Title: An Extended Stay (Part Two)
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: There's some head canon with Sherlock and Molly's backstories in this part.
The two days that followed were much the same. Sherlock continued to make messes and order her around, but she came to realize that it was just how he was and she wasn't being treated any differently than anyone else. It made her feel very sorry for John Watson. Sorrier.
"You've taken a long time to get ready this morning," he said, as she exited her bedroom on the third morning. He looked over at her black frock and court shoes. "Ah."
She was trying to put her hair into a bun and failing. All the grips kept dropping from her hands. She bent down to pick them up and start again. "It's just a graveside service planned," she said. "And then a wake at 221b."
Sherlock frowned. "It's a lot of sentimental nonsense," he said. "I've never seen the point of funerals. They won't bring back the dead."
"People like to say goodbye," she tried to explain, as the grips once again tumbled to the ground. "Especially when a death is sudden, like yours was. That sounds weird."
"I was dragged out of school for my father's funeral, it didn't change anything," Sherlock shared, absently flipping through a book. "It just made me behind in my classes."
Molly had never, not once, heard him share anything personal like that. She froze in place, like he was a rabbit and if she moved too fast, he would scamper away. "How old were you?" she asked, carefully.
"Fourteen," he said, in the same absent tone.
She remained frozen in place, wondering how far she could press her luck. "Was it sudden?"
"Heart attack at his desk," Sherlock said. "That's when my brother started on his crash diets."
"Were you close with him?" she asked.
Sherlock frowned, looking over at her again. "I never know what people mean by that," he said. "You don't mean in proximity."
"No, I mean..." Molly tried to find the words. "Did you get along well? Were you...fond of him? Or did you fight a lot?"
Sherlock considered this. "He worked in the city. I was at school. When we were at home, it was fine," he said. "This is off-topic. My point is: I don't understand the need to stand around and weep over something that can't be changed."
Molly made a third attempt at wrangling her hair. "It's cathartic, I guess," she said. "Sometimes you need to cry and funerals give you permission. Plus, you can remember them with people who knew and loved them. I like to think of it more as a celebration of a life. Remembering them and sort of...sending them off on their journey."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow at his book. "Nonsense," he said. His eyes flicked over to her again, annoyed "Molly, just wear your hair like you normally do. It's my funeral. I won't be offended, I promise."
Molly laughed at the absurdity of that and pulled the grips out, letting her ponytail fall free. He nodded an approval. "Anything you want me to say?" she asked.
He made a face. "No. Be brief if you have to speak. Don't snivel."
"'Sherlock Holmes was a very clever man and I liked him'," she suggested, with a laugh.
One corner of his mouth turned up. "That's perfect," he said.
Several hours later Molly returned to the flat, feeling like every inch of her was aching. So many hours of holding tense, afraid of giving something away, watching everyone genuinely mourn, unable to comfort them, unable to do anything to make them feel better. She was exhausted and in pain and done. Just done.
Sherlock looked up from the computer when she entered. She was surprised, for some reason. She had been acting so hard, she'd sort of forgotten than he was in her flat. He was alive and dead at the same time, until she saw him again. Schroedinger's Detective.
She burst into tears. The look on his face was priceless and it would have been funny if she wasn't sobbing. He opened his mouth to say something, but she raised a hand to stop him and dashed into the toilet, closing the door firmly behind her. She sat on the edge of the bath, head in her hands and sobbed.
There was a gentle tap on the door. "Molly?" Sherlock called. She couldn't answer. "Should I...? If you need comfort you're going to have to direct me."
This made her cry harder. How could he be so sweet and so clueless at the same time? "Go away," she called, through her sobs. "I can't cry in front of you."
"I don't see how my presence has anything to do with it but if you're sure," he said, sounding a bit lost and disgruntled. "I'll just leave you to it, then?"
"Thank you," she said.
She cried for a long time. Everything that she'd been holding in all came out. She hadn't had a chance to fully process what had happened. How sad it was. How sad she was about it. How much she hated it. She needed to cry. She needed to get it out. She felt better after she had.
She washed her face with cold water and waited until her hiccups died away. Then she left the loo. Sherlock was in the kitchen, working on an experiment. He stood when she entered, scrutinizing her like she was a problem he didn't have an answer to. "John drinks tea when he's upset," he said. He seemed to feel like this was enough of an explanation, as he sat down again, only adding, "it's probably cold now."
