A Christmas story for our readers. Thank you all for your wonderful support during the year We hope you have all had a bright and happy holiday, whatever your faith or philosophy.
Story rating: Mature/NSFW
This story is set in 1894, after the end of The Adventure of the Colonial Boy.
December 24th 1894 was not Holmes and Watson’s first Christmas together, except for the many ways in which it was.
They had of course celebrated the season many times since that first year. 1881. A friendship begun through necessity in a cold January was forged, through strange adventures, into trust and devotion that ran deeper than either would confess to. In those years of friendship and buried love, a season celebrating joy was always a touch bittersweet. Then came the years of loss, when Holmes had abandoned his Watson to a wife, and Watson thought his Holmes dead.
Their first Christmas together as lovers was spent on the Eastwind, heading home from Australia to England. The dangerous final confrontation with Moran was still ahead of them then. That Christmas Eve, a frisson of uncertainty persisted over whether their new-declared passion would flourish or wither in crowded London: in the a return to a life imbued with their old habits of not daring to love.
A year on, Moran was no more and they dared, oh, how they dared to love. Discreetly, perhaps, but deeply. Devotedly. They had their home, their sanctuary, and a trusted friend in Mrs Hudson.
"Open it," John urged that second Christmas Eve, handing Holmes a parcel wrapped in brown paper and festive ribbons. John sat on the upstairs bed in nothing but his nightshirt and a devilish smile. His moustache was in disarray from kissing his darling, who sat beside him in linen drawers and his mouse-brown dressing-gown, bare-chested, bare-footed.
Sherlock's lips were pink and voluptuously full from the kissing. He tolerated the interruption to their languorous love-making with good humour.
“You never have the patience to wait for Christmas Day,” Sherlock said fondly, turning the parcel over and over in his nimble fingers. He breathed in the scent of the rectangular package. “A tin of my favourite thinking tobacco from Bradleys,” he announced with a smile, “But it is heavier than my usual supply. You’ve hidden something inside it.”
John’s smile gave no clues, though his eyes were soft with sentiment, and his left thumb was tucked under his palm to rub at the underside of his wedding ring.
Oh. That ring. John hadn’t told Sherlock about it four months ago; only worn it and waited for Sherlock to notice. To deduce. The noticing had taken five minutes. The deducing a little longer, as Sherlock put out his hand for the item and John had duly placed it in Sherlock’s palm.
The band looked almost exactly like John’s old wedding ring, only the gold shone bright with its new-minted gleam. On examination, Sherlock observed an incredibly fine thread visible on the inside curve. White horsehair from one of his own bows, he surmised. A new ring fashioned to look like the old. A symbol of John's marriage and widowerhood turned into the secret symbol of another love altogether.
Sherlock had solemnly placed the ring back on John’s finger. In the privacy of their home, he kissed John’s fingers.
“Not too mawkish for you, then?” John had asked.
“It is both camouflage and clue,” Sherlock responded, eyes sparkling, “And thus perfect.”
Another in a long line of consummations had followed that evening.
Now, Sherlock’s fingers ran over the wrapping. This is about the ring. But it is not a ring of my own. I could hardly wear it without exciting comment.
“You can try to deduce it from now until Boxing Day,” laughed John, “Or open it.”
Sherlock pulled the ribbon free; unfolded the brown paper; opened the tin of strong shag tobacco from Bradley’s, and looked at the red velvet pouch within. He plucked it out, putting the tin aside, and shook the pouch’s contents into his hand.
A heavy gold sovereign fell into his palm. In appearance it was very like an English sovereign, but Sherlock’s keen eyesight caught the M etched below the imprint of St George slaying the dragon and above the date – 1893.
Sherlock held the Melbourne-minted sovereign up between thumb and forefinger to examine it better. The gesture also hid his expression for a moment.
“For your watch chain. If… if you would do me the honour.”
Then Sherlock remembered again (and how wonderful to remember it time and again this year) that he didn’t have to hide that expression any more, when they were alone. He tucked the coin into the palm of his hand and met John’s gaze, warmth for warmth.
