Exothermic

He threw himself into his chair, sprawling across it instead of pacing. He had considered a drink even, a mild depressant to calm his body's fizzing excitement at seeing Irene Adler again, in his flat in Baker Street. He could feel every inch of his skin, warm and expectant. No matter how many times he told himself that this was not sentiment, his body disagreed. In further evidence, he felt his heart leap into his throat at the gentle knock on the door.

"Come in."

Irene Adler, hair elaborately curled and pulled up with dozens of pins, lips blood red, skin ivory pale, swept into the flat in a coat strikingly similar to his own.

"I didn't know you knew how to use the door," he observed dryly. "Good show, Ms. Adler."

"Sherlock, are we stepping back into formality? Come now, we've seen one another naked as well as dead."

"Manners are a sign of class."

"Well thank goodness it's just us here."

He bristled, relaxed.

"Indeed. Drink?"

"I'm not fetching you one."

"I was offering."

"You weren't."

"Believe what you like."

"I wasn't aware I needed permission."

"You wouldn't ask even if you did."

She shrugged out of the coat and draped it over the back of the sofa.

"Cold feet already?"

"My feet are of adequate temperature."

"You're being deliberately obtuse."

"You're being deliberately argumentative."

"You missed it."

"Hardly."

She slipped out of her heels one at a time, kicked them under the couch. He noted her toenails were freshly painted in red, the same red as her lips and her long, shining fingernails. Her feet were slender, pale, and there were callouses on the bottoms of her feet where they had once been smooth.

"You've been busy."

"I intend to continue being so."

"Climbing walls barefoot, I see. Old brownstones. Oh Ms. Adler, don't tell me you're back to petty burglary."

"Sherlock darling, what I do is never petty."

He snorted and stood, dressing gown sweeping after him as he sauntered into the kitchen.

"Getting me a drink as well?"

"Depends."

"I don't want ice."

"You never do."

"I take my scotch—"

"I know how you take your scotch, Irene."

He couldn't see her lips curl into a smile of satisfaction at the use of her given name, but he knew they did. He knew they did in the same way that he had known to ensure that there was distilled water in the flat somewhere, that Irene liked a few drops in the stronger malt, 'like dew on a rose' as the bartenders said. He knew in the same way that she knew painting her toenails the same shade of her lips and fingernails would evoke his memory back to their first meeting, him disguised as a bleeding vicar and she as something else entirely.

He cradled two tumblers of scotch upon his return, his in a chilled glass, hers room temperature.

"Sherlock Holmes, drinking? My, this must be a special occasion."

She was sprawled across his chair where he had formerly been, long legs dangling over one arm as she held out a hand to accept the glass. As he leaned over to pass it to her, his nose caught a whiff of her perfume, the tantalizing scent of Irene Adler. She raised the glass to her lips and he watched a thin stream of amber liquid slide between them. He watched her jaw move and imagined the scotch sliding over her tongue, as she tasted it.

God, he had missed her.

"Are you going to sit or are you going to force me to drink alone?"

"A gentleman never forces a lady to drink alone," he murmured with a trace of irony, and sank onto the couch.

"What a picture we make."

"Indeed. Both hardly dressed."

A twitch of the lip that passed as a smirk, another sip of scotch, and her lipstick not even smeared. She was incredible. Beautiful. The Woman. Since he had returned to Baker Street, he hadn't felt this alive. Cases still consumed him, puzzles he was constantly solving, but it was tea without milk, Pimm's and lemonade with cucumber and fruit, but no mint sprigs. She was the dash of flavor that changed life from mildly interesting to endlessly fascinating. She was brilliance itself.

Raising his glass slightly towards her, he tipped his head and took a sip, sinking onto the sofa without even pretending at grace. Her carelessness had lines that hinted at a thousand little promises, half of them tempting and the other half dangerous. She was a great cat, sensuously deadly even when appearing relaxed. He made no such attempts; whatever else he was—robotic, clinical, brilliant, endlessly chasing clues—he was Sherlock Holmes and she was Irene Adler and they had been playing this game for far too long.

