A/N: Mildest of spoilers for 4x01.

Three Degrees

by Flaignhan

Even after all this time, he still scares the life out of her when he barges the door open. It slams into the wall of the morgue, and even he looks a little surprised by his force, but he's clear of its path before it rebounds, and has more pressing concerns on his mind.

"Congratulations," she says, rolling Jeanie Mays back into the cold chamber and closing the door on her. "I saw your tweet."

"Mycroft caught me sending them," Sherlock replies with an amused expression. "He was furious."

A smile tugs at her lips and she tucks Mrs Mays' folder under her arm and takes it back to the trolley. Mycroft's had Sherlock on a tight leash since the incident and she's missed his noisy presence, just as she always does when something keeps him busy (or bored) elsewhere.

"Have you got a case?" she asks. She hasn't heard anything from upstairs, nor has Greg been in touch to give her a heads up, but she can't imagine why else he'd be here. Surely his first priority after getting his pardon signed, sealed, and delivered would be to find something interesting in his email backlog?

"No, nothing yet," he says, pacing up and down, his body brimming with energy, stockpiled during his lockdown. "When's your lunch break? Now?"

She takes her phone out of the pocket of her lab coat and checks the time. It's a few minutes before 1.30, and the start of her break.

The funniest thing is how he tries to act like he doesn't already know.

"What did you have in mind?" she asks, holding off confirming until she knows exactly what she's getting herself into.

"Ice lolly," he says, glancing at her before he turns on his heel, pacing in the other direction until he reaches the far wall.

Molly pauses; if she gives it a minute, his words might make sense. But no, nothing becomes clearer, and by the time he comes back to her, she's still utterly baffled. He stops in front of her, hands in his coat pockets, awaiting an answer.

"Ice lolly?" She needs some sort of clarification - his two word offer is completely unexpected, and those were probably the last words she could have expected to come out of his mouth.

"Yes," he says, dragging the word out in that way that he does, when it lingers in his throat just long enough to make the subject of it feel utterly idiotic. "Flavoured frozen stuff on a stick," he adds, but Molly gives him a dark look.

He knows full well that was not the explanation she needed.

She doesn't indulge him, doesn't say another bloody word until he pulls himself together. He's overly excitable because he's gotten his pardon, and that's brilliant. She's both thrilled and relieved for him, but she won't waste her lunch break playing games.

"It's a lovely day," he says, giving in. "I want to go and get an ice lolly, and I'd like for you to come with me."

Maybe the solitary confinement did him more harm than first anticipated.

"Sherlock, it's the middle of January," she tells him, eyeing him suspiciously. She wonders if he's joking, if this is a little experiment of his to stave off his boredom. Maybe it's for a case, maybe someone was stabbed with an ice lolly stick and he needs to find out which particular brand the stick belongs to.

"Yes," he says. "And I've just narrowly escaped a fate which would have resulted in my never tasting another ice lolly again, so please, get your coat, and come out and get an ice lolly with me." He tugs at the sleeve of her lab coat, as if this will encourage her to exchange it for her parka. "My treat," he adds. Perhaps he thinks the prospect of him coughing up two quid for a Fab will make all the difference.

It doesn't.

He's playing the suicide mission card, and she wonders whether she ought to indulge him just this once, because he's obviously shaken by it all, even if he tries to hide it behind shedloads of bravado and eccentric demands. At the same time however, she doesn't want to set a precedent.

But it's only an ice lolly.

In freezing cold weather.

"All right," she sighs. "Let's go."

He leads the way to the locker room, and doesn't bother to hide his impatience as she hangs her lab coat inside her locker, then shrugs her coat on.

She reaches for her bag, but Sherlock closes the door of her locker, locks it with one swift twist of the keys, then dumps them in Molly's hand.

His impatience is bordering on mania.

"I need to get my lunch as well," she tells him.

"I'll get that," he says with a wave of his hand. "Can we just go?"

She relents, and wonders what he's taken, if anything. Maybe it's just the prospect of another duel with Moriarty that's got nervous energy spilling out of him by the gallon. He's difficult to gauge when he's like this; she's rarely seen it, and even then never to this extent.

He grabs her by the hand and leads the way out of the locker room. His long strides down the corridor towards the lift are too quick for her to be able to keep up without trotting along like a puppy beside him.


He must know, must realise, even if just at the moment she says his name, because he releases her hand and slows to a slightly more manageable pace.

He jabs the button of the lift, then scrolls through his phone at a speed which must make it impossible to read a single word. The lift grinds its way down to the basement and eventually the doors judder open. Sherlock waits a fraction of a second for Molly to step inside first, then follows and whacks the button for the ground floor.

"Are you all right?"

He looks up from his phone, eyes searching her face to try and pick up on the answer he thinks she wants to hear.

"Yeah," he says, and then he looks back down at his phone. "Fine."

She takes his answer with a wheelbarrow's worth of salt.

"Properly fine?" she asks.

"Yes," he replies, eyes still fixed on his phone, his scrolling more slowly now. She's still convinced he's not reading a single word.

"You can tell me if not," she says, knowing she's on a losing streak. "If you need to tell someone, you can tell me. You know that, don't you?"

Sherlock sighs, slipping his phone back into his pocket, and for a moment she thinks she might have broken through.

"Is it so strange that I might want to have an ice lolly?" he asks.

The doors open, and Molly's chance to reply is lost as they navigate their way through the crowd of outpatients and visitors waiting to cram into the lift.

