My very first Sherlolly fic! Excited to see how this comes across...
From the Sherlolly prompt meme on Purpleyin's livejournal! The prompt I decided to fulfill was:
"Sherlock has been spending more time at Molly's flat (for reasons that are up to the filler). Toby has made it a habit of curling up next to/on top of Sherlock when he's on the couch and Sherlock finds that he enjoys 'cuddling' with the cat because he likes the warmth/weight of the feline against his body. Naturally, his mind tells him that a person would provide much more warmth/weight -
Cue Sherlock making a complicated, Sherlock-ian attempt at getting Molly to cuddle with him, or just hug him. Because for all his genius and being able to fake human emotions, the mechanics of "How do I hug people" escapes him."
I feel like I may have overcomplicated and/or over-angstified the situation, but we'll see how this goes!
IT'S SO TREMENDOUSLY DIFFICULT WRITING IN SHERLOCK'S POINT OF VIEW. Third person limited, indirect discourse, you have nearly driven me out of my wits. URGH. I HATE HIS BRAIN. IT'S SO HARD FOR MINE TO CONVEY ITS INNER WORKINGS PROPERLY.
But anyway. Here it is.
Toby was not at all an ordinary cat.
According to Molly, her pet retained for whatever reason [animals were not particularly his speciality; he would rectify this later] a rather high body temperature for most domesticated felines. Perhaps due to a lingering internal complaint, illness, hormonal imbalance, etc. He planned to develop a thorough study of Toby's vitals and behavior soon enough. However, as the creature tended to enjoy draping himself over any available part of him, Sherlock had forsaken the idea of experimentation in favor of optimizing Toby's pleasant warmth.
Besides, he preferred an excuse not to extricate himself from Molly's surprisingly comfortable sofa. Despite her horrid taste in fashion, the same ill-judgement thankfully did not extend to her choice in furniture. Ever since he and John had reunited, two years after his fall off Bart's rooftop, John had always taken most of the weekends to spend time with his fiancée, a woman named Mary Morstan, leaving Sherlock to seek company elsewhere - specifically at Molly's - provided that there were no highly rated cases with which to occupy his time. Though, if that were the situation, John would usually be at his side, instead.
The detective sniffed, absently running a hand over the purring animal curled on top of his stomach. Miss Morstan was tolerable, he supposed. She was moderately interesting, and a reasonably attractive mate for his friend. The woman was a trained psychoanalyst whose majority of clients were war veterans, had a straightforward personality, a recently deceased mother to whom she was not close, as well as a bisexual orientation: he had observed her briefly ogling Molly during a social gathering - pupils had dilated slightly upon a fleeting glimpse of Molly's breasts when she bent to pour tea, but then he supposed that was one of Miss Morstan's alluring qualities for John. In addition, the woman was proficient in cello playing, strongly indicated by certain calluses on the fingertips of her left hand and its ready strength despite her bring predominantly right-handed.
Interesting, that bit. Sherlock smirked to himself as he considered the implications. It seemed John was not quite without psychological complexity; surely the continual exposure to his own violin playing must have had an influence of sorts in John's choice of partner. Miss Morstan's calluses were old, signifying that she had been playing the cello for years, however she abandoned it for some months, and only recently took it up again, if the new splits in her fingertips were any intimation. Why bother starting up again? Must've performed for John, then, as there didn't seem to be anyone else in her life as of yet who would be a suitably intimate audience...
"Tea's ready, Sherlock."
He sat up, causing Toby to roll quite lazily down his front and into his lap, utterly unalarmed at the sudden movement. Unusual animal. His mistress was greatly amused.
"Oh Toby!" She scolded ineffectually, fondling the cat's ears. "You silly sleepyhead! He just loves you, you know." Molly added with a small smile, eyes darting to his face. "Lately, he just has no shame about it at all."