They sipped in silence, neither willing to break it until both glasses were empty. To Sherlock it seemed that they both sipped a little slower towards the end, neither willing to be the first to finish, to begin what they had come for. He surprised himself in tossing his head back, draining the last of his scotch, setting the glass on the table with a solid clack. A flicker of approval in her eyes before she masked it made him smile.

"Trying to impress me, Mr. Holmes?"

"I thought I was Sherlock now."

"Consistency bores you."

"Avoidance does as well."

"Who's avoiding anything?" A toss, mimicking his, draining her glass. A clack of glass on wood, again mirroring his actions. "This is just foreplay."

"For what are we playing?" His eyes were darker than usual and she had very little doubt that he at least thought he knew what he was getting himself into.

"Oh Mr. Holmes," she purred, "Simply everything."

Languorously she stood and made her way to the couch, where she straddled his knees, smiling all the while.

"No more scotch, I take it?"

She chuckled and he felt the sound all through him, warm and dangerous.

"I was thinking that another activity might be more beneficial."

"As was I, but I doubt you play the violin as well as I do."

"Sorry to disappoint."

"You rarely do, so I can excuse it."

"Perhaps I can help anyhow."

"With the violin? I doubt it."

Standing, she offered her hand to him, which he took.

"Let me show you what I mean."

They were heading towards his bedroom and he didn't mind a bit. He didn't mind as she instructed him to take off his shoes and sit on the bed, nor when she slid on after him, laying with her head in his lap.

"Show me how to play."

"I haven't a bow."

"Do you need one?"

"Hmm," he mumbled, thoughtful, tracing a finger across the line of her brow. Gently, he pulled a pin from her hair, then another, then another, until her hair was spilled across his lap and a pile of pins sat on his nightstand. Picking one up between two fingers, he delicately drew it across her belly, taking her wrist in one hand.

"You know you're not facing the right direction for this."

"I can move."

"Considering the fact that you are much larger than my violin, I doubt it would help."

She chuckled and he tapped her stomach lightly with the hairpin.

"Don't do that. You'll ruin the tone."

Biting back a smile, Irene nodded and let him trace the pin across her belly again as his fingers gently pressed and moved up and down her wrist. She wondered if he was monitoring her pulse between the movements of his fingertips up and down, wondered if he knew that the barest hint of touch he ran back and forth over her cloth-covered skin was becoming increasingly arousing. She could hear his heartbeat from his thigh nestled under her head. It was quickening as well, wasn't it? No matter. Two could play at this game.

"I don't play violin...show me how?"

He moved underneath her and she sat up, but put a hand on his elbow before he could leave the bed to get the violin case. Taking the pin from between his fingers, she held it as he had, traced it across his waistline as his eyes flashed with understanding. It was only moments later, as his hands guided hers, one with the makeshift bow, the other pressing fingertips against nonexistent strings, that she slid her hips back slightly and moved a little, pulling her spine straighter so the whole of her back pressed against the whole of his chest.

"This isn't the best guide," Sherlock told her, voice low and perhaps, slightly out of breath?

"Mmm. Perhaps we should give up then."

"Well what alternatives would you suggest?"

She turned around, tracing the hairpin up his arm, across the shoulder, down the center of his chest, and then dropped the pin into his pocket.

"I was going to let you use your imagination."

His fingertips skimmed lightly up her sides, one stopping at her hip the other at her jaw.

"Some say I don't have one."

She leaned in and whispered against his lips, the touch so gentle he wasn't entirely sure there was contact.

"Would you like to prove them wrong?"

His hand curled around her hip more firmly, on his other hand, fingertips traced her jawline to her neck and drifted down to cradle her wrist, count her pulse beats one at a time. Her pulse was elevated. He knew his was too, he could feel the sharp scientific objectivity slipping away and shockingly, he didn't care.

"You do this to me on purpose, Irene." Her name was growled like a curse and underneath it she heard the desire.

"If you dislike it so much, maybe you should stop me, Sherlock."

"Perhaps I will."

"I doubt it."

And then his lips were on hers and the sparks between the two of them crackled into hot electricity. Her mouth was soft, yet firm and she tasted of lipstick and scotch and something faintly sweet, cherry perhaps.

"You've been smoking again," she muttered when their lips parted for the first time.

"Only the one."

"Two. I can taste them on you."

Their mouths rejoined and her hands were tracing the lines of muscle along his chest, up his arms, along his neck. Her fingers were in her hair as his played melodies on her spine. She felt them hesitate, finding the zip at the back of her dress, pausing for permission or nerve. Smiling, she drew her lower lip between her teeth and bit, quick and sharp, feeling him gasp into her mouth, the hand on the zipper sliding it open down her back.

"Any deductions?"

"You're going to like this."

"Oh?"

His mouth lowered to her throat and he trailed kisses down along it, occasionally nipping the skin between his teeth. Shivering, she smiled. He was a quick learner, Sherlock Holmes.

Pulling him back in for a kiss, she returned the favor, sucking on a patch of skin on his shoulder until he shuddered as her teeth drew across it. As he inhaled sharply, she took the moment to slide the dressing gown from his shoulders and undo the top two buttons of his shirt. Following her lead, though a little hesitantly, he slid the dress off her shoulders, swallowing as her nails bit into his chest briefly before undoing another button.

"Is this how it usually goes?"

Kissing him again, Irene worked her tongue into his mouth and was surprised when his responded with ease, exploring her mouth as well.

"There's usually less talking."

"Is that a complaint?" He was lowering his head back to her throat and sucking gently, mimicking her.

"No, merely an observation." 'Observation' was a little shaky, though, as he drew the delicate skin of her neck between his teeth and skimmed the edges over it, feeling her pulse quicken.

His shirt was off and he didn't know how it had happened but he was drawing her dress down over her hips and he could feel the blood racing in his head, thrumming in his veins, making everything sharp and intense. This was better than cocaine.

Her hands traced patterns on his chest and in a stoke of boldness, unhooked her bra and closed his mouth around her breast, sliding his tongue back and forth under the nipple, over it, dragged it between his teeth, drawing a gasp from her throat. Emboldened, he repeated the motion and cupped her other breast in his hand, circling the nipple with his thumb, feeling the skin tighten as it hardened. He brushed over the tip lightly and she gasped again, drawing nails up his back in ten lines of sharp pleasure.

Everything was warmer now and he let her breast fall from his mouth as he kissed between them and down across her belly, down to the edge of her knickers. His eyes flicked up to hers, aroused and asking for permission. Her hand undoing his belt gave him his answer and he paused to kick the trousers off and lean forward onto his knees before kissing the edges of the fabric, half his mouth on skin and the other on cloth as he followed the edge all the way around to between her legs where he pressed a kiss slightly harder against the center before crossing to the other edge, focusing to remember where made her gasp, twitch, shudder. Fingers at the edges of her knickers, he was ready to pull them off when he felt her nails drawing lines up his chest and when he looked up at her, she took the moment to straddle him, cupping the bulge between his legs and running the flat edge of her thumb up along the cloth-covered organ beneath.

His moan was low and involuntary, and when his eyes reopened, they met hers, dark and eager. She stroked him again, slow and light and he felt his muscles straining to press against the touch.

"Woman," he gasped.

Again she chuckled and this time it's against his mouth. He can feel her breasts against his chest, her hands on his groin, the heat running up and down his spine and when he inhaled again, he could feel the desire in all of it. Fingers certain this time, he pulled at her kickers, drawing them down as she did the same to his pants. And they are naked there, throbbing with desire and ready.

She hovered over him for a moment before dragging her hips over his once, twice, three times. It feels—it feels—God it feels like nothing ever has before and he wants it. He wants it and he doesn't care if it's base and physical and messy, he wants it more than he wants anything else in that moment.

"Irene," he moaned, almost prayerful. She could make him beg right now if she wanted to and he would beg, happily, if it meant this continued.

"Sherlock?" She whispered, sounding both aroused and amused.

