Author: Sara (paintedponyxox@flowrs4ophelia)
Characters & Pairings: Watson/Irene/Holmes (gen-ish w/ OT3 undertones)
Summary: Even if the woman clearly has no shame, he still finds it a little uncomfortable himself whenever they encounter each other with these perpetual failings in decorum.
Notes: I seriously don't know how the hell this happened, lol, but I guess something sort of stupid and fun was exactly what I needed after all the angst of writing my last fic.
A pre-movie fic written for the sherlockkink meme in response to this prompt, though it ended up being kind of lamely not-kink-meme material with something sort of resembling a plot, idk. At least the same prompt got another response that was quite porn-a-licious, haha.
(and one time it wasn't so unintentional)
Returning from an errand in the early afternoon, Watson thinks he hears someone moving quickly about inside the chamber after he comes up the stairs to the door. But when he goes inside, he is immediately exasperated to find Holmes barely dressed and still in the chair where he passed out to sleep the night before as if he hasn't moved since, lounging in the dark with all the curtains drawn closed.
"Have you forgotten that you did commit to work on a new case two days ago?" Watson asks wearily as he starts to take off his coat and gloves. "You may be far too brilliant for such lower creatures as myself to be able to follow your methods, but I'm still quite sure it's impossible for you to reach any conclusions by sleeping on it many extra hours into the day."
"Watson..." Holmes speaks up only to start to protest as he starts whipping the curtains open, spilling bright light into the room.
"And Mrs. Hudson just mentioned something to me about another client we supposedly met with yesterday? Holmes, please tell me you didn't take another case before you've barely begun the other."
"Yes, about that..." Holmes's words start to sound a little urgent. "Perhaps I'd better explain—Wats—"
His speech cuts off when Watson yanks back the next curtain, bringing out a short yell. The strong contralto voice comes from a young woman who was formerly hiding just to the side of the window behind the curtain. She has rich curls of brown hair falling loose around her shoulders and a striking face, the likeness of which Watson easily recognizes after regularly seeing it in the photograph Holmes has peculiarly cherished ever since his unforgettable first encounter with her, which is at the moment frozen in a startled but also vaguely amused expression.
She is also completely naked from head to toe.
As Irene Adler immediately grabs the curtains to cover them back around herself just from the neck down, Watson spins back around with a somewhat shell-shocked look, as if he is too taken aback and embarrassed at the same time to form an adequate reaction right away.
Irene, however, recovers from the mishap rather quickly, and Watson hears her say comfortably, "Pardon me, doctor. Allow me to get out of your way..." Then she casually moves around the room to gather her clothes as he stays rigidly still with his back to her, meanwhile facing Holmes and fixing him with an aggressively annoyed stare that does not waver the entire time she gets ready to leave. Holmes just stays where he is relaxing in the chair, nonchalantly tapping his pipe on his knee while occasionally watching Irene out of the corner of his eye, with a look in which Watson can see wariness and captivation somehow remarkably intertwined.
Before she leaves, she turns to Watson with the most shameless and relaxed smile, as if the untoward way they first acknowledged each other moments ago didn't happen at all. Extending her hand, she says, "It's lovely to finally properly meet Holmes's colleague I've heard so much about."
He takes a moment to react and grasp her hand lightly and briefly, neither shaking it or kissing it in his slight disorientation, and manages only to awkwardly say, "Pleasure."
As soon as she is out the door, Watson opens his mouth for the impending outburst but is immediately silenced by Holmes holding a hand up and hissing, "Shhh!"
They both stay still and silent a moment, Watson looking perplexed and impatient and Holmes leaning slightly toward the door as he seems to listen intently. The departing footsteps down the stairs become momentarily arrested after the first couple steps before they resume again, getting fainter as she descends down the rest of the staircase.
"Whenever she arrives or leaves, it is always the same," Holmes observes in a tone of frustrated bewilderment, seeming to talk mostly to himself. "While coming up or going down the stairs, she always stops for a moment on the sixteenth step, or sometimes the fifteenth...What does it mean?"
Making no sense of his ramblings and not caring in the least anyway, Watson finally brings up the more pressing matter. "That...That woman was Irene Adler!" he says, seemingly struggling to state the ridiculousness out loud as he gestures toward the door with an incredulous look.
"Obviously. Is there any other?"
"Or formerly Miss Adler, that is...What was she doing here? With you?"
