Sometimes, Lestrade wished that John had remained as bland and unobtrusive as he'd appeared on first meeting. Of course, that would mean that he'd be the sort of man who'd have jumped ship after no more than a week of Sherlock, whereas the actual John had managed to stick around for close to seven months. But it would also mean that Lestrade wouldn't have been all that broken up about seeing him leave.
More to the point, it would mean that John wouldn't be hanging about Lestrade's crime scenes looking unfairly attractive, in a way that Lestrade could usually pretend not to notice, but which was harder to ignore when Lestrade was dead on his feet and his eyes--when they weren't trying to drift shut--kept wandering back towards John. And not necessarily the parts of John that it was socially acceptable for his eyes to settle upon, either, which was why the sudden, obnoxious sound of Sherlock clearing his throat startled Lestrade out of a wholly inappropriate contemplation of John's arse.
Lestrade felt his face heat and quickly refocused his gaze on the corpse of a poor sod who really did deserve his full attention. Not that Lestrade's renewed diligence would be enough to deter Sherlock, of course. Lestrade cringed a little in expectation of the cruelly truthful observation that Sherlock was about to make.
Sherlock let out a sharp breath, and Lestrade glanced up to see an expression of pain chase across Sherlock's face before being replaced with an indignant look.
"No," John said quietly but firmly. He crossed over to Sherlock and stooped to pick up the pair of gloves that he'd just used to silence Sherlock by knocking the breath out of him. "Just because you know something, or think you know something--" Sherlock's indignant expression turned positively outraged "--doesn't make it part of the public record. Worry about the body, and let the rest of us have our privacy."
"I'm not above exacting revenge," John said in a conversational tone that Lestrade couldn't help but believe implicitly.
Apparently, Sherlock could hear the same wealth of conviction in it that Lestrade could. He threw his hands up in an overly dramatic gesture, as though he were literally washing his hands of the affair and flinging the water on both of them. "Fine. Be blind and stupid if you like; I won't stop you."
"Thanks," John said dryly. When Sherlock was crouched safely over the body again, John gave Lestrade a rueful smile, and Lestrade couldn't help but return it.
It took an embarrassingly long time for Lestrade to realize that there was something off about what had just happened. He was cabbing it back from the crime scene and grinning a little at the memory of John shutting Sherlock up with such calm efficiency. (Donovan had offered to return the police car for him, citing paperwork to do at the office despite Lestrade's knowing that all of her reports were up-to-date, and the fact that he was visibly too tired to drive safely was a bit embarrassing but not something that he was thinking about at the moment.) Then his mind replayed the part where Sherlock had gotten the wind knocked out of him.
Lestrade frowned. At the time, he'd been impressed and more than a little relieved. In hindsight, though, hitting a man with a pair of gloves at such force at a distance of four meters didn't seem impressive; it seemed impossible. Sherlock might look as though a stiff wind could blow him over, but he was surprisingly strong. Surely a pair of soft leather gloves (Lestrade had a thing for John's hands, okay, and had watched him smooth that pair of gloves on and strip them off more times than he could count, so he knew exactly what they looked like) couldn't have done that kind of damage, not even if they'd been balled up. Which they hadn't been; Lestrade could picture John leaning over to pick the open gloves off the ground.
Perhaps John had slipped a couple of rocks into them? Lestrade shook his head to clear it of that notion. Now he was just being ridiculous.
No, the only proper explanation was...what? And then he realized what he should have known before, were it not for his tiredness turning perfectly ordinary events into mysteries. Sherlock had been malingering, as he sometimes did, playing up the minor hurt to gain sympathy by acting like an overgrown child. Satisfied at that explanation, Lestrade leaned back in his seat and tried not to fall asleep before the cabbie reached his flat.
The next day, Sherlock descended upon the station and Lestrade's eyes flicked automatically to either side of him, searching for John's comfortable presence.
"He's not here," Sherlock said, smirking, though thankfully he didn't elaborate on the thoughts that were prompting that smirk. The smirk changed shape, became slightly more triumphant. "The gardener did it."
"The gardener?" Lestrade repeated, surprised. The man had had a credible alibi and been dismissed from consideration.
"He's been having an affair with the victim's wife," Sherlock said, answering the 'why' but not the 'how,' but that was enough to refocus the Met's attention on the gardener. Sherlock rubbed absently at his chest as he spoke, and Lestrade's gaze dropped to the dark mark just at the edge of Sherlock's open collar.
"Donovan, take someone with you and arrest the gardener from yesterday's murder," he called. Donovan nodded briskly and reached for her coat, then gestured to one of the other officers. Lestrade lowered his voice slightly and nodded towards Sherlock's chest. "What's that, then?"
Sherlock looked faintly surprised that Lestrade had noticed anything out of the ordinary, which might have been insulting except that Lestrade had somehow become inured to Sherlock's behavior at some point in their five years' acquaintance. "Nothing," Sherlock said. "A bruise."
