A/N: Hey everyone! So this is a sequel to my previous Sherlock/Irene one shots 'The Untamed Sea' and 'The Cheese and the Letter'. If you haven't read those, I suggest you do! Though to be honest, you could read this one fine and still understand what's going on (so long as you know it's set post-GoS.)

The Woman's Return

Watson had always held the belief that he liked Irene Adler.

Though, when he thought about it, he wasn't really sure; he never had much chance to talk to her when she visited London (Sherlock was always around her, protective and possessive even if he didn't know it) but he had always assumed that he liked her well enough.

If not for her personality, then for the sheer fact that she had fooled Holmes. Twice. Surely that deserved some of his admiration.

So he was pleasantly surprised when he returned home to Mary on a lovely spring's eve to find The Woman herself sat in his living room. She smiled at him, sipped the tea Mary had given her and the two women watched Watson cross the room and open the drinks cabinet. If there was a time when he needed a drink, it was now. He poured a large measure of brandy and took a great glug before saying,

"It's about bloody time."

The next day...

Sherlock Holmes did not enjoy day-to-day chores. He found them laborious; a complete waste of his time. After all, why would he waste his genius on something as mundane as cooking or cleaning? It was preposterous. Of course he wouldn't.

"I have no desire to go...shopping." Sherlock snapped, fiddling with his violin. "Why would I take up all my day doing something so dull."

"It shan't be dull." Mary said with a roll of eyes as she attempted to tidy Sherlock's living room. "We shall browse whichever shops you like and then we shall take dinner."

Sherlock grumbled under his breath and set his violin down on the table next to him with a clatter. He glared at Watson who was sat opposite him, amused by his friend's attention seeking charade about not wanting to go out. He admired his wife's persistence as she continued,

"Sherlock, it does not do you good to be cramped up in here all this time." She paused. "Anyway, Mrs. Hudson needs you to be absent for the afternoon."

Right on cue, Mrs. Hudson came bustling through the door. "Oh! Dr. Watson, Mrs. Watson! It is so wonderful to see you." Sherlock stood up quickly and began circling her, lighting his pipe and inhaling deeply.

"You require me to be absent, do you Nanny? For what purpose?" He puffed out the smoke. "To fiddle with my work? To poison my drinks? What? Tell me, I say!"

Watson rolled his eyes. "Do not be so absurd, old boy! Besides, you do not need Mrs. Hudson to poison you; you do that perfectly well yourself."

Sherlock grumbled and sat back down in his seat but was still glaring at Mrs. Hudson with suspicion.

"Oh come, come Holmes! It shall be fun!" Sherlock still ignored them. Watson sighed; he knew what he had to say. "We can visit Lestrade. And you can push him for a new case as well as ribbing him about his lacklustre detective skills."

"Can we?" Sherlock perked up. "Well...I suppose I could be convinced to step outside for an afternoon. After all, if we can visit four shops before lunch – working the stalls on the way, of course – then enjoy a fine lunch, a boozy lunch no less, in the Royale before enjoying a little time at Scotland Yard where I shall probe Lestrade for any juicy cases he is yet to inform me of...then maybe we shall have a little time left to...browse the mortuary...?"

Both Watsons made a face but even Mary knew she had to concede. Otherwise, they may never get Sherlock out of his rooms. "Very well." She agreed through gritted teeth.

Sherlock beamed. "Wonderful!" He seized his coat and led the way out of his rooms and down the stairs, glaring at Mrs. Hudson as he went by.

Watson shook his head and followed, calling, "Honestly, Holmes! You are the only person I know who can browse a mortuary!"

Mary groaned inwardly. It was going to be a long, painful afternoon. She just hoped it was worth it.

"Well...I must say! I am deeply offended at your display!" Sherlock eyed both Mary and Watson as they walked up the steps to 221B four hours later. "Both of you!"

