Actions

Work Header

Rebound

Work Text:

---

tuesday

Molly waited two full days after the wedding, to be sure. To be sure that she was sure. But she woke up on Tuesday feeling like her hands were trapped in too-small gloves, so she put the ring in an envelope and put it through Tom’s mail slot with a note. It was cowardly, but she wasn’t sure she could stick to her guns if he cried (and he might cry, Tom was like that) and she couldn’t bear to let herself down this time.

So she did it, and it was done. It didn’t even make her late to work.

---

---

She made it through most of the morning just fine. She did end up crying a bit in the loo – bumped her elbow on the corner of a table, not even hard enough to bruise, but it set her off. She cleaned her face after, in case anyone came into the morgue, though nobody did. At lunchtime she found herself drifting into the cafeteria, even though she wasn’t hungry – she was having trouble remembering what being hungry felt like. So that didn’t make much sense. But now that the really urgent business from the morning was over, she felt like all the direction had drained out of her. So when her feet took her to the cafeteria, she went, and found herself ignoring the hot counters while her eyes combed the tables for a friendly face.

There had been a lot of turnover above ground, and she didn’t know very many people at Barts anymore.

Gina was there, from… Accounting? She liked Gina. But no, now somebody else was sitting down with her, and they were laughing.

She caught herself staring at a group of the younger faculty. Nobody she knew well enough to say hello to, even. Mike Stamford was still at that conference in Canada, she remembered. Mike was so nice. He would be back on… Thursday, or maybe tomorrow. Molly pictured his round face, his smiling eyes focusing on her, his hands going stiff around a cup of coffee while she told him about… no. Her insides twisted up in embarrassment just thinking about it.

Tom had always told her she worked too much. That she should make more time for friends. It was one of the things that would pinch at the back of her mind and make her wonder if he knew her at all. But he wasn’t completely stupid, because there hadn’t been time for friends, really, in the past few months. Just him and work. She could have worked less - except she hadn’t really wanted to, not for him anyway. Or she could have got rid of him earlier, she supposed. She should have gone one way or the other, not dithered in the middle. Because now she was free - free of that long dull future she could never quite bear to think about - but now she had to fill those slices of time somehow, and you couldn’t talk to corpses.

---

---

Dr. Wilkins came by at four o’clock with a big list of tests he needed run on the three ‘flu patients that had been sent down yesterday.

“Sorry to keep you here late, Dr. Hooper,” he said, making that same apologetic face he always made when he asked for things.

“No, it’s fine,” she said. “It’s no problem.”

“Well, I appreciate it,” he said. “I wouldn’t keep you here late if it weren’t urgent.” He was halfway out the door when he turned and winked at her. “I know you’ll want to be rushing home.”

And that was the last straw, somehow; the last wire snapped, and all the tears came out again as soon as the door closed. She leaned against the smooth blank wall of the fridge, her head swirling with exhaustion and frustration. She was back to being pathetic
Molly with nothing and nobody to go home to except an old cat. She hated it, and hated all of them for thinking it, how wrong they all were, except that it was all true again, wasn’t it?

She had to stop crying, or she was going to get a headache, and then it would take even longer to collect the numbers she needed. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve. Snap out of it, Moll. Stop being an idiot. Okay, that wasn’t helping. She tried to think of something nice she could possibly say to herself.

“It’s okay to cry, you know. There’s no shame in it.” The words came back to her, turned them up from recent memory; who had said that to her? She remembered warm brown eyes, and the smell of melon – there had been a fruit tray at the brunch after John and Mary’s wedding. Mary’s friend, the bridesmaid. Janine. They hadn’t talked at the wedding itself, but had ended up sitting together the next morning at the round table draped in lavender. Janine had watched with patient amusement as Tom made a fool of himself with an endless story about the time he found a friend’s missing fountain pen during uni, and then she had stayed and talked to Molly after Tom went back up to their room. She was a stranger, really, but she had been kind, and didn’t try to pretend about Tom just to make her feel better, the way Molly’s mother did. God, her mum. She wondered how long she could put off that little chat.

Molly shook her mother out of her head, and went back through the conversation from last Sunday. Janine had understood right away what Molly had still been fighting against: that it had been over with Tom. It still gave her a little illicit thrill to think it like it was true, it was a thing she had done and not just something she was considering.

“I did it.” She hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Say it until it stops hurting, Mum always said. Don’t keep it to yourself. You can’t run away from things.

She pulled a Kleenex out of her lab coat pocket and wiped her nose, not bothering to take off the gloves. Seeing the tissue in her gloved fingers made her laugh, and then suddenly, the crying was over. She was still sad, she realized, but not about this. Not about Tom. He was gone, and she could stop being sad about him, finally.

She looked around the silent morgue and laughed again. She wasn’t about to tell Mum, was she, so maybe it was time to find some friends other than the corpses.

She thought about the other voice in her head, the one that wasn’t her mum’s, the one that wasn’t constantly berating her for all the things she wasn’t. “No shame in it,” Janine had said. Molly took a deep breath, and sat steeping for a moment in the simple comfort of the thought. But it was the voice she liked too, she realized. Everything Janine had said made her feel strong and happy, like she was finally in on something good.

Molly closed her eyes and conjured up the other things Janine had said. “He’s quite a cut-up, your man.” (That had been Tom, of course.) “I’m pretty sure that hat wants its own order of bacon.” (And it had looked that way, the long feather dipping over the brim toward the old woman’s plate.) “I hate to leave, but it’s my train – I’ve got to get back, and it’s the last train until after five.” (She was going back to London.)

She was going back to London. Molly blinked, putting it together.

That was it, then. She tucked the Kleenex back into her pocket and got back to work. She had things she had to do tonight.

---

---

“Brookside Inn.”

“Yes, hello, um. I was a guest at the wedding this past weekend, and I’m trying to reach one of the other guests.”

The concierge’s voice went kind in that way that meant he thought she was a bit of an idiot. “The last members of the wedding party checked out yesterday.”

“Oh yes, I know, I know that, but um… there’s a necklace. I borrowed a necklace from a woman I met. I meant to return it to her, but I didn’t, and I, um… I was wondering if you could, um, give me her contact information. So I could send it back.” She was talking faster, she couldn’t help it. She hoped it wouldn’t give her away.

The man hummed. “I’m sorry ma’am, we can’t give out confidential information like that.”

“Oh,” she said. It would have been too easy, but she had been hoping.

“If you wait until the bride and groom get back from--”

“Oh yes, I know, I understand. It’s just that it was her sister’s necklace. And it’s, um, it’s pearls, and some other sort of stone I don’t know, but I think it’s quite expensive, I just feel….”

