AN: Gratuitous thanks to MleeWrite for looking this over.

Contradictions and Cold Pizza

It had been a long night, preceded by an equally long day. She had been on call for thirty-six hours. Normally, she could reasonably expect to sleep for a decent stretch of time, enough for her body to be at least mildly refreshed.

However, due to the vengeful nature of British weather in the form of a freak snowstorm, corpses had literally started to pile up.

And then he had called.

Common sense would instruct her to tell Sherlock that someone else could help him, that she was exhausted and unable to deal with his particular brand of wit at this time.

Of course, she had done no such thing.

Instead, she was leaning heavily against the counter in the lab, sipping coffee that was strong enough to paint the walls, watching Sherlock twiddle the dials on a microscope. If she was being honest, she'd forgotten most of the details of the case he was working on; he'd spit them all out in his typical staccato fashion earlier.

She let her eyes flutter shut. She should simply go home, but leaving him unsupervised was probably not the best plan. God only knew what he would get into.

He worked in silence for perhaps a half hour. Then, "Come on."

She forced her lids open. "Hm?"

He was already swinging his coat back around his shoulders. "Come on," he repeated. "We have things to do."

"We do?" she asked stupidly. "What are we doing?"

He smiled, really smiled in the way he only did sometimes for her. "We're going to solve a murder."

Since this was Sherlock Bloody Holmes, there wasn't much she could say to that. Which was how she found herself creeping through a particularly dingy alley in the East End, one hand wrapped around a flashlight, the other clutching a non-existent gun she was buying as soon as she got home.

Assuming she ever got home.

Damn him for doing this. And damn her for simply giving in, the same way she always had.

Still, she would be lying to herself if she said this wasn't where she wanted to be. Well, perhaps not literally, but with Sherlock.

She wasn't sure what he was looking for, but his bright gaze kept sweeping the bricks, focusing here and there on something only he could see.

Her feet were getting wet.

"Damn," she heard him mutter once, voice echoing softly. "I think it's already been here and gone."

She didn't bother to ask what; he would tell her in his own time. Or he would be annoyed that she hadn't worked it out all on her own. Either way, she should save her breath.

"Back to Baker Street then," he said. "Time to think some more."

"Anything you particularly need me for?" she asked, her tone laced with sarcasm. "Or am I allowed to go home and sleep now?"

His expression didn't change. "Who's going to help me solve this crime if you're at home?"

Ah. It was all becoming clear. John flatly refused to leave Mary's side in the last week of her pregnancy, despite all the cajoling that Sherlock was capable of. Which, she admitted, was rather a lot. John had a terrific amount of willpower.

"You and I both know very well you don't need my help to solve a case," she said. He was…lonely? Was that possible? Perhaps it was boredom. That sounded more likely.

"Mm, perhaps not," he said then, "but you certainly make it a bit less tedious."

She couldn't be sure, but she thought that was perhaps meant as a compliment. Of course, this was Sherlock, so she could be dead wrong.

His grin, his damnable grin, was back again, and he looked almost…sweet.

Which was utter nonsense.

He didn't do sweet.

Ever.

Manipulative, yes. Often. But never just sweet for the purpose of being so.

Suspiciously, she peered at him, wondering if she could see where all of this was going. He looked steadily back for a moment, then rolled his eyes. "Come along," he said, gesturing with one arm. "Nothing is going to be accomplished by you continuing to stand here, getting your feet wet."

He had a point there (and she was cold), so started towards him, sighing, shoes clicking loudly on the damp concrete. He fell into step beside her, one hand lightly pressing on the small of her back for just a moment.

A perfect gentleman.

When he wanted to be.

So many bloody contradictions wrapped up in one man. She wondered if it was exhausting, wondering which of his personalities to use in any particular moment.

His fingers brushed her back again as he ushered her into the cab. She wished he would stop that - her heart did funny things when he touched her, and most of the time it was simply easier to avoid the entire situation.

They had barely pulled away from the curb when he began methodically typing on his phone, the bright glow illuminating his face, hollowing his cheekbones even more than normal.

He'd told the driver to head for Baker Street, and she didn't correct or add on to that statement. She absently moved on from damning Sherlock to damning herself and how susceptible she was to his magnetism, watching the lights of London blur by.

At least he paid for the cab.

Naturally, every light in the flat was burning, a counterpoint to the black windows that peppered the walls. A stack of books looked ready to topple over onto an expensive-looking laptop; a half-full teacup was covered in a thin layer of film.

"Mrs. Hudson on vacation, then? she asked, moving another pile of books to the floor so she could rest on the couch. "She usually at least keeps the tea service looking sharp."

"On holiday with her sister," he said, not looking at her as he pinned a few sheets of paper to the much-abused wall.

He was silent after that, staring thoughtfully at the array of documents arranged in front of him.

She wondered again why she was here. Then again, if he wanted her to leave, he surely would have said so. Repeatedly.

Giving up, she slipped out of her shoes and swung her feet up onto the sofa. She should be sleeping. In her bed. In her flat.

Not sinking into the well-worn cushions here, contemplating the chances of something other than body parts being in the refrigerator. Very slim, she decided.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

Slowly, he met her eyes. Clearly, he was having to think about his answer, which meant he probably didn't remember the last time he ate, existing solely on his quest for the answer to his latest case.

"Yes," he finally decided.

"Shall I order pizza?" As tired as she was, the thought of even going downstairs to the cafe was too much.

