Molly Hooper was just getting ready to settle down with her tabby cat, Toby, to watch a bit of telly with a light dinner, when she heard her cell phone chime from where she had left it on the kitchen counter. Her mind immediately jumped to Tom, a small part of her hoping for some kind of reconciliation.
She had met him one night while out with a few girlfriends. It was the first time she had let herself leave her house for anything other than work or shopping since Sherlock had faked his death. She kept expecting to see him walking down the street towards her, or standing motionless in one of the alley's she would have to pass. Molly was one of the chosen few graced with the knowledge of Sherlock's ploy, and it was more of a burden than a comfort. She was haunted by his lingering presence; under the impression that she had to move on, to grieve like everyone else, but it was impossible when London seemed to be filled with echoes of Sherlock Holmes, shadows with long coats and blue scarfs. Any time she passed a man with an elegant gait and dark curly hair, she held her breath for a fraction of a second, expecting it to be the man she had devoted a fraction of her heart to.
Leaving her comfortable flat opened up all kinds of possibilities to be reminded of him, so she tried to remain there as often as she could. And although she never ran into Sherlock, she frequently ran into John, and that was so much more awful that Molly could have ever anticipated. The doctor had been run down, and never looked as though he had gotten enough sleep. He spoke very little, and not a touch of happiness could ever be seen on any part of him. He only ever made reluctant eye contact with her, as though any reminder of Sherlock, and the things associated with him, were too physically painful for John to bear. She wished so badly that she could tell him the truth, to ease his suffering. But every time she opened her mouth to tell John what she knew, she would remember the look on Sherlock's face when he told her that he needed her, and she would quickly close her lips. It was the first time Sherlock had asked her for anything, and she didn't want to betray his trust. A part of her was relieved when John seemed to vanish in the streets of London, without a phone call or a letter or any form of goodbye. He simply disappeared from her life, and she didn't see him again for over eighteen months.
Hiding from Sherlock's ghosts and from John had kept her isolated, trapped within her tiny apartment struggling not to remember the few days Sherlock had spent there after his fall. He had lounged on her couch, had sipped tea from her mugs, slept in between her sheets, and then he had vanished too. She woke up one morning to a small note on her bedside table;
Thank you Molly Hooper, and Goodbye. For now. SH.
All traces of him had ceased to exist, but she could never remove those images he had ingrained into her sub-conscious. She missed him constantly.
So one night she decided she had been hiding for far too long, and organised a night out with a few of the nurses from St Bart's. And that was when she met him, a tall man in a long coat with dark curly hair and a handsome face. But this man was kinder, he looked at her in a way the other man never had, and Molly knew she had found a way to fill that void that Sherlock Holmes had left in her life.
A part of her knew that Tom was just a replacement for Sherlock in her mind, and she knew the connection she made between the two was more than likely unhealthy, but after a while she began to see past their similarities, and through to all the things that Tom was that Sherlock would never be. She found in Tom someone who shared passions and temperaments. They were both homebodies, content to spend an evening in rather than facing the rest of London. Tom shared her love of cats, and was especially fond of her Toby. They were able to comfortably talk about all kinds of things, music and literature, and Tom listened to all of her opinions as though each one was something special and extraordinary. He made her feel stable, secure, but most important he made her feel as though she mattered, that her existence made his life better somehow. She fell in love with him for that, for the comfort he provided her, and the sense of validation, despite his initial draw being a striking similarity to a certain detective.
But when Sherlock returned, Molly felt herself regressing, her heart once again being pulled towards the one man she knew would never return her affections. The fights with Tom were loud and always left her in tears. He accused her of substituting her devotion, of holding out for Sherlock Holmes. She had cried and yelled at him that she did love him, that she wouldn't be marrying him if she wasn't sure that she was ready to be with him, but all Tom had done was continue to silently pack his things while she begged and screamed at him to stay.
The next day she had gotten a text from him requesting that she return the ring.
When she heard her phone chime, Molly felt herself pleading for it to be Tom, for him to be willing to talk to her again about their future. She wasn't ready to give up on him, to let him go from her life. He had been the best boyfriend, and the best friend she had ever had; a perfect combination of everything that she wanted and needed in a significant other. The hole he left in her life was even greater than the one Sherlock had left when he closed that door.
She pulled herself off the couch slowly, so as not to disrupt a sleeping Toby, and gingerly picked up her phone. She never got texts from anyone, so the last message in her inbox was the one from Tom, the one she wished she had the courage to delete, but which her heart still clung too. If those were to be Tom's final words to her, she would etch them into her fibre, carve them into her heart. They would stand as a last tribute to a man she wished she loved just a little bit more, just enough to tip the scales and make her permanently forget about Sherlock Holmes.
Looking at the message was like pouring salt in the wound, her chest felt tight as those his pale hand had physically gripped onto her beating heart, his slender fingers clenching it tightly.
"Are you at your home? Can I come over?- SH".
Seeing him in the hospital had filled her with adrenaline, the fear for his safety removing any uneasiness being around him would normally cause. Her fiancé had left her because there was a part of her that would always be loyal to Sherlock Holmes, that would always do all that she could to make him happy, to drop whatever she was doing to help him in any way he would permit. And now that she had lost Tom, Sherlock was all she had, the memories of him, the ghost of the Sherlock that had occupied her flat, it all came flooding back to her.
Molly knew that he would never love her. She knew that she would never know how it felt to be held in his arms or kissed by his lips. But she wasn't sure that she wanted that anymore.
Sherlock Holmes was still of integral importance to her, but it was his smiles which she craved, and his approval rather than his affection. She was still going to do whatever he wanted her to do, if only to try a receive from him one of those rare glimpses behind his walls, something she had only ever witnessed once in her life.
"I'm here. If you want to."
She replied slowly, measuring each word with delicate precision. Talking to him always left her tongue tied, unsure of what was safe to safe, and what he would immediately scorn. He always seemed to see through her as though she was made of glass, and something about the way he viewed her made her feel just as breakable. He could crack her with just a few words, shatter her with his observations. And in those instances Molly Hooper would quietly put herself back together, and continue to be wherever he needed her to be, unable to break free from the effect his presence intoxicated her with.
"On my way- SH".
She put the phone back on the counter and let out a soft sigh.
Whatever he wanted from her, she would provide him with in abundance.
But he would never give her the one thing she craved.
His sincere gratitude and trust.