He wasn't home when Redbeard died. He was off at Eton, getting his oh so important formal education. He'd received his mother's letter informing him just after his sixteenth birthday. The other boys talked for weeks afterward about how he'd gone missing for a day and he'd been found wandering in a field, ready to collapse from exhaustion. He'd been trying to walk home.
The other boys didn't understand. They didn't know what it was like to be utterly alone, to be beaten and shunned for being different. Of course not. They were the ones doing the beating and shunning. They couldn't comprehend what it was like to lose the dog and sole companion he had had at his side for most of his life. Redbeard's death crushed him and he was barely able to complete the term with acceptable marks.
He came home for the summer to find his elder brother's car parked in the garage, so instead of going inside, he walked around the property to the tree he'd spent so much time climbing while he was growing up. A few meters from the trunk was a neatly stacked pile of stones. Slowly, he approached the pile and felt his stomach lurch when he saw that the top stone was carved with the name Redbeard. The pain which he had thought had settled to a permanent dull ache in his heart suddenly reverted back to the fresh, stabbing agony that had first struck him when he'd learnt of his dog's passing. Before it even registered in his mind, he was on his knees, gathering fistfuls of grass in his hands and crying out in anguish.
It wasn't fair. He wanted his dog, his friend back. Now. He wanted it to stop hurting. Why did it have to hurt so much? Why couldn't he just let go and move on with his life? The answer was simple: he'd become attached. He'd allowed himself to become close with another being, to become dependent. Right then and there, he decided that he couldn't let this happen again. He couldn't permit himself to succumb to the temptations of emotional bonds. He had to cut his heart out and bury it with Redbeard.
He didn't know how long he sat out there or when it had started to rain, but he was grateful for it covering up how much he'd been crying when Mycroft came out to fetch him. Inside, Father anxiously made tea and Mummy fussed while he sat on the sofa, wrapped in a towel and staring off into space with a completely blank expression. He didn't care what his family was talking about. He was immersed in his own thoughts. He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep until he woke up more than twenty four hours later, lying in his bed with the first beams of morning sunlight shining in his bedroom window. The storm that had come the day he'd arrived home had cleared off and there had even been time for everything to dry.
Slowly, he willed his limbs to move and lift him into a sitting position. The dull ache of grief still clung to him and clouded his mind with a numbness that prevented him from formulating an idea of how to move on. His body was now nothing but transport, guided mainly by his subconscious. This became especially clear when he suddenly found himself standing in the shed. He looked about disinterestedly and his eyes settled on his grandfather's vintage BSA M20. The motorbike was in awful need of repair. It had, after all, endured the war and a half century since its making. That thought sparked something in him. He had the urge to discover the machine's workings and get it running again. It would provide an ample distraction from that dull ache and, once it was serviceable, allow him to escape this place and his family for a few hours at a time throughout the rest of the summer.
He started by reading every useful book on the subject of BSA M20s and motorbike repair that he could find and kept his project from his family as best he could. Mummy seemed to have figured out that he was up to something in the shed, but she didn't pry and he was grateful for it. The quiet and calm focus of working on the motorbike provided him with a peace he had rarely known. Having that disrupted would break him.
By the first week of July, he had the bike working. He got up before dawn one morning and walked all the way to the nearest village. He walked back wearing a brand new black leather jacker and carrying a helmet under his arm. The sun had barely risen to set the dew on the grassy fields surrounding the house sparkling when he pulled the motorbike out of the shed. As he started back to get his helmet, Mycroft emerged from the house, probably about to check for the paper, and spotted his little brother with the jacket and the bike.
"No, Sherlock! Absolutely not!" he exclaimed, dashing toward the teenager. Sherlock ran back to his motorbike, climbed onto it and frantically got it going. He shot off past his elder brother, who was still shouting at him, and his helmet was left forgotten. He turned onto the road almost too fast and marveled at the thrill of it. The sensation of the wind whipping his face and the adrenaline pumping through his veins made him feel alive again for the first time since Redbeard had died. The countryside rushed past him in its vibrant shades of green and brown. He rode for hours before stopping and laying down in a field at the edge of a small town. It was about midday by then and the sun shone down on him, warming his face, which had become cold and stiff from the wind. He closed his eyes and began to count his breaths. His normally racing mind quieted down and he could feel himself drifting off to sleep...and then he was rudely interrupted by the sound of a young woman's voice.
