A/N: Part two, a little later than planned, but yesterday left me FUBAR'd. Sigh.
Although she sticks to ginger ale, and although she has a hot shower before she goes to bed, when Molly wakes in the morning, she feels like she's been hit by a train.
In truth, it had been a good night, but only salvaged by Sherlock's intervention. Without that, it would have been a disaster.
She checks her phone, to ensure she made good on her promise to text him when she got home, and instead of the word 'home' followed by a couple of kisses, she finds a selfie, in which she is sprawled on her bed in her polka dot pyjamas, hair wet and tangly and splayed over the bedsheets. Her face is half hidden by the duvet, and she's squinting up at the camera, concentrating hard on taking the photo.
She scrolls down to his response, sent shortly after, at 1.53am.
Molly groans and rolls out of bed, her feet landing on the floorboards with a little more force than intended.
She muddles her way through her morning routine, and nearly falls asleep while she's brushing her teeth, leaning heavily against the sink, toothbrush dangling from her mouth.
She's feeling slightly better by the time she makes it to Bart's, but she eases herself in, spending her first hour in the office with Mike, while they both quietly catch up on paperwork and try to ignore their hangovers.
Once she feels she can stomach her first examination of the day, it's nearly ten o'clock. Just as she's about to begin, the door to the morgue opens and she turns around.
"Morning," Sherlock says, lingering by the door, a paper cup of coffee in his hand.
"Morning," Molly replies, trying not to feel too sheepish. She's certain that there is a blush, creeping its way up her neck, past the neckline of her gown, betraying her.
"Hope your admirer wasn't too put out," he says, and then he frowns, before adding, "Although if you're going to throw six thousand pounds at a few hours with someone then I think that verges on stalking. Sort of."
"So what does ten thousand equate to?" Molly asks, unable to ignore the bait. For the first time this morning, something that feels like a grin creeps its way onto her lips.
"A chivalrous gesture, naturally," Sherlock replies, his voice too casual for her to take him at face value.
"It's an awful lot of money though," she says, and though she feels awkward discussing it, she can't let it go without addressing it.
"Worth every penny, I'm sure."
Her stomach does that funny little lurch, not the nauseating one, but the one that reappears on those rare occasions when he's feeling particularly generous of spirit. Those rare occasions when he's nice, without it being remotely beneficial to himself. She often feels like he's still cautiously navigating conversations with her, as though he doesn't quite have her pinned down in the way that he has others.
"Besides," he continues briskly. "We'll call it Mycroft's treat."
Molly's bubble bursts with little mercy. "Mycroft's?"
"Mm," Sherlock says, nodding. His mouth is curved into a mischievous smile. "What he doesn't know won't hurt him."
"He doesn't know?" Her horror at the reality behind last night's chivalrous gesture is spiralling out of control. "Sherlock that's stealing."
Sherlock shrugs. "I've spent much more than that before, he won't miss it." He is completely and utterly blasé about the whole thing, and she can't work out whether it's a front.
Molly opens her mouth to argue, but he doesn't give her the chance.
"It's for a good cause, Molly. And I can always tell him you were being held ransom by a pervert." He's impatient now, wanting to skim over the matter of his theft, as though it's a mere piece of scenery on a journey to somewhere else.
Molly lets out a heavy sigh. He is utterly impossible.
Sherlock reaches towards the bench nearest the door and sets another paper cup down next on it. "Lemon and ginger," he says. "Should help settle any lasting effects from yesterday."
Her smile is involuntary, but it swells up from somewhere around the base of her throat. Her brain is still fully under her control, however, capable of rational thought.
"Mike was heading up to the lab," she tells him. "Should be unlocked by the time you get there."
"Excellent," he says, his hair fluttering as he gives a firm nod. "Are you sure you should be wielding a scalpel this soon after - ?"
"Yes," she replies, holding his gaze until he looks away. "I didn't keep it all in, after all."
He quirks his head to one side, conceding her point.
"Besides, what's the worst that'll happen?" she says, suppressing a grin. "He's already dead."
