Title: The Caregiver
Characters: Molly, Sherlock, John, Lestrade, Mrs Hudson
Warnings/Triggers: some injuries and dealing with the aftermath of a death (suicide)
Spoilers: The Reichenbach Fall
Summary: Four times Molly Hooper looked after someone, and one time they all looked after her.
Author's notes: This section is a bit angsty, but the next part is less so. Warnings for people dealing with the aftermath of a suicide (we know it's fake, they don't).
Six Hours Before the Fall
Sherlock had been pacing back and forth through the lab for the past fifteen minutes. He was speaking, but mostly to himself, even though he directed the conversation toward Molly. She paced alongside him, trying to keep up and offer support when needed. She also put back anything he moved around in his agitation, so he didn't break any of the lab equipment, and occasionally handed him a cup of tea, which he took sips of, then put carelessly on a lab bench. She picked it back up and waited for the right moment to hand it to him again.
"I think I've thought of everything," he said, again. It was probably the fifth or sixth time he'd said it. "It's all planned out. I have all the contingencies. Whatever way it goes, I'm prepared."
"Right," she agreed, for the fifth or sixth time. "I'm sure you are. We've got everything ready."
He nodded and kept pacing. She handed him the tea and he took a sip, then put it on the bench again. She picked it up and continued to follow him.
She was trying not to think too hard on what was going to happen. It made her feel sick to her stomach. She tried to reassure herself that it might not happen. They'd prepared a back-up plan, only to be used if circumstances were dire. Somehow, though, she knew it was going to be used. She knew Jim Moriarty. He'd twisted her all around and inside out. If anyone could outwit Sherlock Holmes, it was him.
"I don't want to do this!" Sherlock said, stopping suddenly and balling his hands into fists. "I don't want to have to do this."
"Maybe you won't have to," Molly said.
Sherlock made an angry gesture. "He won't have it any other way. It's a chess game, played well in advance. We both know what's going to happen. It's just a matter of who's thought the farthest ahead."
Molly didn't know what to do. What did you say in this sort of situation? It was like something out of an old spy movie. This sort of thing didn't happen in real life.
"I need to say something," she said. "And you're going to think it's stupid, but I'm going to say it anyway."
"How do you know I'll think it's stupid?" Sherlock asked.
"Oh, because you always do," she said, dismissively. He frowned a little. "I'm so sorry this is happening. It's my fault. If I hadn't let Jim, I—I mean, Moriarty, fool me, none of this would have happened."
He stared at her for a moment. "You're right," he said. She felt like she'd been punched in the stomach. "I do think it's stupid." She smiled in surprise. "This isn't your fault. Moriarty would have found a way to get to me without you. This was always where we would end up. You've been a great help to me tonight."
She smiled a little, sadly. "I wish I could do more."
"Don't be tedious," Sherlock snapped. "If needed more, I would have asked for it. I won't repeat myself. Don't fish for compliments."
Molly looked down. "I wasn't," she muttered. "I just meant it."
"Oh." Sherlock looked confused. "I...never mind. John will be back shortly. He'll have gone to see Mycroft. This is the one occasion where his predictability is an asset. I need you to do what we discussed. I've given you the time frame, but be prepared for it to change. Don't be too early or too late. If all goes as planned, I should see you later. Hopefully, intact."
He sounded light, but he looked a little worried. Molly hesitated for a moment, then stepped over and hugged him. He reacted like he'd stepped into cold water, his body going tense in her arms. She held on and eventually he relaxed a fraction. She pressed her face into his chest, because it may well be the only time she was going to get to hold onto him and she needed him to know that she meant it.
"You're very brave," she told him, her voice muffled by his shirt.
"Release me," he demanded, but in a gentle tone.
She stepped back and smiled at him. "Erm, goodbye. For now," she said. He nodded. "Okay. Good luck." She forced herself to turn and leave the lab.
