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It took him ages to notice. Until Sherrinford, actually. (He knew exactly what Sherlock would say. “You do see, you just don’t observe.”)

He had known that Sherlock claimed he ‘deleted’ things he deemed unimportant, but he had always assumed that Sherlock was exaggerating. Who intentionally deleted their memories? How as that even possible? Forgotten, sure. Everyone did that. It was even possible that Sherlock had never bothered to actually pay attention to the sort of things everyone else learned in primary school. But deliberately removing memories? Nah.

That was before Sherrinford.

Before Eurus.

The man had managed to delete all traces of his childhood friend and his sister!

No, that wasn’t exactly right. John wasn’t sure they were gone so much as inaccessible, hidden away behind a wall of brick and stone in that mind palace of his. The wall had begun to break down at Sherrinford, the old memories had begun to surface.

And that’s when John finally began to make the connections.

He’d stopped into Baker Street to remind Sherlock that Rosie would be joining them that night and it might be best to make sure anything toxic or small enough to shove in her mouth was well out of reach, and found Sherlock standing in front of his bookshelf, staring down at the book in his hand.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?” His friend looked up and blinked as if he were startled to find someone was standing in the room with him. “How long have you been here?”

“Just a moment or two.” Sherlock was unnaturally pale. It made John grow uneasy. “Are you okay?”

“What?” Sherlock shook his head as if to clear it, then held the book out to John. “It’s about pirates. I found it in a second-hand shop maybe ten years ago. I don’t know why I bought it. Something about it just drew me in. I’ve always loved pirates. I wanted to be one, when I was a child, did you know that?”

He did, actually. Mycroft had mentioned it at some point. He took the book and looked at it. It was a children’s book, probably written decades ago. It had been well loved, the cover faded and the pages lightly yellowed. It wasn’t the sort of thing Sherlock would have normally kept around the flat. “Have you read it?”

“Just once. I couldn’t throw it away after, but I couldn’t read it again. Something felt bittersweet about it.” He held his hand out until John returned it. “Now I know why. It reminded me of Victor.”

“But I thought you didn’t remember him?”

Sherlock shoved the book under a chemistry text on the bookshelf. “I didn’t.”

And that was all he said on the matter, quickly changing the topic to Rosie. John had let him, understanding that the revelation about Victor was still to fresh in Sherlock’s mind.

Then there was the coffee incident.

Molly had come over to John’s place to watch Rosie for a few hours, and he’d offered to make a cuppa for them both while she recounted their day.

“Cream, sugar?”

“Black, two sugars, please,” Molly called toward the kitchen as she continued to make Rosie’s favourite doll dance.

“Huh.” John brought the mugs into the sitting room and set them on the table in front of the sofa. “That’s how Sherlock takes his.”

She took a sip of her hot coffee and hummed in approval. “I know. Weird, right? He used to take it straight black when we first met. One day he grabbed mine and drank half of it before I could point out his mistake. After that, he started asking for sugar. Told me the stuff the hospital stocked for the machines was too bitter without it.” Molly took another sip. “This is lovely, though.”

John nodded but his mind was distracted. Something told him the sugar was important, but he wasn’t sure why.

He brought it up to Sherlock in a roundabout way eventually. They were on a case, staring at a store front across the street from a small café. “Here you go. Black and sugared, just the way you like it.” John set a disposable cup in front of Sherlock. “When we met, I wouldn’t have taken you for the sugar type.”

Sherlock raised a brow at him. “And what, exactly, does my coffee preference have to do with anything?”

“Nothing.” John shook his head. “Just making conversation while we wait.”

Sherlock turned back to the window, although John saw him continue to watch him from the corner of his eye.

“I used to take cream,” John started again. “But we didn’t have a lot of access to coffee cream while we were in the field in Afghanistan and I learned to do without. Eventually began to prefer it that way, actually.”

“Fascinating.” Sherlock’s tone made it clear that he thought it was anything but.

“What about you?” John continued to push. “Have you always liked it that way?” He pointed to Sherlock’s untouched cup.

“Yes.” After a few seconds, Sherlock frowned. “No. Maybe. I don’t . . . No, I don’t think I did. I must have tried it somewhere and liked it. Reminds me of Barts, oddly enough.”

“Barts?” Now they were getting somewhere. John leaned closer. “How so?”

Sherlock tapped his fingers against the table top, his attention focusing in on the men moving around inside the store across the street. “You know, comfortable. Content. Like when I’m working at the microscope in the lab. Come on, John. This is what we’ve been waiting for.” And then he was up and heading toward the door, leaving John to toss a bill on the table before he could follow.

After that, it was the yellow chair.

One day the spot was filled with stacks of old magazines and books, the next there was the chair.

It didn’t match anything else in Sherlock’s flat.

“That’s a bit different.” John pointed toward it as soon as it caught his eye. “Gift from a client that you couldn’t turn down?”

Sherlock shook his head. “Saw it in a window at some boutique or another. It reminded me of the curtains in Molly’s room, which is one of the few places I’ve always been able to relax and really think without interruption.” He threw himself into his chair. “I can see it from here when I need a focal point to centre myself.”

“Yellow makes you feel calm.”

“That particular shade.” Sherlock tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “I believe I just said that.”

John sat in his own chair. “Do you remember when you first met Molly?”

“Why all the questions lately?” Sherlock sounded suspicious.

John shrugged. “Curious. Bored. You know what that’s like.”

Sherlock nodded slowly, then turned his head just enough to look at the yellow chair. “It was . . . I don’t remember the exact date. I must have deleted it.” He frowned.

“But you do remember meeting her, right? I mean, you didn’t just show up at Barts one day and discovered a pretty young doctor who already knew your name and had your favourite scope all set up and waiting.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Sherlock stretched his legs out and narrowly avoided kicking John in the process. “I may have deleted the exact details of that first meeting, but I remember knowing that I could trust her, that she made me feel . . .” He took a deep breath and looked past John toward the door. “Safe.”

Sherlock stood, buttoned his suit jacket, then held out his hand. John turned to see Molly standing in the doorway.

“I knew from the beginning that you wouldn’t judge me or make me feel like a failure or freak. I knew you were going to be important, I just didn’t understand how much. How seeing your face would always make me feel as if I’m coming home. I may not remember every moment we’ve been together, but I will never forget how you make me feel.”

John looked from Molly’s shy smile to Sherlock’s hopeful expression and decided his presence was completely unnecessary. He stood and eased around the couple. “I’ll just see myself out, shall I?”

“Goodbye, John. Do call before you come over tomorrow. I may be busy.” Sherlock didn’t even bother to watch his friend leave.