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Always Molly

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Despite the emotions that had basically eviscerated her during the phone call with Sherlock, Molly is oddly calm afterwards. She wipes away her tears and clears the counter. At some point, she ends up in bed with Toby curled up against her side. She absently strokes her companion until her hand grows tired.

She does not cry herself to sleep.

She wakes up to the sound of her phone vibrating. The screen casts the room in a soft white glow. A text. It takes her less than a second to decide that she does not care to see who it is from, though she has an idea. She briefly entertains the idea of throwing her phone into the wall. She thinks it might feel good to do that. The thought evaporates when she realizes that she would have to buy a new phone. Over him. Because of him.

Well, that just will not do. This was the whole point wasn’t it? That too many things have been for him, because of him. This was why this whole sordid business was what it was. Oh the many things she had stupidly and unwittingly destroyed because of this man. She turns off her phone and places it safely back on the table. She does have a certain fondness for the device.

She falls back asleep easily.

___

In the morning she plays music and treats herself to a large breakfast. She putters around her kitchen in leggings and a tank (sans bra) with her hair down and large glasses perched on her nose. She takes her time and wonders why she doesn’t do this more often. She loves to cook, to create something with her hands and the shiny tools she has bought over the years to fill her kitchen. 

She really should fucking do things that she likes far more often.

Her phone vibrates. A call this time. She absently glances at her phone when her music is interrupted. Sherlock Holmes. She ignores the call and turns up her music. A stream of texts follows shortly after. She finds it easy to ignore them. She probably should check to make sure none of them are from John. She was due to watch Rosie later. Though, if John knew anything about her, he would know that nothing between her and Sherlock would keep her away from her goddaughter. She gives herself permission to not worry about it for the moment.  

Halfway through breakfast, she comes to the conclusion that it might do her some good to talk to somebody, someone to help her process her life and all the moving parts of it. She spends nearly an hour looking up therapists in her area. She calls to set up an appointment. The woman, miraculously, has an appointment open later that day. One of her clients cancelled. She asks Molly if she would like to stop by. 

Molly laughs. “God, yes.”

___ 

Dr. Taylor is in her late 40s and stunning. Her gaze is insightful and immediately disarming. Molly does not shrink away. She wants to be seen. Fuck, she wants to be seen. She needs it. Dr. Taylor tells her to sit in the arm chair opposite her and makes it a rule that Molly must call her Rachel. After Molly agrees, Rachel simply regards her for a moment. It makes Molly nervous, so she takes time to survey the office.

“Who are you, Molly Hooper?” Rachel asks.

Molly blinks. “…I’m sorry?” 

Rachel smiles. “Who are you?”

Molly is thrown by the question. She is expecting the first question to be about why she was here. She had been (just barely) prepared to answer that question. She struggles to answer this question. Rachel waits patiently.

Molly clears her throat. “Um. I’m a forensic pathologist at St. Bart’s…”

“That’s not who you are.”

Molly pauses. “What?”

“I asked who you are, not what you are.”

Molly frowns. “What’s the difference?”

Rachel leans forward. “Well, one is enduring and the other is normally temporary.”

Interesting. She has never considered that distinction before. She is…intrigued. She leans back in her chair and crosses her legs.

“Say more.” 

Rachel laughs merrily. “Oh, I like you already, Molly Hooper.” 

Molly smirks. “Feelings mutual.” 

Rachel nods. “Good. About this distinction, then. Who you are is permanent. It should be shouldn’t it? What you are is temporary and can be changed with any life event. That’s not very stable is it? You weren’t always a pathologist, but you were always Molly. You will retire one day, so your identity can’t be about what you do for a living. What do you have after it’s gone if that’s the case?” 

You were always Molly.

Molly mulls this over. The logic of it is hard to argue with. There is something about this that is both sensible and profound. She has always been drawn to sensibility.

“That makes sense,” Molly concedes.

“Were you expecting the first question to be about why you’re here?” Rachel asks knowingly.

“Yes.” 

“Most people do. The question I asked is more important.”

“Why?” Molly asks.

“Because most people don’t know the answer to that question and it’s why they come to me.”  

Well, shit. This woman really was rather good.

Molly nods. “I see. So you’re going to help me answer that question?” 

Rachel laughs. “Goodness, no. That’s a bit beyond my abilities as a therapist isn’t it? My job is to help you figure out how to answer that question. Plus, I’m not really convinced that you do not know you are, Molly. My hope is to help you identify why you are afraid of yourself and to get you living out of who you really are. Provided you decide to come back.”

Molly thinks for a moment. She reaches into her bag to turn her phone off as opposed to keeping it on silent. She carelessly tosses it back into her bag and then tosses her bag a few feet away from her. She takes off her shoes and folds her legs under her. Rachel watches her observantly. She wears a small smile as Molly makes herself comfortable. She asks her assistant to bring in two cups of tea.  

“So, Molly, why did you come here today?”

___ 

The next week passes. She goes to work and continues to ponder what she and Rachel talked about. She gets many texts and calls from Sherlock. She sends him one text message: When I want to talk, I will. He does not call or text her after that, though she can imagine given the number of times he has tried to contact her, he still wants to. She is not grateful for the space he gives her because she should not have to be grateful for someone doing something as simple as respecting her space and agency as a person. It is the least he can do.

She has hardly processed all of what the phone call made her feel, what it means. She hears pieces of the story from Lestrade. She can piece together Sherlock’s phone call to her was a part of a larger game that he likely had no control over, which is probably what he has been trying to tell her. Harry is staying at John’s place while John and Sherlock answer an endless barrage of questions about their ordeal. Because of this she does not have to see John as she picks up Rosie and drops her off until a week later. She is dropping Rosie off at John’s, expecting to hand her back over to Harry. John answers the door. He looks haggard, but also lighter in a way that he has not since Mary died. He smiles at her, but seems cautious.

