Actions

Work Header

Our Enthusiasms Which Cannot Always Be Explained

Work Text:

 *

Someday soon, John Watson is fairly certain that all of this will feel normal again.  That is, if by normal, he means dealing with a sociopath on a daily basis, which should, for all intents and purposes, be a full time job.

It’s not.  It should be, but it’s not.

Despite this fact, it is a full time job keeping Sherlock Holmes in relative check, one that should come with benefits, paid vacation, and a 10% raise at the end of each week.  Benefits other than having his favourite soup binned all because the madman deemed it necessary as a medium for rampant strains of mutant bacteria, or having to stab himself in the thigh with a norepinephrine pen all because the idiot forgot to mention that he had spiked his cup of tea with bee venom.  His job, keeping Sherlock in check, should come with all sorts of lovely little bells and whistles and not spending an inordinate time at the Yard in constant conference with an exasperated DI, or at crime scenes trying to soothe hysterically upset witnesses, or where he is now, which is…atypical, to say the least, even though they’ve been in a somewhat similar situation nearly four year prior.

“Calm down, you idiot—“

“Oh, I am calm, John,” Sherlock seethes with a quiet malevolence, his eyes mere pinpoint shards of icy flint,  “Deathly calm,”    

And it’s quite obvious to John as he watches what transpires in front of his eyes that someday soon, all of this will feel normal again, their strange brand of normal, because actual normal and Sherlock do not coalesce.  Never have, never will.  They do not blend.  They would make a horrid cocktail, kind of like the ones that he used to drink while halfway hallucinating from heat exhaustion in the backs of dingy arid Afghanistan bars.  Kind of like the ones that he himself would numbly to mix and drink while pressing the aching small of his back against the white tile countertop at his squeaky new flat half way across town, phantom pain radiating from his bad leg, and feeling as if someone else was performing a vacuum procedure on his chest cavity with a heavy sadness that even crying could not assuage.

But they do not talk about that, not eleven months earlier when Sherlock first returned from the dead in an irreverent blaze of glory without even so much as a simple ‘hello’, not then and not ever.  Ever.  The three years gone, the things left unsaid. Certain topics have always been wildly off limits (nearly almost everything with an M, also known as ‘The Three M’s that they do not talk about’---Moriarty (mostly), Marriage, and above all else, Mary Morstan), after the inevitable crack of fist against a marble cheekbone and the rows and rows and rows that kept Mrs. H up for days on end after John had moved back to 221B.   Life with Sherlock Holmes has been, and always will be, the most unpredictable and thrilling warzone.  And after all, there is no discharge in the war–even after your best friend raises himself from the grave like a psychopathic coal haired Lazarus. But it’s almost a year back now, and what a glorious one it has been.   Doesn’t feel entirely normal yet, their normal and not normal-normal, but it will.  Some day soon.  

That day is not today.

Of course, John doesn’t mind the ‘not normal’ yet.  However, it would just be nice if while they’re on this journey, things were a bit…easier. And perhaps if he wasn’t currently standing in the middle of the elaborate fairy light ensconced Harrod's Christmas Grotto, watching the psychopathic creature in question issue a verbal death threat to a fictional character, as if this is an entirely normal thing:

“Need I remind you,”  John says under his breath as he watches two armed security guards hastily storm through a sea of a parting holiday shoppers , “that you’re about to get yourself arrested, not the other way around.  Again.”

“Need I remind you that you’ll bail me out.  Again.  Now shut up and call Lestrade.” 

John sighs the bone rattling sigh of the truly weary. To be fair, he does that a lot when with Sherlock however.

“I am merely here to state that, in addition to being under arrest, you owe me reparations,” the detective hisses through clenched teeth as he twists a faux fur white collar between clenched knuckles, “Approximately thirty four Christmases worth.  For your consideration this year: as I have explicitly elucidated to you once before, I want murders--the bloodier the better.   See it fit to not renege on your promises this time, Father, or else I’ll be the one supplying the bodies for the Yard this holiday season.  A hint: it will be yours.”

Sherlock has Father Christmas in a veritable death grip right now, nearly dangling by his boots.  Somewhere behind both of them, there is a queue of horrified children and parents standing amidst the glistening lights and the cheery faux snowcapped village as they wait to hop on Father Christmas’s lap and recite their wishes,.  A queue of horrified children and parents who were just fine moments earlier until Sherlock had leapt the little white fairy light lined gate, cut smoothly to the front of the line, and grabbed Father Christmas all in the name of an interrogation on a lead for their latest case.   John should have debriefed Sherlock on the proper good way to handle all of this, but, per usual, as soon as they had gotten to the department store, Sherlock was ahead of him in a brooding flap of coat and cheekbones without even so much as even a second word.  And so, all John can do as he stands next to the two is turn inward and sigh.  Obviously they’ll be having quite a long talk once they get back to the flat about not good and repressed childhood issues

Jesus fucking Christ.

The doctor is trying very hard to keep his temper right now, to counteract how all of this is spiraling wildly out of control, and his fist twitches in slight intervals as it hangs at the side of his thigh.   This is not the first time that something of this nature has happened, obviously, and yes, he was stupid for bringing Sherlock back to a place that had obviously caused a scene worthy enough of the infamous John Watson blog nearly four years earlier in which the detective had asked for Father Christmas for murders in front of a similar onslaught of horrified onlookers. The doctor had thought that he had just been joking then--a sick joke, a macabre joke--but a joke nonetheless.  Apparently, he had been wildly wrong.  

“Not now, Sherlock, just.  Right.  I’ll let Lestrade know, just…put Father Christmas down and let the security guards handle it--not you.  Not now."

“What better time is there?  After tea, perhaps?  After he’s had the proper time to concoct a glorious alibi and perhaps run off?"

“No," John counters under his breath, and attempts to count somewhere remotely near ten before continuing on, “How about ‘not in front of the children?'”

“What for?  The children in question are enough to realise that Father Christmas doesn’t exist and that this is all just an elaborate plot of rampant consumerism in which their parents so willingly buy into with the hopes of creating perfect family photos for their perfect little holiday greeting cards,” the detective snaps down to him before turning back to the man in question, the horrified man in red who he still hasn’t let go of yet.  Sherlock’s little grin has transformed into an almost deranged snarl at this point.  It’s not good.  “Since societal conventions portray you as obsequious and simultaneously benevolent, I would absolutely hate to reveal to all of your underage sycophants right now that you are indeed not the true Father Christmas, and instead work downtown as a part time counterfeiter and have been involved in an illegal drug smuggling ring.”

John wants the parents to stop looking on in dumbstruck awe.  John wants their culprit to NOT have a part time job as hardened criminal, and instead just be a typical benevolent old man who gets his kicks from helping to put children in the holiday spirit.   John wants a lot of things and right now, as he catches the sight of the two armed security guards, only mere steps away and looking more at Sherlock than the actual culprit in this case, he realises that, per usual, he's not going to get what he wants and that this is all about to go down rather not good.  Sherlock looks like a snarling psychopath in real life alone, never mind on the grainy footage of a security camera.  However, this is nothing new.  Long suffering, John is, yes.  And oh, how he’ll let Sherlock know it. 

And so, John Watson has a variety of options as justice (or some form of it, at least) inevitably marches toward them.  Seeing as he’s exhausted all but the very last one, instead of launching his own body in the path of the two burly security guards in navy as they hop the little fence surrounding Father Christmas’s workshop, this time, John just willingly steps aside.   No use in them both being arrested after all; this much he’s tried to learn from past mistakes.  They both can’t bring a man to justice while having their bodies slammed side by side against the door of a police car before being slapped in cuffs.   Of course, Sherlock is still far too busy trying to strangle the old man from downtown who is shamming as Father Christmas to the extent that he, of course, doesn’t even notice what is actually happening until one of the security guards has wrestled the detective facedown into an artificial snow bank next to Father Christmas’s gilded red velvet chair.  Once finally released from the psychopathic detective’s grips, the man of the hour, now obviously exposed, immediately attempts to make a dash for it and nearly makes it over the fence, but bless Harrods’ security’s native intuition, the bearded old man soon joins Sherlock face first in the fake snow.  Parents are turning away and/or taking pictures with their mobiles for the inevitable lawsuits.  Children are sobbing great heaving sobs.   

Somehow, this chaos feels almost back to normal in regards to Sherlock dealing with anyone under the age of eighteen.  Brilliant. 

 “Do you enjoy making a dramatic scene?  Funny, is that?” asks John as he unpockets his mobile with a weary tick of his head, “I did try and warn you, you utter sod.”

The answer is muffled by fake snow.  “I happened to be in the middle of an interrogation.”

“No, that was a death threat.  To a fictional character.  In the middle of Father Christmas’s bloody village.  What did you think was going to happen?”

"Obviously, I had hoped to apprehend a hardened criminal," but then a sight pause and, "Does all of this honestly surprise you?"  

John Watson lets out a little snort as he thumbs through the recent calls on his phone.  Much to his, and most likely the DI’s chagrin, the top ten are all Lestrade, for various reasons or another.  Yes, it should be surprising, to try and explain how Sherlock has managed to get himself arrested for threatening someone who is, bottom line, a fictional character.   It should be surprising that Sherlock is in cuffs next to Father Christmas in the fake snow and John is standing over them watching the security guards talking back and forth about ‘arrests’ and ‘citations’ amidst the crackling static of their radios.  It should be surprising that children are crying and parents are shouting angrily and everything in the idyllic cheery winter village has somehow gone from complete bliss to utter anarchy in less than a minute and ten seconds flat.   But surprising would imply a lack of preparation, and above all else, even though there was a three year gap somewhere in the middle, when John Watson is with Sherlock Holmes, he has been conditioned to expect the wildly unexpected.   It will feel normal again someday soon, after all, it’s almost been a year.

And right now, it’s definitely starting to again.

I can’t deny that I prefer this kind of life,

And when it’s with you, all the better for it.  

“God no,” John says with a tired smile before pressing the ringing mobile against his ear and steeling himself for the inevitable explanation of how both the culprit and the apprehender have been unceremoniously arrested, “It’s not surprising in the least, you idiot. ” 

*

John Watson is not a romantic man. 

He has never written poetry, despite what Sherlock had originally once accused him of (that poem was one which he had found via a hasty websearch on the internet and had copied and pasted into an email to ‘his little girlfriend’ at the time, not actually composed it.)  He does not wax poetic about members of any gender.  He does not use words like ‘soulmate’ and ‘lover.’  Besides one single exception, he’s normally through with the girls who he dates after about three rounds of sex (if it’s good.  Not good and he’s over them in about one and a half.)

 And yet, this doesn’t seem to change a thing, because it has occurred to John, that sometime over the three years that he had been so unwillingly given to think about this all, that somehow, somewhere in between ‘come if convenient,’ and ‘I’m a fake’, he had fallen in something with Sherlock Holmes.  Something more than river deep devotion and obvious adoration.  Something more than a mere friend or a flatmate.  There are people in your life who you cannot let go of no matter how hard that you try and try to shake them off, people who wrap around your brain and warp it so that when you are without them, you feel as if you are missing a phantom limb that you didn’t even know that you were in possession of.  Sherlock Holmes is John Watson’s bloody phantom everything, and he hadn’t even realized this until his bespoke psychopath was indeed dead (or, presumably so) and his life felt so utterly empty and grainy, as if he lived in a world filled with only television static and vanilla flavoured ice cream.  This, John Watson had realized as he stood in front of his best friend’s granite tombstone and then later gulped down the heaving sobs that had threatened to crack his ribs one at a time in his therapist’s office, is something.  What it is, however, he cannot articulate.  Something akin to what he would call love, if he were a romantic person in this aspect, but he’s not.

He’s never told this to anyone, not Ella, not Mary even, his lovely wife of six months (one of the three M’s they tacitly agreed not to talk about again after the subjects had been discussed one time and one time alone) when he lazily mumbled his name into her collarbone in an endorphin filled haze after the first time that they fucked in his squeaky new flat complete with furniture from his first trip to IKEA.   Much to her credit, she had said nothing, just continued to rub lazy circles in the patchwork skin that surrounded his scar, kissed the lines of his forehead once, and then rolled over, tucked herself into a ball under his 182 thread count Swedish covers, and went to sleep.

He doesn’t talk about Mary, however.  Ever.  Ever.  

Not because it’s too painful, of course--although her departure from this world was painful because he did love her, yes. He loved her in a different way than this something, but it should still be valued all the same.  He simply chooses not to talk about her because it’s been almost two years since she's been gone (since a little test had shown the outline of her body lit up like a fucking Christmas tree when--no, no, no, two years is a long time.)  Furthermore, he chooses not to talk about her because of what had happened the first time that he had mentioned her fondly, eight and a half months ago when Sherlock had inadvertently dragged him into her little favourite cubbyhole of an Indian restaurant by Regent’s Park to discuss the fascinating deadly differences between various poisonous roots for a case. At just her name, John had watched the detective turn to complete stone behind the eyes while simultaneously snarling rabidly in the face.  And that was, well, painful.  Much, much more painful than he had expected.  While it is a well-known fact that John Watson would very much like to avoid causing Sherlock Holmes pain above all else in this world, the doctor has never been one to shy away from painful things in regards to himself.  Things like back to back PT tests in the army, or taking physical chemistry at 8:30am in the morning while at Uni, or figuring out exactly how to extract a tree branch from a bloke’s chest cavity, perhaps, are a considered to be a lovely challenge.  And while John likes a challenge, he hadn't particularly been fond of the one presented eleven months earlier at the sight of the this very 'not dead' madman, the same one who made John’s very bone marrow tremour and blanch at first glance, the same one who had the audacity to show up in his life again unannounced without so much as a simple hello first.  And the aforementioned blanching wasn’t all with unmitigated betrayal and the burning rage of hate, although those were quite overwhelming too.  The words that had threatened to fall out of John’s mouth had been of an entirely different nature as he stood in the middle of his IKEA flat with his ‘Hemnes’ coffee table and ‘Kivik’ sofa and clenched his fist so hard that his knuckles had turned white:

Hello--that’s what most people say just for the record, hello, by the fucking way--I something you,  John had wanted to scream as he twisted his right shoulder back and stepped forward toward the detective, harnessing all of his five years of combat experience and the British Army’s finest POW hand-on-hand training. 

But John Watson does not say ‘love’ out loud in regards to whatever it is between himself and Sherlock Holmes.  Never has, doesn’t think that he ever will.  And so, of course, these words, or anything of the sort had never been said on either of their parts.  Eleven months and still the things unsaid have been left unsaid, even after leaving all of his IKEA furniture on the side of the curb and embracing the entropic black hole of 221B once more. Mrs. Hudson had wept tears of joy on their first night back together.  John had wanted to as well.  

And, thus, John Watson is in something currently, eleven months later now.  It’s all very confusing and quite frankly, he tries not to give it much thought because above all else, the doctor is not one to sit around thinking about these things, about the meaning of life, or experimental theorems, and whatnot, but three years is a long time of not thinking to actually get some thinking done.  And after all, the doctor is not gay, but that doesn’t change the fact that because of this first premise, the something, ever since the detective appeared, too drawn and too white amidst the fluorescent light of his squeaky clean IKEA flat, John hasn’t stopped imagining if only their greeting had gone differently--if only Sherlock would have said 'hello' and then John would have reached out and touched just the very tips of his fingers to the angular bow of Sherlock’s pale lips and said it right back to him, Hello,

It has recently come to my attention over the past three years that I something you. 

- And then he would have tipped forward to kiss him. 

-And then Sherlock’s long fingers would have collided with his own hipbone, and he would have nudged the detective’s knee aside with his own and then slid his fingers into those curls and it would be a beautiful anarchy of—

No.

Of course, John Watson will do nothing about this. The whatevering, nor the kissing.  Sherlock is Sherlock and while there were moments of tenuous tenderness in 221B, such as their first night back when the detective crawled wordlessly into his bed just once (presumably to watch John attempt to pretend to have normal REM cycles), they’ve spent the last 11 months not talking about the things left unsaid, nor the too long glances that the other so obviously notices, nor the way that occasionally when they’re both sitting on the sofa, Sherlock will curl up and almost put his head in the doctors lap, nor when John will hand Sherlock his tea, he will almost touch the translucent skin and map of veins on the inside of the detective’s wrist.  They’re a beautifully mismatched pair of ‘almosts’ and ‘never have saids’, back at it, per usual, but this time, with slightly less guard between the two.  For instance, just the other day, John had been reading the newspaper and, laptop under his arm, the detective had scraped his chair up to sit next to the doctor at the table as opposed to on the adjoining side.  Something is slipping, millimeter by millimeter with each passing day.  And yet with both, there is a quiet comprehension of whatever that something is just below the surface, that something is almost perplexingly too terrible and simultaneously holy to touch that it scares the ever loving fuck out of both of them.  Obviously, neither will make the first move to change anything. 

But that doesn’t matter right now. 

What matters is that they’re on their journey back to their kind of normal, one footprint at a time. Eleven months in.  The rows are over (well, the large ones).  The grudges buried.  The Three M’s discussed, tacitly established, and then dismissed (again, most of the time.)  They are doing rather well along this journey.  John will carry Sherlock the rest of the way there himself, if he has to, which, for all intents and purposes, he might.

It’s two days after the Father Christmas incident, just the beginnings of what promises to be a very cold December, and John has somewhat calmed down Lestrade, who had to abandon his son’s football game to come to their aid at Harrods.  Apparently, while yes, Father Christmas was indeed a hardened criminal, security has very strict measures against protecting their image of said individual, and Sherlock had, per usual, violated, oh, about all of them.  To say that Lestrade hadn’t been pleased as he had arrived (wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and trainers, none the less) would be the award winning understatement of the year.  

Not at all.

“You can’t bloody make a citizen’s arrest, you have to follow proper evidentiary procedures.  Christ, it will be," Lestrade had said as he had wearily scratched his name across the bottom of the release paperwork for Sherlock and the arrest paperwork for the man who apparently is not the real Father Christmas, "a bloody miracle if I make it to Christmas with you two.”

It will, but that’s beside the point.   

For now, it’s two days later, twenty two days until Christmas, and both John and Sherlock are sitting in the living room of the flat, well back on their way to their normal.  Sherlock is in a mood for some reason and is in his pyjamas and dressing gown still whilst scratching away on his violin at the window.  He’s playing fervidly, as if the earth has been restructured and oxygen now only binds with musical notes and nothing more.  It’s dark outside, 9pm, the streetlights of glittering London just barely visible to John from where he sits on their almost normal sofa again.  John is just finishing a cuppa, his third, and has sat down to investigate the latest case file which Lestrade had given to them earlier that morning in his office at the Yard along with a cheerful theory (“I think this is that serial killer from Norwood, it’s basically spot on with his work.  Been taking bets with a few of the Supers.”) The DI is fairly certain that he’s right on track, however, knowing Lestrade, there’s a 50% chance that he could be dead wrong.  It’s a wonder that Sherlock hasn’t looked at the file already, that is, if Sherlock could indeed look anywhere beyond the bow of his own violin and beyond the padded walls that music carefully constructs for that fragile and brilliant brain.  He’s been playing all day, or composing, or a strange amalgamation of the two; or at least, John thinks so. The doctor has had to run errands—it’s his one full day off—dry cleaning, picking up his schedule from the clinic where he still works part time, etc, etc, etc.  He’s only been home for about an hour.

