"I never said we were friends."
If Sherlock Holmes had made this statement to Molly Hooper three months earlier, his rudeness might have triggered tears and hurt feelings. He had always been good at wounding the youngest pathologist on staff at St. Bart's to the core with his insensitivity. But since he said this on a Sunday morning as he stretched out on her floral couch, Molly only rolled her eyes.
"What's a five-letter word for 'trout basket' that ends in 'l'?" she asked.
"Creel," he replied, rapidly typing on his laptop.
"Oh, yes! Got it!" She put the crossword puzzle down with a flourish. "By the way, you did say you were my friend. With this."
Molly raised her arm above her head to show him that she was wearing the silver charm bracelet he had given her for her birthday. Everything between them had shifted when he explained that the sparkling star charm was Polaris, or true north. She was his true north.
Sherlock glanced to where she sat on the floor leaning back against the couch he lay on. His rich baritone voice filled the living room. "You believe my giving you a present nonverbally communicates friendship."
"Yes." Molly freed her shiny brown hair from the bun atop her head so it flowed over her shoulders. "Plus, when you consider that you come over to hang out, it doesn't take the world's only consulting detective to deduce..."
"I do not come over to 'hang out.' I do not 'hang out,'" he corrected her with a harrumph. "I am either working or researching when I am here."
"You could do that at Baker Street," Molly pointed out.
Sherlock closed his laptop. "True. But I like to talk through my observations, and John inconveniently lives with Sarah now and refuses to move back to our rooms. In fact, ever since I told him that he was being selfish, he has refused to speak to me. You, on the other hand, are always glad to see me. You are a good listener, much more attentive than the skull. Therefore it makes sense that I do some of my work here."
Ignoring him, Molly maneuvered to stand up, but no matter how carefully she moved, she winced. Three months earlier she had suffered two broken ribs and a collapsed lung in a horrific car accident. She had healed fine, but the occasional jolt of pain could take her breath away, especially when she spent too much time on her feet or slept in the wrong position.
Molly had Sherlock's full attention. Avoiding his raised eyebrows, she pulled down the bottom of her pink pajama top so that the fluffy sheep lined up properly. "Would you like a cuppa?"
Sherlock continued to observe the way Molly gingerly walked to her small kitchen. "Do not attempt to deflect me."
"I'll take some naproxen sodium if it will make you happy."
She gasped to see Sherlock now standing in the kitchen doorway, his having moved as quickly as a cat on the prowl. "Take the medication because the doctor prescribed it and you are in pain, not because of some emotional response you think I will have."
Molly began to argue that of the two of them, she was the one with the medical degree, but gave up under his unflinching stare. "OK, I'll take it."
Satisfied that Molly was fine, he returned to the couch. "Yes to the tea. And kippers."
"Say please," she sing-songed softly.
When he wasn't on a case and she wasn't at work, Sherlock often showed up at her flat on Sunday mornings, a routine that began after she was discharged from the hospital. Still heavily medicated, Molly had staggered to answer the door and found Sherlock waiting impatiently, his laptop in one hand, a newspaper in the other.
"You made the headline." He held up a section that featured a photo of Molly taken at her first St. Bart's Angel Wings Ball. Someone in the human resources department must have dug it up for the tabloid. The headline read, "Resurrected Detective's Gal Pal Released From Hospital."
After staring at him, then the paper, then blankly back at him, she wordlessly had turned and crawled back in bed, leaving him to his own devices in her flat. She didn't really care if he was mentally reducing her dull life down to its base components. However, his arrival turned out to be a good thing, because she ended up needing help sorting out which pills to take when.
The next time he came over, she felt physically better but was still uncertain why he was seated on her rocking chair. But as soon as she began to relax in the nest of pillows she had built on the couch, she enjoyed his company, even if he didn't talk to her for hours or notice when she got up to shower. Over the weeks, she discovered he paid no attention if she even left the flat. Once Molly had asked if he wanted to run errands with her, only to receive a weary Sherlockian look. Sometimes he would still be there when she returned, sometimes not.
This particular lazy Sunday morning started no differently, except as she worked on her crossword puzzle, number three across reminded her of a book she had once read. The author had theorized that all men grew complacent in romantic relationships.
I don't need to worry about this being a "romantic relationship," Molly smirked. She longed for romance, but Sherlock had never indicated he was interested in her that way, even though she loved him more than ever. But the puzzle had started her thinking down a path she couldn't jump off: If the average man became complacent, what could she expect from a genius like Sherlock Holmes?
So she had blurted out, "We'll always be friends."
Pouring two steaming cups of tea, she felt the bracelet lightly on her wrist. She really wasn't one for jewelry of any kind, but this bracelet was different.
"Your tea is ready," she called out.
"And the kippers?"
"In a mo'," she replied. No, they weren't boyfriend and girlfriend, but they were more than what they had been before.
She heard Sherlock's phone alert him to an incoming text message.
"Change of plans! New case!" he shouted.
Molly walked out to find her front door standing open. With a slight shake of her head, she shut it and grinned.
On the surface, the case wasn't very interesting. The French ambassador had requested Sherlock's help in tracking down a family. But after he easily located them what had intrigued the detective was the fact they had fled their homeland more than sixty years earlier because they had been Nazi collaborators. And now one of them had died under mysterious circumstances.
