Sustain II: Refrain (1/3)
We read that we ought to forgive our enemies;
but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends.
---- Cosimo de' Medici
Sometimes, it seemed to Molly that she had spent her entire life not quite having what other people had.
Not in the sense of material goods. True, she and her father had, for years, lived and died by the shop. Quick Eddie's Fish and Chips did all right, though, and they'd been comfortable, materially.
No, the place where Molly seemed to come up short was in the human relations department. She'd always known that, by not having a mother, she was missing out on some things. Her dad was great - hard-working, patient, kind - and she was with him, day in and day out, from the time she was three years old. It had taken her a long time to realize there were girly things she should be doing, though, and that she didn't really have anyone to do those girly things with. She'd learned to do her hair and make-up from magazines, had bought her first bra with the help of Edna, the older woman who sometimes helped out in the shop on Friday when they were busiest, and had taken care of her first period with a borrowed pad from the girl who worked the till when Molly was at school.
So, perhaps it wasn't so much that her life came up short. Perhaps it was more like - well, like there was a way things were supposed to be - the way they were for other people, the way they were on telly - and the way it worked in Molly Hooper's real life. It was a bit like the difference between the human body in a text book and one on the autopsy bay, really: mutations, anatomical defects, and general weirdness were more the rule than the exception. Looked at that way, her life was, she supposed, a mutation of sorts; not lethal or deleterious, but not quite what one had been told to expect, nonetheless.
Molly sighed. She thought when she went to medical school she'd be gaining some special knowledge. Instead, she'd been unnerved to have so much that seemed black-and-white transformed into hundreds of shades of grey. Really, she thought, the average person would be terrified to learn how much of medicine was guess work and how much was luck. Pathology had been such a welcome relief - no live patients to lie awake at night worried over killing; no pretending to be forceful and all-knowing, with her own voice in the back of her head playing devil's advocate the whole time.
Of course, medicine had only been a warm up for motherhood. The textbooks and the parenting manuals were so inconsistent and so at odds with one another that the whole thing was a vast muddle. If you followed one expert's directives to the letter, some other expert would put you on the list for mandatory sterilization. Halfway through her sixth completely contradictory baby manual she had realized that, beyond babies needing to be kept fed, clean, and cuddled, it was mostly bollocks. Luckily, her obstetrician, Mike Stamford, concurred. Molly liked Mike; he was nice, he was thorough, he had four children of his own, and he didn't pretend to know more about anything than he did. Not to her, at least.
Thank goodness Sherlock never second-guessed her when it came to Eddie's care. As far as Sherlock was concerned, she was the final authority on all things baby. And she second-guessed herself enough for both of them as it was.
Molly wiped banana off Eddie's chin. He was still nursing, but he had become so interested in solid food lately that his high-chair had finally been pulled into service. He'd finished almost half a banana, which, on top of nursing, was quite a bit. When he was in the mood, he was a bottomless pit. Just like Sherlock.
She wondered, briefly, where Sherlock had got to. He'd been in her flat for much of the past two days, working at his laptop and playing with Eddie - if you could call intense bouts of staring at one another 'playing.' Had there been a call from Inspector Lestrade? Was there a new client? Or was he finally done hanging about? Had he had enough?
She lifted her son from his high-chair and inspected. There was a little banana in the creases of his chin, but his hair, ears, and eyes had been spared, and that, Molly felt, could be counted as a win. She kissed his soft cheek, once, twice, three times, and he giggled.
"Molly!" Sherlock called. "Shampoo?"
Molly peaked around the door of her bathroom, to find Sherlock naked in her tub. "Excuse me?"
"Shampoo," he repeated.
"It's above your head," she replied. "Why are you in - "
Sherlock reached for the bottle in question, scowled. "I can't use this."
Sherlock all but rolled his eyes. "Store brand shampoo? This is essentially washing-up liquid, artificial colourant, and some ghastly fragrance. I need my shampoo, from my shower."
Molly shifted Eddie from one hip to the other. "Why aren't you in your shower, then?"
Sherlock turned his gaze on her, arched one brow. "The laws of physics," he replied. "They dictate that I can only be in one shower at a time. This is the one I am currently in."
She felt herself blink in confusion. "What?"
"Molly, please," Sherlock said. "Please. I am asking nicely, am I not?"
Well, he had her there. It didn't explain why he was in her tub or how he'd managed to run the water without her noticing or anything, really. But he had asked nicely. She guessed that was something. And he was very naked, after all.
"Sure," Molly replied. It was hardly the oddest thing he'd ever asked her to do.
