Lestrade still goes to the cemetery.
He never runs into Sherlock there, and by all appearances the grave receives no other visitors. And so when he gets a phone call from John before dawn one morning - Greg, he’s gone off again, and it’s bad this time - Lestrade knows exactly where to go.
He finds Sherlock on the roof of Barts.
The sun is fast approaching, and ahead of its first faint beams the sky is deepest blue. Lestrade picks out Sherlock’s silhouette easily as he steps out onto the roof, and when his eyes have properly adjusted to the darkness he sees that Sherlock is standing by the far edge, his back to Lestrade.
He doesn’t bother to mask his approach, and at the sound of his footsteps Sherlock glances over his shoulder.
“What gave me away?”
“Nothing,” Lestrade tells him. He stops when they are shoulder-to-shoulder, gazing out at the darkened buildings.
“You knew to come here.”
Because I know you now as well as I know myself. And I know where I go for answers.
“Do you come up here often?” Lestrade asks instead, and he can see then that Sherlock finally understands.
“No more frequently than you visit an empty grave,” he says.
Lestrade nods. “And have you found what you’re looking for?”
Sherlock says nothing. He takes a hesitant step toward the low wall that runs along the roof, and then another. When he comes to the edge he reaches out, places his hands over the spot where he stood, poised to drop, four years ago.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” Sherlock says at last, and over the wind Lestrade struggles to make out his words. “Coming back. It’s - gone wrong. And I can’t understand -” He breaks off; draws a deep breath. “Why?”
“Why did it have to be me ?” Sherlock asks, and the quiet despair in his voice turns Lestrade cold. And then he bursts out, “And why can’t I - it’s been a fucking year , Lestrade! And I can’t stop thinking about it. Those years. What... what they did to you. To John. To me . I can’t - it just doesn’t stop .”
“And why can’t it be like before?” Sherlock snaps before falling silent. He shakes his head, as though to physically remove the thoughts from his mind. For a moment, Lestrade can’t breathe with the indignity of it all. What Sherlock has gone through, he would wish on no one.
And yet, it brought them here.
“Bloody proud of you,” Lestrade says gruffly. “I never said so, but I am. John, too. And we forgave you ages ago.” He pauses. “So when are you gonna start forgiving yourself?”
The wind carries over Sherlock’s derisive snort. “What are you on about, Lestrade?”
Lestrade goes to the cemetery seeking solace. Sherlock comes here looking for absolution. Chasing ghosts, the both of them, seeking forgiveness everywhere except in one another, because sometime over the course of the past year each man has forgotten that learning to live again isn’t something he has to do alone; isn’t something he can do on his own. Sherlock proves that, brutally, with every risk that brings him to the brink of oblivion. Lestrade proves it, quietly, with every drink he pours.
But Sherlock is here , not resting beneath a cold headstone, and the forgiveness that he’s looking for had been given long ago.
It’s time to stop running.
Lestrade holds out a hand that Sherlock doesn’t see and says, “Come back with me.”
“Why should I?”
“‘Cause you risk your life on most days to prove to yourself that you’re still alive, and on other days because you’re punishing yourself for what happened. But that’s not the way to go about this. S’not gonna help, I promise you that. I think you know it already. So come back with me.”
Sherlock huffs. “And then what?”
“You’re gonna go back to Baker Street,” Lestrade says quietly, the scenes playing out across his mind like so many other scenarios before them, but these, at least, are pleasant. “You’ll go back to your crime scenes and your blogger and be brilliant, just as you always have been. Someday, you’ll stop blaming yourself for having to leave. You might even realise that none of this was your fault. It happened, and you can’t change that any more than you could have stopped it. And then, perhaps, you’ll tell us about it. Those years.”
“Lestrade -” Sherlock starts to protest.
“And I’ll go back to the Yard,” Lestrade continues, talking over him, “and the work and I’ll call you when I need you, just as I always do. And... and most days it’ll be just Sherlock-and-John. Just as it should be. But now and again there’ll be Sherlock-and-Lestrade, and that... that will be wonderful.”
Sherlock finally turns around. The wind is stronger here on the roof than it is on the ground and it whips his curls into his face, obscuring grey eyes made overly-bright by the breeze. He’s holding a cigarette between two fingers, but it’s gone untouched this entire time.
“I jumped,” he says.
“You were pushed,” Lestrade corrects. “Don’t let anyone tell you differently. He left you no choice.”
“There was always a choice,” Sherlock says bitterly.
“Do you think for a moment you made the wrong one?”
“I’m not sure there was ever a right one to make.”
“So why did you choose the one that you did?”
Sherlock doesn’t hesitate with his response. “Because I don’t want any part of a world where you and John aren’t alive.”
Lestrade wants to reach out and cup his face; run his thumb along the lines that have formed at the corner of Sherlock’s eye, as though he could smooth away the pain. Instead, he says, in a voice thick with all the words he can’t voice, “Same here, lad.”
It isn’t eloquent or all that memorable, but Sherlock relaxes with all that passes between them unsaid. The tight, stiff line of his shoulders eases, and a light appears in his eyes.
“Greg,” he says abruptly.
“Earlier. You meant Sherlock-and-Greg .”
Lestrade’s heart slips out of sync at the sound of his given name on Sherlock’s tongue, and a smile tugs at his lips.
“Yeah, right then,” he says. “I suppose I did.”
And then, after a moment, when he can find his voice again, Lestrade says, “The good place.”
“Hmm?” Sherlock hums, only half-listening.
“ Utopia . The good place - and the place that doesn’t exist. You said that once, remember?” At Sherlock’s nod, he adds, “So did you ever figure out which one this was?”
Sherlock fixes him with a crooked smile. He slides his fingers between Lestrade’s own, and sometime between the moon appearing as a dim wafer in the eastern sky and the thin line of dawn starting to grow on the horizon, Lestrade’s thumb finds its way to Sherlock’s wrist, brushing lightly over the tarnished flesh.
Three years. Sixteen scars.
He owes them so much.