"So why are we here?" John followed Sherlock as his friend pushed open the familiar double doors to the lab at St. Bart's.
"This hair sample is the key to the aunt's murder. I have to test it," Sherlock said. "Molly!"
"No need to shout," she replied with a smile that was almost as sunny as her yellow jumper. "Hi Sherlock, hi John."
"Hello Molly," John said, noticing she sounded a little tired.
Sherlock took off his coat and scarf and tossed them on her desk. "I need the results of that experiment we did last week on trace arsenic," he announced briskly.
"Be right back," she said obligingly.
"Why do you do that?" John asked, annoyed.
"Do what?" Sherlock began preparing the microscope he normally used.
"Why can't you even extend common courtesy to her? Say hello? Ask how her day is going?"
"Hello is implied," Sherlock spoke as if he was explaining his actions to a slow child. "I already know how her day is going: She is frustrated. Her neatly pinned hair is mussed on one side, indicating she has been leaning her head against the heel of her hand. Molly does this when she is reading. She has spent most of her morning reading the administration reports that come out every Monday morning, which has led to frustration as all bureaucracy does.
"Molly is not hard to deduce," Sherlock concluded. "She does not do anything unexpected."
"Hey there! I was told Dr. Hooper was here. Dr. Molly Hooper?" The door opened and in walked a man in his early thirties wearing dark blue jeans and a brightly colored rugby shirt. Sherlock looked up quickly and noted the man's casual, friendly demeanor before turning his attention back to the slide he was preparing.
John wasn't one to really notice other men, but the words "Greek" and "god" flashed through his mind as he looked at the stranger who seemed to exude good health and the outdoors from his very pores. "She'll be right back," he said politely.
Right on cue, Molly entered through the other door. "Here are the results, Sherlock."
"Molly?" The man took a step inside.
"Yes?" she paused tentatively.
The man flashed a bright smile. "It's Todd. I mean, I'm Todd. Todd McCarthy."
The file folder she was holding fluttered to the ground as she squeaked and flew across the room. The tall man wrapped the petite brunette in a hug and soundly kissed her.
"That was unexpected," John said as Sherlock watched the pair silently.
"I read about your accident and everything online. Are you all right?" Todd asked, concerned.
"I'm fine! I can't believe you are really here after all these years!" Sheepishly, she turned to John and Sherlock. "This is my cousin, Todd McCarthy. Todd, this is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson."
John nodded his acknowledgement; Sherlock scowled his.
"Molly, you do not have any living relatives," he stated.
"We aren't really cousins." Todd draped his arm around her shoulder.
"No, we're not related, but we are family," she said with a blush. "We were practically raised together until we were...nine? Ten?"
"I was ten when we moved to America. Remember we had just watched that wretched movie on my tenth birthday?" he asked, causing Molly to burst into peals of delightful giggles.
"I do!" she exclaimed. "And that cake we tried to make? Awful!"
"I gave up cooking for good after that. I'm strictly a TV dinner guy!"
The two continued smiling at the shared memory, studying one another. Finally, Molly continued, "Our grandfathers were best friends."
"More like brothers," Todd interjected.
Molly nodded and gazed into his dark brown eyes. "My grandfather and Todd's served together in World War II. After they came home, grandfather moved to the coast, but Grandpa Charlie looked him up and they really were never apart after that."
Todd nodded. "Grandpa Charlie even rented a house from him."
Sherlock noted the way Todd's thumb traced counter clockwise circles on Molly's shoulder.
"I was always glad grandfather had Charlie. He didn't have many friends."
Sherlock returned his attention once more to his slides, but John listened with interest.
"So...your parents grew up together?" he asked.
Molly grinned. "My mum and Todd's dad were pals. Do you know that she told me Charlie was all in favor of them getting married? Can you imagine? If that had happened, then neither of us would be here!"
"Imagine," Sherlock muttered, earning him a disapproving look from John.
"But grandfather encouraged mum to get an education, and once she left the village, she never went back. But my family lived close enough to Todd's that we saw each other all the time." Molly turned her attention to her childhood friend. "So what are you doing here?"
"Grandpa Charlie remarried after Grandma Barbara died, remember?" Todd asked.
"Oh yes, it was quite a scandal!" Molly looked over at John and Sherlock knowingly. "Rosalie was very young."
John noted that Sherlock's scowl deepened as Todd continued talking. "Well, she passed away and I came to help settle her estate. I was going through her things and found Grandpa Charlie's journals and letters. They reminded me of a certain freckle-faced MollyBug!"
Molly blushed deeply as Todd pulled her closer. "I did an Internet search for you. I was surprised to see all these articles pop up about you and Sherlock Holmes!"
Everyone's eyes drifted over to the consulting detective who positively glared at them. Molly broke the awkward silence by patting Todd on the arm. "How long are you here for?"
"My schedule is pretty flexible." He grinned broadly. "Are you free for lunch?"
"I'm not doing anything at all!"
"Molly!" Sherlock sounded annoyed.
"Everything you need is right here, Sherlock. You're fine." Molly snatched her purse out of a bottom desk drawer. "I'll be back in a while."
After the couple had left, Sherlock sat perfectly still. John didn't believe he had even blinked. Then, with an explosive bang, he pushed back his stool and stormed out of the lab.
"Well," John said aloud. "This is going to be interesting."