A little something I've been working on. It's pretty syrupy despite the serious beginning, I promise. Speaking of, this is the part where I warn about the description of a medical procedure that may hit home for some people. Feel free to PM me for any reason at all.
But really, there's more fluff than angst in this one!
All the kudos in the world to MizJoely for the beta work on this! ALL the kudos!
Awakening the Senses
Molly shivered as the air chilled from the hyperactive AC system hit the bare skin on her chest and arms. Not that the mint green gown that had been wrapped around her moments before had provided much warmth. She still wanted to pull it back over her exposed chest. Modesty wasn't an issue for her, never had been. Especially not when it came to physical exams. Even if she had been embarrassed, the slightly darkened room would have provided enough comfort as she lay on the exam table, eyes nervously flitting between black and white monitors.
"Roll to your left, please."
The female technician was doing a remarkable job of putting forth a calming tone and attitude. She had given Molly such a look of sympathy as she went over the procedure with her that Molly had shrunk down further into the already oversized standard issue gown, wringing her hands at the brief flash of pity on the woman's face as she realized her age. Thirty-four. She knew exactly what the tech was thinking. Awfully young.
A long, firm foam pillow was placed beneath Molly's back and she was gently maneuvered to settle against it, placing her at a propped angle.
"Raise your right arm over your head… perfect, just like that."
Just the same as she had done earlier in the day during her routine exam with her primary physician. Just the same as she had done with the ultra-sound tech a mere two hours before. Both events met with quiet, focused looks and furrowed brows. Looks of concern that led her to her current position.
A soft plastic sheet was unfurled and placed over her chest, a square cut strategically to allow for access. The doctor she had met only minutes before rolled to her side on a stool, nodding for the assistant to begin. He was nice. Lovely smile and kind demeanor. Molly tried to focus on that.
"This may be a bit cold."
A swab of antiseptic was dashed across her skin.
"Bit of a pinch, should be over quickly."
She felt the sting of the needle in her flesh, the anesthetic instantly numbing. The anticipation of what would come next made the first injection seem incredibly mild. She tried not to move as she sucked in a breath, her teeth gritting against the feel of the second needle pushing into her breast, working against the firm tissue before another dose of anesthetic was released.
She looked away from the monitor showing the internal path of the biopsy needle before the real procedure began. Her time in med school had exposed her well enough to understand exactly what was happening. She did not need to see it.
Turning her head away from the doctor and technician, she felt a tear slip down her cheek and drop on the sterile papery blanket on the exam table and hated herself for it. Crying in front of total strangers had not been her plan for the day.
They told her they would call within a week with the results.
Half an hour later, Molly tugged her lab coat on, feeling somehow too weak for the effort. Her breast ached even with the anti-inflammatory and small ice pack they had given her. Deciding that catching up on paperwork would be the wisest activity for the rest of her day, she scrubbed her hands over her face, her makeup long gone, and made her way to the lab.
"Why are you late?"
His resounding voice hit her ears before the door had even swung shut. Normally, the sound gave her palpitations, annoying her and thrilling her all at once. Today, she wanted to shove a beaker in his mouth.
Winding her hair into a ponytail, Molly walked across the room to the files, pointedly ignoring his stare.
"I had an appointment," she told him.
"For four hours?" he replied sarcastically.
Her hands slid under a pile of paperwork and she lifted them, wincing when even the slight load caused a pinch in her chest and under her arm. It would be too much to ask for that the pain had gone unnoticed by Sherlock. Schooling her expression, she started walking back toward the door, her eyes flitting up to meet his briefly. He was staring at her with a look of deep interest, taking in every inch of her. He saw it, she was certain. Her hands tightened on the papers, waiting for him to throw his deductions at her.
"When you're done with the paperwork," he said, eyes lowering to the microscope, "I need you to show me a body."
She held it together all the way to the loo. He hadn't been mean. On the contrary, his voice had been nearly entreating. It shattered the resolve she had left. He'd seen the pain she'd been in and hadn't said a bloody word and then he'd been nice.