“Now don’t worry,” he said, and it struck her as funny because he sounded worried himself, but she couldn’t laugh because she had to keep up the act. “It’s bending the rules a bit, but I can tell you don’t mean any harm. I can give you a phone number, but that’s it. You’ll have to call and ask this woman for her address.”

“That’s perfect,” said Molly fervently. “Thank you so much.”

“Now what’s the name?”

“Janine,” said Molly. “That’s who I’m looking for.”

--

---

She spent a few minutes, after, pacing the flat in sheer elation. Toby fled to the bookcase and watched warily as she basked in her success. He joined her on the couch, still cautious, after she had settled down and picked up the phone again. A few minutes later he was in her lap, and here she was, still staring at her phone, poking it every time the screen went dark. This had seemed like the easy part, when she plotted it all out on her commute home. But now the worries came flooding in: would Janine think it creepy that Molly had got hold of her number? It was quite a different thing, after all, to be friendly with someone at a wedding than it was to get a phone call from… from a stranger, basically.

No, they weren’t strangers. There was a reason Molly had gone to all this trouble. She rewound her brain back to the brunch, recalled Janine’s hand comforting on her arm, the combination of kindness and conspiracy in her warm dark eyes.

Molly squeezed her hands into brief fists, to give herself strength, and dialed before she could chicken out again.

It rang. It rang again, and again, and Molly almost hung up. But then –

“Hello?”

It was like she was there again, warm and sharp and kind all at once.

“Hi, yes, um…” Molly was flustered again, stupid, stupid. She didn’t know how a person did that sort of thing: just be so, so there. She would never be that way, she knew, but why did she have to wilt whenever….

“Oi, is that Molly from the wedding?”

And the thing was, she sounded so happy to hear from Molly, not suspicious or confused, or… just happy. Molly smiled into the phone. “Yeah, uh, yeah it is.”

“Nice to hear from you, babe! How are things going with the fiancé?”

“Actually, he’s, he’s not. I….” And she wasn’t even sad anymore, so it must have been the exhaustion of keeping it all bottled up that was pressing into her throat.

“Oh, love.” Janine sighed. “Good for you. But still, you must be a right disaster. Do you want to meet for a drink?”

She did, God, she did. She almost said yes, until she realized she would have to put her shoes back on, and the amount of effort seemed unbearable.

“Thank you, but I’m – I’m quite worn out, actually. But could we, um, maybe, tomorrow?”

“Of course you’re tired. Tomorrow’s great – it’ll give me time to tidy.”

“Oh,” said Molly, “you needn’t –“

“Nah, it’s fine. You’ll want to talk, yeah? We’ll hit the clubs when you’re ready to go on the prowl again. Peace and quiet’s probably better for a thing like this.”

“That would be terrific,” Molly said. “Thanks. You really don’t mind?”

“No, it’s great! Gives me an excuse to clean.” Molly could hear Janine’s smile over the phone. How did she do that? Sherlock could probably do that, if Sherlock ever smiled. If he ever meant it, that is, the way Janine did.

“Okay, then. Should I just, um, come to your flat, then?”

“Right, you’ll need the address, won’t you? I’ll text it to you. Is this number a mobile?”

“Yeah, just send it here.”

“All right.” Janine’s voice had become a bit more businesslike. “I’ll pick up some wine on my way home. Is nine too late? I work late sometimes.”

“No, that’s great.”

“All right. See you tomorrow, babe.”

The warmth was back in her voice, at the end, there. Molly stood clutching the phone, looking at the clock before the screen winked out. Call duration: 2:48, it said. Three minutes. Three minutes ago, she hadn’t even called yet. And now, this.

---

---

wednesday

Janine came to Molly’s, in the end – her boss kept her late, and she rang Molly in a panic at twenty past eight. Molly put away the laundry, and changed her top, and swept up the litter that Toby had tracked across the rug, and then changed her top two more times when the doorbell finally rang.

“Hi, love.” Janine pushed a paper bag into Molly’s arms – two bottles of wine, it felt like – and charged straight past her into the flat. She was in a cream silk blouse and pencil skirt, and Molly realized that it didn’t make a whit of difference which of her four nicest tops she was wearing.

“Sorry to descend on you like this.” Janine stepped out of her heels and began walking around the living room, rolling out her ankles as she went. “This is a nice place, though.”

“Yeah, it’s not bad.” Molly set the wine down on the coffee table. “So, would you like… well, to be honest, I haven’t much in.”

“It’s all right. Everything I want is in those bottles.” She dropped onto the couch and grinned. “There’s a corkscrew in the bag, just in case. Shall I do the honors, or do you want to?”

It was a cheap corkscrew and didn’t work very well, so Molly fetched hers, along with two of the stemless wine glasses Kit had given her after she and Jeremy got a nicer set.

“Those are cute,” said Janine, watching the wine swirl into the tapering glass bowl in Molly’s hand.

“Thanks. Hand-me-downs. I didn’t choose them.” She held the glass out to Janine.

“Ta.” Janine took a swig without waiting for Molly to fill her own glass. “Oh, thank God, this is the best moment of the day.” She watched as Molly settled herself on the other end of the couch. “Now tell me what happened.”

So Molly did. It only took half a glass.

Janine’s eyes were wide. “And that’s it, then?”

Molly shrugged. “I guess so. I mean, we didn’t talk on Monday – we weren’t planning to, too much work to catch up on. And then – well, he probably hasn’t much to say to me, now.”

“Oh, I’ll bet he does, though.” Janine’s voice gleamed with laughter. It reminded Molly of the wine, the way it made her feel warm inside and full of promise.

“You’re right, he probably does.” Molly took a long, thoughtful pull of wine. “I just… I don’t really want to….” she sighed and emptied her glass. “It just doesn’t matter, you know?”

“Yeah,” said Janine, as she reached for the bottle. “I know.”

By the time they had opened the second bottle, Molly felt warm all over – too warm, but still pleasant – and Janine had become even more animated than Molly remembered from the wedding. They were gossiping about the other guests at the wedding who finally had faces to go with names – Major Sholto, Nurse Lewis from the surgery, Mary’s old boyfriend David – when Janine brought things back to Tom.

“So,” said Janine, topping up their glasses again, “was he good in bed?”

That brought her up short; it seemed like a nosy sort of thing to ask someone you barely knew, about someone you’d only met once. But Janine was like that, it seemed. And here she was, on less than a day’s notice, sitting on Molly’s couch and listening to whatever silliness came out of her mouth, all because Molly had called and asked her to come. That was worth something, wasn’t it?

