A/N: Very, very old piece.
The Minor Affliction of Miss Adler, the Horror of Sherlock Holmes, and Watson as the Unwitting Solution
When the brilliant Sherlock Holmes awoke on Sunday morning on the floor, as he often did, he at first thought nothing of it.
Naturally, the merciful haze lasted all of two seconds before his exceptionally sharp senses became aware of the scent of Nubian coffee mixed with a familiar perfume, the cracking of nut shells (pistachios, this time), the rustle of rich fabric, and the drumming of fingertips atop his table.
This, obviously, was not good.
"Miss Adler, might I deign to ask what you are doing here?" asked Holmes, half-stumbling to his feet, his muddled mind rapidly clearing. "After warning me so solemnly about Professor Moriarty, I assumed you had gone off and married that husband you had all lined up—"
"There was, unfortunately, a change in circumstances between the time of then and now." The lilt in her voice was unusually sharp, as was the set of her jaw and the heel of her shoe, which Holmes eyed with some consternation. "And it appears that you are the only man to whom I can come to about it."
"Really? It would be odd to start up a new game so soon. However—"
"Professor Moriarty has nothing to do with this visit, Holmes." said Irene, rising to her feet and crossing the room towards Holmes. Almost instantly, his eyes took in the looseness of her clothing, the change of gait, the pallor of her face…
The conclusion that presented itself was not especially palatable.
"Oh, dear." said Holmes, deciding that now wasn't the time to go into hysterics—later, when he had refilled his stash of opium and had raided the liquor cabinet, would be far more appropriate. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that this is more Dr. Watson's expertise than my own—"
"Dr. Watson isn't the one who did this to me. You were."
"Me?" Holmes was more than a little annoyed to recognize that the timbre of his voice had reached a high he had previously only associated with Watson when he was being indignant—and pubescent choir boys. It was not pleasant, and for the first (maybe second, if one counted Irene's last visit where the particular problem was conceived, if one excused the pun) time Holmes was more than a little grateful that Watson wasn't at his side.
"You," agreed Irene, adjusting the folds of her dress.
Alas, Holmes, for all of his brilliance, could not quite escape Miss Adler's wrath, and by evening could be found at Watson's family home, attended to by a sympathetic Mary and considerably-less-so Watson.
"You really are a masochist, aren't you, old boy?" asked Watson, as he sifted through a cabinet that took up the left corner of his office (marked in broad, elegant script as being kept for the purpose of "Fixing up That Bloody Idiot"—pun unintended, but Mary had found it cute).
"John, please don't agitate Mr. Holmes," Mary cast a reproving glance at her husband while simultaneously trying to mop up a bleeding scratch and hold a compress to a particularly nasty bruise on Holmes' temple. "I'm having enough trouble trying to keep the floor clean as it is."
"Watson, your wife is more concerned about the state of her surroundings as opposed to her patient. I believe this could be considered a conflict in ideology."
"The last time we patched you up, the housekeeper complained." said Mary, who was more than accustomed to Holmes' sniping, and gently cuffed him. Watson, now armed with gauze and alcohol, smiled affectionately at his wife.
Holmes was too preoccupied with the imminent damage to his person to be properly caustic.
"I have to ask, however—Holmes, what were you thinking?" asked Watson, in a more serious tone, as he and his wife set to work patching up the near-catatonic Holmes. "You know better than that."
"I assure you, Watson, that the woman and I—"
"At least call her by her name, Mr. Holmes."
"If you insist, Mrs. Watson. As I was saying, Watson, Miss Adler and I have taking many precautions as to avoid such a situation. However, it is a shame that this time, our most recent methods did not quite…hold up to our expectations."
Watson winced. "I sincerely hope you are not using literal language."
"Unfortunately, I am. And now Miss Adler is either loose in London carrying my child, or in my apartment and still with child. It is not a good situation."
"I completely agree," said Watson, tactfully leaving his opinion at that, rather than go on into a deep lecture about the potential horrors of a child between a notorious thief and an opium-addicted Sherlock Holmes. A potential Sherlock Holmes the Second who dappled in his mother's arts.