It wasn't a completely foreign attitude for him to take with her since his resurrection nearly a year prior. After stashing him at her flat for a total of a day and the odd text or message delivered by his homeless network while he was dismantling Moriarty's network, they had developed something of a friendship. Over time, the absurdly romantic response she had to his very presence had even waned to a manageable state, though the torch would always smolder for him. She turned into one of the few people who could deal with him and still genuinely like him and he seemed to like her better for it. He was nice to her.
But this was an entirely different kind of nice. The kind that said he was perfectly aware of her fragile state and would therefore take care with her. But he wouldn't come too close, because he was Sherlock Holmes and he didn't do comfort.
She could have done with a bit of that on this day.
Shutting the door of the farthest stall in the bathroom, Molly pulled the pile of papers tightly to her chest and let out a quiet sob, no longer holding back the tears.
The smell of jet fuel and hot pavement filled Molly's nostrils as she made her way down the boarding ramp at Heathrow. She shifted her shoulder bag as she waited for the families traveling with infants to tag and check their prams at the entrance to the plane, the mild roar of the engines filling the space. Squeezing past the dawdlers, she greeted the flight attendants and checked her ticket again to verify her seat.
A growing sense of anticipation, both frightening and thrilling, started to fill her. It would have been easy to say she was engaging in escapist behavior. Four agonizing days after her test, Molly had spent a personal day at home, staring at the airline website and losing her nerve multiple times. The confirmation button taunted her as she walked through her flat, finishing the laundry she had put off for over a week, making lunch, and looking half-heartedly at a fashion magazine. Halfway through dinner and a bottle of Chianti, she felt a sudden surge of bravery and clicked confirm. The very next day the results came back inconclusive, prompting a second round of tests to wait for.
She wanted to be away from everything, just for a little while. A few days without corpses and the smell of formaldehyde and certain people from Scotland Yard asking for favors and forcing her into overtime. Time to think and be alone.
Mike Stamford had not asked questions when she told him she was using her long unused personal days, starting immediately, but he had given her a slight look of concern.
One day later, she found herself edging down the aisle of the airplane, somewhat giddy as she approached her seat.
Her heart started to pound a little harder when her eyes slid from the seat numbers running along the overhead bins to a mop of black curls below belonging to her seatmate.
"No," she muttered under her breath. "No, no, no, no…"
"Haven't flown economy in many years," Sherlock drawled, flipping through the air catalogue with some loathing. "This should prove to be interesting."
"You are not on this flight," Molly said hotly, shaking her head.
"Seeing as I am sitting here, I would argue otherwise."
"No," she exclaimed. "Y-you are not… I don't want you here!"
"Is there a problem, ma'am?"
For the briefest moment before the flight attendant interrupted, Molly thought she saw a flash of hurt in his eyes. An instant later, it was gone and she was forced to think she had imagined it. She glared down at him.
"No, nothing, everything's fine," she said stiffly as she pushed her bag into the bin and took her seat.
Sherlock waited until the flight attendant seemed content with the situation and had turned away before leaning over and muttering next to her ear.
"Really, Molly, making a scene on a plane."
"Why are you here?" she hissed at him, yanking her e-reader and iPod from her purse before shoving it under the seat in front of her.
"You weren't in the lab."
Molly turned slowly to him, her incredulity blatant in her face.
"You were supposed to be in the lab the last two days and you weren't."
"You… followed me onto a flight because I wasn't at work?" she scoffed, her fingers working irritably at the wire of her earbuds. "How did you even know I was on this flight – how did you even get this seat?"
"Have you met my brother?" he questioned dryly, flipping another page in the magazine.
"Why not just go to my flat? Email me? I dunno, text? All very simple solutions, Sherlock."
"Your flat is not conveniently located, my computer caught a bug and John hasn't been around to fix it, and you got into a bad habit of not answering texts when you suspected I needed you for less than authorized reasons at the lab – does that satisfy you?"
Biting the insides of her cheeks to temper her bubbling anger, she locked her eyes on her e-reader and pushed the start-up button.
"Well the second we land Mycroft can find you a ticket on the return flight," she muttered.
