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A stress headache tingled at the edge of his skull as serious brown eyes regarded Anthea. “Surely you can’t be serious,” he said, not taking the invitation that she held in front of him.

“I’m afraid it can’t be avoided, sir. The fact is that you are expected to go with a date.” There was a gala to be held for the elite of London’s administration. While these galas were not rare, generally her boss was able to avoid attending. However, his invitation made it clear that he was expected to attend and with a guest.

“Fine, I will attend with you. Please make the arrangements,” he stated, picking up his fountain pen and signing the document in front of him.
Anthea regarded him seriously, her lips set into a fine line. “That will not do,” she replied simply.

Observant eyes flickered up at his assistant. An apologetic look was in her eye and her hand trembled slightly. “Ah, I see,” he stated, understanding that she already had a date. “Well, I am sure I will find somebody,” he said, sounding much more self assured than he felt. He didn’t have friends, and there was only one other female that he knew well enough to ask.

--

A small sigh graced Mycroft’s breath as he stared at the door of 221B momentarily before knocking. He forced a smile at Mrs. Hudson as she regarded him with her usual poorly hidden scowl. “Mrs. Hudson, a pleasure as always,” he stated, walking in as she stepped out of his way. “I assume Sherlock is upstairs?” he asked, pausing only slightly to receive her nearly hostile response before he made his way up the stairs.

“He has a guest,” she stated, following him part of the way up the stairs.

“Thank you for granting me that awareness,” he said, hoping that by saying it was a guest, it was the one person whom he wished to see. He didn’t think that simply stopping by the morgue would be appropriate. Not only was it a disgusting place, he did not trust the lack of security in place. Unbeknownst to many, 221B Baker Street was one of the most secure places in all of London.

Walking in without knocking, he regarded his brother who was sitting in his chair. Forcing a smile, he let his eye drift over the other two in the room. John looked uneasy, scratching at his cheek lightly. And Molly, who had been making a cup of tea in the kitchen, looked absolutely petrified. He couldn’t say that he blamed any of them. It hadn’t been very long since Eurus’ recapture, and the four of them had been tangled in her web.

He had been quite shocked, were he to be honest with himself, that all of the players involved had survived. He rather expected that at least one of them would have died. If he had been a betting man, the deceased would have been either him or Molly. Considering his current predicament, he almost wished Sherlock had shot him.

“Sherlock, John – a pleasure as always,” he forced out in a tone that made it apparently that he was saying the words because they were expected, not because he meant them.

“Mycroft, what are you doing here?” Sherlock asked, his slightly widened eyes betraying his monotone voice regarding his brothers unexpected visit.

“Molly, good to see you,” he said, uncharacteristically warm and even giving the woman a bit of smile.

“Uh, uh, I….,” Molly stammered looking at Sherlock for support. “Nice to see you too, Mycroft,” she said, moving past him to sit on the couch. Once settled, her eyes flittered back to Sherlock before going back to Mycroft. Slouching so that her elbows were resting on her knees, she put her cup down too hard, causing it to clack on the table and startle her. “Mycroft, I want to thank you. Sherlock has explained everything, and your team did a remarkable job of securing and recreating my flat. It was very kind of you.”

She still looked hurt and scared, Mycroft noticed. The tremor in her hands the way that she kept looking at Sherlock made him wonder just whom in the room she was uncomfortable with. “I actually came to see Molly,” he said, swaying back and forth a bit, as he dealt with his own insecurities. She had absolutely no reason to agree to help him, and certainly he could offer her no good reason to trust him after all of these years. “I, um,” he looked down at her, and paused pressing his lips together as those they were trying to form words for the first time.

On the other side of the room, Sherlock smirked as John wore a look of utter bewilderment and looked between the Holmes brothers. Mycroft Holmes was many things, but there were precious few times that he could ever recall the man being tongue-tied.

“Molly Hooper,” he started as though he were penning a letter rather than speaking directly to her, “I have a function to attend, where it highly encouraged that I bring a date. I would be deeply honored if you would agree to attend with me.”

An understanding shifted in Molly’s eyes, which did not leave Mycroft this time.

“You’re being forced to bring a date?” John asked incredulously, interrupting the moment.

Stunned at the interruption, Mycroft took a moment before responding, “Yes. It is quite common for these kinds of affairs. And, I have decided to ask Miss Hooper.” He looked at her expectantly, and was confused as the look of comprehension shifted away from her eyes. Instead, she looked at him with the same look of guarded confusion with which she approached most of her life.

“Are you making fun of me?” she asked, the hurt now evident in her eyes. “I know that I may not be as polished as you or Sherlock, but that does not mean that I exist for you to make fun of.”

John regarded her protectively, as he looked from her to Mycroft. If this was a joke of some sort, he would have no qualms about escorting the man out of the flat, regardless of that man being Sherlock’s brother.

“I assure you that this has nothing to do with fun,” Mycroft said. “My request that you join me is entirely serious.”

She had no idea where she would get the dress or any of the accoutrements necessary to attend a gala of this sort, especially with Mr. Mycroft Holmes himself. Never the less, it had always been her dream to dress up and interact with society’s elite. And, that was precisely what he was offering her.

“When is it?” she asked, causing Sherlock to turn his head in a way that meant that she piqued his interest.

“This weekend. I will have Anthea assist you in procuring anything you need for the occasion,” he stated.

A small smile twitched at the corners of Molly’s lips. Although he made it sound as though the entire affair was only for work purposes, she was pleased that she would not need to put herself in debt to afford to take him up on his offer. “I accept,” she stated, before John could interject again.

“Marvelous,” Mycroft stated without an ounce of joy in his voice. He pulled out his phone and texted Molly. “I have just sent you a number by which to reach Anthea. Send her your … sizes… and she will procure all that you will need. “ A light blush rose in his cheeks at this.

“Thank you,” Molly said, in all ways genuine. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“Hm, well at least one of us is,” Mycroft replied, with absolutely no indication that he knew or cared how cutting his remark was. “I will see you Saturday evening. I will send a car to pick you up at your flat, shall we say at seven o’clock?” he asked.

Her usual mask of casual concern was back in place. “That would be lovely. Thank you,” she said.

The three of them watched in silence as Mycroft, his reason for showing up now completed, hastily left the flat.

---

Just as Mycroft had said, a car was sent to Molly’s flat at seven o’clock sharp Saturday evening. The night before a dress that was more elegant than anything that Molly had ever worn was delivered. The midnight blue chiffon gown was floor length with a shallow V neckline and inverted pleating at the hem. The beading and embellishments were subtle and delightfully gorgeous. The silver dress sandals that accompanied it were a perfect fit.

Molly had spent most of the day getting her hair and nails done. She even had her make up professionally done. Quite honestly, this sort of style was something that she could get used to. Even having the garments bought for her made things quite a bit easier than attempting to figure out what was expected of her. Society rules were so tricky.

Meeting up with Mycroft, she smiled at him and greeted him brightly, but knew better than to mention that he had bought her outfit. She followed him quietly from conversation to conversation, already aware that her entire purpose of being here was to make him look better. He had to look like he had made a good choice, a charming choice on bringing her to the gala. As an unknown, she had to blend in – disappear. It was all about him tonight, and she was honored that of all the ladies in the room, he had chosen her to attend.

“Hesshessh!” he sneezed, suddenly – barely catching it in his handkerchief.

"Bless you," she responded instinctively.

They had taken a few steps away from the crowd in order to get flute of champagne. She sipped hers gingerly, wanting to look like she belonged without imbibing. It wasn’t an easy task. Before she could respond, he had apologized, putting the champagne flute down on a table.

He gave her half of a glance before walking away. The glance told her not to follow, so she chose to join a group of people who seemed to be talking kindly enough. She knew that there was a way of speaking politely without being polite at all. She had been on the receiving end of that sort of verbiage for most of her life, and she prided herself on being able to keep impassive during those times.

A nice looking young man with short hair and deep brown eyes smiled at her as she joined the group. “And you are will Mr. Holmes are you not?” he asked, engaging her in conversation right away.

“I am,” she said, confidently. After all, she was. It wasn’t a lie. She belonged there; he had invited her himself.

“And what kind of employment do you have, dear?” an older lady in a champagne colored ball, floor length gown asked. Her short blonde hair was curled within an inch of its ability, and her make up was far too heavy for her.

“I’m a surgeon,” Molly answered professionally. She knew enough not to say that she worked at the city morgue. She almost felt as though she was lying about her job. As the Specialist Registrar at the St. Barts, she had completed the required education and training. They didn’t need to know the rest.

“Very interesting,” the man stated with a smile. “Where are you practicing?” he asked, enthusiastically.

“Miss Hooper works at St. Bartholomew’s,” Mycroft answered, coming up behind her. Before anyone could say anything more, he offered her his arm. “Shall we?”

She looked at his arm as though it were poisonous before wrapping her own arm around it lightly. She worked hard to make it look to the casual observer like she was friendly with him. But, she knew he didn’t want to be touched, least of all by her. Even though all their years of knowing each other, they really knew very little about each other.

She looked up at him, giving him an awkward smile, when he shivered. “Are you all –.”

“Heh-Esshfff!” he a sneezed into a well timed handkerchief. “ESsshhff!” He sighed, and dabbed his nose before pocketing his handkerchief.

“Bless you,” she offered as he offered his own apologies.

All too aware of people staring, something that she had gotten used to in her own life, she pressed her lips together and looked up at him. “Mycroft, might we step outside for a moment. I heard someone talking about a lovely balcony view?” She looked at him expectantly.

With a long look and a short sigh he said, “I suppose,” and lead the way.

It was cold up on the balcony. Much colder than she had expected. She had hoped to give Mycroft the break that he needed from prying eyes. But, as she watched him shiver as another cold gust of air whipped past, she realized that he had made an error in judgement. “It is beautiful, but much colder than I expected. I am hardly dressed for it.”

“Speaking of that,” he said, following her cue and leading her back inside, “you look quite lovely today Molly.”

She smiled. “Thank you. I’ll have to send a note to your friend who made the suggestion.”

He regarded her with a spark of confusion for just a moment, before withdrawing his handkerchief again. “HetSCCHH! EsshhH! ES-Huh-TSCCCH! Pardon me,” he breathed, tending to his nose, and very pointedly not looking around.

“You know it’s all right if we leave early,” Molly offered, her voice barely a whisper. “I don’t mind.”

“I don’t recall asking for your opinion nor stating there was an issue which you were to weigh in on,” Mycroft responded tersely. “I still have business to attend to here. This may seem like fun for you, but I assure you it is anything but fun for me.”

Having been friends with Sherlock for so long had its effect on Molly, and she was able to see the deflection technique for what it was. “I’m not like the others, you know. I don’t mind telling you what I’m thinking, Mycroft. But, I’ll be respectful as I do,” she lied. Of course she would rather be respectful to him. The man wielded more power than anyone else in the British government. In fact, according to Sherlock, the man was the British government.

“That’s precisely the difference between you and the other ladies here. They did not need to be trained on how to dress and how to act. They understand their place in society, unlike you who are just visiting. You’re a nobody, Miss Hooper. And, if all goes well, come tomorrow, no one will even remember that you were here.” He withdrew his handkerchief again and put it over his nose, squeezing his nostrils closed as he squelched three quick sneezes. “My apologies again.” He sniffed lightly.

Coldness replaced the empathy so often seen in Molly’s gaze. Taking a step back, she crossed her arm over her torso in subconscious protection against the verbal assault. Used to being under attack from Sherlock, she found his brother no different, except that he wasn’t playing on her feelings to get what he wanted. “I’ll tell you this once and only once Mycroft. You’re not like him you know. You are not like your brother.” She was about to follow it up with words about how she would not put up with being treated by Mycroft the way she had been treated by Sherlock for so long.

He froze. Whatever Mycroft had expected her to say in retort, that was certainly not it. He looked at her as though she were prey and dove in for the kill. “Excuse me, but are you going to presume to tell me how much better you know my brother than I do?” What is it, Miss Hooper? What is the brilliant deduction that you have for me that your experiences in the morgue have taught you? They haven’t taught you how to make a single declarative stamen, or act among the living. So I am most interested in hearing how you - how a surgeon, of the dead, I might add would deduce that I am not like my brother?” Mycroft could not put a finger on why her comment had such an unhinging effect on him. For years he had tried to get people to understand that he was not like Sherlock. And yet, she was a lovely young woman, intelligent in her own right, who confirmed his deepest desire and he was responding by releasing a tirade of fury at her in a public setting.

Tears shook in her pretty brown eyes. Lips pursed in defiance as she regarded the elder Holmes stoically. Her own voice echoed in her head at a memory that she tried so often to forget. You always say the most awful things. Every time. “Well, Mr. Holmes, I suppose that is a family trait,” she said, her voice remarkably calm for how embarrassed she was. “I am certain that you don’t need my deductions to understand my meaning.” She walked away, taking up solace in the sitting area of the ladies room.

Meanwhile, Mycroft was coping with a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had heard the warble in her voice, faint though it was. He knew that others were watching, although he felt as though he was in the right and therefore didn’t mind their stares.

“I told you she’d be difficult,” Anthea said, coming up to him.

Turning from her, he pinched his nose through his handkerchief and suppressed three more sneezes.

“Ah, I see. Does she know?” she asked, pulling an individual packet of cold pills out of her purse.

Mycroft nodded slowly. For years, he had assumed that Molly was just an awkward morgue registrar specialist. He knew that she had to be good at her job in order to keep her employment at St. Barts. But, short of that, he had always considered her awkward and painfully dull. And yet, while watching her during the night, even the way she interacted with him, he started to wonder if perhaps he had misjudged her somehow. With a sigh, Mycroft turned to Anthea. “I don’t suppose you could speak to her on my behalf? I’m more out of sorts than usual tonight. She complimented me, and I responded exceptionally poorly. It won’t do at all to have her hiding in the ladies room for the rest of the night.”

“You owe me,” Anthea said, as she walked towards the ladies room.

** I can’t tell you. I don’t know where I am ** Molly

** Molly just tell us what you’re near, and we’ll come get you.** John

**What did Mycroft do?** SH

**Nothing. It was me. I’m awful at these things. ** Molly

** I know. Just tell us where you are and you won’t inflict yourself on anyone else ** SH

30 seconds later...

** Sorry. John says that was not kind.** SH

The thirty seconds was all it took for Molly to dissolve in a fit of tears. She had inflicted herself on the great Mycroft Holmes, and everyone else. She didn’t belong here, and she needed to leave. But, she couldn’t tell her friends where she was, and she knew she could not simply leave Mycroft here. It would be beyond improper.
“Whoever he is. He’s not worth this,” a small mousey brunette said, as she walked past. “Here,” she handed Molly a few tissues. “Don’t worry dear. They never mean it at things like this. It’s just politics.” She disappeared into a stall.

Molly smiled a hair and blew her nose. She casually didn’t look at Anthea when she walked in.

“Well that was quite a spectacle. Don’t worry, though. I doubt anyone else noticed. It is my job to keep an eye on my boss after all. And he has kept his eye on you. More than I had thought he would.” Anthea sat down next to Molly. “Now, here’s the way we’re going to do this. I’m going to fix your make up, and you’re going to text your friends and make sure that they know that Mycroft has been nothing but a gentleman towards you. Then you two will enjoy the rest of the night, and next time he needs a date, he can ask someone more of his caliber. Any of the ladies out there would give their left arm to have your spot tonight. And, you make a spectacle.”

Molly looked down at her phone.

**Molly. ** SH

** I said I apologize. ** SH

** Molly where are you? ** John

** Molly?** John

** I’m fine. Tell Sherlock his brother has been a gentleman and I’m fine.** Molly

A few long minutes later, Molly was ready to rejoin the gala. She thanked Anthea, who ignored her and walked out with purpose, giving her boss a nod before rejoining her date.

With a deep breath, Molly tried to emulate Anthea, but was a luke-warm representation. Worrying at her bottom lip, she came up to Mycroft. “I apologize,” she said, with reverence. “Do excuse my outburst, Mr. Holmes. This is not the place for such discussions. Pardon my banal mind for forgetting where I am and with whom I am attending.” She gave him a sheepish grin as she thought about the possibility of Sherlock rushing in. It was a good thing that Mycroft and his brother lead totally different lives. If it was thought that she had embarrassed Mycroft, goodness knew what sort of humiliation he would suffer if Sherlock was there.

He furrowed his brow a bit while he listened. Part of it was because of the headache that was creeping in at his temples. But, part was because he did not enjoy seeing the beta part of Molly. He enjoyed seeing those other parts – the comfortable, confident parts that were not typically part of her personality.
Her stomach bottomed out as she watched his brow furrow. She found herself wishing that Sherlock would be coming in at any second. “I’m going to get a glass of wine. Would you like one?” she asked sweetly as she started to walk away.

Instead of answering, his breath hitched.

She paused and raised an eyebrow at him, as though warning him not to lose control. Or was he imagining that? Withdrawing his handkerchief from his pocket, he brought it flat against his lower counterpane. “Heh-Tessff!” he sneezed quickly, rubbing his noes through the soft cloth.

“God bless you,” she responded softly, respectfully. “Perhaps a brandy?” she asked, smiling just a bit.

She was doing it again. Showing just a bit of a personality he didn’t recognize. He blinked and drew a breath before answering, “A brandy would be nice, thank you.” He watched her walk away as he tried to puzzle out the odd change of personality. This wasn’t just acting, that was easy to spot. It was the other personality traits. Those were too natural to be faked. He released a breath as Anthea came to his side. “What did you say to her?”

“I simply reminded her of who you are and her job tonight.” She smiled before asking, “Do you have an antihistamine?”

“You made her feel important?” Mycroft asked, ignoring the offer of assistance. He turned to regard his personal assistant.

“Of course not. I made her feel replaceable,” Anthea said with a smug smile.

Knowing what he did of Molly, Mycroft felt completely confident in his response. “No, you didn’t.” She couldn't have. Molly had already felt that way when he asked her, when she arrived, and while she may have been certain of it now, Anthea did not originate that thought.

By the time she came back, Anthea was gone and Mycroft was in pedantic conversation with someone she didn’t recognize. When he put his hand out, she gave him his brandy, and stood next to him quietly sipping her wine.

When the other man left, Mycroft gave her a forced half smile and put his empty brandy glass on the tray of a server walking past. Molly followed suit, nearly knocking over the tray in the process.

Pretending not to notice, Mycroft asked, “Do you dance?”

Molly huffed a laugh. “Have you seen me walk?” she asked, taking a shot at herself. “Um… no… not well,” she said, looking down and pulling his a deep breath. The truth was that she loved to dance and had taken lessons for years.

“I don’t dance,” Mycroft stated. “I don’t enjoy it. I dislike having to touch people, to be close to so many, and not be able to keep my eye on my surroundings. But, our parents paid for us to have dance lessons.”

She looked at him, making eye contact with the man whom she would have thought would never have been so honest with her. With all of the important people around, she could not make heads nor tails of why he would give her the time of day at all, and not ignore her for someone more on his level.

“Yes,” he said, as though she had asked a question. “Sherlock and I can dance.” He approached her in one quick step.

Forcing herself not to step back in fear, she remembered where she was. He had to look trustworthy, not terrifying. And she had to look like she trusted him to make that happen. Putting his hand out in askance, he inquired, “May I have this dance, Miss Hooper?”

Her mouth gaped open for a second. “Oh I’m not good enough,” she deflected. “I’ll bring you the wrong kind of attention.”

His eyebrows furrowed again. It was obvious that she wanted to dance. And while she had bouts of brilliance throughout the night, it occurred to him that either she was extremely self conscious or she did not know what was expected of her. “That is not the correct response,” he whispered.

“Oh yes. My apologies Mr. Holmes. It would be my honor to dance with you. Thank you,” she said, as though it were scripted. Placing her hand in his, she noticed that his palms were sweating. She didn’t know why but it struck her as odd.

As they proceeded to the dance floor Mycroft asked, “Why are you insisting on using my formal name?”

“Because I don’t really have the right to call you by your first name, have I?” she answered back, her voice barely audible over the music. She missed the befuddled look he gave her as she continued with a whispered, “I probably don’t have the clearance for it anyway.” At this his face protected the confusion that he felt to the core, as he tried to decipher this odd change in attitude.

“Excuse me,” he said, as they neared the floor. Pulling out his cell phone he texted ** What did you say to her?** to Anthea. He noticed that there were an exorbitant number of texts from Sherlock, which he chose to ignore. He deduced that Molly had contacted him and now Sherlock was trying to plant himself firmly in the middle of something that really wasn’t his concern, as always.

“Call me Mycroft. It makes me more comfortable. Besides, you’ve earned it.” He pat her on the shoulder, and gingerly took her hand. It was warm and soft, and far more confident than he had expected as he lead her out onto the dance floor.

Moments after reaching the dance floor Mycroft could tell that Molly had taken years worth of dance lessons. All of her awkwardness melted away as they moved to the slow rhythm of the music. He smiled a bit at her, feeling more comfortable on the dance floor with her than he could ever remember being. They both knew the rules and abided by them. It was the first time all night that he had relaxed.

Suddenly, his eyes fluttered closed as another sneeze was upon him. Taking a moment to twirl her gently, he withdrew his handkerchief from his pocket and brought it up to his nose and mouth. The “Kefft’CHOO!” that emanated from him was far stronger than he had anticipated and he let go of her quite unceremoniously as he bent at the waist. He sniffed and was overtaken by another “Kefft’CHOO!” As a few smaller sneezes were smothered into his handkerchief, “Ketissh! Tissh! Essshh!” he felt himself be gently guided off the dance floor. The guider hand a hand on his upper arm and another at the small of his back, the pressure both firm and noninvasive. Following the guidance he sat down in a chair and was finally able to get a glimpse of the person who had assisted him. “Thank you, Molly,” he whispered.

She placed a hand on his shoulder, and looked around to make certain that no one was watching. She was certain that people had seen the burst of sneezing. But she was concerned that people watching what she was certain Mycroft would consider an embarrassing display, would only embarrass him further.

Tending to his nose, he felt oddly protected with her standing next to him. Certainly if they were attacked, he was the more deadly of the two. But, there was something about being in her presence that made him know that he was not going to be chastised, belittled, or teased for his outburst. He felt himself become techy at the idea that she might coddle him. But, she wasn’t giving him that indication either. Her hands weren’t coming near his face, she wasn’t supplying him with pills or tissues that he didn’t ask for, and she wasn’t using a saccharin sweet voice to speak to him. It was oddly comforting. After he collected his bearings, he cleared his throat. “My apologies. Would you care to go back to the dance floor?” he asked, punctuating it with a light sniffle.

She paused, looking him over. She wanted to ask if he was up for it, but she had already been instructed on the correct thing to say. Sitting down next to him she decided on, “My apologies, Mycroft. It’s a bit crowded out there and I am starting to tire.” She looked at him with her big doe eyes, and a sheepish grin, and butterflies exploded in her stomach.

She was certain that she was handling this improperly.

He regarded her slowly, his eyes softening as he looked over the young beauty in front of him. She really was beautiful, if not refined. He had never noticed before. Not really. But, for someone who had been understood as all but worthless, she had a fair amount of class in her… hidden behind years of the insecurities placed upon someone unfortunate enough to make friends with Sherlock.

Suddenly, he was overcome with large sneeze which barely gave him enough warning to cover it with his handkerchief. Allowing himself to rest against his handkerchief for a moment, he felt the congestion in his sinuses shift. He also felt a hand return to his shoulder. Looking up, he was startled when Molly was nowhere to be seen, and in her place was Anthea. “What did you do with her?” Mycroft asked in a way that only those who knew him would know was protective.

“I sent her for a drink. She’ll be back,” she said, handing Mycroft a clean handkerchief. She had seen a change in the two of them over the night. They had gotten on more naturally than she had ever seen Mycroft gel with anyone – even the people he was supposed to be getting on with. Once he pocketed his used handkerchief, she handed him two cold pills, which he swallowed dry.

“You should take her home soon. You know how these parties get after eleven o’clock,” Anthea suggested.

Mycroft nodded, but said nothing. He had located Molly and was amazed at how easily she spoke to people when she didn’t think anyone was watching.

Anthea smirked. “You know, she’d be relatively easy to keep,” she said quietly.

Snapping back to attention, Mycroft looked at her in shock. “Excuse me?”

Chapter Text

**Where is he?** Anthea

** Who?** Molly

** Mycroft** Anthea

** I don’t know.** Molly

**He’s not answering his phone.** Anthea

**It’s Sunday.** Molly

**He has a meeting this afternoon.** Anthea

**Of course.** Molly

Molly had no idea what exactly made her go to the grand estate of the great Mycroft Holmes.  Dressed in a blouse and jeans, she wondered if she could even get in – if he would let her in.  Or, if he was even home.  Forgoing a cursory text, she figured that if he wasn’t answering his assistant, he wouldn’t answer her. 

Coming up to the door, she bounced back in surprise as a retinal scanner smoothly transitioned from a panel next to the door knocker.  It was as though she had suddenly dropped into one of those techy suspense movies.  Moving a bit closer to the scanner, she tried not to blink as the red beam moved across her eye.  Doctor Molly Hooper, you are admitted, the nearly human voice intoned.  In wondered briefly if Mycroft had someone actually checking the people who wanted to gain access to his home.  She decided it would not surprise her. 

There was a loud thunk as what sounded like a deadbolt slid over.  Wondering idly if that was for atheistic she walked in and was more than a little jarred by the fact that nobody was at the door to greet her.  The foyer was lovely, with vaulted ceiling, and she winced as her call for, “Mycroft?” echoed off the walls.  “It’s Molly,” she called, slowly making her way in.

Inquisitive brown eyes took in her surroundings, as she followed the layout of the house upstairs and into the long hallway.  Feeling quite like she was intruding she went to call for him again when he appeared at a door, wrapped in a black robe with a hand gun trained on her chest. 

She sucked in a deep breath and paused, her heart pounding in her ears so hard they began to ring.  She knew that Mycroft was a powerful man, a dangerous man, and that she was standing, uninvited in his home. 

“Molly?” he breathed, pointing the gun down as he withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket.  “Hetshhiff!” he sneezed heavily into it.  Pulling his eyes open, he regarded her skeptically, as though he wasn’t really certain that she was there.

“Bless you,” she offered, letting out her breath.  “Mycroft you look positively ill,” she stated pointing out the obvious. 

Giving her one of his more sarcastic grins, he followed it with, “Thank you for making that clear.  I was asleep until someone decided to infiltrate my home.  How-ever did you get in?” His smile was snide, and it was apparent that he did not want to be having this conversation. 

“Your retinal scanner let me in,” she replied simply.  She had thought about how it addressed her as ‘Doctor’, when Mycroft only ever addressed her as ‘Miss’, but opted not to bring that up currently. 

Mycroft’s expression turned to one of confusion as he entered his bedroom, leaving the door ajar behind him.  Knowing that from a Holmes, this was the only sort of invitation that she would receive, she followed him into the room, standing idly by his armoire.  

Mycroft gave a congested sniff and a sigh when he picked up his phone and started scrolling through.  “I see.  Well, Miss Hooper.  What can I do for you?”  He eased himself back into bed, sighing with great relief when he leaned against his pillows. 

Her look softened to one of compassion, and he scoffed as soon as he saw it.  “Oh, Mother Mary, am I going to have to be subjected to you putting your hand on my forehead to ascertain if I have a fever?  Molly-coddling perhaps?”

She opened her mouth to say something, and then stopped, her eyes sliding to the side, as a look that could only be described as sheepish anger crossed her face.   And then it was gone, replaced by the slouched shoulders and inability to make eye contact. 

Mycroft’s head twitched the slightest amount as suddenly he realized that Molly was interesting.  He had never given her much of a second glance before the night prior.  He knew that she was Sherlock’s friend, of course.  And, for reasons that Mycroft couldn’t fathom, Sherlock trusted her.  But, beyond that there had never been any reason to believe that she was anything except exactly as she presented herself.   Thinking back over the way she always seemed to be pondering something, eyes almost never making contact with the subject that she was engaged in conversation with, body slouched in a seemingly slovenly position causing her clothes to appear to be too baggy over her curvy form.  Until the night before.  When among people who did not know her, she was … different.  And, standing here in front of him, she seemed caught somewhere between the confidence that she had exuded at the gala when she didn’t think he was looking, and who she was whenever anyone she knew was nearby. 
Raising a finger in the universal sign for ‘hold on,’ Mycroft brought his handkerchief back up to his face.  “Huh-Shccfff!  Hughesshhfff!” he sneezed congestedly. 

Molly blessed him, but said nothing else.  And, he noticed, that look of anger had returned, although now it was focused, rather than sheepish.  Indeed, he had hit on something.  But, he didn’t know what.  Perhaps it was the fever slowing him down, but he wanted to figure out this puzzle that stood before him.  “Molly, if I told you to just tell me what you’re thinking, without any filters or concern for my feelings,” he hissed out the last word as though it was a contemptible loathsome thing, “would you do it?”

The look was gone in a blink, but there was something that lingered just below the surface.  Her figure had not moved, the muscles of her back and limbs taut and not at all comfortable.  “Maybe.”

The corners of his lips turned up minutely as he wondered what about this new puzzle Sherlock had missed, that they all had missed.   “Do it,” he commanded in a tone that broached no room for argument.

Molly pursed her lips together.

“No, you’re thinking too much.  Just tell me.  You won’t hurt my feelings, if that’s what your concerned about.”  He didn’t care what she thought of him… at least not in this case. 

Her statement from the night before that he was not like his brother was still niggling in his mind and he wondered what she had meant by it.  In that instance, he supposed he cared, but it was on a case by case basis.  He didn’t care what she, Molly Hooper, thought of him in general.  Those sorts of thoughts were not his concern. 

“I don’t need to touch you to know how you’re feeling Mycroft,” she stated, with a self-assurance he had never heard from her before.  “To start with, your house is warmer than it is outside, although you spend very little time here, which means that you have chosen to turn the heat on.”  She paused, blinking rapidly twice. 

An interesting tick, Mycroft thought.  Was she processing or was she pausing?  Most of all he was surprised by her deduction.  She had been correct.  “Go on,” he lead.

“I don’t need the air to tell me how you’re feeling.  The fact is that your carotid pulse is beating abnormally fast, and you’re sweating both on your forehead and over your upper lip, depicting signs of a fever.  Your nose is chapped, but that would be too easy to notice, after all you have been sneezing.  So, perhaps your handkerchief is a bit too rough, or maybe your rubbing your nose too hard.  Your sneezes are congested, and you are choosing – I would wager – to release those from your chest, elevating the wetness, but decreasing the amount of congestion that is releasing.   So, a headache is also at play.  Judging from the fact that you did not answer your cell phone when Anthea texted, I would say a rather bad one, perhaps with some light sensitivity.”  She drew a deep breath through her nose and let it go in a sigh as though she had felt good about her deductions.  And then it was gone, as she dropped her gaze from the ailing man and crossed an arm across her torso, as though she was expecting a rebuke.

“You are correct in your deductions.  I must say, I’m quite impressed,” he complimented.  It was not a natural occurrence, and he weighed his words carefully.  But, she had impressed him, both in her deductions and the way she presented them.  “But, why do you do that?” he asked, pointing vaguely at her.  A twitch of his nose and a flutter of his eye lashes brought his handkerchief back to his face.  “Hetchhessff!! Essshheff!!”  He tended to his nose for a moment before muttering, “Apologies.”

She was able to bless him when her phone dinged.

**Is he alive?** Anthea

**Yes, but he is not well.** Molly

**No matter.  The 15:00 meeting has been moved to 13:00.  Make sure he gets to the office.** Anthea

“Anthea says your three o’clock has been moved to one o’clock. That’s only two hours from now.”  She looked over the ill man.  She couldn’t imagine him making it into the office in such a state.  And, worse, she couldn’t imagine what those he was meeting with would think of being confined in a room with an ill man.  Nor what an ill man was doing in such a high position of the government.  It wasn’t right, or fair, but despite medical advances, many people still treated disease as though it was something dirty. 

He groaned in response and swallowed thickly.  “Might I ask a favor of you, Miss Hooper?” he asked, far too formally for what had just transpired.

She nodded once, but didn’t response.  “Might you accompany me to the office?” 

There was no reasoning that followed, but Molly assumed that he had one.  A good reason seemed to be too much to ask for the Holmes brothers.  However, considering that she was there and had nothing else planned for the day, it seemed like as good an idea as any.  “And Miss Hooper,” he followed up with, as he started to stand.  “As much as you are able I want you to tell me exactly what you are think-hing – HepSHUH!”  He snuffled into his handkerchief before continuing, “No matter how off-putting or rude you may think it will seem to me.”

“Bless you.  Why?” she asked, coming over closer to him in case he lost his footing. 

“Because I like you this way,” he answered without thinking.  A small blush rose in his cheeks as he realized what he had just said.  Too late to take it back, it was his turn to be on the defensive. 

“How do you take your tea?” Molly said, wishing to get out of the room as soon as possible. 

“Honey please.  No lemon.”

---

The ride in the car was a long one, and Molly was pleased that she had taken public transportation to his house to begin with.  It was apparent that Mycroft was not only ill, but ailing, and she was at a bit of a loss as to what to do.   She knew that he wasn’t like John, who took comfort in physical contact, or like Sherlock who seemed to take some contact in her just being there.  In fact, she figured that Mycroft took no comfort whatsoever in either. 

Rather than thinking too hard on it, however, she grabbed a bottle of water and poured some into a cup, putting it into one of the holders.  She watched as gradually fell to sleep, dropping his handkerchief in his lap as he did so.  She tried not to stare at him, but couldn’t help but notice how much younger and more vulnerable he looked when he was asleep.  The smirk was gone from his lips and he even smiled once or twice in his dreams. 

When the car stopped, she told the driver to wait a moment before opening the door.  “Mycroft,” she said, daring not to touch him.  She knew full well how well trained he was and how dangerous he could be.  She did not wish to startle him in any way.  “Mycroft, we’ve arrived at the office,” she said in the most authoritative voice that she could muster. 

There was still something odd about acting the way she was comfortable rather than the way she was expected.  And maybe moreso because she was doing it towards the most dangerous man she knew.

Mycroft’s eyes tugged open with a wince at the sunlight.  Molly went to hand him the water when he quickly released three heavy sneezes, “Huh-HASSCCHH!! ESSCCHHH!  EhESSSSH!”  Unable to make eye contact with Molly, he relieved his nose and groaned audibly.  “How did I let you convince me of this?” he grumbled. 

“Me?  I don’t understand,” Molly retorted before realizing that he was probably speaking to himself rather to her.

“Well you didn’t try to stop me, did you?” he snapped.

“Like you would have listened,” she stated back. 

He paused and looked at her, knocking on the ceiling as a call for his driver to let them out.  He looked as though he was going to say something, when he doubled over with a wet “HESSSSTTT!”  A few crunchy coughs followed.  Molly was about to hand him the water when the door opened.  He ushered her out first and then followed. 

---

While they walked through The Cabinet Office, Molly found it difficult to stay focused and not look at the intricate decorations and architecture.  Having never been there before, it was rather like touring through a museum, and although Mycroft was ill, she had a hard time keeping up with his stride.

“Please don’t lag behind, Molly,” he chastised her. 

She quickened her step, tripping just a bit as she did so.  “Sorry,” she said, even though she remained considerably distracted by her surroundings.  She felt woefully underdressed – jeans and a blouse.  She had not expected to be somewhere so swanky, and hoped that she would not make a fool of herself.  This could be the last time that she ever had the privilege of being visiting, and she wanted to remember every beautiful inch. 

Upon coming up to Mycroft’s office, she paused and looked about for a waiting area.  “Erm, where should I stay?” she asked, as he spoke to Anthea about if his guests had arrived.

“Stay?  You’re coming in.  This directly concerns you,” he said, taking the folders that Anthea handed him and walking inside the meeting room.  Holding the door open, he looked at her, and gave her a rather pointed look.

She scurried inside, shocked to see John and Sherlock sitting at the long cherrywood conference table. 

“You’ll forgive me, gentlemen if we make this short.  I have no interest in games today.”  The congestion which had been so evident in the car was now seemingly gone, and he appeared to be managing his symptoms remarkably well. 

“What is going on here?”  Molly asked, thoroughly confused. 

“There you see it gentlemen.  Molly is being returned to you and no worse for the wear.  I, on the other hand…”  He withdrew his handkerchief and sneezed with such veracity that the others in the room startled a bit. 

For reasons that she could not place, empathy perhaps, Molly wanted to usher Mycroft into a chair.  But, that wouldn’t do, would it?  He was arguably the most important man in all of Britain, and she was a Specialist Registrar for the dead.

“Sit down before you fall down,” Sherlock commanded. 

“I was home,” she interjected.  “If you wanted to contact me, you could have texted me.”

“You said you weren’t okay last night.  We were worried.”

“So, why didn’t you stop by?” she asked, annoyance filling her voice.

“We’d made plans to talk about how it went, but when I woke up ill this morning, I attempted to cancel,” Mycroft explained as though it was all perfectly logical.

Molly pursed her lips with a small sigh.  “I apologize for worrying you.  I was having a tough time of it.  But, Mycroft was…” she looked at him, as though afraid of saying the wrong thing and hurting him or his reputation.  “… a perfect gentleman.  It was just overwhelming.  Thank you, Mycroft, for the experience.  And, Sherlock, John, the next time you’re concerned about me just ask me.”  She bit her lip and looked down, curving her shoulders as she tried to make herself as small as possible to fade out of this embarrassing affair.

---

Later…

**Thank you for the water.** Mycroft

**What water?* *Anthea

**In the car.** Mycroft

**I didn’t leave you water in your car.** Anthea


Oh…
 

Chapter Text

Molly pulled her head back from her microscope as she wondered why on earth there would be maggot eggs in the liver of the man whom she had just autopsied. She pondered it for a minute, before brushing it off. While she would have texted it to Sherlock, she didn’t want him to just solve it for her. There was something fun about figuring it out for herself, anyway.

The door squeaked and she turned towards the door. No one was there. “Sherlock, is that you?” she asked, looking back down as though she was looking through her microscope. But, she knew someone had come in. The doors were too heavy to move on their own. She started to move towards her computer to hit the panic button when she heard it… or
more correctly, didn’t hear it.

“I know you’re in here. That heater has clicked forever, so I know you’re standing in front of it,” she stated. What she didn’t know was who it was. She quickly made her way to her computer and shook her mouse to take it out of sleep mode.

“No cause for alarm, Miss Hooper,” Mycroft’s familiar voice stated.

She breathed out a sigh of relief. “Don’t do that!” she chastised, as tears prickled her eyes. She was aware that she was utterly vulnerable if someone whom she didn’t want there came in. But, she also knew that there were security and that a certain level of clearance was needed to find her, so she didn’t worry about it too much.

“My apologies for scaring you. I wanted to see how perceptive you were when you thought you were alone.” He carried his handkerchief in his hand as he got closer. Were he feeling better he would have offered it to her, but as it was he was too well used to share. Just the thought of doing so made his lip curl with disgust.

“Did I pass?” she asked, cheekily. She started recording her findings in the morgue report.

“You could do better,” he answered. “I was wondering if, in restitution for scaring you, you would allow me to take you out to dinner.” He had been thinking about her since Sunday. But, he didn’t feel comfortable simply texting her. What if she didn’t want to hear from him? The weekend certainly hadn’t been what either one of them would call fun.

“Has Sherlock given his approval?” she snapped at him.

He sighed. “I do apologize for that. Sherlock and John were so concerned about you after whatever you had texted them that Sherlock nearly filled my phone with texts. I agreed to the meeting very early in the morning, so that I could get some sleep. You were not supposed to be there, but well… things changed.” He could only imagine how she felt about it. He knew he would be very upset if the role were reversed. Not that he would ever admit it.

“I accept,” she answered with a smile. “Both your apology and your offer for dinner. Let me get my purse.”

Once arriving at the restaurant that Mycroft had chosen, the two of them fell into a comfortable conversation about the strange decomposition of the corpse that she was studying. She gave him an amused smile when he blanched at the comments about maggot eggs. Years of working at her job made her aware that this was when she had to stop speaking of it.

After a short, companionable silence Mycroft found himself staring at her. “You are fascinating, you know. Why did you not ever show this side of your personality?” Mycroft asked, learning toward her with a bemused smile.
She shook her head in her familiar bashful fashion. “I’m not smart enough, am I? I’m not smart enough, not quick enough. I don’t process as fast as you and Sherlock do.” Her heart thudded in her chest. She had never said these words to someone else before. These were just the thoughts that swam around her mind whenever she was in the presence of the Holmes brothers.

Mycroft paused, taking that in. Processing speed. Her constant downplaying of her own intelligence was because she didn’t process the world as fast as he and Sherlock. In an odd way, he thought that she was somewhere in between Sherlock and John when it came to processing speeds.

He recalled when she had accompanied Sherlock on investigations and suddenly he realized why that world out better than he had expected. “Is that what it is, Molly? Do you think that I’ve never made a mistake?”

“Of course not. Your brain – your marvelous brain – doesn’t work like that. You see all the options and can weigh them against the odds for the best choices. It’s why you’re… well… who you are.”

It was his turn to smile bashfully at her. This entire mess with Eurus was a long line of infinitesimal mistakes that he didn’t even consider. And, yet, there she was, thinking him to be perfect.

“Besides,” she continued, “when you make mistakes, people die. What’s the worst that can happen when I make a mistake? Someone comes back to life?” She laughed a bit and then stopped. “I’m sorry,” she said, looking down at the center of the table. “Nobody ever gets my jokes.” She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “It’s, um… it’s a balance, you see.” She hoped by guiding him to her logic, he would be able to make sense of it. Even if he didn’t find it funny. She had never actually seen him laugh and wondered if he found anything funny, or if his mind was such a jumble of high stress scenarios that he couldn’t find the time or reason for humor.

Mycroft looked at her for a moment before leaning back in his chair. His arm was perched on the edge of the table as he pondered the balance between life and death… concepts that had been too real too recently. He thought about her idea of balance and how the two of them were in the middle – each working with one of the two parts. He smiled, the scorn leaving his eyes as he huffed a laugh, as he realized that Molly had made a rather sophisticated joke. “I get it. It’s not funny, but it’s poignant.”

She had started to smile before her face began to pale and her breathing became irregular.

The laugh gone from his face, he leaned towards her. “Are you all right?”

“I … I’m sorry. Yes,” she said, trying to calm her breathing. She had never before heard that someone understood her jokes. That’s why she didn’t tend to make them. But, he had laughed. He understood her. The idea was a lot for her to process.

“You’re not ill are you? I do hope you’re not coming down with my cold.”

She gave a light shake of her head. “No. I apologize. I…” She drew in a deep breath and let it go.

Mycroft signaled for the waiter and asked for a glass of ice water. He knew a panic attack when he saw one and he was ready to support the poor girl through what he imagined was a frightening and embarrassing affair.

“I’m sorry, Mycroft. It’s just that… nobody ever understands me. Not really. Not ever.” She looked at him as though she was about to cry, but her eyes were dry. The waiter put down the glass of water on the table.

Ah. Now that was something of a familiar feeling too. “Except perhaps the other person that no one else really understands,” he offered.

She smiled, regaining control of her breath, as she sipped the water that he had ordered. She tried to quell the feelings of excitement that blended in with the odd sadness that the one person who understood her was someone who would never feel anything for her. She was pretty certain that Mycroft was the human equivalent of a Vulcan.

