Molly made it his business to read people -- their expressions, their body language, everything from the clothes they wore to the accent in their voice told him a little bit more about the person before him. He was naturally intuitive and he'd honed the skill over his years at the carnival -- that sensitivity was what let him succeed at his tarot readings, picking up cues and clues from a stranger he'd not known for more than five minutes to be able to spin a shape of their past, present and future.
He was good at it and he enjoyed it, but Caleb Widogast confounded a lot of his senses. The human was so closed off, so reserved -- some of that wariness he shared with Nott, no doubt an artifact of the hard life they'd lived on the road together, but some of it was just Caleb's natural mannerisms. He was so very withdrawn into himself, covering up a deep reserve with additional camouflaging layers of dirt and grime, that Molly had a hard time reading him.
Time on the road with Caleb gradually gave some of his insight back. He learned the difference between a nervous Caleb and an angry Caleb, a sarcastic Caleb from a sincere Caleb, learned his habits and his mannerisms and the twitchy red flags that screamed 'stay off.'
He learned that Caleb didn't often make eye contact. Even with the rest of their group, even with Nott it was something he seemed to avoid, not usually meeting anyone's gaze for more than a few seconds unless he was exerting a conscious effort to connect, to cast, or to cow. Molly had accepted it -- they had all accepted it as just the way that Caleb was, that no rudeness was intended when he fixed his eyes on someone's shoulder or the wall behind them when they talked.
So it took him a while to catch on to the fact that Caleb was staring at his mouth.
The six of them were in an inn for the night; a job recently completed, a night spent in relative comfort and the prospect of a shopping trip the next day had put all of them in a good mood. Nott and Jester were going through Jester's haversack and commenting critically over the loot. Fjord and Beau were involved in a heated debate over the relative merits of hand-held weapons that Molly was kibitzing on, throwing in his support on whichever side he felt most needed a boost. Caleb had brought his book down from his and Nott's room to sit at the table with them, but he wasn't reading now.
He was watching Molly, and his gaze was fixed at a point somewhere under Molly's nose. He wasn't smiling -- it would have been a surprise if he had -- but there was a certain softness, an openness to his expression that Molly hadn't often seen on him. The taproom's firelight danced over his skin (cleaner than it had been in a while, thanks to the inn's baths) and gave his blue eyes an almost violet tint.
And Caleb's eyes were definitely tracking his movements, he decided as he turned his head and Caleb shifted imperceptibly to follow. Not just looking often into the distance but seeing his own thoughts, as he so often did: Caleb was looking at Molly like he saw something he liked.
And, well, how could Molly object to that? There was a lot about him that was fun to look at, after all.
He turned up the charm a bit, fussing with his hair and horn jewelry, and if he struck a bit of a pose, well, he was a showman after all. He even ran his tongue over his lips in a way that, in the past, had never failed to elicit a reaction.
It did get a reaction but not the one he'd been hoping for. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Caleb blink hard, as though he'd been asleep and had been jolted awake, and with a slight frown turn back to his book.
Hmm. Not what he'd expected. What had he missed? As Caleb buried himself in the written world again, Molly resolved to find out.
Having seen it once Molly stayed on the lookout for it. Now that he knew what he was looking for he was able to catch Caleb staring at him more often, surprise that soft fondness on his face whenever he thought Molly wasn't looking. It was undeniably flattering, but it also made him curious. Sure, he knew he was good-looking, but then again everyone in their uncanny group of technicolored supermodels was good-looking. What was it exactly that had fixated their resident shabby wizard's attention on him?
He spent more time around the campfire watching Caleb, thankful for his unusual eyes that largely concealed the direction of his gaze. Caleb didn't look at Beau with an expression like that, not that Molly would really have expected him to -- Beau was not really the type to invite soft looks. He had the same expression of foolish fondness when he looked at Nott, but then the bond between them was its own very exclusive thing. Not to Fjord, and not to Yasha. He seemed to like Jester well enough -- it was extremely hard to not like Jester -- but he didn't look at her quite in the same way.
As mysteries went it was pretty low-stakes, but driving him quietly crazy. How could he show off for Caleb if he didn't even know what about him the quiet man liked so much? And he did want to show off for him, he found, now that the question had been raised.
He liked Caleb, the more so the more he got to know the man. Under that careful shell of bitterness and dirt there was a man with a surprisingly soft heart; smart as a whip too, and Molly never made a secret of his own competency kink. Not bad-looking either, once you got under the dirt. Not bad-looking at all. One thing Caleb most emphatically did not have was his shit together, but hells, neither did Molly, so who was he to throw stones?
He liked Caleb. He wanted Caleb to like him, and from the looks he'd been catching he was pretty sure there was something about him Caleb liked quite a lot. But what?
He hit on the answer entirely by accident one night as they were all preparing for bed under and around and on top of the cart. Caleb was on watch, silver thread set up around the perimeter, and he had his familiar perched on his knee. Cat form again tonight as Caleb seemed to prefer and the fey creature was leaning into the role; curled up and basking in the fire's warmth, small chest rising and falling, tail flicking lazily in time with the dancing of the flames. Molly sat and just watched them for a while -- not even spying right now, just enjoying the picture of warmth and contentment they were putting out.
