No Match for the Man

Epilogue

Irene smiled as she handed over a cup of tea to her impromptu and unexpected savior. As she settled into her single armchair, she watched Sherlock Holmes cast his mercurial gaze about at the newly decorated interior of her brand new safe house. The detective had set her up in a studio apartment in the 'wilds' of northern Minnesota in America, and she had made very good use of her paltry budget. It was cozy, instead of stately, but still suited her very well.

"Thank you again, Mr Holmes, for everything you've done for me." Reaching out with her leg, she stroked her foot along the inside of his calf. "If there is anything that I can," she stopped speaking as the detective thunked his mug down ont the end table.

"I wish you to know," he began, steepling his hands before his chin, "that after I leave this place, you will cease to exist in my mind. I will delete you, Ms Adler, just as I have deleted all things irrelevant to me." He stood without further preamble, and pulled on his coat. Pausing at the door, he added, "I take my leave of you, Ms Adler, and though I do wish you well, I do not wish you to ever contact me again."

As the only consulting detective in the world disappeared into the night, Irene Adler, once The Woman, and now no one, barely swallowed her last sip of tea. Tears dripped slowly down her rounded cheeks, as the only man that had ever bested her walked out of her life. How would she live now?

Exhausted, Sherlock trudged up the stairs into his flat, and threw his coat up on the nearest hook. He had barely slept or eaten for two weeks, and been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time with a woman who had mortified him in front of his brother, and nearly caused an incident of multi-national proportions. For once in his life, he wanted nothing more than to stuff himself with curry and pass out for a month.

While he contemplated the pros and cons of sleeping on the sofa, heavy footsteps moved from the kitchen into the living room. John Watson, dressed in his black and white striped jumper, black flannel pants and socks, strode into view. Sherlock waited a full half-second before the doctor glanced at him and flashed him a broad, thrilled smile.

"Welcome home, 'Lock." The doctor wrapped his detective up in a warm embrace, "You poor thing, you look done in."

Returning the hug, Sherlock leaned the bulk of his weight onto his partner's sturdy frame. "I'm hungry and I haven't had a decent cup of tea in ages."

Chuckling, John steered them over to the sofa, depositing the detective with a chaste press of lips. "I'll call for dinner and start up the kettle, shall I? Indian or Thai?"

"Curry puffs?"

"Thai it is." With a last stroke of his fingers through the detective's hair, John turned back toward the kitchen, snatching up his mobile on the way.

Tugging their afghan off the back of the sofa, Sherlock kicked off his shoes and cocooned himself in the warm fabric. Closing his eyes, he set about putting aside the mental files he would need to get rid of before he could begin deleting The Woman from his brain. John being his usual, caring, domestic self was a lovely sort of white noise that allowed him to finish organizing in half the time he would normally take. When he came back to himself, John was bringing in a full plate of potato curry puffs, and a steaming cup of Sherlock's favorite Darjeeling tea.

Halfway through the food, a wave of weariness made the detective reel slightly, and John immediately took away the plate. "Come on, Sherlock, let's get you comfy and in bed before you keel over on the floor."

Taking a deep breath, Sherlock relinquished control and allowed John to maneuver him into the bathroom. Reveling in the warm shower, he heard the door of the room open twice more while he washed away the grime of his travels. When he finally opened the shower curtain, his skin wrinkled from the moisture, he found a fluffy towel and his comfiest pajamas waiting for him. Bless Doctor Watson and his mother-hen tendencies; the man had thrown both the towel and his clothes in the dryer to warm them.

He leaned against the door of his bedroom and took in the sight awaiting him. John had put his softest sheets, fresh from the laundry, onto the bed, and added a light blanket to stave off the chill that lingered in the spring nights. The man himself was just placing a glass of water on the bedside table, and he looked up with a gentle smile as he noticed he was not alone.

"Alright, you, in you get."

Acquiescing silently, Sherlock crawled into bed and settled on his belly, slipping his arms beneath the pillow. John tugged the sheet and blanket up and tucked it around the detective's slim form, then gently tousled the ebony curls and pressed a sweet kiss to one sharp cheekbone. Standing, John made his way to the wall and clicked off the lights.

When the doctor's footsteps failed to return to the bedside, Sherlock lifted himself up and asked, "Where do you think you are going?" When there was no answer forthcoming, he spoke in a deep tone that brooked no argument, "Get back here and into my bed this instant."

A few seconds of silence followed, and then John began to laugh. "I don't know why the bloody hell I put up with you," regardless of his words, the doctor insinuated himself into the covers and splayed himself over the detective's back.

Without having to be asked, John's hands began to firmly massage out all the knots in his partner's shoulders. Loosing himself in the sensation, Sherlock let his mind drift as all the tension of his trip oozed out of his muscles. He could hear John begin to murmur softly, setting up that calming layer of background noise that washed out all others until there was just him and his doctor, alone in the world.

He had never thought, for even a moment, that this would have been possible with The Woman. Her entire persona was based on artifice; designed to play a game that wasn't The Game. He would have spent every moment competing with her, and when his wilder, darker moods she would be next to useless except, perhaps, in encouraging him towards destruction.

John, kind and gentle, ever the carer, kept him sane. There was no competition with John, and no need to be anything other than himself. John gave in where others argued, stayed when others fled, and charged in when others hesitated. When the black moods came upon him, John cajoled and entertained until either the mood passed or The Work drove it away. Even when he was at his worst, John was at his best.

"She was no match, you know," Sherlock said calmly as John settled down full-length on his back.

"I beg your pardon?"

"The Woman." Linking the fingers of their dominant hands together, Sherlock pressed a lingering kiss to his lover's hand. "She was no match for me, because she wasn't you."

John let out a self-deprecating huff and squeezed the detective's fingers, "Don't be daft, love. No one's a match for you."

Flipping them over with a sudden roll of his body, Sherlock pinned his partner to the bed, slotting their bodies together in that perfect way they always seemed to fit. Teasing John's mouth open with a few licks to his lips, Sherlock kissed him soundly. When they were both breathless, the detective pulled back a centimeter and stared down into John's sapphire-steel eyes.

"Don't be daft yourself, my dear John. You are a perfect match for me."


fin

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