She was taking a bath in the dark with her nightgown on. That's what it had looked like, at least.
The tub was filled to the very brim: some of the water had spilled over onto the floor, covering the green ceramic tiles and giving the impression of a cool forest pond. She looked like a sea nymph, in her flowing white gown floating gracefully around her bone-thin frame. Her long golden hair drifted out from her body like an aura.
It was the most beautiful she'd ever looked. Even the red fern-leaf pattern of the burns was beautiful.
It was horrible that a mother should kill herself, and that her child should be the one to find her. The neighborhood was unanimous about that. It didn't matter that she was dying anyway, that the cancer was slowly eating away at her body—what she'd done was selfish and unforgivable, and she would certainly burn in hell. Of course, they had to be careful in saying so—little pitchers have big ears, after all.
Later, when the suicide note was released, and details from the family were shared, it was discovered that she'd actually planned for her only child to go home with a friend that day. The friend had gone home sick earlier in the day, and the six year old had simply walked home as usual. She never would have done it if she'd known it would be her child who found her.
The proximity of a slow and agonizing death had driven her to desperation. She was in so much pain, and she couldn't hide her illness any longer: before long, her baby would know. A child should never have to watch her mother die.
The story, at least, was sympathetic; perhaps she wasn't as selfish as they'd thought. Instead, she was just weak. Weakness, they could almost forgive.
The greatest shock of a dead body is how ordinary it looks.
Not all of them: the accident victims, the murders—the little old ladies who die poor and alone and aren't found until weeks later when someone complains about the barking dog—those bodies don't look so ordinary.
Most of them, though, just look like they're sleeping. Not weeping, not cursing, not screaming in pain—just lying still, at rest; sometimes for the first time in a long time.
This is why Molly chooses pathology in med school: you don't have to deal with a person's pain, or listen to their complaining, or try to find a way to make your patients like you so they'll trust you. She never was any good at making people like her, and as for trust: why should any person trust another? Anyone can surprise you.
The best thing about Jim was his unflinching acceptance. He never looked at her as if he thought she were strange for spending her days in the company of corpses. He didn't start to act all funny if one were in the room, like most of her co-workers did. He didn't speak in whispers, turning to face away from the metal gurneys, as if the occupants would overhear and complain about having their rest disturbed. The bodies, to him, were perfectly natural—as much a part of the room as the furniture—and that put her at ease.
It was the same thing she'd appreciated about Sherlock. Only, Sherlock didn't return her attentions.
She'd known he wasn't gay! Of course that part had been a trick: the way his breath quickened when he bit her neck and how he practically devoured her mouth when they kissed—you can't fake that kind of passion.
It was Sherlock who'd been deceived, not her—though she might not have been able to put it into words, what she'd found out about Jim was something she'd known all along: that he was a kindred spirit, wrapped in the embrace of death.
Was she supposed to be upset to discover that he killed people? Dead bodies were her business: he was merely in the same line of work. Why should it matter to her how they ended up on her slab?
She'd found him that night: followed him to the swimming pool and back to his home. They made love for the first time, she heavy and motionless beneath him as he wrapped a hand around her throat, kissing the breath from her until stars exploded around her eyes.
He holds her afterwards, soothing her bruises with delicate, almost elegant hands.
"What does dying look like?" she asks.
He laughs. "Molly, you of all people should know."
"I know death," she corrects him; "I'm asking about dying."
He winds long fingers through her hair, thoughtfully. "I could show you…" He breathes the words against her neck.
In the darkness, with her head pillowed against his chest, she smiles.