Sally calls him 'freak' while standing guard outside his hospital room and Molly's head is muddled enough that she forgets to be shy and says, "Don't. Don't call him that."
Sally turns her head sharply, hand at her gun, which is when Molly realises that she's one of the police officers. There are lots of them around Sherlock, more at the moment, and Molly doesn't know them all. (Sally will claim later that they have met before, though Molly doesn't remember that.) Sally smiles at her and says, "Don't worry, love. He's called me worse."
Molly doesn't quite smile back, but for the first time since the phone call, she thinks it might be okay to take a moment and breathe.
They find themselves in the hospital canteen, Molly holding tightly onto a polystyrene cup of too-weak tea and Sally wincing at the taste of bad coffee. Sally taps the plastic surface of the table. It's their third shared break now, and they still haven't said much.
Sally says, "Don't you have anywhere better to be?"
"It's my job to be here. Lestrade wants a statement out of the freak as soon as he wakes up. What's your excuse?"
"He's… I work with him. Sometimes. In the morgue. At Barts."
"Ah," Sally says. "It's like that then. You know he doesn't-."
"Yes," Molly interrupts, too quickly to be casual. "I do, yes. But he's still… I don't want anything to happen to him."
Sally sighs and leans back in the chair. "He's Sherlock bloody Holmes. Things are never done happening to him."
"I just mean…"
Sally traps Molly's twisting hands under her own. "I know what you mean. He'll be fine. He's like that. He'll be fine."
"I thought you didn't like him."
"I don't like him," Sally says, as though nothing could be simpler. "I don't want him dead. He'd be far harder to piss off then."
Molly doesn't know what it would be like to rate her interactions with Sherlock based on how annoyed he becomes, rather than how much upset she avoids. She suspects, though, that it might be more fun than her way of dealing with him. She feels bad about that almost instantly – Sherlock still hasn't woken up – but the thought stays at the back of her mind.
Sherlock and John wake up within three hours of each other. Molly goes home.
John had been carefully, almost embarrassingly, sorry for her, explaining what had happened. Who she had brought to see Sherlock that day. Molly had just nodded, not able to say anything.
She wishes she had been nicer to John, when she was in the lab that day. It had been petty, and she's not petty, but he doesn't know what it's like to work so hard for Sherlock's attention and still not get it. She's good – really good – at what she does, and he's never looked twice at her. But that doesn't feel like a good enough reason now. John had asked for Sherlock the moment he woke up.
Molly's phone rings and she answers, expecting her brother. "Hello?"
"Molly? It's Sally Donovan."
"Oh. Do you need my- should I not have left? Do you need a statement? I really didn't-."
"Sorry. What can I do?"
Sally laughs. "We'll take a statement, yeah. But not today. Do you want to grab a drink? Now that we can both leave the hospital and all."
"Oh. Um. Yes, I think. Yes, that would be nice."
Which is how they end up in a pub, roughly half-way between Barts and Scotland Yard, knees brushing at the corner table.
Molly coughs. "So the last man who asked me out just wanted to get to Sherlock Holmes. Which I suppose means Sherlock wasn't totally wrong. Jim was more interested in men." She giggles and it makes her chest hurt.
Sally looks at her. "See. Freaks, both of them. Too busy staring into each other's crazy eyes to see what's right in front of them." She smiles at Molly and pretends not to notice that she's sniffling.
Molly says, "Why doesn't he- why doesn't he get to you?"
Sally tilts her head. "You're kidding, right? Or do you mean why don't I join the fan-club? I think I'll leave that to our poor doctor, if that's all right."
"John was going to- he would have died. For Sherlock. I don't know if I…"
Sally shrugs. "Not your job. Watson's a soldier, and even if he wasn't he's head-over-heels for him."
"You would have done it," Molly says.
Sally shrugs again. "Maybe. He's a civilian, mostly, and I'm a cop. I'dve tried to make him safe, if I could do it. But you're not, so don't beat yourself up about it."
"He used me to-."
"To get a look at Sherlock, yeah. That was all. He would have done the rest anyway. Like I said: freaks. Psychopaths, or sociopaths or whatever. You want another drink?" She touches Molly's shoulder when she stands, pushing the hair back.
