The fact that Molly Hooper was nervous was nothing new.
The fact that her nervousness was due to being invited by Sherlock Holmes to come see him at his Baker Street flat? Very new.
The taxi was only a few minutes away now. She’d have her answers soon.
Sherlock sat on the sofa, playing his violin in an absent way. The way he did when he was thinking. He’d switched from Bach to Schubert of late. If anyone had asked him why, he would’ve simply said he was making a new start. Thank you again for that, Jim Moriarty.
But he was making a new start. After faking his death, he’d stayed with Molly for a few days, then gone away, biding his time until he could clear his name. It had taken nearly a year to sort all the mess out. He’d come back elated, triumphant: ready to resume his former life as it had been. Everything would be perfect, he’d thought.
And he’d come back from the land of the dead to discover what?
That as of just one week earlier, “bachelor” John Watson no longer was.
He’d married. Married a woman he’d only known for eight months. And was off on his honeymoon for two more weeks.
Sherlock hadn’t let anyone see how he felt. Except Molly. He’d been so bored, so lonely, and there was no work, so he’d taken to spending more time at Bart’s with Molly. Grilling her for details, helping her with lab work… trying in some way, he supposed, to say thank you to her again for all she’d done for him.
That had been a month ago. John had returned, introduced him to Mary Morstan-Watson, and after a few bad starts, Sherlock had accepted the new reality that John was gone. Oh, not gone forever. He still helped out and visited. But his constant presence, having someone to talk with, be inspired by, remind him not to be a machine… all gone. Sherlock Holmes had, in essence, been exchanged for someone John could cuddle with and kiss goodnight.
He didn’t blame John. Yeah, OK, he did. But he knew it was unfair and made himself stop. Usually.
But the time weighed heavily on Sherlock. At times he forgot to eat, and his brooding increased tenfold. It was unhealthy. Even he realized it. But what to do?
He’d sat and thought while munching some beans on toast. And when the answer came, it was so simple, so easy, he was amazed he hadn’t thought of it before.
He wasn’t entirely sure he was ready, but then again, who was?
John could never be replaced. But perhaps he could be… substituted for.
With a girlfriend.
Sure, he’d always held to the rule of it would be too distracting to take a romantic partner. But he’d changed since those days. The thought of having a woman to look after him wasn’t entirely unappealing. And, well, he’d look after her too, of course. He could handle that. Wasn’t he Sherlock Holmes? He could figure all that out.
But whom? Who would be willing to put up with all his eccentricities? Who would be loyal, devoted, and not unpleasant to be around?
The answer came immediately, and he laughed.
Of course. Molly.
Molly was very intelligent. Her profession would ensure him a steady supply of corpses, body parts and lab access. She’d proven herself to him with Reichenbach. He’d always counted her, trusted her. She was attractive despite his past remarks about her mouth and breasts. She would be patient with him and kind to him but let him know when he’d crossed the line. She would teach him about romance and sex (sex… well, it would be an interesting distraction, he supposed: he could satisfy some intellectual curiosities about it, and Molly would expect it, fair enough), and he’d train her in the areas she lacked in.
The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. Yes. Molly loved him, he liked her: they were both alone and lonely. It was unfair, really, because as people they were quite valuable. They had a lot to offer in their own ways. They were right for each other.
Final evaluation: he was ready to venture into new territory. He would be with Molly.
He’d sent her a text, asking her to come see him at the flat that afternoon. Her confused reply affirmed.
Now Sherlock sat, absently playing, waiting for Molly to arrive, not knowing he was about to make her the happiest woman in the world.
Molly moved nervously into the flat, sitting down on the sofa, looking around her. The place was a mess, though it seemed he’d made some effort to clean up in the room. She knew he hadn’t been himself for a while now. He needed looking after. But who would be crazy enough to do it?
Other than me, she thought with a sigh.
Sherlock brought her some coffee, then surprised her by sitting beside her on the sofa. Molly raised her eyebrows at him over her cup.
