A/N: I've loved Irene Adler since I read A Scandal in Bohemia for the first time, some 15 years ago. I also enjoyed Rachel McAdams' portrayal in the movie, and what Lara did this week was simply exquisite.
Except for the ending. I hoped for a slightly different one, and so this story came to my mind, and wouldn't let go until I wrote it down.
I hope you enjoy my venturing into the world of Sherlock - and I'd appreciate any feedback you'd care to provide!
The Games We Play
"Run!" he says, and she does.
It takes him a while to clean the whole thing up—he knows Mycroft will be looking into it particularly carefully after the last time—but he's in no hurry.
He knows he'll catch up with her in the nearby town before he'd have to get on the plane and head back to England.
When he does reach the town, however, he doesn't see her, nor any clue regarding her whereabouts, no matter how carefully he looks.
He's at the airport, it's time to board and he's clutching his phone in a palm that's, regrettably, slightly sweaty.
She never calls, nor texts.
As he switches the thing off, he decides he'd done everything he could. He no longer has her number, he can't contact her now.
The ball is in her court.
Six months later, he's walking home with John, dead tired after a day of looking for a kidnapped five-year-old (still no sign of the child anywhere), and seeing black spots in front of his eyes from hunger and exhaustion.
"Let's have dinner," John says as they pass the Chinese shop at the corner of Baker Street. The place smells quite heavenly.
He refuses to go in and ingest something that is not a nicotine patch but actual food, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
He refuses, and heads home to place another patch on his forearm—only because of the words John used.
After several hours of tossing and turning in his bed, he comes to a conclusion. He's being irrational, and something must be done about it. He's Sherlock Holmes, for his sake (You believe in a higher power—in this case, yourself), and this has to stop. Immediately.
On the following morning, he has a rich, balanced breakfast, courtesy of Mrs. Hudson, and heads out.
He finds the missing child within hours.
Everything seems to be back to normal.
It irritates him to no end that the whole thing is way out of his hands now, that he knows nothing about her while she is probably aware of everything that goes on in his life, thanks to John's blog, of course. She must be reading it, that much is certain.
She never makes use of that knowledge, though—and it only fuels his bad moods even further, making him impossible to coexist with, or so everybody starts telling him.
He simply shrugs and goes on as before.
Three months later the Morstan Case, or the 'How John met Mary' case, comes over, and he's the first to realize those two are meant for each other.
He tells John about it and gets laughed at, only to be apologized to and asked to be best man at their wedding several weeks later. He graciously accepts, feeling smug about being right again.
The feeling's completely gone a week afterwards, when John informs him cheerfully, Mary's hand in his, that they'd found him a date for the wedding.
"I don't want a date. I don't need a date."
"Oh, come on, Sherlock," Mary smiles at him, and for the first time since he'd known her he thinks her not only annoying, like any other human being, but straightforwardly repulsive. "Beth's a real treat: nice, intelligent, funny—you may actually have fun with her."
"Didn't John tell you? I don't do fun," he spats and marches off to his room, furious: at her, at himself, he no longer knows.
John finds him there (moping in quite un-Sherlocky a manner) some time later. He leans against the doorframe and looks at him, just looks, for several long minutes.
"It's been months, Sherlock. You need to get over it."
"There is nothing to get over."
"Didn't you have a wedding to plan?" He all but closes the door in his face.
In the evening, he opens his laptop to try and search for her again—any type of scandal, affair or power play that could give him a clue as to her whereabouts. Nothing pops out of the browser window, as per usual: but there's a message from an unknown address waiting in his mailbox. The username is 'lkjhgf', which means absolutely nothing: just a sequence upon the keyboard. He still knows it's from her.
Looking at a sleeping old man, v. peaceful. I wonder how you sleep when you're not drugged.
Could be a mere observation, could be a hint. He enters the phrase 'sleeping old man' into Google, ends up with lots and lots of rubbish. Checks incoming mail properties: transferred to his account after being bumped off servers in Pakistan, Ukraine and Peru, and some before that, virtually untraceable. Stares out of the window for an hour.
When he finally types his answer, it's short and impersonal, but oh so him: Sleep is dull.
He waits for an hour or so, hoping to get another email, but then just shrugs and goes to bed.
He sleeps very well indeed.
Sleep is never dull. When asleep, people are at their most vulnerable. I would've thought you found it a useful tool in your work.
It's been four days since the first message when this comes, at 11:27 AM, the server sequence completely different than before. This time, he checks it on his phone, frowning slightly. He all but lost hope for a second contact coming before the year was over.
You are wrong, he types, and then: I don't particularly care about such things, and drops the phone in his pocket.
"Who was that from? Mycroft again?" John's been trying on suits for an hour now, and the experience has proven to be the most difficult one he'd had to date. He'd much rather be texted by his insufferable brother and forced to trace a gang of shark fin smugglers, or chase Jim Moriarty till the ends of the Earth, than sit in a dressing room and provide opinion (which he doesn't, by the way, not really) on his colleague's wedding outfit.
"Just spam," he answers, and the phone vibrates against his right thigh.
You seem bored.
And he is, unfortunately, so he decides to play along. Who knows when she'll write to him next? Just choosing a wedding suit. Disaster approaching.
Two minutes, seven seconds later: John looks best in navy blue. Your world has been saved.