Molly looks up and nods. "Yes, thanks. That'd be nice."
They make it to a restaurant the next time, when Sally has a free evening and Molly isn't working nights.
They get the whole way to dessert without mentioning him. Then there's a shout from the table opposite, and three people where there should be two. An affair, suddenly very public.
Sally gets up, in case she needs to step in, but it ends in somewhat quieter recriminations and tears. She sits back down. Sally says, "The first time I met him – Sherlock Holmes – you know what happened?"
Molly doesn't, of course, and she wants to. Wants to know what made Sally so casually dismissive of Sherlock from the start when it had taken Molly this long to realise that he's not worth her chasing. She says, "No. What?"
"Our first crime scene. DI Lestrade called him in, this was, oh four years ago now. I'd just transferred. Freak waltzes into the scene, spouting nonsense about everything but the bloody murder, and then he turns to me. Asks me whether I'm in the habit of sleeping with married superiors, or is this a one-time thing."
Molly sighs. "He doesn't really- you know, when he does that."
"No," Sally says, "see, I think he knows just what he's doing. Like I really needed that following me around. Not like there's enough of a boys club in there without words like homewrecker and slut following you around. No matter that he was the goddamn married one and he'd told me they were fucking separated. No, cause I should've known he was lying. That's what Sherlock would say, isn't it?"
"He doesn't-." Molly tries again, helplessly. "Doesn't really get the way it matters, to other people."
"If he didn't then," Sally says, "he does now. Maybe he's just learned enough that he knows it winds me up. But he knows what to say – he always knows what to say – to upset people. To get inside their head and under their skin. He even knows how to flatter, the little snake. And he knows better than to piss off Watson too much. Knows he's got a good thing there."
Molly wants to defend him but she can't quite get the sound of his voice out of her head, sweeter than usual, complimenting her hair and then asking a favour. It's not his- it's not his fault, he doesn't think the way other people do. But he does know what he's doing when he lies.
Molly says, "First time I saw him, I think he thought I was the cleaner. He asked me where the bleaches were kept. Suppose that should've been a hint, really."
"You didn't take it, though."
"No. He distracted me."
Sally raises her eyebrow.
Molly doesn't mean to laugh but it's funny now. "Well, you see. He was really annoyed at having gotten it wrong." She covers her mouth but Sally has started laughing too. Now they're both laughing.
They watch CSI together, which lets Sally shout at the police parts and Molly throw things at the lab parts.
During the break, Molly makes the tea and asks, "Did you always want to be a police officer?"
Sally lies back on the sofa to look at her upside down, through the door into the kitchen. "You mean do I have some deep-seated childhood trauma? TV back-story? Nah, nothing like that. But yes, it's what I always wanted." She pauses for a moment. "I might have wanted to be a dancer or something when I was in primary school. But mostly I wanted this. Find the bad-guys, save the good-guys, do the job. Why? What did you want?"
Molly stirs the tea. "This."
"Can't imagine a six-year-old wanting to cut up bodies, somehow."
Molly stirs a little harder. "No, really. This. Maybe not in all of the details, but… this. Mum always thought- a doctor, she thought. She never said, but that was what she meant."
Sally comes to stand beside her, and lifts one of the cups. "Yeah? And what about you?"
Molly screws up her nose. "No. Never. I'm a scientist. I mean, of course, when I was little it wasn't all bodies. It was… you know, Marie Curie, Dorothy Hodgkin. I wanted to find something out. Something new, you know." She shrugs.
"Cut up bodies? It probably sounds silly. I liked that it was clean. It makes… makes sense out of- they come in to me in such a mess. Blood and bones and tangled up. I put them back together and find out what happened. It's a little bit like what you do. Maybe. If that isn't too-."
Sally rests her hand on Molly's shoulder. "It's not. I get what you mean." She rubs Molly's arm through her shirt. The cat comes to scratch at the door and Sally jumps away.
"It's okay," Molly says. "It's just us and the cat. He's Toby. Or are you not a cat person?"
Sally looks Toby pretend-seriously. "I wasn't. I'm sure I can learn to deal with him." She laughs. "Molly, you're so-."
"I know, I know, I'm a cliché. Turned thirty one and bought a cat." She looks down into the cup of tea.
