I want to thank everyone for the wonderful feedback and interest in this story. Every review and follow is very much appreciated.
And, as always, a huge thank you to the incomparable MizJoely for the beta eyes! You rock my socks!
"Molly Hooper, I do not understand you," Sherlock said wearily. "And really, out of the two of us, you should be easier to navigate when it comes to sentiment."
His words vibrated in his chest and against her back, forcing her to feel his earnestness.
"S'your fault," she told him. "You're confusing the hell out of me."
"What would you like clarification on?"
Taking a breath, Molly stepped away and turned to face him.
"If you weren't trying to insult me, then why say all those things? At my job…at Christmas…"
Sherlock's lip curled back in discomfort, looking as though he would rather pull out his own tooth than admit to whatever feelings he had inside of him. She forced herself to remain immune to his reluctance, wanting him for once to stop pretending that there was no reason behind his behavior.
"It bothered me to think that you would act so ridiculous for someone," he said in a rush. "You never need to do all that to gain someone's attention, Molly…least of all mine."
"I – I don't understand."
"I didn't know it was…I was certain you had moved on," he said with a bit of hesitation.
"I rather thought that would make you happy," she said in confusion. "And how is that an excuse for what you said?"
He groaned and dragged his hands through his hair, shifting on the balls of his feet.
"It's not," he snapped. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't exactly have the same filter that seems to burden most of the people roaming this planet. I don't have a problem pointing out the obvious, and what I saw that night at the Christmas party was you feeling like you needed to be something you weren't in order to impress some idiot. Any man that brought that out in you was obviously shallow and not worth your time, but what I clearly failed to observe was that the idiot was me. As it's been pointed out to me that I have the temperament of a child, I'm afraid the behavior cannot be excused beyond that and there's no way to spin it as anything other than immature hair pulling, but the fact is, Molly, you've been under my skin for quite some time now."
Molly openly gaped at him.
"Wha…a-and you thought this would be a good time to get me out of your system, then?" she asked.
"I wouldn't be able to get you out of my system even if I wanted to, which I don't," he said, his voice rising a bit as he stepped towards her. He raised his hands up and closed his eyes, bringing his countenance back to something softer. Meeting her eyes, he took another step closer. "If you find out tomorrow that you have a fight ahead of you, I will be with you. And if you find out that life goes on as normal… I will still be with you. The outcome of that phone call does not alter my intentions. You are not a one-off, Molly, and this is not pity. Do you understand?"
Molly struggled to set her thoughts straight, to fully absorb the fact that Sherlock had essentially just confessed that he wanted to be with her. Not just as friends, platonic companions, and not just for a quick bout of interest. No, he was indicating long term. She wasn't even aware that he planned his life beyond the next big case – which was what made her worry.
"And when you get bored?" she asked, already preparing herself for the letdown. "When I get in the way of your work?"
His eyes flitted away for a moment, his face showing just a hint of hurt at her expression of doubt.
"I can't promise to be less driven than I ever have been," he said carefully. "Ask John – he still wants to rip my head off as often as not. But you are a part of my work, my life…a very important part, though I failed to fully recognize it for a long time. You saw me when no one else did, not even John. And you made me see you. I don't think I've stopped looking since."
It was tantamount to a full blown expression of adoration, she knew that. But it was so easy for him to say it here, to make professions here, away from the very distractions she fretted over.
At the moment, she found she couldn't care less. She had to risk something sometime, had to embrace the possibility of happiness when it presented itself, and happiness was currently tap dancing center stage with pyrotechnics going off.
She took the few short steps to close the space between them and put herself on tiptoe, her fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt as she claimed his mouth. His response was tentative surprise at first, but quickly turned eager as he wrapped both arms around her, palms firmly pressed against her back to bring her closer.
"Do you want…to go back to the house?" he asked against her lips.
Molly felt a shiver go through her at the mere suggestion in his voice. She broke away from him long enough to nod quickly. He took her hand in his and led her onto the porch and through the back door. Her foot barely landed on the first step when he tugged at her wrist, spinning her to face him again. Hands gripped restlessly at her hips as he leaned in to kiss her, pressing her back into the banister. She felt him nip hungrily at her bottom lip, and she instantly opened to him. If it hadn't been for the support of the banister and his arms, she would have sunk down into a puddle on the floor at the feel of his warm tongue meeting hers, his lips working wonderfully in tandem movements.