She can't prevent her shudder as they step outside, the chilly wind biting at her face. Even Sherlock buttons up his coat properly, tucking his scarf beneath the revere. He doesn't postpone the idea until another, warmer day. He's too stubborn for his own good, and Molly follows him down the steps, jaw clenched to prevent her teeth from chattering.

They visit three different shops before Molly eventually suggests trying the newsagents where Sherlock used to pick up his cigarettes during long lab days. It's a stroke of genius (he would have dragged her halfway across London before giving up) and there is a mini freezer inside the newsagents half filled with ice creams and ice lollies whose sell by dates fall well before the coming summer.

Sherlock slides open the lid of the freezer, and gestures for Molly to choose first. She can't get away with a Mini Milk - the wire crate labelled with the logo is empty. She goes for a Calippo instead, in the hope that the card container will keep her from getting any rogue juice on her hands, although any chances of her ice lolly melting in today's weather are highly unlikely.

Sherlock picks up a Twister that looks like it's been sitting at the bottom of the freezer for a considerable length of time, then slides the lid shut once more.

"Really?" the shopkeeper says when Sherlock places their items on the counter. "It can't be more than five degrees outside!"

"Three," Sherlock corrects, and Molly's stomach plummets at the thought. He empties the small change pocket in his wallet and roots through the handful of coins. He picks out the right amount, then hands it over.

"Well, have fun," the shopkeeper replies sceptically, and his words raise a smile from Molly. At least she's not alone in thinking Sherlock has lost his mind.

She hopes, in vain, that they might go and sit somewhere warm to eat their lollies, but there's no such luck. Sherlock winds his way back past Bart's then down to the grounds of St Paul's.

There are worse views in London, she knows, and she appreciates his attempt to make their outing nice. However, there are also warmer views in London. Much warmer.

The chill spreads through her body as soon as she sits down, and Molly wonders if Sherlock's thick coat is protecting him from getting a numb bum. She hopes not; her parka certainly hasn't protected her. If they're going to share this experience, they ought to be in the same boat, in every respect.

She peels the lid off of her Calippo, and, with sleeves pulled down to protect her fingers from the cold, she squeezes the bottom so that the ice lolly pops up, and she is able to bite the bullet. She'd rather get this whole ridiculous situation over and done with.

Sherlock tackles his Twister without a second's hesitation, his discarded wrapper laying on the bench in the small space between them.

The Calippo is even colder than expected, and Molly makes plans to have at least three cups of tea before she recommences work this afternoon. She can't go straight back down to the morgue, which is chilly enough on its own, without the help of an ice lolly freezing her from the inside out.

"I didn't plan any of it," he says.

Molly looks across to him but his eyes are focused on the dome of the cathedral, the familiar blue hue emphasised by the light of the winter sun.

"It was never supposed to happen like that. Not at all."

There is a thin trickle of ice cream sliding down the side of his lolly, meandering over the icy green rings of the spiral design. It edges dangerously close to his fingers, but then Sherlock raises the ice lolly to his mouth and takes care of it.

"I know," she says, her voice lost in the rustle of the trees. She has never doubted him, has always known that he would never have gone to Appledore with murder in his heart. He doesn't have any interest in killing, only in being right and, more recently, protecting the people he loves. He doesn't need to tell her that he was over a barrel wedged between a rock and a hard place. She knows.

"It's all been a bit..." He trails off, but she knows what he means. His routine has been smashed to pieces, everything familiar ripped out from under his feet after a week in solitary confinement, followed by a suicide mission, followed by a reprieve thanks to the one man who had nearly destroyed everything. It's no wonder everything's so up in the air for him, no wonder he thinks the only logical course of action is to eat an ice lolly on a freezing cold day.

"You don't need to worry about me though," he adds, and he glances over to her before returning his gaze to the stone work in front of them.

"That won't stop me."

It's the first genuine smile she's seen from him all day, and it's minuscule, it's so tiny that most people would barely catch it. It's a twitch in the cheek and a softening of the eyes, a slight pull on the corner of his mouth for the briefest of moments.

She knows it well.

She tackles more of her ice lolly and they sit in silence, a few rogue pigeons roaming the grounds. No one else has been stupid enough to dine al fresco today, and they have the place to themselves, bar a few brave tourists who are layered up and snapping photographs on huge DSLRs hanging from their necks.

Her fingers are frozen right through, and just as she's about to give up on the ice lolly and ask to head back, Sherlock pulls his gloves from his inside pocket and tosses them into her lap.

It's all well and good for him, he's nearly demolished his Twister.

She pulls the gloves on and they warm her hands immediately; they must have some residual heat from being tucked between him and his coat. It makes handling her ice lolly far easier, and by extension, makes eating it far easier.

There is a huge sense of triumph when she makes it to the end, though she won't deny having held it tightly in an attempt to melt the narrower end into juice, collecting in the bottom of the container. She might only have saved herself a bite, maybe two, but it was totally worth it.

Sherlock takes her rubbish from her and heads over to the bin to discard it with his own wrapper and lolly stick. When he returns to her, hands buried deep in her pockets, Molly waits for the next part of the plan.

"Coffee?" he asks, shoulders hunched. The cold has finally broken through his layers.

Molly nods and stands, her legs numb from the frozen slats of the bench. She keeps ahold of his gloves, and they trudge up towards the main road, in the direction of the nearest source of warmth.

The End