Sherlock leaned past her hands, snatching his cup and saucer from its tray upon the coffee table and brought it to his lips. Molly's coffees and teas were always, frankly, wonderful. "So I've noticed." It was a wry statement. Molly was no stranger to his profession. Of course he would notice.
As predicted, her cheeks pinked rather fetchingly, and she retreated to the other side of the sofa with her own teacup. "Yes, well, especially since you're here so often now, you know - there's bound to be some increased attachment. It'd be a bit odd if not, right?" An anxious chuckle escaped her.
Sherlock glanced at her curiously. What on Earth had she to be nervous about now? He had been her regular houseguest for months. Her infernal stuttering had nearly disappeared, and she seemed much more comfortable in his presence. She would even consent to aid him with his more benign cases when John couldn't tear himself away from Mary. He had discovered that Molly was an excellent assistant outside the morgue. She was complete rubbish with weapons, but she could keep up fairly well with him intellectually. He didn't have to explain insofar as he did for others, excepting Moriarty and The Woman, of course. But they were rare, extraordinary individuals; both untrustworthy. However, due to Molly's occupation, she was accustomed to observing and thinking along very similar lines as he and had even, once or twice, noticed some odd detail that he passed over. It was usually something obscure but suggestive in pathological science, but yes, lapses on his part did happen every so often. There was always something he missed, and Molly occasionally caught it. And, being the warm, steadfast woman that she was, she always suggested her findings to him without show or ironic mockery - unlike Mycroft, those at the Yard or even John sometimes.
He much preferred that Molly, not the jittery, girlish, infatuated Molly of old. What had changed? He sipped his glorious tea again, eyes quickly searching her, seeking a possible answer, but oddly enough, he could not find a truly definite solution. Hair was slightly damp, smelt of artificial apples, and held together in a loose French twist fastened with the clip he had found on a body and thought would suit her; the clothing she wore was no less unflattering than usual, no trace of makeup to be found even though her lips badly needed color, blood vessels in her eyes were unusually pronounced, and nails freshly painted in a wine hue - she had been careful not to smudge them this time. Ergo, Molly had taken a shower before he arrived, had put her hair up pleasantly, using the clip he had pinched for her - indicating her persistent wish to be presentable for him despite their newfound familiarity. Yet, she made no effort towards her style of dress, nor in making up her face, which possibly meant she didn't care - unlikely; that she was comfortable enough with him to do so - perhaps, especially considering his careful determination not to have a repeat of the Christmas Party nearly three years ago; or, that she was making a statement. Well, he had no idea why, if she was, nor did he particularly care at the moment anyway, so Sherlock dismissed that last. She had not slept well the night before either, and had gone to the trouble of painting her nails - something she rarely did, so it must have a purpose rather than for self-pleasure. Yesterday was Friday, and he frequently visited her on weekends, and she knew in advance that he was definitely to be here today, as he had texted her so. It seemed, when all evidence was compiled, that she wished to look attractive, but casual. And for him, unless she had plans later with yet another specimen in her collection of poorly chosen men.
His brow knitted. Surely Molly would've told him of such plans. He hummed absently in response to her awkward question about Toby becoming more attached to him - of course he was. That was how pets worked, wasn't it? That didn't explain her sudden nervousness. He wished Molly wasn't so confusing.
Sherlock sipped his tea, petting the fur-ball on his knees. Toby had a nice weight to him, besides his convenient if atypical temperature - he supposed if Molly was ever plagued with menstrual cramps or indigestion, she would find it pleasant for her feline to loll about on her as well. His eyes flickered over to her spot, where she was also drinking tea - albeit with far more milk and sugar than was strictly necessary - and tranquilly rereading a battered copy of Jane Eyre. His mouth quirked up. She was wearing glasses. Molly looked rather good like that.
Toby suddenly yawned and stretched, heaving himself off Sherlock's lap and prowling across the floor, turning back once to glare at the detective knowingly before slinking out of the room. Probably to use his litter-box, or to lounge on Molly's bed. Sherlock frowned at the loss; he was chilled now. Mercurial beast.
