sábado, 1 de abril de 2017


The snow king

Our story commences with a hobgoblin, a king of Trolls up north, named Magnussen. He was evil, even if servant of one way more evil than him – he’d made a contract with the true King of Hell to see his power increase. But he was cruel and cunning all on his own – and he had the appalling lack of manners of Trolls, which is why the King of Hell in truth despised him. Magnussen liked tricks, and he created a magic mirror.
When reflected by this mirror, everything beautiful and good was immediately twisted into something ugly and warped, while every minuscule flaw was aggrandized and took over the rest, seeming much worse than it was in reality. Why, even thoughts were perverted once perceived through it – anything pure and good couldn’t survive intact being seen through that.
Magnussen started to take his mirror everywhere, and showing his Trolls subjects things everywhere through it, and they laughed, and said that finally humanity could be seen as it really was. The King of Hell praised him, and encouraged him, looking much more fearsome and powerful than he was when seen through the mirror. Having seen Hell, Magnussen decided to see the Heavens through his mirror too, sure that the angels would end up big fakes. But the mirror couldn’t withstand heaven, and when they finally arrived at its outskirts, it slipped by itself from his hands and shattered into millions of fragments.
Each fragment, though, held the power of the whole mirror. Some of them were unluckily made into glasses, which would ruin one’s sight forever, warping everything one perceived through them. But the finer and smallest slivers entered the human body and stuck to it stubbornly. Some people had one in their heart, and one could only commiserate them, as they hearts became ice. And sometimes you’d get a fragment in your eye, and then you could only see the worst out of anything and anyone. Naturally, Magnussen was delighted by this turn of events – thinking the King of Hell would reward him for ruining so many people’s lives (and maybe he would, who ever knew with him – he was so changeable). And now we’re following one of the tiniest flakes…
There were two men in London – flatmates, best of friends, partner in crime solving. Both wished for even more, but both were too scared to say it. One distracted himself with a line of girls – all of whom ended up figuring out where his affections truly lay, and leaving him. The other with a long line of experiments.
The last one involves planting foxglove on a pot on his windowsill and ordering the newest indoor hive (it’s a thing now, bees are officially pets, and Sherlock is over the moon) and waiting for possibly toxic honey to be created. As John reminds him, foxglove’s poison is actually a medicine for heart failure in smaller doses, and it’s interesting to see if the honey will turn poisonous, therapeutic or neither. Of course, now the foxglove (variety the Shirley, because why the hell not) is still seeds – it’s February, and it’ll be so for at least a month – and the bees haven’t arrived yet and will be huddled around their queen for the winter, keeping her warm anyway.
When it starts to snow, Mrs Hudson brings up some freshly baked scones, and can’t help the gentle tease at her eager tenant. “See there are the white bees swarming," she said.
"Have they a queen bee?" asked Sherlock, humouring her with a fond smile.
"I’d like to be able to say yes. But from what I’ve heard, they have a king instead," said their landlady. "He is flying there where the swarm is thickest. He is the largest of them all, and never remains on the earth, but flies up to the dark clouds. Often at midnight he flies through the streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, then the ice freezes on the panes into wonderful shapes, that look like flowers and castles."
"Can the Snow King come in here, beyond spying?" John asked. Why, her tale was fantastic but he loved spinning fantasy.
"Only let the fat git come," said the detective, for once going along with the fanciful – or so he believed – tale.  "I'll set him on the stove and then he'll melt."
But then one day when Sherlock was alone – John still at work – it started snowing, and while he stood at the window, his violin on his chin, he suddenly saw one very big snowflake landing on his still dormant foxglove pot. The snowflake grew, and grew, and turned into a man. A man made entirely of ice, with clothes of snowflakes sewed together, and an incongruous closed umbrella – he surely didn’t need that to fly, what was he, Mary Poppins? – who waved at him amiably, peering in. Sherlock skittered back, afraid of the mysterious creature, almost dropping his violin. But hey, the realm of impossible had just receded further back, and he was left reeling.
But that was the last big snow, and soon spring came, and then summer, and the bees arrived, the foxgloves bloomed, and even if that day resisted deletion the new experiment absorbed Sherlock and he didn’t think of it anymore. John tended to both him and the flowers with equanimity, saying he liked them very much – though he grumbled about the bees – they still went on cases, and generally had a lot of fun. Why, John even found a lied about foxgloves which Sherlock adapted from piano to violin and sometimes they’d duet like silly boys, giggling every time they got to, “In grandmamma’s garden the foxgloves gay/with every wind would nod and sway.”  
Until one summer day, while John pecked at his computer in an attempt to blog about the latest case and Sherlock was in his mind palace, one of these mirror slivers entered by the open window and entered Sherlock’s left eye. Hitting the cornea violently, it splintered further, and another microscopic sliver travelled as far as Sherlock’s heart, turning it into a lump of ice. “Something got in my eye,” Sherlock complained.  
“Let’s see to it, you big baby,” John replied, gently teasing. “Uhm? Sherlock? I don’t see anything. Did you just want my attention?” 
“Why would I? You’re a damaged adrenaline addict, John. What could I possibly want with you? Beyond for you to stop inflicting your poorly worded opinion on others, that is. And I’m fine now,” the detective hissed, the mirror speaking, making him see only John’s worst traits.
“Sherlock!” John yelled, upset, before storming away from the great berk lest he hit him.  
Since then, Sherlock changed. John had never believed that sociopath front, but he was starting to believe it now. The detective was impossible. Once he ripped out all the foxgloves in a rage, because they were “blemished,” while John vainly tried to remind him of his experiment, and how it would be ruined. The doctor would miss the pink and purple spotted flowers.  
More than once, the sleuth was rude to Mrs Hudson, and if that didn’t mean that he was changing – and not for the better – he didn’t know what was. As for John himself, he needed to get away from Sherlock very often now. His flatmate had become impossible, and while before Sherlock teased him gently about the blog, now John was seriously considering giving it up, from the vitriolic comments the detective both left on the site and regaled him in person. He only kept at it because John Watson was a bloody stubborn man, and he didn’t want to give Sherlock the satisfaction.  
And then it was winter again, and Sherlock got a passion for snowflakes, which he said were ‘flawless’ unlike ugly flowers, and to be able to examine them longer under the microscope he kept the flat ice-cold, much to John’s grumbling.  The doctor really hoped this experiment was going to end soon, or they were all getting pneumonia.
