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[personal profile] eponymous_rose
Title: Chasm (2/4)
Word Count: 10,000 (this chapter) | 16,000 (story thus far)
Characters: John Watson, Sally Donovan, Molly Hooper, Greg Lestrade, Ella Thompson, Mycroft Holmes
Rating: T
Notes: Huge thanks to [personal profile] rosa_acicularis for the fantastic beta and brainstorming.
Spoilers: Through The Reichenbach Fall.

Summary: Everyone has a grieving process. John's just happens to involve subterfuge, conspiracies, and violence.

Links: Chapter One

When he finally comes across the message, printed upside-down in the classifieds section, John Watson has to make a conscious effort to keep breathing, to slow his frantic heart rate.

2morrow's a gr3at day for a nic3 cru1se.

"Right," he says, softly, and the word soothes his frayed nerves. A little. "Right." Without taking his eyes off the newspaper, he dials a number into his mobile, waits while it rings.


"Sally, hi," he says, then pauses, because he's not entirely sure what to say.

Fortunately, Sergeant Sally Donovan is rarely at a loss for words, and she knows him well enough to read volumes into the awkward silence. Either that, or John really is as transparent as Sherlock always made him feel. "I'll stop by after my shift. The new flat, right?"

"Right," says John again, then gives her the address. Feeling a little lost, he hangs up.

Three months. Three months with no contact, three months wondering if the face, the voice, the encounter had been real, or if it had just been a figment of his and Sally's collective imaginations. Three months wondering if the first message that led to the arrest of the Throgmorton burglars had been a message from Sherlock at all.

Three months, now, that John's been slowly and patiently convincing himself that he's gone a bit mad.

He slowly and methodically tears the advertisement from the paper, and sticks it to the fridge, like the last one, in a spot amidst the take-out menus and would-be clever magnetized messages that he's been reserving, just in case. He's pretty sure that when Seb gets home, he'll notice it. To hell with Seb. Besides, John's been acting strangely enough that he's pretty sure he's been rivalling Sherlock for the Weirdest New Flatmate Award lately, anyway.

Speak of the devil. The door rattles, and John realizes that standing in the middle of the kitchen and staring at a ripped-out bit of newspaper on the fridge is probably a weird thing to be doing, so he all but flings himself at the sofa and pulls out his laptop.

Seb strolls in, full of an annoyingly studentish boisterousness, followed by two of his fellow would-be medicos. They've only been living together for two weeks – Seb is another handoff from Stamford, one of his more promising pupils at Bart's – but John is already intimately familiar with the annoying quirks of each of his circle friends.

"Hey," Seb says. "The man himself."

"Er," says John, and waves, awkwardly.

"But it's like I was saying, Tim." Darren is the most patently obnoxious of Seb's cronies, his voice too-loud in the small flat. "The tits on this cadaver. Like rotting pumpkins, I tell you."

"Best lay you've had all year," says Tim, and jabs Darren in the gut. With an explosive whoosh of air, Darren pulls him into a headlock.

John doesn't even bother hiding his wince as they jostle against the stack of dirty dishes in the sink. Christ. Was I ever that insufferable? "I'll just, er, move to my room, shall I?"

Seb attempts an ingratiating smile. He's not very good at it. "If you don't mind? We're going to do some cramming. Stamford's being one hell of a dick over this latest anatomy exam."

At the mention of the words "dick" and "anatomy exam" in such close proximity, Seb's compatriots burst out laughing. John smiles politely and makes a mental note to never let Stamford set him up with a flatmate again. He hesitates at the doorway to his room, then squares his jaw and crosses to the fridge, grabbing the newspaper clipping.

"What's that? You looking for a new flat already?" Seb looks weirdly hurt at the notion.

"I should be so lucky," John deadpans, and after a moment they decide it's meant to be a joke, and the three of them burst into uproarious laughter once more.

It's a considerable relief to close his door on them and settle back on his bed, staring at the newspaper clipping, turning it upside-down, the way it was printed. Numbers, just like the last message. That clinches it. This has to be from Sherlock – the Throgmorton burglars are in prison, and nobody else would have a connection to both cases. John catches himself laughing, then figures that might seem a bit strange to Seb, the weird unemployed ex-army doctor who can't afford a decent flat giggling to himself in his bedroom.

The grin doesn't fade, though. He's alive, John thinks, and just like the first time, the notion is at the same time patently obvious and wonderfully impossible. He's alive.

By the time Sally shows up at the door, amid drunken hoots and whistles from Seb and his mates, John's figured it all out.

He's reasonably sure he'll get teased for weeks about it, but he beckons Sally to his room – any conversation they have will be about as secure as it's possible to get, with the students' constant shouts and bickering, especially now that they've been drinking. Verbal camouflage. Maybe Stamford was being more clever than he was letting on, putting them together.

Sally rolls her eyes, shutting the door behind her. The cheers and calls of "Ooh, Doctor, Doctor!" are cut off, at last. "Wow," she says.

"Yeah. Well." John slumps on the bed and pulls out his laptop again. "There are fewer body parts in the fridge, and Seb occasionally remembers to buy milk. And I suppose beggars can't be choosers." He sees her start to open her mouth – she's going to offer him a part-time job of some sort, he's sure, and he's going to have to come up with a reasonable excuse to turn it down. After a moment, she shakes her head. Another roar of laughter echoes from outside. He winces. "Frankly, though, I'd rather have to contend with severed heads than brainless ones."

Sally snorts, and leans against the small writing desk in the corner of the room. He realizes, a bit belatedly, that he hasn't been seeing as much of her as he once had – time was, they'd gone for drinks twice a week. He wonders, vaguely, if she's started seeing someone who might disapprove of a platonic male friendship – or someone who might disapprove of this particular platonic male friendship – then winces. That's a Sherlockish line of reasoning, and he definitely doesn't want to go down that road.

"So? Why am I here?" She does seem impatient – more impatient than usual, even for a Friday night – and she's wearing a necklace he's pretty sure he's never seen before. None of your business, he tells himself, and then, more emphatically, Seriously none of your business.

John hands the paper over, covering his hesitation with a thoughtful stare at the words, like he hasn't memorized them by now. "Printed upside-down, like the rest."

Sally reads it a few times, then taps it against her chin, staring across the room with a distant look in her eyes. "The numbers," she says.

"2331. Assuming it's mean to be flipped upside-down like the other one, 1335."

"Address? Phone number? Not another Tube station, surely."

