Dedication: This is for dear Kendrapendragon on her 30th birthday. I hope you have a wonderful, happy day!
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock or its characters, much to my distress.
The Resuscitation of Romance
"You haven't been on any dates in a long time, Molly," Sherlock Holmes murmured from the other side of the lab as he peered into a microscope's eyepiece.
It was the first time he'd spoken that day, and the sudden presence of his voice in the otherwise quiet room caught Molly Hooper by surprise.
"No, I haven't," she agreed, before admonishing herself for being so candid. She had no idea where his line of questioning might lead, but it couldn't be anywhere good. With a sigh, she imagined all of her free lunches, evenings, and weekends flitting into the breast pocket of his tailored suit.
He still didn't look her way, though he continued with his address. "Why not?"
Uncomfortable, she shrugged. "I haven't felt like it?" She hadn't meant to make her answer sound like a question and, predictably, she regretted it.
"Inflection of tone is important, Molly. Are you asking me to agree? I certainly can't explain your sudden impression of a mole."
Sighing, Molly stared at her computer screen, not entering any new data into her report. "I was trying to be brief, but I wasn't sure if you'd consider it an adequate response."
He weighed her words. "No, it's not adequate. Why haven't you felt like going on any dates? Don't you want romantic companionship?"
"I've decided that there's no such thing as romance," she said frankly. "Companionship would be nice, but dating certainly never lead to the right sort. Why bother if that won't change?"
The silence filled the lab again. Deciding that she'd succeeded in losing Sherlock's interest, she cleared her throat and began clattering away on the keyboard again. But then the feeling of eyes on her had Molly slowing her typing again and glancing up.
Sherlock was staring at her, looking disconcerted.
"What?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder, just in case an axe murderer had snuck up behind her without her noticing.
He shrugged. "That's just an awfully morose attitude for you. You're still young…ish,"—Molly rolled her eyes—"so why give up on romance now?"
"Need I remind you that two years ago you told me I should avoid any future relationships? Maybe I just took your advice to heart," she said archly.
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I didn't mean it quite like that."
"How did you mean it, then?"
Instead of giving her a haughty, defensive answer, or even ignoring her, Sherlock mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like, "Just realized I left my hair at Baker Street." He shot up from his stool, the legs scraping loudly on the floor, and hurried out of the lab without a backwards glance.
Perplexed, Molly watched his retreating back. When she couldn't come up with an explanation for what had just happened, she shrugged and turned back to her report.
Three mornings later, Molly set the bone saw on the steel tray next to Mrs. Luanne Petrie's slab. Carcinoma was clearly the cause of death, but the pathologist prided herself on her thorough work. This was perfunctory, but she would do it all the same.
Just as she was about to remove the top of the cranium, the morgue doors flew open and Sherlock strode in.
"Ah, Molly," he greeted cheerfully (or as cheerfully as Sherlock Holmes was capable), "just the person I wanted to see."
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Unless you're hiding a mask and gown in your coat, Sherlock, you need to leave. There's bone dust flying around."
Waving his hand graciously, Sherlock hung his Belstaff over a nearby chair before sauntering to the bay of sinks. On shelves above them, the staff stored boxes of gowns, masks, caps, and gloves. He helped himself to the requisite items before making his way over to stand opposite Molly.
Miraculously, he watched her without comment for the entirety of the post-mortem. The only sounds in the morgue were the rustles of her movements, the clinks of tools on the tray, and her murmured observations that she made into a microphone hanging over the slab.
The minute she finished repiecing Mrs. Petrie's ribcage and started sewing up the Y-incision, however, his eyes crinkled, clearly smiling in spite of the face mask. "This has been great. I hope we can do it again sometime."
And then he turned to the sterile bins, shucked his protective wear, gathered his coat, and left.
Molly stood there, needle and thread poised over the body, flummoxed.
"Any ideas?" she asked Mrs. Petrie. When the corpse offered nothing helpful, Molly sighed. "Didn't think so."
A week passed without any Sherlock sightings. Molly was unsure if she was glad for or disappointed by his absence. His odd behavior was disconcerting, to say the least.
It only got odder.
She trudged up the steps to her flat, wishing that the weather could be a bit more accommodating. It looked like London might actually get snow that week. She scolded herself for not bundling up more as she dumped several carrier bags of groceries onto her kitchen table.
