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jude

Fic: Silhouettes of Snowflakes, a Holiday A-Z, for 221b_advent

Title: Silhouettes of Snowflakes, a Holiday A-Z
Pairing: Sherlock and John
Word Count: 2,600
Rating: G
Summary: Twenty-six holiday/winter drabbles of 100 words each.
Notes: Not my original idea and I'm not sure how I think of the finished product.  But oh well!  I counted hyphenated words as two words except in the case of "multi-coloured," because "multi" does not stand on its own as a word.  Each drabble is basically a standalone; I don't believe any contradict each other, but there is no bigger story here.  The relationship between Sherlock and John is purposefully ambiguous.
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and I am making no money from this work.

Always, when John wakes up in the middle of the night, with nightmares or simple clear eyed insomnia, Sherlock is up.  The violin starts before he’s even down the stairs.  John settles on the sofa with his tea to listen: a certain gentle undefinable strain of music twining out from Sherlock’s perfect long fingers; to watch: Sherlock’s long back to him, swaying to the music.  John imagines the notes as visible objects, circling and surrounding them.  Sherlock stands facing the window and composes, imagines, creates beautiful strains of sound, to lull John to sleep: tonight to a backdrop of snow.


*


Breakfast is Sherlock’s least important meal of the day, but sometimes he steals from John’s plate, poking sausages or grabbing stray hash browns, and he never objects when John slides over a slice of fried tomato as he hands Sherlock his tea.  They’ve developed a routine.  It requires no words.  This morning a hazy winter light filters over them, obscuring the hour, and when Johns hums for Sherlock to pass him the headlines, the noise is a quiet thrum barely disturbing the air.  Sherlock stretches his legs under the table.  His feet hit John’s, and John wiggles his toes back.


*


Candy canes in all colours are scattered around the flat, and Sherlock won’t let John touch a single one.  He claims they’re part of an experiment.  John thinks he must be joking.  When Mycroft comes to visit, he tries to unhook one from above the fireplace, but Sherlock swats his hand away pointedly.  Mrs Hudson jumps when she mistakes the ring of canes in the refrigerator for something rotted and diseased.  They make their way into John’s room, propped against his current novel, and one sticks cheerily out of the eye of the skull, equally disturbing as it is festive.


*


December first, dawn, and Sherlock is standing at the head of John’s bed.  John blinks up at him through the haze of cold pink-yellow light.  “If you’re going to watch me sleep,” he says, “you could at least lie down to do it.  Less creepy that way.”  He knows this isn’t about a case, or Sherlock would have said so already, so he just flips back his heavy winter blankets and nods for Sherlock to slide in.


“Too cold downstairs,” Sherlock murmurs, which might be the truth, or might just be code for ‘I wanted to be with you.’


*


Every Christmas, Harry makes promises she has no chance of keeping and John, as an unofficial gift to her, believes each and every one.  He doesn’t simply pretend.  He believes with a startling and, Sherlock need not tell him, irrational faith.  But that is the nature of faith.  It’s a twelve step this year: Harry outlines them over the phone, while John hums vague answers and encouragements.  She says the New Year makes her think outside herself.  John doesn’t know what that means but he indulges her.


When he hangs up, Sherlock is waiting with a hot mug of tea.


*


Four hours from now, approximately, and if they’re lucky, and Sherlock’s plan goes just so, he’ll be sitting by the fire with his feet propped up, warming up and drying off.  Drinking something hot.  Watching the red and orange flames flicker over and under each other until they hypnotize him.  Right now he’s stuck in some forsaken back alley, he can’t feel his toes, and it’s snowing.  He watches the flakes collect in Sherlock’s hair and he counts down minutes, counts his own freezing breaths.  When Sherlock’s hand squeezes his, he grins.  He whispers that old refrain: “People will talk.”


*


Groaning won’t do a thing and neither will moaning, complaining, begging, or bargaining—and Sherlock never begs.  That he is considering it now says the world about his feelings.  John drags him out anyway and they argue through a dozen shops before they find some half-decent gifts.  Giving together was supposed to be easier.  When Sherlock insists that a jar of eyeballs would make a festive present (“They’re green, and you can see red veins on them—holiday colours!”), John starts to reconsider the premise.  He doesn’t even ask where Sherlock got the eyes.  That is best left unknown.


*


Holiday greetings, holiday music, holiday decorations in the streets, holiday cards from John’s cousins in Scotland and Sherlock’s grandmother in France—the invasion starts a few days into December, and Sherlock claims to be done with it by the end of the first week.  Still, he’s the one hanging up brightly coloured lights.  In the evening, he plays carols on the violin.  He puts a festive hat on the skull.  John purposefully doesn’t comment, either on the mistletoe that Sherlock has hung up in the kitchen, or on Sherlock’s insistence the season is atrocious and about three weeks too long.


