A/N: This is the last in my little foodie Sherlolly trilogy. It's a long one though. And it's taken me all day to write. A day when I was supposed to be painting my new house. Always, always when I move, I end up writing. Ah well. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think! =]
Tea and Toast
As soon as she steps out of the front doors of St Bart's, he descends upon her. He speaks so quickly that she can't make out a single word, but continues to let him talk, regardless of the fact that she's not paying attention. They are halfway home before he stops jabbering, and it is not until he says to Molly in an expectant tone, "Well?" that she actually acknowledges him.
"Have you been listening to me at all?" he demands.
Molly considers her answer carefully. Sherlock will quite happily let other people talk at him, will not give them a fraction of his concentration and expects them to be absolutely fine with it. When the tables are turned, however, it does not sit well with him. Not one bit.
"I've had a long day," she says, knowing this will do little to pacify him. Sherlock doesn't do empathy, it's just not in his genetic make up.
"Your day has been no longer than anyone else's," he says stiffly.
"House fire," she says quietly, and while the knot in her chest loosens for saying it aloud to someone, her eyes begin to prickle and she doesn't know whether talking about it will help. "A whole family. Three kids." She breaks off, and the smell of burnt flesh still stings the back of her throat, and her insides feel cold and heavy, as though they are made of concrete. Normally she can let her day go on the walk home. She can switch off, and she will not see corpses whenever she closes her eyes. Today though, she had no chance to enjoy that first breath of fresh air, untainted by disinfectant and death. She didn't get a chance to engage autopilot, her eyes absent-mindedly scanning the roads for a safe gap in which to cross. Instead she got Sherlock, spouting a million and one things at her, practically dragging her across the roads before she can begin to think about crossing them safely. His long fingers are still closed firmly around her wrist, but his grip slackens, his face falls, and for once, Molly thinks that he might understand, that her feelings don't seem alien to him. But then he reveals how tragically cold he really is.
"But they weren't your family, so what does it matter?"
Molly sighs and walks ahead, mentally berating herself for being stupid enough to think that Sherlock might actually be a proper human being. He catches up with her quickly and falls into step beside her.
That word is so often and so falsely uttered by people that it has almost lost its meaning. When it comes from Sherlock, however, it genuinely does wipe the slate clean. Even her mind is temporarily cleansed of the memory of raw, blackened flesh, because the word sounds so abnormal, almost comical, coming from his lips.
"It's fine," she says, and she inhales deeply, relishing the slightly edge of diesel to the air, provided by the buses and taxis. "I'm fine now."
"Indian tonight?" Sherlock asks. "I can ask them for extra mango chutney if you like."
"Yeah," Molly replies, her gaze focused on the pavement ahead of her. "Yeah that sounds good."
"And how about some onion bhajis?"
"If you like." She squints as the flashing blue lights of a police car pass them, and after they have rounded the corner, he pulls open the door to the restaurant, and gestures for her to go ahead of him.
"We can eat in if you like."
"Yeah, sure," Molly says vaguely, still clinging onto her autopilot mode. She knows she's not safe yet. It normally takes a little while to switch off after a normal day, but today will take a little longer.
As it turns out, a bottle of Cobra and plenty of distractions from Sherlock do the trick. The alcohol is swimming gently in her veins, relaxing her muscles, and she finds herself giggling stupidly as Sherlock points out various facts about the other diners.
"Their teenage daughter is pregnant. The mother knows. The father does not. She'll tell him tonight." His voice is low, his lips barely moving and Molly twists in her seat to look behind her. The woman is turning the stem of her wine glass between her thumb and forefinger, and yes, she looks nervous, while her husband shovels chicken tikka into his mouth, but how can Sherlock know, and she has no doubt that he knows, that their daughter is pregnant?
"The handbag," he murmurs. Molly glances down at the bag by the woman's feet. Inside is a leaflet on the stages of pregnancy, just poking out from a diary.
"You noticed that?"