He finished his tea and sighed loudly. He was painfully bored. Toby had left, Molly was no longer paying any attention to him - another glance informed him she was enraptured by Rochester's brooding if her pupils were anything to go by - and John was off somewhere, no doubt doing wicked things with his new lady-friend. Lestrade would be off-duty today as well, leaving some unbearable cretin in charge...so there was nothing to do.
And, on top of everything, he was now left feeling strangely cold, without anything proper to fiddle with. At least Toby was minimally responsive to him, purring and twitching sluggishly every time Sherlock sifted fingers through his fur. It was an activity that seemed to ameliorate his thought process.
He glanced towards Molly, who hadn't moved and who hadn't even glanced up from her book, and sighed even more obnoxiously. Out from the corner of his eye, he finally saw her lower it and twist her head towards his direction. Satisfied, Sherlock resisted the urge to smirk and merely stared at nothing in front of him.
Molly peered at him through her glasses, obviously annoyed. "What, Sherlock?"
He let out a thunderous, gusty groan. "Your pet is a lazy, remote, changeable creature, Molly."
She dog-eared her page and dropped her book on the coffee table, nearly knocking over his empty teacup. "Yes, but - Sherlock, that's how most cats are. No use in trying to change them."
Sherlock shut his eyes and inhaled sharply. "Anything in the papers?" he asked her, desperate. He knew he wouldn't need to elaborate. He felt her hop off the couch and head over to the kitchen, where she had left the morning post. Sherlock didn't like that she had gotten up, and grumpily maneuvered himself so that he lay on his side, shoving his head against the sweet-smelling pillow she had been leaning on. It was still warm from her body heat, and he felt himself calm somewhat. Molly was much warmer than Toby. The pillow smelled faintly of apples from her hair. He didn't care much for apples, but couldn't bring himself to move just yet.
Everyone was leaving lately. John, Lestrade, Toby...Molly. He knew this line of thinking was preposterous, illogical, even mildly sentimental...But he was so terribly bored, and Molly wouldn't come back to the sofa, and everyone's boring little lives seemed to run without craving the sort of distractions he was unfortunate enough to need. They all could occupy themselves so easily - going on holidays, finding mundane little hobbies to fluff up their time, going on dates...
His eyes shot open, narrowed, and fixed themselves upon Molly, who was continuing to peruse the murders, suicides, and missing persons lists in the papers for him. She shook her head.
"I can't find anything you'd be interested in, sorry. Everything that's here would be, um...a three and below, I think, from the criteria you've established...maybe a four there for that one, but still..."
"Are you going out later?" he asked her, steeling his face and feigning perfect aloofness.
Molly let go of the paper and studied him again. Carefully. She frowned. "I wasn't planning on it, no - I mean, maybe to go to the shops, but-"
Sherlock waved his hand. "Oh, that's all I need to know, Molly." He sighed loudly again, burrowing his face into the pillow, annoyed with himself for feeling relieved. His nose was bombarded with the scent of her shampoo.
He waited to hear the telltale sounds of her approaching him once more, or moving elsewhere about the flat, but there was nothing for a moment or two. She hadn't moved. He emerged from the patchwork pillow - handmade, fairly old, variety of dress fabrics; possibly stitched by a close relative or friend - and eyed her warily.
Molly just stood there, against her kitchen table, and stared at him, concern all over her face now. "What's really the matter, Sherlock?" He almost hated her for sounding so gentle.
He was determined not to look at her. "I'm bored."
"Yes, so I can see, but that isn't really new, is it?" Molly replied reasonably. "You've been bored before. Everyone has."
"I cannot be bored. I want a case. I need a case!"
"I know. You always do."
"Toby just left and went off somewhere."
Molly squinted at him. "Yes, he's a cat...he does that."
