She gives herself a year. It's a challenge. An extra special addition to the plan. There are gaps showing up in the careful schedule, gaping holes created by the changes but she'll mend them, think up solutions, because this is more fun.
Jemma Moriarty has caught a mouse and she's studying it oh so closely, more to mimic, because she must know how to behave.
Molly Hooper is missing. The dead bodies still coming, of that Jemma makes sure. Naturally they need a replacement, even if it's just temporary. They're lax in checking references and they don't have as high standards as they should. It's just temporary. Almost too easy, can't complain though, when it's going so deliciously.
“Molly, I need -” and he looks up, a sudden sense of wrongness. Let him see. There she is not Molly, and yet every bit the part, the little girl lost in her own world.
“You...you m-must be Sherlock Holmes. They've, um, told me about you.”
“What did they say then Molly's-replacement?”
She bites her lip, a pause for good measure. It says here I am, hesitant, nervous. Body language lying but he'll accept it because it's a ghost of what he expects. The best lies are the ones people convince themselves of, because they want to believe and not see the reality.
“To ignore you? To throw you out? To let you get on with it. Kind of err...mixed messages, everyone has an opinion of you.”
She says “I..I don't know yet,” and she blushes. Makes eye contact and avoids it an instant after. Assumptions, assumptions are made. Let him think she likes him, let him think the fierceness in her cheeks is lust of a different sort, he needn't know right now exactly what type it really is.
She has the pathologist’s diary as light reading. Doesn't tell her anything she didn't already know and she wants to know more. Luckily she hadn't killed her ideal source. Molly isn't having a good month; bit neglected, but only half-starved physically which is an improvement over her mental state. There she is, so starved of attention. Little change there. Her words written in an open looping scrawl had told her so plainly she was eternally starved of affection. This will be easy, but just as fun as anything is these days; these days of patient waiting and play-acting.
“Molly, don't be shy now. We've got so much in common.”
“One, we're far more comfortable with dead people than the living.”
The woman turns back briefly to face her, purely to take the time to spit in Jemma's face. Disgust. She can work with that. Fire is a delight, it’s when it goes out that she's bored. She holds Molly's face to hers past the time Molly wanted to be affronted by her visage, past when the girl’s bravado holds and stares with her dark eyes that never fail to unnerve lesser souls.
“Two, we both have an unhealthy interest in a certain someone.”
“Sherlock,” Molly says. It's not a question considering it's the only remotely sensible conclusion. Jemma grins with delight. This is going much faster than she'd expected. She swings herself up and the chair around 180 degrees in a fluid motion, plonking herself back in it across from Molly theatrically. Leaning in casually, and pivoting the chair forward dangerously to invade her guest’s personal space, she whispers a plea.
“Tell me a tale about our dear detective. Do make sure you don't leave out any little details. I'll know when you're deceiving me.”
Molly sits quietly eyeing the floor that first time. Hours and hours for Jemma to consider the mind inside and the motivations. Barely interesting in its own right, these silent sessions. No time is wasted though, taken to cataloguing her latest observations as she flicks through a clothing catalogue, eyeing up choices for her Molly costume.
They get to the tenth day, the twenty-fifth session (did a few stints at home in the lunch hour, couldn't resist) before Molly utters another word to her.
“He once beat a corpse with a riding crop in front of me.”
“Just the once?” Jemma asks quietly, and importantly, nonchalantly whilst she peels her apple with a penknife like she hasn't a care whether the conversation stops as abruptly as it started.
“The second time it was a whip. Cat o' nine tails. I think he stole it from a naval museum.”
“Do go on, Molly. It's dreadfully dull here.”
Molly obliges, more for herself than for Jemma, but beggars can't be choosers and she can tell she's going to get the goss about Sherlock from this one. Secrets beg to be told. People simply need the right circumstances to loosen lips. In Molly's case it's that someone cares, pays attention. It should have been Sherlock if he'd been more attentive, but he's lost his best asset, bar John Watson, and boy is she a liability to him now. The tastiest part is he doesn't even know the significance of his missing morgue attendant.
