"I need your help."
"Well, hello there Sherlock. Nice of you to stop by, would you like to come in?" Molly muttered sarcastically as Sherlock shoved his way into her flat.
"There is no time for niceties. I need your access the morgue to test some theories about the reemergence of Moriarity."
Molly sighed. "Really? At this time of night? It couldn't wait until morning?"
Sherlock actually stopped his pacing to look at her. "Why should it wait for morning? You are no longer engaged with Tyson and based on your current state of dress," he gestured to her flannel pajamas, "you have no pressing social engagements."
"Of course. Poor Molly never has any plans…" Her voice trailed as she disappeared into her bedroom, presumably to dress, Sherlock hoped.
He glanced around him, pulling deductions on her life since he last been here two years ago. New reading chair. Ah, reading Harry Potter for the fifth…no sixth time. Hasn't dusted in the last month. Letter from aunt, must be asking for another loan to fuel her gambling addiction. He tucked all of these little tidbits away in his mind, safely storing them in the ever expanding room dedicated to Molly in his mind palace. He noticed the tabloid peeking out from underneath the books on her coffee table. His curiosity got the better of him and he slid it out smoothly. A lurid picture of him with the headline "Ex-girlfriend Tells All About Sexy Detective". God, Janine must have been running low on money. He noted the tell-tale signs that this had been flipped through several times. He froze when he remembered whose apartment he was in. Oh, Molly…
"Are you ready?" Molly asked. The tightness around her eyes and her pursed lips told him all he needed to know about the situation.
He wanted to apologize, but he didn't know what he would be trying to apologize for. So he replaced the magazine and flipped the collar of his jacket. "Yes, if you are."
The taxi ride was uncomfortably quiet, something that Sherlock had never felt in the company of Molly before. She usually chattered on, filling the silence with her small observations. However, now that it was absent the noise, he felt disquieted.
"So, have you been around to meet Lily?"
Molly kept her eyes out the window as she responded. "Yes, she is quite a lovely baby."
"Indeed. Normally I find newborns to look slightly reptilian, and I know that our attachment to babies is purely a biological cue for us to protect them, nevertheless, she is the least unattractive baby I've been acquainted with."
"Hmm," Molly responded non-committedly.
Sherlock was sure that would work. Weren't women supposed to want to prattle on about babies? He calculated the distance to St. Bart's and realized he still had at least another fourteen minutes of this silence.
"Any interesting deaths come through lately?"
"No, just a lot of heart attacks and car crashes."
"It is absurd that people walk around with so many phobias of what might kill them, planes, spiders, snakes, drowning, heights. When really it is likely to be cancer, heart disease, or an automobile accident."
"Come on now Molly. This is ridiculous."
"What do you want from me Sherlock?" Molly faced him now.
He couldn't pull himself away from her fiery eyes. "I don't know what I did to offend you."
"You did nothing, Sherlock," Molly sighed.
"Then why are you behaving like…"
"Like what? Is it not enough that you pulled me away from my warm apartment on a cold Saturday night so that I can let you into the morgue? Do I have to provide scintillating conversation as well? Okay then, why yes Lily is a very charming baby, the cutest ever perhaps. And phobias are by definition irrational, so it is not at all strange that people have them. Happy?"
"No," Sherlock pouted, crossing him arms.
"Then what do you want from me?"
"I don't know."
"Let me know when you figure it out." Molly turned back to her window.
The silenced continued all of the way to the hospital, and while it was stifling before, now it was downright hostile. Sherlock tried to piece it all together, but kept faltering. He was missing something key. It had to do with that ruddy tabloid, and her seeing him with it. She was embarrassed or ashamed. About her reading it? Why? Those articles were everywhere. He didn't blame her.
He was interrupted by their arrival. He paid for the taxi and hurried up to follow Molly who had walked ahead. She silently led him down to morgue.
"I might as well get some paperwork done. Let me know when you are done."
