Author's Notes: This is what I wrote for the Christmas fic exchange. I hope the person who made this requests likes what I did with it. I've had it written for days tinkering with it, trying to get the luscious layers of detail like I see in the better authors on this sight, but alas I have to color with my particular box of crayons and I just don't have the variety that some do. I hope it is enjoyable nonetheless. I know the title is simplistic but it is not only referencing a temperature, but a condition of the heart.
4. I wish for: early days at Baker Street fic. Holmes takes a case on the Continent, and when asked if he'll be back in time for the holidays says he has no idea and basically doesn't care since he's never celebrated them. Watson's left all by himself in a cold house,, no acquaintances or family in London, etc. Take it from there and make fluffy cliched I'll-Be-Home-for-Christmas stuff happen.
I do not wish for: depression with no happy ending. Slash isn't my preference.
Anything else you think might be useful to your secret Santa? Sappy holiday mush = 3. Snow is also 3.
Happy Holidays for all my readers, I hope my muse gets back soon!
He stirred with the morning light creeping into the room. The bright nature informed him that once again there was fresh snow on the ground. A sight that wrung a weary sigh, delivered with a plume of vapour from his lips. He was tempted to snuggle deeper into the warm covers and let the day go, but he had promises to keep.
He reached out a questing hand and found the thick dress robe, with a contortion borne of practice he donned it under the blankets and hissed as his legs slipped out into the frigid air, his immediately cold feet finding the slippers after a few ice cold taps on the frozen floor boards.
He took a few steps, then thought better of it and pulled the blanket off the bed and wrapped himself in a makeshift cocoon, shuffling to the door and descending into the sitting room. He barely restrained a "Bah Humbug!" when he saw the evergreen decorations that festooned the mantel that Mrs. Hudson had placed there before her departure for a family gathering earlier that week.
All in all, this was quickly becoming the most miserable yuletide season to date. Included in that number, his previous Christmas spent in the delirium of enteric fever under a makeshift field hospital tent in the godforsaken Afghan heat.
He now had a matching set, one Holiday burning with infection in the sweltering sizzling desert, and the next trembling in a glorified icebox, which is what London had become.
His hip and shoulder sang a duet of pain to let him know that his only constant companions were indeed with him on this day, even if the man whom he was coming to call friend, was not.
It was to be expected, really. Holmes was not a sentimental sort. When Watson had asked in an offhand manner what his friend's plans were for the season, Holmes had given him a curious look as if he was not entirely sure why that question was even relevant.
"I have a splendid little investigation in Holland, just outside of the Amsterdam. I received a summons just this morning that there is a heavily contested will, and allegations that the patriarch was murdered. I would ask you to come along but the ticket provided was for one, and I know the present state of your finances is not the best." Watson opened his mouth to point out that Christmas was less than a week away, but the excitement of a complicated investigation had his companion's eyes shining like a child opening a gift left for him under the tree. Instead of his protests, Watson wished Holmes well, and saw him off before returning to their empty rooms, which seemed to get even colder in his absence.
Watson bent down painfully and used a poker to arrange the still substantial logs in the grate; he struck a match and managed to get them alight but nearly singed his numb fingers doing so. He stood in front of the flames feeling the heat on his skin; at least his exterior was warming up.
He made the dash to the bathroom and took care of his washing up as quickly as possible, a daunting task with the water cold as snowmelt. He was in the midst of shaving when he paused looking at his reflection. The man standing there with lather on his cheeks was still a young man, but the eyes showed the true age. The tan that he had brought with him from the desert sands had disappeared into a typical English pallor, but he carried blood soaked memories that had not faded like the brown from his skin. He had lost more than the partial use of his shoulder; the shine was gone from the farthing, all vestiges of youth and exuberance now a memory gone sepia and distant. The young man that eagerly left these shores never returned, a casualty buried with every friend he had ever known under the rocks in a far away land.
The sad truth was that he no longer felt capable of forming new attachments, outside of his budding partnership with Holmes. In Holmes, he found a man so lacking of social aptitude and sentimentality, that the scorched state of own heart was irrelevant. However, it was hypocrisy and Watson knew it, but he did secretly hope that Holmes would find reason to stay.
He finished scraping his cheeks and went back out to dress in front of the fire. He had agreed to take the day shift at a local charity hospital so that those with families could leave for time with loved ones. It was not as if he had anyone to disappoint by his absence.
