It was fortuitous indeed that Sherlock was clutching a pickled eyeball in his fingers and not a glass beaker when John's text/photo attachment alert sounded too loud and way too clear from the sitting room. Sherlock reckoned he might have severed an artery with shattered glass fragments at the horrible din. As it was, he was going to have to explain that said eyeball was now on the counter, blissfully floating in the open kettle which John had just sterilized "yet again", in his words, after a similar mishap.
Before Sherlock could scramble to retrieve the offending orbit, the alert blared again, and he wanted to scream. The strains of "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" seemed to bounce off the walls like it was a living thing. He hated, no not strong enough, he loathed, despised and abhorred that song. No doubt that had been the determining factor in John selecting it. To add insult to injury, John was laughing like a demented Santa at whatever was on his mobile.
"Oh Sherlock wait until you see what...is that an eyeball in the kettle?"
"You startled me with that abominable racket. I'm not responsible."
"Suppose not, but you are responsible for OTHER things in the past."
For some reason, Sherlock was suddenly wary, "What do you mean?"
"Remember the chaos you created at the Yard's Halloween party by showing up in that mad scientist outfit and experimenting on all of us?"
"All that was required to expel the noxious fumes was to open some windows, John. You and your minions insist on making everything into an international incident."
"Funny you should say that. Speaking of minions and international incidents, Mycroft is the one who just texted me. Have a look at this gear."
Sherlock grabbed the mobile glaring at the screen. It showed a picture of a man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt apparently perched on the shoulders of an elf piggyback style. It was, of course an illusion. The man's legs were actually in the red and white elf's costume with fake legs dangling to the sides, the wearers feet in a pair of fuzzy red elf shoes, complete with turned up toes.
"You expect me to believe MY brother sent you that? What possible reason..."
"You're the gadget wizard, git. See for yourself, right there. It says, "My contribution, John. M.H."
"Contribution to what?"
"Seems you've conveniently forgotten that all of us suffered from headaches and nausea for a full day after that night, so we got together and decided that this next party, it's payback time."
"If you're suggesting gassing me, John, I would remind you of your Hippocratic Oath. First do no harm."
"Wouldn't dream of it darling, love you too much. But that doesn't mean I won't enjoy us getting our own back. See what we've agreed upon is a contest of sorts. Each of the five of us is going to select a Christmas outfit or jumper for the Yard's party this weekend and then we'll choose a 'winner' which you WILL wear with no complaints."
"Oh really? What makes you think you can make me?"
"If you don't, Mycroft is going to tell your Mummy what actually happened to that precious pair of otter pajamas she gave you for your birthday. Oddly, she accepted your story that you treasured them so much that you had them dry cleaned and they were ruined. How do you think she'd react to the truth? That you shredded them and and dissolved them in a collection of different caustic acids. Don't imagine that will set well, do you?"
"John, that's blackmail!"
"Indeed it is, sweetheart, and I for one can't wait to see what the other 'jurors' have to offer."
That had been Tuesday. Never in Sherlock's thirty some odd years had three ensuing days passed so agonizingly slowly. Mercifully, Mycroft's text had been the only one that day. Either John was taking pity on him or drawing out the misery, Sherlock wasn't quite sure.
Wednesday, the Hippopotamus had come calling twice. The first, from Mrs.Hudson, actually bore the salutation "Woo-Hoo dears" and a photo of a blue and pink knit jumper decorated with snowflakes and unicorns. The pièce de résistance, however, was the 3-D stuffed white and pink unicorn with golden horn that adored the front and back of the jumper as if it were leaping through whoever was wearing it. John had thought he'd never seen Sherlock turn that colour of pine green before.
The second text was Molly's attempt at being Grinchy and, predictably, she was pants at it. Still it was bad enough. The white, green and red plaid/tartan jumper had only one decoration but it was a large grey cat, looking slightly murderous and wearing a red cardigan with snowman buttons. The feline was also sporting a hideous Christmas bow tie. John chortled at the thought that was one way to finally get his boyfriend into a tie.
Thursday brought Greg's addition, and honestly that one almost undid John. It was more sweatshirt than jumper, but oh my. It was a print of a portly man's VERY hairy bare chest and arms festooned with tattoos of all things Christmas imaginable. Trees, stockings, candy canes, reindeer, Santa, and even a string of coloured min fairy lights around the neck. Most distressing of all, though, were the two very visible nipples which gave the appearance of being pierced. From each one dangled an ornament, one green the other red.
By the time John allowed Sherlock to see his selection, the detective was almost beyond comprehension. Compared to the others, John's was somewhat tame, but had Sherlock feeling the most dejected. As Ugly jumpers went, it was a five at best. The sleeves were green with the body of the jumper portraying a pseudo Santa torso dressed in a too tight red waistcoat with trees and snowflakes and nothing else. When worn it looked as if a knitted white "beard" hung below the wearers neck, then there was the rest. The buttons of the waistcoat strained against a bare and "bowl full of jelly belly". With John well aware of the pride he took in his slim figure, somehow this jumper hurt the most of all.
Like a coven gathering for a sacrifice, fitting Sherlock supposed as this started with Halloween, Friday saw his five executioners gathered in their flat casting secret ballots to decide his fate. With a flourish he was called back into the sitting room to witness the ritualistic burning of the ballots in their fireplace. Then John turned to face him.
"We have chosen our winner, Sherlock. No, before you ask, you're not learning which one until tomorrow at the party. Not taking a chance that some disaster might befall it before we have a chance at our revenge."
