The hardest part after Sherlock's fall was lying to the people who loved him. Molly had never been a terribly good liar. She wasn't naturally deceptive. What she was and had always been, though, was trustworthy. She could keep a secret. So when Sherlock came to her -- to her -- for help, she had agreed without hesitation.
She still wouldn't go back and change that even if she could, but she hadn't really thought through the consequences.
The first big challenge had been Sherlock's birthday. Sitting in that pub with John and Mrs Hudson and D.I. Lestrade, toasting their fallen friend, had been enough to make her stomach tie up in knots. She who had no qualms dealing with bodies and body parts, who routinely kept sole company with corpses in varying states of dismemberment, damage, or decay, was sick to her stomach at having to spend the evening lying to her friends.
Trying to strengthen her position as a "mourner", she'd even brought a little posy for Sherlock. Of course she'd agreed when John had asked if he could have it to put on Sherlock's grave.
She'd felt a right berk at that.
The days drew into weeks, and she saw John and Mrs Hudson less. Lestrade still came in on cases, once he was reinstated, but talk on those occasions stayed on topic, by unspoken agreement never straying to the subject of what he believed to be their mutual loss.
The holidays had come and gone quietly. She'd escaped to her parents' house for the duration. And that idea alone, that staying with her parents for a week was better than being home in London with her work and her friends and her cosy flat, was enough to convince her that this shadow-ops lifestyle was not something she wanted to deal with long-term.
As weeks stretched into months, her life fell into its usual routines. Over time, Molly found it easier and easier to maintain the falsehood of Sherlock's death. It became a habit. She got good at telling that particular lie, sometimes even to herself. It wasn't something she was proud of, and that made her glad that almost no one knew--which spiralled right back into the lying. It was an ugly little circle and she wanted it to end.
"You're doing very well, you know," Mycroft Holmes said to her one late night in the morgue at St. Bart's. He stood tall and slim in his dark suit. Both so like and unlike Sherlock's manner. "No one suspects your part in the deception."
"Oh. Well, that's good," she said, although her heart wasn't in her words.
Mycroft went on. "Yes. You've served my brother well throughout, and me. I've come to see that he was right. He couldn't have done this without your aid." He fell silent and considered his next words carefully. Molly could see it in his face. The internal debate. Finally, he came to a decision. "You're not so different from Sherlock in that way."
That surprised a question from her. "In what way?" Normally, she kept her conversation with him to a minimum, not wanting to prolong her intermittent tête-à-têtes with Sherlock's rather creepy elder brother any longer than necessary. While she appreciated the updates, uninformative as they usually were, she always felt uneasy in his presence.
"You hide things very well. For all his brashness and disregard of what impression he makes, Sherlock has always been astonishingly good at hiding his deeper feelings, his vulnerabilities from others."
Molly laughed nervously and looked away. "I'm terrible at those things. Everyone knows that."
"They think they know all sorts of things about you, Molly Hooper. Only my brother saw past that surface."
"To the liar inside?" she countered, not sure why she was baiting him like that.
"If you like. I would have said, to the protector inside. It's all intertwined, of course. You see it as lying to your friends. I see it as protecting Sherlock. You're a skilled secret-keeper."
Molly shrugged. She couldn't argue with that. "Usually that's been because I've had no one to tell them to."
"You do yourself a discredit with that sentiment."
She didn't like the way this little chat was going and forced it to change directions. "Any chance this will be over soon?"
If possible, he actually stood up straighter. "Without sounding too confident, I hope I can honestly say that the end is in sight."
She did her best to parse that statement and eventually said, "You don't like answering questions, do you?"
That actually managed to startle him. She'd never done that before. He regarded her with something that might have been a smile, or it might have been a trick of the shadows.
"Hidden depths, indeed. Very much like Sherlock. Good night, Miss Hooper."
"Good night, Mr Holmes."
She wasn't sorry to see the back of him, to be left alone with the dead and her thoughts. His words stuck in her head: Very much like Sherlock.
She wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. Not the way he'd meant it.
She thought about it as she tidied the lab and got ready to head home at last.
No. As a matter fact, she was quite certain didn't like that at all.
She did have some things in common with Sherlock, though, she realised. Things that made her feel, well, if not precisely chuffed, at least quietly pleased. She knew now that, like him, she would do whatever she had to to protect the people she loved.
And she didn't like Mycroft's little psychoanalyses any more than she imagined he did.
Molly smiled to herself and turned out the lights.