Good day my fellow fanfiction lovers! How are you all? I know it's a tad overdue but my computer has been working up. Finally, however, for your interest I present a prequel to 'Hydrochloric Coffee' which will shortly, I hope, be followed with a sequel.
This is set about three years before Sherlock knew Watson, nearer the beginning of his Detective career. The pairings are, if you squint really, really hard, Sherlock/Adler, and Sherlock/Lestrade-friendship. This fic deals with the 'Romance' that Sherlock spoke of in 'HC'. The pairing may very well change for the sequel as I'm a slash fan too. We shall see!
Ok, so this is a modern rewrite of Conan Doyle's 'Scandal in Bohemia.' I take no credit for the creation of any of the characters but my own. I hope that you all enjoy.
If you would like an idea of the Song that Irene sings please look up 'Diva's Song' on Youtube from the anime 'Blood +'.
Warning – Mentions of selfharm/Drug use/other random stuff, but the rating is mostly because I'm paranoid. ENJOY.
Sherlock Holmes did not run away from challenges. It was a common fact. The nature of those challengers could vary, alter and mutate, but if they were deemed fit enough to be worthy of the effort of his attention, then he could never say no.
The problem was that Mycroft knew this.
Of course Sherlock liked to sustain the idea that his brother had no power over him, but just as Sherlock had methods of manipulation so did Mycroft, and as long as you knew the detective well enough it was easy to worm your way into his interest.
Sherlock had a handful of methods which he deployed to ensure the safety of his intellect and to create the divide between himself and his overbearing brother, but these weren't always successful. Of course the cocaine had its benefits, but it could not physically hold Mycroft back, where as hiding from him for days on end could. If there was one thing that Sherlock prided himself on, it was his ability to 'disappear'.
Of course Lestrade didn't always totally agree with these methods of escape, especially when they meant that he would come home to find the infamous Sherlock Holmes curled up on his sofa, empty bottle in hand, fast asleep, having broken in through the window. But Lestrade could not deny Sherlock sanctuary – he was almost the stupid, unthinking brother that Sherlock had never had. He was certainly kind enough.
But of course Sherlock always found himself growing bored, and it was at those times that Mycroft would strike.
It had been a careless Sunday afternoon when Holmes, bored out of his mind, had found himself strewn across the floor of a shabby apartment he rented. He had been reverting to methods of self-harm and abusive conversations with 'the skull' to keep himself entertained, when the letter had come through.
A ticket to see a concert at the Royal Opera house that evening, along with a message signed 'Yours – anonymous.'
Of course Sherlock had known it was Mycroft, but boredom and curiosity had gotten the better of him so that, despite his fugue with his brother, he had found himself preparing to go to the concert he had been invited to.
With the air of someone who hadn't spent the previous day experimenting with cocaine and ranting to inanimate objects, Sherlock left his flat and took a walk down toward the Thames, striding through London deep in thought. His brother had sent the message to him typed, which meant that rather then it being a gesture of peace or a formal invitation, it was a request. But what was so important about the concert?
With over hour until the concert officially began, Sherlock, despite his evening dress, trespassed down through the roads into the heart of London, almost as if he were tying to get lost - which, of course, was impossible. The man knew every single road in the city – it was a hobby of his to memorise them. The dark roads around were filled with shady looking characters squabbling loudly and hurrying passer byes – the street was filled with an air of malice.
But it was no deterrent for Sherlock. Struck with the sudden craving for adventure Holmes' pace automatically quickened, as if did when he was on the hunt. He felt animalistic almost, like a predator, undaunted by the ruckus around him. It was only a matter of time before he would be on the chase, he could feel it, Mycroft had invited him to the concert for a reason.
And if it wasn't a good reason then Holmes would just have to get his riding crop and go and beat the other for wasting his time.
Not to say that he was not a music fan – he was a fanatic, as it were. Sometimes, when the mood took him, he spend night after night trailing through an array of different operas and concerts for the euphoria that music simply gave him, where as at other times, when his mind was sharp and he needed action and danger, the music had to be hand picked, had to be appropriate. A little Beethoven perhaps to tighten the strings of his tense mind. And at that moment, having spent an entire week strewn in the bohemian setting of his mind, he needed something dramatic and filled with emotions to help trigger his racing brain.