Mary laughed incredulously and Watson rolled his eyes. "You cannot be serious, Holmes! It was not our 'display' that troubled the doctor! It was you! You cannot simply ask people for a corpse!"

"Why not?" Sherlock was genuinely baffled. "I could do with one for research purposes. There are a few ointments I would like to study on human skin."

"Holmes, you are not a doctor." Watsone reminded him patiently. "You are not allowed to perform such tests...especially on stolen corpses!"

Sherlock rounded on them both and hissed, "Well if you had both co-operated, then I would not have been caught wheeling it out, would I?"

Mary just laughed again and took Sherlock's arm. "Come on. Let's get inside and have a nice pot of tea. I am perishing out here."

"Are you quite sure I am allowed inside?" Sherlock asked, raising his eyes to the sky dramatically. "As I recall, I was told that my presence was not desired here earlier. In my own home, no less!"

"Oh, I am sure that is all done by now!" Mary said, smiling and making to go inside.

"Mary?" Watson called from behind her. "It is five o'clock! Did we...have a dinner party to go to?"

"Oh! Why yes!" Mary responded in an equally false tone. "You are quite right! We do have a dinner to attend! So I am afraid, this is where we leave you Sherlock." Mary was smiling – beaming even – and she hugged him. Sherlock tensed, uncomfortable with this sudden contact. Mary pulled away, still smiling. "I am sure you shall have a pleasant evening...alone."

"Yes. Quite right." Watson was also grinning. Sherlock was unnerved and watched them with a suspicious eye as they left quickly, whispering to each other and laughing. He turned to the front door slowly and opened it carefully, peering inside suspiciously.

He dreaded to think what Mrs. Hudson had been up to that afternoon. He sincerely hoped that she had not been 'tidying up' his rooms again; did she not realise that the soil on the floor was there intentionally? As Sherlock prowled up the stairs, he noticed new fingerprints on the banister – ones he did not recognise – and new footprints in the carpet. He followed them with interest and saw that they led up the stairs and into his rooms.

He stood in his living room, peering around for any further signs of an intruder. He was about to give up, call Mrs. Hudson and confront her directly when he heard the sound of moving water. He wheeled around and traced the sound all the way to the other end of the room when the doors to Watson's old rooms were closed. He heard the noise again and he pulled open the doors quickly, his body tense and ready to pounce on anything that jumped out at him. Instead, all he saw was a large tin bath in the middle of Watson's old room. And it wasn't empty.

"Hello, Sherlock."

Sherlock took a moment to find his voice and even when he did find it, it was shaky and uncertain. "Irene."

She smirked, shifting beneath the water and bubbles and checking her hair was still pinned on the top of her head. "I hope you didn't mind your little jaunt out this afternoon. Dr. Watson and his wife understood that I needed to move in without you there to get in the way."

"Ah." Sherlock said, finding his feet again and trying to ensure the intense feeling of joy bubbling in his stomach didn't show on his face. "I should have known the Watsons were involved in this little scheme. How did you convince them?"

Irene laughed lightly and Sherlock couldn't stop a smile breaking out over his face. "Oh, they didn't need much convincing. It appears that they are glad to do anything that will drive you crazy."

"I imagine so." Sherlock said, stepping closer to her. He knelt down on the floor next to the bath tub and rested his chin on the edge. Suddenly, she became more serious and he felt her fingers brush against his cheek.

"I missed you, Sherlock." She almost whispers. Her eyes burn into his and he feels like the floor has just vanished and he's falling, lost and excited, scared and joyous.

But then she grins again and leans in close to him. "So...how did I do it? How did I die and live to tell the tale?"

Sherlock takes in a deep breath. "Well..."

She's back! Yay!

What did you all think? Also, if you're looking for more Irene Adler goodness, check out my other two one shots 'Irresolution' and 'The Last Husband of Irene Adler' (in which I test out an Irene/Moran relationship!)

Oh, and please leave a review! Thanks so much! :)