Her voice was void of any emotion, and that worried Sherlock. He didn't know what piece he was missing, but he tried to turn his brain to his work. He set about conducting a few experiments, which should have only taken him an hour, but ended up taking two because of his distracted state. His theories were confirmed about a certain clue and its origins. He could rest easy knowing he was at least one step closer to figuring out the puzzle that was the reemergence of Moriarty from the dead, it was just the puzzle of Molly that still had him confused.
"I'm ready to go, if you are that is," Sherlock said.
"Let me just finish this one line and…" Molly trailed off, scribbling furiously. "There!" Molly threw her pen down and shuffled her papers, returning them to her office before grabbing her jacket and exiting out of the door that Sherlock held open for her. She locked up and they silently went out into the cold night.
Sherlock led the way, hailing a cab for them. Molly tried brushing it off. "You don't need to see me home. I assure you can I get there myself."
"I don't question your capabilities, but it is only the respectable thing to do after tearing you from your evening plans."
Molly snorted. "Yes, watching crap telly and eating a whole sleeve of Oreos."
Sherlock gave small smile, pleased with the brief thaw in Molly's attitude. "Nevertheless, I will see you home."
Molly put up no more of an argument. They rode back to her apartment in silence, but Sherlock felt that it was no longer the same suffocating silence as before. It was still uncomfortable, but not nearly as so. He lost himself in the ride, still trying to puzzle out what upset Molly so much. When they arrived at her apartment, he realized the only way to find out would be to ask. He paid the cabbie, and followed her to the door despite her protestations.
Molly invited him in stiffly, and he accepted, even though he could tell she really wanted the night to be over. He couldn't let it go, though. He had to know what was going on.
"Molly, I have done something that upset you greatly and I would like to know what it is so I can apologize."
Molly sighed, shucking her shoes off as she curled up on the couch. "It's nothing Sherlock. I'm just tired."
"No, that is not it. You had seven and a half hours of sleep, a sufficient amount of rest for someone your age. It is something more and it has to do with that damn magazine." He pointed to the tabloid. He sat down in the chair adjacent to her, his eyes not leaving her so he didn't miss any clues.
"Sherlock, I really would rather not talk about it."
"Neither would I, but you are upset and I don't know what I did."
"You didn't do anything."
"Molly, this conversation will be over much more quickly if you stopped lying to me and just told me the truth."
Something shifted across Molly's face, a flash of anger, he though. "I'm just tired of being proven wrong about our relationship. You see me as a silly pathologist that has a mild use in acquiring bodies and laboratory space. If I don't fit that version of me, then if messes up your whole world order."
"Of course that is not what…"
"It is, though, I think I finally see my role in your life, and I feel incredibly silly that I ever thought that there was more between us. I thought that I had gained your trust and friendship, but that isn't correct."
"Where on Earth would you get such a notion?"
"There, I read it, I've read all of them. I couldn't help it. I wanted to know what else I was deficient in to be not good enough for you. I mean I already know what you think of my breasts and lips, but I knew there had to be more. What is the type of women that captures the attention of Sherlock Holmes. I already knew about the Irene from the blog, which I get on some level, she is the female version of you, and of course that is alluring. But I met Janine at the wedding, and there seemed nothing extraordinary about her. I didn't get it."
"Molly…" Sherlock felt incredibly uncomfortable with his actions and words being turned around back at him. Was this how she saw him? More importantly, was this how she saw herself?
"No, you wanted to hear, well let me tell you it all. No, she wasn't extraordinary, but from her interviews I saw it. She was funny and smart. Not genius levels, but she could keep up with you. Not to mention she is gorgeous. She didn't have to compensate for her breast size. And then she gushed about your relationship. How the sex was crazy and wild. That you were a different man with her, not at all the awkward detective in the papers and blogs. That you proposed with a diamond ring worth thousands. She talked about how if she had said yes, she thinks you guys would have had a lovely wedding in Trafalgar Square. If somebody could make that happen, it is the great Sherlock Holmes. And through all of these I see I have always been silly to think I could ever be with you. It's my fault really. I always made allowances, saying you weren't capable of being in a relationship or that I was asking too much of you. All the while, I did everything you asked, which is my whole damn fault. So through all of this I feel like a bloody idiot and I don't get why I can't get over you."
