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Launch Off (2/4)

Sherlock BBC

Rating: 15 (femslash, alcoholism, historians behaving strangely)

Spoilers: none

Summary: what could possibly go wrong inviting someone you're keen on to attend the launch party of your book? If you're Dr Harriet Watson, you could faint while being given an impromptu tour by Molly of the mortuary...

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

There was a warm body pressed against hers, and strong arms were wrapped around her, carrying her effortlessly. She opened her eyes, and met Sherlock's sardonic gaze.

"Harry, you're an idiot," he said, deposited her efficiently on a swivel chair, and disappeared. When she opened her eyes again, she realised she was in an office. Molly's office, presumably, judging by the incongruous picture of dachshunds on the wall. Molly hurried in, her face concerned.

"Would you like some water? Or I could do you some tea, if that would help?"

"Water would be fine," Harry croaked.

Molly reappeared in a minute with a glass. As she put it down, her other hand briefly grasped Harry's shoulder comfortingly.

"I'm terribly sorry," she said, "I didn't know Sherlock was going to do that, he said something about bloodstains, but not that kind of horror movie scenario. And I had no idea about your haemophobia."

"It's not really a phobia," Harry said, as calmly as she could, given her racing heart. "I'm OK reading about things involving blood, and m-mostly photos and even films now. It's just actual blood still makes m-me a bit queasy sometimes."

"There's always one or two in each year's intake of students here who have problems," Molly said, sitting down at the desk opposite her. "I should have asked."

"I should have said," Harry replied. "Only it sounds so feeble, especially when I'm interested in m-m-m-medical history." She looked up slightly dizzily at Molly, and then decided she needed to concentrate on drinking her water. And breathing.

"I never liked dermatology," Molly replied. "Corpses are fine, but some of the rashes, you start to feel itchy yourself. Please don't worry, it's not the first time I've had people faint down here. Just sit there, and don't get up till you feel better."

It was quite peaceful just sitting there in silence, Harry thought, once she felt slightly more certain she wasn't going to collapse again. She looked up to see Molly watching her, alertly, the sort of professionally compassionate look she sometimes got from John, when he wasn't feeling annoyed with her. She remembered something John had told her  – that when a murder victim had to be identified, Lestrade always tried to get it done on Molly's shift, because she was the best of the Barts' pathologists at dealing with grieving relatives.

She managed a slightly wobbly smile at Molly, who leaned over and patted her hand briefly, and then abruptly said:

"I, I really have to go now, I have a meeting. And I'm not really supposed to leave visitors down here on their own. But if you'd like a bit longer sitting quietly, Sherlock's here, so he can see you out. I'll get him to promise he won't do anything else upsetting."

"Thanks," said Harry, "That'd be good."

"And when did you say the book launch was?"

"Next Thursday, 23rd, 6 pm at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House. John's coming as well, so it won't just be historians."

"Do we have to dress up?"

"No, smart casual is fine. But I have to wear a suit."

"It'll be...nice. I'll look forward to it. See you then, then," said Molly and hurried out of the office.

I should have kissed her when she patted my hand, Harry thought. I should have stood up and gone over, and started kissing her, and not been scared. It hadn't just been the mortuary, and Molly's white coat, and the weakness in her legs, had it? She'd been scared of making a move on Molly. Scared. What had happened to her?

Staying sober has happened to me, she thought, and I'm no bloody good at seduction without the booze. She remembered what it was like before Clara. A glass or two, stilling the stammer, stilling the nerves, and she'd be up for trying it on with any woman she fancied, gay or straight, and she'd got away with murder sometimes. And even with Clara, she could always break through her frostiness with sheer determined cheek when a tiny bit high, make Clara feel the things she was sometimes too proper to feel. But now she wasn't allowed the feel of alcohol flickering through her veins, pumping self-belief through her system, so what the hell did she do? She'd hashed up her first conversation with Molly, and even though some historian-friendly Fate had given her a second chance, it had only been the residual alcohol that had given her the confidence to seduce Molly the next morning. To show that sweet, soft, gentle, strong woman that she didn't need a man to thrill her, she needed her, her fingers, her mouth, her knowledge.

Molly had enjoyed that. No, Molly had wanted that, at some level that probably neither of them quite understood, where bodies escaped from words, into biochemistry and sensations. But that didn't necessarily mean that Molly wanted her, Harry Watson, a small, nerdy dyke with a drink problem. Even if Molly did feel sorry for her. Particularly if she felt sorry for her...

She was almost glad to see Sherlock appear, just to derail her own train of thoughts.  Almost, but not quite.

"What the hell did you think you were p-playing at?" she demanded, as he almost danced into the room, grinning down at her.

"Seeing how much of a mess you could make with a pint of fresh blood. Quite impressive, wasn't it? Though I hadn't planned you as an audience. Do you think the withdrawal syndrome encourages the fainting, or did you keel over like that at the sight of blood beforehand?"

"You're a sod, Sherlock, a bloody sod!"