“Thanks for watching her, Molly. You have been such a life saver since…”

“Happy to be a part of her life,” Molly says so that he won’t have to finish his sentence.

He invites her in and asks if she would like a cup of tea. She declines, but helps him get Rosie settled and comfortable. She tells him funny stories about her cute little antics. She can feel him watching her, wanting to say something. She knows he wants to explain what happened, why it happened. She kisses Rosie goodbye. The sweet girl gurgles happily. She kisses John on the cheek as a goodbye. As she is pulling away, he pulls her into a tight hug. It surprises her, but she lets him.

“If this is a pity hug, it is grossly misplaced, John.”

He pulls away and shakes his head. “No. No, Molly. It was a ‘I’m happy that you are alive’ hug. We thought…”

She nods. “I figured. Thanks for doing what you needed to save my life.” 

John hesitates. “It was Sherlock. Sherlock saved your life.” 

Molly smiles indulgently. “Good. He owed me anyway.” 

John seems thrown off by how blasé she is about the whole thing. He regards her curiously. She is not sure what he sees and does not care to ask. She is used to spending an awful lot of time worrying about what people think of her. She finds she has grown exhausted by it. She says goodbye to him and heads off to her Pilates class. 

___

Mycroft shows up at her apartment a few days later. His appearance does little to surprise her. Mycroft had always been concerned with the affairs of his brother. She considers him for a moment. There is something different about him, fragile almost. A normal person would never see it in him, but Molly does.

“Seems like you always show up right as I’ve baked a treat don’t you?” Molly asks coyly.

Mycroft relinquishes a small smile. “So it would seem.”

She crosses her arms and leans against the doorway. He wants to come in. This is not one of his transitory visits. She looks behind him to see a few agents milling around her stairs. She looks back to Mycroft with a smile.

“There is no room for you to be high-handed or vague during this visit, Mycroft. You don’t like it, don’t come in.”

Mycroft appraises her.  “Understood, Dr. Hooper.”

He sits in the same chair he always sits in when he visits. She wonders if Sherlock knows about her ‘sessions’ with Mycroft. She wonders if he knows that somewhere along the way she and Mycroft had developed something approximating friendship, though very reluctantly on his part. She sets Mycroft up with a slice of cake and tea before she takes tea to his agents and tells them to stop looking so suspicious. They reply with a ‘thank you’ and ‘yes ma’am’ and it makes her chuckle. 

When she comes in she finds that Mycroft has already retrieved UNO from one of her drawers and has already dealt. He tells her about Eurus. She can tell that he leaves some pieces out and she can assume it is for Sherlock’s benefit, so that he can tell her himself. She asks him if Sherlock knows that he was planning to talk to her. Sherlock does not, as far as Mycroft knows. She wins the first game and is slightly surprised when he has her deal for a second round. He did lose the first. Leave it to Mycroft to be competitive at a game as simple as UNO. She likes to beat him though. She does nearly every time.

“If you’re here to vindicate your brother, don’t,” she says as Mycroft contemplates what card he wants to play.

“What gave you that impression?"

Molly is unfazed by his subterfuge.

“I am just preemptively discouraging you from doing it should that be the reason you are here. I understand what was at stake. I can appreciate that and respect it.”

Mycroft plays. “You have always been uncommonly bright haven’t you?”

“You see this flat? Didn’t get it by being simple minded.”   

Mycroft smiles. They play another couple of rounds. He seems stunned when she asks how he is doing, though he really shouldn’t be given his knowledge of her. He seems unsure of how to answer. He would be. Mycroft Holmes does not do feelings. Or so he says.

“I am relieved to have the situation resolved,” he says stiffly.  

Molly laughs heartily, even throwing her head back. He seems confused about what could possibly be so funny. She does not let him in on the joke. She offers him another slice of cake and he accepts. They sit in silence for a while and then he bids her adieu. He pauses on his way out. 

“My brother is a better person for you being in his life, Dr. Hooper. I do hope that you two manage to smooth things over.”

Molly laughs again with genuine delight over how simple such intelligent men could be. Mycroft looks at her as if he is categorizing new information about her. She can see him rearranging things in that big brain of his. He nods at some conclusion that he will probably never share with her. She is not particularly motivated to over-explain herself, but she does want one thing to be clear. 

“My silence is not a punishment for him. It’s not about him. That’s the whole point.” 

For a moment, it seems as if Mycroft understands. He bids her goodbye once more and then is gone. She wonders if he will share what she just said with Sherlock. She finds that she does not care one way or the other. It feels a bit like freedom.

___

Weeks pass. In the midst of Sherlock and John remodeling 221b, they go back to solving crimes. She is happy for them. Both seem to be inching towards healing. Sherlock taking on cases means that he has to come to morgue sometimes. The first time she can tell he is unsure of how to navigate the shift in their friendship, the ways it has dissolved. He lingers near the door, watching her with a mix of things she can name and things she can’t. He seems almost confused and she wonders about that briefly. John senses the tension and volunteers to go grab coffee. Molly smiles softly at his obviousness. Sherlock mirrors it. As soon as John is gone, she meets Sherlock’s gaze. 

“I am a professional and a grown woman, Sherlock. Do not tiptoe around me when you’re here for work.” 

He moves closer. “I am well aware of your unimpeachable professionalism, Molly.”

“Lovely. Here’s what I found. It’s rather interesting.” 