The mood in the air suddenly changes, as it does frequently with the detective.  Sherlock has finally emerged from his shell, or so it seems, and snapped up tall and dark once more.  After a moment, out of just the corner of his eye, John can see the violin and the bow come down to rest against one long thigh and the detective turns around and fixates his eyes, which are unnaturally bright, somewhere toward John. His marble face is twisted into a little grin, an honest grin, the kind that John had missed and missed so hard that his bones felt hollow during those three years away from this man.  The kind somehow he only can do when solely around the doctor for some reason, and that grin threatens to turn John into a melted wax puddle right there on the sofa.  The doctor swallows down a pang of whatever and looks back down to the coffee table to shuffle through the paperwork; doing his best to coax the burning sensation out of his own cheeks.  Not very soldierly to blush.  Not at all.

This is why it takes him approximately three extra seconds to realise that Sherlock is indeed now standing directly in front of the other side of the coffee table and asking him…something.

"Excuse me?" John asks, still not looking up.

“I said, ‘and, all together now, the composer is______’“

“Ah, no.  Right, ”  says John as he sifts through the case file, hoping that whatever horrors they’ve been given will placate the psychopath he lives with albeit for a short amount of time in addition to provide the doctor with a  distraction of his own, “Just, shut up.  You’ve apparently spent the entire day not talking and then when you finally do, it’s this again.  We’re not doing this, this ‘guess the composer’ shit.  You know I don’t really giving a flying fuck if it’s Debussy or Chopin—”

“Wrong,” tuts Sherlock, and John can imagine that little grin morphing into a look of utter distain, “it was neither.  Tchaikovsky, he’s very stylistically identifiable.  Really, John, your lack of knowledge about classical composers is downright disturbing. And for the record, it's this, or Cluedo right now.”

"Absolutely not. You have a case."

"I know.  It’s dull, I can tell already.  Besides, judging from your response, you invariably like this better than Cluedo."

John ticks his head and considers this for a moment before looking up at Sherlock finally.  Before speaking again, the doctor leans forward to press both elbows to his knees, simultaneously knitting his fingers together in front of him as he does when a) he is at an utter loss for how to rationalize with the man who he is in something with and b) when he’s about ready to reach out and throttle that pale neck out of frustration.   “Right, okay.  When I was in training for the army, they had this POW camp…thing.  Two days long where the government gets to torture you legally.  It’s very controlled though, they have these psychologists on scene and—“

“Oh wonderful, wonderful, a personal anecdote.  Clearly you’re still trying to make up for the three year’s deficit of these fascinating personal facts.  Do get on with it; Mrs. Hudson is supposed to be over for tea in an hour and a half.”

  “Just.  Right.  And, no, that's an attempt at a distraction--Mrs. Hudson is not coming over, it's far too late, so shut it.  Anyway, as I was saying, there was this part where they locked me in this box, and mind you, it’s the dead of winter, frost on the ground and all, fucking cold as hell.  And the box is shaped so you can’t really sit in it and you can’t stand in it, and then they’re playing that poem ‘Infantry Columns’ by Rudyard Kipling, you know—We're foot-slog-slog-slog-sloggin' over Africa , Foot-foot-foot-foot-sloggin' over Africa ,Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin'up an' down again-on repeat for what seemed like twenty hours—“

“The point, John—“

That,” finishes the doctor as he unknits his fingers and refocuses his attention back on the little pile of pictures that currently mosaics the grained oak of the coffee table with blood and exposed spinal cord, “was still far better than playing Cluedo with you.  Or this composer rubbish, for that matter, so quiet.”

Although John is too busy now holding up a picture of the corpse of a decapitated ambassador to the muted glow of the antique lamp next to the sofa, he’s fairly certain that there is just a flicker of something akin to disappointment that crosses Sherlock’s face before the detective manages to rearrange the actual emotion with his usual impassive ambivalence.  John knows that deep down somewhere, somewhere, he’s most likely hit a soft nerve, one hidden in the fathomless cavern of the heart that the detective would never admit to actually having.  However, neither addresses it, per usual, because they don’t talk about these things, per usual, and instead, there is just a soft little thud and out of the corner of his eye, John can see Sherlock place the violin in it’s case in the corner of the flat.  As the doctor lowers the picture to set it back on the coffee table with the rest only five seconds later, he is startled by the up close mad-eyed scrutiny of said Cluedo-ruiner in question who now perches on the sofa approximately twelve inches to his right. 

Sherlock is almost touching him.

Almost.

“Now that you’re so unceremoniously finished with boring me into an early grave,” Sherlock commands as he holds out his palm, presumably for the picture, “The case, if you please.”

And this is almost back to normal, almost, but not quite. The tenuous balancing act that they do of John’s personal space vs. Sherlock’s personal space and precisely how far they can blur those lines in the sand has gotten a bit more interesting since the detective has been back. Sherlock is far, far too close to the doctor now, so much so that John can practically feel the pulse that throbs in Sherlock’s white throat, the throat which connects to the neck which connects to the mouth which is simultaneously the bane of his bloody existence and the most beautiful thing in his entire life in every possible way. And as Sherlock sits there almost pressing into him, legs crossed and looking at John expectantly, the detective’s attitude is surprisingly calm.  The doctor momentarily considers pushing himself back to allow more space between the two, however, Sherlock seems nonplussed and so…it’s fine.  Hell, it’s more than fine, but John would never say this out loud, just like he would never say another word, and so instead he just says--

 “It’s about time that you asked me,” John snorts, as he shuffles the papers back into the file and hands them to Sherlock,  “Murders.  Four of them, all at the embassy in Westminster, all ambassadors to various countries.  Decapitations.  Lestrade thinks that it’s the work of that serial killer from Norwood last month since they’ve been killed in a similar way.”

With an overtly disgusted tut, Sherlock delicately spreads the file open on his lap.  His eyes narrow to a scrutinizing pinpoint for approximately two seconds as he delicately lifts the first picture where he studies it for three more seconds before rolling his eyes in unmitigated revulsion. 

Also almost normal.    

“No, no, no, no, no.  Tell Lestrade he’s wildly off track.  Go to Blackhearth, and he’ll find the first supposed victim still alive.  Insurance fraud.  Typical.”

What the ever loving--

John is inwardly astonished, per usual.  Yet another step in the right direction.

 “And the other three?”

“Collateral, and nothing more,” the flick of a too pale wrist close to his nose as Sherlock tosses the case to the coffee table, “The first supposed victim is having an affair with the second actual victim’s wife.  The others knew about it and, for a very public figure, murder was easier than accepting the black mark on his record I suppose.  And so he’s faked his own death—wisely, might I add—in the style of a relatively recent serial killer, killed those who knew about it, had second victims wife collect the life insurance for both, and now they’re probably sailing off into the sunset somewhere after their apparent rendezvous in Blackhearth.  Romance at its most macabre and hence, it’s finest, wouldn’t you say?”

John could say, and you would know all about that, all about faking your death and black marks on your ledger, but doesn’t.  It’s been eleven months and they do not talk about these things, especially now.  Instead, John changes the subject, because it’s easier than not discussing certain subjects.  Always has been, always will be.  Brilliant. 

 “Well,” begins the doctor begins as he stares at Sherlock almost too closely, the bemusement in his cadence evident, as when he’s about to tell just a lovely joke, “Father Christmas must have heard your wish the other day.  You should make a list.”

A pause.  Sherlock looks up at him, furrows his brow, opens his mouth once, and shakes his blue-black curls so hard that they appear to wrap around his head. To say that he is confused would be entirely correct.    Very little actually confuses Sherlock and so this is incredibly disturbing. 

“A what?”

“A list, a Christmas list, you idiot.  Obviously it worked, at least on some level--wait—do you even know what a Christmas list is?” 

John Watson doesn’t know very much about Sherlock’s childhood or if Christmas lists were a very common thing in the obviously uncommon Holmes household, but he’s learned a trick or two in his time together with the detective and he’s learned how to deduce a few things of his own.  He doesn’t need to reference the fact that Sherlock mumbles half broken French in his sleep sometimes when he falls into a restless slumber on their not IKEA sofa because John Watson knows how to spot a bloke whose gone through years and years of boarding schools from a mile away.  One of the downsides of not coming from money is that you know when people do.  However, envy about these sorts of things is not very productive, nor is it very soldierly, and besides, it’s pointless to envy someone who you care about (or, alternately something about) and so it doesn’t bother John in the least right now.  Besides, from Sherlock’s reaction it looked as if he had just asked him to do something akin to translating ancient runes into pig latin.  No Christmas lists, then.

“Yes, of course I know what a Christmas list is.  However, why on earth would I do a ridiculous thing like that?  I loathe Christmas, always have.  It’s horrid.”

And although John has known that throughout their years together, Sherlock has never been one for antlers, or holiday parties, or carols, or candy canes, or, well, anything about the season, John has always seen the detective regard the holiday with the same passive ambivalence with which he regards most of humanity.  Nothing groundbreaking  really and yet he feels as if he’s touched on a new nerve for some reason, in their first Christmas back at 221B in three years. 

John is fascinated. Again, almost normal.

“You can’t hate Christmas, it’s…well, it’s absurd.  Why?”

And apparently this is the question.  Sherlock sighs a bone rattling sigh and looks up to the ceiling once, drawing strength from some invisible source, which knowing the detective, is most likely a combination of the fathers of the Enlightenment.  He has heard Sherlock pray to Newton at least once before, or so he thought.  When Sherlock glances back down and away from the theoretical floor of what would be 221C, John finds himself met with something that looks like a malignant storm of disgust and revulsion and all sorts of not good things. 

“Is it nice living in your little world, John, with your little brain so disgustingly simple?” Sherlock snaps,    “Why do I hate Christmas?  It’s an abomination.  It’s a discordant cacophony of colours and noises and sounds and’ buy me this’ and ‘buy me that’ and shop, shop, shop.  The colours—for nearly six months out of the year at this point, they’re nothing but red and green, red and green, variegated shades of always red and green.  The entire season is consumerism at its most honed and dangerous in which the predatory marketing manager is the ultimate hunter in this Most Deadly Game.  There are children everywhere, abhorrent little children in mittens and scarves, singing on the telly and in the shops and in the park about fictitious idolatry such as snowmen and Father Christmas and the reindeer with the funny red nose.  And the carols, the carols, oh the carols.  There are approximately six songs on constant loop in all the shops and stores and they have the ability to get stuck in your head on repeat, like a parasite boring into the depths of your cerebral cortex.  And the whole time, throughout this all, throughout the muck and the colours and the songs, everyone is festive and there are even stricter societal implications in place about being ‘jolly’ and ‘bright.’   Everything is steeped in tradition and yet no one actually knows why besides the fact that Father Christmas can now be found on the side of every bottle of Coke in the entire world.  It’s horrid, the entire season is like being thrown into the middle of Wonderland and spun around and around until the Mad Hatter is wearing a holly wreath and a pinafore and inviting you to take a Christmas cracker and have wassail.  I hate it.”

John’s trying not to smile, he really is.  The corner of his mouth is twitching however, and he covers his grin with the palm of his hand.  It’s not very soldierly to giggle, after all, especially when your flatmate is currently teetering on a full blown homicidal rage.   

“That is, without a doubt, the most disturbing childhood metaphor that you have ever used.  Stop it, immediately.”

That earns John a distinctive little huff of air as the detective tucks his knees to his chest and flops to lay on the sofa in a little black ball.  Much to the doctor’s dismay, he proceeds to stare up the at John with unmitigated loathing.  And then, per usual, Sherlock’s dark head is almost nearly in his lap.   Almost.  A beautifully mismatched pair of ‘almosts’ and ‘never have saids’, after all.

 “Let’s look at the facts,” says the doctor, trying to ignore the curls that now rest two inches from his thigh,  “You asked Father Christmas for murders yesterday and somehow, today you get oh, about four, even if you solved them in Jesus, three seconds.  Make a bloody list, it won’t kill you.  In fact, I bet if you make a list, there is, oh, a very good chance that I can make you hate Christmas just a little less.”

Sherlock reaches haphazardly over John’s lap (dangerously, dangerously just brushing across something else) to pluck the Union Jack pillow from the other side of the sofa.  He places it under his cheekbone and presses his face into the centre.  His voice is muffled as he speaks to their glorious country’s flag.  “Statically speaking, you’re well aware that you have a greater chance of giving me an internal organ than actually succeeding in this endeavor.”

John Watson does not back down from challenges.  And this one is perhaps the greatest that he’s faced thus far.  Getting Sherlock Holmes to love something that he once hated.  And if Sherlock can love Christmas then--

He doesn’t let himself go that far.

“Important, is that?  You know, most people would say fuck it, because, well, let’s face it, it’s you, but you know what? I’m going to prove to you that you’re wrong about this whole holiday.”

“You,” says Sherlock almost reverently as he pushes himself up to his elbows to look at John, really look, his eyes the colour of sea spray, “are not ‘most people.’”

It’s a strange complement, John supposes.  And technically it’s wrong.  John Watson is like most people.  As far as blokes go, the doctor is about as average as they come—height, weight, hair colour (less than average sense of style, Sherlock might hasten to snarkily add.)  Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, is not.  He’s unforgettable, exquisitely mad, fathomlessly intense and on a whole other level.  If John Watson is Alice, Sherlock is definitely the Mad Hatter in this almost world that they now live in. 

“Yes,” says John as he claps Sherlock’s hipbone before pushing himself up to send a text to the latest girl who he’s currently seeing.  He fervently hopes that said text will help him be on the receiving end of an invitation that would act quite well as a distraction from the madman currently staring into his bloody soul, “I suppose because of hanging around you all the time, I’m not, now am I?  And oh, how incredibly lucky you are.”  

*

The list, it seems, turns out to be a bad idea.

Never leaving the sofa, Sherlock solves the case of the embassy beheadings via text message to Lestrade later that evening.  And the next day, since the universe has somehow deemed John worthy of two days off of clinic duties in a row, the doctor types up the case on his blog under the title, which much to Sherlock’s unmitigated disgust, aptly hails the event as ‘The Head of the State.’ 

“That,” Sherlock says over the top of the arm chair, his breath seeping too close against John’s neck as he leans over the doctor to read the half typed post, “is by far the most egregiously disgusting pun that you’ve used thus far in regards to a title.”

John momentarily considers turning around and wiping the smirk off of Sherlock’s face in a very different manner, but decides against it. “Shut it, you.  The holidays are coming, consider it an early gift for me to keep that mouth closed for a bit.”

Despite the snarky comment, for the rest of the day, Sherlock seems genuinely happy for the brief three second respite from boredom, happier than John has seen him in a while.  Nothing like a good set of murders around the holidays, he says. Red is the colour of the season, after all.   And John is happy as well, happy that something, albeit maybe not good, has actually gotten the detective into what he considers a holiday spirit of sorts.  However, it is only later that afternoon when John, his arms laden with plastic Tesco bags, has to wrestle Sherlock away from strangling the man taking Christmas charity donations outside of the grocery store, that he realises that maybe, there is still just a little work to be done.

“Your list,” says John as he drags Sherlock away by the coat sleeve, trying not to topple over from the shifting weight of the groceries, “I can make you like Christmas, if you just give me a bloody list.”

“I’d like to see you try,” spits Sherlock to him before he whips ahead, a charcoal hurricane of brooding malevolence, leaving the doctor to hurriedly apologize to the man, tip him a pound, and sling the grocery bags over his arms again all alone. 

Not good. 

The next evening, John returns after a) work (one of the three eight hour shifts he’s required to complete per week) and b) a dinner date at the Thai restaurant three blocks over with Anna, the new receptionist at the clinic.  Dating again after two very major life events (Mary's death, Sherlock's return) has been...interesting.  It's not necessarily something that he enjoys, per se, but at the same time, he doesn't not enjoy it.  He likes the sex (not the current lack of it, as it's been almost two and a half months), but not the somewhat expected emotional attachment from the endless revolving door of girlfriends that he has somehow has kept going at a startling steady pace.  The current object of affection is a tall blonde Chelsea girl, just graduated from Kingston, and has, what Sherlock has exasperatedly explained to John while nearly tearing out his own curls, “a very severe daddy complex.” John doesn’t mind however, it’s nice to be distracted from something-ing your flatmate when you’re very much not gay and when he’s a sociopath and cannot ever something you back.  It’s fine, even.  And so, when the doctor finally returns far too early from their little night out at 8:44pm and pushes the door to their flat open, oddly, the dim light of 221B is extinguished and their entire home eerily quiet.  Sherlock, it seems, is out.  Where exactly, John doesn’t know, however, as the doctor sets the brown paper bag of leftovers down on the kitchen table, unzips his jacket (he had even worn his infamously lucky navy plaid button down shirt and maroon cardigan tonight, what the hell), and tosses his keys next to a rack of test tubes filled with different plum coloured liquids, he does a sharp double take as his eyes catch the sight of a small piece of paper tacked haphazardly against the refrigerator door.  John steps closer and yes, without reading it yet, he can see that indeed it’s filled with the distinctive loopy scrawled writing of the world’s only consulting detective.  With a little huff of breath, the doctor opens the refrigerator first, nestles the leftover Thai food amidst the bags of half rotting body parts, pulls out a beer from the very corner shelf, and cracks it open.  Preemptive, of course for what he’s about to look at as he snaps the refrigerator door shut:

List (Christmas)

Kidney(s), and/or a full cadaver (preferably male, late 30s, under six feet tall),

bag of fresh toes,

sixteen cow’s eyes (corneas retained),

dual exhaust hand –held flame thrower,

an unopened first edition copy of Joseph Conrad’s 'Heart of Darkness',

and no less than ten abhorrently gruesome murders in the coming month.

…And so, the list, it seems, is a very, very, very bad idea indeed. 

And yet, he wasn’t entirely sure what he was expecting.  Asking for Sherlock so presumptively normal is something akin to opening a bag of crisps and instead finding a pet kitten.  It’s Wonderland all over again.

What the ever-loving fuck.

However, John doesn’t get much time to think about the exact logistics of a) finding sixteen cows eyes (corneas retained) in the middle of one of the top metropolitan cities in the world, nor b) how exactly to explain to Sherlock that he absolutely will not, under any circumstance, be getting a flame thrower, EVER, because as the doctor leans over to flick the soft light of the kitchen on, a somewhat pleased voice from the living room cuts through the darkness.

“She still hasn’t slept with you yet.”

Not surprising, although John tightens his grip on the bottle, his hands now slippery with condensation, to keep said article from crashing to the floor.  And what else isn’t surprising is that he can hear a positively unregulated mirthful smile in Sherlock’s voice at the little fact that he just so obviously stated. The kitchen light now radiates a hazy green-gold glow and as the doctor walks toward the disembodied voice in the living room he can see Sherlock stretched into a long line of angles on the sofa, his hands pressed palm-to-palm and resting neatly tucked under his chin.  He’s fully dressed, his purple button down rolled to his elbows, and his shoes on as well.  He’s most apparently in his bloody mind palace, John deduces as he takes a swig of the beer and steels himself for arguably a very, very difficult conversation.  Perhaps they can make some sort of compromise of sorts.  No, sod it, no compromises, this is fucking madness.

“Have you moved at all since last night besides to get changed?”

Sherlock appears to consider this for a moment, “Hmmmmm, no, not at all, really.”

