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Infinite Sundays

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Slow down you crazy child

You're so ambitious for a juvenile

But then if you're so smart tell me why -

Are you still so afraid?

 

- Vienna by Billy Joel

 

**

 

"Quite honestly - everyone knows I'm not big on words really, as Sherlock reminds me daily when reading my blog…" John paused, raising briefly his brows at his friend.

"It's difficult not to say anything when it's about me John,"Sherlock said to the laughter of everyone in the room. "Do you really need to advertise about the blog at my wedding?"

The best man turned his head to the laughing guests; glass still in hand and his gaze set on them with a light shrug of his shoulders. "Anyway…some days ago we had a rehearsal dinner and someone told me that Sherlock and Molly didn't actually meet in 2010 like I thought, like – anyone - really thought, except maybe Mike Stamford apparently." One man with glasses perched on the edge of his nose laughed, and the others sat round the man's table eyed him knowingly.

"So I thought I'd share a bit, since the press is always keen on knowing what really made me and Sherlock break up in the end." The laughter was larger than ever in the room, even the groom was chuckling, his curls drifting down his forehead as he clung to the slimmer hand at his side. "Joking aside…we all know it took them a long way round to get where they are today, and I think, it's just the way it should be…especially since Sherlock's so thick sometimes."

 


 

Some people are slow dancing, except John Watson who's of course already been lured enough onto the impromptu dance floor in the empty posh restaurant (courtesy Mycroft Holmes who apparently wasn't going to be involved, yet had somehow planned half of the wedding) by his wife Mary. The pair of them soon settling down by the long table as they watched in amusement their daughter Rosy chasing Lycan who was crawling underneath tables causing cutlery to jump.

"Rosy! Be careful-," Mary cried out, and was rewarded with her daughter moving cat-like and slow towards the table. "Oh – they'll be alright-," though her bright smile dropped at the music. "Whose fault is it that we're just listening to Billy Joel?"

Suddenly Greg Lestrade appeared by the table, silver hair unkempt, and tie loose. "What's wrong with Billy Joel?" he said, a whine in his voice and the glass of scotch wobbling in his hand.

"I think you found the culprit," said John in a low voice.

"You can't go to a wedding and not expect to hear Billy Joel," continued Greg pointedly, contents sloshing out of his glass.

"It's making Molly cry," said Mary with a jerk of her head to the bride-to-be who was looking rather weepy-eyed, John had to agree, though Sherlock stood besides her seemed rather amused by her show of emotion.

"He'd make anyone cry – honestly-," and then the detective inspector wandered off, and Billy Joel kept on playing.

John was halfway out of his seat (during Piano Man) when he said, "I'll sort of him out, shall I? I think he's only emotional because it's Sherlock – nobody expected him to ever want to get married."

"Really?" said Mary, causing him to blink in return. "I thought it was obvious, especially with the baby already there and all."

"You know how they were acting about that – 'oh we're just going to have this platonic baby together'. Nobody has a platonic baby together," he said finally on his feet.

"John – they didn't phrase it like that," said Mary crinkling her nose.

"Sherlock did!"

"Well – obviously – he had a thing for her first. Nobody says platonic, especially if they mean it."

"What? No – he didn't. Molly fancied Sherlock first-,"

"Are you sure?" she said slowly, soon picking up a forgotten drink from the table and looking at him with that face of hers.

"I hate it when you do that," he said shaking his head with a laugh.

"Do what?" she said innocently.

"Make that face…like you know something."

"I do – know something."

John groaned.

 


 

A table had been overturned causing quite a disturbance, though none of the things had been broken, but John had to leave his wife to sort it out, not managing to keep the bemusement off his face when Sherlock had a turn with his own son, looking effortlessly like a dad. However, when John finally did return to his wife, he found their daughter preoccupied with touching her own curls and dainty little gloves (she'd begged to be allowed to wear her gown because she wanted to rehearse the moment – "It's a rehearsal dinner, isn't it daddy?") He couldn't help himself though; especially when Mary kept sending him annoying looks over the top of their daughter's head.

"So what do you know?" he finally said, leaning his elbow against the table casually, trying to give the air that he really didn't care.

"Know what daddy?" said Rosy immediately, now bouncing up and down her mother's lap. "What's mummy supposed to know?"

"Sweetie, can't you go and play with Lycan for a minute?" said Mary in a very bright and sweet voice, which caused their daughter to look up at her suspiciously. "Carefully… that is though."

"You don't really mean a minute, do you?" she said looking slightly putout, though she quickly slipped off Mary's lap and sprang off to slowly chase after Lycan again. The second it was only John and his wife, he cleared his throat and waited hopefully for her to begin.

"I'm honestly surprised if you of all people don't know-," drawled Mary, her lips tilting upwards.

"Mary-," he said with a sigh. "Just tell me."

"You should be asking them, but okay – so…you know when they first met then?" she said with a wide grin, eyeing Sherlock and Molly in the distance, the latter was joining in on the chase with the kids.

"Yeah, 2010?"

"No, 1994?"

"What?"

"Uni…? Really? Sherlock didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"Molly and him used to be flatmates?"

"WHAT?"

 


 

She feels like cringing at the slow dawning realization in her husband's face. The wrinkles in his forehead contracting and separating, his eyes widening and half-bulging out, while he stares at her silently gaping. Maybe she shouldn't have told him, but she didn't peg it as a secret, especially since Molly had brought it up after she'd slapped the hell out of Sherlock years back. It just seemed like common knowledge really, and she hadn't really seen the point of bringing it up to John, especially since he and Sherlock were spending their time panicking about Moriarty (she was however, panicking about labour during that time – "WHERE THE HELL IS MY HUSBAND?" "Saving the world I'm afraid." "PISS OFF MYCROFT.").

"No – no – no – he's never – they've – what? What do you mean they've lived together?" said John, finger jabbed up in the air, eyebrows high, and that 'clearly this is a joke grin' on his face to her chagrin. "He didn't – how could they – are you serious? Mike!" She does cringe when Mike Stamford suddenly appears by help of Greg, looking like a deer in headlights, hands in his pockets and the other wrapped around a drink.

"What's going on then?" he says in his usual cheerful way.

"Did you know that Sherlock and Molly lived together?" said John, grin of disbelief still in place, face turning from Mike to her rapidly.

"Yeah?" said Mike without missing a beat.

"Oh my God-," the gape is in place.

"Sorry about him Mike – Sherlock's going on a honeymoon – and John's not coping well on the idea-," said Mary hardly managing to keep herself from laughing, as her husband looked partly deranged.

"Why the hell has nobody told me?"

"It wasn't something either of them wanted to talk about," said Mike with a shrug that made John glare at him, though he looked unaffected by it. "Took them years before they even managed to talk about it casually really."

"And they just happened to tell you?" snapped John clearly upset to not know this very telling detail about his best friend.

"I used to come in at their school as a substitute teacher, just when I started out that is-,"

"Jesus!" said John leaping of his chair. "Sherlock! Sherlock!"

Another voice drawled as John stormed off, "I think its separation anxiety obviously," said Mycroft smirking.

Both Mary and Mike laughed.


 

1994, September

 

"Okay…you'll be alright – you'll just kip in at Meena's or live in the hallways or maybe even… the street," she said under her breath, pulling at her hoodies sleeves to cover her rather cold hands. Another round at the school hadn't helped. "Sorry there are zero vacancies at the moment, though you should check the bulletin." She'd been through the lot - houses, flats and even a dodgy sort of man who had no door on the bathroom, which did cause her to more or less run out of the flat, Meena in tow, as she'd found the listing - "Fucking suspicious – can't be taller than 5 feet and five inches? What the hell?"

Anyway she'd tried her best, but there wasn't anything in her price range. Neither did she feel compelled to ask her mum who really couldn't afford it either. Sighing she was about to just take up Meena on her rather promising settee offer when she bumped into someone hard, all hard edges –

"Excuse me-," said a deep voice and a shock of dark curls when she regained herself a bit, staring up at some pale tall bloke. He gave her a brief look of disinterest while she mumbled her apology to the air, and she was about to walk off when she noticed he was hanging up another listing.

Molly stopped in her step, running a hand through her hair, as she looked hopefully at his sign – 'Flat share. Male Only', there was a name, number and address at the bottom, but not much else on the paper. Male only? It was 1994. Men and women could share just fine. Not according to her mum, but that was another story.

"Umm, male only?" she said with a wry grin. "Don't like girls?" It came to desperate measures…. She wasn't keen on flirting with a complete stranger, but she was utterly desperate on having her own place.

"They're distracting," he said with his eyes narrowed at her suspiciously, as if she were about to hit him.

"They're? Umm – I'm a girl?" she said blinking up at him.

Suddenly his blue green eyes drifted from top to bottom and she felt rather exposed by the way his eyes darted over her.

"You'd do fine," he said after a minute.

"Sorry?" she said blanching.

"I don't find you attractive-," he said with furrowed brows. "And since you obviously haven't got student accommodations and are in desperate need of a flat – I'd be willing to share it with you – of course – if you don't fall in love with me that is. Would make it very boring if you did."

A moment of silence hung over them, and she didn't know what to say about that, completely thrown off by this utterly strange bloke.

"Oh – wow," she said with wide eyes. "I've got to…go."


"And that's how we met," said Molly giggling slightly; as John stared at the soon-to-be married couple in confusion. He shouldn't really be surprised, since Molly always seemed to manage to lure out secrets from Sherlock, besides make the man apologise, so, obviously it took some practise.

"She was also wearing an unflattering hoodie at the time," said Sherlock with a thoughtful expression on his face.

"You actually remember that?"

"Of course I remember that. And then four days later when you begged to move in with me – I was proven wrong."

"I didn't beg! You needed me remember? Nobody wanted to live with you," said Molly looking annoyed.

"I had several offers, thank you very much."

"You mean your mum was willing to pay for the other half?"

Chapter Text

And if that's what you have in mind

Yeah if that's what you're all about

Good luck movin' up 'cause I'm movin' out.

Mmm, I'm movin' out. Ooh-hoo, uh-huh, mmmm

Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) – Billy Joel

 

1994, September

 

Molly grumbled to herself half-awake; eyes still clamped shut, as she smelled coffee. She yanked her head back, and her eyes cracked open to see Meena on bent knees with a freshly brewed cup in her hand. "Oh baby I love your way-," playing low on the radio, while Meena raised a brow at her.

"Morning," she said when Molly finally took the cup.

"So – let's talk about this arrangement – not that I really mind, you know - we've – it's just-," Meena made a face as she sat on the coffee table in front of the settee, crossing her white tights.

"June," said Molly with a sigh sitting upright, dragging the scratchy blanket away from her frame. "I know…I've just-," Meena's flatmate was not a fan of her sleeping over.

"I've heard rumours though that your mystery chap still hasn't gotten any flatmate - male or female…"

"Who?" said Molly with raised brows.

"The knob head formerly known as William – who for some reason calls himself – Sherlock?" she said with a wide grin. "He's still looking."

"No surprise," said Molly taking a sip from the coffee.

"Molly – really – he's not a nutter… He's just a bit – I don't know – Vic vouches for him at least."

"Who?"

"Never mind - anyway – he's not mad and you need a flat – since this squatting business will only get you back at your mum's and we both know you'll not get that job slicing up dead people if that happens."

Molly rolled her eyes cradling the coffee cup. "It's not just that you know, it's more than-,"

"Dead people are involved. I don't need anymore details than that to be honest…so – why not brave the madness – if it really does turn into shit - I'll just have lots of sex so June will want to move out-," Meena said grinning.

"I thought June was a lesbian?"

Meena wagged her eyebrows. "Yeah, but it seems I wear her out from time to time."

 


 

There was a timid knock on the door causing him to stare in disbelief, since he was uncertain whether or not someone had been knocking. People he knew usually didn't knock. His brother or Victor strode in uninvited, the latter more welcome of course, though he hardly expected him to turn shy on him.

Another knock was added after his eyes had returned to his book, and Sherlock soon got to his feet, wondering if it was another potential flatmate, as he'd endured enough stupidity for now. He had finally come to the point he was willing to accept his mother's charity money, even if his older brother would hound him repeatedly for admitting defeat. When he opened the door he didn't expect to find a girl with brown hair and brown eyes, bearing a tentative smile of familiarity in an appealing (rather snug) yellow dress.

Her smile continued – and his silence extended itself.

Recovering himself he said, "Do I know you?"

She seemed to realize something, blinking rapidly. "Oh – umm – sorry – we got off on the wrong foot."

Oh.

"I fear whatever I told you during that night was most likely lies and I suggest you find someone else to be your boyfriend." He couldn't help but add a little disgust to the latter word, though; she seemed only baffled by this.

"What?" she said staring at him blankly, brown eyes shining of confusion.

"Ah. We haven't slept together then?" he said with pursed lips.

"No? …I was – umm – I was the girl you found unattractive remember? Though I didn't tell you my name at the time? We met in the hallway when you were hanging up your notice. And my name's Molly Hooper…Sorry if I'm babbling, I babble."

"I must have deleted that," he murmured, brows furrowed, and wondering how he could get rid of her now.

She still stared. "Can I come in?" she asked biting her lip.

"You're here for the flat share?" he said slowly. "No."

He began to shut the door on her.

"But-," she began halting him.

"No, I'm afraid you won't do."

"Why not?" Her eyes were narrowed, her stance less innocent than before and much more determined. "Last time you told me I wasn't attractive and now I am attractive?"

He opened his mouth, shut it, then opened it again, unable to slam the door shut on her face, which he technically should. That dress was worn for him, to manipulative him, and he knew it, but she was right – "I – I -," Perhaps it would be beneficial brother to learn how to train those 'adolescent urges' of yours for once? " – You're right – I'm sorry-," he plastered on a quick smile, finally stepping aside to allow her in. "You can take a loo-,"

The second she took a step forward she said, "I'll take it." The various moving boxes in the hallway behind her cemented that fact. Clearly she hadn't planned to get a no. And clearly those drugs of yours are slowing you down.

"Shut up," he hissed.

She'd been moving more forward into the flat when she whipped her head back. "What?" Her brown eyes soon darted to the boxes as well; even managing to look an ounce guilty, but those boxes made it clear she wasn't ordinary, despite the cheap haircut, or non-manicured nails. "I didn't mean to assume you'd be…alone – I just thought-," she was beginning to apologize and he desisted rolling his eyes.

"I was rude," he said quickly. "I'm Sherlock Holmes."

"I know," she said with a small grin shaking his hand.

He could only presume that Victor was telling people his name was really William…her hand was annoyingly soft…

Already a problem is she?

Releasing her hand he said, "I don't talk for days." Moving away from her and to his book again was a good idea.

"Sorry?" she said her previously pleased face dropping slightly.

"You should know the worst about your flatmate, shouldn't you?" he said looking at his book again.

"That's it?" she said in disbelief. "You're really letting me move in here?"

"Your boxes are already outside Millie. I think you'd force your way in at some point." Saying the wrong name would increase the distance between them and he needed it. He'd never planned to be sharing a flat with a female, especially since he knew his own mother would be rather pleased, but it really was good practice.

"Molly," she said, but the annoyance in her voice didn't seem so deep-felt as he'd hoped, for seconds later she was carting in her boxes easily. None of them looked like they weighed much and there wasn't a lot either. "I don't own a lot," she said stating the obvious when she was finally done. "So, umm, where is my room?"

"Past the kitchen - door opposite the bathroom-,"

"Where's yours?" she asked.

He looked up from his book. "Why?"

"What?"

"Why do you need to know?"

"Okay…I'll have a look around-," she said carefully.

Immediately he stood up from his chair. "I need to-," he hurried off to his room, somehow he didn't want her to see what he did to cure…Why not? Are you ashamed of what you are? 'I'm not!' "Keep out of my room," he said when he returned shaking his head, and she only stared at him with that steady gaze of hers. "I mean…it's not…it's not clean." 'I'm not clean.'

"Oh, right, I won't go there then," she said with a crease between her brows. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be nosy. I just – is it big?"

"My room?" he said and felt the tiny bit of itch beneath his skin, the silent urge. Maybe she was…not a faint scar on her body, except her hand – a scalp? Very thin line, rather faint. "Doctor?"

"What?" she said. "Sorry – you keep jumping-,"

"You'll get used to it – so - you're not a Doctor – no – you're not really a people person, but you like working hard. You don't want any distractions-," he said, his eyes widening slightly in amusement. "Pathology?"

"How – how did you know?" she said gaping.

"It helps when you nod to what I say," he said smirking. "Also your diary is open-,"

With wide eyes she looked at the thick pink book that was on the top of one of the boxes, the page rather legible with her surprisingly fine handwriting. She laughed all of a sudden. "Okay? Well, I'll just go and see if my room is big or not, then Sherlock?" He was surprised she didn't call him William or Scott to throw back at his face that he'd called her by the wrong name.

"Yes…do that," he said pressing his lips together as he watched her walk away, her head turning to look at him briefly, a smile playing on her lips.

His eyes had irritatingly drifted towards her bare legs that had clearly been in contact with the sun, rather tan. Luckily Molly Hooper hadn't noticed and he rubbed his hand over his face - this is why he wrote 'Male Only'. Hormones, an adolescent nightmare - aren't they just? "Oh shut up," he snapped to no one in particular.

 


 

Her room was nice, big, clean and conveniently close to the bath, but also just across Sherlock's room. When they'd gotten past the initial awkwardness (so it was a continuing adventure, but he was being less weird) they were rather okay, sticking to some routines. The flat wasn't really messy, not that it was very tidy, but it was books and not forgotten cups, at least. She could handle books and he did have some interesting ones really, though he was doing chemistry, which was why she let his set clutter the kitchen table – even if having an empty one would be lovely. But then again, she would probably be living with someone who'd have a problem with what she wanted to do with her life.

Sherlock?

Not so much.

"You wouldn't mind stealing a kidney if you got your hands on one?" He'd thrown her off with that question, but he did quickly add – "Not from someone off the street Molly, don't be stupid!" When he'd mentioned his 'vices' – she thought he'd just be a bit quiet, but there were hours upon hours of him just sat still, barely blinking. She'd talk and somehow days later she'd find he was actually listening when she wondered if his pulse was still thumping.

But she wouldn't let him starve himself though, putting plates on his stomach when he was laid out on the sofa, giggling if he didn't notice (it was worth the broken plate really). Meena finally came round one day, eyeing the whole flat with outright jealousy – "You've even got one of those fancy things in the ceiling-," she said pointing. "All sparkly and shit."

"It's a chandelier – and it's my mother's," said Sherlock.

She only gave him a look and soon Molly was pulled into her bedroom. "What?" she said confused, dragging her arm out of her friend's grip.

"He's kid of hot, you know," said Meena grinning before she dropped herself down on Molly's bed, arms underneath her head. "You could, you know-,"

"He's a bit…weird," she said joining her on the bed.

"What do you mean weird – are we talking sexy deviant weird or panty sniffing weird?"

"Why does everything have to be about sex?"

"It isn't," said Meena laughing. "So come on – what kind of bloke is he?"

"He's alright – I suppose – handsome, I think?" she said trying to think about it. "A bit of an idiot though…"

"Hmm. I think I know what you mean."

"That's what I mean with weird – he just says things – and I know he's not being cruel or anything, but he just comes off as mean? If you know what I mean?"

"Nooo – not really – sounds like a right nutter."

"No, I think he's really nice actually."

"Ohhh, are you saying you have a thing for your flatmate then?" said Meena smacking her playfully on her shoulder.

"Nah…he's not really my type and – oh my god – the door is – shit-," she smacked her bedroom door shut, soon leaning against it. "I hope he didn't hear that."

"That you think he's hot!" said Meena rather loudly, grinning wickedly at Molly who paled.

"I did not say he was-," she began realizing her error. "Just shut up."

The pair of them laughed hysterically.

Molly was right – he had heard, and he had consciously sniffed, but it was fine – he was fine – he didn't like her – no. After Meena, her annoying friend finally left and Molly gave him a small smile when she passed him in the kitchen - he almost set fire to his hand on the Bunsen burner. Problem? No. Not at all.

 


 

Voices. It was more than one voice. Not just Sherlock talking to himself out loud, which was a regular occurrence. Locking herself in she stared in surprise at Sherlock sat on the sofa, but there was another person in one of the chairs. Another bloke - lanky, ginger-haired and rather handsome, and who instantly greeted her with a smile. "You have friends?" she said without thinking. "Oh – I'm – I'm sorry-," She almost wanted to smack her hand onto her mouth, but desisted. It wasn't meant to be mean, but she hadn't – "I mean – I've not seen people come round-," she blurted out quickly. "Sorry."

"This is Victor Trevor," said Sherlock easily, smiling widely at her, his eyes gleaming slightly. "Victor – this is Molly Hooper – my girlfriend."

Her jaw did drop; it was impossible to be held in place, as her eyes flickered from Sherlock to Victor who she presumed had to be Vic who Meena mentioned. "Hello – Sherlock's girlfriend you look quite shocked," said Victor with a wink.

"Umm – I – Sherlock – can I talk to you for a mo-,"

Sherlock wordlessly stood up and soon she dragged him off to the kitchen, keeping her voice low - "Sorry, why am I your girlfriend?" she hissed.

"Victor is a known flirt," he said simply.

"And?"

"I thought you might not enjoy being pestered by him, as you did say you're rather focused on your studies."

Molly gaped once more, blinking at him. "Couldn't you just – couldn't you have told him I have another boyfriend? A boyfriend who's not you?" she said after a minute.

"He'd take it as a challenge."

"And you being my boyfriend isn't a challenge?"

"No," he said like it was obvious. "Now can I return to the sitting room?"

Sighing she let him go, shaking her head to herself and groaning when she saw how cluttered the flat was. He really was being less restrained around her, clearly the 'tidiness' was just pretence to lure her into becoming his housemaid. Sherlock had actually suggested hiring someone, which she'd just glared at him for.

They were two people, tidying shouldn't even be a problem – "Yeah, that was really convincing," she heard the voice of Victor from the sitting room. "Especially that little chat of yours in the kitchen, but if it's so important I'll keep away, don't worry, Sherl. I won't bite. She's yours."

Right, she thought, wondering why on earth she couldn't handle herself apparently. "Why are you even here?" said Sherlock.

"I'm wondering that too," said Victor with a loud sigh, and then Molly heard the door to flat slam shut.

Later that night when she asked Sherlock about it – "Oh he's like that - don't worry - he'll come back…in the end."

Two months later he appeared.

"How does he manage school?" she asked when Victor swanned off after spending a full four minutes staring at her chest.

"He fucks his professors for higher grades."

"Oh my god – really?"

"No, he's just irritatingly clever."

Chapter Text

1994, October

Sherlock blinked at Molly who slammed her books on the table, looking particularly aggravated. He hastened to make ready a less than heartfelt apology about his lack of tidying because she'd been adamant the kitchen was going to be shiny by the time she returned, but instead he'd been busy smoking through the kitchen window (she didn't like the smell). If he was going to sacrifice one favourite thing in doors, he was certainly not going to spend his time tidying - he wasn't his father.

"Why are men – such - bastards?" she said, eyes wide, cheeks flushed – and he could see straight down her top with the way she bent down on the table – two white globes hidden underneath an innocent light blue bra, though he could visualize the rosy pink buds that would easily - -

Quickly he looked up – "Do you want me to answer that?" he said smirking, though his smirk dropped the second her glare bore down on him. Somehow seeing her otherwise sweet face throw him looks like that, seemed much more threatening, rather like his mother in several instances than any other disgruntled professor shouting abuse at him for being disinterested in class. Molly moaned loudly and he tried not to be affected by the sound, which was clearly displeasure, though, then again by the prominent twitch in his neither region, it had been a while since he'd been foolish enough to step into a club, his hands had gotten shakier because of it. "So – what seems to be – the problem?" he said in a more cheery tone. Isn't that what people did? Oh they do, but you're not people.

She looked at him with knitted brows. "Are you – are you asking?" she said bewildered.

"Yes, I thought you might enjoy me taking part in the same activities that everyone else does."

"Right…" she said with a laugh. "Umm, okay, so the head of my class is a cock and I want to quit."

"That's a thorough explanation," he said chuckling. It always looked rather illegal when she swore, like a young schoolgirl having her first cigarette or having sex in a confession booth.

"We went to see an autopsy and one of the lads fainted at the blood – as one does – because – nobody's used to seeing people sliced up like it's an every day thing – and then he actually made fun of him - 'he's such a girl' – and the second I speak out-," she looks rather unable to say anything, arms crossed, then uncrossed, fists clenched. "I should keep my tongue, like we're living in the fifties, or any other age – or I am just – some pretty little girl who doesn't know what she's talking about apparently!"

Somehow his heart thudded more than necessary at her speech, her eyes blazing and her stance vibrating of energy and annoyance.

Of course he handled it in exactly the way he saw fit.

"I apologize that some men are still convinced women can't handle the sight of blood. Considering the tampons you leave in the bin I would think women are quite familiar with blood."

He doesn't understand why she's staring at him, as his curiosity did get the better of him, after all, his own mother lost her mensies after she'd given birth to him, and it wasn't like he'd had physical contact with the tampon.

Chapter Text

1994, October

Calling them quirks made it seem more funny than occasionally 'disturbing'. One day when Sherlock spent the majority of his weekend thinking for hours, or well, whatever he did in his so-called mind palace – since apparently he could delete memories. "That's how you forgot me then?" she asked.

"Yes," he said easily. "But I brought the memory forward again."

"So you just chucked it into a sort of bin and picked it up again?"

"Are you still angry about the tampon?"

'A mental archive' of sorts, which he called a palace, and the more she knew him, the more she understood. He seemed to know things, catch tiny details and it was frankly rather attractive in a peculiar way. Sherlock had a different way of viewing things, which was probably why the general state of the flat wasn't much to boast about ("An organized mind, does not mean a clean room"). Of course she assumed that was just some poor excuse. The flat itself was large and spacious, refurbished with stuffy looking furniture. His mother obviously had to have had a hand in the flat she supposed, but despite the place seeming to have everything; one thing was lacking, especially on a Tuesday morning when she was sat cross-legged in her pyjamas, glasses on the edge of her nose (her contacts a forgotten concept today). "Why haven't we got a TV?" she said bowl of muesli in her hand. "Everyone has a telly or didn't you grow up with one?" He didn't answer, but it didn't deter her from speaking. "You probably sat reading all the time - running wild out doors or something – hmm – you're probably a dog person, aren't you? I've never owned a pet before, and I don't think us sharing one now would be a-,"

"Molly-," he growled clearly coming to his senses.

"What do you think? Should we get a TV?" she said unaffected by his scowl in her general direction, though he sat up from his position on the settee looking thoughtful.

"Why would you even want a mindless device to sit hours in front of to dedicate your time to? What a waste of money -,"

"I think we should get one," she said ignoring him.

"Fine," he snapped. "But I'm warning you, you'll be wasting your time in front of it!"


"Hey - how's the telly working out then?" said Meena on the other end of the line. "It's your first purchase as a couple."

Molly snorted. "You know we're not...anyway - he's the only one using it."

"What?"

"He's been sitting for six hours watching it non-stop-,"

"Really? Wow!"

"I don't think he had much of a childhood to be honest. He keeps shouting abuse at the screen…but he hasn't stopped watching."

Chapter Text

1994, October

She could practically read - what are you doing – on the mere quirk of his brows and the way his eyes blue narrowed. There were remnants of crisps on his robe; his hair was a dishevelled set curls and he had prominent dark marks under his eyes.

Yes, it was raining outside.

Yes, she was wearing her pale blue pyjamas with goldfish.

But they needed to do something. "We need to go out," she said demonstrating by standing in front of the telly. Ever since they'd gotten it from the shop they'd barely left the flat, except for uni or for the shops to buy another packet of crisps (or sour candy from Haribo, the best kind). Not that they went out and really did things together, which she realised the instant she stood in front of the telly, but it was a good step forward in their friendship. She didn't manage to have too many friends after all, too busy studying to do so, but she wanted to at least have some kind of working relationship with Sherlock. They were not going to become the sort of flatmates who just said 'hello' and 'goodbye' to each other. Not that she could imagine that happening as he on occasion would show up at her room to tell her an interesting fact three or four in the morning of a murder he read in the paper (he did like the morbid, which she didn't mind) – "A torso of a woman was once found in an abandoned trunk at King's Cross in 1937. They never found the rest of her," he whispered to her one night.

She did lose some sleep thinking about it.

Casual flatmates seemed impossible with Sherlock, but she wasn't going to let them spiral into a sort of aimless existence either. She recognized the symptoms even if he'd flat-out deny that the weather had any effect on his psyche – since he didn't need food or sleep or any other normal thing. Molly saw him eating and sleeping enough as it was, and when he was bored enough, he ate all the time (snacking was like second nature). It was amazing he was so skinny considering how often he was bored.

"We need to do something different."

"No," he said – and he seemed to be looking for the remote, which she luckily had in her hand. He looked at her distinctly ruffled, though he waited, eyeing the remote like he was about to take it from her.

"Sherlock – we need to go out – it's not good sitting inside all day -," she said not wanting to whine, but there was an edge to her voice nonetheless.

"And why -," he began and she sensed one of his speeches were coming, barrelling through to protest against the indecency of the outdoors.

So she said it as quickly as she could – "You smell."

He gaped at her utterly offended, sniffed soundly and grunted a sullen 'fine', soon springing off to get ready. The fact that they didn't do more than cross the street to eat chips didn't bother her much, or the fact that he kept throwing her withering looks of displeasure throughout their meal, but it was nice to do something properly together – even if he kept stealing off her plate.

"You bored?" she said hopeful he wasn't.

"No," he muttered, his own plate empty, her own on the cusp.

"What do you want to do with your life?" she said after a beat.

"You want to have a heart to heart in a chip shop?" he scoffed with furrowed brows.

She gave him a look and he sighed, "I thought I knew once… but – I was wrong."

"Wrong about what?" she asked.

"Never mind…" he drawled popping a chip into his mouth. "You already know what you're going to do - so why are you asking me – or – do you have some silly suggestion, which you'll spring on me any second?"

She frowned at him.

"That's a yes then?" he said with a snort. "Tell me…Molly Hooper – what do you see me as?"

"You're either going to become a murderer or you'll be catching them," she said with a shrug. "And since you like to see yourself as clever, I think you'll end up catching them."

He blinked at her slowly.

"That's what you wanted to be, wasn't it?" she said with a grin, cheekily grabbing the last chip, which she surely deserved.

"I wanted to be a pirate," he said.

She did laugh for a good five minutes, but he didn't hold it against her.

Chapter Text

1994, October

It's a mechanical action, an early morning proposal from his body. He does not imagine soft brown hair underneath his palms or pink pale lips surrounding his length. His thoughts are innocent, common and not fixed upon anyone. Yet his hands work tirelessly, harder than usual, faster even. The covers are off – it's too warm - his body's jerking upwards to meet his every rapid stroke – mouth warm – a smile in the way she almost seems to swallow him - "Sherlock? Have you seen – oh my god -," a flash of brown hair and wide eyes should still his erection – except he's already on the cusp - by the time the door finally manages to slam shut again – he's spent. It takes a few seconds before he manages to grasp what has just happened, the concept sinking to the pit of his stomach.

Instinctively he feels like colliding into his sheets boneless to sleep away the morning – another part of him wants to apologize – but with what words? Right now he can only whisper, only let the name linger on the tip of his tongue, but he knows that her entrance despite his guilt aided the execution – pathetic. He's supposed to be working around it, fixing the problem in its totality, but he's barely made any progress.

It's only because she's the only female around. She's only seeping through the cracks - for no other reason than that.

He can practically hear Victor's stereotypical speech, "Come on. I bet she enjoys filthy things… Wearing those flowery dresses of hers like she's innocence itself – no – not buying it. Just bend her over and get it over with. I can't stand you being this lusty Romeo."

When he finally manages to leave his room, he knows that telling her to stay out is futile. He's already breaching her policy as well with his impromptu visits, because he somehow needs to see her crack a tired smile at whatever he finds interesting. She enjoys those little facts as well, agreeing with him when things are dull and telling him stories, like that she used to obsess over Jack the Ripper as a child – "My dad used to engrave headstones…I suppose it's his fault," she said with a wistful look. "I always liked the idea of helping them before they were only names on a stone…my dad always wished he could do more."

He'll usually give her a look suggesting that he doesn't want to hear it, but he does – and he hates whenever the urge to keep her at arm's length reaches him, like it always does. But Molly's not there when he steps out, neither is he embarrassed. There's still that sense of guilt that flutters through him when he sees a post-it – "Sorry had to leave early" - put on the fridge.

Chapter Text

1994, November

The silent smile is sign enough, then again so is the rest of the week where she's been seemingly too busy to speak more than a few words. Isn't this a good thing? He should be glad she's not talking his head off or – "It's just mechanical," he spits out. "A reflex even." His front is suddenly sprayed with tea, but he barely blinks at the onslaught while she silently dabs her front, eyes darting up at him, then away again like she's considering her next words carefully.

"Umm - - that's okay-," she breaks out with a large smile that barely keeps in the end, brown eyes turning to him accusingly. "Are we really doing this now? At breakfast?"

"You'd like to prepare yourself first then? Shall I wait for afternoon tea or dinner?" he said throwing his napkin on the kitchen table (he'd cleared it off out of pure guilt).

She just gives him a look, leaning back into her chair. "I just never imagined…you'd…you know," there's a shrug thrown into the mix and he almost laughs.

"I'd continue functioning as a male? I'm glad you don't intend to be a Doctor to living people Molly, since it's clearly not your area. I could of course ignore it, but it would be a less enjoyable-,"

Her hand is up, her eyes wide. "Umm, got it-," the teacup held to her lips like a shield, still the picture of alarm.

"That's not really the problem is there?" he concludes after a minute, eyes shifting over her.

"I didn't -," shoulders are drawn up, then down – "I've not – I've seen pictures, but I've-,"

"Never seen one up-close..."

She's giggling, her cheeks rather pink, and he is on the brink of joining her, except his own genitalia is suddenly on the line. "I didn't know it would be that large either-," and he can almost feel Victor give him a solid pat on the back of a laddish nature, but he quickly pushes the thought as she hasn't seen anyone else's quite yet. Perhaps it was too dark or under some flowery patterned duvet.

"There's a certain level of growth," he says drinking his tea with a bit more attentiveness than needed.

"I know that," she says hurriedly. "I'm just a bit – shocked – and now I just imagine it everywhere."

There's a beat.

"Are you afraid of my penis?"

"No!" she blurts out. "A little…" she continues. "It's not yours – it's the general population's."

"Ah…" he let outs truly understanding. "You've never-,"

"No." Oh.

"Well…don't mind them. People are stupid, do it when you're ready."

"Sorry? What?"

"I spoke too soon," he says more to himself.

She grins at him though, taking a healthy bite of her toast, her appetite clearly returning. "I am."

"You are?" and his voice reaches a higher pitch, which he attempts to clear away, hopelessly.

"Yeah…I just haven't found the right bloke yet – anyway – sorry for being weird. I'm not usually like this… It just made you a bit more real."

"Real as opposed to what? A sexless machine?"

She just laughs and he's concerned why it's making him worried.

Chapter Text

1994, November

 

Girls who are boys

Who like boys to be girls

Who do boys like they're girls

Who do girls like they're boys

Girls and Boys by Blur

 

"We need to celebrate," said Meena all of a sudden, dropping her plastic spoon into the container. She'd just mentioned how she'd spent seven hours reading, the words and illustrations blurring in front of her – "I can't do anything stupid this week," she'd also said five minutes earlier. Celebrating, well, that certainly fell into that category, and Molly stared amused up from wearily eyeing her yoghurt. She loathed cramming and doing notes, her fingertips were covered with yellow marker, and she'd used up the remaining ink of her favourite pen (if she murdered anyone they'd be covered with it…she'd really been spending far too much time with Sherlock). The idea to do something else than reading at this stage was welcome, but then again, she'd considered this brief intervention with an un-planned lunch like sin itself ("I'm not sure if I should…It'll throw off my schedule with an hour.")

"Oh?" said Molly. "What for?"

Meena raised her dark brows, clearly confused by the question. "What do you mean – what for? We're young - we're free - and it's Wednesday-," she said with a wave of her hand. "It's our bloody obligation as students to get unbelievably pissed on a work night." Her hands were clamped together pleadingly, her lower lip jutting outward. "I know you're enjoying your little nesting period with Sherlock, but - come – on - one harmless drunken night won't do you any harm. You're not the one behind your reading after all!"

"I don't know-," she said uncertain whether or not it was a good idea, especially when she was short on money.

"My dad also wired me over several pounds for some extra Christmas shopping-," said Meena with a large grin. "I know you can barely afford a packet of noodles right now-,"

"Oh Sherlock is doing the-," began Molly who clamped her mouth shut the second her friend gave her a look, the look she'd been picking up lately – that look.

"We can even bring Sherlock," she said underneath her lashes. "He'll probably come along…you know - because… we do need protection anyway…Might even invite Vic to the mix as well."

"I still need to-,"

"Please – I – can't – read – another – fucking – page," groaned Meena who abruptly let her head drop on the table.

" – Have two hours to read first and I'll go out…that's what I was going to say-," said Molly with a laugh, as Meena slowly lifted up her head with a hopeful expression.¨


"Come on Sherl, stop being such a knob head – the girls are going out – I'm going out – we're collectively stepping out to enjoy a night of 'debauchery' like your ponce of a brother would say-," said Victor who was hovering over Sherlock's shoulder while he was bent over his books, elbows reddening from rubbing against the coffee table.

"No," he drawled flipping a page of his book.

"It won't be the social nightmare you think it is, it'll only be half of that - I promise."

""I'm not worried about people - Victor," he said with a sigh.

"There are worse hangovers…we both know that," said Victor in an undertone, and Sherlock's eyes briefly narrowed.

Meena observed the conversation half-heartedly while she applied another coat of pink lipstick, smacking her lips together soundly.

"I'd rather not-," Sherlock started, though his rant ended before it really did, eyes lingering on Molly who'd just entered the room in a dark purple velvet dress with a heart shaped neckline.

"Where are we going?" said Molly with a wide smile, tucking a piece of folded paper into her tiny purse, her hair wavy and loose on her shoulders.

"Out!" said Victor happily clapping Sherlock on the back, as he added - "Sherl's going out with us! Agreed just seconds before you appeared, Mol? Isn't that brilliant news? The whole family's gathered for a proper night out."

"Don't call her Mol," said Sherlock with a grimace and Molly sent him a grateful look in return.

Victor just smiled at the pair of them, though the second Sherlock got to his feet to follow the others he was held back. "Think you need to drool less mate…she might notice the puddle at some point," said Victor passing him his coat with a wide smirk.

"Remind me why we're friends?" he asked disgruntled.

"Because at the end of the day you love me."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Hardly," he said, though he soon smirked, the pair of them exiting the flat after the girls.

 

- One pint -

 

"Cheers," everyone except Sherlock said around the wee round table, mugs clanking soundly. They were in one of the busiest pub's littered with students, all of them with a fag in their hand, which only made her eyes burn.

"You'll feel better if you smoke," said Victor holding one out for her, which Sherlock surprisingly grabbed.

"Not that kind Victor," he said.

Molly politely declined.

- One colourful drink with a straw -

 

"Why aren't you a fan?" she said taking a long sip with a laugh, knowing already he'd have some clever retort by the apparent dislike seething in his blue eyes.

He said something, but she couldn't hear what it was above the music. Gesturing to her ear, he soon leaned forward, his dark curls brushing against the side of her cheek - "It's a band called Wet - Wet - Wet - it's hardly culture, Molly," he said with his large hand briefly on her lower back.

She'd rather not think too hard on the slight twirl her stomach did at Sherlock saying wet for some… peculiar reason.

 

Two glasses of wine -

 

"Yeah, she's not interested," said Meena with a wave of her hand. "Really - not interested-," she added with a sterner voice. "For god's sake we're in a bloody queue for the loo and you hardly look like bloody Hugh Grant."

Molly let out a loud giggle. "Sorry," she said. "I was - it was - another joke…sorry."

The man who'd been lingering around her finally walked off.

"Don't apologize to that wanker - by the way - how did Sherlock's knob look like? Was it pretty?"

Molly giggled even more.

 

- One glass whiskey and one gin and tonic -

 

"Are you going to make a move then?" asked Victor who jerked his head towards the dance floor where Molly and Meena were dancing. Sherlock didn't allow his eyes to linger, his back to the dance floor instead. "Or are you going to be a sulk? It's like - seriously - whiskey mate? You're being such a cliché I want to weep."

"I don't like her."

"Shall I ask her if she likes you?"

Instantly he swallowed, eyes flickering to Victor worryingly. "You're - you're not actually-," he can hardly say the words.

"You really do like her," said Victor at a loss.

Sherlock looked away with furrowed brows. "No, I just want to fuck her - now - will you go and bother someone else?"

"Right…I forgot who I was talking with for a second there," said Victor emptying his glass.

 

- Tequila -

 

"I can't have that shot!" said Molly shaking her head vigorously to Meena's enthused seal-like clapping. "I'm not having- I've got a list! It's a list!" She shows off her paper, which Victor grabs, and suddenly it's gone - just curled up rubbish in the end.

"I'll…have one," Sherlock suddenly said appearing besides her, and she's gaping at him while he tosses it in his mouth, but she soon follows suit with a pout.

 

- Four rum and coke -

 

He was surprised when he felt her hand dragging him along, her voice shouting for him to keep up. "I don't want to be alone!" Her laughter is in the air; suddenly she guided both his hands to her waist and the other to her shoulder. "Sherlock?" she said after a minute when he still was not certain what to do with his hands - with his mouth or with anything - staring at her wide-eyed is an emergency option. "Dancing? Is this okay?" her brown eyes are lit with worry.

"Y-yes," he mouthed and she grinned in return, and he begun to waltz because he didn't know what else to do. She gaped at him, until her smile light up again, her face a beam of light, a beacon in a smoke-filled room. "Yes…it's - fine."

He resisted rolling his eyes when Victor gave him a thumb up from the distance, not that the dance lasted long enough with his hands on her, but it doesn't matter, no, it doesn't.

 

- Six, no, Seven, Eights? Pints? -

 

"You know what we should do -," said Victor with an un-lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.

"What?" said Molly with pursed lips.

Sherlock was the only one who expected him to stand up to knock down some random bloke, looking rather bored by the proceedings. "Be more original, please?"

 

- Water -

 

"So - you two can take the sofa bed-," said Meena - "I'll get this one into bed." Victor leaned on her with his white shirt speckled with his own blood, his grin wide and his left eye covered in a very large multi-coloured bruise. "Be good now - and keep the volume down - nightie night-," said Meena who ambled off with Victor in tow, practically gurgling on her shoulder.

Molly had her hands on her hips as she eyed the sofa bed where the one duvet and two cushions were laid out. "What's - umm - your side then?" she said clearing her throat.

Meena had offered and they'd nodded silently to the suggestion, but it did feel different to actually be faced with it. It was different with a kebab in ones hand.

"Yes," he said rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. "I'll keep on my clothes, shall I?"

"Oh, I don't mind," said Molly blinked at her own words. "I mean-," her cheeks here luckily already bright red.

"You do mind," he finished off with a laugh.

"Shut up… I'm not taking off my clothes."

"I'm not asking you to, Molly."

There is a beat.

"Right…so - good night?" she said quickly getting under the duvet, and Sherlock soon followed suit.

There was a great deal of shuffling, elbow suddenly hitting a stomach, knee unnervingly close to - oh god - "Maybe we - should just…cuddle?" she suggested realizing that the dimension of the duvet weren't right for her size and his.

"Cuddle?" he said, his back to her.

"Yes? I've barely got any duvet-," she began and suddenly she's got the duvet on her face, while he's got nothing. "Sherlock!"

"What?" he said sounding annoyed, turning around to face her with a huff. "What do you expect - me - to do - hold you all nigh -," suddenly he stopped, lips parted. His brows furrowed and she doesn't know what to say. Does she need to say anything really? His eyes are darting to her lips, and she's wondering, she's almost trembling, inches away now, mere breath between their lips - "VIC THAT'S NOT THE TOILET. IT'S THE CUPBOARD YOU COMPLETE COCK!" All of a sudden they are laughing instead. "DID YOU JUST FUCKING PEE IN MY - SHERLOCK GET HIM-,"

Chapter Text

1994, November

She can kill with a smile

She can wound with her eyes

She can ruin your faith with her casual lies

And she only reveals what she wants you to see

She's always a woman  by Billy Joel

 

He's got a slice toast in his mouth, there are crumbs generously hanging around his pursed lips when he gazes at today's paper. "Molly did you-," his voice is muffled until he drags the piece of bread from his mouth and glances up to see the locked door. Sherlock almost walks away with a shrug, until that walk away turns into pacing in front of her door - "Wait," he mutters to himself bringing up his wrist, the watch glinting in the rare sunlight from the windows. "It's ten o'clock…" he blinks in confusion. "She's always…" Again he's stood outside the door, eyes looking up and down, eyebrows knitted together as he takes another bite of his toast. "Why?" he whispers throwing the bread aside, before he raps on the door with the newspaper.

No answer.

One knock, then another with his fist, then a third, the trio is left unanswered. Has he done something?

It isn't about Wednesday?

They've not spoken about it - not once - though when she moaned about not paying heed to her own list of measurements - "I would have been fine if I'd kept to it - it's all your fault," she had smacked him on the arm with a glower. Molly didn't look like she wondered; there was no want in her face, no want to know what would have happened if they'd shared air, if they'd… The thoughts were his own, and he'd been banishing them full stop, but this - what did this even mean? Does this mean anything? She wouldn't lock herself up because he wouldn't talk? Snap at him - yes. Run out - yes. Hide? No. After all…she was much braver than him, perhaps she really didn't remember… He considers knocking again, but he doesn't. Maybe she's sick? Yet if she were sick she would answer and if she were really sick she would have visited the bathroom, but it looks unaltered from his last visit. "Why?"

He doesn't know what to do.

 


 

He runs up the steps two at a time out of breath, heart throbbing soundly in his chest, but Meena doesn't open the door, and he walks down again, to the outrage of the female standing there.

 


 

It's dark outside as well as inside, and his eyes keep shifting towards the door, his ears listening to every sound. He can hear her - breathing - moving - sometimes - crying. It's crippling. Crippling to feel like this. This inability to do anything, to change anything, to make it disappear, is crippling. Other people would ask, would wonder differently, but he wants to solve it, to find the clues, to find the traces, as there must be a simple answer. He keeps working over it - again and again. What did he do? What should he apologize for? What did he miss? What's he already done wrong?

"Think!" he snaps to himself, fingertips tapping at his temples. Maybe it would be easier if he forgot everything, and he can almost see the faint bruises on his pale wrists, the faint reminders. They've begun to fade, but they're still there - so is his pulse - so is he - so is she.

"Can you give me the number?" he bites out phone pressed against his ear, the wiring coiling around his wrists and in turn tugging at his skin.

"You have a phonebook, don't you? Hardly taxing work-," he lets his eyes drift shut at the cool voice on the other end, the constant reminder, the one that makes him break and collect himself.

"Mycroft - for God's sake!"

"Her mother's listed as -," he writes down the address quickly, ink barely dry on the slip of paper before he hangs up, unwilling to listen to his brother's spiteful comments. 

Sentiment.

Sentiment.

Sentiment?

 


 

It's almost a break from reality, time seemingly has frozen in that little house, and it smells of spices, of childhood, of fantastical thoughts. Her eyes are warm, only a few crinkles appearing between her brows, as she puts a cup of tea in front of him, even after he'd told her it wasn't necessary. Kindness, consideration - it's obvious in the woman's tatty jumper, some holes sewn with her own store-bought wool.

"Mrs Hooper - I -," he begins, his voice croakier than he wants, weaker than he wants to portray. He's not that man, he's not desperate, but he is. He's clawing at straws, at hope.

"She told me she was living with a girl," she says with her even softer voice, and he can only stare, reminded of more normal, of worries he hasn't even begun to consider. "I see I haven't got anything to worry about then…"

He draws for breath mid-blink. "She's locked herself inside her room Mrs Hooper…" he says leaning forward onto the kitchen table, his rawness tumbling forward. "I don't know what to do - she'd know what to do - I - I - feel…" he can't say it, but he can see that she sees it easily in him. She sits down, chair scraping against the floor, her smile watery.

"It's her father," she says easily with one breath.

And it's so achingly obvious he feels like a fool, the sentiment so palpable in every mention, soon enough he's envisioning her walking down the empty hallway of her school barely thirteen carrying the burden of her father's death, comforting everyone else but herself.

 


 

She promises not to tell, he makes her promise, and when he's finally outside of the door again, he does the one thing he should have - knocking softly. "Are you okay?" he breathes against the wood.

There's silence, then shuffling and then a deep breath is drawn from the other side. "I'm okay…" The pain is wrapped around her voice, he can hear its edge, and it's sharply pressed into her chest.

"How do I know if I can't see you Molly?" he says, his palm against the door and he can't help but be frightened when his palm is forced to drop, the door breaching open, dust and air being let out. She seems faint, her smile brief and her eyes distant. "Molly?" Her eyes seem to walk through the fog at last. "It's okay. I'll do whatever you want…" and the air is almost pushed out of him by the way she collides into him, her nails burrowing into the cold coat he'd forgotten to remove, too worried, too anxious.

It's not about him.

He's not done anything wrong.

Not yet.

Not now.

He doesn't dare let his hands rest comfortably on her back, but he revels in the warmth emanating from her small frame, yet mourns when he feels the warmth of her tears on his shirtfront.

 

Chapter Text

1994, November

 

Her mum was off for Edinburgh for the holidays, while Meena was flying off to Majorca to forget everything about uni, while she herself had no plans. Every harrowing exam was coming to an end and classes were filled with half-enthused professors and students who were buzzing to be let out, and she'd probably be as keen for it all to end as well, but her plans were strictly tiny chocolates with liquor inside. Christmas wasn't boasting to be a lot this year, not that she expected anything less, as Sherlock hadn't been particularly enthusiastic about the upcoming holidays. The shops were already playing music and the already popular 'All I want for Christmas is youuu' was getting on his nerves, which the radio got to feel the most of. Maybe they'd spend Christmas together? He'd never really mentioned family for some strange reason, but when she'd locked herself into their flat to find a rather familiar older looking man sat on the sofa, she'd been completely caught off guard. "Oh - hello?" she said when she began to unwrap herself from the various layers she wore.

"Hello? You must be Molly?" he said cheerily, soon stretching his long legs to tower over her, grasping her hand in a firm shake. "Sherlock's told us all about you."

She gaped at him remembering her own words about her flatmate Meena to her mother who'd laughed and laughed. "Umm - oh - he's told me-," she began.

