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Gifts from the Heart

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Sherlock was, to put it mildly, annoyed. What was more, he was unable to do anything about the source of his annoyance, which only enhanced it.

Of course, he could storm out of there. That was technically an option, and one he would’ve gone for, but when he’d last tried that, Mycroft hadn’t taken it very well. He’d not only made sure Lestrade wasn’t given any cases for Sherlock to solve, he’d interfered with the work schedule at the clinic John worked at, ensuring that the doctor got less shifts.

That hadn’t gone down well at all with John, who’d been trying to get as many shifts in as possible to pay for something or other the brunet couldn’t be bothered with, and had sussed the reason he’d been cut in shifts rather quickly, a fact which had only made him angrier.

To have both residents of 221B agitated when there was no case to channel that anger into was a recipe for disaster, though, and they’d ended up not talking to each other for several days, beyond what was purely necessary.

Sherlock shouldn’t care about it. Normally, he would’ve relished the silence, free from the nattering and jabbering. Normally, or rather, previously. Now, though…

Now, that silence didn’t sit well with him. Not entirely, not when it was John who was giving him the silent treatment because he was mad at him. When that was the case, it bothered him, quite a lot more than he’d ever have thought.

He wanted John there, laughing, grumbling, complaining and chattering, as he should do. But he should do it with Sherlock, not on his own. They should do those sorts of things together.

Not that he’d ever admit that to his flatmate, though. Alright, so, he’d acknowledged that they were friends, and more than that, at least inside the depths of his own mind, too. It had taken him quite a while of working out that was what it was, some of it spent in abject denial of the fact, but eventually, he’d arrived at the conclusion. By this point, several months later, he could even say it no longer bothered him. Quite the opposite.

But though he knew he was hardly an expert in how friendship was supposed to work, he figured it wouldn’t go down well admitting to feeling anything else. John wasn’t that kind of bloke, for one thing, and even if he was, he was of the opinion that Sherlock didn’t do relationships. Didn’t do feelings, really, at least not when it came to other people.

Honestly, though, if he could accept that Sherlock considered him a friend – his only friend, a fact which ought to tell him something on its own, surely – why should it be so difficult to accept more than that?

John was so very adamant that he wasn’t gay, though, and would therefore hardly come to that conclusion on his own. Add to that the risk of losing John as a friend if he did admit anything, and Sherlock was decidedly biased against it.

Regardless, it hurt to have John not acknowledge him for days. So, to avoid that, or even greater retribution from his brother, he stayed put, and to be on the safe side, didn’t even mess around with anything. That didn’t mean he had to look pleased to be there.

Eventually, Mycroft bothered to show up, the tapping of his brogues against the floor sounding odd without the accompanying counter-tap of the umbrella.

“So nice of you to spare the time, little brother,” he said casually as he sat down.

Sherlock sneered lightly. “Always easier to spare time when you don’t have to fit in an endless chain of tea breaks. Or rather, cake and tea breaks.”

Mycroft fixed him with an exasperated look. “Must you take every possible opportunity to be childishly petty?”

“When you’re determined to lord the defect of your earlier birth over me at every possible opportunity, then yes. One bad turn deserves another.”

The elder Holmes sighed. “I did not call you here to squabble, Sherlock.”

The brunet looked towards the ceiling then back, his eyebrows raised. “Is that what you term it now? Kidnapping people is calling them?”

Mycroft’s mouth pinched in irritation. “Enough. I am taking out precious time –

“I didn’t ask you to.”

“No, and that is why I am taking that time.”

“Get to the point.”

“You are aware of the time of year?” He only got a blank expression. “It’s the middle of December.”

“And what has the month or even the date got to do with anything? Surely you haven’t brought me here to command that I get into the ‘spirit of the season’? You cannot be serious.”

Mycroft didn’t answer for a moment. Instead, he rested his elbows on the desk between them and steepled his fingers. “Your…friend believes in the spirit of the season.”

The slight non-sequitur didn’t throw Sherlock. “John? Yes, of course he does. He’s the epitome of ‘normal’, after all. The best thing to be said about that is that his jumpers go up in tolerability around this time.”

Quite a lot, really. One might even think someone else had bought them for him, as they fitted in a way that his regular jumpers didn’t. In any case, Sherlock certainly wasn’t complaining.

He leaned back. “I fail to see the connection.”

Another sigh. “Then let me spell it out for you. John has bought you a Christmas present.”

Sherlock paused, frowning in incomprehension. It wouldn’t be the first time he had but he never expected Sherlock to reciprocate, or at least so he’d said. As he didn’t know when the detective’s birthday was, he was just glad to have some date on which he could give presents without it being too awkward. Not that he’d said that out loud, of course. That would hardly tally with expectations, would it?

“More specifically, this year he has bought you a rather more special present, one which he needed that extra cash from those shifts for.”

“Checked his bank account movements? That’s not even an inventive way to snoop.” Despite the calmness of his words, Sherlock’s heart did an odd sort of flip. Why would John do that?

Mycroft ignored the comment. “What do you plan to give him?”

Sherlock blinked. “What business is that of yours?”

“In other words, you weren’t planning on giving him anything. Do you really think that is going to go down well?”

“I am not responsible for what other people take it into their heads to do,” the younger Holmes snapped back, “and that includes John. If he wants to spend his money on that, that is his business.”

“Sherlock, you cannot be that dense,” Mycroft said and there was a harshness in his words now. “Why would anyone choose to spend extra money on someone like that? He hasn’t spent anywhere near as long getting just the right thing for anyone else.”

Sherlock was about to snap something back. Then the words and implications sank in and he paused.

Oh? Oh. Oh.

His eyes widened slightly in realisation.

He looked at his brother, his eyes narrowing again. If Mycroft had worked that out, he had surely also…

 “Why are you pointing all of this out? I thought you held to quite the opposite view on things such as sentiment and don’t tire me with some nonsense about the season. Why are you attempting to help me, quite unprovoked, I might add?”

There was no answer for several long moments, during which the ginger man just regarded his younger brother over the top of his laced fingers.

“Because John Watson is good for you, brother dear,” he said eventually. “You might not want to admit it, and he seems to be almost suspiciously blind to all of that, especially that pleading puppy-dog look you fix him with whenever you think you’re safe to look, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world can’t see it.”

“I don’t look like a pleading puppy!” Sherlock protested, offended by the suggestion and, admittedly, also a little alarmed that he might have been that obvious.

Not that he expected the people around him to suddenly have developed any observational skill beyond their usual comments and Mycroft could, of course, just be attempting to goad him for the sake of it, but still.

