“How exactly is this going to work then,” John asks skeptically. He settles back into his seat by the fireplace of 221B, cupping his hands around his mug of tea and breathing deeply. Steam rises around his face and a contented smile cracks his square jaw.
“It’s a simple construct, John. There is nothing I value more than data. Facts, John.” Sherlock flourishes a long, thin hand, then steeples his fingers together over his lap. He scans John with steel blue eyes. “In place of some appalling or imbecilic gift inflicted upon me in the name of tradition on Christmas day, I propose that you provide me with one previously unknown fact about you for each day leading up to Christmas.12 in total, John.”
“That’s a bit… unusual…” John cocks his head to the side as he considers it. Aside from blackmail, he can’t imagine why Sherlock would find some trivial facts about himself more appealing than any other gift. Then again, this is a man whose idea of ‘Christmas’ is a serial killing cabbie. Obviously traditional gifts are not suitable. John’s eyes flick to Sherlock and harden a bit. “But I suppose I won’t mind avoiding fighting the crowds and spending all my pay for some trinket I’ll find in our rubbish one week out,” John fixes Sherlock with a scornful look over his mug. Sherlock huffs and looks away.
Sherlock considers launching into another diatribe about how the incident with last year’s gift and an acidic compound had been completely accidental and, coincidentally, quite helpful in resolving that double murder case they’d been working on, but thinks better. John seems unmoved by logical arguments on this matter, probably due to some acceptation related to gifts and sentimentality.
“This seems a better solution for all parties,” Sherlock says haughtily.
“Mmm…12 things about myself that you don’t already know,” John considers staring into his mug. He thinks it can’t be terribly hard, after all he had a whole life prior to Sherlock Holmes that they never talk about.
John gives little more than a passing thought to Sherlock’s gift the next day as he goes about his work at the clinic. His work is the usual parade of mundane ailments; croup, thrush, two viral colds, a benign cyst, a follow up on a minor sprain, three routine physicals.
He takes his time heading home, chatting up a new nurse, Jane, for a bit before taking the tube.
He considers picking out a Christmas gift for Jeanette, but he’s not sure what she might like, so he stops at the market instead and picks up some tea, milk, biscuits and soup.
When he walks in the door of the flat, bags in hand, trying to shrug off his coat, he is initially shocked, then confused and at last recognizes how utterly unprepared he is for Sherlock’s intense investment in the ‘gift’ he is to provide daily.
The flat is utterly ransacked. Papers are strewn about, little cardboard diagrams of various buildings are constructed in painfully scaled detail next to piles of smashed Christmas ornaments separated by material, color and size of shards, with weapons and blunt objects of various makes laid out beside each pile. The faint smell of cigarette smoke lingers in the air.
It is clear to John that Sherlock’s need to distract himself had reached epic proportions today.
“Been experimenting, have we?” John’s voice struggles to hide his exasperation beneath good humor.
Sherlock looks up from his position sitting cross legged on the floor closely examining what remains of a ceramic santa. His face instantly lightens upon seeing John, his features flickering through relief to anticipation and excitement before he quickly schools it back to cool indifference.
“Data, John.” Sherlock says straightening himself and settling into the chair in front of the desk, his eyes fastened to the laptop. “It could prove crucial at some future date.” Sherlock’s face strains, corners of his eyes pinching and mouth tightening for a moment as he holds back the question he clearly wants to ask.
“Speaking of which,” John awkwardly continues Sherlock’s thought, feeling the other man might burst if made to wait much longer. He rounds the wall and takes the grocery bags into the kitchen. “I believe I was to share a fact about myself with you…”
Sherlock becomes more rigid, he continues to stare at the computer, stealing a glance at John once his back is turned. “Oh, yes… the gift… on with it then,” Sherlock’s voice embodies the most casual of interest.
John opens the fridge and groans. “Oh god, Sherlock, is this -” John stops, closes his eyes and shakes his head. “No. I don’t want to know.” He slams the door shut. He walks to the kitchen entry and points a finger at Sherlock. “Whatever that is needs to be out of there by Friday,” John states firmly. “We are having guests next week and I am not going to be responsible for giving our friends the bubonic plague.”
