A/N: Hey all! I know, I know, I should be concentrating on writing my next Irene/Sherlock one shot following on from 'The Untamed Sea' and 'The Cheese and the Letter' but I couldn't get the idea for a Irene/Moran one shot out of my head!
I know it's an unusual pairing but when I rewatched GoS, I realised that they must surely have met whilst working for Moriarty.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!
The Last Husband of Irene Adler
Irene's running. Fast and hard.
Her third soon-to-be- ex husband's maid has caught her taking the jewellery from the dressers after swearing to him that she would leave with her things and without a fuss.
The bag around her is knocking into her side as she runs, making her steps lopsided and uncharacteristically clumsy. The diamonds and pearls and rubies dig into her hand, leaving their guilty imprint behind in her soft skin.
She's starting to flag but she can still hear the shouts of the staff behind her and the thud of footsteps edging closer. She takes a sharp left and then another, hoping to lose them down the smaller alley leading to a cramped row of houses. She takes the cobbled ground as quickly as she can but they're still there, shouting and hollering at her to stop. She ignores them and takes a right: another small alley. As she's running closer and closer to it, she can see that one of the walls has fallen down slightly, leaving it just low enough to climb over quickly.
She does. As she's crouched down behind it, she hears the oafish stomps disappear and sits on the small patch of grass, getting her breath back and feeling relief flood her. This marriage had been such an error in judgement; all she had to show for all of her nodding and smiling and laughing politely was two fists full of jewellery that her husband had claimed were 'priceless'.
Well, Irene would find a price for them.
She's about to stand and climb back over the wall before the house's owner noticed she was in their garden when she realises it's too late. A dark shadow looms over her and a tall man stands behind her, puffing out a cloud of bitter smoke.
"Now. Why does a young lady like yourself think that my property is fair game?"
It was that voice; aggressive and calm, wild and smooth all at once.
She shakes herself. Irene Adler did not get nervous in front of anyone, let alone a man. "I do not. I apologise for the inconvenience but I was – "
"I don't care." He cuts across her, paying no attention to her beautiful face, her fists full of sparkling jewels, her bag stuffed with clothes and trinkets. "Just piss off. Before my boss sees you."
Irene is too shocked to even bristle; no one talked to her like that, not even Sherlock. Instead of showing it, she tries to gain the upper hand. She glances at the small house and the pitiful garden. "Oh, do not fear about my staying. I have no desire to stay in somewhere as pitiful as this."
The man just snorts. "Then you won't mind leaving, will you?"
Before she can respond, her pursuers return down the alley and, to Irene's horror, stop by the wall and address the man.
"'Scuse me?" One of them asks. "You 'aven't seen a young woman come running down 'ere, 'ave you? Short girl, dark 'air. Pretty thing."
The man puffs out more smoke before answering without any trace of hesitance, "No. Sorry."
They all grumble and Irene hears them retreating. She looks up at her unlikely rescuer and finally stands up, meeting his eyes.
The Professor was interested to see how they would get on when they had to work together.
Irene was never anxious when it came to lying, to fooling someone. To her, it was something she could do naturally but with Sebastian Moran lingering at her shoulder and making no attempt to break the tense silence, her nervous were starting to twitch.
When Moran had introduced her to the Professor, she hadn't had much choice other than to accept his offer of a job. Her third marriage had failed spectacularly and left her without the handsome divorce she had been hoping for. She was husband-less, homeless and without a great deal of money.
The Professor had thrown her a lifeline and she had no option other than to cling onto it even if it may hurt her hands.
The opening of the hotel lobby door brought Irene back to earth as she saw the man she was instructed to talk to, keep sweet, distract walked in and headed to the restaurant on his right. She felt Moran's hand on her back nudge her forwards and she glared at him over her shoulder as she went.
He made no response other than to smirk slightly and turn to begin his own task.
Irene spent that afternoon eating and drinking, laughing and flirting. By the end of the day, the man was dead and Irene was paid handsomely.
Italy was beautiful in spring. Hot but not unbearable, sunny but not scorching.
Her suite was large and grand, just how she liked it. She stood on the large balcony overlooking the gardens below and smiled contently. Even better, Irene had been told she may not even be needed this weekend; the Professor had only brought her here as a precaution.
It had only been last week that she and Sherlock had brought down Lord Blackwood and his schemes and, although the Professor had been displeased with her, he still employed her services.
