A/N: I have a few dedications to make before we start here. This is concerning what happened at the BFI screening this past Sunday; I wasn't there, but I heard what happened, and it made me feel sick when I heard. So here are my dedications:
For the author of the story that was read aloud; all of us would feel just as exposed and humiliated, and our hearts and support go out to you.
For Benedict and Martin, who had the grace to be embarrassed, uncomfortable, and not like doing it at all.
For Moffat and Gatiss, who have said themselves that they consider their show a fanfiction for Sherlock Holmes. They can do it, and so can we.
Now, on with this long one-shot of a story…
As a DI with the New Yard, Greg Lestrade was no stranger to late-night phone calls and being woken at any and all hours. He had learned long ago to skip the grumbling and just accept it as part of the job. So, when he was woken from sleep at 3 AM by the sound of his mobile ringing, Lestrade roused himself in seconds and answered it without looking at the number: "Lestrade."
He expected it to be the Yard, calling to notify him about a body found or a crime in progress, but it wasn't. The tiny, faint voice on the other end of the line was the last he had expected to hear.
Lestrade immediately opened his eyes and sat fully up, alert and alarmed. "Molly? Is that you?"
"Molly, are you hurt? Where are you?" Lestrade asked urgently, getting out of bed.
"Hang in there, Molly, we're on our way with an ambulance!"
"Shit!" Lestrade exclaimed, and proceeded to call an ambulance and his team to rush to Molly's home as he dressed.
As a former army surgeon and the best friend of the world's only consulting detective, John Watson was used to being awake and alert at any hour of the day or night. So, when he'd gotten a job at St. Bart's as an ER surgeon, John had no problem when he was assigned to the graveyard shifts like tonight. It had been a slow shift so far, but John wasn't complaining. He was taking advantage of this peaceful time.
It had been two months since Sherlock had revealed himself to be alive. It had taken a month for their friendship to become truly solid again: John needed time to understand and forgive Sherlock's actions, as well as get used to the fact that his best friend was alive and back; Sherlock needed to get to know London again, as well as get used to the fact that he would now live alone in 221B Baker Street. John now lived with his fiancée, Mary Morstan, and they would be married before the year was done. In this past month, Sherlock and John had taken a few cases together again in London, as if no time had passed at all. In fact, they had only finished a particularly interesting case that afternoon (John planned to title it "The Copper Britches" when he wrote his blog post for it). John knew Sherlock was now probably still in a coma-like sleep after raiding Mrs. Hudson's fridge; after a case, especially a good one, Sherlock would give in to his body's needs like a teenage boy.
It was safe to say that John Watson could not really complain about his current life.
At half-past three, he was taking a coffee break in the canteen when his mobile vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, John saw it was Lestrade and answered right away. He wouldn't be calling at this hour without a very good reason. "Hey, Greg, what's up?"
"John. Are you on call at Bart's tonight?"
"Yeah, I am, I'm at Bart's," said John, becoming worried by the tone of Lestrade's voice. "What's happened?"
"Molly's being rushed there in an ambulance right now."
"What?" John exclaimed, not noticing the few people in the canteen looking at him in surprise. "Jesus, what's happened?"
"Not sure yet. Looks like someone broke into her flat and assaulted her. She called me just after it happened. We found her bruised up with a nasty knock to her head, out cold; she's about five minutes away."
"Oh, Jesus, Jesus," said John, his coffee forgotten and rushing out of the canteen. "I'll be at the doors to catch her."
"Good. I'll come by as soon as I can."
"Thanks for heads-up."
Both men ended the call, and John hurried down to the ER doors. He arrived just seconds before the wailing ambulance pulled up, and paramedics came out with Molly Hooper on a gurney.
"Oh, God…" mumbled John, looking at Molly in the cold hospital lights once she was wheeled in. Tiny woman that she was, she resembled a doll that had been badly thrown around. The bandage on the right side of her forehead was more red than white. "What's her status?" he demanded of the paramedics as they rushed her through the waiting room down the hall.
"Multiple points of impact," said the female paramedic. "Looks like she's been both hit and kicked. Her left wrist is swelling up, looks broken, but she fought back. There's blood under her right fingernails. Judging by the bruising to her torso, she could have some damage to her ribs, whether broken, fractured or bruised I tell yet. Nasty cut to her head from where he knocked her out, still bleeding. She's been drifting in and out of consciousness on the way over."
"Molly," said John as they pulled into an empty hospital room and nurses were proceeding to check her vitals and hook her up to a heart monitor and other machines. "Molly, it's me, John, can you hear me?"
Molly groaned pitifully and barely fluttered her eyes.
John bent down and whispered in her ear, "You're safe now, Molly. We'll take care of you and patch you up." And catch the bastard that did this – who's going to be in for a lot of hell when Sherlock hears about this.
Lestrade arrived at St. Bart's soon after Molly was brought in. He was shown directly to Molly's room, and found her there with John. She was sitting on the end of her hospital bed, her bare feet not quite touching the floor, her hospital gown too big and making her look so small. The multiple bruises and bandaged wrists made her pale skin even more pallid. Her long hair hung messily down her back like a limp curtain, and her eyes shut closed. John stood beside her, cleaning her forehead and the newly-stitched-up cut there.
He turned his head at the sound of Lestrade softly knocking; Molly didn't react. The men nodded to each other, conveying a silent message of relief that Molly was at least awake and safe. Lestrade then approached Molly carefully and said softly, "Hey, Molls. How are you doing?"
Molly slowly opened her eyes. The usual sparkle in her brown eyes was gone, but she looked pleased to see him. "Hi, Greg. I'm…I've been better…" Her voice was as equally lifeless as her eyes. John rubbed her back in comfort.