Sherlock let go of the breath he was holding during her speech. Each word pierced him as he realized the true damage he had inflicted on Molly Hooper, somebody he deemed most precious. "Molly, you have to understand, Janine was part of a case. I was seeing her to be closer to Magnussen. I needed her for information. She meant nothing to me."
Molly shook her head. "Does it really matter, though? Because you still made her believe it. You were so convincing she believed all of it. I have a hard time believing you didn't feel anything."
"Everything about my relationship was disingenuous. There was nothing of my true self in that relationship. There is only one person I feel that I could be in a relationship and still be my true self."
"Of course, the Woman."
"It's you Molly."
Molly froze for a second, before her face ran through various emotions, excitement, joy, distrust, anger, wariness, and finally settling on confusion.
"I decided at John's wedding, when I saw how happy John and Mary were. I realized that if I had another opportunity with you, I wouldn't mess it up. I wasn't going to interfere with Tom, I knew he wouldn't last, but I would be ready. However, the Magnussen case ended up being much more difficult than I could have ever imagined and then my 4 minute exile, not to mention the return of Moriarty. I've had a lot on my plate and have neglected to give any indication to you that I was romantically interested in you."
Molly still looked shell-shocked. "No, you would never… Everything Janine said in those articles…"
"I am going to ask you out for a proper date to dinner, I think me taking you on cases last year was not a clear enough indication. You will invite me in and from there our relationship will progress. I'm not really into wild and crazy sex, but I assure you it will be no less exciting. After we have properly dated for three months I will use my grandmother's ring to propose to you, it isn't a fancy diamond, but that never has seemed your style anyways. We will get married in my parent's backyard, I much prettier view than Trafalgar Square. We will honeymoon on Victoria Island and then return to our domestic life at Baker Street. Over the course of the next five years we will have two boys. One named James after your father and the other Dexter after my pet gerbil that I had when I was four. We will live contentedly at Baker Street for the duration of our life, enjoying the company of our children and grandchildren. It is not a thrilling or glamorous life, but I assure you it will be wonderful."
"How could you want all of that with me?"
"It's simple really, I can be myself with you. When Janine talked about my true self, it was all an act. Three people know the true me, the Watsons and you. You see me for all of my faults. There is no hidden sensitive side to me, I will always be the socially awkward detective that doesn't understand what is going on half the time, hence my confusion tonight. I am who I am, and while I always strive to better, there is still a lot of work to go. You seem to accept me while keeping me accountable. You are kind when no one else is. You have a sense of humor that not enough people appreciate. You are incredibly smart and put up with my discussions on the chemical makeup of various types of tobacco ash. You've helped me when nobody else has and have never abandoned me for a second. I think you are mistaken about this whole situation. It is I that is not deserving of you."
"Sherlock," Molly spoke softly. Her tone made Sherlock's already rapid pulse speed up. Molly hesitantly stood up and perched herself on his lap. Sherlock felt incredibly vulnerable, lowering his eyes, not sure if he was ready to see what he would see. Molly had other plans, however, and she softly put her hands on either cheek, gently pushing up so he would meet her gaze.
"Tell me now, once and for all, and I will never question you again. Is everything you said the truth?"
Sherlock saw the hope written on her face, and knew this moment was the most important in his life. He would have to build a whole new room in his Mind Palace, commemorating everything about this one moment.
"Everything I've said is the truth. I love you. I have no fancy words to compare my love to. All I know is that it is a constant in my life and will be for the rest of my life. I just hope you can forgive me of all of my faults and accept me."
Molly's eyes watered and she gave a tiny smile. "Of course I forgive you and I love you too." Molly closed the final distance between them, their lips connecting a sweet kiss that would be first of many more to come.