Holmes raises his brow innocently. "She's...our other new client, of course."
"Oh, I should think not! Whatever she is, she's certainly nothing of ours, but your problem. How long do you think our landlady can remain convinced she's coming round here for business purposes? There is such a thing as a reputation that those outside of your deranged world sometimes think of."
"Yes," Holmes agrees, looking almost like he is taking the words seriously. "Which is precisely why it's quite out of the question for us to meet at her current place of residence, where we can't say we are meeting for business purposes at all."
"She...has a place of residence? In London?"
"Oh yes. She has returned here to stay indefinitely."
Watson shakes his head, overwhelmed. "Is she not somewhat recently married, Holmes? I'd think you needn't be reminded, as you were actually present at the wedding disguised as a beggar, if I do remember and have it documented correctly."
"Indeed, she is recently married. Recently divorced, too."
He lets out a heavy sigh. "And with the kind of deviousness you know her to be capable of, you really think this is a good idea? You think you can trust her?"
"Of course not," Holmes answers calmly, rising from his chair and starting to idly pace around the room. "But generally, one can trust any person below their own level of intelligence, even if it's a person with feeble and poorly executed intentions to be untrustworthy. I'm sure you can't begin to understand the pleasure someone like me finds in for once having the company of someone I know perfectly well I cannot trust."
With his last words, his eyes linger briefly on her picture where it sits a few feet away from him on the table. Watson can only shake his head again, giving up.
It is a couple days later when Watson comes home to see no sign of Holmes there, and immediately after entering hears a female voice calling.
"I believe you've made your point, darling, whatever this is about! Now can't you let me free so I can hurry and do several unspeakable things to you before your poor friend unknowingly joins us again?"
Getting a little afraid of what he might find, Watson follows the sound of the voice back to the bedroom. After stepping inside, he immediately stops at the sight before him, rolling his eyes up at the ceiling.
Miss Adler lies across the bed blindfolded and only meagerly covered in entirely black undergarments, an alluring ensemble of dark stockings and a satin corset and lacy bloomers evidently being enjoyed by no one while she is left bound there with each wrist tied to a bed post.
He comes around to one side of the bed and her head turns toward him as she hears him approach. With her dark wine-red lips curling in a sly smirk and her fingers curling in as if in frustration of not being able to touch, she lifts one leg up to reach him with the tip of her pointed foot, tracing it enticingly down the middle of his waist and then down farther...
Clearing his throat loudly, he grabs her foot before it lowers too far and sets it back down, and then leans over her to lift the blindfold from her face.
Sharpening to the sight of him standing over her, Irene's eyes go slightly large with surprise, and then she just grins and says pleasantly, "Oh. Hello, doctor. I might have guessed..."
Looking at one of her wrists where it is securely tied, he raises an eyebrow and then says, "Despite your less than decent attire which I'm persistently subjecting myself to the longer I stand here, I suppose the most gentlemanly thing to do in this situation is a bit obvious..."
Smiling more, she says, "Yes, it would be very kind of you..."
He smirks just vaguely as he starts to untie one of her hands. Once she is free, he leaves her to collect her clothes from where they are scattered in various places across the floor. When he goes back out of the room, he immediately sinks into a chair where he closes his eyes with a distressed sigh and leans over, rubbing at one of his temples as if suddenly getting a headache.
Then the door opens, admitting Mrs. Hudson with the afternoon tea. Watson springs quickly out of the chair and goes to her.
"Ah—Thank you so very much, I'll just take this if you please," he says as he grabs hold of the tray, an edge of nervousness unavoidably showing in his voice. "That'll be all, it isn't the best time, I'm afraid—"
"Hello, Mrs. Hudson," comes Irene's bright voice as she suddenly emerges from the other room, already completely dressed. Watson turns his face to look at her with some slight horror.
"Good day, Miss Adler," Mrs. Hudson responds naturally, forcing the tray back away from Watson, who is so distracted by his shock that he easily relinquishes it.
As she passes him to set the tray down in the center of the sitting area, he says airily, "You...are familiar with...?"
"Of course," Mrs. Hudson says, picking up the pot to pour the tea. "I've met your new client several times now. I'm not such an old woman that my memory is useless to me, doctor." Then she says directly to Irene with a gracious smile, "I made it especially strong, miss, the way you mentioned you prefer it."
Only then does Watson notice there are three tea cups on the tray she brought, and he is quite sure if he were only a marginally less self-possessed man he would be fainting right this moment.
