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Perched haphazardly on a stool in the lab, chin cradled in his palm, John Watson was fighting a losing battle with sleep. Every few minutes his eyes would slip closed; as he unwittingly ceded control his head would slide off of his hand and he’d jolt awake again.

The other two occupants of the lab were busy finishing up a comparative analysis on blood samples taken from three different murder victims that had been found in similarly placed positions next to the Thames, though each had been discovered on different locks.

Squinting across at them, John tried to ascertain their progress, ever hopeful that they might be finished and he and Sherlock could finally leave.

Molly was frowning at two lined up sheets of paper, muttering under her breath. She stabbed her finger at a block of text and shook her head.

Turning his head, he found Sherlock wasn’t faring any better. Bent over the lab bench, pipette in hand, he carefully dropped liquid into his sample before drawing back and staring intently as though about to wrest the meaning of life from its murky depths.

Unable to stifle a snort, he tried to cover it with a cough. He needn’t have bothered, Molly was far too polite to comment and Sherlock himself probably thought that the reason for the existence of the entire human race was simply to create a diversion for his own grand self.

Without consulting him, John’s eyes closed again, seeking respite from the harsh fluorescent lighting. After startling himself awake once more, he regretfully forced himself to sit up straight, to wake fully.

The distinctly low-key murmur of voices made his heart sink, clearly they were nowhere near finished. Grumbling to himself, he couldn’t help but think, It’s alright for them, they don’t have a baby waiting. Just as he made up his mind to complain, two words, standing out in stark relief, snagged his attention.

Having taken the sheets of paper from Molly, Sherlock was poring over her notations, absent-mindedly mumbling his thanks as he did so. Though thank you was certainly rare enough in the arrogant sod's lexicon, they were not the words that had seized John's attention; the words that had ground his thought processes to a sudden and screeching halt had been love, or, more specifically, my love.

Sherlock Holmes, the man who derided all emotions, who carried on as though sentiment was a virus that would corrupt his hard drive, had just taken the papers from Molly and said, casual as you please, thank you, my love.

Furrowing his brow, trying to shake off the sleepy confusion rendering him uncertain, he stared at them, trying in vain to figure out what was going on.

Molly’s cheeks were a little pink but that was hardly unusual. Sherlock was muttering to himself, eyes trained on the slide positioned under his microscope. His appearance in no way indicating anything odd.

Allowing his eyes to close again, John shrugged the train of thought away and allowed his dream to claim him.

~o0oo0oo0o~

“We’ve got another one, this time in Surrey, I need you to come look.”

Lestrade’s eyes were fixed on Sherlock, following as his gaze flicked to the door at the sound of feather light footsteps on the stairs.

“Molly,” Sherlock’s voice boomed cheerfully.

Appearing in the doorway, she held up a cooler with one hand, while tucking a strand of hair behind her ear with the other, her smile was gentle. “I bought you the, ah,” she glanced at Lestrade, grimacing slightly, half apology and half embarrassment, “the feet?”

Ruefully, Lestrade shook his head. Only Sherlock would be more interested in the body parts of corpses than in the beautiful woman transporting them.

Turning back, he asked him, “Will you come?”

Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. “I’ll be right behind you.”

With a sigh, he nodded, “Taxi, yes, I know.” To Molly he added a warning, “Got another one, body’s on its way,” his face was drawn and his tone pensive, “It’s not a pretty sight and you’ll need to do the screen again.”

In answer to Molly’s raised brows, he finished flatly, "Rohypnol.”

Molly nodded, offering him a wan smile that fell rather short of her eyes, “I’ll put a rush on it, Greg.”

Sherlock watched the exchange with narrow eyes, his mouth turned down at the corners. His eyes lingered on Molly and when he noticed Lestrade’s own gaze resting upon him, he speared him with a glare.

Rolling his eyes, Lestrade turned on his heel. Making his way down the stairs he stopped to tug his phone out, as he did, he heard Sherlock cross the room. Craning his neck, he glanced back.

Sherlock was taking the cooler from a smiling, verging on star-struck Molly. Leaning down, he brushed his lips across her forehead before holding her gaze and offering in a low-pitched voice, “Thank you, sweetheart.”