*


Icicles, tiny little icicles like fringe, are hanging from Sherlock’s eyelashes, and a frost has formed on his coat and scarf.  He shivers as he pulls off his gloves.  John tells him he’s half-snowman now, and reaches up to shake off the bits of ice and snow that have frozen around Sherlock’s curls.  Sherlock doesn’t find the comment funny, but he doesn’t move John’s hand away either, lets John help his numb fingers work the buttons of his coat, even smiles when John hands him a hot mug of tea.  It’s fine.  The bitter outdoors is safely pushed away.


*


Jolly Sana figurines line one wall of the shop, and John examines them as Sherlock questions the owner.  He’s round and red nosed too, and would make a decent Claus himself, in the right outfit.  John keeps watch out of the corner of his eyes.  The figures are squat, gaudy, bright things, mouths stretched into obscene grins, hands on their bellies.  All exits are clear.  The situation shouldn’t be dangerous, but the possibility remains, and so does the tightly coiled spring at the base of John’s spine.  Sherlock presses his hand as they leave.  “Happy Christmas,” he murmurs, and grins.


*


Kindly ring bell before entering, Sherlock writes in big block letters, then tapes the sign to the door of 221B.  John made him add the kindly.  It’s squashed into the side, but legible.  “Everyone gets so impatient during the holidays,” Sherlock informs him, with a long and weary sigh, as if he’s just discovered this sad detail of human nature and he’s ill at ease to find out what else humanity has been hiding from him.  John does not comment on Sherlock’s own impatience.  Sherlock would argue with him and they did not close the door to fight, after all.


*


Long nights come with the winter season.  Evening starts early and drags on, the light shifting from one tint of grey to the next with imperceptible slowness.  They keep their hands in their pockets as they walk, but their shoulders touch.  Sherlock tilts back his head, humming under his breath and probably, John thinks, cataloguing this colour as it differs from all other colours, assigning it a number and a place on a shelf in his mind.  Or maybe not.  Maybe his thoughts are more poetic than that.  John won’t ask.  He only tilts his head back too, and smiles.


*


Maybe this year they’ll travel for the holidays.  The thought is on John’s mind but it’s Sherlock who suggests it, lightly, his face hidden behind his newspaper, and as if the idea had only just occurred.  John wonders if they’re sharing thoughts now without even realising it—if Sherlock has become, in fact, a mind reader.  France, he proposes; Sherlock folds down the paper and gives him a look.  “Obvious, John,” he say.  Then, after a beat, “but not unacceptable.”  They probably won’t go, but the fantasy is present: some time away, seeing new sights, later the pleasure of homecoming.


*


“Never,” Sherlock declares, and frowns when John’s eyes go wide with disbelief.  “You’re goggling,” he says.  John tells him that this information is worth of a goggle or two.


“You have honestly never kissed anyone beneath mistletoe?” John asks, ignoring the way that Sherlock rolls his eyes.  “Really never ever?”


“Really never ever,” Sherlock repeats, with a long suffering sigh.  “I don’t understand what is so shocking about this… revelation of mine, John.  Is it truly so odd that I have never kissed participated in this particular ritual?  It’s hardly an essential tradition, hardly—John—what are you—oh—”


*


“Ooof,” John says, when Sherlock sits down, all but falls down on top of him, jostling into his personal space as he always does.  He rarely notices when John is annoyed at the intrusion and only rolls his eyes when he does.  He doesn't care for personal space.  He’s like an animal, crawling between John and his laptop screen or his book, the most important thing in any room he’s in.  John has acquired immunity. Being annoyed would be hard today anyway, when, taken by a fit of kindness, Sherlock has brought him an oversized mug of just-brewed tea.


*


Playing games—card, board, word—was always a Watson family past-time, the games almost a refuge, an escape from awkward silences or the threat of fights.  He never thought he'd miss those times, but he does.  Sherlock can't be trusted to play any game he might lose (the Cluedo board knifed to their wall is evidence enough) so sometimes, in a fit of nostalgia, John plays solitaire.  He uses real cards.  Sherlock sits with him and watches.  At first, his presence made John uneasy, quick darting eyes following every movement, but now he's grown accustomed, sees a new tradition forming.


*


Quilts of all sizes and patterns have made their way onto the bed.  John recognises a large, bright one from Mrs Hudson's flat, and another, of varied greens and browns, is his, though it generally lives on his top wardrobe shelf, not draped over his pillows. A third is formed out of blue squares patterned with snowflakes.  John's never seen it before in his life, but it looks like it was made for a child.


"Experiment?" he asks Sherlock, when he returns.


“Rather file under unexpected results of,” Sherlock corrects.  "Unfortunately, our heat's gone out.  Perhaps you've noticed the chill?”


