Fanfic: Put a Smile in Your Name; Molly/Mycroft, 1/2.
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Pairing: Molly Hooper/Mycroft Holmes; minor Sherlock Holmes/John Watson
Genre: Romance, a pinch of angst, lots of fluff.
Warnings: None. Although if you don't like pointlessly fluffy soulmate!AUs then you should probably stay away.
Author's Note: This pairing took me entirely by surprise, but when the plot bunnies started arriving, I embraced it wholeheartedly. This is actually the second Molly/Mycroft I've been working on. I was *trying* to focus on the other one, which is shaping out to be a bit lenghtier, but this one ambushed me and demanded to be written. My only excuse is that there are so many wonderful soulmate!stories out there, but they always focus on Sherlock and John, and Mycroft/Anthea or Mycroft/Lestrade in a minor capacity. I wholeheartedly love each and every one of them, and I thought it was high time to approach this premise from another angle.
The story is unbetaed, and since English is my second language it might contain some mistakes, for which I apologize, and I will be forever grateful for any pointers or corrections. Also, I would very much like to upload this story to AO3, but the invitation wizard informs me that I'll receive mine as a Christmas present, so if anyone out there is willing to help out, give me a shout! :)
Summary: Molly Hooper adores the name on her life line even before she can read it. It’s written in a beautiful cursive, loops and curves flowing freely into what she sees as a work of art. She’s immensely proud to carry it on her skin, and she shows it with a smile to all of her friends in kindergarten.
“My-croft?” one of the girls struggles to decipher it. “What kind of a name is that?”
Put a Smile in Your Name
Molly Hooper adores the name on her life line even before she can read it. It’s written in a beautiful cursive, loops and curves flowing freely into what she sees as a work of art. She’s immensely proud to carry it on her skin, and she shows it with a smile to all of her friends in kindergarten.
“My-croft?” one of the girls struggles to decipher it. “What kind of a name is that?”
Undeterred, Molly ignores the teasing that follows, believing her Dad’s words about jealousy and the behaviour of children, and continues to spend hours tracing the decadent letters with her finger. She doesn’t notice her parents’ concern until she accidentally eavesdrops on them discussing the matter.
“It’s such an unusual, old-fashioned name, isn’t it?” her mum asks worriedly.
“All the better,” answers her dad, his voice cheerful. “Less chance she marries the wrong Mycroft, now, isn’t there?”
“Oh, but no one really names their sons like that these days,” her mum says softly. “What if… Don’t take me wrong… What if he’s already… The name does sound awfully Victorian… And don’t look at me like that, you know it does happen…”
“Pish posh!” cries her dad. “You’ve read too much of Mrs Gaskell’s, dear. What if he has a Victorian great-grandfather? Not everything is quite as fatalistic as you imagine.”
Molly doesn’t hear the rest, but the idea stays with her for many years. At first, as a young girl, she imagines a handsome stranger in a waistcoat, a cravat tied primly around his neck and a shiny top-hat adorning his head. She sees him walking confidently along the cobblestones of Victorian London, his steps punctuated by a gold-encrusted walking stick. When they finally meet, he kisses her hand and is polite; he buys her flowers and takes her to balls where she wears beautiful gowns. The fantasies stop abruptly when, at ten, she finally realizes that if her soul mate is from the Victorian era, then by now he is most certainly dead.
She cries for two days straight. Not because she thinks that the man she’s supposed to be her one true love is already dead; she’s her father’s daughter and he taught her to be always optimistic, no matter what. No, she cries because she knows he won’t be the man that she’s dreamed him to be, and it’s always a harsh lesson to learn how much reality differs from one’s wishes. Still, for many years, every now and then, Molly indulges herself and dreams of a time-machine.
She starts wearing a glove when she’s twelve. The name is still beautiful and she’s still proud of it, but by then she’s learned that the names are a private thing and they shouldn’t be flaunted in public. She asks her mum to help her knit a pink half-glove with a stitching dense enough to cover the name from prying eyes, but still loose enough to let her shift it when she wants to see the writing underneath.