"Not now, Harry, I am all cleaned up and so is everywhere else. You're safe to come out. But first, tell me, did you have any luck with Molly?"

"Don't know what you mean."

"You came to ask her on a date, did she agree? I always used to know immediately with John, you're a little trickier to read, but I'd still say yes, especially knowing Molly."

"It's n-none of your business."

"And did she agree before or after your collapse? Handy tactic, hadn't thought of it previously, appeal to Molly's protective side, which is strong, boosts her ego as well, she's in control, not you. Clever."

"I didn't do it on p-p-p-purpose!" Harry yelled.

"Not this time, no," he said, and he winked at her. "but worth remembering for next time, and I'm pretty sure there's going to be a next time, aren't you?"

"When I want your comments on m-my love life, I'll ask for them," said Harry firmly, and then rashly added. "It's  not like you're some relationship expert."

"No point in having a row with me," Sherlock said cheerily, "you need to have one with Molly, get all the adrenaline pumping, then grab her and kiss her so hard it almost shatters her teeth. John's very good at that, I'm sure you are as well."

"I don't want to hear about you and John, and this is not a date. It's a book launch."

"You're right, that's definitely not a strange enough setting for a date involving a member of the Watson family. Unless, perhaps, you can stage a re-enactment of the Peterloo Massacre."

Harry abruptly decided to grin back, rather than thump him, at least she wasn't the only person who said completely stupid things in conversations.

"You're n-not going to be there, I'm n-not going to drink, it's going to be civilised, respectable, I am a reputable historian."

"Have you told Molly yet that the book's dedicated to Clara? Or did you change that at the proof stage?"

Oh shit, she'd forgotten that, how long it was since she's written the book, how long since the proofs, and even though she'd been divorced by the time they'd arrived, she hadn't known what to change it to, and they'd said only essential corrections...

"Should I tell M-M-M-Molly I'll dedicate my next book to her?" she asked.

"I thought you didn't come to me for relationship advice," Sherlock retorted.

"But is she interested?" That was a stupid thing to ask, she thought, and then remembered that Sherlock would take it as a factual question. There were a few seconds of stillness from the tall figure, his gaze intent on nothingness, as his mind clicked over.

"Her mouth...when they phoned down and said you were coming , she must have put lipstick on and then promptly scrubbed  it off again. She's not sure whether you prefer her looking feminine, or whether to imitate your lack of make-up. I'd say interested, but uncertain. Do you know what proportion of UK homicides are alcohol-related?"


"At least 60%. A lot of those that take place in London end up with the results on the slabs here. As do the suicides, and the ones who fall out of windows when paralytic, and the ones whose livers simply pack in. Even Molly's going to be reluctant to get involved with an alcoholic."

"I've dried out. You watched m-me."

"Which is good, and I hope you stay that way. For one thing, it stresses out John a lot more than he lets on when you're drinking. Molly's a very light social drinker, if you do get together she could probably abstain, if that made it easier. Which is just as well, because the few times I remember her drunk, she was even more sentimental than usual. She once described me as having a beautiful soul."

"And what are you like when you're drunk?" Harry demanded, and then realised that wasn't the sort of question you asked. Fortunately, Sherlock obviously didn't realise that.

"Horrible. Arrogant and brutal, especially when I was doing cocaine as well. It's not easy being clean, Harry, but the alternative's not good either. The thing is, can you cope with cute animals?"

"What? Oh, you mean, M-Molly likes them."

"The dachshunds there," said Sherlock, with an expression almost like Harry's when she saw a car crash on TV. "She has a cat called Toby. She has been known to send e-mails as if written by Toby."

She also, thought Harry, has a sweet nature, a really nice bottom, and can tell you things about the physiological effects of hanging you wouldn't believe.

"I can cope with cats. I can even cope with fluffy bunnies," she said firmly.

"My god, true romance rearing its sugary head even in you," said Sherlock, with manic glee. "Of course, it's probably handy for you that's Molly's a sucker for anything small and with big eyes."

"Shut up." Harry said firmly, because she could see where this was heading. She got up from the chair and found, to her pleasure, that her legs weren't wobbly anymore. She advanced on Sherlock, glaring. He grinned back.

"I don't know why you're so desperate to deny the objective fact that you look cute," he said. "John's just the same, takes it as a personal insult if anyone says that. It's merely a genetic accident which gives you a mild evolutionary advantage, brings out the protective side in others."

"Like you?"

"I care more about protecting John than I ever have about any other human being."

Even Harry knew now was not the time to say anything. Sherlock swallowed, and went on determinedly, "And if you tell him, or anyone else that I said that, I will corrupt every single record of your Old Bailey database."

"No, you won't," Harry said hastily, "because you would m-miss it too much. I know n-now who spent the whole of Boxing Day last year looking at it, you forgot to m-m-mask your IP address."

"Mycroft was being particularly irritating, so I locked myself in the outside toilet at Mother's with my laptop and a box of liqueur chocolates."

"Do you like liqueur chocolates?"

"No, but Mycroft does."

