It was quite late by the time they finished tending to the bees. The warmth of day faded into a cool evening and Molly was grateful for her shawl. A rising wind bent trees and snuck through the weave of her old green coat. Her left hand, at least, was warm in Sherlock’s.
“You should have worn your shoes,” she chided.
Keeping shoes on him had always been impossible, his old nanny confided in her once, when Sherlock took her to visit. That had been the day she knew that he loved her, when she sat in the tiny sitting room that smelled of dry roses and watched Sherlock pour his nanny tea the same way he did for Molly—with an awkward care not at all in keeping with his usual flinging of limbs and racing of mind.
“My feet are never cold,” he said, with a familiar and slightly chafing certainty. “If I put shoes on too often, I shall lose the advantage. And then where will I be if I need to chase a murderer through the snow?”
“Without your shoes?” Molly laughed helplessly. “When would you ever need to do that?”
“Last year, in Switzerland.” Sherlock snorted at her lack of awareness—do keep up, Hooper—but squeezed her hand to take the sting out of his words. He hadn’t changed at all for her, he simply mitigated his natural brusqueness with little gestures that said he knew she deserved better. “Ask Watson.”
“Did you catch him?” Molly squeezed his hand in return.
“No.” Molly looked up in time to see his lower lip push out very slightly in a pout. “He had a horse hidden in the trees.”
“Ah. Perhaps we should get a horse and train it to hide in the trees, so you don’t miss out on that advantage either.”
There was a long silence that made her worry that she’d offended Sherlock or, worse, that he was about to take her seriously. There was no room in 221B for a horse, not even if they turned the scrap of pavement that passed for a garden into a stall.
“Inefficient,” he said at last, much to her relief. “Really, Hooper. Where would we keep a horse?”
“Of course, dear.” Molly kept her expression carefully neutral. “I should have thought.”
“A dog, now. That might be a thing to have on hand. Easier to travel with and obedient. Unlike Watson.” That last part came out as a grumble. They were rowing again, as always, both bored for lack of a case to solve.
“And they bite,” Molly offered helpfully.
“Watson bites.” Sherlock’s expression was so sour that Molly was briefly concerned that he might have unfortunate first hand evidence of this fact. “Berlin. He bit a poisoner—dangerous and unnecessary, I was almost out of the bindings, after all. He really should trust me more.”
“Oh, I see. Obviously, he survived the ordeal. That was brave of him.” Molly was rather fond of Watson, for that and all the other times he’d (unnecessarily, of course) saved Sherlock’s life.
“Dog would have better sense,” Sherlock muttered.
“Good thing you have Watson, then,” Molly said, allowing herself a bit more laughter at his expense. “He’s too foolish to run away from you.”
“You’re one to talk.” Sherlock looked askance at her down his long nose.
“You do always say you’re surrounded by fools,” Molly pointed out.
“Yes, but I’m not talking about you, or Watson, or even Hudson. That’s different.” Sherlock’s face crumpled the way it did on those rare occasions when his insecurities caught up with him. “Really, Hooper. You should think better of yourself,” he snapped, shaking it off. “It takes an intelligent person to appreciate me properly.”
“Don’t ‘dear’ me, Hooper.”
“But you are dear to me, Holmes. Very much so.” Molly put her head on his arm as they walked, she was far too small to rest it on his shoulder. “I would bite someone for you, too, by the way. Even a poisoner.”
“I know.” Sherlock was quiet again for several yards. When he spoke again, his tone was determined. “When we get home, I’m going to teach you how to shoot a gun. I won’t have you biting anyone but me.”
“Yes, dear.” Molly steadfastly did not giggle. “Does that mean you’d like me to bite you?”
“I have no idea,” Sherlock said pensively. “No one’s ever bitten me before, not within an intimate context, at least. But I would rather you kept your mouth off other people, if you don’t mind. Hopefully that’s not unenlightened of me.”
“I don’t mind at all. It seems quite reasonable. Your relationship with Watson is platonic, so biting other people is more acceptable.” They crossed a little footbridge, Sherlock’s steps were silent and hers were a tiny, hollow clop-clop of her old boots on the wood. The wind tugged at them again and Sherlock let go of her hand, but it was only to wrap his arm around her and pull her to his side. “Perhaps an experiment is in order, though. You like those.”
“What kind of experiment?” Sherlock sounded distant—some thread of thought had snagged his mind and she’d interrupted him following it to its logical conclusion, as usual.
“To see whether or not you like me biting you.” Now that Molly was thinking about it, he did have the loveliest pearly skin—unfairly so, it was lovelier than a woman’s. Why should villains be the only ones to mark it up?
“Oh.” Sherlock was genuinely startled, his feet lost their steady pace for a moment, then he recovered—mostly. “I. Well. If you. Empirical.”
“Indeed.” Molly allowed herself a moment to wallow in feeling victorious. “You’re always telling me to follow the evidence. I can be taught.”
“Yes. I’ve always…always said that you’d make an excellent investigator.” Molly didn’t need to look up to know that his cheeks were glowing.
“One moment, Holmes.” They paused and Molly held his arm to steady herself while she pulled off her old boots and her little white stockings. “Here.” She tucked them in Sherlock’s worn satchel. “I’ll never get a chance to shoot a criminal if I can’t chase them through the snow, first.”
Sherlock watched her put her boots into his satchel with a puzzled expression, then she saw him adjust, taking everything to its logical conclusion and weighing the outcomes and possibilities until he knew how to react.
“Good thinking, Hooper.” Sherlock settled his arm back around her shoulders and they carried on, the gritty path strange and new under Molly’s bare feet. To feel the world as he did, to get close at all, was a lovely thing. The moon was soaring high enough to bring the world into perfect clarity under its white light. “Will you be keeping notes?”
“Oh, I think so. Watson would, so should I.” Molly slid her arm around his waist. “See, you’ll make something of me yet.”
“You’re something already, Hooper.” Sherlock allowed her a kiss on the top of her head. “I will have to remind you more, since you seem to forget it so easily. Make a note of that as well, will you?”