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Christmas Times Long Ago

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The Journal of John H. Watson
December 15, 1912

Those around me are caught up in the traditional merrymaking preparations; thus far, I have abstained. This season of cheer and wonder has been darkened by who it lacks. Holmes, once again, has left. I am still unsure of where he has gone, what he is doing, or how long he will be gone.

I have put pen to paper not to discuss my thoughts on him leaving, but to record a memory of the happier times together in Sussex.

A year ago, I had been rather busy with chores and decorating for the holidays. I surveyed the results of my morning efforts that adorned the sitting room in our cottage. I looked up at the ceiling and grinned, yes it was all perfect. Pleased with my work, I retrieved a yellow backed novel and added another log to the fire before settling in on my spot on the couch.

Besides the crackling from the fire, the irregular dripping from the tap that would not cease no matter what we did, and my breathing; there was little else to fill my ears. Sounds of tinkling glassware, other footsteps, rustling of papers, scrapings on the violin, and a well-known voice had been absent for over a day. Yet, I was eager for the producer of those sounds to return.

The previous week, Holmes discussed visiting Mycroft and I reminded him I had committee duties for the church gala and could not leave. No amount of persuasion tactics would change the mind of the other, thus he was to leave without me. At the time, the thought of sleeping alone was appealing, not that I wanted to return to our living arrangements before Sussex, but that Holmes had the habit of taking over more than his share of the bed. Many an evening I would be forced to fight for an inch of cover so I would not freeze.

After that one night alone, I knew that just as I had become his habit so too had he become mine. I preferred him home with all his maddening, but endearing, habits including cover thievery.

I tried to interest myself in the rooting for the protagonists to rescue the damsel in distress only to be lost once more in my rambling mind. Thankfully, I was rescued by the sound of a carriage arriving at the cottage. I went out of the door to meet Holmes but left my coat behind. I hugged my chest tightly to try to defend myself against the cold as my feet took me down the familiar path.

Seeing him walking up the path carrying his bag to our cottage —we had called it ours for years now — caused my heart to leap. I could not keep the excitement of seeing him again from showing on my face, nor did I want to. He would likely call me a sentimental old man and I did not care. I greeted him on the path and his free hand grasped my good shoulder. Holmes looked cold. His red nose and cheeks stood out sharply against his pale skin and dark clothing. His eyes shone brightly at the sight of me. That was likely all I was going to see of him admitting how much he missed me as well and it was enough.

He chuckled. “My good fellow, I’ve only been gone for a day.”

I smiled in response. His gaze wandered over me and I waited. His hand slid down my arm and untangled one of my hands from my chest spying the resin I could not scrub off my hands before moving on to pluck an evergreen needle out of my hair. While looking at the needle he was twirling between his fingers, he said, “I perceive that Mr Perceval was here. How is his wife?”

“She is well. She is convinced they are having a girl based on how much indigestion she has been experiencing. We will find out if she’s right in a month or so.”

He released the needle and hummed in acknowledgment before returning his attention to me. “Now, my dear Watson, what is left to discover is how much Christmas cheer you brought into the house.”

I gave a mischievous grin. “You will find out soon enough. Now tell me, how was your meeting with Mycroft?”

Holmes’ face clouded over. “Mycroft sends his regards. He wanted me to analyze some intelligence.” He looked beyond me and paused - I wouldn’t know until much later what that expression meant. He suddenly changed his demeanor to a caricature of happiness. “But we can talk about that later. We’d best get you inside before you freeze,” he said with a forced smile.

We traversed the rest of our garden path in silence and I entered the cottage first full of anticipation. He entered, closed the door, and stopped short.

“As you can see,” I said with my back turned to him, “I’ve taken the liberty of decorating...”

“Watson.”

Still not facing him, I continued as if I didn’t hear him. “... Mr Perceval arrived with the tree and other greenery this morning. I used the holly and pine on the mantelpiece and the rest to form a wreath. Your jackknife is still on the mantle but hidden behind the pine boughs.”

“Watson,” he said, and I turned to look at him. The look he was shooting at the green twigs attached to the ceiling would have whither a hardened criminal. I tried to hide my grin. “Why is that on our ceiling?” He said.

“It was left over from the gala and I smuggled it out.” I stepped closer, took the bag from his hands, and placed it on the floor. I asked, “Haven’t you ever kissed under the mistletoe?”

Still addressing the plant, he said “Why do I need the pretext of this flora to grant me permission to kiss you when that was already my plan?”

His attention snapped to me as I embraced him and brought my hands to cupped the back of his head before drawing his face closer to mine. “It’s a bit of whimsey, old man.” I said and leaned in to kiss him before he could respond.

Despite his initial foreboding, he took it as a personal challenge to devise whatever reason for us to happen to meet under the mistletoe as often as possible. I took down the plant from the ceiling the next evening - not only because our housekeeper was due to arrive the following day - but because the various requests on my person distracted me from getting any work done.

 

******

 

The muffled voice of Holmes calling came through as I was sitting on the bed thumbing through a well-worn, blue covered journal. “Watson, can you come down?”

I sighed and put down the blue journal. Like my journal entry, today was also December 15 but seven years after I had written that entry and much has changed since then. Holmes returned to me almost two years after that journal entry. We both served our country during The Great War - he worked with Mycroft deciphering intelligence while I helped those who returned home. The War has been over for more than a year and we are acclimating to a new normal.

“Watson?” Holmes called again.

“Coming,” I said as I moved off the bed with a groan and went down the stairs. What greeted me in the sitting room was Holmes standing with his hands behind his back trying to mask a grin. I approached him and discovered that he was standing underneath a sprig of mistletoe.

I chuckled at the sight. “Where did that mistletoe come from?”

“I found it on a tree during my walk,“ said Holmes as we embraced. He cleared his throat. “The biology of mistletoes is rather fascinating; I will need to make a study of it at a later date. Did you know that it is a parasite and –"

My kiss silenced any further discussion of the biology of mistletoes.

END