A/N: And here we have part two! Thanks to all those who reviewed the previous part, hope you like this one. And thanks again to MorbidByDefault for such a lovely prompt. I'm off to watch Deathly Hallows back to back, because that's the sort of badass I am. Enjoy.
Until the Ice Melts
Things are a blur. Eventually, Molly falls into a morphine-enhanced slumber, and when she wakes, she is in her own bed, her duvet wrapped tightly around her. The toes of her right foot are chilly. She opens her eyes and looks down at them. Instead of her funky blue boot, she has now acquired a gleaming white cast.
She wonders how she got home. Her skin prickles uncomfortably as she wonders whether she is alone in the flat, and, if she is alone, how the hell is she supposed to cope? She can envisage Sherlock turning up in two weeks' time, (having only noticed her absence after the bodies really started to pile up) and finding her sprawled on the floor like the accident prone idiot she is.
"Hello?" she calls out, in a soft voice, unsure of whether she wants a reply.
She hears footsteps, and Sherlock appears in the doorway, looking gaunt and tired.
"D'you need anything?" he asks, his gazed focused upon her.
Molly props herself up on her elbows, her body stiff, and limbs weak. "Not really," she says. "Just wondered if anyone was here."
"I'm staying until you're better," Sherlock says, running his hand up the doorframe, his eyes following its path. He's trying to be casual, and Molly almost laughs.
"You don't have to," Molly says. "I can always –"
"What?" Sherlock asks. "Get who to come and look after you?"
Molly's words die in her throat. She hasn't really got anyone anymore. In fact, since her dad died, Sherlock's been the closest thing she has to a...she doesn't even know how to label him. Next of kin? She wonders who's earned that title on her employment contract, then thinks she probably doesn't want to know who she was important to six years ago.
"And…" he continues, "John won't let me back in the flat until you're better."
Molly sighs. Just for a moment, she had foolishly thought that he was here, if not because he cared about her well-being, then at least out of a sense of duty, to right his wrongs. But no, as usual, he's here because he has nowhere else to go. She slumps back down onto the bed and stares at the ceiling. Her leg is starting to ache again, and her toes twitch in response to a particularly sharp pang.
"I stole some morphine for you."
Molly doesn't sit up, doesn't say a word, but the corners of her mouth turn upwards in a small smile. She does not condone theft, not at all, but she thinks it is possibly the nicest thing he, or anyone, for that matter, has ever done for her.
This is exactly why he steers clear of people, of relationships, of anything requires him giving in any way, shape or form. He just can't handle it. He cannot accept responsibility for another person, even in part. And now, thanks to his own selfishness, he's landed himself with a month of looking after a cripple. Worse than that, is the fact that this cripple is Molly Hooper. The Molly Hooper who put her job and her life on the line to help him fake his death. What does she get for her troubles? A broken leg.
The people that know him the best, John, Mycroft, and curiously, Molly, would not believe that he recognises the feeling of remorse. He knows they all believe him to be unfeeling, and that is true, most of the time. However, as he sits on Molly's sofa, his fingers tapping the arm, he knows what that sick feeling in his stomach is. Every time his brain offers up another flash of a tear stained face, screwed up in pain, the feeling intensifies.
She's probably hungry, he thinks, and so he gets up and heads for the kitchen. He opens the fridge and frowns at its minimal contents. In the bottom drawer there is an onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some carrots which look like they might have been there a while. On the shelves, there is some cheese, a tub of butter, and an out of date lasagne. He shakes his head and closes the door.
"I'm going out!" he calls, "D'you need anything?"
"Food!" Molly calls back.
Sherlock smirks, picks up Molly's keys, and heads for the door.
He doesn't frequent supermarkets very often. He usually leaves that sort of thing to John, or Mrs Hudson. The whole place is far too busy and uninteresting for his liking. The people are dull, their lives dull, the contents of their baskets, dull. There is no entertainment he can squeeze out of a few affairs and a child who has approximately no DNA from the man who thinks he is its father.
Sherlock turns his attention to the products. He doesn't really do cooking, but he's sure if the rest of the world can manage it then so can he. He's not sure what to cook, and so he wanders over to the book aisle, picks a cookbook at random, and flicks through its pages until he sees something that looks like it might be palatable. He scans the recipe, makes a mental note of the ingredients, before placing the book back on the shelf and going off to hunt.
