Characters: John, Sherlock, Abby, Sarah, Gladstone
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, a bit of family drama, fluffy-fluffness
Word Count 5,946
Summary: In the midst of a somewhat stressful Christmas, John finds Christmas morning with his family and Sherlock a pleasant affair.
Author's notes: Set in the Abby 'verse.
Yay, I managed to write everything I wanted to before the end of the holiday season. Happy Christmas to everyone who celebrated, I hope you had a lovely time, and for those who didn't, I hope you still got a chance to rest and relax.
John woke up when Gladstone left the bed, as he'd been lying up against John's back and kicked John somewhere in the lumbar area as he leaped down. John startled awake, his arm going instinctively tighter around Sarah, who muttered something unintelligible, but definitely objecting. He loosened it again, and she snuggled deeper into her pillow. He blinked in the darkness, and wondered whether he should be awake yet. It was only 6AM, according to Sarah's clock.
Downstairs, he could hear a faint 'baroo' from Gladstone, who was giving something a warning about whatever it was doing. Probably some sort of critter in the back garden that he felt was behaving inappropriately. Or a car in the street; he sometimes took objection to them as well. John closed his eyes again.
He awoke once more about five minutes later with the sudden realization that it was Christmas morning. Which, while not as exciting as when he was a child, was exciting in that it would be exciting for Abby when she awoke, if she hadn't already awoken. He let go of Sarah and slipped out of bed to see what was up, and maybe make some coffee and turn the tree lights on in preparation. He peeked into Abby's room, but she was still asleep, face- planted with Mr Owl under her arm.
It smelled a little of coffee already when he went downstairs, shrugging his dressing gown on over his t-shirt and pyjama trousers. Gladstone trotted up to meet him at the bottom of the stairs, tail wagging with great enthusiasm. The tree lights were already on. John was certain he'd turned them off after playing Father Christmas the night before.
“Fuck!” he said, as he turned into the kitchen and found a shadow looming by the sink.
“I think 'Happy Christmas' is the traditional greeting,” Sherlock said.
“Jesus Christ,” John breathed, half-laughing.
“Yes, that is a more appropriate exclamation for the day,” Sherlock said.
“What the hell are you doing looming in the dark like the Child Catcher?” John asked.
“I was invited,” Sherlock said. “You invited me for Christmas morning.”
“Yeah, I know, but I didn't think you'd be waiting in the shadows for us,” John said.
“Well, you didn't give me an exact time, so I estimated by the time Abby usually wakes up, which I estimated from the time I observe that you usually wake up, and then factored in her excitement for the morning making her rise earlier than usual,” Sherlock said. “Apparently my calculations were off.”
Even in the semi-dark, John could see him pouting about being wrong.
“We thought you wouldn't remember, so we were going to give you a ring once we were ready to go,” John said.
“And to whom do I owe the five quid now that I've come of my own accord?” Sherlock asked.
“Sarah,” John said, apologetically. “But if you brought presents, you can keep it.”
“I did,” Sherlock said. “I brought Abby a present, at least, and one for you and Sarah together, does that count?”
“Yeah, that'll do,” John said. “Happy Christmas.”
“Mmm,” Sherlock grunted.
He sat down at the table with the cup of coffee he'd made for himself. John supposed it was good that Sherlock felt comfortable enough to let himself in and make a cup of coffee as though he lived there. When he'd first had the key copied, John had been a bit miffed about it. He'd thought it was a sign that Sherlock couldn't let him have a separate life and would be barging in there non-stop. He only ever used it when he was invited though, and John had wondered if he wasn't sincere in his idea of having it just in case there was an emergency some day.
John used the freshly boiled water to make himself a cup of coffee and sat with Sherlock at the table.
“Did Mrs Hudson get off okay yesterday?” John asked.
“She left with her weight in presents and I haven't heard from her since, so I assume so,” Sherlock replied.
“Sarah and I were wondering about the trains with the snow,” John said.
Sherlock's cup paused on the way to his mouth. “Snow?” he said. “Did it snow?”
“Sherlock, it snowed for five hours straight yesterday,” John said.
“I walked over here, there was no snow,” Sherlock insisted.
“It turned to rain and melted,” John said. “What were you doing that you didn't notice?”
“Sleeping,” Sherlock said. “I slept until 11PM last night.”