Mummy Holmes gives her sons names that, she thinks, will make their lives easier. She knows what happens when mistakes are made and Janes marry the wrong Davids; she has the childhood nightmares and stress disorders to prove it. She names her first son Mycroft, and the second Sherlock, in hopes that they will never have to face the tragedies that haunt the private lives of thousands. Fate, however, as it’s wont to do, laughs cheekily in her face, and she despairs to see first a girlish, loopy “Mary” and then a stock-lettered “John” on the palms of her children. She’s not sure whether to be pleased or anxious when she realizes that neither of her sons is particularly interested in the name of his soul mate, both concealing them beneath leather gloves and pushing them out of their minds in their pursuit of other aims.
She doesn’t know that Mycroft resents the writing on his hand because of the smiley drawn into the letter “a”, thinking that the Mary in question is a vapid gold-digger not worth his time. He has ambitious plans for the rest of his life and doesn’t want to be held down by a stupid, uncultured, infantile twit of a woman. He envies his brother’s name, or rather, the way it is written, the simple letters indicating a steady, reliable character, and scoffs at Sherlock’s whiny idea that his soul mate is bound to be unbelievably boring.
“The names are not an exact science,” he tells Mummy when she asks him about his thoughts. “They are here to show a potential compatibility, and not determine our relationships. The rest is just hysteria egged on by media and popular culture.”
That, at least, earns him the approval of Father, who wants him to worry about bigger things than soul mates.
However, while Sherlock steadfastly ignores all Johns in his way, and even if he weren’t, he’d put anyone off with his disposition, Mycroft admits to one situation when he might have begun to believe that he’d found his Mary. She’s beautiful and extremely intelligent, an exchange student from Harvard Law School, in Oxford for a single term, dazzling his stuffy public school circle with her looks and fierceness. He approaches her carefully, intrigued, and their ensuing romance is intense, if brief. They divide their time between the library, the opera and his four-poster bed, exchanging visions of world dominance and opinions about the world’s stupidity and small-mindedness. It’s three months before he decides to reveal his hand to her, and he’s already half in love and overconfident. He’s entirely unprepared for the disdainful laugh he receives in response, and even less so for the scrawled “Thomas” on her delicate palm.
“Oh, please, Mycroft, you’re smarter than that. You couldn’t have honestly thought it was me!” she mocks, and he hides the hurt and disappointment behind a glacial mask.
The romance continues till the end of term and they part amicably when she leaves for Boston. Several years later he is cordially invited to her nuptials to some media tycoon whose initials start with a “T”. He politely declines and sends her a bouquet of lilies as an apology.
He starts wearing a fake wedding ring and never tries again.
At thirteen, Molly goes for a sleepover. The girls stay up late in their cute pyjamas, giggling over kissing scenes in the contraband chick flicks nicked from their mothers. Eventually, in the wee hours of the morning, the topic inevitably moves to the names inked over their life lines. Inspired by one of the films, the girls decide to register with a name finding agency in hopes of finding their soul mates. In the next couple of days they write their letters together, borrow money from their parents to pay the fee, and make a group trip to the post office, all flushed with excitement. Two months later they meet to open their replies. The other girls get two or three possible matches each, and immediately start discussing ways of finding out which one is the one, but Molly’s letter regretfully informs her that none of their data bases provided a match and that she ought not to be discouraged in her search. The other girls feel sorry for her, but Molly shrugs it off. Her soul mate will find her when the right time comes, she tells them cheerfully.
One day, when Molly is sixteen, her dad finds something interesting in the Sunday paper. There, on the second to last page, tucked against a Mrs Jones and her award-winning British shorthair, there is a name. He shows the paper to his wife when he’s sure that Molly won’t see him.
“Mycroft Holmes,” his wife reads aloud, wonder colouring her voice. “Well, what do you know.”
They decide not to tell Molly before they can find out more about him, but their search quickly hits a dead end. The article he’s mentioned in is ambiguously bland, about some minor MP’s faux pas about something or other, and his name is thrown in more as an afterthought than anything of real significance. He’s nowhere to be found among any of the MP secretaries and his name is not listed under any existing party or organization. Resigned, they hide the newspaper in a safe drawer, resolving to look out for Mycroft Holmes in the future, but keeping him a secret from Molly, because it would be just plain cruel to raise the poor girl’s hopes when he just might turn out to be old, fat and smelly.
