it's nothing but time and a face that you lose
i chose to feel it and you couldn't choose
i'll write you a postcard
i'll send you the news
from the house down the road
from real love
- stars, "your ex-lover is dead"
A secret of the late-night variety: he wonders sometimes if he would have loved Jamie Moriarty more than he loved Irene Adler.
Sherlock has very little time for people. He has time for their crimes, of course, for their lies and confessions. But people themselves can be tiresome - they muck up evidence and fail to notice the obvious; they’re willing to think with any part of their bodies besides their minds.
Watson, of course, is an exception.
Just like Irene was. Once.
In the fallout, he thought about Irene endlessly. Not Moriarty, not the woman who fooled him and very nearly destroyed him, but Irene Adler, her construction. He thought about her blonde hair and the way it always seeming to be whipping about in the wind like she was on the cover of a romance novel. He thought of each individual freckle on her back, and the way he came to adore those freckles, came to know their exact locations even in the darkness of a post-midnight bedroom. He thought about her job, her artistry, the way he found her attraction to beauty almost as attractive as her own beauty. He thought about her love of rich wines heavy with hints of coffee or chocolate and the way he came to know those flavours as the taste of her impeccable mouth.
In the fallout, what drives Sherlock craziest of all is his desire to understand Moriarty’s design. Was her blonde hair dyed, on the assumption that he might have a penchant for fair women? Were all those freckles really real? Did she love to paint, or had she taught herself that love? Did she truly prefer expensive scotch, poured on ice cubes and cradled against her palm?
It tortures him - to think he’ll never understand how she knew him.
She was brilliant in bed. He paces the kitchen past four o’clock in the morning, watching Cylde dawdle along across the floor, and he aches at the memories. He knows what any hopeless romantic would say, that the sex was so spectacular because they were in love, but Sherlock, now, is post love. He is objective. He knows the sex was good because she was good -
(she would let him call her darling, let him say my darling into the pale-blue light of snowy darkness, let him say two words and nothing more because she understood, she understood him more clearly than he understood himself, and he would say my darling with his fingertips against her cheek or her jaw or her breast and she would listen with her lips half-curled in satisfaction, the two of them laying there together breathless and sweaty and painfully human)
- he’s learning, now, how very good she is at everything.
He imagines her. He imagines her hair in the messy french braid she favoured sometimes when painting, her nose wrinkled at the mere sight of her violently orange clothing, pen clasped between two perfect fingers.
Ever yours, she signs her letter.
Ever yours, my darling.
He will never deny that he loved Irene. Joan’s interest in a discussion of his feelings is expected, but he does not require a confessional. He knows what he felt. He knows how he feels. He knows what he must do. He will not pretend otherwise - he is smarter than that.
Analysis is key in everything he does. He cannot move past that love without a close reading of it.
He fell in love with Irene because she was thoughtful and beautiful and intriguing in wonderful ways. She once told him that she fell for him for all the same reasons. They were complimentary. He had thought Irene was smooth in the places his edges were hard, but in the end, she was harder than he had ever been. She wore down his corners.
It is difficult, sometimes, for him to understand the choices people make when they’re in love. They submit themselves to the institution of marriage. They kill ex-lovers in passionate rages. They lose themselves to love; it is, after all, a powerful drug. And he does not understand how to fake an addiction.
All of those evenings, those mornings, those afternoons, those endless weeks and months that they were together, he was developing his drug habit.
How is it possible, how was it possible, for Moriarty to forge that feeling?
For a long while now, I have suspected that connection with another person, real connection, simply isn’t possible. I’m curious if you disagree, although I suspect you feel as I do in this, as you do in so many other things. So tell me, is it possible to truly know another person? Is it even a worthwhile pursuit? Yours is the only opinion I’ll trust. The only point of view that holds even the faintest interest. I find my diversions, as I always do, but the days are long in this grey place. I dearly hope you’ll write soon.
He holds that letter until the imprints of his fingers have been left in every crease. The logical side of his brain says no. No, it isn’t possible; no, it isn’t worthwhile. People are the strangest creatures, there is no way to truly understand them. Understanding oneself is about the highest challenge the human brain can handle.
I find my diversions, her words tell him, and he pictures the smile that tugs at the corners of her mouth, half smirk, half sadness. I always do. It occurs to him (as it has occurred many times before) that a diversion was all he was to her. A little game. A clever mouse trapped in a difficult maze. A diversion, and all along he was falling, falling, falling -
In moments of boredom, or weakness, Sherlock begins to write back, but he never sends a single letter - he doesn’t even finish one.
Inevitably, he writes the words he refuses to admit to. Words like why. Words like how.
Those are questions he cannot put to her, the woman named Jamie whom he always thought of as Irene. She solved him. He cannot admit to how difficult he’s finding it to solve her.
(And of course, the worst question of all, the pen breaking through the paper, ink leaking onto the table - did you love me, as I loved you?)
Perhaps, in another lifetime, he would have met a British woman with all the light in the world in her eyes, and perhaps her hair would’ve been dark, or maybe it would’ve been light, and maybe she would have been a detective, a criminologist, a private investigator, someone who picked people apart just like he does, and she would have called herself Jamie and he would have found her name almost childish but so very endearing, almost like a nickname, a built-in sense of familiarity. He would have liked the balance of it, her first name and his last, average enough at first glance, and then her last name and his first, crisp syllables demanding attention.
He would have liked many, many things.
Sherlock gives Joan his chest of unsolved cases, but he goes to bed with the worst of them every night, haunting the edges of his consciousness as he sleeps and when he wakes again.