A/N: My take on the goings on after John and Mary's wedding in "The Sign of Three". Two parter, here's part one!
Eight days after John's wedding to Mary, Sherlock swept into the morgue at St. Bart's, Greg Lestrade on his heels…and came to an abrupt stop. "Where's Molly?"
The pathologist standing over the corpse they'd come to examine – Mr. Jonathan Price-Briggs, forty-seven, industrialist found dead under suspicious circumstances in his office – was named Sanders…no, Sangiv…no, it was… "Well, Dr. Sanjay? Where's Molly?" Sherlock's eyes darted around the room. "Not on break," he muttered to himself as he stalked over to give the corpse a cursory examination, his mind clearly not on the case. "No signs that she's been in for…"
"She called in sick," Sanjay interrupted him, sounding annoyed, why annoyed? Oh, of course, he was the on-call pathologist and Molly's illness clearly disrupted his schedule. "In fact," the man continued although Sherlock was only half-listening at this point, something about the corpse having finally captured his attention now that the mystery of the missing Molly (sounded like something John would come up with for his blog) had been solved, "she's called in sick for the past week."
That caught Sherlock's attention; he spun around and pinned the other man with a glare. "A week? Molly Hooper has called in sick for seven days?"
Sanjay nodded, crossing his arms over his chest and frowning. "Six years she's worked here and never missed more than a day at a time, but now that's she's engaged, suddenly she decides it's okay to take vacation and then follow it up by blowing off work for an extra...urk!"
The last was decidedly not what the pathologist had been going to say, but was rather the result of a very irate consulting detective's hand on his throat. "Molly does not shirk her responsibilities," Sherlock growled as Lestrade hurried over to the two men, squawking about overreacting and other nonsense. Sanjay's hands were flailing about, one of them trying to peel Sherlock's fingers from around his larynx, which was being held in a firm but not crushing grip. Just enough to keep the idiot from continuing to spew out such ridiculous nonsense. "If she called in sick, then she. Is. SICK!"
The last word was practically shouted, and punctuated by a shake that Lestrade interrupted by finally prying Sherlock's hands from Sanjay's throat.
He spun on his heel and left the morgue without another word, ignoring Sanjay's shouted threats and Lestrade's strident demands that he return and apologize or at least explain himself. He had far more important matters to attend to at the moment.
Because, despite the fact that he'd put the entirely wrong interpretation on the matter, Sanjay was correct about one thing: Molly never called in sick unless she was absolutely incapacitated. And when she did, Sherlock knew from the very past experiences, that she always made up for her absence by taking on extended shifts and covering for anyone who'd been inconvenienced by her temporary absence. Her work ethic had always been impeccable, and her health exemplary. She'd only called in sick, to Sherlock's knowledge, twice – no, three times – since he'd known her.
But never for an entire week. Either the illness was serious…or something else was going on. Something he certainly had no interest in discussing with either that idiot pathologist or Lestrade. If John wasn't away on his honeymoon, he might consider discussing his current theory with him, but both his friend and his friend's new wife had made it quite clear that nothing short of an apocalyptic emergency was worthy of interrupting their week in the Bahamas, even with a text.
Still ruminating on the possible reasons for Molly's absence – there really were only three – Sherlock absently waved down a cab and gave the driver Molly's address.
Twenty minutes later he was paying the driver and fidgeting the lock on the front door of the twelve-story building. Two minutes after that – no, a minute and thirty seconds – he was knocking on the door to her eighth floor flat, waiting impatiently for her to answer.
He heard her moving about and shifted from foot to foot, bouncing up and down on his toes when it took her far longer to reach the door than it should have. If she were actually ill, then that would explain the delay; however, if his most prevalent theory was correct, then there were other reasons that fatigue and malaise to slow her steps.
The door opened and there she was, Molly Hooper in all her glory. Sherlock frowned as he took in her appearance, ignoring her spluttered demands for his presence as he brushed past her and entered the small flat she'd called home for the past four – no, six – years. As soon as he heard her resigned sigh and the sound of the door closing behind them, he began his deductions. "You aren't ill, even though you've missed work for an entire week. Judging by the pristine condition of the flat – your bedroom and bathroom doors are ajar and a great deal of the kitchen is easily visible from here – you've spent the last few days scrubbing this place, as Mrs. Hudson would put it, to within an inch of its life. There is a cardboard box waiting by the door, neatly packaged, but the address label has been written out in the heat of anger or some other extreme emotion, judging by the depth to which the pen has dug into the label and the blots of ink slightly obscuring the last name of the recipient – Tom Whittle. Your fiancée. Or rather, your former fiancée, since I see no obvious or subtle signs of anyone other than yourself – and your cat – having entered his flat in the past week, and you, and…" He spun around to face her, taking in the details of her appearance as rapidly as he had taken in the state of her flat, "your engagement ring is no longer on your finger and hasn't been for at least that amount of time, if not slightly longer."
Molly said nothing during this rapid-fire analysis of the current state of her life, only stared up at him with her mouth in a pinched line and her eyes blank. She was sloppily dressed in a pair of dark grey gym shorts and an oversized rugby shirt, with her hair in a loose ponytail, strands coming loose and straggling over her sweaty face. She held a towel in one hand and he further deduced that he'd interrupted her on her way to the shower, after having successfully eradicated every sign of Tom Whittle from her flat. Sherlock crossed over to the comfortable-looking leather sofa – a decidedly masculine appearing piece of furniture that had once resided in Molly's deceased father's study – and looked up at her. "Would you care to discuss why you broke things off with Tom, Molly?"
He wasn't expecting the bitter laugh that erupted from her lips, or the way she shook her head at him as she shuffled across the room, finally collapsing into the chair opposite his. When she finally composed herself enough to speak, her words were edged with a sarcasm he'd never heard in her voice before. "Wow, Sherlock, after all that brilliant deducing you just did, I can't believe you just jumped to the wrong conclusion!"
He frowned and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his gaze narrowing as he once again took in her appearance, the lack of ring on the third finger of her left hand, the box by the door, the absence from work, the cleaning frenzy she'd clearly just completed… "Oh," he said as he allowed the facts to realign themselves in his mind. He met her eyes and said softly, "Tom broke off the engagement. Not you."
After a moment's silence, he spoke again, hesitantly this time. He'd blundered into a situation he'd been confident he understood, only to discover that things were not at all what he'd believed them to be. Didn't the Americans have some crude saying about making assumptions? "My original offer still stands. Would you care to…speak to me about it? Or should I leave?"