A/N This is a commissioned work from the lovely Laura. I am not the creator nor owner of any of these characters. I just like to make them do things their creators won't.
The St. Bart's morgue and pathology lab staff were considered an odd bunch by most everyone else at the hospital. After all, who would willingly choose to work with the dead? And truth be told, yes, they were a bit of an odd bunch. But, being surrounded by death as they were, they were also really great at blowing off steam when they had the chance.
While their revelries usually consisted of pub nights and house parties, once or twice a summer they would throw a party on the rooftop of the pathology building. There was no official approval from their bosses, but it was more about turning a blind eye than it was about ignorance. It was harmless fun that only ever resulted in hangovers and some awkward moments the next day at work.
The parties were never planned very far in advance and sometimes were thrown together at a moment's notice, due to a promising weather forecast and a light workload. There would be a flurry of emails, coordinating who would bring the crisps and who would bring the snack mix and, most importantly, who would bring the drinks.
They usually did a sweet but potent punch, the recipe for which one of the lab techs had brought back from the States (fruit punch, dark rum, coconut rum, fresh cut up fruit.)
Molly Hooper always brought fairy cakes, and they were absolutely delicious. Even if there was only a day's notice for the party, she usually managed a massive amount. One wondered how she did it. She had a tiny flat and worked all hours.
The summer that Sherlock Holmes had flung himself off the roof of the building, the parties had gone on as usual (once the crime scene tape was gone and they had clearance, of course.) It wasn't because the staff didn't like him (they didn't) but because they were people inured to death, and they thought it'd be a bit silly to forego their revelries because someone had lost his life on the ground below, when the building was full of the dead and dying.
There were, however, no cupcakes at those parties, or the ones the summer after. Molly Hooper thought it was ghastly to keep having the parties. "But then again," they whispered. "Hadn't she been in some bizarre love triangle with Holmes and that Jim from IT who turned out to be Not Moriarty but some other bloke? And she nearly lost her job after the whole mess."
The summer after Sherlock's return, Molly Hooper made twice as many cupcakes as usual and invited Sherlock. He had been noncommittal, which, judging by her smile, she took to be somewhat promising.
And though he'd said to himself up until half an hour ago that he wouldn't come, here he was, lurking just in the shadows of the rooftop entrance.
It is a sweltering June evening, a little more than two years after his faked suicide. He has no qualms about going to the roof—he sometimes comes up here to think, or to sneak a cigarette outside of John's watchful eye—he just doesn't want to spend any time with any of the people who are here. Well, except possibly Molly. She is a pleasant enough companion, but he could see her any evening. Of course he had never actually done that—taken the time to see her outside of Bart's—even since he'd been back. Was that something he should do? He would ask John later. (Why hadn't he brought John with him, anyway?)
He scans the crowd. It's a hot enough day that he's in rolled up shirt sleeves, but it is not enough to get him into Bermuda shorts, whatever the occasion. (And are some of Molly's male coworkers wearing Capris?) He spots Mike Stamford, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and several plastic leis, doing the limbo. Surprisingly agile, that Stamford. There are a few people still in work clothes, drinking soft drinks. Probably still on duty or on call.
He finally spots Molly, and with a sharp intake of breath, decides to stay in the doorway just a bit longer to watch her. She's wearing denim shorts, not too short (though they do show off her legs to great advantage) and a tie dyed vest so worn that it's almost transparent over a black skull print bikini top, and ridiculously tall wedge sandals. Her long hair is down and loose and shines auburn in the sun. She's currently sucking on an orange wedge that she's fished out of her cup of punch. The stains on her fingers and lips indicate that this is not her first cup. She laughs as someone plops a floppy straw hat on her head. Good thing, too, as the bridge of her nose is starting to turn pink. (Why is he worrying about that?) It's either time to duck back into the stairwell and leave, or make himself known. Molly takes a strawberry from her cup and pops it into her mouth, and his decision is made. There's something about the way she wraps her lips around it before biting it, but he tells himself he's just going to make sure she's not too intoxicated and has a safe way home. He tells himself he's just checking in because he doesn't like the way her co-worker (Ned? Edmund?) keeps placing his hand on the small of her back even after she gently brushes it away. It is of course, all of this. He is very protective of this woman who saved his life but he is also increasingly intrigued.
She turns around just as he steps into the light, and gives him a smile that makes his chest tighten. Or maybe that's just the two Macallans he'd downed at the pub up the block before he came here. He's never been much of a drinker, but some things just can't be faced sober. He probably should have eaten. He's not on a case but he hasn't gotten around to it yet.
She practically skips over to him, hands behind her back.
"Okay, Sherlock Holmes, it's time to get laid."
He's been around an intoxicated Molly on one or two occasions and while she was a bit more flirtatious and confident, she had never been this bold.
