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This Different Night

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Sherlock stood in front of the shelf at Tesco’s and tried to deduce what to buy.

His fingers itched to text John, but he closed them into a determined fist.

“He’s sad,” John had said over breakfast, looking at Sherlock meaningfully.

“Of course he’s sad.” Sherlock wasn't sure what John was on about. “He’s in hospital with a broken leg—he’s just come out of surgery.”

“He’s in hospital. With a broken leg,” John had repeated slowly, as if Sherlock were deliberately not comprehending. “And it’s Passover. Doesn’t he usually go up to Leeds to spend the holiday with his parents?”

“I suppose so.” Sherlock hadn’t given it much thought, really. It had certainly never occurred to him that having a good excuse to miss a family event might be cause for unhappiness.

“So he’s sad. Go buy him something Passover-y to cheer him up.”

Sherlock had scowled. “You do it, if you’re so concerned about his spiritual well-being.”

“No. I am going out now to earn an honest living. You’re his boyfriend; you do it.”

Sherlock had considered protesting further, but in the end he’d held his peace. When John started tossing that word about it usually meant he was working up to a full-scale lecture on how Sherlock was a bad one. Not that John was in any position to give advice. Sherlock and Lestrade had been together for far longer than whatever on-again-off-again thing John had going with Sarah. Not that they were together. Not in the sense that John seemed to think they were, anyway.

Sighing, Sherlock turned back to the shelves of Passover supplies.

It stood to reason that the thing there was the most of was the thing most necessary, so he ignored the jars of unknown, grayish substances, and picked up a big package of matzah. At least it would save Lestrade having to eat the soggy hospital bread. He bought a tin of macaroons, as well; Lestrade liked sweets.

+++

But when he got to the door of Lestrade’s room, Sherlock found that others had preceded him. Before he could unobtrusively back away, however, a diminutive woman in her late sixties caught him in an enthusiastic embrace, unimpeded by the matzah box he held in front of himself like a shield.

“Oh, Sherlock,” she said, from somewhere near the vicinity of his shirt pocket.

“Now, now, Mrs. Lestrade,” Sherlock said, disentangling himself, for it was she. He had met Lestrade’s mother once before, at some police commendation ceremony. On that occasion she had been solemn and restrained, tightly tucked into a red wool suit. Now she was wearing a mauve track suit and trainers, salt-and-pepper hair in a loose bun.

“Bella,” she said. “Bella, please. Oh, you shouldn’t have!” She held up the matzah box as if it were a bouquet of orchids. “And Grisha was just telling us you how stayed all night with him, you sweet boy.”

“I—“ Sherlock started to explain that it was nothing—somebody had had to stand between the barely coherent Lestrade and the imprecations of overzealous doctors and nurses—but he paused. “Grisha?”

The very few people he’d ever heard call Lestrade by anything other than his surname—including his family—had always called him Greg.

“Old family nickname.” That was Lestrade himself. He looked better than he had early that morning—propped up on pillows, some color starting to return to his face. Still a bit wan and tousled, though, Sherlock noted with a twinge.

“It’s what his Nana always used to call him, may she rest in peace,” said a slight man on the far side of the bed.

“You remember my father?” Lestrade asked, sounding vaguely apologetic.

Lestrade senior wasn’t much taller than he wife, skin and hair faded into whiteness. He’d been a bookkeeper for a shoe factory before he retired, Sherlock remembered. But even if Sherlock hadn’t met him before, he would have known the family connection from his eyes, even larger in his face than his son’s.

“David.” He shook Sherlock’s hand. “Good to see you again, Mr. Holmes. Wish it could be in better circumstances, of course, but Greg seems comfortable enough. Nice room they’ve given him, at any rate. Perks of being a Detective Inspector, I suppose.”

Sherlock smiled thinly. The private room had been Mycroft’s doing—he’d seen the accident on some CCTV feed no doubt. Sherlock would have been furious, except that he suspected he would have paid for the better accommodations himself if Mycroft hadn’t beaten him to it.

“Likewise, I’m sure,” he said. “But you needn’t have made the trip—Lestrade—Grisha--Greg—isn’t in any danger. I thought Dr. Watson explained that to you.”

Indeed, Sherlock distinctly remembered John scrolling through Lestrade’s phone to find his parents’ number the night before. John had held the phone to Lestrade’s ear so he could mumble, “No, Mum, I’m fine. Really. You can stop packing now. And crying. Don’t cry. Everything’s fine,” before taking it back himself.

“No, I’m not his doctor,” John had said, “but I am a doctor,” before launching into the details of the injury.

Sherlock had been glad John was there to handle it. John had years of training in talking to relatives, after all, and the natural gift of a gruff, confident voice. Sherlock thought he might have screamed if he’d had to talk to anyone just then. He hadn’t been able to stop replaying the moment when Lestrade had knocked him out of the way and taken the brunt of the getaway car himself. He hadn’t been able to make himself let go of Lestrade’s hand.

