Chapter 1: First Meetings
Irene's not the kind to ask for help, and Molly's not the kind to refuse.
Unbeta'd, not brit-picked.
Set post-scandal, but pre-Reichenbach.
Molly Hooper wasn’t quite sure how her life had ended up this way.
She was supposed to spend her time performing autopsies and watching musicals, yet somehow she’d ended up helping a man fake his death and not reporting the not-dead status of a certain woman who she was most certainly not involved with. The same woman who had faked her death, twice, the second time with the help of the man that Molly had helped fake his own.
But she couldn’t think for too long about these things because it was exhausting and quite frankly, ridiculous.
Of course that didn’t stop the thoughts and it would hold back the memories of first meetings that were equal parts terrifying and awkward.
There’s something about being used as an unwitting pawn in a game of scarily dangerous chess between a psychopath and an anti-social genius whom you’re in love with that really makes you stop and think about who you are and who you want to be.
So when Irene showed up, not dead and rather forward, Molly had tried not to let her in. The last thing she had wanted, or needed was another manipulative genius in her life.
But Molly Hooper wasn’t the sort of person who turned down people’s requests for help, and Irene Adler wasn’t the kind who made them. Yet that’s exactly what happened the first time they met.
It was a dreary late winter morning and Molly was looking forward to nothing more than a hot drink, a bowl of soup, and crashing in bed until the sun went down.
Her shift had been difficult because the generators were playing up and kept plunging the room into darkness as she attempted to perform post-mortems.
As she entered the narrow laneway she cut through to get to her apartment a figure stepped out from behind a set of bins, dark and tall with a cloak swishing about below knee level. Molly pushed her keys between the fingers of her right hand in the pocket of her coat, just in case she was forced to defend herself.
The figure’s voice was low and sultry and female. It also knew her name. This left three options as far as Molly could see.
Option one was that it was one of the older Holmes’ people. Option two was that it was one of Jim’s. Option three was that it was a stalker. She didn’t fancy any of those options.
She called back unable to keep the fear out of her voice. The figure took a couple of steps closer so that her face was lit well by the pale morning sun instead of being hidden in the building's shadows.
“My apologies, my manners seemed to have disappeared. I suppose that can happen when you’re dead. Adler. Irene Adler.”
The woman. Molly had heard plenty about Irene Adler. People tended to talk about anything around her and she learned a lot that way. She was just the mortician, the quiet girl in the corner, she didn’t count. One of Jim’s people then.
She drew her hand out of her pocket so that Adler could see her makeshift weapon, trying desperately to stop it from shaking.
“What do you want? Are you here because of Jim? Because I have nothing to say about Jim.”
Adler raised an eyebrow, almost imperceptibly, but enough. Her eyes, wide and observant, swept up and down Molly in a way that seemed strangely impassive yet simultaneously incredibly intimate.
“I’m not here about Jim. Well, that’s not quite true. I’m not here about your…connection to him. I’m here because I need something from you.”
Molly swallowed heavily. She didn’t know what Adler wanted, but she could sense that it wasn’t going to be something she wanted to give.
“Oh? And what’s that?”
Her attempt at haughty anger came out as trembling uncertainty.
Until now Adler had been standing almost perfectly still, watching Molly. Now she slowly began to pace back and forth across the alley.
“You see I have this friend and I’m worried about him. There’s the cliff and he’s slowly walking towards the edge and when I warn him about the dangers he ignores me. He’s in trouble and I can’t help him. But you can. One day he’s going to realise that he can't do it all alone and when he does, I need you to promise me that you will help him Molly Hooper. Will you do that? Promise me that you will help him? Help me?”
Irene was staring at her expectantly, awaiting an answer.
“I…this friend, why can’t you help him?”
The likelihood that Adler was here to kill or harm her seemed much lower now and she could feel her heart beat slowly settling back down.
“Because I’m supposed to be dead, which you well know. I'd prefer it if certain people kept believing that.”
“Who is he? This friend?”
She asked, even though she already knew the answer.
Irene replied after a beat.
The shadows on her cheekbones made it look like they were trying to slice their way through her skin. Molly laughed bitterly.
“Sherlock would never asked me for help. I’m a nobody to him. He notices corpses before he notices me.”
It was Adler’s turn to laugh, but hers was warm and rich and only slightly mocking. Not mocking of Molly, but mocking of Sherlock.
“That’s because Sherlock is blind to anything that he does not see as immediately useful to him. He has no ability for forethought with such things when it comes to anyone who is less than extraordinary. Which is in itself quite amusing, since you are certainly the most extraordinarily ordinary person I’ve ever heard of, which makes you incredibly extraordinary.”
As she spoke Adler had stepped closer and closer to Molly until she was only a couple of feet away. It was mildly disconcerting how much Irene Adler seemed to know about her and Molly wasn’t sure she wanted to know how that had come to be.
Had Sherlock spoken about her to him? Had Jim? How much of what she knew was because she was told, and how much was because she had seen through those eyes that sparkled like Sherlock’s?
Eyes that sparkled like Sherlock’s above cheekbones that were sharp and angled like Sherlock’s, beneath hair like that was midnight black like Sherlock’s.
Even the woman’s coat and scarf reminded her of Sherlock and it was strange to see everything she admired and liked about Sherlock, his intelligence and his face and his fashion, reflected back at her in female form.
“I assure you, I’m much more than him. But we can play detectives and doctors if you like. I have a riding crop of my own that I’m rather fond of.”
Irene’s face was less than a foot from hers now and she felt an almost uncontrollable desire to fling herself away from the woman’s commanding presence. Molly didn’t even want to know how she’d gotten inside her head and read her thoughts like that.
“I’m not gay.”
She muttered awkwardly and immediately regretted it because she could tell that Irene was the sort that flirted with everybody. The denial was unnecessary and Irene looked like she had won an invisible point.
Irene grinned, her red lips stretching up to her right in a sideways smile that was equal parts wicked and amused.
“That’s odd, I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. Sexuality is a fluid thing you know, and hardly simple. You don’t have to be gay to be attracted to someone of the same gender. Nor do you have to be straight to have a partner of another gender. I find love and sex to be rather more complex than the simplistic idea usually handed out by the people we meet.”
Molly nodded weakly. All she had wanted to was go home and sleep after a miserable night at work and instead she’d been cornered by yet another genius in an alleyway and now they were discussing her sexuality.
And someone else’s apparently, if she wasn’t the only one who had told Irene they weren’t gay. Briefly Molly wondered who she was.
“He. Not she.”
Mentally, Molly threw her hands up in surrender. She couldn’t compete with this sort of mind when she was cold and tired and hungry.
“I need a cup of tea.”
She sighed as she stepped around Adler and continued along the pathway. A cup of tea and some kind of sedative so she could wake up and pretend this was all a dream.