“Lost puppy, then.” He waved his hand briefly in a dismissive gesture. “Whatever the case, you’re attached to him and it seems to be rather beneficial to you. It would be…undesirable to have him leave you, for several reasons, and now that he seems to have overcome his…hang-ups enough to purchase something special for you, there is a risk that a rejection could prove detrimental to a point where he’ll no longer wish to be part of your life.”

Sherlock could easily piece together what Mycroft wasn’t saying; John was laying his heart bare through some sort of special gift – which would still be something practical, knowing John, but practical of the best quality he could think of – and to have Sherlock not give him anything in return could easily be construed as rejection. His heart clenched unpleasantly at the mere thought.

There was one, thing, though.

“Technically speaking, I am not supposed to know that he’s bought me anything. That’s part of the point of presents, I believe. So how can I possibly let him down by not buying him anything? He knows from experience that I do not buy presents.”

Mycroft gave a beleaguered sigh. “Hope is quite a different beast than pure knowledge. Besides, you’re the great Sherlock Holmes, master of the deduction. Shouldn’t you be able to deduce all of this on your own? If you cared enough to pick up the clues that he’s leaving out, of course.”

Sherlock’s lip curled. “Don’t try to throw my own words back at me, Mycroft. It’s beyond tedious.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of doing that. I am merely outlining the destination the road you’re currently treading will culminate in. Whether you choose to adhere to that path or change it is entirely up to you.”

He stood up, his hands on the desk. “Now, you really must excuse me. There’s a car waiting for you to take you home. Oh, and Mummy expects us both for Boxing Day, at the very least.”

Sherlock didn’t answer, merely let out a huff, and the older Holmes walked all the way to the door, where he briefly stopped and turned his head.

“I will not say this again. I want to see you happy and John makes you happier than I can recall you being. Do not waste this opportunity.”

With that, he walked out, the door closing behind him.

 


 

“So, what did Mycroft want?”

Sherlock looked up at John from his position sprawled over his armchair. “Hm?”

“You have this particular expression that you only get when you’ve had to deal with your brother. Besides, I saw one of his cars drop you off earlier. So, what did he want? Not a case, I’m guessing, because that would provoke more of a reaction from you, one way or the other.”

Sherlock felt a pang of pride in his doctor for his deductions, relatively straightforward though they were. He could learn, then.

That didn’t mean he wanted to divulge the reason, of course. He was still trying to work through the unexpected amount of feelings that his forced visit to Mycroft’s had engendered as well as what he wanted to do about it, and besides, telling John before he was absolutely certain of everything, that was bound to backfire, likely quite spectacularly so. Especially if John thought he’d known about it all along and was just laying him bare for the mockery.

The worst of it was, Mycroft had a point. If John had spent that much time and money on getting something special for Sherlock for Christmas, it could very well be that he wanted to take their relationship a step further. After all, that was what he did for his girlfriends, wasn’t it? Went out of his way to do something special for them.

No, wait, that wasn’t right. He’d often as not prioritized Sherlock over any of them, admittedly helped along somewhat, and they were just friends. His friendship to the consulting detective must have meant more than his romantic relationships, which threw the idea of him doing special things for Sherlock because of romantic feelings right out the window. Or had John’s feelings gone that far back? Was it a mix between the two or something altogether different? How would he know?

For once in his life, Sherlock resented his lack of knowledge when it came to things like sentiment. Or at least, when it came to his own, where he could no longer manage to separate himself from it and look at it without any emotion.

“Sherlock? Anyone still in there or did you take a walkabout again?”

Unaware that he’d closed them, the brunet opened his eyes and found his flatmate looking at him with that fondly exasperated look that was so very John and yet, it only surfaced when he looked at Sherlock. The knowledge made his heart do a small bound and the half-smile didn’t exactly detract, either.

Strange how being aware that John might harbour feelings in turn made it so much harder to ignore his own and his reactions to the small things the doctor did.

“Hm? What were you saying?”

The smile grew and caused another jump and skip for Sherlock’s heart. “Your brother. What did he want?”

“Tell me to remember that Mummy’s expecting me to be there for Boxing Day.” Well, that wasn’t lying, at least, or not completely. Just a bit of omission.

“What, really? What did you do the last time she invited you to make your brother drag you all the way to remind you in person?”

Oh, John, you wonderful man.

He didn’t answer verbally. Instead, he just raised an eyebrow and smirked slightly.

John laughed and shook his head. He then walked back towards the kitchen. “I’ll see whether they have any shifts to fill that day, then.”

Frowning, Sherlock sat up more fully. “Why on earth would you do that?”

John turned to look at the other. He was sipping at his tea as he did so, his eyebrows raised. “Because we do actually need money to live and if you’re going to be spending Boxing Day with your family, then I might as well take a shift that’s going to pay – “

He stopped when Sherlock snorted loudly.

“Of course, I’m not going, don’t be ridiculous. Whenever have you seen either me or Mycroft bother with anything family related?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” John said, taking another sip. “You seem to have the petty sibling squabbling down pat.”

Sherlock opened his mouth to argue but then saw the smile just above the mug, almost challenging, certainly daring. He quickly shut it again. He wasn’t going to give into that.

As he watched John putter around the flat, doing whatever small thing came into his mind that would fill a day off, Sherlock retreated at least somewhat back into his Mind Palace to take a closer look at the problem.

Did he want to take this further? Well, that was a stupid question and not just because it was rhetorical.

The proper question was, how was he going to pull it off to a satisfactory conclusion? Was there something to Mycroft’s idea of purchasing a present of equal importance to show that the care – careful about the word ‘love’ – was reciprocated in a way that wouldn’t be awkward? Or would it rather be taken as though John thought Sherlock believed the caring should be quantifiable? That that was how proper friendship worked?

He didn’t know. It could be, or it couldn’t. It was difficult to know on its own and when you factored in John’s ability to be unpredictable at the oddest of times, it became almost impossible.

What would he risk, though? Perhaps that was the more pertinent question. What had he to lose, either by buying a present or by not buying one?

The first one was, once he thought about it, relatively easy to answer. It was very unlikely to imagine that John would take it too negatively or even the wrong way and it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be solved with a short, more or less true, explanation. The doctor was always easier to convince when Sherlock gave into sentiment, whether forced or, though he didn’t say it out loud, entirely genuine.

The latter, though, that was far more muddled and none of the possibilities that formed that muddle were pleasant to comprehend.

Wouldn’t John just shrug it off like he did so many others of the detective’s ‘quirks’, though? No, he wouldn’t, of course he wouldn’t. He’d been over that before, and even the possibility that it might backfire gave him a sick feeling in his stomach and a sour taste in his mouth.

So…present giving it was, then.

What would be appropriate, though? Obviously, it should match the gift that the blond had found for him, to show that the feelings were, indeed, wanted and reciprocated, but match in what way? In scale? Quality? Effort? Expense?

John wasn’t one to spend money needlessly, given how often he was annoyed with what he called Sherlock’s ‘bloody spend-thrift ways’ – which was, of course, completely unfair and overly dramatic. So, to have him fitted with a tailormade suit that was designed to follow his every good contour was only going to make him cross with the brunet, to put it mildly.

His mind, quite unhelpfully, threw up an image of just what John might look like in a fitted, perhaps very fitted, Saville Row suit. A rather detailed image, too, with –

He exited his palace suddenly, which was just as well, and managed to shift in his seat to…adjust a little before anything became too obvious.

Well, that was decidedly out as an option, then, and not just because John would balk at the entire thing long before a tape measure was required.

What, then? What could he possibly find to give his doctor that would be a gift of equal importance? Not mere expenditure but something that was understood with the same importance as…

His thought halted as another barged into it, taking centre stage.

That was another thing. How could he measure up if he didn’t know what John had bought for him?

A part of his brain piped up to inform him that that wasn’t how it worked, an eye for an eye, but he quickly dismissed it. it wasn’t as though he was going to make a one to one, he just wanted to make sure that what he gave was…worthy of what John had bought for him. Yes, that was it. That was definitely the reason.

He sat up properly in his chair, mostly so that he could better turn and watch his flatmate, his eyes slightly narrowed.

What?” John asked after noticing the scrutiny he was under as he sat at the living room table, working his way through something or other. He didn’t seem annoyed, though, or put off by it.

Wonderful John.

“Nothing.”

“Sherlock, you’re deducing me, don’t lie.”

“I’m not.” He wasn’t. At least, he wasn’t deducing John. Deducing what he’d bought wasn’t the same thing, was it? Hardly.

John shook his head after a moment. “Fine. Whatever you say. Got any cases on that you haven’t told me about? Or any cases at all?”

“No.”

“Hm.” John stretched, groaning slightly as he did so, and Sherlock took a moment to appreciate how the jumper rose as he did. Not that he could see anything, what with the shirt underneath, but it was somewhat more fitted than the jumper and the curve of the stretch brought that fit into more prominence.

“Oi! Earth to lanky git!”

Sherlock frowned, blinking. “What?” he more or less snapped.

“Good grief, you really are out of it today, aren’t you?” John said, his voice only mildly teasing. Most of it was concerned as was his expression. “You sure Mycroft didn’t put something in your tea?”

“Never drink or eat anything at his place. Don’t want to get infected.”

The doctor’s brow had only started to knit when he caught on and he grinned instead. The brunet smiled back.

“Well, whatever the case, you’re staying in for the night. No experiments, no deductions. Just some leftover takeaway and TV, for the both of us.”

Sherlock made a face. “You really don’t care, after all,” he sniffed.

John’s own face contorted oddly at that. “What makes you say that?” he asked, voice suddenly neutral.

My brain will turn to utter mush if I have to endure that for an entire evening,” the detective said, noting the odd reaction but choosing not to comment on it. “Please, John, that’s just too cruel. Have some compassion.”

“I do, that’s the problem,” John replied, but he was smiling again, even if it was only slightly. “It’s either that or going to the Yard’s Christmas bash. Your choice.”

A shudder ran through Sherlock and he grimaced, which caused the blond to laugh.

“Didn’t think so. Don’t worry, we’ll stay in. I think I’ve found something that you’ll love – or love tearing to pieces, anyway.”

 


 

As they settled in, Sherlock mulled over a small piece of information, something that suddenly held a meaning it hadn’t before; John’s comment on the Yard’s Christmas bash had reminded him of the time.

Halfway through December. That meant more than halfway to Christmas. Of course, it did, but that meant that he didn’t have very long to work things out. Not so much the discovery of what John had bought – and he firmly pushed the notion that he wasn’t supposed to know out of his head, as he’d been able to deduce presents for ages – that wouldn’t take long. It was more working out what would be ideal for his doctor and acquiring that particular thing.

Surely Mycroft could pull some strings, if it was something that needed to arrive fast, though? After all, he’d helped him in the first place, hadn’t he? if he truly didn’t want Sherlock to, what was the colloquial? balls it up with John, then he shouldn’t be too difficult to convince to take him that final step. If need be, of course. Only then.

The finding of the gift was up to Sherlock, though, and not just because he didn’t want his brother sticking his fat nose into that. Mycroft had a rather…limited imagination when it came to gifts and it’d be beyond obvious that he had bought the gift, not Sherlock.

Besides, half of caring was showing that you did, wasn’t it? Through objects and gestures and all those other little tedious things that the mundane masses put so much focus on.

Not like you have the moral high ground on that right now, though, is it?

He scowled slightly then pushed it out of his mind. He then threw himself into what they were watching, determined to make John at the very least chuckle at Sherlock tearing the episode to pieces.

 


 

He couldn’t work out what John had gotten him for Christmas. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t made the effort to either discover or deduce it, but try as he might, he hadn’t gotten any significantly closer to it.

Oh, he’d had plenty of ideas but had dismissed them just as quickly. It wouldn’t be a microscope, as there was nothing wrong with the one he already had, and John wouldn’t spend money unnecessarily. Other experiment-related things would hardly be considered proper for the purpose either, and there was no chance he’d spend the money on clothes that Sherlock would actually wear.

It could of course be a book, which would at least align with something that Sherlock would like to get, but that again didn’t fit with the importance of the occasion. You didn’t get what was meant to go on a shelf, and in this house, it was more likely to go in a stack somewhere around the living room, as something that was supposed to show what the recipient meant to the sender.

That was really where it all ran aground, wasn’t it? Anything that Sherlock could think of that it was conceivable that John would realistically buy for him, anything that would fit within John’s thinking didn’t match up with the importance of the present.

Of course, it didn’t have to fit in with John’s normal thinking, he realized suddenly. If he went by that logic exclusively, he missed part of what made John, well, John; utter normality hiding an exceedingly more complex tapestry underneath.

That wasn’t helpful, though. Not at all. Frustrating but not helpful.

So, for the time being, instead of focusing on something that didn’t bring him anywhere and only made John suspicious, as he wasn’t quite as stupid as the consulting detective liked to pretend, he turned to what he might give John in turn. There wasn’t a lot of time to spare, after all.

That wasn’t a whole lot easier, however, which only served to frustrate him further.

At first, once he’d discarded the more extravagant and expensive options, he had contemplated some of the more…what he might call mundane and what John would think of as practical. Something for the flat, maybe? No, that wouldn’t work, at least not to communicate the appropriate feelings. That went for all the other ideas he could think of and so out they went, each one leaving behind more frustration in its wake.

It should have been easy. He was the world’s only consulting detective, for crying out loud, it ought to be a doddle. He knew John, knew him better than anyone. Didn’t he?

He involuntarily swallowed at that thought. If he didn’t know him as well as he thought, then he might get the present wrong. If he got the present wrong, then John might realize just how unsuited Sherlock really was to be his friend, much less a romantic partner. Then, there was the distinct risk, though he couldn’t bring himself to calculate just how big that risk was, that John would leave.

He had to swallow again to get rid of the lump swelling in his throat.

No, that wasn’t going to happen. He would find the perfect gift to communicate his feelings for John. He would!

 


 

When only a week to Christmas remained and he was still without a present or even a sufficient idea for one, he took to drastic measures.

It wasn’t to call up Mycroft. He wasn’t quite that desperate yet, or at least, so he told himself. Instead, he planned to have a rummage through John’s things. He told himself it was in an effort to discover something about him or his past that would give him the needed clue.

It certainly wasn’t in any way to try and find the thing that John had bought for him. Of course, it wasn’t. Most decidedly not.

That he might end up just…stumbling across it in his search, that was a completely different matter, obviously.

So, he waited for John to leave for one of his tedious extra shifts, feigning a keen interest in whatever slide he’d had underneath the microscope, just so John wouldn’t suspect anything. The doctor still stopped to regard the detective in what could only be called a speculative and possibly assessing manner.

Sherlock didn’t acknowledge it. If he did, John might stay and right now, he was rather keen on getting him out of the house as soon as possible.

“Leaving now, Sherlock. Remember Mrs. H is expecting the both of us downstairs this evening.”

He got no answer. John waited a moment longer then shook his head and huffed a small, slightly exasperated laugh.

Once he was out of the door, and enough time had been allowed for him to forget something and come back for it, Sherlock rose from his seat, abandoned the slide and rushed upstairs.

It wasn’t as though he hadn’t been up in John’s room before but that had either been quickly and abruptly halted by the man himself or he’d been shouted at when John had found something out of place. Granted, that had usually taken a while but most of the time, Sherlock had been found out.

In any case, he’d relied more on what he could find out about John on his own. To look through his things…it wasn’t cheating, he wasn’t above cheating. What it wasn’t was fun.

Right now, though, there were more pressing things.

Where to look, though? it was hardly an overly stuffed room but there had to be something there. Under the bed, perhaps? No, that was too obvious…but perhaps still worth a shot. He did have some time to spare to sort through it properly without the risk of being found out.

Taking extra care to remember where everything was when he started, he began to reconnoitre.

 


 

“You’ve been into my room.”

Sherlock didn’t flinch or anything of the like, though he did offer up a small, internal curse. How had he been found out? Everything had been put back in its proper place, he knew it. Even when his frustration over not finding anything grew, he had managed not to throw anything and place them where he’d found them.

“What on earth would I ever do that for?” he asked, looking up from his seated position with the most nonchalantly innocent expression he could muster.

John wasn’t buying it, though. “Oh, listening, are you? That’s something. But don’t bloody well lie to me. I can tell that you have.” Oddly, he didn’t sound angry, despite what the wording would imply.

He leaned closer so that he was right beside the taller man, speaking almost directly into his ear. “You might think you’ve put everything back where you’ve found it, which is an improvement, I suppose, but next time, you might want to not leave a great big dent in the made bed.”

Sherlock blinked, frowning, and John grinned, even as he obviously tried to keep the serious façade. The mulled wine he’d indulged in down at Mrs. Hudson’s had managed to make him good-humoured instead of brooding. “Did you do that when you were a kid, too, or have you deleted that?”

“Did what?” Sherlock asked, now thoroughly nonplussed and blushing slightly at the proximity of the man he’d fallen for.

That was…different. Was the wine also affecting him? He’d only had a single glass, though their landlady had rather spiced it up with whatever had been left in her cupboards, but he decided it must have done something. When was the last time he’d genuinely blushed? It had to be the wine.

“Try to find the presents before time? You must have.”

“Can’t remember,” he answered, torn between leaning closer and jolting away. “Probably deleted it, yes. How is this relevant?”

He was rather glad that John didn’t seem too angry at what he’d done, and truth be told, he wasn’t that far off, was he? It had been the tangential target, but he had wanted to find his present. He hadn’t found it, of course, but that was another matter.

“Apart from just trying to get to know you a little bit better? It’s not. Come on, there must be some Christmas memories that you haven’t deleted.”

“None that would fit your criteria for what constitutes a ‘proper Christmas’, no,” he said, settling back into his chair with the book he’d been pretending to read. “Sorry to disappoint.”

John wasn’t to be deterred, though; he sat himself down in his own chair, on the edge so that he was still rather close to his flatmate, keeping eye contact. The look in his eye was soft and…not quite teasing but something like mischievous.

“What, you mean like having a flaming row just after Christmas dinner? Or having one of your presents chucked out the window because your sister was drunk, jealous of something or other and determined to take it out on you? Rushing your aunt to hospital because she fell asleep in the pudding and accidentally set fire to her hair?”

He chuckled at the expression on Sherlock’s face, his own friendly face’s expression becoming even softer. “What, you really thought my childhood Christmases were something out of a Selfridges window? For all your intelligence, you treat normal with quite the broad brush that never really gets the nuances.”

The only thing Sherlock could think to say in the circumstances, while firmly doing his best to ignore his stuttering heart, rapid blinking and burning cheeks, were, “Your mom had better taste than mine.”

The chuckle became a soft laugh. “Not enough to not want to shop at Selfridges. Couldn’t afford to, most of the time, but that’s…oi, don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing.”

“What?”

“You’re trying to wriggle out of telling me embarrassing Christmas memories and,” he pointed a finger, “It’s not working. I demand you confess!”

“It’s a set-up, innit? On my ‘onour, gov, I ain’t done nuthin’!” Sherlock cried, holding his hands up and employing his best mask of innocence.

They held the scene for about twenty seconds before they both started to giggle.

Once they’d managed to stop, Sherlock obliged John’s demand and somehow managed to dredge up a story about Mycroft having a fit when he found he wasn’t to get any pudding that year and he’d swapped uncle Rudy his portion for information on the college dean, who had inappropriate ties to Whitechapel. How the ornament, the mince pie and the cracker had ended up being involved, he couldn’t remember.