Until one day Sherlock left the flat, stating he was going to have ‘fun’ and that John shouldn’t follow, and that was exactly the thing that would have made John follow him if he’d been in the flat (Sherlock had never been very good at keeping track of these things). But John was at work, so no one stopped him from going to his nearer old haunt and buying his favourite 7% solution of cocaine. No one stopped him from injecting it, either, other junkies like him lost in their own trips.  
So when the detective saw a limousine made of black ice stopping at the window (he was on a second storey) he chalked it to an imaginative trip. And when the Snow King, complete of the same umbrella he remembered (maybe it was a case of silver frost?) and in a snowy coat came in from the same window and stood beside him, sighing, “Oh, Sherlock,” the sleuth chalked it up to cocaine.
 “Come with me, you idiot baby,” the Snow King ordered, and started to drag him by the arm.
And while Sherlock wanted to protest being called an idiot he thought he might be getting into an adventure, so why not. His only worry was, “My Belstaff! Let me get my Belstaff!” – he’d had to shrug out of it to inject himself properly.
The Snow King let him have it, and then guided him to the frozen car, and soon they were flying so fast that Sherlock felt quite nauseous when he looked from the window the world spinning under him. This trip wasn’t so fun anymore.  
Until they arrived at the Snow King’s palace, and Sherlock started to deduce all the servants and the people they met, trying to show off for his new companion. But the king corrected him, and showed him he missed things very often, and when Sherlock fell silent he said, “Come on, don’t sulk now. You might be stupid, but there’s hope for you yet. You’re the most interesting goldfish I’ve met, despite lacking some brainpower still. And I’m going to keep you, and train you, and give you cases you can work out for me.”
The promise of cases made Sherlock happy, and the king had been complimenting him, in a backhanded sort of way, so the detective grumbled, “Fine,” and that night he slept in the Ice Palace, just a room away from the king, who’d said, “You can come in my bed if you have nightmares. I’ll protect you.” Which was patently ridiculous because Sherlock never had nightmares. John had nightmares. Wait…who was that again? Oh, no matter. But he wouldn’t go to the Snow King, whatever happened. Why, he’d almost gotten frostbite from the little he’d been touched.  
But what happened to John now that he’d lost his flatmate? (Yeah, let’s stick with flatmate.) Well, the problem was, Sherlock had disappeared off the face of the heart. After being in a drug den. Whose junkies swore up and low that he’d been taken in by a limousine parked at the window. Second storey window, let me repeat that. What had John to assume? He harassed Lestrade, who organised a search party for Sherlock worthy of a disappeared head of state.
When they didn’t turn up with anything, what could John think? “He might have been killed while he was high and dumped in the Thames.”  Otherwise, some sort of clue about him should have certainly turned up by now. John spent the rest of the winter crying over his friend’s cenotaph (why, even the man’s parents had agreed he must have been killed and had given him a tomb to have some sort of closure, even without a body). 
But not everyone agreed with John, Lestrade and the Holmeses. Anderson met John on his way to his friend’s way, and told him, “I believe in Sherlock Holmes. He’s just disappeared for some reason that makes sense only to him, and will reappear soon enough. He’s too good to be done in while high. He’s solved cases while high.”
 “It’s been three months, Anderson. He’s dead and gone,” John sighed.
 “The whole Empty Hearse club is siding with me,” Anderson replied.  
“Look, there’s no one who would be happier to believe that, but if he’s alive, why doesn’t he come home?” the doctor countered, yearning clear in his voice.  
“Well, we have several theories to explain that,” Anderson piped up, grinning.
 “No. Stop. Look, just leave me alone,” John growled, walking away.  
The following day, at dawn (since he hadn’t been able to sleep at all), he dressed up in his nice light blue new jumper – a gift from Mrs Hudson for last Christmas, one Sherlock never got to see – and walked by the Thames, reaching the docks. It had been rather too long, but he couldn’t help but hope the river could finally give him back his friend’s body, however half-decomposed it would certainly be. He wanted to see Sherlock again. “You took Sherlock, didn’t you?” he whispered to the dirty water. “How about giving him back? Isn’t it time yet? Come on. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give you my jumper and you’ll give me Sherlock back.”  
The river, of course, didn’t reply. John took off his jumper anyway and chucked it into the water. Was he crazy? Of course he was, who cared. The jumper didn’t flow away, but a wave brought it right back on the dock at John’s feet.
It could be because the river had nothing to give and so it couldn’t accept the deal – but John only thought that he hadn’t chucked it far enough.  There was a boat near him on the dock, so he thought he’d just get in to be a bit more far when he threw the jumper away again. And this time he succeeded – but the boat wasn’t properly anchored, and when John got in it moved enough to leave the dock and flow to the centre of the Thames. And the light blue jumper was dragged from the current after it, but the boat was too fast for him to manage to get it back, and John was left shivering in his tee-shirt and wondering what would happen to him. “Maybe it’ll bring me to Sherlock in the end,” he reasoned. And if that meant that the boat would capsize and he’d join Sherlock’s body at the bottom of the Thames, to be honest, John didn’t mind overly much.
It was still very early morning, which is why there was no one in the streets by the river’s side that could help John to regain land. Until he sailed along a beautiful cherry orchard, and in its midst there was a house with two wooden soldiers standing guard. John called to them for help, mistaking them for real people at first, but soon realised he was wrong.
What he didn’t expect was a blond woman to leave the house, pointing a gun at him – but the gun shooted a harpoon, and it held onto the boat, and she dragged it – and John – to the beach. That was one badass woman, and John was thankful and not a little charmed.
Mary – because that was the blonde’s name – invited John in. She offered him tea and as many delicious cherries as he could eat, and John told her all – of how he’d lost his friend, and everything about Sherlock, how he was hoping to find him (or at least his body) back again, and how silly he’d been and got into this.
She heard him out, and didn’t call him an idiot even once, and assured him that even if she hadn’t seen Sherlock, alive or dead he was very likely to turn up there.  Then she invited him to take a shower to warm up. She invited herself into it, too, and John enjoyed it very much, and the more she distracted him, the more he started to forget Sherlock and all the pain the loss of his best friend caused. Because, you see, Mary was a bit of a witch, she could conjure, and she wanted to keep this wonderful man the river had brought.  
“I’ve wanted for a companion for a long time, John. You’re going to stay with me, aren’t you?” she quipped, kissing him.
And John, forgetful, said yes. Why, Mary even took care to go into the garden and push all the foxgloves underground, and she warded bees off from the garden, so John would not be reminded of his absent friend.
In orchard and garden they spent a great many days having the best of times, making love on the grass, heady with the smell of flowers – because, beyond the poor punished foxgloves, there was almost every flower in Mary’s garden – and watching the butterflies flutter about.  