"It mentions a cruise." John smiles, feels the echo of that wilder, uncontrollable grin, and puts a lid on it. Maybe he's been seeing less of Sally because of the whole gradually-going-crazy thing. "Plenty of places for cruises, this time of year. The last message included a time, and this one doesn't seem to have done that, so I figured this number was a departure time. And assuming, like the last message, it was meant for me, we shouldn't be looking too far afield." He tilts his laptop screen at her. "I searched for '1335 cruise London', and this is what I got."

"City Cruises," she says, sounding grudgingly impressed. She makes a grab for his laptop and sets it on the desk, scrolling through the timetable. "All right. That makes sense. The only departure at that time is from Tower Pier to Greenwich Pier. But why exactly would someone want to meet on a tourist trap on the Thames? Another burglary?"

It takes John a moment to understand her lack of excitement. His heart is pounding again. "Oh," he says. "No, I think it's Sherlock, sending these messages. I think it was him all along. He's trying to get in touch with me."

Sally's jaw tightens. "We've been over this, John. The last message could very well have been a communication from one part of the burglary ring to the other. There was no guarantee you'd crack the code. And why would the Freak have sent you a message that wound up nearly getting you killed?"

"Hm," says John, noncommittally, and reaches past her to close his laptop. He does it with a little more force than he'd intended. They both jump.

Sally still has the bit of newspaper in her hand, turning it over and over between her fingers. "Okay," she says. "Okay, I understand that you want him to still be alive, to still be who you think he is, but-" She's quiet for a moment that stretches on a little too long. It's an old copper's trick, getting the suspect to make eye contact. Uneasily, he obliges. "I need you to hear this, John. This does not look good."

He forces a smile, fights a down the urge to scratch at the scar on his back. "I know. You're right. It's crazy, but I'm going into this with my eyes open."

She sighs, rubbing at a spot between her eyebrows. Tension headache, he diagnoses, but says nothing. Finally, she lowers her hand, stares at him for a moment, then rolls her eyes. "The blind leading the blind," she says, with a sigh. "I'll be by around noon tomorrow to pick you up."

"Thank you," he says, and means it. Unfortunately, he says it just as she opens the door into a lull in the students' conversation.

"Wheeew," Tim says. "That was a quickie, wasn't it?" Darren actually starts miming the implied act. To his credit, Seb looks vaguely embarrassed.

Sally pauses in the doorway, watching Darren for a few moments with one eyebrow raised. After a few seconds of awkward silence, his rhythmic motions slow, then stop altogether, and his face starts to go red. "Right," she says. "I'd tell you to go fuck yourself, but even you don't deserve that fate." She smiles, a bit too brightly. "Tomorrow, John."

"Er," says John, intelligently, and then she's gone.

Into the silence that follows, Darren says, "I think I'm in love."

Seb elbows him in the gut. "She's a cop," he says, sharply.

John moves past them, in search of coffee. He has a feeling he's not going to be sleeping much tonight, at any rate.

"How d'you know that?" Tim sounds belligerent, and John reminds himself to tell Sally that she's made a distinct impression on these two. She'll be so pleased.

"Never mind," Seb says. "Just, you know, show some respect, all right?"

John half-turns, watches out of the corner of his eye as Tim and Darren exchange a confused look. Wordlessly, Seb flings himself back across the sofa, opening his textbook again. Interesting. Not exactly hidden depths, but yeah, interesting. John can't shake an uncomfortable feeling that maybe this was what ordinary people seemed like to Sherlock – what he seemed like to Sherlock – a superficial puzzle, vaguely amusing in his idiocy. It's not a pleasant thought, and he's pretty sure it's not true, but it's been so long, and sometimes he starts to wonder how much is remembering and how much is filling in the blanks. It's been so long.

He does sleep that night, but not well, and his dreams are all choking, treacherous things. He scrabbles for solid ground, and wakes with his fingers knotting in his sheets.

The morning chill is still heavy in the air by the time Sally Donovan arrives. The fresh air comes as something of a shock, and he begins to wonder, uneasily, when he became the sort of person to sit inside day after day. He draws his jacket closer about his shoulders, shivering as he jogs out to her car.

"Hey," she says, when they're about halfway to their destination, stuck behind a slow-moving lorry. "You all right?"

He shrugs, realizes he's still hugging himself against the chill, and makes a conscious effort to relax. "Fine," he says. She's a conscientious and cautious driver – another Sherlockian observation, perfectly banal and utterly revealing all at once – but she risks looking away from traffic to shoot a brief glare at him. He cracks a smile. "Sorry. Just thinking."

She's quiet for a bit, and he can practically hear her turning things over in her mind. He thinks about turning rocks over, about the strange and scintillating horrors that generally lurk underneath. He shivers again.

"Look," she says, finally. "There are some of us, we-" She shakes her head, as though in self-admonition, and blows out an exasperated breath. "Not we, I. I'm worried about you, John."

He turns to look out the window, watching the too-slow passage of buildings and sidestreets and small, insignificant people. "Traffic isn't exactly a good place for a heart-to-heart. Afraid I'd run away, otherwise?" It's meant to be a joke, but his voice shakes a bit with some emotion even he can't identify. Anger, maybe.

"You haven't seen your therapist in weeks, have you?" She glances over to meet his startled expression, and shakes her head again; this time, the admonition's directed at him. "I haven't been prying, John, it's fairly obvious. Wounded in action, just saw your best friend kill himself. You must be seeing someone. Or not, as the case may be."

John rubs at his eyes. His mind feels like sandpaper, scratchy and slow. "Right. Sorry, yes. Can't fault that logic." She's waiting for more, so he shrugs. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable discussing this."

"Tough." She smiles at him, briefly, to take the edge off the word. Much to his surprise, he finds himself smiling back. It has been a long time, he thinks, since he's had a chance to be this perfectly honest. Too long.

"I don't really know what to say to her." He goes back to looking out the window, searching vaguely for a little space. "I can lie and say I still think Sherlock's dead, and she'll know I'm hiding something. I can tell the truth and say I think he's alive, and she'll think I'm crazy."

"To be fair, even I think you're a little crazy for that one," Sally says, deadpan, then holds up her fingers, inches apart. "Just a little."

He laughs, and it's strange to his ears, a disused sound. "Says my only material witness to the resurrection. And you're the one ferrying me around now. What does that make you, exactly?"

"You do have a point," she says, then cranes her neck. "I think this is the nearest we're getting for parking. We'll walk from here."

