She's been waiting long enough. It's nearly seven now, they're supposed to be there at eight, and she's still at work. She wants to storm out, and lock the door behind her, let him stay here if he likes it so much. Wants to jump up and down and scream and see what he makes of that, the arrogant sod, but she doesn't. And it kills her, because he probably knows she wants to and he probably knows why she stops herself.
More even, than Molly knows herself.
She watches the clock, the little red second hand counting the last vital seconds down to seven. At seven she puts her handbag down heavy on the lab bench and props a sterile tray against the back of the taps with a clatter. It's not a mirror, but it gives enough of a reflection back to see colours. Anyway, it'll have to do.
She could be at home right now, with a half-glass of chardonnay and the radio on, fresh and bright out of the shower, blow-drying her hair. She could be relaxed and ready and prepared. Thinking of sweet and sparkling things to say over dinner. She was meant to be at home, except he walked in. Stormed in, actually. Flung a swinging door in her face and called her like a puppy.
Of course, she went when he called. Pretends to herself she doesn't know why she does it, just that she does it every time.
Because if it wasn't for her, he'd still come in here. He'd wheel out the bodies himself and he'd sit on his own, hooked over that bloody microscope all the time. He wouldn't notice that he was alone, wouldn't make any difference to him, but Molly would know. Molly would know and she wouldn't like herself for it. But at seven-thirty she's leaving, that's all there is to it. He's not ruining her night, no way. Not another one.
There's something vicious, angry, about the way she takes her work face off, and the mascara from her lower lashes just will not seem to move. She swipes, over and over again, back and forth across them. Until her eyes water, until her cheeks are red. Until he shifts on his stool and even though she never saw his eyes, she knows they flicked over. She always knows. She never sees it, but she always knows when it happens. Never means anything, though. She hopes and she waits and then it never means anything.
So Molly takes a long, deep breath, and begins a new base. Covering over the sore red eye-bags with smooth, new porcelain, and covering over that with a warmer tone. She never goes warm enough. She went home and Christmas, and her mother kept tutting. 'You spend too much time,' she admitted, eventually, 'with the dead. You've forgotten what the living look like.'
But she knows what orange is. Iron oxide, certain salts of calcium, amyloid deposits on litmus paper, she knows what orange is. She hesitates over a second layer of the same stuff. Darken away from her lab self. That sounds like a good idea. Molly stretches, and the little sponge makes contact with the tawny cake, and suddenly, jarringly, Sherlock speaks.
"Been on holiday, recently, Molly?"
He's asking. Why would he ask? Why wouldn't he just know, and anyway, he's been here, he does know. "No…"
"Then I wouldn't."
All of this without so much as looking up. Just a touch more pressure on the little sponge, on the cake, just a tiny hairline fracture crossing the surface. She almost does it just to spite him. What would he know about her face? When was the last time he so much as glanced at her?
But then that's not true. He watches her, like twitchers watch starlings, and only when she isn't looking.
So she snaps the compact shut and drops it back in the bag. Pulls out the blush and starts with that. Then stops. Is there too much, is she going too far? She's seen those pale girls with the bright pink cheeks on nights out, but that can't be her, can it?
Then again, without so much as a flicker of his eyes, "Keep going… Keep going… Balance out the left cheek… There you go."
And Molly's just disgusted with herself that she just does it. The real pain? The real kick in the teeth? It looks fine.
Someday she's going to tell him to leave. She's going to call security and have him removed. He has no right to be here, except that she keeps letting him in. And someday, Molly's just going to say no. Bolt all the doors and shade the windows, turn her back. Stop all this and give herself a break. Someday. For tonight, she just lifts up the silver tray so she can't see him. Pretending she needs the angle for the light and needs it closer for the detail. Watching her own face where the microscope used to be, she blindly uncaps the lip pencil with one hand and raises it. Working delicately along the precise, firm edge of her lips. Concentrating. Perfectly concentrating. When she concentrates, she doesn't imagine, doesn't dare to think, that behind the tray he might have lifted his head. Might be looking at her in her preparations and –
"You're getting ready to go out, Molly," he states, deadpan, bored, "And you're just dying for me to ask where to."
"Just a work thing."
"I wasn't actually asking."
"Of course you weren't."
This last, though she means it to be light, joking, comes out with a cold, wet choke on it, and now she knows he notices. The hand with the lip pencil trembles a little dark streak on her upper lip. She puts down the tray again, a little too hard, wipes off the mistake with her knuckles and decides to do her eyes first instead. Makes much more sense. Logical sense, to work downward from the dark messy bit, clean her hands, and then work the lips below without a smudge. Yes. Simple, logical, better.
Uncaps her eyeliner, pulls down the lower lid and –
"Oh, it's that kind of night, is it?"
"Well, the big dark eye look. The… come hither look, is it called?"
"You… You think it's too… too much?"
"Well, it depends entirely where you want this night to end up, Molly, I wouldn't presume to know."
Still with her eye pulled down, she's frozen. It stings, you know, that kind of exposure. That's why the eye is red and watering again, that's all. And it's just that while she's considering the overall look she's trying to get a good look at herself in the terrible ersatz mirror and she doesn't want to move her face. So that's where her breath hisses in and out through her nose, why she bites in her lips for just a single terrible moment. Why there's a faint wash of a blood iron taste when she releases them.
Not tonight. Not tonight like any other night, he doesn't ruin tonight. She had stopped and she wasn't' thinking about him. She was leaving early to go and get dressed and there he was, but not tonight. He doesn't get to ruin tonight.
Molly steels herself. Shuts her eye instead. A single fine darkness along the lash line, that's alright, isn't it? The tip of the pencil meets the inside corner of her eye, and he stands away from the microscope, fast and irritated, sweeping like some ridiculous black bird with his coat on indoors; "For heaven's sake, Molly," and holds out his hand. "Give me that before you do damage with it."
In shock and amazement more than anything else, lips slightly parted, she places it across the width of his white palm. He lifts it up between two fingers, studies it. His expression declares he finds it wanting. "Low-quality, mock-kohl, wonder you're not getting splinters off that barrel. I think you need a new sharpener, Molly. Still," and his long fingers take a little wander through the contents of her make-up bag, "Suppose it'll have to do."
"Do for what?"
"Eyes closed, please." She does it. Instantly feels his fingertips beneath her chin, tipping her face into the light. "You work from the outside in, Molly, and in short flicks. Gives a more natural blend, come on, this is first year stuff."
"Don't know what school you went to. I don't do this all the time."
"And you didn't for the last 'work's thing', either." She rages, momentarily. He knew that. All along he knew that, of course he did, he always does, but why does he have to toy with people? "Don't pout, Molly, you'll put me off."
"I'll have you know I'm meeting someone, actually."
"Mmh. Colleague, I imagine, somewhere near here, walking distance, and either you suspected I might be coming or you had some inkling of overtime, and that's why your make-up and your heels are in your bag. By the way, I'm matching the face to the shoes. I can only assume the shoes are sending the right message?"
"Tone it down from the shoes, then."
The eyeliner goes over his shoulder when he's finished with it. She feels him move, hears the rattle of the bag as he fishes for something else. And it's on her lips to tell him she's perfectly capable and if he'd kindly take his hand off her face she'd just finish up and be off. But she doesn't say anything, and when he changes his grip, thumb beneath her chin, knuckles braced against, she tries not to shy from the touch.
The most delicate tug on her eyelashes as he combs mascara through the ends. "And open up." She does, and blinks, a flutter of lids and the sudden glare of the laboratory lights making him flare for a moment. Then, with all the interest of a dentist, "And eyes to the ceiling for me, please."
It doesn't matter that the light hurts at first. She does as she's told. "How do you know all this again?"
"I know everything and please, Molly, don't talk."
Look up, look down, raise brows, purse, blot, she does as she's told. He paints her lips and she finally has her chance to watch him. Looking at her. Looking right at her, at her face, at her mouth, and it must, must be the first time ever. Concentrating on her.
But that's exactly it, isn't it?
Not looking at her, looking at a cheekbone, or an eyelid. Details. All these details and no bigger picture, not ever. The bittersweet picture she can't hold anymore, that paints itself unbidden in the sinking line of her lips. Even he notices that. Even he stands back from that.
Stands back from a finished piece.
"Why did you do that?" she says. Can't keep the edge off her voice, the need to ask something else but not having words for it. Him retreating, elegantly but swiftly, to his own stool, to the microscope. Lowering his eyes again to cells and particles which are natural and implicit and uncomplicated by emotion. Things he understands. "Why did you do that for me, Sherlock?"
"Because you were doing it wrong. I couldn't concentrate."
To get rid of her, then. To get her finished and packed off out so she wouldn't be sitting by him anymore. So he could work. He says it his way and she knows what it means in everyday English. Because she was in the corner of his eye distracting him and he doesn't want her here.
Well, fine. She doesn't want to be here anyway. And in half an hour there'll be a man waiting for her down at reception to take her out and treat her well and buy her dinner. He'll be trying all night to impress her and she's going to let him try, frankly. She deserves it.
And he can sit here on his own. Sherlock, she means. He can sit here all alone all night long for all she cares, and he can do precisely what he pleases. Molly's past caring now. Past even throwing him out, past calling security or barring the doors. To hell with him.
Yeah. All the way to hell and she wouldn't even look for him.
She changes her shoes. She's been reconsidering her choice of heels all day. They're purple, and she can walk in them, though only just. Dance in them if it's not for very long. And they're strappy and open, but it's alright, because her toes aren't too bad at all today. She changes her shoes. Lifts her foot right up to the stool next to her and changes her shoes right there.
She never sees him look at her. She sees him shift, though.
Then, without a word to him, zips her work flats into her handbag and makes for the door.
Pushing a lock of hair behind her ear as she reaches for the handle, he calls, "Stop!"
He hasn't looked up, but Molly stops. Her fingers, completing the motion, trail across her throat.
"No, not you. The hair."
"What about it?"
"I put that part down for a reason, Molly. Put it back where it was."
She sniffs, and combs it all the more firmly back. Pulls open the door and practically hurls herself out.
Lost, somewhere in the sound of the door swinging, "Have a good time." Basic, yes, half-hearted, yes. But spoken aloud. She pauses, before she remembers he can hear the clack of her shoes and keeps walking. Not giving him the satisfaction. But she watches her reflection storming by in the dark windows of the hallway. And he was right, you know, or at least he did it right. She looks well. With a fingertip she eases the wing of hair back out from behind her ear to fall softly near one eye. And it's right. He was right.
She's stopped again, just looking at herself. He probably knows that too, from the sound of her shoes, from her shadow from the hallway. Somehow, anyway.
To hell with him. Molly checks her watch. Seven twenty-five. More than likely, Jim is already waiting at reception.
One last glance at her reflection. Molly, with vicious fingernails, scrapes back the hair so it will stay back, and one last time, walks off.