Dead to the World
“There are some things one remembers even though
they may never have happened.”
― Harold Pinter, Old Times
One might say that the interior of 221B Baker Street was quite atypical. Not many people decorated their flat with skulls, experiments and body parts (apart from crazy serial killer, probably). But then again Sherlock Holmes was an atypical person. He lived in – what he used to call – organized chaos (his not-housekeeper preferred the term “mess”). He hated it when people touched his things or (heaven forbid!) put them away. He had his own system, and he depended on it. Some people might have called it OCD. But Molly Hooper was not “some people” and she had always understood that, and that was why she was so worried when she climbed the stairs to 221B together with its inhabitant.
Together with their friends she had brought her stuff here, because the situation demanded that she became Sherlock’s new flatmate. Well, in his world she was way more than only his flatmate, but in order to keep herself from freaking out, she had decided to use that term when thinking about her new living arrangements.
Since they all knew how peculiar Sherlock was in terms of his organized chaos, they had been hesitant to put things away or – Heaven forbid! – throw something away to make room for Molly’s stuff. Therefore the pathologist had only brought what was absolutely necessary to give the impression that she was in fact sharing a flat with her fiancé.
Apart from toiletries, she had brought some books, medical journals and of course clothes (Molly had been confused at first when John insisted on her bringing all her dresses. But he had explained to her that Sherlock knew there to be 6 short dresses, excluding the one she had bought for the wedding, and two long ones. Molly had decided to throw away the black one with the sequins. She knew Sherlock did not like it, and now she had the blue one, although she still could not look at it.)
Of course there was one thing that would not blend in to Sherlock’s decoration of the flat. It was not a thing to be precise, but Molly’s former flatmate: her cat Toby. When Sherlock had used her flat as a blot hole, he had more or less ignored the feline. He had been quite indifferent to the tomcat. The feeling had been mutual. She had had a talk with her beloved tabby (as you can imagine it was rather one sided) and had explained to him why they had to move and had begged him to behave. For once Toby had done as he was told, and Molly was glad that he seemed to like his new (temporary – she told herself time and time again) home.
Sherlock’s friends had been unsure of what to do with John’s old room. It was still in the same state as the former flatmate had left it. They had no idea what Sherlock, in his momentary state of mind, thought was up there. In the end they had decided to put some of Molly’s stuff that did not really fit anywhere else up there, but to leave it untouched otherwise.
When Sherlock walked into his flat, he looked around in the room is his typical manner, deducing everything. Molly started to have a bad feeling. They had done their best to leave his things where they had been and only to add an item of Molly’s possession here and there. They had been convinced that they had done a good job, but the pathologist feared they had been wrong.
Toby was lying on John’s chair which he had annexed
the moment Molly had brought him here.
“You redecorated,” Sherlock accused her.
Molly’s heart sank. “Yeees, … a bit… I had to keep myself busy in the evenings while you were in hospital.” She surprised herself with the logic of her explanation.
He nodded in understanding. “I see. I like it.”
“Really?!” she could not help but exclaim in disbelieve. Sherlock turned to her and knitted his brow in confusion.
Molly tried to find a way out of the situation. “I mean... Good.” What else was she supposed to say?
He smirked and took a dangerous step closer and suddenly Molly found herself trapped between the wall and Sherlock. She had no idea how that had happened, and she started to panic a bit.
“But now there’s no need to keep yourself busy with moving decoration around the shelves, because I’m back,” he said in a voice that would have made a 0909-number proud and put both hands on either side of her head, making sure she stayed where she was and pressed her further against the wall.
Only once had she been so close to him before, after he had rescued her from her kidnappers and had embraced her fiercely. She had been as perplexed then as she was now, but still this felt totally different. Back then he had been the saviour she had run to and now he was the danger she needed to get away from.
She swallowed hard and tried to keep her breathing and her beating heart under control. His eyes searched her face and then they settled on her mouth. Would it have been any other man, she would have said he wanted to kiss her, but because it was Sherlock Holmes he was probably only making a deduction about what she had last eaten from looking at her lips, or thinking how small they were.
