He showed up at my door that afternoon - I'd been avoiding the news all day, because what could it tell me, really, that I didn't already know - and all he said was "John kicked me out."
I just nodded. Really, who could blame him? I did catch a little bit of the early morning coverage, little blue banners announcing 'Sherlock Holmes's Triumphant Return' in bold and cursive, before I turned everything off and wore my iPod on the tube to keep from hearing people talking about it; you could see Sherlock emerging from the police car - not an actual police car, or, well, not the sort with lights and the word 'police' written on it – smiling hesitantly when detective inspector Lestrade poked him in the ribs. That actually made me giggle, until I saw the man standing at the edge of the crowd, yelling; the short man in the leather jacket and overgrown crew cut. I think that's when I turned it off.
I hadn't invited him in, because I never have to tell him to do anything, but he just stood there, eyes darting this way and that, and then he coughed and it was clear he had some sort of trouble; strep throat, maybe, and I stepped aside, keeping the door wide open. "You'd better come in then," I said, and he did, and that's when it occurred to me, but I couldn't very well throw him out again.
But yeah. That's when I knew he'd find out, because he’s Sherlock.
It's not a secret... exactly. I mean, I don't talk to people about it, but it's not the sort of thing you broadcast, certainly not to someone like Sherlock, though the thing about Sherlock is, you don't have to. I always expected he already knew, but maybe he didn't. He does have a blind spot for some things, and that's what consoled me, as I plugged the kettle in - I hardly make tea at home anymore; I never seem to be there long enough - and tried not to worry too much about what Sherlock was doing in the lounge. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty - what were my problems compared to what other people were going through right now (I tried not to think about who, directly, I hate crying in front of others), or people in Sudan or - anyway, I made some tea.
He was on the settee when I came back in, leafing through the magazines on the table and muttering quietly about fabric softener. I never use the stuff, but it'd be pointless asking; he spent fifteen minutes discussing brands of raisins in the lab once; I didn't even know there were brands of it.
"Here." I put the tea down in front of him, and he ignored it. It was going to be a fun night, I could tell.
Like I said, it's not a secret. My parents didn't keep it from me or anything like that. I'll admit that sometimes I wish they would have, but that's silly; there's no way of knowing how I would have turned out, and I would have been told eventually, when, I mean, if I ever -
it's not something you should keep from a child, is what I mean. But sometimes I think about it; what it would have been like if I hadn't known. Because the way it is now, I always have to consider. You know. If. And when. And I mean, how do you bring that sort of
thing up in a conversation?
I've told a total of three boyfriends. Not Jim, thankfully; he wasn't really my boyfriend, but he seemed so nice that I almost did, anyway. I suppose there might be a lesson in that, but I'm not sure I want to learn it. Nick was nice about it, by which I mean that he was nice about it, in that overly polite way that makes you want to scream and throw things. Jake... Jake liked it, and that was just as bad, if not worse. It feels odd saying that; it shouldn't be wrong to like someone for who they are, and it isn't, but it wasn't like that. It's like I stopped being a person. It took me quite a while to tell Damien, but he took it surprisingly well, or at least I thought so at the time. I told him as much and he laughed and pointed out that he was a doctor, which he was; he worked at a sexual health clinic for teens in North London. He asked a lot of questions - not nasty ones, but interested ones, and he kept asking if it was OK for him to ask them, and I said 'yeah, of course' because the look on his face was just so sincere, and I didn't want to hurt him. That was all right, for a while, until I found out that he was writing a paper about me. He was quite upset when I broke it off; he couldn't understand why. He honestly couldn't. I haven't told anyone since then.
I thought about all that, sitting opposite Sherlock, his tea growing cold while he watched whatever I put on. He'd pulled his legs up into the sofa and I noticed for the first time how he was thinner in a different way, now; he'd lost what little weight he put on after John moved in, and he'd gained some muscle, quite a bit of it, but you have to feed muscles, and he hadn't. John would have... I couldn't think about John; I put my tea down and tried not to look at Sherlock looking at me. Sooner or later, one of us would have to go to bed.