"Excuse me, um, are you alright?" He kept his eyes closed and didn't move, entertaining the notion that it might encourage her to go away. "You look okay. You must just be lying on the ground, then. I can understand that. It's a very nice field. Soft grass. Great spot for a bit of sun." The rustling sound the followed told Sherlock that the girl had lain down beside him.
"Most parents would object to their daughter lying down in a field with a sociopathic stranger." The term autistic no longer suited his purposes. He needed a word that would evoke avoidance rather than pity. He opened his eyes and looked over to gauge her reaction. He was met with a pair of large, brown eyes that were filled with awe and his brow furrowed. Why wasn't she running?
"My parents aren't around. Mum left when I was three and dad died last month. Cancer. With my gran now. She doesn't really know what to do with me when I'm not working at the book shop." This girl was very chatty, but Sherlock couldn't bring himself to feel annoyed. Something about her dad having died recently kept him from getting up and leaving. "Name's Molly Hooper. What's yours?"
"Sherlock Holmes." It was oddly easy to give out his name.
"That's a lovely name. It suites you."
"You're different. Like me." That struck a chord with Sherlock. He found himself wanting to know more.
"Oh? And what makes you different?"
"Asperger's." Oh. He didn't like the feeling that elicited in him. It was too warm, too soft...too much like empathy. No, no, no, he wouldn't let himself do this again. But it was too late. The attachment had already been formed without his approval. "I didn't get an interesting name, though."
"Molly Hooper is a perfectly suitable name."
"You think so?"
"I wouldn't say it if I didn't." That made Molly smile and Sherlock found that being the reason for that smile caused the ache in his heart to lessen a little. A long, companionable silence passed between them and he couldn't remember ever having been this comfortable in the presence of another person since he had been a small child.
"May I touch your jacket? Sorry, it's just that it looks really nice." Molly spoke up and he nodded his consent. She reached out and stroked his sleeve along his bicep. It felt strange, but not in a way that would make him tell her to stop. "Where are you from?"
"A bit south of here in the middle of nowhere special."
"What are you doing out here?"
"My dog died while I was at school, so when I got home, I fixed my grandfather's motorbike and rode out here to get away."
"I'm sorry." It was the first time anyone's condolences really meant anything to him. Molly sounded like she genuinely cared and wasn't just saying it because she didn't know what else to say to a bereaved boy. Maybe she understood. After all, her father had died not long ago.
"You would have liked him."
"Redbeard, yes. He was very friendly and enjoyed poking around dead things. You like poking at dead things too, don't you?"
"Oh, um, yeah. How could you tell?" Molly became a little flustered from embarrassment. Sherlock had a feeling this girl had been made fun of all her life for her passions. He didn't think there was anything wrong with what she liked, though. He was interested in the same things.
"There's traces of asphalt on your knees from kneeling on the road and you carry with you a vague whiff of decomposing animal flesh." The smile that came with those words was the first one to reach his eyes in a very long time. It coaxed a nervous laugh from Molly and Sherlock felt his attachment grow. "You are different, Molly Hooper." That was his way of saying that he liked her just as she was, dead animal poking and all. Lying there in the grass with her, he felt truly happy and neither the ache of Redbeard's loss nor his apprehension at letting Molly into his heart bothered him. "Would you like to ride with me?" The question made the young woman blush brightly.
"I-I'd love to, but my gran-"
"I promise I'll have you home before it gets dark. Besides, you're eighteen, aren't you? You're free to make your own choices."
"Okay," she replied softly, tucking a lock of brown hair behind her ear and not bothering to ask how he knew her age. She got to her feet, brushed off her floral blouse and her jeans, and extended her hand to him to pull him up. For such a petite girl, she was surprisingly strong. "How old are you, Sherlock?" she asked as he walked the motorbike back to the road.
"Is it legal for you to be driving this thing?"
"Dunno. Do you trust me?"
"Yes." That leap of faith on her part made it impossible for him to go back. He was officially fond of her and there was no way he would be able to stop it now. Her arms around his waist as he kicked the motorbike to life was now his emotional crutch. The sound of her laughs as they zoomed down the road and her long brown hair flowed behind her were the stitches for the gaping wound Redbeard had left.
As he'd promised, he brought her home to her gran's house before it got dark. Passersby stared at them, telling Sherlock that nobody here expected Molly to be brought home by a boy. How rude and presumptuous of them.
"I had a lovely day, Sherlock. Thank you," she said as she opened the gate.