He sat his own cup down and studied her. “Molly, I know you’re wondering why I asked you here,” he began without preamble.
She nodded. “It is a bit unlike you.”
“Yes, well… I’ve changed a bit in the past year,” he murmured. He shook his head. “At any rate, I’ve asked you here because in light of recent events, I’ve come to realize some things.”
“Oh?” she asked, puzzled. He’d brought her over just to confess... what? He could’ve told her anything in the lab. Unless he’d wanted to be completely assured of privacy. But that would mean…
She realized uneasily that she had his full attention. She rarely had his full attention. Only if it was really important.
He stared at her.
The air seemed too thin all of a sudden for breathing.
“Molly, it’s time we were together.”
She blinked hard, shook her head. She couldn’t have heard him right. “I’m sorry, did you just say… it’s time we were together?”
Molly reminded herself of how breathing worked while he jumped up and began to pace.
“It’s simple, really,” he continued talking as he paced, occasionally glancing at her. “I don’t wish to be alone, and I’m sure you don’t, either. We both know how you feel about me: I’ve known for two years, three months and seventeen days that you are in love with me. And while I can’t say the same, I do care for you.”
Molly started at him in shock, a blush faintly coloring her cheeks at his matter-of-fact assessment of her feelings. He went on.
“Our occupations are compatible, and there is a good bit of common interest. Your intellect is sufficient to keep me interested, and by any reasonable standards of beauty you are fairly attractive in your own unadorned way.”
All the blood that had gone to her face was now draining from it. “Sherlock…”
He held up a hand. “I know. You want to know what I’m willing to bring to the table, so to speak. A legitimate inquiry. In exchange for your company, assistance and caretaking, I will provide you with companionship, security and sexual relations. Monogamous, of course: I have no interest in additional partners and I know you won’t either. And we might need to start that off slowly, by the way, as I’ve never done. But I’m perfectly willing to learn in order to adapt to your needs.”
She blinked at him. She was probably impressed that he was being so generous and at a loss for words. Well certainly he’d do his best to satisfy her needs: happy women didn’t stray.
He stopped pacing and smiled at her. “So, Molly Hooper, what do you say?” he asked her, though he already knew what her answer would be.
Sherlock Holmes had always known.
Which was why he was completely taken aback when she started to laugh.
He stared, no longer smiling.
Molly laughed harder and harder.
This reaction was unexpected.
She stopped laughing after a few more seconds, and looked at him.
She no longer seemed amused.
Molly looked good and rightly furious.
She stood up and advanced on him slowly. “What do I say?” she asked, voice calm and quiet. Too calm and quiet. “What do I say?”
She was right in front of him now, and he could see she was in emotional overdrive: a combination of anger and hurt.
“Did I say something wrong? I assure you it was all true,” he said, confused. Had she thought he’d lied about something?
“Did you say… did… YES, you said something wrong, you bloody idiot!”
“ALL OF IT!”
“I don’t understand,” Sherlock said, more confused than ever. “Don’t you realize what I’m offering you?”
“Oh, I realize it, all right. Why didn’t you just draw up a fucking contract while you were at it, eh? Spell everything out? The Holmes-Hooper business merger? Are you PROUD of yourself for the way you did this?”
“Molly, you’re not making any sense,” Sherlock said, trying to get her to be reasonable. “I simply presented my findings and outlined the terms-”
“I AM NOT A BLOODY SCIENCE PAPER, SHERLOCK!” Molly shouted. She took a step back from him. “Oh, God. How, how could I ever have been such an idiot!”
This was not going as he’d imagined. “I…”
“Stop talking! The problem with you, Sherlock, is that you never know when to shut the hell up.”
