When she had visited Sherlock in the hospital and at Mycroft's house, she had been fine, her inexplicable crush on the Consulting Detective having subsided to a degree of friendly caring. Today, however, she had been hit again by his tall, dark and enigmatic appearance, his extraordinary paleness even adding to it. He was radiating a dark power, like the dark lord of the vampires – enticing but dangerous. Although Molly found it weird herself when considering it objectively, she was attracted to it. Well, and having to pull down his pyjama pants hadn't really helped either. Catching a glimpse of the bare skin of his back and below had been thrilling, but the situation itself had been so awkward that she hadn't been able to enjoy this moment. Above all the anger, the little female devil in her regretted having missed a chance of getting a proper look at her object of desire.
The object of desire, however, was also the reason for her despair. Although she sometimes despised herself for letting people do it, she was aware that they generally tended to take advantage of her. She had always been too helpful, wanting to please people, so she rarely said no. Especially with Sherlock, this had caused her problems every now and then, but she would rather take the risk of getting into trouble than being lonely. However hard she tried, she always fell for the wrong people; and Sherlock apparently was the lesser evil compared to her encounter with Jim Moriarty, for example. That was the reason why she tried to ignore his insults to a certain degree, just to ensure he would visit her in the lab occasionally.
However, her visits at the hospital and the talk about Sherlock's slashed wrists had given her a feeling of closeness, of a strong friendship between her and the Consulting Detective. Being put into charge of spending time with him and taking care of him, had pushed her self-conscience; and although she knew that Sherlock most likely didn't know that she knew about his apparent suicide attempt, she was hurt by the realization that he was again trying to use her. She knew it was beyond logic, but she simply couldn't help it.
If it had been merely out of interest that he had asked her about the visit at Mycroft's, why had he acted in front of her first, pretending to be interested in what she had done that day?
All of a sudden, it dawned on Molly that Sherlock had not only acted his interest in her, but also his memory loss. Why else would he avoid talking to Mycroft personally? He couldn't remember their difficulties with each other, so there would have been no reason for secretiveness!
The woman stood in the hallway of 221b, staring at the front door without actually seeing it.
What kind of game was going on there? Mycroft ordering her to keep an eye on Sherlock – to find out whether he was in danger, emotionally or physically - and Sherlock knowing about her meeting with his brother but not asking about it openly, was really strange. Or was it just her bad conscience that made her feel that way? She felt miserable about deceiving Sherlock – on the one hand. On the other hand, he did the same with her, so why should she feel bad about it at all? It hurt that both Holmes brothers were only playing games with her, not taking her seriously and not for a single moment taking her emotions into consideration!
Mycroft had invited her quite spontaneously for lunch at his house the day before, in fact picking her up directly from work at Barts. She had insisted that she couldn't just leave two hours early, but he had reassured her that her employer was fine with it. Being fed up with the paperwork she had been doing, she had welcomed the change in her routine. From their last meetings, when she had got to know Sherlock's brother a little better, she had found that he was quite a pleasant man, extremely educated, witty, but not too arrogant – at least not towards her. She knew, though, that he could be quite the opposite of an amiable person, peril to those who challenged him.
She had wondered why Mycroft would invite her, but he had explained that he was trying to thank her for taking care of Sherlock in the hospital. Looking back, Molly scolded herself for being that stupid. When Sherlock and John had been in the clinic, she herself had offered her help, Mycroft hadn't literally asked for it; and she was convinced that he wouldn't have asked for it but in his subtle way ordered it. She should have known that the older Holmes, just as the younger one, wouldn't say thank you with a lunch for something they just expected from other people.
And still, they had chatted and savoured an excellent meal of five courses, each finer than the previous, all elegantly served by a butler. Molly had enjoyed the luxury of the surroundings and the food, feeling like a princess in a castle, albeit not being dressed properly due to having worked in the morning. She had enjoyed Mycroft's company, who had told her anecdotes of some Holmes family members from former times. The idea of earlier Sherlocks and Mycrofts in 17th century dresses had made her laugh and she had suggested that Mycroft could hold a fancy dress party some time which, however, had only been commented on by a raised eyebrow and a sarcastic "Imagine what fun Sherlock would have...".
Only when they had finished eating, did the older Holmes reveal what Molly now perceived as his real intentions for inviting her for lunch. The general question of regularly checking on Sherlock hadn't held anything unusual, but the smile and the look that followed it, had sent a shiver down Molly's spine. Mycroft had been all courteous, but his gaze had transmitted a lot more that wouldn't allow objection; and the tiny question whether she loved her job had made her blood freeze.