“Yeah,” she said. “He was.” Her stomach clenched uncomfortably. It was a nice sort of thing to say about someone else, if you were going to talk behind their back, but it felt awfully private. She wasn’t sure whether she still owed Tom anything. He hadn’t broken up with her, after all.

Janine must have misunderstood her expression, because she said, “Aw Moll, don’t be sad, he’s not worth it. Good sex covers a lot of sins, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to be selfish.”

“No, that’s not…” Molly winced. “It’s… he wasn’t selfish. No, he was a bit of an oaf, sometimes…. not very sensitive. But not selfish. In, in bed, I…” her throat clenched, and it took a few deep breaths before she could squeeze out even a whisper. “I came almost every time.”

Janine’s brow furrowed, and she laughed, but it was a nice laugh, somehow. “Almost? Oh, love. We can find you somebody better than that.”

Molly blushed, hot, but somehow she was laughing, too. “Can you really? What are you, some kind of man-conjuring genie?” She took a sip of wine that ended up as a gulp. “Going to whip me up a perfect boyfriend out of the clear blue who’s got nothing better to do than make me come all day?”

Janine sighed. “If only. I’d keep him myself.” She tossed back the rest of her wine. “But we’ll go out this weekend, you and me, m’kay? I promise you, you can pull. We’ll put you in a sleek little number that shows you off properly, and you’ll have your pick of men.”

The wine was definitely in her blood by now, burning away the grime, drawing out the old smiles that had gotten lost. “All right, you’re on.” She giggled into her wine. “Where’s my notepad? I’m going to start making a list of all the things I want.” She set her wineglass down, a little too hard, and suddenly none of it was funny anymore. It all felt foolish, and a bit wrong.

“What’s the matter?” asked Janine.

Molly pressed her fingers into her forehead, hard. “It just feels a bit – early, still. For this.”

Janine laughed, loud and brash, and for a moment Molly wished she was alone. “It doesn’t have to be true love, babe! Just somebody who can keep you warm while you’re on your way back up.”

Molly was silent a long time. Janine grabbed the wine bottle from the coffee table and poured herself another half-glass. “You don’t – regret it, do you?”

“What?” said Molly. “God, no. No. I….” she stared at hastily-stacked papers on the coffee table and wished she had hidden them better, or taken the time to sort them properly into piles, the way she kept meaning to. “I was miserable, to be quite honest.” She sighed. “And I feel more than a bit shit right now, but at least it’s because I’m supposed to. And… and it might change. With Tom, it was never going to change. It was just going to….” she struggled for the right words. God, she was tired. Just thinking about how she used to feel all the time made her tired.

“Yeah,” Janine said, like she understood. Somehow, Molly believed her.

“So what about Saturday?” Janine said gently, after a long moment.

Molly’s mind was syrupy-tired – maybe that was also the wine – but she turned her thoughts back to the day of the wedding: John’s badly-hidden tears at the altar, Greg Lestrade in his grey suit, Sherlock’s ridiculous speech, the beautiful violin piece John and Mary danced to. The walk back to the hotel with gravel crunching beneath her shoes and Tom next to her, prattling on the way he always did, while she nodded vacantly along. And the way that all the misery had rushed in, all the thoughts she’d tried so hard to keep at bay, because she was just so tired, so tired of pretending that this was what she wanted. She didn’t even care about Sherlock that much anymore - at least not in that way - but being silly about him the way she had been before, that was still better than what she had with Tom: better to want something you didn’t have, than to have something you didn’t want even though you were supposed to. All those thoughts and feelings - were they all over her face? That was the problem with secrets: once you started telling them, it was like you couldn’t stop, even when you wanted to.

“What about it?” she replied, as casually as she could manage.

“So do you still want to go out?”

Oh. Of course. Molly gave her head a little shake, feeling silly. It was hard to think about the future, even a few days ahead. But it was better to have plans, she supposed.

“Yeah. Why not?”

Janine smiled. “Good, then.” She grinned at Molly. “Get yourself something tartish. I’m taking you to Milk & Honey.”

---

---

thursday

Molly wasn’t hung over on Thursday morning – or not very badly – and yet her blood hummed warm and wine-like inside her all day, and she rode the flush through a dreamy and desultory day at work, clear through an evening’s shopping that saw her splurge on a slinky green off-the-shoulder dress that was shorter than anything she’d worn since uni. Why was she so happy? She knew someone like Janine would tell her to just enjoy it, not to analyze too closely; but microscopes were what she did, inside and out. She felt truly free of Tom, in a way she hadn’t even after she gave back the ring. And there was the wine from last night, which was nicer than what she usually bought for herself. Could that still be it, though, in the middle of the next afternoon? It wasn’t a question of calculating the rate of metabolic diffusion of blood alcohol concentration, that was simple enough; she knew that roughly 700ml of wine would have been completely metabolized by noon at the latest. But the effects that lingered were different, and hard to quantify. How long could a bottle of wine last? She had found an unopened cabernet stashed in the back closet, the last time she had moved; she cracked it open when she arrived at the new place and found it had gone sour. It changed when you drank it, of course. But how to account for wine that stayed sweet, so long after it was gone? There had to be a chemical method that could account for it, but she had no prior data for this uneven distribution of consequences.

The dress whispered to her through its blue bag and tissue-paper wrapping the whole way home. Once she was home and Toby had been fed, she couldn’t resist trying it on again, in front of her own full-length mirror. It hadn’t been a trick of the store lighting; it really did suit her. She would have to go without a bra, though, since there probably wasn’t time to find a decent strapless. She tried pulling her hair up, mounding it beneath clasped fingers against her head. Yes, that was even better, but she needed a necklace of some kind. Something on a short chain, that wouldn’t clash with the neckline.

She remembered the black ribbon choker Rachel had given her. Where had it got to? She picked through the scattered pieces in the box on top of her dresser but came up empty-handed. Next stop was the odds-and-ends box with the fancy jewelry and the foreign currency; that seemed right, the more she thought about it. Dresser – closet – night table – there it was, next to a stack of novels. And her diary. Molly picked it up and fingered the fake snakeskin cover. She’d started keeping it after the disaster with Jim. (It had been Sherlock’s advice. She was fairly sure he had only meant to insult her blog, but it was a good idea anyhow.) It had been almost a week since she’d written anything in it. That wasn’t unusual, really; whenever anything actually happened, it took her awhile to get round to setting it down. It was more for reflections than for news. But she did need to write about breaking up with Tom.

She set the journal back down next to the box. Her hand was tired today, since all she’d done at work was make notes. Maybe tomorrow, if she felt like writing. Maybe the next night – no wait, that was the night she was going out with Janine. So maybe the night after that, then. She gave the diary a pat and began to rummage in the box for the choker.

