Christmas at the Holmeses
John Watson looked down at the neatly written words, trying to make sense of them.
"Sherlock," he said, deciding to risk Sherlock's foul mood.
"What now?" Sherlock replied into the pillow, not moving an inch.
"Why has your brother invited me to celebrate Christmas at your parents' house?"
Going by the loud thumb of a body falling of the sofa Sherlock didn't know the answer either.
The question hung in the air between them. Sherlock's puzzled look told John the man in front of him really didn't have clue what he was talking about.
"Because it is polite to bring something for the hostess when they invite you for Christmas?"
"It is?" John let his head fall on the table, stifling a groan.
"Well, if you must insist. Bring some dead mice."
John looked up incredulous.
"What?" Sherlock said, looking all too innocent, "She'll like that."
"Never mind," John said, giving up completely.
Flowers and a bottle of something alcoholic it would be. And an extra bottle for himself. Something told him he was going to need it.
John scratched at his collar. He hated wearing suits. They reminded him to much weddings and funeral. And uniforms he added after a moment. But Christmas with Sherlock's family made him decidedly conscious of himself and the way he looks, so a suit it is.
"Sherlock," he called, as he walks into the sitting room a few minutes later.
A suspiciously empty sitting room.
Sherlock had been here 30 minutes ago, fidgeting with his laptop, ignoring him as John went upstairs to get changed.
"Sherlock," he called out slightly louder, but there was no reply and John suddenly had a sneaky suspicion. A sneaky suspicion he didn't like. He stalked through the apartment, thoroughly annoyed at his flatmate, searching all corners, until only one option was left.
John knocked on the door to Sherlock's bedroom. There was no reply, so he tentatively pushed it open afraid what he would find behind it.
He noticed two things.
One was that the bedroom was even worst than the living room and John decided that it explained why Sherlock never slept. He couldn't find his bed.
The other thing he noticed was the distinct lack of Sherlock in the room.
Which of course confirmed John's suspicion.
Sherlock had left him to face Mycroft alone.
By the time the car came around to pick them up, John had given up hope of seeing Sherlock again that day. He pulled on his coat and, without looking, moved to pick up the bag with the bottle of good cognac, unexpectedly his hand met just empty air. Looking up at the table where only 45 minutes ago a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a bottle, that had cost more than he could afford, had been. Now there was just emptiness.
At that moment John decided that he could no longer guaranty Sherlock's continued existence when he would see him again.
Mycroft of course, had managed to send a ridiculously ostentatious car, even by Mycroft's standards. It didn't just drive up to the curb, no it glided up and John wondered how the big, invisible spider in the web managed to stay big and invisible while being an insufferable show-off.
John sighed as the door opened for him to get in. He stepped into the car and found, slightly to his surprise, Mycroft sitting on the backseat where John half expected his assistant to be.
"Good afternoon, John," he said calmly, as he signalled his driver to glide away.
"Sherlock," John started.
"Oh, don't worry about Sherlock. He does this every year. He can be so childish."
John sat back with a groan.
The car stopped in front an unremarkable house hidden from view by big threes. It wasn't what John had expected Sherlock's family home to look like. On the other hand, he had tried to picture how a home that produced both Sherlock and Mycroft would look like and he decided that unremarkable was as good as anything he could come up with.
Mycroft whispered something to the driver and the car glided away. He walked to the front door; John had to run to keep up with the taller man, and just as Mycroft's hand reached out to knock on the door it opened.
There was another surprise. The woman standing in the doorway was most definitely Sherlock's mother, but she too was nothing like he had envisioned her. Instead of the tall, strong, strict, cold woman he had expect a small woman, slightly plump, was standing in front of him, Sherlock's eyes lighting her face up as she smiled at them.
"Mycroft, I was wondering when you would arrive." Mycroft bowed down and kissed his mother on the cheek.
"Brr, you are cold," she said, as she ushered them inside.
"Mrs Holmes," John said, "Thank you for having me." She shook his outstretched hand. Hers was strong and warm.
