September 9th, 2013

Dresden: Harry magicking

Sherlock: Settling For the Best

Title: Settling for the Best
Characters: Molly, Alec (OC), Sherlock, John, Lestrade
Rating: PG
Warnings/Triggers: oh God, so much fluff, very light references to snogging
Spoilers: Heavy references to both series of the show
Pairings: Molly/OC
Word Count 2,665
Summary: Molly Hooper smiles at a fit man in a coffee shop, and things just get better from there.
Author's notes: This is another product of my and joonscribble's late night chats about things; this time about Molly Hooper and our hopes and fears about Series Three. We decided she deserved a very nice boyfriend, possibly played by Tom Hiddleston. And then I wrote a fic.

So much fluff here, it's probably borderline sickening. Set Post-Hiatus.

There was a very fit man who came into the same coffee shop as Molly. Not every day, but multiple times per week. He was tall, and blond, and had bright blue eyes, and a killer smile.

He always smiled at her. It took her a few days of him doing that to realize it was meant for her. She assumed he was smiling at someone else until one day she smiled back and his smile went nuclear and her heart did three flips and landed in her trainers.

Sometimes they ended up beside each other in parallel queues. After a few days of that, they added good mornings to their smiles. Then occasionally comments about the weather or traffic. If they were leaving at the same time, he held the door open for her and wished her a good day.

One day, after this had gone on for a while, Molly was adding her milk and sugar to her coffee when a man who had queue barged in front of Fit Man and been very rude to the barista elbowed her out the way to get some sugar packets. Her stomach hit the edge of the counter painfully and her drink fell from her hand and splashed over the counter.

“I'm in a hurry, love,” the man snapped, pushing her aside again for a stir stick as she stood there in shock. He swept out of the shop.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” Fit Man said, running over. He grabbed some napkins and started mopping up the coffee that was now dripping down to her shoes. “Are you burnt?”

“I'm f-fine,” Molly stammered, trying not to cry. It was her automatic response to being yelled at, no matter if it was her fault or not.

“What a prat,” Fit Man said. He pulled her gently away from the counter by her elbow and made her sit down. “Are you sure you're not hurt?”

“No, I'm okay, thank you,” she said. She managed to get herself together and blinked back the tears.

Actually, they sort of evaporated when he smiled at her.

“Here, I'll get you a new drink,” he said.

“Oh, no! It's not your fault, you don't have to do that,” she assured him.

“I'd like to,” he said, with a slightly shy smile. “I'd actually really like to buy you a coffee. Is that okay?”

It took Molly far longer than it should have for the full impact of that to sink in. She was in the middle of objecting when her mind went 'abort, abort!' and she managed to agree instead.

“Brilliant,” he said, letting out a breath as though he were relieved. “I'm Alec, by the way.”

“Oh, I'm Molly,” she replied.

He gave her another bright smile. “Okay, don't go anywhere, please,” he said.

She smiled back and assured him she would stay right there.

“You had a date last night,” Sherlock greeted her, a week later.

He was already there when she entered the lab. That never boded well. John wasn't there either, which also did not bode well. It meant he'd got fed up or had collapsed from exhaustion, or Sherlock was working on a pet project on his own. Molly flicked on the lights—he'd only turned on the ones over where he was working—and slipped on her lab coat.

“I did,” she agreed.

He narrowed his eyes, deducing. “You were humming what I suspect is some sort of pop music,” he said. “It must have gone well.”

“It was really great,” she admitted.

“Excellent,” he said. “You're always much more efficient when you're in love. Get me the acetone.”

“I'm not in love,” Molly objected, as she went over to grab the container from the shelf. “It was only one date.”

“It went well,” Sherlock said. “It almost never goes well. You consistently go on bad dates with inappropriate men and settle for mediocrity as though it's your job. You're smiling. If you're not in love, you're at least halfway there. John informs me love happens very quickly.”

Molly handed over the acetone, frowning. “I don't settle for mediocrity.”

“Yes, you do,” he said. “I don't know why, but you do.”

“I...” Molly began, but couldn't find an argument.

“If you stopped settling for mediocrity, you would be far more efficient,” Sherlock said. “I suggest you try demanding the best. We'll get more things accomplished.”

“Was that...are you advising me on my love life?” she asked.

Sherlock looked aghast. “I've been up for several days, my cognition might be impaired,” he said, defensively.

“Well, it's good advice, at least,” she said.

“Really?” Sherlock said. “Perhaps Mrs Hudson was right. I do need some sleep.”

For the first time in a long time, Molly was seeing a very nice man. A man who made her giddy and found it cute when she stammered and didn't mind when she stuck her foot in her mouth and liked to cook and had no sense of direction so she always had to plan for him to be at least five minutes late to whatever they were doing because he got lost.