Sherlock loved his son. Edmund Hooper was the single most interesting person he knew, had possibly ever known. Every day Edmund was a bit bigger, a bit better coordinated, a bit smarter. Every day he had learned some demonstrable new skill. It was thrilling to watch his body and mind develop.
Molly was -
Molly was another matter. It had been a simple thing in that time before he had begun cataloguing the sounds Molly made when aroused, to categorically deny all his baser urges. He had felt he was well on his way to starving those sorts of appetites into extinction, before. It was a rather more complex question now that the link between sexual intercourse and pregnancy was no longer academic.
Sherlock slid under the water, soaking his hair. He often wished he had some means of switching off his drive until Molly had some use for it. Not that he found himself tempted by other women - or men, for that matter - because he emphatically did not. What he wanted, he found, was Molly, be it her ears to listen to him or her eyes to look at the things he wished to show her, or something more intimate. He was not her boyfriend, she was not his girlfriend, they had never dated, they would never date. She was the mother of his child, yes, and they were friendly, certainly. What they had worked for them, suited them, and -
And, it was all very simple as long as he didn't give it a moment's thought.
To make matters worse, he found he sometimes resented Edmund's dependence on her. He was aware his exposure to good fathers was limited, but he was fairly certain begrudging a child its mother's love was not one of their defining characteristics. John Watson would never think such a thing. Yes, there was a surprise - John was a better father than Sherlock, and he didn't even have a child.
Sherlock couldn't help it, though. There were times when he looked at Edmund, his beautiful, brilliant son, and wished the boy would go away somewhere - on a nice holiday, perhaps - so that Sherlock could have Molly to himself again for a few days. And when the feeling got too intense, Sherlock, disgusted with himself, went somewhere instead. Usually up to his flat.
Sherlock was the adult after all, whether he wanted to be one or not. Despite what everyone seemed to believe about him, he was capable of some self-control. He could wait for what he wanted. Of course he could. Which meant, when what he wanted was sitting right there on the sofa beside him, more often than not, he was tied in knots by his own indecision. At such times, those golden months of Molly's pregnancy took on a special significance in his brain, a time when he could ejaculate wherever he pleased without thought of repercussion, and no other man, not even one who shared half his DNA, could lay any claim to her whatsoever. He was petty, selfish, riddled with faults and flaws, and he deserved none of what he had and less of what he wanted. Which didn't mean for a moment he had considered giving any of it up.
He had hurt Molly, he knew this. Mummy had told him and Molly herself had corroborated. They had both used the same words, leveled the same charges against him - hot and cold, they had called him. Not that he was about to ask either of them to explain, but he had no idea how the phrase applied to himself or his behaviour. In truth, all he ever really felt was varying degrees of hot - burning with curiosity, with confusion, with shame. Burning with desire. Sherlock was always on fire. Particularly, it seemed to him, when they somehow went from opposite ends of the sofa to Molly in his lap, her breasts in his hands, his mouth on the delicious place where her neck met her shoulder, his erection straining painfully against her soft backside, Sherlock himself caught between lust rising like a tidal wave and the nearly insurmountable fear of his making an unforgivable mistake.
He did not know what he was doing wrong, but he knew there was always something. What was worse, he had no idea how to accurately ascertain her 'feelings.' Feelings were, unquestionably, small, stupid things, of negligible importance. Still, how and what Molly felt, and why, continued to plague him. It was not entirely unrelated to the reason Sherlock didn't properly live with - had, in fact, no desire to live with - the mother of his child; he knew his limits. He knew what he wanted, but what if what he wanted was the wrong thing?
Sometimes it was better never to ask, than to risk being told 'no,' no matter how kindly it might be said. He knew enough to accept that some men were cut out to climb the stairs in the dark with the taste of a woman on their lips, and go to bed alone.
He knew, too, that he was such a man.
Sarah Sawyer-Watson liked her husband, liked him very much. John was steady, reliable, and attentive, without being the least bit dull. He was, arguably, a bit mad, but even his foibles were cute. After a few false starts, they'd properly found one another, and marrying him was, without question, the smartest thing she'd ever done.
You wouldn't mistake John for a neat freak, but years of army life had made him habitually tidy. As such, he didn't like to open the surgery in the morning until he had personally emptied the bins from the clinic into the skip in the alley. The cleaners came in at night after the clinic closed, of course, so he was effectively cleaning up after the cleaners, but she knew John didn't feel quite at ease unless he carried out the three crumpled pieces of paper and a mangled paperclip he'd found when he double-checked the bins each morning.
He usually didn't kick the door open on his way back in, though, much less carry in a person after he'd dumped the rubbish. "Look what I found," he said, eyes bright.