Until one day Mary put on a colourful dress with all kinds of flowers painted on it – and on the dress, on the left of her chest, there was the image of a foxglove. She didn’t think to enchant her wardrobe, too, and that oversight cost her John.
As soon as John saw that, he thought back to Sherlock, and that ill-fated experiment, and he ran through the garden, leaving her side, seeking for a foxglove. Why weren’t there foxgloves here? There was every other fucking flower. Had she uprooted them too, like Sherlock had?
Thinking about Sherlock, John couldn’t help it, he started crying. And from the earth moistened from his tears immediately bloomed foxgloves.  “Why are you crying?” they asked, shocking John not a little. But apparently staying with witch Mary and eating what she gave him had made him a bit of a wizard, too, because now he understood the language of all the flowers gently swaying in the breeze.  He might as well answer them.
“Because my best friend Sherlock is dead.”
“He’s not dead. We’ve been under the earth, were all dead bodies eventually end, and he wasn’t there,” the foxgloves replied sternly.
Could he believe them? Why would they want to deceive him? Could he hope? “I’d meant to seek Sherlock, dead or alive. And then Mary happened, and I got…sidetracked. I never should have let it happen!” he blurted out.  Since he could understand the flowers now (or he had finally gone completely barmy, and then who cared what happened to him?) he decided to interrogate the other flowers and ask them if they’d heard anything about Sherlock. But every flower only had his own song to sing, and repeated his tale, which had no relation with Sherlock at all – or so it seemed.   
And what said the tiger lily? “The Hindu widow burns. She burns on her husband’s pyre, drugged, but still sensible to the cruel embrace of the flames. Her relatives have organised it all – her own son has tied her up to the pyre. And then, sometimes, it’s the reverse. Sometimes it’s him, who believes he’s lost his life’s partner, and no matter if he’s not supposed to, he doesn’t mind throwing himself in the same flames which are consuming his love, because the fire in his heart is stronger than that.” 
“Do you mean Sherlock? Is he in India?” John asked, hopeful. 
“What can I know of your friend? I’m just spinning tales. Isn’t that one good?” the tiger-lily replied.        
What said the convolvulus, the moonflower? “There is an old knight’s castle, overcome with thick ivy over all the walls, and you might think it’s ancient and abandoned. But there’s a princess trapped inside, full lips like rose petals, eyes of sky. She sighs and ponders, “Will he not come?” And then she looks longingly on the ever empty road. She’s very bored trapped in that old castle all alone, you see.” 
“Are you sure you haven’t mixed up the sex? Because the description could fit Sherlock – though he probably would have left climbing down the ivy by now, to be honest,” John quipped, laughing.  
“What do I know of this Sherlock character? I am only speaking of a story I saw in a dream,” the convolvulus answered, sounding pretty put out that John had laughed. 
What said the little snowdrop? “There are three brothers. One is a teen, and the others twins of about six or seven. They are in the family garden, the twins sitting on a swing, while the older brother is in front of them. He holds their mother’s scarf, and he throws it at his brothers, which launch it back after a sentence or two. It’s their own private game, one they’ve invented themselves. A red, longhaired puppy comes running and wagging his tail, thinking the flying object is for him to play catch. He jumps, and snatches it mid-flight. His tiny teeth are still sharp enough to tear a hole into it. The oldest one scolds him, and he whines. One of the twins starts crying, thinking of Mummy’s inevitable ire. The other rises to defend the puppy, determined to take blame if necessary, even to tear the thing apart or mummy will notice the signs of the bite. Happiness, my dear, sadly never lasts.”
 “I know that all too well,” the blogger grumbled, “but you didn’t say a word about Sherlock, his current fate, or where I might find him. Why do none of you answer on topic?”  
To that, the little snowdrop had no answer. 
What did the hyacinths say? “There’s one little boy, bright-eyed and wild-hearted. He loves the competition, he loves how powerful he feels into the water. He sometimes dreams he’s a merman, invincible in his element. But then one day he isn’t anymore. He ends in a coffin, and he looks so relaxed you might wonder if he’s asleep. But he’s not. He’s dead, drowned, water filling his lungs, crowns of white flowers all around him. The evening bells toll their knell.” 
“You have a sad tale, and a heady smell. You make my head swim, too. Do you mean that Sherlock is dead? The foxgloves said no, but they’ve been in the earth. You say drowning – I had hoped he’d be thrown in the river already dead. Drowning is not a nice death at all,” John remarked quietly.
 “We’re not talking of him, promise,” the hyacinths replied, “our bells don’t toll for him – we don’t know his fate. This is another little boy – and here we are, singing the only song we know.”
 Then John went to the glittering buttercups. “You are little bright suns,” he said, “please tell me where I can find my best friend.”
And the buttercups sparked gaily, and looked at him. But even their song gave him no news about Sherlock’s whereabouts. “There is an old woman, in spring pasts. She’s very good at gardening, even though she has only little space for her medicinal herbs. The odd flower blooms among her cultivations, a little golden flower. And it’s a golden morning, golden, warm sunlight coming from the window, and a young boy with a heart of gold comes in, promising to help her (you see, her husband is not very nice). And she bakes him scones, and loves him like a son. That is my song,” the buttercups said.
“That sounds like Mrs Hudson alright,” John remarked quietly “and ta for that, but I need to know the present, not the past. Though I really should have let her know I was going to search for Sherlock. I slipped out at dawn and then Mary sidetracked me and Mrs Hudson must have thought I’ve disappeared too. She’d be worried sick. And I’ve forgotten my mobile phone home, so I can’t even call her to reassure her. What a mess. Sherlock was right – I’m an idiot. But at least the foxgloves said he’s not dead, and if he isn’t, then I’m bloody well dragging his ass back home. She’ll be happy to have him back, might even forgive me for pulling a disappearing act too. Though these flowers are so bloody useless. They don’t know a thing.” He was ready to run away, but the narcissus got tangled in his legs, so he stopped and asked, “Do you have anything pressing to say? News from Sherlock, maybe? That would be welcome.” John, hoping against hope, knelt down, not to miss anything the flower might murmur – what did it have to say? 
“I can see myself, I can see myself,” said the narcissus. “Oh, how sweet is my perfume! There’s a girl, admiring her yellow dress. She’s going to put it on to a wedding, and she can’t help but wonder when it’ll be her turn to wear the white one. There are flowers on a vase in her room. She has a boyfriend, but he’s not the one she really wants. But the one she wants is unreachable to anyone. I can see myself, I can see myself.”
