The first year Mary Watson invited Sherlock Holmes to the Watson family Christmas, he declined.
On the phone he’d given a stilted excuse about visiting his father in London, and Joan had repeated the same when she arrived on Mary’s doorstep Christmas Eve. Mary had hoped Joan might think a little higher of her ability to see through lies after raising two children, but she let it go. Sherlock was a grown man after all. He could spend his holidays however he liked. Even if that meant sitting in an empty house all by himself for three days.
What Mary didn’t like so much was the effect it had on Joan. She never let her phone out of her sight, and every time it buzzed Joan would whip it out to check it, even in mid-conversation. Every time Mary gave her a pointed stare about it, Joan just said Sherlock might need her help. Mary put a moratorium on phones during Christmas dinner itself, and Joan sent a glare her way that she hadn’t seen since her daughter was in high school.
When Mary prodded gently at Joan, wondering after her and Sherlock’s relationship, Joan shrugged her off, repeating that they were just co-workers; friends.
A mother knows when to let things go, so she did.
The second year Mary invited Sherlock to the Watson family Christmas, he said maybe instead of no, but he didn’t show anyway. She opened the door to Joan, who wore an expression of annoyance.
“No Sherlock?” Mary asked.
“Work,” Joan huffed.
Mary only nodded delicately and took Joan’s bags.
That Christmas, Joan ignored her phone. It was silent for a whole day, and when it finally buzzed from its position atop the coffee table, Joan crossed her arms, ignored it, and took more of an interest in It’s a Wonderful Life than she ever had before.
On Christmas morning, Mary presented a small, neatly wrapped present to Joan, and said it was for Sherlock.
“I was hoping he would be here to open it,” Mary said.
“Sherlock sometimes has a problem correctly prioritizing the things that are important to him,” was all Joan said in response, but she placed the gift to the side, next to the ones for herself from her mother and brother.
Mary patted Joan on the knee, and let the subject drop.
The third year Mary invited Sherlock to Christmas, he still didn’t come. But neither did Joan.
“He’s hurt,” Joan said. Joan’s voice was on a slight delay thanks to the cell phone she was using, and it made her daughter seem all that further away from her.
“What happened?” Mary asked. She jammed her phone between her ear and shoulder so she could finished preparing the turkey as she listened.
There was a sigh from the other end of the line. “He wouldn’t wait for backup from the police. I went to the back, he went to the front. The front was where the badguys were.”
Mary could hear the pain in Joan’s voice. “Will he be okay?”
“Yeah. He will. But he’ll be in the hospital a few days.” Joan paused. “I’m going to stay here with him.”
Mary nodded, even knowing Joan couldn’t see her through the phone. She felt a pang for Sherlock. Although he kept managing to avoid holidays at the Watson house, she’d met him several times. Mary liked him. He was good for Joan.
“You still there mom?”
“Yes,” Mary said, drawn out of her thoughts. “You stay with your - friend.”
“Mom,” Joan’s tone was one of warning.
“What? I didn’t say anything. Give him a kiss on the forehead from me. A kiss on the forehead makes everyone feel better.”
“Merry Christmas, mom.”
The fourth year Mary invited Sherlock to Christmas, he came.
When Mary answered the door, he came bustling inside, wearing a garishly bright green Christmas sweater adorned on the front with the ugliest looking rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer she’d ever seen. He grabbed her round the shoulders and kissed her on each cheek. He shook hands with Oren, and steered him to the couch where the two men immediately engaged in enthusiastic small talk.
Mary exchanged a look with her daughter after Sherlock’s whirlwind into the house. Joan just held up her hand in a don’t ask motion, so Mary didn’t.
The next two days were spent with Sherlock in an over the top good mood, and he delighted in helping Mary fix dinner and playing card games with Oren. Mary noticed that he barely looked at Joan, let alone said two words to her.
She cornered her daughter in the kitchen after dinner to ask what was going on. Mary Watson respected her adult daughter’s privacy, of course, but she wasn’t going to stand idly by while Joan was in pain.
“You’re sad, Joan. I see it on your face.”