Lestrade took a chair in the room and placed it in front of her, sitting down and taking out his small notepad. "Can you tell me what happened, Molly?"
Molly swallowed slowly, as if it were a great effort, and spoke slowly to control the tremors in it. "I was…I was asleep when he broke in…came in through my bedroom window using the f-fire escape…I woke up when he clamped his hand – he was wearing gloves – over my mouth and said…'Scream and I'll kill you, bitch'…H-he was on top of me, the covers ripped off the bed…his legs bent next to my hips so I couldn't roll away…Even in the dark, I could tell he wore a ski mask…I nodded my head quickly, a-and he let go of my mouth. He made to…t-to pull down my pants…When looked down to do it, I swiped at his neck…managed to scratch him deeply…"
Molly took a deep breath to calm herself. John took her good hand with his free one; she gripped it tightly.
"He screamed and…started hitting me…I managed to lift a leg and hit him between his…He groaned and I managed to crawl out from under him…B-but I didn't make it…He grabbed my wrist and tried to pull me back…We struggled, he twisted, and finally…" She made a limp swinging motion with her left arm. "…Like a rag doll…I slid off the bed and my head…it hit my nightstand…It's all blurry after that…I can hear him screaming as he's k-kicking me on the floor…Then I hear sirens in the distance outside and the next minute he's gone…I could feel myself passing out, so I reached for my phone and managed to call you…Next thing I know, I'm here."
Molly hung her head, indicating that she was finished. John wrapped his arm round her shoulders securely, and Lestrade wrote his last notes. The two men exchanged looks of anger for this bastard before Lestrade looked back at Molly and said, "Thank you. You did great, Molly, really great."
John said, "Good news is you managed to get a piece of him when you scratched him, Molls. We got both blood and skin cells from under your fingernails." He turned to Lestrade. "Samples were bagged, tagged, and sent to the New Yard."
"Excellent," said Lestrade. "That'll make his conviction a lock, and if he's in the system, we'll find him right away." He leaned forward and addressed Molly in a gentle voice. "Molly, I'll need your permission for my team and I to search your apartment for evidence."
Molly gave a slow nod of the head. "Do whatever you have to," said Molly, looking at her hands. "I…I can't go back there yet…"
John gently covered his hands with one of his own and said firmly, "No. You're coming to stay with Mary and me."
Molly lifted her head and looked at John. "Oh, John, I don't want to be a burden –"
"Hush, Molly. You could never be a burden to us. We want this bastard caught as badly as you do, and in the meantime, we want you safe and taken care of."
"I would feel much better if you stayed somewhere else until this man is caught, Molly," said Lestrade. "He knows where you live, and he didn't finish what he started. So as long as he's free, you wouldn't be safe there, Molly. We'd all feel better if you stayed with John and Mary right now – or in Baker Street with Sherlock, if that seems –"
"No! Don't tell Sherlock!"
Both men were taken aback by the sudden change in Molly as she said this. No longer did she seem numb or shaken, but alert and determined. Her tone and the look in her eyes held, not fear, but anger. Neither men knew what to say to this.
Molly continued. "Despite all of the things Sherlock says about you and the New Yard, I know that you are more than capable of finding this man and locking him up. The DNA I scratched off him will make this much easier, and when you find him, I will be able to positively ID his voice. I trust the police, and the both of you completely, to make this right." She looked between the two men and, seeing their shocked and utterly confused faces, she sighed and calmed somewhat. Her tone remained firm, though. "If Sherlock finds out about this in another way, I will not blame you, but I will if either of you tell him. So please, promise me, swear that you won't."
It was clear from Molly's demeanor that she would say no more on the subject and only wanted their word, so they gave it, leaving a lot of unanswered questions for them to figure out.
Sherlock slept for eighteen hours straight after eating almost everything edible that he found in Mrs. Hudson's refrigerator. Thankfully, Mrs. Hudson was very used to this routine and always stocked up on groceries when she heard Sherlock got a new case, and Sherlock always repaid her before he got a new one.
When he woke up the next day, Sherlock felt healthy, full of energy, and eager for something new to do or work on. Knowing that he would soon go mad with boredom if he were cooped up in 221B, Sherlock put on his signature coat and scarf and headed out onto Baker Street.
Since coming back to the land of the living, Sherlock had gotten in the habit of taking long walks through London for several reasons. Not only did he need to get to know London again as intimately as he had before he fell, but Sherlock also enjoyed the feeling of just being able to walk in the open without disguise again. Spending two years in hiding and/or disguise had not been easy, and now the open air was something he never took for granted again.
However, when he saw that his steps had taken him to St. Bart's Hospital, Sherlock began to think a walk was not a good idea. Since coming back, he did not come to that building unless he was on a case and had to. After all, what other reason would he possibly have to go there? He could hear a voice in the back of his mind palace that sounded suspiciously like John giving an answer to that question, but he blocked it out.
Needing a distraction now, Sherlock pulled out his mobile and phoned Lestrade to see if any new cases had come in overnight. True, Lestrade would have told him by now if a new case had come up, but no harm in making sure. He would take a three at this point, just anything to keep his thoughts from…Since he was already walking, Sherlock considered just walking to the New Yard and inquire in person, but he certainly didn't want to make a desperate show of himself. They came to him. That was the job description, and he didn't need the whole of Scotland Yard thinking he was desperate.
Lestrade answered on the second ring. "Since when do you call?"
"Anything new come in overnight?"
"No, Sherlock, nothing new. I would have told you if we caught anything new."