Somehow, despite how halting and, quite frankly, uninterestingly Sherlock himself felt he told it, John was smiling and chuckling throughout. Again, the brunet partially blamed the wine. He could admit to himself, though, that he quite liked the thought that John could be so interested when he wasn’t showing off but merely relaying a story he was amazed he hadn’t deleted. More than quite liked, really.

After that, John told of Harry deciding to bring her girlfriend home for one Christmas and the girlfriend hitting on their mom, with the closing comment that he’d never seen such imaginative use of a turkey carcass before.

Eventually, they fell asleep in their chairs. Or rather, John fell asleep while Sherlock sat and contemplated. It was mostly contemplating how John looked asleep, however, the lines smoothing out to de-age him somewhat and giving him a more vulnerable appearance that was extremely endearing.

He deserved to get something that was worthy of him, someone who was worthy of him.

 


 

Though it didn’t exactly make him much wiser when it came to what John should get for Christmas, Sherlock found that he treasured that time. Moreover, there was something that he’d learned.

John didn’t care for everything traditionally associated with Christmas. At least, he didn’t care for it based purely on the fact that it was Christmas-related. What was relevant about that wasn’t so much the picking and choosing itself as it showcased he could see the significance and importance of things not traditionally considered, including gifts.

Or at least, so Sherlock told himself. If he had to be honest with himself, though, he’d admit that it was at least partway an attempt to give himself more options.

Not that it helped much.

The problem was that what John would like wouldn’t hold the required significance and what would, at least in Sherlock’s opinion, wouldn’t be something that the blond would ever think to use. John didn’t put that much significance in common objects, at least nothing that Sherlock could observe and find.

 


 

Lestrade laughed.

It was good-natured, warm and had likely more to do with the ridiculousness and humour of the situation than with the person asking the question. Nevertheless, Sherlock fought not to bridle when it was the first reaction to what he’d said or rather, asked.

He’d only asked the man because he was another normal bloke and therefore might have an insight that Sherlock could never gain, and beyond that, he was desperate; there was no more than a few days to go and he was no closer.

Not that he’d informed Lestrade of that, of course, instead having framed it as though he’d only just thought of it. He would never hear the end of it if anyone from the Yard learned that Sherlock Holmes had trouble deducing his own flatmate well enough to find him the perfect gift. That was quite apart from the disbelief and derision he’d endure for caving to sentiment, which he’d so often and publicly scoffed at.

“If you can’t be serious,” he began to say and, admittedly, he did sound somewhat annoyed when he said it.

“Sorry, sorry!” Lestrade said through the remnants of laughter before he managed to rein himself in. “It’s just…that was about the last thing I would have expected it to be about when I saw it was you calling. But of course, I can be serious when – “ He stopped sharply. “Wait, hang on, is there something that I need to know?”

“Can’t imagine what that would be,” Sherlock replied evasively, masking it with mild haughty disdain. “Now, are you going to help me or not?”

“Yeah, sure. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Give me a moment, though. Hm…”

Through the pause where Lestrade thought it over, Sherlock had the strong urge to just end the call and pretend he’d never phoned the inspector in the first place. It felt like admitting defeat, though granted, it wasn’t as strong as it would have been had it been Mycroft he’d called. As if he would. At least, not unless every single other option had been tried and failed, and even then…

“Hey, Sherlock?”

“Yes, what?”

Lestrade didn’t react to the snap. “You’d started mumbling there, wasn’t sure whether you were still there.”

“Evidently, I was, if I was indeed ‘mumbling’.”

 “Sherlock, are you alright? You seem rather on edge.”

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Perfectly fine. Get on with it.”

“Alright, alright, easy there, keep your hair on.” The detective inspector didn’t sound convinced at all but didn’t push the issue. I don’t know for sure, really, Sherlock. No, wait, haven’t finished yet. He’s not…not quite a normal bloke, you know. Well, he is, mostly but then there’s that odd feeling you get sometimes when he looks at you and, for just a second, you see something else in there, something very much…oh, I don’t know, not odd, but…different.”

Sherlock was torn between a curt comment on how John was of course different and a comment somewhat commending Lestrade on actually picking up on that, in the spirit of the season. Before he could voice anything, though, Lestrade continued.

“My point is, I don’t know whether this is helpful or not but...perhaps something grooming related? Not creams or perfumes, obviously, but one of those shaving kits? He’s always shaven when I see him, no matter the hour. Don’t know, though, just a thought. Or perhaps a quality waxed jacket? You’re always dragging him all over the place, he might appreciate something more hardwearing.”

Sherlock paused to do a quick mental inventory of John’s wardrobe. “He’s already got a waxed jacket.”

“Not of the quality you’d buy, probably. But really, I wouldn’t know…shit, this isn’t much help, is it?”

“Not really, no.” He sighed. “Never mind, Lestrade. I’ll think of something else.”

“Sherlock…”

“No, really, it’s fine. Worth a shot, but it doesn’t matter.”

“Oi, would you shut up and listen?” The unexpected strength did shut the brunet up for the moment. “Good. What I wanted to say was – neither of you are exactly normal, are you? That’s what works about you two, especially as a…a team.” It felt as though that wasn’t what he’d meant to say but Sherlock didn’t push it. “But perhaps you shouldn’t think so much of what he would like to get but more, what would you like to give to him?”

“Yes, thank you, that’s extraordinarily helpful, that.”

“I wasn’t finished. Find him something that’s you, something that only you could possibly give, that would have meaning to both of you and nobody else.”

Sherlock was about make a salty comment about the cloying sentimentality but then some much more sensible part of his brain butted in to inform him that that was actually a very fair comment. Moreover, it was a useful comment.

“That’s…yes, that’s not a bad idea. Thank you.”

Lestrade chuckled. “A half-hearted compliment from you is more than I’d have expected. You’re welcome. Say hello to John for me and merry Christmas!”

“Yes. Quite…and likewise.”

“Oh, and Sherlock?”

“Yes?”

“Good luck with…you know.”

“…thank you.”

With that, he ended the call, frowning in thought at he stared up at the ceiling from his supine position on the sofa.

Lestrade didn’t know it but it was actually a quite a bit more than a ‘not bad idea’. In fact, it was just the sort of push that he had needed.

What could he give John that only Sherlock could provide? Something that would be special, just for John, that he’d accept and understand?

And it hit him like a freight train barrelling into the station at full speed.

It was simple, really, very clear.

He shot up from the sofa, grateful that he was alone; the doctor had gone out to get supplies and…other things, as he’d put it, which was ridiculous. As though Sherlock hadn’t already worked out that the reason he hadn’t been able to find the present John had been because the blond hadn’t brought it home yet, keeping it with someone so that he didn’t risk Sherlock finding it.

It didn’t matter right now, though. To be honest, the present John was getting him wasn’t that important in itself, as just an object. What was important was what was behind it. Hopefully.

