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The Art of Replacing

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The metal thin, delicate, and rose-tinted gripping a diamond yellow as pine and specifically cut rested near weightless in his palm. His eyes near shut as he lifted his hand to their level, tracing the engraved lines in his mind. Every letter attached to voice and breath in memory. He spied his reflection in the stone mirroring it from the plate cumbersome in his pocket.

 

His hand closed around the ring as the first tooth in her key moved the chambers in the lock, tucking it away in his pocket before the door opened with a click and swooshed closed. 

 

The rifling of mail set out for her, an envelope torn open filled the air sharp. He closed his eyes imagining her doing that same thing a year ago. But no, she'd already wandered in and around her home for a bit. A day off. But she didn’t enjoy the day he remembered. Menial errands and seeing Tom at Tesco made it feel wasted she’d told him. He’d insisted to know why it was a bad day and she relented to the questioning even if the answers were vague to her as well.  And that yes even seeing an ex you don’t love still sucked, apparently. Expectations of what life was supposed to be and what it was not he told her in his best attempt of relating. And she nodded then because he was right in most ways, even if he didn’t have the sentiment down yet. 

 

Her footsteps entered the sitting room, a sigh escaping as she shuffled through mail in her hands. His eyes closed, but he sensed her stop in front of him to access his state. A hello darling' crawled inside his forethought but his mouth remained closed and she moved on to the kitchen. The kettle on with care and he surmised she thought him in his mind palace. She picked up the kettle before it beeped, and poured gradually, the noise faint. He told her when he moved in that she needn't be so quiet, he could tune out most extraneous noise but she remained steadfast in her deference. If she only comprehended its paralysing effect.

 

The tinkling of the spoon against the bone china soaked into his ears, matching actions to images boiled in his mind. Silent in black and white now in full colour overwhelming. A different cup altogether, vintage,  pink and wrapped in flowers and gold. A Christmas present from his mother. She told him it was exorbitant though she could only manage a shocked 'thank you' as her mother-in-law kissed her head with a grin. It was one of too many gifts but his parents so delighted to have a future daughter-in-law at the time to spoil he allowed it.  They received the rest of the set after the wedding. But unlike some who would hide such a fragile piece away in a cupboard or behind plate glass to admire as it collected dust, she made it her evening tea cup. "It's rude to not use it really" she smirked at him when he raised an eyebrow.  His lips curled up at the corners at the new memory crowding out the old one and the soothing sound her lips sipping her tea slow to avoid a burnt tongue. 

 

The images from that day trickle in like a faucet set to drip, and he opened his eyes to a slant to avoid their full influence. Today 365 days ago. The video feed cold and her voice so warm he heard every breath, counted like a beat with the clock. Her jumper still gaudy now, but not striped. One day folding laundry a distracting chore turned into a trigger to his failures mapped like tree rings in the coloured lines. He buried that jumper deep in the wardrobe. She never asked where it went.

 

Her hair down around her shoulders today, chestnut silk spun around his fingers many nights, framing her face. Her soft eyes prominent with heavier eyeliner she tried on a whim while scrolling around YouTube this morning drinking her tea. Like she is now. He pondered if she drank her tea after that call, or if it was too much to swallow. 

 

He shifted as a tiny sigh escaped from her before the soft clink of the cup on the saucer compelled a blink in his stare. 

 

"It's weird when you stare when you’re in there."

 

Sherlock's lips fell to a frown as she scraped her bottom lip under her teeth nervous like and he opened his mouth but her words won the race. 

 

"Is it all right if I talk?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"I just... if you were off in your mind didn't want to disturb... but..."

 

"Molly, I've said it many times. You can always speak, it's your house and I'm your husband. Don't be silly." he laughed, but it stayed heavy in his throat

 

His gaze followed her padding around the counter and her direction aimed him. He braced as she picked up speed, slid her knee into the sofa cushion and crashed her head against his chest, arms wrapped tight. His arms surrounded her, cradling her close enough to feel her heart pressing against her ribs. They stayed this way for several breaths and he buried his face in soaking up the scent of St. Bart's and her shampoo in one deep huff. 

 

"It was a bad day,"  he whispered as he lifted his face away, pushing a stray strand from her face as she turned her head to speak, licking lips that went dry.

 

"Yeah it was," she sighed with an upturned lip.

 

The quiet spaces they allowed between words and thoughts a developed skill. 

 

"Was it just today... or—"

 

"I don't know if you…" she stammered and stopped, leaning back sliding a hand to his chest, her eyes set at his sternum where her fingertips pressed. 

 

His hand cupped her jaw, his thumb guiding her chin up and his eyes sought hers. He read the uncertainty. Every emotion in her eyes detailed, named and catalogued in his mind like ash. His chest ached and his brow telegraphed the pang.  

 

Her mouth opened to speak, but he started first.

 

"We talked about it many times at this point."

 

She shrugged one shoulder up, and he stared at her lip crooked as she spoke. "Yes but today... well it was today. And today, actual today was rough but also--"

 

He murmured "I know."

 

Her shoulders dropped. "I'm sorry."

 

"What? No, Molly. Nothing for you to be sorry for. Ever," he smiled, soft, and it grew when she joined him.

 

She shifted, but he held her tight and she frowned, and he watched her seeking to read his thoughts as her fingers absently stroked his shirt at the buttons. 

 

He ran his thumb in circles at her temple and down her cheek. "I need to tell you something about today."

 

She squinted as he spied her thoughts travel across every line in her face. In a whispered breath she said, "But you told me every..."

 

He shook his head slow pursing his lips, and her eyes shut tight. He sensed in fear, but her face softened quick as it tensed her gaze opening to meet his. 