With a quick peek to his watch he straightened himself out and, glancing to his surroundings, began to orientate his way back down Bloomsbury St. He would make it in plenty of time, but he preferred to be prompt to these occasions rather than late. After all something was going to happen tonight and he wanted to see his hunting ground.
Reaching the Opera House he stalked across the road, hands in pockets and walked hurriedly up the stairs, his eyes darting subtly all around to the crowd surrounding.
Making his way forward he settled for a glass of wine before the performance began and stood, spying on the people all around and accessing the nature of the concert from the snippets of conversation he could hear.
Suddenly from amongst the gaggle a familiar face appeared and Sherlock raised his eyebrows slightly at the image of Lestrade looking vaguely out of place with an elderly lady at his arm – his mother, judging from the identically coloured eyes and the similar features. The Detective watched them until, by chance, Lestrade looked up and caught his eyes. Almost immediately the older man paled and Sherlock smiled, leaving his empty glass and approaching. He wasn't much of a socialite – he preferred the company of his skull to humanities in general, but there were a select few who merited his conversation. Of course this often caused a huge misconception amongst his peers, because whilst he insisted that he did enjoy conversing, he often vocalised also that he had little patience for fools. It was pity really, because he wasn't the recluse that people assumed he must be, but rather was easily bored and sensitive to the harsh stupidity of the common folk around him.
"Sherlock." Lestrade nodded to him in greeting and Holmes smiled eloquently in return.
"Good evening Inspector Lestrade, I didn't expect to see you down here." He said, his voice collected and richly pronounced with specific attention to diction. "Your mother is a fan of the opera then? Good evening Madam."
Lestrade paled a little further, as the very lady looked up, eyebrows raised. "Good evening young man, might I inquire as to who you are, as Graham did not inform me we would be meeting friends of his."
"It was all perfectly unintentional Mrs. Lestrade, though it couldn't have worked out better in my opinion. It's an absolute pleasure to meet you." Holmes shook her hand, finishing his deductions about the woman with the quick touch. She was nearing eighty, so said the neat style of her clothes. She'd lived through the repercussions of the war, a fact made clear by the careful way she had repaired and restyled her dress, rather then buy a new one – clearly a woman who had grown up on low rations. She was wearing a male wedding ring along with hers on her wedding finger, showing that she was a widow, yet the impeccable shine upon both rings suggested that she was no longer grieving, but rejoicing her husband's life – he died several years ago. So she was independent and unattached. Other than that the softness of her hands suggested that she lived life easily probably with hired help, yet her grip was strong meaning she once worked with her fingers. The hardness at the tip of her left index finger suggested a seamstress. Sherlock smiled courteously to her. "I see you've just travelled from Scotland, were you on holiday there?"
"Well, how on earth did you know that?" She asked, amazed.
"Lucky guess really, I noticed that you had a faint accent, not strong enough to be yours, but present enough to be from a recent escapade."
"Oh, I see." She nodded slowly, her eyes upon him, "You must be him."
Sherlock paused, eyebrows raised before turning to Lestrade in mock horror. "Oh dear, have you been talking about me?"
"You might have come into our conversation once or twice, yes." Lestrade responded, his eyes averted as Sherlock looked back toward the woman.
"I'm distraught." He stated, "Despite how the Inspector might have recounted some of our dealings, I'm not a totally appalling human being, please be assured of that."
"Oh no, Graham was very praising of you." She responded and Sherlock raised his eyebrows, glancing back to the Inspector who still refused to meet his eyes.
"Oh really?" He smirked slightly, "How kind." Holmes turned back toward her with a charming smile. "Allow me introduce myself formally to you then – my name is Sherlock Holmes."
"Eliza Lestrade." She replied, "Are you here to see the show tonight, Mr. Holmes."
"Yes, I was invited to come."
"My brother, I think." He added. "He often sends me tickets to shows he thinks I will appreciate."
"Well that's kind of him."
"Yes. Very kind." Holmes looked briefly around to the rapidly filling hallway before glancing back to Eliza, "Might I offer you a drink?"
