"Oh, for God's sake!"

Sherlock's sudden outburst jolted Molly from her half-frozen, but dreamy haze of anticipation. Though she was chilled and her feet were numb, Molly immediately tensed. The detective's posture had gone rigid, his expression stony as he glared out the window of the cab while jerking his wallet out of his coat.

Molly's wary gaze followed his out the window. The taxi had just pulled onto Baker Street and his building was visible. They'd arrive in the next moment. Nothing seemed amiss.

Dozens of scenarios raced through her mind. Had he detected signs of another break-in? Was one of his enemies waiting for him at the flat? Or his brother?

"What's wrong? Is it a break-in?" Molly wasn't sure why she was whispering.

"No," Sherlock huffed in annoyance. "Something much more insidious. Come on."

Sherlock bounded out of the cab before it had a chance to come to a stop, rudely tossing the fare to the driver while urging Molly to hurry. Molly scrambled out of the cab.

It was all for naught.

Before her pumps had a chance to hit the pavement, they were besieged by a dozen squealing fan girls. They had staked out Speedy's, a pride of lions lying in wait for the gazelle to visit the watering hole.

Despite his notoriety of being London's most ill-tempered, uncooperative celebrity, Sherlock Holmes had quite the fan base. The detective had no use for fans or groupies. He despised publicity, refused to sign autographs, only attended press conferences under threat, and certainly never answered fan mail.

Sherlock's followers remained undeterred, however, and inundated him with countless tokens of love and requests for signed photos, particularly in December and the beginning of January.

But this was new. Usually they had enough respect – and enough sense – to not converge around his building. One never knew when a flaming object might be launched out the window.

A firm grip on Molly's coat dragged her through the excited crowd as they clamoured for Sherlock's attention.

And what were they trying to push into their hands? Cards and gifts...Oh! Of course.

Tomorrow was the 6th of January. Right.

The pathologist's alarm dissipated, morphing into amazement as she was able to focus beyond the mayhem to decipher the shouts and messages coming Sherlock's way.

Oh boy. John hadn't been exaggerating when he said it got worse every year.

Don't laugh, Molly. Don't laugh!

Eventually they made it to the front door. Sherlock made quick work of the Yale lock. But not before Molly noticed the dozens of small parcels, piles of cards, and several bundles of flowers stacked on the pavement, resting along the foundation. A half dozen sets of half-deflated helium balloons floated back and forth in the frigid breeze.

Oh God. One set was tied off to a stuffed teddy bear!

"Stop gawking!" Sherlock yanked her through the entryway, throwing the door shut with a resounding slam.

They hadn't been ensconced in the safety of the flat for two seconds before Sherlock started sulking. "I told you to hurry!"

Poor Sherlock. Molly didn't have it in her to be irked by his obnoxiousness. Still, she couldn't keep the amusement out of her voice. "Skirts and high heels aren't exactly conducive to quick getaways."

Narrow eyes gave her the once over and much to Molly's relief, Sherlock appeared to deflate, releasing a soft chuckle. "No, I suppose not."

The detective heaved a long-suffering sigh, running his hand over his chest as if to make sure he was still in once piece. His expression quickly turned sheepish.

This was too funny. Sherlock was constantly hurtling himself into perilous confrontations with madmen, but a brief brush with a gaggle of admirers sent him running.

Speaking of which...

Molly pulled out an envelope that had been stuffed into her coat pocket, twisting it in her fingers. It had been lovingly adorned with stickers and glitter, addressed to Sherlock in a practiced, girly scrawl.

Wow. Just wow.

Sherlock snatched it from her straight away. Perhaps fearful that she'd tease him by reading it out loud as John had on occasion?

Not wanting to slight him any further, Molly somehow managed to not dissolve into giggles as Sherlock impatiently and rather forcibly pushed her ahead of him, up the steps to his flat.

It had been months since she'd been in Sherlock's flat. Not since John's wedding actually. It looked as it normally did except remarkably tidy. The usual litter of papers and books on his desk and coffee tables had been stacked to the side. The surfaces of his kitchen appeared remarkably sterile, devoid of any cadaver limbs, his lab equipment neatly tucked away.

