A/N: So I swapped fic 99 for fic 101 because this one was calling my name a bit more. It's a two shot. Next part posted hopefully by the weekend. This is the result of a prompt from MorbidByDefault, so credit for the idea goes to her. =]
Until the Ice Melts
It's so early, it's still dark. This is the one thing Molly hates about winter - arriving at work in the dark, and leaving in the dark. It's one of the many things she hates about being called in at four o'clock in the morning. Pitch black, no tube, and the buses only run every half an hour.
It's freezing, so she wraps up with layers and a chunky scarf wound round her neck. Her mittens aren't doing a very good job of keeping her fingers warm, but it's not until she slips, launching herself backwards but managing to save herself by throwing an arm around the nearest lamppost, that she decides to hail a cab.
The journey takes less than five minutes, even with the poor weather. They drive past a gritter, and the cab is showered with lumps of salt. The noise causes Molly to jump, and she vows to make a strong coffee before she even considers indulging any of Sherlock's whims. Although, she has already indulged one, in that she's arriving at work at four o'clock in the morning when she only left six hours ago. She thinks vaguely that there are laws about that sort of thing...but Sherlock won't work with anyone else. Or rather, no one else will work with Sherlock.
She hands the cab driver a tenner and only receives a couple of pound coins in return. She's about to say something then realises that it's not worth it. Four o'clock in the morning, icy, of course he's going to exploit her. She pushes open the door and steps out onto the pavement, gripping onto the handle until she's sure she's not going to fall straight onto her arse.
As the cab drives off, she takes small steps, keeping her feet flat in order to retain what little grip she can. Her phone dings, alerting her to a text, and with a sigh, she pulls it from her pocket.
I've made coffee. Hurry up.
Well, he's gone some way to redeeming himself, she thinks. She starts to slowly climb the stairs, replying with a quick I'm here, but as she presses send, in her lack of concentration she doesn't notice that the next step up has a thin, almost imperceptible layer of ice.
As she lays on her back, staring up at the pitch black sky, she manages to look on the bright side. Of all the places she could have fallen, this is perhaps the most practical. The less optimistic side of her prods her brain, reminding her that were it not for Sherlock, she would be tucked up in bed having sweet dreams right now.
Her phone is still in her hand, and so she types another text, trying to block out the pain signals attacking her brain.
The text lands on his phone seconds after the other one. He takes a sip of his coffee, grimaces, and looks down at his phone to read it. There is no logical reason why she would text him if she were already in the building. He knows it is Molly, not just because of the ringtone (a mildly irritating ascending bleep that he refuses to change) but also because there is no one else who would text him at this time in the morning.
The first he knows of his dropped coffee is John's loud "Jesus!", and then he tears his eyes away from the screen of his phone to look down at the smashed mug on the laboratory floor. Without a word of explanation, he launches himself towards the door, wrenches it open, and sprints down the corridor. He cannot wait for the lift, will not stand around, even if it comes straight away, so he climbs the stairs, two at a time, until he reaches the ground floor. The receptionist gives him a stern look as he breaks the tranquillity of the early hours with the slap of his shoes on the floor tiles, but he barely notices her. He forces himself forward to the glass door and pushes it open. He slips on the ice, but manages to grab the rail in time to keep him from tumbling down the steps.
It is at this moment he realises exactly what has happened to Molly.
From the pavement, she looks up at him, sprawled over the steps, and smiles. "Hi."
"You idiot," he says hotly. "I thought something bad had happened."
She frowns. "Fractured tibia," she tells him. "Possible concussion. Thought it best to stay here."
"What's going on?"
John has finally caught up, and, it seems, is the only one to remember that the Bart's stairs are notorious for their ability to retain ice. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," Sherlock says, pulling himself to his feet.
"Not you," John replies impatiently. He carefully negotiates his way down the stairs and helps Molly into a sitting position. "Can you stand?"
Molly shrugs, and takes John's hand. He pulls her up, frowning at the top of her head.
"That needs checking out," he says sternly.
"Yes yes," Sherlock says, "Come on." He moves down the steps, keeping one hand tightly wrapped around the rail. With his free hand he takes Molly by the elbow, and between him and John, they manage to get her up the stairs and into the hospital without any further injury. Sherlock's heart is still racing in his chest, an after effect of his potentially record-breaking sprint to the hospital entrance and the jolt that he felt when he slipped. Feelings may not be Sherlock's strong point, but he admits that even he cannot block out the sudden and fearful (and quite illogical) anticipation of death when ice denies him of sure footing.
They're moving far too slowly, and Molly's constant wincing is irritating him. With no warning, he picks her up, ignoring John's protests and Molly's shriek, and strides towards the lifts. John catches up and pushes the button, the metal doors sliding apart almost instantly.