Six months later the newspaper is forgotten when Molly’s dad is diagnosed with cancer.
He stays cheerful for the duration of his treatment, even when it becomes obvious that it’s not working. Molly sees him once, when he thinks he’s alone, and the sight of his tears sears itself into her brain. When he dies, a year and a half after the initial diagnosis, it’s Molly who goes to identify the body. The morgue is quiet and peaceful, but the mortician is a sour-faced old man who smells of fish and chips and of the hatred for his own profession. Molly sees her father’s dead body and doesn’t flinch, but the other man’s boredom and lack of concern for her feelings make her eyes sting.
Two weeks later Molly announces that she wants to be a pathologist.
Several years after settling in London and into his government career, Mycroft finds himself periodically sitting in front of his fireplace, fiddling with his ring and wondering if perhaps he’s been too hasty to stop looking. These thoughts pass as soon as he gets a glimpse of his naked hand, disdain for the childish font overpowering whatever loneliness he might be experiencing. Besides, he meets plenty of women whose name is Mary and none of them show the slightest bit of interest when he reveals his. His memories of Oxford are still fresh and he doesn’t want to risk a repeat performance. He’s learned the hard way that caring is not an advantage.
When Sherlock drops out of university and storms the streets of London in a cocaine-induced trance, Mycroft takes it upon himself to look after him. The combined responsibilities of a full-time nanny and his job are enough to keep him distracted from any maudlin regrets. Soon he accepts that he was gifted with such an ubiquitously named soul mate so that he could not be easily distracted from his more important duties. Satisfied with his reasoning, he tries to impart his superior knowledge to Sherlock, who, despite adamantly refusing to admit that he’s looking, is beginning to pay more attention to the Johns he passes on the street. It takes him all of five years to convince him to clean up his act and find something worthwhile to dedicate his life to. Eventually, his brother begins to see the wisdom in his words, and finds his niche as a consulting detective and declares himself married to his work.
Mycroft tries to ignore the eagerness in Mummy’s eyes whenever she asks after Mary or John; the sadness that appears in them when he inevitably shakes his head is more difficult to dismiss.
Molly goes through med school without any problems or incidents. She finds herself fascinated with the human body and its secrets and she knows that she’s chosen her career path well. She makes friends with the head pathologist at Bart’s, who sometimes lets her assist during post mortems and lends her the documentation of his most interesting cases. While going through the files she finds patients with all kinds of names, some of them really peculiar and old-fashioned, like Leander, Tarquin and St John, and she quickly realizes that the most outrageous names most often than not belong to elderly men whose DoBs date back to 1920s. Molly greets this bit of information with surprising stoicism – it seems she’s been expecting this kind of news for some time. She traces the name written on her hand with fondness tinged with sadness. Her father taught her to always be an optimist, but she knows now that the world is not always full of sunshine. She learns to accept her lot in life and places her gallant gentleman in a waistcoat and a top hat firmly in the back of her head.
In the last year of university she meets a young man who has her name inked into his skin. She tells him awkwardly, with a great deal of apologies, that she’s not the girl he’s looking for, but he’s persistent. Partly out of loneliness, and partly out of sympathy, she agrees to go out with him and at first everything seems to be going great. Sam is a very nice, modest guy studying to be a pediatrician and they get on really well. He adores her and she really likes him, and she starts thinking about introducing him to her mum, when suddenly things turn sour. He starts demanding constant attention and declarations, and initially Molly goes with it, because she knows what it means to feel insecure, but soon Sam convinces himself that she’s lying. He tells her she’s cold and indifferent and that her love cannot compare with his. When she tries to reassure him, he turns angry and resentful and accuses her of cheating and pining after an imaginary posh-named ponce who will never want her like he does. She’s forced to end things and is rewarded with a string of insults that break her heart. She vows never to make the same mistake again.
Thanks to her mentor, she gets a minor position at the Bart’s morgue right after she graduates. It’s a year later when she first meets the strange man that will change her life.
“The name’s Sherlock Holmes,” he says in a deep, arresting baritone. “And I need a foot from your morgue.”