The thought that had been nagging at the back of his mind ever since Mycroft had made him aware of John’s intention chose that moment to resurface and squeeze his heart most unpleasantly.

What if Mycroft had gotten it wrong? John could have spent time finding him a present for any number of reasons, none of which meant that he wanted to take their relationship any further than what they already had. If Sherlock put himself out there with the gift that he’d just gotten the idea for and turned out to be wrong…then it would be difficult to the point of impossible for the consulting detective to downplay his gift.

If he messed it up, one way or the other…would he lose John? His throat constricted at the mere thought.

No, he wouldn’t. Not if he was earnest…no, that wasn’t right. But John was…John. He had forgiven him so much over the years, some of which no one else would ever have considered. They could move past it, right?

Sherlock stopped pacing, which he hadn’t been aware he’d been doing, as he realized something else, with a mixture of relief and utter dread. He couldn’t go back. No matter the outcome, he wanted to let John know how he felt.

Have you gone stark raving mad? Do you really want to lose the most important person in your life right now, possibly in your life period, just because you’ve been stupid enough to develop bloody feelings for the man?

No, he didn’t want to lose him, of course he didn’t. That was the last thing he wanted. But John wasn’t going to remain a bachelor forever, happy to spend his days with his mad flatmate and his cases and whatever fleeting dates he could find. He didn’t deserve to be alone.

Well, he isn’t alone as it stands, is he?

“Shut up,” he mumbled out loud, annoyed with the chaos of his thoughts.

The point was, the status quo wouldn’t remain that way for long, whatever Sherlock did. He knew that, had always known it, much as he didn’t like to admit it. So, wasn’t it better to get it out in the open, at least, and show John that if he wanted it, he could have more? That they could be more?

Closing his eyes and taking many deep breaths to try and get his mind into some semblance of order, he decided that yes, that was better. He wasn’t going to shirk the possibility for more merely because he was afraid. Not now, not when it was this important.

Resolute in his decision, he set to getting John the best gift he could possibly give.

 


 

When John returned home, laden with quite a bit of groceries and some things already wrapped in store-quality paper, it was to find Sherlock sitting in his chair, phone in one hand and notepad in the other, biting into the end of a pencil. He had a look of deep concentration on his face.

“Did Lestrade call with a case, then?” he asked, setting the bags down in the living room. There was nothing in there that’d immediately spoiled. He could put it away in a moment or two.

Sherlock blinked but rather quickly came back. “What?”

“A case. Have we got one, then?”

“Yes.” A pause. “No.”

John snorted, amused. “Well, that’s conclusive.”

“It’s not a case. It’s…important but not a case.”

“Really?” It wasn’t hard to tell that John’s curiosity was piqued. “That’s…novel.”

“Mmh.”

Though the doctor was clearly expecting him to expound further on the issue, Sherlock felt no real compulsion to do so. John hadn’t let anything slip about his gift, so why should Sherlock? It was meant to be a surprise, after all, wasn’t it?

John twigged a few moments later. “You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?”

Sherlock pretended to consider. “No, I don’t think so.”

For a moment, it looked as though John would get angry, or at least cross. Then he sighed and shook his head. “Sometimes, I don’t know why I bother.”

The comment, on the surface rather innocent, made Sherlock’s innards twist slightly.

Something must have shown on his face, however, since the blond’s own face softened. He didn’t say anything out loud, but he stepped closer and, hesitating only briefly, went to squeeze Sherlock’s shoulder. The taller man leaned into the touch for a moment before he managed to school himself.

John went back to his momentarily abandoned bags. Oh, by the way, I bumped into Mycroft while I was shopping.”

“One never ‘bumps into’ Mycroft.”

“Precisely.” A pause. “Your mother wants to know whether you would rather have Christmas pudding or a bûche de Noël?”

“I am not going to her Boxing Day whatever.”

“No, you’re not. We are.”

That managed to catch Sherlock’s full attention. His head snapped up to stare at his flatmate across the room. “What? He didn’t!”

John smiled, a tad ruefully. “He did. I did say yes almost immediately, I have got to admit.”

Sherlock’s face twisted into a grimace. “Why on earth would you say yes?”

John’s eyebrow rose in a disbelieving yet slightly amused expression. “It was that or spending the day dealing with people who’s overeaten or had a row that’s turned violent. You choose.”

“The people rowing might prove to be a showcase of interesting bruises and cuts. Could prove vital, that.”

The amusement only grew. “Give over, you plonker. We’re going and that’s the end of it.”

The detective opened his mouth to give a sharp reply, but it died on his tongue when he took the time to properly look at John and his demeanour.

Idiot, said his mind. He’s going because it’s your family and he doesn’t want you to be on your own. He’s taking care of you.

“You won’t get any extra money, then, if you take neither shifts on Christmas Day or Boxing Day,” he said, feeling compelled to mention it. To prove a point to himself that the blond genuinely meant it? Possibly.

A soft, warm smile played on John’s face, the softness reflected in his eyes. “I know,” was all he said.

After that, Sherlock turned his attention back to what he was doing and John let him, puttering about, putting away the groceries and the few gifts he’d brought home.

Sherlock, like an impatient child, tried to see whether there was any of them that could conceivably be his. He only caught the occasional glimpse, which he suspected was because John was deliberately doing his best to hide them.

No matter. He had an awful lot to do if he wanted to get John something even remotely good enough, and he had far too little time to do it in. There was really no time to waste.

 


 

“Morn – Sherlock, tell me you didn’t.”

“I didn’t.”

John crossed his arms over his chest. Given that he was only dressed in his sleepwear, the t-shirt he was wearing was old, a bit too small and stretched in a most pleasing way as he did so. It shouldn’t be surprising that Sherlock’s focus was more on that than the look of disbelief and slight worry.

“You stayed up all night, working, again, and there’s no case on?”

“Once again, your penchant for stating the blindingly obvious is really most astounding, John. I told you already.”

“Sherlock.”

“I’m fine. Just working out a few things. No need to worry.”

“You didn’t sleep last night either.”

“I don’t need sleep. It helps – “

“You focus your mind, yeah, yeah. Sod off, Mr. Mental Flagellant, and come have some breakfast.”

“Flagellation has got nothing to do with – “

“Sherlock. Breakfast. Now. No arguing.”

And there it was, that undertone of command that had Sherlock fervently grateful that he hadn’t been in the army under the command of John Watson. He’d have been flying at least half-mast in his trousers for most of his time there, then, much as he was now.

Setting aside his work, careful to close it so that nothing interesting was visible, he stood carefully, mindful of the slight tightness of his trousers, and joined John in the kitchen.