"Oh, that is very good of you, yes please – a white wine will do."
"Hang on, I'll be right back Mother." Lestrade caught up with Holmes and together they walked toward the bar.
"Praising me, were you?" Sherlock said the moment they were out of ear-shot, his voice losing some of its hypnotic charm.
"Oh shut it – what are you doing here Sherlock?"
"I already told you, Mycroft sent me a ticket."
"Is that so? Well, I don't mean to be rude, but I wasn't under the impression that you and your brother were close."
"We're not – Two whites if you please, and…What would you like Lestrade?"
"Make it a Guinness." Lestrade told the waiter before turning back to Holmes with a serious expression, "What's going on then?"
Sherlock paused, "I'm not sure." He responded, "I haven't been told anything."
"Well, do you have some sort of idea yet?"
"None, but I'm sure all will soon become clear – thank you." He accepted the drinks and paid accordingly, ignoring Lestrade who went to get out some of his own money. "In any case you can relax, I'm not planning anything – as far as I know all I have to do is watch the show."
Lestrade frowned, clearly a little distressed as Sherlock passed him his drink and the pair walked back toward Eliza who was waiting patiently.
"Here you are." He passed her the drink and she gratefully accepted it, beaming him a warming smile. For a time after that he stood with them and chatted until even Lestrade relaxed a little and Holmes was sure he had left a good impression of himself upon Eliza. As the time passed however a man entered the Opera House amongst a gaggle, wearing what could almost be described as costume. Holmes attention immediately snapped toward him, struck by the almost outrages attire that the man was wearing. It was of a rich make, yet the design and extensity of the decoration upon the suit were so much that one could almost say they degraded the quality of the piece. It was clearly foreign work, the fashion far too bright for the dreary English tradition and Holmes felt his mouth twitch a little with a smile. He knew a disguise when he saw one.
"Lestrade." He said, causing the other to turn to him, "I lied."
"I do have an idea as to the nature of my visit." He said softly, and then left it at that, his eyes lingering over the foreign man as he disappeared in amongst the crowd again.
It was only as they were going to their seats that Sherlock's suspicions were answered. Having given his ticket to the seat-director the man had promptly called to two boys at the side to accompany Sherlock elsewhere. Holmes had parted with Eliza gracefully, making an excuse that he must have mistaken seats, and gave an apprehensive looking Lestrade one final smile, eyes alight, before he was lead away.
Following the boys Holmes took great care to note his surroundings before he was shown into a private box and left.
Sat before him the richly dressed man who he had perceived previously glanced around to him slowly, eyes gleaming in the low staging light. "Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I presume." His voice was deep and accented, confirming the last of Holmes' deductions.
"At your service."
"Do take a seat."
Sherlock nodded and sat down, stretching his legs before him as he put his fingers together, observing the other man.
"Do you know why you are here?"
"No." He replied promptly, but his tone was light and easy.
"Your brother has told you nothing then."
"I believe he entrusted that task to you." Sherlock tapped his index fingers, "Please speak freely to me, and I will try to assist you in anyway I can."
"Very well. I come representing a man whose identity I must withhold. The issue with which I would like to speak is of great importance and threatens to disturb the balance of the Spanish monarchy."
"I see." Sherlock nodded slowly, "You've grave problem at hand then, your highness."
There was a shocked pause, and then the man leapt to his feet, "There is no point in trying to hide it – where is the shame in my identity? I was told you were a clever man, I can see that my disguise is useless."
"Only to the trained eye, Sire, though I must be sure – I am to believe I have the pleasure of speaking with the Prince Arnaldo, fifth heir to the Spanish throne, do I not?"
"It is an honour to meet you, Sherlock Holmes." The two shook hands and the Prince seated himself again.
"You are taking many risks to meet me here Sire, might I ask after the nature of your problem?" Holmes asked.
"Ah, the nature of my problem…It is scandal, Mr. Holmes, scandal of the worst kind."
"Might I wager a guess?"
The Prince gave him a withered look and nodded his head, prompting the other into speech.
"Judging from the fact that you came in disguise, and that you are reported to be in Spain at the moment, and due to the absence of your wife, I can only access that your problem lies with another woman."
