A/N: Special thanks and love to MizJoely, who is always amazing but has gone above and beyond the call of duty helping me get this bastard out of my head. I came this close to deleting it all and abandoning several times, but she talked sense into me. As much as sense as I ever have, at least… I'm dedicating this porntastic feelgasm to the lovely PetraTodd, because I feel like she's spiritual smut buddy. So, there you go. This is part one of a three-shot. That's a thing now.

Trigger Warnings: This fic deals with BDSM aspects, relationships of the babygirl/Daddy!Dom nature, and like oodles of porn. Oodles I tell you.

Disclaimer: Short version being, I don't own shit.

In the beginning, Molly Hooper is boring. She's a little morgue mouse, scuttling from corpse to tissue sample to paperwork, jumping up when he demands coffee or slides or "I can hear you thinking, desist at once." She gets this look in her eye when she thinks he's not looking, and it's base animal lust and girlish infatuation, and Sherlock could slap her because what does she think he is? A normal man to bring her flowers, take her on dates, be fed up and in bed by midnight because they've got a schedule to keep? She's brilliant in her own way, though, as brilliant as a normal person can hope to be; she notices what others don't, and can be elbows deep in a cadaver and still crack a joke behind her plastic face shield like she's doing something as boring as washing up.

It irritates Sherlock, realizing that she doesn't fit into a neat little box. She's everything he thought she was in the very beginning, but she's also something more and it makes him itch with a need to tear her apart and figure out what makes her tick.

But then it's a late night in the lab and he hasn't slept in, oh, days, maybe a week, and he can't hold still for anything; he's broken three slides and, because it's suddenly become so hot that sweat is making his hair stick to his forehead and neck, he peels off his suit jacket and rolls up his sleeves, and it happens. She sees. It takes him a while to notice, because he's not himself (he's so fucking high he can barely function, and all he can think about is how he needs heroin, the burn in his veins to calm him down and let him finally fucking sleep, but that can't come until the case is done and the case won't be done until he can analyze the goddamn tissue samples, and for that he needs to stop shaking), but when he does… oh, when he looks up and sees the horror on her face, the tears in her eyes, he can practically see the pedestal she built in her mind labeled Sherlock Holmes crumbling and falling down. He feels about as tall as a microbe. So he snaps at her, something cruel and nasty, and he never remembers exactly what he said but he remembers the fluorescent light glinting off the first tear to fall down her cheek.

"What are you doing to yourself?" she asks, and there's desperation in her words. "Oh, Sherlock…"

He spits, "I don't need your pity." When she reaches out, he's quick to knock her hand away. He expects her to shrink back, to run away, but instead she takes his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip and holds him in place (when did he become so thin, so weak?). She touches the livid bruises and scabs on his arms, the ugly blue lines of collapsed veins, and all he can think of is his legs and how he's shooting up between his toes now. Suddenly it dawns on him how pathetic he is and he just wants to cry. So he snarls and bites like a rabid animal, gone feral in the need to protect himself, but Molly Hooper is like an earthquake or a typhoon; not even Sherlock can stand against her.

What he expects is shouting or a slap or demands to leave and never come back. What he gets is arms around his shoulders, hands in his hair, and his head being cradled against her chest. She smells like chemicals, lemons, and perfumed lotion. Her breasts are small but soft, and under the cotton of her blouse he can feel the edge of a lace bra, and he's overtaken with a desire to peel it back with his teeth, to lave her breasts with his tongue and make this little mouse moan. Under his ear, Molly's heart is steadily beating, and for a reason he can't explain, it makes his own feel like it isn't just breaking, but shattering.

"I know it's got to be hard, being in your head, being so – being on all the time, like you are. But this is killing you, and Sherlock, I – I can forgive you this, and I'll help you, but – if you put yourself on my table because of something so petty as – as this, I'll never forgive you. Ever." She makes him look up at him, holds his cheeks in her little hands, crying for him, and he's overcome with the sensation of standing at a crossroads and knowing this is the moment, the decision, that will change his life. "Do you understand me?"

Helplessly he holds onto her hips, because he's swaying on the stool and she's the only anchor he's got in the world. "I don't think I can go on without it," he admits, trembling. He's always trembling, nowadays. Either because he's too high, or because he needs to get high, or because he's fucking terrified that next time he gets high that's it, lights out, drop the curtains, throw some dirt on the coffin and life goes on. It's not death that scares him, but the thought of the world continuing to turn without him in it. That everything will continue to exist and he'll be rotting, his brain decaying, drying up until it's a hard little rock rattling around in the thinning bone of his skull. "It's so – I'm so – Molly, I'm broken –"

He's never said that out loud, but he's thought it for years. Forever. He thinks he came out of the womb hating himself.

Gently she runs her hands through his hair, and it's only now that he realizes how long it's been since he bathed. He's overcome with shame, with loathing (how can she stand to touch something as pathetic and weak as him?). She looks like a Madonna gazing down on him, beautiful and sweet and a wellspring of forgiveness. "You're not broken, Sherlock. You're just sick. Lucky for you –" she smiles, tries to joke even when more tears are falling, and Sherlock is blinded by the thought of if I could love, I'd love her – "I'm in the business of fixing sick people."

He's crying so hard there's mucus leaking from his nose, but he's laughing. He hasn't laughed, really laughed, in so long – he can't remember the last time, honestly. "Molly, you cut up dead bodies!"

"I help the families that lost a loved one understand why and how that person died. I help fix the sickness of grief, in a small way. And I'll help you, too, if you let me."

She takes him to her flat and washes him, runs the flannel over his spindly body and it's like a baptismal, like a mother with a sick child, and Sherlock has such a longing for his mother that his lungs seize up. She makes him eat, just plain crackers and broth, and when he's sick on her carpet she cleans it up and gives him weak tea without a flinch. And in the morning, after he's tried to leave and shouted himself hoarse because he's half blind with fear and the soul shaking urge to escape, to float away on a cloud of anything strong enough to make him forget how gentle and kind she is when he doesn't deserve it, Molly calls his brother. They've never met, never spoken, she wouldn't know Mycroft if they passed on the street (but he would know her, as he keeps files on everyone Sherlock so much as blinks at), but it's like long lost family coming together over a death.

"Hello, Mycroft? I'm Dr. Molly Hooper, I work at St. Bart's with your brother – oh, well, um – Sherlock's not injured, really, but he's – he's starting withdrawal. He needs help." Sherlock would have given his eye teeth and the left side of his brain to know what his brother was saying, what made Molly dart a quick look at him with something like pity in her eyes. "No, I think, this time, he's… he's really ready to get clean. No, no that won't – I promised I'd help him. I promised him."

Molly's with him right up until he's checked into a facility in the country. He can't stand up straight and it feels like he's being ripped apart by wild animals; he's running a fever and sick to his stomach and just wants to die; and the very last thing on earth he wants to do is release her hand. She brushes tangled hair from his eyes and kisses his unshaven cheek, standing on her toes to do so. "Can you do something for me?" she asks.

He's got no other option but to nod, weak as it is. He even tries to smile, though he's got sick crusted beside his mouth and it probably just makes him look like some kind of deranged junkie.

"Be brave," she whispers, cupping his jaw in her hand. "Be strong. I know you can do this, Sherlock; I believe in you."

These are the words he keeps tucked behind his ribs, next to his heart, when the withdrawal makes him scream for heroin, for death, for someone to let him the fuck out right the fuck now; I know you can do this, Sherlock. I believe in you.

I believe in you.

I believe in you.

Molly Hooper believes in Sherlock Holmes, and he's not about to let her down.

-X-

Once a month, for six months, Molly comes with his parents and visits him in rehab. She bakes sweets and brings him gift boxes, and when one of the other patients tries to steal a tin of biscuits Molly made with her own two hands, Sherlock breaks his wrist and is nearly kicked out. As his system works out the drugs and his mind becomes clear for the first time in years, he finds himself in awe of everything that she is. In a world of compulsive liars, criminals, and filth, she's a pure soul. And he's petrified that he's going to stain her.

So when he gets out, when he returns to London and St. Bart's and Molly's awful puns, he does everything in his power to keep her at arms length. It hurts her, he can see it, but he's unmoved. Better she have hurt feelings than be dragged down to the level of the common man; better she nurse a slightly wounded heart than give it to him on a platter and have it utterly and irrevocably broken. Sherlock is greedy, cruel, careless, and utterly unable to handle human emotions. He'd break her without meaning to, and then, in a bad mood, he'd really give it a go and ruin her for life.

She's too good for that – she's been too good to him.

So they're co-workers and lab companions. Sherlock respects her, which a spare handful of people can claim, and that's that. It's a good, solid working relationship, the most functional relationship he's had since Redbeard, and he's happy with it. And eventually, he knows she will be too.

-X-

Molly starts dating, and Sherlock is active in not caring at all, thank you very much. It's just that she's terrible at choosing men (she does carry a flame for him, which is the lowest of the low), and he refuses to see her with an idiot. She deserves better.

Somewhere along the line of detailing the sins of her boyfriends, Sherlock begins to pick up new facts. He knows that Molly is a woman and, like many, is practically a slave to the all-mighty orgasm. It's not shocking to know she's in a sexual relationship, but he's always assumed – not that he's actually pondered what she's like as a sexual partner, you see, he just assumed – that her sex life would be very… hmm, what's the phrase he's looking for? Straight-forward? Normal? He's pictured it as being very slow, quiet, and gentle; she wouldn't be loud, there would be no shocking box of toys brought out, she'd probably blush at being seen naked in full daylight. Puritan, that's the word he was searching for.

He assumed sex with Molly would be incredibly tame and verging on chaste.

The bits and pieces he picks up, quite by accident, paint him a picture that's decidedly more graphic than he'd ever imagined. With the one with the face, what's his name, Caleb – with Caleb, Molly wears her hair in pigtails and, as Sherlock happens to be at the same resturaunt where they're on a date, she looks at him over the top of her glasses and asks, "Could I have chocolate cake, sir?"

