Author's Note:

I'm baaaaack! And this time with something completely new for this story! Thank spring vacation and, actually, creative inspiration from Tumblr! Also, thank MadameGiry25: a comment from her inspired the framework for this scene!

To my reviewers:

Aragonite: Breathless, ooo! Thank you very much!

Natali: Thank you so much! (And don't worry: your English is just fine!)

SheWhoScrawls: Ah, squeeee, thank you! Eep, I love the France line, too. And… wow, a role model? Seriously? *blushes* What an honor! Thank you very much!

Ennui Enigma: Wow, thank you! Eeeee, so glad people like the France line~! Just… thanks for everything!

MadameGiry25: Sweetheart, I totally understand! Besides which, as I've said a million times: I am a terrible reviewer. So I can't even complain. ;D As far as the tone of the prologue is concerned, the original piece itself (from AMM) does predate Mortality by a few months… and then the rewrite for this book came over a year after Mortality was started—perhaps that may have something to do with it…? I understand what you're saying, and I can't put my finger on it, either! =) Anyhoo… squeeee, perfect Holmes voice and seamless flow! *bounces* I had fun with the scene, definitely. And I've read the latest part of The Sickening Sport! I'm so sorry I haven't reviewed sooner! =( Ah, the walking stick line! From the very beginning of Mortality, I had it in my head that Holmes would, one way or another, have difficulty walking. I like it as the opening line for this chapter because it's so unassuming, except that… Sherlock Holmes is supporting his weight on his walking stick, you know? Anyway, thank you! Hopkins is fun. I think you could almost look at him and say "Oh, wee lamb," like Merida in Brave. =) And, yes, dodging dialogue—I've found that I love subtext-rich dialogue. It's so powerful! *giggles at the Jeremy Brett bit* But, oh boy, let me tell ya: Holmes vs. Patterson is no easy thing! Not at all… I think that, right from the outset, Holmes distrusts Patterson actually because he's so cold, which puts Holmes in mind of Moriarty. Patterson, on the other hand, is quite willing to work with Holmes but wants to be in charge of the situation, Holmes included. I think that's going to be the set-up for their interactions throughout the book. Ah, France. I still need to figure out France, myself. *sigh* As for the Mona Lisa… *whistles innocently* Anyway… asdfjkl; thank you so much for everything! *big hug*

Azolean: Squeeee, thank you! Patterson/Holmes comparisons/interactions will never cease to be fun. Argh, you know what? GET AFTER ME TO READ YOUR FICS, OKAY? I mean it! Bug me! I ought to be reading SH fic right now and I haven't been because I forget & etc. Having a reminder would be helpful, for sure! If your NaNo novel is still torturing you, I'd say you're the real lucky one, hon. ;) Means that your brain is on the right wavelength and all!

© 2013 by Aleine Skyfire.

All rights reserved.

==II. The Louvre==

The Mona Lisa smiled at him.

James Moriarty tended to view works of art with clinical detachment—they were objects of value, items with which he had done business many times on the shadow market. Yet even his scientific mind could not deny the singular majesty of da Vinci's masterpiece. Indeed, he indulged himself in the sentiment that her mysterious smile surreptitiously mocked the fickle world that held her in such high esteem.

Beside him, Moran cast an avaricious eye over the painting. "One could get the ransom of an emperor out of this one," the Colonel mused. Not loudly at all: they were in the Louvre, after all.

Moriarty could only shake his head: Moran was as good a leader as one could wish to find and a more-than-adequate lieutenant, but the man wanted something in terms of visionary thinking. Simply, any at all. Moran lived in and solely for the present, despite Moriarty's best efforts to expand his mind to consider past and future, as well. The man refused to do so. Moriarty knew it to be the Colonel's way of dealing with his past and the small spark of conscience he possessed yet.

That philosophy, more than anything other dissimilarity, would always divide them in their thinking.

"Indeed," said the professor, "one could acquire the ransom of several emperors and not attain her full worth. The lady with the mysterious smile is entirely one of a kind and therefore literally priceless. One could obtain the Mona Lisa, copy her, pass off the forgeries as the original on the market, and do so for decades without attaining her full worth."

Moran pursed his lips in a silent whistle. "But all the living that could be got out of her in the meantime…"

Ah, Moran. "If you truly wish the lady taken into our custody, my dear Colonel… I may, in time, be persuaded to consider it."

The hunter eyed him. "I think it worth at least consideration, sir. I do realise that other things—as well as people—take priority."

Moriarty smiled thinly at the oblique reference to Sherlock Holmes. "Quite so." Holmes took the very highest priority. And speak of the devil…

The Great Detective himself stood not far off, intently studying the painting before him. Moriarty's lips twitched: the odds were quite against such a chance encounter. Despite his best efforts, the leak in his organisation clearly remained unplugged.

He touched Moran's arm lightly. "My dear Colonel," he murmured, "I do believe a work ahead clamours for our attention."

Moran frowned, turned, and stiffened, then slowly turned back to Moriarty. "I thought that he was in the southern regions," the Colonel hissed in a whisper.

"No longer, clearly."

Holmes chose that moment to turn, and when he did, his gaze met Moriarty's. The detective's large grey eyes widened momentarily, and Moriarty thought he beheld a glimmer of defiance in them. Moriarty gazed back steadily: evidently, the boy refused to see that he was hopelessly outmatched. This contest lay not merely between two individuals…

Holmes tilted his head to one side, and his eyes hardened. Outmatched he may be, but certainly he remained a formidable opponent. He turned, then, and strode off, only just depending upon his walking stick.

The tension radiating from Moran was palpable. "How much longer shall you allow him to carry on?"

Moriarty watched as the detective disappeared amongst the other visitors. "As long as I must," he said calmly, "and, indeed, not much longer, my dear Moran, I assure you. My first attempt to deal with the Great Detective went awry—I fully intend to succeed this time."

Author's Note:

Y'see what I did there? *bounces* You see what I did there? …I had fun with that. I also wrote this scene down in my DUE notebook, which was awesomely fun. Writing things down rather than typing them out really is as good for you as they say!

Anyway, even if I couldn't use Granada's Mona Lisa plot… thanks to 'Giry's comment, I had to reference it, at least! It provided an excellent framework for the scene, and, even better, served to illustrate the differences between Moriarty and Moran quite nicely. (I intend to go back later and write something that will explain why they are in France—as for being in the Louvre itself… they're gentlemen. That's what gentlemen do. *grins*)

As for what Holmes is doing in France… I'm still sorting that out. Got research to do… yuck. (I don't mind research: I do mind when I can't find what I'm looking for!) In the meantime, the next installment may well be about the Watsons. I want more Mary. :) No guarantees when, though I'll do my best to work hard.

Stay tuned, and please review!