Molly Hooper is kind of a nerd.
When she’s not at the morgue, occasionally out with her friend Meena, or visiting her mother, she likes to curl up on her sofa with a box of chocolates and watch cheesy TV shows. The thing she likes about shows is that they are like films, but they last longer. When you pick up a DVD or go to the cinema, you while away only an hour and a half, whereas if you pick a really nice, six season series, you have a distraction for days. And Molly has a lot of time to while away between her shifts at Barts.
So she spends her free time glued to the screen of her telly, following the adventures of singing teenagers (although she now sort of has bad associations with that one), cheerleaders who can’t die (she liked the scene where the girl woke up in the morgue…), genius doctors (she likes that one especially, because the main character sort of reminds her of Sherlock), all sorts of vampires (she doesn’t discriminate, she likes them all) and angels (gosh, aren’t they all so handsome…). When she grows tired of recycled storylines from across the pond, she goes back to familiar soil and indulges in a bit of universe hopping with a dishy alien (she prefers the tenth, because she thinks he looks dashing in the coat), supernatural community service (though she hates the colour orange), and time-travelling with dinosaurs (because the nerdy bloke is really, really cute).
But that’s not really the worst of it. About a year ago Molly discovered a TV show minefield – the world of Asian dramas.
Abandoning the Anglo-Saxon perspective opened her eyes to a whole new dimension of tropes and clichés, which, to her, felt new and exhilaratingly fresh. For nearly a year she’s been gorging herself on storylines involving girls pretending to be boys (it’s fascinating that nobody seems to see the obvious sings…), poor girls and four flowery bullies (she instantly loves the bad boy and scorns the heroine for falling for the anemic prince) and older women falling for younger men (she especially loves the one in which the woman treats the boy like a pet dog). She generally prefers the South Korean shows, mainly because they are longer, but the copy-paste love quadrangle plot does get old pretty quickly. It’s the Japanese dramas that draw her in completely. She loves comic book adaptations, because they are silly and fun (she likes the one about a robot boyfriend…), school dramas (especially the one about three friends and pigs, oh, and the one where the stupid students try to get into Tokyo University), and historical stories (the one with the neurosurgeon time-travelling to the past was awesome), but the ones that she loves the most are the shows that are job-themed. The Japanese take a lot of pride in their work, so there are numerous dramas that pay homage to a particular profession. Molly adores the one about forensic pathologists and the one about detectives, but the one which turns out to be her absolute favourite of all time is about pilots.
It’s a very nice story about a young co-pilot who has always wanted to fly aeroplanes for a living, but finds that he’s not really that good at it. He struggles with his insecurities and in the meantime falls in love with a pretty, prickly mechanic who hates him because he damaged the plane during a bad landing. The story of love and growing up that unfolds is both sweet and moving, but that’s not really why Molly loves it so much. She’s seen this drama four times already because it’s made her realize a secret kink she never thought she had.
Apparently, Molly has a thing for pilots.
It’s a really big and insistent thing. She finds the uniform with the epaulets and the cap insanely sexy, and the fact that the lead looks dead gorgeous in aviators doesn’t really help. The idea of two men driving such an enormous and scary contraption through the air and being responsible for the lives of so many passengers gives her goose bumps. And again, the show only fuels her fascination, with its truly Japanese pathos about team spirit and moral trappings of the jobs of pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. The first time she flies after seeing it, she can’t help but imagine the captain and the first officer in the flight deck, in their uniforms, preparing for takeoff, using commands like “you have control”, calling the tower, checking weather reports and flight plans. Her heart races each time the captain makes a cabin address and she stares hungrily at the pilots she sees at the airport. It seems to her to be the sexiest job on the planet.
So when her mother calls her to inform her that she’s met someone, and that he’s a pilot for a charter airline, she, quite understandably, freaks out.
A couple of years back, after Molly’s dad died of cancer, her mother moved out of London and up north to a little place called Fitton, to be closer to her sister and Molly’s aunt. And there, in a supermarket of all places, she met this really charismatic man called Douglas, whose wit makes Molly’s mother laugh like she never has before, apparently. Douglas is a captain for the resident airline, and he looks particularly dashing in his uniform.
