Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: I was listening to Irene's theme music today and this popped into my head. As a general note, I don't like Irene Adler as Sherlock's love interest, however I think she is a fantastic character and was brilliantly written and acted in "A Scandal in Belgravia." Anything romantic in this oneshot is entirely one-sided. So…no flames please. SPOILERS for season 2!

Before Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler had an identity. She was "The Woman," a beautiful, successful, intelligent woman who was very good at knowing what people liked. She was proud of that identity. It came with a reputation, a prestige that she flaunted whenever she could. But that was before Sherlock Holmes…the man who changed everything.

She never intended to become as invested as she did. She just wanted to play the game. But Irene found that one could not simply play with a man like Sherlock Holmes and walk away unscathed.

He ruined her. That fascinating, brilliant, beautiful man took away everything that she held dear and he did it with a cold callousness that she never would have expected from him. She should have.

It was her fault. She toyed with him like a specimen under a microscope, wanting to discover how he ticked, how he felt…anything and everything. She got too close, wanting him to fall in love with her, wanting to bring him to his knees. She should have known she wouldn't be able to get that far.

Of course her plan backfired, and rather spectacularly at that. She never dreamed she would have genuine feelings for him. "The Woman" didn't have lovers, she had subjects that worshiped at her altar. There was no space, no time for love. It was a meaningless emotion. A distraction. But she wanted Sherlock Holmes. Wanted him more than anyone in the world. And she had been beaten because of it.

When she looks back at that moment, she is overcome with feeling. She had been so close to winning the game, so close that she believed she really had beaten not one but both of the great Holmes brothers. She remembers the dead look in his eyes, the sharpness with which he punched each digit into the keypad. It was like daggers piercing her skin. And she was ashamed of herself.

"I was just playing the game."

She spent a lot of time thinking after that encounter. After all, there was little else to do while in hiding. It was then that she realized how foolish she had truly been. She had teased John Watson, of course she had. But that was just good fun. Except…except that it was more than that to them. It must have been.

When she made that realization, her mind spun, going back over every encounter between them all, looking for a moment…there.

She had been naked the first time they met. She was a beautiful woman, and yet Sherlock Holmes had only given her a brief appraisal, utterly unfazed by her lack of undress. The good doctor was much the same. Oh he noticed her more of course, but after his initial shock, his attention was firmly fixed on Sherlock.

She wondered if they knew themselves what was so obvious to everyone else. She remembered one of her parting shots to Doctor Watson and laughed at how right she had been.

"We're not a couple."

"Yes you are."

The day she "died," she told Sherlock that she knew. He brushed her off in his typical fashion at the time, but when he texted her later on her new phone he asked her how she figured it out. It just went to show that when "The Woman" believes you're a couple…you probably are, even if you can't admit it.

The day Sherlock Holmes committed suicide, she cried. Not because he was dead, no, she knew he would have figured out Moriarty's trap long before the final fall and must have found a way to combat it. She cried because her heart broke for both men: John Watson who would believe that his best friend and the love of his life was dead and Sherlock, the best of men, who would force himself to stay away to keep his love safe.

Before Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler was "The Woman." Now, she is simply a woman who will always care for the man who changed her, in some ways for the better. So when he turns up on her doorstep, and she knows he will, she will help him the best she can.

Because he is Sherlock Holmes. And she is, and will forever be, SHERlocked.

A/N: Review?