My dear fellow Adlockers, the end is near.

Like many others, I was extremely happy to see Irene in The Sign of Three. This came from that.

For those who will be reading this in the future, note that this was written immediately after the second episode of season three. I have no idea what's coming for His Last Vow.

So. This is a bit dark. The M rating is for saftey, although it does get a bit sharper in some parts than in others. Warning for my shaving kink.


He hates how much he needs her in his head.

It's a defense mechanism, it was survival. For same reason that John's voice echos in his ears, Irene Adler sometimes dances in front of his eyes, caresses his cheek, kisses him deeply. He needs this delusion the same way he needed the drugs once.

Something's wrong, though. She's been popping in at the wrong times, in the middle of his deductions the same way she used to pop into his plans.

A metal pipe slams into Sherlock's ribs. He feels them crack with a dull snapping pain, not even enough to make him moan. The true pain comes from his shoulders, from his arms that are holding his weight. His body moves with the hit, causing the swollen and painful joints to spasm. The man beating him growls a question in a language that Sherlock knew but he can't think well enough to translate.

Think, think, you need to answer his questions so he'll stop hitting you think Sherlock think-

Heels click upon the concrete floor. A steady tapping, the sound of a woman who has power wrapped around her like a cloak. The stride is confident, steady.

One hundred and twenty pounds, size seven shoe. Long legs.

A crisp female voice gives an order. The voice is familiar, achingly so.

Irene. I'm hallucinating again. That means that my blood sugar is too low and my body is trying to protect me. I need to think of something quickly, before they kill me.

The man with the pipe steps back deferentially. Oh. So... maybe not? The heels click closer, until she stands before him. A clean white hand comes down, gripping his chin with cold, thin fingers. The nails are scarlet.

She tilts his scruffy chin up, until he is looking at her.

Hello, Sherlock.

Irene. Come to save my arse?

Of course.

Her eyes flick to the door, then back at him. Give me a minute.

The man in the corner asks something harshly; Irene responds with a fluency that impressees Sherlock. Even if he is too weary to understand what is being said he can recognize the clear authority in her voice.

"They're going to untie you and release you into my custody," Irene says in English, high tone not showing a trace of affection or care. "Do as you are bid."

She turns her back on him, and the sound of her heels fade until he can no long hear them. The shackles on his wrists are unlocked, and he is half dragged outside. There is a car waiting. He is shoved into it.

The door slams and the car begins to move. Irene's voice drifts over again.

"Sleep now, Sherlock. It- it'll be alright."

Waking up for Sherlock is not slow and peaceful (like waking in Karachi body heavy from sex and mind dazed and Irene warm on his chest with her hair dark on his skin like ink on paper) but violent, a rushing of consciousness and intake of information and a ravenous hunger worse than he has ever known.

He must have made a sound because the woman dozing next to him awakens with a start as well. "Sherlock."

Rasping out her name is not an option with his throat in the state that it is. All that comes out is a dry sound.

It is clear that she comprehends. There is a button on the wall; when she presses it a buzzing sound emerges. "Sen pitcher of water. Start preparing a chicken broth as well. Leave both at the door, I'll get them from there."

"Yes, Ms. Laird." It is a young female voice, high. A servant, perhaps.

The room is a mix of British and Indian, telling him that he is still probably somewhere on the continent. There is a window that is covered with a thin, gauzy curtain that lets in strong sunlight that reflects off the highly polished hardwood floors. The floors are creamy wood, the furniture white wood. The room is too bright for him, but it holds a serenity that calms his racing heart.

Irene returns to his side, returns to the chair she had been sleeping in. Although she appears calm, Sherlock can read her worry in the sleep creases on the left side of her face and in the set of her brow and in the hand that comes up and smooths his curls.

He looks at her questioningly, heart still beating fast from the trapped sensation of waking under sheets for the first time in months and being in an unfamiliar place (and perhaps also from the smooth hand and the scent of Irene that has the same effect as the time he passed a man in the street who wore John's cologne).

"I suppose it was my turn to save you," she says with a smile that doesn't quite reach the eyes. "I owe you from Karachi."

A knock at the door causes his head to snap around. Irene waits for the footsteps to fade before leaving her chair (and Sherlock) to retrieve the tray with a pitcher of water and glasses.

Sherlock drinks and drinks and drinks, sating his thirst and smoothing his throat, although the growling empty feeling of hunger does not go away. He drinks until he can breathe without his air drying his throat, he drinks until he can speak. Water leaks from the corners of his mouth to wet the beard that has grown in his separation from his razor.

"You don't owe me," he croaks.

Irene's sad smile fades. "We'll see."

When night falls and Sherlock is no longer hungry or tired, Irene sits him in a chair and tells him not to move. She's changed from the comfortable clothes she was wearing earlier into a nightdress made of lacy silky fabric in a shade of dark blue that Sherlock approves of. He hears the sounds of a blade on a whetstone from the bathroom and his throat tightens.

He shaved in front of her in Karachi. She had asked about his preference for a straight edge, remarking with heated eyes what it meant that he started each morning with a blade to his throat and it it was that love of danger that had led him to her bed.

