A/N: I know I promised a final chapter and a possible epilogue, but I have so many WIPs (posted and unposted), that I have come to the conclusion that this story is complete. I hope this final chapter doesn't disappoint, and I want to thank each every one of my lovely reviewers for their kind and encouraging words. Off to work on the next chapter of "Arranged" and assorted other projects!
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony..."
Sherlock found himself utterly unable to attend the minister's words, lost in an entirely unexpected daze at the realization that the woman standing by his side, Miss Molly Hooper, was actually in the process of becoming his wife.
Molly, for her part, looked completely composed, her eyes forward and giving every appearance of taking in every word being spoken. She'd never looked lovelier, with her rose gown and matching bonnet, her hair curled into an elaborate style which he'd never seen her wearing previous to this occasion and which he presumed was his mother's doing.
Or, he thought, perhaps it was due to the influence of her matron of honor, Mrs. John Watson, who stood next to her husband opposite Sherlock and Molly. John's wife was something of a fashion plate, although never in such a manner as to tax their budget; try as he had during the early days of their marriage, Sherlock recalled with an internal wince, he never could fault Mary for her handling of the pursestrings.
Mary remained in his thoughts for no longer than that as Sherlock's restless mind – and eyes – settled once more on Molly Hooper's slender form. Beneath the high waistline of her gown the slight roundness of her abdomen showed not at all, although she was nearly three months gone with his child.
A smile threatened to break out over his face but he sternly held it back. To be seen smiling fondly at his wife in the midst of their wedding would give away far too much to the curious eyes of his father and brother; although Mycroft surely knew by now that Sherlock would never have allowed this situation to occur did he not love the lady in question, their father was certain to pounce on such knowledge as a weapon to be wielded against his youngest son in the future. It was simply how the man's mind worked. Better he should continue to believe that Sherlock had allowed himself to be trapped like an untried yokel, that this marriage was a duty he was carrying out that he was fond of Molly and nothing more.
No, Sherlock was resolved that his father would never have the opportunity to try and use Molly and his grandchild as pawns or tools. Which was why they would repair to the Baker Street residence in London once Molly's father felt comfortable turning his practice entirely over to his new partner – a young Irishman he'd found on his own through his associates in the medical field, declining (quite courteously if somewhat wryly) Sherlock's (entirely sincere this time) offer to find him an acceptable replacement for John Watson.
He was jolted back into the present by the nudge of a discreet elbow in his ribs. He met the minister's amused gaze, staring blankly at him as the older man repeated his words. "Do you, William Sherlock Scott Holmes, take this woman, Margaret Elizabeth Anne Hooper, to be your wedded wife? To have and to hold from this day forward, cleaving only unto her, for as long as you both shall live?"
Sherlock managed to stutter out a dazed-sounding "I do" and turned to face Molly, who spoke her own affirmation of the vow in a clear, strong voice. Her smile was the sweetest thing he'd ever seen as she raised her hand and allowed Sherlock to slip the simple gold band he'd chosen for her onto her finger. Curious; he'd fully expected her to be the more nervous of the two of them today, yet his was the one that hand trembled a bit, while hers remained steady and warm in his shaky grasp.
"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride."
With those words – and yet another friendly nudge from John – Sherlock leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss to Molly's lips.
It was done; they were wed.
The daze that had fallen upon him as the ceremony concluded remained as congratulations were offered, the women pressed kisses were to his and Molly's cheeks, and his hand was shaken by the men. It persisted all through the wedding supper; toasts were offered to his and Molly's health, he did recall that much, although of their actual content he could never be certain. Nor could he describe one single item on the menu, nor the taste of the wine with the meal or the port after, when the ladies – his wife included – had left the men in the dining room and departed for wherever it was they went whenever the cigars came out.
The daze only eased slightly once his wife was away from his side, for the first time since she'd joined him in front of the oversized fireplace in the main parlor. They'd been wed by special license, his father's way of daring anyone to comment on the briefness of his youngest son's engagement, and the broken almost-engagement to Miss Masterson that had preceded it. He still could taste nothing of his port or the cigar that was thrust upon him by his brother, but at least now he could partake of the conversation with some semblance of intelligence.
That momentary return to his customary awareness of the world around him vanished as quickly as it had returned once the men repaired to the formal parlor where the ceremony had taken place. And all because his wife, the newly christened Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, was waiting there for him.