When he arrives back, Molly has managed to get herself to the sofa without mishap, and is sitting, with her leg up, watching a programme with an unwarranted amount of canned laughter. She smiles every now and then at the jokes, and Sherlock's muscles relax, just a little. She can't be in too much pain if she's smiling.
"What did you get?" Molly asks, tipping her head over the back of the sofa and fixing Sherlock with an upside down gaze.
"Food," he says, carrying the bags into the kitchen.
Forty-five minutes later, she has made some room for him on the sofa (though her leg is irritatingly propped up on his lap, for lack of anywhere else to put it) and they are tucking into a seafood risotto. Sherlock watches as Molly' takes her first bite. Her eyes close gently, and he takes that as a good thing.
"You're forgiven," she says, eyes still closed. "You're very very forgiven."
The knot in Sherlock's chest loosens, and he finds it much easier to swallow his food.
She feels icky. She has stuck it out for as long as possible, with meticulous all over body washes each morning, but she needs more than that. The only trouble is, she needs help.
She tries to build up the courage to ask him, tries to find a string of words that she won't regret saying aloud, but it's difficult. Very difficult. She taps her fingers nervously on the side of her thigh, staring at the television screen, hoping against hope that a bright idea will jump out at her from this episode of Judge Judy. The previous two weren't particularly helpful, but maybe this time. Maybe.
Sherlock huffs loudly, the pages of his newspaper rustling. Molly's fingers still, and instead her good leg starts to jog nervously. They don't even reach the next lot of adverts before Sherlock throws his newspaper down, and turns to her.
"What?" he demands. "What's the matter?"
Molly bites her lip.
"Out with it. What do you need?"
"What makes you think I need anything?" Molly asks defensively.
"Because you won't ask me for it," he replies.
Molly blinks. "Oh."
"I would have hoped that after everything you've done for me in the past, and considering I'm partially responsible for your injuries, that you would have no qualms about asking me for anything."
"You don't owe me anything," Molly says quietly. "I don't expect anything in return for...what happened."
"I know you don't expect it," he says, shifting round so he can see her properly. "But all the same, I owe you my life. So whatever it is, no matter irritating, just ask."
"I need a shower," Molly says in a rush.
"And I'm going to need help."
Molly doesn't know what to say. How can she possibly tell him that as much as she fancies him, there is no way in hell that she'd want him to see her naked. At least, not like this.
"We'll need a bin bag," Sherlock says, and he pushes himself up and onto his feet.
Molly frowns, but all is made clear, when, five minutes later, she is sitting on the lid of the toilet, clad in just her bathrobe, and Sherlock is tying the bin bag around her plaster cast. She looks and feels ridiculous, but the bin bag is the least of her worries.
Sherlock takes off his jacket and Molly's eyebrows rise. He undoes the buttons of his cuffs and rolls up his sleeves. Molly can't help but feel like a child, about to be bathed by a very practical father. The thought of Sherlock as a father figure somewhat disturbs her, and so Molly focuses on the muscles in his arms as he reaches over to test the temperature of the water.
"Close your eyes," she says, her eyes worried and arms wrapped around herself.
He sighs, but nevertheless closes his eyes. It is a few seconds before she passes him her bathrobe, and then he turns around to face the wall. He can hear the patter of the water against the plastic bin bag around her cast, and assumes that she's not managed to kill herself yet.
"Shampoo?" Her voice is barely audible above the sound of the water, and Sherlock reaches forward to the sink where all of Molly's bottles have been dumped. He passes the shampoo back to her, ignoring the glimpse of her he catches in the mirror, now steamy at the edges. Moments later, the shampoo bottle is nudged gently against his shoulder, and he reaches around to take it from her. He drops it back into the sink and takes a look at his watch, wondering just how long he'll have to stand here for.
"Conditioner?" He obeys, and when she hands it back, he already has the body wash, ready for her.
After far too long, Molly turns the shower off. Sherlock can barely breathe for all the steam, and he wonders just how hot she actually has her showers. He pulls a towel off of the towel rail and turns around, his eyes closed, and holds it open for her.