He shouldn't be able to get her in fits of giggles like this, thought Harry, but somehow he always could.

"You're completely insane," she said at last. "And impossible. And bloody...just bloody."

"And yet, there is still someone mad enough to stick with me," said Sherlock, "and it's your daft brother. If I can make it with someone, you can too. I know you're still a mess, Harry, but you have got all that hapless, dogged Watson charm, so use it."

"I don't kn-know what Molly wants," said Harry, and now it didn't seem stupid to talk to Sherlock about it, because he might be shit at relationships, but he was surprisingly shrewd about people. His grin suddenly vanished.

"She goes for clever, screwed-up men," he said. "She always has, as far back as I've known her, when she was still on her first marriage. So you simply have to persuade her that clever, screwed-up women are just as appealing. Oh, and that you're not so screwed-up as to be beyond redemption."

"Am I redeemable?"

"You're not dead, you didn't have the DTs when you stopped, probably OK this time, but I wouldn't try too many more cycles of drinking, or you'll be back here with Molly cutting you up. Though I suppose they might want to get someone else to do the post-mortem, under the circumstances."

"You're scary sometimes, Sherlock."

"You mean I don't pretty up the truth enough? I thought you were tougher than that, Harry."

"I m-m-mean you don't really care if I live or die."

"I do, actually," Sherlock said, and there was an expression on his face, paler than ever in the harsh lighting of the mortuary, that Harry couldn't quite read. "And it's not just about John. It would be a waste of knowledge if you died prematurely. And doubtless distress a number of people unnecessarily. I think you ought to keep going even if things don't work out with Molly." Then he smiled again. "But I think she'll stick with you. She is remarkably persistent in her attachments, which has been handy at times. I hope she'll still make me coffee if she gets together with you."

"You are probably the m-most horrible man I know," said Harry with feeling.

"You've met Mycroft."

"Joint most horrible man."

"I am not being joined with Mycroft in any way."

"Would you rather be m-most horrible or second m-most horrible?" Harry asked. "Oh God. Can M-M-Molly really cope with this?"

"We're still a lot better than Paul Kablinski. I'll explain some time. But I suggest you go home now and do whatever it is historians do, because I've got more experiments to perform, and I don't need haemophobic arts graduates cluttering up the place by collapsing."

"You watch it, or you'll get Gibbon's Decline and Fall so far up your archive you'll n-never get it out again," Harry replied, and stalked out before Sherlock could enquire what on earth that was supposed to mean.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 20th, 2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
Relationship counselling from Sherlock... surprisingly effective.

Can Harry's next book be on Mary Fildes?
Dec. 21st, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC)
I realise, having re-read the sence, that Sherlock's idea of relationship counselling is really just the intellectually rigorous version of Jeremy Kyle, with the lie-detector and DNA tests omitted as superfluous. Not recommended for the faint of heart.

I hadn't heard of Mary Fildes, and was impressed by what I've just googled about her. Unfortunately, Harry's next research project has already been set up in the next chapter.
Dec. 20th, 2010 12:35 pm (UTC)
enjoying this immensely! glimpses of something in Sherlock we don't often see, without compromising the rest of him, Molly as someone with real strengths as well as vulnerabilities, and Harry struggling believably.
Dec. 21st, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
I'm playing more and more in this version of the characters with the idea of Harry and Sherlock as quite similar in some ways, and hence naturally ending up as intellectual playmates. With the running joke that John won't admit the similarities, and will put up with behaviour from Sherlock that he wouldn't from Harry.

And once you've got Harry's POV, you can see why Molly might be appealing, just as Molly's POV in 'Birthday Party' allows you to see that Harry's not simply a nerdy dyke.
Dec. 20th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
Another brilliant chapter! It's refreshing to see a fic where Sherlock's observational and deduction skills are used to help someone else's relationship and lovely to see a more positive side to Molly than the actual tv episodes show us.
Dec. 21st, 2010 12:36 pm (UTC)
The odd thing about the TV series is that although it gets criticised for its female characters, it has a number of them (Anthea, Sally, Mrs Hudson, Ella, Harry and Clara, and even Molly) who you can make into good positive fanfic heroines without having to go against canon. My version of Molly isn't incompatible with the original version, it's just that I've drawn out some of the implications of her being in a responsible job that needs a lot of knowledge and some underlying toughness. I think overall, the female characters in the TV series are underwritten (and likely to remain so, given the focus on the two main characters), but they have a lot of possibilities.
Dec. 21st, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
I _love_ relationship-guru Sherlock! Perfect characterisation!

*scampers off to read part 3*
Dec. 22nd, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Lovely--I am really enamored of this Sherlock--and the long, intimate conversation, which is pretty rare in ficworld. Felt very nice to have them talking seriously--yet with plenty of the usual barbs from Sherlock--and Harry is able to keep up with him on that score. What a pleasure. . . . the image of Sherlock hiding in the toilet with Mycroft's chocolates . . . kinda adore that . . . off to 3
Jan. 13th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
I really liked Harry's uneasy companionship with Sherlock here.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )