Coffee with the Dead

That morning, Henry Knight had come to hire Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to come and help him with his problem out in Dartmoor. After mentioning the prints of a massive hound, Holmes had agreed to take the case. Henry would take the first train back and Sherlock and John would meet him there.

As the two men head out to meet the cab, they heard Mrs. Hudson having a row with Mr. Chatterjee in the sandwich shop next door. They smiled at each other, for once knowing exactly what the other was thinking. John climbed in the cab and Sherlock sat down across from him, his mobile receiving a text as he sat down. Looking at the screen, Holmes quickly got out of the cab.

"You go ahead, John. I'll meet you at the station," Holmes instructed.

"Wait, what? Where are you off to?" John inquired.

"Something's come up," Sherlock answered, turning on his heel and swiftly walked off in the opposite direction.

Observations whizzed through Sherlock's mind as he walked down the street. A freshly pressed suit on a man with freshly cut hair, headed to a job interview then. Another man with a smooth face and a deep cut on his neck, a straight razor judging by the angle of the cut. A girl hurriedly walking down the street, eyes and nose both red and runny, a boy running to catch her. A bad breakup in progress. And then, she was there.

Casually sitting outside a coffee shop was a dead woman. Well, dead to the rest of the world. But to Sherlock, she was very much alive.

Irene Adler wasn't wearing her usual fancy attire as she sat having a cup of coffee. She was wearing very little makeup, jeans, a tight black shirt and a jacket the color of the liquid in her cup. She looked up at him, amusement playing behind her blue eyes.

"You never did like responding to my messages," she smiled, sipping her coffee.

"I prefer seeing people in person whenever possible," Holmes replied, sitting down in the wicker chair provided him, the wicker creaking slightly as it took his weight.

Silence hung between the two masters of their respective crafts as Sherlock tried to discern things through her wardrobe and mannerisms and Irene continued drinking her coffee. To his slight aggravation, he was unable to glean much from her aside from the fact that her wardrobe implied traveling while staying comfortable and for blending in with the crowd.

"So, do you have a new case yet? I saw you in the tube earlier with that, quite literally, bloody harpoon. I assumed you'd have a rather dull day after something like that," Irene said, flirtation coating her words.

"As a matter of fact, I do," he responded quickly. A little too quickly for someone to be comfortable with their current situation, Irene noticed.

"Ooh, is it something interesting?" she pried.

"It certainly has…potential," Holmes noted, taking time to choose his next words.

"You do know that it's rather dangerous for you to…" he began.

"To be anywhere near you where Moriarty, or anyone else, could see me? Yes, I know that," Miss Adler finished for him, anticipating his words but having considerably more trouble anticipating his thoughts.

"And yet you stay…" the great Sherlock Holmes pondered. Yet ponder as he might, he found it difficult to comprehend why a person would risk their life just to be around another person. Though as he sat there across from Irene, he thought he felt a flicker of attachment deep inside him. Something he hadn't felt since he and John had become friends, although this was a very different kind of attachment. Could this be what it felt like to love someone?

A happy sadness crept into Irene's eyes, changing them from their warm, playful blue to a cool blue-grey that knew all too well of life's hardships and cruelties as she saw emotions in his face that even he couldn't understand.

"Oh, my dear Sherlock Holmes. You really aren't as heartless as everyone thinks you are. Or as emotionless as you think you are," Irene said quietly, taking hold of his hand on the table. His body tensed ever so slightly at her velvety touch. Irene smiled and a lone tear escaped her eye, rolling gently down her cheek.

"Oh, I apologize," she said, reaching for a napkin to clean her face of the intrusive tear.

"There's no need," Sherlock said quietly. Before she could reach the cloth, he had taken it in his hand and was using the corner to restore the delicate balance of her face.

Irene was astounded by this simple gesture from Holmes. Was it possible that the machine that saw nearly every person on the planet as inferior was also capable of emotions? Unfortunately, that was a question she would need to think on elsewhere.

"You're probably right though, I really should disappear for a while just to be safe," she managed to get out, more tears threatening to break free of her locked heart.

"Yes, that's…that's probably for the best," Sherlock muttered, looking down at her empty cup.

For a moment, Irene could have sworn she saw more emotions flickering behind those steeled eyes of his, sincere sadness among them. Those eyes that saw the world in a way so complex that most people couldn't even comprehend.

"Well then…goodbye Mr. Holmes," she said, her voice breaking slightly. Irene stood up out of her chair and walked around the table, stopping beside him. She bent down to kiss his cheek, but as she did Sherlock turned to say something to her. That simple movement changed everything.

Their lips touched, sending a shock coursing through every fiber of Irene's body. As her eyes opened in shock, she was astounded to see that Sherlock's were closed. He was solely focused on the kiss, blocking out the rest of the world. Elated, Irene smiled and was the first to pull away, though it tortured her to do so.

"For now," he finished; looking into her eyes and watching happiness fill them once more.

"Yes, of course," Irene smiled, touched him on the shoulder as she passed, and walked away.

After a moment, Sherlock stood up, straightened his coat and walked to the street, his lips still tingling as the touch of Irene's lips lingered. Hailing a taxi, he glanced around, looked for any sign of where Miss Adler had gone and wasn't surprised when he didn't find any.

"Where to then?" the cabbie inquired.

"Paddington Station," Holmes replied, settling into the seat as his mind went to work with a task it had never experienced before. Understanding feelings of love.