A crazy dream in which an undead dead woman wanted her to help a man who sometimes said horrible things to her at Christmas and she was still slightly in love with.
“Mind if I join you?”
Irene asked as she fell into step beside her.
“Is there a point in refusing? I still want to know how exactly I’m supposed to help Sherlock. You haven’t told me why he would want my help, or what I’m supposed to do to help him.”
Irene shrugged. The gesture didn’t suit her at all. It suggested uncertainty and Molly didn’t think that Irene had been uncertain about anything in her life.
I can't tell you, it's not all that clear yet. But I know it’s going to happen. I’m reading the signs. The end of a war is coming and I’m trying to ensure that everyone is prepared.”
She was being painfully cryptic and Molly hated it. They had reached the door to Molly’s apartment block. With an exasperated sigh she punched in the code and opened the door to the stairwell.
“I need something stronger than tea.”
She groaned as she held the door open for Irene.
“Amen to that.”
Chapter 2: Texts and Smiles
In which Irene and Molly text each other.
Once again unbeta'd and not brit-picked. All mistakes are those of this insecure duck *points wings at self*
In case it isn't obvious, anything in [ ] is the contents of a text.
Molly didn’t see Adler for months after that other than a few glimpses of a coat disappearing around a corner, or a flash of cheekbones in the window of a car.
Of course just because she didn’t see her didn’t mean she hadn’t heard from her.
While at Molly’s apartment she had disappeared with her phone for a few minutes and when she came back she said she had improved it. When Molly had looked at it she realised she’d been given an entirely different phone, much nicer than her old one.
Irene had added her number to it and personalised her incoming text alert, thankfully in a much less scandalous fashion than the one she’d left Sherlock. Smile.
Strangely enough it did make her smile, every time, and there were a lot of times. Molly knew that Irene had texted Sherlock fairly often if John’s complaints were anything to go by. But judging by how frequently she texted Molly, it was as though texting was what gave her life.
Or perhaps it was that when she had something to say, and sometimes when she didn’t, Molly texted back.
Smile. That was how Molly was woken up that particular morning, only a few minutes before her alarm.
Toby leaped of the bed and stalked out of the room sulkily when she disturbed him as she reached for her phone. Blinking rapidly to clear the sleep from her eyes she read the message.
[ Good morning. I’m going on a yacht today. ]
Molly wasn’t sure if she was bragging or not. She paused for a few moments before typing her response. After so many years of phone keypad it was so easy using a qwerty keyboard.
[ Bit chilly to be out on the water today isn’t it? ]
She was in the shower when the next text came through. Smile. Stepping out of the shower she reached for her towel with one hand and her phone with the other.
[ Yes, it is. Although I can think of several ways I could keep warm, if you were here. ]
Molly stared at the phone in mild shock for long enough that Toby had time to slip in through the bathroom door and wind his way around her ankles. How was she supposed to respond to that?
[ I just had a shower ]
The instant she hit send panic flooded her. ‘No! Come back!’ She half shouted at her phone.
Why did she always say such silly things? No one cared if she’d showered.
Most people showered at some point during the day. Most people didn’t go on a yacht.
Smile. Smile. Two messages. Brilliant. Apprehensively she opened the first message.
It was a picture of a familiar set of cheekbones underneath a huge pair of black sunglasses, smiling from the front of a grand yacht. It was clearly a self portrait.
In her other hand she had a glass of bubbles. There was lipstick on the glass rim.
Molly shook her head. It wasn’t even 8am and already Irene was drinking.
No doubt she could hold her alcohol better than Molly.
The second message was simple, polite but impersonal.
[ Have a good day. ]
15 minutes ago that might not have seemed like such a difficult thing.
But now she would be going to work with the knowledge that while she was cutting up cadavers and sending off samples for screenings, Irene was off having a lovely day drinking on a yacht.
It seemed entirely unfair for her standpoint.
Irene didn’t text her at work. She never did.
She never said why but Molly guessed that it was because she knew that Sherlock would recognise her voice and start making inquiries as to how Molly knew her.
Clearly Irene didn’t want Sherlock to know that she was in contact with her, but Molly didn’t know if this was for Irene’s benefit, Sherlock’s, or her own.
She avoided using her phone whenever Sherlock was around anyway, because she was afraid that he would see the new phone and somehow deduce everything.
He must have sensed some change though, she could almost hear his mind churning sometimes when he looked at her but he said nothing. He’d learned his lesson after Christmas.
Of course for the most part he acted like she wasn’t there, but she found she didn’t mind as much now as she once did.
She still liked him, liked him an awful lot, but the shine had worn off now that she could see that he wasn’t as unique as she once thought.
Molly had barely made it through the door when Irene texted her. Smile. Reflexively she did.
It was another photo, this time Irene was not wearing the glasses. Her lipstick was all gone, probably from all the food and drinks she’d had over the day.
Her eye makeup had run down her cheeks as though she’d been crying, and bits of hair clung to her forehead.
A sopping wet rain jacket could be seen covering her shoulders at the bottom of the picture. Yet in spite of all this she was still grinning at the camera. Smile.
[ We encountered a minor downpour. ]
Molly laughed. Irene looked like she’d just gone for a swim.
[ Looks like you had fun. ]
She’d almost managed to finish cooking dinner when the reply came through. Smile.
[ I just had a shower. ]
Molly’s eyes grew wide. Her first thought was that she was being teased, but then she realised that Irene was flirting with her.
[ This text alert of you saying smile…is it some kind of psychological conditioning so that I come to associate you with smiles? ]
And now Molly was flirting back and she didn’t really know why, it just seemed to be the natural thing to do. Smile.
[ ;) ]
In fact she thought she rather liked it. So she kept going.
Chapter 3: Coffee and advice.
In which Molly meets Irene for coffee and pours out all her worries.
Again, unbeta'd and not brit-picked. After this chapter all events will be post-TRF.
The world was falling apart. She’d heard all the rumours and speculation of the Yard before.
Anderson’s accusations of psychopathy, Donovan’s fears that what they had on their hands was a narcissistic serial killer who couldn’t help but inject himself into their investigations.
It was all just talk for a long time, but then that Kitty woman had started writing about Sherlock.
She’d called Molly for an interview but she had declined.
It only grew worse as more and more of Donovan and Anderson’s suspicions seemed to be validated by the day until even Greg could no longer ignore them and still do his job.
The newspapers were all publishing horrible things about how Jim was fake and it made her feel ill, and even though she didn’t know this Rich Brook person she knew she hated him.
Sherlock had never been the kindest of people but he was still an honest man when it counted and he didn’t deserve this. But she didn’t know what she could do.
It was then that she remembered the words that Irene had said the first time she met her. One day he will need your help.
Right now Molly needed help. You can’t help a drowning man if your own head is below water.
Irene was waiting for in the corner of the café when Molly arrived.