"Basem-" Sherlock begins, but then he looks down at Molly, her shaking hand held over her eyes. Her skin is drained of colour, and she is freezing cold. "What's the matter?"
"I feel dizzy," she mumbles.
Sherlock bites back a sigh, and looks at John, whose finger is still hovering over the B button on the control panel. "Third floor," he tells him, and John pushes the button, the lift doors sliding shut.
Sherlock is barking orders. It's not doing much to help Molly's headache, but it is getting things done. She has acquired a rather fetching blue boot.
"They tell me it's Molly-proof," Sherlock says to her quietly. She smiles, but jumps when he starts yelling about painkillers and head scans.
After another half an hour of Sherlock making sure she gets exactly what she needs, (not for her benefit, she knows, but to satisfy John's moral principles before he puts her to work - she knows it is coming, and she finds she doesn't mind) Molly is finally given the all clear and a pair of shiny crutches that are set far too high for her. In blur of clicks, Sherlock has adjusted them, and thrusts them towards her.
"Okay?" he asks. Molly nods. "Right, let's go then."
The journey to the lab is slow. Her head is still a little all over the place, and Sherlock ends up losing patience and tells her and John that he'll meet them down there. Walking with John is far less stressful. He takes slow steps, stays by her side, and doesn't continually talk at a million miles an hour. The peace is nice. The peace is what she needs, and gradually, things fall back into place in her head, and she gets used to the crutches.
"I really think you should go home," John tells her. "Rest that leg. Don't feel obliged to do anything for him. He can do these tests on his own."
"Well he's obviously got a lot on," Molly says, "he wouldn't have called me in otherwise."
John's eyebrows raise, just a touch, but Molly doesn't miss it.
"He'd kill me if I told you."
"I'll tell him you told me if you don't tell me."
John laughs. "But you won't be able to tell him what I told you. He'd never believe you."
"Okay," Molly says brightly. "If that's what you think."
John frowns. "Don't be like that."
"Like what?" Molly asks. The lift doors open and she takes a careful step into the corridor beyond.
He's pacing, striding the length of the lab and turning swiftly on his heel and striding back again. He knows he must be patient. Molly is hurt, it's partly his fault (not all, as John has repeated to him several times over the past hour, partly) and so he must be patient. He must not rush her because technically, she shouldn't be working if she's had a head injury. And she should have at least a week off to rest her leg. She hasn't brought this up and so neither has he. John has tried to mention it, but Sherlock had cut him off with, "Yes, what a brilliant idea, sending her out on the ice with crutches this time. She's here now, and it's safer for her to stay until the ice melts, and if she's here, then she might as well help."
His coffee has been cleaned up, but Molly's mug, with its ditsy print porcelain, is now stone cold. He tips the coffee down the sink and ventures off to the staffroom to make another. By the time he has returned, Molly is perched on a stool reading Sherlock's notes, her hair still damp from her time on the pavement. There are dark circles under her eyes, and for a moment, there is a twinge of something in his chest, heightened by the way John is looking at him, his arms folded, his mouth set into a grim line.
Sherlock sets the coffee down in front of Molly and takes a sip of his own. Bitterness floods his mouth and he swallows it down, his lips pursing with the sharp taste.
"Oh by the way," Molly says, looking up from the file. "John mentioned to me that...well, it's fine. Don't worry about it."
He looks up at John, whose arms are now held in front of him, his hands held up in a defensive gesture. "Sherlock, I didn't I swear, I -"
"It's fine," Molly says, and Sherlock looks back down at her, her wide eyes boring into his own. "Really, don't worry about it."
His jaw locks; he has nothing to say. He feels the heat of embarrassment rise up his body, and he does the only thing he can think to do.
He storms out of the lab.
Molly turns to stare at John. She had never expected this. Her skin prickles with shock and shame. Had she hurt Sherlock? She had thought it would be a laugh, something silly to make her feel better after her fall. She doesn't feel better at all, however. She feels worse.
"What the hell was that about?" she asks John in a soft whisper. To her surprise, John is smirking like a schoolboy being told off by a particularly humourless teacher.
"I didn't realise he was that uptight about it. It's nothing really," he says, hands in his pockets, lips still twisted into a smile.
"So tell me what it was then!" she says exasperatedly. "You don't think I've upset him, do you?" It seems a stupid question to ask. She has grown quite used to his tantrums over the years, but never, ever, has he left without having the last word. It's just not his style.
"I think his pride is a bit wounded," John replies, and Molly, in her impatience, wants to wipe the smile off his face. "But I wouldn't worry about it if I were you."