“Look,” John says as takes yet another a swig of the perspiring bottle in his hand, “this list—Sherlock, this is—“

“What ‘list’?” The detective sneers to his fingertips.

“Your…Christmas list, I suppose?”

“Oh,” says Sherlock as he finally looks over, one elegant brow cocked, seemingly still annoyed, “that list, yes.  I found the exercise to be thoroughly exhaustive and pedantic.  Also, it’s highly illogical.  If Father Christmas has enough ostensible divination to know ‘when you are sleeping’ and ‘when you’re awake’, shouldn’t he also have enough foresight to know what you indeed want? Besides, it seems a bit unfair.  I haven’t seen you make a list yet, so how on earth can we test this empirically to see if indeed I’ll receive everything that I ask for?”

John doesn’t know what to say, nor how to duck out of Sherlock’s positively scrutinizing glare at present, so instead he takes another drink.  Somehow, in less than one move, Sherlock has wildly flipped their entire conversation around again.  It’s a bit like living with a small whirlwind of ink and aubergine sometimes, living with the fluctuating emotional states of Sherlock Holmes.

On their way to normal again, he supposes.   

 “Is this an…experiment of some sort now?” John says as he leans against the doorframe of the kitchen,” I thought that you hated Christmas. ”

“No, not an experiment, and yes, I still do.”

“Then what—“

“Make a list, John,” he says with a dismissive wave of his hand before turning back to resting his chin on his fingertips,  “It’s only fair, after all.  I had to do it, presumably, you should too.”

The doctor sighs once before turning to set his beer back down on the kitchen counter. Apparently now he’s considered little more than a bloody control group.  And after poking around the entropic jumble of test tubes and half cracked petri dishes that is their kitchen table currently, somehow, miraculously, the doctor manages to unearth a piece of paper and a pen.

“Once you’re quite finished,”   Sherlock continues with a lazy flick of his wrist, “Now that you’re so unceremoniously back after the fourth week of dating this newest girlfriend who is failing to provide the one sufficient thing that you so obviously need to survive, we have a case.  Lestrade dropped it off earlier today. Which, technically, you should already know about seeing as you’ve read and subsequently ignored my last eight texts in hopes of bedding your little tart who still obviously has quite the Electra complex as one of her multifarious issues—issues which you, as a doctor, would so willingly like to fix.”

John almost has the first thing written down and has thoroughly ignored the jab when he happens to glance at the clock.  “It is—Sherlock, it’s nearly 9pm right now.”

“Irrelevant, Catholic churches are almost always open.  Nice, I suppose if you ever need to make a confession.”

“And what on earth would I confess to?”

“It’s fairly Freudian, however, I suppose you could start with,” Sherlock juts his chin in the direction of the piece of paper that John didn’t even realise he’s still holding, “The fact that you just subconsciously put ‘sex’ on your Christmas list.  I don’t suspect that Father Christmas will indeed be pleased about the unavailability of your little request, lest he have to hop in bed with you himself.  You saw him.  I highly doubt that you’ll be pleased with the arrangement.”

John doesn’t ask how—how Sherlock can see across the room, how Sherlock knows what he had just accidentally written, how all of this is always so strangely accurate--anymore.  It’s useless at this point

Jesus fucking Christ.

And the doctor just prays that he’s not as red as he feels.  “Just, shut it.  The case—what’s it about?” 

“It’s abhorrent, I love it.  Five church deacons in total—two are related, which makes the story even more delectable,” Sherlock says, the maelstrom of brooding and snarkiness instantly morphing to one of excitement as he pushes himself off of the sofa and stares at John, his eyes almost glowing in the dark.  With a whip of his slender body, while still talking rapidly, the detective tugs on his charcoal coat, “All five are in a meeting about the hierarchy of the church or whatnot yesterday evening.  One deacon, nee Mortimer Tregennis, leaves to go home as he’s recently returned from a missions trip to Africa and suspiciously feels under the weather.  The next morning, Tregennis returns to the church to find two deacons, including his actual brother, murdered via evisceration, and the remaining two are found sitting around their little table and laughing about it.  No witnesses, and yes, Tregennis has a watertight alibi.  Apparently, the only suspect thus far, per the surviving deacons, is the devil.  Fantastic. I do believe that for once in your little life, you’re actually correct, John--Father Christmas really does work miracles!”

*

The list, it seems, is a very, very, very, very bad idea indeed. 

However, seeing as it’s now barely two weeks until Christmas, and John knows what happens to people who renege on their promises in regards to these sorts of things (both real and fictional), he’s willing to give it a go, at least.   So far, in between his hurricane of a life, working shifts at the clinic, writing up blog posts, and having very frustrating dates with Anna, John gets to working on it – to making all of Sherlock’s (realistic) holiday dreams come true.  And it’s all a bit hectic via frantic text messages and what not, but he’s somehow gotten Molly to assist him with the body part portion (the toes and the cadaver…which, maybe isn’t ethically the best thing, but it’s really nothing new in regards to Sherlock), the local butcher to assist him with the cows eye portion, and has decided that since Sherlock never specified a type of kidney, he’ll just buy a beef one the day before at Tesco, slap a bow on it and call it a day.  Completing the somewhat impossible, Lestrade has agreed to assist him with the ten cases by withholding anymore gruesome murders until Sherlock has indeed solved the one involving the eviscerations.  Unfortunately, this has had the byproduct of leaving the detective brooding in a miserable heap on the sofa over the last several days, since apparently the devil is a somewhat amorphous entity that is rather difficult to find and interrogate.  After their first night of poking around a darkened church (which provided the detective with enough information to deduce that the suspect was indeed a member of the clerisy of some sort), Sherlock had asked Lestrade to call a conference of the priests of the London diocese at the Yard the next day.  In addition to the head bishop, all fourteen from the major churches had attended and murmured softly about the tragedy in one of the conference rooms.   Eight of the fourteen sat exhaustedly together, having three days earlier just returned from a missions trip to a sister church in Africa.   Sherlock had watched in passive ambivalence along with Tregennis  (who had, according to Sherlock insisted it had to be one of the eight returned priests) while leaning against the doorframe (John had been at work, setting a bloody six year old's broken leg), before deciding that the absolute most normal looking of them all, the 57 year old Father Loren of St. Cecelia's, was most likely the culprit.  

"It's always the ones that you never expect, always,"  Sherlock had said as he recounted the case with glee as he had showed John the pictures of the almost identical looking older men later that day while they sat on the same side of the table in the living room,  "The papacy has the clergy strictly regulated to allow only the most dull personality types to succeed.  They're all ordinary and incredibly boring--albeit with well cloistered ego's the size of freight trains, might I add--ergo, the most ordinary and boring is most likely the one who secretly wants to be the least and hence has begun some sort of twisted killing spree.  Typical." 

Right. 

But Lestrade had wanted actual witnesses in order to make arrests, and thus the part about the devil came into play and unfortunately, although Sherlock would positively sell his own soul for a chance to interrogate the bloke with the horns, that could never happen, and so the conference was dismissed without any sort of concrete lead--hence the aforementioned brooding.  And John's a bit sick of the living room curtains drawn and answering his mobile in a hushed whisper for fear of waking the irksome sea eyed Spinx of a creature on the sofa, but then again, this is another step towards normal.  However, it's several days after the conference and Sherlock is finally out of the flat and off at the Yard today, presumably to beg Lestrade for either a) another case to work on in the meantime or b) the preemptive legal exoneration necessary to make another case.  This leaves John to decorate the 221B for the holiday that the man who he somethings so obviously loathes.   

Irony.

It’s nothing new, however, as John has been the one to decorate their little disheveled home for as long as he can remember.  And it was nice.  Still is.  A bit weird though.  Hauling down the dust covered boxes from the attic above for the first time in three years and setting them near the hearth had tugged at his heartstrings in an entirely sentimental way that he’ll never quite be used to.  This, after all, is home.  This is getting back normal, again. 

 “A bit crude, your list, isn’t it?”

That, however is not.

The voice in question does not belong to Sherlock.  Instead, it belongs to a woman, approximately mid-60s, 5’2, and hovering right behind the small step ladder that the doctor stands on as he finishes tacking up the strand of multi-coloured fairy lights into a little square that is supposed to line their fireplace.  The doctor pauses once, sets the hammer down on the mantle, and pushes the heels of his hands into the ache of his lower back.  He’s not really thinking about the list right now, he’s slightly preoccupied with the fact that he's still tired from two evenings earlier when he and Sherlock spent a frustrating  night breaking into a) sixteen different church offices at St. Anthony’s where the original murders took place, b) Bart’s morgue, c) St. Anthony’s cemetery once again, and d) the trunk of one 1996 Toyota in the church parking lot which yielded nothing more than pamphlets for a missions trip to Africa.  There are still no concrete leads on the case, but Sherlock’s in high hopes of more eviscerations soon.  After all, he did ask Father Christmas for them, in a way.  

John steps off of the tiny ladder to apparently marvel at the averageness of his decorating skills (and inadvertently pretend that he hadn’t heard his landlady), subsequently joining Mrs. Hudson.  He still can’t look at her.  In fact, although he loves her like he loves a mum; he actually fervently wishes that she would--

“Sex, I mean,”  Mrs. Hudson helpfully supplies, as she presses what John can feel is the lukewarm china of a cuppa into his hands, “I’m assuming that’s yours, dear?”

And it’s getting worse, of course, of course. John flushes hot somewhere between what he feels is crimson and electric neon pink.  He counts to ten.  He thinks of Infantry Columns.

“I, well, I mean, I didn’t think that you’d be up here.  It’s, erm-well, a bit of a joke, I guess. Hard to explain.”

“Oh, it’s fine, I must admit, love, it’s quite a common wish, if you know what I mean.  I don’t know if you remember Mr. Johnston, the lovely man who works at the butcher’s down the street, however--“

The doctor takes a sip of the tea and simultaneously wishes that perhaps Mrs. Hudson had given him a cup of bleach.  Even the strongest Earl Grey won’t solve his problems.

“Oh.  Yes, thank you,” John says as he licks his lips and nods straight ahead to the skull on the mantle, “I.  Yes.  I--er, have work in an hour, so, thank you for this. Let’s just—er, the tea is positively fantastic today.”  

The doctor wishes that he could give himself a lobotomy right now, but he’s not quite sure that would do it at this point.   John also wishes that a black hole would suddenly open up in the middle of 221B and swallow him down just so he doesn’t have to have this sort of conversation with Mrs. Hudson ever, ever again.  Barring the impossible happening, and it doesn’t tend to happen when he’s not with Sherlock, instead, John clears his throat, tips forward to set the tea down on the mantle next to the glass case that houses a supposed vampire bat, and picks up the hammer once more.  Two more strands, one for the window and then one for the doorframe.  Focus on the task at hand and maybe this will all just go away, like a horrid dream.  He doesn’t mean to be rude as he steps back on the ladder, but these things need to be, well, not talked about.  Really.   

“It looks lovely, dear,” not-their-housekeeper croons behind him, “Oh, I’m sure he’ll absolutely love it.  So nice to have you both back at the flat, just like the old days.”

“It is nice," John admits, "even though it’s not for him, specifically,”

“Oh, of course, dear. But it is always for him, in a way.”

John’s hammering fades to nothing more than a single blow.  And then he stops himself and takes a moment examine, really examine that statement.  Of course, it’s correct.  John Watson is not the sort of bloke to just decorate for Christmas for the hell of it.  Perhaps sort out a more festive jumper for the evening, yes, but when he’d lived on the army base or in Afghanistan, or in the squeaky flat that was not 221B, it hadn’t mattered. He’s doing it because deep down inside,  it will make Sherlock happy to know that John has gone to an inordinate amount of trouble, and all over a single comment about how he hates the upcoming holiday.  An act which shows that John somethings him, at least on some level, and then maybe that secret happiness shows that Sherlock somethings him back.  He does all of this for Sherlock because bottom line, you do things for the people that you’ve been in something with for far longer than you’ve cared to remember, but you can’t really figure out how to say those things that you both never have even attempted to say because they are unholy and terrible in the worst and best possible way. 

 ‘Everything alright, dearie?”

“Quite, yes.”  John nods as he steps back and off the ladder once more to survey his glaringly average work in what is a glaringly almost normal life.  The fairy lights are uneven, the sides are mismatched, one slightly higher and peakier than the other.  It won’t matter though when they’re lit.  The darkness will obscure any flaws in them both.

 “Just fine, of course.”

*

And thus, now only fourteen days to Christmas, things continue to proceed on at what John deems a more towards ‘a sort of normal’ pace.  He goes to work.  He comes back to the flat.  Sherlock makes a snarky comment about the fairy lights the same night that John puts them up and in turn, John tosses his hand up in the air and pushes himself out of his chair and storms upstairs.  He storms upstairs only to stand in the middle of his room and realise, like an idiot, that he had left his laptop downstairs, and then subsequently, he has to storm back down the stairs to snatch it from the sofa, and then storm back up again.  It’s all very exhausting, but these things are more ‘sort of normal’ in their own weird way, which he happens to love. Sort of normal in the way that after twenty hours of hearing Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Infantry Columns’, the silence felt blissfully sort of normal.

And things go back to sort of normal for Sherlock as well. Apparently the devil has been at work again, much to his psychopathic flatmate’s delight and much to John’s weary dismay as the room of his door is practically thrown against the wall the next morning at 5:09am without so much as a “hello” and as if they had not fought the previous night.  Per usual.  Almost normal.  On their way to the crime scene via cab, John says nothing of the fact that after nearly jumping on the bed to wake him up, Sherlock had startlingly and uncharacteristically made a little breakfast of an egg and semi-burnt toast for him, an apparent apology for dragging the doctor out of his warm blankets at such an ungodly hour to go shiver in the cold under the pretense of solving crimes.  The had sat together on the sofa while John had munched with a perplexing cadence, continually gauging Sherlock's reaction to each bite with uneasy scrutiny.  

(“I’m fine, really.  I don't understand--I--thank you again, I suppose?” 

“You didn’t have dinner last night, you need to eat, don’t be absurd.”

“…I hate that I feel the need to ask this every time that you make something for me, but, Sherlock, please tell me that this is not drugged.  Please.  For fucks sake.” )

But now Sherlock and John are at the latest crime scene at a new Catholic church, St. James in Spanish Place, several blocks over from where the last murders occurred.   The specifics of the crime are somewhat similar; as opposed to deacons, however, this time two priests were eviscerated in apparent cold blood during a church meeting that took place late last night.   The surviving deacon from the first set of murders, Tregennis, is horrified, as one of the priests killed was the godfather to his two sons.   Tregennis also isn’t answering his mobile phone anymore and, according to Lestrade, both of his children were pulled out of school yesterday, which is…well, not good (and has led Sherlock to believe that the deacon definitely knows the murderer) but the Yard has an eye on it.  As Sherlock explained to John while sitting too close to him in the back of the cab, the two victims were a pair of diocese elders, the two older grey haired gentlemen who had sat together in the back of the room during the conference and grumbled half uttered comments under their breath about the 'the need to uphold the staunch catechisms of religion' and whatnot.  In this murder, there were no survivors, but an elderly woman who volunteered with the church had entered while the meeting was going on and apparently in some sort of haze, set out three entire packets of pamphlets regarding the Church's missions to Africa on the rows of pews before proceeding to wander around the dark building all evening.  Apparently, she was entirely unnoticing of the pile of organs and the bodies in the little circles of blood that lay up near the alter until nearly twelve hours later when she came to her senses and called the Yard screaming about the devils work before crying herself up into a hysterical lather and being taken to the nearest hospital under a psych evaluation.  Sherlock had been invariably displeased that he hadn't gotten to interview her and although John has never been one to shy away from a challenge, secretly, he had let out a breath in relief.    It is early, after all.  Apparently the Lord has some form of mercy.  

After a grunting a semi-cordial greeting to Lestrade in the darkness of the morning outside of the grandoise Gothic grey stone church twenty minutes later, John and Sherlock are allowed their typical ten minutes alone on the crime scene before the horde of Yarders get their turn.  And oh, what an important ten minutes of solitude they are.  As Sherlock had brushed irreverently by the crowd of people and ducked under the yellow crime scene tape that surrounded the front of the building, John had spotted Anderson milling around in the background, chatting up a vaguely disinterested Sally. Per usual and immediately, the doctor had decisively steered Sherlock in another way by his shoulder. You would think that nearly eleven months after a bloke’s name is cleared after what was a three year long huge mistake that society would just let him go back to work and act bloody normal.  Plus, the detective is already psychopathic enough at this time of the year without any help, thank you very much.

They have ten minutes, and it’s been from what John so far can surmise is five.  Since it’s 6:36am, the inside of the church is almost perversely silent, their footsteps echoing off of the impossibly vaulted ceilings and the row of ornate gilded pictures of the saints that line the walls in the dimly lit pew-lined main room.  A purple banner is draped down below the cross in back of the alter table on the stage, and the pulpit on the centre is lined with faux pine wreath and several pink and purple candles. As they move throughout the crime scene, John can see ghostly flickers of other colours from the massive stained glass window which is a large picture of a very bloody looking Jesus tacked and heaving his dying breaths up on the cross.  As they had entered, John had regarded the picture with wary ambivalence as they made their way down the row of pews and to the two little corpses that lie haloed in red blood upon the stage.

“Why is everything in Catholic churches always so damn macabre?”

Shut up.”  Sherlock had said as he had snapped on his latex gloves, "If I were say, you, and wanted to pursue a line of religious inquiry at present, I'd find a priest, not someone who obviously has a much more important job to do than answer your ridiculous mystagogical musings." 

"Oh, brilliant, mystagogical.  Did your posh French Catholic boarding school teach that word to you?"

Sherlock had merely snarled in response, but, as John twists his wrist to check his watch, that had been six and a half minutes ago, and so they should be fine once more.    

At present, Sherlock is kneeling beside the pulpy body next to the alter table, his long latex gloved fingers prodding at the little pile of organs that rest next to the deceased priest.  Much to the detective’s delight, the thick circles of red blood, presumably the victim’s, are painted in an almost perfect circumference around each corpse. This, apparently, is new.  Some sort of ritual this time, or so it seems.  John stands over Sherlock, his arms crossed into a neat little x, his eyes fixated on the soft coal hair at the base of the detective's neck.  As he stares, the doctor finds himself indelibly torn somewhere in between fantasizing over exactly what he’d like to do to that neck and then chastising himself for thinking of such things a) over a dead body of a priest nonetheless and b) in a church. John Watson is not a religious man, and yet he knows when things are not good.  

“If Molly will allow, we could use these for decorations once she’s finished with the autopsy,”  Sherlock muses to himself as he lifts up a bloated piece of grey-pink intestine with his slender index finger, “I like these far better than the ones that you put up at the flat.   Enough to line both the windows and the mantle; it will be brilliant.”

“Just,” John starts as he continues to unconsciously map out the constellation of bruises that he would like to bite into the back of the detective’s too-pale neck, “No.  No.  No body parts as decorations.  Stop with all of the horrible Christmas metaphors.  I know that you hate the holiday but please, there are people dead here and just, it’s not good, alright?”

They’ve had this conversation before, minus the holiday cheer section. It’s almost normal – yet another step closer.  And it’s good, on some level, he supposes.