The shape in John's arms was small, swallowed by a huge hoodie, its pale face and hair both grey with London grime. His - her? - trousers were soaked through.
"O.D.?" Sarah was already on her feet, heading for the first exam room.
"And pregnant," John said. "Judy," he called over his shoulder to their receptionist, who was just arriving, "call an ambulance."
Judy dropped her bag on the reception desk and reached for the phone. "And tell them what, Dr. Watson?"
"Pregnant female, unconscious, possible overdose." He hurried her toward the exam room. "Christ," he said, placing her gently on the exam table. "She looks all of twelve years old."
Sarah handed John a pair of scissors, then quickly checked the girl's mouth and nose for obstructions. "Airways are clear," she said. She held her stethoscope to the girl's chest. Her breathing was shallow, her heartbeat, elevated and erratic. Not good. Not good at all. "Where did you find her?" she asked and began cutting away the girl's hoodie with her own scissors.
"Out by the skip," he answered, quickly cutting his way up the side of one trouser leg. "She was propped up against the - oh hell."
"Oh hell what?"
"Dammit. I thought this was piss," he answered. "I think it's mostly amniotic fluid. She's either miscarrying or delivering."
"What?" No." She ignored the hoodie for the time being and helped her husband cut off the jogging bottoms.
"Oh shit," John hissed. "Judy!? Ambulance?"
"On the way," Judy replied as she leaned into the room "Can I help at all? Oh God, is that -?"
"Yes, that's a head," John replied. "Judy, get a piece of sterile draping and a warming blanket."
Sarah looked. She could see the fontanel pulse with each beat of the child's heart. "Baby's alive," she said, surprised. "But it won't be for long at this rate. We have to -"
Even as she spoke, the girl's abdomen tightened, and a small, dark form slipped into the world. "Shit," she said, barely catching the child. A boy. Impossibly small and impossibly alive and struggling for breath, his stick-thin arms and legs flailing. She tipped him to the side, ran her finger gently through his mouth, cleared out the mucus and fluid pooled there.
Judy held the blanket spread for her, and Sarah wrapped him as quickly as she could.
So tiny, Sarah thought, so helpless. And he didn't stand a chance.
She'd seen it before, of course - the children of addicts, born addicted themselves, under-weight, sickly. Behavioural problems. Learning difficulties. On-going health issues. If they survived at all.
It wasn't fair. None of it was fair, and it filled her with fury. How could anyone, how dare anyone -
The baby gave a tiny cry then, barely a gasp, and turned his face toward the light. It took Sarah's breath away.
In that moment, even as the ambulance attendants raced in and went to work on the child's mother, even as the mother began seizing violently, everything seemed very quiet, very still. Sarah held that tiny boy against her chest, marveling that, against all odds, he was alive.
John Watson sat on the other side of D.I. Lestrade's desk, looking grim. It was the first time Lestrade had seen him at the Yard without Sherlock.
Lestrade had listened to John's story, made a few phone calls, but they'd resulted in nothing. "Her fingerprints aren't in the system," he said, "and she's doesn't look to be a match for any missing persons reports."
John nodded once, looking resigned. "Right."
"Something might turn up, of course. I'll keep an eye out."
"I'd appreciate that, thanks."
It was time, Lestrade decided, to ask the most obvious question. "Have you asked Sherlock to look into it?"
John dipped his chin and looked up at him through his lashes, a look clearly meant to ask 'what do you think, Lestrade, you idiot?'
"He knows people, John, people who'd talk to him a lot sooner than talk to a copper."
"I know," John sighed. "It's just, well, he's a complete git, isn't he?"
Lestrade couldn't help grinning. "Why the interest, anyway?"
John sat up a bit straighter. "You mean, why do I give a shit about a dead child I found giving birth on my doorstep?"
"Right." Lestrade grimaced. " 'Course. Sorry."
John let out a long breath, sighed. "Sarah's a wreck," he said. "I've never seen her like this. And I'd just like to be able to tell her the kid's got some lovely grandparents in a cottage in Shropshire he can go to once he's well enough to leave hospital, so she can stop pretending she isn't ringing up the NICU every chance she gets, or going to sneak over there after her shift."
"Ah," Lestrade said, catching on. "And Sherlock's likely to be an arse about it?"
"'Arse' is his default setting, isn't it? And Sarah's been - we've -" John shook his head, ran a hand over his face. "Never mind."
"I'm sorry, John, I really am. But if you want answers, really want them, and quickly, Sherlock's your best bet."
