[Disclaimer: The Sherlock characters belong to Moffat and Gatiss, the BBC, Arthur Conan Doyle.

A/N: Thanks to caitalonas on tumblr for beta help!

This story is inspired in part by feverishsea's fic, The Real Meaning of Idioms, on AO3. Go read it, it's lovely!]


Dictations to a Kiss

When Sherlock asks, Irene's first response is "Do me, instead."

Then again, that's Irene's first response to everything.


Sherlock's reply: "You're out of the country."

Irene can't tell if Sherlock is whining because she's gone or merely being dismissive. The truth stands that for, the time being, it doesn't much matter. She is out of the country, as well as the continent.


Irene is so terribly certain Sherlock would be an excellent shag. She has an eye for these things, and with Sherlock taking him would only be half of a fascinating challenge. It's unfortunate, then, that his little doctor gets to his heart first.

It's unfortunate, but far from a surprise.


Irene's follow-up email reads: "I remember the way you boys interact. Trust me, you don't need any help getting him."

The photos attached to Sherlock's response prove otherwise.

Irene makes the one of the two skulls on the mantelpiece into her new desktop wallpaper. According to Sherlock's email the new skull had come from a short, forty-year-old male who had been an army doctor. The dead man hadn't been a doctor in Afghanistan, but it was the best Sherlock could do on short notice. He didn't mention the part where the two skulls were deliberately positioned facing each other, as if they were having a conversation—or perhaps about to kiss.

The email also reads: "John didn't notice for a week. His only acknowledgement came in the form of a laugh, of all things. It wasn't even in response to my efforts, he was laughing because Lestrade pointed to the skull and asked me 'So who have you killed now?'"

Irene stares at the photo. She smirks. She would never admit it, but she very nearly giggles.

"I'll see what I can do," she writes back.


"Touch him," is her first suggestion. Sherlock over-thinks things; best to start simple.

He texts back within seconds: "Already do."

"Good. Tell me how."

"I don't enjoy being patronized."

She puts the phone down and fixes her dark red lipstick until her phone beeps.

"When he's being exceptionally dull I hold his head steady to force him to think."

Irene applies eyeliner.

"I take my phone out of his hands."

She adds mascara.

"He held my hand once."

She picks up her phone. Before she begins typing a response, her phone beeps again.

"Upon my instruction. We were trying to run while wearing handcuffs and it was inefficient otherwise."

Irene reads the text and sighs. She supposes it's a good thing she surpasses most when it comes to strenuous situations.


"He sent me a text: We're out of milk again. Don't suppose you'd be interested in picking up some more."

"Write: I could be persuaded."

"John: I'll believe that when I see it."



"Don't respond to the text, and come home with milk."

Irene spends a good five minutes evaluating a sennet whip and deciding against the purchase before she looks back at her phone. She still hasn't received a response. She sighs.

"Buy milk. It will show him you're interested in changing your relationship."

"Do you want my help or not?"

"I hope you're not responding to my texts because you're too busy purchasing milk."

Finally, she receives a message: "That's going too far."

Of course this suggestion pushes Sherlock over the edge. It's not as though it's any simple task, such as procuring a skull of a man who vaguely resembles his flatmate from who knows where.

"You've already bought it, haven't you?"

"I keep walking past bins. He never has to know."

Irene just smiles.


Later, Sherlock sends her a photo of the fridge at 221B. Two cartons of milk stand side by side.

The caption reads: "I might use the one I bought to test my new cow embryos."

"You won't," she texts in reply.


"You know, clients usually pay for my services," she says when she calls.

"You know I don't talk on the phone," he texts back.


Irene isn't doing this out of the goodness of her heart. Goodness, no. She knows that everything is a business transaction. But she owes Sherlock a favor, and if she can achieve his desired results in this particular situation, there's a very good chance he'll promise her another.


"Being held hostage with John. In a wardrobe. Killers outside."

"Shouldn't you be telling me to do something?"

"John: Who do you keep texting?"

"John: Sherlock, aren't you going to get us out of here?"

"John: You got us stuck in a wardrobe, the least you could do is talk to me."

Irene rather agrees. Potential favors aside, she wishes Sherlock would just have done with and kiss the man, but by this point she knows not to hold her breath.


The phone goes off in the middle of a session. Her client, needless to say, isn't in any position to notice.


Afterwards, she reads: "I put my hand on his back while he determined a victim's cause of death. On his arm when we caught our breath after chasing the killers."

"He looked surprised. Not displeased."

Of course he didn't look displeased, she thinks. That boy would let you do nearly anything to him. He would want you to, though he doesn't know it yet. There is nothing more dangerous, or more useful, than a man unaware of his own heart.

"Much better," is all she says in reply. That, and "Do even more."


Irene is waiting at a cocktail bar, and she's bored. Her mark will walk by soon enough, but until then she types out a quick text.

"What kind of women does John usually date?"

"Boring ones."

Sherlock's reply is near-instantaneous, and she feels a rush of satisfaction. If she can't have Sherlock for her own (not to keep, of course, but she would so enjoy borrowing that man), this is certainly the next best thing. Sherlock is dependent upon her guidance.