Sally's voice comes from knee level. She's stroking Toby's head. "There are worse coping methods," she says.
This is true. There are inappropriate men and very late sexual identity crises, alcohol, drugs, dangerous sexual practices and everything else that occasionally lands a person in her morgue. "Yes," Molly agrees. "There are better ones too."
Sally stands up, slowly. "Yeah," she says. "I guess there are." Her hand settles on the side of Molly's face. "Just so we're clear," she says, "this is me asking."
Molly smiles. "This is me saying yes."
If it was a story, Sally would effortlessly slide her hand through Molly's hair and step towards her, bringing them together. If this was a story, Molly would walk them backwards to the sofa, pulling Sally down on top of her.
As it is, Sally gets tangled in Molly's pony-tail, and tugs a little too hard. She presses their first proper kiss to Molly's temple, apologising for the 'ow' Molly had tried to swallow up.
Molly has to feel behind her for the doorframe and steers them awkwardly around the coffee-table. But they make it to the sofa eventually.
It's not a story. Not like boy meets girl because they're both in the office late and boy is the right shape of distraction. Or boy genius meets girl pathologist and they make a movie-script ending. Sally kneels over Molly and slides her hands down to the waistband of her jeans.
That's about as far as they get, that time. This isn't a story. They don't need to rush. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be something they make happen themselves.
Molly is writing up her last set of notes for the last case of the day when Sherlock limps in. She looks at him and waits for it. Waits for the part that is more than simple warmth, admiration for his mind and a bit of concern that he shouldn't be walking on that leg unaided yet.
John comes in behind him. Molly waves with her free hand. "Hello. How's Sarah?"
"Fine," John says, after a blink. "She's fine. She said something about yoga?"
"Oh, of course, I forgot all about- tell her I'll give her a call at the weekend. Sorry, I've been so busy this week."
"I'm sure it's no problem." John smiles at her. His face is still bruised.
Sherlock says, "I need an arm."
"Attached or unattached?" Molly always likes to check, since that time he made off with a leg without telling any one. She signs them out for him herself now.
He shrugs. "Musculature of the wrist. Everything else is immaterial."
"Try Walsh. She should have something. You can use the space in here, I'm off for the night."
He blinks. "That colour's very bright on you."
Molly looks down at herself. It's blue. Cornflower or eggshell or something else that feels like spring. She says, "I'm not dressed up for you."
"Sherlock, I'm very fond of you, really, but I don't care what you think of my clothes. I'm still not staying late to cut off an arm for you." A guilty thrill runs up and down her spine.
"Ah," Sherlock says, "new boyfriend, I suspected as much. Given your-." He stops, and she doesn't know whether it's her or John he takes the cue from. But he stops.
Sally calls down the corridor. "Molly! C'mon, gorgeous, we'll be late for the film." She makes it to the door and stops. "Oh. Holmes. Dr Watson."
"Good evening, Sergeant Donovan," John manages.
Sally nods at him. "Hi." She turns back to Molly. "Sorry, am I early?"
"No! No, just in time. I was just getting finished up. I'm ready now." She's not, quite. She had meant to fix her lipstick and tidy up her hair a bit. But Sally wraps her arm around Molly's waist and kisses her cheek.
Sally walks them to the door and turns to look over her shoulder at Sherlock and John. "Try not to get yourselves involved in anything too weird this evening. DI Lestrade's going to be looking for help in the morning. Not that I'm telling tales or anything."
John nods at the two of them, as though he might be able to promise to keep Sherlock out of trouble. Molly supposes he does the best he can.
They walk down the corridor together and Sally says, "They were even weirder than usual, there."
Molly giggles. "I think- I think we might have surprised them."
Sally says, "Well that's something new, at least. Now are we going to the cinema or not?"
"We're going," Molly says. "We're going. We can sit at the back and confuse the kids."
Molly is thirty-one. She has a cat, and a girlfriend. She has new friends and a job she adores. She has nightmares at least once a week and she's still not great at telling people no. She's getting better at that. It's Friday night and she's going to sit in the back of a dark cinema with her girlfriend and pretend they're teenagers for a couple of hours. Things are starting to change.