Mycroft understood her distress. He often felt like he was in a fishbowl looking out at a sea of people who didn’t see him, or even the world they lived in. They saw so precious little and certainly never thought about the way it all came together. To find someone who understood him, whom he understood… it was a bit overwhelming. He decided right then that he would have a sambuka with dessert. “So,” he said, clearing his throat slightly, “does this mean that we will start calling each other some sort of pet name?” He sincerely hoped not.

She squinted at him a though he had just said the most ridiculous thing in the world. “Like what?” To Molly, their names were not the sort that could – or should – have been shortened.

“Well, my parents tend to call me Mike or Mikey,” he offered, quietly.

She giggled a bit, but turned her amusement into a look of sympathy when she realized that he was stiffening, steeling himself for a cutting remark or other unkind notion. “You misunderstand,” she explained quickly. “Your name is not Michael, so using those nicknames does not make sense.”

“That’s what I always said,” he agreed, emphasizing the word ‘always’ with a stretch of his hands.
“Mycroft is your name. What else would I call you?” she asked, wondering if there was another name that he preferred. Maybe a middle name or a nickname that only a few people knew about.

“I don’t know. I have had friends who have called me My.” He hated that name too, but she had asked for alternatives.

“My what?” she asked, not understanding the shortening of his name. “Like my love or my dear? It seems to me that we don’t know each other well enough. And, besides, I don’t believe that it would bring you the comfort that it would bring me.” She froze, having realized what she said just a moment too late.

“Don’t be concerned. Now I know that if you call me that it’s because you have grown comfortable with me, rather than because you expect something from me… at least initially.”
Their food arrived and they spend some time eating in companionable silence. “Molly, why do you hide who you are?” He had asked a similar question earlier, but the more he got to know her, the more he realized that she hid herself behind smiles and sheepish looks.

“Protection. I’m a mousey, curvy, intelligent woman with no fashion sense and an appalling sense of humor. It’s pretty easy to hide who you are when there are so many other traits to show to the world.”

“I think it’s time for you to stop showing the world what they expect to see.”

She chewed her bite thoughtfully to gain her a few extra seconds. “I don’t know how, Mycroft,” she answered honestly.

He nodded. He had gotten to the point that she had just reached while he was in his early teenage years. He had no idea how he would have undone so many years of training if he had waited until he was an adult to do it. “I’ll help,” he offered, with a small smile.

Chapter Text

*She’s driving me mad* Mycroft Holmes
*Anthea?* SH
*No, Miss Hooper* Mycroft Holmes

10 Minutes Later
*What has she done?* SH
*She’s asked to see me again.*Mycroft Holmes
*How many times?* SH
*Once.* Mycroft Holmes

 

Molly sat on the couch of 221B not certain exactly why she had chosen those two to spend the day with. She had expected that they would leave off of the topic.  She had no idea why she expected that. 

“So, I hear you have an interest in my brother,” Sherlock mocked, having only bided time until John got the three of them tea. “Mycroft, hm? Interesting choice. I mean I suppose he’s better than Tom.”

Molly shrugged, not knowing what to say. She was still a little sore with the two of them for plotting with Mycroft as though she was some child to be looked over. “He’s kind to me. Well as kind as he can be. And he doesn’t treat me like I’m an idiot.”

John startled, looking at her with those empathetic puppy eyes.

Reading his facial expression, she gasped. “Not you John, of course. I mean I don’t think you think I’m an idiot. Just ignore me.” She sipped her tea and pointedly ignored the confused look Sherlock was giving her.

“Molly, you don’t think I think you’re an idiot, do you?” It didn’t make sense. He had always trusted her to help him, even trusted her to work alongside him. He wouldn’t suffer an idiot, and he didn’t tend to suffer when he was around Molly. He recalled telling her that she counted.

The sheepish look and shrug she gave him told him everything he needed to know. Not only did she think he undervalued her, but she undervalued herself when she was with him. He had apologized for what he had to do with Eurus, and wondered if they would ever be comfortable in each other’s presence again. “I’m sorry. I know your brain works slower than mine, but I never meant to make you feel like an idiot. It’s not your fault you are who you are.”

“Sherlock, stop!” John hissed, as he gave Molly a sideways glance. She was hunched on herself with tears in her eyes. “Mycroft may think these things – I’m sure he does. But, he doesn’t say them. That’s the difference between you and your brother.” She stood up, wishing to leave, but Mycroft had said that he would pick her up there. “Ta,” she said, picking up her things and going down to Mrs. Hudson’s flat.

She explained her situation, and then shook her head at the offer of a cup of tea. “I just want to get ready for my… “

“You’re date dear?” Mrs. Hudson prodded kindly.

Molly knew that there was no love lost between Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft, and she didn’t want to make things more tense than she had already made them upstairs. “I’m sure he doesn’t view it that way.”

“You’re dressing up and he’s taking you out. It’s a date. And, from what Sherlock was saying, it’s the second time you’ve seen him this week. Men are silly about these sorts of thing.”

“Third, actually. But, the last time was decidedly not a date.”

Mrs. Hudson nodded politely. “Well, you’d best get dressed dear. Use my room; it’s more spacious. And, don’t you worry about your hair dear, I’ll do that up for you.”

“My hair?” Molly asked, as she was ushered into the older woman’s bedroom.

When she emerged twenty minutes later, she was scrutinized by Mrs. Hudson. She had chosen a black pencil skirt and burgundy blouse. She had medium heeled shoes, and a watch and necklaces on. “You look rather more like you’re going for an interview than a date.”

“They are my interview clothes. I don’t get to dress up much.”

“Where are your stockings, dear?”

A blush crept into Molly’s cheeks. “They had a tear. And I don’t have another pair.”

“Well you certainly can’t go without. I’ll get John to make a run.” She paused, smiling at her own joke.

Molly worried her bottom lip as Mrs. Hudson pulled her hair into a nice French twist, holding it in with a black comb. “It does stick out more on my hair, but it looks elegant on you,” she told Molly.

“Thank you,” she said, looking at the clock and hoping that John would get there soon. As though answering her question, there was a knock on the door.

“Stay there,” Mrs. Hudson ordered, pouring Molly another cup of tea before answering it.

It was John with the bag. “May I speak to her?” he asked quietly.

“No. She’s got an important date and she doesn’t need to be upset more.”

“It wasn’t him, Mrs. Hudson,” Molly tried to interject.

“I don’t care. You boys don’t get to make fun of a girl and then come around just because you upset her. You’ve put her through enough for one day.”

“Molly, I am sorry,” John said, regret tingeing his words.

“You didn’t do anything, John,” Molly said, coming into his view, but not trying to get past the gate keeper at the door.

“But, that’s it, isn’t it? I didn’t do anything. I just watched like a car accident, and you don’t deserve that.”

She swallowed back her emotions. “Thank you. Don’t worry about it, John. Truly.”

“You’d better worry about it. But, for now, all she has to worry about is putting on the finishing touches.” She took the bag, and handed it to Molly before closing the door on John. “It’s best to make them stew for a bit.”

Primped, preened and ready, Molly started to feel the nerves fluttering in her stomach.

“You don’t need to stand in the hall,” Mrs. Hudson said, a knowing look on her lips. “But, I will understand if you want to.”

Molly nodded and made sure her cell phone alarm was on. She didn’t want to keep the car waiting.

Thanking the older woman, she stepped out into the hallway and faced the door. Two minutes to go.

She heard the sound of throat clearing behind her. “Sherlock, if ever there wasn’t a time,” she stated angrily. Turning around she saw John sitting on the stairs.

Coming up to him, she crouched before him. “You see… Molly. Mycroft doesn’t have a lot of friends. Any really. And he doesn’t want them. I don’t want you to be hurt. And I don’t want to be part of it, if you are.” He gave her a sad sort of a smile.

“Mycroft has been very kind to me. I am sorry for worrying the both of you last weekend. I was just out of my depth. But, John, I don’t have a lot of friends either. And, I want to see if this can be a new friend. I mean…” She thought of the conversations they had been having, and how hard Mycroft worked to hide that part of his personality. “If he’s really smarter than Sherlock, then I’m certain he sees me as a complete idiot. But, it’s nice to be treated nicely. And I want it enjoy it.”

Her phone dinged and John reached out for her hand, giving it a squeeze when she let him.

---
“You’re upset. What happened?” Mycroft asked as soon as Molly sat down at the private table that he had procured at a very lavish restaurant.

“I’m not upset,” she nearly whispered, her voice barely audible above the quite sounds of the restaurant.

“What happened?” Mycroft against again, this time much more directly. “Did my idiot brother say something?”

There was that word again. Perhaps that was a Holmes thing too. She wondered if would have to walk out on both Holmes brothers in one thing.

“I don’t know why I had thought those texts would remain private,” he said with a sigh. “It’s nothing personal Molly. It’s just that it’s never happened before.”

Squinting her eyes slightly, she gave Mycroft a look of confusion, as she tried to puzzle out what her being an idiot had to do with never happening before. To the Holmes siblings, the whole world were idiots.

“Ah,” he said, reading her features. “That’s… he told you something different.”

“What’s never happened before?” she deflected with ease.

“What did he say to you?” he asked, unwilling to let that part of himself go just yet.

“I can text him,” she threatened in a monotone voice.

“But you won’t. You don’t want to text him first.” He sighed and rolled his eyes. “What did Sherlock say?”

She took a deep breath, smiling a bit at the waiter as he started to come over. “He called me that word you call each other,” she responded, the word still causing too much pain to what little ego that she had outside of work.

His eyes squinted a bit in contemplation and then widened. “That was not very kind of him. An idiot, did he say?” Inside, he was actually intrigued. It was a sort of term of endearment that they passed back and forth. For him to use it on Molly would have seemed cruel, but perhaps Sherlock had meant it differently. Goodness knew those sorts of miscommunications happened enough in his own life. More when he had started in his career. But, since then he had realized that there were certain ways to act, things to say, and things that would be quite unacceptable to other people. Once he had learned the rules of the game, he could play it. That was one lesson Sherlock had never learned. It was one of the things that made Mycroft smarter.

“Yes,” Molly whispered, obviously trying not to fall to pieces at the table.

Were Mycroft an empathetic man, he would have said words of comfort. But, as he was, he sat there and thought about the right thing to say to the young woman who far too recently had a terrible row with her own emotions. Something that she hid very well. Ah… “Molly, remember what we did on Sunday? I had asked you to just state your thoughts? Do it now. Just state them, don’t try to attach emotions to them. Or even logic.”

He had never done quite this before. As a child, teaching Sherlock how to deduce, he would often add in emotion. Thoughts to emotions to actions. This was in reverse. An action had taken place, which triggered emotions, and now he wanted to know her thoughts.

“I’m not an idiot and I’m not an experiment. I don’t want to be treated like either. And if you or your brother think that it’s all that I am, then I don’t want to see either of you again.” There, she had said it. But, the fact was that she did want to see them again. Both of them, in their own way. Although terribly separate from each other. “I do everything people ask of me. Everything. And nobody respects me.”

Mycroft regarded her seriously. He had come to this realization about himself as a child, as had his siblings. But, Molly… she had gone the other way. She tried to hide her intelligence and fit in among society. “You’re fascinating. And you may be the strongest woman I’ve ever met,” he stated, his voice low as though someone might overhear him. Something in him shifted. He still wanted to figure her out, but not on such a fleeting basis. He wanted to know what made her tick, and wanted to … shield… her from the world in which she had tried so long to hide. Oh no…

“Thank you, Mycroft. I am sorry for letting my emotions get the best of me. I know you find it rather tiresome.” She forced a smile at him.

“I do,” he agreed. “But, I’d rather know what you’re thinking. And honestly, knowing your thoughts bothers me less than that fake smile you do. If you don’t feel like smiling, you don’t have to.” He knew what it was to fake a smile. He did it all day long. He saw people fake smiles when they looked at him. But, Molly had a lovely smile when she cared to use it. “It makes me feel like you’re humoring me. And if that’s all it is, then there is no point in either of us being here at all.”

A real smile grew over her face, and he noticed that his heart started to beat just a little faster. Oh this is going to be problematic. “I like that. May I ask the same of you? I know you can’t tell me about work, and honestly I’d rather not know. But, I also know that you worry about Sherlock, and that you have other facets of your life. Perhaps we could talk about those?”

She shrunk back a little when he gave her a look that could only be described as predatory. “Or not. I don’t like holding one sided conversations. They make me uncomfortable. “

Mycroft regarded her silently for a moment. This was not the Molly that they had all gotten to know. Could it be possible that he was getting to know her better than anyone else? Could it be that she trusted him more than her brother, whom it was so obvious that she ‘loved’ for so long? The thought of the latter had him feeling a bit smug. “I understand. I’d rather sit in silence than forced conversation.”

Molly worried her bottom lip for a moment. This was not the Mycroft that she had gotten used to over the years. Could it be possible that he was letting her in? She knew there had to be something more to him, but he placed such a low price on emotions, that she didn’t think that they would ever have anything in common. Could it be that they weren’t really that different after all?

“So, what was it that you said to Sherlock, that you thought he told me?” she asked, a
asked hesitantly.

“I said you were bothering me,” he stated honestly. He figured it was only a matter of time before Sherlock told her that, and he wouldn’t give his brother the upper hand like that.

“Oh,” she said, her posture immediately shrinking in on itself again. Her jaw tensed and eyes slid to the side.

Damn… Watching her body language upset him more than he cared to admit. He didn’t like that she shrunk back when she felt that she had over stepped. Trained as a surgeon, he knew there had to be confidence in there somewhere. As he started to get to know her better, he realized the two of them were not wholly unalike, and that she was very deliberate with her actions. Perhaps as deliberate as he, and he wondered if this submissive display of body mechanics was part of what she thought was expected of her, done to illicit a certain response from him, or totally subconscious. He sighed lightly. Normally people were easy to figure out, but this woman seemed so complicated.

“I didn’t think one text was being overbearing. I suppose I should have paid more mind to the timing.”

“It’s not that,” he said, leaning forward and dropping his voice down to just above a whisper. “I’m not used to people wanting to see me. I don’t know what to do when it happens.”

“When it happens without motive you mean?” she asked, cocking her head to one side.

He smiled ever so slightly. “Yes.” This was all so new. Sherlock had often teased him for not having friends. He didn’t like the vulnerability that came with having friends. But, he had never connected with one the way he was with Molly, and it was… strange.

“I have no motive … I just like spending time with you is all,” she explained, still sheepish, as though she was about to say something wrong.

His mind raced. Words like that had not been common in his life. Certainly when someone wanted to extract something from him, or said because it was supposed to be. But, she appeared to be sincere. It made him feel strangely emotional. He allowed a playful smile to grace his normally guarded features. “I like being with you too,” he admitted. Eyes squinted at her as he waited for the snark about how he had always said he didn’t want friend, or the laughter that he had previously suffered in the presence of careless women. Her smile made him feel both a little more relaxed and, unwilling to let his guard down, a little more on edge.

They fell into a companionable and not all together uncomfortable silence. Sensing the lull in the conversation, the waiter came over and they ordered specials. Conversation was light after that, if not a little trite, both of them feeling each other out for signs of deception.

At the end of the night, Mycroft insisted on driving her home. It was important, and the least he could do. He could not allow her to just go home alone. London was not safe; London at night was worse. He focused on his phone for a bit, detaching and collecting his bearings. He hadn’t had a relationship like this with anyone in years, and he was – were he to be honest with himself – concerned. Not for his brother or his sister or John, but for himself. “Do text my brother and tell him that you’re safe. He’s texted me thirty seven times tonight.”

“How did you not pay attention to your phone vibrating that often? What if it was something important?” She surmised that someone important would be contacting him about something important. And while it was well known that Mycroft Holmes cared deeply and worried constantly for his brother, she knew that whatever Sherlock had to say was not important.

He smiled a bit and made a ‘hm’ sound in his throat that almost sounded like laughter. “He has his own special vibration. I can ignore him at will.”

She grinned at him and pulled out her own phone.

**I’m fine. Leave Mycroft alone. ** Molly

When he didn’t get back to her, and Mycroft gave her a slight nod without taking his eyes off his phone, she figured that what she had sent had either been seen or stopped the incessant texting. Either way, she figured it was approved.

When the car stopped, she drew a breath to speak, but he beat her to it.

“Thank you for tonight, Molly,” he said, putting his phone down and smiling, albeit uncomfortably, at her. “I rather enjoyed myself tonight, and I hope you did too.”

“I did thank you.” She gave him a small smile, warm and encouraging. It was obvious that he wanted to say something else, but she wasn’t certain if he would feel comfortable enough to do it yet. They had both learned so much about each other in such a short time.

“I don’t know if I’m saying this right, so forgive me. It has been a rather long time since I tried…” He pressed his lips together, his eyes darting around the inside of the car as he collected his thoughts. “I would like to see you again, Molly. Tuesday night perhaps?”

“Tuesday night would be great,” she said as her smile grew. She drew a breath to say that she would love that, but stopped figuring that sort of sentiment would not be welcomed.

Tilting his head towards her, he gave her a look that very clearly dictated, ‘Say it.’

“I would love that,” she mumbled, shifting to start to get out of the car.

Odd. Sentiment, but not insincere. Bashful, but sincere. As his sister would have put it, Molly had very complex emotions. He swallowed and put away any thoughts that he was like Eurus.

“I’ll have a car pick you up from work. Dress nicely,” he stated. He wanted her to dress comfortably, but not in the baggy mismatched clothing that she tended to wear. He knew that clothes were boring and matching them could be a pain. This was why he dressed in a suit and tie every day. There were no mistakes to be made once he figured out the formula. He wondered if he could impart that formula on Molly without her taking it offensively.

“And Mycroft?” she asked, standing next to the car and tilting her head so that she could make eye contact. “Get your tooth checked out. You’ve been pressing on it with your tongue all night.” She smiled knowingly at him and shut the door.

There were seldom few people who could read Mycroft Holmes, and Molly seemed adept at it. His tooth had been bothering him, but he had not been able to get it checked out yet. He carefully pushed on it again with his tongue, feeling the inflamed gum. Unsure what to make of it, he told his driver to go, and tried to focus on the upcoming state dinner.

Chapter Text

Tuesday
** I am not going to be available tonight. ** Mycroft Holmes
** It’s ok.  I understand. ** Molly
** Do you have availability tomorrow? ** Mycroft Holmes
** Yes. ** Molly
** I’ll be in touch. **
 
Wednesday
** I am not going to be available tonight. ** Mycroft Holmes
** It’s ok.  I understand. ** Molly
** Do you have availability tomorrow? ** Mycroft Holmes
** Yes. ** Molly
** I’ll be in touch. **
 
Thursday
** I am not going to be available tonight. ** Mycroft Holmes
** It’s ok.  I understand. You don’t have to pretend.** Molly
** Pretend?** Mycroft
** That you want to get together.  I understand that you don’t want to.** Molly
** Meet me at Diogenes at 18:00. ** Mycroft Holmes

 
 
 Molly had never been to the Diogenes, and was a little nervous about it.  She had not brought the right shoes for the slacks and swoop neck shirt that she was wearing.  The morgue was cold by nature, which is why she always wore so many layers.  Heels were not appropriate, and her feet always got so cold when she wore flats, so she hadn’t thought anything about wearing sneakers to work.  But, she didn’t have another pair at work, and – true to form – Mycroft had sent a car.  Best that he had, really, because without it she would have had no idea how to get to the club.
 
As soon as she entered, she realized that she was woefully underdressed.  Asking for Mycroft Holmes, the host gave her a skeptical look, but after a look at the book at the podium lead Molly back to a private room.  “Mr. Holmes is in his private room today,” he explained, as he lead her down a small hallway. 
“Mr. Holmes, your guest has arrived,” he said, through a small intercom.
 
“Send her in, Peter,” he said, coughing afterwards. 
 
Molly raised an eyebrow at the well-dressed young man who had brought her back.  But, he didn’t give her any indication to hearing the coughing.  Opening the door, he held it open as she walked through.
 
“Mycroft,” she said, professionally.  “Thank you for making the time to speak with me.”  She gave him a small smile and sat down, uninvited. 
 
He gave her a pressured grin, eye focused on her, until the door closed.  As soon as they were alone his posture relaxed and he turned away from her.
 
“Are you all right?” she asked, gently, leaning towards him. 
 
He put a hand up, and drew in a deep breath, bringing his handkerchief to cover his nose and mouth.  “Heh-ShhhUFF!!  Usshhh!! Ehh-Ta’SHHHH!”  Three violent and wet sneezes exploded out of him, rocking him at the waist.  His eyes remained closed as a wave of dizziness passed through him.
 
“Bless you.  Why didn’t you just tell me you have the flu?” she asked kindly.
 
She was good.  Tending to his rather congested nose, he coughed deeply as the pressure shifted.  Taking the moment to try to draw a deep breath, he mumbled, “The signal isn’t secure enough for that kind of talking.”
 
She nodded at him.  “That makes sense.  It’s not like we’re communicating with secured devices.”
 
He gave her a look that could only be described at relief.  How nice it was not to have everything he said measured or argued.  Wispy eyelashes fluttered closed as he brought the handkerchief back to his face.  “Heh…ehhh… HAH-Kesssh’tchoo!”  His shoulders hunched as he released deep coughs that shook his thin frame.  “Apologies for the interruption.”
 
“Please tell me you didn’t go to work like this,” she said, a warning tone in her voice.   She couldn’t help but give him a sympathetic look as it was clear that this was not just a simple cold.  The man was obviously feverish and miserable.  And, if she were to guess by the dryness of his lips and the sunken in look of his eyes, he was deeply dehydrated as well. 
 
Making certain that he wasn’t going to sneeze again, she pressed the button to place an order.  “Please bring Mycroft Holmes tea service with the appropriate accoutrements.”  Catching a look he was giving her, she added, “Make sure it is his preferred tea, not the generic English Breakfast.” 
“How did you know I would have given them my own specialty blend?” he asked, his voice hoarse from coughing.
 
“I guessed.  It seemed like something you would do,” she answered honestly.
 
He huffed a small laugh, which turned into three barking coughs, smothered in to his handkerchief.  He moaned slightly, long fingers massaging his forehead.   “I apologize, Molly,” he whispered.  “I did not want to risk infection.  But, I did not want you think that I was avoiding you.”
 
Her heart softened further than she ever thought it could in relation to the oldest Holmes brother.  “Now, I understand.  I apologize for putting you in this position.”  She felt horrid.  The man should have been in bed, not in a private dining room proving the validity of his non-statements.  She knew the man was blunt.  Abominably so.  If he didn’t want to see her again, he probably would have just said so. 
 
“I understand your perspective.”  He blew his nose as congestion thickened his words.  “I’ve been brushed off myself.  Ignored and unwanted.  It’s too easy to default there.  But, I assure you Molly, if ever I decide that I don’t want to see you again, I will let you know.”  No games.  He liked games, and toying with the people around him.  He liked negotiating with people and manipulating the situation to bring balance. It was why he was employed as he was. 
 
“Thank you for that.”  It was nice to know that should he ever tire of her, he wouldn’t just cut her loose.  He was a different sort of man.  Her eyes flickered to the wedding-like ring he always wore.  Even in all of the years that she knew Sherlock and had been around Mycroft, she had no idea if he was married or had been.  But, there were more pressing matters at stake.
 
“I noticed you didn’t answer my question,” she stated pointedly. 
 
A look of confusion crossed his face.  “I don’t recall you asking one.” 
 
“Did you go to work like this?” she asked, gently.
 
“Well now you didn’t ask a question, did you?  In fact, you told me not to tell you.”  He smiled at her, knowingly.   Humored.
 
She gave him a snarky look.  “You knew what I meant.”  She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at him.
 
“Of course I did,” he replied with a smile.  A sigh.  “Yes, I went to work like this.”
 
“Mycroft!” she admonished.  She felt back for Anthea and hoped that the poor woman had some pretty strong anti-viral spray hanging around the office. 
 
His thin chest started heaving as another sneeze pressed upon him.  “Heh-Kessh!!  Essh!!”  He sighed again.
 
“Bless you,” Molly responded, instinctually.   She waited until she had his attention again to continue.  “Why, Mycroft?  You know that your body needs rest.  Your mind can’t work at its best when it’s competing with your body to function.”
 
“I’m not that simple, Molly.  Don’t expect my body to respond as simply as yours,” he hissed at her. 
 
They were interrupted as the tea service arrived, and the conversation paused as their tea was poured and prepared.
 
As soon as they were alone again, she arched an eyebrow at him, saying nothing. 
 
He sighed.  “Apologies,” he hissed, knowing that they were owed, but not wanting to give her one.
 
“Answer my question,” she stated, undeterred.  She could handle the personal attacks and deflection.  At his worst he wasn’t as bad as Sherlock could be.  She wondered what the difference was between the brothers.  Mycroft had less buy-in, less invested in her and their friendship.  She supposed at this point, they were friends, at least.  But, his harsh deterrents weren’t as harsh as the cruel statements that her supposed friend would hurl at her without thinking anything of it. 
 
He took a long sip of his nice hot tea.  There was enough lemon and honey in it to sooth his throat, and he enjoyed the moment.  Putting the teacup down, he knew he should answer her.  He wouldn’t say he owed her an answer.  But, she was being very kind to him.  And he was learning to trust her when he was vulnerable.  At this point in his life she was entering a very small group of about two, maybe three.  “I can’t take time off work right now.  The dignitaries of state are com-bing in, and there ids so mud-ch to do.”  Congestion filled his words as he spoke and his breath started to hitch again. 
 
Turning away from the table, he sucked in a deep breath.  “Kesssh’tchoo!  Heh-eh-Tessh-Ka’tchoo!  Hassh’tchoo!”  More coughs worked their way out, and he waited until they had subsided to turn back to Molly.  “My apologies,” he stated, exhausted.  His hand shook as he picked up his teacup and had another sip.
 
“Why didn’t you ask me to meet you at home?” she asked.
 
“I didn’t want to impose,” he stated.  “And I didn’t want you to think that I needed you to take care of me.  I’m not asking you to do that.” 
 
Molly studied the ill man before her.  “And?” she asked.  His tone hadn’t dropped off when he finished speaking, which gave her the impression that there was something else to say. 
 
Oh she was good.  Better than even Sherlock.  The only other person who had ever been this adept at reading him was Eurus.  A shiver ran up his spine and he blinked slowly.
 
“I have to back to the office.”
No, she thought.  There had to be a way to convince him to go home – with or without her.  “You have a secured laptop, don’t you?”
 
“Of course,” he stated incredulously.
 
“And you’re telling Anthea what to say, and how to negotiate so that you don’t have to speak to the dignitaries, yes?”
 
He nodded once, feeling his head pound as the world bobbed slightly out of sync.  A cold feeling swept over him.
 
Molly gasped as what little color Mycroft had drained out of his face.  “Text your car.  We’re going now,” she ordered. 
 
He blinked slowly at her.  “It’s waiting… in the… it’s in the…”  Why were words so difficult?
 
She stood up abruptly, moving to his side of the table, and gently taking his arm.  “Come.”  She carefully helped him stand.  “Can you stand on your own?” she muttered, in case someone was listening.
 
He had pushed too far.  The world wobbled around him.  But, he had gone through missions like this.  So, what was a walk to the car?  “Yes.  But, stay.”  Close.  He meant for her to stay close.  He hoped that she understood.
 
Her heart warmed slightly when he told her to stay.  Not that she was going to go anywhere, but to his car and then to his home.  “I will.  Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you.”  She put her hand on his shoulder, seeming to guide him out of the room.
 
--
Mycroft woke up with a start.  He noticed the feel of leather beneath his body first, the familiar squeak as he moved.  It stuck uncomfortably to his clothes, which pulled awkwardly around his wiry frame.  His head pounded, as though his headache was woken up when he came back to consciousness.  “Ugh,” he moaned, rolling onto his back as he tried to recall how he got home.
 
Molly.
 
“Bolly?” he called, his voice congested.  The effort caused him to roll on his side with a violent bout of coughing.  Unable to find his handkerchief, he coughed onto his wrist.
 
He heard a woman’s voice and became aware that someone was coming closer.  “Can I touch you?” Molly asked, reaching out with a clean handkerchief.  She was all too aware that the man known as ‘the British government’ could be dangerous.  While he was generally controlled, the fact was he was ill, vulnerable, and that she wasn’t completely certain that he remembered going home. 
 
The coughs shook his thin frame, as he took the handkerchief and clasped it over his mouth. 
 
“I made tea.  You’re going to have to drink some.  I also have paracetamol.  And, um, I found some cold and flu tablets.”  When she saw him trying to sit up, she supported him into a sitting position.  Taking a seat next to him, she opted not to mention anything about his symptoms.  The heat that radiated off of him was alarming.  But, pointing out that he was ill or doting on him verbally would likely not be received well. 
 
There was something odd about this young lady who was currently sitting next to him on the couch.  She wasn’t doting on him like he would have expected, and yet she was giving him the things that he needed without him having to ask.  
 
She started to hand him the tea, when he raised a hand to pause her. 
 
“Heh-eh…” There was a wheeze as he pulled in a breath.  “Heh-Chessshh!  Eshh-Esssh!”  The sneezes missed his handkerchief, and a blush rose in his cheeks.  “By apologies,” he croaked, quickly pulling in another breath before, “Hep-CHESSSSH!”  This sneeze landed deftly in his handkerchief and release a decent amount of congestion. 
 
When he was ready, Molly handed over the tea, and resisted the urge to rub the side of his face affectionately.  This was Mycroft Holmes.  He would not appreciate that.  And, while he had allowed her to be free with her words, she could not bring herself to be so with her actions.  A man such as he would only have so much patience. 
 
When she was certain that he would be all right by himself, she got up and went back to the chair where she had been sitting. 
 
“How long was I asleep?” he inquired.
 
“A few hours.  Three,” she clarified quickly.  “Anthea knows that you’re working from home.  And she seems okay with the fact that you were sleeping.” 
 
“She couldn’t stop that, I suppose,” he said, taking another sip of the tea.  “You added too much lemon,” he stated.  A puzzled look crossed his face.  “Where did you get lemon?”
 
She gave him a sheepish laugh.  “Well, I noticed you didn’t have much in the house.  So I had John do a store run.”
 
“Ugh, that means my brother knows I’m ill.” He sighed dejectedly.
 
“For what it’s worth, I asked John not to say anything to Sherlock about it.  I mean, I’m sorry.  I don’t have a lot of friends.”
 
He shook his head and looked up at her.  “You did fine.  I’m not mad at you, Molly.  Rather, I’m…”  His words failed him.  He wasn’t fine. And he couldn’t say he was happy about the situation.  He looked down as he tried to pick just the right word, and felt stumped when he couldn’t. 
 
“I’m glad you’re not angry.  I didn’t want to overstep, but I was at a loss as to what to do.”  Were she to be completely honest with herself, she still was she had no idea what to do next.  Should she stay?  Should she go?  Was there a doctor to be called?  “Should I call John back to do a diagnosis?  Perhaps he will be able to give you something to help you kick this faster?”
 
Mycroft regarded her with a look of casual confusion.  “If you don’t mind,” he answered.  He didn’t want John in his house right now.  But, getting a prescription would make this end sooner, and then he could go back to work without infecting the office, or worse, the dignitaries.
 
She zipped the text off to John, and got up to get Mycroft another cup of tea.

Chapter Text


“Yes, I am certain that Lady Carlisle will be elated to sit next to you, sir,” Mycroft said, his voice still a bit hoarse from his recent illness.  It had taken three days before he was well enough to return to the office, and although Molly had opted not to stay the entire time, he could not be more appreciative of her. 

Hardly ever being home, meant that Mycroft didn’t ever think about having much more than water or Pellegrino in the refrigerator.  But, when he was finally aware enough to get something to eat, he had sliced fruit, and soup – both a vegetable and a beef based -   in the fridge.  He had been able to eat a bit of it, and was impressed that it didn’t have the over salted flavor that came with canned soups.  He knew that he was now in her debt, and would do whatever he could to show his appreciation.  But, what to do… now that was the difficult question to answer.

Finally hanging up with the insistent noble, he allowed himself to draw in a sharp breath.  “Eh-Schnnxxtt!” he stifled, groaning a bit when the pressure built up bend his eyes.  Blowing his nose into his handkerchief, he smiled a bit.  The handkerchief smelled of eucalyptus, another kindness afforded to him by Molly. 

He breathed in the scent, triggering another harsh, “Eh-Kssxxggt!”  He breathed out and tended to his nose again.  An ache spread over the back of his head, down his neck and settled in his shoulders.   He found his thoughts drifting to Molly, who had seen him at his worst, and responded in a way that made him feel dignified, even though he knew that he was anything but.  It had been four days since they had spoken, and while he felt bad about that, there were too many things to do to get ready for this event.  Maybe she would go with him again.  He hoped that this time would move slower than the last time. 

Sighing as his heart sped up, and he felt a twinge of anxiety, he looked at the ring that he wore around his finger.  It was merely an adornment, one meant to make him match the society expectation that he be married.  But in the end, it was all a rouse, like so much else in his life.

“Caring is not an advantage,” he muttered to himself.  And yet… there he was.  The great Mycroft Holmes, who would gnaw his own arm off before admitting that he cared about anyone other than his brother, caring about a young woman whom he had misunderstood for years.  He almost wished he never got to know her.   Almost.

“Mycroft?” Anthea said, coming into his office.  “The Prime Minister of Canada wants to know if he can get another seat at the dinner.  I know we have the three extra seats, should I give him one?”

Mycroft gave her a look that made it clear that he was biting his tongue.  But, after a moment, he nodded, causing her to leave without a word.

Picking up his handkerchief again, he took another tentative sniff.  It wasn’t the eucalyptus that made him pause, but the time that went into making these.  He had five others… they smelled of eucalyptus, ginger, and lavender.  She had done him such a kindness.  And, without expecting anything in return.  It warred with what Mycroft knew of the world and the people in it. 

**What does Molly like to do? ** Mycroft Holmes
** I don’t know.** John
**Think! Plays, museums, tours… what does she like?**Mycroft Holmes
** Why??** John

Mycroft sighed and toss the phone on his desk.  He couldn’t blame John for being protective of his friend.  He just wished that he had a better reputation with the group.  After all, haven’t he earned it?  After everything he had done, they still didn’t trust him?

His phone dinged.

**She likes flowers, gardens… and I think she would like a play, maybe the symphony.** John

The symphony.  Now that was an idea worth investigating. 

“Mycroft,” Anthea’s voice came over the intercom.  “The dignitaries from Germany have arrived early.  I’m going to put them on the ninth floor.”

Mycroft flipped the switch.  “The Italians are going to be on that floor by request.”
“Clear the seventh floor and put them where we were going to.  Take the rooms from the overflow hotel.”

“Should we just put them in the overflow?”

He sighed.  “Yes, I think that would cause the least shifting.” 

When he heard the line close again, he took a deep breath of his handkerchief.  It calmed him, and right now he needed five seconds of calmness.

*
“So,” Sherlock said bursting into the morgue.  “Has my brother grown tired of you?  Broke your girlish heart yet?  I mean you have one, and he doesn’t so maybe you’ve taught him a thing or two.”  

He was teasing, and Molly knew that.  But, she had startled at the interruption.  And, Mycroft had been a damn sight more friendly than Sherlock had a habit of being.  She glared at him, but didn’t know if she wanted to say anything.

“You’re wearing cosmetics?  Wow, you must really like him.  Well, he’s been super busy, so you’re stuck with me.”  Walking up to the freezer he opened it up.  “Do you have a liver.”

He was asking about a liver in the freezer – a spare that he could use.  She didn’t have a frozen one, but he didn’t ask about that did he?  “Yes,” she answered.

“Don’t get smart Molly.  I’m not asking about your liver.  Even if I could get it out of you, I’m guessing that you wouldn’t give it up without a fight.”  He didn’t even look at her while he deadpanned the statement.

She sighed.  How was it that the older self-proclaimed smarter brother made her feel smarter, while his younger brother made her feel like an idiot?

“Molly?” Sherlock was standing beside her.  She looked up at him.  “I’m sorry you think that I think you’re stupid.  You’re not.  You’re very astute and quite wonderful.  Your mind is a wonderful thing to watch work, and I’ve always admired you.” 

She felt the warm chill that always came over her when he spoke.  She wanted to believe the words.  But, she couldn’t.  Looking  at his face, she knew that he was saying this because he thought it was kind – the right thing to do.  “You don’t mean it,” she whispered.  “I can tell you don’t.”

He paused, a flicker of confusion crossing his face.  “Molly… “  he shook his head.  What was happening here?  She always believed him.  Even when he was being a total jerk to her.  “My brother treats you better?  Really?  He’ll break your heart because he doesn’t have one.  And, you’ll be back.”  He grinned cheekily.

And in that moment Molly knew that no matter what happened between her and Mycroft, she would never love Sherlock again… not the way she had been.  Now that she knew that she wasn’t always going to be treated poorly, that she didn’t have to be talked down to, she never wanted to be again.  “Yes, you’re right,” she lied, looking back into her microscope.
Sherlock was struck mute with the reality that she was lying to him, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

*
Molly sat up with a shout, sweat dripping down her neck and back.  Rubbing away the sleep from her eyes, she tried to blink back the memory of the controlling boyfriend that she had when she went to university.  She thought of him so seldom now – who had time to dwell on past mistakes?  But, every time she closed her eyes she saw him.  And every time she drifted off, she heard him tell her that she couldn’t get away – that she would never get away. 

She had to get away.

Tugging on her jacket, she slipped her feet into flats and left her apartment.  The wind was chilly and it nipped at her.  The streets were mostly empty, although she could hear voices talking.  She looked around, unable to figure out where these voices on the wind were coming from.  She picked up the pace, heading nowhere in particular, but trying to get away from where she was.

Mycroft’s phone rang, stirring him from a relaxing slumber.  Staring, confused at the name that came up, he accepted the call.  “Mycroft here,” he said, his voice thick with sleep and settled congestion.

“Sir, she’s left her apartment. Should we pick her up?” the voice said. 

Mycroft looked at the time.  0300.  Something was wrong.  Very wrong.  “Is she all right?” he asked, his heart starting to thud in his chest. 

“She looks unharmed but scared, sir.  She is aware of her surroundings, but not who is in them.”

Mycroft was sitting up in bed now.  Slipping on his slippers, he coughed roughly.  “Pick her up immediately and bring her to my home.  Do not let her out of your sight, and do not scare her.  Send Craig to her apartment to make certain that it is safe and has not been infiltrated.”

“Yes, sir.”  The line went dead.

“Christ, Molly.  What has happened?” he whispered into the darkness, as he got up and put on his robe.   He hoped that he had not brought this on her.  Caring is not an advantage was practically his mantra.  People thought him cold and stand-offish because of this.  What he wouldn’t give for people to understand that he cared from a distance.  He stayed away because of his job and the dangers that came with it. 

People wanted to hurt him, and they would hurt the people who he cared about to do it.  Sometimes people in the world were not so different than his sister… and what if Eurus found out that he cared about Molly?  He shivered, closing his eyes against the thought.  Molly had survived the last row with the family because Eurus thought Sherlock didn’t care about her.  If she found out how much the family cared about Molly.  He started to shake and forced himself to draw a deep breath.  He would be useless to her if he was suffering from his own panic attack.  What a pair we make, he thought scathingly.   He took control of his career, and he was going to take control tonight.  He couldn’t let anyone see how much her erratic behavior worried him.  This was not the night to add issues to the issues.  Tonight was damage control.
By the time the black town car rolled up to his home, Mycroft was in one of his gray suits.  Unlike normal, however, he was not wearing a suit jacket.  He was torn between being the smartly dressed man she was used to and staying slightly less dressed given the time of night and who his protective service was bringing to him.  Before he could double guess himself, however, the car arrived. 

His driver opened the door, and Molly was not there. 

“She’s in the corner,” the driver whispered.  “Her flat is secure.  No one has been in there, and there is a guard posted there to make sure if anyone was there they cannot come back.

Mycroft nodded, and got into the car.  “Hi Molly.  What happened?”  It was not comforting.  He was not comforting.  He was direct and couldn’t pretend to be anything other than what he felt. 

When she didn’t answer, he knew that he was not dealing with awake and rational Molly.  And if he was, he would be imprisoning someone before the night was out.  “May I come closer?” he asked.  Since it was his town car, there wasn’t much room between them.  When she stiffened, he promised her he wouldn’t make her move until she was ready. 

“What happened?”

“It was a nightmare,” she whispered.  She was embarrassed to have been caught literally running away.  But, she needed to clear her head.  “His name was Charles.  Another sociopath.   Not as kind as your brother.  We dated while I was in medical school, and he was very controlling.  I couldn’t get him out of my head.  I couldn’t wake up.  He was in my apartment and wouldn’t leave, and then when I got back to sleep, I heard him tell me that I would never get away from him.”  She curled on herself and started to cry.  She had never told anyone about Charles, and she hated that someone whom she hadn’t seen in so many years still had such an effect on her.

Mycroft sat still, uncertain if this man had paid Molly a visit tonight in any way but in her dreams.  He knew, too well, how the past could mess with your mind, your future. 

A cool wind blew and he shivered.  Too late he realized he didn’t have a handkerchief on him.  “Ekssht!”  he sneezed into his elbow. 

The sneeze seemed to jar something out of Molly.  “Mycroft… oh you’re still not up to par.  We shouldn’t… we shouldn’t be out here.  You should be in bed.”

“I was,” he stated plainly.  “But, I’m not going to send you home to a place you feel unsafe.  We’ve checked your flat, and he’s not there anymore. “

She shook her head, trying to catch her breath through the tears that were still rolling down her cheeks.  “I haven’t seen him in years.  It was all a dream.  I’m sorry – I was just going for a run.”

“It’s not safe.  Especially now that we’ve been seen about.  People will try to hurt you to get to me.  You come here if you don’t feel safe.  I don’t care when.  You’re always welcome.”  What was he doing?  What was he saying?  This could only end in tears.

“Caring is not an advantage,” Molly said, echoing the term that had been his tagline for so long.
He nodded at her.  “Not for the person I care for.  It’s a weakness for me and a liability for them.”

She nodded at him and closed her eyes, leaning against him.  Drawing in a breath, she enjoyed his scent.  “I’ll take the risk,” she said, feeling safe for the first time in hours.  She sat back up when she felt his breathing start to hitch again. 

“Eskhah-ssshfft!”  he sneezed wetly.  “Apologies.”

“Come on, Mycroft.  Go inside.  I’ll go back to my flat.”  She blinked rapidly, trying to keep him from seeing how terrified she still was.

Of course he saw right through it.  “You’ll stay here.  I have a guest room, and you’ll be on the same floor as me.  I’m a light sleeper, so if anything happens, I’ll be there.  Right there.  You’re not alone tonight Molly.  I won’t let you be.”

She smiled tenderly at him.  That was the most genuine thing that anyone had ever said to her, and she adored it.  Leaning forward, she gave him a soft kiss.  She drew in a deep breath as she felt his lips mold against hers.  When he pulled away, he gave her a soft smile, but didn’t say anything.   Instead he got out of the car and helped her to do the same before bringing her inside and making certain that she was calm enough to sleep before he got some himself.

Chapter Text

Molly smiled as she received what had become her usual lunch message from Mycroft.  

**Don’t be like me.  Eat Lunch.** Mycroft Holmes

 Sent at three o’clock in the afternoon. 

 She smiled and laughed a bit whenever she received one, always having long since already eaten her lunch. 

He had been such a dear after her nightmare.  He called her out of work the next day and had her favorite tea and accoutrements waiting when she came downstairs.  He had left a phone for her, with a number to call when she was ready to go home, and a body guard waiting at her apartment to walk through with her to make sure she was safe, and felt safe before he left. 