 “Oh, shut up. I don’t care about you,” John growled. He ran at the end of the garden. The door was closed, but the rusty latch soon gave way, and John ran away (still in his t-shirt. Oh well, at least he wasn’t naked – he’d been often enough in that garden). He looked back three times, to see if the gun-wielding madwoman would go after him, but Mary had apparently let him go.
He suddenly realized something, though. while the enchanted garden seemed perennially at the pinnacle between spring and summer, in the outside world it was autumn. Advanced autumn. And a cold wind blew. “I’ve wasted so much time! Mrs. Hudson will be beyond angry when we get back. If we get back. I mean, the foxgloves did say that, but if Sherlock’s dead after all – maybe I’ll find only his bones. Oh, stop it, John Hamish Watson. You’ve despaired long enough. Onwards, now,” he told himself loudly.
He’d ignore the cold and the wind, the dead leaves and deadened trees with their haunting shadows. He was a man on a mission. And he’d discover what happened to his friend, whatever the cost. Soon it started to snow, and when John rested, trembling, after wandering long and hard in search of clues (there had to be – fine, Lestrade hadn’t found them, but if he wasn’t dead, Sherlock couldn’t have disappeared into thin air!), he saw a big crow hopping towards him.
“Caw, caw, good day, good day. I’m Billy. Who are you, and what are you doing all alone and half-dressed? If you’re a homeless, I might have some tips.” 
John told him he was not, and told him all his story, and asked if he knew anything about Sherlock – as he always did. 
The crow nodded, and said, “Perhaps I have – it may be.”
 “Do you think you have? Really?” and John, in his enthusiasm, hugged the crow almost to death.  
“Gently, please,” huffed the crow. “I think it might be your Sherlock. But he certainly has forgotten anything about friends or flatmates, his head only full of the princess.” 
“Does he live with a princess?” the doctor asked, sounding maybe more incredulous than he should. But girlfriends weren’t Sherlock’s area, were they? Had he finally found someone and just ‘forgotten’ to let them know? …That sounded like the prick, actually. 
“In the kingdom you’ve wandered in – magic portals and all that, you know – there’s a princess. A wonderfully clever if fully ruthless one. You don’t really want to get on her bad side. A short time ago, while sitting on her throne, she became to sing a song, which went ‘Why should I not be married?’ Well, why not? She decided to marry, but she wanted someone at least as clever as she is. ‘Brainy is the new sexy,’ she proclaimed. ‘If my husband’s an idiot I might as well buy a sex doll for all the good he’d do.’ She announced it to the court ladies and they all acted so pleased – though one at least was way less than she pretended to be. You can believe me – I have a tame sweetheart who goes freely about the palace, and she tells me all the juicy bits.”   
“Newspapers were published immediately, with a border of hearts, and the monogram of the princess among them. There was a Twelfth Night quote too, in the midst, and it said that if any young bright man wanted to come and speak with the princess, he should feel free to; that the more amusing ones would have free hospitality; and that the most clever one would be chosen to marry the princess. The people came in crowds, but no one succeeded at first. It seems all the pomp around the princess left them quite dazed, and the best of them could only echo what she said, and you can imagine how annoying that was to her. She wanted conversation. Possibly intelligent conversation. Not an echo. After so many who barely dared to speak, our princess was starting to reconsider it all.”  
“Yes, I’m sure. But we are to talk about Sherlock, please. Did he came to see her?” Sherlock at least wouldn’t certainly repeat her words – he hated repetition. And, posh git that he was, the ostentation around the princess would do little to impress him – John was quite sure. 
“I’m getting to that. On the third day arrived someone, his eyes sparkling like yours; very clear, beautiful eyes, and a soft, full mouth, like a girl’s. His clothes, though, were very poor and he had no horse or carriage,” the crow related. 
“That must have been Sherlock!” John exclaimed, clapping his hands. “I can’t believe I found him.” The man had been in his Shezza persona, so the clothes were not a problem, and God knows his flatmate had one luscious mouth (stop that train of thought right now, John Hamish Watson, if you are to see him soon). 
“Anyway, my sweetheart said  that he came into the palace, and saw the guards, and all the courtiers, and the ladies, and my princess’ court is so rich that each of the ladies’ maid had his own maid to look after her. But he went right up to the princess, who sat on a pearl as large as a spinning wheel, and he didn’t seem a mite embarrassed by his own poor attire, or by the despising looks he received and the murmurs that brew up. And then he proclaimed that he wasn’t here to woo the princess, but to hear her wisdom. And my princess was very pleased with him, as he was with her, and found him very clever,” Billy said, hopping towards him.  
“Never known anyone cleverer than Sherlock. It must have been him. Please, could you bring me to the palace? I need to see him!” the doctor entreated, eager. 
“Easy for you to say – but since the princess has found her special someone, she doesn’t let just anyone enter her palace anymore, and you don’t look exactly like nobility. I’ll ask my sweetheart – maybe she’ll come out with an idea,” Billy explained, looking dubious. 
“Not as hard as you think – I mean, we just have to let Sherlock know John Watson is here, and he’ll fetch me himself and drag me into some absurd project of his. It’s from our first day that the pattern holds,” John replied, grinning. He couldn’t believe he’d found Sherlock!           
“Wait for me,” Billy demanded, and flew away. However impatient he was, John managed to do just that, and the crow came back in the evening, with dinner – courtesy of his sweetheart – and a plan.  “You can’t go by the front entrance – there are guards there that’d surely object to you strolling in. But we’ll smuggle you in by the back staircase – my love has a key, and you’ll be close to the sleeping quarters – just perfect. I’ve always known she was the best,” Billy crowed. 
They crossed the garden of the palace, with its falling, golden leaves, and the crow led John to the back door, which was conveniently ajar. He couldn’t believe he was about to to see Sherlock again after having given up on him. The description matched, though – it had to be him. For John’s sanity, he had to be.
Sherlock would smile at him, and be glad to see him, and feel a bit guilty that he’d worried Mrs Hudson. Enough to come back to reassure the old woman, at any rate. If he’d return to his…fiancée (gosh but it was so odd thinking of him having one) afterwards it’d be good. John could still come visit, maybe fully dressed and without sneaking from the backyard. 
John met Billy’s sweetheart, who offered to guide him, and praised him for going so far in his search of his best friend (because that’s what he’d told Billy, obviously). And she reassured him that the shadows that appeared to be following them – which left John’s military instincts aflame, having strangers and even the odd mythical creature slithering around from what he glanced at his back – were no more than dreams that came to the great people in the castle.
