You are cordially invited to
the wedding of
At the Holy Spirit Church, Chesham
On October 15, 2013
And then on to the wedding reception
At Royal Manor Hotel, Willington
No. She wouldn't. She couldn't. It was just another dull, doomed relationship in her string of poor choices. Molly had terrible taste in men; he knew that better than anyone. She loved him for years before she wised up and moved on.
Sherlock blinked at the words on the cream-colored rectangle of paper. Shutting out the clamor at the back of his mind, he allowed deductions to flow, filing them into a temporary folder where the bits of data would wait until he knew if the information was valuable and would require sorting to a more permanent location in his mind palace.
Three purple petunias in a pot atop the wording. Aparajita font, size 12. Paper thick but inexpensive. She hates petunias. Ordered off the internet, likely on sale. 25p-40p each range. Chosen by him. Does he not know she hates petunias? Church near his home, minimal time off work needed. Boring.
The dimensions and style of the wedding invitation were obvious and generic. Disdainfully common. Before Sherlock had even opened the envelope, he knew the invite within would likely pertain to one person but he had dismissed it because it just couldn't be possible. John and Mary's invitations had already gone out a month before, so it wasn't from them. None of his hated Holmes cousins sent him invitations anymore since he'd started sending them back shredded in the envelope.
Sherlock crumpled the invitation in his fist and leaned against the door. His face felt flushed against the cool wood, and his stomach churned. The cold sandwich he'd grabbed earlier from Mrs. Hudson's refrigerator sat like a rock in his gut, and three black cups of coffee had him gritting his teeth, on edge from the caffeine.
Four months they've been dating, he grumbled to himself. Why is Howard rushing things? Sherlock paced and the slim file of information he had on Molly's boyfriend- fiancé- jumped to the forefront of his mind.
Divorced and lies about his smoking. Light brown hair. Works worse hours than Lestrade at NSY and is even less likely to be promoted, being a complete idiot. 5'8". Shuffling gait during cold weather-caused by old knee injury- sports-related? Football likely.
Sherlock closed his eyes and banged his head against the door, and squeezed his fist tighter around the invitation without thinking. The paper tore in his grip, and the sound gave him immense satisfaction. He wished he had a dozen more of the little bastards to turn into confetti to stuff back into the envelope and return to sender.
He was still pondering the mangled wad of paper in his fist and muttering when the door swung open and narrowly missed his forehead.
"DAMMIT, Sherlock!" John yelled. He jumped aside. "Did you not hear me coming?" He shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the hook.
Sherlock threw him a dirty look and tossed himself onto the sofa with crossed arms. The invitation landed on the floor in a ball.
John's eyes followed the wad of paper. "Bin's still in the kitchen. I haven't moved out yet. You can let the flat turn to shit after me and Mary decide on a new place. Yeah?"
Sherlock rolled over and ignored him, pulling his blue dressing gown tighter around his body.
"Oh, for f…" John sighed and scooped the paper off the floor. He smoothed it out and scanned the paper curiously. Sitting down in his chair, he commented, "Oh right! Mary mentioned she got our invite last week. I gather they're keeping it small, just a few friends and family. Not much notice, is it? Good for Molly, though. Gary's a nice bloke."
Sherlock rolled back over furiously and sat up. "Gary is an idiot. Gary couldn't understand the Vauxhall thefts even after the deductions were explained last year. Gary never goes to the morgue, always lets Lestrade go because he can't handle corpses. How is he going to stand being married to a pathologist?"
"So Molly's not going to be chatting about her day at work much, sounds like. Most people aren't too interested in stories about dead bodies. Molly's an odd duck," John said with a smile. "But she's attractive and Gary says he doesn't mind her being a bit weird since she's pretty. And she'll be a good mum when they start having a family. She'd likely transition to teaching full-time anyway then on account of the chemicals. Not safe for pregnancies, and Molly's a careful sort."
Sherlock hopped off the sofa and stormed toward his bedroom.
"Where are you off to now?" John's voice was casual, but his lips curled upward. He set the invite aside and craned his neck around to see what Sherlock was up to.
"As if I don't know everything there is to bloody well know about Molly Hooper," Sherlock growled, storming around his bedroom. He dressed himself hurriedly. "Pretty, oh that's useful, but 'don't talk about your day at work, dear, or I may have a faint.' That arse. Doesn't even know she hates petunias." He drew his shoes on and was headed for the door when John filled the frame instead, leaning on the doorjamb. He grinned crookedly.
"Something the matter?"
"Nothing. Small errands to take care of. Fetch milk, drop off a file at the Yard, and talk that woman out of marrying a fool who will take her from- from the morgue. Wednesday night, Molly should still be at Barts." He stepped past John and grabbed his coat.
"From the morgue. Oh is that all." John looked at his watch, shrugging. "In that case, she's not at Barts. It's her hen night. I told you, not much notice for this wedding deal. I just dropped Mary off at McGillicuddy's. They're having pints there and meeting up with the girls before heading out for an all-nighter. If you hurry you might-"
Sherlock was out the door before John finished the sentence.