Not that he would see it that way, but evidently Mrs. Hudson had taken pity on Sherlock, preparing his flat for inevitable company tomorrow. His parents perhaps?

No doubt he would find some reason to make himself scarce as he did every year.

"What?"

"Nothing. I just don't think I've ever seen the surface of your kitchen table before." Molly winced, bouncing on her toes nervously. She hoped he couldn't hear her teeth chattering. The flat was really drafty. "Shall I fix us some tea?"

His response was a disgruntled noise far too juvenile for a 37-year-old man. Sherlock was cranky now, but at least he hadn't told her to leave.

There was always a week-long conniption when Mrs. Hudson took it upon herself to dust or hover the flat when Sherlock wasn't in the midst of a case. She knew better than to bin anything, no matter how damaged or inconsequential, but Sherlock thrived on the messiness, the disarray. John had dubbed it 'an adolescent affront to domestic order.'

To be fair, that state of his flat was somewhat disconcerting in that all the random, eccentric artefacts that usually littered the flat had been stowed away. Even the wall above the couch was bare, absent his usual collage of grisly murder scenes and informants.

Unsure how to proceed without the evening disintegrating into complete awkwardness, Molly decided tea was indeed the best solution. As it was routine for any of Sherlock's guests, she wasn't phased by having to take it upon herself to make it.

"At least after tomorrow, you're off the hook until Mothering Sunday," Molly offered, starting toward the kitchen.

But the detective startled her, stepping into her personal space to catch her waist. Sherlock tried to affect a scowl, but the corners of his lips quirked, belaying his irritation. Molly released a breath she didn't know she was holding when he tugged at her scarf, dropping it haphazardly on the rug of the sitting room.

Oh! Never say that Sherlock Holmes was one to be deterred when on a mission. Especially when time was of the essence.

So fixated on his nearness and the unmistakable gleam of sexual intent in his eyes, Molly almost missed his hopeful retort. "A case could present itself. Still plenty of time for someone to be murdered."

Really? Such a horrible thing to wish for. And typically Sherlock.

"Its just one day." Molly shot him a reproving glance. Following his lead, her fingers worked at the buttons of his coat.

"Its not." His tone was grave, yet mocking. "It's a week long ordeal. Oh, it starts innocently enough."

The Belstaff hit the floor with a satisfying thud.

Molly's nose wrinkled in confusion. Sherlock explained in a hushed timbre, as if telling a ghost story. "Mounting superfluous chatter on social media. Unsolicited cards. Then the nonessential phone calls."

"All of five!" Molly rolled her eyes, playing along.

"Attempts to extract promises and commitments." Her dusty coat joined his jacket on the lino as they stumbled through the kitchen, grinning like idiots. "Tedious familial obligations."

"That you always evade." Molly countered, now onto his shirt. Sherlock gripped her wrists, pulling them over her head so he could peel her jumper off. His eyes sparkled with mischief as it sailed over his shoulder.

"Which then escalates to unwanted contact." Sherlock's last word came out a hoarse whisper as Molly undid his flies, deliberately brushing his groin. He swallowed before resuming, trying to keep up the ludicrous charade. "Stalking. Unscheduled social calls. Possibly a flash mob."

Molly's eyes widened and not just because her skirt was sliding down her thighs. "Thirteen people managing to join you at restaurant without your prior knowledge does not constitute a flash mob. And no one will try that again, believe me."

Sherlock smirked, steadying the pathologist as she stepped out of her brand-new skirt and pumps, leaving them on the floor of the corridor. "…Illogical rituals and traditions. The promotion of gluttony with overabundance of comestibles and sweets."

"What's wrong with cake?" Molly exclaimed.

She was unaware they'd made it to the loo until Sherlock crowded her against the now-shut bathroom door. Standing on her toes, she tried to meet him for a kiss, but the prat curled away from her. She retaliated by dropping his pants and trousers to his ankles.

