Molly awoke the following morning, in roughly the same position she had fallen asleep in. She still had her cheek nestled against Sherlock's shoulder, with his arm beneath her neck. She was lying next to him, with one leg thrown over his; and her arm across his stomach. He was on his back instead of his side, sprawled rather widely across the bed. No doubt, he had gotten too hot during the night, with his body pressed against hers, as it had been. He was still asleep, breathing softly and steadily. She took a moment to enjoy gazing on his face. He looked so different when he slept. His face dropped all the worries and cares that it normally held during his waking moments. His color had returned completely during the night, and the circles beneath his eyes had faded. His mouth looked fuller now, since he had been pumped full of fluids yesterday. She focused on his lips, remembering the way they had felt on hers last night. His kiss had been so tender and explorative – much the way she imagined it would have been.
"It's rude to stare, you know," those beautiful lips suddenly spoke, startling her.
She took a moment to regain her composure, "Luckily, neither of us is encumbered by the desire to avoid rudeness."
He smiled, cracking an eye open to look at her appreciatively, "No, I suppose we are not."
"Good morning," she greeted him warmly, rubbing her cheek on his shoulder.
"It certainly is," he replied, rolling back on his side and wrapping his other arm around her.
Molly had thought it might be awkward, waking up together for the first time. Of course, nothing had happened last night to add to that sentiment, it had all ended quite innocently with the pair of them falling asleep, fully clothed. Somehow, the moment felt natural and right – as though it was the thousandth morning they awoke in bed together, instead of the first. Sherlock looked – satisfied. Not a smug, self-satisfied, sort of look; but rather, he seemed content, happy even. A small smile was tugging at the corner of his mouth, but it was his eyes that gave him away. When she looked into those eyes, past the mismatched swirls of blue and green and gold, she saw a light in them that had not been there before. It all seemed terribly cliché, but it was there, none-the-less. Was this what Sherlock Holmes looked like when he was in love?
She found herself rather breathless in that moment. She was enjoying herself, and strongly fighting the urge to kiss him. She licked her lips in anticipation; then dismissed the idea when she tasted herself. She had not brushed her teeth before falling asleep with him almost twelve hours ago. Her breath was rancid, and she imagined his wasn't much better. What she wouldn't give for a Mentos right then. Luckily, she was saved by the extremely loud and urgent protest of Sherlock's empty stomach.
She pulled back away from him slightly, looking down at his belly, "I think we better feed you before we consider any other activities this morning."
"And what other activities did you have in mind?" he asked, his voice huskier than normal.
She blushed as she disentangled her legs from his, "I wasn't thinking of anything in particular."
His sly smirk implied his disbelief, as he watched her get up and straighten her crumpled clothes.
"You just stay there; I'll be back in two shakes."
He rolled lazily onto his back, "One, two."
"Would you like anything special?" she asked, ignoring his counting.
"Right. Okay, I'll see what we've got."
She hurried out of the room and into the kitchen, taking a moment to set out Toby's dietary requirements. She poked through the cupboards, dismayed at the complete lack of proper breakfast food. Actually, it was more of a complete lack of any kind of food. She didn't know why she was surprised; it had been like this for the last three days. Mrs. Hudson clearly hadn't gone grocery shopping for them, and she suspected it was normally John who did this task anyway. Remembering that Sherlock hadn't eaten anything to speak of in days, she decided to forgo a proper meal and just grab whatever was fastest. She decided on two packages of ramen noodles, and quickly threw them in a glass bowl, added water, and put them in the microwave. It was a ridiculous meal to have on such a day, for it was still quite hot, and the noodles weren't all that nutritious. Still, perhaps something lighter would do well on a starved stomach. She found an unopened sleeve of crackers, and added to it a jar of strawberry jam from the fridge. She placed these on a biscuit sheet that had been serving as a chemistry utensil tray – after washing it, of course. The microwave chimed that it was finished, and she poured the soup into two smaller bowls.
Tray in hand, she went back into the bedroom, kicking the door shut behind her. Sherlock stood in the bathroom with a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. His hair was wet, and he had changed into his pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.
"Did you just shower?" she asked incredulously; she had not even heard the water turn on.
"That was fast," she commented, setting the tray down on his nightstand.
"I needed it; I rather stank," he replied, finishing his dental hygiene and returning to the bed.