John glances at his watch as he steps out of the car. 12:45. "Fifty minutes."

He turns back to see that Sally is lingering in the driver's seat, and he watches her shove a pistol into the pocket of her long coat. She meets his eyes, one brow raised, waiting for him to comment. He says nothing, slamming his car door.

The chill in the air seems worse at the pier, carrying with it all the smells and sounds of the city. A number of tourists are already flocking to the water, and John moves among them, staring over the railing at the edge of the pier and taking a few deep breaths of the quasi-marine air. His stomach is turning over and over, and he grits his teeth against the sensation – all that damned coffee at night, and no breakfast.

Sally leans against the railing next to him, her back to the water. "I thought so."

He drags his gaze from the shimmering glints of waves in the cloudy water. It seems to take a great deal of effort. "Hm?"

"You're ill." She crosses her arms and sighs. "Probably being an idiot about your health."

John manages a shrug, but now she's mentioned it, he can't ignore that weird, sandpapery feeling behind his eyes. "Living with students will do that to you." He turns, like her, to face away from the water, watching the people milling about. A part of him is looking for one face in particular, even as the rest of him is trying to quell any ridiculous hopes.

He glances over to see Sally watching him, brow furrowed. "You really think it's him, that he'll be here."

Irritated, he turns back to watching the waves. The tour-boat is approaching, flooded with passengers snapping photos of the city. "Who else would it be, sending these messages?"

"John." She waits again, using the silence as a tool, forcing him to look at her. "I'm suspicious, all right? It's my job." She takes a deep breath, rocking on her heels. "For what it's worth, I don't honestly think you're crazy. I was joking, before. Sort of."

"I know. Me too, sort of," he says, and snorts a laugh. "God, it feels like we're always apologizing to each other."

She grins, but her expression flickers, her gaze darting over his shoulder. "She seems a little young to be out by herself, doesn't she?"

He turns, following her gaze to a small girl, leaning precariously over the railing and waving at the inbound boat. A few people in the crowd are casting nervous glances in her direction, but nobody seems particular invested, in a familial sense. Strange. He exchanges a glance with Sally, and through wordless agreement, they both move towards the girl.

She glances up at their approach; John's experience with children is practically nonexistent, but he can agree readily enough with Sally's assertion that she's too young to be outside by herself. "Hi," she says, a bit warily.

"Er," says John, "hi."

Sally manages to simultaneously roll her eyes at him and project a smile of surprising warmth at the girl. "Hi, sweetie. Are your parents around?"

The girl presses her lips into a thin line. "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she says, a bit smugly, John thinks.

"Good policy," Sally says, and leans down so she's closer to eye-level with the girl. "I'm a police officer, sweetie. It's okay to talk to me."

The girl cocks her head to the side. "I don't believe you. You don't have the right hat."

John snorts, and Sally pulls out her ID, holding it solemnly in front of the girl's face. "Convinced, or should I call my supervisor?"

After a moment spent staring in awe, the girl clears her throat. "Wow. I'm, um, I'm Lina. Mum and Da are coming on the big ship." She points to where the tour boat is in the process of coming alongside the dock.

"And they left you here alone?"

Lina nods. "I'm not a baby. I'm almost seven and a half." She pauses, then adds, "I wanted some ice cream, and Mum and Da wanted to go on the big ship."

"When was that?"

"This morning." She adds, thoughtfully, "I never get to eat ice cream for breakfast."

Sally grimaces, exchanges a look with John. "All right. It was wrong for them to do that, Lina. They shouldn't have left you alone. I'll have to have a talk with them."

John imitates Sally's bent-over stance, feeling patently ridiculous. The girl's eyes flit to his, uneasily, then back to Sally. "Um, Lina, have you spoken to anyone? Has anything strange been happening since you got here?" After few moments of her wide-eyed silence, he adds, "Have you seen a tall man, with dark, curly hair?"

She shakes her head at him. So does Sally, a bit more emphatically. John straightens. "Right. Sorry. Just checking."

Surely a strange occurrence here and now is too much of a coincidence to ignore. A diversion to make them miss the boat, then? Sally certainly looks primed to spend the rest of the afternoon reaming out the negligent parents. He glances over at the boat, watching the stream of people filing onto the dock. A tug on his hand draws his attention back down.

"You look sad," Lina says. "Is the curly-haired man your boyfriend?"

Sally has a supremely convenient coughing fit, and John clears his throat, feeling a flush run across his cheeks. "Er. Something like that."

Lina starts to say something else, but a scream splits the air. The jolt of adrenaline is so strong that John staggers, and then everything is acquiring sharper, brighter contours. The sun glinting on the waves is blinding. He turns, reeling, in time to see a body topple from the upper, exposed level of the boat, into the water. And then another.

He has a confused impression that he's hit some sort of rewind switch, that he's watching Sherlock fall again and again and again, but these bodies are limp and lifeless. He takes a stumbling step backwards, his head throbbing with remembered pain, and then Sally is shoving the girl's hand into his, hard. "John, stay with her. I'll be right back." She runs towards the boat, and he wonders when he stopped being the sort of person who runs towards danger instead of away from it.

He looks down at Lina, who stares up at him with a terrified expression that he suspects might be a decent mirror-image of his own. He tries to school his features to some semblance of adult-ish calm. "It'll be okay," he says. She looks skeptical, and he can't blame her.

Sally comes back, after a few minutes, already barking orders into her phone. "Yes, I understand. I need a perimeter, here. I'm on my own, we've suspects wandering all over the place. Two dead, in the water. We need a crew to get them out. Right. Thank you." She hangs up, and in the same motion bends down to look at Lina. "Hey, Lina. Are your parents here yet?"

Lina's eyes are full of a very adult horror, and John only realizes that he's still clutching her hand when she squeezes his fingers with a vise-like grip. "It's them, isn't it," she says, softly. It's not a question.

Sally heaves a sigh and moves away, calling for the boat's captain to start blocking off the entrances and exits to this part of the dock. John feels cold, watching the strange, thoughtful, devastated look on the girl's face. He sinks down to one knee and pulls her into a hug, and she clings to him like a limpet. She's not crying.

At some point, the sirens get closer, and then some people take Lina from him and put the omnipresent congratulations-you're-in-shock blanket over her shoulders. She reaches out for him once, and he manages a weak smile for her as the people rush her away. He's still kneeling on the ground, so he decides to hell with it and sits down on the gritty pavement, resting his aching head in his hands.