“Fuck,” John said. “You were sleeping when I came the other day, too. Did we tire you out that much at the Christmas-do?”
Molly had offered to host it this year, and they'd ended up doing a sit-down dinner affair at Alec's parents' restaurant. Sherlock had been very well-behaved. He'd eaten, he'd stayed right to the end, he'd bought Molly a nice present for the Secret Santa exchange, he'd even been civil to Alec's friends who had come. John felt like Sherlock made more of an effort when Molly's feelings were at stake.
“Socializing is always exhausting,” Sherlock said.
“Well, we're off around noon for Sarah's dad's, and Mrs H is gone until after Boxing Day, you'll have plenty of time to rest,” John said.
“This isn't the same, this is much easier,” Sherlock said.
“Yeah? Why?” John asked.
“I don't feel obligated to...I'm used to your family now,” Sherlock said. “I don't have to try.”
John could have said 'wait, you tried before?' or he could have said 'it only took you four fucking years', but what he actually said was, “Good.”
“I take it whatever you did with Harry last night didn't go well?” Sherlock said, in the voice that sounded conversational and interested but actually meant he was trying to deduce.
“No, it went fine,” John said. “I mean, it was awkward as fuck like it always is, but she did well with Abby and she wasn't drunk. She's just odd. She's odd when she's sober.”
“I would have thought you were used to odd people,” Sherlock said, with a smirk.
“No, it's a different kind of odd,” John said. “You're eccentric odd. She's just...odd. Loud and awkward and...too much. Like when she was a kid. Maybe it's a good thing she's getting back there. She was always too much, I guess I just forgot. Maybe she's uncomfortable, too. I don't know. It doesn't really matter. If she's sober and we get together a couple of times a year and Abby at least know who she is and isn't afraid of her, that's all I need or want. I think Sarah wants more for me, but she's close to her siblings. You probably get more than she does why it's okay we're not holidaying together.”
“I do,” Sherlock said. He cocked his head to one side, brow furrowed. “If she didn't bother you, there must be something else family related. You're consternated about something. Your left eyebrow is tense.”
John felt his left eyebrow to see how tense it was, but it felt like any other time he felt his eyebrow. Which, granted, was not something he did on a regular basis. “Sarah's mum is being her usual drama queen self,” he explained.
“I'd have thought you were used to drama queens, too,” Sherlock said.
“She's even more of a drama queen than you,” John said. “She has Boxing Day this year, and Sarah's dad has Christmas. They swap every year. Sarah's dad is always fine, Sarah's mum does everything she can to sabotage Sarah's dad each year he gets Christmas. She goes through the sad, helpless stage, and the hurt little lamb stage, and then into the nasty stage. Apparently everyone is very ungrateful for going to Sarah's dad's on Christmas and no one has even offered to help her get ready for Boxing Day, and she's not feeling very well, you know—she's a fucking doctor and she can't give anyone any symptoms besides 'not well'—and the neighbours must think she's an awful person that her children would choose to ignore her on Christmas Day in favour of their father, who she knows they love more than they love her.”
“Why don't you all just refuse to go tomorrow and let her wallow in her own self-pity and save yourselves all the aggravation?” Sherlock asked.
John shrugged. “Family,” he said.
“Ah, yes,” Sherlock said.
“It'll all be fine,” John said. “None of the kids played the game, they all rang each other to head her off before she managed to triangle them against one another, and so she's going to have to play nice or face all of them as one. It's just not what you need on Christmas Eve in the midst of everything else.”
“I see,” Sherlock said. “Well, if you want me to have a dire emergency on Boxing Day, I'm sure I can successfully fake an attack of some sort.”
“Aww, that's nice,” John said. “I'll keep you on standby.”
Sherlock nodded in agreement. They both sipped at their coffees in comfortable silence, Gladstone curled up under the table to have his tail on John's foot and his head on Sherlock's foot. As much as John felt that the joint custody arrangement worked well for everyone, Gladstone did seem to be extra happy when both John and Sherlock were in the same room with him. John supposed it was good that Sherlock and him weren't actually exes or anything; it made being in the same room a possibility. Unlike Sarah's parents. John had no intentions of ever divorcing Sarah, but he hoped if something horrific happened and they did break-up, someone would punch them in the face if they ever behaved that stupidly about it.