Lestrade's voice had raised slightly in pitch, and even if Sherlock couldn't see the him, he could tell the DI had just lied to him. But before he could call Lestrade out on it, he heard something that just confirmed it. Sherlock heard another voice speak to Lestrade, quiet but legible, which sounded like Donovan.
"Just got back from the crime scene. No DNA in the flat other than hers."
Sherlock then heard Lestrade shushing her, and his temper flickered. "Who is she, Lestrade? Why are you lying to me? What is the case?"
When Lestrade answered, Sherlock was taken aback by the fierce and cold tone of the DI's voice: "None of your damn business, Sherlock. Stay out of it."
The line went dead, and Sherlock slowly put his phone back in his coat pocket. What is going on? Sherlock was determined to find out. He turned on his heel and began walking in the direction of John's residence.
"Here you go," said John, filling a cup of tea for Molly and handing it to her. She thanked him with a small smile.
"You were great in there," said Mary, who sat beside Molly at the kitchen table.
Molly shrugged. "I'd already told the story once before, so giving an official statement wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be."
"Did Lestrade say when they would get the DNA results back?" asked John.
"Before the sun set," replied Molly. "Said he'd get in touch when the results came back."
John nodded. The three of them had their tea in silence for a minute when the doorbell suddenly rang. John got up from the table. "I'll get it, you two ladies relax," he said before exiting the kitchen and walking to the front hall. He opened the door and his stomach dropped at the sight of Sherlock standing there with a very annoyed expression on his face. "Sherlock!"
"John," greeted Sherlock before walking past John into the flat without preamble. "Lestrade is keeping something from me. I phoned and asked if any new cases came since our last one ended, and he said no. Then I overheard Donovan saying they had found no DNA at the crime scene but the victims, must have been her flat." He had walked through the front hall to the sitting room, pacing. "Why would he not tell me?"
John, who felt panic slowly rising in his chest, following him into the sitting room and said, "Well, perhaps he didn't think it interesting enough for you." He kept his voice low in the hopes that Sherlock would reflexively lower his own voice, too.
It didn't work. "He would have told me that, not lied to me about it! This can't be about the Fall, since I've already solved five cases since returning."
John looked over his shoulder nervously and then said, "Could it be something classified? You know, for the government?"
Sherlock scoffed and gave John an even more annoyed look. "Oh, John, use your brain! My brother is the British government, and if he had a task that needed doing, he has his own goonies to do it for him."
Mary had now hurried into the sitting room and stood by her fiancée, looking as nervous as John felt. "Hello, Sherlock! Listen, now is not really a good time –"
But Sherlock kept pacing and talking loudly, as if Mary weren't there at all. "Could be a robbery, but a search for DNA suggests a more violent crime like assault, rape or murder. But I'm inclined to rule out murder, Donovan said hers, not 'the victim's' when she spoke to Lestrade, indicating someone living."
"Sherlock, he must have a good reason, just leave it alone," pleaded John.
This made Sherlock stop and look pointedly at John. After a moment, he said, "You know something."
John closed his eyes and sighed, grasping Mary's hand in support. He knew that he could never get away with lying to Sherlock. "Sherlock, just leave this alone, please."
"You do know something!" Sherlock stepped right up to John, his voice rising in anger. "Why are you and Lestrade keeping me in the dark about a case?"
"Because I made them promise to."
All three people in the sitting room turned their heads towards the quiet voice. There stood Molly in a doorway, standing straight and firm, looking at Sherlock.
John looked at his best friend, and had to bite back a gasp. Sherlock's body and expression had frozen when he saw Molly. In contrast, his eyes seemed to be burning as they looked every inch of her over, taking in the wrapped wrist, bandaged forehead, and visible bruises. The more seconds passed, the tighter Sherlock clenched his jaw and the more angry the glow in his eyes became.
Throughout these tense seconds, Molly stood firm and didn't break her gaze from his face. Looking back at her, John saw no surprise in her eyes at Sherlock's presence – but he saw plenty of anger.
"Are you finished?" she finally said, her voice still quiet. John realized that she was talking about how he was deducing her and her injuries. John, who had been deduced by Sherlock many times, couldn't imagine how it must feel in this horrible context.
In response, Sherlock's eyes snapped back to her powerful gaze. His deducing gaze disappeared to be replaced by sheer confusion, even hurt. He took a slow step towards her, but went no further. His eyes seemed to be pleading with her for understanding. He only said one word.
John could hear all of the unspoken words that one spoken word carried with it: Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you turn to me for help, as I had turned to you for help? Why did you want to keep this from me?
In response, Molly's huge brown eyes filled with as much sadness as anger. She shrugged and said, "I didn't see any reason to."
Sherlock looked as if he had been slapped. John was equally shocked. He could understand if Molly wanted to keep this from Sherlock out of shame, but seeing the look on Molly's face told him it couldn't be the entire reason by a long shot. No, the whole reason was going to be something much worse.
He was right.
Molly continued. "A simple assault and attempted rape is hardly your idea of an interesting case. You'll be annoyed that I managed to get some of his DNA by scratching him; it would make it too easy to catch him, especially he's already in the system. A case like this is hardly reason to get you to even turn your head."
Sherlock actually staggered back a step, looking even more affronted. "You're wrong," he finally managed to say, as if he were pulling his voice from the most barren part of his throat.
"No, I'm not," Molly shot back right away, her voice still rich and eerily calm. "I've heard you say things like that before, about cases too boring for you to take on. I'm sure John's heard as much of that if not more than me."
