Ten Years (and Four Months) Later
"William Henry Hooper! What are you doing here?"
Molly Hooper, youngest pathologist on staff at St. Bartholomew's Hospital (newest as well, having only worked there for six months, fresh out of medical school), stood in the morgue and glared at her son. Who looked back at her calmly, as if there was nothing he should be upset or ashamed of, showing up at his mother's place of employment when he should be in school. "Well? Explain yourself, young man!" she said sternly, folding her arms across her chest as she studied him.
He was tall for his age, her William – named after his grandfather and usually called Wills, unless (like today) he was in trouble. He had the Hooper eyes – brown and round – but his other features were purely those of his father, from the unruly dark curls to the sharp cheekbones to the aristocratic nose and long length of neck with its prominent 'freckle mole' as her sister had dubbed it when Wills was brought home from hospital. "Mum, you said he was coming in today, Sherlock Holmes." Her son's eyes shone with excitement as he stepped away from the autopsy table he'd been leaning against – which was thankfully clean and unoccupied – and grinned at her. "I want to meet him. Just five minutes, that's all, then I'll go back to school." He scowled, then tried another grin, this one hopeful. "Unless you think I should just go straight home instead?"
She shook her head and scowled right back at him, not taken in for one second by his lightning quick changes of mood and expression. "No. You are going to march right around and get back on the Tube – I assume you took the Tube? – and go back to school." She fished her mobile out of her pocket. "I'll ring the headmistress right now and explain that you're on your way, and if you're very lucky, I might even make it sound as if it's my fault so you won't spend too long in detention this time."
Her son was precociously intelligent, a real handful, and had been since day one. He'd arrived six weeks early and been habitually late for almost everything ever since then. Molly felt as if she'd been chasing after him her entire life instead of just for the past ten years, and she knew her mother and sister – both of whom had helped raise him while Molly finished her education – felt the same.
She also knew that, like her, they wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. Although today she was annoyed enough to wonder what it would be like to ship him off to boarding school until he was old enough to go to uni.
He dashed to her side and tugged at her wrist, looking up at her – and not that far up! – beseechingly. "Please, Mum, please! His website is wicked, it's so amazing, you know it, I've told you and showed you, you just have to let me meet him! Please! I promise I won't get into trouble at school for the rest of the term, I'll finish all my homework and my chores and I won't even show up Louisa at music practice if you just let me stay and meet him! Please?"
If any other child had made such outrageous sounding promises, Molly would have taken them with a grain of salt – or ten. But her son took things like promises and vows very seriously; if he said he would stay out of trouble and do his homework and chores and even behave himself when he and his cousin were at their violin lessons, he meant it. He'd do it, too, no matter how tempted he might be to 'forget' or let it slip his mind.
He could see the hesitation in her eyes and clearly took it to mean he'd won. "Thanks, Mum! This'll be brilliant, I can't wait!" He practically danced away from her side and plopped onto one of the lab stools, spinning it round to face her again as a grin the size of Buckingham Palace threatened to split his face in two. "I won't be a pain, I promise; just five minutes and I'll go back to school."
Molly sighed, but she wasn't quite ready to fully capitulate. "You also have to promise me you won't ever do anything like this again, William," she said sternly. "I want your word, right now, or no deal."
She waited while he stuck his lower lip out in a pout, reminding him forcefully of his father in that instant, a man she hadn't seen in over ten years. His image had faded a bit over time, but he'd left such a vivid impression that even now she could summon up the exact color of his eyes, the expression on his face as he orgasmed…
She hoped none of her wandering thoughts showed on her face (although she could feel the flush on her cheeks and hoped her son would chalk it up to her being in a temper) as she watched her Wills, the product of that union, give her a solemn nod. "I promise, Mum." Then his grin returned and he jumped off the stool, racing up to give her an enthusiastic hug. "Thanks!"
She returned the hug, then slipped her mobile back into her lab coat's pocket, mentally reminding herself to call the headmistress and try to smooth things over just as soon as Wills met his idol. In the meantime, she had another call to make, one that was going to be just as difficult, she imagined, as the call to Mrs. Witherspoon. "I just have to call my boss, Wills, and explain things. He's bringing Mr. Holmes round in a few minutes, so you just stay on that stool…" She pointed to the one he'd just vacated... "and wait for me to…"
The sound of the door opening behind her caused Molly to spin around, and she bit her lip nervously as the very man she was about to call bustled into the room. He stopped short at the sight of her son, his eyes gone wide in an expression of (to Molly's mind) highly exaggerated surprise. "Who is…Molly? Is that…your son?"
Molly nodded; Mike hadn't met William yet, of course, but she'd talked about him endlessly. She hadn't been so rude as to bombard Dr. Stamford with pictures, since she hated it when people did that to her, but the almost comical expression of shock on his face was really too much; was he deliberately exaggerating his reactions for some reason? Was this his way of expressing his disapproval? Well, nothing to it but to wade in with explanations. "I'm sorry, Mike, but he just showed up. He wants to meet Mr. Holmes, and I hope you don't mind, but since he's already here…"
Mike started and glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, yes, Sherlock," he said vaguely, then shook his head and stared at William. "Why didn't you tell me? My goodness, the resemblance, it's quite uncanny…"
Before Molly could ask Mike what the heck he was talking about, the door behind him opened, and a tall, thin figure clad in a dramatic black Belstaff, wearing a blue scarf wrapped around his neck, swept into the room. "Ah, Stamford, here you are. Sorry, I was stopped by that annoying…"
Molly could feel the blood rushing from her face, just as she could feel the sudden pounding of her heart in her chest as she took in the unexpected sight of the man who had come to a stop directly in front of her. Those eyes, those cheekbones, the hair…it was him, the boy from uni. He was Sherlock Holmes, whose picture she'd never seen, who had no photos of himself posted on his website, the consulting detective and deductive genius her son idolized…He was William's father.
She was dizzy, or was it the room that was suddenly swaying around her? She opened her mouth to say something – what, she wasn't sure – then closed it as her vision darkened and her knees gave out beneath her and for the first time in her life, Molly Hooper collapsed in a dead faint.