A soft giggle at the top of the stairs let John know that Abby was awake. Sherlock hit the glow feature on his watch to check the time.
“I was only fifteen minutes off, give or take,” he said.
“I won't tell anyone,” John said.
Sherlock cocked his head to listen. “She's still very slow going down stairs,” he said. “She's not alternating her feet, like she has been when she goes up.”
It amazed John what Sherlock chose to store. He couldn't remember his own birthday, but he remembered which method Abby used on the stairs.
“Yeah, she's tried it a few times going down,” John said. “It's a lot of coordination. Down is way harder for kids to pick up. She's still nervous. I think it's four or even five when they should be alternating feet going down all the time.”
He could hear Sarah's voice warning Abby to take her time. Gladstone rose and trotted out to meet them, tail wagging in anticipation. John put the kettle on again to make Sarah some coffee, and moved to the door of the kitchen to watch Abby as she scurried into the living room.
“Look, Mummy, Father Christmas came!” Abby said, pointing to the tree. She giggled and dropped down on her knees in front of the boxes. Gladstone came up beside her, and she hugged him around the neck. “Lots of presents for everyone. That's nice.”
“Can I borrow your phone?” John asked Sherlock, who was now hovering over his shoulder to watch, too. Maybe not out of interest but to not be left out if something important happened.
Sherlock handed it to him and John took a few pictures of Abby exploring the tree. She didn't try to open anything, just chattered to Sarah about the boxes and the colours and patterns of the paper. She stopped as she came around to the dining room side.
“Father Christmas had his snack!” she said, pointing to where the mince pie and brandy had been left, before John had partaken of them.
“Look at that, it's all gone,” Sarah said. “He must have really enjoyed it, Abs. And the reindeer ate the carrots, too.”
Gladstone had played the part of the reindeer, chomping down the carrots without hesitation.
“Yay,” Abby said.
She hugged herself and jumped up and down in excitement. John heard a soft exhale of amusement coming from Sherlock. John handed the phone back to him, and got Sarah's coffee for her.
“Oh, hello!” Sarah said, when he brought it out. “I was wondering where you were. Abby came in to tell me it was Christmas, but we didn't know if you knew.”
“I do know,” John said. “I remembered.”
Abby wrapped her arms around him and wished him Happy Christmas. He returned the greeting and brushed her hair back from her face as she smiled up at him.
They all winced as the living room light came on, casting a much brighter light into the room than what they'd been getting from the fairy lights on the tree and the street lamps outside. Sherlock had turned it on.
“Sherlock!” Abby exclaimed, abandoning John to throw herself at him. “You're at my house!”
“I am,” he said. He gave her head a soft pat.
“It's Christmas,” she said. “Father Christmas came.”
“I can see that,” Sherlock said.
“He brung presents for me,” Abby said, in an explaining voice. “And Mummy and Daddy.” She looked up at him, concerned. “Did he bring you presents? I wrote a letter. I said about Gladstone, but not you.”
“I expect he worked out the mechanics on his own,” Sherlock said. He bent over and pointed to a box under the tree. “That one has my name on it.”
“Oh!” Abby said, looking relieved.
“And Sherlock has a stocking, too,” Sarah said. “See? Father Christmas filled it up for him.”
“Yay!” Abby said. “You must have been a good boy!”
John snorted and Sarah hit him.
“I believe I was acceptably well-behaved this year,” Sherlock agreed. “If he graded on a curve, I should be well within the 'good' range.”
Abby smiled up at him. Sherlock smiled back down, dropping it as she scampered away to look at the stockings.
“Happy Christmas,” Sarah said to Sherlock. She stepped over to kiss his cheek. “Did John ring you?”
“No,” Sherlock said. “But I brought presents, so it's one all.”
“Damn,” Sarah joked.
Sherlock went to sit on the loveseat, Gladstone hopping up next to him and putting his chin over his knee. Sherlock gave his head a few strokes and sipped at the second cup of coffee he'd made himself. Sarah sat down on the couch to sip at hers and John joined her. Abby settled on the floor to explore her stocking after receiving permission. She exclaimed over each object and giggled and showed it to everyone.
“Father Christmas brought me a satsuma. That's silly, we have them in the fridge.”
“Oh, a toothbrush. It has Princess Lena on it. I like that.”
“Look, slippers for my feet.”
“This is a yummy lollipop, because it's yellow.”
