The last part of the three chapter ficlet. Please enjoy, and sorry for the delay in uploading.

Disclaimer – I do not own Sherlock Holmes, or Lestrade, or Irene Adler. All OC are obviously mine though. Please enjoy!

Warning – Language, drug mention, ect.

Enjoy!

XxxxX

Reaching Scotland Yard he once again all but skipped down the corridors toward Lestrade's office, ignoring the looks of shock and confusion from all he passed.

Reaching the man's office he once more caught him on the phone, and contented himself with cross-examining different items on the man's shelf, his back to the Inspector. Finally with a weary sigh Lestrade cut his call short and hung up.

"Trouble in paradise?" Holmes asked, without turning as he picked up a case file and flicked leisurely through it. Lestrade scoffed.

"My sister." He explained, "She and I have decided to hold a party for my mother's 80th, but finding a venue is turning out to be the biggest waste of my time. Neither of our houses are big enough, and everywhere I know is a rip off. So I'm stuck with wai…– What happened to your face?" Lestrade blinked in shock as the detective tuned back to him.

"Oh, this? Nothing." Sherlock waved it off, "Continue."

"Uh…" Lestrade blinked, slightly at loss, "Well – look, it doesn't matter." He shook his head, "I haven't had anything back about Fredrick Norton yet, but I should do soon."

"Excellent, I'm beginning to feel that this will be a huge bonus for the both of us." Sherlock sat down, putting his feet up again. "Would you be interested in having the party at a ball room?" He enquired lightly.

"What? I can't afford something like that – and, Jesus Sherlock, your face." Lestrade leant in, eyes transfixed with morbid fascination, "It looks like someone grated it."

"The pavement and I had a disagreement."

"It was a pavement? Did you get into a fight with someone?"

"No, I was having a snooze outside and woke up awkwardly – of course I got into a fight." Sherlock sighed, rolling his eyes. "No harm done though."

"Says the man who looks like he got a cricket bat to the face. I honestly cannot believe you sometimes – I hope the offender was sufficiently guilty enough for you to jump him."

"They attacked me, actually."

"They!"

"Yes, it was a small group, and they all attacked me without any provocation."

"Did they really?" Lestrade asked doubtfully and Sherlock looked the other way, his arms folded. "Look, I'm sure you have some ridiculous reason for this, but at this point…I don't want to know. So unless you want me to press charges against whoever did that, I'm going to pretend that you tripped and fell. Alright?"

"That's too kind of you." Sherlock replied sarcastically, before adding, "And no need to press charges, I was entirely responsible for the attack – I put them up to it this morning."

"…You set an attack on yourself?" Lestrade blinked.

"Well, when you say it like that it all sounds very silly." Sherlock retorted with mock offense.

"You are the most incredible human being I have ever had the misfortune of meeting." Lestrade concluded and Sherlock chuckled.

"And you are the most predictable." He retorted lightly, before sitting up suddenly and dropping his legs from the other's desk. "My parents own a house down here, completely uninhabited now off course and rarely used – they much prefer the country. It's the perfect venue, and has a ball room just right for your mother's party. I can lend it to you, if you like, no charge."

Lestrade's mouth fell in disbelief, "What! I…Why!" He asked, perplexed.

"Why?" Sherlock chewed on the word for a moment, "Well, let's see. A - Because 80 is an important number, B – you have an extended family here in London, lots of cousins and second cousins, and the more you invite the merrier it will be – which, coincidentally I do believe is a saying of some sort… In any case I have a venue, you need a venue, I lose nothing by letting you use it, and you are able to do something deservedly special for Eliza's birthday if I do. As to why I am offering it at all it's simply because I like your mother." He smiled charmingly to Lestrade who was staring to him with an expression torn between hilarity and shock, "Problem?" He asked.

"I…Don't know what to say?"