"Welcome John, give me your coat and then you can get warm inside. And please call me Hedwig. Mycroft, isn't Victoria with you? "
"No, she took the children to see her parents. She will be here on time for diner." Mycroft said while moving to the door to left of the cossy hallway
"Good. Oh by the way John, thank you for the lovely flowers and the cognac. You shouldn't have," she said smiling. It was clear where Sherlock had his smile from.
"But," John started, when his mind had caught up with her words.
"Sherlock brought them with him when he arrived. Completely forgot to mention they were from you of course, but that is Sherlock for you." John puckered his mouth, like he always did when annoyed with something, usually Sherlock.
Yes, Sherlock Holmes's continued existence was definitely in danger at this moment.
"I'm glad you could make it," Hedwig continued, as she led him into the sitting room. "I've been curious about you and, since you turned down the invitation to spend Christmas at your sister's, I had Mycroft invite you."
The words were met with a stunned silence, before John noticed three things.
His finely tuned Sherlock-sense automatically honed in on the snort coming from an amused Sherlock, curled up on the Sofa. The second thing he noticed was the sputtered reaction of Mycroft, out manipulated by the small woman in front of him. And the third thing was what the words actually said.
"How..," he started, before giving up, wondering what he got himself into now.
William Holmes, Bill to friends, was tall, thin, with intelligent eyes that seemed far too knowing .
He was also a Doctor.
"Just a small surgery, mind you," Bill said, as they enjoy a nice cup of tea," but it keeps me busy."
Hedwig had sat John down next to Sherlock, who moved up reluctantly, curling up even more while ignoring John. Strangely Sherlock looked completely at ease, like he belonged on this sofa, curled up like a small kid, enjoying the grown-ups talking.
The rest of the afternoon was spend with pleasant small talk from Sherlock's family and a constant barrage of Sherlock saying boring, dull, throwing angry looks at Mycroft and Mycroft studiously ignoring them. So basically utterly mundane like any other family.
At the end of the afternoon the next surprise appeared.
As the afternoon went on John started to wonder about her too. He had trouble picturing anyone who could be married to Mycroft and in the end he decided it had to be a marriage of convenience, a perfect trophy wife, with perfect trophy children, boy and girl of course. The woman who entered was something else entirely, her hands full with packages, dressed in an elegant dress, her hair in a sloppy ponytail. She dumped the packages unceremoniously in her husband's lap, before she kissed Bill and Hedwig hello and ruffled Sherlock's hair, and introduced herself to John.
"Victoria," she said, "you must be John. Mycroft told me everything about you." John threw a look at Mycroft, wondering what everything actually meant. "Are you enjoying the madhouse so far?"
"Victoria," Mycroft sputtered, but Victoria just kissed the top of his head, ignoring his words.
"Fine, It's nice," John said.
"Nice." He could hear Sherlock snort softly, "Dull."
"Grandma, grandpa." Three girls, ranging from about 4 to about 10, came running into the room followed by a bull pup wagging his tail so fast his whole body shook. They were dressed in simple, identical, lilac coloured dresses that, at one point, had been clean and freshly ironed, but now looked like they had been playing hide and seek on a dusty attic. They hugged Hedwig rather enthusiastic, and allowed Bill to put their fly away blonde hair back into ponytails. To John's surprise Sherlock uncurled himself and hugged the girls, before curling himself up again, pulling the youngest girl with him. His leg brushing John's thighs, his shoulder extremely close to John's, as he settled himself back onto the sofa comfortably, listening the young girl's enthusiastic story with a smile. John had rarely seen Sherlock look so content.
"Hedwig, here are the mice you wanted." John looked away from Sherlock sharply, in time to see Hedwig look into a bag with a brilliant smile.
"I told you so," a soft whisper sounded from John's left. "So much more useful than flowers." Sherlock looked extremely smug, as John shot him an annoyed look. John wondered if it would be a sign of bad taste to strangle Sherlock at his parents' Christmas diner.