The young woman knew instantly that her task wasn't to just check on the flatmates, particularly on Sherlock, but to literally spy on them and report everything suspicious to Mycroft – and all of a sudden, she had then felt like a princess fallen out of favour with the king. Explaining it with his own lack of time, Mycroft had told her that, as much as he would have preferred it, he couldn't do it himself. He had referred to their talk about Sherlock's slashed wrists in the hospital and had appealed to her understandable desire that he not do any further harm to himself, and, most importantly, he wanted to know what his younger brother was up to. He had told her that she would be picked up by a taxi the day after and driven to Baker Street. If she happened to meet Mycroft there, she wasn't supposed to say anything about their lunch. He thanked her for the pleasant time they had spent together, taking her hand into his and blowing a breath of a kiss on its back.
Molly felt as if she had just fallen from heaven, hitting the grounds of reality hard. She was wondering now why she still kept putting up with the Holmes brothers. The scales had suddenly fallen from her eyes when she had realised that Sherlock was doing the exact same thing with her as his brother was and neither of them was really interested in her as a person. Damn her feeling guilty about betraying Sherlock! He did nothing else with her! Molly felt as if two forces were pulling at her in different directions, threatening to tear her apart. In future, she would, for her own sake, avoid Sherlock, Mycroft – and John.
She knew she was a bit slow sometimes when it came to reading people. She always believed in the best of everyone, and was, therefore, often disappointed to realise that again she had been wrong. John, however, was such an honest man, decent and modest, that she had never thought he would play along with Sherlock without the wink of an eye. Although..., had he really? The thought struck her now in her subconscious. John was extremely loyal, and there had been the awkward moment at the beginning of her visit when the two men had retreated to Sherlock's room for his supposed examination. Contemplating it now, Molly had a vague idea that probably she had done John wrong and he was as much a victim of the twisted machinations of the Holmes brothers as she was herself.
Anyway, she wouldn't enter this house again. It was best for her – and for her professional career – to not risk putting up with Sherlock Holmes anymore. And yet, the thought hurt and the tears kept flowing down her cheeks when she opened the front door of 221B, bumping into Mrs Hudson forcefully, who dropped the keys she had apparently just been about to push into the lock, stumbling backwards. Molly was just quick-witted enough to catch her and hold on to the door frame so that they didn't both tumble over.
"Molly, dear! In such a rush?" Mrs Hudson was straightening her coat, collecting herself.
The young woman could only snivel, trying to smile beneath her tears.
"What's wrong, love? Is anything wrong with the boys? Oh, no! Tell me what's wrong!" Her voice was turning panic-stricken and her eyes were wide open. Molly realised that she was expecting really bad news. She shook her head and with ragged breath reassured her that – as far as she could tell – they were quite ok.
"But you aren't," the old lady stated, scrutinizing the pathologist's face. "Come in, I'll make you a cuppa and you tell me what's wrong."
Molly resigned, giving Mrs Hudson a hand with her suitcase. She was led into the tiny kitchen, dropping on the first available chair. Sherlock and John's landlady shrugged off her coat after putting on the kettle and told Molly to stay where she was. She rushed out of the kitchen and returned within seconds without her coat. While busying herself with preparing a pot of tea, laying the table with the tea china and conjuring up some biscuits from her cupboard, she encouraged the upset woman to tell her what was bothering her.
Molly was moved. She had always liked Mrs Hudson, but now she could imagine why even Sherlock was so fond of her. Her motherliness was disarming and made one want to tell her all one's sorrows instantly.
Molly blew her nose and sighed, studying the blooming rose that was painted at the bottom of her tea cup. She briefly contemplated the sense of having a picture at the bottom of a cup as most of the time one wouldn't even be able to see it. She sighed.
"It's Mycroft and Sherlock – and John," she said, adding the last name more quietly. "As long as they want something from you – from me – they make me feel like...like... a princess. But in reality, it's all well-schemed and cold deliberation! I'm so fed up with people thinking they can take advantage of me easily and drop me afterwards! And I even had a bad conscience!"
The young woman burst into sobs, feeling miserable and lonely.
"Shush, dear, it'll all be fine." Mrs Hudson comforted her, pouring her a cup of steaming tea before handing her a fresh tissue. "Now one thing after the other. What are the boys doing and why do you have a bad conscience? You know, I've been away for a couple of days, so I'm not up-to-date."
Over-sweetening her tea with sugar and stirring it, completely lost in thought, she described the incidents that had taken place since the day before. She felt relieved to be able to tell somebody, who would understand her, about all that. Her talking was only interrupted by her occasional sobs and by two text alerts from her mobile phone, which she ignored at first. When she had just finished talking and the third time her mobile made a heart-wrenching "MEOW!" Mrs Hudson intervened.
"Someone seems to have an urgent desire to communicate with you, love. Or have you just forgotten about a cat that you are carrying in your back pocket and that you're now sitting on?"
Although the old lady had asked it with a serious face, Molly couldn't withhold an involuntary laugh.