"Thank you, how kind!" Irene says, with a remarkably natural air of sweetness and civilized manners not at all belonging to the kind of woman who earlier this day was willingly tied to a bed by her lover. It is jarring—and also somewhat fascinating, he has to admit—to see.
After Mrs. Hudson leaves, he and Irene look at each other for a silent moment.
"Well, let's not wait for him," she says with a slightly vexed sigh, casually sitting down and taking a cup. "I'm sure it'll only lead to us drinking cold tea."
"Do I even want to know the meaning of this?" he asks, resigning himself to the insanity and sitting down across from her. "I don't suppose you have any guess where he's gone off to."
"No idea," she answers. "Obviously he means to punish me just in case I've done something to deserve it, so I wouldn't expect him to be back for a while."
Watson makes as much sense of that as he can and then just sips at his tea in silence.
"I must say...you must be an honorable man, doctor," she then says with a small, thoughtful smile.
"Why do you say that?" he asks.
"Many others, if they found an undressed and blindfolded woman tied to an abandoned bed, would have taken advantage of the situation."
He swallows his next drink of tea rather loudly, his brow creasing for a second, but then just says with a dull tone as he looks back up at her, "Did I wound your vanity by failing to be tempted?"
"Not severely...Well, let us say either you're an honorable man or simply an honorable friend, anyway."
He cocks an eyebrow as if he finds something a little humorous about the suggestion. "Believe me, there is nothing honorable in being a friend of Sherlock Holmes," he says dryly.
"Nor in sleeping with him?"
He looks caught off guard only for an instant. "I wouldn't presume to know."
She gives a deep, throaty laugh. "But that isn't really what you think at all, is it?" she asks, leaning forward and looking at him piercingly.
Watson's expression remains stoic. "Surely it is none of my business."
"Oh, come now, Watson. No matter how much you may complain about working with and living with him, you clearly have more fondness and admiration for him than you ever say, or perhaps even can. It's fairly easy to see, you know."
His eyes start to look at her sharply, narrowing just a little. "I'm sure any misleading words of mine regarding the level of affection I have for my colleague are considerably less damaging than...empty expressions of devotion."
"And there it is," she says lightly, not at all unsettled by his implication. "You think I am in some way misleading him, don't you? You say it's none of your business, but nevertheless you don't trust me."
"Fine," he says easily, giving a shrug. "As long as you insist I admit it, I don't trust you with him."
"Lovely. Now that we have that out of the way, we can get along and have tea in peace, you see?"
"I...don't think I do."
"Holmes doesn't entirely trust me either, and he knows I know this. It makes everything much simpler that we're open about it rather than bothering with any pretense."
Watson just looks a little doubtful. Then he says, "As I said, it should be none of my business. Or at least I would like it not to be."
Irene's look is a little apologetic as she understands his meaning. "Yes, it's regrettable we have nowhere more private to go...But what is some inconvenience between friends? Don't you ever bring women here?"
He lets out a short laugh at the idea. "No. Not once."
"Why not?" she asks with a slightly teasing expression. "Afraid Holmes will steal them away if you let him near them?"
"Because there have been no women, and if there ever is one that will hopefully be my escape from here." The words are already out before he realizes, just fleetingly, that he has no idea how she has gotten him thinking this is any of her business, though he can't seem to stop talking as if he feels like he is on the defensive. "As for whether I should ever worry that he's the not-so-honorable kind of friend who would steal someone from me...Well, if it even matters, I suppose it's difficult to determine for certain because we've never exactly been drawn to the same woman...ever," he adds for good measure, seeming to find it more true the more he thinks about it.
Looking thoughtfully into her cup as she stirs it a moment, she says light-heartedly, "Hm. That's too bad."
In the middle of taking a drink, Watson chokes briefly as if he has gulped down too much and spills some tea on himself.
It is dreadfully inconvenient that Mrs. Hudson should be gullible enough, if not just willing enough, to ignore the obvious when it comes to Miss Adler's repeated visits day after day. If Watson obviously can't depend on her to be properly scandalized, he has already lost one compelling reason to demand that this headache-inducing madness involving the damn woman, as he has come to think of her, be brought to an end.