He does not want to let the 'please' lingering in his throat to pass his lips, so he draws his hips up, reaches down between her legs to stroke the wetness there. She shuddered, moaned into his shoulder, something that sounds like 'yes' but he can't be sure so he repeats the motion and listens again. The moan isn't clear, muffled into his skin, but the heat filling him makes the detail less important as he feels her hand close around his erection and guide it upwards as she lowers herself onto him.

"Oh God," it's his voice that says it but he can hardly hear it, the roaring in his ears is so loud.

"Oh God, Irene."

In the moment, all he could feel was her all around him, warm and wet and overwhelming. And then she shifted her hips, drawing friction up his length so he gasped again.

When she paused for a moment, his hips moved up to meet hers, thrusting eagerly up as heat traveled up his spine, all through him. How could he have ever scorned this? After a few moments, they are moving in rhythm and he wants to be saying 'yes, yes, yes, yes' but every sense is being assaulted by pleasure, his eyes are closed and he throws himself into the steady rhythm, never wanting it to end.

She moves again, twisting her hips and he gasps her name, reaching down between them, reaching to make her feel how he does. There, right above where their bodies meet, he traces a tiny circle and feels her clench and shudder, moan with pleasure as her nails draw lines on his back, move down to his waist to grip his hipbones so hard he thinks he may have bruises later. He didn't care. This is everything in the world right now and it feels so good, so much better than he imagined.

Faster now, he drew the little circles around her clitoris again, brushing it ever so gently with the pad of his thumb. She shudders again and as she tightens around him, he feels a building heat and pressure inside him, the promise of more pleasure if he can only attain it. His thrusts grow sloppier and harder and though one hand still rubs at her clitoris, the other holds her hip tightly. They will both be bruised when this is all over and he doesn't care, doesn't care about anything except the building heat and how good she feels all around him and oh God Irene Irene Irene, his lips are moving, silently forming her name over and over again.

She can feel him shuddering, coming undone beneath her and she looks down at him, eyes fluttering open and closed, gasping for air, every muscle in his body straining toward her. He is beautiful there, and the shaking intensifies. Only a moment more.

He can't—he can't—he can't—oh God.

His mind is full of her and both hands clamp on her hips as he thrusts up into her with as much force as he can muster, again, again, again, again and then his hands clench and unclench sporadically as his body spasms, mouth open, eyes heavy-lidded and her name spilling out from his lips, ecstatic and worshipful.

As he collapsed onto the bed, his hand drifts back to her. He is only half-there but he uses that remaining will to stroke, stroke, stroke her until there it is for her too. He rubs back and forth until she stops shaking and collapses atop him, breathing heavily.

They lay quiet for a moment and she rolls off of him, landing at his side where she lays her head on his shoulder, looking up into his face.

"Quick learner, are you?"

His laugh rumbles through every bone in her body.

"So I've been told."

The warmth, the endorphins, a million chemicals rushing in his bloodstream, the exhaustion all drag him down into slumber, deep and uninterrupted, and when he awakes the next morning she is nowhere to be found.

Scraping up his dignity, he coverd the event in his memory, burying it in the back, for he dared not delete it. She does not text him. He returns the favor.

John and Mary return and he has officially asked her to marry him this time. She has said yes; there is a ring on her finger and they are smiling, oblivious that their friend has lost some of his shell in letting Irene Adler in. He forced a smile ad congratulated them and John later thanked him for the effort.

As time passed with no word from her, his armor hardened, and brushing aside what he had done in a moment of weakness, he began to convince himself that he has no need for Irene Adler.

Which is why her showing up on his bed in surprisingly casual denim trousers and a jumper came as such a surprise. After shoving back the sentiment that welled up in his mind, he eyed her coolly.

"Ms. Adler. To what do I owe the visit?"

Some thing was different and he struggled to work out what it was. Something utterly obvious that he hadn't yet noticed was staring him in the face, he was sure of it.

"I thought I'd give you a moment to deduce."

His mind buzzed, processed, took in data and after a long moment, his eyes widened, uncertain. In response, she nodded, and as he sat heavily on the bed, careful to put distance between them, she began a conversation that would change both of their lives.