Molly watched the master gunner, Donovan, stroll away after casually mentioning that her previous captain had been female. Too stunned to respond properly, she stood staring at the retreating woman for a moment, before deciding to return the captain's quarters. She felt sticky all over from the summer heat, the salty air and the vigorous sexual activity the night before. She wondered if it was ship life or just having sex that Molly feel like she walking differently. Before she had taken cautious steps as she traveled through London on foot with her father. Now, she strode across shifting decks and found herself skipping the bottom two steps of the stairs and jumping to the floor.
Seeing the cabin boy up ahead hauling two heavy buckets, she called out his name.
"Basil! Did you like the candy?"
He beamed. "Ohhh yes, miss. Tastes like sunshine. Captain said you wanted to wash, so I made it good and warm for ya." He nudged open the door to Sherlock's cabin further and dropped the buckets onto the floor by the bunk. "Haven't got enough water for a proper tub, sorry. We'll take on more water at our next stop, so ya can have it then." He rubbed his damp hands on his britches.
"Oh, um," Molly stammered, following him into the room. "I don't think I'll be here that long? I don't really know boat traveling times, but if I'm heading back to London soon, then…"
Basil frowned. He dug a bar of soap out of his pocket and tossed it on the bed. "Can't be that soon, mum. Not going back to England now. We're headin' the other way, since early this morn." He shrugged and jogged out the door, closing it behind him.
"The other…way?" Molly said blankly, her mouth dropped open in shock.
Her stomach churned in sudden realization. Would her father receive her letter soon? How long could he carry on his medical duties without her? Had the captain really promised he would bring her home immediately or did she just assume that?
Molly slowly turned to the buckets and picked up the bar of soap. Making sure the door was securely closed, she stripped out of her clothes and begin washing herself, using pieces torn from her muslin party dress as rags.
She wiped away the lingering traces on blood on her thighs and freshened herself all over as best she could manage. The buckets were used up quickly as she scrubbed efficiently and rinsed off.
Molly felt calmer as she worked. She would ask Sherlock when he returned to the cabin. He would answer her truly, she was sure of it. After what had happened between them, and him so tender with her in the morning, he had to care at least a little, didn't he?
He'll tell me, Molly repeated to herself. He'll tell me.
She felt a conflict growing again, a seed of thought planted the night Sherlock had taken her to the Hudson.
When Basil said they were going the other way, and not to England, Molly should have been horrified, and frightened, and angry.
Instead, elation had bloomed in her belly. I don't have to go home, the sensation whispered. It was only after the flash of happiness quieted that she thought of her father lost, falling apart without her.
I'm not a very good daughter if I am so glad to free of him, she supposed. It's the child's duty to take care of the parent when they are unwell. And he is ill, God. But please just give me a few weeks, she prayed. I'll go home when it's time.
Molly finished her washing, and dried herself best as she could with the remnants of her white dress.
Feeling out of sorts with her conflicting emotions and exhausted by the last few days, she crawled nude into the bed with her copy of Juliette. Ignoring the rumblings of hunger in her stomach, she read the strange, scandalous novel until she grew sleepy.
He'll be here when I wake up, and he'll kiss me and it'll all be sorted out, she told herself as she drifted off.
It wasn't until the late afternoon that John's duties were completed enough that he went above with the prisoner, Captain Lestrade. He removed the ankle cuffs so only a pair of wrist shackles bound the man.
"Thought you'd never fix that bench. Still a shit carpenter, I see," Lestrade said mildly as he stretched his legs and rolled his shoulders, working out the kinks from sleeping in chains.
"Yeah well I can fix your face, that's right good enough, yeah?" John replied, handing the Royal Navy officer a cup of beer. "They're not going to be happy to see you, so keep quiet. Be smart, don't pay no mind. The captain's not real keen on you being here. Don't give him an excuse to toss you overboard."
Lestrade chugged the drink, licking his lips afterward. Silvery brown scruff dotted his cheeks, and his jacket and waistcoat were undone. Purple bruises decorated his left cheek and jawline. A day on the ship had already chipped away at the smooth, civilized demeanor of the captain.
