INVISIBLE GIRL

By Kalima

He spends most of his time sleeping on the sofa, although Molly suspects he sleeps in her bed when she's at work. He's tall and the sofa isn't. If you lie on your right side in the bed you can see out the window. Grey sky, a bit of tree top, the building across the way. Maybe that's what he does. She's lain there herself, staring out, thinking her own grey thoughts, or sometimes fanciful ones.

She wouldn't ordinarily notice about her bed (or care if he slept there) because she never makes up the bed (because why bother when you're just going to mess it up again?) But it smells like him, or rather, smells like a man who hasn't washed, and she only has the one set of sheets and the washer-dryer doesn't exactly dry.

Sherlock Holmes has been here for eight days, mostly sleeping, as noted. He won't watch television. He won't surf the 'net or play video games. He hasn't asked her for a newspaper or a magazine or to use her mobile. Of course, her mobile isn't very smart compared to the Blackberry with 4G superpowers he's been forced to give up. It's as if he wants nothing to do with the world now that he's officially not part of it. Is he planning on just sleeping until people forget?

She reminds him that he's not actually dead. He's going to have to get out of the country soon, right? Get a new identity and things like that? She thought he had some secret contacts, money from secret sources, travel arrangements made well in advance and in secret. He hasn't asked her to arrange anything, (well, not since the…thing.) What if he hasn't got a clue what to do next?

The funeral yesterday was just awful. She didn't want to go because she wasn't confident she could hold it together. But she thought it might look suspicious if she didn't. She asked, do you think it'll look suspicious if I don't go? He shrugged like it didn't matter one way or the other, so she went to prove it might matter. To someone.

As it was she almost didn't get into the service until Mike Stamford caught sight of her, grabbed her elbow, and maneuvered her through the I.E.D.'s otherwise known as members of the tabloid press – "Miss, miss, are you a relative? Did you work closely with Sherlock Holmes? Were there any clues as to his state of mind? Are you with the Metropolitan Police, miss?" Those were the nice questions.

Inside it seemed as if there was more security keeping out the than actual people mourning.

No family was present. None. John said family had paid for everything – the brief secular service and the assurance of a speedy burial. But no family member showed up to the funeral and not to identify the body either. She'd been the one to do that. She had to be the one. It's very hard for family to look closely when the head is cracked open like an egg with the brains spilled out. It's just how it is. He'd counted on it.

She'd been strangely calm then, positively zen doing what he needed her to do. But at the funeral, a jittery disassociation came over her and got mistaken for grief. Platitudes were exchanged of course, that's what people do at funerals. John tried to speak but then couldn't, he was trying so hard not to weep he was choking. And then Greg Lestrade got up to say a few words, but he didn't make a lot of sense – a combination of disbelief, horror, guilt, and profound embarrassment, she imagined. The landlady she'd met at Christmas, Mrs. Hudson, just cried and cried. She cursed the press to their faces. That went viral in a few hours.

Other people, who didn't much care for Sherlock alive (Sgt. Donovan), were all sorts of smug tolerance now that he was dead, talking crap in hushed voices, about how Sherlock Holmes was sick, and how it was sad that hardly anyone close to him (meaning John and Greg) realized how sick until it was too late.

Sherlock is not sick. Not like that. He's also not dead, although hard pressed to know it given the amount of time he spends with his eyes closed. So when she comes home and finds him watching afternoon cartoons she wants to be hopeful. Cartoons are cheery and innocuous. He's upright and that's something. There's a half-drunk mug of tea on the counter in the kitchen. He's freshly showered which is also something. His hair is damp anyway.

He's wearing some of the stuff she picked up at the charity shop - fill-a-bag-for-a-pound day. Jeans, and a too large t-shirt from the 2009 Swansea Music Festival. She'd grabbed whatever she thought might fit, whatever was nondescript and ordinary and wouldn't be noticed by anyone - clothes for fading into the background instead of standing out in such extraordinarily sharp relief. But she'd been so nervous stuffing men's clothes into that bag, like maybe someone would spot her buying them and work it out – what she'd done.

