A/N: Hello! Righto, before we delve headfirst into this, I'll warn you now, it's an experiment. Multi-chaptered (shock), the longest thing I've ever written (horror), un-beta'd (gasp) and completely disregards original canon (run!). Worst of all, it's unfinished, but I really, really would like to have it completed. A little challenge. Not to sound like a junkie, but reviews don't half help, and I'd particularly like to know what you think of this seeing as it's fairly new territory for me.

Anyhow, this was bloody fun to write. This is just the prologue, the meatier stuff comes next. It starts off pretty nice and happy(ish) but gets a whole lot more abstract/darker/angstier/lots of sex and drug use and shocking profanities that made even me blush. I might crank up the rating later.

On a more serious note, I really hope you enjoy my attempt at creating a believeable incarnation of Irene Adler for 2010's Sherlock Holmes. It's all a bit of fun, isn't it, and it's great to be writing again. Your comments, good or bad, are always appreciated.

Thank you.

Ruby :o)

October 2010

It was the smell that woke him up. Trapped in the foggy recesses of sleep, John felt the stagnant aroma invade his nostrils, but he couldn't quite place it, couldn't put the pieces together. As was usual, he'd had a fairly disrupted sleep, broken by the sounds of his flat mate wandering aimlessly around their home at around 4:30, switching the telly on and off, rearranging shelves, plucking at that bloody violin. In fact, he'd been startled out of sleep completely at one point when he heard a calamitous crash from the living room, a strangled noise that sent a shiver across his body and a dull ringing in his ears. He'd learnt from previous experience that it was usually unwise to go and investigate, and when he saw the little red numbers glowing merrily on his bedside clock indicating that it had only just passed five, he groaned and fell almost immediately back to sleep.

The smell, however, was bugging him, both due to the fact that it was generally an unpleasant one, and that he couldn't work out what it was. It was so familiar, almost comfortingly so, and he raised himself up onto his arms to look for some clue of its source. His door was open a little; it was coming from the living room.

Where had he smelt that before? For some reason, his mind drew up images of his father sitting on the porch steps at his childhood home, of his college days when he was young and reckless, of his time spent in the army…

It clicked into place. Oh Christ.

He dragged himself wearily out of the sanctuary of his bed, mechanically pulling on his dressing gown, and marched into the living room with a murderous glare on his face.

"You're smoking!"

He was sat low in his armchair in his pajamas and dressing gown, his gangly legs stretched out in front of him and a cigarette hanging from his long fingers, his arms hanging limply over the sides of the chair. John faltered a little, watching his roommate's blank stare, seeing something dark lurking in the pupils; they were fixed unblinkingly on the wall behind him, and the expression on his face was slack. But when John's eyes swept across the room, his concern for him all but vanished as he spotted various ashtrays- all filled to the brim with blackened, stubbed out cigarettes- saw the numerous empty packets of Mayfairs, saw the closed windows being hammered by rain, saw the grey mist that had started to pool below the ceiling.

Without waiting for a reply from Sherlock, he stormed over to yank the windows open, rainwater leaking in, and began to clear away the numerous ashtrays (some fashioned from random pieces of china) with an aggressive efficiency, his patience with the man wearing extremely thin this morning.

"Where did you even get them?" he yelled from the kitchen as he tipped the charcoal grey mess into a bin liner.

"I always have some on stand by in case of emergencies," he heard his monotone response.

"Emergency? You must have gone through about three packets!"

"The situation called for it."

"Oh really? What, you were so bored the only solution was to chain smoke like the world was ending?"

He marched with purposeful strides back to the living room, dragging the bin liner with him and feeling like tipping its contents all over Sherlock's head. He stopped mid stride, pausing to look at his roommate and feeling a little uneasy.

He hadn't moved; his dark eyes still fixed on that wall. John followed his gaze- and, with alarm, saw Sherlock's violin in pieces on the floor. Well, at least that explained that god-awful noise this morning. He blinked quickly with a frown- he'd destroyed it? He felt worry begin to crawl up his spine and glanced once more at Sherlock- still eerily motionless- before letting his eyes travel up the wall.

There was graffiti there, scrawled across the entire length of the dark patterned wallpaper. It was red, but it wasn't blood. John read it slowly, sensing an altogether surreal quality to the morning but not particularly enjoying it as he normally would.

I WILL NOT STEAL. Yours, Debbie Davids x x x

It looked like icing, but John decided not to voice that particular observation.

"Right," he said, putting his hands in his pockets and balancing on the balls of his feet "So…decided to redecorate?"

"I didn't write that,"

"Yes, I'd worked that out, it was a joke."

"Very droll."

He watched Sherlock shift in his seat, his eyes not leaving the wall, before taking a long drag on the cigarette in his hand.

John swallowed. Something was wrong with him.

"Who's Debbie Davids? Friend of yours?"

"A woman who died over seventy years ago."

"Blimey. Ghost?"

"Regrettably, no."

"Okay…gonna give me anymore clues?" he asked, irritation seeping into his voice because he didn't know how the hell he was meant to deal with this, and he felt a little desperate with worry. "Murder? That might, uh…brighten your day."

He looked tired, John noticed. Worst of all, he looked hurt.

He hadn't known the man long, in the grand scheme of things. The months they'd spent in each other's constant company, however, had formed such an intense bond between them that John often marveled at how quickly it had come about. It was like a whirlwind, a pleasurable chaos that had snatched him away from his own tedious life and planted him in the throes of adventure. At times it felt like living in some kind of grand cinematic masterpiece, the joy that came with each puzzle the two of them pieced together like an addiction.

This was new, though. This darkness, this…depression. It wasn't him. Something had done this to him, and John had no idea how to fix it.

"Get rid of that, will you?" Sherlock suddenly moaned, gesturing towards the table and John noticed that there was a huge tin of Quality Street resting there.

"Sherlock, what the bloody hell is going on?"

He watched as his roommate leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and letting out a terrible sigh, his eyes darting across the maroon writing and growing ever more tormented.

"Something very bad."