Molly watched the door to the morgue close behind Sherlock. The smile she had been wearing in his presence slowly faded. She rubbed her eyes with a deep sigh, too late remembering that she had worn mascara that day.
With another sigh, Molly looked down at the dead woman on the table, and couldn’t help wondering if Sherlock would notice her more if she died. She zipped up the bag and rolled the body back to the fridge.
This… this was so not the life she had imagined for herself when she’d been a girl. She wasn’t unhappy, but she just wasn’t content. No one dreamt of working with dead bodies and pining after a man who only noticed her when it was convenient for him.
Her naïve childhood dreams had contained the normal fairy-tale moments: Prince Charming, the white meringue wedding dress, and a red stroller. And unicorns. At one time, there had been a lot of unicorns in her dreamt-up future. Then puberty and reality had hit at roughly the same time, and the dreams had shifted to becoming a paediatrician and meeting a caring man at university. Maybe having a couple of kids in the suburbs.
In retrospect, that seemed as unlikely as the unicorns.
With an angry bang, Molly slammed the door shut behind the dead woman. It made her feel a bit better. Silly really, but a silly solution to a silly problem. Quite fitting, she thought. Not a long-term solution, surely, but she would settle for the silliness right now.
Molly let her hand rest in very close proximity to the microscope – to Sherlock – as she wrote down the numbers he told her. All he needed to do was reach for it, touch it, take it.
He wouldn’t. She knew that. Still, she left her hand there, hoping it wasn’t too obvious. Hoping it looked like at least a semi-natural pose. Hoping he got the hint and would actually take it. Or just touch it.
Please, take it!
“Did you get that last one?” Sherlock asked, the sound of his voice doing things to her intestines she knew wasn’t physiologically possible.
“I think so, yes,” she said, feeling herself blush. “4.73 grams of witherite, making it… hm…” – she made a quick estimate in her head while tapping the pen against the notebook – “about 3.5 grams of barium… but that’s probably a bit high, more likely 3.3 or 3.2. I don’t have a calculator.”
He didn’t say anything for a long time, making her look up to see what was wrong. A breath got stuck in her throat. He was looking at her with more interest than he had ever shown before. If she didn’t know better, she would have said he looked impressed.
“You know the molar mass of barium carbonate,” he said, with a hint of surprise.
“How come?” His eyes had narrowed, as if he suspected why, but wasn’t completely sure.
Because then you might notice me.
“Long hours in the morgue,” she said with a smile, shrugging as if it was nothing. It wasn’t a lie: she had been studying the periodic table for weeks and almost knew it by heart now. Chemistry had never really been her subject, but she was okay at math, so thinking about it as equations had made it easier.
Sherlock smiled. He actually smiled at her. Molly’s knees turned into ice-cream, and with a nervous giggle, she unscrewed the tip of the pen, making the spring jump out and fly over the table. She hardly noticed.
“You should go outside instead,” he told her. “You look pale.”
“I-I-I… mostly work nights,” she stuttered, wondering how he could tell she was pale under the alarming shade of red that seemed to follow her around whenever he was present.
“Oh. Well then, there’s nothing keeping you from being outside during the day.”
Molly opened her mouth, but was too flustered to come up with a response.
“That’s it for today, Molly,” Sherlock said, getting dressed without looking at her. He probably didn't even realise that she hadn’t answered.
“Any time,” she said, forcing herself back to reality. She smiled insecurely as he reached out and ripped out the paper where she had scribbled down the notes. Their fingers touched for a fraction of a second, sending a tingle through Molly’s whole body.
He disappeared from the lab she had unlocked for him without another word, leaving her, as so many other times, just staring at the door.
“I’d settle on a ‘thank you,’” she told the empty room, ignoring her disappointment at his not knowing her working hours.
She wasn’t that woman.
Really, she wasn’t.
She had never been the most confident person in the world, but once upon a time she’d had an ounce of self-respect.
Now she was standing in front of her bathroom mirror, doing her hair in a way Sherlock had once told her looked cute. She didn’t even realise she was doing it at first; when she did, she tore the style down.
“It was like shooting a sitting duck,” she hummed, reaching for her mascara instead of the hairpins. “A little small talk, a smile, and baby, I was stuck.” Sigh. “I still don't know what you've done with me…. A grown-up woman should never fall so easily.”
Oh no, they really shouldn’t. It was painfully obvious that he was manipulating her, so obvious that she saw it herself. Still, she let him do it. Over and over and over again. Because even if it wasn’t real, at least it made him smile at her and pretend to notice her.