Perhaps,”  Sherlock drawls pointedly as he pushes on the priests exposed ribcage to roll the corpse over, “if you find me a pristine kidney, a cadaver, sixteen cows eyes, a flame thrower, Heart of Darkness, and ten murders, I’ll think otherwise,”

“You did make that hard on purpose, you dick.  First edition copy?  Really?”

“And judging by the way that you keep checking your phone to see if your little girlfriend has indeed texted you back yet, you’ve made yours well beyond impossible.”

And the doctor is about to fire off a snappy comeback as he stands with his arms crossed, however, his line of sight is drawn away from the predatory creature currently devouring his metaphorical prey by a grey haired man clad in a somewhat ridiculous blue paper jump suit who is poking just his head through the ornately carved door at the front of the church.   With a mental note of what he would have said (‘almosts’ and ‘never have saids’ yet again, but in a different way this time), John inhales sharply and strides over to the front of the church, following where Lestrade has seemingly disappeared, and steps partway out the door.  He is greeted with the sight of the DI (and about thirty Yarders in the background as well)  standing impatiently in front of him, arms crossed, and shivering miserably, his breath practically crystallizing in the crisp winter morning’s air.  It's so early still that the sun still has yet to poke itself through the haze of the London fog. 

“Time’s up, boys,” the DI says, with a stiff tap of his index finger to the face of his watch, “I’m about to get fucking murdered myself if I keep the team out much longer. Plus it’s bloody cold, plus the damn superintendent is on his way and oh, we know how he just loves you.  Still.”

But this won’t work.  Sherlock still needs more time, and above all else, John will do anything to give Sherlock what he needs, minus additional dead bodies or potentially addictive substances, of course.  

“He needs,” John glances back to into the ironically warmer church to survey Sherlock who has now moved onto studying the artifacts on the alter, “oh, three minutes and thirty six more seconds.”

“A minute and a half, max.” Counters Lestrade, his jaw clenched. 

“Two,”

“Done.  That’ll be worth at least two pints at the pub next Tuesday however, and if indeed I get reamed out again for you two, make it three.”

“Cheers,” says John with a tick of his head as he turns back into the church.  Their Tuesday pub nights, Lestrade and John's, are normal-normal, the real kind.  It’s the one part of the traditions that formulated during Sherlock’s three year absence that John had actually wanted to keep. 

And so, the doctor walks hurriedly back through the quiet rows and pews, under the stone flying buttresses and whatnot, and back to the detective who continues to poke at various objects around the ornate alter and ruffles papers on the pulpit with intently focused scrutiny. Sunlight is just beginning to filter lightly though the back stained glass of the window of the church, dawn is just breaking.  And one moment, the church is blanketed with the quiet early morning darkness, and the next, it's Sherlock standing up from the his crouched position next to the corpse, dark and tall, but backlit in shards of brilliantly multifaceted colour.  It reminds John of the Wizard of Oz, a movie that had once been a favorite of his as a child--the transition from the dull black and white world of Kansas to the heart stopping technicolour of the world beyond the rainbow.  As John approaches, his jaw goes slack on the spot and his footsteps fade from 'hurriedly' to 'dead stopped.'  

Holy hell.

“No need to repeat information,” says Sherlock only half paying attention to in place of a greeting as he replaces a purple candle back in place before elegantly dipping into his coat pocket for his mobile, presumably to look something up,  “I heard.”

Never, hello, of course.  Normal people would say hello.  Normal people are not mad and impossible and brilliant.  Normal people are not blue-black and charcoal and a thousand different brilliant shades of every colour that has even been named by a human mouth.  But their normal is different from others, of course.   John shakes himself down to his bones and rejoins Sherlock, that something now growing much, much worse, fuck.    

 “Are you…finished here?” 

“Hm?”  Sherlock looks up from the little screen with a strangely benign plastic smile down at him, “Oh no, not quite.  One more line of inquiry.”

With a two second wordless stare, Sherlock sweeps his charcoal coat around him and stalks off of the little steps of the stage.  He’s in pursuit of something, and while John doesn’t know what yet, he’ll willingly follow along, of course.  Although the doctor can only see his back, Sherlock is still texting as he walks toward the left side of the stage toward the back, and then suddenly they're doing a sharp right, and are down a long and dark stone hallway that smells of the spice of time and hallowed ancient rituals.  Along the rows of dark wooden doors that presumably house individual church offices, neat little brass doorknobs seem to light the way as Sherlock and John stride down the hall.  Approximately sixteen steps later, the detective stops, smoothly pockets his phone in one motion, and crouches down at the sixth door’s brass doorknob. 

“Oh,” the doctor whispers once he realises what's indeed about to happen, “breaking into more church offices again, brilliant.  Not a problem. I mean, we’re obviously going to hell anyway already, why not add a few more things done wrong to the list?”

‘We’re not breaking in,” says Sherlock with revulsion as he pushes the door open with just the pads of his fingertips before straightening up and looking back at John, “Alter rooms, or some form of them, are always supposed to be open, although, since we're in the very heart of church offices, I’m guessing that this one wasn’t meant to be.”

The altar room is a small little stone box, closet sized at most, lacking windows (of course), and in possession of no more than a wooden cross tacked over another small table covered in purple cloth.  The only source of light is a single candle flickering wantonly in the very center of the table, the rest of the scattered pillars of wax have melted to mere puddles at this point.  The candle is purple and nestled amidst a wreath.  From what John can vaguely remember from his grandaunt’s impromptu Catholicism classes (his grandaunt once removed on his mum’s side, she used to watch him after primary school occasionally when he was nothing more than a sandy haired boy in Harry’s too large hand me down jumpers), for some reason, counter intuitively, the strange purple colour has something to do with the holidays.  He hasn’t really given it much thought since he was a boy, however.   Too much else on his mind at present.

If there was…

Anything…

On his mind.

At all?

“A private prayer room for the heads of the church,” muses Sherlock as his eyes take in the little table and the candle, “Interesting.”

Both men step into the miniscule room and with nothing more than a soft little click, Sherlock pushes the door behind them.  Besides the soft light of the of the little purple candle, they are ensconced in almost total darkness and the room is so much stone and silence and dim glow that John can almost hear his own heartbeat echoing against the chambers of his heart.  He would count the thuds if he could think.  If he could do anything but stare at Sherlock, who is so close that John is forced to press the small of his back against the cold stone wall. 

“What is this about?” the doctor begins after several seconds of silence as he looks up at Sherlock, “Is this about the case?”

Sherlock looks down at him with strikingly mad scrutiny, the razor sharp angles of his face casting long shadows from the flickering light of the candle.  He’s glowing almost, ethereal and otherworldly and momentarily, John wonders if Sherlock has ever realised precisely how beautiful he is.  He's more beautiful than in the technicolour stained glass at present, up close and half lit.  Exquisite, actually.   Like carved ice.  Or the stars in the Afghanistan desert.  Or a thousand other metaphors that the doctor's brain can’t seem to handle right now, because it’s focused on the fact that rarely do two people get this close without some very serious ulterior motives.

"Is this about...the case?"  John repeats, suddenly fairly certain of the answer.  

Perhaps it’s just the darkness and the fact that the little stone room is wavering with the flickering light of the dying embers of the single candle still burning at the end of the alter, or that it’s still so early and cold out that he can practically touch the ice in the breath that is now shared in between the two.  Perhaps it’s because they’re about to do their little perfectly choreographed dance of ‘almosts’ again, the one that has inevitably grown millimeters closer throughout the last eleven months.  Perhaps it’s because Sherlock chose his dark navy button down shirt this morning, the one that made his entire world grow hazy with something the moment that the detective turned around in their kitchen, holding a little plate of food for the doctor, his hair still damp and soft from the shower.  Perhaps it is all of these things, but John is beginning to feel incredibly...odd.  

John could tip forward and cup the side of Sherlock’s face.

He doesn’t. 

“The murderer is a priest indeed; a priest himself who recently returned from a missions trip to the heart of Africa,”  Sherlock says with a guarded expression as he stuffs both of his hands in his pockets, “He’s been involved with the church for at least 23 years, however he’s recently found himself enthused with an entirely different religion.  Tregennis knows him personally, however, and has fled in fear of his own life.”

If this is supposed to explain everything, it doesn’t.  But this is almost normal again, and so it's fine.  

“This is about the case then.”

Sherlock is studying him now, the intimacy of his look incredibly disarming. When he speaks, his baritone is unfathomably low. “Not particularly, no.”

“You don’t,” John finds his tongue darting out to wet his lips as Sherlock inadvertently takes a marginal step closer, “Know who it is exactly?”

“Yes,” muses Sherlock, “I know precisely who it is.  Or, alternately, I know precisely the two suspects who I would most likely name are at present.”

“Why don’t you go and name them now?”

“There’s something far more important I’d rather do.”

Although everything is a bit hazy and murky and all dark, John finds himself looking to count the pulse throbbing against the translucent skin of Sherlock’s own throat. It’s elevated, he thinks, but to be fair, there’s not a whole lot he can really think about right now.  Not with pheromones and the candle and Sherlock’s hair and Jesus, why is nothing really making sense at all?  

 “I don’t follow,’ John finally admits to the quiet of the little room. 

“You never have,” Sherlock says with a soft sad laugh, “But then again, you never will, or so it seems.”

Hello, 

I, 

It has recently come to my attention

that I

something you, you mad

technicolour man. 

The confines of the English language are starting to blur and swirl together.  So is the dark little room for some reason, but perhaps it’s because they’re now standing almost hipbone to hipbone and he can smell the scent of Sherlock’s expensive almond scented shampoo wafting off of his dark hair.  John wants to reach for it, but for some reason he feels as if he’s simultaneously made of lead and cloud all at the same time.  He's made of lead and cloud and Sherlock is made with technicolour. It's unfair, it seems.  

“You’re a bit in your own world,” points out to the doctor, his guard slipping as he presses the small of his back against the cold stone just a bit more to recalibrate exactly where he is and what this all is looking like, “so most people don’t follow, you know?”

Sherlock tips forward just another millimeter and the air changes suddenly, as it often does when with Sherlock.  And then this is not almost anything anymore. 

“You,” breathes Sherlock with a strangely sad cadence, and as he talks, the doctor can feel the warmth from Sherlock’s breath seep against his skin, dizzying and intoxicating and Jesus fucking Christ Jesus fucking Christ, he’s going to hell, Sherlock is going to hell, this is going to happen in a fucking church and he’s made of lead and stone and he doesn’t care, “are not most people, now are you?”

Most people would take two steps back with how close they’re standing.

Most people would not be trying to lean even closer.

Most people would have double checked to make sure that the members of the Yard hadn’t come in to the crime scene yet (they hadn’t, as Sherlock will later explain.)

Most people would not want their first kiss to technically be in a Church that is not the Church of England.

No, John's brain fires as he murkily reaches for the cool skin at the back of Sherlock's neck, just under the collar of his wool coat,  

I

am

most certainly 

fucking

NOT

most

people.

*

He can blame the kiss on a lot of things.  He doesn’t. 

They kiss for what feels like a time stretched molasses hour (but in reality, is only thirty five seconds) before footsteps outside denote that the Yard’s most irritating officer has unfortunately been the one to wander back to where the pair has been hiding.

Somehow, somehow, John manages to smuggle Sherlock out of their quiet little alter room without actually running into Anderson, or so he thinks, and, giggling like a pair of mismatched hyenas now, the two manage to find Lestrade outside, or so he thinks.  Sherlock is next to him, that much he remembers for sure, the heat of the detective’s eyes fixated on just the crook of John’s now very uneven smile, the one which he had finally claimed for himself with those thin lips not even two minutes prior.  Sherlock was sad about something only moments earlier and then they kissed and Sherlock is not sad anymore.  This is glorious; this is the best thing ever to happen to humanity. 

 “I don’t even want to know,” Lestrade is saying as he passes by both of them suspiciously on his way inside the church.

“Not you don’t,” slurs John before Sherlock gives him a not sad look that makes him howl with laughter until his chest feels as if it’s been cracked open, “need some sleep first.  Last.  First? Last.” 

 “Oh yes,” nods Lestrade with only half-interested disgust, his gaze focused on the bodies and the inevitable nine plus hours he's going to have to put in today, “go get some and when you feel so inclined, please send me whatever information you learned about the killer, immediately.”

Neither of them do right away. Eventually yes.  But right now, no. 

The somehow find a cab and they’re in it now, or so John thinks. Sherlock is slumped against his shoulder, that much he knows, the detective’s slender little waist nestled into his like a perfectly fitting puzzle piece.  His cheekbone is resting against John’s scar. He’s not laughing anymore, but he’s not sad.  They’re both not.  Sherlock is having a hard time clicking away on his mobile, trying to text Lestrade, and his grammar is off as well as his spelling—John can see that much out of the corner of his eye.  John’s head is resting against the window, however.  The crown of his head is cold from the glass, yes.

A piano rendition of ‘White Christmas’ is playing softly on the radio.   He should tell the cabbie to turn it off because Sherlock hates Christmas.

He should go to sleep. 

He should but his hair is frozen into shards of ice from the frost on the glass as the early morning London skyline passes them by. John can feel the detective shift a bit as a mobile phone is pressed lazily into John's hand.  And then the doctor glances down and Sherlock, his chin on John's shoulder, is staring into his soul now with the softest, most unguarded, loving gaze that the doctor has ever seen.  It wallops the breath right out of John's chest so hard that it feels as if all of the alveoli in his lungs have burst.  Maybe they have.  He doesn't care, really.  Worth it. 

“It’s yours now, as it has been forever,”  Sherlock slurs.  He pulls off of the doctor's shoulder to look at John and with steady hands, places his palm reverently right over the center of the doctor's breastbone.  

“What…is?”

Sherlock's eyes slide shut, he looks blissfully and tragically sad.  “…Everything.  Nothing.  All of it and none of it.  Try as I might, I don't understand it at all.  It's terrifying, awful, actually--the duality of the word inherent.  The sound and the fury.  ‘I give you…the mausoleum of all hope and desire...I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools…’”

John is silent, his hair frozen to crystals. 

“It’s a quote.  Faulkner.  I hate it, I've tried to delete it, but I can't.” Sherlock tries, and then his face cracks from the weight of too much emotion, and he shatters into shards of technicolour.   And then he looks as if he's about to fucking cry and so the doctor does the only thing that he can think of doing, which is finally, finally reaching out to touch just his fingertips over the angular bow of Sherlock's lips. 

At the doctor's touch, Sherlock's face stops it's shattering immediately, turning into something else.  He smiles beautifully, the skin tugging against skin and John almost says it right then in the cab with Sherlock quoting things that he doesn’t understand and his hair stiff as ice.

Hello,

my beautiful technicolour man

quoting a book

I will

thankfully

NEVER

Read, 

I don’t have to

Though,

I can read the map of your brain stem,

Like,

I’ve read,

So many of the pinpoint needle scars

On your left arm

And the way your,

Face

Twists painfully when I

Say her

Name (Which is why,

I don’t anymore.

Which is why I’ll talk

About her NEVER.)

And because I can do

Nothing

Else,  

I

Something

You

"Hello,"  John says, trying to fruitlessly peel his hair from the window. 

"Mmmmmm, you are not most people," Sherlock murmurs against his fingertips, looking hopelessly cracked as he opens his mad eyes once more. 

And there they are.  Two separate languages.  One single phrase. 

"Alright, well."

"Well."

Sherlock merely nods and lets his lithe little body slump into John's.  He nestles down into his shoulder once more, almost curling his entire head into the crook of the doctor’s neck.  John wants to pet his hair for some reason, because his own is ice.  

He does.  

Sometime later they eventually make it home because John vaguely remembers tumbling still fully clothed into Sherlock’s bed.  He vaguely remembers stealing a languid kiss from Sherlock as the detective hastily peels off John’s jumper and jeans before almost reverently dressing him in his own soft t-shirt and tartan pyjama bottoms.  With unsteady hands, Sherlock has to roll the waistband once because they're far too long for John, his fingers are deliriously cool upon the warm flesh of the doctor’s belly.  They laugh again.  John grabs a fistful of navy cotton and pulls Sherlock’s parting lips to meet his.  Sherlock smells like almond shampoo and Sherlock tastes like Sherlock and it’s about time and it’s fucking amazing.  

And then Sherlock is sad again as he pulls away and dresses himself for bed as well.  John doesn’t want Sherlock to be sad because they’re both so obviously in something and so when Sherlock crawls in next to him, he pulls the detective’s too bony back against his own chest and kisses the tender skin at the nape of his neck.  C4 vertebrae.  It’s his now, it’s John’s, he’s claimed it. Sherlock sighs an achingly content sigh and reaches for John’s hand to pull it over his lithe body and interlaces their fingers together.  Sherlock is wearing his soft grey V-neck t-shirt.  It smells like Mrs. Hudson’s lavender detergent.  Sherlock is soft as his body melts into sleep, just a light expansion of the back of his ribs against John’s own as the detective mumbles broken words in a language that John will never understand.   

They should sleep.  

John nuzzles into Sherlock once, holding the thin man carefully in his arms.  In sleep, Sherlock brings the back of his hand to his lips, but doesn't kiss it, just holds it against his face and breathes lightly against John's warm skin. 

It’s perfect

*

But then, it's not. Not at all.

Sometime later, John awakes to a wickedly cold and forlorn little bed, a bed that is not his own. Sherlock’s room is completely dark.  John twists his head to look out the bedroom window, finding little specks of starlight over a glistening London skyline before twisting his head to find his mobile on the oak bedside table. He reaches for it, clicks it once, and then nearly drops it back on the table in utter astonishment.

11:09pm.

What the FUCK.

Still nestled under the covers John manages to read a shard of a fragment of a text that pops up, presumably from Anna.

Stuck at work, thinking of finally getting acquainted with your co—

The doctor clicks the mobile silent and sets it back down on the table.   Everything is still a bit foggy, but even with that first premise, Anna is a very distant memory.  A platonic form of a memory at this point, actually.  Along with the three Ms that they do not talk about.  Along with anything and everything else in the world that does not hail to the name of Sherlock Holmes.  However, that is not really the point at present.  The point is that John, who has honestly believed that he was somewhat impervious to being accidentally drugged again by his psychopathic flatmate, is currently recounting oh, about the last twelve murky hours, and realises that something is very, very wrong on multiple counts.  The drugging is fine.  The kissing, as he remembers it, is more than fine. 

Sherlock’s bed with one person in it however, is not.   

The doctor pushes himself out of bed and on still slightly unsteady feet, pads his way into the living room.  Everything should be fine now, they've finally said, well, something, he thinks, or maybe not, but he knows that they definitely slept in the same bed--that much he remembers for certain.  And so it should be fine.  But things are…off, but he doesn’t know how.  For instance, he’s dressed in his rumpled jumper and jeans again, when he could have sworn that he was wearing something…entirely different no less than two hours earlier.  As John enters the completely dark living room, his joints on fire and still feeling groggy as if he had slept perhaps a hundred years as opposed to only twelve hours, the detective is there, of course, but perplexingly dressed in his suit jacket, trousers, and shoes, his hands in his pockets and looking out the window and into the starlit night.   Although it takes a moment for the doctor’s eyes to adjust, he can see that Sherlock’s hair is freshly damp and soft again, presumably from a shower.  Sherlock took a shower this morning, however, why on earth would he take another one?