"Clearly, you've never seen my brother consume it."

She hissed when his fingers came into contact with her bare skin to tug her bra away. "Whoa! You're hands are cold!"

The detective just smiled, dropping to his knees. She almost crumbled when he brushed her breast with the lightest of kisses, gently fondling the other.

Sherlock groaned, doing something to her nipple with his tongue as he trailed his fingertips down her torso to the lace top of her thigh high. He slowly rolled off one stocking. And then the other. His thumb traced the lace border of her knickers. "Perhaps, I'll bury myself here. Ride it out until the storm has passed."

Please, yes. "Are you sure you could deny yourself the opportunity to dazzle people with your capacity for small talk?"

An rich, unrestrained laugh rang through the small space. But Molly's own breath hitched when she saw Sherlock's smile twist into something darker, his fingers hooked into her knickers, pulling them slowly down.

His breath was hot on her mound, but he didn't touch her. "I suppose I could practice my tolerance for the inevitable physical violations."

"Violations?!"

Sherlock didn't clarify straight away, pulling the rest of his clothes off his ankles before raising himself to his full height. Somewhere along the way he had toed off his shoes and socks.

"Indeed. Incessant. Tawdry. Violations." He fixed her with a smouldering gaze as his fingers danced along the inside of her thigh, denying his caress where she most wanted it.

"Oh! I get it." Molly purred, pulling him closer. "Violations."

"Do you now?" Sherlock tilted his head, certain that she didn't. His smarmy grin dropped in astonishment when Molly swatted his bare arse, the harmless slap echoing loudly.

Now Molly laughed while the befuddled man blinked repeatedly as if trying to reboot his hard drive, opening his mouth to say something, but had nothing. It wasn't every day that one managed to take the piss out of the great Sherlock Holmes.

"What? Didn't you mean birthday spankings?" Molly asked, trying – and failing – to sound innocent.

"Actually," Sherlock growled when he was finally recovered, "I was referring to the excessive hugs and handshakes that come with these sorts of occasions."

"We can practice that too." Molly released the last buttons of his shirt. "Along with your gracious responses to all the lovely presents you're bound to receive tomorrow. What? You love receiving presents."

"Pilfering them is more fun," Sherlock grumbled.

"And less honest." Molly pushed the garment off of his shoulders, leaving him as naked as her.

"Trickery is far more honest. No expectation of reciprocity at a later date." His thumb gently traced her lip.

"Not everything comes attached to strings. Sometimes people just like being nice." Molly lifted her chin in expectation of a long-awaited kiss.

Instead, Sherlock grasped her hand and dragged her towards the tub. The pathologist worked the hair tie off her wrist while he turned the taps. Cool water gushed from the showerhead, quickly turning hot.

Molly twisted her long hair into a rope, intent on piling it atop her head, but Sherlock had other plans, grasping her waist. "Sherlock, wait!" She protested, trying to bat his hands away. "I need to—Ah!"

Molly's squeal was cut off by Sherlock's lips meeting hers in a wild, passionate kiss as he hauled her under the shower. Hot water blasted over her head, drenching her hair, and engulfing her in heat. Sherlock clutched her body tightly to his, moaning into her mouth as he ravished her lips. Molly threw her arms around his neck, overwhelmed in sensation.

Sherlock adjusted the showerhead over their heads without breaking the kiss, snogging her deeply for several minutes, savouring their privacy as the water beat down on them, drowning out the rest of the world.

"You're a brat," Molly murmured affectionately when she broke away for air.

"That I am." He wore that ridiculous, self-satisfied smirk. Her pathetic attempt at a frown only validated his antics, she knew. He'd also forgotten to take his watch off.

Normally, Molly was indifferent to sexual activity in the bath, finding it awkward and uncomfortable and vastly overrated. But finally having Sherlock to herself again, his beautiful, hard body pressed against hers, was heavenly. She pushed his long, wet locks out of his eyes. Without springy curls to soften the sharp lines of his face, his features appeared more angular, more alien.

