Christmas at Victoria Holmes' house was an event the whole family (minus Sherlock) eagerly awaited. The house was always beautifully decorated, the meal was always delicious, and there was always an endless supply of eggnog. Mrs Holmes had outdone herself on this particular year, but the circumstances were exceptional; her two sons had brought their significant others. That fact had gotten out at the same time as the invitations, and no one doubted Victoria had leaked the information on purpose. Nonetheless, she had refused to discuss the matter, driving most of her relatives downright mad with curiosity. Therefore, the attendance rate was higher than normal; some Holmeses had even travelled for several hours just to see with their own eyes the most likely insane – albeit courageous – people who had engaged in relationships with Victoria Holmes' sons.
Most of the couples in the family were the result of arranged marriages, and other than Bernard and Mathilda who regularly had epic fights involving ancient swords, they were all quite happy. The Holmeses had always been an unusual family, but the world didn't lack unusual people, and parents almost always found someone to marry their offspring. However, there had been doubts regarding Victoria's sons. They were both particularly strange (even for Holmeses), and neither seemed interested in relationships, which could get in the way of an arranged marriage (it usually worked better when both parties were invested in settling down with someone).
There had even been a wager once; people had bet on which one of her sons would get married first, how old they would be once they decided to get married, how long it would take to find them a partner, and if said partner would be a man or woman. Then, the wager had gotten quite silly as more eggnog had been consumed, and they had bet on the circumference of the partner's right eye, the length of fingers and other random body parts, and the taste in underwear. By the end of the evening, the sum of money amassed had been considerable. Unfortunately, everyone participating in the wager had been so drunk by the time they had gone to bed that no one had remembered what the bet had been about, save for Adam who had kept shouting "The eyes! We must measure the eyes!" during breakfast.
It was terribly late. Some of the guests had left, but most of them would be spending the night in one of the numerous guest bedrooms Victoria had in her enormous house. The dinner was long gone, the presents had been opened, and an extremely large quantity of alcohol had been consumed. Three brothers were standing close to the fireplace and signing Christmas carols in Latin, and some of the children were playing what seemed to be a game of chess with the youngest children acting as pieces.
Victoria was watching her family from the sofa when her younger sister Cecile made her entrance in the living room with her husband. They had moved to America several years ago, but they came back for Christmas every year. Unfortunately, their flight had been delayed, which explained their unusually late arrival. When Victoria saw her sister approaching, she got up and embraced her warmly before leading her to the sofa.
"How was your trip?" she asked, and Cecile laughed.
"It was fine, but you know that's not what I wish to talk about. Tell me, did you really manage to find partners for my nephews?"
Victoria smiled proudly. "I did, I arranged the marriages of both Mycroft and Sherlock," she said.
"It's true then! I couldn't believe it; Mycroft and Sherlock, married!" Cecile exclaimed.
Victoria frowned, realising she hadn't been entirely honest with her sister. "Well, they're not married per se," she admitted.
"Still, I must congratulate you; no one, including me, thought you would ever get those two interested in a relationship. Tell me, how did you do it?"
"I found John Watson first. On the Internet," she said as she looked around the room to see whether she could find the doctor.
She had lost track of Sherlock and him for almost an hour, but she spotted them coming into the living room, and she pointed at them so Cecile could see the man she had found after years of research. Victoria hadn't actually thought about where the two men had disappeared to, but now that they were back, the motive behind their absence was blatant. It wouldn't have been more obvious if they had been holding enormous signs with fairy lights spelling 'WE JUST SHAGGED' in wide blinking letters. Cecile let out a small laugh that she tried to hide behind her hand, without success.
Sherlock's hair was a mess of tangled curls, his shirt was ruffled, and it looked as if it had recently been shoved carelessly back into his trousers. Where there had been one undone button earlier, there were now two, and Victoria could see the hint of what would soon be a truly impressive love bite over his collarbone. His lips were plumper and redder than usual, and the lower part of his face seemed irritated, as if he had rubbed it against something scratchy (like the stubble on John's face). John's mouth was just as unusually red, he sported a very guilty expression, but a smug smile, and his tie was nowhere in sight. Victoria didn't doubt she would eventually find it in one of her many closets. She rolled her eyes at her son's complete lack of shame, and she watched as the two men walked up to the Christmas tree where Gregory Lestrade was standing, surrounded by small children.