John emerges from behind the curtain, a hideous pale green jacket making him look like a three-day victim of drowning. "What'd you think?"
"I think you might want to try that one next," he nods in the direction of a rack upon which a stylish navy blue suit hangs, waiting patiently to be chosen from among the reds, blacks and purples. John frowns, but picks up the garment and disappears back into the changing room. He lets out a sigh and rubs the heels of his hands against his eyes.
If you're wrong about it, I'll make you pay. He's entered her domain now, which is probably a mistake, but the need of a thrill is winning him over, making him restless, reckless, everything he shouldn't be with her.
Surely enough, she answers right away. Promises, promises. You wouldn't know where to start. Besides, I'm right.
She is: John comes out again, beaming, and finally resembling a human being. "Not bad," he tells him curtly, and moves his thumb across the keyboard. Yes, you are. I take it back.
Naughty boy, she writes some time later, just as he parts with John in front of a restaurant in which Mary awaits her fiancé, leaving me all alone in this nasty place after making such sweet suggestions. Shame on you, Mr. Holmes.
He stares at the ceiling, pondering. Can he? Should he? Oh, to hell with that! Is that an invitation?
His phone remains silent for the rest of the day, the week, the month.
Three weeks until John's wedding.
There hasn't been a decent case around for ages.
Whenever he picks up his violin, he thinks about her and plays that same piece he'd composed last year over and over again, before tossing the instrument back into its case.
The lab makes him crazy. Lestrade makes him crazy. Mycroft, John, Mary, Molly, Mrs. Hudson—everybody makes him nothing but angry and irritated.
He needs problems, challenges, work: anything to occupy his mind, to make the cogs turn again.
Sometimes he almost loses it, and thinks about writing to her. Almost being the operative word.
When he finally hears from her, it's the middle of the night, and he's having some highly inappropriate dream he can't remember after the vibration of his phone wakes him up. What are you thinking about?
What a stupid thing to ask, he replies, and dismisses all thoughts of going back to sleep, even though his body protests weakly, apparently still dreaming the dream.
Who are you taking to the wedding, then? He frowns at the sudden change of the topic, it's not what he'd expect from her at this point.
Why do you assume I am taking anyone at all?
Aren't you? Oh, poor boy. Perhaps I should come over, keep you company.
This is definitely new. He sits up, sheet pooling around his waist, hairs on his chest standing up as the breeze from the half-opened window washes over his body. Never thought you'd find it appealing. A suburban wedding, collective IQ of the guests not reaching five digit numbers.
We could burn the place to the ground just by trying to have a decent conversation with random unsuspecting in-laws.
They sure could, which is why this is such a bad idea—and a tempting one, too. Promised John I'd behave.
And then, before he's had the time to press 'Reply': Let me know if you change your mind. You know I'm only good at MISbehaving.
He stays awake until the morning, four nicotine patches lined up on his arm.
She sends him a picture of a flower two days later: a cut red hyacinth on a white sheet of paper (judging from the light dispersion, probably something thick, used by artists rather than kindergarten children).
He promptly checks it online—the basic meaning of hyacinth could be 'game', or 'games'; this particular shade was also associated with 'play'.
Who's bored now?, he types, and presses 'Enter' with a smirk.
Guilty as charged, for once. Still no date, I presume?
His smile grows wider. Jealous, are we?
Interested in my feelings, are we?
What I am is stagnant. Nothing of interest happens here.
There's a longer pause after that, so long he almost loses hope for an answer to come before he'd have to go out on some wedding related business or other. He's putting his coat on when his laptop beeps, signalling a new message has been delivered.
If I didn't know you any better, I would've thought you've missed me. Now get out, you're already late.
He doesn't question the fact that she obviously knows all about his plans for the day. He simply shuts his computer, and leaves, the back of his neck tingling for the entire afternoon as if someone's out there watching him.
Which is probably true, he realizes as he walks into a pub where the stag party is supposed to be held; he had nothing to do with it, of course, despite being the best man—Lestrade took it upon himself, and judging from the noise level, and the difficulty with which Mike keeps his balance, he's done a bang up job. Sherlock sits in the corner and orders some water with a slice of lime, not in the mood to end up dead drunk in case he gets another message later in the evening. She would probably know when he wasn't at his wittiest, and played it against him.
So there he is, perched on a bar stool and pointedly ignoring some giggling females crowding to his left, eyes fixed upon John and the others, but mind wandering around the fact that Irene Adler is most definitely keeping a close eye on him. How does she do it? Security cameras, perhaps? Would she know how to operate a system like that? The thought makes him sit a little straighter, shoulders pushed back, his shirt falling open at the throat. Is she watching him now? What does she think?
Questions, ideas, problems: that's what he knows, what he thrives on.
The Woman provides him with all of the above.
His phone vibrates, just as one of the giggling females slides off her seat and saunters towards him with a glass in her hand. He fishes the gadget out of his trousers pocket, and opens the message.
Careful now, woman on a prowl. No wonder though, you look quite dashing tonight. Let's have dinner.
He brushes his fingers on the underside of his wrist. I'm not hungry.
She answers almost instantly, replaying their conversation from Baker Street, all those months ago: Good.
And a set of coordinates. He checks them hastily as he gets up and shrugs on his jacket.
The Grand Hotel, Trafalgar Square.
This could be really interesting.