Title: An Extended Stay (Part One)
Characters: Molly, Sherlock
Warnings: angst, but not too bad
Spoilers: Ginormous ones for The Reichenbach Fall
Pairings: Officially friendship/Gen, but features light canon one-sided Molly/Sherlock. No background pairings.
Summary: After the events of Reichenbach, Molly gains a temporary flatmate.
Author's notes: I've always liked the idea of Sherlock staying with Molly for a bit after Reichenbach and so I thought I would write a thing and then it turned into sort of a big thing.

This technically follows The Parting of Ways (also uploaded here on my account) and like that, will probably end up being very non-canon when Series Three rolls around. Knowledge of that story is not required to understand this one.

I think I might have Molly working on a Sunday here. I wrote before I thought to check the dates. However, Molly seems like the type of girl to work the shifts no one else wants, so maybe it's all okay. Also, I'm fairly sure I've invented an episode of Inspector Morse.

Molly Hooper had never been more exhausted in her life. It wasn't just physical exhaustion, though there was plenty of that too. It was emotional exhaustion as well, and mental exhaustion. Also a sort of exhaustion by proxy, a sympathetic exhaustion when she looked at Sherlock Holmes.

"Okay, this is me," she said, as she opened the door to her flat. She forced some cheer into her voice. Being sad wouldn't help the situation. Even though sad is what she felt. "Um, come on in."

Sherlock stepped into the darkened flat. Somewhere in the living room, Toby hissed. Sherlock's body tensed and his eyes darted around in panic.

"It's just Toby," Molly assured him, quickly. She flicked on the lights and the living room was illuminated. Toby sat on her PC, watching the new arrivals with curious green eyes. "He's my cat. He's friendly."

Sherlock relaxed a little and looked around the flat with his usual sharp gaze. If she'd known she was going to have company, she would have cleaned up the place before she'd left for work the day before. Or two days before, she supposed it was now.

"You make yourself at home," Molly said, making an inviting gesture. "I have to feed Toby, and then I'll get you settled in, if that's okay?" Sherlock didn't answer. She stepped over to him and touched his arm, gently. He looked down at her, those beautiful grey eyes bloodshot and tired. "Sherlock, go sit down, okay?"

He nodded and lowered the hood of the jumper he was wearing. He had it done up tight around his head and had spent the entire cab ride from the hospital with his face in her shoulder, pretending to be too pissed to sit up properly. The cabbie didn't look twice at him. He wasn't Sherlock Holmes, the great detective who had thrown himself off a building. He was just another drunk passenger needing a ride home at one in the morning.

Sherlock stepped into the living room and took a tentative seat on the sofa. He sat perched on it and didn't look comfortable, but Molly counted it as a victory and left him there while she went to the kitchen. She always left out extra food for Toby because her hours were so strange. He'd be hungry by now, but not starving. She filled up the bowl and a moment later Toby sashayed in, nose in the air.

"I know, I'm sorry dinner is so late," she cooed at him. She crouched down to stroke his head. "It's been a crazy day. Two days. We have to be nice to him, okay? He's a bit a sad."

Toby went to work on the food, nibbling delicately. There was a shadow in the doorway and Molly turned to find Sherlock standing there, looking confused.

"I heard you talking," he explained. "I thought maybe you were talking to me." He cocked his head to one side, watching Toby. "Why do you talk to it? It's just a cat."

Molly shrugged. "I live alone," she said. "He keeps me company. Sometimes you just...talk. Like talking to yourself, only someone's listening. You do that in the lab. You talk the computer and the microscope and the mass spectrometer."

"No, I talk to people but people don't listen," Sherlock corrected.

She smiled and shook her head. "That's usually because we're not there," she pointed out.

"John complains about that too," he said. His face twisted up at the mention of his flatmate and Molly hurried to change the subject.

"Um, I only have the one bed," she said, pointing toward her bedroom. "You can have it if you want. I can kip on the sofa. I'm smaller, so I'll fit better."

Sherlock shook his head. "I don't need your bed. I won't sleep," he told her.