"Come to the field again tomorrow," he blurted out before he could stop himself. Molly smiled shyly and kissed him firmly on the cheek.
"Of course. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Molly Hooper." He watched her go in and wanted strangely to follow her, but he knew that he had to get home as well before his family called the police.
It was dark by the time he put the bike in the shed. He was nearly blinded by the light that came from the doorway when Mycroft opened it and stepped out. He didn't say anything, he just stepped to the side, indicating that Sherlock should come inside or else. The teenager obliged wordlessly. The moment he stepped across the threshold, he was enveloped in his mother's arms.
"Sherlock Holmes, don't you dare ever do that again! You scared us silly!" she admonished, hugging him almost tight enough to obstruct his breathing. He rolled his eyes. She was such a dramatic creature.
"Sherlock, you can't go riding a motorbike without a helmet. Don't take off without it next time," his father said, emerging from the sitting room.
"There won't be a next time!" his mother shot back hysterically.
"I agree," Mycroft put in, glaring down at his little brother.
"I will be taking dinner in my room." Without another word, Sherlock wriggled out of his mother's grasp and dashed up the stairs, two at a time. This was code for "I will only talk to mummy and only if she brings me food." She gave him twenty minutes of alone time before coming up with a plate of dinner she'd saved him. He knew it was her by the way she knocked on the door and he grudgingly let her in, accepting the dinner she offered him. She sat down on his bed next to him and he said nothing.
"Sherlock dear, what's all of this about?" she asked and he found he didn't know how to express himself. The words stuck in his throat. How could he bring himself to say 'I miss Redbeard more than I can bear, so I want to ride around on grandfather's motorbike because it makes it hurt less and I've met someone who allows me to forget I'm in pain'? He couldn't do it. "I know you want Redbeard back, but being reckless and running away isn't going to help."
"What would you know about it?" His mother looked back at him as if he'd struck her, but upon seeing the look in his eyes, which were so like her own, she softened and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"Where did you go today?"
"Nowhere in particular. Just rode around," Sherlock replied quietly before forking a piece of potato into his mouth.
"Your father thinks you aught be allowed to ride that motorbike and seeing as I have no doubt you will do it anyway, even if I tell you no, I might as well say you can. There are conditions, though. You must always wear your helmet and you'll be expected to be home for dinner unless we agree you can be out later. You also have to promise to stay out of trouble. Does that sound agreeable to you, Sherlock?" his mother offered with a compassionate smile. She didn't seem much concerned by the legality of his riding a motorbike, just that he was happy and safe. For that reason, he found it in himself to return her smile and nod in agreement. Maybe this summer wasn't going to be as unbearable as he had feared.
Sherlock left at a more appropriate hour the next day, ignoring his elder brother's glare as he ate his breakfast. His heart rate sped up as he walked out to the shed, filling him with excitement and anticipation. Riding felt different with a helmet on, but he didn't mind too much. It was quieter. He stopped in the village and bought a second helmet before continuing on straight to the field where he'd met Molly Hooper. She was already there when he arrived and looked as if she'd been waiting for him for hours. She sat up when she heard his engine and saw him coming over the hill between the trees lining the road. In her hands, she held a worn, leather bound notebook. The way she clutched at it nervously, stroking its spine, told him it was something she wanted to show him and that she'd chosen such a notebook for its texture. She seemed immensely excited to see him in way he wasn't sure anyone had been before.
"Hi," she greeted shyly when Sherlock approached her, pushing locks of brown out of her face. She wore a sunny yellow top and baggy tan capris that matched her flats. She clearly wore these things because she cared more about comfort than style. He liked how it perfectly expressed who he knew her to be, someone without pretension who was completely fine with being herself.
"Hi. I see you've got something there to show me." Molly blushed and began staring at her feet at this. She sat down in the grass and he followed suit, watching as she opened the notebook. It was filled with labeled sketches of dead animals and diagrams of organs as well as the creatures they belonged to.
"I've been documenting the animals I find by the road since I was little. I figure that since they were robbed of their lives, I'm giving their passing a purpose by learning from them." Molly explained, watching him anxiously, obviously fearing his reaction.
"This is very good work." That was apparently not the response she had been expecting, because she squeaked and covered her mouth with her hands. "You have the makings of an excellent medical researcher, Molly." She then told him all about how she wanted to become a forensic pathologist and was starting uni in autumn. In return, he informed her of his intent to study chemistry and the look on her face as he spoke was just a little mesmerizing. When he asked her why she was looking at him like that, she grew flustered.