It would have been heroic of her not to fall for him. He’s gorgeous, fit, and completely insane in his genius. Besides, his name is so unusual that it reminds her a tiny bit of the name on her hand, and she feels a certain connection to him. For a long time it doesn’t matter that he’s an absolute berk, because it’s not like Molly thinks she has any real chance with him, least of all for anything remotely permanent. The crush is harmless in its hopelessness and Molly enjoys the heightened levels of serotonin and dopamine while they last.
But then, four years after she’s met him, when Sherlock is at his most manic, hitting corpses with riding crops, it’s when it all changes.
She doesn’t think much about the short fair-haired man she sees out of the corner of her eye when she brings Sherlock his coffee. Two weeks later, when she next sees the detective, she’s understandably surprised to see him shadowed by the man she only vaguely remembers seeing before.
It’s not her fault that she spills her coffee during introductions.
“Molly,” says Sherlock, a happy, alien grin on his face. “This is John Watson, my soul mate.”
Mycroft kidnaps Doctor John Watson and arranges a creepy meeting in an abandoned warehouse to test him. He’s not surprised to find him loyal, steady and calm under pressure. He doesn’t need to peek under his plain leather glove to know that his hand is inscribed with his brother’s name. The fact that he remorselessly shoots a man to save Sherlock’s life is merely superfluous confirmation.
That night he orders a boxful of the best cheesecake available in London and eats it all while staring disdainfully at the silly name over his life line. He refuses to believe that his reasoning has been wrong, but persisting with the idea that he hasn’t yet met his soul mate because he’s meant for greater things and doesn’t need a distraction seems unnecessarily childish when presented with contradicting evidence. John is an asset to Sherlock, not a hindrance. Dare he believe that his Mary might be the same?
Either way, it is irrelevant. Sherlock might have found his soul mate, but Mycroft is not delusional enough to think that he will find his. He is past forty and his job is so demanding that he has no time for any active searching on his part. And, while in fact he meets many new people in his line of work, most of them don’t ever learn his name. His youth has mostly passed, well-spent on schemes and word dominance, and he is well set in his ways. Even if he did, by chance, meet his Mary, he would hardly know how to fit her into his lifestyle.
He finishes his cheesecake and vows to never again feel pity for himself over the subject.
To be perfectly honest, Molly is really happy for Sherlock. John seems like a nice guy and he’s certainly a steadying presence for the detective, who appears to be more relaxed and less neurotic now that he’s found his soul mate. She admits that she’s jealous, but not because she really wanted Sherlock for herself, but because she knows that she will never be as happy. She tries to stay positive, but it’s really difficult, especially when you go to work every day expecting your soul mate to arrive on your slab after a long, eventful life and a nice death from natural causes. It never comes, but she doesn’t fool herself. There are many other morgues in London, not to mention in Great Britain, or any other place where he might yet or might have already turned up for a post mortem.
In the end she’s so gloomy that when Jim from IT starts flirting with her on her blog she accepts his invitation for coffee without a second thought. She’s learned her lesson, though, and tells him up front that he’s not the name on her hand.
“Oh, don’t worry, Molls,” he reassures her, smiling sheepishly. “You’re not mine, either. But I think we shouldn’t feel so constrained by those names, you know… and I really, really like you…”
Is it any wonder that she agrees to the second, and then to the third date? The first time they kiss is nice, and the next couple of times too, but Molly doesn’t really feel it, and he’s becoming more forceful, so she decides to end things before it goes too far. She knows how it went last time she wasn’t fully invested and she doesn’t want things to escalate the same way. She’s planning on having a talk with him, but before she can do that, Sherlock outs him as gay. Angry and humiliated, she breaks up with him by text. If he thinks he can get through her to Sherlock then he has another think coming!
It’s only later that she finds out that Jim was a murderous psychopath who kidnapped John to get to Sherlock and then tried to blow them both up. To say that she is horrified is a grievous understatement.
Sherlock dismisses her apologies with a snort, and John assures her that it wasn’t her fault. It doesn’t make her feel any less guilty, though.
Life goes on without a hitch. Molly works at the morgue, goes out with her friends. Meena, the only other single person from their circle, announces that she has finally met her soul mate and asks Molly to be her bridesmaid. She agrees, because it’s nice to be asked, but inside she feels more miserable than ever before. She thinks of her dad’s optimism and manages to make herself even more depressed, because she can’t, for the life of her, muster up any of the positive energy he’s taught her to have.