"Not much then?" his father said chuckling, still shaking her hand, and looking more amused than anything.

"I'm so sorry!" she said quickly, as he released her hand.

"It's not your fault dear - our son isn't very family orientated - though my wife is very keen on him being so."

Molly grinned happily up at him. "Mr Holmes? Where is-," her answer came from the voices that would be noticeable however far they were. Sherlock was striding ahead in his morning robe with an older woman following after him - "It's Christmas, William!" she snapped, eyes wide, hands on her hips.

"Mother! Please! I am not going to be roped-," Sherlock whined, though when he saw Molly - his clearly indignant mouth halted entirely, and he soon wheeled around to face his mother who stared at him still in her pale pink coat. "No."

Mrs Holmes didn't seem to mind her son, pushing him aside as she came forward to shake Molly's hand. She felt terribly bemused by the whole event. "Would you like to come over for Christmas? Sherlock's told us that you haven't got any plans-," said Mrs Holmes with a good-natured smile.

"OH FOR GOD'S-,"

"WILLIAM!" said the rather shrill voice of Mrs Holmes, as she had whipped around to stare at her son. Molly could only venture to guess what kind of expression Sherlock's mother had given him, though it did make him shut up. "So dear - would you like to? We'd be delighted to have you over, wouldn't we Scott?" she addressed her husband who gave a soft smile in return.

"Yes of course! Any friend of Sherlock's welcome to stay."

"Umm-," Molly began while Sherlock gave her a look over his mother's shoulder. It was a properly narrowed stare that clearly told her all he felt on the subject - if she were going - he would have to. "I'd love to!" she said a bit more enthusiastic than she should, but she'd almost been on the verge of believing he was an orphan. However, she did regret the decision the instant he turned on his heel to leave them all to chat.

"Oh he'll come out again - he's not properly dressed-," said his mother easily, and she was strangely right. When his parents finally left later that afternoon Molly thought she'd heard Sherlock say - "Thank you," to his parents, though she didn't know exactly what for, but she had a tiny inkling that he didn't want her to feel left out. Ever since that day, things had been different between them - good different of course, as they didn't seem so much as flatmates than proper friends.

"We should get each other presents then?" she said later that evening to which he'd just given a brief nod like 'of course'. When Molly left the room she did not see the look of abject horror on his face on the prospect of gifts.

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

"Why don't you try finding out what she's bought you?" asked Victor, as Sherlock was going through his fifth cigarette. "Or do you want nicotine poisoning?" They were stood outside Harrods, which had turned into a disaster in Victor's own view, especially since Sherlock kept speeding through the store throwing out 'no' - 'never' - 'god no' at every suggestion by the sales ladies present.

"I've already done that," scoffed Sherlock. "She's not bought it yet."

"Please… tell me you won't be following her to the shops?"

Sherlock looked suddenly thoughtful.

"Yeah that's definitely not the answer - why don't you just buy her a scarf or something? Scarfs are handy - friendly and can be posh if you want," Victor interrupted.

"Scarfs are boring," said Sherlock who began to walk away from Harrods that was apparently a terrible idea.

"You could read her diary for tips?"

"I'd hardly find that kind of relevant information in her diary…"

"You've already read her diary - haven't you?"

"I had a brief glance."

"How brief?"

"Twenty pages."

"You dirty dog, you, anything exciting?" said Victor with a new cigarette in his mouth, his grin wide.

"Exams - stress - rather dull. Unfortunately nothing to sate your sexual appetite I'm afraid."

Victor's grin dropped.

 

Two Turtledoves

 

"I'm not telling you what I bought her," said Meena who was in the middle of throwing out the rubbish, giving Sherlock a glare when she headed back to her front door.

"Why not?" he said. "I could easily figure it out anyway with one look inside your flat. I'm not the receiver so I don't see why the information must be held away from me?"

"For God's sake's Sherlock - how's it going to help you if I tell you what I bought her? …I'd rather not tell you anyway… just in case."

"Just in case what?" he said with furrowed brows. "In case I might just accessorize whatever feminine gift you've bought her?"

"You have something for tiny pink lace knickers then?" she said with a raised brow causing him to abruptly shut up. "It's got a matching bra as well with a tiny black satin ribbon in the front - think you could find something to cover that up with?"

He blinked, lips pursed slightly. "…Do you have any advice?"

"Use a condom," she said with a grin.

"That's-," he began, trying to be indignant when Meena walked into her building, slamming the door behind her. "God…"

 

Three French Hens

 

"How am I supposed to know what to give her?" his brother said in a bored voice on the other end of the line.

"You usually attend to mother's gifts quite nicely."

"I have people for that Sherlock."

"Can I borrow your people then, brother mine?" he said with gritted teeth.

"No."

There's a beat.

"I suggest a scarf."

Sherlock hung up.

 

Four Calling Birds

 

"What do you feel about books?" he whispered.

"Hmm?" she said blinking through the dark of her bedroom. "Whas thaaht you say?" she mumbled, yawning immediately after, soon burrowing herself deeper underneath her duvet.

"Scientific? You'd like that-," he mumbled. "Wouldn't you? You wouldn't enjoy something mundane - or ordinary - certainly not - perfume or jewlerr-" suddenly her hand was covering his mouth, before she began snoring softly again.

 

Five Golden Rings

 

"You know you've never given me a bloody gift you know - and we've known each other for years!" snapped Victor with crossed arms looking despondent besides the rows of rows of gloves. "But here you are on practically bended knee-,"

"Do you want a scarf?" said Sherlock who popped up from behind a glass counter at which a sales woman yelped in fright.

"I thought scarves were boring?"

"Exactly."

Victor pursed his lips. "Well - I'll leave you to it then-," he said with a slight mock-bow of his head.

"Victor we both-," Sherlock began hurriedly.

"Yeah? We both - what?" Victor said with a gloved hand behind his ear.

"Fine! I'm a moron. Feel better?"

"Yes. So? Buy. Something. Already. I want to do something else than bloody browse all day!"

Sherlock stared at the counter. "Can I have this scarf?" he said pointing at a simple black wool scarf.

"That's not very - oh - that one's mine isn't it? Sherlock - I'm not supposed to see the-,"

"Do you want a gift or not?" muttered Sherlock.

"Wrap it in something shiny, please?" Victor said to the woman behind the counter who smiled.

 

Six Geese a Laying

 

"What are her interests then?" said his father nibbling on the end of his glasses. "You did say she intends on becoming a pathologist - is there anything you can give that can aid her?"

"Dear - have you asked Molly what she wants for Christmas?" said his mother, at which his father nodded.

"Might be helpful, yes, I think that might do the trick," said his father. "Women do liked being asked of what they want, son. Not many of the pragmatic ones expect you to be a mind reader." His mother smiled at this, though Sherlock swore he saw his father raise his brows quickly in doubt.

 

Sevens Swans a Swimming

 

"Molly - what do you want for Christmas?" he said causing her to stare at him over her bowl of porridge.

"Umm - I - well - I…I don't really want anything?" she said with a shrug, her eyes flickering to her bowl.

"Meaning you - do - want something."

"What?" she said.

"Molly - we are exchanging gifts… you can't tell me there isn't something you want-,"

"Not off the top off my head, no?"

"Are you expecting me to know what you want?"

She blinked at him for a few seconds before she said, "Okay…well - you can give me the 'All I want for Christmas is you' LP?" at which he stared in return. "I rather like that song."

"I'll figure something out then," he said beginning to walk away from the kitchen table, but when he'd gone far enough she suddenly spoke out.

"Oh - and - Sherlock? Don't ever try reading my diary again."

He wheeled around viewing her innocently pleased expression; there was something rather frightening about her looking at him like that, more than he'd care to admit. "How did -," he paused. "…Victor told you… of course."

"Yes, he was disappointed I didn't have any dirty entries, but that's just my decoy anyway."

"Your decoy?" he said with raised brows. "You have a decoy diary - why would you suppose anyone would be intereste-," he faltered when he saw the look in her eye. "I'm sorry?"

She giggled. "It's only a Christmas gift - no need to think too hard about it," and soon enough she was eating on her porridge again with an almost angelic-like expression.

"Yes - you're right of course," he said in a seemingly calm voice, though he soon furrowed his brows in confusion.

 


 

He rang the doorbell several times cursing under his breath. Sherlock felt relieved the second the door opened up and Mrs Hooper stared at him rather baffled. "Am I going to be expecting you here a lot then Sherlock?" she said with a laugh.

"Do you know what your daughter wants for Christmas?" he breathed out.

She frowned slightly, "Oh - well - she usually asks for knitted things from me, to be honest - likes her jumpers - and scarfs…"

He took a deep breath.

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

Eight Maids of Milking

 

"Figured out what to give her then?" asked Victor with a yawn behind his physics book, his feet propped up on another chair. Outside rain and ice poured down, frosting the streets and inflicting umbrellas with demonstratively loud raps. They were keeping indoors for that exact reason, though Victor had only come round to pick up his book, but one brief glance to the window made him extend his stay by several hours. Hardly much could drag him away, especially since there was plenty of coffee and food, unlike his own rather emptied out flat.

Sherlock looked briefly up from his microscope on the kitchen table, brows furrowed, "Yes - with no help from you."

Victor tutted, his eyes glinting slightly as he grinned. "You know…she told me what she's giving you."

"What?" said Sherlock, his head immediately snapping up with interest again. He really was like a headless chicken sometimes, Victor mused, and he was about to say he didn't actually know, though the sound of slippers padded across the kitchen floor interrupting his - 'not telling'.

Molly suddenly came forward in her robe carrying what seemed to be an advent calendar - all of the little flaps left bare of chocolate. Snapping his book shut he stared at the evident frown on her face, and she gave him a look of who she clearly could deduce was the culprit.

"Sherlock - how come every single one of these are empty?" She didn't sound accusatory at all, though Victor did still look all too entertained at Sherlock who cleared his throat against the suddenly overwhelming silence.

"…Clearly you've eaten them all in your enthusiasm for the holidays," Sherlock said carefully. In some cases, especially in the cases of missing chocolate it was better to come clean.

"I think what he's trying to say is that he's eaten them all," said Victor with a snigger.

"Shut up and read your book about astrology!"

Victor raised his brows. "Are we really going to have this debate again? You're supposed to be the clever one, but you don't even give a toss about what's happening up there!" He didn't mind Sherlock having no idea who Blur were or the prime minster (though the charismatic Tony Blair was difficult to ignore these days), but being absolutely - 99.8 % clueless about the name of the planets or how the universe worked - it did make him want to end their friendship.

"Until it's more than theory - we - can have an actual discussion."

"We've been on the moon for God's sakes! It's real - it's not bloody make believe - and so help me - do not tell me you don't fucking believe in the moon landing or I will hurt you."

The pair began shouting vitriol at each other, biting comment after biting comment, while Molly stood uncertain, soon staring down at her forgotten calendar. Giving the whole thing as a bad job, she soon walked off when she realized that it would be easier buying a new one, besides another one for Sherlock as well.

He never did like to admit that he was still very much a child, and frankly, she knew that the only reason she'd become annoyed was that she'd not been given the chance to eat all the chocolate on her own, which was really the only benefit with growing older.

No one would shout at you for not following the rules.

But somehow a new calendar found itself into her room, though instead of chocolate they were all small red envelopes hung on the wall by her bed - "Obscure murders - thought it would be less fattening than chocolate," he said behind his newspaper when she'd asked about it, enveloped clutched to her chest.

She knew he wasn't expecting her to figure them out exactly, but to be more to be intrigued. Meena had made a face when she'd told her excitedly of her homemade calendar - "Twenty four murders for Christmas? Yay…"

 

Nine Ladies Dancing

 

"I don't think psychology is my thing in the end… to be honest," said Meena with a loud sigh into her cup, the café buzzing about them with students. "I don't think I could spend my day hearing someone else whining about theirs, especially when I barely know what advice to give out in the worst circumstances."

"Oh?" said Molly surprised.

"I wish I were like you and knew what the hell I was doing with my life really. First I started out with English literature, then - oh no - let's do some art - and now - I'm just falling into that big impossible pit of having a gap year when I've just fucking started," she said bordering on tearful. "It's almost 1995!"

"Meena…" she said touching her friends shoulder lightly.

"What?"

"I'm terrified too…"

"You are? But you seem like you've got it all together-,"

"I am scared I'm going to fail…and there's barely any women in the field I'm going for. So I know I'll have to work extra hard to get anywhere. Not to mention I don't know if I'm going to be happy with what I do - what if it's the wrong choice?"

"Of course it isn't! You're going to be amazing!" said Meena looking very annoyed, pushing her dark locks away from her face. "You just have got to stop being a perfectionist and look more at the bigger picture. Your grades are good and you've come this far anyway, so, why the hell not?"

There was a small pause.

"See?" said Molly with a tentative smile.

Meena raised a brow. "Did you just trick me into giving you advice?"

"No…I am worried, but see - you handled my moaning."

"That's because I know you…Anyway if I'm going to be a psychologist - can you imagine how angry I'm going to be? I'll be shouting at people to stop being miserable, or I'll make drawings in my notebooks instead of listening - might finally make use of that nude painting work shop."

"No you won't - you're just scared you'll be good at it," said Molly with a giggle.

"Stop complimenting me please…. If you say another word my head might inflate."

"You're also very pretty, you know," said Molly with a smile.

Meena gave her a look, slowly bringing up her teacup to her lips. "I've never been crosser at someone for telling me I'm pretty," she said with a teary laugh. "Anyway…thank God I'm traveling away from the cold - or else I'd be sulking the rest of the holidays."

"You could probably could join Sherlock and me-," began Molly only to have Meena glare at her.

"Oh and give up the sun? No. Also I'm sure he'd be keen on having me there - especially with his parents - also - Vic who invited himself - the complete dick - and of course Sherlock's apparently arse of a brother Mike - well - according to Vic that is."

"I think it's going to be fun," she said undeterred by Meena's summarization of the guest-list, but her smile did feel a bit tighter. She understood what everyone had been hinting at, quite obviously for a while.

She wasn't a moron after all.

Molly was aware that everyone (Meena and Victor that was) meant Sherlock had a thing - a small very flimsy thing at best - for her. But she knew she'd be proven right in her expectations. If something would happen, it would have happened ages ago. They'd been alone together multiple times without anything happening. Sherlock was after all a man of action, and if he wanted something he'd usually spend all his time bent on getting it. Him in a relationship seemed like a foreign and abstract thought, more like a painting one would stare at going 'that doesn't look right'. She didn't even fit the mould of that kind of person she expected him to be around if he ever was.

"You okay?" asked Meena and she realized she'd been thinking too much about it again.

"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" she said quickly.

 

Ten Lords a Leaping

 

"I wanted to be a pirate," he felt himself almost scoffing at his own words to her. Piracy had only been a crude childhood dream, the ones kept to the garden, the tiny pieces left of sunlit days he could remember where his mind wasn't puzzle pieces to be captured, but whole and full.

It was reading grim unsolved cases in dusty old history books his parents kept, pencilling into the margin his solution, but the Scotland Yard weren't very eager to listen to a ten year old boy who'd just phoned in who Jack the Ripper was. "Is this a joke?" an officer had said before hanging up on him. His parents had even received a stern letter from them, informing them that their 'meddling son had better stop with his fantasies that interrupted decent police-work', so, he assumed it was just another fantasy. Letting it rest with his wooden sword and his faithful friend, Redbeard.

None of his chosen curriculums would lead him anywhere. Perhaps, science if he wanted, though it felt more like an amusing hobby than anything. It wasn't real work - it wasn't blood rushing through his veins - it didn't feel better than the exhilarating moment when the five per cent solution would hit him, the percentages increasing with his age.

But today…felt like a beginning, a shift in the water - much greater and bigger than anything else. He'd stumbled across a body and a hapless police officer, and it felt exactly like he'd always dreamt - fantastic.

"You're not the murderer - are you?" said the officer squinting at him suspiciously, having just heard his absolutely logical reasoning to the body being there (Blunt object thrown in nearest bin - hardly creative for our murderer - oh look - a bag of drugs in the man's front pocket - hmm - deal gone wrong - of course - the bag has lost half of its contents - most likely our murderer is up one of the boarded up houses nearby - squatting - on the edge clearly - anyone would be - you can see the wound isn't even - shaky hands - an addicts hands.)

"Are you really that thick? Why would I bother to return to the scene of the crime?" he'd snapped, gloved hands pressed together.

"You could be psychopath for all I know!"

"Do you want my help or not?" said Sherlock after a minute; the pair of them squatted down with the body between them.

"I'm starting to think I do," said the officer with a laugh before giving his name with a brief handshake. He didn't expect to meet the officer again, so he deleted the information, however grateful the man was when he'd caught the murderer. Not exactly an extraordinary case, but it was enough, just enough.

Sherlock had been briefly worried running up the steps to their flat that Molly wouldn't be there. Yet, of course she was - sat in front of the television in those slack pyjamas she regularly wore, her glasses on the edge of her nose, and her eyes darting to look at his bare hands. "Where's the milk?" she said confused.

He grinned, slamming the door behind him. "Forget the milk! Murder, Molly! Murder!" Shaking off the broad smile he could not, his cheeks were almost hurting. Molly got to her feet looking worried - and he shook a hand as he strode over. "Nobody we liked died of course - don't be stupid!"

"What-," she began making a face.

"My first case," he said breathlessly. "Solved it - rather brilliantly too - though technically it's my twentieth, but the unofficial ones need to be documented first." His mouth was shooting off the words quickly, while she only stared at him, her clear brown eyes wide behind her glasses. Everything was going so fast, the room almost spinning, so, he took hold of her shoulders.

He wanted to thank her - the blood was thrumming through his system, circulating and spiralling - but how? Head pounding soundly - thoughts and noises and words making such racket - then - it became quiet, this all-encompassing silence - the silence after the rush. All those puzzle pieces in his head finding their slot, as that satisfying ache was quenched in his stomach, chest and head.

It was only when he was suddenly drawing for breath that he realized he had kissed her, her glasses fogging up and her mouth a silent 'oh'.

"Milk!" he shouted as he practically ran out of the flat.

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

20th  December - Tuesday

 

"-Does he ride a red-nose reindeer - does a ton-up on his sleigh - do the fairies keep him sober for a day?"" Flicking off the radio before the plague of the century really kicked in felt liberating, though neither of his passengers seemed too bothered, especially Molly sat in the back with her classic red knit-wear who he felt would at least make a slight nose wrinkle. No, she was looking out of the car window, scenery passing them in rapid pace, her eyes otherwise unmoving. Sherlock who sat to his left in the car just stared straight ahead, stoic in his appearance and rather mute, even for him. Not that Victor didn't recognise the dark marks underneath Sherlock's eyes, and the way his hands seemed to be constantly in motion, pulling at his shirtsleeve like they'd see the fresh bruises on his pale skin if he wasn't too careful. Blaming himself only felt natural, like instinct, but he couldn't keep doing that.

 

Just because he was there or not didn't make a difference - before he'd been the one to blame, the one to suggest, and now his best mate was a question mark staring him in the face.

 

This was the Christmas he'd wanted to fucking avoid, but clearly, Sherlock wanted him to see it as well. Maybe he should have stayed out of the country longer. Puffing at his cigarette, he tried not to think too long and hard on where Sherlock had gotten hold of anything, or who he'd asked - probably Lucas - but why? They were driving to his parents to spend the next couple of days there and he was apparently coming down from a high. He knew how those were, how the barriers between pills to alert - to quicken - suddenly turned to mixtures of heroin enough to get you down, but a nifty amount of cocaine to bring you back up.

Maybe he should have listened to Michael and stayed in bed with him all week, instead of pretending he wasn't frightened being in Sherlock's presence from time to time, like Sherlock was his. The excuses seemed to change every time - boredom - control - all of them terrible justifications for a quick fix, and he knew them himself, all too well, the urge throbbing underneath ones skin. Glancing back at Molly he wondered if she knew, if she saw, or if Sherlock had been good enough to keep her out of it. Neither had really spoken when he'd picked them up, and he'd tried cracking jokes to half-hearted replies. Something had happened to set it off, but he knew that it would have gone off anyway, any excuse would do. Turning on the radio again for some relief - "It's the most wonderful time of the year -," turned into a terrible idea.

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

But now they only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone

So many things I would have done

But clouds got in my way

Both Sides Now  by Joni Mitchell

 

20th  December Tuesday

 

"Hmm?" she said realizing that Victor had already gotten out of the car, cigarette dangling like usual from the corner of his mouth. There was no snow outside, but by the way his auburn locks flew about, there was enough wind. Her eyes darted to the front of the car; she could see the back of Sherlock's head. He was still in the passenger's seat, tapping a finger against his cheek like he was considering something. Instead of lingering any longer she quickly grabbed her bag and got out, eyeing the red-bricked house when she smacked the car door shut, her breath only steam in the cold air. The grass crunched underneath the soles of her shoes, frozen but still solid, like it was just waiting for summer to come forward again. She followed after Victor, who was leisurely moving ahead of her towards the house, which door with a festive wreath swung open. Sherlock's father appeared in the doorway wearing a comfortable looking green jumper waving at them happily. "You'll have to come in - Margaret's in the kitchen," he said.

The worry automatically seeped in.

It was only Victor and her stood before Sherlock's father, the latter seemingly oblivious to the fact that his son was currently rather dormant in the car. She wasn't surprised to feel Victor's eyes on her and she returned the gaze that soon flitted off to the car worryingly.

"We…should, shouldn't we?" Victor said putting his unlit cigarette behind his ear, a rather tight smile on his face.

Mr Holmes' smile dropped an inch or two when his eyes danced across them, clearly picking up on their mood. "Where's William?" his eyes turning to the car.

She instantly wished she had a normal explanation or anything really to why he was acting that way, but - an answer came for her; the sound of the car tires squealing soundly - the car speeding off into the distance.

"Fucking bastard," Victor said under his breath, throwing his bag onto the ground.

For a second she couldn't believe her eyes, staring wide-eyed at the scene as no one spoke for a good minute watching the car drive off, a trail of gravel only left disturbed in the end.

"He's - he's going… to get milk," Molly said without thinking, her head turning to Mr Holmes whose eyes softened slightly, though she recognized the traces of worry on his face. If he was coming back in the end…she didn't know.

 


 

When five cartons of milk had showed up in the fridge after the kiss she'd giggled to herself, but after she'd fried some eggs and he didn't dart out of his bedroom picking food off her plate, she was surprised, though she thought he might be sleeping in. Hours passed and she finally braved knocking on his door. There was no answer, and upon unlocking his door, she found the room empty.

This went on for two days, and when he finally did return he barely talked. Every answer a biting retort on where he'd been or what he'd been doing or accusations thrown back against her.

He just looked and felt different.

It wasn't like she hadn't understood it the second he'd walked in, but she hadn't wanted to face it. She didn't know how to handle it. All her knowledge stemmed from pamphlets and teachers talking about it in serious tones. Drugs were bad, terrible and mostly used by the ignorant. Molly knew that wasn't how it was, and knew well enough that there was enough of a circulation going on at loads of universities. Every party she'd ever gone to had people asking her if she'd like to try some, and she'd regularly turn it down pointing to her beer. Alcohol was the kind of poison that was socially accepted and the one she knew the most of, while drugs were an unfamiliar spectrum of side effects - but the fact that - Sherlock - that he - did it?

It just felt wrong.

He was so clever.

Every time he let her see even a glimpse of how he thought, of how he reasoned, of how his mind raced - she was stunned and amazed, but this would slowly break it, tearing it apart bit by bit.

"You okay?" whispered Victor in the kitchen.

They'd both been left alone while Sherlock's parents were clearly having a serious discussion in the sitting room. She'd honestly not felt more than a child than she did right there and then, or more than an adult.

She felt like she was in flux.

Christmas wasn't supposed to be like this, then again, she didn't know how it would have turned out if Sherlock hadn't been like he was. Would he have spoken about - it - or would he have brushed it aside? Maybe they'd move past it quickly, eying each other nervously from time to time until all of a sudden - things slowly clicked into place and maybe, just maybe - something. She still didn't know how she felt and right now, she didn't want to allow herself to feel too much, or too deeply.

He'd driven off after all.

"I'm - I'm fine-," she said, hands clutching at her teacup. They sat by the table where different vegetables and things were being prepared, aromas of sweet and spicy in the air as there was something brewing on the stove.

It felt normal - nice and not mad.

"Load of rubbish," said Victor with a snort. "Not that I blame you for pretending everything's okay though, since, frankly I'd love to be that sort of person who carried on when everything's gone fuck all."

Molly couldn't help but laugh, the honesty at which he spoke catching her off guard, but keeping her surprisingly sane.

"I'm sorry," he said all of a sudden when she'd finally stopped laughing.

"What? Why should-," she began, slowly stopping, slowly understanding. " - You've - you've been-,"

"Heroin chic?" he said with a raised brow. "Oh yes, nearly felt like telling Sherlock to piss off when I saw him today - been managing for a while now, of course… it's hard to tell sometimes."

"Oh - I'm-," she blinked. " - I'm glad you're managing…?" The words sounded stupid and wrong, but she didn't know what else to say. He still smiled at her, his tired eyes lighting up slightly.

"So far - so good - especially when Sherlock's making me want to punch him for being such a dick. Makes it really easy coping all of a sudden."

"He kissed me," she said and it felt like such a relief to say it out loud, for it did happen, even if it felt like weeks - like months ago and it's another life, another her.

"He did?" said Victor with both brows raised.

"Days ago - he'd solved a case - and he'd just gotten home - and he just - kissed me."

"And then he ran out of there, I guess?" said Victor rolling his eyes. "Typical Holmes behaviour - cold fucking fish."

Molly blinked. "Oh?" The way Victor looked almost made her feel like maybe he and Sherlock had…maybe they'd

- - - "His brother is a complete bastard." Oh. "The all-in-all annoyingly smug kind of bastard who parades in saving the day with his credit cards and clean record - his only defect is that he's a bit on the larger side, but that just makes him look sweet, instead of the evil incarnate bastard he is."

"You really don't like him?" she said with a laugh.

"…He's alright," said Victor with a shrug. "Completely stupid name of course - - - - Mike."

"Mike?" she said. "That's rather normal, isn't it?"

Victor grinned. "Yeah." His grin dropped not long after, his expression less playful. "Molly…if you want out - just say it - I know all of this - it's not easy to take in - nobody wants to know their friend's all up in -needles - even if they're clever enough to keep it a secret - it doesn't make it better - even if it's hidden away."

She just smiled, "I couldn't…I couldn't just leave."

"And have a tear-free Christmas? They sound rather brilliant. I've only heard of them myself, but if - you want to leave - just say the word and we'll get the nearest train."

Molly gave a relieved sigh at that, some of the pressure drizzling off her shoulders, though other worries crept up on her despite it.

"Hello - Victor," said a voice and she turned to look at the newcomer, the one she assumed was the slightly round-faced Mike Holmes. "You must be Molly-," he gave her a tight-lipped smile, but he didn't reach out his hand, so she let her own rest on the table again.

"Mike, right?" she asked.

His tight-lipped smile dropped.

 


 

"My dear brother drove off with your car? Theft and drugs - all in one day - certainly a Merry Christmas to us all - mummy must be so proud," drawled Mycroft in that silky voice of his.

He didn't fit being called Mike.

He was really not a Mike.

Molly's embarrassment about his name didn't last long because her anger flared up instead, though it was clear from the way Victor kept playing with his cigarette that he wished for an out from the conversation as well. "Do either of you have any idea where he might have gone?" he said sighing, and suddenly he brought forward his mobile phone. Molly stared in abject surprise over the large portable phone while Victor gave her a slight eye roll mouthing 'show-off'. "I might have some people who can be able to help."

"Some people?" said Victor, his nose crinkling. "What people?"

"No one you're familiar with Victor…I'll take this call in the other room," and off he went with the phone.

Molly and Victor were left alone, both of them feeling rather useless in a house and home that wasn't their own. There was very little they could do, as she suspected the police were probably going to be brought in any minute. She just hoped they weren't being a burden staying there, as that made her want to leave immediately. Her little quiet Christmases with her mum seemed like bliss compared to this, as the only thing that happened was her becoming rather wistful at the end of the night when they'd hang up her father's stocking (a tradition).

"He does care you know," said Victor disturbing her thoughts.

She wondered whom he was talking about, whether it was Mycroft or Sherlock, she didn't know, and she didn't get the chance to ask either. The door to the kitchen creaked and suddenly Sherlock appeared, walking through it like nothing. "Mycroft being particularly unpleasant, then?" he said with a vague smile. Victor suddenly stood up from his chair, his eyes fixed on Sherlock who immediately held up a hand. "I needed to think," he said looking tired, as he threw the car keys.

"With my car?" said Victor who caught the keys in one hand.

"Actual - thinking," said Sherlock with gritted teeth. "I just needed some distance-," he continued striding into the room, dragging off his coat. She could still hear the voices of his parents in the other room… He'd purposively avoided meeting them on his way in.

"From your guilt?" It took her a minute to understand it was her who had said it. It just slipped out and his rather raw looking eyes meet hers and she just feels - "Sorry…" His eyes turn away and the air in the kitchen is suddenly too thick, too full by everything unsaid and said. "I'll go to my roo…" She doesn't have a room she realized all too late - and absurdly enough she laughs, the others follow and she wishes the laughter would go on for a little more, a little longer, because then she doesn't feel like she's breaking apart.

"You - complete - dick," said Victor pausing the laughter, the smile falling off his face.

Sherlock doesn't refute him, just gives a silent nod, his blue eyes drifting to the floor in something akin to shame or so she hopes. She hopes he's embarrassed - guilty - everything she wants him to be, but the way he lifts his gaze, his eyes meeting hers, she knows he isn't, not in the way she wants him to be.

 


 

There was some uproar when his parents understood Sherlock was there with the intent to stay - "Were you really buying milk?" said Mrs Holmes, her tone rather shrill and Molly tried not to laugh at Sherlock's expression, turning to her like he just knew.

Of course he did.

The moment it all settled down, they all of them seemed somewhat normal, the television turned on and food being consumed - Victor's rather alarming discussion with Mycroft about the state of the country - "I think our PM will have everything in order-," Victor said smugly. "Blair seems like he knows what he's doing."

It took three people for him to realize that Blair was only elected to lead Labour and not the country. "But do continue to be hopeful-," said Mycroft with a wide smirk. "Your ignorance brings holly to my heart, though it would certainly be pleasanter without it." ("I thought the Prime Minister was a woman?" said Sherlock who hadn't been paying attention. Molly just quickly shook her head and he continued eating on a mince pie.)

"Oh shut it, you'd be heartbroken if I weren't here," scoffed Victor in return, before he walked off for another breath of fresh air (his twentieth cigarette in Mycroft's presence).

Not talking about the elephant in the room certainly helped, and she was rather surprised that Mycroft wasn't throwing out some disparaging comments about his brother, though he saved the majority of them until his parents had gone to bed.

 


 

She was sleeping in Sherlock's old room, while the boys were all in Mycroft's old room - unsurprisingly she heard the three of them bickering through the wall, making her softly giggle through the darkness of the room. The room had been furbished in the way she assumed it would be, filled with odd bits and things, there was even a periodic table framed on the wall. It smelt like him too, but she didn't want to dig too much into that thought.

Molly hadn't exactly allowed herself much time to think of what she felt - more of what he'd felt throughout the past couple of days. A part of her was scared she'd set him off on this journey, but Victor had told her off when she'd whispered this lingering fear. No, it had just happened, like it would have at some point. She wondered if it would continue…the day could have been better, but it was what it was. There was little she could do to alter what had happened, but if she could take back the kiss, she would, hoping all of it would go back to normal again. Instead when they returned back to the flat she'd have to consider if she could really live with someone like that…if it was something she could dare to do. She'd heard stories and knew how it could be, how wrong it could all turn out - "Molly?" a voice whispered and she blinked against the dark, surprised by Sherlock who softly shut the door behind him.

Sitting up in the bed she waited for him to say something, but he just stood silently in the room.

"Sherlock?" she said softly, hoping he'd speak.

"I - want to apologize," he murmured. "I shouldn't have…" Somehow she knows what he's actually talking about, and it isn't entirely about the drugs.

"I know," she said with a small nod. "It's okay…it's fine really."

"No," he said quickly. "It's not…"

She really doesn't want to hear it; it doesn't make any difference in the end, because she can feel that constriction in her chest, the one she has pretended hasn't been there all along. It wasn't a part of her plan; this wasn't supposed to happen when she was trying to move forward in her life… She was the one who was supposed to be clever - smarter than all that..."Then…don't give me hope," she said blinking furiously against the dark.

Sherlock moved closer, like he hadn't heard her, but she doesn't turn her head to look at him, keeping her eyes straight ahead.

"What?" he breathed.

"Don't give me hope…because I know it's not going to happen - Sherlock - and it's fine, it's alright -," she said with a smile, but her eyes aren't keeping up.

"Molly…" he said and she can feel him touch her shoulder, but she moves away from his touch. It's just a consolation prize - a touch here and a linger there.

"Please…just go," she said in the strongest voice she could muster forward.

He does go and she lets more than one tear slip into her pillow. Friends. It's a more solid promise than anything else, because she knows he can't keep any in the end. Not when he's like this - when he can't really keep it together - when she's not sure if she can keep it together enough for them both.

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

Remember life is just a memory

Remember close your eyes and you can see

Remember think of all that life can be

Remember

Remember (Christmas)  by Harry Nilsson

 

21th December, Wednesday

 

It's a shudder of cold, of harshness when he wakes up. His muscles are sore and his body is sweltering against his sheets. He feels the faint brush of reality cram itself into his head, the voice of his brother tearing through his skull whispering - moaning - muttering.

It's like slices of glass cutting through, edging deeper and deeper.

Pulling on his clothes with a restlessness befitting a mad man seems easy. His insides are itching and he wants to move - to get the urge - the edge off - steering it clear off to some remote place where all is placid and quiet and nothing, except his breath, his saliva, his meagre existence a tolerable thing.

"Morning," said a voice like a brick against glass.

He blinks against the exacting winter light of the morning, pursing his lips like his intent was to get that cruel winter wind to seep into his lungs, icing his interior.

"Going somewhere?"

It's the kind of concern he'd like to be without, the kind that builds aggravation like bricks underneath his chest, but his friend is all ease, all calm, his expression merrily of interest, a cigarette already lit, its glowing embers swirling in the air.

He drags at his collar to seem like he's readying himself for something else than making his mind rest. "I was…considering a walk," he said, eyes turning to Victor briefly, but they can't stay. His friend's eyes halt, fixed on him, unwavering and without judgement. It's the judgement he can tolerate, but it's the lack of it that bruises his skin, makes his jaw clench, his eyes smart.

"You've never been one for trekking about outdoors. Sure you're not keen on borrowing my car again? I don't mind a drive."

He feels the acid build up like bile in his throat - Why are you friends with him? He's weak. Fragile. Little. "Maybe you should reconsider becoming an engineer. Clearly becoming a policeman is -," he bites out, the spit flying from his mouth, his nostrils flaring. Stop. Stop. Please.

"Why did you come back?" Suddenly his eyes sting and he immediately gasps for breath. Simple. So. Simple. It's only a question, yet it burns, burns on his skin. He takes in the sight of the empty road ahead, the bare trees and the low whistling wind, remember - - remember where you are…

"Why?" He can't pull the anger back; it just resurfaces at every turn - - why do you care so much? "Is it important?" Eyebrow up, shields up, and heart clenched tightly. Pocketing his hands helps them from shaking, but Victor isn't bothering to speak or push. He's only blowing circles of smoke into the air that slowly encircle him. And the barriers seem to crumble at the mere wisp of smoke. The pressure in his chest expands, his throat tightening and his want to escape inexplicably large, "Molly."

Not one pang of outrage or surprise on the face of his friend who just looks at him, still in perpetual easiness. "She would have managed, you know," and he does know, he does know that Victor would - that he would be there, that he would manage - even he would be more…solid than him.

His brows furrow as the heaviness twists away. "She needs-," he breathes against the air, but he's not allowed to -

Victor snorts, disbelief emanating from him. "Sherl - I mean this in the best way. No actually... I don't mean this in the best way - you conceited dick - you're the one who needs her… Not the other way around."

He wants to protest.

"Let me ask you this - - did you bring her present?"

"Of course I did?" he scoffed, confusedly staring at his friend with his mouth almost in a sneer.

"That's really not an - of course - from you," said Victor who threw his cigarette away, crumbling it into the ground with his heel. "That's a bloody miracle." The door to the house swings open, its creak alerting him of his friend's impending departure and he addresses the heat in his cheeks.

"Why are you being like this?" he said his voice rougher than he wants, lacking the power or the venom he'd like to achieve. Still he gets what he wants - the pain - the accusations so clearly written on the face of his friend.

"Did you ever think that you might not be the only one who'd be effected by your display?"

His lips part but his words don't.

"That's what I thought…" and Victor grazes him with a brief smile, though there's no familiar light in his eyes.

"Why are you staying?" he threw out too late, his pride wounded, but Victor doesn't answer, letting the door bang shut in reply instead. All of his urges just disappear, trickling away into a lack of sleep, a lack of breath.

 


 

Not a single door being opened or shut, or grunt, or half-witted comment outside the door could tempt her out of the warm bed. It was pleasant underneath the thick duvet, more than pleasant, and accidentally stretching her arms out from under it had been a mistake she corrected instantly. Molly knew it wasn't just the mild lure of sleep or dreaming that made her want to stay, since she would also be less likely to meet Sherlock, as he'd also be less likely (if he did have half a brain) to appear in her room (technically his, but she wasn't focusing on insignificant details).

Then again there was also that undeniable problem with her staying underneath the duvet for the rest of the day, sleeping and awakening again and again in an endless loop of yawns and messy hair; her stomach, she was starving. Anyway, she wasn't really sad, though the problem with repeatedly saying she wasn't sad was bound to turn her actually sad by the sheer force of her want not to be, but she wasn't.

Her crying had all to do with it being Christmas and a sudden increase in hormones, which happened every month, and of course had to happen during Sherlock's pre-emptive attempt to make everything bang on awkward, she had the right to be in a state. It was also Christmas, the holidays, which always made her wistful and thoughtful over the joyful ones she used to have with both her parents…

Technically she had more than one reason to stay in bed really, though, her stomach lurched more pronounced in the end and she knew her embarrassment couldn't outweigh her current hunger that certainly sped ahead at the sudden waft of food, making her mouth water. She grabbed her robe from her bag, and threw it on top of her pyjamas with a groan (as the room was colder of course) before she headed out of the room and down the steps - her heart irritatingly up her throat when she realized he was probably up, except her eyes were suddenly drawn to the unexpected sight of a large pine tree which tip reached the roof.

"Oh," she said happy to feel a grin slip onto her face without her forcing it on. Victor was sitting by the table in the sitting room with a large cardboard box littered with shiny baubles and twinkly lights, the latter he was tasked with untangling. Mrs Holmes stood eyeing the tree thoughtfully carrying a smaller tattered gift-box in her hand with glittering old-fashioned ornaments.

"Sherlock got it - the dear," said Mrs Holmes with a smile. "Though it is rather on the larger side, but at least… some good did come out of it." Clearly she said it out loud so others would believe it, for Molly saw the look in her eye, just as clear as she'd seen her mother say - 'your dad's going to be fine, sweetie'.

"Resembling his ego to a tee," said another voice on the other side of the tree, which she recognized as Mycroft who was sat with a newspaper, closest to the kitchen where Mr Holmes was - -

"Making French toast!" he said cheerily when she approached, her eyes wide at the sight that made her insides squirm. "Thought you might enjoy some - I like having a bit of a luncheon after my breakfast."

She immediately thanked him and he fixed her up a plate without further ado, and she began nibbling on it, awaiting her coffee with some trepidation. She wasn't sure whether or not she just hadn't spotted Sherlock who wouldn't really surprise her as a silent figure, probably letting his mind drift while everybody else 'prattled on about his or her mundane lives' or he was really absent. Nobody else seemed to mind, while a pit seemed to be slowly brewing in the bottom of her stomach, rapidly growing. What if something was wrong? Now she was just panicking, afraid that he'd run off again and not come back this time, while they were all busy with Christmas. Instead of thinking too hard she finished off her breakfast, and listened half-heartedly to the others talking.

"Do you have anyone special in your life Victor?" asked Mr Holmes spreading crumbs across his front with every chew. She allowed herself to smile, a bit happy to hear something normal being discussed, especially since she remembered Sherlock referring to Victor as a 'ladies man', which was in some ways rather true, he was well-loved by the ladies and a massive flirt but-

"Currently a - - Michael - though he's not come out to his parents - makes a tricky Christmas," said Victor with a large sigh. "Boring really - - not that I mind the secrecy. We have nice little pretend sleepovers once in a while."

She was surprised to see Mycroft drop his paper an inch or two, his eyebrows connected briefly. "Or perhaps he's convinced his parents won't like you?" he said, the smirk firmly in place.

Beyond the tree another voice spoke. "Take that back." She blanched standing in the kitchen with her mug as Sherlock rounded the tree with a sprightly jaunt, his robe flaring behind him, and her heart could not help but leap at the sight. He gave a brief smile at the sight of her, grabbing a French toast from the stack besides the stove, as he continued - "…Victor's not exactly famed for having met anyone's parents - excluding ours - so - he must be taking this one seriously if he's even contemplating meeting them."

Mycroft's paper was up again.

"I - am - actually," said Victor loudly, and she could hear the grin in his voice. Suddenly she felt rather cheered by the change of tone, especially since Sherlock seemed to be rather his old self again (despite still looking worse for wear), and she didn't contemplate too hard whether or not it was their conversation that propelled that transformation or not. Molly blinked when she realized she was standing in his way, for he seemed to be furrowing his brows at her, but before she had time to even consider budging to the side for him to grab a cuppa himself, he effortlessly picked her up by her waist, his hands warm and large, and placed her to the other side of him.

Her reaction of yelping and staring at him wide-eyed came too late, for he just poured himself a cup without any comment, taking a large bite out of his toast.

That was…

"Molly?" said Sherlock, his eyebrows knitted amusedly, as he took a sip from his coffee, eyes twinkling. She'd forgotten he was still standing there, and she couldn't help but frown at him. His blue eyes turned to the ceiling and she followed them to find - - - "Mistletoe," he murmured, eyes still up, until they darted down her face, his mouth twitching. "I did us both a favour."

She released a breath the second he walked off, his run up the steps audible, and she tried not to think too much of whatever that was, though clearly she was overthinking things (and probably would be for a while). Molly eyed the mistletoe with a vague shake of her head - obviously - he didn't want to repeat the offense.

 


 

Victor had eyed the two brothers and the stupid game with a frown. Scrabble. He'd turned down the offer immediately when they'd mentioned 'playing games', since he knew how mental the Holmes family could be from time to time, as he suggested to Molly they go for a walk until the lot were done, because truth be told he wasn't very keen on dealing with the brother's at the moment (not exactly unreasonable).

"You feel better?" he asked her when they rambled about in the freezing cold. "About Sherlock I mean?" Molly nodded briefly against the wind, her hair dancing about.

"You?" she half-shouted back.

He nodded half-heartedly himself. "Probably when his parents let us touch the whiskey."

She giggled.

"There is a pub nearby, well, a few miles off - one quick nip in and out after eight pints and we'd be back, you know. How bad would that really be?" he said, though she shook her head this time with her laughter.

Unsurprisingly when the pair of them returned only Sherlock and Mycroft were left up, the pair of them throwing snide remarks at each other above the board.

Molly looked at the scene with blissful ignorance, a smile in place on her face at the brother's playful antics in her head.

"Are you still playing?" she asked tugging off her jacket, and he followed suit, hanging both of their coats up on the rack before they settled down around the table.

"Stating the obvious, but - yes," said Sherlock, his eyes narrowed on the board while Molly peered over his shoulder naively.

Victor couldn't help but note that Sherlock didn't seem annoyed by her proximity, which he was famed for after all, accusing others to be playing on the side of his brother (especially if Mycroft won). Crossing his arms with a slight grin he surveyed the scene, Mycroft was sat besides him with a satisfied expression on face that made him want to mouth the word Mycroft clearly had lined up to take Sherlock down. After years of getting to know the family he knew their parents were to be blamed, as both of them were terrible losers, though their father was a bit more graceful on occasion, but their mother was the bloody last straw.

"So - who's winning?" said Molly, and he immediately felt like groaning, leaning back into the soft plush chair, almost shielding his eyes with his hands.

"I am," said Sherlock easily.

There it was.

"In what way?" said the silky voice of his brother. Maybe he should go to bed, so he wouldn't be dragged into some childish argument, especially since Mycroft was supposed to be the oldest. He was 27 years old after all - "I know you might feel confident with the girl at your side-,"

"Her name is Molly-,"

Victor sat up, instantly intrigued by this altercation, and couldn't help but stare at Molly who looked awkward now besides Sherlock, shifting slightly away from him, clearly not wanting to be involved. They hadn't really spoken about anything during their brief walk, skirting over the topics briefly with hopeful comments. He was just doing what everybody else wanted to do - pretending - it felt easier. More than half of him did want to punch his friend, though he felt there would be a future event for that, as there regularly was.

"Yes, Hooper-," finished Mycroft.

"Umm, I'm here?" Molly offered, her cheeks scarlet, as she made herself look rather small on the sofa. "Molly Hooper?"

Mycroft smiled at her and that was the last drop for him, since it wasn't a smile to reassure her at all. "Yeah, we're not doing this boys-," he began leaning forward in his chair about to tell them what they were being over Scrabble.

"Your friend," said Mycroft slowly.

"Yes, my friend? Molly?"

Clearly nobody was listening to him, and he felt like having another cigarette, except that would be a luxury, and he was running out already. Molly was eyeing him nervously and he felt keen on taking her for another walk, maybe in the direction of the nearest shop, miles off.

"Your midnight meeting successful then? - - Oh yes - - it didn't go unnoticed dear brother - when can we tell mummy and daddy the big news? You've finally found someone who'll be willing to take care of you-," Sherlock looked elsewhere, and Molly's eyebrows connected - " - Ah - I see - - the romance is dead then?"

"He was…he was just saying sorry," said Molly who was by some miracle still sitting, looking just a twinge uncomfortable in her seat. This was clearly not the response Mycroft was looking for, as he narrowed his in slight distaste. "We're just… we're just flatmates."

Mycroft seemed to pause for a bit, his lips pursed in amusement while he was picking up his tiles, eyes glinting. "…Apologies have never been your strong suit - have they brother?" said Mycroft addressing Sherlock who was mutedly staring ahead. "Oh - look - 'l - o - v - e '- I win… goodnight." With one wide smirk Mycroft left with a deafening silence after his victory, though luckily the silence was broken - -

"Goodnight?" said Molly who turned to him and he gave a shrug in return. Telling her of the pseudo bullshit that Mycroft had been pulling on Sherlock for years seemed best spared for a time when Sherlock wasn't trying to emulate his brother - who was the biggest hypocrite. This was why Victor didn't play games with them, as they always played dirty. Suddenly he'd be told his mother didn't love him, not that he wasn't already aware of that, but he wasn't fond of daily reminders.

He sucked in a breath, crossing his arms across his chest, as he eyed the word on the board - "Do you think he planned that one since the beginning?" His wry grin went unnoticed by Sherlock, but Molly giggled to his relief. "Since that's not something you do on a whim... Only he'd be a cock enough to do that one, well, all except you, Sherl."

It felt like a sheer Christmas miracle when Sherlock snorted, picking up the 'l' from the board, letting it slide between his fingers. "He does love his dramatic exits," he said with a raised brow.

"Is he always this rude?" asked Molly with a very harmless expression, causing the pair of them to laugh.

"I'm sure he's got a bitter chocolate centre somewhere under all of those waistcoats," said Victor with a grin, comforted that it actually felt somewhat normal all of a sudden, less stifled by the weight of everyone trying.

"I think I might kip in now as well," said Molly and she exited with a barely stifled yawn, smiling at the pair of them; exchanges of mumbled 'goodnights' rang before she ran upstairs.

Victor looked bemusedly at Sherlock whose eyes were fixed on the steps that Molly had taken, and he was about to quip something when his friend took a deep breath, eyes twisting towards him - "I'm sorry - - I forgot," he said with a certain fierceness in his eyes. "I…-,"

"I'm used to you not thinking," he said with a smile, his voice lower and coarser than before. "You with all your mad-cap planning Will - a bit of holly and heroin is nothing compared to when we were little."

It's not supposed to sound bitter, but it does anyway.

He did choose to stay away, to keep himself busy the rest of the day, not wanting to be alone with his friend when he was still hovering uncertainly. He'd not called him Will in years, the years when his friend didn't bear so many burdens, and didn't try to avoid feeling anything at all.

"She's distracting me," said Sherlock, his eyes elsewhere.

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

23th December, Thursday

 

Victor moaned when he chanced a glance at his wristwatch. There had been a distinctive creak - and the familiar sound of bare feet stealing across wooden floors. He wasn't bloody expecting Father Christmas this early in the morning.

Wonderful.

In some ways despite being 'supposedly unpredictable' he could count on Sherlock to be utterly predictable.

Whenever they had a serious chat of any kind, there was only one thing his friend would do and that was - run. But he'd hoped he'd grown out of that really, as he'd seemed sensible enough (in his own way) the night before. However, he wasn't about to run after him which was why he moved slowly out of the top bunk instead, intending to take his leisurely time.

When he got to his feet he glared at Mycroft who was still fast asleep softly snoring with his limbs all over the place (he'd always thought Mike slept with his hands folded on top of his sheets - no he was a large octopus really). Grudgingly, even if the lack of sleep pounded against his head, and the cold floors certainly didn't soothe him, he gingerly cut across the room and ventured out in pursuit of his friend. Every step forward was icy cold and he wished he were the kind of person who wore knitted socks with bright patterns in his sleep like Molly, but no, he had to creep about barefooted. When he got down the steps and into the sitting room preparing for the worst, he was surprised to find Sherlock hunched down by the Christmas tree, eyes on the presents.

Will hadn't done that since they were kids and it had regularly been because Victor had a propensity to unwrap presents earlier (his parents weren't strict when it came to it either)Somehow the 'Molly is distracting me' that Victor roughly translated into 'She's scaring me. Tell her to go away' hadn't turned into some collective Christmas nightmare where he'd be sat in a police station somewhere, maybe Birmingham, where Sherlock would be sporting some massive contusion on his face because he was an overgrown man-child…

He clearly needed his cigarettes.

Oh wait.

He was out.

