Copper Beaches

Engaged to a certain Lifestyle

“No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words.”
― Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light

When Molly awoke on the next morning, she was confused at first. The sheets did not smell like hers and she felt something solid next to her. Something that was neither fluffy enough to be her teddy bear, nor furry enough to be Toby. Then she realized that an arm was draped over her middle. The memories came flooding back to her, and she had a hard time remaining clam. Her first instinct was to jump out of bed, but that would have woken the sleeping consulting detective that was holding her. Carefully she wriggled out of his embrace without waking him and then tiptoed out of the bedroom.

In the bathroom, she leant heavy against the locked door and drew her hands over her face. She looked down at her rumpled clothes – she had fallen asleep before changing into her pyjamas – and now that she thought about it, she was glad she had. It probably would have felt even weirder waking up in the arms of Sherlock Holmes with only a thin layer of clothes separating them.

She decided that the first thing to do was having a long shower and then find a way of coping with the sleeping arrangements.

In the end, Molly did not really find a way to cope with the situation, but rather to escape it. She changed her schedule, so that she did a few nightshifts in a row, in order to not have to sleep at Baker Street. She knew it was a coward’s way out, and she knew that it could not go on forever. She could not only work the nightshifts and Sherlock would become suspicious sooner or later.

On the one hand living with Sherlock Holmes was exactly like she had always thought it would be and on the other hand it was totally different from what she had expected. Sherlock Holmes was a man who did everything a one hundred per cent. This also applied when inventing a back-story for a case and with it the persona of William Holmes. He had seemed to have decided that William Holmes was a nice and caring man. Sherlock had constructed himself a new life based on real and invented facts.

The problem for his friends was that they did not know what real facts he had used and what invented he had added. So they had to learn to find a way between subtly questioning him what he believed to be true and not giving him the feeling that something was wrong. As one can imagine it was like walking on egg shells.

His friends had an agreement to always keep each other up to date what they had told Sherlock and what they had found out he did not know- so that they were all on the same page. And although they knew it was necessary, they felt bad about it. They felt like they were betraying his trust and like there was a conspiracy going on.

They had begun to make a list with what they knew Sherlock thought to be true. For instance, he seemed to have deleted Tom and Janine. He was under the impression that he and Molly had attended the Watson wedding together (they had even danced), the word meat-dagger (if it even was an existing term) had never been uttered and Sherlock had never flirted with anyone else but his fiancée (“Which bridesmaid?”). How Sherlock thought they had gained entrance to Magnussen’s office, they had not found out yet.

The part about living with Sherlock that was like Molly had thought was his violin playing, him commenting on the TV and spoiling every mystery, his experiments in the kitchen and of course that he thought the fridge filled itself with food (if there was space for food, because it was crammed with experiments). What was totally different from what Molly had expected was how oddly domestic it was – almost normal. They shared take away food (Molly was not the best cook), Molly read a book or a journal while Sherlock played the violin, and even the consulting detective and her cat got along. Sherlock 2.0 was still not a cat’s person, but the two seemed to have an agreement.

Sherlock called his parents once a week (which they found very disturbing in the beginning) and his brother had complained to John that Sherlock actually had asked him if he wanted to meet for tea the other day. John had still been smiling when he had told Molly about it. She figured that Mycroft’s expression must’ve been quite hilarious when his brother had asked him. All in all Sherlock was now (mostly) friendly and nice. Especially towards Molly he was affectionate and always initiating physical contact when she was near; he would hold her hand, brush his fingers against her arm when he passed her, or put his hand on the small of her back when guiding her out a door. It was disconcerting to say the least.

Of course Molly tried her best not to give in to his advances, but at the same time to act as normal as possible. At least she did not have to worry about Sherlock calling her honey or darling. She hoped... She had managed to remain collected without being dismissive most of the time (at least she hoped so), but she had known from day one that she could not keep it up forever. Her resolve would crumble a bit day by day – sometimes without her realizing.

Tonight was the night. Not THE night, of course, but the first night she would have to spend at Baker Street since she had moved in. Her row of nightshifts was over (and there would not be one in at least a week) and now she did not have an excuse for not sharing a bed with her fiancé.

Thus Molly was nervous when she entered 221B and found the aforementioned man sitting in his chair reading a paper. He looked up at her and asked, “How was your day?”

Molly stopped dead in her tracks and was confused, “Pardon?”

Sherlock cocked his head to the side and regarded her over the rim of the paper. “I asked how your day was.”

“Why?” she asked. The pathologist was baffled. She still had problems with accepting that the new Sherlock did small talk and knew about social niceties. Never before had he bothered to ask her how her day had been.

Now Sherlock was confused too. “What do you mean, why?”

Molly realized her mistake. This was one of those moments when she wanted to explain to him that he was not himself, because he would never ask her a question he regarded as dull. But she could not.

