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Launch Off (1/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (femslash, alcoholism, hordes of historians)

Spoilers: none

Sequel to Birthday Surprise

Summary: Dr Harriet Watson, London's dorkiest historian, is once again forced to leave the eighteenth century, and confront the outside world. This time, while sober.

Part 2
, Part 3, Part 4

Harry didn't really like book launch parties, but she could hardly miss this one. But it meant dressing smartly, and behaving, and not drinking. Definitely not drinking. And though her friends would be there, there would also be people there who were...not her enemies, that was too dramatic. But the people with whom her historical disagreements had a nasty, personal, edge. And the ones for whom it was a mark against her right from the start that she was a woman, and a lesbian, and butch.

She could bring as many guests as she liked, but even if her mum had still been up to coming, she could hardly drag her to the launch of a book like this one. John had agreed to come, but Sherlock had wimped out, and a lot of her non-academic friends had turned out in the last six months really to be Clara's friends, and hadn't wanted to stay in contact with her after the divorce. Which was why she was going to be rash and invite Molly.

She was probably going to get turned down by Molly as well, and justifiably so. She had messed things up with her about as comprehensively as possible. She'd gone to Molly's party, promptly fallen for her, had tried to impress her and pretty much failed. Then she'd drunk so much she'd blacked out, woken up in Molly's bed and seduced her. Admittedly, Molly had definitely enjoyed that bit. But then Molly had had to escort her back to 221B to dry out, like some miscreant teenager. It was no wonder she hadn't heard anything from Molly, and Harry hadn't been able to think of an excuse to get back into contact until now. It was alarming to realise just how many of her previous dating strategies had relied on alcohol in some way.

So she braced herself, and went to Barts, and asked for the mortuary. Because e-mail was too impersonal, and if she got Molly's number from John it might appear a bit stalkerish, and she didn't want to frighten Molly off again.

Though she didn't feel at all frightening as she stepped into the chill of the mortuary. And it was absolutely no problem to behave sensibly with Dr Molly Hooper, with her white coat, and her tied-back hair, and her strong handshake, and her knowledge about how to deal with corpses, real current corpses, not just historical ones.

"Nice to see you, Harry," said Molly, smiling, because Molly was like that, and probably smiled even at people who had behaved terribly towards her. "How are you? Are you back in your flat yet?"

Oh, of course, the ceiling of her flat collapsing had been how she'd ended up meeting Molly in the first place. It was no surprise she hadn't been at her best at the party, given she'd been in John's borrowed clothes, and probably with plaster dust still in her hair.

"Yes, I've been back for several weeks," she said. "But there's still something that needs to be done, so I have to move out again for a day or two next week. They're p-plastering, I think, or is it doing something more to the joists? If interior rooms still have joists. There's this case I remember from the 1830s where the witness saw a murder being committed in the room below, because there was a crack in the floorboards, but they couldn't get a clear view of the culprit, because the joists were in the way..." She tailed off. So much for the adverse effects of plaster theory, she thought. "I'm sorry, I didn't really come here to talk about m-m-murder and house design."

"I'm better on murder," said Molly, and smiled again. "So you're back in your flat, and you're...getting on OK?"

Harry translated this out of Molly-speak to mean 'Are you still drinking?', but couldn't think of how to translate her answer back.

"I haven't had a drink for the last six weeks," she said.

"That's good," said Molly, almost beaming, "Well done, you!"

"46 days and counting, actually," Harry said, and then winced inwardly. That wasn't quite as bad as 'from the day after I met you', but almost, because Molly probably could remember the exact day she'd met Harry, since it had been her birthday party. And you were not supposed to say 'I haven't had a drink since I met you', because it was against the rules, because it suggested that the other person was responsible for you stopping drinking. Which you apparently weren't supposed to say even if it was true, because it might encourage co-dependence or something . Harry had never been one for sticking to rules before, but being a recovering addict somehow seemed to require rather a lot of them.

Molly was looking at her patiently, and had possibly not yet worked out the significance of 46 days, so Harry ought to say something, explain why she had come...

"Sherlock's off in the post-mortem room," said Molly abruptly. "He's doing an experiment on Mr Johnson, the late Mr Johnson. I'll show you where he is."

"I didn't come to see Sherlock," said Harry hastily.

"Oh, I presumed...he sometimes has to be...fetched, he doesn't always reply to text messages , or if people try and pass on messages via me."

"I came to see you. I wanted to invite you to a book launch."

"I've never been to one of those."

"OUP, Oxford University Press are doing it."

"Sounds exciting!"

"It's, it's not actually a launch like...it's not a best-seller or anything glamorous," said Harry. "It's just a bunch of historians in a room in Senate House, and it's only cheap wine and n-nibbles, because academic p-publishers are stingy. And just so you know, it's a book about a prostitute, an eighteenth century p-prostitute, so that might not be the sort of thing you go for."

Molly's brows creased. "Someone's written a book about an eighteenth century prostitute," she said patiently, "and you thought I might like to go to the book launch?"

"Um, well, actually, it's me who wrote it, and her name was Phoebe Phillips, and she is-" Harry broke off, because now was not the right time for her three minute spiel on why Phoebe Phillips' story was really significant to knowledge of eighteenth century history. She licked her lips and said, as coherently as she could: "It's the launch of m-my new book, and I would very m-m-much like it if you were able to come."

