It was John Watson who met her at the lift.
He was in a wheelchair, bandages covering various parts of his body. There was a large one on his forehead and several on his arms. One leg was extended, knee elevated and wrapped heavily.
"Hello," he said, polite as ever despite the circumstances. "Good to see you."
"H-how are you?" she stammered, then winced at how ridiculous it sounded.
"I could ask you the same," he exhaled, looking up at her with tired eyes. Molly clutched the plant she was holding closer and turned her attention to it to avoid his gaze.
"I'm ... fine," she said, not very convincingly. She plucked at its leaves and tried not to think of what hell the last 24 hours had been. The Inspector had been professional enough in his interrogation and search of her flat and laboratory, but knowing who "Jim" really was and what he had done left her in near hysterics. "They said there was an explosion but you both got out. He is all right, isn't he?"
"He's not taking visitors," John stated and Molly's face instantly fell. "But I am and we're in the same room."
"Oh," Molly said, feeling relieved at that. She gestured to the plant and sighed. "I brought this. For him. Cheer things up and all."
That sounded even more ridiculous but John seemed to understand.
"It's okay," John told her, wheeling himself back a bit to make way for her. "Come on then."
There was a police officer posted just outside the door, but he'd been expecting her. She'd pressed Sergeant Donovan for this visit. She told Molly not to bother and to stay as far away from Sherlock Holmes as possible. She practically spit his name out, as if it was vile for her to have to say it. The officer held the door open as John paused, allowing Molly to enter first.
The sight of him made her breath hitch and stop. He was lying perfectly still in the center of the bed, sheets drawn up and hands folded on his chest. She stared at him for a moment, assessing his injuries. He was bruised and battered, same as John, and wearing a figure eight around his shoulders which meant his clavicle was broken. There was a morphine drip as well, making her wonder what other injuries there were she couldn't see.
"No visitors," he said, not bothering to open his eyes.
"It's Molly Hooper," John stated firmly, then raised his eyebrows expectantly. No reaction. John let out a disappointed sigh and looked apologetically at her for his behavior. "Would you like a have a seat?"
"I'd rather stand," she said, then walked over to carefully place the plant on the table between the two beds. She stepped back a bit, but remained by his side. "I was hoping to have a word with you, if you're up to it. Alone, if that's all right."
Molly looked over at John, unsure of what to do. Luckily, he decided for her.
"Okay, then. I'm going to go down the hall for a bit," John said, wheeling himself back towards the door. He gave her another apologetic look before leaving them alone. More silence filled the room, making it even more awkward. Molly took a few deep breaths before trying again.
"I bet you're wondering why I'm here," she started, fidgeting nervously with her hands.
"I know why you're here," he finally muttered, still not opening his eyes. He let out a bored sigh. "It was never you he was interested in."
Molly clenched her teeth, determined not to cry in front of him. Inspector Lestrade had made that painfully clear during her interrogation. In some ways, "Jim" wasn't any different that the man in front her. They both used her to get what they wanted. Molly was many things but she wasn't stupid.
"So don't waste your time or mine worrying about it," he continued in the same dull tone. It was quiet again, so quiet that he opened his eyes briefly to check if she was still there.
Molly stared back at him incredulously. Was he that incapable of feeling anything whatsoever? For months, she had convinced herself he merely suffered from the same social ineptitude she did but now she knew better. He really was a sociopath, plain and simple. One that attracted psychopaths, apparently.
"I think it would be best if you find somewhere else to conduct your ... work," she finally said, forcing the words out. The next ones were even harder. "And I know it was never me you were interested in either."
His eyes opened again to stare back at her. They were glassy from the narcotic but his gaze was still intense.
"Oh, you think I didn't know that?" she continued, her voice getting stronger with every word. Molly nearly let out a laugh at how ironic it all was. Why was she always attracted to the wrong type of man?
Sherlock's brow furrowed, as if he was pondering some complex problem.
"Am I supposed to apologize?" he asked, tilting his head slightly.