"I notice everything," Sherlock says calmly. "It's clearly not for herself because she's too old to conceive, plus she's drinking alcohol -"
"Some women -"
"Not this one," Sherlock says. "That family over there," he nods to the corner where a man and a woman are sitting with two young children. "The father's been out twice for a cigarette. You should have seen the looks she gave him. No, she wouldn't drink whilst pregnant. She wouldn't be this nervous either, she wouldn't be getting her husband drunk on red wine before she told him. She's breaking this to him gently, and she'll do it when he's too drunk to react in any damaging sort of way. This is about the daughter."
Molly shrugs and takes another sip of her beer. "Maybe."
Sherlock's eyes flash. "What d'you mean maybe?"
"You could be right," Molly says airily. Before Sherlock can retort, a silver trolley bearing their unnecessarily large food order is wheeled over to them, and they get lost in piling their plates high.
"We should have gotten a takeaway," Molly groans as she stumbles on an uneven paving slab. Sherlock grabs her and links her arm with his, so tightly it's uncomfortable.
"Not much further now."
"I'm not drunk you know," Molly tells him sharply. "I'm not."
"I never said you were."
He's not even looking at her, which makes her want to hit him. He sat there and watched her drink, and didn't say a word, knowing full well that as soon as she stepped outside, as soon as the air hit her, she'd make a fool of herself.
"If we'd got a takeaway we wouldn't have had to move after we'd eaten."
"Consider it exercise."
"I don't want exercise. I want my bed."
"And the faster you walk the sooner you shall have it."
Molly allows herself to be pulled along, and she gazes up at the sky, the orange glow of the street lights dazzling her. She squeezes her eyes shut tightly, and then, with the sound of a creaky hinge, the light disappears from the other side of her eyelids. She opens her eyes again and she is inside. Sherlock is pressing the button for the lift impatiently.
"Once works fine you know," Molly says sleepily.
Sherlock exhales loudly but says nothing. At long last, the lift arrives, and they step inside. Molly wrinkles her nose at the smell, and kicks a carrier bag with an empty Red Bull can in it into a corner.
"You need to move," Sherlock says.
"I just did." The lift doors open and Sherlock guides her out of the lift and into the corridor. "Once all this has blown over, we'll find you somewhere more suitable."
"But I like my flat."
"Your flat isn't the issue. Its location is."
"Not all of us can afford Baker Street..." Molly mutters bitterly. She pulls herself away from Sherlock and starts rummaging in her bag for her keys. Sherlock grabs her wrist and holds her still, his grip tight. Molly looks up at him, to see one index finger pressed against his lips. She glances over his shoulder, to where the door of her flat is ajar, splinters of wood hanging off of the frame.
Her blood runs cold, and suddenly she feels very sober. Goose pimples raise on her arms and the back of her neck, and Sherlock pulls her closer to the door. He pushes it open slowly, quietly, reaches a hand inside, and flicks the light switch. Molly's chest is tight with fear, and she is so very glad to have Sherlock holding on to her, anchoring her.
"Enjoy yourselves tonight?"
The voice is familiar, but its coldness, the strain behind it, is completely alien. Sherlock lets go of Molly immediately and strides into the flat, his back straight, his shoulders pushed back.
"And I suppose it was completely necessary to break the door down, John."
John stands up from the sofa, pointing a shaking finger at Sherlock, his expression set in a snarl.
"Don't you talk to me about what's necessary! Don't you dare! Fourteen months, Sherlock! Fourteen months!"
"If she'd come home alone she'd have been terrified!" Sherlock bellows. "Can you not see that?"
"But she wasn't coming home alone, was she?" John shrugs, spares Molly the briefest of glances, then returns his gaze to Sherlock. She doesn't like to see them argue, not after she's seen everything that John's been through. What she hates most though, is that they're arguing over her.
Sherlock doesn't reply to John. His lips press together into a thin line and he throws himself into the armchair, a sour look on his face.
"Seems like you two have had quite the cosy existence here," John says, walking steadily around the flat. "Your dressing gown hung up next to hers? Bit domestic, isn't it?"
"Jealous?" Sherlock snaps.
"You were alive," John whispers. "All this time. Do you have any idea what I've been through?" His voice raises to a shout and Molly flinches as he screams the last two words.
"It was necessary," Sherlock mumbles.
John blinks. "What?"
