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Disclaimer: This fan fiction is not written for profit and no infringement of copyright is intended.


Molly opens the door to her flat with rather more… oomph than Sherlock feels the task deserves.

Considering the way she slams it into the wall behind it as she does so, he can't help but feel that her next door neighbour would probably agree.

Once inside she stalks towards her bedroom, pausing at her own door to reach down and take off her (impossibly, ridiculously, delightfully) high heels before marching inside and closing the door behind her with another sharp bang.

She says not a word as she does so, but then she hasn't said a work since they got in the taxi to come here.

She'd been oddly quiet during the latter half of their first date too, though as to why, Sherlock could not possibly guess.

He wavers in her front room, wondering whether he should go or whether he should ask her what's wrong- He really has no idea what could be. Before he can decide however she walks back into the sitting room, looking slightly ridiculous in her dark blue party dress and a pair of fluffy green Yoda slippers. She's also wearing her glasses, her eyes owlish and huge behind the frames.

Rather than get caught admiring that sight, his eyes drop to the offending footwear.

Before he can say anything however she interrupts with a short, sharp, "Don't."

Sherlock looks up at her, cocks an eyebrow. "Don't ask about those,"- he gestures to her feet- "Or don't ask about this?" He gestures to her and to him. To the tension between them.

She sighs. Apparently she understands what he's really asking.

"Don't slag off the slippers," she says, her tone pained. She's looking at him, hard, her features set into a frown.

Sherlock doesn't like it when Molly frowns. He just doesn't know what to do about it.

Silence reigns for a moment and then she sighs, walks over to the nearest chair- her sofa- and sits down on it. She folds her legs in against her chest, the effect making her look small. Vulnerable.

The expression on her face matches it.

At the sight Sherlock feels a most unexpected, most unfortunate pang, the sort which he had previously associated with Mrs. Hudson or John being upset, not with her. It is quite unpleasant and he'd like it to go away but it won't. He know it won't.

It never does, it seems, with Molly.

So, not knowing what to do he sits down on the chair opposite, waits for her to say something. (He really hopes she'll say something). After a moment she sighs, shakes her head. She looks up at him and this time she looks like she's… Like she's trying to gather her strength for a specific and difficult task. Previous experience makes him doubt it will be for something good but he still stays.

He'd promised himself, after he saved her from Moriarty, that for her he'd always stay.

Maybe she expected him to speak, or maybe she's still just angry, but again she sighs. This time there's a definite edge to it.

"Oh for God's sake, Molly," he snaps, not really able to take any more of this silence. "Whatever it is you want to argue about, yell at me and get it over with."

"I'm not going to yell," she says, and where his voice was angry and loud, hers is quiet. Unhappy. It sounds almost hopeless. "I just need to…" She takes a deep, bracing breath, the words said more to herself than to him. "I just need to get this- to get through this."

When she looks at him, her expression is so… sad.

His hand lifts instinctively, wanting to touch her but at the last minute he stops himself.

He's not sure whether he's… allowed to, when she's like this.

Besides, she's finally speaking. "Sherlock," she says, her voice quiet and tight. "When you asked me out tonight, was it for a case?"

He blinks at her, surprised. He honestly did not see that coming. "No," he says, and he hates how unsure, how defensive his tone is. He hates how much fear there is in it, all because his wayward bloody heart decided to give a toss what Molly Hooper thinks. But still-

"No," he repeats, voice stronger. "Why would you think that?"

"I don't know," she says quietly. "Because of how you've been acting?"

He glowers at her, really affronted now. "And how have I been acting?"

Her mouth turns downward, unhappiness moving through her expression. She curls in on herself more, picking nervously at the fabric of her dress.

"Not at all like yourself," she mumbles. "You've, you've been all… You're being nice to everyone. And friendly."

He cocks an eyebrow at her. "Oughtn't I to be?" he asks and his tone positively drips sarcasm.

He expects her to wince- the old Molly would have- but instead she stares at him. Cocks an eyebrow in return.

"No," she says sharply. "No, you oughtn't. You ought to, to-"

"To what?" He's really losing his patience with this conversation now. "What ought I do?"

"You ought to be yourself, you pillock!" The words are snapped loudly and they sound like they've been expelled out of her in one loud whoosh of breath. The same breath propels her from the chair, sets her pacing, eyes flashing with an anxiety he doubts has spontaneously made itself felt just in this moment.

No, she's been anxious about this, he realises, for quite some time.

"You- You were being all oily, and false and nicey-nice all night and that's not what you're like," she snaps. She gesticulates sharply as she speaks, the words tumbling one over the other so quickly that he for once has trouble keeping up. "It felt… It felt like you were playing a part, like when, when you want something from someone and you decide to charm them. Like-"

She stops dead but Sherlock hears it anyway.

The words she wants to say but wouldn't.

"Like when I used to charm you," he says and she nods, her expression turning confused and stricken and so, so frustrated with herself. Tears well up, magnified by her glasses, and suddenly he doesn't know what happened or even how it happened but he's opened his arms and she's wrapped herself around him. She squeezes him so tightly he thinks he should probably have his ribs checked once he leaves.

And then he's hushing her, telling her it will be alright. Telling her that everything is ok now, that it's alright because he's here. It's utter bollicks he's mumbling but he doesn't care, he needs to say it. Needs to say it to her-

For a few minutes they just stay locked together and then Molly stills, pulls her head back to look at him.

Her expression is embarrassed, eyes shy and it's been a long time since she looked at him like that.

"I'm sorry," she says quietly. She shakes her head to herself, lays her forehead against his chest. "I should have asked you early on in the night, instead of letting it fester and getting worked up."

Her arms tighten around him as if she's afraid he'll pull away.