"Very nice, Victoria, he's gorgeous. I must admit I am surprised Sherlock expressed the desire to meet someone, but you found him a very suitable partner; they obviously can't keep their hands off each other," Cecile said, still giggling discretely.
"He didn't want a husband. Mycroft did, however, so I started looking for someone and I found John," Victoria said, and Cecile frowned, trying to figure out how John had gone from Mycroft's potential husband to having sex in a dark corner of Victoria's house with Sherlock. There were quite a few pieces missing from the puzzle.
"What happened?" she asked, unable to figure it out by herself.
"Mycroft couldn't pick John up at the train station, so I sent Sherlock instead. I thought it would be safe, but Sherlock refused to let him go, and John refused to be let go of."
"Sherlock seduced him? Well done, nephew," Cecile said.
"I think it's fair to say they seduced each other. They've been together for over seven months now."
"Do they plan on getting married?"
Victoria had asked them earlier, soon after their arrival, but she hadn't had a clear answer. Sherlock had just huffed, but John – kind and polite John – had said they didn't feel the need or desire to be married for now, but that they could change their minds eventually.
"Not right now, but it's a possibility," Victoria answered.
"What about Mycroft?"
"He's sleeping in that armchair over there, and that's his boyfriend, Gregory Lestrade. He's the one holding the baubles," she said as she pointed at the grey-haired man who was standing close to the Christmas tree.
"Oh, he's so handsome!" Cecile exclaimed.
They watched as Gregory took a few more baubles off the tree and gave them to the small children gathered around him. The children who had been disappointed earlier when they hadn't been chosen for the chess game had forgotten all about their previous sorrow. They were roaring with laughter as Lestrade pressed a single finger to his lips, gesturing for them not to wake Mycroft who had fallen asleep in the armchair closest to the tree. Tiptoeing, the kids brought their baubles close to the armchair, and they started attaching them to Mycroft's ridiculous Christmas jumper (a gag gift from Gregory that he had refused to take off). The children who were too small to reach were jumping up and down excitedly beside Gregory, and he took them in his arms one by one to bring them close to the sleeping Mycroft so they could participate in the decoration of his jumper.
"Where did you find him?" Cecile asked when she could finally tear herself away from the sight of that handsome man playing with the little ones.
"I didn't really find him. He works for Scotland Yard, and he sometimes calls Sherlock to ask for his help on cases," Victoria said.
"You thought he would make a fine fiancé for Mycroft, and you organised a rendezvous?" Cecile asked.
"Not exactly. Mycroft met him once, and he was attracted to him. John knew, he told Sherlock, and together they planned a series of what seemed like chance meetings. When Mycroft and Gregory seemed comfortable enough with each other, John organised a dinner for the four of them, but he and Sherlock never showed up. After that, it was only a matter of weeks before they confessed their attraction, and they've been a couple for three months."
Cecile thought for a while, examined the facts, and observed the two couples. They weren't married, and the more she thought about it, the less convinced she was that her sister had had anything to do with the relationships. Sure, she had found John Watson, but she had found him for Mycroft, and he was now hugging Sherlock from behind, standing on tiptoes so he could kiss his neck. Not what Victoria had had in mind in the beginning.
"How can you keep calling it arranged marriages? They aren't even engaged, and from what I understand, Sherlock and John got together on their own because they loved each other, not because you suggested it. Also, you had nothing to do with Mycroft and Gregory. If their relationship was arranged, it was arranged by Sherlock and John."
Victoria smiled to herself and didn't respond for a while. She thought about the long search for the perfect fiancé, about the many conversations she had had with John Watson who had been hard to convince. She thought about her two boys, and how happy they seemed, especially Sherlock who was usually so gloomy when he attended the Christmas dinners. For the first time in years, Sherlock and Mycroft hadn't bickered like spoilt children; their attitude towards each other had been almost civil, and she was sure John and Gregory had something to do with it. Either way, it had been a particularly enjoyable Christmas.
"Imagine that I topple the first domino in a long line. The domino topples the second one, which topples the third, and so on. Who do you blame for the fall of the last domino? The penultimate domino, or the person who toppled the first one?" Victoria asked.
Cecile laughed and shook her head, still unconvinced. Victoria didn't mind; she knew her boys were happy, and she knew she had played a role in their happiness. Not much else mattered.