She holds out her arm to reveal one of the awful plastic leis.
"Lei'd, silly!" she says, and puts it around his neck. She leaves her hands on his chest for a bit longer than necessary and frowns.
"Sherlock Holmes, I think that you'd even wear a suit to the beach."
Her proximity is disconcerting. She smells of rum and sunscreen and for a moment he can imagine this scene happening on a beach somewhere, but with actual flowers. He's always been fond of Fiji. Christ what is he thinking?
"I'm not wearing a jacket, therefore I am not wearing a suit."
She rolls her eyes and takes his hand, leading him toward Stamford, who is reveling in his limbo victory. Before they can reach him she stumbles. (Those damned shoes.) He almost catches her (damned Scotch impeding his reflexes) but she slips from his grasp and lands hard.
"Molly, are you alright?" he kneels beside her.
"Yes," she whispers, clearly mortified. Her hands and knees are both scraped up quite a bit. Ned/Edmund spares no time in seizing the opportunity.
"Bad luck, Mols!" he says, helping her up. "Well, let's just pop down to my office and we'll get you cleaned up."
"That won't be necessary," Sherlock says, standing. He is incredibly grateful that he has at least a five inch height advantage over the other man. "I'll help Molly to her office. You've got first aid supplies, correct?"
"Yes, please." She says.
He helps her back inside. They have to manage a few flights of stairs before they get to a floor with a lift. Molly doesn't say anything and will barely look at him. He just keeps his arm around her (for support, of course) and says nothing.
Once downstairs, he has directs her to rinse the scrapes with water while he fetches the first aid kit. When he comes back she has removed the offending footwear and is crying quietly, sitting on one of the tables.
"Really, Molly, it can't hurt that badly."
She looks at him for the first time since they left the party and sniffs.
"It's not that, I'm just so embarrassed."
"Don't be, none of them will remember it. And with few exceptions you shouldn't care what they think anyway."
He pulls up a stool in front of her and begins tending her wounds, starting with her palms. He deftly removes all the gravel bits with a pair of tweezers, then gently applies an antibiotic cream. She winces slightly.
"Does that hurt?"
"It stings a bit but it's okay."
Sherlock bandages her palms and moves on to her knees.
"Stamford told me that you never went to these parties while I was gone. You knew I wasn't really dead, so why did you let it keep you?"
"Sherlock," she says in a way that pulls his attention from her knee and to her face. Her eyes are red and glassy and her nose is raw from crying but there is such a look of pure affection on her face that she is stunning.
"Yes?" he says.
"It didn't matter that I knew you were alive. They didn't, and they still thought it was such a lark. I actually think some of them got off on how morbid it was. Mike never went, either, you know. "
"No, I didn't know that," he says quietly, and goes back to his work. There is quite a bit more gravel in her knees than there was in her palms. He puts it all in a collection tray as if it were shrapnel. "Why did you wear those ridiculous shoes when you knew you'd be drinking?"
"I've never had any trouble with them before," she says, somewhat indignantly. "I'm really not stupid or clumsy around most people just—"
"Just around me?" He looks at her directly again and she looks away.
"I'm sorry. I wish I knew how to make that better."
"You could start by not—belittling me all the time."
He is in the process of smoothing a plaster over her knee when she says this, and it stops him cold, but only for a moment. He reaches for a second plaster and places it on her other knee.
"Do I still do that?"
"Yes. Not as much as before, but you do, and even when you haven't done it for a long time, I'm just always—expecting it. And it makes me overthink and second guess every single thing I want to say to you."
"You're not having any trouble expressing yourself now."
"Well I can't very well go around drunk all the time, can I?"
"I don't know, Dr. Adams seems to get along fine that way." She laughs and he makes a decision, though he has to busy himself with putting away the first aid kit in order to keep from losing his nerve.
"Molly, I told you before—everything—that you were my friend and that you counted. And I've realized that I haven't made much of an effort to get to know you outside of this lab. So, considering you'll probably have a raging hangover tomorrow, and barring any sudden cases that come up, would you like to have coffee before work in the morning?"
"Yes please. Two creams, one sugar," she says casually. He looks at her sharply.
"Oh. I mean, I was thinking more that we could have it someplace together, not here but—"
"You idiot, of course I'll have coffee with you. Someplace that's not here."
"Well, that's settled. Text me the location in the morning. Now, let's see about getting you home. You should probably wear those hideous Uggs I know you have stashed behind your office door for long days. Won't do to have you turning your ankle as well, will it?"
She gives him a glorious smile as he helps her down from the table, and spontaneously stands on her toes to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Thank you, Sherlock."
He keeps his arm around her as they walk out to find her a taxi. Just for support, of course.