John found Sherlock sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night, against the cupboards, in a patch of pale blue moonlight.
The detective was curled up, his right leg drawn up to his chest so his right arm could rest on his knee at the elbow, hand dangling absently in the air, his left leg bent so that the sole of his left foot was resting against his right. His left arm was resting on his leg, elbow at the knee, fingertips at the ankle.
It didn't look especially comfortable, but then again, this was Sherlock.
There was a bottle of wine on the floor beside him, dark green glass filled with dark red liquid, shadowed by Sherlock's body from the patterned moonlight that came through the window and the partially closed drapes. John glanced at it, but he was an old hand at this and knew immediately that it wasn't open. He'd long ago learned to do that, in self-defence against Harry's drinking.
He was mildly surprised that the ability stuck with him after so long, but right now, he was glad for it. He didn't want to get himself worked up about an unopened bottle of wine and start a row. Sherlock didn't look like he'd respond well to a row – not by fighting back, but by just walking out, in his pyjamas, without a word.
"Without a word" didn't often apply to Sherlock and rows.
John eased himself down onto the floor beside his husband and Sherlock turned his head, casting the left half of his face into shadows and illuminating the right with moonlight so that his pale skin looked even paler, his dark hair even darker, giving him an ethereal appearance.
"No," Sherlock replied, waving a hand vaguely. He looked away again, profile to John, gazing at nothing, and John waited to see if anything else was forthcoming. Whatever was going through Sherlock's mind, he wasn't in an overly sharing mood.
John tried sit without having a cupboard handle or hinges digging into his back. He gave up in short order and went into the living room to fetch a cushion, settling himself down again. Sherlock hadn't moved and John wondered – as always – at his ability to completely ignore his body's demands. It was astonishing, really, that Sherlock never complained of being sore or tense, although John had done enough massaging of Sherlock's back to know this wasn't really the case. Ignoring something wasn't the same as not feeling it.
Like now, he suspected – although this seemed less like attempting to dodge a topic, particularly given how Sherlock had been over the past month.
"What's with the wine?" John asked.
Sherlock made another dismissive gesture with his right hand and didn't answer. John settled in to the silence, glad for the cushion against his back, although the floor was chill and hard and promised to be uncomfortable soon.
Well, he'd endured worse in the war. He could put up with this.
John didn't touch the bottle, sensing this might not be entirely welcome. He didn't think Sherlock would protest, but a sharp and reproving look could mean the same thing, and he didn't like receiving those when Sherlock really meant them.
They sat in silence for several minutes, before Sherlock chewed on his lower lip in a way that told John he was about to speak.
"Do you know, when I was five, I broke open one of these bottles to see if I could light the contents on fire?"
John repressed a sudden snort but it didn't go unnoticed. Sherlock's lips twitched into something that was almost a hint of a smile.
"Did it work?"
"No, wine doesn't have a high enough alcohol content. I did get a bit of a flash off the vapour, but that was it."
"That was it, eh?" John asked.
"Well, that and I was confined to my room for a week."
John grinned and Sherlock turned his face toward him again, another smile, this one a bit wider, tugging on his lips.
"Bit on the pricey side, was it?"
Sherlock gestured absently at the bottle and John took the permission to pick it up, reading the label and year: Château Latour, 1947. He raised his eyebrows; he was fairly certain that it was expensive, but didn't know how much.
"Back then, I'm not sure," Sherlock said. "Now? About two thousand pounds a bottle."
John set it very gingerly back on the floor, pushing it between them again.
It was far, far less than Sherlock's old violin had been, but still expensive in its own right, and he wondered at a child who would break a bottle open, having no concept of its value, probably not at all understanding why he was being punished so severely for what amounted to a pile of broken glass and a bit of spilled liquid.
He was certain Sherlock knew the precise value of his old violin and hadn't cared a whit, because the cost had been less important than everything else. He probably knew how much John had shelled out for the new one as well – not as much, but still a heavy price tag, paid for by the money that Sibyl had left them, the money Sherlock told John he didn't care about, with which John could do whatever he wished.
John knew that Sherlock had probably checked to see how much he'd paid and where the money had come from, and hoped the detective wouldn't see it as a double blow but a double gift: something from John and from Sibyl. Although he might just as easily point out that was sentimental nonsense, because the money was theirs now, no matter where it had come from.
The wine, though, John didn't know where it had come from.
"She gave it to me," Sherlock said, as though reading his mind. "When I graduated from Cambridge."
John blinked, but nodded. He'd never seen it in the flat before, but who knew where Sherlock had been storing it, or if he'd even been storing it properly. John entertained a brief idea about some hidden wine cellar, or maybe he'd just appropriated the uninhabited C flat, dehumidified it and turned it into a cellar for himself.
"No, in the actual cellar, John," Sherlock said and John didn't bother rolling his eyes at the mind reading. There was a tiny cellar,in which Mrs. Hudson stored some things, but John had never had reason to go down there. Apparently Sherlock had, and it didn't surprise John that the detective was using more storage space than they had in the flat.
He ignored all of this in favour of the fact that Sherlock had actually said something about Sibyl that neither John nor overwhelming memories or misplaced practicality hadn't forced out of him.
That was a first since she'd died.
"She knew I remembered, of course," Sherlock said, and there was that twitch of the lips again, a rueful smile, a glint of the grey eyes in the moonlight. "She told me to take good care of it."
At this, John smiled as well. It did sound like his mother-in-law to subtly pack such a reprimand into such a dry comment.
