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Exquisite Taste

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The Chocolate-Raspberry Swiss Roll

There were two things most people knew about Molly Hooper if they knew anything about her at all: she had a sweet tooth, and she liked to bake when she was stressed. And there was nothing more stressful in her life right now than keeping the secret of Sherlock Holmes faked death. It had been nearly nine months, and somehow Anderson had gotten it in his head that Sherlock was alive and she had something to do with it.

And he wouldn’t leave her the bloody hell alone.

And so she was at her stove, beating egg white with salt until peaks began to form. She was gradually adding the sugar when she heard her front door open and she stopped. She wasn’t expecting anyone, which left two possibilities: Sherlock or an intruder. She set down her measuring cup as silently as possible and reached over for the knife block on her counter, picking out her biggest knife.

“There’s no need for that, Miss Hooper,” she heard Mycroft Holmes say.

She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and let the knife slide back into its slot. “You’ve seen Philip bothering me, I see,” she said, going back to the measuring cup and continuing to add the sugar before starting to beat it into her egg whites.

He nodded. “He’s harmless,” Mycroft said.

“But annoying,” she said.

He moved closer to her, watching her mix the cake batter. “I’ll see what I can do to get him to cease and desist.” He surveyed the ingredients on her counter. “Swiss roll?”

“Yes,” she said. “Chocolate raspberry.” Once the egg whites were glossy she began to fold in the yolk mixture. “It’s a bit of a cheat I found in an American magazine, so I’m not sure how well the recipe will transfer over, but it sounded appetizing so I figured why not.”

“I would like some, if you wouldn’t mind,” he said. “But let’s keep that between us. In return, perhaps I will bring you a treat if you can endure Anderson a bit longer.”

Molly nodded. “All right. Tomorrow, come to Barts and I’ll have a slice for you.”

He gave her a faint smile and inclined his head towards her. “Thank you.” He turned and then made his way out of her kitchen, pausing when he was a few feet away. “How do you feel about lemon curd?”

“I enjoy it,” she said, giving him a grin.

“Very well,” he said before continuing on his way out of her flat. She watched for a moment, then went back to her cake. Since Mycroft was expecting a piece, she had to make sure she didn’t make a hash out of it.

The Red Velvet Spider Web Cupcakes

It wasn’t often Molly had a reason to go by Scotland Yard, but both Sally and Lestrade had invited her to come visit the day of the office Halloween party to loosen up a bit and let her hair down. She usually loved this holiday, almost as much as she loved Christmas, but this year she seemed to be a bit more downhearted than she usually was. She was lonely, and so tired of being lonely, and the closer it was getting to Christmas the worse she felt.

But today she just wanted to concentrate on having some fun with people she enjoyed being around. She did have quite a few friends and acquaintances at the Yard; she couldn’t do what she did and not have them. And so she put on her costume, that of a 1920s flapper, and made her way there. She had just barely made it into the building and into the area where the food was when Lestrade was handing her a cupcake. “Molly, you have to have one of these,” he said.

She looked down, saw the intricate design of a spider’s web on the chocolate frosting. She looked back at him and raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Because Mycroft sent them and he has damn good taste. I mean, I had one with dinner last night, but…” Lestrade said, trailing off. Molly gave him a grin as it hit him what he said. “Damn it.”

“So you and Mycroft are an item?” she asked, peeling back the paper from the cupcake.

Lestrade nodded. “We’re not making a big deal out of it. I mean, we can’t, not really, but I doubt Mycroft would mind if you knew. He seems to trust you a great deal and all.”

She nodded, not sure if he knew the truth about Sherlock yet. She was fairly sure if he and Mycroft did get serious he might learn soon enough, but she wasn’t going to ruin the plan until she heard otherwise from Mycroft. “I suppose he does.” She finally got the paper pulled away and took a bite. She moaned as she got a taste of the tapioca filling that was inside the red velvet cupcake. “This is magnificent. He does have good taste.”

“Good,” he said with a wide grin. “Now, come help me convince Sally to give one of these a try. She’s turning her nose up at them because they’re red velvet.”

“Oh, she doesn’t know what she’s missing,” she said before taking another bite. If the start of this evening was any indication, it was going to be a very interesting night.

The Lemon Cake with Crackly Caramel Glaze and Lime-Yogurt Mousse

She had never actually been invited to dine at Mycroft’s home before. Sherlock had once joked it was a fortress and he wasn’t quite wrong. At least she’d been given the chance to look pretty, she’d thought to herself. Granted, she was looking pretty for a date, one she doubted she’d ever get to go on, but going to his home in her work clothes just didn’t seem right for some reason. She had been greeted at the door by his assistant and ushered inside to the sound of friendly chatter between Mycroft and Lestrade and then left in their company.