“Well, at least if they’re asleep nobody will bother us,” John commented hopefully. They traversed one number of halls, each one richer than the last,until they came to the princess’ chamber. The beds looked like orchids, with stems of gold and emeralds. The princess’ bedding was black as sin, and the other bed was purple, and John couldn’t help but think that was Sherlock’s colour.
The Prince in the purple bed had entirely burrowed under the covers, perhaps overly cold, and John held the lamp and uncovered him a bit, calling his friend (he’d been woken at ungodly hours often enough to owe Sherlock the same treatment).
Only it wasn’t Sherlock, and technically speaking, it wasn’t even a Prince at all, but one very shapely woman with flowing red hair and kissable lips. The princess mentioned Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in her announcement, and asked for someone clever…and she got it. A beautiful woman who did not mind posing as a male. 
“Mmmm…Kate? What happens dear? Are you being naughty?” princess Irene asked, waking up to the light in the room. 
John apologised profusely and told the princess in few words all his troubles and why he’d sort of broke in (another habit he’d taken from Sherlock damnit) with the crows’ help, but it wasn't their fault, really…
Irene laughed and said, “Far be it from me to punish or hinder someone following the course of true love. Why, our friends the crows will be recompensed.”
 John blushed and objected automatically, “No, Sherlock and I…we’re not a couple.” 
“Yes you are,” the princess replied, in a tone that said “that’s final,” and John would really rather let her have her delusions that be incarcerated and maybe killed for breaking in, so he didn’t say another word. “And you, my dear followers of Cupid, would you rather have your freedom or become court crows and have free run of the kitchen and eat the same I do?” Irene added. 
The crows liked much more the court crows option – nobody ate better than princess Irene after all, and that was not an offer to turn down – and they thanked and bowed and cawed a lot.  
“Our new friend will need somewhere to sleep for the night,” Kate remarked, raising shamelessly naked from her bed and coming to Irene’s. “Come on, let me snuggle you tonight. I promise you I won’t kick.”
John blushed and stammered it was too much honour, but princess Irene cut his protests with a sharp, “Nonsense. Get to sleep, now.”
Objecting to her wishes seemed really unwise, so John thanked her quickly and slipped in the luxurious soft bed and slept. And if he dreamt of Sherlock, he only wished the oh-so-dear curly-haired shadow could stay beyond the cruel moment he woke up. (But the foxgloves assured him Sherlock wasn’t dead – that had to be worth something.)  
The following day John was offered a suit that would not have him disfigure in court, all golden silk with light blue accents, and invited to stay for a few days. Irene wanted to hear more about his clever friend. But John gave her his blog’s address, if she wanted more about Sherlock, and begged only for a jumper, because running around in a t-shirt in winter wouldn’t go so well. And maybe some means of transport so he could seek for his missing friend quicker.
John got a burgundy cardigan not unlike the one he had at home, and a scarf and warms gloves. And when he left the palace he found a golden carriage with the coat of arms of princess Irene, pulled by black horses, with a driver and two footmen – the whole nine miles. His friend Billy the crow accompanied him for a while, and then departed with many well wishes, and John was on his way to look for clues of his lost friend’s whereabouts. (Sherlock had to bloody be somewhere). 
John should have remembered to ask for a gun, too, or brought his own – but when he’d set off at the start, he had no idea how long his trip would be. With a bloody golden carriage, it’s no wonder that, while they are going through a thick forest, a group of robbers attacked them.
Driver and footmen were soon subdued, and while John fought hard, there were simply too many people for him to fight off.  He’s surprised that the chief of the gang is a woman, with light brown hair and clear eyes, that fights as wildly as any of her men.
“Get rid of everyone,” she orders coldly. “We don’t need any prisoners.”
“No!” a voice rang, strong and harried. “I mean…no, big sis, please. The blond one – I like him.  He looks like a hedgehog, and you know how I like all kinds of cute critters. I want to keep him. Besides, he has some good moves he could show me – show all of us, I think.”
Hedgehog? John wanted to protest, wanted to say something, but it seems wiser to shut his mouth.
“Fine, chain him up. You always have to have your own way, Molls,” the chief agreed, shrugging. “Get rid of the rest.”
And this is where John should change their opinion, should – beg for the people who helped him, or something. But it would be perfectly useless to beg with these brutal, wild eyed people. Sherlock would know what to do, he thought forlornly. Sherlock would sham his way out of this, with a fantastical tale that everyone would believe because it was impossible not to believe his friend, but he couldn’t do anything like that. He could only reason, and reason wasn’t something these people would listen to. Just another addition to the long list of peoples he’s failed to save. More nightmares. As if he needed them.   
Molls – well, Molly – rode in the carriage with John, and she asked softly, “I suppose you’re a prince of some sort.”
“I’m seriously not,” John replied, and explained to her all his vicissitudes and how he came to be there.  
“Do not worry, they won’t kill you, even if I get angry at you. I’m in charge of all my pets, my little hedgehog, and getting rid of the unwanted ones is my responsibility, too,” Molly replied with a slightly insane grin. “Let me have your scarf.” 
John let her have whatever she wanted, and carefully did not protest, because she seemed not exactly dangerous, but crazy enough not to be trustworthy – and provoking her was not wise.     
They finally arrived to the robber’s lair, which was a run-down castle full of animals – vicious looking wolfdogs sniffing around, and sharp-beaked crows nested in the crevices of the place. “You will sleep with me and my pets tonight,” Molly announced after dinner, dragging John to a corner where over the stone floor a fair quantity of straw had been thrown.  There were large cages with pigeons inside hanging over it, and she teased the sleeping animals. “Can’t let these cute ones roam free – they’d fly away at the first occasion,” Molly remarked airily. “You like them, don’t you?”
“Of course. They are very…nice,” John replied hesitantly. He needed to gain time and possibly ensure the rest of the robbers were asleep before making a move. 
“And here’s my old favourite – Toby,” Molly explained, dragging a reindeer by the horn. The poor thing had a red collar, and was tied up too. “I have to hold onto him – don’t want him to run away. He’s been a gift of my old boyfriend – Jim, now he’s off God knows where – as well as this,” she said, taking out what John knew all too well to be a very sharp lancet. “They suit each other, don’t you think?” she said, caressing the poor reindeer’s neck with the blade and making it startle.  John blindly nodded.
“Do you sleep with the blade?” he queried, noncommittally. If he wanted to flee, he needed to know what he’d be up against. 
“Of course I do, my little hedgehog. Always have since Jim gave it to me. You don’t know what might happen at anytime. But now get down next to me to sleep, and until we drowse, tell me again about your nice friend and why you’ve left home,” Molly ordered.   