But he keeps being given entirely new reasons. Such as when he comes home very late one night, exhausted and quite ready to get to sleep after spending most of the night out to avoid a repeat of former incidents when he intruded on Holmes and his mistress, and he goes into the bedroom expecting to find Holmes already sleeping there after seeing no lights lit in the other rooms but instead he finds her asleep there.
She lies on her side over the disarrayed covers, wearing one of Holmes's shirts over not much else, her smooth and shapely legs completely visible resting slightly curled in. He is much too aware that this kind of sight is not as alarming as it should be anymore. Her uncovered figure is quickly becoming familiar even though he is not the one getting to know it in more extensive ways. He is sure for a man in these kind of circumstances with a woman he might actually be inclined to desire, that would be that man's idea of hell.
Damn it all, but it is in some ways a much more pleasant sight to unexpectedly find in place of his snoring, sometimes foul-smelling colleague with his carelessly sprawled limbs taking up more than his alloted half of the bed. She looks so harmless and gentle the way she is now, lying still in the dark with her eyes closed peacefully. Her breathing is light and quiet, brushing a smooth curl of her hair slightly away from her face with each exhale. For a brief moment, Watson feels he is able to understand just a little how Holmes can so heedlessly overlook her obvious and threatening thorns and has to remind himself as he sees her like this that there is nothing soft and delicate about this particular human being, no matter how easy she is to look at.
After taking in the sight long enough, he is once again aware of the heaviness he feels in his whole body. It makes the idea of just collapsing in bed beside her and going to sleep as if he noticed nothing out of the ordinary slightly tempting. What else is he to do? Wait for Holmes to return from wherever he is this late and take care of her? Sleep somewhere else much less comfortable as if this isn't his own room?
Or he could just wake her and tell her to leave.
Watson walks around the bed to the side where she lies and stares down at her another moment with his sluggish and tired thoughts reluctantly weighing the options. Even if the woman clearly has no shame, he still finds it a little uncomfortable himself whenever they encounter each other with these perpetual failings in decorum. Somehow he prefers that she at least remain unconscious after he has unfortunately discovered her this way so he can at least pretend she would have the modesty to be embarrassed.
With that resolution, he bends over and lifts her from the bed as gently as he can. She stays relaxed and undisturbed, her head easily falling to the side to rest against him rather than rolling back, as he carries her out of the room to take her over to the settee.
He is barely out of the bedroom when he hears a voice to the side of him say impassively, "Don't bother."
With a start, he sees that Holmes is sitting there with his violin, sunk so low into the armchair that he wasn't easily noticeable in the dark.
"She's only pretending to be asleep," he adds.
Mouth dropping open in alarm, Watson looks down at Irene to see her open her eyes and look up at him with a slight guilty smile.
No, there is definitely nothing gentle and harmless about this one at all.
In his surprise he drops her at once, as if feeling like he's been caught red-handed, and by keeping one arm around him for support she manages to land standing before letting go of him.
Pointing to her, he looks at Holmes and asks, "How did you know?"
"She breathes differently when she's really asleep," Holmes answers with a slight shrug, as if this should be obvious. "I can tell when you're only pretending, too."
"You'll excuse me for having a bit of fun with you," she says lightly.
"Fun? Holmes!" He turns toward him with obstinate anger. "This will not do! To be compromising our cases so carelessly—It's outrageous!"
"My dear Watson," Holmes just replies with feigned confusion, staying infuriatingly calm, "tell me how our work is being compromised by my association with Miss Adler."
"Clearly she was pretending to be asleep hoping to overhear some mention of privileged information that I would hope we'd never disclose to her knowingly!"
"No, I don't think you do!"
As if feeling guilty for being the cause of the erupting argument, Irene holds her hands up and says in an attemptedly calming way, "Now, boys..."
"I was completely aware of her intentions," Holmes explains, "so obviously I wouldn't have allowed you to say anything compromising as long as she was still here. In fact, when you arrived I said absolutely nothing so as not to start any conversation at all that could potentially lead to you discussing professional matters. But I could hardly deny myself the amusement of letting her lie there awake with such careful self-discipline for over two hours all for nothing."
"Well, marvelous," Watson says heavily. "And what if the next trick she has up her sleeve isn't so easily detectable?"
"Then it will be a much more stimulating challenge to hinder. You can't possibly expect me to give her up now, can you? Not before I've even had the opportunity to work out what all she is up to."
"Oh, for the love of—!"