John felt sick to his stomach hearing this, all the more because he knew that Molly's words were true. The Yard never brought cases to Sherlock that they could not handle on their own, but he had seen Sherlock turned down more than a few people who had come to Baker Street with these more common cases. John would always apologize to them afterwards and point them in the direction of Scotland Yard, but the truth of Molly's words couldn't be denied.
No wonder Sherlock couldn't reply for a long minute. "…Not you."
Molly's eyes narrowed slightly, and she took a firm step towards him. "Why? What makes me any different in your eyes?"
"Because you count!" Sherlock practically yelled in response. Both John and Mary jumped at the force of his reply; even Molly flinched, but her posture just became more rigid, and the expression on her bruised face become even more angry, sad and hurt.
"So you said...I believed you at the time, I really did. I don't regret helping you, and never will. But it was excruciating to watch you fall from that building and then leave the same night without a word of gratitude. For two years, I worry, watch your friends grieve, and never get one word from you or your brother. So many times I wondered if you had been badly hurt or killed…I thought I would lose my mind. I didn't think there could be anything harder than that hell I lived through."
John had never seen Sherlock look so frightened. Mary was grasping John's hand tightly, and he could feel her shaking. Or was that him?
Molly took another step towards Sherlock, her voice shaking with emotion but strong in conviction. "But I was wrong: there is something harder. And that is when you came back and treated me no different than you did before the Fall. That is you strolling into Bart's after two years of complete silence and demanding to see a body as if nothing had ever happened or changed. That is risking my career and my life, and lying to those we both care about for two whole years, and never getting so much as a single word of gratitude!" Molly closed her eyes, a tear falling out of each eye as a result, and took a deep breath before she opened her eyes again and continued. "The last thing I want is to become a boring case in your brilliant mind, when I'm already so many things I hate. It's clear to me that I only count to you when you need something from me, so please understand why I can't count on you."
With that, Molly turned on her heel and rushed out of the room, covering her face with her hand as she held back a sob. All three people remaining in the sitting room heard Molly rush up the stairs and slam the guest bedroom door; all flinched at the sound.
Mary's hand slipped from John's hand, causing him to look at her. She was glaring at Sherlock with tears of her own in her eyes and shaking her head. A minute later, she muttered a curse and left the room, presumably to go and comfort Molly.
Left alone in the sitting room, John turned his gaze fully to Sherlock. The consulting detective was standing very still. The only movement John could see was his clenched jaw quivering and his eyes burning. Sherlock then turned his head to gaze at his friend, as if searching for some kind of help or justification.
But John could only sigh in pure disappointment and say, "She's right."
For a moment, Sherlock looked like he wanted to punch John and opened his mouth to retaliate, but John held up a hand and continued on.
"You remember the suicide bombers. It was the first time I really saw how cold you become when on a case, to the point where you will look at the death of someone and only feel remorse for having 'lost this round,' as you put it. Molly's probably seen that side of you every time you came in to look at a body, no matter how tragic or gruesome. I should have known this would be why she didn't want you to know…I only wish I'd known how stupid you've been with her since coming back. Very not good, Sherlock."
Sherlock seemed to deflate under John's words and disappointed gaze. His shoulders slumped and he walked to the sitting room window, running his fingers through his curls, something John knew he only did when extremely agitated. Looking at him, John was reminded of his comrades from Afghanistan, haunted by battles both before and after they happened. Sherlock never elaborated on the details of what he had done in the past two years, and John didn't push. As a former soldier, he knew better than to do that. And, as a former soldier, he could understand the need for everything to be the way it was when you come back home from a war, if only because it's safe and familiar.
All of this crossed John's mind in a few seconds, and the understanding replaced the anger – or, at least, put it aside temporarily to be addressed later. Thinking of Molly probably sobbing upstairs, Mary attempting to comfort her, John realized what needed to be done now that Sherlock had found out.
So, he stepped up to Sherlock and said softly, "I also remember the fear in your eyes when you saw Moriarty had strapped a bomb to my chest, and I remember that you jumped off a building in order to save the people you care about. Now, tell me honestly: is Molly Hooper one of those people? Is she someone you truly care about?"
Three seconds that passed like three hours passed before Sherlock answered in a barely audible voice, not turning to look at John:
"Very much so…"
John let out a deep breath, secretly thrilled by this news, for it humanized his friend even more. "Well, that's good," he said, his voice still reassuring but firm as he stepped around Sherlock to look him in the eye. "Because that bastard is still out there, and as long as he is, Molly is in danger and can't go home. Now – what are you going to do about that?"
It took less than a second for Sherlock to straighten up and leave the house quick as a wink – but not before John saw the expression on Sherlock's face. Though John did not know it, this was the same look that Sherlock got when he realized Mrs. Hudson had been attacked. What John did know was that the bastard who attacked Molly was in for a world of hell.
Feeling a weight fall off his chest he hadn't known had been there, John sat down on his sofa, pulled out his mobile, and phoned Lestrade to let him know he would soon have a visitor.
Lestrade was prepared when Sherlock pounded on the door to his office. Usually, the consulting five-year-old just walked in no matter what Lestrade was doing, so the DI knew that Sherlock really wanted what he was after.
"Come in," he called out, and Sherlock walked in, opening his mouth to speak. But Lestrade held up a hand and beat Sherlock to it. "John called me and told me you know what happened. Said I shouldn't ask what happened, which I can only assume you were an absolute dick to Molly – surprise, surprise – but we'll give you hell for that later. Right now, we need to find this monster." He held out a folder to Sherlock. "The DNA results came back right before you arrived, and it wasn't a match to any perp we have in the system. So I welcome your help in finding him. What do you need me to do?"