“I just...,” she started unsure, “... never mind. I had a good day. Mostly lab work. What about you?” Drawing attention from herself towards him had worked in the past and she hoped that it still did.

Although he gave her a look that clearly transported that he found her behaviour peculiar, he lowered the newspaper onto the table and answered, “I may have found a clue in the Rucastle case. John and I will do a stakeout tonight.”

She looked at him surprised, and he interpreted it the wrong way. “I know this is more or less our first night at home together after... the incident, and I am sure you have imagined it differently, but we’ll have to go there tonight.”

He made a small pause and gave her an apologetic look. “I hope that’s okay?”

Molly almost wanted to laugh. Yes, she had imagined tonight differently; mainly her trying desperately to find a way to keep her distance without giving the impression that she was refusing him, but this was way better. She felt a weight taken off her shoulder when she walked over to him to reassure her fiancé, “Of course it’s fine. I am glad you’ve found a new lead. Where are you going?”

Sherlock looked positively excited in the prospect of an investigation. Molly could not help but think that this was one of the occasions where he was just like his old self.

“You know I did some research on Miss Hunter,” he began.

Molly knew very well. It was what had occupied him most of the time since he had been home from the hospital. His injury had only spurred him on to find out why someone had tried to keep him from investigating further.

“Miss Hunter got her job at the Rucastle’s through an agency called Westaway’s. I could not really find out anything useful about them on the internet, apart from the fact that the owner is a certain Miss Stoper. My network tells me that she has some ties to the Australian ambassador and some of her ‘activities’ are not of the legal kind. The agency and her flat are in the same building at Montague Place, so John and I will have a look at it tonight.”

Molly nodded in understanding. “Sounds like a plan.”

Sherlock gave her a proud smile and then his look settled on her lips. Molly knew what he was thinking and in order to prevent it she reached for the paper on the table and asked, “What were you reading when I came in?” Of course Sherlock knew what she was doing, but decided to ignore it.

“Nothing, I just...” He tried to snatch the paper out of her hand, but Molly was faster and held it out of his reach. She scanned the page. “Sherlock, this is an old paper.”

He did not say anything, so Molly went on, “Is it case-related?”

When he did not answer her, she turned to look at him. He was avoiding her gaze and seemed to find his hands on his lap absolutely fascinating.

“Sherlock?” Since she had been living with him, she had come to learn that he did that sometimes – he wore a look of... melancholy... on his face and tried to stay as far away from her as he could.

When it had happened for the first time, she had thought that he was remembering, but she had come to understand that those were moments when he was confused about something. And not even this version of Sherlock Holmes liked to be confused.

She lowered the paper and reached for his arm. He flinched at her touch and she pulled her hand back.

“There are moments when it feels almost surreal that we are engaged,” he told her in a whisper, sounding ashamed.

Molly had to keep herself from saying something like, “Do tell! You’re not the only one who feels that way.” Instead she swallowed hard, not knowing what to reply.

Luckily Sherlock did not expect her to say something and spoke up again, “So I had to make sure it was real.”

He turned and pointed a finger on the left side of the right page of the newspaper. Molly looked carefully and while reading, the words in front of her eyes started to blur.

Forthcoming Marriages
Mister W.S.S. Holmes and Miss M.E. Hooper.
The engagement is announced between W.S.S.Holmes, son of Sigur Holmes and M.E. Hooper, daughter of Elizabeth Hooper.

So it was case related (although he did not know it was). Sherlock had put a fake engagement announcement into the paper to make it more credible. Molly remembered Mrs Rucastle telling her she had read about their engagement in the paper and Molly had snickered at that.

Now as it turned out the lady had been right. She was officially engaged to Sherlock Holmes. It was weird that neither the ring on her finger nor Sherlock calling her his fiancée had made it feel so real like a few letters in a newspaper did.

With a heavy heart she sat down on the armrest of John’s chair (Toby would not budge from his place). Sherlock had had doubts if their engagement was real and now all his doubts were allayed because of an announcement in a newspaper. It was true, the written word had a power of its own and right now Molly despised it.

Sherlock regarded Molly from his place in his chair. She knew he was trying to deduce what she was thinking and why her reaction to reading the announcement was probably totally different from what he had expected. The typical wrinkle when he thought hard about something formed between his eyebrows while he seemed to contemplate what to say or do next.

Molly could not help him, because she felt way too clueless herself at the moment.

After a few moments of silence Sherlock had decided that going on as if his fiancée did not look as shell-shocked as she did was the best way to handle the situation and he informed her, “I was also looking for the wedding invitation, but couldn’t find it. I called Mary and she said she’d give it to John to take with him.”

That information brought Molly out of her stupor, and she inwardly thanked Mary’s foresight.