--

--

saturday

It was a cool night for July, and Molly shivered a bit stood outside the row of unfriendly black doors, as stylish people walked by her without a backward glance. She supposed that meant her eyeliner wasn’t too awful, even though she’d applied so much of it. She hoped Janine knew where the door was.

The click of heels cut through the anonymous murmur of street noise in a steady chain, and the next moment Molly saw Janine cutting through the crowd. Molly waved, and Janine smiled as she drew close.

“Hey babe.” Janine leaned in to kiss the air next to Molly’s cheek. “You look stunning.”

“Thanks.” Molly’s stomach twisted, liquid and exciting. “You too, of course.” And she did look stunning – really stunning, not just like a nice thing you say to your friend – in a sleek black button-down top and close-fitting white trousers, but it sounded insincere, coming out like that. “Really, I mean, really gorgeous, you – ”

Janine laughed. “It’s fine. I got catcalled on the tube on my way over, so I know I’m doing something right.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “D’you want to go in?”

It turned out to be quite cozy and intimate for such a high-end club: brown leather couches, warm wood, and exposed brick under a hammered tin roof. A hostess greeted them at the door and showed them to a tall brass-topped table close to the bar. Molly felt a little quiver of elation growing as she drank in the mood. The room was crowded, but not unpleasantly crammed – which, Molly supposed, was the point of a members-only club.

“My treat,” said Janine, only a bit louder than usual to cut through the noise. “What do you like?”

“I don’t know, what’s good?” Molly smiled, nervous. “Usually it’s just wine for me.”

Janine flapped a hand. “Oi, that’s a waste. Their cocktails are amazing.” She made a thoughtful face. “How are you with sweet?”

Molly considered. “Not bad, but nothing too sweet. A bit of sour, maybe.”

Janine winked. “Got it. I’ll surprise you.”

A moment later, Janine returned with a tall icy glass for herself and a cup of something red for Molly. “It’s a negroni,” she said. “Give it a try, and if you don’t like it, we’ll swap.”

Molly took a tentative sip. “This is great.”

Janine broke out in a bright smile. “You like it?”

She smiled in return. “Oh yes.” She took another sip. “If you were counting on one for yourself, you’d better order another.”

Janine laughed, even though it really wasn’t all that funny; and for the first time, Molly considered that maybe this brash, gorgeous woman wasn’t confident about everything, all the time.

“So.” Janine plopped down onto the stool opposite Molly. “How are you feeling?” She pursed wine-colored lips around her straw and took a sip. “You really do look smashing, I hope you feel it.” Molly hid her face behind her hands, laughing, as Janine took another long pull of her drink. “You ready?”

Molly swallowed another mouthful, a little faster than she intended. “Sure.”

Janine shot her another wink, then swung round on her stool toward and aimed a gleaming smile at a trio of men waiting for their drinks at the bar. None of the three responded, but Janine’s brows were knit in amused satisfaction as she turned back to Molly. “Give it a few minutes.”

Five minutes later, all three blokes were arrayed around the end of the table. The large ginger and the fit one with the beard seemed interested only in Janine, but the blond man kept shooting looks Molly’s way. She smiled at him, and he slid toward her.

“I’ve never seen you here before.” He ducked his head the moment the words were out. “Sorry, that’s such a cliché.”

Molly smiled. “No, it’s fine. And actually, I never have been. Janine – my friend – brought me tonight, for the first time.”

“Oh! Well, lucky for me, then.” He gave a sweet, shy smile. “I’m Mark.”

“Molly.” He shook her hand, and lingered just a bit too long. Or was it too long? It was nice, to know that he wanted to keep touching her, so maybe that was the wrong way to put it. But it was a bit awkward all the same, a bit more forward than she really liked. Though maybe giving him her hand in the first place was what gave him the wrong idea.

“...and so I’ve been here most weekends, ever since.” Mark’s eyes sought hers, and she smiled, she hoped convincingly.

“I don’t go out much,” she offered, because a non-sequitur seemed safest.

“That’s a shame,” said Mark, and gave her a broad grin. “You should get out more. I’d love to bring you back here some time.”

Molly felt a flicker of irritation, as if Mark’s hand were on hers again. He’d only met her, how could he know? But she shouldn’t be so mean, he was just trying to be friendly.

“Yes, I’d like to,” she returned, which was sort of true. “It’s just… you know. Work keeps me pretty busy.” She hadn’t meant to bring up work, but there it was. That was most of her life, after all. If Mark wanted to keep talking to her, he would have to put up with hearing a lot about Barts.

“Long hours, then?” Mark rubbed his neck shyly. “That’s lucky for the men you work with, then.”

What, that again? “Most of them are dead, actually,” she said, a bit sharp. “Not really interested in looking at me.”

She saw a flicker of confusion on Mark’s face before she felt Janine’s hand on her arm. “Moll, would you mind coming to the loo with me for a bit? I think I’ve snagged a loose thread on the back of this top.” She turned to Mark, apologetic. “Sorry to break you up. We’ll be back in just a bit.”

Molly followed Janine to the richly appointed sitting-room outside the toilets. “How are you?” Janine asked, once the door had swung shut.

“I’m fine. How’s your shirt?”

Janine waved dismissively. “I was just trying to get you away.” She gave Molly a wincing smile. “You were drowning back there.”

“I guess I was, a bit.” Molly smoothed out the creases in her dress. “He seemed really nice.”

Janine snorted, then turned toward the mirror and began tugging at her hair in its clip. “He wanted into your knickers, that’s for sure. Not the same thing as nice.”

“Oh.”

Janine met Molly’s eyes in the mirror. “No, not –” She dropped her hands, and her hair fell forward in dark curtains. “I mean he liked you.”

Molly fidgeted with her fingers. “I don’t know what he even liked, I barely said anything.”

Janine ran her hands through the loose tendrils of hair and gathered them up again. “Men are like that, sometimes.”

Molly said nothing, feeling bleak.

Janine clipped her hair back in place and dropped her arms. “Nothing else for it, though, I guess.” She gave herself a critical look in the mirror. “Oh, fuck it,” she exclaimed, pulling the clip out and shaking it out in a lustrous cascade. She turned to Molly, giving her hair a last toss. The way it fell over her shoulders was mesmerizing. “How’s it look?”

“It’s… great.” Molly swallowed. “You look… great.” And it just sounded like another compliment, another thing you say to your friend, but that wasn’t what she meant -- it was real, it was….

It was a split second decision: before she knew she had decided, she was leaning up and pulling Janine down so that their mouths could meet.