“Gerbils,” Sherlock states placidly. His face has an air of frustration.
“Gerbils started the bubonic plague, not rats. Those are rats, therefore your reference to the bubonic plague is faulty.”
“How about we keep all things that once were capable of walking out of the bloody fridge… for now… at least until after Christmas. Consider it your gift to me, Sherlock.”
Sherlock resists the urge to point out that by John’s criteria no roast or other meat will be permitted in the fridge either, but instead gives a slight nod of concession and waits for John to turn and walk back into the kitchen before calling, “Speaking of gifts there was the matter of yours…”
“Oh, yes,” John smiles. Having put the groceries away he sinks into his chair by the fireplace and reaches for the paper. More and more frustration is leaking into Sherlock’s expression as he watches John move agonizingly slow. “Yes, let’s see…” John finally says. “I used to play the clarinet… there you are.” John shakes out the newspaper.
Sherlock looks as if he is going to explode. His face contorts into something that appears as if he has been driven to madness by confusion.
“That’s absurd! That’s what you choose to share? Your selection of information for disclosure is as atrocious as your wardrobe. Why would anyone want to know that, John?” Sherlock’s voice is a full octave higher than his usual tone.
John shifts in his seat, glancing down at his gray cabled jumper. He considers it one of his better jumpers; understated but fitting well in the shoulders and arms. Jane had seemed to like it, running her eyes over his chest and shoulders repeatedly as if suddenly aware of the muscles beneath. Jeanette had said it brought out the blue of his eyes. But, of course, it fell far short of Sherlock’s tailored suits.
“I don’t know, Sherlock,” John responds calmly. “Honestly I don’t know why you even proposed this. What sort of data do you want?”
“Not that! An idiot could have figured that out, John. I certainly could have deduced that myself, had I cared to,” Sherlock pronounces with a level of irritation and disgust usually only reserved for interaction with Anderson or Mycroft. John quirks an eyebrow.
“Fine,”John’s patience is wearing a bit thin now, so his words are slow and deliberate in an effort to hold his temper at bay. “How about you ask me a question and I’ll tell you instead.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrow then his whole face snaps into a radiant smile. “Brilliant! That’s perfect. I’ll ask you the question, John.”
Sherlock’s fingers fly across the keyboard of the laptop as he begins researching, cataloging and ranking questions to form his list of 11. He practically vibrates with excitement.
‘Like a really good murder,’ John thinks to himself as he watches Sherlock warily. John shakes out his paper and clears his throat, hoping he is not going to regret this.
“I have question eleven. My question for today, John,” Sherlock says quietly. John lifts his eyes from his book. He is sitting across the room on the couch. It is mid-morning and as far as John can tell Sherlock has been at the desk in front of his laptop since before dawn. John has been getting increasingly uncomfortable over the last two hours as he feels Sherlock staring at him more and more frequently over top the laptop.
John can always feel when Sherlock is looking at him, like a slight shift in the air of the room.
“Alright then,” John says setting down the book. He is relieved that the silent staring is about to be over. “Have at it.” John leans forward and locks eyes on Sherlock.
Sherlock steeples his fingers together a moment, his eyes narrowing on John. “Describe for me your personality in your formative years.”
“You want to know what I was like when I was a lad?” John’s eyebrows raise. “I’m surprised you haven’t somehow deduced that already,” John says with a smirk.
Sherlock grumbles in frustration, “Yes, well Harry is not exactly forthcoming-”
“Might have something to do with the fact that she thinks you’re a rude and arrogant sod,” interjects John
Sherlock brushes aside John’s comment with a sweep of his hand. “Personality during childhood is foundational to one’s character later on in life. I require information, John.”
John smiles and sits back on the sofa his ankle on his knee and his arms on the back of the couch spread wide. He gazes off to his right. “Well, I was quiet… Mostly kept to myself… but athletic… Played a bit of rugby… Was what you might call a bookworm… Nothing like you of course, but I read quite a bit.”
“Athletic, moderately intelligent and mannered… I suppose you were popular with the girls,” Sherlock drawls.
John grins, managing to look both bashful and proud. He pulls at his ear a bit. “Some took to me well enough…” His face darkens. “But to be honest I wasn't… that interested… I had a lot going on… at home.” John scratches his eyebrow suddenly looking agitated.
