Chapter 1: Finite
Through the eyes of G. Lestrade, former Detective Inspector of the Metropolitan Police in London, England, now employed as a personal guard for one M. Holmes, a man in the world government.
Mum always said that the world doesn't need more leaders; it needs more people who're willing to work. I guess that's why I never wanted to be in charge, but I'd work for whoever was. When I joined the Met, I had no problem being a rookie and doing the things no one else wanted to do, whether it got noticed, or not. It usually didn't. Eventually, though, it did, and after a few years of hard work, I was promoted to Detective Inspector. That was the beginning of the end of my time at the Met.
When I was younger, you see, I lived just outside London with my mum, dad and my three little sisters. Mum was the one we saw and who tucked us in- until I was old enough to do that, or when she was too sick- because Dad was a member of the force. We had a cabinet full of his awards and letters of recognition from his superiors, but the things that really something to him were kept in this tiny safe in his closet. Inside the safe was this small box of letters, some hand written and others bought, but they all had names written on them and were usually smudged or covered in tear stains. They were thank you cards from the people he'd helped.
I only knew about them because Mum wanted me to know that Dad wasn't just gone off doing nothing. He was doing something important.
That's not to say that he wasn't ever around, though, because he was. Birthdays and Christmas. It made the memories of him stronger, though, not seeing him much. The years and what they bring have worn away much what I can actually recall happening, but there's one conversation I don't think I'll ever forget.
Before I tell you about that, though, I realize that I've neglected to mention a few important things.
My sisters' names are Betsy, Margot and Pierrette. Betsy and Margot are twins who do things the same way unintentionally. They got married years ago, only a few years after graduating from university. Pierette, though, was born blind and mute but with a smile on her face. She lives with me- in my house, to be more exact- since she won't go to a home but can't take care of herself.
They're a lovely bunch, always have been, but other than making sure I was comfortable around girls and that there've been plenty of embarrassing stories, we've gone our separate ways and see each other little.
Mum and Dad are still around, living their pensioner lives and, last I heard, nearly setting fire to the retirement home.
If I'm honest, it's the next family, rather than my own, that's come to take priority in my life, the two sons in particular. The elder, Mycroft, and I have had classes together since we were little; I can't remember taking a class without him. He was intelligent enough to be in a much higher grade- mature enough as well- but people rarely like to be in same class as someone half their age, let alone less than. So he was kept in my year, though he very nearly got his head kicked in after the first day. He's always been an upperclass, dapper prat, and it was even more obvious since he was in a poor person's school. I don't even remember what he'd done to deserve the bollocking he got (He did deserve it, though- like I said, prat.), but there really wasn't a reason for two big lads to go after the little fella. Well, he wasn't very little when we were younger- too busy indulging and trying to escape his family to watch his weight. Still, he was a lot shorter and a hell of a lot weaker. I knew the boys from football, so they were willing enough to shove off once I spoke to them proper, and, not really interested in hearing my soon-to-be companion mouth off, I threw him over my shoulder.
Maybe halfway down the road, I felt him start shaking, so I put him down. The poor sod had heard me talking to the other boys and thought I was gonna hit him, too. And he, "needed the lavatory." There really wasn't any way this kid- I hadn't been listening when he was introduced, too busy looking at one of the girls across the room to hear his name- was going to survive this alone, and he didn't seem like a brat, so I figured I'd stick with him, watch over him for a while (show him the way to the loo before he wet himself).
I had no idea then of how long I'd actually be watching over him. Or how much it would wind up costing me.
After that first day, I didn't have any hope for not being entangled in every part of Mycroft's life. Maybe it was because when he was little, there was something sad in his eyes, as though he'd lost his favorite plush animal. He hadn't though, as it turns out; his father didn't allow plush animals for Mycroft since he felt that it would make the poor little guy weak and effeminate. (I got him one, though, and we kept it in my room. It was this floppy, yellow bunny with long legs and arms whose ears hung down to its feet. It had the softest fake fur that no matter how sad he got, if I attacked him with it, Mycroft wouldn't be able to resist smiling. One day I went looking for it in the back of my closet, but the only thing I found was a mound of mate-less shoes. And a pile of pornographic magazines that I swear I'd never seen before.)
When he was seven, though, things changed. His mother had gotten pregnant again, even though she was supposedly barren after Mycroft, and Sherlock was born. When he told me, there was an air of dignity and barely restrained excitement in him, that I was afraid that my little shadow- as he had become, since I could always tell he was just out of sight, though never quite interfering, just watching- would explode. Then he showed me this picture of a tiny, too slender baby with blonde hair and smiled so happily that I couldn't tell him that since his brother had been so early, he was not going to be as healthy as his big brother. Instead, I smiled and told him that yes, Sherlock was very handsome, and would he like to show my sisters? He very would, thank you, Lestrade.
Years later, we graduated, and I had to go to university, planning to join the force, just like Dad. Mycroft had graduated as well, but his family wanted him to have a home education, so he could not leave like I was going to.
By that time, he was a regular at our house, and I'd grown used to his company. The idea of going away and losing my shadow was hanging heavily over me, but it was not something I felt comfortable discussing- not with family, other friends and definitely not with Mycroft himself.
My other fear, the fear that later came to pass, was that I would return and discover that he had outgrown me, that in place of the smiling, bashful prat I had come to know, there would be a man who found me a hindrance rather than a friend. That he never wished me goodbye must have been the beginning...
I didn't see or hear from Mycroft again until I was thirty four, two years into my time as a D.I. By then, I should have gotten over the crush I'd formed on him, but he was forever in my head, constantly speaking to me in that ridiculous way he had, manners and awkwardly worded sentences everywhere. Hell, he even managed to disrupt my marriage, not that he knew it. Kathleen had been a wonderful woman, kind and patient, seemingly the perfect person to marry a copper, but getting married at twenty five was not the smartest thing, especially not when you're a rookie in the force and an artist. For some reason, I always mentally compared her to Mycroft- how she spoke and walked, the way she carried herself, spoke, the way her eyes were the wrong color but her skin was the same...
There really wasn't a chance for us.
A year and a half into our ill-planned marriage, she left me- just up and left, no note or anything. She said goodbye and wished me a good day at work that morning, and by the time I arrived in the evening, she'd disappeared, along with all her belongings. The worst part of it was that I wasn't surprised, not at all. It's not easy, being married to someone whose schedule isn't as simple as it's written, who constantly comes home and just has to be... somewhere else, somewhere that doesn't let you bury little children. Kathleen was never part of that world, and I think that she knew that.
For the next three years, I still wore my ring, hoping that she'd come back, that it was just a dream, even though I knew that wasn't going to, that this was real. Continuing to wear it, though, felt like I hadn't just given up on her; she had meant a lot to me, just not the way that a wife should mean to her husband. Or maybe I'm too old-fashioned. It doesn't really matter, I suppose, since I sulked and kept to myself for about half a year all the same.
By the time I was thirty four and Mycroft returned, I was far beyond the mess that had come about with Kathleen; I rarely thought about it, I'd gotten so wrapped up in work.