"An exercise," said Sherlock causing Victor to remember that there were more important things than the death-sticks to consider right now, even if he felt his throat practically clench. He wondered briefly taking in Sherlock's palms pressed together and the look of concentration if this was going to be like the one time they debunked Father Christmas as kids (though he kept telling Sherlock that he was most likely on the naughty list, which was why he didn't get any presents - - he wasn't a nice child).

"Right…" he mumbled, still a bit too groggy for his own like, and his voice sounded like he'd had two packs instead of the four cigarettes the day before, it was like his body thought he was quitting. There was no New Year's resolution, fuck no. Wait. Suddenly the thought came out of nowhere, his mind was clearly working slowly because of the lack of precious nicotine, or his thoughts were being side tracked by the thought of - "…You do know Molly hasn't put your present underneath the tree yet, right?" he said with laugh.

Sherlock considered him; though he couldn't read whether or not he was confused or pretending he was confused. "…Of course."

"You're also still not fixated on that 'lipstick and wrapper' theory right?" he said soon sitting down with a grunt besides Sherlock cross-legged on the floor. "Because we both know it's flawed."

"It's not flawed - it was clear that girl was-,"

"Lucy, her name was Lucy - and yeah she was practically gagging for it, Sherl. The girl asked you if you wanted a blowjob, I'd hardly call her in for questioning about what that meant."

"It isn't restricted to lipstick, Victor. Articles of clothing can be of good use as well - subliminal messaging-,"

"Your mum doesn't wear a lot of gold though and -," he picked up a package wrapped in gold and showed off the red tag with his own name on it, - "I don't think your mum wants to make me her boy toy exactly with this suggestivegold wrapping paper… Her presents to you are also wrapped in gold - - - something you're not telling me?"

"Please," said Sherlock with a sigh. "We both know it doesn't necessarily mean sexual intercourse."

Victor shuddered at the word intercourse said so placidly. "Okay, then, fine - so -," he picked up a package wrapped with purple paper. "You're a fan of purple, aren't you? It's your most used colour."

"And?"

"This ones to -," he looked at the tag - "Molly - none of the other presents seems to be in that shade."

"I ran out," said Sherlock drily and got up to his feet.

Victor grimaced up at him, "I'm just glad you weren't about to drive off with-,"

"What are you two doing?" said a voice, and the pair of them blanched at the sight of Mrs Holmes striding forwards looking rather formidable despite only wearing her periwinkle blue robes.

Victor quickly got to his feet, his finger already pointing at Sherlock, though his friend seemed to have the same idea, as his was out too, though they both dropped them. They hadn't done anything, but he still felt guilty as Mrs Holmes' eyes swept over them.

"And what's this mention of driving? You're not driving anywhere again are you?" she continued, her voice taking on a shrill note.

- - - We're planning a drive later today-," said Sherlock causing Victor to stare.

"We are? - - - - - We are-," he said with a nod to Mrs Holmes who looked at them rather bemused.

He'd get his packet of cigarettes. Thank God.

"Why's that then?"

"It's Victor's disgusting habit that is dragging us away for an hour or two mother," said Sherlock with quick a smile.

Mrs Holmes' eyes flittered to Victor uneasily, though he only gave an innocent one in return, since he was on the verge of suggesting such a trip ages ago really, but he knew how she felt about smoking.

"How can I know you'll be on your best behaviour? Even if your girlfriend is there - there's no guarantee-" she said and he was about to swear they'd be alright when the word slinked its way properly into his consciousness.

"Girlfriend?" he echoed, brows raised and knitted.

 


 

There was a weird sort of mood in the car and she couldn't entirely put her finger on it, until Victor opened his mouth - "Molly, did you know-,"

"My parents think you're my girlfriend. Hope you don't mind," said Sherlock in one breath, turning his head briefly around to look at her.

"You had to ruin it," groaned Victor.

"What?"

Chapter Text

1994, December

 

23th December, Thursday

 

The bell chimed by the door and she blinked to awareness inside the less than spacious shop where a man sat by the counter. He gave them a half-hearted nod, eyes bleary and fixed on the tiny television stacked on several magazines (Top of the Pops blaring from the apparatus). Ahead of herself and Sherlock, Victor strode purposively forwards, quickly leaning his hands on the counter before he gestured towards the cigarettes behind the man. Neither her nor Sherlock moved, standing next to each other silently.

It was the same silence that had occupied the car for some time (if she ignored Victor happily singing to every available Christmas song on the radio when neither responded). Somehow despite the apparent awkwardness, and the fact that Victor was merrily stalling by the register, pointing out a packet of crisps and chewing gum, while throwing her an obvious eyebrow raise, she was glad.

The whole thing was silly really, which was what she needed at the end of the day. They'd not exactly been affectionate and Sherlock had not requested her to play the part of girlfriend either ("They'd hardly believe that" Sherlock snapped after Victor began raising his eyebrows). She did agree, despite the wee twinge of why not, but mostly, she was curious. Why was it necessary? So it would be hardly surprising that the words "Why me?" slipped out of her mouth and her eyes got fixed on a bottle of shaving cream.

Suddenly bringing it up outside the car and outside the house made it seem ten times more serious. She couldn't laugh anymore of the ruse she was apparently in without having to make any effort…Certainly did not help when he suddenly didn't fix her with an effortless and quick reply. He wasn't supposed to hesitating. Frankly only she was allowed to be doing that under the circumstances. Not him.

"You're…normal," he suddenly said besides her, eyes on the items before them as well, and she gave a little silent nod in return, like she understood.

She didn't know why she nodded; she hardly knew what normal meant, but it seemed sensible to be nodding really.

"And?" she added noticing that Victor had taken to flirt with the man behind the counter whose dull eyes glinted all of sudden.

Returning her eyes to Sherlock she was surprised to find him staring, there was even a furrow between his brows, like he needed to think it over, possibly without offending her she supposed.

He drew for breath, his chest rising and his lips pursing as he slowly said - "You're not like me…" She was about to protest, almost laughing at him until she understood what he meant. "They'd hardly expect you to be willing to be with someone like me, now, would they? …You give them - - hope."

He gave her a brief smile before he walked away, letting her gape slightly into the distance.

Quickly she followed after him, her cheeks flushing a deep red. "But -," she didn't know where to begin really, so she said the first thing that came to her head. " - - - Umm - we don't need to do anything, do we - to convince them, or?" It felt silly asking what she already knew the answer to, but it felt better than just turning silent again.

"No, your presence is convincing enough as it is. I'm sure mother's already mentioned you're the first female in the Holmes residence for some time, besides herself," he said soon rolling his eyes.

"Yeah, she sort of mentioned that, but I thought she meant - well - it's fine..."

"I'm...sorry I didn't tell you - I didn't think I'd need to-,"

Molly laughed. "If I'm going to be your girlfriend, it's probably good if you tell me… It could have turned out worse after all. It could have been your mum or dad!"

"Yes… I suppose. Anyway I'll tell them it's over during New Year, and we've decided to be friends."

"I can't break it off over New Years that's not nice," she said crinkling her nose.

"What? I said we decided to be friends," he said confused.

" - I don't know - - it just seems likely-,"

"You'd break it off? Why?" he stopped talking all of a sudden, nodding to himself. "Ah, the drugs. Yes, a problem I suspect."

"No. No. I mean - I - I don't - know what I mean-,"

"It's fine Molly. It's a fictional relationship. If you want to break it off I'll hardly hold it against you," he said looking suddenly amused again, and she couldn't help but return the smile.

"Done?" asked Victor who appeared carrying a bag, and they both nodded briefly eyeing each other. "Thank God - my throat's getting a bit sore. Can't do any more of that singing really-," he said as they began walking out, giving a brief wave of one hand to the man behind the counter.

"The cigarettes will certainly help your throat," drawled Sherlock.

"Do you want one or not?"

Sherlock immediately held out a hand.

"You shouldn't be smoking!" said Molly smacking his hand away, while he looked at her affronted, gaping slightly even.

He still got hold of one anyway, grinning happily as he lit up the offending cigarette between his lips by wordless encouragement from Victor.

"Sherlock," she said with knitted brows.

"You're not my mother-,"

"…No - I'm your girlfriend," she said with a laugh.

"If this is what it is like to have a fake girlfriend. I take it back… I decide what shade my lungs should be in," he said with a grimace, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth.

"Hear hear!" said Victor cheerily.

 

Christmas Eve

 

"What have you got her then?" Victor asked Sherlock who didn't answer. Waiting for Sherlock to reveal whatever he'd bought to Molly seemed rather futile after all, but he'd expected him to begin a long rant about how he needed his second opinion on the gift without saying he needed it. Somehow that hadn't happened, and he was left in the unknown.

"Come on. Tell me."

"No."

He did what Sherlock would have done. "...So what are you giving Sherlock for Christmas?" he asked Molly who looked at him in mild surprise, before she gave him the answer without seeming to even reflect much over it.

"A scarf? Why?"

He blinked.

" - You're giving him a scarf?" he said trying not to laugh.

"Yeah?" she said with raised brows.

"That's…that's nice."

Victor didn't need to know what Sherlock was giving her after all. Seeing his face Christmas Morning would make it all worth it in the end.

Chapter Text

Christmas Day

 

A swirl of red stormed into her room, throwing her slightly off-kilter when she was stood mid-brush of her tangled up hair. She ended up gaping slightly at the eye-watering sight - a fine red silk robe and a pair of matching pyjama trousers was all that Victor wore when he strode into the room. He was looking rather Christmas-y, though he certainly did not have the figure of Father Christmas, his toned chest the opposite of jolly. Neither did he seem an inch embarrassed as he furrowed his brows at her, eyeing her up and down with a scowl - "What do you mean you're dressed too?" he spat out. "I expected more from you, especially since I'm sharing a room with Scrooge and Marley back there."

She didn't know how dressed he was exactly, and she was rather glad nobody else seemed to be following his lead, especially Sherlock who she could hardly imagine sporting something like that (except black - - he'd do well in black or dark blue or… oh shut up Molly). "Why is everyone dressed this morning? It's Christmas!" Victor continued while she heaved a sigh tugging her brush through her hair with a bit more insistence. She wasn't supposed to be thinking about whatever Sherlock was supposed to be wearing, because she'd never really thought of what Sherlock had been wearing before, and now that they were definitely out of the window, she wasn't about to start now.

"Merry Christmas," she said with a small smile putting her brush aside, her hair was clearly not manageable this morning anyway so there was no point trying. "…I got cold - but I've got this festive jumper on though." She pointed at the reindeer's nose that popped out from her chest. "Isn't it nice? …Or not good?" she said her spirits being put a damper on by receiving utter silence from Victor who just stared at her. "What?" she said crinkling her nose.

"Merry Christmas, Molly," he said giving her a quick squeeze to her surprise. "I'm really glad Sherlock tricked you into living with him." She laughed as he pulled back giving her a peck on her cheek. " - - Enough with the soppiness - - let's go down and open some presents, shall we?" he said grinning.

"Oh dear God," a voice groaned in the distance that she recognized as Mycroft. He gave them both a withering look as he passed the open bedroom door, looking rather impressive in his grey suit hadn't it been for the dark marks under his eyes. Of all the boys Mycroft was least likely to have lost sleep thinking about his presents, unlike Victor who also had dark marks under his eyes.

"There goes Marley," said Victor causing her to giggle.

 


 

Victor grudgingly put on clothes; though it was more when she pointed out he'd have to get dressed to enjoy a cigarette in the freezing cold (though it was honestly because she saw how cold his nipples seemed to be and them turning blue wasn't a vision she'd like to have in her head). Apparently Christmas Cigarettes were a thing, which she highly doubted, but to each their own. She gave him her blessing to smoke while she followed the smell of cooking, as the kitchen smelt heavenly when she came bounding down, a waft of baked goods and fresh bread. Mr Holmes kept sending off his wife every time she seemed to be keen on knowing the progress of the mince pies (he was proficient in baking after all).

"You should look to your Christmas stocking Molly - Father Christmas might have left something for you-," said Mrs Holmes with a smile as she dipped her finger in a fresh out of the oven pie to Mr Holmes' severe tutting.

Molly gaped slightly; she'd not had a proper stocking in years.

"Mine? But I-," she began only to be halted by the sight of Sherlock walking into the kitchen throwing a tangerine and catching it in the same hand.

"Molly," he said with a brief smile.

"Morning," she said in a small voice.

He looked much the same wearing a wrinkle-free purple shirt; his dark curls less of a mess and his whole appearance a vision of health. For a brief moment she almost forgot the mess he'd caused, though she withdrew her gaze to seek out her stocking, reminding herself that she wasn't going to act a numpty around him.

She caught his eye briefly to reassure him she wasn't avoiding him, especially when they'd already had the talk about their relationship twice. Once for the actual relationship and a second for the fictional one. Molly really didn't want to add a third discussion to the mix, as they were both mature enough to leave it at that.

The fact that she was trembling when she got to her stocking - her name in pink letters on forest green had nothing to do with him, and all to do with the fact that his family had welcomed her in. "They like traditions," said a voice causing her to turn in disbelief. It was Marley - - Mycroft who looked less bothered by the affair. "They always hang up the stockings every year - always, whether or not my little brother or me are here of course-," he made a brief twitch of the mouth, which she presumed was him smiling.

"And?" she said when he didn't explain further. "Isn't that normal?"

"Oh yes, I suppose it is, but we're a part of the family," he said with a light shrug, while Molly eyed the various stockings - Victor had one also. "Despite our objections to such activities - we return - you however…are merrily temporary."

She didn't know what to say to that, staring at the man who looked at her with what she saw as serene expression, but mostly he looked tired. "Right…" she said not knowing what else to say, but she wasn't about to storm out either, her eyes flitting about in the room while she attempted to collect some words. "…I - I hope you like tangerines."

Molly wished she had said something good, something that would have made Mycroft feel as bad as she did the second she left the room, but she knew she'd only have felt worse if she had. Maybe she was temporary, but if there was one thing she knew - nothing lasted forever, especially family.

 


 

She'd gotten a new diary from Victor who gave her a wink as he said - "You'll probably have new dirty little secrets to keep next year." Surprisingly enough Mr and Mrs Holmes had given her a nice set of bathing products (salts and scents), and even Mycroft had apparently splurged on a year's subscription of 'Financial Times', which Sherlock remarked had to be Mycroft's own subscription. Meena had gotten her a new black velvet purse with cat ears, and she'd gotten knitted things from her mum with peculiar patterns and stripes of course. The second she'd gotten to the large and heavy package from Sherlock - he was nowhere to be seen, which instantly made her nervous.

His mum quickly made up an excuse on his behalf, though Molly was already making up several in her head, since she couldn't imagine he was purposively avoiding her. Sherlock hadn't opened her present to him yet either, though it was hardly something to blow a trumpet for, so she wasn't hurt over his absence.

"Sherlock's then," she said as casual as she could, noting that Victor's eyes flickered over the large -

"Rather book-shaped, don't you think?" he said with narrowed eyes, before he proceeded to curse under his breath.

Molly began to gingerly remove the purple wrapping paper, glad that only Victor was paying proper attention, as the rest were busy talking and laughing (except Mycroft, of course, who wore a perpetual grimace with his reindeer tie). It was when she'd ripped away the lilac string and gotten under the layer of paper that her hands froze.

No.

Had he?

It couldn't be.

Her hand slid across the front in disbelief.

She'd recognise that cover anywhere, it had been almost a permanent fixture in her childhood; a volume she'd snuck off with and didn't grasp or believed she did.

Here it was.

Molly barely needed to look up, but she felt more than she saw Sherlock crouching besides her wordlessly.

She didn't know what to say.

It was too much.

She'd only given him a stupid scarf.

This was…

"Meena told me. Thought you might like it," he said softly.

Her eyes flickered from the book to him repeatedly.

One copy of Gray's Anatomy; not a first edition, not even a brand new one, but it was the one her dad had owned before he passed it on to her. He'd given it to her when she was nine and she had treasured it, especially the - - her hands almost stopped at the thought of reading it again - - she opened the book to find the familiar loopy handwriting on the page.

There it was.

The words she thought she'd never read again, like a fading memory in the back of her head. "How - how did you find this?" she said barely managing to breathe, her hands trembling and her eyes watering.

It had been lost.

They'd moved and it had disappeared.

They'd tried so very hard to find the book.

Her mum had looked everywhere, but it hasn't shown up.

She'd always assumed it would be lost forever.

Yet here it was.

Sherlock raised a brow at her, but he couldn't make her feel like an idiot right now, not even close. "Like it was hard, Molly. Just needed to contact a handful of used bookstores-," she didn't even give it a second thought, soon throwing her arms around him for what she assumed was a bone crushing hug "- ouf-," he let out at the impact, embracing her awkwardly in return, his hands patting her back uncomfortably.

"Thank you - thank you - thank you-," she breathed, almost irritated when she began sniffling soundly, warm tears rolling down her cheeks and into his dark purple shirt. Molly didn't know how many times she said thank you or how long she hugged him, but she withdrew grinning at him nonetheless.

"Thank you Sherlock," she said once more, her heart in her words. Her eyes were bright; her cheeks red as she gave him a small soft peck on his cheek.

"You're welcome," he said. "Merry Christmas, Molly Hooper."

Molly didn't manage to leave his side immediately after that, and dodged repeatedly when he asked where his own present was, but in the end she relented, and he wrapped the dark blue scarf around his throat with ease.

"It's not especially expensive-," she began fidgeting, worried he loathed the very fabric around his throat. " - I didn't really think we'd be, I mean-,"

"Don't worry Molly. I didn't waste much time finding your book after all, so don't lose sleep over it."

"You should get him a new scarf every year," Victor piped in all of a sudden and Molly blinked at him, while Sherlock threw him a withering look in return.

 


 

"How many?"

He ignored the question.

"How many shops did you contact? - - - Sherlock?"

"…129. Happy? So when can we expect your heart to grow then, hmm? Or should I not hold my breath?" said Sherlock clenching and unclenching his hands.

"Be careful, little brother," said Mycroft before he walked off.

Chapter Text

1994, December - 1995, January

 

Oh, I got a funny feeling when she walked in the room

And I, as I recall it ended much too soon

Oh what a night

Hypnotizing, mesmerizing me

She was everything I dreamed she'd be

December, 1963 (Oh what a night)  by The Four Seasons

 


 

New Years Eve

 

Someone was groaning in the background followed by a loud smacking sound - "…Sorry about that -," said Victor easily on the phone. Sherlock rolled his eyes; it wasn't him who'd called after all. "They're having at it in the hallway I think, that or someone just got murdered." All of it said with unabashed cheer that prompted him to grudgingly smile, glad that his friend wasn't observing him, however. Trevor escaping to a warmer city post-Christmas celebration was hardly surprising, especially when the other city was overflowing with cheap alcohol and more interesting parties, or so he said, though Sherlock knew it was because he'd not find an easy way to indulge his whims (Mrs Trevor's way of making the subject of drugs more endurable to her 'friends').

"I thought it was Michael," drawled Sherlock, resting the receiver on his shoulder as he peered down at his watch, timing when he'd need to be by his equipment on the kitchen table.

He'd spent the majority of his day picking up where he'd left of, while Molly had regularly appeared brewing herself a coffee with a surprisingly dour expression, the sort he had learned not to question very hard.

"You remember his name then Sherl? I thought you weren't paying attention," said Victor sounding rather amazed.

"Hardly - now - would you mind explaining why we're having this conversation in the first place? Not that I'm not delighted to have you call me for once during one of your vanishing acts."

"Ah, well - - you've got to take her out."

"What?"

"Molly. You've got to take her out."

"Where?"

"It's New Years Eve, Sherl. Big party. Big Bang."

"And?"

Victor sighed on the other end. "Meena rang me up to tell me that I had to tell you to take Molly out because she almost never goes out on New Years Eve."

He immediately wanted to crack open a window and have several cigarettes after hearing such a sentence.

"And have to make her change her mind - why?" said Sherlock still staring at his watch, considering whether or not he should just hang up and pretend like nothing. "Couldn't Meena have called her herself?"

"Meena isn't going to the party - she's stuck at her parents - belated Christmas celebrations and all - and I know you hate New Years Eve, but Molly needs to go-,"

"Then she can go. I'm hardly barricading the doors."

"And leave you on your own? No. She wouldn't do that… You would do that," said Victor. " - Meena knows the best person to convince Molly to go is you, especially when there's some bloke hoping she'll show at the party."

His hand was wrapped around the receiver all of sudden, his eyes off his wristwatch as he grimaced. "Some bloke?" Instantly he regretted the words slipping past his lips, as he could hear the soft laugh of Victor on the other end, besides envision the smirk framing the bastard's features.

The same expression that kept popping up on the man's face whenever Molly had brought up how grateful she was for her present. He'd only listened to Meena's suggestion of replacing that copy with a new one, but he hardly knew what to write to defile the new edition so finding the original only seemed logical.

"Yes - whatshisname - fuck - oh - David - yeah David fancies her - he's studying to become a doctor," suddenly he heard a smacking sound in the background again - "Sorry so...anyway Meena knows that Molly does want to go, but she's not really a fan if she knows Meena can't go herself."

"Somehow I'm supposed to be tempted to go because of this?"

It suddenly got a bit quiet on the other end. "…Jealous are you?"

"No," he snapped slamming the phone down onto the receiver.

"What's going on?" said Molly who shuffled into the kitchen, brows knitted together. "Who was on the phone?"

"Get dressed. We're going out," Sherlock said striding past her, irritated to see her light up at the prospect.

 


 

He checked his watch. "Molly."

"We're not going to be late, Sherlock!" she cried out from her room, the sound of her heels clacking on the floor, and he only heaved a sigh stretched out on the sofa.

"I'd rather arrive early and leave early," he muttered to himself knowing that the whole point of a New Years Eve party was to stay until the very end of the party.

Thankfully it wasn't at a club, though he'd be bored out of his skull wherever they were going. He wasn't fond of the concept at all; as then he'd be forced to talk to people he didn't care for...

Not that he - - -

"All done," said Molly who appeared with soft-pink lips, beaming at him in a new pink dress, her hair cascading down her shoulders. "What do you think?"

"…It's fine. Let's go," he said jumping to his feet, averting his gaze as he blinked furiously.

"It's bad then?" said Molly causing him to look at her again.

"No," he said quickly only to catch her nervous expression. "I'd tell you whether or not it was bad, Molly."

"So…it's not bad?"

"No, I'm sure Derrick will love it," he said with a smile he instantly dropped.

"Derrick?" she said looking bewildered.

"Whatever his name is - so - shall we go?" he said quickly stepping ahead of her, soon wondering whether proving he was not jealous was worth it.

He didn't need to stay anyway.

He only needed to leave when she forgot him.

 


 

She didn't really know what was going on with Sherlock, as he was acting extra strange, even for him. Molly knew (or well hoped) he wasn't anxious about the party itself, even though she knew there were always drugs available (though she hardly knew who at the party would have those). The other available option of staying inside in their jimjams all night with the bottle of vodka she had stashed away - almost seemed tempting, but she knew they'd only end up going to bed early.

They were young after all; they were supposed to be ringing in 1995 with a bang. Besides he looked rather dapper with a dinner jacket, even if he looked vaguely uncomfortable with the bow tie (he'd probably be the best dressed there).

"Tim - a friend of Meena's is throwing the party... so be nice."

"How nice?" said Sherlock with narrowed eyes as they reached the door, loud music audible from the other side.

"Nice - enough," she said with a wide smile when the door opened and they were let inside by Tim's strawberry blonde girlfriend Lucy who Sherlock only nodded his head briefly at when she asked what his name was.

Molly salvaged the whole situation quickly by handing Lucy a bottle of wine she'd brought. "You could have talked," said Molly when they were out of earshot.

"I'd rather not risk it," he said with a smirk.

She giggled heading towards a long table with drinks while eyeing some of the people already dancing, but when she'd stood there long enough she realised she was standing alone. Sherlock was still standing by the door and she quickly got to him, grabbing him by his elbow to drag him with her. "We're supposed to stick together," she whispered.

"I thought the whole point of a party was to mingle?" he said looking as if he had just been served dung.

"You standing in a corner alone isn't mingling."

"I suppose you expect me to dance as well?"

"No," she said with raised brows, suddenly catching the look on Sherlock's face - " - - Not until we've had a couple of drinks at least... I know how much you like dancing."

"I don't like dancing..."

"You danced with me last time," she said handing him a glass of wine, which he held gingerly at the stem.

"Fluke. Anyway, I'm sure you'll find that special someone to dance with tonight."

"Sherlock? What's wrong?" she said. She really didn't like his tone of voice. "If you want to go, it's okay - we'll go-," and suddenly the crinkle between his brows dissolved -

"Oh God."

She blinked, "Sorry?"

"No, not you - it's Victor," he said with gritted teeth.

"What?"

 


 

She'd been keeping him company, keeping him amused by challenging him to tell her about the various guests', none of which were medical students. He should have known, though he'd hardly call the party a setting for romance or whatever convoluted idea Victor seemed to be harbouring. The various traditions weren't lost on him, however, though he understood why he'd had such a reaction to 'David'.

Pretending he wasn't vain was beside the point, he enjoyed the glances Molly would cast at him, and the almost guilty look she always had afterwards. But he could hardly expect her to follow after him constantly to please his ego, besides it was distracting. There was no need for him to have her interested in him, especially when they were living together, and especially when he didn't want to have another talk.

Having his brother second-guess his every action or having Victor tease him just because of her sex was just the sort of thing he couldn't continue abiding. He knew that it would be simpler to ignore any comment, for he'd usually ignore other people's comments without any consideration, but he did not want Molly to be harmed in the crossfire.

She might take some of it to heart and then he'd most likely never see - - "What are you thinking about?" she asked, cheeks rather flushed after her fifth glass of wine. It was remarkable how much she could drink, but she wasn't mixing tonight, or so she said (repeatedly).

"Do you see the blonde man with glasses-," he said quickly to which she hurriedly brought her gaze out, looking giddy at the prospect of him deducing someone. " - - He's been looking at us every two minutes."

"...And?"

"He's single - non-smoker (I know how you like those) and seems to be studying literature by the look of his jumper-,"

"Oh - is it in the way his sleeves are worn, then?" she said excitedly.

"No, it's just - bad taste," he said with a shrug. "It's a revolting jumper Molly...I think we both can agree."

She laughed, until her eyes abruptly darted to the man, and then back at him, an unreadable expression on her face.

He could see she was considering what he'd said.

"You should talk to him," he added casually.

"I don't know..."

"Why not?" he said with a small smile. "You've got nothing to lose." Molly looked at him fully then, gradually returning the same smile, before she excused herself saying she'd be right back.

He intended to be gone before she came back.

 


 

"Yeah - - I study literature, something funny about that?" said George whose brown eyes crinkled at the corners behind his glasses. "I hope you're not going to mock me for not knowing what I want to do with my life."

"No - no - I know loads of people who don't know what they want to do-," she said grinning. "It's just - I came here with my flatmate and he's-," Molly turned around, suddenly alarmed to see Sherlock by the door pulling on his dark coat - before unexpectedly exiting - "I - I've got to go - I'm - sorry-," she put aside her glass and scrambled for the exit, getting her coat in the process.

He wasn't to be found in the hallway when she got out, nor was he at the steps, and it wasn't before she'd gotten out into the freezing cold that she spotted him tugging up his coat collar - "Sherlock!" she cried out.

Immediately he turned around and she huffed a breath at the sight, thankfully he didn't budge so she quickly caught up with him. "Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?" she said crossing her arms.

"You were having fun, weren't you?" he said raising a brow.

"I - - yes, but - you're my friend."

"And? We don't necessarily need to go home together."

She could see on his face that her asking him whether or not he was okay wasn't a good idea - "No, but I wasn't much keen on staying any longer either? You could have asked?"

"Really?" he said with both brows raised.

"...I just, umm, I really want to sit in my pyjamas and not talk to strangers, to be honest," she said biting her lip.

It was partly the truth.

His eyes softened slightly. "Fine," he scoffed, "We'll empty your bottle of vodka, shall we?"


 

First of January, 1995

 

"He dhid sthudy literathure," she slurred, palm soon clamped against her mouth. "I mhean - ohh - neverr mhind-,"

"You're drunk," he said with his legs stretched out on the coffee table, grinning at her despite himself.

Neither had put on their jimjams, nor did he feel like he'd manage to pull on or off any clothes at the moment.

"You too!" Molly said sounding rather affronted.

"We're - nhot - we're nhot - oh shut up," he said.

She snorted and he was about to come with a scathing comment when the landline suddenly went off. The pair of them stared at the phone, though neither moved, and luckily it went quiet again, but when Molly was about to open her mouth to talk - the landline went off again.

Reluctantly Sherlock got to his feet and picked it up.

" - - You're at home?" said Victor sounding poised and collected on the other end. "Where's Molly?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes, which he felt was audible enough.

"Sherlock?"

"...Say hello to Mycroft for me," he said hanging up.

Chapter Text

1995, First of January

 

She smacked her lips audibly together the second she could make out the taste in her mouth. Obviously she'd not remembered to brush her teeth or she'd used wine as mouthwash or both. 'Oh' - - cracking her eyes open also made her remember one very crucial thing - - her sleeping partner. There was a mop of familiar dark jet curls, so, she wasn't caught unawares. It's not like she could forget what had happened the night before, though if she had, Sherlock face down on her bed would have probably surprised her. He was however, still in his clothes, and she was still in her now wrinkled dress.

Nobody had gotten out of his or her kit, thankfully. No, it was after the many drinks that Molly began clearing off to her room, only to have Sherlock stumbling after her, the both of them dropping onto her bed. He spent the next hour or so, grumbling and muttering about his brother 'who he didn't care about' or 'his supposed friend', as they were both on a sex holiday. When she'd laughed for a while he'd been rather uppity about it, sniffing soundly and saying her laughter was 'unfeminine', which made her throw a pillow on his head of course.

Half-dozing off some time later, after his words just became slurs and disconnected sentences she asked him why he hadn't gone off to bed yet, but he'd only grunted in reply, soon turning around in the bed, mattress sinking underneath him, mumbling a brief 'goodnight molly'. Neither had fallen into each other's arms that night (not that she hoped or thought they would...), too drunk and too used to their own space, and she knew the only reason she'd really woken up was because he'd been nicking most of the duvet. He was wearing a pair of trousers, and though she knew he had skinny legs - it was her bloody duvet. "Sherl-," she began, her voice a gravelly mess and her hand automatically flying to her head in surprise over the wave of nausea that took a fierce grip of her, ceiling and room and pink swirling about. "Sherlock?" she moaned, almost wanting to plead for breakfast or for him to possibly bring her towards the loo. Resting her head on a toilet seat seemed like a lovely idea.

He groaned besides her.

She was not getting up any time soon.

Letting her eyes shut again she yanked a piece of the duvet to her and snuggled partly underneath it, eyes shut tightly to dissuade the queasiness. Perhaps her stomach was growling, but she'd have time to regret that decision later.

 


 

Later

 

"The door-," said a voice gruff and hoarse, though the hand that was on her face was much more troublesome, almost cutting off her breathing. "Molly."

"Whaat-," she whined smacking the hand away from her face, rolling onto her side, only to hear the voice increase in volume by her ear - - - "the knocking - don't you hear it-,"

"Piss - off."

"Isn't that your mother?"

"What?"

"...Your calendar says your mother is visiting."

"No, that was after New Year."

"It is after New Year-," said Sherlock, and she threw her eyes open to glare at him, only to find herself staring at her calendar, which did have 'mum's coming' with hearts drawn around it in pink. She certainly heard the knocking, almost timid and withdrawn, clearly her mum understood why she might not be answering.

"Oh God-," she said in a squeaky voice, her head and body feeling rather like they'd been locked to the bed. Yes. She remembered why she wasn't going to drink too much, but that had slipped her mind. Why was it that whenever she intended to be rather sober her night got entirely spoilt with drink? But when she went out of her way to get utterly pissed, she'd most likely be the one comforting or sorting someone else out the entire night? It seemed like a rule. Yet somehow both seemed to happen at the same time for once, which was astonishing really.

"Molly."

Sherlock wasn't supposed to be the voice of reason, though she slowly got to her feet, swinging her legs off the bed gingerly, before she pushed herself up. Ugh.

"Where is your flatmate now then?" said her mum in the sort of voice that suggested something, all smiles and gleaming eyes with a cuppa in her hand (which she'd miraculously brewed eyeing the mess in the kitchen and her for that matter, clucking her tongue slightly). It's not like she hadn't told her mum about Sherlock (after a few cock-ups of telling her that he was a she for a small period), though she hadn't mentioned all the quirks and possible side-effects her mother might wrinkle her nose at, but she'd not asked any particular questions about him for a while (unlike the first time 'he's not a sexual deviant is he?').

"He's still asleep, I think, though he might have moved. He's in my room-," she recognised belatedly that that might not sound good.

"Is he now?" and that's when her mother's Scottish accent burst forward a bit more clearly than usual. "So - what's he doing in there?"

She blinked, pressing her lips together firmly for a second, before she giggled as casually as she could. "Sleeping? Umm, we sort of just, fell asleep...in the same bed," she began blushing while staring into her teacup.

They had fallen asleep.

They hadn't done anything wrong.

There was nothing wrong with sharing a bed. It was bound to happen really, and they'd almost done it another time, but then it had been a bit more awkward (for various reasons).

"Ah, alright - shall we try to wake him then? So I can talk to the boy for a bit?" said her mum who got to her feet, while Molly sat behind gaping.

She knew it would happen, but in his current state. He might not even try to be civil - actually - he probably wouldn't.

"But - but-," she began, rising up of her chair as well, traipsing after her mother who began opening doors and peering inside.

"Where's this room of yours?" she said walking ahead of her, while Molly tried to make up an excuse for Sherlock, though she knew her mother wouldn't let anyone rest, whether they were in proper state or not. "Should have known-," said Mrs Hooper with a laugh when she saw the butterfly sticker on the door, giving it a knock, a groan was heard from the other side - "Oh come on young man, I think-," the door burst open of course, and Molly let a sympathetic sigh out for Sherlock, but her sympathy deflated at the sight of him on her bed.

Naked.

Bare arsed - face down - nude.

"He's a wee bit underdressed for sleeping, isn't he?" said her mother snapping her out of her shock.

 


 

"Maybe you should put on some more clothes, dear - might make Molly less cross?" said her mother laughing at Sherlock who was wrapped in her duvet - her duvet with the lovely unicorns on - my little pony bloody sullied by nudity.

She sat cross-armed and cross-legged on the other available chair in the room, furthest away from Sherlock, her one foot jiggling.

Of all the times to take off his clothes!

"Excellent cup of tea, Mrs Hooper, thank you," he said with a sort of sleepy sigh, smiling a sort of smug smirk, his hair just a ruffled mess. Watching him finishing off a cup of tea wasn't her idea of a good new year, but she'd been stewing too long with her anger to manage to say anything. "I do apologize for the mix-up. Thought I was in my own room."

"It wasn't," said Molly in a small voice, quickly pursing her lips in annoyance, while Sherlock briefly glanced in her direction.

"Yes, the thread count should have given it away," he said twisting around in her duvet, the top part giving away and revealing his bare chest. "Quite coarse, Molly. Don't know how you manage to sleep properly."

"Thank you...Now could you please get dressed-," she bit out.

"Ah, it's alright-," said her mother unmoved by the whole affair, waving her hand away as she cleared off Sherlock's cup. Just like her. She always needed to be on her feet. How she managed being alone in that big old house - Molly didn't really know. Sometimes, more often than once, it made her feel bad that she wasn't living with her, but she couldn't - she couldn't sort her mother's life out. " - I've met him before, you know, so a bit of nudity isn't so terrible," her mum began when she returned from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her trousers, as she sat on the arm of one of the cushier chairs, too restless to sit properly.

"Sorry?" said Molly who turned to Sherlock who was not meeting her eye. "Sherlock - have you met my mum before?"

"Once...or twice -," he got to his feet all of a sudden, eyes everywhere but on her. "I should go and get dressed." Molly could not help but stare after him. She should have known. Only her mum would manage to help him with the book, though, she could imagine both Meena and her had.

"Mum?" she said when he'd disappeared from her sight, his bedroom door smacking shut in the distance.

Her mum made a bit of a face all of a sudden. "...I was about to say how sweet he was, though, I suppose he doesn't want to hear that."

Chapter Text

1995, January

 

The plate is speckled with grease, though Meena doesn't shrink away from the deep-friend chips, more or less humming with pleasure, while simultaneously having a cigarette - wafts of smoke hitting her occasionally in the eye - "Sorry I don't pretend to have a New Years resolution this year," she said like an apology, as Molly tried not to laugh. It's the first day she's been properly out, though she doesn't know how much sitting outside a dodgy pub that's five minutes away from where she lives - counts, but it's close. The last couple of days have been filled with lazing about and the occasional project Sherlock got her into, one of which made a hole in the kitchen table - "I'll buy a new one." He hadn't bought a new one yet, but she didn't feel like badgering him about it either, as it was his table. Also, somehow, the hole made the table seem extra charming, except when she didn't know and managed to make a small plate fall through it, as Sherlock had attempted to obscure the damage at first with a large piece of flowery cloth from her closet, "Brightens it up, doesn't it?"

She thought he'd suddenly gotten into decorating.

"How was Christmas?" said Meena before Molly had drifted entirely into her thoughts again.

"Umm, it was nice," she said with a smile, letting her nails tentatively tap against her cup of cocoa.

It had been nice -

If she ignored the drugs, the getaway, the older brother and the late night conversation - all of which neither Sherlock or her were really talking about at all. Not that she really did need to talk about anything that had happened, as she didn't expect them to have huge emotional talks all the time. Molly only wanted to have a proper confirmation that he was okay, and not just pretending. He gave the impression of being fine, but then again, she hadn't known something was properly off to begin with. So, if someone should have a New Years resolution she sort of hoped it was Sherlock.

"Okay..." said Meena with a raised brow, and Molly belatedly noticed that her not adding anything made it all seem very suspicious. She knew she could talk about it with Meena, but it didn't feel right. It felt like it wasn't her proper place to talk about all that had happened. "You'd tell me if you weren't okay right?"

"I'm fine - I really am," she said with a bit more conviction, and Meena nodded in return before putting out her cigarette in the ashtray.

"So - nothing of import happened at all during Christmas?"

"No...or - umm - Victor and Sherlock's brother Mycroft are seeing each other," she said having almost forgotten about the whole thing. Which was surprising, as Sherlock had spent an age moaning about it.

"What?"

 


 

"You're fine with it, though?" said Victor.

"Why wouldn't I be fine with my friend sleeping with my big brother?" said Sherlock with a smile that he immediately dropped, as he riffled through a newspaper, which he quickly flung aside to the floor. Attempting to avoid Victor had been pointless, as he wouldn't let him be, constantly asking him the same question again and again.

"I'm being serious. I need your blessing."

"Really? Since the apparent flaunting throughout Christmas was rather unnecessary, don't you think? Michael?" snapped Sherlock. "If you wished to be less obvious you might as well have baked a pink phallic-shaped cake for mother."

"- - I am not your little brother, Will. And you know how your bloody brother is, so will you please just act your age?"

"Why do you need my blessing? What have I got to with it?"

"Oh - so we're just going to pretend nothing's happened then - like we always do - because that's how we do things here? The emotionally congested populace - where Molly's probably not even managing to talk to you properly because she's afraid you might snap-,"

"... He broke it off, didn't he?" asked Sherlock in a quiet voice.

Victor blinked quickly putting his hands in his pockets, as if he didn't know where to put his shaking hands. "You know how he's like Sherlock - - - pretends that he's so cold, all the fucking time, and I've got to be the one who sorts him out, all the bloody time. It's like, I wish I only cared for one of you, but I just wasn't smart enough for that!"

Sherlock clenched his jaw and stared him right in the eyes. "What did you expect? - A happy ending?"

Victor's eyes widened slightly, eyes blinking rapidly, as he looked like he was silently struggling to understand something.

"Did - did you know he'd be like this?"

He didn't answer.

"Right," said Victor who walked off to fetch his coat, as Sherlock stared after him. "I should have bloody known you'd pull off something like this."

"How is this my fault? ...I was being kind," Sherlock bit out causing his friend to stop in his stride.

"Maybe you were, but it's obvious you have no fucking idea how long this has been going on, have you?" said Victor, his eyes red at the corners, and then he left, door slammed so hard in his wake that a picture frame fell off the wall with a bang.

 


 

"Just like him to pull a stunt like that," said Meena with a shake of her head. "His lover who he's been talking about for ages, but who I thought was just a bunch of blokes who'd morphed into one. It's like, of all people you'd think Vic would be the one who'd be, you know, playing around. Not in a secret committed relationship."

Molly grinned. "I can see it actually."

"You can? I can't; then again, I can't quite see Mycroft in my head either, as Vic has never been kind about him. Painted him out as quite the berk."

"He is... a bit of a berk."

"Which technically Vic is too, so, all in all, it's a good match."

Both of the girls laughed, though Meena's brown eyes shifted to the side again to Molly's bewilderment. She'd been doing it for some time.

"There's a bloke-," Meena said jerking her head to the right.

"A bloke?" said Molly who turned to look.

"No! Be - a bit more casual, would you?" Meena hissed, which only caused her to laugh. She'd never been good at that sort of thing, if ever, but she hadn't really been properly thinking about boys lately either. School, Sherlock and other things had gotten ahead of that, though the second thing more than it should. He was a friend, and friendlier than that, they wouldn't get.

"He's been staring at our table for the last fifteen minutes, to be honest, and he's - fuck me-," said Meena. " - Oh my God - Molly - shit - he's coming over-,"

She turned to look, and yes - a set of light blue eyes - wavy blond hair and a smile that had always crinkled her toes growing up appeared before her - "Oh God-," she said gaping at the sight of Graham.

Graham - her next-door neighbour.

The next-door neighbour she'd had a thing for, for years, the slightly older and completely and absolutely not a-chance-in-hell-Graham was walking over - having somehow recognized her from the look on his face.

"Molly Hooper?" he said with that slightly hoarse voice of his, as he reached the table smiling down at her. She almost got to her feet at her name, though he gestured to the available chair at their table - "Mind if I sit, or am I interrupting something really important? I guess I am - from the look on both your faces?"

"No - no - no-," said Meena with a wide smile. "You can just sit down - since we were discussing - we're - what were we discussing Molly?"

She blinked. "Umm, we were - - politics?"

Meena grimaced.

"That's a broad topic, you've got there," he said with a laugh as he settled down on the chair. "Certain you weren't talking about something else?"

"No," said Molly who giggled, and hated that she could feel her cheeks blush, especially when he seemed to be looking at her rather intently, though his gaze went to Meena after a minute.

"You were her most frequent visitor, weren't you? Meena - right? I remember you coming round quite often when I helped her mother around the house, though you were much shorter back then."

"Yeah, you know, she had a big house," said Meena who gave Molly a knowing look. They had been embarrassing at the time - really - really embarrassing - as any 13 year old girl would be, more or less, especially when someone older kept working around at the house without his shirt underneath the sun. There had been many visits from Meena that summer, and Graham had always been very sweet to them, despite clearly understanding why they were giggling so loudly in his presence.

"Which always needed a lot of fixing, yeah - - how is your mother these days?" said Graham directing his attention back on her. "I'm afraid I haven't seen her in a while - I've been too busy to be honest - and I should probably have begun asking you what you're doing these days - sorry-," he said with a rueful smile.

Molly smiled, aware that from the corner of her eye Meena was looking at her with a large grin. "Oh - well - I-," she began, almost fumbling just because of what her friend could possibly be suggesting. Graham would never - he wasn't - he really wasn't interested in her of all people. They hadn't seen each other in years, and that was why he was at their table - "I'm studying to be a pathologist."

"Upstaging us all, as usual," he said with a smile.

"Thank you... I'm not that yet, though."

"You were always clever, so I'm sure you'll pull that off."

"Wow - umm - thanks - what do you do?" she asked clearing her throat.

"- - Architect, though I mainly focus on gardens, which isn't as important as your job, I'm afraid, and which does sort of sounds like a gardener really."

"It's important to the Queen," Meena pointed out, which caused them all to laugh. "The royals do like their hedges."

 


 

"What do you expect me to do?"

Sherlock closed his eyes, as he heard the sigh of his brother on the other end. "Anything ...would be nice?"

"It's over Sherlock."

"How long has it been going on?" he began. "Because I know you, this isn't something that just happened."

"Did you ever wonder why I let you notice to begin with?"

"You wanted to end it?" murmured Sherlock, but he soon held the phone away from his ear, aware that the dial tone had begun. "...I don't believe you..."

"Sherlock?" said a voice and he soon plastered on a smile. "Why's this picture on the floor?"

"Experiment gone - ah -," he stopped in his track at the sight of the twenty-something man who was dressed in a recently expensive shirt - he recognized the brand - besides the tight-fitting dark trousers. " - We have a visitor?"

"This is Graham - he's an old neighbour of mine," said Molly who shyly looked up at the man with a smile on her face.

Sherlock put on a smile for her benefit, as he was introduced to a firm handshake from - "Graham - and you must be her flatmate Sherlock? Nice to meet you, sorry that I didn't bring a housewarming gift."

"Why should you? You just met her today."

Graham blinked as he released his hand. "How - how did you know that?"

"Well, for one, you're sexually attracted to her, or else, you wouldn't be here," he said smirking. "Old neighbours and all. Hardly anyone brings them home if they don't find them attractive, so don't worry about her - - You're in."

"Sherlock!"

 


 

"Why did you do that?" she asked.

He didn't answer - staring at his violin - which he'd been looking at in utter silence for the last couple of minutes. Graham had left a while back, luckily, he'd salvaged the situation by talking about something else entirely and Sherlock had scuttled off to brood in a corner. Molly knew something was wrong, though, she didn't really expect anything less from him, but she still didn't expect that.

"Why's the picture on the floor?" she asked.

She didn't believe the experiment.

Again he didn't answer.

"Sherlock?"

"Victor - could you please shut up," and she watched him storm off with his morning robe flaring behind him.

"Okay," she said with a sigh.

Chapter Text

1995, January

 

"Maybe he's got a lot on his mind?" said Graham while she tried not to fret too much about Sherlock being Sherlock. He was her flatmate after all, and despite her being used to his sudden bouts of silence he'd regularly break them quickly enough, but this had been going on for more than a week. Classes had begun again, and silently passing each other in the flat didn't really suit her temper. Molly knew she wasn't to be blamed, she hadn't done anything wrong, but it annoyed her that he wasn't letting the air out. Instead he was internalizing - - - and she'd been talking too much with Meena ("I'm planning on using big words from now on, to sound like a real therapist."). She shouldn't even be bringing it up when she was meeting Graham, but he'd asked how Sherlock was doing, as even he'd noticed that something was wrong when they'd first met.

Shrugging she sighed, hands digging into her jacket, as they ambled along the street. They'd just sat in a café for an hour or so, and he was just walking her back to the university, but she'd more or less decided for a much slower pace than needed, prolonging their conversation. "He probably does, and it's not like he shares everything either... He likes to pretend he doesn't have feelings."

"That sounds - healthy," said Graham with a slight frown. "I hope he doesn't just have you looking after him - he's got to have other friends as well?"

"Oh - are you suggesting I talk to Victor, then?"

"Not exactly that-," said Graham with a laugh. "But if you'd like to give me credit for your idea, you're welcome to."

Molly smiled. "It does make sense - since he called me Victor - last time we spoke, so - but he'd seem fine about it - oh - I have to talk to Victor, don't I?"

"Obviously you should listen to me."

She laughed, but suddenly caught sight of her wristwatch and groaned into her thick scarf. " - - I better get back, or else I won't have much reading done today."

"I hope I'm not distracting you too much?"

"...Just the right amount."

"Good, wouldn't want to be too much... so - I'll see you - sometime next week, then?" he said with his hands in the pockets of his grey coat.

"Yeah."

She stared up at him rather nervously, while his eyes just seemed to twinkle in return, but before she knew it he'd began to walk off. "Nice to see you Molly, as always...I should go - seeds need to be planted - trees - you know - serious gardening." Graham waved at her, before he crossed the street.

Molly didn't know what was more frustrating, Sherlock being silent or Graham looking like he wanted to kiss her, but not kissing her. As she walked off, she was very sure that the latter was annoying her more.

 


 

She'd only ever heard about Victor's flat - "His parents bought it for him, and he decided to make it look like a drug-lord from the eighties owns it - as a sort of posh-off," Meena had told her once, though she'd never really visited. In some ways to her it seemed odd that Victor had his own place or even an address. He was always around and about, sleeping over at their flat to lie down on their slightly uncomfortable sofa all night, and then awakening her with a cup of coffee by her bed the morning after, or, she'd not see him in an age.

The address to his place she'd gotten off him during Christmas, as she'd been keen to send him silly card when he confessed he loved getting Christmas cards, which prompted her to send him a horrendous one of a sphynx cat dressed as an elf. Coincidentally it should have tipped her off - Kensington - the posh part. He didn't live in one of those charming squeezed in houses either, for it was in a rather modern looking large building, which when she entered had a security guard sat by cameras who waved her over.

"Miss - you lost?" he said.

She knew Victor was rich, but she'd never really though of how rich he was. After she'd explained herself to the guard he pointed her to the lift and she got up to the seventh floor where sure enough, only Victor seemed to live, but somehow it was Meena who answered the door looking taken aback - "What are you doing here?"

"I - I thought I might say hello - is everything all right?" said Molly getting immediately guilty at the expression on Meena's face. It never surprised her if Victor was off somewhere or the other, so, she hadn't thought something crucial had happened to him, but it was obvious she'd not paid well enough attention.

"He's been dumped," said Meena stepping aside and letting her in to a world of - black tiles - gaudy white animals statues (art) - and things that made her eyes water slightly when she stared too long (more art).

"Dumped?" said Molly confused. "But I thought-,"

"Apparently Mike used his little brother as an excuse, and Vic's been wallowing for a while..." said Meena who began to walk ahead of her taking her through the flat, passing room upon room, until they clearly where headed for the master bedroom.

"But why would Mycroft do that?"

"I don't know - because he's a git? Anyway, maybe with you here, we might tempt Vic out of bed."

Opening the door - Molly wasn't really surprised to find a massive black bed with dark satin sheets and a headboard that seemed to be made of leather, though the large lump underneath sheet made the room seem less dodgy somehow. "Yes, it looks like someone's interior designer threw up in here - Vic - for a gay man you've got appalling taste," said Meena who sat down on the edge of the bed eyeing the lump, clearly trying to get a rise out of him.

The lump, which Molly assumed was Victor only shifted slightly, but gave no appalled answer or groan in return.

Meena nodded at her, and she said, "Are you okay?"