"Yes," he repeated. Nothing more.

Shaking her head slightly, she tugged her mobile out. She ordered whatever she wanted. If he had objections to her choices, he didn't share them.

After a few minutes, he started talking to himself. It had been rather off-putting when she was first getting to know him, but she could take it all in stride now. His voice was low, hypnotic, and her eyes closed of their own accord.

If she dreamt, she didn't recall it.

When she woke, it took her a moment to remember where she was and how she'd gotten there. She blinked rapidly. There was a blanket pulled up to her shoulders that hadn't been there earlier. Which meant...

"Pizza's probably stone cold by now," a vaguely amused voice said from her left.

Startled, she sat up, looking around.

Sherlock was sitting on the opposite edge of the couch, book in his lap, empty plate on the floor beside his feet.

Still faintly nonplussed, she pushed at her hair. "How long have I been asleep?"

He shrugged. "An hour, perhaps."

"And you've managed to solve the case in that time period?" she demanded, noting that he was no longer possessed of the manic energy he'd had earlier.

"Of course," he said, sounding surprised that she had to ask.

Yawning, she pushed the blanket down, reluctantly disentangling herself from the warm cocoon she'd been in.

He was right. The pizza was cold.

She ate it anyway, flopping gracelessly back on the couch.

"Glad I could help you solve the murder," she said in between bites, patently sarcastic, thinking again of her own bed.

Then again, there was something to be said for having Sherlock Holmes tuck you in. Even if it was on a natty old sofa. And even if she hadn't been awake for it.

It meant that he'd noticed her, and that was something indeed.

"You were a very worthy companion," he said, smiling. "I think the addition of pizza cracked the case wide open."

This was the Sherlock she loved the best; lightly teasing, amused, and best of all, present.

His phone beeped, and his expression changed as he read the message. "You'd think Mycroft would have better things to do with his time than pester me, but apparently not."

She grinned, having grown rather fond of the eldest Holmes brother. They'd spent a decent amount of time together immediately after Sherlock had faked his death, and she found him...almost charmingly cynical. "And what crisis do you need to solve for the British government at this hour?"

His expression became wooden. "He wants to know if I have an update about Moriarty."

The silence was heavy. "And?" she eventually asked. "Do you?"

He looked annoyed now. "Not really. He doesn't want to be found now, so I'm not going to find him."

It had been a very tense few weeks since Jim Moriarty had brazenly appeared on every screen in the country. No one knew how he'd done it, no one knew where he was, and really, no one knew how he was even alive, having blown his brains out a few years prior.

John told her he suspected Sherlock didn't sleep for four days when he heard the news. He'd been so sure that he'd taken down the international network, and the idea that he had been so very wrong did not sit well.

"Have you noticed anything odd lately?" he asked abruptly. "Anything different about your flat or new faces at work?"

She thought for a moment, then slowly shook her head. "Not that I can come up with. Why?"

He met her gaze, eyes very frank. "Because he overlooked you last time, underestimated your importance. He will not do so again."

An involuntary shiver chased down her spine. He was right, of course.

The one person that mattered the most.

Carefully, lightly, he rested a hand atop of hers, thumb wrapping around her wrist. Startled, she looked up.

"Molly," he said quietly, "I am trying to protect you. I have a feeling Moriarty might have something in store for you, just as revenge against me. I've kept you out of sight for a long time, but I'm afraid that's all gone now."

That was...an interesting thought, that Sherlock had purposely hidden her in an effort to protect her. It put a slant on some of his actions, his dismissive treatment of her. She'd never thought of it as a defense mechanism. A protective Sherlock. It made the corners of her lips turn up.

He frowned. "Care to tell me what could possibly be entertaining about what I've just said? Looking forward to a criminal mastermind making an attempt on your life?"

Stupidly, her smile widened. She turned her hand palm up, squeezed his fingers gently. "Certainly makes things more interesting, doesn't it?"

She rose, stepped regretfully back into her shoes. It was obscenely late, and she needed to go home, as much as her heart was shouting at her to stay put.

Sherlock stood as well, glancing out the window as he walked her to the door. "Keep on your toes, Molly Hooper." His lips quirked. "I would, of course, avenge your death, but I'd rather not have to."

Despite the very real threat she now knew she was facing, she chuckled. "I do believe that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me," she quipped. On a whim, and carefully thoughtless, she grabbed the lapels of his jacket, tugging him down and rising onto her toes at the same time. Quickly, she pressed her lips to the very corner of his mouth. "Goodnight, Sherlock."

"Goodnight," he replied, hands cupped under her elbows, steadying her.

And there was that word again...sweet.

"Be careful," he warned again as she stepped away. "We'll talk soon."

She nodded, already out the door. It closed behind her with a click, and she pulled her coat closer around her as she reached the street.

Instinctively, she glanced upward. Sherlock was watching out the window, watching her. Her immediate urge was to cheekily blow him a kiss, but that was probably too much for the evening. Instead, she simply hailed a cab and waved without looking in the general direction of the second floor.

Later, finally ensconced in crisp sheets and fluffy blankets, she took stock of what had happened since the last time she had been here.

Well, rather a lot.

Then she thought of how his skin felt under her lips, how his eyes looked when he admitted to trying to keep her safe, and the idea of him watching her as she slept.

All in all, not a bad day.

In fact, if she was being honest, it had been a pretty good one.

Cold pizza not withstanding.