She walks him through her report and even comes to conclusions before he does. She thinks she might have seen him smile, but she is not sure. She makes suggestions about the type of suspect he should be looking for. They finish up as John comes back in with coffee. Molly takes hers happily and asks about Rosie. They chat for a bit. 

It occurs to Molly that she is less aware of Sherlock than she normally would be. Sure, she knows that he is in the room, but she is not actually sure what he’s doing. He’s not making very much noise and she refuses to turn away from John as they talk to see. She is normally so cognizant of his movements, yet at the moment she is very present for her conversation with John. 

What a curious thing it is to be unconcerned about him. 

“You’re wearing scrubs,” Sherlock blurts out. 

Molly and John pause in their conversation. Molly looks down at her green scrubs and then at John. He is as confused as she is. They both look at Sherlock curiously. 

“I am.” 

He blinks. “You never wear scrubs.” 

“Good observation,” she teases good naturedly. 

What he does not need to know is that she is wearing scrubs because she has done a pretty intensive overhaul of her wardrobe. She almost hated herself for being so cliché, but after talking to Rachel a few times she realized that she uses clothes to hide, rather to be seen. She was a little old to still be hiding away behind baggy trousers and cherry jumpers wasn’t she? 

No, Sherlock did not need to know that. It had nothing to do with him.

He blinks more rapidly and seems just a tad flustered. She wonders if he even knows why he felt the need to verbalize his thought about her apparel. Normally, she would be expecting a long deduction, but she gets the feeling that Sherlock is not building up to one. 

He clears his throat. “Yes, well. Thank you for your work as always, Molly.” 

She shrugs. “No problem. Good luck with the case, gentlemen.” 

She puts her headphones back in and heads over to put away the body. She has two more autopsies and a fuck ton of paperwork to get done today. She does not see the way that Sherlock looks at her before he leaves. She does not see John looking curiously between the two of them.  

___

They find a new rhythm. None of it feels particularly normal. The typical banter is absent. They do not have dinner and she never helps him on cases outside of the morgue. She finds that she does not miss it. Sure, she misses him. She misses their friendship. She finds, however, that the joy of self-discovery far outweighs the weirdness of not being friends with Sherlock in the same way.

He seems happy with John and Rosie living in Baker Street. It suits them. The pain of Mary’s death has not passed. How could it? Grief was such an enduring process, an all-consuming process at times. She remembers the first year after her father passing. It had been horrendous. She can still barely recall what happened that year. Still she feels the dull ache of his absence. They are all still in the beginning stages of grief. The part where it is still as sharp as a thousand razors and unrelenting. She is grateful for Sherlock and John’s brotherhood. It would be healing for them, as it has always been. Their crime-solving adventures gave them something to do between the moments of silence. She is glad for it.

Still, there seems a part of him that is wrestling against some sort of disquiet. She can see it in the way that he looks at her sometimes while she gives him her analysis of a body. She is not an idiot. She knows that their jagged friendship is hurting him. It is not what he wants. There were times, in the weeks immediately following the phone call, that she wanted to comfort him, to assure him that everything was okay. The trouble is that in order for things to be okay between them, things need to be okay in her. And they were gradually becoming okay. She owes it to herself to allow the process to do it's own thing. 

Sherlock lets her have the space she needs.

___

She joins a book club and makes friends. They hang out at pubs, go to concerts and film festivals, drink wine at each other’s flats until they’ve sometimes had too much. When she has a few days off, she takes herself on mini holidays. She does not date, however. She feels no motivation to. She can confidently say that her disinterest in dating has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes. She had always seen moving on from Sherlock as moving on to another bloke. Now, however, getting on with her life means moving on to herself.

Molly Hooper is happy.

___

She keeps seeing Rachel. She is quite fond of the woman, honestly. They do not talk about Sherlock much. They do not need to. The restlessness of her heart transcends the detective. No, they rarely talk about Sherlock. This is why Molly is surprised when Rachel brings him up. 

“How are things with Sherlock?”

Molly shrugs. “We see each other in passing and for work. Not the same as it used to be, but it can’t really be can it?”

“No, I suppose not. Have you talked about what happened yet?”

Molly shakes her head. “No.”

Rachel watches her for a moment. Molly raises an eyebrow. She waits. She has picked up on Rachel’s cues by now.

“Think it’s time you talked to him?” she asks gently. 

“I don’t think about him much until I see him,” Molly admits with some surprise. “Our lives intersect because we share friends and a goddaughter, but other than that my life feels very separate now.” 

“Do you suppose he is greatly affected by the way your relationship is now?”

“I’m sure he is. He might not be in love with me, but he does care about me, I would imagine,” Molly allows.

“Would it give you closure to talk to him? Not for him, but for you.” 

“I suspect it would. Though other things have seemed more important lately,” Molly muses.

Rachel nods. “Other things have been more important lately. However, this is a part of your healing too, Molly.”

___

The problem with talking to Sherlock is that she has no idea what she wants to say to him. What more is there to say? She is in love with him. Or had been at least. She is hardly sure if that is still true. She does not give herself enough time to think about whether her feelings are the same. Even if she is still in love with him, she is more than a little disenchanted with the idea of being with him and is certainly not moved by her feelings in the same way she was. She knows what his feelings are and are not. So what? She knows, with some details missing, what happened with Eurus. She knows that Sherlock did what he did to save her life.

The phone call acted as both a catalyst and a build-up, the straw that broke the proverbial back. She had never verbalized her feelings for Sherlock and had never planned to because she knew how he felt. She had no expectations of him. All the times she had helped him had never been so that she could leverage it over him to get him to fall in love with her. One does not pick the person they fall in love with and they can’t pick the person they don’t fall in love with. She has always operated under that reality.