Watson tried not to shiver.
"Poor Miss Adler, though!" exclaimed Mary. "And I had heard she was going to be married too! And in such a lovely cathedral, and that dress—such a waste."
Both her husband and Holmes stared at her.
"Where in the devil could you possibly hear about Miss Adler's whereabouts?" asked Holmes, incredulous that the mousy-looking young woman could not only discover the movements of his opposite number, but would also know the more sundry details of her wedding plans.
Then again, thought Holmes, glancing inconspicuously at the young woman's husband, Watson did seem to have a thing for the details…
"The housekeeper, of course." said Mary, with an expression of utmost nonchalance.
"You really must tell me where you hire your help, Watson."
"I'll let you talk to the housekeeper, Mr. Holmes."
"I am afraid that would not be the most…productive avenue to take."
It took the better part of two hours for Holmes to be sterilized, swabbed, poked, and prodded before the Watsons' were satisfied with the condition of his physical health. By then, it was dinner time, and Mary insisted that Holmes join them, despite her husband's protests that Holmes would swindle them.
In a way, he was right.
The next morning Holmes found himself kindly-but-sternly escorted out of the Watsons' residence. It was unfortunate, that these days the Watsons seemed less and less inclined to indulge his impromptu visits, insisting on proper hours and warnings like respectable people.
Holmes brooded as he walked the streets of London, unwilling to return to his home, but also recognizing that Irene would not leave him alone before she could extract some sort of plan from him regarding the child.
It was with deep forbidding that he unlocked the door of his apartments and let himself in, only to be stopped dead by the scent of flowers and general feeling of order that was usually so lacking since Watson had moved out.
Irene, sitting at his table, only glanced briefly at him before returning to her knitting.
"You really must hire a housekeeper," she said as she purled. "I refuse to abide this mess, and I am in far too delicate a position to take care of it myself consistently."
"Take a room in the Grand. Certainly, you have the resources to afford it."
Irene looked over her work at him. "I really would rather not," she said calmly. "I am not in a mood to be placed under scrutiny, and really, living together makes figuring out what we are going to do about this baby much easier."
Holmes stared at her. "What are we going to do about the baby?"
"I am not about to give up a lucrative career and prospects to raise this child. Then again, I would prefer not to have anyone else get their hands on it, either. It is quite a dilemma, you understand."
"I really wish I did not." Instinctively, Holmes made his way to his opium stash. Unfortunately, due to Miss Adler, he no longer knew where it was.
"Honesty becomes you, my dear," she smiled at his frantic rummaging. "But you must stop this distressing habit of sating your addictions whenever you are distressed. You are driving poor Watson up the wall, from what that darling Mary tells me."
"You correspond with Watson's wife?"
"Of course; as your sidekick's wife, I considered her to be quite an object of interest. Imagine my delight that she considers me in the same light! A wonderful girl and she writes excellent letters. Plus," she added, deftly finishing off a row, "the housekeeper is a remarkable source of information."
"So I understand," said Holmes, faintly.
It was turning out to be a very long six months.
(The first three, one must understand, had already passed before the aliment became known to either thief or detective)
"We cannot send the child off to China," said Irene, absently writing on the table, now cleared of all of Holmes' experiments.
Holmes lay on the floor, with the dog, which was currently enjoying the period of time in which it had not been drugged, stepped on, poisoned, or starved.
"China has an excellent climate, from what I'm told," Holmes mumbled into the carpentry.
"Hardly. Those demons and their opium would be a terrible influence."
"Need I remind you that I use opium?"
"Used to," responded Irene smoothly.
"And I will take it up again as soon as I am able. The withdrawal is rather unpleasant."
"Talk to your darling doctor friend about that this Saturday, when we go to see him for my condition."
Holmes groaned something indistinct. Irene smiled, folded up her letter and rose from the table, starting to Holmes' prone form.
"Out," she ordered the dog, who immediately obeyed. She arranged her skirts as she sat next to Holmes, and then pulled him up to a semi-respectable sitting position. He stared at her out of bleary eyes, looking quite a fright.