Suddenly, she saw something out of the corner of her left eye and she turned, expecting to see a bird landing on the wall. Instead she saw Moran on his own balcony right next to her hers. She smiled sweetly at him but groaned inwardly. She found that he was such an awkward man and she had no desire to spend any more time than she needed to in his company. The last thing she wanted was for him to ruin this sweet, sunny escape.
"Miss Adler." Moran said, making her start. Her never usually bothered talking to her; he usually just ignored her with an air of dislike and odd amusement.
"Moran." She replied shortly, not wanting to elicit any sort of conversation with him. No such luck.
"You are...enjoying Italy?"
Irene smiled a sickly sweet smile again. "I was."
Instead of being offended like she had hoped, Moran just laughed and lit a cigarette. "My presence troubles you?"
She refused to acknowledge that she almost admired the way her talked to her and merely shrugged. "Your presence means nothing to me. It does not trouble me and it does not fill me with joy." She gave him a piercing look as she turned and stepped back inside her room, feeling that the mood had somewhat soured outside.
As she walked, she could hear him laughing, loud and uncaring. She sat on her bed and felt her hands ball into fists, grasping the satin bedcovers.
Damn that man. Damn him and his cockiness.
Irene is needed after all.
That evening, she is called down to the hotel's ballroom to socialise and mingle with the lords and ladies, giving out compliments and making eyes with all the important men. It's what the Professor knows she does best and makes sure he uses her for it.
She's engaged in a flirtatious conversation with one of the most eligible bachelors in Italy but she can feel his eyes on her. The Professor usually tells him to keep out of the way, to remain in his room preparing for the more violent parts of the job. But tonight, she can feel his eyes follow her around the room, watching her every move and listening to her every word.
And she hates it. It doesn't feel right, it doesn't feel comfortable. She can't concentrate properly and as a result she loses the attention of her admirer who makes his way back up to his room early, meaning the Professor's well laid plans are shot.
When she returns to her own room, scorned and angry, she pulls off her dress, her corset, her stockings and slips into a robe, tying the belt a little too tight in her tense state. The door to her room opens suddenly. She doesn't need to turn around to know it's Moran but she does anyway, fire blazing in her eyes.
She tells him it's all his fault, that he distracted her, that it's him that should be punished by the Professor but she knows it'll be her instead. He does nothing to respond to her tirade, he just carries on walking towards her as she throws the ashtray at him, her shoes, her pillows...anything she can lay her hands on. When she hesitates in finding something else to throw, her face wet with angry and frustrated tears, his large hands clamp around her wrists and their confrontation transforms into something else entirely.
Suddenly her back is pressed against the wall, her wrists pinned above her head and his hard body is holding her there as his mouth attacks hers. All of her anger wells up insider her and pulls her hands free to dig her nails his back and pull his hair as she bites his lip until she tastes blood. But still he doesn't react. He just moves his mouth from her lips down her jaw and onto her neck where he sucks and bites until Irene can feel her legs becoming weak.
"Miss Adler?" A man's voice calls through the door. "The Professor asks that you are available to discuss the events of tonight."
Moran's hands halt on the belt of her robe and she realises she wants nothing more for him to pull and let the material drop to the floor and take her, here and now. But, instead, she forces her mask of irritation back on and slaps his hands away, glaring at him before calling, "Of course. Tell the Professor I shall meet with him in ten minutes."
She pushes off the wall and the moment's gone; the passion, the rage all dissolved into work and duties. She organises her things on the table next to her bed and, when he still hasn't moved, she tilts her head only a little in his direction.
"Don't you have work to do?" Her voice is cold, detached.
He lingers for only second more before exiting her room without a noise, leaving the bitter smell of tobacco behind him.
She doesn't see him again for months.
After the debacle in Italy, the Professor makes the decision to keep Irene and Moran on separate jobs and Irene is grateful...at first. Then she finds herself missing his intrusive presence and having someone to snipe at.
She won't admit it though. She throws herself into finding more parties to go to, more jewels to acquire and more men to flirt with.
It's winter when she sees him again.
It's a cold night and there's light layer of crisp frost covers the ground and Irene teeters across it, her heeled boots not giving her much grip. She slides a little and nearly loses her grip on her bag when a strong arm settles about her waist, pulling her upright. She hadn't been expecting him to be there.
"What are you doing here?"
He raises his eyebrows slightly at her open dismay and simply replies, "The Professor wanted me to accompany you." Then he smirks. "Perhaps he thinks you're not capable."
She pulls away from him sharply, straightening her coat. "I am perfectly capable and you know it."
He just grins in response and takes her luggage from her. "I'll help you with that."