While she didn’t know if he viewed this as a relationship, it was certainly the best of her life.

Marking down the cause of death on a case report, she let her thoughts move to their kiss.  It was slow and gentle, but he definitely had experience. There was a confidence in his kiss – like most everything else that he did.  She never thought it would be true, but here she was – Molly Hooper, falling for Mycroft Holmes. 

**The state dinner is next weekend.  Are you free?  I’ll need you all three days.** Mycroft Holmes

** Send me the dates and I’ll request off.** Molly

 He sent her the dates and she immediately put in for the personal time.  She was excited about this. A State Dinner.  She was going to a posh party, and it excited her.  She didn’t know quite what to wear, but she was pretty certain that she could find out online.  That’s what it was for, after all. 

---

 “I really appreciate the adjoining rooms, Mycroft,” Molly said walking through her suite.  It was gorgeous, like walking into a bygone era of elegance and glamour.  She was happy that she had chosen several different dresses, even though it basically cost her a months’ salary to do so.  She hoped that she wouldn’t need a different dress per event, and wondered if Mycroft could expense report these items.  It was difficult for her to bring up money with him.  He was so good to her, and she should be able to afford the life that he was introducing her to… even though she wasn’t.  But, that was a concern for another time.

Walking into her adjoining room, she felt herself relax  Just knowing that he was so close to her brought her a great sense of relief.  She smiled as she watched him, hyper focused at his laptop.  Knowing that there was no way that she had the security clearance to see what was on his screen, she held back, standing near the door frame. 

“I would not work on something compromising when you are so near,” he said, without pausing.  “Although I do appreciate your candor. “

“I didn’t want to be a bother,” she muttered coming forward, her arms folded across her chest, as though she was cold.  The words were out of her mouth before she could filter them.  She pressed her lips together and bit the insides of that no other errant words could rush out.

Mycroft did not look up from his laptop, fingers flying over the keys with such a speed that she wondered if he was typing words at all, or just releasing stress by tapping the keys. 

“I would never have requested these rooms if I thought that you were a bother,” he replied.

Her teeth relinquished their hold on her lips as she smiled a bit  From a Holmes that was as good as saying that he wanted her around.  It made her heart beat kick up a notch. 

She walked in and stood nearby, not being so bod as to sit on his bed.  And, he didn’t offer her a seat, even though there were certainly enough places for her to do so.   Coming a little closer to him, she paused as he quickly turned away from his computer.  Withdrawing his handkerchief from his inner breast pocket, he stifled a heavy, “Huh-Gusshnnnhh”

She winced at the weight of the sneeze and the pain it must have caused him to stifle it. 

“Bless you,” she offered gently, as he lightly blew his nose.

“Thank you.  My apologies,” he said, turning back to his work, fingers flying deftly over the keyboard as though nothing had occurred. 

She closed her eyes and analyzed the tone of his voice.  It all seemed to be in order, no gruffness no fatigue.  The tone, timber, volume, and speed were all on point.  But, she could not ignore the niggling feeling that something was amiss.

“You can have a seat if you’d like  You’ll do your fair share of standing this weekend, I assure you.”  He turned to face her, a look of mid concern crossing his face.  “You have comfortable shoes, yes?”

“Yes, she confirmed with a nod, as she sat down on the couch next to the desk. 

“Heels?  I know it sounds trite, but it matters.” 

“Yes,” she responded calmly, with a reassuring smile 

The concern was gone and a look of relief played at the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.  “You’re a gem, Molly.  I know who why my brother dismissed you.”  

Without an explanation, he turned back to his work, and refocused his attentions there.

The comment took her off guard, and brown eyebrows furrowed in confusion as her mind chewed on the peculiar comment. 

With an irritated sigh, Mycroft turned back towards her.  “You don’t need him to guide you through analysis  You may not see it to through to its inevitable conclusions, but you are able to come up with some not so obvious basics.  In short, he didn’t need to pay attention to you.  Sherlock needs to have that connection, that interaction with people all the time.  I find that sort of constant spoken communication quite draining.”

She grinned at him.  Even though Molly was an extrovert, and she knew that she would probably drive Mycroft up the wall because of her need to talk to the person that she felt closest too, she also knew that in a pinch she could call John or even Mrs. Hudson, or someone from work, if Mycroft was too introverted to speak to in any other way but analytical. 

It was interesting… Sherlock always made his brother out to be a mastermind.  Meaning, Sherlock thought his brother was smarter.  And the smarter, older, more sophisticated Holmes was rife with complimentary statements for her.  It made her feel competent even among the best.  She hoped that she wouldn’t be an embarrassment to him at the events over the weekend. 

Mycroft smiled at her a bit.  For once it was an easy smile, not forced because that was the socially accepted response.  He loved watching her mind work, especially when she did not notice he was watching.  She was so simple, and not.  And he knew that her simplicity was not the general state of simplistic boredom that most of the world suffered from.  Or that he suffered from the rest of the world… Rather, hers was a familiar sort, one that he had gone through himself and was enjoying peeling away the layers of and seeing what was beneath the barriers that she had placed up for herself.  

Most importantly, though, was the fact that he enjoyed her company.  Generally, he couldn’t stand to be around people. The constant influx of data was more than he could handle on a large scale for more than a few days.  He could push it out to a week, but generally he enjoyed going home and being alone to compartmentalize his thoughts and theories.  But, lately…  Lately he had been enjoying looking forward to the time spent with the mousey brunette who seemed to genuinely value him. 

The very same one who was looking at him right now…

Molly watched the rare sight of Mycroft getting lost in his own thoughts as he looked at her.  She hoped that they were pleasant and brought the normally tense man a moment of relief.  She never surmised that the thoughts could be about her.  That was more egotistical than she preferred to be.  Besides, Mycroft Holmes surely had more important things to think about than her. 

His computer dinged, and he looked back to it, giving the screen a deep sigh.  Another meeting over dinner… tonight.  That was two, so far.  He zipped an email off to Anthea and told her which to attend.  She already knew what to look out for. 

“Let me order room service, Mycroft,” Molly said, invading his thoughts. 

He blinked rapidly, not expecting the new information and looked over at her, obviously annoyed at the interruption. 

She was undeterred.  “Just a few dishes that we can pick at… nothing fancy.”  She was famished that she was getting a headache, but he didn’t seem to be hungry at all.  She was terrified of eating at the dinner, and hoped that the articles that she had located regarding proper table manners would not lead her astray.  She hoped that if her headache would go away, and she was only peckish, that she would make a better impression than if she ate like someone who was truly starving.   After all, everything that she did and said would directly influence Mycroft, and he had spent a lifetime crafting precisely the personae that he wanted people to see. 

“Of course,” he said turning back to his computer.  “Whatever you want.”  How had he not seen it before?  The little twitch in her right eye.  He thought over the day, and realized that although it was fast approaching dinner, they had not eaten all day.  He was quite used to this pace, but it was unfair of him to think that Molly could keep up with it.  A minor annoyance flittered through him, that she should have told him what she needed before now.  But, another email came in and he quickly forgot the concern. 

“No,” she cut into his thoughts again. 

His pupils dilated as he focused on his computer screen, trying desperately not to snap at her.  What on earth could she want from him now?

“What do you want? I know you’ll only eat what you have to of what they serve at the dinner.”

“I won’t be at the dinner.  I have a meeting,” he responded tersely without looking at her.

“All the more reason that you should eat something now.  You won’t have time to eat during, and I know you don’t like to eat late at night.”  She had stood up, and was reading the menu, giving him flickers of a no-nonsense glare. 

He paused and looked at her sharply, knowing that he looked frustrated.  He also knew that she was correct.  He knew that she was nervous about tonight, and that when she got stressed she became hungry.  But, stress affected him in the opposite way.  He took a sharp inhale of breath, and withdrew his handkerchief again.  He completely covered his nose and mouth, just as a wet, “Huh-GUSSH!” exploded out.  The cold that he was fighting did nothing to help his appetite either. 

“Bless you.  It’s my perfume isn’t it?” she asked.  “It’s not my usual, and I thought buying something posh would be nice. “

While putting the blame that she was willing to accept onto her shoulders was a tempting proposition, it was very much something that Sherlock would have done in order to get what they both perceived as an unnecessary problem out of the way.  However, he enjoyed the scent of Dior and he knew that if he told her this simple lie, she would never wear it again.

“No,” he responded simply.  “Lots of new irritants.”  Recalling her long time friendship with his brother, he added, “of which you are not one.”

She blinked in surprise, wondering if she would ever get used to flattery coming from a Holmes.

Opening the room service menu, she was shocked at the food prices.  Knowing that Mycroft would simply expense the costs, she ordered what she thought he would like.  Facing towards the wall, she didn’t see him smile at her choices.

***

“Thank you, Molly,” Mycroft said, coming out of his bathroom.  He had opted to change in there, despite Molly having closed the door between their rooms to get ready.  His deduction had been off, however, and she had not come into his space when she completed getting ready.  Blinking rapidly, he processed this information and smiled.

Knocking on the door, he smiled when she bid him to enter.  It was rather delightful, all of this, and he found that as stressful as these affairs were for him, being with her created small bursts of simple pleasures.

“Molly, thank you for…” the words died on hi slips as he looked her over.  Sitting at the antique writing desk, penning… something… he felt like they had dropped a century somewhere.  Dressed in everything except his jacket, he felt woefully underdressed in her presence.  It was a new feeling for him, and it was oddly titillating.

She looked up and smiled at him, getting up to go towards him.  She moved slowly, her powder blue dress falling to just above her toes, and she was terrified of tripping.  She knew that she could not embarrass him tonight.  Her smile only grew as she drank him in with her eyes.  Without his jacket on , she could enjoy his slender physique. 

Mycroft found himself flushing under her alluring gaze.  He had never considered himself to be particularly attractive, and judging from the icy reception that he received from most women, he was certain that his self-assessment was on point.  “You look lovely,” he complimented, taking her hand and pressing a kiss to the back of it.

“Thank you, and you’re welcome for the dinner…. Snack… thing.  That’s what you were thanking me for when you walked in, correct?” she asked, trying to reset her brain from the chills that ran up her spine at receiving such a sweet gesture from such a dapper man. 

“Yes, that was very thoughtful.  And helpful, as I am likely to miss all of the actual dinner.”

Lips parted as she panicked slightly at having to manage the cocktail hour and actual state dinner without him. 

“State it,” he urged her.

“Should I just eat elsewhere?  I mean, how am I going to do this?” her voice held more than just a smattering of doubt.

“I have … acquaintances… who know that you’re here, and will be on the look out for you.  You just be yourself, and I’ll be back by the time drinks and dancing begin.  I do believe I owe you a dance from the last time.” 

She beamed with delight.  Simply the thought of dancing with him delighted her to the core.  “Thank you.  I’m just… I just…”  She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, trying to put the words in the right order. “I just know that this is an important night for you, and I have done research, of course, but I am concerned.  I don’t want to embarrass you.”

He tilted his head at her, rather in the way a dog listens to a high pitched sound.  “Embarrass me?  Molly, I would not have asked you to attend with me, if I was not impressed with what I saw at the last event.  I am not concerned.” 

She wished that she had the same level of confidence in herself that he seemed to have in her.  “I feel something like Eliza Doolittle, attending an event with Professor Higgins.  I feel like I’m going to do something horribly mundane and not even realize that it’s wrong.”

He could not stop the smile that grew on his face at the reference.  Although he understood her perspective, he did not view her as a plebian whom he was bringing into high society.  She belonged there.  And he hoped she would be open to having this adventure with him.  Hawk-like eyes slid to the side.  What was he thinking?  He had to focus.   Withdrawing his handkerchief from his back pocket, he sneezed wetly, “Hetch-SHOO!  Essshh!  Tisshh!  Esssh!”  Tending to his nose, he looked back up at her.  “My apologies,” he said, trying to ignore the look of concern that was clear in her pretty  brown eyes.  “As long as you don’t yell at someone to move their blooming arse, I believe that any faux pas that you make will be able to be rectified.”

She giggled at his advice, forgetting to bless him.  “Thank you,” she said, closing the distance between them and pressing a kiss to his cheek. 

Turning his head slightly, he captured her lips with his own nd enjoyed the feeling of her deeping the kiss.  It had been so long since he enjoyed the touch of another, and he vowed to move Heaven and earth to make certain that she was happy enough to stay with him.  This… woman… was something special.  And, if his idiot brother didn’t notice, all the better for Mycroft.

Pulling back, he kept his arms around her.  “You are no Eliza Doolittle.  But, I have not adequately prepared  you and the position that I put you in is unfair.  I will not make this oversight again, I assure you.”  He let her go and looked over her dress.  “This is not a critique, for you look beautiful.  But, do you happen to have a knee length dress?”

“I do…” she said, giving him a skeptical look.  “But, the pictures online showed women in ball gowns.”  She moved to her closet, tripping once, and withdrew a forest green knee length cocktail dress.  The sweetheart bust came up to clasp around her neck.  She showed it to him, sighing a bit when he nodded.

“Wear that.  Trust me on this. That is a more appropriate dress for tonight.”

“I’m sorry,” she muttered, feeling like a fool. 

 Giving her a confused look, he shook his head.  “Nothing of the sort.  You are dressed in a most lovely way.  But, I think that you’ll be more comfortable in that dress, especially when we dance tonight.”

Forty-five minutes later, Molly felt like she was in some 1950s era gangster movie as she, Mycroft, Anthea, and two of Mycroft’s agents stood waiting for the elevator.  Molly tried to keep her breathing even as she looked at Anthea’s floor length black gown, and fidgeted under the scrutiny of the other woman. 

“A short cocktail dress, interesting choice,” Anthea said.  There was no mistaking the judgement in her voice. 

“At my request,” Mycroft answered before Molly could say anything. 

“Ah, dancing.  You finally have your partner,” Anthea said as the elevator arrived. 

Mycroft gave a lopsided grin.  You have no idea, he thought.

Chapter Text

The crowd was thick with dignitaries, and Molly could not feel more out of place.  Afraid to move incorrectly, she found herself a glass of wine and kept in one place, looking around nervously.  She recognized a few people from their pictures, but did not feel comfortable simply walking up to anyone and speaking to them.  She was just Molly – a specialist registrar for the morgue at St. Barts.  A cool job, a career that she loved.   But, that was it, wasn’t it?  She had a career.  She had to work.  A normal job around normal people.   She was not posh.  She wasn’t like Mycroft, like Anthea, or the people who surrounded her.  And, she was certain that they knew it.

Mycroft looked down on the room from a small balcony.  It was a nice turn out, and people would be politicking and networking.  He picked Molly right out. She had been correct – every other woman was wearing a long dress.  Breathing out a long sigh, he hoped that she would forgive him for putting her in what he was certain was a terribly awkward position. 

He could tell that she was terrified.  Her posture was rigid, and she kept staring off in no particular direction.  She looked like wounded gazelle.  He contemplated skipping his meeting to make certain she was not attacked by one of the many predators in the room.   Turning away from the edge, he pinched his nostrils closed and suppressed a sneeze.  He almost wanted to skip the meeting for himself too.  But, that was silliness.  He had to be there.  It was expected, and he had an agent to meet for information.   Suppressing another sneeze, he swallowed to readjust the pressure in his head and exited the balcony.

“That’s an interesting dress.  Did you not know that this was a black tie affair?” a young woman in a Versace dress stated coming towards Molly. 

It did not take a lifetime of being made fun of and put down for Molly to know that this situation was going to get worse before it got better.  None-the-less, she was determined not to embarrass Mycroft.  “Of course I did.  But, I prefer this for dancing after.”

“Then change after dinner,” the woman responded as though Molly was the dumbest person on the planet.  “I mean, it’s nice,” she said, in a way that was apparent that she did not like the dress.  “But, I believe that I saw it in a store.”

Molly raised an eyebrow at the other woman and responded silkily, “I’m pretty certain I saw yours in a store, too.”

“No,” the woman responded, brushing her long blonde hair behind her shoulder.  “Mine is a one of a kind.  Yours well… it needs a little work, don’t you think?” 

Uncertain what to say, Molly paused.

“I like her dress,” another woman stated, coming into the group.  She was taller than Molly, and older as well.  She had short hair, properly fluffed, and sparkling brown eyes that denoted kindness. 

“Oh,” the other woman responded, quietly. 

“I think it’s wonderful that you have enough confidence to wear what you like.  I would have done the same, but my husband insisted that I wear a long dress.  Boring things really.”  She glared at the other woman, until she slunk away. 

“My name is Marguerite,” she said, nodding politely at Molly.  She held a tumbler full of something on ice, and sipped through the stirring straw.

“Hello,” Molly said, nearly breathless over what had just happened.  “My name is Molly Hooper.  I’m with Mycroft Holmes.”  Afraid that she had said the wrong thing, she continued quickly, “I love your dress.” 

The woman’s eyes sparkled when Molly had brought up Mycroft.  “Ah yes. We had heard he was bringing a date.  Lovely to meet you, my dear.”  She turned around, her tan and brown swirled dress flaring out at the bottom.  She leaned into Molly, with a playful grin.  “Don’t you love a dress that twirls?  Twenty quid at a thrift store,” she said with a proud whisper. 

Molly’s smile grew.  She loved this woman.  She knew absolutely nothing about her, but she knew that she loved her. 

“Come, walk with me, dear.  I want to know all about the woman who has captured Mycroft Holmes’ attention.”

Molly stuck with Marguerite for the rest of the cocktail hour and sat near her and her husband during the dinner.  She learned that the actual State Dinner would be the following night, and that tonight’s dinner was simply a reception. 

After the dinner concluded, Molly breathed a sigh of relieve when Mycroft entered the room.  She watched as he scanned the room and came directly towards her.   Uncertain of how to act, she smiled up at him, but did not rise.  “Marguerite, Aubrey,” he said, coming up to them.  “I should have known that you would find Molly.  Thank you for that.”

The both rose to greet him, and Molly was surprised when Mycroft gave a cheek to cheek kiss to Marguerite.  He gave Aubrey’s hand a hearty shake.  “She’s lovely, Mycroft.  You’ve done well with her.” 

Molly couldn’t help but blush a bit, at the compliment, and sat up a little straighter, wondering if she should stand as well.  She felt Mycroft’s hand on her shoulder, and then he took a seat to the other side of her.   “Have they told you who they are?” Mycroft asked Molly, a teasing smile playing on his lips.

“Oh Mycroft, that’s not fair,” Marguerite responded.  “We did not, and it’s rather refreshing being treated well just because someone is well bred, not because they want something.”

Molly cast a half terrified look towards the man she only knew as Aubrey. “Minor nobility,” he whispered.  “It’s nothing.  If we had wanted you to treat us a certain way, we would have told you our titles upfront.”

Molly stopped breathing.  Her mind went blank and she was at a complete loss as to how to respond. 

“But, what I told you about my dress is true,” Marguerite said, breaking into her thoughts.  “And that other woman had no right to be unkind to you.  You look wonderful.  There is nothing wrong with being untraditional.”  She smiled.  “You’re staying for dancing, correct?”

A dark look crossed Mycroft’s face.  “Who?” he asked, wanting the name of the person who was unkind to Molly.  He felt protective, and wanted nothing more than to end the political career of whomever was crude enough to mention something negative about Molly’s attire. 

“You two of course.  You’re staying for the jitterbug, correct?” Marguerite continued on, not letting Mycroft focus on the past.  Marguerite had already made certain that Molly would not be talked to about her fashion choices.  She couldn’t stop what happened behind her back, but those were issues for another day.

Molly gasped in excitement, as she turned to Mycroft.  “Are we?” she asked, rather like a child asking to stay up late.

He nodded.  “Yes.  I have wanted a partner for many years, and I know that you will fit the bill perfectly.”

“Actually,” I think that it’s getting started, Aubrey stated, holding his hand out to help Marguerite up. 
Mycroft and Molly followed suit and they went into the next room.  The dance floor had been set up, and there was a live brass band.   

Molly gasped, “Live swing dancing?” she asked.

Mycroft nodded.  This sort of dancing had fallen out of fashion with normal society, but was still quite popular with the well-born.  He was thrilled that Molly was excited about this.  No wonder she never fit in with normal society.  She was not a normal sort of person.  He thought Sherlock was an idiot to miss the signs.  But, Sherlock liked to be around normal people.  It made him feel smarter.  Mycroft didn’t need that sort of constant reassurance.

When the jitterbug was called, couples went to the dance floor.  Mycroft lead Molly there, and muttered, “Just follow my lead.” 

It was an odd statement, and she couldn’t figure out what he thought she was going to do.  But, she nodded.  Looking at him closely, she noticed that there was a slight blush in his cheeks and a twinge in his nostrils. 

The dance was stated as the annual jitterbug dance off, and she fully understood why he had suggested that she wear the shorter dress.  This was going to be fun.   She set herself against him, and squeaked with delight as the music began.   She loved the Jitterbug from The Wizard of Oz! 

They started rocking back and forth during the monologue in the beginning, and as soon as the female vocalist started singing, they went into full swing.  She found him incredibly easy to follow, and enjoyed the swell of joy to be on the dance floor with a group of people who not only appreciated this level of dance skill, but had it themselves.  She finally found a place in society where she fit in.  Who would have thought it would be here.

She heard a squelching sound, and Mycroft let out a breath as he twirled her.  She tried to keep time with him, but didn’t want to be let go of, as had previously happened.  But, this time, he did nothing of the sort, holding fast to her until the end of the song.  

They did a few more dances, before she found herself suppressing a yawn.  He took his cue from her, and they said their goodnights, heading back up to the room. 

---
Molly took a hot shower and put her pajama’s on, knocking on the door between their rooms.  At his permissive response, Molly entered, happy to see him in a set of black silk pajamas and slippers.  He sat on the couch, reading a book.  A handkerchief was in his other hand.

“Tonight was wonderful, Mycroft.  Thank you so much,” she said, coming in and sitting across from him. 

He raised his head out of the book and looked at her, silently, for such a long time that she began to get nervous.   Suddenly, his eyes fluttered closed and he brought the handkerchief up to his face.  “Hur-Sshuff!  Urrsshuff!  Esssh!  Issh!  Er-Shuff!”  He blew his  nose slightly, but couldn’t get very far due to the congestion.

“God bless you,” she offered politely. 

He yawned and then stated, “Do excuse me, Molly.  My apologies for that.”  He suppressed another yawn.

“Mycroft, if you’re tired, I’ll leave you be,” she said, enthusiastically.  “I can already tell you’re not feeling well,”  she said, getting up to go into her own room.  “I’ll see you in the morning.”

He looked up at her, lips parted as though his mind was processing some little bit of information that did not make sense.  “Please stay.  I enjoy your company, and I want to know how you fared tonight.”

She sat back down, tucking her feet beneath her on the chair.  “Once I met Marguerite and Aubrey, things were quite lovely.”

“And the person who was rude to you?” he prompted.

“No one of consequence, I think. She seemed quite intimidated by Marguerite, come to think of it.”

“Well they are a Duke and Duchess,” he stated, his breath hitching again. 

“A what!?” she exclaimed.  “Oh dear, I’m so boring.  Mycroft, you should have told me!”  She felt like the night was full of people taking the mickey out of her, and she was so simple that she didn’t even know it. 

He swallowed as a tickle spread throughout his sinuses and a dull ache began to throb in his left ear.   He held up his finger, denoting her to wait a moment, as his face crashed into his handkerchief with a violent.  “Ehk-Ts’Choo!  Essh!! Essh!  Ufff-mm’T’choo!”   He held his breath until the rest of the onslaught petered off.  “They didn’t want me to,” he responded, in an extremely stuff voice, before blowing his nose thickly. 

“Bless you,” she offered quietly, coming and sitting next to him.  She waited to be snapped at for Molly-coddling.  But, she wanted to find a way to ease the symptoms of whatever he was fighting.  She reached out and tenderly put a hand on his leg, feeling his lean muscle under her touch. 

He stiffened, waiting for a comment about his health, his weight, his choices… but nothing came.  “My apologies, Molly.  It’s something of an inside secret that I tend to get ill leading up to these things.  They are so terribly draining.”

“What can I do to make it better for you?” she asked quietly.  “Would you like me to call for tea service?”

He paused, thinking of the warm and comforting effects that tea would have on his current disposition.  A simple nod of his head was all it took, and she was back on the phone placing the order.   “Thank you,” he whispered, this voice thick with congestion. 

“Nothing to it,” she answered.  She wanted to reach out and hold him close, to take him in her arms and provide physical comfort.  But, she wasn’t certain if he would appreciate that sort of touch.  “Do you have antihistamines or paracetamol?” she asked quietly. 

He nodded.  “In my razor case.” 

She half expected him to get up and get some, as she did not know his packing habits, nor did she think he would want her rooting around in his stuff.   But, when he did not get up, she decided to bite the bullet. “Where do you keep your case.  I’ll get you some.”

He looked at her as though she had said something out of the ordinary.  Blinking a few times, he nodded.  “It’s on the sink in the lavatory.”  Yes, it would be quite all right if she were to help him that way.  Quite all right indeed.

She came back with the medicine, and a water bottle.  “Maybe you should get into bed?” she offered.  “I can sit with you for a while, at least until the tea comes.”   She didn’t figure that he would enjoy being treated like an invalid, so she took a deep breath and clamored onto the other side of the bed. 

He froze.  There was a woman… in his bed.  A woman who did not want anything except to make sure he was all right.  Someone who wasn’t there for political gain.  It didn’t make sense to him.  But, the idea was certainly intriguing.   He got up and paused.  Bringing his handkerchief back up to his face, he released a volley of sneezes, “Ufff-t-choo!  Essh!  Issh!  Etsssh!  Impshhh!”  He winced as a tear came to his eye from the pain of trying to stifle.  He sniffled through congestion, and then gave his nose a thick honk, causing him to blush with shame.

“Bless you,” she said, patting the bed beside her.

“Molly, I’m afraid you’re apt to get sick,” he said, holding back.

“I’ll take my chances.  Come on.  I’m not going to bite you,” she said lightly.  Guest services knocked on the door, and she got up to let them in.  By the time the man came in with the tea trolley, Mycroft was in bed, seeming to read his book. 

Once Molly had seen the man out, she made Mycroft his tea to his exacting specifications, and then poured herself a cup as well.  Sitting on top of the covers, they drank the tea in companionable silence before they both fell to sleep.

Chapter Text


Molly sighed as cucumbers were put on her eyes.  She always enjoyed a facial, and when Marguerite had approached her while she got her coffee that morning and invited her out for a spa day, she could not say no.  She had been most impressed when they were asked if they wanted the charges added to their rooms, and Marguerite answered with a simply stated, “I was hoping to use this as the spa retreat for my garden club, but…”  Suddenly, their days were comped.  It was the most remarkable thing that Molly had ever seen. 

“It’s the perfect way to relax after last night, isn’t it dear?” Marguerite asked, her relaxed voice inviting even though Molly now knew to whom she was actually speaking. 

“It is,” Molly agreed, forcing her voice to remain calm even though she was still incredibly excited about everything that was happening.  She had woken up next to Mycroft, the covers, that she clearly recalled falling asleep on top of, spread over her body.  He was curled towards her, snoring lightly, and she had left him a glass of water and more antihistamines, paracetamol, and the proper dosing for his own medications that she found in his razor bag the night before.  She also wrote on the hotel pad where she was, who she was with, and when she expected to be back.  She was honored that he had placed so much trust in her, and she wanted to make certain that she acted in a way that let him know that he could continue to do so.

“So, however did you meet Mycroft, Molly?”  Marguerite asked.

The unspoken, ‘How did a girl like you meet a man like him?’ rang in her head, and she worked hard not to get defensive.  She had enjoyed speaking about her career, her past times, and the bits about Mycroft that she enjoyed speaking of the night before.

“Um,” she started, licking a honey-pasted lip lightly.  “I know him through his brother.”

“Ah, Sherlock.”  It was clear that Marguerite had heard of Sherlock, and not in the most flattering light. 

A protective flare coursed through Molly, but she focused on keeping her breathing even.  She was not here to defend the merits of Sherlock, rather to enjoy some time while making certain that Mycroft’s finely crafted reputation stayed intact. 

“So you have known him for a while?” Marguerite pressed.

“A few years.  He’s always been unerringly polite, the epitome of everything a man of his station should be.”  She turned over at the relaxation consultant’s gentle suggestion and moaned in delight as her back massage began. 

Marguerite smiled.  Anthea had asked her to try to get Molly to gossip about Mycroft, but Marguerite could already see that it wasn’t going to be an easy task to carry out.  Generally speaking she did not like to place herself in politics that were not her business.  However, she could not doubt Anthea for being concerned.  Besides, there was no guarantee that the instructions had not come from Mycroft himself. 

“He’s rather thin, don’t you think?” Marguerite asked, rather abruptly.  His lean stature had been something that others had spoken of for many years.  She was curious to see how Molly would receive a harsh word from someone that she knew to be Mycroft’s friend. 

Molly made a noncommittal noise.  The thought had crossed her mind the night before.  But, he was strong and a safe person for her to be with.  His physique was none of her business, so long as he stayed healthy.  “He’s just fine the way he in,” she responded after a long, relaxing, while.

“And his allergies, they act up all the time. Quite an annoyance, no?”  Marguerite asked, having seen Mycroft stifle sneezes all night long.  She was so happy that he had stayed for the jitterbug and swing dancing.  She had rarely seen him look so comfortable, and she hoped that this young woman, this friend of his brothers, was ready to take on all the intricacies that came with her long time friend Mycroft Holmes.

“That’s not for me to speak on really.  Why are you asking?”  She looked over at Marguerite, and fixed her with a look that made her confusion apparent, even through the facial mask. 

Marguerite blinked rapidly.  “My apologies, dear.  I have known Mycroft Holmes for many years, and he rarely takes a shine to anyone. “

“You just want to see that I’m worthy,” Molly responded, quietly.

“I want to make certain that you have the right intentions,” Marguerite corrected.  “And you seem to.  It is rather nice to see.  He’s an interesting man, but not always easy to deal with.  It can’t be easy on you.”

“He’s a good man, and I’m lucky that –“ she paused.  Stating that she’s among his trusted few could get her – and him – into trouble, “to know him,” she corrected quickly.   She breathed out and pretended to be asleep as the massage continued, ignoring Marguerite’s request for her to expand on the original comment that she had started to make.

After the spa treats were done, Molly felt like a new woman.  She went back to her room, and changed for the day.  Black pants and a lightly colored blouse.  Her shoes were akin to loafers, but she had noticed that other women were wearing them, so she thought nothing of it. 

The door between her and Mycroft’s rooms was slightly ajar, and she knocked before stepping in.   Mycroft was dressed in his suit, reading through briefings, which were spread over the desk.   “How was your time at the spa?” he asked, not turning around. His voice was tired, his tone nasal. 

She frowned slightly, as she fretted for him.  “It was very nice.  She was interested in getting information out of me about you.  She brought up all manner of things.  It was odd.”

A sharp intake of breath, and then Mycroft turned to the side, pressing his handkerchief over his nose and mouth.  “Hech-Ka-Shuffff!”  A few small coughs worked their way out, and he sniffed before clearing his throat. 

“Bless you,” she said, coming over to the couch and sitting down on it.  She recalled what he had said about not working on anything confidential when shew as so near. 
 
“Thank you.  My apologies.  About what did she inquire?” he asked, sniffling a bit before turning back to the briefings.

“Your temperament.  Your… physique.  Your allergies.”   Molly held her breath, suddenly wondering if she should not have brought this up at all. 

He nodded.  All the things about him that were difficult.  It was a wonder that she hadn’t brought up his job: the travel, the long hours.  He would be interested in hearing what Molly responded.  He knew that Marguerite would be honest and thorough with her assessment.  But, first, “… and you said?”

She bristled, wondering if she had answered appropriately.  “I said that you’re fine the way you are, and that your health is not for me to speak on.”

“Health?  You said my health?”  His voice rose in volume, and it was apparent that he was not pleased with her statement.  He turned to look at her, and fixed her with a glare that would have withered the most hardened politicians. 

She startled, her body mechanics pulling her away from him.  “No, not at all.  I asked what her angle was.  I don’t know why she wanted to know.  If she’s a friend of yours, she should already know.  And, if that’s not the friendship that you have, she has no right knowing.”  She paused, looking down.  “I’m sorry, Mycroft.  I tried not to say very much, but still stay polite.”  She pressed her lips together, her eyes shining with hurt and disappointment.  “I’m sorry…  I guess I’m no good at this.  I just… “  she shrugged, her words dying on her lips.  Just as she had feared, her best had not been good enough. 

She looked up and to the side, trying desperately not to cry.  Tears were not something that a Holmes could deal with, and compassion… that was never something that could come.  She could almost hear Sherlock telling her to get over it.  What she wouldn’t give to have John hand her a tissue and tell her it was all right. 

A box of tissues showed in her peripheral vision. “Molly… I …”  Mycroft took a deep breath.  He was never really known for his empathy, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have it.  “Molly, I apologize.  We have a… situation, and I’m trying not to let people know that things are not…”  He sighed.  He couldn’t tell her that a dignitary had been threatened.  He could not tell her that security in and around the building had been heightened.  He could not tell her that this situation coupled with his worsening cold had created a migraine that was affecting his hearing.  “I apologize for taking my stress out on you.  You didn’t say anything wrong.”

A situation?  she wondered, taking a tissue and dabbing at her eyes.  She figured a situation that took his focus was more than just the normal situations that would happen in the back of house during events like this.  “I’m sorry for being…”

“No,” Mycroft cut her off.  “No old Mol – “  His breath inhaled sharply.  Taking a tissue out of the box himself, he turned away from her with a heavy, “Yih-ESSCCHH!”  He made a noise of discomfort, and withdrew his handkerchief to blow his nose.  “My apologies,” he whispered, exhausted.  He sighed, anxiety coursing through him at the idea that someone might know that his health was less than at its best. 

“Bless you.  Why don’t you take a nap,” she offered gently.  “I’ll leave you be, and you can get like an hour of rest before we have to get ready for the dinner.”

He smiled at her.  She was a wonder.  Kindness and empathy unlike that which he had known for most of his life.  “No, I need to do some background checks.   But, thank you for your concern.”  He turned back to his work, and startled violently when she felt her hands on his shoulders.  The hand with his pen, had started moving it backwards with the intent to harm, before he realized that it was Molly and she was… massaging his shoulders?

Allowing a congested groan, he felt his whole body relax under her gentle touch.  He did not feel comfortable when most people touched him.  But, she knew exactly how and where to press in order to make him relax.  His breath started to hitch again, and he withdrew his handkerchief again, holding it to his face… again.  “Yih-ESSCCCH!!  Ettsssccchhh!!  Etsccchh! Esttcch!  Isssshoo! Apologies…”  He let himself put his head on his folded arms, and his eyes drift closed.  He was so tired, and his body craved rest, even just for a moment or two.

As Mycroft nodded off, Molly looked at the clock figuring fifteen minutes wouldn’t hurt.  She pressed a gentle kiss to the back of his neck, frowning slightly at his elevated temperature.  At exactly the fifteen minute mark, she kissed his temple, hoping the touch would wake him.  Unfortunately, it did not.

“Mycroft,” she said, “pressing her hand to his shoulder. 

He grunted as he came to, and startled when he realized that he had been asleep.

“Don’t worry.   You were only asleep for fifteen minutes,” Molly said, keeping her hand on his shoulder.  She was worried about him being mad at her.  She never wanted to be on the receiving end of that look again.  But, she didn’t have to worry.

“Thank you for that.  Perhaps when this is all over, you’ll consider doing that again.”  He stretched his neck and back.

“If ever you need to sleep and I’m there, I will happily do so.  I’ve been told that I have the magic touch for putting people to sleep.  I always figured it was because I was boring.”  She gave a nervous laugh.

“Your comforting.  People feel safe with you.  It’s a benefit.”  He reached over, and took her soft hand in his own.  Even ill and stressed as he was he felt comfortable with her at his side.  It was a new feeling, one that he did not have time to analyze.

After the dinner, the group was moving towards the dance floor.  Everything had gone exceedingly well, and Molly had been able to watch Mycroft in his natural element.  She loved how easily he spoke with people of consequence, and was even able to loop her into the conversation.  He was well medicated, and was able to speak around the congestion that had been evident in their hotel suite.   He was downright sexy to Molly’s way of thinking, and she couldn’t help smiling at him every time he looked at her.

As she wrapped her arm around his, she felt him pull her closer.  “You did wonderfully,” he whispered to her.  “Now on to -.”  His statement was cut off when a gunshot rang out in the hall. 

Hawk-like eyes scanned the balconies and hidden doorways, as he pulled away from Molly.  People started to scatter in every direction.  Talking on his cell phone, Mycroft ran over to an elderly gentleman in a top hat.  He looked like he would have been at the height of fashion in the nineteen-twenties.  A quick conversation ensued and the two of them came over to Molly. 

“Molly, go with Colonel Girard.  Do not go with anyone until I – and I alone come to get you.”  Speaking into his phone, he went rushed into the next room, and Molly gave the Colonel a fretful smile as she let him lead her off to another area.

Molly sat ramrod straight in a seat in what had been termed ‘the sitting room’.  The dignitaries had apparently been taken to another location.  But, lesser guests, it appeared,  had all been taken there.   To his credit, the Colonel had tried to make some conversation with Molly, but she wasn’t much in the mood for it, far too worried about Mycroft.  She would have been worried even if he had been in the best of state.  But, being ill… she hoped that he would be able to stay focused.  She knew that adrenaline was a wonderful thing and hoped that he would be all right.

“It was only a matter of time…”

“Security has been waning over the past few years…”

“It’s because they let commoners in.  There’s no propriety anymore…”

Molly didn’t blame people for talking about the events that were transpiring.  She just didn’t want to be part of it.  She had worn the blue dress, and was one of only two people who had worn a color other than black. 

“Well the dress is better, although not quite right,” a familiar voice said.  She froze, as she looked up and saw the same woman who had been so rude the night before.

“Thank you for your advice,” Molly replied.  “I’m sorry, I don’t believe I got your name,” she said, offering no hand or smile by way of a friendly introduction. 

“I didn’t give it.  But you see what you being here has done.  Mr. Holmes has always kept us safe, until you came.  Interesting, no?”

“No,” Molly replied.   She wanted to continue on to say that the work of his team had nothing at all to do with her.  But, she didn’t want to get into a conversation about it. 

When the conversation died between them, the woman drifted towards the other side of the room. 

Minutes drifted by like hours, and Molly was quite certain that she was going to burst.  Just under an hour later, Mycroft came in with his team to assure those inside that the situation was well in hand, and the perpetrator had been arrested.   He assured the guests that no one had been harmed, and that they were free to either go back to dancing, or back to their hotels as they were comfortable. 

While his team lead those assembled out, he reached for Molly’s hand, helping her stand.  She wanted to fling her arms around him and hold him close.  She wanted to tell him how brave and handsome she thought he was, and stay close to him for the rest of the night.  Instead, she took the fact that he had her hand in a vice-like grip as a testament that he felt at least partially the same way. 

“Don’t ask questions.  Nothing until we get to the hotel room,” he warned her as they stepped into the hallway. 

“Mr. Holmes,” a female voice asked, as they walked down the sidewalk towards the hotel.  Normally, he would call for his car, but his team was taking care of things, and he had enough extra energy to power London for the night.  A three block walk was hardly a difficult feat for him. 

Molly increased her grip on his hand, as she recognized the voice as the person who had been so unkind to her. 

“Thank you for trying to keep us safe.  Sometimes the wrong sorts get involved in politics.  And, we have to keep our wits about us, don’t we?”

He forced a smile, but said nothing.  He knew that the perpetrator had an accomplice, and his hand went into his jacket pocket as he pressed a few buttons alerting his team and police to come as he turned on his personal GPS locator. 

“Since you have fallen,” she continued, her voice darkening.  We cannot let England fall.”  With that, she pulled out a small hand gun and shot at Mycroft, the sound splitting the night with a loud bang, echoed by Molly's scream.

Mycroft’s team was on the accomplice in less than a minute, and Molly had sunk to the ground, where Mycroft was coughing, in a squatted position. Her hands went to take off his coat, vest, and shirt, when she realized that there wasn’t any blood.

“Nicely done, sir,” Anthea said, coming up beside Mycroft and Molly. “We couldn’t figure out who the accomplice was, but you were correct in assuming that you were the target. She’ll be taken into custody. Molly, grand job. You were able to hold your own much better than I would have given you credit for.”

Not knowing what to say, Molly simply nodded and stood. Both women helped Mycroft stand, and Molly felt a pang of worry tinged regret when he stumbled towards Anthea and not her. “We’ve moved you both to another hotel, and the car will bring you there now.”

The three of them got into the car. “You have the morning meeting, and of course the brunch, and then we can take Molly home,” Anthea said, not looking up from her phone.

Mycroft simply nodded, his entire being overtaken by what had just happened. He needed to spend time alone, or at least alone with Molly. He needed to be safe and to be certain that she was s well. Too many things were spinning around his mind, and he wanted the un-fun fun house like effects that it was causing to stop.

Chapter Text

Mycroft was trembling by the time that they arrived at the hotel, and Anthea followed them in, going to her own room which was only two away from theirs.

“The rooms are empty on both sides of you, so no worries about anyone hearing anything,” she said, placing a gentle hand on Mycroft’s arm.

He nodded without saying anything. Holding an arm out to Molly, he ushered her into the room he was going into. The suite was smaller than the one that they had been in and there was no connecting door. However, there were two queen sized beds, causing Molly some concern about sleeping arrangements. Despite the fact that they were newly… whatever they were, she wanted to hold him close – to make sure he was safe. Likewise, she wanted to give him the time and space he needed.

There was so much to take into consideration – not the least of which being her own emotions, which had turned into a dull moan within her heart. She tried to shut it out, to put it away until she knew that Mycroft was handled. She didn’t figure him to be all right. How could one be all right so soon after such an event? Certainly, she knew that he had been trained for such a thing. In fact, he had – apparently – known that he was the mark, and he set it up.

Her post-traumatic event mind started to process and she wanted to see the bullet-proof vest. She had heard of thin ones, but never seen on in action. One of the features of the thicker vests wasn’t only that it stopped the bullet, but that it negated the worst of the damage from the bullet hitting the body. She wanted to check out his sternum, which might have actually been fractured if not broken in the event.

“Miss Hooper, I need two things from you,” Mycroft stated, in full on ‘Mr. Holmes’ professionalism mode.

“Name them.”

“I need you to get Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade here immediately. I will have a car sent from him. Simply get his location. I cannot…” he let his voice trail off, before picking up again. He knew that she could extrapolate from incomplete data – it was a necessity of her employ to do so.

“Secondly, do not under any circumstance provide care until this event has completed for the night. I will let you know when that is. At that time, just be yourself. Do not concern yourself with being awkward or over stepping. I will let you know if there are boundaries you need to be aware of.”

He had not been facing her when he started making his requests. The first would usually go through Anthea, but she was working with the press, and would likely be doing so for most of the night. There would need to be a press conference, and the only person that he wanted speaking on what had happened was DI Lestrade. It could not get out that Mycroft had been the mark. That detail would compromise national security.

He turned when he heard Molly, rifling through her bag. “I don’t know where my phone went to. I didn’t bring it to the gala.”

Frustrated, he sighed. “What are you an idiot? Why would you go anywhere without your phone?” He lived and died by his phone, and couldn’t imagine being without it for hours on end.

“Women’s gowns don’t have pockets, and I didn’t see a reason to bring a clutch,” she reasoned. She was getting used to the concept of being called an idiot by the Holmes brothers. They called each other the term, and after all of these years it had practically lost its meaning to her.

