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Birthday surprise (1/2)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (for whole fic - femslash, alcoholism)

Spoilers: some for The Great Game
 

Many thanks for beta-ing to Blooms84 despite almost total lack of Lestrade in this.

 

Molly had vaguely hoped she'd end up in bed with someone at the end of her party, but she really hadn't envisioned this.

Technically, it was her thirty-second birthday party. In private it was her "Getting over falling for unsuitable men party". Not the first one she'd had of that kind, but this time she meant it. Being involved with one gay sociopath in a year might be unfortunate. Being involved with two looked like carelessness.

Of course, she hadn't realised Sherlock was gay, which was fair enough, because Sherlock had only just realised it. And she hadn't realised that Jim was a sociopath, which looking back, she really ought to have done. Thank goodness she'd never left him alone with Toby, her kitten. But somehow, being with Jim had nevertheless helped her get her head straight, know that she had to do better next time. It was just unfortunate for a woman who loved animals that she was so bad at spotting the difference between a tabby and a wildcat.

It did help, though, that it had become obvious to everyone in the aftermath of Moriarty that sociopathic geniuses were really not glamorous figures, however good their tailoring might be. Even Sherlock was trying to edge towards empathy these days, helped by John's training. John's techniques weren't exactly subtle – she'd been surprised on hearing him yell that he'd break Sherlock's bloody neck if he flirted with Molly again, especially since his tone was completely unconvincing to anyone who actually understood about jealousy – but it seemed to be working. Sherlock was several degrees less maddening than he used to be, and distinctly less manipulative towards her. She had a lot to thank John for. Maybe she should have...

But no, even she'd seen early on that while going to bed with someone while thinking of someone else might possibly be justified, going to bed with someone when you were both thinking about the same someone else was bound to lead to trouble. Besides, John was just that bit too...normal to appeal to her

Still, if it was going to be a getting over unsuitable men party, Sherlock had to be there, in order to be got over properly. Plus John, because everything was now "John and Sherlock". They were now universally accepted as some kind of item - even  if one that involved unusually vague parameters and possibly strange external combinations. They might not be officially together, but they were clearly unofficially together  for the next forty years, or till one got himself killed.

It would have been satisfying to have had Jim there as well, but a little morbid, so his remains, what was left of them, could stay where they were in one of the obscurer annexes of the pathology lab. She now no longer had the need to check every day that he was still safely dead, so that could probably count as being over him.

Who else should she invite to the party? The problem with trying to make a fresh start, Molly realised, was that so many of her friends had known her for so long. When she'd been in their address book as Molly Hooper, and Molly Hooper-Smith, and Molly Smith, and Molly Kablinski, and Molly Hooper again, it was hard to escape their preconceptions. So her birthday party was probably going to end up being the normal Bart's crowd, plus "John and Sherlock", and a couple of her neighbours. She'd wondered vaguely about asking the pair of American doctors who were over on sabbatical, but the rumour on the grapevine was that although the black-haired one was sweet, the one with the blue eyes and the stubble and the cane was a complete bastard, with an ego the size of a planet. You only needed one person like that at a party to keep the thing lively. And though she'd wondered about inviting some of the Met, Lestrade had said they were all still frantically busy, chasing the associates of the late...well just some criminals.

That didn't leave much hope of any straight men she might want to sleep with being there, because although Nick from Internal Audit had sweet brown eyes, she still worried that his underwear might be sending messages that she couldn't read. And never mind the sex, it was probably going to be one of those parties where much of the time was spent sitting around bitching about Department of Health circulars, while drinking more than the recommended number of units of alcohol.

Still, she had got everything prepared, and she was looking forward to seeing Sherlock – you could admire the fierce beauty of a tiger, without feeding the need to offer yourself as its next meal – only to have John phone an hour before the party.

"Sorry, we're going to have to cancel. We've got Harry here, she's going to have to stay with us for a few days."

"Is she OK?" Molly asked. She knew about Harry and her capacity for bizarre accidents by now, everyone did.

"She's OK, her flat isn't. The ceiling fell in. Not her fault this time. But it's all been a bit stressful, and if we leave her at Baker Street alone, there might be...problems."

Of course Sherlock couldn't or wouldn't come to the party on his own, and leaving Sherlock and Harry alone together in a flat might end up with another uninhabitable flat. But if they weren't going to come, it really would end up as another boring medics' party, she knew that. She had a sudden idea.

"Why don't you bring her with you? I really would like to meet her, I've heard so much about her."

"But she's...you know what she's like. I need to keep an eye on her at the moment."

"Can't you do that here? We could all keep an eye on her, give you a break. And I mean, we're all medics - we're not going to be alarmed if someone does get a bit rowdy."

