Monster

Chapter 7

It wasn't at all like it was in the movies.

When Molly Hooper began to regain consciousness, she didn't simply open her eyes and know where she was and what had happened. Her senses slowly awoke one at a time, beginning with her sense of smell. From the distinct antiseptic scents she detected, Molly knew she was in a hospital, which made perfect sense. It was St. Bart's, of course.

Next came hearing. She heard a woman's warm, soothing tones, which reminded Molly of her mum. But she couldn't make out the words. Occasionally a man's deep voice interrupted her dreams, but it wasn't Sherlock's. She consistently heard the beeps of machines and the high-pitched alarm that sounded when an IV was empty. She also recognized the faint humming of a sequential compression device inflating pneumatic stockings to help lower limb circulation and prevent blood clots. But why would she be wearing pneumatic stockings? It didn't make sense. Why would she be in a hospital bed? Had she fallen at work and hit her head? Had she suddenly taken ill?

Sherlock would know. If she were sick, he certainly would be nearby. So she focused her energy on turning her thoughts into words and called his name, but she could never quite say it. Only unfamiliar voices came to comfort her. Confused and annoyed, Molly tried to force her leaden eyes open only to have her traitorous lids fall shut and the sleepiness she had been fighting overtake her again.

It wasn't until she heard Sherlock's voice and felt his hands on hers that she almost fully woke up. He sounded funny, almost emotional. She would ask him about it later. For now, she knew she was safe and that everything would be OK.

~s~s~s~s~

"Mr. Holmes?"

Sherlock awoke with a start but didn't give any outward signs of it. Having spent many nights conducting surveillance in dangerous settings, he had trained himself to open his eyes to full wakefulness and take in his surroundings quickly. He noted he still had on the pale blue scrubs the nurse had given him the night before, and that the very same nurse stood next to him as he slumped in a side chair next to Molly's bed.

"Mr. Holmes?" she repeated. "Can you step out into the hall for a moment?"

Stretching to his full height, Sherlock noted his side was sore from rolling down the hill and his jaw ached from Dom's punch, but these minor injuries were nothing compared to Molly's. His chest grew tight as he watched the easy rise and fall of Molly's chest as she slept without worry.

As if she could read his mind, the nurse patted his arm. "She's going to be all right."

She led him to the doorway and spoke in hushed tones. "I'm Adile Behar, Dr. Geoffrey Schaeffer's head nurse. He is the surgeon who operated on Molly. I'm not the ICU nurse, but I've been following Molly's case closely."

"And you spoke to my brother."

"He called after Dr. Schaeffer contacted the Home Office about the Monster."

Sherlock narrowed his eyes. "That mark on her left arm. The Monster's mark. You had seen it before?"

"Yes," Adile said. "Except in Zelengora he branded the women. In Molly's case he punched her arm. For some reason, something in his unstable mind told him that he had to mark every woman he beat. Molly's mark will fade.

"The reason I asked you out here is to tell you that I spoke to your brother again while you were asleep. He is on his way here with a Dr. Watson. I told him you needed fresh clothes. He sounds like a nice man."

Sherlock was about to argue that statement when he heard Molly stirring in her bed.

"Sherlock?" she whispered hoarsely.

He flew to her side. "What do you need?"

It was their question, the one she had asked before helping him fake his death, the one he asked after she had been in a car accident. It reminded them of where they had started and who they were now.

"You," she would always answer and this time was no different. He kissed the back of her hand.

Noticing the night duty nurse step in with fresh IV bags, Sherlock lightly brushed a strand of hair off her swollen face. "The nurse is here to attend to you, so I'm going to step out for a moment. I'll be right back."

"OK."

He waited until Molly dozed off again before walking to the hall. Feeling the weight of the past few days settling on his shoulders, Sherlock leaned against the wall outside her door and slowly slid to the floor.

~s~s~s~s~

The next day over coffee in the doctor's lounge, John listened to Geoff describe Molly's surgery in detail, then to Adile who shared how touch-and-go it had been. He in turn explained the complicated web that had connected Dom, Milverton, Lady Eva, Sherlock, and Molly.

"You said you just came from Lady Eva. How is she?" Adile asked.

John grew somber. "She's recovering from her heart attack very slowly. Her nephew is with her now and plans to run her estate."

"I've always said having loved ones near helps the patient recover more quickly. Since Sherlock has been here, Molly is doing much better," said Dr. Schaeffer.

"Sherlock is a very interesting man," Adile commented.

"Yes, that's one word for him," John said with a chuckle. "I know he appreciates what you've both done for Molly. If you hadn't called the Home Office, we wouldn't have known where she was."

Geoff leaned over and kissed Adile on the cheek. "This lady is the reason why I called. She wouldn't give up."

Unaccustomed to public displays of affection, Adile turned a shade of red that reminded John of Molly. He set his empty cup on the table and stood. "I'm sure Sherlock'll be round to thank you, too. That is if he ever leaves Molly's side."

"They should be moving Molly into a regular room now, so I'll chase him out to get some fresh air," Adile said.

After John had left, Geoff stared into Adile's warm brown eyes. "I can hardly believe the Monster was here in Cornwall for years and that he is finally dead. I only hope this gives peace to all those girls we treated."

Adile gave his hand a loving squeeze. "And now it's almost time for our Molly to go home."

~s~s~s~s~

Mycroft stood at the hospital's main entrance watching Sherlock take one last drag on a cigarette before crushing it under foot.

"Have you taken it up again?" said Mycroft with a predictably sardonic smile.

Sherlock snorted derisively. "Don't you think after what I've been through this week, I deserve at least one cigarette?"

