Another Christmas Dinner
December 23, 2010
John stared at the telly, thinking. He didn't know how all the Christmas décor in the city had escaped his notice. Perhaps it was just that he was so engrossed in helping his flatmate solve crimes (not to mention watching out for the many criminals who might want to end his flatmate's career permanently), but he had not thought about the fact that it was almost Christmas until he realized that the episode of Nigella Kitchen he was only half watching was actually Nigella's Christmas Kitchen."
Then again, maybe he'd chosen to ignore it. Last Christmas had been painful. Sitting at the dinner table while Harry and Clara sniped at each other only reminded him that his mum, who would have warded off the unpleasantness with her cheerful smile, was gone, and he had not even been able to attend the funeral as he had been on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Limping his way back to his lonely hotel room, because he couldn't afford a taxi, (and he needed to cool off anyway, after that shouting match with Harry) only reminded him that he was a broken man who would never be the whole again.
Now, twelve months later everything was completely different. He was healthy. He had a part time job. He even had friends.
And one of those friends was the reason he was thinking. The only two people he could imagine spending Christmas dinner with were Sherlock and Sarah. Having Christmas with both would be entertaining, and not that bad, really. Sherlock was (grudgingly) beginning to accept that Sarah was not a complete idiot. But Sarah was in America for a medical conference, and to spend time with her sister who had married a businessman in New York City—which, now that John thought about it, probably explained why she was so apologetic about being gone—she was sorry she couldn't have dinner with him at Christmas.
Ah well. So he was left with only Sherlock. He thought of Mycroft's words the first day they'd met: "You can imagine the Christmas dinners." He'd had a sudden vision of how terrible those dinners must have been before he put it out of his mind completely. Now he was trying to imagine again. No! Too frightening. Confronting Moriarty again might be preferable to the awkwardness of a Holmes family dinner party. Besides, he had gotten the idea from Sherlock that he and Mycroft had not shared a Christmas dinner since "Mummy" passed away six years ago. They would not have to invite Mycroft. Unless, of course, John became particularly annoyed with Sherlock… But no! He was too young to die.
"Maybe I should!" he said aloud, changing his mind when Sherlock swept into the room, grabbed the television remote right out of his hands, and began flipping through the channels impatiently.
"Invite Mycroft to Christmas dinner."
"Invite him to what?"
"Christmas dinner. Surely you haven't deleted Christmas from your hard drive!"
"No, of course not. I'm merely incredulous. Why should you invite Mycroft to Christmas dinner?"
"Because you are annoying."
"How am I annoying?"
"I was watching Nigella Kitchen!"
"No you weren't. You started watching it…or I should say, her…but by the time I walked in, you were thinking of something entirely different."
"What if I was? Does that give you the right to steal the remote?"
"Do we have to go through this every time I decide to watch telly with you? It belongs to me! And you weren't watching, anyway."
John just sighed and gave up.
"Anyway," Sherlock continued, "You can't invite Mycroft to a dinner that's not happening."
"Not happening? It's Christmas! We both have to spend dinner with someone. And you are my only option, besides Harry. And you can be bloody well sure I'm not spending Christmas with her."
"These trite holidays are boring. The quality of crime drops dramatically. Most of the crimes around Christmas are crimes of passion, which are almost always boring—executed poorly, motive too obvious. And all those hateful Father Christmas figures in the store. They remind me of Mycroft."
"Sherlock, you never go to the store. I do. Remember?"
"Well, I'm thinking of you, then."
"Sherlock. If you really are thinking of me, you'll help me plan a last minute Christmas meal. It's only two days away, you know."
"I absolutely refuse to participate."
"Yes you will."
"You will participate in my Christmas dinner."
"If you don't, I will call Mycroft and tell him to come over."
"I'll just leave."
"You won't know I called."
"Yes I will. You just told me you would."
John rolled his eyes—at himself as much as at Sherlock. How did they get into these childish arguments, anyway?
"Sherlock, why do you care? We eat dinner together all the time. The only difference will be that we'll exchange presents, and have turkey and Christmas pudding instead of Chinese, and I will sing Christmas carols after I've had a few beers."
Sherlock's eyes lit up the moment he said "presents." Right. A child. He'd forgotten.
"You didn't say anything about presents. I'll come. What time?"
"Um…would twelve o'clock do?"
"For presents or food?"
"Food. We can exchange gifts afterwards."
"Good. As long as nothing more interesting comes up between now and then, I will be there. With a present."