"I'm just...I'm so delighted to have met someone who actually likes that I'm interested in dead bodies and is of a similarly scientific mind." Sherlock got the feeling there was something else she wanted to say, but was too shy to. He inclined his head as an indication that he expected her to speak further and she blushed brightly. "And...I, er, I think- I mean...did anyone ever tell you that you're very handsome?" Well, that wasn't what he'd anticipated.
"No. Why? Am I?"
"I think so. You have very beautiful eyes, you know." Sherlock was absolutely unsure how to react to this. He glanced about awkwardly, his mind floundering to find an appropriate response.
"Thank...you? You have...lovely eyes...too." He was admittedly proud of himself for having apparently gotten it right, since Molly beamed at him as if she'd received something she'd always wanted for Christmas. It was still uncomfortable for him, so he cleared his throat and shifted the subject. "I have something for you." He held out the second helmet he'd bought to her and the grin it elicited from her negated any further need for words between them that moment. She clambered onto his bike with him and he once again reveled in the rush of the wind and feeling of her arms around him.
Sherlock began to see more and more of Molly and they started doing things together besides sitting in the field or riding his motorbike. She introduced him to her grandmother and showed him the old lady's book shop where she worked. On days when she wasn't free, he would come and see her at the shop, helping her lift boxes of books and things while they discussed everything from science to funny stories. They were proper friends now and it felt strange to Sherlock. He'd never been this close to someone not his brother before and on top of that, this relationship was not at all antagonistic. Somehow, despite his social ineptitude, he'd managed to gain a friend. Because of that, he couldn't help but be incredibly attached to her. He didn't fully realize that he never wanted to be without her until one day when he was meant to meet her for lunch.
Sherlock was riding down the street towards the book shop when he saw Molly come out and start walking in the direction of the nearby chip shop. A group of loud teenage boys rounded the corner ahead of her and when they spotted her in her pretty blue sundress, they began whistling and calling out lewd comments. She kept her head down and tried to pass them, but the biggest one grabbed her wrist and forced her to face him. She promptly slapped him hard enough to make him release her and he stagger backwards. The surge of pride that induced in Sherlock was short lived, as the other two teens started to get rough too. Speeding the rest of the way to Molly, he pulled up beside her and her harassers with a loud screeching of tires. He then jumped off his bike, throwing aside his helmet, and yanked the brunette from the grasp of the other teenagers.
"Oi!" One of them objected gruffly. "Get your own, mate!"
"Neglectful mother, is it? Clearly you've not had a proper upbringing, because then you'd know that women are your equals, not commodities. We can also factor in your stupidity, given that you continued to touch a woman who just expressed her objection in a particularly well executed slap. Now go away before you get hurt," Sherlock rattled off dismissively and the group was understandably displeased.
"Prettyboy thinks he's tough, does he? Whadya say we make you a little prettier, smartarse?" another of the boys quipped, cracking his knuckles. Molly probably would have laughed at the stereotypical nature of the situation and how her life had suddenly become a teenage exploitation film if not for the fact that she was plainly terrified. A punch was thrown at Sherlock, but he ducked and slammed his fist into his attackers stomach. Another boy grabbed his arm to twist it, but Sherlock shoved him into the wall, putting all of his weight into it. His third adversary was quick to grab the back of his neck and squeezed hard enough to induce excruciating pain. Sherlock cried out in angony until suddenly the pressure disappeared and he looked around to see his assailant in the fetal position on the ground, face screwed up in pain at what had clearly been an assault on his nether regions. Sherlock couldn't help but grin at a rather stunned looking Molly. She was so much more than she appeared to be on the surface and he relished it.
"Did we just take out three burly blokes?" she asked, sounding a little higher pitch than usual.
"Yes, and they'll probably be getting up soon, so we had better clear off."
"Right." Without further ado, Sherlock scooped up his helmet and climbed back on his motorbike. Molly slid on behind him and wrapped her slim arms around his waist just as she always did. They took off and didn't look back for miles. So much for lunch. But they didn't care. "Where did you learn to fight like that?" Molly asked eventually.
"Parents had me take lessons when I was younger. Stopped the other children from trying to beat me up all the time." Sherlock explained just as they arrived at a long stretch of beach. Molly stared out at the sea with a look of awe on her features. As soon as they'd stopped, she hopped off and walked out onto the sand. For a moment, Sherlock just watched her hair whipping about in the wind and he decided that she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever set eyes on. She settled on an enormous boulder, running her fingers across the rocky surface, and he came to join her. The rock was smooth, worn down by ages of high tide waves washing over it.
