consider this the most accurate update on what i've been doing outside of work

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Texts that didn’t invite Sherlock to dinner

Amongst the large number of texts that Irene had sent Sherlock during her carefully planned game, 58 of which was heard by John, it were those that didn’t end with a dinner invitation that really counted.


“Till the next time, Mr Holmes.”

An unspoken acknowledgement concluding their first round of chess.

An implicit challenge promising the thrill of moves yet to commence.

To the brainy detective with high cheekbones, the interesting opponent, the man that she had beaten, in both senses of the word.

Nice strategy, moderately clever. Still, I win. I look forward to our next match. This was all her – all Irene, not The Woman as she was professionally known, and not Ms Adler as she was formally addressed.

But soon, soon it would begin, her real game. One that would be temporally extended for months to come, and spatially inducing field strength across an entire nation.

Her game as a puppet master, gracefully pulling at elaborate strings tied to the younger of the Holmes brothers, strings that Sherlock wasn’t aware constituted an inherent part of his biology.

Damaged and delusional. The corner of her red lips quirked up slightly at the thought. Delusional or not, however, evidence would soon indicate him to be just like most men in one respect. She was confident of that.

And she knew exactly what he liked.

As her thumb hopped across the keyboard of her phone, casually but swiftly, a few simple words joined the string of letters and spaces she’d previously typed, completing the text message she was about to send with a double entendre that she doubted he would comprehend, “Let’s have dinner.”

Let’s play, shall we? My move. And so it began.

Text after text she enjoyed teasing him with the suggestive non-question. Whether it be after offering a clue to what she claimed to be her own state of being (truthfully or not, that was for him to deduce or ignore), or upon reading Dr Watson’s blog for an entertaining story update featuring her puppet.

It became a habit, one of those little things that would paint an extra tinge of colour (a light blue of the same hue as his iris, as his intense gaze, perhaps) onto her days and routine, after having once again seen through pathetic desires and earned another set of begs and cries, or after acquiring a new piece of information that would shift a power balance in her favour.

A spare minute from a full schedule with clients, and she would turn to her long-term project with slightly more delight than she liked to admit, constructing yet another message that would end with the same flirtatious invitation, a devious twinkle in her eyes as she considered the recipient’s reaction upon hearing her personified text alert.

His furrowing brows, his confused blinking, his blush when confronted..

One, two, three, and four pebbles aimfully tossed into the seemingly still waters of the consulting detective’s mind and heart, where she was certain the accurately calculated trajectories had already been taking effect.

But why, did she seem to be feeling ripples diffracting through her own, as more and more she found herself anticipating and searching for the familiar name and face in the news? She’d always liked detective stories, after all.. And detectives.

She looked out of the window at the quiet night over the Thames, setting a copy of The Guardian (nothing exciting) aside. Business hadn’t exactly been fulfilling lately, either. Her hand reached out naturally to her phone and before she realised what it was doing, an empty new message had been created, to be sent to a familiar number. Well, she actually could do with the company of a like mind.

“I can see tower bridge and the moon from my room. Work out where I am and join me.”

She hesitated at the ending full stop, but pressed Send without adding a further word.

Still playing the game. Whether it was an affirmation or a reminder, she wasn’t sure.

London was a small world. She was at a Caffè Nero in Knightsbridge one sunny afternoon when she saw a familiar figure striding past outside. Dark coat, blue scarf, and she would recognise those curly locks of hair anywhere. His demeanour was characteristic of a concentrated, adrenaline-driven Sherlock Holmes on a case. And it was..mesmerising, and contagious.

Irene let her gaze linger where he had disappeared from sight.

“I saw you in the street today. You didn’t see me.” A pause. “You do know that hat actually suits you, don’t you?” As if to lighten the mood.

She held her phone in her hand for a longer moment than usual after sending the two messages that evening.

She clicked on Settings and changed the four-digit password for her Vertu. For no reason other than the fact that it was a pun too good to resist, or so she told herself.

She didn’t contact him for the next week and a half. But when her texts resumed, her signature dinner invitation returned. She had a game to win.

The stage was nearly set, the Promise of Love established, and the Pain of Loss was in schedule for a Mr Sherlock Holmes. The lonely, naïve man, feeling special because of her.

“You looked sexy on Crimewatch.” It was part of her game, even though she meant it.

“BBC1 right now. You’ll laugh.” She couldn’t stop her thoughts drifting to the ridiculous man that had the oddest interests, the brilliant mind that was her intellectual match. Nor could she suppress the small smile on her lips as she tried picturing the way his face would light up.

Very soon now, the curtain would rise for her critical move. Her Christmas present to him. After which all that was needed was for time to strengthen his brew of emotions.

Then give the man the Joy of Redemption, and her victory was a puzzle and a swaggering dance away.

So why was there a part of her that felt as if she was the one about to lose something? Something important, yet something that she most likely never had, or cared about having, to begin with?

Perhaps she was beginning to realise, that somehow in her extended game of deceit, she herself had been placed at the receiving end; that somewhere in between invitations feigned or omitted, power was shifted to an entity beyond control; that the facade might in fact have been the truth all along.

But it was a game that she’d started, and she would keep playing. She had to.