She was wearing a green silk blouse, and if she looked down her eyes were shielded by a rakishly angled black hat. The top few buttons were undone, revealing a hint of the black bra beneath.
Molly noticed that the middle aged barista kept glancing over at her as he made coffees. Her legs were neatly but casually crossed, the tip of one of her narrow heeled boots resting gently against the wall. The toes of the boots looked lethal.
When she spotted Molly she quickly rose to her feet, a wide yet reserved smile spreading across her face.
“Molly! Afternoon darling, take a seat. I’ve already ordered.”
She shook Molly’s hand firmly and then indicated the chair opposite her.
“Hi! This is a nice place.”
Molly replied as she glanced around the array of pastries she could see in the well lit refrigerated display unit.
“Don’t worry, I’ve ordered one of the escargot’s too. I took the liberty of presuming you were a mocha sort of girl.”
Irene added as the barista came over with two drinks. The question of how she knew caught in Molly’s throat.
“One weak mocha and a long black with a dash of cold milk.”
Molly could feel his eyes on her as he set down the coffees, taking in her fuzzy pink sweater and beige trousers. Oh god, and her shoes which were the awful slip ons she wore for work because they were old and comfortable and it didn’t matter if bits of, well, people got on them.
“Nice shoes by the way.”
She murmured through a smile across the table, hoping that her face wasn't turning red. Irene broke into a flattered grin.
She said as she lifted up one foot so that the shoe was visible.
“Personal favourites of mine. They’ve been quite useful to me over the years.”
They looked brand new.
“They look deadly.”
Molly replied as Irene lowered her foot so that the barista could bring the escargot to the table.
As he set the plate down his mouth was smiling but his eyes were darting between the two women and a slight frown shadowed his face. Irene ignored him.
Molly felt her eyes widen. Irene laughed.
“Oh I forgot, you’re such a good girl! No wonder the barista thinks we make such an odd couple.”
The look on Molly’s face must have been comical, at least to Irene, for she let out another hearty chuckle.
“I fear it might be partly my fault that he has that impression. I may have mentioned an ex of mine in passing as I ordered. So being a man, when he notices a woman joining a lesbian for afternoon tea he thinks they must be together. Pay no attention to him, he’s an idiot.”
An idiot who made particularly good coffee Molly soon found out.
In between sips of mocha and bites of escargot she nattered away at Irene about work and how she was worried about Greg’s health at the moment because his marriage was starting to deteriorate beyond all hope of repair.
When she slipped into the restroom Irene ordered another couple of coffees.
“Because there is a reason you wanted to have coffee with me today and it wasn’t to discuss bodies or the lovely detective inspector’s marriage.”
Molly bit her lip and fiddled with her hands nervously.
“Remember when we first met?”
“Remember how you said that the end of a war was coming?”
Another patient nod.
Molly took a deep breathe to steady herself and then just went for it.
“I think that day is coming. Really soon. The newspapers and gossip columns are turning against him. Against Sherlock. I’ve seen the way he looks when he comes into the lab. It’s a sadness that’s so….sad. He’s like a ghost of himself. I don’t think he’s sleeping, even when he isn’t on a case. Even John is looking tired all the time. I have no idea what to do. I have to do something to help him but I just don’t know what.”
Irene reached across the table and gently gripped Molly’s hand, stopping her from flailing it about in near hysteria.
She rubbed her thumb over it reassuringly as she leaned in across the table.
“You are going to be fine.”
She said confidently. Molly took a deep breathe and nodded.
“So what do I do?”
Irene jerked her head non-committally.
“Whatever he needs.”
It wasn’t what Molly was hoping for. She wanted Irene to give her a plan of attack, something she could sink her teeth into.
But when the time came it turned out to be sound advice. When Sherlock came to her on the verge of tears one night as she was getting ready to go home and asked for her assistance, she did exactly what he needed.
Chapter 4: Reflections
Irene invites Molly over for tea and they give each other a confidence boost.
The usual - unbeta'd and not brit-picked. Because I'm a lazy duck.
Irene had invited Molly to her house for dinner. Molly had been so anxious about being late that she’d arrived ten minutes early.
Irene had described the place as an apartment but if that was the case then this was the biggest apartment that Molly had ever seen.
She stepped up to the door, the black paint so glossy she could see her reflection, and rang the bell.
A few seconds later and the door swung open and a woman around Molly’s age wordlessly let her in.
“Upstairs, first door on your right.”
Irene’s voice floated down from the second floor, if you could call it that.
The apartment was split level, with stairs leading down to a kitchen and dining area on one side, and up to what looked like several bedrooms on the other. The entrance level floor opened out into a carpeted living room filled with expensive-looking furniture.
The ceilings were high and the rooms themselves were enormous. While Molly stared around in awe, the woman who had let her in glided to the kitchen and resumed cutting up a small pile of green beans.
After a small debate with herself as to whether to leave her shoes on or take them off, she carefully navigated the narrow steps of the staircase to avoid her heels slipping and sending her tumbling backwards.
The first door on the right turned out to be an enormous master bedroom. There was a plush four posted double bed, an extravagant looking black and white quilt lay neatly underneath an array of cushions.
“You’re a touch early, I’m still putting my face on.”
Irene half-smiled as she set aside her powdered compact and reached for a lip liner pencil.
Molly crinkled up her face apologetically.
“No, don’t worry about it. Dinner won’t be ready for another hour or so anyway. Lola’s probably still cutting up beans.”
Irene said dismissively before tracing the outline of her lips in blood red.
“You’re looking lovely by the way.” She added. “Love the red.”
For whatever reason, Molly had picked out the only red dress she had in her wardrobe. Normally she favoured neutrals, or black, or pink.
But tonight, maybe she’d just wanted to seem a little bolder and confident. It had worked, a little bit.
Yet she still found herself clutching her hands together in hopes that somehow that would stop any and all judgement from reaching her, like some kind of nervous shield.
Once again she found herself wishing she was more like Irene, who looked a picture of comfort and assertiveness as she just sat there applying makeup.
“Sometimes I’d give anything to be like you Moll.”
Irene said as she carefully applied eyeliner, her eyes meeting Molly’s reflection.
Molly asked in shock before she could stop herself. She was doing that thing again, where she took one look at Molly and told her exactly what she was thinking. She wished she could do that.
Irene smiled, that knowing smile she got so often. Molly often wondered if Sherlock had even given that smile to John.
It was a smile that said ‘you are clueless and I find that to be adorable’.
“The way you allow yourself to be so selfless, to share so much of yourself. How you are able to feel comfortable in knowing your own strengths, not having to always play silly games with yourself to prove anything. You think your vulnerability is a weakness, but it’s not. It’s one of greatest strengths. It allows you to be flexible. It allows you to show what you feel. You don’t live behind a mask. I’d love to be able to do that, but it terrifies me.”
