The day Joan Watson presented him with tickets to the opera, Sherlock Holmes lied. It was a small lie; Sherlock had indeed been to the opera more than once since he was a boy. He had been there many times, frequenting London’s West End. He didn’t like to remember that time though. He had shoved it away into a deep pocket of his brain for later deletion. Leave it to Joan to dig up memories that Sherlock would have much rather forgotten.
He had let that night go, ignored it afterward and was content in, once again, shoving his past into the deep recesses of his mind. It wasn’t until Joan mentioned her name that everything flooded out again.
Irene Adler, the greatest part of Sherlock’s life and the worst. Joan wouldn’t give up. She pressed and pressed for Sherlock to reveal who she was. Sherlock conceded with the fact that Irene was dead. What he didn’t tell Joan was that he had been the one who killed her.
This was different than when somebody sings along at a concert. Her Italian was enunciated perfectly. She didn’t simply know the words; she knew the meaning behind each one, the emotion that each phrase was meant to depict. This young woman was much more than a spectator at that evening’s performance, she was a singer, and from what Sherlock could tell, a very good one. She was enchanting and from the moment he caught his final glimpse of her outside, he was enthralled. It was a feeling that was unused to.
“Not the best portrayal of Radames I’ve seen, but it most certainly wasn’t the worst.” Mycroft Holmes came up behind his younger brother, buttoning his overcoat.
“Flat,” Sherlock replied, watching as the young woman attempted to hail a cab.
“What was that?”
“Flat. He was flat,” Sherlock said.” Just barely, but still flat.”
“I didn’t hear it.”
“No, of course you didn’t,” Sherlock added under his breath. Mycroft didn’t have a classically trained ear. He didn’t go to the opera for the music, he attended for the status. Sherlock wasn’t interested in that. From the time he was a boy, it had always been about the music. There was something brilliant about it. It was mathematical. Music was all about numbers; it kept the brain busy and Sherlock’s brain was always moving. Nobody seemed to understand it the way that Sherlock did.
Sherlock kept his eyes trained on the young woman. Nobody understood, but perhaps she did. He had already tuned out Mycroft and without another word, he began to walk away from his brother. “Where are you going?” Mycroft called.
“Goodnight, Mycroft,” Sherlock called, without looking back. He knew that Mycroft had simply shook his head and walked away. It was the way things always were with him. Sherlock moved towards the young woman, who still had her hand out. “Sometimes it helps to call out to them,” Sherlock said, throwing his own hand out. “Taxi!”
It wasn’t long before a cab pulled up to the curb. “Thank you,” the woman replied, her accent was very distinct.
“You’re American.” Sherlock cocked his head to the side and looked at her.
“Very,” she smiled. Her smile was just as bright as the rest of her face, if not brighter. “You got the cab,” she continued. “We could share it if you like.”
“I would indeed,” Sherlock opened the back door for her and got in behind her. “Sherlock Holmes.” He extended his hand once they were seated.
She smiled again. “Irene Adler.” She shook his hand. After a moment, she leaned forward and handed the cabbie the address on a piece of paper.
“You’re a singer,” Sherlock said after a moment.
“How did you know that?”
“I saw you. Inside.” Sherlock watched her expression change from jovial to slightly panicked. “I’m not some kind of stalker,” he assured her. “I was sitting several rows back. You’re trained professionally. You know every word, in Italian, so I would say more than simply a fan of the production. What did you think of this evening’s production, musically speaking of course.”
Irene was thrown by his rapidly changing of subjects. “It was okay,” she said, watching Sherlock’s face and knowing that he wanted her to give him more. “Radames was flat.”
“Yes!” he called out, causing the cabbie to look at him through the rear view mirror. “Classically trained singer, an opera singer, sitting in the audience, mouthing the words to each piece.”
“I’m an understudy,” Irene finally interrupted him, bringing an end to his madness.
“Ahhh,” Sherlock grumbled as if she had kicked him in the gut. “I would have gotten there.” His brain shifted as he bounced his leg impatiently. “But your accent—don’t tell me.” He held his hand up to keep her from speaking.
“Is this a game for you?” she laughed.