"They'll love it," Hedwig said as she put away the bag.
"Mummy keeps snakes," Sherlock whispered, now very close to John, "and she is always running out of mice to feed them."
Well, at least snakes were slightly less eccentric than skulls and other body parts John reckoned.
Diner started unremarkable, the starter was very good and the conversation was no less so, if a little odd.
The subject of politics let to Mycroft just tutting knowingly and Sherlock just muttering, as the other discussed the latest political scandal. The subject of religion ended in John knowing that the printer of his antique family bible had a love affair with the daughter of his colleague, which would make going to church and read the thing with a straight face extremely difficult. And the discussion about films meant he would save himself some money, as he ended up spoiled for the ending of four films by Mycroft, Sherlock, Hedwig and annoyingly Bridget, Mycroft's oldest. None of them had even seen any of the films.
It seemed too good to last.
And it was.
"Uncle Sherlock." Sophia, Mycroft's youngest stood beside Sherlock holding out a Christmas cracker. John watched with fascination as Sherlock won and pulled out the purple paper hat, letting the young girl put it on his dark curls. Sherlock picked up the joke and read it, an amused smile forming on his face as he turned the paper around and read the answer. He held it out for John to read it.
Q: What does a teary-eyed, joyful Santa say about chemistry?
A: HOH, HOH, HOH!
It took him a second to get the joke and then he laughed.
"Uncle Sherlock, what does it say? Let me read; let me read." Sophia stood besides Sherlock holding her hands out Sherlock picked her up and together they read out the joke. John suddenly felt very stupid as the four year old read the joke and pointed to the answer and said, "Water." immediately.
"Dad," Dara held out a cracker to her father. She won and he smiled an indulgent smile as Dara planted the hat on her father's head. John had to stop a snort from escaping him at the sight. Sherlock didn't even try to hide his. It was impressive how Mycroft managed to still look the criminal mastermind, the ruler of the world with a pink paper hat on his head. A hat that didn't do anything to stop chills run down John's back as Mycroft threw the two of them a deadly glare. Then Dara pulled out the joke, reading it out loud.
"How did the political science major define free radical on his chemistry exam?"
"How did the political science major define free radical on his chemistry exam?" Mycroft repeated, looking annoyed.
"A wild protestor," Dara answered, her eyes creased in thought.
"Mother," Mycroft sounded annoyed.
"Mummy always has customised Christmas crackers. Mycroft never approves of the jokes," Sherlock whispered into John's ear, their heads only inches apart.
"I don't understand it," Sophia said. To John's surprise Mycroft threw an annoyed look at his mother and his brother.
"You understand the other joke and not this one? Mother, what have you been teaching the girls? They are far too young to start assisting you in your experiments. And I prefer it if the house would remain explosion free for as long as possible." At those words Sherlock quickly buried his face in his niece's hair, not looking at his brother. Unfortunately he hadn't counted on Sophia.
"It was uncle Sherlock," she said honestly, "He's been telling us about oxygen and hydrogen and how to make them."
"Sherlock," four voices rang across the table in varying levels of annoyance and weariness.
"What?" Sherlock's voice sounded bored and the look in Mycroft's eyes told John that hadn't been the wisest thing to say. Apparently he was right, because the whole group moved as one. Bill started to clear the table with an unexpected urgently, Victoria immediately helping.
"Here John, could please bring this to the kitchen for me?" She handed John a pile of dirty plates, ushering him into the kitchen.
"You didn't…" were the last words he heard as the kitchen doors closed.
The fireworks had started.
"How long do you think they will last this time?" asked Bill as he put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
"Dessert?" Victoria answered.
"Nah," Bill and Victoria spoke at the same time, laughing.
"Hedwig will have them begging for mercy before we have finished the main dish."
"She so hates to lose".
"To lose?" John asked briefly wondered why he was still trying to make sense of the Holmes family.