The sunlight beat down on the hardworking crew as the two men arrived on deck. The sailors eyed Lestrade suspiciously and one swabbed his filthy mop over the navy man's boots, leaving wet brown streaks.
He gritted his teeth and smiled at the snickering sailors who took in his restraints and gossiped amongst themselves.
"Oi! You! Found this. This yours?" McAffee hollered down from the fo'c'sle, waving Lestrade's bicorne hat.
Lestrade nodded warily, squinting up at the squat Irishman. McAffee grinned and dropped the hat on the deck. He reached down to tug at the knotted rope that served as his belt.
The navy captain wrinkled his nose as he craned his neck to see. "Is he…?"
John pursed his lips, looked sideways at Lestrade and nodded. "Yes. He is…pissing in your hat."
Gregory Lestrade stood quietly for a minute while McAffee and the other nearby sailors roared with laughter. He twisted his mouth slightly before letting a small smile appear on his battered face.
"I never did care for those hats."
John shrugged and grinned at the other man. "Pirates."
Sherlock Holmes watched from further down on the decks as John and the prisoner began to laugh. He had been hidden away in his closet laboratory for hours, working on a test that would determine if arsenic was present in a substance or a body. He had been mulling over the idea since the mention of arsenic came up during Brunton's autopsy. Now that he'd given into his desire for the cheery-faced doctor living in his cabin, he found he was able to refocus on his scientific explorations and develop a working hypothesis.
He had been mixing substances carefully and testing ideas, and realized he was choking on fumes only after developing a terrible headache. After nearly dropping a vial of hydrochloric acid on his trousers, Sherlock had been forced to acknowledge he should take a break to clear his head.
Lounging against the wall, he breathed in the clean air and rolled a cigar with the tobacco stuffed in his pocket.
The captain took in the companionable exchanges between the two men and filed some of it into the cabin in his mind labeled John Watson that contained information he'd deduced or outright learned over the past year about the man's medical history (shoulder wound from French carbine rifle), education (interrupted; practical navy training came from another officer who'd undoubtedly been educated in Scotland), family (all dead, never close), romantic attachments (few, secretive and painful) and general habits. His habits were few and predictable. The ship's surgeon was like a clock, with the ticking regularity of navy life drilled into him. He rose and went to bed at the same time every night, took his tea in the same manner every morning, and even went to the head at nearly standard intervals.
The reliability of John reassured Sherlock; he valued the constancy of the man's friendship and loyalty, something he never knew he needed until the inebriated surgeon dove into the fray of piracy with him almost on a whim. It was good to have someone to laugh with and talks about his experiments with, even if John was thick in the head sometimes. He couldn't hold that against the man too much, as most people were appallingly stupid. Occasional thickness was forgivable.
Until Molly Hooper and her bag of knives came aboard, John was the only person he'd met in years who didn't absolutely drain Sherlock with their stupidity.
John and Lestrade turned around, and spotted the captain observing them as he smoked. The blond man hurried over and their prisoner followed.
"Monsieur Lestrade, so good of you to join us today!" Sherlock said brightly, earning a glare from the other man.
His eyes skimmed over the older man, noting the previously mended places on his clothing and the crispness of his recently trimmed hair.
"I understand you're going to be accompanying us to Jamaica. We could always use another hand in a fight. How are you with a blunderbuss? And the sword?"
"What? I'm not going to bloody help you," Lestrade said with disgust. "Are you mad?"
"It was merely a suggestion." Sherlock smiled and John understood he was playing with the officer.
He's such a child sometimes, John thought.
"I simply thought that since you have no real reason to go back to London, with your wife sleeping with another man and you've no children- and you're not likely to ever, am I right?" he winked knowingly at Lestrade.
"He- what? How did he know- that's none of his concern." Lestrade's face was flushed and angry. He shot a look at John. "Did you tell him?"
"I didn't know, Gregory, how could I have told him?"