Oh god, why had she done that, why was she doing this? But she knew, she remembered the feeling: it was like it had been with Lucy, and all the times she had tried to tell her how beautiful she was, how dazzlingly clever, to get her to notice what Molly meant so that she could say if she felt like that, too. But then you couldn’t do it, the words wouldn’t work that way. She had spent months mooning over Lucy, working herself into a nervous wreck before every study date, wondering if this would be the time that she would give up on words and just kiss her. But she never had - Lucy was with Steve, and Molly was seeing Fred on weekends, and if you couldn’t trust words to say what you meant, how could you know it was there at all? That was what she had thought, then - that happiness was about reading the story that was laid out for you. But that had been a colossal failure, hadn’t it? She was ready for something different.

Janine responded right away, in a way that made Molly think that maybe she just kissed everybody back, out of habit. But then Janine’s hand slid up her neck and she was tilting Molly’s head, and her tongue softly parted Molly’s lips, and oh.

A moment later they pulled away. Molly’s throat felt hot, and her right hand was clenched, her nails cutting half-moons into her palm. She squeezed it tight as she lifted her eyes to Janine’s.

Janine’s face was glowing with mischief. “Well, look at you,” she said.

---

---

There was cat litter on the rug, again, but Molly couldn’t care, and anyhow Janine didn’t seem to notice. The door had barely closed when Janine’s lips were around her earlobe and her hands at Molly’s sides, gliding smoothly up the slinky fabric. Molly slid her hands into the Janine’s hair and used it to tug Janine’s mouth back to her own. She embarrassed herself by moaning, just a bit, but she couldn’t help it: Janine’s mouth under hers was rich like plums, and the spice of her perfume had woven its way into Molly’s brain. Janine’s hands slid along her hips, around to her arse, and she drew Molly toward her, grinding them together.

Molly broke the kiss and went on tiptoes to nip at Janine’s ear. “This wasn’t what I thought you meant,” she murmured, “when you said I was guaranteed to pull.”

Janine laughed and took Molly’s face in her hands. “Silly me,” she answered, then pulled Molly in for a long, slow kiss that lit up all the warm glow of the alcohol inside her, as if somebody had set a match to it. Janine had tipped her face down to meet Molly’s, and her hair fell in waves around them. She was glad they hadn’t made it very far into the flat – one step backwards and the wall was behind her. She leaned back and Janine followed, one hand on the wall beside Molly’s head while the other caressed her neck, her clavicle, her breast. The play of light fingers over that filmy fabric made her shiver, her nipple hardening almost instantly. Janine smiled into her mouth and began to finger her nipple through the fabric. Molly moaned again as Janine began to trace the fine contours of her skin, fingertips circling the soft skin of her aureole and lingering over every goose bump.

It was slow and languorous and exquisite. Molly could barely stand it, and she hoped it would never end. As Janine’s fingers began to wander in wider circles, Molly brought her hands up from where she had been gripping Janine’s waist and began to unbutton her blouse. She lost the thread of Janine’s delicate touch, fiddling with the cloth-covered buttons, but it was worth it to push the cloth back and watch it slide off of Janine’s shoulders. Janine’s bra was black and edged in lace. Molly ran her finger slowly along the scrollwork of black lace against pale skin, and felt her heart welling up out of her chest, spilling itself hot into her throat, her brain, and kindling a wet heat in her groin.

“I just want to touch you all over,” she said.

Janine hummed and gently pulled Molly’s hand until it was properly cupping Janine’s breast. “I hope you will.” She dropped forward for another brief kiss. “You do have a bed here, yeah?”

Molly smirked. “I do, actually. Would you like to see it?”

Janine smiled, radiant. Molly took her hand and tugged her toward the bedroom.

--

--

She saw the inside of Janine’s flat, finally. She learned a little more about her mysterious boss, though Janine still wouldn’t tell her his name. (“You already know it, love. You hear it far too often in the papers. Anyhow, I signed a contract, so I’ve got to keep mum.”) She got better at leaving work on time, because she found that she wanted to. She learned an awful lot about what breasts were good for, when you paid attention to them properly, and how a manicure wasn’t that expensive when it was really what you wanted, and how to go out without making too many plans, and not worry about it too much because something good would happen.

It was good. It wasn’t like being with Tom. It was more like being with Sherlock, not that she had been, really, but she’d thought about it a lot more than she ever thought about Tom.

Janine acted like she never thought about anything, but she did. She was fast, like Sherlock, but then she put things down instead of worrying them over the way he did, picking everything apart. But Janine wasn’t like that: she pulled Molly out of the morbid echo-chamber of her own mind and into the sunshine where everything seemed easier.

Molly had never laughed so much.

---

---

They didn’t go back to Milk & Honey, though Janine did take her to a handful of posh restaurants when the weather was nice. Rainy nights were always movie nights. It might have been a bit premature for “always,” Molly thought, but she could always revise it, if they broke pattern. But this was the fourth time, and four was a pattern.

Molly poured the wine and brought it into the sitting room, where Janine was already flipping channels.

“Ta,” Janine said, and Molly smiled. She set down the glasses on Janine’s little table and snuggled up against her. Janine draped a loose arm around her, propped her wrist on Molly’s shoulder, and kept flipping.

“Stop that.” Molly flicked at the little strip of bare skin beneath the hem of Janine’s shirt. “I don’t care what we watch, I just want to sit a bit and unwind.”

Janine rolled her eyes and snorted. “Fine.” A few more clicks brought them to some sort of action film; Janine set down the remote control and began stroking Molly’s arm with her free hand. “That better?”

“Much.” Molly smiled again, and she knew it looked small, but it felt enormous, welling up inside her.

---

---

Molly even told her about the diary, in the end, though she’d meant to keep it utterly private. They were lounging in bed on a Sunday afternoon, and Molly was dozing a bit, feeling pleasantly spent after a long, slow hour of kissing and touching that left her ecstatic and shaky. It was like Janine kept pleasure stored in her fingertips; or maybe it was more like magnets, finding the veins and deposits of deep-buried bliss and drawing them out in deep, quaking exultation.

Janine got up for a glass of water, and Molly rolled to the other side of the bed, where the musk and spice of the other woman’s body still lingered. Janine returned a moment later, and Molly heard the gentle tap of the water glass on the bedside table. Janine curled up next to Molly and nuzzled her ear.

“What’s that pink book?” she asked, a hint of a tease in her voice. “Is it a diary?”

