2. A Seaside Resort

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Ten minutes later, the wine brings the faintest smudge of colour back into Sherlock's cheeks, and the food seems to have finally worked its way into his bloodstream, because he is looking around the flat now with brightened searching eyes. He is sitting on her sofa now, long legs stretched out, shoes on her coffee table. Irene curls on the sofa beside him, back against the armrest.

"It really is extraordinary." Holmes says softly, almost to himself.

"What is?"

Sherlock tilts his head at her, ice blue eyes examining. "I imagined you'd start a life somewhere abroad. Las Vegas, Moscow, Dubai, somewhere – "

"Exciting?"

"Somewhere where you could exercise your talents. "

Irene shrugs. "A large portion of my clientele were fond of international travel. If I started up in business somewhere new it would only be a matter of time before I was recognised. And anyway, I've no desire to build my reputation again from scratch. It isn't a nice ladder to be on the lowest rung of."

"So I understand. And, of course, you aren't getting any younger." He says, with a positively vicious detachment. "What is the typical age of retirement for a woman in your profession? Twenty eight? Thirty? That's what that game with our friend Jim was really about, wasn't it? You wanted your pension ."

"That – and it amused me." Irene says airily. Stretching out she rests her feet lightly against the black fabric of Sherlock's trousers. Sherlock glances briefly at her feet as they make contact, face expressionless. Irene smiles broadly. It's an odd sort of revenge, but it is an immensely satisfying one.

"Still, it isn't exactly as though you had no other alternatives." Sherlock continues, eyes still fixed on her well-manicured toes. "You could have travelled almost anywhere in the world, you could have made a new life doing almost anything. And yet you came here. To Worthing."

Irene shrugs. "It's not a bad old place."

"It is the very definition of dull." Sherlock states.

"I like being near the sea. It's romantic."

Sherlock looks at her as if she's gone mad.

Irene decides that its time to get to the point.

"What, exactly, are you doing here, anyway? You aren't just looking for a place to crash. Certainly not in Worthing. " Irene imitates his tone of disdain.

Sherlock's head tilts back, that unexpectedly soft looking mouth of his tightening slightly. He speaks to the ceiling. "Moriarty ran a vast and complex network of criminal conspirators. I intend to destroy it."

Irene's eyebrows climb into her hairline.

"That's – ambitious."

Sherlock cocks an eyebrow, as if to indicate that he's surprised she would expect anything less from him.

"And you think I can help you." Irene asks slowly.

"I need information."

"I don't have any information. I've been out of circulation for over a year."

"But you do have contacts. You could approach them, work your way back in. I need an inside man, Irene. I can't do anything without data."

Irene sits up straight, staring at him. "You want me to spy on Moriarty's network?"

"Yes."

There is a long silence. " Do you have any idea how risky that would be? "

"Yes." Sherlock meets her gaze candidly. "If we succeed we both get to go back. To our real lives. To London."

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