"Molly," he said, as she made the doorway. She turned back. He looked frustrated, as though he was having trouble finding words. "You stayed up with me. I..." he nodded toward her, helplessly.
She nodded back. "You're welcome, Sherlock."
One Month After the Fall
Molly rang the bell of John Watson's new flat and then immediately decided this was a terrible idea. She had just made up her mind to flee when the door opened and John peered out. He looked a bit suspicious, but then broke out into a smile at the sight of her. He looked a bit better. Not well. Not good. But better.
"Molly!" he said, warmly. "Hi."
She hated when he was nice to her. She hated knowing that she could ease his burden so much with one sentence: 'Sherlock Holmes isn't dead'. But she couldn't speak it and every moment she spent not saying it was a lie. She forced those thoughts out of her head and concentrated on what she could do to help.
"Hey. I've brought you a housewarming present," she explained, shoving the box out at him. "Well, flatwarming. I kept the receipt, if you don't like it." She brought the box back as he reached for it and hugged it to her chest. "S'probably a bit silly, actually. I'll —"
"Molly," John interrupted, sternly. "Gimme my present."
Molly flushed and let him take the box. "Sorry."
"Are you apologizing for bringing me a present?" John asked. She shrugged, not really sure herself. He gave her a smile, one of those old ones that used to be so common. "C'min. I think I can do tea."
Molly followed him into the building. It was set up a bit like Baker Street, an old house divided into flats. It didn't have the same warm, cozy feeling of 221b, though. John let himself into a door on the left and gestured for her to go in ahead of him. The flat itself was nothing like his old place. It was modern, spartan, and bare. About what she'd expect from John, really. He wasn't a flashy or complicated bloke. The furniture was sturdy, but not really stylish, and there weren't a lot of decorations on the wall. Boxes lay around, still waiting to be unpacked.
"Oh, are these your medals?" she asked, looking at the shadow box sitting on the top of one. "You have a lot."
"They give you a medal for walking in a straight line," John said, but he was obviously proud of them. "Kitchen's through here. I'll make you a cuppa. That stuff is all unpacked."
The kitchen looked a little more homely. None of the dishes matched and all the food was the kind bachelors made. Tins of beans and pot noodles. John flicked the kettle on and put her present on the table, then began to unwrap it.
"Mrs Hudson said that your teapot was pretty banged up," Molly explained, as he lifted the object out of the box. "But I wasn't sure if-if maybe it was sentimental to you, so you can return it if you don't want it. I just thought it was sort of interesting looking."
"No, no," John said, smiling down at the gift. The teapot was chrome and in a pyramid shape. Molly thought it suited John's simple, to-the-point taste. "It's perfect, Molly, thank you. Mine is a little...big, now. This is really great. Thank you."
Molly flushed with pleasure. "You're welcome," she said. "I'm happy you like it."
"Have a seat," he said.
She sat down at the table, relieved now that the present had been well-received. She dreaded giving gifts. She was always terrified that the person was going to hate it.
John's laptop was sitting on the table, with a word processing programme running. She peeked around at it and skimmed over the words. There were a lot of 'I's' and 'Sherlock's' on the page. "Are you writing again?" she asked.
John looked a bit flustered at the question. "Erm, yeah. Not the blog. I just...I'm writing some of the cases up, properly," he explained. "I don't know what I'm going to do with them but I thought...maybe if I spelled it out in detail, people would see that it wasn't a trick. I didn't always go into the process on my blog – he hated that. And it helps. Going through all my notes. It helps." He said all this fussing around the tea things, as though he were afraid she was going to laugh.
"Maybe you could turn it into a book?" Molly suggested.
John shook his head. "He'd have hated that. I'm sure I'm getting everything wrong," he said, with a little laugh. "It's just for...I needed something to do. To feel like I'm not giving up on him."
Molly didn't like the feeling in her stomach, but she once again forced herself to smile. "I think he would have liked it. He loved people to say how brilliant he was," she said. "He was such a peacock." John smiled down at the kettle while he poured. "If—if you want, I could maybe take a look at it. If it's not too personal. It's okay if it is. But I could be like a...proofreader or something."
