"I beg to differ," Sherlock murmurs, "But then, I've always known I was a man out of his time."
Behind him, Watson - hell, John, it's John, it's always been John - huffs. "Is that what you were trying to tell me?" he asks, "The night Sir Eustace-"
"Perhaps," Sherlock allows, pipe clenched between his teeth, and he can't look back at John, he won't -
"Yes," he cuts John off, but -
"- a sodomite?"
And he does turn at that, eyebrows rising incredulously. "I probably wouldn't have phrased it quite so baldly," he says, startled.
John cocks his head. "An invert?" he suggests, and, off Sherlock's blink, a little irritably, in a way that's so John he aches with it, "Well - what, then?"
Sherlock puffs on his pipe for a moment; collects his thoughts. "I would've said," and he pauses, because he's said it so many times, in so many ways, in so many realities but never so candidly, "That I prefer the company of other men," he says, rather delicately, and he can't leave it there, can't let it just hang between them, real John or not - "But you're the writer," he says, deadpan. "I'll defer to you on this."
John's laughter brings an answering twitch to his own lips, and John's gaze is steady, unchanged. "Naturally," he says, lightly. "Speaking of story-telling," he says, and he pauses to tamp out his pipe, "I can't help but notice," he holds up his left hand, "that I've never worn a wedding ring."
"Yes, well," Sherlock says, tersely, feeling strangely exposed, "Apologies that my attention to detail on what amounts to a plot device-" and John rears his head back.
"Did you just call my wife a plot device?" he asks, amazed, and Sherlock pauses.
"Perhaps," he says again, warily, then, a little defensively, a little mockingly, "That is, broadly speaking, her role within the narrative," and there's silence for a moment. "John-" he starts, but John laughs again, laughs hard into his fist, eyes bright and amused.
"Where is she?" he asks, spreading his arms, then, in answer to himself, "I don't even know."
Sherlock squints. "She sort of ... disappeared." He twirls the hand not clutching his pipe. "Or something."
"And while we're on the subject," John says, eyes twinkling, "how long have you been sniffing my wife?"
And before he can really think it through, Sherlock says, fingertips touching the decanter, "It was never Mary. Her perfume - it lingered on your clothes, not enough, never enough, to be overwhelming, but to someone who has spent a not inconsiderable amount of time analysing the composition of a number of-" he redirects, quickly, at John's expression; not really the time, he supposes, "Her perfume on your clothes fundamentally changed the way you-" his throat tightens, and John's smile fades (fades like it did at his reception, hand falling from Sherlock's neck and for God's sake, not now), and it's something else he's tried to tell his John, something else John hasn't heard, so he repeats it. "It was never about Mary, John. It was always you."
"Sherlock," he says.
"Why did you marry her?" he asks, meeting John's gaze again.
John's lips twitch, humourlessly. "This is your story, Sherlock. You know this already." His smile is small, sad. "Because," he leans forward, rests his elbows on his thighs. "Because ... you were gone," he says, thickly, "and I was alone. Again."
He closes his eyes. "And if I'd told you about my plan?" Vague, but it is his story.
"You know this, too," John says, quietly. "I would have come with you. We could have done it together, Sherlock-" he breaks off, sucks in a breath through his nose. "I would have - anything for you," he says, desperately, "Anything at all."
And how badly he miscalculated this; "Forgive me," he murmurs, pointlessly, to the John sitting in front of him.
One side of his mouth curls up, ruefully, as he stands. "Are you talking to me? Or yourself?" He moves towards Sherlock. "I am you, remember."
"No," Sherlock breathes, reaching up and touching John's jacket before he can stop himself. He smooths his hand down the lapel, watches the path his fingers trace along John's chest. "No, you're so much more-"
He glances up, voice catching, grip tightening, and John gazes back at him, patiently (fondly).
He clears his throat after a long moment. Asks of a John that isn't here. "What - what happens now?"
John lifts his chin a little, lifts his chin until his nose nudges Sherlock's cheek, until his moustache tickles Sherlock's nose. "Well," he murmurs, into the space between their mouths, "I rather think that's up to you."