Immediately Victor sighed underneath the sheet. "...You called Molly?" he said in a rather hoarse voice, which was muffled slightly.

"No, actually she visited because she noticed you'd absconded as well."

" - - Stop using big words, Meena, it just sounds stupid," said Victor who threw off the sheet and groaned at the pair of them staring at him. "Don't look at me like that, I've looked worse-," he began fetching his packet of cigarettes from his nightstand, soon putting one in his mouth.

"When was the last time you've eaten?" said Meena.

"Do cigarettes count as a diet? It's the New Year after all, I've got to watch my figure-," he said smirking lazily at them, unlit cigarette still between his teeth, though his smile dropped when nobody laughed. "Fine - we can make coffee, then-," he got shakily to his feet which prompted Meena to try to help him, but he just shrugged her off. "I can walk, you know."

"I know you can," she said in a quiet voice, letting him go on his own, as he just kept throwing annoyed looks at them both, storming ahead of them to the kitchen.

Both of the girls stared at each other uneasily.

"What?" he said as he flicked on the coffee machine that gurgled soundly in the background, soon leaning his hands on the counter. "Stop pitying me, please... You've got no reason to."

"I don't know about that - hiding in your bedroom is sort of - sad-," said Meena who crossed her arms.

Victor glared at her. "It's not sad."

"Oh no - I get it - - you got dumped," said Meena casually, as Molly raised her eyebrows in surprise. "... But you're always the one who keeps sorting other people's lives - why do you think we're both here? We want to help you for once, so, would you just please stop acting like an immature dick?"

Surprisingly enough he only laughed. "You - bitch - fine - I'll talk - I'll wallow to my hearts content."

"How long has it been going on?" Molly asked while they were all sitting on his highly uncomfortable leather sofa-set.

"Ages" said Victor grinning, as he took a long drag from his cigarette, dropping the ashes in a cup of coffee. "...It started years back really. I always visited their house, you know, and he was always the silent type. I kept bothering the hell out of him of course, which he did not like - - because I was convinced he was a great softie."

"He must have been a bit of a softie though-," said Meena with a raised brow.

"You mean the sort who just, up and snogged me - before walking off like nothing had happened?" said Victor who looked pointedly at Molly who blinked in surprise - - "Typical Holmes behaviour - cold fucking fish."

"He kissed you?" Meena said. "I would have thought you'd be the one who did that."

"I was too nervous back then, surprisingly enough, and he was, you know, the slightly older sexy silent type who I thought hated me - well - to be honest I don't even know if he doesn't hate me now either."

"Have you really broken it off though?" asked Molly.

Victor inclined his head. "With him? Probably not... I'm half-expecting him to take it back, frankly it wouldn't surprise me if he did, because it's like him - - but I don't know. I used to think I knew him, and at the beginning we were never really serious, so, I did what I always did, ran off with others, until one day he said - it was him or nothing... Turns out it was nothing in the end."

"... It wasn't really because of Sherlock, was it?" said Molly which caused Victor to smile at her briefly.

"What do you think? - - Not that I don't expect Mike to have only used his little brother as an excuse, really, his way of breaking it off without really having to."

"What a complete twat," said Meena.

"If he was one, we wouldn't be in this kind of trouble," said Victor with a grin to Molly's relief, though she saw it didn't reach his eyes.

 


 

"His name is Graham," said Meena when Molly hadn't felt like answering when Victor began poking at her love life, which she stated wasn't really a love life. "The next door neighbour, or well, the love of her life when we were kids, wasn't he?"

"Don't - we're just - we meet once in a while-," she began.

"He hasn't tried anything, yet, has he?" said Victor to which Molly nodded in answer. "...Hmm, sounds like a nice bloke. Just mind you, don't let that go on forever, or nothing will ever happen."

"...There's something I've got to - umm - I came round because Sherlock's been quiet for while-," said Molly nervously. "He's not been talking - I suppose you two had a fight?"

Victor sighed. "I was putting it on him, I'm afraid... I couldn't shout at Mycroft, so his little brother seemed like a better option - - though Sherlock will be all right. He'll just pretend like nothings wrong when I visit, and then suddenly snap five years later, just like his brother."

Neither Meena nor Molly managed to laugh at that, the pair of them aware of how Victor looked out of the window, his eyes distant. "He'll call you," said Meena all of a sudden. "He should call you."

" - - He won't," said Victor. "I don't know if I even want him to call, as if it would make a difference. He doesn't even want to tell anyone that we're together - I'm a secret - nothing more than that."

"Why are men such shits?" said Meena. "This is why I lean towards women - a lot."

"I wish I liked women," said Victor. "I tried - didn't work out."

"You did?" said Molly surprised.

"I was there," said Meena with a grimace that turned into a shiver. " - - Really didn't work out."

Molly laughed.

"There she sits laughing at our sexual failures - easy for her to do," said Victor with a grimace.

"Well, it was a flop-," interjected Meena.

"Hey!"

Meena made a face at Molly and mouthed - "It was."

"It's not my fault that I realized that I liked you better with your clothes on than off. Your sense of style is immaculate-," he paused staring at her - "Now, you're supposed to be compliment me back-."

"...I was very impressed by your penis - feel better?"

"Loads," he said grinning, folding his hands over his robe.

Chapter Text

1995, January

For the past fifteen minutes she'd contemplated chucking her thick slice of cheese on Sherlock. She could watch it slide down his face, perhaps even cling to his cheek for a while, before it would elegantly drop with a magical cheesy pirouette into his lap. How long time would it spend in his lap?

 

Molly didn't know.

 

Nibbling on her breakfast didn't make her thoughts surround him less, especially when he'd been sat in the same position since the night before. Maybe the cheese would melt?Then again maybe he'd move or stretch or chuck the cheese aside, and finally lay down on his back like anyone else having a sulk.

 

She liked it when he was obvious about it; instead he gave her the silent treatment, and seemed to be blocking out the rest of the world as well.

 

Victor wasn't so gloomy anymore, or well, he wasn't showing it. He'd even turned up at their flat and had a one-sided conversation with Sherlock (whose mouth would occasionally quirk up before turning into a straight line again).

 

"So..." she began clearing her throat. "Are we going to talk about this or not?"

 

No answer.

 

Pursing her lips, she wondered what she could say to make him talk, but she knew she couldn't force him to talk. She just needed to give him time, but it was still driving her up the wall. It made her wonder how other people her age lived. Maybe their only arguments with their flatmates were who'd be buying the milk? Such a life wasn't possible to have with Sherlock without every other thing as well. Discussions about milk brands looked bleak in comparison really.

 

"Talk about what?" he blurted out what seemed to be five minutes later with a crinkle between his brows.

 

The plate with her breakfast jostled in her lap and she almost outright laughed at being startled by him talking. She was delighted, even flushing a bit at her own silliness.

 

"Umm, are you okay?" she said when she stopped fidgeting, knowing that was a really stupid question, but she didn't know what better to ask really.

 

"...Why wouldn't I be fine?" he said not looking at her, eyes turning into vague slits, as if he was observing something in the distance. She really hoped this didn't mean he'd disappear into his head again. Another couple of days and she'd start cutting his hair out of sheer irritation. Most of his vanity was in his hair after all, or well, that was what Victor had whispered to her before he'd left at his last visit ("Snip. Snip.")

 

"You - umm - haven't been talking?" she said trying not to sound annoyed, but her voice was laced with it nonetheless.

 

"I don't talk for days - Molly. Ring a bell?"

 

"I know, but-,"

 

"I want to fix it," he said, blue eyes suddenly focused and on her face. His hands ran across his pale features, before they riffled through his wild curls. "I need to fix this."

 

"It's not your fault," she said.

 

Even if it was brief, she could see he looked vaguely grateful to hear that spoken out loud.

 

"I know - I know - it's my brother's - and why should I care - when he's - family - oh -," he suddenly stood up from the sofa clapping his hands together, a sort of almost mad smile on his face. "Family!"

 

She raised her brows. " - - What?"

 

He was by the phone when she began to understand what was going on, holding the landline confidently in his hand, as he dialled the numbers. The disturbing smile didn't lessen, and he even winked at her when he finally got his answer. "Hello - mummy?"

 

She snorted in understanding.

 

No one - not even Mycroft Holmes was strong enough to withstand the chagrin of his own mother.

 


 

"He doesn't do house calls, certainly not this -," but he was shoved unceremoniously into the sitting room where his brother seemed to be eyeing the settee discouragingly, clearly considering whether or not he could risk sitting down. " - Mycroft," he finished with a roll of his eyes.

 

" - I thought it was time to visit, baby brother. And view your lovely domestics more closely this time-," said Mycroft who was handed a cup of tea by Molly who was observing the pair of them with a bright smile.

 

Sherlock was almost annoyed that she didn't seem nervous whatsoever, as if Christmas had made her less inclined to find Mycroft's very presence sickening. Or perhaps it was the idea that he had a heart inside his camouflage of a flesh suit.

 

"Nothing to do with mother then?" he said settling down and giving a brief appreciating nod to Molly when she handed him his cup.

 

She gave him a look at that.

 

It was clearly the last time she was doing this as it was for his brother's benefit mostly. She wasn't the one to make up a complete platter for drinking tea every time they indulged; regularly throwing a bag into - focus - said a familiar voice in the back of his head.

 

"You must be referring to that charming little talk you had with her this morning? - - Oh yes, she was rather quick on mentioning it really," said Mycroft who finally sat down.

 

"I'm not surprised."

 

"Nor am I..."

 

He stared knowing that his brother would either confirm or deny the whole of it, but for once it seemed that he wasn't being given that chance whatsoever - -

 

"...Umm, so are you getting back with Victor or not? - - Oh, sorry...I didn't mean - you know what? - - Actually - I do," said Molly who wasted no time in getting to the point, which caused him to smile more than he should have, which prompted Mycroft's eyes to flash towards him. "Or is this just a visit-visit?"

 

"Can't I just visit?" said Mycroft who had stopped that trademark smirk of his, eyes glinting.

 

"No," she said quickly pursing her lips when she realized what she'd said, though she still spoke in the end. "No, you can't. So - what is it?"

 

The expression of sheer disapproval on Mycroft's face was amusing, though the grudging respect was surprising.

 

Taking a protracted sip from his tea, he soon clucked his tongue and sighed a - "Yes..." - making a face like they were children once more. He seemed to be expecting applause at this reply, but Sherlock watched with admiration that his flatmate just crossed her arms over her chest.

 

"If he wants you back that is, which he might not," she said not apologetic at all.

 

"It's true... Valentine's Day's coming up soon - you might want to sort your affairs prematurely, or he'll expect more from you," said Sherlock grinning.

 

Mycroft's eyes flitted between the pair of them displeased.

 

"Why are you enjoying this so much?" he drawled.

 

Molly gave the expected answer - "You make Victor happy for some reason, and I can't help but want him to be happy even if it's with -," finishing it off with a nervous giggle. "...You?"

 

And so did Sherlock - "Leverage."

Chapter Text

1995, February

 

The hoover was on. Other people, probably normal people would be cheered to see their best friend tidying up their own flat, which had a tendency to be rather dusty from time to time (besides everything else of course). It wasn't exactly surprising. They were students after all. No one had time to keep everything neat and tidy (she certainly didn't).

 

Meena sighed still not entirely sure how to handle Molly cleaning up, as she knew that the reasons to her friend cleaning were 1) Graham 2) Valentine's Day and 3) - - sitting on the other end of the sofa, Sherlock.

 

The flatmate in question was sat besides her on the settee with a permanent frown on his face, trying to pretend he was interested in Antiques Roadshow of all things. She'd caught his eyes flickering to Molly from time to time, and when she'd first gotten to the flat she thought he'd been utterly oblivious to Molly's distress - "Greg hasn't asked her out for Valentine's Day - - and she's a stress-cleaner," said Sherlock without looking at her, though making her almost laugh at the wrong name.

 

He would know about her habits and quirks, which was one of the first things Meena had learned about really. When she'd brought Molly home the first time she'd been so nervous that when Meena had been to the loo and gotten back, almost all of her things were in order. Molly had spent about five minutes apologizing, while Meena's mum had pretty much salivated any time Molly came round (as if the cleanliness would rub off).

 

"...Aren't you supposed to do something?" Sherlock asked her to her infinite surprise. She made a face at that. There was a reason she was in their flat instead of her own, and unfortunately it wasn't because of her friend, though it could seem like it. Actually she felt better pretending it was because of Molly if she were entirely honest. Her best friend wasn't the only one trying to pretend everything was okay.

 

"I-," she began trying to prepare some words.

 

"If I stop her from cleaning - does that mean you'll leave?" he drawled.

 

"Yes," she lied knowing that him stopping Molly would only prolong her stay.

 

He stared at her, eyes sliding over her face as if he was some human lie detector, and with a sigh he got to his feet.

 

Watching with mild amusement, she saw him pull out the cord to the hoover instead of addressing Molly. The hoover stopped and Sherlock said - "Your friend is concerned."

 

She was clearly on her own about this, but he wasn't running out of the room either. Instantly a crease grew between Molly's brows, as she let go off the cleaning equipment with a mild look of regret.

 

"What is it?" said Molly. "I'm a bit busy really."

 

"We have a visitor," said Sherlock pointing at her on the sofa.

 

"It's just Meena," said Molly. "You do weirder things when Victor's around - why do I need to stop?"

 

"Because it's already clean?" said Meena who patted the vacant spot on the sofa besides her, which caused Molly to look at her rather horrified. "We need to talk, and I know you don't want to talk, but you'll feel better." She came over, grudgingly sitting down with crossed arms and a pained expression on her face. Sherlock sat down in one of the available chairs picking up a massive Encyclopaedia from a pile of books, which he immediately opened, and began reading apparently. Meena would find it convincing if he wasn't holding the book upside down. Clearly he wanted to be present without the actual effort. " - - So - how are you and Graham?"

 

"We're okay, friendly you know - - -," she drew for a breath. "I really don't know. He's still not even tried to kiss me."

 

"We should send Vic on him... Maybe he's secretly gay?"

 

Molly began to laugh, but the laughter died out at Sherlock saying - "He's not gay."

 

"Do I need to send you to your room?" Meena snapped.

 

He pursed his lips and quietly said, "No."

 

"I still think it's strange-," said Molly. "You'd think he'd at least try."

 

"Have you?"

 

Molly shook her head. "No? I don't even know if he wants to kiss me - I can't kiss him without knowing that. If he doesn't actually want to kiss me it would be embarrassing!"

 

"Or maybe he's one of those really nice blokes who asks for permission before trying to eat your face?"

 

"He hasn't asked though."

 

"Yeah, but maybe he thinks that you don't want to kiss him - so -," the large book was suddenly slammed shut and Sherlock wordlessly strode off into the direction of the bedrooms. " - - So - he's afraid to kiss you because of it."

 

"...Still doesn't explain why he hasn't mentioned Valentine's Day?"

 

"Because it's a commercial holiday and puts pressure on everyone to feel a tiny bit rubbish about themselves?" said Meena with a small grin. "Vic would come with an appropriate rant about it, but he is the biggest hypocrite ever when it comes to that day as well." He was going off on a holiday with his boyfriend after all. "And anyway! You've never even given a fuck about that day before."

 

Molly made a face. "It's because something is finally happening, Meena. And while I feel really excited, I'm just a bit surprised I'm not - - more excited."

 

The words just hung in the back of her throat. Maybe you don't fancy Graham as much as you think? "Well, if I'm going to be brutally honest. Nothing has really happened. You've what? Met for a couple of coffees and talked, but has any of it been called a proper date - date."

 

"No," said Molly looking ten times more disappointed.

 

"Oh, maybe I shouldn't have said that."

 

"No, you're right. I'm really making a fuss about nothing, aren't I? There's nothing really going on between us, except him being a really nice mate... I'm that girl."

 

"What?"

 

"The one everyone's friends with, but no one ever really fancies."

 

"There are thousands of blokes out there! Millions! So don't start coming here saying nobody likes you. Plenty of blokes have liked you, but let's be honest - you haven't liked all of them either."

 

She was hardly surprised to find Molly leaning against her, looking rather teary-eyed. "Who? There's not ever been anyone."

 

"Jeremy Smith!"

 

"We were nine years old," said Molly who instantly began to sob against her arm.

 

"Maybe I should have let you clean," mumbled Meena.

Chapter Text

1995, February

He kept the cigarette between his lips, while his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his coat to evade the cruel cold wind. It was in the middle of the bloody night, but he was stood outside his building with just a coat thrown over his flimsy silk pyjamas that couldn't shrug off the wind. Victor could feel the hairs on his legs standing up.

"What's so important you had to wake me up in the middle of the night?" he growled, unable to keep his annoyance at bay despite himself.

 

Meena had suggested the pair of them stay in doors, but Mycroft was asleep upstairs (he'd also wanted a cigarette). Not that the man wouldn't adore being woken up four in the morning when he was getting up six. She looked rather composed in front of him, despite her shaky hands, but she didn't answer immediately, eyes cast off to some remote spot.

 

"Meena?" he said when a minute or two passed by.

 

Immediately her eyes flicked to his face, "I'm pregnant."

 

He stared, coloured and doubted.

 

"Fuck."

 

This was why he liked being gay besides the obvious, but this kind of thing couldn't fucking happen. If it did, it was usually on the front page of the Sun or some other rag. "Are you serious?" he said wanting to light another cigarette.

 

"Yes, you see at first I was - no as well - but I think I can do this," she said wide-eyed, the sort of wide-eyed look people who'd just discovered that auras were a thing had, or that tarot cards could possibly predict the future.

 

"No, you can't!" he said almost shouting. His voice echoed in the street, and he immediately lowered his voice. "You're a chain-smoker - you drink every weekend - you're still trying to get a bloody job - and you're just 18-,"

 

"19! Thank you very much!" she said loudly.

 

"Doesn't mean you're an adult capable of taking care of a baby - have you even told Molly? Or your parents?"

 

Meena frowned. "No - - but I plan on asking my parents for help."

 

"Fuck," he said throwing his cigarette and lighting up another one. "Fuck - wait - who's the father?"

 

"Yeah, err, that's a bit tricky-,"

 

"How is that-,"

 

"It was a threesome."

 

Victor laughed, unable to help himself. "You're - you're joking-," his voice almost hoarse. "Did you even use protection?"

 

"Yes! I'm on the pill and there was even condoms. But obviously one of the little bastards slipped past anyway."

 

"Sexually responsible, but completely buggered anyway-,"

 

"Yeah, if that had happened we'd not be having this talk."

 

"Meena!" said Victor throwing away his cigarette and taking her by the shoulders. "You can't do this. I mean that as a friend."

 

"Yes, I can!" she snapped.

 

"Okay, then."

 

"What?" she said looking wide-eyed at him.

 

"If you're really serious about this, then I'll help you, but for god's sake - tell me who the potential daddy's are at least! - - And that's a sentence I never thought I'd say this year."

 

Meena grinned before throwing her arms around him, whispering 'thank you, thank you' into his ear. They stood like that for a little while, until they finally broke apart.

 

"Okay, so Samuel - you know well -," she faltered off all of a sudden, the last name more or less mouthed than said.

 

"Who?"

 

"Charlie," she said averting her eyes.

 

"Charlie," he bit out looking at her in surprise. The man was a complete arsehole and a womanizer. Meena had said a couple of years ago that she'd never shag him, which sounded like a comfortable lie she'd told herself, like any woman would after meeting the bastard. "I'd rather you'd say it was Graham or something."

 

Meena made a face. "I'd never do that to Molly."

 

"How come you haven't told her?" he said looking bewildered. "I thought she'd be the first."

 

"I just don't want her to be disappointed in me-," she began. "I'm always used to her tidying up my messes and I know she'd be holding my hand through all of this. I know that. She probably will, but I also know she expected us to somehow go through the same things at the same time. It's just - - the second I knew - I felt excited. Not terrified, like I always thought I'd be if this ever happened. I felt happy. And you know what I'd be a fantastic fucking mum - I will actually. So yeah, whatever anyone says, I am getting this child."

 

"Fuck," he said sniffing, as he grabbed her for a hug.

 

She laughed at him, and somehow he knew she'd be fine.

Chapter Text

1995, Valentine's Day PART I

 

Flowers, chocolates and silly cards had been fluttering past her periphery all day long. Other students and even some of the Professor's had gotten little red gifts wrapped with clashing pink bows, while some just had overly romantic boyfriends who surprised them with flowers and weekend-trips. It's not that she was expecting high octave romance herself, especially when past Valentine's Days usually went off being mind-numbingly normal. Molly remembered a card she'd given a classmate once, and her nerves, and her joy about it, until she'd become disappointed to know he had a girlfriend, though he thanked her for her attention.

 

She'd promised herself it would be the last time she'd try hard for a boy's attention, for if a boy didn't see her already, well, then he clearly wasn't worth mooning over. Which was why she hadn't exactly called Graham, despite knowing that she could if she wanted to, but it felt wrong somehow.

 

Days and a week or two had passed in silence, after all, and she kept constantly wondering what she'd done wrong. A part of her felt that him just telling her off the bat that he didn't fancy her would be better, so she'd nurse a broken heart instead of being in perpetual emotional limbo.

 

She was always in limbo.

 

No one she liked seemed to know whether or not they liked her, and they should know after all. That was the sort of thing people just knew, which meant that Graham clearly didn't fancy her that way. Obviously she was like an amusing little sister to him, and the girl who just grew up all of a sudden, but potential girlfriend? No. Molly took a breath letting her mind drift off to the essay she'd have to finish over the weekend instead, as she'd spent the majority of her day doing research in the library.

 

There were more important things to make a fuss about! She had a deadline to pay attention to, and her future was more important than some silly man. Locking herself into her building, she quickly headed over to fetch the post, and started sifting through the various letters and bills, but her hands froze at the sight of a post-card. It was a startling pink shade with an anatomically correct heart drawn upon it with blood leaking out of it, which for some would be disturbing, except her. Molly quickly turned the card around, eyes wide and cheeks flushed.

 

Dinner at Zadderano -

 

Eight o'clock?

 

I'll be there waiting.

 

Your Valentine

 

There it came after all. Sprinting up the steps to the flat, her mind raced as her eyes went over the words again. Zadderano was a newly opened Italian restaurant, she recalled someone mentioning it a while ago, but she couldn't remember whom. She'd need a dress Graham hadn't seen before, and she had enough of those, thankfully. No point in buying a new one this late, and she'd try to avoid choosing something red as well.

 

Getting inside the flat, she grinned at Sherlock who looked rather pale. "You all right?" she said quickly, sounding out of breath, barely registering if he replied or not. "Graham's taking me out tonight, so you'll manage dinner on your own - won't you?"

 

Molly just nodded to herself, as Sherlock probably didn't even know what day it was today after all.

 

"...He is?" he said sounding distracted.

 

"Yes! It's Valentine's Day-," she said with a laugh hanging her coat and things away. " - Sent me a silly card with a heart and everything." She went off to her room with a much lighter heart, soon throwing around different dresses, and wondering what she was going to wear.

 

It never once hit her that someone else could have sent the card.

Chapter Text

Valentine’s Day Part II

 

She pressed her lips together, eyes going to the entrance once more, as her stomach twisted into seismic knots.

 

He was late.

 

Too much traffic - a delayed train - an accident - various events flung themselves about in her head, and she tried to reason with herself that it had only been ten minutes at best, but she’d been there rather early.

 

Overdressed in a red dress (she couldn’t resist despite herself) with red lips, and feeling extremely silly amongst all of the other already settled couples. Molly was sure she’d seen some of the women and men glancing her way in pity. But she was just imagining things, worrying too much for her own good.

 

It would be fine.

 

Graham would show up.

 

He wouldn’t just let her sit there all night, it wasn’t like him after all, and she’d wait. The candle on the table flickered and the waiter passed again to top up her wine glass, which she sipped. Her gulps becoming bigger and bigger each passing moment.

 

Earlier that day -

 

You daft prick - you’re not going to let her sit there all night are you?” The hairdryer was loud beyond her bedroom door, and Sherlock settled aside his violin. There was too much racket to pluck at the strings in mild contemplation. None of it was supposed to be romantic. Her dour mood the last couple of weeks had saturated their daily life - and he intended to bring her spirits up with a friendly dinner. The post-card was supposed to be the blatantly obvious clue. Graham wasn’t clever enough for that, was he? Snorting, he indulged himself in the self-gratifying thought, but it didn’t last long enough.

 

Finally, here it was.

 

His reaction to her immediate assumption was enough.

 

He’d felt lost, his insides plunging to a dark remote place, and heart thudding in his chest soundly while she was beaming about Graham. He’d pushed her away for so long - warned her - and yet he was the one breaking all the rules. No, he did care. He was jealous. “Are you going to do something about it?”

 


 

 

The door swung open again. Not him. Molly wondered idly if she’d been tricked, and she could feel the prickles behind her eyes. Maybe it wasn’t even to her; maybe there’d been a mix-up in the post-office, which wasn’t always reliable.

 

Oh God.

 

She was not about to have a crying fit about this.

 

No, she would be fine.

 

She’d drink up, dry at her eyes, and get the hell out of the restaurant with quick apologies. They’d understand after all, and she took a careful calculated sip, while she readied herself for that. There are worse things, she thought. This was of course top of the list right now, but it would probably be on the very bottom of her list after a couple of years. Exhaling steadily, she was about to get to her feet when a voice broke out in the distance - “Molly?”

 


 

He was.

 

All of it had been for her happiness after all - that was what it really was about, and so he’d do the one thing he could do for now. “I’m going out,” he shouted out to deaf ears, throwing on his coat.

 


 

 

“Molly - - - I’m so sorry I’m late,” said Graham giving her a quick peck on the cheek, before he settled across from her, handing her a single red rose as well. “Traffic was murder, I’m afraid, and I know no rose can weigh up for it. Thankfully we’ve got dinner, as well.”

 

“...Hope no one lost their heart?” she said with an easy laugh, feeling immensely calmed that she hadn’t been wrong.

 

“No?” he said laughing as well.

 

“No, no, I meant the card - umm - it was a stupid joke anyway-,” she said with a wave of a hand.

 

“ - I’m glad you liked your card-,” he said cheerily.

 

She beamed back in return.

 


 

 

 

He rapped his gloved hand on the door, pursing his lips, as he heard him move inside the flat. Sherlock took a long breath, already feeling his patience being tried - almost leaving, but the door snapped open.

 

“Oh,” a pair of grey eyes widened at him. There was a three o’clock shadow on the man’s face. “It’s - it’s you, how did you know where I lived?”

 

“I was in the neighbourhood,” he said ignoring Graham’s question. “And I wondered what your plans for this evening were?” He raised a brow at the man who in turn stared at him.

 

“Sorry - I - do you want to come in?” he said as if the discussion would be made clearer by him entering his flat. Sherlock only saw the evils in such a situation, and knew that his want to enter - to see everything, to know everything, every little secret was great - but he needed to correct his error immediately.

 

“- - - No, I wondered if you’d like to have dinner with Molly eight o’clock tonight at Zarrando’s?”

 

Graham stared, “Why?”

 

“You like her, don’t you?”

 

“I do, but I-,”

 

“She’s expecting you.”

 

The man’s grey eyes were suddenly filled with sympathy and understanding. Just looking at them made him - “Are you sure?” Graham said carefully, displaying how much better and nicer he was. “I wouldn’t want to-,”

 

“You wouldn’t be, don’t worry. Just tell her the stupid card was from you and she’ll be none the wiser... I just hope you don’t intend to have another lengthy absence, though I imagine it’s been work that’s kept you busy-,”

 

Graham nodded in return looking confused, his eyes drifting to the floor briefly. “Are you sure Sherlock?”

 

“Yes,” he bit out. “Don’t be so sympathetic. You’re supposed to be the evil villain of the plot after all - you get the girl.”

 

“Not if she doesn’t really want me,” said Graham carefully in return annoying him only further.

 


 

 

He observed the pair of them from the outside, seeing Molly’s smiling and laughing face through the glass. Dragging up the collar of his coat he stole through the fog-filled streets.

 

Valentine’s Day - Deleted.

 

 

Chapter Text

People come, people go

 


Some grow young, some grow cold

 


I woke up in between

 


A memory and a dream

 

 

- Tom Petty 

 

 

 

1995, March

 

 

The post-card was a permanent fixture on the fridge taunting him. He’d been - - selfless - is that what they called it? It made him almost roll his eyes. Constant aides-mémoires filled the flat - his and hers laughter grating when it was there, for the most the pair of them were at his - the boyfriend.

 

 

He’d become another permanent fixture in their day-to-day lives, and Sherlock begun to pay more attention to his projects and work, even picking up a stray case or two. Though he’d hardly felt accomplished when he’d found a missing dog within twenty minutes after he’d found the poster, handing it with a new leash to the owner, before walking off. He’d hoped to do it in ten to fifteen minutes, but the snow had slowed him down. With time he’d get quicker, or so he supposed.

 

 

Smoking a cigarette in doors for the first time, he almost smirked at the disobedience, but it lasted only a few seconds. He snubbed it out in his half empty coffee cup and sighed loudly. The landline was ringing; he ignored it, and was greeted to the sound of Molly locking herself in, her keys jangling. “Sherlock? - - Did you smoke inside?” she asked with a nose like a hound - the embers had barely flickered.

 

 

“Experiment!” he shouted back in return, listening to her mutter in return.

 

 

“Can you please pick up the phone?”

 

 

“It won’t be important,” he said rolling his eyes. “Probably a salesman or woman trying to sell us another peculiar set of Encyclopaedias.”

 

 

“You bought them, though.”

 

 

He didn’t reply.

 

 

“Right-,” she said laughing before rushing off to pick it up. “Hello - oh hi - yes - this is her - - - - wha - what do you mean? She’s what? No, but she’s not - so - oh - okay. I’ll come now, umm, yes, yes!”

 

 

Sherlock let his eyes flicker to Molly’s face, watching the furrows between her brows increase, and all of a sudden the landline was slammed down. She would hardly react this hard to Meena’s pregnancy, would she?

 

 

The one he knew both Victor and Meena were keeping secret from him and Molly, though he didn’t see why she couldn’t at least be informed.

 

 

“Umm, I - I need to go to the hospital-,” Molly said, her voice shaky, her lower lip trembling - “It’s mum.”

Chapter Text

1995, March

The floor plan is stapled into his head, even if he's only been travelling from the pale blue seating area to the disappointing coffee machine, he knows the floor, he needs to know the floor, the patients, the nurses and doctors, 'it'll help' he repeats to himself every now and then. Hours have flown past; doctors and patients disappeared in and out through the sterile hallways. All while they'd been hovering in the space in-between. It was the great unknown - where doctors gave no answers and nurses only gave brief consolatory sentences.

 

He'd not left her side and she hadn't let him.

 

Her hand kept drifting to him and away, cool and small, steady and shaken. Molly couldn't keep still, either her hands fidgeted or she restlessly walked around, her mind clearly scattered. He didn't know what to say. What did one say? No one else seemed to know. Anyone else in the room seemed in constant flux, either crying or healing or breaking or all.

 

Everything else seemed insignificant now.

 

None of that mattered.

 

He wished to return to that state, to the bitter thoughts that had clouded him, to that ignorant place where the floors of the hospital hadn't mattered where his biggest vice was a cigarette.

 

"She just-," Molly's voice broke out, lips soon pressed together as she leaned back against the wall, eyes blinking rapidly. She kept replaying it, sentences turning back to the moment. "Is she going to be okay?" she said twisting around to look at him, anguish plainly written in those brown orbs of hers.

 

He knows he should lie.

 

He knows she wants him to.

 

But he can't.

 

He settles for maybe.

 

"I don't know."

 

She shakes her head, like she knows what he really wants to say. 'Mrs Hooper, age 45 collapsed this morning and was found unresponsive by her neighbour. She'd suffered a stroke - - air had not reached her brain - - how long? Unknown. Mrs Hooper, age 45, was in a coma and unresponsive, possibly - - -' Molly had been in and out of the room her mother was kept in, he was surprised she kept returning to him, but he knew why.

 

He knew already.

 

He'd found the file.

 

It wasn't something he'd wanted to solve. The answer had just been there, and with one quick read, he knew. The doctor was biding his time, prolonging the inevitable, and somehow he knew - "I'm sorry." Is it cruel or kind? Her sudden sob breaks him, it's almost animal the sound that wreck through her, and vibrates through him, as he pulls her close.

 

He wants to fix it.

 

How does he fix it?

 

There are no easy answers.

 

There are no cards.

 

No remedies.

 

Only quick fixes and the insides of his palm itch, but he digs his hands into her, willing to erase the want to run and hide. He can be steady, he can stand still and let the world run around him, for her, if only for her.

 

This will be his second funeral.

Chapter Text

I remember that time you told me you said


"Love is touching souls" 


Surely you touched mine 


'Cause part of you pours out of me 


In these lines from time to time 


Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine 


You taste so bitter and so sweet

 

A Case Of You, Joni Mitchell

 

1995, March

 

She woke up to the taste of rain, the never-ending grey skies outside casting a glum light into the pink bedroom of her childhood. The window was open, so the air was rife with wet deep earth and fresh grass, her nose feasted on the scents that suited her mood.

 

This was where her mother was, where her mother belonged, the traces of home, but the house did not feel like its usual cosy self. It felt like a mere shadow of a faded memory, like a forgotten photograph in a family album, making it feel odd and out of place and disconnected from everything else.

 

She felt like that, knowing her mother belonged to the earth, or so, a shadow of her did. Her body prone to decay when enough time past, and Molly knew how long, how long it would take before all she was, were mere teeth and bones.

 

Molly did not let her eyes open, nor did she move from her hunched position covered by her floral bedspread, as if the door would creak with familiarity and she would hear her mum ready to scramble her out of one of her moods. They were so few and far between her mother told her, as she was such a happy child, and usually her dad was the one who knew how to tackle those darker days when she learned of death, of how a little ball of black fluff could not resist the lure of the outside and could not withstand the power of that of a moving car.

 

It felt like one of those days, then again, so would every day from then on. The wake was done - - the funeral as well, words and condolences given, some thickly, some lightly and others from strangers with good intentions but no understanding. Lucy Hooper, a name she wasn't herself familiar with, and not a person she felt she knew either. Her mother's name popping in and out of conversations, while Molly drifted between people at the wake, listening and wondering. "Lucy was so young! It's undeniably a tragedy!" - - "From her father's side of the family. All of the men had weak hearts, a sheer pity it had to end like that for her too." - - "And her daughter, oh the poor dear!" She didn't exist now, not anymore, every word about her was past tense, every memory from something 'back then', another time and place when she was still living and breathing, and her brain still took enough oxygen to survive - so she wouldn't slip into that coma, so she wouldn't slip away - and turn into just matter.

 

But she was gone.

 

Molly's hands trembled, eyes prickling as she lay in the bed, feeling another wave of fresh pain hit her, a heavy bottomless pit in her stomach growing and etching at her insides. She remembered walking into the hospital room, seeing and understanding that her mother was already lost. She remembered the phone call her mum had tried to make, her head elsewhere as she excused herself off with Graham - too busy - we'll do it later - but there was no later. She'd forgotten to remember her while she was still there, all of their moments - -

 

The bed creaked disrupting her thoughts.

 

Molly felt relieved to be able to tuck it all aside, opening her eyes and fixing them on the open window, spotting the tiny little splatters of rain spread thinly upon the floors. She did not move while he sat up, the weight of him soon disappearing from the mattress, nor did she flinch when she heard his bare feet wander on the floor. The bedroom door creaked, her heart rose, and then it smacked shut, her heart quieting down. Letting out a breath, she settled herself more properly in the bed, slipping underneath the layers of bed clothes, grateful he'd left before what happened the night before could sink in.

 

There would be consequences - already those consequences relieved the other mental aches that brewed within her, all those adult considerations she never thought she'd have to handle at her mother's death. She was the only Hooper left and of age, and able enough to handle it all by her own, but there was another reason she'd run into his arms, scared and frightened, wanting to feel something else, to feel comforted and unafraid, but she didn't want to think of it, not now.

 

Last night there had been no tomorrow, or awkwardness or unwillingness, but all of that would be here today, layering itself on top of the rest of it. Yet she did not feel guilty or awful, despite thinking she should. None of those feelings managed to cling, not with everything else going on, and that especially relieved her. But she would need to leave bed at some point, she knew that, and she knew she would have to face him sometime; it was impossible to avoid Sherlock.

 


 

When Sherlock got downstairs, Victor was leaning against the kitchen counter still wearing his black formal suit, though the jacket was hanging on a chair - - his eyes distant as he chewed mechanically on a piece of toast lathered with butter. He'd flown down the day before, tired and gaunt, but still trying to keep everyone smiling despite their grief (as was his manner). Sherlock was excluded from that, he didn't know what he felt about Mrs Hooper's passing, not quite yet, and somehow he was determined not to examine those few emotions that skittered around his mind too closely.

 

"Slept well?" Victor whispered, but he did not answer, aware that he didn't feel like speaking whatsoever, quickly grabbing to pour himself a fresh pot of coffee, not even bothering to drop sugar in his cup.

 

"I'll take that as no."

 

He had slept well, too well, the kind of sleep he thought belonged to childhood, unforced and relaxed against unfamiliar bed clothing. And then he'd slept poorly, the kind of sleep disrupted when someone's warm soft body slid away from under ones grasp - reality putting one back in ones place.

 

"Where's Molly?" said Meena who appeared wearing an oversized t-shirt, having slept in the guest bedroom, though clearly not at all by the dark marks underneath her eyes, clearly, morning sickness.

 

"She's still in bed," he said, finally speaking.

 

Meena gave a nod in return, "I'll go see if she wants any breakfast." She was on her way towards the steps, but he couldn't let that happen - -

 

"She'll come down when she wants to - not when she's coerced out of bed," said Sherlock in a monotone voice, sounding wearier than he wanted to, but Meena had been difficult all week.

 

She looked clearly upset from what he'd said, or so the little sound of surprise coming from Victor told him so. Then again, Victor hadn't been there when she'd decided yesterday was the time to tell Molly of her situation, which even he could see was the worst possible time. Yes, he understood her reasoning, but he knew there were better moments than Mrs Hooper's funeral and wake.

 

"Right, I'll just go to bed then," said Meena, voice cold before she stormed off leaving the pair of them alone again.

 

"Did you have to do that?" Victor asked when he'd finished off his toast, and begun to pat his shirt jacket for his cigarettes. "You know she knew Molly's mum well."

 

"Doesn't excuse her behaviour yesterday, wanting to make this about herself - - I thought she was smarter than that."

 

"She's just a kid and she's pregnant."

 

"Again, I thought she was smarter than that-," said Sherlock who began to move out of the kitchen and towards the main entrance. Victor followed suit when he'd found his packet, bringing out two lone cigarettes, one of which he handed to him.

 

He nodded grateful.

 

"How is she? ...Really?" Victor asked when they were finally outside, sheltered from the still pouring rain.

 

Sherlock light up his cigarette first, letting the embers glow, as he inhaled and exhaled, smoke drifting around his face. "She reminds me of when Mycroft pretended he didn't feel anything when grandfather passed away - - I applaud her acting skills, they surpass his any day - - that's why I'm letting her sleep, this is the only time I know she's letting herself feel what she is feeling. Otherwise she's spending all of her time and energy to make everyone else feel comfortable, as if her grief is annoying."

 

"That's... surprisingly deep of you," said Victor rather baffled.

 

"It won't last."

 

Victor snorted, "No, I didn't think so - you're bound to cock it up at some point, just wait until she's a bit more ready, at least."

 

There was a beat and Sherlock turned to look at Victor; his blue eyes sharp and serious, "We had sex last night."

 

But he didn't say it out loud; he kept it, and locked it away.

 

Willing to forget it for her sake if she wanted.

 

"I'll try."

Chapter Text

1995, March

 

It was a porcelain cat, its left pointed ear chipped at the tip. This was the sort of useless item her mother kept, probably bought used and broken already. Molly smiled as she carefully tucked it away in bubble-wrap, placing it gingerly into the cardboard box. She feared she'd be doing that all day, staring and admiring what had been her mother, her father and her own life, for so many years. The house had been sold already - the money would go into her savings with the rest of it, and now she just needed to know where to put everything. Thankfully some of the few relatives she had weren't against some silly memento or item, there was value and memories in everything she found.

 

"You all right?" said Graham who'd walked out of the kitchen carrying a box, already done with his third. Immediately she felt like speeding up her process, like she was too slow, too sentimental, too torn up to really do this. She wasn't going to be alone, she knew that - - the others were just late (though Sherlock, he... she didn't know about him) - - and Graham was too early and unexpected. He'd been to the funeral, yet he'd kept his distance there, all conversation and little substance. A day or two later, he rang her to apologize, to explain himself - "It just, it reminded me so much of my gran, I just, I'm sorry... I'm not trying to make this about me, and I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you when you needed me... I just couldn't handle it."

 

"It's alright," she'd said knowing why she'd really said that, her own guilt had finally begun to take form, slowly but surely, yet her grief still kept it firmly at bay, darkness fighting against the pitch black.

 

"Just being a bit - silly," she said with a laugh looking down at the table, beginning to mechanically wrap the next item (a toy horse), only to find herself stopped by Graham - his hands halting hers, his fingers tilting her chin upwards - she saw herself in the reflections of his eyes and she did not like what she saw.

 

"You're allowed to feel sad, Molly," he said to her earnestly, she knew it, she saw it - and she could see and feel he was about to lean closer, his breath dancing across her face but she drew back immediately, out of his grip and space.

 

"Sorry," she said wide-eyed, surprised at her own reaction as she physically pulled away. Graham stared at her in surprise, frowning in response. "...I just - - - I don't think I can do this? ...I thought I could but I can't," she continued, continuing to be perplexed by her own words and feelings, but they were what they were. She knew they were, she knew it, yet she couldn't believe she was saying them now.

 

"We can pack up another day-," he said beginning to reach out for her again. "- You don't even need to be here right now, it'll go much quick-,"

 

"No, I mean I can't - I can't do us," she said stepping away again, her words firmer and more final than before.

 

He stopped moving towards her, his smile faltering and anger finally seemed to appear instead of confusion for once, though it was brief.

 

She should tell him, she knows she should tell, but somehow she can't. It'll give him nothing but pain, especially when it's never going to lead anywhere anyway. What good would it do? What would it remedy? Her growing guilt? Her own feelings? She deserved neither forgiveness nor sympathy whether or not she felt it was right. They hadn't said the words, they hadn't said them outright between each other, but she still felt like she'd cheated, tricked and sullied everything they'd had.

 

"You're only saying that because-," he didn't go on, but the implication was made - 'your mother died'.

 

Somehow without it being said, it became worse.

 

"I didn't ask you to come, you know," she said, her voice thick, her hands fidgeting but finally coming to rest by her hips.

 

"I know," he said a minute after, eyes cast down on the floor, and she knows he's struggling with what he's supposed to do, but she doesn't want him to fight for her.

 

Not now.

 

Not right now.

 

No one is fighting for her, or over her. "Do you want me to stay? Because I'll - - - I knew her, you know, and she was, fantastic-," and she knows what he wants to say as well, it's plainly written on his face, but it's something she can't really hear.

 

Not from him.

 

Molly let out a breath, "I know, she really was," she said, a tear slipping down her cheek, another following it down the same path to the floor. "And you were too, but I'm not - - I'm not really ready for this, you know? Not really. If things were different, maybe, you're right, but I know it wouldn't be fair to you, especially you."

 

Graham nodded several times, taking deep steadying breaths - she can hear his shaking breath, and it almost makes her ask him to stay.

 

He moves forward relinquishing that question and gives her a small kiss on her cheek - a goodbye - she could feel it. She hugged him in return, baffling him and her, letting herself feel his strong arms surround her.

 

The pit of her stomach twirled haplessly, a painful little effect of what she'd done, of her making a terrible decision, and as she saw him walk out, a smile on his face, she wondered if he was really the lucky one.

 

Molly grumbled a little while, soon unwrapping that porcelain cat out again, letting her hand stray across the blue flowery patterns that covered it. "I'll keep you," she said putting it away in that lone box for the items she was going to keep.

 

She didn't mind it being broken; it didn't need to be fixed in her opinion.

Chapter Text

Don't go chasing waterfalls

 

Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to

 

I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all

 

But I think you're moving too fast

 

Waterfalls, TLC

 

1995, March

Meena sat on the floor leaning against the dark blue settee, her brown eyes fixed on the ceiling, though she almost looked like she was trying to stare at the large gold star sticker stuck on her forehead (it had surprisingly stayed there for three hours already). "You remember when we were 13... and found that packet of ciggies? And when your mother found us she just stood there watching the whole time, just waiting for us to do something? We hadn't even lit them up or anything because the shop owner wouldn't let us buy a lighter because we looked soo young, younger than Lindsay Duncan with her big tits - - we were so pissed about that."

 

" - You cried!" said Molly giggling, her eyes bright. "I'd never seen you cry before, and you cried - mum felt she'd done something wrong-,"

 

"She was just staring Molly, anyone would cry when someone's mum just standing there - not shouting-,"

 

"And then you just handed her the cigarettes and the whole packet before you apologized and ran home... Last time I tried smoking, for sure."

 

Meena bit her lip grinning, "She was a lot scarier than my mum though. My mum vocalizes everything! I know whenever mum's upset about anything, but your mother was so quiet, and I really wasn't used to quiet. I really thought she'd ban us from seeing each other again."

 

"Yeah..." Molly said, her smile dropping a little as she began plucking at the sleeve of her jumper. "Umm, maybe we should-," she glanced at the rest of the room; there was still loads to do.

 

"Victor is doing fine on his own-," said Meena leaning forward still looking at her. She knew Meena was trying to help, but putting this off for another day wouldn't help.

 

She would have to do it some point anyway.

 

"Totally am! I love organizing things - this is just my ideal-," Victor shouted from the kitchen clearly having heard everything making the both of them laugh. He'd been spending the last hours whinging and moaning, though in a good-humoured sort of way, but it still had managed to make both of them annoyed, Meena more than her.

 

He managed to fill the large lapses of silence though. Somehow it became so very silent in that suddenly big house. It had seemed so small before, like the sort of place she couldn't wait to burst out of, because the rooms were so tiny, and the bathroom crap, but now it felt huge, empty, not hers anymore.

 

"Yes, maybe you should have brought your housekeeper!" Meena shouted back to Victor, sighing when she heard him grumbling.

 

A beat passed.

 

"...She said no," he returned. "Lindsay doesn't think it's good to be involved in personal dilemmas."

 

"You have got to be kidding me," said Meena in a low voice, snorting. She raised her voice again, "You are such a spoilt little shit sometimes. You know that, right?"

 

"So are you!"

 

Meena made a face at that, and Molly couldn't help laugh.

 

Despite the little quibbles that existed, she did feel lighter, much lighter than when Graham had been in the house. Maybe it was because she was relieved she'd ended it, maybe - "Where's Sherlock though? I thought he'd be here helping out?" Meena asked. She'd hoped that question wouldn't be asked, but she was earnestly surprised it hadn't popped up sooner. It's not like she hadn't asked him, though she hadn't asked him like she'd do regularly, she'd made excuses for him before he could ("Well, you're probably too busy, and it's probably boring-," she said on the phone not letting him have a word edgewise).

 

"He's busy," she said shrugging.

 

"...That busy?" said Meena, all connected eyebrows and disbelief before her.

 

She almost felt like smiling at her behaviour. Meena had been such a mum lately, asking her over to her old house, as she was staying nearby (besides asking if she needed company). But right now she didn't need... Molly blinked at her own thoughts, pulling herself quickly together, rushing outwardly with a smile.

 

"Mhm," she said hoping she seemed casual, but she could see from the look in Meena's eye -

 

"And you've broken up with-,"

 

"Don't," she said. She hadn't meant to say it so short and clipped, her tone harsher than expected, and her stomach churning as a result. She wasn't angry, but she just, she just couldn't do that right now. "Just please...don't." She wasn't asking, she was demanding to be heard.

 

Meena looked at her guiltily, like she'd been wrong asking what would have been before brushed off with a laugh, something to have her cheeks flush over. "I'm sorry, I just thought you'd... I don't know really, err, sorry."

 

"It's alright," she said in a small voice. "I'm - I'm just being silly."

 

"You've just broken up with someone for the first time. I think you've got the right to be silly... among other things of course," said Meena and she was glad that she hadn't really understood why she was upset.

 

Some things needed to be kept secret.

 

Some things needed to be just hers...and his.

 

"Thank you, sorry if I sounded cross," she said getting to her feet, dusting her jeans when she spotted Victor appear carrying a bottles of whiskey (he would find the alcohol) and three glasses. He'd barely been there an hour, arriving fashionably late, yet it felt like he'd been there an age - for him and them, apparently.

 

"I think we need several drinks before we go on packing," he said in a teacher-sort of way, clearly not keen on doing any more packing. "I promise to stop complaining about packing if you lot just have a wee drink with me. Yes? No?"

 

" - - I'm still slightly hungover from yesterday," said Meena with a tight smile; Victor's enthusiastic grin dropped an inch or two (looking a bit panicked for some reason).

 

"You are?" said Molly surprised. "I thought you stayed home last night-,"

 

"Oh, umm, Lupita came over and you know - sisterly stuff-," she said waving her hand a bit. "Have one on me, though, or several."

 

Molly stared confused at that - Lupita wasn't one to drink from what she remembered at all; then again, maybe she'd changed her mind about that.

 

"...Okay, just one drink," said Molly with a small nod, as Victor poured a generous amount of whiskey into her glass, doing the same for himself as well.

 

She frowned at the glass.

 

"If you're going to drink this, don't drink it like you should - you'll end up whining in a corner of a room-," said Victor with a very knowing expression on his face.

 

"Mycroft?" said Meena. "Or you?"

 

He ignored her.

 

"Mike," he said emptying what he had in his glass in one go, instantly making a face. "Classic whiskey grump to be honest, or well - intellectual whiskey grump which is more annoying than words can describe."

 

"How was your holiday together?" Molly asked as he was rolling his eyes over some memory or the other.

 

"Lovely," he said after a minute in thought, like he honestly meant sunbathing with Mycroft Holmes was beyond lovely.

 


 

The boxes were packed in the end, some of them going into storage; the bigger furniture would be taken away on Friday, also to be stored. Her old bedroom was the only room that hadn't been meddled with. It felt like a challenge when she began rooting through her old things, stuffed toys and diaries that set her back many minutes at a time. She couldn't help marvel over some of it - on the messy scribbles her old self - lived - ignorant and silly and young, and here she sat reading the familiar words with different eyes.

 

Molly wondered how she'd feel about who she was now when she got older, she felt so old now after all, then again, she'd felt younger before - - "Oh don't start," she chided to herself, irritated when she could feel her eyes prickle again.

