There's a bit of swearing in this but nothing gratuitous.

Chapter Two

Sherlock bent over, arm outstretched, to tap his bank card on the cab card reader. It took him three attempts but he got there, in the end. The driver was eyeballing him once again, through the rear-view mirror, his lip curled in distain. Sherlock knew what he was thinking and he couldn't blame the man. He'd probably transported his fair share of addicts, over the years, and Sherlock had to agree that was exactly what he must look like – a smackhead coming down from a bender. The irony was not lost on him. He'd been there many times. Just not this time.

He stumbled up the path and leant his shoulder against the house wall while he groped inside his pocket for the door key – yes, he would use the key today…if he could just get the damn thing in the lock…if his hand would just stop shaking. His fingers appeared to have lost all their usual dexterity and felt like fat, lifeless sausages. Try as he might, the key just skittered across the face of the lock plate and refused to go in the aperture.

Molly had been on tenterhooks all morning, wondering how things were going at the court. She was in no doubt that, whatever the verdict, it would be tough on Sherlock. The past six months had been so difficult for him, trying to hold everything together for the sake of his parents and brother but, at the same time, putting himself through these weekly torments for the sake of his sister. Nobody – not even Sherlock Holmes – could keep that amount of stress supressed for that length of time and not suffer consequences. He seemed to her to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And today might just be the catalyst that finally pushed him over the edge. Which was why she had so hoped he would accept her offer to accompany him to the hearing. He so badly needed someone to be there just for him.

But she wasn't surprised when he said no, even though she could tell he really wanted to say yes. Men, thought Molly, and their toxic masculinity!

Consequently, she had spent an inordinate amount of time, that morning, at the front window, looking out for any sign of him returning and, when not doing that, had been on Red Alert, listening for the sound of a cab pulling up outside. As it happened, when the cab actually did turn up, she was in the cloakroom under the stairs, making use of the relatively new facility that she had had installed since moving in. So, she didn't hear the distinctive tone of a cab engine arrive or depart. But she couldn't miss the sound of someone trying but failing repeatedly to put a key into her door lock. And only one other person had a key to her house.

Molly hurried to the front door and flung it open. Then immediately regretted doing so as Sherlock stumbled forward. He had been using the door for support. Somehow, he managed to save himself from measuring his length in the hallway by slapping a hand onto the side wall and then leaning his shoulder against it while he turned his unfocused gaze on Molly.

'I'm so sorry, I just don't…' he began, his voice breathy and weak.

'Never mind,' said Molly, reassuringly. 'It's OK. Let's just…get your coat off.' As she spoke, she was unfastening the buttons on his big, heavy Belstaff coat then pushing it back off his shoulder and sliding one sleeve down his arm. He assisted by swapping his shoulder support for his free arm, while she slid the coat right off and, turning, hung it on the coat stand in the corner of her hall.

'You need to lie down,' she said. Slipping her arm around his waist and taking his arm over her shoulder, she began moving him forward toward the sitting room door, while he slid his hand along the wall, letting the masonry take his weight rather than putting it all on Molly.

Having this amount of close physical contact, Molly was shocked at how thin he was. She could feel every rib, through his designer jacket. And his hands - the one she could feel, at least – were as cold as ice and rather clammy, yet it wasn't that cold outside and she presumed he had just stepped out of a warm taxi.

They made it to the sofa, at last, and Sherlock eased himself down onto it, gingerly removing his arm from Molly's shoulder before allowing himself to slip sideways and come to rest with his head on the arm of the couch – a couch that was much too short to accommodate all of him in this recumbent position, so his feet had to stay on the floor, with his knees bent at a funny angle. He didn't care. He was just glad to be lying on something soft and relatively comfortable rather than the parquet hall floor.

Molly knelt down beside the sofa and ran her professional eye over him. His breathing was shallow and quite rapid. There were beads of sweat on his forehead but his skin felt cold to the touch and his face was ashen grey – even more so than the day she had turned up at that therapist's house with a fully equipped emergency ambulance – but she knew he wasn't using. She took hold of his wrist, feeling for the pulse point. It was rapid and rather weak. And he was obviously feeling faint. He was clearly in shock.

'Sherlock, can you hear me?' she said.

'Loud and clear,' he murmured, scrunching up his eyes, trying to make them focus.

'Right, I need to elevate your legs and feet so just bear with me for a moment…'

As she talked, she was placing the cushions from the arm chairs onto the wooden coffee table then manoeuvring the coffee table alongside the sofa before removing his shoes and lifting his legs up and resting them on the cushions. By the end of that, she was puffing and panting quite a bit. She was accustomed to moving heavy lifeless bodies around but usually in an environment ergonomically designed to facilitate such activities. This was a whole different ball game.

