Author's Note: Oh, I just really wanted to do a Christmas story. Tis the season, after all! I've had this little gem stored up in my head since November, and I've been waiting for the tree to have gone up to finally write it. Watch out—major amounts of fluff heading your way.
It's snowing. John's always liked the snow. He'd missed it, when he'd been stationed. It was always warm there, at least. Sweltering mostly, like living on the sun. So this—this December chill, this nippy frost in the air—it's good. He likes it. It drops down behind the large window in gently, quieting flurries. Maybe that's what John likes about the snow. It makes everything quieter, just for a moment. Forces traffic to be muffled, forces people inside. The Earth stands still for just a moment, just enough. Just enough to enjoy absolute peace.
It's weird being there though, in Sherlock's childhood home. He'd been invited along—something about Sherlock's mum getting wind of him, about insisting he come. Something about suitable candidates and an over-pleased, maternal smile. It's old and lovely, larger than anything John had ever lived in. It's a manor, that's what it is. All mahogany and heavy draping, bookshelves lined with publishings from years ago.
And a tree—surprisingly. John hadn't been expecting the tree, but there. All trimmed and decorated, a glistening Douglas Fir that out stands himself by at least three feet. The sort that accompany Christmas parties in posh neighbourhoods, debutantes all blushing from the Brandy-laced eggnog. There are gifts below it even, though how many are real and how many are for show, he doesn't know. He doesn't think it'd be appropriate to check.
Mummy Holmes is surprisingly traditional in comparison to her sons. She allows everyone a single gift to be unwrapped on the eve from her—including John, which he doesn't expect. It's a jumper he receives though. Cashmere, dark blue. She says something about his eyes, about how appropriate the colour would be. He nods in agreement, thanks her thrice and offers to pay before she finally waves a dismissive hand that is meant.
It's evening now. Quiet in the large house, people gone to sleep. John can't sleep though, is too—excited? No, that's not the word. He's just too much, really. Maybe excited is somewhere in there, but it's nervous, too. It's anxious and pleased, by no means calm. Awake, most certainly.
The fires aglow, lighting up the Christmas scene to greeting card perfection. He's pilfered some of that eggnog from earlier, some of that holiday cheer spiked with expensive liquor. He sits in front of the fire, on the rug. He sprawls his legs out before him and watches the flames. He thinks of his mum, his dad, Harry. He thinks of family and wonders if they'll get sorted enough to have a proper Christmas before someone goes.
He doesn't notice Sherlock immediately. It's with a start that he does, a gentle one. John can hear the quiet padding of bare feet against the plush area rug, the gentle scratch of cloth moving against skin. Sherlock settles beside him without announcement, crosses his legs before him and takes to looking slowly about the room. "Once upon a time," he says quietly, as though in the middle of a conversation, "This room was very dear to me. The books—I enjoyed them, of course. I found them comforting." He looks to John, pulls his knees up closer to his chest. "Once upon a time, I was young here. Does that perturb you?"
John shakes his head, sips at his glass. "Nah," he replies, in the same quiet that Sherlock has adopted. "Everyone was young once."
"It's hard, on occasion, to remember this," Sherlock states with a drifting look toward the mantle. "That once upon a time, everyone was younger than they are now. That people didn't simply emerge from the womb in this fashion. Illogical, of course, but—" He shrugs and drops his eyes toward the fire, "Bizarre to think of when one stops to consider it."
John doesn't know how to reply. Not immediately. And even when he does, it's got nothing to do with that. He reaches over and slips one poorly wrapped gift from beneath the housing of large, full branches. It's the gaudiest of the lot, really—cartoon reindeer on a red background, the repeating pattern going horizontal across it. Topped with an inexpensive sort of bow, a sticker tag slapped onto the top. He sets it in Sherlock's lap and gives a half smile. "I've never been one for wrapping the gifts up," he says with a nod toward the package. "They always come out a bit—banged up looking."
It's a book, Sherlock knows that the minute he sees it. And he can't help but feel a pang of disappointment—not very clever, a book. The obvious choice for a man who has a vast collection of them. He gives John something like an appreciative smile despite that, sets it before him untouched.
"You're suppose to open gifts, Sherlock," John says with a quiet, breathless chuckle.
"Ah, but I've already opened my one Eve gift, haven't I?" Sherlock replies, tapping the new, rather-expensive watch on his wrist.
"Yeah, suppose that's right," John chuckles once again. He checks his own watch and his brows go up just a hair. "However, it is two minutes past midnight. So really, it's a new day."
