She absolutely detested going to the pub. Between balancing the classes she taught at the university and the occasional consultations she gave to Scotland Yard she didn't have much free time left, and she would much rather spend those relatively few free evenings at home with her cat, curled up with a good book and a warm pot of tea. But the two best friends she had insisted she not be a hermit because it wasn't good for her, and so every once in a while she found herself at a crowded pub, watching her friends chat people up while she nursed a pint or two until enough time had passed for her to say it was time for her to call it a night. Tonight was no exception; they'd gone to a pub near University College because Sally had said they needed a change of pace in available men. Molly knew it would be a very good idea not to mention where she taught her own university classes, since King's College was at the top of the rivalry list with University College.
At the moment she was at a table by herself, library book in front of her. It was due in two days and she was almost done with it, and since she had known that within forty minutes of them being there she would be at a table by herself she'd brought it with her to fill up the time until she could make her exit without being persuaded to stay longer. And tonight had been no exception; they'd been at the pub for thirty-eight minutes now and Sally was off with a young university student at least ten years her junior and Mary was challenging a group of people to a “friendly” game of darts where she would inevitably empty everyone's wallets by the time she ended her evening. She pulled out her book and turned to the page she'd been at when she stopped reading earlier that afternoon. She had a fondness for epic fantasy novels that told of the heroes journey. This particular book had been out for years now, but she had only just discovered the author a month and a half earlier and had slowly been working through his two longer interconnected series. There had been thirteen books total, and she finished the last one two days ago. She'd moved on to his two interconnected trilogies and was only a few chapters shy of finishing the first book in the first trilogy. It was actually quite a thrilling book and she couldn't wait to see how it ended.
She'd been reading for five minutes when someone slammed down a drink on her table and she jumped. Before she focused on who did it she hoped idly that it was Sally or Mary, but she was not so lucky. It was a man who looked a few sheets to the wind already, and he was leering at her slightly. She sighed and reached for the bookmark she'd been using, only to find it sopping wet from the beer that had spilled over when the man slammed his drink down. “You got my bookmark wet,” she said, looking around for something else to use. After a moment she realized there was nothing on the table suitable, not even a paper napkin or a cheap coaster, and with a sigh she pulled her university ID out and used that instead.
The man gave her a grin that rather unnerved her. “What's a pretty bird like you doing at a table alone reading a book?” he asked, leaning forward.
“Trying to kill time until I can leave,” Molly replied.
“You should be talking to people. There are all sorts of interesting people here. Like me, for instance. I'm really interesting,” he said, slurring his words slightly and drawing out the word really.
She cringed, looking around. Mary was nowhere to be seen and Sally was fully focused on the bloke she was flirting with. “Look, I suppose I should, but really, that's not me. And my friends will be back any minute.”
“But they aren't here now,” he said, reaching out to put a hand on her thigh. She reached down and plucked it off, giving him a look of disgust. He seemed to not take the hint, though, and he did it again. “You and me, we could have a bit of fun.”
“I--” she said, beginning to panic slightly as he leaned forward.
“Susan!” she heard a deep voiced man say from behind the drunk person trying to inch her skirt up. The man froze in what he was doing before turning towards the man. He was somewhat intimidating looking; tall with curly dark hair and piercing eyes, wearing an immaculate suit that was a distinct difference to the more casual clothing the others at the pub were wearing. He came over and clapped a hand on the man's shoulder, and it must have been quite a firm grip because the drunk man winced in pain. “Susan and I haven't seen each other in years and I would really like to catch up,” he said. “So now would be a good time for you to vacate the table, I think.”
“Oh, Robert! I'm so glad to see you!” Molly said gratefully to the stranger. The drunk man took one look at her and then turned back to the man with the death grip on his shoulder and reached for his pint. The stranger released his shoulder and the man slunk off to go find other easy prey. She watched for a moment before turning back to the man. “Thank you...?”
“Sherlock,” he said. “I'm assuming your name isn't really Susan?” She must have looked even more confused because he looked down. “The brief look of confusion when I made my entrance. You didn't immediately join along in the charade.”
“Oh!” she said, her eyes wide. She extended a hand towards him. “No. My name is Molly. Thank you for your help, Sherlock.”
“Well, I hate to see people put in situations they don't want to be in, especially since your friends ditched you in less than an hour,” he said, sitting in the abandoned chair. “Of course, my friend did the same and is currently giving your blonde friend a run for her money in their game of darts, so I suppose I understand.” He motioned to the book. “I should do that next time.”
“Well, it really didn't do any good,” she said. “I still got bothered.”
“And I suppose I'm bothering you now,” he said quietly, looking down at his drink. “I'll leave.”
“No! I mean, you saved me from what could have been a really bad situation,” she said, placing a hand on his arm. “The least I can do is get you a fresh drink. What is that?”
“Water,” he said with the ghost of a smile. “I'm not someone who likes alcoholic drinks.”
“Well, I could always upgrade you to a cola, so that way I can actually buy something,” she said with a smile.
“I suppose I could handle one syrupy sweet drink tonight,” he said after a moment.
She nodded and grabbed her purse to take with her to the bar. “I'll be right back, then,” she said, her smile widening as she got up. She pushed her way through the crowded pub to get to the bar, and she was almost there when she felt someone grab her. She squeaked and turned to see the drunk man had his hand on her arm. “Let go of me!”
“Guess he wasn't man enough to hold your attention,” the man said, pulling her closer. She tried to get out of his grip but it was tight, his fingers digging into her skin. “I'm man enough, though.”
He'd gotten her flush against him and she realized in horror he had an erection. He ground it against her slightly and she felt ill. She felt horribly violated and on instinct she put some space between them and then quickly raised her knee up hard into his groin. He groaned in pain and let go of her as he doubled over, and she quickly made her escape before he recovered. She knew she should go back to Sherlock, make a proper good-bye and maybe offer him lunch later, but she wanted to put as much distance between herself and the drunken lech as possible.
She finally stepped outside the pub and hailed a cab, climbing into the backseat of the first one that stopped and giving the driver her address. She shut her eyes and relaxed into the seat for a few moments until she realized her library book was still at the table, and her eyes flew open. Bloody hell. She might as well kiss the book good-bye, unless she was lucky enough that Sally or Mary would go back to the table before they headed somewhere else for the night and grab the book for her. She decided to call them, but Sally's phone went right to voicemail and Mary's rang and rang without connecting. With a sigh she looked out the window as London flew by. The next time her friends tried to take her out for a night on the town she was going to bring this up as a reason to say no.
It didn't take long to get to her flat, and she let herself in, grateful she had at least grabbed her purse and not just the money for the drink so she had her keys. It would have been even more embarrassing to have to go back for that. She saw her cat was still sitting on his normal perch on the back of her favorite chair. She sat down in it and then reached up to pick Toby up and set him on her lap. “Well, Toby, I guess it's just you and I together tonight after all,” she said as she petted him. Toby meowed and then settled into her lap more, soon after purring loudly. She let her mind drift as she smoothed his fur back in easy strokes. It might have been nice to actually talk to the man who tried to save her from an awful evening, she thought to herself. He was quite handsome. And while it probably would have been nothing more than a conversation, since most men seemed to consider other women more attractive when it came to more than conversation, it still would have been a nice change of pace. Sadly, though, it hadn't happened, and she was left with another “what if” to collect in her pile of regrets. One day, maybe, she would get lucky. Or at least she hoped so.