Watson stops when he hears the door to the bedroom closing behind him after Irene has left them to go in, unnoticed during their fighting, and then he and Holmes both look toward it. Only Holmes catches the following sound of her locking the door behind her, and he rises quickly from his seat to go to it and tries opening it.
Looking back at Watson after the knob won't turn, he says with mild surprise, "I don't think she appreciated our accusations."
Watson frowns with all the agitation he has left in him. "It seems she's really going to bed now," he says. "And you're not invited."
The following morning, Watson wakes up spread across the settee feeling not much more rested than he was when he came home the night before, his back and neck aching and a couple limbs also feeling slightly numb from a deprivation of proper blood circulation. One of the first things he sees is Irene going past him to move a tray of tea to the table that Mrs. Hudson must have come in and left while he was still asleep. He can see that she is still not fully dressed, but right now she has at least had the consideration to put on the coat Holmes was wearing the day before over the inadequate items she slept in.
The coat that is in fact not Holmes's at all, but his own.
They seem to be alone; he has a feeling Holmes did not get any sleep out here at all through the night and has now taken her place on the bed. Without sitting up, he reaches for the table to pick up a cup and finds no tea poured in it yet. Irene automatically takes it from him to fill it.
"It's still a little warm," she says before carefully handing it back to him. Then, looking over at him as he drinks his tea without saying anything back, she says in a more joking way, "I trust you slept well?"
"Naturally," he says flatly. "I love it when I'm punished for my friend's mistakes. But it's all just fine, I'm used to it by now."
"Well, you were both so thoroughly ignoring me even while talking about me that I only assumed you wanted to be left alone to sleep with one another."
He smirks dryly. "I must admit I'm a little relieved to find you can actually get angry with him. It almost gives me some assurance that you're being genuine."
Irene looks a little confused by the remark. "I'm not sure what you mean."
Watson sits up to face her, looking more closely at her. "That day I found you creatively restrained in the bedroom, you thought at first I was Holmes. Tell me, why ever would you act pleased to see someone who just put you through the humiliation of being left tied up and half-naked for a long period of time?"
"Anyone who is blindfolded can only act pleased to see anyone," she replies easily, but behind the humor there is actually some acid in her tone.
Watson only rolls his eyes.
"I haven't yet paid him back for that," she then admits, softening, "but be sure I will."
He shakes his head. "And you wonder why I don't trust you. Or more likely you don't wonder, I'm sure..."
"Well, you have yet to explain your precise reasons for not trusting me from the beginning."
"You really need me to remind you? I could go find some of our records if you like."
"Doctor, I know I'm in no position to deny I'm capable of manipulation and deceit. You know the things I've done before. But why you should be so sure I have anything to gain by deceiving Holmes, and doing it at this time, I can't understand."
"Even if you have nothing in particular to gain with him, the fickleness shown in how easily you left your husband and then promptly pursued a re-acquaintance with Holmes does not exactly recommend you. But what about the way you neglected to mention to him until recently that you're staying at the Grand Hotel? Isn't it curious that you should happen to be there and we're presently investigating a theft that happened in a room of the same hotel?"
"Yes, the theft of the maharaja's rare diamond," she says with a mocking smile. "Everyone knows it's missing. Is that your idea of privileged information? Or it's missing again, to be exact—Isn't it believed to have passed through the hands of four different thieves now? Three others before the men who were hired to recover it failed to hold onto it at the Grand?"
"You seem awfully knowledgeable."
"It's all anyone staying or working at that hotel has been talking about for days. I'm sure Holmes doesn't appreciate the lack of discretion now that he's been employed to locally investigate. But just because it happened there, I gather you think I had something to do with that."
"As I said, I think it's curious. And I think you'd be very clever to realize that getting very close to Holmes might do a lot to blind him from seeing that the perpetrator he's looking for is right beside him, not to mention it might offer you some opportunities to sabotage the case."
Irene just keeps looking calm as she gets up and goes to sit down on the settee beside him where the tray is more within reach, close to where the dog is lying lazily on the floor. "But like you said yourself," she says, leaning over to take a biscuit from the tray, "it was only recently you found out I could have some connection to that crime. You still haven't explained very much why you always felt it wasn't in your colleague's best interests to have any involvement with me."
"It may be I'm simply a good judge of character," he says a little stiffly.
She looks to the side at him with a dark kind of smile. "Sometimes I wonder if you just don't trust yourself with me much more than you trust me with him."
