A Hands-On Approach

Disclaimer: Sherlock is the creative property of others. I am not making any money for the ridiculous story I have written using its characters. Whom I love very, very much.

She really didn't know what she was doing there. This wasn't her idea of good time. But Molly Hooper was painted into a bit of a corner. When her friend gave her a spa gift certificate for Christmas, and revealed that she'd bought one for herself, too, so they could have a "Girls' Day", there really wasn't a way for Molly to bow out gracefully.

Which was why, three weeks later, she found herself being ushered into the spa's empty "Tranquility Room" (read: Waiting Room, Molly thought to herself) by a tall woman who hardly spoke above a whisper.

"Just have a seat and feel free to read a magazine and drink some detox tea while you wait. You're friend—Georgiana, isn't it?—has already been taken back for her first treatment. Someone will be along for you shortly."

Molly managed to give her a small smile in thanks but was distracted trying to make sure her too small, spa-issued bathrobe covered all the important bits. The overstuffed chairs they'd outfitted the room with were a bit too plush. She began mapping out in her head how she would stand back up when the time came. The goal was to reveal the least possible amount of flesh, and accomplish it as quickly as she was able.

In other words, if she could avoid looking like a foal taking her legs for the first time and at the same time not flash a nipple or something of a more genital persuasion, it'd be a win in her book.

And why did she have to be naked, anyway? Her friend had signed her up for a facial and a massage, and Molly thought both could be accomplished well enough with her outfitted in some comfy pants and a t-shirt. Sure, the oils used in the massage would have to be nixed, but Molly would be comfortable.

That was the purpose of this whole uncomfortable exercise. Georgie had noticed that each time she'd seen her in the past several months, Molly's shoulders seemed to carry more and more tension. When she saw Molly fussing with a heat pack for her cramped muscles when they met up the first week in December, as Georgie put it, "Enough was enough."

So here Molly was, feeling utterly miserable. She had never been the type for anything as frilly as a spa excursion. To her, the best form of relaxation was a book, a hot bath, and a double Grand Marnier. To think: Georgie could have avoided all of this expense if she had just gotten Molly a new, inflatable bath pillow.

Before she could get too comfortable (ha, ha), a young woman appeared in the doorway. Like all of the other spa employees Molly had seen so far, the woman wore unrelieved black with her long hair pulled back in a sensible plait. Her expression was one of studied boredom and she didn't even bother to glance up from her clipboard as she read Molly's name aloud, as if there were several other people in the room for her to weed through to find her charge.

Molly was tempted to look around her as if trying to spot this mysterious, absent "Molly Hooper," but then felt guilty for even entertaining the thought. She managed to stand up without embarrassing herself and approached the woman.

"Hello. Are you ready for me?"

"Yes," replied the spa technician, "Follow me please. I'm Victoria. I'll be doing your facial today. Once we're done with that, Alan will be in to do your massage."

Victoria led Molly to a room that looked distressingly like a doctor's examination room. Maybe the lighting was dimmer, but the heavy equipment, sterile sink, rows of bottles containing who-knew-what, and the padded bed in the middle of it all brought to mind every check-up, shot, and illness she'd ever had.

And here, she'd be even more exposed.


Molly stood frozen in the doorway, going over the exits she'd seen on her way to the room. There were only a few, but she could make it work. Now all she needed was a distraction. Would faking a seizure be too extreme?

Before she could find out, however, Victoria turned back to her and cocked an impatient brow while she pulled back a corner of the bed's covers.

"Well, come in then. Take off your robe and climb under the sheet here and we'll begin."

Sighing, Molly closed the door to the room, flung the robe off of her and made a mad dash for the bed, which she all but threw herself onto. She nearly slid off of the other side of the narrow mattress from the momentum of her approach, but managed to stop herself at the last second.

Once the warm sheet safely settled over her, with its top as high as she could get it while still leaving her shoulders and arms exposed, she began practicing some calming breathing techniques.

It wasn't that Molly was ashamed of her body or felt that the female form needed to be covered conservatively at all times. She had simply always been a shy, private person. She didn't wander around the hospital women's locker room naked, and she usually favored baggy clothing for the comfort that skin-tight clothes couldn't offer. Hell, she didn't even wander around her own flat naked.

Although, that was a more recently developed reservation.

Whatever the case, voluntarily stripping down for the up-close scrutiny of some esthetician had never been high on her list of priorities.

Molly was startled out of her thoughts by Victoria quickly snapping a terrycloth headband over her head, yanking her long hair through, and then pushing the headband back up so that her hairline was covered.

Well, this is restful, Molly though wryly to herself.

What proceeded this was sixty minutes of torture.