"I don't know."

"John," Molly said, "are you really saying that Harry behaves worse at parties than Sherlock?"

"Well, put it like that...OK, we'll all be along in a bit."

***

It was going to be strange actually meeting Harry, Molly thought, because for all she had a certain notoriety at Barts, particularly in the Minor Injuries Unit, Molly really didn't know much about her, at least ordinary things. Harry had never ended up in the mortuary, thank God, though John alleged she had come close to it twice. She was an alcoholic lesbian with a very posh ex-partner, she had blood group O and scars on her arm from an incident with burning tin foil, but Molly had no idea what she would be like as a party guest. She just hoped she wasn't a vegan.

***

Harry was tiny, but tough-looking, which Molly supposed made sense for John’s sister. She had very short bleached blonde hair, black-framed glasses, and seemed to share John’s dress sense. Then it dawned on Molly that the clothes she wore were several sizes too big for her, and they probably were actually John’s. Perhaps that was the result of the ceiling incident, though she didn't feel she could ask. Even so, the way Harry’s glasses had presumably aimed for geek-chic and failed on the second part suggested that even in her own clothes she wouldn’t look much trendier.

“Molly, this is my sister, Dr Harriet Watson,” said John.

“Doctor?” said Molly.

“M-my brother is a proper doctor and an even bigger p-pain in the arse,” Harry said, in a quiet, stuttering voice. “I’m just an academ-mic, not a useful doctor.” She held out her hand and Molly shook it. It was surprisingly soft and delicate. Or maybe it was just that Molly’s hands had had so much scrubbing and alcohol gel that they were permanently on the verge of turning to sandpaper.

“Would you like to come and have a…” She ground to a halt.

“Some orange juice would be p-perfect, if you’ve got that,” said Harry, following her.

Molly wondered if Harry or John were going to explain what kind of academic she was, but presumably they had now spent so long with Sherlock that they expected you to deduce such things automatically. She had this vague feeling it was probably computing, given the glasses, and the watch, which looked like it told you the time on Mars as well as Earth. And the slight air in Harry of someone not quite comfortable with ordinary social interaction. Quite a lot of the IT department at Bart’s were like that, well apart from…the one who hadn’t been. But at least if she didn’t start drinking, Harry Watson was presumably not going to be much trouble at this party.

Molly had a brief few words with Sherlock, who was carefully trying not to wow her, and who she was carefully not being wowed by. Then the next lot of guests arrived and she was suddenly frantically busy. It was only about half an hour later that it penetrated her consciousness that someone was having a stand-up row in the living room. A stand-up row with Sherlock.

She hurried into the room, where Sherlock was yelling loudly at…Harry, who was standing in front of Sherlock with her arms folded, looking like a mouse who was getting royally pissed-off with a lion, and retorting:

“No, n-n-no, no! You are wrong, you do not have evidence for that. Come back when you have read Roy P-P-Porter, and you have learned something.”

It wasn’t one of Sherlock’s ordinary rows, Molly realised suddenly, from the broad smile he wore. It was an intellectual argument with rather loud footnotes. She wasn't entirely sure what it was about,  although various London place names caught her ear. Sherlock and Harry were both speaking very rapidly now, and Harry's soft stuttering was particularly hard to follow, but she was holding her own, it was really quite impressive. She suddenly noticed John in the doorway, with a slightly stunned look on his face, so she went over to join him, because she liked John.

"Why is your sister arguing with Sherlock about London?" she asked.

"You've got it the wrong way round. Sherlock is trying to argue with Harry about the history of London, which is a seriously idiotic thing to do."

"She knows a lot about that?"

"She knows everything about eighteenth century London, and the nineteenth century as well, and in fact, pretty much all of London history. She's just a bit weak on most aspects of twenty-first century life."

"She's a historian, is she? I thought she looked a bit like an IT geek."

"Oh, she's that as well. You must get her to tell you about her baby next time, a huge database of Old Bailey trials they've just put on the web. She was the one who got all the problems fixed on that, the whole project wouldn't have worked without her. She knows more about crime in London than Lestrade, only it's all 250 years out of date."

Molly suddenly remembered. "I heard something on Radio 4 a while ago, a bit of a programme about women and murder in Georgian London. It was really interesting. Was she on that?"

"Yeah, I think she did a segment for that, but I don't know if they used it. She's never on TV, because she says they don't want short dykes with bad dress sense onscreen, but she's occasionally done radio. Only it's really not a good idea, because if she has just the right amount of alcohol she's still coherent, but the stammering stops, and she always ends up drinking just to try and find that place."

"John," said Molly, "why didn't you tell me that Harry was this brilliant historian?"

