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A Very Dorky Christmas

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The air was filled with Christmas cheer and cold and pine and cold and faint hot chocolate and, oh, was the fucking cold mentioned? The fucking cold with a light dusting of hypothermia.

Rosie didn’t seem to mind, holding John’s hand and hopping instead of walking in her adorable winter gear, coat and mittens and a cap with a little pom-pom on top. Molly had to resist laughing because she matched John down to the pom-pom, except her coat was purple instead of beige.

“Can I please tell him?” Sherlock whispered desperately in her ear.

She muffled a chuckle with her mitten. “No.”

“Pleeeeeeeeeease?”

“Noooooo,” she grinned, pulling him along with her as Rosie, the leader of the hunt at Whispering Pines tree farm, took a sharp, squealing turn toward a sudden Santa taking pictures with children. Rosie said something quickly and half understandable to John, pointing at Santa and bouncing. He said something they couldn’t quite hear over the ruckus of the other kids, then she said something back, and he turned around and signaled for them to hold before he let himself be led into the line. “You won’t have to, he’ll see the picture.” She gestured to a printer off to the side. She had no idea how it was working out in the snow in the middle of a tree farm, but it was.

“I wanted the satisfaction,” he complained, huffing. “Santa isn’t even re-“

Molly elbowed him quickly, standing stock still as about a dozen children’s heads snapped in their direction, accompanied with a half a dozen or so warning glares from parents. Rosie, of course, wasn’t bothered. She didn’t believe in Santa, Sherlock had made sure of that, but she was still enthralled with him.

He wheezed, “ow.”

“Have some tact, Sherlock.”

He mumbled something but kept quiet. Rosie went through and got her picture, insisting John join, and then they paid five quid for printout out. As they walked back to Molly and Sherlock, John got a look that only said he realized he matched his three-year-old. He looked up when he reached them. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“It’s cute,” Molly said, downplaying her stupid grin.

Sherlock shrugged. “I just thought you’d finally given to being fashionable.”

John whacked him with the pamphlet they got at the entrance. “You. Absolute. Bellend.”

Sherlock turned and started walking while chuckling, completely unphased by the pamphlet assault. They walked on for a while between the frosty pines. It was sinfully cold but as her face became number Molly minded it less. Sherlock only seemed to mind the necessity of his knitcap, which he complained made him look like he was about to go cod fishing. Molly just thought he looked cute, but she didn't say it because he was in a mood where he'd try and argue the point. Rosie was rather indecisive about the trees until Sherlock pointed at one and told her it turned into a monster at night and might eat all the vegetables in the house if she was lucky. This tree became The Tree.

John let her “take the first swing” (put his hands over hers and swung with her) and then went ahead and started chopping. Molly got a little video on her phone and a couple of pictures. Sherlock photobombed one right as a call popped up from her mum.

“Oh,” she pulled off a mitten, cold biting at her hand, and answered. “Hi, Mum.”

“Hello, sweetheart! How are you? What are you up to?” Ever cheery was Mrs. Pauline Hooper, probably making a quilt in the living room surrounded by her dogs.

“Oh, I’m good Mum, out getting a tree.”

“Oh! A tree? I thought you had one of those silly fake things.”

Molly chuckled. “I do. I’m with John and Rosie-“

“Oh! That man, I like him. He’s got kind eyes. Did little Rosie like the quilt last year?”

“Loves it, Mum.” Molly smiled thinking of it. Her poor mum, retired with nothing else to do but quilt and watch BBC. Actually, she was probably enjoying herself immensely.

“Good, good. She was such a sweet little thing. I only saw her once, of course, but I know how they turn out, Molly, I always do. And she’ll be a lovely little thing.”

Molly was nodding until she realized her mother couldn’t see her. “Oh yes, Mum. Sure will.”

“Yay, Daddy!” Rosie shouted and clapped as the tree fell. John smiled looking like he’d rather not do that ever again, wiped his forehead, then grabbed the stump and started dragging it through the rows of trees. Molly hadn’t realized they were moving and found herself being quietly dragged by Sherlock. Her mother was chatting about this and that; old friends, her brothers, decorating the house for the holidays and complaining about Mary next door stealing her mail again.

“Really, at this rate I’m going to sell her bread recipe to the bakery down the street-oh, that’s it! I knew I called you for something. I want you down here for Christmas this year, love. You’ve missed half of them this last decade! I simply won’t stand for it, you know.”

Molly refrained from sighing. “Oh, Mum. Look, I’m sorry I just-“

“Just, just, just! You’ve said that every time. Last time was two years ago and you didn’t even bring, oh, what’s his name? Starts with a….K or a…a B-Bob?”

“Tom.”

“Tom. Sweet boy. Wasn’t very bright.”

Molly sighed. Sherlock had noticed the name and now was looking at her oddly. “No, Mum, he wasn’t.”

There was a pause. “Buuuut a little birdie tells me there’s another.”

“Tell me which of the three birdies it is so I can put a finger in their potatoes.”

“Molly!”

“What? I’ve got plenty.”

She could see the exasperated eyeroll in her head. “Really, Molly. Who is he?”

Molly was trying to figure out how one of her brothers could have possibly figured it out. Probably Daniel. Snoopy bastard likely saw the spare suits in her closet. They’d come to a stop at the entrance where John was paying, and it was significantly quieter, so Sherlock was quite obviously listening in. She looked at him; they’d sort of agreed to keep quiet to their families for a while, hadn’t been sure how it’d all worked out. Actually, he told her there were six possible endings to the relationship, half of which ended in disaster. But he’d recently mentioned it’d gone down… she muted the call.

“How many of those possibilities end in disaster?”

“Huh? Oh, um…” Instead of answering properly, Sherlock just nodded to the phone. “Go ahead.”

Molly smiled some and nodded, wondering slightly why he avoided it before bringing her back up. “Mum? Yeah, sorry, weak signal out here. You know Sherlock Holmes?”

“What? Yes, you used to never shut up about him. On and on.”

Molly pinked slightly as Sherlock smirked. He leaned in, “oh did she, now?”

A small pause. “Is that him? Molly are you dating Sherlock Holmes?”

Molly whacked him slightly, “yes, yes I’m dating Sherlock Holmes, Mum.”

A squeal. “Oh honey, that’s wonderful! Oh, I know how much you like him, or well – well I hope you like him more now, I mean I’d hope – where was I going? Oh yes-how long?”

Molly watched John and one of the farm workers get the tree up on the car and winced. “Um, about-“

“One year, one month, and one day.” Sherlock said quickly, then looked down at her. “I could go by hours as well, if you like.”

“Oh shush, Sherlock.”

“A year?! You’ve been with someone a year and not mentioned it?!” Her dear Mum was, of course, absolutely pissed. “Am I privy to nothing in your life anymore, Missy? No, no, that’s it. You’re coming to Christmas, and he is too.”

Sherlock’s eyes widened. Molly took advantage of this, a moment to give the smug little arse some consequences and said while looking him in the eye, “oh of course we’ll come, Mum.”

“That’s what I like to hear!”

“No,” he whispered.

“It’s Christmas Eve as always, love. Gift exchange-I’ll tell everyone. They’ll be so glad to see you-and we’re looking forward to meeting oh-so-mysterious!” She said the last with a gleeful warning.

Molly nodded. “Yes Mum, alright we’ll not forget the gift exchange, yes, yes, yes,” Sherlock sulked over to the car, opened the door, and slid in. “Yep, gotcha, understood, mhm, love you too, bye,” she hung up and got into the front passenger.

“I can’t believe you just did that.” He slouched in the back.

“What she do?” Rosie asked.

“She’s been very naughty.” Sherlock pointed. “Naughty, naughty!”

“Naughty!” Rosie copied him. “Naughty auntie!”

“No, it’s Uncle that’s been naughty.” Molly retorted, leaning back to whack Sherlock on the knee. “Hit him Rosie, he’s been very naughty.”

Rosie looked gleeful at the chance to hit something.

“No, no hitting!” John said quickly, giving a Dad Glare nearly simultaneously to everyone in the car before pulling out. Rosie, put out, pouted much like her godfather and looked out the window. John inhaled deeply. “What the hell did I miss?”

“Molly is an awful girlfriend.”

“Ha!” Molly turned back to look at him. “You said I could tell her!”

“I didn’t say you could volunteer me for some bloody Christmas interrogation!”

“It’s not an interrogation.”

“I’m the new boyfriend, of course it’s an interrogation, you just call it a Christmas Party.”

John seemed to glean what was going on. “You like Christmas parties.”

“Marginally. With certain individuals that don't include anyone's fami-”

“If you hadn’t told her precisely how long we’d been together,” Molly interjected, “I could have talked her out of it. Or made an excuse.”

He huffed. “So this is punishment for my actions?”

“Consequence, not punishment.” She turned back around. “Besides, it’d have to happen sooner or later.”

Sherlock breathed deeply and leaned back, looking at the roof. “Molly Hooper, I swear.”

She smiled lopsidedly, reached back, and patted his knee affectionately. 

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock idly watched the hand spin around in the microwave. The sun shined bright and warm through the -1C December air, tempting him out with its lies. No thank you, he thought, there are certain occasions I’d rather take the boredom. The skin began to wrinkle on the top of the hand and curl around the cut off point. Interesting. He sipped his coffee and took a long drag from his cigarette, swallowing as the smoke poured out of his nose. He’d been too bored to resist that day. He’d had a couple cases, a good chase or two, but everything always slowed down in December. He supposed worthwhile criminals also had people to please in the holiday season.

The microwave beeped. He opened it, struck with the smell of pork, and used silicone tongues to flip the hand over, the skin extremely malleable after only five minutes, the stub looked nearly cooked. A slight pang of hunger at the sight increased his understanding of cannibals. He closed the microwave, consulted his chart of notations, and put it on for 10 minutes this round.

A couple minutes in his phone rang. An ugly picture of Mycroft from their youth popped up. Ode to joy, brother dear here to spread his Christmas cheer. He crinkled his nose, tempted not to answer, but swiped and tapped speaker. Might be something interesting, at the very least.

“Sherlock?”

“Mycroft.”


“Oh, good. Thought you might hang up.”


“Feeling the Christmas spirit, I suppose.” Oh, now the hand was jumping. He made a note. Hadn’t seen that with the eyeballs, they’d only blown up.

“Mm, yes. Well, that won’t last long.”

Sherlock looked down at the ugly picture. Mycroft was maybe nineteen and had his hair slicked back because he thought it made him look professional, but it only succeeded in making his nose look bigger. “That so?”

The mixture of hatred and amusement came through the speaker thickly, “it seems you’re bringing Molly to meet the family.”


 

Molly came in the kitchen near the end of the Holmes Brother’s row. Sherlock only became aware of her when she shouted at him, and he looked over, realizing he had a still lit cigarette in one hand. He tossed it back in the sink and grinned. It would have been charming, and he would have come up with a good excuse, except that the sink caught fire. He’d forgotten to wash it of the rubbing alcohol he used to sterilize the hand.

“Shit!” He leaped to his feet and ran over, coffee and phone flung elsewhere, grabbed the little fire extinguisher he kept nearby and quickly doused the flames. Not quite before it hit the smoke alarm though, so there he was spending half a minute trying to turn the damn thing off before he gave up and took out the batteries. Except that didn’t shut it off, and neither did detaching it from the holder in the wall. In a fit of frustration, he threw open the window and chucked it into the street.

“What the hell, Sherlock?”

He turned around, breathing far more heavily than he should have been. Molly was holding his phone and his mug, miraculously intact. At that exact moment, the hand in the microwave exploded. “An experiment.”

She stared at the microwave. “On what, combustion and…irresponsible lab keep?”

“Good God, Sherlock, what are you doing?” Came Mycroft’s slightly static-y voice.

Sherlock didn’t answer.

“Molly?” Mycroft asked.

“Something blew up in the microwave, and he set off the fire alarm and chucked it in the street.”

“It wouldn’t turn off!” He yelled over her. He felt frazzled. He hated feeling frazzled; it was a relatively new one that’d snuck out from the depths of his suppressed psyche. Frustration I can handle. That’s productive. Frazzled is just human inadequacy.

A pause. “To be fair, I can’t figure those things out either.”

For once they agreed on something. “It says push the button, I push it and it doesn’t stop.”

“Indeed. Tried the ones with switches, too. Don’t work a bit.”

“A conspiracy.”

“Quite. See you then, brother mine?”

Sherlock groaned. “Seems. Don’t want to displease Mummy.”

“My thoughts exactly. Goodbye.” He hung up.

Sherlock looked at Molly. “I didn’t know you’d be coming in.”

She nodded to the sink. “Obviously.” Her coat and scarf were far too thin for the weather, thrown on quickly. Bags under the eyes indicated a lack of sleep that coincided with her neglect to straighten out the cuffs, she was always very tidy; she’d gotten off earlier than expected and rushed out before anyone could convince her to stay longer. She’d been called in  in the early morn, likely for some lab work that needed immediate results and nothing forensic, or at least nothing interesting enough to involve him. “Do I want to know what was in the microwave?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Alright then.” She shrugged off her coat and scarf, came over and smacked him upside the head. “No-“

“No smoking, it’s bad for me, have you seen the lungs-which yes, I have-etc, etc…” he ducked the next whack. “I haven’t had one in six months.”

She quirked an eyebrow.

“I swear.”