It was then that Molly truly understood that Irene was afraid of being hurt. So scared of someone using a part of being against her that she closed herself to the world so that they couldn’t.
And as for the idea that someone like Irene, who could literally make her face unreadable and knew how to manipulate and control people in positions of power, was jealous of her?
That she considered Molly to have strength that she could never know? It was almost unbelievable.
Someone who had once had enough stored information to level several nations envied her.
Of course she had lost the insurance, and she’d never quite gained the level of security she once had. There is only so much you can do when you’re trying to stay dead.
“I’d give anything to be more like you.”
Irene turned to face her, eyes full of intrigue and Molly immediately wished she hadn’t spoken.
“Why?” The question was asked in honest curiosity, but Molly still bit her lip.
“I don’t know.”
She didn’t want to explain it.
Irene shifted on her seat, then patted the empty half next to her.
Cautiously Molly walked over and sat down, eyes immediately drawn to thin lips, dull eyes, and lifeless hair.
Irene didn’t move. She just watched for a few moments.
“What do you see? In me, when you look in the mirror.”
Molly switched her gaze from her own pale face to Irene’s. She saw strength, and wilfulness, and power.
“I see sharpness.”
Her cheeks, her eyes that seemed to observe all.
“I see softness.”
Lips outlined in red, waiting to be filled in.
“I see determination. Courage. Control. Balance. You look fearless.”
She said the last part wistfully.
“Fearless? Darling, I’ve got plenty of fear. Only a fool doesn’t fear. Next time you see Holmes Jr, you ask him about fear. Most of what he’ll give you is rubbish, but read between the lines. I know that’s what you’re good at. Come and back and tell me all about what Sherlock Holmes is afraid of. Never be ashamed of being afraid. Sometimes it’s the only thing that saves us.”
Molly watched in silence as Irene applied the rest of her makeup as deftly as an artist.
Of course makeup was an art, one that Molly had never quite mastered. She was improving though.
Irene checked one last time to make sure she hadn’t missed any spots.
“Shall we head downstairs for a drink?”
She asked as she stood abruptly. Molly nodded.
She said, still sitting at the mirror.
She saw Irene go to leave but then stop and turn back halfway to the door.
She put a hand on either side of the chair and bent down so that her lips were beside Molly’s ear, eyes firmly fixed on their reflections.
“Would you like to know what I see when I look at you?”
Molly inhaled sharply.
“The same thing you see when you look at me.”
With that, Irene kissed the side of her head chastely and then left her alone, heading downstairs to fix a couple of drinks.
For a full minute Molly sat there, staring at her reflection trying to figure out what Irene had meant.
Then she saw it.
Eyes that had surgical precision. They were sharp.
Hair that tumbled in loose curls that had taken almost an hour and a half to perfect. They were soft.
If she sat up straight and pulled back her shoulders, there was the courage, the control.
She smiled warmly at herself and her eyes lit up. There was the determination. She only had to look and she could see it all.
A warm, happy feeling spread inside her as she realised that this was what Irene saw in her all the time. Suddenly she didn’t feel so different from Irene after all.
Lola stayed long enough to serve dinner before she disappeared off out the door without saying a word. Not that Molly minded.
Two vodka sunrises and she frankly didn’t give a damn what anyone else was doing.
“Do you ever cook?”
Molly asked as Irene opened a bottle of red wine and poured two generous glasses.
“If I’m on my own. But never when I have company.”
She replied, handing Molly her glass and then seating herself next to her.
Molly had expected she would take the seat opposite, but she hadn’t.
She allowed Irene to heap green bean salad, and baked potato, and roast pork onto her plate in part because she was afraid she’d drop some all over the clean white table cloth if she tried.
“What makes you think I’ll see Sherlock again?”
She asked as she attacked a potato far more viciously than necessary.
“Where else is he going to go?”
Irene asked, wiping the lipstick smear from her glass. It was a good point.
Greg thought he was dead, as did John and Mrs Hudson. He was too proud to go to Mycroft and he didn’t have any other friends. Molly was it.
“You’re his link to his old world. His lifeline to John, to Greg.”
Of course, it would all be because she was a useful tool to him. If she stopped being useful then he would cut off all contact. She could see that now, and it bothered her.
“So I’m basically a phone to him.”
She speared a bean with her fork and crunched it between her teeth.
“I’d say you’re more to him than that. You saved him Molly. Jim had him on the ropes and you helped him throw one last punch. It wasn’t a winning punch by conventional standards, but it stopped Jim from being the sole victor.”
Molly wasn’t sure she believed her, but she wanted to.
She took a sip of the wine and almost choked on it.
“Oh my god, what is this?”
It was all she could do to stop herself from draining the whole glass.
“Nei Cannubi, 1999.”
Irene smiled as she took a large sip from her own.
“It’s really good.”
“It had better be. It’s almost 140 pounds a bottle.”
While Molly tidied up the dishes Irene ‘discovered’ Molly’s iPod had ‘fallen out’ of her bag, and crossed over to the speaker dock in the corner.
At one point she turned around and looked at Molly curiously, as though whatever song she’d just scrolled past wasn’t something she had thought Molly would like.
It was a command, rather than a request. Over the speakers a familiar tune began to play.
She’d chosen Michael Buble. Molly hesitated.
It was one thing to go to a woman's place for drinks and dinner and identity crises.
It was another thing altogether to dance with one.
Irene repeated, only slightly more forcefully.
So she did, suddenly hyperaware of how ungainly she felt when walking in these shoes.
Why had she even worn high heels? Or a dress? High heels and dresses were for dates, not casual dinners with friends.
As Molly reached her, Irene held out a hand.
Molly glanced from the hand to Irene’s face.
There was something in those eyes that told her that she would be safe, that this was going to be okay, so she took the hand.
Gently, but firmly, Irene pulled her close and guided her other hand to her waist.
I know your image of me is what I hope to be.
Then there was a warm hand on her shoulder and a high cheekbone brushing against hers.
I’ve treated you unkindly but girl can’t you see?
Irene was swaying gently, shifting her weight effortlessly from one leg to the other. It made Molly feel clumsy as she tried to move in time with her.
There’s no one more important to me, so darling can’t you please see through me?
Irene’s breath was hot in her ear as she pulled Molly closer until there was nothing separating their bodies and Molly could feel herself flushing.
Because we’re alone now and I’m singing my song for you.
She leaned her head down onto Irene’s shoulder and let herself be swept away as Irene led her about the floor of her apartment.
It had been a long time since Molly had danced with anyone.
It was nice.
“What would you say to a night out at the cinemas, watching classic Italian films?”
Irene murmured in her ear.
“I’d say that sounds lovely.”
She could feel Irene’s smile.
“I can’t expect you to accompany me to a sophisticated evening of film without dinner of course.”