Next, she grabbed the throw from the back of the sofa and covered him over, tucking it down his back, to stop any draughts of cold air getting to him.

Now she had a dilemma. She knew she shouldn't give him anything to eat, as his digestive system would have shut down and he would likely vomit back up anything he swallowed but she was concerned about his blood sugar levels.

'Sherlock,' she said, kneeling beside him again. 'When did you last eat?'

After a moment's hesitation, he asked,

'What day is it?'

Molly pursed her lips, dismayed.

'Sherlock Holmes, you have to stop abusing your body like this. You're a grown man, a tall man...'

'Not as tall as you might think, apparently,' he interjected.

'...in your late thirties…'

'You don't need to remind me how old I am, Molly. I can work that out for myself,' he mumbled.

'…and you need to eat regular healthy meals. You know, I'm amazed you're not anorexic. In fact, maybe you are!'

'I'm not anorexic, Molly. Just like I'm not an addict. I'm an occasional user…or rather, in the case of food, an occasional non-user…'

'Don't try to be funny,' she scolded. 'And don't give me any of that 'digestion interferes with my cognitive function' crap, either. Your brain, just like your body, needs fuel. You need to eat in order to think.'

'The ancient Greek philosophers would beg to differ, I'm afraid…' he replied, breathily.

'Fuck the ancient Greek philosophers!' Molly exclaimed. 'What a bunch of misogynistic arseholes they were! Look here, Mr Smartarse. You say your brain is your hard drive? Well, have you ever tried using your laptop when the battery is flat? You can't, can you! It won't work. You can't even switch it on!'

From deep inside Sherlock's chest, Molly heard a rasping rumble and she started in alarm. What on earth was happening now? But then she looked at his face and realised that he was…laughing.

'What's so funny?' she demanded of her impossible patient.

'Did you say 'fuck', Molly Hooper?' he chuckled, weakly.

'Yes, I fucking well did!' she replied, then saw the absurdity of the situation and had to laugh too.

'Oh, God, I wish you'd let me come with you, today,' she gasped, on the verge of tears.

He reached out and took her hand, bringing it to his face to brush it, briefly, against his lips.

'So do I,' he whispered, allowing his eyes to close.

ooOoo

Later, after a few hours of sleep, Sherlock was feeling a little better. His pulse had slowed, as had his breathing, and the feeling had come back in his hands and feet. He still looked ghostly pale but no longer felt clammy. He could sit up without feeling dizzy. And his hands had stopped shaking, at last. Molly was anxious to get some food into him but she started with a cup of tea.

He sat on the sofa, propped up with cushions whilst making further use of the coffee table as a footstool, and she sat in the arm chair opposite. Both sipped their tea, each thinking their own thoughts.

Molly now knew all about what had happened at the coroner's court, having looked it up on line while Sherlock was sleeping. She'd read the reports and watched a piece to camera, taken outside the court house, which included an interview with the Trevor family. Ernest Trevor, brother of Victor, speaking on behalf of the family of the deceased had voiced the usual platitudes about 'having closure' and 'justice seen to be done' and declared that the Trevors would be 'considering further legal action' against the Holmes family. Molly wondered what form that might take – compensation? Criminal liability?

At the very end of the news video, the camera had caught a glimpse of Sherlock's parents and brother being shepherded out of a side entrance and into a waiting car by what looked like close protection officers. No sign of Sherlock, though. He was obviously still inside or had managed to avoid the prying eyes of the press.

'Coat stand?' said Sherlock, suddenly.

'Sorry, what?' asked Molly.

'A coat stand. You hung my coat on a coat stand.'

'Yes. Why? Do you need it? I mean, is there something in your coat pocket that you need?'

'No, I just wondered when you got a coat stand.'

Molly was bemused.

'Ages ago,' she replied. 'I bought it just after I moved in here.'

'How strange I never noticed it before,' he mused.

'Ah,' she said, 'you see but you do not observe.'

Sherlock gave a little huff of amusement then…

'He thinks he remembers, you know, but those are false memories. I'm sure of it.'

Molly made no reply. If he was ready to talk about what had happened today, she didn't want to interrupt his train of thought.

'Mycroft was only thirteen when Victor…' he paused, his brow beetling, then continued '…disappeared. He was only a child himself so how could he possibly remember in such detail what happened back then. And what about the incident with the knife?'

Molly still said nothing.

