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Title: Disaster, Want, and Tea: A Christmas Carol
Author: verilyvexed
Artist: booshbesotted
Recipient: lelek
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock/John, Mycroft, Mrs Hudson
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Undeveloped metaphors aplenty, the untimely death of a television set.
A/N: Thanks to [redacted] for a last-minute beta and endless patience/awesomeness.
Summary: BBC. It's a game they play. Engaging, though it could be improved. Sherlock always wins by default: he never runs.

Title: A Mistletoe Kiss
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock/John
Rating: PG13

They could sit in companionable silence; John, he has learned, is quite capable. But Sherlock longs for noise, spoken words with meaning and weight to drown out the chatter in his head.

December is intolerable. But John likes to talk, and Sherlock likes to ask questions.

"When I was little, Mum always made a big deal of it, trees and lights and ‘stockings hung by the chimney with care,' the whole bit. Haven't done much since... Once -- well, it doesn't really matter. But I like Christmas decorations. Don't you?"


"Oh," says John, frowning. He stares at his tea, clearly at a loss, and then his eyes go soft-focus. He is reflecting.

Sherlock's scrutiny sharpens; he feels as if he were zooming in. So much can be read in silence, by the things a person doesn't say. He follows the tangent of John's thoughts intently.

John is thinking of Sherlock's abrupt reply. Of the lack of comment regarding family. No doubt considering Mycroft, what their family holidays might have entailed. How this equates with a dislike of holidays, of sentimental artifice and fake trees adorned with fake stars. But no, now there's something more intimate in that frown, a pensiveness that seems to catch as he struggles to remember: John is thinking of his own past Christmases. Sherlock finds himself curious as to what could put such a crease between his brows.

And then, like clouds parting to reveal the sun, the expression is swept from John's face entirely and he looks up, eyes clear. "So you don't much go in for the holidays at all?"

"No," replies Sherlock, rolling onto his side. The sofa is unbearably lumpy of late, but he is bored and feels lazy, and the reverse psychiatrist's-office parallel of the supine patient being studied by the seated doctor is delightful. He rests his cheek on his fist and simply stares, wondering how long John will allow it before becoming annoyed.

"Why not?" he asks, openly curious. And oh, the look he gives Sherlock is exquisite. His whole body and soul a question mark, a page seeking to be writ upon: tell me your secrets, tell me anything.

One day, perhaps, Sherlock will drown him in metaphorical ink.

"They're so tedious - all that forced cheer, fallacious religious connotations, fuzzy reindeer jumpers. And I refuse to believe anyone enjoys Christmas shopping," he says with a sigh. "Worst of all, nothing ever happens in December. Petty robberies, asinine burglary attempts - dull, dull, dull. Amazing how no one ever offs their families this time of year."

"Maybe you'll get lucky this year," says John, giving him a wry smile.

"Maybe I will."

John seems to grow aware of Sherlock's overattentive gaze and looks away, clears his throat, pats the arms of the chair. "Well," he says. "I'll just, er..." And he rises, going off to do nothing in particular.

It's a game they play. Engaging, though it could be improved. Sherlock always wins by default: he never runs.

John has watched him for weeks now with careful precision, utmost attention. He has felt under observation at times, a thing under glass, amused by the fact John doesn't notice him noticing back. The doctor's eyes linger on Sherlock's lips, his clavicle, his hands - and his gaze is as fingers, a nearly tangible touch that lingers, slips beneath collars, pulls back fabric, exposes skin. He feels traced by John's gaze at times, his attention like a second shadow, silhouetting him, outlining him, and oh, how fiendishly clever of the doctor it all is.

None of this would have occurred to him had John not started it first. He wouldn't have resorted to imitation, to mirroring irrelevant glances that give no useful information save that of the nimble dexterity of John's fingers, the fit of his jeans, how damnably often he licks his lips. And his neck, so seldom bare, when exposed becomes of tremendous interest, and Sherlock finds himself staring, finds John staring back, and knows a collision is inevitable.