Joan stole a glance towards the living room, and upon hearing Oren and Sherlock share a hearty laugh over something, relaxed slightly. “I’m not sad,” she said quietly. “Just... confused.”
“What happened between you and Sherlock? Fight?”
“I wish. We have lots of fights. Fights, I can handle.”
“So, what then?”
“He kissed me, mom.”
Mary sucked in a breath. “Ohh. I see.”
“Don’t say ohh, I see like that. Like you knew this was gonna happen.” Joan’s voice became a loud whisper. “Because I didn’t! We were just sitting there, in the backseat of the cab, and he said my name weird. Weirder than usual, so I turned to him, and he just - just did it! Planted one right on my lips. I couldn’t even move I was so surprised. I almost slapped him, to be honest.”
Mary gave Joan a sympathetic look.
“And afterwards,” Joan continued, “when I didn’t say anything, he just started apologizing. I told him it was fine. Just forget it. But you know Sherlock. He doesn’t forget anything.”
“It will work out, Joan. You both care about each other a lot.” Mary patted Joan on the shoulder comfortingly.
“Yes, we do, but not that kind of caring!”
“It seems that Sherlock does.”
Joan threw up her hands. “I don’t. I can’t! We work together.” She slumped down into a chair at the table. “This came out of nowhere.”
“Hmm. Did it?” Mary asked. She took the seat nearest Joan’s.
Joan focused her eyes on her mother. “What do you mean?”
“Back when I first met him. I thought I saw something there, between you two.”
“No. At least, I don’t think so.” Joan sighed. “Maybe. I don’t know! Sherlock... is the most amazing man I’ve ever met. I just don’t want to lose him because of this.”
Mary brushed the hair back from her daughter’s face, tucking it behind her ear. “You’ll figure it out.”
Joan just shook her head, defeated.
The next year, Mary didn’t have to invite Sherlock to Christmas at the Watson house. Joan preemptively called her mother and said they were both coming.
“Of course you’re coming together. I wouldn’t expect you to take separate cars.” Mary smiled into the phone. She could see Joan’s eyeroll in her mind’s eye.
“No, mom. Like. Together. We’re sort of trying out a relationship.”
“A relationship?” Mary repeated.
“Yeah,” Joan said. “A romantic one. It’s in the very early stages. So, please, don’t make a big deal out of it?”
“Oh,” Mary said, not really at all surprised. “Good, then I don’t have to make up two separate beds. Less work for me.”
“Mom!” Joan groaned.
When the pair showed up at Mary’s door a week later, Sherlock was subdued, and Joan embarrassed. They sat awkwardly next to each other on the couch. Each laughed a little too loudly when the other made a joke. They each stared at the other when the other wasn’t looking.
Mary knew her daughter, and she knew a man hadn’t reduced her to acting like an awkward teenager, since, well, since Joan was a teenager. She could tell they were the world to each other. Mary had already seen that, years before, when they were still just getting to know each other. She might not have approved of Sherlock back then, but what she thought mattered very little anymore. Joan was happy. Happier than she’d been in a long time. That was important.
Mary had warned her son not to make a big deal out of Sherlock and Joan’s relationship, but Oren was her brother and it was his job to tease her. Most of Christmas Eve was spent watching holiday themed movies with Oren cracking the occasional joke about Joan and Sherlock’s love life. Joan shut most of them down, and didn’t hesitate in dredging up details about Oren’s past girlfriends. Her children had always been good about giving as well as they got.
Eventually Oren grew tired and went to bed. Mary stepped out to the kitchen for a drink of water, and when she returned to the living room, found Joan and Sherlock kissing. Not just kissing, but making out. It was almost indecent.
Mary cleared her throat, and the two jumped apart guiltily. She smiled at them. “I think it’s past my bedtime. Goodnight, Joan. Sherlock.”
They murmured their goodnights and went back to watching the tv as Mary made her way up the stairs. Before her view of the couch was cut off, she glanced at the pair. They were grinning at each other.
Ah, young love, Mary thought.
It was the best Christmas present she had received in a long time.