John turned to look at her, thinking. She was sure he was going to refuse and she looked away, so he didn't feel pressured. "Would you mind?" he asked. She looked back, surprised. "I sometimes think I'm not doing it right. I don't know if makes sense to anyone but me."
Molly grinned. "I would really, really love to," she said, truthfully.
"When you have some time one day—" he began.
"I have time now," she said.
And that earned her another smile.
Six Weeks After the Fall
"Thanks for coming, Molly," Lestrade said, as she met him at the door to A&E. He hobbled over on his crutches, looking miserable. "I can't drive and the doctors insisted someone accompany me home. I had a weird reaction to the muscle relaxants, so they're fussing. I...er, didn't really have anyone else to call, and I knew you'd be up at this hour."
Molly smiled. "It's no trouble at all," she said, sympathetically. His marriage had pretty much fallen apart since Sherlock's 'death', the last thread severed by the scandal surrounding it. And she knew that he wasn't getting along with his team very well. She could see why he didn't want them seeing him all banged up. "The cab's waiting outside. Do you need a hand?"
"A knee would be nice," Lestrade said, waving her away and following along behind. "This is my second day back and I'm already out of commission."
"Is it bad?" Molly asked, looking down at his knee, critically.
"Popped out of a place a bit, but popped itself back in," Lestrade explained. "Mostly a sprain. I have to keep off it for a week or so."
Molly opened the cab door for him and held his crutches while he manoeuvred himself in. She hurried around to the other side and tried to squish the crutches in with them.
"I'm really glad you're back," she said, once they were on the move. "I thought that enquiry was absolute rubbish. I wrote a letter for you, saying that you weren't blame and how good a DI you are. I don't know if it helped, but I-I thought I should try..."
Lestrade gave her a little grin. "Thanks," he said. "I appreciate the support. I don't know what changed their minds, but it happened pretty fast. If I had to guess, I'd say someone higher up stepped in. Whatever the case, it's good to be back. Well, it was."
"I'm sure you won't be off for long," she said, optimistically.
The rest of the ride to his house was spent catching up with one another. Neither had much to say. Lestrade had been on probation since Sherlock jumped and nothing very exciting ever happened to Molly. She tried to keep an upbeat dialogue going, though. He looked tired and thinner and older.
She went in when they got to his place, ushering him over to the couch in the living room and then hurrying around to try and make up a spot for him to rest.
"Molly...Molly...Molls, slow down," Lestrade said, waving to get her attention. "S'okay, I'm fine. S'just a knee. I'm not dying."
Molly stopped with a cushioned hugged to her chest. "I just want make sure you're okay before I leave," she explained. She couldn't express that she also needed to know that he was okay beyond his injury. That he was eating and sleeping and looking after himself.
She put the cushion under his knee and found the kitchen to bring him a glass of water and made an ice pack for him. "I'll leave this by the couch, so you don't have to get up to take your pain medicine," she said. "You should try to ice for twenty minutes, then twenty minutes off and twenty minutes on."
Lestrade nodded along. "Thank you. Now, sit down for a minute," he ordered, in such a stern voice that she obeyed right away. He settled the ice pack on his knee and looked over at her, judging. "How are you getting on? I know you were...I know you and Sherlock worked together a lot."
"Oh, I'm fine," Molly said. "I miss him, but that's normal, isn't it? It's funny what you miss. I miss him not listening to me and forgetting my name and asking me to get the weirdest things for his experiments."
"Doing stupid things, never listening, calling me an idiot," Lestrade said, in agreement. "I wish I could have done more for him. I never expected him to...I should have seen it. I doubted him for one second and everything fell apart. I hate to think he jumped thinking I didn't believe in him."
"I'm sure there was more to it than that," Molly said, her stomach twisting at his words. "Lots of times you never know why someone chooses to...maybe there were things we didn't know about. I know he trusted you. I'm sure he knows – knew."