♦ ♦ ♦

Sherlock isn't sure why he did it. Furthermore, he isn't sure he wants to know. Observation of external objects and phenomena are his forte. Introspection tends to be alarming.

It is, he thinks, worth noting that he was spectacularly bored last night.

John manages to make it into the kitchen with his eyes still mostly closed, stumbling blearily toward the kettle. "Morning," he calls, the word punctuated with a yawn. The poinsettia on the table gives him pause. He stands for a moment frowning deeply at it, as if it has offended him. Possibly he writes it off as a hallucination. He fills the kettle and sets it atop the oven, scratching his head and mussing his hair even further. He fumbles with the tie to his dressing gown as he shuffles into the sitting room.

Sherlock sets aside the laptop (John's, and really, he needn't have bothered changing his password again) and draws his knees up to his chest, watching. Waiting patiently.

It takes John three steps before he stops completely, gaping.

"Good morning," says Sherlock.

"My God. Did you..." John is confused. John is often confused; it seems to be his default setting. But what a remarkable display he puts on. He is almost always a textbook illustration of what he's feeling. His incipient wonder robs him of all vestiges of sleepiness. The eyes widen, then narrow; the furrow between his brow becomes a definite crease. His jaw drops as he gazes around, open-mouthed, like an awestruck child. "Did you do this?"

"No, there were these elves," Sherlock murmurs. "Yes, of course I did it. Why? Don't you like it?"

The decorations hadn't been difficult to acquire - nothing is, when half of London owes you and half of those would sell their soul to be rid of the obligation. Arranging them satisfactorily, however, had been up to him. It seems having an eye for detail covers a multitude of sins that arise from an utter lack of knowledge concerning interior design.

"No, it's incredible," John says. "I just can't believe..."

"What other theory fits the facts?"

The tree is immaculate even by his standards: white lights glint off balls of gold and garnet, tastefully and symmetrically aligned. That had posed a pretty little challenge - making the branches bend to his will so that the ornaments might be placed where they should be, rather than where the tree dictated. A single strand of wide, gold ribbon rests atop synthetic needles in studied nonchalance. Mrs Hudson had assured him it wouldn't be a proper tree with just the balls and lights, but he'd quickly dismissed the ghastly tinsel she'd offered.

Mrs Hudson had insisted upon the stockings over the hearth and he'd grudgingly consented, though he'd drawn the line at her manically grinning Santa and the crocheted gingerbread men. Opalescent pillar candles line the mantel, twelve of varying height, arranged precisely. The same white diaphanous material skirting underneath the tree he has used as a cover for the side table. Atop the stack of books there he had placed a... Well, he isn't entirely sure what it is, but the sharp points of the stars spraying out of thin gilded arms please him. The deceptively small base is heavy enough to crush a grown man's skull. That, too, pleased him.

"But I don't get it," John says, dragging a hand over his face. "You mean to say that you... Oh, wow, now that's amazing." He's caught sight of the ceiling.

There is no star atop the tree, and, had he felt John would appreciate his reasoning, there would be no lights on the tree, either. After all, are they not intended to represent stars? The majority of lights, then, were placed in a more logical place: on the ceiling. They span the plaster from wall to wall in a disorganised tangle of celestial mimicry, the slack ropes dripping luminescence.

"Feel free to form them into constellations if the lack of symmetry or my ignorance of thoroughly irrelevant science bothers you," Sherlock says dryly, opening the laptop again. A quick succession of webpages open and close at his rapid-fire clicking, informing him that there are no messages, no cases, no email, nothing at all of interest in the outside world. He sighs. December.

"Right," says John. "No - I mean." His disconcertion is somewhat charming. Sherlock could pluck the thoughts right from his head, but he chooses to allow John to voice them, if only to hear him stammer. "Right," John repeats. "You did this. Bit confused. You did this. God, it's amazing. But. Might I ask why?" John tears his eyes away from the ceiling reluctantly.

"You said like decorations."

John freezes en route to the side table, no doubt to investigate the mystery ornament. "You did this. . . for me?" John's voice is slight, minuscule.

"Would you rather I hadn't?" Sherlock keeps his head inclined toward the laptop but seeks some sign of reaction in his periphery.