"You've written a book and OUP are publishing it?" said Molly, "That's incredible."

"I, it's my second book," Harry said, "and I edited one as well, but that was n-not so good."

"I didn't realise you'd written several books," Molly said, and Harry remembered at last that there were some people who didn't write books, who might even think it was impressive to be published. She'd been impressed with herself once, before she realised that having a book with her name on the spine didn't stop her being the same clueless and clumsy Harry Watson as before.

 "I would love to come to your book launch, Harry," Molly went on. "I'm sorry I haven't been in touch before, after the party I mean, find out how you were. It's just I've been rather busy."

Harry was about to ask whether the busyness was due to seasonal patterns in death rates, when she realised this was just Molly being polite. "You've got a very responsible job here," she said instead. "It must be quite difficult sometimes."

"It's not quite what I expected when I was a little girl giving injections to my teddy bears," said Molly brightly, "But you get used to it, and it's important to do it right. Would you, would you like to see round?"

"That would be interesting," said Harry automatically, and then realised it would be, because Molly probably wouldn't mind her asking strange questions. "I would like that."

"I'll try not to make it too creepy," said Molly, smiling, "but it is really interesting, at least I think so."


"And through there," said Molly, "is the post-mortem room. Sherlock's doing an experiment, so we might just go and look in from the windows, we don't want to disturb him. If you just go along the corridor, and then to the right..."

Harry looked into the room, all gray and full of shiny steel, and in the midst of it, Sherlock, in a black suit, staring at a man's body. A man's body out of which blood was streaming in gaudy rivulets...

It was at that point that she blacked out.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 18th, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
I was so pleased to see this come up on my friends page - the world needs more Harry/Molly. You described Harry's nervousness brilliantly and Harry remembered at last that there were some people who didn't write books made me LOL! Bless her!

Looking forward to seeing the next part :)
Dec. 18th, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
Yes! Progress! Definitely progress, even if Harry doesn't see it yet! I hope we will find out more about Phoebe Phillips.
Dec. 19th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
I write the kind of stories in which it's a hopeful romantic sign that someone wants to show you round a mortuary. Says it all, really.
Dec. 18th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
hurrah! very pleased to see this appear. echoing kalypso_v's wish for more on Phoebe Phillips - and hoping that Harry finds the strength she needs for this strange new rule-bound existence.
Dec. 19th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
There is more on Phoebe Phillips (who may or may not have existed in real life) in part 3. But first comes part 2, featuring pictures of cute dachshunds, murder statistics and what Sherlock did on Boxing Day 2009.
Dec. 19th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
cute dachshunds!

*is unreasonably excited*

looking forward to part 2...
Dec. 19th, 2010 12:46 am (UTC)
Who wouldn't be seduced by a book about an eighteenth-century prostitute?! Harry's charms gleam all the brighter!

All my love carries over to this part!

Dec. 19th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
Even more historians behaving strangely coming up in the later parts. But I fear from your name and icon that you may actually know something about the eighteenth century, whereas I'm just borrowing it, and not even looking after it very carefully. So my apologies if I make some howlers, because it's not really my millennium.
Dec. 19th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
Fear not! For me, there is always room for the fictional 18th century alongside the factual - although if you want fact provision or crosschecking, I'm more than happy to oblige to the best of my ability! I do also do a lot of betaing if you're interested.

And honestly, I'm just delighted to see the 18th C get some attention! We so often fall in the gaps between the early modern and the modern in syllabuses, causing a comparative dearth of interest. I work on women and polite people ask me if I mean the Brontes. Besides, I am even more delighted to see the universal quirks of historians immortalised so exactly! Oh, the pleasures of unexpected recognition...

In short, my love for this series will far outstrip any such trifles! It's wonderful!

Dec. 19th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
So the urge of eighteenth century historians to annex bits of other people's centuries is simply a desperate cry for attention, is it? (Mind you, I know late medievalists who talk of rebranding themselves as 'really early modernists').

Thanks for the offer of fact-checking etc - I think I'm OK for this fic, since I want to get the remaining parts up before Christmas (they're typed up, I just have to double-check them). But I have some C18 library crack that I might need some advice on if I ever get round to finishing it.
Dec. 19th, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
Of course!! We are poor misunderstood souls who weren't loved enough in faculty meetings...

Ah, the long eighteenth century! Beginning in about 1600 and lasting until 1918 - at a conservative estimate. So much a feature of the ihr!

(Technically, I'm not sure how much of a historian I now am, having recently rejoined the ranks of the great humanities post-doc unemployed, but it's surely the thought that counts...the thought in this case being the mass of job applications).

Happy to help with anything and to enjoy everything! I'm _delighted_ there may be more of this before Christmas!
Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
yay! wonderful to see Harry/Molly again! I have actually missed them. I have been skulking and waiting until I could read all 4 parts at once. Nice allusions to the lunacy of academia--being impressed with oneself on first publication, then realizing--still the same old dysfunctional self. The interaction with Molly seems perfect in its awkwardness--but both of them pushing on to try to make something work out. Delightful. Moving on to part 2!
Jan. 13th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
She'd been impressed with herself once, before she realised that having a book with her name on the spine didn't stop her being the same clueless and clumsy Harry Watson as before.

Oh Harry <3 She's never even been showed onscreen, and you made me care for her in the space of those several thousand words.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )