Touch has a Memory
“I can only note that the past is beautiful because
one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't
have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”
― Virginia Woolf
Christmas was the season of hope, joy, charity and suicide. That was why Doctor Molly Hooper, pathologist at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London, was always very busy at this time of the year. And so was her fake-fiancé Mister Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective who currently suffered from amnesia and confabulation. Statistically most couples broke up two weeks prior to Christmas and that often went hand in hand with a nasty domestic – mostly about money, ugly furniture or cheating. Therefore the consulting detective had a lot of clients during this time of the year. And this year there were even more, because now that he was a civil man, he even cared about the aesthetically challenged furniture. Sometimes.
Subsequently the pair did not see much of each other during those times, and when they did it was mostly work related (Sherlock being at the morgue or lab) or sleeping next to each other (although ”seeing” is meant figuratively in this case, of course).
Molly was surprised when one morning – she was just getting ready for work – Sherlock suggested a Christmas party. He did not care much about the holiday, but he knew Molly did. He knew that something was bothering her, and he reckoned a Christmas party would make her happy.
Molly had not expected it, of course, but agreed.
Busying herself with the organization of a Christmas party was better than
thinking about the messy situation she was in. Sherlock was nagging her about
the wedding dress and John about the suit on a regular basis. They all told him
to take it slow. After all, it was still almost 8 months to go. On one evening
he had asked her hesitantly about the wedding bands. Molly had told him that
there was so much going on in her head right now and she couldn’t think about
that at the moment. There were things she could cope with – like table cards
and serviettes – and other she couldn’t. And wedding bands and a wedding dress
definitely fell into latter category.
Molly had a suspicion why Sherlock tried to speed things up concerning the wedding. She felt that he was probably afraid she might change her mind. She could not blame him for thinking so. The way she sometimes behaved, she would have gotten the same impression of she were him. So a Christmas party didn’t sound like a bad idea. It was a welcome excuse to busy herself with arranging it instead of the wedding.
Molly invited their friends, made fruit punch and Mrs Hudson baked gingerbread (the old lady was especially happy at the prospect of a Christmas gathering). The pair decorated the flat (Sherlock insisted on helping her, reasoning that she was too small to put up the fairy lights herself) but decided against a tree. Molly knew from experience that Toby and a tree did not get along well.
Subsequently the question of presents arose: namely a
present for Sherlock. Molly had searched her brain. What should she get for
Sherlock Holmes? Should she buy him anything at all? But he was her fiancé
(even if only for the time being), she could not get him nothing at all, could
she? This was likely the only Christmas they would spend together as a couple.
Did that mean anything? Was it stupid even thinking like that? What did he
want? What did he need?
If Molly had wished for a present it would have been for Sherlock to get his memories back. But she doubted she would be granted that wish.
The fairly lights were glowing, candles were light, John and Mrs Hudson were having fruit punch and Sherlock took a bite of the gingerbread. Toby was hiding in Sherlock’s bedroom – he was not very fond of social gatherings. Molly was upstairs to finish dressing (Sherlock could not understand what took her so long) and Mary was with her, putting the little Miss Watson into her father’s former bed.
Molly had stored the presents in John’s old room, because she was under the impression that Sherlock never went up there – at least not when she was at home. She got changed there was well, because she didn’t want Sherlock to see her in advance. Then she had helped Mary to put her baby to bed.
Together the two women went downstairs to join the others. Molly didn’t know why, but suddenly she felt anxious. Mary noticed and squeezed her hand assuring, before she opened the door to the sitting room.
The blonde stepped inside, walking over to join her husband who was sitting in his old chair and put the baby monitor onto the coffee table. Mrs Hudson sat across in Sherlock’s chair and nipped at her beverage. The landlady wore a long skirt, an elegant blouse and looked very happy. It was obvious that she enjoyed an evening with “her boys”. Mary smiled fondly at her.
Finally Molly entered the room as well. She was
carrying two bags – filled with the presents.
“Hello, everyone. Sorry, for being late, hello,” she said shyly.
John had to do a double take when he looked at her. He knew that she would wear the same black dress she had worn back then, but the way she had spoken and entered the room he could not shake off the feeling of déjà vu.
Her hair fell around her shoulders in lovely cascading waves and a hairpin fixed some strands behind her right ear. It was not the ridiculous bow she had worn the last time. John figured she had thrown it away at the very same night, probably while crying.
He had to admit that Molly Hooper looked very pretty.
When his fiancée entered the room, Sherlock looked surprised for a second. He had not foreseen that. He had not expected it. He swallowed and reached for his glass, which gave him an excuse to hide his face from the others. Out of the corners of his eyes he saw Molly shrug (she tried to seem careless, but he could easily see that she was nervous) and go over to join the others and put the bags down.
“Having a Christmas drinkies, then?” she said, as John handed her a glass of fruit punch.