But then she realized with horror that this was in fact not Sherlock Holmes, at least not the one that would make a cutting comment about her appearance, but that he really wanted to kiss her. No, she had to correct herself again, he did not only want to kiss her, he was about to kiss her.
Slowly he tilted his head to the side, to get a better angle and leaned forward.
There was no way Molly could escape his kiss. Sure she had always wanted this to happen, but not like that. Her hands trembled while they were desperately trying to find something to hold onto that were not the lapels of the coat or the chest of the man in front of her. She tried to tell herself that she should try to picture someone else and just get it over with. She closed her eyes and waited for his lips to descend on hers, when a shrill voice from downstairs was heard, “Yoo-hoo!”
The moment was broken.
Sherlock bowed his head and Molly opened her eyes and breathed in relief, “It’s Mrs Hudson.” She would have to thank the landlady later.
Sherlock shook his head and growled, “No, that’s the end of the world.”
He pushed himself off the wall and walked towards the door. “I’ll just go downstairs to say hello. I’ll be back soon.” He winked and then exited.
Molly drew a hand over her face and asked herself how she was supposed to survive this without getting her heart broken – again. Sure she had known that she would have to hug and kiss Sherlock sooner or later. She was supposed to be his fiancée after all.
But she had thought it to be easier. She had not imagined she would feel so nervous and insecure. She had told herself time and time again in the last few days that this was all just a play. She was just an actress who played the part of a (relatively) young, nice pathologist who happened to be married to the world’s only consulting detective. It was all fake and it meant nothing. Nada. Rien. Niente. That had been her mantra. But now, being so close to the man she loved, she had a hard time believing in it.
She put her coat on the hanger, petted Toby and went over to the mantelpiece. While thinking she absentmindedly stroked the skull that surveilled the flat from there. It was a strangely comforting feeling. She was contemplating how to proceed and how to distract Sherlock to keep his hands off her. She chuckled. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought that one day this would become one of her problems.
“I see you are sharing a joke with Billy?”
She had been so lost in thought that she had not heard the owner of the flat enter. He had hung up his coat as well and walked towards her with a smile on his face. Molly still thought that this expression looked wrong on him. He scratched Toby behind the ears while passing him and came to stand next to Molly at the mantelpiece.
Molly reminded herself that she had to keep Sherlock occupied so she gestured towards the skull with her head and asked, “Why did you call him Billy? Why not…,” she searched her mind for a suitable name for a skull and of course could only come up with the most obvious one, “Yorick?”
Sherlock clutched his hands over his heart as if in pain and recited, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”
Molly gave him an odd look, like he’d been replaced by a not-so-very-convincing-Sherlockclone. He cleared his throat and shrugged, “What’s the matter? You know why I called him Billy, his name was Billy,” he said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Not knowing what to say to that Molly changed the subject – kind of, “I was wondering where you keep your souvenirs from you cases?” While bringing her stuff over, she had noticed the absence of said souvenirs.
Sherlock looked at her as if she’d gone mad. “You know very well that John’s the one to keep all the useless cufflinks and tie pins. Why would I need souvenirs?”
Molly nervously glanced around the room and shrugged, “I… I don’t know…”
Sherlock chuckled and shook his head, as if this whole conversation amused him.
When Molly didn’t say anything else, he left her standing by the fireplace and informed her, “I’m going to take a shower. I need to wash the smell of hospital off me. Don’t hesitate to join me if you want.”
He smirked at her and then disappeared into the bathroom.
Needless to say that Molly did not follow his invitation, but stayed well out of the bathroom while he was in there. She tried to busy herself in the kitchen, making some tea for both of them. Since it was quite late she did not bother with sandwiches or biscuits. Through the mundane routine she gained some calm, and then she sat down on the couch with her cup and a medical journal.
After reading a few pages, she figured that Sherlock had been in the bathroom for a long time. The doctors had told her to take good care of him, because head traumas were unpredictable and it was possible that he blacked out or fell unconscious. She started to worry and got up from the couch. She went over to the bathroom door and listened closely.
The shower was not running anymore. Helplessly she looked over to her tabby, as if asking him for some advice. Of course he did not offer any, but remained asleep, oblivious to his mistress’ distress. Molly worried that something might have happened to her flatmate. What if he had lost consciousness and hit his head? Again.
Molly knocked on the door. “Sherlock?” she called.
No answer. In her mind she already pictured an
unconscious Sherlock on the floor in a pool of blood.
“Sherlock, are you okay?” she tried again.
She was worried, but she didn’t want to intrude. It would have been embarrassing to walk into him standing there naked. Maybe he was just making fun of her and wanted her to walk in on him undressed? Would he do that? With that version of Sherlock she could not be sure. But if something had happened to him, she had to help him.
She made a decision. “Sherlock, when I come in, you’ll be either unconscious or dressed!” she called out to him.
Again there was no answer.
Molly drew a deep breath and reached for the knob, when the door opened and a pale Sherlock almost collided with her. His hair was wet and he only wore a towel around his waist. The bandage on his head was gone. A plaster covering the laceration was the only visible reminder or his injury. His stare was vacant, as if he was not really seeing her. He did not as much as spare her a glance as he sidestepped her, Molly stumbling backwards a bit.
Without a single word he went into his bedroom and closed the door.
An hour later Molly was still sitting in Sherlock’s chair staring at the bedroom door. She did not know what she was supposed to do. Should she go in there and talk to him? Was he in his mind palace? Did he want to be left alone? Should she sleep on the couch?
She started to get very tired and realized that even if she were to sleep on the couch she needed a blanket and her jimjams. And those things were in the bedroom.
Her first night with Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street was about to become a disaster. Somehow she had imagined this scenario quite differently. Not that she had imagined it… But she could not give up on the very first night, could she?
She got up and went to the bedroom door. Hesitantly she opened it. It was quite dark inside. The room was only illuminated by the streetlamps that shone through the window. Sherlock sat on the bed unmoving in a t-shirt and pyjama pants.
Molly called out his name, and when he did not react, she took a tentative step towards his sitting form.
“Sherlock?” She took another step and was surprised when she heard his deep voice say, “My wit’s diseased.” She remained where she was and asked, “What do you mean?”
He kept staring straight ahead, not looking at her. “It’s confusing.”
Slowly Molly dared to sit next to him on the bed. “What do you mean?” she repeated quietly.
She wanted to touch his hand to reassure him, but was not sure if the gesture would be welcomed. It sure would not have been with the old Sherlock.
He turned to look at her. His face seemed even paler than usual in the dimly lit room. He looked almost inhuman. His eyes stared deeply into her, searching and questioning, like they always did.
When he spoke again he sounded like a lost child, “I feel… strange… and lonely… and... The last time I felt like that was when I was dead to the world.”
Molly could not hold back and grabbed his hand. She had a feeling amnesia Sherlock would appreciate the gesture. And she was right, because he grabbed it tight, as if she was some kind of lifeline.
Molly tried her best to assure him, “You are not alone, Sherlock.”
A faint smile graced his features as he stroke her cheek lovingly. A human gesture of comfort that wouldn’t normally be in his repertoire. “I know, I have you,” he whispered.
And then he kissed her.
Molly was so startled by this turn of events that she had not even time to process what was happening. She reacted instinctively and kissed him back. It was a gentle kiss, almost hesitant that didn’t last long, because Sherlock pulled back slowly.
He tucked a strand of hair that had fallen into her face behind her ear and then leaned back onto the bed. He did not let go of her hand and pulled her with him. The petite pathologist followed without protest, too confused and shocked by what had just happened. With one hand Sherlock pulled back the covers and waited for Molly to lie down next to him, and then he pulled them over the both of them.And though Molly Hooper would not have thought it was possible to go to sleep holding hands with a high functioning sociopath, that’s exactly what she did.