Yes, she wants her friend back. She truly does. However, friendship with him will have to come with new rules and boundaries. For so long it had always been about Sherlock and what was good for him. Their friendship was too important for it to be that one-sided, that uneven. Either they figure out a new pattern of friendship or there could be no friendship. The thought of not being with him romantically does not hurt the way it might have once. The thought of never really being his friend again causes an ache in the center of her chest that is as steadfast as it is heavy.  

This a part of your healing too, Molly.

___

He comes into the morgue shortly after her conversation with Rachel. She lets him look at the body while she goes to the lab to grab the reports. When she comes back he is bent over the body with his magnifying glass. He mutters to himself in true Sherlock fashion. She gives him the option of reading the report himself (she does actually have other things to do) or to go over it with her. He politely asks her to stay and give him her own conclusions. She does. He hums in response to some of the things she says. He goes back to look at the body when she is finished. This seems odd to her since he has already looked at it and they just spent a few minutes talking about the report. She lets him be and begins the process of cleaning her tools. 

“Sherlock?” she says without turning around.

 She can tell, even without looking at him, that she has his full attention.

“Molly.”

“I think it would be good if we talked soon.”

She knows that he does not need her to elaborate. She turns to face him. He looks relieved. 

“Yes, I think that would be good.”

She turns back to what she was doing. “Text me when your case is over.”

She gets a text from him no more than twenty-four hours later. She asks him to meet her at Hyde park the following afternoon. She gives him the specific location and then abandons her phone to go for a jog. 

___

Sherlock is already sitting on the bench when she gets there. She is fifteen minutes early. She is still a reasonable distance away so she takes a moment to look at him. She hasn't really looked at him in months, it seems. He looks well. He wears a tailored black suit and white button down. His Belstaff is appropriately absent given the warmness of the day. He is still very much Sherlock and she finds she is glad for this. She knows that he knows that she's there. Sherlock always knows. He looks up and his eyes do a casual sweep. He gives her a small smile. The floral dress, wide brim hat and flats are only appropriate given the weather.

More importantly, the ensemble is just plain cute.

“Molly,” he says by way of greeting.

She nudges his leg with her foot when she is close enough.

“Come on. I’ll buy you an ice lolly. I want to walk,” she says.

He stands up at her beckoning. He walks beside her with his hands in his pockets. Neither of them say anything for the first few minutes. The silence is easy as they lick happily at their treats. She asks about the conclusion of his case. He gives her a brief recap of what he and John had been investigating. She laughs when he tells her about John falling into a pool during the chase. She has not kept up with John’s blog recently as part of her try at separating her life from Sherlock’s, but she might make an exception for this particular case. They continue on in silence for a few more minutes.

“So, you have a sister. How fun,” she says.

Sherlock smirks. “Leave it to me to have a secret sister.”

“Only the Holmes family. Tell me about her.”

Sherlock looks at her. She wonders if he has been waiting for months for her to yell at him angrily. She has no intention of doing so. After a moment he smiles and launches into the story of Sherrinford and his discovery of a number of family secrets. She is heartbroken for him when she learns about Victor Trevor. She smiles when he tells her about visiting his sister and their mutual love for the violin. It does not surprise her in the least.

“She sounds complicated,” Molly offers.

“Is that a euphemism for psychopathic?” he teases.

“Undoubtedly.” 

“Fair enough.”

She simply smiles. They find a bench and sit down. Molly loves the way the sun feels on her skin. The breeze is light. It really is a nice day.

“How have you been, Molly? You seem well. More than well actually.”

Her smile is radiant. “I am well.”

“You look…well."

“I am.”

“You’ve been busy,” Sherlock says watching as people walk past.

“Hm. I suppose so,” Molly concedes. “Perhaps I’ll tell you of some of my adventures later. 

He smiles. “Molly Hooper on adventures. Sounds intriguing."

She supposes she can no longer drag this out, though she had not necessarily been intending to. She has been genuinely curious about Eurus from Sherlock’s perspective. She is happy to have the full story.

She turns to him. “I know why you called me. Why you asked me to say it. Obviously, it all seemed rather callous and nefarious at the time. I understand now.” 

Sherlock looks remorseful. “I did not wish to hurt you. I needed to save your life. You couldn't die...you couldn't.” 

She nods. “Thank you for trying to save my life, despite my life not actually being in danger.” 

He frowns. “Yes, well I was too preoccupied to notice.” 

She shrugs. “You only had three minutes and your friend was in danger. You’re not infallible, Sherlock.” 

He smiles. “That is becoming increasingly clear.” 

“I thought you were having a laugh at my expense. That is why I made you say it to me first. If you were going to ask me to be that vulnerable over a case, over something so stupid, then it was only fair that you had to say it to me and feel the weight of saying something you didn't mean. If I had to hurt, you needed to as well. Seems a bit bitter and foolish on my part in hindsight, but it felt perfectly righteous at the time.”

“You had no reason to believe that I was doing anything other than trying to hurt you, Molly.” 

“That’s the problem though, isn’t it? That my history with you is such that I could believe that you were trying to hurt me, that you were playing a game for your own amusement. That is, at the very least, problematic,” she challenges.

He is contrite. “I have not always been the friend you deserve.” 

“No, you have been far less than that, Sherlock. Far less.”

“Tell me how to fix it,” he implores. 

She looks at him squarely. “Look at me, Sherlock.” 

His eyebrow raises in confusion. “I am looking at you, Molly.”

She gives him a sympathetic smile. 

“No, I mean really look at me. The problem is that you see some things so clearly and still sometimes you see nothing at all. You are far more human than you were when I met you all those years ago. Yet, you still struggle to see people as people, not means to your own end. You always say to John that he sees, but does not observe. I think your problem is that you observe, but you do not always see.” 

He contemplates her words. His blue eyes light up with the promise of a new puzzle to solve.  

“But you see, Molly. You always see.” 

She snorts. “Well, I have not always seen myself. I’m working on that.” 

He knows that there is more she wants to say so he remains silent. She likes this Sherlock Holmes. Patience suits him. 

“We have to get some things straight before we dive back into friendship,” she asserts. 

He nods. “I am all ears, Dr. Hooper.” 

“I am a grown woman. I am a doctor and a scientist. I am actually known in my field for my work and my research. Hell, Sherlock. I make a good amount of money. You’ve seen my flat. I am not some silly girl or a pawn in any of your games or experiments. Ever. I am not at your beck and call. I have a life and my life is important. You will respect that. You might not always know how to do that. That’s fine, I’ll teach you. You are not too old to learn new tricks.”

His lips quirk at her obvious implication of him being both old and a dog. 

“Your addiction is not a game, Sherlock. It should never be a part of any plan to win back any friend. Ever. It is manipulative and stupid. Your plan with Culverton Smith might have had the desired effect, but it was a bloody stupid plan. You are not some superhuman who can decide when he wants to use drugs and when he does not. Drug use is not a strategy to get what you want or think you need, you fucking moron. Don’t ever do that again. You do and we are done. Permanently. Are you listening to me?”

He nods soberly. “I am listening, Molly." 

“Do you hear me?” 

He meets her stare evenly. “I hear you, Molly. I am sorry for all the ways I have hurt you.”

She takes a deep breath and leans back into the bench. She is properly winded from her speech. Sherlock eyes flit over her the way he does sometimes when he's working something out. There is also a certain quality to his look that she cannot properly catalogue. She feels unbothered by it. She said what she wanted to say. She feels light, giddy even. 

“I forgive you. Do you agree to these terms and conditions?” she asks.

Sherlock has a proper laugh at that. “Agreed on all accounts. I can’t very well go through life without you can I?” 

She smiles and holds out her hand. He looks at it for longer than he probably needs to. Instead of shaking it, he picks it up and holds it in his much larger hands. He turns it over a few times as if memorizing it. Then he does something unexpected: he brings it to his lips and kisses her knuckles. The kiss is quick, but firm. He lets her pull her hand away. The look he gives her is soft and affectionate, similar to the one he gave her after their day of solving crimes together.

“Would you believe that I have missed you, Molly Hooper?” 

His question sets something right inside of her. She needed the time she took away from him, but it had been hard to be estranged. Their relationship is mending and that makes her happy.

She smirks. “Of course you have. Who else puts you in your place like I do? You’re a bit of masochist aren’t you? It’s why you like Irene Adler so much.”

Her statement absolutely stuns him. The look on his face makes her laugh in delight. He goes into what she and John call his ‘buffering mode’. 

“It’s rather cliché don’t you think? The stiff and proper detective loving the dominatrix?” 

He still looks nonplussed. She laughs even harder. Eventually he comes out of his reverie. 

“While I can admit to some previous attraction to Irene Adler…” 

“Some and previous? You poor delusional man.”

“…You and John’s understanding of my feelings for her might stretch beyond what they actually are.” 

Molly smiles and pats his knee. He frowns at her hand.

“Honestly, Sherlock, whatever you feel for the woman is your business and your right. I’ll just tease you about it from time to time because it’s fun. That’s what friends do.” 

“Molly, you honestly do not understand…hold on a minute. How do you know as much about her as you so clearly do?”

“I found her to be very lovely. Can never really tell her motives and she was really rather flirty, but I liked her,” Molly says as if it were the most casual thing in the world.    

Sherlock narrows his eyes. “You met her? Details. Now.”

“You observe, but do not see,” Molly repeats ominously. Then she has a nice cackle about it.

“This is ridiculous, Molly Hooper. I want to know.” Sherlock grumbles.

Molly shrugs. “Perhaps later."

She can see Sherlock struggling to put the pieces together. She has no problem leaving him in suspense. She imagines that eventually he will just ask Irene Adler and she will be as vague as Molly is being now. It was all in good fun, honestly.

“You do know I'll just work it out, right?" he pouts. 

“You do love a good mystery don’t you?” Molly sings.

He looks at her as if he can read her mind and get the answers he wants. She gets up and starts walking again. 

“Come on then. I have the night shift. I need a nap.”

He eventually gets up and follows her. He does not ask about Irene again. Molly tells him of her adventures. He listens intently. 

___

They are proper friends again. She goes to Baker Street more often than she did in the months prior. They watch Rosie together at his flat. Sometimes she helps him with a case outside the morgue, though not often. She still maintains a healthy distance. He still uses her flat as a bolt hole provided that he texts or calls first. He is allowed to use the guest bedroom. Sometimes she comes home to find him lying with his eyes closed on her couch with takeaway on the table. Sometimes she eats alone while he is in his Mind Palace. Sometimes he joins her. She makes him watch horror films with her. He likes them even if they are mostly improbable and unrealistic. Of course Sherlock Holmes would have an affinity for gore and terror.

When she has friends over, he has to stay in the guest bedroom if he wants to use her flat. She is quite surprised when he supplies wine for one of her girl’s nights. He says it is because the wine she buys is cheap. She thanks him and reminds him that he either stays in the guest bedroom or goes back to Baker Street. He grudgingly goes into the guest bedroom. At some point he leaves via the window, which she finds out after she goes to check on him after her friends leave. She shrugs at his absence and goes to bed.

Things are good between them. 