"That reminds me," he said calmly. "Where are we going?"
Molly thought she surely must be dreaming. There was no possible way she could suffer so much shock in just a matter of minutes.
"Let me get this straight," she ground out, pressing two fingers to the burgeoning ache in her temple. "You actually boarded a flight without the faintest idea of where it was going just so that you could nag me about not being at your beck and call?"
Sherlock looked at her as though it were the most logical explanation in the world, shrugging his shoulders slightly.
"You have lost your mind. Sodding bananas, that's what you are," Molly said, shaking her head.
"You didn't answer my question. I would like to know where I'm about to spend my time."
"Hawai'i," she told him with a purse of her lips. "We're going to Hawai'i."
By the time the plane was nearing the other side of the Atlantic, Molly thought she might risk being placed under mid-flight custody just to get away from Sherlock. She realized that in the time she had known him, she'd never spent more than a half hour with him without the distraction of an experiment or lab tests or faking his death. Without those distractions, he was starting to test her reasons for mooning over him in the first place. She'd already turned red as a tomato several times when other travelers overheard his not so discreet deductions about them. All she could do was cast apologetic glances when it became apparent they were aware he was talking about them. The worst had been the amount of adulterers he decided to point out.
"In fact, the two in front of us have only just met on this flight and, although he was flying to Los Angeles to meet his mistress, he's now contemplating abandoning her for this woman."
"You do know people can bloody hear you, yeah?"
Molly finally reached into her purse to grab the guidebook she had purchased and read thoroughly, highlighting and making notes throughout, and shoved it at him. The stare he gave her amounted to the look of a child being dismissed.
"I'm going to read and listen to music until I fall asleep," she said evenly. "You can entertain yourself."
Before he could utter a word, she popped her earbuds in and started the first chapter of her book. When she reached the end of the page and realized she had barely absorbed any of the words, her eyes skimmed back and she tried again. She made it to the third page before her mind began to wander and, as usual, settled on the topic of the man sitting next to her. Specifically, her mind replayed the words they had exchanged only a few short hours ago. Panic began to set in as she recalled that he hadn't replied in the affirmative to her suggestion that he book a return ticket as soon as they reached the States. No, in fact, he had actually seemed to imply that he was going with her… on the whole trip.
She started to wonder what exactly would happen if he didn't agree to return to England. What if he flat out refused? She couldn't force him…but she could not see spending five days on a tropical island with him either.
For one thing, what the hell would he wear?
She bit her lip at the thought of Sherlock in khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, sitting on the beach drinking a Mai Tai. Her rebellious mind added the details of flip-flops and a lei and before she could hold it back she giggled. Not wanting to seem deranged, she struggled to keep her laughter under control, nearly shaking with the effort.
She felt the earbud closest to him being removed and with a great amount of effort she looked over at him without bursting into laughter.
"Why are you laughing?" he demanded, narrowing his eyes.
"Amusing book," she managed to deadpan, pulling the earbud from his fingers and resuming her previous activity.
He left her alone long enough for the music and the hum of the plane engines to lull her to sleep, her e-reader falling to her lap. The next thing she knew, she was being woken by a hand shaking her arm. She blinked blearily and tried to quickly snap to attention through the fog of her sleep. She could feel the smoothness of rich fabric beneath her cheek and she suddenly realized she had managed to fall asleep on Sherlock's shoulder. With a jump in her pulse and a flash of heat in her neck, she sat bolt upright and wiped at her face.
"Sorry," she muttered. It was amazing he had even let her sleep like that. He hated personal contact and avoided it if it could be helped at all.
"Don't apologize, you obviously needed it."
Molly looked around and gathered that they must have landed as people were slowly gathering their items, shifting around and waiting for the plane to taxi to the gate.
"Only an hour layover," Sherlock said with some disappointment. "Shame. I've never been to Los Angeles. Would've been a thrill to see what existed on a single street corner."
When they deplaned, Molly felt her stomach growl and she immediately began scanning the airport for signs of food. Asking Sherlock if he would be joining her, she was unsurprised when he declined. His reason, however, left her with her mouth hanging open.