As if anyone would care or notice what she did outside of work. Wasn't that the very thing Sherlock had counted on when he'd asked for her help with the…thing? And then this thing too? The lay-low-in-her-flat-until-the-coast-is-clear thing?

Oh, that frisson of inappropriate delight knowing she was chosen at last, needed, seen. And how much trouble could it be hiding him for a day or two? She had leftover Chinese in the fridge. Frozen pizza. A spare toothbrush from her last trip to the dentist. There was shampoo and body wash and pink razors, ten to a pack in the bathroom. She couldn't imagine he'd care about the color of the razors, but he still hadn't shaved so maybe he did. Or maybe he was growing a beard as a disguise.

Or maybe he couldn't look in the mirror.

Oh my god, he's watching Scooby-Doo.

"Hey," she says, "Glad to see you up and about and smelling nice."

"How do you know I smell nice?" His eyes stay fixed on the screen.

"Um. Well, you look as though you've bathed."

"That doesn't mean I smell nice, it merely means I probably don't…stink."

"The only soap I have in there is grapefruit-ginger body wash – which, you know, smells nice. I think so anyway."

"I am feeling prettier, thank you." It wasn't quite sarcasm, could almost be a real thank you.

She holds the Boots bag aloft and shakes it to get his attention. "I've brought you a fancy Gillette Fusion ProGlide, in case you'd like to feel prettier."

"Hush," he says, "the gang is just about to discover it was old man Carver all along."

"You've seen this one? Before, I mean?"

"I was a child once, Molly." Well she knew that, sort of anyway, in theory he must've been, but she couldn't imagine him being entertained by Scooby-Doo at any age. "One needn't have seen more than a single episode to know how they all end. I like to see the dog get his treat. Have you got any cash?"

The question startles her, not only for the abruptness but for its queasy familiarity. It's a bad boyfriend kind of question. "Um…"

"You were paid today."

"Yes." Right. He'd know that. Of course. When she got paid, when she was about to have her period based on her manual dexterity (or lack thereof), when she'd be in the morgue working even if she'd traded shifts with Nadeesh on the spur so he could go see the Decemberists with his girlfriend using tickets he'd won that very morning. "Yes. I did. Yeah, but, I mean—how much?" He'd need a lot to buy a new identity, to flee the country. "How much do you need I mean, because I'd have to get it out of savings—"

"You need to go into your savings for twenty pounds?"

"Oh. Oh, oh, no. No." She laughs, hears the tittering nervousness in it and hates herself a little. She pulls out her wallet and the rest of the cash she got out of the ATM. A crisp twenty and a less crisp ten. When she glances up, he looks feverishly impatient as if it's taking every ounce of reserve he has not to snatch the notes from her hand. He meets her eyes and the corners of his mouth lift into the semblance of a smile and then snap back. She hands him a twenty. He eyes the ten speculatively, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. She hands that one over as well.

Something is off, wrong, wronger than the wrongness of how wrong everything already is.

He grabs a shirt out of the pile of clothes on the floor and puts it on; a blue plaid flannel that looks like it was worn by Kurt Cobain, possibly to be buried in. A grey zippered hoody goes over that. He shoves his bare feet into a pair of Nikes with fraying laces. She has no idea where those came from.

"I have to go out," he says and then does.

He's gone for four days. She assumes he's gone gone, but when she gets back from class she can smell the traces of cigarette smoke. She finds him sleeping on her bed in the same clothes he had on when he left. A china saucer on the nightstand holds the cigarette in question burned down to the filter. Her old iPod is resting on his stomach, and the earphones have slipped out a little so she can hear the tinny muted voice of a woman singing.

Joni Mitchell? Jesus.

"It's your song list," he croaks. His voice is hardly above a whisper and he sounds parched.

"Yeah, from a file called 'sad girls singing.' Have you turned into a sad girl all of a sudden?"

One eye opens, but only barely, and it gazes at her, wry, accusatory. "Have you?"