“But I thought you’d be happy!” he exclaimed, bewildered. “You’ve always wanted me: we both know that. You can have me, Molly. I give up. I give in. You should be-”
“I should be what? Ecstatic? Grateful that the great Sherlock Holmes has decided he’s lonely and bored and, oh, what the hell, he’ll offer himself to Molly because she’ll fall over and die happy on the spot? Well, let me tell you something, Sherlock. You might be able to tell what someone ate for breakfast by their buttonholes, or how a murder was committed by looking at a cereal box top, but when it comes to feelings, relationships, you don’t know any more than the backside of a donkey.”
“That’s a rather unflattering comparison,” he said, brow furrowed.
Molly couldn’t stop herself. She slapped him.
He stared at her in shock.
“You bastard. You cold, calculating, uncaring bastard.”
Not going how he’d imagined at all. “Molly…”
“Don’t you ever come back to my morgue or my lab again!” she shouted. Then she turned and ran from the flat.
He let her go, because he wasn’t sure what else to do. How had this happened? he wondered, sitting a bit shakily down on the sofa. All he’d done was tell her where he stood, in a perfectly logical, straightforward way…
In his mind he heard John yelling at him: “You machine!”
That was what he’d done wrong.
He’d been completely calm, shown no emotion, hadn’t spoken of wanting her or her completing him or how he didn’t want to be without her another day, or any of that sentimental stuff.
He’d laid it all out as though he was talking to himself, and he hadn’t been.
He’d been talking to Molly. Molly: kind, sensitive, emotional, romantic Molly.
No wonder she’d gotten so angry and hurt. He had, in truth, made it sound more like a business deal than a romantic relationship.
He’d messed this up badly by forgetting his real audience.
Now she didn’t want him near her, didn’t want in at Bart’s, and could very well end up no longer being his friend. What had he done? More importantly, how could he undo it? How could he bear to lose her, now that he’d decided he wanted her?
How could he get her forgiveness and get her back?
Sherlock got out his violin and played. And thought.
Finally it came to him. It was risky. But he had to try. For her sake as well as his.
He sat the violin down and raced out the door, calling a taxi as he went.
Molly sat in her armchair: huddled, more like it. It had been hours since she’d left him. Her mind kept insisting on replaying everything that had happened with painful clarity. She shook her head, forcing herself not to cry but she cried anyway: hot, salt-drenched tears that slid like rivets of summer rain down her face.
How could he have done? And how could some part of her even have thought of accepting even for a second? She wiped her face. Well, maybe she should’ve taken him up on it, as it was obvious one of the things they had in common was being mad as March hares.
He’d taken every hope, every longing that she’d ever put in the toy box that was her dreams and smashed them to bits like a vindictive bully. How could she ever face him again? She knew he wouldn’t leave it alone. Just the thought of being near him made her heart break all over again.
She wasn’t surprised when she heard him at her door. She knew he knew she was there. “Go away, Sherlock.”
“Molly, you have two choices. Either let me in, or I’ll come in anyway.”
“And I’ll call Greg Lestrade!” she said, but they both knew it was an empty threat.
She could’ve sworn she heard him sigh. “Please, Molly. Please do this for me.”
Was she imagining the break in his voice? Had to be. Since when did Sherlock Holmes get so emotional?
Well, since he’d faked his death and ran away friendless and disgraced, actually.
But not enough to have kept him from offering her a verbal contract cut from stone, not sentiment. Reason, not romance. She snorted. Romance, him? He’d sooner know how to sprout wings.
“Molly. I am counting to three. One…two…”
“All right!” she shouted, not sure why she was agreeing except that she needed to get it over with. She crossed to the door and unlocked it.
He pressed his way in immediately, using his body weight to close it behind him. It was then that she saw he was holding a large bag in his left hand. But he wasn’t left-handed. The left hand was for…
He stalked to the center of the room and whirled to face her. “Please give me five minutes. If at that time you want me to leave, I will.”
She nodded warily. “All right.”
He sat the bag down and turned to face her full on.
“I have never had a girlfriend.”
“I have never asked any woman to be my girlfriend, or any man to be my boyfriend. I have never offered anyone, female or male, my virginity. I have certainly never told them I cared for them in such a way.”