He looks rigidly unaffected as they stay with their eyes locked a moment, and then she slowly raises her hand toward him, reaching behind his neck.
Before she quite touches him, he grabs her wrist very firmly and holds her hand back. "In a way, I believe Holmes wants you to make an idiot out of him," he says a little softly. "It keeps things interesting for him as long as he can still be proven wrong every once in a while. But you'll have no such luck with me."
He lets her go and her shoulders give a quick tremor as if she is suppressing a laugh. Grinning, she says, "I only meant to show you this, doctor," and reaches for something that is partially stuck down in the collar of his shirt. He watches in surprise as she pulls out a folded paper and hands it to him.
"A very private love letter he left for you to find when you wake up, surely," she guesses. "In a place I couldn't find it or at least couldn't take it without waking you because you're a light sleeper...Not that I would want to, as it must be very private."
Watson closes his eyes briefly in agitation. If she wants to resort now to making fun of him as if his vigilance with her is bordering on paranoia, so be it.
"At least he's trying to listen to me about being careful," Watson says tiredly, putting the note safely to the side without reading it yet.
Irene takes a second biscuit and then nibbles on it as she leans over and starts petting Gladstone's head, cooing at the dog softly. After a moment, he just has to stare to the side at her in total disbelief of the strange spectacle. She's petting the dog. She is eating their biscuits and drinking their tea, and wearing his coat, and he is starting to get so used to the distinctive and poignant smell of her perfume lingering around their room that he hardly notices it anymore, and now she is sitting here petting the bloody dog.
He can't take much more of this.
Grabbing the note left from Holmes, he gets up and heads to the door to go out for some fresh air, not even bothering to put shoes on. With his hand ready on the doorknob, he turns back to look at Irene, who meets eyes with him when she sees him stop as if there is something he needs to say.
Pointing to her and looking down at the coat again, he starts to say awkwardly, "You do realize that's my...?"
"What?" she just says absently.
Sighing, he shakes his head. "Never mind."
Something tells him he doesn't want to know whether it would even make much of a difference to her.
The letter from Holmes, in short, tells him that "he would be very helpful" to go keep a watch for a while on a house they've been waiting for an opportunity to search for the diamond at a time they won't call too much attention to themselves. If he can ever confirm that it is empty, he must hurry back and wake him immediately. What follows are some extensive and detailed instructions telling him how to go about doing this completely inconspicuously, as well as how to make sure Miss Adler does not follow him, and finally, some last advice that he destroy this letter as soon as he has read it.
Watson doesn't have to think long before he goes back inside and upstairs to get completely dressed. While inside, he lights a match and burns the letter while Irene watches briefly, glancing up from the newspaper she is now looking through.
Usually he despises the idiotically simple jobs Holmes sends him on (though he always insists that it would only be idiotic to think there is anything simple about doing any part of their work well, and he probably gives him such complicated instructions partially just to make him feel like he should be flattered to be thought capable of such banal tasks). But right now he would follow any request giving him an excuse to get away from their rooms that hardly feel like his at all anymore. And it does make him feel a little better and give him some renewed confidence that Holmes does seem to be taking their need for discretion somewhat seriously after all.
At last Holmes relents, and says to him as he is about to leave the next evening, "No need to go hide, Watson. If I see her tonight it'll be me leaving."
Watson turns back around at the door and says nothing at first, a little hesitant to believe him in case it is too good to be true.
"She said you gave her a very brilliant idea yesterday, you see," Holmes explains, "when you mentioned to her the convenient coincidence that she has a room at the Grand, which was the scene of a crime we are still working to solve."
"Convenient..." Watson echoes the word with a lost look on his face.
"Yes. Why couldn't I make a habit of visiting her there and just let others assume I must be returning to look for evidence?"
As the understanding settles, he just narrows his eyes at him. "Somehow I suspect your unsurpassable mind could have come to that idea yourself...and much sooner."
Holmes looks over at him with something a little humoring in his eyes as he sits down in the chair next to his. "Yes, you clearly know me too well," he says, saying the admission with not a little irony in his tone. "Perhaps my true reason is that I've found I can be a surprisingly jealous man, and I no longer feel secure in having her all to myself."
Watson breaks out into laughter. Holmes's mouth tightens into the subtlest smile as he looks to the side at him.
"You laugh," he says, sounding less serious than ever despite his expression staying mild, "but it's I who should laugh at you. You're a fool if you're not in love with her."
