Copper Beaches


“I loved you so much once. I did. More than anything in the whole wide world. Imagine that. What a laugh that is now. Can you believe it? We were so intimate once upon a time I can't believe it now. The memory of being that intimate with somebody. We were so intimate I could puke. I can't imagine ever being that intimate with somebody else. I haven't been.”
― Raymond Carver, Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories

John had been called by Molly, letting him know what had happened to Sherlock. John had only understood half of what she was saying, because Molly had been sobbing violently, but he had gotten a grasp of the situation, so that 30 minutes later the Watsons had arrived at Baker Street, where they had found a crying Molly huddled on the floor in the sitting room. She had looked awful.

After a cup of tea, a few hugs and comforting words, she had been able to tell them what had happened.

They had all agreed that they needed to find Sherlock, because they had no idea which state he was in.

The Watsons had informed Mycroft, Lestrade and Wiggins of the new developments, had left the little one and Molly in the care of Mrs Hudson and had gone to search for the consulting detective.

They had started with looking for him in his known bolt holes. Lestrade had gone to the ones he knew, Mycroft had sent out his flunkies, Anderson (God only knew how he had found out what was going on) had gone to Leinster Gardens (“Don’t you see? It’s a bluff! He’s gone there, because we’d never expect him to.”), Wiggins took care of the not so friendly neighbourhoods, Mary had gone to Molly’s flat and John had set out to the most unlikely place: Behind the clock face of Big Ben.

After a lot of stairs (way too many stairs – he had to stop a few times to catch his breath) John had finally made it. He took the last step and found himself in the dimly lit room behind the clock face of Big Ben – on top of Elizabeth Tower. The tableau in front of John only confirmed that Sherlock indeed could not resist a touch of drama: He stood with his back towards him, looking outside, his hands behind his back – a dark shadow in his Belstaff with the collar turned up against the illuminated clock face. John could not help but note that it looked like an impressive shot of the headquarters of the villain in a movie. The only thing that was missing from the scene was the wind that was billowing his coat dramatically.

Sherlock had never had so many emotions running through him. He feared his mind was going to go into overload.

The rooms in his mind palace were rearranging themselves on their own accord. He had tried to make them stop, but it had been useless. The more he had tried, the stronger the headache had become. At some points his vision had been blurry when he had hurried up the stairs to this room. He had been barely able to catch his breath when he had finally arrived here. It had felt as if he was suffocating. His hands had been shaking, cold sweat had been on his forehead. The rational part of his mind had been telling him that he was having a panic attack, but he refused to believe it. Panic attacks were caused by fear, fear was irrational, and he was nothing if rational. Henceforth it was simply impossible that he was having a real panic attack.

It had felt like the night when he had not been able to find the room with the memory of proposing to Molly. Only now Molly had not been there to help him. He had tried to dismiss this thought instantly. She had not helped him. She had lied to him, deceived him, invented a memory that had never existed in the first place.

And after a few minutes of concentrating on breathing and slowing his erratic heartbeat down, he had managed to calm down. A bit. He had been alone with his thoughts and... feelings. All cursing through him like a river that would burst its banks, if stopped. He had tried to fight against the tide, but it had proven to be useless. It had felt like his mind was trapped in a room, running against the walls, trying to escape.

Then he had heard John climbing the stairs. Bits and pieces, pictures and words had swirled through his head – some of them actual memories, some invented back-story. Now he could tell them apart. How had he not been able to tell them apart? How could he have ever believed he was like that?! What had he done? How could his so called friends let this happen to him? It was humiliating, embarrassing. All this caring, touching, kissing, smiling, laughing, ... This hope and joy, these doubts and fears... He would have given everything to feel nothing again.

John was still contemplating how to broach his best friend, when said man started to talk with an empty voice, “I knew if someone were to find me here it would be you. Mary went to Molly’s flat, didn’t she?”

John knew it had been a rhetorical question, so he remained silent.