Lestrade nodded, but didn't look convinced. His eyes looked heavy, like he was fighting to stay awake. "Sorry, I've gone all soppy on you. I don't think these pills agree with me," he said.
"You should just rest," she said, getting up and pulling a blanket from behind the couch. "Lie down, Inspector."
Lestrade smirked. "Yes, ma'am," he murmured. He slid down and she draped the blanket over him, making sure his leg was up on the pillow. "Thanks, Molly."
"It's no trouble," she assured him. "Ring me if you need anything, okay?"
He nodded, his eyes already starting to close. She waited for a few minutes until she was satisfied that he was all right, then left.
Six Months After the Fall
Molly tapped lightly on the doorjamb to the hospital room. Inside, Mrs Hudson looked over and smiled at her, waving her in.
"Molly, dear," she greeted her, warmly. "It's so nice to see you."
"I thought I'd come see how you were doing," Molly said. "I brought you some magazines." She set them down on the rolling table next to the bed. "John said the surgery went well?"
"I haven't felt this good in years," Mrs Hudson said, happily. "A bit of pain, of course, but nothing like I was dealing with before. The doctor said I did very well. John made sure I had the best surgeon. You'd think I was having a heart transplant and not a hip replacement the way he was fussing."
Molly grinned. "He cares about you," she said. "We all do. What we do without our Mrs Hudson?"
Mrs Hudson patted her knee affectionately. "And how are you doing, my dear?" she asked. "I haven't seen you much since poor Sherlock...how are you getting on?"
"I still miss him," Molly admitted, truthfully. "But I'm okay."
"I miss him too," Mrs Hudson said. "It's so quiet without my boys. I keep thinking I need to let out the flat again, but I just can't bear to do it. The rent keeps getting deposited into my bank account every month. The bank won't tell me who's doing it. John thinks it's probably Sherlock's brother, but trying to get hold of him is harder than getting the Queen on the phone. I'd like to give him a piece of my mind. I suppose I can't really complain about having money, though. Not when so many go without." She shook her head, as though freeing herself from her thoughts. "And I'm rambling, dear, you tell me about you. Have you met any nice young men lately?"
Molly giggled. "Lots. But none of them are interested in me," she said. "Girl who works with dead people and loves cats isn't really on anyone's list of ideal qualities."
"Nonsense, you'll find the right fellow one day," Mrs Hudson said, confidently.
Molly shrugged a shoulder. "Is there anything I can do for you while I'm here?" she asked.
Mrs Hudson hesitated. "Well, it's a bit silly. But my hair is a mess!" she said. "And I don't want to bother the nurses about it. I feel so silly sitting in front of the doctors, looking like I do."
"Shall I style it a bit?" Molly asked.
Mrs Hudson looked hopeful."Would you mind, dear?"
"Of course not," Molly said.
She retrieved the hairbrush and worked the knots out of Mrs Hudson's hair. She remembered when she wasn't feeling well, her mother used to brush through her hair and it was very comforting. Once all the mats were gone, she put a little water on it and tried to match Mrs Hudson's usual style. She brought a pocket mirror out of her handbag and held it up for her to see.
"Oh, that's much better, thank you, dear," Mrs Hudson said. "I know it's silly, but you feel better when you're all to rights, don't you? I couldn't ask John. He's been wonderful, but it's not something you can ask a man to do for you."
"John doesn't have any hair to style," Molly pointed out. "I don't think he'd be much help."
Mrs Hudson laughed. She glanced over to the clock on the wall. "It's just about time for me to make my tour of the ward," she said. "I have to get up and exercise the new joint. I do hate that Zimmer frame, though. I've always been very proud of not needing one."
"I don't think it'll be for very long," Molly assured her. She wheeled it over to the bed for Mrs Hudson. "Would you like some company while you walk?"
Mrs Hudson smiled. "I'd love some, dear."