"No, I'm thrilled. Really, it's beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you."

The kettle screams as if in reply and John looks toward the kitchen as if he's forgotten where he is, in even more of a daze than when he'd come in half-asleep.

"I'll just get that, shall I?" asks Sherlock, unfurling himself from his compact position upon the sofa. This offer serves to further befuddle John.

"All right, what've you done with my flatmate?" John demands, following him into the kitchen. "Tall fellow, arrogant, damn clever but often a bit nasty, thinks he can read my mind?"

"I can read your mind," Sherlock informs him, grinning as he removes the kettle. "You're so predictable, it's painful." Instantly the whistle drops to a hiss, then a sigh.

"Yeah? Tell me what I'm thinking now," says John, and crosses his arms in a manner that would look far more defiant were he not still in his pyjamas, hair sticking out from his head at improbable angles. "Come on, let's have it."

Sherlock turns and scrutinises him. Eye contact is delicious. John is so fantastically open, so easy to read, so frequently conflicted - emotions flash across his face like traffic lights changing: go, caution, stop. But now, very deliberately, his flatmate has chosen to be on guard. John's face shows nothing. It doesn't matter. Face impassive, but eyes alive, always alive, crystalline and fragmented and haunted and bright. Sherlock could stare for days - would stare for days, but John seems to grow self-conscious and finally looks away.

"You're thinking this is a preemptive apology for something appalling I've left in the fridge."

"Good guess, but actually, no," says John. There is a smile, delicate and wistful, that seems to cover his face like a shadow for a moment before dissipating, replaced with a look of resignation. "No," he repeats, fetching mugs from the cupboard. "That wasn't it at all."

Sherlock watches him put the kettle back on, take down teabags, get the milk from the fridge. Silently, curiously, incomprehensibly.

He lied. John isn't predictable at all.

Narrow his eyes all he might, he can read nothing from John's movements as he pours the water over the teabags, cannot intuit the cause behind the smile.

John looks at him askance, still grinning. "You're staring, you know."

"I was vaguely aware," says Sherlock, slowly. John isn't predictable at all, and he rather adores that. That had been the reason for the decorations after all, hadn't it? To read John's reaction. Like texting, tea, and technology, John has become essential in a way. Life is the more pleasant for his existence. Sherlock could do without the lot of them, but he'd really rather not. The realisation is accompanied by mounting horror.

"I've just," Sherlock begins vaguely, tripping over the syllables. Deep breath. "Need to, ah." He juts a thumb over his shoulder, pointing toward the sitting room. Then, very calmly, he flees.

♦ ♦ ♦

By mid-week, the panic has subsided and he is bored again.

Bored, bored, bored. Staring at his hands fails to pass the hours.

Sherlock lies on the sofa, still as a corpse, watching the lights on the ceiling. With a flick of a switch, he induced them to twinkle - a setting he'd discovered whilst putting them up that was immediately deemed too annoying to exist. Now, it breaks the monotony slightly and only makes him want to tear his eyes from his head a little.

He paws the floor beside him for his phone. Checks his email. Nothing. Drops the phone. Sighs. Checks it again three minutes later.

His mind, meteoric and trained to fly, when let loose begins stumbling over itself, bruising and bending and breaking and wrong. Minutes drag out insensibly, seem centuries long. Mrs Hudson has threatened eviction should any more bullets find their way into her walls. John is out. Life is intolerable, a constant torturous slog with no relief or distractions. And still no mail, no messages, nothing of note in the news.

There are no cases. There are no puzzles, no riddles, no crime. Nothing interests him. Books were made for burning. He hates chemicals, even hates his Stradivarius. His jaw clenches for lack of anything better to do. He begins counting the lights, at first aloud, and then silently, for the sound of his voice grates on his nerves.

There is nothing worth anything in the world. He stops counting at eighty-seven. No point. Nothing has any point. Except... his eyes fly to the mystery decoration with the marvellously heavy base and wonders what he could use it to break.

Then Mycroft arrives, heavy footfalls preluding his arrival. He raises a brow at the decor. "Your doing, I presume?"