If Sherlock was surprised, it only silenced him for a moment before he spoke. "Have the blood sample sent to St. Bart's where I will test it more thoroughly."
"I just sent the blood sample right before you got here," said Lestrade, pleased with himself that he had accurately predicted Sherlock's actions. "As for Molly's place…I'd get her permission first, if I were you. One more thing." Lestrade pulled a drawer of his desk open, and pulled out a clear evidence bag. Inside was some kind of bracelet, made of colored thread woven together. "It was found on the floor by Molly's bed. We showed it to her, and said it wasn't hers and had never seen it before. So it must be the perp's."
Sherlock snatched the bag and looked closely at it with intense eyes, and the corner of his mouth turned up ever-so-slightly. Lestrade nearly smiled himself; he knew that look, for it meant that Sherlock had gotten a lead. "Is that all?"
"For now," replied Sherlock, not taking his eyes off the evidence. "Expect a call from me before the day is out." Just before he exited the office, he paused and said, "Thank you."
"Best way you can thank me: Nail the bastard."
A little while after Sherlock had left, John knocked softly on the door to the guest room before opening it, a hot cup of tea in one hand. The only light in the room was the sunlight pulling through the gaps between closed drapes. Molly was lying curled up on the bed, her face buried in a pillow; Mary was sitting on the bed behind her, rubbing her shoulder and back soothingly. The latter looked up when John opened the door, and nodded once, telling him it was okay to come in.
"Brought you some tea, Molls," he said softly, setting the teacup and saucer down on the night-table. "Can I bring you anything else?"
Molly shook her head, not lifting her face from the pillow. "No, thank you," was her meek and muffled response.
"Greg called her a few minutes ago," said Mary quietly. "No matches to the DNA."
At that moment, the mobile in John's trouser pocket vibrated. He pulled it out and saw that he had an incoming call from his best friend. John answered it: "Sherlock?"
Mary's head came up, her eyes immediately narrowing; Molly's head did not come up, but her body instantly stiffened.
"Lestrade's just handed over the evidence to me; I've taken over the case. Will you help me?"
This was the first time that Sherlock had actually asked John for help, rather than demanded it or just assumed he would help him. John didn't miss the plea in the detective's voice. He looked at Molly, who still hid her face in the pillow, then Mary, who gave him an encouraging smile. "Absolutely," he answered.
"Good. Come to the lab at Bart's as soon as you can."
The line went dead, and John put his mobile back in his pocket. "I'm off," he said to the women. Molly seemed a bit more relaxed now that the call was over, and Mary kept rubbing her back. She looked at her fiancée and said, "Go."
John leaned over the bed, kissed Mary, stroked Molly's head, and left.
When John walked into the lab of St. Bart's, Sherlock was engrossed in his task of analyzing the blood sample. Without looking up from a Petri dish, Sherlock told John to call Mycroft. "We need all of the surveillance footage near Molly's building around the time of her attack."
Within fifteen minutes, the footage was sent to both of their mobiles. Sherlock immediately played it while his results were being processed; John stood at his shoulder so he could watch, too. Thankfully, one of the cameras had a perfect view of the fire escape on Molly's building. Because the attack happened in the dead of night, it was a while before anybody appeared on screen other than the random cab zooming by.
"There!" Sherlock finally exclaimed, pointing to the small screen. The time stamp read half past two in the morning, and Sherlock paused it and zoomed in on the figure approaching the fire escape. The man was blond and burly, pulling a ski mask out of his pocket with gloved hands. "There you are, you bastard," Sherlock growled quietly, but it was enough to make even John shudder. This guy is toast.
"Have you seen him before?" asked John.
"No," said Sherlock in frustration. "But he's high on heroin."
"How can you tell?" asked John in surprise.
"I've done it enough times to recognize the twitching fingers and half-lidded eyes," said Sherlock, saving the image and then sending it to Lestrade with the label: You're welcome.
A nearby computer screen suddenly chimed and flashed Scan Completein bright green letters. Sherlock hurried to the computer and opened the results, a satisfied look growing on his face. "My suspicions are confirmed. He had heroin in his blood when he attacked Molly."
John cursed under his breath, and his eyes fell on the woven bracelet resting on Sherlock's workstation. "Get anything from this?" he asked.
"Epithelial cells which will no doubt match the DNA from the blood," replied Sherlock, turning from the computer screen and picking up the bracelet. "But more importantly, this bracelet is the key to bringing the bastard out."
"You can find him using this?" asked John eagerly.
"Not find him – catch him," verified Sherlock, looking at the bracelet with fiery flint in his eyes. "No grown man holds on to such a trinket for any reason other than sentiment. If he meant to leave it with Molly, he would have planted it on her body; he had the opportunity when she lost consciousness. No, this fell off his wrist or from his pocket during the attack, most likely when he threw Molly from the bed when she fought the bastard back. He didn't expect that." There was a hint of pride in Sherlock's voice, and he turned his head to look at John. "If this man was stupid enough to leave something so precious behind, then he is definitely stupid enough to come back for it."
It was well past one in the morning when John Watson arrived home. He entered the flat as quietly as possible, so as not to wake either Molly or Mary, only to find that both women were wide awake, in the sitting room, anxiously waiting for him. Before twilight had faded into night, John had phoned them and let them know of Sherlock's plan (getting Molly's permission to stake out in her flat), so they knew what he was coming back from.
"Well?" said Mary, getting up from the sofa without preamble. Molly remained on the sofa, but her expression was just as anxious as Mary.
John, who felt quite exhausted, let himself collapse in his favorite armchair and gave them a smile. "We got him. He is now in the custody of the Yard."