“You sit down, now, and you do not move from that spot until you’ve cleared the plate.” The commanding tone hadn’t disappeared, and it was only Sherlock’s luck, in terms of his nether regions, that John had his back turned.

“I’m perfectly capable of getting my own breakfast.”

“Of course, you are. Perfectly capable of taking care of yourself in general. You just never bother doing it. So, your rights have been waivered for the moment.”

As he watched John prepare breakfast for them both, Sherlock was still going through the parts of the present that needed work. He’d had rather a productive night and so had gotten most of it sorted. However, there was still one or two things that wasn’t quite…melding together properly yet. They would, given a few reworkings and a bit of time.

Not that he had much of that. It was the morning of the 24th and it had to be done by the evening, if he wanted it to be ready for when they both woke up. He was certain he could do it, though. What he was unsure of was how it would be received. He’d tried to banish the worries and uncertainties but to very little avail.

A plate was put in front of him, that odd, dull chink of porcelain hitting wood alerting him as much as the arm in his vision.

“You’re beginning to worry me here, Sherlock.”

“Hm? Oh, you’ve – are you going to feed a battalion?”

“Haha, very funny. Eat up.”

“John, if I eat all of this, I’m going to be the one in the A&E and if I recall correctly, you were rather annoyed last time I had to go there.”

“Try angry and I was only angry because you were being a downright pest. Eat.”

Sherlock looked up, a glint in his eyes. “Yes, sir.”

The doctor blinked at him. Then he swallowed heavily and went to sit across, where his own plate was waiting for him.

They passed the morning in relative calm. It was nice, Sherlock reflected. He would have thought he’d be bored out of his skull, but what wasn’t occupied with the task he’d set himself was rather content just studying and cataloguing the expressions and behaviour of John Watson, to see how they differed the ones already in the library in John’s wing of his Mind Palace.

 


 

Lestrade called with a case that afternoon. Sherlock was unaccustomedly annoyed with the situation, which left John baffled and even more concerned. That the detective inspector had an apologetic smile on his lips – and that man should never ever try going on the stage – didn’t do anything to lessen that bafflement.

He didn’t ask, though, having learned that he wouldn’t get an answer.

What annoyed Sherlock most wasn’t so much the case, as Lestrade had at least been wise enough not to ask for help on a banal one. Well, too banal one. It was that the case stole away time and mental powers that he had intended to use elsewhere.

The quicker he could solve the case, the faster he could go back home and finish what he had in mind for John. He had the box for it all ready, Mrs. Hudson having been easily persuaded to help him find one, despite her protests about her hip. Once he’d said it was for John, she’d smiled and readily agreed.

So, he threw himself into the case and had it solved by the evening.

When he’d turned to John after delivering the explanation, he’d expected to see the customary look of appreciation, possibly mixed in with some fond exasperation.

What he hadn’t expected was that soft, warm look in the eyes and the smile that lit up the doctor’s entire face and it was directed straight at Sherlock.

That…that was…that meant…

He backed away from the possible meanings as fast as his mind could conceivably manage. He wouldn’t rush into any conclusions, no matter how many clues he thought he might see. Not on this. He couldn’t afford to.

At least, not yet.

 


 

It was past midnight by the time they made it back to Baker Street.

John ushered Sherlock towards his bedroom but stopped at the door to wish him a merry Christmas, saying that he’d see him in the morning.

Sherlock agreed, knowing that his flatmate wanted time to put up the Christmas presents under the small plastic tree he’d bought. That was fine. He’d prefer to give John the box with his gift in it by hand rather than that the man had to take it himself.

He spent the time going through the last few revisions to John’s present in his head, making sure that it was of a proper quality.

Satisfied, he finally drifted, quite against his willing, off into overdue sleep, images of soft smiles and calloused yet soft hands following him.

 


 

 

It was cold in the flat the next morning. Nevertheless, though neither resident got up too early, they were both sitting in their pyjamas in the living room before midmorning, Sherlock’s bare feet gripping the carpet, John’s t-shirt riding up slightly when he stretched.

The blond had cheerfully greeted the other with a ‘good morning’ followed by a ‘merry Christmas’, which Sherlock had replied to with a smile and an acknowledging hum.

“Tea?” John had asked, already headed towards the kitchen.

“I think the customary procedure is to open presents first,” Sherlock had said, raising an eyebrow but smiling.

Having finished the present and had a change of heart, he’d earlier in the morning put his box down under the tree. He hadn’t quite been able to quell the light pounding of his heart and the urge to take the box back then. It didn’t change.

John had smiled as well. “Yeah, but that only applies when you’re a kid. Grown-ups are supposed to take things more calmly and rationally. So, tea?”

“What has being an adult got to do with anything?” Sherlock had shot back.

“Nothing,” John had grinned after a moment. “Still, I’m parched. I’ll put the kettle on and then come join you, alright? On the condition that you don’t touch anything.”

“I can hardly ‘not touch anything’.”

“Sod off, you know what I mean.”

And so, they now sat, both with a mug of tea in their hands and a present, both from Mrs. Hudson, in their laps.

They’d both cast more than a glance or two towards the present they knew was the one from the other. Sherlock knew his, partially because he could recognize the relatively clumsy way John wrapped presents, but chiefly because of the lack of other gifts under there. The size and shape of it intrigued him, though, and left him with very little to deduce, at least without feeling it.

“Well, you first, then, since you were so impatient,” John said.

“I already know she’s bought me some new gloves.”

“What did we say about not deducing presents before opening them?” Was there a note of apprehension in the doctor’s voice? If there was, he could hardly be blamed, could he?

We didn’t. You did, not me, and you said nothing about my own presents. Besides, I didn’t deduce. I saw them a few weeks ago, poking out of her yarn basket. If you doubt me, you can smell her herbal soothers on them when I unwrap them.”

John made a face. “No, thank you. She really ought to keep them better hidden than that.”

He started to unpack his own present. “She’s got me…oh, hell.”

“Something horrible?”

“No, it’s…it’s good. Well, perhaps not good, but…it’s fine.”

“Pull it out, then, let’s see it.”

An odd expression flitted across John’s face at that but was gone before it could be analysed. He hesitated then held the gift up, free of the wrapping.

It was…decidedly something that could be called ‘fine’.

“When did you ever wear something like…I don’t even know what it’s called!”

John snorted in amusement at that. “That makes me feel a little better, if you and your swallowed-a-thesaurus vocabulary can’t name it, either. But I suppose I’d better wear it later when we go down to see her.”

“Mmh.”

“What next, then?”

It was a stupid question. There were only their presents to each other left beneath the tree.