"What do you want?"

"I merely came to give you your Christmas gift." He places a slender box wrapped in painfully elegant paper on Sherlock's desk. "I can see you're hard at work."

"Happy holidays," Sherlock mutters with as much distaste and irony as he can muster, which is rather a lot.

"Who is he?" Mycroft asks after a long moment spent gazing around. "The ceiling is a nice touch, by the way. Very Bohemian."

"Who is who?"

"You didn't do this for yourself. Oh, don't tell me - could it be our dear doctor?" Mycroft asks, words lilting with unvoiced mirth.

"If there were anything within arm's reach, I would throw it. Consider yourself fortunate that you aren't worth getting up for. And it isn't anything like that. I'm just bored."

"What, pray tell, is it like, dear Sherlock? How many years has it been since your ‘friend' Victor? You're far overdue for—"

"Aren't you overdue to leave? Your presence is tiresome," Sherlock mutters, turning onto his side, back to Mycroft.

"I see John doesn't return your affections. Why else would you be sulking so?"

"I haven't any affections. Especially of the familial variety. You'll see proof of the fact when I strangle you with a rope of lighting."

"Very well. Happy holidays," says Holmes the elder, then departs.

Sherlock studies the fibres of the sofa fabric close up, face burning. If no one else will be bothered to extinguish their entire family this Christmas, perhaps he could start a tradition. At the very least, it would give him something to do.

♦ ♦ ♦

Sherlock paces.

Affection is so banal, not to mention highly irrational. Absurd. He is meant for better things, and he hasn't the time--

His eyes fall upon his mobile. One call all week, and that had been to ask if he might be interested in double-glazing. He kicks the sofa. All right, so he has the time. If he had even a single case on, he wouldn't be in this predicament.

Wanting to snog your flatmate: it's a little perverse, surely.

There's something tactile and inviting about John, and Sherlock finds himself wanting to map John's features with the tips of his fingers. And then his lips. But this is only a minor irritation, one in a series.

To have realised he sincerely likes John was the first. He's warm, and caring, and kind, and thick - and he'd be intolerable if he weren't so quietly amazing. Modest. Brave in a way that has nothing to do with recklessness or show. That damnably infectious smile. The dark streak. The man is like a demented puppy in a jumper, alarmingly adorable but capable of ripping someone's throat out should the need arise.

All right, so he likes John. The revelation is hardly earth-shattering.

But then there's the other thing. The nagging, worrisome, indefatigable, excruciating thing that's something else entirely. The thing that kept him awake the past few nights when he was bored enough to sleep, the thing that keeps him from looking down in the shower or up at mealtimes when John is eating something messy and licking lightly at his fingers.

A confession of attraction might prove fatal to their ongoing game, this little ocular tug-of-war in which they've been engaging. And he does so enjoy it. But if John reciprocates, that might be even worse. He might expect flowers, candlelit dinners, declarations of love. . .

And what of the cases? John is a tremendous help. Is he suddenly going to declare chasing armed adversaries is too dangerous an occupation?

Oh, right - he does that already.


Tug-of-war, nothing. Even chess doesn't require this much consideration.

He shudders, buries his face in his hands. This is hopeless. Romance is not his area of expertise, nor indeed interest. To treat it as a case seems the best course of action: when confronted with a puzzle that requires knowledge he does not possess, he is not above consulting someone else. He needs an expert, or at least someone more competent in this area than himself.

(Which, really, would be anyone.)

"Mrs Hudson!" he bellows.

"Yes, dear?" comes the merry reply.

"I. . ." He cringes. "I need your help," he calls down the stairs.

"Oh, how lovely," she says, and it is enough to make him regret ever having been born.

♦ ♦ ♦

"It's John, isn't it?" she asks, and she could not sound more pleased.

"No," he says, through gritted teeth. "I told you, this advice is for a friend."

"But you haven't got any friends, Sherlock."

Why do people choose to be observant only when it inconveniences him? "A. . . friend of a colleague. Of Inspector Lestrade. A friend of Inspector Lestrade."