"No," Molly answered, knowing if he did it would be insincere. She lifted her head a little higher, feeling relieved it was over. She was still painfully in love but at least she'd set things straight. She drew herself up to her full height. "I'm sorry I bothered you."
She just about to the door when he spoke again.
"Why the plant?"
Molly spun back around to find his eyes on her once again. "What?"
"Why bring me a plant?" he asked, looking over at it curiously. Something about his distant, detached expression made Molly's heart sink. He honestly didn't know.
"It's what friends do," she answered quietly, then realized she probably wasn't even that to him. Best she end this now, she reminded herself. He wasn't going to change.
His eyes moved off the plant and back to her. Molly thought she saw a flicker of something in them but told herself it was nothing. She turned and left, trying hard not to look back.
Molly sat in the very back of the bookstore at a small table. She flipped through the Times quietly but wasn't actually reading it. Every now and then she would look up, look at the other people seated around her. There were several couples, engaged in various forms of social interaction. Her eyes darted over to the empty seat across from her and wondered why she even bothered leaving her flat.
She really wanted to be at work.
Mandatory leave, they said. She needed time, they said. It was for the best, they said. It was only for a week but the week was taking forever. She could talk to the appointed psychologist, but what was the point? She'd replayed every moment and each conversation with "Jim" in her head a thousand times. From their meeting on her blog to that horrible introduction in the lab, she was just the means to get to what he really wanted.
Somehow, she managed to hold the tears back.
"Is this seat taken?"
His voice startled her and Molly looked up to see Sherlock standing in front of her, holding a cup of coffee in a gloved hand. She looked around, wondering where he'd come from. He stared down at her for a moment before raising his eyebrows expectantly.
"Oh, sorry," she said, realizing he was waiting on her answer. He must've been released from the hospital. Any injuries, except the cuts and bruises on his face, were hidden away by his long coat and scarf. "No, it's not."
She watched as he slipped his tall frame into the chair, his legs barely fitting under the table with hers. He set the coffee down, then slid it over to her.
"Three creams, four sugars," he said, then sniffed loudly. "That is how you take it."
It was a statement, not a question. It surprised her only in that she couldn't remember making a cup for herself in front of him. She accepted it with a simple nod.
"Are you following me now?" she asked, setting the Times aside and wrapping her thin fingers around the cup where his hand was. It was nice and warm. "You must really be bored ... "
"I have something to return to Bart's," he continued. "I need to get it out of my fridge."
"Oh, yes," Molly said, remembering the head. Saliva coagulation studies, wasn't it? She'd forgotten he'd had it or else she would've made arrangements. She chose her next words carefully, wanting to keep things professional. "I'll be back at work on Friday night. You can drop it off then."
Molly drew the cup to her mouth and took a sip.
"I shall do that," he said, his eyes watching as she set the coffee down. He was quiet for a moment, as if he was thinking of what to say next. Or how to say it. When he finally did, his voice was lower than she'd ever heard it. "I am sorry."
He winced at the sound of his own voice, resonating with what could be an actual emotion. It was then Molly realized he truly was sorry. It took her just a half a second to reconsider and the other half to decide.
"No more flirting," she said, outlining new terms for him. "Don't show up unannounced. And you can get your own coffee."
"Fair enough," he agreed, his expression easing somewhat. He drummed his fingertips slowly on the table before outlining a term of his own. "No boyfriends named Jim or James, for that matter."
"Got it," she said, although she knew what he really saying. Working with him now could be dangerous but she was willing to accept the risk. Obviously, she meant something to him or else he wouldn't be here making amends.
They both stared at each other for a few moments, unsure of what to say or do next. Sherlock shifted in his seat, stretching his legs out some more. One accidentally brushed hers and was immediately pulled back. He cleared his throat, then stood up quickly.
"I will see you Friday," he said decidedly. Molly nodded in agreement.
"Friday," she repeated, then smiled. He looked as if he might smile back, but instead pressed his lips together and walked away. Molly watched as his slender body wove through the tables and out the door. She smiled again but this time to herself.
Whatever this was, he wanted it to continue.
And that was good enough for her.