John’s eyes meet Sherlock’s and they are hard, closed off. He gives a small shake of his head indicating Sherlock isn’t allowed to broach that subject.
Sherlock studies John, reading his body language with interest.
Spreading his body and limbs out on the couch, indicates trying to make himself look bigger, feeling threatened. Legs in classic four point cross indicates trying to protect self. Flush of cheeks indicates embarrassment, also anger. Set jaw supports anger. Brow furrowed indicates concern and emotional pain. Pinched eyes and slight turn of lips down indicates sadness and frustration.
Sherlock’s eyes slide back to his computer screen and he begins revising his list of questions
The cab rocks slowly down the streets of London, working its way back to Baker Street.
The case had sounded interesting initially, but it had taken Sherlock all of ten minutes looking around the room and at the body to deduce that the sister’s husband had done it. Now the consulting detective and his colleague (Friend? Flatmate? Partner? live in PA?) had little else to do with their day.
“Question ten. The best day you have had with me?”
John chuckles and looks out the window thoughtfully. “I’d say the first one had all the right kind of wrong to it… Crime scene… telling Mycroft to piss off… dinner… a good run through the streets and across the rooftops of London chasing after a serial killing cabbie…”
“Cured your limp,” Sherlock says with a smile.
“Yes, did do that… Shot a bad guy to save my idiot flatmate… tell off Mycroft again… dinner again.” John smiles. Sherlock smiles back. The silience turns oddly tense.
“You do seem to like dinner,” Sherlock observes.
“Mmm… not all of us can live like you, Sherlock… some people find it necessary… or even pleasurable… especially with the right company.”
Sherlock makes a contemplative sound in his throat. John looks at him puzzled, but Sherlock continues to look straight ahead.
“Nine. Trapped alone on a deserted island, what three things would you take?” Sherlock curls into his sitting chair facing John.
“Where do you get these questions, Sherlock?” John looks over his glass of brandy.
“What sort of websites?”
John's smile is devilish. His eyes sparkling with firelight.
“Are you going to answer the question, John?” Sherlock snaps, narrowing his eyes and pointing with his own glass.
“Yes, ok…” John sits back, stroking his chin. “A big sharp knife.”
“Not your gun?”
“Guns are only good for killing food or defending oneself, and only that for as many bullets as you have.”
“Logical.” Sherlock tips his head towards John in appreciation of a well-thoughout strategic move.
“My med kit.” Sherlock quirks an inquisitive eyebrow at John. “Assuming we can secure food and fresh water, we’re next most likely to die of some untreated injury or an infection. Plus, there are things in there that can be used for other purposes, like starting fires or treating water.”
“We? I said alone, John,” Sherlock says in a tone of exasperated reprimand.
“Three things... Knife. Med Kit and..." John pauses and tips his glass at Sherlock a moment, waiting for Sherlock to fill in the gap. When Sherlock just stares back at him with a furrowed brow, he makes a sound between a sigh and a laugh and rolls his eyed. His mouth quirks up into a crooked smirk."You.."
Sherlock freezes, unblinking and unmoving for at least two full minutes. Then he sucks in a sharp breath and blinks rapidly three times.
"So... you are... in fact... saying..."
"Well, of course the third thing would be you, Sherlock…" John's smile is warm and softened by the alcohol, but it manages to capture some exasperation at needing to say something so obvious. He shrugs as his face grows a little pinker. "I am going to need a genius to figure out a plan if I am ever going to get off that bloody island.”
Sherlock feels a flood of heat in several places at once. He stands up quickly and walks to his violin. He plays wild, erratic snaps of quick-paced music.
“Eight. Most embarrassing moment?”
“This might qualify,” John says looking flushed.
He’s just taken a bath and come up to his room to change. Having shed his housecoat to put on clothes, he suddenly feels, then hears, Sherlock in his doorway.
He stands there in nothing but his pants as Sherlock leans in the doorway, presumably waiting for a proper answer.
John can feel, as keenly as a light touch, the path of Sherlock’s eyes traveling over his flesh.
John snatches up his housecoat and slams the door.