She popped the cup in the microwave for a bit, not wanting to offend him by not drinking it after he'd made it, and settled down at the table with it. His eyes darted up from his work every once in awhile, like he was observing her to take notes later.
"I didn't think the funeral was that bad," he said, after a few minutes of silence. "Was the wake overly sentimental?"
Molly's mouth dropped open. "You went? Sherlock Holmes! That's cheating! And someone could have seen you!"
"They didn't. Besides, I was hardly going to miss the opportunity," Sherlock scoffed. "I will never have another chance to attend my own funeral while I have the ability to enjoy it."
"Funeral's are private, Sherlock," she scolded. "People say things they wouldn't say if the person was still alive. You're not meant to hear them."
"Doesn't that contradict the religious nonsense of a person's spirit being ever by their loved ones side?" Sherlock asked. "Everyone kept telling me that when my father died, as though that were meant to be comforting."
"They told me that after my nan died, too," Molly said. "I was really little and I didn't understand it. I kept waiting for her to jump out of nowhere and scold me for doing something bad."
"I would be very annoyed if that's actually what happens when a person dies," Sherlock said. "I can't think of anything more boring than hovering around, being unable to do anything useful and watching everyone go through their mundane little lives."
"You'd be a terror in heaven," Molly said. "No mysteries for you to solve. You'd drive the saints to drink."
Sherlock smirked and nodded. He studied her for a moment. "You haven't told me why you were upset."
"You don't have to be nice," she said.
He shrugged. "I know."
She pulled a knee up to her chest and rested her chin on it, feeling exhausted. "It was just hard," she said. "I mean, I knew it would be hard, but...it was really hard. Having to lie like that. S'not like I'm not willing to do it or anything, but they were all so sad and I couldn't do anything to help. It's like watching someone about to fall in to a big hole and not being able to shout to warn them."
He nodded. "It will get easier," he said.
"I know," she said, with a sad smile. "That's what I'm afraid of."
All together, Sherlock was with her for about a week. They mostly worked around, rather than with each other, and Molly learned how to cope with his eccentricities and harsh words and mood swings. He learned to—well, he didn't learn anything. He was exactly the same person as he always was and nothing she said or did seemed to change that. There was something comforting in that—that no matter how awful the situation was, he could go on being himself. He was still a bit broken, that was obvious, but he was coping.
The same could not be said for everyone else. DI Lestrade was put on probation pending an investigation into Sherlock's involvement in cases over the years. Solicitors were clamouring at the doors of Scotland Yard, all wanting clients who had been convicted by evidence secured by Sherlock to be released immediately.
"Don't concern yourself about it," Sherlock told her, when she was very much concerning herself about it. "It will be taken care of. He'll be gone for a month, maximum. Trust me."
Molly didn't hear much from John. He wasn't posting on his blog and he certainly wasn't coming in to the mortuary. He responded, belatedly, to a couple of text messages she'd sent and a thank you card arrived from Mrs Hudson in response to the baked goods she'd left at Baker Street. They both sounded devastated, but seemed to be struggling through. And all things considered, that was probably more than could be hoped for. At least they had each other.
On the Saturday following his 'death', eight days after it, Molly woke up late and found Sherlock missing. He'd been out and about every day, but always late at night, after dark had fallen. It was too dangerous to be out in the daylight.
She thought about texting him, but then remembered he no longer had a mobile. She thought about texting Mycroft, who had given her his number, but she didn't know how to word it so as not to make it blatant that Sherlock was still alive to anyone who might see it. Besides, tattling to his big brother wouldn't do her any favours with Sherlock. Not that she cared, if it would mean keeping him out of danger.
She was about to risk texting Mycroft, having come up with an extremely vague inquiry, when the door opened and Sherlock walked in. Undisguised, in his usual coat, in broad daylight.
"Are you mad?!" she yelled at him. "What are you doing?!"
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "It's fine. I had to meet with my brother," he said. "And he insisted on accompanying me everywhere I went. I wasn't noticed. We're both of us quite good at that."
He looked upset. Molly couldn't tell if he was angry with his brother or if it was something else. Sherlock's emotions all seemed to come out as anger or annoyance, no matter what they were in reality.