“It’ll be in the outside pocket,” he said, after texting Anthea about it. At least he could depend on his team. Molly would need work. A lot of work.

“Got it,” she muttered, calling Greg right away. “Yes, Greg… no, it’s important. Yea, I need…” she turned away as she made the request. “We’ll send a car… yea, we. Look, I don’t have the time to explain. I need you here. Mycroft needs you here…. Yes, I will explain everything later. No… I – I understand, but you are the only person from the Yard that he wants here. Please, Greg.” A pause. “I owe you one.”

She jotted down the address and gave it to Mycroft, who texted it to Anthea. His breath was getting caught in his chest, becoming more and more shallow. In addition, he was trying to figure out why DI Lestrade had been giving Molly such a hard time. It was unlike him to not be there for his friends, and less so not be there when Mycroft summoned him. Unable to deduce anything, he put the problem aside. He was already suffering from tinnitus, and he knew that his body was likely to go into shock within the hour. He mildly hoped that Molly would be able to handle what was about to happen. Her night would be far longer than his, and although she was less accustomed to such excitement, he would be of no use to her.

When Lestrade arrived, Mycroft drew in a deep breath. “Miss Hooper, please avail yourself of my presence,” he requested, offering the Detective Inspector a place to sit.

Exhausted and overloaded, she gave them both a hurt look. “Oh, okay,” she stated, leaving the room. She realized that she didn’t have a key card for either of the empty rooms, and she didn’t want to bother Anthea for one. Still dressed in her blue evening gown, and with her phone in her hand, she went down to the bar. She knew that she would need to take care of Mycroft… unless of course he meant that it was time for her to leave entirely. Although Anthea did say that they would bring Molly home the following early afternoon. She sighed. She needed a drink.

Working with DI Gregory Lestrade was always an easy and pleasant affair. The man was truly one of those good people who believed in doing the right thing. He agreed to take over the press conference, and answered Mycroft’s seemingly prying questions about where he had been, and apologies for the lateness in the evening. It was nearly midnight, after all. After the short meeting concluded, Mycroft called that Molly could come back in.

Nothing. Not even a knock that she had no key.

The two men looked at each other, slightly panicked.

Cold washed over Mycroft as he hoped that she understood that he didn’t want her to leave indefinitely. He had not been clear about that. Mycroft was slower moving that Lestrade, though and he shook his head as he opened the door. “She’s not out there.”

Mycroft blanched and his world seemed to tip on its end. He couldn’t process the extra stress.

“She’s at the bar. I can almost promise you,” Greg’s voice broke through his thoughts. “I’ll collect her.”

“Why would she have gone there?” Mycroft wondered out loud. He had never known Molly to drink away stress. With a friend such as his brother, she would have been a drunk.

“Self-medicating, would be my guess. You’ve had a very eventful night. And, she’s not used to being part of the adventure.” He was impressed that she had held up as well as she did. But, a night such as that would be difficult for anyone.

When he got to the bar, he smiled sadly at Molly, who was sequestered in a corner, nursing a drink. “Molly, Mycroft is worried about you,” he said, coughing into his fist.

Worried brown eyes looked up at him. “I’m sorry that you’re not well. Thank you for coming out.”

“It’s my job,” he answered, and realized that he had said the wrong thing when her eyes refocused on the wall. He sighed and sat down at the table. “He is worried about you. We both were when you weren’t outside in the hallway. He shouldn’t have sent you out. It was nothing you couldn’t hear.”

She shrugged. “I’m not a member of the team. I don’t have a high enough clearance. It’s okay. The less I know the better.”

Her responses were mechanical and it hurt Greg to see his friend hurting so badly. “Was it worth it?” he asked, not actually fully understanding what he was asking.

“He was wonderful,” she said, beaming. “So handsome, and in charge. The epitome of graceful diplomatic strength.”

Greg couldn’t help but wish that a woman like Molly would get that look in her eye when speaking of him. “Then go to him, Molly. The two of you have had a harrowing affair. Get through it together. Trust me on this.” He stood up, and offered her a hand to help her get up. He figured even though she wasn’t drunk, it was highly likely that she was exhausted.

Making sure that she made it safe to Mycroft, he nodded at both of them, hopeful that they would provide the other with the support and care they would need. He hoped Molly was strong enough for the aftermath. He knew, first hand, how devastating it could be to go through a traumatic event and not have someone to decompress with. And, he wondered if Mycroft had the strength left to help her do so. He made an appointment in his phone to call her the next day. If Mycroft dropped the ball, he would not.

Mycroft sat on the couch, pressing his hands over his eyes. His migraine was causing pain along his sinuses, pressure in his temples, and pinching pain down his neck. “Please do not disappear after an occurrence such as last night. I nearly released a search party for you. What if you had been taken?”

“You had the keys to the other rooms, and I didn’t know how long you would be.”

“You could have asked me or Anthea.” He sniffed wetly, and winced as the pain spiked through his head.

“You were both busy, and I didn’t want to be in the way,” she explained. Her voice was soft, caring. She figured that the time had come for this part of the night. The decompression part. The part that no one ever wanted her around for before, and that she wasn’t certain what acting normal would constitute.

He removed his hands and looked at her, desperately willing himself to apologize. But, his body had other ideas, and all of the pretenses of the past few hours fell away. Looking around frantically, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and sneezed violently. “Yih-ESSSCHH! ESSCCHH! TESSSHH! ESCCH!! Keh-eh-HUH-EHTCCHH!!”

“Bless you,” she said, waiting, since his flaring nostrils told her that he was not yet done.

“My apol-oh… Guh, huh ETCCHSHSOO!” The final sneeze ended in a long gurgling blow that seemed to come from the very depths of his soul.

Molly hurried to the lavatory and pulled the box of tissues, putting them before him.

He plucked one out just as another “Mmmspphsssh!!” worked its way out.

“Mycroft don’t stifle,” she said, sitting down next to him. She snaked an arm through his own, and pressed a kiss to his cheek.

He pulled away from her, giving her an incredulous look in the process.

“Do you know how incredibly sexy you were tonight?” she asked, sliding away from him slightly. She cupped his arm with her hand, and kept the touch. She wanted him to know that she was there.

“Heh,” he laughed, still too far in his own head to truly respond.

“You were! You were brave, and diplomatic. Charming. And, the way you took control. You were larger than life, like a character from a book or a movie. I was terribly impressed.”

Her kind words snaked their way into his mind. They were complimentary, not harsh. Were she to want to yell… he winced as even the thought of yelling hurt his head… or even berate him for putting her through such an affair – for putting her at risk, and leaving her out of important meetings that she had a right to be in on, he would not blame her. But, no. Instead, she was being kind to him. Being herself, and tactile. There were few times when Mycroft Holmes craved comforting touch: when he was ill and when he was decompressing were two of those times.

“You handled yourself incredibly well tonight, Molly. I could not have expected better from you. “ He sniffed again and winced.

Going to get him his medicines, she let go of his arm, and he gave a startled cry. “Don’t leave,” he nearly begged, grabbing her hand. He needed to stay rooted to this reality.

“I just… I want to get you your pills. They can do their work while we talk about whatever you need,” she responded softly.

He released her hand and she went to his suitcase, removing his razor case, and pulling out the pill bottles. She went to grab a bottle of water, and came back to him, sitting them down in front of him. Taking her place next to him, she urged him to take what he needed.

He was pulling out the pills when he inhaled sharply.

Brushing a hand over his own, she pulled the pill bottle away with one hand and pulled out two tissues, handing them to two him just as two wet sneezes exploded out. “ESTCCHOO! T’CHA-SHOO!” He coughed wetly into the tissues, and accepted the water that Molly handed to him.

“Sips,” she said, as though he was a small child. He needed it though, and was grateful for the care.

“Come on. Time to get into your pajamas,” she urged, pulling a frown when he shook his head. “Not yet,” he responded stuffily.

“Talk to me, Mycroft,” she stated, softly. “It doesn’t have to make sense. Actions to emotions to words…” she said, echoing the exercise he had done with her.

He pressed a hand to his head, trying to make his headache go away. “If I told you, I would have to mae you disappear. I don’t have the right filters right now…”

Her blood ran cold. ‘Would he do that?’ she wondered. ‘Would he make her disappear?’ She supposed he could. He was the British Government, as Sherlock said. She already knew that he was the most dangerous man she would ever meet. But, would he do that? Was she so inconsequential that he would make her disappear?

Mycroft observed as a very important piece of trust died in her eyes. He didn’t quite know what he had said, but they would have to revisit it at some point… likely when they were discussing whatever would be discussed this night. Decompressions like this always took a while.

“All right,” she said, trying to keep herself from trembling.

He noticed. “What’s the matter?” he asked, holding her hands.

She shook her head. “I just don’t know what to do. If you won’t talk, then I’m out of ideas.” Mostly. Leaning in, she pressed a hard kiss to his mouth. Even if it wouldn’t get him talking, it would likely get his mind off the night.

Her assessment was correct, and he leaned back, pulling her onto his lap as they kissed harshly, their emotions from the evening swirling around them as they took them out on each other in kissing format. She had gotten his jacket off before too long, and made for his weskit when he hissed.

Of course – the bullet.

“Let me see your chest,” she said, getting up off of him.

He barked a cough that probably had started its existence as a laugh. “Not much to see there.”

“You mistake my meaning. Your bullet proof vest would have stopped the bullet, but not the percussive damage. I want to see the vest… and then the damage.

Regarding her seriously, he understood that her request was not of a romantic nature, and stood up, unbuttoning his weskit with shaking fingers. She stepped closer to him, and helped him remove his shirt, gentle fingers gracing his sides when there was nothing else between them but the thin bullet proof vest, which for all intents and purposes was more of a bullet proof shirt, and the t-shirt that he wore underneath that.

“Are you all right?” she asked, as he unzipped the side of the bullet proof vest and she helped him pull it over his head.

Sharp brown eyes slammed closed as he looked off to the side, and took in a sad, shivering breath. He barked out a barely covered cough, and whispered his apologies.

His breathing became erratic, and Molly couldn’t tell if he was having a panic attack or starting to cry. As luck would have it, it was both.

“I can’t let you see that. I can’t…” he gasped out, his breathing far too shallow to be healthy.

Slowly, she guided him to the bed, and sat down next to him, her dress sliding awkwardly off of the duvet. Holding both of his hands in her own, she took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It’s okay, Mycroft. It’s over. It’s all over. You saved the day; of course you did – as always. A real life hero you are,” she babbled at him. “My hero.”

At the last two words, he doubled over towards her, his erratic breathing coupled with harsh sobs.

Scooching herself closer, so that he could rest his head on her shoulder, she let the emotions of the evening come pouring out of the most strong and debonair man that she had ever known. Keeping one arm around him, she rubbed her other hand up and down his arm. “Rest. It’s all right. It’s all right. Let it out,” she mumbled to him, secretly looking forward to later, once he was asleep and she could sequester herself into the bathroom and have her own teary release.

“I can’t… I c-can’t,” he stated through the tears, and Molly realized that it wasn’t that he was decompressing from the night, but that the intimacies had over whelmed him.

“It’s all right,” she said, pressing a kiss to his head. “I apologize, Mycroft. I didn’t mean to pressure you. To make you feel uncomfortable.” She strengthened her grip on him.

She felt him begin to pull away, but kept a strong hold on him. “M-Molly, I hah-“ He snorted and pulled in a sharp breath, holding it as he realized that the tissues were too far away, and his handkerchief was useless.

Quickly, Molly pulled a folded tissue out of her bust. “It’s clean,” she said as she handed it over.

The shock of what had just happened caused him to pause, but only for a second. “YIH-ETCHSSCCHH! ETCSCCCH! ESTTCCHH! Yih-ISSHOO!” The tissue was all but useless after the first sneeze, and he cried out in alarm when Molly got up and got the box of tissues.

“Bless you, “ she said, putting the tissues in his lap. She put her arms around him again. “I’m right here,” she assured him, quietly.

After what seemed like an eternity of nose blowing, he yawned, admitting defeat to the exhaustion that nagged at the fiber of his being. Sliding under his covers, he divested himself of his pants, and waited as Molly went into the lavatory to put on her pajamas and wash up. He wanted to wait for her, and see how they were most comfortable sleeping. He did have access to the keys to the rooms next door, if she wanted her own room. As he pondered how nice it would be to have her stay, however, he fell into a much needed sleep.

Molly stayed in the lavatory until she heard Mycroft’s light snores. Sliding herself onto the floor, she buried her head in her knees and finally allowed her own decompression to come. She let the negative thoughts about her own ineptitude wash over her completely. She should have known to get the name of the woman who had been so rude to her. She should have kept her phone on her, or a closer eye on Mycroft. She should have been there for him in a more effective manner, and now he was asleep with goodness new how much damage done to him, and she had no idea. She pushed away her feelings of inadequacy, and the weird twinge of guilt that when he needed physical support, he leaned on Anthea. And why shouldn’t he? She was his personal assistant, and was good at her job – the best. And while Molly was there, her low level clearance, her ineptitude when it came to politics and diplomacy, the fact that she didn’t know how to properly help him decompress – it all spelled it out to her what a failure she was during this day.

Sobs overtook her, and she did her best to cry into her knees. She didn’t want to wake him. Didn’t want to burden him with her own decompression. What was he going to do? Nothing. It wasn’t right for her to want him to hold her and assure her that she did well during this event. She did not. She was not worthy to be around people – not living ones. And certainly not important living ones. She had made a spectacle of herself, and Mycroft had put up with it.

Another idea swept over her. She was the reason that he was shot. Because he brought commoner to the State Dinner. She was seen as an infiltrator. If radicals like this existed, it had to come from somewhere… because just by bringing her, he had made a faux pas. She envisioned him on her slab, and the sobs increased three fold, nearly choking her in the process.

She was so distraught that she jumped in surprise when a knock came on the door. “Molly, are you all right?” a tired voice asked her through the door.

No. The only true answer was no. And, she knew that she couldn’t fool him into believing otherwise. Reaching over, she unlocked the door. “Not really… I’m sorry I got you shot,” she responded thickly. At the sound of her own voice, she took some toilet roll and blew her nose thickly.

He looked at her. Her long brown hair was pulled into a pony tail, and she sat on the floor, her back to the tub, crying into her pajama clad knees.

“You didn’t,” he answered, still standing over her, as his exhausted mind tried desperately to come up with a conclusion for what he perceived to be an odd statement.

“I did… she shot you because common people came to the State Dinner. I am in all ways common. She thought you had fallen because of your choice of m-me.” Fat tears worked their way out again, and she snuffled thickly.

Refusing to sit on the bathroom floor, he shook his head. “It’s never that simple, Molly. You were a convenient excuse. But, they would have had to plan this for months if not longer. No one knew anything about you until you showed up. Do not take their comments to heart.”

She thought about that. He was right, of course.

“Come,” he said, with a sniffle. “Let’s get to bed. You can choose whether or not you’d like to sleep alone.”

“I would prefer to sleep with you,” she said, climbing into the same bed as he.

Settling together, Molly placed her head upon his shoulder. “You’ll tell me if you need anything during the night?” she asked, gently wrapping her arms around him.

He hummed an exhausted affirmative before they both fell to sleep.

Chapter Text

Mycroft woke up with a soft snore, realizing that he could barely breathe. His limbs felt heavy, and his head was throbbing.

Trying to move, he found himself quite unable to and a surge of panic coursed through him in waves. Who had found him? Was he captured.

He pulled himself up, upsetting Molly, who had been asleep on his arm. Falling awkwardly to her side of the bed, she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Mycroft, what is it?”

She gasped, as she was pushed roughly onto her back and held down. Sensing that he was disoriented and had not expected her to be there, she forced herself to say, “Mycroft, it’s Molly. Do you know where you are?”

“Oh dear Lord,” she heard, his rough voice squeak out as she was let go. “My most sincere apologies…”
The light clicked on, and Molly winced at the brightness.

“Molly,” he breathed, his breath hitching. He grasped for several tissues, and released a wet,” HmmFFSSCHH! Tess’CHOO! ING’TESSSH!! Guh-USSH!” His eyes remained closed and his nose buried for several seconds, until he was certain that the fit had passed.

A gentle hand touched his shoulder as he heard a soft blessing. He concentrated on his body placement, his breathing, anything not to through her off. “Please don’t touch me right now,” he huffed. But, even that was too much to maintain the delicate balance that his body had placed him in. “Uff-SCCHH!! Essh! Tesssh! Kessh! Kessh! Hessshhefff!” Each sneeze had been predicated by a high pitched wheeze as his congested lungs tried desperately to pull in air. His tissue was useless, and the soreness in his body was dwarfed by that fact. The hand, he noticed, was gone from his personhood. And no blessing followed.

His educated mind came up with the only logical conclusion: that she had abandoned him. State dinner, politics, drama, fear, and then taking care of him during decompression would have been enough to drive off anyone. But, the fact that he woke up hostile, and had held her down after forgetting that she was there. It was too much. He couldn’t blame her. If he had been
John or Greg or whomever she was going to tell about the weekend, he would be on the short list of people to make disappear. It was too much. His life was too intense to share with anyone. He knew that. Why had he let himself believe something different.

“Here,” Molly said, handing him a soft silk handkerchief. “It’s one of mine. I don’t know where you keep yours. It really wasn’t meant to be used so roughly, but short of grabbing a washcloth, she had little choice. She didn’t have the mind to go through his bags.

He looked her over incredulously. She had stayed? How wonderful. Taking her delicate handkerchief, he felt a pang of regret as he filled it so completely that it needed to be thrown away afterwards. He coughed a few times as the congestion
released. “Thank you,” he rasped, setting off a rough coughing spell.

Yawning, Molly went to the counter and got another bottle of water. “Here,” she said, climbing bac on her side of the bed.
He took the water bottle, and snuffled a bit. “Thank you,” he said, turning towards her as his breathing returned to normal. “Come, let me see,” he mumbled gently.

“What?” she asked, looking at him oddly. “I’m not hiding anything.” For one terrifying moment, she wondered if he wanted to see more of her than she was willing to show.

“Your arms. I so deeply apologize, Molly. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” The remorse was easy to hear in his voice.

“You scared me. I’m not used to waking up next to someone who can kill me. Or make me disappear,” she said, as she held her arms out for him. “But, you really didn’t hurt me. “

He vaguely remembered the night before, when he teased that if he told her something that he would have to make her disappear. He sighed, looking down. “Molly, I will never physically harm you. I will protect you from those. One of the most important concepts when you know as much as I do about self defense is that you don’t hurt people with it. But, when I am having a nightmare… I urge you to move yourself away. “ He took her hands gently. “Promise me that you will not try to wake me from a nightmare. No matter how much you think it will help. Do not engage.” He coughed into a curled fist.

She took a deep breath and nodded. “Only if you promise that someday you’ll teach me how to wake you safely.” As tense as the weekend had been, as serious as the conversation was, there was something comforting about sitting in bed with him having this conversation. The only way it would be better would be if there was coffee service.

A trembling hand moved a lock of Molly’s long brown hair backwards. It felt silky between his fingers, and fine. Fine… like Molly, a fine woman. They were so difficult to find, and even more difficult to connect with. And yet… here she was. He smiled at her, unguarded, and nodded. “Agreed.” It would take a world of training. Her reflexes would have to get faster, first. He could train her, if she was interested. But, that was a conversation for another day.

“And, before you start thinking that your … existence… is dependent on my good feelings for you… “ His breath hitched, and his eyes fluttered closed. Grasping another two tissues, he cursed his body for its most inopportune timing. “Hih…ETSCCCHH!! IGN’TEG’UGSSHH!! Ettcsshh! Tissh! Tissh! Egh-Eh-T’CHOO!” A few wet coughs worked their way out as well.

“Bless you,” she said, handing him a few more tissues. “Blow,” she said, biting her lip afterwards. Certainly, he didn’t need her to tell him how to handle his own symptoms. Especially if he tended to become ill around these events.

After relieving his nose, he swayed a bit, and felt calmed, when her hand found its way back to his shoulder.

“We’re going to need to cancel the brunch,” she stated.

“No, no… I can’t. Don’t worry. I know how to keep my symptoms … and my germs to myself.” He sniffled thickly, and winced at the sharp pain that throbbed in his sinuses. He heard her start to move. Quickly – but gently – he put his hand on her leg, through the covers. “Molly, please believe me when I state that only the dregs of humanity – the ones that are a threat to national security and cannot be handled any other way… disappear. “ He hoped he believed her. He couldn’t stand people who did things for him because they were afraid. It was one of the reasons that he didn’t date his own class. Those women wanted to get close to him for their own gains. Molly… she was different. He had no reason to believe that she had ever imagined that they would be… together. Or that her interactions with him would last beyond the first gala.

“Thank you for explaining that. I would like – um…” The words died on her lips.

“Say it,” he prompted.

“I would like it if this could continue. But, I don’t want to be scared that if it doesn’t… that if we break up, I’ll disappear.” Her breath caught.

Mycroft knew that he was a powerful man. Of course he did. He had connections, and experiences, and information that could cripple Britain and destroy the individual lives of just about anyone in it. But, he felt misunderstood in this moment. “Never think that. If we … do not continue an amicable relationship, you will not see me again. But, I will not seek to destroy you. You are not that important to the world at large.”

He knew that while logical, the statement was cold and bordered on the side of cruel. He regarded Molly with an odd look when she smiled at him.

“That makes me feel better, you know. It’s nice to not be important. To not matter.” Her voice shook, and she wondered how
many more blows her ego could take.

“You misunderstand. You matter to me, to Sherlock, and Greg, and John. You matter to those who love you, Molly. But, world leaders don’t know who you are yet. And that’s not a bad thing.” Caring was not an advantage. The second the world leaders found out that there was someone that Mycroft cared about, they would polarize. Some would do what it took to keep her out of the politics, and others would do anything to drag her into it… including sending people to hurt her in order to hurt him.

She smiled. “Thank you,” she said, feeling herself move forward to kiss him.

He turned his face away from her. “No… I feel wretched, and it’ll be a wonder if you don’t catch this from our close proximity already.”
She nodded, leaning over to press a kiss to his shoulder, anyway.

“What did you tell Greg?” she asked, getting out of bed. She wanted to know if she could talk to him, or if this was one of those things that she would have to deal with on her own.

“The press conference!” Mycroft, exclaimed, reaching over for the television remote. He seemed to have missed the first part of it, but DI Lestrade was talking about how shots were fired at the State Dinner, but no one was hurt, and the perpetrators had been taken into custody.

She sighed, supposing that answered that question. “Does he know about you being shot?” she asked.

He shushed her, his eyes bouncing around the screen as he took in all of the details that others would never even notice.

Sighing she went to take her shower. She would have to get through this on her own, it seemed.

Coming out, she realized that she had not brought her clothes into the bathroom, and hoped that Anthea would not be in the room with Mycroft. Wrapping the towel around herself, she entered the bedroom, happy that it was just her and Mycroft. “Sorry – forgot my bag,” she said, ignoring the fact that the telly was off, and she could talk to him.

“Detective Inspector Lestrade knows everything that happened. Why?”

She paused. “Because I need to talk to someone about what happened… and I know you’re not the right person to do so.”
Mycroft paused, his brow furrowing in confusion. “Why?”

“Because you’re going through your own decompressions. And, you’re a Holmes… other people’s feelings are not your forte.”

“I am not my brother,” he stated, his voice low.

“You have enough on your plate without dealing with my emotions.”

He went to respond, but pinched his nose shut and suppressed a fit of, “Tessh! Tessh! Esssh! Essh! Ketchoo!” He blew his nose lightly. “My apologies,” he said.

“Blessings. It’s all right. I know you’re not feeling well,” she said, making her way back to the lavatory.

“No. You misunderstand. My apologies for not being there for you last night. I didn’t have…”

“Spoons… you ran out of spoons. I understand. But, I… I … I…” She shook her head, feeling like her brain was stuck. “Look up spoon theory, while I get dressed.

Coming out of the lavatory, dressed, she regarded Mycroft, who was looking at her with a look that could only be called affectionate. “That was precisely what happened, Molly. I was out of spoons.”

She nodded. “I’m not out of spoons. But, I don’t know how to decompress. I don’t know how to process what happened. And,
I don’t think you spend a lot of time pondering the past. So, I was wondering if I could talk to Greg about it.”

He nodded, finally stretching and getting moving. “I actually spend a considerable amount of time thinking about the past. But, if you would like, you could decompress to Detective Inspector Lestrade.”

She nodded, not certain what to say. She was wondering if they were considered to be together. But, she didn’t want to ask that just yet. Maybe the following weekend… or the one after that.

---
The brunch was held at a lovely 1950s themed luncheonette. The group filled the main area, although Molly found herself distracted by the roofs of the nearby buildings that could be seen through the windows.

“Our snipers are up there. Don’t worry,” Mycroft whispered into her ear, drawing her attention back to the conversation.

“Sorry…,” she said, apologizing to the table. Marguerite and Aubrey had been explaining to the rest what they planned on doing for their summer vacation.

“We do have a lovely summer home near Cambridge. We’ll be there for the month of June, and we’d love it if the two of you would come out.”

Molly and Mycroft gave each other a nervous look.

“You don’t have to answer now of course. And, Molly, I do love a good girls weekend out. I’d hope that you would be willing to join me and a few friends of mine. No cost of yourself, of course,” she added. Molly had told them what she did for a living, and she realized that the cost of their lifestyle would be quite jarring to her.

“I would love to. Truly.”
Marguerite smiled at her. “I’ll contact Mycroft with the arrangements. Will that work for you dear?”

Molly smiled at the man at her side. She could tell that he was still not feeling well. His pallor was a little too pale. His nostrils tinged pink. But, he was well medicated, and acting as though he was well. She placed her hand on his leg, feeling privileged to be the woman at his side. As soon as he was better, she wanted to speak to him about exclusivity. She didn’t want to let a good thing slip away. And, looking at Mycroft she realized that tgis was a very good thing.

Chapter Text

“I have people who will do this for us,” Mycroft said, as they walked down the street. Molly had asked him to come out shopping with her. She said that she didn’t need anything, but that she was browsing. He bristled every time they walked into a store, and she seemed to just wander around aimlessly. The only good part was that she didn’t seem to expect him to follow her around, so he was able to get some work done while he was waiting, bored out of his mind, with other men who seemed to be in the same situation. At least none of them seemed to want to make conversation. Pleasantries with strangers would make this awful day simply unbearable.

“But, it’s fun to get out,” she said, tilting her head backwards with a laugh. She skipped a bit away… her hand cupped around his jacketed arm. “Come on, Mycroft. Be silly!” Her own coat was open, revealing a heart and cable knit multi colored sweater. She was full of joy, and she wanted to share it with him.

“I don’t do silly,” he said, hissing the last word at her a bit. But, he did give her a rare unguarded smile as she skipped away from him a bit. She was so free with her emotions – with what she was feeling at any given time. In some ways he envied her because of this.

They meandered into a street fair, and Mycroft found himself reaching for her hand. Diplomatic negotiations and conferences with hundreds of people were nothing in comparison to the discomfort that the chaos of a street fair sent through him. He understood her need to be wild and free, but he needed to know that she was safe and near him. The bodyguard that had been trailing them by about a block would have to be closer, and may be impeded in getting to him. Besides, as proven at the last conference, he could control things there. Here… it was too chaotic, too out of his control. He needed Molly there to calm him… not that he would ever say that.

He gasped, a sharp shot of anxiety pulsing through him when she suddenly let go and rushed off towards a live street band consisting of two female guitarists and a few mics and speakers. She started singing with them, slightly off key, but obviously nostalgic about the tune.

“So freeee for the moment… lost because I want to be lost. Don’t let him find me.” As Molly sung the last sentence, Mycroft realized that her words were different than the singer’s, who had said “Don’t try to find me.” Interesting.

Listening to the song, it seemed to be one that someone would sing when they were walking away from something and rationalizing the decision to themselves.

He moved up to take her hand while one of the guitarists had a solo. He was aware of how incredibly close they were to the to the singers, and it made him quite self-conscious. But, Molly was in her own place, her own moment.
As the song ended, he put a few pounds in the open guitar case, and gently nudged Molly past them. “That song seemed to mean something to you,” he said, putting his arm around her, so that his hand was resting on her upper arm, and he was walking behind her.

She nodded, leading him through a crowd swell. She felt his hand squeeze her arm, and realized that he was quite uncomfortable. Coming out of the crowd, she headed towards a bench on the sidewalk, and offered him the seat.

It was a warm day, but not warm enough to explain away the beads of sweat that had gathered on his forehead and upper lip. She put her hand on his shoulder as he sat down, squatting in front of him while he pulled out his handkerchief and pat away the sweat.

“Water?” she asked, pulling the smallest bottle of water that he had ever seen out of her purse.

“Thank you,” he accepted it, breaking the seal and taking a long sip. He drew in a few deep breaths and then gave her a small nod. He stared into the distance, the claustrophobic effects that he had started to feel, as they walked through the crowd, finally ebbing away. A smile graced his lips as she kissed him on the cheek before standing up.

A thought crossed his mind, and he knew he should let it go but, he desperately needed to remove the focus from him. “With all due respect, Molly, you were singing the wrong words.”

“What?” she asked him, squinting down at him a little.

“You’re song… it’s ‘Don’t come and find me.” Not, “Don’t let him find me.” Even as he spoke the words, the feeling of cold dread lay over him. Charles.

Molly froze, a complicated array of emotions playing over her face, as she looked away, squinting as though she were looking for someone who was far away. “It’s nothing. I just… I just used it as a break up song, and I guess I never noticed.”

“What’s his name? His last name?” Mycroft asked. It was time that he learned all he could about a boyfriend who was only a footnote in her file.

“I don’t recall,” she said. It wasn’t a complete lie. She had worked hard to forget him.

“What did he do?”

“He said he had an inconsequential position in the government.” She looked down at him and smirked at the irony.

He took a deep breath, and nodded. Perhaps it wasn’t the time to bring this up. If Molly wanted to discuss it, he was certain that she would. Finishing off the water, he stood up and put it in the recycling bin. He reached out for Molly’s hand, and pulled her towards him gently. Placing a kiss on her forehead he whispered, “I won’t let him find you.”

Chapter Text

Molly trudged into work, coughing into a balled up handkerchief. Thankful that she worked alone, and that she couldn’t infect the dead, she took a few cold tablets and tried to concentrate even though the only thing she wanted to do was sleep. She idly wondered if Mycroft had felt so ill and, if so, how he had been able to hide it.

Drawing in a breath that sounded more like a yelp than a breath, she turned away from her paperwork, and brought her handkerchief up to her nose and mouth. “Heh-Kesshessh! HEP-Essshessoo!!” She groaned as the sneezy feeling swelled in her nasal cavities again. “Eh-HEP-Shesssh!! Esshhkkshoo!” She coughed miserably.

She hoped that Sherlock would give it a rest. Just for today. If she needed to, she could take him on tomorrow. But, today she was more likely to sneeze on him to keep him away than she was to be able to handle his attitude, or his intelligence.

** I hear that you and Mycroft had a good time at the State Dinner. ** SH

Oh God, there he was.

**Yea** Molly

** Did my brother sit on the perp to keep things under control? ** SH

**You’re brother is a handsome man. You leave your brother alone.** Molly

The texting stopped and she couldn’t be more happy about that.

She pushed on for a few more hours, becoming decreasingly efficient. Finally, she knew that she needed help.

**Greg, are you working today?** Molly

She and Greg had become friends when they thought Sherlock was dead. His bitch of an ex-wife had been running him through the wringer, and she needed someone to talk to. Although it never proceeded beyond friendship, even after his divorce, they had learned to lean on each other a bit, especially we they felt vulnerable to the world. So it was no surprise that she reached out to Greg now.

** Just the press conf follow up. What’s up, Molly** GL

She sucked in deep breath and let out a barrage of wet coughs into her handkerchief. By the end of the fit, she was rubbing her chest, and wishing that she was home.

**I’m sick. Can you get me home, please?** Molly

She had hardly hit send when she was overcome with the next swell of nasal tickling. “HEP-Tessshh! Esssheeeh! AK-Epsheeshh!” The sneezes came barreling out, and she was barely able to raise a wrist to her mouth before she sprayed her phone. Sitting down heavily in her seat, she sent an email off to her boss asking for the next two days off. She offered to come to his office to show him that she was unwell, but he didn’t go for it.

By the time Greg got there, she had pushed beyond her depleted capacity, and was huffing more heavy coughs into her now mostly useless handkerchief. “Excuse me,” she said, suppressing a few coughs after her rough statement.

Greg, who had been concerned about her when she asked for his assistance noticed that his concern had been well founded. “Aw, Molly,” he said. “You look done in.”

She nodded at him. “Sorry to call you away,” she rasped. “I wanna go home.” She sniffled slightly, dabbing at her nose with her handkerchief. Reddened and sore, she wanted nothing more than to get into her pajamas with a nice cuppa tea and fall to sleep.

“Come on,” he whispered, putting his arm around her shoulders tenderly, and leading her out to the car.

Once they got to her house, he fixed them a nice pot of tea while she changed into her pajamas. “So, why did you call me, and not Mycroft?” he asked, pouring her a cup.

She pulled her throw blanket around her and shivered slightly. “I dunno. I didn’t want to bother him. He’s always so busy. Besides, he doesn’t need to worry ab – abou- t…” Quickly, she put her cup down, and scooped up her fresh handkerchief. “Hep-Tesshh! Do excuse me,” she muttered not realizing how much she was starting to sound like Mycroft.

“God bless you. Molly, I’m pretty sure he’d want to know.” And if the daft prat was anything like his younger brother, Greg had no problem going up to his posh palace and telling him exactly how not to ruin this relationship.

She shrugged. She knew that she enjoyed taking care of him while he was at less than his best. But, she rather doubted that he would feel the same. “I’ll text him in a bit,” she said in the most unconvincing way. The truth was that she had learned to be comfortable with Greg. Their friendship had once revolved completely around Sherlock, but during the two years that Sherlock had been gone, they had gotten to know each other quite well and fell into an easy friendship. She didn’t have this level of companionship with Mycroft yet.

“Lay down, Molly. I’ll stay with you for a while.” Greg knew that she didn’t like to be alone when she was unwell. Her fever would cause disorientation, and waking up alone sometimes affected her very badly.

As she dozed, he recalled the first time that he had spent the night at her place when she was unwell. He had slept in a chair by her bed. Rather an uncomfortable thing to do. While it was a caring gesture, it was not appreciated by either of them when she woke up with a blood curdling scream, thinking that he was someone else. The terror in his eyes had been a hard visual to shake. It was at that time he learned that either she needed to know that he was in the room when she went to sleep, or he needed to be in a different room when she woke up. Poor dear. People knew about his relationship troubles, but so few knew about the hell that she had been through over the years.

It had always surprised him how she was drawn in the narcissists and sociopaths. She was so incredibly intelligent, awkwardly funny, and girl next door beautiful. He wished that he had not delayed the divorce as much as he had. Were he a single man, at the same time that she was a single woman, he would certainly ask Molly out. But, life never overlapped like that. So, he remained content that she trusted him when she was at her weakest and most vulnerable.

Taking a deep breath, he rested his eyes. He thought about their talk after the events of the State Dinner. He nearly drove his fist through his desk when she casually mentioned that she didn’t know how to categorize or compartmentalize her feelings. How Mycroft could forget to help her decompress? He had paced his office as he talked her through the ordeal, impressed by how well she handled it all.

“Are you all right, Greg? You seem upset.” She had asked him afterwards. Of course she would pick up on the tightness in his voice. She always did. It was one of the things that he liked so much about her. She was so intuitive. His thoughts drifted to Mycroft, who was also rather intuitive. But, matters of the heart did not tend to be the strong suit of the Holmes brothers.

He drew in a deep breath and rubbed his hands over his eyes. He almost wanted to do one of those things like that play. Where he told Mycroft what the right things to do with Molly were, so that he didn’t screw this up. He smiled as Molly let out a small snuffly snore.

‘Poor thing,’ he thought. He scratched over his end of the day stubble, and sighed as he turned on the telly. He hushed her when she startled, feeling the guilt that he knew he would. Turning down the volume he found something mindless, and drifted off to sleep in the chair.

He startled awake at a persistent knock at the door. Casting a concerned look at Molly, she continued to sleep on. “I’ll be right back, love,” he stated, placing a warm hand on her back. She tipped her chin slightly, although he wasn’t certain if she was responding to his words or his touch.

Looking through the door peep, he sighed and hoped that Mycroft would not be too put off by his being here. Opening the door, he cleared his throat a little bit before drawing in a deep breath.

“Detective Inspector, I did not expect you to be here,” Mycroft stated in an attempt to mask his surprise. “To what do I owe this surprise?” Molly had missed their dinner and did not call him to cancel. His mind whirled with the reasons that would cause Lestrade to be in her apartment. Finally – mere seconds later – his mind decided that the top two scenarios were that something had happened to Molly or that they were having a tryst. He did not like either scenario, and was hopeful that Lestrade would offer him a third option.

“Molly is ill,” Lestrade said, his voice low. He moved out into the hallway, forcing Mycroft to step out of the way. Closing the door most of the way behind him, he continued. “It’s nothing to be concerned over, but she has a rotten cold, and she’s asleep.”

Mycroft blinked hard. Why hadn’t Molly called him to let him know?

“Now before ye ask, I did tell her to contact you. But, she fell asleep before she got around to it. I haven’t had the heart to wake her.”

Mycroft nodded. Lestrade had, in fact, offered him a third answer. “Thank you Detective Inspector…”
“Greg,” Lestrade interjected.

“Ah, yes. My apologies.” He had forgotten that when people were off duty, they tended to drop pretenses. Since he was never off duty, he forgot this social norm sometimes. “Gregory, I want to thank you for being there for Molly. I did not realize that the two of you were so close.” Dark eyes looked over the older man. He certainly had a lot to offer to a woman, despite his failed marriage. He could see what Molly might see in him: a stable man, silver fox, handsome, kind, trustworthy, honest, hardworking….

Greg shifted uncomfortably under the gaze of Mycroft Holmes. “I don’t want ye to get the wrong idea. Molly and I are friends, that’s all. She’s helped me through some pretty rough times. And when she feels…” Vulnerable was the word that came to mind, but he couldn’t say that, “unwell, she calls me to spend the night.” The second the words were out of his mouth, he knew that stating ‘vulnerable’ would have bee a much better choice.

Mycroft’s eyes widened and he felt his heart harden just a bit. He supposed that it was his own fault. He had never spoken to her about exclusivity. Were he to be honest with himself, he didn’t think that he was going to have to. It all seemed to be going so well. But, he supposed there was only one thing left to do. “Well, then I’ll leave you two,” he said, forcing a smile.

“Mycroft it’s not like that,” Greg said, reaching out to grab the younger man’s shoulder.

“I’ll thank you to release me, sir,” Mycroft said, his voice a tight hiss.

“Come in… I didn’t want to wake her, but we can’t have this conversation out here.” He paused before adding, “I’m not sleeping with her. I’m keeping her safe.”

Mycroft bristled. “Safe? From what?” His hand dipped into his interior breast pocket, and he startled when Greg froze, release him, and started backing away. ‘Of course,’ he thought. Very slowly, he removed his cell phone.

Adrenaline coursed through him as the fears of ruining whatever relationship was growing, and then fears that he was going to be shot in retaliation, dissipated. He walked back inside, and was both relieved and terrified when Mycroft followed him.

“I assure you that I will not shoot you,” Mycroft said, seeming to read Greg’s thoughts.

“Thank you,” he said, leading into the kitchen. Turning to face the man, he pulled in a deep breath. “Look, Molly has been through the ringer with love. Yes, you all know about Moriarty, and Tom, and whatever she felt for Sherlock. But, you don’t know about the dates that didn’t work… the attacks on her way home from work… the people who she has had to hide from. When she gets sick, she feels vulnerable.” He paused, not wanting to say too much, lest the man in front of him think less of the woman whom he was obviously starting to care about.

“Ah,” Mycroft said. He knew the statistics about violence against women, of course. And he had a file of Molly – on all of them. But, as he learned more about her fears that came out of this ‘Charles’ fellow, he started to want to be there for her to make sure there was never a repeat of that again. “It’s kind of you to do that for her.”

“She’s a good friend,” Lestrade responded. “She was there for me at a time when few were. She made a safe space when I didn’t really have one.” He shifted uncomfortably under Mycroft’s gaze. “You have a good woman, who thinks the world of you. Please, don’t be angry because I’m her friend.”

Mycroft read all of the complicated emotions as they played over Lestrade’s face. Despite the fondness the man obviously held for Molly, there was no impropriety. He was a close, personal friend. That was good. Unlike him, Molly needed friends that she could trust. And, since he already trusted Lestrade, he felt his own insecurity ebbing away. “Thank you for explaining that,” he said, genuinely meaning it. Meer minutes before, he had been willing to walk away from something very precious, and he would have regretted it deeply. “Might I see her?”

“Of course,” Greg said with a nod, as he moved past Mycroft and lead him to the living room, where Molly remained asleep on the couch.

Mycroft felt a soft twist in his philosophical heart as he looked at her, pale and looking exhausted even in her sleep. “I wish to stay,” he said. “I can relieve you of your watch, or we can do so together, if you would not mind.” He looked imploringly at Greg, who had an array of protective emotions play through his eyes.

“Aye, yea. Um. Okay. I’ll leave you alone. I just um…” He felt a bit panicked, trying to figure out how much could be said without breaking Molly’s confidence. “Look, you can be in the room when she wakes up, if she’s here… in this room. If she’s in her bedroom, you can NOT be there. You can Not. Don’t you understand?”

Mycroft regarded the warning seriously. He wondered how much Lestrade was protecting. “I understand. I’m not demanding you leave,” he clarified.

“I understand that. But, um, maybe it’s best that you be here. I did want her to call you. I’m sorry that she did not.”

Molly coughed a little, causing the two men to focus on her. But, she did not wake up.

“I’ll be close,” Greg said, collecting his things. He knew that Molly would not mind Mycroft being in the house. And, he knew that Mycroft would not harm her. He felt slightly put out being asked to leave. He liked being there to protect Molly from her demons. His kids were older and didn’t need him to do that anymore. Chasing demons was his job, not just his employ. It was in his nature.

“I’m certain we will be fine. However, I want to thank you, Gregory. Both for being such a good friend to Molly, and for allowing me this honor.”

Greg looked him over, and looked as though he was going to respond, but shut his mouth and nodded his head instead. Walking out to his car, he turned it on, letting the heat blow on him. Reclining his seat ever so slightly, he waited.

Mycroft frowned looking at Molly asleep on the couch. For her to have slept through so much, she must have truly felt terrible. He could see her pallor off color, and her cheeks pink with a warm fever. Figuring that she would be more comfortable in her own bed, he gathered her in his arms, and went to move her. Not for the first time, he was pleased that he had kept fit throughout the years. He was thin, but that did not mean that he was not strong. And, although she was a healthy, curvy, woman, he found that she was easy to carry.

Molly startled a bit, aware that she was moving. But, she quickly fell back to sleep when she felt herself held tightly in warm, secure arms. It had been a long time since Greg had carried her to bed. But, he had learned what to do, and she trusted him. Words and noises of comfort were made, and she felt the arms around her grasp onto her just a little tighter. Feeling secure, she fell to sleep.

---
The sound of Molly’s scream pierced the night. Lestrade had drifted off in his car, and he startled awake. “That bastard,” he grunted, struggling against his exhausted body to turn off the car and get back into the house. He struggled with his keys at the door for a moment, sleep causing them to jangle longer than he would have liked.

