try that trick again and pull it off so flawlessly as I did. And it's not even the actual trick that's so brilliant—it's the aftermath!—the ripples running out from this thing in the media and the government and the gossip! And the funeral. Spectacularly believable. If I do say so. I doubt any man in the history of the planet has been so convincingly dead without actually being so. And you haven't told a soul—not a single person, have you? Our charade is air-tight and Moriarty is the one with the bullet through his brain." He sneered, and shook his head again. "He thought he was so clever—well, perhaps he was—but not quite clever enough. Of course he wasn't. So irritatingly overconfident he couldn't see past his own…" He paused. Halted.
Molly stopped, shivering hard.
His head cocked.
"Molly," he said carefully. "Come round here in front of me."
Molly's feet rooted to the ground. For several seconds, she couldn't move.
Then, she started forward, and stepped around in front of him. Lifted her eyes.
Gazed up into his. He frowned thoughtfully at her. His eyes seemed brighter than the sky. She could look nowhere else.
"You didn't tell John, did you?" he asked, his voice low and careful. "Even though I told you not to? Or at least hint to him?"
Molly couldn't speak. He watched her.
"Because he said something at my funeral…"
"Sherlock," Molly whispered.
His attention sharpened.
Her entire bloodstream thrilled.
She forced herself to take a breath.
"Sherlock," she said, just to hear it again—though she didn't believe it. "What…Tell him what?"
"That it was a ruse, of course," Sherlock answered. "That I'm alive."
"How could I tell him that?" Molly asked, pain in her throat tightening her expression. "I didn't know."
His eyes flashed.
"What are you talking about—how could you not know?"
"Twenty percent, you said twenty percent…" she breathed, feeling faint.
"Yes, but you must have seen it—"
"The clip on the telly…It doesn't show you falling," she said. "Just on the ground…with blood all over—"
"But there were clues," he insisted, frowning fiercely, gesturing pointedly. "In the hospital. Clues even you would be able to find—" He stopped himself, looked off, then re-focused. "I mean, they were quite obvious. I didn't use a hint of subtlety—"
"My flatmate works at the hospital," Molly told him. "She told my boss that I needed to take a week off."
"What? Whatever for?" he demanded. Molly couldn't answer. She swallowed hard, and glanced at the ground.
Sherlock's bearing quieted a little. Molly drew an uneasy breath, not looking at him.
"They made me stay away for a week. So whatever…whatever you may have left…"
"They straightened and wiped it all away, didn't they?" he said flatly. She nodded.
He heaved a short sigh, irritated.
"Well, then, what about my funeral?" he pressed.
Molly lifted her face, looking up into his eyes, her brow knitting as she tried to follow.
He raised his eyebrows.
"I practically spoke right at you." His own brow furrowed earnestly. "The verses, Molly—the verses I had the parson read out, don't you remember?"
"I—" Molly fought to remember.
"First Corinthians fifteen, verse thirty-five," he cut her off. "'But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.'"
"I don't…" Molly ducked her head.
"And what about the next one?" he continued. "'While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!'"
"I just thought he meant Jesus," Molly murmured. He laughed, but it sounded baffled.
"He did, of course, but it's more than that, Molly—a double meaning, don't you see?"
"Why didn't you just answer your phone?" Molly choked, weakly smiling up at him for just a moment.
"My phone?" he repeated.
"Yes, I called you and called you, but I couldn't…" She trailed off.
"Molly, I left my phone on the rooftop," he said slowly. "With Moriarty's dead body. When they found him, they found it, and promptly took it to Scotland Yard, sealed it up in some little bag and locked it in a hole in the wall. I couldn't touch it—and just as well, since everyone and his dog has that number now and it's so traceable it could never be of any more use to me."
Molly stared at the ground, and shifted her weight. He stayed silent a moment.
"You really…" he began, then started over. "You truly thought I was dead."
"I still do," she whispered. She shook her head again. "This can't be…I mean, this isn't real."
"There's no reason for you to doubt your senses, Molly," he insisted. "You're not drunk, you're not under the influence of any drug, you're—"
Molly reached up with her left hand, and pressed her fingers into his hair.