"I was afraid of that." He rose to leave. "Thanks, yeah?"
Lestrade waved him off. "Of course -" he began, then stopped abruptly.
John stood with his hand on the doorknob. "Of course what?"
"You know how he is. He may uncover things you don't really want to know. Keep that in mind before you go to him, yeah?"
John gave one short, sharp nod. "Yeah. I will. Thanks."
Sherlock sat upstairs in his flat, reading a book on the history of the lift, which he had nearly finished. Next, provided nothing interesting turned up, he was planning to work his way through a new book on the history of religious cannibalism. He wasn't entirely sure whether he hoped something would turn up or not. It was a novel feeling.
Molly sat on the sofa feeding Edmund, who was starting to spend more time awake each day. Yesterday he'd managed to remain conscious a banner seven hours, cumulatively. Having assured himself that this level of somnolence was not unusual, even in a six month old, Sherlock found himself wondering, in a vague way, what it was like in the boy's developing brain. What did a person dream of when the sum total of their experience consisted of floating about inside a uterus, eating, and staring? It was an interesting question. He watched from the corner of his eye as Edmund reached up and patted Molly's cheek.
Edmund loved Molly, Sherlock surmised.
Oh, of course he did. And well he should.
Sherlock put down his book, rose and stretched. He'd love a cup of tea, but Molly was clearly otherwise occupied. Her skills in the tea-making area hadn't much improved, but practice made perfect, so more practice was absolutely called for.
He could wait, he supposed, but he didn't want to. Nor did he want to do anything as stupid as ask Molly to get up and make him a cup of tea while she was feeding Edmund.
Nothing else for it, then. He rose. "I am going to make tea," he declared.
"Would you like a cup?"
Molly blinked. "Oh, thanks, yes."
"Not a prob - ooooh." Through the window, Sherlock observed John marching up the pavement, exuding both grim determination and not a small amount of trepidation.
Not a social visit, then. Interesting.
Sherlock turned from the window and grabbed his phone from the mantel. "Unless I am very much mistaken, John's bringing me a case."
"John Watson?" she asked. "What kind of case would John have for you?"
"I've no idea, but it's obvious from his gait," Sherlock replied. "Don't wait up."
"I hadn't planned to," she replied with a wry grin. "Does this mean the tea is off?"
"Anybody home?" John called from the foyer.
"Not for long," Sherlock answered him. "You can tell me about the case in the cab."
"How did you-? Oh, never mind." John bounded up the stairs, stuck his head in the door. At the sight of Molly feeding Edmund, he took a step back and averted his eyes. "Oh, sorry," he said.
Molly tugged the receiving blanket resting on the sofa next to her up and over Edmund and her partially exposed breast. "Not a problem," she replied with forced nonchalance.
"Come along, John," Sherlock said, directing him from the flat.
"Actually, I wanted to speak to Molly, too," John said, "but if this is a bad time -"
"It's fine," Molly said. "I'm not bothered, if you're not."
Most of that was bravado on Molly's part, some desire to be seen as modern and unselfconscious, even though she was neither. Sherlock knew she'd probably be more comfortable if John were to speak to her after Edmund had finished his meal, and that, in all likelihood, John would be, too.
Despite this, John peered past him, and having ascertained that Molly was what John would probably categorise as 'decent,' moved into the sitting room. The action only served to underscore how much John wanted to speak to both of them. Interesting, indeed.
"Not bothered at all," John blustered. "Doctor, remember?" Still, he sat in the chair he had favoured while living in the flat, positioning himself so that Molly was far out of his line of sight as she could be without him actually turning his back to her.
John was always so polite.
"And what brings you here, Doctor?" Sherlock asked, returning to the chair he'd vacated only moments before.
John took a moment to compose himself. "A woman, a girl really, died in my surgery yesterday morning, would probably have died in the alley if I hadn't taken out the rubbish. Homeless, as far as anyone can tell and -"
"Murder?" Sherlock asked.
John shook his head. "No."
"A bit, yeah."
Sherlock frowned. John was lying. To him. Why? What possible reason could he have for lying about the death of -
"Suspicious in what way?" Molly asked.
John very deliberately did not turn to look at her, instead focusing on a point near his own shoes. "She was in labour when I found her, but unresponsive. When her labour started, she must have reckoned we could help her."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, John," Molly said, her face pinched.
Sherlock shot her a look. Why was she sorry?
"It's always hard to lose a patient, Sherlock," Molly explained.
"This girl was hardly his patient," Sherlock objected. "And how would you know? All yours come to you pre-lost."