Molly’s heart clutched, caught between relief and a dreadful sense of exposure. There were a lot of things that she had always struggled to say out loud -- little things really, books and films she disliked that everyone else loved, all the silly things that bothered her when other people did them -- that were easy to say to Janine. So she said a lot of them, usually more than she meant to, but it was always all right, somehow. She considered whether the diary was like that, the kind of thing that would hurt to talk about with anyone else but would come out okay after, if she told Janine.

‘It’s all right,” Janine said, into what Molly realized had become an uncomfortably long silence. “I’m not going to ask to read it or anything.”

“No,” said Molly, quickly. “I mean, yes, it is, except… I don’t write in it very often.” She took a breath and steeled herself. “I had a blog once, but it… it got me into trouble.”

Janine frowned. “What kind…”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Molly squeezed her eyes shut. “Sorry, that was so rude.”

“It’s fine, love,” Janine answered, putting a soothing hand on Molly’s arm. Molly shifted herself over and met Janine’s eyes, which were kind and warm.

“What I mean is,” Molly continued, “it got other people into trouble.”

Janine laughed quietly. “Yeah, know how that can go.”

Molly moved Janine’s hand onto her hip, and reached over to twine her fingers through Janine’s hair where it fell along her collarbone “So anyhow, I decided I should do it, you know, privately. If I was going to do it at all. Because it was always for me, really.”

Janine smiled lazily at Molly’s touch and tipped her head so that her hair fell at a different angle. “And is it working?”

The soft shift of Janine’s hair between her fingers was addictive. Molly felt, right then, like it could fill her whole world, that one little thing, if she let it. Maybe she would let it, just for now.

“I haven’t decided yet,” she answered.

--

--

“Okay,” said Janine, stepping back. “So this time it’s all you. You ready?”

“I think so.” Molly met her own eye in the mirror, though she couldn’t help flicking a glance at Janine’s face, reflected just past her shoulder.

Molly picked up her hair by the ends and scrunched it in her hands and let it fall. “It’s probably teased enough by now, don’t you think?”

“That’s up to you,” said Janine, impudent. Molly wrinkled her nose in a mock sneer, then set to work dividing her hair and twisting it. She wound the twist into a loose bun while Janine stood a few paces back, watching her.

“It’s a bit too much to the right.”

“I thought you weren’t helping,” said Molly.

“Yeah, but I’d said that if I saw it after, and then you’d just have to redo it.”

Molly sighed, let her hair drop, and shook her arms out from the shoulder. “This is awfully tiring.”

Janine caught her eye in the mirror and winked. “It hurts to be beautiful.”

Molly blew out another dramatic sigh, then went back to work on her hair. She could feel, this time, that the twisted bun was better placed, resting just above the nape of her neck. Holding it in place with her left hand, she groped on the dressing table for the bobby pins, and one by one secured the chignon in place.

She turned her head one way and then the other, to see how it looked, then gave her head a quick shake. “It stays,” she said to her own reflection, a bit wonderingly.

Beaming, Janine stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Molly’s waist. “And it looks gorgeous.” She dropped a kiss onto the back of Molly’s neck. “Shows you off beautifully.”

Molly laid her tired arms over Janine’s and pulled her in close.

---

---

They met for dinner at a sweet little French restaurant, three weeks after she first kissed Janine. Molly didn’t know whether Janine was thinking of it as an anniversary – and really, it was a bit silly, since the word ‘anniversary’ meant ‘year’ and a week was so much less, even three of them – but she put in a bit of extra time getting ready, that night. She couldn’t tell if Janine had done the same. Smiling at Molly across the table in their private little booth, face glowing under all her dark lustrous hair, Molly couldn’t help thinking that she always looked perfect.

“I almost forgot,” Janine said, over a dish of apple galette. “I saw Sherlock today.”

“Really!” Molly hadn’t thought about Sherlock in days, she realized with a start. Maybe a week? That was worth putting in her diary. Although she hadn’t been keeping it lately, and there was so much to catch up on.

“Yeah, ran into him at the Costa on my way to work.”

Molly frowned, and set down her fork. Janine laid down her fork as well and put her hand in Molly’s.

“I wonder why he was there.” Molly thought about the stiff, slim, imperious figure that would occasionally come swishing through the morgue, taking up all the air and never talking to anybody. It felt strange to remember how she had stared, how she’d felt him sucking up all the energy in the room and how she had liked it, at the time. “That must have been awkward.”

Janine’s smile was absent. “It was nice, actually. He bought me a coffee.”

“He bought you a coffee.” Molly frowned. There was a step here she was missing, she could just feel it. “Sherlock.”

Janine’s fingers were stroking Molly’s arm gently, but she was far away behind her eyes.

---

---

Sometimes Janine would text from work, little chatty notes: Nasty client here - hope your day is going better xx. Drowning in paperwork. Tempted to off myself. Cut up anybody interesting today?. But today’s had been different. Molly was up to her elbows when the phone alert went off, so she didn’t look at the message until well past noon. This one said only:

You’re taking the afternoon off. Meet me outside the main entrance at one.”

That had left her barely half an hour to clean herself up and set the day’s paperwork in order. So it was only as she climbed the stairs to the ground floor - leaving behind her professional guilt and a note taped to the morgue door - that curiosity began to filter in past the urgency. Where were they going, anyhow?

Janine had met her at the kerb with a cab and a smirk that said she wouldn’t answer any questions, so now Molly stared out the window, pleased but uncertain about the afternoon ahead.

A dim suspicion bloomed when she spotted Regents Park through the window on Janine’s side, and it all clicked into place as they rounded the corner and the Zoo’s wide entryway came into view.

She seized Janine’s hand as the cab rolled to a stop. “I haven’t been here in ages.

“I know.” Janine gave her hand a squeeze. “And it gets better. C’mon.”

Janine paid the cabbie, held the door for Molly, and then set off toward the entrance with a quick stride, leaving Molly to trot several meters behind. Molly followed her through the Fast Track queue, past the gorillas and the reptile house, broke into a trot by the aquarium and finally caught up with her round the corner of the wallaby exhibit - which she would have quite liked to have stopped and looked at, if she hadn’t been afraid of losing Janine. Her feet hurt, and the promise of the afternoon seem to have boiled down into hard crystals of irritation that chafed against her nerves.

Janine had stopped in front of another animal enclosure and was now looking at Molly with an expression of edgy expectation. Molly took her time sauntering up to the railing. “What,” she said shortly.

Janine gave her a frustrated, pleading expression. “Just look.”

Molly looked, and all of her frustration evaporated in a cloud of joy (and she might have shrieked a bit, as well) at the sight of two fuzzy forms clinging to the branches of a fake tree, and another ball of grey fuzz ambling along the ground toward a pile of slim green leaves. She loved koala bears more than almost anything, but had spent the past twenty-five years making do with pictures and National Geographic videos.