What I had not escaped, despite time and distance, was my fascination with the boy from my school. If anything, it had intensified, and when I saw an unfamiliar man, though I recognized him immediately, standing in my office, it broke my heart to see him. He greeted me formally before handing me a paper. After looking it over, I realized that it was a letter requesting that I be transferred, the reason being that I was "too useful to be at the Metropolitan-" a backhanded compliment, since it was going to rip apart everything I had worked to do, all because I was "too useful." And apparently the place where I could be "useful," as in used, was with Mycroft.
And my best friend felt nothing- no joy to see my face, no recognition at all.
So I became his hired man, someone who would go where he could not, yet another glorified servant, but I did as he bid me and did it well.
That's how it went for years: Mycroft gave me an order, so I fulfilled it. When he asked me to cut all the ties I had to my family, I did it. Assassinate a man I had grown up with because he was inciting rebellion? Done. And every time I pulled the trigger or smiled and flirted to get what I wanted, the pudgy little boy with the yellow bunny and the bright smile seemed to get a little bit farther away, until one day he was gone. It was as if I had woken from a dream and found out that the dream was better than reality. I wanted it back.
So I did something close to what my grandfather did (and his father before him); I grabbed the Xanax I'd been prescribed for the panic attacks I'd been having, the new bottle of Paxil for depression and a bottle of vodka, which brings me to where I am now: the bathroom floor. It's incredibly hard to resist falling asleep, so I'll do that in a bit, but I'm a bit curious about the knocking at my house door, because no one ever has a reason to come here. I don't have a case on at the moment, so... something... Hmm... I suppose it doesn't really matter, does it? I'll just nod off for a moment, nothing too long...
Chapter 2: Kindred
Looking back, it's easy to see that I was in love with Mycroft from the beginning. It wasn't always romantic love, though; in the beginning it was a fascination with him, a love of the odd habits that made up the strange creature called Mycroft. As we got older, though, this childlike fascination grew and changed, moving from something simple and innocent into another thing altogether. I have to admit that I've never really fancied him the way I did women; the spark of attraction has never been something that pulled me toward him. Perhaps that's because he has never felt the way I do. He has always been heterosexual, though I know that in the past he experimented with other men. It never mattered to me, which my friend preferred, if he preferred one over the other.
That was my first mistake; I called him my friend. He never smiled at me, never spent time just at my house; if he wanted something from me, he took it, wanted me to do something, demanded it.
And I always gave what he wanted, always did what he demanded, desperate for an indication of affection- anything to tell me that there was a part of him that noticed me.
Years went by, as I described. I joined the force and eventually became a Detective Inspector in the London Met. Then Mycroft showed up and told me that I was his, that I was to be his soldier.
Just as I had for years before, I accepted this without question or complaint- if only he would praise me.
He never did.
By following him, though, I got to know his family better. It was a small group of four, and I have never seen a group of people less able to function than that one.
First, there was Raeburn Holmes, Mycroft and Sherlock's father. He had been a world champion boxer, and even though those years were long ago, he had retained his musculature. Like his sons, he towered above most people, standing at no less than six feet five inches. There was a fierce light in his eyes, and everything was a challenge for him, a way to prove himself. He was very much the embodiment of the pushy father, constantly demanding more from his sons and servants. In that regard, he was the opposite of his wife.
Gardenia Holmes, Renard originally, was her husband's shadow, existing in the places he could not, and keeping her silence. She had always been ill, I discovered, but it was a disease of the body only. Her brilliant mind, which was passed on to her sons, was unaffected; I have lost count of the number of times I watched her solve a seemingly impossible problem in a few seconds of distracted thought. Like Raeburn, she fulfilled her role as mother: nurturing and loving her children as much as she could. There can be no one more gentle than she in my eyes; even in the most stressful situations, she remained soft-spoken and open minded.
She and Raeburn did not get along well; their marriage had been one arranged just after her birth and been out of their control. Gardenia was of the mind that her children should be loved deeply, but her husband felt that they needed structure, to be pushed. They argued often, she in her soft manner and he in his violent way. I never saw it happen, but I'm sure that there were times when he struck her. She would stay alone in her room, and he would leave the house. It made for an unhappy house.
Mycroft was the first-born and constantly carried that knowledge with him. At every moment, at every glance, he was giving off waves of dignity. Like his mother, he was soft-spoken and reasonable and showed that he was an outstanding judge of character. Complex issues were made simple in his eyes, and there were few areas in which he struggled. Still, there was a hollow edge to him, a ruthlessness that was all his father's. When his younger brother came along, he became protective instantly, and there were no doubts in my mind that Mycroft would do anything to take care of little Sherlock.
I would have given all the blood in my body for him to have looked at me with even a fraction of the tenderness that was in his eyes when he looked at his brother.
Sherlock, like Mycroft, was far too intelligent; unlike Mycroft, he could not disguise it at all. If he saw something, he pointed it out, or sulked if he was not indulged. He was wild, more like his father than he would ever admit. Despite the way his elder brother guarded him, Sherlock grew to resent him and be harsh. Even as a young child he was given to dark moods and brooding; I did my best to pull him from them, though I doubt that I ever did anything he can remember.
There would have been a third child, but Mrs. Holmes had a miscarriage. Sherlock was in his teens, and Mycroft was taking university classes at home, so they were both there when it happened. One day she had not been feeling quite right- the next, there was blood and a feeling of having failed. Mrs. Holmes took it particularly hard, which is understandable, but what was not was the way the rest of them reacted. Mycroft didn't seem to be affected by it one way or another, which I thought was a mask for a long time, but looking back, I wonder if maybe he really wasn't. Sherlock crumbled inside himself; he became exceedingly possessive of things, even violently so.
It was Mr. Holmes' way of dealing with the loss that was the worst, though. He stopped even talking to his wife, hardly ever recognizing her presence, except to tell her that it was against the family's rules to have abortions or anything similar to them, so she was going to have to carry the baby for the rest of the time. And she did; for five months, she carried her third child without any complaints, then gave birth to it naturally.
None of the men in her life spoke about the child, but Mrs. Holmes was not someone to ignore someone, dead or alive. We were speaking one day, and she told me that she had named the child- Elonia, meaning noble. I gave her my hand when she began to cry, which she took, and it seemed to me that this was the first time she had allowed herself to do so. None of her boys, as she affectionately called them, would have known what to do; she told me that I had become like the son she had never had- one unaffected by her own afflictions as well as those of her husband. She loved Mycroft and Sherlock dearly, but it was obvious how unhappy they were.
I have never been praised so highly, and I doubt I ever will again.
Chapter 3: Praiseworthy
Ever since the first moment Mycroft called me, I have been loyal to him. People have often remarked, when they thought that I was not within earshot, that my loyalty was just foolishness- unquestioning and undemanding Lestrade, the poor man, working away his life while believing that the boss would ever recognize him. It bothered me at first, mostly because I knew that they had the right of it; Mycroft knew my feelings, had to know them, and never said anything; it was the most obvious sign that he did not care. I did eventually come to accept that this was the truth, but it never caused me to second guess him or to withhold something he desired.
He was my master, and all that I had was his to take.