"I'll sleep here," he said.
See what I mean; that's what he does. That's why I worried.
I found him staring at my wallpaper when I got up to use the loo at 3 AM. I couldn't sleep, knowing he was there. Not because... well, I mean, I like him. I like him a lot, but it wasn't about that, really. If you've got a presumed dead man wanted by the police, and any number of clandestine military organizations, who can discover your inner secrets by looking at your nail clippings or an old sock sleeping on your settee, the least thing on your mind is how good he looks draped across it. (Not that - I mean - it crossed my mind. Obviously!) He actually looked better than he did when he came in; maybe the Paracetamol was kicking in, which meant he'd ended up finally taking it, or maybe it was just the light.
"Pink," he muttered, like he expected an answer.
"What," I said, a little defensively, "I like it."
"You like it a lot."
"Yeah, well." He must have seen the radiators. "Brightens up the place, doesn't it?"
Sherlock made a noise quite like a sneezing rat (my cousin keeps them), and his nose twitched a little. Maybe it was just a cold? I should have tried to get some food down him, but even John... no, I really, really mustn't think about John.
"Erm, I'm just..." He was in my way, and I didn't want to push past him, all angles and lean muscles over that lose fitting robe (mine, for goodness sake; I'm a size 8) but he didn't move, so I went back to bed. He'd move eventually.
"I do have work, you know," I told him the second morning, when he hadn't budged from the rocking chair I keep by the window for hours. He'd taken to sitting there, pulling at the curtains and watching everything go by.
"I'm not stopping you."
"I can't just leave you here... on your own..." Of course I could, but I didn't like it. I didn't even like thinking about it, not in front of him, like this.
"There's nothing wrong with me."
There probably wasn't, come to that. He'd eaten some of the Chinese I'd ordered yesterday, and he'd taken at least three showers, which I'd tried to not listen to (or think about), and now he smelled like raspberries and vanilla and his hair looked off. He'd stopped sniffling, and his chest had stopped making odd noises. He probably was fine. "Yeah, all right."
He didn't say anything, just kept looking out the window. I'd tried to bring him magazines, but he didn't seem to care, and anyway I didn't like the way he eyed them before casually disregarding each one; even I could tell a lot about myself, looking at them. "You don't have to entertain me, Molly."
"I know that. It's just..."
"Nothing." I pulled my phone out to text Miranda. She could cover another day.
I'm not going to lie; it wasn't the first time I'd woken up in the middle of the night and imagined Sherlock in my bedroom, but this time I wasn't actually imagining it. He was sitting on the bamboo table by the door, holding my red IKEA heart pillow, turning it round and round so its little arms were flailing about. I sleep naked, so I did that thing I'd thought people only did in films, where you pull the covers all the way up to your neck and hold it there. I don't know why I did that, really; it's not like either of us would have minded, albeit for different reasons.
"What are you doing?" I said, which is another thing I thought people only did in films. Such a pointless question; like it mattered. What I wanted to ask was-
"What you're really asking is why am I here."
I just nodded. It's best to, really, when he gets like that.
"I couldn't sleep."
"I thought you didn't sleep."
"Of course I do; you've seen me, don't be ridiculous."
I nodded again. He kept turning the pillow, and my hands were getting tired. "Did you-"
"Of course I want something; I wouldn't be in here if I didn't."
I waited. A bit more. The duvet started slipping, and maybe that was it, maybe it was the way I bit my lip and there could have been a flash of something in my eyes (though he wasn't looking at me) but that's when he sat up straight and turned his head towards me. There was that rattiness about him again - I don't mean that in a bad way; rats are amazing creatures and a lot more cuddly than I expect he ever could be - and I just knew that he knew.
I held my breath. I couldn't think of anything to say, but I desperately wanted so say something, just so he wouldn't, but I knew it'd just come out wrong, like it always does, and I could see him thinking, and then he opened his mouth and said: "Oh."