"Do you think you've been a good girl?" The boyfriend tries, and fails, for really severe sternness.

The side of Molly's mouth kicks up as her hand disappears under the table cloth, and she pitches her voice up in a mockery of a little girl sing-song as she answers, "I could be a very good girl, Daddy."

Sherlock abandons the resturaunt, then his disguise, and runs all the way back to his flat. He doesn't bloody want to know what happens next, doesn't want to follow them home (just to make sure she made it home safe, never know what could happen on these streets), absolutely doesn't want to know what being 'a good girl' entails. And damn his worthless transport for choosing now to spring an erection him; you'd think his penis would keep to the schedule he's drawn up, but no, it's all random hormone washes and hard blood flow, and then he's spending half an hour in a truly frigid shower.

He decides to delete the memory from his Mind Palace, because Molly Hooper's sexual fetishes have no bearing on her work as a pathologist and he knows he'll be happier for it. So he does exactly that and for three days he doesn't think about it, or Molly, or cinnamon hair in two long tails. When he gets a case he breezes into St. Bart's as though he owns the building and all in it. He's got his hands in his pockets and a cheerful air about him, as four bodies were discovered in a locked room, in a house with a state of the art security system that never went off: if that doesn't make for a happy day then nothing does. And then there's Molly in her morgue, white coat in place and her hair pulled back in a bun. She's quietly but firmly telling off a trio of students.

"The next time I catch any of you disrespecting the people in this morgue, I will expel you from this program on the spot. These were once living, breathing people, and we have a responsibility to their families to treat them with respect. Do you understand me?" She's no nonsense, hard as nails, not a stutter or falter in her speech to be found.

Sherlock's ears ring with the memory of her words, that little girl voice and the glint her eyes; I could be a very good girl, Daddy. Of course his transport chooses that moment to fling an erection in his path, and he's got no choice but to turn on his heel and march right back out the doors. He hides in the men's toilet and does deep breathing and meditation, and finally gives it up as a bad job and does something he hasn't since he was seventeen and spotty – he masturbates. It's as shameful as it is distasteful, but Sherlock locks his jaw and shudders, because his mind is full of Molly, Molly, Molly: Molly on her knees, Molly sliding her hand under the table cloth but it's his thigh she's caressing, and Molly's mouth in that tiny little leer as she looks Sherlock dead in the eye and sing-songs, "I could be a very good girl, Daddy."

He knocks his head against the stall wall and babbles out, "Fucking Christ, my good girl, my Molly –" and then bites his tongue and comes so hard he sees fucking stars.

When he finally goes to see the cadavers, after splashing his face with cold water and swearing to Darwin that – that horrid lapse in control will never, ever happen again – it's the most awkward fifteen minutes in his life. And it's obvious that something is wrong, as by the end of it Molly's squinting at him with her head tipped to the side. She steps close, too close, and he can smell the lemons – can see the red glints in her hair – can see the freckles on her face, can count them if he wants (seventeen). "Sherlock?" she asks in a quiet, worried tone. Her hand is on his arm. She's touching him after he just tossed off in a bathroom stall thinking about her. "Is… is something wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong why would anything be wrong I don't know why you would think anything is wrong as everything is absolutely fine thank you do you know you have exactly seventeen freckles on your face?" he says in one long rush, without so much as pausing for breath.

Molly blinks, clearly stunned. "Uh…" she licks her lips, and Sherlock swears he can feel a blood vessel in his brain exploding. "Wow, um – you've counted how many freckles I've got?" She blushes. She blushes.

He leaves without another word, and doesn't return for three weeks.

-X-

It's not that he's researching, because research is for legitimate cases and useful knowledge only. No, he's not researching. It's just that he's bored, so very bored, and for some reason he can't get Molly out of his thoughts (he's dreaming about her now, about slender legs on either side of his hips and her arms around his shoulders as she asks, "Tuck me into bed, Daddy?" Or it's a uniform skirt rucked up to her hips, and he's got a hand down virginal cotton panties and Molly's panting, arching her back and begging, "Please, Daddy, please make me come –"). So instead of packing, because he's been given two weeks to clear out of his flat because of a slight mishap involving acid and also the discovery of lungs in his fridge, he opens his laptop and pulls up Google.

Later he realizes what a massive mistake he's made. Because it didn't take long to find what he was looking for, and there was a thoughtful article on the psychology of "baby girls and their Daddies" that led to an entire blog, that turned into no less than seven different websites that somehow morphed into pornography. Grown women with fuzzy little bands in their hair and Hello Kitty knickers, poking out her lower lip and pouting for a treat, for playtime, for Daddy to shove her down and fuck her until she screams –

"Disgusting and abnormal," Sherlock mutters, slamming his laptop closed and tossing it to the other side of the couch. His hands are shaking; he can't catch his breath; if Molly Hooper were to walk through his door at this very moment he'd be on her before she could protest, before he could ask permission. This has to stop. Whatever Molly does in the privacy of her sex life is none of his concern, because she's his pathologist and he's a guest in her lab, and nowhere in the mix does she become his (sweet, pretty, soft) little girl. Because he adamantly doesn't want her to be, not at all, and even if he did, well, it's not possible because she's – she's as close to perfect as any human being can come and God, if he hurt her he'd slit his own throat –

Working out until he's dripping with sweat and wholly exhausted helps. At least he sleeps (after days awake), and it's a black unconsciousness void of dreams.

-X-

By the time he returns to St. Bart's he's moved into the flat Mrs. Hudson offered him, a brilliant little flat on Baker Street that's old, comfort worn on the edges, and suits Sherlock perfectly. He's decided to try living with someone, a flatmate to maybe keep him occupied when he's not on a case, to keep him from drifting into thoughts of Molly and the fierce ache in his chest that's begun to develop when he thinks of her now. Eventually these… thoughts will go away, will be replaced with a new obsession, and everything will go back to rights. Molly will return to the safety of a pure being not meant for his hands, Sherlock will be comfortably devoid of emotions and erections (disgusting things, how his body betrays him), and maybe he'll finally have someone to play chess with. Yes, everything is looking up.

But then he's in the lab, and it's clear that Molly is livid with him. She doesn't slam beakers or snap at him, but she doesn't stutter and blush when he looks too long or hard in her direction. Instead she's turned into a creature with a tight jaw, narrow eyes, and utter professionalism. It's exactly what he needs, but Sherlock feels as though he's lost something precious.

"Molly, I need samples from the Gunnarson corpse." It's a casually spoken demand, one given with the assurance that it will be met with speedy efficiency. Normally she'd say something like, "Coming right up!" or "Just a mo'; got my own work to do, you know," but with a laugh in her voice that made it clear she wasn't really annoyed.

He can hear her shoes on the tile, but instead of leaving to collect said samples from the body, she marches to his table and drops a sheaf of paperwork at his elbow. "It's time you started following procedure," she announces, adjusting her safety goggles. Sherlock gapes up at her, utterly confounded. "Fill out a requisition form for each sample you're requesting, and I'll review them. If they're necessary, I'll provide them for you."

Something inside his chest deflates. "Don't be ridiculous," he snaps. "I've never had to fill out –"

Molly leans down, hair from her pony tail falling over her shoulder as she puts herself on eye level with Sherlock. "This is my lab, my morgue, my bodies, and my samples. You're here because I agreed to let you in, and the moment I decide you're too much of a disruption to the work we're doing you will be banned. I'm not your resident or lab assistant. I'm a specialist registrar and Director of Forensic Pathology; I handle the entirety of post-mortem cases for the Met, I'm teaching students how to become professionals, and that means I haven't got time to satisfy your need to be a special snowflake. I've spent two years taking care of you, Sherlock; you fill out the damn paperwork or so help me God, not even Mycroft will be able to get you back into this lab, do you understand me?"

From the other side of the lab, Mike Stamford mutters, "Bloody hell," his chin very nearly on the floor.

Sherlock nods, mutely, watching Molly stalk from the lab.

"I don't know what you did, mate, but you buggered up big time."

The glare he shoots Stamford is withering. "Your input is unnecessary."

"Flowers," Stamford advises. "Chocolate. Beg on your knees. Won't be another woman in the world like her, and you'll kick yourself if you let her go."

"Are you stupid or just blind? I am not now, nor have I ever been, in any kind of a… relationship… with Molly Hooper."

"That so?" the doctor asks before taking his leave.

He fills out the paperwork.

-X-

There's a confectionary he's fond of in Soho, and Sherlock goes simply to satisfy a craving he's been having for something sweet. But when he's in there he notices the double fudge ice cream, hand made in the back and sprinkled with salty nuts, and it just so happens that he knows that Molly is an ice cream aficionado and it's a sin if someone that loves it so much hasn't ever tried this heavenly confection. So he buys a half gallon and has it packed in a little cooler for transport, and maybe it just so happens that he's got a clean spoon wrapped in plastic in his pocket, well, he's just prepared. It's not like he planned this. Because that would suggest he was doing something nice to make amends for outright avoiding her for three weeks, and Sherlock Holmes doesn't do that sort of thing… though if he did it would be for her.

She saved his life once, after all.

Molly's office is rather small and cramped, as there are filing cabinets along the walls and her desk and the one chair in front of it takes up the rest of the room. There's a calendar on the wall, covered in cringe worthy shades of pink, as well as kittens and hearts. She's also brought some plants in, bamboo that's nearly three feet tall, which sits in a pot clearly painted by children; he'd long ago deduced it was a gift from her nieces. There's also a cheerful planter of daises on her desk, kept alive by a sun lamp and her care and attention.