She was standing near the French doors, speaking quietly to Mary and his mother, and he found himself unable to move further into the room as soon as his eyes came to rest on her slender form. As if she felt his gaze upon her, she looked up and offered a shy smile before dipping her head in response to something Mary had just said.
He felt (yet again) an elbow jostling his ribs and stumbled into the room, still unable to fully comprehend that this moment, the one he'd planned so carefully for, had actually arrived. Molly truly was his wife; their child rested safely within her womb, and very shortly the two of them would repair to the bridal suite that had been prepared for them in the west wing. They would leave in the morning for an abbreviated tour of the Continent – Paris, Rome, and a surprise visit to Switzerland, which he knew Molly had always wished to visit – and return in a month, long before she would begin to show. It had all been meticulously planned out by his father – with only Sherlock's insistence on the week in Switzerland upsetting the applecart in any way – in order to achieve just that face-saving goal.
Once they were back in England, he would be allowed to retire from the social scene into which his position had always forced him, and he would conclude as much of his studies as he could before Molly's confinement brought him back home. He had already made arrangements with his various professors to pursue a correspondence course to complete his chemistry degree, which had been met with much less resistance than he'd anticipated. His father's generous donations to the department no doubt helped as much as his own reputation for disrupting Oxford's normally staid and hallowed halls.
He had already set aside his work with Inspector Lestrade's Bow Street Runners until such time as he and Molly were able to make a permanent move to London. The man had raised a politely disbelieving eyebrow when Sherlock informed of the reason for his hiatus, then chuckled and shaken his head as he declared, "Well, then Mr. Holmes, if you've found a woman mad enough to take you, I daresay it's no wonder you wish to hurry up the wedding, before she returns to her senses!" Then he'd turned serious, thrusting out his hand and offering up his congratulations.
In gratitude for the man's sincerity and the work he'd promised Sherlock could take up once again when convenient, he did not inform Lestrade that his wife had yet again taken a lover.
None of that was on his mind as Dr. Hooper, John and his father followed him into the room. All he could think of, all he could see, was the radiant form of his wife. Everything else faded into insignificance as he made his way to her side. Murmuring some form of apology to Mary, he offered Molly his arm and hurried her out through the French doors, closing them firmly behind them.
Molly giggled as he sped up his steps, raising her gown in one hand – thankfully the bonnet had long since vanished – and hurrying to keep up with his swift pace. "Sherlock, please slow down," she gasped as he led her around a corner, the graveled path crunching beneath their feet.
He not only slowed his steps but halted them entirely as soon as he was certain they were out of view of the house. Molly's giggles became a surprised squeal as he pressed her against the trunk of the nearest oak tree, lowering his mouth to hers to capture a far more satisfying kiss than the one that had concluded their wedding ceremony only a few brief hours ago. The kiss seemed to relieve the daze that had fallen over his mind, as his thoughts focused on only one thing: this woman was his wife, his and his alone.
And he wouldn't wait to lie with her another moment longer. To the devil with propriety and the houseful of family and guests; Molly was his wife and they had been apart for far too long. He was not, however, so far gone as to ruck her skirts up over her waist and take her out here in the garden, much as the insistent bulge in his trousers might urge him to do. Instead, breathless from the kiss, he turned his head and nuzzled at Molly's neck. "Come with me to our rooms, wife. I feel a burning need to see what you are wearing beneath your wedding gown."
Her brown eyes were enormous in her face, her expression caught somewhere between happiness and anticipation as she licked her lips and offered him the tiniest of nods. He knew it was wildly improper to drag her away from the celebration just to satisfy his lusts, but since she was the only woman who had ever aroused them while at the same time capturing his heart, it was entirely her own fault.
Like two naughty children escaping the watchful eye of their governess, the two of them scampered off, Sherlock leading her the long way around the house, sneaking her in through the back entrance to the kitchen. The room was currently unoccupied by anyone but the scullery maid, who was busy scrubbing out the mound of pots and pans that had been used in preparing the wedding feast. Her attention was fixed on the large cast-iron pot at the top of the pile, and she wore a fierce scowl of concentration as she scrubbed. It appeared she hadn't noticed their entry into the room at all; raising a finger to his lips, Sherlock indicated that Molly should remain silent as they crossed the room.