Mycroft also jolted awake. He had pulled a folding chair that he found in her closet into her bedroom and enjoyed watching her sleep. Even after Lestrade’s warning, he hadn’t seen a problem with watching this precious woman who was so caring and kind to him during his own illness. What he hadn’t considered, however, was that he would fall to sleep.

“Greg!” Molly started to scream. “GREG!” The force of her scream started her off on a long coughing spell which winded her.

Mycroft got up, and went to the bed. “Molly. It’s all right. It’s me. Molly…” Guilt hit him in a wave when she scrambled away from him.

“No. No-no-no. Not again. I won’t let you do this again. How did you get in here? Get out!” she demanded, tripping over her own feet and falling to her knees. “GREG!” she yelled again. When she didn’t hear him coming, she burst into tears, her breathing coming in harsh gasps and punctuated by loud coughs. “Heh-Eesssttiww!” she sneezed freely, belatedly bringing her wrist to her nose. “Greg,” she whimpered between sobs, wondering what would cause him to leave her.

The light flipped on and she winced, closing her eyes against the brightness. She vaguely heard someone bless her, but she was afraid to open her eyes, and was too disoriented to pick out the voice.

“Molly!” he heard Greg’s voice carry down the hall, as well as his heavy steps.

“Molly, it’s all right. It’s just me,” Mycroft said, crouching down next to her. “It’s Mycroft. Molly look at me. You’re not in danger.”

“Mycroft?” she asked, looking at him in utter confusion.

“Aye, but you are,” Greg said, coming in and going straight to Molly. The look that he was giving Mycroft was seething. Kneeling down next to her, he pet the side of her hair, frowning at how high her fever was. “It’s all right, Molly. I didn’t go far.”

Molly sneezed wetly into her hands, leaving her head bowed as she cried fat tears. “I thought it was him again. I thought it was him,” she sobbed.

“God bless you,” both men said, not quite in unison.

“Here,” Mycroft said, trying to hand her his handkerchief. Looking down at the scene, remorse was etched into his features. He wished he understood what had happened to cause her such pain. He hadn’t been untoward towards her, so he figured it wasn’t something that he personally had done. He wondered if this was part of the mark that Charles fellow had left on her. Anthea had already started research on who he could be.

“I would never leave him with you Molly. I would never leave you with someone who you weren’t safe with. I assure you. It’s Mycroft. You’re safe with Mycroft.” He put one large hand on the side of her head, feeling the sweat and tears that had mingled with her hair. With his other hand he took Mycroft’s handkerchief and handed it over to her.

Giving her a moment to clean herself up, he glared at Mycroft. “I told you, specifically, not to be in here when she woke up.” He looked around for a moment. “How did she get up here?”

“I carried her. She couldn’t have been comfortable on the couch, not all night,” Mycroft reasoned.

“That was kind of you,” he mumbled. Turning his attention back to Molly, he crouched back down with a groan. His knees did not move as easily as they used to. “Come on, Molly,” he said, bracing his arms around her. “Up you get.”

She nodded, and allowed Greg to help her up. Turning to the other man, she looked at him as though he were an apparition. Reaching up to touch his cheek, she looked him over, brows furrowed as though he were a specimen to be studied.

He breathed in, having been in the room when she had slapped his brother more than once, and figured that it was likely he had crossed a line and earned his own slap.

She drew her hand back when he stilled. Something was wrong. Fear? She was so tired, and… what was going on?

“Mycroft, what are you doing here?” she asked gently.

“You missed our dinner reservation. I was concerned and came over to check on you. And, um, Detective Inspector Lestrade allowed me the honor of caring for you.”

Confused, she turned to Greg. “But, you didn’t leave….”

“I was in my car,” he admitted. “I knew that you might be disoriented when you woke up. I’m sorry, Molly. I didn’t expect it to go so badly.”

She nodded, looking between the two men. Her breath hitched… then again. Turning away from both of them, she brought the handkerchief back to her nose, clasping it in both hands. “Heh-Chesssh! Esshheww!” She blew her nose a bit, and looked back at the two of them. “I guess we should get some tea,” she mumbled, making to leave the bedroom.

“No, love. You get back in bed,” Greg said, gently. He put his hand on her arm, and tried to get her to acquiesce.

“Nnnn,” she mumbled as she shook her head. “Not alone. Please don’t leave me alone.”

Mycroft felt as though his heart might break. She was truly terrified. He had caused that. “I should go,” he stated. “Molly, I deeply apologize for the inconvenience I have caused.”

“Mycroft, please stay,” she said. She knew what they had was delicate. And if he was leaving because she was a sick, paranoid mess, she couldn’t blame him. However, she wanted desperately for him to stay.

He was about to say something when his cell phone pinged. Looking down, he saw that it was from Greg.

**You’re a prat. I told you what not to do. This is why. GL **

** I see that now. Should I make my excuses? MH **

** No, she wants you here. Stop being a prat. GL **

“Yes, of course. I’ll stay with you, and Gregory can make us tea. Will that suffice?” he asked, looking up at Lestrade, who was nodded and walked away.

“Yes,” she agreed, making her way back to bed. Settling into her bed with a sigh, she looked up at Mycroft, who had sat back in the seat he brought into her room. She felt embarrassed and shamed. This is what she had wanted to avoid by not calling him. She didn’t want him to see her like this. Dropping her gaze she tried not to start to cry again. “I’m so sorry, Mycroft. I understand if you don’t want to see me anymore,” she whispered.

Mycroft, who had been sitting silently, trying to find the right words to apologize for terrifying her so completely, snapped to attention. “I’m sorry? What are you talking about? I don’t understand.”

She shook her head, sniffling as tears started to drip down her cheeks. “I’m a mess. And I have a past, and I’m not perfect like you and your life.” She squeaked out a breath, and tried to breathe around her congestion, causing her to swallow thickly.

Thin eyebrows knit together in confusion. Perfection? Him? He was anything but that. She had seen him ill, feverish, and waking up violent. And somehow, she thought that her past would be a deterrent? “I’m not perfect, Molly,” he stated, reaching over to pull out a few tissues. Moving to the bed, he sat down lightly on the edge and pat away her tears.

Quickly, Molly reached out to grab a few tissues. “Hep-Shesstth!” she sneezed wetly, causing Mycroft to jump slightly.

“God bless you,” he stated, as she blew her nose. “This is not a deterrent. I just wish you told me you were ill.”

She shook her head slightly. “You have more important people to take care of than me,” she stated. “I could handle it, especially with Greg. You didn’t need to worry about me.”

Greg watched the conversation from the doorway. He hoped that Molly would realize that Mycroft was being more tender than most knew that he could be. He hoped that they allowed themselves to come together over this. They deserved happiness, and if they brought it to each other, he would count himself lucky to have been there.

“I’m glad you have Gregory,” who is watching from the doorway. He didn’t know why people thought they could sneak up on him, but he was more than happy to allow them to keep these misconceptions about them. Underestimation was an advantage. “I’m glad he’s there for you. But, I want to be there for you to, when I can be, if you’ll allow me to.” He wanted to talk to her about exclusivity. But, he knew that now was not the time.

She nodded simply. “I’d be honored to take up a piece of your time,” she stated. Her mind was getting fuzzy again. “I’m sorry I didn’t call. Next time I’ll let you know what’s going on.”

He gave her a small smile and leaned over, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

Closing her eyes, she sighed happily. A few breaths later, she was asleep again. Ever so gently, Mycroft positioned her on the bed, and covered her up. Giving Greg a small nod, he turned off the light, and made his way out of the room.

Chapter Text

Mycroft sniffed as he watched his brother laugh on the CCTV footage. It wasn’t like him to get so emotional over his brother being happy. Of course that’s what he always wanted. But, he was never able to take his ego out of it. He was never able to let go, and let his brother be happy without his ‘meddling’ as some would put it. He just wanted to be involved.

Of the three of them: him, Eurus, and Sherlock, Sherlock had been the one with the least control over his emotions. Pride and ego was something, Mycroft had learned, that the all possessed. It made them excel in their chosen foci. But, whereas Eurus only felt actionable emotions for Sherlock, Sherlock felt actionable emotions for everyone. He hid it in his mind-palace, and it would often present itself as anxiety, but it was there. Mycroft… well he was another matter all-together, and that didn’t matter at all.

Pain stabbed at his heart, as he saw Sherlock stick his tongue out at the camera. A juvenile gesture at best. He turned off the camera.
What he didn’t see was Sherlock’s eyebrows knit together when the camera stopped following them. Maybe Mycroft wasn’t watching after all. He wasn’t certain how he felt about that.

Taking a shaky breath, he withdrew his handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose slightly. He had backed off considerably after Sherrinford. The two of them had slipped back into their slightly uncomfortable relationship. They would never be as close as they were when they were children, again. Perhaps it was because they didn’t need the connection anymore. Mycroft didn’t feel that way. But, if you asked around, he was the Ice Man; the man with the cold heart. He didn’t have feelings according to nearly anyone who had the misfortune to run across his path.

There were a few people who saw through his cold demeanor. His parents used to, but now they could barely stand to be in the same room as he. They accepted him as their son; he had not been disowned, yet. But, they didn’t want to talk, and they no longer tried to draw him out. Ice Man.
Anthea, of course, knew him better. In fact, she probably knew him better than anyone else. She had to in order to always be one step ahead of him, to always know what he needed, and when. They were like wheels of a clock, both working independently of each other, but unable to do run the bigger picture without their joint motions.

And then there was Molly… she had come seemingly out of nowhere. He had known her before the mess with his sister, of course. But, he hadn’t paid her much mind, except when he had to work with her to help Sherlock disappear. He had known then that she was more than she pretended to be, but weren’t they all? He hadn’t really seen her, and from what he was gathering she had been too scared to really see him. It was all right, he knew that he could be intimidating. He crafted an entire personae around being intimidating and off putting.

He drew in a deep breath and opened the center drawer of his desk. Ever so carefully, he pulled out a velvet box, and clicked it open. Inside was an understated white gold chain, with a sapphire drop at the end. The day had come for him to propose exclusivity to Molly.
He knew it was a bit extravagant, but that was what money was for. He already had his estate, his career, his savings. A trust had been set up for Sherlock, and everything was in place should he meet with an unfortunate end. But, tonight was about beginnings.

By the time dinner time had rolled around, he was scarcely hungry for it, however. The day had been fraught with meetings and diplomatic relations that turned his stomach. Lunch was nearly missed, although he was able to eat a banana while he was travelling from one meeting to another. His head hurt from the extensive politicking that would be necessary to keep all player in line and happy, but he needed a diplomat to give up just one concession before he could put the others in motion.

While none of dignitaries were willing to give their counter-stance an inch, each of them had something that the others needed.

As soon as the balance was set in motion, Mycroft looked at the clock. Embarrassed, he realized that he would be late for his date with Molly. He had sent a car to get her and bring her to La Trompette, an hour ago. Turning on his phone, he looked at it and saw that it had several texts, most wondering where he was. The last one, however, made him swallow his pride and call her.

**Am I not dressed nicely enough? I did try you know. You could have at least come in and told me that I had done poorly.** Molly

He held his breath as he put the jewelry box into his briefcase. He pushed his files together, and neatly arranged those that could wait until the next morning. Her phone was ringing, and he wondered if he had missed her completely.

A thunderous sneeze erupted from him, as he locked his door, certain to have his coat, umbrella, briefcase, keys, and phone. He had not been breathing and his nerves had triggered an errant itch. Unfortunately, his hands were already occupied, so he too advantage of his empty office and sneezed freely.

“Goodness, Mycroft. Bless you,” Molly said into his ear.

Of course she would have picked the second before to pick up.

He sniffed, and removed the phone from his ear, texting his driver to meet him at the door. “My apologies, Molly,” he said after a moment. My meetings ran late. Are you still at the restaurant?”

“Yes, but I’m afraid the waitstaff believes that I have been stood up and has moved me to the bar,” she said, her voice sounding tight… embarrassed.

“They what?” he asked, mortified for her. “You tell them to put you at the table that I had reserved for us. Do not take no for an answer. I should be there in twenty minutes. I know that you’ve been waiting for a long while, but please order us the tasting meus with wine and I’ll be there by the time the food gets there.” Just thinking about her being asked to be moved made his stomach cramp in protestation. He pressed on it with his free hand, and tried to ignore the warm pain as it spread across his torso.

“All right, Mycroft,” she responded somewhat uncertainly. “Are you certain that you want to meet tonight? If work has been too much of a bear, I will understand. You’re not the first man to stand me up. I can handle it; I assure you.” What she could not handle was the bill for 125 quid a piece, if he did not show.

The uncertainty in her voice made his stomach twist all the more. He should have texted her and explained that he was going to be late. He should have delayed the car, or told the restaurant to keep her entertained. These were things that he had never thought about before, but he mentally catalogued them as he heard her make his excuses for him. He would learn to make these concessions, if only to never hear the mistrust in her voice again. “I am on my way, I assure you. Please, don’t,” his stomach took a violent twist and he winced, “don’t leave.” He nearly huffed out the last part of his request. This, above all else, was what drew him to Molly. He felt comfortable being less than his best around her. Once upon a time, it had been a position held only by a much younger Sherlock. But, he had taught Sherlock too well, and the little boy who once thought that his brother could do anything, now thought that his brother was worthless, a man who couldn’t do anything right. His stomach gave another turn and his hissed, not realizing that Molly was still on the phone.

“Mycroft, what is it? Are you not well?” She could hear the pinched sound of his voice, and it worried her greatly.

He was amazed at what she was able to pick up over the phone. “I’m fine. My stomach is giving me a bit of an issue because I didn’t eat enough today,” he lied smoothly.

In actuality, his ulcer was giving him a rough time, but she did not need to know that. Not yet. He couldn’t let her see all of his issues, not all at once. She would never stay, and he wanted her to stay.

“All right then. I’ll ask for our table back, and place the order. Do be careful. I love you,” she said, and then hung up. As soon as the phone disconnected, she winced, hard. She couldn’t believe that she had said that to him. He was a Holmes; they didn’t love. They didn’t put stock in the concept at all. And he was already ill, even if he hadn’t used those exact words.

Carefully, she summoned a member of the wait staff and had them reseat her at a proper table. Placing the order, she supposed that she would at least eat well before he broke it off with her.

Mycroft, on the other hand, sat stark still for several minutes after the phone had disconnected. She said she loved him. Loved him? He could count the number of none familial relations who had used that word. Worse yet, he didn’t like the modern construct of love. The gooey romantic ridiculousness of it all, when it was a chemical reaction in the brain made him feel physically ill. Molly had not given him a chance to say it back, and he wasn’t even certain if she had realized what she had said. But, if she had… well that was an elephant to deconstruct.

He realized, belatedly, that he didn’t want to bring his briefcase into the restaurant. What if she said yes to his… condition… of exclusivity? He would have to open his briefcase there. Well, there was nothing to be done for it, so he grabbed his umbrella and briefcase and, with a sniffle, entered the restaurant.

He spotted Molly immediately and was struck by how beautiful she looked. Her hair was done up in a pretty up-do that looked something like a mix between a bun and a braid. He didn’t know what these things were called, exactly, but he did know that it seemed effortless. She was wearing a striking blue top, with three quarter length sleeves, and a simple fluted skirt. She was in every way a lady, and he knew that he needed to let her know that.

Walking up to the table, he cleared his throat and made his apologies as he sat down. “I’ll endeavor to let you know when I’m running late in the future.” ‘If there is a future,’ he thought. He took a deep breath through his nose and tried to ignore the thoughts that seemed determined to undermine him.

She gave him a sad smile, and shrugged, afraid to say anything else. “I ordered,” she muttered, taking a sip of her wine.

Posture forward, eyes squinted, breathing quickened. Mycroft couldn’t blame her for being upset. He would be quite upset if he had been stood up for that long. It was unacceptable, really. She had different priorities, but her time was valuable, and he had not respected it.

He took a deep breath, and squinted slightly as his stomach turned again.

“I apologize for what I said on the phone,” she stated so quickly that he barely registered what she had said.

“Molly, I’m not upset,” he stated. “I was not expecting it. But, I’m not upset about it.”

It certainly wasn’t the ‘I love you too’ that she had hoped. But, he had shown up and he was speaking to her. So, maybe she hadn’t lost everything. She looked at him with sad eyes.

He analyzed her, trying to figure out why she was so sad all of the sudden. “I care about you a great deal,” he explained. “But, I don’t like the modern construct of love. I’m not a overtly sentimental man. But, I do care for you, and I want to see you happy. I want to help make you happy…” His voice was even, but he was so far out of his depth, he was pulling on his diplomatic experience in order to maintain his casual demeanor.

Her eyes focused on him, and she smiled despite herself. The speech was almost Holmesian for ‘I love you, too.’ “Mycroft, I’m not saying I want to marry you tomorrow. I just… I really like spending time with you. I want to make you happy, and I know I’m lacking, but I’m willing to try.”

He reached across the table, and grasped her hand in his own. He couldn’t stand to hear such a wonderfully dynamic lady put herself down. “You’re not lacking. You’re learning. I’m willing to teach you what you need to know in order to navigate the finer art of politics. If you would like to continue this arrangement with me.”

She flexed her fingers around his hand, as she looked at their combined hands. She felt the stress waft off of her. “Mycroft, what precisely are you asking?” she queried, worried that she was reading too far into it.

“I want you to be my exclusive … partner? My apologies, girlfriend sounds so juvenile. But, that is what I’m asking. Will you be exclusive with me?” He pulled his hand back slightly as he sat up straight.

She gave him a little nod as she beamed at him. “I would be honored to be your exclusive girlfriend, “ she responded.

Mycroft breathed a sigh of relief, and they both leaned back slightly as the food arrived. “Before we… celebrate… “ Mycroft continued. “I do have one favor to ask.”
Brown eyes bounced over his features as she tried to desertion what it could be. “Um, all right…” she said, having long since learned not to say something stupid like ‘anything.’

“I want you to be friends with my brother again.”

Understanding crossed her features as she deflated slightly. “I see. You could have just asked me to do that. You didn’t have to pretend…”

“I’m not pretending. I do want to be exclusive with you,” he cut her off. He knew that it was rude, but he couldn’t bear to hear her accuse him of pretending to want to be with her.

“Then why?”

“He won’t let me … since Eurus…” His voice caught and he took a sip of his wine to try to wash away the nerves. “He trusts you Molly. And I think you would be surprised how much better he treats you when you don’t just give him his way.”

Molly blinked a few times, trying not to say anything about how poorly he treated Mycroft. It wasn’t fair. They were brothers. It was different. He nodded. “I’ll work with you to help your brother. I care about Sherlock too.”

Mycroft winced ever so slightly, even as he breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said.

“Mycroft, are you certain you are all right? You seemed to be… troubled?”

He took a deep breath and nodded. “It’s been a long day. Perhaps you would concede to have coffee with me at my house afterwards, rather than having dessert here?”

A playful smile crossed her face. “I know what that means,” she teased. She took a bite of her food, and made a happy noise. The food was exquisite!

He looked at her, puzzled. “I don’t understand…” he said, taking a moment to process what he was saying. A flush rose in his cheeks as he realized what she was insinuating. “Molly, no…I would never presume.”

A full smile blossomed over her face. “I’m teasing! I would be honored to have coffee at your house afterwards.” She laughed a bit, nervous yet comfortable.
She wasn’t laughing at him, he realized. Again, she had just accepted him: accepted him being late, accepted his proposal, accepted his terms, and accepted his near faux pas. He found himself at ease with her, again. “Thank you,” he said, smiling at her with a smile that reached his eyes.

After a lovely dinner, they found themselves in his den, he was sitting on his couch, nursing a tumbler of scotch, and she was in one of the winged back chairs. She was watching something relatively mindless on the telly, and he was watching her. He felt incredibly lucky that this sort of experience could happen to him. Certainly, he had dated before… but it had been a very long time, and while there had been people who were more worldly, there had been few as interesting as the beautiful woman who agreed to be exclusive with him. Exclusive! With him! He smiled and took another sip of his scotch.

She had loved the necklace. He gave it to her in the car, and she put it on immediately. It was nice to be appreciated… it happened to rarely.

“Mycroft, what is your view on sex?” Molly asked plainly, turning towards him.

He choked on his drink, and coughed heavily as he sputtered a bit. Withdrawing his handkerchief from his pocket, he cleaned up around his mouth and dabbed at his nose.

She continued to look at him plainly, not a smile to be found.

“I am… open to it when we’re ready,” he answered, measuring every word.

She shook her head slightly. “You misunderstand. I know that a man in your … minor … position is responsible for a lot of … diplomatic balancing. Does that include sex to get what you want?” A small divot appeared between her eyebrows as she regarded him worriedly.

He was shocked. She was not incorrect about the first part, but what on earth would give her the perception to even ask the other half? Was that how she viewed him? “No. Hollywood has colored your perception of what I do. And, even if I would have yesterday, I will not do such while we are together. I am… not a casual … exclusive boy-friend,” he said the last word as though it were foreign to him. “I will remain committed and monogamous to you, and you alone. And if situations arise, other ways will be found. “ He felt his anxiety prickling over him as though he were buzzing.

She smiled at him. “Significant other, perhaps?” she suggested. “And I you… I know you saw how close Greg and I are. I don’t want you to think that we are anything other than friends.”

He felt his anxiety release and wash away with her smile. “I don’t want to affect your relationship with the Detective Inspector. What you have is special, and I could not replace it. I believe you, that the two of you are nothing but friends. Just… nothing in a bed, all right? I – I,” he remembered a much younger him walking in on his then significant other, who had decided to share his bed with another, and although they claimed that they were just cuddling, the smell of sweat in the air told a different story.

He startled as he felt the couch divot next to him. His eyes widened as he looked at Molly, and didn’t know when she had moved. “My apologies. I have been lied to about that sort of thing before.”

She very slowly put her hand on his arm, making sure he saw it and had ample time to veto the motion. “I will not lie to you,” she whispered. “I value you. Not just as a partner, but as a friend.”

He smiled softly at her, as the memory faded away. “Thank you,” he whispered, leaning forward and kissing her lightly.

Chapter Text

Similar dates were becoming more and more common, with Mycroft using his time with Molly as a way to destress and be accepted as he was – or at least as much as he would show her. There were parts of his personality that he would not show her no matter what. He didn’t want her to see the ugly side of his calculations. But, he loved that when he calculated things about Molly – he was correct more often than not. It wasn’t like with Sherlock, or Eurus, or his parents. It wasn’t like the other humans that he had to deal with. In her own way, she was the perfect medium between the people whom he chose to work with and those that he had to deal with. And, despite his words… to anyone who asked, he knew damn well that his brain was becoming addicted to her. Or, to state it in laymans terms, he was falling in love with her.

After dinner, they had gone back to his place again – at her insistence. They had gone to her place other times, and he found it to be quite homey, eclectic, and completely ‘Molly’. He liked that she knew who she was, and decorated to suit herself, rather than what she was supposed to do. So many people he knew did – even he did. He had yet to show her the movie room, where he watched his home movies, his old movies, and felt generally comfortable. But, he didn’t trust her enough to show him that side of himself. Not yet. It was too… personal.

“An overnight bag, hm?” he asked as she put down the tote that she had been trying to act casual with all evening.

“Too bold?” she asked. She had wanted to spend the night several times, but they hadn’t reached the point where their relationship had progressed beyond some chaste kisses… and some not so chaste kisses.

He smiled gently. “Not exceptionally. Not subtle though.”

“I don’t want to be too subtle. Guys are pretty well known for missing subtle cues,” she quasi-joked.

“Well, I hope that I am more attuned to subtly than the average guy,” he said fixing her with a look that was somewhere between bemused and insistent.

Her smile grew wide, and she said, “Well I hope so too, but some things aren’t worth taking a chance.”

He was flattered. But, she was up to something. She was subtle about it, but the tote wasn’t the only different thing in her demeanor tonight. She had been cocking her head to the side and squinting a little more, signs that she was paying more attention to what he was saying. He also noticed that she was reaching out to touch him a little more. A hand on his knee. A touch on his arm. Nothing intense, and only for a few seconds. But, it was a definite change. He didn’t mind it… with was odd unto itself, but he didn’t have time to be introspective. Right now… it was about Molly.

She ran her hand through her hair as she sat down, on the couch. That was usually his domain when they were in the living room, and she took the chair. Maybe she should be in the chair. Yes, the chair. She got up and moved across the room, getting to the chair just as Mycroft came in with the tea tray.

“You are allowed to sit with me on the couch – or on the couch with me in the chair if you’d prefer.” He put down the tea tray on the coffee table and poured her tea first. He took pride in setting up her tea the way she liked it, and have her a genuine smile when he handed it over.

“Thank you, Mycroft,” she said, taking a long inhale of the tea before sipping it. “Perfect, as always.”

He poured his own tea, and took a seat on the couch. Her overnight bag meant that she wasn’t breaking up with him. Her interest in what he was saying meant that she wasn’t bored of him. The little touches meant that she didn’t find him repulsive, but the respect to his issues with being touched meant that it wasn’t simply carnal desire. This was deeper. Something that she cared about… something about him that she cared about.

“Mycroft?” Molly asked, turning her cup in its saucer before putting it down.

He drew in a breath and held it as he looked up and raised his eyebrows in askance.

“Sherlock has told me what happened at Sherrinford… but … I want your perspective. Would you share it with me?”

At the word ‘Sherringford’ his hearing went hollow as his anxiety spiked. That was singularly the worst day of his life and he hated every second of the memory. The fall out had lasted for weeks – first his parents nearly disowning him, and – worse – calling him limited, then the psychiatric evaluations he had to go through to retain his job, then the horrible family time that he was forced to spend with his parents and siblings, as his parent doted on how wonderful Sherlock and Eurus were, and why couldn’t he be like them?

“Mycroft? Mycroft?” It was a woman’s voice. It sounded like it was very far away.

He flinched as he felt hands on his arms, and drew in a ragged breath, opening the eyes he didn’t remember closing.

Molly was crouched in front of him. His tea and saucer had been placed on the tea tray. “I apologize,” she said, softly but meaning it all the same. “I should have realized that you would not want to speak on it.” She had, in fact, figured that he would not want to speak on it. What she didn’t realize was that her asking about it was going to send him in to a panic attack.

“Molly?” he asked, as though he wasn’t certain if she was really there. Slowly and deliberately, he took her hands and motioned for her to stand. He guided her as though they were dancing, leading her to sit next to him. After another ragged breath, he fought a war with himself on whether to bring her closer or push her away. He could tell a pivotal moment when he came to one. “What I tell you must stay between us. Do not tell Sherlock, or John. Not even Lestrade.”

She nodded solemnly, and he was struck with the intense amount of attraction that he felt to her when she was so focus. She was radiant, and he knew that he had to take this chance.

“I don’t know how much Sherlock told you. Presumably just about the part that involved you. But, the entire day was stress filled. I’m sure Sherlock has complained to you that I don’t like to do legwork. Well this nearly ended with me being shot, and was a day of understanding about how much my brother loves John Watson more than me – and yet, somehow, there is some part of him that does not hate me.” Tears filled his eyes, although his emotions were still carefully hidden behind the mask that he had chosen to wear to get through this awful story. He did not break when they had him speak to professionals, and e would not break in front of Molly. “I could tell you know,” he whispered after a pause. “Slight inflections. The fact that he wouldn’t just shoot me when the time came down to it.”

“Shoot you?” Molly knew that the Holmes brothers had a strained relationship, but Sherlock seemed to have made a game out of teasing and tormenting his older brother. Quite like they never quite grew out of their childhood roles.

He sighed and he felt anxiety flow down his arms as though it had combined with his blood. He had hoped that he wouldn’t need to go through the entire episode, but it seemed that Sherlock had told her very little. “No wonder you’re still mad at my brother. It’s a wonder that you don’t blame me like everyone else.” He felt cold as thought of her hearing that story and deciding to take the side of everyone else filled his brain. He would lose her…

“Mycroft?” Molly’s soft voice cut through his thoughts. “I apologize for asking. I didn’t mean to upset you. But, I should have known that it would.” Her voice was soft, remorseful, as though she herself was going through the same feelings of possible loss as he was.

But, that really could be, could it?

“Sherlock and I have a sister, Eurus. As children we were tested for intelligence, as many people of the era were. Sherlock tested well. I was superior. But, Eurus…” he sighed, “she was a marvel. A think tank unto herself.” He swallowed. “She loved Sherlock, and wanted him all to herself. And when finally made a friend, a child named Victor… she put Victor in a well. We never found him… well John finally did, but I’m getting ahead of myself.”
Slowly, he began to unravel the story of Eurus, what had happened when they were children, and how his Uncle Rudy had kept her under lock and key… Sherringford.
When he looked up, Molly was regarding him seriously, like one might do to a professor.

“I made the choice to continue with the process…. And I told our parents she had died, rather than explain to them what she had done, where she was… all that.” Again he looked at Molly, and this time he read her.

She stayed silent, but he could read a book of emotions across her face. He waited for what he was certain would come, and held his breath as he waited.

“That must have been an awful decision to have to face. But, truly it was a kindness. I know that they have been going to see her – with Sherlock. And I have to wonder, with what you’ve said, and the bits that I know from Sherlock… is it safe? Is she playing everyone? I mean, you had to keep your family safe Mycroft. She sounds like a psychopath.”

He snorted a surprised inhale and regarded Molly seriously. He was nearly overcome with the desire to kiss her passionately. Or cry. Or both. Somebody on this earth did understand his perspective. Someone he cared about, even. Wrinkling his brow as he closed his eyes tightly, he brought his hand up to his nose and mouth and gave a ragged sigh.

“Mycroft… are you all right?” Molly asked, concerned. Desperately so.

He swallowed and took her hand in his own. “Yes. I am so relieved to hear you say that. My parents are quite angry with me, and my mother called me limited, and Sherlock the adult after it all came out.”

“Well obviously he’s her favorite. Because anyone who lives in this reality would understand that you bore this burden for years, and are the adult. Quite the opposite of limited.”

That was it. He could bear it no longer and leaned over, wrapping his arms around her as he kissed her deeply.

She made a noise of delight, and wrapped her arms around him, returning the passion. She already knew that she enjoyed his kisses, but this was different. There was a desperation behind the confidence. There was a need in his touch, a desire, and she enjoyed every second of it. For a man such as he to need to be accepted so badly… she was happy to accept him as he was.

After a short time, Mycroft broke the kiss. Holding her hand, he told her about the entire experience with Eurus. He watched the little crease between her eyebrows pulse as she processed the story. She tilted her head at him and her eyes squinted in askance when he told her about getting sick right after the governor’s suicide.
He took a deep breath in and held it, squeezing her hand even tighter. “I don’t do well with field work, mostly because I don’t like the grittiness.”

“But when you had to get Sherlock…” she prompted.

“He’s my brother. I’ll walk through hell for him – he certainly has earned that many times over.” The words were whispered, strained.

She didn’t want to know more about the reasoning behind those words, so she prompted him to continue the story. She listened patiently, as his calm tenor regaled her with the horror story that was the experience that she only understood peripherally.

“I knew as soon as the… party… if you will started to die off one by one, that eventually a choice would have to be made. Either myself, Sherlock, or Dr. Watson would have to die.

I also knew that while Sherlock could easily get by with me dead, he would not fare so well if Dr. Watson died. In fact, he would just add it to the reason that he hates me.” He stopped speaking, his eyes focused on an invisible point on the couch between him and Molly. It really wasn’t fair, for all of the things that Mycroft did to care for his brother, the way he paid his expenses before Dr. Watson came about, the way he paid Sherlock to do things that he should have done anyway – like take their parents out when they came to town, plus cover the expenses. Even if his brother didn’t like him, Mycroft didn’t figure that he had given Sherlock a reason to hate him so.

After a minute or two, he felt Molly squeeze his hand lightly. “It’s why it’s so hard for me to be nice to him. Don’t think I don’t know that whatever money he thinks is in a trust was used up years ago. I know you support your brother. And he treats you like dirt. I hate it.” She wished that Mycroft would withhold the money, but with John living there, it would just adjust the financial situation and give Sherlock another reason to be angry with Mycroft.

The older man nodded. “I know…” he whispered. “Thank you,” he said, as a courtesy. He squeezed her hand back before pulling in a deep breath through his nose. He knew that he had to continue the narrative regarding what happened at Sherrinford otherwise he would not. He cleared his throat and continued. “I knew that Sherlock would never kill Dr. Watson, so I made a pest of myself. I was not helpful. I was short tempered and irritating.” He paused before adding, “Moreso than usual.”

Molly gave a tight lopsided grin, knowing that he was trying to make a joke. But, she didn’t much feel like joking with him. Rather, she wanted him to know that she was taking his story seriously and giving him the attention that she though he deserved.

“When the time came that it was down to the three of us: Sherlock, Dr. Watson, and myself, I set up Dr. Watson with the logic that he had to be the person to die.’

“What? How?” Molly interjected. John was far too logical to simply die. He was a soldier.

“I reminded him that he was a soldier,” Mycroft answered, seemingly reading her thoughts.

At her confused look, he tried to reign in the anxiety fueled thoughts that rushed the experience through his mind. “Soldiers die for their country,”[1] he stated, quoting himself from that night.

“Oh,” she breathed. Her hold on his hand loosened jut a bit, but she didn’t let his hand go completed. Their hands were getting sweaty together, and if she noticed she knew that he would, too.

He swallowed with a wince and tightened his grip slightly. He couldn’t let her go, and her touch was providing a grounding sensation. He was reminded about decompressing with her in the hotel room. It was similar. While he was typically not a very tactile person, Molly was different. He wasn’t used to being vulnerable in front of someone – let alone a romantic interest – and he was finding that having the physical contact made the vulnerability easier to manage.

“I’m right here. I’m not going to let go.”

Molly’s words cut through his thoughts and he nodded, allowing himself to continue. “I tried to make myself easy to kill. Giving logical reasons why Dr. Watson should be the one to die, and how logic should be more important to sentiment. I tried to be the villain that Sherlock always says I am, but he didn’t believe me. Even so… he turned that gun on me.”

Molly went cold, tears glistening in her pretty brown eyes. She imagined the amount of pain that both brothers would have to be in during that scenario. “He didn’t shoot you,” she pointed out, her voice thick with emotion.

“I had asked,” his voice cracked and he cleared his throat again. “I had asked not to be shot in the face,” he was forcing the whisper out. “For him to aim for my heart.” He couldn’t repeat his line about knowing it wasn’t much of a target. Not to Molly. She saw him differently, and even if she didn’t, she knew too much about anatomy to let him get away from it. It was dramatic for him. But, he was fairly certain that his heart had been breaking. His baby brother, the person whom he loved above all others had a gun pointed at him with the intent to kill.

“What happened next?” Molly asked, her throat thick with a lump that she couldn’t quite swallow down.

Mycroft shook his head, and pushed through. “Sherlock turned the gun on himself and,” he paused as Molly gasped, “threatened to kill himself.”

Molly blinked rapidly trying to process this information. There were so many emotions to process through. Poor Sherlock… and John… and Mycroft. It was a slice of hell for all of them. But, Mycroft was in front of her. “What was that like for you?”

“Which?”

“Watching him turn the gun on himself.”

“It would have been easier if he had just shot me. I can’t lose him. Even if he doesn’t love me, doesn’t want me around. Doesn’t care if I’m a – alive or dead.”

“He does care,” Molly interjected. “If he hated you like you each say he does, he would have shot you. He doesn’t hate you, Mycroft,” she whispered urgently.
Mycroft closed his eyes and pulled in a shaky breath. He felt Molly grasp his wrist with her other hand, the two of them holding hands as though Mycroft was about to fall into the abyss.

“Y-you come into this when … Eurus told us that she had rigged your house with a bomb, and unless you said that statement… it would go off. He had thirty seconds.” He pulled his eyes open and regarded Molly. “It was horrible when we thought you were going to die, and then worse when we realized, like me, that you weren’t. That the – the heartbreak…” Bowing his head, he let go of her hands. Eyes squeezed together, he huffed out some dry sobs. It was as though his body was willing itself to cry, but his eyes didn’t know how.

Molly nodded even though he couldn’t see it. “I really thought it was a joke. But, Sherlock explained and then Greg and John, and I just,” she shrugged. “I lost the ability to love him that way. I mean, I’m just a joke to him.”

Knowing that it could cost him what had stared to be built between he and Molly, Mycroft opened his eyes. “No more than anybody else. Likely less. But, you were the joke to Eurus. And she is dangerous.”

“Are you afraid she’ll come after me for real? If she ever finds out that you have positive feelings towards me?”

He nodded minutely. “There are systems in place to make sure that doesn’t happen, but she is so much more advanced than I am.” He sighed. “I understand if you want to walk away to keep yourself safe.”

She squinted, looking at him incredulously. “Mycroft, are you …?” She couldn’t even finish her question. “You don’t know me as well as you think you do if you think that that would scare me.”

“It should. It scares me,” he admitted, looking he squarely in the eye.

“Well figure it out if it comes to it. There are new protocols in place at Sherrinford?”
“Of course.”

“Then we’ll worry about it as it comes,” she replied. “Now, come… time to go up to bed,” she said standing. She hadn’t spent the night yet, and she didn’t have anything to wear.

She figured that she would… get him into bed? Well, that was an honest thought. She did want to go to bed with him. But, it certainly wasn’t logical, at least not tonight.
He stood, caressing her cheek gently with one hand as he gazed down on her. Dropping a passionate kiss onto her lips, he enjoyed the feeling of his pulse speeding up. He smiled sheepishly as he pulled back. “Would you care to stay tonight, Molly?

When she smiled and gave him a small nod, he held out his hand as he escorted her upstairs and into his room.

Chapter Text

While the first night together was a little uncomfortable, as Mycroft got used to someone else being in his space, and Molly getting used to not being in her own space, the ones that followed were much less so.  While they didn’t spend every night together, the nights where one or the other wasn’t working overnight, they tended to wind up at his townhome. 

Molly had been enjoying his large kitchen, and made easy use of the staff that he hired in weekly.  Mostly, she loved that she could give Allen a list and that he would do the grocery shopping.  One of her guilty pleasures was watching the cooking challenges on telly, and she tried to compete as well – at least in her own mind.

Mycroft had been enjoying having food made for him.  Typically his house staff only came by once a week to clean. Cooking was only important if he was hosting guests.  He didn’t think that Molly would appreciate being waited on the way that he had become accustomed to being, so he made certain that someone was there to take her ingredient lists to the shops.  Anthea had been correct.  Molly was incredibly easy to keep happy.  Her bar for acceptability was set so low that Mycroft appeared to be towering over it just by being himself.

“Molly, this is delicious,” he said one night during dinner.  “But, I’m afraid you’re starting to make food that are too rich for me.”  At least according to the scale.  For himself, Mycroft enjoyed a rich meal, but he couldn’t shed the ounces the way that he used to, and if wasn’t careful, he was going to end up getting fat again.  He could already see it – just a bit – in his face.

“I apologize.  I’ll aim for a leaner meal next time,” Molly said, not thinking anything of it.  They weren’t getting any younger and she was well aware of how important it was for Mycroft to remain fit. 

He put his hand over hers.  “It’s lovely, Molly.  I appreciate that you are experimenting with different concepts…” He felt inexplicably concerned that she would think that he was being critical.

“It’s fine, Mycroft,” she answered with a laugh.  “Besides, with a job like yours it’s important for you to stay in shape.”

A look she couldn’t place flickered across his face. 

“I mean, you know I think you’re handsome, and I know you don’t like doing legwork. But, in case you have to, I don’t want you to be slowed down because of my cooking. There are more important things in the world,” she said with a soft smile. 

He looked her over and realized that she meant it.  This statement was an honest one, and he had not insulted her.  Good, he thought, running a hand down his side to straighten the creases that he could feel forming in his waistcoat. 

--

“Domestic bliss looks good on you Mycroft,” Sherlock said, as his brother and Molly entered 221B.  “Your waist coat is newer than your jacket.  And your pants are the newest of all.  Molly trying to fatten you up like a witch hungry for a snack?”  He smirked.

“My weight is just fine,” Mycroft said tightly. 

Molly looked at the fireplace briefly before smiling and walking up to John.  She had promised that she would be nice to Sherlock.  It made things easier on Mycroft, and that was one of her primary goals in the relationship.  “John, so good to see you,” she said, ignoring the brothers as they bickered like children.

“She may tell you that, but we both know you can see it around your cheeks.  You’re positively pudgy, brother dear,” Sherlock stated cruelly.

“Be that as it may, Sherlock, mummy and father will be in for their monthly visit to see Eurus and have insisted that you be there.”

As Sherlock stared at Mycroft, all of his taunted ceased. Some part of him wanted to point out that this was because theycared about Eurus, unlike Mycroft who only cared about the rest of the world.  He wanted to say something hurtful, and deal a crushing blow to his older brother. 

He turned towards Molly and John as they spoke quietly in the kitchen. He had already lost most of Molly’s friendship, and he knew that if he continued to needle at Mycroft, he would likely lose her completely. 

“Do you want to come with?” he asked Mycroft, as he turned to sit back in his chair.

“I’ll be in the security office.  I’ll ask you not to talk about Molly. Please, Sherlock. You’ve seen what Eurus can do about people that she doesn’t actively dislike.  If you care about Molly, if you really do, you’ll leave her out of it.  Mummy and father don’t know about our relationship and I would like to keep it that way.  I don’t trust that they understand the severity of what she is capable of.”

Sherlock tilted his head up and plucked at his violin.  There was something different about Mycroft – other than his noticeable weight gain.  That in-unto itself was a bonus – it meant that he felt comfortable enough to eat around Molly and that some of his demons were quieting.  There was always something that he missed.

“John, do you think I’m overweight?” Molly asked quietly.  “I mean, I guess I know I am… chubby… but…” she looked at Mycroft. “I never had a problem about it until now.”

John looked quickly at Mycroft before turning back to Molly and felt a surge of protection.  “Is Mycroft telling you that?” he bit out quietly.

“No!  No no,” she countered.  “It’s not like that at all.  He’s very kind to me, and he seems to be appreciative of my shape. But… he’s so hard on himself about his. And, Sherlock is so mean to him about it.  I – uh…”  She had started looking up Mycroft’s societal equals on the internet and noticed how thin and sophisticated their significant others were.  “I really like him, John and I don’t want to be a fly by night thing because I don’t fit a standard.” She worried her bottom lip.

“I can give you some exercise and nutritional guides to help you lose weight if you’re interested,” he offered. 

She shrugged. “I’m thinking a little faster.” 

“You’re not heavy enough for bariatrics,” he said. “Besides, they’ll want to see that you tried diet and exercise first.” 

That wasn’t what she was thinking either. “Okay.  Thanks.  Don’t worry about.  I’ll just eat less crisps and head to the gym more, I guess,” she said, realizing that the Holmes brothers had ceased speaking. 

“You could stand to eat less crisps, Molly. Good idea. Keep them away from this one too,” Sherlock said, creasing his eyebrows slightly as she seemed to shrink from his very words. 

“Hey!” Mycroft chastised, sounding very much parental.  “If you want to say something about my weight, you may continue to do so.  But, you leave Molly out of it.”

Sherlock paused, looking well and truly chastised.  “Forgive me, Molly.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“It’s all right,” she said, her voice quivering. “I know I’m fat.”

All three men winced, and looked pained in their own way.  John winced and closed his eyes, turning away as though she slapped him.  Sherlock’s jaw dropped and he made a small noise in the back of his throat. Mycroft stood and turned towards her, stunned.  She had never given him any indication that she had issues with food. “You’re not fat, Molly.  You’re a full figured woman, and your figure suits you.”