"You do look rather atrocious," she observed, hands going to his shirt, starting with the button at his collar and working her way down.
"What are you doing, woman?" he asked, his mind recognizing very well was happening. It was getting rather uncomfortable.
Irene kissed him, long and deep. "Helping you feel a bit better. And myself, as well." When his shirt had been completely undone she gave an uncomfortably familiar catlike smile, and started on his belt. Holmes had the presence of mind to back away very fast, his back hitting against the leg of one of his cabinets.
Irene raised an eyebrow at him. "No? As you wish. Do it yourself."
To his horror (in a purely intellectual way, mind you), she started to undress herself, wiggling out of the satin she was so fond of, and pausing to pull out her hair pins, all while looking straight at him, lips pursed both from holding the pins she took out as well as an attempt not to smile.
Holmes swallowed. The discomfort was getting worse.
"Are you sure it is wise? You are with child, and ought not to be engaging in such, ah, strenuous activity."
Irene placed the pins on the coffee table, allowing herself to give him a full, crimson smile.
"I'll decide how strenuous this shall be." she said, moving to straddle him.
"Oh dear," was all Holmes managed to say, before his mouth was otherwise occupied.
"That woman is going to drive me mad."
"That woman is going to have your child," said Watson, pausing in cleaning his tools to look at Holmes, who lay stretched out across the surgical table. "Get off, that's unhygienic."
Holmes didn't oblige. "We still haven't figured out what we are going to do with it. She will have a child in two months, and I don't know what we are going to do with it. All of my suggestions have been turned down."
"So I heard," said Watson dryly. "No nunnery in all of Europe would take in your child. One look at the awful creature would send them screaming."
"What about the Korean nunnery?"
"Good luck getting there. Honestly, Holmes, why not just…become respectable? Miss Adler, loath as I am to admit it, is a good influence on your health, and from there it is not a far stretch to complete sobriety, and perhaps, stability. Your jobs would provide a steady income, and loath as I am to admit it, any child of yours would certainly benefit from such a…knowledgeable father."
"Please don't fantasize, Watson. Miss Adler and I have no intention of stabilizing. Besides, I'm fairly certain that she intends to marry again. However much she complains about them afterwards, Miss Adler enjoys swindling those rich fools far too much to settle for domesticity."
"Hm, so Mary's told me," said Watson, rubbing a particularly stubborn bloodstain.
"What else has Mary told you?" asked Holmes, swinging his feet over the edge of the table, now sitting on its edge. He picked up an empty vial and examined it with great interest.
Watson paused in his work. When Holmes used that irreverent tone with him, it generally meant that something hell-raising either had or would soon happen.
"Holmes," he began, very carefully, "What did you do?"
Watson suddenly was very worried.
"Holmes, what did you do?"
"Nothing. However, that woman has some idea that it would be perfectly acceptable to ask your wife to take in the child as a favor to us—"
"What?" Watson nearly dropped his scalpel.
"Well, from a technical point of view, it makes a good deal of sense. You are both well established in respectable society, you have a home of your own, and both of you do in fact plan to have and raise children in the near future—"
Watson wasn't having any of it. In fact, he was rather looking at Holmes like his head had fallen off.
"Holmes, you cannot do that. You cannot simply pawn your child off on us like that—it's bad manners!"
Among other times, but Watson was not thinking as coherently as he normally would.
"But what a good thing it would be for the child, growing up with such excellent parents." said Holmes, offending Watson's sensibilities by looking so reasonable about his absurd notions.
"No, absolutely not."
Before Watson could collect his wits and elaborate further why, precisely, Holmes's passing on of his child to the Watsons was a Very Bad Thing, the sound of footsteps and feminine voices alerted the two men to their counterparts' approach.
"John, has Mr. Holmes discussed with you what Irene darling was just discussing with me?" Mary was smiling in sheer delight, and had she not been linking arms with Irene, Holmes suspected she would have been twirling. Holmes observed with some relief as Watson deflated in the face of his wife's enthusiasm.
