Archie, Sherlock determined, made a suitable companion. He was inquisitive by nature and asked intelligent questions, he distrusted authority, did not seem overly concerned about what others thought of him, and enjoyed all aspects of crime solving. An all around win in his book, as far as people went. So when Mary rang up to ask for his assistance, he was not adverse to spending an additional afternoon with Archie in tow. In fact, he found he rather looked forward to it.
Given what insight he had as to the inner life of ten-year-olds, he felt Archie would most appreciate a visit to Barts morgue, which is where he escorted his young charge when the Saturday in question arrived. As luck would have it, they arrived just as Molly Hooper was preparing a body.
“Molly, Archie. Archie, Molly,” he breezed by way of introduction.
“Hi,” Archie managed after a huge intake of breath. He appeared to be thrilled to some point beyond either speech or belief.
“Hullo,” Molly said, pausing from her exam. She looked both perplexed and amused. “I’m sorry, are you…babysitting?”
“Educating,” Sherlock clarified, hanging his coat by the door.
“Consulting detective and babysitter,” she said, biting her lip to stifle a laugh. “Time to update your website, I think.”
“You cut up dead people?” Archie asked, approaching her exam table with reverence.
“Yes,” Molly said seriously, largely failing to suppress her smile.
“Do you get to see brains and stuff?”
“Wicked!” Archie declared.
Sherlock checked on some of his cultures while Molly showed her eager guest a jar of eyes, several lengths of human intestine, and a heart she was examining for signs of myocardial infarction (“An actual heart. A human heart!”) Overall, Sherlock got the impression that Archie was unaccustomed to grownups who listened to his questions and answered them as best they could. Stupid. Not surprising given most grownups.
Archie peered up at Molly. She’d set a pair of goggles on him and given him her spare lab coat, which was only slightly large for him as Molly was roughly the height and weight of an adolescent boy. “Are you a murder expert, then?” Archie asked her.
Molly considered the question thoughtfully. “Well, sort of. I specialized in histopathology – that’s the study of human tissue to determine disease or death. But, since I've been here I have gotten quite a lot of experience in criminal cases.”
“But you're a girl,” he said.
She looked over to Sherlock, piqued. “Educating, are you?” she said, scowling slightly. Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Is there something wrong with a girl being a doctor?” Molly crossed her arms across her chest and considered her small potential adversary with a critical eye.
“No,” Archie replied, spinning on his chair. “But they don't usually like poking at brains or eyes in jars.”
Molly considered the matter. “That’s a fair point. When we’ve got a girl’s night together, my friends from uni never want to hear about my work. Which is a shame. Sure it’s all a bit messy when you get down to it, but the human body is astounding. But I’m strange like that. Especially amongst girls.”
“Please remember that most people are idiots, Archie,” Sherlock interjected. “Girls, boys, university educated or otherwise. If you learn nothing else from this very special time we have together, then please take to heart my most sincere advice that you to avoid becoming one of them, as best you can.” Archie shrugged, nodding. He seemed to find it an acceptable recommendation. Really, why did people complain about the difficulties of child-rearing so much? It was hardly all that demanding. “Also, be quiet, Molly. You’re not strange.”
Molly snorted and looked at her shoes, smiling. Sherlock had no idea why. Her Converse sneakers were less horrible than most things she wore, but perfectly ordinary. “Hey, want to see something cool?” She demonstrated how lungs functioned by having Archie blow into a tube that went down into the chest cavity of the former Mr. Petyr Janusz, inflating the dead man’s lungs like a large and meaty butterfly.
Archie, as with so many things that day, found it to be ‘awesome.’
For the rest of the afternoon, Sherlock was left to check the progress of his experiments as Archie appointed himself Molly's shadow. He took notes for her while she performed her autopsy, and read the scale as she weighed organ after organ. He took measurements, offered visual observations, learned the names of many features of the human cavity and entered the whole of the report into her computer when it was done.
“He’s better than half my interns,” she said to Sherlock as she prepared to close up the dear departed Mr. Janusz.
“Dr. Molly," Archie asked. "What is this?” Molly peered over his shoulder.
“Cirrhosis is a kind of scarring. Liver damage, usually from alcohol abuse or certain kinds of hepatitis. Nasty.”
“Well put, ‘Dr. Molly,’” Sherlock said, smirking.
Molly gave him a challenging little half-smile. “It would do you good to remember how qualified I am. In death.”
Sherlock ignored her and looked back to his slides. After a moment, Molly spoke up again. “I imagine you were a bit like him, as a kid.”
She wasn’t wrong. “We share a similar excitability for our interests,” Sherlock conceded.
Molly gave him an odd and unreadable look, as though she wasn’t certain of what she was about to say. Or perhaps if she should say it. “I doubt anyone’s ever told you this,” she said thoughtfully, after a moment. “But you’re very good with children, Sherlock. Worth thinking about, that.”
He watched as she returned to her task, noting the warm smiles, honest praise and gentle corrections she gave to Archie, forever at her heel.
At long last, when Mr. Janusz was closed up once more and back in cold storage, the time came for them to depart to Baker Street. "I don’t want to goooo," Archie said, despairing.
“I am glad you’ve enjoyed yourself,” Sherlock said, shrugging into his Belstaff. “But your mother and Mary will be collecting you soon and we must get back.”
“Your girlfriend is so cool,” Archie gushed, as Sherlock held out his coat for him. Before he could correct him, Archie looked on Molly with adoring eyes. “I’m going to be a pathologist someday,” he vowed solemnly.
“I hope you do. You’ve already got a good start with anatomy, and I think you’ll find biology and chemistry are great fun,” Molly said, helpfully. “You can visit anytime.”
He hugged her around the middle, looking up with the utmost affection. “This has been the best day.”
Molly beamed and hugged him back, laughing. “I’m so glad to have had an assistant. Good help around here is hard to come by.”
“Funny," Sherlock said as Archie scampered through the doors to get a packet of crisps from the vending machine at the end of the hall. "I’ve never found that to be true." He waited as she turned of the electron microscopes and shut down her computer. “‘Girlfriend,’” Molly mocked, raising an eyebrow.
“A fair assumption, given that we’ve just spent a Saturday afternoon in your company. I am obviously at ease with you, as you are with me, and the small fact that you’re no longer wearing your engagement ring, which has been missing from your left hand for, oh…” he drew the word out as he worked backwards. “Three and a half weeks?”
“Four,” Molly said. “But then, I usually have gloves on, so.”
“Always something,” Sherlock said. “Sorry.”
Molly shrugged. “Don’t be.” She turned off the lights and locked the lab behind her. Clearly there was more to it than that, but he could hold off discussing Tom for, oh, well, eternity, really.
“Back to Baker Street, then?” she asked.
“Yup,” he enunciated. “Care to join me?” he said casually as they strode down the hall in the direction of the staff locker room.
Molly glanced at him, a cheeky glimmer in her eye. “What, tonight? Are we solving crimes again?”
He looked sidelong at her. “I was thinking dinner.”
“Oh.” Molly turned and kept her eyes ahead, but he caught the way her mouth turned up. “Don’t see why we can’t do both,” she said, ducking into the locker room to retrieve her things.
Well, Sherlock Holmes thought, waiting patiently for her. This might turn out to be even more interesting than initially expected.