221b Advent fic: A Study in Crackers (1/1)
Characters: John and Sherlock
Warnings: Christmas fluff?
Summary: A few weeks before Christmas, on a whim John decides to bring home Christmas Crackers- which was not *quite* a bad idea...
He bought Christmas crackers for his first holiday at 221b, his and Sherlock’s first Christmas together. It had been months since that first night with the killer cabbie, but they were still getting used to each other. There had been no question of them becoming flat mates; yet even though they got along extremely well from the start, they each had habits and customs to adapt to. (Like Sherlock’s tendency to not pick up after himself, or of leaving strange things in the refrigerator he claimed were experiments. And John’s preference to keep things organized and tidy, or his reoccurring nightmares that woke him violently in the middle of the night. Well, the latter hadn’t been as much of a problem since Sherlock’s sleeping schedule was never consistent, and neither were the times he ate; which made John take his duties as a doctor very seriously and rise to the challenge of making sure Sherlock slept and ate enough to stop him from keeling over in the middle of a crime scene).
He hadn’t known if Sherlock celebrated the holidays, he hadn’t brought up any discussion related to the upcoming festivities so far, but John decided that wouldn’t stop him from making his own celebration. One day on his way home from the clinic with Christmas still a week or so away, John took a different route home and stopped at the shops- which weren’t as crowded as he’d expected it to be. He stopped in front of a display of Christmas goods: ornaments, chocolate oranges, and holiday themed plates and napkins. But what caught his eye was a lone box of Christmas crackers sitting at the edge of the display.
He hadn’t had Christmas crackers in a long time, not since his Christmas’ as a child. After he’d left home the delight of opening them wore off, and he hadn’t even thought of them while he was over in Afghanistan. But now he was home in London, the holidays were a week away, and he was finally happy again and reveling in the whirlwind that was having Sherlock Holmes in his life. So he decided to indulge in the holiday spirit and bought the box of crackers.
When he arrived at Baker Street Sherlock was still laying on the sofa, draped over more like, looking like he hadn’t moved at all. The blue silk dressing gown John had come to the conclusion was his favorite was tied loosely around his waist, and his bare feet were pushed down between the cushions. There weren’t any sign of nicotine patches on his bare arms, but John wouldn’t put it past Sherlock to put them another place where he couldn’t see.
His announcement that he was home granted him a grunt from Sherlock, but Sherlock didn’t remove the hand from his eyes. He was obviously either ignoring him or somewhere else in his head.
That was fine; he could wait until Sherlock returned to the world and deigned to notice him again. In the meantime a long hot shower was in order.
John put away the things that needed to stay cold in the fridge and left the other bag on the chair at the table in the kitchen- hopefully out of the way of any of Sherlock’s wayward experiments. Then he went off to shower.
When he walked back in feeling warmer and much more refreshed, Sherlock was standing at the kitchen table rummaging through the bag. He’d already taken out the jam, loaf of bread, and box of tea, and set them on the table.
John paused in the doorway to the kitchen and just watched Sherlock’s puzzled expression as he turned the box of crackers over in his hands.
“They’re not about to bite you, Sherlock,” John finally spoke. “It’s just a box of Christmas crackers.”
Sherlock glanced briefly in his direction. “Of course they won’t, they’re inanimate objects.”
“Of course,” John agreed, pulling away from the wall and stepping into the room.
He hesitated at the side of the table opposite from Sherlock. “I know they’re a little… silly, but they are part of celebrating the holidays. I saw them and thought we might-“
“I don’t see what these have to do with celebrating,” Sherlock said, focusing his full attention on John. “They don’t seem very festive.”
John blinked. “It’s not that they’re festive, it’s more that they’re… traditional. We used to open them all the time at Christmas, and then Harry and me would annoy Mum when we fought over the prizes.”
Sherlock’s hands tightened around the flimsy cardboard box. “There are prizes inside these?” He asked, sounding intrigued and also like a child who’d just found out he’d gotten the present he wanted after all.