"That day, there was a gun pointing at you, and at Lestrade, and Mrs Hudson. If I didn't jump, they'd have pulled the trigger."
"Fourteen months," John says. "I thought you were dead."
"How did you find out?" Sherlock asks, his brow furrowed.
"You got careless," John sits down on the sofa, and Molly exhales a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. "Lestrade saw you two tonight, on your way to your romantic candlelit dinner for two."
"There weren't any candles," Molly says. She knows it's a stupid thing to say as soon as the words leave her lips, but she feels the need to say something. To defend herself. John and Sherlock stare at her as though she is mad, and she wonders for a moment if she actually is, but then Sherlock breaks the silence.
"There was a tea light in a glass jar."
"Well there we are then," John says, and there is something in his tone that keeps Molly hovering by the door. She does not want to sit next to him. Not yet. She doesn't dare.
"You die, or your friends do."
John turns to look at Sherlock, his expression blank. "What?"
"That's what Moriarty said. On the roof. That was my choice."
John places his head in his hands, and at long last, Molly wanders over to the opposite end of the sofa and sits down gently. She knows what's coming, the blame will be transferred and she will answer (poorly) some very difficult questions.
"And you knew all along?" The sound of John's voice is muffled by his hands, but Molly can still hear the accusation in his tone. The you could have told me.
"I swore her to secrecy. She couldn't have said a word to you. Not without putting you and the others at risk."
She's grateful that Sherlock answers for her. He has a way with words that makes him almost impossible to argue with. She's the complete opposite. Self doubt is so deeply ingrained into everything she does, that even when she's sure of herself (and she is sure she has done the right thing, not just because Sherlock has told her so) her voice echoes with a lack of belief in herself.
"And you two have just been living in domestic bliss here for over a year?"
"It's not been bliss," Molly snorts. "No way."
Sherlock's eyebrows twitch into a small frown. "I'm sorry Molly, have I been inconveniencing you?" His tone is that of polite curiosity and Molly hates it. It's the sort of tone her mother used to use. Right before Molly got into a lot of trouble.
"No!" she says, trying to compensate. "No, but come on, it hasn't exactly been perfect, has it?"
Sherlock continues to stare at her, but, thankfully John saves her.
"Sherlock, living with you is not easy. I know what you mean Molly."
Molly chances a smile at John, but Sherlock's scowl becomes more pronounced.
"It's hardly my fault if Molly's flat is too small."
"My flat isn't too small," Molly argues. She can feel the alcohol flaring up in her veins again. She loves her flat, and she won't have anybody, least of all Sherlock, say a word against it. "You're just too big!"
"Too big?" Sherlock repeats.
"You have put on quite a lot of weight," John says quietly.
"No I haven't!" Sherlock snaps, and he jumps up to look at himself in the mirror. He pinches at his face and his neck, examining every inch. Molly watches him, biting her lower lip. He's barely been outside for the past year, and he certainly hasn't been running around the city after criminals. And they have been eating a lot of takeaways...
"One, maybe two pounds," Sherlock concedes finally, sitting back down.
"Half a stone?" John mumbles.
Sherlock's eyes flash. "It'll soon go."
"I wasn't criticising," John says mildly. "Just observing. The domestic life must suit you. And I'm glad you've actually been eating."
"Shall I make us some tea?" Molly suggests. She can see Sherlock's agitation building and building, and quite frankly, she'd like to get herself out of there as soon as possible. The tension is too much for her to handle. She doesn't wait for an answer from the other two, and hurries off to the kitchen, becoming very aware that her balance is slightly off kilter, due in no small part to the magically refilling Cobra bottle in the restaurant.
She fills the kettle with water and slams it down harder than she realises, before flicking the switch and searching for mugs. Sherlock has a habit of rearranging her cupboards on bored days, and as such, it is three goes before she hits the jackpot. She takes out Sherlock's mug (white, delicate china, with a thin gold rim around the lip), one for John (she plucks one of her novelty mugs at random - this one has a picture of a cat on it, with the words 'purrrrfect cuppa' underneath it) and finally a mug for herself (bright green with white polka dots).