"I put it downstairs when we moved in," Sherlock continued. "And rather forgot about it, until now."
Only Sherlock, John thought, could store a rare and vintage French wine in their cellar and then forget it was there. John himself probably would have remembered each time he went to do laundry, the dryer being next to the small door the led into the cellar. It probably should have its own insurance or something. But then, pretty much everything Sherlock owned should. John wondered if there was insurance against chemistry set explosions.
"Why now?" John asked.
Sherlock fell silent again and John thought perhaps he was letting the question go without an answer, but there was a soft sigh and the rustle of dark curls as Sherlock shook his head gently.
"I can't stop thinking about her, John. I don't understand why you said this would be better."
There was no accusation in his voice, just simple fact. He really didn't understand. And, to be fair, John hadn't said it would be better, just that it wouldn't stop if Sherlock tried to stop it. Which was true. But better? In the long run, yes, but not immediately.
"It will get better, Sherlock. It takes time. And it won't be all at once."
A frown creased Sherlock's moonlit features at this and he glared briefly at the wall.
"I just want to stop thinking about her," he said, with only a little bite to his tone.
"I know," John said.
Then why can't I?
The question hung unasked in the air as Sherlock dropped his head to rub the bridge of his nose and up the center of his forehead. He lapsed into silence again and John did the same, waiting.
"Was it like this for you when your father died?"
John considered his answer carefully, pausing long enough that Sherlock glanced at him, barely turning his head.
"A bit," John admitted. "It's always different. Depends on the people, the relationship. My dad was a bit reserved, a bit– I don't know, not removed, just not very warm, outwardly."
Sherlock gave a small chuckle, almost a huff with some humour in it. He didn't need to be told about reserved fathers. William was the mould from which all of them were cast.
The main difference here, John considered, was that Sibyl had been, for most of Sherlock's life – until John – the only person whom Sherlock had trusted completely. For almost three and a half decades, she'd held that position all by herself. It was a gap that couldn't ever be filled, no matter that Sherlock had extended that same trust to John, that John had earned it. Adding someone else didn't lessen the loss when another person was removed.
"I'm being subverted by my own mind, John. Everything brings up some memory. I can scarcely walk down a street without being reminded of her, and I'm useless on cases."
"Not really useless," John said. "You've solved two this week alone."
But Sherlock had a point. He was without his usual zeal for the cases they had, although at least Lestrade had made a point of not directing any familial murders his way at the moment, putting the word out to some of the other DI's to do the same. John was ambivalent about that – while he appreciated that Sherlock would not unexpectedly arrive on the scene of a woman murdered by her children or spouse like he had on the first case, he didn't like that other members of the Met knew. He wanted the information as far from Donovan and Anderson as possible. Not because he thought they'd be cruel about it, it was just none of their business.
"That's normal," John continued. "I could barely go five seconds after Harry died without thinking about it."
"She crashed and killed three other people," Sherlock said.
"Does that make her death somehow more valid? We never even really got on and it was all I could think about. This won't last forever. But a month is a short time after knowing someone for four decades. It's not a switch, Sherlock. You can't just flip it off. Believe me, I wish it were that easy. I've had lots of reasons to."
Sherlock nodded vaguely, and John knew he understood. Not just his father and Harry, but too many army friends, more than he cared to name or number.
"I know you think you should be able to, with that brain of yours. But even with training yourself to the level of concentration you have…" John shrugged and Sherlock glanced over at him. "There's still a lot we don't know about how the brain works. And sometimes, you just have to let it do what it needs to do. It'll do it anyway. Easier, in the long run, to accept it."
Sherlock made a noncommittal noise and sighed quietly, shaking his head. John could understand the frustration; there had been far too many times when he'd screamed silently at himself to shut up for once and not think about things, not flip through memories, not be jarred into sudden recollection by a sound or a smell or an image. It still happened for some of those whom he'd lost, and probably always would. Now happened a lot less.
"Would you actually want to be rid of the memories anyway?" John asked, not as a rhetorical question but genuinely wanting an answer, since he knew what Sherlock thought of the information he kept stored in his brain. Only the important things.
Were the memories he had of Sibyl important?
"No, of course I wouldn't," Sherlock sighed and John had his answer. He'd known it anyway. "Perhaps they could stop being so present all the time, however."
"They will," John said. "And then you'll be glad you still have them."
"It's all that's left," Sherlock replied dully.
That was true. Even things like photographs, cherished possessions, letters, gifts, they all amounted to physical memories.
"And the wine," John said, resting his palm momentarily on the top of the bottle.
Sherlock gave him a wry look, and shook his head.
"Not even that, soon enough," he replied. "Get down two glasses, John, and get out of the corkscrew."
John gave his husband a surprised look, hesitating a moment.
"It's a two thousand pound bottle of wine," he said.
"It won't stop being so even if we drink it. It's not meant to be kept forever, John. It's meant to be enjoyed."
"She gave it to you as a graduation present."
"And I'm in no danger of forgetting that, even after it's gone. Should we hesitate because it's valuable? Should we get a bottle of less value because it's somehow more acceptable? Would that be better in some way? She gave it to me to enjoy. So, for her, and because we're both here and we can, I suggest that we do."
John hesitated another moment, trying to read the expression on Sherlock's face, then realized that he meant it. That doing this would be a good memory for him of something his mother had given him, some link to his childhood, to Sibyl and something they had shared.
"All right," John said, pushing himself somewhat stiffly to his feet. "But only if you promise not to try and light it on fire."