Copper Beaches

... but Thinking makes it so

“A safe but sometimes chilly way of recalling the past is to force open a crammed drawer. If you are searching for anything in particular you don't find it, but something falls out at the back that is often more interesting.”
― J.M. Barrie, The Works Of J. M. Barrie


Molly had worked on the amnesia-Sherlock-list while he had been in Winchester. It had become considerably longer. Sure they still hadn’t all answers to their questions, but she thought they had made progress. Facts he remembered were, for instance:

Mary shooting him (Sherlock had told Molly how grateful he was that she had been there and had helped him to stay focused. Molly had been more than a bit flummoxed by his statement. She concluded that he seemed to mix some things up a bit when remembering the incident.)

Doing drugs for the Moriarty case (including Molly slapping him, although he blocked out the statement about her ring)

Shooting Magnussen and spending 4 minutes in exile (“The four longest minutes of my life; excluding when Mycroft tried to explain the facts of life to me.”)

The Woman (to Molly’s disappointment)

Moriarty (although in a slightly different way and they were still in the dark about what he remembered precisely)

The Fall (it was not clear if Sherlock was under the impression that they already had been a couple then)

Lestrade’s first name (Greg still couldn’t believe it)

He still hated the deerstalker.

The items she had added to the list he did not remember was a bit shorter:

Tom (Molly had to admit she was a bit grateful for that – and of course felt bad for even thinking such a thing)

Janine (Molly was definitely grateful for that – they still did not know how they had entered Magnussen’s office in Sherlock’s version, though)

He did not remember that Anderson was now pro-Sherlock (this left Anderson very disappointed);

It was unclear if he remembered that he had never liked Donovan or if he had decided again not to like her. But that didn’t really matter since the feeling was still mutual.

The list was a constant work in progress, and all of Sherlock’s friends had their own and updated each other on a regular basis. Molly had always been fond of lists (she was a very organized person), but this one was vital for her daily life with her new fiancé. On some days it was easy for her to keep track what he knew and what he didn’t and on others it was anything but. And on those days, her list helped her get by. Needless to say that Sherlock was not to find out about the existence of such a list. Therefore she always carried it with her and was careful to not let it lie about in 221B.

Apart from expanding her list and going to work, she had dusted their flat. She wanted to call it “Sherlock’s flat” in her mind, but she found that more and more often she referred to 221B as “their flat” even in her own mind. Not only had she realized, with horror, that life with Sherlock Holmes had somehow become almost normal for her, but that she had become so used to wearing the engagement ring on her finger that her hand felt empty without it. She tried not to contemplate it too much and to tell herself at least once a day that it was only a prop, but she knew her subconscious refused to listen.

So while she had been busy cleaning his flat, she had opened the top drawer of a cabinet, and had found a camera phone. She had been curious, because it definitely had not been Sherlock’s (his hand was practically glued to his) and why would he keep a camera phone in a cabinet?

She had inspected it more closely and had tried to find a link to some case. And suddenly she had remembered what John had told her after the case with The Woman. Could it be? Was this The Phone? The one had X-rayed? But the more Molly had thought about it the more certain she had become. She could not think of another explanation. And at this realization she had felt a stab of jealousy. She had known it was ridiculous and inappropriate, but she could not help it. Sherlock’s flat was free of any sentimental object, except for this one: The Woman’s phone.

All of a sudden, she had felt like she had done something forbidden, like she had invaded Sherlock’s privacy. As if the phone had burned her, she had put it back into the drawer and had shut it (more forcefully than had been necessary).

She had tried her best not to think about it, but it had been on her mind constantly. Some part of her wanted to talk to Sherlock about it, and another part knew she shouldn’t. She had no right to. She was not really his fiancée. And for the first time the ring on her finger felt like a burden.

So when Molly Hooper entered her (temporary) flat this evening, she found her fiancé (flatmate) sitting in his armchair that he had moved in front of the window. He was in his mind palace, but not far gone. His right foot tapped impatiently. Molly put her bag and her coat away and scratched Toby behind the ears (who was lying on the couch), before she addressed the consulting detective.

“How did it go, Sherlock?”

He stopped the movement of his foot and shot up from the chair.

“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently, “I can’t make bricks without clay.”