Floored (and a teensy bit jealous), Molly takes a train to Fitton to meet this amazing man who has turned her mother’s head. What she finds when she arrives simply blows her mind. Andrea Hooper is glowing, and there is a light in her eyes that has been absent ever since the day that Molly’s dad was diagnosed. The realization that her mother is happy warms Molly considerably to this Douglas character and she can’t wait to meet him. As it turns out, she doesn’t need to wait long. He’s currently flying back home from Warsaw, and Andrea is picking him up from the airfield so that afterwards they can all go out for dinner. Molly has only an hour to change and freshen up before the two of them drive – in what seems to be Douglas’ car – to the airfield that Molly didn’t realize that Fitton had.
The airport is really tiny, and she’s a bit disappointed to see the plane, which is slightly less glamorous than she expected, already on the ground, but she puts on a bright smile when her mother leads her straight to a tall, robust grey-haired man in a pilot’s uniform who’s standing next to the main building. From the start she can tell that Douglas is extremely confident and quite smarmy, but ultimately very nice. He greets her with a smirk and a transparent compliment, but all she can really focus on is the number of gold stripes on his sleeve.
“But you said he was the captain!” she blurts out to her mother.
“Ah,” says Douglas, unperturbed. “That’s a really common misconception at MJN Air, I’m afraid.”
Andrea waves her hand in dismissal. “What does it matter, if he’s the captain or not?”
Molly flushes. “Sorry…”
“That’s quite all right,” Douglas answers magnanimously.
“No, really, I’m sorry, I sort of say things without thinking, of course it doesn’t matter – ah.”
She trails off, because behind Douglas she can see a man walking briskly towards them, and her mind just sort of… reboots.
The man is around her age, slim and not overly tall, but the most important thing about him is that he’s wearing the captain’s uniform, the captain’s hat and a pair of glinting aviators.
Her first thought is, oh god, he’s gorgeous. Her second thought is, oh god, I’m wearing the cherry jumper, why couldn’t I have put on something cooler and sexier? And finally, her third thought is, oh god, I’m going to make a total fool out of myself, in fact, I already have.
Her mother and Douglas are looking at her strangely, and she’s painfully aware of the fact that her mouth is hanging open, her eyes are unfocused and there’s an angry blush spreading over her cheeks. The man – the captain – stops next to Douglas and takes off his aviators. Molly’s breath catches, because he’s even more gorgeous up close, and strangely similar to Sherlock, only with lovely freckles, and god, she can choose her crushes well, can’t she?
“Douglas, you forgot to fill in your logbook again,” he says in a smooth – if a bit shrill – baritone, and Molly melts a bit, then curses herself for stupidity, because it’s obvious that he’s not going to be interested in her, provided he actually notices that she’s there, that is.
“Oh, but Sir can do it so much better than me,” Douglas replies smoothly. “Besides, I was in a bit of a hurry today. See, Andrea’s daughter came to Fitton especially to meet me.”
“What – Oh.” The captain turns around and for the first time registers her presence. Molly feels her mouth getting dryer. From her side, her mother gives the man a little wave.
“Hi Martin!” she chirps cheerfully. “I hope Douglas didn’t give you much grief today? This is my daughter, Molly. She lives in London.”
The captain – Martin – is staring at her, and Molly fidgets under his gaze. She gives him an awkward smile and manages a weak greeting. “H-hello.”
He doesn’t answer, and she grows even more uncomfortable, that is until she notices the hot flush that starts to travel up his neck and spills over his amazing cheekbones.
“Martin, are you still with us?” Douglas quips mockingly.
“What? Yes, god, sorry, of course, I’m sorry, where are my manners, I’m Mmmmmm – I’m Captain – I mean, I’m Mmmmmartin, Captain Crieff, god, I mean – “
After the initial shock at being subjected to his verbal diarrhea Molly relaxes, because this bloke is not only gorgeous, but also adorable, and a total dork, like her, and besides, Molly might be self-conscious, but she’s also not stupid, and as a woman she knows where to look for signs. He’s blushing furiously, almost crushes the poor aviators in his fumbling hands and can’t seem to look her in the eye even while stealing glances in her general direction.
Giddy with the realization, Molly does the only thing she can do in this situation.
“So listen, Martin,” she says, interrupting his nervous tirade. “I was wondering, the three of us are going out to dinner… Why don’t you join us?”
She misses her mother and Douglas exchanging smirks because she’s too preoccupied with the way Martin’s eyes light up and how he stutters his way through his disbelief and into hearty acceptance.
Later, when he clumsily climbs next to her into the back seat of Douglas’ Lexus, she basks in his nervous smile, and doesn’t bother hiding her own grin.
In the privacy of her mind, she repeats the words the pilots from her favourite show told each other before takeoff.