To say that Molly Hooper's life was a bit hectic, as of lately, was an understatement. Take Halloween's day, for example. She had worked an extra shift to cover for an ill colleague, and after that she had still to go home to retrieve her niece's costume and drop it to her brother's house, before running to Meena's to help her best friend to set up her Halloween's party. Thankfully her costume was already there, so the kind and tireless pathologist had one less thing to worry of. And obviously, it was on a day like that, that Sherlock Holmes had to ask for her help. "Need you." Two simple words, nothing more; half an hour later, she had left her brother's home in Croydon, sent an apologetic text to Meena, before renting a car to reach that insufferable prick in Helver.
"Why do I let him trick me like this? It happens every single time... Grow a backbone, Molly Hooper!", she ordered to herself, while trying to locate the consulting detective outside the bed and breakfast he had told her to stop by. Finally, in the misty dusk, the silhouette of his iconic coat appeared.
"Sherlock, I'm here!", she called, and he strolled to her. "You took your sweet time... Thankfully you rented a car", he reprimanded her, before opening the passenger's door. He started to write something on his mobile, and turned his head only when he noticed that Molly had not started the engine yet. "You sure know how to drive a car, Molly. You came here driving it, after all. So... Why are you not doing it?" That was the last straw. "Maybe because I don't know what the hell I'm doing here, Sherlock! I had plans for this evening, you know! Awesome plans, and-"
"Yet, you are here, and not in a crowded flat in London, entertaining Meena's boring guests at her Halloween's party. Let me answer to your question with another one: do you believe in ghosts, Molly Hooper?"
"Get out." Molly's peremptory tone didn't annoy Sherlock; he found her recent assertiveness quite… stimulant, actually. Long gone were the days when a simple smirk could make her risk her social life, or her job, just to rush to his aid. She needed more. No, wrong: she deserved more. "I just thought you'd be more... curious." For good measure, he added an extra saddened sigh, and looked at her with his best puppy eyes.
Molly stretched her left arm until it brushed on his coat-clad body… and opened the passenger's door. "I said: Get. Out. If you do it quickly, I will manage to return to London in time to pop around Meena's place for a quick drink."
"Ok…", Sherlock panted out, and for a moment Molly feared he would let out a fake sob, too. "Would you just take me to this address, please?". He showed her a Google map page on his mobile.
"Fine. Just buckle up", she instructed, before starting the engine. Five minutes later, they arrived in front of an old Georgian mansion. It looked deserted: the garden was run-down, full of weeds, and broken branches, and the house seemed to be surrounded by thorny brambles. Not to mention the state of the mansion itself: most of the roofing was gone, as most of the windows.
Sherlock's umpteenth sigh deflected her attention from the house's perusal. She took a look at her watch: she still had a few minutes. "So… Why are you here? A new case, or are you interested in buying this ruins?"
The tiniest smirk appeared on his full lips; a less alert person would have missed it, but not Molly. "Are you curious, now?", he baited.
"None lives here, Sherlock."
This time, only a blind would not see his smug smile. "Obviously."
"So who are you staking out?"
"The former occupants". She couldn't help herself, and let out a very unladylike snort. "Really? Oh, let me see… The dark, gothic manor with the, uh, omnipresent low fog hugging the thicket of overgrowth. Wait- is that a hound I hear baying out on the moors? Are you really that desperate, that you couldn't find a better excuse to avoid the Watson's Halloween party, than to feign interest in ghosts?"
Oh, she was being sarcastic… And he would later deny it, but Sherlock Holmes liked it very much. "Do you want to know what happened to the former owners, Molly?". In that moment, her mobile started to ring, and Meena's happy face appeared on the screen. For a second, he feared he had lost her… But then, she ignored the call.
"Do it. But do it quickly."
"I bet that's what you told Tom several times…" he murmured under his breath, and spared a glance to Molly, who seemed blissfully ignorant of his comment… yet still very annoyed at him.
So he began. "Winter 1917. It was a time of dark, dark despair. English soldiers were dying in a war-torn Europe while at home, their beloved started to die of Spanish flu. It was a time of dark despair, and-"
"You said that before, Sherlock. And you're wrong, you know. It's called the 1918 flu pandemic for a reason… You know that it was a virologist working at Bart's, John Oxford, who identified a troop staging a hospital camp in Étaples as almost certainly being the center of the 1918 flu pandemic ?"
Sherlock hung his head in shame. "Ok, ok… But do you want to know what happened to the former residents?"
She shrugged. "I think you would tell me anyway…" "Here lived a couple, Kenneth and Emma Browning. He was a brooding, yet genial young man, enamoured of his studies and of his beautiful and almost equally clever, tiny wife. Driven by the fear of being infected by the deadly virus, they forged a lovers' pact, so that they might spend eternity together and not spend one precious day apart", he concluded, turning to watch Molly's reaction.
"They killed themselves", was her unaffected answer.