"This is a case of sibling rivalry, combined with a very, very stubborn woman, who has decided that they should get along. It has become a game between them, a game that she always wins," Bill said, putting the last touches to the main dishes.
Of course, John thought, what else could it have been?
"How long have you been married, Victoria?" John decided small talk, normal small talk, was a good thing at this point.
"Oh, Mycroft and I aren't married," she said dismissively, and John's hopes for normality were dashed cruelly.
"They have been living in sin," Bill said, his head in the fridge. Victoria took the bowl he was holding out with a smile.
"Oh, I wouldn't be surprised if he has some official paper stating we are married hidden in his office. But as long as he wants to play the happy single, civil servant, I'm not marrying him"
"Ah," was John's rather innate reply. "But your rings…" he started, "are on the wrong hand," he finished suddenly feeling stupid.
"Mycroft and I came to an understanding long ago that while he is impregnable, I'm not and the girls certainly aren't. And I'm not going to risk it."
"But you are living together?" John asked feeling completely lost.
"Officially no, I'm just the unassuming widow living next door. And the hidden door is there just for decoration."
"Besides she would only get him killed. She is rather careless, losing three husbands and always when she is pregnant." Bill smirked at her.
"Mycroft's idea of a joke." Victoria was sipping her red wine, "I refused to marry him, so he forged their birth certificates, killing their fathers and making me seem like a black widow." She sounded rather matter of fact about it.
That was when John decided that the whole family was nuts.
"I think they stopped for the moment. We better return before they start-up again and I have to buy a new table. Again." Bill walked into the dinning room, carrying the main dish. John's eyes were immediately drawn to Sherlock. He had curled himself up again, feet on the chair, chin on his knees. John saw Sherlock tense for a moment as he entered. Mycroft was sitting up straight, looking like a small child that had been chided; the apologetic look he threw Victoria said more than words ever could.
Mycroft's girls were sitting at their smaller table, looking thoroughly entertained. Well at least somebody had enjoyed themselves.
Hedwig on the other hand smiled pleasantly at them like nothing had happened. John sat down next to Sherlock, their eyes meeting shortly. John was thrown for a loop by the unreadable look in the eyes, before Sherlock turned away to stare at the wall again.
They ate comfortably, the silence only broken with pleasant small talk, the battle forgotten for a moment.
Then the deductions began.
Victoria's innocent question about the new painting on the wall was what started it.
"He killed her," Sherlock said out of the blue, not looking up, "Strangled her with the red scarf."
"Blue scarf, Sherlock, it was the blue scarf." The unsaid 'You stupid' was left hanging in the air.
Sherlock sat up right, eyes darting up to the painting, an annoyed look on his face told John Mycroft was right.
The deductions that followed ranged from the mundane, like breakfast.
"Of course, and it was delicious"
"Mycroft, you didn't!"
"Sherlock! When will you learn that tea does not make a proper breakfast?"
To the decidedly creepy, like what the last thing was they dissected.
"The python must have enjoyed that treat"
The parrot of an MP, which had eaten the poisoned cake intended for its owner.
"That is top-secret, please refrain from telling the whole world, or I'll have to take unpleasant measures."
The body of a 20 year old girl murdered by her boyfriend.
"Does Lestrade know you have been tempering with his evidence again?"
To the personal, like dreams.
Mountain climbing in the Himalayas.
"Hedwig, we are not going to the Himalayas!"
Disposing the PM of a small country.
In the stunned silence all eyes turned to John making him feel distinctly uncomfortable. Sherlock's reaction was interesting, to say the least. His face flushed, his eyes darting to John for a moment, unreadable, before settling on Mycroft in blazing anger. And then he exploded.
"Mycroft." Sherlock's voice sounded so dangerously calm John could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, "Does Victoria know you have been eating diner at the club every night before going home, and does she know you have been tampering with her scale making her think you are loosing weight?"
"Sherlock! Mycroft!" Hedwig admonished the two men staring at each other.