She doesn't need his help but he loads her bag onto the train all the same.
When they finally get to the compartment, they find that they're sharing, at least for now. These compartments are used for eating and resting while their private sleeping compartments are being prepared. She slides onto the seat opposite an elderly couple, enjoying taking the weight off her feet. The couple across from her smile at her before continuing their own conversation, relaxed and looking forward their journey.
Irene's just started to relax herself when the compartment door slides open again and Moran enters, sitting next to her without comment.
She bristles but says nothing, refusing to lose her air of grace while in company. She can tell that's grinning, smug that he bothers her. She ignores him and decides to sleep until their food is served and her private room is ready.
When she wakes, her head is resting on something hard and she can hear the elderly woman opposite her saying,
"Well, you are very lucky. She is a beautiful lady."
When Irene blinks the fog away, she realises her head is resting on Moran's shoulder and his arm is draped around her shoulders. She sits up, trying to establish what has happened since she fell asleep.
"She is." Moran replies to the woman and squeezing Irene's shoulder almost affectionately. He glances at her. "Ah, you're awake, love."
Love? She raises her eyebrows and he leans in to kiss her on the cheek, murmuring in her ear,
"They think we are married."
When he pulls back, Irene is beaming; her mask slides on with ease. The woman opposite them is smiling at them both, surveying them with an air of joy about her.
"What a lovely couple you are!" She says, drinking the tea that had been set out before them. "Henry was just telling me how you two met!"
Henry? Now Irene's amused. If Moran had to have to different name, Henry would be the last one she would pick. 'Henry' creates the image of chivalry, honour, nobility while Moran himself is a common solider dishonourably discharged from the army and now working for a villainous genius. The irony was not lost on her. Instead, she tries to turn her amusement into a smile.
"Oh, yes! That is quite the story."
"It is." Moran says, smiling in a way Irene thought looked very unnatural on him. "Annora, do you want some food? You have been sleeping for a while."
Annora? "Yes please, Henry. I am quite famished."
And so they continued on, making up stories and acting as though they liked each other. Irene found it all rather fun until he tells her that 'their' room was ready. She thinks he must be joking, surely, and stands with him, saying farewell the couple they had shared with and setting off down the corridor after the porter in silence.
When they're inside their cramped room and he's thrown himself down in the chair, Irene slams her things down loudly.
He rolls his eyes. "What wrong with you, now?"
"What's wrong?" She hisses. "What's wrong? I shall tell you what's wrong!"
"Then do because this is already getting boring."
"We are sharing a room! Can't you see that is inappropriate?"
He looks bemused. "Married couples share a room."
Irene splutters with rage. "But we are not married!"
"We are so long as we're on this train." He tells her firmly with an expression that discourages argument. She huffs but drops it.
"Fine. But you're sleeping in that chair."
She picks up her nightdress and flounces off to the tiny bathroom to change in private. She seethes as she pulls off her dress, her corset and her stockings and throws them into a pile on the table next to the sink. She looks at herself in the mirror and wonders, if she really does hate him so much, why does she feel so excited? She tries to ignore it and pulls out the pins holding her hair up, letting it cascade down over her shoulders. She wipes off her lipstick and sighs. Men don't see her like this very often and she tells herself that it doesn't matter if he sees her like it; after all, she doesn't like him enough to care.
When she returns to their sparse room, he's taken his coat, hat and boots off but he's still sat in the chair like she instructed. When he glances up at her, she looks away quickly, refusing to acknowledge his presence. She clambers into the bed and finds it is unexpectedly soft and comfortable. As she lies there for a while, eyes closed and willing herself to sleep. After an hour, she opens her eyes again, frustrated. He's watching her and polishing the rifle he shoots with so often. She glares and turns over dramatically, her back to him.
She can tell he's smiling, laughing at her. And she can still feel his eyes boring into her back.
"Do you mind?" She grinds her teeth.
"Mind what?" He replies.
"Stop. Watching. Me."
"You flatter yourself, Adler. Not all men find you irresistible."
With those ten words, he silences her. And she realised why she couldn't leave him alone. He didn't like her, didn't find her alluring, didn't find her appealing. All of the other men she met needed her for something; her husbands had wanted her for her beauty and make themselves look good, Sherlock wanted her as a challenge, some excitement to keep him interested and the Professor wanted her to work for him, to her job unquestionably and faithfully.
Sebastian Moran wanted nothing from her. And that's why she couldn't stop herself being drawn to him. Irritated more by herself than him, she couldn't sleep at all.