She throws some teabags into the pot (which she acquired along with Sherlock, for he refuses to drink tea that has been brewed in the mug) then takes the milk from the fridge, just as the water starts to bubble in the kettle and steam billows from the spout. It is with a very shaky hand that she fills the teapot, and while she waits, she dumps some sugar into her and Sherlock's mugs. John, she remembers, takes his without.
When she arrives in the lounge with the tray, Sherlock casts his eyes upon her, watching her unsteady hands. He stands, moves over to her swiftly and takes the tray from her, much to her relief. He sets it down on the coffee table before she has even taken her first step, and automatically places Molly's mug on a coaster and then takes his own. John helps himself to the remaining mug and turns to look at Molly.
"I feel funny," she says in a quiet voice.
"You're drunk," Sherlock says, before taking a sip of his tea then letting out breath of satisfaction. "Why don't you go to bed?"
Molly shakes her head, but this only serves to make her feel dizzier. Sherlock sighs and stands, walking over to her and guiding her firmly, but gently over to the sofa. He shoves her gently and she falls back onto it with a soft groan, then curls up into a ball. She soon feels the familiar warmth of her throw, and the sound of Sherlock and John's voices grows fainter and fainter.
She feels groggy. But not hungover. There is a difference. She feels alone, and so she splays out her legs, in a half-hearted attempt at a starfish, and deduces that Sherlock is already up. She sighs happily, for it's a very rare occasion when she gets the bed to herself. As much as she likes to share, this is bliss. All she needs now is for Sherlock to bring her breakfast in bed and all will be right with the world.
Except for the fact that a world where Sherlock would bring her breakfast in bed would not be right at all. It would be very very wrong, and somewhat terrifying.
Molly can hear voices in the flat, and she assumes that John is still here. It's a good sign. She was worried last night that John might take things badly. That he might storm off and never want to see Sherlock ever again.
And then, as she lays there, with the duvet twisted around her, her long hair tied in its usual night time plait (though she doesn't remember plaiting it herself) she wonders what will happen now. Sherlock's death won't stay quiet for long, and soon, he'll be able to move back into Baker Street. He'll be sleeping in his own bed again.
Molly sits up abruptly and closes her eyes as the blood rushes to her head. Once the feeling has passed, she rushes over to the door, grabs her dressing gown (his isn't there, and it's a sight she'll probably need to get used to) and hurriedly throws it on, pulling the cord into a tight knot around her waist.
She throws open the door and Sherlock and John look up at her from the sofa, John showing mild surprise, while Sherlock simply sports his usual frown.
"Is there need for such a commotion at this hour?"
Molly doesn't answer. She grips the door frame tightly. Her head is swimming, but after a moment, it passes.
"Hungover?" John asks, a slight teasing edge to his voice.
"No," Molly says firmly.
"You did drink an awful lot of beer last night," Sherlock says mildly. It's a tone she has learned not to trust. He turns on the television and starts to flick through the channels.
"What did you do to me?"
Sherlock looks up at her. "Nothing," he says brightly. "Well, I carried you to bed last night. You were out for...about ten hours. Must have needed it."
He is being far too casual for Molly's liking, and so she approaches him, her legs feeling a little wobbly.
"What did you do?" she asks again.
"Go back to bed for another hour or so, you'll be fine."
John stands and takes Molly by the arm, guiding her over to stand by the window, in the sunlight. He peers into her eyes, keeping a firm grip on her shoulders, before turning to Sherlock.
"Did you drug her?"
"She needed it."
Molly knows that she ought to be furious, knows that she should slap him, but she is far too drowsy to be feeling much at all. The sunlight is doing her no good at all and so she pulls herself away from the window, John following, his hands still on her shoulders.
"What the hell are you playing at?" John hisses.
Molly sighs. There's going to be another argument. Over her. Maybe she ought to go back to bed for an hour or so. Wait for it to blow over. The next thing she knows, Sherlock is on his feet and storming over to them, his blue silk dressing gown billowing behind him.
"She had to cut up three barbecued children yesterday," he says, "she was never going to get any sleep if I didn't intervene. It's a basic sedative."
"Sherlock, she was drinking."