Despite the potential to feel like a third wheel on what she supposed was supposed to have been one of their dates it was actually quite a pleasant evening. The food was excellent, the wine was superb, and the conversation was stellar. She probably had a better time with the two of them than she ever would have on her own date. As the evening settled down and it came down to dessert she found herself eager to find out two things: what they were going to eat and why she had been summoned.

“Mycroft’s got his own personal baker,” Lestrade said with a grin as he looked across the table at Molly while Mycroft had gone to fetch their dessert. “And the story’s quite the kicker.”

“Really?” she asked.

Lestrade nodded. “He’s Butcher Bill.”

Her eyes widened. “What?” she said, shocked.

“Turns out that prior to his stint as a murderer he studied at some of the best schools when it came to making pastries and cakes and all that. Mycroft found out and worked out a deal with him: if he was allowed access to a kitchen to make baked goods exclusively for him, he could spend the rest of his life in a mental institution instead of in prison. He pretty much leapt at the chance.” Lestrade leaned back in his seat. “It’s probably the best place for him anyway. I worked the case. He was a former soldier who snapped. He wouldn’t have made it all that long in prison, and he gets to do his life’s passion.”

Molly nodded slowly. She remembered that case, and had actually felt rather sorry for the man when she’d learned more of the details. At least some good had come out of it, she supposed. “And he made tonight’s dessert?” she asked.

“Well, I believe he made the cake and the caramel glaze. Mycroft made the mousse.”

“This will be interesting,” she said as Mycroft came out, carrying a tray with three dessert plates and three small bowls.

“Lemon cake with crackly caramel glaze and lime-yogurt mousse,” Mycroft said, depositing a plate and a bowl in front of each of his guests. Molly looked down at her servings and her mouth began to water. It looked absolutely scrumptious. She picked up her fork and took a bite of the cake, savoring it as Mycroft sat down again. “Well?”

“Divine,” she said with a nod.

“Good,” he replied. He looked at his own serving. “I need you to go to New York, Molly. Sherlock is ill and needs a doctor’s care. I don’t anticipate it taking too long, but plan for a week at most.”

“How ill is he?” she asked, alternating with a bite of the mousse. It also tasted heavenly, light and fluffy and very cool.

“I’m not sure, but he did not sound at the top of his game,” Mycroft said before taking a bit of his own food. “Make sure he gets better.”

“I will,” she said with a nod, feeling excited yet nervous. She was going to get to see him again, after nearly a year. She wondered how he was, what he was like…whether he wanted to see her. But for now, she had to concentrate on making him feel better, and that was priority number one.

The Pumpkin Cake with Caramel-Cream Cheese Frosting

She had arrived to find that Sherlock really should have been hospitalized. He was really quite ill, but thankfully he’d been holed up in an apartment and it was just around Thanksgiving so she was able to supplement the medication she was giving him with large quantities of homemade turkey soup. But really, he was far worse off than Mycroft had been led to believe. Oh, she’d wanted to berate him for not taking better care of himself, she really had, but he’d looked so pathetic she’d held off.

She’d been in New York for nearly a week and a half, and she’d only get a few more days to stay at most. Sherlock was on the mend, and would only have need of her for another three days, maybe four. She wanted to make the most of them, if she could. He was supposed to be in New York for another three weeks so she wanted to leave him plenty of good food, so she’d been cooking and baking up a storm, freezing most of it for him. He needed to eat better than he had been, and even if he didn’t once he left he could now, at least.

As today was actually Thanksgiving and she’d seen the sorry excuses for pumpkin pies that the supermarkets had she decided to try her hand at baking something else. It wasn’t as though she’d probably ever have a reason for celebrating this particular holiday again, and so she was in the small, cramped kitchen in the tiny apartment Sherlock was using, humming to herself as Sherlock slept, working on the caramel cream cheese frosting. She knew the turkey would take time to cook so she’d made the pumpkin cake ahead of time, and it was currently in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

“Caramel?” she heard Sherlock ask from the doorway. She turned and saw him standing there in pyjama bottoms and not much else. Before she may have gotten flustered at the sight of him in so little clothing; now she was used to it.

She nodded. “It’s Thanksgiving today. I thought you could use a treat to go with more of the turkey.”