John obliged her, talking softly until she fell asleep, a hand still on the lancet’s hilt and one around his neck. Still, the other robbers were still up, drinking and singing raucously, so it was still not the time to attempt anything. In a few hours, most of them would be sleeping and he could flee then. The magic John had absorbed from Mary must have been more than he expected, because he understood the pigeons' cooing.
They were saying, “We have seen your friend Sherlock. He sat in the carriage of the Snow King, which drove through the woods while we were lying in our nest. All the young ones, except both of us, died from the cold when he went through.”     
“What?” John cried. “And where was this Snow King going?  Do you know?”  
“My bet is that he was going to Lapland, where there’s always snow and ice, but you can ask the reindeer – he certainly knows more than us,” the pigeons said.   
“Yes, there’s always snow and frost, and you can run and leap on the ice plains. It’s the best ever place,” Toby piped in, eyes dreamy. There’s the summer quarters of the Snow King, but his strong castle is at the North Pole, on an island called Svalbard”.
“So Sherlock is really alive!” John blurted out, enthusiastic. And then he groused, “If he’s there of his own volition I’m going to kill him for not sending word!”   
All that chatter woke up Molly, who ordered, “Still and quiet, John, or I’m going to fillet you! On second thought, maybe I should tie you up,” and she did. Now, Sherlock had been the escapist out of the two of them (John should really have paid him more mind). Which is why John was still there come morning, and he couldn’t help it. He told Molly all the clues he’d come across and downright pleaded with her to help. He expected nothing, of course.
But she got oddly misty-eyed, and once she ensured Toby’s help, Molly waited until the other robbers had gone away and Sarah was distracted by a drink, as she liked to indulge in sometimes, and she untied the reindeer and John both and ordered her beloved Toby to bring John all the way to Lapland. She even gave John a cushion as a makeshift saddle. The reindeer was grateful and enthusiastic, and he licked her mistress’s face in joy. “One suggestion, though – next time you get your friend home, tie him up, lest he wander again,” Molly replied, laughing.
 “Escapist expert – it wouldn’t work,” John replied, shaking his head.
 “They always run, don’t they? Also, if you met Jim – Jim Moriarty, you know, the one who got me Toby – tell him to come back home. I’m sort of missing him,” the girl demanded.
 “Will do. And again, thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without your help,” John acknowledged, smiling.
 “Kicked all our asses – I’m a good judge of character, John. Better this way. Good luck!” Molly admitted, whistling to call back their wolfdogs so Toby would have a clear path. “Just one thing – your cardigan. I want something to remember you by,” she added. And while it might be a terribly unwise idea, John indulged her. 
The reindeer started running, following first instinct, and then the northern constellation, and he ran over stones, though forests and over plains, until they finally arrived to Lapland. And then they arrived at a little hut, with the roof sloped nearly to the ground, and a door so low that John had to enter on his hand and knees, and he wasn’t that tall.
And inside there was a black skinned woman, and John wondered what the hell was she doing there. Of course, she was ostensibly cooking fish, but that wasn’t John’s question. “Well, I followed someone here, and then things happened, and I was sort of stranded. Really should remodel this damned place but I’m not that good an engineer sadly. I’m Sally, by the way.”  
“John,” he said, but he was so cold that then his teeth started chattering, and he couldn’t add much more. So Toby piped in with his own tale and John’s too, because he’d heard it all.
 “Sorry to let you know, but you’re still far from your destination. The Snow King left a long time ago, and now he lives in the Finmark. Good for you that I’ve become friends with a Finmark woman that lives near him, and knows him quite well. I’ve used all my paper to light fire, though, so I’m going to send her word on a dried stock-fish. I’m sure she’ll help you. She has a good heart.”  Sally offered them a warm dinner, that heated up John a bit, then wrote her message and sent them on their way.
They ran all night long, their course alighted by the northern lights, and finally arrived to Finmark. They knocked at the chimney, because the Finmark woman’s hut had no door above the ground, and were welcomed in. She wore only a skimpy dressing gown, because inside her abode it was very hot, and smiled at them.
 John was tempted to flirt with her, especially since she helped him undress to ensure he wouldn’t get heatstroke, but a look – even if softened with a smile – was enough to persuade him that any advances would be ill received, so he shut his mouth.    
 It was Toby who suddenly became chatty instead (maybe thanks to the ice the woman had given him). “Oh, come on, lady Anthea. I know you can tie all the winds in the world with a piece of twine, and then give it to your favourite sailors so they can unbind only the favourable ones. And I still remember the bloody tornado when that one unravelled it all, thinking he’d just get a stronger favourable wind. You’re so clever. And my friend has to get his friend back from the Snow King. Can’t you give him something to become as strong as twelve men? He’s well trained, but taking on Mycroft is another thing.”      
“And you really think the power of twelve men would do anything against the Snow King? You think anyone can beat Mycroft into complacence? Don’t make me laugh,” she replied, and afterwards started playing with a rather incongruous Blackberry and ignoring them. 
Toby kept whining, though, and John pointed out how many people were missing Sherlock home, and declared he wouldn’t go back alone.  
In the end lady Anthea admitted, “Your friend Sherlock is really guest of the Snow King, and he’s not even thought about leaving. He’s perfectly satisfied with his life there, wanting nothing. But this is only because there is a piece of broken glass in his heart, and a sliver of glass in his eye. If these aren’t taken out, he’ll never be a human being again, and the Snow King will always have power over him.”  
“Be a human again? Sherlock is not some sort of…machine!” John protested loudly.
 “Are you doubting me?” Anthea replied sternly.
 “No,” he answered meekly. It seemed the only option.  
“Well, can’t you give John something to help him against the glass’ power?” Toby interjected, nuzzling her. 
“I can give him no greater power than he already has,” Anthea countered, shaking her head, “don’t you see how strong he is? How people and animals do their best to help her, and how he got this far, when he set out in a t-shirt? His power is the warmth and innocence of his heart. If he can’t get into the Snow King’s abode and save Sherlock’s himself, then nobody can.”  
“Errm…if this all depends on bloody innocence I’m afraid I will need a lot of help. I was a soldier, you know. And I had bad days,” John mumbled, disheartened.  
“You were a protector. Have been for years. I promise you that whoever will have to judge your soul will not find it wanting,” Anthea replied gently. “The garden of the Snow King start two miles from here – Toby will accompany you there. But you’ll have to face him on your own, so everything you obtained this far – included the warm clothes other people gave you – you’ll have to leave behind. It might not be fair, but these are the rules.” 
“I don’t care about that. I only want to get Sherlock back,” John declared earnestly.