“The honour is mine.”
John’s proud, happy smile was another gift to hold onto. He leaned towards Sherlock – the nightshirt riding up, baring his thighs, which promised a third gift for the evening – and they kissed. Softly, then deeply, then with greater heat. The coin was placed on the bedside table to leave hands more free for roaming.
“John,” Sherlock murmured against his mouth, “I have something for you too.”
John’s hand on his leg slid between Sherlock’s thighs, palm cupped against Sherlock’s arousal. “Yes, I know.”
Sherlock laughed low. “Not that. Although yes, that too.” He disentangled himself from the embrace and clambered off the bed to fetch a paper-wrapped parcel from under it. “Merry Christmas, John.”
“You hid it under my bed?”
“This afternoon while you were listening to the carollers committing atrocities against O Holy Night.”
Like Sherlock before him, John examined the wrapped gift. The shape of it was unmistakeable. “A new walking stick,” he said, hefting the length of it in his hands. At Sherlock’s sardonic eyebrow, he only grinned before tearing away the paper.
The walking stick revealed had a shaft of dark red wood. It was surmounted by an unusual bulb of darker wood, marked all over with natural hollows and polished to smoothness.
“The body is made of redgum,” Sherlock began, “The handpiece…”
“Banksia,” John finished for him, running his fingers over the stick. Australian woods; a superbly crafted and handsome piece. “Sherlock, it’s beautiful.”
“I thought it fitting,” said Sherlock, sitting back on the bed.
John’s grin grew wicked, then – an expression much and often encouraged by Sherlock Holmes.
John ran the polished banksia bulb of the stick against Sherlock’s cheek, then under his jaw, and held Sherlock in place this way while he rose to his knees and kissed Sherlock soundly. Sherlock made a small noise which grew needier as John stroked the hilt of the stick down Sherlock’s throat, over sternum and belly, over the stop of the linen drawers to rest, firm but not too hard, between Sherlock’s thighs again. Gently, John rubbed the hilt up, then down.
“How should I thank you for this splendid gift?”
“Any way you like.” The nonchalance of Sherlock’s tone was at odds with the flush of his cheeks, the brightness of his eyes, and the spread of his knees as John continued to carefully move the wooden hilt up, down, up, down.
“Off with these, I think,” said John.
Sherlock obliged, hastily shedding drawers and robe. John traced the line of Sherlock’s thigh muscles with the stick.
Gracilis, Sherlock named the muscles, seeking some measure of control instead of gasping his helpless desire at every touch, Adductor Longus. Rectus Femoris, oh, oh, ah, d-dorsal vein, f-f-frenulum…
Then stick was replaced by busy mouth (moustache, oh yes, good) and Sherlock’s fingers curled into the cloth of John’s nightshirt. He tugged at the linen. “Off with this. Off!” John happily and speedily obeyed the command.
They fell back into bed, wrapped in each other, moving together, coaxing each other to climax. Then, spent, John cleaned them both with a square of linen. They subsided to contented calm, Sherlock’s head on John’s chest. John kissed his hair.
“Wake me before you leave?”
“We’ll wake together,” said Sherlock, “The weather is miserable and it’s Christmas. There’ll be no clients to rouse us in the morning. Our apartment doors are locked and I’ve told Mrs Hudson that we’ll light the fires ourselves tomorrow. We’re safe.” This luxury, of waking together without fear of discovery, was another gift Sherlock had arranged for them both.
John brushed his fingers across Sherlock’s jaw, the gold of the wedding band gleaming in the moonlight from the window.
I will fix the sovereign to my watch chain in the morning, Sherlock decided.
“Merry Christmas, Sherlock, my dear.”
“Merry Christmas, my dear John. My dearest boy.”
A kiss sealed their murmured Yuletide salutations.
The year ahead would bring their challenges – Black Peter, Jonas Oldacre and Colonel Valentine among them. But this Christmas Eve held the secret of their strength and success. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were united, indivisible and steadfast.
A wedding band, a golden sovereign, and a walking stick made of native woods from the land where they rediscovered one another declared it so.
* * *