"Well, so has John with his fiancée. So has Lestrade. So has Mrs. Hudson - her latest suitor apparently won a substantial lottery sum, paid her a visit and now they're off touring Italy and dancing the foxtrot." He sneered, gesticulating wildly. "Do you see a pattern here, Molly? Or am I really the only person left on Earth with a good portion of brain?" Grimacing, he roughly sifted his fingers through his curls, pulling at the strands and ruffling them up.
He didn't even know Molly had finally approached him until he felt the sofa cushion sink near his waist. Her hand was on his arm. She was rubbing his arm. It felt pleasant. Why was she rubbing his arm? Ah, stupid - to comfort him. Wasn't that what friends did? John must've told him that at some point. He must've decided not to delete it. What an idiot he had become. What an idiot...
Suddenly he found it rather difficult to swallow. A memory of Baskerville flashed in his mind - sitting in a hard armchair, sweating for no acceptable reason, terrified out of his mind. He felt similarly now. Because he was an idiot. Hadn't that been what John said on their first cooperative case? John had enough common sense, enough sentimental know-how. He could be believed occasionally.
Sherlock let himself drink in all of what Molly presented before him. She always did have kind, bright, loving eyes. People said that eyes reflected the soul. Romantic twaddle, of course, yet, even so, it was unnerving and uncomfortable to look into them. But when given the opportunity, he always did. "You're not like a cat, Molly." He said quietly, like an idiot. He didn't think it made any sense; it didn't make any sense. Yet it did. It made all the sense in the world. Why did it make sense?
Molly seemed to understand his dull, ordinary, mad ramblings. "I suppose you're right. As usual." Her eyes looked glassier. "I'm very sorry you're bored." She continued to stroke his arm.
He didn't know what to say. He tended to ruin things from speaking too much. Things should not, could not ever be ruined with Molly, if possible. That was somehow essential. Crucial.
"Your hand is warm." Sherlock observed stupidly.
"Oh - sorry. I-I'll stop." She took back her arm.
"No, it's fine." He made her hand take position again and resume its actions. "It's - good."
Molly looked decidedly hopeful.
The detective forced himself not to stutter. "Humans' normal body temperatures range from 36.1 to 37.8 degrees Celcius, yet those of cats are slightly higher, due to their faster metabolic processes. Toby's temperature is perhaps even higher than most cats. Must be an internal defect of some sort; a hormonal abnormality, for example. You should get him checked. I plan to experiment with him myself in the future - harmlessly." It was as if fog had invaded his brain: he only distantly knew why it was imperative that he explain this to her.
The petite pathologist gazed at him affectionately. "I did have him checked, actually. I was worried for a long time about it. But Toby's absolutely fine, and adequately healthy. It's just how he is. He's just different."
Sherlock felt as if he were being choked. He knew exactly how that felt; he possessed plenty of data and personal experience on the subject - his trachea and bronchial tubes had suffered numerous injuries due to strangulation, suffocation, cigarette smoke, etc., during his lifetime. Odd that the sensation manifested itself at the moment, considering there was absolutely no threat present in the room. "Often, to prevent the onset of hypothermia, humans, having lower body temperatures, would initiate extremely close bodily contact to conserve heat. Primary school stuff, as John would say, like the solar system, according to his vast recesses of knowledge. But it is an intriguing survival mechanism, and merits practical application when circumstances necessitate it."
Molly's eyes stared fixedly into his own for an unusually long, awkward moment. Sherlock felt as if he had, once again, said something malapropos; but she came back to life; her trembling hands removed her glasses with unusual care.
"And..." she stopped and cleared her throat. "Do you...feel cold, Sherlock?" The cursed woman slid both her hands up his arms, generating friction, nearly embracing him - as he desperately wanted her to do. And she asked him if he was cold.
Burning up, more like.
"Freezing." He whispered.
Then she was there, with him, as he needed her to be. As she always would be.
As he always knew she would be.