And more menacing, not that she had thought it possible.

Greedy hands skated over her back and bum a last time, before getting to work, gathering her hair together and running his fingers through to ensure that it was completely soaked. Molly allowed him to shift her out of the spray and then realised his intent to wash her hair for her. Fussy about her hair, she couldn't help but feel a tad apprehensive as Sherlock procured a bottle of shampoo.

Ridiculously expensive designer shampoo, of course. Sulphate-free and designed for curly hair. Christ, it probably cost £50- £70 a bottle.

She nearly laughed when Sherlock squirted a puddle into his palm, paused, and wisely considered how much more hair she had than him, before doubling it. Without further ado, he worked the shampoo into a good lather and pressed his body against hers to lightly apply it to her crown and down her head.

Molly really hadn't wanted to deal with the fuss of getting her hair wet, but saw the error of her ways when Sherlock worked the shampoo into her roots of her hair, gently using the pads of his fingers in steady, rhythmic circles.

It was the clean, masculine scent that she occasionally got a whiff of when Sherlock's hair got damp. Not remotely fruity or floral. Tea Tree Oil, perhaps? It turned her on all the more to know that she was going to spend the next day wearing his scent.

"Good?" he inquired.

"Oh, yes." This changed her entire stance on shower sex.

If she'd had her eyes open, Molly would have seen Sherlock preen when she moaned, pleased that instead of trying to pile her hair on her head to cleanse it, he loosely worked the shampoo down the ends. Knotting it at the top of her head just would have resulted in a tangled mess.

"You've done this before," Molly sighed.

"No." His voice was deep, breathless. Not just because it was steamy.

"You...You have a thing for long hair." He'd been obsessed with it, touching it, pulling it off her face during their first night together.

Sherlock hummed noncommittally, returning to her head to sensually massage her scalp.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Molly looked up at him, looking for a confirmation. Perhaps he thought it too cliché?

"Close your eyes." He ordered, pushing her under the spray again.

Molly complied, tilting her head back so the stream hit her crown first. She pulled him into a kiss as the water saturated her hair, caressing his neck and shoulders.

"For God's sake, Molly. I have to rinse it," Sherlock fussed.

"Go on then." She peppered the lovely column of his throat with kisses, noting how his adam's apple bobbed when she wiggled her lower half against him.

Despite her distracting ministrations, Sherlock did a thorough job rinsing the shampoo and gently wringing her hair out before applying crème rinse.

In Molly's experience, most men didn't use conditioners, but she wasn't surprised that Sherlock did. God, he probably couldn't get a comb through his curls otherwise.

"Five minutes," he announced.

"My turn." Molly grinned, reaching for the shampoo. "C'mere."

Predictably, Sherlock proved to be less than cooperative, unable to stand still for even a minute. She'd only just begin running it through his hair when he pinned her against the wall, assaulting her neck and chest with a soapy flannel. The temperature differential of the cool tiles at her back and his hard, hot hands kneading her breasts was maddening.

That and his cock pushed against her belly, fully erect.

"You're cheating, Sherlock."

"You started it." His head was bent, perving her chest. Well, at least she didn't have to reach so high.

"Me?!" She gently tugged a bit of his hair, trying to direct his head back and received a nip on her collarbone for her trouble. "Ah!"

"You did." A deep vocalization came from his throat when Molly lightly scraped his scalp with her nails. "You were kind to me when I least deserved it."

Sherlock was doing his damnedest to distract her, but she persevered, completely working the shampoo in. She cupped his face in her hands. "Today?"

"No, six years ago." Though his tone was jovial, it harboured a note of regret.

"Luckily what you lack in social niceties, you make up for with your brilliance," Molly told him softly, meaning it. Sherlock arched a brow when she smeared soap over his neck and chest with her bare hands. "Your dashing good looks don't hurt either."

He released another soft chuckle, pressing his lips to hers again.

"C'mon." She pushed against his chest. "Need to finish this before the hot water runs out."