 

The word she'd avoided mentioning came up in her head again - orphan - both her parents - gone. "You're not going to sit here and feel sorry for yourself," she said sniffing tossing some ballerina figure into a box, hearing it shatter.

 

She shut her eyes, regretting her decision to do her room on her own.

 

Maybe she shouldn't do it all by herself, she thought she'd manage, she thought she was okay really - she hoped she was. She wanted beyond everything to just be okay, to just not feel like she could cry any second.

 

But the lightness she'd thought she had when the others had been there couldn't be kept; she knew that, she knew that it wasn't possible.

 

She was never always happy.

 

It wasn't possible.

 

But she wanted to be okay, to be neutral.

 

Maybe she really should...

 

Slumping down into a chair she wondered whether her Uncle Tobias with his offer wasn't completely off his head.

 

She had loads of family in Scotland after all, and he had a flat he never used in Edinburgh. It wasn't like she couldn't study there, but then she'd - - be far away from - - everything. 'Isn't that good?' a little voice said in her head, and she felt her lips trembling all of a sudden. Oh she longed to get away, to run away from what she felt - feeling so alone. Wiping away at those sparse tears that got ahead of her, she got to her feet and began to pluck out the shards of the broken figurine in the box.

 

She did feel tempted to let it just sit there broken, but she knew how extremely annoyed she'd be with herself later. "Can't have that," she said with a laugh, glad she could still do that.

 

When she was on the verge of tossing the pieces into the bin she heard the doorbell ring. Molly froze, the shards still in her hand, but she quickly dropped them into the bin, wondering somehow nervously who that could be so late.

 

Whoever they were rang again.

 

Finally she moved, walking quickly out of her room and then down the steps, halting in her stride when she saw the familiar figure through the mosaic glass on the front door.

 

The stairs creaked under her, and she knew he heard her, as he knocked this time. "Molly?" Sherlock said, his voice raspy and deep. Her insides squirmed as she barefoot continued down the steps, pausing by the door for a second until she realized the door wasn't even locked.

 

He could easily have walked in, but he hadn't.

 

He'd waited until she was - - ready - - she finally opened the door, bemused to see him standing there, yet not at all.

 

He looked different somehow in that familiar dark jacket of his and dark trousers.

 

"Hi," she said breaking the silence, leaning against the door for support.

 

His blue eyes regarded her; she did not return the favour, her own eyes skittish, taking care to stare just to the side of his left arm.

 

"Can I come in?" he asked his voice low, finally speaking after a minute of shared silence, where neither were eager to talk it seemed.

 

"Umm...oh okay," she said stepping aside to hold the door open, only to feel him brush against her when he finally past, her body shaken by the contact, and the smell of him all-too familiar and good somehow. He stank of cigarettes, more than usual. She knew he was nervous, but she liked him better when he was nervous and acted cruel. Molly knew and understood that version better, or at least, she thought she did.

 

The second he took off his jacket she knew he intended to stay longer than she would like. Instead of arguing against it, since she didn't really know what he was there for, though she had a vague idea, she begun to walk to the sitting room.

 

He followed her wordlessly - 'how long did he intend to stay?' she wondered. What she hoped would better itself in another room, turned worse, as she didn't feel like sitting down when they got there.

 

Sherlock did sit, awkwardly folding his jacket and placing it on the arm of the settee, his expression faraway when he finally leaned back in the sofa. Just say it, just say it, she almost begged, frustrated that the words she knew were queued up weren't already out there. Staring at him didn't give the result she wanted, though when he finally did catch her eye, he got to his feet again, striding around the room, as if the sofa was in flames - "I-," he stopped in his walk, standing before her, his eyes wide and his curls bouncing.

 

She stared up at him, lips parted, heart pounding, just waiting and wondering - when was he - when was he going to say it - - "Can I-," he broke out, trying once more to speak.

 

"What?" she said and then the space between them was gone, his hands brushing her cheeks, his face close to hers.

 

"Can I kiss you?" he asked and she squeezed her eyes shut, relishing the touch of his soft warm hands, that wasn't what she expected. The question made her insides tingle, her body responding involuntarily, as she remembered the taste of whiskey on her lips, the smell of cigarettes, and his husky moan in her ear.

 

She could almost feel the touch of his hands lingering on her skin, on her body, unsure, wanting, waiting, and now she saw all of that in his eyes.

 

Again, he could have kissed her already, she hadn't pushed him away, but he still asked, still waited.

 

'What then?' a small voice said. 'I don't know,' she replied, "I don't know of tomorrow either, or the day after that.'

 

So, she kissed him.

 

She had been sensible all morning already.

Chapter Text

And all the roads we have to walk are winding


And all the lights that lead us there are blinding


There are many things that I would


Like to say to you


But I don't know how

 

Wonderwall, Oasis

 

 

1995, March

 

It hadn’t felt like their first time; the rushed desperate manoeuvres of two people trying to forget, drifting from pain to pleasure into a seemingly never-ending crescendo, but instead slow, meticulous, savouring every last bit of it. No, it wasn’t perfect - elbows poked, laughter was let out, and clothes had barely been dragged off against the dark wooden floors.

 

She knew she’d ache in the morning, more ways than one.

 

He’d seemed so unbearably normal to her in that rare moment. His blue eyes lighting up causing her chest to unclench, letting herself for a moment pretend there had been no desperation, that there had been no pain that had brought them together.

 

She was afraid to wake up because of this, letting herself instead be held, focusing on the feel of his warm body pressed up against hers, his arms wrapped around her. All of it felt nice, lovely in fact, settling a soothing feeling at the pit of her stomach.

 

She felt safe.

 

She felt like nothing could and would harm her like this. That wasn’t possible. “You’re awake,” he said, voice gruff and thick in the morning light. She expected him to pull away, to feel the cold crawl down the length of her back as he drew back and the door smacked behind him.

 

He didn’t move an inch, only breathing hotly down her neck, one hand lazily tracing paths above her breasts.

 

“Mmm,” she throatily answered, as goose bumps feathered across her torso and she wondered if one last time, just one last time - - would it ever be enough? She cleared her throat, “Maybe we should - umm - get up?” It was her time to be the first to leave, dragging hurriedly on some discarded clothing by the end of the bed without ever looking into his direction. Molly didn’t want to see his face, whatever expression it was, as either would harm her. If he didn’t care it would sting, but if he did care; oh it would eat her alive.

 

“...Yes,” he drawled softly, letting her imagination play instead, springing out of the room with bare feet, keeping her eyes ahead of her the entire time. Not seeing couldn’t hurt, she thought.

 

 


 

 

Everything downstairs was half-finished, and suddenly she felt like there was nothing more important in the world than packing. She heard him come down the steps, lingering with a sound creak at the lower half until she saw with surprise him rolling up his sleeves, clearly intent to help. “Oh, umm, you don’t need to do that-,” she said wide-eyed.

 

“Everyone else has helped,” he said, brows knitted together as he stood pointedly by a finished box marked ‘books’.

 

“But you don’t like-,” she said with an odd smile on her face, it felt fake, the corners of her mouth being pulled up by some invisible force.

 

“Molly - let me -,”

 

“You’re only doing this because I want you to,” she said in one breath, and it felt like she’d slammed a door shut. The air in the room seemed thicker all of a sudden, and once more, she couldn’t breathe.  

 

He blinked.

 

“This isn’t your thing-,” she continued trying to be light, though the smile couldn’t be forced this time round.

 

“ - What are we really talking about?”

 

She pressed her lips together, eyes painfully stinging, as she let out a breath. “You’re not the type to...”

 

“The type to what?” he said, gaze all of a sudden fierce.

 

“I don’t - umm - I mean-,” she let her eyes drift shut, opening them up to see him still staring at her. It’s not that she couldn’t trust him, but there were - - the chance of it working out - - and him staying - -

 

“Don’t worry,” he interrupted. “I’ll never touch you again. I know how attached you’d end up being to me if we continued.”

 

She gaped, “What?”

 

“Isn’t it obvious?” he said with a raised brow, like she was being thick, like his words wouldn’t make any kind of impact. “We both knew you’d leap into my arms at any given moment-,”

 

“That’s not what I meant - - what are - what are you doing?” she said, her head feeling warm all of a sudden, pressure pounding at her like she’d never felt before.

 

“Just what you want, isn’t it?” he said soon wrenching his jacket on. “It’ll be much easier this way - once you leave.”

 

“How - how did you know-,” she smacked her lips together as the door to the building was slammed shut.

 

 

Chapter Text

I said maybe


You're gonna be the one that saves me


And after all


You're my wonderwall

 

Wonderwall, Oasis

 

1995, April

 

"Pills for...pills," he muttered, eyes turning sharply to the set of hazel ones that had been following him around since he'd gotten up this morning. Ignoring the girl he flicked his eyes across the rest of the room filled with disgruntled looking recluses, the majority of them posh kids who clearly were just waiting for their parents to pick them up after their time was over. Mycroft would do this of course, he thought accepting the Styrofoam cup the nurse handed him before she gave him a pointed look. She smiled sweetly the second he made a show of swallowing, tucking the pills just at the inside of his cheek.

 

"Sherlock, you'll be having a visitor in two hours - Nurse Gareth will follow you to the visitation room when that happens is that alright?" He nodded putting on a wide smile, glancing briefly at the wide-shouldered nurse called Gareth sporting a ginger beard who gave him a cheery wave from hovering over a pair playing a game of some kind with building blocks. The second he had a chance he elegantly coughed the pills out of his mouth, before dropping them into the nearest overgrown pot plant - they needed plants the nurses said, cheered up the place they said.

 

"You won't last long if you keep doing that-," said a voice, and he stared at the girl who'd been following him around un-elegantly, though he felt like she wasn't trying to disguise it whatsoever. She was hard to overlook wearing an oversize large black hoodie, her dark frizzy hair poorly hidden underneath the hood. She was also the only one he knew who wasn't rich, though clearly supported somehow.

 

"I don't intend to stay."

 

He had the feeling if he didn't reply she'd keep on following him, but he wasn't afraid she'd alert the nurses of his conceit.

 

"Neither did I, but-," she begun crossing her arms, clearly about to regale a tale he had no interest in listening to.

 

He wasn't there to make friends.

 

"I'm really not interested in your story."

 

"Wasn't really going to tell you a story."

 

"I doubt that."

 

"You must be fun at parties."

 

"I'm not."

 

She clucked her tongue, tilting her head to the side. "I'm Sally by the way, not that you asked."

 

"...Sherlock Holmes," he said.

 

"People don't usually give away their last names here. We're all just supposed to be on first name basis," she whispered before walking off with a laugh. "See you around Sherlock Holmes."

 


 

"Fun in rehab?" said Victor grinning at him. "I half-expected there to be this glass partition between us besides a telephone. I'm kind of disappointed it's a bunch of flowers and gossip mags."

 

"It's hardly prison," he said from his cushiony chair, the lounge for guests empty besides the pair of them.

 

"You look like-,"

 

"Hell?" he suggested aware that the bruises from his face hadn't entirely healed quite yet, the scrape above his brow still eerily in place, but there were thankfully no mirrors in the hall, he knew that several of the other patients kept away from him for that reason. That girl Sally was the first one to speak to him of all of them, and he'd been there two weeks already. He hadn't been expecting tea parties, though their little group sessions where everyone was expected to gush about their feelings certainly felt like that.

 

" - Better than the last time I saw you-," his friend said tapping on the arm of the chair. "Though that's not hard."

 

"Do we really need to talk about that?"

 

"Until the next time you almost die, then yeah, I'll stop bringing it up by then," Victor snapped and Sherlock could hear Gareth move in the background. "Sorry - sorry - didn't mean to raise my voice..."

 

He looked elsewhere, not wanting to see his friend's face, as he said, "I just overdid it a little..."

 

Victor scoffed loudly causing him to look at him, "Really? Because it seems to me that you did the one thing we both know many have died of - - you really wanted to die - didn't you?"

 

"Does it matter?"

 

"Do you have any idea how much I -,"

 

"Oh please don't bring in how you feel. I have enough with my therapy sessions faking emotions-,"

 

"- Care?" Victor bit out, nostrils flaring, as he leaned forward in his chair. "Do you want me to just walk away then? Because that's easier for you - oh - I can go and properly feel sorry about myself now - no one will stop me - you fucking dick."

 

"Your words - not mine," he said but Victor didn't grin or laugh it off.

 

"Molly left if that wasn't obvious enough? ...But that's what you planned wasn't it - to prove her right?"

 

He didn't reply, stonily looking ahead. Everything was a blur. He just remembered having a list tucked inside his jacket pocket. He remembered her shouting, her disappointment to know he'd been high every time they'd...

 

"You really proved her right then," Victor continued.

 

"Do you want me to get angry? To be upset that she left? What good would that do? Everyone leaves in the end. I was just saving her the trouble," he said in a quiet voice. "I slipped."

 

"On a mixture of cocaine and heroine? You slipped with a fucking speedball?"

 

"Not much different from you than am I?" he relished the look of Victor's retreating back when he left. Gareth called out for his friend's name, but he didn't turn around, the door just smacking shut in the distance.

 

As always, he was right.

 


 

"Didn't last long that visit of yours then?" she said appearing from the side shaking her head.

 

"What do you want?" he said tiredly from his seat. The television was on low volume in the background, other patients looming around it, peering on the outside word hungrily, the screens light illuminating their faces. He kept nearby for no reason, other than not wanting to disappear into his head - to replay - everything - constantly. He just needed a little bit more - a little rush, something to still the ache inside of him, and to make it disappear for a blissful amount of time.

 

"... I don't know," she said sitting down besides him with a sigh. "Company? Sex?" She didn't seem to be asking him. "To be honest - you just seemed like a freak... just like me."

 

He raised his brows, "Freak?"

 

"Everyone here makes excuses all the time, you know. It's either their mum or their dad or their rubbish friend, but not you. You blame yourself."

 

" - I've hardly spoken at those-,"

 

"I can see it on your face."

 

"It takes one to know one."

 

She grinned, "Knew you were a freak."

 

 

Chapter Text

1995, April

 

 

Her feet were crossed at the ankles, flashing off a pair of ratty looking Converse shoes with the soles all worn on the inseam. She wore them every day he noticed, and he knew for sentimental reasons, as they were one size too small, hence the wear. “What about him?” Sally asked pointing, gesturing to one of the other patients wandering around before them.

 

 

They were the outcasts, he couldn’t help notice, but he didn’t mind. Not really, as nobody seemed to mind them either. They were there, but they were always on the other side of the room, or the other end of the garden used for fresh air or the occasional cigarette (the no smoking indoors rule was hard to swallow on occasion, not that he didn’t break the rule repeatedly).

 

 

“Celebrity father, obviously.”

 

 

She crinkled her nose at him, “What celebrity?”

 

 

“I don’t know that.”

 

 

“...How do you know he’s got a celebrity father then, if you don’t know who his dad is?”

 

 

“Cellular phone. They’re keeping it for him. He’s expecting his father to call. Not come around. Why not just use the landline? Oh no, has to be special then, again you’ll say - it could be someone in the government - I’ve seen the model. It’s a test-model. Celebrities are the ones who usually receive those to boost the word of mouth... Also, several of the others tail after him, as if they know him. Though you don’t, so clearly, the name of his father doesn’t matter in the end... Are we done now? They’re hardly interesting subjects.”

 

 

“Nah. You’re enjoying this,” she said with a grin, though her grin wavered, her lips drawn into a thin line. “You’re not making this up right?”

 

 

“Why would I make it up?”

 

 

“Yeah... You’re right. You don’t seem like someone with a lot of imagination.”

 

 

“Why do you say that?” he said frowning.

 

 

“You wouldn’t need drugs if you did.”

 

 

“I don’t need-,” he begun, drawing a breath instead, and releasing it through his nostrils.

 

 

She stared at him again, lips pursed this time as if in thought, but he stopped her before she asked, she was apt to do so, he knew it would happen eventually, as it always did - “I don’t do - - people.”

 

 

The look on her face, eyebrows raised and disbelief etched into every inch almost made him laugh. “What do you mean people?”

 

 

“...People usually don’t like it when I do it to them.”

 

 

“Right,” she said shaking her head at him. “You know you could just call me your friend freak, really, it’s not that hard...” Sally begun laughing, “People!”

 


 

 

“So why are you here?” he hated that question, but he didn’t recoil when she asked. Probably helped that he was holding one of her detestable menthol cigarettes, and that they were shielded away from the rain, his mood was inclined to be at ease.

 

 

“Enjoying the scenery,” he said limply waving his hand at the rest of the drenched garden, the patter of the rain frightfully calming, especially since they couldn’t hear the self-obsessed mumbles of the rest of the patients who were all bunched indoors, clinging to the television like it was their lord and saviour.

 

 

She gave him a look, “Come on.”

 

 

“Do you want a sob story?”

 

 

“I want the truth.”

 

 

“You don’t deserve the truth.”

 

 

“Nobody deserves the truth in here, doesn’t mean they don’t like hearing it once in a while.”

 

 

“... Avoiding people,” he quipped with a drag of his cigarette, lightly letting the ashes from the end drift onto the ground.

 

 

“Ooh, is it a girl... or a boy?”

 

 

“Neither.”

 

 

She knew when not to push, he couldn’t help but notice, she dragged information from him in small swallows, and it annoyed him, yet he admired her tactics.

 

 

“She was a friend,” he added and she smiled in return.

 

 

He’d let her win that, at least.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

1995, May

 

Edinburgh

 


 

 

Her room was crammed with mismatched furniture and objects she couldn’t stand to throw away - memorabilia from London, post cards, and the odd take-out menu. Besides some photographs, some displayed proudly on her wall, and some partly obscured, with someone’s face covered up by post-it notes. There were more than a few post-it notes on her wall, most of them with almost unreadable scribbles, her loopy fine writing forgotten, and instead, ‘doctor’s hand’ as some joked to her. She kept plucking several notes off the wall, while balancing a book in one hand, and tapping a foot firmly on the carpeted floor.

 

 

“... Not stressed then?” said a voice from the doorway.

 

 

Molly didn’t even turn or flinch, while her cousin Katie gave to sighing and crossed her arms over her chest.

 

 

“You might need to step away from the wall, Molly.”

 

 

She didn’t reply, biting her lip silently instead, as her head darted downwards to look at her book, and then back onto the wall.

 

 

“Someone’s asking for you on the phone,” continued Katie.

 

 

“Oh?” said Molly who seemed to awaken from whatever trance-like state she’d been in for a couple of hours. She was in fact, immensely relieved for the distraction, smacking the book shut in her hands, before leaping past Katie who let out a laugh in disbelief.

 

 

She didn’t realize her mistake before she got to the sitting room, swallowing as she froze, realizing exactly that it couldn’t be Meena who was calling. She always rang in the afternoon, and she’d already rung once today. And anytime she answered the phone after the afternoon... it never ended well. However, she couldn’t let that stop her anymore, and she reluctantly brought the phone to her ear - “Hello?”

 

 

“Molly Hooper,” drawled a voice she hadn’t expected on the other end of the line.

 

 

“Mycroft?” she said immediately sitting down in the nearest chair, a bit taken aback to hear his voice of all people.

 

 

“Yes, it’s me. Now that we’ve established whom either of us are - I suggest you return to London.”

 

 

She was glad she’d sat down, if this was what he intended to bring up again, though last time he’d had the decency to pretend (very poorly however) that he was interested in her wellbeing. “And do what?”

 

 

“...Revisit old friends, of course.”

 

 

“Sherlock can take care of himself.”

 

 

“I’m not talking about my brother.”

 

 

“Oh, well, umm, I didn’t know that Victor-,”

 

 

“Nor my paramour.”

 

 

She couldn’t help snort at the word-use, eyebrows knotted, as she tried to come to grips with whom Mycroft felt she needed to visit. Molly felt she’d barely been away from London really, and that she’d hardly gotten enough time to grow home sick. “Then who?”

 

 

“Meena.”

 

 

Meena?” she said at a loss. “But she and I talk almost every day.”

 

 

“Yes, I know of all those delightful little talks where little of consequence is said, and she lashes out on Victor who in turn lashes out on me.”

 

 

“Umm, what?”

 

 

He sighed, “She’s pregnant, Molly... Thought you’d like to know.”

 

Chapter Text

 

1995, May

 

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

 

Hurt – Nine Inch Nails

 

Rain splattered down the window in violent torrents, as she lay in her bed. Meena frowned up at her pink ceiling, one hand resting on her slightly protruding stomach. It was the size of a carrot at the moment, at only 21 weeks, the baby that was. She tried talking, or well, maybe she was talking to herself, more than anything, still feeling a tiny bit awkward about it every time she did try.

 

“Sorry,” she whispered in the darkness of her room. “Your mum doesn’t know what to do with her life.”

 

When she’d made the decision to keep it, she thought, the rest would sort itself out, but it hadn’t. She’d begun wondering if she’d made the wrong decision, or she was just scared, or maybe life didn’t just sort itself out automatically.

 

It was probably the latter.

 

She’d dropped out of uni, or well, paused uni.

 

Everything was on ‘hold’.

 

Her mum kept saying she’d baby-sit when she planned to go back, while her dad just kept staring at her slow-growing belly. Even her sister Lupita kept bringing up that she could be there, even though she had her own family now. It was odd being back home, as she’d given up the flat-share to avoid questions. She hadn’t felt like shouting that she was in a family way, as a handful of people knew.

 

The handful of people who knew were – her parents – and Victor.

 

Three people she’d told herself, while the two others were ‘clever’, and thankfully she wasn’t on speaking terms with either of them. One of them was in rebab, and the other, had told Molly. Her best friend in the world had been told by Mike that she was pregnant. She’d been mucking up the courage to bloody do so herself, and instead, he’d gone and done it via telephone.

 

It’s not like she hadn’t picked up the phone herself, and wondered if maybe she should just get it over with, but it felt wrong, each time she tried. She felt like she’d just force Molly back to London, back to her, and she hadn’t wanted that. She hadn’t wanted her to go fuck all to Scotland either, but she’d left for a good reason. Meena understood why – but it hadn’t made it easier to tell her. And the worse part, she hadn’t heard from her either.

 

Not one word. Not a ring. Not even a really cross letter.

 

She thought she’d find the perfect time to tell her, but that conversation never happened. They only had an awkward goodbye, and then, she’d wished her to be happy. She hoped she was, she hoped she was alright, and of course, they talked on the phone, but all the conversations were short. She’d talk, and then Molly would say she had to write or read something.

 

Meena knew it didn’t bode well, but she understood that she had to keep herself busy. Her mum had died, and she was alone. Molly didn’t have a big family unit she like she had, with her annoying little brothers, and older sister and Uncles and Aunts who’d come around with platters of food, just to gossip.

 

It had been Molly and her mum since Molly’s dad had died.

 

She’d witnessed when that had all gone down, and then she’d clung to her own parents with all her might.

 

Now she wanted them to bugger off a little, but, she also needed them, terribly. She knew her dad didn’t approve of her choice, though, it was in the little ways he read up on a pregnancy book, and the odd vitamin bottles that would pop up in the kitchen that made her a bit confident that he didn’t completely hate the idea.

 

In the end, her mum had just forced them to chat about it, and she could see he was oddly happy.

 

She – didn’t know what she felt about it anymore. She felt odd. Then again, she’d always felt odd, and whatever idea she thought about her life magically sorting itself out wouldn’t happen, but she knew, she would pull through. She would also have something pull through her, though - Chandrak could have spared from pointing at her when they were sitting watching Alien on the telly.

 

“Meena?” her mum’s voice rang throughout the house.

 

“Yeah?” she replied, still fixed on the bed.

 

“Meena!” her mum continued.

 

“What?”

 

“Meena!”

 

She groaned getting up from the bed, rolling her eyes as she rushed out of her room. Her little brothers sniggering as she past their room, the door open, they were sat in front of one of their video games.

 

“You’re in trouble-,” Dhatri said in a sing-song-voice.

 

“Already am,” she said patting her stomach.

 

Dhatri and Chandrak both made a face at her.

 

Little shits.

 

She was glad she wasn’t having twins.

 

“Meena!” her mum cried out, while she trotted down the steps, her eyebrows knitted as she began to open her mouth to shout abuse, stopping up at the sight of Molly.

 

She was standing by the door, wearing a jacket, soaked to the ruddy bone, her brown hair clinging to her head. Her mum on the other hand was making a face, raising her brows, and jerking her head to the sitting room, quite obviously, and not at all discreetly, for either her or Molly.

 

Meena could hear the noise from the telly there, as her dad was obviously sat watching some program.

 

Wordlessly her mum smiled at her then Molly, before walking into the sitting room dragging her dad out of the room. “What are you-,” he began while her mum pulled him by the arm, shutting up at the scene.

 

“Hi-,” said Molly, giving a sodden wave of her hand.

 

“Molly!” he started, staring at Molly – then her – then her mum. “We’ll, um start dinner-,”

 

Her mum snorted.

 

The pair of them went along, and she heard the kitchen door slam shut in the distance. The echo of it making the silence of hallway even more obvious.  

 

And there she stood, her legs suddenly heavy, as her friend stared up at her.

 

“Umm, so, you alright?” she said.

 

Molly didn’t reply, just stared up at her with those perceptive brown eyes of hers, which thankfully didn’t land on her stomach. She covered herself with her cardigan, even so, and walked down the rest of the steps.

 

“You’re mad – you’ve got all right to be mad – I’d be mad as well – and I get that-,” she said flustered, and even more so flustered when she was enveloped in a hug, a big ol’ wet hug.

 

She felt relieved, though still petrified.

 

“Bloody hell, you could have taken your jacket off first-,” she muttered into Molly’s wet hair, shakily laughing, as she tried not to cry.

 

She cried so easily these days, but this felt deserved.

 

This felt like a proper time to cry.

 

“Oh god-,” Molly pulled away, and then attempted to dry her with her clammy hands, only making her wetter at the attempt. “Sorry!”

 

“It’s alright,” she said with a laugh. “I can handle it, though - - - -,” she stopped at the look on Molly’s face.

 

She looked sad.

 

“I’m alright-,” Molly said hastily in return.

 

“… I hadn’t asked yet – need a cup of tea, then?”

 


 

 

The pair of them were in her room, both of them laying on the bed – Molly wearing some of her clothes, while her mother washed – and was probably drying her clothes as they were just lying there. “So – you’re pregnant?” said Molly letting out a breath.

 

It wasn’t like she hadn’t said that already, several times. It was like she needed to say it, to state it for it to be actually true.

 

“Yeah, I’m in the family way – less family – more a one-woman show.”

 

“Who’s the dad…?”

 

She knew that question would pop out eventually, though she hoped for more time. No such luck though. “It’s maybe Charlie.”

 

“Charlie?” Molly said sitting up on the bed with a grimace on her face.

 

“Yes, with my fat luck, it’ll be him who’s the dad-,”

 

“You – you don’t know?”

 

“No,” she said slowly. “You see, I’d had a couple of drinks, and so did the lads - ,”

 

Lads?”

 

“Samuel,” she finished. “Samuel and Charlie.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah, so - - problem really.”

 

Molly let out a laugh, which turned into a proper giggle to her annoyance.

 

“It’s not funny,” she said hitting her with a pillow.

 

“Ow,” said Molly clearly not at all hurt by the blow.

 

“And I’ve not told either one of them-,”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because I couldn’t imagine seeing the first image of my child with two blokes on either side.”

Molly grinned, her grin faltering slightly, “When is it due-,”

 

“November-ish,” she said with a small smile.

 

She nodded at that, while Meena just waited.

 

“… Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

Now this question, she’d expected.

 

She sat up in the bed, as Molly just looked at her, a crease between her brows. “… We’ve, you know, done almost everything together, you know, gone to the same schools, shared lunches, bloody grown up together and all that, and I felt like, you know, that, umm-,” she was fumbling wildly. “ - - I thought you’d be disappointed.” That was the truth. “I thought you’d tell me, you’re mad, don’t keep it, and maybe you wouldn’t, maybe you’d just say nothing – but I’d feel like you’d already said it – because you’ve got plans – none of them include a baby. At least not now, and I felt like we were doing different things for once, and somehow, that felt good. Not to say it’s bad, you know, I just - - it wasn’t like, oh, I’m getting pregnant to one-up Molly - - I just. It was my decision, entirely my own, and I was afraid that you wouldn’t like it. You were always encouraging me to stay in uni, and now that’s not happening, but it was never for me. Somehow, despite it all, I’ve tried to be you. Horribly really, and now I’m just babbling. Sorry, I just…”  

 

Molly smiled, though Meena could see that her eyes were watery, “I’m sorry for not telling you, I should have told you, I tried to tell you, but every time was shit timing. And every time I was terrified that you’d tell me ‘you’re being a moron’, even if I knew it wasn’t true, but I was scared if I wasn’t just being paranoid. That even my best friend in the world would think the worst of me -  I also knew that if you of all people knew – it would actually true - - I’d be a mum… And I am mum. Soon. And it’s completely and utterly mad, but - -  I wouldn’t wish it any other way.”

 

And somehow, saying it out loud, made it true.

 

She wanted the baby, with all her heart.

 

Molly just embraced her, and then she cried, proper, proper tears. “I’m having a baby,” she sobbed on her shoulder.

 

“I know,” Molly returned, the pair of them clinging to each other. “If you’d told me – I would never ever have judged you-,”

 

“I know,” she said letting go of her. “ – But one of the many insane reasons I had for not telling you in the first place - - was that I didn’t want you to stay because of me. Of course, I could have just told you to fuck off to Scotland anyway.”

 

Molly laughed, her eyes brightening, “It’s alright, I get why you didn’t tell me, even if it hurt having to be told by-,”

 

“Mycroft, yeah, sorry about that. Apparently, he couldn’t handle Victor’s moaning about it anymore. He hates keeping secrets.”

 


 

 

They’d been left alone to have dinner, which was a pleasant surprise. For once the whole family had left for the sitting room to watch the telly, and her little brothers were somehow annoyed by this, despite always pleading to do so when they were forced to sit together at the kitchen table.

 

“So, how are you?” she asked Molly who only gave a half-hearted shrug in return.

 

“Descriptive,” said Meena with a laugh.

 

“Sorry, I just, I’ve been so focused on my exams, and reading – I haven’t really had time to-,”

 

“Know how you feel?” she said making a face.

 

Molly gave her a look, “I do know, and I don’t, if you know what I mean?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“It’s just hard, I haven’t made loads of friends yet, and I don’t know if I want to either.”

 

“Why not? … Aren’t you planning on staying?”

 

“I don’t know if there’s any point… After I sold the house, and with mum’s savings and all – I could own my own flat in London.”

 

“Wow,” said Meena raising her brows. “Look at you, being all adult.”

 

“Yeah,” said Molly stabbing the chicken breast with her fork. “But I don’t know if it’s a good idea-,”

 

“Because of-,”

 

“Sherlock,” Molly said finally.

 

She was glad she said it, instead of her. She hadn’t wanted to bring him up, as she knew that was a sore spot. The will-they-or-won’t-they – the most annoying of things she’d ever observed in her life –

 

“We slept together,” said Molly to her surprise.

 

“Oh – umm - -,”

 

“Twice.”

 

She blinked, needing a moment, while Molly averted her eyes.

 

“Well, fuck me,” she finally said.  

 

“Meena!” she heard her mum shout from the other room.

 

Clearly louder than intended.

 

“Not you mum” she said loudly in return, amazed by her mums hearing (as always).

 

Molly let out a laugh.

 

“Never mind, just don’t swear,” her mum said from the other room to the giggling of her little brothers. “Your little brothers-,”

 

“ – Swear loads already-,” she said under her breath.

 


 

 

“I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s been keeping secrets, then,” said Meena who couldn’t help grin to herself, as Molly was pacing in her room, looking frustrated. It was kind of delightful, feeling normal all of a sudden, like ‘teenagers’ again, discussing Molly shagging Sherlock.

 

“I didn’t mean to-,”

 

“It’s quite alright, the both of us, hiding milestones – you losing your flower – me getting knocked up. They equal each other out in an odd way.”

 

Molly sat down on the end of the bed in a huff, “It’s not like I did it on purpose, it just happened.”

 

“Thank god, and here I was imagined your first time with you wearing a white dress while lighting up scentled candles.”

 

She got a pillow to the face, and looked mock-outraged, “I’m carrying a heavy load here, be sensitive.”

 

Molly had the decency to look ashamed, “Sorry, I just, I wanted to tell you, but, it didn’t end well.”

 

“I don’t imagine anything with Sherlock ending well.”

 

“He’s just so – so-,”

 

“ - - Besides him being your first - - why are you so riled up about this?”

 

Molly made a face, “I went to see him.”

 

“You did?” said Meena surprised.

 

“And he wouldn’t see me,” she said looking down at her hands. She was picking her nails, a nervous habit Meena saw her doing from time to time.

 

“Why not?”

 

“… I don’t know – the nurse didn’t tell me – some girl came up though-,”

 

“A girl?”

 

“Yeah, a friend of his apparently.”

 

“He’s got friends in there?”

 

“She was nice, actually, kept telling me he was an idiot.”

 

“I like her,” said Meena taking hold of one of Molly’s hands, and squeezing it.

 

Molly returned the favour, “I just wanted to talk, like we used to, you know – about this of all things, and I hoped, maybe, we could be normal again.”

 

“You weren’t ever normal though.”

 

“I know, I just - - I felt I lost a lot, in such a short time - - - and it’s not fair.”

 

Meena felt her own eyes watering up, trying to hold on, as she saw her friend before her, crumbling, her shoulders shaking. “It’s not bloody fair my mum died, and it’s not fair that the one I love-,” Molly stopped herself from speaking more, though Meena had figured out as much already. It was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

“He’s an idiot,” she said leaning onto Molly’s shoulder knowing that probably didn’t help. It wasn’t news to her. “Because you’re amazing – and you deserve so much better-,” If Molly didn’t know this by now, she didn’t know what to do.

 

“And look what I did with that – I cheated on Graham-,”

 

“You were grieving-,”

 

“But still, I always promised myself I’d never do that, to anyone, and then I did-,”

 

“Yeah, but you never felt like that for him,” she said softly.

 

Molly breathed out slowly, “I know, I just-,”

 

“Don’t put everything on you, it’s not all yours to carry. You’re still bloody 19.”

 

Molly turned, and she drew back, her friend staring at her.

 

“ – You’re going to be a great mum.”

 

She bloody cried again.

 


 

 

Sally sat across from him, her feet resting on another one of the chairs.

 

 

“Why?”

 

 

“What?” he bit back.

 

 

She couldn’t believe him, really, she couldn’t. His friend had been there to talk, the one person she knew, he wanted to talk to. The one person who she’d figured out was so much more than a friend, and he’d given her the cold shoulder, for what?

 

 

To sit in a corner brooding.

 

 

“Why didn’t you see her?”

 

 

He stared over her shoulder, or through her, it felt like that at this point. He’d tried to ignore her for hours now, but she wouldn’t let that get to her.

 

 

“What good would it do?” he said.

 

 

She got up to her feet, “Alright, then.”

 

 

“ – You can leave - - any time, yet you’re still here,” he said. “Pathetic really. What are you scared of?”

 

 

Sally was annoyed he’d figure that out, though, she wouldn’t let it face her.

 

 

“Because I knew I needed help – you – however – I’m not so sure about. If there’s anyone who needs to answer that question – it’s you – what are you scared of?”

 

 

She’d wanted to walk off at that, dramatically even, but the look on his face made her stall.

 

 

“I always ruin things,” he said in a small voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

  1995, September

 

 

How can you just walk away from me

 


When all I can do is watch you leave?

 


'Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain

 

And even shared the tears

 

You're the only one who really knew me at all

 

 

Against All Odds – Phil Collins

 

 

He fished out a cigarette from his soft packet, letting out a breath in the crisp autumn air, as he waited. It looked like any old clinic, and not one where youths went to get rid of their addictions. Victor remembered where he’d been shipped off to – a place crammed with murals’ and art to supposedly stimulate the mind, and encourage recovery. The paintings mostly pissed him off. They were daily reminders of how much he’d failed as a son – as a friend – and they were also beyond hideous.

 

 

Sherlock was lucky in that retrospect, staying at a place that looked much more like a hospital than anything, and a well-groomed one at that. The bushes looked better trimmed than he himself were. But all in all, it was still rehab.

 

 

Leaning against his car, he wondered if he’d manage this trip with his head aching from time to time. It was a seven-hour drive to Edinburgh after all. But he wasn’t the one who had concocted the daft scheme either. Usually he’d be the one behind it all, but he’d gingerly suggested traveling by aeroplane. It felt quicker to nip in and out of Edinburgh that way. But thankfully he’d drank enough coffee, and planned to drink more, or else there’d be hell to pay. They were going to make more than one stop on the road, his bladder wasn’t made of steel. Victor squinted at his watch about to make way to the entrance, but that’s when Sherlock made his grand exit, with Sally in tow.

 

 

The pair looked odd, and Victor had thought them odd when Sherlock had phoned him up, asking for him to come visit, and Sally had been moderator throughout, Sherlock avoiding looking at her, while she just sat there cross-legged giving him the occasional stare of disapproval any time he put a toe out of line (like a therapist of sorts). Victor took a liking to her immediately. She was cheeky and crass, and fit the strange friends Sherlock surrounded himself with – ex-drug addict, pregnant teenager and future mistress of death (though Molly really didn’t like that title, making him wonder if she’d ever been goth, but Meena pretty much ruined that theory). He didn’t know much about Sally, except that her dad had had been a copper before he passed away, on duty. And she, clearly daddy-issues in tow, wanted to be a copper as well.

 

 

“Let’s go,” said Sherlock, duffle bag in one hand, the other tucked in his pocket. Sherlock looked like he was being inconvenienced, as if he was the one dragging him onto the road.

 

 

Victor caught Sally’s eye, she was grinning widely, and gave him a nod in greeting.

 

 

“Hiya Sally,” he said ignoring Sherlock’s growing discomfort.

 

 

Sherlock sighed, squaring his shoulders, “Could we get this over with?”

 

 

“ – You’re in a great mood for a romantic gesture, I see.”

 

 

“It’s-,” he began scoffing, eyebrows knitted. Clearly not managing to complete whatever he was about to say, the words just deflating, his mouth a thin line.

 

 

Sherlock gave him one last withering look, before settling into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him.

 

 

“He’s apparently going to say hello,” said Sally with a laugh.

 

 

“We’re driving 7 hours there and back again, to say, bloody ‘hello’?” he said crinkling his nose. “Might as well pick up the nearest phone for that.”

 

 

“… Yes,” Sherlock said, managing to say something, even though it didn’t remotely make sense.

 

 

Clearly, he wanted an out, but he wasn’t handing one to him for once.

 

 

No, they were going to Edinburgh whether he regretted it or not.

 

 

Victor shrugged, not about to put his foot in his mouth for once, or delay the trip any longer, giving Sally a brief squeeze causing her to brightly squeak in return, clearing her throat afterwards as if he’d embarrassed her. “Isn’t anyone used to public displays of affection in this country?” he said shaking his head, while he settled inside his car, closing the door shut gingerly to show Sherlock how one actually treated his car. Gently.  

 

 

Sally still stood there, however, staring expectantly at Sherlock, eyebrow raised. “You going to say goodbye freak?”

 

 

Victor turned the engine on to fill the void, clearing his throat as if to signal to his grumpy friend that it was his turn to talk.

 

 

“Goodbye,” said Sherlock, a vague hint of a smile on his face.

 

 

He half-expected him to shake her hand, but Sally just gave way to laughing.  

 

 

“Good luck with getting the girl!” she said letting out a breath before walking off, hands in her pockets.

 

 

Victor tutted when she disappeared out of sight, “Not everyone makes friends in rehab, you know.”

 

 

“Please, start the car.”

 

 

“Making you uncomfortable, am I?”

 

 

“Yes,” he said. “Now, get on the road before I change my mind.

 

 

He popped on his sunglasses, “You promise you’re not going to change your mind when we’re half-way there?”

 

 

“No.”

 

 

Victor grinned, and got on the road.

 

 

1 hour in

 

 

He’d always liked driving, taking in the scenery, some occasional chit-chat, but this was a completely different beast entirely. He was used to Sherlock being Sherlock, but complete silence throughout an entire Phil Collins album was one thing. Victor had been driving the volume slowly up for every milestone they’d driven passed. They were getting looks from other drivers, blasting “Against all odds”, not one ironic smile on either of their faces, but Sherlock didn’t budge.

 

 

Victor didn’t hate Phil Collins. Mycroft just enjoyed it more than he did. Sherlock wasn’t in the car, and stuck in his head, thinking. Victor did wonder how that was, he was never much of thinker, more of a doer, and he presumed this was why Sherlock was thinking himself away from his predicament. He’d have to think over the logistics, like keeping the pair of them on schedule, and safely on the road.

 

 

“Are you alright?” he asked for the second time, though he’d limited himself, keeping the pair of them mainly off topic, and mainly irrelevant observations with “did you know-,” He couldn’t help copying Mycroft from time to time, the man liked spewing out nonsensical facts in the oddest of moments, throwing him of course, and making him laugh (especially when he’d give them during foreplay) usually because he was nervous (surprisingly often in his presence). Sherlock didn’t reply to his answer, and he had half-a mind to let Phil continue, but he turned off the music. The sound of the road took over, the wind instead surging past his ears. Other drivers in hearing distance seemed grateful to hear Phil shut up (“It’s because he evokes a genuine response in people.” “Mainly you, then?” Mycroft gave him a look.)

 

 

“ - - What are you going to say?”

 

 

He’d ballsed up entirely, but he was genuinely curious. They had six more hours of driving, and they were bound to talk about it. You couldn’t be driving off in a car for six hours to meet - - - the love of your life? Was Molly Hooper the love of Sherlock’s life? Was she? Or was this just something he felt obliged to do, because then he’d turn the car right around, before telling him to piss off. If he could just help Sherlock navigate through the ‘mysterious female mind’ some way or the other, he could, or well, he could make whatever was going to happen go smoother than Sherlock breaking into her flat and pretending to be cool when he was so – so – uncool about the whole thing. “I will turn this car around if you don’t tell me what your plan is.”

 

 

“Hmm?”

 

 

“Oh, you heard me, come on! -  What are you going to say?”

 

 

Sherlock stared ahead on the road, still with that intensely focused gaze of his, before he said – “I have no idea.”

 

 

He felt like stopping the car altogether.

 

 

2 hours in

 

 

It was at times like these that he regretted not getting a phone in his car, though he barely knew who he’d bother to phone, except Mycroft. The man enjoyed talking, incessantly on the phone. He could let the man drone, walk off to kitchen, make himself a quick meal, and he’d barely notice he’d been gone. Victor wondered if he enjoyed just knowing someone was willing to listen, even if they weren’t necessarily listening, as Mycroft would usually catch on that he’d been away, despite his best attempts at pretending he knew what he was going on about. He did learn a great deal about history though, he wagered it was better than watching the telly. But he’d been busy lately, Mycroft that was, and they hadn’t seen each other in a while. Victor had even suggested that he join him and his brother on their trip, but he supposed that was too much. Mycroft wasn’t officially ready to be public about their relation, though his parents knew, they’d given the impression as much (at least to him, as his mum had rung him up and asked him to dinner – “Oh is Sherlock coming?” “No, of course not, it’ll just be you and Mike.”)

 

 

“So – your brother-,” he began, pursing his lips.

 

 

“No,” said Sherlock shutting him down.

 

 

He couldn’t help but grin. Sherlock was at least listening.

 

 

3 hours in

 

 

He settled into the car again, having just bought coffees and some savoury biscuits. “Hungry?” he said holding the greasy brown bag in front of Sherlock who eyed the petrol station in the distance.

 

 

“Yes,” he said bringing one of them out, before taking one of the coffees in his hand.

 

 

“ – You weren’t allowed coffee, were you?” Victor said raising his brows.

 

 

“They had tea.”

 

 

“Hmm, typical - - -  caffeine is an addiction-,” he rattled off making a face.

 

 

The gate way drug,” said Sherlock smiling, sipping his coffee from the large cup happily.

 

 

4 hours in

 

 

“You could tell her how you feel…” he suggested, bouncing off ideas. The most obvious idea, but it was an idea nonetheless. Molly Hooper deserved nothing but the truth.  

 

 

“She deserves more.”

 

 

That struck a chord, clearly.

 

 

“She deserves that.”

 

 

“We had sex.”

 

 

The car jolted a bit, and he almost cried out, one hand thrown in front of Sherlock who was trying to look unaffected by his sudden swerve on the road. A car honked behind them, a swear word thrown out from the other driver – “Fuck, you did what?” he half-shouted. Victor wished he could be pleased, any other reaction than anger, but he was. He couldn’t help being angry. “When?” he bit out, peering at Sherlock who had his face turned to left, staring out on the road.

 

 

Sherlock sighed, “She was - - it was – - - her mother passed away.”

 

 

Molly had been vulnerable, the worst kind of vulnerable.  

 

 

“Of course,” he sighed, and he could feel a headache coming on, building up on the back of his neck, crawling forwards to the front, adding persisting pressure on his already existing throb.

 

 

“She needed - - -  someone.”

 

 

“And you felt that, that was the right approach? … No wonder she left London.” He hasn’t meant to say it out loud, but he felt it was right. He felt it was deserved. Sherlock avoided his eye, looking out of the passenger window.

 

 

“I know,” he said in a small voice. “I-,”

 

 

“Thought having sex with her would make her feel better? That – that would sort everything out? – You know what she needed Sherlock, she needed a bloody friend.”

 

 

“I know,” Sherlock said, and it seemed he knew of the affect he’d had. “That’s why she left, as you put it.”

 

 

Victor let out a breath, his chest heaving, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

 

“It’s fine - - you did.”

 

 

“Oh, don’t be like that-,”

 

 

“What?”

 

 

“So bloody sanctimonious!”

 

 

There was beat.

 

 

He sighed, patting at his pockets.

 

 

“Cigarette?” he said.

 

 

“No, thank you.”

 

 

Victor frowned, slightly surprised, “…Can you, umm, hand me one?”

 

 

Sherlock gave him a brief look, though fetched one from the pocket of his jacket. “Thanks - - so - -,” he hurriedly lit up his cigarette, one hand on the steering wheel. “ – You’ve got no plan, and she might hate you.”

 

 

“She does.”

 

 

“ – Right, great, so this might go fuck all.”

 

 

“Probably,” said Sherlock who let out a laugh all of a sudden, and then Victor felt all of the tension that had crawled into the space of his head evaporate. “You really are seeing my brother…”

 

 

He raised his brows.

 

 

“Sanctimonious?” said Sherlock smirking.  

 

 

“Fuck,” he said softly with a grin.

 

 

5 hours in

 

 

“ - - She came to visit.”

 

 

“Yeah, Meena mentioned that.”

 

 

“I knew what she was going to say.”

 

 

“You did?” said Victor, confused. Sherlock wasn’t usually one to know what people were going to say, especially when it came to feelings.

 

 

“She wants things to go back to how they used to, the usual speech about friendship.”

 

 

“And – you don’t want that-,” said Victor with a brief nod to himself, seeing that Sherlock didn’t give any outward response. “ – which is why we’re on the road, kind of got that bit, though.”

 

 

He got quiet again, and Victor popped in another cassette. The Carpenters began to play. His guilty pleasure, and he derived some pleasure of seeing a furrow begun to appear between Sherlock’s brows. Victor mouthed the words “Why do birds suddenly appear?” Laughing at the disgruntled response of his friend, the sun appearing through the clouds, and he thought to himself – this was going to work out. Somehow. It would turn alright in the end. If he could sort himself out, so could Sherlock.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

I love you in a place where there's no space or time

I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine

And when my life is over remember when we were together

We were alone and I was singing this song for you

 

A Song For You, The Carpenters

 

 

1995, September

 

“Okay so we didn’t make it-,” Victor said, the words hanging in the air. He was trying not to listen, trying every ounce of his being to pretend he couldn’t hear his voice. “But she’s here now, even if the occasion is a bit…”

 

 

“Not the time-,” he breathed out, his voice raspy.

 

 

He could feel the drugs hadn’t taken hold yet, his body stiff, but he had something else tucked away in his pocket, patting it every few minutes as if to know it was there, in case the first dose didn’t work. The suit was on, a feat he thought he wouldn’t find possible, the buttons were all wrong, the fabric felt all wrong, he was sweating through it, yet he felt a chill on the back of his neck.

 

 

“You’ve got to pull yourself together – you can’t be like this.”

 

 

He ignored the voice following him, walking ahead on heavy feet, his eyesight blurred as he looked at the shapes in black all surrounding him.

 

 

Sherlock could see the casket that people occasionally passed, whispering amongst themselves, it was just there, stationary.

 

 

He’d been the least stationary person he’d ever known.

 

 

“Come on Sherlock-,” Victor said.

 

 

“Shut up,” he barked, and he could feel eyes on him, but he evaded them, sniffling, roughly dragging the sleeve of his suit in front of his nose. He could feel the tears, they were just rolling freely, unstoppable, like every orifice was open, unable to control themselves.

 

He stood by the casket, his head hanging downwards, and others who stood in line giving him looks, but he didn’t move.

 

 

Victor was standing beside him, shoulder to shoulder, “You couldn’t have known…”

 

 

Staring down at the familiar face – no hint of a carefree smile, no cigarette dangling at the edge of his mouth – just a cadaver – the body of his friend positioned into a pristine looking coffin. Mahogany with white faux silk lining.

 

 

“Nobody knew about the clot in my head,” Victor continued, and he clenched his eyes shut in response, as if the voice in his head would lessen, would shut up, would fade away. He didn’t want it to, but he knew it would, with time it would, the memory of his voice would fade – so would his quirks, his moods, his laugh. Gone. A person having yet left no mark, just cigarette ashes that had already blown away. Instead he left a big gaping hole, a chasm.

 

 

“Sherlock?” said a firm voice, and he felt a clammy hand fasten itself over his fist, tightening itself over his hand.

 

 

Sherlock could see it in her face, the redness in her eyes, the makeup that was going to cover away the lack of sleep having been already rubbed off, leaving those dark marks underneath Meena’s eyes visible. He could see that she looked at him the same way – the visible grief – so pronounced –  etched into his skin and hers. “Let’s go sit.”

 

 

“No-,” he drawled, pulling his hand away from hers. She didn’t argue, she just stood there quietly besides him, life growing inside her, yet, all life seemed to have drained her.

 

 

“It’s not fucking fair-,” she said shrugging her shoulders, the sort to contain herself, as if the rest of her limbs would follow.

 

 

Fair. What was fair?