"I'm going to be in huge trouble when I get home, but I can't bring myself to care. I'm tired of worrying. If there's anything I've learned from you, Sherlock, it's that sometimes one needs to just trust one's intuition and live a little."
"That's interesting because you've shown me that there is a life to live." Sherlock replied. Molly seemed utterly astonished by this confession.
"Oh, Sherlock..." she breathed in sympathy. Her eyes grew wide as he leaned in closer to her. Slowly and rather awkwardly, he firmly pressed his lips to hers in what was a first kiss for both of them. She immediately responded to him, wrapping her arms around him to pull him closer and attempting to kiss him the way she'd seen so many people in movies kiss. It was clumsy, but enthusiastic on both their parts. Molly's fingers found his curls and he let out a surprised yet pleased sound in response.
"Most people would object to a young woman kissing a sociopath," Sherlock said when he finally withdrew his lips from Molly's.
"Most people can piss off," she returned with a cheeky grin. "I love you and I never want to be without you."
"Funny. I was just thinking the same." Sherlock's own grin melted into another kiss. This one was less awkward and significantly more sensually gratifying now that they both had some idea of how kissing was supposed to be. "Come home with me." He requested as he rested his forehead against Molly's. Her usual hesitation was absent when she gave her answer.
There wasn't much light left when they neared Sherlock's home. They stopped about a half mile off and walked with the motorbike because, the boy explained, he didn't want his family to know about her just yet and if they heard or saw him coming, that would be put in jeopardy. The moment the house came into view, Molly was blown away by how large and beautiful the place was, even in the dim light. They pulled the bike into the shed as quietly as possible and then Sherlock led her to the tree by which resided Redbeard's grave.
"This how my summer began," he told her and she laced her fingers with his. She understood. She'd started her summer at the grave of the only being close to her too. Neither of them had be alone anymore, not if they were together.
After awhile, Sherlock and Molly left the grave and snuck through the back garden to the house. They climbed up to his bedroom window and he told her to wait in his wardrobe while he went down for dinner (couldn't risk anyone looking in the doorway and seeing her). He came back a bit later to find her exactly where he'd left her, happily feeling the various cottons, silks, and linens that occupied the cramped space.
"I don't think they suspect anything, but we will have to stay quiet. I've brought you an apple and there is a packet of crisps in my desk drawer." Taking her hand, he pulled her out of the wardrobe and settled with her on his bed. While she munched her apple, he excitedly showed her his collection of pinned insects. He'd never been able to share it with someone who would appreciate it before. When she was finished eating, he showed her the slime mold he was growing in a dish under his bed and they whispered about various grotesque substances that might one day provide a cure for something until Molly grew tired. They lay back on his bed, wrapped in each other's arms, she with her head resting on his chest. "Thank you, Molly Hooper."
"For being you. Don't ever be anybody but you," he said as he idly ran his spindly fingers through her hair. "You saved me."
"I guess we're even then," she replied, tilting her head up so she could plant a kiss on his collar bone. He let out a short laugh and tightened his grip on her. She fell asleep soon after that and he followed not much later. Neither of them were woken by the the sound of the door fully shutting.
Early the next morning, they snuck out the way they'd come in, Molly wearing a jumper and pair of jeans from when he was twelve. They stopped and got breakfast at a coffee shop, Sherlock glaring at anyone who dared to even look at his girlfriend's outfit too long. He brought her back to her surprisingly not hysterical grandmother. The story there was that she'd been told Molly had been last seen with him and she stopped worrying because she trusted 'a nice young man' like him to bring Molly home safe. It was then that he decided that Molly's gran wasn't half bad. A police officer came by to question them about yesterday's incident, but she didn't bring them to the station, saying that she believed their claim of self defense and wouldn't bother them anymore over it. Apparently the boys who'd assaulted them were repeat offenders.
Sherlock spent the rest of his summer in blissful romantic companionship with Molly. She was his rock, his happiness, and he was loath to have to return to Eton, but there was nothing for it.
"It's alright...you'll be back next summer..." Molly murmured sleepily, curled up with Sherlock the night before he was supposed to leave.
"...and you'll be waiting for me?"
"...and I'll be waiting for you."
"Promise?" Molly gave an affirmative hum and finally fell asleep.
The next morning, Sherlock woke up much later than he should have.
"Shit, shit, shit!" he hissed, hastily rousing Molly and getting her to frantically help him pack. "Oh fuck it's Mycroft coming down the hall! Hide! Now!" He shoved her into his bathroom and slammed the door just before his elder brother came in.
"Sherlock, we're leaving in half an hour and your not even done packing," Mycroft scolded.
"Perhaps I wouldn't have woken up so late if somebody hadn't decided to disturb my sleep by getting up in the middle of the night for a little snack," Sherlock snapped back irritably. "Now get out. Your only slowing me down more with your inane chatter." The twenty five year old obeyed him after giving him a rather displeased look. Once Mycroft was gone, Molly came out and picked up where she'd left off. After they'd checked twice to make sure Sherlock had everything he needed in his trunk, he shoved a stack of bills in Molly's hand and pecked her on the cheek. "This should be enough for a cab home. Thank you for staying." Before he could rush out the door, Molly pulled him back and gave him a proper snog.
"It was my pleasure," she told and he gave her one last grin before leaving.
Sherlock could not be happier that he was in coming home for the summer again. He was going to ride his motorbike out to see Molly and they were going to go to the beach and catch up on the months they'd been apart. There were so many things he wanted to tell her about and he wanted to feel the softness of her lips again and the comfort of her arms around him. He craved it like a starving man craves food. She'd gone beyond filling the void left by Redbeard. She completed him in a way he never before would have considered possible. He loved her.
And that was why his heart shattered into a thousand pieces when rode out to her gran's house, only to find that the sweet old lady no longer lived there. According to her former neighbor, she'd gotten sick and had been moved to a home in London. The neighbor hadn't been able to tell him anything else and it utterly broke him because in his rush to leave that morning months ago, they'd left no means of contact for each other. He was never going to see Molly Hooper again.
At first, he felt nothing. His brain had gone disturbingly quiet whilst he rode back home. Then as he latched the doors of the shed, it all came down on him like a tsunami. This was so, so much worse than losing Redbeard. As if a crushing weight had been dropped on him, his knees gave out, and he slumped against the shed, slamming his fist into the wood over and over as hard as he could. Wild screams of rage and grief ripped from him and his body went numb. He was in so much emotional pain that he didn't even compute that his brother was there, lifting him up and carrying him into the house. Vaguely, he heard his mother shriek, at first fearing that he was dead with his body limp and his eyes staring blankly as they were. His hands were bloody from punching the door of the shed and Mummy quickly set to work cleaning them up while Mycroft explained what was going on. Sherlock only knew it was him from his voice as his vision was completely blurred by tears. Mycroft seemed far away, like he was at the other end of a tunnel, as Sherlock heard him tell their parents that his little brother had lost a girlfriend. Sherlock then blacked out.
He came to much later in the hospital with Mycroft sitting in the chair at his bedside, watching him.
"Ah, you're awake."
"What am I doing here?" His throat was dry and his voice was hoarse as he spoke, but he didn't care.
"You had a sort of fit and mummy insisted on bringing you here to make sure you were alright."
"A futile attempt. I am completely and utterly not alright. How long have you known and why didn't you say anything?" Sherlock blurted out contemptuously.
"For a long while. I didn't say anything because I wanted you to learn. I'd hoped that after Redbeard, you'd found your way to closing your emotion valve, but as that was apparently not the case, you needed to see that getting involved will only ever destroy you." Without any warning, Sherlock lunged at Mycroft, tackling him to the floor and pining him down.
"Did you make her go!? Did you make Molly Hooper leave me!? Answer me, Mycroft!" He shook his elder brother violently so that his head smacked painfully against the linoleum.
"Don't be ridiculous! I knew it would end badly without my help! It just happened to be sooner rather than later!" With a roar of rage, Sherlock slugged Mycroft in the jaw repeatedly.
"You stood idly by, waiting for me to suffer! You let this happen! I HATE YOU!" He wasn't able to get in anymore hits after medical staff rushed in and pulled him away. Mycroft got to his feet, massaging his jaw.
"You feel things intensely, brother mine. Far too intensely. You need to shut everything down. You need to forget Molly Hooper. Do you understand me? Forget. Molly. Hooper."
And when Mycroft was gone and it was just him, all alone in his white, sterile hospital room, and the pain became too much to bear, he gave in and he did what he'd been told. He closed his eyes and took a scalpel to his memory.