Lit up like a Christmas tree, Molly looked up at him.

He stopped, staring at her in awe, she’d always been very pretty, very suited to his tastes, but now…now she was breathtaking. His admiration suited her, she looked like was born to be worshipped by him; Sherlock, meanwhile, looked like he’d found his raison d’être.

Utterly enthralled, they lost themselves in each other for a long moment, until Sherlock, without turning his piercing gaze from Molly for even a moment, called down belligerently, “I said, I’ll be right along.”

Thoroughly annoyed with himself, Greg cursed under his breath, if he hadn’t been standing there, well, who knows…

~o0oo0oo0o~

Not bothering to attempt to conceal their mirth, Mary and Molly watched John struggling with Rosie. He’d offered - begged - to change all of her nappies for the rest of the day if he could just sleep in a little longer that morning. Sherlock had kept him out and he was exhausted.

Looking utterly defeated as he tried to hold his squirming daughter, he threw over his shoulder incredulously, “You’re really not going to help me?”

Mary snorted, breathless with laughter and unable to respond. Served him right, he’d been getting away with far too much. If a grown man cannot attend to his own daughter, there’s an issue. Besides, it was simply too funny to miss. John Watson, adrenalin junkie, former soldier, absolutely undone by a nappy full of baby poo.

Huffing and muttering to himself, he finally managed, half a pack of wipes later, to get the mess under control. Settling back onto his haunches, he blew out a breath, his eyes dull with horror. Mary had to wonder if he had looked quite as harrowed in his surgery on the front line.

“Drama queen,” she laughed as she scooped up Rosie, much to her daughters delight as she gurgled and shrieked with joy. Settling her on her knee she began singing, “One, two, buckle my shoe…”

Relieved, John stood to make a mad dash for the bathroom to scrub his hands. At Mary’s pointed look he stooped down and scooped up the changing mat and the mess to dispose of it.

When John returned looking like he was feeling a little more human, the doorbell chimed, then again, and again.

Passing a giggling Rosie back to her husband, Mary made her way to the door.

Unsurprisingly she found Sherlock waiting impatiently on the step - he’d been warned by Mary herself to never pick that lock again for anything short of an emergency. A real emergency.

“Mary,” he kissed her cheek hello as he brushed past, bellowing “John!”

“Hey!” She admonished him, with a laugh, “Rosie could have been sleeping.”

Turning his head Sherlock raised an eyebrow, Mary held up a hand, “Never mind, I’m sure it’s obvious from the way sunlight glinted on the windows,” she grinned.

The bridge of his nose creased, his eyebrows knitting together above, as, sucking in a breath and tilting his head, he began, “No, it was - "

Resting her hand on his forearm, Mary smiled up at him, “Sshh, please?” In a sudden burst of inspiration she blurted, “Molly’s here,” hoping to derail his attention.

The change was immediate, he looked like a dog being offered a treat, ears pricked, eyes already searching her out.

Shaking her head in fond exasperation, she thought, One day, and that day had better be soon this foolish man was going to have to acknowledge his feelings for Molly. At this point Mary was actually considering locking them in a wardrobe overnight or some other similarly ridiculous and highly unlikely plan.

Strolling back to the lounge, she caught sight of Sherlock dropping a kiss on Molly’s forehead and greeting her, “Hi honey bee, I didn’t know you’d be here.”

Suppressing a snort, Mary glanced at John, whose eyebrows had all but disappeared into his hair line. As he sucked in a breath and opened his mouth, she caught his eye and shook her head sharply.

Lips parted, cheeks flushed becomingly, Molly gazed up at him, adoration shining from her eyes like sun-rays in a child's drawing. After a moment she shook her head, “Ah, did you - ” her voice cracked and she cleared her throat, trying again, “did you need my help?” Still staring up at him, she licked her lips, her thundering pulse visible in her throat.

Sherlock’s eyes flicked to it, one corner of his mouth tilting in obvious pleasure at the sight. His eyes were soft as he regarded her, his words matter-of-fact, “I always need you, Molly.”

Swallowing hard, Molly’s breath sped up, her chest rising and falling, she bit her lip and silently regarded him. Mary wouldn’t have been surprised if she couldn’t speak at that exact moment. Such words from Sherlock Holmes… Less was definitely more where he was concerned.