Irene swept over to Holmes with only the slightest difficulty. "Come on, my dear. We ought to give the couple time to consider our proposal in private. Take my arm."
Holmes gave a deep sigh, and did as he was told, leaving Watson to his wife to be persuaded to her point of view.
"We really should start thinking of names for the child." commented Irene a few days later. She was reclining on Holmes' bed, absently rifling through the papers he had filed under her name. It was rather galling that he had recognized her signature so quickly, but at the same time, she was rather pleased to find that he hadn't caught quite all of her…escapades, as it were.
Holmes was at her side, lying flat on his back; his hands pressed over his face. He looked more disheveled than usual, though a good deal cleaner.
"Is that strictly necessary?" he asked, voice muffled. "Just open the Bible and pick one. Or let Watson decide: it's his baby."
"Mary gave us the honor of naming the child," said Irene, looking over her shoulder at Holmes with an expression of slight disapproval. "We could at least be respectable and honor her wishes."
"We are not respectable."
Irene returned to her file. "We will be until we decide on a name."
"Fine. John if it's a boy, Mary if it's a girl."
"Call it a tribute."
"That would only work if we were keeping the baby, darling."
Holmes pulled a face and rolled on his side to better face Irene. "Well, you do have any ideas, woman?"
Irene smiled. "Deborah."
"…You are aware that is my mother's name?"
Irene turned back to her file, fighting a smile with difficulty.
"Don't you remember darling? You told me yourself."
"No I did not. You went digging around—"
"Your turn, darling. Pick a boy's name. Any one will do." Holmes sighed and accepted Irene's deft maneuver. But two could play at that game.
"Fine. Wihelm Gottsreich Sigismond."
Irene scowled and tapped Holmes roughly on the head with a rolled up news clipping.
"Not funny, darling."
Sherlock Holmes's and Irene Adler's daughter Deborah was delivered by John Watson exactly two months later. The child spent the first two hours of life crying inconsolably, before Mary Watson was able to sooth her to sleep.
"She's going to be a handful," she said to her husband, smiling. "I can tell."
"The odds were against her by the mere fact of her parentage," was Watson's weary reply. Mary simply laughed and headed off to the nursery. Irene was in good health, and sleeping off eight hours worth of labor. Holmes sat on a stool besides her bed, looking rather more frazzled than usual.
"Well, congratulations, old boy," Watson told Holmes. "You have managed to sire a healthy child."
"Good. I would hate to think that all that suffering was just for the sake of some sickly little creature."
"Indeed," said Watson dryly. More normal tone, he asked "What do you and Miss Adler plan to do now that her pregnancy is over?"
Holmes looked over at Irene's sleeping face with a surprisingly fond expression. "Carry on as I was. Miss Adler has expressed a wish to continue with her travelling. That said, she has implied that she will return periodically to "check up on my health", as you will. There will be no more husbands, it appears."
Watson raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like an ideal arrangement, so long as there are no more children to take in."
"I assure you, we shall be especially careful. That said, I have a request to make."
"Oh?" Watson blinked in surprise as Holmes turned to him with an unusually sheepish look.
"I would like some involvement in my daughter's life. Just to help teach her some of life's lessons, relieve a bit of the burden the woman and I—"
"Her name is Irene. She just gave birth to your child, Holmes—"
"She doesn't mind. Like I was saying, I will drop by every now and then for the sole purpose of instilling my child with important knowledge so that she will not bother Mary and yourself in the pursuit of it."
Watson was trying very hard not to smile at the solemnity of Holmes' voice.
"It will be quite a while before that will be necessary, Holmes. And but of course. I doubt that you would let Deborah hinder your presence in my household."
Holmes looked relieved, and shrugged. "Well, you can never be too sure."
"Yes," agreed Watson, finally allowing himself to smile. "You can't."
…The ending kind of sucks. Sorry 'bout that.
This fic took forever to get right. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed writing Irene Adler. Seriously, Rachel McAdams was gorgeous in that movie. Points to whoever knows why Irene was Not Amused by Holmes' name choice.