A/N: Biscuit related spoilers for 4x01. Ye be warned.
The Fourteenth Floor
He cannot concentrate.
The clinking of spoons on the kitchen counter and the rattling of baking trays is too much, and he pushes himself off of the sofa, and strides into the kitchen.
"Is this really necessary?"
Molly's eyebrows draw together, in the way that he's grown used to, whenever he's just a bit too blunt. It's the same expression he sees right before she tackles him head on and pulls the rug from under his feet.
"You can always go to your own flat," she says, cradling a bowl between her hip and her elbow. She drags her wooden spoon through the mixture, her slender arms working overtime to combine everything together and smooth it all out. His eyes linger on the streak of white in her hair, borne from floury hands and a long day.
"Mrs Hudson's got her kaluki group over this evening."
"So?" Molly says with a shrug. "They'll all be downstairs, won't they?"
"She bought two bottles of sherry for the occasion," he tells her, and he shudders inwardly at the thought of all the squawking and laughing and general merriment that comes with an evening of surprisingly little card play.
He reaches forward, index finger poised to scoop a sample of the mixture, but Molly raps him hard on the knuckles with her spoon and he withdraws. It's not a complete cop out; some of the mixture transfers from the edge of the spoon onto the back of his hand, and so he raises it to his lips, sucking the dough from his skin. She gives him a sympathetic look, but he's not sure if it's for the sherry or the spoon.
"You need more golden syrup," he says, licking his lips to clear them of any rogue smears of dough. He wrinkles his nose when he sees the tablespoon caked in golden syrup, a small pool of yellow spreadingg on the counter.
"No I don't," Molly replies, before placing the bowl on the counter and scraping the excess mixture from the wooden spoon. She sets it to one side, balancing it on top of the butter tub to avoid getting any further mess on the counter, then turns to her baking sheets.
"I think you do," he argues. "You've left half of it on the spoon." He gestures towards the mess, but her eyes don't follow. She's too busy tearing baking parchment from the dispenser.
"Or maybe I did a bit extra to compensate for that?"
She's not having any of it tonight.
He doesn't argue back, and he certainly doesn't voice aloud his curiosity as to why she's putting herself through this after a twelve hour shift. She has dark circles under her eyes, and her face is drawn and pale. Part of him wants to scoop her up and deposit her on her bed, bundle her up in her duvet, and leave her to sleep for a week.
But it's only a few days until Christmas, so of course, of course she is baking.
"Make yourself useful," she says, as she rinses her hands under the cold tap, shakes them off, and then pulls a chunk of dough from the bowl, rolling it between her palms into a walnut-sized sphere.
He takes a breath, but then decides to follow orders without complaint. He rolls his sleeves up and wets his hands before he joins her at the counter.
"How many are you making?" he asks, looking down at the mountain of mixture in the bowl. It's no wonder she's exhausted, she could have done with a cement mixer instead of a wooden spoon.
"Hundred and twenty?" she says, tilting her head from one side to the other. "Ish?"
"Why?" he rolls his first biscuit, then plops it on the tray, a few centimetres away from Molly's previous one. She pauses, and then begins ticking names off on her fingers.
"Some for work," she says. "Some for me, obviously, some for John and Mary, some for Mrs Hudson, some for you to take up to your Mum and Dad's..."
"All right, all right," he says, and he plucks another piece of dough from the bowl. "Fine, it's a hundred and twenty."
By the time they finish rolling, the first two trays have been in the oven and come out again. They're dangerously close to running out of counter space in Molly's cramped kitchen, and Sherlock is tasked with hold the cooling rack while Molly frees the biscuits from the baking tray, then slides them onto the rack.
There's something very pleasing about the smell that has worked its way through the flat. The flavours are simple, but there is a warmth generated not just by the oven being on for long enough to bake multiple batches of biscuits, but with the heat from the ginger, and the sweetness of the syrup, melting into the butter and brown sugar.
He'd never say it aloud, but it's not just Mrs Hudson's kaluki club that has driven him here tonight. He'd seen the reminder in her calendar to stop at the shops the previous evening, had noted last weekend that she'd managed to get ahold of some snowflake patterned cellophane to team up with red and silver ribbon. It's no accident that he happened to stop by, supposedly on the hunt for somewhere quiet to spend the evening.
Sometimes, the fourteenth floor is a bit more homely than 221B.
When the last biscuits have made it to the cooling racks, Molly collapses onto the sofa, all of her energy baked out of her. Sherlock sinks down next to her, aware of the biscuit aroma clinging to his shirt.
There are worse things to smell of.
Molly closes her eyes and leans her head back against the sofa cushion. Her chest rises and falls slowly and steadily, and the sleeves of her cardigan, pushed up to her elbows, have become home to a few adventurous scraps of dough.
"Why don't you just go to bed?" he says. "You're just going to fall - "
"I'm not going to fall asleep," she replies, her voice changing in pitch as she tries to suppress a yawn out of some misplaced sense of pride. "I've still got to wash up, wrap the biscuits up..." She trails off, and Sherlock knows it's only a matter of seconds before she drifts off.
He leans forward, reaching behind himself to grab the crochet blanket folded over the back of the sofa, then shifts onto one knee, a foot on the ground to steady himself as he lays the blanket over her. She doesn't stir, and he's certain she's clocked out for the day.
He looks across to the kitchen, then down at his hands, and his rolled up sleeves. If he were an idiot, he could convince himself that it won't take long, that he won't spend a solid ten minutes scrubbing all residue of golden syrup from the counter, and that he won't be sitting at the dining table at half past midnight wrangling cellophane and ribbon around stacks of gingernuts.
He doesn't want to be here.
Nobody in their right mind would want to be here.
But, he supposes, he's not sure he falls into that category. Not right this second.
Mycroft's colleagues are all terribly serious; not even Lady Smallwood, who hated Magnussen as much as Sherlock, perhaps even more, shows him an ounce of gratitude. He's gotten rid of a big problem for them all, and yes, maybe it was a bit illegal, but so what? When was the last time their kind stuck to the rules?
His eyes land on the plate of gingernuts, and before his brain can catch up with his body, he pushes himself out of his seat and strides forward to grab a messy handful. He shoves one into his mouth and it gives a satisfying snap between his teeth. He should really have a cup of tea to go with it, because they're a little bit dry, but the day that the intelligence services break into their budget to give him a cup of tea is the same day that Mycroft fires the entire catering team.
The gingernuts are shop bought, so they're not the same, not nearly the same, but it's close enough, and after everything, after solitary confinement and saying goodbye to his friends, after being on the plane, and sinking into a dark, opiate fuelled cesspool, after all of that, he needs to be reminded of home. He needs comfort, and he won't get an ounce of it in this office.
So he scoffs gingernuts instead and pretends he isn't shaken, that his brain doesn't feel like it's been on a helter skelter for the last week and a half.
He thinks of patches of flour in her hair, of damp hands rolling dough, and he manages to make it through until he's dismissed.