She grabs the iPod, pulling the earphones so that the cords whip across his face. He hisses in pain, but otherwise doesn't move. She winds the cords around the device and slams it on the dresser. "I don't even use this anymore. It's from a million years ago." As soon as the words leave her mouth she flinches, expecting the inevitable huffing sigh he emits whenever people over-exaggerate units of time for dramatic emphasis.

"You're limping," he says instead. "Blisters, not a sprain."

Blisters, god yes. She'd taken off the torturing heels the second she stepped through the front door.

"Don't get blisters from yoga. Usually. So you changed your mind about the yoga class. Hhhmm." All the words are slow and lazy coming out of his mouth as if he's half-asleep and this problem solving is merely counting sheep. "Not a contact sport. You want contact but you don't want to hit or be hit. You want to be…?" He chuckles softly- "hit on. You want touch. Hand on your hip, the small of your back. Ahhh. Ballroom dancing, specifically, sexy Latin ballroom dancing. Rumba, salsa, the Argentine tango. Explains the blister. And that dress."

"Laugh away. I'm not going back. I'm terrible at it."

"You don't really have the hips for it."

It's true. Her hips do not want to shake or shimmy or do a lazy eight roll. She'd had the same problem belly dancing. But he should fuck off anyway. She'd really love to tell him to fuck right off. "Also you don't like doing things you're not good at immediately."

And now would be the perfect time.

"I suppose you wouldn't have to learn the steps at all, you'd just sort of, la la la, twinkletoes, cross over swivel, reverse pivot with a back corte!"

"Those are steps from three completely different styles—"

"Why are you here, Sherlock?" Still. Again. Why haven't you gone?

The unspoken question is the one he answers. "Uri is dead. He's the one I'd arranged to – arranged – the stuff. With. Anyway… he's dead. A parting gift from our old friend Jim, I suspect. It took me a while to find out. And then the new…" he takes a breath, "people handling the…" and another breath, "operations, well, they required certain signs of my commitment. It all went horribly trainspotting."

It takes her a moment. The movie? About heroin addicts?

Ah.

Didn't the man himself say people look but they don't see? She saw it now, all the little clues that went into this picture lying on her bed with his dirty shoes on her sheets: the effort it took for him to speak, the heaviness in his gestures as if each limb, each digit weighed a ton, the half-shuttered eyelids, the dry throat, cracked lips.

She doesn't feel her legs fold but suddenly she's on her knees blinking at him through a haze. He turns onto his side to face her. This probably seems brave to him.

"Are you high?" She doesn't know why she's asking because she knows.

"Not as much as I was."

"Is that what the money was for?'

"No. I needed it to buy information." He closes his eyes. "With drugs. So. Yes."

She clutches her stomach, she feels so sick, and then she's on her feet again, pacing, pacing, and there's no place to go. She's trapped herself with him. For him. "I'm going to prison."

"I'll be right there with you then."

"No you won't. I'll be in place with open showers and toilets in the cells and you'll - you'll be sectioned, you'll go somewhere with nurses and beverages—"

"With the current state of mental health services I doubt—"

"Shut up! You defrauded the public. You're a delusional sociopath – with a drug habit. I committed a serious indictable offense. I'll go to actual prison."

"But, but you knew that was a possibility when you agreed to help me." Didn't you? Didn't you? He's sat on the edge of the bed now with the words he doesn't quite say writ large on his face - a kind of desperate, panicked realization in retrospect of how little he had understood her offer, or how skillfully he'd taken advantage of it.

She starts to sob in earnest then, except with no sound because she can't breathe. She can't breathe for her own raging stupidity. She lashes out blindly at whatever he's trying to do, touch her grab her hold her stop her stop it shut up just shut up—

"Molly. Molly. Calm down, calm down. It's never going to happen. I won't let that happen to you. Calm down. There now, it'll be all right. It's all right. It's all right now." He's stroking her arms, making soft soothing noises. It's how he might calm a child or a frightened cat – probably a cat because he's not good with children. But it seems to be working. "Take a deep breath. There you go. And another. All right?" He's ducked down to meet her eyes. "Can you talk now?"

