Holmes and Hooper

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Sherlock left Irene at 221b at around four o'clock that afternoon and made his journey to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He stood before it, looking it up and down. He seemed to be sizing it up. The hospital seemed as large as the worries throwing things out of sorts in his mind palace.

Molly Hooper was somewhere inside. Sometime soon he would be obliged to tell her all. He wondered if this was part of Moriarty's scheme, too. Undoubtedly it was. Moriarty knew how much Sherlock cared for Molly...and how much Molly cared for him. And to bring Irene back into his life only a week after having "confessed" his love to Molly was indubitably Moriarty's handiwork. It ripped the heart from Sherlock's breast.

He stepped inside, and without looking in any direction, he made his way to the lab.

But what if she was in the mortuary?

He'd check the lab first, then the mortuary. Besides, he was here to analyze the knife for clues, not explain anything to Molly Hooper. Though, if he were being honest, that was at the forefront of his mind.

Sherlock found the lab empty when he entered, but the knife was preserved in a plastic bag for him on the table near the microscope. Finding his lab gloves, he slapped them on and removed the knife from the bag.

It was surprisingly lightweight, for being such a large knife. Blood still stained the silver blade. The hilt also had blood on it, but that didn't matter as much to Sherlock. All he cared about were fingerprints.

Nevertheless, this murderer had been careful. The hilt was clean of all fingerprints. He must have used gloves when he slit Wellington's throat. Sherlock took samples of the blood from the blade and prepared them to be tested for DNA. The blood would obviously be Wellington's, but it was always worth checking. Perhaps the killer had cut himself during the murder, and his blood had mixed with the victim's. Sherlock seriously doubted the probability, but he prepared the samples all the same.

The door opened, and Sherlock nearly dropped the utensils in his hand. His wrists were shaking, and he feared they would betray him and shatter the precious samples. Molly Hooper walked through the door, sporting her neat ponytail and spotless lab coat.

"Oh!" she gasped, stopping in the doorway and fiddling with the sleeve of her coat.

"Sherlock! I-I didn't know anyone was still in here. I was coming to turn the lights off. Is that the knife they brought in earlier? The really bloody one?"

Sherlock's lip was shaking. He was on the brink of tears. He stared at dear little Molly, her eyes wide with confusion, excitement, and enthusiasm. What had he done? What had he done? He had never hated himself more in his life.

"Er, yes-yes, the one and the same," he replied, placing the objects down on the table to ease his fear of dropping everything.

Molly cleared her throat.

"How have you been? I haven't seen you or talked to you since the uh-well, you know."

Sherlock sniffed.

"I've been as well as I can be. How...how...uh, how have you been?" he asked. He wished he had never asked it. How had she been? How do you think she's been, you moron?

"I've been okay. Mostly work these days, not much time for anything else, really. It's been hard to do anything besides work."

Sherlock and Molly both stopped talking. They were just staring at one another from across the room. Both of their faces weren't that of new lovers. Both of their eyes were glistening with tears. Molly bit her lip. Sherlock inhaled sharply.

"Molly, I-," he began, but didn't finish.

"Don't. Please don't," she said, her voice choking up with tears long ignored. "It was your brother. He came by the day after...you know. And he-he..." she wiped her face and took a couple short, sharp breaths. "He told me what happened, Sherlock. He wanted me to hear it from him rather than you. I'm so sorry for all the pain I caused you, Sherlock," she sobbed, holding her hands over her eyes. "I'm so sorry! I've been a fool, following you around every moment like I'm some puppy dog. But I meant it when you told me to say it: I do love you. I always have, and it's always been true. I'm so sorry for everything! So horribly sorry! Oh, God!" she went to her knees and sobbed into her hands. Sherlock touched his face and was unashamed to find that he had tears on his cheeks.

He walked slowly toward the woman on the floor. No, Molly Hooper wasn't a woman. She was a girl. His girl. She would always be. He would always need her, and she would never push him away.

He was on his knees beside her, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her to himself. She sobbed into his shoulder, and the moment reminded him of when he had held his trembling sister on the floor of the abandoned house. He cradled her in his arms and held her head to his shoulder.

"Oh, God, Sherlock! Can you ever forgive me? I'm so sorry!" she wept.

He gently pulled her from his shoulder and positioned her in front of him, holding her shoulders firmly with his hands. She saw the glitter of water on his face, and that made her eyes widen just a touch.

"Molly Hooper, you listen to me. I am sorry for my failure to see through my sister's schemes. It is I who must be asking for forgiveness, not you. Don't you dare! Forgive me for having asked so much of you. I never meant to humiliate you or make an experiment of you. You have always been the most loyal of my friends-besides, perhaps, John," he said, rolling his eyes. She giggled through the veil of tears.

He continued.

"You've never disappointed me. You've always been there for me. If there was one person in this world who has been with me through the thickest of thick and the thinnest of thin, it has been you, Molly Hooper. I didn't lie to you on the phone that day. I do love you. Not in the way you would imagine, but nearly."

He took her hands and pressed each gently. Then he cradled her face in his hands and kissed her forehead.

"Molly Hooper, can you ever forgive me? I'm so sorry for the pain I've caused you," Sherlock said, his voice cracking under the weight of the sobs he was trying to hold back.

"Oh, Sherlock...you idiot. You still don't understand, do you? How could I not forgive you? It would be impossible not to," she responded, standing to her feet as he rose to his. They hugged tightly.

"Thank you, Molly-thank you. I don't know what I'd do without you," he said, still holding her in a vice-like embrace.

Molly's little voice sounded from somewhere in his jacket.

"Honestly, Sherlock, I don't know what you'd do without me either," she replied, elbowing him in the ribs and laughing. Sherlock let her go and chuckled under his breath.

It felt like a thousand pounds of bricks had lifted off his chest, and now he could finally live with himself again. As long as Molly was smiling, so would his heart smile, too.

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A/N: Hello, everyone! Thanks so much for reading! This story is far from over, but if you enjoyed this chapter, please follow along, cast a vote, or leave a review! It always makes my day to know I have a hungry audience...every writer's day, actually ;)

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