Molly looked at him completely calm. She was used to his tantrums by now. The consulting detective started to pace the room, drew a hand through his hair and pursed his lips with frustration. Molly had to struggle not to smile at his impatience. She passed him and went into the kitchen to get herself a glass of water.

“I reckon that means you did not find any new clues?” she asked while filling a glass and then leaning against the kitchen counter.

Sherlock stopped in his stride for a moment, looked at her and said annoyed, “I’m not so sure about that.” He then resumed pacing again.

Molly shook her head. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

When Sherlock didn’t answer she was not surprised at all. He only filled her in if he wanted to. The pathologist drained her glass.

“Do you think Mrs Rucastle has something to do with it?” she asked.

Sherlock stopped again and gave her a look that clearly transported how preposterous her question was. “Mrs Rucastle is colourless in mind as well as in feature. She is far too dull to be involved in anything other than knitting.”

“That’s not very nice,” his fiancée chided.

Sherlock crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What gave you the impression I was nice?” he snapped.

For a moment Molly stared at him. Not once had he talked to her like that since his head trauma. She was so taken aback that she did not know how to react. Was that a good sign? Was it a bad sign?

While Molly was still busy processing what had just happened, a look of horror crossed Sherlock’s face. “I’m so sorry!” he said and held a hand over his mouth, as if trying to keep more harsh words from tumbling out.

Molly shook her head, not really sure what to reply, “No, it’s quite alright.“

Now Sherlock sounded absolutely scandalized, “How can you say that? It’s absolutely not alright.“

Molly shifted from one foot to the other. This was one of those moments when she wished she were not alone with him and had someone to ask for advice.

She stared at the empty glass that was still in her hand, as if it was a crystal ball, predicting her future and telling her how to proceed. “No, it... it... was good,” she stuttered.

The consulting detective raised his eyebrows. “I’d say it was a bit not good,” he stated, his voice leaving no room for argument.

Molly shrugged helplessly, put the useless glass onto the counter and tried to think of something that would get him to talk about the case once again. “Do you think Ms Hunter herself has anything to do with it?” she finally questioned him.

He waved a hand. “No, she’s as innocent as ...” his voice trailed off, because he did not seem to find an adequate comparison.

After a small pause he went on, “If she’s somehow involved she doesn’t know about it. She’s so naive. She seriously believes that Mr Rucastle is a nice man, just because he tells funny stories.”

He shook his head, and going by the look on his face one would think he pitied the young governess.
All at once Molly felt herself getting a bit defensive, taking his words personally, “Well, some people want to see the good in others. Is that so bad?”

He took three steps and suddenly was right in her personal space. He did that a lot now that they were engaged, and Molly had learned not to flinch (most of the time). Before, he had only done it either on purpose to be intimidating or to manipulate her, knowing this close proximity to him made her nervous. Apart from that he had stayed out of her personal space, because Sherlock Holmes had been someone who had preferred to observe people from a certain distance.

He cocked his head to the side, studying her face. “No, I never said it was. For a fact I know someone who is just like that: always seeing the good in people. And I very much appreciate that character trait in her.”

“Really?” Molly asked in a teasing voice, not knowing what had gotten into her, encouraging him.

“Yes, otherwise she wouldn’t be my fiancée,” he said in a joking manner, leaned down a bit further and ran his thumb across her cheek, his look wandering from her eyes to her mouth.

Molly thought her heart had stopped beating for a moment. Suddenly she didn’t feel like joking anymore. This didn’t feel like joking anymore. Her eyes widened at his words. She did a step aside to put some distance between them; not sure if she was glad or sorry he hadn’t kissed her. And that confused her even more. Flirting was okay – she guessed – but this seemed to head into more dangerous waters.

She ignored the look of rejection on his face (she had become quite good at that) and walked over to his chair, gesturing at it, “Why did you move your armchair? And why with the back to the window? I would feel like someone was watching me from behind…” she rambled in an attempt to ease the awkwardness of the situation.

But instead of telling her to shut up or answering her questions, his posture went totally stiff and a broad smile formed on his face.

“Molly, you are brilliant!” he said with triumph in his voice and grabbed his phone from the coffee table and started to type furiously.

The pathologist did not know what had triggered that compliment, but decided to just accept it. Sherlock Holmes making compliments was a rare case. She smiled shyly and had to acknowledge that sometimes this version of Sherlock was not so bad.

