“I missed this when I was away,” John said.
His eyes ran over the fairy lights that twinkled in the bare trees beside them, the whole boulevard bathed in a soft purple glow from the large street lights.
“Hmmm? What did you miss?” Sherlock asked, only half-listening.
Sherlock’s brow furrowed and he looked around him as though he hadn’t noticed the way the whole of London was adorned with Christmas cheer. John actually wouldn’t have been that surprised if the detective truly hadn’t noticed.
“Surely you celebrated Christmas in Afghanistan?”
“It wasn’t the same. There wasn’t all this.”
John motioned with his gloved hand, his breath visible in the chilly air of the early evening.
“Yes, lights. And decorations, carols, bands, presents, family, the holiday spirit. There’s just something about being in a big city that makes it feel like Christmas. Puts you in the mood.”
“Does it? Hmmm, alright.”
“Well, probably not you,” John grinned. “Though I don’t blame you, from what your brother said about your family get-togethers.”
“And yours are better, are they?”
John’s expression became troubled.
“No, not lately,” he said quietly.
They walked in silence for a while longer, people hurrying past them with shopping bags crammed full of gifts, tinsel and wrapping paper. John couldn’t remember now why they’d left the flat. Sherlock hated being in crowds, only going out when he absolutely had to, so it was unlikely it was his idea. And if it was John’s, why had Sherlock come along?
“So maybe we should have our own Christmas dinner,” John suggested. “At the flat. To escape our respective relatives.”
Sherlock watched him curiously for a few moments.
“Alright,” he said finally. “But I don’t cook – you’ll have to get the food.”
“What are you going to get then? I’m not doing all the work.”
“Is that all?”
“And something for the table – whatever decorations are appropriate.”
“And brandy,” John added. “And one of those Christmas music CDs. And maybe a wreath for the door.”
“Alright. I think I can do that,” Sherlock agreed.
John nudged dregs of snow on the path with the toe of his boot, pushing his hands back inside the pockets of his coat.
Sherlock’s steps never faltered, but John noted a very slight stiffness appear in his strides.
“Mistletoe?” came the query back.
John turned his head to see Sherlock glance sideways from under his dark curls. He wondered if he imagined the alarm he saw shining in the blue depths.
A smile curled onto the doctor’s lips. It was quite a feat to make Sherlock Holmes nervous – he’d only managed it on a couple of occasions before.
John let the silence hang a bit longer before replying.
“Yes,” he confirmed. “You never know. We might need it.”
John’s smile stayed for some time. Sherlock didn’t speak again for the rest of the walk.