"We've approximately twelve minutes left," Sherlock assured her, pulling her off the wall to lean against him so he could reach around to soap her back.

Molly brought her arms under Sherlock's, squeezing him with her slick hands. He spent far too much time soaping and kneading her bottom, shifting the mood from playful to intensely erotic. His fingers tightened around her waist when she cried out, his fingers having made their way to her core, stroking her intimately for the first time since they arrived at the flat. Sherlock's excitement picked up too, his cock bounced against her belly, seeking friction as she panted into the hollow of his throat. Molly reached between them, grasping his erection for only a second before he broke away.

Shampoo and soap swirled around the bottom of the bathtub, making it slippery. Wisely, Sherlock pressed Molly's palm to a fixture before kneeling to wash her legs.

When Sherlock finished with the flannel, he handed it to her. Instead of standing to let her take her turn scrubbing him, he rinsed his hand in the spray and returned it to her sex.

His touch was feather light and experimental, as if examining a wound. They had been quite rough earlier, was he worried that she'd been hurt? Molly shuddered in pleasure, wondering if her heart would explode as Sherlock tenderly explored and teased her for several moments, swirling his thumb over her clit and gently penetrating her with those long, elegant fingers of his.

Somehow Molly knew what he was going to do the second Sherlock stood, pinning her with those pale, hungry eyes. Still, her jaw dropped, transfixed as he brought his fingers to his lips, shiny with her wetness. He didn't blink, sucking her essence off of his fingertips.

What she hadn't counted on was Sherlock's reaction when she responded in kind, gripping his wrist, bringing him to her own lips.

Sherlock hissed between clenched teeth, his lids screwed shut briefly before rising to half-mast when she drew his middle finger into her mouth, sucking and teasing his digit with her tongue. His cock bobbed, slanting towards her, urgent and inviting.

Molly couldn't help but appreciate that contradiction as there was nothing inviting or welcoming about Sherlock. The man was most calculating and vicious; frigid and utterly untouchable.

Yet his draw was irresistible. Irrefutable. Like a satellite trapped in orbit, one could never be lulled into a false sense of security, always awaiting the uncontrolled re-entry once inevitably tossed or forced out.

Still, it was a lovely way to burn. And she wasn't going to go quietly.

Wordlessly, Molly took the soapy flannel and shifted behind him. Pressing it firmly against his skin, she moved in slow, tiny circles from the nape of his neck to the base of his spine, continuing on to his arse. She continued her naughty massage by reaching around to rub the top of his thighs with her palms, building his anticipation.

He whirled around when she pushed him under the shower spray, treating her to a frustrated glower. Molly kept her expression coy while rinsing his hair and washing the soap from his skin as he did the same for her. The suds created a slick, frictionless slide as they writhed against each other, crushing their lips together in wet, intense kisses.

"All done," Sherlock declared huskily, clearly eager to dry off and go to bed. But that wasn't going to happen.

"Not quite. I want to finish our re-do. And this time, you better not run off."

His nostrils flared, remembering her bold response to his bad behaviour two nights ago. "You were most infuriating."

"And you were trying to frighten me."

"So you picked a fight with me?" Sherlock asked, humour and awe apparent.

"You started it. I finished it," Molly corrected. "But it wasn't my first choice." She manoeuvred him into position so the water broke over his back, his tall frame shielding her.

"No?"

She sank to her knees at the bottom of the tub. "Shall I show you?"

His eyes blew wide with lust, taking on a more green hue as she walked her fingers up his calf, his knee, and up, up towards the dark thatch of curls at his groin. She moved slowly, kissing and nuzzling his thighs, giving him time to move away if this was perhaps unwise.

Later, Molly would be taken aback by her recklessness. As a doctor, of course Molly knew better, that they should have talked about this first. Sherlock had no compunction about flaying her alive with words or committing the most heinous emotional manipulations, but risk physically endangering her? Never.

Sherlock didn't make her stop.