Just that. I kept waiting for him to say more, but he just picked up the pillow again and started playing with it. He did that for a good two minutes, and let me tell you, that's a long time to be naked in a room with an attractive man who just admitted he knows intimate details about your genitalia but isn't interested in sleeping with you, before throwing it back on the shelf where he'd found it.
"I didn't think it'd be that. I knew you were afraid of me finding out something, but surely you must have realized I already knew?"
"I had an idea you might," I said, trying not to swallow.
"AIS, presumably. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome." It wasn't a question, and I didn't particularly feel like answering it anyway. "That would make you infertile, which is a stroke of luck; children are horrible things."
I leaned further up against the headboard; it helped if I looked down on him. "Are you trying to make a joke?"
Sherlock shrugged. "You seemed so nervous about it; I don't understand why. It's just a medical condition. Quite a lot of women have it." He got off the table, which wobbled a little even with his slight weight. "I'll let you sleep."
I settled back down again and waited for my heartbeat to go back to normal, which is probably why it took me something like half an hour to notice just exactly what he'd said. Quite a lot of women have it. A lot of women.
He was making toast in the morning. It seemed such an overwhelmingly normal thing for him to do that I was momentarily stunned into silence. He handed me a plate with marmelademarmalade dripping over the side and I actually took a step back and yelled "no!"
He didn't flinch. "Fine, more for me."
"No. You do not... you do not get to do this! You can't just... show up, and spend three days in my lounge and using my conditioner and then... I will not allow you to make this about you!"
His eyes widened, and he set the plate down. For a moment it looked like he was going to lick his fingers, and I really don't see how that would have helped the situation, so thankfully he didn't. "I don't..."
"No, you don't understand, because everything always is about you; that's your world! But this is about my life, who I am as a person, and that's nothing to do with you."
"You seem upset." He kept glancing at the toast; he must be really hungry. Fine; he could eat later.
"I am upset!"
"Because you told me I was a woman!"
We both paused, confused for very different reasons.
"I mean," I said, managing to lower my voice to a level that wouldn't have the neighbors calling the police, because that would have been a bit awkward, all things considered, "my whole life, I've been trying, you know? Just trying, and trying, and all I ever really wanted was for someone to accept me, and it just had to be you, didn't it?"
Sherlock looked a little like he was trying to blend in with the wallpaper, which he might have done if the shades had been a little similar, but there wasn't a floral print on his shirt. He was trying to wipe his buttered hand on a paper towel, but he couldn't seem to concentrate on it. His mouth gaped.
"Yeah, I knit cardigans and I have cats and I use too much pink everywhere, and it's painfully obvious, to someone like you; I know that. But that was my way of coping, of telling myself that if I just played the part right, it wouldn't matter if I didn't have bloody uterus." I knew it was a poor choice of words, but honestly, I couldn’t care less.
"What would you use one for?" Sherlock asked, paper crumpling in his hands. I looked at him, and gave up.
"Nothing. Probably." I sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm not sure if you meant it or not, but you actually did something nice. I shouldn't... I'm sorry."
I didn't stay to hear if he had a response to that; I was late for work, and I couldn't stay home another day. Not even for Sherlock.
I had walked all the way to the newsagents outside King's Cross before the adrenaline left me, and I realized I was still wearing my slippers. No one cared, of course; it was London during rush hour; I could have been wearing a bunny costume and bleeding profusely and no one would have given me a second glance. I have three pairs of shoes at work – I keep forgetting to take the extra pairs home - so it wasn't like I had to go back, and quite honestly I didn't want to, but that's when I noticed the front page of The Mirror, and it all sort of... came together, in my mind. I wonder if that's what Sherlock feels like, all the time. It's not an entirely pleasant feeling; that certainty of knowledge. Well, I suppose it depends on the knowledge.