"Hey." Sally taps the top of his head to get him to look up, then extends her hand. Feeling dazed and slow and stupid, he takes hold of it, lets her haul him to his feet. He's shivering, and she moves closer, staring at him. "You don't look so good. It's been hours, I didn't think you were still here. Are you all right?"

That's enough to snap him out of the weird, blurred state, and he shoots her a defensive glare. She holds up her hands, apologetically, then lets them drop to her sides. "They hauled the bodies out. A man and a woman, IDed based on wallet contents as Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson. Native Londoners, apparently on a family outing. We've called a sister and brother-in-law to come in and make a definitive identification." She glances back, and he follows her gaze to see Lina, swaddled in blankets and surrounded by stern-looking adults in suits and uniforms. She looks very small, he thinks. "God," Sally says, softly. "Poor kid."

"Yeah." John takes a deep breath, steadying himself, but he still feels off. The sun, lower in the sky now, is still painting patterns on the waves that are absolutely blinding in their intensity.

When he looks back at Sally, she's scowling. "Hell, I don't take orders from you. Give me your mobile."

He stares at her. "What?"

"Your phone." She extends her hand, waggles her fingers. A bit startled, he fishes clumsily in his pocket for a few moments, then hands it over. "Okay," she says. "Here's the thing. I'll be working until late on this one, and even that idiot flatmate of yours can't be all bad, as substitutes go. Ah, here's the number, Seb, right?"

It takes his slow-churning brain a few seconds to catch up with her line of reasoning. "Wait, no, I don't think-"

She holds up a finger to silence him, waiting as the phone rings. "Hello, Seb? It's John's friend Sally. I've got to go in to work, and he was so looking forward to a nice dinner at, er-" She glances around for inspiration. "-the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, at Tower Pier. I figured you two could use some bonding time, so why don't you come over and keep him company?"

Rolling his eyes, John leans in. "You don't have to do that. I'm perfectly-"

She raises the finger again, and, conditioned by now, he shuts up. "Really? Lovely," she says, and hangs up, then tosses him the phone. "He's on his way. I think the kid idolizes you, a bit. Don't be too hard on him for being a complete dick. And for God's sake, eat something before you fall over. I'll call you when I know anything."

John sighs, rubbing his eyes, then laughs. It comes out as a weird, strangled giggle. He doesn't have to look up to picture her expression, and he hastens to add, "I was just thinking. This must be what it felt like being Sherlock, every time I started in on him for not taking care of himself."

"Turnabout's fair play," Sally says, and nods towards the restaurant. "Okay. Start walking."

Still a little giddy, John snaps her a not-quite-regulation salute – she rolls her eyes – and meanders over to the restaurant. It doesn't cross his mind to just leave, to just start walking and keep walking until he gets home, wherever the hell home is, until he's already sitting at the table, and by then he's not entirely sure he can trust himself to stand up again.

Seb arrives a few minutes later, looking uncharacteristically subdued in a decent-if-wrinkled suit. He smiles the same old stupid, ingratiating grin, digs his hands into his pockets, and bobs on his heels. "Er. Your, uh, friend asked me to come?"

With a sigh, John nods to the other chair, watches as Seb sinks into it gratefully. He decides to try out Sally's silent-treatment method, but Seb seems immune, content to spread his napkin neatly on his lap and try to catch the eye of a passing waitress. John caves first. "Sorry about this. You probably had plans."

Seb shrugs. "Not really. What are flatmates for, eh? Thanks, love." He smiles at the waitress, who doesn't even notice his attempts at charm. With a dejected sigh, he takes a long drink of his water, then just stares into the glass for a few moments. Working up to something, John thinks, and sure enough, Seb darts a furtive glance at him, then takes a deep breath. "Look. I'm sorry you're stuck with idiot me and my idiot mates."

"Uh, no, no," John says, waving his hands in vaguely embarrassed negation.

"Seriously, I'm sorry. You're just-" Seb shrugs – are the tips of his ears going pink? – and takes a longer swig of his water. "I dunno. You're so cool."

John blinks. "Cool."

"Yeah, like, I know you had this whole thing with Sherlock Holmes and I don't want to get into that if you don't, although if you wanted to talk?" Even Seb can take a hint from the look on John's face. "Oh. Right. No. In any case, it's interesting. And me and my mates, we kinda like knowing there's someone like you who's been where we are now, you know? Just another idiot kid once, and now here you are." The words are coming out in a rush, now. "And I'm sorry if we act like dickheads, because we kind of are, but it's, you know. We're just trying to get your attention." By now, his whole face is beet red, and John can feel himself caught somewhere between a laugh and a sympathetic wince.

Fortunately for them both, the waitress arrives with their food, and John somewhat desperately tucks into his burger. After a moment, he comes up for air. "Uh. Look, Seb, I'm not sure exactly what it is you're trying to communicate."

"Yeah," says Seb, intent on picking the lettuce out from his burger. "Yeah, uh, I'm sorry. I don't know where that came from. I was just, I don't know. You've seemed so withdrawn." He scrubs at his reddening cheeks. "Christ. Can we just pretend I said nothing? Or default to assuming I said something spectacularly stupid?"

"I think we can manage that," John says, with an uneasy laugh. It's not that he idolizes me. He's got a crush.

"Hey, at least you're looking better," Seb says, a bit sheepishly, once they've finished their burgers and moved on to a pint of bitter.

"Yeah," John says, and realizes just how much better he does feel. Despite the incipient buzz of alcohol, his head is clearing, that horrible, scratching, sandpapery veil fading. "Guess I just needed something to eat. Seb, can you give me a moment? I have to make a call."

Seb nods, and John stands, moving to the back of the restaurant, then dials Sally's number.

"Donovan." She sounds exhausted, he thinks, and checks his watch. Ten o'clock. Over eight hours since the bodies were discovered.

"Hey, Sally. It's John. Just wanted to see where you were at with, uh, with all this." With his newfound clarity of thought, his vagueness strikes him suddenly as ridiculous paranoia. No wonder she was looking at him strangely all day.

"I told you I'd call when I found something," she says, then adds, a bit grudgingly, "You sound better."

"Yeah." John glances over to the table where Seb is sitting, texting, and catches himself smiling. "Did you confirm the identity of the victims?"

A sigh, the sound of rustling papers on the other side of the line. "Yeah."

Damn. "Is the girl all right? Uh, Lina?"