Slowly Sherlock turned away from the scenery of London at night towards his blogger, and when they finally came face to face, John saw that the calmness in his voice had been a well performed act, for Sherlock was unhinged. He had a haunted look in his eyes that reminded the former army doctor of the one Sherlock had worn in Dartmoor. And he was so very pale. He tried to hide it, but he failed. The only thing that was unruffled was his voice, for it was as bored as ever when he started, “I figure you are glad.”

John cleared his throat and cocked his head to the side in question, “What do you mean?”

”My amnesia-story will make a heart-wrenching blog entry. I’ve already got a tile for you A Case of Identity.” His voice was monotone.

John knew that Sherlock was trying to pick a fight. He was angry and confused and wanted to take it out on someone. The former army doctor knew that he needed to be the one to stay calm. He did not know how long he could manage, but he would try.

Therefore he held back a sarcastic riposte and said instead, “I guess you can remember everything?” Being a doctor (although he had had his days) he was worried about Sherlock’s well-being.

Sherlock snorted, “You guess correctly, doctor.”

“Do you…,” John started, but was interrupted by his best friend, “And I remember that it was indeed Mr Rucastle who was so kind as to arrange for me to get to know the marble coffee table better than necessary.”

”Are you suffering from a headache? You should go and...”

Sherlock’s face was shrouded in a cold fury when he interrupted John and hollered, “Don’t you dare tell me what to do! Don’t patronize me!” He pointed a finger at his best friend, who took an involuntary step backwards. “You’ve patronized me with lies for long enough!”

“Says the man who has made me believe that he was dead for two years.”

“That’s something entirely different.”

“Care to explain why?” John crossed his arms in front of his chest.

”I had no choice!” Sherlock exclaimed.

”There’s always a choice! We also had a choice, but it seemed like the right one at the time and I am still convinced it was.”

All the anger and frustration that Sherlock felt was clear in his voice when he accused his best friend, “You formed an alliance against me!”

John still tried to defend their actions, but felt himself getting more and more worked up as well and his voice swelled as well, “We formed an alliance for you. To help you.”

“It was a conspiracy. You lied to me. All of you!”

“We had a good teacher.”

Sherlock hadn’t expected that comeback and froze for a moment.

John was befuddled by his own statement. It was not what he had wanted to say, but the words had broken through and now it was too late.

Sherlock recovered rather quickly, and a derisive half-smile formed on his lips, “Seems like you’ve stayed in the suburbs for too long again. You are latent aggressive. I’ll tell Wiggins to keep his distance.”

John took a deep breath, because he knew otherwise he would have to hit Sherlock. Hard. Sherlock was cruel on purpose, because he did not know how else to cope with the situation. He was like a wild animal forced into a corner.

John drew a hand over his face. “Sherlock, I know how you...”

But again he was interrupted by the consulting detective. This time his voice was full of loathing, “All those moments from the past that you staged...”

“To expose you to memories from the loss. It was supposed to speed up the process of recovery.”

Again Sherlock’s voice grew louder, “My life is no play for you to direct! I am not a character in some cheesy melodrama!”
John tried to calm him down, “I know that, Sherlock. We know that. But we... we didn’t know what to do. We wanted to help you, so you would be your old self again as soon as possible.”

”Then why didn’t you just tell me?” Now his voice was just hollow.

John sighed deeply. “Believe me, we wanted to, but all specialists we talked to advised against it vehemently. It could have led to severe emotional trauma.”

Sherlock gave him a look.

“You don’t believe me,” John stated.

“I don’t know what to believe anymore.” Now Sherlock sounded sad. He turned away from his friend and looked outside once more.

John took the moment to gather his thoughts. He had always known that this would not be easy. Sometimes it was frustrating to no ends to be Sherlock Holmes’ best friend.

He tried another approach, “This was not easy for us either, Sherlock. Do you have any idea how hard it was for Molly?”