"John, Victoria, could you please help me with the dishes." Bill had got up, pushing the dishes into John's hands before making a hasty retreat to the kitchen. John, his love for danger only stretching so far, followed with indecent haste.
"I'm sorry about that," Victoria says, as she sits down across him. "Normally he would have slightly more tact than that."
"Oh don't worry, I'm still reeling from the shock that Mycroft actually is human enough to dream." The words leave his mouth before he could stop himself. He feels his cheeks get very hot.
"I'm so sorry. I shouldn't," he stammers.
"Don't worry, I was stunned too when I learned that Mycroft slept. I figured he just plugged himself in like any good robot would do." Victoria seemed unconcerned about his words.
"Can I ask what do you do for a living, Victoria?" John asked, changing the subject to hide his embarrassment.
"Oh I'm just a psychiatrist. Don't worry, I never treat family," she said noticing the small shudder running through his body at that word. Her words made a something deeply hidden surface a question that had bugged him from the moment he met Sherlock.
"You want to know about Sherlock." Apparently Victoria had expected it.
"When we first met, he said he was a high functioning sociopath, did you...," he started, stopping because he knew he wasn't Sherlock and asking that question could possibly be a breach of Patient/Doctor confidentiality. A large smile appeared on her face as Bill laughed merrily.
"That was another of Mycroft's little jokes. One that backfired spectacular." Victoria held a glass with wine out to him. John took it gratefully. The alcohol did make the madness of the Holmes family slightly easier to deal with.
"It was around the time Mycroft and I started dating. Sherlock was about 12 years old, already extremely brilliant, already extremely socially awkward, already extremely good at annoying Mycroft." John imagined a small, pale, cute kid with dark curls, making his brother angry for fun and he smiled.
"Yes, he was cute back then," Victoria said, reading John's mind, "He managed to get on Mycroft's bad side once too often, so Mycroft told him he really was a sociopath. In detail. And if there's one thing Mycroft is, it's thorough." John could picture it perfectly, a tall, intimidating Mycroft towering over his little brother, telling him in minute detail why Sherlock was a sociopath.
"So I assume," John looked at Bill, "that you told him Mycroft was wrong."
"Ah," Bill said, looking sad, "that is where Mycroft's little joke went awry."
"Sherlock never told anybody and, instead of dismissing it, like Mycroft expected, Sherlock embraced it." Victoria smirked, "It was a ready made excuse to keep people out, to not even try anymore. I also think he does it to annoy his brother."
"Figures," John snorted, because that would be just the thing Sherlock did.
"The truth is he lacks some of the true antisocial personality disorder characteristics." Victoria spoke like she had given it great thought, so she did diagnose family or at least tried to.
"He has a far deeper understanding of human emotions then he lets on. I mean he has too in our line of work. He just doesn't bother with them. He also knows how to hold a grudge," John said. He had done his research after meeting Sherlock too. Victoria nodded.
"On the other hand, he is one of the most brilliant mimics I have ever seen, so he could be faking it," she added, sparking that hidden fear in John. He really didn't like the idea of Sherlock faking his friendship with John. "The thing is he could really be a sociopath, or he could have Asperger's, be autistic or just be a very difficult man. It would be impossible to diagnose him now. I suspect he has read every diagnostic manual for mental disorders on this planet and could probably fool just about every one who tries to diagnose him. Besides he really does love the label."
"If we want to finish these desserts tonight, we better stop trying to unravel the enigma that is Sherlock," Bill said with a finality that made John feel guilty. No matter how nuts Sherlock was, he was still the man's son.
"Yes, that be a good idea," Victoria said, a small consoling smile aimed at Bill. They all returned to their task in silence, loud discussion still coming from the dining room.
John was left to wonder how it was that the more he learned about Sherlock the less he understood about the man.
Their comfortable silence was broken by the sound of a door being slammed shut with considerable force.
"Sherlock," Victoria said, putting the last touches to the dessert in front of her.
"Of course," Bill replied, "he's always the first to give up."
