This conversation takes place approximately eight hours after the events of the Final Problem. The road ahead for Sherlock and Molly's relationship is by no means a simple or easy one, but this is one possible look at their first conversation after that phone call. Enjoy.


Pieces


She wasn't expecting to see him. Maybe ever again.

It was eight hours since they'd spoken, since that bloody phone call that had ripped her in half. In more generous moments, she wondered if it hadn't done a similar number on him. But then she remembered who she was talking about.

He felt, she knew. And she did know where others just wondered. He just didn't feel for her. Not in the way she felt for him.

Sherlock had probably moved on as soon as the call ended. He was always chasing after the next thing - the next case, the next high. And she wouldn't be queuing up to be one of his next boredom lifters. Whether he knew it or not, she'd already said goodbye.

Her goodbye came out in three little words, wrenched from her heart as only he could pry them. That phone call had been a living autopsy, cutting deep into every part of her, slicing open their relationship and the dreams and lies it was built on. And if there was one thing Molly Hooper knew, it was that nothing lived through a post-mortem. Not relationships, not hearts. Not even dreams and lies.

Things were changed now and could never be otherwise. She couldn't go back to pretending that he didn't know about her feelings. They had been spoken out loud; they couldn't be snatched back or swallowed down. If he waltzed into the lab tomorrow, Belstaff tugged up to his ears, she wouldn't be able to do it.

Of course, that wasn't likely to happen. Sherlock was less oblivious than he used to be. He should understand, at least in part, what that phone call had been like for her. He'd likely be embarrassed or annoyed by her admission, ashamed of his own words. He probably wouldn't come. She'd fade out of his life, and he'd let her. She didn't expect she'd ever see Sherlock Holmes again.

And here he is on her front step.

He looks like hell. His clothes are the usual designer labels, but they're rumpled as though from long travel or from having been slept in. Molly has seen him in worse states - beaten to a pulp, toying with overdose, flirting with madness. There were times he could have appeared on her slab and looked like he belonged there.

Tonight the pain is all in his eyes. They're holding more heartbreak than usual, and his face is pinched in the same way that she knows hers is. Trying to keep things out. Trying to hold too much in.

"Molly," he says, and her eyes close at the sound of his voice, recalling the last time he said her name and the words that followed it.

He stands there on the front step. He doesn't try to come in, and she thinks about leaving him out there. Sherlock has invited himself into her home plenty of times. Usually as soon as she opened the door he was inside her flat, explaining his latest case or asking after body parts. The first time she'd not been there to let him in, he'd picked the lock. She'd come home to find her whole security system upgraded.

Tonight he waits. Too many lines have been crossed, and Molly thinks she might shatter if they go over one more. Sherlock looks as if he might, too.

She takes another long look at him. "You're okay." And she sounds relieved in spite of herself. She swallows hard. "Greg said you'd been kidnapped? Hurt?" she asks. Without quite having decided on it, she moves aside to let him in.

Sherlock comes in, but with none of his usual energy. He takes measured steps. He keeps a careful distance. He looks as out of place as she feels. He looks as tired as she feels.

They stand there in the middle of her flat, nearly touching opposing walls. Hands still in his pockets, Sherlock gestures with his whole coat. "My pride and my heart only." He's looking at her, deducing no doubt, and she wonders how much of her he can see. She wonders what he thinks. "Lestrade called you?"

"I called him," she admits. "I thought something might be wrong when … when I didn't hear back from you."

When he hung up on her. When he left her alone with a mortifying truth.

"You worried for me?"

He sounds so surprised. "I always do." How can there be so much the great Sherlock Holmes doesn't know? How has he missed the most important things? "But not at first. At first I wanted to track you down from whatever case was so bloody important so I could tell you to go to hell."

Those words that were first thought with such vehemence come out sounding flat, as though the events of the day have robbed her of all feeling. Which they sort of have. Sherlock nods as though this at least was anticipated. "You were angry. Understandable."

"I am angry, Sherlock," she says, and it comes out in her voice a little now. "I'm confused. And relieved that you're okay because it's clear something terrible's happened. And I'm hurt."

"Yes." It's not the brushoff that's typical of him. It's a genuine acknowledgement of all she's feeling. In that one word, she hears his own anger, confusion, relief, and pain.

When she speaks next her voice is smaller, and she wishes it wasn't. "You said - you said it wasn't an experiment. You promised." Her face twitches into an ironic smile before falling. "But then as soon as you got what you wanted, you were gone. Just like always."

Her gaze pins him, and she has the momentary satisfaction of seeing him wince. His head hangs, and his words are deep and guilty. "I know."

"After you made me say the hardest thing you could have possibly asked for." The words fall off into silence. Molly bunches the cuffs of her sweater in tight fists. "Are you even going to try to explain?"

Sherlock takes a halting half step forward. His pale eyes reach out to her even as his body falls motionless across the room. "I'm sorry, Molly. Truly, I am. I despise that you were put through that kind of pain."

She believes him. She's known Sherlock Holmes long enough to know when he's lying, an ability John tells her she's unique in. He is sorry. And he recognizes her pain. But this time that's not good enough. "Why was I? Why did … that … happen? How could some damn case possibly demand that?"