"Where did you go?" she asked.
"My grave," Sherlock said, tersely. "I needed to confirm something. I did. John and Mrs Hudson were visiting, but they didn't see me. I'm going to give you a list of things I need picked up. Please do it immediately."
Molly didn't object, because he looked so serious about it. Also, he'd said please. That was quite an improvement. She took the list and agreed to get the things he needed. He told her where to go and promised to reimburse her.
"Are you all right?" she asked, as he ushered her out the door impatiently.
"I'm fine," he said.
She didn't believe him, but she knew better than to try and push it. He always pushed back and she ended up unhappy, while he remained just the same.
Molly purchased the things he needed—which were all professional grade hair products from a supplier for salons. She guessed he was about to do something drastic to his hair, but he simply took the bag from her and disappeared in to the bathroom, no explanation offered.
He was in there for hours and hours. She knocked on the door a few times and was reassured everything was fine. He emerged near tea time.
"Oh my God, you're blond!" she said.
"Outstanding deduction work, Molly," he said.
She had come to realize that comments like that weren't necessarily meant to be insults, so she didn't take it personally.
"How are you at cutting hair?" he asked.
"Um...not good?" she said. "I mean, I've never tried on real people but—but I wouldn't trust me with a pair of scissors."
"Nonsense, you work with intricate testing and scalpels all day," he said, in that cajoling voice he used when he wanted her to do something. He even threw in that smile that made her knees go weak. "You can do this."
She frowned at him. "Why do you ask if you're not going to accept my answer?" she said.
"Because if I don't, I have to hear about how rude I am, which takes up more time than pretending I care what you think," he replied, matter-of-factly.
Molly started laughing at that. He looked surprised, as he always did when she laughed at him. It wasn't something she had done much before this past week. He was always a creature not to be reproached. The mighty had fallen a little now, however, and she started to think of him more as a human being. It wasn't a bad thing.
"If you want me to hack your hair off, all right," she said. "But it's your fun—er, uh, problem."
"You'll be fine," he insisted.
"You haven't seen what I used to do my dolls," she said.
"Safety scissors and plastic hair are not the same as professional clippers and keratin," he said.
He sat himself down on the floor in front of her, while she sat on the couch. He held up a passport with a photo of him as a blond, with short hair. It also proclaimed him a Swiss citizen named 'Stefan Batliner'.
"Try to match that as closely as possible," he said. "It doesn't have to be perfect, but when I leave, I need to be able to get through airport security without being recognized or raising flags. Mycroft will help with the technical aspects, but he can't control gossip. I don't want anyone questioning who I am."
Her protests that this really wasn't a good idea fell on deaf ears. Eventually, she gave in and agreed to give it a go.
"Molly, stop squeaking!" he said, after she'd been working for a bit.
"Sorry," she said. She had been making little noises every time the scissors snipped.
She managed to quiet herself, but still winced each time a curl fell to the towel around his shoulders. Whatever he'd done to make himself blond had damaged his hair quite badly. It was bit dry and brittle and had lost most of its shine. His scalp looked raw and painful too, but he didn't complain. The scissors cut through easily and, with a little trial and error, she managed to get the hang of it.
He flicked on the telly while she worked. He'd developed a habit of watching, or at least being present for, what she was watching in the evenings, while he waited for dark to fall. He was terrible viewing partner—talking over all the important plot developments and predicting the endings to everything, or simply insulting her viewing choices.
He flicked past various shows restlessly, including the news, but immediately switched back to it. There was a picture of him in what he always referred to as 'The Hat' in the corner of the screen.
"Still?" he murmured. "You're still going on about it? There has to be something more interesting happening in the world. Surely someone has killed someone or there's been a natural disaster. I am the first to admit I'm fascinating, but this is ridiculous."
He turned the volume up. The news reporter was talking about a 'Believe in Sherlock' movement that had started on Twitter and now spread on to the streets of London and even around the world. People were putting up posters and stickers and writing messages on the walls of Barts. Molly had seen a bit of that at work—she'd try to show him a photo she'd taken with her mobile of the wall where he'd jumped, which had flowers and cards left in front of it. He'd dismissed it as nonsense.