Which was why the prospect of him meeting Sherlock Holmes was sending her into a blind panic.

It was her who was running late this time, and Alec was in the lab, waiting for her to finish up.

“Oh no!” she groaned, as she heard the telltale baritone humming from down the hall. “I'm so sorry!”

Alec looked confused. “What's wrong?” he asked.

There was no time to explain. Molly just shot him a desperate look of apology before plastering a fake smile on her face and turning to the door.

Sherlock strode through, followed by John and Lestrade. “Molly, I need you to— “ he began but stopped at the sight of Alec. She could see the gears working.

“Hi, Sherlock!” Molly said, sounding a bit squeaky in her attempt at nonchalance. She cleared her throat before she continued. “Hi, John, hi, Greg. This is Alec Thornton.” She made a gesture of showing him off, as though she were a board lady on Wheel of Fortune. “We're going to the cinema, he's picking me up. Alec, this is Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and Greg Lestrade. I work with them, sometimes.”

“Oh, yeah, hey,” John said, with recognition at the name. “Nice to meet you.”

Alec shook his offered hand and also Lestrade's, but Sherlock ignored him.

“Teacher,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh, God,” John said. “Sherlock, don't—

“Yes,” Alec said, his usual smile going a bit off-kilter in confusion. “That's right.”

“Third Year,” Sherlock added.

“Yes,” Alec said, again. “How did you know that? Did Molly—”

“The wear pattern on the soles suggest you do a lot of standing, also evidenced by your comfort on your feet at the moment,” Sherlock said, pointing. Everyone looked at Alec's shoes. “You've placed yourself in the most ergonomic stance for long periods of standing. Your soles aren't as worn as they should be given the age of your shoes, so that suggests you don't stand all day, merely a good portion of it. Accompanied by the chalk dust in the cuffs of your shirt, that tells me you're a teacher.”

Alec blinked several times. “But how did you know I teach Third Year?”

“When I entered the lab, you were leaning forward to talk to Molly,” Sherlock said. “Understandable, you're nearly a foot taller than her. However, you're also leaning forward to listen to me and I'm only two inches shorter. Therefore, you're used to hunching over to hear people, and you don't show discomfort while doing it. Which means you work with children—smallish children. That suggests primary school. Judging by the angle of your slouch, I can calculate the average height you're used to dealing with, and it matches that of a Third Year student.”

Alec looked completely gobsmacked now. Sherlock was a minor celebrity and Molly had explained about the majority of her involvement in his work and death and what he was like, but meeting him was always overwhelming. No one really thought he did what he did.

“Nice to meet you, is what he means,” Lestrade said, breaking the silence.

“Is it?” Sherlock said.

“Yes,” Lestrade said.

“So!” Molly said, to give Alec a chance to recover. “What are you working on, Sherlock?”

“Nothing important,” John said, quickly. “Nothing that would keep you from your date.”

“But—” Sherlock began.

“You can absolutely go on your date and we don't need you,” John said, pointedly.

Sherlock now looked as confused as Alec.

“I'll just go and get changed, then,” Molly said.

She hoped Alec would take the cue to follow her out, but he just stood there. She contemplated pulling him out by the hand, but that seemed a little extreme. Lestrade engaged Alec in a more natural conversation, and Molly slipped out and ran to change as fast as possible.

She stuffed her clothes in her locker, put on her date outfit, put a bit of make-up on, and gathered her hair into a bun. Then she ran back to the lab. Alec was now at ease and smiling again. Sherlock was at a lab bench, ignoring him. Molly relaxed and let herself catch her breath before she went in.

“Ready?” she asked him.

“Wow, you look great!” he said.

“Your skirt is crooked,” Sherlock said.

He was right. Molly turned it so the seams were in the right spot. Alec said goodbye to everyone and took her hand as he met her in the hallway.

“What did he say?” she asked. “Did he say something bad? He doesn't mean it. Sort of.”

“It was fine,” he assured her. “Nothing bad. Well, he did tell me that if I was secretly a criminal mastermind he would find me out and take me down. Which I'm assuming is because of Jim?”

Molly nodded. She'd felt it best, once they started getting serious, to let him know what he was getting himself into. She'd also had a bit too much red wine and ended up pouring out most of her life story. He'd said that she was very brave, which was so far from the reaction she was expecting that she'd burst into tears.

“But other than that, it was fine,” Alec said. “It was nice to meet them after hearing so much about them.”