Anyone else, and Lestrade might have taken that dismissive tone at face value, but the last time he'd heard it from Sherlock, Sherlock had been saying, "Just a bit of cocaine," right before he'd begun convulsing.
Lestrade felt his face harden. "Let's have a look."
"What? No," Sherlock said.
"I'm not letting you work another case until I'm certain you're fit to do so," Lestrade said.
"So I can't work unless I show you my chest?" Sherlock demanded. "That sounds rather like sexual harassment to me, Detective Inspector."
Lestrade rolled his eyes. "File a complaint. And you don't have to show me, if you really don't want to. I'm happy to accept a report from a licensed medical practitioner."
"Oh, for heaven's sake," Sherlock said. "This is absurd. Here." He preceded Lestrade into his office and closed the door behind them. Then he unbuttoned the top three buttons of his shirt and tugged it apart, revealing a purplish-brown bruise nearly as wide as Lestrade's palm.
Lestrade carefully blanked all expression from his face. "Looks nasty," he said non-committally.
"I became involved in an argument, there was a small altercation," Sherlock said. "That's all. Nothing to concern the police with. And I'm quite well enough to work, thank you very much. If you have any further doubts, I'm sure that I can find a licensed medical practitioner to allay them for you." He buttoned up his shirt quickly, slanted Lestrade one last annoyed look, and left.
Lestrade let him go. Sherlock was right, a single bruise--even one unpleasant as that one--wasn't a critical problem, though Sherlock was off his nut if he didn't realize that Lestrade would be keeping a much closer eye on him in the future. Hopefully it really was just the result of a stupid fistfight with one of the many people Sherlock offended on a daily basis, and nothing more insidious than that. And if the bruise was right where John's gloves had smacked Sherlock in the chest last night, well, that was only a coincidence.
Lestrade found the revolver by chance two weeks after he and John had begun dating. (Which was itself due to an improbable set of events that made him feel sometimes as though his life were being written by a screenwriter. Or possibly as though John's and Sherlock's were, and Lestrade simply became caught up in their story whenever he entered their periphery.)
He'd known that John had it, of course, but he rather assumed that it had been retired sometime after that whole clusterfuck with Moriarty had ended. To find it lying, quiet and lethal, in John's top desk drawer was something of a shock.
"Do you carry this often?" he asked when John returned from the shower, toweling his hair dry.
John stilled. He draped the towel over the back of the desk chair and leaned over to very deliberately shut the drawer. "No, of course not."
"But you do sometimes," Lestrade persisted. "It's not in your desk as some sort of security blanket; you actually want it within easy access."
John didn't answer.
"Is there a shooting range you go to?" Lestrade asked.
"No, I--" John cut himself off abruptly. "Yes. Mycroft found me a place."
And Lestrade blinked, because John had just lied to him, and he wasn't sure why. He closed his eyes to think, and the months ago incident with the gloves popped into his head, and suddenly he knew. Nothing had been a coincidence, except the part where Lestrade had been witness to two of John's very rare fumbles.
He opened his eyes. "I'm dating Clark Kent," he said, wonderingly, and John's tense face went shuttered and inscrutable.
"I'm sorry?" he said.
"You don't miss," Lestrade said.
There was a long silence, and then John sighed. "No, I don't," he said. "Though how you managed to figure that out, I have no idea."
"The gloves," Lestrade said briefly. "And the fact that I'm ninety-nine percent certain you shot that serial killer from last month, which the experts tell me would have been an insanely difficult bit of shooting for anyone, let alone a man who hasn't practiced in...what...close to a year?" A year ago had been the pedophile kidnapper case; no one had done more than a cursory search for the shooter afterwards.
"That's right," John said, his voice very quiet. "Though that hardly makes me Clark Kent."
"You're quiet and unobtrusive, like you want to fade into the background, which I'm guessing goes back to your schooldays and having to avoid playing sport because you'd be too good at it. You have a genuine superpower, and you use it to make the world a safer place. You're absolutely Clark Kent."
John just shook his head. "D'you know, I joined the army because I thought it was the best way to use my...ability. Turns out, being able to shoot anything you aim at doesn't prevent other people from shooting you. I felt a bit stupid when I realized that." There was a world of old pain in John's voice, and Lestrade winced inwardly to hear it.
He stood up and put his arms around John, who gave him a puzzled look but let him. "Not so stupid," he said. "If anyone who joined the army actually thought they'd get shot, I can't imagine that they'd have any recruits at all."
John snorted. "True enough. But it's not exactly superhero material, either."
"Now, that's where you're wrong," Lestrade said. He had more arguments--dozens of arguments, and most of them wore the names of people whose lives John had helped save--but the hopeful glance John darted at him made him think he might not need them. At least, not until he'd finished making a more emotional appeal. "I think you're extraordinary," he said honestly, his voice a little rough, and punctuated his confession with a kiss. John's mouth opened to him almost immediately, his arms tight around Lestrade's back, and apparently Lestrade's further arguments would have to wait until much later. Lestrade could live with that.