Sherlock reeks of sweat and booze, and he knows it. He can smell it on himself and it's not pleasant. The last thing he needs is to sweat more, but when the desk sergeant at New Scotland Yard hands him his coat, he pulls it on and wraps it around himself anyway. He can tell by the stuffiness in the building that the day is going to be a hot one—it is mid-July, after all—but wearing his coat makes him feel more like himself. Albeit a version of himself with a throbbing head and a dry mouth that tastes like vinegar and failure. John, collecting his things nearby, looks as bad as Sherlock feels.
Even more distressing than the physical complaints, however, are the gaps in Sherlock's memory where the preceding night's events should be. How strange to think that he was out there in the world, walking and talking and doing things, without his conscious mind being in control. And yet, that must have been the case, for the the last thing he recalls with any clarity is the police showing up at the flat where he and John were searching for clues as to the identity of the “ghost”. After that he has only fragments that come in flashes: handcuffs, the back of a squad car, an angry officer who swore a lot because one of them--Sherlock's not sure if it was him or John—threw up in the car. Then it is all a blank until Sherlock was jolted awake in the cell a few minutes ago.
It unsettles him that he can't remember, and being unsettled is a feeling Sherlock Holmes is not accustomed to. He's also angry—at himself, at the whole absurd situation, even at John. Especially at John. Part of him knows that such feelings are irrational, and that he should nip them in the bud immediately. Indulging in strong emotions makes people careless and stupid, after all; strong emotions are dangerous.
He finds that, right now, he can't be bothered. He's getting a perverse pleasure out of letting them simmer.
“Well, thanks for a... you know... an evening,” John says.
“It was awful." Understatement of the year, that. But no need to elaborate. John was there, after all.
“I was gonna pretend, but it was, truly.”
As they wind their way through the narrow, tiled hallways of New Scotland Yard toward the exit, Sherlock reviews the events of the evening, trying to find some of the missing pieces.
“That woman, Tessa.”
“Dated a ghost. The most interesting case for months!” And it had been such a welcome relief from wedding planning, too. Sherlock's obsession with making John's wedding perfect had gone past the point where it was healthy, even he knew that. And yet for some reason he couldn't seem to stop.
Oh God, the wedding! Now that John's stag night is over, the idea of the wedding as a thing that is actually going to happen (as opposed to a surprisingly-challenging logistical puzzle involving events taking place in some vaguely-distant future) seems real in a way it never did before. And that's not all. Sherlock realises with a sinking feeling that, in addition to a sick body and a memory with more pieces missing than a charity-shop puzzle, he has another problem. Last night, they were supposed to do something. Something important.
It didn't happen.
“What a wasted opportunity,” he fumes.
“Okay...” John agrees, as noncommittal as ever. Sherlock can tell by his tone that John is humouring him; saying one thing when he means another, just like he always does. Suddenly, Sherlock has had enough. They are barely outside when Sherlock stops so abruptly that John nearly runs into him. Sherlock rounds on John and glares down at him.
“Okay? No, it's not 'okay', John. It is very much not okay.”
John looks up and blinks. “Look, I'm sure the ghost-lady—Tessa--will be back. She seemed pretty keen to get an answer and who else...”
“I don't care whether she comes back! I have enough to be going on with.” He does. He knows there are other women who have had similar experiences that he can contact online, though he can't quite remember how he knows this. Anyway, it doesn't matter now. “I wasn't talking about the case, John. Try to keep up.”
“You... weren't?” He's so diffident, his John. Always. And that's the problem in a nutshell, isn't it? John is always concerned with what people will think. “But you just said it was the most interesting case we've had in months.”
“Yes, and Tessa's arrival ruined the only opportunity of its kind that we've had in three-and-a half years. An opportunity resulting from a most singular coincidence of events that will never be repeated again. Which do you think matters more?”
John scrunches up his forehead in that endearing way he has when he's puzzled. Well, most of the time it's endearing. Right now it's getting on Sherlock's nerves.
“What singular events?”