 “Lord knows, I should be used to it by now,” says John with a wry shake of his head as he rubs his still burning eyes with the back of his hand, “you utter bastard.”

But Sherlock doesn’t turn around immediately.  And when he does, he guts John on the spot as he looks at the doctor with a detached cold ambivalence that he hasn’t seen since ‘alone is what protects me.’

 “For the record, I did nothing of the sort.  Correct deduction, you were drugged at a crime scene earlier.  It should be wearing off by now,” says Sherlock as he takes one white hand out of his pocket, turns halfway back toward the London skyline, and uses it to run just the tips of his long fingers over the edge of windowsill in thought, “the hallucinogen, also known as the sole reason why the victims typically remember such scant concrete details in regards to this little case, is known by the common name of ‘devils foot root’.  It’s used in ritualistic mercy killings amidst several clandestine tribes that still practice alternative medicine in the heart of the Congo.  As you’ll remember, eight priests and three deacons were recently sent to Africa to commune with their sister churches.  While there, the priest in question fell in hopelessly love with one of the women in the local village and the Catholic Church obviously refused to grant them an honest marriage.  He came back insatiably angry, but without an actual plan.  This is where Tregennis became inadvertently involved as well.  He went along on the missions trip, was the one to collect the hallucinogen, and had full intent of using it in the meeting of the deacons to have his brother  “persuade” them to move a vast amount of money from their coffers to the Tregennis’ own.  This is, of course, when the angry priest in question happened to stumble over their little drugged chat and decided to make things invariably more interesting.  It was originally meant to just be a message, however the priest found himself liking it too much and hence, he’s is now running rampant all over your glorious London on a killing spree meant to eliminate the apparent ‘evils’ in the Catholic church.  Ironically, his murders are becoming more stylistically similar to the mercy killings of the Congo village.  The poison is vapourised in the air—it’s in the advent candles, for the record, but only the purple ones.  The man we’re looking for is impervious to the side effects of it, due to a fortuitous genetic anomaly.  I’m assuming that for Queen and Country you know little about the practices of the Catholic Church, however, while it’s common to burn them during services, yes, the killer has had the propriety to follow Tregennis’s example and poison the specific candles that are only burned in the presence of fellow clerical hierarchy.  I must admit, I do like his style--killing them with Christmas.  Lestrade is bringing in the two suspects as we speak.  In regards to your own situation, the hallucinations were temporary and drowsiness is the only side effect, nothing more.  You’ll be fine.”

It should be fine, being treated like this.  Being kissed and then treated as if you had done nothing more than shake hands.  John is impressed that Sherlock has the case all figured out as well, so it should be fine. 

It should be fine.

It almost is, but it’s not.

“I…hallucinated what happened, all of it?  Is that what you’re honestly trying to tell me right now?  Honestly?  Because, despite evidence of the contrary that you so obviously love to point out at every moment, I am not a fucking idiot, Sherlock.”

Sherlock is silent as a stone statue, just his chest just expanding and contracting.  He looks sad again for some reason, behind the impassive stare of those eyes.  Some reason that the doctor almost asks about, but doesn’t.  If this is his new method of experimentation these days, it is just a sick fucking joke. 

“I can still smell you on my skin, we kissed, and then came back and slept in your bed together. Do you honestly remember none of that?”

“The human memory,” Sherlock begins looking off somewhere in the distance of London as he cocks his head pensively, his eyes just flecks of green-blue haze, “Is a highly subjugated entity.”

But that's a lie.  John can remember it all, the quote, and his hair frozen, and Sherlock in technicolour.  He can remember the last eleven months of the million and a half 'almosts' and 'never have saids'.  He can remember a phone call from a rooftop, he can remember the sixteen names that Mary had picked out for their child that would never be born when she was diagnosed with—no, he can remember the smell of the chicken paramigiana at Angelo’s, and he can remember the names of all of the seasons in the native Afghan tongue, he can remember being shoved in that god damn box in POW camp for twenty hours and he remembers fucking 'Infantry Columns' so well that he might as well etch it on his bones.  He can remember the drunken nights which, for all intents and purposes, he should have forgotten in Uni, he can remember his first kiss, and the first time that he had sex and the first time that he fell in something when shooting a cabbie through two god damn windows and how Sherlock, wearing a fucking orange blanket, held him with that smile in the palm of his hand and made him believe in the indescribable anarchy of something that he never thought that he could ever feel for another human being.  

But the silence between them is normal.  And the space that Sherlock has put in between them is normal as well. No longer just on the cusp of the sofa.  No longer on the same side of the table. 

No longer not normal.  Normal.

It’s sickening.  

And then, this is it, John supposes, as he clenches and unclenches his fist seven times while standing in the middle of their living room, someday soon it will all be normal again and here it is right now.  He doesn't want it.  Any of it at all.    He wants to shove it back in a box and make it listen to ‘Infantry Columns’ until it comes out with its hands raised, but bottom line, since they’re normal again, as opposed to staying and scrapping it out, the doctor needs to leave, immediately. 

"You," says John with a twist of his jaw as he hastily pulls on his jacket and shoves his keys in his pocket, all the while pushing down the hot tears that threaten to roll down his face if he even so much as blinks, "Are a fucking coward." 

*

An hour and a very angry phone call to Harry later, (“Oh John, this is just the beginning, just you wait.  Sherlock has always been unable to figure out emotions, you know that,”), John has returned to the flat, his hands shoved in his pockets and ready to tough it out. He knows the detective well enough to know when Sherlock needs to build walls because he simply can’t understand the depth of what’s running around in that pretty little dark head and that supposedly non-existent darker heart of his.  Sherlock somethings things in a dark and unholy way, yes, with all of the enthusiasm which cannot always be explained.  He needs build walls to cope with those feelings, that level of unbridled sentiment—walls that can be music, or fixation on cases, or physical space, or whatever.  And John will let him build those walls and then the doctor will run at them, sword drawn, and cut them down brick by brick.  It’s what they do, after all.  And although he doesn’t want to go back to the beginning, it’s looking like he might have to.   Since they’re back to normal again, apparently, and since that’s how they’ve done it before, John is willing to do this, willing to stand in the line of fire, sword drawn, and wait it out this time.  Lord knows he’s done his waiting.  Two years with Sherlock and then nearly three years without.  Patience, after all, is a virtue.   

However, this time, when John begrudgingly pushes the door open to 221B, the flat does not hold the madman who has showered twice today, the madman who he so obviously wants to tell fuck it all let’s just do this, let’s be normal for a while and I’ll wait for you to figure this all out and when you're good and ready, as long as there are no rooftops and three year gaps involved, I will wait for you to start sitting in my lap again and having me on your side of the table, I don’t care.

Sherlock, it seems, is missing.   And as John wanders in a frustrated haze down the stairs again to make sure that the detective isn’t outside, or curled up in a little angry ball in the hallway, Mrs. Hudson pops her head out of 221A.

“Did you two have a little domestic?”

It’s nice to hear ‘little’ in regards to their domestics these days.  No, actually, it’s not.  It’s normal.  And although John doesn’t want to go back to that normal, (he wants a bloody new normal, one where Sherlock kisses him languidly in between giggling, the way that he did earlier that day), he’ll willingly go back and wait until the detective sorts all of this out.

“I just went out for some air, it was nothing I—Christ—did he say that he was off to?”

“Something about the case, dear, he seemed rather upset, I asked him where he was going and he was muttering about a mausoleum—is everything alright?”

“A mausoleum of hope?”

“I think so, at least, he might have been.  Is that normal?”

Sherlock hates Faulkner, this much John can remember too.

“No,” says John, as his stomach does a hard barrel roll because, “that is not normal.”   

*

If you do anything stupid

I will kill you myself

Don’t forget that I was a soldier

I had bad days

For fuck’s sake just let me know you’re alive

Please –JW.

*

Sherlock, also drugged somewhat still, is not entirely rational (is he ever?) and is now gone somewhere within the sludge filled confines of greater London at the lovely hour of 12am. It’s so cold that it’s starting to snow, sort of, little clumps of half frozen ice within the granite hard sleet that pelts the doctor’s face as he hurdles himself out the door immediately after the conversation with Mrs. Hudson.  The doctor can deduce where Sherlock has gone, of course (‘a mausoleum of hope’ means--no, of course he's going to go for the most dramatic,  there are three churches in the area, only two which have recently sent priests to Africa from a quick web search.)  As he pulls his jacket tighter around his body with his knuckles practically frozen, (there’s no time for a cab as he runs in the inky blackness of the night), he can feel his heart breaking the cage of his ribs and the metal clink of the torch that he had pocketed and the gun as well. Above all else, Sherlock has a self-destructive streak nearly a fathom deep and somehow, he, John Watson, by doing something as ridiculously normal as leaving when he should have gone to the window and told him, fuck it, I'll still be here once you deal with all of this shit, has just inadvertently pushed the glaringly red button to set off that process, the last possible thing that he would ever want to do, ever, to the man he somethings but will never be able to tell.  

If John Watson were a betting man, this would be a bit not good.

No.

If John Watson were a betting man, this would be very bad.

This would be,

Very.

Bad.

Indeed.

*

Do you know where Sherlock is? –JW

For Christ’s sake no, just forwarded him the latest forensics report though for the murders this morning. One suspect in custody right now, we’re still looking for the other.

Also, Tregennis and his family were found dead earlier this evening, tell Sherlock if you see him, will you? 

I’ll give you a call in a few, about to go in a bloody debriefing.

We might need to move that pub night up a few days. –GL

*

Contrary to his belief otherwise, John’s deductive prowess hasn't exactly strengthened over the years apparently.  The first church was fruitless--not a soul (living nor dead) inside, however, the second, St. George's, is much more dramatic looking, an intrepid grey building with a red entrance carpet.  Futhermore, it's resplendently antiquated with stone columns that harken back to the ostensible glory of the Roman empire.  As the doctor finally reaches the steps, and pauses to bend at the waist and catch his breath, he supposes that he is thankful that indeed he and Sherlock have chosen such a lovely time to have what Mrs. Hudson has called a 'little row'.  At least there aren't random people about.  Although Catholic churches are always open, much to the doctor's pleasure as he looks around, the empty parking lot and the silent streets carry not even the echo of another human being.  If Sherlock were going to go do something stupid, it would be here, thinks John as he pushes the door open with the back of his hand, peering into the darkened hall and pointing the torch into the church.  The little ray of light slices through the darkness and beyond the entry room to illuminate the beautiful white and gold columns, soft archways, and the deep wooden pews framed by entire walls of stained glass in the darkness.  As his line of sight follows the touch light up the chequerboard black and white tile floor and up to the stage and alter, it also illuminates a sight of an entirely different variety.  

There is a bespectacled aged priest at the front of the alter, kneeling around a single body clad in black.

Correction: there is a bespectacled aged priest at the front of the alter, kneeling around a single body clad in black, a body that is not Sherlock’s. 

John fights to hold the sigh of relief inside. Instead he's going to solve a murder, as opposed to try and convince Sherlock not to participate in the death toll that has inadvertently climbed as of late around these types of institutions.  

“Hello?” calls the priest timidly as he looks up from his victim and into the back of the church, seemingly distracted by the small torchlight.  In the shadows, John can see that his black clothing is nearly soaked through with blood; it’s a miracle how he gets out of these places without anyone seeing him. 

For fucks sake, thinks John as he hurriedly presses his back against the white wood of the wall that separates the entry room from the main hall and extinguishes his torch, even fucking serial killers use common greetings like ‘hello’, Sherlock.

And even though he is in the back of the church, John’s brain seems to be getting a lack of oxygen at the moment and then, as he looks down, he sees the reflection of the wanton flicker of a single candle and he remembers why everything is a bit topsy turvey.  But it’s fine, it’s all fine, because he knows (at least somewhat) what’s going to happen this time.  Best get this over, and quickly.  John rolls his neck once, unpockets the gun, clicks off the safety with all the precision of a man who has spent a) far too much time in the military and b) far too much time in the military and the darkness, and then in one smooth motion, steps out from behind the wooden wall and hurries toward the man carving away at his victim, his gun drawn and his torch pointing straight ahead.  

“Put out the candle,"  John commands as he strides down the row of pews, "Now." 

The priest in question drops his attention from his victim and looks up and at John with a look of sheer horror. 

"I said--"

The priest turns and with a single smooth motion, extinguishes the candle so they are in utter blackness, besides the small light of the torch. However, due to the direction that the priest so wisely stepped, this also has increased the amount of hallucinogen that is now directly in John's face.  

Fuck,

He really, should,

Have thought, 

This out better, 

The doctor covers his nose and mouth with the crook of his elbow, coughing hard once.  It burns his lungs, whatever this shit is, and then, he wishes that Sherlock were there, but it's good that Sherlock isn't because then he'd most likely be doing something stupid and he's made of technicolour and so-

A soft creaking noise to John's left distracts the doctor and luckily, he whips right around with his gun and torch in time to see the priest leap off of the pew directly to the left of him, knife drawn.  The man stands in front of him, dripping blood onto the chequerboard tile.  It is only then that the doctor gets a good look at him and realizes several things.  

1) You're like,

Eighty years,

Old,

Despite his best efforts and years and years of army training, John has to bite down on his lip to stay a smile.  But the most important realisation is that 2) he's not that drugged right now, having had a) the foresight to cover his mouth and nose and b) the knowledge of having enough experience with this type of drug once before to work through it this time.  But, decides the doctor as the man approaches with the knife and begins to circle him, having someone believe that you're drugged when you're not that drugged is actually very, very fortuitous.  

“You’re not going to kill me,” the priest says with a eerily quiet cadence, as he raises his knife, presumably to John's jugular, "You're currently under the influence of a very potent hallucinogen,  and furthermore, I am a man of God.”

And oh, to say that this man has severely underestimated John’s ethical compass would be the understatement of, well, perhaps the day. John Watson is a good man, yes, and while it’s not characteristic of a good man to kill a ‘man of God’, John is an Englishman first, and like a good Englishman he was raised in the Church of bloody England.  Above all else, the battlefield of London with Sherlock Holmes has taught John Watson to expect the wildly unexpected.   While a deranged priest with a knife and the insatiable need for ritualistic killings is definitely that, John has no qualms about pulling the trigger to shoot him dead in between the eyes without so much as a second thought, which is what he's planning on doing in approximately three more seconds if the priest doesn't stop eyeing him like a bloody steak. 

Self-defense, obviously.

And so, John Watson decides to just go with it.  He throws back his head and bends himself in two, doing his best impression of being utterly, hopelessly drugged.  He laughs and laughs until his ribs ache, keeping his finger on the trigger the entire time as he rests the gun against his thigh.  And then the mood in the church changes, he can feel it as he does when he's with Sherlock (practise, again.) The priest stops his bloody circling and lunges for the vein in his neck, and the doctor whips up to fire off what he thinks may be his best punchline thus far,  

“Well, I’m not, unfortunately for you,” John says as he ticks his head, plants his little feet as he stands up to his full 5'7 height, and shoots the priest dead on the spot, right in between the eyes. 

The elderly man slumps against the black and white tile, bleeding out veritable rivulets against the chequerboard floor.

John takes a moment to just to breathe and then, with a nod in the darkness, slides his gun into his pocket, and unpockets his phone.  His torch has rolled under a wooden pew several feet up and is currently illuminating just a piece of the stained glass window in the back of the church, just a fragment of a shard of something that is red and blue.  John doesn't have time to pick the torch up to investigate whatever horrors the Catholic church has chosen to memorialize in the medium of glass this time, however, because there is something more important that needs to happen first.  Time to get the proper authorities on board that somehow, he's just found himself in the middle of a notorious crime.  Brilliant.  

The doctor finds his breathing evening out as his fingers fly across the keys in the darkness.  The disconcerting nature of the positively addictive adrenaline surge that inevitably follows killing someone, even a bad someone, is something that he never got quite used to, even in the middle of the battlefield--however, he does feel invariably better thanks to it.  Almost 100% drug free, much to his delight.

The first text is to Sherlock, of course, always to Sherlock: 

Don't be angry

Accidentally solved your case at St. George's.

You can thank me later, of course, 

Please say something, anything

–JW

And then Lestrade,

St. George's, NOW. 

Prepare your paperwork, I may have just killed a man.

Should probably bring an ambulance too, just in case.-JW

Jesus Christ. On our way. -GL

Three pints, then. -JW

Pub night is mov--

It is only then that he hears a heartbreakingly familiar muffled text tone, approximately twenty feet to his right, in the very corner of the church. 

In the total darkness.

It’s not normal.  Not the old kind, not the new kind, not any kind.

John’s blood is struck ice cold, his mobile clatters to the slick tile floor and momentarily, he bends over to fumble for it before stuffing it haphazardly in his jacket pocket.  John doesn’t even pick up the torch.  As he runs, his heart cracks through his ribs, two at a time, as if skipping steps, as he churns in sheer terror to the dark little corner of the church and--

"Sherlock?" 

A wet soft cough is his only answer and John drops to the floor on all fours, reaching out into the total blackness. The tile where he heard the sound is perversely slick and as he tries to gain traction, he finds himself sliding and slipping and not knowing which way is up.  He's got blood all over his clothing now, and his hands and knees as well, but he doesn't care.  He doesn’t care about anything right now because Sherlock is bleeding somewhere nearby and it is, without a doubt, the worst thing ever.  Worse than the box and Infantry Columns.  Worse than the crust of blood on the blue fringe of his scarf three year ago.  And what he’s doing right now, slipping and sliding, is the most grotesque version of falling weightlessly down the rabbit hole to Wonderland that he's ever encountered and fuck--

Another cough and a hand weakly grips onto his from nowhere.  And somehow, he’s following that hand and finding Sherlock in the darkness against the black and white tile and is next to the prone form of the detective in less than two seconds.  Somehow, John is ripping off his own jacket and casting it aside and crouching down and rolling his lithe little body, sopping wet and warm with blood over and off of the perversely cold floor.  Sherlock is already cold, he can’t be any colder.  It’s simply not possible.  And John Watson is not a religious man, but they’re in a church and he was baptised at birth, so he really sees nothing wrong with the words that he’s uttering right now as he eases the detective off of the chequered tiles and into his arms and lap.  

“Please, oh God—just, please—just, please.”

He touches his fingers just barely to the bow of pale thin lips, feeling just wisps of ragged breath that the detective is struggling to draw in.  John's eyes are adjusting to the darkness now, and so as he carefully traces the angle of the man that he somethings mouth, he can see that in fact, his own fingertips are covered in blood.  And then he feels a soft tug of skin against skin that tells him that Sherlock is trying to smile for him, trying very, very hard in fact.   Although John can’t see 100% just yet, he can see just little murky slits of cerulean that tell him that the detective is trying to look at him at the same time.  It’s the most heartbreaking thing that John has ever seen in his life, and he’s seen a lot of heartbreaking things that he does not talk about ever thus far.

Hello, oh God, it has come to my attention over the last three years that I something you, John thinks as he cradles the broken man closer to his own body.  They're past almost now.  Sherlock is finally in his lap, although this is not like he imagined it, at all. 

 “That...was,” a heaving crack of ribs and Sherlock arches in pain sharply, causing John to grip him even tighter, “Your—punchline could have been—far sounder--in regards to your...grammatical--”

John nearly drops the detective to the cold floor.

“You ‘re bleeding out, and you about to correct my grammar right now?!  Really, honestly?”

