John was supposed to meet Sherlock in the lab at St. Barts at nine pm sharp. He waited by the doors, sighing angrily as he looked at his watch again. Obviously Sherlock had been distracted by something to keep him waiting twenty minutes. He was about to send him a text when the door down the dimly lit hallway slowly opened, and Molly Hooper appeared. Her hand, for lack of a better word, was grasping her left breast, and she looked pained.
"Molly?" she looked up, startled, hand dropping to her side. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing!" she answered quickly. "I mean, um…where is Sherlock? He said for me to meet him here after my break."
"I dunno, the doors to the lab are locked, so he can't be inside."
"I have the key," she said and reached into her pocket, fishing around for them.
Pushing on the heavy door, she winced, feeling the distinctive pinch in her chest and under her arm. John had not missed it.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked.
"Yes I'm…" she stopped where she was, and then slowly shook her head. "I don't know if I am," she said finally, turning to face him. "John, you're my friend."
"Yes I am."
"And you would tell me the truth, no matter what?"
"Well, sparing your feelings of course-"
"No I mean, in a life or death situation, you would tell me the truth?"
"Yes of course I would- why? Are you in trouble?"
"No! I mean, I don't know- or rather," she fumbled with the buttons on her lab coat. "May I ask you a terribly awkward question? I only ask you because you're a doctor, you'll be honest with me."
"What do you need?" he asked.
"Can you tell me if you feel a lump in my breast?" He nodded his expression quite serious.
"Yes I can, would you rather go to your office?"
"Please," he stepped aside, getting the door for her before letting her lead the way down the hall back to her office. Shutting the door and tugging the blinds down, John turned around as she set her lab coat aside.
"Where exactly did you find it?" he asked.
"It's just here." Sure enough, John felt the rigid lump where Molly had directed him. He studied the skin and the indented nipple.
"You winced, when you pushed the door open, is it hard to lift things?"
"Any kind of weight it seems," she confessed.
"Any trouble with the right side?"
"No, mostly the left,"
"Have you noticed it increasing in size at all?" she didn't answer and he looked up at her. "Molly?" slowly, she nodded. "Molly!"
"I was scared!" she cried. "I know I should have gone sooner, I should have asked you sooner but I was scared!"
"Calm down," John soothed. He tugged her blouse over her front and she did up the buttons.
"What do you think?" she asked. He looked back at her.
"Cancer isn't my specialty, but we both know what to look for. You have several very distinct signs that concern me. I want you to make an appointment with your doctor, tomorrow, if possible. I'll make the call if you like." She shook her head, smiling bitterly.
"It runs in my family," she said. "I always knew it was pretty definite that I'd have it too." Leaning against the edge of the desk, she sighed heavily. "I'm thirty-four, for pity's sake."
"Better you take care of it now," John said, joining her at the desk. She nodded. "You know your options?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest.
"I always knew if it came to it I'd have a mastectomy," Molly answered. He nodded, quiet.
"Look, if you want someone with you…" he shrugged. "I know I'm not family but just so you know…you don't have to go through this by yourself. I'll be glad to go with you. Or Mary could go, I know she wouldn't object." Molly smiled at this.
"Thank you, I think- I think I'll take you up on that." He patted her hand before moving away from the desk.
"Come on, I'll buy you a coffee, we'll see if Sherlock hasn't shown up yet."
"I'm just going to run to the loo, I'll see you in the lab," she said, and he nodded.
The bathroom door shut behind her and she leaned against the door. She shouldn't be so surprised. Why was she shaking? Her aunts had it, her mother had it. Of course Molly would have it too. But they hadn't been alone in their battle, when her mother died, Molly was at her side. Now that her father was gone, Molly realized, not for the first time, she had no family. People needed family in times like this. She knew immediately that if it was cancerous, without a doubt, she'd have a mastectomy. Why risk it? Cut off the source and hopefully kill it. What if it didn't go away though? What if it cropped up again? What if she had to go through chemo? Her mind swimming with unanswered questions and fears, she grasped the edge of the sink, taking even breaths. All this worrying could easily turn into a panic attack for her, so she sat down.
A sudden, insistent pounding on the door made her jump.
"Molly! The lab is locked!" Sherlock called through the door.
"I'm coming," she answered. Quickly, she splashed water on her face, toweling off quickly before she opened the door. "Sorry, thank you for not picking the locks again,"
"I have made efforts to respect your lab rules, Molly," he said pleasantly and smiled at her. At this she stopped where she was, looking at him and then at John just behind him. Sherlock glanced back at the good doctor, then at Molly. "Oh please, I didn't need John to tell me about the pinch in your chest, or the fact that your left breast has increased in size on almost a weekly basis-"
"You were looking at my breasts?" Molly tugged at the front of her lab coat, turning somewhat red.