“But it’s Passover,” Bella was saying when Sherlock jerked his attention back to the present. “We couldn’t let Grisha spend it alone in a hospital bed. So we told his Aunt Sophie and her lot they had to shift for themselves this year, packed up and drove down.”

“Ah,” said Sherlock, noticing now the various hampers and coolers that cluttered the room. “Of course you did.”

In his experience, however, such behavior bore no relation to what families did. There had been the time Mycroft had brought him a perfect, miniature Bouche de Noel, of course, the Christmas Sherlock had spent in Sunny Oaks. But since it had been Mycroft’s fault he’d been immured in that horrid place to begin with, he’d been reluctant to see it as a kindness.

“Oh, here’s our Ruth at last,” Bella continued, “and my lovely twins.”

“Sorry, mum,” Lestrade’s sister burst into the room, bearing yet more packages and trailing two little girls in pink trainers like gaudy ducklings. “Josh is going to be even later—he’s held up at work. You’re looking less peaky already Greg.” She bent to kiss him, and then stopped short when she saw Sherlock. “Mr. Holmes.”

“Mrs. Goldmann.” They had encountered each other once already that day. Ruth lived in London, and there had been no preventing her coming ‘round to check on Lestrade that morning. She and Sherlock had passed in the hospital lobby, and Ruth, a petite ball of energy wrapped in her usual barrister’s power suit, had given him her habitually accusing look, as if everything adverse that had ever befallen her brother were his fault. A look she was trotting out now for a repeat performance.

“Uncle Greg, Mummy says we can sign your cast—can we? Please?” One of the twins brandished a sparkly purple marker at Lestrade.

Daisy and Hannah were seven, Sherlock knew, and almost identical. Indeed, he doubted whether a less acute eye than his own would have been able to pick out the asymmetrical spray of freckles across Hannah’s nose, or the slightly more oblique angle of Daisy’s ears.

“Not now, love.” Bella steered the girl away from the bed. “If we’re not going to wait for Josh, we should start the seder before we wear your uncle out.

“I should go.” Sherlock seized the welcome cue to withdraw from the increasingly crowded scene.

“Alright, then,” said Ruth, “good to see you.”

“No, Sherlock, stay,” said Bella. “Grisha, make him stay.”

“Mum,” Ruth tried again, “if Mr. Holmes has somewhere to be—“

“Ruthie, Sherlock is Grisha’s special friend. He should stay.”

Mum.” Ruth gestured warningly towards her children.

“Don’t be prudish, dear. Girls,” Bella looked brightly at the twins, “do any of the children at your school have two dads?”

Daisy and Hannah considered this.

“There’s Imogen,” said Daisy. “She calls them Dad and Poppa.”

“And Ralph in Year One has two mums,” Hannah added.

“Well, that’s like your Uncle Greg and Mr. Holmes here. Except they don’t have children. Yet.”

Lestrade developed a sudden coughing fit. Sherlock took refuge in finding him some water.

The twins nodded sagely, as if they’d learned all about such things already from some educational video.

“Shall we call him Uncle Sherlock?” asked Daisy.

“No, dear,” said Bella. “Mr. Holmes will do just fine.”

“Do stay,” Lestrade said, fingers brushing Sherlock’s as he took the water glass. Sherlock nodded; something about the exhausted openness of Lestrade’s still pale face made it impossible to leave.

“Yes, of course,” Sherlock said. He pulled a chair close to the bed and tucked his jacket demurely underneath him. "Thank you for the invitation.”

Bella and Ruth busied themselves with unpacking the various hampers and setting up dishes on any available level surface. Mycroft’s instructions must have included the provision that Lestrade be given anything he asked for, because someone had brought in an extra instrument table, and that too was loaded down with packages. David passed out paper pamphlets—Haggadahs, whispered Lestrade—and round skullcaps for the men.

“Grape juice for you, I’m afraid, son,” he said apologetically to Lestrade, pouring sweet red wine into plastic glasses for all the other adults.

When everyone had settled, David began the service, voice rounding out a bit in ritual formality. The Haggadah had English and Hebrew on facing pages, but the Lestrade family, to Sherlock’s relief, favored the English. He could read most ancient languages, including Hebrew, fluently, but he was prepared to admit that his oral skills left something to be desired.

The beginning of the service seemed to involve a lot of holding up of various items, explaining their significance, praying over them, and occasionally biting into them. At one point the twins sang a lengthy bit of Hebrew in perfect unison. Sherlock took and tasted whatever he was given, but he let most of his attention drift back to Lestrade. After her recitation, Daisy had squished herself onto the bed next to Lestrade’s good hip, and, oblivious to the religious solemnity of the night, was leaning over him to doodle on his cast with her infernal marker. Lestrade had one arm curled around her shoulders, and an expression his face that Sherlock couldn’t quite identify: he was smiling, but his eyes seemed oddly full, almost tearful. Pain meds could do funny things to your system, Sherlock supposed.

“Sherlock.” Bella nudged him and nodded significantly towards the text in his hand.

“We take turns reading parts of it,” whispered Lestrade. “It’s your turn now.”

“Ah.” Sherlock followed Bella’s pointing finger and read. “If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought forth our ancestors from Egypt, then we and our children and our children’s children, would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Therefore, even if we are all learned and wise, all elders and fully versed in the Torah, it is our duty nonetheless to retell the story of Exodus from Egypt. And the more one dwells on the Exodus from Egypt, the more one is to be praised.

“Ooo, his voice,” said Bella in a stage whisper. “I could listen to him read the phone book, I could.”

Mum,” hissed Ruth.

Sherlock looked up to find the entire Lestrade family watching him and smiling. It troubled him, as always, that people could get so wrapped up in a story so patently false.

“You know,” he said, concerned that they might be unaware of the evidence, “recent research shows that the ancient Israelites were never slaves in Egypt at all. They lived in Northern Judea the whole time, and made up the story about Pharaoh and the Red Sea for reasons of their own.”

The smiles dropped from six faces simultaneously, even the twins’. Sherlock missed them more than he would have expected.

“Not good?” he asked Lestrade out of the corner of his mouth.

“A bit not good.”

“Nothing conclusive, of course,” Sherlock amended hastily. “Chances are it all happened just like it says here. Burning bush and all.”

Everyone rustled uncomfortably, but they were saved from further unpleasantness by a large curly head poking through the door and a bass voice booming, “Hello all, what did I miss?”

“Dad!” Daisy leaped off the bed and followed her sister into their father’s arms. He swept the twins up easily; Josh Goldmann was probably taller than the rest of the Lestrades put together, Sherlock thought, and burly with it.

“Only the beginning, dear,” said Bella. “We’re just getting on to the plagues.”

+++

Things started up again, lubricated by more wine and the heat of eight people jammed into a tiny hospital room. This part of the ritual involved shouting out Hebrew words for terrible event, some lusty singing, and of course more pointing and blessing and tasting. Mycroft’s instructions held, however, and despite some puzzled looks from people passing in the corridor, no one admonished them for the noise.

Lestrade kept up his end of things well enough, but after a while, Sherlock noticed that he was going gray around the edges, voice fading to a whisper.

Bella seemed to see the same thing, because she started making less-than-subtle eye and hand gestures at her husband in an attempt to get him to wrap things up. They exchanged meaningful glances, but Bella prevailed, and proceedings were brought to a rather abrupt close.

“Ah, Bella,” said Josh, between joyful slurps of the soup that had miraculously appeared, still warm, from one of the containers, “I’ve always said you make the best matzah ball soup. Almost worth Greg breaking his leg to have you bring it down to London.”

“Josh!” said Ruth.

The soft clink of spoon hitting bowl alerted them that Lestrade had finally succumbed to sleep.

“Come along, girls,” said Bella, “you can hunt for the afikomen at your mum’s house.”

+++

“You stay, dear,” Bella told Sherlock, tucking the last of the dishes into a hamper. “I’m sure Grisha wouldn’t want you to go.”

Truth be told, Sherlock didn’t want to go. He wanted—it was possible he needed—a few moments alone with Lestrade, even a sleeping Lestrade, to regain his equilibrium after the unexpected events of the night.

“I’m so glad you could share the holiday with us,” said Bella, as if the whole thing had been a carefully planned event. “Good Yontiff, Mr. Holmes.”

Sherlock didn’t know the proper response to that, so he just nodded and accepted her kiss.

Left alone, he dimmed the lights, and pulled his chair even closer to the bed. Lestrade was peacefully asleep, at least, though it probably wouldn’t be long before some nurse came in to take needless readings. There was a splash of grape juice on his blue hospital gown, and the white monument of his casted leg was traversed now by purple hearts and loopy letters reading DayZ 4VR. Sherlock sat watching for a moment, not touching, just counting the even in and out of Lestrade’s breath.

“Sorry, sorry.” David tiptoed noisily back into the room. “Don’t mean to disturb you—it’s just Bella’s forgotten her scarf. That woman would forget her head if it wasn’t attached—“

He broke off, pausing on the other side of the bed, and looking down at Lestrade. Then he bent down and laid a gentle kiss on his son’s forehead. “Dayenu, indeed,” he whispered.

He looked up, held Sherlock’s eyes for a moment, and brushed his light, dry fingers briefly across Sherlock’s cheek. And then, scarf in hand, he was gone.

Sherlock sat in the near darkness, feeling the warmth of the touch gradually fade away. He didn’t even realize he’d gone back to holding Lestrade’s hand until he heard John’s voice in the hallway, good-naturedly demanding to know why every nurse on the floor was eating a macaroon, and no one had saved one for him.

the end