John Watson goes back into the army. He needs to. Like Sherlock said, he craves the war.
The problem is… they will not let him back onto the front line. His shoulder is the number one reason. He thinks about asking Mycroft to push through all the bureaucracy, but he is still angry with the eldest Holmes brother. He knows he does not want a desk job. So instead they send him to a medical conference to learn new procedures. John sighs, it is something in the end. He always has wanted to see New York.
It's a gigantic place with millions of people. John doesn't know what he wants to do. The conference isn't for another two days.
Mike Stamford comes along. He's a teacher and was curious to learn new techniques. John doesn't complain. After all, it was Mike who set him up at 221B Baker Street two years ago.
"What do you want to do?" Mike bounces on the balls of his feet. "There's probably so much to do here. We should ask the front desk."
"No." John does not want to speak to the front desk. He hates asking for tourist like activities, but he has no idea what there really is to do in New York. He could literally walk around forever. "Let's go for a walk and see what finds us."
Mike is casual, chatting to people on the street. John just listens. This is what John is good at, listening and observing. He wishes Sherlock could've have seen the people and discussed under his breath about how the woman wearing high platforms was really a man or the hotdog vendor is ridiculously sick and should not be serving food.
In the middle of the hustle and bustle, bright lights and Broadway shows of Times Square, Mike manages to strike up a conversation with a fellow serviceman stationed here. "So what is there to do?"
"You two really should check out the Intrepid. Down by the water. Really a beauty. Something different. You definitely would appreciate it."
John happily obliges with this. Mike asks for the direction to the nearest tube. The serviceman laughs, "Just walk north until you get to Pier86. Can't miss it." John laughs. "I guess we will be getting our walk in after all."
John walks with his hands in his pockets. Mike is humming to himself while John still silently observes. People are walking with their headphones on, trying to catch the light. Taxi drivers are honking their horns. There are so many billboards.
There are billboards on tall buildings and ads and posters on sidewalks for anything and everything imaginable whether it is for new restaurants, plays or 50% off clothing at a certain store. This is when he thinks he sees her. The woman. Not just any woman, but "The Woman". Not in person, but on one of these ads.
It is on the corner of 9th avenue where John abruptly bumps into a New Yorker, "Sorry," John mumbles, but the New Yorker is already moving on with his day. He however is at standstill, staring at the ad on the street corner. People continue to walk past, but he still stares.
It is an ad for the Metropolitan Opera. There is a woman in the center of the ad, staring seductively back. It is not hard to miss those eyes, that same jawline, that brilliant white smile of hiding a secret. It can't be her, can it? After everything that has happened, could she really be alive?
John studies it. He takes out his phone and googles the opera. The woman's name is Madeline Williams. There seems to be a complete story and it could be a completely random coincidence, but he has spent far too much time staring at this poster to not investigate further. Sherlock would have kept searching.
Mike who has realized by now that John has not been walking with him, finds him staring at the poster.
"Sorry Mike, got distracted." He points to the poster with the woman.
Mike laughs. "She's pretty I'll give you that. I'll have to tell Mary you are looking around." He chuckles at his own joke. "Come on."
They continue to walk down to the Intrepid, but John is still curious. He fiddles on his phone as he walks, staring at the picture of the poster he took with his phone.
John eventually calls the opera house out of curiosity. When is the next show? There was a performance tonight. John would have to investigate on his own. He doesn't have a tux. Is this really a good use of money? He decides it is and purchases a ticket.
That night, Mike and he go there separate ways. Mike says something about going to a bar to see some distant relative.
"Did you want to come? It will be very boring."
John laughs. "I have my own sight seeing to do."
"Enjoy, John. See you in the morning."
As soon as the door closes, John goes about his preparations. He's a little nervous. Staring back in the mirror, stands John Watson, awkwardly. He is wearing a suit. He normally doesn't wear a suit. The tie is very constraining. He feels very awkward wearing one, but what else would one wear to the Opera in New York City?
He takes a cab. He doesn't trust directions. Subways have never been his thing especially in a foreign country. It doesn't matter if the signs are in English, he will still get lost and he only has tonight to test his suspicions. Was this how Sherlock had felt every time he thought of a great plan like this?
John sits through the show, feeling slightly out of place. He has no date, but he concentrates on the actors before him. The woman has a lovely voice, but he is convinced that beneath the singing voice, lurks the accent of the Woman.
During the break, John goes to one of the attendants by the stage door.
"Will you tell Ms. Williams that a friend is out here?"
The attendant snorts. The attendant's name is Joshua, John notes. "Sir, she's got lots of friends. I can't believe a word of that." The smug attendant says.