"Then say nothing and find out about Fredrick Norton." Sherlock scribbled something quickly on a piece of paper and dropped it onto Lestrade's desk as he stood. "There's the address, I'll meet you there Saturday evening at five unless you hear from me. You can take a look and tell me if it…takes your fancy." He smiled and exited, stepping into the corridor with a contented sigh as all around him people bustled about their inane lives. He stepped out into the current of the hallway, narrowly avoiding a collision with a small, mousy looking girl dressed in red. The female squeaked, dropping her head in fright.

"Afternoon, Mr. Holmes." She whispered tremulously.

"Afternoon." He replied curtly, readjusting his scarf as she hurried passed him, joining a gaggle of people in an open windowed office just as a sudden burst of laughter erupted from the group, causing Sherlock to roll his eyes.

Striding away he tucked his hands firmly into his pockets and thought deeply of his case, stopping only once to consider the itching thought of where he had heard that girl's voice before…

It was at thee O'clock the next morning that Holmes received a call from Mycroft telling him that the conditions of the Prince's blackmail had changed – Adler was now demanded money to be sent straight to her account or else the photo would be sent to his wife by the following afternoon. The Prince was both relieved and distraught at the news, and Sherlock assured Mycroft that everything was under control – he had to all but get the photograph. As for Adler's sudden urgent change of mind Sherlock was in no doubts as to the cause.

His suspicious were confirmed when, six hours later, a desperate call from Irene had him leaving his flat to meet her urgently.

Going to the designated Café, Sherlock saw Irene sat at the back in a corner, her head in her hands and shoulders hunched. He quickly joined her and she looked up to him with eyes red and raw from crying.

"Oh Ben." She began, the moment he had sat down, a sob raking through her as he took in her distraught appearance. "Please, you h-have to h-help me." She stuttered, fresh tears spilling from her eyes as Sherlock leant in.

"What's wrong? What's happened?"

"It's Freddy." At the mention of his name she gave a muffled wail, sobbing hard. "He's gone!"

"Gone?" Holmes blinked aghast, excitement burning behind the surface of his façade.

Irene gave a pained nod. "That's right." She sniffed, "Last night…I told him about how I'd met you and…he was so angry. I'd never seen him that upset. He kept telling me I'd ruined everything, but he wouldn't explain what I'd done…So we argued. In the end he stormed out and I thought that…I thought that he just needed to cool down. So…So I just went to the Opera House to sing and…When I came back he still wasn't there. So I went to bed thinking he'd be back by today but…When I woke up I found that he'd cleared all of his things…" She choked, "He's gone Ben! He left me! He took everything. His cupboard is empty, all his things are gone and…" She hiccupped, "He even took that dumb photograph with him!" She broke out into fresh sobs, burying her face in her arms and giving Holmes a moment to smile triumphantly before he put a hand out to her.

"Where could he have gone?" He asked, "A friends house?"

"Oh no…If it was just a friends house I wouldn't have bothered you about it Ben." Irene's hands gripped with anger, "He's left the country."

"Left the country?"

"Yes." She nodded, "I…I checked my computer this morning to see if he'd emailed, or something and I found on my history that he'd checked in for a flight to America this morning." She sniffed. "His flight was at four O'clock."

"Four O'clock." Sherlock repeated. "I understand…"

"What should I do?"

"Go home." Sherlock replied, "Go home and call your bank. If you and he have a conjoined account then lock him out of it, if you can."

Irene blinked, startled. "Why?"

"Because your husband is a criminal." Sherlock replied, "And he has been conning you from the start."

Irene stared to him, open mouthed as his phone began to ring. "I…Sorry, I don't-"

"- It doesn't matter, just do as I say." Holmes slipped the phone from his pocket and read the text with a satisfied chuckle.

"Who are you?" Irene asked in a whisper, her eyes wide and fearful as Sherlock squeezed her hand again, a gentle smile on his face as he stood.

"Go home Irene, soon you'll understand everything." He turned and left, excitement jumping through him as he sped into the street. Turning down the road he called Lestrade back, the phone wringing a grand total of two times before the other answered.