Irene always feels heady with the knowledge of her own power. She expects the consulting detective would feel much the same way if the tables were reversed.

She's tempted to see how far she can push Sherlock in this little game. She won't, though.

Not yet.

Instead she writes, "A very attractive man once told me that more specificity leads to better results."

There's a pause. She imagines Sherlock staring at the ceiling, deep in thought. All that information processing, memories-turned-evidence tumbling quickly though his brain.

"Dull. Completely predictable. He thinks he has a good chance of getting off with them. He looks for an easy and consistent outlet for his sexual impulses."

Irene smiles. Nothing about John Watson is surprising, is it?

"Not a thing like you, then."

"I refuse to act dull. Not even for him."

"I never instructed you should."

A stunning ginger in a pale green suit saunters over to the bar and orders a martini. Showtime.

Irene spares half a second to read Sherlock's final text.

"Interesting," it says.


"John just asked what's got into me lately."

"I only said his new shirt looked considerably better on him than the past three he's bought himself."

"Tell him: Wouldn't you like to find out?"

"John: Yes, actually."

"John: And for God's sake, stop texting!"

"That's your opening."

"For what, exactly?"

"Don't tell me I need to spell it out for you?"




Sherlock doesn't contact Irene for a week. She can't tell if it's because he's no longer in need of her services or if it's something else. Maybe he has a case.

It doesn't bother her, the radio silence.

Not at first, anyway.


She finally caves and sends him a text.

"Have you accomplished your mission?" she asks.

She sips at her latte while she waits for his response. She checks her reflection in the coffee-shop window.

"Not exactly."

Oh, she realizes. No, no of course he hasn't. She should have known.

"I thought you were going to obey my suggestions, Mr. Holmes."

She finishes the latte, and orders a second, before her phone beeps again.

"He wasn't ready yet."

She tsks aloud. Excuses, excuses.

"Oh, I think he was. I think you might not be."

He doesn't text back. That evening Irene relents and offers the man a way back into their agreement. If Sherlock is confused, she'll just have to offer him a question with an easy answer.

"Look. Do you want him or not?"

Sherlock responds in the early hours of the morning, his time. She would infer that the issue keeps him awake at night, but she knows Sherlock rarely sleeps.

He says: "I need to be certain of his response."

He says: "I don't think I could stand losing him over this."

He says: "I can't get away with it yet."

She replies: "John trusts you. Sherlock, you have no idea how much you can 'get away with.'"


Irene finds it highly ironic that Sherlock accuses her of being too forward with her suggestions. Really, it's as if he's forgotten that she had an entire conversation with him and his flatmate while in the nude. Which is more than a little insulting.


In the early hours of morning, her time, she decides: it's time to see how far she can push.

If Sherlock wants to get John, it's now or never. Before Sherlock gives up and lets things remain as they are.

It's time Sherlock starts playing this game by her rules.

That is, if he wants to win.


That evening, his time, she texts: "Wear your purple shirt tomorrow."


The next day she dives straight in. She asks Sherlock where he is (the flat), and where John is (the clinic). Perfect.

She writes: "How do you feel about sending him dirty photos?"

Adds: "I'm not really asking."

"You can't be serious."

"It's worked miracles for me in the past."


"This is ridiculous."

"Fine, don't seduce John. Suit yourself."

"No suit, actually."

"Good for you."


"I'm still wearing a shirt. Yes, trousers too."

"Not my fault. If you did as I told you, you wouldn't need them."

He doesn't respond. She just smirks. The thrill of the chase, indeed. She runs her fingers along the edge of the phone, smiles.

"You wouldn't need them, and neither would John."


"No trousers. Pants."

"That's acceptable. Depending on the photos, of course."

"Please explain."

Her grins widen. She loves it when Sherlock begs. She wonders if he's even aware that he does it with her.

"Pants on, shirt unbuttoned and falling off. Take it on the bed. Or the sofa. Wherever you'd like to fuck him. Tilt your head back, touch your chest. Or your other parts."

She waits for exactly twelve minutes. Enough time for him to take a good photo, but not so much time that he decides the whole idea is preposterous.

She types: "Send me the photo and I can evaluate."

"Please. I'm not about to send you fodder for blackmail."

Irene laughs aloud. A few people in the reception room stare at her. She glares at them, mostly. She sends the bespectacled blonde with sharp cheekbones a wink.

She replies: "It's only blackmail if you're ashamed."

Also: "If I wanted to blackmail you I'd just forward our conversations along to your brother."


After her dentist appointment she checks her phone for updates. There is a single message waiting for her. She's probably more upset than she should be that the message doesn't have a photo attached. It simply reads, "Mycroft would never believe you."

Irene reflects, rather sadly, that Sherlock is probably right.


"John: WHAT. Sherlock what did you just send me?

"John: Sherlock I AM IN PUBLIC."

"John: Is some sick bastard forcing you to do this?"

"He didn't say you shouldn't have sent them."

"So I observed."



"John: Sod it all, I'm coming home now."


"Any updates?"

"He wasn't terribly happy when he discovered I was fully clothed and unwilling to offer any explanation."