He inhales deeply, a shuddering breath that makes her nearly want to take back the harshness of her tone. Then his head comes up and he's ready with the story. He looks resigned to the telling. "Greg told you I was kidnapped."

The use of the Detective Inspector's first name is not lost on her. Nor is the shadow that has just crossed his face. "Yes," she says softly, suddenly afraid of what this story means for him.

"I have a sister."

Molly finds herself blinking in surprise. "A sister?"

"Yes," he says simply. "A sincerely disturbed, utterly genius sister whose existence I had completed blocked from memory due to repressed childhood trauma. She was my kidnapper."

"That's…" she doesn't know how to finish that thought, how to process that information.

A hint of a smile crosses Sherlock's face. "Farfetched, I know."

"There's always something with the Holmes family." Molly manages a bit of a smile to go with the joke. She feels them drifting closer again, and isn't much surprised to see that they're both near the center of the room now. She takes a seat, silently granting him permission to do the same. To be in this space. At least for the explanation.

Sherlock takes the chair opposite her, the one he always lays claim to when he's in her flat. "So it would seem," he allows. "Eurus - my sister - abducted myself, John, and Mycroft. Pawns to be used in her experiments concerning emotional context. I was the chief of her lab rats, and I'm afraid that others were pulled in that she might observe their influence on my emotions."

"So I was an experiment. Just not yours." She can't yet tell what that changes. If anything.

His hands are steepled in the way he favors when deducing, but he's leaning forward and his eyes are on a patch of carpet. "Eurus told me that your flat was rigged to explode. She had a camera in your kitchen and three minutes on a count down." He raises his eyes, and she's taken aback by the feeling she sees in them. "In the room with me she had your coffin."

Her breath comes in sharply. "My…"

Sherlock stands, his familiar energy bursting out in nervous pacing. "This was the third scenario she tested me in." He's taken his hands out of his pockets, and Molly casts a doctor's eye over the angry, red splotches across the backs of both hands. He freezes, and his eyes close in painful recollection. "Every other person I tried to save had died. And then she told me the code you had to say."

"To stop the bomb." A picture of his last twenty-four hours takes shape in her head, and it's more horrible than she could have imagined.

Molly feels herself rising, too, arms tightly wrapped around herself. She feels exposed as she realizes the extent to which her home has been violated. As she realizes the danger she was in without knowing it. The gesture is doubly effective, because it keeps her from reaching out to the man in front of her.

"I know it was cruel to make you say it, Molly," he says, his voice deepened with strong emotion. "I see that more than ever now. But I couldn't lose you." His eyes are on her with their usual intensity, and suddenly they're scarcely a foot apart. "Not you."

"Because we're friends." She repeats his words.

"Of course we are."

She fidgets with her sleeves again, but holds his gaze. She nods in understanding. "So you'd say whatever you had to in order to keep me safe."

It's a statement not a question, but he confirms it. "I would."

They're standing so close now, but it doesn't matter because they've moved apart again. With these words she feels the death of a hope she wasn't aware she still carried. Hope that maybe he had been telling the truth. That maybe he'd meant what he'd said.

Molly closes her eyes then bites her lower lip. "You don't - you don't have to say anything else, Sherlock. I understand what happened. Thank you for saving my life."

"Molly…"

"Please," she cuts him off. "Don't make this harder than it already is." She doesn't want his explanation just now. It makes sense; it really does. They're friends; she was in danger; he'd tell any lie he had to. The problem was she had told the truth, and that wasn't as easily forgotten.

She watches him consider, and for a moment she thinks he'll ignore her request and barrel ahead with whatever deduction or apology he was going to make. But tonight's Sherlock stays quiet. He swallows his words for once.

She should ask him to leave. He's given his explanation, and - she reminds herself - she's already made her goodbyes. Her mouth opens and her words surprise her. "Your hands."

Her words surprise Sherlock, too, and his forehead wrinkles in puzzlement. "Your hands," she repeats, taking one hand gently and noting the deep bruising. "Let me help."

Sherlock follows her wordlessly to her kitchen where she retrieves her first aid kit and sets the kettle to boil, two actions that do nothing to send him from her home or her life. They return to her sitting room, and she tends to his hands, removing splinters and applying bandages. She doesn't ask how he acquired his wounds.

He tells her anyway. "The coffin."

"Sorry?"

"Your coffin," Sherlock repeats. She sees the dark shadows under his eyes, the hints of stubble on his chin. Exhaustion is etched into his face. "After Eurus ended the phone call, I was still in the room with your coffin. I couldn't … leave it there."

Molly has the image of him somehow destroying a coffin with his bare hands, earning himself the cuts she's now tending. The thought of its necessity is horrifying. But it seems as though nothing about the phone call went as she'd first thought. He hadn't been the one to hang up. He hadn't immediately moved on. There's the tiniest bit of consolation in that.

Sherlock is looking at her again, and exhaustion is overshadowed by another emotion - desperation. He uses one of his damaged hands to gently - so gently - brush a strand of hair from her face. His voice is a broken whisper when he says, "I don't want to lose you."

He's speaking to the very real moment a few hours ago when he thought she was going to die. But that's not all. He seems to sense her earlier resolve to say goodbye, to let this be the end of their friendship.

She has no words of reassurance to offer him just now. She won't make promises or comfort him with words that may turn out to be untrue. She simply says, "I know." Because she does.

His hands are mended, and they've lost the excuse for touch, for presence. Neither seems to know how to move on, or if they want to.

It's Sherlock who breaks the silence. "Eurus chose you," he says without looking at her.

Molly stands and packs away the first aid kit, simultaneously wishing that he'll shut up and go on. "I rather wish she hadn't." She could have gone on pretending; he might have never known. Or at least they could have pretended together that he didn't.

"She chose you because you were the only one." His pale eyes are watching her from the couch, waiting for her to understand, begging her to put the pieces all together. He swallows hard, and she can see his Adam's apple bob in his throat. "She chose the person who loved me - the only person who has ever seen all of me and loved every piece all the same."

She plucks at the hem of her sweater, shaking her head in disagreement. "I'm not the only one. You have friends now, Sherlock. Each of them loves you - really loves you." John, Greg, Mrs. Hudson, the lot of them. How can the smartest man alive be so blind?

"Not as you do," he says, and he has her there.

"Sherlock…"

His eyes close again for a moment. She's never seen him look like this, not even after Mary. He looks so lost. So afraid. He speaks again, slowly. "Your name wasn't on the coffin. Only those words. But I knew. Eurus chose you because she wanted to hurt me. To understand how love can mean pain. To make me feel."

The words are out of her mouth before she can decide against them. "And did she? Make you feel something?"

Sherlock stands now, and he comes nearer. His eyes are fixed on hers as he says, "Yes." Molly's arms are crossed in front of her, a last line of defense. Sherlock's hands are back in the pockets of the coat he's still wearing because neither knows how long this conversation might last. Everything they've been could all be in over in moments. "But it wasn't really her. It's always been you who made me feel something. Because you love me."

Her breath catches as she hears him say that, but not enough that she misses the small, unbelieving smile crossing his face. Then his voice grows anxious as he asks, as though his life depends on the answer, "Do you? Still?"

She gives a little disbelieving smile of her own. "How can you ask that when you know how much it hurts?"

"Because I have to know - I have to make you know - Eurus manipulated circumstances to have our emotions destroy us. But that's not what this is. She did not create these feelings, and she will not scare me into burying them."

He can't possibly mean what she thinks. It's too much to hope for. Afraid of any answer he might give, she asks, "What feelings?"

Sherlock takes one step closer, and they're suddenly inches apart. She has to tilt her head up to get a view of his face. He smiles - that soft, real smile of his that the media has no knowledge of. The smile she sometimes swears only she's seen. A hand emerges from his Belstaff and takes the one that's fallen at her side. His touch is gentle and his voice soft. "These. I know how you feel, and I believe I made a declaration as well."

Molly shakes her head, eyes never leaving his face. "You didn't mean that. You said yourself that you'd have said anything to save my life."

"I would. Even the absolute, unalterable truth."

Her voice is a whisper, chased out of her throat by a hope that has somehow clung to life. "Since when?"

His eyes are so open, every mask he's ever worn stripped away as he tells her this. "I admit, it took the events of the last twenty-four hours to make me really see it. But upon reflection, these feelings are not recently formed, only realized. Eurus chose more aptly than she knew. Not only did she select the person who loved me, but also the one whose love I returned."

She studies those clear, blue eyes, doing some deducing of her own and spotting no lies. The meaning of his words is plain enough, but there must be no confusion. "Say it then."

He can read her, too, because the fear in his face slips away. He responds almost playfully. "This again?"

"Yes. No tricks. No threats."

"No."

"No bombs this time?"

His voice grows more serious, and it's not a joke, it's a promise. "Not a one."

She trusts him. But she still finds herself swallowing hard as she says, "And you'll still say it? You'll mean it?"

Sherlock gives her a smile that makes her legs consider melting. His perfect bass says her name, just as he always does when he especially means something. "Molly Hooper."

Her eyes stay fixed on his as the moment draws out. "Yes?"

A hint of nervousness is back on his face; this vulnerability is so new to him. She squeezes his hand, and he seems to take courage. "You are the one who sees me. You are the person who matters most. The man you see in me - that is the Sherlock Holmes I want to be."

This is beyond hope and imagination. Molly savors those words, basking in the truth she hears in them. But there are three more she's waiting for. "Say it like you mean it."

His free hand comes up in a caress of her face. "I do mean it." He takes a deep breath, and its not uncertainty but rather wonder that he gets to say these words to this woman again. "I love you, Molly."

She'd never seriously dreamed that she'd hear these words from this man. And now they've been repeated to her three times in the last day. The first in panic, the second in realization, and the third… Molly beams up at him and sees joy reflected on his face. The third time, she knows, is in complete truth.

His touch still lingers on her cheek, and she brings her free hand up to grasp his shirt. At long, long last they enter each other's embrace. She whispers a return "I love you" just before her lips meet his.


Fin.


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