"Thanks," she says quietly, and after a moment, "Okay, you can open."
He looks down at her, her hair sopping wet, her fair skin glistening with droplets of water. She looks so small, especially without her clothes on. Her large dark eyes are staring up at him, and her mouth forces an awkward smile. He moves aside, and she moves past him with a lopsided gait, her cast and its bin bag rustling as she walks.
Sherlock returns to the lounge and takes a seat on the sofa. He runs a hand through his hair, and considers his situation. He has never taken care of anybody before. Not even a cup of tea when John's been struck down by 'man flu'. And yet, here he is, being a shampoo caddy for the strange (yet endearing) pathologist whom he has known for years.
Yes, there is an aspect of guilt, which is strange enough in itself. He can accept when something is his fault but never has it concerned him before. It's not the sort of thing he bothers himself with. While it is true that John had to practically force him into Molly's flat, Sherlock's not sure that he'd be willing to leave before her cast comes off, even if John does return his key for 221B to him.
He has a sense of duty, which he has never had before, and all of these new things are worrying him. He dreads to think that he might be becoming sentimental, and puts it all down to the fact that, after his time spent hiding out at Molly's flat, he has become accustomed to her in the way that he has to John.
The one thing that he can't shake off, however, is that she can see right through him. She can see through him in a way that John can't, in a way that he's glad that John can't. He is certain that he has never let anybody this close before. And he doubts he will do again.
She is back at work, though still on crutches, but Sherlock, bizarrely, is still being helpful. She had thought that after a few days, perhaps a week, he would grow bored; John would relent because he would have shown at least some remorse, and that would have been more that John could have reasonably expected.
But no. here he is, waiting dutifully at the printer for her test results to print out.
The door opens and in walks Greg, his face drawn, dark circles under his eyes. The top button of his shirt is undone, his tie loose, and his stubble is longer than Molly has ever seen it. He looks a mess.
"Thought I'd find you here." He's talking to Sherlock, and Molly watches as the latter checks the order of the papers in his hand and walks back towards her bench.
"Congratulations. You've found me," Sherlock says.
"You haven't been answering your phone."
"Correct." Sherlock places the results in front of Molly but she doesn't look at them. She's far too interested in this exchange to be distracted by tox screens. She hadn't known Greg had been trying to get in touch with Sherlock, and it must have been for some time, because by the look of him, and judging by the burger sauce stain on his shirt, Greg hasn't been home for at least two days.
"I need you," Greg says.
"Busy," Sherlock says, and he glances down at the papers in front of Molly. "Very high levels of alcohol."
Molly ignores him. "What's up?" she asks Greg.
"That little girl on the news," he says. "She's my case."
Molly turns to stare at Sherlock in disbelief. "How long has he been trying to get in touch with you?"
"Fourteen and a half hours," Sherlock replies. "Give or take a few minutes."
She cannot believe what she's hearing. There is a missing six year old on the front of every newspaper, her parents are making distraught appeals in press conferences, and here Sherlock is looking at tox screens. She knows he doesn't do empathy, knows that he cannot possibly understand what the parents are going through, what the little girl is going through, but this is ridiculous.
"Big case like that," she says, "Thought it'd be right up your street."
"It's not my problem."
Molly closes her eyes and puts her head in her hands. She wonders, more often than she should, why the hell she loves him.
"Sherlock, it's a missing child, for God's sake -" Greg is starting to lose his patience. That's the difference between the two of them. Greg is a wreck because he cares, while Sherlock is impeccable in his neatly pressed shirt and trousers. He's clean shaven, his hair washed and sitting just right.
"Go," Molly says. "Please."
"But you need me."
"I'll manage just fine," she replies. She can't believe what she's hearing. Her needing someone to carry her coffee while she muddles her way back from the canteen is nothing compared to the needs of a missing six year old, and yet he can't seem to differentiate between the two.
"Fine," Sherlock says, huffing slightly. He grabs his jacket and pulls it on, then turns to Greg. "But we have to be finished by six, Lestrade."
"If you solve it by six," Greg replies.
"Of course I'll solve it by six," Sherlock retorts. "But I'm back here by six. I can't expect Molly to get home on her own with her leg in that thing."