There was one person who never said anything, though- John Watson. He, like me, had been brought under Mycroft's domineering wing without warning or choice. (Admittedly, most people were brought in that way, but he had been particularly demanding and distant with the two of us.) John had been the world's leading surgeon, top of his field and top of his game, when he had decided that he wanted to go into the army. His then fiancee had not shared his feelings, understandably, and had broken things off in a rather spectacular way- throwing every gift he had given her, engagement ring included, into the Thames. It was a great waste; John was not one to scrimp where others were concerned. After that, he had moved out and gone directly to basic training. There, he had proved to be good enough for his superiors to take note of him within the first month; it was enough to promote him from unintelligent cadet to the highest ranked sniper division in the entire military, and he had still blown everyone away.
When I asked him about it, though, he had just shrugged.
"You have to know where your hands are and what you're doing with them in surgery. This is just an extension of that, I suppose."
He was soon part of my team in training. It was always something extraordinary to work with John; he was always where you told him to be, doing what you told him to do, ready to change at any moment. He was, in that regard, a massive pain in my arse; I was used to working with people who are actually human and need a moment to reorient themselves. Going from a normal human to commanding John was like going from driving an old lawn mower to a sports car, and he was willing to take a hit if it meant I'd feel like an idiot.
We grew to be good friends, though he was soon assigned a position in Mycroft's roaming group of soldiers- a group of the most elite, well-trained men and women alive in Britain. He was spectacular in it, of course; I kept reading reports for Mycroft and coming across commendation after commendation for his bravery, ability to finish the job, discretion and everything else a man serving in the forces could want to be noticed for doing.
I did feel a pang of envy when I read the reports. He was beloved by everyone, and even Mycroft had praised him. It was just the two of us in his office, but after I finished giving a quick summary of events in the infiltration of the organization and assassination of the head of a terrorist cell (done by John and John alone), my boss was obviously impressed.
"He is coming along well, Lestrade. I believe that he will become one of my strongest- if not the strongest- people."
Of course he would, because I was never even worth considering. I did not have John's ability to command respect and earn people's love, nor his inhuman aim. Foolish old Lestrade, thinking that he had anything of use to anyone. I couldn't hold it against John, though. He was a good man, and he did deserve all the recognition that came his way. When I heard about the incident with the gang, I was worried about him, but Mycroft told me that he needed John on a different assignment- one that was far more intimate and important.
And only John could be trusted with it.
Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, I wondered why I was so attached to Mycroft.
I was finally making my way towards the place where I am now- the bathroom floor.
While on this mission, there were a few spots of trouble. First, it became apparent that the terrorist cell whose head John had killed was becoming active again, and this time the head of the organization was far more intelligent than the last. Mycroft decided that it required his "most able" people- John and Helena Hudson. Second, after completing their mission- assassinate the new head and destroy the buildings associated with the group- Mycroft decided that it would be best to send them away to relax. By this point, I had learned that the secret mission that John had been given was taking care of Sherlock, as Mycroft had decided that it was time to let his brother wake up.
At this point, I ought to explain a few things. The Holmes family and the Renard family have long histories of severe mental illnesses: bipolar disorder, major depression, psychosis, severe neurosis, borderline personality disorder... If it has been documented, it's been found in those families. Whoever felt that combining them would have a good result was obviously off his face on something. When his sons were younger, Raeburn- for some unknown reason- tried to cultivate psychosis in his sons. He encouraged them to distance themselves from the world, to shut off empathy and understanding, to do as their whims dictated. Looking back, I can remember some times when he must have slipped hallucinogens into his sons' food; Mycroft and Sherlock would sometimes see and hear things after eating, as would I, but Mr. Holmes never seemed affected. He would say that we were just seeing things, that we ought to keep such things to ourselves.
He succeeded with Mycroft, but Sherlock was the one he wanted to follow him. Mycroft was too soft, too given to sulking and sentiment- bouts of depression if I've ever seen them- for his father to find him satisfactory, but his little brother... Sherlock was the opposite. He was never any good with people, always tripping over his own tongue and being confused by social cues. It was harmless, though, so far as I could see; he was just an awkward kid, nothing wrong with that.
And his father capitalized on it. I was in London when he went through what his father termed, "The Regime." If I hadn't seen the results myself, I never would have believed it. Systematic mental abuse, hypnotism and drugs had stripped Sherlock of any concept of reality; all that concerned him was the fear of being left with those people again. I can't recall the actual number of people whose lives he took, but I know that it was in the double digits. We always arrived too late and were never greeted by anything other than carnage. I've served under Mycroft for a long time and in the force; I'm no stranger to violent deaths. This, though, was beyond anything. It was as though Sherlock had truly lost all feeling and empathy; the things he had done to the people, while alive and after their passing, were horrific. I couldn't bring myself to call him a monster like the others, though. I know Sherlock well enough to recognize when he's done something and knows it and when he's done something without being all there. He's too methodical and organized to have attacked those people when he was in charge of his mind.
We did manage to capture him in the end. It took forever, and more people died than I'd care to count, but he eventually slipped. I mean that quite literally; there was a pool of blood, and he tried to run from us through it. Had it been under different circumstances, I would've laughed to see him go arse over tit like that, but as it was, I was too conscious of James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran next to me to feel anything other than uncomfortable. (They were Mr. Holmes' right hand men, and I wanted as little to do with the vicious duo as possible.)
For the next four years, Sherlock was kept in a drug induced coma. When he woke up, that was the beginning of John's mission: taking care of him and making sure he doesn't start killing again.
When Mycroft called him away- and Helena Hudson who was looking after Sherlock as well- he replaced them with James and Sebastian. The moment I heard, I went up to him and asked him why. It was the only time I have ever questioned him, the only time I have done anything other than accept his decisions as correct and followed through. He looked at me with nothing other than vague annoyance for interrupting him.
"James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran may be Father's men, but they are the only people who can stop Sherlock, should he decide to kill again," he said, sounding completely uninterested.
"He's your brother, Mycroft! Surely that counts as something? You and I both know that nothing good will happen if the two of them are left unchecked. You've got cameras installed and someone watching them, at least?" He was silent and still. "Right, Mycroft? You didn't just leave your brother with them, did you?" Mycroft remained in his state of silence and stillness. "For the love of God, Mycroft, if you don't watch them, they'll kill him themselves!"
"Lestrade," he said quietly, "you have no idea of what you are speaking. I know what is best for my brother; do not second guess me. Leave me, please. I have important things to do, and you are distracting me."
Or, in truer words: Get out. You know nothing, and I do not care about what you say. You know nothing.
So I left.
Two days later, Anthea called me at home- the hollow under my desk.
"There's been trouble, Guardsman. You and John Watson are to go to the address I've just sent to your phone and reclaim Sherlock Holmes."
I got up and ran out the door, knowing that if I was going with John, he would be at the parking garage. True to form, he was just getting there when I was. There was a black, unmarked police car halfway between us, which we got into, but John noticed something rather quickly.
"Have you got the keys, Lestrade?"
No, I did not have the keys.
"It's fine, John. I'll just bypass that bit; give me a few moments and I'll be able to hot wire it."
He gave them to me, but he spent them fidgeting. Sherlock must have gotten to him, then; it was obvious that he was concerned about the man. I'd never seen or heard about him being worried before or during a mission. Everyone has something that holds them just a bit too tightly. For John, that was something was Sherlock Holmes.
Luckily, it didn't take long for me to get the car going, and we were soon racing through London's roads, not even bothering with the siren. We weren't trying to advertise our presence more than necessary, and having noises screaming and lights flashing would really go against that goal.