"I was talking before," she says, dragging her palms across her cheeks. She gets some loo paper and blows her nose. "You just didn't like what I was saying."

That startles a short laugh from him. She falls onto the bed utterly drained. "How can you stop it, how can you prevent – I mean, if you can't…disappear?"

"Well, I could actually kill myself. Skillfully. Pernanently. Leave no traces."

Her stomach clenches again.

"Or I can kill someone else."

She stops breathing.

"Oh for god's sake. Not you!"

"I didn't think you meant me."

"Yes, you did."

"Just for a second. Why would you have to kill…anyone?"

"It's the price I'm being asked to pay by a Russian mob boss to secure a new identity and transport. There'll be other requests, I imagine."

"That's not a good option."

"To state the obvious."

"You have a plan though."

"Have you not been paying attention?"

"You do," she insisted, "or you wouldn't have told me it was going to be all right."

He draws back a little, blinking at her with something akin to pleasure. "And there you go Molly Hooper, flying in under the radar again—"

They both freeze.

A knock. A soft rapping, not too loud, almost tentative on the front door.

"Were you followed?" she hisses. "Did they follow you here?"

He shakes his head, worried and insulted at the same time, but she's already off the bed and at the door with the first thing to hand, sadly, a drain buster.

The doorknob rattles gently and then a more ominous sound, a click and scrape in the deadbolt lock.

It's a fucking key! They have a key!

She hits the door with the plunger. "I've called the police!" Her mobile is way over there on the dining table though, and even if she could get to it fast enough she couldn't call 999 because then the police would actually show up. Nevertheless she blusters on, "That's right. They'll be here any minute, so you'd better get the hell away from my door!"

For a few moments there's only the sound of her breathing and then, "Miss Hooper?"

What the hell?

"Miss Hooper?"

Sherlock has come out of the bedroom and she looks at him for guidance. He seems oddly unfazed, almost resigned – which, she supposes, has something to do with a mess of heroin flooding his endorphin receptors. If she had time she'd be mad all over again.

"Miss Hooper." The voice on the other side of the door is calm and cultured. "My name is Mycroft Holmes and I'd very much like to speak with you. May I come in please? I know what trouble you've been having. Adjusting. With…everything."

Behind her Sherlock makes a sound of disgust and mutters something rude under his breath. She turns and mouths, what should I do?

To her astonishment he moves to the door and opens it. The man who says he's Mycroft Holmes slips in and shuts the door with a quiet snick. He locks the deadbolt, resting his forehead briefly against the door frame before turning around. Sherlock is already in the lounge by then, on the sofa, with the television remote in hand and the telly on.. The light from the screen makes him look spectral. Molly hits the overhead switch and the room is exposed in all its single-person-living-alone glory.

Mycroft Holmes is neatly dressed, expensive neat, like a banker in the city. He's got a watch fob and everything.

"Miss Hooper," he says with a polite nod. She nods back, looks at Sherlock again who stares at the television. Infomercial. Exercise equipment. Rippling abs and spray tans all around. "Would you mind leaving my brother and me alone for a few minutes?"

"She would," Sherlock says.

"You don't speak for me." To his brother she says, "I'm not going anywhere until you tell me why you have a key to my flat?"

"I don't-" - "He doesn't-" they say at the same time. Eyes meet briefly then flick away.

"He has a key to everyone's flat. He's like a universal caretaker, aren't you, Mycroft? Custodial superintendent to the world. Don't worry, Molly. He won't come in when you're away and steal your unmentionables." Mycroft sighs. She knows they're brothers from that sigh alone. "He's here because I called him."

"You hacked into Mummy's account, if that counts as a call."

"Well you're so predictable with the backslash, backslash, underscore, hash mark, first three letters uppercase. birth dates in American dating order as if no one will pick up on that—"

"You stole money from your mother?" She thinking of heroin and drug deals and how very disappointed she is. She imagines a narrow-faced woman with the Queen's hairdo also disappointed.