Sherlock shook his hand at her. “It’s American, your pronunciations are Eastern. North Eastern to be exact, but not New York. You drop you ‘r’, but you try not to, you’ve been in London for a while.” Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a moment and scratched at the inside of his arm. “I would say New Jersey, but why come all the way here to be an opera singer. There are plenty of worthwhile companies in New York.”
“That was a question?” Irene asked. Sherlock nodded. “I wanted to travel. I wanted to get away from my life in the United States. I wanted something new. Plus, I was offered a job here. That’s the best reason I guess.” She paused, watching him unbutton his cuffs, roll up his sleeves and unravel his bowtie. “Might I play?”
“By all means.”
Irene looked at him, studied him momentarily. “You’re brilliant, but your bore easily. You don’t allow your mind a moment’s rest, if you do, you might go mad.” She smirked at the shock that painted Sherlock’s face. “I’m surprised you made it the full three hours at the opera, but then again, you were silently critiquing the performance and ogling me from two rows back, so you never did allow yourself to truly relax. Then there are the drugs.” She watched Sherlock’s face once again, she saw his shoulders fall. “You clearly don’t need them. Your brain is sharp, but again, you hate boredom, so a stimulant. You use them to kick your brain, wake it up, and fight boredom. The only problem is your body craves it now. It deceives you, Sherlock Holmes.” She motioned towards his bouncing leg. “And your arms, the tattoos. Very strategically placed if I do say so myself, most likely to cover the signs of injection. Have I missed anything?” She finished just as the cabbie pulled up to the curb in front of her flat.
For the first time in his life, Sherlock was speechless. This young woman wasn’t only beautiful, she was brilliant. She was completely and utterly brilliant. He simply found himself with nothing to say. He watched a bright smile grace Irene’s lips as she reached into her evening bag and paid the cabbie. She inched her way out of the back of the cab and shut the door behind her. Sherlock rolled the window down.
“I’m singing on Friday night,” Irene said, popping her head in the back window. “If you think you can manage another few hours, just give your name at the door.” She spun on her heels and walked up towards the flat. “Goodnight, Sherlock,” she called, sing-song.
Sherlock watched as she skipped up the steps and disappeared inside. He leaned back momentarily in his seat, looking down at his arms for a second before shoving his sleeves back down and slamming his hands down on his leg to keep it from bouncing. She had read him, she had read right through him. Nobody had ever been able to best Sherlock the way that Irene just had. There was something special about her.
“Where to, mate?” the cabbie asked, looking at Sherlock through the rearview mirror.
Sherlock ran his hands back through his hair with a deep sigh. “Baker Street,” he said. Home.
Sherlock fell behind the throngs of patrons as they exited the theatre. He made his way slowly outside, to wait where he had first met Irene. He knew that she would return to the same place and he would be there when she did. It was cold out, and Sherlock hadn’t anticipated such a long wait. He observed the people leaving the Opera House: A man out with his wife, a man out with his girlfriend, a man who had slept through the entire performance. Sherlock kept his mind busy, he needed to. He drummed his fingers rhythmically against his thigh and he turned his gaze to the door, where finally, she appeared.
“Brava,” Sherlock approached Irene, extending his arm to her.
“I saw you sitting in the audience,” Irene smiled, taking hold of his arm. “I must confess, I didn’t think you would take me up on my invitation—with your boredom issues.”
Sherlock laughed softly. “Opera doesn’t bore me,” he corrected her. “Poorly performed opera bores me.”
“So I assume that tonight got your seal of approval?”
“That it did,” he assured her. “And I would say that with that performance, we shall be seeing you on stage here in the next season?”
“There’s still a lot of time for that,” Irene laughed. “But—I do get to finish out this one and that’s plenty for now.”
Sherlock threw his hand out to get a cab.
“I do—like other things, you know,” Irene said as a car pulled up to the curb. “For example, I have developed a deep fondness for tea.”
“Then perhaps you might have to join me for a cup sometime.” Sherlock opened the door for her.
Irene dug into her purse and pulled out a pen before reaching out and taking Sherlock’s hand. She turned it palm up and scribbled a phone number. “You might lose a piece of paper,” she smiled. “At least I know you won’t lose your hand.” She climbed into the backseat of the cab and Sherlock closed the door behind her. She handed the cabbie the address. “Goodnight, Sherlock.”