There was a fluttering in Molly’s stomach. She tried to ignore it.
Suddenly Irene was twirling her around before scooping her back in close. It was all so fast it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.
“It’s a date then?”
Irene’s eyes met Molly’s, shining as though lit from within.
The word felt strange coming off her tongue. She didn’t really go on dates, much less dates with women.
Oh god, she’d just agreed to go on a date with a woman. The woman.
She’d just agreed to go on a date with a dominatrix.
The same dominatrix she’d been text flirting with for weeks, had just had dinner with, and was now dancing with.
Well, when she put it that way it all made sense.
Chapter 5: Visitors and Cinemas
An unannounced guest drops by and Molly remembers how her first date went.
Again, unbeta'd and not brit-picked. Feel free to slap me in the face with a riding crop if I've got things wrong.
He showed up unannounced as usual, all cheekbones and gloves and neck.
There was stubble on his cheeks and bags under his eyes. The coat he wore was old and worn in places and his left shoe had a hole in it.
It only took a moment for her to surmise that he hadn’t slept or eaten properly in days.
A scarf poked out of his pocket and a floppy grey beanie was clutched in his hand.
She felt his eyes on her, scanning, heard his brain whirring.
“You’re lucky I’m in, I was supposed to work this morning but there wasn’t enough for a full list so I’m only going in for the afternoon.”
Sherlock didn’t say anything as he entered her small flat, even when Toby came running from the bedroom to rub himself against his ankles.
“Tea or coffee?”
Molly asked out of politeness as she headed straight for the coffee tin.
“You’ve got a second chair.”
He stated plainly, as untangled himself from the cat and proceeded to perch himself on the kitchen bench.
“Yes. Sometimes I have guests and they like to sit down. On seats. Where they are meant to.”
It was meant to be chastising but it didn’t work. She watched as his eyes fell on the red and black heels by the door, the ones she’d worn the other night.
“Yes, but if it were only Greg or I you had over then you wouldn’t bother with such a nice chair, you’d buy something to match the first one. Comfort over style.”
He paused, frowning as he stared around the kitchen then.
“Who is she?”
Molly turned from the sink where she was filling a kettle with water.
He rolled his eyes impatiently.
“Your new lady friend.”
Before Molly could answer he leaped off the table and ran into the bathroom.
She could hear him going through the cupboards and she almost dropped the kettle in her haste to follow him.
“Do you mind? These are my private things!”
Thankfully when she saw what he was holding it was only her perfumes. She had three of them, one for work, one for ordinary things, and one for fancy outings.
“She must be doing you good, that Irene Adler.”
He said with something awfully close to a grin.
“I don’t understand.” She lied terribly, praying she wasn’t blushing.
“There’s only one time I’ve ever seen you wearing heels, and that’s when you wanted to impress. Last time it was me, but this time it was her. Mug in the kitchen, rinsed but not well enough to removed the lipstick stain. Then there’s the perfume. I’m aware of what kind Ms Adler uses and it’s none of these three which tells me that the reason I can smell Adler’s perfume is not because you’ve recently switched. Then there’s the new chair. Black leather. Not matched with your current furnishings, and too fancy for Greg or myself the only other regular visitors you have.”
He said as he let the bottles fall into the sink and walked back into the main room.
“Not to mention the new phone sitting on your corner table beside a collection of unopened Italian DVD’s. There’s only one woman I’m aware of who likes black leather, wears red lipstick and Chanel No. 5, enjoys Italian cinema and can afford to give phones as gifts.”
Molly could feel her mouth opening and closing, wanting to say something but being lost for words.
“I’ll just get you that coffee.”
She said, hurrying past him and putting the kettle on to boil. She’d managed to spoon the sugar and instant coffee into a mug before he spoke again.
“Been on many dates, or just the one?”
She didn’t need to ask how he knew about the date.
Her ticket from the other night was slipped in under the coat hooks, so that whenever she grabbed her coat to leave she saw it and remembered.
“So far just the one.”
She couldn’t stop herself from smiling as she said it.
She’d been desperately aiming for casual elegance but it ended up being anything but casual.
It had taken her three hours to get ready because she kept changing her mind halfway through. It was worse than Christmas.
By the time she turned up she’d settled for a floaty white shirt with lace trim, slim black trousers and the only pair of proper heels she owned.
8 shades of lipstick later, and half a dozen different hairstyles, she’d gone with an apricot colour for her lips and a messy twisted knot type thing for her hair.
Nervously she entered the restaurant that Irene had chosen and was shown to her seat by an uptight young maitre d. The table was on the wall opposite the window.
One look around the place was all that was needed to know that this place was well above her means.
She was in the middle of wondering how she was going to afford to pay for dinner when she caught sight of Irene weaving her way through the restaurant in the corner of her eye.
Her dark hair was tied into a loose ponytail that trailed down the front of her left shoulder, her usual bright red lipstick swapped for a warm burgundy.
She wore fitted blue top with wide collar that emphasised her neck and collar bones.
This was a date. It suddenly struck her.
This was a date and that was her date. It was really happening.
She quickly stood up as Irene reached the table and held out a hand to shake. Irene accepted it with a smile and swooped in to give her a light peck on the cheek.
“You look…really good.”
Molly struggled to find the words.
Irene licked her thumb and wiped the lipstick of Molly’s cheek.
“And you look absolutely divine.”
She replied warmly as she settled herself into her chair.
A waiter materialised beside them with two menus clutched in his hand.
“Can I get you any drinks to start with, or do you need some time to go over the wine list?”
He asked in a weak, polite tone. Irene glanced at Molly who put her hands up and shook her head to indicate that the decision was all hers.
“A bottle of your best quality Merlot thank you.”
The waiter bowed his head and shuffled off to fill the order.
“So, you booked under the name Norton?”
It was both a statement of fact and an invitation for answers.
Irene replied, opening her menu but not looking at it.
“It was the surname of a friend I had when I studied abroad. Seemed as good a name as any other to assume. Irene Adler is still dead you have to remember.”
It seemed slightly ridiculous, staying in a city where there were plenty of people who might recognise you.
Many of them your friend knew.
Many of them your girlfriend knew.
That’s what they were now, girlfriends, since this was a date.
“No it’s fine. It’s a good name. A nice name. Good name.”
She realised she was starting to ramble and pressed her lips together, pretending to be very interested in the menu in front of her.
There were so many questions she wanted to ask.
Did she have a passport, or a driver’s license under Irene Norton? What about a bank account? Where was she getting her money from since all the accounts she’d had as Adler would no longer be accessible to her being dead and all? Did she still work as a …recreational scolder?
But she bit her tongue and swallowed them all down. Now wasn’t the time. They were questions for another day when they weren’t on a first date.
“Anything striking your fancy?”