Toby took John to the Snow King’s garden, and left him, after a friendly lick to his face for good luck.  John was in a t-shirt. Lost somewhere in the midst of the bloody Finmark. He was going to get hypothermia soon. He needed to get at bloody Sherlock first, though. He ran towards the ice palace, but it wasn’t so easy.
There were snowflakes around – not falling from the sky, but running parallel to the ground. Big, menacing looking snowflakes like angry, overfed hedgehogs, quills vibrating, or twisted serpents hissing at him, or little polar bears with hair bristled. These were undoubtedly alive snowflakes, and they were guarding the Snow King eagerly. John thought back to the experiments Sherlock had run on snowflakes, and he could see how – glass or not – his friend would have been having the most fun here. John sent a quick, instinctive prayer to God (no, he was not dying here, but these snowflakes looked awfully sharp and menacing – and he didn’t think he could subdue magic things with his military training). His breath congealed as soon as it came out, and then more absurd things happened, because it took shape – angels’ shape.
And not just any angels. Powers, as the military ranks of the Angels were called (Harry had that weird occult phase in her teen years in which she shared things like that).Soon John was a human captain with a platoon of ice angels that were really bigger than his breath could justify at his command, and while this was odd, in a way it was so comfortably familiar. He knew what to do with these. Only a nod was needed to have them dispatch his icy enemies, so he could go forward quickly and bravely to meet the Snow King in his palace. Why, even surrounded by his troop, he even seemed to feel the cold a bit less.
 But now we need to mention Sherlock, who couldn’t even imagine in his wildest dream that John was so close, or determined to bring him back home.      
The walls of the palace were made of drifted snow, and the windows and doors of the cutting winds. Snow and ice made up all the hundreds of halls and rooms in the palace. All the rooms were blasted cold and empty, glittering ice columns holding up the roof, and alighted with the trapped northern lights. Sherlock found it all infinitely boring. He didn’t have his violin, to help him think (and comfort himself, too) with a bit of music. He didn’t have his microscope, or random body parts courtesy of Molly, even though here he wouldn’t even need to keep them in the fridge. He’d asked Mycroft for some, but the Snow King had only scoffed at him. There wasn’t even the well-meaning, mindless chatter of Mrs Hudson, because the Snow King mostly kept at himself and didn’t share anything with Sherlock. And he wasn’t lonely. He’d never been lonely in his life. Still, he was bored.
In the midst of the biggest, empty, endless all of snow was a frozen lake, but with the ice so clear, that you could see the water under it. In his centre sat the throne of the Snow King, and Mycroft called the lake ‘the mirror of reason’ – and correctly, because reflected in the frozen waters he could observe any number of people he wished (the reason he called ordinary people his ‘little goldfishes’). It was magic, of course. Mycroft flaunted that the lake was unique in the world, allowing him to know everything without getting involved with anyone. But truth is, he had it done as a pastime for the long days of summer, when he couldn’t leave his palace.
 There Sherlock loitered, blue with cold, though he did not feel it, because Mycroft’s touch had banished his shivers, and his heart was already a block of ice. The two men played relentlessly, the way highly intelligent men can play when at freedom to observe – not silly games like Monopoly or Cluedo, but Deductions. Whoever deduced more details won, and Mycroft had promised him that he’d be free - to go home, if he so wished; to kidnap other people for company, if so inclined: even to cover a city in a mini ice era, if he wanted (only a little sliver of the Snow King’s power, which he’d lend him) – if he ever won.
But the Snow King had a longer training, and believed himself smarter. So no matter how obsessively Sherlock played against him, he lost each and every time. There was always something – the tiniest detail he, at first glance, missed, while the Snow King didn’t.  
But then Mycroft was warned secretly of John’s arrival, and he knew that with his conductor of light at his side, Sherlock would win – and that the angry former soldier could react violently at his ‘kidnapping’ (which so was not, because Sherlock consented). So he uttered casually, “Now I really can’t keep playing, Sherlock. I have to visit the Southern countries – you know, volcanic soil is great for the grapes, but a bit of ice and snow at the right moment will make them sweeter. We wouldn’t want the wines of next year to be subpar, would we?” and then departed quite hastily.  
Sherlock resolved to remain at the lake and train himself more, so that he would be able to beath him when he came back for sure. Just then John was coming through the great door of the castle. He ignored the cold, biting winds that seemed to haunt the place – but not the most internal areas, perhaps to care for the Snow King’s human guest. 
Finally John saw his friend, and he ran up ahead to him, at the same time hugging him and throwing him to the floor. “Sherlock! What the hell were you thinking, disappearing without a bloody word! Do you know how worried Mrs. Hudson was? What I thought? I believed you were dead, you infinite git!” the doctor yelled.
 But the sleuth did not answer at all, just looked at him, and after a short pause, he asked, “Afghanistan or Iraq?”  
“You know, Sherlock! Christ, did you hit your head worse than I thought? Or have you been taking drugs all this time? If it is a joke, it is in poor taste, I tell you!” John replied vehemently.
But, you see, knowledge about John that Sherlock would have assured you was in his mind palace, was actually stored in the heart wing of it. And with his heart frozen and impenetrable, that data was now unreachable.  “You didn’t answer me,” Sherlock pointed out coldly.
“You deleted me, is that it?” his friend asked, voice trembling slightly. The horrible, horrible prospect made him cry bitter tears – he didn’t mean anything; his best friend had bloody deleted his existence! – and those same tears, falling on Sherlock’s chest, started to thaw his frozen heart. 
“Don’t cry,” the sleuth pleaded, deeply uncomfortable with what was happening. “Wasn’t there…something that made you laugh instead? Something about homosexual flower…John?” he said, hesitantly.
“You remember me,” the doctor replied, sniffing.
“I do now. I don’t know what happened – there was a mind palace issue of some sort, and I couldn’t access the file on you. but I think it’s resolved,” the detective admitted. 
“I can’t believe that you remembered me through gay foxgloves. Pity that experiment went south,” John remarked, shaking his head in fond exasperation.   
“John, I – I never meant to leave you. Certainly not so long. Bloody Mycroft and his bloody kidnapping!” Sherlock said ruefully. 
“Mycroft?” the doctor said, uncomprehending.
“The Snow King. I wanted to win, I wanted to be free to get home – I knew I wanted to, even when I didn’t remember why – but I’ve never been good enough, and…” the sleuth explained, words rushing out, till a lone tear of regret slipped from his eye, dislodging the glass bit in there. “Christ John you’re half naked! How did I miss that first? Here, take my coat,” he added.
“No way – keep it, you’re blue as you are. And you have no body fat to insulate you. Did Mycroft even feed you at all?” John wondered. 