The man really never stopped surprising him. “And a paper crown, and jokes, awful ones.”
Sherlock didn’t appear to have been listening. “Since you claim it’s traditional to open these during the holidays, we can open them now.”
“Well, technically you’re supposed to open them only on Christmas,” John said, but not really arguing. He was happy to see Sherlock was so excited about the crackers, especially since he’d just bought them on a whim. And why shouldn’t he indulge Sherlock’s enthusiasm? Well, at least this time; not in general…
There was a tearing noise followed by the sound of paper rustling. John returned his attention to Sherlock in time to see him tossing away the lid of the box. “Sherlock, patience!” He chided, even though he knew it was pointless. Sherlock had already taken out one of the crackers and was inspecting it.
Of course Sherlock didn’t only use his eyes to inspect things. Yes he held the cracker up to his eyes and looked over every inch, but he also actually sniffed the entire length of it. And after that he even started shaking the cracker.
“Sherlock,” John scolded, quickly walking around the table. He snatched the cracker out of Sherlock’s hand. “You’re supposed to pull the cracker, not deduce what’s inside. The fun of it is opening the cracker and discovering what you got.”
Sherlock’s eyes flickered from the cracker to him. “How is that fun? You aren’t able to guess at all, you just open it and know.”
“It’s exciting, Sherlock,” John answered. “You’re not supposed to know what you got before you open it. It’s like opening presents Christmas morning.”
When Sherlock didn’t reply, staring at him instead, John sighed. “You always figured out your presents before Christmas morning, didn’t you? You probably knew what they were weeks before.”
“Mummy did stop putting out the presents until early Christmas morning,” Sherlock admitted, not looking guilty at all. “And she became quite adept at hiding them.”
“She would probably have to,” John muttered not quite under his breath. Then he cleared his throat and suggested lightly, “C’mon, let’s open this and find out what’s inside.”
Sherlock was still, but his eyes glanced down at the cracker in John’s hand. “Hardly the world’s greatest puzzle, John.”
John smiled at his flat mate. “Doesn’t mean you don’t want to find out,” he said, shaking the cracker enticingly.
It only took a little more than a minute before Sherlock’s mouth finally quirked upward. “Alright, let’s open this cracker then. Since you seem so eager.”
By that point John knew better than to protest that he wasn’t the only one who was so excited. Instead he picked the box up from the table, turned, and walked into the living room.
By the time he settled on the floor in front of the fire Mrs. Hudson had set- he’d have to thank her yet again- and the warmth was starting to seep into his bones, Sherlock was hovering next to the sofa.
“Really, John, a fire?” Sherlock scolded dryly, raising an eyebrow.
“Sit down,” John instructed, nodding at the empty space beside him. He moved the box of crackers out of Sherlock’s reach and waited until Sherlock flopped down in front of the fire with a dramatic swirl of his dressing gown.
“Well?” Sherlock demanded, tugging the gown over his legs and sitting up eagerly.
“Yes, yes, all right,” John soothed. He held out the other end of the cracker to Sherlock. “Here, take that.”
Sherlock reached out and grabbed for the middle of the cracker. John ‘tsk’ed and pulled the cracker away. “No, Sherlock,” he scolded, “You’re supposed to take the end. This only works if we do it together.”
Sherlock gave him a ‘don’t be an idiot’ look. “This is a Christmas cracker, John, not planning how to corner a suspect.”
“Works both ways,” John replied with a light shrug. He carefully held out the cracker again, giving Sherlock a warning look when he reached out too fast.
Sherlock gave him an unimpressed look, but did slowly reach for the cracker. His fingers wrapped around the end of the cracker, mirroring John’s grip.
“All right, on three pull hard,” John told him, then added just in case, “And no pulling before I get to three because otherwise this won’t work.”
“Of course not,” Sherlock agreed.
John nodded. “Okay then. One…” he tightened his grip on the end of the cracker… “two…” he braced his arm to pull, “and… three.”