"Well, dear, perhaps Inspector Lestrade's friend might make use of the mistletoe I hung in your doorway," she says with a too-knowing smile.

♦ ♦ ♦

It takes John eight days to notice the mistletoe. Sherlock has been counting.

"Er, Sherlock?" John asks, pausing on his way to the kitchen.

"Yes?" Sherlock replies, forcing his attention away from the Doctor Who Christmas special. (He suspects the science is highly implausible, but a sonic screwdriver would come in terribly handy.) He catches sight of John, and the object of John's focus, and sits up straighter. The flutter in his stomach he will allow to pass unexamined.

"You've... Never mind." John starts back into the kitchen again.

Sherlock glances back to the television. Decides to ignore it.

John stops and turns, licks his lips. "It's just... Well, there, above the doorway, you've got mistletoe." It takes an effort for Sherlock to look him in the eye.

"An excellent observation, John. It's only been there over a week. What can you deduce from it?"

"Deduce?" John asks blankly, looking back up at the doorway. "Ah, someone used a stepladder?"

"No, no, no," Sherlock says impatiently. "What can you deduce from its presence?"

"Oh," says John mildly, then: "Oh." His eyes widen, but the look of surprise is immediately replaced with one of uncertainty. "Oh. Right. Of course. Like the stockings? Mrs Hudson's doing?"


"Oh," he repeats dully. He seems to deflate, and, as if that were that, turns away.

Sherlock is dimly aware of an explosion on screen. It seems precognitive of the utter synaptic collapse he experiences as John disappears into the kitchen.

John had been disappointed.

John had been disappointed that -- Sherlock bolts up from the sofa, knocking an armchair over in the process of stumbling into the doorway. John has made his move. Now it's his turn.

"Is that all you can deduce?" he demands.

John looks up from the tin of teabags, startled. "What?"

"I said, is that all you can deduce?"

"Mrs Hudson put it up," John says flatly. "It's hardly your sort of thing is it?"

Sherlock closes his eyes briefly. Thick, thick, thick. "Think, John, think. Do I really have to lead you through this? Yes, I can see from that vacant look that I do. Very well. Mrs Hudson insisted, I consented. But, ask yourself, what can be deduced from the fact that I have allowed it to remain here over a week and am now standing - very pointedly, I might add - beneath it?"

The tin of teabags clatters to the floor. Checkmate.

"Really?" John asks incredulously. "I mean, really? You've given no indication--"

"I thought I was being obvious," Sherlock says with a frown.

"Hardly! Though I imagine I was."

"Oh, yes, terribly. Are you...?" Sherlock glances up at the mistletoe, then points at the floor before him.

"Right! Yes." John flies around the table, banging into a chair en route, then comes to an abrupt stop before Sherlock, a half-step away, and seems to hesitate.

Sherlock reaches for him, uncertain how to proceed. The anticipation makes his pulse go frantic. He can feel the fine knit of John's jumper beneath his hands, and beneath that the sinew and muscle and solid weight of John's arms. Solid, substantial: a fact. One of them is trembling. He isn't sure which.

Lashes lower as he tilts his head. Their noses bump, and then their mouths.

Time doesn't stop, and nothing explodes. There's just John, warm and soft beneath him, lips pliant and inviting, the entirety of his being seeming focused on the kiss. Sherlock's hand slides to the back of John's head, slowly, deliberately, as if by the enormity of his focus he can slip inside his head. Joined by lips and breath and thought, yet still they are utterly separate. The distance is intolerable.

It isn't enough. It isn't working. It isn't...

John pulls away just enough to whisper against his lips: "Stop bloody thinking." To punctuate the statement, he tugs Sherlock closer - bodies aligning, mouth insistent, a hand fisting in Sherlock's collar - and it's like the tumblers of a lock falling neatly into place.

Sherlock clutches him. Lips part and there it is: the world gone hazy and bright. There washes over him the irresistible warmth of slipping into a bath. John's hand presses urgently at the small of his back and oh, he must feel it, too. Their tongues touch and the rest of the world becomes irrelevant. John's mouth is a thing of wonder, tastes of disaster and want and tea. His hands are in John's hair, fingertips stroking down cheeks, and there, yes, this is connection - mismatched wires joined together at frayed ends, and the resulting incredible spark.