She paused, then shrugged some and kissed his cheek. “Mm, good, good.” She shivered. “Sorry-Jesus-close the window.”

He did that, shivering himself at the cold. Instead of cleaning the microwave he decided he’d buy a new one and quickly unplugged and bagged it while Molly sat in her chair-a big cozy maroon one with a tacky blanket covered in kittens over the back, which Sherlock would quietly admit was extremely comfy-and curled up like, well, a cat. He took a moment to shake himself and ran a hand through his hair. “Tea?”

“Please.”

She didn’t bother saying one sugar and a splash of cream because he knew, just as she knew his was two sugars, milk on a bad day. He only had the cream for her, which felt strangely domestic. He came out with tea for each of them and sat beside her in his chair. “Did you know our mothers know each other?”

“What? No-is there some sort of old lady network we don’t know about?”

“Yes!” He found himself saying near-shrilly, “It’s called Quilters United Facebook group and I hate it. I guess your mum told my mum and now we’re all getting together-which we never do.” He brought his hand up to rub a temple, trying to quell a breaching headache. “Mycroft couldn’t form a half decent excuse-you know, I’d say he just wants to torture me if it wasn’t Christmas, he’d never willingly subject himself to the holiday.”

Molly was quiet. He sipped his tea and looked over at her, laying against the armrest with her feet propped up on the other, huddled in her blanket. “Can’t…be that bad.”

“It can be. It has Mycroft and Mummy.”

“Your dad?”

“Oh,” Sherlock waved his hand. “He’s fine. He’s Dad. Dad never caused any trouble in his life to anyone.”

“Remarkable.” She said quietly. “So then why all the fuss?... We’re you planning I’d never meet them?”

He blinked. He’d sort of hoped. His parents rarely, if ever, visited. Surprisingly not because of his unenthusiastic receptions of them but because they just didn’t; never had. If anything of true importance happened, like the whole faking-his-death thing, they were informed. He remembered having said that to Molly at some point since they started going out and realized it was one of those things that could be taken wrongly. He tested, “well, we never meet.”

“Only on important things.”

Goddamnit, why did he have to be right? “You can’t possibly think I don’t find you important.”

She traced the rim of her teacup with her finger. “No, I don’t. I-“

“Have I done something to make you think that?” He was reevaluating every interaction stored in her files but couldn’t find any major faults.

“No, no…I can see you thinking, stop it.” She went through some sort of contortionism between the blanket and herself until she was sitting on her knees, chair deep enough the armrest was now a tea table. “Sorry, I know you prefer me to be direct.”

“It helps.”

“I just meant...well, figured you’d be practical about it. It’s odd they know each other, and you aren't exactly close, and I know you and Mycroft have your…times, but it’d happen eventually one way or another. I mean, I'm your first proper girlfriend. Might as well get all the family meeting over and done with, like ripping off a band-aid, right?”

Sherlock paused. “Right.” He turned to her and leaned over, kissing her head. “I…everything still feels new to me. All of this,” he gestured between them. “Is foreign.”

Molly smiled just slightly. “You were hoping we’d never meet, weren’t you?”

He turned his head toward the fireplace, then further distanced himself by setting down his tea and grabbing logs from the rack and tossing them into the hearth. “I was.”

“Why?”

“I keep my life largely separate from them.” Starter, starter-John’s newspapers, that’s it. These were the ones he’d already read. Right? Oh, well if he was leaving them by the fire with the intent of reading them later it was on him. He balled up the Sports section first. “Mycroft only has as much contact as he does because he’s eldest and feels it’s his duty or what have you. It’s not that I don’t love them. They did raise me, much as they probably shouldn’t have.” He found himself chuckling a bit. He built the logs around the newspaper and stood, picking up Skully-as Molly had uncreatively but pragmatically dubbed him-and taking a match from the box beneath him, striking it on his cranium with a silent apology, and tossed it into the fire.

“Mm. Shouldn’t have?”

He turned. Molly was looking at him from her chair with languid curiosity. This made his chest feel lighter with relief, though part of him was almost…afraid to walk back over. So he turned to the fire and prodded it, watching the flames lick their way up the ash wood. “She tried her best. But I think there’s fact in the notion that geniuses make sub-par parents. Teenagers they’re okay with, adults they do quite well. Children? I don’t think they understand them.” He turned part way to her, aware of how the fire framed him. Which is, to say, quite nicely. “I got a bit off topic, but the fact is we’ve never been close.”

Molly propped her head up on her hand. “But you love each other?”

He breathed deeply. “I'm loathed to admit it, but yes, we do. We don’t send birthday cards, but we’d die for each other. That sort of thing.”

Molly chuckled, hand moving with her head as she nodded. “Yes, I see. It’s, um…what is it? Mycroft’s got a list, you’ve got a file?”

Sherlock grinned a little. “Oh, no, Mycroft’s got the file. Mummy had shaped up a bit by the time I came around.”

“Ah, makes sense. What about your Dad?”

Sherlock shrugged. “As I said, Dad is Dad. He arguably did better with us; he’s not a genius, just a man. Had more sense when it came to children.” Sherlock felt like he could walk back now, picking up his tea and pausing as a memory, long buried deep in his archives, surfaced, and he found himself saying, “Mummy would try to explain over a six-year-old crying why it’s illogical to be afraid of a giant killer donut in a nightmare. Dad would give a hug and play chess until you fell back asleep.”

Molly smiled. “He sounds sweet.”

Sherlock sat down and sipped his tea. “He is. He’ll like you. You’ll like him.”

She made a contented noise, putting her empty teacup on a side table, folding her arms on the armrest and putting her chin on top of them. Sherlock got up to stoke the fire as the flat slowly filled with sleepy warmth while outside began to show its true colors, the sun retreating and rain running down the windows. Soon it’d be snow. Molly, who Sherlock had thought asleep, shifted, pulling her blanket up over her shoulders and looked at him. “One question.”

“Yes?”

“…Giant killer donut?”

He felt his face flush. “The baker in town used to terrify me.”

“Aw.”

“Don’t aw. It wasn’t cute, it was terrifying. I thought I was going to die every time we had to get bread. He looked like a serial killer.”

“Was he?”

“No. I checked. Lovely man, fantastic bread, just terrifying.”

Molly giggled into her hands and leaned over, kissing his cheek. “If you ever have a nightmare about a giant killer donut again, I’ll be here.”

“Appreciated.” He turned his head and kissed her. Funny, he never used to like kisses. Janine was always a bit tongue-y about it. One woman, years ago when he was still at Uni and slightly high (read: absolutely off his tits) tried to swallow his tongue. But he liked kissing Molly, quite a lot. He kissed her again before she curled up with her head on the armrest nearest him. He tucked her hair behind her ear.

She sighed contentedly. “So, we’re decided then? We’re meeting each other’s parents. Officially.”

“I’m doing more meeting than you, but yes,” he said quietly, now petting her head. The warmth he was feeling didn’t stop at the fire. It was in his chest and gut, spreading throughout his body as Molly’s breathing became quiet and even, a slight hum with each exhale. The crackling of the fire over it. Dulled car horns from the window. Slight creaks in the walls as Mrs. Hudson went about her Tuesday routine with the occasional clattering of dishes worming its way up in the comparative silence, a weekday with no case. Most people at work or home or school. And he was here, warm and soft, fingers gently curled in his girlfriend’s hair. The warmth had come over him entirely, a totally new feeling. It relaxed his muscles and beckoned his eyelids to close and his chest to slowly rise and fall in rhythm with Molly’s.

Just before he fell asleep, he realized what it was, this strange, strange feeling: Contentment. 

Chapter Text

Molly stared at John’s jumper-laden arm for a long minute. “You’re not buying all of those, are you?”

He looked over. “Pardon?”

“Those jumpers. There must be fifteen.”

He rolled his eyes. “It’s only five. And some shirts.”

She put a hand on his arm. “John, I really think you need help. Do I need to call someone?”

He snorted, whacking her hand playfully. “Off before I buy you a jumper too.”

A laughed puffed out her nose. “I wouldn’t mind that, actually.”

He stopped. “Forgot you’re not Sherlock.”

“You use your jumpers as a threat?”

“Of course. Have you not noticed his wardrobe? He’s positively mental.” He started walking toward the counter of the big department store where they’d succeeded in not doing a single bit of Christmas shopping, situated at the end of some lane or another in the Westfield shopping mall, flipping his pile over so it rested checkered button downs up. God, he’s such a Dad, Molly thought. “You know that brand he wears?”

“Mm, Dolce and Gabbana? What about it?”

John paused to pay and thank the cashier. Before she and Sherlock got together, she’d thought he was a nice sort, friendly and maybe a bit outgoing; pretty much true, but she'd been sort of surprised how quiet he was. He shoved the receipt in his bag and they started walking. “You know how much they cost, his shirts?”

“I never paid much mind to it.” She usually noted how nice they felt before she pulled them off, at least. “Knowing him, spendy.”

“Take a guess.”

“Mm. Sixty pound.” She tilted her coffee to her lips.

“Try five hundred.”

Burning hot liquid scorched her throat as she choked and spit in the middle of the mall. “Did you say-“

“Five. Hundred. Pounds.”

“A shirt?!” She covered her mouth, red-faced. She was getting loud, people were looking. Maybe I should yell it to the whole mall, they’d understand. “He can’t pay that much.”

“He does. I've seen his credit card bill.”

Molly didn’t know where they were going, she was just following John, almost dazed. She’d gotten Sherlock a scarf last Christmas and thought she was spending quite a bit at 30 pound but, five hundred. “I knew he was mad, but I think I might faint.”

“Wait, let me tell you how much he spends on trousers first!”

She shook her head. “No, no, no more, please, John. I won’t survive it.”

He only smirked. She feared what other secrets involving Sherlock’s spending habits he held.

She made something of a whimper remembering a time she might have sort of kind of ripped Sherlock’s shirt off for a certain activity and felt a little faint. John wandered into a toy shop and she decided to distract herself, ending up in an isle of llama plushes. She picked up one that was a dark blue, the same as Sherlock’s coat. She felt an urge to get it for herself, but Sherlock was more of a dog person, funny enough. One would assume he was into cats, but he always said he and cats were too alike to be friends. He liked Toby, at least. But Toby played fetch. She turned as John wandered up the aisle towards her with a couple boxes under one arm. She faced the llama at him. “Rosie?”

He cocked his head to the side. “Mm. I’m not sure. She’s more into birds.” He looked at the shelf, suddenly seeming to notice and be overwhelmed by the sheer number of llamas. “The Llamapocolypse.”

Molly chuckled. “The time of the Llamas is upon us. The only way to survive is to join their ranks.” She put the llama on her head, feeling rather silly in the best kind of way. “I am one of them. Join me.”

John stared at her for a long moment. He seemed so perplexed, so absolutely baffled as to what this fully-grown woman was doing in front of him that she couldn’t help but start giggling, which only got worse the longer he stared. Then, before she could do anything about it, he suddenly had his phone out and snapped a picture mid-giggle. Oh, god-her face would be all red and her eyes were closed! She swiped for his phone but he hopped away and laughed. “Too late.”

“Who did you send that too?”

He tucked his phone into the zipper pocket inside his jacket and held up a doll and a marble run set. “I know she’ll like the doll, but I’m not sure about this marble thing.”

“John, who did you send it to?

“Mm, worth a try, then?”

She covered her cheeks and shook her head. “I know who you sent it to.”

He smiled. His phone chirped, she knew very well who’s chirp it was. He unzipped his pocket and pulled out the phone, at which point Molly realized she still had the llama on her head and shoved it back on the shelf with the others.  John laughed. “He says he’s heading over.”

“What?”

“He’s heading over. He and Rosie got their Christmas shopping done already.”

Molly blew air out the side of her mouth. “Of course. Want to hedge a bet Rosie was the one that made things go so quickly?”

“She is very goal-oriented.” John mused. He paused, then looked at the toys again and at her. “Though, in all seriousness, I’m not sure on these.”

“Both. And she’s already got that doll.”

He looked and nodded once he realized she was right. He got a different doll, bought both items and had them wrapped before they stepped outside the shop to wait. Sherlock would take a bit coming from the other side of the mall, or wherever he’d gone. “So, have you got all your shopping done?”

Molly nodded, part of her feeling a little odd engaging in small talk. Whenever she hung around Sherlock for extended periods of time it was something she forgot was normal. “Nearly. Just need a few little things for the gift exchange.”

“Ah, so you two really are doing it, meeting each other’s parents?”

She inhaled deeply. “Yeeeep.”

“Well I…hope it goes well.”

She rubbed the back of her neck. “Yes, yes I…I hope-“ She hesitated. “John, be honest with me, do you think his side will like me?”

John glanced over from his phone. “Of course, Molly. Hell, probably try and swap with your family.”

She suppressed a little laugh. “Ha, alright. I’ll…trust you on it. Um….”

John furrowed his brow at her, pocketing his phone. “You worried? About yours?”

She paused. “Yeah. He’s...you know.”

“Sherlock.”

“Sherlock.”

“Well…some people like that.”

Molly snorted. “We do.”

“Somehow.”

“He’s endearing.”

“When he’s not an absolute cock. Though he’s gotten better.”