Their fifth meeting she knocks over a petri dish and places a piece of paper under it, with smoothly written script. A number. A phone number. Molly's new phone number.
If he cared for them, if he was interested, he'd call. He doesn't, so he doesn't get the delightful experience of the equipment set to auto answer and left on speakerphone in the grungy room that’s occupied by his old acquaintance.
The game is in his hands. The game's in Molly's hands. His turn passes him by and Molly doesn't get to play at all because they're on the same side, he forfeiting the turn for them both. Hard to say whether Molly would hit back had she the chance, were the ball in her court. Her mind is her only playground these days, endless hours in the windowless surroundings thinking and it can do nasty things to a personality. Especially with a little nudge here and there.
Jemma is careful to take it slow, irritating as it is. She's nothing if not patient though. She's waited twenty years; what's another measly one? Hell in a nutshell. Everything worth doing is worth doing right though and she won't give up. The fun outweighs the tedium. That's what she reminds herself in the middle of autopsies, elbow deep in oh so average guts. Hardly anyone dies interestingly unless she orders it and her people don't do a good job of surprising her with that.
Slow and sweet is how she does it. You catch more flies with honey. So, she stammers and fidgets and does mostly what he asks of her. She looks a little upset at his insults and he doesn't notice how deliberate the touches of mussed up hair and a dozen other minor details are. He has a mental note for weeks of her as Molly's replacement, doesn't know her name and doesn't know how she would never be so stupid as to pick out these distressingly distasteful mismatched working clothes if she was being herself. Her disguise is working a treat and this means it's time to mix it up, shift herself bit by bit to the place she wants.
At some point her demeanour has found her the rightful place in Sherlock's world. She's not Molly but she's so like Molly; so adoring, so accepting, so indispensable. That's when he asks for her name, months since the introduction stage. She has a badge – Jemima Geelan - but he asks her instead, makes a point of it. He's uncomfortable because he thinks of her as Molly who has fallen from memory and grace, and he doesn't like this change that has snuck in and upon him. Molly is Molly and can't be replaced, even a dufus like him knows that. Jemima has her place finally and it's a boon to know he cares even a touch for Molly. That makes the end planned just as relevant as she had hoped. Fun will be had after all.
She's gotten close and now all she needs to do is get under his skin too.
Going to work is enticing, the thrill of will he appear or won't he, or can she orchestrate a reason for him to come see her.
Coming home is less and less dull too. No 'Hello, sweetheart how was your day'. She likes to sit and tell Molly dear anyway, flout her victories with Sherlock in her face, talk about Molly's morgue like it her's now, every space in her life taken from the girl.
Hollow eyes look back, almost blankly except for a hint of deeply dark bitterness shining out. She became Molly for a reason and she allows Molly to grow more like her for a reason too. She smoothes the hair of her pet and considers how best to break her. Does she actually taste as bitter as she looks? She presses chaste kisses to Molly's head and poses the rhetorical question.
“Did you hope he would do this one day?”
They both know it's true. Hoped and dreamed for it and more. For the undivided attention of a genius. Never this as it is. She attracted the wrong person and for the wrong reason too. Molly thinks she doesn't count, not really, a pawn in the game. She doesn't see she's always mattered, always been there meekly waiting and that she is not there anymore is what is most helpful now.
“The waiting will be over soon. A few more months and it can end.”
For now Jemma has her to herself and has every thought and memory of Sherlock to joyfully extract. Her secret window to peek through, and evermore Molly is becoming her mirror into herself as much as Sherlock.
Sherlock is stuck, befuddled, stumped. The case isn't cracked and he sits in her lab mulling his failing silently, deriding her and John for trying to help.
Facts don't lie and the facts don't add up.
People lie. People you can't know like facts and he forgets that. He trusts her. John trusts her. So she starts to lie bit by bit, him not questioning it. He relies too much on her, exactly as he had with Molly, as Molly has revealed over and over.