Once John realized this, he hesitated, but only for a moment or two. Then he squared his shoulders, though he probably wasn’t aware that he’d done it, and got up to take the present that he’d bought for Sherlock.

He didn’t say anything as he brought it over and placed it carefully in the brunet’s lap. Despite that, it was abundantly evident that he was feeling rather decidedly nervous about doing so, something which he had never done, at least not to that extent, before this point.

So, it seemed as though Mycroft had gotten it right, after all. Probably. No conclusions. Not yet. Insufficient data, still accumulating.

It was quite the significant indicator of just such a possibility, however, he could concede to that relatively readily. So could his heart, which was slowly picking up speed as he looked between the package and John’s open, nervous-yet-excited face.

“Thank you,” Sherlock said.

“You can’t say thank you yet,” John replied, looking ever so slightly crestfallen. “That’s not how it works.”

Sherlock frowned but then it clicked. “Oh. No, I haven’t deduced anything.” His voice got softer all on its own. “I don’t know what it is.”

The blond’s expression cleared at that and became soft once more. That particular soft expression that only rarely happened but which always had a corresponding effect on the brunet’s limbs.

“Well, then. Best open it and see, then, haven’t you?”

Sherlock would, if he wasn’t more preoccupied with watching the minute changes on John’s face. When the expectant mixed with the slightly apprehensive again, though, he realized that he ought to unwrap it and soon.

So, it was with slightly clumsy fingers that he started to open it. It was clumsy because he attempted to watch John’s face as much as his fingers. There was definitely an intensity and worry there that Sherlock had never seen before. Not in confident, no-nonsense John. So, this was important, on whatever level that was.

Eventually, he did get the wrapping open. He’d been able to tell it was soft just by looking at it and that it was cloth when he’d had it dropped in his lap. Nevertheless, he was still unprepared for what he pulled out of the paper and held up in front of him.

It was a bathrobe. No, a dressing gown. Something in between? The cut was right for either, at least mostly, but he’d never seen a wadded version of either a dressing gown or a bathrobe, at least not like this.

“It’s a sort of indoor, wadded coat called a hanten,” John explained, sounding slightly sheepish. “Well, the original is, anyway, in Japan. I couldn’t find any who would fit your frame, though, lanky git that you are, and even if I could, they wouldn’t ship in time, so…”

“You had this made,” Sherlock finished for him, and if his voice was slightly breathy, what of it?

It was obvious that it was tailormade. Not so much because of the length or the proportions that would make it fit perfectly, though that was admittedly a factor. It was more that you could see it in the finesse and skill in the stitches and the quality of the royal blue cotton with velvet collar. It had been carefully crafted to his specific specifications.

A small part of Sherlock’s mind piped up to be indignant; why hadn’t he gone for one of the things he’d first thought of when the fact that it was expensive, but quality obviously wasn’t a hindrance?

Because this was John spending money and effort on Sherlock, he realized. Choosing to spend money on something that would be useful and practical for his friend, which was John in a nutshell, something that he didn’t have but would clearly have a use of and enjoy. Something that also showed just what effort and care John had gone through to get it.

That was…that was…

His heart was beating hard against his ribcage.

“Well, put it on, then. see if it fits.”

For the moment speechless, Sherlock could only nod. He stood, fingers unconsciously continuing to smooth over what was evidently Egyptian cotton, then had to put it down momentarily while he shrugged out of his silk dressing gown.

Putting on the new one, his initial thought was confirmed; it was as soft and warm as it looked, the quality was impeccable, and the fit was precise.

“John,” he said quietly, his voice straining to get past the lump in his throat. You…”

“I’m…I’m glad it fits,” John said, his voice gone slightly hoarse. “Do you…is it okay?”

He wasn’t asking about the hanten. At least, not exclusively.

Sherlock nodded, a little more enthusiastic than he’d intended. “It’s…it’s perfect. Thank you. You didn’t have to.”

“I know. I wanted to.” The implications were taking centre stage.

They stared at each other for a moment or two. Then the consulting detective remembered that he had his own gift to give.

“My turn,” he said, his voice soft.

He walked over to the tree, grabbed the box and carried it back to John. The doctor took it without a word but hesitated in opening it. He looked up at Sherlock, his eyes searching for…something.

The consulting detective only smiled and nodded.

The opening of the box was very careful. A look of puzzlement crossed John’s features when he saw only papers inside.

When he shot Sherlock a questioning look, modulated with worry – he thinks I might be mocking him – the taller man only held up a finger to ask for a moment.

With that moment, he went to grab his violin and position it properly. He didn’t look at John; if he did, he was afraid that his nerve would desert him.

Hah! When had that last been the case? He couldn’t remember.

Ignoring the way his heart was beating out a harsh rhythm, he set the bow to the strings and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and focused on the notes that he had created and then memorized, the music sheets in the box, handwritten and slightly smudgy, purely for John’s benefit.

It wasn’t a masterpiece or perhaps even the best piece of music he’d ever attempted to create himself. He knew that. But while he would have liked it to be, what had ultimately mattered was trying to condense what John was and what he meant to Sherlock into a piece.

He just hoped that it would translate well enough that his flatmate and friend would understand the intention behind it.

He played on, only slightly hindered by not having played it ever before, while he kept his eyes closed.

When he finished the piece, the last note ringing out in the flat, and reopened them, it was to find John staring at him, his mouth slightly agape, his eyes large and shiny and the first sheet of music clenched in his hand.

The first sheet of music…which had the title on it. It was hardly the most creative of titles but ‘For John’ seemed appropriate in the circumstances.

“Sherlock…”

Sherlock’s small smile was uncertain but hopeful.

“Merry Christmas, John,” he said quietly, softly, pouring as much into those three words as he possibly could.

He then had to dig his toes further into the carpet, as he had a former army doctor practically launching himself at him, grabbing onto the back of his neck to drag him down into a kiss.

A kiss which he responded to quite eagerly.

It wasn’t harsh or desperate. Well, perhaps a little. It was more accurate to say it was intense yet soft and loving, pouring everything they hadn’t said into that one kiss. It was a wonder Sherlock didn’t drop the violin. As it was, he was clutching at John with his free hand and being clutched in turn.

When they parted, both were wearing silly grins that lit up their faces.

“Really? You wrote that for me?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Silly bugger.”

“Pot and kettle.”

“True.” He landed another kiss, though just a brief one. “Why couldn’t we just have said it, like normal people?”

“Normal is boring.”

John laughed and wrapped his arms around the slim waist. “There’s a point.”

They stood there, together, just taking in the moment neither thought would ever come.

“Merry Christmas, John.”

Merry Christmas, Sherlock, and thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”