She would shave him now.

It wasn't like being shaved by a barber, as she lathered his face with a gentle hand. She is doing this for him because he cannot do it for himself (his shoulders scream in pain every time he moves them) and she is doing it because it arouses her as well.

Heat in her eyes, her want of him and her want to have complete power over him burning inside and spilling out through her eyes. Irene craves power and as a ghost power can be hard to come by. Sherlock can give it to her and with this he is the one with the true power and they both know it. They have a complicated way of doing things, Sherlock and Irene, but it works for them. Their eyes met and hold and they tell each other what the other needs to hear.

The rasp of the blade on his skin, treacherously slick, makes him hold his breath. Irene knows what she is doing, though. It feels delicate, having a woman with dainty hands and lovely perfume hovering over him and holding a blade to his throat. That it is Irene Adler, a woman who revels in performance and danger, makes it tantalizing. Excruciating. She draws it out, she moves slowly, he knows he is in the safest hands and yet his heart is pounding so hard that the pulse at his throat jumps and catches Irene's attention.

It had been so long since someone had touched him in kindness rather than in anger or in hate or in simple indifference. He had missed it without knowing what he was missing.

The only sound in the room is his breathing and the sound of the razor sliding across his flesh. His attention is entirely focused on her, on Irene, on The Woman.

When she is finished she wipes his face and smooths on the aftershave and sits properly on his lap and presses her lips to his. A hand cups his now smooth face, and her eyes are open and meeting his as they kiss.

But it is more than a kiss, it is a claiming. She is claiming him, tangling her tongue with his and holding his face in place, powerful in the knowledge that he cannot touch her, that his shoulders have left him as helpless to her kiss as silken ties and bedposts would have.

He loves it, he hates how easy and how desperately he gives in to her. Irene has the control, Irene has the power. Sherlock can just be, just exist as an extension of Irene's mind and he savors it even as his head turns with her kiss.

Sherlock leaves Irene's care half healed and with more of The Woman in his head. It pains him to see John fading, Mycroft fading, to be replaced by the haunting, lilting tones of her voice.

John's specter used to alternate between kind and berating, often saying the obvious (but important) things in the doctor's voice.

Mycroft prodded Sherlock, mocking him until he found the right answer just to prove the goddamn sarcastic inflection wrong.

But Irene... Irene's voice is fascinated, curious. She tells him many times how much she loves detective stories... and detectives. She asks questions of him, forcing him to answer. When the answer arrives there is the ghost of a chuckle and the flesh memory of lips on his cheek.

She can be distracting, though.

The Serbian faction gets him next. It is obvious that the same man is in charge of all the torture trainings. It is the same setup, but colder. Sherlock groans as a metal pipe- slightly larger in diameter than the one in India- strikes his ribs. He coughs weakly, speaking swiftly in his reasonably fluent Serbian.

Hatred surges toward his brother, sitting in front of him and watching him being violently beaten. Irene stepped in. Mycroft waits.

Her voice comes to him, telling him to look at the man's shirt, to inhale as much as his ribs will allow to take in... two different colognes!

An affair. That's how I can get him to leave.

Back in Baker Street. Something isn't right, something that he can feel in the air and almost taste.

it is not that the irene of his head has not visited him since he set foot in home or since he's seen john

Maybe it's Mary. He is trying to like her as much as John does, which isn't very hard. She's kind. Funny. Sad, a bit, too. Whatever it is, it'll come out. For now he needs to get used to tea happening and John talking to him for real (the first time it was almost like a hallucination if it hadn't been for that ridiculous mustache he could have deluded himself into thinking he was in a cell in India or in Serbia or dying in a ditch somewhere) and Mycroft being an arse.

He half believes himself in the train carriage with the bomb, telling himself that it's real to see if he can make Irene's voice come back.


He's always been able to call her face to him in the past, to remember her putting her hand to his face and telling him with her eyes that she thinks he is brilliant, utterly fascinating, and that what she has for him is as close to love as someone like her can have. Affection, perhaps. Lust. Care. Sentiment.

She appears to him during John's wedding and it is the worst possible timing. But she is there, so present and so alive in his mind that he pushes her away because he's busy and he's got the answer. All he needed was a look from her, a touch of her hand.

He solves the mystery, saves the day. She feels so real to him, so present, that he can smell her perfume in his nose as he rejoins the wedding.

That bridesmaid looks like her. He's in such a good mood, so happy, that he can almost delude himself into thinking that she's like Irene. What's-her-name is nice enough, not too bright. But she has the hair and the skin is almost the same color (expect for the stuff covering her spots and the hair is too long Irene cuts hers as soon as it starts to tangle and Irene would never wear a dress that cheap and that shade of purple) and she looks like she could be a distant cousin.

Second cousin. Maybe third.

There is love in the air, as cliched as Sherlock knows it is, but it is true. He can see the evidence of love on Mary, he knows that John loves her and that they will love the baby. He focuses on the violin and the love to ignore the panic.

Sherlock knows how to ignore panic. He's learned well.

He's focusing on it so hard that he slips up on his dedication speech. John and Mary don't seem to mind much as they share the moment, share the idea of a little John or James or Mary or Margaret growing as part of each of them.

