A White Christmas
Lesson 1: Enjoying snow
The back of Sherlock's head looked really appealing right about now. Not that that was a though that John thought of very often, but today was just another day in his 'nothing-is-ever-the-same-Will-I-ever-lead-a-normal-life?' year, except for the for the unusual fact that Sherlock had reluctantly agreed to walk to their next crime scene as the London traffic was even more backed up than normal, due to four inches of snow that had fallen overnight. It had been a cosy night in actually, not that Sherlock thought of it that way, and they had watched early festive movies on the TV with a fire that John had made himself (much to his own personal pride) roaring in the fireplace. It had been spontaneous as was most things in the 221B household, but it was nice to spend the first snow of the year with Sherlock at their own home. And it wasn't often that he saw the younger man speechless either. It had started snowing quite heavily at around 4:00 the previous day and John had been at 221B when it had started. Feeling the irresistible urge to warm up the flat, John had made some preparations for when Sherlock came back home from his usual day out, deciding that since this was first snow, he might as well spend it with Sherlock.
It had given John a certain buzz of pride as Sherlock had come in, talking about some thugs that had tried to steal the shopping on the way home (as John had eventually blackmailed Sherlock into going shopping, John presumed, judging by the snow on his coat) and to see him turn around, only to stop and simply stare in both surprise and puzzlement at the living room.
To be honest, he hadn't done much with the place, but he had set the fire going before Sherlock had come home and had opened only one set of curtains so that the snow could be seen drifting down through the glass. He'd put up Christmas lights and tinsel too, more under Mrs. Hudson's orders than his own idea, trimming up the curtain rails and mantelpiece (which was a struggle with all of Sherlock's things on there). He'd set out food too on the coffee table where their armchairs were and he'd opened and poured a bottle of wine too. He was pretty sure that this was Sherlock's first snow with anyone other than himself of course and John was determined to make it special, since he was also pretty sure that Sherlock wasn't the type to be too keen on Christmas or snow. He'd ordered Indian food in too, since Indian food had always reminded him of haphazard Christmas meals with mum, dad and Harry, and since Sherlock enjoyed taking John down to the Indian restaurant down the road from Baker Street. The TV was playing on low on some kind of Christmas shopping channel but John could still hear the pricing on an incredibly expensive toastie maker even though he had set some Christmas carols playing too on the CD player. He grinned proudly as Sherlock noticed the Christmas tree box that John had put in the corner of the room. He hadn't had time to put it up yet, but he was planning too. He grinned wider. And then, to his dismay, Sherlock shrugged and, dumping the shopping on the kitchen table, crouched on his chair and picked out a sweet and sour rib with his fingers. John was flabbergasted and would have voiced a protest at Sherlock's show of uncaring, had it not been that he caught Sherlock's smile as he crouched onto his chair. John beamed. Sherlock really was a mystery sometimes and John was used to having to pick up on all of his little details.
Satisfied with the small gesture of happiness, and glad that Sherlock was pleased too, he sat down, filling up a popadom with pilaf rice and taking a bite. They spent most of the evening just watching TV, flicking between Miracle on 34th Street and Eastenders when the breaks came on. John asked about the thugs who Sherlock had beaten for the shopping and Sherlock had talked about his latest case, and altogether, it was a nice, ordinary night. Except from when the dead frog in the oven exploded and they had had to use the fire extinguisher to put it out as Sherlock had forgotten it was in there, but even that had been good-humoured and had spilled them into laughter when John had pulled the now fried frog from the oven. Mrs. Hudson had come in too, to ask them if they'd seen the snow outside and had taken the remote to show them the weather forecast, which had predicted snow for Christmas day, something that Mrs. Hudson was overwhelmed about.
"I haven't seen snow on Christmas day for years!" she said and had gone about her business humming Silent Night as she left. All in all, first snow had been a success.
However, despite the fact that everyone had enjoyed themselves the night before, Sherlock was, much to John's surprise after his effort at making light of the downpour of snow, unimpressed with the whole idea of snow. He had wrapped up in his usual coat, gloves and scarf (the scarf having been eventually found under the sofa) and had headed off immediately to the crime scene, a place that Sherlock hoped was both warm and dry.