Hopping up and down to warm herself, she moved over to the cupboard with an armful of soup tins and tried to hitch one up onto its designated spot, which she'd foolishly chosen without considering her own height deficiency.
A thin hand reached over her shoulder, grabbed the tin from her, and placed it on the shelf above her. Molly yelped and jerked her elbow back into the unseen assailant's midriff, earning a pained oomph for her troubles.
She whirled around, ready to lob some Vegetable Medley at the intruder, but drew up short just before she actually made the throw.
"Sh—Sherlock! What the hell are you doing?!"
He rubbed his belly and glared at her. "Probably dying from a hernia, thank you very much."
"But what are you doing, dying from a hernia in my flat?"
He crinkled his nose, already over the temporary injury. "It was too cold to wait outside," he answered, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"So you decided to flirt with a little breaking and entering?"
"Of course not," he said, rolling his eyes at her density.
Molly tried to puzzle it out. "My door was unlocked and open, then?"
"No, it was locked securely, worry not. I used the key that used to be on the spare ring that hangs by the door." Sherlock shot his cuffs, clearly pleased with his forward thinking nature.
Closing her eyes and counting to ten didn't help, so Molly returned to her supermarket purchases. She didn't want her Magnum bars to melt just because Sherlock was an idiot.
"And you've stopped by because…?" she tossed over her shoulder as she placed the ice cream in the freezer
"To see you, of course," he said, reopening the freezer and extracting the box she'd just stashed there. He pulled two bars from the box and set one next to where she stood and unwrapped the other. "Hand me a glass? I need water whenever I eat ice cream."
Without thinking, she nodded and reached into the cupboard. Just before her fingers closed around a tall glass, though, she paused and frowned. "Why am I doing anything for you after you admitted to stealing my house key and then using it without asking?"
"Because dehydration is not pleasant and can very well be dangerous, even in the London humidity." He had to speak around a bite of Magnum bar, so it came out somewhat muffled.
Molly managed to muffle her own, frustrated growl even as she filled a glass with (intentionally lukewarm) water from the tap and handed it to him. It wasn't that she was unused to Sherlock eating all of the food in her flat faster than she could bring it in; she'd merely thought they'd moved well past that now that he was firmly reestablished as a living man and back to his bird-like eating habits.
"Can I do something for you?" she asked pointedly, managing not to grimace as he finished his treat in two, large chomps.
He chased down the bar with several gulps of water before solicitously placing the glass in the sink basin. "I believe that should do it. Looking forward to next time," he said, leaning over and pecking her on the cheek. "You smell pleasantly of cinnamon and iodine," he added as he drew away.
And then he was sweeping out of the kitchen and out of her flat. She even heard the deadbolt tumble back into place.
Molly forgot about the rest of her groceries and opened the Magnum bar he'd set on the counter. She slumped into a chair at the table and rested her chin in her hand as she ate the ice cream. In four, large chomps.
The brain freeze that followed gave no clarity on the matter.
Sherlock continued to appear at strange intervals. Though he still did plenty of lab work and haunted the morgue, hoping for stray body parts, the volume of his visits increased. He would appear and just… linger for a bit before hurrying on with his busy, Sherlocky schedule. He never explained what he was doing, and Molly was too shy (and, alright, too nervous that it was some, weird experiment) to ask.
Three weeks after it all began, she awoke one morning to find several inches of new snow had fallen in the night. She groaned, not looking forward to her impending commute. After dragging herself through her morning routine and putting her warmest clothes, she bundled up, gathered her bag, and trudged down the stairs and out onto the snowy pavement. A landlord who cleared the walks was one of her fondest wishes on those rare occasions that snow found London.
It was only after the first few flakes hit her hand that she realized she'd left her mittens on the table by her front door. She eyed her building, weighing whether it would be worth the trek back up to her flat. It wasn't that cold.
She continued on her way.
It was a decision she deeply regretted it by the time she reached the hospital. Her hands were stiff with cold and very nearly numb. She briefly pondered helping herself to one of the hospital's forced air blankets from the surgical wing, but just as her body turned in the direction of the lifts, she shook herself out of it. It would probably be frowned on if someone were to come into the morgue to find the assistant dean of pathology spread out on an autopsy slab, using a Bair Hugger that she'd nicked from another department.
Coffee would have to do.
While the decrepit machine trickled the sludge that the hospital laughingly called 'coffee', she measured out a healthy dose of milk into her mug. Just as she grabbed a sugar packet and was about to upend it into the milk, she heard someone yelling her name.
