CEMETARY: JAN 6TH
The sky was dark grey, as if it were promising a heavy snowfall. Two men stood in front of a grave.
"Happy Birthday, Sherlock."
John laid a wreath of flowers on the ground. He stared off into space, feeling numb. He couldn't believe almost six month had passed since the fall.
There was no tombstone yet. Mycroft Holmes kept delaying it on an excuse of the scandal that had disgraced his brother. A small wooden plate marked this site was the grave of Sherlock Holmes.
Lestrade couched and spoke.
"Sherlock, I've got a huge backlog of hot cases now- impossible murders, mysterious deaths, kidnappings... You'd be thrilled to hear about them. Well, if only you were here…"
He guiltily added.
"We've cleared your name. Happy birthday, mate."
At Lestrade's words, John remembered a year ago, the only birthday of Sherlock Holmes that John celebrated together. It was when Sherlock just found out that Irene Adler was not dead.
A YEAR AGO AT 221B
"Sherlock, you got a text."
Sherlock kept staring into his microscope, jotting down a few notes while ignoring his mobile which was right next to the microscope. John groaned and stood up from the armchair.
"I'll get it."
/HAPPY BIRTHDAY. M./
"Is today your birthday?"
Sherlock ignored John.
"Sherlock Holmes! January 6th. Is it your birthday?"
"Mycroft sent you a text."
Sherlock rolled his eyes and took his phone from John.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Birthdays, birthdays. What's the big deal? It's a useless day that never fails to come every year. Only idiots like Anderson celebrate it. "
"Didn't you go to Mrs. Hudson's?"
"She promised me that she'd give Billy back."
"Your skull, Sherlock. Your bloody skull."
John laughed incredulously. Sherlock stood up and put on his coat.
"Well, I'm off to Bart's."
He took out a volume of "Human Decomposition, an Illustrated Guide" and pulled out a mobile phone. He put the volume back to the top shelf.
"Sherlock, isn't that her phone? How did that phone get inside the book?"
Recognizing John's gaze, Sherlock shrugged.
"It's one of my safe places."
He pocketed the phone and walked out. John sighed and made a phone call.
"John, is Sherlock okay?"
Mycroft stood up from his seat and motioned John to sit down.
"No, he's fine. He's back to his former irritating self. Mycroft, I know you're busy so let me get to the point. It's Sherlock's birthday…"
"And, well…he doesn't give a damn on it."
"No one with family can despise a birthday."
Mycroft flinched at John's words, but recovered immediately.
"He has bad memories about it."
"Can you tell me…, no, never mind."
"Sherlock may change, John, depending on how you play it."
"Would he kill me if I organize a surprise party tonight?"
Mycroft laughed out loud
"He will pout and put on a show, but he won't kill you. You know him, John. Play safe.
Well, I have a meeting to attend."
"Yeah, thanks for your time, Mycroft. Sorry to bother you."
Waiting for a cab, John called Lestrade.
"John! Happy New Year."
"Thanks, Happy New Year to you, too. Greg, did you know today's Sherlock's birthday?"
There was a gasp on the other side of the line.
"Oh, no. I don't have a nice murder for him this year."
"Well, I didn't know about it until last year. I happened to call him to talk about a double murder in east London. He let it slip that the case was the best birthday present in his life."
"So did you do anything about his birthday?"
"No, I couldn't. When he came to the crime scene, he noticed Anderson's mistakes, insulted him, and got the lead to the whereabouts of the murderer right away. Donovan threw a fit, and got a two-day suspension. It wasn't a pretty scene. I had to make Sherlock leave – I had almost decided against contacting Sherlock for future cases. The next case was as you know the Study in Pink. I gave in and asked for his help when the last victim was found."
John remembered when he first met Donovan in the case of Study in Pink- every word she uttered was venomous.
"John, I'm just back from Dorset. I'll catch up with you later."
John decided not to take a cab but to walk home, not knowing what to do. He had no idea what he could buy for Sherlock. This was Sherlock's first birthday since John moved into the flat. His eyes fleeted the shops along the busy street and people scurrying from cold to somewhere, and stopped at a jewelry shop. Then it hit him. Smiling, he took out his mobile, punched some words, and then made a few phone calls.