"Well, the thing is," a young, university-aged girl was saying, in an interview. "That, I mean, I've read the blog since the beginning and...I just don't think it can all be a lie, you know? It just can't be. And I think it's disgusting that people would—would drive someone to kill themselves, just because he's cleverer than them. Just because they're jealous. It's like bullying, isn't it? It's terrible."
There were a few other people interviewed, with various tales of conspiracies. They were frankly ludicrous and Sherlock cheered them on.
"Yes, perfect," he said. "Perfect. Interview all the nutters. That will help. Make it look more legitimate by how insane they sound."
"Some of them aren't that far from the truth," Molly pointed out.
"Yes, and that's why people will believe the more reasonable thing," he said. "If you didn't know me—really know me—which would you believe? That I was a fake who was caught and killed myself out of shame, or that there was a vast conspiracy set up by one man who liked to cause chaos for fun?"
"I see your point," Molly admitted. "I just feel bad for John. People either seem to think he's an idiot for believing you or that he knew all along. Either way, he's getting a lot of hate."
Sherlock shrugged and she winced as she nearly took a slice out of his ear. "He'll deal with it," he said. "People will forget. He's survived worse than this. He'll be all right."
Molly couldn't tell if he really believed that or if he just wanted to believe it.
"I hope so," she said.
He flicked the telly off and didn't reply.
Molly was quite pleased with the results of her haircut. It wasn't perfect, but it was roughly uniform and so different from his ubiquitous messy dark curls that it really did change his face a lot. The blond hair made him paler and the short length made his eyes seem wider and his cheekbones sharper. He had been growing a sort of beard as well, which helped. By the time he added in his ability to completely change his voice, manners and posture, he was hard to recognize.
She'd known that he was getting ready to leave, but as much as he was a pain to live with, she didn't want him to go. She knew that once he left, he'd be in danger—incredible, terrible danger. He'd be risking his life constantly and she wouldn't know if he was all right or not or how long she would have to keep his secret or what might happen if she failed.
She was woken up around three AM on that ninth day, by someone moving outside her bedroom door. It wasn't unusual since he'd moved in, but there was something about the way he was moving carefully and quietly that aroused her suspicions. He'd made no effort to be quiet in the past, no matter what hour it was. She didn't know why he'd start now, unless he was trying to go unnoticed.
He was standing at the kitchen table when she found him, her rucksack slung over his shoulder and his hoodie done up tight around his head. He frowned when she appeared.
"You should be asleep," he told her.
"You were going to leave without saying goodbye," she said.
"I left a note," he said, pointing to the paper on the table. "I thought... it might be better."
"It wouldn't," she said. "It wouldn't be better."
Toby hopped up on the table, mewing curiously. Sherlock gave him an absent pat on the head.
"I've left a credit card, it's preloaded with the amount of money I owe you," he said. "Rounded up to the nearest hundred. I've added the price of what I'm taking with me, as well, so you can buy replacements and factored in room and board."
"I don't need—"
"Take it," he ordered.
"Okay," she said.
He nodded. "I've also left Mycroft's number—his private one," he said. "If you need anything, contact him. If you think you're in danger, contact him. Even if you think you're being paranoid or silly."
"Okay," she said.
"Some of his people may be following you for the next few weeks, until things calm down in the news," he went on. "Don't be alarmed. If they do their jobs right, you shouldn't notice them. If you do notice someone following you, call Mycroft. It's better to be safe."
"Okay," she said.
There was silence and he seemed like he wanted to say something, but kept changing his mind.
"I'll keep an eye on your friends," she said. "I'll make sure they're okay."
He looked surprised and then nodded. "Good," he said.
"And I'll keep your secret safe," she added. "I'll do my best."
"Your best will be more than enough," he said, and she blushed at the veiled compliment. "I never doubted that."
He shifted on his feet and then turned and left the kitchen. She followed him to the door.
"Please keep safe," she said. "Try."
"I have no intention of getting myself killed now," he said. "I'll be fine."
She forced a smile. "I know."
He opened the door to leave, but she stopped him and hugged him tight. He tensed up, then relaxed a little. After a few moments, he started wriggling like a toddler wanting to be set down. She let go and looked up at him. He had brown contacts in. It made her sad that the last image she might have him was of him looking so unlike himself.
"Goodbye," he said, firmly.