Even more discouraging, there wasn't a clue to be gleaned from any of them. The four who left simply nodded as stone faced as Sherlock had ever seen them. That night, John was particularly sweet to him. Cooking his favorite meal, and even granting him a short stay of execution with some spectacular sex. But tomorrow loomed before him like the hangman's noose.
Thinking himself beyond unpleasant surprises, Sherlock had one more. He wasn't to be given his prison uniform until they went to the Yard. Likewise, John was waiting to get dressed until they were safely in Greg's office. When they arrived, quite early Sherlock discovered, they went directly to Lestrade's private office where John drew the blinds. No one else was about.
"Alright, here's what we're going to do, Sherlock. I want everyone to see you before you see yourself so I'm going to blindfold you before I get you tarted up."
The bravado in Sherlock's voice belied what he was really feeling. "I doubt there is a blindfold capable of obscuring my senses."
"Thought of that, sugar plum, that's why I brought this little beauty." From his pocket John withdrew a soft black leather hood more commonly seen in BDSM clubs than the venerable walls of New Scotland Yard. "You'll be able to breathe, hear, and God help me talk, safety first you know, but see? Nope!!"
Carefully monitoring Sherlock for any signs of real distress, John fitted the hood over the curls he loved so well and zipped it up the back. "Now sit still for a tick. Here we go. Arms up and over the head there we are. No you don't, arms straight out in front of you. Good boy."
Sherlock felt the Belstaff being slipped onto him backwards so he couldn't try to feel which jumper he was wearing. At least since John had kept him seated, he knew he wasn't in the horrible thing Mycroft had proposed. Small comfort.
"I'm just slipping into my own gear now, then our friends are coming in for the grand unveiling. Behave yourself, yeah?"
Now almost numb, Sherlock only nodded weakly. Too soon he heard the heavy wooden door open and the laughter of the others. He guessed he deserved this, so the least he could do was submit to his punishment stoically.
"Stand up love, easy. Just going to slide your coat off. Arms at your sides, no cheating, there's my lad. Well, what say you all?"
There was applause, giggles and cheers. Followed by hands on his shoulders and back.
"Stunning brother mine." "You look lovely, dear." "Oh Sherlock, how cute, I could die from the cuteness." "Best use my office has been put to in a long time, mate. You're a sight!"
John had been correct, his hearing was unimpaired, much to his dismay. Then there was the last touch. The most familiar, gently cradling the back of his neck, his John. "You've taken this well, love. Time to get you out of this."
As the hood was removed, Sherlock blinked in the bright light to focus his eyes. His mind went directly offline. Their friends were standing before him each dressed in the jumpers that they had pretended to suggest for him. His expression moved lightning fast from confusion, to irritation to a ruefully relieved smile.
"Go on then", John boomed, "what do you think of what we DID choose for you?"
He had been so shocked, he hadn't even given his own jumper a thought. Pulling it out in front of him he realized he was wearing a red and green cable knit covered in trees and snowflakes, and, ridiculously, tiny fairy lights which really lit up and blinked a cheery glow. The main decoration leaping from the yarn was a pirate dressed in all the glory of a high seas profiteer, brass buttons, lace cuffs and collar, wide leather belt all in red, white and black, and at his side a saber worthy of any adventure.The pirate had one foot propped on a large wooden keg marked rum, and across the bottom hem in the same colours as the pirate was emblazoned "Captain Morgan."
At that moment, John thought the childlike delight on Sherlock's face was worth their bit of skullduggery. "Like it then, do you?"
"I don't understand, this is...it's so...I..."
"And there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Proof positive that I AM the smart one."
Even Sherlock laughed at that. "It's the best jumper I've ever had, but...is this another part of my penance? Are you going to snatch it away and give me something even worse than what you have on?"
Mrs.Hudson could not be dissuaded. She went to him with a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Not at all, dear. This is what you're meant to keep on tonight. We've had our fun, and I'm sure you have learned a lesson. You DO however have to serve the rum punch for everyone. After all you're dressed for the job."
In quick order, they were out into the crowd of Yarders, family and friends, leaving John and Sherlock alone. John stood on tiptoe and proceeded to deliver an early Christmas present in the form of a passionate song. "So, Captain Morgan, ready to man the grog station?"
"Aye, Sir. But this is like a reward, I still don't understand."
"Ever hear the phrase the anticipation is worse than the punishment? That was our plan. If you ever decide you want to go all out with a truly insane jumper like these, good on ya, but we'd never embarrass you like that."
"But you voted. You burned the secret ballots."
"Nah, I burned a handful of old Tesco receipts I had in my pocket. Fooled you."
Sherlock grinned, "Obviously, Santa's Little Helper."
"Watch it with the little, you. I happen to know you are very aware I'm far from under endowed, something we'll explore later at home. Now we best get to the party, Captain Bartender."
Sherlock was looking past John to the revelers. "John is that Griffin's police badge pinned on the elf Mycroft is 'riding'?"
"Yep, and if you look closely at GREG'S 'hairy back' you'll see a very non-holiday 'tattoo' that reads 'Property of the British Government', sweet innit?"
"Not the word I would have chosen, but still, in the spirit of the season, Ho! Ho! Ho!"
"Come on you, time to stand your watch. Oh, by the way, I'll be writing this one up for the blog. Going to call it The Case of Jumper Justice."
Then laying his finger aside of his nose, towards the punch made of rum our Sherlock he goes, and then John exclaims at that rear view in sight, "Merry Christmas to all, I'll have posh arse tonight."