'He claims he asked her what she was doing and she said she wanted to see how her muscles worked. So, he asked her if she felt pain and, apparently, she said 'Which one's pain?''

Sherlock looked directly at Molly, now.

'Do you remember, in that much detail, any conversations you had when you were thirteen?'

'No,' she replied, 'but these were extremely traumatic incidents so perhaps the conversations would stick in his mind?'

'No', said Sherlock, vehemently shaking his head.

'No.'

And, again,

'No. They couldn't possibly have been Mycroft's memories. I don't believe Mycroft even had those conversations. In fact, I don't believe those conversations ever happened. I believe he was told about those conversations, over and over again, many times, to convince him that Eurus was a danger, not only to others but to herself, as well. This was Rudi's doing. All part of his sordid little plan.'

'You know, whenever my parents had a problem of any kind, no matter how trivial, they always turned to Uncle Rudi. He was my mother's older brother and there was a big age gap – about ten years. He was a sort of father figure to my mother. She deferred to him on everything.'

He lapsed back into a brooding silence, his eyes focused inwards on his innermost thoughts.

Molly sipped her tea and waited. The silence stretched out, minute after pregnant minute, and then he sighed and leant forward, placing his empty tea cup on the coffee table before rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands.

'Do you mind if I stay here tonight?' he asked, looking at her so beseechingly.

Molly was a little flustered.

'Of course, you can stay here tonight. You can stay as long as you need to but…'

He was starting to get up. He was planning on going straight upstairs to bed.

'…you need to eat something, Sherlock. Your blood sugar must be…'

'I don't want to put you to any…' he began.

'No!' Molly exclaimed.

He stopped in mid-sentence.

'You must eat something before you go to bed,' she said, calmly but firmly.

'Got any ginger biscuits?' he asked.

ooOoo

Eventually, they settled on porridge, with a large dollop of honey.

'Oats,' Molly explained, as she stood at the kitchen counter, weighing out the dry ingredients into a deep cereal bowl, 'are a complex carbohydrate, which provides slow-release energy throughout the morning or, in your case, the night.' She nodded sagely in his direction. He listened, from the comfort of the sofa, wearing a bemused half-smile.

'Did you know that porridge made with water is a wholesome mix of carbohydrates, protein and fibre and contains no salt or sugar? But, by opting to use milk instead of water,' which she had, 'it will increase the fat, protein and calorie content – I think you can manage a little fat in your diet, to be honest, and you could certainly use a few extra calories – plus you will also benefit from the naturally occurring sugars in the milk.'

She poured a measured amount of milk into the bowl, over the dry oats, and stirred to mix them together then placed the bowl into her microwave oven and set the timer for one minute.

'Did you also know that oats contain a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan which, studies suggest, can help lower your cholesterol levels, if you have 3g or more of it every day?'

'Really?' he replied. 'How fascinating. Have you ever thought of going into TV advertising? I believe there's a vacancy in the breakfast cereal genre.'

Molly acknowledged both his teasing and the reference to the recently incarcerated serial killer, Culverton Smith, with a stern glance.

'And oats contain magnesium, iron and zinc as well as the B vitamins. But, when you make it with milk, the vitamin and mineral content increases, as, of course, does the calcium content.'

The microwave punctuated her hard sell with a ping. She took out the bowl, gave it a stir and put it back in for another minute.

Watching Molly perform this simple task of preparing porridge, especially with the quirky commentary, Sherlock had to quietly congratulate himself. Even though he was a renowned arsehole, he obviously knew how to pick good friends. What had Eurus called him, when she was masquerading as Faith Smith? Sweet and kind? Obviously, in her case, that bar was set very low. If she thought he was kind, what on earth would she have made of John or Lestrade, Mrs Hudson and, most especially, Molly Hooper?

Those complicated little emotions that Eurus had activated, through her 'moral dilemma' test, were clearly at work again as he found himself thinking how lovely Molly looked. Her hair, scraped up into a pony tail, bobbing about and swishing from side to side – first grazing one shoulder, then the other - as she moved her head, was captivating. He felt an irresistible urge to get up, walk over there, take her in his arms and…

Stop! Stop that! he told himself, firmly. Don't be an idiot.

She was so unself-conscious, so relaxed in his company. And he in hers. Far better to keep things as they were, surely? Why complicate matters by acting on impulse? Wasn't life complicated enough?

'Here you are,' she said, presenting him with a tray lined with a tea towel, bearing the bowl of piping hot porridge and a spoon. 'Be careful. It's hot.'

'Thank you, Molly. Most kind' he said, quietly, scooping up a spoonful and blowing on it.

ooOoo