"I wouldn't expect she is, no." Sally's voice is flat, and the annoying part of his mind that's still constantly trying to catch up with Sherlock thinks, That's hit a nerve, this is something personal. "Her aunt and uncle are taking custody, last I heard."

"Ah." He shifts uneasily; the conversation is turning in a voyeuristic direction he's not altogether comfortable with. "Were any of the witnesses, um. Familiar faces?"

Another sigh. "Look, John, I'll keep you apprised, all right? The DI's going to be riding me on this one anyway. I'm pretty sure he doesn't buy that I just happened to be near Tower Pier when this happened."

John feels a chill. "You won't tell him, will you?"

"Tell him what?" Sally snaps, then relents. "No, John, you can go on doing whatever it is that you're doing, unhindered. I'll cover for you."

"Thanks, Sally. I owe you one."

"You owe me seventeen, at last count," Sally says, but there's a smile in her voice. "All right. Stay safe. Stop calling me." She hangs up on that last note, and John finds himself staring at his mobile, fighting down a grin.

Seb looks up from his texting when John returns to the table. "Secret police business, eh?" he says, and there's an annoyingly teasing glint in his eyes.

"No comment," John says, and goes back to his beer.

That evening, Seb insists on making him a cup of tea, then goes off with his friends, with a promise that he'll refrain from bringing Darren and Tim by until John's feeling better. John is torn between finding the gesture unnervingly sympathetic and enjoying the hell out of the silence in the flat. The latter feeling wins out eventually, and he spends a pleasant evening drinking tea and watching the telly until his eyes glaze over, not thinking about much of anything.

He sleeps dreamlessly, but wakes feeling like absolute shit, with his head pounding and a nasty taste in his mouth. He rolls to his feet, a bit experimentally, then groans and hunches back down on the bed, sinking his head in his hands. A flickering light catches his eye, sending painful reverberations through his head with each glint. His mobile.

The time reads 12:35. He reads it again, just to be sure. There are three missed calls, all from Sally, and a text that reads, Are you dead? Call me. The whole thing seems impossibly complicated to deal with, and he decides on breakfast first, murder and intrigue after.

With a louder groan, he pushes himself to his feet and wobbles into the kitchen, where Seb is hunched over a textbook. Seb smiles, a bit shyly, then winces in sympathy and jerks his head to the bottle of brandy over on the counter. "Hair of the dog that bit you?"

"No thanks," John mutters, and rubs his eyes. It feels like scraping them with sandpaper. Christ, I'm getting old, if three beers can do this to me. He goes in search of coffee, then, on the advice of his queasy stomach, forgoes it in favour of dry toast and a glass of milk.

When he looks up, Seb is watching him with an odd attentiveness. "What?"

Seb shrugs. "Nothing. You don't usually have a lie-in, is all. Even on a Sunday."

"We've known each other two weeks," John points out. "For all you know, this is a typical Sunday for me."

Seb snorts, then nods to the telly, which is muted on a news programme. "Your police lady was on the news earlier. Murder-suicide on a boat, apparently. Very messy."

"Hm," says John, noncommittally. His mobile buzzes, a repeat of the previous message. He replies, Give me a minute, would you? I'll ring you soon.

Seb is watching the news footage, transfixed. "Yeah, and it happened at Tower Pier, where we were yesterday. What are the odds?"

Sluggishly, John feels his guard go up. "What are you implying?" he says. It sounded smarter in his head. Not exactly a perfect bit of redirection.

"What? Nothing." Seb squints at him. "Seriously, mate, you should see a doctor. I can say this with reasonable certainty, being almost a doctor myself. You're not looking well."

"Brilliant diagnosis," John says, then scrubs at his face with one hand. "I'll feel better once I've showered and shaved, I expect. Damn colds, you know."

Seb looks skeptical, and on the verge of arguing, so John dumps his plate in the sink and bids a hasty retreat to his room, where he dials Sally's number.

"About time," she snaps, in lieu of greeting. "What the hell took you so long? I thought you'd snap at the chance to hear anything about this case."

"The case, right," he says, and frowns at his face in the mirror. He looks pale, dark shadows under his eyes. Concentrating on any one thing feels like trying to lay his hands on smoke or mist: it keeps sliding through his fingers. "Right. What's new?"

She's quiet for a moment. "I think I'd rather tell you in person."

By the time Sally arrives, John's treated himself to the promised shower and shave, neither of which have done much to dispel the heavy-headed murkiness lurking around his thoughts. He smiles at her, a bit vaguely, and waves her in. Seb, contorted into an awkward position in his chair, offers a, "Hey," over his textbook.

"No charming friends this time?" she murmurs to John, and he shrugs, waving her into his room.

Once he closes the door, she leans a bit closer, staring at him with a skeptical frown that seems a little unwarranted, he thinks. Surely I don't look that bad.

"You should-"

"See a doctor, yes, I know. I'm convinced. I'll go first thing tomorrow. The case?"

Sally leans against the wall, staring him down until he perches, obediently, on the edge of his bed. "All right. Those were indeed Lina's parents who went over the edge of the boat. The official line is that it was a murder-suicide. He did something horrible – we discovered some major gambling debts, and the psychologists are talking to Lina to find out if there was a pattern of abuse there – and the wife found out and killed him, stabbed him with a knife and tossed him over the edge, then killed herself, slit her own throat and fell over the edge. Not wanting her daughter to witness the whole thing, she left her eating ice cream alone."

John stares at his hands. "All right. I may not quite be in my right mind just now, but that doesn't sound at all plausible to me."

Her lips twist. "No kidding. It's all unnecessarily elaborate. And besides, the stab wound on the father was perfectly placed to sever a renal artery. That suggests a cold-blooded expert, not an upset accountant. I think it's pretty clear the two of them were murdered, and our killer slipped away in all the confusion afterwards. The only thing that counterindicates a random act of violence is the fact that the daughter wasn't there. I can't find any evidence that these people were in the habit of leaving their child unattended."

"So you think it was staged for our benefit? The parents lured onto the boat to send a message?"

"I didn't say that," Sally says, then grimaces, pacing over to lean on the edge of his writing table. "Maybe. It's certainly a showy display. But to what end? Was it meant to be a warning?"

John is quiet for a few moments, picking at a loose thread in his blanket. "You can say it."

"Say what?"

This time, he's quiet until she meets his eyes, slowly and defiantly. "You think Sherlock's doing this. Trying to prove some sort of insane point."

Explosively, Sally pushes herself to her feet and starts pacing. "John, you know what he is. You have to know what he is."