"Got your text. Who is he?" Sherlock asked, stalked hurriedly down the street.

"His name's John Clay, and you were right – he is a bit a bit of criminal. I've got him down for just about everything – drug dealing, human trafficking, murder, grand theft – he's a walked wanted sign."

"Then you're in luck." Sherlock remarked, "Because he just boarded a flight to America, New Jersey at four O'clock this morning. If you hurry then when he arrives he'll have quite the welcoming committee to great him."

"You're joking." Lestrade laughed, and Sherlock heard him straighten in his chair.

"Not in the least Inspector. Now why don't you get on the phone to the authorities in America and ask if they won't take him from your hands." Sherlock hung up with a click and continued down the street, a well earned grin adorning his pale, satisfied face as he called his brother Mycroft, telling him to have his contacts abroad do a thorough check of John Clay's bags – the photograph would be there waiting for them when they did.

XxxxX

Twenty-four, satisfyingly relaxing hours later John Clay had been arrested and was awaiting trial, Lestrade had been given the credit for his capture, and Sherlock sat, lounged on his sofa, with a self-satisfied smirk as he played his violin lightly, ignoring the amazed demands of the Inspector as to how on earth he had tracked the criminal.

"Lestrade." He finally said, "Enjoy the popularity you have earned, I won't tell you a single thing."

"Come on Sherlock – I did next to nothing to catch that man, all I did was find out who he was."

"And I had no idea of his identity when I referred him to you. You caught the criminal Inspector, I simply pointed you in the right direction."

Lestrade sighed, watching the other man, "Oh you're enjoying this." He accused, "I can see it in your face – you're really enjoyed this."

"Of course I am." Sherlock replied lightly, "Because you're never going to figure out how I did it."

Lestrade gave a low laugh at this smug comment just as Sherlock's phone began to ring. He examined it leisurely for a moment before answering, swinging his bow lightly through the air as if conducting. Mycroft spoke from the other side.

"Sherlock, there's been a problem." He sounded grave.

"Oh dear, someone else stolen it?" He asked, giving a soft, but by no means distressed sigh.

"No. You made a mistake."

Sherlock paused, and then sat up a little, dropping his violin bow as his eyes gazed forward, his back erect and stiff with the keenness of a listening dog. "What?" He demanded softly.

"Clay doesn't have the photograph, we've searched everywhere."

"That…No, that can't be right. Are you sure you've looked everywhere?" He asked urgently.

"Absolutely certain. The Prince is with me now. He wants to know if you have any solution to this problem."

Sherlock didn't respond for a long moment, his eyes wide as coins, and then he spoke quickly. "Meet me at Bond St. We might still make it in time." He ordered, leaping to his feet as he ended the call. For a brief moment he stood looking around as if he were gathering his thoughts from the floor, before his eyes caught with Lestrade's and he simply asked, "May I borrow your car?"

XxxxX

Lestrade, who had been totally adverse to the idea of giving Sherlock the keys to his one and only form of transportation, dropped him off at Piccadily without more than several demanding questions and a fierce quarrel of human rights.

Tucking his hands in his pockets, and tugging his scarf chokingly tight around his neck Holmes stalked quickly toward Adler's house, spotting his brother's car parked down the opposite pavement. He wasted no time signalling to the two passengers within it, turning his attention to picking the lock of Irene's door. A deep sense of foreboding was setting into him, but he couldn't deny that there was also a strange euphoric excitement leaping through him too. He was joined by his other two companions when the door clicked open and together they entered the white washed flat.

Diving through it Sherlock wasted no time as he lunged into the woman's bedroom. The bed was stripped of all sheets, and the room was empty of everything personal but for a single photograph frame sat upon the dresser. Holmes approached it cautiously, ignoring the other two men who followed him into the room.

Bellow the photograph another was sat beneath it, sliced into elegant cubes, and pieced together again like a puzzle. The Prince gave a sharp exclamation.