By the time we got to the house, John was shivering. When I asked him about it, he shook his head slightly and said that he had a bad feeling. Something was off, but he couldn't quite place it. Unnerved and apprehensive, we still decided to split; John would sneak up behind the house by way of the hill in the back while I went in through an open window. I was sneaking through the house when I heard four shots. That's the kind of signal that screams to you that trying to be quiet is useless; it's time to get running and making however much noise happens to be made.
By the time I got to the room with Sherlock in it, John had already gotten there. Moriarty and Moran were dead, their faces thoroughly blown apart. There were two women in the room, and they had suffered the same ultimate fate- though they had not had their faces blown out. John was crouching by Sherlock, one arm cradling the man's head, the other taking inventory.
"He's still alive," he told me.
I nodded, feeling like I had suddenly been transported into a surreal world, like something from Lewis Carrol's idea of logic. John had said he and meant Sherlock, but for some reason, my head was bringing to mind the faces of every man I'd seen in the past month and wondering if he meant that was man, as well.
Shaking my head to clear it, I walked towards the two men.
"We need to get out of here, John. Those two wouldn't have brought him here without backup on the way."
John nodded and picked Sherlock up, carrying him like he was his bride.
"Let's go, then."
When we emerged, there was an ambulance waiting, which we got into. The moment Sherlock was secured, it took off, racing toward the hospital. John stared out the back windows, his eyes narrowed.
"Lestrade, do you recognize that car behind us?"
I got up from my spot by Sherlock's head and walked to the back of the ambulance, looking out into the darkness. Behind us was a black car- the same one I had driven to the house earlier. The misshaped headlights gave it away. I nodded to indicate that I did recognize it, and John sighed.
"Looks like you were right. We're going to have a fight on our hands when we arrive, Lestrade."
"Yep. You ready?"
"Of course. You?"
"Yeah, I think I am."
The ride continued in tense silence. John sat back and started trying to loosen up his muscles. I just stayed by the window, watching the black car. If I looked hard enough and the car got close enough, I could just make out two figures: a man and a woman. The only team I know of that had people of different sexes that would have a reason to be following us was one of Raeburn's: Anderson and Donovan.
"It's Sally and Anderson, John."
He sighed, cursing beneath his breath.
"I don't think I really want to fight the two of them. Sally always goes for easy hits, and Anderson talks to himself in Korean. There's no way he really knows what he's saying, though."
"What makes you think that?"
He laughed a low, dark chuckle.
"Last time, he said something along the lines of, 'I'm a eunuch. There are many stars in my head. I dance like wolverine.'"
If I hadn't been so preoccupied with the task of mentally preparing myself for the upcoming fight, I might have chuckled as well. As it was, all I could think was that I was glad that I had opted for Farsi instead of Korean.
The ambulance made a sudden sharp turn to the right, and I heard John's head smack against the metal siding with a sick snap.
"You okay, mate?" I called to him, and he nodded.
"Mhm, just feeling a bit sick, but I'll be fine in a minute."
"I'm pretty sure you don't have one, John."
"We've arrived already?"
"Yeah. That turn... I've had to take it a bunch of times when taking people to this hospital. We've only got a few more seconds before the ambulance-"
The driver slammed on the breaks, and the two of us went flying. Sherlock was well secured, so he stayed in place, luckily.
"-has to make a quick stop."
John swore again.
He took a breath and nodded.
"Let's get this over. I don't want Sherlock left unguarded, and I definitely don't feel like trying to fight the two of them."
The time from the moment we exited the ambulance to the end of the fight all ran together. I can recall bits and pieces of it, though: Anderson biting my ear, seeing John's let get shot by Sally, John then breaking her hand, Sally running over to me and punching me in the head, me kicking Anderson in the ribs and feeling them snap, breaking the man's nose and John and me both winding up grabbing Sally and throwing her Anderson. They both hit the car and stopped moving; John started to move to their sides, but I waved him on.
"Go on. Watch over Sherlock; I'll see how they are."
He nodded, looking sicker than I've ever seen him, before running off.
I was taking a few moments to look over the opposing agents, ascertaining that they were both alive, when my phone buzzed in my pocket.
Put them in the car and drive it to the house. Things will be taken care of from there.
I did as I was told, recognizing an order from Mycroft when I saw it.
There was a second text after I arrived.
Another car will bring you back to the hospital. You are to watch over Sherlock until receiving further instruction.
It took too long for further instruction to come. Sherlock woke up and panicked, but after a moment he recognized me. There was something in his eyes that told me that the time with Moran and Moriarty had done more to him than just leave him with marks on his body. All he wanted was John, though. He kept begging for him and demanding to see him. Or he would become cruel, sneering at me about the weakness I have for Mycroft. I wanted to tell him, sure I did, but something told me that that wasn't something that Mycroft wanted, so I kept my silence. Besides, John needed time and space to heal. Along with getting shot in the leg (twice) he had been stabbed in the thigh of the same leg, been hamstrung on the other, had a hole in one foot from Sally's heel and the other foot had been shattered. He was in rough shape, and Sherlock's never been good with sick people. It was for the best that he be kept away from John so the man could have time to heal.
Finally, I received the command I had been waiting for:
Bring him to John. Be sure there is no trouble. Go to the house.
I don't think I've ever seen Sherlock as distressed as he was during the time I wheeled him through the hospital and into John's room. He was quiet and obviously nervous, but I couldn't think of anything to say that would calm him.
It was obvious what I had to do in the house: clean up the mess.
Cleaning has never been my favorite thing to do, but it's hardly something strange or difficult- except for making sure that I got all the blood out. It can wind up sprayed all over, and when it's mixed with two corpses and more brains than someone other than a brain surgeon ought to see, it makes the job even more difficult. Still, it's what Mycroft told me to do, so I did it without complaint.
By the time I was done, my mind had gone blank; I felt numb from head to toe. All I wanted to do was go home, take a shower and fall into bed, perhaps even dream, but if I didn't, that was fine as well.
I was not so lucky. The moment I stepped out of the house, a familiar black limousine was waiting for me; had I been able to be anything other than worn out, I would have been frustrated. As it was, though, I simply got into it and sat down.
Anthea and Mycroft were inside, she with her face lost in her BlackBerry's screen and he going through a manila folder.
"We'll be stopping at your house, Lestrade," he said without looking up. "Go inside and change quickly. Your clothes have already been picked out; put them on and return."
Of course they had been. I had no privacy or things left to myself. There was nothing but Mycroft and his efficient indifference. At that moment, I, too, became indifferent; a steel bubble wrapped itself around me and refused to allow any emotions or thoughts beyond yes and no to take root.
"Yes, sir," I said, replying more from habit than any desire to humor him.
We arrived at my house a few minutes later. It had been a nice place when I first bought it with Kathleen, but over the years its appearance had stopped mattering to me. It was, after all, just a place where I kept my clothes and a few pictures to remind me that I had once had hope. The sight of it always angered me a little bit, my naiveté on display for any who cared to look.
The car stopped, and I got out out, walking quickly to the door. I thought about just pushing through it- the key was in my desk drawer- but I caught a glimpse of the window I'd left open a few weeks ago and never bothered to close. It was on the first floor, so I got through it easily enough. I took the stairs one at a time, walking quickly but not rushing as I used to; it would all get done in the end, so there was no need to rush.