"Oh yes you will," she said, surprising them both with the firmness in her voice. She was tired enough that her normal self-consciousness was gone. She was too tired to care. "You're going to eat and drink and sleep, because I didn't help you fake your death so you could collapse from stupidity."

Sherlock blinked at her, his face set hard. "I will not be coddled," he told her.

"It's not coddling, Sherlock," Molly said. "It's common sense."

"Eating slows down my thought processes," Sherlock insisted. "I can't afford to be slow. I need to be able to think. I need to be awake. I'm not in the clear yet. I need to be ready for something to go wrong. I need..." he trailed off.

"You need to sleep," Molly said, gently. "We've made it nearly twenty-four hours. We're safe. John, DI Lestrade and Mrs Hudson are safe. You're exhausted."

"I can't sleep," Sherlock said, and it was clear now that he meant he was physically unable to sleep, not that he wouldn't. "I'm not...good at it."

Molly smiled at him. "Is there anything that helps?" she asked. Sherlock shook his head. "Warm milk? A bath? Um...no, that's silly, I can't sing to you..., but music. We could play music. Or...how about tea? Chamomile tea?" Sherlock shrugged. "Will you try it? At the very least, it might help you relax a little." He frowned, but then reluctantly nodded. "I'll make you some. Sit down at the table. I'll make you some toast, too. You don't have to eat it, but maybe if you see it..."

She went about gathering up what she needed. Sherlock didn't sit down. He went on a tour of her kitchen, poking at things and picking up mugs and bric-a-brac to investigate. She tried not to think about all the things he was learning about her as he went along.

"It's a cow," he said, putting his hand in the oven mitt and making the mouth work. "Why is it a cow?"

Molly blushed. "Oh. It's just...fun. You know...different."

Sherlock obviously didn't understand. "Everything here is very friendly," he said. "You've made a very happy place for yourself. Do you find that comforting?"

"I work around a lot of sad things," Molly tried to explain. "I don't want to be sad when I come home. I like...I like to be...I like things that are whimsical because I feel like everyone in the world is trying to make it a bad place. I want to believe that it's not." She giggled a little, nervously. "That doesn't make sense, I know."

"It doesn't," he agreed. "Not to me. But it's your home. I don't care what you do with it."

Molly decided that was a pretty open-minded answer for him. She buttered the toast and let the tea brew. "Um, I think I have some things in a cupboard somewhere that you could sleep in," she said. She handed the toast to him and he set it down on the work-surface, eyeing it suspiciously. "They're my dad's. My mum gave them to me after he died. She went on sort of a spree, tossing things out. She wanted me to donate them to a charity shop, but I thought she might regret giving it all up, so I've hung on to them. You're about the same size as him, I think."

"I..." Sherlock said, like he was going to object again. He just shrugged and shook his head, as though the whole situation was beyond his comprehension.

"I'll go find them," she said. She added some milk and sugar to the tea, like he liked it. "Drink your tea."

He accepted the mug and took a sip. She left him in the kitchen and went to the bedroom to look through her closet.

She'd been there for a couple of minutes when she had the sensation of being stared at and she turned to find Sherlock hovering around her doorway. "Oh! You're in my room!" she said, looking around at the knickers and bras strewn on the floor and the teddy bear sitting on her bed. She had planned to pick up before he actually came in there.

"I won't remember your flat once I leave," he said, in a tone of voice that she thought was supposed to be reassuring. "It's not necessary information." She stared at him blankly. "I won't remember your undergarments."

She blushed and tried to decide if she felt relieved or disappointed at that. She gave him a stupid smile and turned back to finding the box in her closet. She really needed to organize it better.

"Does it have a name?" he asked, a few moments later. He was sitting on the bed now, holding her teddy bear and looking at it with curiosity. He sipped at his tea with his other hand and she was pleased he was drinking it. "People often name their toys."

"Exeter," she said, over her shoulder.

"As in the place?" he asked.

She nodded, turning back to her rummaging. "I got him when I was two and that's what I called him. No one knows why. I know it's silly. That I still have him."

"People have comfort objects," Sherlock said, dismissively. "It's not uncommon."