“Mmm…it'shorrid...of course--I--,”

Shut up,”  John orders and the one hand that he’s using not to support Sherlock flies to his wounds.  Now that the shock of seeing this man in such a state has worn off, John can now try to think like a doctor.  Although John can hardly see anything right now, he can feel in the darkness, and he can feel that Sherlock’s lower body is entirely cut up.  Much to the doctor's almost nauseating relief, no organs are in a pile yet missing.  However, as John gingerly tries to assess the wounds by running just his fingers over torn skin and ripped clothing and blood, he bites his lip at the fact that each touch sends little tremors of pain radiating up Sherlock’s body.  The sounds that the detective is making into his chest would be something akin to whimpers of pain if indeed he had ever done anything like that in his life. And while it is a well-established fact that John Watson has never shied away from painful things himself, obviously, causing the detective pain is absolutely beyond horrible and entirely unacceptable.  

 John never wants to hear that sound again.  

Sherlock merely says nothing.  Instead, he just reaches out, knits his fingers into the hand that is currently wrapped around the detective’s too-bony shoulders, and presses it to his mouth as he bites down on what looks like a sob.  He's weaker than a newborn kitten in his arms.  It’s disgusting.

"What hurts?"  John says helplessly, obviously shaken down to his most astute as he reaches in the darkness to find his cast aside jacket and press it to the detective’s abdomen.  He sounds like an idiot, he knows, but if he knows where it hurts the most, he can stop the bleeding there first, yes.  He can mend this man on one level, yes, but there is another level that is about to come bubbling to the surface.  These things can’t be stopped, after all.  Once you know, you know.      

"Everything,"  Sherlock slurs as his head falls into his into his clavicle, "Nothing.  The sound and the--"

"No, no, no.  No bloody Faulkner.  I need you to shut up and listen for once in your god damned life, alright?  For the record, while we’re waiting for an ambulance here, or so it seems,” starts John, his mouth nearly against Sherlock’s temple, as he swallows down a dry pang of apprehension, “most people like to have their conversations started with ‘hello’ as opposed to having their grammar corrected.  Right now, I have some shit that I need to tell you while we’re stuck here for a bit.  You have to listen to me because you're hurt and I'm saving your life right now and you can't shut down and run away.  We need to do this normally, for my sake.  Not normal-normal.  Our kind of normal.  The kind that we both want. I need you to pretend that it's eleven months ago and you've just flounced into my flat again.  Pretend we’re most people, what would most people say right now, Mister Punch Line?”

"This exercise...is futile,” the detective coughs up to him as John carefully unknits their fingers to cradle Sherlock's head in his palm, “ You are not--"

"I know, I’m not most people, and I get what you’re saying and you’ve sort of said it to me, and I need to say it to you if you’ll let me.  We speak different fucking languages sometimes and you’re going to learn to speak mine right now because I need you to, and I’m going to learn to speak yours as soon as you’re fine again, and you’re bleeding into my favourite jacket so just.  Do it.  You know what I want to hear, so just fucking say it."

Sherlock is silent for two seconds, just drawing in ragged little gasps of air.   

“Most people would say—ah---” gasps Sherlock as John pushes into his abdomen again to keep the bleeding at bay, “Hello.”

And this, this is their new normal, the normal that should have started eleven months earlier when Sherlock showed up at his IKEA flat.  After John so rightfully punched him, they should have sat down on the ‘Kivik’ and should have said a lot of things to the other as opposed to stuffing them down and boxing them up and living in a half mad world of ‘almosts’ and ‘never have saids’.   They’re going to start now, this new normal, whether Sherlock likes it or not, because this time, it’s for the detective’s own good.  He’s going to teach Sherlock his language in regards to these things and in time, Sherlock will teach him his own.  He’s going to start now because it’s a full time job keeping Sherlock Holmes in check, and one that John Watson is not about to give up doing.  Not without a fight and he will fucking fight God himself for the man who he loves.

“Alright, let’s start this again, let’s start this eleven months over,” John echoes, tears pulling at his eyes, as he cradles this man to his chest tenderly.  He’s breathing in great heaves right now, because it is fucking scary to say this shit outloud, the things unspoken and unsaid, but this, this is important,  “Hello, I love you, you beautiful bastard.  You know that by now, you’ve known that long before all of this, before you fucking ran off without me because you were upset tonight and before that when you came back from the dead, when you were standing up on that god damn roof and we didn’t talk about all of the things that we don’t talk about and won’t because we’re us.  So stay with me please, so we can not talk about them some more.  We’ll go back to 221B and we’ll sit by the fireplace in our respective chairs and then you’ll come over and kiss me or you won’t, you’ll just rest your head on my lap--I really don’t care which--and all the while I won’t tell you how I’ve thought of mmm, basically nothing else other than this for the last five years of my life and you won’t tell me how utterly mad off your rocker that you are about me.  You’re terrified that this might not work, because we’ve both been so miserable for so long that we can’t believe that we might be able to put the pieces together and make some sense out of all this mess. And you know what?  I’m scared too, fucking terrified, but I need you here with me so we can fuck it up beautifully together.  I know that you don’t think so now, but I promise you, Sherlock, that God, it’s going to be horrid.  We’re going to go back to a new kind of normal, where you say ‘hello’ and I say ‘hello’, and you tell me that I’m not ‘most people’ and it’s not normal-normal, it’s our normal and it’s going to be really, really bad at times, and absolutely perfect at others.  It’s going to be a beautiful fucking anarchy of murders and body parts and rows and organs strung from the Mrs. Turner’s balcony next door.  So please, I need you to stay with me now.  Hello.”

The flood of relief that courses through his veins afterward almost negates the fact that tears have begun to roll down his cheeks.  John Watson has never been one to make grandiose statements, he usually suffers in quiet and understated silence.  Far more soldierly, after all.  But the blissful smile that follows across that beautiful face and the something mumbled brokenly into his shirt that his little monologue earns him is worth it, 100%.  John smooths back a blood matted curl to Sherlock’s scalp with his thumb and cranes his own head down to be closer to the man in his arms.

“What was that?” he whispers to the detective’s unnaturally cool temple. 

Sherlock’s baritone is so low that it’s practically non-existent, just a flutter of vocal chords and a breath in his chest. It’s also teetering dangerously on the edge of non-existent, period. But then Sherlock smiles so deliriously hard it looks as if his face might crack and shatter into a million pieces--even though he’s hurting and bloody and bruised, he’s never looked more beautiful.  He’s simultaneously techincolour and darkness, hope and light.  Bootsteps and the sound of sirens fall somewhere in the distance outside the church, but John isn’t really focusing on that right now.  He isn't really focusing on that right now because he’s too busy melting under that grin as the detective feebly reaches up to the hand that cradles his head, knits their fingers together once more, and presses his bloody lips to the ridge of John's knuckles.  

“Hello…” rasps Sherlock weakly, meeting him as best he can from the doctor's arms, “’Not Most People’. While your molonogue has been…enthralling, to say the least, I’d much prefer if you just shut up and kiss me.”

And as the paramedics burst through the front door of the church, John tips forward and willingly, oh so willingly, obliges.

*

Irony always seems to follow Sherlock Holmes. 

Always has, always will.  This is normal, the new kind, the kind that they entered approximately six hours earlier.  John loves it. 

John doesn’t love this, however.

For some reason, the only thing that John can fixate on is the little tinsel Christmas tree on the desk of the sterile looking surgical waiting room at University College Hospital as he sits in one of the scratchy fabric lined chairs, his hands clasped tightly together so hard that the joints between his bones have gone from pins and needles to just entirely fucking numb.  Thankfully, since he’s a doctor, or perhaps just because he’s acquired a lifetime of karma at this point in basically every area of his life, one of the A and E nurses had taken pity on his blood drenched clothing and he now wears the lilac blue hospital scrubs from top to bottom.  Lestrade sits next to him, his face creased almost permanently with a frown as he scribbles and files and reports the evening’s incidents.

Sherlock is not there.  Sherlock is in surgery.

To John, as he stares at the little tree, everything else—the little scratching noises of Lestrade’s pen against paper, the elevator music piano rendition of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ that wafts from speakers overhead--feels half hazy, like a sensory impression and nothing more.  He could blame it on the trace amounts of hallucinogen that he’s inhaled.

He doesn’t.

“Mate, none of this is your fault.”  Lestrade tries after God only knows how long.

“I’m not saying that it was, I just…” the doctor lets his voice trail off as he continues to stare at the tree. It’s silver, and maybe a foot high at most, decorated with obscenely tacky little ornaments--it reminds him of the tree that his grand aunt (once removed) used to put up when he would stay with her after primary school.  Artificial, silver.  He and Harry used to fight over who got to put the star up every year,  and every year, since she was taller she won, until he turned 8 and she 9 and he had grown a startling three inches over the summer and respectively, finally ended up victorious.

“Victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools,”--Tinsel and silver and red and red and red--This is not what I wanted to bring you for Christmas, you dying—Seven-six-eleven-five-nine-an'-twenty mile to-day --

“Doctor Watson?”

There’s a slender brunette woman, maybe 33 at most, pulling off a surgical mask in front of the both of them.  In another world on another day, he would be very, very attracted to her; however he’s slightly preoccupied with the fact that it’s Sherlock’s surgeon. The doctor’s head snaps up as he finally realises that this isn’t part of his haze and he pushes himself out of the chair in one smooth motion to stand. 

“Hi, yes, I’m sorry,” the doctor says as he extends his hand, “Doctor John Watson.”

“Right, Dr. Watson.  Your boyfriend is currently in the ICU in a stable condition, but he got himself cut up fairly well, I’d say.   Six entry wounds in total.   Lost quite a bit of blood, we’re still transfusing him as we speak.  Collapsed lung, however he has a chest tube in and he’s breathing normally.  He also has a punctured upper intestine that we managed to sew right up.  As for the permanent damage, his left kidney is absolutely shot--”

Although he can feel the curious heat of the DI’s eyes shift from paperwork to his face, John says nothing about the ‘boyfriend’ part.  Too much more going on here to correct something that is, well, now it’s just fine. 

 “Luckily,” John tries weakly, attempting to find the humour in a humourless situation, per usual, “he has two.”

The doctor flatters her smile and places her hands on her slender hips.  In another world, he’d be very attracted to her indeed, but somewhere in the darkened church, he’d willingly and entirely thrown himself into the irrevocable Wonderland of the beautiful anarchy of being in whatever with Sherlock Holmes.  Not a single cell in his body remains that indeed ever wants to go back. 

“Which brings me to the next point,” she says, “of his right one being carved out completely.  He’s currently on dialysis but in his state, he’ll need a transplant, and as soon as possible.  He’s on the list, I moved him to as close to the front as he can go, however, it’s less than a week until Christmas, and so everything is a bit more hectic than normal as I’m sure you understand.  It might take some time.”

John’s brave heart stops beating mid throb.  There is irony, and then there is irony.  And then there is the one thing on Sherlock’s Christmas list that Molly could not provide, nor Lestrade, nor anyone else on this living earth because only John Watson could complete a list in such a manner.

 “He can’t be on dialysis his whole bloody life--how much time?” The doctor asks, his throat insatiably dry.   

“It depends on when we find a match. Could be hours. Could be weeks or months.  The average time on the waiting list is approximately 1110 days right now.”

And there is irony and then there is irony. Both follow Sherlock.

This level of irony is not normal; it’s their type of normal, their new normal.  

But John loves it anyway because bottom line, John Watson loves Sherlock Holmes. 

“Statistically speaking, you’ll have a better chance of donating me an internal organ than actually succeeding in this endeavor.”

Of course, according to Lestrade, he’s absolutely going to look like the boyfriend now as he stands in the middle of the surgical waiting room, in lilac blue scrubs, looking at a tinsel tree and smelling the scent of Sherlock’s blood still on his skin even though he’d scrubbed it from his arms twice nearly four hours earlier.  And perhaps he is, or they are, but they don’t need to put labels on anything that is so obviously ineffable.  They love each other, frighteningly deep at that, and they’re now learning how to tenuously express that love.

That’s all that matters in the end, really. 

“I’ll do it, I’ll give him a bloody kidney, ” the doctor says, “We have the same blood type and I know you’ll have to do cross testing and tissue matching and the such, but get on it.  I’ll sign the paperwork now to get this all going—I know that it normally takes several weeks to get this sort of thing completed, but I’m about to phone up a certain government individual who will invariably speed up the process as much as humanly, or inhumanly as it were, possible.”

The surgeon is astonished. “If you’re a match, you’re absolutely sure that you’re willing to become a living donor?”

“God, absolutely, yes,” exhales John.  His humour is lost on some people, most actually, however, if Sherlock were here sitting next to Lestrade as opposed to resting half alive hooked up to snake like tubes and machines, he would throw back his head and laugh, all pearly teeth, and the thought of him laughing again is the really the only thought that matters right now, or alternately, ever.

 “After all,” says John with just a twist of a wry smile, “it is one less thing I’ll have to find for him for Christmas.”

*                                                                                                                                                                                         

“Fortuitous,” a crisp voice drawls from across the hospital room as John fuzzily blinks his way back into the land of the living approximately seventy two hours later, “That you were indeed a match.”

The doctor bites down on an inward groan and, eyes still closed, instead counts the discordant beeps of both heart monitors in ICU room.  He already knows who the other one belongs to, of course, seeing as it’s brother is trying to prod him into a conversation before he’s even still fully conscious.   It’s no wonder that Mycroft is a reputed interrogator.  Merciless, the elder Holmes is, merciless.   He’s been awake for two bloody seconds at best.

“Statistical analyses would usually not fall heavily in your favour,” the voice thoughtfully continues on, “however, my dear brother seems to rather be comfortable as an outlier in all fashions.”

John would like to respond, but as he pushes himself up on his elbow and finally opens his eyes, he is hit with a dizzying wave of nausea and feels as if his stomach has been removed and flipped around about, oh, a hundred and eleven times.  Brilliant.  Seeing as he was too young to remember any previous semi-elective surgeries with any sort of lucidity (tonsils, age three, apparently.  He hadn't remembered the surgery on his shoulder at all), this all is startlingly new information.  Luckily, the momentary pause in motion allows the doctor to survey his surroundings and get his bearings just a bit more.  Both he and Sherlock are in a private ICU room, just the two white beds, a little blue curtain that could divide the both of them in half if they ever wanted to be parted (they don't), two individual bedside tables, and the plastic chair that Mycroft is currently unceremoniously occupying.  The room is dark and lit only by the soft glow of the machinery in addition to a strangely cheerful little square of fairy lights that lines the window.  As the doctor looks around, he can deduce that judging by how dark it is outside, it’s dawn, or at least, the beginnings of it, just a soft haze beginning to warm the blackness of the London skyline.  Before he is hit with another wave of nausea, that is.  Fuck.

“Can you just—” John clenches his eyes shut tightly and remains propped up on one elbow, “Give me a minute?”

“But of course,” Mycroft sounds amused.  John hopes that he’s getting a kick out of all of this, out of the irony.  He momentarily wonders about the list, if indeed the elder Holmes knew precisely how ironic all of this actually is because—

“Since you’re currently wondering, for the record, I happen to know about the Christmas list.  Both of them, as it were.  Enthralling.”

Much to his credit, the doctor manages to stifle a heavy sigh. 

The Holmes brothers, John thinks as he cracks his eyes open again and finally pushes himself up so that he’s fully sitting up in bed, are going to be the death of me in one way or another.

As John cracks his neck once and shifts his focus to Mycroft, Mycroft who is sitting lackadaisically on Sherlock’s side of the room in the plastic chair and shuffling languidly through the War and Peace-esque file of paperwork that rests on his lap.   And as John tries to twist to face him a little better, there’s just a slight aching stretch on the right side of his belly which denotes that he is currently down one semi-essential organ.  However, he realises as the sheets tug against layers of rough fabric, apparently the doctors must have been feeling rather benevolent as he’s wearing not only the hospital gown, but the lilac scrub bottoms still and socks underneath.   How nice. How not normal. Elective surgery is far better than non-elective surgery after all. If he ever has to have anything of this sort again, if he ever decides that Sherlock needs something similarly as metaphorical, he’ll come to this hospital again. Fucking brilliant.

Mycroft snaps the file shut and flicks his gaze up to John.  He looks startlingly pleasant, however, perhaps it’s because the usual bane of his existence is lying unconscious in bed in front of him and approximately six feet to his left.

“While I would be absolutely delighted to stay and witness whatever egregious beginnings of romance will inevitably blossom between you two as soon as my dear brother wakes, I unfortunately have a bit of a…situation developing in the Philippines. Hence, several things to take note of a) Giving him methadone is entirely out of the question unless you’re comfortable with being transferred to the psychological unit for the rest of your stay here, b) your recovery will be an apparent six days and eight days respectively, hence, c) we’ll be expecting to see you at Christmas Eve dinner next week.  Do try to be punctual; it’s his first Christmas dinner in three years and Mummy absolutely loathes it when Sherlock is late.”

John doesn’t quite know how to respond to the government bloody commanding him to come to their family Christmas dinner and so instead, he chooses to ignore it.  If indeed he were to think about it rather hard at present, the invitation (or commanding, as it were) would invariably strike a certain level of unconscious trepidation into his gut and right now, he’s still nice and warm and wearing scrub bottoms and socks and everything is just fine.  And so, John presses on:

“Sherlock,” John says with a laugh and a subsequent slight wince as the pain in his side radiates through still tender skin, “is always late.”

“Not anymore,” counters Mycroft before he situates the massive file under his arm and pushes himself to stand.  Apparently whatever is about to happen in the Philippines is urgent.  Not as urgent as your little brother almost dying, but urgent enough that when his…whatever John is to Sherlock now wakes up, it’s time to take off.

“Is that it then?  You’re just…off?  You came here to tell me about things that I already know and order me to Christmas dinner and now you’re leaving?”

Mycroft smiles his little plastic, faux pleasant smile, the one that he smiles at John or perhaps diplomats occasionally, as he looks around the private hospital room benignly once. 

“How fortuitous that you were given this room.”

“Yes, thank you, I get it, this was you.  These private ICU rooms must be really, really hard to get.  Brilliant, then. We both appreciate it; I’ll just speak for your brother now.”

The benign look morphs to pointed and shrewd.  Mycroft exhales through his nostrils once, looks to the ceiling, and clucks with a slight roll of his eyes.  It’s his own version of praying to science, or whatever the elder Holmes believes in.  William Pitt, most likely, the first one, that is.  Maybe Churchill.  And definitely  the MI5 too.

“How fortuitous that indeed this room and the subsequent patients in it have been assigned to a certain nurse who has been persuaded to overlook any abnormalities on the monitering systems for the next several hours.  This, of course, means that oh, the person in precisely the bed that you’re in could, potentially, if they wanted to, since, as a doctor they would know the risks of an elective organ transplant and would not push their own boundaries, unhook themselves from the machinery without overtly worrying said nurse in order to be closer to oh, the person in that bed where my dear brother is currently pretending to be asleep.”

Oh.