For a few moments, her body couldn't coordinate the desire to keep kissing Sherlock and the desire to continue up the stairs towards the bed. After two clumsy attempts to accomplish both, she stammered out what information she could to improve the situation.
"Sherlock, I can't…stairs…at the same time," she said, her voice far more breathy than she ever expected.
He somehow managed to interpret her rambling and released her. It only half improved her coordination as she staggered up the stairs in a state of giddy anticipation, Sherlock close on her heels.
The bedroom was dim with the only light drifting in from the lamps downstairs. It was enough to see the flush that had crept into his face, accentuated by the color the sun had given him over the last several days. If he was flushed, she probably looked like a valentine.
He slowed them as they neared the bed, slipping his arms around her waist again as his lips began an exploration of the skin below her ear. She let out a small noise of exasperation, wanting nothing more than for him to lower her to the bed and get on with things. The thought behind her huff must have been abundantly clear to him.
"I need to learn you, Molly," he said with a smile.
"What?" she asked, her brow furrowing in amusement.
"As much as I would like to pin you to the mattress and end both our curiosities as quickly as possible, I would be much happier to uncover the details about you that can really only be learned by experience," he said practically.
"Oh," she sighed, her eyes slipping shut as he stopped talking and started caressing her neck with his mouth.
There was a quiet intensity with which Sherlock went about 'learning' Molly, and by the time he had her out of her camisole and bra she was gripping his shoulders out of necessity to keep standing. And he'd barely even navigated below her waistline. Finding her mouth again, he pushed at her hips, encouraging her to back towards the bed. Her calves hit the mattress and she instinctively sat, Sherlock following her down as he knelt between her legs. Drawing one final kiss from her, he pulled away and turned his focus to removing her shorts, sliding his fingers into the waist band and drawing his fingertips along the curve of her arse as she lifted her hips to allow the fabric to slip off. His fingertips never left her skin while he slowly pulled the shorts down her legs, watching her carefully for every little reaction to his touch.
Molly couldn't remember ever being so aware of her own skin, of her body.
Now clad only in her simple cotton knickers, she moved with Sherlock as he rose up from the floor, pushing them further back onto the bed. He covered her body with his and she sighed at the feeling of his weight, not quite settled between her legs but deliciously firm against her nonetheless. For several minutes, they indulged in each other's mouths, hands running along skin and cotton, breath coming shorter and harder. When she felt his fingers hook around her knickers, she took the opportunity to grasp his wrist and flip them, coming to rest over his hips and feeling without a doubt how very much he wanted her. Sherlock stared up at her in surprise.
"You think you're the only one who gets to learn something?" Molly asked slyly.
He audibly swallowed and she delighted a little too much in the widening of his eyes.
She took her time, out of a playful sense of revenge and a desire to revel in a moment she had been certain would remain only in her dreams, sliding her hands under the hem of his shirt and feeling the warmth of his skin, the tone of his muscles. The shirt was discarded and she was free to learn every small spot that made Sherlock gasp, groan, or shudder. It was almost entertaining to watch him try his damnedest to rein in his reactions, not used to appearing so unfettered.
They were both hanging onto restraint by a thin thread when she undid his trousers, skipping his own method of delayed gratification and removing trousers and pants all at once. The tension in the room kicked up several notches, his hands landing on her arms to pull her to him, resuming his dominant position. Fingers determined not to be thwarted again shoved at her knickers and in seconds they were flesh to flesh. Molly quickly scooted to the edge of the bed, making a wild grab for her purse and digging around for a moment before coming up with a condom.
"Why do you have - "
"I am a single, adult woman and I don't like relying on men to take care of it," she explained rapidly, pulling at the foil with her fingertips. "I always keep one on me."
"I'm clean, Molly. So are you," he said, looking concerned that she perhaps doubted his sexual history. "And still on the pill, if I'm not mistaken."