She wasn’t entirely surprised, but she saw what he was getting at. And it was touching, but it wasn’t enough. “Sherlock…”
“You were angry because of the calm way I presented myself. You were hurt because I made you feel like you were a factor in an equation.” Something changed in his face. “Molly… that is me. That is part of who I am. My mind doesn’t work like other people’s, and you know that. Yet you say you love me. So tell me: do you love all of me? The light and the dark? Because if you don’t, I’ll leave you this and go now.”
Damn him. Turning it around on her! Did he think this was helping his case? “Sherlock…”
“Please. Please just tell me.”
She sighed. “Yes, I do. I always have. But you’re so…. hurtful, Sherlock. You say such horrible things.”
“And I probably still will,” he said softly. “But I can be more than that, Molly.”
He reached into the bag. “If I didn’t want you, if I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t have done this.”
He handed her a gift. Perfectly wrapped in shiny red paper with a bow and a card. It looked exactly like the gift she’d given him two Christmases ago.
Molly took it slowly, fingers trembling against the paper. She looked into his eyes, but all she saw was… emotion. The mask that Sherlock Holmes wore against the world wasn’t there.
She looked at the card. Dearest Molly, Your Sherlock.
The air was too thin to breathe again.
She unwrapped the box, fingers still shaking, and opened it. When she saw what was inside she gave an involuntary strangled cry and almost dropped it. She looked at him again in amazed wonder. He raised his eyebrows at her.
She managed to keep her hands steady enough to remove the contents. It was a necklace. But not just any necklace.
It was the necklace she’d lost the day she and her mum had buried her dad.
She lifted it out. It was the real thing, not a copy. She recognized the two twists in the gold chain.
The box fell out of her nerveless fingers and her eyes filled with tears. She looked up at him.
“How… how in the world did you find this? My dad died three years ago!”
He tilted his head. “I looked for it.”
“You… you…” Molly felt as if she might fall.
“I found out what church you’d used. Walking through the most likely scenario in my mind as to how things would’ve proceeded, it was logical you’d have lost it in the church beforehand. No one had turned it in, which likely meant it had never been found, which meant it was somewhere that never saw much attention or cleaning. It was inside a vase of artificial flowers, where it had fallen as you’d leaned over to kiss him goodbye.”
“I remembered you telling me the story last week in the morgue. I decided to see if I could find it today.”
She sniffed. “You might have looked last week,” she said, but she wasn’t really angry.
“Sorry. I had… other things on my mind.” He smiled.
She smiled back, holding the necklace out to him. He understood what she wanted and fastened it around her neck. Then he moved in front of her, looking at her but not as cool, deducing Sherlock.
At that moment he was just a man looking at a woman. A woman he adored.
“Sherlock… that is one of the nicest, most fantastic things anyone has ever done for me,” Molly said softly. “Thank you.”
“It was my pleasure,” he said simply. He looked hesitant, worried. “So. Do you want me to leave?”
Molly laughed, wiping at her eyes. “No. I don’t. I don’t ever want you to leave, Sherlock.”
He considered. “That might be a bit problematic, as I’d like to take you to dinner.”
“Well, we can leave for important things.”
“Are cases important things?”
“Of course.” She moved closer to him and tentatively held out her arms. He moved into them, wrapping his own around her so they stood in an embrace.
Neither spoke for a few minutes. Then Molly looked up at him. “I’m sorry. For how I reacted. I could have realized you were trying.”
He shook his head. “Don’t be sorry. It was a bad choice on my part. Not a proper way to ask a woman to be your girlfriend.”
She grinned. “Well. Perhaps we could just rewind it a bit.”
He trailed two fingers over her cheek. “Molly Hooper, will you do me the honor of being my girlfriend?”
Molly’s eyes shone with a joy that took his breath. She leaned closer until her lips were brushing his. “Mr. Holmes, I thought you’d never ask.”