People rarely did that.
She paused with the mascara wand. Was that why she let him continue? Sherlock did what he did because it worked and he would continue to do so until it didn’t.
Shaking her head, she went back to her makeup. Her decision to never do Sherlock any favours again only stood until Sherlock came and asked her for something new. It always went the same way: a smile, a compliment and request. Then as soon as she had let him into the morgue (or the lab or wherever), she became invisible.
“I feel a kind of fear. When I don't have you near…. Unsatisfied, I skip my pride….”
She watched her reflection in the mirror. Telling herself off with a pop song, really? Maybe she wasn’t allowed to call herself ‘a grown-up woman’ anymore. This was stupid.
She hated that she had a crush on Sherlock Holmes.
God. He was standing so close behind her that she could actually feel his body heat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath – unintentionally inhaling his scent, making her dizzy – before turning around with her usual ‘Sherlock smile’.
“Is this a bad time?”
Yes. It was always a bad time.
“No, not at all,” she said, trying to ignore the fact that she was still holding a needle connected to the man she’d almost finished sewing back together. “Do you need anything?”
His look told her that the question was stupid, since she should have known exactly what he wanted. Molly looked down, trying to remember what she had promised him this time. He had nothing running in the lab, just the bacterial culture, and it needed at least 36 more hours to grow. He hadn’t asked her for body parts in a long time – that was good, she hated giving them to him. Was there a body coming from a crime scene? No.
“I don’t know, Sherlock. Just tell me,” she said. She looked back up at him, feeling beaten and ridiculed under his gaze.
“Or even better,” she said, almost hearing something snap in her head. “Take my keys. Not that you seem to need them, but still. It must make it easier for you. Just return them after copying them.”
Sherlock looked absolutely puzzled, and did nothing to take the keys she held out for him.
“For the love of….” Molly muttered, putting down the needle and reaching for his hand. She forcefully gave him the keys before pulling the ID card off her coat and slamming it into his palm. “Take this too. You'll need it to get into the chem lockers. My code is 77-79-“
“83, I know. The birth years of you and your sisters,” Sherlock said, still looking confused.
“Of course you know that,” Molly muttered. “Anything else, or can I get back to Mr Crompton?”
“That was all, thank you.” Sherlock pocketed the keys and the card, and left without another word.
Once again, Molly found herself staring at a door that Sherlock had disappeared behind, but this time, there was adrenaline pumping through her body. It was great to have finally told him off. It was, however, wildly disturbing that she had let him run off with her keys and hospital ID.
There was a light knock on the doorframe to Molly’s office – the very, very small room in the back of the morgue where she had placed a desk – where she was writing up Mr Crompton’s file. When she looked up from her laptop, she saw Sherlock standing there, still looking a bit puzzled.
“Sherlock! Hi.” A smile worked its way over her lips. She hated that that always happened, and how perky she always sounded.
“Have I offended you, Molly?” Sherlock asked, without entering.
“No. Not at all,” she said, not even acknowledging to herself that it wasn’t true. Honestly, sometimes she thought he didn’t know better.
“Your keys and your card.” Sherlock took the single step needed to reach the desk, and placed her belongings in front of the laptop.
“Thank you.” She put them back where they were supposed to be, hoping he hadn’t copied them. If he had, she would probably get in trouble.
“Molly, I….” Sherlock lingered at the door and turned to her again. It was possibly be the first time Molly had ever heard him actually hesitate. “I’m flattered by your interest, I am, but I’m not looking for that kind of relationship. I consider myself more or less married to my work, and I’m rather satisfied with the professional relationship we have at the moment. If you find it uncomfortable I can make other arrangements. It has never been my intention to upset or hurt you.”
“Oh. Oh…. Ehm….” Molly felt completely dumbstruck. She cleared her throat to try and soundlike a somewhat intelligent being. “You haven’t upset me.”
“I clearly have. I apologise.”
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” Molly smiled again, the same smile as always. It almost felt fake by now. Perhaps it was.
“Right.” Sherlock gave a small nod. “I’ll be back the day after tomorrow to count my cells, then.”
“Okiedokie.” Molly nodded as Sherlock turned and walked away. When the door to the morgue had shut, she laid her forehead on her desk.
She didn’t know what was worst: that Sherlock knew about her feelings (stupid of her to imagine he didn’t) or that her impossible daydream had been crushed once and for all.
Starting tomorrow, she was going to make a change in her life.