Sherlock stopped, going completely still.
Molly, her frame trembling, watched the quivering progress of her fingers as they wound through his locks, searching the surface of his skull. Any instant, she knew she would find a gaping wound; a severe, splintering crack—
And then this whole scene, side-lit by the sun, would dissolve into one of her black, rending nightmares—blood would splatter across his face, his eyes would go blank…
But she didn't.
None of it.
The right side of his head felt smooth and unharmed. And countless dark, feathery curls brushed her skin.
And his face…
Her hand wandered down, just a little. Her forefinger touched his eyebrow. Her thumb dared to trace his soft, pale cheekbone.
Sherlock's eyelashes fluttered.
"Molly," he said roughly, quietly. "What are you doing?"
She glanced up into his vivid eyes again.
Not blank and sightless.
Penetrating. And suddenly soft.
"Trying to get that awful picture out of my head," she whispered.
His jaw tensed a moment. He glanced down…
Then reached up with his right hand and took hold of her wrist.
"This should convince you, then." And he briskly pushed his coat lapel and scarf aside, and pressed her palm against his shirt, and the warm center of his chest.
His heart beat strong against her fingers.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a reflexive smile twitch across his mouth.
Then at last, unable to brace herself up for one second longer, she sucked in a deep, shuddering breath, squeezed her eyes shut and let her twisting forehead fall forward against his breastbone.
He didn't pull back. Didn't exclaim or tell her to get off. He kept hold of her wrist—and his hold gentled, his fingers resting on the back of her hand.
She pulled in deep breaths of him—he always smelled of that antique flat no matter where he went, and the dust of books and violin rosin, and gunpowder—and pressed her hand harder into his pulse, feeling his chest rise and fall as he breathed…he breathed…he breathed.
Then, she felt his other hand hesitate up, and lightly touch the back of her head. He wound a strand of her hair around his forefinger. And she sensed his head dip down toward her.
She blinked. Tears fell. She nuzzled her forehead against him, then turned and laid her ear against his heart.
And there it was, that great heart, beating down through every bone in her body.
"I'm so…" she gasped, closing her eyes again. "I'm so happy to see you."
She heard him swallow. But he didn't say anything. Just cleared his throat—and rubbed his thumb back and forth on her hand.
She didn't know how long they stood there, not speaking. Probably a long time. Finally, though, he took a deep breath that flowed through her like wind across the meadow.
"So…you did not tell John after all," he murmured, the sound vibrating through her frame.
Molly sniffed, pulled her head back and shook it, and wiped her face on her right sleeve.
"No, of course not," she answered. "Poor man, though. He's quite heartbroken. You're his best friend, you know. One of his only friends. "
Sherlock glanced elsewhere, his mouth tightening.
"He and Mrs. Hudson seemed quite done up at the…funeral," he commented. Molly just nodded, watching his quiet expression, and braved a smile.
"They'll be very relieved when you go see them, I imagine."
"I'm not going to see them," Sherlock said quickly. Molly frowned.
"What? Why not?"
"I can't yet," he said. "I still have several pressing matters to attend to."
He gave her a sideways smile.
"Plenty of time to tell you later."
"But…" Molly stammered. "Why did you come see me now?"
He lifted his chin.
"Because you're my partner in this subterfuge," he said frankly. "And I…" He hesitated, frowned, ducked his head. "Of course, I…Well."
That moment, Molly realized that he had not released her hand. It still rested against his heart, covered over by his fingers. But all at once, he felt unsteady. He didn't look at her—and his brow furrowed.
"I'm happy you did," she told him.
He sucked a quick breath, and stood up straight, and looked at her.
"Well, then," he smiled briefly. "I must be off. Very busy, as I said."
Molly nodded quickly. But he didn't let go of her hand. Instead, he squeezed it. And he hesitated, just half a second.
"I don't…I don't want to keep you," Molly lied, risking another smile. "I'm sure you are. Busy, I mean."