"Did Sherlock just leave the house?" John asked knowing his friend's habits when he was angry, annoyed or just vaguely bored.
"Not the house." At those words John heard somebody stomp up the stairs
"Don't worry," Bill said, seeing the worry in John's face, "he always does that"
"And he always does that," Victoria added with a smirk, as Mycroft's voice drifted through the door.
"Yes, Mummy. I know, Mummy. I'm sorry, Mummy."
"And that is another knock-out. We can go in safely now." Bill opened the door, carrying the tray with the desserts.
Mycroft was sitting at the table, staring at his fingernails, looking so much like a small child it was laughable.
"John." Hedwig looked at him, "I'm sorry. My sons," an angry look aimed at Mycroft, "seem to have lost their manners."
"It's okay. I'm used to it," John said honestly "At least I'm never bored," he added echoing words spoken a long time ago. It earns him a small smile from Mycroft, the nod that follows is both an apology and an acknowledgement of John's forgiveness.
"John, would you mind getting Sherlock, I think he could use some dessert. This is the only change I get to feed him up a bit," Hedwig said. To John's surprise there was a tone of disappointment in her voice and the even bigger surprise was that her eyes were firmly on him as she said it, an unspoken warning in her voice. Suddenly John realised why the Holmes bothers were so afraid to disappoint their mother. While Mycroft's show of worry for his brother was amusing, Hedwig's was down right frightening.
"Of course," he said, standing up rather too quickly.
"Aww Grandma, can't we?" Bridget said, looking distinctly disappointed.
"No, I think it's Uncle John's job to make sure uncle Sherlock eats his dessert." At those words John moved to the door quickly, very hard trying to ignore all the implications in those words.
For a moment John wonders if running for the hills would be considered very impolite.
"Don't worry. You'll know." Had been the rather enigmatic reply to his question where he could find Sherlock. The stairs to the first floor were found quickly enough. The wall in the hallway and stairway was covered in pictures.
Pictures with a distinct pattern to them.
A seven year old Mycroft standing protectively over an already scowling baby.
An eight year old Mycroft standing protectively over a scowling 1 year old.
A twelve year old Mycroft standing protectively over a scowling 5 year old.
He had started to wonder if Sherlock had any other facial expressions, when he saw a picture that made him stop mid step. It was Sherlock, dressed in black jeans and a T-shirt. And he looked unhealthy thin, his cheeks were sunken, his hair was short. John had seen it often enough on the junks he treated during his first rotation, like death warmed over. But it was the expression on his face that had made John stop. Sherlock's expression was an exact copy of the one Mycroft had in the very first picture, at the bottom of the stairway. The pictures that followed were of Mycroft looking protective at Sherlock, and, a gradually healthier looking, Sherlock looking protective at Mycroft's girls. The last picture on the wall was no portrait like the others, instead it was a snapshot taken with its subjects unaware. The picture showed a smiling Sherlock playing his violin in front of three girls, listening in rapture. John looked at the picture for just a bit too long, when his thoughts were broken by a familiar noise.
He walked up to a landing, just like the rest of the house it was taste fully decorated, with just a tough of strangeness. Instead of paintings of landscapes there were x-rays of hands. Eight pairs of hands, ranging from a small child's to a male hand with the first signs of osteoarthritis.
Well, it was slightly more original than having your children's hands in finger-paint.
He followed the noise coming from a room at the end of the corridor. He briefly wondered how Sherlock had managed to take his violin with him, when John clearly remembered the case lying on the sofa before he left. He pushed the door open tentatively.
The room seemed empty at first glance empty but it was definitely Sherlock's. The room was clean and tidy. He suspected Bill's doing, but it still contained all the things that made it Sherlock's, scribbling on the wall above the bed, probably because Sherlock hadn't had any paper within reach, an anatomic model of a foot hanging from the lampshade, pictures from old crime scenes littering the wall above the desk. The book cases were empty, the books no doubt all over the floor of 221B Baker Street.
Then John turned to the familiar sound.