She pushes her luck with contact, brushes fingertips across his palm as she hands him instruments. With morbid jokes too, letting herself shine through more and more, but it's okay because Molly joked and it will feel familiar. Jemma revels in being more herself around him.
She transforms over a long season from the mouse-like Molly - the same as the mouse in Molly becomes bitter and hard and a touch crazy – to more closely resembling the person who demands as much presence in a room as he. Bit by bit the process goes until she is trading barbs with him at a higher level than John could ever hope to.
Jemma doesn't verify it with data, doesn't push for an admission, yet she knows she touches his mind, sets off a string of thoughts with one careful word spoken. They work in tandem and he trusts, he does himself a disservice there, because she's manipulating him more ways than one. His heart races there in the lab as much as it does on the physical chase. The smile of hers that lights up the lab for him is genuine and triumphant. One day he will know why.
It is glorious day in and day out. Sherlock in the daylight, ablaze, and Molly darkening the evening just so. Sometimes she wishes it would never end but the big finish is what it's for, the fireworks and the burn they rain down on everyone involved.
The year's end comes too quick for her liking. Still, a plan's a plan and this has got to go without a glitch. You don't want any snags or bumps, those are dangerous indeed what with explosives being involved and all.
There's one amendment she makes to up the ante secretly – switching out a child (horror, oh no, think of the children) with the long overdue return of Ms. Hooper. With added Semtex. The flack jacket suits her, shame she couldn't have been about longer.
So far along in the game they are, but he keeps playing even though he hasn't heard a pitiful voice the other end of the phone. He's got the right track anyhow, the body on the shore, the trusty assassin in Gollum, the gallery. They get in there last minute with the penultimate to the finale. Molly calls and starts the countdown and Jemma, listening in, registers the slightest of hitches in his voice as he asks who it is. Molly continues dutifully. 5.4. 3. 2.
“The Van Buren Supernova,” he blurts out excitedly. The game stops for no one.
There is silence on the line.
“Where are you, Molly?”
Oh so he can tell. She bets there's a gasp about him from his steadfast companions.
“It's better... like this.”
“Where are you, Molly? Lestrade will come get you personally... It's okay now.”
Reassurance coming from Sherlock Holmes, surprise surprise. This does bring out the best in him, as well as the worst. He thinks the puzzling is over though and how wrong he is. People are infinitely more complex. Dumb, easy to manipulate usually but hard to understand for someone like Sherlock. That's where they differ. Specialties, though while hers is people, she can’t quite decipher what his is yet.
“No. It's been too long... I feel dead already. Moriarty doesn't ask for much. I won't feel a thing really. Over quick. I know that.”
“We can save you.”
And he means to, he does. He'd wanted to, he'd tried to. He hadn't been good enough though, had he. That's the truth she's been repeating all these months until Molly recognised it.
“Can you?” Molly asks, tone strong with defiance and disbelief
Sherlock must catch that change in the woman and doubt himself, consider the implications. He still replies somewhat confidently, all ego he is, “Yes, of course.”
He thinks he can win her over because he's Sherlock Holmes and because she had adored him. He doesn't know Molly is hers now. Moriarty's, not Holmes’. Molly feels as strongly for her as she did for him, and then a little more since hate is powerful and self-loathing destroys the soul. It isn't Molly's fault and Sherlock ought to predict. Stockholm syndrome is well documented.
“You didn't come. You didn't find me. I used to think you were... amazing.”
There is static and dial tone, disconnected. She regrets not setting up mics or cameras in the gallery so she could witness his reaction. She hadn't been completely sure Molly would do it – it was her choice, and choice was what made it more powerful.
There's a hole in her heart now. Teeny tiny, yet existent. Mind you, there's a much bigger one in the road and that's what counts in her books. London less one roundabout, traffic chaos will ensue and in the background of her view of the scene there is a symphony of alarms, the blaring high pitch coming to a crescendo as the distance is decreased for the approaching ambulance and squad cars. Chaos is much harder to orchestrate than anyone knows and the result is music to her ears.