"I'm going to ignore the fact that you know far too much about my medical records," she said, rolling her eyes before focusing on him again. "It's not that I don't trust you. I do. Completely. Someday, I'd like to…but for tonight…"
The need to finish her thought drifted away as he took the packet from her, doing as she asked without another word.
The tenderness with which he kissed her brought everything into sharp focus and she became hyperaware of every movement, every inch of his body against hers. With her eyes closed and her mind filling with the sensation of his mouth melding with hers, she felt his hips press rhythmically against her, slowly filling her and clutching her to him until she couldn't tell where she ended and he began.
It was nearly clumsy at first, trying to anticipate angles and tempo, but it wasn't long before Sherlock worked out what to do to turn her into a trembling mess gasping his name. She barely started coming down from her high when she felt him begin to speed up, losing control as he pulled at her hips, his full weight pressing into her, groaning her name into her hair.
Few words were spoken after that as Sherlock led her from the bed to the bathroom, turning the shower tap on and holding her to him under the spray of warm water as he leaned against the wall. The intimacy, so unexpected and so wonderful, flooded her with emotions. She buried her face in his chest, wishing she could freeze time. Or perhaps rip up her return ticket and live out the rest of her days wrapped in Sherlock's arms in tropical bliss.
She nestled into his side when they returned to bed, her hand clasped in his and resting on his chest.
"Try not to think about it," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
"It's hard not to," she said.
"Think about something better. A good book. Cats." He paused and she could hear the smirk in his voice. "Me."
Molly nudged him with her shoulder, letting out a small laugh. She sighed and settled against him again, trying to do just as he said and turning her thoughts to more pleasant topics. The sound of his heartbeat slowly became her focus and it soothed her, eventually lulling her into sleep.
Her sleeping mind was still swirling with lingering euphoria from the night before when it was invaded by the unexpected sound of The Heartbreaks' "I Didn't Think It Would Hurt This Much To Think Of You." It took her a moment to return to consciousness and recognize that the sound was not part of her dreams. She bolted awake, rolling to her side to grasp for her phone on the nightstand, momentarily embarrassed that she hadn't thought to change her damn ringtone from one she had chosen in a period of moody self-reflection. Despite the embarrassment, her hand hesitated on the device as she sat up in bed, pulling the sheet close to her chest and trying to let her eyes adjust to the dawn light. Suddenly frozen with anxiety, she felt nervous adrenaline course through her body.
Then Sherlock's hand was on her arm, warm and solid, and she looked over to meet his eyes. He stared back at her with all the support in the world, nodding to the phone in encouragement.
Her thumb slid along the lock arrow and she lifted it to her ear.
She listened intently to the sound of her doctor's voice, her heart thudding in her chest. She was vaguely aware of Sherlock lacing his fingers through those of her free hand, holding tightly until the conversation ended. Dropping the phone into her lap, she lowered her face into her hand and felt the tears prick in her eyes.
"Fibrocystic condition," she said breathily into her palm.
Looking up at him, a relieved smile spread across her face.
"It was a fibrocystic growth," she said. "I'm fine."
His own relief flashed across his eyes; if she'd blinked, she would have missed it entirely. His hand came up to cup her face before he leaned in to kiss her. She kissed him back frantically, feeling the tears dry on her cheeks as every fear and worry that had been plaguing her dissipated, leaving her blissfully light. Pulling him close, she was surprised when he placed a firm kiss to her forehead after a few moments and sat up, grabbing her hand.
"C'mon," he said.
"What are we doing?" she asked, following him out of the bed and towards her suitcase.
"Get dressed and pack anything you think you might need or want for the day, food included," he said as he pulled on his trousers and headed towards the stairs.
"Sherlock, what - "
"Seeing the world, Molly," he called up at her as he descended animatedly.
In typical fashion, Sherlock hovered impatiently while Molly went about preparing coffee to go and snacks and sandwiches to bring with them. Knowing how he hurtled about from day to day with little regard to procuring food, she felt justified in ignoring his quips to hurry along. Even if he did do it in the most endearing way, tugging flirtatiously at her skirt and crooning her name. It was enough to make her think seriously about chucking the whole plan to leave the house and spending the rest of the day finding out exactly how many way she could make him groan her name.