She's half hidden behind a stack of paperwork. The redness and slight swelling of her left eye indicates a minor infection, precipitating the use of her glasses, which she looks over the top of when he raps the back of his knuckles on her doorframe. For a moment she quietly regards him, guilt flashing across her expressive features, then resignation, and finally a thin façade of disinterest. "Your samples are beside your microscope. Thank you for filling out the paperwork – I suppose we don't have to, um, do that again. Just so long as you understand, you know, that this isn't your playground and I can't just…" Trailing off, she puffs out a tired sigh. "Listen, I'm behind and really tired, so can you just… go?"

Nervously, because he's given on up on pretending that he isn't half-mad with anxiety, Sherlock holds the plastic cooler up. "I brought you a gift." That was not what he'd meant to say, because it's not a gift, it's a… a peace offering. No, a useless gesture of sentimentality to get back in her good graces; God no, she'd slap him for that one. Whatever he'd meant to say it wasn't gift, but it's out there now and he can't suck it back in it.

Big brown eyes blink at him in absolute confusion. "What?"

Sherlock shakes the cooler side-to-side. "A gift," he enunciates while quirking an eyebrow. "I assume you're familiar with the ritual?"

"Yeah, of course, it's just… you never…" She swallows, that lovely long throat flexing with the motion. Sherlock focuses on not becoming distracted, and fails for several seconds. "What is it?"

"Open it."

She stands and comes around the desk, and he hasn't seen her in so few layers since he spent the night in her home, before he went to rehab. She's wearing a camisole, gray and soft, and a long sleeved blouse that's unbuttoned over the top, with the sleeves messily rolled up. It boasts a horrid floral print that reminds Sherlock of the sofa in his Gran's parlor. Gingerly she accepts the cooler, looking up at him from under her eyelashes when the weight of it is in her hands. Her lashes are long and ginger, and absurdly distracting.

Clearing his throat, Sherlock nods. "Go on, then."

Molly carries it back to her desk, clears a little space to sit it down and then unpacks it. The carton boasts the recognizable logo of the confectionary, and Molly's eyes grow to the size of dinner plates. "Oh my God!" she yelps, dancing from foot-to-foot. "Sherlock! Oh my God, you shouldn't have, this – I've always wanted to try something from this place, but it's so expensive, I never – oh, it's too much –"

A smug and unabashedly pleased smile stretches his mouth into a long line. He pulls the spoon from his pocket. "Go on, try it."

She squirms, chewing her bottom lip. "I shouldn't, I haven't even had lunch –"

"Bah, lunch, lunch is for adults and who has time for that nonsense?" There's a fluttering in his chest, hard and painful, and it's all because Molly's laughing and smiling for him. He steps farther into the little space, holding the spoon out. Molly caves and grabs the utensil with a bright grin, tearing the plastic off. Immediately she digs into the cold sweet, pulling a spoonful of the rich dessert up, and maybe Sherlock's staring at her mouth because it's very pink and oh, look, there's her tongue, but there's no proof and if anyone were to say otherwise it's very possible they would end up strangled.

She moans when it hits her tongue, eyes slipping shut as she grabs onto his arm, as though her knees have gone weak. He's got half a mind to kiss her, because her mouth would be cold and sweet. Or maybe he wants to smooth the stray hair from her face, to kiss the peak of her upturned nose and hold her safe and close. If it were up to him, she'd be like this forever; happy and free, ecstatic over the simple pleasure of a gift given simply to make her happy, with chocolate melting on her tongue and a nut cracking between her teeth.

"Everything you dreamed it would be?" Even he can hear how low his voice has become, how intimate it sounds. Somehow his hand has risen without permission, and his thumb is running over the apple of her cheek. It's warm and rosy with pleasure.

Her nod is slow and almost shy. "Amazing," she admits, twisting the spoon between her fingers before she's suddenly bright and glittering, scooping up another spoonful and holding it between them. "Go on!" she urges. "It's wonderful; you should at least try it."

He shakes his head. "It's for you –"

"And I want to share it. Please?" Molly turns big brown eyes on him and it's over with, there's no more refusal. For once perfectly obedient, Sherlock opens his mouth and waits, uncomfortable with allowing someone to spoon feed him – is he a bird? A child? – yet overcome with electric pulses of heat for a reason he can't quite determine. The ice cream is far too chocolate-y for his tastes, overwhelming when he finds a hunk of sugary-sweet fudge on his tongue, but this taste is secondary to the act of pressing his tongue to the back of the spoon. There's a metallic tang from the cold metal, and he can almost taste trace amounts of Molly's saliva, which should be horrifying and yet prompts him to shove his hands in his pockets to keep from grabbing her face and – what? What does he want to do?

Thread his fingers through her hair, tip her face up and lick the delicate line of her jaw; pull the tie from her hair and brush it smooth and silky with his fingers, sit her in his lap and feed her ice cream, until she's got a sticky mouth and drowsy eyes.

"Like it?" She pulls the spoon from his mouth, and maybe her eyes linger on his lips, but he doesn't notice because Sherlock Holmes is above such things. He also doesn't notice how her voice has gone high and soft, hopeful and sweet as a little girl's.

He hears himself saying, "Delicious," and before he can do something incredibly stupid – something that would cause Molly harm and is therefore entirely out of the realm of possibly – Sherlock forces himself to step back. It breaks the spell and snaps Molly back to herself so that she straightens up, no longer leaning towards him. Her laugh is nervous and sharp, and she's blushing vibrantly, right down her neck and to the tops of her cleavage.

"You said the samples were by my microscope?" Pouring ice into his blood and iron into his resolve, Sherlock resumes his usual stiff posture and takes a step back. "I should get back to the business of catching a murderer."

"Yeah…" Clearing her throat, maybe to be rid of the faintly dreamy tone, Molly nods far too many times. "Right. Great. I'll just – you know, paperwork. Files. Transcribing my autopsies. Always work to be done. But, oh, I should – I should get this in a freezer, wouldn't want it to melt!"

Sherlock allows himself a smile, small but almost raw in how genuinely pleased he is to have made her happy, for once, instead of making her life more difficult.

Focus on the work, he mentally urges when going about preparing slides from the samples. The work is all that matters. Focus on the work.

Through the door window he can see Molly in the hall, speaking with a student, and he has to stop for a moment and admire her.

-X-

John Watson comes into Sherlock's life, and he's a blessing. There's much less time to think of Molly and Molly related things when he's keeping busy, solving crimes, settling into an actual friendship with John. In ways it's like his relationship with Molly, in that it's immediate and easy; he doesn't have to pretend to be normal. Though it's drastically different in the fact he's never had the urge to stroke John's hair and hold him against his chest, a fact for which both are thoroughly grateful.

They take a case from an old university acquaintance, and if Sherlock wasn't hell bent on showing that smug bastard Sebastian how brilliant he is, how he's made something of himself despite the haze of drugs he sank into in his last years at university, he wouldn't bother with it. No amount of money is worth the frustrating memories being near that prat brings up. It's hard being different, he has to acknowledge, especially when the ones that are brilliant at being perfectly normal are complete arseholes about it.

Not that he cares, then or now. He doesn't. It's just frustrating, is all.

It's in Little China with John at his side that he happens to glance in a shop window, and hanging from a rack is a set of hair barrettes. They're just cheap, plastic things for preteen girls, made to look like water lilies, but for some reason they make him think of Molly. So when the case is over and he finds himself back in Little China on one of his rambling walks, which has nothing to do with any intention to buy those barrettes, he might as well have something to show for the time spent. So he buys them, and a more expensive set of chopsticks (the sort to be worn, not to be used as cutlery), waves carelessly when the boy behind the counter asks if he'd like them wrapped, and then tucks the little bag away in the left pocket of his Belstaff.

She's working in her office again, the next time he goes to Bart's.

"Oh!" Though she perks up at the sight of him, there's a wariness in her eyes, an uncertainty that took root when he evaded her invitation for coffee and, in a not at all panicked moment of stupidity, inferred that her lips were somehow lacking because of their size. Good for him, insulting a woman's looks, as though there aren't more important things (as though she's not the closest thing to perfection the world has to offer). "Hi, Sherlock! Coming round for the Hill murders? Messy business, but I suppose that's to be expected, having your head dashed in with a ball peen hammer." She pauses a moment, narrowing her eyes at the smaller, broader man behind Sherlock. "Oh, um, hey… Sherlock's flatmate… Jake?"

Sherlock has to bite the insides of his lips to keep a smirk from growing.

"John Watson, actually," grumbles said John Watson. "We've met, what, three times?"

"I'm, oh, I'm terrible with names!"

"She's really not," he tosses in, because Molly Hooper is sharp as a tack and this isn't like her at all. See the side effects of infatuation? Forgetfulness, difficulty with speech, compromised motor skills… it's a blessing, being above it all.

She hisses, "Sherlock," giving him narrow eyes of outrage.

"S'all right, really; I'm just the tag along, what use have I got for a name?"

Pulling the small, plastic sack containing the hair bobs from his pocket, Sherlock tosses them to the top of her desk. "So, the Hill murders; have you found anything of note?"

"What was that?" asks John.

"What was that?" echoes Molly.

"The Hill murders," stresses Sherlock, rolling his eyes. "My God, it's like watching goldfish swim blankly around. I asked if you've found anything out of the ordinary or noteworthy in regards to the three members of the Hill family that were, if you recall, brutally murdered only just last night –"

John points emphatically, and even goes so far as to hop just a small bit. "You great bloody arse, no, the – what you just put on her desk –"

"New mold samples?" his bright little Molly inquires excitedly, and if Sherlock were the sort to turn buttery with adoration he'd be melting along the floor just about now.

"Do they look like samples?" He's not smiling. He's not. It's not happening, because he won't let it. "It doesn't look like ice cream, either. I suppose you'll just have to look, won't you?"

The good Doctor Watson does his very best impersonation of a goldfish. Perhaps he's making a joke? If that's the case, it's a rubbish one; if not, well, he's looking more vacant than usual. "Ice cream?" he mutters. "Why would you be giving a pathologist ice cream?"