"You let John touch them, I fail to see how my noticing them-"
"He's a doctor, and he was looking for a lump!" Molly snapped.
"Sherlock, not the time," John said.
"Of course it isn't," Sherlock said briskly. "Molly is facing the possibility, more probable than not, of having breast cancer."
"Look, I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow, and I'll have a few tests done, can we just crack on for now, please?!" Molly snapped, pushing past them into the lab. John gave him a look that said "Shut up", and Sherlock for once, agreed that silence at this point was the best option for all.
One Week Later
John was brushing his teeth, glaring at the petrified feet in a mason jar in his medicine cabinet. Sherlock had run out of room wherever he had taken to storing his subjects, so now John's medicine chest was full of 'useless stuff', therefore prime for Sherlock to store his experiments. Rinsing his mouth, he put his toothbrush back in the holder and took the jar down.
"Sherlock, if you don't remove these and any other experiment you may have put in my room or bathroom, I will personally relocate them to the bins under my window!" His phone suddenly ringing cut off Sherlock's response. Setting the jar down on the bathroom counter, he swiped his thumb across the screen.
"Morning Molly, what's up?"
"John, um," a sniffle. "My test results are in, they won't tell me over the phone." John knew what that meant. Doctors never told patients bad news over the phone.
"Molly," he began carefully. "Sit down, take a deep breath. I'm going to get dressed, and then I'll come and pick you up. We'll go together."
"Is that Molly?" Mary asked softly.
"Yeah," John nodded.
"Shall I get my coat?"
"Yeah, hang on, Molly, Mary wants to come along too,"
"I –oh, yes, that's fine, she really doesn't have to if she doesn't want to, its fine, I just-"
"Molly, Molly, hey, it's ok, I told you you're not going through this by yourself." Sherlock appeared out of John's room, arms full of jars, at the mention of Molly's name. He looked between Mary and John.
"What's wrong?" he asked loudly. Ah. The decorum of a six year old in church.
"Shh!" John snapped at him before turning back to the phone. "I'm coming over, yes; it's no trouble I promise. Should Sherlock come too?"
"No!" they both raised their eyebrows at this, surprised.
"What's the matter?" Sherlock repeated, louder.
"Nothing! Nothing for you to know about yet. Please come when you can," And she hung up.
"Well that settles that," John said, pocketing his phone.
"No it doesn't," Sherlock said, irritated. "She is upset."
"Clearly," John replied. "We'll be back in a while,"
"I'm coming too,"
"No," John said. "She doesn't want you there yet," he tugged his coat on, cursing at the zipper before he straightened his collar. Sherlock stopped, his arms still full of jars. John was clearly worried. "I'll send you a text, I promise, but don't come snooping around Molly's, do you hear me? Not until she's ready to tell you."
Doctor Clark's Waiting Room
They sat in the waiting room with her while she filled out the paperwork, and he didn't start tapping his thumbs on the armrest until her name was called and she went to in.
"Do you want me to go in with you?" Mary asked, and Molly nodded, relief apparent on her face. Ten minutes ticked by, it felt like ages. He tried to watch the television in the waiting room, but that didn't prove to be very distracting. He nearly jumped out of his seat when the receptionist tapped him on the shoulder.
"Miss Hooper would like you to join her in the exam room," she said.
"I don't know sir," she replied and went back to her desk. "You'll find her in exam room twelve,"
"Thanks," he hurried through the door, down the hall. Knocking twice, he waited for Molly to call for him to come in. She sat, still in the cotton gown, hands clasped on her lap. Mary stood beside her, face almost pale as she studied the x-rays on the wall opposite.
"This is Doctor John Watson, he's my friend," Molly said. "John, this is Doctor Clark," they shook hands, and John retreated to Molly's side. Clark had placed up two x-rays on the board; a pen had circled a dark mass on both.
"We have just been examining the x-rays from her visit last week, she didn't want the official news until you were here," the doctor said. Molly reached for John's hand, and was surprised, (not totally though) to find it was already reaching for hers. Mary took her other, squeezing hard. "I'm afraid that it is malignant," he said. Molly bowed her head, gathering herself. She heard Mary gasp, knew she was turning to look at John. "We discussed the options briefly before," Doctor Clark went on. "But knowing your family history, your mother's especially, I would strongly recommend surgery, a double mastectomy, especially considering how invasive this tumor is."
