A/N: Last chapter is up! Thank you so much for all of your wonderful and kind words :) They are always appreciated! And now it's time for Molly's turn...
Disclaimer: Of course Sherlock doesn't belong to me, but if they're are any journalists out there looking to embarrass both the fans and the people who do an amazing job creating the show by using fanfiction, give me a ring, will you? I don't think I'll let you use the story, but I have some other choice words for you...
Molly Hooper was confused.
It didn't happen that often. She was a very smart and very quick witted girl. She'd be the first to admit she often tripped over her own tongue and fumbled her words. She opted to stay quiet during group conversations, especially with people she didn't know well. But whether or not she was speaking her mind, she always had an inkling of what was going on.
Not this time.
She leaned back in her chair, observing the man in front of her. She couldn't quite believe that Sherlock Holmes was sitting across from her in a very nice restaurant. He was studying the menu intently, remaining mostly silent, though he had told her she'd enjoy the grilled snapper here. Snapper was one of the only fish she would eat, yet how Sherlock knew that she wasn't quite sure. They had rarely shared meals before, and only in Bart's cafeteria, which never boasted many diverse types of food.
He had slipped quietly into the morgue near the end of her shift. She had been surprised to see him; he usually burst through the door like a man on fire, demanding to see a body or to have her assistance in the lab. She had nearly dropped the set of vials she had been carrying when she heard his baritone voice from behind her.
"Hello, Molly," he had said quietly. Sherlock had quickly grabbed the vials from her as she jumped, setting them down gently on the table.
"Oh, Sherlock," she gasped, her hand on her chest. "You scared me. I didn't hear you come in." The pair had stood there awkwardly for a few moments and Molly waited for Sherlock to ask something of her. "What can I help you with?" she finally asked.
"I was wondering if... if you might accompany me to dinner," he mumbled.
Molly's eyebrows shot up. Of all the things Sherlock could possibly ask her, this was somewhere near the very bottom of the list. "Sorry, I... is this for a case?" Sherlock looked at her questioningly, seemingly confused by her confusion. "John... he's probably busy, right? With Mary."
"I'm not on a case," he said quickly. His blue-green eyes pierced her honey colored ones as she racked her brain for a suitable response.
" why are you asking me to dinner?"
"Isn't that what you do when you wish to get to become better acquainted with someone?" he asked. Molly knitted her brows, trying to understand what he was asking. They had known each other for years, and he could probably deduce anything he wanted to know about her. Not to mention he had stayed at her flat for a few days after the fall. While she would never say she understood the enigmatic ball of energy that was Sherlock Holmes, she would venture to say she knew him better than most.
But before she could respond in any way, Sherlock spoke again. "I was hoping you'd join me for dinner because... well, I... I wish to spend more time with you."
She searched his face, his eyes, his gaze... looking for anything that might hold his true reason for asking her out. She could find none, yet she didn't know if that comforted her or frightened her. Sherlock was, after all, the master of disguises, and he could easily disguise his true motive. Sighing, she discovered she didn't particularly care. She would always have a soft spot for Sherlock, and would probably always give in to whatever he asked.
"Of course, Sherlock. I'd love to. Um... I'll need some time to get ready. You know, change and... I don't particularly want to smell like morgue..."
"I'll come round at seven then," he nodded. "I, uh," he cleared his throat, and Molly swore there was a faint color on his cheeks. "I look forward to tonight." And without another word, he turned and left the morgue, leaving Molly standing there, dazed and confused.
That was several hours ago. True to his word, Sherlock had knocked on her door promptly at seven o'clock, and the pair ambled down a few blocks to a restaurant that was out of Molly's price range. They sat near the window, their table dotted with candles. The entire atmosphere was very romantic, with the low lighting and soft music playing. Normally, Molly would be flattered and a bit overwhelmed.
But now Molly Hooper was just confused.
The waiter approached and asked what each of them would like, and without a second thought, Molly immediately responded with the snapper. The barest hint of a smile graced Sherlock's mouth as he requested the same and a bottle of wine. The waiter nodded and left, leaving the pair alone once again.
Without the menus in front of them, they had nothing to pretend to give their interest to. Sherlock opened and closed his mouth, as if he wanted to say something and thought better of it. Molly furrowed her eyebrows once more and sighed.
"Why did you ask me to dinner, Sherlock?"
There was no mistaking the blush that crossed Sherlock's face. "Like I said before, I wish to spend more time with you."
"But why?" Molly asked earnestly. "We've known each other for years, and you've never approached me unless you needed something." He looked down at his hands, fidgeting uncomfortably. She had never seen him so unsure of himself; he was always so full of vibrato. She was vaguely reminded of a shy, little child on his first day of school. "Sherlock..."
"John's getting married," he said hurriedly, not looking up from his lap. She waited for him to continue, to explain further, but as he glanced up, she could see he expected that to be the complete explanation. As always, he was a few steps ahead of her, leaving no trail for her to follow his logic.
"So... what? You want me to be the replacement for John now?"
"No," he responded. There was an urgency in his voice that was all too familiar to Molly, though he had only used it regarding cases. As he raised his chin, she could see a look of... desperation in his eyes. It alarmed Molly, seeing Sherlock so off balance. But she waited for him to continue, unwilling to derail him from whatever train of thought he was struggling to hold on to. "I explained this all to John..." he muttered, but whether it was directed to Molly or himself she wasn't sure. He took a deep breath and forced himself to look into her eyes. "I did not like companionship. I preferred to work alone and kept everyone else at arm's length. When Mrs Hudson required me to find a roommate, I nearly left Baker Street."