Irene asked, glancing up from her menu. Molly crinkled up her nose indecisively.
“A few things to be honest. Rabbit is always a good choice, but the pork belly sounds delicious.”
At that moment the waiter returned, proffering a wine bottle at Irene who glanced at the label and nodded.
He deftly removed the cork with a small pop, before carefully pouring two glasses. The rest of the bottle was nestled snugly in an ice bucket beside the table.
“Are we ready to order?”
He asked. Irene nodded firmly.
“I’ll have the venison.”
She said as she passed him the menu.
“And for you madam?”
She opened her mouth to order the pork belly, or perhaps even the rabbit, but that wasn’t what came out.
“I’ll have the venison too.”
Their chatter was fairly formal at first, polite questions about work and the like.
By the time their meals came they’d both warmed up and were talking freely.
“It turned out that he saving everything to his drafts instead of sending it, but Sally sorted him out. He’s always the worst at trying to figure out new technology.”
Molly laughed as the waiter cleared their empty plates.
“Mmmm, I know a detective like that. Not your one, don’t worry. I’m not sure I’d be able to say no if he asked though.”
She laughed as Molly threw her napkin at her causing some of the people at the nearby tables to stare.
“Don’t you worry you’re pretty little head. I’m a one woman woman now.”
She glanced at her watch and gave a start.
“Whoops, dinner took longer than I expected. No time for coffee. Grab your coat dear, we have to run.”
As they walked to the counter to pay Molly suddenly stopped and grabbed Irene by the arm.
“You might be a one woman woman, but Greg Lestrade is a man.”
She tried to keep herself serious but she was fighting a losing battle.
“Damn, you discovered my loophole.”
Irene replied playfully, as they both laughed.
Irene handed a card over to pay for the meal, ignoring all Molly’s protests otherwise.
“Doctor Hooper, I asked you on this date and I’m going to pay for it.”
There was no point arguing with her, she had that stubborn smile on her face.
“Fine, but I’ll pay for the cab home.”
“It’s a deal.”
The cinema was a small place not far from the restaurant, although far enough for Molly to begin to wish she’d chosen a different pair of shoes.
Irene held out a pair of tickets to the bored looking usher, who punched a hole through one end and stepped aside to let them into the theatre.
Inside were a dozen or so small groups of people, mostly older couples, spread out almost evenly among the 10 rows of seats.
The lights went out as they climbed the shallow stairs up to the back row and Molly felt Irene stumble behind her.
She bit her lip so she wouldn’t giggle as she offered her a hand.
“I missed the step.”
She whispered with a grin, instinctively wiping her hand across her knees to get rid of any dirt that might have settled there.
An elderly man seated near the aisle was glaring at them disapprovingly and Molly blushed.
They slid into their seats just as the screen flickered from white to black and white.
The first film was in English, something about witches or vampires, or perhaps it was both. It was easy enough to watch, nicely paced and simple to follow.
But Molly had to concentrate during the second film as she couldn’t speak Italian and sometimes the subtitles moved a little too quick for her to read them all.
Halfway through the second film Irene put her arm around the back of Molly’s chair.
It was an invitation, and after a few moments of hesitation Molly took it, leaning in and resting her head on Irene’s shoulder. Irene wrapped her arm around her, drawing her in close.
It felt strangely more intimate than if she’d kissed her.
She wondered if Irene could feel her smile.
She handed him his coffee and took her mug of steaming tea over to her chair and sat down, facing him as he swivelled around on the bench and looked at her.
“I don’t suppose it asking too much of you to stay and have a sleep in a proper bed. Don’t think I don’t know you’ve been sleeping on the street, and don’t give me that nonsense about not needing creature comforts. You look awful.”
His brow furrowed as he opened his mouth to refuse, but changed his mind at the look on Molly’s face.
“Fine. But don’t expect me to still be here when you get back from work.”
She hadn’t expected it at all, so she chalked it up as a win.
“Have you ever felt afraid?”
She blurted out suddenly. It surprised her as much as it confused Sherlock.
“Why would you want to know that?”
Molly fumbled around for an answer.
“I was just wondering if when you were running around after Jim, or chasing murderers and dangerous criminals, if you ever felt afraid. I heard it was pretty scary out in the woods near Baskerville that time you –“
But he cut her off sharply before she could finish.
“Lestrade and John were terrified. Lestrade kept waving his gun around like an idiot even though I kept assuring him that it was all fine. I maintain a rational mind, using my superior judgement to determine which stimuli were real and what was an illusion created by the intoxicant.”
She almost didn’t dare ask the next question.
“What about on the roof?”
His eyes narrowed.
“I am not afraid of death.”
It was a lie, but a good one. The way he said it, someone who didn’t know him as well might almost be convinced.
“I never said you were.”
Chapter 6: Kisses and Carnivals
Molly and Irene discuss Sherlock over a cup of tea after a date at the carnival.
Oh you know the drill.
By the time they arrived back at Molly’s house they were both tired.
Molly threw her coat and bag in the corner and flopped gratefully into her chair, still clutching the large stuffed monkey toy that Irene had one from her at the shooting gallery.
Irene paused to pick up the fallen coat and hang it on its hook before she sank into her seat.
Molly closed her eyes and let out a contented sigh.
“That was the most fun I’ve had in ages.”
“It’s been years since anyone has taken me to a carnival.”
She could hear the smile in Irene’s voice.
It had been a much more casual evening than their first date.
Both women had opted for simple ponytails to keep the hair off their face, and once Irene’s lipstick had been wiped off by food and drink she hadn’t bothered to reapply it.
Irene asked, moving to stand up.
Molly cried, as her eyes flew open and she leaped to her feet. Irene froze.
Molly shook her head and wondered when she’d put her hands out in a stopping gesture.
“Not no, I don’t want a cup of tea. I meant no, don’t you get up to make the tea. I’ll do it.”
She kicked her shoes off and padded into the kitchen, throwing open the pantry and grabbing boxes of tea bags.
“I’ve got whatever the ordinary Tetley black tea is, Earl Grey, Vanilla Earl Grey, or Peppermint.”
She said, waving the boxes around as though seeing the box would somehow help Irene make up her mind.
“Earl Grey thanks darling.”
Molly took a bag from the Earl Grey box and one from the Peppermint box. It was after 11pm. She rarely drank caffeinated drinks after 9.
As she busied herself with filling the kettle and fetching mugs, she remembered that she had wanted to talk about something.
“I saw Sherlock the other day.”
Irene’s expression didn’t change.
“I know. He came to see me at my apartment a few days ago.”
“How did he know where you lived? It’s not like he can look you up in a directory somewhere, unless he knew you had assumed the name Norton.”
“He’s Sherlock. He wasn’t very pleased with me.”
“I think he’s just upset that I’ve managed to stay in London and be in contact with you all this time, right under his nose, without him noticing. I’ve injured his pride.”