He gives her a look, which is the same look he gives her every time he refuses to laugh at one of her jokes. She's come to substitute it with the sound of laughter in her head; the colder the gaze, the louder the laugh, at least in her book.
"This auction," he says, changing tact. His brow furrows as he considers the situation. "Are you contractually obliged to spend New Year's eve with your bidder?" He looks towards her, but after a few seconds looks away, preferring to turn his attention to the cold chambers instead.
"Well, I think it would be ungracious to refuse," Molly replies slowly. She's not fast enough this morning to get to the core of what he really wants (beyond lab access) and the slower she addresses his question, the more time she gives herself to craft a response.
"But you don't have to?"
"Not if you don't want me to," Molly replies, turning back towards her patient and running her eyes over his records once more for good measure.
She's not absorbing a single word.
"No, no, that's not what I meant," Sherlock says, words rushing out of him. "I just mean you don't have to, if there's a party or something you'd rather go to. I don't know." He shrugs, then looks around the room at the bare walls, eyes lingering for just a moment on the cold chambers.
The lid of his cup gurgles as he takes a long draught of coffee, and Molly sets down her file, then turns back to face him.
"No, I don't have any plans tonight, if that's what you're getting at," she tells him. "I'd kept it free because of the auction." Her teeth catch against her lower lip, and she looks down at the linoleum floor, the swishing patterns of this morning's mop heads still visible under the light.
"Well, you're free to do as you please," Sherlock says, and he disappears, the door swinging shut behind him.
Molly skews her lips back to one side, reminds herself not to expect anything from a man who refuses to laugh at her jokes.
She picks up her scalpel again, releases a breath, allowing her body to relax. She clears her mind of all thoughts of him, of the muggy memories of last night, and the ten thousand pounds which is no longer residing in Mycroft's bank account.
She rests her scalpel blade against the pale skin of her patient's chest.
But then the door hinges creak.
"You can come to mine if you like." He blurts it out before she has a chance to turn around, and Molly places her scalpel back in her tray.
She'd be cross with him, were it not for the fact that this sounds like an invitation to celebrate New Year with him.
"Are you having a thing?" Molly asks.
His face contorts. He's baffled.
"A party? Is everyone else going to be there?"
"Oh," he says. "No. I think John and Mary are staying home because apparently that's what parents do... Quiet night in, or something." He's lost in thought, but then he comes back to himself, his eyebrows raising for a brief moment, before he turns his attention back to Molly. He's waiting for an answer.
"Yeah, all right," she says, impulse shoving her towards his offer.
He looks surprised. She half wonders if he was only inviting her to be polite, if there's some weird thought process going on inside that head that has convinced him to offer her an alternative to an evening alone.
"All right," he says. "I'll probably be here all day so..." he shrugs his shoulders. "We can go once you...finish? Pick up some food on the way home?"
Everything he says is uncertain, and it's a new experience for Molly. She's so used to being the one stumbling over her words, trying to phrase carefully to avoid anything being misconstrued.
She wonders if he's been a bit lonely over the holidays, with nobody to talk at.
"You're eating today then," she says.
"Not much on at the moment. You know how it is, all suicides, no murders this time of year."
Lonely and bored, then.
"I'll see you up in the lab later," she tells him. He nods, and Molly sends him a smile, before she turns back to the corpse on her slab, to finally start some proper work.
"I liked your selfie, by the way."
She smiles as she cuts the Y incision, and the creak of hinges and subsequent thunk of the door tells her he's finally heading up to the lab.
She steps out of the hospital for the last time this year, and she breathes in the fresh air. Sherlock is already at the bottom of the steps, and when he realises that she's not at his side, he turns around.
"What?" he asks.
Molly smiles. "No more work until next year," she says. Even though there are only four hours of the year left, she can't keep her grin at bay. Even Sherlock lets a small smile sneak its way onto his lips.