"Yes, very." He agreed. He stood for just another second…
Then released her, turned, stuffed his hands in his pockets and strode away from her, his coat flapping. She slowly pulled her hand back, and rested it on her heart. It felt warm. She bit the inside of her cheek, watching his every step as the distance increased between them.
He slowed, then halfway turned back. Looked at her.
A gust of wind caught her hair, and a cloud moved so that the deep gold of the early-evening sun shone across her. She wrapped her right arm around her middle, and kept her left hand against her chest. Sherlock frowned, his eyes narrowing.
He walked back.
Carefully, his head tilted sideways, as if he were approaching a scene he meant to investigate. His feet crunched on the gravel. He stopped just in front of her, looming. Molly said nothing—just stayed completely still, watching him.
His eyes narrowed briefly again…
And then he reached out and put his finger under her chin, tilting her face up toward him. He set his thumb on her chin, and turned her head slightly one way, then the other. His gaze wandered intently over all her features, as if studying the way the light looked upon every surface.
He suddenly bent down toward her.
Molly held her breath.
He stopped, their noses a centimeter apart. He frowned hard for a moment, then tilted his head to the left…
Closed the distance, and tasted her lips.
Fire shot across Molly's mouth. She gasped.
He looked up—met her eyes—so close and brilliant. Taking everything in. He tipped his head to the left again, changed his mind, leaned to the right and brushed her nose with his. And pressed in again.
He lingered this time.
Molly's eyes fluttered shut as heat flooded her body. She sighed…
And broke the kiss, just for an instant—
He caught a breath—
She closed her lips over his again, leaning up toward him, deepening it.
And he sighed.
His hand slipped down, and rested against her neck. His thumb pressed gently against her throat. Her heartbeat pounded against it.
He pulled back. Their mouths parted.
Molly blinked, trying to focus her vision.
He was looking down at her—his gaze intense and burning. And a strange, uncanny smile formed on his lips. She had seen that look often, when he had just run across a particular twist in a case that had momentarily foiled him. But she couldn't comprehend why it would be directed at her.
He lifted his hand, and touched his fingertips to her cheek.
"I'll be in touch," he said. "Thank you, Molly."
She gave him another smile, because she couldn't speak. He caught it—and smiled back. Truly, for just half an instant.
Then he turned, and really did walk away from her this time.
And she watched him until he disappeared out of sight.
Molly avoided her flat mate at all costs that evening. She fixed herself some soup and ducked into her room. She shouted answers to Jenny's concerned questions through the door, telling her she was tired, she had a headache, she would be going to bed soon.
Simply because she could not let Jenny catch her smiling.
When at last she had given up her vigil by the side of the road, returned and walked back past his grave, she had burst into near-hysterically-relieved sobs—and after all those tears had flowed, she felt as if she weighed nothing. She picked up the last rose she had left, kissed it, pulled off all the petals and flung them in the air. Then, she had made her way home, alternately crying and laughing the whole time.
Now, she set out her clothes for the next work day, got ready for bed, brushed out her hair, and wondered how on earth she was going to get to sleep. And indeed, by the time eleven o'clock rolled around, she had been lying in bed for an hour but still didn't feel the least bit drowsy. She stared at the ceiling, her heart swelled to bursting, her mind spinning and yet at peace.
Her phone jingled. Just once.
She picked it up from her bedside table, brushed her hair out of her face, and frowned at the screen.
I have come to the tenuous conclusion that you have a pretty mouth after all. –S
She stared at the message, her heart skipping a beat before she let out a small giggle of disbelief, and glanced out at the darkness of her room.
Another one. She opened it.
However, I am unwilling to make a definitive decision before further study. –S
Molly blushed so hard it hurt her. She bit her lip, grinned like an idiot, covered her face with one hand, then fell back onto her pillow, resting the phone against her heart.
The music enticed me
Nearer to the brown-haired maiden of the warm eyes
And she prayed to the King of Heaven
"Protect my love on the high seas."
Her heart was breaking with love
When I took her by the hand
"Wipe your eyes, your love is safe
I have returned to you from the high seas."
-Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A' Chuain
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