"Do you have anything like that?" she asked, forgetting for a moment to whom she was speaking.

"No," he said, simply.

There was silence for the next few minutes while Molly continued to rummage and Sherlock sipped at his tea. She was fully into the closet now, standing between two frocks hanging on the rack and trying to find purchase as she awkwardly moved over the shoes on the floor.

"Here it is!" she said, triumphantly.

She pulled the box out with a huff, sweaty from the work and breathing heavily. She turned to hand it to Sherlock, only to find he had sort of collapsed sideways onto her bed. His feet were still on the floor, but the rest of him was lying down and he looked like he was fighting to keep his eyes open.

"You drugged my tea," he accused, in a mumbled voice.

She put the box on the floor and removed the empty mug dangling from his fingers. "It's just chamomile," she promised. She knelt down and took his borrowed trainers off, then encouraged him to put his legs up on the bed. "Try to rest, Sherlock."

"Maybe just...few minutes," he murmured, snuggling into the pillow. "Just close my eyes...not sleep..."

"That sounds like a good idea," she told him. He was lying on one half of the comforter, so she wrapped the other half over top of him. His eyes were closed and within a minute his breathing was regular and deep. She smiled, sadly. All the times she'd dreamt of having Sherlock Holmes in her bed and this was how it happened. Not exactly a fantasy at all.

She tip-toed around, getting the pyjamas and dressing gown she'd be the least embarrassed for him to see her in, then went down the hall to take a shower. She felt grimy and oily and tear-stained.

The shower was wonderful and she stayed in there for a while, trying to process what the hell had happened in the last forty-eight hours. She couldn't make heads or tails of it and going over it made her sad and tired.

She fully expected Sherlock to be up and about again by the time she'd put on her night things and tip-toed back into her room. He was still lying there, though. She gently retrieved a pillow for herself and headed out to sleep on the sofa.

"Molly?" Sherlock's mumbled voice asked, as she made the doorway. She turned back. "There's a cat on me."

In the semi-darkness, she hadn't noticed Toby, who had slung himself over Sherlock's hip and looked very pleased with the situation. She giggled softly. "There's nothing I can do about it, Sherlock, you're on his side of the bed."

Sherlock was already back asleep and she shut the door, leaving it a crack open for Toby to get out if he wanted. She tossed her pillow onto the sofa and went back to the kitchen to make herself a snack. Sherlock hadn't touched the toast, so she just ate that. Then she settled on the sofa, trying not to think too hard about what she'd got herself into and what else the next few days would bring.

Molly hadn't expected to be able to sleep, but the next thing she knew Toby had jumped on her chest and sunshine was streaming through the living room window. She petted Toby and looked around to find Sherlock on her PC. She sat up in such alarm that Toby slid off her chest and landed ungracefully on the floor.

"That's—there's a password, I—" Molly stammered.

Sherlock turned and smiled at her. "Oh, you're awake," he said. "I guessed the password. It wasn't hard. I needed to use it. I assumed you wouldn't mind."

Molly very much minded. There was a diary on there and her e-mails and things she certainly did not want him looking at. "It's f-fine," she lied. "Um. Yeah..."

"I've created a new user for myself," Sherlock said. "Your desktop was too pink."

"Oh thank God," Molly said, before she could help herself. She was pleased that he didn't have access to her things. "I-I mean. That's fine." She looked around for the time. It was a quarter to six. "Did you sleep?"

"For a few hours," he said. He turned back to the computer. He seemed to be looking at the BBC News website. "So far everything seems to be in order. No suggestions of my still being alive. No reports of anyone...everyone seems to be safe."

Molly pulled her dressing gown on and padded over to look over his shoulder. There were about twenty other tabs opened in the browser, most of them with the words 'Sherlock', "Holmes', 'Detective' or 'Suicide' in the title, or a combination of them. One of the tabs had 'The blog of Dr. ...' in it and she knew it was John's blog.

"You found my dad's things," she said, recognizing the pyjamas and dressing gown he was wearing. "Do they fit all right?"

"They're fine," he said. "I've selected what I want and put the rest back in the box. There's enough to see me through until I can get proper clothes."

