This one comes after the scene with Sherlock, Mycroft and Irene in Mycroft's house.

Can I also just say how lovely and caring people have been to me in recent months, and thank you all for that. It's entirely possible that I'm still not going to be well enough to write much, but I think it's about time I gave it a go, and we'll see.

A special shout-out to Katkin who very patiently and very calmly interested me in writing again.

Make up

John walked into the living room and snapped the light on. The sudden appearance of Sherlock, sitting quietly in his armchair made him jump out of his skin.

'Jesus!' He held a hand to his chest and forced himself to calm his breathing. 'You're up late.'

The shock was gone in a moment. Sherlock didn't move at all.

'Are you OK?' John asked.

There was no answer. John glanced around.

'Where's Irene?'

There was no answer except for an almost imperceptible shift in the atmosphere.

'Ah. I take it it didn't go well then?'

Sherlock took a long slow breath. 'It did not go well.'

'Ah.' John continued to look at Sherlock, who continued not to move. 'Are you OK?'

'Fine.'

'Right.' There was nothing further forthcoming. The last few pints and the heady smell of the pub were weighing heavily on John, and he wasn't entirely sure if he was in a fit state for a conversation with Sherlock on any subject, least of all this one. 'I'm going to shower,' he announced, and he went.

He ran the water too hot, and let it ease his neck and shoulders and let his mind clear a little. He dried himself roughly, put on his dressing gown, and he went into the kitchen. He ignored the fairly pushy part of his brain which was suggesting he really wanted a nice big Scotch, and filled a glass with water instead. He went back through to the living room where he sat down in his armchair. Sherlock didn't look at him directly, but it would be physically impossible for even the most obtuse person not to notice him.

'How are you?' he asked.

'Fine.'

'Right.'

He decided to give it just five minutes, just for some of the dampness to leave his hair, and then he'd go to bed. He yawned widely.

Four minutes and fifty seconds later, just as John was nodding off, Sherlock spoke.

'Of course I should have realised from the wet hair and the lack of make-up.'

'Sorry, what?'

'She arrived when she knew we'd be out, showered, took off all traces of make-up, dressed herself in simple, muted clothing and got into my bed.'

'Yes, I agree, she did all of that. So what?'

'You noticed it yourself.'

'I noticed what?'

'She knows how to present herself for any given situation. She was naked when we first met purely to elicit a reaction from me. When that didn't work…'

'It bloody did work!'

'When that didn't work, she needed to change her method of attack. Naked and heels and green eye-shadow was ineffective,' Sherlock ignored John's pointed throat clearing, 'so she moved onto vulnerable. Everything was calculated, and Mycroft was right, I should have noticed.'

'It's not your fault.'

'Of course it is. Who else's fault would it be?'

'Look, Sherlock,' John sat forward to talk softly. 'It's not a massive error of judgement to want someone sometimes. To want that companionship. Irene was attractive, and like you say, she knew how to present herself for effect, and she was very, very clever. Plus, of course, she flirted with you hopelessly, and it's hard to resist against an onslaught like that, even when it's not completely meant.' Sherlock shifted in his chair slightly. John smiled sympathetically. 'It's not awful that you felt an attraction.'

'I didn't feel an attraction!'

John signed and sat back. He rubbed his face, and tiredly pulled himself from the chair.

'Well, I'm going to bed. Good night.' He plodded towards the doorway.

'John?'

'Mm?' He turned.

Sherlock was looking at him with that inscrutable look on his face.

'Thank you.'

'For what?'

But if Sherlock even knew, it was clear he couldn't say.

'Well, you're welcome.' He turned to the doorway, but stopped again and turned back. 'Just, don't put too much stock in what Mycroft says, will you? It's pretty damned clear that the man's an imbecile. British government or not.'

There was still no answer, but there was a smile, small and surprised, behind Sherlock's eyes now. John nodded at him, satisfied, and went comfortably off to his bed.