“Yeah.” Molly exhaled, feeling her shoulders relax. She was still nervous. She hadn’t expected for it all to happen so quickly, and it felt quick even though the last time she’d been in a relationship she’d gotten herself engaged hardly after a year. But Sherlock was different-Sherlock mattered so much more, and the more she thought the more she realized she was terrified what would happen if her family didn’t like him-which was a real fear, being Sherlock had the tact of a fucking lamppost and the mental facilities of the last three geniuses the world had known combined, making him a socially inept arsehead if he so pleased. She might have to make a list of things he cannot mention, like Daniel’s ex-wife or Paul’s missing finger. No matter how badly he wanted to know if his deductions were right. Even then, what if he didn’t care? He liked her, but that didn’t mean he’d be able to stand her family.

“Molly,” she was bumped from her thoughts by John’s voice and looked over; a look of concern turned into a slight encouraging smile. While Sherlock could tell someone's backstory because of the cigarette brand they smoked or how they rolled their jeans, John could tell more acutely than anyone she'd met the emotions of a person, the true why that Sherlock often missed; and he was blessed with a patience, an awareness his dear friend lacked, that made speaking to him so much easier. She wondered if he was at all aware how extraordinary he was. “You know you’re the only woman he’s ever been truly fond of, yeah?  He’s simply no idea what to do with himself around you. He can't copy and paste a personality, he can’t hide behind any games or bullshit. You see straight through, you always have, and I think he appreciates it. I think it's one of the reasons you two work. And I don't want you, for a second, to think he's that stupid; you know he's a dick, but he won't risk losing whatever the hell you two've got. He might muck up, have a hard time figuring out how to get through foreign territory so to speak, but if he manages to really, really screw it up he'll do whatever can be done to make up for it."

Molly found herself smiling and hugged him, breathing deeply. “Thanks, John.”

“Heh, 'course.”

They parted, Molly assured and John likely feeling quite good about himself as well. Sherlock came around the corner looking like he’d been in a whirlwind, keeping up with a very fast near four-year-old and holding two bags of shopping. He huffed when he reached them. “Little feet should not go that fast.”

Chapter Text

Sherlock had calculated the shopping would take approximately thirty minutes, counting for Rosie’s walking speed and the difficulty in which they would have finding the gifts on the list. He’d been totally skewed, however, soon as he discovered Rosie ran faster than an Olympian when presented with a goal. Instead of reducing his stride to keep up with her he was suddenly half jogging around corners in the hope she wouldn’t get bloody kidnapped before the end of shopping. He’d walked into Waterson’s, perfectly confident he’d find the book on woodworking John had been mentioning for the last three and a half months and then the second box set of a series Molly was in love with, but instead Rosie just had to evaporate upon entrance and he spent twenty minutes darting through the maze-like aisles of books and trinkets after her tiny light up Moana sneakers.

When he’d finally caught up with her in the children’s section she was awkwardly lugging around the exact book and box set under her tiny little arms, browsing the picture books. Sherlock let out an exasperated huff and quickly kneeled by her. “Rosamund Watson,” her head snapped towards him, “that was very, very naughty!”

Rosie seemed surprised by this and simply passed Sherlock the books. “I found the books.”

He sighed. He quite hated disciplining her. “You ran off without me, Rosie. That simply isn’t done.”

“I found the books?” She said again.

“Yes, but I lost you. And you are very small and very easy to kidnap.”

“What’s kidnap?”

Oh Jesus, he was probably going to have to answer for this later. “It’s when someone steals a child.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re bastards.”

She paused. “I thought those were the rugby men.”

Sherlock smirked. For all John gave him hell for cursing around the girl, here he was cussing at the telly. Probably encouraged her to shout right with him whenever Blackheath was losing (which was all the time recently. When he got bored Sherlock would mention it to rile John up, then watch the ensuing entertainment). “Those, too. It has a plethora of applications.” He stood up, taking her hand.

“What’s a plethora?” She walked with him; he had to bend to the side a little to keep a hold of her hand.

“An excessive amount of something. Er-a lot of something.”

“I understood the first one.” She said, offended. It seemed like yesterday she was two and just beginning to make intelligent sentences. Sherlock remembered talking to her at the flat, saying every word he could think of and making her repeat it, whether or not she understood. Then he realized something.

“Rosie, you found these books…how well do you read?”

“Very.”

He rolled his eyes, looked around, then pulled out a random chapter book from a shelf. He moved the other books under one arm and flipped to the first page, skimming a paragraph, then bent down and handed it to her and pointed. “There, read that for me.”

Rosie furrowed her brow. “Why?”

“Read it.”

Now she rolled her eyes-oh, he hoped she’d drive John just slightly mad when she was older, but not him of course. He’d be Cool Uncle Sherlock. “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. This is because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three-“

“You-you can read chapter books? Do you understand it?”

Now she looked really baffled. “Yes.”

“Your father said you were age-level.” Sherlock was slowly shaking his head and couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “You cheeky girl.”

She grinned, just a little, looking quite like her mother. It made Sherlock’s chest hurt. “I like picture books.”

“You ought to be reading much more than that.”

“But I like them.”

Sherlock paused. “Well that’s just fine, but really. You’re much smarter than you let on.”

“Daddy says never reveal everything you know. I know quite a lot.” She beamed.

Sherlock, caught somewhere between bewilderment and pride, decided the best course of action was to purchase the chapter book with the others he had and inform Molly and John soon as they met. “Well then. Don’t run off again. Let's buy these and get shopping over with.”

Rosie smiled and nodded, taking hold of his hand and half dragging him to the counter. In this way Sherlock got an estimated hour of shopping done in about 45 minutes; people parted surprisingly swiftly for a toddler on a mission. He wondered if that was the goal of people who never stopped having them, getting their shopping done and tax breaks and all that. The benefits were certainly not worth the emotional and physical investment in raising a child, but in the case of Rosie he could understand why people wanted more than one. They’d just gotten chocolates and fancy cheese for Mrs. Hudson when his phone vibrated. He pulled it out and was greeted with a simply ridiculous picture of Molly with a blue llama on her head. Her eyes were closed, mid-laugh, and cheeks flushed. Behind her were rows and rows of the damn things. “It’s the Llamapocolypse, they’ve already gotten Molly!!” John typed. He chuckled.

Rosie was bouncing so her shoes lit up. “It’s Auntie, isn’t it?”

“Oh, look at you. You can read and use deductive reasoning.”

Rosie smiled. “It’s easy.”

“Oh, you saying my job is easy?”

She shook her head, bouncing with that little grin that Sherlock had learned was special to mischievous children. “No, but you’ve got the same face you’ve always got with Auntie.”

He paused. “I’ve what?”

“Auntie face! You’ve got a face just for Auntie. She’s got one for you, too.”

Sherlock was rapidly storing and organizing this knowledge. “Oh. What does Auntie’s face look like for me?”

Rosie paused, staring at the ceiling, then looked at him and made a wide smile showing teeth, pushing her cheeks up so her eyes went smaller. “Like this but with more wrinklies.”

He tried not to laugh, he really did. Okay, he didn’t try at all, because it was hilarious. “Oh, Rosie, that’s just her smile.”

“Nuh uh,” she shook her head, curly blondish-brownish ponytail whipping around. “She smiles different. She’s got lots of smiles, that one’s yours.”

This made Sherlock think a moment. Every memory of Molly he had she had that smile, her smile; wide, showing teeth and sweet and oftentimes thin-eyed from how big it was. He couldn’t recall a time he’d not seen her smile with teeth, and far as he understood that was a good thing. He looked back at the picture; her smile was a bit different, not reserved but...hm. Subtly adjusted for the situation; she was having fun with John, a mutual friend. This warranted a smile, but it was different. And he couldn’t bloody tell how he just knew it was. Maybe it was the eyes. “Remind me to employ you when you’re older.”

“Okay!” Rosie happily hopped around as Sherlock texted John back, then they headed their way. She was good about holding his hand until she saw her dad, at which point she sprinted ahead and Sherlock, slightly panicked about somehow losing her in the 100 feet it would take to reach John, jogged after, huffing a little by the time he reached them. “Little feet should not go that fast.”

They both laughed at him. Before he got the opportunity to say anything, Rosie started chattering about how she could read, you know, by the way. John was stricken first by shock, then wonder, and then looked to Sherlock. “You knew about this?!”

“Not until forty-five minutes ago, no.”

John blinked then looked at Rosie and just breathed deeply, nodding, resigned that no matter what his life would always be interesting. Sherlock focused on Molly, smiling. She was blushing. She hated how she coloured, it was uneven and spread from her forehead down to her neck and happened at the slightest inclination to embarrassment. It wasn’t attractive in the least. But Sherlock found himself fond of it, especially when it was all his fault. “The Llama Overlords have relinquished their control?”

“If only for a time.” She kept looking off when she smiled. “You get your shopping done?”

“Mhm.” He nodded to the bag in his hand, thankfully a nondescript black. He might have had to threaten the cashier to get it. “You?”

“Nope.” She smiled and captured Rosie from John. “Shopping for you and the gift exchange.”

He rolled his eyes. “God, why must we do that?”

“What, exchange presents?”

“Don’t play dumb.” He crinkled his nose.

Now she rolled her eyes, which had gotten rather more dramatic over the year. Sherlock joyfully took credit. “It’s a tradition.”

“Aren’t those meant to be broken?”

“If they’re bad, yes. This isn’t bad. It’s fun.”

“You say that like it’s true.” Sherlock was having enough of a time thinking about meeting Molly’s family-it was large, so she told him; far larger than his. She had three brothers, all with children, and then at least a couple grandchildren to boot, along with two aunts on either side and an uncle. It was almost erroneous how much family she had, and even more horrifying they got together every year, her recent involvement notwithstanding. He shivered at the thought.

“Shut up.” She slapped his chest lightly and gestured between him and John. “You two don’t get involved in a crime, either side of it. Rosie and I are shopping for the both of you.”

“Not even a bit of robbery?” John quipped.

“Only if you donate it all to charity.” Molly said as she began walking away.

“Then it's no fun,” John called after. She just glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him. “Ah, well. What’d you get her?”

“Box set of a book series she likes. She has the first set, but there’s a second.”

“That’s a lot of books.”

“You’ve seen her shelves, haven’t you?” He snorted slightly, wandering into the toy store. John fell into step beside him.

“Yeah. Box set will break them.”

“Nearly.” The Llamapocolypse was not difficult to find-it filled up an entire aisle on one side. Colors ranged from vibrant primaries to pastels to neutral, dark and natural tones, and onward into patterns such as tartan, camouflage, emojis (why) and some artist with an afro’s face (for some reason?). But the one he was looking for was easy to find; a dark blue that was nearly black, the same as his coat. It was no mistake but a product of association. She’d picked it up because it reminded her of him. He grabbed the llama and gave into the immediate reflex to hold it to his chest and pet it.

“Oh no, don’t tell me they’re taking you over too.” John crossed his arms, amused.

Sherlock grabbed a random llama and handed it to him. “Pet.”

John raised an eyebrow, took it, and paused. “Alright. I get it.”

“I’d relinquish the world to these.” Sherlock looked into the shiny bead eyes. “Perhaps we already have.”

“Probably.” John hadn’t put down his llama. Sherlock was reasonably confident he’d walk out with one.

He pet his own llama as he examined the rows of them, his eye catching one in particular; it was a warm maroon color on the top shelf. He stretched and then hopped, snagging it by the muzzle and bringing it down. He took this llama and the other and held them side by side. They looked well together. “John?”

“Yeah?” He’d grabbed another llama; he’d call it purple, Sherlock would call it lavender.

“Do you think Molly would want one of these?”

“You mean do I think it’s a good idea to buy your likenesses in fuzzy llama form? Yes.”

Sherlock turned, annoyed. “Oh please, am I that predictable?”

John swapped the llama he’d been given for an army green one. “Sherlock, it’s not an uncommon thing for couples to, you know, have a thing like that. Some people think it’s a bit juvenile but bugger it.” He paused a moment. Sherlock was still learning expressions, but this one was familiar to him. It was far away, absently present.  "Mary and I had keychains.”

Sherlock, who had thought he knew everything he ever would about John and Mary, was surprised. He wanted to sort of laugh at it, because…keychains? But he didn’t. He was an arsehole. And he was cruel; but not that sort. “Keychains?”

“Keychains.” He repeated, smiling slightly. He’d come back from wherever he’d been, wherever he usually went in those short moments. “They didn't match or anything else, no wonder you never noticed. Won them at a carnival, of all things. Got mine…hidden away. She was buried with hers. It was a way to keep together even when we weren’t…you know?”

Sherlock nodded. He understood things now he hadn’t before, things he hadn’t allowed himself to wonder or learn. A couple years ago he might have been dismissive, but now he…knew, he did. Couples did things. Strange things, mostly small. They didn’t matter to anyone but them, and even if they were similar they were different-llamas to keychains-and individual, and good. After a moment of silence neither had expected to occur on a holiday shopping trip both men ended up buying llamas. Sherlock’s dark blue, John army green and lavender for Rosie. They walked out of the toy store and wandered, the small moment quietly pushed from the forefront to refocus on, well, anything else. They were sitting by a fountain with coffee playing a little deduction game-Sherlock addressing physical traits and cause and effect, John focusing on emotion, which was something Sherlock had only recently realized how apt he was with -when John suddenly looked at Sherlock, and Sherlock knew he was analyzing him. So he made his face blank. Except, apparently, that was a bloody sign. “You’re nervous.”

“I’m never nervous.”

“Liar.” John snorted. “And I know why.”