"Get in?" Irene says, her voice unusually quiet.
"Get in. To bed. In. Now." She turned back over to face him. "Please?"
He's openly surprised and studies her for a few moments before he stands, pulling off his white shirt and slides in next to her. She can feel his chest against her back, his hand on her hip and his breath on the back of her neck.
She falls asleep quickly and easily.
The return journey happens two days later and they share a bed again only this time she doesn't have to ask.
He's angry. Maybe even jealous, Irene muses. He's seen her flutter her eyelashes and every man all weekend to make sure she gets own way and he's had enough of every man they meet making eyes at her, telling her own beautiful she is and they could treat her well, buy her things, keep her in luxury.
Irene laughs when people ask her why she marries men and then leaves with their money. She responds, because it's just so easy. Why bother with anything else?
But Moran doesn't like it. Every time she was talking to some lord or another, she saw him a few feet away watching her with dark eyes. It was almost a repeat of what happened in Italy only this time, she didn't let it bother her. This time, she felt like she had the upper hand. He was jealous, brooding and there was nothing he could do about it without going against the Professor's instructions and she knew he never would.
So now they had returned to the train where they could pick up where they left off.
They were married, yes. Henry and Annora, yes. We saw you on the journey down, didn't we? Yes, of course we did!
And now they were alone in their room. And it seemed he was determined to make sure she knew that if he wanted her, he could have her. As he pulled her onto his lap, nipping at her neck and gripping her hips uncomfortably tight, Irene reluctantly admits to herself that he was right.
Neither of them sleep that night, they don't have time. They can't leave each other alone. They long for the feel of hot skin against their own, lips brushing over sensitive skin and heavy breaths fogging the air.
They stop at dawn. His back is bloody and a rash is blooming over her neck.
She has to wait a long time for her meeting with the Professor. Moran takes much longer than usual; usually he and the Professor have a quick talk about how well the job went and he's on his way. But today, they're talking for the best part of an hour. Irene taps her foot on the marble floor of the hotel, impatient and restless.
She just about to give up when the door opens and Moran's tall frame steps out into the corridor.
"He doesn't need to talk to you. I've told him everything."
Everything? She wants to ask.
"Sunday." He says suddenly.
"What about it?"
"We're getting married. Eleven o'clock. St Barnabus church."
And he's gone before she can say a word.
Irene has never been nervous before any of her weddings; she was always a picture of joy and serenity. But now...now, her hands are shaking and her legs no longer feel stable.
The sound of an organ striking up, the creek of church doors and the fluid motion of her dress trailing behind her all distract her momentarily. She can't see him yet; the church's interior doesn't allow it. But he's up there by the altar and pretending he's civilised, ordinary, loving.
And she's not even wearing white.
"Don't bother, Adler. Let's not fool ourselves, eh?"
So Irene's wearing red. It suits her, shows she's been married before and doesn't care what anyone thinks. Moran doesn't care if she's been married before, he doesn't care if she's bedded men before him. In fact, Irene knows, he doesn't really care about her at all.
She knows why he's doing this. The Professor's told him to do it. She can see right through this plan. The Professor wants Moran to marry her to separate her and Sherlock. She can tell that he's been worried about her increasing closeness with the detective and he's eager to part them. Permanently. Painfully.
Marriage is the only way. Marriage to a man Sherlock Holmes will try to bring down, to kill even.
Irene knows this could be it. This could be the end for her and Sherlock if she goes through with this. Maybe he couldn't forgive her for this.
But she can't stop herself walking up the aisle. There's something inside her that wants to be married again, to be part of a dangerous husband and wife team. Together they could be so strong, so powerful...
And now she can see him across the room.
He never sits in on their meetings. The Professor doesn't like anyone else to hear their business.
"You have succumbed to your feelings for him."
There's something very uncomfortable about your employer talking about your feelings for his rival in front of your husband. She drinks and she swallows before she realised her error. Poison, naturally. She should have known when she saw his face, when she realised Moran was here, watching.
She wonders if he knows. Does he realise his beloved boss has just killed his wife? But then his wife is less beloved to him. Irene can't even curse her mistake. And then she thinks of Sherlock. He'll be sat alone in the Royale tonight, wondering where she is, thinking she's found something more exciting to do.
"I no longer require your services."
She knows it's too late but a part of her still believes if she can get away, if she can find Sherlock –
She's falling, breathless. And Sebastian doesn't catch her.
So what did you think? Please leave a review...I love them!