"I should probably purchase some clothes to wear over the next few days."
"You didn't bring anything with you?" she asked, wondering how much more stunned she could sound in just one day.
"No-o," he said slowly, his brow lowering a bit as it must have dawned on him that neglecting to bring a thing with him was a mistake.
With hardly a second look at her, Sherlock turned and disappeared into the crowd. Throwing her hands up in a gesture of surrender to the universe, Molly turned and headed in the other direction, seeking out a coffee and a nice chicken sandwich.
The second leg of the flight proved to be much less frustrating than the first. She easily finished her book and no longer felt the need to block out the world with her iPod. Sherlock worked back and forth between her guidebook and a publication on rabies he had managed to find in the airport bookstore and occasionally interrupted her reading to discuss a particular aspect of the guidebook
Molly was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was fairly knowledgeable about Polynesian culture. Or rather, parts of the culture that the average tourist would not really care about, but fascinated her because Sherlock found it worthwhile to share: nautical navigation (the only time the stars proved useful, so he said), war tactics, the impact of colonialism, amongst other tidbits.
By the time they landed, boarded the small commuter plane to Kauai, and deplaned for the final time, she felt disoriented and slightly loopy from chasing the sun halfway across the globe. It was two hours past sunset, yet the heat hit them full force as they made their way to the baggage claim area. Molly ditched her jumper and Sherlock folded his blazer over his arm while they waited. The plan had been to pick up her rental car at the airport and drive straight to the cottage she had rented. When Sherlock failed to fulfill her request that he about face back onto the airplane, she admitted to herself that she was somewhat glad. He took the keys, their bags, and punched the address into the GPS, allowing her to doze off and on while he drove in the darkness.
The road took them along the shore and Molly stared sleepily out at the water illuminated by the moon, casting the figures of palms and banana trees into silhouettes along the roadside. She couldn't wait to see what it looked like in daylight. Maybe by then her mind would have calmed down and a dose of sense would have made its way into Sherlock's brain and she would be able to salvage what she had intended to be a very personal holiday.
When she glanced over at him, his eyes flicked quickly away from her and back to the road, his chin tilting down at having been caught watching her. He was probably trying to figure out why she had up and left him to run his own tests in the lab. She rolled her eyes and returned her gaze to the dark outlines passing along the roadside.
It wasn't long before they pulled into the drive of her rental, one of a dozen or so cottages dotting the shoreline in the area. Packed shells crunched underfoot as they made their way to the door and Molly brushed her hair out of her face as the wind picked up strands, blowing them across her cheek and mouth. She flipped on the light as they stepped through the door and instantly wanted to cry for happiness.
The first floor was one cozy, open space. Two plush, red sofas angled towards a huge sliding glass door on one side, looking out towards the sea. There were shelves of books and games, and island artwork dotted end tables and the walls. A tiny, but beautiful, kitchen framed the other side with a round table and chairs filling in the middle. In the corner, a winding wooden staircase descended into the kitchen from above and Molly could hardly wait to see what the loft bedroom looked like.
Mostly because she was completely knackered.
The thunk of a bag hitting the floor reminded her that she was not entirely free to escape just yet.
"Consider yourself lucky," she muttered.
"Why is that?"
"If I remember correctly, one of these sofas is a hide-a-way bed. I am too tired to help you figure out which one," she told him as she trudged towards the stairs. She pointed towards a door off the kitchen as she did so. "And there's a half bath in there. I think. Either that or a cupboard."
She got no response as she started up the stairs and took that as a good sign.
The loft space was barely large enough to hold the bed and nightstands, but it was still the most inviting sight she had seen in over twenty hours. A half wall gave her a semblance of privacy from the space below, but she still retreated to the bathroom to change into her night clothes. She lazily brushed her teeth and splashed water on her face before walking back into the bedroom. For the first time, she noticed the slatted windows covering the majority of the walls. Definitely different from anything she was used to in London. She flipped open the ones facing the water and breathed in the sweet breeze before backing up and collapsing on the cotton duvet, wriggling a bit to snuggle under it and falling into a deep sleep.