"Right." John jogged over to the window and watched with great amusement as Sherlock jumped into a cab and zipped off into the night after Molly Hooper. John pulled out his mobile and quickly typed out a warning to his fiancée, who was at that moment sitting on a stool beside a tipsy pathologist.
He'd walked into the morgue four months ago, seen the man leaning into Molly's personal space with annoying familiarity and immediately (wrongly, as it turned out) gave the relationship a shelf life of a month. Molly didn't appreciate men she was seeing turning up at her job unannounced; it was unprofessional and women carried more of a stigma from such behavior than men typically did, Sherlock had observed.
Besides that, Molly's morgue was her second home, her place to get lost in her thoughts and her craft. Her lab was an extension of the morgue and she navigated the narrow aisles and sharp corners more gracefully. The shelves were coordinated with a system she designed and he always knew if she had taken a holiday, even if he had absented Barts for weeks, because the only reason a beaker would ever be out of place would be because Molly Hooper was not there to rectify that error. Molly took care of her morgue and her lab, which were also his morgue and his lab. Oh sure, other people technically had access, but they were intruders, as far as he saw it. No one else belonged there.
That can't change, Sherlock ruminated, watching the lights of London blur through the cab window. Had he underestimated the utterly ordinary-seeming DI Howard, whose features and character were unremarkable in the extreme? Molly, despite her wide romantic streak had always struck him as practical and independent. Why remain in a relationship that was clearly going nowhere?
She saw something in you once. Put everything on the line to help you, when everyone hated you. Saw something worth loving. Maybe she sees that in him now instead.
Sherlock felt the urge to punch glass, and curled his hands into fists in his lap instead.
A Rolling Stones tune was rocking through the pub's speakers when Sherlock shoved the door of McGillicuddy's open and scanned the crowded room. He found Molly and Mary at the far end of the bar, conversing over elaborate cocktail glasses that held a huge amount of alcohol. He could have sworn he saw Mary's eyes glide over him as she spoke to Molly but she continued chatting away to Molly without acknowledging him.
Sherlock's eyes narrowed. Something was off but without more data, he couldn't pinpoint it. He plunged into the crowd, cutting through the throng until he was by Molly's side and tapping her shoulder insistently.
"I need to speak with you at once," he said quietly, near her ear.
"Sherlock!" Molly turned toward him and beamed. Her brown eyes shone and her cheeks were pink. He had noted that she frequently blushed in his presence, but he suspected that alcohol had some effect on her skin tone presently. "What are you doing here? Just having a bit o' a celebration with my mate. Come, have a sit- have a seat. Shove over, Mare. Sherlock's here."
"Hello, Sherlock." Mary smiled sweetly, her blue eyes sparkling. She stirred her drink casually. "Surprised to see you here. Dead body emergency, I suppose. Can't it wait? We have quite the evening planned."
Sherlock ignored her and dove into the speech he mapped out on the taxi ride over. "You have to end it with Gary. D.I. Howard is unacceptable as a long-term partner."
Molly shot a confused look at Mary. "Sherlock, I-"
The rapid words poured from his mouth. "Even if one overlooks his deception about his tobacco use, his excessive hours of work will leave little time for a family and the development of your personal goals, your wish to publish more journal articles before you begin procreating. Furthermore the notion that your potential spouse would be averse to your career suggests a lack of compatibility on a basic level and a lack of intelligence on his part, something substantiated by my interaction with him on several occasions on cases. He's dull, boring, and couldn't detect that it was raining even if his own hat was wet."
Molly's mouth dropped open and her eyes widened in shock. Mary bit her lip to contain her merriment.
"You have to stay on at Barts. The other pathologists on staff are difficult to work with, and their organization is lacking. Your career trajectory suggests that with more publications on your CV, the board will consider for a leadership position within three years, positioning you in a suitable role for parenthood without sacrificing your ambition. Compromise is unnecessary at this time."
Sherlock observed the growing redness in Molly's cheeks. "You're not speaking. Why are you not speaking? There are more reasons."
"Haven't given her much chance, have you," Mary remarked, sipping her mai tai. She sucked on the slice of orange garnishing the rim, and smiled. "But work is not enough to convince any woman to dump her fiancé, is it, Molly." She smirked at her friend, and Molly glanced over at her, eyebrows raised. "Running down here to stop Molly from getting married, one might think you were almost jealous."
"Wait, this is all…" Molly laughed, and coughed into her hands. "This is too strange. I can't-What on earth are you up to, Sherlock? What do you care who I date- or marry for that matter? So long as it isn't Moriarty," she jokingly added.
Sherlock ran his hand though his curls, and a stubborn line formed between his eyes. He shook his head.
What do I care?
What did I come here for?
This is Molly. Simple truths, always.