I opened my bedroom door and saw some clothes laid out on the bed. There was a freshly pressed shirt, jacket, tie and trousers that I barely looked at before putting them on. I had no idea what color they were, and, frankly, I didn't care.
My old clothes were just dropped on the floor; I could clean them up later.
Fully dressed, I walked back down the stairs, jumped out the window and returned to the car. Neither Anthea nor Mycroft recognized my return, but the driver must have, as he drove forward.
Our final destination was, unsurprisingly, the hospital where John and Sherlock were being treated.
We walked through the hospital, past the sick and their families, noticed by all yet noticing none. That was how my boss and his assistant usually walked, and it turns out that I, too, could walk that way. It was quite simple, really, ignoring everyone; they had nothing for me and I nothing for them.
Mycroft entered first, followed by Anthea. I followed behind them at a respectable distance, the way well-trained dogs will heel. It fell upon my shoulders to get chairs, so I quickly walked out and grabbed the first ones I saw. I sat far away from them, my back to the door, and paid no attention to the conversation. There was a moment when I felt the tension in the air rise, but all I did was sit on the edge of my chair. If there was a problem, I would defend Mycroft, but I no longer had the ability to be passionate about it. Defending him was my job; we were not friends, nor anything closer. He was very much my master and I his loyal pet.
We left eventually, but I could not find myself interested in it. While sitting there, I had remembered some reports that needed to be finished, as well as an e-mail I needed to send. There was also a matter of gathering more information about the uncertain situation in South America...
By the time we arrived at the building that was the home of Myroft's political empire, it was six o'clock, and I had enough to keep me working for a large portion of the night, for which I was thankful. He and Anthea took the elevator to the floor that was his office, while I took the hidden stairwell to the floor with my desk.
I immediately sat down to work, and by the time I looked up again, it was four o'clock in the morning. I would have a new round of reports to write and information to summarize for Mycroft in three hours. That left me enough time to fit in a quick jog; I had been far too sedentary the past few weeks and was feeling it. I wanted to be sure that Mycroft would have the hard copies of what I had so far, though, so I got into the elevator (not wanting to risk losing any of the precious pile of paper in my hands) and pressed the combination that would take me to him.
The sight that greeted me as the doors silently parted would have done something to me, had I not already been in a state of repression. Mycroft was leaning over Anthea, bending her over his desk and kissing her the way I had imagined kissing him, but she was not holding onto him the way I would have. I would have clung to him, pulled him as close as possible, but she just had her hands on his chest, just resting them there. That was the difference between us, I suppose. She was an equal to Mycroft, a person who could stand on her own feet and meet him, whereas I was someone who looked up to him and begged for anything he would spare.
I wonder how long it would have taken them to notice me, had I not coughed to get their attention. Neither looked particularly surprised and definitely not embarrassed.
"I have the summaries of the reports you requested, sir. I'll just leave them on the chair here. Also, I'll be leaving now, so if there's anything else you need from me, I won't be able to do anything about it until I return." I put the papers down but paused before turning around, looking at the two of them. "Unless there's something you can think of now?"
Mycroft shook his head.
"No, that will be all."
In short: Dismissed.
With that, I left them and ran down the stairs, wanting nothing more than to run until I collapsed. I think that I handled it well, having my heart broken. I didn't cry or scream or make a scene. All that I did was go home, change, then run through the streets until everything started to go black. It was the most glorious feeling, being able to feel pain but unable to react or understand it.
By the time I got home, I had ten minutes to shower and get dressed.
I was done in three, which meant that I had an extra seven minutes to walk back to the building. I arrived exactly on time.
Waiting for me on my desk was my phone; I'd left it in one of the drawers when I got started on the reports. There was a new message, most likely from Anthea.
Take John to the Old House. Appear and act like Sanders.
Sanders had been one of the staff at the Holmes house. He drove Raeburn everywhere and often wound up babysitting Mycroft and Sherlock when they were younger. He was a lovable, but family-less, old man who had unfortunately begun to suffer from dementia, so Mycroft had set him up at a reputable home where he was well taken care of. Sherlock must have gone off to make things come to an end with his father, then, and John wanted- no, needed, knowing John- to find him.
It was no trouble at all finding his way back to the Old House, as the family manor was called, even though I spent the entire time talking to John. He really was a good man, and he would take care of Sherlock.
Of course Raeburn had to show up and nearly end things before they truly got started, but I had spent his life with his family. He knew that Mr. Holmes would have no idea that Sanders was ill and that the person driving the car was actually me. Had he known, I'm sure that he would have beaten me senseless- once a, rather hot headed, boxer, always a boxer.
Luckily, he was just curious why I was driving the car around- "Just making sure the engine's working fine, sir"- and left without examining it. I drove as quickly into the garage as I dared, not wanting John to get sick from the stress and worry. I got him out the trunk and gave him direction to the house, then followed him.
I heard a gunshot and the crash of glass and saw John go through the roof. He'd either ended Mr. Holmes, or Mr. Holmes had ended him. Judging from the way I saw him fell- and a large amount of hope- John had been victorious.
Deciding that I ought to go find out, I ran into the house and made my way into the study. There, I saw John on the floor, one leg crumpled up beneath his body, Mr. Holmes in the middle of the room with a red rose on his forehead and Sherlock rather cruelly sitting on John, yelling at him. John being John, he just sat there and let Sherlock yell at him before sneaking up and stealing a kiss.
Ignoring the rolling in my stomach, I knocked on the door frame to stop things from getting uncomfortable. When they looked around at me, I smiled.
"Would you like a ride to the hospital, sirs?"
In the end, John had a shattered leg, as well as a fair amount of bruises and cuts from the glass (and a massive hickey on his neck...), but for a man who had fallen through the roof of a building, he was in relatively good shape. Sherlock was constantly crowding around him and demanding to be the one to help him with everything; a fair amount of that seemed to come from the joy he got from making John complain about pushing the wheelchair too quickly and nearly running into people.
The next morning I took them back to Baker Street and smiled when I heard the two of them arguing about Sherlock carrying John up the stairs. Sherlock was very much in favor of it, but John wanted to stay on the ground.
My phone chose that moment to vibrate; I had a new message from above.
Well done, Lestrade; I trust the body was taken care of.
The smile disappeared. It had been indeed. During the night, I had sneaked away to clean up the evidence of the murder that had occurred. While I was there, Mrs. Holmes came in, treading so quietly that I barely heard her.
"It's done, then, isn't it?" she asked.
I nodded, my hands full of towels soaked in her husband's blood.
"Yes, ma'am, it's done."
She looked into my eyes and walked over to me, taking the towels from my hands.
"Leave this part to me, Lestrade; you... do whatever it is you do with bodies."
The numbness came crashing down on me again.
"Yes, ma'am," I said, though the words did not want to come out.
Ignoring the raw feeling in my throat, I bent over and picked up the body of the man Mrs. Holmes had married. There was a look of regret on her face, and when she noticed me looking at her, she nodded.
"He was not an easy man to love, and he passed that on to the boys. Sherlock found John, though, and before him he had you. I know that you've taken care of my sons since the moment you met them, dear, and I know that they've taken advantage of you for just as long. Sherlock may have that sweet little doctor," I couldn't help but grin at her perception of John, "but Mycroft needs you just as much as ever."