But life surprises her yet again.
She’s at the lab helping Sherlock and John in one of their cases when Sherlock’s mobile goes off.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” he mutters angrily and disconnects the call. A moment later the phone starts again.
“Who’s that?” asks John.
“It’s Mycroft,” Sherlock snarls, stuffing the mobile back into his pocket. “He wants me to be his delivery boy again. As. If.”
Sherlock’s phone goes off again, but he ignores it, dropping the pipette he’s holding into the petri dish in front of him. “Oh! Oh! Yes, John, come on, no time to waste!”
“Mycroft?” she manages to ask, throat clogged, but Sherlock is already striding out of the lab. John gives her a shrug.
“Sherlock’s annoying git of a brother. Sorry, I got to – “
“Yes, right… Bye.”
He runs after his soul mate, not noticing that Molly’s world has tilted on its axis.
At first she doesn’t know what to do. She sits down, then gets up, goes to make herself some coffee, spills it all over the counter, sits down again and lets out an ear-piercing squeal into her shaking hand. Her chest hurts and her eyes sting, but for once it’s not because of pain or sadness.
She can’t be entirely sure, rationally, but her heart knows. She’s found him. Not on her slab and not in the morgue records. He’s alive and well and he’s Sherlock’s brother.
Now she only has to find a way to meet him.
After Sherlock finds John, Mummy is ecstatic. Her hope that Mycroft will find his Mary is restored and she is relentless in pestering him about it. His resentment over the issue reaches new heights and his only consolation is the fact that now Mummy finds it prudent to spend absurd amounts of time visiting Sherlock in order to “get to know John”, which infinitely annoys his little brother.
In the meantime, Mycroft distracts himself with his pet project involving dead bodies and airplanes. He sends his brother to do his legwork when a minor problem presents itself; later, despite his brother’s failure, he’s obscenely delighted to see trouble in paradise when Sherlock has his head turned by a pretty dominatrix. He knows that the Woman poses no threat whatsoever to the two men’s relationship, but he so loves to watch his brother squirm under Doctor Watson’s jealous diatribes.
When Christmas season arrives he deftly excuses himself from spending the holidays with his family, gleeful that Mummy has chosen to grace Sherlock with her presence, leaving Mycroft peacefully alone.
Molly goes to John and Sherlock’s Christmas party with her heart in her throat, hoping that his brother will be there as well. She’s tried to glean as much information about him from John, with dubious success.
“What is Sherlock’s brother like?” she asked him one day when the detective was otherwise occupied at his microscope.
John smirked. “Complete prat. Works for the government – “
“He is the government,” Sherlock called from the other side of the lab.
“Yes, thank you, Sherlock. Also he’s a bit of a stalkerish creep. I think he has us on constant surveillance. He’s dangerous – mostly because he’s absolutely barmy. Runs in the family, you know.”
“John, please do not compare me to my idiot of a brother,” groused Sherlock.
Molly laughed uneasily. This didn’t seem all that promising, but she was undeterred. She tried another tactic.
“So he’s older then?”
“Mhm,” said John. “He’s about forty, I guess.”
“Forty one,” came the correction. “Molly, don’t you have any other topics? Why are you so interested in Mycroft?”
She almost jumped out of her skin. “Just – Just making conversation. I was just curious, because both of you have such unusual names, I thought… Well, I thought you both must be extraordinary.”
Sherlock snorted. “Though you are right this time, don’t make general assumptions like that, Molly. Our names are unusual because our mother thought it would help us find our soul mates. But then of course the whole thing blew up in her face when both of us got the most boring, ordinary names in exchange.”
“Oh, God,” John groaned. “Now you’ve got me wondering what’s the name of Mycroft’s soul mate!”
Sherlock shrugged, not looking up from the microscope.
“It’s Mary,” he deadpanned.
It was good that John chose that moment to start shouting in outrage about privacy rights and not wanting to know, because no one noticed Molly’s legs going weak in the knees. She took a couple deep breaths and righted herself before John ran out of steam. She was, however, too agitated to continue the conversation, so she quickly excused herself.
