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And to Lexie and Pablo for letting me know when things are a bit not good.
One thing Sherlock had always loved about his mind was his ability to read a situation with only a few clues. At that very moment, he was finding it to be a horrible burden.
He and John were fifteen minutes from Baker Street in ideal traffic when he'd received the text from Molly:
I'm at 221B. I love you.
The second he'd read it he was on the move. He flagged down a cab and climbed into it, John following him without explanation. Sherlock felt the same sick sense of anxiety deep in his gut that he had when Moran had sent him the pictures of Molly.
Going to Baker Street was one of the stupidest things Molly could attempt. Without a doubt, Moran had eyes on it. Molly Hooper was decidedly not stupid and would not risk going there for something trivial. In the unlikely event he was wrong, Molly certainly would not text him to tell him about it. He would have become angry with her for leaving her protection.
While Molly telling Sherlock that she loved him was not in of itself odd, saying it in this situation was. Paired with her earlier sentence, it had a morbid sense of finality.
She knew exactly what she was going into upon entering their home. Moran had discovered she was still alive.
But no, of course not. Moran was an expert assassin. He would not have mistaken Veronica for Molly.
He'd thrown Sherlock off balance. He'd been so wrapped up in nearly losing Molly, he hadn't realized what Moran had done.
Killing Veronica was psychological warfare. It allowed Sherlock to experience the horror of losing Molly, without Molly's actual death. It also separated them so Moran could take his time with her, play with her.
Sherlock felt his stomach lurch as he thought about Moran and Molly together at 221B. How had Moran lured her out? Had he kidnapped one of her brothers? How much damage could Moran inflict upon a body in fifteen minutes?
"Sherlock?" John's voice broke him out of his panicked thoughts. He looked to his friend, swallowing hard. He then reached into his pocket, fishing out his mobile.
Sherlock selected the number and put the phone to his ear. It took far too long for an answer. "Lestrade," Sherlock said, not waiting for the other man to speak. "Get everyone you have to Baker Street. Moran has Molly."
Lestrade didn't have time to reply before Sherlock hung up, slipping his phone away. He looked back to John, who was staring at him in abject horror.
John's brows were knit as he stared at Sherlock. "Is she..."
"For now," Sherlock replied.
After what seemed like an age, the cab pulled up at 221 Baker Street. Sherlock threw a handful of notes at the driver, not caring how much it was exactly. He bounded out of the car, John close behind him.
It had been sixteen minutes and thirty-two seconds since he had received Molly's text when he burst into his flat and set eyes on Sebastian Moran. The former Colonel was pinning Molly to the ground, his hands wrapped around her throat.
Sherlock lunged at the man, using his long, lean body to tackle him away from Molly. While his slender frame was widely believed to be weak, he had quite a bit of strength in him, strength that was singularly focused on doing as much damage to Moran as physically possible.
He could hear John behind him. "Molly! Molly, come on, stay with me!"
Sherlock knew he should go to Molly. He should make sure she was all right. But he couldn't tear himself away from Moran, pinned beneath him now. Sherlock's heart was pounding, the blood rushing in his ears. He hands wrapped around Moran's throat, squeezing.
He would make the man know what he'd done to Molly. He would feel the breath leave him, his life smothered out. Or perhaps he could haul him to his feet and throw him out the window. He knew just the way to throw him out to kill him. He could die the same way his beloved Moriarty had. A thousand ideas of how to bring Sebastian Moran's demise went through his head. He wanted to do them all.
He had killed before. When he had saved the Woman, it was the only course of action. Scotland Yard had not apprehended everyone in the Network that Sherlock had confronted. Some would not be taken alive. This was different.
It was a curious sensation. Knowing what all of those men he'd brought to justice had felt. The pure, unadulterated bloodlust. The absolute craving to murder another human being.
Then, Sherlock heard it. The voice was small and raspy, but penetrated all the other thoughts in his mind. "Sherlock?"
Hands still wrapped around Moran's throat, Sherlock turned his head to look to John and Molly. She was sitting up, staring at him with wide, bloodshot eyes. There was blood trickling from her nose and her throat was a livid red.
It only took that moment of distraction. Moran took the opening. Sherlock's breath was knocked out of him by the punch to his gut. While he tried to regain his bearings, Moran used his strength to flip them over. He looked down at Sherlock, fire in his eyes. He reached over and picked up the gun that had been abandoned on the floor.
"Felt good, didn't it, Sherlock?" Moran hissed, his voice raspy from Sherlock's strangulation. He smirked at the gun in his hand. "Trying to kill me. Shame you weren't able to follow through..."
Before Moran could point the gun, John had rushed over, clutching the table lamp. He brought it down hard on the back of Moran's head. Moran groaned as he fell hard down onto Sherlock.
Sherlock struggled to breathe with the heavy weight of the unconscious man pinning him down. He pushed hard on Moran. John dropped the lamp and helped pull the assassin off of him.
"A lamp, John?" Sherlock panted.
John shrugged. "First thing I grabbed."
Sherlock nodded. "That was..."
John nodded along with him. "Yeah. I know."
Sherlock didn't reply to John. He couldn't. He was now preoccupied by Molly, sitting about ten feet away. He scrambled to her side, pulling her into his arms. "Molly..."
Molly didn't respond. She just let out a strangled sob and buried her face in Sherlock's chest.
He was only given a moment to hold her before Lestrade barrelled through he door flanked by officers. Sherlock sighed, rolling his eyes. "About time you got here, Lestrade."
He gingerly helped Molly to her feet. "I'll be interested to see what the full list of charges will end up being."
Sherlock approached the hospital room, his hands shoved into the pockets of his coat. He hadn't been able to go with Molly to the hospital, needing to stay behind at 221B while the mess of the evening was sorted through.
Moran had regained consciousness just in time to be taken from the flat in handcuffs. Sherlock watched him go with equal parts smug satisfaction and grim regret that he had not been able to end his miserable life.
He did not spend much time lingering on thoughts of Moran. It was done now. Closed case. What was important was Molly. As soon as he was able, he had flagged down a cab and went to the hospital.
He looked through the window at her, laying back in bed. He thought she'd seemed all right when she had been wheeled into the ambulance, but he hadn't been certain. There was always the chance of some unknown neck injury that had been exacerbated by sitting up.
He strode into the room and stopped a few feet from her bed. Molly turned to look at him, trepidation in her eyes.
He wanted to yell at her for being stupid enough to go after Moran on her own and nearly getting herself killed. He wanted to fall to his knees in front of her and thank every deity he didn't believe in that she had made it through relatively unscathed.
"What does your doctor say?" Sherlock asked, trying to keep the emotions running rampant through him from coming through in his voice.
"I'll be fine," Molly replied, her voice slightly drowsy from painkillers. Her fingers were clutching at the thin sheet covering her. "They just want to keep me over night to make sure. But... There shouldn't be any permanent damage."
"You're an idiot," Sherlock blurted out. His gaze travelled over her throat. Bruises from Moran's throttling were livid against her pale skin.
Molly nodded. "I know."
Sherlock swooped in and captured her mouth. "A complete moron," He punctuated each word with another kiss. "Utter imbecile."
He continued to murmur insults about her intellect as he kissed her desperately. Molly wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers threading in his hair.
He wanted to be furious with her. He was furious. She had willingly confronted Moran and nearly gotten herself killed for it.
Yet at the same time, he was utterly certain of his affections for Molly Hooper. His love for her. He wouldn't hide from it, not even in his own mind. Molly Hooper- silly, mousey Molly Hooper who had blushed and stammered in front of him for three years in the morgue- had rushed headlong into a confrontation with a psychopathic assassin.
Sherlock pulled back and cupped Molly's face gently in his hands. He looked down into her deep brown eyes, feeling the swell of conflicting emotions deep inside of him. But there was one thing that kept coming out clearly. Something he could admit to himself he'd desired for a long time. "Molly, I-"
"I do hope I'm not interrupting anything," Mycroft said from the doorway.