She managed to repress her giggles only as long as it took them to leave the kitchen and make their way up the back staircase to the main floor of the house, meeting not one other servant along the way, which was all to the good. Once the giggles escaped her lips, they lasted all the way up the next flight of stairs, until they reached the secluded rooms that had been prepared for the two of them. As soon as Sherlock opened the door, however, Molly seemed to sober instantly. Whether it was the sight of the rather imposing Jacobean four-poster bed that dominated the room, or the myriad of candles that rested on every flat surface – unlit but clearly brought into the room to give it a romantic ambiance – or something else entirely, Sherlock wasn't certain. Nor, to his surprise, did he wish to deduce the reason for her sudden cessation of mirth. He found himself strangely reluctant to do so, in fact.
He hoped it was not a sudden onset of shyness on her part, or worse, a sign that she'd changed her mind about renewing their intimate relations. They had shared no physical intimacy beyond kisses for nearly a month, and he felt a brief surge of discomfort at the realization that they had never discussed this. He'd made an assumption, and found himself unhappily contemplating the thought that he'd been foolish to do so.
He was reasonably certain that she believed him when he told her he loved her, even if he'd only said the words once, and he was more than reasonably certain that she loved him, but beyond that he found himself curiously unsure. When he turned to ask her, however, he found that she'd seated herself on the nearest armchair and was in the process of removing her shoes and stockings. When she felt his eyes on her, she looked up and dimpled. "Well, husband, now that you've got me all to yourself, don't tell me you don't know what to do with me!"
Spurred into action by her words and the teasing tone in which they'd been spoken, Sherlock closed and latched the door and hastily began removing his own clothing, the hated cravat nearly being ripped in two in the process, all doubts and worries tossed aside at the sight of her bare legs peeking out from beneath her rose gown. She'd raised it to her knees and was currently in the process of folding her stockings, smiling all the while.
It wasn't until he was in the middle of undoing his trousers that his mind caught up with what his eyes had observed: Molly was not wearing proper under-drawers beneath her wedding dress. When he turned his incredulous gaze to meet hers, she dimpled again and completed the task of folding her stockings, placing them neatly on the ottoman on which her left foot currently rested. "I anticipated your interest in resuming our previous...interactions...as quickly after the wedding as possible," she said, her voice serene but with a hint of laughter lurking in her eyes and the corners of her lips. "After your mother and Mrs. Watson finished fussing over me, I sent them out of the room on the pretext of needing a few minutes privacy – well," she interrupted herself with a giggle, "it wasn't actually a pretext, as I did, indeed, require those few minutes in order to divest myself of my..."
She did not complete her sentence, not out of any unwillingness to do so but because her husband's lips were covering her own, smothering any further words for the time being. Sherlock hadn't even been aware of moving until he found himself kneeling in front of his wife and taking her into his arms. They collapsed to the floor in a tangle of limbs when he became impatient to feel her closer and toppled her out of her seat. Molly's giggles returned, but only for as long as it took him to remove the remainder of her clothing and his own. Her corset presented a temporary difficulty which Sherlock resolved by retrieving his trousers, fishing out his pocket-knife and slicing through the ties.
They had to return to their feet in order to complete this part of their disrobing; once they were both entirely nude Sherlock lifted Molly into his arms, as always marveling at the slightness of her frame, how easily she fit in his arms and how much he enjoyed holding her in this manner. It wasn't the pleasure of possession or dominance, although there was a very primal, very male part of himself that certainly responded to her that way. No, it was simply the fact that this tiny woman had so thoroughly captured his heart, had taken what was meant to be a simple solution to a mutual problem they shared and somehow turned it into the best and wisest decision he'd ever made. He resolved then and there never to forget that fact, nor to allow her to think he'd ever done so. He knew he could be selfish and unheeding of the needs of others, but for her, he would certainly make the attempt to better himself. Not simply because he felt it was what was expected of him, but because he wished to do so, in order to secure her happiness.
He was not unaware of the fact that he'd undressed Molly and carried her over to the bed in much the same manner as he had upon their first carnal encounter. He had yet to remove the myriad of hairpins from her elaborately-styled tresses, but reserved that pleasure for after his more pressing needs – and hers as well – had been met. Not only met, but satisfied and conquered as well he thought, with not the slightest hint of modesty.
Maneuvering the seemingly unending expanse between the piles of discarded clothing and the Jacobean nightmare of a bed took longer than it should have, solely due to his wife's distracting habit of peppering his chest and throat with kisses while simultaneously running her fingers through his hair, disarraying the carefully disciplined waves into the loose curls he knew she much preferred. They finally made their way to the bed, where he deposited her carefully on her back, taking the opportunity to catalogue the changes that had occurred to her body since he'd last seen this way.