Both Mary and Molly gave great sighs of relief and visibly relaxed: Mary bent over to wrap her arms around her fiancée's shoulders, while Molly seemed to slump over the arm of the sofa like a dead weight that could finally drop.
"Who is he?" asked Molly in a quiet voice.
"His name is Darren Skinner, and he was high on heroin when he attacked you. Do you know him at all?"
Molly shook her head slowly.
"We'll find out about his motives tomorrow. Lestrade wants you to come down and make a positive voice ID, but since you got his DNA it will just be icing on the cake."
Molly nodded slowly, wringing her hands together.
A few minutes of relieved silence passed before Mary stood straight again. "Well, let's all get some much needed rest."
John nodded and got up from his chair. But before he could leave the room, he was stopped by the quiet voice of Molly.
"John…may I speak to you for a minute?"
Mary patted his shoulder and said, "Go on, I'll see you in a bit," and offered Molly a smile before exiting to hers and John's bedroom. John walked to the sofa and sat beside Molly, waiting for her to begin. It took the pathologist a long minute to find her voice, and then she finally spoke: "Would you tell me what, um, exactly happened tonight? Don't know why I'm asking, really…guess I just want to know everything and not leave it up to the imagination…"
John nodded and spoke: "Well, Sherlock and I got to your flat just after sundown. We waited in complete darkness in the hallway by your bedroom…" He paused and then asked: "Don't worry, Molly. None of your things were damaged or will need replacing, and we didn't steal any of your food or anything like that."
"No, no, John, I never worried about that," said Molly quickly, almost sinking into the couch from embarrassment. "I was more worried about…well…I'm sure he had fun."
"Fun in what way?" asked John confused.
"You know, looking at all my things, deducing my entire life story from all of my personal items –"
"No, no, no, Molly, he didn't!" said John quickly. "The moment we got into the flat, he planted himself by your door in the hallway and didn't budge until the bastard arrived."
Molly looked at John, her eyes wide with shock. "And…um…what happened when…"
Understanding what she couldn't say, John took a deep breath and said, "Well, at about one in the morning, we heard someone climbing up the fire escape. We watched him climb through the window into your room through the door we left a crack open. Once both of his feet were in the room, Sherlock rushed in and jumped him…" He cleared his throat and looked at his lap before continuing. "Sherlock called Lestrade, and we held him until he and the Yard arrived."
Molly nodded her head once, slowly, and looked at her own lap. She took a deep breath before saying: "…He must really hate me now…"
John looked back at Molly, and wrapped an arm around her shoulder like a big brother; she absently rested her heavy head on his shoulder. "Hey, don't think like that. He wouldn't have gone after the creep if he really did. He would have behaved exactly as you predicted he would. But he didn't. He wasn't going to even sit down until we caught that monster."
Molly sighed. "Probably just to make sure he doesn't have to find a new pathologist."
"Molly –" John began to reprimand gently.
"Don't, John," interrupted Molly, her tired voice rich with emotion. "What else am I supposed to think? What you heard me say today was all true, and I hope from that you can understand at least a little bit of what I've gone through for that…that…"
"Idiot," John supplied firmly, giving her a squeeze. "A complete and total idiot. Oh, Molly, I'm sorry…"
"What for? You didn't do anything. You've been more nice to me than I deserve."
"I know why you had to keep his secret, and how much was at stake. Had I been in your shoes, I'd have done no differently. For the record, Sherlock threatened me with everything under the sun if I became angry with or blamed you."
Molly lifted her head from John's shoulder and looked at him in shock and hope she dared not address. "H-he did?"
John nodded. "Mm-hm. Said he would never forgive me if I blamed you."
Molly turned her head and held her face in her hands. "What…the hell…does he want from me?" she said in a broken voice.
His heart full of compassion for both of his friends, John stood up and pulled Molly to her feet so he could hug her. "Only Sherlock can tell you that, Molls…although I think he's still trying to figure that out." John pulled back, keeping hold of her upper arms gently. "Look at me, Molls." She lowered her trembling hands from her face. "What's important now is this: the both of you are alive, the bastard is locked up, and we're all safe thanks to the great consulting idiot." Molly managed a tiny chuckle at that, which caused John to smile. There's the silver lining we all need. "We'll go with you tomorrow for the voice ID."
"Thank you," said Molly softly, and the two walked towards the door leading to the hallway. Molly paused outside the guest bedroom door and turned to John with a confused expression on her face. "He's your best friend…why aren't you defending him more?"
"One, because he's behaved like a complete arse to you; two, you're as much my friend as he is. You did the right thing when you called him out like that, Molly; he deserved to have you swear like a sailor and toss him out the window, if I'm completely honest. But it's clear from his actions that you are much more to him than a tool or unit. Just…when this is all settled, he's figured some things out, and you feel you're ready…would you at least talk to him?"
He really meant this, and he let that show in his voice and eyes. Thankfully, Molly did see, and she gave a short nod before saying goodnight and slipping into the guest bedroom. John let out a long exhale and walked into the bedroom he shared with Mary, who was sitting up in bed with an open book on her lap. She immediately closed it and set it aside at the sound of the door closing.
John practically collapsed onto his side of the bed, feeling the exhaustion weigh down his body but his mind still reeling. Mary's gentle fingers on his brow helped, but didn't erase the memory of what had happened less than two hours ago.
"How is she?" asked Mary. She loved Molly like a sister, having been colleagues at Bart's and good friends for a long time. She knew better than to ask John to break Molly's confidence, so she asked what she could.
John heaved a deep sigh. "She's confused. Doesn't know what to think of him anymore. Certainly can't blame her for that."