Sherlock huffed through his nose. “I know you do.”

“Can I say something, then?”

“Will anything I say stop you?”

“No, but figured I’d be polite.”

Sherlock took a 50p coin from his pocket and tossed it back into the fountain. God may not be real, but there was a certain physiological relief in appealing to a higher power, whether it be luck or elsewise. “Fine.”

John now looked at him, quite seriously. “You’ll do fine.”

“You’re putting more faith in me than usual.”

“Because you’ve got something on the line. Something you care about.” John sipped his coffee and gestured at him with the cup. “You’re Sherlock Holmes. And Sherlock Holmes might be a bellend, a dick, need punched in the face more often than not, have an absolutely giant arse shaped head-“

“Thanks-“

“But he’s also got a good heart. You've got a heart. And a good head. And sometimes when you actually put those two things together you manage not to fuck things up beyond repair. And,” John paused, expecting an interruption, then continued, “you're not the only one. She's nervous, maybe for different reasons. But she cares, too. So, so much, mate. Whatever may come, you dorks will be just. Fine. Trust me, yeah?”

Sherlock couldn't find a response for that, only able to nod as he slowly exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding, shoulders relaxing, a balloon of nerves within him deflating. Thank God, he thought, thank god for John Watson.

 

 

Chapter Text

“How come I’ve never heard you mention growing up in Wales?” Molly said while watching the countryside, filled with a stereotypical amount of sheep, pass by. Sherlock was driving, something he hadn’t done in ages. Molly had been a little unsure letting him, but he’d insisted; not only was he well and able to make the three-hour drive in one sitting (which Molly thought quite mad) but he enjoyed it. Having multiple things to pay attention to at once kept his mind occupied.

“Well, dear, have you ever really heard me mention growing up at all?”

She played with some flyaways, almost invisible in the receding sunlight. “Point taken. Why is that?”

“It wasn’t exactly fun.” He adjusted himself so he was leaning his arm on door, driving with one hand. His hair was windswept, he had his sleeves rolled up to the elbow and was wearing a pair of seldom-used but very attractive sunglasses. He could walk out on a runway and kill it at that very second. “I was very small. I had no money. You could imagine what kind of stress I was under. And there was the baker.”

“Ah, the baker.”

He mock pouted. “Still haunts me.”

“Poor baby.” She patted his leg, resting her hand there.

They reached the Holmes family residence around three in the afternoon. The house was perfectly lovely; a very large home Sherlock said had been in the family since the 1600s, far as they knew, with an old stone fence and iron gate that preceded a well-kept front yard. They grabbed their coats and stretched as they got out of the car, Molly trying to imagine little Sherlock growing up in such an inviting house. She knew what all had happened in Sherrinford and with Eurus, but Sherlock’s life otherwise, especially his childhood, was mostly a mystery. Besides the trap he set for Santa Claus, John had told her that. She followed him up the stone path to the door. The entrance was warm and the house smelled fantastic. They hung up their coats and Sherlock slipped off his shoes, Molly following suit. “So-“

“Shh,” he put a finger to his lips.

“What?” She whispered back.

“I want to surprise them.”

“That’s sweet.”

He grinned a little. “It’ll annoy Mycroft.”

She breathed deeply and rolled her eyes. “Less sweet.”

He grinned more and then, creeping like a mouse, peeked through the doorway to the hall and then gently led her through; it was old, worn wood that gave one a warm feeling looking at it; it was the same feeling as when walking into the house you grew up, sepia-toned childhood memories drawn from the depths of the mind in an all-encompassing feeling that was wonderful and a bit sad. This feeling persisted down the dark hall, over old stone floor that became old wood. She realized they were going to the kitchen as she heard Christmas music and voices; a woman, she assumed to be Mrs. Holmes, who was chiding an older man, who was saying something about potatoes. And then there was Mycroft. He didn’t speak, but she recognized his long-suffering huff.

Sherlock squeezed her hand briefly and then stepped in with her. “Hello, all.”

“Sherlock!” Mrs. Holmes, a rather jolly looking woman Molly thought, came over and hugged him, turning immediately to Molly. “This is Miss Molly, then?”

Molly smiled, waving. “Yes, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs.-“

“Ginny.” She smiled and gave Molly a hug as well; she smelled faintly of rosewater and flour. When she looked at her again, Molly realized she had greenish eyes, not at all like Sherlock. But when Mr. Holmes, or Andrew, came over, his eyes matched verbatim; as deep and blue and sharp, much as he immediately settled into jokes of being the moron of the family. She suspected there might be more attributed to Sherlock from his father than his mother, whereas the opposite could be said for Mycroft. Though Mycroft, who was staring into a glass of amber liquid like it might rescue him from this personal hell, seemed more his own breed than anything. “It’s wonderful to meet you, truly-isn’t it, Mike?”

Mycroft looked up from his glass. “I’ve already met her, Mummy. Years ago.”

Mrs. Holmes put her hands on her hips. “What? Sherlock?”

“He has,” Sherlock admitted, swiping a minced pie from the table. “On a case. To be fair, he didn’t know we were together until six months into it.”

“I had bets it wouldn’t last eight,” Mycroft muttered.

“You were never good at gambling.” Sherlock snorted.

Mycroft looked like he was about to retort, but then caught eye of a pot on the stove. “Mum, your potatoes are boiling over.”

“Ah!” She ran over. Sherlock guided Molly to the kitchen table and pulled out her chair for her and she sat, noting Mycroft roll his eyes. The whole kitchen was curved on one side, like a half oval, and painted seafoam green. The table, old oak, had mince pies and crackers and a cheese plate on it, the oven baking what smelled like ham. Everything felt warm and cozy, but weirdly quiet. Molly was used to boisterous Christmases and hadn’t ever thought what it would be like with only five people. Especially when those five people rarely gathered so.

She felt a paper nudge her hand and looked down. It was the newspaper, the crossword specifically. She looked at Sherlock, who gestured for her to go ahead. So she did, finding “haggis”, then passed it to him, only for him to slide it to Mr. Holmes on her right. Mr. Holmes then slid it to Mycroft, who did his part and passed it to Sherlock. “So, Molly,” Mrs. Holmes smiled at her from the kitchen counter, “how did you and Sherlock meet?”

“Oh, um. He came into the morgue-“

Mrs. Holmes turned fully around. “Wait, morgue-are you that Molly? You helped him?”

Molly raised her eyebrows and glanced at Sherlock, who had his eyes on his mince pie. “I, um, I did. My house was a bolt hole.”

Mrs. Holmes nodded, a spark of recognition in her eyes. “I remember catching a glimpse of you once in those two years-Pauline showed me a picture, but I never quite connected it. It’s simply a pleasure to meet you properly.” She smiled. “You helped save my boy. I have to thank you.”

Molly felt a bit of a sheepish sense of pride. “Oh, it, it was nothing. I mean-it wasn’t nothing but-I didn’t do much.”

“She did more than anyone else.” Sherlock said, not looking at his mother but looking at Molly, rather pointedly.

“Thanks.” Mycroft passed him the crossword.

“You got me a plane, she got me a body. These are, comparatively, difficult things to get for most people, but in the event of a disaster you had the power of the entire British government, she, however, stood to lose everything. Additionally, she didn't let me get lashed three minutes more than necessary for past transgressions.“

“You what?” Mrs. Holmes put her hands on her hips.

“I didn’t-“ Mycroft started.

“He did-“ Sherlock interrupted, and then the whole lot descended into an argument. Not shouting, but definitely bickering. Sherlock passed Molly the crossword while huffing. Under “seven letter word for stupid” Sherlock had written “Mycroft”.

 “So, he driven you mad yet?” Mr. Holmes spoke as if the argument wasn’t happening, looking at her kindly through the glasses resting on his nose.

Molly looked at the bickering Holmes, at a loss, then looked back at Mr. Holmes, finding herself smiling. “He drove me mad soon as I met him.”

“Ah, and you didn’t run? No wonder. Most run. Not that he ever really tried-you know, how is it then you’re together? No, no-let me guess. He’s changed.”

Molly nodded. “Quite a bit.”

Mycroft and Mrs. Holmes started bickering at each other directly, though the attention had shifted from whatever Mycroft had done to an apparent incident with potatoes and sleep medication and Sherlock, Sherlock taking pause to sip water petulantly. Mr. Holmes directed his voice at him now, “I think you once told me the day you found someone was the day you’d lost it.”

Sherlock raised a brow. “Yes.”

“How old were you then, Sherlock?”

“Sixteen.”

Mr. Holmes inclined his head towards Molly. “And is that still true?”

Sherlock turned his head to respond to some accusation of Mycroft’s but stopped, pausing. Molly felt his fingers brush the sleeve of her jumper and then envelope her hand with his, resting out on the table. He rarely did this openly; even with his family, she hadn’t expected it. He was looking at their hands when he said, just loud enough to be heard over the bickerers, “yes.”

“Mm,” Mr. Holmes leaned forward slightly, a knowing look in his eyes, “it’s nice, going mad, isn’t it?” He glanced at Mrs. Holmes when he said this.

Sherlock’s eyes darted from their hands to his water, to the table and to his father, finally resting hesitantly on Molly, a shy smile twitching at the downturn of his mouth. “This is silly.”

“Is it nice?” Mr. Holmes said again, raising his eyebrow, a mirror of his son.

Sherlock’s eyes darted down again. “Ravishing.”

Molly’s throat was tight. The hushed tones, the sweetness and softness in his voice, the willingness. Sherlock was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a conventional boyfriend; however, this had never made him a bad one. It took some work, some getting used to, hardly touching in public, the blunt, unrefined edges that marked the contrast of how he believed relationships “worked” and his inexperience in operating within one that wasn’t single sided. The pouting, the utter loads of patience, especially in the early months, refining of expectations and reevaluating what exactly she wanted in a relationship, especially one that entailed some danger. But he had shown himself to be sweet, to be sort of shy-hesitant, and caring and thoughtful in his actions if not his words. She’d wiggled her way into some special part of Sherlock even he wasn’t sure existed sometimes. But now he was slowly letting that little bit of himself out, on his own, and Molly wasn’t sure if she would be able to avoid crying.

Mr. Holmes, satisfied, gently took the crossword from Molly’s trembling hand. He gave Sherlock a nod and began to search for a word.


 

They’d all moved to one of three receiving rooms on the main floor after dinner, opening crackers there. Molly was quite happy to put on the paper crown and Sherlock played a good sport about it, the parents seemed rather surprised when Mycroft let his sit lopsidedly on his head. Sherlock whispered that it was because he was tipsy, simultaneously sneaking a photo. At this point Molly, rather nervously, brought out a little gift for the parents-a small taxidermied mouse detective; he had a little deerstalker, a tartan Inverness cape, and a magnifying glass that he used to look curiously at some footprints on his wooden mount. It had been a gift from a fan that Sherlock had declared a "far better version of myself than I'll ever be" before giving it a spot beside Skully the skull on the mantle. Unfortunately, during a letter-stabbing, he'd liberated Squeaklock Holmes of a portion of his tail, at which point Molly suggested, for Squeaklock's safety, that he be gifted to Sherlock's' parents. Also concerned for the health of Squeaklock, Sherlock had agreed, and he'd been carefully packaged with a note. Mr. And Mrs. Holmes were entirely amused and delighted with the little mouse and immediately put him on their own fireplace mantle.

Mycroft excused himself under the pretense of going to the bathroom. Sherlock became a bit twitchy after that and glanced at Molly. This was as sure a sign as any he really wanted a cigarette. Considering it was the holidays, and especially considering they were gathered with his family, she let him go. He didn’t give an excuse.

Mrs. Holmes huffed. “Oh, don’t tell me he’s smoking again?”

“Once a year,” Molly smiled gently, neglecting the exploding hand incident. “Hasn't smoked in 6 months.”

“Mmm,” Mrs. Holmes reached around the side of the couch and pulled out four small boxes. “I do hope you’re not covering for him.”

“I’m a doctor, Mrs. Holmes. It’d be dishonest.”

“And ironic.” Mr. Holmes added, amused.

Mrs. Holmes rolled her eyes, but smiled some while handing Molly two of four peppermint striped cardboard boxes. “Well you’ve kept him alive so far, so I’ll give you a benefit of a doubt. This is a little something, boys won’t care that you opened yours already if you want.”

Knowing how long Sherlock took to smoke a cigarette, Molly opened the box, inside there was peanut brittle. “Oh, thank you!”

Mrs. Holmes beamed. Ah, theres Sherlock. “You’re welcome dear. It’s from the baker in town-makes candies during the holidays.” She leaned back with her tea and a small smile. “Buy it every year for Christmas-boys would actually get excited about it, so hard to find something besides chemistry or politics or strangely grotesque murders to get them that way. I still send it, and they send a card. That’s about the extent of our Christmases.”

Molly nodded some, taking a bite and quickly putting it away because she would otherwise eat the whole parcel. “That’s…lovely, Mrs. Holmes-Ginny. I’ll enjoy it.”

“Do-oh, keep that other box in your pocket. It’s for John, and if I know Sherlock he’ll eat it all and not tell him.”

Molly laughed. “Sure thing, Ginny.”

A lovely moment was punctured by shouting-Sherlock, then Mycroft. Molly was at the door by the time Mrs. Holmes got up, finding Sherlock and Mycroft rolling around in the snow and throwing punches at each other. They weren’t even saying anything, just attempting murder.