“Easy to hide behind,” she whispered, causing Mycroft to step back and pause. He recalled one of their early conversations when she had called herself curvy – and she was.  She may not have been fit, but even with his exacting standards he wouldn’t consider her fat.   

Turning back to Sherlock, he took a deep breath.  “I must go for now.  You can decide what to do.  But, do not involve Molly, or I will stop the cheques.”

Sherlock swallowed, his eyes not leaving Molly, who seemed to want to implode. “Molly…” he whispered, coming towards her.  “You did this,” he said, turning towards Mycroft.

“What?” Mycroft asked, sincerely confused.

“You did this.  You said something, did something that made her feel as though her weight was an issue.  You projected,” he accused.

“No, Sherlock!” Molly said, coming to Mycroft’s defense.  “He didn’t.  He’s been wonderful.  But, I know what’s expected of those who spend their time in the company of men at his status.  And, I’m woefully frumpy.  I just want to be better for you,” she admitted, the last sentence being directed at Mycroft.

There weren’t many times in his life that Mycroft was taken by surprise and shocked into silence.  But, this was one of them.  He didn’t know if he should agree with her, disagree, be brutally honest, or kind.  He had absolutely no idea what words would fix this scenario. 

“You look fine, Molly.  I like that you don’t fit the cookie cutter shape…” he started, realizing just a bit too late that his brother and John were still watching.  “You’re fine. And if you are interested in dieting with me, I’m sure Dr. Watson can provide some assistance in that regard.”

She gave him a half smile that in no way fit the rest of her body language.  “All right,” she agreed, turning to go. 

"I'll walk you out.  Mycroft, do hang back for a moment."

Molly gave an uncertain glance between the Holmes brothers, but allowed Sherlock to escort her out.  She expected that he would say something about the topic at hand, but as they reached the bottom of the stairs, she was surprised by his topic of choice. 

"Have you asked him why he thinks caring is not an advantage, yet?" Sherlock asked, looking down on her with soft eyes. 

She shook her head.  "I figure it's because anyone who cares for him is at risk - if not from political enemies, than certainly from you sister."

There was a look that crossed through Sherlock's, sad emotions that she could not quite track.  "The rest of the verse goes like this... 'All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage.'  He loves you Molly... he does.  Even if he never tells you.  But, you have to trust him.  Take him at face value, but ask him about his past.  As him about the ring he wears.  Trust me."  His voice was a hushed whisper.  There were so many things that had gone wrong between the two brothers, but even if he could not have a cordial relationship with Mycroft, he could at least help him and Molly thrive.  Experiments with the intent of good outcomes?  It was an odd concept, but his brother and Molly were two of the most caring, most broken people he'd ever met.  And while he understood his brother more than he'd ever let on, he knew that what he knew about Molly was painfully little.

"Are you done, brother dear?" Mycroft said coming down the stairs. 

"Yes, of course," Sherlock said, giving Molly a kiss on the cheek.  "You're beautiful Molly.  Don't ever doubt it."

Putting a hand at the small of Molly's back, Mycroft lead her out the door and into his car.  Sighing as they got into the car, Mycroft muttered, “Well that was special. Why would you ever decide to have that conversation in front of my brother?”

“I didn’t mean to.  I just wanted to have a private conversation with John,” she said, worrying her bottom lip.

“Your body is fine Molly.  You’re confident in it and that’s all that really matters.  We have to teach you the fine art of double speak, not giving up information except what you want to say.”  He gripped his umbrella tightly, balancing it in front of him. 

“I apologize, Mycroft,” she said, meaning it. She hadn’t intended for the conversation to spin out of control that way.   She sighed and requested to be dropped off at her flat, spending the rest of the ride in silence.

--

Less than a week later, she sat in the plastic surgeon’s office, talking about what procedures could turn her into the shape of a woman of class.  At least liposuction, an abdominoplasty, and a butt lift would be necessary, and she weighed the benefits and counter benefits in her mind.  Upon leaving with her picture of what she could look like, she wound up feeling even more insecure and undesirable than when she went in. 

She considered the mental space that she, logically, knew that she had to be in to want to do this for Mycroft – a man who had never even hinted that she do such a thing.  She vaguely considered vomiting to get rid of excess calories, but logically she knew that an idea like that would affect the rest of her as well.  She needed to be able to think clearly, and this was clearly not doing so. 

Going back to her home instead of Mycroft’s she sat at her desk and put the picture in the drawer.  She had been fine with her shape before him, and she would teach herself to be accepting of her faults now. 

Chapter Text

Molly woke up with a gentle groan.  She was sore as though she had been exercising all of the day before.  Stretching, she was happy that she worked odd days, because if she had to work today she didn’t think she could. 

Pulling her hair into a messy ponytail, she went into the kitchen to make some breakfast.  She knew that she owed Mycroft an explanation for the night before.  But, honestly, did she?  He was so much like her it was scary, and if he had needed a night, she would have understood that sometimes people just need some time in their own heads.  Being with someone all the time could be so draining… especially when  one was used to being alone.

She cast a nervous look to the door when someone knocked.  She wasn’t expecting any visitors, and goodness knew she wasn’t dressed for company in her pajamas.   

“Come on, Moll, let me in,” Greg’s voice came through the door.

Smiling a bit, she set her bacon aside and made her way to the door.  “Greg, what are you doing here?” she asked with smile in her voice.

“I had off today – and I knew you did.  So I wanted to know if you wanted to come do some errands with me.”  He looked her over as he walked in, hanging up his coat in her coat closet.  “Though not dressed like that,” he teased, going to sit at her breakfast bar.  What he wasn’t going to say was that he was contacted by John, Sherlock, and Mycroft to check on Molly.  Mycroft’s plea came before the sun had even come up in the morning, via a text.  All of them were clearly worried about Molly.  The money that Mycroft had wired to him was a surprise.  Greg would have treated her to lunch.  He had no idea how he was going to convince her to let him spend it – even if he told her it was Mycrofts.

“I didn’t quite make enough breakfast for two,” she said, apologetically. 

“It’s all right.  I ate.  But, I will take some of that coffee.”

Later as they were out shopping, Greg steered them towards clothing shops and such.  He was a bit out of touch.  He hadn’t been shopping with his wife, or even his daughters, in years.  But, he knew that the most important thing was to make sure they were having fun and that they felt attractive.  Molly and he always had a good time.  But, making her feel attractive… that was a trick.  Her self-esteem was far too low.  And, if Sherlock was at all accurate in his assessment, she had been feeling quite bad about herself lately.

“Do you ever wear make-up, Molly?” he asked with all of the tact of a brick.

“Sometimes.  When I’m going out with Mycroft,” she said with a smile.  “Going out with hi, I always feel like a princess.” 

There was no denying the smile on her face.  Her entire being seemed to glow when she spoke of him.  Of Mycroft Holmes of all people.   But, damned if the pompous sod didn’t make her happy. 

“Time to make you a princess all the time,” Greg said, pulling her into a cosmetics store that he had it on good authority did make overs. 

“Oh he’s never going to marry me,” she said, with a bit of chagrin. 

“Well then, time to make him see what he’s missing, Moll.  I mean, after all, you have to show him that you’re worth keeping, yea?”  It all felt so backwards.  It was obvious that Mycroft thought that she was worth keeping already.  But, moreso, he felt like a bit of a jerk making her up her game, so to speak.  She was a pretty girl when she wanted to dress up, and sometimes downright sexy.  But, he knew that she was dating up, so to speak.  And, there was some fine tuning that did need to be done.  But, that’s what best friends were for – or something.

Molly looked him over.  This sounded nothing like Greg.  “What did he tell you?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Greg?” she asked.  “What’s going on?” she asked quietly.

He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.  “Everyone’s a little worried about you.  Mycroft wanted me to take you shopping to help make you feel better…”

“He gave you money, didn’t he?” she whispered.  This all felt so wrong.  She earned a good living at Barts, and she didn’t like her boyfriend bribing her friends.  It all felt so contrived.

“Yea, but it was more of money for things he would have spent on you, I think.  I mean come on, can you imagine him taking you clothes shopping?  Or telling the make up artist what colors look good on you?”

She could actually.  She could see him doing all of that. But, she could also see him being rather uncomfortable when he did.  Greg was right; some things were not for Mycroft to do.  “Do you really think I have to prove that I’m worth keeping?”

Greg gave a single shoulder shrug.  “I think you already have.  But, if there is an image to keep up, I think you should do so.  After all, a lot of things can be said about Mycroft, but he does care about his image with his co-workers, and he does care about with whom he keeps company.”  He paused before mentioning, “They’re watching you, Molly.  You have to make certain that he looks good.”

She nodded, knowing that he was correct.  Walking up to the make up artist she said, “I need a make over.  I need to look beautiful.”

Chapter Text

Greg drove Molly to Mycroft’s townhome and helped her out of the car.  It had been an emotional day for both of them, but in the end, she looked rather posh.  Lovely clothing that properly fit her body and make up that made her eyes pop.  He pretended not to notice as she looked in the vanity mirror on the way. 

“Thanks,” she whispered, looking at the town home. She brushed a long lock of hair behind her ear.  “I feel like I don’t look like me,” she admitted, giving him a nervous smile. 

“You look like you, Mol.  It’s not like they put on clown make-up.  But, a more refined you.  And really, that was kinda the goal wasn’t it?”  He knew that Molly felt the pressure of a curvy woman in the world.  And, if the call he got from John was any indication, the poor thing was considering surgery – again.  Usually, she only brought it up when they had been drinking.  For her to have said it stone sober, she had to be feeling really down on herself.  It made him want to slug the hell out of Mycroft.  But, as much as anyone could figure, it wasn’t anything that Mycroft had done or said to cause it.  Maybe she was finally feeling comfortable enough with herself to voice those thoughts.  Maybe it was a good thing.  Maybe she had finally found the acceptance in Mycroft that she had pined for with Sherlock, and Moriarty, and Tom, and countless others.  Maybe her honesty was a good thing.  And, if it wasn’t, he would break that elegant nose of Mycrofts’.

“I feel like – pretty.  Like posh, pretty.  You know?  I like it,” she confided with a large grin.  She hugged him tightly.  “Thanks for being there,” she whispered.  “You’re my best friend, you know that?” she confirmed.

“Aw, Moll.  Thanks,” he said, blushing a bit. “You know I’ll always be there for you.  Especially if Mycroft’s paying,” he added with a chuckle.

“Oh, stop that,” she laughed, playfully pushing on his arm.  “I owe you one.  Something awful, like the next time your ex-wife tries to make your life harder.”

He chuckled a little more, and rubbed the back of his neck.  “All right, so I’ll call you in about an hour,” he teased.

“You can,” she said, emphatically. 

“Nah.”

“You could!” she insisted.

“Molly, enjoy your night.  Mycroft won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”

Her grin grew and a small blush rose into her cheeks.  She rather hoped that would be the case.  He really was a fantastic kisser, and she found herself missing it.  She thought about what Sherlock had said, and wondered if this was a good night to try to get Mycroft to explain why caring is not an advantage.  She had thought that she had figured all of that out, until Sherlock told her the rest of the monologue.  The concept that all lives end was something that she was familiar with, but that and the idea that Mycroft would say that all hearts are broken… who had broken his heart?  She wanted to know.  Suddenly, she found herself wanting to study him like a specimen.  It was as though Sherlock had unlocked another level of complexity about someone whom she already knew to be quite complex. 

Mycroft opened the door before she even rang the bell.  He must have been watching Greg and I, she thought idly. 

“Good evening, Molly,” he said, stepping to the side to allow her entrance into his home.  “You look lovely.  What’s the occasion?”  He had not expected to go out tonight.  He’d had a very trying day at work, and his bosses had given him a rather difficult ultimatum to conceptualize.  He certainly didn’t mind Molly coming over, which was an oddity unto itself, but he was beginning to accept that he found her comforting. 

She bit worried her bottom lip for a moment before wrapping her arms around Mycroft’s waist and pressing her lips to his.  She breathed in his scent of expensive cologne and barely concealed insecurity.  She noticed that it too a few seconds for him to wrap his arms around her as well, but once he did, she deepened the kiss.  Finally, she pulled away and leaned against the wall, casually looking him over.  “Nothing really.  I just wanted to dress up a bit.  Thank you for… assisting with that.  You know, I can afford it…” 

He sighed a bit.  He had been afraid of insulting her by giving money to Greg to be used on her.  Were they married, he knew it wouldn’t matter.  But, as they were only just dating, he didn’t want to give her the impression that she needed to be provided for, although he did want to make it clear that he was comfortable doing so.  Sentiment and affection were so difficult sometimes.  All these little tricky nuances to maneuver.  “I do know that, and I didn’t mean to offend you.  But, I have a clothing allowance, and goodness knows I don’t need it anymore.  I didn’t want to be pushy, telling you what you should wear and all that.  Clothes that I’m used to wouldn’t be acceptable for your line of work, and I… I didn’t want you to think that I don’t already think that you have style.”  Not that he found her layered work attire particularly alluring, but that was besides the point and this was not the time.  When it came to gatherings that mattered, he had no reason to conceive that she would not dress appropriately.  Despite the ghastly bow that he had seen her wearing in pictures of John and Mary’s wedding, she had looked quite good in the dress. And, not everyone could pull off that alarming shade of yellow.  For himself, he preferred dark neutral shades.  But, there was nothing dark or neutral about the young beauty staring at him from across the foyer. 

“I appreciate it.  It was a little weird, but it was nice getting nice clothes just to look nice,” she said, deciding that being gracious was the way to handle this.  After all, it wasn’t like she was doing this just for him.  She wanted to continue to be with him, and with the reality of dating that much further up came some learning curves.  At least he didn’t expect her to fund it on her own. 

“Well then,” he said, pausing a little as he weighed his option and how much he thought he could handle and still be halfway decent company tonight, “let’s do go out for dinner.  I know of a little Moroccan place that is quite lovely.  We can talk about our respective days, and anything else you may have on your mind.”

“Um,” she said, eyeing him up suspiciously.  There were several things in that statement which pinged her as out of the ordinary.  First off, Mycroft Holmes did not discuss his day at work.  And, anything else on her mind?  That was the most obvious attempt at fishing for information that she had ever heard.  He was either trying to be obvious or totally off of his game.  Either way, she wasn’t quite certain what to tell him, and she wondered if her trip to the plastic surgeon had been reported back to him.  “Crap telly and snuggles is typically the thing to counter a rough day.”  She had already figured out what she wanted to watch – her guilty pleasure – although she was fairly certain that it would grate on Mycroft like nails on a chalkboard. 

“Later.”  He pressed his lips together and suppressed two coughs.  “I have already watched one of my guilty pleasures, and we can talk about what to watch when we get back.  You look so stunning that I couldn’t just keep you to myself.  It would be a disservice to you.”  Shrugging on his long wool coat, he reached out for her with one hand and texted with the other.  “The car will be around in short order, my dear,” he said, intertwining her fingers with his own and pulling her into another embrace.

She felt like she was melting, all of her insecurities lifting away in his secure embrace.  “You’re so kind,” she whispered.

He huffed a laugh. Compliments like that were still rather foreign to him.  Usually when he showed up people were in trouble, or trying to stay out of trouble.  He gazed down at her, feeling as though he wanted to lift away her troubles.  Whatever they were… whatever triggered her weight concerns… he took a deep breath in and released it through his nose.  He would have to eat unbidden tonight.  Even if it made him feel unwell.  He could not let his issues with food become her issues.  He could not project onto her.

At his request, the car dropped them off about a block before the restaurant.  The weather was warm, and the stars were actually visible through the light pollution.  The two of them fell into a casual conversation about where Greg had taken her shopping, and how she found most of the items on sale.  He knew the adage that people who had money didn’t talk about it.  But, he recalled when he was new to the job and had come from humble beginnings.  He didn’t want to silence her or make her feel bad for such a minor social faux pas, and hoped that such things would wane away as they grew closer and she grew more accustomed to using his clothing allowance.

Suddenly he lifted his hand to cover his nose and mouth as two wet sneezes burst forth.  “Huh’Essshoo!  Gusshoo!” The strength of the sneezes caused him to bend at the waist and lose his balance temporarily.  Feeling her hands grasp around his arm in sudden support, he was unable to keep the embarrassment out of his voice as he nearly snarled, “Get off me,” and pulled his arm away.  Annoyed, he pulled out his handkerchief and wiped off his hand before tending to his nose.  “Excuse me.  My apologies, for the interruption.”

“Bless you,” she said, politely, always feeling a bit awkward blessing him after he had given his darling apology.  She had been put off a bit by his attitude, but she could understand.  If he was feeling disgusting, the last thing that he would want to be was touched.  She was often the same way, herself. 

“Thank you,” he said, his voice lacking the heat that it held only moments before.  Holding out his arm slightly, he waited for her to wrap her arm around his before he continued walking. 

Their conversation waned, and the silence seemed to stretch on for an eternity.  They were in the middle of their salad course when Molly stated, “I have a twin sister who hates me.”

The world around her had gone silent.  She had never told anyone about her sister Annabelle.  The two of them had fallen out while she was in uni and never came back together.  It had taken her years to remove the emotions out of her memories, and she did not like to talk about it.  But, Sherlock’s words echoed in her head, and she hoped that by talking to Mycroft about her hard truths, he would give her the same courtesy.

Mycroft had been about to stick his fork into a cherry tomato, while mentally berating himself for being rude to her earlier.  His fork missed and hit his plate with a loud clank.  “I beg your pardon?” he said, looking up at her.

She would have laughed had this been a romantic comedy and not her life. “Her name is Annabelle. Born three minutes before me.”

None of this was in her reports… was it? Certainly, he would remember a twin… wouldn’t he? Ugh this news from work was taking up too much of his brain.  He realized that he was simply staring at Molly, and straightened up.  He gave her a cold, calculating look, completely oblivious that his barriers were up and he was regarding her the way he would any foreign dignitary that wanted his attention.

“Anyway, um,” Molly went to brush a lock of hair back but stopped herself and held her hands firmly in her lap.  “There was a fight when I was at uni… she didn’t go.  And I wasn’t quite part of the fight… in the end I interjected myself to fix it and it just made everything worse.  Anyway…” She knew that she had to get to her point.  Was there a point?  She didn’t actually know if there was a point… “I just wanted to know, you know, in case you ever meet my family that there might be some underlying tension.”  She picked her fork back up and took a bite of her salad, mostly to shut herself up.

“Ah… and that’s why you don’t like it when Sherlock and I fight?” Mycroft said, trying to gauge what exactly she wanted.  She had to be telling him this for a reason.  His job was to figure out what that was.

“Sort of.  You see, Anna and I never fought.  Ever.  Like, we knew that it was expected of us, but we were really just best friends for the first twenty or so years of our lives.  We actually would lecture our friends who fought with their siblings and let them know how special the bond was and how important it was that they kept it together.”

“But then something happened.”

She nodded, but didn’t go on. 

“And now?” he prodded.

“She hates me.  She won’t speak to me unless she has to.  And even then I basically have to back her into a corner to get her to do so.”  She was actually surprised at how logically she was handling this.  Taking the emotion out of the story took the sting out of it as well. 

Mycroft leaned back slightly.  Not enough for his back to be touching the back of his chair, but enough to regard her carefully.

“Nobody knows.  Not even Sherlock or Greg.  I don’t ever speak of it. I just don’t go home for holidays.  My friends have become my family, since I’m not worth my real one getting to know.”  She was trying to maintain her calmness, but his silence was beginning to unnerve her. 

“I understand.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at making friends.  Certainly, I have some that I don’t pay to be so, but they are spread across the four corners of the earth.”  He blinked rapidly and looked down.  His salad could be a piece of art to him now, for all that it was appetizing. 

“She was my everything.  My world,” Molly said in a hushed voice, a sliver of venom dripping through.  “But, all hearts are broken, aren’t they?” she asked.

At that Mycroft’s focus sharpened and his lips parted slightly.  She felt as though he was a predator and she was his prey.  He was going to divest her of any pride… and confidence that she had built up.  His face told her that much.  The way he sat up straighter told her that he was coming in for the kill.  She pressed her lips together and took a deep breath in and she tried to shore up her insecurities by thinking everything that he could say that could hurt her.  She had long since learned that if she could prepare herself for the sharp comments, they hurt less.

“Your relationship with your sister is regrettable.  Is there no chance of reconciliation?” he asked.  He reminded himself to breath and allowed the motions to push through the anxiety pooling in his stomach.  Sherlock must have told her something.  She used his exact wording, and it was quite unlike her own vernacular.  His next goal was to find out exactly what Sherlock had told her.

“Appears so,” she said, taking a sip of her wine.  She forced herself not to drink it all down. 

“Hm.”  He forced himself to take another bite of salad to buy himself sometime.  Siblings… she was trying to … connect? with him… regarding siblings?  He tested the waters.  “Well I do sympathize with you regarding difficult siblings.”

“Were you and Sherlock ever close?” she asked, trying to gain more information.

No.  Not siblings.  It was something else.  “I don’t wish to speak of him tonight.  You look so beautiful, and you know how he causes my blood pressure to rise,” he deflected. 

A gentle blush crept into her cheeks at his surprise compliment.  She wasn’t certain if she was supposed to thank him or not, so she just smiled.  “Then it is my turn to apologize, Mycroft,” she stated.

His eyes squinted ever so slightly. Had he apologized to her? Not since his… sneezing. “It is of no importance,” he said, waving her off with a gentle gesture of his fingers.  “Why did you tell me that?  Are you insinuating that Sherlock hates me?  As you might imagine, I have known that for quite some time.” He knew that he was being contradictory, but it was obvious that she was playing at something.  And he wanted to figure out what precisely.  Hopefully before dessert.

“I don’t think he does, actually.  I’ve seen the way he looks at you when no one is watching. It’s like a child who feels left out when the older siblings play.  I really think he wants to please you.  But, he’s so unreceptive when you show him kindness that the conundrum is quite confusing, isn’t it?”

“He does not wish to please me.  I assure you,” Mycroft said, his tone and volume a little lower than before. 

She frowned at his answer.  The change in his voice was heartbreaking to her, and she desperately wanted to know whose life end that broke his heart.  She tried to phrase the question just right.  Asking about caring was too close to sentiment, and she doubted that he would be receptive.  He had requested not to speak of Sherlock, although he had then brought him back up.

“Molly, do simply ask the question.  We can work out what you meant afterwards,” he said, a slight huff to his words.  He was starting to get a headache, and he wanted this whole conversation to be behind them.

Tact, she reminded herself.  Mycroft was a man with feelings and a rather depressing, if not realistic, mantra. She reached across the table and stretched her fingers towards him, earning her a look that read clearly as disgust. When he didn’t take her hand, she flattened her hand to the table, but didn’t remove it.  “I assume growing up, you mostly raised Sherlock.”

A shocked look rippled through his features, but was gone in moments.  “I did.  Our parents were,” he cleared his throat, “are perfectly lovely normal parents.  They raised us to the best of their ability, but they do not think like us.  Someone had to guide him.”

She gave a small frown at that.  “Did anyone in your family ever mentor you?”

He found himself uttering a sentence that he did not very often. “I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

“Who raised you?” she asked, pointedly.

“O-our parents of course,” he said, more than a little surprised at the accuracy with which she hit the nail on the head.

“Was there no one who cared for you, especially?” she asked sadly.  This was worse than she thought.  Perhaps he lost a university lover, or perhaps he had been married, or engaged, at some point.  Her eyes flickered to the ring on his hand.

Mycroft huffed a breath, seeming to ponder his answer.  Abruptly, he turned away from the table, withdrawing his handkerchief from his inside breast pocket.  “Herctcccch!” he sneezed suddenly, giving a tentative sniff. 

Molly watched as he pressed his handkerchief tighter to his face. 

“Eh-heh-EH-Tccsssh!” He sniffled and gave his nose a light blow.  “Do excuse me, Molly. I don’t know what came over me.”  He used the sneeze for the diversion it was and did not answer her question.  He would need to talk to Sherlock.  And soon. 

“Bless you,” she said, politely.  She waited for a bit, and then retracted her hand, saddened, but unsurprised that he did not take it.  Conversation continued, but on a much more light tone than before as they finished their meal.

Pulling out his pocket-watch, Mycroft pulled a slight frown. It was later than he had intended to stay out.  “I am terribly sorry, Molly, but we either have time for dessert or you can introduce me that which you call rubbish telly.”

She laughed a bit.  “Telly it is then.  It’ll be a bit of a learning experience for you,” she said with a small laugh.

“Oh dear.  That sounds dreadful.”

“You’ll think so.  I know. Just let me watch an episode or two, and then you never have to sit through it again.  I’ll watch it at my place.”

“What on earth have I gotten myself into?” he muttered as he asked for the check.

What he had gotten himself into, he came to find out, was a television show about how a small business owner ran her rather successful business, despite a more or less unsavory staff.  

The two of them had set themselves up with tea and crisps.  Sitting on the sofa, Mycroft couldn’t help but sigh as the anxiety that seemed to have been gathering all day finally released. “And what, pray tell, do you believe I will learn from this?  I already know bad business practices.  Good ones as well.”  He asked, pulling out his handkerchief again and dabbing at his nose a bit. 

“American street slang,” she answered, laughing at his incredulous look. “On come now, Mycroft.  Certainly you’ll be able to figure it out.”

“I taught myself Russian in three hours and Arabic in an afternoon.”

“Yes, but those languages use words.  Street slang is more like a codex with words used in place of other words.   If you don’t know what the replacement words are, or what they mean, the sentence doesn’t make any sense,” she explained. 

He sighed and nodded, turning the show on.  This night was about making her feel better.  Not about her pandering to him.  If it was truly awful, he would just think about work and block out the background noise. 

He flinched as people spoke to each other in harsh tones and wondered in what world that sort of unprofessional behavior was tolerated. Rubbing his handkerchief under his nose, he sighed a bit as the tickle from dinner returned.  Folding the handkerchief in half, he allowed the tickles to push forward.  “Hah-Etssschh!  Esttchhh!” he sneezed, the force of each rocking him forward. 

“Bless you, Mycroft,” Molly said.  “Are you feeling all right?”

He thought he was, apart from being tired.  “Yes, thank you.  My apologies for interrupting.” 

Molly pulled one of the small throw pillows from behind her and put it on her lap.  “Mycroft lay down,” she said, offering him the space.

“What?” he asked, turning his attention towards her. His fine eyebrows knitted together as he regarded her with an air of confusion.  He’d done such a thing for Sherlock from time to time… and he had a vague memory of his mother doing it for him when he was a child.  But, he had been ill with pneumonia.  Whatever it was that he was fighting off wasn’t that serious.  So why she would try to provide that level of comfort was beyond his comprehension. 

“Take off your jacket.  I promise I won’t touch your neck.”  She had once been threatened while snuggling and she carried fears of people touching her neck while snuggling for the rest of her life.  She figured a man such as he with so many body autonomy issues would appreciate a similar awareness. 

He seemed to consider it and then bent over, nearly bending himself in half.

She leaned forward and smiled softly as she realized he was untying his shoes.  He removed his jacket and sighed softly, allowing himself to lean over and do as she requested. He sighed a bit and focused on his breathing, only tensing a little when she started rubbing his back slowly.  When she didn’t remove her hand at once, h realized that she didn’t even notice that she was doing it and had allowed herself to become engrossed in the show.  It suddenly occurred to him that this act of … caring… was just as much for her benefit as for his.  The realization calmed him enough to be able to accept being in a place of physical vulnerability and give the show at least a modicum of his attention.

Molly was surprised when Mycroft agreed to the comfort that she was offering.  She knew that his job was stressful on a level that very few could understand, and she couldn’t even imagine.  She rubbed his back gently, feeling the knots that had worked their way down his spine.  Eventually, she would work on those.  But, for now, she would enjoy the fact that he allowed this situation to happen.

He drew in a deep breath, and she realized that it was likely that his handkerchief was in his jacket and the tissues were too far away.  She flattened her hand on his back, ready to help him right himself enough to get to his handkerchief. Stupid, she admonished herself.

But, instead of sneezing, he asked her a question.  “Did he just call her a jelly roll?” he asked, completely confused.

“What?” she asked, completely baffled as to what he was talking about.

It felt odd speaking to her while turned away.  But, he repeated his question.  “Did he just ask if she was a jelly roll?  He asked, “Are you jelly roll?”

She snickered, grasping his upper arm firmly when he stiffened.  “Jelly,” she explained, “is a shortened term for jealous.  He was asking if she was jealous, and the last were was yo.”  She paused trying to explain ‘yo.’

“Ah.  All right. I don’t understand why one would be jelly of that, but fine.  Don’t worry about explaining ‘yo’.  I did live through the eighties after all.”  He said jelly as though he were sounding it out for the first time. 

Molly thought it was incredibly adorable.

The next episode started, and she was happy that he didn’t make her turn it off.  She had a wonderful day with her best friend.  A wonderful dinner with her boyfriend.  And now she was watching her guilty pleasure with the most powerful man in the British government comfortable in her lap.  There had been bumps in the road, and she had gone through the full gambit of emotions. But, this was pretty special. 

When Mycroft sucked in another breath, she was ready to answer whatever question he might have.  But, this time the breath deepened, and his head snapped forward into his sleeve.  “Ehk-Hetccssh! IgnKAshoo!” 

“Bless you,” Molly said, putting her hand on his arm to hold him in place, while she leaned over and got his jacket.  Draping it in front of him, she averted her gaze while he pulled out his handkerchief and tended to his nose. “You’re all right,” she murmured, despite herself, as she rubbed his arm gently. 

“Thank you,” he sighed, his voice becoming gravelly.  He felt as though the energy was leaching out of him as he lay there.  But, he didn’t want to move. This was nice.  Being cared for was nice.  His thoughts wandered to his perspective on sentiment.  He had loved and cared for people his whole life.  He had lost the people who meant the most to him.  Going down this path again would only lead to heartbreak.  One of them would die, eventually – if they even made it that far.  One way or the other their hearts would be broken.  Until then, they would unfocus their lives to make room for each other in it.  Others might not notice the difference, but the fact was that they would no longer be as focused as they once were.  They would no longer not care if they were late.  They would check in on each other.  Things would change.  It would be –

“Did he just ask her about her ear buds?  What does that have to do with anything?” he asked, as his subconscious whirred in an attempt to piece together the sentence together.

A small chortle.  “No, love,” she answered, softly although there was a brightness in her voice.  “Ear-jacking is the same as eavesdropping.”

An eyebrow raised.  He could hardly overlook the statement of affection.  But, moreso, for someone to not understand the history of the word eaves-dropping… but of course these were Americans and the history was so very far removed both physically and figuratively from them… “How ghastly,” he muttered, closing his eyes.

He was asleep before Molly could mutter, “Indeed.”

 

Chapter Text

Mycroft felt nauseous with a thick feeling deep in his stomach that caused a cold sweat to break out down his back.  His mind was filled with manic thoughts racing about, and nearly muting him to any conversation that Molly had tried to start at dinner.  He listened to her stories, and forced smiled that barely moved the muscles around his nose.  There were things he had been ordered to do - legwork that he loathed.  And it was complex, complicated.  And he was looking at his cover story.

 

"Molly, have you ever been out of England?" he asked.  If she would not travel with him, then it would not work.

 

"Of course," she answered lightly, pleased that whatever had been bothering him seemed to have let up a bit.  He'd been peevish and a bit stand offish the past few days.  His allergies seemed to be heightened, but the pollen count wasn't rising, so she wondered if his sneezing was psychosomatic.  It didn't matter... there was something sweet about his sneezes, a moment of vulnerability of the most dangerous man that she knew.  "I've toured the rest of Great Britain.  I've been to Germany and France.  Poland.  I, em, I've always wanted to go to Italy though, and Austria, Switzerland... Greece."  A dreamy look crossed her face as she spoke of these places.

 

Perfect.  She would be perfect.

 

"Well, I have enjoyed my time with you," he said, putting his silverware down.  Dropping his eyes to place them perfectly, he missed the look of utter pain and fear that crossed her features as she was certain that she was being broken up with.  Looking back up, he added, "I would like to take you across Europe, if you'll let me."  He smiled a bit as his mind pulled together the best three places to go, but of course - that wasn't the goal.  He couldn't think like himself.  And Molly... Molly didn't think like anyone.  In fact, if people didn't know her well, they probably wouldn't understand her thought process either.  "Do you have time to take?"

 

She nodded.  "I don't take time off often.  But, I've been wanting to.  I just... I don't like to stay on the beaten track, you know?  Hiking and things or places where there are grand landscapes is more my style."

 

He nodded once.  This was working out splendidly. "Three weeks would be idea, but I doubt either of us could step away for that long."

 

She huffed a laugh and shook her head to the negative. 

 

"Could you get two weeks of holiday?" he asked, smiling softly at her.  It was a negotiation, of course, and he had to make her believe him completely.  The difficulty was that the rouse was falling between what he needed and what he wanted.  And, he knew that there was a gamble that she would find out that he was utilizing her as much as he was enjoying her. 

 

"Yes," she said, smiling broadly.  "Where will we be going?"

 

"Well," he said, sitting up straighter.  "I travel quite regularly, and I don't often have time for sight-seeing.  In this case... I think I'd like you to decide."  He felt inordinately pleased when her eyebrows knit together ever so slightly before she gave him a small nod.  "Three places, do pick.  Anthea will make the arrangements, but I would like your hand in it.  I haven't been on holiday in many years, and I want to be certain that you will adore it as much as I."

 

She blinked lightly as she tried to process this information, and her smile grew.  We'll of course Greece, and um... well Austria and Italy would be lovely.  But, it doesn't make much sense, does it?" she asked, double guessing herself. 

 

"I have plane," he said, simply, his voice rumbling in a way that made her tingle inside.  "We can go wherever you'd like.  Perhaps after dinner we shall retire to my house, and we can look up hotels."

 

"I wouldn't image that you would stay in a hotel."

 

"Ah, well I do need to sleep sometime.  Besides, I think you'll be quite impressed with what the three countries that you desire have to offer."

 

--

Hours later, she was sitting at his dining room table leaning over in a way that shone extreme interest and also made his back sore just watching her hyper-extend.

 

"Oh, Mycroft, look at this one," she said, gasping at the elaborate elegance  The private balcony looked over a deep blue ocean that made her think that the pictures had been doctored. 

 

Looking over her shoulder, he smiled at the decadence, and nearly chuckled at the price.   She was adorable in the way she worried her lip and looked at him in askance.  "Add it to your list, and Anthea will see what is available."  He had grown weary rather quickly, but did not want to dull her exuberance.  He had no idea that she was capable of such delight, which meant that she had a lifetime of being told to hide it.  He found that he didn't want her to hide who she was from him.  It was an odd reality. 

 

"When should I request off for?" she asked, an hour or so later, coming into his sitting room.  He had retired there soon after they got back to his place, and she didn't want to bother him.  Goodness knew he was probably over-stimulated all day, and she wanted his home to remain a place where he could find solace. 

 

He looked up from the book that he was reading, and removed the gold wire framed glasses from his face.  "I'd like to leave as soon as possible," he answered honestly.

 

"This is for something you have to do for work, isn't it?" she asked, plainly.

 

"Yes, and for myself.  And, if it makes you happy, as I hope it will, then for you as well."  He smile a bit and then stilled, as though he wasn't certain what to do next.

 

She hated the false smiles he gave her.  It was odd that the man who chastised her for smiling when she didn't feel like it would do the same to her.  "I'm not one of your co-workers, Mycroft.  You don't have to smile at me if you're too tired to do so.  I know it probably feels like I'm invading your home."

 

He froze, his mind racing as he tried to counter her arguments.  "Invading is the wrong word," he corrected.  "And I like to smile at you - even if I don't exactly ... know why..."  Sentiment had gotten him hurt in the past.  Sentiment was what broke his heart in college, and then with Sherlock... He closed his eyes and sighed at the pain in his chest when it came to Sherlock.  But, no, he had his mission, and Sherlock no longer factored in.  Molly was the future, he was the narrator, and Sherlock was the past.  That life was over.

 

"I like your smile," Molly said, sitting next to him and pressing a kiss to his cheek.

 

He breathed out as his mind flushed with endorphins, washing away the hurt caused by the brother he was.  He reached over and grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze.  There was something incredibly grounding about the chaotic woman next to him.  A feeling of commonness set in him.  This was why people coupled.  This feeling right here, that no matter what insanity surrounded them, they were in the eye of the storm together... stronger, more grounded.  The feeling of nausea from earlier returned. 

 

"I would like to show you something," he said, standing up. He turned to her and held out his hand. 

 

She took it and let him guide her up.  It was an unnecessary kindness, but she did adore his manners.  Following him into a room behind a sliding oak door, she looked around.  "This is your office," she said.

 

"Yes," he confirmed, walking through to another door. 

 

She was careful not to look around.  He kept a clean office, so she didn't think that she would see something that she couldn't.  But, there was no reason to be nosy. 

 

"There is another door to this, but I'm so used to going through my office..." he explained, opening the other door for her and letting her go inside first.

 

"It's fine.  Oh..." She was breathless as she looked around at his home theatre. 

 

"I tend to watch black and white movies in here.  The film projector gives the ambiance of a different time.  By no means more simple, just different."  He stood back and held his breath, as she walked in and looked around, her eyes wide with wonder. 

 

She wandered over to his film collection, and smiled at his movie collection.  "Oh... Wuthering Heights?" she asked, looking over at him.  "Sir Lawrence Olivier?"

 

"Of course," he answered simple, his voice but a whisper as he felt acceptance on a level that he had never thought possible. 

 

She breathed out a laugh of familiarity.  "Danny Kaye.  Oh, Mycroft - you have the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies - not just Andy Hardy!" she exclaimed, squealing in delight.

 

"Yes," he said as something clicked into place in his mind.  He recalled the last time that he felt this way.  He had been in college, and the ... past was the past.  He had to put it away.  But, it threatened precariously close to his conscious mind as he watched Molly.  There had only been one other who had understood him on this level.  They had promised to wait for each other.  And the other had disappeared on Christmas.  He knew - now - what had happened of course.  He wouldn't have been able to stop that threat - that conclusion.  This one though... He smiled at her, as she pulled a reel from a box, and held it towards him in happy anticipation.  This one he would protect at all costs.

Chapter Text

 

If Molly had to guess what language Mycroft was speaking, she would think Russian.  He was barely keeping his temper as he spoke in quickly punctuated sounds.  While she wished that she could identify with him on the level of a linguist, she also knew that her lack of knowledge in these areas was why he didn't need to lock himself in another room whenever he had to take a work call.  Having barely ended that call, he picked up again when his phone rang.
 

"Yes, I saw that.  No, it's not acceptable.  Still not acceptable.  Anthea, I don't care what you have to do, this is not the way to start a vacation."  A pause and a deep breath where he drew himself up to his full posture.  "Yes.  I understand.  Of course.  Yes, I know.  Well then, you can give the Prime Minister the papers that we had put away.  No no, nothing like that.  I've been well, thank you.  Yes.  That's fine.  It had better be."  He cut the connection and leaned back, obviously perturbed about something.
 

Molly bit at her bottom lip, uncertain of what to do.  "Mycroft, are you all right?" she asked.  They were on their way to the airport, and even though she understood that she was his alibi - for lack of a better term - she wanted him to be able to enjoy at least some of the time away.
 

Without acknowledging her, he rolled down the privacy screen to the driver.  "Adam, please bring us around to the main entrance.  We'll be flying first class today."
 

"First class, sir?" Adam asked.  "With the rest of the passengers?"  This was highly irregular.
 

"Indeed," he said rolling up the screen. 

Finally, he regarded Molly.  "I regret this change of plans.  The jet I usually use for travel is being utilized by another member of the cabinet and cannot be made available for today.  This is most unusual."   He knew that it was part of the ultimatum that he faced, and knew better than to complain about it.  Besides, the Prime Minister would be receiving a bit of a shock himself soon.  Mycroft couldn't help but give a dark smile at that.
 

"Have you ever flown on board a commercial airline?" she asked.  She knew that he didn't like people being close to him, nor did he appreciate being surrounded by people he did not know and could not control.  She had been getting the idea that he was highly stressed about germs and ailments, what with his job keeping him running at high speed all of the time; his poor immune system worked over time on the best of days.
 

"I have.  I do not enjoy it, but as I understand it, we will be nearly alone in first class, so that should help."
 

Molly said nothing.  Being on the plane would be one thing.  But, getting through the airport would be quite different.  She couldn't imagine him having to take off his shoes, or being surrounded by squalling children and their exhausted parents.  She shot off a text to Sherlock:
 

How do you calm your brother when he is in overload? Molly
 

She didn't know if she was going to get a response, or if Sherlock was going to contact Mycroft directly.  But, either way, she figured that a bit of a distraction from Sherlock would help Mycroft take his focus off of the unsavory predicament that he found himself in.
 

Why? SH
 

No.  She wouldn't answer that.  If he couldn't deduce why, then she wasn't going to give him fodder.
 

"I can get us through the security points," Mycroft said, typing on his mobile.  "Customs shouldn't be a problem either."
 

She smiled at him and gave his leg a gentle squeeze.  She didn't know what to say, but she was fairly certain that their relationship was about to be tested.  Uncertain about the level of affection or possessiveness that she should show, she decided to let him take the lead.
 

She smiled again, when he put his hand on the small of her back and lead her through security.  The smile dimmed a bit when he came up behind her and held her shoulders firmly, placing a kiss on the top of her head.  It was so out of character that she had to look up to make certain that it was actually him behind her.
 

"Don't leave my side," he whispered, his quiet voice commanding her attention.
 

She nodded, as she took his arm and walked at a double-time pace in order to keep up with his long, purposeful strides. She wondered why he needed her close.  Goodness knew a man of his station did not need her there for protection.  She thought that perhaps it was for her protection. Sherlock had made it clear that his brother was the most dangerous man that any of his friends would ever meet.  She nodded to herself as she figured that this was about her protection.
 

"Figure something out?" he asked as they made their way to the gate... four hours early.
 

"No, sorry..." she said, still not used to anyone being so in tuned to her.
 

He smirked, not believing her for a second.  But, he let it go.  "Come..." he said, making his way into another direction.  "As I understand it, Gordon Ramsey has a restaurant in the airport."  
 

Molly nodded, letting him lead her off to one of the finer eateries at Heathrow. 

 --

The toddler was about two, based on his chubby cheeks and belly.  He was unstable on his feet, although his parents let him stand on the seats and look around.  
 

After their meal, Molly and Mycroft still had about two hours before boarding.  Mycroft had confirmed that there would only be the two of them and two others in first class, and while this was not ideal, he would be able to cope with it for a few hours.  The two of them had settled into nearby seats.  Molly started reading some professional journals and took Mycroft's hand in her own.  Mycroft, however, could not get comfortable.  Certainly, were one to look at him, he would look like the epitome of control.  But, inside he was barely holding it together.  

He had started watching the toddler a few rows over, mostly because he was the calmest of all of the squalling kids running around.  His eye fell on Molly, who was concentrating on her reading.  He wondered if she had ever wanted children, and wondered if she would be a good mum.  The thought caused his anxiety to ratchet up until he felt cold.  A white nose rushed in his ears as he thought of what a horrid father he would make. Panic started to claw at him as he realized that they would have to break up, and it would be like it had been before.  She would be the last time he would put himself out there like this.  All hearts were broken.  Caring is not an advantage. 

The man sitting next to the precariously balanced toddler, looked at him, and then looked back to their phone.  Suddenly, the toddler sneezed, spraying the side of the man's face.  