"Dr. Hooper might not agree. I hear she is quite adamant about your giving up the habit."

Sherlock couldn't argue that point so he ignored it. "When are you returning to London?"

"Today. Anthea should be here momentarily." The brothers stood stiffly next to one another. "Are your hotel accommodations satisfactory?"

Sherlock shrugged. "I hadn't noticed. The hospital has let me stay with Molly past visiting hours."

"How is Dr. Hooper this morning?"

"Good. She's being moved out of ICU right now."

"And you?"

"I'm obviously not being moved out of ICU."

"If that was an attempt at humor, I suggest you go back to the drawing board." Mycroft's tone was cool.

Sherlock squinted into the bright sunshine. "That agent, the woman you assigned to tail me? She is one of your better ones."

"Coming from you that is high praise."

"She proved helpful," Sherlock said.

"Considering she saved your life, I would hope you'd think so."

"All of your connections and arrangements during this time have been . . . helpful."

Knowing this was as close to a "thank you" as he would ever get, Mycroft said, "I know Dr. Hooper is important to you. I would hate to think what you would become without her. Perhaps you can properly introduce us now that she is your girlfriend."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I would like things between you and me to go back to normal. Leave me alone."

"You really are a bloody prat."

Sherlock was surprised to see John standing behind them, a deep frown etched on his usually friendly face.

"I'm used to his rudeness, doctor," Mycroft said dryly. "Although why he never told me about his relationship with Dr. Hooper is beyond me."

"I don't tell you about any of my relationships," Sherlock snapped.

"That's because you only have three!" John said. "Sherlock, without Mycroft's help we wouldn't have found Molly. He's even arranged for her medical transport back to London. You owe him some courtesy."

"Oh that's right, you two have become quite the buddies now, haven't you?" Sherlock sneered.

"Stop being such a child!" John shouted as Sherlock stalked toward a grassy area next to the car park.

Mycroft sighed. "Look after him for me, doctor. I don't want him to do something he will regret."

John felt frozen in place. "What do you mean?"

"Sherlock has had overwhelming emotions flooding him this week. He may decide to flee them altogether—and their cause." Spying Anthea arrive with his car, Mycroft walked to the curb. "Good day, John."

~s~s~s~s~

Sherlock stopped near a large elm tree and stared up into its irregular branches that splayed across the sky like fingers spread wide. Hearing his best friend approach, he took a deep breath.

"If you are coming to yell at me more, don't bother. I have more important things on my mind than your behavior lessons."

John walked past him and stood on the other side of the trunk. "I'm not coming to yell at you, although you deserve it. Right now I'm more concerned about something Mycroft just told me."

"And what did my dear brother say?"

"That everything that has happened this week may make you decide to leave Molly. Tell me that isn't true, or so help me Sherlock, I will punch you in the nose."

~s~s~s~s~

Adile studied her patient carefully. Molly's bruises were fading, her incision was healing nicely, and her broken bones were mending. But what troubled the nurse was the look of sadness in Molly's eyes.

"Can I get you anything?" Adile asked.

"No, thank you." Molly turned her face to the warm sunlight streaming in through a small window.

Adile sat on the edge of the bed. "Is there something you'd like to talk about?"

Molly bit her lip. "I can't remember what happened to me. None of it. It's all blank."

"What's the last thing you do remember?"

Molly stared intently at her hands. "Getting dressed that morning. Wondering how Sherlock was getting on with his case. Starting a letter to my friend Sarah. The next thing I know, I'm here, I'm hurt, and I have a large gap of time I can't account for. This man—this Monster—is dead, so I'll never be able to fill in the details."

"Perhaps that's for the best," Adile suggested. "Hasn't Sherlock told you what happened? Your friend, Dr. Watson, filled me and Dr. Schaeffer in earlier."

"Sherlock told me what he knows and the parts he surmised, but I have a feeling he's holding something back," she said softly. "I think he feels guilty."

"What about?"

"Because his line of work landed me here. Not that I blame him for what happened," she added quickly. "Not for a minute. But sometimes I wonder . . ."

"Yes?"

Molly's eyes shone brightly. "I wonder when he'll realize that I'm a complication. That his work and his life would be simpler if he didn't have to worry about me."

Adile paused for a moment. "I wouldn't presume to give you advice, but I hope you'll let me share a little from my own experience. When I finished nursing school, I volunteered to work at a refugee center. I'd never left Istanbul or my family before. I was naïve and didn't know a lot about the world.

"The first night I met Dr. Schaeffer. He was charismatic, larger than life, and very good-looking. It didn't matter that he was older or of a different nationality. I fell in love at first sight. Silly, right?"

Molly blushed. "Not that silly."

"Over time he grew to love me, too. I traveled with him around the world, mainly to war zones where we served the most helpless of victims. Most of the time I was a help to him, but there were times when I was a hindrance. On one particular occasion we almost lost a patient because he was worried I was under fire at a field hospital in Afghanistan. I believed his work was too important to be interrupted by me, so I decided to end things with him."

"What happened?"

"He let me know in no uncertain terms that his work was important, but so was I and that he didn't want me to ever leave him."

Molly sank lower into her pillow. "The thing is, Sherlock isn't like Dr. Schaeffer. He isn't like most men. He's pretty divorced from his feelings."

"That actually sounds like most men I know," Adile said with a smile. "I saw him when he came looking for you. He was a sight—soaking wet, muddy, exhausted. But what I remember the most was his sheer joy and relief. And how much he so obviously loved you. If you are having doubts, don't doubt that."

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