*


Running on ice is sure to end in disaster, so neither of them is surprised when Sherlock ends up sprawled on his arse on the pavement—but he tells John to go on.  They can’t miss this one, not after the weeks Sherlock’s spent on his case.  It’s unacceptable—go.  Only later will he let John fuss.  They hobble home and John sets Sherlock’s ankle up, carefully stretches and tests it, wraps it up tight and tells him to be careful on it for a while, yeah?  Sherlock looks at him quite seriously and asks: when is he ever not?


*


Silence.  That's all there is at the end of their long day.  They've come from the Yard, oddly decorated with festive garlands and ornaments.  Sherlock rolled his eyes, declared them cheap and lazily placed.  The decoration formed an odd backdrop to the scene of a murderer brought in, sullen, angry, spitting in everyone's face.  But that's done now.  They slipped out the back way to avoid attention.  Now Sherlock stands at the window, looking thinner than usual, watching the street. The case was arduous, and it’s left him, for now, sated and spent.  He says that it’s about to snow


*


Their tree is small and sits on the table by the window.  They've decorated it with a simple string of yellow lights, or John has decorated it, anyway, though sometimes he catches Sherlock staring at it with that expression on his face that says an idea or ten is brewing somewhere in that strange mind.   John waits for the day he'll return and find the whole thing gone.  Or decorated in eyeballs.  Or doused with chemicals.  Or suspended from the ceiling or tinted multi-coloured or cut up into pieces or something else entirely unprecedented.  Sherlock would laugh if he knew.


*


"Umbrella," Sherlock says, and no more, as they wipe the wet December sludge off their feet.  Mycroft is upstairs then, waiting.  It's drizzling out and the cold almost-snow has caught in Sherlock's hair and gathered on the shoulders of their jackets, but Mycroft looks impeccable, as always. Without his umbrella to lean on, however, he does have a slight air of imbalance about him.  Sherlock listens to his case silently, placidly, fingers steepled under his chin, but after his brother leaves he jumps about like a child at Christmas and this, John realises, is quite an apt comparison indeed.


*


Very few people are as awkward in social situations as Sherlock is, which is why, this year, they don't host a holiday gathering at 221B.  Even informal parties make him tense.  Everyone so cheery and so cordial and isn't there something a bit false about it, John?  He thinks so.  Three days before Christmas, Mrs Hudson invites them to her flat instead, with the usual crowd, to partake, Sherlock says, in the usual small talk.  His mouth forms around the phrase awkwardly.  When it becomes too claustrophobic, he touches John's back briefly and disappears upstairs, to be found later, asleep.


*


Winter is John's least favourite season, but it has its perks.  Yes, it's cold and wet and dreary; the days are short and the holidays are stressful.  But hot tea never tastes better than when the mug is warming his frozen hands, and there's something uniquely beautiful about the sight of Baker Street in the middle of the night, covered in new snow.  The radiator makes a quiet hiss-pop sound, and for the moment, it doesn't matter that tomorrow, the snow will be trampled down and melted into slush.  Sherlock murmurs, “You're being sentimental again.”  John simply ignores him.  


*


Xylophones were, for a brief time--very brief--Sherlock's obsession.  He has his feet in John's lap and his eyes closed.  He was not quite three, and his aunt sent him one for Christmas.  He remembers a sharp fascination with the bright rainbow colours and the clear slide feel of the metal under his fingers.  Of course, the sharp simple sounds he could create on it, shining as light as the reds and blues and yellows of the instrument itself, piqued his imagination too.  "I imagine," he admits, "that I was insufferable.  Don't laugh, John.  It was just a phase."


*


Yes, he'd agree, he must be just a bit mad to live this life.  On a good day he's running across the city chasing someone who could kill him but when he goes to sleep, it is the rest of the peaceful, and he does not think about the gun in his desk drawer, not at all.  On a good day, Sherlock is supernova vivid and lightning sharp and he grabs John by the shoulders and tells him solutions like stories, and John's fingers curl around his elbows; there's that spark of this-is-IT shining in his eyes—beautiful.


*


Zzz, Sherlock says, a soft and floating sound.  Asleep for once.  John watches him as if he could actually see cartoon letters drifting up above his head.  This is a too-rare thing, Sherlock curled around pillows and limp with the exhaustion of mortals. There's a single lamp still on and it illuminates his pale skin, his dark curls, but John knows him too well to say he looks angelic.  Peaceful, perhaps.  John switches off the light before he curls in around him.  Now it's only the streetlight shining through the window, and the silhouettes of snowflakes beyond the glass.

Comments

These are lovely vignettes! I get a cozy, warm feeling from them.

Edited at 2012-12-24 03:07 am (UTC)
This was really lovely - I like the theme of warmth, both physical and emotional.