"It's Christmas day," Sherlock corrects.
"And a happy Christmas to you, too."
Sherlock breathes a quiet laugh, shakes his head. He picks up the gift, takes the bow off first. He's a silly order, for no apparent reason. He slides his finger under the first flap of wrapping paper, then the second. He makes careful work of unwrapping it, taking his time.
The book's back is old—much older than he'd have considered. Worn, tatty, second-hand. His brows furrow and he thinks it's an odd gift to give a person—a used book. It isn't until he's relieved it of it's wrapping and flipped it around does he understand. Old, classic, of course. Fiction—which people didn't typically get him. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and not just some copy picked up from some mass-marketing book shop. It's the only fictional book he's ever liked, had read it as a child and attempted to recreate Frankenstein's creature (or so he had thought at the time, of course). He remembers telling John of it in passing, the once. Over a few glasses of wine on his birthday. He licks his lips and looks to John, who has an easy smile on his lips and his eyes toward the fire. "You—"
"It's a first edition as well, in case you hadn't noticed," John interrupts, sipping from his glass again.
Sherlock hadn't, actually. Not originally. He'd been attempting to process other thoughts, other ideas. But yes, of course. Used book, old—passed down within families and eventually parted with. He's—at a loss. Which, of course, isn't typical for Sherlock Holmes even remotely. "I'm astounded you remembered such an—asinine detail," he murmurs gently, obviously befuddled.
John chuckles breathlessly, "It's practically the only time you've ever admitted you had hobbies outside of blowing up the flat, of course I remembered."
There's a tightness in Sherlock's chest, one he doesn't understand properly. Only a basis, only a vague idea. Like something falling into place, like things aligning and aching in a way that can only be described as positive. "Why?" he asks, voice managing quieter still.
An immediate answer doesn't come. John scoots himself just a little closer, which is only as far as he can go before they're touching from hip to knee. "Because I figured—what would everyone else get Sherlock Holmes?" he begins. "I thought they might get you science equipment. Scarves, maybe. I thought they might get you books, but more informational ones. I figured everyone would get you things they figured you'd use, really." He wets his lips and finally gives in, turns to look at Sherlock with a lopsided smile. "I didn't think anyone would think of something you might just—like, you know? That, and I didn't figure anyone else might know—or remember—that little asinine detail."
Sherlock is usually unprepared for expressing gratitude. It's usually somewhere near false, somewhere near fake. It's usually said out of some sort of common courtesy, some societal normative that deems it necessary. But this time, when he thinks of it, he means it. He says, "Thank you," and the feeling radiates in his bones.
There's a warmth in his voice, in the little smile he doesn't look too rushed to wipe away. There's a warmth in his eyes, in the lines of his face. John notices all these things and it brings that lopsided smile to full term—a warm, genuine smile in return.
It's snowing outside. The fire is warm and so are they. The tree makes the room smell of pine, the crackling wood is a friendly reminder of heat. And there's the silliest little sprig of mistletoe, the one neither has noticed, hanging from the mantle piece, in what would be the middle of them—if they were that close to the fire.
It's not certain who decides to initiate holiday tradition right then. They both lean in, as though it's an everyday occurrence, and their lips meet. They brush, gentle and sweet, delicate and cautious. And when John says something silly, some halfhearted remark about the distance of the mistletoe, Sherlock kisses him again for good measure. And they keep on like this until their kisses have become firm, and their mouths open, and their tongues exploring slowly, languidly. Until their hands are curled in each others hair, until arms have wrapped each other close.
"I instructed my mother on your gift, in case you hadn't realized," Sherlock says after a moment of quiet passes. "I found it may be less disappointing if you received something you actually enjoyed."
"I wasn't expecting anything from her," John confesses with a chuckle, "Was surprised she'd gotten it fairly spot on, having never spoken to me."
"I also purchased a gift for you," Sherlock continues, shifting just enough to take one of John's hands. He studies it, from knuckles to joints, to tips and nails and all the way down. "However, it's not here. I've left it at home."
"Not getting anything from you on Christmas day, now? That's bollocks."
"It would've been immediately given away if I'd been forced to transport it!"
"That's a cop out excuse."
"Shall I make quick purchase of something else?" Sherlock teases, "Or perhaps make something? Shall I take glitter and glue to paper?"
"Is that all you can think of? Didn't realize how—uncreative you are."
Sherlock frowns, "Was that some sort of passing innuendo?"
John smirks, "Make a deduction."