"I thought you would have found it romantic…", Sherlock retorted, almost disappointed. "What if I told you that their ghosts haunt this house every Halloween's night?"
She laughed… And then laughed again.
"So… You don't believe in ghosts, do you?", he repeated his earlier question. Molly's laughter stopped abruptly, and a look of disbelief came to her eyes. "I'm a doctor, a scientist, Sherlock. Of course I don't believe in ghosts!" Suddenly Sherlock started to mumble to himself. She could only catch some words, like "moronic advice", and "failure".
"Sherlock… Are you ok?"
"The next time I listen to John Watson, please feel entitled to slap me again", he said, before he started to sulk.
"I'm lost… What are you talking about? What about John?" she inquired, but no answer came from his pouting lips. "Sherlock… I'm tired, and I just want to go home, have a bath and go to sleep. If you want to come back to London with me, I have no objection… Actually, I recommend it rather vividly."
He grunted a sorrowful "ok", and Molly was starting the engine, when the house's door burst open, and in the fog, a shadow appeared.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?", Molly asked, her hands now gripping the car keys.
"Molly… Start the engine, now!", Sherlock ordered, while the figure started to come running in their direction. She put into reverse, the shadow now a few steps away from the car. The fog lights finally hit the incorporeal being… and revealed it having the lanky body of Sherlock's protégé, Wiggins. She stopped the car, and turned to the passenger seat, while Wiggins started to knock on her window. She lowered it, her most charming smile on her lips. "Oh, Wiggins, what a nice surprise! May I ask you what are you doing here, on this pleasant night?"
"Please don't slap me, Miss Hooper! I- I was just trying to help Mr. Holmes here, I just did what he told me to do!", the young man stuttered, before he ran away and disappeared in the fog.
"Traitor…", was the muttered reply that left Sherlock's mouth, but whatever he had in mind to add, froze on his lips at the look on Molly's eyes.
"Don't. Say. Another. Word", she punctuated, starting again the engine another time. "I'm giving you the time of our journey back to London to think about an exhaustive and satisfying explanation, possibly good enough to placate me. In case you won't be able to do it, remember that I've killed you before… And this time I won't be there to revive you."
Needless to say, the journey back to London was deadly silent, apart from the occasional curses coming from Molly. When they arrived at Baker Street, Molly followed Sherlock inside, and sat down on the sofa. "Let me recap, ok? You asked Wiggins, your… whatever he is, to enter an uninhabited house in a village just outside London, on Halloween's night, and then you lured me there first with a plea for help, and then with the inaccurate, and probably false, tale of two misfortuned lovers. Am I wrong?"
He gave her a shy nod, and she continued. "What eludes me, it's the reason behind all of this mess. Let me ask you one question, Sherlock: what have I done to you? Why do you hate me so much?"
"Don't be ridiculous, of course I don't hate you!", he scoffed, removing his coat before plopping down on his armchair. "It's all John Watson's fault, obviously."
"Of course!", Molly snorted. "And how is your best friend accountable for all of this, Sherlock?"
"Well… The other day, he told me how he managed to give his first kiss to a girl. He said that on Halloween's day, he went to the cinema with her, to watch one of those dull horror movies, and when a particularly gory scene came out, she started to cling to him, and then… Well, he kissed her."
"So now I know one of John "Three continents" Watson's most ancient seduction's techniques… But I still don't understand why you asked me to join you in Helver, tonight. And I still don't understand Wiggins' presence there."
"He was supposed to help me...", Sherlock started, but then stopped his confession.
"Help you doing what, Sherlock? I'm starting to lose my patience, I'm warning you… I won't leave this place until you told me the reason why you planned all this!"
For the first time since they came back, Sherlock smirked. "Are you serious? Becausethen I would not tell one more word…"
Molly blinked once, then twice. Was Sherlock Holmes flirting with her? The thought seemed so bizarre, that she had to ask. "Sherlock… Are you flirting with me?". He left the armchair, and sat down next to her. His cunning eyes searched for something in her gaze, and when he finally found it, he flexed his tall form to breath a question just on her ear. "If you were scared, and I were just next to you, would you cling to me… And then let me comfort you?"
Molly didn't know what was happening. Her heart was beating furiously, she didn't know if because of his proximity and his words, or because she was scared he was high again. She had to ask. "Sherlock… Did you take any drug tonight? I won't slap you, I just need to know…".
His frustrated groan was not the answer she was expecting. "For God's sake, woman! What do I have to do to let me kiss you?!". Then he started to kiss her with an equal amount of expertise and passion to leave her breathless.
She seemed to have the same effect to him, because when he stopped, he was panting too. "Do you understand now?"
"Wiggins was supposed to "be a ghost", so I would be scared and you would have "comforted me". Let me tell you, Sherlock: this is the worst seduction's plan I've ever heard of."
"I beg to differ… I think it worked just right", he argued back, before stealing her breath once again. Molly couldn't agree more. After all, he had been right on one thing: this Halloween night with him surely beat Meena's party. It might even be the best Halloween of her life...