Hurrying into the main lab, Molly shushed Sherlock. "There are patients on this floor," she hissed.
He shrugged, unrepentant. "They're probably all in comas."
Molly stared at him. "It's like you haven't used this lab on and off for the past six years. We share the floor with telemetry. These patients have heart conditions, not comas. You probably startled some of them into cardiac arrest with your yelling."
"Not a very good telemetry unit, then," he said, frowning in feigned pity. But then he brightened. "But maybe I'm scaring up more business for you!"
Her life was a bit difficult sometimes. "What do you need, Sherlock?"
Sherlock opened his mouth and inhaled, probably about to rattle off a list of chemicals or viscera, but he narrowed his eyes at her, instead. "What's wrong?"
"You're being a bit... you." Describing him was never her strong suit, even to herself when she tried to figure out why she was so damn attracted to him.
His hand waved aside her character assessment impatiently. "No, I mean physically. You're shaking."
She'd not even realized that was she was shivering until he drew attention to it. "I'm cold. I was waiting on the coffee maker when you came in." Turning, she headed back to the break room, trusting that he'd follow, for his own cup of coffee if no other reason.
She found the coffee still trickling into the carafe and sighed. She didn't notice Sherlock eyeing her until he came to a stop abruptly right in front of where she was standing.
He sighed, and reached forward, grabbing her hands and sandwiching them between his. He started rubbing them as he frowned sternly at her. "You never remember your gloves."
"It was too much effort to get them by the time I realized I'd left them behind."
"This shivering won't make for steady handling of a scalpel."
Molly smiled at his apparent concern, trying to ignore the fact that his hands still ran up and down hers, cupping them warmly. "I won't stab myself. The coffee will warm me up just fine. Would you like some, by the way?"
Sherlock shook his head. "No time for that, thank you. I'm only here to ask you to come by Baker Street this evening."
"Why?" she asked, curious.
"I have a few things I needed to discuss with you." His hands still held hers in his strange way that was at once clinical and somehow intimate.
"You can't discuss them here?"
Nose wrinkling with distaste, Sherlock shook his head. "I should think not."
Confused, Molly could only nod. "Alright then. I'll head that way as soon as my shift ends."
He smiled and rubbed his hands up and down her arms a few times before stepping back. "Good." He started to turn away, buttoning his coat as he did so, when he stopped and faced her once more. "Here. Frostbite would end your career." He thrust something into her hands and kissed her cheek.
She looked down and realized he'd given her his leather gloves. "But Sherlock, won't you need these?"
If he replied, Molly couldn't hear, because he'd already hurried away.
That evening, she knocked on his door after Mrs. Hudson let her into the building. She had no idea what to expect, but Sherlock greeting her with another peck and an offer to take her coat was certainly nowhere near the top of her list of those expectations.
He ushered her further in to the flat. A fire crackled merrily in the grate and the sitting room looked cozy even with Sherlock's chaos on every available surface and non-surface (he'd found more knives for the walls, apparently).
Not wanting to overstay her welcome, for who could tell with Sherlock Holmes, Molly asked him, "So what did you need to discuss with me?"
He rubbed his hands on his thighs, suddenly looking a little nervous. "Well…" and then he seemed change his mind. "Would you like some wine?"
Before she'd even really nodded, Sherlock hurried away, and Molly was left to stare at the fire, not quite at ease but still curious.
He came back and handed her a glass filled with a purple-hued drink. Molly lifted it to her lips and took a sip. And started coughing. Her eyes watered and she longed for something chase the wine down. Like battery acid.
"What is this?" she gasped.
Sherlock lifted his glass proudly and studied the heroic struggle for light to shine through the murky depths of his glass. "I accidentally allowed some pure glucose to ferment. I took the liberty of diluting it with grape juice to make it more traditionally wine-like. I figured, waste not."
"Wow," Molly tried to sound encouraging though she suspected she mostly sounded like her esophagus was being eaten away. "That's really… something."
He beamed at the compliment, but Molly couldn't help but notice that he didn't drink any of his, either.
"You needed to discuss something with me?" she prodded.
Suddenly solemn, Sherlock placed his glass on a nearby bookshelf and looked at her. "It's been three weeks since we had our discussion about your lack of romantic and sexual drive."