Molly looks at Greg, their eyes meeting in shared disbelief as Sherlock slips his phone into his pocket and straightens the lapels of his jacket.
"Lead on, Inspector."
Greg blinks, gathers himself, nods at Molly, and departs.
While Molly's stomach twists uncomfortably with the knowledge of the case and its importance, there is a little light in her heart that just manages to whisper through the darkness of it all. No matter how hard she tries to put it out, to ignore it, to remind herself that there are far more important things happening right now, she cannot quite extinguish the knowledge that for fourteen and a half hours, she was more important to Sherlock Holmes than one of his cases.
When the day finally arrives, Sherlock rolls over to look at Molly, who is still sound asleep. She takes up such a small amount of space, even in her own bed, and Sherlock wonders if it's how she always sleeps, or, if he were not here, whether she would be spread out across the mattress taking up as much room as possible.
He shakes her shoulder gently and her eyelids flutter open. She grimaces at the stream of light that has broken through the gap in the curtains and throws her arm over her eyes.
"We have to leave in an hour," he says, his voice breaking the silence.
She groans and pulls the duvet up higher. She's not good at mornings, he has discovered. He had always expected the opposite of someone so terminally chirpy, but he now knows it's all just the coffee talking.
He sits up, throws the covers off of himself and swings his legs out of the side of the bed. He swallows down a yawn, determined not to let his body display any signs of tiredness, and gets up, grabbing his dressing gown as he heads towards the lounge.
"I'll put the kettle on," he says.
Molly murmurs something indistinct, and he shakes his head before he goes to fix some coffee.
When they arrive at the hospital, Sherlock thinks vaguely that this will be the last time he has to help her out of a taxi, that he won't ever have to hear the thunk click of her crutches ever again as he walks alongside her. He shrugs off the thought and waits as patiently as he can for her to navigate up the steps of the Bart's entrance.
She goes in with the nurse on her own, and he likes that. The people before her have gone in with anxious expressions (they've heard about the saw, he assumes) and drag in their chaperones with them. Molly, on the other hand, tells him she'll see him in a minute, and disappears.
He gets bored very quickly, and considers making a trip to the morgue to see if there's anything interesting in, but then realises that if Molly's not working, he won't be allowed through the door.
After what feels like an age, Molly reappears, a broad smile on her face. She is walking awkwardly, but she's out of practice so that's to be expected. Sherlock gets up, and they walk towards the lifts, more slowly than even when she was on crutches. Her leg is still delicate, except now it's delicate and unprotected. It's also still sore, he can tell from the way she bites her lip occasionally.
He hails a taxi when they reach the street, and opens the door for her, watching her carefully as she climbs in and takes her seat. Sherlock follows swiftly and relays Molly's address to the driver. Molly smiles, and they ride back to her place in silence.
They soon arrive, and Sherlock thrusts some money at the driver and climbs out of the cab. When Molly is out too, he pushes the door shut and walks towards the entrance of Molly's apartment block. It is a few seconds before he realises that she is not walking with him.
"What?" he asks.
Molly shrugs. "I just thought you'd be..." she looks around, mulling over her words, "...going back to Baker Street."
His face goes cold, and it feels as though something heavy has dropped in his stomach.
"Not that I'm trying to get rid of you!" she says in a rush, "Not at all! But I just thought...well I thought John would probably let you back in now."
He doesn't tell her that John had returned his key to him after his first week away from 221B. He's not sure she'd understand. He doesn't understand it himself.
"Sorry," he says, "Force of habit."
He starts to walk towards the main road. He doesn't often feel like an idiot, but when he does, nine times out of ten it's Molly Hooper who's to blame.
He doesn't like it.
He turns at the sound of her voice, and she's still standing in the same spot. She chews her lip, just for a second, nervous, apparently, and then words spill from her mouth.
He's grown used to her garbled babbling, and so he doesn't need her to repeat. Curiously, when she's like this, she speaks at the same speed at which his brain processes words. It's quite nice to not have to wait around for the ends of sentences.
Sherlock doesn't answer her question, but walks back to her, and her smile, which grows as he approaches.
He's not ready to go home. Not yet.