Sherlock scoffed, but did not turn around. ”I don’t see why she should be complaining. She finally had me like she had always wanted me to be: her nice well-behaved puppy.”

John felt himself getting worked up again. Sherlock directing his anger at him was one thing, but hitting at poor Molly who had done everything for him, was just unacceptable. His voice was stern, ”Apart from your parents Molly is probably the only person who loves you for who you are – despite all your flaws.”

Sherlock remained silent and kept looking outside.

John shook his head. “You really don’t deserve her.”

”I’ve never said I did.”

Sherlock’s words made John pause.
He wanted to ask him what he meant by that, when Sherlock turned around quickly, and with two long strides he was in front of his considerably shorter friend, who did not budge one bit.

Sherlock’s tone was a mixture between anger and frustration when he demanded, “It was pathetic. I was pathetic. I was driven by sentiment. How could you let that happen?“

He paused, before he continued, “Even Molly broke up with me, because I was too nice.” He shook his head and mumbled as if to himself, “I can’t believe Molly broke up with me!”

John answered calmly and could not help the small smile that tucked on his lips when remembering, “You were happy.”

“If being brain-wrecked is the key to happiness, I’ll rather be miserable.”

”You were happy,” John repeated, “I’ve never seen you like that before.”

“That wasn’t me.” John was not sure if he detected a bit of melancholy in Sherlock’s eyes.

“No, but it is a part of you. One you normally keep well hidden.”

“For a good reason.”

“And what could that be?” John stared at his friend in challenge.

To his surprise he did indeed answer him, “It makes me stupid.” Now there had been a trace of sadness in his voice.

John assured him, “You weren’t stupid! You solved the Rucastle case. You were just as brilliant in your deductions as always. Molly even helped you solve the Rucastle case. You’ve found the final clue because of what she had said. You’ve said she stimulated the genius in you and was a conductor of light.”

He made a pause and then added teasingly, “I have to admit, I was a bit jealous.”

The ghost of a smile tugged at Sherlock’s mouth, and John was glad that he had been able to lighten the mood slightly, if only for a moment.

Unfortunately the moment was short lived, for Sherlock started pacing up and down in front of John, his hands balled into fists at his sides. It was as if he was at war with himself.

John understood. Sherlock hated to appear weak, and his mind sentiment equalled weakness.
Still the former army doctor could not help but push his luck, “You’ve said, she was the perfect woman for you.” There was no need to specify whom he meant with “she”.

“I had lost my mind. I was brain damaged!” Sherlock growled and quickened his strides.

John sighed. “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

Sherlock stopped for a moment and looked at his best friends. “That’s true. In addition to Egypt, the Nile River flows through Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, …”

“I was not talking about the Nile.” John could not keep the frustration out of his voice, because he was not sure if Sherlock really was oblivious to what he meant, or if he just pretended to be. “Clever word’s won’t help you now, Sherlock.”

”Well then refrain from talking in riddles and about geography. If you have something to say, say it.” Now it was Sherlock who challenged his friend.

Still John was glad to have a Sherlock in front of him, who did not know common sayings or references to pop culture. He was pretty sure he would not hear his friend cite Shakespeare anytime soon.

“You killed for me, and I am merely your friend,” John said with newfound calm.

Sherlock was not sure why John had brought that up all of a sudden, but he had a feeling where this was going. “I did not kill Molly’s abductor.”

John gave him a look. “We both know why you called the Yard. To keep yourself from killing him. You knew Molly would not want you to do that. What would it have been good for: getting her back, just to lose her again, because you’d be sent away for homicide?”

John made a pause, to wait for a reaction from his best friend.

When there was none, he went on, “Sherlock, you’ve always been bad with people, especially with Molly. And after rescuing her… I don’t know if you were doing it on purpose in order to push her away, because in your twisted mind you thought it was nicer that way than just telling her that she didn’t have a chance. Or if you were doing it to make fun of her infatuation with you.”
The blogger paused again and shook his head, “Or if you plain didn’t see what you were doing to her.”