“I see,” was all she could say when she got up from the chair, left the fateful paper on the table and went over to the kitchen to make some tea.

She needed something to busy herself with, something to put some distance between herself and her fake fiancé in order to get back on track. She would have time to process everything later when he would be at Westaway’s. She felt Sherlock’s eyes on her, but chose to ignore it.

While putting the kettle on, she saw something on the kitchen table that had not been there before. She reached to pick it up. It was a file that had written P.M., CB, St. Andrew’s, Victoria written on it. And there was a red stamp on it that said Top Secret. Molly snorted. Wasn’t it counterproductive to write Top Secret on a file if you didn’t want people to get curious about its contents?

Sherlock had watched her from his chair and now got up to join her in the kitchen.

“John gave it to me. A present from Mycroft.” He indicated towards the file.

Molly laid it back onto the table.

“He said it might be an exercise,” Sherlock said with abhorrence.

“So I guess you are not interested?”

He smiled at her mischievously. “You guess correctly. Everything that has Top Secret written all over it repels me automatically. And I don’t think I am in need of exercise, do you?”

With that he winked and stepped a little closer to her so that she was trapped between him and the kitchen counter. She made a mental note to be more aware in the future to prevent such situations, but for the moment she was stuck (and had to agree that judging from what she felt, he was indeed not in need of exercise).

Sherlock laid his hands on her shoulders, leaned down and Molly prepared herself inwardly for the inevitable, when she was saved by John’s voice, “Sherlock?”

The man in question sighed in frustration, while the woman in front of him did the same, but for a different reason all together. Sherlock gave her a light kiss in the cheek, released his hold on her and stepped back.

His best friend rounded the corner and took in the scene before him. Given by Molly’s blush, shallow breathing and her wide eyes it was sufficient to be the blogger of the world’s only consulting detective and not the man himself in order to deduce what was going on. He gave the woman an apologetic look and then hastened to distract his best friend.

He spied the file Mycroft had given him on the kitchen table and seized the opportunity, “Did you have a look at it?” He gestured towards the paper.

Sherlock rounded the kitchen table. “No.”

John crossed his arms. “Mycroft said it was a delicate matter.“

Sherlock rolled his eyes and replied in a bored tone, “With Mycroft everything is.“

John shook his head and sighed. In the meantime Molly took the kettle from the stove.

“Tea, John?” She asked. It did not escape the doctor’s notice that her hands were slightly shaking.

Before John could accept or decline her offer, Sherlock referred once more to the file Mycroft had given him, “I think he tries to make fun of me. It’s a favour for an old colleague of his. A lost daddy case. He knows perfectly well I don’t do such cases. They are boring. He seems to have hoped I’ve forgotten that.”

He shook his head and went into his bedroom.

John stared after him. “Where is he going?”

Molly shrugged and poured some tea – now for John and herself, since Sherlock did not seem interested in a hot beverage at the moment. “I don’t know. Probably change into something more suitable for a stakeout.”

Molly went to the fridge to get some milk. Again she had to look hard to find what she was looking for, because there were a (human) liver, some fingers and a (human) kidney where the dairy product was supposed to be. She sighed deeply.

“Just experiments and no food?” John piped in behind her. He well remembered the toxic waste damp that was supposed to be fridge.

Molly finally found the milk and closed the fridge again. “Yeah. I’ve told him before that he can keep his stuff in there, but we need separate drawers for food and experiments.”

John shook his head (remembering similar conversations when he had lived here) and followed Molly to the sitting room where they both got comfortable and took a sip of their tea. Then John cleared his throat, put his cup down and asked in a hushed voice, “So, how is he doing? Any new developments?”

Molly put her cup down as well and shook her head. “I’m afraid not. He’s... well you know...” She made a helpless gesture with her hands.

John nodded in silence. He knew how she felt. It was hard to find words for the change in their friend. “Weird” was probably the best one to describe it. Although it still did not cover all aspects of Sherlock’s behaviour by far.

John had a hard time trying to act as if nothing was out the ordinary, but he did not even dare to imagine how Molly must have felt. She was the one sharing a flat and a bed with him. And from the way she had looked when he had caught them in the kitchen, she was everything but comfortable with the situation. Which was understandable given the circumstances. He wanted to ask her about it, but he did not dare to. How should he approach a subject as delicate as this?

“Molly, tell me, how are you able to make Sherlock stay on his side of the bed?” Probably a bit not good...

John was brought out of his musing by the pathologist taking up the previous question, “It’s like some doors in his mind palace are suddenly closed and others that have been padlocked before are suddenly wide ajar.”

John nodded. He figured that was a good way to describe Sherlock’s state of mind.

“He even quoted Hamlet the other day,” Molly added.

John’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Last time I asked if he liked Hamlet, he told me he was not very fond of the Danish cuisine.”