She look incredibly pleased with herself.
“He looked really sad when I saw him. He hasn’t been sleeping. I think he’s been spending his nights on Baker Street again, just watching.”
Molly had to raise her voice slightly to be heard above the noises the kettle was making as it boiled.
“That’s perfectly understandable. For a while, I was sad. When I was dead. At first.”
She’d turned around so that she was facing the back of her chair, her chin resting on the top of the back.
“You were sad?”
Molly had never seen Irene look anything less than composed. She was always smiling, or thoughtful, or completely unreadable. Except for now. Now there was a ghost of gloom in her eyes like a shadow, as memories crossed the front of her mind.
“Yes. I was sad. But we’re talking about Sherlock, not me. We can talk about me later.”
There was an honesty in the way she spoke that told Molly that if she brought it up later, Irene would talk about it. So she let it go.
“I asked him about fear.”
Irene sat up, her interest piqued.
“He didn’t mention that. What did he say?”
The kettle started to whistle loudly and Molly hurried to take it off the stove.
“He said he wasn’t afraid of death.”
She said, filling the two mugs with hot water.
Molly picked up the mugs, tea bags still in, and carried them over to the chairs.
Irene whispered thanks when she was handed her cup.
“It’s not true. Not at all. Death is what frightens him the most, it’s what motivates him. If he hadn’t completely believed that John, or Mrs. Hudson, or Greg’s lives were in danger, he wouldn’t have done what he did. I can see it in his eyes, it’s killing him. But he would rather be alone and have them grieve for him, than to be alone and have to grieve for them.”
“Yes, there’s some unfinished business there. He wouldn’t tell me what. The silly lamb is still trying to convince me that he’s a sociopath. He’s no more a sociopath than I am. He just likes to think he is because that means people will accept him. Like if he labels himself as such it means people won’t try to fix him because he’s unfixable.”
They fell into a comfortable silence as they sipped their tea.
Irene gazed over at Molly, unmoving and almost unblinking. The corners of her lips curved almost impercibly upwards into a hint of a smile.
“He told me if I hurt you then he’d throw me out the window.”
She said suddenly, breaking the silence.
Molly wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say to that.
“I told him he needn’t worry and that if I ever hurt you, you’d throw me out the window yourself.”
By the time they’d finished their tea it was getting close to midnight.
“Well my dear, it’s being absolutely lovely, but it’s getting late. I should head off, let you go to bed.”
She said, glancing at her watch.
Molly walked her downstairs to the door, shivering against the cold of the stairwell as she hadn’t bothered to put on her coat for such a short trip.
“Thanks. For the night. It was great.”
Molly said, beaming.
“It was wonderful. Thank you for asking me to come with you.”
She returned the sunny grin. With an odd little curtsy she turned to go.
Not even thinking about it Molly grabbed her arm to stop her. In films people always said smooth things here, but Molly didn’t know what that would be.
So instead she grabbed Irene by the coat and pulled her in for a kiss.
It was clumsy, and shaky, and it tasted like a mixture of peppermint and earl grey tea, but it didn’t matter.
Molly didn’t know why she did it. She wasn’t planning on doing it, and judging by her shocked reaction, Irene hadn’t seen it coming.
She broke away as quickly as she’d begun, not quite able to believe that she’d initiated their first kiss.
She said breathlessly as she hugged herself in attempt to keep out the cold.
Irene raised an eyebrow, smiling. Then there were slender hands on Molly’s face, drawing her in for another kiss.
This time it was soft, and sweet, and lovely.
Chapter 7: Camping
In which Molly and Irene go camping.
Not beta'd, not brit picked. You know the drill.
There were birds chirping when Molly first woke up, eyes determinedly remaining shut against the dull hint of morning light.
Her face felt frozen in the crisp morning air even if the rest of her was still snuggled beneath a half dozen blankets.
When Irene had suggested taking blankets instead of sleeping bags, Molly hadn’t been keen on the idea. It seemed like it would just increase the amount of stuff they were taking, making the car decidedly harder to pack.
But it had turned out to be a wise decision. It’s easier to share blankets than sleeping bags on bitterly cold nights.
They’d been here for three nights and each one was colder than the last.
Molly had tried sleeping on her own the first night, but after two hours of shivering she’d given up and dragged her blankets over to Irene and huddled under them.
The added warmth of not only double the blankets, but Irene’s body heat soon had her drifting off into comfortable sleep.
Irene always got up first. It wasn’t that Molly was a late riser by any stretch of the imagination, it was just that Irene seemed to like sitting out in the dark, building a little fire as she waited for the kettle to boil on the tiny gas stove.
Stretching her arms above her head, ignoring the wave of cold that flooded over them, Molly finally opened her eyes.
The beginnings of shadows could be seen through the tent and she took a moment to watch the gentle swaying movement of the branches, dark leaves dancing above her head.
Bracing herself, she threw back the covers and felt that familiar prickling sensation as her body was assaulted by the chilly air.
The tent was tall enough that she could almost stand as she took the few steps needed to reach her clothes bag.
A second pair of track pants, her most hideous yet warmest jumper, and a pair of moccasins later and she was ready to brave the waking world outside the fabric walls.
She opened the zip and stepped out into the light, swearing as she tripped over the lip created where the door flap met the floor.
Irene called from the other side of a crackling fire, grey smoke drifting lazily upwards towards the pink and grey morning sky.
“Good timing, the kettle’s finally boiled.”
She held it up, steam rising from the spout. Molly shivered, stamping her feet and rubbing her hands together.
Crossing her arms over her chest, and shoving her fingers into her armpits to keep them warm, she walked over and sat on the fold out stool that Irene had set up for her.
“You look warm.”
She said, noting the absurd bulkiness of Irene’s coat.
“Four layers on top, three on the bottom, socks, slippers, gloves, a scarf, and a hat? Yeah, I’m almost warm enough to be comfortable.”
They both smiled. It had been a ridiculous idea to go camping in the middle of winter, but after the disaster that was Christmas, Molly had wanted to get as far away from the hustle and bustle of the city as possible.
She’d been surprised that it was somehow worse than the last one, given Sherlock wasn’t there for the drinks, his pretending to be dead and all.
But at the lunch John had gotten horribly drunk and started crying on a man called Henry’s shoulder, Mrs Hudson had accidentally set her oven on fire while cooking a turkey, and it ended with Greg having to go to hospital after he fell up the stairs and dislocated his knee.
Then she’d gone home to find Sherlock in her flat wanting to know how everyone was and refusing to leave even though Irene was coming over for dinner. There’s nothing quite like having Christmas dinner with two not-dead dead geniuses and a cat.
“I thought we might go hiking up that mountain today.”
Irene said as she handed her a steaming mug of tea. Molly accepted it gratefully, cupping it with both hands even though the warm cup felt as though it was made of fire.
