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[personal profile] what_we_dream
Title: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Series: BBC Sherlock
Pairing: None
Rating: G
Notes: Gift!fic for [livejournal.com profile] ningen_demonai

Summary: John prepares for Christmas dinner, Sherlock doesn't.

“Some people are stopping by tonight,” Sherlock informs John at three in the afternoon, lying on the couch with his feet on the armrest while he screws something into the back of the LED head torch John got him for Christmas. “We can order in.”

John, just in from a draining tea with Harry, slumps into the armchair and looks around despondently at the mess of the flat’s front room. Papers everywhere, chemical experiments on the table, half-eaten food in greasy wrappings and Styrofoam containers sitting abandoned on the side table, and a wide variety of other odds and ends spilling out to cover most available surfaces. Their sole sad attempt at decorating is a piece of yellow tape reading CRIME SCENE – DO NOT CROSS draped around the flat’s windows.

“Right. I can go out – Ming’s’ll be open, I suppose,” he says, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice as he looks out into the street. It’s been raining all day, and now that it’s already beginning to get dark it looks thoroughly cold and unpleasant outside.

“Nonsense. It would be absolutely unbearable without you. And also potentially quite dangerous.” Sherlock lowers the screwdriver and turns the torch around, switching it on so that the light shines directly in his eyes. “Excellent. Longer battery life is far preferable.” He’s jerry-rigged it to take double As rather than triple, resulting in one battery protruding from the sleek plastic case.

“Yes, except that now you’re going to have a battery-shaped welt in your forehead,” points out John, distractedly. “Who’s coming?”

“Nothing a little gaffer tape can’t fix.” Sherlock switches the torch off and glances up. “Didn’t I mention? My family.”

John goggles slightly. “Your family is coming here?”

“Yes, the usual seasonal feel-good session. I drew the short straw this year.”

A horrible, horrible premonition is materialising in John’s stomach; he sits up in the chair. “Wait. Are they coming here for Christmas dinner?”

Sherlock gives him a look that says he considers John is being unusually dense. “It’s Christmas. They are coming for dinner. Ergo, Christmas dinner.”

“Oh my God. Sherlock, we can’t have your family over for Christmas dinner in this mess. It’s –” he glances at his watch, “it’s three o’clock, we’ve got no food, the stores are closing in a couple of hours if they’re open at all, the flat is a disaster –”

“As I said: we will order in. I was thinking Baan Thai, or perhaps Paducci’s – they do wonderful garlic bread, and tomatoes give Mycroft heartburn.”

“You cannot order in Christmas dinner. What were you – no, never mind. We don’t have time. When are they coming?” Feeling himself beginning to gibber, John pulls himself together and sets a target: adverting total social disaster.

“Six o’clock. My mother will bring a bottle of wine, red, at least twenty years old. Mycroft will bring either Stilton on Camembert. On the whole, I think…” he tilted his head up to stare at the ceiling, considering. “Stilton.”

John ignores his speculations. “Great. Look, I’ll go to the store – give me your card.”

“It’s in my wallet. On the desk.”

John gets up and sorts through the papers there to find the thin leather case, pulls out Sherlock’s credit card. “Right. You clean the flat, and put up some decorations. Mrs. Hudson’s got some holly on the hall table downstairs, you could probably nick that for the evening. The corner store across the street had some tinsel in. Here,” he digs two fives out of his own wallet and slaps them down on the desk under Sherlock’s now card-less one, “get something. Really.”

On the couch, Sherlock turns up his lip. “Festivities. Seasonal celebrations. Christmas. So boring.”

“For once, would you just… do something? Anything. I’ll be back in an hour.”

John only realises he’s forgotten his umbrella when he’s already outside.


He returns with aching arms and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen stuck inexorably in his head, a good half hour later than planned thanks to the last-minute shopping crowd and the holiday transit schedule. He sings it under his breath as he struggles up the steps, substituting the most profane lyrics he can think of.

As John comes round the corner, he closes his eyes in a bright, brief instant of hope. He’s not naïve enough to expect spotlessness, or any kind of taste at all in the use of Christmas decorations. Clear surfaces and something garish in red and green is all he’s hoping for. It’s apparent from the instant he opens his eyes again, though, that that’s not what he’s getting.

As John mounts the second set of stairs, he can see that Sherlock has at least made a cursory attempt at cleaning, largely managed by shoving the papers, boxes, books, clothes, and other litter into convenient cubbies and the wastepaper basket. As for the rest of it, it’s less Christmas than it is Odd. He’s hung a string of pink and yellow Chinese lanterns with fairy lights inside across the bookshelves, tacked mismatched baubles to the ceiling, and put a crowd of holly stems in a glass beaker over the hearth. The glassworks have been moved to the desk, where the vials and tubes are bubbling and boiling with red and green fluids. It all culminates in the head torch, now mounted to the deer head lamp’s nose with a piece of red cellophane over its light.

“Well,” says John, dragging the bags into the kitchen, “if the O.E.D.’s looking for a new definition of tacky, they need search no further.”

“You would have preferred candy canes trees and paper angels?” suggests Sherlock acidly from the couch. “We don’t live in a snow globe.”

“Definitely no danger of anyone getting mixed.” John deposits the food on the kitchen counter, which at least is mercifully clear. “I got ham – they were out of everything else. Peas, potatoes and tinned cranberries for veg. Plum pudding and hard sauce. Extra place settings, napkins, candles.” He lists off the contents of the bags, running through the act of cooking and eating the meal trying to determine if he’s forgotten anything essential and comes up negative.

“Very thorough, but entirely unnecessary. I don’t want to encourage them.”

“By meeting the lower common denominator of social standards?” John unwraps the ham, pulls out a baking tray and smells it. No smell of formaldehyde or decay – probably reasonably clean. He switches the oven on, and bungs it in.

“Exactly,” says Sherlock. “We meet once a year and suffer through it as a familial obligation. Imagine if they were to enjoy it. Get-togethers at New Year’s, Easter, Guy Fawkes. Then, before you know it, spontaneous weekends, bank holidays, lunch engagements.

“That sounds… really paranoid, Sherlock.”

“You don’t know my family,” says Sherlock, darkly. “Give them an inch, and they take a mile.”

John, beginning to peel potatoes for his roommate’s unannounced family dinner with a credit card that doesn’t belong to him in his wallet on a table last used for dissecting piglets, can agree that that at least is true.


John turns off the oven at 5:50, ham nearly done. The veggies are just going on the stove – he’s timing it for 6:30, not so early as to be rude, but quick enough to avoid the inevitably awkward pre-dinner socialising. As a doctor with an army career, he has extensive experience in making small talk with strangers, but somehow he doubts any of them could be as strange as the Holmes family.

As it turns out, he never finds out. This is because, at 5:57, the festive boiling beakers explode. John runs wide-eyed into the living room with a meat thermometer in his hand, to find the desk, table and carpet covered in dripping goop. It’s still bubbling; the nearest bubble bursts as John skids to a stop, flicking delicate green specks on his white shirt.

“Hm,” says Sherlock appraisingly, as he appears in the doorway. “Must have been too much gelatin. Shouldn’t have gone off for at least another twenty minutes.”

John’s hand tightens, just a little, on the thermometer’s head.

“The colour’s quite good, though, don’t you think?”

In the kitchen, he can hear the potatoes just coming to a boil.

“Still, it is a shame. Mycroft always looked awful in green.”

“I,” announces John, turning hard on his heels, “am going to Ming’s. Good luck traumatizing your family. I suspect they’re immune to it.” He tosses the thermometer in the general direction of the sink, grabs his coat and Sherlock’s umbrella, and slams out the door.
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