The action triggered Mycroft into a full blown panic attack.  But, he couldn't have it here... not in public, where everyone could see him.  He had to hide.  Go anywhere to regain control.  Gasping for air, he loosened his tie considerably, and nearly pulled his top button off of the shirt in his need to un-restrict his airflow.   

Molly looked over at him, eyes widened in alarm.  She wasn't certain what had caused him distress, but she could feel his palm sweating and let it go to give him all the space he could need. "What is it?"

"I'll be right back," he said, getting up and hurrying to the mens' room.  

Molly resisted the urge to follow him, fretting even more when he left both his briefcase and his umbrella behind.  She knew that they were always trailed by security and hoped that whomever was on duty was male, and could follow him where she could not. 

 Please, Sherlock. MH

She waited a few minutes, and held on tightly to Mycroft's umbrella, worried and feeling helpless. 

 ---

Mycroft turned on the cold water in the men's room, and splashed some on his face.  He couldn't imagine all of the germs that surrounded him, and he worked to keep his anxiety at bay.  It was becoming too much for him to handle, and he was just desperate to get his breath back and silence the thrumming of the white noise in his ears, and the rushing of the thoughts in his mind.  

Secluding himself in a stall, he closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath through his mouth.  There was only one person that could calm his mind right now... the only other person who would possibly understand what a panic attack of this magnitude was like. 

Sherlock, help me, please. MH

His employers had been clear that they could be in limited contact.  Brotherly contact.  Whatever the hell that was.  He figured, that this sort of communication fell within those parameters. 

Just eat the cake, Mycroft. SH

Of course... of course, his brother would think that this was in jest.  There had been no case pending, no reason for them to communicate.  He had been out of communication for two weeks, and had been decreasing the amount put into Sherlock's account.  Once Molly proved how much Sherlock had been paid and how many monetary breaks he was getting from his friends, it did seem more wise for him to keep that money for his own retirement.  Someday.  If he lived that long.  

The doctors were clear that he needed to relax; that the stress of his employment was becoming too strenuous on his body.  Mycroft wasn't certain what the hell he was supposed to do about that.  Oddly, Molly had helped.  She brought ordered chaos to his life of control, and it was perfect. He knew that he wasn't the most emotionally supportive person, and that he could stand to be more kind to her, although he had no idea how.  There was so much more to that woman than anyone had ever noticed, and he didn't want to sell her short in any capacity... but the borders were too ambiguous for him to feel like he knew what to do. 

Eat the cake... do the thing.  Maybe his doctors, his employers, were right.  He just needed to do the things that felt good.  Tell Molly that he loved her.  Cut all ties with Sherlock, with his family.  Use his employment to start a new life and hope to God that Molly would come with him.  Maybe it was time to stop the thoughts, the pressure, the stress, at all costs.  

He fretted his bottom lip.  An overdose of his anxiety medication would stop the stress, the emotional pain, give his body its well deserved break.  No... no...  The thoughts subsided.  He needed Sherlock. 


Mycroft, what is it? SH


He tapped the microphone and whispered into the phone:


No flowers.  My request.


Closing his eyes, he turned off his phone, trying desperately to keep the tears that were blurring his vision from travelling down his face. 


Suddenly, Molly's phone dinged.  Sherlock.


Where's Mycroft? SH

An odd question, she thought.  


Loo. MH
 

Get in there, immediately. SH
 

Mycroft had told Molly the code word to call for his bodyguard several weeks prior.  Molly barely had time to hope it was the same before yelling out, "Rex!" She didn't care that she had startled the people around her.  Standing, she shouldered her carry-on, and grabbed Mycroft's briefcase and umbrella, making her way towards the restrooms.  She watched as a man in sunglasses and a dark suit entered the men's room, and hoped that was the bodyguard.  
 

No. Not a bodyguard. You Molly. SH
 

Now. SH  

"Sweet Jesus," Molly whispered, as she made her way into the men's room, from which several men were hurrying out. 

"Mycroft?" she asked, coming inside. "Anyone else in here, I'm a surgeon, and I assure you that I've seen much worse."

She heard a gasp that sounded exactly like Mycroft.  "Molly, please ... no... not Molly..." His voice was wispy, but strained. He sounded panicked. 

"Mr. Holmes, are you all right?" the bodyguard asked.  

"I need Sherlock," he gasped, from within the stall. 

"Sherlock sent me in.  Mycroft, he can't get here.  But, I can put him on speaker if you'd like," she said, dialing the phone. Her heart dropped when she went to voicemail.  "Come on, Sherlock.  He's your brother," she whispered angrily and dialed him again. 

 

Let him feel your pulse. SH
 

Don't talk to him. SH
 

I can't get to him.  Molly

 
Dammit, Molly! SH

 

"Mycroft," she said, moving in front of the body guard.  "Come on out, love.  No one else is here.  I'd come in there, but I'm certain it'll be too cramped." 

It only took a few seconds before he came out from the stall.  "My apologies for causing any concern.  I simply became overwhelmed," he said, doing his best to smile. 

"Mycroft, don't.  Your color's off.  You're breathing's off." 

She went to grab his hand, so that his long fingers could find her wrist, but, he wrenched his hand away.  "Oh yes.  That makes it better because you are here.  And you're a doctor," he bit at her sarcastically.  

Luckily, Molly was well versed in Holmes. "Yes," she said, confidently. 

Mycroft looked at her steadily before taking a deep breath and bowing his head.  Not caring what the bodyguard saw, Molly stepped forward and allowed Mycroft to wrap his hands around her wrists.  

"I've got ya," she whispered softly into his ear.  "You're safe now. You're safe." 

Mycroft took a deep breath and let it out slowly, taking solace in her calm heart beat.  Slowly, the white noise in his ears went away. 

Time passed slowly, and the bodyguard came back in and mentioned that their flight was boarding.  Molly hadn't even realized that he had left. 

Molly was fairly certain that her shoulder was going to drop off.  She wouldn't have let go of Mycroft for all the tea in Britain.  But, she did wish that she had put her carry on down first.  "You ready?" she asked kindly. 

He lifted his head and took a deep breath.  "Yes, of course."  Letting go of her wrists, he made his way back to the sink and washing his hands.  "Give me your bag," he said, taking their bags and his umbrella.  With a final look in the mirror, he walked out. 

As they were boarding, Molly texted Sherlock. 


Crisis adverted. Molly

 

I hope so. SH

 

She furrowed her brow as she pondered what on earth Sherlock could mean.  But, when the pilot told her to turn off her phone, she did so without giving it another thought.

"How are you feeling, love?" she asked, as soon as they were in the air.  

He handed her an envelope, the kind that sleeved notecards.  "This is from Anthea.  I have not read it, but I have an idea of what it says."  

Molly sat in her seat and read the notecard. It included instructions about the difficulties that generally befell Mycroft during travel.  From migraines to sinus pressure in high altitudes, to how to tell when he has become overloaded and needs a break, it was like a Mycroft Holmes instruction manual.  Honestly, she could have used it months earlier. But, it did say that he preferred to work while in the air, and - unless he was unwell - he would sleep off his first valium as soon as the lights went out. 

Settling in to enjoy first class, she put her earbuds in and cued up a movie. 

Chapter Text

Fear and tears welled up inside Molly as she realized that she was completely overwhelmed and nothing was ever going to be all right again.  Panicked, she thought about calling Marguerite for assistance.  Sitting down heavily on the vanity bench, she took a deep quivering breath and tried to figure out how to fix the mess that she suddenly found herself in.  Mycroft was downstairs waiting for her, and she knew that she had fifteen minutes or less to get herself together.  All the parts of a wonderful night splayed out in front of her, but she had no idea how to make it happen.

The vacation had not started out like this.  Upon  landing, they had toured Athens, and Molly was delighted at how easily they were able to bypass lines that people waited on for hours.  After, Mycroft had to go into ‘the office,’ and left Molly to go sight-seeing.  She had done some shopping, and the two of them had a delightful afternoon together, having taken a helicopter to another section of Greece – not far, but far enough from the city.  She had done as he directed and turned off her mobile, sincerely enjoying Mycroft’s knowledge of the area and the stories he told her about it.  She found herself laughing at his dry wit, and talking so freely, that she didn’t even notice as they started to walk through the woods, and over rocks, feeling comfortable as he steadied her. 

The wind blew her hair back as she found herself looking adoringly at the errant curl as it fell over his forehead.  Such an interesting comb-over, one that she never really thought about before.  It made him look younger, less predatory.  Not that she thought of him as a predator; or, at least he didn’t view herself as prey.

But, as he helped her down from a rock that they stood on in order to get a better view of the seaside, she slipped and torqued her knee.  He caught her, of course.  But, her knee didn’t sort itself out, and now she was about to put on three inch heels and try to walk on a knee that didn’t quite want to hold when standing in them.  It was the night that they were expected to go to the symphony.  Her gown was too long to wear flats, and her knee too compromised to wear heels. 

Mycroft was waiting for her, and she hadn’t told him that her knee had been compromised.  Her make-up was done, so she tried not to let the tears go anywhere but in a mascara smudged tissue.  Then she recalled who she was.  No matter how daunting the night in front of her – she knew how to wrap a knee.  And she would – and she would make this work.  She had to be good enough. 

Fixing her eye make-up, and wrapping her knee, she cut her stockings so that they fit over her bandages.  This would be difficult, but she could do it. 

As she came to the top of the red carpeted stairs that she had fallen in love with when searching online, she realized that the thirty two steps that would allow her to make a grand entrance to meet the well dressed, handsome businessman in a tailored suit - that likely cost more than her bi-weekly wages – were going to hurt an awful lot.  After thirteen steps, she paused.  Her knee was throbbing and ruining everything.  Having held on to the thick white marble banister as she came down the stairs, nimble fingers grasped it more tightly, and she let out a ragged sigh, not realizing that her eyes had drifted slow in concentration until she felt a gentle hand on her elbow.

Opening her eyes, she looked up at Mycroft, who was still taller than her, even though he was two short steps lower.  “Are you all right?”

She whispered a “yes” and nodded her head even though her knee throbbed painfully. 

“You’re not,” he correctly, gently.  “Tell me.”  His voice was soft, caring – though not concerned. 

“I hurt my knee while we were out.  The stairs are difficult,” she answered softly.

“Ah I see,” he said.  After a pause, he moved to the side and offered her his arm.  “Let me help you,” he whispered.

She smiled at him as she wrapped her arm around his.  Putting a bit of weight on his arm helped relieve her knee and made her feel as though she were a princess, making an even grander entrance that she had ever imagined.

** MH + MH **

There has been another bombing – this time in Switzerland, in an  office building, which once housed the International Embassy.  As viewers who have been watching know, there were two similar bombings in Athens and just outside of Pireaus earlier today.

Gregory, John, and Sherlock has just gone back to the yard after sealing a case that Sherlock was proclaiming was hardly worthy of a six.  Listening to the television in the background, John silenced the consulting detective, and drew the group’s attention to the news report.

Greg’s jaw dropped open just a bit as he realized that the bombings were following the path that Molly had told him about.  She had told him that she would be off-line, and unavailable by even telephone. 

“Mycroft?” John muttered, his eyes transfixed to the screen.

“Probably,” Sherlock whispered.  His eyes were also fixed on the screen as he tried to figure out why Mycroft had disappeared.  Not necessarily because he was doing field work, although he was certain that Mycroft had something to do with this odd array of bombings.  Something was wrong.  Certainly, Molly had taken his brother’s side and that was understandable.  She loved him and he deserved to be loved. But, Mycroft wouldn’t put her in danger like that.  No it had to be something else.  Something that he was missing.  An obvious fact; an elusive obvious fact.

Chapter Text

Much to Molly’s shock, Mycroft slowed down his wide-stride pace for her.  He offered his arm when she winced, and if he had adjusted the night’s plans based on her injury, she never knew about it.  Their foray in Austria was simply magical. 

They walked thought St. Marks Square, and enjoyed some touristy things in Vienna before Mycroft made his excuses and made his way to the office.  While he was out, she enjoyed the use of his personal car in order to get to the Central Cemetery, which she heard had some absolutely beautiful tombstone art. 

Taking a slow stroll through the cemetery, she was amazed by the craftwork.  Despite the beautiful cemeteries that she had seen in England, those gravestone couldn’t even compare to these.  Better yet, she was able to stop off at a nearby bakery, and was even able to convince the driver of the car to come in with her.  This was more of a boon than a benefit, as he was able to speak the language, when all she was able to do was point at what she wanted.

The waitress brought them a full coffee and tea service, with their respective pastries, and even though he didn’t speak often, she enjoyed polite conversation with Andre, the driver.

Later, when they picked up Mycroft from the office, she couldn’t help but notice that he seemed exhausted.  Pale and drawn, the bags under his eyes gave the indication of a man who had been awake for a week today.  They were supposed to got to Strasburg for a nice dinner and the symphony.  But, looking at Mycroft, she didn’t think that the helicopter ride there would be in his best interest – let alone an entire evening out. 

“Good evening dear,” she said, leaning over to him and placing a kiss on his cheek, noticing how cool it was.

He grunted at her, squinting at his cell phone before turning it off and putting it away.  “My apologies,” he whispered, massaging his temple with his long fingers.

“Perhaps we should stay in tonight.  We can call in room service, and -.”

“While I appreciate what you’re doing, we do need to go to Strasburg as expected tonight.  Although perhaps you would be kind enough to allow me to sleep on the way there.” Brown eyes looked at her in askance as his mental shields started to slip down. 

“That is fine with me.  It’ll give me some time to work on a project.  Don’t worry – it’s all software, no internet – as promised.“  She didn’t like that he still felt the need to be out and about, when it was obvious that he was so drained.  But, she knew that while this was a vacation for her, it was a working tour for him.  If they needed to be in Strasburg, she would not fight him on it.

For every step that she had been slow in Vienna, he seemed delayed in Strasburg.  He sneezed rather violently at the restaurant, unable to get away from the table in time.  But, as it was only one sneeze, she chalked it up to stress, or maybe exhaustion.  She wasn’t certain if he had fallen asleep or was simply enjoying the orchestra with his eyes closed during the symphony.  Concerned, she had put a hand on his knee, startling when he startled. She withdrew her hand sharply, her heart thudding and a strong sense of regret for disrupting him.  The regret subsided immediately, however, when he placed his hand over hers, bringing it back down to his knee, and squeezing it gently.  She smiled, not looking at him; just enjoying the moment.  Magical.

After the symphony, they opted to walk back to the hotel, and Molly couldn’t stop grinning when he did not relinquish hold of her hand.  This was amazing, perfect.  It was everything that she ever expected and wanted. It was truly one of those magical moments in life, and she never wanted it to end.

“You know you’re humming a waltz,” he mused at her.

She smiled sheepishly, not even realizing that she had been humming.  Thinking for a moment, she grinned confidently at him.  “Actually, I’m humming a minuet.”

Brown eyes slide over to regard her as his brows furrowed slightly in thought.  “Technically, the timing is that of a waltz, although you’re correct, it was originally written by Henry Purcell as a minuet.”  He pulled out his handkerchief and tended gently to his nose.  Tucking his handkerchief away, he held his hand out.  “May I have this dance?” he asked.

“Here?” she asked, wondering about the odd bout of spontaneity.

“Where better?” he asked, withdrawing his phone and starting the same waltz that she had been humming.  “Venetian?” he asked, asking what kind of waltz she wanted to do.

“I’ve never been very good at it,” she admitted.  “I get dizzy.”

“We’ll slow it down somewhat.  Just follow my lead,” he whispered, looking into her chocolate eyes, which reflected the deepness of the stars above them.  He felt a twinge in his chest that he couldn’t quite place as he pulled her a little closer, and settled his hand on the small of her back.  With a small rocking motion, he started to move them in time to the music.  After the song ended, he bowed to her and paused.  Both of them were slightly out of breath, and he found that he didn’t want to do the ‘right thing’ and kiss her on the hand.  He wanted, to pull her close to him and give her a passionate kiss. 

As he pressed his lips to hers, Molly felt as though her lips were alight with tingles.  Her heart pounded so hard that she lost the ability to hear as she felt his tongue along her lips in askance.  Meeting him halfway, she drew in a deep breath as they deepened the kiss.  His hands in her hair, her hands roaming down a bit on his back.  She wished that they were already at the hotel, because she couldn’t imagine Mycroft being the type to have a romp on the sidewalk. 

She felt a tug on her shoulder.  Opening her eyes, she realized that his car had rolled up next to them, and he was holding the door open for her.  With a smile, and a gentle touch on his arm, she got into the car.  They snuggled together, ceasing their activities until they got back to the hotel, where she felt like a teenager for the first time since she had fallen for Tom. 

Feeling his touch seemed to set her skin alight.  He was gentle, but confident.  Clumsily trying to undo his waistcoat, she realized how much her dexterity was affected by the current situation.  He didn’t seem to mind though, as he moved gracefully to complete the action; years of practice making his fingers move by muscle memory alone.  Gently, he wrapped one hand around her shoulder as he laid her down on the bed.

About an hour later, he laid with his head in her lap.  “I’m so sorry, Molly,” he muttered, humiliated by the way his body betrayed him.  They had been enjoying the moment when suddenly, his body temperature skyrocketed and he was nearly blinded by a migraine. 

Molly gently pat away the sweat that gathered on his forehead with a cool washcloth.  Gentle fingers combed through his thinning hair.  “Not another word,” she murmured.  “Truly, it was an enchanting night.”  She bent down to place a gentle kiss on his long and distinguished nose.

“Moll-hah,” he gasped.  The kiss had released a barrage of ticklish prickles.  The part of his forehead above his nose started to pound in congested pre-sneeze pain.  He huffed another breath as he arched his pointer finger under his septum. 

“I’m sorry,” she murmured gently, her voice lowered with post amorous hormones. 

She squeezed his shoulder gently, pressing down as he started to curl up with a semi-stifled. “EssYesccch!”  He winced and drew in a stuttering breath. 

“Bless,” she said, continuing her ministrations.  “Thank you for a wonderful night, Mycroft.  I know this is a business trip for you, but it’s really been a lovely vacation for me.”

“It’s been my pleasure, my dear,” he responded softly, his words starting to draw out as he drifted off to sleep feeling the embarrassment start to wane with her gentle and calming touches. 

“I love you,” she whispered, unable to stop herself.  She had wanted to say it for the longest time, but was pretty certain that he would never say it back.  And, after everything that had happened with Sherlock, she was certain that she wouldn’t be able to hide the hurt of being turned down by the oldest Holmes sibling. 

“I love you, too,” he sighed as he drifted off to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Mycroft felt as though his entire body was being torn apart by the shreds of his muscles.  What had started as the inkling of a migraine the night before was now a full body function issue complete with an ocular migraine and muscle cramps. 

To her credit, Molly was a doll.  He could not have asked for a more concerned and doting partner, and found himself relaxing into her care.  A quick call to Anthea had allowed Molly to know his medication regimen, which consisted of medication regulating both his physical and mental health.  Were he feeling better, he would have been anxious about her judgement of his transport issues.  As it was, though, he simply felt wretched.

He had placed an eye mask over his eyes after taking his migraine medication.  She had tucked the sheet over him, the coolness of the cotton helping drop his body temperature.  The chilled washcloth that she placed on his forehead was also a help, although he didn’t respond and continued to pretend to be asleep.   If pressed, he wouldn’t be able to explain why he felt like he needed to pretend, or to withhold appreciation.  It was something that he meant to consider when he dozed off.

She had known he was awake, however.  He breathed out a little further when the cool cloth was gently placed on his forehead.  Besides, he had the most adorable little snore when he fell into a deep sleep.  Having studied the brain and ailments of the brain in medical school, she knew better than to touch him, but she didn’t feel the need to go out and do her own brand of sightseeing without him.  Instead, she went into the sitting area and pulled out her tablet. 

She had fallen in love with a game that was typically played online with others, but had a non-internet based component.  Basically, it was a interior designer game, where there were challenges that were set forward for different rooms, and the goal was to decorate the room and get ‘paid.’  Payments were set in the offline mode, but bonuses could be gotten in the internet based mode if the design was one of the top voted. 

She had moderate success with the game.   If she were still in uni, it would be enough for her to pass with a B+.  The issue, however, had to do with money.  No matter how much she tried to save from past jobs, she was always low.  If she had internet access, she would have just bought another quid pack.  But, since she didn’t have that option, she was about eight rounds from being able to level up, and out of money.

“Whatever it is, please stop huffing like a locomotive,” Mycroft mumbled, his voice lower than usual. 

She had not realized that she had been sighing repeatedly.  “My apologies, Mycroft.  Please do go back to sleep.”

He grunted and drew in a deep breath, suddenly sucking in a deep breath before cupping his hands over his nose and mouth.  “Heffccch!  Ugh.”  The sneeze caused a feeling like his brain shifted in his head and all of the pain pushed into his forehead, causing his skin to buzz. 

The bed divoted as she sat next to him.  He felt his handkerchief brush the back of his hands and a light brush on his upper arm.  Unable to spend much time thinking on any of these things, his long fingers wrapped around his handkerchief as he sneezed again, “Heffcchhh!” Again, he winced in pain, this time leaving a ringing in his ears. 

Molly weighed her words carefully.  Obviously, he wasn’t feeling all right, and the sneezing was likely causing his head to feel like it was splitting.  “What can I do?” she asked, quietly.

“Come, sit near me,” he whispered, pulling the eye mask back with a severe wince. 

She got up and drew the curtains closed, causing the room to darken considerably.  He sighed in relief and asked her to bring her tablet with her.

“I’m hesitant to turn this on,” she said, climbing onto the bed next to him. “I don’t want to cause you undue eye strain,” she explained gently, brining her hand close to his body but not touching.

The corners of his mouth twitched as though he might smile, but none was to come.  Not that she saw it anyway. “Tell me what you’ve been working on,” he asked, reaching a long hand out to touch her upper leg ever so lightly.  He rested it there, waiting to be flinched away, but the rejection never came.  “Just dim it, and I’ll be all right,” he responded, even though his pulse pounded in his ears. 

Turning it away from him, she did so before turning it back slowly. 

“Now, show me what you’ve been working on,” he directed.  Had he not been so weary, it would have been asked assertively.  He wanted to know what had taken so much of her time and attention during this trip.  Not that he had minded, really.  He had so much on his mind between setting his plan in motion, remaining offline, and keeping away from his brother and her support system that he was pleased that she had something that kept her busy.

She explained the point of the game.  “I keep running out of money though, so I have to sell my stock to make more money to buy better stock.  I’m not a very good business owner.”

Upon seeing her designs, he started to tune her out.    She was good.  This was not just a few well placed pieces, she actually had a really good eye for interior design.  He knew how rare that skill actually was, and he wanted to give her a chance to capitalize on it.  “Would you ever consider doing interior design for a hobby?”

“Well yea, that would be great.  But, I could never afford the start up costs, and I don’t have anyone who is interested.”

“I could supply both,” he stated easily, as though it was as simple as bringing the ingredients for a chicken and mash dish. 

“No, Mycroft.  That’s too much.  It would be thousands.”

“About ten to twelve thousand for a proper quad showroom, and then a few good introductions.”

Subconsciously brightening, she couldn’t deny that the offer was tempting.  But, what would she owe him?  At least the start up costs – and then a percentage of the profits?  “I… I could never pay you back.  What if it’s a failure, and- I and I don’t make the money back.  It’ll take me years to pay you back.”

“My gift to you,” he responded, gently squeezing her leg.

Inquisitive eyes looked him over as if she was wondering if he was serious.

He met her glance as openly as he ever did.  But, he made sure that his face was neutral.  “Do think on it.  I think that you would be quite wonderful at this – even if it was just try.”

He startled when she snuggled into him, humming happily.  “I’ll think on it.  Thank you, sweetheart,” she replied.  She realized that she had used a term of endearment, but let it go.  Instead of saying anything, she pressed a kiss to his too warm neck.  “We’ll discuss it more when you’re feeling better.”

As though her comment reminded him that he was feeling unwell, he quickly snatched the handkerchief off of his end table.  “HURCCHHUFFF!”  The sneeze pushed her off of him and nearly folded him in half.  Spots danced in front of his eyes, and he felt her grab his shoulder and guide him back down onto his pillows. 

“Bless you,” she whispered, readjusting the way she was sitting.  She firmly brushed her thumbs across his forehead.

Sighing with relief, he muttered, “Well if you’re going to d that…”

She leaned back as he repositioned himself so that his head was in her lap.  Smiling, she happily drew her thumbs across his forehead and applied precise pressure to his temples.  Unable to help herself, she bent forward and placed an exceedingly gentle kiss on the top of his distinguished nose. 

No sooner did she withdraw her lips, than he was thrust forward with a violent, “HURRASSHHHFFF!” His handkerchief out of arms reach, he sneezed freely and then cupped a hand over his lower continence.  Two quick, desperate breaths came to fruition with several rapid fire sneezes.  “Heh-tissh! Tessh! Essh!  Eh-Tessh! Tissh! Essshhh!” He swallowed as he leaned over and took up his handkerchief, blowing his nose thickly.  Despite his sinuses being sore, he could not find the strength to be angry at her kiss.  It was so gentle, and he had felt completely at ease; a rarity in his life.

“Goodness, I’m so sorry Mycroft.  Bless you, of course.”

“My apologies, my dear,” he said just before he took a breath and blew his nose again.  “Fact is that that between the massage and the kiss, I’m feeling much better,” he said, talking around a yawn at the end.   He curled himself around his pillow and allowed himself to fall asleep. 

Even though she wasn’t tired, Molly swallowed her concerns about respecting his personal space and curled herself around him, draping her arm over his midsection.  She knew that he had done the right thing when he squeezed her hand gently in response.

Chapter Text

As their [working] vacation drew to a close, Mycroft insisted on doubling back to Greece.  “I’m afraid that we didn’t do near enough sight-seeing, my dear,” he explained, as they travelled.  “It crossed my mind that I didn’t see the Acropolis, nor any of the museums.  I do hope that you won’t mind seeing these places again?” He asked what he would generally make as a statement.  He felt so innately calm around Molly, that he wished to make her happy enough to stay with him even after they had returned to their normal lives.  When Athena had asked what sight-seeing they had done, his answer did not thrill her.  So, she set up a private, sunset tour of the Acropolis, as well as a wonderful night of dinner and dancing for them. 

“I do hope that your ankle is feeling quite recovered.  The walk to the Acropolis is quiet extreme – and the marble has become quite slippery over the years.  Will you be able to handle it?” he asked, narrowing his eyes to deduce her for any lie she may want to tell.  Despite the likelihood that she would lie to make him happy, the amount of pain that it would cause her, and the difficulty that it would cause them in getting down was not worth whatever small pleasure the experience would bring him.  This was actually not his first trip to see this wonder.

“I’m feeling much better,” she replied.  “And I do love a good hike,” she smiled at him, excited.  She had seen the Acropolis while they were in Greece the first time, but seeing it with him would be quite something, of that she was certain.  “I’ve heard that the marketplace is quite a thing to see as well.”

“The Agora?” he asked.  “We can probably see that before we get to the Acropolis.  It’s not far.” He was happy about the amount of walking that they would be doing.  It would nicely offset the food that they had been eating.  While Molly certainly had calming effects on his mind, her affects on his waistline had been rather the opposite.  Not that he would complain.  Not since that ghastly day at his brothers.  No, he couldn’t think on Sherlock.  Not now. 

She had actually meant souvenir shopping, but figured that she could just fit that in.  It happened to be nearly directly between their hotel and where they were.  She only hoped that he wouldn’t begrudge her such frivolity.  Frivolity was certainly not a word that she would attribute to him.  “That certainly would be nice,” she agreed.

“But, that’s not what you meant.  Did you mean… oh shopping.  Ah.”  He almost considered calling Anthea in to have a ‘girls day’ or whatever it would be called.  The market was a very small area with tight roads and an innumerable amount of people.  In short, it was enough to set his anxiety on edge and likely push him into a panic attack if he wasn’t careful.

“You don’t have to come.  I just want some souvenirs.  I love it here so much, but I doubt I’ll be able to get back.”  At least not without him funding it.  Dating him had just about pressed the limits of what she could afford.  She knew that he had continued to offer financial assistance, but speaking about finances seemed so… pedestrian.  And she knew that people with money rarely spoke about it.  Just so many rules that she felt the need to follow.

“I promise we’ll come back,” Mycroft said, taking her hand in his.  It was a funny thing – hand holding.  It didn’t make sense that her touch would bring him… comfort?  Confidence?  Neither really – and in a way, both.  If he believed in energy transference, he might say that their energies balanced eachothers, but he didn’t know enough about the electromagnetic fields around people and how those fields interacted with others to make a clear quantifiable statement about it. 

Her smile was worth any time off that he would need to take.  Over past years, he had opted not to take time off, preferring to dedicate his whole being to his work.  But, if something so simple as heading off to Greece for a week, and spending parts of the day with Molly would make her give him that smile – well, he would find a way to do it.  Nobody had ever smiled at him that way.  Well… not since Sherlock was small.  No… not again.  No thoughts of the past.  His present was worth living for.  Smiling at Molly, he leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead.  “I’m pleased to see you’re wearing the necklace I gave you.” 

“I do love it.  And it dawned on me that I hadn’t been wearing it.  I favor my grandmother’s pearls.  I do hope you’re not offended.  I don’t mean to seem unappreciative.” She looked at this kind, generous man – imploring him to understand.

“Molly, I have never considered you to be anything of the sort,” he said, giving her a small smile.  “But, if we’re to go to the Acropolis tonight, I do wish to go and change.  Would you mind dreadfully?”

“Actually,” she said looking over his business attire, “perhaps I could do some shopping while you freshen up?  And, I’ll meet you…”

“l’ll find you,” he said, pulling out his mobile, which was buzzing incessantly.  Thin eyebrows knit together as he read the screen, scrolling through and ignoring Molly to type off a reply. 

She paused, waiting for him to finish, but after a long while, she cleared her throat.  “Maybe we should just call it a day, if you have to go in.”  The disappointment in her voice was unmistakable. 

“Yes…” he said absentmindedly, and Molly was fairly certain that he hadn’t even actually heard what she said. 

She debated responding as though he had given her his attention, and responding like he hadn’t heard her.  “Mycroft, do you have to go in?” she asked, pretty brown eyes looking at him in askance. 

“Yes, I said,” he sneered at her, his patience thinned by a situation having precisely nothing to do with her.  “I’ll meet you at the base of the Acropolis at seven o’clock precisely.  Please don’t be late.”  With that he stalked off, receiving a call on his mobile and paying Molly no mind whatsoever.

After a few hours of shopping, Molly was feeling quite refreshed.  Her hurt of being brushed off for work was quickly replaced by the simply adorable evil eye merchandise, which was everywhere.  She even picked up a little evil eye bath set.  Too funny, she thought. 

As time drew on, she started to walk towards the entrance to the Acropolis.   Checking her watch, she picked up the pace, hoping that she wouldn’t be late.  She knew that Mycroft favored punctuality.  She had figured that it was a benefit in his job, and wondered if he had always been so fastidious.  Maybe she could ask Sherlock when they returned. Or, maybe she could ask Mycroft’s parents, if she ever had the pleasure of meeting them. 

Coming up to the entrance, she saw Mycroft and Anthea standing there, waiting.  “I’m sorry I’m a little late,” she said, joining them. 

“Quite on time, actually,” Mycroft responded.  “Our meeting ran a little late.  “Anthea, please have the car ready for us by the time we’re done.” 

Anthea nodded to both of them, and then walked away as she texted on her blackberry. 

Molly gave Mycroft a sideways glance.  “I thought cars weren’t permitted on this road,” she said. 

“Don’t you worry,” he responded, kissing her on the forehead.  Taking her hand, they started up the side of the hill.  “I do hope that you’ll forgive me for stepping away so abruptly today,” he said after some time had passed. 

“Of course.  Work is your first priority,” she said, coming up behind him as he waited at the top of a small slope. 

The corners of his lips quirked up.  “Yes, but I am trying not to be so dismissive of you.”  His thoughts went to the State Dinner, which had gone simply appallingly, especially in the way he had treated Molly after. 

She smiled as her heart warmed.  He was trying to prioritize her.  She knew that he couldn’t always, but that he wanted to meant the world to her.  After all, he had so many other things weighing on his mind and demanding his time.  She couldn’t believe that the great Mycroft Holmes truly thought that she was worthy to be counted among them.  “I really appreciate that.  I hate being dismissed; but I understand that sometimes it can’t be helped.  I do the same thing – I shoo people away when I am thinking about something or trying to figure something out.”

He let an easy smile grace his face.  They really weren’t so different.  He heard Anthea’s statement that Molly would be affordable to keep.  Indeed she would.  And better yet, she seemed to want to be.  Certainly, they would need to raise the quality of the clothes she bought, the make up she used, and the way she styled her hair.  But, all of these things could be easily afforded by him, if she’d let him.  He assumed that the closer that they became the more natural that would become. 

She slipped on a particularly worn stone and started to lose her balance.  She gasped out a noise of surprise and put her hands out to catch herself.  But, she didn’t actually fall.  Strong but gentle hands braced her shoulders, giving her a moment to grasp his arms and right herself.  “Thank you… how did you…”

He smiled at her, gazing down his long equine nose at her in a way that could be considered predatory, but really he was actually happy and his face didn’t quite know how to show that.   “I realized that it had been slippery for me and you weigh a good deal less, so I listened for difficulties.”  He paused as she looked at him with what could only be called love.  He swallowed against the sudden closure of his throat and looked out past her shoulder.  Putting a little pressure on her shoulder, he turned her around.  “Do you see that?” he asked, pointing to a large monument on the next hill over. 

“The Hill of the Muses,” she answered.  “I’ve always wanted to go, but I’m not really fond of heights and I know that you can only get there by tram or hiking.  I’m not certain that I’m able to do either.” 

He was about to tell her that he would see what he could do when she turned back towards him.  Leaning in for a kiss that she thought would be romantic, she was saddened when he took her hand and started walking up the hill again.  She was certain that he understood what was about to happen, but she didn’t understand why he would turn her away.  This was the man who had made out with her on a city street.  Certainly, it wasn’t showing affection… he was holding her hand.

“I think that you will find this quite interesting,” he said, coming around to a ledge with ruins of a wall and what looked like bricks and marble mounds that may have once been statues.  “This has been reconstructed, but it was once the Sanctuary of Asklepieion,” he said looking up as though the was gazing at what had once stood there rather than what presently existed.

“I’ve heard of this,” she said, following him around.  “I’ve read that there was once an incubation hall, but mostly it was an open air place for people to sleep and get the rest they needed.  There should be springs somewhere nearby… the waters were supposed to be healing.  Likely a high mineral content of something that was missing from their diet.”  She didn’t look at him while she was talking, opting to take pictures of the mounds and flash Mycroft a smile before she started bouncing and dancing in a little circle. 

The consistently pinched area between Mycroft’s eyes relaxed although she thought her dance was a little strange.  “Don’t tell me that you have Disney’s Hercules in your head or something,” he said, disbelievingly. 

“Of course I am!” she responded gleefully. 

The pinched spot returned for a moment and then smoothed out as he laughed, coming up behind her and wrapping his long arms around her.  He pressed a kiss to her cheek and then took her hand again, leading her up the remainder of the side of the hill as the light started to dim in the sunset. 

When they finally crested the hill, Molly was met with the most amazing sight that she had ever seen.  It took her breath away and the smile that took over her entire being nearly palpitated off of her. 

Despite having seen the Acropolis before, Mycroft was always in awe being surrounded by such history and beauty.  He squinted in the sunset rays, but was much more relaxed than was typically associated with his persona.  “Where would you like to go first?” he asked, leading her over to the Erechtheion. 

She let herself be lead, as they walked past the Parthenon, her eyes gazing upwards.  “This is… this is unbelievable,” she gasped out, finally understanding why this was considered a wonder of the world. “This is just…. I can’t even…” she whispered as she processed what was before her.  She hadn’t even noticed that Mycroft had stopped leading her until he cleared his throat.

Turning her attention towards him, she noticed that he had his camera out.  Her face fell as she realized that he was working, until she figured out that she realized incorrectly. 

“Care to step back and I’ll get a picture of you?” he asked, backing away from her slightly.

Her whole being lit up and he took the picture before she could verbalize her answer. 

“I wish you could take a picture with me,” she said. 

He smiled at her sadly and then gestured towards a man in a well cut suit that she had not noticed previously.  Body guards.  She shouldn’t have been surprised.  But, what did surprise her was that he handed his phone over and took a stance beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders.  She put a hand around the small of his back and beamed at the camera.  “The most perfect moment ever,” she whispered as he went to take his phone back.

Mycroft smiled, pleased.  Blinking a few times he wondered if that was all it took to make her happy.  Just simple little gestures like this.  He could do this.  She was unlike the women on his level who were so spoiled and abrasive.  She was delightful, and he suddenly felt a surge of a need to do things to make certain that she was happy. 

He cleared his throat again, placing a hand at the small of her back.  “One more thing,” he said, leading her over to the side of the hill hidden behind the Parthenon.  As they turned the corner, she gasped and smiled up at him, tears shining in her pretty brown eyes.  He had set up a candle lit dinner for two.  “Mycroft this is amazing,” she said, as he helped her into her seat. 

“Only one course.  We’ll go out for gelato or drinks afterwards.”  Despite the warmth of the weather, he didn’t want to have to eat – or climb down the back stairs of the hill – in the dark. 

“It’s perfect,” she said, her voice full of adoration.  “Thank you so much.  This is… easily the happiest day of my life.  Thank you so much.” 

There was something that struck him as sad about that comment.  He knew she had a family and friends and had done her fair share of living.  That he could make her so happy so easily.  “It was my pleasure,” he responded.  And it was.  It was odd, but it was.  She was a marvel. 

Coming off of the Acropolis, Molly waited until he went down the final step, but held back so that her height was more evenly matched with his.  When he turned questioning her pause, she smiled at him and pulled him in for a soft kiss.  Pulling back slightly, she kissed him on the tip of his long nose, a feature of his that she was becoming quite enamored with. 

He sniffled in response and responded with a small kiss on her own small nose. 

Sniffing again, he pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and rubbed his suddenly ticklish nostrils. 

“I apologize,” she whispered.  “I didn’t mean to irritate your nose.”

Giving his nose a final rub, he tucked his handkerchief back into his pocket.  “It’s in a state of perpetual irritation.  You have nothing to do with that my dear,” he said, taking her hand and leading her to the black car that had pulled up while they were being adorable. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Candles flickered in the dim light.  Even though Molly’s flat did not have a dimmer switch, Mycroft was kind enough to help her set up the living room with a folding table so that she could have friends over.  She had been so kind and accepting of his life, that he didn’t mind slumming it a bit in order to meet hers.  The term felt incredibly crass, but when Sherlock and John had teased him about it, he couldn’t deny the similarities.

Of course Molly’s flat was even further from a slum than Baker’s Street was.  It was a lovely one bedroom with a sizable kitchen and a comfortable living room.  Reorganizing her well decorated living room, and moving her desk from the living room to her bedroom upset his sense of balance, but once he, Greg, John, Sherlock, and her friends Valerie and Rachel came in, the tight quarters filled with unfamiliar people and unknown conversational topics was enough to send him right to the edge of what he could cope with. 

Had it merely been meeting her girl friends and Greg, he would have been able to guide the conversation along smoothly.  But, of course, Sherlock and John would never let such a thing occur naturally.  So, he was left taking a back seat while the extroverted girls chatted with the other three, leaving him to watch their social discourse.  

While he was politely not quite giving answers to questions about matters that he considered a bit too personal, John, Sherlock, and Greg watched him as though he were a wolf about to pounce on poor unsuspecting prey.  They had gotten his usual stony silence when they asked about the bombings, and when Sherlock pushed for answers, Mycroft shut him down with a simple, “That’s not appropriate conversation for this forum, brother dear. 

After drinks had been made, Molly disappeared into the kitchen to put together her favorite tapas, leaving Mycroft to fend for himself.  

“So, Mycroft,” Valerie started.  “I must say I’ve never quite seen Molly so taken with someone.  But, she’s known you for a while.  What changed?”  She bit into a piece of cheese and smiled around it, brown eyes serious in askance.

“Very little beyond us having time to ourselves for once.  We have a good deal in common; more than I ever realized,” he answered simply, yet honestly.

“You took her to Greece.  What was that like?” Rachel asked. 

“It was lovely,” he answered, sitting up a little straighter.  “It was a working vacation.  I had to work, and she got to vacation. But, I –“

“Yes, brother dear,” Sherlock cut in, a sarcastic sneer on his face.  “What sort of work were you doing there?”  He gave his brother a pointed look, with a conceded grin.  As if he didn’t know.

“Just a few business meetings,” he said, turning his attention to the women that were watching with great interest. 

At that moment, Molly brought out the different tapas toppings, giving a small explanation of each.  There were some thin slices of what looked like artisan toast.  Mycroft noticed as Valerie and Rachel exchanged looks, but didn’t say anything as they each picked up a piece of the toast and layered it, biting in with a loud and crispy crunch.

“You added butter,” Rachel said, wiping up a drip that could have been butter or a bit of olive juice. 

“Did it help?” Molly asked, hopefully.  She had yet to sit down and was looking at the group assembled as they each tried to deal with the toasted bread. 

“Good gracious, Molly, you’ve cooked the soul right out of this food,” Mycroft said after a particularly difficult bite that made him wonder if he’s actually chipped a tooth. 

“Yea, okay,” she whispered obviously dejected.  “Here… I’ll bring out the untoasted bread.  It’ll be much better,” she promised the group, gathering the bread and disappearing back into the kitchen. 

Five pairs of eyes turned onto Mycroft.

“Well that wasn’t kind at all, was it?” Valerie asked pointedly. 

“Now, come on ladies.  Mycroft doesn’t know the history of the crunchy bread,” Greg interjected, causing both Sherlock and John to make a face that appeared to both agree with and disparage his statement.  Leaning towards Mycroft and whispering, Greg explained, “Every year, Molly makes bread, pan toasted.  She said her friend taught her how to at uni, but she’s not real good at it.  Every year it gets a little better, but we’ve yet to have it actually edible.”

Oh… Mycroft thought sadly, although his face betrayed nothing.  “Excuse me,” she said, getting up and putting his napkin on his seat.  Walking into the kitchen, he was not surprised to see tears on Molly’s sweet cheeks as she awkwardly sliced the bread with shaking hands.

“I’m sorry,” he said, coming up behind her.  Gently, he wrapped his arms around her midsection and put his cheek on top of her head.   He felt her still in his arms, but noticed that she did not pull away.  After a few moments like that he, he realized that he would need to strike up any conversation.  “Gregory told me about the pan frying of the toast.  It’s an interesting idea; I’d like to help you work it out this year so that you can surprise everyone with your abilities next year.”  He felt her nod and heard a wet sniffle, which inexplicably made it difficult to breathe all of the sudden. 

Turning her very slowly, he pressed a kiss to her forehead.  “Why don’t you go wash up.  I’ll slice the bread,” he whispered. 

“I’m sorry I ruined dinner,” she whispered. 

“You did nothing of the sort,” he assured her, giving her a kiss with a gentle press to the lips before she left the room. 

Sherlock leaned in the doorway, watching the scene play out before him.  He had gotten up to heckle his brother, but found what he’d never thought he’d discover – the human side of Mycroft. 

“I know you’re there, Sherlock.   Would you like some more wine?” he asked, turning to face his brother.  His face was closed off again, and Sherlock wondered what part of Mycroft Molly knew that he had never seen. 