“Where’s Greg?” Sherlock asked, trying his best to let his voice sound monotone. He was still a bit confused because of Molly’s outfit.
“Lestrade,” John said, putting emphasis on the name, because Sherlock calling the DI by his first name was just wrong, “spends Christmas with his wife in Dorset.”
“She’s sleeping with the English teacher.” Sherlock grabbed for his violin.
“Looks like she plans on going through all subjects,” John could not help from commenting.
His wife nudged him in the ribs while Mrs Hudson exclaimed, “John!”
Still everyone chuckled. John thought that Lestrade would definitely feel like missing out, because of Molly’s dress. He had appreciated the view very much back then.
Sherlock let his bow glide over the strings a few times; more for himself than for the others. He wanted to clear his thoughts. It felt like his mind was swimming. He blinked a few times, because he felt a bit dizzy.
“Why don’t you play a carol, Sherlock?” Mrs Hudson prompted.
The man in question turned from his place at the window to the others and smiled, but everyone could see that it was clearly forced. Still he started to play.
After a few more glasses of fruit punch and another carol (Sherlock still refused to wear the antlers), the consulting detective felt quite well again. The dizziness was gone and the funny feeling in his mind as well. He still felt something akin to a slumbering headache in the back of his skull, but since he had been attacked this had become his constant companion. He had learned to ignore it. More or less.
“So, Molly, what about those presents in your bags?”
he said and gestured towards said objects.
Molly looked at it as if she had completely forgotten about them. “Those are for you,” she said before thinking.
Sherlock smirked. “No. The presents in the bag to your right are for Greg, Meena, Mrs Hudson and Toby – albeit I don’t see why a cat would care about Christmas presents. The ones in the other bag are for John, Mary and the baby. Only the present on top of the bag that’s wrapped with a bow is mine.”
Suddenly the room fell silent. Molly watched Sherlock approach, as he picked something up from the table.
“Y..Y...Yes, you’re right,” Molly stammered. She slapped herself mentally that he still had the power to do this to her.
He stopped just a few inches away from her and handed her a perfectly wrapped present with a red bow. Molly’s mouth was dry, and she felt the eyes of the others on her.
Sherlock arched an eyebrow as if asking her why she wouldn’t take it.
She gave herself a mental push and reached for it with shaking hands. She turned the tag and read the greeting that was written in red ink:
Love Sherlock xxx
Molly almost dropped the present and looked stricken.
Of course that did not escape Sherlock’s attention.
“Molly?” The concern was evident in his voice.
She swallowed hard. Unsure how to respond she opted for the noncommittal and only nodded.
“Go ahead, open it,” he urged.
The other people in the room looked helplessly at each other, not knowing what to expect, but ready to save Molly if needed.
In the back of her mind she registered that he had signed with “Sherlock” and not with “William.”
With trembling fingers Molly got rid of the wrapping paper. Underneath it was a black velvet box – jewellery obviously. She reminded herself that it couldn’t get worse than an engagement ring, so she slowly opened the box. It contained the most beautiful sapphire earrings Molly had ever seen. She did not care that her mouth opened and closed a few times and that she probably looked like a goldfish.
Slowly she took her eyes off the jewellery and looked at Sherlock. She could not help but smile fondly at his expression. He looked so uncertain, nervous almost.
“Do you like them?” he asked.
She had to clear her throat before she could answer, her mouth still felt dry. “Are you kidding, Sherlock? They are beautiful!”
Mary took a step closer to have a look at the present as well. She had to agree, the earrings were gorgeous.
Sherlock’s face lit up, and he scratched his neck when he explained, “I know it’s not a blue carbuncle, but I thought it was time to start with the four most important things. So this is the first one. Actually it’s two.”
Molly gave him a quizzical look.
Sherlock went on, “It’s something blue – obviously. And something old. The earrings belonged to my grandmother.”
Molly’s eyes widened, and she started to feel dizzy.
Her fiancé seemed oblivious to her state and kept on speaking, “I know blue earrings are not really suitable for a wedding, but I thought they would look good with the dress you wore at the Rucastles.”
Again Molly looked at the box in her hand.
“As I’ve said before, this is only the first part of four. But I wanted to have something left for your birthday and the wedding day, of course.”
Molly gazed back at him. She felt overwhelmed. This was so much more than she had expected. To be honest she hadn’t expected anything at all. She had just hoped that the evening would go better than the last Christmas they had spent together.
Slowly the dizziness ebbed away, but she still felt light-headed. Sherlock didn’t know that this present was more than two in one; it was three in one: It was not only something old and blue, but also something borrowed, for she would have to give it back to him once this was over and she was not his fiancée anymore. That thought made her cringe. She did not want to think about what the future had in store. She wanted to enjoy the present.