"Come on," he says, and he nods towards the road. Molly trots down the steps and they cut through the ambulance station. "Are you working tomorrow?" he asks, glancing towards her as they squeeze through the gap between two closely parked ambulances.
"Absolutely not," Molly replies. "Wash your mouth out."
"Sorry," he says, but then he stops in his tracks, and Molly crashes into the back of him.
"What are you doing here? Creeping about? Planning to throw yourself off the roof again?"
Molly sighs loudly. She recognises the voice. It's the last thing she wanted to hear.
"Just going on my New Year's eve date, actually," Sherlock replies, thoroughly unfazed by the sudden appearance of Beamish. He steps forward, beyond the narrow alley created by the two ambulances, and then steps aside so Molly can come up onto the pavement.
Beamish is the sorest loser she's ever seen, and his breathing gets heavier, and sulkier at the sight of her.
"And what do you expect you'll be getting for your ten thousand pounds, Mr Holmes?" Beamish demands. Molly wonders if he's emphasised the 'Mr' in order to make a point about Sherlock not being a doctor, but all things considered, anyone would agree that Sherlock has the upper hand when compared to Beamish.
Except for maybe the drugs. She doesn't think Beamish is a recovering heroin addict. She wonders vaguely if rehab for idiots exists, but then realises that Sherlock is talking, and she does not need this to escalate.
"You realise that last night wasn't actually a slave auction, don't you?" he says, stepping forward and towering over Beamish. "You realise that people were just doing it for a laugh, and to raise some money for charity, don't you? No one was actually bidding to have control over another human being."
"And yet here she is," Beamish sneers. "You paid for her, and now you have her."
Molly cannot believe what she's hearing, and she's about to step in, but of course, Sherlock gets there first.
"Didn't pay for her when she spent Christmas at my place," he says casually. "Haven't paid for the hundreds of hours we've spent together, both inside Bart's and out."
Beamish's expression falters, and Molly thinks he might be sick.
"She was always going to spend New Year with me," Sherlock says softly, and then he smiles. It's a smile that Molly has only seen a few times, a smile that says 'leave, now'.
"Enough now," Molly murmurs, and Sherlock straightens up, moves Beamish aside with a firm sweep of his forearm, and goes to the kerb to hail a taxi.
"You need to stop obsessing over people," Molly says to Beamish. "It's really creepy and nobody likes it."
"I don't obsess - "
"Six thousand pounds is obsessive," Molly replies, desperately trying to get the message across to him.
"And ten isn't?"
"He put in that bid to save me from you," Molly tells him. She looks him dead in the eye but he withers under her gaze, and busies himself by staring instead at the number plate of the nearest ambulance.
"Goodnight Beamish," Molly sighs.
He doesn't look at her, and she heads towards Sherlock, who's waiting with a taxi, door open to allow her to climb inside first.
"Hasn't he gotten himself fired yet?" Sherlock asks, once they're on their way.
"No," Molly replies. "He's not really done anything that would stand up in a tribunal." She looks out of the back window to see him lighting up a cigarette as a gentle patter of rain begins to leave blotchy spots on the paving slabs. "I just think he's been alone for too long."
"Sympathetic Molly strikes again," Sherlock mutters.
Molly pulls her gaze away from the window and narrows her eyes at him. He's only teasing, but she won't let it slide.
"Says the man who spends his whole life pretending he doesn't have a soul."
The corner of his mouth curves upwards.
They jump out at the Bengal Passage, and hurry across the pavement, ducking inside to get out of the rain as quickly as possible. They make their way towards the back, near the bar, and Sherlock splays the menu out on the counter, Molly runs her eyes over it, scanning the starters, then skipping across to the biryanis, biting her lower lip while she tries to make up her mind.
"What are you thinking?" she asks, looking up towards him as he frowns down at the menu. There are tiny water droplets sitting on the sleeve of his coat, glinting in the warm light of the restaurant.
"Dealer's choice?" he asks, his eyes meeting hers, eyebrow quirking as Molly considers the idea.
"Yeah, all right," she says with a shrug. "Why not?"
