A/N: Hi chickadees. Spoilers for a scene in 2x01. If you haven't seen it, I have no idea why you're choosing words over an hour and a half of the lovely Mr Cumberbatch. And his bedsheet. Ahem. Gosh. Anyway, considering writing a companion piece to this from Sherlock's POV but it won't be today. (It probably will to be honest, but I know full well I won't finish it.) Anyway, hope you enjoy this, and thank you to all the lovelies that reviewed Sweet Tea all that time ago. Enjoy, and happy new year! =]

Every Time.

by Flaignhan.

She's silly, and she knows it.

She spends a whole day at Westfield, trying on dresses and imagining what she'd look like with her hair done nicely and some big sparkly earrings. She spends over an hour smelling samples of aftershaves, until, eventually, she lifts one little white rectangle of card to her nose to smell, and her insides squirm in a not entirely unpleasant way.

She smiles, and the girl behind the counter sighs in relief. Molly slots her credit card into the chip and pin machine and studiously ignores the price that comes up on the screen. She thumbs in her PIN before she can change her mind, takes the fancily designed paper bag and leaves the shop, happy that she's managed to accomplish one task.

She rushes through the rest of her Christmas shopping - smellies for Mum, a nice M&S jumper for Dad, a few boxes of chocolates for aunts and uncles and grandparents. She's not entirely sure what to get John, so she settles on something from the Waterstones' bestseller shelves, while the task of Mrs Hudson is done and dusted with a simple scarf purchase.

She still needs a dress though.

Why it's so difficult to find a dress that she looks nice in, she has no idea. Well, she does know why. She's skinny and shapeless and quite boyish, and she knows that he thinks that too. Well, if he's ever bothered to look. She's so desperate for him to look. And approve. That's the important bit.

She sits down on a bench, setting her shopping bags on the floor to give her aching arms a rest. She's pathetic. Really pathetic. She should just give up on him. It's not like he's nice to her. It's not like they'd ever be able to sustain anything that remotely resembled a normal relationship anyway.

But she doesn't care.

She doesn't care because he's clever and sharp and gorgeous and always always always the best at everything he does.

Except being kind. He's no good at that.

He's no good at feelings, either.

Or modesty.

Or anything remotely human.

She wonders what her mother would make of him. She doesn't need to wonder too long though - she knows full well that her mother would decide within five seconds that he's arrogant, loathsome, and nowhere near good enough for her little girl.

Which just makes Molly want him all the more.

"This is a customer announcement - Westfield will be closing in twenty minutes. Thank you for shopping with us."

Molly groans and gets to her feet, hauling her bags up. Somehow, they've gained weight, just by sitting on the floor for a few minutes. She starts to walk, and then she stops.

In the window of a shop, there is a woman, fitting a dress onto a mannequin even skinnier than Molly (but somehow, she notes bitterly, with far larger breasts).

Ignoring her envy of the plastic woman without a head, Molly rushes over to the shop, and almost walks slap bang into the rail holding dozens of the same black dress in varying sizes. She drops her bags, not paying any notice to the slightly worrying crunch that sounds, and starts searching for her size. She soon finds it, and after a quick battle with a tangle of hangers, she extracts the dress. She's not sure quite how long she spends looking at it - the sparkling embellishments at the top, the hourglass shape, the way that it's actually long enough to cover her thighs, unlike so many of the other dresses she's seen today.

"Are you all right there?"

Molly looks up, and a shop assistant is standing in front of her, an expectant look on her face.

"Er, yes, yes. Can I just go and try this on?" She's not good at talking to people. Not even to shop assistants who she'll probably never see again. Maybe if she were better at it, maybe if she were funnier, maybe he'd like her.

"Fitting rooms are just over there," the girl says with a smile, gesturing towards the back of the shop.

Molly smiles and thanks her, then collects her shopping and heads towards the fitting rooms. She trips over a stray hanger, and almost sends a display of handbags flying.

Her New Year's resolution is now, officially, to be less clumsy. She knows he has no patience for clumsiness. She's going to be elegant and sophisticated. Just as she vows to be better, she manages to get caught up in the fitting room curtain, and tears start to prickle in her eyes as she realises she's fighting a losing battle.