At that, I had to shake my head.
"Mycroft has someone as well, Mrs. Holmes. She's a strong person, a good match for him."
She looked at me with the same look that Mycroft often used: head tipped forward, one eyebrow up.
"Really, you two still haven't gotten on the same page at all, have you?"
"I don't think we have the same book to share a page, ma'am. I'll watch over him, though, for as long as I can."
This time, she shook her head but held up a hand.
"I won't argue with you, Lestrade. You know what you see, an ability I wish my own sons had received. Now go on; give my husband's body its final alms."
Again, I recognized a dismissal in her tone.
A few minutes later, I was standing beside an ancient bathtub that was usually used for God-knows-what. I put the body inside the tub and poured a special acid inside. The stench nearly made me wretch, but I made sure to keep it in. I didn't have the guts to look in and watch as the body, flesh and bones alike, got devoured.
It only took a few minutes, and in the end there was just something like broth left in the tub. Conveniently, it was hooked up to the plumbing, so all I had to do was get some water and be sure that it all got washed down. After that, I saw a hammer in the corner and got to work smashing the tub apart- not that I needed to for evidence's sake but to attempt ridding myself of the guilt I felt. However cruel he had been, there was a part of me that wondered how he had become that way, if he, too, was the product of his life growing up.
The car purred to life as I turned the key in the ignition and sped back to the hospital.
Well done, Lestrade; I trust the body was taken care of.
I never thought that being praised would mean so little.
Chapter 4: Hiding
The next morning, I returned to the building where I worked, feeling emptier than ever. It was funny, really, the change in way I saw it. The first time I laid eyes on the old thing, I'd been nearly blown away by how beautiful it was, all brick and straight lines; most people find it ugly, I think, but there's something quite lovely about the way it's completely unyielding and unsupported by nothing but its own power and gravity. It feels strange to say this, but I've come to hate and envy it that strength. It is not held down by feelings or useless things like loyalty; a thing that does not breathe (though it lives, albeit in a way different to the way I do) cannot become accustomed to being reviled by what it loves or forsaken by the only thing that matters to it.
If I am to be reincarnated, I would like to come back as an abandoned building. I could watch people come and go, or perhaps be knocked down, but I'd never have to feel for them again.
My desk was a mess when I got to it so I knew that my team was back from the assignment Mycroft had given them. He often did that, sending everyone else away but making me stay away. I couldn't really be angry, though, when I saw them. They all looked terrible, Dimmock in particular. He looked about ten years older than his age- making him look a lot like I ought to, if I didn't look ten years older than my own age. I've known Dimmock for a long time; he'd become a part of my team a couple years after I started working for Mycroft and has proven himself more than enough times.
We held a brief meeting on the floor by my desk so they could talk to me and bring me up to date. The whole thing was subdued, and I couldn't bring myself to try to lighten the mood. It had been an unpleasant mission, guarding some visiting dignitaries, and there had been a plot to murder the delegate from Venezuela, which had been foiled by Dimmock. Despite having worked in this department for as long as he has, it was the second man he had killed, and I could see how deeply the action had affected him. I skimmed through the written reports that they had presented to me when they came over as well as the psychologist's report on Dimmock's mental state. It seemed that other than that incident with Dimmock- which had been kept quiet and away from reporters, thank hell- it had been dull, so I dismissed them.
As they filed out, though, I called out for Dimmock to come with me. I lead him to an old conference room that no one used anymore. Its windows were only one-way and the walls soundproofed- the ideal place to hold a private conversation. I ushered him through first, the agitation that had been growing during the brief coming off him in waves I could practically feel, and if there's one thing that a leader can't watch in others, it's doubt- doubt about other people's abilities, one's own abilities, about loyalty or whether what's happening is the right thing. It has to be taken out, but it isn't like other things where you can just rip at it and hope for the best. You've got to root it out and tamp down the spot where it was, being sure that it can't get back in there.
'Cause if it does, well, there's really no recovering from it.
I leaned against the door and watched him for a while. I'd never really looked at him before, not in a way other than the cursory glance necessary to know identify him. He really was young, too young to look as haggard as he did, but Mycroft would not have picked him if he felt that Dimmock wasn't tough enough to do this. Then again, he'd also picked me, so he couldn't be infallible.
"Lestrade, I'm sorry. I know that I shouldn't have fired as quickly as I did. You're always telling us that shooting first is the wrong thing to do, and I really do pay attention. It's just that I saw her raise the gun, and even though I shouldn't have just gone with my gut I did, and now she's dead, and I promise it won't happen again, but please don't fire me because I need this job, and I'm not really a burden, am I? I try not be, but if I am, I guess that you don't have any choice but to-"
"Shut up, Dimmock."
"Really... just... Shut up, would you? I'm not angry with you, not at all; if anything, I'm damn proud of you, you bloody idiot."
"You- you are?"
"Of course! You saved that delegate's life, and that was exactly what your job was. When I say to you guys that you shouldn't just shoot, I mean that in a 'don't just shoot for the hell of it' kind of way. As you said, that woman had a gun raised and was prepared to shoot someone whose life you were protecting; if you hadn't fired, we'd probably be having a problem with Venezuela right now. As it is, you did a fantastic job."
"R-really? Then why are we here?"
"Because I wanted some privacy. I know that you won't go around shooting at everything that moves or that you think moves, but not everybody's like that. I didn't want them hearing me applauding you for shooting and thinking that if they do the same thing I'll respond the same way."
"So I'm not fired?"
"No, you idiot."
"Oh. Thank you!"
"There is one more thing, though, Dimmock."
"The report from the psychologist... He said that you're handling it relatively well but that you weren't very keen on talking about it."
"Of course not. I killed somebody; I don't really want to dwell on that..."
"I can understand that, but you should still talk to someone."
"Like? That guy and all the other therapists I've ever known haven't understood a single thing. They just nod and ask more ridiculous questions. I don't mean to be rude, sir, but I can't see how helpful that would be. If you tell me to go, I will, but..."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"I'm not going to order you to see a shrink, Dimmock; I know what you mean about them not understanding, which is why I'm going to make you an offer. I don't usually say this since I don't want people to think that they can just come over, but this is important enough that I want to be sure that you'll be all right. What time do you get off?"
"Get off work, Dimmock. Don't be immature."
"Oh, thank Christ... Sorry, sir. I go home-"
"Get off. Just say it."
"I get off at seven o'clock."
"There you go! When you're done for the day, come to my desk, and I'll get ready to take you back to my house. There, we'll both get a bit sloshed and have a chat, yeah?"
"Sir... I don't drink..."
"Then I'll get sloshed, and you can try to talk to me."
"Are you sure that this is all right?"
"I'm pretty sure it isn't, but I don't really care about that. It's painfully easy to see that this is bothering you, so I'm going to do the good thing and try to help you. If you're very concerned about it- not that I can see why there would be a need to be since we aren't going to be doing anything more than drinking and speaking- we don't have to, but I thought that you might appreciate the offer."
Before he could respond, though, there was a pounding on the door. I moved away and opened it to reveal a red-faced Mike Stamford. He'd obviously been running around, looking for me.