Sherlock sat in the large bay window. A pillow in his back, his knees pulled up. He was carefully tuning a violin. John stared at the long fingers plucking the strings, adjusting the pegs. John immediately realized that it wasn't the violin Sherlock left at home, but he knew, he just knew, that the violin was Sherlock's. Apparently happy with the sounds the strings were making Sherlock started to gently pluck the strings. The melody was mournful, but strangely hopeful too. John listened; looking at Sherlock's closed eyes, both of them carried away by the gentle sound of the violin.
"Were they very disappointed?" Sherlock asked, suddenly looking up.
"Who?" John shook himself awake, the sounds still washing over him.
"The girls of course, you've taken their job."
"Don't be an idiot," Sherlock said, unfolding himself. "Mycroft and I fight; I walk away; the girls are sent to get me; I play them a happy little song; we finish diner in peace and we all pretend we are a normal family." Normal was said with so much disdain that it was even excessive for Sherlock.
"They did seem slightly disappointed." Sherlock smiled
"Then I have to take this with me." He held up the violin.
"Your mother seems to blame me for your eating habits," John added to see Sherlock's reaction.
"She would. Now come, I have a show to give," Sherlock said, sailing out of the room leaving behind a bewildered John.
By the time John had reached the dining room Sherlock had taken his place and was eating his dessert like noting had happened. The silence at the table was surprisingly peaceful. The warm chocolate fudge cake was perhaps the best John had ever tasted. He briefly wondered why Sherlock couldn't have inherited his father's cooking talent, instead of the ability to destroy anything within reach just by looking at it. Then their apartment and the various body parts came to mind and he suddenly was very glad Sherlock hadn't inherited his father's cooking talent, although death by good food would be novel he supposed.
Just as John put down his fork, his plate clean, he noticed some ruckus coming from the girls' table. The giggles and whispered told John something was going to happen.
And he was right.
The two oldest gently prodded Sophia, whispering something in her ear. Sophia nodded and walked to the side table that held Sherlock's violin. She carefully picked it up. Her mother made a move, but Mycroft placed a hand on her arm and she sat back watching the little scene before them.
"Uncle Sherlock," Sophia asked, clearly giving her best impression of a little angel. "You haven't played for us yet." At those words she held out the violin. Sherlock for a moment looked at it with disdain. John remembered Sherlock's earlier words and for a moment he was afraid he would refuse.
Then he leaned back to pick up the bow from the side table behind him, before taking the violin from Sophia. He started with familiar melodies, children-songs, Christmas songs, and even some pop melodies, before changing into unknown melodies, created on the spot.
The music was unlike John had ever heard him play before. It was joyful, playful, happy. And suddenly John felt a twinge of jealousy towards the three girls sitting on the ground, listening in rapture to Sherlock play.
All too soon for John's liking Mycroft walked to Sherlock, whispering something into his ear. Sherlock nodded. And gently the sound wound down to a wistful tune before slowly coming to a natural stop.
The protests of the girls were loud and almost jarring after the beautiful sounds of the violin. But bed time didn't wait not even on Christmas.
"We must go too," Sherlock said, standing up stroking the violin thoughtfully.
"The car will be here in 10 minutes," Mycroft said and Sherlock's face told John he was about to give some very scathing reply. But to John's surprise he held back.
"I'm taking the girls home now," Victoria said, "Try to be on time to read them their bedtime story."
That was when John started to get a sinking suspicion.
It couldn't possibly mean that he thought hopefully.
Unfortunately it did
He would have to share a car with both Holmes brothers.
The goodbye rituals of the Holmes family were rather interesting, John decided.
It started with the girls giving everybody a hug, and another and another, and another, until Mycroft took charge and ushered the girls, under loud protest, into the waiting car. John had been pleasantly surprised that the girls had included him in their game. Victoria kissed everybody good bye, ruffling Sherlock's hair, under Sherlock's loud protest.