"Yes, Gregory, how could he have known. He'd have to have noted the cheap brass ring you wear, the lamentable state of it, the shoddy repair job on your clothing- a high-ranking officer with a wife who can't be bothered to look after him, send his things out for repair or even see him when he's in London. You've clearly just been to a barber in London, that's no rough ship's barber crop. You were in port- what, a few hours? Instead of bothering to see your wife, you get your hair done. Clearly neither of you are interested in one another. She's got someone else, and you," Sherlock smiled slyly. "You just…aren't that interested."
Lestrade's redness had faded, and he was paler now under his bruising. His lips curled inward and his nose wrinkled as he fought to keep from responding to Sherlock's jibes.
John watched uncomfortably.
"How do you know how long we were in port? You can't know that."
"I had word from someone. I loathe him, but it's important to him that I don't hang and so he made certain I was aware of your presence."
"I knew it," Lestrade spat out. "I knew it. You were too damn fast, always getting away no matter what we planned. We were bloody close so often."
"The only way a secret can be kept between two men is if one of them is dead. Keeping a secret when a large naval staff is aware of it is ridiculous. You were never close. You will never capture me. And if you did, you imbeciles wouldn't be able to keep me."
"Sherlock, that's enough," John said quietly.
"They managed to snare Adler after she relieved them of ships and coin for years. They lost her within a week. See, she knew what the turnkeys liked. And Adler isn't even a genius, just an overgrown adventuress. She's probably halfway to Louisiana by now. I'm tempted to let myself be caught just for the laugh. You're all so simple."
"That is ENOUGH," John shouted.
Startled, Sherlock narrowed his eyes at his friend. John held his stare for several seconds, and then his eyes darted over to Lestrade.
Stop talking, was the unspoken message. Sherlock analyzed what he'd said, and realized that in his vicious enjoyment, he had probably said too much. He had no love for Adler and her plots, but the seas were more interesting with her sailing them.
"What's in Lousiana?" Lestrade asked, eyebrows raised.
"Frenchmen. You'd love it there," Sherlock said pointedly. "But as it happens, we're not going there. John, get this navy dog out of my sight. Chase's made stew for your supper, by the smell of things. Perhaps your old friend here can get a bowl with only a small amount of piss in it."
He turned to John. "I'll be in the lab if any situations arise."
In the darkest hours of the night, Sherlock finally set aside the vials and his microscope. The candles burned too low for him to see results anymore, and his eyes burned from the effort. He had left the door open to keep fresh air circulating and so his headache cleared. With his mind sharp and excited by the encouraging results using hydrochloric acid, he pressed onward with the experiments, losing track of time. Only the total absence of light in the windowless room could force Sherlock Holmes to stop working.
He located a barrel of water, and scooped out a bucketful, swallowed a large quantity, before using the rest to scrub down his arms and face. The emptiness of his stomach made itself known with an unhappy grumble, but he pushed aside that feeling, as he couldn't be bothered with waking the grumpy Chase. He'd have something tomorrow. Later, he amended, realizing dawn wasn't far off.
As the water revived him, Molly found her way back into his mind. When he worked and explored the microscopic world, everything else receded into the distance. All the annoying complications of life, all the people who failed to understand and to challenge, they all vanished in those times.
Content with ceasing his work for the night, he allowed the warmth of her eyes and the memory of her scent to return to him. Sherlock smiled as he remembered that this night there was something worth coming back for. He set the bucket aside and headed for his cabin.
He could barely see her, her nude body curled into a fetal ball. She had to have left the cabin at some point, as her new simple dress hung from a hook on the wall with the buttons halfway undone. When he'd seen the dress last, it was neatly folded on his table. An empty bowl sat there now, with a few scrapings of greasy stew and an empty cup that held a trace of water.
Two large round wet spots were visible on the floor- remnants of overflowing buckets. So she had washed then. Basil had a habit of forgetting to carry out his requests. He was pleased the boy had followed through with this one.
What else did she do today, he wondered as he watched her eyelids flutter in her deep sleep. The thin blanket was pulled up to her chin, but her back was exposed, the cover resting just above the cleft of her bum. On his side of the bunk laid a book.