"I still don't see the attraction of cold weather John," he had said grumpily as they had set off, "It's cold and wet." John had thought about that for a moment. "Well, I don't know, I think it's just 'cos you can get cosied up when you're not out in it really," John said, attempting to explain. That was really the only reason that he liked cold weather. "You can get home, and put some cosies on, cosy up with people you love and just watch the snow come down. It's just kind of… cosy I guess" he said.
"I got the cosy part thanks," Sherlock said. John shrugged. He had always enjoyed nights in with family when it snowing, especially as a child. Of course now, the cold made his shoulder seize up, but John only found that all the more reason to wrap up and he had taken to putting a hot water bottle on his shoulder when he got home, to stop it seizing up as much.
He had been quite surprised to find a hot water bottle already in the cupboard actually, as after all of his experiences with the younger man, he had never imagined Sherlock to be the kind of guy to be in possession of something as 'trivial' as a hot water bottle. When he'd asked Sherlock about it, he had simply said that it had been a gift from Mrs. Hudson and that the blanket had been from Mycroft. John had frowned at that, he had never even seen the blanket, but sure enough it had been tucked up safely behind the sofa.
"I can't think when I'm cold" Sherlock explained. Since then, Sherlock had usually filled up the hot water bottle before John came home on an evening from work and John had gratefully kept it against his shoulder to ease the stiffness. He had been quite surprised the first time to see the hot water bottle filled up on the side and had been alarmed to find that Sherlock being Sherlock had burned himself when he had spilled hot water, but he had taken to trusting Sherlock with the kettle and was quietly happy about Sherlock's caring concern for John's aching shoulder. John had also come home once to see Sherlock, much to his amusement, huddled in Mycroft's big fluffy blanket, typing away on his laptop with his knees curled up to his chin as usual, obviously having been sat there with the blanket for ages.
Since then they had worked out an unspoken arrangement that if the hot water bottle was John's, then the blanket was Sherlock's. It was usually when they were sat like this, watching crap TV (usually Sherlock's choice of Jeremy Kyle or Eastenders) when John thought of what Sherlock had been like before John had met him. If he stretched his imagination a little bit, he could imagine Sherlock sat there on his own, the flat being cold, since he had admitted recently he could never be bothered with heating bills, wrapped up in his blanket all by himself. He imagined that that was how Sherlock had spent Christmas Eve, if he hadn't been chasing some criminal somewhere which was probably more likely, curled up, oblivious to the fact that everywhere else people were celebrating, in warm cosy houses with Christmas lights and friends and people. He didn't like thinking about this. It broke his heart to think that while he had spent every Christmas with loved ones, Sherlock had had no-one to share it with. But not this year, John thought. He wasn't overly fussed about not seeing Harry but he hoped that she came down to see him at some point. He'd like to introduce her to Sherlock, even if he wasn't too sure about the decision of letting him speak to close-ish family members before he taught him the value of respecting someone's relationships. But to be honest, he didn't really have many other people that he really wanted to see this Christmas, apart from Sarah of course. And so really, he had decided that his main priority this Christmas was to stick by Sherlock. It was after all, in a way, John guessed, Sherlock's first ever actual Christmas.
Right now however, John was pondering how enticing the back of Sherlock's head looked. It was a bit of a strange thought, he caught himself thinking, but it was mainly because he had an irresistible urge to throw a snowball at him. He wasn't sure if Sherlock even understood the concept of a snowball, it appeared that he didn't see the point in anything to do with snow, but the temptation was just too great for even John to resist. Ducking down he hummed in agreement to something that Sherlock had said, something about not understanding the big deal over setting up Christmas lights (this Christmas thing had obviously riled him) and scooped up a big patch of snow, rolling it into a ball between his gloves. Humming innocently, he waited until he was right behind Sherlock before he threw the ball right at the back of his head and tried suppressing a laugh. Unfortunately it turned into hysterics when Sherlock turned around, his face a strange mixture of shock and indignation, meaning that John didn't stop laughing for a full two minutes and had to prop himself up on some side railings. Every time he looked at Sherlock, and saw the tufts of snow covered hair, he couldn't help but laugh.