"You can't marry him, because you love me. Because you've been in love with me for years. It may have…not been apparent to me for some time." The sickening image of a distant Christmas flitted through his mind and he shoved it away. He could hear the frustration in his voice but he pressed onward. "You saved my life. You belong with me. Not with some boring clod who doesn't value your skill and only thinks you're pretty."
Molly winced at his last words and Mary's eyebrow quirked upward. Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, you're pretty, but that's irrelevant. Pretty doesn't last. Your mind counts, your skill, what you are, what you see in me, what I see in you…"
Sherlock's eyes locked with Molly's and he stumbled. His lips stilled. He saw confusion and warmth in her gaze, and other things too that he couldn't name. Deducing information from concrete data was easy; reading emotion was much more difficult. Dammit, he should've brought John with him for this part. He skimmed her loose, wavy hair, her open face, her delicate shoulders encased in a thin cardigan, the creamy skin of her throat, searching for some hint, some sign to hold onto.
His eyes wandered down her body, and landed in her lap, where her hands sat twisting nervously, her fingers sliding together. He was making her nervous; that was to be expected. But he should have looked at her hands first, of course. What an elementary mistake; he always missed something.
"You don't really want to marry him anyway," Sherlock announced triumphantly. The tension slid from his body, and the tightness in his chest finally loosened. A tendril of hope took hold inside him. "Cold feet are common no doubt, but hands, no, hands don't lie."
Molly tilted her head questioningly, a smile creeping onto her face. Mary shook her head.
Sherlock took hold of Molly's hands, cradling her slim fingers in his grasp. He smoothed his thumbs over her knuckles and the surface of her fingers, and flipped both hands over.
A blush crept up Molly's neck as Sherlock stroked her hands, demonstrated something that was now obvious to him. She lifted her face to his, and said huskily, "Explain?"
"No ring, and not just for tonight. Traditions may vary, and not every woman feels obliged to wear an engagement ring these days, but you're old-fashioned in some ways. No grooves on your fingers, either hand, and no tan lines. You don't wear your ring regularly, if at all. How long have you been having doubts? Since the beginning, I imagine." Sherlock let go of her hands.
Ignoring Mary's presence, he stepped in close to Molly against the counter, and cupped her cheek, tipping her face up to him.
"Did you mean what you said before? About me, belonging with you?" Her voice was soft, and filled with- ah, yes, he could identify it now- hope.
Sherlock felt the urge to draw walls around him as always, to secure himself with ice and sharp words inside a labyrinth that even he couldn't find his way out of some days.
But it was Molly. Light shone from this face that trusted and loved him, even before he had earned that privilege from her. He tamed the animal instinct to withdraw, and simply held her face and memorized the tiny happy lines around her eyes and lips, the hundred little things that made her uniquely Molly.
"Yes," he admitted finally. "Yes, I need you. You belong with me, you always have." And in the dim light and noise of the busy pub, Sherlock Holmes kissed Molly Hooper senseless until the bartender began to stare pointedly.
When he finally pulled his lips away from hers with a smug grin, Molly caught her breath and remembered a vital point. "Sherlock, I'm not engaged."
"Obviously not. Not anymore." He slid his hand around her neck, and kissed the side of her face.
"No, I mean I never was." Molly laughed. "I don't know why you thought that. I mean it's funny. We just came out for a drink. Gary and I broke up last week. So I was celebrating. Being single again and all. It was Mary's idea." Molly shared a look with her mate, who winked at Sherlock.
Sherlock's hand slid away from Molly. "Repeat that."
"Gary is transferring to Manchester, and I don't want to leave the city. And I didn't really see it going anywhere, to be honest. Nice guy, but a little boring. And he's weird about the morgue stuff. Don't tell me you're sorry I broke up with him," Molly said shyly. She touched Sherlock's hand. He accepted her fingers into his grasp and he studied her face anew.
Not engaged…? But then…
The wedding invitation filled his mind, and Sherlock scrutinized the details freshly, and everything he knew about the wedding so far.
Oh you son of a…
"Hey!" Mary said suddenly. She reached up above the crowd and waved toward the door. A greying blond head could be seen making its way through the clusters of people.
"Sorry I'm late, trouble getting a taxi." He hugged his fiancée and kissed her briefly. "How's things here?" He smiled broadly at Sherlock and Molly's joined hands.
"Having fun with wedding stationery, are we?" Sherlock held onto her hand defiantly. "I believe John is planning a ceremony at your expense."
"Well, you had your head up your arse when it came to realizing your feelings for Molly, and we had quite a lot of sample invites left over from the preparations for our wedding." The doctor grinned cheerfully.
"Seemed a shame to let them all go to waste," Mary agreed.
"I should've known. Petunias on the invitations. Wherever did you did get that sample? Hideous."
Molly cringed. "Ew, no, I hate petunias."
"I know," Sherlock replied proudly.
Just a little fic inspired by a sketch Lexie drew. The AO3 version of this story will have the sketch.
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