Title: Counting Ants
Characters: Molly, Sherlock
Warnings/Triggers: possibly a bit bittersweet, references to drug use
Spoilers: The Reichenbach Fall, All of Series Three
Pairings: John/Mary (background)
Summary: Molly and Sherlock count ants and discuss love.
Author's notes: This is sort of three different ideas I had all rolled into one. Apparently I have Molly and Sherlock feels. I wanted to do something with Molly's storyline in Series Three, and the (somewhat) warmer relationship she and Sherlock have. It's set during His Last Vow, somewhere between the first part of the episode (which is set in June) and the second (which is set in December). I'm thinking around August or September.
"Do you know, I never really thought much about ants before," Molly said, as she used a tiny pair of tweezers to pluck up a dead one and move it to a pile. "But I have come to the conclusion that I hate them."
"That's unfair," Sherlock said. He used his tweezers to grab another ant. "You can't form an opinion of a whole species based on a small sample size. That would include all subfamilies, and you've only encountered one here. That's very unscientific. It's speciesist."
"You're right," Molly said. "I'm sorry, ants."
Sherlock chuckled, and she did, too. They were huddled together at the lab bench, moving a pile of dead ants into two separate piles, and counting them. They'd been at it for ages, and it was now 2:30AM. It was fiddly work, and it was making them silly.
"You're crowding my pile, stick to your own side," Sherlock complained.
"This is my side, your ants are migrating," Molly replied.
"They have been dead for two weeks, they're hardly doing anything," Sherlock said. He swept his pile away from hers. "Another hundred."
Molly made a note on her tally sheet. Sherlock bent back over the ants, and bit on his lower lip for a moment.
"Are you okay?" Molly asked. "Are you in pain?"
"I just get a few twinges here and there. I'm fine," Sherlock said.
"We've been at it for a long time, maybe you should take a break and get some rest," Molly said. "It's your first case back, you might not be 100% yet."
"I have had all the rest I need," Sherlock said. "I have been in hospital forever. What I need now is to make my brain work. Admittedly, counting ants is not how I would prefer to exercise it, but it's better than nothing."
Molly gave a giggle. "Counting ants sounds like an euphemism," she said. She clarified, "for sex."
"Yes, I got that," Sherlock said, shooting her an amused look. "My parents used to use 'dividing by negative integers'. I was barely three before I understood it had nothing to do with maths. A hundred more."
"Your parents had sex?" she said. "Well, obviously, they did, because you and Mycroft exist but...they were...affectionate with each other?"
"Yes," Sherlock said. "You didn't note down my hundred."
Molly absently added it to the sheet. She'd assumed, if she'd put any thought into it, that Sherlock would have come from parents who would only have sex for procreation purposes. Logical sex. "Are they still in love?"
"Oh yes," Sherlock said. "Very much so. It's sickening."
She wondered how someone could come from a loving home, and be so fearful of loving. "Do you ever wonder—?"
"If I was adopted?" Sherlock asked. "Yes, all the time. Unfortunately, all three DNA tests I've run have come up positive. I am somehow genetically their son."
"Sherlock, that's terrible," Molly said.
"I know," Sherlock said. "It completely killed my dream that I was left on their doorstep by a pair of brilliant scientists who wisely decided to devote their lives to their work, and gave their child up to be raised by mundane people. I could have forgiven the moment of weakness in which I was conceived. But alas, I am just a genetic anomaly."
"Most kids dream that their secretly princes or princesses," Molly said. "Waiting for the king and queen to come and reclaim them."
"I have never dreamed of being a princess," Sherlock said. "I'd look ridiculous in a tiara."
Molly laughed, and he smiled. She was glad he was back. She'd missed doing weird things with him in the lab. It had felt a little flat. "Speaking of love, where's John?" she asked. "Is he too busy being a newlywed to join you?"
Sherlock's smile faded. "He's just unavailable, at the moment," he said.
"Is something wrong? Have you fought?" Molly asked.
"No, not us," Sherlock said.
"John and Mary?" Molly guessed. "They're fighting? Already? About what?"
"Nothing," Sherlock said. "It's just a communication issue. I've advised John to work it out. He's taking my advice."