The tension in the room was palpable. John actually gasped out loud, his reaction almost comical, eyes bright and wide, his mouth open and his head tilted, looking in fact, quite like a Manga cartoon.

Before he could spoil the moment, Mary called to him, “John?”

His head turned slowly toward her, though his eyes were slow to follow. When his eyes caught up, he held his arm out and gestured at the other couple, incredulously, wordlessly, asking, Did you see that??

“I need your help in the kitchen John,” her expression a clear warning.

Clearing his throat, he continued holding his hand out toward them, palm up, beseeching her to look.

Sherlock and Molly took no notice, their eyes held only each other.

John,” Mary ground out, keeping her voice low so that she didn't scare Rosie but easily getting her point across with her eyes.

Still absentmindedly bouncing Rosie on his lap, mouth still open, surprise making him appear idiotic, John stared at Mary without comprehension.

Finally Mary jerked her head toward the kitchen, her face stern.

Dazedly, John settled Rosie on Molly’s willing lap, watching his best friend from the corner of his eye the entire time but managing to keep his mouth shut. By the time he entered the kitchen he looked decidedly worse for wear, clearly disoriented, his eyes glazed. Turning to his wife, he held his hands held out, palm up, “Mary? What’s - ” He broke off in confusion and looked to his wife for an explanation.

Setting cups and tea pot on a tray, Mary’s voice was soothing, ”Better to be patient, John, he’ll only come up with some ridiculous excuse and then Molly will get hurt. We need to give him time, I'm not even sure he's aware he’s doing it."

Pulling a face, John grumbled, “He’d damn well say something to me if positions were reversed," he complained. “He would have bloody deduced me to ash.”

Mary smiled, holding her hands out to him, "I know, he's a bastard, but Molly loves him, Molly deserves this. Do it for her, okay, love?"

Taking her proffered hands in his own, John stepped forward, pulling her flush against him and arranging them behind his back.

Smiling, he agreed, "Okay Cupid, I'll do it for Molly," his grin turned lascivious as he added, "So the plan is to get Sherlock Holmes shagged?"

Sliding her hands over his back and lower, she mock admonished him, “Well, that's a rather base way of phrasing it Dr Watson.” Then she grinned, inclining her head and acknowledging, "But essentially, yes.”

John grinned, apparently approving of the way she punctuated her words with squeezes to his backside. He swayed gently, holding her eyes with his own, heat building quickly, “And what about Dr Watson? What does he get for being a good friend and doing his wife’s bidding?”

Biting her lip, Mary whispered, “Well, I would love to show you how much I appreciate the way you keep fit, running around with his nibs has its perks,” cupping his arse to illustrate her point, she sucked in a breath when his pupils fanned out.

"John!" Sherlock’s baritone boomed out, slicing through the moment. His footsteps light as he moved to the door. “Another body.”

Rolling his eyes, he kissed Mary, pulling back again, he looked into her eyes, smiling, “I do love you, Mrs Watson.”

Her answering smile was smug, “I know.”

Shaking his head, he huffed out a laugh.

John!”

Grinning, Mary relented, “I love you too,” she kissed him again before warning, “Not a single word, John Watson.”

Snapping out a salute, he turned on his heel, calling to Molly as he left, “I’ll see you at the morgue later Molls.”

“Bye John!” Molly trilled in the voice she was using to entertain Rosie.

~o0oo0oo0o~

After deploying the knocker one more time - what was that blasted woman up to? Mycroft straightened it carefully - order in all things, where and when possible - and leaned on his umbrella, trying to arrange his features into something resembling a friendly smile. Sherlock could be such a bore if he thought that his ridiculous landlady was not being treated with the utmost respect.

A low murmur increasing in volume, distinguished itself as a mutter as she moved closer. Tugging the door open, she looked up and smiled. “Oh, Mr Holmes, hello. Sherlock’s upstairs if you want to go up, he's got Molly Hooper up there," shaking her head good-naturedly. Leaning in, she added in a conspiratorial tone, "They do experiments - body parts! Have you ever heard of such things, Mr Holmes?” Scandalised, she threw up her hands, “At my age, I don't know.”