Seven Years Later
"Molly, I'm bringing someone in on a few cases. He's going to be working with you a lot and I'm giving you a heads up because he can be a bit much to handle." Greg Lestrade told the young pathology intern he'd befriended at St. Bart's. She was a sweet kid and he really hoped she was made of sturdier stuff than she appeared because if this consulting bloke broke her, he was going to blame himself.
"Okay. Bring him in," she replied cheerfully. Her eternal optimism forced a sad smile onto Lestrade's features and he opened the door to let the young man in. Molly opened her mouth to introduce herself, but it caught in her throat when she saw who had come in. The sight of the dark curls, sharp cheekbones, and ice blue eyes sent a shiver down her spine. Sherlock Holmes had swaggered his way back into her life.
"Molly, this is Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock, this is Ms. Molly Hooper. She's going to be helping you out in the lab and the morgue when Mike's not about."
"Hm, boring. Show me the body." This left Molly stunned. How could he not recognize her? After everything they'd shared, how could he not remember her?
"Molly, are you alright?"
"Sorry. I'm fine. It's just...he looks a lot like someone I knew, but he's not him. He couldn't be." It was a lie and it hurt because she was still in love with Sherlock after all these years and he'd forgotten her completely. She soon learned that he was no longer the sweet sixteen year old boy who had stolen her first kiss by the sea. He was a cynical junkie who said the most horrible things without a second thought. But she still loved him and she didn't think she'd ever stop.
Another Seven Years Later
He cared about Molly. More than anyone could ever have guessed. He trusted her with his life and so he put it in her hands and with same care she showed everything, she bore it safely to the other side of the danger. He told her how much she mattered and together, they successfully faked his death. She brought him to her flat where he was to hide for a few days before going abroad. Seeing her home created a little nagging sensation in the back of his mind, like there was something there that wanted to come to the surface, some memory that was seeking to assert its importance. That feeling grew stronger when he spotted the motorbike helmet hanging on the hook behind her bedroom door. Molly didn't own a motorbike. Why would she have a helmet? He looked at it more closely. It was between ten and fifteen years old. Her initials, M.A.H., were carved into the back in a hand not her own...a male hand similar to his. Her father likely died before she would have gotten this helmet and she had no other living male family members, so it must have been given to her by a boyfriend, someone she'd really loved, going by the fact that she'd kept it. He felt a flash of anger at the thought that the bloke had broken her heart. If that man were here now, he'd punch him. The bastard didn't know what he'd given up. Molly, in Sherlock's opinion, was the greatest female companion anyone could ask for, romantic or otherwise. She'd saved him without a second thought for her own safety. She was intelligent and loyal and saw people when no one else could. She loved him even though he didn't deserve to be loved.
The knock on her bedroom door shook him from his thoughts.
"Sherlock? Tea's ready. Are you going to come out or shall I bring it in to you?"
"I'll be there in a moment." he answered. Replacing the helmet, he stepped out to meet the woman who had done and continued to do so much for him. She didn't try to force conversation out of him. She just sat quietly with him, allowing him to sort out his own thoughts. When he decided that it was time for him to get some sleep, he shuffled towards her bedroom. She'd lent it to him because she insisted that the sofa was unsuitable for the proper sleep a man who'd just faked his death would need. He stopped and looked back at her when she didn't follow him. "Aren't you coming?" he inquired. For a moment, the woman looked confused, but then his meaning dawned on her and she blushed.
"No, no! You need your space. I'll be just fine here."
"Don't be ridiculous. You've risked your life and your career for me. You deserve decent sleep at the very least and I assure you that I have no objected to having you beside me." The sincerity and softness in his expression when he said this was enough to quell the rest of Molly's resistance. She was even able to keep herself calm and quiet when he stripped down to his black silk pants and crawled under the duvet with her. She went completely still when he put his arm around her and pulled her close. He was asleep before she was even able to relax.
He dreamt of the overwhelming fear he'd felt standing on the roof of St. Bart's, of the pain in John's voice. It all dissolved into ether wisps he desperately tried to cling to and then he was falling. It only stopped when the world reformed into a lush green, grassy field. Molly's face swam before him. She was younger and smiling. She told him she loved him and he felt a tingling in his lips. Suddenly, he was riding his grandfather's BSA M20 down a tree lined road and he could feel someone placing a kiss on the back of his neck. Then everything was on fire and he couldn't hear anything but the sound of Moriarty's laughter.