"That's it! That is the photograph!" He cried, before gathering the cut pieces into a pile and shoving them hurriedly into his pocket. Sherlock did not move, or even breath for that matter, his eyes set forward to the neat square of space that the photograph and previously occupied below the frame. He had been conned. The thought struck him like a blow to the stomach.

Glancing up he observed the remaining photograph in the frame. It was a headshot of Alder in all her glory, a picture of the essence of her soul. And how powerful she looked staring from the frame toward him, how hawk like her eyes were.

And suddenly Holmes could see it all, the entire thing flashing before him like a movie in its reel.

It had been Adler who had approached Clay, knowing his real identity. She had played the innocent and planted the idea of blackmail into his head, perhaps drunkenly mentioning the photograph. She had agreed to marry him, to conjoin their bank accounts and had pretended to be oblivious as he had blackmailed the Prince in her name. She had manipulated his actions, and even his thoughts, so that he never realised that she was controlled him as easily as he thought he did her. Then Holmes had intervened and she had figured out who he was. She had mentioned it to Clay and watched as he had fled in fright, leaving her. Then all she had to do was set Holmes after her husband and escape herself while everybody looked the other way. As for the photograph – it didn't matter any more, Adler wasn't interested. She had all of Clay's money now, which was probably more than the diamond was worth – They'd combined their bank accounts when they had married after all. She'd probably found the means to move every penny Clay had ever stolen, conned and earned through his numerous misdeeds and moved it into her private account, locking her husband out just as Sherlock had suggested.

So now she was rich, had escaped difficulty with the Prince and had done it all without even breaking the law. Her photograph seemed to laugh at him, her eyes alight with mischief. Sherlock was applauding her before he could register what he was doing, his hands clapping vigorously together so that the Prince looked to him strangely, clearly confused. The Detective looked around to him with a smile, unable to stop the strange thrill burning through him – he'd been conned, conned in the most beautiful way. She had left him what he had been commissioned to seek, but had taken what he had always actually desired – victory. That clever, clever woman!

"Mr. Holmes." The Prince said, "You have done what no others were able to. Name your price, what can I give you to thank you for what you've done?"

"You've paid me more than enough…there is only one thing I desire." He admitted and the Prince raised his eyebrows.

"What is it!" He cried enthusiastically as Sherlock took the framed photograph of master-mind Irene Adler from the dresser and tucked it under his arm.

"This photograph." He said, and then slipped passed the Prince without a second glance and left the house, hailing a cab from the main road.

XxxxX

Lestrade had ended up deciding to use the Holmes' hall for Eliza's birthday in the end. Sherlock had sent him the keys and had thought nothing more of it until the man himself had all but forced his way into the Detective's flat and demanded that they talked in person since the telephone had been quite avidly ignored. Sherlock, who hadn't left his room in days, had been so surprised by the Inspector's presence and demands, that he had seriously inquired as to whether the man was a hallucination or not, and had subjected him to severe testing and mental scrutiny before he was satisfied that the other was real.

Lestrade had come to invite him in person to Eliza's birthday celebration which was going to be held the following evening, the theme being 'A black-tie ball with lots and lots of guests, all of whom were bringing some form of food to contribute to the event'. Sherlock had laughed so heartily at the invitation that he had neared affixation at one given moment before he'd realised that the Inspector was being quite serious. When Holmes, perplexed beyond belief, had enquired as to why on earth anyone would want him to attend such an important party Lestrade had simply replied – 'Because my mother likes you too.'

And so it was that Holmes found himself greeting Eliza the following evening, dressed immaculately and once more not appearing as a man who'd spent several days enclosed in the confines of his bedchamber experimenting with cocaine and talking to inanimate objects as way of entertainment.

Having avoided entering his own London Home for several years it was quite shocking to see it filled with such lively characters. The atmosphere went from Aristocratic to warm and Holmes listened, with vague interest to the amateur band which had been set up. Several couples were already dancing and Sherlock had no doubt that the occupation would be become steadily more popular as the night rolled on.