“Sherlock has always been one to do whatever his mood dictates Mrs Hudson.”

Nodding, she patted his arm and he fought the urge to pick her arm up by her cardigan sleeve and remove it. He made do with staring at it with barely disguised horror.

Noticing where his gaze had settled, she pulled her hand back before offering, “Shall I make a nice cup of tea?”

“Biscuits too please, lovely,” he agreed with a smile.

“Go on then, I’ll rustle something up, you’ve got a sweet tooth I know. Sherlock does too, though only when he's eating, he doesn't always eat though does he?” Raising her hand to her mouth, she apologised, “Oh my, listen to me blathering on, you just go up Mr Holmes, I’ll bring a tray up soon.”

“Delightful.”

As she bustled off, he swung his trusty umbrella into position and picked his way up the stairs. Voices could be heard through the door of 221B, rising and falling in a practised rhythm.

The deeper sounds of his brother's laugh were tempered with the dulcet tones of Miss Hooper’s. As their mirth faded, it made way for a certain type of stillness.

Mycroft paused on the stairs, not quite ready to reveal his presence. His forethought paid off when he heard Sherlock comment in a breathy tone, “Oh my angel, I do love to make you laugh."

Oh! Dear God. Mycroft’s lips curled in disdain. Little brother in love? Clearing his throat Mycroft brought his foot down onto the step, hard, he had absolutely zero intention of walking in on a kiss or, heaven forfend, something…worse. He shuddered in distaste, suppressing the thought.

After a moment, when he had ascertained that there was nothing to hear in 221B beyond their quiet murmur, he continued up the stairs. Pushing open the door he found them amongst a mess in the kitchen. Frowning, his eyes swept over the pair.

Molly looked up at him and he scoured her for details, the most prominent of which were sexual frustration and loneliness. Sherlock truly was a dolt.

“Hello Mycroft, how are you?” Her voice was soft, her smile genuine.

Nodding, “Hello Molly, how’s my little brother treating you?”

“Oh, um, he just needs help with this experiment so I, uh…” Molly turned back to the array of chemicals spread out in front of her, most of them borrowed from Barts, pink liberally dusted her cheeks. Looking to her task again, she busied herself and didn't finish her sentence.

Sherlock’s eyes locked onto his brother’s, challenging.

Mycroft turned to him and raised a brow, not bothering to disguise the amusement he felt at stumbling onto such a domestic scene, “Your home from home is doing house calls I see.” He archly observed.

Molly glanced at him in confusion, uncertain if he was referring to the pilfered items or something else completely beyond her ability to figure out.

From between clenched teeth, Sherlock retorted, “Why are you here Mycroft?”

With a sigh, he launched in. “Have you made any progress with the bodies found by the Thames?”

Sherlock arched a brow in disbelief, firing out, “And why would that concern you?” Sweeping his eyes over Mycroft, he calculated rapidly.

Rolling his eyes, Mycroft retorted, “Tourism, brother mine, you have heard of it, yes?”

Sherlock turned, head reared back and lips flattened in obvious suspicion. “I have, though what concern of yours it could possibly be… Are you sure that’s the cover story you’d prefer to cling to? I won’t help tourism." He spat the word as though it may be a contagion; as if worried that he himself would be tempted to don a bum bag and start asking directions to Buckingham Palace with a loud, uncultured accent.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at Sherlock's shenanigans, he spoke quietly, hoping to appeal his softer nature, “As a favour to a friend I would prefer this be a matter of priority.”

Lips curling in a smug smile, Sherlock could barely contain his glee as he breathed, “Oh. A friend.” Folding his arms, he asked, “Female or male?”

Mycroft sneered, drawing himself up to his full height in order to better look down his nose. Encompassing the room with his gaze, he took Molly's presence in again and smirked, “Does it matter? A friend, rather like your own…friend.”

With a snort, Sherlock waved this absurdity away, "Oh come now Mycroft, John is married with a baby, surely the tawdry jokes regarding our friendship have worn a little thin?"

"The similarities do not lay with the gender of the friend, Sherlock, no. And my friend is rather patient with my foibles, as is your own," he inclined his head toward Molly, "friend."