When John finally stopped laughing he dared a glance at Sherlock, whose facial expression had changed to… John sobered up immediately. Sherlock looked…hurt. In fact, he looked really upset and John immediately took a step towards him, hoping that there had been no ice in the ball or anything. He'd only meant it as a bit of fun.
"Hey," he said, putting a hand on Sherlock's arm, "Are you okay?" Sherlock shrugged but he still looked disgruntled as he turned to walk away.
"Hey, Sherlock, I only meant it as a bit of fun you know". John hurried after him
"If I offended you in some way John then you should have just said something"
"What, wait, Sherlock…"
"I would have apologised straight away, there was no need to throw snow at me,"
"Wait, Sherlock. Hang on, no you wouldn't have apologised. You never apologise" John said, unable to stop himself, but Sherlock bristled as the words came out and John winced at his insensitivity
"I would have tried if I only knew what I had done wrong," Sherlock said, still looking mightily disgruntled.
And that was when it hit him. John stopped walking and stared at Sherlock, who was still walking away.
"Hold on a minute. You mean to say that you've never had a snowball thrown you before? You think… you think it's because of something you've done?" John said, hurrying to catch up with Sherlock, unable to stop the grin that was starting to form on his face.
"Obviously." Sherlock said and turned at the end of the road.
"It's only a snowball Sherlock, I…"
"We're here" Sherlock announced, cutting John off.
They had arrived outside the crime scene, a small city house, the Christmas lights outside still turned on and glowing in the cold air. Sherlock appraised the building and made his way down the path, scanning the floor in his usual manner.
"Having a merry Christmas freak?" a voice said from the doorway. Sherlock looked up at the same time as John to see Sally Donavon, stood in the doorway, looking disapprovingly at the detective.
"I assume that you and Anderson have been having a very good Christmas sergeant Donavon, judging by your hair this morning" Sherlock said, cuttingly, "Did Anderson leave for the Cotswolds this morning or has he gone home to pack first? I assume his wife is going with him?" Sherlock looked mightily pleased with himself when John raised his eyebrows in a "oh really?" kind of way behind him.
Sally looked taken aback but soon recovered herself. "Lestraude's inside freak," she said, holding up the police tape on the door, "Try not to ruin anything"
"As ever Sally" Sherlock said and bounded through the doorway. Inside was like any other house John had seen. It was large, but comfortable, with modern white walling and tasteful décor. He watched as Sherlock stood in the doorway, taking a Christmas card off of a clip by the tiny window in the hall, the only Christmas card on the hanger it seemed, and looked at it, opened it up, and then returned it to its original place.
"Sherlock," Lestraude said. John looked to see him striding up the hallway. "About time you arrived," he said, "Anderson isn't here so you'll be working in peace I suppose". He paused. "You have snow in your hair Sherlock." Sherlock let out a noise akin to a growl. "Really Lestraude," he said, his voice dripping with menace. He jabbed a thumb savagely behind him to indicate John. "He made us walk here. And he," he said, jabbing his thumb at John again, "threw snow at me". Lestraude smirked and let out a muffled sound of laughter.
"It is not funny!" Sherlock all but roared and walked past Lestraude.
"Where's the body?" he asked, but by the time Lestraude had said the word "upstairs" he was already halfway up the flight. John sighed and decided not to bother asking him how he knew that the body had been upstairs, let alone asking him why he stopped to look inside the bathroom and the study when they reached the second floor, or how he knew where the bedroom was without asking. Instead, he just followed him.