One of the waiters ushers her over to a table while Sherlock makes the order. He joins her a minute or so later, and as soon as he sits down, another waiter brings over a large bottle of Tiger, which he splits between two glasses, then rushes off to collect some empty plates from a nearby table.
"This is a bit of a departure for you," Molly says as Sherlock takes a sip of his beer.
He frowns and sets his glass down on the table, the condensation dripping down the side of the glass and dampening the table cloth.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he says. "I'm not a fussy eater."
"No, you're not," Molly agrees. "But I can't remember the last time I saw you use two hands to eat something."
His frown deepens, and Molly wonders if his eating habits are an unconscious quirk as opposed to a deliberate attempt at efficiency.
"You always have something like chips, or pizza, or whatever's at the front of the fridge..." She tries some of her beer now, keeping her eyes fixed on him as he processes her words.
"I eat Chinese quite a lot," he argues.
"Yeah," Molly replies. "And you always have your chopsticks in your left hand and your phone in the other. When was the last time you used a knife and fork?"
He opens his mouth, as if to counter, but he's got nothing, and so he goes for his beer instead, taking a long draught, while Molly taps her index fingers against the edges of her glass.
"I don't know," he says after moment, heaving a sigh. "I spend ten thousand pounds - "
"Of someone else's money - "
"And now I have to account for my eating habits for the past ten years."
"I'm just teasing," she says, pursing her lips as she tries to hide her smile. He knows, and she knows he knows, but nevertheless his gaze softens at her words.
"Well," he says. "It's quiet this time of year, so I suppose I can spare both hands. For you."
"For me?" she asks, and she can't stop her smile this time.
He hums in response, then adds, "If it's such a rare treat for you to see me use cutlery..."
"Don't make this into a thing," she says, but Sherlock shrugs his shoulders, playing dumb. She's opened a whole can of worms, just from one silly observation, just because she'd spotted something he'd never seen in himself. He doesn't like it when people unravel him, no matter how trivial his habits.
"How long till the food's ready?" she asks, steering the subject away from his multitasking.
"They said about ten or fifteen minutes," he says, and he prods the home button on his phone, the screen illuminating so he can see the time. "Be about another five, I think."
Molly nods, and plays with the tassels on the end of her scarf, trying to ignore her rumbling belly. She'd had a light lunch on purpose, but that was at half past one, and it feels like a lifetime ago now.
"Well, if they put it into two bags, I'll be sure to use both hands to carry it."
He laughs at his own joke, but Molly manages to maintain a stony silence, for which she is forever grateful.
He's not letting it go.
She's stuffed, and she's not sure she can move from her seat. Sherlock too has given up, his arms folded across his stomach, shards of poppadom abandoned on his plate next to smears of mango chutney.
They've made a decent effort though, and Sherlock's request for a mix of specials, enough for two, was met with ample food for three.
She doesn't want to see another grain of rice for at least a week.
She questions him about his passion project, but his responses are tired and distracted. It doesn't stop him from stripping all the knowledge out of her brain however, and after an hour, she's spent more time thinking about oxygenated and deoxygenated blood spatters than she has at any point in her career.
She's not sure what possible relevance it could have in a case, but she supposes it's a nice little brainteaser to tide him over the festive period.
Maybe she should send some kidneys his way and get him to identify their owners, a nice little puzzle for him to get his head around. He should be back on track after the bank holiday though, so maybe he'll cope until then. Just the final stretch now.
"I can't move," Sherlock says. He's slid down in his seat, his spine curved, the base of his skull resting against the wooden back of the chair. "I don't think I'll ever walk again."
"Don't worry," Molly says, exhaling a long, slow breath, in the hope that her fullness will dissipate if she breathes steadily enough. "I'll roll you into the lab."
He lets out a snort of laughter, and he must be tired, because he rarely lets his guard drop like that. She wants to make a comparison to Violet Beauregard, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but she knows it will zoom straight over his head and he'll look at her blankly, expecting a punchline that has already been and gone. She can't even be bothered to find a video on Youtube to illustrate the point.