 

 

It wasn’t. None of it was. Victor Trevor wasn’t supposed to die after exiting a dingy old toilet at a petrol station. He wasn’t supposed to collapse onto the floor so ungracefully, so normally, like he’d just taken a tumble. That wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Rather hopped up on drugs, on his own terms, in his own veins, speed balling away into some unknown bliss, his cock dangling on the outside of his trousers still on the loo.

 

 

Victor Trevor wasn’t some idiot, a moron who didn’t go to the doctor’s after an injury. He didn’t ignore the pain in his leg, assuming instead of checking. He’d have noticed if he hadn’t been so busy, if he hadn’t been so wrapped up in his own head, in his own feelings, to not notice something so vital. But he hadn’t. No one had. And Victor had collapsed. Simply fallen keeled over, with a loud thump, all life gone from him in the blink of an eye.

 

 

“At least he didn’t die in the loo-,” he said, and he laughed. He didn’t know whether they were his words, or his friends’ words, or his laugh or someone else’s. Words were just words, laughter was another thing. Ketamine. He could taste the word in his mouth, red, sort of stringy, sort of loud. He was shouting, he knew it, he was shouting. No, he was screaming. The words spilling out of him, they’d already been spilling, he had no control, and he knew that he would have no control going forward.  

 

 


 

 

For appearances sake – his mother and I would rather you not come-,” the words had stayed with him, with every movement he had in his office, with every phone call, with every pretence that it didn’t matter. Victor was gone, simply gone – being welcomed at his funeral made no difference whatsoever. It was just an occasion. Another one with incessant amount of people, all of them attempting to show how much they loved him by saying a few words, though none of them knew him, his family shoving any indiscretion away with death. He filled his glass to the very edge, the amber glinting inside the crystal.

 

 

His assistant stepped inside, spotted the glass, and retreated quietly without another word.

 

 

Friend of the family he’d said.

 

 

Friend…

 

 

The glass was tipped against his lips, he blinked furiously wishing whatever heat persistently prodding at his eyes would let him go. Just for now. Not here. He wasn’t alone here, yet he was.

 

 

Alone.

 

 

He swallowed big gulps, emptying the glass.

 

 

The phone rang. He already knew what to expect. Sherlock. An explosion waiting to happen, and somehow, he found himself smiling, wanting to be fuelled with so much outrage, so much hatred, at someone other than himself.

Chapter Text

 

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It's all right, it's all right

 

Here comes the sun, The Beatles

 

1995, September

 

She was keeping it together, barely, but she was keeping it together. The man at the till sighed with his arms crossed, while she counted her coins. Meena almost wanted to shout at him, tell him where she’d just been, and that she had all the reason in the world to take all the time she wanted.

 

She needed that, but instead of shouting at a stranger who probably wasn’t even sighing over her counting her coins, she gingerly handed him the money.

 

She didn’t have any fight left in her.  

 

“Keep the change,” she said almost shrugging her shoulders about to head out the door, her body feeling heavy and difficult.

 

He gave her half a smile, grey brows crinkling – “You alright, love?”

 

“Do I look alright?” she said pointing at her protruding belly.

 

He gestured to the condoms hanging behind him, winking at her, and she almost laughed flipping her finger at him.

 

“Rude,” he said, while she walked off with her shopping, or …waddled.

 

There was nothing elegant or glowing about this stage she felt, her stomach churning once in a while, and she was half-unsure whether she needed the loo or not (probably). There was most likely one in the petrol station, but she couldn’t stomach, literally, the idea of squatting inside a filthy room, having to either ask Molly or Sherlock to help her up again from the loo seat, which was dodgy at best. It felt like she was bound to contract something in a public toilet in her current state, which was just icing on the cake considering her state of mind.

 

Meena peered into the bag grimacing. The sandwiches didn’t look ­half-bad, but they weren’t impressive either. She hoped there wouldn’t be any complaints from the others who were still sat on the bench where she’d left them.

 

Meena hadn’t expected to wind up here of all places, loitering outside a petrol station like a teenager. There she was taking care of two friends, or trying, really trying. The wake wasn’t even done yet. She felt like sighing when she got to the bench, eyeing Sherlock who was sat learning forward, dark hair dashing past his forehead, as he was probably still trying to come to grips with reality (or off the high).

 

Molly looked like she was trying to shrink, sitting on the other end of the bench, the pair of them clearly not trying to get too close, not close enough for a conversation that was.

She assumed Molly didn’t enjoy Sherlock’s outburst at the funeral, but she hadn’t stopped him, neither had she, so they were both party to it all.

 

It felt like an excuse to leave, pointing towards Sherlock being high as a kite, spit flying out of his mouth, as he tore apart whatever equilibrium Victor’s parents tried to maintain. Victor would have hated it, not the outburst - but the wake; afternoon tea served with delightful crumpets displayed on expensive tea sets, as people chatted about, like they were just at another one of their social soirees with the hint of a napkin daintily patting at their eyes occasionally. It was filled to the brim with people whom Victor didn’t have any contact with – friends of the family who weren’t aware of his sexuality, which in retrospect, they probably all knew now - courtesy Sherlock’s explosive response to all the extravagance.

Meena wondered why they’d been invited, like it was some sort of compensation that Victor’s parents hadn’t invited one of the most important people in Victor’s life – Mycroft. They’d, however, been wholly unprepared to find her in her current state, and somehow, she’d felt vindicated in just that, but it was never going to be enough.

 

She was angry. She was furious that Victor’s parents were the way they were, and that he wasn’t there to rail against it himself, to fight, to shout. He was just gone, too soon, too fast. He’d always joked that he never wanted to become a frail old man, that he couldn’t imagine himself growing old, and she hated to know that he was right.

 

That he’d proved his point beautifully by dying.

 

Meena finally sat down with a groan on the bench, nudging her companions – “Hungry?” There was no reply, but she fished the sandwiches out anyway, trying to keep her hands busy. She couldn’t be angry with either of them for their silence, they were both just trying to cope, but she felt like she too needed a hand in all this. She needed Victor, as if he were the voice of reason, the one person who’d tell them to stop blubbering. It almost made her want to cry again, and she probably would, but she knew it was hard for either of them. She couldn’t imagine how it was for Molly – there’d been too many funerals already.

 

And Sherlock, oh Sherlock, she thought, almost at a loss for words – probably riddled with guilt for having been there but having been incapable of doing anything. He did what he could do today, with his body and mind out of control, just leaking all of his emotion all over the place.

 

Victor would have hated all of the grief. But it was still too fresh, too soon to come with problem solving or a quiet “cheer up”. She just needed to handle the here and now, simple enough, but nothing felt simpler anymore.

 

They were still waiting for Mycroft to pick them up.

 

She could hold on until then.

 

Meena never thought she’d ever look forward to him showing up, doling out remarks, but she was. She also didn’t know what to expect from him either. She’d phoned him, and he’d sounded his usual calm self. It irked her. Death affected people differently, she knew that, hence Molly sitting in complete and utter silence during the wake, while Sherlock had railed against everything until he seemed to have emptied himself out, only a shell of him left behind.

 

She was just barely holding on, for herself and for her baby.

 

“Molly,” she said a bit too tersely to her own liking, but her body felt particularly heavy. This environment wasn’t doing good to her at all, she felt too tired, too hot – too lost. “Eat,” she said grabbing Molly’s one free hand, and stuffing a packaged sandwich into it.

 

She did the following with Sherlock who seemed somewhat aware of his surroundings, perhaps feigning distance for distances sake.

 

“He’ll be here soon, and I need both of you to eat,” she finished, annoyed when her eyes were working up again.

 

They’d been doing that a lot.

 

“I’m not hungry,” said Molly and she sighed in response.

 

The baby was properly annoying as well, from the inside of her stomach, the occasional cramp, which she wasn’t unfamiliar with. It had happened before.

 

“Please – eat,” she said softly.

 

Molly’s large brown eyes met hers, and she was thankful to see her friend just quietly unwrap the packaging on the sandwich. She hadn’t really excepted her to show up today, she wouldn’t have blamed her. They’d been to too many funerals already, it felt too soon for that. Funerals came at the end, not when it all began, and Victor’s life had been cut short.

 

He’d just rang her a day before the drive, laughing about how stupid it sounded, yet, he sounded so happy, so - so - very happy about his friend finally coming to term with things.

 

She could never tell Molly, never. Molly didn’t know, of the how’s and the where’s, but she knew just enough. They’d just been two hours away from Edinburgh, the last stretch, and Victor collapsed. Meena knew that fingers would point then – that Molly would regret moving – and that Sherlock, probably, right at this very moment, regretted driving away, like they could have prevented his brain from playing a trick on him.

 

Meena,” said Molly and her hand was immediately clasped, two clammy hands stuck together. Holding tight for dear life.

 

She was crying, again.

 

It felt never-ending really, the crying.

 

“You finished?” she said sniffling and turning to look at the sandwich which had been bitten into once.

 

“… You just gave it to her,” said another voice, and she glanced at Sherlock who seemed to join the conversation, well, almost a conversation.

 

“You okay?” she said.

 

He didn’t reply, just stared ahead.

 

“Sorry, stupid fucking question,” she said. “I meant - are you still-,”

 

“High? … Unfortunately, not,” he said pulling his coat around him, shivering slightly. “Thankfully no hallucinations...”

 

“Good,” she said drily. “Sandwich?”

 

He looked at it for a while, “ – No thank you.”

 

She laughed, “Sorry, it’s umm-,”

 

“Really bad?” Molly said with a sudden giggle, having nibbled on it again.

 

It felt wrong to laugh, bad even, but she did as well, in the back of her throat.

 

Victor would have laughed had he been here.

 

In some ways, maybe he was.

 

It sounded so trite in her head, but he would have laughed.

 

So much.

 

They all quietened down, the three of them sat on the bench while the September wind blew, ripping leaves off the trees. What remained of summer was being washed away by autumn, the green turning red and yellow, decaying - dying, until the circle began again.

 

She heard the sound of an engine and saw Mycroft stopping his car, then stepping out.

 

Somehow, she’d expected him to beckon Sherlock over - to let her and Molly sit alone on the bench, but here he was, walking towards them.  

 

He looked tired… It made her want to cry all over again seeing his face – “Hello,” she said carefully, as if he’d blow away if she were to be her usual loud self.

 

“There are taxis you know,” he said as way of greeting.

 

Meena hated him for what he was currently doing, putting on the brave face, the face she saw all the time, and she could only wonder if this was the face he always had on. Perhaps Victor had seen him without the affectations, the pretence, the supposed cool, which he tried to give off all the time. She half-expected Sherlock to come with a cutting barb of his own, but none followed, just silence. It seemed that Mycroft had been expecting that, his face slipping ever so slightly, like he’d come here to fight, but no one was willing to. No one was going to give him what he wanted.

 

“So – shall we?”

 

She really hadn’t needed to be driven home, but they were all stuffed in the back seat. Her in the middle. Again. Sherlock and Molly had still not spoken to each other, and she couldn’t be bothered to try to fix it. They’d get there in time, she knew that, at least on speaking terms. They were bound to, or well, she hoped.

 

Meena was about to speak to fill the silence, though she was glad that the drive would most likely be short, as she didn’t live far away from where they were, but she was grateful she didn’t need to waddle off homewards with Molly in tow.

 

It was then she heard a pop, like a knuckle being cracked, and blinked, and then the inside of her thighs felt oddly wet. She held onto her stomach, furiously blinking, until she realized

– “Oh shit fuck shit shiiit-,” she snapped, eyes wide, as she tried to understand. Maybe that odd cramp wasn’t just the odd cramp, but more. Much more. “Fuck!”

 

“What?” Mycroft’s eye met hers as his eyes went to the mirror over the dashboard, his eyes widened, and suddenly she could hear the engine roar in her ears.

 

It didn’t feel like the right time, no, there would never been a right time, but it was.  

Chapter Text

1995, September

 

 

He’s a bystander, he’s been a bystander all – he can’t determine whether it’s still midday or whether the sun went down and rose on them. There was too much happening, too many variables to contend with. Perhaps, ignorance is bliss. Mycroft leaned against the wall of the hospital room, while Molly whispered something about water to Meena who nodded in return.

 

The former gave him a brief smile before walking out.

 

He wagered it had something to do with his brother being mysteriously absent, though he’d been absent for the most of it. Coming down from a high and simultaneously being present at a birth way probably not ideal, though, funerals were not an ideal place either, he supposed. He’d not been there, so, he wouldn’t know. He could feel himself internally sighing, almost wishing for one of those awful cigarettes that Victor always plucked out occasionally tempting him with. But instead he was left to his devices with Meena – oh – and the baby. He surmised that neither cared whether or not he was there, and he was about to excuse himself when she broke the silence.

 

“I’m not going to ask you to hold him,” she said in an appropriately hushed voice, cradling the tiny little creature towards her chest. Her dark eyes darted toward him in amusement, as if she read his mind, and knew he was referring to her new born baby as creature.

 

It was a being of some sort with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. “You okay?” It’s not the question he expected, almost gesturing at himself in surprise, as if to say “me?”.

 

“…My life flashed before my eyes,” he said, his voice also appropriately low, the tone humorous in the presence of the boy, the new-born, the child, he didn’t know how to address it. He felt defrocked, though, he was, more or less – his usual impeccable tie loose, buttons undone at the neck. His waistcoat the only thing he was wearing besides his drenched white shirt, his dress jacket thrown aside a while back.

 

Mycroft Holmes felt like he’d been running for his life, but he’d done the bare minimum.

 

He’d driven the car (a bit too roughly), carried her (despite protests) practically over the threshold of the hospital doors, and the only thing he could think of was Victor. He thought of how much he would have laughed and been able to retell the story with more flair and care than he ever would or could. He would have made everything better with his presence.

 

His life had flashed before his eyes.

 

All that truly mattered.

 

Caring was…

 

“I’m fine, hardly the one you should be worrying about now, am I,” he said with a forced smile, it felt easy, even managing to add those crinkles to the corner of his eyes. Despite all his attempts, she still looked right through him to his annoyance. He knew why Victor had always liked her. He adored surrounding himself with people who could see through the usual barriers he carried with him daily.

 

The man he loved was dead, and his brother was yet again, a full-time addict, or he’d keep him in suspense, letting him believe for a sheer moment that his addiction would be kept at bay out of the sheer will of love. But he knew already in his mind how the scenario would play out. There had been a smidgen of hope when Victor had been alive, a voice of reason amidst the chaos, and no matter how Molly could anchor him, he knew that Sherlock would not be able to handle this.

 

It was too much for anyone to handle.

 

Mycroft wished he had the carelessness and freedom that the baby did. The lack of responsibility and guilt. This child didn’t have the weight of the world on him yet. He on the other hand felt weary, and he wasn’t old enough for weary, yet he felt already too old, like his limbs were creaking at the sheer impact of carrying the weight of everything.

 

“Do you want to hold him anyway?” she asked, dragging him out of his head.

 

He understood what she was trying, as if this would help, would cleanse him of whatever he was going through. It was a distraction, he knew, but he welcomed any and all. This was maybe the reason why he was still there. He had no reason in the world to stay, except the tiniest voice in the back of his head reminding him of the man he loved telling him to stay put, to not move an inch, or he would regret it.

 

“Shouldn’t your-,” he began, his voice too hoarse for his own liking. Meena’s family had been in Surrey for a birthday and were to his knowledge rushing over - neither Molly or Sherlock had held the child yet, and he was the last person he thought she’d want to hold her child.

 

But she held him out anyway.

 

He found himself moving to the bed and suddenly he was in his hands.

 

His hands were that of a giant, overwhelming the small, yet long shape in his hands.

 “ – He’s – he’s-,” he started and stopped himself.

 

He just nodded in the end.

 

“Victor was supposed to be Godfather,” she said.

 

She was crying – openly – not even a sign of stopping for the benefit of anyone. He found himself admiring her for that, something he thought he wouldn’t have.  “…Do you mind?”

 

He stared at her about to protest – “I know you don’t want to, but that’s exactly why you know. He’d have loved if it were you instead of him. I’m not asking you to spend birthdays and holidays with us – it’s up to you if you want to be alone for Christmas.”

 

Mycroft almost laughed, a proper laugh.

 

“I’d be honoured,” he said and gave her back the baby, his palms sweaty.

 

They both looked at each other for a moment, and then she broke the silence yet again – “I’ve - - no idea what to call him, Mike.”

 

He made a face at being called Mike, “Are you supposed to know his name?”

 

“Well, I thought the second he slid out of me it would come.”

 

“I don’t think it works like that.”

 

“It should, you know. Name-tag and all from in utero to… outro?”

 

He did laugh then.

 

The door burst open; her family flooded into the room, and he felt himself relieved of his duties, but she gave him a look amidst the chaos keeping him there. Then one of her younger brothers shouted - “Is he the dad?”

 

“Godfather,” Meena said grinning.

 


 

 

The moment she excused herself she went looking for him. He’d been in the back of her mind the whole time, which was unexpected. Molly thought she had enough to worry about, to think about really, but it had been said out loud. It wasn’t like she hadn’t figured it out already – where Sherlock was headed – where he and Victor had been driving, but throughout Meena’s sweating, crying and swearing – her teeth gritted as she spat out “He went to Scotland for you!”

 

She’d been there with her best friend through the long haul, holding onto her hand for dear life until she knew that she could excuse herself with some terrible excuse and try and find him. Molly had no plan, whatsoever, maybe she did have one, one niggling sensation in the back of her mind that told her exactly how it would play out.

 

She wasn’t sure he was still there.

 

He could have left already, and she wouldn’t have to worry about the outcome, no matter how she twisted and turned it. But he was exactly where she thought he’d likely be, as if he was predictable, somehow. Sherlock had always been everything, but predictable in her mind – from the very first day they met – still she felt like she knew him better than he did.

 

Molly knew what would happen if she sat down and confronted him about what he’d done, she knew that he was guilty, but the thing that hurt the most – the thing that weighed more on her than anything – was that he didn’t feel he could come to her for this.

 

 

He was sat in the smoking area, or well, there were cigarette butts lying around on the asphalt and other patients even in their hospital gowns who were smoking up a storm.

 

 

He held an unlit cigarette between his fingers, his brows knitted together as if he was studying it.

 

 

“Hi,” she said in a small voice, immediately clearing her throat when he looked up in surprise, blue eyes slightly wide. “Have you been here the whole time?” It was at least a conversation starter. She was trying to seem casual, but she couldn’t feel casual in a black dress. He was wearing a suit, the both of them probably looking pretty morbid to some onlookers.

 

 

“…No,” he said tossing the cigarette as if it was on fire, and then looking at it as if realising his mistake carefully fishing out another from his coat. “Is she-?”

 

 

“Alright, yeah, her and the baby,” she said clutching her arms all of a sudden, regretting that she stepped outside without a coat. “Mycroft’s still there too.”

 

 

“Really?” he said with the tiniest twitch of the mouth.

 

 

She sat down beside him, and she could feel him looking at her, his gaze unwavering.  

 

 

Suddenly she could feel him looking away, and she was staring at the trees in the distance, trying to blink away the spare tears she had left in her. They’d never really talked about how they felt, about what they wanted, because it was easier to not have that conversation, the one that she knew the outcome of. It was scary having it, it was sometimes easier not knowing, but she knew she’d feel the relief of finally saying what she meant.

 

 

“…At some point we’ll have to talk,” she said, heart pounding in her chest.  

 

 

He lit up his cigarette, giving a small nod in agreement as smoke hovered around his head.

 

“I’m sorry about today or yesterday, I don’t know anymore-,” she continued, rambling. She’d had it on repeat in her head, all good to go, but things always sounded better in her head. “I’m sorry about Victor.”

 

 

“I don’t need an apology – you do.”

 

“What for? I was the one who left.”

 

“You left for a reason - - because it won’t work,” he said, his tone soft. “We both know this.”

 

She hated how she could feel her tears lining up, trying her very best to keep them down.

 

She was the one who nodded her head this time. There had been a moment once, a brief one at that, but the moment was lost. All they had was now, whatever the hell that was.

 

“I can’t give you what you want,” he continued. “And I know you want more.”

 

She hated that she wanted more, but all everything proved to her was that there was no point in wasting time. Time was fleeting. Anything could happen.  

 

“I’m not well enough,” he said letting out a shaky breath, his cigarette almost done already. “And that wouldn’t be fair to you, to be with someone like…”

 

The words were unsaid, but they lingered between them. She wanted to tell him off, tell him she’d stick by his side, help him…

 

“I don’t think I could be with someone right now,” she said blinking away the tears that came, no matter how hard she tried. “I’m still, you know…” She couldn’t say it either, not properly, not the way she wanted. She couldn’t be the one to save him. She wasn’t strong enough. No one was strong enough. He was the only one who could save himself, to decide whether or not he wanted to be better.

 

“I do,” he said.

 

He didn’t protest when she rested her head on his shoulder, he did not freeze or shrug her off. He put his free arm around her, holding her firmly to his side.  

 

“Promise me – you’ll get help,” she said managing to smile through her tears.

 

There was a beat.

 

“I can’t promise that, Molly.”

 

“Lie then.”

 

“I promise I’ll never to lie to you.”

 

She hated him for that, their hands suddenly entwined, holding onto for dear life. It felt all of a sudden so easy, as if intimacy had always been a part of them. “I do want to be friends, you know – at some point.”

 

“I know…” he said, and all of a sudden - he was crushing her against his trembling frame. He was breathing so very hard, as their foreheads just rested against each other. She felt her tears just never stop, pouring endlessly, as she tried to catch her breath.

 

Sherlock needed more than her, he needed help.

 

“You have to take care of yourself,” she whispered against his mouth, her voice breaking, but she wasn’t pretending otherwise.

 

And then he was kissing her, softly, hungrily.

 

She could taste the salt on both their lips.

 

“You’re going to have to let me go,” she whispered into his chest, hiding her face, not letting go of him either.

 

“I don’t want to,” he clung to her harder, fiercer, causing her to let out a sob.

 

She knew she could continue being an idiot, pretend like she wouldn’t get hurt, but she would, at what cost? More than just her heart. They would never manage to be friends, but maybe, just maybe in the long run they would. Maybe, they’d get beyond this, maybe they’d be able to laugh about it all one day of how silly and dramatic they were – and young. Maybe, just maybe, they’d both manage to live normal lives.

 

She withdrew the tiniest bit, her hands on his chest.

 

“Just let me walk away first,” she whispered looking at his face.

 

“I’ll be right there,” he returned.

 

Molly went inside again, every step she took heavy, desperately wiping away her tears, and putting on a smile for Meena’s sake, though it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be, but Sherlock didn’t follow after her.

 

He lied.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Maybe we can make it alright
We could make it better sometime
Maybe we can make it happen baby
We could keep trying but things will never change

So I don’t look back


Still I’m dying with every step I take
But I don’t look back
Just a little little bit better

 

With Every Heartbeat – Robyn & Kleerup

 

 

2010

 

Three hours past midnight.

 

Her party dress was still on, glitter drizzling with every wiggle onto her dark green armchair. Molly took a large gulp of her glass of white wine, managing to somehow keep it from dripping onto the keyboard of the laptop resting precariously on her bare legs.

 

She was regressing.

 

‘Mentally not physically’, she scoffed out loud, her head still buzzing from the multitudes of wine consumed.

 

She’d left the party early when questions started popping up – “Where’s Peter? Aren’t you spending New Years together?” She’d just evaded the question(s) as elegantly as she could, as she’d realized it might not have been completely the right time to break the news that she’d broken up with her boyfriend of eight years, at a New Year’s Eve party alone to all their mutual friends who were bemoaning the loss of her other half.

 

She just said she had no idea where he was and couldn’t care less, or well not those words exactly – “Oh, he had to take a night shift” – very much a lie. Despite her attempts at being convincing, questions were still asked – “oh you haven’t had a row?”. She didn’t care, though, the traces of mascara underneath her eyes were probably a bit of clue into her state of mind.

 

Molly wasn’t hysterical, no, she was – for the first time in a long time – feeling sensible.

 

When she’d gotten home, she’d popped open a bottle of wine and started to pack.

 

The latter was probably some form of madness, as if she was cleansing herself from the relationship that had dominated her life for a while, but usually that meant a new wardrobe or a haircut or preferably both. She had been happy, yes, but there was always that feeling. It irritated her that little niggle in the back of her head that kept asking her - are you sure? Relationships were fragile things, destined to fail at some point, and not meant to last for the rest of one’s life, though eight years was a whopper. She’d been in her share, as Meena had said occasionally with a wee bit of a tone in her voice.

 

Now in 2010. She was looking back, as she was slowly packing every bit of her life away. Molly knew, she could feel it in the very fibre of her being that she would have to leave. Yes, she was really moving this time. It was one of those things that she’d been thinking of for such a long time, besides saying, Edinburgh wasn’t ever supposed to be permanent – getting back to London – instead of staying for someone, the other person who kept her staying despite promising her differently.

 

She hated herself for having become that person, for having become static, though she hadn’t disliked it.

 

But there was a reason she’d never bought a flat – renting for years – never settling properly, despite Peter’s attempts at coaxing her to buy a cottage of all things. They’d always lived separately, something others questioned, but she’d excused as much as she could. She supposed that was why when he told her he wanted to talk about something seriously – it wasn’t the proposal she and everyone expected he’d pop round to asking – but the fact that she always seemed to be waiting for something.

 

 

Are ‘we’ really what you want?”

 

 

And she hadn’t been able to answer that question to her own confusion.

 

 

There was a reason she kept looking up places in London, besides, taking off to the city in the weekends to visit Meena. She’d been looking up houses, a proper place for her to live, but she’d never seen Peter in the picture, despite her best efforts.  

 

 

She felt like was back on square one; starting her life all over again.

 

 

She felt too old to start over, as if it weren’t allowed for someone nearing their forties. However, she wasn’t forty yet. Molly made a face, gulping even more wine, as she looked at the profiles. This was the upside and downside of Facebook having crawled its way into everyday life. There they were. Her exes. Here she was examining how it all went wrong. This wasn’t the first time she’d looked back, as if looking back would help make the present clearer.

 

However, there was one person who was the epitome of anonymous.

 

Not that he was really an ex.

 

More a maybe.

 

Always maybe.

 

She couldn’t really hope to catch him on here, it wasn’t really his thing, though she’d hoped to catch up by gawking at his profile to see how he was, or at least get a sense of something.

 

They’d not stayed in touch, after all, and it wasn’t like they hadn’t met back in the day, but it felt like empty words, the ones where either says we’ll stay friends, then again, no matter how much she thought she was ready or he did – neither ever found the time to do so.

 

Time just flew by.

 

And whenever his name did pop up in the back of her head, she felt like either too much time had passed already or too little had passed. She could never really decide. Molly was annoyed, once again to find Sherlock Holmes and the same blank profile once more, where there was no photo and just the bare necessary information that Facebook required. It was as if he was saying I’m here, except he wasn’t. It wasn’t like him, either, to be active on social media like every other ex she’d ever had, like she’d actively been searching for normal, then again, they were never really together out of all her exes, they were a mess.

 

But one thing was different with his profile this round – there was a link to a website.

 

Result!’ she thought emptying out her glass, and settling it on the coffee table, eyes wide.

 

There were no photos. None at all. The blog was dominated by black and green, and she did not have any patience to read what he’d written about the power of seduction – no - deduction, which made more sense.  

 

She sighed to herself until she saw contact information. The problem was the errant confidence she felt at that very moment, having just been beaten down so severely, deciding to change her life any way possible, it just felt logical to send him an email, just a little one to say hello, it was very sensible, or so she told herself while she typed, deleted, typed, deleted and then finally let the words spill out.

 

She wasn’t texting or calling Peter, which would be a worse idea.

 

Somehow contacting Sherlock Holmes after all these years sounded like a wonderful idea.

 


 

 

His phone pinged causing him to squint as he checked his email in the back of the car.

 

The sender was a very familiar name, he couldn’t deny that.

 

Mycroft Holmes felt like inwardly sighing, however, the fleeting annoyance that flared up about his brother using his work-email as a failsafe, expecting him to sort out the dribble like he was his personal assistant – suddenly - had a wild benefit.

 

Mycroft knew what Sherlock didn’t, and of course, he could be the better man and tell Sherlock, of course, if he hadn’t been the last one to entertain their parents when they’d visited London, he would have.

 

“Anthea,” he said catching the attention of his own assistant who looked up from her laptop. “Did Mike Stamford need a new pathologist?”  

 

“I’ve been sending him options, though I dare say your brother has made that rather difficult,” she said sighing.

 

Mycroft smiled, “I know just the woman.”

 


 

 

5 missed calls.

 

4 from Meena and 1 from an unknown number.

 

She glanced bleary eyed at the screen of her phone, which lit up her face in the darkness of her bedroom.

 

The phone rang again, Meena’s name and the ringtone blasting in the room. She brought it to her ear with a groan – “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!”

 

“What?”

 

“You and Peter! Molly!”

 

She forgot that she'd changed her status. It had felt appropriate at the time, though, maybe if she'd been sober she'd done it privately. 

 

Clearly she hadn't thought of the ramifications properly. 

 

She really hadn't. 

 

“Oh, that, well, you know, umm-,” she began, not really knowing what to say as she could feel her eyes prickling despite her wish to be cool, calm and collected. She was every single messy emotion at once, her breath hitching in her throat – “I just, he asked me if – I could see us in the future, and I just, I froze.”

 

“…You froze?”

 

“I know, it wasn’t good.”

 

“I thought you said you thought he was going to propose?”

 

“I did.”

 

“Molly, were you going to say yes?”

 

“ - - I don’t know,” she stammered. "Maybe."

 

“Are you okay?"

 

“...Maybe” she said, laughing, though the laugh felt hollow. 

 

Her phone buzzed against her ear.

 

“Oh, wait someone’s-, she started drawing it away from her ear, hoping to avoid the questions she knew she'd have to face, hearing Meena asking whether or not if it was Peter. It wasn’t, thankfully, it was the unknown number. “ – hold on-,” she continued, before switching to the other caller – “Hello?”

 

“Hi, Molly Hooper?”

 

“Yes,” she said trying to clear her voice, as she recognized the voice on the other end, but couldn’t place it.

 

“It’s Mike Stamford – I heard you’re in need of a job.”

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Here you come again
Just when I've begun to get myself together
You waltz right in the door
Just like you've done before
And wrap my heart 'round your little finger

 

Here you come again
Just when I'm about to make it work without you
You look into my eyes and lie those pretty lies
And pretty soon I'm wond'rin how I came to doubt you.

 

Here you come again, Dolly Parton

 

 

 

2010

 

 

 

“It’s kind of strange, isn’t it?” said Meena with an annoyingly knowing look, while taking a sip of her tea.

 

Molly tried to ignore her, distracting herself with what was at hand. She had much more important things to consider, as they were surrounded by what felt like a thousand boxes, a constant reminder that she’d turned her life upside down. It wasn’t just something she could overlook, or fall into the wayside with silly discussions, though she knew she’d essentially done this herself.

 

The first thing she’d unpacked had been the kettle, even with a slight groan, as if she’d carried each individual box into the house herself and hadn’t gotten several bulky grown men to do it for her for a certain fee. The kettle was the most essential piece – and she needed a cuppa before she started on what she felt was life-altering enough, though most of that had been done with certain clicks online.

 

She had been able to distance herself from her own decision making because it had been done online. If it were strictly on pen and paper, she might have viewed it more physical, but here she was. She’d bought a house, an actual house, having just seen pictures of the high ceilings, spacious bedroom and modern kitchen, besides the bath, which forced her hand on the bidding. It did need some work, though that was things she could evenly space out over the years. Molly already felt settled without unpacking and didn’t feel the need to face the questions which were headed her way by the very second.

 

She’d had enough answering herself, but she knew she couldn’t avoid Meena.

 

The woman was excellent at digging and pointing out the obvious.

 

“Molly… Don’t you think it’s strange?” repeated Meena.

 

She couldn’t ignore her much further, as she realized that ignoring her fully required her to unpack more.

 

Pursing her lips, she took a sip of her tea steeling herself – “What do you mean?”

 

Meena gave her a look.

 

“ – He contacted Mike first?”

 

She took a breath; she knew this was coming. She had been dodging the questions long enough, and it was something else to be face to face. She couldn’t just make up an excuse and hang up the phone for once.

 

“Well – umm – I did need a job if I was moving back...”

 

Yes, it did sound bad saying it out loud.

 

“But you didn’t mention that in your email, did you?”

 

She hadn’t really wanted to re-live the email she’d sent. It had been enough sending it in the first place. Summarizing it briefly to Meena over the phone who’d been surprised, then she had other follow-up questions, like if she was really moving. Molly could sense there was another question throbbing under the surface, which none of her friends or co-workers left behind in Edinburgh dared ask out loud – are you running away, again? “Umm, just that I was thinking of moving back,” she said with a shrug she dared hope was confident enough in its casualness.

 

The email was a jumble of emotions – word vomit essentially – in a way she was glad he hadn’t answered her incessant rambling, and instead opted to being helpful. She really wondered how he was these days if that was his approach really. “I might not have said it outright, but he was always clever, so, you know, it is what it is..” She sounded silly, even for her, and she could feel Meena’s eyes on her.

 

“When it comes to figuring out where you ate your sandwich, yeah, but when it comes to what people need?”

 

She let out a breath.

 

“It’s been fifteen years, Meena.”

 

There was a moment of silence – where she hoped that had cleared it all up.  

 

“And he’d fucked off since then, hasn’t he?”

 

She was off the mark, obviously.

 

There was a clatter upstairs, and Meena made a face as if apologizing.

 

“Sorry!” shouted Trevor from the second floor.

 

He’d clearly heard them talking, which was one thing she’d hoped the listing could have included; conversations in the first floor can be heard in the second floor.

 

Trevor was sorting out the bed upstairs, obviously feeling he had the manpower to do so. Molly hadn’t expected much from him as he’d walked behind Meena with his hoodie draped over his head like a crown, his eyes half-shut with the sort of energy of ‘why do I have to be here?’ though he’d already done much more than she or Meena expected from him. He was fifteen now, but to her he was still the wee boy that used to hang at her heel, following her around and begging her to stay longer. Instead he was all-grown-up and sorting out her bed from IKEA, which was probably all bolts and screws in her bedroom.

 

“He really hates it when I swear…” said Meena sheepishly. “…Sorry, I just – you’ve just gotten back, and I’m-,”

 

“It’s alright,” she said with a small smile. “I’m not running away, no, I’m really not – I’m running back.”

 

“Running - back?”

 

“I am, in a way, I should have gone back years ago when I got my degree in my hands, but I was scared of what being here would mean back then. I’m not so silly anymore. Also, no Peter in the picture either, made it easier.”

 

“You going to tell him to piss off then?”

 

“Who?” she said unsure for a second whether she meant Peter or Sherlock.

 

She hadn’t heard from either ever since she’d gotten to London, so it was hard to keep up.

 

“Don’t act daft, Molly.”

 

“So, you do mean Sherlock?” she said grinning. “Okay - - I promise I will if I have to.”

 

“You’ve not seen him yet though…”

 

Molly blinked, “Have you?”

 

“No,” said Meena shaking her head. “Not for a while at least, though, Mycroft has kept me updated despite my best efforts to tell him to shut up. I am his only friend really.”

 

She couldn’t help laughing at that, as when she first heard that the two of them had become proper friends, she hadn’t really believed it. But the years proved her wrong. Besides Trevor was his godson and Mycroft had been dutiful in that regard as well, though, according to Meena Trevor wasn’t super keen on his weird Godfather.

 

It made her think though, despite her better intentions, as a part of her wondered –

 

“Mike never mentioned Sherlock though,” she said with pursed lips.

 

“Really?” said Meena eyes widening. “That’s odd.”

 

“Stop it,” said Molly shaking her head furiously. “You’re making me paranoid.”

 

“You’ll still be seeing him, though, won’t you?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, apparently he likes going there?”

 

“He does?”

 

“Again, information I didn’t need to know, but you know – Mycroft prattles on for days if given the opportunity.”

 

“I can’t really imagine that.”

 

“ - - But do you think you’ll feel something, you know, the old feeling stirring up sort of thing?”

 

“No,” said Molly crinkling her nose at the idea. She couldn’t really imagine feeling windswept by Sherlock anymore, they’d gotten older and wiser, well, she certainly didn’t feel any lingering feelings right now. Curiosity was the main interest at the moment, besides the fact that the pair of them would probably meet again at St Bart’s. Probably not on her very first day, though, but if he hung out there, maybe soon. She could feel her insides gently dive at the idea, despite her better judgement. “I’m just wondering if he’s alright...”

 

Meena nodded understandably.

 

“I got the bed done – I’ll begin on the dresser -,” Trevor had appeared in the doorway with a look of disapproval on their mugs of tea. “ – You’ve done nothing, really - mum?”

 

“You want some tea?” said Meena picking up the kettle proudly, as if to show off their day’s work.

 

Trevor groaned, but then he waited patiently for a cup of tea, which Meena spent an inordinate amount of care and attention to.

 

 


 

 

“This is your office-,” said Mike switching on the lights, which flickered ominously overhead. “It’s not much, but it’s got everything you need-,” he gestured towards a kettle with a slight laugh. He’d been like this throughout most of the door, as if he was nervous. She couldn’t help but wonder why he seemed to be on the edge, as if none of it would be enough.

 

“Oh, that’s nice,” she said taking in the sight of the desk with the phone and computer.

 

It wasn’t much, really, though better than her last job.

 

The office could fit her and several people at once, which was luxury in itself.

 

St Bart’s clearly held a higher standard for their Pathologist.

 

“Everything’s up to date – most of the filing is done digitally, unsurprisingly. We’ve got a lovely benefactor really. He’s the one who told me about you.”

 

“Really?” she said surprised.

 

“Yeah, though if I’d even known you were coming back to London, I would have contacted you myself.”

 

“It wasn’t really a proper plan until you called.”

 

“Makes me feel like I did something – now – any questions?”

 

She did have a question, but she bit her lip instead. It felt too odd and awkward to ask. There was already too much to think about and asking about whether the benefactor would be there today felt stupid.

 

“No, I’m alright, I’ll just settle into routine first,” she said swiping a hand over the glass desk, there was a slight hint of dust, which she found rather odd. Clearly it hadn’t been in use for a while.

 

“Good, good,” he said nodding. “Well, if you need me, just give me a call.”

 

He walked off, shutting the door behind him.

 

Molly sighed.

 

It had been a while since she saw Mike, though she hadn’t known him properly during Uni, but he was one of the people she knew in passing. She didn’t really know how he’d heard so much of her, but clearly, the benefactor told her. Molly couldn’t help but be surprised at Sherlock’s involvement in the hospital, besides the fact that he’d spoken so nicely about her. He knew more than she expected about what she’d done in Edinburgh – had he been keeping tabs on her? Or Mike did some Googling... There was that too. That’s how she found his email in the first place. There was that to consider as well. Would he want to talk about her email? She dreaded to think.

 

She plopped into the ergonomic chair by the desk, switching the computer on, feeling somewhat grounded in the familiar setting, despite her dancing insides.

 


 

 

Molly had been hunched over her desk for a while, impressed really by the work done previously by the former pathologist – everything was organised, and it was easy to pick up from where the last one left off. Mike hadn’t really been forthcoming on why the last one had left the job, as she thought St Bart’s had a superb reputation from what she’d heard previously. They had the best equipment, the most funding and from the people she’d met already – good work environment, but she did hear talk to and from the canteen or in the hallways. She couldn’t help but pick up conversations here and there, where some other employees were clearly annoyed by something.

 

There was someone who wasn’t anyone’s favourite, and despite her better judgement, her mind had leapt at the most possible solution.

 

He couldn’t still be… Having trouble with people? Could he?

 

There was a knock at her door.

 

A woman poked her head in, “Sorry, are you the Pathologist Hooper?”

 

The woman looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place her.

 

“Yes,” she said immediately getting up to shake the woman’s hand whom stepped inside. “Molly Hooper.”

 

“Sally Donovan, Detective Sergeant - sorry to bother you, but would you mind finding a Frank Cooper for me?”

 

She handed her the file in her hands, and Molly just nodded briefly at the information in the file.

 

The pair walked off together to the lifts. Molly couldn’t help but notice that the woman was looking at her as well.

 

“- Have you worked here long?” she said as they waited for the elevator.

 

“First day actually,” said Molly.

 

“Oh,” said Sally crossing her arms. “You look familiar, just, sorry probably mistaken you for someone else.”

 

The elevator came, and the pair got on.

 

“Maybe I’ve got one of those faces,” she said with a laugh. “It’s hard to tell in my line of work.” She almost felt like mentally slapping herself for telling such a bad joke, despite Sally’s mouth quirking upwards.

 

“Sorry,” she said quickly. “Nerves, I suspect.”

 

“No, I could do with a laugh honestly.”

 

Molly raised a brow, looking into the file again and seeing the words – asphyxiation – “Difficult case, then?”

 

The elevator opened to the morgue, and they both stepped out, Sally’s heels clicking loudly against the floor.

 

She could hear some noise in the distance, like equipment being used, but she wasn’t completely sure of her bearings or who else was working on the floor yet.

 

“No, well, yes, and no. The DI has sent someone who’s a bit of a knobhead, though it’s my own fault I suppose.”

 

“How?”

 

“I introduced them,” said Sally with a wry smile.

 

It connected for her all of sudden, right there and then as if everything settled into the right puzzle pieces in her head before the door swung open. It already felt too late when she saw him. He was standing with a bone-saw in hand hovering over a body on a stretcher; a look of childish glee on his face – but his entire expression changed when he saw her; slack-jawed and wide-eyed, blood suddenly splattering him directly on the face.

 

He had no idea she was coming.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I'm so tired of being alone,
I'm so tired of on my own,
Won't you help me, girl,
Just as soon as you can.
People say that I've found a way,
To make you say,
That you love me.


But baby,
You didn't go for that,
Ha, it's a natural fact,
That I want to come back,
Show me where it's at, baby.

 

I’m so tired of being alone, Al Green

 

 

 

2010, January

 

It had been power-play, that was the intention - to display his own knowledge and ability to make use of St Bart’s facilities with or without approval. The former was the most likely outcome, if this were any ordinary situation, though, he suspected his childish side had been fuelled when Mycroft had told him someone new had reluctantly taken the post “as the insignificant pathologist at St Bart’s” as his brother had sighed out.

 

He should have picked apart the fact that his brother found the time to call him for that information, instead, he had used said information for the shock effect.

 

Sherlock Holmes had just immediately said yes before the case’s details were given to him, as it seemed easy enough. It took merrily a glance at the paperwork to deduce the method, though, he wanted a ‘show’ to welcome the new pathologist.

 

The fact that Sally took such a long time to retrieve the newcomer made him take things in his own hands – finding the victim was child’s play, and he already knew where the bone-saw was.

 

He’d timed it perfectly, switching it on the second he heard their footsteps – the heels – followed by sensible shoes.

 

He had no intention of using the bone-saw directly onto the recently deceased, nor had he taken into account the following placement of said bone-saw’s proximity to an artery.

 

A mere moment of disbelief was enough, his hand jerking downwards, the bone-saw hitting the vein; causing blood to squirt him directly into the face.

 

He had quick enough reflexes to shut his own eyes, but he didn’t welcome this display of weakness now, especially in front of her – especially – after all these years.

 

It was too late, however, to take it back.

 

Mycroft had done this on purpose – that was obvious enough.

 

“What the fuck are you doing?” snapped Sally, her voice loud, though warranted, he felt himself flinching ever so slightly at the volume.

 

He switched off the bone-saw limply, opening his eyes carefully - the spray hadn’t hit him in the eyes or the inside of his mouth. He was able to see and talk, if he so chose, though he felt like he had no proper excuse anymore. The show had fallen flat, and all of his bravado had ebbed out of him.

 

He was just an idiot with a bone-saw.

 

She, Molly Hooper; the pathologist went into action-mode, practically sprinting towards the cupboards – “You’ve got to wear the goggles, you know that much!” she said rummaging through them in high speed, slipping on gloves effortlessly, getting antiseptic and cotton ready.

 

“I didn’t mean-,” he begun, clearing his throat when his voice wasn’t coming out right, like he wasn’t entirely able to make use of his tongue.

 

Her brown eyes just bore down upon him, and with one mere look, she shut him up, while she got what she needed, or what he needed.

 

“To hit the artery?” she finished for him, eyebrow raised.

 

She always knew what to do, and before he had reason to protest – she was right in front of him, hands armed with – niceness. He really did hate her for it. ‘No, you don’t.’

Her hand gingerly approaching his face, before she began to calmly mop his face up; a furrow between her thin brows, as he looked at him. The proximity unnerving to say the least, then again, he deserved this for his own stupidity. His eyes found themselves searching her face in return. She looked the same, yet, not at all. Her cheeks were still rosy – eyes the same bright brown, but there were fine laugh lines around her pink mouth.

 

His eyes quickly snapped back up to her eyes, as she finished, clearing his face with the disinfectant, and she threw it all in the bin, before taking the bone-saw out of his hands, giving it the same care and consideration as she’d just done his face. Sherlock was brought back to reality with that action, aware of how Sally who’d been rather vocal was eerily quiet, the expression on her face unreadable to him.

 

 “I suppose you wanted to prove it was succinylcholine?” said Molly drawing his attention back to her, and he’d always known she was good. It wasn’t the high marks she got, or the fact that she was studious; it was the fact that she’d always seen the little details that others would overlook.

 

He blinked, trying to clear his mind that was racing, he certainly didn’t need to feel his own pulse, it was throbbing against his very nature to keep it in check. “I needed the puncture mark, however,” he said, grateful that she was focused where he wasn’t.

 

“So – the bone-saw really was for show?” she said with a slight smile, hands on her hips. “...Do you do this every time?”

 

He didn’t reply, his mouth tight instead, as he drew back, eyes turning towards Sally who stood with eyebrows raised.

 

“He doesn’t,” said Sally, who chimed in, to his annoyance.

 

Molly shook her head slightly, getting back on topic, not easily distracted in her work environment, thankfully. “He took insulin…But you read that from the file,” she said pointing out the obvious mark on the lower stomach.

 

“You going to tell me what’s going on?” said Sally.

 

Sherlock jerked his head in agreement, avoiding looking at Sally, because her mind wasn’t currently work-related, despite how very hard they were trying.

 

“He was poisoned,” they both said, causing them to look at each other, brown eyes meeting blue. The corners of her eyes crinkling up as she smiled, which forced him to look away, though he knew hardly where to look. The options weren’t good, though, he kept his eyes on the victim.  

 

“Painfully, though, it’s a nasty death,” said Molly with a frown. “It explains the asphyxiation with no clear marks on the throat, he couldn’t do anything, as he was paralyzed.”

 

Sally let out a laugh, “No, I meant the-,” she gestured between them.

 

He didn’t look at Molly, not wanting to catch her eye.

 

“Case solved,” he said with no hint of a smile grabbing his coat that he’d put aside, swiftly putting it on, as he knew he had to get out of there. He needed to clear his mind, to compartmentalize, to understand why he felt on edge by her just standing there in what had long felt like his city. The one she’d left. Oh, he needed to leave immediately.

 

“You’re just going to leave?” said Sally brows raised.

 

“You needed the method, the culprit is detained already, aren’t they?” he said putting his gloves on by door, before he was gone, the door swinging slowly closed after him.

 


 

 

Molly didn’t know how to feel, carefully dragging the sheet over the deceased, and trying to figure out how she’d manage that bit of paperwork waiting for her in regards to the impromptu damage, though – a neat stitch here and there would sort out the most of that, though she’d have to explain. She didn’t need to have every detail, it could have easily been her who’d been startled, anyway, though she’d obviously have to take his key-card, since he’d not get in any other way without one. It was amidst her thoughts she realized someone was staring at her – Sally.

 

“Seriously, though, who are you?” said Sally causing her to blink.

 

She’d completely forgotten she was there, and while she was trying to recover – the doors swung open again. There he was, standing with his hands in his pockets, his collar popped up like nobody’s business, as if none of that had just happened. He looked pointedly in Sally’s direction, his expression at best – neutral – “On second thought, I’ll accompany you to the Yard.”

 

Sally looked at her, as if it to say – can you believe him? Molly could, very much, believe that he’d avoid any sort of talk about him without him present.

 

“Okay, let’s go – a bloody mini-chainsaw in your hands, really?” Sally said rolling her eyes, though laughing.

 

 “The paperwork won’t do itself,” he said holding open the door, letting Sally pass through as she snorted.

 

Molly could hear them talking in the hallway, which she supposed Sherlock had done the other way around, explaining his sudden return.  

“I’ll text from now on – my findings. If you need a clarification - ask Molly for further details.”

 

There was a beat.

 

“She’s that Molly, isn’t she?”

 

Molly heard him clear his throat in response, before she heard his hurried steps, followed by the clicking of Sally’s heels. She felt her own shoulders slump, as if she’d been tense all of this time. She wasn’t surprised, despite her mind working ahead of her, thankfully thinking more about what was going on, then what was and had been.

 

He looked different – one word on the tip of her tongue – but the one thing she had been the most worried about, the one thing she hadn’t dared ask Meena, even with her inside-information – he looked clean. She couldn’t point out, whether it was the way he dressed in his posh dark coat, or tailored black suit, but he looked better, like he was present in a way he hadn’t been back then.

 

He was pale as day though, though she couldn’t imagine him sunbathing either, the sheer idea made her laugh. Her cheeks felt all of a sudden warm, like she had been storing up her embarrassment until after he’d left, as she’d mopped him clean like she did it all the time. But it was, the first time in a long time, they’d seen each other, and she’d barely gotten pause to think about it properly.

 

She was feeling the consequences of that now, yet, it hadn’t felt like it had been years. It felt like they’d just gone their separate ways for a while, and then worked themselves back into their lives like nothing, and that made her feel nervous, all of a sudden. The nerves she thought of seeing him, of how they would interact - weren’t the ones that worried her now, it was the fact that, despite herself, despite him, despite them, it was like nothing had changed.

 

 

Letting out a sigh that sat deep into her very chest - she found herself saying out loud – “Fuck.”

 

 


 

 

“You’re unhappy?” said Mycroft smoothly, as he felt like gritting his teeth at the words his big brother so easily slithered out. “I suggest not letting me deal with your correspondence in the future, little brother.”

 

He hung up, lips pursed in the passenger seat, as Sally drove, her eyes flickering towards him. He knew she had been looking his way, for some time, though he’d tried to deflect the chit-chat as much as possible. Mycroft had, however, called, and he knew his big brother knew he’d just left St Bart’s. It was impossible for him to play it cool, despite his own personal interests.

 

“You didn’t know she was working there, did you?”

 

Sherlock avoided answering, delaying the inevitable.  

 

“Anyway, thanks I guess?” she said with a laugh. “Though she’s really good - got to say.”

 

“Yes, she would be,” he murmured.

 

“What’s that?”

 

She was going to have to drag it out of him by sheer force.

 

“Hmm, nothing - is Lestrade in?”

 

“Okay, we’ll talk about it another time, but – you do know I’m bound to talk to her some other time, right? Cases do come my way daily. You can’t postpone that indefinitely, not that I don’t mind seeing you try.”

 

“By taking the boring cases, also, you mean?” he smirked.

 

“Really?”

 

“I’m always interested in the small ones, Sally, always…”

 

She grinned.

 

“There, have, been a recent case of kittens being left near the Thames.”

 

“Public interest crimes are inciting to say the least.”

 

“Thought you’d say that.”

 


 

 

The screen froze again, and her patience wore, lest she hit the offending screen, she picked up the phone nearby. Molly found the number to IT in her notes, grateful she’d jotted it down, though, despite the ‘high-tech standards at St-Bart’s’ , clearly, her computer was low-tech at best.

 

“Hi,” she said quickly when they answered. “Molly Hooper, here, my computer has been stalling several times. It must be lacking an update or two – is anyone available? Or maybe just a new computer, if even possible, maybe?”

 

“Not tonight, I’m afraid, but we’ll be able to have a look into it tomorrow morning,” said a soft voice on the other end.

 

“Thanks,” she said brightly, despite being disappointed.

 

“You’re welcome, Molly.”

 

She hung up, stretching in her seat - deciding to clock off.

 

There was nothing else she could do until IT had a look, after all, and noticing the time she saw she’d already been doing over-time as it was. Yawning she got dressed and headed out.

 

Standing by the exit she peered up at the grey overcast sky, shivering slightly. Her first day had started ordinarily enough - new job and all, slight hick-ups - and then it veered entirely.

 

She shouldn’t have expected anything less, really.

 

Catching her breath in the cold air she tucked her pink scarf around her and bundled up in her dark grey bulky jacket. When she was about to head off she heard a sound cough, and caught the sight of him standing to her right.

 

“Oh – hello -,” her eyes dropped down to the cigarette in his hand. “Still smoking, then?” she regretted blurting it out without thinking, as it was plain to see, but she was tired. She could blame her inattentiveness on it having been a long day. She had no idea why he was there though, perhaps he was heading inside or had been inside one of the laboratory’s that his brother had been the benefactor of (she’d cornered Mike during lunch – and he’d answered all of her questions nervously – as if he was afraid she’d quit – like Sherlock could scare her off). It was hard to say what he was doing there, though she approached him, as he threw away his cigarette in the nearest bin.

 

“I’m quitting, actually.”

 

They were big words for a man who’d just had a cigarette in his hand.

 

“Last packet,” he said rustling a half-empty Marlboro’s in his hand, before pocketing it. "Chose the wrong day to quit though."

 

“Nicotine patches help,” she said helpfully.

 

“If it’ll help me think, I’m not so sure.”

 

He stared, while she fidgeted, she knew they’d have to talk about it, which wasn’t the reason she wanted him to be standing there for.

 

“…You never got my email then,” she said letting it out.

 

He began as if to speak, then shut his mouth as if realizing something.

 

“No,” he said, brows furrowed. “I didn’t.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Not your fault, and you know it.”

 

“Mycroft was nice though; he’d been boasting about me to Mike Stamford.”

 

“After looking up your credentials, of course, he would – he’ll do anything if it benefits him.”

 

She half-smiled, “How would me getting this job benefit him?”

 

He blinked in return, then his face was impassive all of a sudden, like he was steeling himself, “…Why are you back?”

 

“I wanted to go home,” she said with a shrug, but she meant it.

 

“Did someone make-,”

 

“Don’t,” she started holding up a hand, and he stopped, thankfully.

 

“He did, then,” he said in a low voice, eyes cast downwards in thought.

 

She tried not prying on how he knew about Peter, though she wasn’t running away from that. Then, again she could thank her own self for being active enough online, as he’d probably picked up glimpses of her life on there.

 

“There was nothing keeping me there, anymore. Just work – I had friends – but it was just-,”

“Lonely?” he said.

 

She nodded briefly, biting her lip, “ - - Umm, where are you headed, anyway? Inside or -,”

 

“There’s a rather good chip shop nearby-,” he gestured behind him, blue eyes trained on her, as he began to slowly walk backwards as if beckoning her to come alone.

 

Molly stood immovably, “And?” she prodded, not being able to stop herself from forcing him to have manners, as she’d heard enough to know he’d been lacking them lately.

 

He stopped in his tracks, “Would you like - to join - me?”

 

She grinned, “Alright, I’m not bothered to make dinner tonight, anyway.”

 

“Suspected as much.”

 

“You could see I was hankering for take-out?”

 

“You’ve got crisp crumbs on your sleeve-,”

 

“I needed a snack on the way out,” she said offended.

 

He brought out from his coat pocket a packet of crisps, “Salt & Vinegar?”

 

“When you said it was nearby-,”

 

“Take the crisps,” he said trusting them at her, causing her to giggle.

 

 

Chapter Text

Call your girlfriend
It's time you had the talk
Give your reasons
Say it's not her fault


But you just met somebody new

Tell her not to get upset


Second-guessing everything you said and done
And then when she gets upset
Tell her how you never meant to hurt no one

 Call Your Girlfriend, Robyn

 

2010, January

 

She was lying in bed, unable to sleep, which was more or less, her own fault. It had been a day where coffee after coffee was the only way to get through the morning, but she usually fell asleep despite the caffeine. Molly rolled over trying to find that comfortable spot in her bed, though flailing her body around did nothing to help. Letting out a breath, she switched on the lamp on her nightstand and turned it off again, plunging herself into total darkness once more. Putting the light on wouldn’t help at all.

 

It wasn’t easy, she supposed, getting used to a new place took time, and she had done her share of care to make it feel homey. She’d purchased the little details to add to the space, besides unpacked every single box, but she still felt like it was quiet.

 

Too quiet.

 

Turning on the lamp again, sitting upright in her bed, as she considered either writing in her journal to sort out the mess in her head, or just writing anything to distract herself into a sleepy state.

 

However, there was a creak.

 

She blinked.

 

Creaks were normal, she excused.

 

Houses made noise, they settled – wasn’t that something people said? Something about pipes, at least, that was often the thing people would say. It was the sort of thing her mum would say when she was up at night after a scary movie clinging to her toy bear for dear life, though, she didn’t have a pacifier of that kind anymore.

 

Of course, it was probably all right.

 

Wasn’t it? It probably was, she reasoned to herself – probably.

 

There was another creak.

 

“Okay,” she breathed out, getting out of the bed, which soundly creaked, almost making her stare at it in annoyance, but she needed to just move a bit, have a look around, like any old idiot in a horror movie.

 

She wasn’t in a film, this wasn’t a story, there were noises, and probably a logical explanation to the noises as well. That was the good thing – find the source – go and sleep again. Molly walked out and switched the light on in the upstairs hallway, checking inside the bathroom, which was empty, before heading down the stairs that squeaked at every step.

 

She should have gotten a flat – noises in flats were normal.

 

Houses needed further investigation.

 

She got down and was about to switch on the light when – “Oh good - you’re up!”

 

She screamed at the shape of the man who stood in the dark.

 

The light switched on.

 

Sherlock looked slightly apologetic there he stood in his coat, shoes still on.

 

“Wha – what are you doing here?” she said catching her breath, briefly shutting her eyes, as she felt her heart race in her chest. She should clearly have not given him her address, but she didn’t assume that meant an open invitation at the middle of the bloody night. “ – How did you get in?”

 

“Spare key under the flowerpot - - really, Molly?” he said like she’d been the idiot.

 

“Where else would I have a spare key?”

 

“I’ll keep it,” he said as a matter-of-factly.

 

“I’m making tea,” she said storming past him in her pyjamas, maybe a warm cup would lull her into bed again.

 

“Can-,” he began.

 

She ignored him, though he followed her into the kitchen, and sat down at the kitchen table looking at her, his expression odd.

 

Molly filled up the kettle glancing at him occasionally, “I told you I didn’t want you to come here if it was about a case.”

They’d made rules, which he probably saw as guidelines he could thread around some way or the other.

 

“It’s not,” he said.

 

“Okay, so, how many teaspoons?”

 

“Hmm – oh – yes – two.”

 

She shook her head, laughing slightly, “I thought I was going mad when I heard noises.”

 

“I’ll text next time.”

 

“Oh, there’ll be a next time?” she said as the kettle went off, soon sorting out the cups of tea.

She sat down by the table opposite him stirring, “So, if you’re not here for a case – what’s this about? It’s past midnight – if you haven’t noticed.”

 

“Well – there was a case-,”

 

Molly smiled despite herself, while he continued – “Which I finished, even if it was a fluff piece at best - anyway – black cats aren’t easily adopted I’m told.”

 

“What?” she said blinking at him.

 

She hadn’t really seen that he’d had one hand tucked inside his coat, as he brought out a small black kitten, which was curled up in his gloved hand. “You’ll of course be responsible of naming him.”

 

“Umm-,” she started, as the kitten seem to awaken as it was put down on the kitchen table, a pair of large green eyes staring back at her.

 

Molly stared at the kitten, then at Sherlock whose face was unreadable.

 

“I’ve always been partial, however, to Toby.”

 

It didn’t help that the kitten with its fuzzy little tail started to bound towards her, and she immediately caught it in her hands, though it soon attempted to jump onto her, which it successfully did – lying in the nook of her neck and shoulder, eyes closing, cuddling up in the sort of way that made her body immediately relax.

 

“He seems rather fond of that spot,” Sherlock said in a low voice, he’d clearly let him sleep inside his coat. She could only imagine how carefully he transported the little kitten, shielding it from the cold January air.

 

“… Are you giving me a cat?” she whispered back.

 

“Again, black cats are less likely to be adopted.”

 

She snorted, “Sherlock!”

 

“Mrs Hudson, my landlady isn’t fond of black cats…”

 

Molly let a hand slip over the kitten’s soft fur, while she propped him up, feeling him quiver against her.

 

It didn’t take much to convince her, honestly.

 

“Okay, I’ll keep him, but how did you get him?”

 

“Again, it was a case – you’ll see it in the news, probably This Morning,” he grimaced at that.

 

She really couldn’t imagine him taking on such a case, then again Toby was very cute. The house would feel less empty was her excuse, though she hardly needed one. She had always been fond of cats, and she could see the expression on Sherlock’s face. “I’ve got some cat food and toys.”

 

“Toys?” she said raising a brow.

 

 “ - - I might have gotten ahead of myself.”

 

She grinned, as that sounded about right.

 

“Are you going to come over often then?”

 

“Do you mind?”

 

“…No, but – remember to text next time.”

 

“Yes, I wouldn’t want to make you scream again – I’ll get the toys.”

 

She tried very hard to focus on Toby’s claws digging into her collarbone rather than him not realizing his double-entendre.  

 


 

 

She’d been at St Bart’s to this point almost a whole week without much incident, as Sherlock kept his distance, but that was wholly because even he noticed that people were talking about their perceived friendship. It felt too early for rumours to be floating about, which was why she’d made “rules”. They’d had a long chat the first evening after the bone-saw event as she called it, though, thankfully nobody at the hospital seemed to know about that. When she’d mentioned it to Mike, he advised her not to flout that bit of information around, as it could scare potential donations in the future. She tried to avoid pointing out that the hospital’s main benefactor was Sherlock’s big brother, even if it felt wholly tempting.

 

Molly had finally gotten used to the hustle and bustle of St Bart’s; starting to settle into proper routine. Even if she still had problems with the work computer - IT had yet to come around, though she’d been using her laptop for work-purposes. It was Friday when she walked into her office early in the morning, coffee in hand, about to switch on the light when she saw a figure by her desk.

 

Molly paused briefly by the door, wondering if Sherlock was trying to be covert, but the man stood up, his face lit up by the computer screen – it wasn’t him. She switched on the light, and he blinked at the lights in return – “Sorry – I’m from IT,” he said smiling with a slight handwave in her direction.  

 

“Oh, right…” she said a bit unnerved by the fact that he’d been working in the dark. “Should I come back later?”

 

“I’m all done – came in early – didn’t want to bother you – you’ve got enough to get on with.”

 

“Thank you,” she said with a small smile, though it didn’t sound like he meant work.

 

He smacked shut a laptop, which he then carried underneath his arm.

 

“Jim,” he said cheerfully shaking her hand.

 

“Molly-,”

 

“Yeah, we spoke on the phone – weird – though-,”

 

He still held onto her hand.

 

“ – The whole bone-saw bit, must have scared you-,” he continued, dark eyes staring unblinkingly at her.

 

“I-,” she began surprised he knew - - grateful when he finally let go off her hand.

 

He was still smiling, but it never caught up to his eyes.

 

“See you later – well – if you’re lucky – we won’t,” he said gesturing towards the computer, and then he was gone, the door softly shut behind him, while she stood feeling oddly put-out. Jim from IT made her feel, strange, whether it was the fact that his eyes never left her face, or the fact that his hand held onto hers too long for comfort – maybe both.

 

She was probably being silly, taking a careful sip of her coffee, before she settled down by her computer.

 

It wasn’t her fault that she didn’t see the camera light was on.

 


 

 

 

Jim - was the first proper ‘negative’ experience she’d had at St Bart’s, though, she wasn’t sure if she was just being paranoid, and after all it had barely been a full week, but she hoped it was the first and last experience. Some people were strange after all, keeping eye contact too long, and often, too close for comfort – it was hard not to meet that at the workplace while being a woman. She just had hoped she’d left that sort of thing behind her. It was probably one of the reasons she’d opt for sensible footwear and jumpers, the former because walking long distances often was a part of the job, besides standing for hours, and the latter because it got cold in the morgue and laboratory’s – it was all for comfort, nothing else, she tried to convince herself long-ago. Even if she’d love to wear a skirt once in a while without feeling too flashy for work – “It can’t be that bad-,” said a voice, and she looked up at Mike who was sitting across her.

 

She realized she’d barely touched her lunch, her fork just skewering the salad repeatedly.

 

“Oh-,” she let go off the fork with a sigh.

 

“That bad then?”

 

“No, I just – umm - there was a bloke from IT who was a little odd? He – I don’t know – you’ve probably talked with him before?” she said hoping he’d just confirm the oddity, as if people who were tech savvy where partial to strange behaviour. There where whole movies based on just that, though, the one that came to mind had Angelina Jolie as a hacker.

 

It was hardly true-to-life.

 

Mike frowned, a thoughtful expression on his face, instead of the assurance she expected.

 

There was no harm, not really, a little voice said in her head, yet, she knew she couldn’t let it go entirely.

 

“The salad was a let-down, I see,” said a familiar voice, and there Sherlock stood, which really wasn’t ideal.

 

Other people in the canteen stared, but she did her best to ignore their looks.

 

“What do you want, then?” said Mike clearly readying himself for a fight, or to get on with it, his arms crossed.

 

“I’m not here for a case,” Sherlock said, as he sat down beside her – and without even asking – took her fork and plopped some salad into his mouth, immediately grimacing. If he knew it was a disappointment, why had he chosen to take a bite?

 

He really wasn’t on a case, she thought, knowing how his appetite worked. “I’m here for a flatmate.”

 

“Oh?” she said taken aback, blinking at what he was getting on about.

 

“Mrs Hudson wants to let out the upstairs room – typical landlord in the end– a perfectly good study becomes a bedroom.”

 

“Or you mean the bedroom you used as a study?” said Mike with a smirk.

 

“Are you sure you’d manage to share your flat like that?” she asked, thankful for the brief distraction.

 

“She’s giving me the option to choose my own flatmate or-,” Sherlock raised a brow.

 

The other option was probably not very good.

 

“And why are you looking for one here?” she said noting that he was studiously avoiding her eye.

 

“Everyone knows who you are here, Sherlock,” said Mike. “I don’t know whether they’re up to the task of living with you as well... Though, I think finding a flatmate suiting a Consulting Detective might be a bit tricky.” Molly knew Mike wasn’t trying to be rude, he clearly wasn’t, as he seemed to be negotiating a different approach.

 

“Maybe…you need a friend more than just a flatmate?” she said while Sherlock’s brow furrowed.

 

“…Who’d live with me?” he sighed.

 

Mike choked back a laugh. 

 

“I did,” she said causing Mike to look at both of them in surprise, soon covering his expression with his coffee mug.

 

Sherlock looked at her in return, his face unreadable, “You wouldn’t do that again.”

 

“No, I need a bit more space than an upstairs bedroom,” she said with a laugh, realizing in that very moment what he meant. “Well - -  I did just buy a house.”

 

“I see.”

 

Molly shrugged awkwardly, while she saw Mike staring at them, “Would you please not tell anyone about this? There’s already people talking about the bone-saw, after all.”

 

“They are?” said Sherlock with a smile, as if proud.  

 

“Did you tell anyone?” said Mike.

 

“No, but Jim from IT mentioned it, so someone must have heard something.”

 

“Jim?” said Mike confused.

 

Molly blinked, “He’s a bit strange, isn’t he?”

 

It couldn’t be helped, she had to talk about it, with or without Sherlock present, though, he’d probably reassure her. He did have the tendency to stare too long, and stand too close, but she always felt safe with him. This felt different, the sort of thing that if she were younger, she would ignore, but knowing him had made her wary of people.

 

“ - - You mean Nigel, right?” said Mike.

 

Her stomach dropped, “He said his name was Jim.”

 

“That’s weird,” said Mike.

 

“Who said their name was Jim?” said Sherlock.

 

“Nigel – he works in IT -,” started Mike. “He apparently frightened Molly.”

 

“He didn’t frighten-,” she began trying to explain.  

 

“How does he look like?” said Sherlock interrupting her, leaning forward in interest.

 

She felt a sigh coming on, as both of the men were making worse of the matter. They’d just make her seem like she couldn’t handle herself if they went on her behalf to speak with him.

 

“Blonde - tall – half-nordic – very noticeable,” said Mike looking like he was about to stand up.

 

“Well, then,” said Sherlock getting to his feet, which made her catch the sleeve of his coat.

 

He stopped in his tracks looking at her.

 

Jim didn’t look like that.”

 

Chapter Text

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don't feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home

 

'Cause, I built a home
For you
For me

 

To Build A Home, The Cinematic Orchestra

 

 

2010, January

 

 

“I was worried about leaving Toby alone,” she said settling a bowl of kibble on the floor, which Toby approached hesitantly. He hadn’t learned to eat without her yet, which was the reason she was crouched by his bowl. He lapped at the food gladly as she petted him, finding relief in his fur. “I guess I won’t have to worry about that anymore.” A week off – wasn’t what she expected when she got into work today, then again, she hadn’t expected any of what had happened.

 

She got up and glanced at Sherlock who was sat at the end of the kitchen table, a thoughtful expression on his face, and a plate of food untouched in front of him. Her own plate was hardly touched as well, so, there was no reason to berate him for not eating, she knew what he was like. He’d been sitting at the table wordlessly for a while. She knew he was thinking, his mind racing, as he’d gone into that mind palace of his, which she’d always thought was a silly name, yet made more sense than anything else.

 

When he’d slung off his coat, and scarf, she knew he’d be staying.

 

There was no sense in arguing against it.  

 

She settled down by the table, carefully holding onto a cup of tea she’d made a while ago to busy her hands, which felt like a prop more or less. She’d only had a few sips, and by now it was probably cold. Molly just sat there, occasionally tapping the edge of the handle, as she didn’t know what else to do with the residual energy at her disposal. She felt frantic, honestly, and at the same time, completely and utterly dormant, because she couldn’t do anything, but think it over, again and again.

 

To begin with, she had hoped it was just a big misunderstanding due to some missing paperwork about a temp stepping in. Instead of an easy laugh from Nigel from IT – the police had carted off her computer, besides her work-phone, and then her laptop (“Just in case”, they’d said).

 

The work-phone in all appearances rang the number to IT – but when Sherlock attempted it – it got re-routed.

 

She hadn’t noticed the first time, too groggy to pay attention or expect the following, but whoever was on the other end didn’t speak when Sherlock spoke, only breathing on the other end, before hanging up.

 

He’d placed another call, and then it only went to IT again.

 

The actual IT hadn’t gotten a call from her at all, and Nigel found surveillance software on her computer, which was when Sherlock called the detective inspector who was there in a hurry, besides Sally Donovan, the pair of them taking it very seriously. Greg Lestrade tried to reassure her that they’d have it sorted out, as there were camera’s around the hospital, but, the time slot in which Jim went to her office and left – were missing. Someone, whoever it was, had taken an interest in her, and when she retold their brief conversation, both Lestrade and Sally noted that it was her relationship with Sherlock that was the likely reason.

 

Sherlock looked troubled by the insinuation, though not surprised.

 

Molly hadn’t known what to say in return to the news, and couldn’t help, but protest when they suggested her taking a few days off. Instead Mike was the one who ordered her to take a week off until the police had done a thorough search of her computer. Suddenly, before she’d even properly started, she was forced away. And just when she was about to properly stand her ground, Sherlock had grabbed her by the elbow and guided her home, amidst several protests, but the pale look on his face made her give in.

 

The whole thing did unnerve her, and she couldn’t help but feel powerless in this state.

 

She’d just wanted to do her job.

 

Then again, doing her job, having a life - - and Sherlock in it –

 

Molly could almost hear Victor’s voice in her head – Life’s never going to be ordinary with him in it.

 

Maybe, just maybe, if she’d been withdrawn, hesitant even, whoever this Jim was would have approached all of this differently. Clearly, he knew about them, or their past, at least. She didn’t know the how’s or why’s – or who Jim was – despite giving a half-descent description of him to a sketch artist, but she knew that it didn’t look good. The police didn’t have much to go on, and she couldn’t really blame them. Thankfully she was okayed to go home, though, but that took a rather odd phone call to Mycroft from Sherlock’s end, which she’d ask about later.

 

She didn’t need to know right now, at least.

 

“Molly-,” she almost jumped at her own name, clearly it wasn’t the first time he’d said it by the look on his face.

 

Sherlock who had clearly reached some sort of mental clarity was staring at her, “I’m staying the night. No arguments.”

 

She shook her head, “…I wasn’t going to argue.”

 

He looked tired all of a sudden, though looking at him she could see he’d gone through the ringer – his curly hair was in an unusually messy state, as if he’d ruffled through it repeatedly. Besides the fact that his sleeves were rolled up – one wrist revealing a nicotine patch, which she didn’t want to point out.

 

“Clearly… whoever this was, was trying to get to me through you…” he said. “Or else they would have been here, as well.”

 

“Yeah, he was, but-,” she wanted to reassure him, though he wasn’t letting her by interrupting her mid-speech.

 

“Why did you find him strange?” he countered.

 

“I’ve already gone through that-,”

 

“Tell me.”

 

Molly sighed, cradling her cuppa, “He – just - seemed off - - he was… it was like he was playing nice; you know?”

 

“Oh,” he said blinking, before narrowing his eyes.

 

“Like there was something else going on underneath, and I just sort of … recognized that. Sorry if that’s odd.”

 

“…Because of me.”

 

“Well, yeah…but,” she shrugged, a slight smile on her face. “Maybe I wouldn’t have got it if I didn’t know you so well.”

 

He raised a brow, “You don’t know me that well.”

 

“I know enough to know… you’re worried right now, because you don’t know what to do, and that you’re blaming yourself for this,” she said feeling anxious the very moment she let the words slip, but she felt reprieve from saying it out loud.  

 

She could see it on his face ever since they’d left St Bart’s, either he’d been on his phone, texting, calling or doing something, anything really, she knew that, but now, he was at a loss.

 

There was nothing, anyone could do, yet he felt like he should be doing something.

 

It was typical of him really.

 

Everyone else might think he was being distant, cold even, but she saw those tiny brief moments when his expression was filled with so much, too much, that she didn’t know what to do. Molly felt like it was her fault that he was worried, and she was even more worried that he thought it was his own fault. It didn’t help, because it was neither of them really, but she knew that whatever she’d say wouldn’t really make him feel differently about it. He would wholly blame himself for her being in danger, and despite the worry, she knew he was curious to figure out whoever this person really was, which made him most likely feel worse.

 

It was just his nature to be curious…which was probably what they were expecting and predicting of him.

 

He shut his eyes briefly. “…Why can you see me?” he murmured.

 

She lied, she knew what to say, but she kept her tongue – because she knew deep down, her own thoughts were wrong as well, “- I don’t know…”

 

Blue eyes held hers, and she knew he knew what she was thinking. It was annoying sitting across him, her hands fidgeting, as she knew why she could tell he was sad when he thought she wasn’t looking. Molly had no idea why he was sad, though she could muster up an idea after today. She just didn’t want to outright say it, it felt too soon, too fast. She’d barely been back, and already she was…walking slowly back into something she thought she – and he – had left behind long ago, despite their own pretences.

 

All she could do was pretend, for the better of the pair of them.

 

“I do have secrets,” he said after a moment, like he picked up on her thoughts, adamant on distracting her, and maybe himself from the weight of the situation.

 

Molly welcomed it, wholeheartedly.

 

“Which ones?”

 

He put his hands together resting them his chin, eyes glinting, “I have a little sister.”

 

“What?” she said blinking.

 

“See,” he said like he’d proved a point, by pulling the rug from underneath her feet.

 

“You never told me that?”

 

She sounded more outraged than she was.

 

Honestly, he hadn’t even mentioned his parents before they were in their flat share back in the day.

 

He sighed, “My parents sent her away before I got worse – though no child belongs in a Swiss boarding school. Don’t know who of us got the better deal in the end. Probably her. She didn’t have Mycroft hovering over her shoulder.”

 

“What’s her name?”

 

“Eurus.”

 

“Does she have a normal name then?” she asked smiling.

 

He smirked, “No, I suppose they gave up when Mycroft and I wanted to be-,”

 

“Cool?”

 

“Oh yes,” he said smiling. “We barely talk, unlike Mycroft and I, so our relationship is frankly amazing.”

 

Molly laughed, feeling lighter than she had all day. “Really?”

 

“No, I talk to her often… She’s in the symphony – mostly abroad – excellent on the violin, which she most likely picked up from me.”

 

“You’re fond of her.” And proud, she could see that from his face.

 

“Is that a surprise?”

 

“You’ve just – never mentioned her.”

 

“I worried that someone… might use her against me,” he said, and she felt the weight of those words in the very pit of her stomach. “I don’t know what I’d do if someone chose to use someone I-,” whatever he was going to say hovered in the air, making her wiggle uncomfortably in her seat – he wasn’t talking about her, yet, she couldn’t help but feel he was.

 

Then again, he did compare her to his sister – if he was…

 

“Victor always found her terrifying, though,” he said breaking the spell.

 

“He did?” she said with a giggle.

 

“Yes, he was certain she was going to murder him in his sleep.”

 

“I’d have been more worried about Mycroft.”

 

Sherlock made a face, “Did you have to remind me?”

 

Molly was frankly glad he’d mentioned Victor, as she wasn’t sure whether or not she could. It was good to see that door was open, and not forced shut, as she’d long presumed, he’d done. It was hard to reconcile him with the one who’d walked off that day. He was the same in the little things, but on a whole, different.

 

“ - - I’m going to bed, not that I’m tired, I just don’t know what else to do,” she said, letting her cup of tea stay on the table and plate, primarily untouched. She didn’t have much of an appetite and hoped she’d have some time to think in bed, which was a lie, she’d probably be mostly thinking and sleeping very little. She got to her feet with Sherlock mimicking her motions, though surprisingly clearing up the table, which caused her to stand looking at him from the doorway, as he put them in the sink. It felt like a mundane action he’d usually not do, except, he was probably, most likely, stalling.

 

Molly knew he was going to stay the night, but it had come to her attention that she didn’t know where – her sofa was hardly Sherlock-sized and her “spare bedroom” was her office.

 

There was only one option really, and it felt silly to act foolish over it.

 

He stared at her standing by the sink, as if waiting.

 

“You, umm, coming?” she said, as it wasn’t a problem to share the bed, soon picking up Toby who hadn’t gotten entirely used to the concept of the upstairs and downstairs being two separate things. He’d start meowing incessantly if she let him stay downstairs, and that wouldn’t help either of them attempt sleep at all.

 

Sherlock just nodded, and she led him upstairs, the stairs being annoyingly squeaky as they went up.

 

There was an awkward pause by the door, both of them hovering outside her bedroom doorway. “I’ll just go get changed,” she said letting Toby gently down, before walking to the bath to wash up, which didn’t take any time whatsoever, though she took extra care to take time.

 

 When she finally got out of the bathroom, he wasn’t on the bed but sitting in the lone chair she regularly used for reading or clothes. The clothes that had been residing there were folded neatly and placed on top of her cupboard. Toby was also resting on his lap, yawning and stretching.

 

“Did you fold my clothes?” she said, soon seeing he was reading what she’d had on her nightstand. It was a trashy romance novel with its pages dog-eared from several previous reads.

 

Molly had been trying not to feel awkward by their current predicament, but the book certainly was enough.

 

“Yes,” he said brows furrowed as he stared at the pages of “The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie”. It was a silly book really, one she’d bought at the airport before a holiday, and then promptly read, picking it up occasionally because it was just the sort of book one would read to forget things – ripping bodices and all that lark (yes, there was loads of graphic sex in it, hence, lark). The fact that the cover had a woman’s cleavage very prominently displayed and a man hovering near the woman’s lips, said enough.

 

She didn’t try to take it away from him, as if she knew what he was trying to do.

 

It was working.

 

Walking to the bed she turned on the lamp on her nightstand, before promptly turning off the light overhead.

 

It was too dark in the nook he’d sat in now.

 

Sherlock gave her a look at that, which she promptly reciprocated while settling into the bed.

 

She lay there for a while fluffing up her own pillow, before she looked over to see him on his phone – “You’re not going to sit there all night?”

 

“I’m not tired,” Sherlock said with Toby soundly purring on his lap, while he absentmindedly stroked him.

 

“You could watch the telly downstairs if you like…”

 

He made a face, which made her laugh. She almost suggested they both go down and watch something, then again, she knew it wouldn’t help either. Her thoughts would just wander, and she’d worry herself senseless. But at least there’d some noise, some vague distraction.

 

“Tell me another secret, then?” she said after a while, resting on her plump cushion, feeling the weight of the day sinking in.

 

“Why me?”

 

“What?”

 

“Your turn, Molly.”

 

“I don’t have any secrets,” she said crinkling her nose, pulling her duvet to her shin. “I’m not really one for secrets.”

 

“Has Mycroft contacted you yet?”

 

“No?” she said, her brows contracting.

 

“Oh, he’s usually quite quick on the uptake,” he said looking puzzled.

 

“Does he contact people you know?”

 

“Yes, he wants them to keep an eye on me.”

 

“I shouldn’t really be surprised.”

 

“He pays well, if you need the extra income.”

 

She giggled, “I don’t really need it.”

 

“I know, it’s easy to see-,” he said gesturing around himself.

 

“That’s just me saving money, I guess.”

 

“Never were one for a splurge.”

 

“Well, I did splurge on this house.”

 

“There’s that, at least, that means-,”

 

“I’m staying?” she said when he didn’t go on.

 

“…Yes.”

 

She smiled, her eyelids getting heavier by the moment, as she lay there, feeling warm, her body heavy. Molly tried best not to remember what had happened or who she’d met, whether or not the police would find him, or if he was really someone dangerous, or just some oddball. She had hoped for the latter, but the way Sherlock was acting – she knew it wasn’t just someone offbeat. “ – How long were you together?”

 

She hadn’t been expecting to be asked about Peter, as he was the furthest in her mind. He’d not been in her mind for some time, thankfully, which probably told her more than necessary about the diminishing state of their relationship.

 

“Eight years,” she said softly.

 

Sherlock just nodded in the half-shadow which he sat, his phone now put aside, and the book on the floor besides him.

 

“Did you-,”

 

“Not enough,” she said, when she saw him struggling with the question.

 

They’d not really breached the topic.

 

Not that she was expecting him to ask personal questions to begin with.

 

She’d felt like she’d gone through it all enough, already.

 

From the beginning Peter and she were fine, the sort of people everyone expected to get together, but there was something missing. It was a safe relationship, the sort of relationship where this sort of thing would never happen.

 

Then again, they would never happen, though, she could feel how the pit of her stomach dropped, just a tad at the implication it couldn’t. But she’d always felt safe with him, not the mundane kind of safe one expected, but the one, one could only hope for.

 

Molly hadn’t gone to London with hope, she didn’t have any hope, she just had, herself, and him in some sort of friendship in mind, or so, she’d reminded herself repeatedly since she planned to come back.

 

She gazed at him and watched him put a protesting Toby on the floor.

 

Molly wondered how he took her silence, and the half-answer she’d given.

 

He just got up from the chair and wordlessly lay to her left on top of the duvet.  

 

Sherlock was still wearing his black long-sleeved shirt and dark trousers.

 

She stifled her own laugh, “You could borrow something if you like?”

 

“Do you have anything my size?”

 

“Probably not, sorry, or I could turn off the light and you can-,”

 

“I’m fine,” he sighed.

 

“Alright,” she said turning off the light. “Thought you weren’t tired-,”

 

“I’m not.”

 

She laid on her side, her back facing him, aware that Toby was walking about restless from the sound of his paws on the hardwood floor, trying to claw his way upwards, but she needed him to get used to it. Molly knew he’d soon be able to climb the bed on his own, but she might inadvertently train him by not letting him get into the bed (though she’d already failed that several times). He’d probably slowly find his way up, anyway, she thought, letting her arm down to pet him, which he clearly appreciated (a helping hand in a way).

 

“…If nothing had happened between us, would you have stayed?”

 

Molly froze all of a sudden, feeling Toby more or less forcing her hand to pet him, by continuously encircling her hand.

 

“I don’t know,” she said uncertainly in the dark. “I don’t think so, not really.”

 

He didn’t say anything in return, which forced her to say – “Mum had just died, and I, I just didn’t want to be reminded of her here, either, so I wasn’t so much running away from you, as I was running from everything. None of it was good really, I know that, and I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t – apologize…” he murmured in return.

 

“You know, it’s funny, I often imagined you’d go chasing me back home…” it wasn’t funny, she realized, when she said it out loud that it wasn’t funny at all, especially when she felt a tear slide across her cheek. She withdrew her hand from Toby, her hands fretting on top of the duvet instead.

 

“…. But I don’t know if it would have made much difference really…. not then, but – I’m here now - if you need me - for anything that is.”

 

She half-expected him to ask what he’d need her for – instead - he grabbed her fidgeting hand, squeezing it.  

 

Molly could feel the thrumming of his hand against hers, and didn’t protest when he pulled her in, letting her rest her head atop of his chest, his arms around her. “Just this once,” he whispered into her hair, she didn’t know if it was for his or her sake. She thought best not to ask, only closing her eyes, and feeling like she always did with him – safe.   

Chapter Text

 

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to leave it all behind?

I can't take my mind off you


The Blower’s Daughter,
Damien Rice

 

The cat meowed in a sort of urgency and volume reserved for children. Instinctively he knew what it meant, though he dared not disentangle himself in a way that would wake her. Her hair was fanned out across his bare chest, her lips parted, as she breathed in small steady breaths. He knew he’d smell her on him throughout the day. Sherlock didn’t know whether to use it for a sense of resolve or if her scent would betray his instincts, making him erratic and uncalculated.

 

He didn’t want to find out.

 

He slowly extricated himself and watched her roll to her side, a faint smile on her face, which made him pause briefly just to gaze at her. Molly looked the opposite of what he’d seen most of the night before. Here she was carefree and blissfully unaware in her sleeping state of what lay before them, though even he didn’t know. Gathering up his clothes, which he removed because it got scorching throughout the night (a poor excuse), and not because he wanted to feel her against his bare skin – he slipped on his trousers, and put on his shirt, leaving the buttons undone.

 

Quickly he retrieved his phone, the screen lighting up his face, as he felt fur against his ankles.

Toby was meowing consistently now.

There were several texts, though he hadn’t expected to see one from Lestrade, or several actually -

Media’s up our arses on recent murders.

They’re saying they’re connected.

Have to focus on that.

Sorry.

Got my best detectives on the job still!!

 

He raised his brows at the latter texts’ exclamation-points, clucking his tongue softly, as Toby was still circling him.

 

He picked the feline up absentmindedly, and ventured downstairs, reading a brief text from Mike making his mouth quirk up.

 

Turning on the television, he flicked through the channels before he found them – and unsurprisingly - their theories lacking. It wasn’t often he gave the press more credit at doing their jobs, but at least they were questioning whether there were patterns in the case. He’d briefly seen the deaths in the newspaper, but they were short and unremarkable.

 

Suicides were common, but these seemed orchestrated, like someone had made a design, intending for someone to pick them up, like loose threads. Now – that – made his mind wander, briefly to access what they’d understood from Molly’s encounter with Jim from IT, admittedly it could have been a grotesque fluke – a fan even – though, there were other ways to get around finding information, but it felt like a warning, to stay away – or else.

 

Sherlock pursed his lips, wondering vaguely what Mycroft’s new passcode was, which never really took much time at all to figure out. There was always a pattern in his security, besides his government email was easily broadcasted to any moron. It did occasionally benefit having a big brother in the government, even if it occasionally proved irritating to say the least.

 

But he could ruin his morning as well.

 

Win-win.

 

It was hardly unhelpful of him to poke a hole in Lestrade’s ego, as he’d not even bothered to give him a call, which was in fact Lestrade’s personal preference - even if it aggravated him to hear him blather on the other line.

 

At least his way of speaking would soften the blow more - than a text.

 

Sherlock sent off his texts, almost laughing when he saw the immediate response and befuddlement of the press, besides Sally’s choice words to ignore said texts.

 

The fact that his phone lit up meant he’d at least woken Mycroft from his sleep, which already made the day better.

 

Slipping the phone to his ear, while Molly padded down the steps wearing her pale blue pyjamas, clearly still in the throes of sleep.

 

He already felt alert by sheer childishness –

 

“You used the emergency broadcast system to text?” he heard Mycroft spit out on the other end.

 

He could almost imagine him frothing at the mouth, still in his mahogany bed in silk pyjamas.

 

They were wrong, after all.

 

He did feel it was his civic duty to inform them.

 

Ama-zing – what our phones can do this day and age – but – now that I have your attention could you-,”

 

“ - - Babysit Molly Hooper?”

 

There was a beat, and he knew immediately -

 

“Already taken care of-,” Mycroft said smugly.  

 

The doorbell rang.

 

He hated when he did that, and promptly hung up before he heard any annoying little tirade or comment on his current whereabouts – “oh, look where I found you baby brother.”

 

Sherlock stood up from the petite lavender plush sofa, while Molly flew past him looking perplexed, but at least more vigilant than previously. She looked at him for approval before opening the door, and he gave with a brief nod in return.

 

He would need her to be like this from now on, if they were to continue to associate.

 

Molly opened the door to a woman he had not seen in a long time (though he remembered the last vividly by the amounts of shouting she’d done) – Meena.

 

Her hair was unkempt, her coat clearly thrown on, and a look of severe contempt on her face when she spotted him.  

 


 

 

Molly blinked several times at the sight of Meena on her doorstep, even more so, when she followed her friend’s dark eyes that flickered towards Sherlock in the background.

 

His shirt was – undone - revealing his muscular pale torso.

 

She tried not to focus too much on that fact herself, stepping to block Meena’s view.

 

Meena raised a brow in return, while she broke into a forced smile.

 

“Hi, umm – what are you doing here?” she said hoping that Sherlock was doing up his shirt, at least.

 

Meena frowned, clutching her purse, “You texted me?”

 

“I didn’t-,” she said taken aback, barely even knowing where her phone was at this point.

 

“Look at where our tax money goes,” said Sherlock who finally had his shirt buttoned upon, looking more representable than she was feeling. “That was Mycroft. Sorry, Meena, though he probably wanted you here with us caught unaware.”

 

“Does – seem - like I did catch you unaware though?” said Meena causing her to blush.

 

Sherlock collected his things, throwing his coat on and wrapping his scarf around his neck. He was clearly ready for something, peering down at his phone, tapping away at the screen with ease.

 

He was a better morning person than her.

 

Molly finally stepped aside to let Meena come in, though the pair of them looked mildly confused at each other, as she could only assume that Meena didn’t entirely know how Mycroft got her here as well. But, granted, it didn’t surprise her that he’d done that. He did like absolute control, though, she really didn’t know that he’d go that far. She barely even knew what his job entailed.

 

“I’m sure Mycroft has got his best watch dogs, as well. He doesn’t like to be outgunned, even if he did send you-,” he said pointedly to Meena.

 

“Sherlock,” she said tartly, a hint of a smile on her face.

 

“Meena,” he said with an air of seriousness, though it seemed filled to the brim with mirth.

 

The pair of them nodded at each other, while Molly stood squarely in the middle, eyeing them both warily.

 

Sherlock directed his attention to her, his expression softening, “I have to go – there’s a case – and apparently – a potential flatmate – according to Mike.”

 

“Oh…right, it’s okay, I’ll be fine.”

 

It was an apology, she knew that, the best one he could do right now, and she understood.

 

He didn’t move, and she stood immovably in return.

 

“It is important, isn’t it?” she said hoping to prompt him alive again.

 

Meena was brazenly staring at the pair of them with keen interest.

 

The door was still open after all, yet, he wasn’t walking away.

 

“It’s connected-,” he began, while she shook her head as if to beg him to stop.

 

He did.

 

“I’ll-,” he continued.

 

Text,” she continued for him with a brief nod, while he looked all of a sudden worried.

 

She held onto the door, hoping to usher him out before Meena pointed the awkwardness of the moment.

 

It was awkward enough without her loud commentary from the side-line.

 

Sherlock seemed like he was about to say something, thinking better of it, as everything seemed to go in monosyllables.

 

Neither of them managing full-on-words, or well, she couldn’t.

 

He stepped out the door, though still standing in the doorway, as if he was waiting for something.

 

She felt goodbye was redundant at this point, but he seemed to lean towards her, causing her to retreat and him to blink in return.

 

And then he was gone, dark coat and all, his collar popped up like he was all business.

 

What was he trying to do? She didn’t want to breach the idea that he’d tried – even thought – no – she’d misunderstood what he meant, obviously, though he wasn’t the ‘hugging’ type either.

 

She slammed the door shut, at a loss when Meena was gaping at her.

 

“What was that?” Meena said, pointing towards the door.

 

But nothing had happened.

 

There was something, clearly, but that something had evaporated as quickly as it came.

 

Her head and cheeks felt warm – clearly – she was becoming ill.

 

It wasn’t even 10 o’clock from a quick glance at the clock on the wall.

 

She didn’t need another interrogation, especially one about her emotional state and what had happened last night.

 

Again, nothing had happened.

 

“I’ll make coffee-,” she said, like Meena had asked for some, half-marching off to the kitchen intent on making coffee.

 

Molly didn’t feel very tired. She’d slept soundly most of the night, only waking up once when Sherlock had muttered something about it being too hot, which was when she’d rolled over out of sheer curtesy. She’d no idea she’d been practically slung over him the entire night, limbs all over the place, like she didn’t know where his body ended and her own started. When she’d done that abrupt attempt at being nice – he’d undressed – and pulled her back in, like this was just something they always did. It just felt oddly normal, besides comforting, and she didn’t want to consider it that way, but she did.

 

Molly didn’t know what to think.

 

She needed coffee.

 

Several cups even.

 

The thoughts in her head were a mess, a dark weedy mess that needed to be sorted out, or else they’d circle around her head until she got dizzy.

 

“Did he sleep over?”

 

She exhaled, busying herself with the light blue coffee maker, trying to imagine she was too preoccupied by such a mundane task.

 

“Oh, umm, yeah, but in the spare bedroom,” she lied in the end, waiting for the coffee to trickle out.

 

She hated Mycroft for sending Meena, but she supposed, this was his little joke on her expense, if he was really keeping tabs on her.

 

Meena crossed her arms, like she was sizing her up, and Molly couldn’t recall whether or not she’d seen “the spare bedroom” yet.

 

“You don’t have one.”

 

Maybe it would have been better if Meena hadn’t been present for the moving in bit.

 

“Right, well, umm the sofa isn’t big enough - - so we shared the bed, like, umm, adults.”

 

“What does that even mean?”

 

“Men and women can share a bed, just fine!”

 

Meena didn’t look convinced. “Did anything happen?”

 

“No,” she said when she finally got her cup of coffee, settling down by the table, trying to think of what she was going to have for breakfast. That was one way to preoccupy herself, at least. Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. Obviously. More important than whether Sherlock had attempted to kiss her or not. That was the furthest thing from her mind!

 

“I don’t believe you - at all - but I’m going to let you drink your coffee first, though one question-,”

 

She steeled herself for whatever was coming.

 

“Why did Mycroft pull government resources to text me to come over?”

 

“Yeah…umm – there’s a reason Sherlock stayed the night.”

 

Suddenly Meena wasn’t that keen on finding out what Sherlock and she had done the night before.

 

“You’re serious?” said Meena horrified when she finished telling her.

 

“Yeah,” she said.

 

“At least it means you’ve got the weekend off though?” she said clearly trying to cheer her up.  

 

Molly snorted, “Where’s Trevor?”

 

It was a good distraction and got her immediately off-topic.

 

“He’s off with his friends. Given him enough money so he won’t do anything stupid.”

 

“…Shouldn’t you’ve have given him less?”

 

“If I give him less, he’ll nag me for more, and then he’ll end up doing something to spite me. He’s a good boy, honestly, it’s just complicated sometimes.”

 

Molly didn’t entirely get the logic there, though, she was hesitant to make any comment on Meena’s parental skills, as the woman had actual experience unlike herself. She’d just watched Trevor growing up from afar, besides watching her friend grow as well. Meena was a therapist now, despite her previous own personal misgivings on the job, which she took longer than most to get a degree in, despite help from friends and family, but it was her own hard-earned-work that made it all possible. It wasn’t easy being a single mum, and Meena had had some serious relationships, but it seemed like she just generally avoided them these days (“Who can be bothered anymore? I got a kid, I barely need to check off a man or woman on the supposed life’s must-do’s – if anyone asks – they died,” she spat very dramatically once over several bottles of wine, before wildly flirting with the waiter). Molly could relate to the complication of relationships in general – the insecurity – general confusion, and, now she felt like she was threading too closely to her own confused mental state.

 

“But – are you okay?” asked Meena.

 

“I can’t not be, can I?” said Molly with an exhale threatening to unravel her piece by piece.

 

“You’re not under house-arrest, are you?” said Meena.

 

“No?”

 

Meena’s wide grin said enough, as she knew of her favourite past-time - shopping. She hadn’t been ordered to stay inside, just cautious, which she was most likely going to be for some time, despite herself. Then again, the supposedly safe space that was her office had been compromised and so had her workspace in general. It felt more daunting to step into St Bart’s, then it did to enter Top Shop.

 

“Okay, let’s go out.”

 


 

 

Sally blinked in return when Sherlock stared at her knees, “What?”

 

“…Nothing,” he said eyeing Anderson who stood beside her, his eyes darting back to her.

 

She had no clue what he was getting at, but he wasn’t dragging her knobbly knees into it.

 

Clearly, she chose a poor day to wear a skirt.

 

Sherlock had obviously made a new friend, the sandy-haired man John Watson following him into the scene of the crime. Even if he gave the impression of being the – I work alone – parody she often saw having worked herself up the ladder – he wasn’t.

 

He was the complete opposite – his imbecile metre was the line he drew at.

 

That she couldn’t help but agree on.

 

The reason he’d managed to hang onto the title of ‘Consulting Detective’ was because he did manage to be a team-player even if he occasionally was an absolute arse about it.

 

Sally couldn’t help but see another colleague in John Watson, well, in the extent that he’d reign him in when he acted like a knob-head. He was a military doctor from what she’d gathered, which made her wonder if Sherlock just liked being around people with a medical degree. Like, Molly Hooper. Greg and her, hadn’t really talked about Molly yet, the case was still on-going, even if it felt like they’d already hit several dead ends.

 

She was going to have to act impartial.

 

“I think they’ll need my expertise,” said Anderson, who she’d utterly forgotten about.

 

“Oh, no, I-,” he didn’t even let her finish before he walked off.

 

“It’s your funeral,” she muttered to herself.

 


 

 

He hadn’t texted, which she hadn’t really expected either. She didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully Meena had done her best to distract her, buying frilly stupid things that she didn’t need. Usually she was the sensible one, the one who didn’t buy the over-priced lacey white dress that fit her snuggly, but today was just one of those days. There were bags upon bags underneath the table, they barely had space for their feet, yet, she felt better. That was something, even if it was a hollow sort of happiness. They’d avoided any serious discussion, even if Meena did ask over another coffee – what if Jim’s a serial killer?

 

She drank that coffee in one gulp at that, which dissuaded Meena from saying anything remotely connected to yesterday’s events.  

 

However, there weren’t any serial killing’s happening either, well, she’d heard something, but the people seemed to be killing themselves…

 

Whatever it was, she wasn’t about to delve too deeply into that part of her brain that would make her beyond paranoid.

 

“Okay, so, I am going to have to talk about it…”

 

They were waiting for their meal, and she took a careful sip of her drink, readying herself to answer those questions with the earnest confusion she did feel, but almost spat out her drink when she spotted Sherlock outside.

 

“It can’t have been that bad!” said Meena as if her spitting out her drink was a commentary on something.

 

“No-,” she pointed towards the door outside, though she hadn’t needed to as Sherlock walked in with an unfamiliar man walking behind him.  

 

“Did you invite him-,” said Meena.

 

“No?” she said, eyes wide, feeling called out for something she hadn’t done.

 

She had, however, chosen a place right near his own home, but they’d been nearby. Or well, they’d been nearby when they’d taken the tube to the restaurant - she’d heard was amazing from Sherlock. The heart wants what the heart wants, she heard a little voice say in her head, brushing it aside as he reached their table.

 

She quickly put up a cheery front for the stranger behind him.

 


 

 

John almost wanted to laugh at the irony of the pair of them taking a cab to Baker Street to eat Dim-Sum, especially under the circumstances. It had been - a - very long day, besides, a strange day as well. He’d begun the day yesterday with nightmares, and a cane, before ending today with being cane-less, having a flatmate and also, solving a case. Therapy really hadn’t helped much at all.

 

All in all, he felt more light-hearted than he’d done in years, but at the same time – he was bloody hungry. That’s what he got for shooting a man, he supposed. After this he was going to have a good night’s sleep, no matter what Sherlock droned on and on about.