She sighed. "Yes, I suppose they do," she said. "Here, hold Eddie." Molly, 'decent' again, placed Edmund in Sherlock's lap. "Tea, John? Sherlock?"
Sherlock shook his head, no longer interested. It didn't seem wise to have scalding liquids within arm's reach with Edmund in his charge, either, which should be obvious.
"Ta," John said.
Tummy full, Edmund curled himself into the crook of Sherlock's arm, ready for yet another nap. Sherlock swung him up onto his shoulder, a position they both favoured, and began rubbing circles into the baby's back. "What are you smirking at?" he asked John.
"Me? What? No," John countered. "Not smirking."
That was a lie too, but Sherlock chose to let it go with no more than a slight scowl. "I am unclear as to why you want my help," Sherlock said, "or even what help you actually want. I assume, given the area, this girl was an addict?"
John nodded. "Going by her arms, yeah."
"Right," Sherlock said. "To summarise, an addict and her child died in your surgery and-"
"No," John said. "No. The, ah, the baby, the boy, he survived."
That stopped Sherlock short. "Oh. Oh, I see."
"He's small," John said, looking at his hands. "Quite premature, and he didn't have the best start -"
"Oh, that's awful," Molly said. She handed John a mug, then perched on the arm of Sherlock's chair, sipping carefully from her own drink. "What his prognosis?"
"Too soon to say." John shrugged, but Sherlock knew he felt the prognosis was dire, but not without hope. "But I was wondering, Sherlock -"
"You want me to talk to my contacts and see if I can find out who this girl was and if the child has a next of kin, presumably so, should he survive, he won't have to go into care, but more likely because Sarah's already grown unreasonably attached and you want to nip that in the proverbial bud." Sherlock rattled off. "Well? Did I miss anything?"
John gave him a hard look, then sighed. "No," he said at last. "No, you didn't."
"Sherlock will be happy to help you," Molly said.
Sherlock's eyes went wide. "Oh? Will I?"
Molly took another sip of her tea. "Yes," Molly answered. "You're in the perfect position to help him, and he's your best mate, so after you've fussed a bit, you will." She turned and stroked Edmund's head. "Won't you?"
Sherlock sniffed. Molly was not his girlfriend, and she certainly was not his booking agent. The fact that she was right did little to assuage his irritation at being told he'd do something he was going to do, regardless. "Fine."
"I wanted to ask a favour of you too, Molly," John said. "The girl's at Barts. The post-mortem is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Dr. Redmond is supposed to do it, but he doesn't know me from Adam and - "
"Of course," Molly said at exactly the same instant Sherlock said "no."
"Of course I'll do the autopsy," Molly stated firmly.
"No, no, I just meant -" John began.
"What? Do the autopsy? Where? In your flat, on the kitchen table, while Edmund is napping? Please," Sherlock scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous."
"No, I didn't mean -" John tried again.
"No, in the mortuary at Barts," Molly said. "Your surgery isn't open tomorrow, is it?"
John shook his head. "No, but -"
"Mrs. Hudson is visiting her sister for a few days, but I'm sure if she's not busy Sarah probably wouldn't mind watching Edmund for a few hours -"
"Sarah?" Sherlock asked. "Why would Sarah need to look after Edmund?"
"Because you'll be out with John, obviously," Molly answered. "Do try to keep up," she said, grinning into her tea.
Splendid. Now Molly was mocking him. Sherlock's day kept improving. What next? Was Mycroft going to show up with photographs of infant Sherlock in the bath?
John's expression brightened. "Oh. Well. That - that would be brilliant. Thank -"
"You can't just barge in, wrench the body away from Bill Redmond, no matter what an incompetent moron he is, and perform the autopsy. There is hospital protocol to consider," Sherlock said as evenly as he could. "I've no doubt there are rules about this sort of thing."
Molly blinked at Sherlock. "Goodness, we can't break any rules, can we?" She turned to John. "If nothing else, I can assist. Bill, who is not an incompetent moron, won't mind an extra set of hands, I'm sure. Do you know what time it's scheduled for?"
"Eight thirty, I think Micha said-"
"Molly -" Sherlock heard himself say, his voice sounding all wrong. He had lost control of this situation - but what exactly was this situation?
John's phone buzzed. "Oh, sorry," he said, scanning the screen. "I have to get back to the surgery." He turned his attention back to Sherlock. "Shall I meet you here?"
"I do have another case on at present," Sherlock said.
"Which one?" Molly asked. Edmund had started to fuss, and Molly had immediately put her tea down and reached for him. It seemed petty for Sherlock to try to hang on, but he wished to, nonetheless.
"Bodmin," Sherlock said.