Sherlock pulled away from Molly and turned to Mycroft, glaring daggers at his brother. Mycroft's expression changed. No longer did he wear his normal smug smile. Instead, he blinked at Sherlock. He obviously knew what Sherlock's intent had been. "Well, it seems I did interrupt. I need to speak with you, Sherlock. Perhaps you should say goodnight to Miss Hooper. Her Doctors tell me she will be released tomorrow. You will not be bereft of her presence for long."
Sherlock turned away from Mycroft, feeling something he hadn't felt in a long time. Embarrassment. He felt bashful at being caught with Molly in that situation. He pressed his forehead against Molly's.
"Visiting hours are over," Molly murmured softly, running a hand over his hair. "Besides, I'm sleepy. They gave me something that's making me feel bloody wonderful... But I'm not the best company. I'll see you tomorrow."
Sherlock gave Molly a brief kiss before pulling back. He strode past Mycroft, stopping briefly to give his brother a withering look.
Mycroft followed Sherlock into the corridor. "My my, Sherlock... I never thought I'd see the day."
"You haven't yet," Sherlock grumbled. "Not since you interrupted."
"I thought you should know that Sebastian Moran has already been removed to... Less comfortable accommodations."
Sherlock lip curled in a cruel smile. "If you ever have any difficulties with him, I do volunteer my services."
"We do still have the issue of Moriarty's criminal Network..." Mycroft started.
Sherlock shook his head. "Won't be a problem." He strode ahead of Mycroft, pulling out his phone and tapping out a quick text.
Mycroft halted, watching Sherlock retreat. "What have you done, Sherlock?"
Sherlock looked back over his shoulder. "I kept a bargain."
She was waiting outside of the hospital, leaning against the sleek black car. Her hair was pinned up and she wore a jet-black, figure hugging dress. Ruby red lips parted in a smile as she saw Sherlock approach. "There are police swarming 221. I can't retrieve my things."
Sherlock arched a brow at Irene. "Is there anything you really need from there?"
She shook her head. "Not really, I suppose. I am quite well equipped now. But if you go through everything in 221C and you find something you believe I will miss, please send it to me."
"Care of Renee Norton, yes." Sherlock nodded. "Of course, it's not really proper for me to be interacting with criminals."
Irene laughed throatily and ran her hands over the door of her car. "But Mister Holmes, without you, I would have none of this. It was your idea for me to take over the Network. That's why you brought me here in the first place. What we've been working towards for a year. It's such a lovely gift for me."
"Your position is convenient," Sherlock replied. "The Network is never going to be brought down. I am far more comfortable with you running it than I am anyone else."
Irene smirked. "The devil you know."
Sherlock gave her a tight smile. "I also doubt you will be attempting to blow people up. You are far more... Subtle in your approaches."
"I just want the life I am accustomed to, Mister Holmes." Irene sauntered to Sherlock, pressing her hands to his chest. "But I do feel I owe you."
Sherlock looked down at her. "And what do you owe me?"
Irene's eyes sparked as she met his gaze. "Last chance at dinner."
Sherlock took a hold of Irene's hands, pulling them away from him. "Perhaps instead you can make sure you never get on my radar again," Sherlock suggested. "Should we cross paths again, things won't be nearly so cordial."
Irene nodded slowly. "I suppose you're right. But before I disappear into the night, away from your life once and for all... Tell me one thing, Mister Holmes... Was there ever a chance?"
Sherlock remained silent.
Irene chuckled softly. "I suppose in another life perhaps." She nodded. "I may always be the Woman... But she'll always be your woman."
Sherlock remained still. "Goodbye, Irene Adler."
Irene reached up, cupping Sherlock's face. "Give this to Doctor Hooper from me." She leaned in and pressed her mouth to Sherlock's.
She pulled away after a moment, striding to her car. She opened the door. She turned back briefly, smiling. "Oh, and tell your brother he will need to get a new PA. I am taking his with me."
"I will pass on the message," Sherlock replied.
Irene slipped into the car. "Goodbye, Mister Holmes."
Sherlock watched silently as the car started down the road and Irene Adler disappeared from his life once again.