Had Mycroft been a man given to displays of bawdy humour he would have hooted out an unbecoming laugh at the look of mingled terror and surprise on his little brother's face. He looked much like he had as a child, when he was caught red-handed in the biscuit tin having no idea that the pantry door had even opened.

 

~o0oo0oo0o~

The lab door flew wide as Sherlock bowled in with his usual flare. Belstaff flaring out behind him like a super hero’s cape, with John trailing behind, seemingly swept up in his backdraft.

Of course, Molly knew better, John Watson was no one’s fool. A former soldier and surgeon for the British army, there was no one and nothing in this world that could compel John to do a single thing if he didn’t wish to.

Seeing them both caused her smile, though Sherlock alone was responsible for the blush. Lately, he'd been going out of his way to garner such a reaction.

Case in point; he glided over and purred in a voice as smooth as silk, “There’s my little pathologist, you’re almost pocket-sized Molly, I could keep you in my Belstaff and carry you around.”

That smile... It had to have been calculated to hit that sweet spot, the biggest reaction possible while she remained standing. The calculations were frighteningly accurate; her stomach fluttered, her heart pounded, and her knees, though wobbling, were still locked in place.

One corner of his mouth tilted, dimple bracketing it, his eyes danced with merriment at her flustered smile and fumbling of the clipboard she carried.

Reaching out, he steadied her hands in his own and tightened her hold on the file. “Here, let me.”

Mouth dry, palms slick, Molly’s eyes widened as she desperately, futilely, hoped he wasn't noticing the effect he was having on her, though of course he was, he always had. The real question was why? Why was he flirting?

His hands, warm and comfortable, held her own, “Are those the results of the tox screen Molly?”

Dragging her gaze away from that dazzling smile, she gathered her thoughts. “Oh, ah, no. They're, erm, well, the body is - older.”

Sherlock released her hands and stood back regarding her, his body language and expression suddenly all business, “Which body Molly?”

“The last one found they found?" She answered nervously, her body still reacting to him, having not received the memo that whatever that was, was finished for now. For good?

Forcing herself to concentrate, she ditched the questioning tone and stated the vital information firmly. This was her job and damned if a little flirting would knock her off her game. "The last found is actually the oldest.”

With an expression of absolute triumph, Sherlock cradled Molly’s face gently in his hands and grinning ear to ear, told her, “You, are an absolute goddess, Molly Hooper.”

~o0oo0oo0o~

Setting the tea tray down in the kitchen, Martha Hudson could hear Mycroft talking importantly, stuffy as ever.

“I suppose a thank you is in order, little brother?”

Glancing in at them, she saw Sherlock wave his hand airily, before replying in a bored tone.

"Don’t bother, it was nothing, you could have figured it out yourself if you’d simply read the pathology reports. He went to more trouble to weigh the body down when he dumped the first one at his own lock and less trouble thereafter in other, subsequent locks. So the last body to be found was in fact, the first victim.”

“Leg work, little brother, you know how it appals me.” Mycroft drawled.

Smug, Sherlock dragged his bow across the taut strings of his violin and observed, “Well, I’m just glad that the environmental agency will not be hiring a new executive director, it brings me great comfort to know that the right man for the job will be retaining his position.”

Mycroft inclined his head, his voice uncharacteristically soft, sincere, “Thank you, Sherlock.”

The doorbell broke into the oddly sentimental moment between the two, which was such a shame, thought Martha ruefully.

Leaping to his feet, Sherlock put his Strad down and began fluttering about, looking nervous. “Tea, she’ll need tea.”

Bustling into the kitchen, he stopped short looking at the tray in Martha’s hand like it was God sent. A wide, genuinely relieved smile graced his features, making him, to her loving eye, look like a sweet little boy.

The door opened without fanfare to reveal Molly, a smile on her face and a cooler in her hands.

“I brought you a brain, with a tumour,” she reported shyly, bright eyes fixed on Sherlock the whole time.

Raising his eyebrows, he breathed excitedly, “You didn’t? Mike signed off?” He ended incredulously.

With a sigh, Martha made a mental note to extract promises later about the removal of this treat when they were finished with it, God knew asking Sherlock had always had about as much effect as window cleaner would on a dirty oven.