"Right?" John looks around, afraid to speak the next words out loud. He has no choice he decides. He must finish out his case. "Well tell her, her friend from Baker Street is here."
"Yep." John leans against the wall, confident that these two words will surely bring that woman out. Joshua sighs, nods and heads down the hallway toward her dressing room.
The woman who calls herself Ms. Williams is staring in the mirror, tidying her makeup as she hears a knock on her door. "Be right there." She coos back, fixing a curl in hair that has come out of place. The voice behind the door continues to speak.
"Ms. Williams, someone is here to see you."
"Really?" She says loudly. She stops primping as she turns to her couch and gives a wicked smile. "But, I already have a guest," she says low so only her guest can hear. The guest does not move or speak. The door is quite thick to hear through which does have its benefits. The knocking at the door continues.
"Ms. Williams, what do you want me to do?"
She decides to poke her head out to speak. She soon sees the persistent knocking belongs to Joshua, one of the young attendants. She leans her head on the doorframe, blocking the rest of the room from attendant's vision.
"A fan, maybe? You know, I get loads of those." She draws out the word loads because she knows Joshua gets a kick out of it.
"No. He says he's a friend."
"Hmm… fans say that a lot too. What does he look like?"
"Short." If Joshua wasn't your average person, he might have noticed Madeline's eyes grow wide in surprise, but he was average.
"Military hair cut?" She asks to check her suspicions.
Joshua blinks. "I guess, Ms. Williams." She thinks for a moment and decides, she can't play a game of catch-up, right now anyway. "No, I don't think I do know him."
"He said he knows you. Excuse me, M'am. He said he's from Baker Street."
She thinks for a moment and decides to lie. "No, doesn't ring a bell. Tell him I'm sorry, but I really must get ready for the second act. He can get a lovely autograph picture at the gift shop." She can hear Joshua giggling as the door closes.
With Joshua gone, Irene Adler smiles gently back to her guest who hasn't budged from his spot on the couch. Her American accent slowly fades as her English accent flows back into its place. "Did you hear? Your boyfriend is here."
The man with startling blonde hair and piercing steel blue eyes does not say anything for a couple moments. "He's not my boyfriend."
"Mmm…" She says, looking in her mirror, going back to finish her face for the next act. "Should I tell him to visit anyway? I need some excitement."
The man twitches, "Don't you have a show to do?"
"Maybe later then."
The second act continues without any disturbances. Irene smiles on stage as people applaud for her. However if she could've seen the theater with the lights turned on, she would have noticed that a certain army doctor's seat was empty and it hadn't been filled during the second act...at all.
Walking back from the show, carrying a bouquet of flowers, Irene sees John Watson standing against a wall like an obedient pet. He hasn't changed one bit, still as loyal as ever. Joshua looks flummoxed. Irene grins. It's now her turn to play.
"Dr. Watson?" She pretends to be surprised. She is an actress after all. "Oh Joshua, you didn't tell me it was him!"
John hears the American accent, but he knows that this is her. Her blue eyes taunt him, egging him on to, yes, follow her. "I can't believe you're here." He says, getting off the wall, but still standing his ground quite firmly.
Joshua looks from the man to the star actress. He sees a crazy, tiny man with a mission and the stunning, vivacious, actress with a sparkle in her eyes. Irene can see he's trying to figure them out. Is it s a torrid love affair or are they just friends? She smiles. Joshua doesn't even know half the story. With a beckoning of her finger, she tells the good doctor to follow her.
She saunters down the hallway and John follows. She can't wait to hear the gossip in the morning. Irene enters first and is highly disappointed. The couch is empty, the blonde haired man is gone.
She wants to pout, but she isn't surprised her fun backfired. The blonde-haired man probably saw her mischievous plan in the glint of her eyes. She can't hide anything from him. She shrugs. She might as well let John in, just to be polite.
As soon as she closes the door behind, she sighs "On your own little investigation? All you need is a deerstalker."
The flower bouquet she was holding is dropped unceremoniously on the floor. She begins to walk around to find some sort of alcohol. She knows it's not all gone. She sees John still standing as she flits around him, looking for the bottle. "You can sit." She really wants him to leave.
John continues to stand. "You're supposed to dead…. Again."
"Yes, well," Irene murmurs as she finds the bottle on the other side of her dressing table. She notices that out of her four glasses, there are only three. She takes two, smiling, the game is back on. "Someone helped me." She starts pouring two drinks.