It is Sherlock's turn to pull back, panting. He feels tremendously exposed.

John is a flushed, dazed wreck. His hair is an utter mess. "That was..."

"Not finished," Sherlock says, and wrenches him forward again.

John is excellent at following directions, even unspoken, and they blindly navigate their way to the sofa, unwilling to part even for a moment from the unremitting slow-dance of lips and tongues. The television becomes a casualty, toppling over and landing with an electronic crackle-hiss of protest before falling blessedly silent. Sherlock pushes John onto the cushions.

"Why do you get to be on top?" he protests breathlessly.

"Why are you so short?" Sherlock counters. "My neck is screaming. Oh, fine," he says, with forced exasperation, and falls back onto the sofa, pulling John over him like a blanket.

"Happy Christmas," John chuckles, brushing his lips over Sherlock's.

"I suppose it'll suffice." But Sherlock's hands tangle in the folds of John's impossibly soft jumper, and the smile that stretches with the kisses protest the validity of his statement. "Does this mean I lose?" he murmurs.

John sits up on his elbows, pressing their bodies delightfully together. His fingers, weaving through Sherlock's hair, pause as he blinks, confused, then laughs. "What on earth are you talking about?"

"Our game. I gave in, therefore... You don't know about the game," he says, and it is a realisation rather than a question.

"Sorry, haven't a clue."

"Oh." Sherlock frowns. Probably there's a lesson to be learned there somewhere. No matter. He wraps his arms more tightly around John, releasing a satisfied sigh. "In that case," he says, "I win."


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 21st, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's just gorgeous.
Dec. 21st, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
I love this so very much! It's a smiley, warm, beautiful fic. John's voice especially was perfect. Lovely!
Dec. 21st, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Perfect, wonderful and amazing. The voices are perfect and the kiss incredible. Brava!
Dec. 21st, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is fantastic. Thank you so much! I love Sherlock's thought processes, and the decorations, and the art is lovely. And the ending! It's perfect. ♥
Dec. 21st, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
Oh I do love the last few lines.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
Wonderful writing and a very sweet story. I love Sherlock's inner voice here, and how you've described John--you get his utter adorableness (but underlying BAMF!ness) across very well.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 04:20 am (UTC)
Oh, this was lovely! Die-laughing funny with just the exactly right touch of Poor John. AND SHERLOCK TELLING MRS. HUDSON HE WANTED ADVICE FOR A FRIEND!!!! I was *shrieking,* I tell you!
Dec. 22nd, 2010 04:57 am (UTC)
Oh, lord. I love a big kiss fic, I really do. Excellent!
Dec. 22nd, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
heee! Hogswatch delight!
Dec. 23rd, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
WHAT. this is delightful! HAPPY HOLMESTICE INDEED.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
Just read this again...and it is such a perfect happy holiday story. Love that Sherlock and John found their way to the mistletoe in the end!
Dec. 24th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
Sherlock was great. This is Christmas, indeed!
Dec. 25th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
This is great gun! I love Sherlock's "What can you deduce from it?" question re: mistletoe and the subsequent outcome. And asking Mrs Hudson of all people! Ahaha. Wonderful Christmas-spirited fluff, it makes me feel all fuzzy and warm :D
Dec. 25th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
LOL. THIS IS GREAT FUN. Was that a Freudian slip, I wonder? o.O
Dec. 29th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Dec. 31st, 2010 10:47 am (UTC)
I'm somewhat lost in admiration over how well you've managed to get the characters' voices just right. And the artwork is gorgeous.
Jan. 1st, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
This is delightful! I want Sherlock to decorate my place next year, and then kiss John under mistletoe to round it all off.
Mar. 10th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Lovely :D
Mar. 15th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)
Absolutely loved this! Thank you!
Jun. 23rd, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
So wonderful, and everyone sounds perfectly in character. And the art is lovely.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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