"You read me like a book."
"I read facts Sire, and the facts only." Sherlock replied curtly, "Please explain."
"Very well. Performing tonight is one Irene Adler, a woman of great talent."
"And beauty, I gather."
"Quite. She and I had a small…Relationship, if you will, some years back. I lent her some money too, money that did not belong to me."
"The entire ordeal was cleared up, I made sure every penny was repaid and went to great efforts to forget her and to continue with my life – she was frowned upon by my parents, but they never saw the extent of my affection for her."
"And neither did you wife."
"Quite…" He appeared somewhat crestfallen for a moment, before breathing a sigh and continuing. "The fact of the matter was that there were some…photographs taken."
"Compromising photographs, I take it?"
"Yes." He paused, "When I broke all ties with her I destroyed all of them, but…recently I have discovered that there was one I missed."
"And the Lady has hold of it?"
"Yes." Arnaldo broke off, and then sighed. "We never had any more of a relationship that any other man or woman would and I was never unfaithful either to my wife…But none the less Adler has been blackmailing me with the remaining photograph. She means to destroy my marriage out of womanly spite."
"Only out of spite?"
"She doesn't demand anything, she simply threatens."
"She doesn't demand anything?" Holmes raised his eyebrows with doubt and the Prince sighed.
"There is little point lying to you-" He began.
"-Little point indeed." Holmes agreed starkly and Arnaldo sighed once more.
"I have in my possession a diamond."
"A very large diamond."
"A diamond that has belonged in my wife's family for many years."
Sherlock smiled, "Already the mystery is becoming quite clear to me." He leant back, "So this Irene Adler is demanding the diamond in return for her silence."
"That is correct."
"And it pains you because that Diamond belongs to you only as long as your wife is with you."
"So either lose only the diamond, or lose your wife and also the diamond." Sherlock couldn't keep the glee from his voice. Arnaldo gave the Detective a pitiful look of dread and nodded his head slowly. "You have put yourself in quite a fix, your highness."
"I've tried to have the photograph stolen, Mr. Holmes, on numerous occasions – but she is a crafty woman and has evaded all attempts." Arnaldo fretted, "Your brother was good enough to direct me to you."
"And what would you give me in return for doing the deed."
"I would give one of my provinces for that photograph!" Arnaldo cried and Holmes raised a sceptical eyebrow at this overdramatic exclamation before shaking his head.
"Poetic, but impractical," He stated, "I haven't room for one."
"You mock me Mr. Holmes, and rightly so – I have been a fool." The Prince sighed and Sherlock looked toward the stage, watching with vacant eyes as the orchestra below him played, unnoticed by the trill of thought in his mind. "Oh, but what I would give you Mr. Holmes if you succeed."
"I've yet to decide on whether or not to take the job, your Highness." Sherlock stated, almost coldly. "Tell me - where, might I ask, is Miss. Adler now?"
"She will sing soon – she has the voice of an angel – but the heart of a devil."
"I'm sure." Even as Holmes said it the room was filled with the roar of applause and a young woman walked upon the stage. Sherlock could not deny there was a vague charm about her. She was a dainty thing with a kind, warm expression and a heart-shaped face emphasising a sweetness about her. The pale complexion, broken by two spots of rose pink at her high cheeks, and her soft, vacant eyes robbed her of any chance of actual beauty however, categorizing her as 'cute' instead. Despite this asset however, when she moved, it was with a subtle grace and confidence – as expected from a performer and one couldn't deny that she showed no shyness coming up before such an extensive audience. Sherlock almost grumbled with boredom, so much for devious, the woman had no presence about her what so ever. Stopping at the front of the stage she stood, wearing a long white robe that complimented her physique, and waited for the music to begin. Sherlock, who was rapidly beginning to lose interest, glanced over her face again, trying to deduce what he could of her. Her strawberry-pink hair was wrong for her visage. It had the affect of making her look childlike and almost a little plump around the cheeks, whilst the shine around her eyes made her look like she had just left secondary school. Perhaps she had, Sherlock had not asked after the Prince's taste in women.