He gave her a faint smile. “You don’t need to take care of me, Molly. You can go back to London. I’m fine.” The smile abruptly dropped off his face as a wracking cough erupted from his body.

“Uh-huh,” she said with a smile, turning back to the caramel. It was just about done, and all she had left to do at the moment was pull it off the heat and stir in the butter and the heavy cream before transferring it and adding the cream cheese.

“I’m sure you’d rather be back home, doing other things, being with other people,” he said, moving closer.

“There isn’t anyone waiting for me at home, if that’s what you’re hinting at,” she said.

“No one?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No one.”

“It’s been nearly a year,” he said. “Over that, I mean, since…”

“Since Jim?” she said quietly, looking at him. He nodded. “I know. I just haven’t seen the point. I’ve had a few stray dates, but no one’s…clicked. And keeping your secret, that’s quite hard.”

He moved closer and put a hand on her shoulders. “I’m sorry for that,” he said.

“It’s all right,” she replied, hesitating a moment before wrapping her arms around his bare waist. He didn’t move, but then he held her close, resting his chin on top of her head. She shut her eyes and savored the moment before letting go of him. “I should get back to the caramel.”

He nodded, but he didn’t quite move away, instead looking at her. “Molly?” he asked after a moment.

She turned off the heat under the saucepan. “Yes?” she asked.

He looked as though he wanted to do something, to say something, but then he changed his mind. “Never mind,” he said. “I’ll leave you to your baking.” He turned and made his way to the small coffeemaker and poured himself some coffee, leaving her wondering just what he had planned on doing of saying just then.

The Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce

She couldn’t stay any longer. It would look too suspicious if she took any more time off so her flight was leaving the next morning. Sherlock seemed to be almost completely on the mend so she had planned on taking the day to explore, but first she was going to sleep in a bit. Having to get up early to make sure he got his medications and had food to take them with had been extremely wearing on her.

She had not expected him to join her, as he had been out of commission for nearly three weeks on his mission to take down Moriarty’s network but he insisted, seemingly wanting to be near her. And she had to admit she enjoyed it. She liked spending time with him like this, just the two of them, roaming around a city that wasn’t London, exploring new things, taking in the sights. If it had been another person she might have almost considered it a date, to be honest, and it would have been quite a lovely one.

As night was falling she saw a place was selling cream puffs with chocolate sauce and she nearly dragged Sherlock inside, ordering two. She wasn’t sure whether he wanted one or not, and frankly if he didn’t then she’d just eat his for him. She loved cream puffs and while they were rather easy to make they were quite time consuming, so she didn’t make them often. They got them to go and settled onto a bench to eat them.

“This is magnificent,” she said as she took her first bite, shutting her eyes as the bittersweet chocolate sauce danced on her tongue. This was definitely far superior to any version she had made on her own. She took another bite and gave a tiny moan. “Oh, I’m so glad we stopped there.”

Sherlock gave a soft chuckle. “You seem to be enjoying yourself,” he said.

“These are definitely a favorite,” she said, turning to look at him. She watched him take a bite. “Well?”

“Not one of my favorites, but still good,” he said when he was done swallowing. He took another bite of his. “It’s going to be strange when you aren’t here. I’ve gotten used to your presence.”

“I know,” she said, her good mood dimming. “And I’m going to go back to worrying about you, now that I know how poorly you’ve been taking care of yourself.”

“I’ll try to be better,” he promised.

She looked at him and then nodded. “You’d better. Or I’ll find you and kick your arse.”

“Promise?” he asked.

“Promise,” she said with a nod.

He was quiet for a moment before setting down his cream puff and reaching for her hand. “Or…perhaps you can just find me,” he said quietly. “My brother knows where I am almost all the time. He can arrange for us to meet somewhere.”

“It’s not a good idea,” she said quietly, staring at their hands.

“No, I suppose not,” he said. “But I’d like it just the same.”

She looked up at him and after a moment set her empty container down and moved closer. “Sherlock, are you trying to tell me something?” she asked.

He was quiet for a moment, then reached over and pulled her closer before leaning in and kissing her. She was surprised but very quickly responded back, grasping the lapels of his coat and kissing him back eagerly. When they pulled apart to catch their breath, he moved a hand up to caress her cheek. “I’ve wanted to do that for days now.”

“You should have,” she said quietly. “I can’t stay past morning.”

“Then we’ll have to make the most of tonight,” he said before he leaned in and kissed her again. At least they had tonight, she thought to herself. She was quite thankful for that much.