Hours later, John walked the stairs with a couple of bags. Sherlock was back, pacing the sitting room in foul mode. He nodded at John and shut himself in his bedroom. Instantly John felt guilty. Was Sherlock angry because no one made any fuss about today? Then he saw Irene Adler's phone lying on the table. Apparently, whatever Sherlock attempted at Bart's failed. After puttling milk bottles in the fridge, John warmed up his hands, and took out a small box in gift-wrap. He put it in his shirt pocket.
Later, John was reading old editions of Nature, a science journal. Sherlock walked out, glanced at John's direction, and sulked in his armchair. John couldn't stand the silence so he asked.
"Do you want to eat out? It's your birthday. It's on me."
"Her measurements…32-24-34… cancel out the repeated numbers, then only 2, 3, 4 are left. The password is four-digit… I've gotten only two chances left, John!"
John blinked but soon realized what the sleuth was doing. Sherlock picked up the camera phone and pocketed it.
"Tea? I'll make the tea."
He put his journal on the table. Sherlock's eyes gazed at the article. It was about love being a chemical cocktail. When John returned with a tray of two tea cups and some biscuits, Sherlock was reading the journal intently.
"I was reading it, Sherlock."
"Just finished. Here it is. Let's get it over with. What're you going to do?"
"Your special plan for my birthday… In the morning, you met Mycroft, and then phoned Lestrade. You've come home with some bags. Your pocket is bulgy –obviously you're hiding something inside."
John raised his eyes yet his face didn't change. He was so used to Sherlock's deductions. One wrong word can lead to a "show-off" time again. Instead, he pursed his lips and drank his tea. Sherlock, disappointed at John's nonchalance, gritted his teeth and said.
"I checked logs of your mobile. One phone call to Mycroft; Lestrade; and some numbers I assume to be shops."
"Sometimes, I don't understand why I bother to lock my mobile."
Sherlock grinned at John's exasperation and drank his tea. His change of mood gave John the courage to take out the present. John placed the box on the table next to Sherlock's armchair.
"John, I don't celebrate my birthday. It is just a day in 365 days, nothing special about it."
John was adamant.
"Birthday is meaningful to everyone. You're not an exception."
Sherlock closed his eyes.
"Mycroft didn't say anything about it?"
"He just said bad memories…"
Sherlock stared at the fireplace for minutes and spoke without any emotions.
"My father had never put so much thought in choosing a gift for me. It used to be Mycroft and my mother. Then she died on my birthday. Ever since, I've chosen not to celebrate my birthday and Mycroft respects my wish – one text message from him every year."
John felt sorry for pressing "birthday" issue on his flat mate. Birthday only triggered bad memories. John's voice was almost apologetic.
"I'm not prying, Sherlock. I'm sorry. Well, this is your first birthday since I moved in…, so I thought… Never mind. If you don't want it, then I'll go to the shop and get a refund."
John's hand reached for the small box, but Sherlock was faster - he gently picked up the small box from the table. He intently scrutinized the box, shaking it.
"Guess. If it takes more than one minute, then I'll let you have one nicotine patch."
John challenged his friend. Sherlock frowned yet his desire to prove his brain won over. The detective sighed and said the answer instantly.
"A good-quality pocket magnifier..."
John shook his head.
"Words fail me, Sherlock. You don't have to explain how."
"Simply I noticed a receipt when I checked your mobile. Thank you, John."
He tore off the wrapping paper, and then opened the box. He took out the camera phone on the table and inspected the phone closely with his new pocket magnifier. He smiled a little, and then put both the magnifier and phone into his jacket pocket again. Suddenly, his face fell as if he realized something.
"John. When is your birthday?"
"I don't think I gave you anything on your last birthday. I didn't know."
"It's okay. It doesn't have to be reciprocity-based."
John's stomach rumbled. Sherlock put on his coat and a scarf, and hurried downstairs.
"Let's get out for dinner. My treat… "
John put on his jacket and followed suit.
"On your next birthday, John…"
Sherlock stopped in the middle of a sentence and grabbed a taxi.
BACK TO CEMETARY
John forgot what they ate on that night. He never found out what Sherlock was about to say. They couldn't celebrate the doctor's next birthday together because Sherlock Holmes killed himself a few months later. On his birthday, John was in the hospital – Harry, his sister saw a red flag, and got him hospitalized for his unstable status and depression.
The doctor whispered hoarsely.
"Sherlock, I'd like to make a belated wish for my last birthday. Will you come back?"
Minutes later, John saluted to the grave and the two men left the cemetery in silence.