John stared at his friend, hoping to have provoked some kind of emotional reaction from him with his words. He did get a reaction, but not the one he had hoped for.

”I must save my mind for better things,” Sherlock said coldly and resumed pacing.

He did not like the direction this conversation had taken. Why was this all about Molly all of a sudden? He felt his head swimming again. He felt the sudden urge for a cigarette, a drink, or maybe even another more addictive kind of substance. He knew neither was in any way a solution to his problems, but for a fleeting moment he could see himself giving over to the illusion that a smoke or a glass of whiskey were able to calm his nerves. But given the way his hands shook (although he did his best not to acknowledge this physical sign of his distress – and hide from John), he would have probably had a hard time lighting a cigarette or pouring some drink without spilling some of it. Apart from the fact that he had neither substance at hand at the top of Elizabeth Tower.

The voice of his best friend abruptly ended his excursion into the fields of his addictive personality. “I won’t let you do this to Molly, or to yourself,” John clarified, and it sounded suspiciously like a threat. And Sherlock Holmes did not like to be threatened.

“And what do you intend to do about it?” the consulting detective challenged loftily.

Again John sighed, because he knew there was not really anything he could do. And pursuing this line of confrontation would not get him anywhere. If anything, it would only make things worse.

”Feelings only lead to complication,” Sherlock stated, as if that would put an end to the conversation. Needless saying that John would not let him off the hook so easily. “Sherlock, I understand that this must be all very confusing and irritating for you. I don’t even pretend to know what a shock it must have been. But don’t you think that maybe something good can come from it? That you needed that little push to be confronted with your... feelings. With ... love?” John knew that he was walking on thin ice here.

Sherlock stopped his stride and stared blankly ahead for a moment, before he confessed with resignation, “I don’t understand love.”

“No one does.”

The tall man turned towards his friend and arched an eyebrow, “John, you’re not being very helpful.”
John only shrugged, “What can I say, it’s the truth.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

There was moment of silence, because John could not think of a witty rejoinder.

Sherlock was deep in thought and then growled, “Love is the silliest and most useless notion in this world.”

The consulting detective was getting angry again, so John tried to reason with him, “Without love you wouldn’t be alive anymore! Whatever Molly did to help you fake your own death, she did it out of love. She would not have risked her career and her life if she were not in love with you.”

Sherlock had never thought of Molly being silly because she was in love with him. Objectively speaking he was a rather good catch: He was smart. No, he was a genius – relatively good looking , ... Yet, subjectively... why would she love him? How could she love him? He had never done anything to deserve her kindness. He had been manipulative, cold, repellent, cruel even. Yet she had not wanted him to be the nice and caring man he had been since his head trauma. He shook his head back and forth as if trying to will his thoughts away. It was infuriating!

“Love is an aberration!” he hollered, and John looked stunned at the sudden outburst of his friend.

”I was an aberration!” Sherlock tugged at his hair and went over to the clock face to look outside again.

John made a step towards him. “Sherlock you know that’s not...” but he did not come any further, for Sherlock interjected, “I want you to go.” It was more a plea than an order.

He needed to think. He needed to organize his mind palace again, he needed to spend time in some rooms to make sense of all of this. And he needed to be alone to do that. He knew John meant well, but he was a nuisance at this point.

John knew that the conversation was over. No matter what he would say or do, Sherlock would not listen. He wanted to be alone. And probably this was for the best – at the moment.

Slowly the blogger retreated towards the staircase. Before he started his descend he said, “I’ll leave you be. But don’t vanish. Let us know that you are alive at some point. Because we worry about you, mate. And please... don’t do anything stupid.” He thought about adding that Sherlock should go see a doctor, but knew it was useless. He was not even sure if his best friend had even paid attention to what he had been saying. With a heavy heart he climbed down the stairs and left the world’s only consulting detective alone in his mind palace behind the clock face of Big Ben.
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