"Where are you off to?" Holmes muttered, his eyes still closed.

"None of your concern," Irene replied curtly, one eyebrow raised. She paused in dressing, well, in the first stage of re-dressing. "Why do you ask?"

Holmes opened his eyes and propped himself up on his elbows. "I can't ask?"

Irene's hands flew to her hips, one still clutching the dress. She was perfectly naked, nakedly perfect. She turned, lowering the dress to cover her lower backside, and rand some fingers through her chocolate curls. "You promised this wouldn't happen."

Holmes moved himself into a complete sitting position. "All I did was ask where you are going. It was merely conversation."

"Alright, so what if I told you I'm going off to see another man just this instant?" Irene quizzed, proceeding to dress again. "Hm?"

Holmes opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. He was silent for a few moments, and finally asked, "Who?"

Irene smoothed out her dress, sighing. "Nobody, Sherlock." She stared up at the ceiling for help, running her hands through her hair. "We agreed this was all in good fun. We wouldn't develop feelings for each other, remember?"

Holmes stared down at the balled-up bedsheets in his lap. He fingered the edges. Irene softened just a bit and said, "I warned you ahead of time not to fall in love with me." She approached the bed and kissed his forehead. "Don't love me, Sherlock."

To her dismay, he craned his head, clumsily searching for her lips. He found them, and she didn't pull away. "Don't love me," she muttered, closing her eyes.

"You love her," Watson grinned, raising his eyebrows.

Holmes frowned, turning his gaze towards the window. "No, I don't." He mentally compiled all of his excuses, trying to prepare for them for a counter attack against what Watson was just about to say. What he knew he would say.

"You want to be with her," the doctor said. "Only her, and you want her to be with you." He sighed. "There's no shame in it, Holmes. I mean, I'm married."

"Love is overrated," Holmes muttered, picking up his violin and plucking the chords.

Pluck, pluck, pluck"Is it?" Watson stared out the window. He stood up. "Well, I'm off to see Mary-" he approached Holmes and ruffled his hair. "My loving wife who I love and vowed to love for all of eternity."

"Only till death do you part," Holmes muttered, slinking down in his chair. He waved his hand. "Off with you now. You're no help."

Watson got all the way to the door and turned his head, waving his finger. "Will you just answer me one question?"

Holmes glanced at him, his eyebrows raised.

"How does she sleep?" The doctor asked.

Holmes scoffed. "How does she-Watson, she sleeps..." he stopped, pondering this. Irene didn't sleep like an angel necessarily, unless angels slept on their stomachs, their faces buried in the pillows, assisted by muffled snoring. He didn't want an angel anyway. He liked watching Irene sleep just the way she did.

"Well?" Watson leaned against the open doorframe. "Alright then, what does she look like when she wakes up?"

Holmes saw it in his mind, the way he had numerous times. Irene stirring slightly, rolling onto her side, blindly feeling around for covers. her eyes fluttering open. She stares into space, and then her gaze falls on Holmes, who is already looking at her. She snuggles up to him, burying her face in the crook of his neck, and he covers them both. They stay like that, sometimes with little or no conversation at all.

"That's what I thought," Watson snorted, turning to leave. "You think about that, Holmes."

Irene ascended the stairs, tucking some hair behind her ears. It was her stubborness, she believed, that brought her back. She told herself she wanted to prove to Sherlock that their activities were merely activities, no feelings attached. She opened the door, hardly paying any attention, staring into the hall.

"Good evening."

Irene turned and the words, whatever she had been about to say, died on the end of her tongue. The room was filled with candles. More candles than she'd ever seen in one room. The bed, surprisingly, was made, and rose petals were scattered atop the comforter. She looked around, intaking the sight. Holmes hardly looked up from his place on the floor, his back to the wall. He plucked away at his violin.

"Well, this certainly sets a mood." She didn't let her guard down. She knew what he was trying to do. And she was not going to fall for it.

"Thank you." He looked briefly, smiling, and then returned to his playing.

"Are you still upset with me?" Irene asked, fingering the collar of her dress.

"No." He shook his head, staring into space. "You're right-" he looked at her, sighing abruptly. "You did warn me. I promise not to let my feelings get in the way of our relationship."

Irene was skeptical, but she grinned anyway. She sat on the edge of the bed. "Good." She picked up one of the petals, bringing it to the corner of her mouth. "So...are you going to follow through with this beautifully illuminated scene?"

Holmes slid up the length of the wall, setting his violin down on the window sill. He approached Irene, and she stood, wrapping her arms around his neck. He leaned forward, and so did she, but he deliberately missed her lips, taking her cheek instead. He patted her back. "I release you."

" 'Release me'?" Irene pulled back. "Release me? What are you talking about?"

"You warned me, and I won't allow myself to engage in something so..." he ran a hand through his hair, sighing. "Confusing."

Irene never thought the word even exisisted in the brilliant sleuth's vocabulary. It wasn't just his words, but the way he looked. Meek, guarded, vulnerable even. He turned away from her, clearing his throat. "I enjoy your company, Miss Adler, but I don't wish to jeapordize it with something as trivial as emotions."

Irene shook her head slightly. She picked up one of the flower petals. "Could you at least tell me why?"

"I watch you sleep," he replied, turning back around. He was smiling, but his eyes showed sadness. "I always make sure to wake before you do so I can see you do the same." He laughed a little, throwing his arms up helplessly. There was nothing funny about the situation. "I've counted your freckles."

Irene squinted slightly, cocking her head. "You've...you've what?"

"I love you," Holmes said, so quietly she almost didn't hear him. "Irene, I love you, and I hate myself for it. It's not what I'm supposed to feel."

It didn't matter anymore. It wasn't a matter of what felt right or what felt wrong, but the fact that he did feel. And what he felt was so strong. He sat down on the floor, burying his face in his hands. Irene stared down at him, this mess of a man. In so many ways. She sat down too.

"You don't love me," she said quietly, pulling one of his hands away. Sherlock stared at their joined hands, and he kissed kissed them. Irene closed her eyes, and licked her lips. She leaned forward, brushing her smooth cheek against his unshaven one. Her lips found his, and they kissed.

"Love me," Holmes murmered, pulling away, his lips millimeters from hers. "Love me, Irene."

Irene brought their lips back together, moving herself onto his lap, her hands moving all over him. She leaned her head on his shoulder, kissing his neck. "I already did," she whispered, inhaling his unusual, but unique and inviting scent. "I was scared."

They didn't have sex that night. For the first time, they made love. It was different. It meant something. Afterwards, when Irene was fast asleep, Holmes removed himself from the bed and blew out all of the candles. He climbed back into bed, kissing the back of the sleeping woman, and covered them both up in the sheets. The blanket was somewhere at the foot of the bed, most likely on the floor.

The following morning, still dark outside, the air cool, Irene stirred. She rolled over, and smiled when her eyes found Holmes'. He smiled back, brushing some hair away from her eyes. She pulled the sheets around her shoulders, curling her legs against her, and squished herself against him.

"So how many?" She asked.

"Beg pardon?" He looked at her.

"Freckles," she explained. "How many are on my body?"

"I can't remember." He touched his index finger to her cheek. "Let's start over. One....two..."

The End....