“You and me, alone with no case to investigate or wedding planning to do; a celebration that I actually agreed to attend; and enough alcohol to lower your inhibitions so that you would finally act on the fact that you're physically attracted to me and have been since the day we met. I don't understand what went wrong. I calculated the doses precisely.”
John's face is reddening now. Of course he hones right in on the part of this extraordinary declaration that might imply Sherlock has been up to no good. “You. Calculated. The doses? Sherlock? Did you drug us?”
“Only in the sense that alcohol is a drug. One that you self-administered. Repeatedly."
“But something went wrong?” John is repeating what Sherlock has said, another usually-endearing habit that right now seems a lot less charming.
“Obviously. We wound up in jail rather then in bed.”
“In bed! Sherlock!” John looks around to see if they're being overheard. They're not. At this early hour, no one is around to hear. “Are you saying that you were trying to get me drunk in order to... seduce me?”
Finally, the penny drops! But John is getting upset. Why is John getting upset? Clearly, he still fails to appreciate the sheer brilliance of Sherlock's plan.
“It was our last chance. Well, I suppose technically, it wasn't, but it was our last chance to do it guilt-free. You're an ethical man, John, with traditional values that some might go so far as to call old-fashioned. You'd never be able to justify cheating on your wife, or even your fiancee, no matter how much you desired me. But I found a loophole.”
Sherlock smiles, remembering the a-ha moment that had light up the lonely flat with its dazzling brilliance.
“A loophole! I learnt from my research into how to be a good Best Man—which was exhaustive, I assure you--that there is a certain carte-blanche afforded to the celebrants of stag night; that the regular rules of civilised conduct are often suspended in the name of having a good time. Further, I learnt that what occurs is often, by mutual agreement, not discussed with people who weren't there. Or, in the vernacular, 'What happens at stag night, stays at stag night'. It was then that I realised that the occasion of your stag do presented the perfect opportunity for you to get what you wanted.”
“What I wanted! What I wanted?”
“John, if you're just going to repeat what I've already said, there's no point in continuing this conversation.”
“What on earth gave you the idea that that's what I wanted?”
Sherlock huffs a long-suffering sigh. “Consulting detective, remember? Your pupils dilate when we're in close proximity. Your breathing quickens when I'm around, even if we aren't doing anything strenuous. The faintest of flushes crosses your face when you see me when you weren't expecting to.” Sherlock extends a finger as he makes each point, and then he holds the three fingers up so that John can see them clearly. “Child's play.”
John glowers at the fingers. “Child's play? Sherlock, no child would know that. At least I bloody well hope not."
“Stop deflecting. It was just an expression.” Sherlock flaps his hand dismissively and lets it drop to his side.
He doesn't miss the narrowing of John's red-rimmed eyes, or the tightening of John's jaw that signifies that Sherlock has ventured onto the minefield of “bit-not-good” and should probably watch where he steps going forward. But he decides to ignore these warning signs (as he almost always does) in favour of getting back to the mystery at hand. If John isn't going to contribute to the conversation, he'll just think out loud.
“It makes no sense. I checked and re-checked all the calculations. In the levels I prescribed, we should have been in the sweet spot all night, with just enough morning-after fuzziness to give us plausible deniability in case we wanted to pretend we 'didn't remember' what happened the night before. We were never meant to get sick or sloppy. God forbid one of us couldn't perform after waiting all this time--wait a minute. It was you! You messed with the drinks, didn't you!”
Sherlock points an accusing finger, and John takes a step back. His face is crimson now, Sherlock notes with interest. He deduces the cause as being a combination of embarrassment and anger. The embarrassment, Sherlock understands—John's been embarrassed about his attraction to Sherlock from Day One—why else would he so vigorously deny that he was gay every time someone assumed they were a couple? The anger, less so. What does John have to be angry about? If John had just done what Sherlock wanted and not messed around with the schedule, they would have had a mutually satisfactory--and guilt-free!--evening together. But now all that planning had all been for nothi...
Sherlock dodges the punch John throws at him, but just barely.