Hello again! I know I always need AGES to update (literally), that's why I really can't say this often enough: I sincerely thank you all for still reading, following and favouriting, it means a lot to me. And thank you, Lovely whim, for your kind review :)

A/N: This is settled one week after the last chaper, hence one week after the end of "The Sign Of Three", I hope you'll enjoy reading.

Different

During the last seven days Sherlock had tried his best to escape boredom while John was on his 'sex holiday' with Mary and for the sake of Mrs Hudson's wallpaper the detective had even agreed to take on cases that hadn't been worth his time, each of them a 4 at best. A lousy occupation, but different than usual he was thankful for any kind of diversion. His mind was still as sharp as always but whenever he wasn't working, a certain pathologist kept creeping into his thoughts. Her scent, the way she moved, the touch of her skin, the caring look in her eyes; every detail was literally etched in his brain and flickered in his mind's eye at every available opportunity.

The detective was pacing about the flat, trying to silence his mind while hoping Lestrade would text him a great case any second, but then his gaze caught the lab equipment scattered on the kitchen table. 'Molly,' he suddenly mumbled to himself.

Much to Sherlock's discontent, his recent visits at the morgue had been anything but productive, the yield of body parts for the sake of his experiments had become unsatisfactory. With Molly taking the whole week off, her substitute had neither been as understanding nor as generous.

He suddenly picked up his mobile phone, reading through his last text conversation with the pathologist.

Sent 11:02 a.m.: Molly, why are you not in the morgue? SH

Sent 11:02 a.m.: Your substitute is an incompetent, arrogant moron. SH

Sent 12:14 a.m.: Molly, are you ignoring my texts? Where are you? SH

Received 13:11 p.m.: Sorry that Vince had been rude to you, Sherlock, but bear with him until I'm back. I need some time to myself now, please understand. M

Respecting her wish, Sherlock had refrained from any contact, the desire for solitude was something he could understand more than anyone else – but this was Molly after all. Why would she so suddenly close herself off like that? He didn't like not knowing. And now, six days after her last message, he couldn't deny he found himself longing for a sign from her. The current lack of a good case or experiments to occupy his brain only further reinforced her presence in his thoughts. He needed clarity.


Molly had just sat down on her couch, taking a sip of the freshly brewed tea while she was staring at the telly, her mind blank. A sudden knock at the door made her wince and she put the tea cup down on the coffee table. Whoever it was would leave again quickly, she hoped; she rolled her eyes at the second second knock.

'Molly, I know you're home, I'm coming in.'

For a split second she froze in shock but then quickly jumped off the couch and just stood still. If she hadn't already recognized his voice, she still could have easily identified the uninvited visitor when she heard keys slowly unlocking the door – other than herself, there was only one person who had a key to her flat and she now regretted not having claimed it back after all this time.

'Sherlock,' she sighed.

The detective closed the door behind him and slowly approached her.

'Sorry for intruding like that, I kno-'

'This better be important,' she sounded annoyed, yet a certain sadness echoed in her voice. 'If you just came here because Vince refrains to-'

'No,' he interrupted her. 'Actually I...it's about...something else,' he frowned.

Molly's face suddenly froze and she instantly regretted her harsh tone. No matter what her emotional state was right now, she knew it wasn't his fault. Her feelings and the resulting consequences had to be dealt with by herself alone. Sherlock was her friend after all.

'I, uh, didn't mean to...I am sorry,' her face softened, equally did her voice. 'W-what did you want to talk about?'

It was the moment he started to eye her head to toe: she was wearing a petrol longsleeve along with grey sweatpants and pink flower-patterned socks, her hair tied up into a messy bun. Not the first time he saw her so casually dressed, yet he now found the sight rather calming for some reason. But the first thing he had noticed was something he wouldn't dare to address just now – suddenly it all made sense.

'Mh,' Sherlock cleared his throat and lowered his gaze to the floor, obviously not knowing how to start.

A few seconds had passed and Molly started to worry about how he was struggling. 'Oh my, is something wrong? Did something happen?!'

'No – no!' he finally said as he looked back up at her. 'Forgive me...I didn't mean to worry you...I...just...uh.' He lightly shook his head and she suddenly realized how different he was. The unusual hesitation when he spoke, his body language; he seemed tense. 'I...', he continued, ' I couldn't help but...wondering if you were doing well.'

Molly bit her lower lip as his gaze suddenly intensified. 'You...you came here to check if I was alright?' She certainly didn't expect this to be the reason for his visit but it touched her nonetheless.

'Actually yes,' his voice was calm, yet it was obvious his muscles tensed up a bit more. 'Since you took the whole week off so suddenly, I...I just needed to be sure everything was alright. I know you had asked for privacy and I apologize for intruding, I shall leave now if you wish to be alone.'

'No, it's...it's alright Sherlock, and thank you. I am fine, really.' She knew he could easily tell that the latter wasn't true while he was actually just grateful for the implied invitation to stay. 'Would you like some tea?'

'Oh, uh...no, thanks,' he politely declined.

As they then just kept standing in Molly's living room and silently faced each other, they both could literally feel how a certain tension was arising. One that wasn't unfamiliar between the two, one that they had been sensing almost constantly since Sherlock had returned after his faked death – but why did this tension now seem even more perceptible?