Ah, he thought, flipping it over. You read and you ate and you stayed here…waiting? Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded. Not just erotic, but a truly depraved book. You aren't the sort of woman who loves fairy stories, are you, Molly. Dark and a little bit dangerous is what you're after, he thought, setting aside the book.
Sherlock stripped off his clothes and threw them carelessly on a chair. He slid under the covers, his long form wrapping around Molly's small body. He contemplated actually sleeping, but the results of his experiments of the day raced through his mind. They had been mostly failures, but eliminating chemicals helped narrow down possible solutions. His hand settled on Molly's abdomen, his hand moving back and forth as his mind work on the arsenic testing hypotheses.
Molly had been sleeping dreamlessly when the peace was broken by Sherlock's long fingers tracing circles on the sensitive skin under her breasts. As she awoke, she gradually became aware of quiet murmuring. As he stroked her skin, he was speaking softly.
"…the copper was utterly useless…wasted the mercury, no, not that. Metals, no, wrong tack altogether…"
"Sherlock?" she whispered. Her hand covered his on her torso, her fingers tucked into the spaces between his.
"Shhh I'm thinking. The precipitate formed with the carbon disulfide, intriguing, but not right either…" His hand moved up as he spoke absently, grazing the underside of her left breast. He squeezed closer, his lips brushing over the back of her neck as he cupped her, his palm tickling her nipple into hardness.
"Sherlock, where were you?" Molly asked. As she woke, she remembered she had been rather annoyed with him for not turning up even at supper time. She'd taken the bowl back to the cabin in a huff, even as Chase glared at her and Anderson smirked.
Her irritation over missing the damnable man didn't keep her from sighing and leaning into the increasing pressure of his hand. He continued to think out loud, rattling off chemicals and solutions, and his hand reached around to stroke her right breast.
Unable to lay passively any longer, Molly rolled onto her back.
"Sherlock, I have some quest-"
"Mmm thank you," he said, bending his head to roll her hard nipples between his lips in turn.
"Ohhh," she breathed, her anxieties melting away. He tugged gently with his teeth and she arched into his mouth, the wetness and stroking of his tongue becoming her world in that moment.
"I have some new ideas how to proceed with the experiment," he said lifting his head briefly. "But I need more supplies so it'll have to wait. You've been most helpful."
"I what?" Molly's brow furrowed. She reached for Sherlock's head and drew him close.
"You smell good," he said against her mouth. Molly's messy, enthusiastic kisses met his precise ones, building with intensity until neither one of them was leading, but their tongues danced together with equal want. She was breathless and giggling as he climbed on top of her to bury his face against her neck.
"You have these places on your throat…that are positively inspirational, Molly."
He tasted the skin of her neck, enjoying the natural saltiness of her flesh. Each new spot on her was intriguing and she wriggled in new ways with the explorations. There was a new room in his mind designated solely for her various moans and squeals and sighs. Sherlock moved down her body, stopping to nuzzle the underside of her breasts, stroking her sides before drawing his nails lightly over her hips and squeezing.
Molly looked down at him, his black curls draped over her as he kissed her belly and dipped a hand between her legs. She felt she must be embarrassingly wet already. He slipped two fingers into her easily, testing her reaction.
"Does it hurt? Are you well?" he asked.
Realizing what he meant, Molly smiled and nodded happily. "It hurt this morning, but it's alright now."
He moved his fingers slowly, stroking her from within as he kissed his way across the softness of her stomach. He pushed her legs further apart and licked her inner thigh, smiling arrogantly as she groaned and lifted her hips as he had thought she would. He withdrew his fingers from her, and she arched to offer herself to him as she felt the emptiness.
Settling comfortably between her legs, he lifted her thighs and spread them further apart. Leaning in to study her in the moonlight, he traced the lines of her lips framed by the curly brown hair. He delved in further, thumbing over her clitoris until she wiggled and groaned his name.
"Sherlock, please, I need." The plea died on Molly's tongue as Sherlock spread her open and dipped his tongue into the wetness, finding the bundle of nerves again. He had never tasted anything so wild and intense as her. He had idly sucked her juices off his fingers the night before, but that couldn't compare to having his face pressed against her and her bucking against him. This was…interesting.