____

She only occasionally teases him about Irene Adler. He seems less horrified about it than he did that day in the park. Still, he responds strangely ever time. He just looks at her as if there is something that she is missing and it’s something that he can’t quite put together. She has no idea what. She knows that he does not see Irene, but his feelings for her seem rather clear.  At least they seem clear to her. Complicated and muddy, sure, but real and present. She does not understand the look he gives her. 

It occurs to her one day that he might be worried that it hurts her to bring up Irene Adler. She fears he thinks she brings it up as an attempt to get over him, to make sure things are not complicated. Their talk in the park had been less about the phone call and more about their overall friendship. She had felt no reason to discuss her previous feelings, but she has not been vigilant in dissuading him of any sort of continued existence of those feeling. She brings it up one day as they are taking a walk around Hyde Park. It is a place that they frequent when hanging out. There has been a lapse in their conversation and they are walking comfortably in silence, her hand in the crook of his elbow.

“Sherlock?”

He hums to let her know he hears her. 

“In the park, that day, we never talked about my feelings. About me telling you I love you.” 

There is a slight shift in his body language. He is not tense, per say. He just seems curious and maybe a bit unprepared. This amuses her. 

“I just want you to know that I don’t tease you about Irene Adler in some strange attempt at martyrdom. It doesn’t hurt me talk about her, not that we ever really talk about her. It’s mainly me teasing you…”

“Not mainly, Molly. That is precisely what it is.”

“…I just want you to understand that I have always know that your feelings and my feelings have always had a different quality to them. It’s okay that you are not in love with me. That’s always been okay. You don’t need to apologize for that and I don’t need to apologize for what I felt then.”

“Felt?” Sherlock asks curiously.

She shrugs. “Yes, past tense. Thank God. My point is that I just want you to be happy and I am more than okay with the person who makes you happy, should you ever have a person in that way, not being me. I know It won’t be and I don’t want it to be me. I just wanted to make sure that was out there so that you and I had cleared the air. So that you understand.” 

Sherlock is silent for a moment as they walk. She wonders what he is thinking about.

“You hypothesize that Irene Adler will bring me happiness?”

Another shrug. “Depends on how you define happiness, I suppose. And you don’t need to talk to me about it if you don’t want to. Though you should talk to someone if it’s a thing. I just want us to be clear about us, okay?”

He nods. “Thank you for the clarity, Molly. I do understand.” 

There is something in his voice. She can’t quite place it. The word for it escapes her, but it’s there. She wonders if she has crossed an unspoken boundary by occasionally bringing up Irene. She decides she’ll ask him. 

“Does it bother you when I talk about her? I don’t mean harm. I just like to poke fun at you, but I will stop if you tell me to.” 

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Stop worrying. It's boring, a quality which you most certainly do not posses. You haven’t crossed some line. Have your fun.”

“It is fun,” Molly agrees. 

He gives her a look. She smiles in return. 

“That look is why it’s fun.” 

He ignores her. 

“If I have any issue with it, my issue would lie in some confusion about why you think I love Irene Adler,” Sherlock finishes. 

“Do you love her?”

Sherlock sighs. “I have already stated multiple times that I do not. She is fascinating to me in many ways, intriguing. The feelings she inspires in me are not what I would label as love as I have heard it described or experienced.” 

Molly shrugs. “Then you don’t love her and that’s okay too. You don’t have to love anyone in that way. Nobody is holding you to that.” 

Sherlock looks down the length of the sidewalk. “I am capable of loving in that way.”

He says it almost as if he needs to defend himself. Molly wonders what she said to make him feel like she doubted that. She also is surprised that Sherlock would feel the need to defend that truth. He is a different man now, but his capacity for romantic entanglements has never been something Sherlock Holmes felt the need to convince anyone of.

“Of course you can. You have a great capacity in that heart of yours. If you ever find it, then you find it. We will celebrate that with you. If you never do, then we will still celebrate all the love you already have in your life,” Molly offers.

He hums in response and she decides that there is nothing more to say. He seems to believe what she says about her own feelings and intentions. That is all that really matters to her.

They continue walking in silence. Sherlock is pensive for the rest of the evening. Molly never asks him why.

___

He asks her to accompany him to an event that he must attend for a case. He can bring John, but a) he would rather not and b) knows John would be reluctant to attend. She thinks she might find it fun, the event. That evening is free for her. She can dress up and probably drink champagne. She has a fondness for champagne.

“Depends,” she responds not looking up from her microscope. 

“On what?” Sherlock asks prepared to bargain with her. 

“You have to buy me chips because those events rarely have portion sizes for real adults. I’m going to be starving afterwards, Sherlock.”

He nods. “Done. Anything else?” 

“No, but the chips are important. The chips are everything.” 

“You shall have your chips, Dr. Hooper.” 

She chooses a black dress with a lace top, open back and tulle skirt. She pairs the dress with vibrant red pumps with chunky heels so she does not topple over. She may have been confident, but she was still clumsy as all fuck. Sherlock gives a playfully long whistle when he sees her and compliments her sincerely. He sports all black. His hair is slicked back and he wears glasses. She asks him if they’re fake as he hails a cab and they climb in. They are. Still, it’s a good look for him. She tells him this and asks if Irene has ever seen him in glasses. He pretends he doesn’t hear her. She smiles. He pointedly looks at his phone. She looks out her window, seemingly giving him a break. 

“Has Irene sent you a dirty text?”

“Oh, for the love of God!"

She cracks up. He ignores her for the rest of the ride. She giggles on and off. She has fun at the event. She does get to have her champagne, perhaps more than she needs, and people watch. A few men flirt with her while Sherlock is away sleuthing. She chats them up amicably, but eventually turns them down. She is not interested. There was a certain appeal of being unattached romantically. Her life is loads of fun these days. She and Sherlock end up dancing as he watches people on the dance floor, obviously looking for something in particular. He is a fluid dancer. She surprises him by keeping up. He jokes about it. She laughs good-naturedly and hints at some of her wilder days back in university. 