Molly was relieved that Sherlock hadn't declared him gay, or a serial killer, or secretly married, or wearing woman's knickers (although, she could probably live with that one, to be honest), or something. That's really why she'd held off the meeting so long. She thought it would all go horribly wrong and she didn't want it to because it was going so very right.

But a man who could face down Sherlock and live, that was a very right man.

“So, we're going to the IMAX,” Alec said. “...Do you know how to get there?”

Even if he no sense of direction.

She giggled and leaned into his shoulder. “I know how to get there.”

Molly closed the door to her flat with a long sigh of pure delight at being in it. It had been a very, very long day. There was a bad traffic accident that morning, and she'd had to ferry loved ones in to identify the bodies and some of them were hysterical, which was always hard. They always put Molly in charge of the hysterical people. Then Sherlock arrived with a massive case that had sent her running around like a madwoman trying to keep up with his demands. Her legs were throbbing in a sort of 'za-ha, za-ha' sensation from being on them so long, and she just wanted to curl up and relax.

Her phone rang, and her heart did a little speed-up when she saw the name, followed by a sense of exhaustion at the thought of going out again. She'd nearly forgotten about her dinner plans.

“Hey, Molls,” Alec said, in reply to her greeting. “About tonight...”

“I've had a really long day,” she said, apologetically.

There was a sigh of relief on the other end of the line. “I have a mountain of homework to grade,” he said.

“Oh, good,” Molly said. “I mean, not for you, but for me. Not that I don't want to go out, I just—”

“Me too,” Alec said, smoothly interrupting her stammering. “Listen, why don't I come over and make dinner, and I can grade and you can relax? Is that okay?”

“Sounds great,” Molly said.

“Brilliant. I'll be there in about an hour,” he said.

Molly translated that to be about an hour and ten minutes in Alec-time. Just long enough for a nice bath.

She was dressed in her schlepping about clothes by the time Alec knocked on the door and her hair was up in a loose topknot. After he'd nursed her through a bout with Norwalk, she felt there was no worse she could look than what he'd already seen. It was liberating. He gave her a pleasant, lingering kiss on arrival, and bent down to greet Toby, who weaved in and out of his legs and purred.

“What's for dinner?” she asked.

“I'm not sure,” he said, looking down into his bag of groceries. “I bought what looked good, and I'm going to wing it. There will be ravioli involved, however.”

“Yummy,” Molly said. “Can I help?”

It was silly to ask because Alec always cooked on his own. His father was a chef, and Alec seemed to have grown-up thinking that all meals were productions and that everyone knew how to julienne and sauté. She just slowed him down when she tried to help, and he was very sweet about it, but she could see him secretly correcting her work, and his hands twitching as though he was desperate to take over. She didn't mind; between always having to cook and never being allowed to cook, she considered herself lucky to have the former.

“You go and relax,” he said, bussing her forehead with his lips. “I'll let you know if I need a hand.”

He went to the kitchen, Toby padding at his heels. Molly went to the sofa and watched telly. The smells from the kitchen made her stomach growl, and finally, she was summoned back in. She grimaced when she entered. Alec was generally a quite tidy man, but the kitchen just exploded when he was in it. Pots and ingredients everywhere.

“I know. I'll clean it up,” he said, looking around as he always did, as though he couldn't quite figure out what had happened.

Molly set the table and opened the wine he'd brought, and they had a lovely dinner, chatting about their days at work. Molly had to edit somewhat, as he'd instituted a 'no dead bodies over meals' policy, which she thought was very reasonable; certainly better than some men she'd encountered, who didn't want to even touch her after finding out what she did for a living.

After dinner, they did the washing up, which at one point devolved into a Fairy Liquid bubble fight, and somehow culminated in them snogging on the floor. This was sadly interrupted by Toby pouncing on Alec's back, and the moment was a bit gone after that. They managed to cool down and get the rest of the washing up done.

Now they were on the sofa, Alec with his long legs up on the coffee table, and Molly snuggled in with a pillow on his lap. He had very bony thighs, otherwise, she'd be just as happy to use him as a pillow alone. He marked papers, occasionally using her shoulder or head to rest a book on to write something longer than a checkmark or X. Molly watched QI, and Toby curled himself around Alec's neck.

She yawned loudly, and Stephen Fry blurred in front of her. “Mmm, sleepy,” she murmured.

“Then go to sleep,” Alec said, reaching down to play with a bit of hair fallen from her bun.

“You'll be stuck here,” Molly said.

“There are worse places to be stuck,” he said.

His gentle massage of her neck left her unable to object any longer, and she started to drift off to sleep.

If Molly could have defined a perfect evening, this is exactly what it would be. Sherlock had been right, it was definitely better not to settle for mediocrity. She had demanded the best and got it.

And she could certainly settle for that.