Over the Channel, once he has told the Doctor Watson without words that she is dead, he sets Irene's handkerchief with her scarlet A free, and below them, through one of the round windows—
—a fair hand, white as death, reaches to catch it.
It was a simple enough ruse; he'd tell Watson after Reichenbach it was elementary, natural, almost too easy.
Professor James Moriarty fancied himself a fine man, a finer killer, and had thought Irene to be child's play.
He was wrong.
The Savoy emptied the way Moriarty had wanted it to, but they weren't his men, only acted like his men, and Irene stiffened the way she had hardly needed to practice. The operas in New York had prepared her, and she was the finest actress America had seen for easily a decade's worth of seasons.
George came with the tea that wasn't James', the tea dyed red with titian, and she took demure sips as she told the Professor she could still be trusted, she could still be of some use to him.
But his mind was resolute. "I will no longer require your services."
Fair enough, Irene thought, and after taking another gulp of titian tea, she walked away.
She saw Sherlock through the glass doors, in a false nose and oversized hat, and he nodded to her. Everything was ready.
She gasped openly, the way she did when she played Juliet and stabbed herself in the fifth act, with all the sound and torment of death. She coughed up the tea into her handkerchief, the dye splattering on the cloth, the color of blood and victory. Moriarty glanced over at her without so much as a single word.
Her chest was still; her body frozen. She was Juliet dead in the Capulet crypt, Ophelia drowned and floating plump in the river, Lady Macbeth gone mad with the sight of blood on her hands.
The Professor saw Sherlock through the door and snapped: "Come, man, clear her out." And without another word, he went back to his tea.
He pretended to struggle with her; she even extended her neck to further the illusion.
She complained later in the jungle of his flat that her neck hurt like Hell, but he informed her that he heard from preachers that the actual Hell is much worse.
Irene just smiled. "And how do you know that's where I'm headed? Have you gone—soft since we've last met?"
Sherlock twisted his head and took a swig of formaldehyde, which she graciously refused, keeping to her Syrian dates.
"The twentieth century is nearly here. Everything's changing, dearest," he told her. "I might as well."
And what shall I do in Italy? she asked him with that wide, red-lipped smile, the one he both loves and doesn't trust for a single second. There are still so many women in the world, so many of them, but to him she will always be the only one worth looking on, the only one worth figuring out.
Sweetling, he said, the same way he had in the auction hall, I'm sure you'll think of something.
And she kissed him, the titian still on her lips. Thank you.
And she whispers thank you again with Venice before her, and she sways on the boats singing the aria from Hannibal, and is happy to watch the sun set again.