Frumpkin yawned, flashing a mouth full white needle-sharp teeth as he stretched and curled up again in a new position. Molly glanced up at Caleb's face and surprised that same -- that very same expression of soft, foolish fondness.
The clue dropped then, jackpot! and Molly had to restrain himself from leaping off the cart and punching the air in delighted epiphany. The fangs. Caleb liked Molly's fangs.
Molly's canine teeth had always been longer and sharper than most people's. He wasn't sure why -- Jester didn't have fangs like these. But then not all tieflings were exactly the same -- no two were exactly the same, in fact, each one with a horn pattern just a little bit unique. He didn't know whether it was a tiefling thing, or something to do with all the other Blood Hunter weirdness, but he refused to be ashamed of them any more than he was willing to be ashamed of any other part of himself.
To test his theory he raised his head and looked directly at Caleb, waiting for the man to notice his intent gaze. Caleb glanced up at him, eyebrows quirking slightly in question. Molly waited until Caleb's attention was fully on him and gave him the widest, toothiest smile he could manage.
Molly didn't usually smile with his teeth out unless he was trying to intimidate people. Caleb's reaction however was far from intimidated. Molly had to give him credit, Caleb kept admirable control over his expression. But there was no hiding the red flush that crawled up his neck and swept over his face, burning in his cheeks. Caleb dropped his eyes but the flush lingered.
Molly got up from his seat on the cart and sauntered over to Caleb, who kept flicking wary little glances at his approach. He deliberately slowed down the movement of his tail, swaying it in imitation of Frumpkin's own tail, and was rewarded by the way Caleb's eyes followed that too. It kept him mesmerized perhaps, too distracted to protest until suddenly Molly was in Caleb's space and it was too late.
"Mister Caleb," Molly said, coming to a halt and clasping his hands behind him self-importantly.
Caleb nodded up at him, looking bemused. "Mister Molly?"
Molly gave him another fang-baring smile, watched the way Caleb's eyes shot up to his mouth. "So," he purred. "See something you like?"
"Ah… yes…" Caleb seemed a bit lost for words, but he rallied admirably. "I did not mean to… stare. It is a bit embarrassing, but… yes. Your… your teeth are very… are very…"
"Sharp?" Molly offered sweetly. "Feline, even?"
Caleb rubbed his hands together, avoiding Molly's gaze. "I, ah… I always liked cats, from the time I was a child. Frumpkin is, you know, I had a cat named Frumpkin back then, that is why, why. But they always made me happy, with their little faces, and sharp little teeth. That is not to say that I think you are an animal! Nothing like that. I… I just think they are… very cute."
He was still blushing, not the intense heat of earlier but a softer, rosier glow to his cheeks. Moonweaver cast her blessings over fools and lovers. This was the cutest fucking thing Molly had ever seen.
"If it bothers you, I can… I can stop," Caleb offered. Molly hummed a bit, considering how to reply.
"You know, I'm used to getting stared at. The whole…" He waved down his body, taking in the skin and the ostentatious outfit and all the rest of it. "Can be very offputting to some people if they aren't used to tieflings. Even if they are, some people just have their own baggage they don't care to put down. It's pretty much a guarantee that anywhere I go, I'll get people staring at me, staring at my horns, my tail, my skin." He shrugged.
Caleb curled in on himself a little more, and Molly found he did not care for the way he made himself shrink. "I… I am sorry. I did not mean to, to make you --"
Molly waved off his apology. "No, no, not at all," he said, and Caleb stopped mid-apology, looking confused. "I don't mind at all, because you know what I decided long ago? Let them stare!"
Caleb blinked. "Pardon?"
"I like me!" Molly threw his arms out wide. "I like all the parts of me, whether some Joe Villager on the street approves of them or not. I look pretty good, if I may say so myself, and those parts of me that they can't accept -- well, I think they look pretty good too. But you have no idea how much it pleases me to hear that other people, people whose opinions do matter to me, like them too."
"Ah… really?" Caleb perked up a little bit.
Molly nodded emphatically.
Caleb looked… gobsmacked, that was the only word Molly could find for it. "I… am someone… whose opinion matters to you?" he stuttered.
Molly gave him a warm smile. "You are indeed, Mister Caleb."
"I… ah… well." Molly saw Caleb swallow, saw him take a breath as though preparing for a plunge. "As you know perfectly well, you are a very handsome man, Mister Mollymauk. And I very much admire your, your confidence in yourself."
"And my teeth." Molly added helpfully.
"Yes, well." Caleb gave an embarrassed little cough. "That -- too."
Molly leaned in close, parting his lips just enough that the tips of his fangs peeked out between them, watched Caleb's eyes zero in on them and grow wider, darker. The blush hadn't ever really left his face, but it was deeper now.
"Would you like to get a closer look?" Molly purred.
Over the course of the next few hours Caleb became very well acquainted indeed with the object of his fascination. And Molly, well -- now he knew how it felt to be the cat that got the cream.