"Your mum's on the phone, Lestrade, said it's got something to do with one of your sisters..."
Dimmock forgotten for the moment, I raced back to my desk and picked up the phone.
"Ah, hello, love."
It's funny how the moment I heard her voice, I was a little boy again, and she was my mum, two steps away from picking me up and spinning me around or hugging me when I was asleep and she didn't think I could feel her holding me close.
"What's wrong, Mum? Is everyone okay? I heard that you were calling about one of the girls...?"
"Oh, no, nothing's really wrong, exactly. It's more that I was hoping you could do me a favor..."
"Of course! What do you need, Mum?"
"Well, you know how stubborn Pierette is and how much she doesn't want to be in a home so she's been living with your father and me... It's just... I want her to be taken care of, Hector."
"Hector? Mum, that's Dad's name..."
"I know, but you two are so similar..."
"Don't argue with me, boy. I raised you better than that."
"Good. I don't have time to reassure you that you are a good man, just like your father, but I do want you to know that we're proud of you. You've grown into someone I can brag to all my friends about having raised, just like I knew you would when you were little and tucking your little sisters in."
"I'm sorry, Mum; I didn't mean to upset you. Please don't cry."
"It's fine, but listen. As I was trying to tell you earlier, it's getting hard to look after your sister, and... I'm sorry to ask this of you, since you're probably very busy, but if maybe there would be a way for you to... you know... look after her?"
"Christ, Ma, I thought you were going to tell me that she'd gotten sick or something. If you just need someone to look after her... Well, I've got room in my house. I'm not home as much as I should be, but I'll make an effort to be if she's going to be there."
"Thank you, dear! Really, I just-"
"It's nothing, Ma. When is she coming up?"
"What do you mean? We've only just decided that-"
"I know you. What time did you want her to come? Which station did you pick- King's Cross? And which day?"
"In three days, King's Cross, at eight thirty p.m. Is that all right with you?"
"Yeah, fine. Is everything else all right? Dad doing well?"
"He is indeed! You wouldn't believe how having to sit still after that surgery has sent his libido soaring; I swear-"
"Mum! Please! That wasn't funny; stop laughing!"
"Oh, but it was, lovie. Anyway, I've got a pie that's got to get come out the oven, so I'll call you again after Pierette's arrived. Goodbye, dearheart!"
I'm pretty sure that my mum's never had an innocent conversation in her life.
By that time, I'd forgotten all about Dimmock and what we'd been discussing in the old room. There was yet another pile of paperwork for me to fill out, possible new agents' files to look at, information to e-mail, ciphers to break and three assignments to summarize for Mycroft.
The sound of that thought in my mind sent a dull ache through my gut, but the numbness that I'd been gathering had happily gotten rid of the worst of it. My brain must have just gotten too many signals of distress to bother responding to them, and I don't think I've ever been more thankful for anything in my life.
I must have gotten lost in it, because the next thing I can remember, Dimmock was standing next to my desk in his coat with a briefcase in his hand. He looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"You said that I should... come to your desk when I get off work, sir?"
"I did, didn't I? Thank Christ, because this paperwork was about to kill me; let's go before it actually manages to. Oh, and, Dimmock?"
"If you call me 'sir' again after hours, I'll make you drink vodka until you can't even think."
"Well, I don't- What should I call you?"
"Oh. Lestrade'll do."
"Come on. You won't feel so awkward once you're drunk."
"You said I didn't have to drink..."
"Sorry, Dimmock, but that's the rules."
Two hours later I was only on the way to being unable to walk, Dimmock had only taken a few sips of his beer, and we were too far away for me to be feeling so warm.
Chapter 5: Deflection
It's funny how I spent nearly my entire life loving- if that's the word for it- another man, yet I never considered myself gay. But I suppose I must be, if the time I spent with Dimmock meant anything, and I'd like to think that it did. Admittedly, it never occurred to me that my life would be spent watching over someone other than Mycroft.
My beer had gone warm in my hand, but I wasn't paying attention to it. The man sitting in the chair across the room from me had grabbed my attention and refused to let the drink take any of it back. For a man who was barely thirty, Dimmock was surprisingly settled; he had spent the last half hour describing his house and neighbors, and for some reason, it had captivated me. He wasn't too set in his ways, but he knew what he thought about things. He also proved to be a good judge of character, despite his relative lack of experience in worldly affairs.
Most surprising, though, was how shy he was; it had taken me nearly an hour of telling him something about myself then demanding something in return for him to open up. The time was more than worth it.
The only problem, I suppose, is that I'd been drinking the whole time and had gone a bit past the point I usually set for myself- not that I was falling over and babbling yet. There was still lots of time for that, though, and I could tell from the warmth in my gut and the way Dimmock's smile was making things warmer still, that that night was going end either spectacularly well or horrifically badly.
My bet was on the latter, because I needed to talk to my guest about the assignment before I was too pissed to remember to do it.
"Dimmock... are you going to talk to me about last night?" My voice shouldn't have come out like that, so slow and almost happy. I was asking him about killing someone, not weather. Damn it.
"If you insist, sir...?" He was questioning, hoping that I wouldn't press him.
"Happily, I still can and do," I replied, sounding surprisingly sober. Perhaps crushing someone's hope has a sobering effect?
It was the kindest thing, really, making sure that Dimmock didn't get his hopes up, before I forgot. It's really the only thing to do when someone is hoping- crush the hopes quickly and without hesitation. Ignoring hope, particularly the kind that is tied in with desire, can only end in unpleasantness.
If I'd been smart, I would've written that down and gotten it tattooed on my forehead. Maybe then that person who was dragging me along, whatever his name was, might get the picture.
If only I could remember what the picture was...
"I killed someone; I took a life. That's it, isn't it?"
"You aren't fooling anyone; I didn't just listen to you describe the way your neighbor waters her hyacinths for three minutes to then believe that you don't care about people. So, let's try this again, hmmmm?" Ah, a bit too long on that bit, dragging out sounds is quite easy when you're drunk (getting drunk).
"I'm not trying to fool-"
"Honesty is the best policy."
He paused, studying me with a strange expression on his face.
"You're... quite... I'm not sure... strange, maybe?... Are you like this whenever you drink?"
"Stop distracting me, please. We're talking about you."
"What if I don't want to talk about myself?"
His head drooped, and he studied his hands as though they were quite interesting. (They were, actually- quite soft looking, like they'd never been used, like gloves, like... something soft.)
I considered, or at least gave it a strong effort.
"I invited you here to drink and talk about yourself; you haven't done either."
"You sound like a four year old."
"And you're a terrible guest."
He laughed softly and looked up at me.
"You're a lot different outside work, you know."
There wasn't much I could think to say to that. Other than, 'You smell good,' which didn't seem quite appropriate.
"Lestrade, you... Do you know what you just said?"
"I said something?"
Dimmock looked positively poleaxed. If I hadn't been so confused about what I'd said, I might've laughed.
"Yeah, yeah you did..."
"Well? What did I say?"
"I really don't think-"
Somehow I wound up moving to sit on the coffee table in front of the chair. I'm not sure how I got there or how I managed not to spill my beer- as it was still tucked safely in the crook of my elbow. And my hands were on his knees for some reason- probably to try to steal warmth from his, since he was practically throwing it off like a miniature sun.
