Morning Ritual

Sherlock loves to watch John spread butter on toast. Jam too. In fact, Sherlock can think of nothing he'd rather do than watch John perform this small ritual, humble but beautiful, every morning. For everything about the ritual speaks to the nature of John; his gentleness, his sure and steady hands, the care and patience he takes when performing the numerous ordinary tasks that make up his day. Sherlock does very few of these tasks himself—he generally has no interest in things beyond the world of puzzles and dangerous distractions. But when he watches John manipulate knife and butter, jam and toast to create something so pedestrian yet so beautiful in its ability to satisfy, and then devour it, almost lustily, sometimes even with small grunts of satisfaction, Sherlock finds himself thinking he wants to know more. So he watches every morning, surreptitiously over the screen of his laptop, to see if can find out why his friend's application of butter and jam on toast is so fascinating.

The process always starts with the selection of the knife. John's favorite is a non-serrated butter knife with an extra wide blade and an exquisitely weighted and sculpted handle. It was a gift from Mycroft to Sherlock some years back and, therefore, suffers the indignity of being stored carelessly in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Despite this shoddy treatment, both John and Sherlock value this knife over all other kitchen cutlery, for, oddly, it fits both Sherlock's long elegant fingers and John short but nimble ones to a tee. However, the first time Sherlock observed John using it to spread butter and jam on toast, he immediately decided that he would no longer use it as lab equipment—the knife had a higher calling.

Once he has selected his knife and has his other supplies at the ready, toast on a plate, butter and jam lined up in cue, John begins. With a calm and practiced hand, John draws the creamy mélange of fat and aromatics across the toast. Going from left to right, he uses broad sweeping strokes, his knife bearing down with a light and even pressure. He then sweeps downward in a delicate arc along the gently yielding slice, ensuring not a speck of the browned and crannied surface is denied a buttery caress. Then, after pausing to clean the knife on a napkin (Sherlock has often thought to offer his own tongue), John applies the jam, usually a tart cherry variety. He now uses even greater care so as not to upset the vulnerable underlying layer of butter.

Through careful observation, Sherlock has discovered that John is only satisfied when he has achieved a harmonious blend of the smooth and creamy butter with the pulpy and sweet jam, both applied in equal proportion. Furthermore, this optimum balance can only be achieved when the two layers stay separate, one hovering over the other, touching but not mixing. Not until the first bite does the entire assemblage, toast, butter, and jam, come rushing together in a violent collision of flavor and texture. Sherlock always knows when John is especially satisfied with his creation; for John will not only grunt softly, but will even close his eyes for a moment as a way of focusing on the pleasant sensations in his mouth.

Sherlock has watched John make toast with butter and jam every morning since they moved in together, and his observations have taught him several things. First and foremost, Sherlock now concedes that, in the hands of a uniquely capable man, a seemingly mundane task, one completely devoid of both puzzle and danger, can be subtly pleasurable, both to perform and to watch. Second, although he admires John's skill and could copy John's toast making process with painstaking accuracy, he would never make toast for himself—he doesn't eat toast, so the exercise would be pointless. However, Sherlock knows he would very much like to make John toast, if John would let him; though Sherlock's not sure he would, as John gets so much pleasure out of doing it himself. So, until he's sure about how John feels, Sherlock is happy to continue watching John as he creates and then savors his small masterpieces, just as he's always done. And there is one final thing Sherlock knows, a very surprising discovery indeed. Sherlock now realizes he would very much prefer that, instead of closing his eyes after taking that first bite, John would instead look at him and, while enjoying his breakfast, see him with the same simple adoration and desire he has for butter and jam on toast.