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1: Christmas

After Sherlock Holmes walked out of the room that Christmas night, disgusted and miserable at having seen the Woman lying dead-cold on a morgue table like a piece of meat, his elder brother, Mycroft Holmes turned his attention towards attendant Molly Hooper, who was doing a good job of avoiding his eyes.

"So then, dead as a doornail?" he asked grimly, tracing the outline of the body with his umbrella.

Molly shrugged, looked out towards the hallway to see if Sherlock was in earshot and then softly pushed Mycroft's umbrella away.

"I can't really say right now."

Mycroft's eyebrows flinched visibly. "You cannot say right now?"

"There's solid proof it's her, all right. But I'd still wait. There's something fixed about this."

Mycroft almost chuckled. "Is there? It seems you've been training your medical eye."

Molly gave him a look, but didn't dare say anything back, knowing he liked to make such comments whenever it was most uncomfortable.

"I would advise you to keep looking for her, Sir. Just in case," she said, growing impatient under his stare.

"I do appreciate cautionary measures. Especially from someone not inclined to give them."

Molly knew what this was about, but she had hoped it would be forgotten, under the circumstances.

"The irony isn't lost on me, if that's what you mean, but one case of so-called recklessness which I have not and will not confess to, does not mean I cannot give valid suggestions on this matter," she replied in a much more poised manner than she had spoken to him on the phone some hours before.

"What is it now, Carlyle? I'm late so make it fast!" Molly snapped as she held her work phone under her chin, balancing a heavy-looking dress.

"I suppose you will find the time to explain why exactly you sent three checks to Lewis B. under false names which were as traceable as your lack of common sense," a clipped voice answered back without a pause.

Molly dropped the dress completely. Mycroft Holmes was giving her a personal call.

Shit. This meant it was serious.

Five minutes later they were caught up in a furious verbal match.

"That was explicitly made to be confidential and I took every possible measure to ensure that, Italian or no Italian embassy– if anyone's at fault here it's your precious assistant, Anthea!..Sir."

"Hardly professional of you to bring her up in this context, not to mention petty," he replied acridly.

"Lewis was my guy! He was the initiator of the group! I have every right to arrange matters with him any way I see fit, without having to worry that some sociopath with a Blackberry obsession will want to exact her revenge!"

This was very unlike Molly; snapping at Mycroft so boldly and throwing personal insults.

But she had gotten fed up with Anthea and her cheap tricks.

The conversation ended very badly. Mycroft even called her chronically paranoid. She had been making such remarks about Anthea for a while now.

The thing is, the girl had tried to kill her. Sure, it had only been an accident. Everyone had told her so. But everyone was stupid.

"I have to go to your brother's party, Sir. Molly Hooper can't appear to be disinterested in anything Sherlock-related, can she?" she droned angrily, sticking her feet into her heels.

But Mycroft had already hung up.

She was talking into a dead line. Well, it was still something.

"I hear you put on quite a show tonight," Mycroft commented slyly, looking over Irene's body with disinterest.

"Well, when you messaged me with "DISTRACT SHERLOCK" in capital letters there was little else left to do."

"Really? That is what you came up with? A soap opera re-enactment?"

Molly's eyes narrowed down. "I would have given him a little bit of side-boob but that would be too desperate, wouldn't it?"

Mycroft almost chuckled.

"And you were not letting out some pent-up frustrations from our earlier discussion?"

Molly knew where this argument was headed.

"Even if you are going to say that my personal problems are interfering with my work, or that I'm getting too emotional– well, no, I'm not. Clearly, I did my job perfectly. This is exactly how Molly would have reacted in real life and it served its purpose. If I tried to channel my so-called frustrations into something else instead of work, it would cause a lot more damage."

Mycroft rolled his eyes in his 'If-I-had-a-penny' manner and remained silent.

"Yes, yes, but you know I'm partially right. It's what we do," Molly added, covering Irene's body once more.

"You are lucky I am in no mood for semantics," he muttered in what she perceived to be an amused tone.

But he was constantly amused about everything, so she knew he was still angry with her about Lewis and Anthea.

"I'll go see about Sherlock. I hope she hasn't done too much damage," he said, nodding his head towards the corpse.

"He's Sherlock. He'll bottle it up and take it out on John. Just offer him a cigarette. See if he takes it," she offered, shrugging her shoulders.

Mycroft paused at the door.

"By the by, where in God's name did you find that tacky dress?"

"I know, brilliant, wasn't it?" she chuckled.