The part of her that was far too curious about what he had planned won over in the end. In hardly any time at all, they were packed into the car and on the road.
At some point in the last five days, Sherlock must have memorized the roads of the island because he set off without instruction and seemed perfectly confident in his driving. They drove for a long while, the car climbing into the hills and eventually up into the mountainous terrain, putting them in the mist of the morning clouds. She took in the signs beginning to appear for Waimea Overlook and began to feel a sense of excitement. After many twists and turns, Sherlock finally turned into a car park. Molly unfolded herself from the car, her legs slightly cramped from the long drive and other recent physical activities.
They were high up into the mountains and the marine layer of clouds was just beginning to burn off as Sherlock led her towards the end of the lot. She didn't think it was possible to be so continually amazed by the beauty of the place, but here she was, breath taken again by the stunning view of the valley stretched from the overlook all the way to the azure of the ocean. Green trees and shrubs dotted the rust colored slopes of the jagged mountain ridges on either side of them. Molly had never felt so small and vulnerable in her life as she did standing at the edge of the canyon overlook. It was exhilarating.
She smiled, standing for a long time with the feel of Sherlock at her side and the fresh morning wind whipping her hair behind her.
"Several million years of geological activity, tectonic collisions and the spew of magma, weather and erosion – all culminating in this," Sherlock said rather poetically. "Mankind could never conceive of such a spectacle and will spend the rest of its time on this earth in awe of it."
"It's beautiful," Molly breathed.
"If you like that sort of thing," he said with a teasing smirk.
She smiled up at him and nudged his side.
"C'mon, then," she said. "What other bits of the world are you going to show me today?"
The hours of the day slipped away far too quickly for Molly's liking as they visited a botanical garden and cultural museum, lunched in the shade of a towering monkey pod tree, and finally settled at a beach-side café on the west side of the island for dinner at Sherlock's insistence.
"It's been bothering you the entire time that you haven't seen the sun set over the ocean," he said, easily slipping his hand into hers as he leaned back casually in his chair. "Thought I would do something about that."
Molly smiled softly and squeezed his hand, partly to continue to convince herself that this was not an hallucination and that he was truly here, doing all these nice things for her.
"I still can't quite believe this is…well, that you feel the way you do," she admitted.
"What further evidence do you need?"
"It's not a matter of evidence," she said gently. "I think anyone who knows you would be shocked at the turnaround. You haven't exactly been friendly to the idea of relationships, platonic or otherwise."
"I have never placed a great deal of trust in women before, Molly. There have been few to ever give me reason enough to trust them and fewer still have been useful beyond a single case. Too much emotion, too much self-interest and game playing. Not suitable to my interests." He stopped and lowered his gaze to their joined hands. "You have forced me to rework my hypothesis in this area. Without you, I very well may have perished at the hands of Moriarty. My trust in you was – is – everything. You've seen me at my worst and you've borne it with a dedication yet to be rivaled by any woman I've met. I would sooner be chucked into the nuthouse than ignore the very obvious conclusion that I want to give you the same dedication."
"I think I like this change in you," Molly said with a smile.
"Yes, I do like to think I can make improvements in character when the occasion calls for it," he said smugly, his eyes twinkling.
"And modest as ever about it," she laughed.
The sun set on their last evening with all the rich hues of pink and orange streaked over the sea and black silhouettes of palm trees she could have hoped for. Once the stars began to populate the sky, they started on the trek back to the house and Molly felt a bittersweet emotion welling up inside of her. Her life had turned completely upside-down in a matter of days and she knew things would never be the same for her – hopefully, for the better.
When they were safely inside the house, Molly wasted no time in taking Sherlock by the hand and leading him upstairs, making good on her earlier desires to find out the many sides of his bedroom manner.
The memory of those activities was almost enough to tempt an induction into the mile high club on their return flight the next morning – particularly the memory of him shagging her senseless against the bedroom wall. She really had no idea that his thin, albeit muscular, frame had the stamina for that one.
Instead, she settled for resting her head against his shoulder, enjoying the feeling of his fingers idly drawing circles on her thigh just above her knee as she stared out the window at the expanse of sea and clouds below them.
She felt his lips brush against her brow.
"You're welcome, Molly."