“Furthermore, I suppose this is where I should invariably warn you about the cloistered dangers awaiting you if you do something as ridiculously pathetic as attempt to break the one thing that my brother so dubiously lacks.  However, that would require him to still be in possession of it, which is obviously questionable at best under the given circumstances.   Furthermore, in a delicious twist of irony, you actually enjoy danger, and I’d hate to do anything which would require me to…persuade the heads of this hospital more than I already have over the last three days.    Take care of yourself, John.  Heart transplants are much, much harder to handle with the same degree of tacit finesse.  Do tell him happy early Christmas for me, however,” finishes Mycroft just before he exits, “And we’ll see you next week, 6pm sharp.”  

Once the doctor has finally gotten over the shock of whatever the hell that was, it takes him approximately three minutes to execute Mycroft’s advice, leaving the heart monitors and IVs and tubes all wound in a neat little pile of cords on the bed as he flicks off the machines himself.  And it’s probably not good, but he knows what he’s doing, honestly.  He is a doctor, after all and right now, he feels fine.  A bit tired yes, but alright nonetheless.

As John stiffly pads across the room to Sherlock’s bed, his heart inadvertently twists miserably when he sees the man, the man who he loves, lying pale and drawn and threaded through with clear tubes and all sorts of wires of every possible variant.  His beautiful eyes are closed, and there is an IV taped to the back of his veiny hand.  A little square of white cotton is patched to just the base of his neck, presumably to match several more that are under the crisp hospital sheets and the paper thin soft blue gown.  John doesn’t really want to see those now, however.  Maybe in a moment, but right now, no.  Right now he’s a bit too focused on the fact that this man is alive and that they’re going to have a new normal to look forward to. 

Sherlock stirs against the pillows, seemingly having sensed his presence.

John wants to kiss him.

However, he also knows that one of them is still hooked to a very sensitive heart monitor, and so he doesn’t. 

“Hello, there you are,” John says quietly as he looks down at the half awake detective and touches the tips of his fingers to the angular bow of Sherlock’s lips.

Eyes still closed, Sherlock grins himself nearly Cheshire, deliriously hard.

Trying not to laugh, John taps that grin once with his fingers, similarly hard.

“No,” John corrects lovingly as he traces Sherlock’s smile, “nope—you’ve been awake the whole bloody time, haven’t you?  Of course you have, you utter manipulative dick.  I do hope that was as entertaining for you as it was for me.”

In apparent response, Sherlock opens his eyes and his smile morphs from simply Cheshire to a brilliantly blinding grin of the hopelessly mad as he looks up at his doctor.  And then Sherlock is laughing, half drunk on morphine and oxycodone and Lord only knows whatever else he’s been givenand the heart monitor is going absolutely wild with little pitches and beeps and jumps and they’re about to get bloody caught at any minute, but he supposes that it will all be fine because they always are in the end, somehow.

“Calm your heart rate down,” John hisses, “unless you want to get us both chained to our beds, you idiot.”

Hello,” Sherlock slurs up to him with the most agonizingly exquisite smile, his voice lazy and beautifully thick as he miraculously achieves what the doctor has asked, “You were correct, John, Christmas has come early.  It’s perfect—no. It’s not merely perfect, it’s abhorrently brilliant. I have a part of you. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.  Best one yet.  I love this holiday.”

You,” John says with a dismaying twist of his own lips as he carefully brushes his fingertips against the inside of Sherlock’s white wrist, as he almost had done so many times before, “are higher than bloody a kite right now.”

“You love me.”

“Right, yes, I wouldn’t really—I just. You remember, brilliant. Good deduction, that. Saves us a bit of an awkward conversation later, I suppose.” 

“You love me and I have an internal organ of yours.”  Sherlock says up to him as if it’s the most ground breaking deduction of his life, his eyes practically ablaze with very heavy pain killers, “It’s Christmas. It’s thirty four Christmases worth of gifts. I asked for a kidney, and I received your own.  Oh, Father Christmas, you are brilliant, I never doubted your abilities, really, it was all just an act.”

“What are you right now?  Five years old?  Father Christmas doesn’t exist you utter bastard and yes, we’ve thoroughly been over that,” John says as he tips forward to gently cover Sherlock’s mouth with his own, just kissing the corner of his delirious smile.  He’s so drugged on pain medication that John can practically taste the oxycodone.  It’s brilliant.  Sherlock squirms and reaches up to meet him, his hands coming haphazardly to cup the sides of John’s face to bring their lips even closer together.  It’s making John’s job here invariably difficult, however, to be fair, no one ever said that anything regarding Sherlock Holmes was easy.  A beautiful challenge, Sherlock is, and not an almost one anymore.  They’re past ‘almost’, now, no longer at the impasse of ‘never have saids’.  Now that the deluge is broken, they will continue to say these things as they learn to speak the language of the other.

“Can you just lie still for a moment, please?” John says against Sherlock’s mouth before the detective’s grip instinctively softens and he finally manages to break away, “I do have a job to do here and right now, it’s worse than trying to check a bloody octopus.  You’re like one of those Indian gods, all hands and all grabby. Stop it, can I just fucking make sure you haven’t ripped your damn stitches out already?”

“Yes, doctor.”

“Oh, very funny,” John muses with a smile as he carefully draws down the neck of Sherlock’s hospital gown and peeks inside.  He can see the chest tube, yes, and beyond it Sherlock’s lithe belly is white already, so much so that the gaze and packing taped to it do little to change anything.  And as John carefully glances over the patches, Sherlock takes the doctor’s free hand in between his own and inspects it as if it is the most fathomlessly interesting thing in the entire universe.

“Your hands,” Sherlock slurs as he laces their fingers together and brings the back of John’s against his cool cheek, “Warm. Steady. The hands of a killer, my proverbial savior.  Irony, I love it. They’re marvelous, you know?  Your hands are my favourite part of you, always have been.  Now that I have one of your internal organs, however, I can’t decide.”

“Right, I just," John drops the gown back on the detective's chest and stands up again, "All rationalization with you is futile right now, I can see.” 

Waxing poetic about body parts is something that the doctor is used to, however, not about his own. And so he just loves this Sherlock, the half drugged one.  Very funny.  It will be a miracle if they get any sleep tonight, the both of them, with the hilarity of Sherlock’s Joycean-esque drugged prose.

“How about you go to sleep and decide in the morning?” John murmurs quietly as he pushes Sherlock curls back against his scalp, earning a lovely and content sigh as the detective falls blissfully limp against the pillows again, “And don’t get any fucking ideas about next year, or making your Christmas list include anything like ‘limbs’ or a ‘brain’.  You already have two of my internal organs so far, and I don’t plan on giving you any others, so you’d better take care of the ones that you’ve got.”

“Two?” The detective asks as he lets his beautiful blue eyes slide shut again and melts back into the sheets, still clutching John’s hand against his cheek.

“Yes,” and then, the ultimate role reversal, “Think.”

Ten hazy seconds later, the statement earns him a delirious laugh so hard that the little hospital bed rattles and shakes.  Above all else, John Watson is a doctor, he knows about mirror neurons.   So when this happens, as John settles on the edge of the bed to run his fingers through Sherlock’s dark curls and watch the sun rise over a sleeping London, he doesn’t question as to why his chest aches and aches and aches from pangs of raw happiness as well. 

*

Someday soon, John Watson is certain that all of this will feel normal again, their new kind of normal.

Today is not that day.  Not at all.

“I think,” says John eight days later as he carefully pushes an errant ink-stained curl out of his line of sight from the unlined face of the man who dozes on his lap, “that we’re almost at your mums.”

It’s eight days later, Christmas Eve, and they’re on a short cab ride after a two and a half hour train ride to the part of the Devon countryside that John can uneasily identify as the portion of their glorious nation which only the landed gentry can financially occupy.  It’s so bloody cold outside that the rolling hills are nearly soft and mottled white with frost amidst the occasional landmark of a manor, or mansion, of fucking castle for all he knows.   It doesn’t matter, really, however because he’s focused on something much, much better. Sherlock lies in a warm, half drugged marble and charcoal heap on John’s lap, having curled up somewhere between the third and fourth mile out.  The doctor has spent the last two hours on the train alternating between rubbing the nearly translucent skin at the base of Sherlock’s neck while simultaneously doing the best to keep his hands out of Sherlock’s hair as he did so.   The hair, as he found out, is slightly…sensitive.  Led to a lot of awkward moments with nurses popping their heads in and out of their shared room for the past week, that, even though they had been able to do little else other than kiss amidst things such as vital sign readings and organ donation consoling.  The only not boring part, according to Sherlock, had been the eventual closure of the case.  Apparently Sherlock’s deduction was entirely correct, with additional research, the priest in question (Father Sterndale apparently) had fallen in love with one of the members of the community in Congo, and, finding the Catholic church unable to marry them, had gone on a bit of a murderous rampage.   Lestrade had told them so as he had come to their little private ICU room the day after the transplant, all the while unable to pry his eyes off of the fact that while listening, John had been sitting on the edge of Sherlock’s bed, his hand absentmindedly resting on the detective's long thigh over the covers.   

“I just, really think that, you know, people should be able to marry who they want to, don’t you?”   The DI had lead before meeting both of their seemingly agreeable nods with purposely no mention of what John was doing.   

But that’s a different story.

A soft snort against John’s thigh draws his attention back downward.   “Brilliant deduction, per usual. You’re just in sparkling form, John. We’ve past the Clinton Estates at this point.  Twenty more minutes and then we’ll be there.”

John doesn’t ask how, because it’s not worth it any more, really.  He’ll never fully understand these things about Sherlock and sometimes, it’s for the best.  Instead, he just continues to carefully rub soothing circles into the back of the detective’s ridge like spine.   Sherlock is soft and warm still, curled up like a cat, and the doctor is currently doing his best to continually monitor his detective for the signs organ rejection.  None so far, however, above all else, John Watson is a doctor, he can’t help wanting to mend to man who he loves.

“Are you feeling alright?  You’re awfully warm again.”

You’re warm.”

John snorts as he begins to trace a star shaped pattern over the charcoal fabric that ensconces Sherlock’s left shoulder blade.  “Year Two of primary school called.  They want their witty retort back.”

“No, no, no, no – logic, John, honestly. Your resting temperature is naturally higher than mine, I’m now in possession of a piece of you, think.  And I’ve never been better,” muses Sherlock sleepily from his lap, “However, this is most likely where I should preemptive warn you of a few basic facts.  First and foremost, you should probably steel yourself for Mycroft’s speech on the declension of parliamentary power over the last three hundred years.  I’ve already contacted Mummy and had her preemptively buy stock in your favorite whiskey.  I’ll expect you to get abhorrently drunk during dinner.  I’ll show you where all of the precious family heirlooms are, please break several.  I’ll blame it on my brother, it will be wonderful.”

The trees are covered with the rime of frost as the cab slows to a crawl, turns down a sloping country road, and sidles up to a large circular driveway in front of a stately grey stone mansion neatly trimmed with rows of white fairy lights--the mansion, as John Watson has somehow come to terms with over the past week, that holds his psychopathic whatever’s mother.  Most people would be frightened.

Per Sherlock Holmes, John Watson is not ‘most people.’

As the cab idles to a stop, Sherlock pushes himself off of John’s lap, inhaling through his nose once as he attempts to focus his eyes, still slightly glassy, on his doctor.  He’s on oral pain medication still and is a positively lovely combination of just partially woozy and drowsy.  It’s amazing, this role reversal, Sherlock so soft and warm with sleep and dependent on him. It would give him a heady rush, if indeed he could focus on anything right now besides the detective’s soft lips and the half focused sea foam crescents of his eyes. He’s seen a million different facets of Sherlock in their time together, but somehow, drowsy and slightly rumpled and looking at him as if he is the sole provider of oxygen in the world, is definitely his favorite.  Finding sitting up boring apparently, Sherlock’s forehead falls to his shoulder and laughing, John cups the back of the detective’s neck with his palm to lightly stroke the fine coal hair at just the base of his neck. Even if their cabbie is looking now, even if Mummy Holmes herself were to walk out of the perfectly trimmed mansion,  John Watson just doesn’t care.  This is his new favourite after all, absolutely.

“We’re here,”

“Prepare yourself,” Sherlock says to his shoulder, “And do remember that you’re mine now.  It’s irrevocable, what you’ve given me, and how we’re bound.  Even if you want out it’s too late.   The Spanish Inquisition will look benign on some level.  You’ll find yourself furtively interrogated within an inch of your life.” 

“Doesn’t matter,” muses John as he kisses Sherlock’s hairline just once before jutting his chin in the direction of the detective, “Although, I suppose that the days of personal space are over, it seems.  Are you planning to sleep on me all day?  Comfortable, is that?”

“Obvious,”  Sherlock sighs as he brushes his lips to the pulse point in John’s neck.  And the doctor smiles so hard into those obsidian curls that he feels as if he has shattered into a thousand pieces of technicolor as well. 

*

Someday soon, John Watson is certain that all of this will feel normal, the new kind. 

Today is still not that day.

“Sherlock never told me that you played football at Uni.”  

“I—er, yes,” he’s never asked, actually, “On partial scholarship, first year until I—“

A clink of an expensive crystal glass as the woman in question sets it back down on the elegant long mahogany table and folds her hands in front of her, looking at him with just a twitch of a confident smile, “Fractured your left ankle, obviously.”

“Collateral ligament tear in the left knee as well,” Mycroft drawls from across the table, apparently bored as he swirls the remaining amber liquid in his brandy goblet once before drowning it.

“I—“

Just the fracture,” corrects the man approximately two inches to his right, “Honestly, Mycroft. Perhaps you should quit drinking before you finish the entirety of the remaining bottles from the dawn of the 1848 revolution and subsequently obliterate whatever brain cells that indeed remain functioning at present.”

Mycroft rolls his eyes.  Mummy snorts once in laughter, but shoots Sherlock a look, a look which the detective promptly ignores.   And John feels about as scrutinized as the ham on his plate that the cook had prepared earlier that evening as he stares at the grained wood of the table, the only thing that could possibly understand what he’s going through at present as apparently, it has to put up with the eccentricities of the Holmses on a yearly level.  The doctor takes a minute, blinks twice, and then stabs the fork into the meat on his plate again, accidentally clinking more loudly than intended against the china. They’re sitting in the rich mahogany dining room of the aforementioned mansion, at the too long table that is decorated tastefully with holly wreathes and just touches of red amidst the crystal glasses and bone china plates. It’s just the four of them; Mummy sits at the head of the table, Mycroft somewhat across from her, and then John and Sherlock side by side. The table is covered with the richest food of every possible variety, it looks like enough food to feed a fucking third world country, let alone just the four people, three of them who are far more interested in deducing him within an inch of his life than they are in the food, which is a shame, John supposes, because it’s incredibly delicious.    

Most people should be very, very afraid right now.

“I still say fracture,” Mummy counters pointedly as she glances over at her oldest son.  Mycroft smiles his little placating benign smile.  Sherlock rolls his eyes and presses his knee into John’s thigh just a millimeter more.  The doctor can practically feel him oozing contempt from his pores and it’s…well, while this is all a bit uncomfortable, it’s fine and hell, the food is amazing, so it’s more than fine even.  You do these sorts of things for the people you love, after all, meet their families.  And so far, Mummy (real name Violet Holmes, apparently, but he’ll always think of her as Mummy) is just splendid.  Yes, she’s intimidating to say the least, practically dripping with Chanel and the quiet confidence of one of the first female scholars from Cambridge to be recruited directly into the MI5.  However, her inquisitive mannerisms are just about the same as her two sons, albeit her hair slightly more white, and her crystalline eyes equally shrewd but slightly less guarded. 

John can’t wait to see Sherlock like that one day, sitting next to him. Old.  Together.  John wonders what those Christmases will be like, and does his best not to let his heart flop around in his chest too obviously at the thought of the man next to him in little square rimmed glasses with hair as white as snow. He’ll still be beautiful.    The people who you love always are, in your eyes.

But, unfortunately, that’s beside the point at present.

“Fracture” John confirms with a slight nod as he takes a sip of a whiskey that costs more than his entire medical degree, before turning to Mycroft, “And torn collateral ligament, so technically, you’re both correct.  But it wasn’t during football, however, I was at this—”

A sharp jab of knee into his.

“—medical…studying….thing and well, I may have studied a bit too hard, and tripped and fell off of my mate’s second floor balcony somewhere in the process.”

 “Ah, the medical studying,” says Mycroft with pointed fixation as he sets his glass aside, “which means that I suppose we should move onto that quadrant of your life. To be fair, I do have access to your files. I should technically abstain from this portion.”

John wishes that somehow, he could abstain from it all but the man who sits next to him. But John Watson has survived Infantry Columns and the flat heat of Afghanistan summers and windswept rooftops and nights under the haze of a whiskey bottle and bone sapping loneliness.  He’s seen it all in these last five years, seen it all, and still come back for more. Does that make him as mad as Sherlock Holmes?

Perhaps they both belong in Wonderland.

Most people would be very, very afraid of these sorts of things; of Christmas Eve dinner with the world’s most dysfunctional and brilliant family.  But John Watson isn’t because Sherlock’s hand slides neatly into his and as the doctor traces that map of veins with his thumb, he draws his own fountain of strength from the beat of the detective’s blood that he can feel reverberate through his own body.  The doctor takes another sip of whiskey, bites down on a smile, and ticks his head in a most pleasant manner.

“Yes,” he says as he evenly meets Mycroft’s stare, “Let’s move on to that quadrant.” 

John Watson is not ‘most people’.

*

Later on, however, the Christmas list, it seems, is a good idea.

Later, after dinner, John goes into his guest room down the long hall from the parlour and pulls out the overnight bag that he packed for both himself and Sherlock.  Amidst the broken shouts of Mycroft and Sherlock arguing violently from the smoking room, John walks back down the hallway and carefully places the little pile of red paper wrapped gifts under the overly large tree that rests next to the marble fireplace in the parlour.  Of course, he thinks with dismay as he regards his meager offering with his hands on his hips, his pile looks pitifully small next to a disgustingly massive mountain of gifts that rest under the tree already.  The massive mountain of gifts that are all wrapped carefully in dark green paper, presumably for the entire bloody Holmes family and their staff at their various seasonal houses. It’s probably fifty gifts at least, the green ones, all stacked with haphazard precision and tessellated under the white and silver trimmed tree in the parlour--the parlour which is currently decorated with things such as jacquard sofas and soft Persian rugs and etched ivory vases that most likely predate the age of British Imperialism. And so, the mansion is comfortably silent now that it’s much, much later, save for the two souls who now sit in said parlour under the soft glow of the white fairy lights from the tree which is the only source of illumination in the entire room.   Mycroft and Mummy have retired to bed somewhere up the grand staircase and on the second floor.  John is still somewhat half-drunk from dinner and can’t quite sit up exactly straight just yet; instead, he leans back on his palms against the hardwood floor to stretch his small legs in front of him to regard Sherlock with an easy smile. The tree is so large that they are nearly under the base of it, after all. And Sherlock, on the other hand, sits entirely sober in a neat little ball, albeit looking equally ridiculous and somewhat annoyed as he wears the gift that he had unwrapped merely seconds prior, a deep forest green and maroon holiday jumper that is patterned with Nordic snowflakes in an obscenely garish fashion. 

“It’s a gag gift,” John had explained as he had studied Sherlock’s slack face upon opening the package,  “I mean, I know that you’re new to all of this, however, it’s kind of a common thing to do a gift like…you know. A really ugly one. Something that is just. Really not good.”

