Molly Hooper was bored.
Granted, this state of mind tended not to result in such wonton destruction as a certain detective acquaintance of hers, but still – it was exasperating. She was enjoying – or rather not – a rare four day weekend, thanks to some random government holiday. Not really long enough to go anywhere exciting (not that she ever really went anywhere spectacular on holiday), but long enough to make it difficult for her to find something constructive to do with her time.
She was lying on her couch in her flat, fanning herself vigorously with a magazine she had previously been reading. That was her second problem. Even if she could find something to do out of doors, she really didn't have much incentive to go out, since London was currently under the affliction of a massive heat wave. The weather app on her phone was reading 37C; though the humidity index would have pushed that up a few degrees more. She was only wearing a pair of thin sleep shorts and a camisole, but her clothes still clung to her damp skin. Despite the appalling heat, her cat, Toby, was still curled contentedly on her belly. Unable to stand the extra heat emitting from his body any longer, she gently shooed him off her.
"I'm sorry, mate – it's just too flipping hot for a cuddle," she replied to his annoyed yowl.
She threw her legs over the side of the couch, and padded to her kitchen to pour herself a large glass of ice water. She downed it in one long gulp, enjoying the sensation of a few stray droplets escaping her lips and dripping onto her throat. Her flat was unfortunately not equipped with a central air system, and the only relieve from the blistering weather were two window units (one in her living room and the other in her bedroom). The latter of these, she only turned on at night when she was sleeping – otherwise her electric bill would be sky high.
Molly made her way over to the window that housed her main AC, her belly sloshing from all the water she had consumed. She braced her arms on either side of the window frame, letting the circulating air cool her damp chest and underarms…except the air being blown on her did not feel that cool at all. In fact, it was downright warm. Just as she leaned down to check the temperature settings, the motor inside the unit made an odd whining noise, and then stopped altogether with a soft sputter. Molly blinked at the offending object for a moment, before letting out a string of curses that would have impressed her father. Of all the times for the stupid thing to quit on her!
Well, that was that – she either needed to buy a new AC or she needed to find another place to stay for the weekend. Anyone she would be comfortable staying with – which was only about three people– was out travelling for the weekend or otherwise occupied. She was just settling down to her laptop to search for good quality, fairly priced air conditioners, when the door to her flat abruptly swung open with a bang. Molly nearly jumped out of her skin, before her surprise was replaced by an unsettled, flighty feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was, by now, a familiar feeling – always accompanied by the presence of a certain person - who was currently standing in her doorway, panting as though he had run all the way to her flat from his own. For all she knew, he might have.
"Sher-lock?" she managed.
"Molly," he rasped, clearly making an effort to stand up straight as his chest heaved in and out.
His usual coat was gone (not surprising in this heat) and his dress shirt had a couple extra buttons at the top undone (that was strange). His curly hair was matted to his forehead and his entire shirt was dark with sweat.
"My God, what happened?" she asked, gaining enough sense to get up and approach him. "Are you injured?" she asked, placing a hand tentatively on his shoulder and leading him inside.
"What? Of course not. Only – a little – winded," he explained, half falling into the chair she had just occupied.
She stood across from him and waited for him to catch his breath and offer her some sort of explanation. He sat with his legs spread wide and his arms slung behind the back of the chair, his head tipped back a bit.
"Could I trouble you for a glass of water?" he asked, looking at the ceiling instead of her.
"Oh – of course – I'm sorry. One moment," she spluttered, mentally kicking herself for not offering immediately; some friend she was.
She fetched the water and brought it back to him, trying not to be mesmerized by the bobbing of his Adam's apple as he threw the water down the hatch all at once. Ironically, just like her, a few drops escaped his mouth and ran down his neck, joining a slight pool of sweat that had collected in the hollow of his throat. She stared at the spot and licked her lips absentmindedly, before tearing her eyes back to his face. His intense blue gaze was fixed on her, though his face was still tilted back. Perfect. She supposed it was too much to ask that he hadn't noticed that she was blatantly ogling him. A slight tug at the corner of his mouth confirmed her suspicions, and she launched into an interrogation of him before he could make some sort of snide comment about her interest in his sweat slicked neck.
"So tell me now, how is it exactly that you have come to be at my flat in such a state? You look as if you were running from the emissaries of hell," she snorted, trying to sound casual.
In the time they had spent together after she helped him fake his death, she had grown a littler bolder in her dialog with him, though she still found herself sometimes intimidated and uncomfortable in his presence. He could still unnerve her whenever he wanted to; a fact they were both well aware of. In the months that he had spent biding his time, waiting for the opportune moment to return from the dead, he had spent quite some time with her. He even slept on her couch on and off, which had proved to be far less of an ordeal than she had thought.
He had grown comfortable with her, even dependent on her. She knew that much of it was because of their circumstances. He was supposed to be dead, and only she knew the truth. Every person in his life, that had been part of his regular routine, had been snatched from him. Sometimes she had to assume the role of Mrs. Hudson, cleaning up after him and brewing him some tea when he reached a snag in his efforts to topple Moriarty's schemes. Other times she had to be his John, offering him calm counsel and an outside opinion, but mostly just listening to his rants. Rarely she had to be Lastrade, and keep him reigned in when he threatened to go out of control. But most of the time, he let her be herself. They kept a companionable silence when they worked together on solving his greatest case – the case that would set him free of the prison Moriarty had forced him into. They would order Chinese takeout and spend hours accumulating the proper notes and evidence he needed.
He would go off and disappear for days, even weeks at a time – only now he kept in touch with her by text. Rarely a day went by when she didn't hear something from him, usually just a random comment or a warning to stay away from a man who she may or may not have even been interested in dating, in the first place. Those would always be followed with some sarcastic quip about her tendency to date gay, deranged, psychopaths – she would apparently never live that down.
"Oh please, Molly," he drawled. "When have you ever known me to run away from danger?" he asked; a familiar sparkle in his eye.
She chuckled, "I suppose that is true. So what was it this time? A felon get away from the coppers? Trying to run down a get-away car full of bank burglars?"
"Ha, nothing that grand. Just your average, run-of-the-mill purse snatcher, actually."
She raised an eyebrow at that.
"Who apparently could have gone to university on a scholarship based on his track and field times," Sherlock grinned. "I almost didn't catch him."
"But your superior knowledge of the streets of London gave you an edge?"
"No. I didn't dare lose sight of him to take a short-cut – I just had to outlast him. Obviously, he was a sprinter, from the way he lost substantial speed after precisely 400 meters. Of course, he managed to get quite a bit ahead of me in that first stretch, so it took a bit to close the gap. And in this blasted humidity, I felt like I was sucking water straight into my lungs."
Molly couldn't even imagine running outside right now, with the temperature so high, "So you did catch him though?"
"And got the purse back to its owner?"
"So why are you here?"
"I returned the purse to the dear old lady about a block from here, so I decided to pop over for a shower. I'm drenched."
"I noticed you noticed."
Molly flushed before recovering herself. He had been getting awfully direct in his comments to her lately and she wasn't quite sure how she felt about it.
"You know where the towels are, help yourself. I think I might have a few of your things still here for you to change into, actually. I'll look for them."
He rose out of the chair, making his way to the small hallway closet to grab a fresh towel. He turned to look back over her shoulder at her, combing back a clump of curls that were stuck to his forehead with his fingers. It made him look a little older with more of his forehead exposed. She found him rather sexy with his hair slicked back – not that he wasn't sexy all the time.
"You know, Molly," he said in that very deep voice he usually reserved for charming her with, "that gray camisole gets a little transparent when you perspire. You should consider slipping on a brazier when you go looking for my clothes."
With that, he ducked into the bathroom and shut the door before she could even finish processing what he had just said. She looked down at herself in trepidation – her fears confirmed when she indeed noticed that the thin material of her cami left very little to the imagination of what was beneath it – which was nothing. How could she have been so stupid? She completely forgot that she had forgone putting on a bra this morning. It was hot. It was her day off. She wasn't expecting company.
Her stress gave way to a cry of frustration, as she stormed past the bathroom to dig a bra out of the mess in her bedroom. She swore she head a muffled chuckle as she passed the door. Bastard. Why did he have to say things like that? What was the gain in pointing out something like that? It certainly wasn't to encourage her modesty, for she very well knew he didn't care about such things. In a world of naked corpses, parts were parts. No, he did it specifically to irritate her. He liked getting her all hot and bothered whenever he got the chance. She knew he was aware of her feelings for him, and sometimes she even wondered if, to some extent, he was fond of her. Not really in a romantic way – that was wishful thinking – but in an overbearing, big-brotherly way, perhaps.
He was always telling her to stay away from other men, after all. And he did like to tease her about her body whenever he got the chance. She didn't believe that he did it to make fun of her feelings, even he wasn't that mean. She figured that he thought her affection to be nothing more than a crush, something that would pass in time. He had acknowledged her as a colleague and friend, and she knew better than anyone the lengths he would go to protect his friends. Perhaps that was why he always found fault with anyone she was ever remotely interested in, even relationships with women. She soon realized that he was a demanding friend, fiercely possessive, and perhaps even a little insecure when it came to holding on to the people closest to him. That discovery had pleased her, and she secretly enjoyed his scathing texts pertaining to other people he disapproved of – which was everyone. Especially men. That possessive streak of his made her feel wanted, safe even. There was no place to hide from the keen eyes of Sherlock Holmes. He always knew where she was and who she was with. And he was never far away, she thought with a smile, as she put on a sports bra and pulled a dry tank top over it.
She began rummaging through the back of her closet, looking for stray articles of clothing he had left. He usually always kept at least one dress shirt and a pair of pants with her, just in case of emergencies. She found a pair of his pants, but no shirt. He might have taken the last one home with him and forgotten to replace it. Oh well, she had some oversized t-shirts she slept in sometimes, that he could fit into. She heard the shower shut off, and a few moments later, the door creaked open. She had just finished laying out his pants and a clean t-shirt. She knew he would object – Sherlock Holmes never wore t-shirts – but it was all she had.
"I'm not wearing that," came a deep voice right above her head.
She almost jumped in spite of herself. How did he do that? She could never understand how he could get so close to her without her hearing him.
Rolling her eyes, she turned to face him – regretting it instantly. He had his towel wrapped around him, but had barely dried the rest of himself off. He was so close to her, that looking up would have made her crane her neck, so she looked lower instead. Water was running down his sculpted chest and stomach, disappearing into the fibers of the cloth that was draped extremely low across his hips. She found herself staring at those odd little lines that fit men have, the ones that extend from their hipbones down to their…oh dear. She hastily turned her head to the side, lest she followed the lines of his body all the way to their destination. She could tell, without looking at him, that he was smirking at her.
"Well, you know, it's all I have," she said, finally finding her voice. "You can't wear the one you came in, and you took your last dress shirt home with you."
"Was that the purple one?"
"Hmm, I guess this will have to do. It's only a cap drive away. Still, to be seen in this…" he trailed off. "Molly?"
"This was a man's shirt. The stains on the underarms indicate it was worn by a man who used spray on deodorant, instead of solid stick. An athlete then. And the shoulders are stretched by someone with a much larger frame that you. Are you actually giving me a t-shirt worn by an ex-boyfriend of yours? Really, Molly?" his tone was disapproving.
"It's not a boyfriends'," she interjected quickly, smirking a little that he had jumped to the wrong conclusion. "It was my fathers'. Just a nighty I've had forever."
"Oh. I see."
"Will you just put it on already?"
"Why? Are you uncomfortable with me half naked in your bedroom, like this? I can't imagine why, you work with nude corpses every day."
"Nude corpses don't talk as much as you do, so just, put those on, and I'll…give you some privacy," she said hastily, as he was already reaching down to undo his towel. She scampered out of the room and left him to it, retreating to the safety of the kitchen. She was in the process of downing another glass of water, when he appeared from her bedroom, looking somewhat ridiculous in dress pants and an old uni t-shirt, which was slightly too large for him. She swallowed her laugh though, when she saw the look on his face. She knew that look. There was a glint in his eye that could only mean one thing.
"Got a text about a case?"
He raised an eyebrow at her deduction, "How on earth did you know that?"
"Your eyes got a little brighter," she answered truthfully.
This was her skill. He read signs on people – she just read people. She was better at it than he, a fact which she was exceedingly proud of. Out loud, she attributed it simply to women's intuition, but she knew it was more than that. She was always good at reading people's faces, even when they were trying to mask their feelings. Even when rumor had it, they didn't have feelings. She knew the truth. Eyes were the windows to the soul, so they say. His were particularly deep. She could always see straight to the heart of him – especially after she had gotten to know him better over the past few months. She knew what certain looks meant. Certain ways that he quirked those full lips of his too, were dead giveaways to what he was thinking or feeling.
He smiled at her appreciatively, "Yes indeed – excellent deduction. And you're coming with me."
"Yes, of course. John is off visiting with Harry this weekend and I require an assistant."
"You already knew about it when you came here, didn't you?"
"I was unsure, at the time, if it was going to be worth my while. And, of course, I was a bit distracted by the incident with the purse snatcher. However, this text suggests my theory about the case was correct, and it might just prove to be interesting, after all."
"What is it?"
"Go put some appropriate clothes on, and I'll fill you in when we're on our way to my place. I have to get a clean shirt anyway before we go."
She made her way back to her bedroom to find something "appropriate", casting a disparaging look at the broken AC as she went by. She wouldn't have time to buy one now, meaning her night was going to be spent tossing and turning trying to stay cool. The AC in her room was rather weak, after all.
"Bring a change of clothes for tomorrow," Sherlock's voice called after her from the kitchen.
"You're staying with me tonight. You'll be useless to me tomorrow if you come back here to sleep – you're main AC is broken and you don't have time to pick up a new one today. You won't catch a wink."
She wasn't sure how she felt about that one. Him sleeping on her couch was one thing, but her sleeping on his? The whole night? In his domain? That was more than a little scary. She racked her brain for an excuse.
"What about Toby? I can't leave him in this heat."
She heard a cat's hissing cry, followed by an uncharacteristic yelp from Sherlock, and then, "It's taken care of."
Molly emerged, wearing a pair of loose trousers, and a plain button down blouse. She pulled her hair up into a neat ponytail as she walking back into the kitchen. Sherlock was sucking on the back of his hand, but Toby was in his little carrier with a ziplock bag of food sitting on top. She smiled at the two of them, and grabbed the carrier and her satchel from beside the door.
Stooping to stuff his sweaty clothes into her bag – much to her displeasure – he grinned, "We shall."
K.K.: Well, here we go...my first attempt at mystery. But don't worry, we are still heavily focused on the relationship. The case is just going to help these two out a little. I'm trying to keep them both in character, which is rather difficult, seeing as how Sherlock especially can be so changeable. I'm purposely making Molly a little bolder. After all, being told that she's needed - by him - was probably a great confidence booster. As always, read and respond, I covet reviews. And bear with me, my usually colloquial American vocabulary is being stretched to the max trying to keep the dialog sounding British. ^_^