Snidely, Sherlock inquires, "Pathologists can't eat ice cream?"

Molly takes up the bag, pulling out the smaller of the two packages. It's wrapped in bright paper patterned with leaping fish, and she turns it over several times before giving Sherlock a wide eyed stare. "A present?" she breathes, mouth quirking into a warm, happy smile.

"What the hell," John mutters, sounding very much as though he's been stuck a solid blow about the head and can no longer believe what he's seeing.

Sherlock shrugs, heaving a sigh of impatience. "If you're going to open them, go on; otherwise I do have an actual crime to be solving."

Effecting an expression of disinterest, he watches as Molly carefully begins to open the little gift. She's delicate, not ripping in and tearing the paper away, but gently prying up the tape and unfolding the edges until the little package of water lily barrettes falls into her palm. They're not spectacular, probably not even worth the cost of the wrapping paper when one gets right down to it, but her brown eyes have become luminous and damp with sentiment. "Oh, Sherlock," she breathes, lying the paper aside to better exam the barrettes. "They're adorable!"

Reverently, she places them on her desk, pulling the second package from the small sack. The same process is repeated, until she's holding the chopsticks in hand and practically bouncing with excitement. "Oh, I love them! They're so pretty, oh, look, there's cranes – and dragons –"

There's really no warning. One moment Molly is behind her desk, getting teary over rubbish, and the next's she's dashed around and grabbed him in a hug. Sherlock is frozen, openly gaping at the top of her head, stunned into complete silence by the sensory overload. He doesn't like physical contact, as too much information rushes into his brain, and this is no different – and yet very much so. Molly is warm and slight, her arms tight around his stomach and squeezing against his back as she tearfully sniffs; her face is against his chest, burrowed between the edges of his Belstaff and suit jacket. There's only silk between her cheek and his skin, and he can practically feel his brain going into a forceful reboot.

It's not sexual – and his response isn't sexual, for which he's distantly grateful – but that's worse, in a way. Because he'd very much like to wrap his arms around her and squeeze, and maybe keep her there a while because he's never felt quite so good about himself as he does now. The biological instinct to reproduce he can comprehend; the pleasure gained simply from making Molly happy is something else entirely. The hug lasts eighteen seconds (not that he's counting), before Molly rebounds back as though she's been burnt; she's as red as a tomato.

"I'm sorry!" she cries, waving her hands. "I know you don't – and I'm sorry – are you okay?" Clasping her hands together, the hair sticks caught between her palms, she gives him a truly stricken look. Sherlock realizes he's still standing with arms akimbo at his sides, as though he has no idea what to do with them, and forces his muscles to unlock.

Dimly he hears himself asking, "The bodies?"

"Oh, yes, of course! Um, just this way – well, you know where to go – no need for me to show you around, is there?" Her laugh is brittle and nervous.

Later, when he and his new flatmate are in a taxi headed back to the crime scene, John can apparently hold his tongue no more. Giving Sherlock a sly glance from the corner of his eye, he gleefully inquires, "Married to your work, eh?"

"What was that?"

"You've got the hots for the pathologist!"

Puffing up in outrage, Sherlock rolls his eyes. "Why? Because she is a woman and I am a man, and I bought her a gift? Did it ever occur to you that Molly and I have been working together for several years, and in that time we've become…" He pauses, searching for the right word. "Friendly? She's excellent at what she does, perhaps the best in the country, and she's become absolutely invaluable to my process."

"Invaluable, is it?" John leers. Really, he can make everything into some sort of innuendo.

It's very important that John understand what he has with Molly Hooper is not, nor will it ever be, romantic. Sherlock searches for a way to explain this, and for small enough words that the other man won't become confused. His hands lift in a gesture of frustration. "Must you be so base? She… Molly is…" Though he tries to forget, though even thinking of it makes him float out in a sea of shame, Sherlock rallies himself to speak of how Molly saved him. He stares straight ahead, rigid and unblinking. "She's the only reason I'm clean today."

There's a long moment of profound silence. It ends when John exhales in a heavy gust, something like shame lurking his eyes. "Oh," he says, fingers scrabbling nervously at the denim covering his knee. "Yeah, I think I get it. Sorry, mate, I didn't mean to… I didn't mean anything by it."

For a time there is silence. And then, because John can never let anything drop when it damn well needs to, he shoots Sherlock a searching look and asks, "How? I mean, what did she do?"

Running his tongue over his teeth, Sherlock takes several short, even breathes. Control, he coaches, don't lose your temper. His words come sharp and short. "I was on a case. I wouldn't shoot up because I needed a clear head; withdrawal symptoms began. Molly took me to her home, helped me through it, and saw me off to rehab. She visited every family day, wrote me letters, called once a week to check on me. She believed in me, when even my parents had given up."

"Wow. That's… wow. I just thought, what with the gifts and how obvious her feelings for you are…"

"A remarkably stupid choice for someone of her intelligence; she'll soon move on, I'm sure."

"Yeah, well, sure. But you could, you know, give it a go? Maybe? If she's already seen you at your worst, and it's obvious you're, I dunno, fond of her –"

Sherlock balls his hands into fists on his knees, fighting the urge to do some great violence. Doesn't John understand? Can't he see? Molly Hooper is all that is good and pure in this world, a last bastion of hope and kindness, and he isn't fit to wipe the mud from her shoes. Soiling her would kill him as surely as a bullet to the brain, and he would never, ever, allow her to come to harm. Not from someone else, and certainly not by his hands. "I have no interest in such attachments."

Scratching the back of his neck, John gives him a truly puzzled look. "Come on, Sherlock, you're a man – don't you have urges?"

Blood fills his mouth, a byproduct of biting his tongue. His glare is blistering. "Not everyone is a slave to primitive biological urges."

"You don't even think about it? With anyone, like, men or women or, I dunno, robots, or something?"

I could be a very good girl, Daddy… Sherlock suppresses a shudder. "No," he answers, jaw tight.

The next time he sleeps he dreams of Molly with the water lily clips in her hair, little hands gently smoothing lines of tension and worry from his face. "You make me feel so good, Daddy," she sighs, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "So pretty. I love how you make me feel."

He wakes positively furious, and stays that way for the rest of the day.

-X-

Molly's flat is located in a quiet neighborhood, in an old building that leans a bit to the left and has seen better days. There are pots of flowers lining the steps and surrounding the iron fence that encircles the basement entrance; she's on the ground floor, and when Sherlock arrives the windows of her front room are bright with lamp light, though the curtains are drawn. He's had a key to her place since he left rehab, given to him with nervously darting eyes but a chin set a stubborn angle. "If you ever feel, um, that you might, I dunno, slip up or something, you come over. I'll help, if you'll let me." He's only used it twice, once after buying heroin. He'd brought it with him, laid it on her coffee table and steepled his hands.

She hadn't taken it away or shouted, hadn't hovered or wrung her hands. Instead Molly draped an afghan over his shoulders – it was winter and quite chilly – stoked up a fire, as her aging radiators weren't doing the job. Then she curled up on the other side of the sofa, turned on some mindless crap telly, and just sat with him. When he'd finally decided to speak, listing pros and cons, she listened; her only input was, "I trust you to do the right thing," and then, after a small pause, "even if you slip up, I'm not going to stop trusting you."

They flushed it down the toilet and he slept in her bed, on top of the covers, listening to Molly breathe. He was gone before she awakened and they never spoke of it again, much to his relief.

The second time he used it was to drag her out of bed at something like half three in the morning, insisting she go into the morgue as Simpson was on duty, and the man was on Sherlock's last nerve. She'd grumbled and groaned but dressed and followed him back, yawning her way through the post-mortem of a perfectly healthy seventeen year old boy that dropped dead of a completely random heart attack. (The stepfather was responsible, of course, though proving it would have been very nearly impossible without Molly's help.)

Now is the third time he enters the building (he really wishes she'd move somewhere with some level of security) and slips the key into her door. Most people would at least attempt knocking before barging in, but Sherlock hasn't got the patience for it on a good day, much less now. His pulse is in his throat, hard and painful, demanding that he see with his own eyes that Molly is safe and unharmed.

He steps into the small foyer, little more than a short but broad hall with hooks for hats and jackets, taking the time to lock the door behind him (for all the good it will do if Moriarty returns) before striding into the parlor. "Molly?" His gaze sweeps over the parlor, picks up the day-to-day motions of her life and this horrid disruption; her cat, a new acquisition, is sprawled on the sofa, determinedly ignoring Sherlock. There's no Molly to be found.

Turning, he leaves and crosses the hall to poke his head in her office, but finds it dark and empty. For now he bypasses the staircase and moves beyond it, to the large kitchen that hasn't been updated since something like 1952, and while it's brightly lit and there's a kettle at boil, Molly isn't there. Fighting a rising tide of panic he swiftly retreats, long strides taking the stairs two at a time. He's got one foot on the landing when the bathroom door opens and Molly steps out, rubbing wet hands on the legs of her sweatpants. Her eyes are red and swollen.

For a moment she stares, as though she doesn't quite believe what she's seeing. "Sherlock?"

"Where were you?" he demands, lifting his hands as though he's going to reach out and shake her. "Kettle on, lights on, you nowhere to be found – I thought –" Cutting himself off, Sherlock swallows hard. There's no need to finish that sentence, no need to admit the terrible things running through his head.

"I'm sorry, I had to –" she gestures behind her, blushing as she does so. "The toilet downstairs is leaking again, so I had to come up here. I'm sorry." There's no reason she should be apologizing, none at all, but that's what Molly does. She soothes, calms, mends broken things. He nods, jerkily, before turning and tromping back down. The kettle begins to scream and he heads for it, taking it off the burner and searching out her tea things. Instead of china he pulls out chipped mugs, seeing it's what she prefers to use.