 

When they’d entered the busy restaurant, John was surprised to see Sherlock striding ahead to a table that was already occupied. @

 

He half-expected him to ask them to leave the table, but instead he was grabbing a couple of chairs.

 

John blinked at Sherlock who beckoned him over.

 

He’d really not given him the impression of being a people-person, then again, he was happy to be proven wrong.

 

“John Watson-,” he said smiling to the women, quickly introducing himself, shaking their hands.

 

“Molly Hooper works as a pathologist at St Bart’s and Meena is a psychologist and her friend,” said Sherlock as if that was enough of an explanation.

 

Neither looked extraordinary as he expected them to be.

 

Sherlock’s brother had the flair for dramatics, and he’d supposed any friend of him would be in that league as well.  

 

“John’s my new flatmate and assisted on the case tonight.”

 

Assisted? Assisted?  He tried not to look too gobsmacked when he sat down, though.

 

“How was the case?” said Molly whose eyes immediately lit up, leaning forward in her seat.  

 

That’s when Sherlock tore into an overly long explanation – managing to order in between as well – about the previous murders that had been qualified as suicides, besides the cabbie who’d supposedly been behind it all – using a bloody game of chance.

 

“You didn’t want to take the pill, did you?” said Molly wide-eyed.

 

Sherlock started to go on -

 

“No, I shot the cabbie before he could do anything stupid-,” said John snorting, the women’s interest in him clearly raised immediately by this.

 

He’d hardly gotten a word in, after all.

 

“But he did mention a name – Moriarty -,” said Sherlock looking directly at Molly who frowned.

 

“Oh -,” she said looking more confused than anything.

 

Like anyone wouldn’t – with a name like that.

 

“You said you didn’t know who that was,” said John, his eyebrows knitted.

 

“I don’t, which what makes it interesting.”

 

“You mentioned - it being connected earlier? You think Moriarty is Jim – or connected to him somehow?” Molly asked, a crease between her brows appearing.

 

“I’ve been cracking down on unsolvable cases for years, but it’s only recently - I’ve gone so far to do so in London.”

 

“Who is Jim?” said John, which Meena ended up filling him up on Jim, very enthusiastically as well, clearly because she’d felt left out as well.

 


 

 

Meena looked very pleased with herself, despite leaving out several details, Molly noted.

 

Like Sherlock and her knowing each other from before.  

 

“Clearly - Moriarty or Jim whoever they are – have an organisation of some kind…” said Sherlock, his eyes cast down in thought.

 

Clearly?” said John baffled.

 

“I’ve not got all the pieces together, yet, but this isn’t the first case I’ve taken where the culprit meant there was someone higher up involved, but here the man didn’t have anything to lose in giving me a name.”

 

Everyone quieted down after that, and John clearly felt like directing the conversation elsewhere, as the one thing that hadn’t been explained was why Jim had targeted Molly.

 

Just that he had – for no particular reason.

 

“How do you know each other really?” John asked.

 

“Work,” she said. “Old Friends,” he said.

 

Both stared at each other briefly, before Molly blurted out - “Work-friends!”

 

“…Oh so, when you said you were married to your work-,” started John with a wry grin.

 

“No, no, no, no – not married, no-,” she continued, a bit more hysterical than needed, almost balking at the amount of no’s she’d managed to say. She didn’t need another person to view her differently, as well. John didn’t need to know. It wasn’t important. She really wasn’t important. It was Sherlock who was the real target. The one she was worried about. “He doesn’t see me like that – I don’t count, you know-,” she finished off, feeling entirely deflated the second she said it.

 

“ – Like the rest of the population,” said Meena trying to lighten the mood as well, with a little laugh.

 

John laughed, not noticing how quiet Sherlock had gone.

 

Molly let her eyes drift to his face, and he looked like she’d said something wrong.

 

She avoided his eye, focusing her attention to her food, trying to give a semblance of being unaffected, even if she wasn’t.

 

When the conversation veered off to how Sherlock and John actually met, the conversation drifted off elsewhere, and it was an amusing story really, besides John showing his battered phone – she was glad to not be under the spotlight. It didn’t feel like her place, she belonged elsewhere, like the person beaming in the background in support. That was her role, her place, and sometimes that hurt, but most times, it was better than being in a mind and place where she thought differently.

 

She needed a proper moment to think, by herself, on her own, to sort out the deluge in her mind. She felt adrift, so, when she said goodbye to Meena who hopped off the cab, and she continued onwards home, she knew she’d have to settle what she felt about it all. Properly, this time. That’s why she didn’t feel like answering any questions, that’s why she didn’t want to be held accountable for what had happened, as nothing really had, but it had felt intimate.

 

She feared the idea - to be close with someone again, and then the possibility of losing them.

 

But losing Sherlock in that way – she’d already done that once.

 

She didn’t know if she could go through it once more.

 

Molly didn’t know if she was strong enough for that.

 

She stepped out of the cabbie, grabbing various bags out from the back.

 

The car driving off when she slammed the door shut.

 

She was surprised to find Sherlock standing outside her door, hands in his pockets.

 

“Oh – hi-,” she started, unsure how to take him being there. She had hoped he’d return, but she hadn’t really thought he would. Not really. She thought other things would have more priority. “…I thought you went home.” They’d seen them leave after all, and she’d expected she wouldn’t see him after that.

 

“I did,” he said with a shrug. “John fell asleep the moment he went to bed.”

 

She nodded in return, walking to her door, and he grabbed the bags out of her hands.

 

It was a gesture, yet, it was enough.

 

“Umm, is this going to be a habit of yours then?” she said, not wanting to say – every night – because surely, he wouldn’t.

 

Sherlock didn’t answer.

 

She unlocked the door and switched off the alarm.

 

He dropped the bags inside, quietly taking off his coat, and hanging his things on the settee.

 

There was a look in his eye, which she couldn’t really determine – it was blazing.

 

She’d seen the look on his face in the restaurant, but she didn’t know it would follow her home.

 

Molly closed the door, her back towards him, as she waited almost with bated breath.

 

“What do you mean you don’t count?” he said.

 

She turned around, leaning against the doorframe, as if taking strength from the foundation.

 

“I just don’t,” she said, an almost helpless smile on her face.

 

He looked at her in disbelief, which she returned in turn.

 

“You-,” he began, but she wouldn’t let him.

 

“Why was I the first one to reach out, then?” she said, her insides unravelling.

 

“I was giving you space,” he said with gritted teeth.

 

“Fifteen… years of space?” she said, her eyes almost immediately welling up despite themselves.

 

“We met several times.”

 

“Did we?” she bit out, unable to stop it from flooding out, like cracks were going to appear in the wallpaper of her home. “You didn’t speak to me any of those times- - you pretended like I wasn’t even there.”

 

He blinked, eyes cast downwards, “I thought it was better for the both of us – if I kept away from you - and I wasn’t wrong.”

 

He looked at her then, their current predicament speaking for itself.

 

“So? …Even if I was just someone in your life, it would happen either way, and you blaming yourself won’t help either of us.”

 

“How can I not blame myself? I want you to be-,”

 

“Back in Scotland?” she said, an edge to her voice.

 

She couldn’t keep it in anymore.

 

“…No.”

 

“Because I’m not in danger – you are-,”

 

He riled a hand through his hair, “I don’t want you to-,” he didn’t go on.

 

“Then what do you want?” she said softly, trying to hold her tears back.

 

And suddenly he was there, right in front of her, his body pressed against hers, his hands holding her face.

 

His eyes boring right into hers, cupping her face so gently, like he thought she would break.

 

She could feel his breath against her lips, and what he wanted so clearly written in his face.

 

His lips came crashing down on hers, needy and desperate, and all-consuming.

 

She returned the favour, clinging to him in return, wanting and needing him to be near.

 

He drew back, breathing heavily, his forehead leaning against hers, his voice deep and soft – “You.”

 

She felt the tears come hurtling down, unable to stop them.

 

“You do count. You’ve always counted.”

 

The words spreading out in her, willing her to brave whatever was coming, whatever would come, “And I’ve always wanted you.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

We might kiss when we are alone
Nobody's watching
We might take it home
We might make out when nobody's there
It's not that we're scared
It's just that it's delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place you've know
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

We might live like never before
When there's nothing to give
Well how can we ask for more
We might make love in some sacred place
The look on your face is delicate

Delicate, Damien Rice

 

 

2010, February

 

Light poured through the glass windows of the busy café. It was surprisingly crammed for a Sunday, young couples, old friends, and so on sitting at various different sized tables. Molly supposed she wouldn’t pay this much attention if it weren’t for her nerves, her eyes going to the décor for a distraction from her own worries. Her foot kept jiggling underneath the wooden table, almost causing her coffee to topple over, which forced her to sit still, even if her body was trying to physically remove the stress in some way or the other. She wasn’t about to go back to biting her nails to shreds over this. She’d been the one who asked to meet anyway, it was hardly something to be nervous about.

 

Then again, it was Meena.

 

The bell by the door chimed, and she looked up hopeful – it wasn’t Meena.

 

Molly almost felt like leaving.

 

She’d waited too long already.

 

The woman was a bloodhound for information, and she’d been avoiding this topic for too long. Now, she was really avoiding it. It wasn’t that she didn’t have a really good reason. She had an amazingly well-reasoned reason. There was a whole speech, and everything prepared, and she’d gone through it several times in her head, as if it would make her sound more certain than she was. Honestly, she’d felt braver in the morning, which was no surprise. She’d not been left alone to her thoughts then. Now, every nerve was standing on end, and the more she kept waiting, the more unsure she was on whether or not she could actually complete a full sentence without sounding like a complete dolt.

 

The bell by the door chimed again, and she looked up biting her lip. Thankfully, it was Meena this time. Molly knew she shouldn’t have rushed out of the door, and she’d felt the further proof of that when Meena texted that she’d be late five minutes after she was supposed to be there. In a way, it felt like a tactic to make her feel put out. It probably was. Then again, it felt even more conniving when Trevor walked after Meena looking unbelievably sullen.

 

Meena waved at her walking off to order, pushing her son towards the table.

 

“Hi,” she said surprised to see him as he settled down opposite her.

 

He gave her a slight nod, eyes immediately on his phone.

 

Trevor didn’t want to be here either.

 

Leaving him alone home on a Sunday clearly wasn’t doable for Meena, then, from the look Meena was giving their table it was obvious something was going on. Molly wasn’t sure whether Trevor had done something yesterday to warrant him being there, or if Meena just wanted to put her on the spot. It wasn’t like she’d texted and said explicitly what she wanted to talk about, then again, she felt like they’d been dancing around the topic for ages – it should have been obvious enough.

 

When Meena finally sat down with one frothy-looking cappuccino and a black coffee that she pushed towards her son – there was a look of eager determination on her face – “Right, so – what did you want to see me about?”

 

Molly knew she knew, and it irritated her that she was pretending otherwise. Her eyes pointedly at Trevor whose attention was wholly on his phone, like he was pretending he wasn’t there, one earbud in his ear.

 

“Umm, you sure it’s the right time to talk?” she said hesitating.

 

“Don’t mind him.”

 

She did mind him, not because she thought it was difficult to talk with him present, but because she wasn’t sure she could say everything she had to with both of them witnessing.

 

“Err, it’s about Sherlock?”

 

Meena just nodded, taking a sip of her coffee, as if waiting for her to begin.

 

“I know that it seems weird between us, but, umm – we’re just friends-,” she said with all the conviction she could muster.

 

Her eyes are bright as she looks back at him, her feelings too loud to be said, so she kisses him. He doesn’t need to hear her say it, he already knows. And she hates him for knowing, for knowing why she’s here, why she’s back, yet she leans into him, letting him catch her right back, their kiss tasting salty from her tears. They’re not hopeless tears, no, he knows it, she knows it, but she doesn’t know how to articulate it, like he does, her words just echoing in every kiss.

 

Meena pursed her lips, “So you’re sure you don’t feel anything for him?”

 

“Yes,” she said trying to sound like she wasn’t startled by the question or sounding like she was denying it too hard.

 

It was a feat she felt wholly unprepared to do, but she felt she had to.

 

His hands are at the small of her back when they get upstairs, kicking off shoes, and in the back of her mind she’d said something about moving slow. Hadn’t she? She’s not sure anymore, hands frantically trying to push open the buttons of his shirt. They’ve been going at a snail-pace for years – and fifteen years – well – it gives one room to think. She didn’t want to think now, as they both fell on top of the bed with her pinned underneath him.

 

“Really?”

 

“Really,” she states confidently with a half-smile. “I do care about him, but I am over him. It’s just weird being around him these days, you know, with all that happened back then.”

 

“We should wait-,” she breathed out with very little conviction as he was nibbling on her ear, one hand sliding over her breast, a finger grazing at her already taut nipple.

 

“Yes,” he whispered across the skin of her neck, before their lips meet again, making her almost feel like needing to catch her breath.

 

“So, he really just slept over?” said Meena with a raised brow.

 

“Yeah, he did again last night as well. Keeps using the excuse of it being his bolthole, but obviously he’s just worried about the whole thing with Jim. I don’t think he expected that to happen. Neither did I.”

 

Drizzling the truth into the mix, helped, or so he told her.

 

When their lips meet once more, their teeth almost crash, and she laughs. It’s nervousness really. The clarity of the situation profound, as clear as his pronounced cock, when he pulls her towards him, legs apart. Her laughter leaves her lips the second he slides in, her legs crossing at his back, drawing him in further, her laughter turning into a moan.  

 

“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

 

“I don’t think he’ll allow that to happen,” she said with a laugh.

 

Meena made a face, “Honestly… I’m a bit disappointed.”

 

“Really?” she said, not being able to hide her surprise this time.

 

“Yeah, I always thought you two would – get together – but I guess it was just my imagination really.”

 

Molly smiled softly, “I’ve moved on, really,” she said finally.

 

It was as earnest as she could muster.

 

In a way.

 

She had.

 

She’d moved on from Peter.

 

The conversation flows after that, and she talks of her being allowed back to work. The police couldn’t find anything suspicious on her computer, and nothing suspicious happened after that, despite surveillance keeping an eye. Like it was a one-off. It was a relief for her to hear during the morning, even if a little voice in the back of her head told her not to be careless.

 

Meena walked off to the loo after a while, and she was left with Trevor who’d kept quiet during all their nattering.

 

“I won’t tell her,” he said causing her to blink.

 

“Sorry?” she said confused.

 

“About you and Sherlock,” he said, like it was obvious. “It’s a bit like Monica and Chandler keeping their relationship low-key. Oh, they’re characters from a show called Friends, if you’ve never heard of it. Hilarious really.”

 

She didn’t know whether to be offended that he was referencing a show that came out before he was born, quickly ignoring that bit of information, as she had no idea how he knew to begin with about her and Sherlock.  “She brought me along like this, so she’d know whether or not you were lying,” he said with a shrug, like this happened all the time. It didn’t surprise her, though, he looked rather smug about it. “Awkward when it’s some bloke trying to get into her pants, though.”

 

“Umm,” she doesn’t know what to say, blinking rapidly in return. “I -,”

 

“Mycroft taught me,” he said with a slight grin, clearly pleased with himself.

 

“You won’t tell her?” she managed to say, heart in her throat.

 

“It doesn’t work every time, but it’s much easier to catch someone in a fib if they completely freak out when you pretend like you know they’re lying… Gotcha.”  

 

She’d been - tricked - by a teenager, almost feeling her cheeks heat up out of sheer silliness. A teenager who referenced to Friends like she’d never seen it in her life. Molly almost felt like saying something, but she bit her tongue when Meena appeared again eyeing her son like she was all-too pleased with herself. At least, she had a heads-up for next time, as Trevor just winked at her, before looking at his phone again as if he’d never said anything.

 


  

She’s already slick with wetness, and he’s already coming apart, straining to keep hold of himself – every thrust a challenge for either of them, her hands digging into his back. Wanting her with very fibre of his being, needing her – and they come undone, too soon, too quickly. His hands trace her body promising more, and she doesn’t deny him anything.

 

Not now, not here, not for the time to come.

 

Sherlock picked up his violin, eyes out on the busy street, as he heard John’s soft steps from the upstairs bedroom.

 

“Where you’ve been?”

 

“Out.”

 

She dropped on top of him, with him still spilling inside of her. Her hair tickling his nose when she said, “We should keep it a secret.” He didn’t disagree, but he did his best to mark her skin with his mouth, his hands.

 

Like she was his and he was hers.

 

“…Right,” John said going to the kitchen.

 

He drew the bow over the strings, enjoying the sound –

 

“Mrs Hudson said you’d gone out last night – did you go to Molly’s?” John continued, walking out of the kitchen with a mug of tea.

 

The bow halted to a stop.  

 

She spread her thighs even further, letting him dive his tongue deeper into the warmth between her thighs, feeling her tremble around him, before he pushed his cock into her welcoming centre. She felt like coming home, and it was bound to break him apart. Every inch of him sinking into her, as she shuddered, his name on her lips with breathy rasps. He held onto her tightly, willing to not let go, and he wouldn’t, if he could help it.

 

“She had something about it being your bolthole?” It benefitted him that John had a tendency to jump to his own conclusions, and even more so, when he took his silence as a yes. Mention something to Mrs Hudson once, and surely, all of London would know. He could always count on her to be reliable.  

 

 

Chapter Text

This is a man's world, this is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

You see, man made the cars to take us over the road
Man made the train to carry the heavy load
Man made electric light to take us out of the dark
Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark

It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s WorldJames Brown & The Famous Flames

 

2010, February 

She was in the queue for lunch in the canteen, eyeing most of the meals unsure whether she had a hankering for any of it. Under most circumstances like these she’d venture to the nearest M&S and buy a packet of fresh fruit, just so she wouldn’t have to swallow some overcooked pasta or meats that looked like they’d had better days.

 

But she was desperate.

 

Molly tried figuring out what she could swallow the quickest, when she noticed eyes flashing into her general direction.

 

There he was, striding towards her – dark coat with the collar up. She’d started to notice a pattern – when he had the collar popped – he usually wanted to look cool. He had wanted to make an entrance, the most visible one, even if she’d told him repeatedly to be low-key, as told to her by Trevor (of all people).

 

Sherlock wasn’t low-key, he was high-key if remotely possible, the only key he knew how to play, and even if they’d made rules, he wasn’t following any of them.

 

Molly hadn’t enforced them as strictly as she should have either. This was the downside of both of them enjoying the other’s company, it was hard to say no at times. He was singling her out, though seemingly determined, and she was determined not to look at him, playing at best, obtuse.

 

He didn’t even work here, which was why all of this secrecy felt necessary. People noticed him, because he made people take notice. Even if it wasn’t obvious to him why she wanted to keep things secret, though with the rate he was going out of his way to see her, they might as well put up a photo on Facebook and be done with it (though she wondered if that was a way to make him get off his high horse and listen).

 

Molly knew how bad it would look if she were in a relationship with him after having worked less than a month at St Bart’s, though she didn’t care what people did think of her. But people would talk and make judgement on her work ability – if she’d gotten the job on knowing him or if he was doing it to needle his way into getting his way (probably more likely to the people who didn’t know him) – throwing her work into disarray.

 

There were not many good outcomes in exposing themselves to idle gossip, at least, for her.

 

She’d look unprofessional, besides, even in her own head - they’re being together after a week put things into perspective.

 

Molly didn’t know if they were going too fast, or if, this was just how they were. Not that they’d had a proper talk about the future, but if they were known to everyone else, they would be forced to. She wanted to give him the time to adjust, to cope, besides herself - the strength to handle every single question that would come.

 

Being in a relationship was lovely – to begin with – but questions would pop up, ones that would fuel her anxieties.

 

Her age came with unwanted attention, whether from friends or family, and she’d been through it enough to know she didn’t like the idea of being asked almost every time - whether or not – they were moving in together or if they were going to tie the knot – or if she could hear the clock ticking.

 

Tick, bloody, tock.

 

Molly was sick of it.  

 

She’d had it for eight years through her relationship with Peter, and even if she wanted to pretend, she didn’t mind, the questions would ultimately wear her down.

 

When Sherlock asked her why they should keep it secret - even he had, which had prompted her to smile, their legs entwined lazily in bed – “People - - that’s why.” He’d somehow understood, though he probably didn’t downright understand the minor details of how a relationship worked, as he admitted her that he’d not had any prior theirs.

 

She didn’t want to scare him away, not that she truly believed she would. He wasn’t bound to get these questions, as much as she would. She was a woman. That was the unfortunate side-effect of her sex.  

 

Making it public would mean they’d get these questions, despite her best attempts at wanting to take it slow, letting them get on organically, without interference.

 

Whatever they had, would be pushed to the brink.

 

She wanted to wait until they were ready, properly ready, and she felt ready for the scrutiny that followed. They’d already had someone taking an interest in their relationship, and then she was forced on leave. There was danger in their being public knowledge, and the danger was for him (she was trying her best to take herself out of this equation).

 

Molly was – terrified – despite her best attempts at keeping it casual that she would scare him away. That other people would. No matter how much she tried to convince herself that she wasn’t, she was, and what others wondered about, would in the end, ultimately be things she wondered about as well, but she didn’t want to push him.

 

Not yet, not if she could help it.

 

Then again, Sherlock gave the impression that he wasn’t even trying to keep it secret, as if he was trying to prove to her that he didn’t mind whatsoever. Showing her, he really did not realize how people were when it came to relationships - they technically had nothing to do with.

 

However, now, because of what Meena had attempted to (and Trevor had kept his mouth shut) – she would do her absolute best to keep it a secret as long as she could.

 

“What are you thinking – the pork or the pasta?” he said when he finally caught up with her.

 

She tried feigning surprise at him appearing by her side, failing miserably, just leaning into whatever dynamic they had.

 

Not the pork,” she said with a crinkle of her nose. “Not when-,”

 

“You’re slicing up human cadavers, no.”

 

Molly smiled at him, giving up, grabbing some pasta and putting it on a tray,

 

“Which bodies do you need?”

 

He looked flummoxed by this, as if she hadn’t caught on already when he’d lowered his voice, like it would appease her even more when approaching her.

 

“…Eddie Van Coon - and Brian Lukis… You changed your hair.”

 

He was trying to distract her, she turned her back to him, eyeing the food with more interest than before.

 

“Can’t have it loose, Sherlock. I’m at work,” she said touching her braid, flinging it off her shoulder and hopefully smacking him with it when she slung it back, still mindful of the queue she was in.  

 

She picked the pasta, and slid a plate on her tray, soon selecting a drink to go with it. He attempted to talk, which prompted her to push the machine that whirred noisily, letting the apple juice flow into a glass.

 

Molly smiled at him, then walked off - “I like it – this - way,” he said, all the swagger he’d displayed when walking into the canteen – vanished.

 

“I’m still eating the pasta – before – I wheel them out,” she said sitting by an empty table, settling down her tray and clipboard.

 

“I’m just having a look at their feet,” he said like it was nothing, standing by her table.

 

It didn’t sound like nothing to her.

 

“Oh – well I did both their autopsies,” she said thoughtfully, checking her clipboard mid-chew, considering something she did find odd. “They both had lotuses tattooed on their heel.” It wasn’t something you found often - matching tattoos, especially on two bodies that were seemingly unconnected.

 

But to each their own, she supposed.

 

He looked like he wanted to kiss her, his eyes twinkling. Clearly, she’d found out exactly what he wanted. “We’ll still need to wheel them out for Detective Dimmock…” he said with a heavy breath, though he drew out the chair opposite hers settling down.

 

“…After the pasta,” she said unwavering, stuffing her fork into her food before plopping it into her mouth.

 

He sat down, and she felt a tiny sliver of victory, except -

 

Molly felt more eyes on them than before.  

 

They’d never manage to keep it up.

 

She’d wanted to give the impression she wasn’t keen on him, but instead, he was sat with her while she had her lunch.

 

Thankfully, he wasn’t eating himself.

 

“John’s started a blog,” he said after a minute of silence, letting her eat, though now she was just furiously shoving the food in her mouth trying to eat as quickly as possible just to get out of the canteen.

“He has?” she said, almost caught off guard by his attempt at safe small talk.

 

Molly had half-hoped he’d fill her in on the case, though, seemingly, he had a need to vent what little grievances he did have.

 

“He wrote about our first case together – A Study in Pink he called it,” he said, a wrinkle between his brows, “Also, he met a girl.” Molly blinked, about to say something in return, before he continued. “I give it a day.”

 

He sounded oddly sure of himself, causing her to laugh.

 

“You’re annoyed,” she pointed out.

 

He’d never been a fan of changes, even if they were a blip on his radar.

 

“I’m not,” he said drawing breath.

 

“You shouldn’t be annoyed,” she said her words laced with meaning, and his eyes narrowed in response.

 

“We’re different,” he said his voice low.

 

We are?”

 

“If he did meet the right girl.”

 

It wasn’t something she expected him to say. Right girl, and all, making her blush. Sherlock noticed, his mouth quirking upwards, and eyes wandering over her face, to her neck, which forced her to pull on her turtle-neck jumper.

 

She had pretended it was due to cold, not because of the massive mark on her neck, then again, he knew.

 

He looked ready to point it out, besides her change of colouring and so she cut him short -

 

“Meena did mention someone who’d suit him.”

 

“She did?” he said blinking, looking rather put-out that she’d talk to him about something so ordinary. He was the one who brought it up first though.

 

“Yes, don’t remember her name though, but she seemed nice,” she said finishing off her food, grateful that she’d managed to eat the most of it under the circumstances.

 

“If you couldn’t bother to remember her name - she might not have been very nice.”

 

“I haven’t met her.”

 

“So – you’re going on description alone?” Sherlock looked rather baffled by this.

 

Molly ignored him and drank up her juice, quickly licking her lips.

 

“So – the bodies?” she said, ignoring how his eyes flickered to her lips.

 


 

 

 “Oh, you can go-,” he said to Dimmock who gave her a brief nod of his head as a way of thanks.  

 

“He was nice,” she said half-heartedly knowing Sherlock’s opinion from the second the pair had entered together.

 

“He’s an idiot. I’ve spent the majority of the case convincing him that I’ve been right this entire time, and he keeps going on about waste of resources.”

 

“Oh,” she said with a tight-lipped smile, clearly a sore spot for him. “He’s convinced now, though.”

 

Sherlock didn’t say anything in return, and she began zipping up the body bags, while he stood there wordlessly, chest heaving.

 

“Someone had to die first, for him to take this seriously.” There was a look on his face, causing her to pause. His eyes were cast down, eyebrows furrowed. “Her name was Soo Lin.”

 

Molly didn’t think – didn’t care – of where they were, or what she’d tried to warn herself from doing – she just grabbed his hand, squeezing it. He responded in kind. She didn’t ask, she really didn’t have to - to know whether or not he was alright about it. He wasn’t. “When I solve the case – I’ll be-,” he began, but he didn’t finish. “ – I should go.”

 

She nodded, not letting go off his hand until she gave it another squeeze.

 

He stared at their entwined hands, his mouth twitching – “I thought we weren’t doing public affection.”

 

She eyed the body-bags, “They’re both dead, so I think we’ll be alright,” she said making him laugh, which made her feel relieved, and she let go of his hand.

 

Sherlock clenched his hand, like he was attempting to savour the feel of her hand in his, but she didn’t ask. She wanted to believe it was one of her sillier ideas, except it rung true in the way he looked at her, like he didn’t want to go.

 

There was a knock on the door, and Mike popped his head in – “Busy?”

 

 “No,” she said shaking her head, eyes briefly on Sherlock. “All done.”

 

Sherlock gave her a nod in return, “I’ll text,” he said like nothing had happened. He was rather good at that when the moment was right.  

 

Mike raised a brow, “How long has this been going on?” walking inside, letting Sherlock pass him.

 

It was a joke, she knew it, and she supposed Sherlock did too. But she also knew he was preferring to be obtuse by default.

 

“16 years and a week, I think. Bye.”

 

He was on his phone, and she could swear he winked in her general direction, the door swinging shut behind him, leaving her to tend with the bewildered expression on Mike’s face by herself.  

 

Thankfully, Mike hadn’t caught on, shaking his head slightly as he was trying to puzzle out what Sherlock meant. “Umm, there’s someone who wants to see you-,” he said – “It’s about whole IT debacle.”

 

She frowned.

 


 

 

When she went to her office, she didn’t expect to see Mycroft Holmes standing in it, hands in his pockets, wearing a posh suit.

 

He did look different, his hair thinner, besides the fact that he looked less of that skinny rake she remembered from back then, but the look suited him.

 

“Oh…hello.”

 

“Molly Hooper,” he said, eyebrow raised. “It’s been a long time.”

 

Molly didn’t know how to greet him, whether by a handshake or a hug.

 

He didn’t really look like the type for either, opting instead to sit behind her desk with the coffee she’d taken the time to fetch - two cups - though she highly suspected the one she put in front of him would stay untouched.

 

“Coffee?”

 

“No, thank you,” he said helping him to a seat in front of her desk. “I was just in the neighbourhood. Thought I’d drop by…”

 

“Are you offering me money to keep an eye on Sherlock?” she said, the words pouring out of her before she could stop herself.

He blinked at that, and she hid her grin behind her mug of coffee, trying to look innocent.

 

“Did John Watson tell you that?”

 

She put down her coffee, “No,” she said. “I think we both know who did.”

 

Mycroft almost gave the air of looking put out that she wasn’t doing what he predicted, though, she wasn’t entirely sure how she was supposed to react at him being in her office.

 

“You wanted to talk about what happened?”

 

“Yes, of course,” he said like the topic wasn’t really on the table. It really did sound like an excuse. “…It was discovered that reason the footage of Jim entering and exiting was gone – was because the one surveying the footage deleted it.”

 

Molly balked, her hand gripping her coffee.

 

“He was being blackmailed – apparently - someone had dug up some dirt on him and applied enough pressure to make him re-think his stance. He was interrogated, but it gave no results. He did not know those who blackmailed him, nor did we find any trace of them either… It’s like they never existed.”

 

“Why are you telling me this?”

 

“Sherlock’s mind needs to be clear. He’s trying to derail him with any emotional tie he has, so-,”

 

“You want me to stop seeing him-,” she said, there was an edge to her voice.

 

Mycroft didn’t reply, eyes fixed on her face.

 

“This will either make or break him. We both know that.”

 

“- And you already know I won’t leave him.”

 

He smiled slightly in return, like he knew beforehand what she would say,

“That’s why I am making it my priority, even, getting my hands dirty to find whoever responsible.”

 

Molly still felt uneasy, though she could see he meant it. Like it was a test on his part to see her reaction, which she hated him for doing, but she wasn’t surprised he was trying to see if she was up to the task.

 

“ –You know of Sally Donovan, I’m sure?”

 

“…Yes?” she said not knowing where this was going.

 

“She has an old friend, or well,” he made a throaty sound. “Her friend seems the likely candidate to find him, and what he wants, whether or not she would make it her priority out of a sense of duty or for own gain, one cannot know, but – could you convince Sally to approach her?”

 

Molly made a face, “I barely know Sally.”

 

“Get to know her, then,” he said like it was an easy feat. “I know people like you – are able.”

 

Molly raised her brows, “You – weren’t?”

 

He stood up from the chair frowning.

 

She smiled there she sat, taking a sip of her coffee while he was heading for the door, “You didn’t mention her friends name?”

 

Mycroft smirked, “Irene Adler…” He paused. “She’s a dominatrix.”

 

Molly just nodded, which made his smirk drop, making her wonder vaguely why. “I suggest you make quick work of it.”

 

She wrote it down on a piece of paper, which she saw Mycroft clearly didn’t approve of. He was probably not used to leaving a paper-trail. Then again, it was on the computer everything had gone wrong.

 

She wasn’t about to start a blog exactly.

 

“It’s so - I won’t forget-,” she said when he eyed the notepad where she’d underlined the word dominatrix, though honestly, she was pulling his leg.

 

He had clearly hoped she’d become uncomfortable, but she didn’t know Sally well-enough to be uncomfortable and knew enough about dominatrix’s because of Meena (who knew her share).

 

 

It was later in the day (‘oh god what time is it really,’ she blinked at the clock) when Sherlock texted her. She’d been spending the last hour trying to figure out the logistics of how she could corner Sally for a chat (not very productive – workwise). Molly wasn’t sure she could muster up the courage to do that yet, so she welcomed the distraction -

 

Would you like to go to the circus? SH

 

Not entirely what she expected.

 

Chapter Text

Some starry night,
When her kisses make you tingle,
She'll hold you tight
And you'll hate yourself for being single.

(Love is) The Tender Trap – Frank Sinatra

 

 

2010, February

 

“You’re wearing a skirt.”

 

Molly immediately looked down, like even she had forgotten that she’d put the skirt on.

 

It wasn’t exactly the sort of greeting she expected with him examining her skirt.  

 

Usually hello would do.

 

Molly felt a mild caress of the cold night air slide against her thin stockings, besides the scratchy wool fabric of her skirt. She tugged at it self-consciously, looking back up at him in bewilderment. “Oh…umm,” she started, her cheeks pink from the cold.

 

When she caught his stare, eyes pinned on said skirt, it didn’t imply that it was the wrong thing to wear.

 

Not at all.

 

She grinned, unable to help herself, distracting him and herself from whatever idea had gotten to his head, “We are going to the circus?”

 

Sherlock’s eyes twinkled against the city lights, wearing that familiar coat of his, and all-black.

 

Molly tried not to think of how distracting he looked, the wind making a disarray of his curls, and how his eyes kept dancing across her like he was studying every stitch on her clothing like he could figure out what sort of knickers she was… Again, steady, she thought to herself, clearing her throat. He’d been too busy to spend the night in a while, or well, it had hardly been a while. Just two nights. He’d been busy, so had she.

 

“Yes,” he said blinking himself into the present, “The Yellow Dragon Circus to be exact.”

 

She started walking besides him, hands in her pocket from the cold. They were there for a case after all, though she probably shouldn’t have worn the skirt, and opted for something functional, but she’d wanted to dress up a little. Sherlock had filled her in on the case over the phone, asking her whether she had any ideas about the sort of book that the smugglers used to impart codes.

 

Tonight, however, his main goal was – “I need to catch a murderer.”

 

“Not your basic circus, then,” she said with a giggle, still feeling oddly light-hearted.

 

“No,” he said, his shoulder nudging hers, as he made a throaty sound. His hand was out and between them, gloveless, his fingers spread. “This is – something – people do?” he said, the expression of utmost innocence on his face. It was as if they’d never held hands before, then again – they’d never done anything remotely affectionate in public, and she wasn’t sure it was such a brilliant idea.

 

He was obviously trying to get her to accept that this was how it was going to be - a constant tug-of-war between the pair of them.

 

He’d implied to her that John wouldn’t read anything in her being there, as he’d personally given the impression that he ‘didn’t do people’.

 

She wanted to protest, really, she did, but she also wanted to hold his hand.

 

Her own was cold, and she’d forgotten to bring gloves (excuses, really).

 

She accepted grudgingly (with a wry smile), his warm hand twitching against hers.

 

Suddenly he stopped walking, causing her to halt in surprise, their hands still entangled.

 

People were milling past them on the busy street, clearly annoyed that they’d stopped in the middle of the street.

 

Molly was about to ask him what he was up to when he pulled her by her hand towards him.

 

She was pressed flush against his front, his other hand sliding behind her back.

 

Now, she knew she should protest, though the corners of his eyes crinkled, as he dipped down to meet her lips.

 

His lips barely brushing hers, almost teasingly really, leaving the mere flicker of a kiss on her lips, like he knew her immediate response was to instantly part her lips, wanting more. He didn’t bridge the gap, his face instead inches away from hers, the corner of his mouth tugging upwards when he whispered – “I like your skirt.”

 

She wrinkled her nose, annoyed that he was getting the better of her, and that her initiating a secret relationship made him want to tease her out in public. The busy street cloaked them from the world at large, but he gave the impression he didn’t want to upset her rules. Sherlock just grinned at her, almost wickedly in return, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking, pressed up against him. “Later,” he said, like a promise.

 

Molly didn’t want to give him the impression she was giving later much thought, whenever later would be.

 

They arrived at the venue, but he didn’t let go of her hand. She spotted John ahead in the queue – a blonde woman at his side – his date, or so, Sherlock had told her. Molly couldn’t help but think it was a bit odd that they were going with them, but they were standing in line. He’d told her that John had the tickets already, so she was a bit surprised, and then a bit ruffled when Sherlock was studiously avoiding her eye. “…We’re crashing their date, aren’t we?” she said in an undertone.

 

“Not at all,” he said confidently.

 

Molly raised a brow in doubt, and he looked at her with a tinge of guilt, squeezing her hand in return.

 

It was when John was standing by the box-office counter that Sherlock began dragging her after him.

 

“Oh, no. I think that’s an error. He booked two,” she heard John say confused by the counter.

 

Sherlock had definitely lied.

 

“And then I phoned back and got one for me and Molly as well,” said Sherlock with a smile, and she’d barely managed to slip her hand out of his.

 

Molly gave them a wave, which faltered ever so slightly when she saw John’s expression of annoyance.

 

John looked pointedly at his date, wordlessly apologising for whatever disaster their evening was turning into. He didn’t seem too shocked to see Sherlock there, despite his flatmate haven’t given him a warning, though, he did look rather surprised to see her.

 

“I’m Sherlock,” he said greeting John’s date with a firm handshake, clearly playing nice.

 

“Sarah,” the woman said with a small smile, a slight stunned expression on her face, quickly directing her attention to John who didn’t know what face to make.

 

Sarah looked nice, like she was a sweet person, which made Molly wonder if this was John’s type.

 

Normal, that was.

 

She never really thought he’d go for normal considering who he lived with.

 

 “Molly,” she said in turn with a grin, trying to look like she knew what was going on, shaking Sarah’s hand.

 

There was a beat.

 

Either pair just standing, loitering by the box office unsure.

 

“Oh, it’s a double date,” said Sarah with a laugh, breaking the silence.

 

Sherlock glanced at Molly knowingly like he’d just sussed out what was wrong with Sarah - the biggest human flaw possible apparently, while Molly gave him a look in return, channelling with all her might ‘be nice’, seeing him thankfully restrain himself, forcing on a smile for the occasion.

 

 

There were no seats in The Yellow Dragon Circus, so, they were standing (unexpected really). It wasn’t the sort of circus she anticipated, then, she hadn’t really expected that this was how she’d end her day - in a circus.

 

She also had a feeling that she was brought along to keep Sarah occupied.

 

When Sarah announced that she was going to the loo, Sherlock looked at her as if saying – isn’t that something women do together? It was irritating that he was right, even if it was just a mere look in her direction, though she felt the implication in his stare.

 

Molly supposed she was here to soften the blow and stood up reluctantly to queue up with Sarah.

 

Without her, she supposed, he’d just be a third wheel.

 

She would have liked to have seen that evening, though it wouldn’t surprise her if she’d begged off properly enough, he’d let her sit home.

 

Molly regretted not being more forceful, though she was curious to see him in his element.

 

“How long have you known Sherlock, then?” said Sarah when they’d been waiting for a little while.

 

“Umm, a few years,” she said not feeling the need to lie, though not outright tell the truth either.

 

Molly wobbled a bit, and hated Sherlock for having given her the idea that Sarah wouldn’t last. The seed had been planted, and now, even she was having a hard time to not examine the woman and wonder if she could stand the test of time, or well, Sherlock. Maybe it was because she seemed normal, though it was hard to tell if someone was offbeat by just appearances (though Sherlock usually knew). Sherlock did enjoy surrounding himself with unusual people. Not that she considered herself odd, though her job wasn’t usually one people liked talking about over dinner. “How long you’ve known John?” she asked trying to continue the conversation.

 

Sarah looked a bit awkward, biting her lip when she was asked, “Met him, umm, a day or two ago.”

 

“Really?”

 

Maybe Sarah wasn’t normal, she thought, then again, it wasn’t very unusual to go out with someone after a few days.  

 

“Yeah – I’m his boss, that’s how we know each other,” Sarah continued.  

 

“Oh…”

 

“He fell asleep at work today, and I wondered why… So here I am…” Sarah laughed nervously.

 

Molly had more questions than previously.

 

“Has he told you what he and Sherlock do?” she said.

 

“No” said Sarah looking at her expectantly.

 

John had clearly not said anything, and she was surprised he didn’t want to seem interesting or slightly dangerous.

 

Molly felt suddenly much more giving than he’d been.

 

He’d clearly wanted to give Sarah the impression that he was normal, or worst-case scenario – he was withholding information because he didn’t expect much to come of their date. Molly didn’t want to make the worst assumptions about John, she didn’t really know him well-enough, but Sherlock was clearly more upfront than he was. Or he was just nervous, and she was reading into things too much. Men were strange, from her own experience.

 

“Umm, Sherlock’s a consulting detective,” she said hoping to clue her into some details.

 

Consulting?”

 

“He solves the cases that the police struggle with – so they consult with him.”

 

“Oh, is that why John’s tired all the time then?”

 

“Yeah, Sherlock has strange working hours. And John’s just recently begun helping him out.”

 

“Hmm, must be hard on your relationship.”

 

She gaped a bit at that, not used to anyone implying they were together – when they were together – it felt nice.

 

Molly laughed a little, “Umm, I’d never get to sleep if he didn’t,” she said, which was supposed to be a joke, though clearly it was too soon.

 

“Right…”

 

Sarah looked like she thought it was a bit much, and now Molly really did hope her, and John wouldn’t work out.

 

“Your turn-,” Molly said distracting her by pointing to the empty stall. Thankful for a moment to clear her head, and not let too many things slip further, as she couldn’t be entirely certain – despite certain tall men that things wouldn’t work out.

 

The conversation went to light small talk after that, which was favourable for both of them. They found Sherlock and John clearly having a row of some kind, or well, a one-sided one, since John was the one shouting, quite loudly – “While I’m trying to get off with Sarah!”

 

John’s face fell at their appearance, while Sherlock looked at her wordlessly, like John was being ridiculous.

 

Molly knew they were here for a case, or well, Sherlock was here for a case.

 

John was here for a date – to get off – while Sarah was the most innocent of the four of them.  

 

Molly just smiled uneasily, trying not to think who she was in that equation.

 

“Ready?” said John putting on an easy smile, letting Sarah take his arm as they found a proper place to stand to see the show.

 

They found a spot near the front, Sherlock at her side, catching her hand briefly, before letting it go when the show started.

 


 

 

“They’ll be back in China by tomorrow,” John sighed.

 

“They won’t leave. Not without finding what they came for. We need to find a hideout – a rendezvous.” Sherlock stared at his wall covered with clues. “Somewhere in this message – it must tell us.” Molly looked around in wonder, it was the first time she’d been inside his flat.

 

“Well. I think maybe I should leave you to it,” said Sarah who was shuffling her feet, her coat still on.

 

Molly had just started to slip out of her coat and began dragging it on sympathetically.

 

She couldn’t stay under the circumstances.

 

The evening hadn’t played out as expected. The show had literally required them to wrestle off some bloke in a full armour struggling on top of Sherlock, while the audience was screaming their head off in surprise, several running as they understood it wasn’t an impromptu part of the circus.

 

John and Sherlock spoke at the same time – “Oh you don’t have to go yet…” - “Molly can stay.”

 

Her eyes flashed in his general direction, causing him to glance down briefly, but a smile was still on her face – to her annoyance.

 

John looked he wanted to knock him down, “He’s kidding. Stay if you like,” which sounded half-hearted, but he was clearly not giving up his date entirely.

 

Sarah didn’t look entirely convinced, though she took off her coat, as if that was incentive enough.

 

Sherlock didn’t look entirely happy, but when she took off her coat, he didn’t look to displeased.

 

Molly regretted not bidding them goodnight, but now, she felt she had to stay. He’d been so bloody obvious it was hardly any point to pretend she didn’t want to stay either, even if she’d hardly be any help. He could at least have pretended he wanted her to leave as well, though she’d probably gotten cross with him even if it were an act.

 

“Is it just me? Or is anyone else starving?” said Sarah with a long sigh.

 

It prompted her to head for what she supposed was the kitchen, though John practically leapt at the opportunity, running ahead of her. Truth be told she just wanted to have a look around, as she’d eaten before she left (she knew how he was like, after all). She wouldn’t mind something to nibble on though – a packet of crisps would do, and it would give her an excuse to have a look. The flat was packed with thing, reminding her of their old flat in a way, except, all of the things were decidedly Sherlock’s. He did like his odd knickknack, either from a case or – her eyes went to the skull by the mantlepiece. It wasn’t real, she could tell, but she wondered vaguely if it was Victor’s. it had been a joke between the two (according to Meena) that if either died, they’d have each other’s skull as a sort of token, but maybe it was a replica of his skull (it did feel like something he would do). Molly entered the kitchen, hanging over John’s shoulder when he opened the fridge – revealing – a lager and some dodgy looking-lemonade. John rolled his eyes, slamming the fridge shut. “Haven’t gotten the shopping done,” he said apologetically.

 

She just smiled, not expecting much, going through the kitchen cupboards instead to find health code violations instead of food. Molly didn’t want to inspect too closely what she saw was a zip-locked bag with something green inside, though she found a jar of olives with mould on them, which looked like they’d fared better than whatever the green thing was. Thankfully, there was a packet of Wotsits, and she found a clean bowl, which felt like a challenge. It had always been less dodgy in their flat, though, she did most of the shopping.

 

John sighed when she emptied the packet into the bowl.

 

“Did he – umm – need a pathologist for this case?” said John causing her to blink in surprise.

 

It was the first time they’d properly spoken, and she wasn’t surprised he asked (really), but that he asked now.

 

“Umm,” she crossed her arms thinking it over. “Honestly, I think he just wanted me to distract Sarah.”

 

John shook his head at that, like it fit with his worldview of things, of how Sherlock was.

 

“…You think Mrs Hudson’s got anything?” he said bringing up his phone, looking for input.

 

“Your landlady?” she said.

 

She’d not really met Mrs Hudson yet, and John just nodded in reply.

 

“Probably?”

 

Whatever Mrs Hudson had was probably better than a half-full bowl of crisps.

 

John smiled, quickly texting on his phone.

 

Mrs Hudson appeared rather quickly, her eyes going to her – “Are you-,”

 

“Molly,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“Nice to meet you dear. Sherlock’s told me all about you.”

 

Molly hoped not.

 

Mrs Hudson didn’t stay long, giving only slight direction, and John walked out with the tray looking a bit more cheerful.

 

She went into the sitting room, thankful to see that Sherlock hadn’t bitten Sarah’s head off for trying to engage in a conversation.

 

“Look. Soo Lin – at the museum – she started to translate the code for us. We didn’t see it,” Sherlock said pointing at a piece of paper.

 

John quickly put away the tray and looked at the paper.  

 

“Nine Mill?” said Sherlock.

 

“Maybe it means millions?”

 

“Nine million quid…For what? We need the end of the sentence.”

 

Sherlock rushed to the door, and Molly pulled on her coat.

 

“Where you going?” said John distractedly.

 

“To the museum. The restoration office – we must have been staring at it.”

 

“What?”

 

“The book, John – the book. The key to cracking the cipher! Soo Lin used it to do this. Whilst you and I were running round the galleries she started to translate the code. The book is in her office!”

 

Molly quickly followed after him, while he tried hailing a cab, though she stood on the pavement, taking him in.

 

It was strange to see him like this, so wrapped in his own thoughts, trying to find the truth of the matter.

 

She knew she could just leave, and he wouldn’t notice her going, while he bumped into tourists and he picked up the book they dropped, her eyes flickering to it briefly frowning.

 

“Sherlock!” she shouted at him, and he whirled his head to look at her, while she jerked her head the book they carried.

 

He’d asked her if she knew of a book everyone could carry and none would be the wiser – and she’d not had a clue – but it was something – anything really - though she could see on his face it wasn’t completely wrong, causing her to grin.

 

He would have got there without her help, but she liked helping, walking off quietly in the dark, letting him figure the rest out without her bothering him.

 

She was surprised when he followed after her – the book in his hand – “A to Z,” he said. “How did you know?”

 

 “It was a guess honestly,” she said standing to look at him. “You should go tell John.”

 

“…I should,” he said looking windswept and breathless.

 

She smiled at him, and then, he kissed her, properly this time.

 

The taste of his lips euphoric, and for a sheer moment it felt like they’d only find endless victories.

 


 

 

She’d made the right choice by leaving early, which, Sarah hadn’t, as she’d more or less had her life threatened (and Sherlock implied she wouldn’t be showing up in the future).

 

Despite last night’s events he wasn’t happy with the conclusion of the case.

 

It felt unfinished, the sort of thing he couldn’t really have an ending to.

 

However, she was unabashedly proud that Sherlock and John had gotten Soo-Lin’s name on the wall of benefactors with the help of an old classmate of his, though Sherlock just let it slip in the conversation, before taking another chippie off her plate during lunch, plopping it into his mouth with a dissatisfied chew.

 

“They’ll just need to pick up another book-,” he said rolling his eyes, before licking his lips.

 

“…You did solve the case,” she said dragging her plate away from him.

 

He narrowed his eyes at that, “You should have stayed.”

 

“To be kidnapped or have my photo taken – as well?”

 

He snorted, “John’s even got a photo up on that blog of his – his name in big bold ugly font – you’d think they’d see the difference between us...” There was a puzzled look on his face. “…It’s strange how they were so intent on catching me, yet, they didn’t, like they knew of me, but weren’t allowed to…”

 

“Sherlock-,” she interrupted, knowing what he was getting at.

 

It scared her, honestly it did.

 

“Hmm?” he said stretching his hand out for another chippie.

 

She let him, giving up.

 

When he ate there was no stopping him, though, she’d have to start grabbing another plate at this rate when he was like this.

 

“– What if they’re not connected – what if-,”

 

“They’re random?” he said, knowing what she was getting at.

 

She nodded a bit sadly, having tried not to see a pattern, but she knew he would. John had his photo taken, repeatedly, though to what end, they weren’t certain.

“People are clever – some criminals are excellent, devious even, but most are - morons.”

 

He said it, rather, disappointed she had to add.

 

Like he hadn’t yet met his match, and she hoped he wouldn’t.

 

“It makes more sense to me that someone is laying out a trail of breadcrumbs-,” he continued with a far-away look on his face.

 

“But what if they’re a trick – like in the fairy tale?”

 

“I’ll be careful.”

 

“Right…” she said with a sigh.

 

“John doesn’t know, if you’re wondering-,” he said distracting her.

 

“Hmm?” she said blinking.

 

“About us,” he followed up with, and she smiled softly. “He seems to be under the impression that I really was trying to distract Sarah.”

 

“Oh,” she said.

 

There was a beat.

 

“Would you ever mistake John for me?”

 

“No,” she said trying to stifle the laugh that crept up.

 

He smirked, “Again, morons.”