Molly's smile was a slow, wicked thing as she finally took him in hand, her fingers loosely circling his erection, lazily sliding up and down his length, swollen and thick. Sherlock's foreskin was retracted, his glans a deep, shiny purple. Silk over steel.

The tendons in Sherlock's throat quivered, strong and reticent, so much as the strings of his violin. Molly could tell he was trying to keep it together, analysing and comparing his technique to her own, with her delicate, un-callused fingers. Couldn't have that.

Tightening her fist, Molly pumped him with more skill, twisting her hand on the upstroke, like a corkscrew.

"Oh! Oh God! Do that again," Sherlock breathed, shifting to plant his feet more securely. His cock throbbed, jumping in her hand when she complied, expertly stroked his hard flesh, sweeping her thumb over the tip.

After thoroughly working him with her hand, Molly leaned in further, taking in Sherlock's responses when she teased his prick with her tongue, alternating gentle and firm licks. The pulsing water drowned out his ragged breathing, but wasn't enough to muffle his strangled curse when she took the head in her mouth, gently sucking.

Not wanting to neglect any part of him, Molly twisted her free hand in the soap before bringing it to Sherlock's bollocks. They pulled tight to his body when she fondled them while working his shaft with her lips, the suds adding an easy, erotic glide.

"Ah, Christ." Sherlock's lashes fluttered shut as he unravelled under her steady attention. Molly moved faster, relaxing her jaw to take him as deep as he would go. He was already close, skirting on the edge, but Molly wasn't ready for it to be over. She slowed down.

A soft thud echoed through the shower when Sherlock sagged against the tile, unsatisfied and uncomprehending. And Molly wanted to hear more, so much more.

She pulled off with a playful plop. "The water's gone cold."

Sherlock's eyes flew open, dazed and vulnerable. Molly didn't hold back her cheeky grin, deciding to help him out. "Turn it off, Sherlock."

The detective peeled his hand off the fixture to fumble with the taps, having to look to find them. His stomach tightened when Molly settled deeper between his legs.

Sherlock made a sharp, strangled noise when Molly took him into her mouth again, taking him all the way in one continuous movement. Playing to his inner voyeur, she paused to give him a good look at her lips wrapped around the root of his cock.

"Oh hell. Fuck!"

Sherlock's excessive and exclusive use of swear words during sex was insanely hot. She braced her hands on his thighs, digging her nails into his skin, and bobbed up and down his dick in an titillating, steady tempo.

Oh, this was so much better. Without the roar of the shower, she could hear every one of Sherlock's shaky breaths. Every curse and groan ripped from his throat. And he could hear all the obscene sounds she made, sucking him off with enthusiasm.

But her favourite part was how his fingers reached to gently stroke her temple, her cheek. Then he'd recoil, flailing his hand helplessly, clenching and unclenching, desperately seeking contact, but unwilling to offend.

"Touch me, Sherlock." Molly reached for him, settling his hand on the crown of her head. He stroked her tentatively at first but Molly urged him, in a low whine. "I want you to."

Sherlock expelled a low, rough exhalation as he gave into his yearning, his left hand joining his right, burying his fingers in her sopping tresses. Trepidation didn't cross her mind. Sherlock knew his strength. His powerful, enormous hands stayed gentle, lightly cradling her skull, content to let her set the pace.

Until Molly slowed once again, desiring to torment Sherlock just a bit longer.

Reflexively, Sherlock's fingers tightened in Molly's hair, sending her own arousal to a fevered pitch. Her scalp tingled and she pushed forward, wanting just a bit more, moaning loudly on his cock. The detective read her correctly, twisting his grip just so. The other hand relinquished its hold, connecting with the wall in a fist. Delirious with desire, Molly rewarded him, hollowing her cheeks and sucking hard.

And then Sherlock's composure shattered. His shoulders curled over her in wanton agony. Every muscle in his lanky form tensed and trembled. Deep, imploring cries and snarls fell from those pouty lips of his.

"Oh, Christ! Molly—! Oh!"

The darkest, greediest part of her was appeased, exhilarated by the brokenness of the cry when Sherlock called out her name.