“You said that yesterday. And the day before.”
The truth was that Irene had said it all four days that they’d been here.
“Yes, well we go home tomorrow, so I thought we should get around to actually doing it today.”
Molly sighed. She’d been putting it off every day now, but she knew that Irene wasn’t going to accept her flimsy excuses today.
“We’d better have a good breakfast then.”
It was mid-afternoon by the time they arrived back at the campsite. Molly’s feet ached and she wanted to do nothing more than lie down and not move for several hours.
Stumbling into the tent she collapsed face first into the bed and tried to remove her boots with her feet.
“Tired are we?”
Irene asked as she flopped down beside her.
Molly answered, face still buried in the blankets.
“Well then I suppose I’d best leave you to sleep.”
Irene feigned getting up before Molly grabbed her by the arm and dragged her back down.
“Nope. You’re staying here with me.”
“Oh am I? And why would I want to do that? I could be reading a book or -”
She was cut off from her playful banter by a sudden kiss.
“Well, when you put it that way…”
Molly swung a leg over Irene’s hips, careful not to kick her with the hiking boots, so that she was straddling her.
Leaning down, she kissed her again. Both women were firm and unyielding in the kiss, until Irene reached up and pulled Molly closer.
Molly softened, allowing Irene to take control. Irene seized the opportunity, biting down gently on Molly’s lower lip as her hands tangled in her hair.
“Still want to read that book?”
Chapter 8: And what then?
Oh gods, I'm so sorry this took so long to be updated but here we are - final chapter. Only about 6 months late. Once again, unbeta'd and not britpicked. All mistakes my own.
“I thought we might go on holiday to Canada.”
Irene said as she spread some of Molly’s lumpy attempt at blackberry jam over her toast. Molly glanced over from the small dining table that had begun life as an end table in Irene’s apartment.
Molly repeated as she let her spoon rest in her cereal.
“I lived there for a few years. I thought it might be nice to go back.”
She replied casually, leaving the jam and knife on the bench as she crossed over to join Molly.
“You mean you need to get out of England for a while and want me to come with you.”
“I think I’ve let you get to know me far too well.”
She said, taking a large bite of jam and toast.
“I think you’ve let yourself become far too easy to read.”
Molly replied, reaching out to brush a strand of hair off Irene’s face before it could fall into the jam. She still wasn’t used to this, waking up in the morning to find Irene sitting in her black leather armchair with the newspaper in her lap or making herself breakfast with damp hair trailing down her back.
“How long were you planning on going for?”
“3 or 4 months.”
Molly choked on her cereal.
“4 months? I’ve got 8 weeks leave, I might be able to wrangle 9 at the most.”
Irene didn’t seem bothered by this.
“Oh never you mind about that.”
She said, finishing off the first piece of toast and starting the second.
“I’ve been working very hard lately and I’m going to meet with someone today and strike a bargain. Getting you a bit more annual leave shouldn’t be a problem.”
Molly could feel herself starting to panic.
“Are you in trouble? Is that why we need to leave?”
Irene flashed her a reassuring smile.
“No, no. Trust me, if there’s a predator in this scenario then it’s me.”
That didn’t make Molly feel any better.
“You do remember how well that worked out the last time you thought you were on the road to winning?”
The smile vanished, as did the warmth in Irene’s voice.
“I do, and I’ve learned from that. This time I’ve got extra insurance.”
Molly wasn’t placated in the slightest.
“Oh, that’s great. Extra insurance. What exactly would that be?”
Irene wiped jam residue off her lips as she stood up. Leaning down, she murmured into Molly’s ear.
The Irene that disappeared into the bedroom was Molly’s Irene, warm and pleasant like summer. The Irene that came out was all business; hair neatly pinned to the top of her head with a solid armour of lipstick and tailored clothing.
“I’ll most likely be gone all day. Dinner out tonight?”
She asked, leaning against the kitchen bench as Molly attempted to wash the dishes in too-hot water.
“Sounds nice. Ouch!”
Molly’s hands were bright pink. It looked like she was wearing gloves. She decided to abandon the dishes until the water had cooled down.
“You’re favourite place, or mine?”
Irene let out a mock gasp.
“You mean they aren’t the same place? How about we compromise and go somewhere we both despise?”
Molly shook her head.
“No, we tried that once and ended up running into John and Henry, remember? I’d rather not relive that night of awkward explanation.”
“Point taken. The Black Cat it is. I’ll make reservations for 6.”
She leaned over the bench and gave Molly a quick kiss before she was gone in a whirl of Chanel No.5 and clicking heels.
Molly arrived at exactly 6 and was surprised to find that Irene wasn’t there. She sat down, ordered the usual wine, and waited.
Irene walked through the door ten minutes later, and the relaxed slope of her shoulders was enough to tell Molly that everything had gone according to plan.
As she reached the table she dropped a small book on Molly’s plate. It was a moment before Molly realised it was a passport.
She asked, as she opened it and saw her own face staring back at her.
“Precautionary. All above board, I assure you. I’ve provided some highly valuable intel to a certain branch of the government, in exchange for full citizenship and documentation for Irene Norton. They’ve agreed that several months abroad would be advisable will they…conduct business.”
“Are we in danger?”
Molly asked as the waiter hurried over with the bottle of wine to fill Irene’s glass.
“Nothing pressing, but it’s better to be on the safe side of things.”
She reached up and freed her hair from its still near-perfect bun. It tumbled down and settled around her shoulders, mirroring Molly’s own loose curls.
“There isn’t anyone else we should be warning is there?”
Molly asked, concerned that they might be unwittingly putting someone in peril.
“Only Kate, but she’s perfectly capable of looking after herself.”
Irene replied. Molly could see through the forced casualness.
“And what then?”
The question appeared to momentarily stun Irene. Molly had caught off guard. She liked doing that. It didn’t happen often.
“After we return from Canada?”
Molly nodded. Irene took a sip of her wine, stalling.
“Well, when we return I no longer have to hide.”
“You’ve never really hidden.”
Molly replied with a wry smile.
“No, but you have. We have. I’ll be able to come with you to dinner with John and Henry, or Greg and the other yarders without fear that the wrong person will find out and connect Irene Norton with Irene Adler.”
Irene reached out under the table and grabbed Molly’s hand, squeezing it lightly.
“I can move in properly. Or you could move in with me. No more occasional nights. No more camping trips to spend a few days together. And…and I could meet your family.”
“And here I was thinking that the real reason you insisted we had to keep it all low-key was so you didn’t have to meet my friends and family.”
“Only in part.”
Molly kicked her under the table.
She exclaimed, rubbing at her shin. Molly grinned unapologetically.
“And what then?”
She asked, taking a sip of wine and gazing at Irene expectantly.
“And then we have all the time in the world.”