Both had to laugh at that. And then the bedroom door opened and Sherlock stepped out, dressed all in black.

The two people in the sitting room rose to stand.

“So I guess you’ll have a sleepless night ahead of you,” Molly joked.

John waved it off, “I have a baby at home, I’m used to lack of sleep.”

“Now, come on John. We have to find out what’s going on at Westaway’s. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Molly gave John a look that said, “See, what did I tell you?” while the blogger shook his head in disbelief.

“Sherlock, what did I tell you about human body parts in the fridge?” Molly had to mention it, before he went away.

The consulting detective had the decency to look sheepish – something which his former self would have never done. “Not to put them into the same drawers as the food?” he suggested.

Molly only nodded. She did not show her surprise. She was sure he had not listened to her when she had told him. Again.

Her flatmate scratched his head. “Sorry.”

John raised an eyebrow at the excuse and gave Molly an approving look. It seemed like she had managed to tame Sherlock Holmes. A bit.

Sherlock grabbed his coat and scarf from the hanger, went over to Molly and gave her a quick peck on the lips and then rushed out of 221B and down the steps. J

ohn nodded at Molly while thinking that she looked surprisingly unshaken by Sherlock’s – albeit rushed – display of affection and then left to follow his best friend, who was still as excited about a good mystery as he had been before he had become a man with profound knowledge of pop culture and literature.

When Molly settled back into the chair with her tea in hand, she realized that John had not brought the wedding invitation with him. Or probably he had, but would show it to Sherlock during the stakeout. Either way, she was glad she had not seen it. She was positive that seeing her engagement announcement in black letters had been enough for one day. It did not need to be topped with a wedding invitation.

Feeling restless, she contemplated what to do. She was not in the mood for a book or a journal. She thought about calling Meena and going out for a drink, but she dismissed it. Leaving the flat tonight did not sound appealing.

Just as she had decided to take a shower, before making a decision what to do with her free evening, the file on the kitchen table caught her eye. She knew she probably shouldn’t, because it was Top Secret, but she could not help it.

She went over and opened the file. There was a picture of a man in his thirties with short brown hair. He looked earnest, but his eyes spoke of a friendly nature. He was titled as P.M. The picture was followed by facts about him: his weight, height, birth place and date.... Molly found it alarming what the Government seemed to know about him. Maybe they were closer to total surveillance than she had always thought.

She turned the page. It seemed that P.M. was looking for his biological father. Even for Molly this case seemed too ordinary for Sherlock. Not that she did not feel sorry for this poor P.M., but why had Mycroft set him up on this case? Sherlock had said that is was a favour for an old colleague of Mycroft. As far as she could see this could be the only reason why Mycroft would bother his little brother with something like this.

Molly closed the file, laid it back onto the kitchen table and remembered that she had wanted to take a relaxing shower. Obviously Sherlock’s amnesia was contagious.

The dipping of the mattress was what made Molly wake up. She tried to orient herself. It was dark in the bedroom.

“Sorry, it’s just me, go back to sleep,” a baritone voice beside her whispered.

This time she knew from the beginning that it was neither Toby nor her teddy bear lying next to her in the bed. Molly felt his hand reach for her under the sheets and pull her backwards towards his form. She stiffened at first but then told herself to relax.

She did not turn around to face him however when she asked in a voice filled with sleep, “You’re back already? I thought it would take the whole night.”

Sherlock seemed to get comfortable behind her and drew lazy circles on her abdomen. Now Molly knew that she would have a hard time falling asleep again.

“I’ve gained all the information I needed. There was no need to stay any longer. Are you disappointed?“

“No.” She did not know if it was a lie or not.

She felt more than heard Sherlock chuckle behind her, “John hoped the stakeout would take longer so he could get some sleep. I don’t think he gets much sleep at home.”

Molly had to smile at that. It had not escaped her attention that John had looked tired today.

The pathologist felt Sherlock’s breath grace her neck and his fingers stopped their movement on her belly.

Silence enfolded them and Molly thought he had fallen asleep and was busy willing herself to the land of dreams herself, when he spoke up again, “John brought me the wedding invitation.”
There was a pause in which Molly involuntarily held her breath.

“I remember it differently, but obviously...” his voice drifted off. Again he sounded uncertain, so Molly could not help but reach for his arm that was snaked around her under the sheets.

“What?” she asked in a low voice, knowing instinctively there was something that was bothering him.

He opened his mouth, but then closed it again, as if he was not sure what he wanted to say or how. It was a rare occurrence that Mr Punchline was at a loss of words, but with the new Sherlock Molly found that it happened on a more or less regular basis, at least when they were alone.

Finally, he seemed to give up trying to find the right words for what was going on his muddled mind. He tightened his hold on her and whispered, “It doesn’t matter, as long as we get married.”

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