Looking furtive, Molly answered, “Well, not so much signed off…” Trailing off evasively, she bit her lip, “I just sort of, well, I borrowed it.” She finished brightly.

Martha stifled the urge to laugh, she was perfect for him, no mistaking it, and he was so lonely now, with John moved on.

Two strides and Sherlock had taken hold of the cooler, “Molly Hooper, you little fiend, you delightful little fiend.”

Mycroft appeared in the kitchen, leaning on his umbrella and shaking his head at the two of them and their endless waltz around each other. “Well, I better head back to the office, things to do, places to be." With a brief nod at both Molly and herself, he swung his brolly and sauntered out.

Sherlock called after him, "You owe me, Myc."

Amusement coloured his voice when he called back, "If you need a favour Molly, you need only ask."

Molly looked confused, "Why me?"

As Sherlock formulated his reply, it was clear that he was planning on sidestepping the issue, again.

Before he could so much as draw breath, Martha butted in. Cheerfully informing Molly, "Sherlock did a favour for Mr Holmes' special friend, so he wanted to extend the same offer to Sherlock's special friend." Grinning, she spun toward the door, grasping the handle, she paused, taking in Molly biting her lip and looking down.

Pointing at the tea things, she caught Sherlock's eye, "Nice hot cup of tea and a chat, my boy."

~o0oo0oo0o~

 

The door clicked shut behind Mrs Hudson, leaving them alone.

Turning to the table, he placed the cooler on it before facing Molly.

Chewing her bottom lip in a distinctly Molly fashion, she looked... Hmm, not nervous, just thinking, his stomach flipped at the familiar sight.

Catching his glance, she smiled, eyes twinkling merrily, "So... We need to talk? A new case then?" She asked, tongue firmly in cheek, clearly not believing her own words.

"I did some research." He grinned at her suddenly confused expression.

"An experiment then?" She asked faintly, her eyes dark.

“I observed Mary and John exchanging nicknames, often when happy, though the converse also applied, they appeared to derive comfort from the ritual during times of upset. In Mary’s case they were often teasing but, they were nonetheless, generally fond."

Cautiously, Molly agreed, her hesitance obvious, "Yes, they do that, don't they? Humans.”

“Yes,” he agreed happily, pleased that Molly was keeping up, though hardly surprised; one of his favourite attributes was her intelligence, brainy truly was the new sexy.

“Idiosyncratic communication, or pet names as they are often referred to, reinforce the positive idea of an insider language within a relationship. Couples who use this emotional shorthand tend to associate it with marital satisfaction. The Normal Bar, a book written by Chrisanna Northrup, a self-styled and so-called, wellness entrepreneur." Sherlock showed his contempt with an eye roll.

Still quietly sceptical, watching him silently, Molly didn't outwardly react so he drew breath and continued.

“A book redeemed in value only thanks to the co-authors, Yale PH.D. Pepper Schwartz and Harvard Ph.D. James Witte, conducted an online survey of all aspects pertaining to relationships, with close to one hundred thousand participants from several different countries taking part online. Their findings claim 76% of the couples who self-identified as very happy, used pet names, therefore - ”

"Sherlock."

Molly stood frowning at him, though not severely, she seemed more confused than anything. Maybe he hadn't been clear enough.

Taking a breath, he tried again, "According to the Scientific American, couples in their first five years of marriage use the most idioms which - "

Again Molly stopped him. This time looking stern, her hand held up to silence him.

"Sherlock, is there an actual point to this? Mary and John are married, happily and well within their first five years, any concerns that you have for their sixth year of marriage and beyond could surely be addressed without needing to resort to using me as your unwitting guinea pig?" Her tone dripped with disappointment and she suddenly seemed very tired.

Something had gone wrong, horribly wrong, far from being flattered or seduced, Molly had gathered her jacket around herself, assuming a defensive position. Her lips were pressed together and her eyes no longer sparkled with that impish humour she'd been sporting mere minutes ago.

"Molly, this has nothing to do with John and Mary.” Watching her, he was pleased to note that though she still looked weary, her shoulders visibly relaxed.

Sighing, she pointed out, "You mentioned Mary and John. They're the only couple you know within their first five years of marriage."