He woke with a start to find the real world peacefully waiting for him. The sun was shining in Molly's window and she was contently wrapped around him, her head resting on his chest. There was something oddly familiar about it. After a moment, it all came together in his mind. He'd known Molly before. He'd given her the helmet. He'd been in love with her. Someday, he'd ask her what had happened, but now was not the time. Now he had to leave and fight to get his life back.
Sherlock came back to London thinking it would be just as he left it. For the most part, he was right, but the differences he did encounter were drastic and alienating. An angry John Watson now lived with Mary Morstan, whom he intended to make his wife, and Molly Hooper had moved on. She'd gone and gotten herself engaged to some bloke named Tom. Sherlock was surrounded by his friends and yet he'd never felt so alone. Here he had been planning to tell Molly what he felt for her, but he was too late. He couldn't bring himself to be angry and lash out at Tom. Tom was not to blame, he, the Great Sherlock Holmes, was the one who'd fucked up this time. Molly deserved her happiness and he didn't deserve her. That was why he couldn't be truly happy when she broke things off with Tom, because she was sad again and he only made it worse by showing up in her lab high and irritable. He took every slap she gave him without objection.
Molly kept him at arms length until he was shot. She was the first person he saw when he woke up that second time in the hospital. She demanded to know why he was behaving so recklessly and selfishly. He was too tired of it all to lie. He told her it was because there was a man, not Moriarty, who wanted to destroy their lives and he couldn't let it happen, even if it meant putting himself in danger. She asked him why he hadn't confided in her and he replied that he cared too much for her to put her at risk again.
"I'm not made of glass, Sherlock. You of all people should know that," she said. "If you need help, let me provide it."
"No. This is too dangerous. If it was any other case, Molly, I'd let you in, but this...this you cannot be a part of."
"So I'm just supposed to sit back and watch you get yourself killed!?"
"Yes, if it will keep you off the radar."
"I can't do that! I love you!"
"And I love you too much!" Sherlock burst out and Molly froze. "Molly, I owe you my life. Let me repay you." His voice was softer and much more even this time. He looked away from her, up at the ceiling. "The best thing for you to do is to leave and forget we ever had this conversation."
"So you want me to just forget? Like you forgot me?" There were angry tears in her eyes now and he felt as if someone was squeezing his heart. Oh god, were they going to do this now? "We met for the first time long before St. Bart's, but you don't remember. You deleted me. The summer after Redbeard died, I found you in a field and you took me around on your motorbike. It may sound strange, but we a pair of lovestruck teenagers. The gushy yet beautiful kind that you see in the movies. We were unwillingly separated with no way of contacting each other. What happened to you, Sherlock? Why did you forget me?" At this, Sherlock found he couldn't speak. He was too busying trying to hold back his emotions. He closed his eyes because even seeing Molly in the corner of his vision was too much. He reached out and turned up the morphine dial. Everything slowed and dulled and it was sweet relief. Molly placed a kiss on his forehead and then she was gone.
Sherlock left Molly a letter before he got on that plane to Eastern Europe. It explained everything he'd always meant to say to her but never could. It was the best and only closure with her he was ever likely to get. He knew she would cry, but just as she had before, she would pick herself up again and go on with life. She would learn to be happy without him.
Four minutes into his mourning of the loved ones he was leaving forever, he was told he was being brought back because Moriarty had somehow put himself on every television screen in England. The first person his thoughts jumped to was Molly Hooper. She would be Moriarty's first target if he really was somehow back. For once, Mycroft didn't try to keep her from Sherlock. She was waiting for him at Baker Street with some of Mycroft's people.
"Sherlock..." she gasped upon seeing him. He didn't care that there were others in the room. He came to her in two long strides and enveloped her in his arms.
"Together this time," he murmured into the side of her neck. "Always together."
"Some people would object to a woman hugging a sociopath."
"I'm not a sociopath," he whispered, the words coming out before he could stop them.
"I know. You're like me," she replied, her voice quivering.
"Never stop being you, Molly Hooper." She broke down into sobs and at first, Sherlock was terribly afraid he'd done something wrong, but then he realized from how moved the Watsons were looking on the other side of the room and from how Molly's hold on him tightened affectionately that he'd done something completely right.
A/N: This turned out about twice as long as I initially intended it to be, but that's alright. I listened to The Sound of Silence, April Come She Will, and Scarborough Fair by Simon & Garfunkel on repeat while writing the Teenlock part of this, which probably contributed to the length. Anyway, I hope you like it. ~T.Z.