"I know full well what he is."

Something in his tone snaps her out of it, and she stops mid-step, whirling to face him. "Okay. But if he's not this insane, megalomaniacal murderer, why the hell would Sherlock be luring you to these crime scenes? This isn't a trail of breadcrumbs so he can find his way home, John. It's a trail of bodies."

"Seems more fitting, somehow," John says, then holds up his hands. "Just a joke. I'm kidding." After a moment, he adds, "Are there any connections to Moriarty?"

"Or Sherlock?" Sally says, a bit pointedly. John nods, lets that one go. "Not that we've found. Not that I could justify expenditure of resources to do much of a search, given the... creative truth-telling I've been engaging in over this one. Lestrade is getting suspicious, by the way, and I'll have no compunctions about giving up your little newspaper games if he puts the pressure on. Fair warning."

"Fair enough," John says, but he's having trouble concentrating again, watching the edge of the doorframe waver and blur, then come into hyper-sharp focus. He rubs his eyes. Sandpaper. Something's wrong, he thinks, then says it aloud.

Sally's watching him, brows furrowed, and she blur-sharpens several times before he realizes she's speaking. "John?"

There's a rapping at the door that echoes deep into his skull, and he turns his head slowly to watch it open. Some time must have passed, because Sally's sitting next to him on the bed, and now Seb's standing in the doorway, face pinched with worry, and Stamford's behind him, carrying a medical bag. "House call?" John says. His voice sounds very far away. "I'm flattered."

Stamford goes through a standard litany of diagnostic questions, which John answers mostly by rote. Yes, he had a few drinks last night. No, he's not on any medication. No apparent trigger for onset of symptoms. No new environmental allergens. Headache. Nausea, but no vomiting. Somewhat high pulse. Somewhat high fever. Somewhat low BP. Fatigue. Disorientation.

Stamford scowls at him. "Have you been treating yourself well, John? Not skipping meals? Getting your eight hours of sleep? You're not twenty years old, anymore." He offers a good-natured glower at Seb, who shrugs an apology that manages to encompass his entire generation.

"Maybe not as well as I should be," John admits. He's transitioned from feeling dazed to feeling embarrassed. "A few sleepless nights, that sort of thing."

"Right," says Stamford. "I suspect it's just something like a flu virus hanging on too long, since you're providing it with such a perfectly susceptible body to relax in. No wonder it's set up shop. Add a bit of dehydration, and you're a wreck. I'll prescribe you something to help you sleep, if you promise you'll see someone for the psychiatric side of things. Get right to what's keeping you awake in the first place. And if you're not feeling better in a day or two, you'll see a doctor in a more formal setting. Eh?"

Too tired to argue, John nods. "Right. Thanks."

Sally's mobile rings, and she leaves the room with a faint smile in his direction. He has something important to ask her, but it keeps flickering out of reach, quicksilver, too sharp and too fast. "For now," Stamford says, standing, "you look exhausted. Get some rest. Doctor's orders." He smiles, then elbows Seb. "This one can keep an eye on you. He's smarter than he looks."

Seb winces, and John cracks a smile at the expression. They file out of the room quietly, dimming the lights, and John swings his legs up onto the bed. He's asleep again before his head hits the pillow.

When he wakes for the second time, he's ravenously hungry, his head is finally beginning to clear again, and Seb is trying unsuccessfully to sneak from one side of his bedroom to the other. "Uh, hi," John says.

Seb jumps, then manages a weak smile and holds up a small paper bag. "I filled your prescription, wanted to make sure it was there when you woke up. Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you." He brightens, putting on a shy smile. "How are you feeling? Up for brekkie? Well, dinner? I could make some eggs."

John is beginning to see why Stamford thinks Seb will be such a decent doctor: for all his idiotic behaviour, bedside manners like his are few and far between. He casts a glance at his watch. "Thanks, Seb." He waits, pointedly, for Seb to leave the room, then rings Sally.

She answers almost immediately. "I'm thinking about blocking your number, you know."

"Oh, you'd miss giving me constant updates. You know you would."

A laugh. "You're certainly in a better mood. If you're feeling equal to the challenge, shall we meet somewhere for dinner?"

"That's fine," John says, and holds his hand over the receiver. "Seb, don't worry about the eggs!"

"Nobody appreciates my culinary talents," Seb whines, and John grins, going back to the phone.

"Sorry. This is part of a scheme between you and Stamford to get me eating right again, isn't it?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Sally says. She sounds a little distant, not entirely committed to the friendly banter. He feels a chill. Something's happened. "Curry, that little place just around the corner? Half an hour?"

"I'll be there."

The difference between his frame of mind prior to his nap and his frame of mind afterwards are, well, like night and day. John lingers on the street corner, breathing in the brisk night air and all its assorted city-smells. When Sally appears, she smiles at him, relief plain on her face, and he smiles back, feeling a bit giddy.

Halfway through the chana masala, she shoots him a penetrating gaze, as though evaluating his condition. Finally, she sighs. "All right. There's been a new development on the Sanderson case, something very disturbing. I wasn't sure if I should bring it up or not, but I think you deserve to know. You might be able to provide some insight."

"Thank you," John says, a bit cautiously. Sally clears her throat and stares pointedly at the piece of naan bread in his hand, frozen mid-way to his mouth. Rolling his eyes, John takes a large bite.

"All right. Lina Sanderson's gone missing."

"What?" John drops the rest of the bread. "How is that possible?"

"She slipped out of custody about two hours ago. She's a clever kid, pretended she was going to the loo and went out a window. One of the officers minding her saw her sprinting away, but she was gone by the time he thought to run after her. Her aunt and uncle are worried sick. We're hoping she couldn't have gone far on her own. A seven-year-old wandering the streets of London is sure to attract attention at some point. We've got a perimeter set up, so we're confident she'll be found sooner rather than later."

"Jesus." John leans back in his chair. "Are there any new developments on the, uh, murder-suicide?"

Sally glances over her shoulder, but the restaurant is nearly empty, apart from them. "Yeah," she says. "I think I've finally convinced Lestrade there's more going on here than meets the eye, though he's starting to wonder why I'm dancing around the issue so much. Thank you for that, by the way. My career appreciates the whole lying-to-my-boss thing no end."

"You're welcome," John says, automatically. She flicks a grain of rice at him.

"The coroner's report helped on that front. She thinks the angle was wrong for Mrs. Sanderson to have slashed her own throat. No hesitation marks. Same professional standards as the stab wound on Mr. Sanderson."