They arrived in a large, very tasteful bedroom, assumedly the only bedroom in the house. There was bright white light coming in through the window which lit up the soft pink walls and cream carpet that was surrounding a charming four poster bed with cottage like white bedding. The room was festively trimmed in with silver tinsel and a tall, thin Christmas tree in the corner, all of which would have struck John as very nice, if not for the dead woman lying in a pool of blood in the doorway, the scarlet having soaked into carpet and had dried, becoming a carmine brown colour. Sherlock bent down, and smelt the woman's sleeve. John was concerned to see a certain glint in Sherlock's eye that only ever came with smelling dead bodies. It was worrying. Sherlock stood up…and sighed.
"Boring." He said. Lestraude looked at him as if he'd been struck. "Sherlock! There is a woman lying dead!" John shot a wolfish grin at Sherlock as he realised that the words echoed his own in their first case together, but Sherlock hadn't looked round, which John thought was unusual. Sherlock usually glanced at John when he found something funny; to share it with John, but it seemed as if Sherlock was purposefully ignoring his eye.
"Quite correct Lestraude" he said, straightening up a little, "However the motives and killer of this unfortunate lady are quite mundane. Very unoriginal." Lestraude gave Sherlock a clueless look, and when he looked at John, he saw that John was wearing much the same kind of look himself. Sherlock still had his back turned and so didn't notice them exchange clueless glances.
"The card downstairs is from a man named Mark. There are no family photographs or wedding rings, and she works at home, her study shows her collection of recipes, and a collection of cookbooks written by her are on her shelf if the name on the card is to be believed, so she's an author, so doesn't have work colleagues either. So then…who's Mark?" Sherlock seemed to be enjoying himself, his question sounding almost teasing of the woman. "The shaver in the bathroom, obviously not hers judging by the state of it, her house is immaculate, she'd never leave a razor like that on the sink side, so she had a male visitor. Only one card-only one male-Mark. So Mark was at her house, and had obviously stayed the night if he took a shave the morning after"
John blinked, trying to take in all of the information. "So, she has a boyfriend? The boyfriend did it?" he said, trying not to stutter in surprise over the words. Four months of living with Sherlock and he still managed to shock him speechless. It's a little sad really, John thought to himself. However, John felt himself being crushed as Sherlock turned around and gave them both a withering look.
"Is it nice being you? The world must be so nice, are fairies real there too?" he said mockingly, "Of course the boyfriend didn't do it, no motive!" Sherlock threw his hands up in the air in exasperation.
"She could have been cheating on him?" John offered, looking to Lestraude who nodded in agreement.
"He's the one with the wife, why would he care if she was seeing anyone? And have you not seen the carpet? Like I said, no motive, can we get back to the killer now please?" Sherlock said.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! He has a wife? How do you know that? And what about the carpet?" Lestraude said, receiving another derisive look from Sherlock.
"Males generally don't buy women Christmas cards anyway, but one like that? It's neither a terrible choice like he would choose on his own nor something romantic like a boyfriend would choose so he took it from his wife's collection. Not girlfriend, she wouldn't have left expensive cards like that out, so wife. Also the card smells vaguely of perfume where it's been kept on her dresser. And now, now's the clever bit."
John's mind whirled. Everything made complete sense when he summed it up, but whenever John tried to do it, it never worked. And what did he mean, here's the clever bit? If this was clever, then what was the rest of it? He forced himself to focus. For all he knew, Sherlock wasn't happy with him as it was, so not keeping up would only make it worse.
"Go on," Lestraude said, sounding as resigned as John felt.
"Sniff," Sherlock said, and took John by the shoulder, lifted the woman's sleeve up and pressed John's nose to the fabric of the woman's jacket.
"Sherlock!" John yelped, outraged, pulling away, but not before getting a whiff of the woman's perfume. "If that's your revenge for me throwing a snowball at you then I'm putting that dead frog in your bed!" He stepped back, appalled, swapping glances with a confused Lestraude.
"See!" Sherlock cried, "John, you smelt it didn't you!"
"Smell what? Her perfume?" he said, wiping his nose with his own sleeve. How Sherlock went around smelling dead bodies he'd never know.
"Not just any perfume John!" he cried, "It was her perfume."
"The wife's?" Lestraude said, sounding surprised.