"Goodbye," she replied.
Then he left. She closed the door behind him and blinked back the tears. She returned to the kitchen. Toby was lying on the note. She pushed him away and he jumped into her lap while she read it.
It didn't take long. There were only four words.
"Thank you, Molly Hooper"
Then the tears came for real.
two years later
Molly frowned as the first few fat drops of rain landed on her head. She had been hoping the bus would arrive before the rain did. She didn't even have a jacket with her.
Her mobile beeped in her pocket. She hesitated before looking at it, afraid it was the mortuary calling her back in. She'd already tried to leave twice that evening. She really needed to start saying 'no' when they asked her to stay later. She needed to start saying 'no' in general.
There was a text message from an unknown caller. It simply read, 'turn around'. She froze in place. A girl alone at a bus stop. At night. In the rain. With a weird text message from an unknown caller. It sounded like the beginning of a horror film. If she were in a horror film, she would definitely be the first victim.
She turned around slowly, afraid of what she might find behind her. There was a man standing a few feet away, out of the light. She was calculating the quickest route to run to safety when he shifted slightly and she recognize his silhouette. She shrieked, not in terror, and ran towards him.
"Oof!" said Sherlock Holmes, as she threw her arms around his waist.
She pressed her face into his chest, not caring that he was like stone in her embrace. His arms hovered oddly in the air before very gently wrapping around her, like they weren't sure if they were doing it right. One hand patted her back a few times.
"Yes, that's quite enough," he said, after a bit. Molly let go and stood back, beaming at him. "Hello."
"I'm so glad you're not a serial killer," she said. It was certainly not the greeting she would have liked to give, but as usual, her brain didn't communicate with her mouth. "Er...I mean...I'm glad you're not here to kill me...no, what I mean is—"
"You look older," he interrupted.
Well, that wasn't exactly the greeting she would have liked from him, either. "It's been two years. I am older," she pointed out.
"I've seen your Facebook photos," he said. "Your hair looks better like this."
She shrugged, wondering if he'd emerged from the ethers after two years of being dead just to criticise her appearance. She wouldn't put it past him. "I tried to keep it updated, in case you were looking," she said. The rain was starting to fall harder now and she put a hand above her eyes, trying to keep her view of him clear.
"I was," he said, with a nod. He seemed unaffected by the rain.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Tying up loose ends," he said.
"Are you home now, then?" she said. "For good?"
Her eyes welled up with tears, even as she giggled at the relief of it. For so many months she'd had to lie and hide and watch as her friends grieved when all she had to do stop their pain was tell them the truth. Sherlock Holmes was alive. It was a heavy burden.
He frowned at her, leaning in close to study her face. He opened one flap of his coat, holding it above her head and blocking out the rain. "You're laughing and crying at the same time," he said, looking fascinated. "I've never seen anyone do that before."
Molly waved a helpless hand as the tears and laughter continued, unable to control them. "I don't want you to think I'm not happy to see you," she managed to get out. "I'm just really happy to see you."
He looked confused. "Yes, well, good," he said. "You should have chosen a bus stop with a shelter. This is uncomfortable." He made no move to lower his arm though."I broke into your flat. I needed some things."
"Okay," she said, for some reason not very surprised.
He blinked at her. "And I need your help," he went on.
"Okay," she repeated.
His lips twitched at the corners. "You'll miss your bus," he said.
He gave a real smile now. "Shall we get out the rain?" he suggested.
She nodded and followed behind him until he found a shelter to cover them, in a dark corner of the street. He explained to her what he needed her to do and she nodded along, out of practice in keeping up with his rapid speech and expectations that everyone would understand him immediately and the miracles he had faith that she could work for him.
"Can you do that?" he asked.
"Good," he said. "Meet me here in an hour."
Molly contemplated trying to explain that what he needed couldn't very well be accomplished in an hour, but considering what was at stake, she knew she would accomplish it anyway. "I'll do my best," she said.
"Of course you will," he said, dismissively. "Go now."
Molly gave him a little salute that she immediately flushed at having given and turned to go. She stopped after a few steps and turned back. "Welcome home," she said.
He nodded, a smile peeking through. "Go," he said.
And she went to pull off her next miracle, which would bring about the greatest of them all: bringing Sherlock Holmes back from the dead.