Molly's face was aflame, never having considered that he would kiss her like that. She had seen drawings, but people didn't really do all those things- and his tongue wiggled against her clitoris and all coherent thought was lost. Molly forgot to be embarrassed and she threw her head back and let him take her that way.
Sherlock felt her relax and give in to the pleasure. He grinned as he slipped two fingers back inside her, and continued exploring her sex with this tongue. The folds, with their secretive design, were provocative and logical and clever. She was sensitive everywhere, not just her bud, and she released the most satisfying string of moans, capped with a desperate curse word that made him smile.
He was aware of his own growing hardness, but he ignored it, determined to learn everything while she allowed him. The widowed countess had introduced him to this act those many years but she had pushed him off her the moment she reached her pleasure and not allowed him to really look. He had subsequently tried to explore the act further with another woman whose name and face were long deleted- but he recalled her being horrified by the suggestion, saying it was unclean.
How ridiculous. There was nothing unclean about Molly, and he was content to lick and nuzzle and suck until dawn if she would let him, but her shaking and begging told him she wouldn't last much longer.
With concentrated effort, Molly lifted her head and looked down at the oddly beautiful man between her thighs. His indescribable eyes peered up at her as he stroked her harder with his tongue. Her pleasure last night had been sharp and jagged and shattering and incredible. What he was doing to her now was a different sensation, thrilling in its slow build. She felt boneless, like she was floating on waves. She rode that feeling, rocking her hips against his face, gasping with the variety of strokes as they moved together rhythmically.
Sherlock felt Molly reach her peak, her sex pulsing against his tongue a second before she threw her hips in the air and keened with pleasure. He maintained the pressure with his tongue and fingers until she abruptly dragged herself to sitting and yanked his head up.
Realizing she was pulling his hair, Molly gasped, "Sorry!" before collapsing back onto the pillow. "Too sensitive…" she said, gulping for air and smiling foolishly.
Sherlock pulled himself on his elbows and then on his knees, his face wet with her, his hair sticking up madly. His mouth pulled to one side with a smile that could only be called smug.
"We have to do that in the daytime. I can't see enough," he said calmly.
Molly laughed, shaking. "If you say so." She cast her eyes downward to his groin. "Come now."
"Hmm?" His eyebrows rose.
"I want you, I want you to be in me," she explained.
"You're still tender inside," he said.
"Not that much. And I don't care. Please," she said, reaching to tug him down to her.
He kissed her, and she tasted herself for the first time. The intimacy of it made Molly blush again, but she didn't pull away. She opened her legs and wrapped them around his waist.
Sherlock sank into her. Knowing she was still sore from the night before, he didn't try to control his climax. He sheathed himself in her incredible heat, rocking into her and building friction until he came with a hoarse groan within two minutes.
"You didn't have to hurry," Molly said with a giggle.
"I'm not complaining, Dr. Hooper," he said, kissing her neck.
"Sherlock…I have a question." Her voice was tentative, as she stroked his back and shoulders.
"Mmm yes?" he felt sleepiness creeping into him. He was amazed, as it was a rare thing for him.
"We're not headed back to England right now."
"That's not a question."
"Are you keeping me here…for longer?"
There was silence for several seconds. "Yes."
"Where is the Hudson going?"
"Ultimately, Jamaica. In a couple weeks, the Azores."
"I don't know that place."
"Islands in the Atlantic. Portuguese at the moment. Great place for samples."
"Oh. That sounds lovely. Do you…do you want me…to come with you?" She grabbed the blanket and pulled it over them now, as their bodies cooled.
"Yes." He paused, and when he spoke again, there was a note of uncertainty. "Do you want to come with me?"
"Yes." Even in the dark, he knew she was smiling as she responded.
"Well then. That's settled." He kissed her hard on the mouth, briefly, and turned Molly back over so he was spooning her again. His arm wrapped around her waist possessively, she fell back asleep with the sound of his even breathing in her ears.