Molly remembered Sherlock before John came around. He had been even more terse and difficult to work with. He only waited for others to catch up once he had reached the end of whatever mystery he had been working on. He had also gotten everything he had wanted from Molly through belittling her. While she had always known that he had only wanted something from her every time he charmed her, she always acquiesced, fearing he'd return to his condescending ways. And of course, it was a very nice change, even if it didn't mean anything to Sherlock.
She hadn't quite realized until now how much he had changed after he and John had become flatmates. Until they had become friends.
"You used the past tense," she realized. "You did not like, you kept everyone away."
He smiled, only slightly but it was there. "You lot have grown on me," he teased. Molly felt a surge of warmth at the statement, knowing that he had included her. "I, erm," he cleared his throat again, clearly uncomfortable with relaying his thoughts. "John is getting married," he repeated, his face fully flushed now. "And with that, he is moving out, beginning a new life with his fiance. And while I have been reassured our friendship will endure, things will undoubtedly change."
He slowly reached his arm across the table so that his hand rested in the middle. He shook slightly as he put his palm face up, and Molly was reminded of when he suffered from withdrawal. Worried thoughts that he was using again filled her head, remembering the agony he had gone through. But he displayed no other symptoms of using again, so she quickly dismissed those thoughts.
He looked up anxiously at her, and she realized he was reaching out to her. Setting down her wine glass, she wiped her damp hand on her napkin and gently placed it in Sherlock's waiting hand, her eyes never leaving his. He slowly wrapped his fingers around hers. "And," he quietly continued. "I want things to change... between us as well."
"What?" Molly exclaimed, nearly jumping out of her seat in surprise. She didn't let go of his hand, though, and gently squeezed it to reassure him she wasn't leaving.
"I'm not good at this... I'm not good at processing my own feelings, let alone communicating them," he muttered, staring down at their joined hands. "John recommended that I try... he thought you may be willing to help me."
"I am," she urged. "I'm always willing to help you."
He smiled, his eyes meeting hers. "John's relationship with Mary is the only steady romantic relationship I've witnessed. My parents divorced when I was quite young and sent me to an all-boys private school. The vast majority of my potential client pool are those who think their significant other is cheating on them. Even those I surround myself... Mrs Hudson's husband was an abusive crook, Mrs Lestrade is constantly seen here and there with other men, and both Donovan and Anderson have spouses and yet they still see each other. I never saw the point in having any sort of relationship with someone if it was based on lies.
"But I see the way John acts around Mary, and how she acts around him. How he must text her every day he's away to let her know he's all right, how he asks her how her day was, how she took care of him when..." he paused. Molly squeezed his hand again. "It's perfectly annoying. But... I've found myself... jealous. It took me a while to understand what I've been feeling; I've never felt jealous before," he admitted.
She shifted her hand so her fingers linked with his. "And what were you jealous of?" she asked quietly, so quietly she barely heard herself. But Sherlock heard her. His eyes slowly travelled from their adjoined hands to her face, and she flushed at the warmth showing in his eyes.
"I want someone there for me, too," he whispered. "And... to be there for that someone as well. John says I'm looking for someone to love."
Molly felt her eyes widen at the statement. He wasn't saying he loved her yet, but... "And... me? You... what, want to fall in love with me?"
"Based off of John's explanation, I can't imagine the process would be too difficult," he said with a small smile, though his cheeks were still flushed. "I'm not convinced I'm not on my way already."
"But why me?" she asked. He had belittled her, ignored her, hurt her. She was mousy Molly, the odd pathologist.
"I meant what I said a long time ago, Molly. You do count. You always have. And you always will. You have always been there for me, supported me, even when no one else could. John says love isn't about the grand gestures, but what happens after." Sherlock was surprised with how badly he wished to embrace her. It was an odd feeling, but he felt almost empty, and she was too far away on the other side of the table. "You have done nothing but stood by my side, even when I did not deserve it."
"'Love me when I least deserve it because that is when I really need it,'" Molly recited. She shook her head, biting her lip. "That's, uh... a Swedish proverb, I think."
He smiled, placing his other hand over hers. "I want to try, Molly. I'll need your help, your guidance... I'll make mistakes. You've had so much patience with me during these past few years. If you'll continue to have patience with me..."
Molly placed his hand over the one on top of hers and grinned. He gently lifted her second hand and pressed his lips to the back of her knuckles. "You're off to a pretty good start, I'll admit." Sherlock smiled wide, but before he could respond in anyway, the waiter returned to place their meal down in front of them. Molly jumped back, forgetting that they were in public, but smiled through her blush at Sherlock.
The pair ate in mostly silence, though it was comfortable. The chatted about St. Bart's, gossiped about Anderson and Donovan, laughed over various mishaps that happened at crime scenes. Once their plates were clean, their waiter hurried over and handed them dessert menus. Molly was pleased to see Sherlock scan it, considering each choice.
"What about the creme brulee?" he asked.
"Hmm..." she considered, biting her lip again. "I'm leaning towards the strawberry gelato, I think."
Molly nodded. "I had a friend in uni who spent a semester in Rome. The way she talked about it... it just sounded like the time of her life."
"Have you ever been?" Sherlock asked.
She shook her head. "Never really travelled. I've always wanted to go, though."
Sherlock smiled. Paris or Rome, it didn't matter, as long as Molly was along on the adventure.
One year later, the pair spent a quiet Saturday night in, diligently unpacking her belongings and finding their rightful places in 221B Baker Street. A small, unadorned frame sat in the corner of the mantle, and held a simple picture of the two standing in front of the colosseum, she with a spoon of gelato in her mouth, and he with his lips pressed to the top her head.