Now, several days later, she’s climbing the stairs to 221b, wearing her best dress, red shoes for courage and a silly glittering bow in her hair, clutching a bag full of presents and wondering whether she’s making a fool of herself already. She’s so nervous she can barely walk.
“Hello everyone!” she calls, stomping inside the living room. “It said on the door just to – just to come up?”
She’s greeted warmly enough, well, except for Sherlock, but that was to be expected. She fumbles with her coat and scarf, revealing the dress underneath. She feels naked under everyone’s gaze, so she fidgets even more, looking around the room and searching for Sherlock’s brother, but it’s fruitless. There’s John and Sherlock, Mrs Hudson, Greg Lestrade, an older distinguished woman and herself.
“Is there anyone else coming?” she asks quietly when Greg offers her wine.
“Not that I know of. Red or white?”
So he’s not going to be there. The nervousness drains from her in one huge swoop, leaving only bitter disappointment. She tries to make some conversation, but her mind is so occupied that she only manages to put her foot in her mouth. She feels even more awful when the unfamiliar woman turns out to be Sherlock and Mycroft’s mother. She smiles at her tightly when Molly trips all over her introduction.
But the worst part of the evening is still ahead of her. Sherlock is getting nastier by the minute, spewing harmful deductions left, right and centre, and it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her. When he finally does, it’s epic.
“So you’ve got a new boyfriend, Molly, and you’re serious about him! A potential soul mate, perhaps?”
“What? Sorry, what?”
“And you’re seeing him this very night and giving him a gift!”
Her heart starts hammering in her chest. He rattles off the details about her clothes, lipstick, and the little red package she spent ages agonizing about. In the end she decided to buy an elegant fountain pen, splurging to her heart’s content, figuring that the cause was worth it. Now she realizes that she has been a colossal idiot and she should have known better. She feels sick to the stomach when Sherlock picks up the gift and flips open the tag.
“Obviously compensating for the size of her mouth and breasts –“
Molly cringes, remembering what she’s written. Dear Mycroft, Merry Christmas. Mary. It would have been completely innocuous were it not for the fact that she signed her full name instead of Molly, and in a moment of panic, drew a little smiley into the belly of the “a”. When she realized what she’d done it was already too late to change the tag, so she’d left it, hoping he wouldn’t notice. But now, standing here on display, she feels ridiculous. Silly Molly Hooper, overeager and desperate.
“You always say such horrible things,” she mutters bitterly. “Every time. Always… always.”
Sherlock is speechless. He opens and closes his mouth like a fish, takes a step forward and then retreats. Finally, he swallows.
“I’m… sorry. Forgive me. Merry Christmas, Mary Hooper,” he says slowly, and then repeats, handing the gift back to her. “Mary, with a smiley.”
“A smiley?” his mother asks incredulously from the other side of the room. Molly feels the flush of humiliation scorching her cheeks. She snatches the package from his hands and drops it back into the bag.
“What’s going on?” asks John.
No one answers him because the room is filled with the sound of a feminine moan.
Later, after Sherlock has dashed out the door with the mysterious gift from the mantelpiece, Molly awkwardly distributes the other gifts she’s brought with her.
“Sorry,” she tells Mrs Holmes. “I didn’t realize you would be here.”
“Oh, that’s all right, Mary,” she says loftily, stressing her name. “How about you sit down and have a glass of wine with me? I would like to get to know you, John’s mentioned you a couple of times, but…“
“Oh, sorry, but I’d better be going,” she mumbles. She’s had enough abuse from one Holmes today, she doesn’t need any more of it. Perhaps it’s better that she didn’t get to meet Mycroft, after all. Maybe she’s better off without meeting him at all. She was doing fine before she found out that he was Sherlock’s brother, maybe she should just ignore it and life will proceed as normal.
“Perhaps next time, then,” Mrs Holmes answers, disappointed. Molly gives her a small smile before grabbing the bag with the forlorn gift, making her goodbyes and fleeing.
Once she’s home, she tears off the silver bow and earrings and chucks the dress into the bottom of her wardrobe. She contemplates throwing the fountain pen into the bin, but in the end stashes it in a box under her bed.
An hour later she gets a phone call from the morgue.