"I just… I wanted to go out with you," she says quietly. "Not some weird version of you that you trot out because you want something-"

"I did want something." He says the words to her crown, her cheeks cradled in his hands. He can feel they're wet from her tears and he hates that. "I wanted you to have a good time," he says quietly. "I wanted you- I wanted you to know I wasn't going to, you know, do something Not Good…"

And he pauses, presses a kiss to her hair.

She tips her head back to look at him.

"So you did all that for me?" she asks faintly and he nods. He knows that should make her happy- what woman wouldn't want to know he was willing to make such an effort for them?- but she doesn't look happy.

Oh no, she looks ever so slightly horrified.

"Did I make you think you had to do all that?" she asks. "The theatre tickets and the dinner at the impossible restaurant and the car to pick us up? Is that what I made you think I wanted?"

Sherlock frowns, slightly bewildered by her confusion. Her discomfort. "You didn't make me think you wanted them, Molly," he says. "I just, well, I just assumed that you would. I mean, when a man takes a woman out he wants to show her how much time and effort he's willing to put into amusing her-"

She laughs at that, a disbelieving bark that sounds utterly wrong on her and then she shakes her head again, presses a finger to his mouth.

He trails off uncertainly, his frown matching hers, as she reaches up and presses a small, chaste kiss to his lips.

"Sherlock, I'm not interested in those things," she says quietly. "I'd have been happy with a bag of chips and a walk through the park, if it was a bag of chips and a walk through the park with you. I mean, yes, I'm interested in the theatre, and I like a good meal as much as the next woman, but not if going to them means you think you have to act like someone you're not."

His frown gets worse. He doesn't understand and he hates not understanding. "But you're always telling me to be nicer-"

"And I long ago accepted that it probably wouldn't happen."

Again he looks affronted but she ploughs on.

"I mean, yes, it's nice when you're not insulting people. It's really nice when you're not insulting me. I will never, ever regret starting to stand up to you after I helped you fake your death. But that doesn't mean you have to pretend to be someone you're not- You're more than capable of being wonderful company by being yourself."

She frowns, looks down.

"Nice Actual Sherlock is a helluva lot more pleasant than Nice Pretending Sherlock- I've had enough of him to last me a lifetime, thanks."

She bites her lip, her cheeks staining red and in that moment, he sees it. It's not as if a light bulb goes off inside his head or any of that rubbish; He rarely has flashes of insight into people, just the things they do. But still, Sherlock hears the chagrin in her voice, replays the night from her point of view instead of the assumptions he'd made about her. Hears the worry and the wariness of all those years in which he'd treated her so shabbily, all writ plain on her face.

Oh, he thinks.

Oh, bugger.

And the irony is, he hadn't wanted to hurt her, not at all: He'd incorporated a lot of the material he'd gleaned to use on Janine into tonight precisely because he'd wanted to show her how much of an effort he felt her to be worth. He'd wanted to deal with her the way a woman who values herself apparently expects to be treated.

And yet, judging by her tears, and her discomfort, and the fact that they were even having to have this conversation, he had done nothing all night but make her nervous and uncomfortable, the same things he'd always done. And he hadn't even noticed; She'd had to get so angry with him that she'd nearly wrecked her front door before the proverbial penny dropped. For a moment he feels panic rear up in him, discomfort too. They're the same cloying, clawing villains who haunted his teenaged years, his attempts to make friends, and as usual they're whispering about what he's lacking. What he can't do.

They are, as ever, tediously predictable in their distaste.

He squeezes his eyes shut, forces himself to breathe and thus rout them and when he does so he once again feels the press of Molly's lips against his own.

Her nose nudges his and it feels wonderful.

"There, there," she murmurs when she pulls away and the words should sound ridiculous- juvenile- but they don't. Not coming from her. "There, there, darling," she whispers. "It's ok, I'm here. I have you."

"Wasn't I just comforting you?" he asks, a small, wan smile tugging at his lip.

"I think the point of being in a relationship is that we comfort one another," she says and he smiles more widely at that because he knows that's true.

A beat of silence stretches out as he looks at her, as she looks at him.

They both take a deep, calming breath at precisely the same time.

"So- Bottom line is, be myself and talk to you about what you want instead of just assuming?" he asks.

She smiles, nods. This time the kiss she presses to his mouth is warmer. More wicked.

It's a lot more akin to their first one, one week ago on Tuesday when he'd come to in the hospital and realised she was truly safe and sound.

"And if you're unsure, or you don't want to do something then tell me, Sherlock," she's saying. "I don't ever want you to feel like you have to be something you're not for me."

This time his smile is brighter. Sharper. He stares down into those brown eyes and he likes what he sees.

He likes it so, so much and he can't believe it took him so long to admit it to himself.

"I promise," he says quietly. "If you promise too: No waiting to get angry with me. No letting it build up inside. Jump right to the yelling at me bit and leave out the middle man, ok?"

"Ok." She nods, chagrined. Smiles in return. "We're both sort of idiots at this, aren't we?" she says and he has to laugh.

"Bloody right," he says and he wraps his arms around her, pulls her close.

This time when he kisses her he feels it all the way down to the soles of his feet.

Sherlock knows this won't be their last disagreement, not even close. He also knows that this whole being-himself-even-when-it's-a-bit-daunting thing will take some getting used to. And that he is probably going to spectacularly cock things up at least once. But as Molly takes his hand and pulls him towards her bedroom- "I'm making no promises," she murmurs, "but let's see how far we get,"- he can't help the warm feeling in his chest. The relief. The joy of it.

He can't seem to stop smiling, though he knows he looks like an idiot when he does.

Fortunately however he refrains from telling Molly that he thinks she looks the same.