“Sherlock! Mycroft!” Mrs. Holmes gasped upon seeing them and hurried down the steps, first trying to pull them apart and then smacking Sherlock, who had quite the advantage over Mycroft in both age and skill, upside the head. When this didn’t work Molly, quite displeased, ran down and did what she used to when her brothers got into fights: she grabbed a fistful of Sherlock’s hair and pulled him back off Mycroft, and when Mycroft rose to take a swing she grabbed him by the collar and then stood between them and their bloodied noses and bruised cheeks. “Enough!” She shouted, looking rapidly between the two of them. “Enough of it, you bloody idiots! How dare you start such a fuss, especially so close to Christmas!”

The boys, snapping out of a trance, seemed equally stunned.

A pause, Molly let go of them. They sat on their backsides in the snow and did not say a word. Mrs. Holmes came up behind Molly, observed the scene, and then patted her back and looked at Sherlock. “I like her.”

Chapter Text

Sherlock was sitting on the couch with a rag to his nose, staring up at the ceiling. He’d found forty-seven different human figures thus far. If he had been an artist, he would never have run out of ideas. Just look up at a ceiling and you had everything you ever needed. No idea what it was with those people and “art block”. Molly was glaring, which was why he was looking at the ceiling-well, that and the nose. Sherlock knew how many glares Molly had, three; a joking one, a warning one, and a genuinely angry one, sometimes combined with disbelief at his actions, which all existed on a spectrum with glares between that consisted of different percentages joking/warning/angry. Right now she was 100 percent cross with him, a small amount of disbelief mixed in. It was odd that she should be cross with him at his families house, but to be fair Mummy was also quite cross with him. Maybe that Freudian idea of finding someone that reminded one of their parents had some measure to it. Or maybe it was just that he’d done something really stupid and inappropriate. He hoped for the latter.

Mycroft, beside him in a similar position, would likely agree.

“You boys had better explain yourselves.” His mum said, and he knew she had her hands on her hips and had narrowed her eyes threateningly. She always looked the same disciplining them, whether they were children or…well, they were really just very tall children, weren’t they? At least he felt childish. Childishly angry, childishly hurt-hurt! God. He glanced at Mycroft, who glanced back. He had half a mind to tattle.

“Just…an argument, Mummy.” Mycroft mumbled, first to raise his head, rag still to his nose.

“Just, just! You two haven’t fought like that since you were-oh-“

“University. When Sherlock blew up the lab with Mycroft’s research in it.” His dad mumbled around a mug of tea.

“Yes, exactly! And I haven’t seen any exploded research, I expect an explanation.”

Sherlock resisted the urge to groan and sat up, sniffing and dabbing his nose. Molly still looked rather crossed, though the disbelief had increased to about 30 percent. Suppose it was the physicality of it all, she’d seen them shout at each other, but the Holmes brothers were not in habit of sparring. At least, not since the University incident. He glanced at Mycroft. Mycroft glanced back. Mum stood expectantly. She raised an eyebrow, time was running out. Sherlock wanted to throw Mycroft under the bus-literally and figuratively. But Mycroft looked at him again and Sherlock recognized just a hint of desperation. Buggar. You.

“It was Mycroft,” he started, “he told me-“ he felt a thumbnail dig into his wrist and glanced back. Mycroft wasn’t just desperate-he was pleading. Sherlock breathed deeply and huffed. “He was the one that ruined my thesis experiment in Uni. After the lab incident.”

Mummy narrowed her eyes.

“I did.” Mycroft said. “Set him back weeks.”

“I didn’t have copies.” It hadn’t been Mycroft at all. It’d been Pierce Clarke, jealous of Sherlock’s intellect and his ability to charm any woman or man he needed to. Mycroft had helped Sherlock expose his various girlfriends to each other and have him borderline expelled for cheating. But Mummy knew none of it.

“…Mm. That was awful of you Mycroft. But that was over fifteen years ago. I-“

“Yes, yes quite. Shouldn’t have fought and all that,” Sherlock stood quickly, feeling like he couldn’t bear to be in the room. “I’m going for a walk.”

“It’s almost zero-“

“I have a coat,” he swept past her and pulled it on, mouthing to Mycroft, you owe me. Mycroft slightly inclined his head. Sherlock quickly ducked into the kitchen and out the back door. Snow was falling, enough to crunch underfoot as he made a rapid walk to the old coach house in the back of the property, half shielded by trees. Inside was somehow colder than out; it smelled of the hard earth floor and hay, despite the fact there hadn’t been a carriage there in almost a hundred years, or horses for the matter. Upstairs had once been his childhood laboratory but now was storage. He was so cross, so peeved and irked and deluged with the simultaneousness of all the feelings and others. Why, why, why could he not hold back like he used to? Why couldn’t he-just-put. Them. Down. He shouted and kicked the wall of the coach house, he kicked it and kicked it and swung his fist into it. The old wood scraped his knuckles and stung. He punched three more times, making the windows rattle and then fell against the wall, sliding down to his knees. He was heaving, his face was hot. What the fuck. You’re losing it, Sherlock, you can’t be losing it. He shook his head and stood, dusting himself. You can’t be doing that. You must analyze and categorize these feelings. You may be human, and humans may feel, but most humans don’t let it out on coach houses. Don’t want to end up… He shivered. He didn’t want to think about that again. Being human is cruel.

Numbness that follows extreme emotional overload was slowly settling over his tingling body. He flexed his fingers and looked down, realizing his knuckles were bleeding. He inhaled deeply and looked at the stairs. He’d give it a look, he decided. It’d been quite a while since he’d gone up there. The steps creaked, as did the door when he opened it. Before it was storage or his childhood lab it held hay and dried goods and some gardening equipment, the overall rustic smell permeating anything that entered the room. Boxes were stacked and labeled. Seems Dad really did have a good time with the label maker, he thought, amused. Grandmum’s things, China Set, Antiques, Baby Books, Xmas Decorations, various boxes of collections, Old Math Thingies-must be Mummy’s old academic papers and books. Some things stood freely like the lamp Uncle Rudy had gifted him years ago. It was a Tiffany, but it was the ugliest thing in the world. Sherlock would sell it, but Mycroft would probably kill him. I could just say that’s what he owed me, ha. No, no, that was silly. Cruel, actually. Mycroft had been fond of Uncle Rudy. He must not know it was out here, so Sherlock could really make him feel guilty and gift it to him for Christmas or something. Yes. That’ll do.

Around the corner of boxes Sherlock stopped. At the very end, near the window at the front, was his old desk, with the microscope still on it. Beside it was the bed he’d dragged to the coach house as a child so he could sleep with his research and experiments in the summer. Wasn’t possible in the winter-he’d tried and nearly gotten pneumonia-but those summers had been glorious. The desk was untouched, still had the last slides he was working on. He dusted off everything with his sleeve and looked through, adjusting the creaking mechanism until he could see clearly. Salamander skin. He’d gotten it from a dead one out in the garden the summer before he left for Uni. He could see himself, hunched over the desk and squinting and scribbling on a notepad. Eventually collapsing on the bed beside him, mugs and plates piling up until his mother came out and scolded him and he’d sulk and carry everything back to the house.

He looked at the bed-still had a comforter on it. He supposed they hadn’t needed to move it all these years, so why bother? He kicked it a few times, dust spraying out, then laid down, feet hanging over the edge, and stared at the ceiling. The snow was falling like feathers, thickly and quickly but fluttering. He’d always wanted to put a snowflake under a microscope.

The stairs creaked. Not enough for Dad, too little for Mummy or Mycroft, so it could only be-

“Sherlock?” Molly called out from the doorway.

He didn’t answer.

“Sherlock?” Her feet creaked on the floor-she headed towards one pile of boxes, stopped, then toward the corner, and stopped again. “Sherlock? … Do you…want to be alone?”

Did he? He breathed deeply. He didn’t know. “Over here.”

She rounded the corner, then headed towards his bed. When she reached him he looked up at her and saw an absence of anger, but there was no substitute otherwise; her face was blank, or the emotions were too subtle for him. John could have probably told him what she was feeling. She held out his gloves. “You’ll lose your fingers.”

He took them and put them on despite his stinging knuckles, which Molly frowned at. He looked up at her, then scooted over into the wall. Her eyes ran over him, stopping at his feet sticking over the edge, and smiled slightly. She laid down by him and he adjusted himself so his arm was around her. He felt warmer. “So, I suppose I don’t need to explain what you did wrong.”

He huffed. “I’m not that oblivious.”

“Sorry.” She said softly, half into his coat. “Your Mum’s worried.”

“She’s always worried. She’s my mother.”

Molly sighed. “What happened? Honestly.”

He stiffened up, fighting back another emotional overload. “It was…nothing.”

“You got in a fistfight.”

“Yes, and you pulled my hair. I didn’t even have to ask.”

That earned a whack to the shoulder. “I’m serious. If you don’t want to tell me, alright, but you’re not joking your way out of it.” She propped herself up on her shoulder and looked down at him to make her point.

Sherlock thought about it. He considered every angle and possible outcome and sub-outcome, wagered how much he trusted Molly-immensely-against her morals-honest leanings with an express care for others over herself, but there were no qualms over lying or deceit when needed. She’d hidden an entire life before, she could hide this. “You can’t speak a word of it.”

She frowned. “Is anyone in danger?”

“No-this is a Holmes domestic issue.”

She nodded. Her eyes were darker in the light, giving a serious impression that Sherlock had always admired. Only now realized he’d never told her. He’d have to sometime. “Will we be telling John?”

“Later.” He gently pulled her down to him and they lay on the bed in the cold coach house, facing each other. “You’ll not believe it. You’ll think I’m joshing-I thought he was.”

“Who, Mycroft?”

“Yes, Mycroft.” A weird shudder went through his body and he curled around Molly tighter. “He…” the disbelief was evident in his tone, “he’s married.”

Molly’s jaw dropped. “M…Mycroft. Married?”

“Married.”

Married?

“Married. For two,” he kicked the wall behind him and inhaled sharply, “bloody years!” He huffed and buried his face in her hair. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize to me, apologize to the wall.”

“Walls are inanimate, they have no conscious in need of apologizing too.”

“That was a joke, love.”

“Oh.” He breathed deeply. “But…that’s it. He let it slip. Due to alcohol, no doubt.”

Molly was quiet a moment. He felt her hand reach into his hair and slowly massage his scalp, playing with the curls. If he were a cat, he might have purred. “Why…why did he hide it?”

“Because he didn’t trust me not to tell Mummy.” He hissed it, the bitterness coming out. “Like I’m the one that goes running to her with every problem. He’s run to her every time I muck up, of course, but you know? I’ve never done it to him. Not once! I might be the problem child but he’s no saint.” Goddamn emotions, goddamn Mycroft, goddamn feeling goddamn… He hated confessing and blathering and talking out his feelings-he didn’t do it, it wasn’t him. He didn’t even do it with Molly, she was content either being there or not, depending on what he needed. But Molly was also so incredibly easy to talk to, and this-this was some other level with Mycroft. “It wouldn’t have mattered had he just told me. I would have been shocked, anyone would.”

“Yes,” Molly agreed,” it is Mycroft after all.”

“Exactly. I should have deducted it, but it’s so out of the scope of Mycroft things, and he didn’t even, he didn’t change in any way -God, I am bothered he didn't say anything but I'm more bothered I didn't figure it out.” He turned away from her, glaring at the wall. She didn’t stop petting. “He’s seen plenty of women over the years, but he’s never gotten involved beyond the physicality of it. I knew he was seeing Alicia Smallwood but to this extent? it's  We agreed we tell each other important things, but I can’t be trusted? Bollocks.” He kicked the wall again.

Silence rang. Molly turned and spooned him-he almost laughed at the image in his mind.

“Did he say…why? I mean, why he got married.” Molly asked tentatively.

“Taxes. Complete rubbish, much as it's incomprehensible he's developed feelings.”

“Mm. Can I ask something?”

“Nothing stopping you.”

“Why would he want to hide it from your parents? Seems he wouldn't have cared to tell you.”

Sherlock thought a moment. “He doesn’t want to be bothered, mainly by Mummy. She's nosy and pestering. He'd feel obligated to share more of his life with her and wouldn't be able to say no. Not to mention the whole "meet the parents" expectation” he turned over and tucked a hair behind her ear, “it juvenile; we are grown men.”

“Who bicker like children.” She smiled.

“Never stops.” He found himself smiling and kissed her. “Well, I fully intend to be a pest in her place, at least for a bit. I could just text his wife-God that's weird on the tongue, isn't it?-but that lacks entertainment.”

“Look at you, being optimistic.”

“It’s that wretched Christmas Spirit possessing me.”

“Ah. That wretched spirit strong enough to draw you back to the house? It's cold out here."

"Mmm," he smiled some and sighed, sitting up. "Yes, yes," they both got up, starting back to the house. "Bah humbug."

She took his hand and led him down the stairs, saying in a sing song voice, "Bah humbug."

Chapter Text

Molly was gently awoken by the smell of warm tea wafting over her. She sat up slowly and blinked. 10:30. She had slept late. She took the tea-just drinking temperature and took her time getting up. She slid, somewhat involuntarily, off Sherlock’s silk sheets and got on her robe, heading with her empty cup to the kitchen.