She realized that her inner monologue had probably taken longer than she had thought and that Sherlock was still staring at her, waiting for her to say something. But she didn’t know what. She had no idea how to phrase everything she was feeling right now. Especially because she could not tell him most of it.
So instead of making a fool of herself by saying the wrong thing, she made herself a Christmas present and indulged in standing on tip toe, binging Sherlock’s head down to her level and kissing him. Since he had lost part of his memory she had always been at guard when kissing him. She had never let herself enjoy it, because she knew it was not real. But now, she gave into her feelings and did not hold back. She let herself feel all the bliss and excitement their touch evoked. And from the way Sherlock smiled against her lips, he felt it too.
After they broke the kiss, Molly remembered that they were not alone. The other three had tried their best to make themselves invisible, not wanting to interrupt the display of affection they had just witnessed. And to be honest, they were also a bit shocked by it. Seeing Sherlock holding Molly’s hand or giving her a quick peck on the lips was something entirely different than... this.
John was the first to break the uncomfortable silence by clearing his throat, “I guess you have a present for Sherlock as well, Molly?”
That brought Molly out of her stupor. “Yes, yes, of course I do.”
She put her present onto the coffee table and took the package that Sherlock had rightly deduced was for him, from the top if the bag and handed it to her flatmate.
He grinned at her like a child. This year she had not bothered with a tag or a greeting. It would have hit too close to home.
Unceremoniously Sherlock ripped the paper from the present. Although he had already deduced that it contained an envelope, he was surprised when he read the card it contained:
Fancy some chips? Because I know a fantastic chip shop just off the Marylebone Road ;-)
His eyes narrowed while reading and Molly started to get a bad feeling. Maybe this had not been a good idea? Maybe she had gone too far? Maybe she had not been as clever as she had thought?
John saw too that something was off and took a hesitant step closer to the couple. Just in case he needed to safe the situation. He had no idea which situation or how, but he was good at improvising. Life with Sherlock meant improvising on a daily basis.
Mary stood behind him, also ready to help in case she was needed.
“Is this...” Sherlock’s voice trailed off and he looked inquiringly at Molly.
“It’s a voucher,” she explained, “for dinner.”
“For dinner?” Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, searching her face.
Suddenly he felt lightheaded again, and he could not shake off the funny feeling of déjà vu. The words on the card danced in front of his eyes.
Molly did not understand what he was insinuating. “Yeah, for fish and chips.”
The weary look left Sherlock’s face and instead a smile started to form. “Just off the Marylebone Road, hm?”
There was a twinkle in his eyes. “You know there’s a restaurant where I always get extra portions?”
Now Molly relaxed and so did John beside her. She smiled as well and mimicked Sherlock’s teasing tone, “Why? Did you help the owner to put up some shelves?”
Sherlock‘s mouth was clearly faster than his brain this time, “No, I… actually yes.”
They all exchanged the rest of the gifts, Sherlock played some more carols, they wore paper crowns (Mrs Hudson could convince Sherlock to do it as well) and had Christmas crackers. It was a lovely evening for all of them. Sometime after midnight, the Watsons said their goodbye. Mrs Hudson had already retreated downstairs a bit earlier.
Molly was just finishing the washing up, Sherlock doing the drying (yes, this Sherlock was sometimes helpful in the kitchen – when she forced him) when he said, “I admit I was surprised you chose that dress.” He gestured towards her form next to him.
Molly froze in her action of turning off the faucet. “You remember the dress?”
“How could I forget you in that dress?” He smirked.
Molly then turned off the faucet and said in a careful neutral tone although she was blushing, “Your mind was occupied with other things at the time.”
Sherlock put away the dish he had been drying and reached for another one. He left her statement uncommented.
“You have not worn it again since then. I would not have thought you’d wear it tonight, after all those horrible things I’ve said to you then.”
Her eyes drop straight to the floor. “It’s okay. You said you were sorry.”
“No, it’s not okay.” His voice was stern.
He waited for her to look back up at him and then said with remorse, “You deserve nice words.”
Under different circumstances Molly would have melted at such a line, but now she felt panic rising inside her. Her flight instinct set in, and she turned to leave for the bathroom, but Sherlock grabbed her wrist. His grip was gentle but firm, letting her know that he was not about to let her go, until he wanted to.
“I deleted the text feed on my phone and I gave her phone to Mycroft.”
Of all the things she had expected him to say she would have never come up with that. There was no need to specify which phone he meant. There had only been one camera phone of a woman that was not her in the flat; of The Woman.
Slowly Molly looked from his grip on her wrist into his eyes “Why?” she asked in a hushed tone, as if fearing the answer.
“The past is the past. Why hold on to it?” He looked at her, approval and affection swimming in his gaze.And for a fleeting moment Molly could almost believe that things were going to turn out alright.
A/N: The chapter heading is taken from To- (What can I do to drive away) by John Keats