"Good," she said. She shifted on her feet behind him, not sure what she should be doing. "Uh...do you want breakfast?"

"Just tea," he said.

She nodded and went to the kitchen, Toby following along behind her. She didn't like this feeling of not being at home in her home. Sherlock had a tendency to make every space he was in feel like it belonged to him and that anyone else was just a guest passing through. She put the kettle on and poured a bowl of cereal for herself. Toby jumped up on the kitchen table and presented himself for petting, so she snuggled with him for a bit.

"Did you have a good sleep with the nice man?" she cooed. "I missed you. You're such a good cat for staying with him. He needs some snuggles, I think."

She brought the tea out to the living room, handing a cup to Sherlock, who was still browsing through news reports.

"Just put it down, John," he said, distractedly.

He didn't seem to notice his mistake and she didn't point it out, because it made her sad. She didn't want to think about somewhere else in the city, where John Watson might have made two cups of tea and had no one to give the other one to. She put the cup on the table next to Sherlock.

"Should I go into work today?" she asked.

"I suppose that's your choice," Sherlock said, clicking open a new tab and running his name through the search engine. "What would you do had I really died?"

"I think...I think I'd probably put on a brave face and go in," she said. "Even though I'd be a mess."

Sherlock turned to look at her, seeming surprised by that. "You would?" he said.

"Um, yeah, well, I mean...you're my friend...I know I'm not your friend—I mean, you don't really think of me like that really, but I'd be really upset if you actually d-died," Molly said, her cheeks flushing hot. She was really going to have to work on the whole blushing thing if Sherlock was going to stick around for a while.

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "I see," he said. It sounded like he didn't really see.

"Will you be okay here on your own?" she asked. "If I go to work?"

"I don't need minding," he said.

"You won't...you know...run off and do something silly?" she pressed.

"No. And even if I did, your being here wouldn't stop me," he said. "I'd do it anyway. But I do not intend to jeopardize all this work by walking out into the sunlight and being caught. If I go anywhere, it will be in disguise and done discreetly."

Molly nodded. "Just be careful," she said. He nodded, distractedly. "I'm going to go get ready."

He waved a hand and she headed toward her bedroom. "You are my friend," he said, suddenly. She looked back. He was still facing the computer screen. "You're the only one I have right now." He said it like it was a fact and everyone should know it. Like he was just correcting her on a common mistake, like she'd just said the sky was green and had to be taught otherwise.

But it still made her smile.

Molly had one of the longest days at work she'd ever experienced. Between the reporters clamouring around and everyone cocking their heads to one side and offering her sympathy, she could barely get anything accomplished. She arrived home to find her flat had been hit by a hurricane. There were things everywhere. Newspapers were flung about, all the papers strewn across the floor. Books were open and placed haphazardly on the tables and chairs. What looked to be a science experiment was set-up on the coffee table, but mugs were being used instead of beakers. Toby was curled up on her PC again, apparently unaffected by the mess.

"Sherlock?" she called, putting her handbag down.

"Kitchen," he answered.

She made her way through the mess and found him leaning over the kitchen table, watching something in a little bowl intently. She had a very nice view of his backside and quickly moved herself to a place where she wasn't tempted to stare at it.

"Um...hi," she said.

"Hello," he replied.

"Uh...what's going on?" she asked.

"Bored," he said. "I have to wait until nightfall before I can do anything constructive and needed to keep myself distracted. By the way, I've subscribed you to six more newspapers. You didn't have enough. I used one of your credit cards. I'll reimburse you before I leave."

Molly's mouth was open, but she couldn't seem to speak. She closed it and tried again, but he was already going on.

"Your selection of textbooks is adequate," he said. "But I've made a list of other books I'll need. There's no rush to get them. Tomorrow is fine."

Molly knew she should be objecting, but she couldn't seem to work up the courage. "I...I'll try to get them after work," she said.

He nodded and made an imperious gesture of acceptance. Molly frowned, but he didn't notice.

"I'm going to make dinner," she said. He didn't answer.