Sherlock stepped back as the cab pulled away. He raised his hand in a small wave and stepped back for a moment before throwing his hand out once again for the next cab. He remained unusually silent as he climbed inside, giving the cabbie the address and then sitting back. He uncuffed his shirt and undid his tie before loosening the top button on his shirt. He looked at the number written on his hand and studied it. He wouldn’t need to write it down. It was embedded in his brain now.
Sherlock didn’t waste one moment when the cab pulled up in front of 221b Baker Street. He reached into his pocket and removed the door key, turning it in the lock and pushing his way inside. He returned the key to his coat pocket and in turn pulled out his mobile, which he switched on. It toned immediately, multiple missed messages.
“Mycroft,” Sherlock sighed, ignoring his brother’s texts as he strolled into the flat. He tossed the phone aside, deciding, as usual, that Mycroft was simply acting as an extension of their father and wondering where he had been all night, why he hadn’t answered his phone.
“You would simply ignore my calls?”
Sherlock jumped at the familiar voice that came from the corner of the room. He flipped the lights on to see Mycroft sitting in an armchair, leg crossed at the knee and hands folded at his lap.
“Brilliant,” Sherlock said, stepping further into the room. “So now, you break into my flat and sit around in the dark like some kind of murderous creature.”
“Oh, Sherlock, don’t be so melodramatic.” Mycroft pushed himself up to sit a bit straighter in his seat.
“I already know why you’re here,” Sherlock pulled his unraveled bowtie off of his neck and tossed it onto the sofa, followed by his jacket. “But I would never think of ruining your fun in saying it.”
Mycroft rolled his eyes. “I was wor…”
“Worried about me, yes. And I will tell you once again that there is no need for you to worry. You can tell our father the same thing. I think it’s about time that you both stop treating me as if I am some sort of child.”
“I am not here for father.”
Sherlock laughed. “I would think that you, of all people, Mycroft, would be a better liar.” He walked back over to the door and swung it open. “Do feel free to tell him that I am alive and well, that you haven’t found me—how is it—lying on the side of the road with a needle in my arm.” Sherlock motioned towards the door. “Good evening, Mycroft.”
Sherlock slammed the door the second Mycroft exited. He shook his head. Leave it to Mycroft to ruin an otherwise wonderful evening. He leaned back against the door, head falling backwards and knocking gently against the frame. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath, holding it for a moment before exhaling slowly through his nose. He pushed himself off the door and moved into his bedroom. He dropped to his knees and reached under the bed, pulling out a small wooden box.
Sherlock paused momentarily, his hands running over the top of the box, his fingers feeling each wood grain before prying the top of. His eyes caught on the one thing that was bound to improve his mood now.
Sherlock reached into the box and pulled out a syringe.
For the first time in his life, Sherlock had allowed somebody else to share in his space and in his work. He had opened up his world to another person. Unfortunately, for all the good that came with being Sherlock Holmes, there were also demons. Sherlock’s boredom seemed to be poisoning his brain more and more often. At least that is what he told himself.
Sherlock found that Scotland Yard was asking for him less. Any calls he made to DI Lestrade were not put through. He was simply met with ‘Nothing today, Sherlock,’ and thus the call ended. As his boredom grew, his wallet lightened as he found himself needing to stimulate his brain in a more chemical way. His occasional usage became daily and soon after turned to multiple times per day.
Sherlock stopped answering his door. Chances were it was only his brother or his father anyway. Every so often, he would listen to the female footsteps that climbed the stairs to his flat. He knew they belonged to Irene even before she slipped her customary letter under the door. Then, she simply turned around and left. She knew Sherlock. She knew that if he wanted to see her, his door would be open the moment her foot hit the first step.
The letters from Irene began to accumulate and occasionally, Sherlock would remove one from the envelope and read it silently. They were all different, but in essence, they said the same thing. She wrote how she cared for him, how she hated what he was doing to himself. She would tell him that she wanted to help him, but she couldn’t do that if he wouldn’t allow her to. Irene would continue with how brilliant he was and that he didn’t need the drugs to prove that. She would always end the letter with a sign of affection.