That made her think of her amnesia-Sherlock-list in her bag and of a question, she still needed an answer for. And since he seemed to think of her quite highly at the moment, she decided to try her luck.

“Do you remember how we met?“ she asked innocently and in what she hoped was a casual tone.
Sherlock did not even look up from his phone or stop typing when he answered, “Of course. You were working on the case I helped Greg with.“

Molly could not help a sigh. That had not been as specific as she had hoped. She guessed she would have to try again on another day to gather that specific information; one piece of the complicated puzzle that was the (partly) invented life of William Holmes.

Molly’s musing was interrupted by Sherlock who had put away his phone again and stated, “You cleaned the flat while I was in Winchester.” He didn’t say it in any way accusingly. It was an observation, neutral, which was extraordinary, given the fact that the old Sherlock had hated it when Mrs Hudson had cleaned up.

Molly nodded while he looked around the room. And then she felt it again: The stab of jealousy, and she remembered what she had found in the top drawer of the cabinet. She didn’t know if she should bring it up. But he would know that she’d found it. He always knew when something had been moved. “Dust is eloquent,” she had heard him say once.

“You’ve told me you don’t keep souvenirs from your cases,” she voiced out loud.

“I don’t,” he confirmed while trying to figure out where this was heading to. “John keeps the cufflinks and tiepins.”

“Then why did you keep her phone?” Molly didn’t need to specify whose phone she meant.

A mild look of alarm crossed Sherlock’s face before he carefully composed blandness.

“I wasn’t going through your stuff,” she vindicated hastily, “I found it while cleaning.”

He directed his gaze away from her.

“It must mean something to you. You never keep souvenirs.” She knew she was pushing him, but she couldn’t help it. She was not angry. She had no right to be. She understood the wish to keep something from a person that meant something to you. She just wanted to understand why he had kept it.

His gaze swept around the room and then settled on the mantelpiece.

“I kept Billy,” he said, as if that would explain everything.

Molly didn’t feel brilliant anymore. On the contrary, she felt rather stupid. “Yes, but… What do you mean you kept Billy?”

He returned to look at her once more. She couldn’t begin to decipher his thoughts.

“Our first case together,” was all he said, while he regarded her, patiently waiting for her to catch up. Patience – another trait that this version of Sherlock possessed – if he wanted to.

The pathologist thought back on the day when Lestrade had walked into the morgue in the company of a certain Sherlock Holmes who had come straight from the Reigate Rehab, where human remains had been found. Molly had had to examine the skeleton and had found out that a shot had been the cause of death. Furthermore she had identified the victim as the driver of Dr Cunningham – the former director of the institution – whose name had been William Kirwan. But everyone had called him Billy.

Sherlock watched the penny drop.

“You mean Billy the skull is… Billy?!” Molly breathed and glanced over to the skull in question that stared back at her with hollow eyes.

She looked back at the man in front of her. “But you can’t just take a skull away from a body!” Her voice raised in pitch as her agitation grew.

Sherlock organized his face into a smile, but his eyes remained detached from the process.

“Obviously I could. It’s not like he would miss it.”

Molly opened her mouth, but then had to close it again, since she lacked a retort. What could one possibly say to that? She sighed deeply and slowly shook her head.

“The phone,” Sherlock began again, his voice was suddenly carefully empty of the tenderness of a moment ago, “it reminds me that sentiment is a disadvantage.”

“That makes no sense. You keep it to remind you that sentiment is not an advantage, yet it is sentiment that made you keep it in the first place.” Molly tried to understand what he wanted to say, but she couldn’t wrap her head around it.

She watched his face as she saw half a dozen possible responses flare to life and then fade his mind.

Instead of going into her statement, he cleared his throat and asked, “You want me to throw it away?” He sounded harsher than he had intended to.

But Molly was not intimidated by it, on the contrary, she felt calm all of a sudden. She understood. It was not her place to expect from him to do that for her. It was his right to behave the way he did. She had forced him into a corner. He was trying to defend his privacy and his past. How would she react if Sherlock confronted her with her history of boyfriends? Girlfriend was probably not the right term for what Irene Adler had been to him, but she had been something to him at some point in his life.

She took a tentative step towards him and took his right hand in hers. There was a change in his countenance and his features softened. She squeezed his hand lightly and told him sincerely, “No, I could not take away your past from you.”
‘Not when there’s already been taken away so much of it,’ she added silently in her head.


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