She went about trying to make something, but Sherlock seemed to have used every dish and pot she owned. There was literally nothing to cook in or put food on or contain food in any way.

"On second thought, I'll run out and get a take away," she said. Still no answer. "Do you want something?"

"No," he said. "Get what you want. I may eat later if there is food leftover."

She nodded. Once again, she tried to work up the courage to explain why this was not all right, but couldn't muster anything. She just left the flat quietly.

She picked up the food and bought some paper plates and cups and plastic utensils while she was out. All the while, she carefully rehearsed what she was going to say to him when she came back. The first draft was a little long, so she trimmed it down to get right to the point. Sherlock didn't have much of an attention span at the best of times. She had it down perfectly by the time she arrived back home. She opened the door and stepped into the flat with purpose, her mouth open in preparation.

Then she saw him and all the words went out of her head.

He was on her PC and staring at the screen with a look of such sadness that all she wanted to do was put down her bags and wrap her arms around him. The look was gone the moment he registered her presence, replaced with a rather annoyed look instead.

"John's posted," he said, his voice dismissive. "It's ridiculously sentimental."

Molly came over to read the entry. It was very simple. "He was my best friend and I'll always believe in him". No title. Just an embedded video of a news report on Sherlock's suicide. The simplicity of it made it worse. It was so John to put it straight out there with no fluffy padding.

"Are you okay?" she asked Sherlock.

"Yes," Sherlock said, a bit too quickly. "This is ridiculous. All I've done, all the work I put in to building up this safety net for him and he won't cooperate. He should hate me. He should be angry with me. Why isn't he?"

"Because he's John," was Molly's answer. Sherlock made a face and nodded. "It's not too late, you know. To tell him."

Sherlock shook his head violently. "It's too dangerous."

"I'm sorry," Molly said.

Sherlock abruptly got up and headed to the kitchen, muttering about an experiment. Molly frowned, suddenly not feeling very hungry any more.

"Sherlock?" she called. He turned back, glaring at her defensively. "You know it's all right to not be okay, right?"

Sherlock's face flashed some sort of emotion so fast, she wasn't sure she hadn't just imagined it. "I have to check on the acid," he said, pointing to the kitchen. "You should probably stay out here. The smell is very strong."

Molly got the hint. "Let me know if you need any help," she said.

Sherlock nodded and flicked a fake smile at her. He went into the kitchen and she sat down at the computer desk. She forced herself to eat a few bites of the dinner. But first she closed down the browser.

Molly avoided the kitchen for the rest of the evening, settling in on the sofa with Toby to watch some telly and distract herself. Sherlock emerged about three hours later and sat down on the opposite end of the sofa.

"That woman is about to be murdered," he said, leaning forward a little to squint at the telly. "What is this?"

"Inspector Morse," Molly said. "It's a re-run, of course."

"She's going to be stabbed," Sherlock declared, matter-of-factly. "Yes, there we go. She shouldn't have gone into the house. Why didn't she notice the plant had been knocked over on the porch?"

Molly smiled a little. "The script didn't say so?" she suggested.

"It was poorly written then," Sherlock said. "How can you watch this? Look at the blood spatter. That is completely inaccurate."

"I used to watch it with my dad," Molly said. "He loved Morse. Lewis, too. That's the spin-off."

"What's a spin-off?" Sherlock asked.

"Oh. Um, well you see that character?" Molly said, pointing to Lewis on the screen. "Well, after this show ended, his character came back in his own show, about him. It's really good, too. There's another one, too, a prequel. That means it's set before the series. It's about Morse when he's younger. It's just had one episode so far, though."

"So, it's nostalgic for you?" Sherlock asked.

Molly shrugged. "Yeah."

"They should ask that cleaning lady about the ex-husband," Sherlock said. "Do you see the books on the shelf, behind the grey-haired detective? Those are more characteristic of a man's tastes than a woman. She was probably divorced."

"I think the set decorator probably just threw them in," Molly said. "Unless it's a plot point later. You'd be good at set decorating. You'd know what all the characters should have."