“But how… how?” She asked, brimming with elation but also confused. “They don’t even have koalas at this zoo. Not anywhere in London.”

Beside her, Janine laughed, loose and bright. “They do now, love. For the time being, at least. It’s a special exhibit. They’ve got them on loan from somewhere. Luxembourg maybe. That wasn't the important part.”

“But how…” she turned to Janine. “But how did you know?"

“You mentioned it the other week, reading your mum’s old Blinky Bill books at your Nana’s house.” Her eyes slipped to the side in that mischievous way Molly adored. “I worked out the rest on my own. A hunch, I guess.”

Nobody had ever brought her roses at work, or thrown her a surprise party, or gotten her the gift she had secretly been wishing for. But it had never crossed her mind to want this.

“It all just seems impossible. Wonderful impossible.” Molly reached out and took Janine’s hand. “You’re amazing. Do you know that?”

Janine’s expression had turned tender. “That’s good,” she said softly, swinging Molly’s hand in hers. “Amazing is what you deserve.”

Molly wanted to kiss her, then, but she didn’t always know when it was all right and when it wasn’t, if other people were around; so she gave Janine’s hand a brief squeeze and dropped it, turning back to look at the koala bears. The one on the ground was now happily munching on a sheaf of eucalyptus leaves, its little mouth working comically in its funny, peaceful face.

“Can we stay a bit longer?” she asked.

“As long as you like, love,” Janine returned. “This is why we’re here.”

“All right, then.” Molly flashed her a quick smile. “Though we ought to see the rest of the zoo, too, since you paid to get us in.”

After a few more minutes of koala-gazing it began to drizzle, but they spent another half hour in the outback exhibit, and made it through most of the Into Africa walk before the thickening rain chased them inside. Most of the other visitors had had the same idea, so the wide, dimly-lit hallways were crowded and dank. They fell into step with the slow-moving herd, and strolled idly past the blue-lit tanks of colorful fish. Janine had fallen silent, and seemed content to wander slowly through, but Molly began to lose patience with tourists talking loudly in her ear or elbowing into her space.

“Come on,” she said, taking Janine’s hand and tugging her out of the human stream to a shadowed alcove - a service doorway, it looked like, disguised by the low light.

“What’s up, Moll?” asked Janine.

Molly giggled. “Just this.” she threaded her hands into Janine’s hair and pulled her in for a kiss.

Janine stepped abruptly back, though the wall was behind her and she couldn’t get far. “What are you doing?” she whispered urgently.

“Just keeping things lively. It’s a bit dull in here, after all.” Molly smiled, but Janine did not smile back. “Well, maybe you like fish more than I do,” she allowed. She took a lock of Janine’s hair between her fingers and twisted it gently. “Just saying thank you for a lovely afternoon.”

Janine gave her a slightly strained smile in answer, and put her palms on Molly’s shoulders, pressing a bit of distance between them. “You can do that at home, yeah?”

“...What’s wrong with here?” asked Molly.

Janine blew out an impatient breath. “There are all these people here!”

“But they’re strangers!” Molly retorted.

“Yeah, exactly,” said Janine, her tone fiercely hushed. “They don’t need to know our business!”

Taken aback, Molly dropped her head. What was that supposed to mean? She hardly dared wrap her mind around the question. “But what does it matter?” she said at last.

Janine closed her eyes. “It just does, all right?” She shook her head. “Besides, it smells bad in here. Fishy.”

It did smell fishy; Molly just hadn’t cared.

Janine pushed her hair back with her hand. “Come on, we’re both tired of people, I think. Let’s go.”

The rain was still falling when they got outside, but the sky still seemed bright after the aquatic darkness. Molly took Janine’s hand, and Janine let her keep holding it as they walked out the gates to the line of waiting cabs.

--

She came down with an awful headache a few days later, waking up to a steady pulse of pain in her temples and behind her eyes. But she couldn’t afford to miss any more work, after that lark of an afternoon, so she dragged herself to work and set the morgue lights to low. It was just as well, really; she would be worried about things with Janine, if she’d had any energy to spare. Other than a quick post-work coffee yesterday, they hadn’t seen each other since the zoo outing, and Molly still wasn’t sure what to make of it - of what Janine was thinking and feeling. She had been such an odd mix, that day, of tenderness and reticence, and then the - the disagreement in the aquarium. Janine hadn’t come home with her after all, pleading exhaustion, and Molly had let her go, reluctantly. They hadn’t fought, but that also meant that they had never made up, so Molly wasn’t sure how to go about apologizing for whatever she had done wrong.

Her head throbbed, and it drew her back into the present. she stared down at the culture dish in front of her. Right. She picked up the dish and set it down again. The chart she needed was on the clipboard. She picked up the clipboard and set it down again.

She retrieved her phone from her bag. No texts today, but she could send one of her own.

Can I see you after work? I want to

...what, exactly? apologize? ask you to explain yourself? Both of those. What she really wanted was to kiss Janine until they both knew for sure that everything would always be fine, but that would sound idiotic in a text message.

talk.

The answer came back almost immediately. of course. you can come to mine. 8pm? I’ll text if I have to go later. xx

Molly ran her finger over the screen of her phone. It was going to be fine. They were just two people, after all, and they could talk about things. She typed out a quick ok, put the phone back in her lab coat pocket, and dug back into the bag for some paracetamol to get her through the day.

---

---

It ended up being 8:30 rather than 8, so Molly stopped for a sandwich on the way to the tube. She wolfed it down on the platform and then returned to running through her speech, which changed slightly every time, in part because imaginary-Janine reacted slightly differently every time, and so on the next pass Molly would incorporate changes. She found that she was muttering as she walked up the block to Janine’s building, but Kensington was quiet at this time of evening, and there was nobody nearby to give her funny looks for talking to herself like a crazy person. She certainly could have passed for one, with all the gongs going in her head. The paracetamol had helped for a bit, but the pain had come clanging back, worse than ever, and she daren’t take another pill so soon.

She rang the buzzer and rode the elevator up, still murmuring, and suddenly there was Janine in front of her, dusky and glowing in a red blouse that drew the warm tones out of her dark hair, and oh, how did she do that, how did she manage to be every wonderful thing all at once?

“Hello,” said Molly, half out of breath.

“Hey,” said Janine, and her brightness seemed diminished, somehow; Molly wondered if maybe she had a headache too. When Molly asked for water, Janine brought some out for Herself as well, even though it was always wine for her in the evenings, or at least a glass.

They sat down side by side on the sofa.