Molly patted Edmund's back, soothingly. "The missing husband? You told me he ran off with the barista."
Sherlock sniffed. "So I did."
"Look, if you can't -" John began with an air of resignation.
"Of course I can," Sherlock snapped. "And I will." He stood. "Here, then, at eight o'clock."
"Why don't you meet at yours, John?" Molly suggested. "That way Sherlock can drop Eddie off with Sarah."
"Sounds good," John said. "Yes, sure."
Sherlock looked from John to Molly, trying to decide which of them he hated more at the moment. A tie would probably have to be declared. "Fine," he said. "See yourself out," he told John, and left the room, and then the house.
Sherlock had been gone for hours. Nothing new there. When he'd returned, he'd sequestered himself upstairs in his flat, again, for hours. Nothing new there, either. What he hadn't done after returning to 221B was rifle through her fridge, pretending to be hungry, but really just wanting to be in her flat in order to be sure Eddie was still breathing. Nor did he text her any strange requests, designed to get her to bring Eddie upstairs, in order to be sure he was still breathing. That was new.
Molly had never seen Sherlock angry. Well, no, that wasn't completely true. She had, in fact, seen him angry with the stupidity of Scotland Yard, with the dull-wittedness of all humans, everywhere, and with the ongoing existence of his brother. But she'd never seen him angry with her. As the day wore on into evening, she was beginning to wonder if this was how it looked when Sherlock was angry with her. If so, she didn't like it.
Eddie was napping in his playpen, and would be for another hour or so if he held true to form. Molly finally decided that if she and Sherlock were going to row, this was as good a time as any. Making sure the baby monitor was turned on and working, and that the door was securely locked and the alarms all set, she grabbed the handset and headed for the stairs.
"Sherlock?" Molly called out, but got no answer for her trouble. Regardless, Sherlock's shoes were still in the hall, and his keys, phone, and wallet were all on the mantel, so he was definitely home. And very likely in a strop.
Perhaps she should leave now. Order dinner in, sit in front of her telly with her food and her baby and let Sherlock sulk to his heart's content. Yes, that was definitely what she should do.
Instead, she knocked on his bedroom door. "Sherlock," she called, not waiting for his reply, "I'm going to ring for Chinese. Interested?"
After a moment, he answered, "No, thank you."
Molly winced. If he were preoccupied, she would have been answered with a grunt; if he were genuinely not interested, he'd have just said 'no.' Instead, he'd pulled out his breeding. Molly was being snubbed.
She took a deep breath. "Can I - may I come in?"
"What. For?" Sherlock made each word its own sentence.
"I'd like to speak to you."
She cleared her throat. "May I come in?"
She waited with her hand on the door, listening intently. If he said 'no,' she'd, well, she'd go downstairs. And if he said 'yes,' she'd go in, and they'd have a civilised conversation just like the two adults they were supposed to be. And if he told her to go to hell, well, she'd -
The door flew open. "What do you want?" he demanded.
At the best of times, Sherlock towered over her. But now, wearing only his mismatched sulking pyjamas and a stormy expression, he pulled out all the stops, using his extra height to simultaneously crowd her and attempt to drive her away. It was a stance designed to intimidate.
But she was not about to be intimidated by some man in an inside-out tee-shirt whose hair looked as if it had spent a week in a tornado. "I believe - I believe I said I wanted to talk to you," she answered. She congratulated herself on the relative steadiness of her voice.
Sherlock's expression darkened, but he didn't reply.
She swallowed. "You're angry with me," she said.
Sherlock snorted. "Am I?"
"Yes," she answered. "Yes, I - I think you are."
"And why would I be angry?" he asked with a twisted grin. "What could you have possibly done to anger me?"
Molly shrugged. "I've no idea."
"No, of course you don't," he sneered. He turned and stalked back to his bed.
Molly had been in Sherlock's bedroom exactly once, and the circumstances had been less than ideal. It had been the day she'd come home from the hospital after Eddie's birth. She'd been delirious with the pain of her incision and impacted breasts, confused and angry. She hadn't noticed much about the room beyond the fact that it was a tip.
It wasn't a tip now. Gone were the clothes, books, and random bits of laboratory and kitchen equipment she remembered having to weave her way through that first time. The room was still filled with shelves, and the shelves were still filled with boxes and books, but everything appeared to have a place, and everything was in it. And now that she was really looking, it was obvious that anything dangerous or breakable had been relegated to the upper shelves.
Molly peeked at the bed. Sherlock had gone back to beating up on his laptop, but he'd left enough space for her to sit on the edge. The meaning was as clear as if he'd sent her an engraved invitation.