I almost bought an issue, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
"No," he said, just that single word, when I opened the door and found him, marmalade fingers sticking the pages of my copy of Heat together, and just like that, I knew that he knew I'd found out. I'll admit; that bit did feel good.
He had no answer, and I wasn't surprised, really. That was the problem, wasn't it?
"You lied to me. John couldn't have kicked you out; he left after the funeral. Mike told me, he told me ages ago. I should have remembered. Even if you'd gone back to Baker Street, he wouldn't be there."
"Well, you didn't say Mrs. Hudson; you said John. You did that on purpose didn't you; you knew I already feel horribly guilty about not letting him know you were alive, that I wouldn't dwell on it; that I wouldn't think."
He looked quite small, sitting there, fingers still stuck to an article on ‘hair styles everyone can afford’. He didn't say anything. He does that, and I know it's to make the other person talk, but that's all right; I had things to say.
"But then I saw him. They've done an expose; The Mirror, The Sun, all the tabloid rags. He got arrested. He stormed into Scotland Yard and demanded they let him know where you were, and when they told him they didn't know, he started breaking things. Did you know that? No, you didn't; you've been avoiding the news and your phone. That's
what you've been doing; you've been hiding. You still are."
"Oh, please. I saw it on the news, how you walked right past him. I thought that was the police, not wanting to let him close, but really, why would they stop him? They know John, they know he's your friend. It was you. You're avoiding him."
"I'm," he couldn't get as far as "not," because the doorbell rang.
"That'll be him, then," I said, stepping into my good shoes. "I'll let him in as I leave."
I didn't see his face as I left, but I saw John's as he stormed past, ignoring me. It's always about Sherlock. Everything always is.
I didn't see either of them for months, though John kept texting me and I kept deleting and ignoring it. I'm not proud of that, not at all, but I felt I'd done more than enough. I knew they'd come by sooner or later, and of course they did; together, Sherlock rambling loudly - something about bacterial cultures and Tesco - seating himself at my microscope (I know it's not really mine, but it's certainly not his, is it) and shutting himself up and the two of us out. John got me tea. Just how I like it. I nodded, meaningfully, I hoped, and he smiled and stepped into the back office, which I don't even think Sherlock knows is there; it's where we keep files and things, I'm not entirely sure it should be called back office - that's something else, I think - but I've always... anyway, that's where we went.
"I just want to apologize," he said, almost before I'd closed the door. Not that we had to; Sherlock has very selective hearing, and even if John matters most of the time, I only rarely do.
"For him?" I tried to smile. I couldn't.
"No, that's... for him to do, but we both know he isn't going to." I did smile, then, and we both took a sip. Good tea. Good tea is undervalued. "It's... I need to let you know something. Sherlock... Sherlock told me. About..." He looked around, nervously, looking so lost that it took me a moment.
"Oh. Oh god."
"I'm so sorry..."
"I can't believe he told you!"
"I don't think he meant to." I must have looked shocked, for he added, quickly, "I'm not making excuses; it's utterly, utterly... He shouldn't have. He just threw it out, in passing, when we were talking about..." John licked his lips, suddenly very interested in the wall chart on avian flu prevention that we never got around to taking down, "...something completely different. Sexuality. You know, for a case."
I nodded, smiling very carefully. "For a case."
"He was making the point that people define themselves as they like; and, I don't know, suddenly he was talking about women with penises, and he mentioned your name, and-"
"I'm sorry; what?"
John's face was the color of my radiators. Though it did look better on him, I'll admit. "It's none of my business-"
"John, I don't have a penis."
"Right." He kept looking around, like he was searching for an exit. Military training, I suppose. "Right. Just... I should..." He nodded at the door.
"He thought I did?"
John looked at me. Me. And there was no pity in his eyes; all embarrassment, entirely his own, and when he fled the room muttering something about Sherlock needing him, and possibly I should have been offended, but I wasn't.
Sherlock didn't apologize. I gave him his coffee anyway. He wouldn't understand if I'd tried to explain that he already had.