Thomas gives her the day off.
He comes down in person the night before and tells her that he’s already got someone to fill in for her, so she should go do what she needs to do tomorrow. He touches her shoulder when he says it, and gives her a sympathetic look when she flinches.
Everybody’s been toeing around her since Sherlock died on the pavement outside. She’s not sure if she’s supposed to be the eggshells or the lit fuse, on the edge of collapse or explosion. She thinks she knows what they must be thinking--poor girl, so besotted she didn’t see what he was. Maybe she did try a bit hard, but that’s just insulting. But she can’t say anything, she can’t, because if they figure out she’s not torn up inside, they’ll start asking why. And if they start asking why, well.
She awakens the morning of Sherlock’s funeral with a crick in her neck from the sofa, and drags herself into the kitchen for tea, which she sips blearily as she watches the news on the telly. Sebastian Moran is on again, pleading for anyone to look into the murder of his friend.
“As if anyone has stopped,” she mutters around a mouthful of toast. Her voice startles her, and she suddenly realizes how little she’s spoken lately. Maybe, she thinks, she’s afraid the truth that she’s locked behind her teeth will come tumbling out.
--a good man, the best man I’ve ever known, caught up in a trap that closed too fast, Moran is saying, and in his eyes, caught in perfect definition, are suppressed tears. It’s a nice touch. She wonders who he drew a bead on that day, which one of her friends he was planning to murder.
A ghost wanders out from her bedroom and tips her cat out of its perch on the green chair. Sherlock doesn’t say good morning, just sprawls into the place he claimed from Toby and stares at the television. The pretty woman behind the news desk reminds viewers that the funeral service for Richard Brook is tomorrow at two, and donations to a fund are being accepted in lieu of flowers. She snaps off the television in disgust.
Sherlock watches the black screen for another few moments, then says suddenly, “Are you going?”
“To that?” she asks, surprised.
“What? No, today.”
Instead of answering, she scoops Toby up from the floor and tries to match her breathing to the ins and outs of his purr. Sherlock is slouched down in the chair, his narrow shoulders digging into the back of it. He’s only got pyjama bottoms on, and she can see the fading purple of the bruises circling his ribs. She doesn’t know if he got them from the fall or a fight beforehand. In a couple of days, she figures, it won’t even be an issue.
It’s a cruel joke, this whole situation. She gets Sherlock in her flat and in her bed, but it’s wrong. It’s all wrong. In her head, she’d make him coffee and listen to him be brilliant all day. Instead they sit here like a matched pair of liars, the dead boy and the dead-people girl, and the thing that hangs between them is that inexplicable phenomenon called life.
“If you do,” he adds, “you’ll want to bathe. Your hair is doing that thing.” He waves a hand on the word thing, and Molly instinctively and self-consciously smooths a palm over her scalp as he stands and stalks to the kitchen.
She leaves him in the flat later, reading through editorials about himself on her laptop. There are three hours until the service, but she had to get out for a while, or face the prospect of being the verbal punching bag for a seriously distressed but emotionally incapable Sherlock Holmes.
She makes it to the South Bank and wanders about, feeling useless and strange, the pale girl in the dark clothes and the heavy makeup. She buys an expensive drink to chase away the chill, watches the people running about, stops to glance over the day’s headlines. Sherlock is still the biggest story, but the pictures above the folds show no one with whom she’s familiar. A grieving family in one, below the word JUSTICE. The infamous hat photograph. And behind a badge that proclaims it “exclusive” is a blurry camera phone shot of a body on concrete, a handful of medical personnel kneeling in the dark smudge of blood below it.
She turns away and sees an entrance for Waterloo station. She could transfer to the Piccadilly line at Leicester Square, and from there it would be so easy to ride out to Heathrow and escape. There are a hundred places where no one knows who Sherlock is, and a thousand more where she can breathe again without the pitying looks. Australia her mind whispers, the other side of the world, and you wouldn’t even have to learn the language.
But she stays seated later when the doors wheeze open at Leicester Square, and the ride to Archway station seems to take almost no time at all.
Highgate Cemetery is thick with people. She catches the eye of Greg Lestrade across the crowd, and he winds his way through people toward her. She thinks about trying an escape, but the press of bodies locks her in, the throngs who came to see the spectacle.
There’s a pale stripe on the third finger of his left hand, a memory of a ring. So he and the missus are in a rough patch. Or over for good. She couldn’t say for sure which is worse.
She remembers Sherlock arching off the cold steel table after the fall, the heels of his hands pressed into his eyesockets, hissing stupid stupid stupid. It had taken a long time to piece together what had driven him to their backup plan, and afterward she’d had nightmares of half-seen gunmen stalking everyone she’d ever loved.
Knowing how close Greg had been to the real thing feels like a giant hand pressing her down, holding her frozen.
They stand together for the ceremony, at the edges of the crowd. She wonders if it’s guilt for him, too, that’s keeping him on the outside. Near the center, Mrs. Hudson seems to be supporting John Watson, her hand in the small of his back. Molly can see him shake his head no once, and she imagines that he was asked to speak. Mycroft Holmes is standing next to the headstone, leaning heavily onto an umbrella as he absently scans the crowd.
Her mobile chirps in her clutch, and she snatches for it in a panic. As she brings it to her chest, she has time to catch a glimpse of the text.
How is it? -SH the screen flashes, a message from an unknown number, and she turns the whole thing off rather than risk Greg seeing the text when she tries to clear it. He looks at her strangely, and she can feel the color rising in her cheeks, and she hopes that he thinks she’s just embarrassed to have been that girl at a funeral. She tucks the mobile back in her clutch, heart thudding.
“D’you want to go get a drink?” he asks, when it’s over.
“No,” she whispers and doesn’t meet his eyes.
“Hey, now--” he starts, but he seems to give up part of the way through, like he can’t muster enough to attempt comfort.
“Please,” she says, in her smallest voice. It’s the only word that comes, choking off the rest of please go away, please don’t ask me anything, or maybe actually please figure it out, please don’t make me carry this alone.
“It’ll be all right, you’ll see,” he murmurs, and lightly kisses the top of her head. The stubble on his unshaved face rasps against her hair.
She slips away as the crowd is dispersing, one black dress amidst a score, and wobbles as her heels sink into the soft earth. There are thousands of people beneath her feet, but Sherlock Holmes is not among them. Some part of her, deep inside, knows that she’s part of the reason that coffin she just watched lowered into the ground didn’t contain one of the greatest minds of her generation.
When she reaches pavement, she turns on her mobile and taps out fancy a curry? to the unknown number.
Fine, comes the immediate response, and yes, she thinks, maybe it really will be.