"And so I adjusted the dose accordingly," Sherlock retorts. "What do you take me for? An idiot?"
John huffs, and Molly feels his hands slip from her shoulders, and a pair of more familiar ones replace them. They steer her back into her bedroom and into bed. The duvet is shaken out and laid on top of her. A wisp of hair that's itching her nose is brushed from her face. The door clicks shut.
When she surfaces for the second time, she feels a lot better. A leisurely bath later and she's feeling more or less human. There's even a cup of tea and some toast waiting for her once she's dressed.
"Thanks," Molly murmurs to Sherlock as she sits down. "Where's John?"
"His girlfriend's place..." Sherlock replies quietly, frowning at his phone. "Apparently they're moving in together next week."
Molly nearly chokes on her tea. "You mean he's settling down?"
"Seems so," Sherlock says stiffly. He locks his phone and places it back in his pocket. "We were talking about my return to Baker Street earlier."
Molly's grip on her mug tightens, for she knows what's coming. Her mind quickly tries to run through all the positives about living alone again, but she can come up with nothing. Even when he drugs her, he does it because he cares. Waking to a cup of tea and morning toast is rare, but it's an impossibility if she lives alone again. She'll be worse off without him. Much worse off.
"I was thinking I'll go back in the next week or so. Need to speak to Mrs Hudson first though."
"Right," Molly says. "Well, you can take your time with it. There's no rush. I'm...used to you now."
"Yes..."Sherlock muses, "You are, aren't you?"
"It'll be strange when you're gone. It'll seem empty in here."
"Well it will be empty in here. With John gone I need a housemate, and I told you, I'd find somewhere suitable for you to move to."
"What are you saying?" Molly asks in a whisper. She thinks she knows, but she can't possibly be right. She must have misheard, must be mistaken. He can't possibly want her to -
"Come to Baker Street with me."
"Yes..." he's using that drawn out obvious tone that he usually reserves for idiots. Molly's heart is hammering in her chest and she places her tea down on the coffee table before she drops it. She doesn't know what to think. Live with Sherlock? She'd like that. But give up her flat? Live in the gloominess of Baker Street? It's stylish, yes, but it's very much a man's flat. She's not sure she could live somewhere like that.
"I've arranged for a removal firm to come and pack your things for you. They'll be here next Friday."
"Oh," Molly says. "Well I suppose that's that settled then."
"Yes," Sherlock replies, his lips curved into a smirk. "I suppose it is."
Her bedroom is her girly space. Sherlock has compromised and exchanged his dark leather sofa for her soft cream one and its snuggly throw. Her armchair is where John's used to be, and her books fill the shelves either side of the fireplace, and there are a few little bits in the kitchen (brightly patterned tea towels and novelty mugs, mostly) that have migrated to Baker Street along with her.
Her bedroom at Baker Street is bigger than her old one. It's had a coat of paint, and is now a nice clean white, allowing for the explosion of colour from her bedding and all of her trinkets. She has a desk, and a nice wicker chair which, according to Mrs Hudson, had 'been doing nothing in the garage for years'. She has a quiet, Sherlock-free space in here. Sometimes, though not often, she needs it.
Despite the amount of adoration she harbours for her new bedroom, Molly has only slept in there once. The first night in her new home. She didn't sleep well, and the next day she is tired, grumpy, and sure she has made a mistake.
The second morning, she wakes with a smile on her face. She is warm and comfortable and looking forward to the day ahead.
"I do believe you have your own bed."
"I'm used to you," Molly says quietly. She knows it's sad, but it's true. Her bedroom is too big, too cold, and too Sherlock-less for it to be any good for sleeping in.
Sherlock says nothing, and it is much later when Mrs Hudson knocks on the door to let them know she's made tea and toast. Sherlock clambers out of bed to fetch it and brings it back, and he and Molly tuck in. She's not sure she's ever been quite so happy.
That night, Sherlock does not question it when Molly climbs into bed next to him. Nor does he question it the next day, nor the day after that. He doesn't even bat an eyelid when he comes home one afternoon to find her bundled up in his bed, full of cold and feeling sorry for herself.
In fact, the matter is never raised again.