"Of course not…at least she's safe now, though, and you two got him."
John didn't reply. Mary immediately became a little alarmed.
"You…you did get him, right, John?"
John quickly nodded. "Yeah, yeah, we got him…I just…" He turned his head to look at his fiancée. There was a haunted expression in the dark gray irises. "Sherlock was on him the moment the bastard got into the bedroom…had him pinned to the wall by the throat…I really thought Sherlock was going to kill him for a second… He didn't let go until I told him not to become a monster in Molly's eyes."
"Oh, God," murmured Mary, lying down beside John. "The idiot really does love her."
"Oh, yeah," said John. "Wasn't sure even when Sherlock nearly choked him, but I was plenty sure when he actually listened to what I said and let me hold him while he called Lestrade. We restrained him until they arrived and arrested him."
Mary quirked an eyebrow; she knew her soldier well. "Just restrained?"
John offered her a guilty smirk. "He may have received a few blows from an army doctor and been tossed down the fire escape by a consulting detective with the temper of a five-year-old."
Mary grinned and kissed him. "Good work."
John's expression soon turned serious again. "Please don't tell Molly about this. She needs to learn to trust him again, and fearing him certainly wouldn't help her."
"Of course I won't."
John turned to face Mary, pulling her closer to him. "Well, we know how he feels…what about her?"
In reply, Mary gave him a soft smile. "What do you think?"
Greg Lestrade stood by Sherlock Holmes in a hallway of the New Yard, waiting.
"So…just how many times did our suspect trip going down that fire escape?"
Sherlock just shrugged. "Standard amount for a true idiot."
"Mm-hm," said Lestrade, not planning on finding out.
Elevator doors nearby opened, and out walked Molly, John and Mary. Lestrade saw Sherlock's posture immediately straighten; he also saw Sherlock absently smooth the lapels of his blazer. Deciding not to wonder what had him acting so strange, Lestrade walked up to Molly and smiled. "Hey, Molls. You ready?"
Molly stood with her arms crossed, her posture nervous. She refused to look at the consulting detective who stood nearby, looking at her. "I suppose…how does this work, exactly?"
"We'll go into an interrogation room. They will be on the other side of the glass, in the dark. I will order them to speak the words the bastard said to you, one by one. If you hear his voice, you say which number it was and where you had heard it before."
"And they won't be able to see me?"
"Can one of us go in with her?" asked Mary, indicating John and herself.
"I'm afraid not," said Lestrade. "Goes against procedure. But it should be quick, and if you want to leave after it's done, you're more than welcome to. So…shall we?"
Molly gulped and nodded.
"We'll be right here, Molls," said John reassuringly. She gave him and Mary a smile of thanks; Sherlock she still ignored completely.
Lestrade led Molly into the darkened interrogation room and closed the door. Molly stood before the covered glass and closed her eyes, her arms still hugging herself. "I'm ready."
The DI nodded and turned on the intercom connected to the space behind the glass. "Gentleman, when I call your number, please repeat the following: 'Scream and I'll kill you, bitch.'"
The first two went off without a hitch. Molly showed no reaction to their voices, just stood there silent with her eyes closed and arms crossed. But when the third man said the line, Molly instantly stiffened and opened her eyes. "That's him. Number three." Her voice was firm and strong.
Good girl, thought Lestrade. "Where do you recognize the voice from."
"That's the voice of the man who attacked me in my bedroom."
"You're sure, Molly? There are two more in there."
Molly caught Lestrade's gaze. "I can't forget that voice, Greg."
Lestrade nodded and led her out of the room.
Less than five minutes after they went into the interrogation room, Lestrade and Molly came back into the hall, blinking in the bright lights of the hallway. Mary immediately stepped forward and pulled Molly into a hug; Molly seemed to deflate against her, her tense posture relaxing. Pulling away, she turned to Lestrade. "Is it all right for me to go back to my flat now?"
"Yeah, sure, it's not a crime scene anymore," said Lestrade. "If that's what you want to do. He's not going anywhere on my watch."
Molly gave him a small smile and gave him a brief hug. "Thanks, Greg."
"You know you're welcome with us as long as you need, Molly," said John, rubbing her shoulder.
"I know, but I want to carry on now." Her small smile wavered slightly, but she set her shoulders straight and blinked forcefully. John decided not to argue with her; he knew Molly would come to them if she needed help.
Mary said, "I'll go with you and help straighten everything out."
"I'll see you at home, then," said John, kissing Mary's cheek. He then pulled Molly into a powerful hug. "I mean it, Molls, anything you need."
"I know, John," said Molly, patting his back. He let her go, and the women walked towards the elevator.
But before they got there, Molly stopped in her tracks; Mary stopped too. Slowly, Molly turned her head and looked at something over John's shoulder. Turning around, John saw that it was Sherlock, whom he had forgotten was there. He saw the detective's eyes light up as Molly finally acknowledged him; though his hands were clasped behind his back, John had a feeling they were shaking.
Looking back at Molly, John saw that she looked torn between walking to him and just running. Don't run, Molly, don't run, please don't run. A long minute passed before she took a jerky step towards him. Sherlock, in reaction, took an instinctive – and hopeful – step towards her. John was reminded of something his teacher had done in his primary school science class: he had once held a magnet in each hand, forcefully holding them apart though they fought to naturally come together.
Everyone waited with baited breath for Molly to do or say something, especially Sherlock. Suddenly, the ding of the elevator's arrival seemed to snap Molly out of her state of indecision. She shuddered, blinked a bit, and lowered her eyes for a moment before saying, shyly but guarded: "Thank you."