"What did he tell you?" Molly presses, her coffee getting colder by the second. She wants to drink it, because on the rare occasion that he does make her coffee, he makes it just right - better even than she can ever be bothered to make it. She refuses to drink it until she knows what's wrong with him though. It doesn't feel right.
"I asked why he couldn't do the tests himself," John says with a sigh, rubbing his brow. He looks tired, and Molly wonders whether Sherlock is flagging too.
"I didn't think it was right, calling you back in so soon; tried to explain that not everyone gets off on cases the way he does, that he could do the tests himself and get a good set of results, and he just...snapped."
Molly frowns. Sherlock's quick exit is still a mystery to her. "Why?" she asks.
"Because," John says, his smile returning, "he said 'good' results weren't good enough, he needed perfect." John places far too much emphasis on that last word for Molly's liking, and her heart skips a beat at the thought of him saying that, of him actually thinking it.
"So," she says, trying to process the idea, "He's upset because I'm better at my job than he is at his hobby?"
"Yeah, don't call it a 'hobby' to his face. He won't like that," John says. "One hissy fit's enough for one night anyway."
Molly sighs and takes a sip of her coffee. She's not sure whether Sherlock has some precise method for measuring the amount of milk, or whether he weighs the sugar before he stirs it in, but every single time he manages perfection. She looks down at Sherlock's notes once more, her eyes scanning his rushed and messy handwriting.
John peers over her shoulder at the notes, then lets out a small breath and shakes his head. "How can you read that?" he asks. "It just looks like scribbles from here."
"Used to it," Molly says, not looking up. Her brain is focused on the words before her. Sherlock's writing is legible providing she is in the right mindset with which to read it. Sometimes she can look at it and not make out a single word. Other times, like now, she can see it crystal clear. It's like an illusion, one of the ones where if you stare long enough, you'll see something among the shapes.
She can feel it when he comes back into the lab, can feel his eyes on her. She reads to the end of the document, her eyes moving steadily down the page, and it's not until she has finished that she turns around to face him.
"Don't let it go to your head."
Molly smiles. "Wouldn't dream of it."
He's trying to be patient. Really really trying. But she's falling asleep at her desk, which is just asking for anomalies. He doesn't need anomalies right now. He needs evidence.
"Wake up," he says sharply, pacing the length of the lab. When he turns and walks back towards her, she regards him with a bleary gaze.
"Can I go home yet?" she mumbles.
She groans, and Sherlock rolls his eyes. She has no staying power, just like John. He's gone back to Baker Street to get some sleep. Sherlock can feel his muscles crying for a good night's sleep but he won't give it to them, not when he's got better things to be doing than sleeping. He strides past Molly again, and when he turns around, he sees that her eyes are closed, and she's snoring gently.
Sherlock narrows his eyes. "Wake up!" he snaps.
Molly wakes with a start, her arms flailing, eyes wide. In the frankly unnecessary commotion, Sherlock can see what's about to happen half a second before it does.
Unfortunately, half a second is not fast enough for him to save his experiment.
There is a crash as the test tubes hit the floor, glass smashing into thousands of tiny sparkling shards. The clear liquid is covering a good portion of the floor around the desk, and Sherlock pinches the bridge of his nose, trying, with all his might, not to lose his temper.
Molly stares at him. "I'm sorry," she says quietly. "You scared me."
"My fault?" he says icily. "Mine?"
"You didn't need to wake me up like that," Molly replies, not meeting his eye. "It was never going to be a calm event, was it?"
"I didn't anticipate that you would be such a disaster area, Molly."
"I think we both need to go home," Molly says, blanking his previous statement. "We both need sleep. You look like a wreck, I feel like one - I shouldn't even be here."
"Well you are here," Sherlock tells her, "and you'll remain here until we've got a set of results."
Molly shakes her head, and loops her arm through her crutches. "In the morning," she says. "We'll start over."
"We haven't got time to do it in the morning," Sherlock says. "And I don't need to sleep. I'm not as weak as you."
It becomes apparent that he's said something wrong, because Molly gives him a filthy look (as filthy as she can muster, anyway) and slides off of her stool and onto her feet.
"You're not going," he says, moving to block her path.
Molly doesn't even look at him, just turns, and puts her crutches before her. She lifts herself forward, but one of her crutches slips on the test solution. Sherlock lunges forward to catch her, but she's on the floor before he can even get close. She yells upon impact, and Sherlock is sure he hears a distinct crack, sending a shiver down his spine.
Tears stream down Molly's face, but she doesn't wail, just breathes heavily, her front teeth buried in her lower lip.
Sherlock's mind empties, all except for one last coherent thought.
This is all his fault.