Irene can imagine the two of them, sitting in silence. Love is a battlefield, she thinks. Sherlock needs to stop assuming it's a bloody cold war.

"He stares at me whenever he thinks I'm not looking."

There. That's something.

"John: Who are you texting?"

"John: Sherlock, you didn't send me those photos by mistake, did you?"

"John: They weren't…meant for someone else."

"I don't know what to say."

"Tell me what to say."

Irene begins to type out a response, but he texts back first.

"You're right. I'm not ready."

Even though it goes against her entire strategy, Irene takes pity on Sherlock. It's rather upsetting, actually. Especially since it seems to be something she can't stop doing.

She sends off three texts in quick succession:

"You don't need to say anything. Just go to your bedroom."

"You're doing fine, love. I think we can give John a break."

"He might need some time to think everything over."


She gives John—and, more importantly, Sherlock—twenty-four hours. Then she settles in front of her vanity, puts on some Puccini (she's always had a soft spot for opera), grabs her phone and gets to work.

She starts, as always, with a text. This time she angles for something that will pique his curiosity.

"You checked, of course."

His reply is near-instantaneous. "What did I check?"

"His phone. To see if he's saved your photos."

There's a long pause. Irene twists her favorite riding crop in her hands as she softly hums along to Mimi's aria. Mentally, she's not in her suite at all—she's too busy picturing Sherlock's unsubtle efforts to get hold of John's phone. ("What do you mean you need my phone? Do you need me to text someone for you?" "No, I need to text someone from your phone." "You need me to text someone from my phone." "No." "Have you been hit on the head recently?" "John, just give me the phone!" "Christ, here! Seriously, though, you haven't been hit on the head?" "John, I'm perfectly…" here's where Irene imagines Sherlock checking the photo album on John's mobile "…fine. It's fine.")

She jumps a little, startled out of her reverie by the incoming text message sound. She leans over the table to glance down at her phone.

"They're still there."

She grins wide. She was hoping that would be his answer. "What can you deduce from that?"

Irene has Sherlock in checkmate now, and he knows it. There won't be any more running from this. Which is just the way she likes it.

"If you're not ready now, I will have to give you up as a lost cause. And you know how I hate losing."

"You don't want to test my patience."

"I await your instruction."


In the end, Irene's plan is almost embarrassingly simple. But since when has John expected complicated overtures from a girlfriend? Not that Sherlock is a girlfriend. Quite the opposite. Anyway, John already loves Sherlock. That much is obvious. It's the sex that's the problem. If Sherlock is finally willing to cooperate, John should be easy.

Simple will do just fine.


In the end, Sherlock texts her in a panic—everything is on hold, he says. They're on a case. Will she be able to wait? This doesn't count as trying her patience, does it?

She reads his texts and smiles to herself. She finds his desperation rather endearing, and she realizes that soft spot she has for Sherlock is growing far, far too rapidly. Perhaps it's a good thing she is currently nowhere near the British Isles.

"Don't worry," she texts back. "I can wait a bit longer."

And, just because she can, she sends another: "But solve your case quickly."


She wonders if Sherlock is running through London, or shamming as a priest, or watching John hold a man at gunpoint when she sends the next few texts. He doesn't reply to any of them, but then she never expected him to.

"It will happen immediately after the case."

"You will do whatever rituals you have outside of the flat—debriefing with Lestrade, gorging yourself on ethnic foods, whatever."

"Then you will go home."

"You will say you can't sleep."

"John will probably mock you, because you never sleep."

"You will ignore him and say 'I'm keyed up. The only cures I know are shooting the wall or having sex.'"

"You will give him 120 seconds to process this information."

"Then you will say, 'If you don't have a preference, I say we go with the sex.'"


Twelve hours later, her phone beeps.

He says: "That will never work."

He says: "I wouldn't normally say that. John will notice."

Irene doesn't so much as bat a false eyelash. She sends Sherlock the text she drafted ten hours ago.

It reads: "If you're not keyed up, he will be. He's going to receive an offer of sex from a man who he finds romantically and sexually attractive. Do you honestly think he will be paying close attention to the specific words you choose for the task?"

Sherlock's reply reads: "You may have a point."


Five hours later, she receives another text. She nearly rolls her eyes. Took them long enough.


Irene finally finds the perfect whip to add to her collection. As she steps up to the register to pay, her phone beeps. She turns to the clerk, flashes him a brief smile—he has been helpful today in more ways than one—as she takes the phone out of her pocket and reads the latest text. To her surprise, it's Sherlock. How can he possibly be back so soon?

Turns out, he isn't.

"Sherlock says you're the one to thank," the text says. "Whoever you are! So…thanks. VERY MUCH. Cheers."

She pays for the whip and types her reply on the taxi ride home. All in all, it has been a rather marvelous day.


Months after the final text, Irene isn't surprised to find that she hasn't forgotten about Sherlock. She's not sure she ever will. She's not upset about that fact. After all, he owes her one particularly impressive favor.

She's found that she quite enjoys being impressed by Sherlock Holmes.


"John—Truly, I appreciate the sentiment. And tell Sherlock I said he is very welcome."

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