“No, no Toby we mustn’t play with the paper used for wrapping, only the scraps.” She set down the teacup silently and peeked around the kitchen door. Toby was bouncing around like a kitten with a cape of wrapping paper following him. Sherlock was sat with tape and scissors between unwrapped presents and perfectly wrapped ones, and a now unrolled tube of paper following her cat. “Toby! Put it down!” He grabbed the paper, Toby running still and making off with a chunk of it, which he promptly took to Molly’s chair and played with. Molly started laughing.

“What-oh, you’re up.” He glanced at the clock. “Hm, five minutes before I estimated. Was it the racket?”

“No, no,” she kissed his head. “That was just a bonus.”

He rolled his eyes and used the scissors to even out the paper. “Glad to be of entertainment.”

She sat across from him, rolling up the paper until it was reasonably ordered and watched him cut a piece with machine-like precision which he then used to expertly wrap a book on woodworking he’d gotten John. She used her foot, stern looks, and some scraps to keep Toby at bay. “How long have you been up?”

“A few hours,” he said vaguely, passing the present to the wrapped pile. She took a hot cocoa kit she’d bought for the gift exchange and started wrapping. He looked at the present and sighed. “How long, now?”

“Eight days.” She ended up with an extra piece of tape somehow and stuck it on her nose for safekeeping.  “Chin up. I can promise no fist fights at my mum’s house.”

He looked up from his wrapping. “Oh, how boring.”

“Aw, poor you. Mum has dogs.”

“Mm. Suppose that’ll do.” He went back to wrapping, leaning forward and pulling the tape off her nose with a chuckle and using it on the present. She ripped off another piece and put it on her nose again, which he then used on the present. He laughed when she put on the third piece. “Why are you doing that?”

“’Cause.” She smiled.

“Heavens. Well here, if you really insist on being useful.” He took the tape and pulled off several pieces, putting them on her cheeks and chin and forehead, using one hand to keep her from pulling away mid-laughter. “There! Now just sit. Stay. Good girl.” She snorted, grinning. He used the tape to finish up wrapping everything, looking on the verge of a giggle fit the whole while, then upon stacking the last box flopped flat on his back, feet sprawled out among the paper and tape. “Done.”

She crawled over and flopped on top of him, a soft “oof” puffing out of his lips. “Beautifully done.”
“I know.”

“Which ones are mine?” She glanced, realizing he hadn’t put tags on anything.

“I know which ones.” Is all he said before rolling her off him and standing up. “I’m getting tea.”

He left and Molly cleaned things up. She used the last bit of wrapping paper to roll up Toby and stuck a big green bow on his head, then took a picture and sent it to everyone in her contacts. Sherlock’s phone sounded-a sweet piano chime. Aw. He came back and almost dropped his tea when he saw Toby. “Oh my God, is he really just sitting there? Toby, do you need an adult?”

Toby meowed neutrally.

“We are adults, Sherlock.” Molly laughed.

“Speak for yourself.” He sat down in his chair, leaning over and patting Toby. “He’s purring.”

“He feels secure. He likes being a purrito.”

“Like those pictures you make me look at?”

“Yes.”

Sherlock looked down at Toby, who swished his tail as if to challenge him to say something. “I suppose to each their own, Tobias.”

Toby meowed agreeably and continued to sit and swish.

Sherlock began looking through emails-had only gotten one good case in the last few weeks and was desperate, but everything was just “stupid holiday well wishes”. Molly left to cover a coworker’s shift, coming back around five to an empty flat and no Toby to be found. Huh. Sherlock had evidently sorted the presents, ones marked for her, him (which she’d already wrapped) and John and Rosie by his miniature Christmas tree on the main room table. The two for the gift exchange were tossed with far less care on the chair behind the front door. She sighed; she’d known Sherlock wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the party, but she’d hoped he’d not have quite so much disdain for it. She made tea and went through some letters, tossing the especially weird or nonsensical ones in the fire and setting aside a couple promising cases and a few letters written in by kids-Sherlock always made sure to write back children, even if he wouldn’t take their case. “Someone needs to take them seriously at least once before they turn twenty-five,” he’d say. She tossed in a few love letters, taking care to shred a particularly gross one. She grabbed a lavender envelope and a waft of perfume hit her nose. It was addressed in neat cursive to “Detective Sherlock Holmes”, not unusual. But the perfume, she recognized it. And there was no return address.

She took it to the kitchen and opened it cautiously, but inside was just a Christmas card. Had a hound dog wearing a Santa hat and holding a present in his mouth with “Merry Christmas!” above it. It was heavy cardstock and a good print and the perfume was…a sign of affection. Everything said there was care put into this card, Sherlock had taught her that much. She opened it; the same exemplary script as the envelope filled the left side:

SH,

Will see you again soon. A and I had a great time.

Consider my request, please, I know it’s not your thing, it’s not mine, but it’d please me.

Thank you for my gift; this is yours. Can’t wait to see what I get for my birthday.

With love,

IA

Molly re-read the letter, disbelieving, then again, then again, and again-and she remembered the perfume, she’d smelled it on Sherlock’s coat a bit over a month ago. He asked her to drop it off to be cleaned for him after a case. She hadn’t thought anything of it-for one, it was Sherlock, for another that coat had a habit of picking up scents, she always knew when he’d visited John because it would smell vaguely of cinnamon and ash; and women had thrown themselves at him before. But this. IA. Irene Adler.

She didn’t know what she felt. Hurt-why? Why was she hurt? He had been open about Irene, who she was and what had happened between them, that she still texted. With love sort of made her blood boil but it wasn’t that-no, it was because he’d met her. Recently-that he’d given her a gift. No, it wasn’t that either. It was because he lied.

She furrowed her brow. Thank you for my gift; this is yours. The card? No. She turned it around, held it up to the light, took it to the bathroom and held it in the dark. Taking a leaf from Sherlock’s book she picked up a magnifying glass and examined every inch until she found the slightest slit in the cardstock at the top of the card. She pushed the blade of her pocketknife in there and dragged out a piece of paper. A check, written for three thousand pound. The check paper was from a Swiss bank. “What the fuck?” She said to the empty flat. Her cheek twitched. She took the letter, envelope, and check, stacked them, and then sat in her chair and watched the door.

Sherlock came in a half hour later with Toby, who was clad in booties he did not like and a cat leash Molly could never get him to wear. Sherlock saw her and smiled, and she smiled back, thin-lipped.

“Was going stir crazy so went to harass John at the surgery.” He said, unharnessing Toby, who ran to the fire with a jiggly, wide-legged walk kin to a baby giraffe. “Huh. He didn’t do that earlier. Seemed quite alright wearing them outside.”

“Mm.”

Now he seemed to become aware she was displeased and blinked. “I, uh, I left a note on the fridge?”

“Didn’t see it.” She pulled out the letter, making sure the lettered side faced him. He blanched. “Got a bit distracted.”

“You were snooping in my mail?” He had the audacity to glare at her. He was nervous, which just made Molly more displeased. She wasn’t going to say angry-not yet, not if he had a genuine explanation.

“Sit down.” She hadn’t realized how biting it came out until Sherlock immediately sat, almost on the presents by the door. She inhaled sharply and gestured to John’s chair. He moved. “Don’t try anything.”

“I never said I would.”

“You never say if you’re going to, no, that’d be stupid.” She turned and looked directly at him, holding up the letter still. “IA. Irene Adler. Yes?”

He paused. “Yes.”

She took the card and handed it to him. He glanced between her and the card before opening it. His eyes darted over the letters and then he exhaled. She next handed him the check. He looked at that, then her, trying to read her face to likely minimal avail. “You saw her. A month ago.”

His eyes widened slightly; ha, should have thought twice before you started teaching me your tricks, hm dear? “I…did.”

“You lied to me, blatantly. You said you had no contact for over a year, besides the occasional text. And now a letter with three thousand pounds comes in the mail. Understand why I’m not exactly pleased?”

He tried the puppy eyes. She glared straight into those puppy eyes. She hated to do it, actually felt like she was killing a puppy, but it worked. Sherlock sighed in defeat and leaned back in his chair, looking at the papers in his hands. “Because I…lied to you. As you said. It looks…a lot worse than I’m thinking, doesn’t it?”

“Yes. Some might presume infidelity,” he looked alarmed, “but I don’t think that. But I do want to know what’s on with this letter, and why you lied to me; you always have a reason, Sherlock, whether or not it’s a good one. And with all this money-you never accept money, not yourself. I’m…concerned.”

He went quiet a moment. A ruckus of car horns and shouting came from the window that they both ignored. He gently set the cards aside and steepled his hands. “Alright. Yes, I saw her, we met during the case in Nottingham. While…while you were at work.” He ducked his head and sighed. “I didn’t say anything because…”

“Because you don’t’ trust me?” She couldn’t stop herself from sounding hurt.

He quickly shook his head, “no, no because I, well, I thought you might not like the idea of us meeting. Or, well, John said you might not and I…listened to John.”

“John knew about this?!”

“No. He said you might not like it and told me not to go. So I went without telling him and didn’t tell you, because you might not like it.”

Molly stared at him, then dropped her head into her hands. “Sherlock, dear, you’re sort of an idiot, you know that?”

“I prefer the term “human”.”

“Ha. Alright, why did you meet?”

“She asked me to.” He said, then sighed. “Literally, only that. We’ve exchanged favors before and I figured it was a relatively small one, so I went. That’s where I met A, or Andrea. Her fiancée.”

Molly looked up at him. “Oh. Jesus, Sherlock. You know you’re allowed to have friends, right?”

“She’s not a friend.”

“She asked you over to meet her fiancée. What is she then?”

“I…don’t know. She can’t be classified in a traditional category. Oh, I don’t care. But that’s it. She invited me over to meet Andrea. As she said, we had a nice time. I finished up the case afterward and had you take my coat-a mistake on my part, evidently. The request she’s talking about is me coming to the wedding-oh, no, I suppose we are friends, aren’t we?... Can you really be friends if you’ve slept together?”

“Surprisingly enough, yes.”

“Huh.” He seemed to store that away. “Anyway. She invited me to the wedding in Switzerland. I wasn’t exactly receptive, so I guess she wants to drive the point home. And the gift was some blackmail on a politician trying to ruin her new identity; it was really repayment for a case she gave me a year ago. As I had no one I needed information on, she insisted on the money, for Rosie’s fund.”

Molly, who felt a bit ridiculous, but honestly just as well justified, sighed. “Ah. Well, that certainly clears it up.” She stood and took the booties off Toby, who rejoiced by frolicking about like a kitten. “I understand we all have our secrets, Sherlock, and, and I don’t expect to be privy to every little tiny detail of everything ever, but don’t lie to my face, please. If it’s for my, my safety or something, tell me so. But hiding and lying about things we’ve already discussed is…it’s stupid. It’s really stupid.”

“Right.” He hung up his coat, smirking a little. “Though, to be fair, John was right; you were quite angry when you found out.”

She smiled just slightly, rolled her eyes, and whacked him in the back of the head with the paper. “Shut up, dork.”

Chapter Text

Rosie tackled Sherlock’s leg with every ounce of her 40 odd pounds and clung on, grinning. “Merry Christmas, Uncle Sherlock!”

Sherlock swayed and braced himself just in time to avoid smashing into Molly and dropping all the presents-which he was carrying in a huge tower while Molly just had her purse, for some reason. “Yes, yes Merry Christmas Rosamund, now can we not-“ he stepped forward and tried to shake her, gently, but she didn’t let go and he found himself walking lopsidedly to the dining table, where he set everything down. Just as he was about to snatch Rosie the little weasel tumbled under the table and out of reach.

“Those gymnastic classes are going well, huh John?” Lestrade said from where he leaned on the wall.

“Oh yeah, keeping us all in shape.” John nodded to Sherlock and Molly with an impish grin. The bastard knew Sherlock had already busted his knee chasing after the tumbling toddler. Well, perhaps he’d teach Toby to piss on his jumpers.

“I remember when my son was in that, had to stop it after he flung himself into a window on one of the swingy things,” Lestrade held his two hands apart and made circles.

“You mean the uneven bars, Greg.” Sherlock had to dig down for his name. He’d not been allowed to forget it thanks to a certain Molly Hooper. Bloody Molly Hooper, off chatting with Mrs. Hudson about her hip in a red dress with a collar and hem of faux fur, like some sort of younger, attractive Mrs. Clause. He’d almost made a “ho, ho, ho” joke but she’d found out he’d been lying about other things besides Irene; nonconsequential, mostly; he’d had a few more cigarettes than he’d professed in the holiday season, been meeting with his sister when he said he was on cases-thanks so much for that one, Mycroft. I’m holding that Tiffany hostage until March. So she was quite peeved with him, though she acted otherwise in company.

“Those things, yeah.” Greg nodded, sipping a beer. Sherlock had water. “Do you never drink, Sherlock?”

“If you see me drinking, Greg, something has gone terribly wrong.”

 A woman walked in then, tallish and dark-haired, wearing too much lipstick but in an appropriate shade. She smiled at Sherlock and held out a hand to shake. “Hello! I’m-“

“Martha Lestrade. I thought you left him?” Sherlock shook her hand while she gave the same wide-eyed look most people did when meeting him.

“We…worked it out.” She said, looking toward Lestrade. Oh, he’s just as confused as you, good luck.