She forgets all about her woeful clumsiness once she has the dress on though. She stares at herself in the mirror, mouth hanging open in a rather unattractive manner. She won't do that in front of him though, so it's okay.

It's odd, but she never realised she had an actual waist. And actual hips. She's even got a little bit of cleavage going on - an entirely new phenomenon. Granted, she's finding it a little difficult to breathe properly, but the tightness is good. It's secure. She's filling a dress rather than getting lost in it.

She twirls around, inspecting herself from every angle.

She feels pretty. And that feels nice.

She hopes he likes it.

If she's being honest, she's a bit of a genius. Yes, she might have spent over an hour dashing between Paperchase and Boots, trying to match up the right shades, and yes, she must have looked an idiot with several test dabs of lipstick on the back of her hand, comparing them to wrapping paper, but she doesn't care. He won't even register what she's done, but he'll notice, without realising it.

She takes the thick gold ribbon she bought especially for his gift, and starts to wind it around the box, making sure she keeps it straight and perfect. She ties the bow three times before she's happy with it, then inspects the whole thing one last time before putting it on top of the other presents in the bag.

She's wondering if it was a mistake to buy him aftershave. If he wears it, if she smells it on him when he breezes into her morgue, she's not sure she'll be able to contain herself. It won't just be the fact that if he's wearing it, he likes it, it's so much more than that. He'd be wearing her gift, and that's what's significant.

But...if he doesn't wear it, if she never smells it on him when he storms into the morgue demanding various corpses and tests, then she'll have failed. Either it'll be because he doesn't like it, or he doesn't want to encourage her. Maybe even both.

She's taking a bit of a gamble, she realises, and half of her wants to just go to bed and curl up, because she knows he won't be able to hurt her there.

But she places seeing him much higher on the priority list than the preservation of her own feelings, which is dreadful, she knows.

But she doesn't care.

She can feel herself shrinking, with every word he says. John tries to rescue her, by telling him to take a day off, and then Lestrade steps in, giving Sherlock a drink by way of getting him to shut the hell up, but none of it works. Of course it doesn't work - once Sherlock's started he doesn't stop, not until he wants to. And certainly never to spare anybody's feelings.

He picks up the present and turns it over in his hands, still talking at a mile a minute. Her wine glass is shaking in her hand, her lower lip trembling and she realises that he doesn't care about the dress and that her stroke of genius with the lipstick was stupid and childish, but not as stupid and childish as her hopes that it would make him want to unwrap her, this Christmas.

He's still talking, and everyone is staring at him because everyone knows. Everyone except him.

He's not as clever as he likes to think.

The final twist of the knife comes with his comments about her mouth and her breasts. As if she wasn't self conscious enough already. This last bit breaks her, because when she left the house, she was happy with how she looked. She felt gorgeous.

And then he had to ruin it, like he does with everything.

She's stopped paying attention, but when his torrent of deductions peters out, she knows he's seen the tag. She looks up, and sees his face, mildly shocked. He almost looks speechless, though she never thought it possible. Everybody is sitting in stunned silence, and she feels about two inches tall.

She knows she has to regain some dignity, no matter how much it hurts. And so she decides to tell him how she feels. Or rather, how her head feels. She would never reveal to him the contents of her heart. He'd destroy them with a single glance.

"You always say such horrible things," her voice is soft, but she knows he can hear every word. "Every time. Always...always."

She looks at his face, because she knows she has to stand her ground, regardless of how much she might want to run away. This is, perhaps, the most humble moment of his life. He stumbles over his words and her head is feeling a little bit better, knowing that it has pulled the rug out from under his feet.

Her heart is still in tatters though.

"I am sorry," he says stiffly, apologising for what, she would put money on, is the first time in his life. "Forgive me."

He draws closer and she's not sure what's about to happen. All she can do is look into those cool eyes and wonder.

"Merry Christmas Molly Hooper."

He presses his lips to her cheek gently, and she grips her wine glass tightly, trying not to relish in what she knows full well is a pity kiss.

A pity kiss on the cheek, no less.

It's the closest she's ever going to get, and she knows that it's not going to make her give up; it'll just keep her holding on, as tight as she can, wishing and waiting.

And then his text alert ruins anything and everything that might have been.

The End.