And then something changed. The oboe which had been playing the melody above the strings drew to an end and the room seemed to breathe in expectancy. Irene opened her mouth with a soft sigh and began, gently supported by the strings which played the bass bellow her, the wind instruments easing their way in to join the melody.
Irene's voice was soft, yet more mature than he had first thought it would be. She had the warmth of an alto, but she sang the higher notes with the clarity of a bird, almost humming them to herself with the ease of first soprano.
The beginning was slow, building atmosphere with a gentle lull as Irene began to sing the words of the song, following the melody the oboe had previously played. Her voice, despite its quietness, managed to fill the room so that Sherlock was struck by the power underlining it.
Then the music changed, becoming a little more urgent, louder and passionate as Irene began to open her mouth a little more, allowing the sound to be released from within her, the support from her stomach making each note strong, each word said with conviction. Yet the charm and beauty of the build up was nothing when, in a fatal swoop, the music grew to a forte and she rang out with a single pure cry, the crescendo sending tremors through the body as once more the build up was repeated and Irene sang, filled with passion, her expression twisted with conviction as she sang the angry, malice filled song, easily singing through fast, complex runs as she threw her arms out open. In an instant the orchestra was forgotten, Holmes could only see her, his eyes transfixed. Because she had changed, the music had changed her, thrown her into a new light. And she was everything the Prince had said, and more. Bearing her soul in her voice, Holmes could see the mind beneath, the power, the deception she threw over herself to hide the deviousness within. She was every bit the devil that Arnaldo had said - she was passion itself, a manifestation in human form. His heart leapt into his mouth, and he was unable to stop a shuddering gasp escape his lips as the song came to its dramatic finale, Irene dropping her head as the lights fell down upon her.
Gladly for the Detective the sound of his amazement went quite unheard over the cacophony of appreciation and applause that followed Irene's finish. From beside him Arnaldo clapped with great gusto, eyes filled with admiration and Sherlock was granted a moment to compose himself and calm his racing heart. The music had filled him with energy, with the thrill of the chase that he had desired.
Without a moment's hesitation he turned toward the Prince, "I will take the case." He said matter-of-factly and, once more, Arnaldo leapt to his feet and shook his hand warmly.
"Thank you Mr. Holmes! Thank you! Here is a deposit check for 10,000 pounds as way of a starter. When I have the photograph I will pay you in full."
"Very well." Holmes took the check, "Then I have one more thing to request of you."
"Organise for me to meet Miss. Adler, as a nameless fan, backstage at the end of the concert."
"Certainly." Arnaldo said, perplexed, "But won't that make your intention clear to her?"
"Not at all." Holmes said with a smile, "Not at all."
Wearing his most modest expression he could muster, Sherlock was let into Irene's room, his head slightly bowed as he stood in a way which would make him appear older and also somewhat smaller. Irene was busy tidying when he entered, but he saw that she glanced carefully to him before turning to him warmly.
Up close he could see that her hair was dyed, and had been done so recently as well.
"Gracious, I'm such a mess." She said sweetly, her voice hinted slightly – New Jersey, if Holmes was correct, yet already from her singing Sherlock knew that she was more that capable of changing her accent. The slight American tint could easily be false. "I do hope you enjoyed the show, Mr-…?"
"Banks." Holmes replied, raising the tone of his voice and hushing it. "Benjamin Banks, M'am."
"Oh well, Benjamin – do you mind if I call you that?"
"Do come in, can I offer you some wine?" She went toward an opened bottle on her desktop and Holmes was given another chance to study her. Despite the obvious that she was well kept, Sherlock could see she was a careful woman – she had wiped herself clean of all evidence. Her appearance was blank as a slate, and the entire set up of her dress room was fake. He could see, however, that she was a neat and efficient woman – she hung her clothes up tidily in a wardrobe, and her makeup was stacked in height order along her vanity desk. Acts of an obsessive compulsive, or had she simply been bored whilst waiting? "Mr Banks?" She offered him a glass and he took it with a quiet thank you.
"You are quite a singer, Miss. Adler."
"Oh please – Irene."
"Irene." He toasted her, "I was quite…blown away by your performance." He said, with some measure of truth in his words.
"Why thank you, I do try." She smiled prettily to him. "Is this your first time hearing me sing?"