She seated herself carefully. "Tell me what's wrong?"
Sherlock continued typing, studiously ignoring her.
Molly almost wanted to laugh. Sherlock thought he had a corner on stubbornness, and not, it had to be said, without reason. But Molly won staring contests with corpses who didn't want to give up their secrets every day. She was not about to blink first.
After a few minutes, the typing stopped. "Why did you volunteer to do this autopsy?" he asked, speaking more to the keyboard than to her.
Molly frowned. "That's what this is about? Really? I volunteered because John asked."
"John did not ask," Sherlock corrected. "John was clearly about to ask if you'd obtain a copy of the autopsy report for him. That was all."
"Oh." That surprised her. It had been obvious to her that John felt a connection to this woman - girl, John called her - and her baby, and that he was upset by the death. She was no doubt projecting her own feelings on the situation, but had she been the one in John's situation, she'd have wanted someone she knew and trusted to carry out the post-mortem. Sherlock would call that 'silly' and 'sentimental,' but she would never deny being either. She'd assumed John had been about to ask the same thing.
"Yes, 'oh,'" Sherlock said. "So now, instead, you've committed to spending the morning at Barts up to your elbows in some dead nameless junkie, when all you're likely to discover is that she is, indeed, a dead nameless junkie."
"Probably, yes. So?"
"So?" Sherlock was incredulous. "So, because of your rash, misguided volunteerism and misplaced over-identification, Edmund is to spend the morning with a stranger, and -"
Molly shook her head. "Stranger?" she asked. "Sarah is hardly a stranger. Sarah is his godmother!"
Sherlock all but rolled his eyes. "Your point being?"
Molly's mind whirled. She hadn't expected this, hadn't expected it at all. And frankly, she was having trouble understanding it. "He's stayed with Mrs. Hudson before," she said, "when I've had to go out and you weren't here."
Sherlock scowled. "Not the same at all."
Molly exhaled slowly. She had the sense that she was missing something here, missing something very important.
"Sherlock, what do you think is going to happen when - no, wait." She stopped herself, realising she was phrasing this badly. She started again, aiming for something less incendiary. "When I start back to work, how do you imagine Eddie will be spending his days?"
Sherlock closed his eyes. "I won't always be available, obviously, and Mrs. Hudson is our landlady, not our governess. Furthermore, despite her willingness to look after Edmund, she has a dodgy hip, which makes her singularly unsuited to undertaking a career in chasing a toddler about on a fulltime basis. I have offered, more than once, to pay for a nanny or an au pair. As far as I can tell, you've made no move to secure either one."
"No, I haven't," Molly said.
"And are you planning to?"
"Leading me to conclude that you are not, in fact, planning to return to work."
"Oh. Oh dear." Molly shook her head. "No. When my leave is over, I am very definitely planning to return to work. Eddie already has a place reserved at the crèche."
"At Barts," she said.
Sherlock blinked once. "Ah," he said. "I see."
Clearly, she had surprised him with this news. Surprised, she thought, and perhaps hurt, too.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I just thought -"
He cleared his throat, sat straighter. "No need to apologise," he assured her.
She reached out and put her hand on his leg, just below his knee. He flinched and pulled away.
"I just thought, this way, I'd um, be able to see him during the day," she explained. "On my breaks and, and at lunch. I can take him out for walks when the weather's nice, and-"
"Yes, of course," Sherlock said. "I'm sure that will be very nice for the two of you." But it didn't sound like he thought it would be nice for anyone at all. He returned to his typing.
Molly tried to collect her thoughts. They hadn't discussed it, of course, but Sherlock had shown no interest in the topic at all. Yes, he'd offered to pay for a nanny, but that been months and months ago, and he hadn't brought the subject up since. She'd assumed it was understood: she was on leave, but leave was temporary, and when that leave was over, she'd resume her position. Eddie needed to get out with other children, and Molly liked her job, liked what she did, and how it made her feel about herself. Why had Sherlock thought otherwise?
She looked around his tidy, child-proofed room, and felt, suddenly, like she'd been stabbed.
"I am sorry," she said again.
"You've already said that," Sherlock answered, eyes on his computer. "No need to repeat yourself. I have work to do." She was clearly being dismissed.
She stood, smoothed out the wrinkles she'd made in the duvet. She stared at him for a long moment.
"Was there something else?" he asked.
"No." Molly rubbed her forehead. "Look, I've already committed to doing this autopsy in the morning."
"Yes, you have. And?"
"And, and, I told John I'd do it, I've cleared it with Bill Redmond and Sarah, and it's only going to take a few hours."