“Seven. First thing you’d save if the flat caught fire?”
“You… Then the skull… I’ve grown fond of him.”
“Six. Biggest fear?”
John pauses for a long moment, looking at his hands. “Hurting someone I really care about, or not being able to save them.”
“How do you mean?”
“I’d rather not talk about it, Sherlock.” John stands up and walks briskly to his room.
That night Sherlock hears John having nightmares.
“Five. What can I do or say to make you do anything?”
“When do I ever not do what you ask of me, Sherlock?”
“Plenty of times.”
“Only when you are just asking because you’re being a lazy git… I do everything that’s important.”
Both men jump at the sudden sensual moan emitted from Sherlock’s phone; the sound of Irene Addler's text.
“Text message,” mutters Sherlock fishing it out of the pocket of his housecoat.
“Yes, I know,” replies John, rolling his eyes. John adds to the tally in his head.
“So…” Sherlock drawls, shoving the now silienced phone back in his pocket.
“I don’t know, Sherlock. You probably just need to ask… Saying please is also a good start… Don’t give me that face… Pleasantries go a long way.”
“Four. What part of your body would you change if you could?”
“Mmm… I could do with having some longer legs.”
“You’re legs are… nice… strong.” John smiles and tilts his head, looking a mixture of surprised and pleased.
“Yeah, well, if they were longer, it wouldn’t be so hard to keep up with you.“
There is silience for a moment.
“I expected you would choose…” Sherlock looks at John’s shoulder and tips his head a bit.
“My scar? No… I could do without the pain, but… the scar makes me who I am. I don’t think I’d be who I am… or where I am, without that.”
“I’d agree,” remarks Sherlock smiling to himself.
“Three. First kiss?”
John glances up at the mistletoe Mrs. Hudson has hung above the entry to the sitting room. He is not sure if Sherlock realizes he is standing under it or what standing beneath the plant typically means. John clears his throat and unconsciously wets his lips with a flick of his tounge.
“Guests will be here in about an hour. Maybe I should check if we have enough beer?” John glances towards the kitchen but doesn’t move.
“First kiss,” Sherlock repeats.
“Jane Kilgore. Age 12. Summer. In the woods behind her house.”
“Describe it.” Sherlock takes a small step towards John. John has to tip back to look up at him now.
“Messy,” John says with a laugh. “Neither of us knew what we were doing so it was just a lot of teeth and mashing noses - trying to figure out the right angles.” John stands there looking up at Sherlock, swaying a bit. He’s only had half a beer so far, so he isn’t sure why he feels so lightheaded.
The knock on the door makes John jump.
“Jeanette,” John breathes, immediately heading for the door.
Sherlock lets out an exasperated sigh.
“I didn’t think you’d want to do this today, what with her-”
John halts, looking Sherlock over carefully, trying to gauge his emotional state given the apparent murder of Irene.
“Two. What one part of my body would you change?”
John clears his throat. He looks Sherlock over slowly and his face flushes red. “I - I can’t think of anything I’d change about you,” John admits. He swallows hard. In the silience he feels Sherlock’s eyes on him.
“Maybe make your feet warmer so you aren’t always trying to shove them under me when I’m on the couch beside you,” John laughs.
“I thought you liked that.”
John turns a shade redder. He shrugs. “I’ve got nothing.” He goes back to reading his paper.
Sherlock stops and puts down his violin. “One. What do you want most in the world, John?”
John looks out the window at the falling snow. “I suppose I should say 'world peace' or something like that.”
“Don’t be absurd,” Sherlock grumbles.
“Yeah, you’re right… we’d be out of a job then,” John says dryly.
Sherlock smiles and they both share a small laugh.
John just stares at Sherlock. Sherlock tilts his head then his eyes flit around as he begins to analyze John. Sherlock stops on John’s eyes. Pupils dialated indicating intense attraction.
John watches Sherlock’s eyes go wide with realization. Sherlock takes a small step back looking alarmed.
John’s mind flicks back to the conversation between Mycroft and Sherlock at the palace. He smiles.
Apparently it does alarm him.
“Merry Christmas, Sherlock.” John looks back out the window.
He can feel Sherlock’s eyes watching him.