Her breasts were fuller, which fact he'd already noted. There was a slight curve to her abdomen, a firmness to his touch that had not been there before, but not enough, as he'd already noted, to disturb the lines of her gown. He wondered absently if it was time for her to forgo the use of a corset altogether, an entirely pleasing thought as he found that particular article of clothing an unnecessary impediment that did very little to improve his wife's already slender figure…and then Molly smiled at him and raised her arms to him and his ability to think was once again disturbed, in the most delightful of manners.
Molly watched as Sherlock explored her body, wondering if he would find the changes, subtle as they were, in any way repugnant or off-putting, but he showed nothing but honest curiosity, his questing fingers far more gentle than she'd ever felt them before during such explorations. He gazed down at her with an abstracted expression on his face, but when his gaze moved to meet hers she smiled and raised her arms, which invitation he immediately – and quite enthusiastically – accepted.
They shared kisses, languorous and impassioned in turn, exploring one another's body with their fingers, eliciting sighs and groans and, in Molly's case, a few squeaks as Sherlock deliberately found her most sensitive spots and lingered there. When his hand finally made its way between her legs, she spread them open without hesitation, knowing the pleasure he could bring her to with those long, clever digits. She gasped and clung to him, pressing feverish kisses and nips to his shoulder and throat as he unerringly placed exactly the right amount of pressure to bring her to the cusp of ecstasy, then teasingly slowed his movements as he whispered into her ear: "Am I pleasing you, wife? Or is it too much, should I stop and allow you a moment to recover?"
She responded with a sound very much like a growl, startling a laugh out of her husband. Oh, what a thrill it was to think of him in that way! Her husband, Sherlock Holmes. The man she loved and who had made her the happiest woman alive this very day…and whom she rather wanted to throttle at the moment as he withdrew his fingers entirely and raised them to his lips. When his tongue darted out to taste the moisture there, she decided it was her turn to tease, to do something Mary had told her about when Molly asked for her advice. Molly had become quite red during that hushed conversation, but Dr. Watson's wife had spoken forthrightly and without any signs of embarrassment of the one assured way to turn a man into an incoherent mess in the bedroom. "You may or may not find your own enjoyment in the act," had been Mary's parting wisdom on that afternoon (Molly blamed too many glasses of summer wine for her unusual boldness with someone she'd just met yet instinctively knew would become a lifelong friend). "However, you shan't know until you've tried it at least once!"
Both women had broken into giggles at that point, and when the men had returned from their brief absence (no doubt smoking and gossiping even worse than their female compatriots), Molly had been hard pressed to keep her wandering thoughts (and eyes!) from contemplating Mary's words…and the specific region of Sherlock's body those words had involved.
It would be nice, she thought as she pushed Sherlock up and away from her so that he fell onto his back, if just once she could be the one to surprise and disconcert him.
It would appear she had accomplished that goal merely by her initial actions; for a moment his expression was hurt, but as soon as she raised herself up and knelt over his prone form, the hurt was replaced by a sort of avaricious interest. He deliberately crossed his arms behind his head and gazed up at her. "So forceful, Mrs. Holmes," he murmured. "What do you have in mind for me now?"
She responded by moving so that her kneeling form rested between his knees, her hands on his hips as she gazed down at his rampant manhood. She had yet to grow used to seeing him like this, blatantly nude and ready for her, and the size of him startled her all over again. However, she knew from their few times together that, in spite of his intimidating girth, they fit quite well together. A woman's private parts were made, after all, to deliver forth infants; a man's penetration could never be so discomforting as that!
A woman's mouth, on the other hand, was something else entirely, and Molly found herself panicking a bit at the thought of what she now contemplated doing. However, the challenging smirk on her husband's face shot a rod of steel up her backbone; she returned the smirk with one of her own before lowering her head and pressing a soft kiss to the tip of his prick, grasping the base with one hand whilst bracing herself against his thigh with her other.
He greeted her movements with an indrawn hiss of breath and a very definite increase in his body's tension; when she darted her eyes up to take in his expression, she found that his own eyes had gone nearly black with desire. "Molly," he growled as he held her gaze, "if you do not intend to make good on that promise, now would be the time to remove yourself from your current position. Else I swear my hand on your backside will be the next thing you feel!"