“It's a whole bag of gummy bears just for me!”
This was Abby's first Christmas where she'd fully understood from start to finish what was happening and why, so John had found her wildly entertaining as he watched her experience it all. She'd dictated her letter to Father Christmas, and helped make treats with Sarah and Mrs H, and come to 221B when John decided to forcefully counter Sherlock's bahhumbuggery with some decorations. Sherlock had termed the resulting tree as 'a tree decorated by an elf', as all the ornaments were on the branches that Abby could reach and no higher. Last night, Abby had left her treats out for Father Christmas after they got home from seeing Harry, and explained how he was going to come and leave presents. John found each stage of her development and understanding wonderful to watch as she grew up.
“Okay, that's all!” she said, making the 'all-done' sign that she'd picked up from preschool sign-language lessons. “Father Christmas brung me lots of nice things for my stocking.” She patted her pile and giggled.
“Why doesn't Mummy open her stocking next?” John suggested.
Abby brought the stocking from the dining room, hugging it to her chest. “You can open your stocking!” she said. “What did Father Christmas bring you?”
“I don't know, we'll have to see,” Sarah said. “I'm very excited.”
“I'm excited, too!” Abby said.
Sarah took the stocking and began to go through it while Abby watched and commented. She seemed just as happy for Sarah to have things as she was about her own presents, which was very sweet. She brought John's next, and helped him take the stuff out of his, and finally, she brought Sherlock's over to him, and climbed up on the loveseat next to him and Gladstone while he went through it.
They hadn't been too sure what to do for Sherlock this year. With the party being earlier in the week, not on Christmas Eve, Sherlock would be alone for the whole of Christmas.Which Sherlock insisted he didn't mind, and John imagined was not just bluster, but it felt wrong to have him sitting alone with his tree decorated by an elf. With Harry on Christmas Eve, and Sarah's family on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the only option was to have him over for Christmas morning, which meant they'd had to decide what to do about presents. They'd decided on a stocking, as it would be weird to leave him out, and three presents, which was the number John and Sarah bought for each other every year.
Buying for Sherlock was never easy. He had lots of interests, of course, but not ones that were easy to find presents for. John thought they'd managed pretty well, settling for mostly practical items and gag gifts, and some that were both. John had managed to find a few ones that were oddly appropriate, like soap with a glow-in-the-dark corpse chalk outline on it, and coasters of periodic table symbols. Then a few that were just plain odd, like a candle that smelled of newsprint, and one that smelled of smoke, both scents Sherlock liked but John never thought anyone would put in candle form.
“Look, you have a box,” Abby said, as Sherlock pulled out the first item. “Father Christmas brought you a box.”
“What's in the box, Sherlock?” Sarah asked, in mock curiosity.
“I believe Father Christmas brought me microscope slides,” Sherlock said, dryly.
“Just what you wanted!” Abby said, making everyone, including Sherlock, laugh.
He seemed to enjoy everything he pulled out. It was hard to tell with Sherlock, but he laughed at the silly ones and smiled at the more serious ones.
“Did you write a letter to Father Christmas to tell him what you wanted?” Abby asked Sherlock.
“No,” Sherlock said.
“But he knew what you wanted,” Abby said. “He's very clever.” She smiled at Sherlock. “Like you!”
“I'm far cleverer than Father Christmas,” Sherlock assured her.
“Do you know him?” Abby wondered.
John gave him an interested look. “Yeah, Sherlock, do you know Father Christmas?” he asked.
“I do, very well,” Sherlock said. “I am extremely good friends with the man who left presents here last night.”
“Really?” John said. “Are you? I thought you didn't have friends.”
“One or two,” Sherlock said.
“I'm your friend!” Abby said.
“Or three,” Sherlock amended.
Gladstone was the last to have his stocking opened, and he took the bone Father Christmas had brought him and took it to the corner next to the loveseat, so he could protect it as he chewed. This put him out of the way of the present opening, as otherwise he had a natural curiosity that made him stick his nose into everything to see what it was. John would like to think that he'd picked up those habits from living with Sherlock, but he admitted he'd probably been like that when John had first found him, too. Maybe that's why the two of them got on. John was used to nosy flatmates.
“Okay, Abs, you pick a present and we'll see who it's for,” Sarah said. “Can you read the name?”