 

"Small detail I left out," he sighed.

 

She swallowed hard as he continued.

 

"When we entered the room, there was a coffin. Simple pine and new. Of course my initial fear was someone was in it but my sister let me know the parameters of the game soon enough. I looked at the plaque... and it said the phrase."

 

She cocked her head,  "What phra--"

 

"I love you."

 

Her jaw fell slack before she spoke. "That where Mycroft and John made their assumptions from." 

 

"And one correct deduction," he nodded. 

 

"I was supposed to be in it." She said it so matter of factual that he blinked as his mind processed her reasoning. One he deduced and feared if he lifted the lid she'd be in some state he didn't want to face at the time. 

 

He blinked again his mouth drying with the memory flooding in,  and he managed to stammer out, "I don't… know... I don't want to know."

Molly's hands, chilled fingertips but toasty palm cupped his face, "I'm so sorry, Sherlock"

He pulled his face from her grasp reluctantly. "No… it fine... Um, yes. Well. you know most of the rest after." He waved his hand and shrugged. 

 

"Worst love confession ever."

 

He frowned to her smirk.

 

"Matter of opinion but yes," he sniffed.

 

A breath of silence

 

" That isn't all is it?" she murmured.

 

He took a deep breath, "No… so... I told you what my sister said."

 

"Yes... she was right as much as it was torture to say so to you."

 

He sought her eyes and whispered, "I tore the coffin to pieces after she said it."

 

Her turn to frown.

 

"What?'

He blew out hard, "Smashed it to splinters with my fists."

 

She gasped not in shock but in realisation he noted. "Oh God... Sherlock... that explains your knuckles.

 

He half smiled at her ability to add everything up so quickly. 

 

"I just... I wondered about the injury when you took the bandages off a few days later." A slight smile as she found and lifted his hand up with hers, studying for small lined scars and her finger traced the only one he knew existed. She pulled his hand to her lips, kissing the scar. 

 

He reached in his pocket, reliving his hip of the pressure of the plaque and ignored the water at the edge of his eyes as he placed it in her hand. 

 

She heaved a breath eyes staring down, her face reflected now as he watched her trace the lettering with her eyes.  

 

With his other hand he retrieved the ring from his pocket, clenching it in a fist. 

 

He swallowed a growing lump and spoke what words came to him unhindered. "Molly, every remembrance of that day distressing but I'm striving desperately to replace them on my own accord. Memories were erased before and substituted without my own agency. But I want to forget that fear, though I feel myself fail every moment.'

 

"We all do and you've done amazing considering," she whispered as she laid her hand over the plaque and his. 

 

He opened his other palm showing her the ring. "Take it. A different promise than what the bands on our fingers say."

 

She stared for a moment, her eyes tracing the coffin shaped diamond as he measured her reaction.

 

"What more could you promise Sherlock..." she croaked, her eyes shining now.

 

"Something better than today."

 

Their eyes met, both wet and a bit tired he thought. But always hopeful now. Words no longer a barrier nor a detriment. 

 

With a smile and sigh he said it again, low and earnest. "I love you"

Her whisper shuttered in reply. "I love you."

 

With it all said, the final piece placed he took her lips with his and relished the change. Soft and aching gliding into something well practised and resolute. 

 

She pulled back and stared at the ring, now sitting on her right hand where he slipped it as they kissed. She smirked and chuckled. "It's beautiful... and morbid even for us."

 

He joined her chuckle, eyebrows raised, "And?"

 

She lifted her eyes and grinned wide, "Makes it perfect." She shifted out of his arms to settle next to him.

 

"Death do us part?"

 

"The most morbid part of vows in truth." 

 

She shrugged, snuggling her head more in his chest as his arm settled behind her shoulders. His fingers reached to her wedding band and fidgeted with it.

 

"So you want to talk about today? The actual day?" he asked as he leaned to kiss the top of her head. 

 

"No, I think a cuddle, bad TV and delivery. Not in the mood to cook." 

 

He squinted," Are you ever?"

 

Her hand popped him in the chest. "Oi! Pot meet kettle.  I made you chicken parm last week did I not?" She wiggled out of the snuggle and stood hands on hips. 

 

He groaned, "That's practically baking the way--"

 

"You never complain." She cocked her eyebrow and dared him to continue with a look. "You order then, I'm gonna get into something more comfy."

 

"Oh?" he teased with a shifted look of interest.

 

She rolled her eyes at his look but he noticed the gulp, nonetheless.

 

"Really. Actually comfortable."

 

He nodded "Good. That jumper is hurting my eyes."

 

She tutted, tongue clicking slow, and he felt his mouth go dry as she leaned over, obvious in her attempt as she aimed his view to be down the neckline gaped open.

 

"You like the jumpers... admit it," she said low. Her eyes darkened, and he knew his matched as she slid her hands up his chest and on his shoulders.  

 

He let his eyes travel lazily down and back to her face before thinking of a response as he leaned in to whisper with a cocked eyebrow, "I like them best off you."

 

His shoulders grew cold as her hands lifted off. He missed the warmth and his hands shot to rest on the sides of her thighs. She held his gaze and reached down pulling off the jumper over her head. She kept on the shirt underneath but his eyes found exposed skin as she lifted her arms. He noted to kiss that exact place later. She stepped backward out of his grasp and turned on her heels headed to their bedroom. He growled, "Tease."

 

The jumper landed covering his face, grateful it was lightweight, and she was gone when he pulled it off.

 

And with that he ordered the food on his phone in the silence. He looked to the kitchen, and the images faded, more indistinct. New memories in technicolour blending over the old at his will. One day he hoped to remember this day. A better day than most.