"I didn't steal anything!"

Mycroft clears his throat loudly.

"Yes, all right, I stole the mobile I used to hack in, but it's a dummy account. She's been dead for ten years."

"Why did you wait so long to contact me?" Mycroft asks.

"I wanted you to suffer?"

"Mission accomplished."

"You betrayed me. You gave me up for information you couldn't even use."

"Must we discuss this… here?"

"Rii—ight, I'll just pop off to the loo, shall I?"

"Oh, could you?" Mycroft says earnestly. "That would be ever so helpful."

"Molly. Stay."

"Not a dog, Sherlock, remember?"

"The less she knows the better, don't you think?" Mycroft speaks pointedly around her now. Despite his mild manner, there is a decided undercurrent of menace.

Sherlock gets up from sofa. Some intense emotion has the drug in his system on override. If she didn't need to pee before, she did now. "I don't care where I end up, or what I'm forced to do for you, Mycroft, as long as I never have to see you again, but you'll have to swear - and you owe me this – swear that no matter what happens, Molly Hooper will not be made to pay the price, or suffer any consequences for helping me. Or for anything she's inadvertently heard here. You understand?"

"Completely. Yes, fine. You have my solemn vow. Of course, if she speaks of it to anyone, says anything to anyone about any of this, the deal is off."

"Done."

"Do I get a say?"

"I'd advise against it," Sherlock says quietly.

"Now, if you wouldn't mind I have a car waiting and a very narrow window of opportunity-"

"So that's it? I'm officially dead and you've got me working for you now. One might suspect you'd planned it all along."

"Merely taking advantage of the circumstances. I can assure you, I'm not that clever. Or that cold when it comes to you. You're still my little brother."

"Yet you've robbed me of everything and everyone I cared about."

Molly deposits the drain-buster onto the dining table. She pulls out a chair and sits down, suddenly exhausted.

"I can only repeat how deeply sorry I am," the older Holmes says.

"You can't repeat what you haven't said, not even once."

"I've said it a dozen times a day for the past fortnight. I said it to John and I'm saying it to you now. I have wronged you. I'm deeply sorry. I was in agony waiting for you to contact me, agony, and then you didn't and you didn't – I kept looking at the video captures – the body falling, and after a time I couldn't be sure it wasn't you – "

"But why—?" Molly ventures into the ensuing silence. Something doesn't add up. They look at her with identical expressions of mild irritation. Yes, boys I'm still here. "Why didn't you come to identify the body yourself? You would have known right away."

Sherlock snorts. Mycroft opens his mouth, closes it.

"Mycroft is a bit like you in that Molly, my dear. He is very careful to fly in under the radar at all times. In his case, it's intentional. He reads the tabloids, you see, but he cannot afford to be mentioned in one."

So, Sherlock knew no one would come to claim his poor broken body. What a couple of pricks they are. She lays her head on her folded arms. "I'm ready for my normal life back, thank you very much."

Mycroft gets authoritative then and Sherlock falls in line with the family dynamic.

"Come on. Car waiting. It's a French passport so you'll need to brush up quickly."

"I don't need to brush up on my French."

"Really? We'll see. You haven't got a change of clothes by any chance? No? Well, we'll manage somehow." He turns to Molly, his hand on the door knob. "I trust you will keep your part of the bargain, Miss Hooper?"

She swallows hard. "Yes. But not for you."

And with that she's dismissed. Mycroft Holmes opens the door saying, "The facial hair will have to be neatened up."

Sherlock grabs the Boots bag with the razor in it and pulls the door shut behind him.

The next morning Molly gets up and strips the bed and puts the sheets in the wash and makes a cup of very strong tea and burns her mouth and starts to cry. She cries off and on for the better part of the day. Sometimes at work, she'll be firing up the Stryker saw and the loss hits so hard she has to excuse herself.

People think, oh, it's finally hit her, hasn't it? The grief.

Still. Poor thing, mourning a man who barely gave her the time of day.