Sherlock lightly clenched his fists after a few seconds of silence had passed. 'You look different,' he then suddenly stated. The words just slipped out and he was somehow confused by his own statement, but he felt the need to break the silence; mainly to suppress this sudden urge to hold her ins his arms.

Molly swallowed hard, forcing back the upcoming tears. 'Really? How so?' A weak smile played around the corners of her mouth but faded again quickly.

He bit his lips when he realized his gaze had wandered to her hands and he instantly drew it back at her face before taking a deep breath. 'You are physically exhausted, you don't sleep enough,' he then noted in his usual deduction mode.

The pathologist sighed; her thoughts had indeed kept her awake most of the recent nights.

'And you've lost two pounds,' Sherlock continued.

'You are right,' she admitted. 'And those two pounds included my engagement ring.'

'Molly-'

'Don't make jokes, I know,' she sighed. 'Sorry, I should find a better way to cope, that wasn't really appropriate.' Being heartbroken was one thing, but causing a beloved person's heartbreak she could hardly handle, she was riven by guilt.

Sherlock's heart sank as he could hear the sadness in her voice and he looked at the floor for a moment. 'That's not what I wanted to say,' he clarified, sounding almost a little shy, as he fixed his eyes on hers again.

'I know.' She darted an acknowledging look at him. 'I, um...I just need some time but...some day it'll be alright, Sherlock. I know you've noticed since you'd walked in and I anyway have to get used to...admitting and eventually telling people about it.'

'I am sorry, Molly.' His words were sincere and the desire to pull her into an embrace suddenly became so unbearable that he forced himself to clasp his hands behind his back.

'Well, I...it...it's for the best. It wouldn't have worked, Tom is…,' she had to pause as she felt her eyes welling up with tears again. 'He deserves better.'

The detective suddenly raised his eyebrows, avoiding to verbalise the thought that instantly went through his head: 'Seriously, meat dagger is the one who deserves better?'

'And thank you, Sherlock, I...I sincerely appreciate your concern, it's really kind of you to come here and check on me. I'll be fine.' As soon as she had uttered the words, she instantly felt a lump in her throat.

'Mh,' he nodded. 'Well, I'm...I'm here...for you...if you need...anything?' He automatically phrased it like a question, surprised about his own words and once they were voiced, he instantly doubted if any help coming from a sociopath like himself was welcome in such a rather emotional situation; yet he felt this pressing need to let her know that he did care about her.

Molly bit her lips and just silently stared at him. If any of her other friends would have been standing in front of her now, she would've hugged them, allowing the tears to run down her cheeks while uttering words of thankfulness, like friends would normally do. But this was Sherlock, nothing was ever normal with him – it was one of the things she loved about him, and the reason why she was all the more touched by his statement. As much as she had tried to settle for 'normal', her love for Tom wasn't deep enough, she knew that now, and one day she might be able to overcome her guilt.

'Well, I-I really should leave now,' Sherlock suddenly mumbled and shook his head as if he'd awoken from a daze. 'I just wanted to see if you were alright, you know where to find me if you need something. I guess I see you on Monday then, Molly.' He spoke and moved fast, as if he wanted to literally flee the room. But when he was reaching for the door knob, the pathologist rushed towards him, grabbed his wrist and then closed both her hands around his. He stared at her in shock first, but his face instantly softened when he saw her smile.

'Thank you, Sherlock. That really means a lot to me.' She didn't realize that she gently rubbed her thumbs over his knuckles as she spoke.

I wasn't the first time that one of her statements took him by surprise. 'I don't count,' he recalled her words in his mind as he felt his flesh crawl underneath her touch and then carefully released his hand from hers. 'Well, I…,' he paused and stared into her eyes once more. 'Anytime.'

'See you on Monday, Sherlock.'

He just nodded once before he finally left through the door and closed it behind him.

Merely a few moments later, as Sherlock had reached the pavement outside the house, his phone suddenly chimed with a text alert.

Make sure to stop by at the lab tomorrow. Vince has the day shift, I'll ask him to prepare something for you. M

Unable to suppress an acknowledging grin, Sherlock was about to continue on his way but then paused for a moment instead. As he read Molly's message once more, he felt truly relieved that he managed to make her smile at the end of their encounter. In the past he'd always accidentally used to hurt her in these kind of situations, little did he know that this would hurt himself just as much by now. He did sense that something had changed though. 'You look different,' he had told her earlier, and he'd meant it. But it wasn't about her physical appearance that was obvious to anyone's eyes, it was about something else. The detective frowned and dazedly shook his head when another text alert suddenly rang out.

We've found two bodies, death caused by the same type of poison. Victims are unrelated, no motive or suspects. Will you come? GL

Sherlock's eyes lit up in excitement and he instantly hailed for a cab.

Text me the address. SH

As the rush of adrenaline captured him, he lost his previous trail of thoughts, or more precisely blocked it out. He pushed aside this longing to hold Molly in his arms when she was sad and the bliss he'd felt when she had smiled at him. She looked different indeed but he hadn't initially referred to obviously visible facts, he had realized that she looked different to him. But he wouldn't have dared to voice the thought that struck him in the first place; certainly not in this situation, maybe never – he had been too confused by his thoughts and ultimately afraid of their consequences. If he hadn't, he would not dismiss the fact that he didn't mean to say that she simply looked 'different'. The initial word that been on the tip of his tongue, the word he thought of when he saw her again after these six days, was 'beautiful'.

x x x x

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