"I find it hard to believe that nobody else on the boat saw anything."

"That's the other thing the coroner found. Apparently, they were dead for several hours before their tumble into the Thames. We think the bodies were probably cleaned up, virtually no blood, so they'd just look like two people dozing on the boat ride. Someone did push them in, certainly – or two someones, given that they'd need to have smuggled the bodies aboard in the first place – but it seems like it was easy enough to do without being caught. The first body drew everyone's attention overboard, and it would be simple to escape in the confusion over the second."

"And the fall in the water would do a lot to destroy forensic evidence." John takes another bite of food, chewing thoughtfully. "Any thoughts about motive?"

"There was no evidence of domestic assault on the wife or the girl," Sally says, stirring her own curry. "Like I said, the husband has some pretty major gambling debts. Could be he took money from the wrong people. We're following up on it now."

"Did you get a chance to interview Lina? She must know something. Maybe she saw someone when the parents dropped her off."

"Her aunt and uncle brought her in this morning, and we were about to start when she made a run for it."

John watches her for a long moment. "You have a theory."

Sally meets his eyes, lips tightening into a thin line. "You won't like it. I think it's just coincidence, John, honestly. Mr. Sanderson got in trouble with the wrong people, his wife was in on it, they dropped off their daughter and went to plead for their lives, and they were murdered."

"And somehow, somebody knew to put a message in the newspaper in a format so that I'd read it and understand it."

Sally tilts her head. "Okay. But why bring you there? I think something else was supposed to happen, and the Sandersons' murder got in the way."

John snorts, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. "Oh, come on. That's far too much of a coincidence."

"Odds are, coincidences have to happen sometime," Sally says, then sighs and throws up her hands. "What do you want from me, John? I'm trying to come up with an explanation that doesn't involve Sherlock playing some sick game with you, drawing you into... well, whatever the hell this is."

"I don't need you to protect me," John says, softly.

Sally rubs her forehead, then sighs, the tension slowly melting from her shoulders. "Right. I know. I'm not. We just... we need to find this little girl and figure out what she knows."

"You think she ran because she knows something?"

"I think she ran because her parents are dead and she's afraid," Sally says, and again, John thinks he catches a glimpse of something personal, there, something deeper and darker, but it's gone in an instant. "And who can blame her? It's not just-"

The door jingles open, and Sally stops mid-sentence, jaw slack, staring fixedly over John's shoulder. He turns.

Lina Sanderson is standing in the doorway, all but buried in an oversized jacket, peering around the restaurant thoughtfully. When her eyes light on their table, she waves.

Sally launches herself from her chair, and grabs the girl by the arm. "Lina!" She crouches down, eye-to-eye, and John notices she doesn't release her grip on the girl. "Are you hurt? Where have you been? You've been worrying us all sick."

"Hi," Lina says, sounding a little baffled by the attention. "Um." She pushes past Sally, stares up at John. "I had to ask you something, and Auntie wouldn't listen."

John realizes his naan, covered in curry, is dripping onto the table, forgotten mid-bite. He drops it. "Um. Right. Yes?"

"Your curly-haired man, the one you're looking for." Lina glances over her shoulder at the few diners, then lowers her voice to a valiant attempt at a whisper. "Is his name Sherlock?"

Sally calls it in immediately, but, faced with Lina's pleading expression, temporizes until Lestrade agrees to let her delay bringing the girl in by one hour. John can hear his voice over the phone, loud and high with stress. "And for God's sake, Donovan, don't make it any longer than one hour. I understand she only wants to talk with you, but there's a procedure for these things. I can't reach the aunt and uncle, but as soon as they return my call, I want you back here."

"Yes, sir," Sally says, and hangs up. "Eighteen."

John blinks, leaning back as the waitress sets a bowl of plain rice and a platter of naan bread in front of Lina, who is staring at the two adults in rapt fascination. "Sorry?"

"That's eighteen favours I've done you that could put my job in jeopardy. I'll be coming to collect at some point, mark my words."

Lina kicks at the legs of her chair. "Are Auntie and Uncle angry?"

Sally puts her hand over Lina's. "I think you scared them, sweetie. You shouldn't have run away like that."

Lina frowns. "I had to talk to you, and it's always safe to talk to the police."

"Just out of curiosity," John says, mind filled with images of a seven-year-old navigating the Tube alone, "how did you get here?"

"I went to where all the cars are and hid there. When Miss Sergeant Donovan came out, I thought maybe she was going to see you, so I went into her car when she put some boxes into the back seat."

John snorts a laugh, and Sally shoots him a disapproving glare. "What? You can't fault her logic. I bet you're a champion at hide-and-seek too."

Lina grins, shyly, but the smile flickers and fades. "Mum could always find me, when I hid. She didn't find me this time. She isn't coming back, is she? I'll never see her again."

To her credit, Sally looks as horrified as John feels at the prospect of tackling theological implications with a child. She manages a smile, and an evasion. "You'll be living with your aunt and uncle, all right? Do you like them?" There's a bit of intensity behind the question, which John files away to consider in more detail at a later date.

Lina nods, then breaks into a smile again. "They're nice. And they have a big house. And three dogs."

Sally grins. "That's great." She glances at John, warningly. Go easy on her, I get it.

"Listen, Lina," John says, cautiously. Her attention flickers back to him, startling in its intensity. "How do you know Sherlock?"

Lina shrugs, hunches down in her chair. "He needed my help, once. There was a bad man hiding and he knew I was good at hide and seek, so he told me to go inside this big house and pretend I was looking for my Mum and Da, and I saw the bad man was in there, and I went outside and told him so. And he gave me five pounds." Her eyes go wide. "I told Mum and Da I found it on the ground, but he gave it to me. He was nice. Sort of weird, but nice."

Sally, speechless through Lina's story, finally sputters, "A child, John? He used a child on a case?"

John winces. "He wouldn't have done it if he didn't think it was completely safe," he says, but it's a weak excuse at best, and they both know it.

"You have got to be sh-" Sally catches herself, with a glance at the bewildered Lina. "You have got to be kidding me, John. This is motive. Someone could be thinking of her as the Freak's accomplice, for Christ's sake. Going after her family."

"Or trying to go after Sherlock through her," John says, then rubs his eyes, hard, watching the sparks behind his eyelids. "Okay, we have to think. We have to-" He pauses. "Did Lestrade say they couldn't get in touch with the aunt and uncle?"