"And you always stand to be made one because you are," Watson says, still lightly laughing a little. "Don't think I'd deny that she is certainly...well...an exceptional woman. And maybe I've seen a lot more of her than would usually be prudent to discourage attraction. But being a doctor, I have seen it all before, after all. Enough to be safely desensitized from her powerful influence, I think."
Holmes scoffs. "Oh, you've seen women before," he says as if he is almost offended by the statement, saying the word "women" as if their collective existence is the simplest and most boring concept he never dwells on. "But Irene Adler...She might as well be an entirely different sex than anything else that walks this earth. She is never to be underestimated."
"I believe that's what I've been trying to tell you," he says flatly, and then he sighs. "Perhaps one day when I have a woman I'll...almost understand."
"No, I doubt that," Holmes mumbles quickly as he gets up.
Looking at him with some annoyance, Watson thinks he understands after hearing that what his actual motivation is for finally letting him have his way. As he kept trying to avoid Irene as much as possible, Holmes must have decided that her presence was not worth his prolonged absences during all their free hours of the day. Anything that threatens to remove Watson as a mindless permanent fixture in his professional and domestic life is abhorrent to Holmes, and there is no telling what the unintended effects could be of him getting a little too much healthy and fresh air outside of this claustrophobic place they share, always sharing everything. Therefore, just like that, the woman is gone.
When Holmes is about to leave and get on his way to the hotel, Watson turns to him in his chair and stops him momentarily, telling him for probably the tenth time, "Keep her nose out of our business!"
"You won't talk with her about anything beyond the London weather. She is not to know where you're coming from when you get there or where you're going after you leave her."
Almost letting him finally go as he opens the door, Watson waits a moment and then looks back at him to add, "I don't even want you sleeping there! Ever! You talk in your sleep, are you aware of that?"
Holmes just gives him a slight smirk before he's out the door.
Of course it is only a few days later that Watson finds himself having to go to the hotel himself and find their room after Holmes failed to be where he was supposed to be when he needed him. He aggressively raps his cane on the door several times before Irene finally comes to open it, dressed in a silk robe.
Seeing him, she slowly smiles and leans to one side of the door, just looking somehow very amused to see him here of all places.
"Well?" he says impatiently. "Is he here?"
"Do you have to take him away from me already?" she asks.
"I've a love letter for him," Watson says dryly. "An urgent one."
After hearing those words, Holmes appears behind her, quickly buttoning up his shirt. "Yes?" he asks in a rush. "What is it?"
Irene moves to the side to let Watson come in and shuts the door. Looking over at her briefly and obviously hesitating to say certain things, he just explains vaguely, "Our...subject has left the premises."
"Ah, good. We must hurry then."
"Yes, if we can even still get there fast enough. I already wasted some time going back home where you said to come find you."
Holmes looks over at Irene and says, "You, darling, could be quite useful coming with us."
She tilts her head to the side a little as if surprised.
"Holmes," Watson says, looking at him with much more shock. "What did we talk about?"
"We don't need to disclose any specifics about what we're doing in order for her to accompany us, do we? Besides, she'll only wait outside the whole time. I'm sure you can see how she could easily provide distraction should either of our subjects return before we're finished there."
"Subject!" Watson says. "Not more than one, as far as she's concerned! Why don't you just hand over all our notes to her while you're at it?"
Completely at ease, Irene ignores their conflict and finally says, "Just give me a moment."
She heads toward a screen standing at the other end of the room. Watson is much too concerned with more important matters to spare the attention to be uncomfortable this time when she lets the robe fall from her shoulders and he sees nothing but skin for a brief moment before her back side then disappears behind the screen, where she then starts changing into some clothes. Right away, he grabs Holmes by the arm and drags him as far from her as they can get by the opposite wall.
"What in the hell are you doing?" he says, trying to keep his voice down.
"It will be fine," Holmes just assures him.
"You've completely lost your head if you don't think all this will do is lead her straight to—"
"There's no time to take the necessary measures to completely evade her," Holmes explains quickly in a very low voice. "It's much better to have her with us where you can keep an eye on her than have her following us there, as I suspect she might do otherwise."
"Where I can keep an eye on her?"
"Yes. You'll leave the search for the item mostly up to me."
When she comes back out in a burgundy dress almost all ready to leave, Watson still looks very reluctant. While putting her boots on, she says to him, comfortably smiling as always, "Just remember this was never my idea."