Abby pulled out a parcel from under the tree and put her finger by the name tag. “It's for me!” she said. “It says 'Abby'.”
“All right then, you open it and see what's inside,” John said.
Abby ripped off the paper. “It's a box,” she said.
“Maybe you should open it,” Sarah suggested. “Take the lid off.”
Abby removed the lid and let out a shriek to wake the dead. Sherlock looked properly alarmed and Gladstone abandoned his bone to go and see what was going on.
“Shiny shoes!” Abby yelled, joyfully.
The only thing Abby had asked Father Christmas for was shiny shoes, which was what she called patent leather Mary Janes. Specifically, she wanted ones that went 'click click' when she walked. John and Sarah had both fished around to see if there was anything else she might like, but whenever anyone asked what she wanted from Father Christmas, her answer was 'shiny shoes'.
“No, Gladstone, you can't wear my shoes,” Abby said, as Gladstone sniffed at them suspiciously. “You have too many feet!” She rose with her box and brought it over to the couch. “Look, shiny shoes!”
“Wow, those are really nice shiny shoes,” Sarah said. “Do you like them?”
Abby nodded. “Father Christmas read my letter,” she said. “And he remembered. That's nice.”
“Why don't you put them on?” John said. “Let's see them in action.”
Abby sat back down and put the shoes on, getting some help from Sarah with the buckles. They'd bought them a little big to allow her to grow into them a little, but the straps kept them on her feet and she scurried over to the hardwood in the front hall to test out their clicking abilities.
“Yay!” she said, clicking up and down the hall. “I like them very much.”
John gave Sarah a hidden low-five.
“Does she want to be a tap dancer?” Sherlock asked, looking lost.
“No, I think she just wants to be pretty,” Sarah said.
Abby came back into the living room and twirled in place. They had to remind her there were more presents to open. She picked another from the pile and worked at the name.
“I don't know this one,” she said, bringing it to Sarah.
“Let's see,” Sarah said. “S-A-R-A-H. That says Sarah. Who's that?”
“That's you!” Abby said.
“It's me? Oh my goodness, that's exciting,” Sarah said. “I wonder what it is. Should I open it?”
Abby nodded, enthusiastically. “Maybe you have shiny shoes, too!” she said.
“That would be very exciting,” Sarah said. She ripped off the paper, and took the lid off the box. “Oh, look at that. Aren't they pretty?”
“I think those are slippers,” John said. “For your feet. Father Christmas must have known you needed new ones.”
“They're very nice,” Sarah said. “My feet will enjoy them.” She plucked the old, worn out, ratty ones she was wearing off and put the new ones on. “Yes, my feet enjoy them very much.”
Abby went back for the next present, which was a book for John, and the next, which was a book for Sherlock. It was a biography of Mendeleev. John figured he'd hit the mark when Sherlock put on his reading glasses to take a proper look at it.
They all went on through their presents, Abby bringing them over if they weren't for her and waiting to see what they were and being very excited on everyone's behalf. Sherlock guffawed loudly at the mugs they'd given him. One of them said 'I'm a [fermata symbol], hold me' on it, and the other one was two stick figures, one of them with a crochet rest over its head, with the other one saying 'you're under a rest'.
“See, I told you he'd like them,” John said to Sarah. “He loves a pun.”
Molly and Alec had bundled a few toys and books together for Abby, who asked Sherlock if he would read her a story. He muttered vague things about later on, and she accepted that. Mrs Hudson had helped Abby make some cinnamon dough ornaments during a child-minding session, and wrapped them as presents for Abby to give. John's was a stocking, Sherlock's a snowflake, and Sarah's a star. She'd also sent along some doll house furniture for Abby.
“Okay, this one is from Sherlock to us,” Sarah said. “Moment of truth. Do we need protective gear?”
“Not unless you're planning on blowing it up,” Sherlock said.
John unwrapped the professionally done wrapping, and opened the box. It was a blown glass plate, in a rainbow swirl of colours.
“Wow! That's actually really nice,” Sarah said.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry, I didn't mean 'actually',” Sarah said.
“Yes, you did,” Sherlock said.
“Yes, I did,” Sarah said. “Sorry. It is lovely, though. Where did you get it?”
“The same place I bought Molly's present,” Sherlock said. “I saw it there. It seemed...” he shrugged. “Good. It goes on the wall. You don't have to put it up. I just...bought it.”