Oh, threats was it? Well! Molly Hooper had never backed away from a challenge in her young life and she certainly wasn't going to now. Not that she feared that he would actually strike her, of course; in fact, a part of her thrilled at the thought of him doing so, but not just yet. Perhaps later, when they'd become more comfortable with one another, when she wasn't carrying his child or when she felt ready to explore the wicked side of herself she was just learning existed…
Speaking of which, her husband had essentially dared her to continue with her ministrations, and that wicked side of her was quite happy to do so. She lowered her head again, this time darting out her tongue and swiping it across the hooded tip and once again working her hand up and down the velvety length of him.
Sherlock groaned and pressed his arm across his face. How in the hell had this happened, that the quiet, demure young lady he'd married only this afternoon had transformed into such a wanton? Yes, she'd been bold with him before, but never to this extent. He gasped as she finally brought the entire head of his prick into her sweet, warm mouth, and he peeked out from under his arm, curious to see how she was reacting to her own unexpected actions.
Her eyes were narrowed in concentration, a small "V" appearing between her eyes as she worked her mouth lower onto his straining shaft. He held his hips very still, although it was a battle; this was entirely new to Molly, and he'd not expected to even broach the subject with her until after they'd been married for more than a few hours. "Molly," he gasped out, "pray do not take this as a criticism, but what possessed you to try such a…" He ran out of words as she accidentally grazed his bollocks with her hand, emitting a strangled noise instead of continuing the question he'd started to ask.
For someone charting unfamiliar waters, Molly looked entirely too pleased with herself. Of course, the fact that he could not contain the slight twitches of his hips, or the way his hands curled into tight fists by his sides, or the soft grunts that he was making with every labored exhalation of his breath weren't exactly giving the impression of a man indifferent to his wife's actions. After several minutes spent restraining himself from thrusting deeper into her throat, Sherlock finally reached down and tugged none-too-gently at her hair. "Enough!" he gasped out, and Molly's lips released his prick with what felt like a great deal of reluctance.
She grinned up at him happily as she sat back on her heels, hands on her own hips rather than his. "Mary said that I'd know I'd done it correctly if you asked me to stop in a certain manner..."
"Mary?" Sherlock stared at her, shocked to hear that name pass her lips in this context. "Mary Watson? John's wife? You spoke to her about..." Words failed him, but his own discomfort had no effect on his wife's smug smile, except to deepen it as she leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his lips.
"Yes, Mary Watson, John's wife," she replied, although she flushed a becoming shade of pink as she did so. Ah, so her defiant attitude was at least partially a facade, as he should have known. He returned the kiss, privately resolved to find out what other aspects of marital life Mrs. Watson had shared with Molly.
Not now, of course. He was far less interested at the moment in intellectual discourse – no matter how risqué the subject matter – than he was in physical intercourse. Molly's ministrations had brought him to the very edge of his tightly-wound control, and it was taking every ounce of his remaining willpower not to simply flip her onto her back and rut into her like a wild animal.
Of course, judging by the frank lust with which she was currently regarding him, that might very well be exactly what he should be doing at this moment. Before he could suit thought to action, however, Molly continued to demonstrate her newfound boldness with him by raising herself up and grasping his prick in one hand before lowering herself gingerly onto him. She squirmed a bit as she adjusted to having him inside her, a habit he certainly could find no reason to complain about. Especially when it was abundantly clear that she required no preparation at this time in order to receive him into her body, which was hot and slick with moisture and felt incredible. As she started to move, pressing her hands on his chest and leaning forward to steal a demanding kiss from his lips, he found himself entering into a state of bliss he'd often heard described but only ever experienced when intimately entwined with this woman.
Afterward, when they lay tangled together, Molly's head resting on Sherlock's chest, he lifted her hand to his lips to press a tender kiss to her knuckles, pausing only to admire the slender gold band now adorning her third finger. It was engraved on the interior in Latin, "Tenetis Instrue" – "You hold my heart, always." He looked forward to the day she discovered that secret truth almost as much as he looked forward to the day he first held their child in his arms.
A lifetime with a wife and children had never been something he'd envisioned for himself until three short months ago, and now, it was all he could see; indeed, he could no longer fathom how he'd not wished such a life for himself. "I love you, Mrs. Holmes," he murmured as his wife turned her sweet lips up to meet his for a lingering kiss.
"I love you too, Mr. Holmes," she replied. "And I do want to thank you for ruining me," she added with a playful grin.
"My pleasure," he replied, meaning every word.
He hoped for a lifetime of such ruination, if this happiness was to be the outcome.