Her footsteps, slow and tired sounding, bring her into the kitchen. She doesn't sit; from the sound of wood creaking, she leans against the back bank of cabinets. "I didn't know you could make tea."

"Of course I can make tea," he answers scathingly.

"And this time I've been bringing you tea and coffee." She gives a forced laugh. "You can bring me some, next time we're in the lab, yeah?"

He doesn't bother to answer.

"Oh, I take –"

"Milk, half a scoop of sugar; I know." With a mug in each hand he turns, carrying them to the table. After he's taken a seat she follows suit, choosing to sit opposite him. While she quietly blows on the steaming liquid, mug held between her palms, Sherlock begins divesting himself of his scarf and coat. Molly watches, silent, her eyes much darker than he's used to.

"John made me watch Doctor Who," he finally says, itching to fill the silence. It's not what he wants to say, which is tell me if he hurt you and I'll make him suffer in ways you can't possibly imagine, but it'll do. Her smile, fragile as it may be, is worth it.

"Yeah?"

"Utter crap. The science is completely off."

"You liked it."

"I didn't say that."

"I've got the start of the reboot on DVD, we should watch it. Or, um, I'll loan it to you."

Snorting, Sherlock rolls his eyes. "I wouldn't bring that into Baker Street for fear of John having some sort of psychotic episode." A pause; he licks his lips, staring down in the milky swirl of his tea. "I'm willing, however, to point out the inaccuracies to you. If you'd like."

"Well, someone needs to properly educate me." The veneer of cheer doesn't crumble, it collapses in on its self and goes up in flames. Tea splashes onto the table when Molly drops her mug, hands covering her eyes as she hunches forward. Her sob is hitched and ugly. "Oh God, Sherlock, oh God; I nearly got you – I nearly got you killed, all because I'm – I'm so stupid and blind and worthless –"

He knows the social constructs of acceptable behavior when a friend has an emotional breakdown: physical contact, soothing words, reassurances. But watching Molly fall apart with fearful self-loathing leaves him utterly blank and terrified, and all he can think is, I'm going to kill the bastard for this.

Desperately, he makes a bid for logic. "Did you strap explosives on John and have snipers trained on us?"

"Oh my God, John had what – and there were snipers?" Dropping her hands, Molly gives him a truly terrified stare before hysteria sets in. She curls in on herself, feet coming to rest on the edge of the chair and she buries her face in her knees and cries as though she's the one that dropped the first atomic bomb. Most of what she's saying is incomprehensible, due to the sobbing and gasping for air. He does pick up a few choice phrases, here and there, however. "Totally useless… desperate slag… I hate myself…"

Hearing such awful things coming from Molly's mouth, and directed at her, jars Sherlock from the dulling effects of shock. He abandons his chair in favor of swooping down to crouch in front of her, prying her arms away from her head; she jerks her face away several times, but eventually he manages to catch her hot cheeks between his palms, making her look at him.

"Don't you dare talk about Molly Hooper that way." He's furious, furious and ashamed that he allowed a monster like Moriarty anywhere near this precious woman and that she's sunk into such a state of self-loathing because of him. "Do you understand me? That woman saved the life of pathetic sociopath out of the kindness of her heart. She's devoted her life to finding justice for the dead and closure for their families. She's strong, kind, and brilliant, and if you say another word about her I'll –" Blowing a long, hot gust of air, Sherlock struggles to finish that thought. Because he hasn't got a clue what he'd do. He wouldn't ever hurt her, no, not on purpose (unless it was to ensure her safety, as that is always paramount), but –

His research comes to mind. Vividly. At once he's consumed by so many emotions that he almost falls back, utterly unable to process them all. But still, his need to protect Molly is overriding, pushing his lightly trembling hand to move, fingers curling into the lush thickness of her glorious hair.

At first the sudden dryness of his mouth makes speech difficult. It feels as though there's a rock in his throat. "Molly," he rasps, pressing his thumb to the angle of her jaw. "Molly, you're a good girl." He tries to pour everything he feels for her into those words, his respect, admiration, and the reverence that drives him halfway into madness. All he wants to do is stop the tears, wash away the look of despair in her eyes and bring a shy little smile back her mouth. He's never bared himself in quite this way, laid himself out in front of a woman that's got the very best part of him in her hands without ever knowing it – as there's never been anyone like Molly before – and he's utterly petrified.

But there's always something he misses, isn't there? A piece that escapes even his laser focus and this time is no different. Instead of slumping onto his shoulder in tearful gratitude or attempting to ask him out on another date (very nearly his worst fear in the moment, as he's not sure he could say no but he's positive he'd utterly devastate her by the end of it), Molly rears back as though she's been burned. Thin nostrils flare and, aside from ruddy spots of rage on her cheeks, the color drains from her face. It leaves her with a rather sickly appearance. New tears form a bright, glittering shield over her eyes and her hands are suddenly on his shoulders; instead of pulling her to him she's pushing him away.

"You bastard," she whispers, beginning to shake in a truly troubling manner. "You utter and complete bastard, how could you, how dare you –" She shoves, hard, and Sherlock does fall onto his bottom, too stunned to catch himself.

"Molly, what – what did I do?" She's scrambling over his sprawled legs, flying out of the kitchen. When she's about to mount the staircase she suddenly circles back.

"What did you do? You – I've done everything I possible could to help you, do you realize that? And I get it, I bloody get it, the great Sherlock Holmes is too good for the likes of me! Or maybe you're just too good for everyone, all right, fine, I can live with it! You're not my end all be all! But for you to – to deduce that about me and – and try and humiliate me when I'm already – when I'm already fucking ripped apart because my own pathetic idiocy nearly got you and your friend killed –"

"Humiliate – what, no, Molly, listen, I wasn't. I was trying to make you feel better!" Scrambling onto his feet, and feeling very much as though the rug has been pulled out from under him, Sherlock chases after her. She's back down the hall, short legs moving at shocking speeds as she practically leaps onto the first stair. He grabs her arm thoughtlessly, desperate to keep her with him, to make her listen. But she's quick to yank herself out of his grasp, whirling around on him.

"Do you not understand the concept of private? That part of my life is private, is – it's not something you can just throw around when you're feeling uncomfortable because I'm having a visible emotion! That's, that's the most private you can get, and – and you know how I feel about you, I know you do, and it's not fair for you to – to say that when you don't understand what it means to me and what it should mean from you –" Blindly backing up several treads, Molly almost trips. Instinctually Sherlock steps up, reaching out to catch her, but she knocks his hands away. A heaving sob rips free from her chest, and she covers her eyes with one hand, the other clinging to the banister. He tries to speak, to explain that of all his failures and faults, this is not one of them; attempts to say that there's nothing in his world more precious and delicate than her and he'd give up his own life to see her safe, but the words jam in his throat. Instead he can only watch as she takes several deep breaths, obviously exerting a great amount of force to regain control.

"You should leave." Dropping her hand, Sherlock's able to see how exhausted and utterly, truly devastated she looks. It makes his heart, that organ he's spent a lifetime ignoring, give a brutal wrench in his chest. So much so that he almost fears he's literally going to topple dead at her feet from a heart attack, brought on by an overload of emotion.

"Molly…"

"Sherlock, please. Please. I know… oh Sherlock, I know you don't understand. I'm sorry I shouted, I'm sorry I said those things, but I can't do this right now. I'm just – I just can't." With heavy, sluggish movements, she turns away. It looks as though the act of lifting her feet up is almost more than she can manage. And for a moment he can't move, is stuck in place as he realizes that this is it, his get out of jail free card, the ultimate chance to save himself before it's too late. All he has to do is let her walk away, turn his back on Molly and leave her flat, to go home to the safety of Baker Street where he's not a raw, bleeding wound of emotion. He wants to, wants to flee as far and as fast as he can, because facing down a madman with a weapon is exhilarating, but this is absolutely bloody terrifying.

Sherlock wavers. His arms hang limp at his sides and his left heel lifts, as though he's going to step back, turn away, walk out of Molly's flat and life and probably even her heart. Because while maybe he can't love, not like other people do, she can and it's clear that for some mad, utterly illogical reason she's carved out a space in her heart for him; it's dangerous and stupid, it could get her killed or far, far worse, but the thought of Molly moving on makes a literal, physical pain lance through his chest. And so before he's fully aware of moving, Sherlock is hurling himself up the treads. She's not far down the upstairs hall now, head lowered and shoulders hunched, arms clearly wrapped around her stomach. The sound of the top most stair tread groaning causes her to pause.

He grabs her before she's got time to look back, to push him away. Their feet tangle together and they stumble, trip and knock into a table before his back slams against the wall and he braces them both there. Molly's staring up at him, mouth open and words on her tongue, but before she can speak them he slashes his mouth across hers – too forcefully, as their teeth clack together. She's gone rigid against his body, and he's furious because all he's ever wanted is soft, willing, happy Molly; he tries to lift his head, but suddenly there are four fingertips against his jaw, freezing him in place. He doesn't even dare to breathe.

Hesitantly, as though she's afraid he's going to bolt at any second, Molly strokes the side of his face and tentatively kisses him. The movement is a question more than anything else. "I do understand," he murmurs against her mouth, soundlessly. She pulls back, tongue swiping across her lips as though she's gathering up his taste and savoring it. "I do understand," he repeats aloud.

It's not pity in her eyes, which would shame Sherlock into bolting and never, ever returning, but a bone deep sadness that makes him feel as though he's as heavy as a lead brick. "Do you really?" she questions, running a hand down his chest. It comes to a stop over his heart, that muscle that pumps blood and isn't the seat of emotion, don't be ridiculous – "It's not a chemical analysis, Sherlock, or – or a crime scene that you can pick up clues from. Please don't think I'm judging you or that I'm angry, because I swear I'm not; but we're all wired differently, I know we are, and you're perfect as you are, so – it's okay. It's okay not to understand. But please don't… don't give me false hope. I can handle anything but that."