Confident that Sherlock was utterly wrecked and completely incapable of any coherent thought, Molly pressed closer, driving onto him as fast as she could, giving Sherlock the final push he needed.

"Molly." Sherlock gasped. A warning.

Not one she needed. The air had long cooled, but Molly was fevered, so hot. And Sherlock was right there with her, burning up, denigrating in the atmosphere as he tumbled.

"Molly. Molly!"

Molly didn't break away, instead clung to his writhing form, wishing she could see Sherlock's face contort in mindless pleasure as he spasmed over and over, spilling himself down her throat. Her hands held his hips, preventing him from thrusting wildly so she could swallow him down. His rough, guttural groans lessened to soft sighs. Molly eased off gradually, keeping her lips gentle as he softened.

Sherlock took huge gulps of air, blinking as if trying to clear his vision while Molly stroked his hip, soothing him as he came down. To her surprise, he didn't move to exit the tub when she shifted away. Instead he merely slid his back down the wall, crumpling into the tub with her.

From somewhere in the kitchen, his phone chimed. It went unheeded.

Once Sherlock regained some of his senses, he reached for her, pulling Molly into a tight embrace. He gave her the sweetest kiss before letting her slump against his chest. They lay there several moments, in an ungraceful heap, steam rolling off their skin

Sherlock was so beautiful like this, relaxed and blissed out. Joy and satisfaction coursed through her.

But Sherlock still didn't get it. His hand winded around Molly, reaching to her sex, but she caught him.

"Nuh-uh, Sherlock."

"Hmmm?"

"I told you. Sometimes people just like to be nice."

Comprehension dawned and Sherlock glanced at his watch. Four minutes after midnight.

His laugh was an explosive burst of air as Sherlock flung his arm over his face, knowing he'd been had. "You're a cruel woman, Molly Hooper."

"Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind." Molly beamed, kissing his hand. "Happy Birthday, Sherlock Holmes."

As if on cue, his phone chimed again.

"Do you have to get that?" Molly teased.

Sherlock replied with that bored, impertinent noise of his.

The bath was far too small for the both of them and they were awkwardly tangled together, but Sherlock unfurled his long limbs, unwilling to put forth the effort to dry off or get dressed. His calf dangled comically over the edge.

Sherlock squeezed a lock of her hair in his fist, watching contemplatively as the water dripped down her back. He picked up another tendril and did it again. Then a third time.

"Are you calculating the absorbency of my hair?"

"Adsorbency." Sherlock corrected, his brain fog lifting. "The water doesn't get absorbed, rather it clings to the tiny scales on each strand of hair. You've got quite a bit of surface area."

"Well, no plots to hack if off so you can mop up oil spills in your kitchen, please."

"God, no. In addition to it being aesthetically pleasing, it serves decidedly more significant functions attached to your scalp," Sherlock husked, giving it a seductive, reminiscent tug before letting it flop over her breast.

"Aesthetically pleasing?" Was that Sherlock-ese for 'pretty'? His confirmation blew her away.

"Yes, saturated like this, it invokes the impression of a mermaid."

Okay, Sherlock's brain wasn't fully online yet, but Molly beamed, taken in by his fanciful complement. The first genuine compliment she'd received from him. He really was adorable when he wanted to be.

Molly was further beguiled when his forefinger touched a faint scar on her arm curiously. "You stitched this up yourself. Either you didn't have access to immediate medical care or you didn't want someone to know."

"I fell off a horse. I didn't want my father to find out." Molly bit her lip, remembering how silly she had been, taking such a lively horse despite her lack of experience at twenty-seven.

Sherlock's eyebrows pulled together in a frown. "No, that's not right."

"Onto a fence," Molly reluctantly admitted.

"I hate horses. Overbred, dangerous creatures," Sherlock muttered before squinting at her, still in deduction mode. "You were trying to impress someone. A boyfriend."

"Not a boyfriend. But a man I met there, yes." Despite her best efforts, Molly blushed.