He buys her chips afterwards. They talk about some movies she has seen recently at a horror film festival. He talks about some of his cases. They talk about Rosie. She finds it amusing that he refers to her as Baby Watson.

“What will you call her when she’s not a baby anymore?” 

“Toddler Watson, of course. Do keep up, Dr. Hooper.” 

Molly laughs. Sherlock looks at her strangely. It's that look he gives her sometimes. She still doesn't have a word for it. It unsettles her. Not always, but sometimes.

“Why do you give me that look?” she asks. 

He frowns. “What look?”

“Like you’re working something out about me. You never say what it is.”

Sherlock shifts his gaze away. “Noticed that have you?”

She rolls her eyes. “It’s not exactly subtle, you git"

“No, I don’t suppose it would be to someone with your observational abilities.” 

She just raises an eyebrow and waits. He pointedly takes a drink of his water. 

“I have been trying to figure something out,” he admits slowly.

“About me?” she asks. 

“Obviously.”

She raises an eyebrow. “You could just ask.” 

His eyes dart around briefly before settling back on her.

“It's not...It's not like that. It is not a question. At least not one that you could answer with any degree of certainty.” 

Oh, this seems interesting. She pushes the chips away and rests her chin in her hand.

“Well, why don’t you tell me what you know so far and we’ll work it out together?” she suggests.

He nods. “Smart plan.”

“Genius, really.”

“Arrogance doesn’t suit you, Molly.”

“Of course it does.” 

His lips quirk. “Indeed.”

“Stop stalling, Sherlock.” 

He sighs and looks around the shop, takes in the people sitting around talking. His eyes land on a couple a few tables away. He watches them laugh and talk as they share a basket of chips. She watches him as he watches them. She finds herself fascinated. His eyes are laser focused when he finally looks back at her. It almost startles her. 

“During that rather unfortunate phone call, I told you I loved you,” he says.

Oh, they were going to talk about this. Again. 

“Yes. You were under duress at the time.” 

He smirks. “Just a tad.”

“I should never have asked you to say it to me,” she says softly. 

He fixes her with a look. “Are you going to brush off everything I intend to say to you?” 

She blinks. “Hadn’t planned to, but I get your point. I’ll be quiet.” 

“Thank you.”

“Welcome.” 

Another look. She motions that her lips are sealed. He rolls his eyes, but smiles. Then his look shifts into something more serious.

“Molly, what if I told you that our roles have been reversed, so to speak?”

She blinks. Once. Twice. Three times. She leans in further as if she has just heard a bit of juicy gossip. 

“Say more.”

He clears his throat. “Right. You see, Molly, I find that I have…developed feelings for you?”

Fuck, I must be really pissed. How much did I have to drink? 

“Are you asking me a question?” Molly asks trying to wrap her head around what’s happening.

He shakes his head. “No. My apologies. It was not meant to be phrased as a question.”

His fingers tap out a rapid rhythm on the table. He maintains eye contact with her, but she can tell that he wants to look away. Sherlock Holmes is way out of his element. She realizes suddenly that she has all the power here. All of her words, movements, looks and actions have so much sway in this moment.  Sherlock Holmes is in the position of vulnerability. 

A role reversal indeed.  

She reaches over and places her hand over his to stop the drumming. She uses her thumb to caress his pointer finger.  He looks down at their hands and closes his eyes.

“No, look at me,” she commands gently.  

He does.

“It’s me you’re talking to remember? You’re safe,” she reminds him.

He smiles. He reverses their hands so that he is the one caressing her slender fingers. He brings her hand to his lips and places a tender kiss on her knuckles the way he did in the park when they had talked after all those months. He places her hand back on her side of the table and she understands that he wants her to have complete autonomy in this moment. She appreciates that. She rests her chin back in her hand.

“So?”

“It seems that I have fallen for you, as they say. The proverbial they, of course. I have yet to be informed of who they are.”

She smiles. “Nobody knows who they are. When did you realize you felt this way?” she asks lightly.

He looks thoughtful. “It is fair to say that these feelings developed long before I had words for them, which is rather surprising given that I know many words. I didn’t have proper context for the feeling though. It was and still is rather confusing for me.”

“I can understand that. Would you like to describe to me what it feels like?” 

He seems surprised by her suggestion and her reaction, how calm she is about it all. She is of the opinion that he is also thankful. 

“It is like a case that never ends. There is always new information I’m presented with to process, to make sense of and a lot of the time I can’t. I do not mean it in a way that objectifies you or turns you into anything less than a whole person. When I am not with you, I think about you constantly. When I am with you, I struggle to find any motivation to leave you. I understand staring to be quite uncomfortable for most people, but I have trouble keeping my eyes off you, Molly. You have taken over every room in my mind palace. Every single room. You have even inhabited Mycroft's room, Molly. Mycroft’s room!”

Molly laughs. “You gave him an entire room?”

Sherlock sighs theatrically. “There is much to Mycroft, though he seems so simple.”

“Indeed there is,” Molly agrees.

Sherlock looks at her curiously. She can see him working it out. She waves him off.

“Sorry, keep going.”

He continues to watch her. She takes a sip of her drink. His eyes narrow.

"You spend time with Mycroft?" he asks incredulously.

"I find him fun."

"Does he show up after you've baked something?"

“Weren’t you trying to tell me something?” Molly reminds him.

Sherlock studies her.

"You are dangerous, Molly Hooper."

Molly snaps her fingers. "Back to the issue at hand."