"You're advising on someone's love life?" Molly asked, with a grin.
"I know," Sherlock said. "I know. A hundred more."
Molly noted it. "Will they be okay?" she asked.
"I don't know," Sherlock said. "It's out of my hands."
That sounded ominous. And with a child on the way, too. Maybe that was the source of their stress. Molly dropped the subject, recognizing the set of Sherlock's shoulders. The muscle in his jaw was taut all the way to his collarbone. Definitely not something to poke at. She quietly counted her ants, and let the tension ebb out.
"What went wrong with you?" Sherlock asked, suddenly. "With you and...Tim?"
"Tom," Molly corrected. "His name was Tom. Why do you want to know that?"
Sherlock shrugged. "I never asked," he said.
"No," Molly agreed. "But you weren't exactly at your best, around that time. Or since."
Sherlock cleared his throat. "I might have been, retrospectively, a bit callous," he said. "I considered that, in hospital. That day, in the lab. I could have been more...gentle."
"You were high," Molly said. "Which isn't an excuse, but it's a reason."
"And you did slap me," Sherlock said. "So, perhaps we're even."
"I'll slap you again if I ever see you in that state," Molly said. "And I will find you and slap you if I ever hear that you're in that state. It was such a stupid thing to do."
"It was for a case," Sherlock objected.
"Oh, and how did that work out for you?" Molly said. She winced at herself. "I'm sorry, that was mean. You nearly died. I shouldn't have said that." She looked down at her tally sheet, and then back up again. "I just never want to see you on my autopsy table because of an overdose. That's all."
"Oh," Sherlock said, as though he'd realized something. He pushed some ants around, aimlessly. "Yes, I could see what you might have that fear. But you're avoiding my question. What went wrong?"
Molly sighed. "It's complicated," she said.
"I have a frankly ridiculous amount of ants to count," he said. "I have time."
"But why do you care?" she asked.
"Curiosity," he said. "Why else?"
"I'm not science experiment," Molly said.
Sherlock's head shot up to look at her, and he had that lost little boy look, when he wasn't sure what he'd done wrong—or realized he'd done wrong, but hadn't meant to. "I don't think of you like that," he said.
She couldn't tell if he was sincere or not. He stared at her, waiting.
"You came back," she blurted out, after a few moments of silence. "That's what went wrong. You came back."
Sherlock panicked. She could see it in his eyes. He was panicked.
"Not like that," Molly assured him, quickly. "I didn't—I didn't break up with him because I thought that we...no, that's not what I meant. I don't know how to explain it..."
"Try," Sherlock said.
"Things were different, when you were gone," Molly said. "I had this secret to keep, and it was hard. The people who knew me, they could see it was hard, and that I was having a hard time, but I couldn't tell them why. They all thought it was because of you dying, and told me that I needed to get over it, and then they sort of lost patience when I didn't. But Tom didn't know me, before then. And he was sweet and kind, and he liked me. He was normal, and I really needed normal then. And he loved me—proper loved me—and that was nice. I loved him, too, but maybe not in the right way. But then you came back, and it wasn't a secret any more. And I forgot, while you were gone, that I'm...good. I'm good at what I do. I'm special. You make me feel special. And I don't even mean that in a—a lovey way. Just...when someone very clever thinks your clever, then you think you're clever, too. Does that make sense?"
Sherlock's face had softened quite a bit while she was talking. He gave a slow nod. "I suppose it's similar to someone good thinking you can be good," he said. "And you think you might be better, if that person believes in you." He shifted in his seat, suddenly embarrassed, as though he hadn't meant to say that. "I assume."
"Yes," Molly said, with a smile. "Yes, it's just like that. And so, I was sort of a different person than when I met him. And there's nothing wrong with him, not at all. Nothing wrong with me, either, but I realized...that I couldn't see a life with him. I was just thinking about the moment, about how it felt right then, when I needed him. But when I stopped needing him, I realized there wasn't much else there. And so it wasn't fair to him to...string him along when I knew it wouldn't last."
"That's very selfless," Sherlock said.
