This is the story of the Consulting Detective and The Woman. Of time and distance, across land and ocean. Of a word unspoken. Of things that might’ve gone alternatively, had he been another man and she a different woman. But this is their story.
For an extended moment, gazing into the mesmerising blue of her enquiring eyes, as they lay on their sides partially covered by the same thin sheet, their bare skin inches apart underneath, he desperately wanted to tell her.
That he was here, in Karachi, because he couldn’t bear the dulling of the sky in a world without The Woman in it.
That the devastation of having played an unnecessarily cruel part sending her to an impending demise had made his every living minute the most agonising hell. His vengeful fury was long extinguished, his ego forgotten, and he just wanted a restart button, or the choice to never have clicked on the game at all.
That he’d travelled over 6,000 km to be by her side, to bid her farewell, to amend his emotion-clouded judgement and overwrite his stabbing last words.
That this was his answer to her question from before, that yes, he absolutely would have ‘dinner’ with her on the very last night. Her last night as Irene Adler.
That he’d wanted her, wanted this, too, and despite his frustration his traitorous heart wouldn’t accept the repeated answer no.
The past 24 h saw further proof that not only was she a formidable opponent, the most brilliant match, she was also his perfect complement. Recent events – fighting terrorists side by side before making a narrow escape; deciding the next course of action as the road stretched on across the desert plain; devising contingency plans, into the night, seamlessly completing each other’s thoughts; and..how their bodies moved together in an incredible way, were once again replaying in his mind, his mind that was dragged along by his heart, irrevocably falling deeper and deeper into a dangerous abyss. Falling into sentiments. Falling..for her.
She was still looking at him expectantly, breathing rate still elevated, and as beautiful as ever in the dim light of the hotel room. He wanted to brush his thumb across her flushed cheek, lightly hold her delicate face in his hand, and kiss her again. It would’ve been far too easy to give in. It would also not have been enough.
But he knew that his life as Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, London had no capacity to accommodate what his heart was yearning to have. No superlative could describe the ache in his chest that was beginning to consume his mind, at the thought of having to face an Irene-shaped void that she would yet again leave behind, the next morning by the latest, and for good this time.
He took in a shaky breath. Under the blazing sun and blinking stars of Karachi they had each allowed themselves to be more armourless than they’d ever been. Sherlock and Irene, not the consulting detective versus the dominatrix scheming to bring a nation to its knees. These preceding moments when he was by her side and had her by his, however briefly, would soon turn into a memory he’d always hold dear. From the present onwards, through every mile and every year. It would have to be enough. And he would make their parting easier.
He tore his eyes away, curled his lips into a sneer, and abruptly sat up.
“Thank you for the information on Moriarty.”
He bent down to reach for his shirt and trousers on the floor by the bed, and headed into the bathroom. Whether his hurtful response was seen through or not, when he emerged from his shower fully dressed, The Woman was gone, along with her new identity.
Across mountains and plateau, from Pakistan to Montenegro. For the past two years a Ms Wolfe had resided in Podgorica, a thousand miles from London, from her old world, and from.. No, she never dwelled on specifically what or, more accurately, who else was a mere three-hour plane journey away.
His way of avoiding her question, of not saying goodbye, had told her everything she’d needed to know and wanted to hear. It was in his lingering gaze, the constriction of his throat, the masked pain in his expression, the barely discernible wince at his own words – plain and clear. Not to mention what he’d already conveyed through kisses and touches, and what was spelt out in his meticulous measures to ensure her safety. She knew that he cared, that his presence in Karachi wasn’t just out of guilt, and it most certainly wasn’t simply prologue leading to their chat about Jim.
She – the less danger-seeking side of her – respected his decision, for them not to see each other again. But life, ever ironic, had other plans. And the next time she saw him was because of Moriarty. Indirectly. Whilst he was dismantling the spider web, strand by strand.
The day went on just like any other, until she briefly glanced out of her window, and spotted a familiar figure hovering in the shadow.
Her heart leapt at the recognition, but instantly sank in concern and horror as she took in his appearance. He looked..far from his best. Terrible. Worn. Physically and mentally drained. He did manage to retain a trace of the characteristic sharpness and intensity in his demeanour, but was otherwise almost unrecognisable from the man that she’d known, the impeccably dressed London detective that’d always carried an air of exuberant confidence in his sure strides.
Since hearing of his Fall she’d been keeping a diligent attention on the networks of criminal activity around the world, procuring even the most obscure sources of news, holding onto the glimmer of hope that everything was proceeding exactly as Sherlock had planned.
She wanted to descend the stairs of her shared villa. To approach him from behind and tug on his shoulder and arm. To see his surprise as he turned around, fervour in his blue-green eyes. To be assured that the apparent weariness was another constituent of his disguise. Or to softly erase the haggardness from his face, and kiss any scars away. To stand by his side. To hear his deep baritone voice. To tell him about.. About..
She heard a summoning cry resonating from across the hall.
When she returned to the window with a bright-eyed toddler on her arm and a hardened resolve to observe from afar if he’d choose to make a move, Sherlock Holmes had disappeared from sight. Quietly and without trace, like a breeze of Montenegrin wind.
Montenegro, or Monte Nero, “Black Mountain”.
Here for three times they’d nearly met, each just within the other’s grasp, yet neither reached out for that much longed-for clasp. Neither gave in for an ephemeral reunion that would end in yet another dreaded, unsaid goodbye. And any distraction could mean his mission gone awry. He’d fallen from great heights into the darkest of times, perhaps just knowing that she was there would give him the strength to continue his climb. Next stop, Serbia? Less than two hundred miles away.
Here a child had been born of the inky darkness, of the unknown and silence, but through which he would doubtless shine with a fiery splendour and brilliance, just as – she was certain – his father would soon complete his strike back with unyielding resilience.
[To be continued..?]