Tugging out a seat, Sherlock gestured for Molly to sit. She did so, albeit reluctantly, perching on the very edge as his hands lingered on the back of the chair.

Closing his eyes, he breathed in her intoxicating scent. She wore a subtle blend of lemon, vanilla and cinnamon, each of which taken separately would evoke memories of Molly, his home from home.

Placing his hands on her shoulders, he began smoothing calming circles with his fingertips. “It’s not only for married couples Molly…” He let his thought trail off suggestively. Sweeping his fingers over the delicate silken skin of her elegant neck.

When she sighed, he grinned in satisfaction. Keeping his voice low, he went on, though much, much more slowly than he had previously, this time using his voice as an instrument of seduction rather than a tool of education.

“They assure your romantic partner or prospective romantic partner...” He paused, leaning down to press a light kiss just behind her ear.

Molly’s head tipped, falling to her shoulder heavily with a soft murmur, allowing him unfettered access.

Dipping under the collar of her jacket, he followed the distinct arches of her collarbones. Finally, he breathed into her ear, “They assure the depth of your affection.”

Her sharp intake of breath was the music of love and his heart sung with happiness to hear it. They were right, he mused, there was more than one way to skin a cat and many, many ways to say I love you. If Molly would let him, he’d endeavour to say I love you in a variety ways every single day for the rest of his life.

“Molly Hooper, my precious girl, the one who always counted, the one who matters the most, I'm going to kiss you now.”

Moving to face her, he held his hands out, palm up, in invitation.

Chest heaving, chocolate eyes, deep liquid pools, Molly accepted with shaking hands.

When he took her hands in his and folded them together, her eyes fluttered shut for a moment and a shaky breath shuddered out.

Never in his entire life had he been quite so transfixed. Her beauty, her reaction to him, the way she inspired his emotions. With her, feelings were not something to be feared, they welcomed him, they called him home, they called him to her.

Mycroft had been right, his home from home, but he hadn’t meant Barts, he’d meant Molly.

“Sherlock?” She breathed his name so sweetly.

In answer, he drew her to his body, hand on her lower back, gripping her. Bowing her body, he lifted her, gratified to feel her fit so snugly against him. Finally, finally he lowered his mouth to hers.

Oh! Her breath, so sweet in his mouth as she sighed out her pleasure, tender, warm lips moving against his own. Ecstasy. Molly’s fingers curled into the nape of his neck and he staggered back, slamming against the kitchen door.

Panting, he drew back, "I'm sorry, I - "

Chest sliding decadently over his, Molly slipped down, looking stricken. With a slight frown, she appeared to make up her mind about something. Reaching up, she first traced his philtrum with eyes and fingertips. As she glided over the outline of his lips they tilted up in the corners to meet her.

Her voice was low, almost pleading as she entreated him, "Please don't apologise for that - even if you didn't mean it."

Bringing his hand up, gliding over her arm until he reached the hand she was about to lower, he grasped her fingers to still them and placed kisses on each of the five fingers.

Molly regarded him through heavy lids and darkened eyes, swaying slightly, her demeanour taking on the appearance of someone slightly inebriated.

Had John been there, he would have taken great delight in informing Sherlock that he himself was sporting the exact same expression, that the two of them were in fact, punch-drunk on love.

In a voice that was suddenly and unexpectedly hoarse, Sherlock assured Molly, "I meant only to apologise for my, ah, ungentlemanly behaviour, I have no regret to express." Smiling at her, feeling almost shy, he asked, "Would you like to stay? For tea?" Gesturing at the tray that Mrs Hudson had left.

Biting her lip around a coy smile, Molly asked, "Is that your way of inviting me up for coffee Mr Holmes? Will you also show me your etchings?"

For a moment he felt at sea, was this the type of insider language he'd been researching? A montage of bad rom-com's that John had forced him to sit through over the years flashed up the relevant information and his confusion gave way to pleasure.

Meeting Molly's shining eyes, he flashed a lop-sided smile, knowing full well the effect it would have on her and murmured with a wink, "That depends on your answer."

As they both knew the answer, Molly wasted no time, pushing up onto her tip-toes, she pressed her lips to his and they melted into one another.

~fin~