Sherlock took a deep drag of his cigarette and exhaled gratefully, watching the smoke curl and dissipate in the darkness.
He was leaning on the stone balustrade of a balcony overlooking formal gardens, listening to the faint strains of disco music. The reception was still in full swing. John and Mary had left ten minutes earlier, looking flushed and disgustingly happy, and Sherlock had escaped out of a side door to get some fresh air because if he had to spend one more minute making small talk he would have lost his mind.
It had been a beautiful day, as every single person he’d spoken to had felt the need to point out. His cheeks ached from grimacing for photos, his ears ached from listening to interminable speeches, his feet ached from being trodden on by Molly, and his brain was ready to explode from having fulfilled every other meaningless social obligation that could possibly have been inflicted on him. It had been tedious beyond belief. Only John’s presence and the thought of this moment had kept him intact, and now John was gone.
The smell of cigarette smoke mingled unpleasantly with the faint smell of roses. Sherlock plucked the flower from his buttonhole and tossed it cheerfully over the side of the balcony. He took another drag and sighed with pleasure as the nicotine buzzed through his veins.
There was a burst of noise as the door swung open behind him, followed by soft footsteps echoing on the stone. Sherlock scowled at the darkness and tensed, ready for flight. If they asked one question he’d-
“Thought I’d find you out here,” said Lestrade.
Sherlock relaxed, fished in his trouser pocket and held out the half-empty cigarette packet without looking. Lestrade tugged one out and lit it. He took a long, slow drag before settling himself next to Sherlock, elbows nearly touching.
“No.” Sherlock exhaled slowly, a grey plume of denial. “I’m positively giddy with delight. John and Mary are the happiest couple in the history of heterosexual relationships, and I’m sure domestic tedium will suit them both marvellously.”
“If that’s the first draft of your speech then I take back what I said earlier.”
They smoked their cigarettes in silence, side by side, looking out into the shadows.
Sherlock turned, very slightly, so that he could look at Lestrade without being noticed. He looked much the same as he had before Sherlock had left – handsome, confident, and a little tired. He wore his looks as well as he wore his new suit, with the casualness of someone who had always been good-looking and so took it for granted.
Lestrade was the only person who hadn’t bombarded Sherlock with endless questions when he’d returned. (Yes, he knew that John had been upset. No, he couldn’t have let anyone known he was alive. Yes, it had been quite dangerous at times but mostly it had been appallingly dull – days and weeks and months of mind-numbing routine police work, with no room for showing off and no-one to show off to even if he could. Yes, he was glad to be back, though he soon wouldn’t be if people wouldn’t stop asking questions.)
Lestrade had rushed round to Baker Street as soon as he’d heard. He’d stared at Sherlock, sworn a lot and eventually hugged him. When he’d finally let go they’d stood in embarrassed silence until Sherlock had remembered an emergency pack of cigarettes hidden under a loose floorboard. Lestrade had grinned at him and lit up for the first time in three years, and that had been that.
“They’re good together, you know.”
“Yes.” Sherlock did know. Not only was Mary a much better match for John than any of his previous girlfriends, he was uncomfortably aware that his fast-paced reconciliation with John was in no small part due to her intervention. If John absolutely had to abandon Sherlock for romance, he supposed that John could have chosen a worse person to do it with.
“Did you ever-“ Lestrade paused.
“Never mind.” The words seemed to hang in the cool night air for a moment before they drifted away on the breeze. Lestrade stubbed his cigarette out on the stone and stood up decisively.
“Do you want to get out of here?”
Sherlock turned, looked at him, considered the matter.
Lestrade’s grin was bright in the moonlight.