"Hmm, I probably ought to freshen up myself," she considered.
"Be quick about it then, wouldn't want your soup to get cold," he said, somehow making the comment sound suggestive.
Ignoring his tone, she searched for the t-shirt and shorts she had been sleeping in that weekend, and found them folded atop his dresser. Odd, she hadn't remembered putting those there. She popped into the bathroom, taking care to strip in the shower, lest he be watching through the frosted glass door. She washed quickly, dried and dressed behind the curtain, and brushed her teeth. She emerged with towel dried hair and took her spot next to him. He handed her the second bowl of soup, which now had crumbled crackers floating on the top. His was already quite finished. She took the bowl and settled down with her back against the headboard, her knees drawn up to balance the soup on.
"I'm sorry I couldn't find anything more suitable than this," she apologized. "Do you want anything else?"
"No, this is fine for now. John does the groceries, so I'm afraid the pantry suffers when he's away."
"I thought as much. Speaking of John – shouldn't he be here right now?" she asked, the thought suddenly occurring to her that he could be sleeping upstairs at this moment.
"He spent the night at Mary's last night. Apparently, four days away from her and he's quite beside himself."
"He's serious about her, then?"
"When is he not serious about them?"
"When they make him choose between you and them," Molly pointed out.
"Mary does seem to…appreciate John's relationship with me," Sherlock conceded.
"Good; because it's going to take a woman who can get along with you, to be John's steady. You could, of course, help him out with that by being a little less…"
"Forthcoming with your opinions."
"I suppose," he sighed. "I'm a creature of habit, Molly. I don't particularly like change."
"Sherlock, John can't be your flat mate forever. You are grown men now, and eventually the two of you will have to settle down."
He raised an eyebrow at her, "Is that what we are doing here? Are you domesticating me?"
Molly grabbed a cracker and munched it thoughtfully, "No one will ever truly tame you, and I, for one, would never want to. However, you yourself said that you missed living with me. And that was as domestic an environment as you've been in; in quite some time, I imagine. There is a degree of normalcy that even you crave, though you will always want the freedom to dive back into the thrill of the case."
"Nice play on words there."
"What makes you think I'd be satisfied to remain in a home setting?"
"Because you've already created one for yourself here – with John. But John is a man in want of a wife, and eventually a family. You cannot provide him with that. That doesn't mean that he cares about you any less, or that he doesn't want to work with you. You're his friend and he loves you."
"He's moving ahead with his life," Sherlock admitted. "I'm glad that he found her when I was gone. Somehow, I think that's why they are doing so well. They forged a stronger bond because I was not there at the beginning to spoil it."
Molly took a deep breath, and set down her empty bowl of soup, "So, I suppose the next question is – what about us?"
"What about us? Are you wishing to define our relationship? I think I've made it clear – for me – how I feel."
She laughed, "Yes, I know how you feel. And you've known how I've felt for a long time. What I want to know is how we are going to approach this with our friends."
"Well Lestrade has already guessed, no thanks to that sponge bath comment you made yesterday."
"Yes, but he already suspected long before that. What do we tell John?"
"I don't think this is something that we can keep from him."
"Good; because frankly, I never want to have to lie to that man again."
"He forgave you for all that," Sherlock said, scooting down a bit to lounge in the pillows piled next to her.
"I know, but still. If you and I are to be…you know…I want to be up front with him."
The sound of the door to the flat opening, caused both of them to grow quiet. Shuffled footsteps, and a case being set on the floor, confirmed the identity of their visitor.
"Hmm. Sounds as if our opportunity to be forthcoming just walked in," Sherlock whispered, making himself even more comfortable on the bed.
Molly was suddenly not at all prepared for this conversation, and glanced around furtively, to make sure she looked presentable and not like she had just spent a night of passion with Sherlock – which she had not.
There were some noises in the kitchen, which sounded as though John was making himself a cuppa. These were followed by a crash and the startled cry of a cat.
"What the hell!—"
"Sherlock! What did I tell you about the live animals?!"
Footsteps were stomping in the direction of the bedroom now. Molly braced herself for utter embarrassment.
"We agreed – no more experiments with cats—"
The door flung open and a red faced John stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth was open, but no sound was coming out as he took in the scene before him. Molly gave him what she hoped was not a sheepish grin, before glancing at Sherlock – who was now wearing a decidedly self-satisfied smile.