December 24, 2010
After he had spent three hours in the absurdly crowded Marks and Spencer, John was beginning to regret his insistence that they celebrate Christmas together. The only thing he could possibly think of that Sherlock might want or need was a wristwatch, since he had smashed his last week. But John couldn't afford that. He had considered buying something for Sherlock's violin. But it had only taken about five minutes in a music shop to make him realize that nothing connected with the violin was going to be affordable. He wanted something meaningful, but it didn't have to be extravagant. He was going to be cooking the meal after all.
Suddenly he saw something in a clearance bin outside of the children's department—a child's Sesame Street remote control. It was perfect.
All he had to do now was pick up the ingredients for his Christmas dinner and hope that Sherlock was not paying attention, or even better, gone when he got home so he would have time to take the toy up to his room unnoticed. He didn't think Sherlock would have the data necessary to deduce the contents of the wrapped package. But then, his flatmate certainly remembered Jim'll Fix It (and John knew he'd never forget that again!) from when he was just a kid, so he couldn't be sure.
December 25, 2010
It was one in the afternoon, and John was beginning to appreciate his mother more than ever. He had not realized just how hard it was to properly cook a turkey…or cut up that many parsnips. And that Nigella bloody Lawson had made gingerbread stuffing look so easy. Whatever sticky remnants of that failure were not on the ceiling, or the cupboard doors were in the bin.
But it wasn't just her cooking that he appreciated—it was her patience with him and Harry when they ran around the kitchen trying to taste things, and "help." She had always made them feel as if they were helping, and had never complained that they…
"SHERLOCK! You may NOT peel those potatoes with that dissecting knife unless you've washed it first. And...you didn't wash the table before you put them on it!"
"Why should I?"
"Why should you? Sherlock!"
"You're going to boil them, aren't you?"
"I wasn't planning on it, but now I will." He sighed again as he opened the oven to check the turkey. "I'm afraid we won't be eating dinner until evening. This is not cooking very quickly."
"I don't care. Eating is boring. This is much more interesting."
"What are you doing?"
Sherlock was carving symbols into the potatoes. Well, at least the kid's present was appropriate.
Five hours later than scheduled they finally sat down to eat a sub-standard Christmas dinner. Sub-standard with regards to food preparation, that was. As far as the overall experience went, it may have been the most enjoyable Christmas dinner he'd had in a while. Even with his mum, the tension between Harry and him had been enough to make everyone a little bit uncomfortable. Today Sherlock had put as much effort into (and seemed to get as much joy out of) cooking as he did detective work.
And really, the food wasn't that bad. Explaining to Mrs. Hudson what happened to not one, but two of her plastic spatulas when she got back from her sister's in Maidenbower (not only had they been inside her locked flat, they had both had pristine, unmelted handles that morning)—that would be bad.
After a half-hearted attempt to clean up some of the food, John started water for tea and joined Sherlock in the sitting room. Sherlock was rummaging around in the desk and produced a small wrapped package.
"One moment." John ran upstairs, and quickly wrote a note: "To Sherlock, from John. Perhaps now that you have this you'll be willing to SHARE! I'm sure there was a lesson about sharing on Sesame Street—but perhaps you've deleted that as well?" He congratulated himself on not having written the note beforehand when he noticed the sellotape was missing—Sherlock must have been in his room for it, and had almost certainly snooped around.
He went back into the room and stood stiffly by Sherlock.
"Well, John. How do we do this? Take turns, or just open them together."
Funny, how little things like that could be so awkward.
"Um. Together. Yeah. Happy Christmas, Sherlock." He handed Sherlock his gift, and received his with an impatiently mumbled "Yes, Happy Christmas."
He read the note on the small package:
To John, From Sherlock. Now you can have your very own. I took out the batteries and detached several wires though, because I do not EVER want to hear that noise.
When he opened the package, he was looking at the same child's toy that he had bought for Sherlock, though, as promised, none of the buttons worked.
John stared at the gift, and then up at Sherlock. Suddenly they both burst out laughing. Maybe it was the beer they had with (and while making…) dinner. Maybe it was "the Christmas spirit." But they laughed for several minutes without stopping. Sherlock actually had tears running down his face, he was laughing so hard. John couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Sherlock in such a good mood.
Which was fortunate, since just at that moment, a long umbrella and a snide "Happy Christmas indeed!" preceded Sherlock's (definitely not invited) arch-enemy into the room.