"Yes," Molly was already nodding. "Yes I agree, as soon as possible." Doctor Clark was writing something in her file.
"Very well…there will be a few more appointments, a good deal of paperwork for you to read, preparations and so forth, I'd like the surgery to be sometime in early October, that's only," he looked at the wall calendar. "Four weeks away, it will give you the winter to recuperate." he paused. "I cannot guarantee that this surgery will prevent any secondary tumors arising, you realize this of course." Molly nodded again.
"But it is my best option," and the doctor nodded.
"I'll leave you to dress, I'll see the receptionist about scheduling your next appointment," he said and quietly let himself out.
As soon as the door shut, Molly took a deep breath, covering her face with her hands. Mary soothed circles on her back, looking over her to John. She was trying hard not to cry.
"Even breaths, Molls," John soothed. "We're gonna be with you, every step,"
"It's fine," she said after a moment. "I know for sure now, that's partly a relief. And I know I won't be alone in this," she grasped his hand, and he in turn squeezed.
"I'll let you get dressed," he said. Before he left, she hugged him, squeezing hard.
"Thank you, thank you for coming with me, both of you," she murmured.
"You don't have to be so strong all the time," he said, returning the embrace. "That's what we're here for, it's okay to step back and let someone else take care of you,"
"I know," she sniffled a little. "Thank you."
"I'll help you with your things," Mary said, wiping her nose quickly.
"No, I can do it, go ahead." She waited until the door shut before she finally let herself cry.
221b Baker Street
Mary took their coats up to the upstairs flat, promising to return to make tea.
"I'll have a drink just the same," John said and Mary nodded. 221b was open; clearly Sherlock was waiting for them to return. Just as well, that was there the bottle of scotch was. John dug around for it in the cupboard above the sink.
"Well?" he straightened, seeing Sherlock waiting in the kitchen, hands behind his back.
"Have you stood there all afternoon?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I've been cleaning out your medicine chest, incidentally, do you use this?" he held up a tongue scraper the dentist had given it to him him at his last cleaning.
"No, can't imagine what you want it for, but it's yours."
"It's ideal for scraping puss from-"
"That wasn't a question," Sherlock pocketed the tongue scraper, shrugging.
"How is Molly?" he asked. John sighed, hands on his hips. He turned to face the consulting detective.
"You're clever, haven't you figured it out?"
"Yes, but I'd rather hear it from you, well, Molly, but you'll do I suppose," Sherlock answered. Mary entered, waving hello to Sherlock before moving to the sink to put the kettle on. John shook his head, turning back to the cupboard.
"She's going to have the surgery." Mary bit her lip, still unused to the news; she looked worriedly from one man to the other.
"It is malignant." Sherlock said.
"Yes." John went back to the cupboard, pulled down the bottle of scotch he kept for situations just like this, and poured himself a finger. He motioned to the bottle for Sherlock, who only shook his head, already thinking.
"How is she?" he asked. John shuffled to his chair, sitting down with a heavy sigh.
"She's glad to know for certain now, trying to keep a brave face, but she's scared. She misses her family-"
"She doesn't have any reason to be frightened." Sherlock quipped. "Obviously. She has the best doctors in London, she'll have the surgery, and in seven months or so, she'll be back at St. Barts, hopefully not a permanent member of the morgue." John stared at Sherlock,
"Is there any way for you to not treat this situation as if you've surgically removed your feelings?"
"Shall I sigh pathetically at her and wear pink ribbons?" Sherlock asked.
"If you can't be an adult about this, then don't visit her," John said, quite seriously. "I mean it, Sherlock. She's scared, she's doing what she thinks is best, and she does not need your input on how her having a double mastectomy may not help at all. She's going to be fine."
Sherlock studied John carefully.
"You are worried about her."
"Yes, Sherlock, geeze," John said, quite upset. "I am very worried."
"If she has the surgery, then she'll be at a lower risk than her mother."
"And what if that doesn't work? Hm? What if the cancer comes back?"
"Then she'll have chemotherapy."
"And what if that doesn't work, Sherlock?" Mary asked quietly, finally speaking up. "We have to consider these possibilities now, so that if we do have to face them later, we can be there for Molly when she isn't strong enough to."
"Molly is strong," Sherlock answered. John didn't speak for a moment. Sherlock was being stubborn, and he and Mary realized Sherlock did not want to face the possibility of Molly not pulling through.
"Yes she is," he said at last. "But not strong enough for this, not if she has to go at it alone. Which is why you need to show her your support, whatever way that is, I don't care, but just…be nice to her."