Putting his fingers together he observed them all, ignoring the slight twinge in the crook of his arm. Lestrade came and stood beside him, eyeing the young man.

"So this is where you were brought up, eh?" He questioned.

"No." Sherlock replied, "My parents inherited it more recently. I rarely came." He replied coolly, so that Lestrade dropped the subject just as quickly as he had brought it up.

"You're not much of a…socialite, are you?" He asked and Sherlock resisted the need to laugh at this statement as he stared up the chandeliered ceiling.

"I'm glad I could come." He said evenly, after a moment, in way of a response, "It's good for me – being here that is."

"Well my mothers pleased to see you here in any-case."

"Of course – she only hears the best of me after all." Sherlock became almost bitter, taking a long sip of wine. "Regardless," He muttered, "I'm glad to see she's enjoying her evening."

Lestrade nodded, shooting Sherlock another look so that the man glanced openly back to him, eyebrows raised.

"What?"

"Nothing." Lestrade replied.

"It's not nothing – what?"

"I'm just…Trying to figure you out." Lestrade looked ahead, "And before you say 'don't bother you won't be able to' in some brain numbingly complex way, there's no need - I give up. I don't understand you one bit."

Sherlock chucked, smiling almost sadly to himself. "I don't blame you." He said slowly.

Lestrade sighed, "Can't be fun though." He observed quietly, "Can it?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that." Sherlock remarked cheerily, placing his glass down. "But, as you so formally noted, you don't have a chance of understanding that."

"Right." Lestrade said dejectedly.

"Right." Sherlock straightened his cuffs, "So go and find another guest to talk to, and lighten your mood." He glanced up, "You're far too serious for this kind of party."
"And you're not?"

"I don't need to be." Sherlock said a smug smile on his face as Lestrade sighed, realising that he was being dismissed with this gesture. He shrugged and returned to his sister's side at the other side of the ball as Sherlock turned, once more, back to the dancers.

"Excuse me, are you Sh-…Sherlock Holmes?"

He looked around to perceive a very young girl staring up to him with a pair of almost startled eyes. He observed her dispassionately and nodded so that she put up her hands and motioned he take a small piece of paper from within her grasp. He did so and she scurried away without another word, leaving the man to watch after her with dull interest.

Looking down to the note he opened it and raised his eyebrows. It simply read (25, 18, N). He raised his eyebrows and looked all around for the girl before looking directly ahead of him and measuring the length of the walls around. For a moment he paused, looked toward a window high up to his left, and then back down to the note in his hands. He took a few steps back against the wall and then walked forward, measuring each stride so that, 25 metres later he was stood in the centre of the dancers. He then took several steps to his left, looking up the window, until he was stood direct bellow the chandelier, hidden from sight by all the couples milling around. He paused, staring up to the window, and then spoke.

"You are a very clever woman." He commented, feeling the soft vibration of someone laugh directly behind him, their back to his.

"Why thank you, you certainly aren't short off the mark either."

Her accent had changed, losing any America hint, but Sherlock knew it none the less – The girl from the police station, and, more importantly, one Irene Adler.

He looked around to her and she smiled up to him, turning also so that they were face to face, stood still in the centre of a swirling storm of dancers.

She had dyed her hair again, back to a more original colour Sherlock guessed, considering the shade of her eyebrows. The dark mahogany curls suited her much better and complimented her pale, spotless complexion. The two spots of pink upon her cheeks which he had seen previous were no longer there, so that the angle of her cheek bones became more prominent and her face became slightly thinner. She looked hauntingly beautiful, having lost all essence of her previous cuteness and revealed the powerful, hidden woman beneath. She was taller than Sherlock recalled too, though that was more likely due to a pair of delicate heals she wore beneath her wine-coloured floor length dress. "Are you surprised?" She asked, her voice soft, and a little deeper now, sultry and sensual.

"You've transformed yourself quite amiably."

"Then you approve?"