They dance. John is doing almost all the steps right and Mary is an excellent dancer so they are managing. He looks for his Irene look-alike, but she dancing with someone else.

The panic surges as soon as he looses his grip on the good emotions. Irene's perfume has long disappeared. He needs to leave, he needs to leave now before he loses his grip on something and ruins John's wedding.

Sherlock is nearly down the path when a shadow steps in front of him a ways. Perfume floats to him, dusky and promising and crisply expensive.


She steps toward him, lips red and marquise cut diamonds glinting at her ears. (The cut of diamond ordered by a king so that he could give his mistress a diamond in the same shape as her mouth, which he loved. Sherlock is no king but he loves the shape of her mouth which is like the shape of her earrings) She's wearing clothes, which is strange. Most of the time when she appears to him she is in the nude or in his Belstaff.

Here it is. He has gone mad at last.

Sinking to his knees, cradling his head in his hands. His eyes burn dryly, tears long since gone. That damn smell of her perfume won't leave.

Hands, cool with long fingers and red nails, take his hands from his face. She kneels with him, tears sparking in her own eyes. "Sherlock," she whispers.

"When I told you to go away because I was busy I didn't mean forever," he slurred. "Am I missing something again?"

Confusion reigns in her features, contorting her brow. "Sherlock... I'm here. I came for John's wedding."

The night air is cool on his face, blowing consistently. His knees are twinging, real pain in a real body. He's not hallucinating, he doesn't think.

Standing is not easy, but he manages with Irene's help. "You're real?" Her ghost has always been truthful with him when he has asked this question before.

"Of course," Irene says. She opens her mouth to say more but he can't help himself.

Human contact is the easiest way to test. He kisses her, crushing her to him. The litheness of her body is unchanged, the easy way she adapts to his brutal kiss the same. She lets him do as he needs, winding one hand in his hair and tugging. The slight pain brings him back to himself.

"What are you doing here?" he asks, breathing harshly.

She looks concerned. "John's wedding," shes says again. "I- I was worried about you."

She understands a bit of what's happening to me, Sherlock thinks. She saw some of it in India. How much does she know? "Why?"

"Didn't know if you'd have a date," she says casually, although her eyes are anything but. "And the best man needs to dance at least once at the wedding."

Taking Sherlock by the hand, Irene leads him to a small pavilion that has a string of fairy lights around it. They aren't at all bright, but they provide enough glow that he can see that her dress is a deep green and her lipstick is smudged from his kiss.

"Dance with me," she says in a voice that asks as much as it orders. He obliges, taking her in his arms and moving in the simple steps of a waltz. Irene Adler is a superb dancer, moving easily with his rhythm despite the lack of music. They can hear the faint strains of something from the party, but Sherlock is moving the the sound in his head.

Irene's Lament. The violin mourning her death, drawing the story of her mystery of her beauty of her quavering promise.

They move together, dancing silently until people start to leave the party. It is enough to have someone in his arms. His coat is discarded on a seat because the movement keeps him warm.

"Dinner?" he asks at last.

Irene looks up at him, then leans forward (with the height of her heels she can almost look him in the eye) and kisses him.

Sherlock lets her lead the kiss, giving as much as she demands from him. He likes kissing her like this, the chill of the night around them and their bodies giving off warmth. Irene is all he can think about, Irene and her mouth.

She pulls away, but they keep their heads together. Her breath warms the air he breathes in. Their bodies are touching at chest, torso, hips. He is getting vaguely hard against her. Their relationship has always been a meeting of the minds first and of the body second, as a way for the minds to find a way to be physically closer.

"Let's go straight to the dessert," she purrs in his ear. "We'll save dinner for another time." It is her promise to him, a promise that they will have to meet again, that they have an obligation to fulfill. He would have dinner with her, but the last night has yet to come.

"Very well," he says, voice low and turning over in his chest. "Baker Street is mine alone now."

She grins at him, teeth glinting in the light. "Perfect."

When Irene is gone and all Sherlock can do is sit in his chair and play her lament on his violin, he tries to bring her voice to his mind and fails. She's too fresh in his memory, too raw.

His rooms smell of her. His sheets, his shower, his hair. He doesn't need the ghost of her perfume in his nose.

There are gouges down his back and bruises on his chest and a bite on his neck. He doesn't need the whisper light brush of her fingers on his cheek.

His mouth still tastes of her. The ticking of the clock on the wall is unpleasant because he knows it will vanish soon. The bed might still be warm where they had lay not so long ago.

Sherlock can rest, though, knowing that for the time being she has healed his mind (or at least slapped a bandage on it) and drugged his soul in a way that only The Woman can do.

There is something afoot, some game being lay out. There has been the calm that passes before a storm, but the storm is coming.

Soothed, Sherlock can face it.

I hope you enjoyed this. I might add on to it, depending what happens in that last episode, but for now it is over.

Thank you for reading! Please comment- I love reviews and they are inspiration not only to add to the story but to keep writing all together.

Best of luck to all of us for His Last Vow. Gulp.

I shall cling to my adlock in the mean time.