“Sadly, yes,” Sherlock said, pouting, and then he opened his coat and murmured, “If you don’t want it all at least you can huddle under it – good thing it’s so big.”
Which John accepted, because he really was cold, and because it gave him an excuse to cuddle with Sherlock and hug him a bit, and he wasn’t adverse at all to that.  
“The only problem is that I can’t go until I best the Snow King at his game,” Sherlock purred, while John and he shared body heat, which really was quite pleasant – rather different from Mycroft’s icy touch, and God but how he’d missed this even without knowing it.  
“Oh, you can’t?” his friend challenged. “I tell you we’re going back home, instead, and this Snow King can try to stop us – I’d like to see him try! I’m going to make him into ice chips and use them at the hospital,” he growled threateningly.  
“Did anyone tell you how hot you are when you get angry?” the detective asked, now flushed despite the cold and breathless.  
“Hot, uh?” John replied, smiling.  
“Like newly erupted komatiite,” the sleuth confirmed, nodding vigorously.  
“I’ll have to check that up. At home,” the doctor said firmly. “In the meantime…” and then he dared, and kissed his friend. On the mouth. Sherlock moaned. “You don’t get anything more where it’s so blastedly cold, though. I don’t want either of us to freeze our bits,” the blond warned, doctorly concern in his voice.  
“Well, what are we waiting here for?” Sherlock declared, still half dazed.
They left the ice palace, John still ensconced inside the coat and holding his friend-now-lover’s hand, too, just because he could. They spoke of Mrs. Hudson, and giggled about gay flowers some more, and while they went the sun came out. They arrived at a bush with red berries, and John insisted Sherlock eat some, because he was much too thin, and the detective gave in without too much complaint.
And there was Toby, with a female companion who nuzzled Sherlock so that he rode her.  They went first to Anthea, whose crush on the Snow King the sleuth deduced, so he suggested her to make a move, now that Mycroft would be lonely without his guest/prisoner. John half-expected them to be kicked out at his friend’s terse words, but she let them warm themselves in her home.
Afterwards they visited Sally, who – despite groaning at Sherlock’s sharp comments about her lack of discernment that made her follow people who’d abandon her without a thought – made some new clothes for John to ensure he did not get frostbite after all. Which was good, of course, but it meant that he had no viable excuse to cuddle Sherlock, keeping flush to his body anytime they weren’t riding, and the doctor sort of mourned that.  
The reindeers brought them to the borders of the country, where the first green leaves were budding, and where they parted from the helpful Rangifers, as well as from Sally. Then the birds started chirping, and the forest was green, full of young leaves; and they saw a horse, that John recognised as one who’d drawn the gold carriage Irene had given him.
And riding it was none other than Molly, who had reflected long about how John had gone seeking whom he wanted, and decided that staying home waiting for Jim to come back was a ludicrous idea. Better go and give him a piece of her mind. She’d taken a couple of pistols and some hidden blades with her because, well, a young girl needed to be able to protect herself. And she’d gone northward first – you never knew, the snow king might have more than one prisoner.  When she met John, she smiled widely, saying she was glad for his success.
Then she looked Sherlock up and down, and teased him, “Really, is it how one behaves with one’s beloved, to run around gallivanting this way? I won’t say that you aren’t pretty to look at, but do you really believe you’re worth that anyone would go to the end of the world to find you?” 
“Worth it? Of course not. It’s not my fault that John is too stubborn to abandon me, even when he probably should,” Sherlock replied, shrugging.
“Oi!” the doctor protested. Of course Sherlock was worth it – and what was he saying about abandoning? There’d be no abandoning. Ever. They’d need to have serious words about it, but not in front of Molly. To redirect the conversation, he asked after princess Irene and her spouse (and the sleuth looked suspiciously – jealously? – at him).
“They are gone. Honeymoon, you know. But I’ve heard rumours that they might want to live somewhere far from here. Can’t imagine why,” the robber-girl replied, with a little smile.
And the crows?” John queried, honestly curious.  
“Oh, the male crow’s dead,” Molly replied, shrugging. “Now don’t look at me like that, I didn’t do him in. it was an accident. His widow wears a bit of black ribbon around her leg. Very proper – not what you’d expect from a carrionbird. But tell me how you managed to get him back!” 
Sherlock and John explained it all to her, and she smiled brightly.
“I’m so glad you won’t be mopey anymore, John, and that you’ve found each other. All’s fine at last!” she remarked, grinning at them. 
“I don’t mope,” John grumbled.
 “I’m sure,” the sleuth agreed – but he was rather flattered that his friend would do so because of his loss. 
“If I ever come to London I’ll pay you a visit!” Molly promised, and after John assured her she was welcome to, she rode to have her own adventures.
Sherlock was tempted to be mildly jealous, but John explained to him how she’d ultimately helped to find him, and after another couple of kisses, the detective was mollified. 
They walked back hand in hand, and the more they got south, the more they saw spring, with new leaves and flowers. They talked of Mrs. Hudson, and how glad she would be to see them again – and how surprised. They discussed if she’d bake them welcome back scones or scold them for being gone so long without a word.
Finally they found a place – as stowaways, because it was more fun that way, and because they seriously lacked money – in a ship that went to London and somehow, despite giggling and entertaining themselves quite a bit, they managed not to be discovered.
Finally they arrived back home, and entered 221B Baker Street, and it was as if they’d never left. Billy the skull smiled his knowing smile at them, and the bison head on the wall still had his headphones on so they could be as loud as they wanted without disturbing it.  But things had changed, too. John still made compulsively tea – but now he brought it over with a kiss. And now, when they sat in their armchairs, they’d often reach out to simply touch each other (the armchairs got moved a bit closer to allow that). 
Soon Mrs. Hudson came up, bringing scones and cooing in happiness at her boys finally understanding what had always been obvious, even if it had taken them separation and near hypothermia to get that. But the palace of the Snow King now was no more than a vanishing memory, like a past nightmare. “It’s so nice to have you back. But it was much more lively past year, when you had all these flowers, Sherlock. Whyever did you get rid of them?” she queried, while she puttered about as usual.  
“I don’t remember. That experiment was ruined, though. We could get some more foxgloves – and bees! Whatever happened to my bees?” the sleuth asked, eager.  
“I think your dad took care of them. Hopefully they’re still alive,” John replied, smiling. He’d gotten Sherlock back – and better than ever.  “And I agree with you – we definitely need some foxgloves, to make the flat a bit more gay,” the doctor added, giggling. Soon they’d have more flowers, and bees gently bombinating around. And it was summer – warm, beautiful summer.                       

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