"Are you, um."
Sherlock blinked; John had insinuated himself in his field of view, in front of the basket of fruit Mrs. Hudson had left on the coffee table (Sherlock appreciated the cleaning, certainly, but the 'little touches' to impress the fucking clients were pushing him to the brink).
"What?" he asked. Irritation welled up in his throat like bile; he had no earthly idea for a second what he'd even been thinking about.
"I just," said John. "It's been a week since.... Are you alright?"
"I would be if the entire world would stop being stupid and give me an actual bloody case to work on," he said, settling back into the armchair. John had a pair of wineglasses in one hand and an uncorked bottle in the other. It was August; there was no occasion for it, and John only liked wine on occasions. The bit of the bottle Sherlock could see appeared to be his own particular favourite, as well, which John had never cared for past its alcohol content, the lager-swilling git.
John sat in the other armchair, giving him that concerned look he wore when Sherlock was supposed to be upset about something normal. "Irene," he said, after a moment of vague, circular, helpless gesturing with the bottle and glasses.
"Oh. Yes. I'm fine."
"Of course you are. Fewer concertos this week, at any rate." John set down the glasses and splashed some wine into one, handing it over before splashing slightly less into his own. "I just, if you want to talk."
Sherlock held his wine up and watched the lamplight catch it and turn it blood-red. "When do I ever want to talk about anything besides a case?" he asked.
John's slug of wine didn't quite mask the shameful look on his face. "Right. True. Still. Even you can hardly deny she had an effect on you."
Sherlock hummed and took a second to appreciate the nose of the wine before his first sip. It was even the year he liked; John paid attention, now and then. "She's not dead, John. You said as much yourself."
John's pupils dilated before he looked down at his lap. "Of course not. But if she's in witness protection then you'll hardly be seeing her again."
Interesting that the rumours of Irene's execution had made it as far as Mycroft and apparently, had held. It had always been easier than Mycroft supposed to get one over on him when it counted. Well, with rare exceptions.
John was filling the silence with babble. "I mean, what happens when people die, after all?"
"They go in the ground or the furnace, when the government isn't stealing them." Sherlock took another sip of wine.
"Yes, but. What I mean is, you don't see them again. And that's the challenge. Living without them."
"So you're suggesting that I am--or should be--in mourning."
John shrugged, shifting awkwardly in his chair. His knee seemed to be troubling him. Sherlock frowned.
While a sensible person in Irene's situation wouldn't turn up anywhere in Europe again without a minimum of heavy disguise, Sherlock dared say he knew her well enough to never dismiss the notion she'd return. At the time of least convenience, if she could help it. Assuming Moriarty hadn't turned on her (40% odds of that being the case), she might even survive long enough to turn up at Baker Street. But John thought she was dead. Sherlock was supposed to think she was living under an assumed name in America. Mourning. Interesting.
"It's not a practice I'm given to," he said, meeting John's eyes. "What are you suggesting we do, have some kind of wake?"
John shrugged. "Normalcy isn't your strong point. Grief is messy and human, not to your tastes. Do what feels right." He took a swallow of his wine, then, drained of platitudes.
Sherlock assessed the situation and John's mood. "I suggest then," he said in a decisive tone that always worked on John, "that we sit here and finish this wine. Can't waste a good mourning, and drunkenness and funereal tradition go hand in hand."
John obligingly toasted the air. "To Irene Adler," he said dutifully, before taking another drink.
Sherlock raised his glass in echo and took a long swallow, enjoying the flow of it over his tongue, the intricacy of flavour. It was dry and subtle and reminded him of smoking as much as liquor could.
"You know," said John after refilling both their glasses, "she told me she was a lesbian?"
Sherlock snorted. "You needed to be told?"
"When did you know?"
"When her assistant was out cold on the floor. It was obvious to anyone."
"I suppose I was too busy searching for a pulse."
Sherlock waved that off.
"It's funny," John asserted. "That's all."
"You carry on that you're not gay and yet you married into my title," Sherlock pointed out.
"That doesn't remotely count."
It was somehow reassuring to know that there were some things that would always get a rise out of John without fail.
"It was strange to see what she brought out of you," said John. "Like a totally different person, someone I've never met."
"Who's that, then?" Sherlock relaxed into his chair a little more.
"The beginnings of a sexual being. Extremely odd to see you try that on."
"That was interest in her audacity, nothing more. Anyway, I've had sex."
John coughed. "You?"
Every glimmer of intelligence John showed was obliterated by fifty of these moments where he was just impenetrably daft. "I've tried every drug known to mankind just to see what they were like, and you think I haven't had sex?"
John stared at him for a while, working through that bit of logic, and then he drained his glass. "Right," he said, picking up the bottle again and pouring a more generous measure; he was beginning to feel it and the buzz was overpowering his lack of appreciation for the flavour. Sherlock pondered taking the wine away so as not to waste it on him, but John had bought it, made the effort. This time, he'd let it go.
"Right," said John again, settling back with glass in hand. They watched each other a while, the clock ticking in the background. Strains of music began to flit through Sherlock's mind, the clock a metronome behind them; his fingers twitched in time on the arm of the chair. He breathed out slowly, enjoying a rare moment of calm.
"I should have known if you'd ever go for a woman, it'd be someone like her," said John finally.
A brunette? A twenty-something? A lesbian? A dominatrix? A trained criminal? Cleverer than Mycroft? Well, yes, that. "How d'you mean?" Sherlock asked over the rim of his glass.
"Dangerous," said John. "You love danger. It intoxicates you almost as much as a good puzzle."
The corner of Sherlock's mouth lifted before he could stop it. He hummed a little, swirling his wineglass. "I suppose we have that much in common, you and me."
John huffed out a laugh. "There's a terrifying thought."