“It’s the most…horrid thing I’ve ever seen in my life,”  Sherlock had said as he had held it up the jumper by both hands and examined it with numb horror, but then, suddenly, John had found lips meeting his, and quite thoroughly at that,  “Your inexorable commitment to these repugnant articles of clothing is disgusting." 

John had reached out and tugged it over the scowling detective's head anyway.  "And a happy Christmas to you too." 

Seeing Sherlock in the jumper is horrid and simultaneously inexorably lovely. Kind of like us, thinks John as he watches the detective study his last unopened present with what the doctor can see is controlled excitement. There is only one more of John’s gifts left, yes, but for very good reasons.   John had left the body parts and cows’ eyes in the fridge at 221b; the cadaver, according to Molly, is waiting for him at the morgue, and so the doctor had merely been able to bring along the cases files from Lestrade, the jumper, and the next gift.  Sherlock had wanted to delve into the files right away; however, the promise of something else had luckily, momentarily distracted his usual intent fixation.

“And,” John says with a flourish as he hands Sherlock the last little package wrapped in foil red paper with a gold bow “this is in regards to your request for an unopened copy of a first edition Heart of Darkness. Technically, I suppose.”

With fervid concentration, as if he were dissecting an actual creature perhaps, Sherlock unwraps the small paper square, pausing as he turns it over in his palms. He blinks twice and then allows his a small grin to grow from existant to heartbreaking to absolutely devastating as he looks up.

“Did you guess that one?  You did, didn’t you?  It’s loaded with the first edition version, so…technically, I.  Yes,” John laughs as quietly as he can, as not to wake the two Holmses who have thankfully retired from their scrutiny for the evening,  “Jesus fucking Christ, do you have any idea how much an actual first edition copy of ‘Heart of Darkness’ costs?  4800 pounds, that.   Also, please remember that I just gave you an internal organ.”

He can read the lines behind his face that say yes, obviously John, I knew, however, much to his delight, Sherlock merely sets it aside on the hardwood floor, steeples his fingers, opens his mouth once, shakes his head, and then tries again:

“If you’re asking if I was indeed able to deduce the fact that you purchased me a Kindle two weeks ago and had it sent to the flat as opposed to wisely deciding to have it shipped to you at work, then yes.  And no, I wasn't able to deduce it from the time that you spent perusing my own bookshelf, nor the specific credit card in the front slot of your wallet earlier this month, though I easily could have--Mrs. Hudson brought it up by mistake.  However, that does nothing to change the fact that it’s deliciously ironic, although I never pegged you much for a fan of technology.  I’m surprised you even knew what a Kindle was.”

 “Just shut up,” John leans over to capture Sherlock’s lips.  He doesn’t want to let go.

And so he doesn’t, because now, he doesn’t have to.  For quite some time, actually.   They’re both nearly blue from oxygen deprivation when he finally gets around to stopping kissing Sherlock Holmes under the soft light of the Christmas tree in the parlour that belongs to his posh little whatever in their new normal life. His posh little whatever in a ridiculous jumper. His posh little whatever who is smiling at him as if he is the sole provider of oxygen now.  He could call him his boyfriend yes, but John Watson is not a romantic man.  And how do you put a label on something that transcends the ordinary world?

“Hello, thank you for all of this,”  murmurs Sherlock, his long fingers reverently tracing the outline of John’s lips in the half lit darkness.   

And now that Sherlock is speaking his language now, it’s easy.  This, whatever it is, is just so fucking easy. It may not be in the future, but for now--

“Hello, you’re welcome, you idiot,” echoes the doctor as he smiles against cool skin, saying it right back.

*

Although John Watson would never admit this, the list, it seems, is an even better idea than he ever imagined.

He’s having a dream, this much he knows, because he’s sitting in his freshman bio class at Uni when last he checked, he had fallen asleep amidst the pale ivory sheets of Mummy’s guest room, the room decorated with the apparent theme of Renaissance architecture, complete with framed portraits of what look to be actual da Vinci sketches on parchment.  But now he’s no longer in the room, he’s in the third row of lecture hall, next to the blonde who lives three dormitory rooms down, the blonde who he will eventually take by the hand into the quiet room of the library when they had been both half hungover with book knowledge during finals week, and help rename it to ‘the-quiet- unless-you’re-dating-John-Watson room’. 

That had been the third continent.  She was an exchange student from South Africa.

It had been brilliant.

And so, he’s sitting in class, learning about DNA polymerase, and there’s a warm white hot sensation pooling inside his lower belly and he’s denaturing and unwinding like a long coded amino acid sequence—AUG—CUG—which fucking one it doesn’t matter.  He drops his pencil he's been using to write and shifts to grip the bottom of his chair so hard that he digs his fingernails into the plastic and bites down on his lip to stifle what, to most people, would sound like a whine. Except that John Watson doesn’t whine, ever. 

Ever. 

And then, suddenly, the dream changes abruptly, and he’s winding his fingers through his TA’s auburn hair three weeks later in the little dusty cupboard of her office after she had finished explaining the aforementioned amino acid table to him for the hundredth time until he had just done it, just tipped forward and kissed her, and then she’s cupping his granite hard cock through his trousers and peeling off his pants and leaning over him and he’s gripping the corner of her desk so hard that the paint is flaking off in chips and there are little gasps of air against the crease of his inner thigh and oh, fuck it feels just like—

OH.

“Jesus Christ—” John gasps as inadvertently as he snaps to real time and his right hand finds a fistful of silken hair in between his legs, “Oh fuck—fuck—shit—just—Sherlockstopstopstop--“

The warmth and wetness withdraws, leaving John’s cock wet and hard and positively throbbing. The detective pokes his head out of the blankets with a very decisive scowl before resting his chin against John’s lower belly.  Sherlock is still fully clothed, albeit artfully disheveled.  He’s wearing his usual V-neck shirt and plaid pyjama bottoms, however, much the doctor’s unbridled delight, he’s still wearing the holiday jumper pulled haphazardly over his clothing. With this level of mussing, he looks like a Monet painting up close, step back and he’d be perfectly  messy, however, in bed right now, John can see the brushstrokes against the canvas so to say.  At present, he’s finding them gloriously beautiful and simultaneously painfully, painfully aggravating.   

 “Stop? What for?”

“We are in Mummy’s guest room,” John hisses.  As if they both speak the same language now since ‘hello’, as if this should explain everything, “Your mum’s.”

It doesn’t, of course.  In the darkness, Sherlock blinks very, very slowly.

This is just enough to allow John to think that maybe this time, there are still some things that are going to be lost in translation. And perhaps, maybe this time, the doctor is the one in the wrong.  After all, John Watson has been given enough blow jobs in his life in places where he definitely, definitely shouldn’t have been to know how to keep quiet.  No one had ever discovered them that day in his TA’s office, and the whole library incident wouldn’t have been as infamous as had become if only his girlfriend at the time had been able to keep her mouth shut for approximately six more seconds until he had finished. 

At least, he thinks he can be quiet. However, the man in the jumper with the wildly mussed curls, it seems, will never stop trying to surprise the hell out him, and this could be a bit of a problem.  But fuck it, after all.  It is Christmas. 

“Jesus fucking, how do I explain—you know what? No, toss it, scratch what I said, and, yes, continue, thank you.  I’ll tell you why this is not good later, but yes, do exactly what you’re doing with that pretty little mouth of yours, please.“

As Sherlock dips below the covers again and teases his wicked little tongue down the length of his aching cock once more before taking him entirely in his mouth, John decides that it is simultaneously very, very good and very, very bad, being in whatever he now is with Sherlock Holmes.  With thirty plus years of built up sexual tension now all focused entirely on his body.   Besides, the doctor manages to rationalize before he pushes his head further into the pillow and snaps his hips sharply (drawing a deliciously throaty gag from below the blankets) Mummy and Mycroft are an entire floor up. 

“You’re currently thinking,”  Sherlock is apparently musing now as he pulls away momentarily, his breath deliriously hot against John’s wet cock, “Stop.  It’s incredibly distracting.”

He'll take his advice, God yes.  And so the lab and the office return as the doctor shuts his eyes once more and lets himself fall weightlessly into the suspended liquid reality between the dream world and the real world.  John makes a sound that might vaguely resemble a moan as Sherlock swallows him down again, except somehow in the last five seconds, the detective has reached up and the fingers of Sherlock’s hand are now curling in his mouth and perversely invading his ability to actually breathe.  His lungs hurt and he draws air in only little pants as he reaches down to grip onto Sherlock’s hair with one hand and fists the blankets with the other.  Sherlock fucking Holmes, invading him like he once invaded the sand swept desert of Afghanistan.  Invading him like Infantry Columns still invades his brain even after all of these years.  Of course it has to be like this, it always has to be and shit, he can’t even think anymore and words are falling out of his mouth in impossibly hushed tone--

 “Oh fuck yes, oh godohgodyes,youfuck,youhowonearth,come on more, more—“

The half formulated lecture hall of blackboards and base pairs shatters into a thousand fragments of codons behind his eyelids and John comes so hard in that pretty little mouth that he feels as if he might snap his own spine in half. He bites down on words and noises and sounds with such ferocity that it feels as if his lungs might explode.  All the oxygen is ripped from the room like a Dresden firestorm that he saw on the little box of a telly two nights ago while sitting in a hardened plastic block of a chair in their room at the hospital and trying to convince his scowling boyfriend, or whatever they are, to eat his pudding.  His brain spirals to Wonderland, all bloody white rabbits, and Mummy's china tea cups, and Mad Hatters with fathomlessly blue eyes. 

Sherlock Holmes, John manages at some point as he collapses breathlessly against the pillow, is going to be the fucking death of me.  

Of course, John rationalizes in a bleary haze, he should consider himself lucky because as he had learned at POW camp, there are far, far worse ways to die.

After quite some time, John returns to earth, led by the inexorable pull of careful cool fingers on his still firey skin.  Somehow, his pants are now snug around his waist once more, his pyjamas pulled back up, and his t-shirt pulled back down. The fingers have been removed from his mouth and cock and the slender line of angles who they belong to now lies curled up under his chin like a contented cat, invading the warmth of his body like the relentless Afghanistan sand. Sherlock’s jumper is scratchy against his still heated skin, or so he thinks.  It’s always a bit hard to think in these moments, however.  Endorphins mess with your brain chemistry in ways similar to hallucinogens, after all.

“You,” John breathes to the ceiling and the now silent darkness that encompasses the room, “Are. Amazing.”

“I know,” counters the dark cat lazily as he continues to unapologetically leech body heat from the doctor’s clavicle, “however, you also haven’t had any kind of sexual encounter in the last three months. If we’re going by strict empiricism, your rationality might be slightly biased. Happy Christmas, by the way.”

“You got me sex,” states John to the ceiling, still breathless.

“Yes.  Oral sex, technically, I figured that it was the least potentially hazardous to us both in our respective states.  Despite contrary belief, I do heed doctor’s warnings about ‘no strenuous physical activity for three weeks’, or at least, I’ll heed them in regards to yourself.  Sex was on your list, after all, and it’s only the first of several things, you’ll see the rest shortly.”

Thankfully, a superlative floats toward the front of his mind.  “Brilliant,” and then, with an almost manic bubble of laughter as he glances down to meet Sherlock’s line of sight, “there is a line. James Bond.  ‘They say that Christmas only comes once a year.’  That’s all I can think of right now.”

“You are completely aware of the fact that your consistently pedestrian references make me want to vomit.”

 “That’s the pain medication, you self-righteous dick.”

Sherlock just smiles a mercurial grin into his neck before pushing himself up on all fours to climb atop John again like a sleek jaguar, cup the doctor’s face, and slide into his mouth once more.  He kisses him languidly, it’s their first really private kiss after all, since the room and candles and whatnot, and it’s done so in a way that reminds John of the precise and yet impassioned way that he has so often watched the detective scratch away at the violin.  Sherlock presses into him deeper, one hipbone jutting into soft belly and it hurts, a glorious hurt, in the kind of way that his throat burnt with the smooth whiskey earlier that evening. It’s simultaneously sexy and sweet and gloriously dizzying and reminds him of how he felt after he had staggered out of that tiny cell in army POW training, dazed and blinded by just the sheer daylight, his ears ringing with the haunting cadence of the Kipling poem. But this time, the daylight isn’t just the cold winter sun, it’s this extraordinary being who, for some reason, saw whatever it is beyond John’s own mundane mediocrity and chose him nearly five years earlier. 

“Good?” Sherlock questions against his lips once he’s apparently finished tasting the entirety of the doctor’s soft palate. 

Very good,” John says before grabbing a fistful of jumper and bringing Sherlock’s mouth down to his own this time. 

The detective is a ball of pheromones, now eight days technically without an actual shower, and damp with just a thin layer of sweat.  Under the jumper, Sherlock’s soft t-shirt sticks slightly to the small of his back and John can feel it with his free hand as it slides up to play against the cage of Sherlock’s ribs. It’s maddening, it’s intoxicating, and now that it’s in his face, John’s not entirely certain if he can keep to his own maxims about sexual encounters in guest rooms or whatnot. Nor does he even really want to anymore. But then, as his hand begins to push up Sherlock’s shirt to expose creamy marble, there are gauze covered patches that hide angry stitches, stitches which pull against delicate and paper thin skin.  And the vulnerable split second look that flits across Sherlock’s face before the usual façade of lackadaisical brilliance is so easily pulled over again stops John’s blood dead in his tracks as he carefully and reverently traces his patched up detective.   The doctor’s fingertips ghost over the little pads of cotton that obscure the scars, the ones obvious and the ones layers and layers of skin deep. But John doesn’t care. He never will. They’re both maps of scar tissue at this point, but put them together and now that they’re talking, they can be fully read and point to  a land that neither have actually ever heard of. And besides, the darkness will obscure the flaws in them both. They each shine too brightly in the other's eyes.   

To Wonderland, then.  Off they go. 

The kiss has stopped.  John reluctantly lets the jumper fall back down over the detective’s belly. As Sherlock climbs off of him to sit on the bed, he doesn’t let go of John’s hand and instead, keeps their fingers laced tightly together and so they sit, hand in hand, John still lying down and Sherlock sitting right in front of him. 

 “How are we feeling?”  John muses as the detective folds his foal-like limbs in front of him and rests their hands on top of his kneecap.   

“How am I feeling?  I am wearing the ugliest jumper ever known to mankind and, simultaneously, you’ve just kissed me in a way that’s deleted certain sections of the periodic table from my brain. Obviously, I’ve never been simultaneously worse nor better.  I think you’ve messed up some of my wiring.”

John laughs quietly.  “How was your present?  The cases, that is?  I suspect that you’ve solved them all by now when I finally went to bed without you?”

“Nearly,” says Sherlock with a bored wave of his free hand, “I’ve found concrete resolutions to six of those little files; abhorrently simple. Called Lestrade four times, he seemed a bit cross. Can’t seem to figure out why, I thought that he’d be happy.”

“Hm, can’t imagine why,” says John as he lets his head fall against the ornate mahogany headboard, mentally cursing himself for not taking away the detective’s mobile first, “I’m sure it would have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you called him at oh, let’s see here--one in the morning on Christmas.”

“Correct.  It’s Christmas morning.” Sherlock says, with a little cracked grin as he pulls his arms and simultaneously their hands around his knees, rocking back and forth a bit.  He looks like an excited little boy as he stares at John. It’s heartbreaking.

“And…are you planning on keeping me up all morning then?” John asks with a weary grin, not entirely certain if he wants the truthful answer.  Dinner was tiring after all, and they’ve spent the last week trying to get some sleep in a hospital room.  It hasn’t been easy, to say the least. 

“Quite possibly. I do have more gifts for you, after all.  I expect that you saw them already.  Yet, I'm more than well aware that  your so called 'deductive prowess' isn’t sharp enough to guess all fifty eight of them.”

What the ever loving--

“Fifty eight gifts?!  All of those under the tree were for—just.  No. What? No. Are you mad?”

Sherlock seems to actually consider this for a moment and ticks his dark head in thought, “I highly doubt it, ” and then, that smile once more, albeit hidden under a trademark scowl, “of course everything under the tree is for you, who else would I want to give gifts to? I had an inordinate amount of time to do some online shopping while you were being egregiously boring and sleeping last week. Do keep up. They’re things that you have no idea that you need. It was horridly fun. New favourite holiday, I already can’t wait until next year.  I happen to like this little day ever since you gave me a piece of you, quite illuminating. Now, the time for psychoanalysis is over, doctor; stop being boring and demanding ridiculous things like sleep. Get up, it’s Christmas.”

While ‘things that you have no idea that you need’ invariably strikes a level of fear into his heart that he’s not certain if he can handle for the next, oh however long they’re both alive, it is disgustingly heartwarming to see Sherlock so excited over all this. Although John still doesn’t know the finer details of Sherlock’s childhood (he’ll glean those from Mummy over the next day), he’s been with Sherlock long enough to deduce a few things of his own.  And with the way that the detective is staring at John now, in a way that makes him think of a schoolboy looking at a bag of sweeties, or perhaps as if he is the world’s most devastating crime scene, he knows that this is the first time that his sociopath has gone out of his way to get presents for anyone. Either way, despite whatever that past may entail, John never wants that look to stop, that look that tells him how utterly amazing he is in Sherlock’s eyes with each breath pulled carefully into that slender chest. 

I would give you a lung, if you needed that too. Hell, I’d give you a heart, but you already have mine.

John weighs his options.

He should go back to sleep.

He doesn’t.

It’s Christmas, after all.

“You,” John starts as he pushes himself up to climb out of bed, never letting go of Sherlock’s hand, “need an actual shower first before we do anything else. Badly. You’re a god damn health hazard right now, at best.  You still smell like betadine and ethanol combined with oh, about a week’s worth of pheromones. It’s driving me mad in the best possible way. No strenuous activity for the next few weeks, Jesus fucking Christ.”

“No strenuous activity until the twelfth night or so it seems,” Sherlock whispers back with a madly beautiful uneven smile as he follows John’s tug in the direction of the small bathroom in the corner of the Renaissance guest room, “however, I think I’ll be able to find plenty to do to you until then.”

And so Sherlock strips the doctor down to bare skin and carefully removes his bandage and John strips Sherlock down to bare skin and carefully removes his bandages as well and they laugh quietly and share each other’s breath before Sherlock tugs him by the hand under the warm water of the shower.  And this is possibly the best thing in the universe, ever, but then the water is warm and Sherlock finds the small of his back and is sliding into his mouth again, wet skin against wet skin, no, it’s even better. All of this. Everything.   Our languages. Our new normal.  Our enthusiasms which cannot always be explained.

“Most people want to sleep in this morning,” John finds himself saying as he carefully massages shampoo into Sherlock’s scalp.  He’s setting himself up for it, he knows, but hell, it’s Christmas. 

“You,” hums Sherlock as he looks into John’s eyes, his voice insatiably reverent as he traces the patchwork starburst of John’s scar with the careful elegance of how he plays his finest pieces on the violin, “are not ‘most people.’”

And I have been to hell and back again

But I can’t deny that I prefer this life,

And with you by my side, it’s achingly perfect. 

It won’t always be, but it is now, and that’s all that we have sometimes,

 “Correct,” the doctor laughs quietly against gloriously pale and wet skin before covering Sherlock’s mouth with his own again, “I suppose because of hanging around you all the time, I’m not, now am I?  And oh, how incredibly lucky you are. “    

*