"Sorry, ... um, it's my text alert, but I don't feel like... like reading them," she replied, a fresh tear running down her cheek. With red-rimmed eyes she looked at Sherlock and John's landlady. "It can only be them."
Mrs Hudson pushed her chair close to Molly's, sitting down on it and taking her hand into hers. "Listen, love, Sherlock is just the way he his, outwardly cold-hearted and ruthless, but even he can learn from his mistakes – at least sometimes. It's mean what they're doing to you, absolutely no doubt. But if it's him texting you, you should probably just give it a chance. As for Mycroft... I don't know. He's so... snooty! He really blows my top! And yet, I'm sure he has a heart, too."
The young woman sighed deeply. "And John? Why does he play along? I thought he was honest!"
"Oh, John. I think he's loyal in the first place. – Molly, you're important to them, both of them, believe me. And I absolutely agree that they should be taught a lesson in honesty and apologizing. So, I suggest you stay here and read your texts while I go unpacking some of my stuff. Have another tea and then we'll see."
Molly looked down on the wrinkled hand, covered with age spots, yet not having lost anything of its elegance and strength. "Ok," she whispered, watching a tear that had fallen onto the back of the hand holding hers. Mrs Hudson patted her hand determinedly before getting up and leaving the kitchen, cheerfully humming. Molly couldn't understand how she could be all happy when she was just sad.
She fumbled for her mobile, digging in the depth of her too big handbag and condemning her obsession with carrying everything with her that one could possibly need, like hand-wipes, samples of sunscreen, hand balm, some instant shoe polish, plaster, a mini measuring stick, two different lipsticks with colour, lip balm without colour, a notebook, two pens in case one wouldn't write anymore, safety-pins, a brush, keys, all kinds of bonus cards, two books to be read on the tube, her purse, the wrappings of some sweets she had had weeks ago, a bottle of water and her mobile – somewhere. It was annoying.
Eventually, Molly's fingers felt the edges of her mobile and embraced the item before it could get lost in the depth of her handbag again, the very moment it meowed again and whirred in her grip.
"Oh, you!" Molly snapped at her mobile. "I should ignore you; I really should."
She opened the text message inbox and found what she had expected: four texts, one from John and three from Sherlock.
"Ok, you two, this time you need very good excuses!" She first opened John's message.
Molly, I'm sorry. He didn't mean to hurt you. I had to promise not to say anything. I'm really sorry. Forgive me. JW
Molly snorted quietly. John really seemed to be a victim, too – but still, the first thing he did was to defend Sherlock's actions. She would let the doctor squirm a bit although her real anger was directed at the Consulting Detective.
"He doesn't bloody care about hurting people; that's the problem, John!" she said as if the addressed man could hear her. She went on reading the messages that Sherlock had sent her.
Don't be childish. SH
"Oh, you!" Molly yelled at her mobile, furiously now, typing and sending a single word in return: Dick!
The young woman placed the phone on the desk in front of her, turning it to vibration only to avoid yet another MEOW. After a couple of quiet minutes, it suddenly buzzed and Molly jumped. She had been lost in thought, sipping her now cold and far too sweet beverage that felt almost sticky in her mouth, but she didn't bother about diluting it with some fresh, hot tea. She unlocked the screen and tapped on the message, which unfolded itself to her surprised eyes.
Right. I'm a dick. What else? SH
Was he really seeing sense or was it just giving in for the sake of reconciliation? If Sherlock wanted more, he could have it!
Manipulative sod. Ruthless bonehead. Uncouth arsehole. Molly
That's it? SH
Could go on forever! Molly
Feel free. SH
Leave me alone! Molly
You too? SH
What do you mean, you too? Molly
That's what John said too. SH
Good on him! Bye, Sherlock. Molly
What do you mean, bye? SH
Think about it! Molly
Molly put her phone back on the table, turning it on mute, so that she wouldn't be tempted to notice any further incoming texts and probably go on texting Sherlock, which would most likely make her waver in her decision. She still was very angry, but she felt her wrath melting with every received text, despite the fact that they didn't contain anything apologetic.
Since apparently he had told him off, too, her assumptions about John's role in the game were confirmed. She would stick to her plan to take a time off from the Consulting Detective and his lot, but she decided to send one more conciliatory text to John – just to let him know.
I forgive you, but I still won't be available. Cheers, John. Molly.
Let's go for a beer some time soon. JW
dropped her phone into her bag – a good place to hide the things that
she wanted to forget about, at least for a while. Instead, she dug for
her notebook and the pen to leave Mrs Hudson a message that she had left
and wouldn't be seen all too soon again in 221B. She scribbled down a
few lines, tore the page from the notebook and got up from her chair,
thrusting the writing utensils into her handbag. With a sigh, she left
the kitchen, heading to the front door.