Sherlock saved each letter, but never read them more than once. The way he saw things, he only had one problem: keeping away from boredom. There were no cases; there was nothing to keep his mind busy. He simply needed to do it himself. And, as time went on, he needed even more stimulant to do that. Sherlock wouldn’t admit it to himself, but he was spiraling.
The season was ending, Sherlock knew that much, and even with his mind swimming, he knew that the one thing he wanted, the only thing, was to see Irene’s final performance. He had promised her that he would be there. He had promised her that he would be straight. He had promised.
But promises were made only to be broken. Sherlock, for the first time since he started shooting up, knew that he needed the drug. It was no longer a desire to end boredom; it was a physical need that had to be fed. It didn’t take long, but it seemed to Sherlock that the euphoric feeling didn’t last long either. He increased his dosage, felt his synapses firing, his brain flying. It was a feeling he hadn’t been able to achieve for a long while. His cycle continued until his focus was shot completely and he fell out of reality.
It was hours before Sherlock was lucid again. He turned his head and looked at the clock from where he sat on his bedroom floor. He tossed his head back with a groan. He had missed it. Irene’s final performance was coming to a close as he sat there on the floor. Perhaps, he thought, if he hurried, he could be outside the Opera House as she was leaving. Perhaps, she wouldn’t know he hadn’t been there. Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut and pushed himself to his feet. Now if he could only find his tie.
“Superb…” Sherlock began, but Irene interjected.
“If you say superb performance, I will punch you.” The anger and hurt were written all over her face. She shook her head and started to step away from him before she stopped suddenly and spun on her heels. “You’re too much, you know that? I honestly—I honestly thought that you would come. I honestly thought that—I meant more to you, that this meant more to you, than that garbage you put in your body.”
“No,” she said, holding her hands up to stop him. “No, Sherlock. There is nothing you can say right now to make this better. I don’t think there is anything you can ever say.”
“Let me explain.”
“Explain?!” Her voice grew louder. “What is there to explain?” The calm understanding woman Sherlock had come to know and care for was gone. She had transformed from the pain of his actions. “You made your choice. I’m done. I’m sorry, but I just can’t anymore. I tried,” She wiped her eyes. “I really did, Sherlock, but you won’t let anyone help you. And you need help. You really do. You did this, Sherlock. You.”
She spun around again and started to walk away from him. Sherlock snapped out his hand to stop her, but Irene saw him coming. She couldn’t speak to him anymore she didn’t even want to look at him and darted away, into the street. Sherlock didn’t see her then, but everyone heard it, the sound of screeching tires and screaming onlookers.
Sherlock stepped back momentarily, knowing. He swallowed hard as he listened to people screaming. The voices were all muddled.
“Somebody call 999!”
“She came out of nowhere, I didn’t see her.”
“Oh, God, she isn’t breathing.”
“…is she alive?”
Sherlock stumbled backward. He couldn’t see her. He couldn’t go to her. There was only one thing he could do. He could run, and that’s what he did.
He made a promise to himself that night. Even though he still attempted to convince himself that he hadn’t needed the drugs, he knew deep down that he had. Even today, certain things still tempted him: smells, places, people.
“You’re still awake?” Sherlock went unmoved by Joan’s groggy voice behind him. “It’s two in the morning.”
“It appears I am, yes.” He replied.
“Look,” she said, approaching him. “About before, about the letters…”
“In the past, Watson.” Sherlock answered quickly.
Sherlock could feel her nodding behind him. “Just know that—if you ever want to talk—about her, about anything, that’s what I’m here for.”
Joan stopped and let her shoulders fall. Her tone turned motherly. “Go to sleep,” she said. “Detective Gregson wanted to see you in the morning. You can’t go in looking like a zombie.” Sherlock waved his hand, his back still facing her. She sighed. “Goodnight, Sherlock.”
Sherlock waited until he heard Joan head back to her bedroom before he moved from the window. In a way, Joan Watson reminded him of Irene Adler. She stood by him, she put up with all of his idiosyncrasies and she was willing to do everything in her power to keep Sherlock clean. Joan Watson, even though Sherlock wouldn’t say it out loud, was more than sober living companion, she was a true friend. And while Sherlock knew how what he had done had affected his past, he was not about to do the same thing again. He nodded to himself in affirmation. He wouldn’t let Joan down. He wouldn’t let himself down. Not again. Not ever.