"Sherlock." He says to himself more to her. She can almost hear a chuckle in the doctor's voice, but then the conversation lulls for a second. She was so expecting for Sherlock to jump out, but who was she kidding. Sherlock doesn't jump out for anyone, not even for John Watson. John sits down as Irene hands him a glass of what he believes to be scotch.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Doctor Watson." He raises his eyebrow. How would she know? He takes a sip from his glass and yes, his brain tells him, it is scotch.
"I do read your blog." Irene curls up in her chair as she undoes her hair. John has seen her naked, so she can get as comfortable as she wants. If it makes him leave, even better. She's tired of being polite. He should finish his drink and leave. She only wanted to see John if the other person stayed to play.
She is still wearing her costume, a long dress, but leans over to her table and begins to wipe her makeup off. "Why are you here in New York?"
John ignores her change in posture or the question. "I just don't understand how you managed it." He leans forward, still clutching his glass and Irene can sense he is also clutching onto something else. "Wouldn't it be funny if Sherlock was here too, being your boyfriend or something? Two people supposed to be dead are well, very not dead."
John laughs, but Irene doesn't laugh. This laugh sounds hollow like a desperate man waiting for something. She wants to shout, Surprise! However, her part in this story can only go so far. This meeting isn't as thrilling as she thought. If that blonde haired man hadn't move and was sitting where John was sitting when they walked in, then yes that would have been quite fun.
Not so much with John just sitting there, alone, hopeful still after a year later... there's no desire left to play. It breaks her to see such devotion, but she can't save him. This is entirely another man's game.
"Sherlock is still quite dead. I'm sorry."
John shakes his head. The hope will not leave him. "I can't believe this. I can't even yell at you. You and he, you are so quite alike. That makes it so much harder to believe it's been a year." He pauses, finally answering her question from a while ago. "I have a medical conference in New York. Sort of… enlisted again. I saw the ad for the Opera."
"Hmm…life is interesting where it takes us, Doctor Watson." She pauses. "I hate to say this, but I won't be able to see you again. We can't chat about old times. We can't do dinner. You understand, don't you?" She smiles that cat smile. The smile, her mask that has protected her for so many years from all the truths and lies she has heard.
"I do." He nods. "No dinner." He knows his old roommate and the Woman's joke about dinner. He wants no part of that. "I just had to see it for myself if it was true. Had to investigate. Also," he says, handing his empty glass to her, "I'm seeing someone. Mary is her name. Lovely woman. See? Not gay."
Irene gives a genuine smile. John Watson surprises her. She thinks he would have done something drastic when his roommate walked out of his life, but a relationship… now that was something. "Safe travels Doctor Watson. I do hope your life will continue to be fantastic."
He's not sure what she means by that, but nods anyway. He must be on his way. She smiles as the door closes and John leaves. She even ducks her head out of the door to make sure he is well gone. The hallway is empty. She returns to the position in her chair after closing the door. She really needs a "Do Not Disturb" sign.
Comfortably in her chair, she shakes the scotch bottle and whistles like calling to a dog. The man with the blonde hair comes slinking out of her bathroom. He holds the missing scotch glass in his hand. He passes it to her as she refills it. He leans against the wall sipping it as Irene curls in her chair once again.
"You didn't come out." She shakes her finger at him. He notices that she swivels slightly in her chair, looking around for her dressing robe.
"You knew I was here the whole time." He gives a nod to point out that the silk dressing robe is behind her, but he doesn't motion to get it. He still stands against the wall.
"Hmm." She murmurs as she twists in her chair, "Yes, quite right." She gets up and moves toward him. He sighs and unzips her gown, slowly letting her clothes slip off. She starts to reach for the robe, but tilts her head back to face him, "Dinner?"
Sherlock's mouth twitches. "He bought a ring, but he won't propose for another year." Irene sighs and asks one last time, "Dinner?"
"I think it's time you moved onto a new identity."
Irene pouts, tying her robe, knowing that dinner is definitely not in their plans, "One more show?" She asks.
Sherlock shrugs as he grabs a brown coat off the rack. "Your funeral, Ms. Adler. As always, a pleasure."
Before he can even open the door, she calls to him. "I really wish you would stop being dead." She thinks about John with all that hope in his eyes. She thinks about Sherlock hiding behind his disguises. She knows about his mask that he hides behind because he still has a way to go in the game. She wonders if John's hope will last.
Sherlock doesn't open the door just yet. He wraps a scarf around his neck. It's not as cold as it is in London, but it's out of habit that he wears one.
"As do I. I'm sick of dying my hair."
She and he laugh. The door closes and they go their separate ways.
Madeline Williams would have her last show tomorrow night. John would attend his medical conference and Sherlock Holmes would no longer be blonde, a redhead instead.
Life continued on its way.