Sally freezes, then whips out her mobile. "Donovan here. Send a patrol out to the Sanderson-Kaminsky house. Yes, now. Don't enter until I get there – we could have a hostage situation." She turns to Lina, whose face is pale. "Okay, sweetie, you have to stay with John, here."

John is about to argue that Sally should let him come with her, but Lina slides off her chair and clings to his arm. "Be careful," he says, instead. She nods, once, and then she's gone.

"Are Auntie and Uncle going to die, too?" Lina says, her voice high and shrill.

John takes a deep breath. "I hope not. Sally's one of the best, Lina. She's going to try and protect them. Okay?"

"Okay," Lina says, then adds, thoughtfully, "Will the person who killed Mum and Da be there too?"

With a startled jolt, John leans a bit closer, searching her face. She looks terrified, yes, but underneath it, there's a hint of that strange, grown-up anger. "Maybe," he says, cautiously, with a feeling like he's treading on thin ice.

Lina nods, solemnly, and says, in exactly the same tone of voice, "Will Sally hurt him?"

John feels a muscle in his jaw tighten, and catches himself glancing around the room, as though for support. Everyone seems to be engrossed in their meals once again. No help from that quarter. He takes a deep breath. "No, Lina. She doesn't want to hurt him. She might have to, but she will try to put him away from other people for a long, long time, so he never hurts anyone again."

Lina frowns, thinking this over, then says, "That isn't enough."

John shrugs. "Nothing would be enough. But this is something."

She turns that over in silence for several more minutes, picking absently at her rice, then says, sullenly, "Isn't enough," and goes back to kicking her feet against her chair's legs.

John tries not to check his mobile every few seconds, and only half-succeeds, acutely aware of Lina's eyes on him every time he looks. When the phone finally does buzz with a new text, he nearly leaps out of his skin. They're alive. One man with a knife apprehended just outside the house, killed himself before we could take him in for questioning. Family coming by the restaurant to pick up Lina. No sign of our friend. Then, a few seconds later. Oh, and he cut my arm. Hurts like hell. Needed a few stitches. That's nineteen you owe me, at least.

Fighting past the commingled wave of panic and relief, he grins at Lina. "They're okay. Sally rescued them. They're coming to take you home."

"Oh," says Lina, solemnly, and bursts into tears.

The next few hours pass in something of a blur. In line with John's recent run of luck, Lestrade himself is the one accompanying the Sanderson-Kaminskys to pick up their niece. John attempts an innocent who-me-I-was-just-passing-through-officer look, which is not one he's ever had much success with in the past.

"Fancy meeting you here," Lestrade says, and almost smiles. "Small city, eh?"

"Hm," John says, thrown off-guard. "Yes."

And without any further recriminations, Lestrade takes the girl outside, to a tearful reunion with her aunt and uncle. John hangs back, leaves the waitress a generous tip and an apology for all the fuss, and wonders about Lestrade's lack of reaction. Some days, he thinks, it seems very much like everyone in the world knows what's happening to John Watson except for John Watson himself.

He goes home, after that, and is relieved to find a note from Seb on the kitchen table. Out with the lads. Picked up some groceries. Get some rest or I'll call Stamford again!!!

Grinning, he sets a pot of water to boil and flops down on the sofa. He's feeling giddy again, though the daring rescue was entirely by proxy this time around, a contact high at best. His head is spinning with possibilities – Sherlock, alive, and pursued by some unknown assassin, trying to draw him out by any means necessary. Sherlock, alive, and one step ahead of some criminal element, drawing a trap close around, like a noose. Sherlock, alive, and trying to communicate with him.

The first two words echo over and over in his mind. Sherlock, alive. But why the messages in the newspaper? Where does John Watson, unemployed ex-army doctor and part-time madman, fit into all this?

He heaves a sigh, lets his head rest back against the arm of the couch, and is half-asleep by the time the kettle's whistling rouses him again. He's in the process of steeping the tea when a knock sounds at the door. A quiet evening's always too good to be true, he reminds himself, not without good humour.

With a sigh, he flings open the door. "Seb, I thought you-"

He pauses. Standing in the doorway is Molly Hooper, smiling uncertainly. "Um," she says. "Hello, John."

His heart freezes in his chest. He hasn't really realized, up to now, just how much effort he's been putting into avoiding the echoes of his old life. He opens his mouth, works it silently for a few moments, then swallows, and says, "Molly. Hi."

"Hi," she says. "Hello. Yes. Can I, er." She waves a hand meaningfully.

"Oh. Yes. Right." He stands back, and she steps inside. "I was just pouring myself a cuppa, can I-"

"Oh, no, no thanks, that's fine." She smiles, nervously, but something's changed about her in the months since Sherlock's disappearance, John thinks. There's something brighter about the eyes. "Oh, wow," she says. "You don't look so good."

He blinks at her, then moves to pour the tea. "So I've heard."

She leans closer, squinting at him, then seems to realize what she's doing and all but flings herself back. "Er. Sorry. Probably poison, by the way."

He nearly drops the kettle. "Excuse me?"

"Poison," she repeats, matter-of-factly. "You've been feeling off for a while. Someone's poisoning you, systematically. Is your flatmate Sebastian Moran? Is he home?"

"Seb? No, he's just gone out for the night." John takes a second look at the tea kettle and, slowly, sets it down.

"Mm," Molly says. "He's, um, he was Moriarty's second-in-command. Sort of. They were thick as thieves, apparently."

"Oh," says John, in a small voice, and sits on a kitchen chair. Falls more than sits.

"We thought he'd probably try to keep you off your guard, eventually try to kill you," Molly says, a bit too cheerfully. "Didn't expect him to do it gradually, like this. Smart man." She pauses. "Er. That's not what I mean. I mean-"

"I know what you mean," John says, weakly. Something catches, at the back of his mind. "We?"

"Right," says Molly, and straightens. "Yes. That's what I'm here to talk with you about. Well, the poisoning thing too, that was important."

"I should say."

Molly grins, and she looks more alive than he's ever seen her, practically bouncing on her toes. "I have a message for you," she says, "from Mr. Sherlock Holmes."

Date: 2012-01-30 05:21 pm (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
Seb! I thought that was where you were going, and then I thought that was too obvious and it must be misdirection. Well done you!

And eee, Molly!

Date: 2012-01-30 05:38 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] kalima1955
Well this is fun! I love all the versions of "after the Fall"
Thanks for writing.


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