I just saw the sequel to Sherlock Holmes today, and while it was a great movie overall, Irene's death in the beginning made the whole movie a bit less fun for me. =( She was like the River Song of the Holmes movies! And dead before the title is even shown? No, thank you. I shall remain under the happy delusion that she survived-until the third movie comes out and they retconn her death somehow. Yes. That will happen. Yes.*attempts to convince myself of this* It's TRUUUEEE!

Anyway here's my version of what happened, set in between Irene's poisoning at lunch and the next day. I hope you enjoy. =)

Before Dawn Breaks

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. My ears became aware before my eyes. I was laid down on something soft, covered with something warm. My eyes did not seem to want to open. With supreme effort, I pried them long enough for a glimpse—enough to determine that I was in a dark room, lying upon a bed and covered with a blanket. They closed again of their own accord.

"You know, for being so concerned about my own punctuality, you were considerably late yourself," a gruff voice broke through the darkness.

I knew that voice. Sherlock! I opened my eyes again, and, slowly, things began to focus. Through the shadows—some present in the darkened room, others fabrications of my muddled mind—I discerned a figure standing by the window. Disheveled, bruised, slightly bloody, one hand holding an open pocketwatch. His silhouette was illuminated by the streetlamps below. I had never been so pleased to see another human being in my life.

Tick. Tock. Snap. He closed his watch. "We had a date, did we not?" he asked with a small smile.

"Indeed we did," I intended to say, but I had not gotten out the first syllable before I was wracked with a sudden fit of violent, painful coughing. I instantly felt the warmth of his hands supporting me. Darkness encroached upon my vision as each breath brought fresh agony. Eventually, the coughing subsided, replaced with less painful gasps for oxygen. After several minutes, I was able to breath without ending in a cough, though I still felt a dull, aching pressure in my chest. I was hardly aware of when he had lowered me back down to the pillow.

"Are you finished?" he asked. I nodded, not trusting yet to speak again. He sat upon the edge of the bed, waiting, as I suppose he had done for many hours. The room was cold; I shivered slightly. I worked up the courage to speak again.

"What...time is it?" The words were quiet; not about to bring on a fresh bout of coughing.

"Quarter to four in the morning," he responded. "I believe our date was for eight o'clock. However, given your current state, I am inclined to be lenient on matters of timeliness."

I closed my eyes. Had I more energy, I may have laughed. However, I had a more pressing question on my mind, and not enough strength to avoid being blunt. "Why am I not dead?" I asked.

He rose from his seat on the bed and began to pace the floor. "A most interesting question, Irene, the answer to which I cannot help but be nearly wholly responsible. As to why you expected to be dead, I perceive that you are no longer employed by the eminent professor Moriarty. Am I correct?"

I nodded.

"Ah. He may wish to put some more thought into his workers' retirement plan. I can only conclude that this must have been due to some unsatisfactory performance in your role as courier." He stopped pacing for a moment and looked at me. "I do hope that the incident with the letter was not responsible for this turn of events."

Yes, yes it was. But not wholly. "I was not able to work against you, Sherlock. My heart was not in it. He saw that, and..." I took a breath. "My usefulness ended."

"And your life very nearly ended along with it. A neat, if heartless, arrangement." He began pacing again. "The poison meant to kill you was not in the tea itself, as you doubtless suspected, but rather laced in the strainer through which you poured it. It is a poison of unique properties, perfectly manufactured to replicate the signs of death by tuberculosis. It is also deadly in the smallest of doses—had you taken more than the little you did, you would soon have been beyond even my capacity to help." Holmes stopped and stared through the window momentarily, then abruptly sniffed and turned toward the bed.

"As it was, things were a trifle touch-and-go for a few hours. However, thanks to my ingenious new combination of adrenal stimulant and antidote, you have, I believe, 'exited the woods.'" He sat on a chair close to the bed, pulled a pipe from his waistcoat, filled it, and lit a match before continuing.

"As to how you were removed from the restaurant at all—well, it may be unsporting to use the same trick twice in one day, but a carefully engineered blaze did a fine job of swiftly removing the professor and his staff from the premises. They abandoned what was presumed to be your body to the flames. I am afraid you'll have to find a new favorite restaurant, by the way," he added.

"Thankfully, that is the least of my present concerns," I said with a slight smile. My brow creased as a thought occurred to me. "But why were you there at all?" I asked.

"I followed you, then disguised myself as one of the kitchen staff." He smiled briefly around his pipe. "Didn't I tell you I was free for lunch?"

Illogically, I felt my eyes stinging. I concluded that over-emotionality must be a side-effect of the poison. "Sherlock," I began.

He leaned toward me from his chair, cutting me off. "Do not thank me, my dear, no thanks are necessary. I have done this as much for myself as I have for you."

I felt a small smile touch the corner of my mouth. "I should think that my own life being saved is of a somewhat personal importance."

His countenance remained serious, despite my jesting tone. "Irene, since you entered it, my life has been infinitely less predictable. I should hate to lose that. I should hate... to lose you."

I found the rough warmth of his hand encapsulating my cold one, and the tears I had felt earlier threatened to spill over at this relative outpouring of emotion. He looked down and seemed mildly surprised to find our hands together. He released my hand, gave it a pat, then rose from the chair and stepped to the window once more, staring into the street.

"In the morning, I believe you will be well enough to move. My brother, Mycroft, will be along with a carriage that will take you to a port, home to a boat that shall take you to America." His gaze was fixed intensely upon me. "You must stay low and avoid all recognition until Moriarty has been dealt with, in one way or another. His reach is long, Irene. Do not think that the separation of an ocean affords you safety." His eyes now fixated upon something in the distance. He swiftly lit a small candle that waited upon the windowsill and passed his hand between the flame and the window several times, as though signaling with its light. A few more flashes, and he extinguished the flame.

"Mycroft has informed me that the aforementioned carriage will be here just before dawn, that you may exit the building under the cover of darkness. Sleep a while longer, while there is time." He resumed his seat near the bed. "I will remain until you are safely on your way."

I reached out and felt his arm, resting near my own, and entwined my fingers in his. He did not remove his hand, and I soon felt weariness pulling me down. As my body succumbed to slumber, I felt his lips brush my forehead.

"Rest well, my dear Irene," he quietly whispered.

In those few hours, I slept the best I that had in years.


Short and sweet, yes? :D No? Let me know! I live for reviews! (Well, not really. But they certainly do mean a lot!)

'til next time,

WP =)

Note (1/1/12): This was originally intended as a oneshot, but thanks to the reviews, I decided to continue the story. We'll see where it heads! For those of you who would like the story to end here, that's fine too-just mentally delete that question mark after the word "Fin." :) Thanks again to everyone who has reviewed!