Carefully, as though she might burn him, Sherlock touches her cheek, the soft skin in front of her ear. His thoughts are jumble, a mass of knots and tangles that he's furiously trying to work out in a coherent line. She's able to see that he's trying to work it out, knows what the distant haze to his eyes means, and Molly simply rests her forehead against his chest and waits. This act, so simple and yet so meaningful after a lifetime of being pushed and prodded to speak, to explain, to make sense to 'normal' people, is more poignant to Sherlock than any cheesy romantic declaration.

When he's gathered his thread of thought, slotted the words into place, he begins to speak. "Maybe I don't understand it as you do, maybe it doesn't mean the same things, but I do… I think about you. Not all the time, that would be absurd and indicative of a troubling state of mind, I think on that we can agree; but I do think of you. And I… I don't know why, but I just want to see you happy." Carefully he presses a fingertip the corner of her eye, thinking of how it crinkles when she laughs, when she smiles, when she's having pleasant thoughts.

When several fat tear drops drip free, tracing new paths down Molly's already raw cheeks, Sherlock becomes rigid. "Good or bad?"

She laughs, swiping a hand across her face. "Good," she assures him. "You've made me cry very good tears."

"It's not – I'm not – I'm no one's boyfriend. I never could be. But I am your… friend..." Even the word tastes funny in his mouth, and sends a jolt of shock through his nervous system. "And as your friend, I have the desire and capability to help you. To give you what you need to end this foolish sense of responsibility and guilt you have over James Moriarty's actions. But only if you'll let me; if you want me to."

Sherlock's heart is in his throat, but he waits, giving her time to think it over as she had given him the same consideration just minutes earlier. He's readying himself to gather his coat and scarf, to leave and never, ever bring this subject back up again, because he's positive there's no way Molly Hooper is going to want to – she probably doesn't even truly understand what he's offering –

"Okay." She's staring down, into the space between their bodies. Her voice is so soft Sherlock almost doesn't catch it.

He blinks. "You're sure?"

"Only if you are." She's chewing on her lower lip when she looks up, something quite like fear written across her painfully expressive face. Sherlock nods and, as though someone else is piloting his body, he watches as he puts a hand to the small of her back and guides her into walking.

They go to her bedroom.

-X-

Molly stands with her hands twisting together in a constant motion of anxiety, watching Sherlock with dark (hungry) eyes in quick bursts, before her gaze darts off to look anywhere but. In turn he does all in his power to seem perfectly in control, confident with this decision and what he plans on doing to – and with – the pathologist that has become such a fixture in his life. He removes his suit jacket, neatly folding the garment so it won't wrinkle, and lays it across Molly's vanity chair; after catching her eye he rolls up his sleeves, warmth blazing through his stomach as she flushes and grows still. He sits on the edge of the bed and unties first his left shoe, slides it off, and repeats the process before sitting them neatly in front of her nightstand; now he moves himself to the middle of her double bed, rearranging pillows so he can lean, comfortably, with cushions between his back and the iron rails of the headboard. Folding his hands together under his chin, Sherlock gives Molly a small nod and one word: "Undress."

Her mouth opens, and for a moment he expects her to protest. But she's always been so very brave and strong, his Molly, and so after a moment she takes a deep, bracing breath before pulling her jumper over her head. Next comes an old t-shirt, much too large for her and depicting a 90s boyband. She isn't wearing a bra and it causes Sherlock to suck in a breath quite without meaning to; for deposits of fat meant to provide nourishment to infants, they're rather… lovely. Lastly she rucks down her sweatpants and underwear in one go, and he has to smile when a foot gets stuck in the elastic hem, forcing her to hop on one foot as she attempts to regain her balance.

"I swear I'm not always this clumsy," she laughs, a sound of exasperation and embarrassment. "I just – you just make me…" As she trails off she shrugs, and splays a hand over her stomach. Sherlock feels as though the need to touch Molly, to take away her nervousness and shyness, is going to drown him. So he reaches out, offering his hand instead of words. She's quick to step to the bedside and place her hand in his. Sherlock has to pause a moment in awe of the delicate bone structure under her pale skin, how slender her fingers are, and how deft he knows they can be when she's working. Everyday they're faced with death, much of it through violence, and yet they remain gentle.

"I'm sorry, I – I didn't shave my legs, I didn't know –" One hand self consciously rubs the side of her thigh.

Sherlock shakes his head. "I don't care." Unable to keep his eyes from dropping, he takes in the hair between her thighs, darker than that on her head but full of auburn lights. He wants to touch and, with a shock of desire, realizes that he can. He runs a knuckle down the dip where her thigh and hip meet, before threading his fingers through softly curling thatch. The soft whimper that escapes Molly is more erotic than any pornography Sherlock has ever witnessed.

He nestles the pad of his thumb at the very top of her slit. "Do you have a particular safe word you'd like to use?"

The negative shake of her head is short. "N-no. Whatever you – it's whatever you want."

"Hmm... cerebellum?"

She gives a startled, giddy laugh. "Quite possibly the most interesting safe word I've used."

"Unsuitable?"

"Um, it's actually rather fantastic. I'll certainly remember it."

The nagging of his conscience, a wholly uncomfortable and rare experience, forces Sherlock to ask one last time. "Molly, be sure. I don't want you to regret this… or expect something I'm unable to give you."

Molly reaches out, her palm warm against his cheek. "I'm quite sure… but do you want this?" she questions. "I don't want you to have regrets, either."

"I believe you know me well enough to know that if I was opposed to being here, I simply wouldn't be." He smiles and she returns it. The nerves causing discord in his stomach and tightening his throat dissipate, leaving a warm calm. In the end, all he's doing is helping Molly; there's no sin or selfishness in that. Turning his head, he presses a kiss on her palm, enjoying the way she startles at the contact. "Then we shall begin. Molly, lie across my lap, face down."

With a deep, bracing breath, Molly places her so recently kissed hand on his shoulder for balance. Up goes one knee, pressing onto the mattress, before the other follows suit. She stretches herself out, folding her arms into a pillow for her head. It becomes difficult for Sherlock to maintain his even breathing, seeing the long, bare lines of her body laid out in supplication to him. Swallowing, he gathers up her hair, eyes closing at the sensation of the thick weight of it in his fist. The urge to bend down and bury his nose in it is nearly overpowering, but somehow he prevails in simply moving the mass to fan out on the mattress behind her turned head; though he does take the time to gently remove the band holding it back. Once it's entirely free, he's struck with the realization that she's given him permission to touch her, to do as he will with her body, and that in this unbelievable stretch of time Sherlock doesn't have to keep himself from acting on any desire he may have.

It takes a moment of focusing on his breathing and heart rate to maintain control; it also takes a stern reminder that they aren't here for his pleasure (but wouldn't it make her feel good, make her happy, to serve him…? Shut up, shut up, shut up; he viciously slams the door on that particular train of thought), but to help Molly deal with and move past her guilt for her unknowing association with James Moriarty. In the end it really has nothing to do with Sherlock, and everything to do with her.

Still, it wouldn't hurt to indulge, just a moment…

Sherlock gently cards his fingers through the loose mass of Molly's hair. He admires how, in the low lamplight, bright shades of copper and vermilion blaze against the lower tones of warm browns. In his lap, Molly sighs and muscles grow lax, specifically in her back and neck. Of course he takes note of this, sees that he is not the only one that enjoys this and finds a reason to continue; she's relaxing, slowly becoming pliant. He burrows his fingers into the hair just above her scalp, massaging and scratching with his blunt nails until she gives a gusting sigh and her thighs tremble before opening slightly.

He could do this for hours, play with Molly's hair while she grows soft and warm, her eyes drooping and becoming heavy. It would be nice to lull her into sleep and then lay down beside her, wrap her in the safety of his body and guard her against nightmares and bad memories. Sherlock's never pretended to be something as noble as a guardian, but for Molly, maybe –

Quickly abandoning that train of thought, he begins stroking her back in long, smooth movements. They off-set the brutal honesty of his deductions as he begins to speak: "You feel responsible for actions of James Moriarty. Why? Because you fell into the trap he laid for you, and it makes you feel ignorant and pathetic. You're ashamed and, yes, angry that you thought you would use your relationship with 'Jim from IT' to taunt me, to perhaps make me jealous –" Molly tries to rear up, her chin trembling; Sherlock forces her upper body back down.

"It hurts you to hear me say this," he confirms, one hand below the nape of her neck and exerting just enough pressure to keep her lying almost flat. The other flattens on the small of her back, stroking several small circles before sweeping down to her bottom. "Yes? But you've already agreed to play with me, Molly, and I'm holding you to it; good girls don't break promises, now do they? Hmm?" She shakes her head, a small motion.

Using the same tone that one might use to coax an angry toddler into calming down, Sherlock insists, "Use your words, Molly. Tell me."

"I promised," she whispers.

"Yes, good girl, you did. And you're not going to disappoint me, are you?"

Her respiration becomes uneven. The muscles of her thighs start to tighten, before she catches herself in the motion and forces them into an unnatural stillness. Sherlock has to fight back an utterly enraptured smile. "No, da – Sherlock." Of course he catches her not quite slip-up, and it's his respiration that becomes unpredictable.

"What was that?" The curve where her arse meets her thigh is particular soft and tender, and so it's here he pinches, enjoying the way Molly jumps.

"N-nothing."

"Molly, I think you know better than to try lying to me. I'll have to make this punishment of yours twice as hard if you persist." It's possible he sounds a bit too gleeful about that prospect, but if she's not going to call him on it…

Using her forearms to keep balance, she pushes her upper body off the bed, twisting to get a good look at his face. "Punishment?" Her pupils are growing even as she speaks the word. Ah, here's a small motion she can't control, a wiggle that has her hips pressing against the meat of Sherlock's thigh.