"It is indeed."
"It's good of you to come back and congratulate me." She turned back to her dresser and began to pick at some of the things on it, tidying them away into a draw.
"I felt obliged to." He responded, "Your performance was really quite stunning." He sipped his wine carefully, searching for any trace of drug – he'd made that mistake before. "Tell me, Irene, are you in London long?"
"Oh, well I just moved here." She replied, "I've been for three months now, though I also came to school here as a child, so I've spent more time in England than at home."
"Where is home?"
"I travel a great deal, but my parents lived in New Jersey – I was born there."
"I see." Holmes nodded, gathering his thoughts. "And why the move? For your career?"
"Oh no." She replied, her face flushing slightly with sudden euphoria, "I came to marry."
"Marry?" He glanced to her hands, but she bore no ring. "When is the happy date?"
"It was just last month." She replied, "He's a busy man, so we're waiting to go on our honeymoon – not that I mind, my schedule was so full this week." She said, before producing a ring from around a chain at her neck. Slipping it on she showed Holmes who admired it. "I take it off to sing, for some reason I feel as if jewellery obstructs my voice – I don't like clutter."
"No indeed." Holmes noted the expense of the ring, and the perfect fit it had on her finger.
"But tell me more about yourself Benjamin, are you from London?"
"Yes, though I lived abroad also from a young child." He lied easily, "When I a baby my parents were stationed in India, I too was sent to school in England when I was old enough." He took another sip of wine.
"So we're the same." Irene beamed childishly, "What do you do for work?"
"I work a small editorial business, rather dull sadly – I'd hoped to be a writer you see, but I never had the patience." He said and she raised her eyebrows.
"Well, there's time left – who knows, the feeling might strike you. Where do you live?"
"Baker St." Holmes stated, thinking of the rooms that one of his previous clients was renting. It was vacant, but he could easily tell her to lie, should the need come. "I am in the process of moving though, looking for somewhere a little larger."
"The wife wants more space?" Irene teased and Holmes looked to his feet.
"Sadly, no wife." He said, "I thought that, perhaps…Well, that is to say there was a woman, but she and I…Well, it didn't work out." He gave her a smile, every essence of his being set to his act.
"Oh, I am sorry." Irene looked genuinely saddened, "If I wasn't attached I'd take you out myself, not that you would want that, of course." She giggled and went back to her dresser.
"I am an envious man of your husband." Sherlock stated, "What is his name?"
"He is a lucky man indeed." Sherlock said charmingly before nodding his head. "I feel that I should go, I have friends waiting for me. Once again congratulations, and I hope to meet you again some day Miss. Adler."
"That would be nice, I look forward to it." She shook his hand, and he kissed hers before leaving, a smile upon his face.
Making his way back through into the auditorium he noticed that Lestrade was waiting for him, along with Eliza, and he joined them, still looking faintly pleased. The rest of the room was all but empty, with a few stragglers enjoying drinks or putting their coats on.
"Where have you been?" Lestrade asked, watching Holmes with a mixture of worry and curiosity.
"I went to congratulate one of the performers." Holmes replied, and his smile elongated a little, "I introduced myself as Benjamin Banks, and should anyone ask I live in Baker St." He said looking down to Eliza with an excited sparkle in his eye.
"Why would you do that?" Eliza asked, perplexed as beside her Lestrade straightened, his arms folded.
"Oh, who knows." Holmes shrugged, "I'm a bit of a theatrical myself. Sometimes the feeling just takes me." He shook Eliza's hand steadily. "In any case I must dash, things to do, people to see, mysteries to solve. It was a pleasure meeting you, perhaps I will see you again."
"Well, you really are an excitable young man." Eliza commented before smiling gently to him. "Take care of yourself then, Mr. Banks." She jibed and his smile widened even further.
"That's the spirit." He looked to Lestrade. "I will probably see you tomorrow."
"God help me." Lestrade shook his hand, "Thanks for the drink."
"Pas de problème." He waved it off, before starting out into the night, his coat flaring behind him as he hurried through the dark streets, excitement burning through him.
The games had only just begun.
Please review and tell me what y'all think! I look forward to hearing from you all!