"She caught her by the sleeve when she stabbed her!" Sherlock cried, before practically jumped to point out the marks in the carpet. "And look!" he yelled "High heel marks in the carpet! The victim wouldn't wear shoes in the house, not with this amount of cleanliness, and those heels… expensive…" He bent down to look at them, stretching the marks a little with his fingers, measuring them, and whipping out his magnifier to look more closely at them.
"Gucci" he said finally, "Of course. Not the shoes of a little known cookbook writer. So who buys expensive Christmas cards, has expensive shoes and that perfume?" he asked.
"The wife" Lestraude said.
"I love Christmas" Sherlock said, grinning. John assumed that he was referring to the Christmas card that had given away their killer.
"I'll go get some evidence bags." Lestraude said, and left.
There was silence for a moment as Sherlock and John appraised the body, Sherlock looking chuffed, John feeling sorry for the woman who had been killed…and so near to Christmas too.
"It wasn't revenge either John" Sherlock stated finally, his face turning deadly serious, "You're still not forgiven. It was a horrible thing to do." John felt his own face crumple a little.
"Oh come on Sherlock," he whined, "It was only a bit of fun!"
"Fun? What part of throwing snow at me is fun?" John decided not to answer that. Sherlock turned on his heel in a huff, and began to walk away, down the stairs of the house again.
"Oh come on Sherlock, I said I was sorry!" John said, walking after him, discovering that his limp had started showing itself a little. Combining the already imbedded feelings of guilt with the cold and John was already facing a recipe for a pained Christmas. Recipe he thought grimly, and shook his head at the thought of the dead woman. And Sherlock was worried about a snowball? He had had deadly killers after him for years, especially at Christmas when Sherlock described crime as 'rife' and he was angry over a snowball? There was no getting through to this man sometimes.
"Look, I really am sorry Sherlock I just…" John passed Lestraude on the stairs who raised both eyebrows in a look that said exactly: Are you having a little domestic? John rolled his eyes. Now even Lestraude was making him feel guilty.
He saw Sally taking photographs in the kitchen and carried on, finally bursting out of the house into the cold, snowy front garden.
"Sherlock…" he began. Then stopped. Sherlock wasn't there. He looked around, but still saw no sign of him. Had he left already, without him? As revenge? Had he been really upset and gone off somewhere? He looked around again. And suddenly cried out in shock as something huge and absolutely freezing was shoved down his back. He yelped and spun around as Sherlock let go of his shirt collar and tipped the rest of the snow down his back. Sherlock on the other hand was on the floor by the time John turned around, giggling breathlessly and when John cried "Sherlock!" in outrage, Sherlock went into hysterics, practically hyperventilating as John ranted at him. "I thought you were angry you idiot!" John cried, noticing Sally looking at them oddly through the open doorway as she went upstairs. He kicked snow at Sherlock, who was still laughing unable to control himself as John tried to twist out of the snow in the back of his shirt.
"Sherlock you fool!" he cried as Sherlock began to gain control over his laughter.
"Of course…" Sherlock said breathlessly, "Of course I know…what a snowball is!" he said.
"You mean," John said, collecting up some snow on the ground, "You were never angry with me?"
"I played my part rather well don't you think?" Sherlock said, sobered up for a moment before he went into hysterics again.
John raised his snowball.
"Now, now John, we mustn't throw snowballs at a crime scene," Sherlock said, attempting to feign seriousness. Beginning to laugh too, John threw the snowball at him, which Sherlock dodged, throwing one of his own, and for the next half hour, they cleared the garden of snow, throwing snowballs at each other, dodging the missiles, laughing until their sides hurt and eventually Lestraude came out to see them, Sally in tow, in an intense snowball volley between them. And so began all out war. John and Sherlock faced off Sally and Lestraude, and all in all, Sherlock later reflected as he sat in his armchair that night, the TV blaring crap shopping channels, sipping on cocoa with John at his side, it had also been the greatest patch of snow Sherlock had ever been in.
Lesson 1: How to enjoy the snow.