John was slightly unsure how to say goodbye to her, not really a hugging man at the best of times, but she took away his choice by pulling him in a hug.
"Please join Sherlock on his next visit. The girls and I really enjoyed meeting you, besides maybe you will be able to teach the girls something less destructive," Victoria whispered in his ear, before giving him a friendly kiss on his cheek. She moved to Mycroft, kissing him rather enthusiastically and certainly not like a friend. To John's surprise Mycroft turned out to be human after all and kissed her back. It was perhaps the scariest thing John had seen all day.
"EWW." Apparently the girls agreed with John, their disgust expressed loudly from the car.
"I'll see you soon," Mycroft said, as he placed a last kiss on his not-wife's hair. "You three behave, or there will be no story tonight." But human-Mycroft was not nearly as frightening as he had been before.
Only moments after Victoria and the girls had left, another ostentatious car glided to a hold in front of the house.
"Mycroft, couldn't you have driven yourself?" Bill looked annoyed at the shadow at the steering wheel.
"Why?" Mycroft sounded genuinely surprised.
"I don't like the idea that you let that poor man work on Christmas day. He should be with his family."
"Father, they volunteered."
"They?" Bill sounded even more annoyed.
"Ah, yes." Mycroft suddenly studied an apparently very interesting spot on the handle of his umbrella very closely.
"Where?" Bill asked, resignation in his voice.
"There, there and there." Hedwig, Sherlock, and Mycroft all three pointed to another dark patch.
"Actually that one is yours," Mycroft said, pointing to Sherlock's dark patch. Sherlock suddenly looked sullen again.
"Wait you are telling me somebody is watching us?" John couldn't help himself.
"Yes, of course." Mycroft looked at John with a raised eyebrow.
"Why," he started before deciding the day had been long enough and added it to the ever growing mental list of things Sherlock and he had to have a long conversation about. A list that currently contained, among others, a lecture about body parts in the bathtub, news papers from 1987 and the odd brown spots on John's bedroom ceiling.
Sherlock hugged his mother and his father before walking inside again to retrieve his coat. John moved to say goodbye,as Sherlock whirled past him again, his coat flaring dramatically.
"Sherlock, please put that back." Hedwig's voice cut through the last goodbyes like a whip. Sherlock was already halfway to the car. All of them turned to Sherlock, who actually looked guilty.
"The Strat is staying here."
"But mummy," Sherlock said. A look was enough to make him pull the violin from under his coat and walking back into the house placing it back on the table.
"Sherlock loves that violin," Bill said, "but ever since the bow shooting incident Hedwig has decided that Sherlock won't be allowed to take it home until he grows up."
"So he will never take it home?" John said, not even asking about the bow shooting incident.
"Nope," Bill said with a fond smile at the retreating back of his youngest son.
Mycroft suddenly materialised next to John, to shake his father's hand.
"Father, before you warn the police, they are in to sadomasochism." With those rather enigmatic words Mycroft sat down in the car. Bill looked bewildered for moment and then he let out an exacerbated sigh before turning to John, ignoring his oldest son.
"John, it was very nice to meet you." Bill shook John's hand firmly, "and we would love for you to escort Sherlock on his next visit."
"I will," John replied and to his own surprise he actually meant it. Then Hedwig pulled him into a hug, before looking him over properly for a second.
"Don't let him get away with to much, my dear. It isn't good for him. Also my son might not be the brightest when it comes to human emotions, but even he is going to notice you are in love with him, if you don't stop staring at him so obviously."
John felt his jaw drop open.
"Mummy, what did you say to him?" Sherlock's voice cut through John's mortified thoughts and the rather uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. "I really don't like the gaping fish look on his face."
"Goodbye Hedwig, Bill," John said feebly, as he let himself be steered to the car. He sat down, sandwiched between a smug Mycroft and a glaring Sherlock. Giving up John relaxed in to the ridiculously comfortable seat and closed his eyes, leaving the staring contest to the two brothers.
Next year he was going to celebrate Christmas at Harry's.