“Look,” said Janine. “I’ve got to apologize.”

“Oh, me too,” Molly replied, all in a rush. “At the zoo, I was, I don’t know, I was…”

Janine laid a hand on Molly’s arm. ”Let me finish, okay?”

Her voice was soft and sad, not as angry as (Molly had realized, in her endless rehearsals of that afternoon, of the aquarium) she had a right to be. “Yeah, all right.”

A surge of pain rolled through her head, and Molly closed her eyes, fighting off nausea. She drew in a deep breath, trying to push back the pain, to gather her focus: she needed to be here, to be present, to say the things she needed to say. Janine might not be angry with her, but Molly was angry with herself, by now; she would have to keep herself in check, even if Janine was too gentle with her to complain.

Janine patted her arm twice and then drew back her hand into her lap. “You’re such an amazing person, Molly,” she said. “You’re brilliant and beautiful and caring. These few weeks have been amazing.”

Even through the lancing agony of the headache, Molly smiled back at her. It still amazed her that someone so radiant, all bright smiles and gleaming edges, could be so soft, when it was just the two of them. Molly would do better. She had slipped a bit, and gotten overexcited, which was something she did. She hoped Janine would understand. She seemed to know Molly inside out already, so it wouldn’t be a surprise.

“I really do want the best for you, Moll.”

Molly blinked. “What?”

Janine caught her eye, her expression sad and serious. “I’m saying that’s why I’m doing this now. Before things get too far with Sherlock.”

Molly pressed a hand to her temple. “Sherlock?” she repeated idiotically.

A slight smile drifted across Janine’s face. “Yeah, it’s Sherlock. I thought you might have guessed. And I don’t know where it’s going, but I think it’s going…. somewhere.” Her face became serious again. “And so I can’t do this anymore, with you.”

Molly stared at her. “You’re breaking up with me.”

Janine gave a languid, expressive shrug. “If you want to call it that.”

Molly barked out a laugh. “What else would I call it? You’re saying we’re done -” she shook her head, trying to make some room, although it wasn’t going to help, because it was quite mad, how could any reasonable person accept it? “- so you and Sherlock can… have coffee, or….” She felt her hands clench into the sofa as the anger wound up inside of her. “You know how that’s going to go, right? He’s quite cold, he’ll shut you out all the time. It won’t be like…” She stopped herself before the last words tumbled out, but they hung there in the air anyhow.

Sighing, Janine pushed her hand through her hair. “Molly, you’re so sweet, and this has been great. Really, it has. It’s just….” she gave a little half-laugh, and for a second Molly hated her completely. “It’s nice to have a dick in me, sometimes. A real one, like.” Her smile faded, and now she only looked sad. “It’s not your fault you can’t do that, love.” She sighed, and then reached over and stroked Molly’s hand where it lay on the couch. Molly pulled it back and shivered a little, with anger, with wanting, with anger about wanting.

“You could have said,” she said at last, cold and very quiet, and Janine winced.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Janine said. “It’s not -- I want someone I can bring home to mum, eventually. They’re not very broad-minded up in Cork.”

Molly couldn’t even tell what was true anymore, but that brought the anger back, bright and clear. “Why does that matter?” she burst out. God, she wanted to punch something. “Why are you even thinking about that?”

Janine’s face crinkled in angry incredulity. “We can’t just keep doing this! Sooner or later this was going to have to get serious, Moll, did you think about that?”

Molly’s heart dropped into cold rage. “So this wasn’t serious?” she choked out.

“Have you told your mum?”

Of course she hadn’t, and Janine knew it. “That’s not what I mean,” she shot back. But there was only anger propping her up, now.

Janine laughed, edgy and joyless. “You were never going to do it, and neither was I.”

All that dark hollowness inside her was expanding, it was going to swallow her up as all the joy of the past few weeks crumbled away. Molly had never dared name it, not even to herself; but after their second time, and then the third, she had let the hope for the future kindle. Stupid, she was so stupid. They’d never even talked about it.

“But Sherlock… Sherlock’s not, he’s….” she was trying not to cry, but Janine waited. Maybe she also wanted to know how Molly was going to finish that sentence. “Sherlock can’t be that. For you. Maybe not for… for anyone.”

Janine sighed, like all the anger had gone out of her. “Yeah, I dunno. I’ve thought the same thing. But he wants to try – I mean, clearly he wants to try, he’s asked me out twice already and sent flowers.” She shrugged. “It’s strange, really. But Moll, I can’t stop thinking about him, and that’s not right. It’s not fair to you, I mean.” She shook her head, and looked almost resigned. “And I’d be kicking myself forever if I didn’t try.”

Molly nodded miserably. She understood.

---

---

And just like that, it was done.

Janine had kissed her cheek, and said she hoped they would still be friends. Molly had agreed, because she wanted that too, but on the way home, her cheek pressed against the glass of the tube car as she stared out into nothing, she realized she would need some time. Maybe a lot of time. Well, Janine was smart. She would figure it out.

Toby batted at her from the coffee table as she walked by, but she ignored him and went straight to the bedroom, where she kicked off her shoes, tossed her phone and keys onto the mattress, and flopped down prone on the bed. She needed to go to sleep. She needed to wake up into a different world and know that it was really over, that being with Janine belonged to the past, and that Molly couldn’t change it. The sooner she believed that – the sooner she accepted that no amount of crying over the phone could fix it – the better.

Half of her brain drifted off quickly – exhaustion would do that to a person, she supposed – but the rest of her remained uncomfortably aware of the buttons on her shirt where they pressed into her ribs, and the trouser zip that didn’t quite accommodate her body at this angle. She would have to get up. Getting drowsy again would be hell, but sometimes that was where you lived.

She shifted, and her phone rolled across the mattress and bumped into her hand. Maybe she would call her mum. She was bound to get scolded, sooner or later, for going so long without calling. It might as well be tonight. The thought was so awful that it made her laugh, a bit. That was something, wasn’t it?

She pushed herself up and stripped down, still sitting on the bed and squirming to get her trousers out from beneath her. Once they were finally off she tossed them to the floor in victory, then felt a pang of regret – they were nice things, after all, and she should hang them up. The overhead light was overwhelmingly far, so she leaned over and switched on the bedside lamp.

In the cheery halo of light, her diary glowed at her, bright pink fake snakeskin and promise. Everything felt colorless, mostly, but there it was, untouched since the night she had gone digging for the choker. Unused since the Thursday before John and Mary’s wedding, when she wrote about not knowing which shoes to pack, and her comic speculation about Sherlock’s speech.

She set the phone on the night table and picked up the diary. There was so much she needed to write down.