"Oh yes, a punishment; you feel as though you've done something wrong and I'm going to punish you for it. By the time I'm finished you'll have worked out all your guilt on the topic, as I intend to be thorough." He takes just a moment to enjoy the way her flush spreads from her face to her neck, and then further down. Worming a hand between her arm and her body, Sherlock finds her breast. At first he caresses her nipple, head tipping as he watches her response, before he takes it between two fingers and thumb, giving a sharp twist. Molly yelps, shudders, and drops her head – Sherlock grins once she can't see, feeling it stretch wide and almost maniacal across his mouth. "I expect an answer when I ask you a question. What did you almost call me?"

"I d-don't –"

He smacks her ass, hard enough to make a burning sensation radiate from his palm into his fingers. Not that he's at all concerned or entirely aware of it, not when he has Molly curling her knees and pushing her bottom up as though she's offering herself up to him. Intending to gauge an estimate on precisely how much she responds to the application of pain, he lightly strokes between her legs. She moans and he stops breathing entirely for a moment, before he's scrambling for the pillow he'd tossed by his feet as he'd thought it unneeded. Once it's in hand he pulls on Molly's hips until she lifts them, allowing him to insert the pillow underneath; it props her hips up at an angle that allows him to see the welcoming peak of slick pink flesh between her thighs.

"Quite responsive, aren't you?" he murmurs approvingly, repeating the slow slide of his fingers – except that this time he sets a fingertip against her clit and begins to apply maddeningly light pressure. "I'd almost think you're eager, that you've been, hmm, wanting me to touch you? Spank you? But that can't be right, as you're a good girl. Or are you bad, Molly? Maybe you are, maybe you're a very bad girl, as you won't even answer one simple question –"

"Daddy," she pleads, fisting the duvet under them. It forces a shaking groan from Sherlock, makes his world wobble and title on its axis. There's an unfamiliar sensation rising up, causing a static hum in the very back of his head and making his vision very sharp. The moment becomes very clear, as do his actions; he's going to hurt Molly to purge her, to give her pleasure; he's going to make her scream and cry and beg, and by the end of it she'll be wrung out, exhausted, and as fragile as a newborn. So he'll wrap her up, protect her, hide her from the world and keep her safe –

Hoarsely he announces, "That's right, Molly. Your Daddy's going to spank your pretty white arse until you beg for mercy. You've been such a bad girl, cavorting with my arch-nemesis to make your Daddy jealous. You're not going to sit for a week when I'm through with you, little girl."

"Oh God, Daddy, yes, please. Please punish me, I need you to, please Daddy, please…"

Abandoning her pussy, Sherlock begins. His strikes aren't terribly hard, not in the beginning; research and logic indicate a build up is best. Molly is turning her face into the mattress, moaning and jumping as her bum begins to turn a warm pink.

What Sherlock hadn't expected was the effect that paddling her bottom would have on him. He's more painfully aroused than he can ever recall being in his life, with his erection pressing uncomfortably against his zip and throbbing with his pulse. He's hyperaware of Molly, of each panting breath she takes and each whimper that leaves her mouth. There's a strange new feeling sweeping over him, the static reverberating in the back of his skull growing louder and more intense.

"Oh, harder, Daddy, please," Molly begs so very prettily, turning her head so he can see one red cheek and a tear glazed brown eye. "Make me feel it, Daddy, make me – oh God, oh God, oh fuck, Daddy –" A particularly resounding slap results in a wail, and Sherlock is dimly shocked as laughter swells up his throat before bursting out. He's burning, tingling all over, high on the pleasure of control and punishment and oh, sweet, pretty Molly, crying into the bed sheets as he beats her bottom and upper thighs with open handed strikes until her flesh is red and undoubtedly burning. It's better than the distant, clinical experimentations with sex in university; better than a needle in his vein, the chemical burn of heroin searing through his blood and sweeping him away to a world that's no so overwhelming; maybe even better than solving complex crimes, better than unraveling an unbreakable knot of mystery and lies. He's awash with flashes of thoughts, of fantasies, of all the ways he could torture his little girl now that he knows how very good it can be.

Molly begins to weep as through her heart has been broken. Again he laughs, spreads his burning hand across the flaming globes of her bottom to smooth gentle caresses on the abused flesh. "I'm sorry, Daddy," she's sobbing, her entire body shaking. "I was so bad, so very bad, and I'm so sorry – I'll never do it again, I swear, I promise I'll be good, I'll be your good girl –"

He strokes the small of her back, her side, and one hot cheek, and then he licks her tears from his stinging fingers. If he were smart he'd curl around Molly, hold her against his chest and let her cry it out, keep her safe as she begins to float down from the headspace she's so clearly entered. He should take care of her and then leave, set the locks behind him and do his very best to delete this memory from his mind. But he's enraptured with the picture she presents, and against his better judgment he runs his knuckles up the inside of one thigh. Pushing her legs further apart, he appreciates the view before cupping her pussy in one big hand; immediately Molly pushes back, babbling something inaudible into the duvet.

"Naughty thing, what's this? Hmm? Tell Daddy what he's found."

"Daddy found my cunt." She's whimpering, shifting her hips and trying to gain some sort of friction. And she's so amazingly, delectably wet; Sherlock is very nearly overcome with a need to taste, to lie on his back and pull her over him, to pull her thighs to either side of his face and drink from body until she begs him to stop because he's given her too much pleasure.

"That's right; what a clever girl I've got. Yes, I've found this sweet little cunt, and it's so very wet, isn't it?" He exhales in a hard gust, as he's pushed his middle finger into the yearning, needing heat of Molly's body. She shudders in the most delightful way, crying out moments before her muscles clamp around the intruding digit. "Oh yes, good girl, good Molly, that's the way. You were so good, so very brave, and took your punishment just like a good girl should. So do you what get now? Hmm? You get a treat. Tell Daddy, my Molly, are you familiar with g-spot orgasms?" He adds a second finger and gives Molly several hard, sharp thrusts, grinning as she keens and grinds her hips against his thigh in an attempt to satisfy the throbbing of her neglected clit.

"Y-yes, Daddy. Oh, oh hard, like that – it's so good, Daddy, so good; I've dreamed about your hands, your beautiful hands, spanking my arse and then fucking me, just like this…"

Sherlock comes very close to losing every scrap of self-control he's got. His muscles are strung so taut that he's shaking with the sheer force of his want, but instead of slipping out from under Molly and taking her from behind – as he'd very, very much like to do at the moment – he rests his arm across the small of her back to hold her in place… and then he curls his fingers. It's true that he's never been truly interested in sex, or at least not outside of the confines of his own mind, as physically it's always so very… messy and uncoordinated, but Molly brings something beastly out in him.

Locating the g-spot isn't as terribly difficult as he's been led to believe; even a basic understanding of the female body makes it only a matter of taking the time to do so. The rather gratifying result is a high, shocked wail leaping from Molly, even as her body spasms. It's almost as though she's attempting to curl in on herself. "I thought you were familiar with your Gräfenburg gland?"

"I – oh fuck, Daddy, Jesus Christ – yes, but in theory –" She tries to rise up, to look back up him, but Sherlock gives a devious twist of his fingers that results in her upper body collapsing back to the mattress. He begins to experiment, varying the pressure, the strokes used, cataloguing every reaction he wrings from his girl. He could torture her, yes, bring her high and keep her in an agonized state of pleasure that bleeds into pain – and how he wants to. Yes, to hang Molly over the precipice and dangle her until she's utterly mindless, until he's remolded her into a creature born of lust and submission would bring him the fiercest pleasure imaginable. Just the thought of it has him groaning, stretching out one long arm to gather up a fistful of her hair. He pulls, hard enough to make her neck strain and have her clawing at the duvet.

"Do you have any idea what I could do to you?" There's an edge to his voice that sounds far more like madness than he's ever going to be comfortable admitting. "Precious little girl, I could break you in a thousand different ways and you'd beg me to, wouldn't you, Molly? Because this is what you've wanted for so long, for ages – did you think I didn't know? What a mean, awful girl you were, smiling at me, bringing me coffee, fetching my things; I could have taken you in the lab anytime I wanted, with John right there, and you'd have let me. I wanted to, wanted to make you scream and beg and cry such pretty, pitiful tears while I held your delicate throat in my hands. Wanted to push you against the centrifuge and tug those hideous trousers off, kick your legs wide apart and bury my face in between; I'd make you howl for your Daddy, loud enough that the students and all your co-workers that think you're plain, boring, mousy Molly Hooper would know what a filthy little girl you really are."

"Daddy, oh God, Sherlock –" She's sobbing, writhing across his lap as he so deftly plays her body. "Yes, take me, any way you want, any way – use me, God, please, use my body, my cunt, it's yours, Daddy, all yours –"

Sherlock is gasping for air, pulse throbbing cruelly in his temples and cock as he gives a vicious tug to sweet Molly's beautiful hair, pressing hard against that sensitive little spot hidden inside her body. "Fuck," he bites off, baring his teeth every muscle inside Molly ripples before clamping down. She's wailing, now, legitimately screaming in high, wordless cries as she presses her pelvis further into the air, forcing his fingers to dig harder into her flesh. There's a glorious, hot gush as she orgasms, thighs attempting to clamp closed on Sherlock's hand as he groans and laughs and curses, abandoning her g-spot in favor of brutally finger fucking her through her climax.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Daddy!" Weeping pleas and praise and nonsense, Molly convulses.

"That's it, my girl, my good little baby girl, come all over Daddy's hand. Yes, Molly, like that, just like that – sweet thing, precious thing –" Setting his thumb against her clit results in another flood of liquid and more shrieks. He could do this all night, right up until she passed out, and maybe he will – she's his, after all, his little girl and if Daddy wants to use her until she breaks, then he can –

"Please, Dadddy, please stop; oh my God, oh my God, my pussy, Jesus, Jesus help me –" Taking pity on Molly, he extracts his slick hand and rests it on her flaming bum. He strokes, delighted with the way she shakes and shivers at his merest touch, and finds himself chuckling when she rolls (bonelessly flops, rather) onto her back. She's on his knees, now, and he lifts them slightly, laughter growing louder when she whines and clambers to a position where she's not lying across his legs.