Oh, there were some nicer moments, like the warm water wash and the steam that was misted onto her face to "open the pores," as Victoria had explained. Though, why that was necessary, Molly was unsure, as the same woman had five minutes before said that Molly had the largest pores she'd ever seen (from which she'd segued into a sales pitch about some dermatological wonder serum that would cure Molly of this vicious malady).

But the lovely steam was turned off abruptly, and then Victoria came at Molly with an horrendous device that she called an extractor.

An apt name, it turned out.

Molly was not privy to any state secrets. She hardly knew any personal secrets. But by the third time the extractor was pushed against her skin, she was ready to make some up.

Her eyes watered as Victoria wielded this tool of torment without mercy. This continued for some time, with the esthetician tsking at the number of blackheads she encountered.

Just as Molly was about to yell, "Alright, I'll talk!" Victoria lowered her weapon and busied herself rubbing some soothing balm or other over her prone client's face. It did little to quell the stinging.

"Your face will be red for a some time. The extraction areas may swell up before they get better. Avoid using any makeup, as it could agitate the inflamed skin."

Before Molly could comment that that might have been nice to know before, as she had to go an important conference the next day, there was a soft knock on the door.

Victoria looked up somewhat excitedly.

"Just a moment," she called to the door before she leered down at Molly.

"That'll be Alan. He's new but he's already establishing himself as a favorite masseur. All of his clients so far have requested him when making their appointments for next time. You lucky thing. Your friend got stuck with Maribel, who just doesn't quite do it for me, if you know what I mean."

Smoothing a hand over her hair (which Molly didn't feel like reminding her still had post-torture soothing balm on it), Victoria stood from her rolling stool and rushed over to the door.

She opened the door to the man waiting outside.

"'Lo, Alan," Victoria greeted, in a suspiciously breathy voice, "I'll be out of your hair in a minute, but I need to clean up. Go ahead and get started."

"Thanks, Vicky. I'm a bit crunched for time. Busy day, you know how it is."

Up to the point of Victoria's greeting, Molly had been staring at the ceiling tiles, picking out patterns in the stylized texture, wondering vaguely if this was what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder felt like. At the sound of Alan's baritone voice, however, her head snapped around to the man currently closing the door behind him as he came further into the room.

He'd gelled his curls into a tidy fashion off of his face, and was wearing the requisite black t-shirt and trousers. Beyond that, he'd done nothing to disguise himself.

Sherlock Holmes was Alan. Alan was Sherlock Bloody Holmes.

She managed not to exclaim aloud with an undignified yelp, but it was close. For his part, he was either expecting to see her on the table or didn't know what was coming, for he had not yet looked at her, and his face was rather impassive as he talked to Victoria.

Molly had last seen him two weeks ago. He came and went from her flat with no discernible regularity while he hunted down various informants and assassins linked to James Moriarty. He had once mentioned that he was spending a considerable amount of time in London, but she'd just assumed when he was in London, he stayed with her.

The established existence of "Alan" would seem to indicate otherwise.

The both stood at the head of the bed, backs to Molly. Sherlock appeared to be waiting for Victoria to finish at the sink and cabinets, but she was apparently in no rush as she complained about the tedium of her job, not caring that one such "job" was listening to her every word.

"Alan" hmmed at appropriate intervals as Victoria chattered on, but offered little other commentary. When she petered off after he failed to join in with her tinkly laughter (affected, Molly was sure, as she craned her neck to looked at them upside-down from the bed with narrowed eyes), he finally spoke again.

"I came here from another massage. Didn't get a chance to see what I'm doing for this session; Orla just told me the room number. Can I see her forms?"

He tacked on a bashful smile at the last second, trying to look chagrined.

"Certainly," Victoria simpered, "Just a standard, Swedish massage for her, sixty minutes."

"And her name is," he flipped the clipboard around, "Molly…."

He stilled.

Then, very slowly, he turned to face the silent woman lying on the bed.

Molly found it was really hard and awkward to shrug affably when one was lying down, hyper-extending her neck to look that the people standing above her. Especially when covered in nothing but a thin sheet.

To be continued…

Note: So, this might be one of the stupidest plot devices I've ever thought up. My apologies to all of you reading this. I'll admit that a lot of Molly's internal monologue was inspired by my first foray at a spa, where I, too, suffered from blackhead extractions and the all-too-real affliction of robeus too-smallus. The fact that my massage therapist wasn't Benedict Cumberbatch made it that much lamer.

This'll only be a two or three parter, and I am well into the second chapter. Look at me, being all organized-ish!

As ever, I truly appreciate any sort of feedback, constructive criticism included. Up until September, when I wrote my first fanfic, I hadn't written anything (unless you count emails) in several years, so I'm definitely still rusty. Any advice is welcome!