"Playing the game," was how The Woman had eloquently put it. She couldn't help herself of course. Irene Adler was naturally romantic when choosing words. Her phrases ranged between teasing and suggestive. More often than not, she loved to manipulate by the use of grandeur diction that expelled temptation or sin. It was the trait, Sherlock suspected, that ultimately drew her clients into stages of admiration and want. Her voice and tone only provided further ammunition. He was familiar with her techniques, but he could not allow himself to fall for it. She had lost the game and sympathy was not going to save her. He knows that her punishment was well suited and that she wouldn't survive six months after the incident.
Mr. Holmes was wrong however. Sentiment is a human error. Contrary to everything the press makes him to be, Sherlock Holmes is only human. He saved her in Karachi a few weeks after their last encounter. When he returned from his improvised expedition two days later, he spent the night comforted over the fact that he had bested her. They were even now. There was nothing more to their connection.
And yet, her heart was still shut away in his desk drawer. During the first week after gaining possession of the phone from John, the consulting detective had it taken out several times and occasionally fiddled with. The contents of her phone were stripped but the pass-code remained the same. It was the first four letters of his name. He always took his time unlocking her mobile phone. His fingers drifted from one letter to another at an exceptionally slow pace. When he unlocked it, he automatically re-locked it again. This process would renew again after a few minutes. He was only rewarded by what the screen shows him those few seconds before entering the bare homepage:
I am S H E R locked.
His actions puzzled him. He did not know why he asked for the camera phone nor why he bothered with the device anyway. When he was done examining it, he returned the mobile to its place and dismissed the peculiar motion. Bored, was the answer he readily agreed to. One afternoon, the battery finally died. As he held it in his hand, he paused to think how The Woman had finally exited from his view. He found himself not liking the realization very much.
Sherlock Holmes begins to remember her exact body motions two years later, as he leaves his best friend's wedding early. Based on his memory of how she walked, turned, and her overall posture, he comes to the conclusion that she would have made a decent dancer at the reception-albeit less able than he. She would be careful and slow at the very least. When the cab he flagged down earlier finally reaches Baker street, the detective clears her from his head. He thought of her one too many times tonight. As he nears the door to his flat, he notices the knocker is straight despite the habit that he leaves it crooked. There were several scratches by the keyhole. The flat has an unwelcome visitor inside.
Mrs. Hudson will have a field day when she returns from the reception. Sherlock opens the door slowly and is greeted by a faint scent of perfume he is unfamiliar with. His riding crop, hidden among the umbrellas in the nearby stand, is reached for. He climbs the steps slowly, as not to make any noise. When he opens the door to the flat, he immediately recognizes the queer state it is in. The mess does not surprise him. His flat has always been in a mess. But the papers that he left on the side of the table this morning were shuffled through and put into a neater stack inches away from where he last left them. His lab equipment were put in all the wrong positions. The window was left open by a few inches. She, whoever she is, tried to clear the scent of her perfume. But she is still here, and foolishly closed off in his room. The door to his room was never closed.
There is no need to rush; his window is securely jammed as of last week. Stag night with John apparently, ended with the consulting detective closing it with unnecessary force to block out the noise from below the next morning. There is no exit route for the intruder. His footfalls now are by no means quiet. Every creak of the old wooden floor seemed to alert his presence. Before he could reach his point however, his phone sounded.
His breath cut off. The noise he thought his phone would never make again had sounded. It is as suggestive and alluring as ever, yet he didn't think of it as such at the moment. The Woman's recorded moan shot a numbing sensation throughout his veins.
Nevertheless, he was Sherlock Holmes. He could not let this feeling get the better of him and he certainly will not allow himself to be caught confounded. She will never know that satisfaction. He turned heel, walking back to the living room and glancing at the drawer that he knows has been robbed. When he opens it, the contents are scattered and the phone is gone. The Woman came back to view.
He unlock his phone and the new message read:
"Glad you're not dead. Neither am I. Let's have dinner."
A faint click sounds from the hallway that leads to his room. Her footfalls that follow are soft and he knows without looking that she is barefoot. He stiffens, and the hand that holds that riding crop tightens.
"Aren't you going to greet me Mr. Holmes?" She asks, tugging the crop from his fingers. He could feel her breath kiss the back of his neck.
"Hm," The detective remarks without missing a beat, "seeing as you've already broken in, there is no point."
"It's nice to know how much your mannerisms have improved."
He cranes his neck to glance over at her and lets out a small sigh of relief. He is thankful she did not decide to wear her battle dress. The mischievous smirk is still present. Her lipstick is the same shade as when they first met; he can tell. In her other hand she held the mobile. Sentiment made a fool out of both of them.
"Well now, I had no idea you still kept this," she murmured by his ear.
"You couldn't have been rummaging through my flat for no reason." He answers back. She presses against the side of his back, but he made no move to shuffle away.
"I had a tip-off that not all the remnants of my file were returned to your beloved brother."
"Ah. Mycroft always dismisses the in-capabilities of his assistants."
The Woman slides over to face him. "Didn't take you as the nostalgic type. Did you happen to miss me?" she comments, glancing from her phone and then at him.
"Don't be foolish," he whispers, "It serves as a keepsake of a game well played."
She smiles at his hidden compliment.
"I see no difference."
"Then you aren't looking hard enough."
The Woman make herself comfortable on John's favorite chair. Comfort did not come as easy to her male acquaintance. Sherlock hesitated before taking a seat opposite of hers.
"What did you come here for?" He questions.
"Dinner." Came the simple reply.
"I'm not hungry."
"As always," she teases, "Seems you've already had your fill tonight."
He stares at her, unable to comprehend her comment. Irene only lifts up a spare invitation to the wedding he attended hours before.
"But you're back early aren't you?" She purrs, "Not nearly enough time to hit it off with the maid of honor is it?"
At this Holmes provided no commentary. The Women's lips twitch at his confirmation.
"I am quite disappointed," she continued, "that I didn't receive an invitation."
"Don't be absurd. John doesn't even know you're alive." Sherlock briefly paused. "Although by now he shouldn't be surprised."
"I wasn't planning to go to the wedding. I thought that-" Ms. Alder took stand abruptly and leaned forward, "Mr. Holmes would be clever enough to deduce where I was and what identity I took to send me an invitation. You know, those things are very nice to receive."
Her hips sway slightly and the dress she was wearing caught the moonlight nicely. Although he chooses to ignore it the majority of the time, he is not blind to it; she looks enticing and lovely. As she does always.
He stands up and brushes past her.
The old record player had not been toyed with and remains where he left it this morning. When he sets the needle upon the record, a violin solo begins to play.
"What are you doing Mr. Holmes?" The Woman inquires.
"Isn't it obvious Ms. Alder?" He strides toward her and offers his hand. He drifts closer to her. His mouth is yet again in favorable proximity to her ear.
"I am sending you an invitation." He answers.