"No, it's not," Molly said. "It was selfish to wait as long as I did. I was afraid he was my only chance. I was afraid of being alone. But I realized I'd rather be alone than settle for okay. I'm...better than that. You reminded me of that."
"You shouldn't judge yourself by what others think of you," Sherlock said. "Not even me. Actually, especially not me."
"It's easy for you say," Molly teased. "You're a hero. I'm just me."
"I'm not a hero," Sherlock said. "Heroes don't exist."
"Yes, they do," Molly said. "You just don't want to admit it, because it's harder than pretending you don't care. It places something on you. You don't want to be responsible for being a hero."
Sherlock's mouth opened, and then closed. "See," he said. "You're clever, all on your own. You don't need me."
Molly smiled, and he smiled back. She wanted to hug him, but didn't think he'd like that. She went back to her ants, instead, trying to remember where she'd been in her count.
"Does it matter?" Sherlock asked. "Being alone? Does that matter to you?"
"I thought so," Molly said. "But...there are different types of being alone. You can be alone and not lonely."
"But you were lonely, when I was gone," Sherlock said.
"Yes, a little," Molly said. "But so were you."
Sherlock picked up his tweezers again. "You were right, it's all very complicated," he said. "I'm sorry I asked, now."
Molly shrugged. "Love is complicared," she said.
"Yes, I've learned that," Sherlock agreed. "I don't know why people bother."
"When it's good, it's wonderful," Molly said.
"I think I'll stick to counting ants," Sherlock said.
"Is that euphemism?" Molly teased.
"No," Sherlock said. "That's complicated, too."
"Being complicated doesn't make it bad," Molly said. "You don't like it because you can't find the answer to it. There is no answer to it."
Sherlock's head popped up again, and she was given a sharp look. "Stop analysing me," he said.
"It's not very fun, when you're the one being analysed, is it?" Molly said, with a grin.
Sherlock huffed an unwilling laugh. "Your deductions have no logic; it's not the same thing," he said. His smile dimmed a little. "I'm sorry you were lonely."
Molly shrugged. "I'm not any more," she said.
"It's a lot of onus on me, to be responsible for your happiness," he said, lightly.
"You're not," Molly said. "It was the secret that was the hard part. It's a lot of work, to keep a secret that big. You don't feel like yourself. You feel...well, I felt, a bit...unworthy. Sort of...dirty."
"You are the least 'dirty' person I know," Sherlock said. "And—now, I am only going to say this once—you, whatever anyone says, are better than you think you are. I have always trusted you, and I don't do that easily. You are better than Tim—Tom—whomever, and you are better than me. Measure your worth by yourself. Stop...depending on everyone else. Don't let others have control over you like that."
Molly's eyes were all wet. "Why do you always wait so long to say the right thing?" she asked.
"9,732," he said.
"What?" Molly said.
"9,732 ants," he said, looking down at their piles. "That's the number of ants. So, extrapolating by the number of ants that would reasonably be going by in an average situation, we can assume that a) they were drawn to that part of the room, b) something abnormal killed them, and c) it took place over...a week? Give or take. Let's find out how they died."
"You want to autopsy ants?" Molly asked.
"Yes, it will be fun," Sherlock said, enthusiastically.
"It's almost three in the morning," Molly said, looking at the clock.
"Do you have something better to do?" Sherlock asked.
"Sleeping?" Molly said.
"You can do that any time," Sherlock said, dismissively. "When are you going to be able to autopsy ants again?"
Molly narrowed her eyes. "You're paying for coffee," she said.
"Done," Sherlock said, offering her a gloved hand.
She shook it. Sherlock started mashing ants. Poor ants. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Are you worried about John?" Molly asked.
"Yes," Sherlock said. "But...I think I know what I need to do. I just don't know if—well, it's complicated."
"I'm sure you'll do the right thing," Molly said.
Sherlock smiled. "Yes, you would," he said. "You're a good person, it's easy for you to think well of others."
Molly thought back to what he'd said earlier, about being a better person around someone good. "I believe in you," she said, in case it helped.
Sherlock nodded. "That, I'm afraid, is the one area in which you are not very clever at all."