Molly starts a precise Y-incision at the left shoulder of the corpse on her table: male, mid-40s, probable heart attack though he was clearly the sort to exercise. Not the first such case she's seen, and in the end she can't feel sad about them anymore, the natural deaths, even the young ones.
Everyone, she thinks, carefully cataloguing the wafer-shaped burn scar on his hip — a childhood trauma slowly sanded away by time and sloughing skin cells — everyone has scars.
She knows better, when Doctor Watson invites her to Christmas at Baker Street. Not the attending; of course the party will be lovely, and she'd rather be with people who are neither completely put off by what she does nor turned on by her work. She knows better than to think she can pull Sherlock but she would be a coward not to try.
Molly is a great many things, not all of them good or successful, but she has never yet let her fear get the better of her.
So she dresses, carefully, wrapping herself just as tenderly as she does the utterly inconsequential and far too thought-over present for Sherlock. The fabric of her dress is a little coarse against her skin but not unpleasantly so; just different from her uniform of jumpers and trousers.
And even though she doesn't deserve the attention, not with the lovely people in the room, she's flattered when she sees their responses to her casual removal of her coat. Almost all their responses.
She does know better. She knows Sherlock's scars, better than he thinks she does; the ones she'd be able to see if he ever wore a t-shirt or rolled his sleeves up past his mid-forearm. The ones no one can see, too, the ones pulling on the scars she has. Left around their hearts and in their minds by the knife of not good enough, the acid of never good enough. She's awkward and he's blunt and in that much she knows, but can never say, they're the same.
He says horrible things. He always does.
Christmas is a time for honesty.
Shaking, she calls him on the hardness of his words and he softens, just a moment. Just enough to apologize, and the gentle press of lips to her cheek.
She's aware of another warm presence near her back before an impolite noise embarrasses almost all of them.
DI Lestrade — Greg, he introduced himself and insisted on — offers to walk her home when the party breaks. Sherlock left, Mrs Hudson and Dr Watson watching after him like they know he's off to drown himself, somehow, and Molly shares their fear but she doesn't matter. So she looks at Dr Watson's date, sees the thunder shaping across her brow, and agrees.
Sleeping with a PE teacher, Sherlock said. She knows he told the truth, and she reaches out to take Greg's arm, slides her ungloved hand into his. He looks surprised, flushes a little under the streetlights, but returns her gentle squeeze with one of his own. She can feel a knot of keloid tissue between his knuckles beneath her ring finger and can't help stroking along the skin. Keeps looking forward, aware he's stopped talking and is watching the side of her face while they continue moving toward the tube. She hunts out the dimensions of the flaw on his skin: no more than four millimetres, curving slightly toward his middle metacarpophalangeal joint. A tooth mark, probably, a leftover scar from a fistfight in his younger days.
Not that he's old now. She glances up, meets his eyes. Brown, almost black in the light, pupils slightly over-dilated but not too large. Interested. Lonely.
She strokes her thumb along the outside of his, looking for another smooth or rough or raised patch of skin. She's too plain and too odd to hold his affection but he holds out hope for a reconciliation that won't happen. She's been so hungry so long, and somehow one more bad decision in a lifelong string has less meaning than the thought she might help him slough some of the dead emotion from around his heart, fade the scars left by his wife, his work, and Sherlock's words.
A small kindness, no stranger than others she's given and received.
She stops, squeezing his hand again, and turns to face Greg more directly. Stretches up on her toes and kisses him, offering up an invitation to map each other's scars.