"It sounds very tedious," he said. He frowned at the screen. "I sometimes have difficulty distinguishing the characters from the actors. I can read everything from the actor's real life and it interferes with my ability to understand the character. That one has a new baby. I don't enjoy television and films for that reason. Stage is better. If I sit far enough back, I can't see the little details."

He fell silent, but kept close attention to the screen. For the next two hours, Molly found herself laughing and rather enjoying Sherlock's complaints about the accuracy of the show. It had been awhile since she had anyone to watch telly with. The last person had been Jim and look how that turned out.

"I told you it was the ex-husband," he said, as the murderer was revealed. He stood up, apparently uninterested in the concluding scenes now that the case had been solved. "I'm going out for a bit."

Molly looked up, alarmed. "You-you can't!" she said. "It's too dangerous."

"I'll be well-disguised," Sherlock assured her. "It's after dark. I'll be fine. I refuse to be stuck in this place for days on end."

Some sort of dam broke in Molly at that and her hands balled into fists. "You don't have to be here," she told him, angrily. "I'm not forcing you. This is my place, you could at least respect it."

Sherlock looked genuinely confused. "I don't know what you mean," he said.

"You've made a mess. You used all my dishes. You're ordering me around like at the lab, but this is my home and I shouldn't have to be your servant here," Molly explained. She got to her feet, which did little to help the height difference, but made her feel more confident. "You've bought things without my permission. And now you're acting like spending time with me is a chore! Well, you don't have to be here. I'm doing you a favour and you—you should be grateful."

Sherlock stared at her, his eyes flashing with anger and then turning to confusion and then...something else she couldn't define. She stood her ground, arms folded over her chest. It was very hard not to immediately stammer out an apology, but she bit her tongue.

"I will be back late, don't wait up for me," he said, in a clipped tone.

She gaped after him as he simply walked out of her flat, grabbing a rucksack as he went by it. Her rucksack. She stomped her foot angrily and threw herself back on the sofa. Toby jumped up beside her, meowing curiously. He'd probably never seen her angry before.

"Was I too mean?" she asked. She shook her head at herself. "No, I wasn't. I was right. I am right. He was being rude." She put her hand to her forehead, feeling exhausted. "I hope he'll be all right."

Despite Sherlock's orders, Molly did stay up. She stayed up even into the time of day where all the telly had the in-vision sign language person in the corner. She fell into a light doze, where she was vaguely aware of what was happening but not completely awake. When she started to hear a deep baritone, she assumed it was the telly. Then she realized it wasn't.

"She doesn't look comfortable. She's in my way. I told her to go to bed. It's very inconvenient."

She managed to find her way into wakefulness and found Sherlock standing beside her. Well, actually she found a homeless man standing beside her. Which made her shriek and alarm them both, plus Toby, who was lying on top of the sofa.

"It's just me," Sherlock said, putting his finger to his lips. "Calm yourself."

Molly put a hand over her heart to try and steady it. "Were you talking to Toby?" she asked.

Sherlock's eyes darted around. "No," he said, firmly. "Why would I speak to a cat?"

"I heard you talking," Molly insisted. "There's no one else to speak to."

"You were dreaming," he said. "You should go to your own bed. I want the sofa. Besides, I suspect you'll be even more unreasonable if you're sleep deprived."

Molly stuck out her tongue at him. It was childish, but she was tired and she couldn't think of a better response. He stared at her in disbelief, then huffed a laugh that he quickly tried to cover. She giggled too and he smiled, a real smile. She'd never seen a real smile from him before. It was nice. It suited him.

"Go to bed," he said, pointing to her bedroom. "I need the sofa."

She got up, stretching out in the kinks in her back. "I'm glad you're all right," she said.

He nodded.

"You're a wanker," she added.

He nodded again.

"Good night," she said.

He nodded for a third time. She went off to bed, barely managing to change before she fell into it and went to sleep.

When she woke up in the morning, the coffee table was cleared off and Sherlock was curled up on the sofa, a textbook balanced on his stomach. Toby was asleep on his legs. Sherlock flicked his eyes over to her, then to the coffee table, then back to his book.

She decided to accept his apology.