“Mm.” They hadn’t, but this was a solid attempt. Two young boys, evidently Lestrade’s, were running around with Rosie. Sherlock felt a bit put off; Rosie was usually preoccupied with getting him to play her little games. Humph. Well, John had a piano he could play. John couldn’t play anything besides hot cross buns, but he kept it tuned for Mary’s memory-though they never mentioned that part. Sherlock left the presents and a very befuddled Martha Lestrade for the instrument and preoccupied himself with some light Christmas carols. He would have vastly preferred his violin, but someone’s cat had decided to break the strings just before leaving for the party and being already late Sherlock hadn’t been allowed to fix it. Hmph. Maybe he should play something so overly dramatic and theme-breaking that it took attention away from anything else and embarrassed Molly in the process.

Mmm, no. He hadn’t liked the idea of dying by the hand of a serial killer, and he liked even less the idea of dying by girlfriend. Fine, instead of full songs he’d just stop playing. But then Mrs. Hudson looked sad, and he had to be nice on, well it wasn’t Christmas but he’d be gone then, so it counted. In this way Sherlock was roped into playing the piano for about twenty minutes. It would have only been ten, but Rosie and the boys wanted to watch the hammers and their expressions were just too amusing to stop until they got hungry and left.

He went to the kitchen and leaned against the counter, soon joined by John in one of his Christmas jumpers that only got uglier every year. Molly walked by them with Maxine, both women carrying beers and chatting. She glanced at Sherlock but let Missy pull her back into whatever inane conversation they were having. John raised a brow. “You two quarrel?”

“A bit.” Sherlock sort of wanted alcohol right then, but knowing John the only good thing he had was brandy, and brandy happened to make Sherlock more of prig than usual even in small quantities. Opium would have been lovely. “Irene.”

“Told you not to go.”

“She didn’t care that I saw her, you idiot, she cared that I lied about it.” He huffed, propping his head up with his hand. “I’ve also been lying about cigarettes and Eurus, and she found it all out yesterday.”

John winced slightly. “Oh. Bad move.”

“Shut up, you’re the one that gave me advice.”

“I told you not to see her, not to lie about it.” He sipped his beer. “Besides, you didn’t think lying would make issues? I mean, half your cases happen because someone lied to their husband, wife, partner, ex-etera.”

Sherlock slipped more and more until his chin was on the counter. The house was warm and the lights dim and orangish, faint Christmas carols from the radio mixing with idle chatter completing the idyllic Christmastime atmosphere he vaguely remembered from early childhood. Rosie was whacking one of the boys with a foam sword mercilessly. He hoped she’d be able to remember things like this rather than 243 types of tobacco ash, no matter how useful it was. “They were minor. I didn’t think I’d face consequences for my actions.”

“Exactly what destroys every Tom, Dick and Harry we chase around London.” John pointed at him with his beer bottle, an annoyingly appropriate gesture considering John was right and Sherlock hated it. He would have dug himself a deeper hole out of spite if it wasn’t for a sudden, four-legged weight landing on his lower back and walking up his spine. He stood up and a tuxedo cat leaped from his shoulder to the counter and promptly began sniffing the salt shaker.

“Hello?”

The cat didn’t respond. John reached out hesitantly and touched it and then pulled back immediately. “What the hell?”

“You got a cat?”

“No. No I…don’t have a cat.”

The feline stretched and flopped onto its side, tail swishing casually while it stared at John with great yellow orbs. Sherlock knew this possessive pose well from Toby. “Seems you do now.”

John took out another beer and popped off the cap. “I suppose.”

Dinner was various snack foods of little substance but easily abused (read: eaten in massive quantities unintentionally until one becomes ill, but continues eating because for some reason they’re just really good? Maybe it’s the eggnog) and then a little exchanging of gifts. Sherlock had never minded this gift exchange as it was small and between people he actually cared to remember the names of, except for Milly. He’d never care to remember her name.

Mrs. Hudson gave everyone sweaters, which would have been awful if she hadn’t let Molly shop for Sherlock’s, which was ridiculously warm and looked fantastic on him. She was quite excited about the cheese sampling box “from Rosie” and the copious amounts of wine from everyone else (and the weed from Sherlock, but he packaged it as chocolates). The children all got a present and a bag of goodies and proceeded to eat too many sweets and cause a ruckus that all the adults watched only enough to make sure no one died. Sherlock knew John was going to be pleased with the woodworking book but it was still quite satisfying to see the grin on his face when he opened it, and he figured Molly was quite a bit less peeved at him when her eyes lit up at the sight of her book series. They surprised him with a new dining table (that they’d put together themselves) that flipped so one side was wood and the other was tile, for his experiments. He would have been lying if he said he wasn’t impressed and, quite frankly, touched. 

Whatever the Lestrade’s brought was not massively impressive, but he was polite. They left not long after with the boys and Rosie curled up on the couch while John went off to do some…John thing. Sherlock never really knew what he did when he disappeared, only that he eventually returned. He breathed deeply and glanced at Molly, who glanced at him, and then he turned to the side, reaching into the inside pocket of his coat. “I’ve…got something silly for you.”

“Oh?” He heard rustling. “Funny, I’ve got you something rather silly too.”

They both turned at the same time, Molly holding a box and Sherlock holding a well-wrapped lump. They shared a look before passing the presents between each other. They hadn’t been cross with one another like this in quite a while and Sherlock realized it wasn’t just an unpleasant feeling, but a weird one. He couldn’t recall getting along with someone for such long uninterrupted periods as he had with Molly. Even John and he bickered more than they did. Huh. He looked at the box, shook it and sniffed it. “Hm. Pajama pants.”

She smiled some and held up her lump. “A new coat.”

He snorted and tore off the wrapping paper, then used Molly’s pocket knife to slice open the tape on the box and looked inside.

He stopped.

He reached in and slowly pulled out a warm maroon llama. Molly unwrapped the dark blue one he’d bought at the shop. They locked eyes.

“You-“ Molly started.

“How did you-?” Sherlock wondered, pulling the llama to his chest, kneading the impossibly soft fur and putting his nose to the fur and inhaling deeply; she’d sprayed it with her perfume. She sniffed hers, he’d done the same. They both stared at each other in bewilderment before cracking into gigantic grins.

John returned in time to see them break apart from a kiss, clutching ludicrously soft llamas to their chests. Rosie smiled quietly from the couch. Uncle Sherlock had his Auntie face on.

Chapter Text

This was it. December 24th. The day Sherlock was going to meet her family.

Molly felt like she was going to vomit. The party was at her mother’s house in the little village she’d grown up in an hour and half from London. Sherlock was driving again, and again he was looking too cool for his own good, but this time Molly spent quite a bit of her time staring out the window. Silence was never unusual between them and rarely uncomfortable, but right now she couldn’t stand it. As they got closer the nerves rose higher in her throat and she sat up, looking at him. “Alright, quiz time.”

“Ugh, have you no faith in me?” She could mentally see his eyes roll under his sunglasses-why the hell was he wearing those? There hadn’t been sun since they’d gone to his parent’s house.

“You tend to delete things without realizing it.”

He inhaled. “Alright.

“Mother.”

“Pauline.”

“Brothers?”

“In order by birth Daniel, Paul and Chris. Spouses in order are Carson, Sharon and Susan. Smattering of children therein that I can organize upon meeting.”

Molly felt a rush of reassurance wash over her and patted his leg. “Quite.”

“Do I get a treat for being a good boy?”

“Ha.” She lightly whacked his cheek where that little smirk lay and took his hand that was resting on the console. Maybe, she thought to herself.

Her childhood home sat an awkward few meters away from the collection of houses that made up the rest of the village. Her dad had built it on an equally awkward piece of land he inherited from his grandfather before she was born, larger than average but not anything like the Holmes estate. Sherlock got out of the car and Molly would be lying if she didn’t sense a little trepidation in his movements. Such a thing was so minute no one else ever did, except John, but Sherlock moved so surely of himself, like he knew the ocean would split for him, that when there was even the tiniest hesitations that would be considered normal with anyone else it became quite noticeable. Of course, neither she nor John had ever said this, God forbid they lose an upper hand.

She opened the door and led him in. Unlike his house there was no hallway into the kitchen or living room; the floor was all of these things with enough separation to indicate which was which but not anything to provide Sherlock with a shield. He was suddenly and absolutely thrust into a room of a couple dozen people scattered through chairs and sometimes the floor, meandering and talking and several children playing and it startled him. Molly sort of felt bad, but he smoothed himself over just in time for the familial chaos to notice their presence.

“Molly!” Shouted David cheerfully, followed by a wave of voices from the rest of the family, several of whom came up to greet her. Now she felt bad, not because of Sherlock but because she’d not come up in so long and realized she’d missed everyone. In the flood of brothers and in-laws and nieces and nephews Sherlock was forgotten a moment, but soon as all was said to Molly several dozen pairs of eyes sat on him at once. “This the lad, then?” David said, narrowing his eyes at him.

“Yes, David, this is my boyfriend.”

“Mmm.”

She rolled her eyes and turned to Sherlock, whose wide eyes and raised eyebrows indicated he had not entirely prepared himself for the Hooper family. She put a protective hand on his arm and felt him relax just slightly. “Everyone, this is Sherlock! Sherlock, this is, well, everyone!”

The whole clan gave a smattering of hellos, followed by cousins and in-laws introducing themselves and shaking hands, at some point one slipped a glass of champagne in his hand. He smiled politely and somehow avoided a Hooper Hug before all that was left were her brothers, who had sort of been lost in the greetings.

“You’re the detective bloke?” Christ asked as everyone tapered off and the party resumed its natural flow.

“Consulting detective.” Sherlock responded. He held his shoulders so they looked relaxed but in reality, they were tense enough to bounce a stone off of. “You’re Chris.”

Chris raised an eyebrow. All her brothers were rather stout and a bit short, Christ most of all. Molly frequently compared him to a tower of Duplos blocks. “I am. Did you just do that deduction thing?”

“I always am.” Sherlock responded, then nodded to the last few that were standing. “And that’s David and Paul. I can pick out which who’s children are who’s and your spouses as well.”

“Prove it.”

While Sherlock performed his parlor trick Molly’s mum appeared from around a corner and hurried over; she was small and stout as the rest of the family with wildly colored glasses on a chain around her neck. Molly couldn’t have been happier to see her and hug her, caught up in the how-are-yous, I-missed-yous and you’re-looking-wells having a little chat. Then her mother saw Sherlock and raised her eyebrows, whispering. “So that’s him? My, he is a cutie.”

Molly blushed some. “He is.”

The boys had began throwing questions at Sherlock, which he answered immediately and truthfully. Somehow this didn't result in an argument or disapproving glare. “Seems he’s taking your brothers harassment well.”

At that moment Sherlock was suddenly attacked by the evil horde-otherwise known as any children under ten in and out of the family. He caught himself on the wall and then, before anything else could happen, pulled a chocolate bar out of his pocket and chucked it across the room, dispersing the horde and impressing her brothers all in one. “Oh, smart and resourceful.”

“Don’t tell him that.”

“Why not?”

“It just goes to his head.”

Her mother looked amused and went over to Sherlock, introducing herself, giving him a signature Pauline Hooper hug-heh, no escaping at least one Hooper Hug, sweetheart- that very nearly suffocated him and then said, “I liked that little trick. You seem smart.”

“Oh, Pauline, didn’t Molly just tell you to refrain from saying that? Look, my heads inflated even more than usual.”

Her mother laughed. Molly smiled at him. “Oh my, a kidder! Come on love, meet the family and have some cider!” She smiled and slid a glass of cider in his hand, gave him a little direction to where the food was and then went to play hostess, though Molly knew she had a keen ear on the conversation from just about anywhere. Sherlock sniffed the cider and made a face and did the same with the champagne before handing both to Molly, who was quite happy with such.

“Neither your type?” Chris asked.

“I don’t really drink.”

“Why the hell not?” Chris said, glancing at his glass of cider like he couldn’t imagine.

“I don’t enjoy being inhibited. And most of it tastes like lighter fluid.”

“How do you know what lighter fluid tastes like?” David snorted.

“Because I tasted it?” Sherlock said this like it was a perfectly reasonable thing to have done. Her brothers stared at him a moment, then at each other.

David looked at Molly. “Found a nutter, have ye?”

She nodded. Sherlock also nodded. They ended up sitting at the dining table with her brothers, the conversation carrying. “So, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done for a case?” Paul said.

Sherlock paused, rubbing his mug with his thumb. “I faked my death for two years,” Chris choked on his cider, “presume  you’ve heard.”

“n-no?” Chris wiped his mouth. “The fuck?”

“I helped.” Molly chimed.

“She did.”

Chris stared. Molly was amazed how well it was going so far.  “Uh.”

Sherlock leapt at the opportunity, “there was this man, Moriarty…”

Chapter Text

Sherlock decided he really wasn’t fond of Chris. A borderline alcoholic who developed a Napoleon complex as soon as Sherlock walked into the room, he obnoxiously hedged a glass of cider toward Sherlock as he told the story of Moriarty’s brilliance and asked asinine questions that Sherlock would usually berate but, hyper-aware of the minefield he was sitting in, managed to bite his tongue, both literally and metaphorically. He didn’t mean to bite it literally, but he got smacked in the face mid-sentence by a foam basketball. He moved his jaw around as the familiar coppery taste of blood graced his mouth and Molly and her brothers all simultaneously scolded whatever child had committed the crime.  The guilty party, a seven-year-old girl who was a Hooper, judging by the red hair, trotted up sheepishly. “Sorry, sir.”