“No, this is going up somewhere,” Sarah said, removing it from the box and holding it up so that the light shone through it. “It's gorgeous. Thank you.”
“Yeah, that's nice,” John said.
“Pretty!” Abby said.
Sherlock seemed content with their responses, but as the present opening carried on, he got a bit twitchy, and then almost annoyed and John wondered if he was finding it all too much until he realized that Abby kept almost picking up his present for her and then choosing something else and Sherlock was getting impatient about it.
“Hey, Abs, why don't you pick up that blue one?” John said, pointing. “That one looks really interesting.”
Abby picked it up. “It says my name,” she said.
“I think there's something else on there, too,” Sarah said. “Let's look.” She ran her finger over the tag. “To: Abby, From: Sherlock. That must be a present Sherlock brought you.”
Abby's face lit up. “Sherlock brung me a present!” she said.
“Wow, you must be really important, Abs,” John said.
Abby took the present over to Sherlock to open it on the loveseat next to him. He smiled a little as she ripped the wrapping paper off. John and Sarah both craned their necks to see what he might have bought. He'd been very good about presents for Abby over the years, but John couldn't help but feel the moment you let your guard down, Sherlock would pull out something terrifying for her.
Abby cocked her head back and forth as she examined it. “Is it a toy?” she asked.
“It's a microscope,” Sherlock said.
Abby's eyes widened. “Just for me?” she asked.
“Yes, just for you,” Sherlock said, grinning. He pointed to the box. “This part comes off, so you can take it with you and look at things like a magnifying glass. Or you can rest it on the stand, like mine.”
“It's just for me,” Abby said, happily.
“You can use it at my flat,” Sherlock said. “So you don't have to use mine. This one is easier to use.” He shot John and Sarah a questioning look, as if asking if he'd done all right.
“That was very thoughtful of Uncle Sherlock,” John said. “You'll get a lot of use out of that. You and him can do science together.”
“What do you say to Sherlock, Abby?” Sarah prompted.
Abby crawled over and hugged Sherlock around the neck. “Thank you for my science,” she said.
Sherlock gave her a couple of pats on the back. “You're welcome,” he said. “Happy Christmas.”
Sherlock assembled Abby's microscope as they finished up with the presents, pausing only to open his last one, which was a phone case that also functioned as a sort of Swiss Army knife, with multiple tools that slotted into it. Sherlock pulled out the screwdriver right away to help with the microscope assembly. John had to admire his one track mind.
“All done!” Abby said, after John finished up with his last present. “That's fun!” She looked around. “But we made a big mess!”
“You're allowed to do that on Christmas,” John said. “And you don't have to clean it up right away.”
“Yay!” Abby said.
“Well, I suppose we should have some breakfast,” Sarah said. “Are you staying, Sherlock?”
“Mmmm?” Sherlock said, distracted. “Yes, fine.”
Sarah held up five fingers to indicate the amount of money John owed her. He'd bet on Sherlock being out of there as soon as the presents were done. She went to the kitchen to start cooking, and John picked up the wrapping paper and put the haul under the tree to keep it from getting lost. Christmas was such a lot of work to put together, it always seemed a little flat that it only took an hour to get through in the end. John was pretty content with how it had gone, though. Everyone seemed pleased—Abby was certainly thrilled—and that was the most important part.
Abby sat with Sherlock as she waited for him to finish putting the microscope together, staring at her shiny shoes and turning her feet in the light to look at them.
“Do you like your presents?” Abby said.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “I do. They were very good.” His eyes flicked to John and John knew that was a thank you and accepted it as such with a nod.
“I like my presents,” Abby said. She kicked her feet up and down. “Why shiny shoes? Why shiny?”
“Do you mean why do they shine?” Sherlock asked. Abby nodded. “Your shoes have a very smooth surface so they reflect light better than something rough because the light isn't scattered as much when it hits it, so it makes a clearer image instead of a more distorted one or none at all. That's quite a basic explanation; the actual physics of specular reflection are very complicated.”
John worried Abby would enter Reception with no idea of the alphabet, but a university level knowledge of science.
Abby looked at her shoes again. “It's magic,” she said.
“No, no, it's the opposite of magic,” Sherlock said. “It's science.”
“I think magic,” Abby said, defiantly.
All right, well maybe it wouldn't be as bad as John thought.