"It's not my place to disapprove or to approve." Sherlock replied curtly, but he was smiling faintly, an expression which was mirrored by her. "You're quite a little actress."

"You're not half-bad yourself. A little too determined though, no patience. You should have spent longer just chatting with me, gotten to know me a bit better, would have made you more credible."

"Why would I need to be credible?" Sherlock raised his eyebrow with scrutiny, "I needed to find out the location of the picture – that was all that concerned me. And for that I played you superbly, just as you then played me."

"I suppose." Irene paused, "And when we nearly kissed, were you playing me then too?"

"Oh, is that what it was?" Sherlock mused with disinterest, "I wasn't really paying attention." He paused, "When was it you figured out who I was?"

"Well, I'd been warned about you, but I didn't suspect a thing until I realised how I had exposed myself during the 'fire'. So I threw you onto Clay's scent as a precaution, and then followed you to the Police Station in disguise. From there it became very clear to me who you were and what I should do."

"Brilliant." Holmes complimented, "Really quite brilliant. You had me, honestly, fooled."

"You had me fooled too, 'Benjamin Banks'. In-fact… I think this is the first time we've actually met each other properly without disguise."

Sherlock smirked again. "Then I suppose we should treat it as a new beginning. Sherlock Holmes." He introduced.

"Irene Adler." She replied softly, "It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine."

For a moment they stood in silence, searching one another, going completely unnoticed by the gaggle who milled obliviously around them and then Adler spoke again.

"Well," She said lightly, "Now that we're properly introduced, shall we dance, Sherlock Holmes?" She extended out a single, long fingered hand and he took it, allowing her fingers to curl over his own as they moved closer together. With his eyes never leaving her face he put a hand to her waist, below the curve of her ribcage as she lightly placed her hand on his shoulder.

Then they began to dance, moving elegantly into the mesh of the crowd and disappearing amongst them. But they were apart from all the other couples, quite on their own as they gazed down to each other, each step filled with energy, each thought contrary and burning until a fire was ignited between them. Because she was everything that he hated, and so much…More.

And as they danced amongst the flurry of dresses Holmes gazed to her and felt an unusual ease, because although she could take everything from him, but he had nothing to lose with her.

"You know," Adler began as they danced, "When we almost kissed, despite what you think, I wasn't playing you Sherlock, and I don't think you weren't playing me either."

Sherlock raised his eyebrows at this statement, casting his mind back to the event as they twirled, Irene's red dress swishing behind as the world spun, forgotten by the two. Because Irene wasn't lying, Sherlock knew this, a kiss wouldn't have been unnecessary for his case, even the build up of one, and Holmes knew that Irene had already heard the truth from his own lips. After all, you can't play a person and pay no attention at the same time.

And so, as the music blurred into a maddening jig, the dancers all around twisting blindly through their lives, Sherlock Holmes leant down and met Irene Adler's lips, giving her his silent reply.

XxxxX

Epilogue – The Woman

In the months that followed Sherlock continued with his passion for mystery, approaching it with more zeal and energy than ever before as he slowly built himself a repertoire of successes. Scotland Yard grew to both loath and respect him as they had never done before, until Sherlock found himself taking part in most of their larger investigations, Lestrade always at his side to remind him to be civil.

As for Irene Adler, she had taken flight shortly after their dance and had left the country to enjoy the spoils of her efforts. Sherlock found that rather than miss her he enjoyed the silence she left in her wake, and the possibilities she had never quite cut.

And so it was that often, in times of frustration, or over arrogance Holmes would look upon her picture to remind himself of the one who had conned him, the one who had gotten away. And as the years went by and he sometimes saw her briefly across the street, or through the window of a shop, it came to pass that he titled her. So from those days forward to Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler became and would always be 'The Woman.'

XxxxX

Fin.

Thank you everybody who has read this and I hope that you all enjoy it and please look out for the sequel of Hydrochloric Coffee which I should be posting soon. Thanks for your time! Please review.