Mercifully, he left it at that, moving on to the gouge that signified Toby's first trip to the veterinarian.

After sex, most men would tell a woman how much he enjoyed it or how beautiful they are. Naturally, Sherlock's way of connecting with a lover would be to map out every scar, tell every imperfection's story.

Before Molly knew it, Sherlock was reaching toward another, much more painful scar on the outside of her thigh.

It was thin, indistinct mark that had never caused Molly any unease in the five years she'd had it. Even to the trained eye, most would readily accept the dismissive fib that she always told boyfriends that had asked. But Sherlock would know. He always knew.

Instinctively, Molly blocked him, shifting so it was out of his line of sight.

But it was too late.

Sherlock, for his part, appeared suddenly mortified. No longer flushed and relaxed, the blood had drained from his face, leaving him with a sickly pallor. For once, he didn't say a thing.

It hadn't been of his doing and Molly didn't understand his embarrassment. Sherlock wasn't squeamish about these things or the least bit apologetic about being an intrusive arse. Without a demand for an apology, her discomfort had never caused him embarrassment before.

But of course, Sherlock just couldn't stay quiet, couldn't let it go. Eventually, he had to put it out there. He wouldn't meet her eyes when he murmured the two words she least expected to hear, as a question of all things.

"Collateral damage?"

The phrase she'd used during their quarrel two nights ago. Molly felt as if she'd been slapped.

Molly forced herself past the unexpected surge of emotion, unwilling let herself feel ashamed. She waited for him to meet her eyes. Her voice was surprisingly level when she shrugged it off, proud of herself for being so nonchalant. "It's nothing you didn't already know about."

It was okay really. He was supposed to acknowledge it with an awkward nod or not at all. Supposed to let it be.

Instead he lied. Looked her dead in the eye and lied. "No. I must have missed it or deleted it."

Such an absurd lie.

Molly couldn't repress her wounded sigh. Sherlock knew right away he'd fucked up, trying to reach for her as she scrambled out of the tub. Cursing herself for leaving most of her clothes in the living areas, she grabbed his dressing gown off the hook of the door lest anyone show up unannounced, scooping up her undergarments on the way out.

Fortunately, Sherlock took his time emerging from his bedroom in pyjamas and his blue dressing gown. Grateful for the privacy, Molly had redressed hastily, sans her stockings. She'd wrung out her hair in the kitchen sink to the best of her ability and knotted it atop her head. Sherlock watched her pull a hat out of the pocket of her coat, pulling it over her damp hair. It would be good enough to get home.

Her own phone chimed with a text message, but she ignored it.

She wasn't going to be mad at him. Sherlock had always been crap at navigating emotional minefields, especially his own. It was just his way.

Still, Molly felt much more confident now that they were dressed, deciding after some deliberation to address the one thing that had changed between them, telling him softly, "You've never cared enough to lie in an attempt to spare my feelings. But now isn't the time to start up with that, alright?"

Sherlock looked completely bewildered. To his credit, he took a moment to think about it before agreeing, warily as it was. "Alright."

Molly offered him a heartfelt smile, letting him know they were fine. Their evening had been wonderful and she really didn't want to end it on a sour note. God knew if she'd see him again. Thankfully, Sherlock picked up on that too and eased a bit.

Now for the awkward goodbye...

"I've got to go." Molly dug out her phone, intent on calling a cab, unconsciously tapping the text message first. "I've got work tomorrow." My last day.

The waiting text sent Molly's hand to her mouth, briefly hiding the brightest smile. Forgetting all the weirdness of ten minutes ago, she turned and hugged Sherlock, her spirits soaring. "You really ought to check your messages!"

"What is it?" Sherlock was dying of curiosity by the time she released him.

"John and Mary are at Bart's. Another birthday present appears to be on the way."


So sorry that its taken so long to update this. I had a rather eventful summer but am home now and back to writing. Many thanks to all the reviews and PMs checking in on me. I hope it was worth the wait and plan on updating more regularly until I finish this thing. Thanks to everyone willing to stick with it!