He snuffed the fire and donned his frigid heavy coat and hat, making his way down to the door and out into the snow-whitened street. Very few cabs ruts marred the expanse of Baker Street, but he managed to locate a hansom before he had limped more than a block.
He spent the day with the downtrodden and forgotten ones of the city, making the rounds with an older battle hardened nurse who was eager for her shift to end so she could prepare for a family meal that eve. He sent her home a half an hour early as a holiday gift, and made the remaining rounds himself before he was relieved that afternoon.
One of the darkest moments of his life came when he perused the medicine closet looking for morphine and found himself staring at a bottle of laudanum far longer than was healthy. He had spent weeks just the previous year dosed nearly out of his mind to deal with the pain of his injuries. He felt lucky that he shook off the addiction so easily considering the fate of some of his fellow soldiers. However, the oblivion he could find in its opiate embrace was a whisper in his ear for the remainder of the day.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he departed the clinic. The only thing that kept him from secreting a bottle before he left was the memory of the times he had scowled at his flatmate and his seven-percent solution of cocaine. After all those objections, to give in to drug abuse now was a level of duplicity that Watson just could not abide.
This world had left Watson very little in the way of dignity, but his honour it could not take.
Fortune favoured him with yet another rare cab after just three blocks of searching. He stared out at the strangely deserted bleached streets of the city, his disconsolation a nearly palpable weight. He looked for children or some sign of life in the unrelieved white, but the canvas of frost remained unmarred. He shivered from the wind and the snow that drifted into the open compartment both hoping for and dreading his arrival at the frozen tomb where he was residing.
Soon Watson was disembarking outside of 221, however he paused when he saw the building lit from within. The cabby had to call to him, "You payin or what?"
Watson most likely handed the man far too much currency with his numb fingers from the Merry Christmas he received but he was not paying enough attention to notice.
He made his way to the door, and as he entered with the key, he heard the sound of multiple voices from the adjacent rooms. The door opened and Mrs. Hudson popped her head out.
"I did not want you to be alone on Christmas, so I moved our family feast back here, be washed up and ready to call in an hour, Doctor," she ordered with a twinkle in her eye.
"Yes, mum," he replied with a grin.
Even with his hip threatening stiffness, he bounded up the stairs, noticing that the lamps were lit and the rooms above warm, he assumed that his thoughtful landlady had been about. He stopped when he reached the landing and smelled a familiar scent.
He carefully leaned around the corner to see his flatmate creating a cloud of smoke over by his chemistry set.
"Oh, there you are," Holmes called without even looking up from his work.
"I thought you had a case in Holland, is it concluded already?" Watson queried as he hung up his soaked outer coat and hat.
Holmes removed his pipe; the look on his face was thoughtful. "I found that the venture was not as enjoyable as I hoped, so I informed them that I would return with my conclusions before New Years."
Watson felt an odd flutter in his chest. "Why do you think that is?" he inquired.
Holmes shrugged. "I felt that my perceptions were somehow diminished, there was something missing from my process, my thoughts remained vague and nebulous. I may have better luck when I return; I am hoping that this time you will be able to attend? The family gave me enough for two tickets at my insistence; I do not wish to travel with Lestrade if it can be prevented."
Watson found that his voice was not as steady is he would have liked when he replied; "I have no plans."
Holmes beamed. "Splendid."
Holmes bent back to his work, but murmured, "Although, I do have to say that I found travelling a strangely claustrophobic affair, there does seem to be a preponderance of persons moving about this time of year. It's almost like migrating geese."
Watson quirked an eyebrow at him to see if he was being serious, Holmes remained engrossed in his observations showing no sign of irony.
"Mrs. Hudson said we should be prepared to call in an hour, as guests for her family's Yuletide feast," Watson informed as he sat down by the fire to take off his soaked socks and warm his chilled feet.
"Oh, that does remind me, I believe I am required to say, Merry Christmas," Holmes replied absently, as if the thought just occurred.
Watson glanced over and saw that his flatmate had returned to his experiment showing a complete lack of sentiment, it was as if he had spoke those words out of a sense of duty, for Watson's benefit alone. This was a man to whom niceties were an alien concept but he was making an attempt regardless, that made the statement even more touching to Watson as a result
Watson smiled to himself and murmured, 'Merry Christmas, indeed."
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL MY FAITHFUL AND HOPEFULLY PATIENT READERS!