At the same time he and Sherlock pulled on their ends of the cracker. And with a loud crack the cracker split apart, leaving John just holding his end while Sherlock held the rest.
Sherlock’s hand relaxed, tilting downwards so that the things inside slid slowly out to fall out onto the floor.
“Beginners luck,” John teased, dropping his end to the floor. “All right, inspect your winnings.”
Sherlock tossed away the remains of the cracker and fell upon the three things that had fallen out. He picked up the thin orange paper crown carefully by the edges. Then Sherlock seemed to decide it wasn’t worth his attention and tossed it off to the side. Next he picked up the small slip of paper and held it up.
John watched as Sherlock read the words on the paper, and his eyes wrinkle. John counted the seconds before Sherlock looked up at him and intoned, “John.”
John smiled invitingly. “Yes?”
Sherlock blinked. “This is completely illogical.”
“They’re not supposed to be logical, Sherlock,” John said, and held out his hand for the paper. When Sherlock didn’t give it over right away he waggled his fingers. “Let me see.”
Sherlock relinquished the paper. John took it and read the joke printed on it. He laughed, but only because of how awful it was.
“I never said they were good jokes, Sherlock,” John reminded him. He tried to give the paper back, but Sherlock was already looking at the last thing from inside the cracker.
John set the paper inside and leaned over to look at what Sherlock was holding. He frowned, looked closer, and laughed. “That’s perfect for you; I wonder if they made that cracker with you in mind. ‘Course that would be difficult since they’d have to know I would choose that box. Maybe they put those in all the crackers this year.”
“John,” Sherlock called, thankfully stopping him from babbling.
John looked up and smiled when he saw Sherlock was smiling. “Alright, maybe not,” he admitted graciously. “But it’s an amazing coincidence.”
Sherlock continued playing with his new toy, the flames from the fire magnified by the glass. “There is no such thing as coincidence, John,” he remarked, distracted.
“Well that came to you somehow,” John replied, finding this all very amusing. “Out of all the prizes in these crackers.” A crazy idea came to him, making him laugh again. “You should bring it to crime scenes, Greg would enjoy it.”
Sherlock hummed quietly, still turning the glass back and forth. “This will be very useful.”
John took advantage of Sherlock’s distracted state to pick up the bright orange crown again. He carefully unfolded it to its full size and then, when Sherlock was still for more than a second, John reached over and set it on top of Sherlock’s curly mop.
Sherlock froze and looked up at him, surprise widening his eyes. “John?”
“There,” John announced, leaning back again with a satisfied nod. “You have a crown and a miniature magnifying glass now. I can let you out on crime scenes now.”
Sherlock did not look quite as amused as John himself was. “The crown is ridiculous.”
“It’s all ridiculous,” John answered. “All of it except for the magnifying glass.”
Sherlock smiled in answer. Then he reached up, lifted the crown off his head, and set it on top of John’s. “It looks better on you,” was his explanation.
John adjusted the crown so it wouldn’t fall off. “And you didn’t think the crackers would be any fun. At least you got good prizes your first time.”
Sherlock’s eyes lit up in a way that told of trouble. “What other kinds of prizes are typically in these crackers?”
John probably took too long to reply, “Uhm, well… it’s not always the same. Sometimes it’s nice things and sometimes it’s… not.”
Sherlock looked at him with disappointment. “That’s not an answer, John. That’s not specific at all.” He sighed noisily. “Which means I will have to investigate this myself.”
In a flurry of movement Sherlock nearly launched himself forward to grab at the box with the rest of the crackers. He set it on the floor in front of him and reached inside.
This was how kids acted on Christmas morning. It hadn’t been a mistake at all to buy the crackers. But he should have realized that once introduced to one cracker, Sherlock would have to go through the rest of the box to see what the others were like.
This was a slow day, they were sitting next to a warm fire, and Sherlock was occupied with something that would hopefully keep his attention for at least a few hours.
It really was a happy holiday; and this was what he had been missing. Even if he might find himself ordered to the store to buy more crackers later.