“This is the eye piece here. It's monocular. You have a small face, so it will be easier for you to look into one ocular than two,” Sherlock explained, after he'd set-up the microscope on the coffee table. “And this is your stage, where you place your slides and specimens. The kit came with six prepared slides, so you can start with those. You don't have a lot of fine adjustment, but this knob zooms in up to 400x magnification, which is enough to get started.”
Abby had put her lab coat and listened with rapt attention, but blank eyes. Sherlock seemed to grasp that he was going over her head.
“If you look here, you can see what's here,” he said, pointing. “It makes very small things very big.” He picked up one of the prepared slides and showed Abby how to put it on the stage. “This is a lily petal. Look here.” He pointed to the eye piece.
Abby put her face up to it, and John could see the moment she fully understood that this was a microscope like the one at Baker Street and did the same thing that that one did.
“It's very small things just for me!” she said.
Sherlock smiled. “I was your age when I had my first microscope,” he said. “It was a little more sophisticated than this one, but I broke it repeatedly. This one will be more durable. If you undo this clip here...” He snapped the eyepiece off. “You can carry it with you and look at things on the go.”
Abby focused the scope on his face. “Who taught you microscopes?” she asked.
“My father,” Sherlock said.
“Is he nice?” Abby asked.
“Nice is not the word I would use,” Sherlock said, dryly. “But he wasn't a bad person.”
“My daddy is nice,” Abby said.
“I know,” Sherlock said.
“I think you're nice,” Abby added.
“You've obviously inherited your father's poor judgement of character,” Sherlock said.
The wheeze of a phone camera taking a picture sounded next to where John was standing. Sarah had her phone out and was snapping pictures of Abby and Sherlock.
“I'm sorry,” she said. “It's adorable. I need pictures.”
“Yeah,” John said. “It's so adorable the sausages are going to burn.”
“Oops!” Sarah said.
“I'll go,” John said.
He ran to prevent a pan fire, turning the sausages, which were only a little on the black side, and transferring the eggs out of their pan to a plate. He wondered if that's why there were so many fires on Christmas. People forgetting about sausages because they were basking in the glow of delighted children.
He could hear happy chatter and laughing from the living room. Sherlock came in after a few minutes, and John could see he'd had enough togetherness from the way he looked—like a caged animal desperate to escape. He placed his coffee cup in the sink, which he'd only done to have a pretence of getting out of the living room, not because he was being polite and cleaning up after himself.
“I think Abby enjoys my present,” he said. “I suppose I should have asked you first, but I only remembered last night at 11:30 that I needed something, and there wasn't time to consult before the shops closed.”
“It's fine,” John said. “She'll get lots of use of it, and it'll keep her out of your hair at Baker Street. I'm always afraid she's going to break yours.”
“That was about 79% of my motivation in picking it as well,” Sherlock said.
“What was the other 21%?” John asked.
Sherlock frowned. “I suppose about 15% not knowing what else to get and 6% thinking she might like it,” he said.
“Oh, well, a whole 6% of consideration there, good job, mate,” John said.
Sherlock gave a look of mock offence. “Abby thinks I'm nice,” he said.
“She's three, she'll grow out of it,” John said.
“Let's hope so,” Sherlock said. He shifted on his feet. “I have to go now.”
“Yep, I figured,” John said. “Thanks for coming. Don't forgot your stuff in your haste to get free of us.”
“Sarah's putting it in a bag for me,” Sherlock said. “To whom do I owe the five quid for not staying for breakfast?”
“Me,” John said. He'd lost five quid by Sherlock staying after presents, but he'd also laid odds on Sherlock not eating anything, so this would count. “But keep it, we're still even.”
Sherlock nodded. “Happy Christmas,” he said.
“Happy Christmas,” John said. “Enjoy being a lonely prick.”
“You have no idea how much I will,” Sherlock said.
John couldn't see him off due to the amount of fried food being prepared, but Sarah and Abby ensured he was hugged and patted and loved right up on his way out with Gladstone.
And later, as John wrestled with Abby to get her away from her toys to get her ready to go to Aldershot, and raced for the train and worried about how awful Boxing Day with Sarah's mother would be, he realized that the best part of his Christmas had been Christmas morning, not just because of Sarah and Abby, but because of Sherlock as well.
John wouldn't have put money on that.