As midnight ticks nearer, they force themselves out of their seats, and slowly start to clean up. Molly has never seen someone stack a dishwasher more slowly than Sherlock, and frankly, she's surprised he even knows that the one in his kitchen exists.
The remaining food lands at the bottom of the bin with a series of thuds, and Molly screws up the paper bags and squashes them into the recycling bin. When she runs some hot water and rinses out the dish cloth so that she can wipe down the table, Sherlock presses the door of the dishwasher shut with his heel and shakes his head.
"Don't worry about that," he says, and he reaches across her to turn the tap off. "I'll sort it out in the morning."
She doubts he will, but her limbs are heavy, her brain drowsy, and she's more than happy to abandon the cloth by the sink, so that he can guide her back to the lounge, his hands on his shoulders.
"Fireworks?" Molly asks, when she catches sight of the TV. She's way past freezing her arse off down by the river just to watch ten minutes of fireworks while carefully avoiding splatters of vomit from people who have overdone it well before midnight. She's way way past climbing the tree outside Temple station to get a good view. She's very happy to settle for a TV in a warm flat where she doesn't have to wear any shoes.
She drops down into Sherlock's armchair while he searches for the remote control, lifting up piles of paper on his desk, opening drawers and slamming them shut. When he turns around, mouth open, ready to complain about Mrs Hudson and tidying, his eyes flick to the mantelpiece, and he strides across the room, snatching the remote and pointing it at the TV.
He perches on the edge of the armchair while he gets the right channel, but slowly slips down the arm and into the seat. It's a bit of a squash, and Molly fidgets, unable to get comfortable with the bulk of his weight pressing her into the other arm of the chair.
"Move your legs," he says, and Molly fixes him with a stare before she relents, lifting her legs so that he can settle down. They end up in an odd, but comfortable enough position, with one of her legs hooked over his, while the other maintains some semblance of normality, her toes resting against the floorboards.
There are only so many aerial shots of Waterloo Bridge that she can watch in the run up to the fireworks, and the commentary is dull as dishwater. Even the clock in the lower left corner doesn't inject any excitement as it counts down to the new year. Sherlock must feel the same, because the next thing she knows, she is woken by a buzzing sound, and she has to give Sherlock a jab before he wakes and croakily answers the phone.
He listens for a short while, humming every now and then to assure Greg that he's still listening.
"Yeah, you're probably right," Sherlock says at last, and then there's a short pause before, "Oh no, not now. Maybe in the morning. Text me."
Molly's eyes focus on the harsh light of the TV, and there's a rerun of a programme from earlier in the week, with a woman in the corner doing sign language. Molly looks across to the clock - quarter past two, no wonder she feels dazed.
"No, get started, and text me an update in the morning," Sherlock says, and then, "All right, I'll speak to you later."
He disconnects the call and drops the phone back onto the arm of the chair.
"Suicide," he says, before Molly can ask. "But the victim has severe arthritis, so couldn't possibly have tied the noose."
"Mid forties. Arthritis at that age uncommon, but not unheard of."
Molly nods, but doesn't further the conversation. She's sure it'll be far more interesting in the morning with a clear head and a fuller report from Greg.
"We missed it," she says, gesturing towards the clock.
"I know," he says, then he reaches out for the TV remote. "I can rewind it if you like."
Molly laughs softly, and Sherlock's hands find hers. Both hands, just for her.
"Happy New Year," he says.
"Happy New Year," she replies,
He kisses her softly on the cheek, his lips grazing her skin. She supposes they could get up, that he could go to bed and she could get a cab home, and undoubtedly they'd be far more comfortable than they are now, squashed in one armchair.
They don't move until Greg's text comes the next morning, and Sherlock tries to cajole her into coming along to Scotland Yard.
"Ten thousand pounds," he says, folding his scarf and looping it round his neck. "I want to make sure I'm getting my money's worth."
Molly rolls her eyes, but she doesn't need convincing.
She never has.