With that, Molly hurried to the elevator, Mary behind her, and the two ladies were gone.
John looked back at Sherlock, who closed his eyes and visibly relaxed, sighing in what could only be relief. John let out one of his own with Lestrade.
It's a start, he thought. At least it's a start…
Late that night found Sherlock wide awake, standing at the sitting room window in 221B. Dressed in his pajamas and favorite blue dressing gown, Sherlock played his beloved violin. His music was always a reflection of his thoughts or mood, and tonight was no exception. Tonight, his music was of a slow tempo, but certainly not lacking in energy or technique. It certainly reflected his thoughts and emotions, which were slowly but surely working themselves out. Sherlock had thought the very same thing as John in reaction to Molly's words to him at the New Yard, and Sherlock was determined that this would truly be a new start for them. His mind was now slowly coming up with ways he could build on from this start. He would speak to John tomorrow to gain his perspective, since he had far more experience in this area.
Suddenly, his eyes caught movement out on Baker Street. His playing stopped as he looked more closely out the window. It was dark outside, but the orange light from the streetlamp caught the silhouette of a person slowly walking towards 221B. Only when the light caught the bandage on the right side of the person's forehead did Sherlock know who it was – and he nearly dropped his violin.
"Molly…" he breathed.
Sherlock watched her catch sight of him in the window, and she immediately looked like a deer caught in the headlights. In the next minute, she was wrapping her coat tighter around herself, turning, and walking away.
Sherlock didn't think; he acted. He only just managed to put down his violin gently rather than just let it drop from his hands before rushing out of 221B and out onto Baker Street. He didn't care that he had no shoes on, or was dress in only his pajamas and dressing gown. All he cared about in this moment was stopping her.
"Molly, wait!" he called, running down the street after her, and she stopped. Sherlock stopped a few feet behind her, unsure of what to do now that she had stopped; he still did not know why she was here.
The young pathologist slowly turned around, and Sherlock was able to get a better look at her. Clearly she had left her flat on an impulse, for her coat could not cover a pair of pajama pants made of purple flannel. For shoes, she wore a pair of fuzzy pink slippers. Her coat's collar was askew, as if she had put her coat on in a hurry, and hair was falling from her loose braid. Again, she had crossed her arms over her chest – her favorite defensive posture – and though lighting was minimal and she kept her face lowered, Sherlock could see that Molly had been crying.
Before he could ask what she was doing here, she spoke in an embarrassed and forcibly neutral tone. "I'm sorry, I…I don't know what I'm doing here. I-I thought I could handle sleeping in my flat, in my bed, again, knowing he was locked up, but…but I couldn't close my eyes without remembering…I know John and Mary said I'm always welcome w-with them, and I know I am, but they're sleeping now…I just wanted to walk this off, and I found myself here and…" She raised and lowered her hands feebly a few times, as if not knowing what else to say or how to explain herself further. Frankly, she looked like she wanted to just sink into a puddle on the pavement.
Sherlock, in turn, felt at a complete loss. He felt so out of his depth in these kinds of situations. This was why he had been afraid of treating Molly any differently than before. Oh, he knew perfectly well that something significant, if not everything, had changed in their relationship, but because he had been terrified of what it now was, he had regressed. Sherlock had known the moment he had seen Molly yesterday in John's flat that the results of that had been disastrous.
He never intended on being such an idiot with her again.
Sherlock realized he must have been frozen in thought for longer than he thought, for Molly was soon shifting restlessly from one foot to the other and spoke again. "I'm sorry, I know this is pathetic behavior on my part…I never meant to bother you, I just…I'll go now."
She turned to leave, but quick as a flash, Sherlock was in front of her, holding out his palms to stop her. "Molly, wait, please!" He felt an impulse to wrap his arms around her securely, hold her close to him protectively, but he didn't follow it. Somehow he knew that Molly would push him away.
She did stop, and looked at him with a mixture of confusion and humiliated exasperation, waiting for him to say what he had to say.
Looking at her, Sherlock realized both how far they had come from their first meeting, and how far they would need to come for everything to be resolved. If they were ever going to stay in each other's lives, to have any kind of future together, both had hard work ahead of them. Sherlock would need to learn how to acknowledge and express his feelings instead of running from them, and Molly would need to learn how to trust him again, to feel confident that she could turn to him for help, for comfort, for anything she needed.
All she has to do is ask, and until she feels she can, I will offer.
And what can I offer her right now? Tonight? This moment?
The words came to Sherlock like a refreshing breeze off the sea – and just in time.
"Come back inside with me. I have a bed you can sleep in – you know I hardly ever sleep – or my couch is very comfortable if that is preferable. There are plenty of blankets and pillows so you will be warm, and Mrs. Hudson could make you breakfast in the morning if I asked her nicely…You will be safe, Molly. I will keep you safe. I will not let any harm come to you." He held out his hand to her as he finished, knowing it was all up to her now.
Molly looked at the hand as she silently gasped, and then looked back up at him with soft realization in her dark eyes, so different from his. After a few seconds of her being silent, her arms finally dropped to her sides, a new calm coming over her. She said quietly, almost to herself, "…So that's why I came here…"
Molly took a step closer to Sherlock. Her eyes looked into his very intently, and Sherlock held nothing back in them, hoping that she found what she needed to find. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, Molly lifted her hand; it hovered just above his before she finally let it drop for him to catch. Which he did.
Sherlock had never known his heart to feel so warm before when he captured Molly's hand freely given. He squeezed her tiny cold hand, trying to warm it with his big warm one, and led her back to 221B Baker Street.