"It's Toby," Molly offered. "He's my cat."
"Right, of course he is," John said, finally finding his voice. "Well, very good then – I'll uh – I'll just leave you to it."
"Oh don't be a bore – obviously nothing happened," Sherlock piped up.
"What? Uh – is that obvious? Not that I care, mind you – if it did. So if not…that – then what?"
"Molly was helping me with a case while you were gone – did I not text you that information?"
"You did. But you failed to mention she was staying here."
"The air conditioner broke at my flat," Molly chimed in. "Sherlock was kind enough to let me sleep here. And you know him – he didn't sleep a wink until it was solved, so I stayed in his room instead of on the couch."
"Oh, right. So I take it, it's solved – since you both seem…relaxed."
"Yes, solved it last afternoon," Sherlock confirmed.
"We were both exhausted, so I ended up staying another night. Sherlock fell asleep straight away, and this is the first meal he's eaten in a while. He had a slight case of hyperthermia, so I wanted to make sure he took care of himself this morning."
"Hyperthermia?" John asked, sounding concerned. "Because you were dehydrated?" he guessed.
"Yes, but all that's done now," Sherlock said, anxious to avoid that topic.
"I see. So you spent the night, made sure he got a good meal, obviously just freshened up – and that's it?"
He didn't sound quite convinced, though there was no note of accusation in his voice.
"Well…not quite," Molly admitted, turning to Sherlock.
"What?" the detective asked, suddenly looking quite innocent.
"You said you wanted to be honest."
"No, you said you never wanted to lie to him again. I said we probably couldn't hide it."
"Look, it's okay. If something happened, you are not obligated to tell me anything," John said. "It's not my business and I have no opinion either way."
"Sherlock and I are together now," Molly blurted out.
"Oh, thank God," John replied, just as quickly.
Sherlock shot him a surprised look.
"What?" Molly asked.
"Sorry. It's just that – well, with Mary and I getting on so well, I felt like I was abandoning you a lot," he said, picking his words carefully.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at him, not quite sure what to say to that. Molly rescued him from having to put words to his feelings.
"So, you approve?" she asked.
"Oh yes. I always thought that if was going to be anybody – that it should be you," he smiled at her sweetly.
Molly got off the bed and crossed over to him, giving him a quick hug, "Thank you John; that means a lot."
"So, does this mean we can go on a double dates now?" he asked, mischievously.
Molly glanced back at Sherlock, who seemed to have suddenly lost all his color again.
"Maybe one step at a time," she said, sharing a knowing look with John.
He laughed, "Maybe you're right. Well, I think I'm going to head back to Mary's."
"You just came from there, didn't you?" Sherlock asked.
"Yeah, but that was when I figured you'd be either elbow deep in the case, or worse – bored because you finished it. I came back early to rescue Mrs. Hudson."
"How noble," Sherlock quipped.
"Well, since I see you're far from bored, I think I'll go make a day of it with Mary. Do you mind?"
"Not in the least," Sherlock said, casting a sidelong glance at Molly. "In fact, why don't you make a night of it as well?"
Molly blushed under his stare – he looked for the life of him like a starving, feral wolf. The intent wasn't lost on John, who looked embarrassed and pleased at the same time.
"I don't mind if I do. Alright, well, carry on. Good to see you, Molly."
"You too, John. Are you sure you don't want any breakfast?"
"I'm fairly certain, he's had it already," Sherlock interjected. "I dare say he's going back for seconds."
John colored, and tried to turn the topic, "You know me, I'm like a hobbit - second breakfast, tea, elevensies – all important meals of the day."
"Good grief John, you'll become impotent at that rate," Sherlock.
"Okay, I'm leaving," John said, abruptly turning on his heal and fleeing for the door. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Goodbye, John," Molly called after him, before turning to Sherlock, "Well, that was mean. You didn't have to embarrass him like that."
"Why, it was the fastest way to get him to leave," he countered.
"I thought you didn't want things to change."
"As John pointed out, I'm not bored now, am I?"
"No, I imagine you're not. Still, you didn't have to run him off like that," she said, sitting on the bed next to him and placing the empty food tray on the stand.
"Oh but I did. You see, watching you hug him got me a little…stirred up."
"What?" she asked; completely confused. "Surely, you're not jealous of that."
"No, not at all. Well, not jealous of your affection for him – I'm glad of that. But I decided that I would much rather be the man you wrap your arms around, and I was impatient to get back to that."
"Oh, I see," she replied, scooting down next to him and brazenly tracing circles on his chest with her index finger. "So, am to understand, Mr. Holmes, that you are feeling an attraction to me right now?"
"If by that you mean - am I as libidinous as a dandy? - then yes."
"I think that's supposed to be 'horny as a dandy', but I take your meaning," she giggled.
"Good, now shut up and kiss me."
"How about I not shut up and you kiss me silly– I seem to recall that being very effective yesterday."
"Oh, so you did enjoy that?"
"You know very well that I did."
"And what part of it did you enjoy the most, pray tell?"
"Well, I did rather like that bit with your hand in my hair, pulling my head back – but I suppose you need not make me look up at you to have better access to my lips, when we're lying next to each other like this."
"No, but I could pull your head back to have better access to other things," he offered, grabbing a fistful of her damp hair and drawing her head back by it.
He gave her exposed throat a rather harsh bite, and was delightfully rewarded with a little gasp.
Molly had thought that Sherlock would be a meticulous lover, as his kiss last night had been. In many ways, he was – for he did not skip over anything in his wake – but the passion that he poured into it was surprising to her. She supposed that it should not have shocked her, as Sherlock was nothing if not passionate. His obsessive, manic personality, carried over into his love life, it seemed. She was not displeased. He had a way of drawing her into his world, daring her to be brave and adventurous with him. He stirred something up inside of her - something new and untamed.
Sherlock had never been wont to handle her gently, and he certainly did not start that morning. Even so, he had a way of making her feel as though she was the only woman in the world. He explored this new aspect of their relationship with a childlike curiosity, but once he found something she enjoyed, took great pains to get it exactly right. He was awkward at first, but a quick study. He put his powers of observation to good use, working off of her reactions almost before she had made them.
Every careless word he had ever spoken to her; every moment of embarrassment he had deliberately caused her; was forgotten. Any doubts Molly had ever had about the sincerity or depth of his feelings, dissolved. He caressed away any feelings of insecurity, with a steady, determined hand. She had often wondered if perhaps the reason that he never pursued a relationship was because he had never found anyone worthy of it. But, if Sherlock was king in his own right, he was intent on making her his queen.
Sherlock had once told her that she could see him. She realized that all she had perceived about his heart, before, was merely the first layer she had managed to pull back. She had caught glimpses of the man he was underneath. That confident – often arrogant – shell he built around himself – all that was merely armor. The real Sherlock was uncertain, but determined to learn. He was tender, and yet fiercely possessive. He was passionate, but careful and deliberate in all he did.
Later that day, Molly caught him looking at her strangely.
"What?" she asked, returning his intense stare.
He leaned forward and kissed her softly on the lips, "Thank you, Molly Hooper."
She leaned her forehead against his, "For what?"
"For not giving up on me. For believing in me. For loving me."
She smiled and kissed his nose, "I do. I love you so much."
He tilted his head to the side, his mouth grazing her ear. In a deep voice, as smooth as honey, he whispered back, "I love you too."
That was the first time he had ever really said it. He had almost, but not quite, said it last night. But now he had, for real. Molly's heart skipped a beat as she leaned against him. She felt as though she would burst with happiness. This was the first time he'd said it, but it would not be the last. She was the girl who got to hear those words from him. She was the woman that Sherlock Holmes called his. Her patience and steadfast friendship had finally awarded her with her heart's desire. What a strange and beautiful thing it was – this love shared between a man and woman.
K.K.: Okay, my intention had been to make this a short, funny chapter. It ended up being really fluffy in the end, but what the heck? Hope you all enjoyed it. I realize that Sherlock has a very hard time expressing his feelings, but in light of the fact that this is taking place many months after the events of the Reichenbach Fall, I thought I could have some leeway with that. He has grown a lot since then. And though he still has issues with his emotions, he is making a conscious effort to overcome them. And when Sherlock is determined to do something the right way - he will eventually succeed. Consider the end of this chapter to be the fruit of his success.
Once again, thank you all for your wonderful reviews and for the support you've given me while I've written this. I appreciate it so much! Love to all!