Watching her now, trembling and red faced, dripping with sweat and tears and come, Sherlock makes the conscious decision to give into his body's demands. He could clean her up and walk away, there's no doubt in this, but he doesn't want to… and that really makes all the difference in the world. Heedless of things like buttons being torn off and pulled seams, he begins to shed his clothing. He groans when his erection is freed, head knocking against the metal of the headboard as he lifts his hips and hastily pushes down his trousers and pants. Undoubtedly he's an undignified mess as he kicks them down his legs, yanking them off and tossing them to the floor. One sock is stripped off in the process, but he really hasn't got the patience to deal with the second.

She's lying on her side, curled up, with her legs towards the head of the bed. Breathing hard, he takes her ankles in his hands and drags her further down, forcing her legs open. Rocking onto his knees he bends over her, maps the shape of her calves and thighs with his broad palms before lowering his head and tasting. He licks a hot stripe from her knee to the middle of her thigh, then sets his teeth against the flesh and does his best to leave a mark in his wake. "Going to brand you," he groans against her skin, turning his head and repeating the process on the other leg. "Going to cover you in me, so every movement you make leaves you sore and aching, so all you can think about is your Daddy and how I fucked you blind." She moans, a wavering sound that makes his blood crest hard in his veins.

"Hands behind your head," he orders, and then bites the tender flesh at the top of her thigh. He looks up her body, admires her soft, quivering stomach and the hard points of her nipples, the sharp rise of her chin as she hastily obeys. "I'll beat you until you can't walk if you move those hands, Molly. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Daddy, yes – holy shit!" Her knees jump when he opens his mouth against her cunt, and he forces his arms under her legs before taking a strong grip on her thighs to hold her open. She's soaked from the pleasure he gave her, and the taste of her is thick and heavy and more addicting than any man-made drug. The sounds he makes are, oh, they're almost inhuman, more animal than man; but he can't force them, doesn't want to, because she's the best thing in the world and he could drown in her and die happy. He takes her clit between his teeth and sucks, digs his fingers tight into the flesh of her thighs, fighting against the involuntary reflexes that has her legs attempting to push closed; he licks her from bottom to top, groaning, nipping the tender skin of her labia minoria and grinning ferociously against her when she jerks and howls; he fucks his girl with his tongue, spots flashing behind his closed eyes as she wails and shivers and gives him even more delicious pussy juice to lap up.

When she's dancing on the edge of another orgasm, so close that he can feel the ripples and pulls of her internal muscles, he moves up her body. "Daddy, no, please, please…" Molly begs, but he holds her hips down and sucks livid red marks onto her soft belly and then pauses to admire them. His tongue traces the path of her renal arteries across her upper stomach; further up he learns the shape and weight of her sweet breasts, the texture of her nipples against his tongue and the roof of his mouth. By now he's shaking, damp curls sticking to his forehead and neck and all he wants is to press inside and discover what it feels like to be wrapped in the blessed, forgiving warmth of his Molly.

Her fingers are knotted into her hair, clinging to the tangled strands in the way he imagines she'd like to be holding onto him. The picture she presents is so wonderfully endearing that he can't keep himself from holding the side of her face and kissing her, licking his way into her mouth and letting her taste herself on his tongue. Whimpering, hips lifting, she kisses him as though she wants to be devoured, to fall into his body and hide behind his ribs, and if Sherlock could he'd push her into him and keep her safe from harm for the rest of her life.

"I'm going to fuck you," he whispers against her mouth, licks up the line of her jaw. "Do you want that, my Molly? Hmm? Do you want Daddy to fuck you?"

"God, yes, please," she's straining against his body, hips pushing and lifting in supplication. "Oh Daddy, please, please give me your cock, I need it, I need it so bad…"

Pushing into Molly is like coming home; it's his armchair beside the fireplace at Baker Street, his childhood bed, the nook under the staircase where he watched his parents dance to old records in the dead of night; it's everything he never knew he wanted and swore he didn't need, and it brings tears to his eyes when he's fully seated inside her. "My precious girl," he croaks, gathering her up, tight against him. "Hold me, Molly, with your arms, your legs – tight, don't let go. Don't you dare let go." She's clinging to him when he pulls them up, rocks back so he's holding her in his lap and she's curled all around him, over him, her face in his neck as she digs her fingers into his hair and weeps as though she's come home after an absence she thought would never end.

He's not slow or gentle, because he can't be, because he needs his Molly too much and she needs the imprint of his fingerprints on her hips and back. It feels like forever and maybe it is, but maybe it's not; time is irrelevant, meaningless as she holds to him with such a frightful desperation that he can't keep from choking on a hoarse cry as he viciously pulls her down, hard, harder, his hips lifting as Sherlock sees flashes of golden light as he spills inside the welcoming warmth of his girl.

Molly kisses his face, his neck, his shoulder; she runs her hands along the straining muscles of his back and licks away his sweat; and for perhaps the first time in his entire life, Sherlock Holmes is utterly and completely, deliriously, happy.

-X-

Sherlock is stroking Molly's wet, sweet smelling hair from her peaceful face when his mobile rings. It's muffled, seeing as it's tangled in his trouser pocket and discarded on the floor, and he can't keep from scowling at hearing such an unwelcome noise. It's an intrusion, a call back to reality, and he doesn't want a damn thing to do with it. Still, in favor of keeping the noise from waking her, he slips from the bed and recovers his phone. The screen is lit up with a picture of John asleep on the couch, equations drawn across his face in black marker, as well as his mobile number.

Swiping his thumb across it to the answer the call, Sherlock paddles into the hallway, pulling the bedroom shut behind him as he goes. "Yes?" he answers, trying and failing to keep the irritation from his voice.

"Where the hell are you?" John sounds panicked and angry. Why would John be – oh. Right. He did bolt off rather frantically, after Lestrade mentioned he'd interviewed Molly Hooper about her connection to Jim Moriarty. And there is also the business of an insane mad man that attempted to blow them to hell and back only a few hours ago. "I've been calling for ages, filled up your bloody voicemail, thanks so bloody much for answering and letting me know Moriarty didn't take you hostage again!"

"Don't be absurd," Sherlock snaps, rubbing a hand across his forehead; hell, he really is going to have to deal with this all, isn't he? "I'm at Molly Hooper's."

"Oh – oh. Yeah, shit, Jim from IT. I should have known that's where you ran off to. Hey, listen, how's she doing? She's not hurt, is she?"

Not in anyway John would understand. "Not as such. She's… shook up." Mouth twitching, Sherlock locks eyes with her cat, who is standing in the hallway all fluffed up and growling very quietly. It looks like an angry dust mite. "Naturally so, I'd say. She asked me to stay a while. I won't be home for a while more; she's sleeping, and I imagine it would frighten her if I was gone when she woke."

"Would it make her feel better if I came over? Trained solider in the house, might make her sleep better."

"No." Yes, well, it's possible he answers too sharply, but he's quite sure John will chalk it up to his general behavior and leave it there. "It's fine. We're fine."

There's a rather lengthy pause, and Sherlock swears he can hear Lestrade giggling like a school girl in the background. For heaven's sake, does John have him on speaker phone? "Yeah, I get it." There's a particularly sly tone to his flatmate's words that make Sherlock roll his eyes towards the ceiling in frustration. "You almost died, there's a pretty girl that's interested in you; maybe if you ask nicely she'll let you kip in her bed. Maybe you'll even have your first kiss, mate."

Lestrade snorts. Damn them both – if they had any idea of exactly what he'd been doing with Molly, they'd probably die of shock. Of course, the mere thought of them knowing sends blind, seizing panic tearing through him.

"Are you finished?" he demands in a clipped tone. "I've got a Jeremy Kyle marathon to be getting back to, since you're talking absolute nonsense –"

"Yeah, yeah; sorry. Hey, let Molly know if she ever gets jumpy or something and you're busy, I'd be happy to sit over with her. Has to beat watching telly with Mrs. Hudson, right?"

"Mmm. I'll pass it on." Ending the call, Sherlock opens the door to Molly's room and steps inside. Her cat streaks in ahead of him, leaping onto the bed and deftly climbing onto Molly's back. She doesn't move, even when the creature walks several circles before curling up in a buzzing ball of contentment between her shoulders.

Turning his phone on silent, he tosses it to the nightstand before clicking her lamp off and climbing under the covers. He doesn't wrap around Molly, though there's absolutely a part of him that would very much like to; instead he lays on his side, facing her, the fingers of one hand playing with her hair. After they'd somewhat recovered, he'd helped her stumble into the bathroom and given them both a quick shower, propping Molly against the tiled wall as she was still very much lodged in a dreamy state that left her pliable and able only to follow his directions, as well as being too wobbly to stand on her own. After he gave her paracetamol and fetched the ice pack she keeps for her back, which he knows aches terribly after long days on a step-stool performing autopsies; he'd wrapped it in a towel and lain it lengthwise across her bottom and the tops of her thighs after she laid down.

"I wasn't lying when I said I couldn't be your boyfriend." It's useless, whispering his confession to Molly when she's out cold, exhausted both mentally and physically. Still, he needs to say it – and Sherlock knows that, deep down, he's far too much of a coward to say it to her face. "I'd break you, Molly Hooper; I would break you so thoroughly and completely that you'd never be yourself again. But I'll always protect you. Especially from myself."

But, for just a while, he can sleep with her warmth at his side and her scent in his nose; for just this once, Sherlock Holmes can be a normal man, falling asleep beside the woman that, if he had the capability to love, he would undoubtedly devote his life to.