"I'm sure I said she was a genius, but completely impossible. Well, maybe I said more about the completely impossible bit. Because she has no common sense, and she gets fascinated by completely inappropriate subjects, and she won't stop talking sometimes, and she's not actually talking to you then, but at you...and, and if you can give me a few minutes I can explain why she is utterly, utterly, unlike Sherlock."

Molly gave him a look which she hoped told him to repent of his sexism, but was probably still too indulgent. Then Sherlock came flying towards them, still beaming, grabbing John by the shoulders, almost lifting him up.

"John, Harry says she'll come down the sewers with me. As long as they're proper Victorian sewers, no modern rubbish. So you've got to come with us now."

"No!" John almost shouted. "Sewers have rats, Weil's disease, faecal matter, sharps. Sanitation is by definition unsanitary. If it was for a case that's one thing, but sewer tourism is definitely wrong."

Sherlock swung round, catching sight of Molly.

"Molly," he said, with what sounded almost like genuine warmth, "just the person I was looking for."

Is he going to invite me down the sewers as well, she wondered.

"Harry wants to talk to someone about asphyxiation. Mike Stamford's with her at the moment, but he doesn't know anything, and you're just the girl to give her some useful information."

She suspected that he just wanted to snog John without her watching, but if there was one thing she did know about, it was dead bodies. She hurried back into the living room and found Harry, who was still on orange juice, but clearly finding Mike hard to take sober. She looked up – up! – at Molly as she arrived.

"Sherlock said you were interested in asphyxiation," said Molly. Oh God, that had come out wrong, hadn't it? But a smile broadened on Harry's face and she looked at Molly eagerly.

"Not so m-much asphyxiation," she said, "but I am terribly interested in hearing about hanging."

***

Harry's intense focus on her was amazing, she thought, as Harry eagerly drank down the information pouring out of Molly as if she was the only person in the world that mattered. It was almost like - no, actually it wasn't like Sherlock, because Sherlock always seemed to know more than Molly, even when he really didn't - whereas Harry clearly had little formal medical background. Just a relentless appetite for ideas, and the ability to turn a fact so you suddenly saw it from underneath, as something new and strange. And then they were off hanging, and onto crime, and now it was Harry doing the talking, but not talking at Molly, but telling her stories. And she knew how to tell stories, how to hook your interest, give you a laugh, then make you stop and think. Molly had got her ear attuned to Harry's voice now, or maybe Harry had just slowed down a bit, and she knew she wasn't the only one listening to the soft, clear voice talking about highwaymen, about a cross-dressing highwayman.

"Highwayman?" Molly asked, "or highwaywoman?"

"He identified as male," Harry replied, "all the way through the trial, n-never wavered that he was Jack Hunter, not Joan. I say we should respect that identity."

"Load of rubbish!" Gareth broke in. O God, why did she still invite Gareth to her parties? "Of course she's a bloody woman, even if she dresses up like a man. All this social construction shit, gender identity disorder is rubbish. It's just some stupid bint who can't cope with biological facts."

"And there," said Harry coldly, "speaks the true closed, limited, scientific mind. Don't you agree, M-M-Molly?"

Suddenly, Molly felt rage shooting up in her. Because she was Dr Molly Hooper, and Harry barely knew where her thorax was. She might be a scientist, but she'd also gone on a course on 'Overcoming Transphobia', so she could deal with grieving relatives better, she'd even tried to read Judith bloody Butler. And she was still getting patronised, patronised by Harry...

"I need to check the canapés," she said, and walked off.

***

The next time she looked into the living room, Harry was drinking something that wasn't the colour of any the soft drinks on offer. Molly went to look for John.

"I'm sorry, I'm not sure why she's started drinking, but I think maybe I upset her," she said. "I shouldn't have encouraged you to come, should I?"

"It's OK," said John. "It's not you, it's her, you know it is in the end. And she does like having people to talk to, especially women. She'd probably just have got bored back at Baker Street and wound Sherlock up till we had a disaster there. Don't worry about it, you go and enjoy the party. It's your birthday, after all."

Molly went off and did her best to sparkle, because that was what you were supposed to do at your own party, wasn't it? It was just it was quite hard for her to sparkle, to make herself the focus of people's attention. Well, unless she met someone who was really, really interested in hearing about corpses.

***

She blew out all the candles on her birthday cake in one go, which got a rather ragged cheer from her friends, but she didn't make a wish this time, not after the results of last year's one. She was doing quite well, though, she decided, as she stood in the kitchen a little later, finishing up the last of the cake crumbs. Maybe an hour or two more to go. And then John was hurrying through the crowd to her, looking worried.

"I'm really sorry, Molly, " he said, "We've got to leave. Do you know where Harry is?"