"Sexual drive? I never said—"
He continued on, ignoring her protests. "In that interim, I hope I've successfully convinced you that there is such a thing as romance."
"….What?" Molly had never experienced whiplash before, but surely this was it.
"Well," he frowned, looking philosophical (and Molly's rate of alarm increased exponentially with each furrow of his brow), "we've spent time together enjoying our mutual interests. Though, I'll warrant you might not necessarily count that, since you were, in fact, being paid to be there. But just know that I do not think that that makes you a prostitute, since I was not the one paying you. Besides, I've never really understood the whole 'girlfriend experience' side of that particular profession."
Molly took a huge gulp from her glass, deciding the burn wasn't that bad.
"But I've wined and dined you, as well, and I think you'll agree that such efforts fall under the purview of romantic interaction."
"Dined?" she asked weakly.
"Ice cream," he reminded her, looking hurt that she'd forgotten such a bonding moment.
Oh, yes. The ice cream. How silly of her.
"Would you agree?" he concluded.
Nodding her head vaguely, Molly noticed with some remorse that her corrosive wine was running out. "Sorry, would I agree with what?"
"That there is such a thing as romance," he said, a bit irritated.
"Oh, right, right!" Molly laughed (it came out a bit forced, but she didn't blame herself for it). "The thing is, Sherlock, I'm not really sure why it's so important to you that you convince me. In fact, this is a bit of an about-face for you. Why do you care whether or not I believe in romance?"
He frowned at her, this time looking a little upset by how obtuse she was. "Because I want you to be happy, of course."
She warmed to him a bit for that. "So all of these examples were to give me ideas of how I can find romance again?"
His distress amplified. "They weren't examples. They were romantic interludes. I want you to be happy, and I think I could make you so."
Breathing suddenly felt a little difficult for the good doctor. She looked at him, wanting very much to understand what was happening, but feeling further and further adrift. "You're sacrificing yourself to the cause of my happiness, then?"
Sherlock actually scoffed at that. "Of course not. I can be a hedonist about some things, you'll remember. I want to be happy, too. I think you'll manage that very exceptionally."
When Molly continued to stare at him, looking quite a lot like a person who'd backed into an ungrounded transformer, Sherlock rolled his eyes and stepped into her personal space. He took her glass from her limp fingers and tossed it over his shoulder. They both ignored the shattering crystal as he brought his hands up to cup her face.
He ducked his head, but only so he could peer at her face, tilting his head back and forth until Molly started to feel a bit like a specimen on his microscope's stage. Just as she was about to tell him that he'd forgotten to put any crystal violet on her (in an effort to stop her heart from fluttering in time to his breath coasting over the surfaces of her face), however, he closed the distance and placed an experimental kiss on her mouth.
Drawing back, he studied her reaction and murmured, "Yes, very exceptionally." And then he pressed his lips to hers in a far deeper kiss.
For the first time, Molly allowed her own hands to drift up. They came to rest ever so tentatively on his narrow waist. Her fingers pressed into his shirt, feeling his warmth and the muscles that flexed as he breathed and kissed and held her. He murmured in approval against her mouth, encouraging her to touch him more.
She wrapped her arms around him and pressed into him.
They drifted over to Sherlock's armchair and somehow managed to sink into it without breaking any contact. He held her draped across his lap as his hands smoothed up and down her back underneath her many layers of shirts. She wouldn't have bundled up so much if she'd known she'd get to warm up this way.
When they finally drew back, needing a bit of breathing space, they watched each other quietly, but then their lips quirked into small smiles at the same time.
Just as she leaned in to kiss him again, Sherlock's stomach rumbled loudly and Molly laughed lightly. "If that's how you feel about the matter…." She moved to climb out of his hold, but he tightened his arms around her. She laughed again, wriggling in his lap a little and making his arms convulse around her. "What would you like? Marmite and toast? Tripe?"
"Nothing," he said, petulantly, even as his mouth tried to find hers again.
She drew back, grinning. "No, I'm hungry now. You're just trying to distract me because it's your turn to buy."
"My turn? I fed you ice cream!" he said, offended.
"Which I bought. Nice try, Holmes."
He didn't release her and he scowled stormily. "Couldn't we just eat later? I'll make you forget that it's been nine hours since your morning bagel."
"That long, eh? That's rather confident of you. I don't forget about food easily," she goaded.
His eyes narrowed at the challenge. "Allow me to demonstrate."
And so he did. Very exceptionally.