"Is there a point to this?"
"I'm not going to back out."
"Nor should you," Sherlock said. "You gave your word, after all."
Molly opened her mouth to reply, but the handset lit up and the sound of Eddie's fussing filled the cavernous space between Sherlock and her.
"Your son needs you," Sherlock said. "Go."
Molly nodded once, and left.
Sometimes Ollie didn't pay attention like she should. It was dangerous, that. Anything could happen out here. Anything at all.
"Spare change, luv?" she called out absently, and when the geezer turned round, he was none other than the man in the long dark coat. Only without the coat, as it was too warm for that. Even without the coat, it was Sherlock Holmes.
"What for?" he asked; that was what he always asked.
"Cuppa tea, of course," she said, because she knew that was the right answer, the one that meant she was ready to work, the one that would get her the biggest tip.
He gave her the money and the tightly folded paper, the way he always did. "Consider eating something, too," he said.
He was halfway back to the kerb before she got the page unfolded and saw she didn't need to ask around about this one. "Oi!" she called out then ran after him before he could get into his cab. "Oi, Sherlock!"
Sherlock turned round. The little bloke, the blond one who was with him sometimes, was already in the cab.
"I know her, a bit," Ollie said. "Knew her I guess, yeah? She looks well dead here."
"That's because she is, in fact, well dead." Sherlock gave a short, sharp nod and leaned into the cab, said something.
The other man came out and the cab left.
"Tell me everything you know about the girl in the picture," Sherlock said, "starting with her name."
"That's Bunny's girl, don't know her name, though," Ollie said. "Never heard one for her, neither."
"How did Bunny refer to her?" Sherlock asked. In response to Ollie's blank look he said, "What did he call her, Ollie? What name?"
Ollie shook her head. "Nothing I can remember. And she never said nothing."
"She never said 'anything,' and what do you mean? Do you mean that literally?" Sherlock asked.
Ollie gave him another blank look.
The little one said, "He means, did she really never say anything at all, or was she just a quiet one?"
"Nothing, never a word," Ollie said. "Bunny said she couldn't talk at all, born like that, yeah?"
Sherlock nodded. "With whom did they - who did they hang with?"
"Kept to themselves, mostly. They're just a couple of kids. Neither of 'ems been 'round here for long. Came from up north I think, but I'm not sure. We weren't that friendly, yeah?"
"This Bunny, is he her pimp?" Sherlock asked.
"Nothin' like that. I mean, she might've tommed about for him every now and then, but not regular," Ollie explained. "Sides, she's up the duff. Not that there aren't those what like that, but -"
"So she worked for him, but he's not her pimp? How's that work?" the little one asked, his mouth set hard.
"Only when necessary, you know. When they were sick," she said, looking at Sherlock.
"Sick how?" John asked.
"Needin' medicine," she said, tapping two fingers on the inside of her arm. "Just her taking care of him like your doris would do for you, if you were in a bad way."
Maybe she shouldn't have said that last bit; Sherlock looked like he wanted his fifty quid back, and every penny he'd ever given her on top of that.
The little one snorted. "My doris? No."
Sherlock glared at her, but he didn't ask for his money, which was a mercy. "Where can we find this Bunny?"
"'Member that real tall fella, ugly as pure sin, a while back?" she asked. "Been sleepin' over there, I think."
Sherlock looked at her, nodded once, turned, and hailed another cab. "Come along, John."
As the cab was getting ready to pull away, he rolled down the window, and said, very quietly, "And Ollie, not my doris, either."
"I can't imagine it," John said as the cab drew closer to Vauxhall Arches.
"Imagine what?" Sherlock asked. He'd been alternately staring out the window and staring at his mobile, and he didn't seem to have heard any of the things John had said since they got in the cab.
"When you were using, actively using, would you have expected your girlfriend to turn tricks so you could get high?" John asked, ripping the piece of paper in his pocket to shreds.
"Girlfriend?" Sherlock turned away from his phone and squinted at him. "Not my area, remember?"
"Molly -" John began.
"- is absolutely not my girlfriend," Sherlock said, attention back on the phone.
"What? What is she, then?" John said.
" - and even had I such an entanglement at the time, I doubt I would have trusted anyone else to make certain I had what I needed."
John had obviously hit a nerve. Sherlock's entire relationship with Molly was confusing, and thinking about it gave John a headache. But Sherlock was doing him a favour, and he didn't want to push his luck.
"Seriously," John said, grinding his back teeth. "What kind of person uses another person that way? What kind of man does that?"
The cab stopped. "An addict," Sherlock said.