"Haven't seen her for a bit," said Molly. "I saw her in the dining room last, is she still there?"

"No, and she's not in the bathroom or the downstairs loo. Could she have got into the garden?"

"Back door hasn't been opened. Is she OK?"

"I hope so. It's just we really have got to go." Sherlock came striding in, pulling on his coat and scarf.

"I said two minutes," he announced to John, "and it's three already. I am going to meet Lestrade, even if you can't be bothered to come."

John was starting to look frantic. "I can't leave Harry!"

"Well then, I can leave you," said Sherlock, "Don't worry, I'll be fine." He strode off.

"What is it?" Molly demanded.

"It's Sebastian Moran, he's been seen in Docklands," John said. "Moran, he's Moriarty's second in command." It was typical of John that he'd realised she could cope with hearing Jim's name. "Lestrade thinks they can corner him there. But he's a shooter, Molly, if we get this night over with no-one hurt, it'll be a miracle."

"You'd better go," said Molly. "Do you need anyone else to come? We've got half of Barts here."

"No, if anything happens it'll be field surgery, you need to be used to it. But I can't leave Harry."

"I'll look after her, they need you, Sherlock needs you. Go!"

"You're wonderful, " said John, and he kissed her very briefly -  because he was a really nice man, even if gay and something almost like married -  and then he ran off.

It took a lot of searching, but she found Harry at last, curled up asleep in the double bed in Molly's room. If she tried waking her up now, she'd probably just start drinking again, or cause more trouble. Best to let her sleep it off. She put Harry into the recovery position and left her.

***

One in the morning and everyone had gone except Mike Stamford, whose divorce had apparently now come through, and who was clearly going to be harder to detach than a tick. He was already muttering about why didn't they just clear things up in the morning, and maybe it was time to head upstairs.

"I must go and see how Harry is," Molly said quickly. She hurried to her bedroom, with Mike following. Harry was still sleeping peacefully there.

"I could get her in a taxi," said Mike, "Get her home to 221B, make sure she's OK, then come back here."

"I don't know if John's back," said Molly, "and even Mrs Hudson might object to Molly in this state." If Mike took Harry off her hands, she was going to have to sleep with him from pure gratitude - and, she suddenly decided, she'd rather have an unconscious historian in her bed than Mike.

"Spare room?" said Mike.

"There's no space in it, all the junk from downstairs is in there at the moment. No, I'll look after Harry, you head home, you must be exhausted. Thanks for all your help." She smiled at him.

***

She got Mike to leave after a few minutes. Maybe she was doing a bit better with some kinds of unsuitable men after all. She went back upstairs. It would be more comfortable in her bed, and Harry was very small, and the bed huge - the only good thing she'd got out of the three years with Paul Kablinksi. At least her taste in unsuitable men had got slightly better over the years.

She started undressing. She had vaguely hoped she'd end up in bed with someone at the end of her party, but this wasn't quite what she'd expected.

 

Part 2

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
penguineggs
Nov. 29th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Wonderful! Particularly nice to have a sympathetic, intelligent Harry for once, and some wonderful understated Molly commentary on her unsuitable men habit. When does the second part arrive?
fengirl88
Nov. 29th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
oh dear Molly! almost certainly a bad idea to get into bed with Harry Watson.

liking this version of Harry, especially the row with Sherlock - and looking forward to seeing what happens next...

et_cetera55
Nov. 29th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Such a lovely sympathetic view of both Molly and Harry - looking forward to more :)
angharadd
Jan. 13th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
Being involved with one gay sociopath in a year might be unfortunate. Being involved with two looked like carelessness.

When put like that, Molly's life sounds very extravagant. And I absolutely love your version of Harry!
marysutherland
Jan. 14th, 2012 08:25 am (UTC)
I decided that Molly needed someone treating her nicely, and given Sherlock and Jim it's plausible that she tends to fall for bright, troubled men. So I just had to give her a bright, troubled woman to fall for. And since I'm a historian and know a lot of very clever academics, one of whom basically drank himself to death because of insecurity over his own work, turning Harry into a historian seemed an obvious possibility.
reasdream
Mar. 4th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
I've only just found this (through a long a twisted series of recs and old bookmarks). I have no idea where it's going, but you won me over by mentioning Historians, Databases, and the Old Bailey Records Online.

(I'm an 18th century historian (well, PhD student) who uses databases extensively). squee.
marysutherland
Mar. 9th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
My day job is as a medieval historian, but it's quite fun writing about the C18 for a change. I'm not that knowledgeable about it, but I have written C18 crack fic. And I couldn't resist the idea of Sherlock loose with the Old Bailey database.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )