Sherlock looked up sharply from his experiment. Someone was knocking, no ponding on his door. He crossed the distance in two short strides and opened the door with a surprised look.
“Something you want to told me, Sherlock?”
Molly strode into the flat without waiting to be asked, the fierce clicking of her heels, telling him more about her mood than anything else. Closing the door behind him, Sherlock turned towards her in confusion.
He looked her up and down, trying and failing to be subtle, noting her pretty dress and nicely done hair. Sherlock felt something constrict in his chest.
“You…have a date?” He tried to sound casual.
“Yes Sherlock. I have a date.” Molly glared at him, eyes blazing.
“Or should I say, I had a date. Know anything about that?”
Sherlock was still trying to process the fact that Molly was dating someone after her failed engagement. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised, especially seeing her standing there in his flat looking like…well, like Molly…but still, he was completely stunned. Sherlock realized she was waiting for him to say something.
“Molly.” he stepped towards her, “Are you okay?”
The fury of her response nearly bowled him over. She strode angrily towards him, closing the distance between them until she was only inches away from his body.
“No, Sherlock! I’m not okay! I had this date lined up with this really, really great guy. He seemed so interested, and we had everything arranged, and then suddenly, out of nowhere he texts me and tells me he can’t make it.”
Molly threw her hands in the air, rolling her eyes. Sherlock opened his mouth to speak, but Molly wasn’t finished yet.
“And then I thought to myself, hmm I told Sherlock that I was busy tonight. And then I remembered last time I tried to date someone and your reaction and your behaviour. So naturally,” Molly jabbed her finger towards Sherlock’s chest, punctuating every point, “I put two and two together.”
She leaned back, folding her arms and searching Sherlock’s face.
“So Sherlock, is there something you want to tell me?”
“Molly,” he raised his hands to grab her arms and thought better of it, pausing halfway, “I didn’t do anything.”
Sherlock watched the first tendril of uncertainly take hold, regarding her earnestly while she scanned his face. He spread his hands.
“Honestly Molly, I have nothing to hide.”
To his surprise Molly’s face fell and she broke his gaze, touching her hand to her forehead slightly. This time he took her arms, fingers resting against her bare skin, and squeezed gently.
“Hey,” Sherlock said, his voice soft, “Are you okay?”
Molly took a long breath, still not looking at Sherlock.
“It’s just, if you didn’t scare him away…” She hesitated, biting her lip.
Sherlock moved closer, his fingers unconsciously stroking her chin, “Talk to me,” he whispered
Molly hesitated a moment longer, and when she finally lifted her eyes to his, Sherlock was surprised to see the layers of hurt there.
“Well, it means he didn’t want to go out with me, I guess. You know it’s another not interested, another…”
Whatever Molly was going to say, died on her lips. Her eyes dropped to the floor again. There was a long silence and Sherlock abruptly realized she was fighting tears. Without thinking he moved his hands up and cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking softly her skin.
“Molly,” he whispered. Sherlock waited for her to look him in the eye. “If he didn’t want to go out with you, he’s the dumbest man alive.”
Sherlock saw her eyes widen and knew he should stop talking, but something reckless spurred him on. Maybe it was the sight of her all dressed up to spend time with another man, or maybe it was the fact that he hated to see her upset and vulnerable, but either way, he found he had more to say. Sherlock leaned forward, face inches from hers.
“Anyone who has a chance going out with you and doesn’t take it, is an idiot.”
Sherlock heard her gasp and his eyes were instantly drawn to her lips, just in time to see them slowly part as her tongue flicked between them. His gaze moved upwards, scanning her face, trying to read her, before returning inevitably to her mouth. Sherlock’s fingers tightened on her arms, his breath coming in short bursts and his heart thumped in his chest.
All he had to do was lean forward.
Molly’s phone beeped. She jumped, breaking his gaze and stepped back hurriedly, fidgeting with her bag. Obviously rattled she pulled her phone out, almost dropping it in her haste.
“It’s him,” Molly said, her voice breathless and Sherlock couldn’t tell what had affected her more.
“He wants to meet me next week.”
Molly stared at her phone a moment longer, chewing on her lip, not looking at Sherlock. The air between them was still heavy with tensions and Sherlock clenched his jaw, shutting his eyes firmly. All he wanted to do was take a step towards her, knock the phone out of her hand and kiss her like she was never been kissed before. But that was never going to be an option for him. So Sherlock did something else instead.
“That’s great,” he said warmly.
He saw Molly’s head snap up, her eyes widening in surprise.
“You should go.”
“I mean, I told you,” he continued, not giving her room to speak, “he’d have to be dumb not want to go out with you.”
His voice cracked a little on the last words, remembering how he had meant them the first time he said them.
Something indecipherable crossed Molly’s face before she quickly looked away.
“Okay,” she said, already moving towards the door.
She was halfway through it when she turned and looked back.
“I’m sorry, Sherlock.”
Despite himself, he moved closer, holding the door open as she moved into the hall.
“Sorry for what?”
“For coming here and accusing you of…you know,” Molly searched for the right words, “caring, I guess.” Molly winced.
“I mean, I know you care but you know caring caring.”
Sherlock shut his eyes for a second, knowing there was no way around this.
“Molly, I do care,” he said carefully.
The corner of his mouth curled in a small smile.
“I will always care. And if you ever need anything, you are always welcome to come here.”
Sherlock saw her nod in acknowledgement, her expression carefully blank.
“I’m serious,” he added, “you’re always welcome, even if it’s to attack me for things I haven’t done.”
He got a smile from Molly then, even if it was slightly mortain.
“Goodnight Molly,” he replied, “see you tomorrow.”
Sherlock watched her walk all the way down the stairs till she was through the front door and out of sight. Then he sat in darkness for the rest of the night, forcing himself to imagine Molly dating another man, getting married, having children; trying to prepare himself for the inevitable and hoping he could learn to accept it.
It didn’t work.