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An Arbitrary Marker

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The snow that had been predicted to arrive mid-evening sent its regrets. In its stead it sent its sister, icy sleet. Slushy spears of ice pelted the windows leaving trails of watery debris to slide off into the dark. Sherlock was pleased. New Year's Eve found him happily alone, within the confines of his home, warm and about to engage in his passion, solving the unsolvable, working cases that others had cast aside.

Prior to sending Kitty off for the evening, he had given her proper counsel on the possible dangers she might encounter in the City on an evening such as this and reminded her that she was always welcome to come back early if she should wish. Her bevy of new friends had reserved a hotel room in mid-town and she assured him she was quite comfortable with the arrangements. Kitty had in turn expressed concern for him, spending the evening by himself seemed a lonely thing to her. Sherlock assured her it was just another evening to him; he felt no need to revel in the passage of yet another arbitrary marker of time.

The brownstone creaked as he crossed the well-polished floor of the library. Steaming mug of tea in one hand, yellowed police files in the other, he settled in his chair, the leather warmed by the blaze of the fire. Sherlock turned his gaze onto the orangey depths of its flames.

Watson had informed him she'd be off for the evening at some corporate soirée with a business associate. Andrew was no longer a part of Watson's life; the strain of a long distance relationship broke the tenuous ties that had initially bound them together. Watson did not seem at all upset by the separation. He was not surprised. Sherlock had surmised early on that Andrew, though an intelligent and likable chap, did not have the depth of character that Watson needed.

Sherlock had also counseled Watson as to possible dangers in her evening's festivities, forwarded her the profiles of several less than savory members of the corporation's board who she should avoid if at all possible and reminded her should any necessity arise this evening he would be available to assist. Watson had characteristically ignored him, reminded him she was well trained in his methods but unlike Kitty, she expressed no concern for his well being. He consoled himself with the thought that Watson had been around him long enough to understand his nature and preferences.

Sherlock took in a long deep breath. Ah, yes. This was his happiness: an evening spent in the solitary pursuit of knowledge and justice. He took a sip of tea and listened; the percussive rhythm of the sleet and rain, punctuated by the occasional crackle of the fire, offset the solemn quiet of the house. Sherlock reached over to the crate that served as a table and placed his phone where it would be easily accessible should Watson or Kitty attempt to reach him. He shuffled through his files, searching for where he had left off.

The phone chimed: a severe winter storm warning issued.

Kitty was relatively safe where she was. Sherlock wondered about Watson. Perhaps he should text her and ... No. He stopped himself. As Watson herself had pointed, she was a grown woman, able to take care of herself. He glared off into a dark corner of the room. More tea was required. He stalked off towards the stairs, taking his phone with him.

The remainder of the evening was spent in quasi-serious attempts to get through the work he had assigned himself alternated with bouts of dark introspection and examination of every error in judgment he had made during the past year. Eventually Sherlock stretched out on the library's sofa and drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

He woke to the sound of the front door lock being picked. Sherlock swallowed a smile. He really needed to work with her on her method. He checked the time 12:15. The thought that perhaps something was amiss caused Sherlock to sit up. To be here now Watson must have missed the celebration of the new year's arrival.

After hanging her wet coat and umbrella in the foyer, she quietly entered the room. He quickly stood. They looked at each other in silence for a second.

"Everything alright? Is there a problem, Watson?"

Her expression betrayed her amusement at his immediate assumption that she would only choose to be here if she were in need of help. She wondered how little he thought of himself that he couldn't fathom the thought of someone seeking out his company just for the pleasure of it.

She suddenly felt self-conscious, perhaps this had not been the most well-thought out of decisions. "No. No problem. Just decided to drop by and say hi."

He looked at her confused, "Hi." The black silk of her dress shimmering in the light of the fire, mesmerized him. Sherlock felt a small rush of warmth which he dismissed as the effects of rising too quickly from a prone position. He realized he was staring. "You look cold. Sit by the fire. I'll get tea."

"What were you working on?" She picked up the files he had left on his chair.

"Cold case. The Stephens' disappearance. Remember that one..."

"Oh yeah...." She cut him off, opening the file as she sat. "There were some rather strange circumstances ..." Watson looked up at him, "You don't mind if I take a look?"

"Not at all." The warm feeling came over him again. He wondered if he might be getting sick.

The next few hours of the new year were spent contentedly in each other's company. At first the cold case dominated the conversation, but the discourse meandered onto topics as wide spread as recent biological discoveries in the Marianas Trench to the accessibility of healthcare to inner city children.

The new year's first morning found Joan on the sofa in one of Sherlock's sweaters and a pair of his sweatpants being awakened by the aroma of a just-made, sugar-dusted Dutch Apple pancake and freshly brewed coffee. Setting the tray on the ottoman, he beamed as he watched her stretch, open her eyes and sit up.

"Morning Watson," he bent down and handed her her cup. The look of pleasure on her face made him happy and before either thought enough to stop themselves, a small lingering kiss was exchanged.