"You would make the most fascinating criminal mastermind..."

"Sherlock!"

“Right. Yes. Where was I?”

“Your emotions?”

“Yes, of course. My point is, Molly, that my feelings for you greatly extend beyond friendship and I have no idea what to do,” Sherlock finishes. 

He appears both exhausted by his revelation and relieved. Molly is still struggling to comprehend everything that he is saying. She can hardly believe that they are even having this conversation at all. 

“What would you like to do, Sherlock?”

“John told me once that I should get a piece of what he had,” Sherlock says with a wistful smile. 

Molly is confused. “And what is that?”

“He had Mary.”

Oh. Oh, of course. She nods. She understands and her heart breaks in a way that she could hardly have expected. In what world could it be true that Molly Hooper has abandoned her feelings for Sherlock right as he is falling in love with her? She takes a deep breath and meets his eyes. His gaze is understanding and kinder than she can take. She is stunned that she has to work hard to not tear up.

“I know that your feelings for me have changed,” Sherlock acknowledges softly.

 She exhales. “You have terrible timing, Sherlock.”   

“A fact. I do not wish to cause you distress. I have no expectations. I am content to have you in my life as just a friend. However, it feels inappropriate to allow you to misinterpret my relationship with Irene Adler. The feelings that you perceive to be for her are actually for you. And since you were forced to say something to me that you never intended to, it is only fair that I am willingly honest with you.”

“Well, fuck me,” Molly breathes.

“Not the way I would have phrased it initially, but all you would have to do is ask,” Sherlock jokes. 

Molly looks at him disbelievingly before she bursts into laughter. They laugh together and draw the attention of the other patrons. Molly and Sherlock are wholly indifferent to their glares. They continue laughing for several minutes.

“This makes no sense,” Molly says trying to catch her breath.

“It baffles me too.” 

Molly leans back and runs a hand through her hair. She looks at Sherlock and is thrown off by his look of tenderness. He holds his hand out. She looks at it for a moment before taking it. He holds it gently, tracing her palm with his finger.

“You have all the power here, Molly. If you need space, then you are free to take it. Whatever you need and whatever you want to do is what we’ll do,” Sherlock assures her.

She shakes her head. “I don’t want you out of my life. Not again.”

He lifts her palm to his lips. “It is not my preference either, but I will oblige you anything.”

Her head is swimming. The past year has been all about leaning into her own identity and extricating her life from Sherlock’s. She loves him dearly. Of course she does. How can she ever not love him? There was a time where she was undeniably in love with him. She is not sure if that is still true. Even if she is, she feels wholly disconnected from those feelings right now. 

“You can tell me what you’re thinking,” Sherlock prods.

“I’m thinking that I love you. I do.” Molly sighs. 

“But you are not in love with me.”

She meets his eyes. “Everything is different now. I’m different.”

He nods. “I understand.”

She smiles. “Thank you."

“It is the very least of what I owe you, Molly.”

He pays for their food and offers her his arm. She takes it and they walk to her flat. The silence is not awkward, but it is heavy. Both are contemplative. Molly wonders about his own thoughts and feelings in the moment. He glances at her periodically, yet never says anything. Molly pauses abruptly when they arrive at her flat.

“Hold on. What about the case?” she inquires.

He blinks at her. “Honestly, Molly. I solved it before we even left the venue. Lestrade arrested the woman over an hour ago.” 

She hits him. “Why didn’t you tell me that?” 

He eyes her. “One, you never asked about it…”

“Fair point.” 

“Two, clearly the time spent with you was more important to me than the case. Plus, it was only a five."

“Ah.”

“Yep.”  

She frowns at him. He leans down and kisses her cheek.

“Thank you for your help this evening."

She gives a mock bow. “Happy to help.”

“Goodnight, Molly,” he says and begins to walk away. She watches him for a few moments. 

“Sherlock,” she calls after him.

He turns to her. She walks to him.

“I feel so disconnected from the feelings I had for you. The ones I have had for years. This all feels surreal, honestly. Give me time to figure out what I’m feeling. In the meantime, I don’t see why this needs to be a closed door for us. What if we left it open and see what happens? I would be okay with that if you are okay with waiting even though you don’t know what you’re waiting for.”

He regards her with great fondness and reverence. It is not a look she has seen Sherlock give to many things.

“Please understand this, Molly. The sway you so clearly exert over my heart---and mind palace, for that matter--- is in no way transitory. Though, you may be tempted to believe otherwise. I can wait.”

She beams at him and he returns her smile. He kisses her cheek once more, before he strolls away. She giggles when she hears him humming an upbeat tune that sounds suspiciously like Beyoncé. He turns to give her a wink before disappearing around the corner. She shakes her head.

She stands on her sidewalk for nearly ten minutes after he is gone. She dissolves into laughter at the sheer absurdity of it all. She sends a text.

You know Beyoncé? – MH

His response is almost immediate.

I have been told she is the Queen. Queen of what exactly? – SH 

Everything. Don’t you know that girls run the world? – MH

What regal qualities does she possess? Catchy lyrics and tempo cannot be a qualifier. – SH

Molly wonders if it is Mrs. Hudson or John that listens to Beyoncé. Her money is definitely on John. 

She is brilliant, beautiful, and fierce– MH 

And that makes her the Queen? Can there be more than one? – SH  

Molly laughs. Leave it to Sherlock to be critical on whether or not one can qualify as a queen. 

1) Indisputably. 2) Yes. -  MH  

There is a lag in his response and Molly expects a long explanation about why those characteristics are not nearly enough to declare someone royalty. He surprises her. Fuck, he keeps surprising her.

Then I suggest you start wearing a crown, Molly Hooper. – SH