“I won’t press anymore about Greece.  I know what’s going on,” he said, coming into the kitchen.  “Molly never needs to.”

Mycroft thanked him with a tip of his head, and stepped aside, allowing Sherlock to snatch the breadboard off the counter and bring it into another room.

Chapter Text

As another dinner of vast importance came into view, Mycroft knew that he wanted to take Molly.  She had done well on her own, but he knew that it wasn’t fair to not train her and leave her to the wolves.  So, he set her up for Thursday night charm classes, which he hoped would give her some confidence about how she was expected to act.  He assured her that she didn’t need to change who she was all the time, but could already see her starting to emulate his more refined actions.  He rather enjoyed her this way and began prepping her to meet his mentee, Chaz, as well as gave her a bit of the information relating to the politics of the evening.  She didn’t need to know everything, but a road map would help her find her way out of any difficult situations that she found herself in.

Unfortunately, the day before the dinner, Mycroft woke up with what could only be classified as a filthy cold.  His nose practically vibrated with tickles, causing him to suffer from paroxysms of violent sneezing which caused his eyes to water and his breathing to remain erratic.

Molly was beside herself.  She had offered to take him to hospital more than once, St. Barts – even.  But, he wouldn’t have it.  So, she wrapped him up in his warmest pajamas, his dressing gown, put socks on his cold feet and insisted that he use slippers whenever he got out of bed.

The two of them sat on the couch, which Mycroft snuggled into her side, an afghan draped over him and yet he still shook from chills.  She had placed her arm around him, pulling him close every time he shivered or shook from another fit of sneezing. 

“KESShhhHOO! ESSSH-HOO!  Heh…eheh… ehhh… ahhah-ETTCHOO!”  The sneezes practically detonated out of him, and he was unable to even contemplate keeping them muffled.  Pressing his soaking wet handkerchief to his nose, he gave a thick blow and winced, shivering again and another chill raced through his body. 

“You can’t go tomorrow.  You know that, right?” Molly said, after given him a quiet blessing and handing him a clean handkerchief. 

His nose practically honked as he tried to clear some of the congestion and then gave a bone weary sigh.  “Ads mudch as I’d like to call you out of impertinence, I know you’re correctd,” he responded, his nose all full of cold. 

She snickered at the statement, knowing that he was unlikely to really get angry at her for being straight forward with him.  In fact, he seemed to appreciate it, although she always tried to be kind when she spoke to him.  To her mind, it helped break away from the demands of those he worked with.  He hadn’t been raised to appreciate emotional consideration.  But, she wanted to show him that he was worthy of kindness, and he seemed to be responding well to it overall. 

She ran her fingers through his soft hair, frowning at the amount of heat radiating off of him.  She pressed a gentle kiss to the side of his head and was not offended when he pulled away slightly with a quiet, “Don’t.”

“Sorry,” she whispered, grasping him a little tighter when he shuddered through another chill. 

“Come on,” she said, helping him sit up.  “You need to get into a warm bath to help chase that chill out of you.  Otherwise, it’s going to settle into your bones and you’ll never get warm tonight.”

He sniffed thickly and winced as a shot of pain spiked through his head. 

“Paracetamol?” she asked, licking her bottom lip.

He nodded and drew in a shuddering breath.  It hitched once, causing him to open his mouth; twice, as his head reared backward; three times and his handkerchief was most of the way to his face when, “Heh-CHUFF! EsshKESSGGHT!!  EssFRAH-CHOO!”  He grunted and rubbed behind his ear.  Opening his eyes after a rough blow he realized that Molly had gotten up and held her hand out to him.  Knowing that he outweighed her by a bit, even if his was hiding in lean muscle, he grasped her forearm and pulled himself up, surprised by how much she was able to support him.  In another situation, he may have thought about it, but as he was it was taking him a few moments longer than usual to keep his balance. 

He was grateful that she was behind him, feeling her hand splayed at the small of his back as they ascended the stairs.  He sat down on the bed with a grunt, feeling the need to fall over onto his side in sheer exhaustion as she ran his bath.  Halfway down to his pillow, he felt the tell-tale prickles in his sinuses.  “For goodness saaakesss,” he hissed out, pulling his handkerchief out of his robe pocket.  “Heh-KESS’CHOO!  ESSFESSH!”  The sneezing set off a few chesty coughs. 

“Bless you,” Molly said, coming back into the room.  “Are you ready?” she asked, offering her arm again. 

He nodded, and mumbled a congested thanks.  He was rarely knocked about so thoroughly by a virus and wondered if this was going to devolve into the flu.  Leaning on Molly, he was grateful that she permitted him to shuffle slowly into the bathroom.  He sat on the edge of the tub while she carefully divested him of his garments and helped him ease into the tub. 

“You’re all right,” she muttered as he gasped out a shiver. 

“Get in behind me?” he asked, looking up at her with large, vulnerable eyes. 

“Um, I can,” she said, shocked by the request. 

With great effort, he scooted forward, sniffling as the heat of the bath water started to affect his tortured sinuses.

She was touched and quickly settled in behind him, allowing him to lean back against her.  Wrapping her arms around him, she was honored that a man such as he felt so comfortable with her that he allowed her to care for him at a time when he was so vulnerable.  She figured he could probably count on one hand the number of people who had been given such trust. 

After mere minutes, she pressed a gentle kiss to the back of his head when she heard him start to snore.  Despite the fact that she should have gotten him into bed as soon as possible, she waited until the water cooled slightly to push him forward and rouse him. 

He was nearly as unbalanced as a puppet as she wrapped him in fresh pajamas and socks, and tucked him into bed, settling next to him.  “Goodnight,” she whispered, kissing him on the cheek and snuggling up behind him.

--

The next day, Mycroft was feeling no better.  If he were to be honest with himself, he may have actually been feeling worse.  Molly was a dear, however, having let him sleep until he woke up naturally and then bringing up a tray of tea and crackers so that he could eat as he wished.

“Can you brief me on tonight?” she asked, sitting cross legged on the bed, careful not to touch him. 

“I meant to bring a file on Chaz, but I didn’t go into the office yesterday. He’s a decent enough fellow.  Portly, likes a good scotch.  Very good at his job.  He’ll be there in my stead, and you can just attend to him.”

“I can stay home if you need me Mycroft,” she offered, running her hand down his arm and touching the back of his hand lightly.

He turned his hand and grasped hers.  “I appreciate that.  But, I know you’ve been looking forward to this and Chaz was looking forward to meeting you.”  Letting go suddenly, he snatched up his handkerchief and sneezed tightly.  “Tssh’GHUH’Tsshhtt!  Eheh-Essshh’HOO!”  Barking coughs gave way to another wet, “Hessshhttt!”

“Oh, bless you,” she hummed, averting her eyes while he blew his nose fully. 

“Thank you,” he replied, exhausted.  He swallowed and winced, clearing his throat.  “My apologies.  But, Chaz has a background in finance, but his attention to detail has been quite helpful in our current goals.  He was unable to get a date and as you know, they are rather expected.  So, it would be as much a favor to me as a boon to you that you get to enjoy this time with him.”

She nodded.  “Will it be easier now that I know some people?”

“Unfortunately, the people you know won’t be there.  Light conversation only.  And you’ll have to dance with him, but for the most part say very little.  And nothing about my being ill.”  Discussing things like this with her was easy.  She was able to follow instructions and he trusted her to do so.  But, the sad puppy look that she kept giving him … sympathy… it set him on edge.  “Do be a dear and get me more tea,” he requested, laying down and falling asleep as soon as she left the room. 

--

Anthea picked Molly up in the state car and was pleased with the way that Molly dressed.  “I see you’re getting the hang of this,” she said by way of a compliment. 

Molly smiled and didn’t quite know what to say. 

She followed Anthea’s eyes behind her.  “He’s asleep,” she whispered.

Anthea’s finely manicured eyebrows raised up and she nodded.  “All right then.  We should be on our way.”  When they got into the car, she surprised Molly by starting to speak again.  “Chaz isn’t quite a smooth as Mycroft, but you should be able to maneuver it.  Once he gets his information and I get what I need, we’ll get going.  I’m sure you’ll want to get back to Mycroft soon.”  She couldn’t help but roll her eyes a bit. 

Molly wasn’t certain what to make of the eye roll, so she took a deep breath and asked about it.

“I know how demanding he can be when he gets sick, and fevers always make him worse.”  She looked over Molly.  “Or has he somehow been manageable for you?”

“It hasn’t been terrible,” Molly said.  “He’ll be fine in a few days.”

“And if someone asks where he is,” Anthea continued.  “Did he tell you what to say?”

“Um, no.”

“Just say that he’s indisposed and could not get away.  Do not mention that he’ll ill.  Not even to myself or Chaz.  As far as anyone knows, he’s dealing with terribly important business, and that’s how it should be.”

Molly nodded.  “I understand.”

Anthea’s look made it clear that she wasn’t certain how much Molly really understood, but she had been impressed with her fortitude in other difficult circumstances.  Most recently, she realized that Mycroft really loved her, and she loved him.  Having worked for the man for many years, she knew that he was not an easy man to know, and she could never consider loving him.   She couldn’t keep an eye on Molly, but at least Chaz was part of the team.  She would be safe enough. 

--

“So, how do you know Mr. Holmes?” Chaz asked, in a rare moment alone.  The two of them had been quickly introduced, and Molly trailed next to him being pleasant enough.  It reminded her of what it was like when she first accompanied Mycroft to that dinner.  It had been nearly six months earlier, but it simultaneously felt longer and shorter.  She worked hard at not biting her bottom lip as she worried about how he was doing. 

“Through his brother,” she answered, giving the most vague of answers.  There was something about Chaz that made her uneasy, although it wasn’t anything that she could put her finger on.  Mycroft trusted him, and she knew that everyone on his team was thoroughly checked out. 

“Ah, yes.  He’s spoken of him.  How do you know his brother?”

She looked at him, brown eyes staring at him intensely.  She didn’t like the questions, even though they had been asked of her before.  Her unease was not logical, and she wasn’t certain if that made her trust it more or less.  “I’ve known him for a long time,” she stated as a non-answer. 

Seeming to take the hint, Chaz stopped that line of questioning and excused himself to go talk with a few people in a private room.  Molly could not have been happier to see him go, and she realized that her enjoyment of these events was due to Mycroft’s involvement, even if they were not together at the time. 

A while later, he came up to her and asked her to dance.  She was unimpressed with his rocking dance steps, which indicated that he didn’t know how to dance properly.  But, she followed his lead, smiling and making sure that he felt comfortable with her.  Even while she smiled and made idle chit-chat with him, her thoughts were with Mycroft.  Despite the ease of the rest of the night, the conversations about growing up in the nineties and what it was like for each of them in university, she was relieved when Anthea finally came to get her and let her know that it was time to go home.

--

Coming into Mycroft’s home, she shut the door with a soft click, and made her way towards his cinema room.  She was unsurprised to find that the heat was turned up, although she winced at the dry heat that denoted that the space heater was also on.  She came over to his couch, smiling sadly at her pale and drawn boyfriend, who was propped up by throw pillows, covered in a blanket, snoring deeply.  She considered the bonuses and issues that would be brought on by allowing him to stay where he was.

Deciding that the repercussions outweighed the benefits, she gently placed a kiss to his too warm forehead. 

He squirmed a bit and snuffled, sniffling desperately as his eyes pulled opened.  A smile appeared on his face, unbidden, seeing Molly still dressed up, her make up and hair a little matte from a night out, but still quite stunning.  “You’re home,” he whispered, voice hoarse.

“Come to bed, sweetheart.  I’ll bring the space heater up, and we’ll make sure that you’re nice and warm,” she said, sweeping her fingers through his silky hair. 

He brought his handkerchief to his nose as a few airy sneezes made their way out, as though he didn’t even have the energy to formulate the sound of a sneeze. 

“Bless you,” she whispered, helping support him by the shoulder as he sat up.  “Can you manage the space heater and I’ll get you a glass of water and some Night Nurse.”

A pause.  “Huff-SHOO!” he sneezed.  It was more heady than the others and she wondered what the illness was deteriorating into.  She wished that she had stayed with him, but she knew for next time.  He nodded and took a deep breath, gathering the energy to actually stand.

“Bless you,” she stated, kissing him on the head and going to get his water and medicine.  She didn’t want to coddle him, confident that he would ask her for help if he needed it. 

It took him a few minutes, beyond her, to make his way to the master bedroom.  She was in the en suite, putting on her pajamas and taking off her make up.  Coming out, he smiled as she looked comfortable.  With him.  Despite how ill he was feeling, knowing that she felt safe… with him… that she – dare he think it – loved him… made him somehow feel just a bit better.

He plugged in the space heater and took the medicine that she left for him.  Tucking himself in, he lifted her side of the blankets.  “Did you have a good time?” he asked.

“It was all right, but I only seem to really have fun when you’re there.”

He smiled.  “You’re sweet.  I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

She smiled.  “You let me in.”

“You earned it,” he whispered, suppressing a few coughs. 

She passed over a few tissues.  “Just cough love,” she said, turning so that she was snuggled into his chest.  “I’ll hold you,” she whispered as sleep easily came to her.

He waited up another few minutes, trying not to cough on her, but loathe to make her let go.  Her body heat was welcome.  She was welcome.  It was still a novel feeling, and he wanted to enjoy it while it lasted.

Chapter Text

The next day, Mycroft listened for secret context as Molly told him about the conversations she overheard, and how well she and Chaz got along. 

“He was very professional, but friendly,” she told him, running a hand along his arm in a familiar motion.  The two of them were sitting on the couch, with a blanket over their legs. 

She was dressed in jeans and a jumper, while Mycroft was still in his pajamas and wrapped in his robe.  His fever was much lower, but he still easily tired, and she wanted to make certain that he got the attention that he seemed to crave, without it being overt.  He was too proud, to strong, to want to be coddled. But, she was too caring and concerned… and confident in how comfortable he was with her. 

“I saw a few people looking at us oddly, and one person passed by and said the worlds ‘ladder jumper.”  She paused as Mycroft drew in a deep breath. 

“I’m assuming that was a female and she had blonde hair pulled up into a retro or nouvelle chignon.”

“Yes, with a delightful bright silver hair piece.  She positively glittered.”

Mycroft nodded. That was Anna’s job… glitzy glamour was her allure and Mycroft was always amazed at how easily people would talk to her, if she just looked up over her thick lashes.  Better yet if she had a straw in her drink.  Men, women, all of them would just pour their souls to her.  But, he didn’t take kindly to her making remarks to Molly.  “She thought you had moved on from me and started dating Chaz.”

“I understood,” Molly said, somewhat defensively.  “I figured that replying would have fallen under ‘thou dost protest too much,’ so I hoped you would be able to set people straight.”

A wry grin.  Sometimes he forgot how smart she was, even when making her way through a new situation.  She had done well enough with him, although he knew that he would need to get her proper training before the next State Dinner.  He sniffled and picked his handkerchief up off the armrest of the couch, pressing it against his nose a bit.  “Of course.  I forget how astute you are sometimes.”  Another sniffle as he pressed the handkerchief harder against his nose and mouth, muffling a particularly harsh, “Huh-Whumfff!”

Molly tightened her grip on his arm slightly before flattening her hand and giving it a gentle rub as she blessed him. 

Picking up a few manila folders, she leaned back.  “I have some work to do.  We’ve got some high profile cases, and I want to ensure that all organs are accounted for.  Sherlock can’t have these,” she added as an after thought.

He made a small nose in his throat and pitched forward with another sneeze, “HumCh’oo!”  He winced as he snuffled into his handkerchief, his head still pounding.  He knew that he needed to go to work the next day, but the weariness was settling into his bones again and he felt his eyelids falling down.  He startled as his phone rang, and he coughed harshly to clear his throat before responding, “Mycroft.” 

Molly focused on her paperwork as he took the call, saying very little in English, although he slide into French for a bit, until he noticed that she smiled at a joke.  Switching to German, he finished his call and cleared his throat.

“Apparently, you made quite a splash last night,” he said, his tone cutting through her thoughts and drawing her attention back to him.

“I didn’t do anything untoward,” she said, trying to figure out what she could have done.  She had been much more subdued than she ever was with Mycroft.  And she only danced a few dances, even though it was her favorite part of the night.  She didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, and had been quite cognizant of the fact that Mycroft’s peers would be watching her.

His eyebrows shot up at the statement, and he scooted away from her.  “Well what did you do, because apparently the Gatsby girl was not the only one who felt that you had replaced me with Chaz.”

“You have not been replaced!” she retorted, horrified and more than just a little bit confused.  “Mycroft, I only did what you told me to, I swear.”  Her voice had become a little shrill and she didn’t like how his eyes weren’t smiling, or how his lips weren’t twitching up in the slightest. He had gone rigid and she didn’t dare put her hand on his arm or his leg, for fear of rejection. 

“You danced with him,” he said, his voice cold and even.

“You told me to,” she stated.  “You know I like dancing, and I know from when the two of us went to our first affair that if my date asks me to dance that my job is to say yes.  He asked, so I said yes.”  She leaned over to put the folder down. 

He couldn’t explain it, but he was angry.  And so hurt.  He felt like something very precious was slipping away from him and he couldn’t stop it.  “Well I don’t like that you were happy without me,” he spat out at her.  Something uncomfortable tugged in his chest, and he glared at her as though she had spilled secrets of national importance. 

Her jaw dropped as she tried to read him, desperate to figure out what precisely she had done that was so terrible.  “I didn’t enjoy it the way I enjoy it with you.  No one can replace you.”

“Your patronizing attitude is not appreciated,” he bit at her.  Picking up his cell phone he sent off a quick text.  “Get your things.  Anthea will be sending around the car.  I suggest you leave now.”

Brown eyes bounced over his unreadable face.  “All right,” she said, getting up and willing herself to keep her breathing even and not cry.  None of this made sense, but he was stressed and angry.  They would speak in the morning.  Collecting her things took precious little time, and she was out the door with a quick good-bye that was ignored.

She heard him sneeze violently as she was stepping out.  She didn’t bless him. 

He noticed.  After he was certain that she had gone, he fell forward coughing violently.  He allowed himself to cough for far longer than he may have if she was still sitting there.  Despite the fact that he knew that he needed to go to work the next day, he felt like absolute rubbish.  Finishing off his cup of tea, he left he cup where it was and trudged up to his room. 

He was working hard to empty his mind as he went into his room and his breath was stolen.  There was a scarf folded on his pillow with a notecard on top of it. Picking up the scarf, he noticed the softness of the cashmere, ensuring that this was not a cheap or knock off scarf.  Picking up the envelope, he opened it:

Mycroft,

I know that you’re not feeling like yourself tonight, but are planning to go into the office tomorrow.  I meant to give to you for the holidays, but thought that it might bring you some comfort.  There is cold medicine in the en suite, and I’d advise you to drink some Lemsip before work.  Call me when you’re feeling better.

Love,

Molly

He placed his hand over his mouth as he realized that he had all but chased out the most kind person to ever grace his life.  Tears swam in his dark brown eyes as he realized that it was unlikely that she would forgive him.  She would leave him and he would have earned it.  There had to be a way to make it better.  An apology, to be certain, but something else. He needed to show her that he was sorry. 

He blinked back memories as he watched the implicit trust that she had put in him at the beginning of the relationship bleed away through a smattering of different situations.  Sitting heavily on the bed, he sighed out a few coughs and rested his head in his hands.  It ached.  He ached.  He wished Molly was there; her gentle touch always brought him so much comfort.

Leaning over onto his pillow, he couldn’t help but wish that she was coming back tonight.  But, no – that ship had sailed.  And he was the one who had pushed it from the dock.

Chapter Text

Mycroft sat at the head of his dining room table, the blinds had been drawn with the sunset, and he had turned down the light coming from the chandelier.  He still didn’t feel well and his time at the office had tried his nerves.  Several people spoke up, saying that they were surprised to see Molly with Chaz, with a few seeming to think that she was sent along to spy on them.  Realizing that his fever must have been very high to not contemplate these issues, he was calmed by Anthea’s insistence that Molly was every bit a lady, and in no way acted in a way that would embarrass him. 

While her insistence calmed his anxiety regarding work politics, it racheted up in terms of his relationship with Molly.  While he had already considered his outburst out of character, it was now completely unwarranted.  He knew that he would have to bring in the expert, and sent a text that if anyone asked him about he would say was for informational purposes only.  It was, of course, but information from this source always came at a price.

Sucking on his thumb nail, he was unsurprised when his bodyguard had opened the door and a figure entered.  Guarded brown eyes took in the figure, hooded in a Harrod’s of London fur trimmed mid-length cloak.  The figure stayed wrapped up, finely gloved hands lowering the hood only after his body guard left.  

“Mr. Holmes,” she greeted, respectfully.  This was not the first time that she and Mycroft had worked together; she owed him since the phone incident.  Of course, she was expected to be deceased, but Mycroft’s reach was a long one and if staying away from his younger brother and off his radar was all she had to do to stay alive… well then she would do that. 

“Miss Adler,” he said, standing and pulling out the chair caddy corner to his own.  “How Victorian of you,” he mocked gently.

Sitting gracefully, she put her elbows on the table and pulled her deadly hands out of her gloves in the most sensual manner.  Drawing the gloves off slowly, one finger at a time, she watched as the pulse point in his neck quickened for the first time ever.  Before this very moment she had thought him to be asexual.  Gray eyes noticed that he was not as stone faced as she had long since become used to, and she wondered what had caused the change.  “I was quite surprised to receive your text,” she said, her tone serious and betraying nothing.

“Yes, I need your assistance with a matter of the utmost importance and confidentiality. I am of course willing to pay.”  He had not sat back down, instead walking over to the blinds.  Were he sitting, his leg would have been shaking.  Being in the debt of Irene Adler was no small risk, and one that could be used against him in any manner of ways – including putting Molly at risk if the information fell into the wrong hands.

“Is there any other kind?” she asked, her voice smooth as cream.  “Tell me what it is you need and I will let you know my price.”

A deep breath.  He felt his neck stiffen and forced himself to nod.  “As you may have heard, I have recently become romantically involved,” he started.

“Yes, with that delicious petite brunette… Molly?  Correct.  A friend of your brothers if I’m not mistaken.”

He was not at all surprised that she already knew.  She made it her business to know these things.  “Yes.  I have… acted rashly and need assistance apologizing.”

Irene would not have been more surprised if he had told her that he wanted her to bed his brother.  Granted, she would likely enjoy that a bit more.  “Certainly you have other friends to ask these sorts of questions.”

“No.  Nobody.  I’ll pay you for your silence, if you will provide assistance.”

Withdrawing her cell phone, she typed in a few numbers and slid it over to him.  “I’ll help you twice.  If my advice does not do what you need by that time, I will either need to meet with this amazing young lady who had melted the heart of the ice man, or I will need to allow me to teach you some antics that will keep her your loyal –.”

“That will do, Miss Adler,” he cut in, focusing on his breathing.  “Yes, the amount will be transferred to your account this evening.”

“Now, Mycroft, tell me what happened.”

** MH ** MH ** MH **

The following day was the perfect day for having the shudders open, and curling up with a good Disney movie.  The sun shone strong and brightly, and the clouds were light and fluffy.  It was easy for Molly to forget that the weather was still cold and approaching 0oC.  That was until Greg arrived.  Just hugging him hello, she noticed how the cold clung to him like honey.  She gave him another hug once he took off his jacket and noticed that the cold had even seeped through that and clung to his sweater like dew on a shrub. 

Sitting on the couch next to him, she handed over his preferred tea blend, and started telling him about the semi-fight that she’d had with Mycroft.  “He hasn’t called me yet, and I’m not sure if I should call him.  I mean, I know he gets busy and I don’t relish the thought of being yelled at again.”  She took a long drink of her own tea.

“Eh, Mol I don’t think you were actually yelled at,” Greg replied after a time.  “I think he was frustrated.  Maybe a little jealous.”

“Jealous?” she asked, incredulously.  “What’s he got to be jealous of? He goes to these things all the time.  Heck he used to go with his PA.”

Greg shook his head.  How Molly could be smart enough to keep up with, or even ahead of people like Sherlock and Mycroft and still realize so little about her effect on men had always unnerved him.  When they first became close, he’d thought she was teasing him – playing games with his mind.  It’d taken him years to realize that she really didn’t know how well people responded to her.  He figured part of that was because Sherlock spent so many years playing with her mind, only making her feel important when she was necessary.  “It’s not that you went with Chaz, Molly.”  He sighed and took another sip of his tea.  “From what I gather, Mycroft hasn’t had many other relationships.  And, so it’s like when you dated in high school and everything was new and awkward.  Add to that, that he’s only really respected by people who want something from him, and that you are happy with who he is… it might just be difficult for him to believe that he’s worthwhile.”

“Of course he’s worthwhile, you goose!” she retorted, poking him in the shoulder.

He chuckled good-naturedly.  “I know that Mol, but he’s probably just going to have to go through the lessons we learned as teens and in our early twenties.”  A pause and then, “He’s still worth it for you right?”  He yelped as he found himself being tickled.  He laughed and fumbled as he tried not to spill his tea on him and protect his side.  Molly didn’t often resort to tickling; they both had to be in the right mood for it.  Honestly, he should have seen it coming.  It had been a long time since they had been so relaxed around each other, even if her boyfriend was being a berk.

After their G-rated tickle fight, they fell in a heap on top of each other and Greg wrapped his arm around Molly hugging her close.  There were times that he wished that they would work out as a couple, but relaxing days like this were wonderful and he loved that he was the person she went to when she needed to talk things through. 

“So, I should call him today?” she asked. 

“Eh, don’t bother. Just show up at his house.  Ring the bell, don’t just walk in.  But, I think the two of you will wind up talking it out because it’s what your mind does.”  When something was on Molly’s mind, she was like a dog with a bone and wouldn’t really engage with anything else until it was talked out.

She laughed and turned on the movie she had cued up. 

“Mickey Rooney, huh? You are feeling off,” Greg teased, reaching for his tea.

“It was just so weird.  And I get the feeling that he does have some form of relationship experience.  He seems to expect things… reactions.  And when I don’t comply, he’s surprised.”

“I’m not surprised.  Nobody shuts themselves off like that without a reason.  Don’t worry about it, Mol.  Just give him time to process and you’ll work it out.”  He wasn’t surprised when she didn’t answer.  As soon as Mickey Rooney started speaking, Molly’s mind shut off to the modern world.  He was used to it, and more than happy to be part of her day.

** MH ** MH ** MH **

Much to Molly’s relief a text message from Mycroft came in prior to her leaving for his house.  She had dressed relatively casually, in slacks and a polo shirt.  Although she knew his home was not drafty, she had a cardigan with her as well.  She shouldered a bag with overnight clothes, and another outfit to keep there.  Despite loving her flat, she felt as though she was slowly moving in.  Very slowly.  She didn’t want to spook him, and she didn’t want to let her own flat go.  But, those were thoughts for another day.

Molly had taken the tube to Mycroft’s neighborhood, and was unsurprised to be met by one of his cars.  He opened the door to his house before she even got all the way up the walkway.  “Good evening Molly,” he said, reaching out his hand to take hers and lead her across the threshold. 

“Hey, Mycroft,” she said, looking at him as though he might have hit his head at some point during the day. 

“I assure you, I’m quite fine,” he said, answering her unasked question.  “A bit of a lingering cough, perhaps, but I assure you nothing is amiss.” 

She smiled at him, barely noticing as an affectionate, “Oh Mycroft,” graced her lips as he pressed his lips to her hand and kissed it ever so gently.  She squeezed his fingers lightly, to give him a bit of encouragement, and felt her heart flutter as he lead her to the living room, which had been set up with multiple flameless candles, creating the ambiance of a time long ago. 

Sitting her down on a nest of blankets that he had waiting, he sat beside her.  He knew that he was supposed to ask if she wanted wine or tea, but he couldn’t imagine getting back up.  Although his days had been filled with work of the utmost importance, his nights and drives home were lonely and filled with anxiety about if she would ever grace his presence again.  He didn’t want to take his eyes off of her for a second, lest she disappear in a puff of magicians smoke, and he learn that she hadn’t returned to him at all.  Turning to her, he gazed at her wry grin; quirky, like her.  Her eyes were more guarded than when they started dating, but perhaps that was best.  His breath caught as he noticed the necklace that she was wearing – the one that he had given her when he asked her to be exclusive.  Perhaps now was the right time for her to learn the truth behind caring was not an advantage. 

“Molly,” he murmured, realizing that he would rather stare down a room full of diplomats than tell the story that he was about to.  But, Miss Adler had told him that explaining the fear at the core of his need to push away would help draw Molly in and keep her there when he pushed her away again.  He never thought he would wish for a sneeze… something to make her responsible for the next action.  He’d never told anyone about Cheryl; at least not after her death.  Sherlock had been younger, hadn’t they all? But, he’d been there with Mycroft and after.  But, now he had John and the brothers didn’t lean on each other like they used to.  Of all the secrets and lies that had come out, that had been revealed and flaunted, Sherlock had never broken his trust about Cheryl.  But, it was time.  Now.

He gave Molly’s hand a gentle squeeze.  With her. The kind, intelligent young woman who didn’t even realize that she was starting to sink in a very deep pool.  Dipping his metaphorical hand into the pool to pull her out, he took in a breath and hoped that his story would be enough. 

“I owe you an apology.  The way I acted the other night was deplorable.  You did not deserve that level of mistrust.  I am sorry, Molly.”

She nearly excused his apology by instinct with a dismissive, ‘That’s okay.’  But, she realized that doing so would be a disservice to her pain, his apology, and their relationship.  She had to be present, just as he was being.  “I…  I don’t understand what I’ve done to make you distrust me.  But, I apologize.  I’ll only go to those sorts of parties with you, only be your guest.  I care for no other, and it’s just not as much fun without you.  Going with Chaz made me realize that the parties – though grand – are only worth the time and constitution spent if I’m with you.”  She leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips, which he did not return.

Mycroft’s mind was stuttering, like a weed wacker that wouldn’t start on the first pull.  He puckered a moment after the kiss ended, and released his breath.   Taking another breath, “I assure you, it’s nothing that you did.  I … I am unaccustomed to relationships of this sort.  And I got jealous.  I apologize.”

Cheryl.

He thought about just letting the explanation go, but Miss. Adler had been clear. 

“Mycroft, it’s all right.  Just tell me when you need space next time.  I’ll go.  I understand.”  She could tell that something was on his mind; something that he was wrestling with.  “Emotions to words to actions,” she whispered, harkening back to how he first got her to speak to him frankly. 

A quirk of his lips in a motion that almost mimicked a smile. “I have a story to tell you, Molly.  I have never told another soul.  Sherlock knows, but only because he was there.  Please allow me to tell the whole story without interruptions.”  And just like that he launched into the story of Cheryl, the agent who he had fallen in love with during his early work.  They had dated for several years and were engaged to be married when she was sent on an undercover mission. When she returned, she was sick and within weeks it was determined that a cancerous tumor was blocking her digestive tract.  Mycroft had been put on light duty and then suspended duty, rarely leaving her side.  After several months, his emergency contact had been called – Sherlock.  While Mycroft watched over Cheryl, Sherlock watched over Mycroft.  It took four months of treatments before Cheryl slipped into a coma and died by the end of the week.  Mycroft had been devastated, and had a hard time reacclimating to life without her.  It had nearly cost him his career, and from that point on he realized that he could lose everything because he cared too much.  He cared about his family, his sister, his brother, and the amount that he cared about Cheryl nearly destroyed his life.

“Caring is not an advantage,” Molly whispered.

“All lives end; all hearts are broken,” Mycroft muttered, not noticing that a tear was sliding down his pale cheek. 

If she thought even for a moment that wiping the tear away would comfort him, she would do so.  But, touching the face of a wounded animal was never a good idea. 

“Your secret is safe with me.  And should I ever get that ill, I give you full permission to walk away without guilt. You shouldn’t have to go through that twice.”

He pressed his forehead against hers with a choked sob.

Wrapping her small arms around his lithe frame, she pressed her hands in the middle of his back and let him cry as he needed.  She said nothing, not a whisper of comfort or support.  Just let him take the moment, the touch being the only added stimulus to let him know that she was there and that he was heard and safe. 

Chapter Text

---

It was no surprise to Molly that the next morning, Mycroft woke up with a bit of a headache.  She put out paracetamol for him as he showered and got ready for the day.  She knew that she wouldn’t bring up Cheryl again.  Ever.  She knew that he wouldn’t appreciate it.  Besides, there was a reputation to protect, and she would do whatever it took to do so.  What had started as a crush, a comraderie, had become one of the deepest loves she had ever felt. 

It was odd… not like it had been with Tom – or even Sherlock.  There was a sparkle – a happiness – that she was able to go back to, even after Mycroft was a right berk to her.  She found him easy to forgive, although she hoped that she wasn’t being played.  She figured a rose in apology would be more sincere than making up a fake past.  But, she couldn’t go down that slippery slope.  Certainly, he could be lying to her, but she decided it was a lie she could live with. 

Besides, there were other things to discuss with him.  Going down to the kitchen, she made them each cup of coffee and then set up his tea in a new travel mug that she had bought him.  She loved hers and bought him one to match because it kept her tea warm literally all day.  She knew he wasn’t worried about saving money, but there wasn’t a reason to spend needlessly. 

“Thank you,” he said, roughly.  He cleared his throat and was grateful that she didn’t say anything.  Her admittance that if she was ever ill that she absolved him from leaving had kept him awake for most of the night.  He hated that she absolved him of any responsibility to her and had given him permission to make her disposable.  No, he loathed it.  He loathed that Molly had enough negative experiences with men consider herself worthless when she was vulnerable.  And, he worried that he had done something to make her think that he considered her to be disposable.  He swallowed a cough and was grateful that Molly had the grace not to say anything.

“I have something to discuss with you… about this weekend, if you can find the time,” she engaged as she sat at the table with him. 

“Before coffee?” he asked, sounding exasperated.  It was a joke.  She often told him not to bring up anything he wanted her to recall later prior to her morning coffee.  A few tests of the theory rendered her correct.  He hoped that she wasn’t going to bring up the conversation from last night. 

“My mum… she wants to meet you.  She can always tell when I’m seeing someone, and I would love to show you off.”  She was always a little more direct prior to her morning coffee as well.

He gave her an amused grin at the compliment she paid him.  Her verbiage was not lost on her.  “Your family still lives in Cornwall, yes?” he asked, as he picked up the newspaper. 

“They moved to Bristol last summer, actually,” she corrected, a touch of nerves working into her voice.  She wasn’t looking forward to this.  Her family was so incredibly common, and she could only imagine how they would respond to Mycroft.  She had no doubt that Mycroft would be able to handle them.  They were less cunning – and probably less cutting – than politicians.

He nodded, looking over an article.  “Yes, I believe that will work well.  I’ll have Anthea make hotel reservations.”

“Uhm,” she said, but paused when he held up his hand.

“I will make our excuses about why we can’t stay at their home overnight.” 

She knew that it was going to cause friction but decided not to argue the point.  “Thank you. They’ll be quite put out that we’re not staying.”

“It’ll be fine,” he said, still not looking up from the paper.  The fact that she rarely brought up her family was alarming.  He recalled learning about Annabelle, the sister that hated Molly… but, Molly had never explained the situation and made him understand why – or how – anyone could truly hate her.  He had a feeling that he would be learning that soon.  Very soon. 

Even though his own family was something of a train wreck, the fact was that Molly knew all about his and still entertained this relationship with him.  He, on the other hand, knew precisely nothing about hers.  And that was a problem.  It meant that she had something that she wanted to hide.

Molly still felt uneasy, but it wasn’t about sleeping over.  It was the whole affair.  How she was viewed by her mum, by her sister, by her da. 

“Well on that note,” she said pouring out the rest of her coffee.  “I’m going to get to work.”  She kissed him on the cheek and gave his shoulder a squeeze before collecting her things and heading out.  Not waiting to see if he’d offer her a ride, she walked out her nerves as she quickly made her way to the Tube.

Chapter Text

An hour into meeting Molly’s family, and Mycroft understood all manner of things.  He understood why she put up with the antics of his brother for so long.  He understood why she preferred the company of the dead versus the living, and why she kept the same circles of friends throughout her life.  And, most especially, he understood why she hid her brilliance and tended towards intelligent sociopaths in general. 

Not that her family was sociopathic, but there were definitely some narcissistic tendencies that came from her mum.  Some thinly veiled comments that were nearly impossible to consider anything but insulting were passed her way and handled with the grace of someone who had learned to survive in such a situation.

“So, Mycroft, Molly says that you hold a minor position in the government,” her mother had ventured while they were sitting to tea.

“Mm.  Yes,” he said, sitting up a little straighter and well accustomed to the direction that the conversation was able to take. 

“That’s not very much information.  I mean, I understand if you don’t want to tell her because she’s such a gossip, but you can tell us.  We’ll keep it under our hat.”  Her mum settled back and looked at him pointedly.

Brown eyes squinted a bit as he thought about what he knew of Molly.  A gossip wasn’t anywhere in the lexicon.  “Ah, well it’s that it’s not so interesting.  I just work as an administrator for the Department of Transportation.  Nothing to really write home about.” 

Molly smiled lightly, pleased with how well this was going, and how for all of her gossiping ways, she knew more about what he did for a living than her family did. 

“Very interesting, Mycroft,” her mother responded, with the emphasis on his name that one who had just taken a beginners business class may use.  “So tell me, what is a respectable man like you doing with our daughter?  She can’t really be interesting as others in your social circles.  And you can’t very well tell anyone what she does.  A doctor of the dead.  What rubbish.”  Her mother looked pleased, sending a pointed glare in Mycroft’s direction as though she was daring him to respond.

Mycroft looked at Molly, who in turn was looking into her teacup, just sitting there.  Her posture had not shifted, but her pulse was pumping harder and her eyes were distinctly sad.

“Actually, I find her very interesting. And Molly’s trade is an admirable one.  She is invaluable to St. Barts and to the Metropolitan Police.  I’m proud to tell people that she’s a registrar specialist with St. Barts.”  While the volume of his voice did not raise, the tone broached no room for argument.  A slightly disgusted look was sent towards her mother.  The half a room away that he had sat from Molly suddenly felt like an infinitely long stretch. 

Molly gave a small smile, but remained silent.  Years of practice had taught her that being quiet made less waves, and less waves made for a happier family.

“Well I suppose that you we can’t all be important government officials,” her mother said, closing the argument, in a way that confused Mycroft. 

“Speaking of which, mum,” Molly interjected, pulling the negative attention onto herself, “how’s Belle?”

Were they in a eighties romantic comedy, Mycroft would swear that he heard the record rip as the needle was scraped across it.  The tension in the air thickened as both of Molly’s parents glared at her. 

“She’s doing well enough,” her father answered. 

“I don’t know why you insist on calling her that, still.  You haven’t been children for a long time, and she actually goes by Leaha, now.”  The contempt in her mum’s voice was palpable. 

“That’s good.  Tell her I was asking after her,” Molly said, conversationally, as though the tension didn’t exist at all. 

“Yea, um, I’ll do that honey,” her dad said, getting up and going into the other room.

Molly’s mother looked between her daughter and Mycroft, and could sense his unease.  “Her sister and her don’t get on since she used the money for University for her useless profession.  See, we could only afford to send one to University, and Leaha wanted to go to be a Professor.  But, she stepped aside so Molly could pursue medicine.  And look what she did with it.”  The taunting was nearly too much for Mycroft to bear.  He was suddenly struck with the understanding of why Molly was so keen on protecting him.  He was fairly certain that no one had ever stood up for Molly’s choice before. 

“Well if it’s about paying you back,” he said, dipping into his inside pocket.  The cost would be immense, but he had it. 

“Mycroft, I’ve already done that,” Molly responded, her tone sharp, warning him not to do anything expensively rash.

“Then I don’t understand….”

“By the time we got the money back, Leaha was married and works as a CNA at a local medical center.  She can’t just take time off from her job or her family to be a student again.  Molly was too late.  She wasted our money, AnnaLeah’s time, and her life.”

Tears were dripping down Molly’s pale cheeks, and she looked imploringly at Mycroft, just wishing for this to end.  It had gone precisely as she had expected.  Perhaps better than she had a right to expect.  There were no new hard feelings and they seemed to like Mycroft.  She startled as he rose up, stretching his hip in a way that she had never seen before.  And then his stutter stepped.

Looking at him with concern, she rose slowly.  “Mycroft, are you all right?” she asked, ignoring her family, even as her dad offered to get him an ice pack, saying something about understanding old complaints.

“I’m afraid my hip is acting a bit oddly. Would you mind awfully if we retired early tonight?” he asked, using a nonexistent complaint to extract both of them from the situation. 

“Yea, okay.  I’ll get our coats,” Molly said, heading into her parent’s bedroom. 

She heard him saying goodbye and making apologies.  An excuse about a polo accident from when he was at University.  She wondered if he had ever actually played polo, or if it was just an excuse to pull her out of the situation.

In the car, he waited until they had pulled off before asking why she had turned the conversation to her like that. 

“You noticed that?  Sorry.  I just didn’t like them asking about your job or what you saw in me,” she answered, the quiver still in her voice.

“Of course I noticed, Molly.  It’s my job to notice things like that.  But, were you concerned that I wouldn’t answer favorably?”  He was concerned, and maybe even a little hurt.

“No, not at all.  But, I know my mum.  She’ll push and push just making me sound worse and worse to see what you would do.  She’s kind of like Sherlock that way – but not nearly as subtle.”

He made a small noise in the back of his throat, but otherwise said nothing.  While he had previously considered her to be an enigma, he now understood that the reason she sought Sherlock’s affection was because she had learned how to feel love out of that level of narcissism, and because he was more subtle, it felt more kind to her. 

A time passed before Molly broke the silence.  “Were you really going to pay her back for my Uni studies?”

“Yes.”  The answer was confident, and there was no follow up.

“I would never be able to pay that back.  Like the offer for help with the interior design.  I can’t pay that back, Mycroft.  If it all goes sideways, the only ways that you would get that money back would be to bankrupt me or kill me for the insurance money.”

“They’d be gifts Molly.  I would never lord money over you that I knew you couldn’t repay.  It’s callous and horribly low.  Do think better of me than that.  I think better of you.”  Which is why he offered in the first place. 

“Sorry,” she said quietly.

He could hear the break in her voice, and a feeling akin to empathy swelled in his chest.  “Don’t be.  I appreciate your upbringing and the pride that you would take in paying me back.  But, should money of extravagant proportions be used to help you, it will be a gift.  Something that I have weighed and measured the expense of and found it worthy.” Because he found her worthy.  But, he couldn’t bring himself to say that.

Reaching over, he took her hand in the darkness.  “I love you,” he stated.  “Always remember that.”

“I will, Mycroft.  I love you, too.” 

MH ** MH

That night was spent in each other’s arms, with soft languid touches as they explored the different sounds each other made.  Molly found that she loved making his breath hitch, and he thoroughly enjoyed making her squeak in response to touches that landed between comfort and tickling. 

After exploring his body and making him pant with sharp staccato breaths until he begged for more, she thought how interesting it was that his pants sounded like his sneeze build ups. They made her want to take care of him.  It was an odd correlation. 

Later, as they lay in each other’s arms, he mused out loud.  “You are a wonderful woman, Molly.  I’ll never let anyone bring you harm.”  He tightened his hold on her and kissed her head, as he felt her drift off to sleep.  This was a perfect night; perhaps his first perfect memory.  He closed his eyes and allowed himself to breath in the scent, the feel, and basked in the emotions until the same soft sleep claimed him as well.