“Sherlock.” He tossed her the ball. “You’ve got terrible aim, but a good arm. Unless you meant to hit me, then your aim is still good, but you need to work on assessing gains versus losses.” The little girl cocked her head at him curiously, glanced at Chris, then thanked him and ran back into the crowd of children. “Hm, yours. Lucy, yes?”

Chris furrowed his brow. “How the bloody hell did you guess her name?”

“She’s wearing a bracelet with her name on it.”

“Oh.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes and sipped his hot chocolate, wishing it was some inebriating substance. It would soothe the nerves and relax the tongue, except if his tongue relaxed he had an 84 percent chance of saying something that would end the relationship it’d taken him a year to just start understanding in the matter of an hour. Some older woman started playing the piano. “Mm. Mozart.”

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Music fan are you, Sherlock?”

“I play the violin.”

Chris snorted. “Oh, now he plays the violin, too? Next, you’ll say you’re a master of kung fu or something.”

“I don’t lean any which way, but hand to hand combat, in general, is something I excel at. And gunmanship.”

Chris glared. “Jesus. What are you not good at?”

Sherlock thought. “Human interaction. Though I am better than my brother.”

“Oh, you’ve got a brother?” Paul, who Sherlock had forgotten was there, asked. 

“Yes. Works with the government.”

Chris snorted, again. “Let me guess, he’s a genius, too.”

“Yes.”

“Fuck me,” Chris muttered.

Sherlock shrugged. Molly gently squeezed his knee under the table. It reminded him to breathe. She leaned into him, head on his shoulder. He briefly forgot to breathe again and had a sudden and somewhat odd craving for as much physical contact as possible that was very, very hard to ignore. Was this a result of that oh-so-loathed frazzled feeling? Further analysis needed later. “We’re the smartest people in the world.”

“Bullshite!” Chris snapped.

“True!” Molly near-shouted back. “There’s no one in the world smarter than Sherlock and his brother.”

“Well, one. Our sister is far smarter than both of us.”

“Oh, sister too? She work with the government as well?” said Paul.

“Oh, no, she’s criminally insane. Killed my best friend when we were children.”

WHAT THE FUCK.

He’d heard more noise in the morgue at midnight than there was at that table in that very moment. People who were milling around and had been obviously listening in on the new boyfriend’s casual interrogation became statue-like, holding their breath in that terrible awful beat that followed. Molly’s hand was gripping his knee painfully, but outwardly she easily sat up and gave him a stern look. “Sherlock, I said not to mess with them until next Christmas. Your shite gallows humor is for the Yard.”

TheIdeaofGodblessyouMollyHooper. “Oh, but I live for the shock value.”

“You’ve known them an hour.”

“56 minutes.”

“57.”

“Can we come to an agreement at 56.5?” The tension began to melt as everyone realized Sherlock was just very, very weird and socially incompetent and totally not the harborer of some seeeeeerious baggage. “56.7 in exchange for 1 more out of bounds joke allowance.”

“You’ve already got a deficit, 56.7 will just bring you out of the red.”

What was he forgetting to do? Oh right, breathe. He sniffed in an exaggerated fashion to hide it. “Fine.”

She patted his cheek. The brothers seemed placated. Except for Chris, who seemed drunk. He stood up and started stumbling, conveniently pulling Paul and Daniel away. Sherlock hadn’t realized he’d been white knuckling the hot cocoa mug until Molly gently pried his fingers off the handle and pulled his arm below the table. He squeezed her hand, clenching and unclenching like a stress ball. He took long, slow (and hopefully quiet) breathes through his teeth; tense as a suspension cable, he felt he might snap at any moment. That was close. So close. Molly wrapped his hand in hers and leaned in, concern lilting at the ends of her words, “you going to be alright, honey?”

Honey. That’s a new one. “Y-yes.” God, stuttering? This was ridiculous. He took a deep breath and exhaled. His hand was shaking. Molly said nothing and held it. “I…I don’t know why I said that.”

“Sometimes we just say things.”

“Not me.”

“Yes you.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Have you ever listened to yourself during a tangent?”

“No. But I don’t just say things. I filter the optimal sentence and-“

“Sherlock.” She put her index finger on the side of his chin and turned him toward her, smiling. He could see just a hint of worry at the corners of her mouth. Funny. He usually wasn’t so good at reading things like that. “You’re human, remember? We’re human. Especially when were…out of our element.”

1, 2, 3 breathe, 1, 2, 3, breathe. He nodded a bit. Comforted. A lovely feeling. Much better than frazzled. “I’ll just insert my foot immediately upon opening my mouth for the next two hours.”

She laughed and kissed him, and he really, really wished she’d keep on doing it, damned be the audience. He was allowed a small respite from social interaction before some relative or friend or something appeared and sat down. Thankfully they engaged Molly more and he was able to listen in and gather information and try and stop his shoulders cracking from tension. Someone tried to make him wear a holiday sweater and a child nearly got antlers on his head before he managed to distract them with a marshmallow, and he was so exhausted of listening to Great Aunt Gilda recite Bible passages about the sins of premarital sex and eating shellfish that he was actually pleased with the announcement of the gift exchange.

Molly beamed and pulled him behind her. All this, it’s worth it, he realized, to see her like this.

They all stood in a circle, each having grabbed a random present (or not so random, as Sherlock had deducted several of the packages contents. His had Keurig cups. Neither he nor Molly owned a Keurig.  Pauline was outside the circle with a piece of paper and her glasses sat on her nose, beaming. “Alright everybody, lets get this going! Sherlock dear, since this is your first time we’ll start a little slower for the first few lines, alright?”

God, simple minds.  “Oh, thank you, Pauline. Quite nice of you.”

She smiled and nodded, quite obviously, at Molly. Approval? “So, we read a story, a different one every year. Whenever a say left or right, that’s the way you pass the present.” Sherlock nodded and the game began with the story of “Mr and Mrs. Right and Mr and Mrs. Left.” As she said, they passed the present whichever way each time she said it. This needed an adjustment period? I scoff at your adjustment period.

Turned out the reason there was an adjustment period was because the Hooper clan were insane. Pauline did not give the impression, but she could have spoken at an auction house. The presents were flying left, right, left, left, left, right, right, left and right again so fast his eyes crossed. He tossed whatever present landed in his hand, colorful wrapping became a blur. Boxes almost tumbled to the ground and at one point he somehow had two presents, while no one else was absent one, and then suddenly that present disappeared into the void a few lefts later. Molly was absolutely unphased by any of it, though he could tell from the cheeky little smile she was enjoying watching him try and keep up.

By the end, he held a sizeable box poorly wrapped in paper with pandas wearing Santa hats. Molly got a teacup with a chip in the rim and a face on it. She said it was from a movie, Sherlock wasn’t sure if she was being serious or making the gift giver feel better. He pulled off the wrapping paper to find…more…wrapping paper? He peeled off another layer and there was, again, more wrapping paper. He kept going. He reached newspaper. He set it on the dining room table, feeling the eyes of the extended family upon him. He pulled away newspaper, and again more, and more, and more, and more…

Molly giggled. “Who did this?”

No one confessed.

More. And more, more, more, more. He shook it, but there was no sound. That meant whatever was in there was small…and he’d have…to go through…it…all…

My. God.

He kept peeling until he got bored and found a very large knife in the kitchen. Unsettling to the family, but efficient. He still had to slice relatively carefully to avoid cutting whatever was in this block of wasted paper, muttering to himself, before finally finding a small cardboard box that fit in his palm. He opened it up and found-

“Stickers?” At that point, he’d guessed cotton balls. But no, to the brim the box was stuffed with stickers. He dug through as the people around him chattered. He listened, but couldn’t distinguish any incriminating dialogue. Stars, cookies, dogs and cats, cupcakes and cartoons. There was quite a variety of images, some of the jelly variety, others fuzzy, some scented or squishy. He grabbed a scented watermelon sticker and stuck it on the back of Molly’s hand. While she happily sniffed, he found an iridescent, rainbow-colored cat and stuck it on her forehead, much to everyone’s amusement. The evil horde began to congregate around him. Lucy tugged his sleeve. “Yes?”

“Can I have a sticker?”

Sherlock looked from her and then to the rest of the children. “You can have two if you let me choose one.”

“Okay!”

Sherlock lowered the box to her level and let her choose, then allowed the other children with the same stipulations. Then he proceeded to deduct what he thought was an optimal sticker in his selection per child and stuck it somewhere on their face – a golden retriever on Lucy’s forehead, a blueberry on James’s nose, a duckling for Emma’s chin. He had the lot of them in giggles and would be lying if he said he wasn’t enjoying himself for the first time that evening. Lucy grabbed a broccoli sticker and put it on Sherlock’s cheek, quickly followed by a fish, a star, an American flag and the old USSR flag (huh) After this surprise attack the children gleefully ran away and Sherlock was left to stand and look at Molly, who began snort laughing immediately.

Sherlock stuck a fuzzy cartoon pig on her cheek in retaliation. The adults soon came over, all tentatively asking and then gleefully taking stickers with them. After everyone had gotten theirs he curiously dug into the bottom and found some decidedly mature stickers. He was glad the children hadn’t found them. Then a thought hit him. “Hey, Chris.”

Chris walked over with his wife, a cartoon pony on his neck. “Yeah?”

“Found just the sticker for you.”

“…Yeah?”

Sherlock smiled and slapped a big black dick onto the middle of his forehead. Chris turned to his wife, who very nearly collapsed at the sight, wheezing. Molly cackled. He turned to the rest of the room, who were looking to see what all the fuss was about, the laughter following enough to shake the house. Chris took out his phone and turned the camera on himself. “Oh my god! You dickhead!”

Sherlock carefully closed his box of stickers and handed it to Molly. “Currently I think that’s a more fitting title for yourself, wouldn’t you agree?”

Chris lunged for him but Sherlock ducked just in time and proceeded to fling open a window and leap out, tucking and rolling into the snow and then running as Chris tried his damndest to haul his half-drunk arse after him. He ran till he was on a hill and looked back, seeing his exit window closed. He exhaled, shivering, but felt himself grinning. He couldn’t believe it, but that had been…fun. He was absolutely exhausted, overstimulated being an understatement. But he hadn’t ruined it. Even sticking a giant dick sticker on his least favorite…in law? Whatever, had gotten a favorable reaction. He was rather chuffed, all things considered. He laughed, inhaling the freezing cold that filled his lungs like spearmint. God, he did alright. It was all okay.

He was going to be okay.

They…they would be okay.

Chapter Text

Molly took the door out rather than the window, Sherlock’s coat over her arm. He wasn’t hard to spot, standing on the hill in his suit jacket like an idiot. The tear lines down her face from laughing so hard almost stung in the cold. She walked up behind him and reached up, draping the coat over his shoulders. He turned his head and smiled at her, framed handsomely in the moonlight, and pulled his arms through. “Thank you.”

She watched him take out a cigarette and pause. She nodded. He then produced a lighter and lit it. She wrapped her arms around his and leaned into his side, looking up at the stars mixed with a trail of smoke. “That was brilliant, Sherlock.”

“I know.”

She rolled her eyes. A little bit of arrogance was reassuring right now. “Really,” she entwined her hand with his, “you did so well. They love you.”

A quiet moment, a pulse of light as he inhaled on the cigarette. “Thank you,” he said softly. She smiled, pulled up his hand and kissed it. She’d really been impressed. Nervous for a while after the whole insane-sister bit, but that was the only thing. Even that, with time, wouldn’t have to be a secret with the Hooper’s if he didn’t want it to be. “Mum’s making you a quilt.”

“Whatever for?”

“She does that if she likes you.”

“What if we break up?”

“She said if we do she still will like you.”

He actually seemed flattered and laughed a little. “Well, alright then. Have to say she’s the sanest of the bunch, and she’s crazy.”

Molly beamed. “That’s Mum. So you...what did you think of...it all?”

He inhaled deeply, held it a moment, then exhaled through his nose, the remaining smoke pouring out as he talked. “Well. Your mother’s too physically affectionate, your great aunt is unbearable, Chris is a dickhead-heh-though your other brother's are alright, and the other assorted attendees were a mixture of obnoxious and un-notable. The children were the best part of the whole affair, and I haven’t felt like I could take a full breath for the last three hours. How often will I have to do this again?”

Molly paused, processing what he said. “About three times a year. Christmas, Easter and usually a holiday in the summer.”

“Ah, well it’s a good thing I love you.”

Molly’s brain stopped. “What?”

He dramatically flicked his cigarette into the snow and turned fully, cupping her cheeks in his ice cold hands. “I meant everything I said, but I also mean it when I say that I’ve never been more comfortable-or rather less un-comfortable-in a room of strangers than I have tonight. I didn’t feel out of place, and that is a very, very strange feeling for me. I…The whole concept of your family is ridiculously foreign to me, Molly, but I’ve every intention of coming to understand it.”

Molly couldn’t think and couldn’t half breathe. The last time-the last time Sherlock had said that, it’d been because he was trying to save her life. She’d said it back because she’d wanted, so desperately, to start a new part of hers. She had no idea how either had gone so long without saying it, but she realized this was really it.

The start.

She leaned up and kissed him, deeply and sweetly, sort of kiss where it really, really meant something, even if nobody ever knew exactly what. She pulled back, gasping, and leaned her forehead against his.

“I love you too, Sherlock Holmes.”