I tried to remember why being warm (and looking quite inviting) was important to me. There was something that Dimmock was doing (not doing?) that was important, but I couldn't figure it out. Perhaps if I just got closer, if I were able to look into his face, I'd be able to find it...
"S-sir, I really don't think..."
"Hmmmmm? What is it, Dimmock?"
"You're, ah, awfully close... and a bit drunk..."
Oh. His face was red because he was embarrassed that he hadn't been drinking with me, and now he was very sober. And I was not. There must be a way to fix the problem. If only he had something to drink...
"Ah! I know how to fix the problem!"
"Lestrade." He was a smart guy, Dimmock. Why was it taking so long for him to fix my name in his memory? He really had to stop calling me sir outside work; Lestrade worked perfectly well. I'd let it slip earlier because... because that was what you do when someone's embarrassed. You don't correct him.
"I really... Wha- what are you doing?"
"But you- your head is..."
"On your knee. Because I'm tired. It shouldn't be this hard for you to keep up, Dimmock."
"Could you take it off?"
"Nope. My head's too heavy for my neck."
"I told you I wouldn't drink!"
"Said that I didn't have to!"
"Then I told you that I'd lied. Come on. Just a sip? Just finish this bottle in my hand?"
He still looked skeptical, but his face was turning a deeper shade of red than I'd ever seen a human go. It was quite funny, but I didn't want to laugh because he wouldn't like that. Unless he would? What would he...?
I shook my head against his knee, making his whole leg jiggle, and he drew in a quick breath. That didn't make sense. Why would he sound like that because of my face in his knee? Oh. Oh!
"You still haven't drunk anything. If you drank something, you'd be more comfortable..."
He shook his head, so I did the only thing I could think to do: I got up and tried to make him drink. I hadn't realized how unsteady my legs had become, though, so I wound up falling forward and onto Dimmock, like some sort of overly long rag. His face was a few inches from mine, his eyes level with my own, and there was utter terror there, for some reason. The only thing I could think of at that moment was how wide his eyes were and how funny it was that he seemed scared.
And that was the moment I should have gotten up and left the poor man alone.
Instead, I leaned forward and wound up locking lips with him.
He, sober as he was, should have known better than to let me do as I pleased and done the right thing: pushed me off and walked away.
Instead, he started kissing me back and pulling me closer.
And that's why a few moments later, I was crouched on his lap, pressed against him from crotch to mouth and happily doing nothing more than trying to see how long he could go before he needed to breathe. It took him at least two and a half minutes, during which time I was able to sort out all the different tastes in his mouth, get my hands around his head and slobber all over the lower half of his face- not that he could complain since he'd done the same thing to me, despite being completely sober.
I would have been content to sit and enjoy the feeling, but Dimmock was not. That's the thing about younger men; they've got a thousand ideas running through their heads, and the only thing they can do is try to hurry up and do as many as possible. Or so I remember. It could have been something different with Dimmock, but somehow I doubt it. He was rushing forward, pulling me tighter, closer, moving his hands all over me- from head to back to chest to-
His hands came to rest on my arse, clutching so hard that a part of me thought he might hurt himself, but if I'm being honest, the majority of my thoughts were demanding that there be more- more touching, more closeness, more Dimmock. And, good man that he was, he did give me more. He gave to the point that the two of us were rocking against each other, breathing heavily and trying not to cry out, whimpering and groaning. His face was covered in sweat, his breaths coming in gasps, but he was still pushing himself against me as hard as he could.
It had been years since I'd been with anyone. No one had held any interest for me since Kathleen other than Mycroft, and that... was not even a dead end. There wasn't even a trail or a slight path- just an over-full, unwelcoming forest that might as well have cried out,
I had no idea what circumstances were for the man writhing beneath me, but he was a pleasant guy and good looking, so I imagined he hadn't been lacking in attentions.
Perhaps I'd been wrong, though, because after a few minutes- maybe three or twenty, or I'm wrong and three hours later- he let go, and the feeling of him finding release like that... My body followed soon after.
As he sat in the chair and looked up at me, there was so much wonder in his face that I felt guilty, as though I had somehow used him, but my mind was too busy being silenced by the rush that follows the release to fully contemplate it. I rested my head on his shoulder and rubbed my nose against his throat.
Already, the numbness from earlier was sinking in, but the hand that came to rest on the back of my head pushed it aside, demanding that it leave me for the moment.
Many thanks to my new beta, akisura12!
Chapter 6: Comfort
Anaïs Nin once said, "Is devotion to others a cover for the hungers and the needs of the self, of which one is ashamed? I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not virtue. It was a disguise."
How true her words are. What a shame I didn't hear them until a few minutes ago, as I was listening to radio while searching for the pills I had hidden in the bottom of my refrigerator. And there was a bottle of alcohol around somewhere, which I needed as well. I had turned the radio on more out of habit than anything else, a self-help channel being the one that came on immediately, ironically enough. I was standing with the door open and rooting around in the mostly empty vegetable drawer for the pill bottles; I hadn't wanted Dimmock or, worse, my sister, to find them and worry, but since neither was with me, I figured that I could do as I pleased.
That was when the radio talk show host read out that quotation.
He might as well have shouted out to me,
'Lestrade, you self-serving bastard, here's your life summed up: You were too weak to ask for things, so you did what other people wanted, all with the hope of being given what you wished.'
Even if the only thing that I was yearning for was one man's affection.
Funny, how wrong things can go.
When I woke up, Dimmock and I had slipped to the floor, our bodies still tangled together. He was wonderfully warm, his chest radiating heat that I was happy to take. I realized as I moved my arm to check my watch- which had luckily survived last night's activities- that we were still wearing our clothes from last night.
Last night's activities.
The sound of it sent a shudder through me as I remembered what I- we, rather- had done, and I could feel my face getting hotter- from embarrassment, though, not regret. Normally I wouldn't just... hop up on top of someone and do that sort of thing, and I had never done anything sexual- had never even thought to do something like that- with an underling. (A fitting title, given that Dimmock had definitely been under me last night, the hysterical voice in my head said, the one that was screaming about losing my job and being homeless and dying and- And other things that didn't interest me; it'd be better to just see how things went, rather than worry about how they could go.)
Despite the fact that we worked together, I just couldn't be bothered to summon up a sufficient amount of shame or worry. We'd done what we'd done, and it had been fantastic. In fact, if he was up to it and willing- I'm not a monster- I might even try to have another go of it. From the first touch, my mind had lit up, as if someone had finally found all those hormones that make you feel good and forced them out. Perhaps Dimmock's skin was laced with ecstasy...
A small grunt from beside me brought my attention back to the man in question, his small body snuggling itself closer to me. He snuggled closer, and I really did want to wrap my arms around him and pull him closer... But I'd seen the time and knew we had to get up.
"Dimmock, wake up."
He muttered something unintelligible into my chest, and I had to take a moment to calm myself.
"Dimmock, we've got to get to work; come on. We've got to get dressed."
Again, he said something I couldn't understand.
"Five more minutes?" he asked, finally managing to speak like normal.
"Nope, it's time to get up. Unless you'd like to go to work the way you are now, wearing the same clothes as yesterday and smelling like-"
"All right, all right! I'm up." He cast me a wary glance. "Are things going back to the way they were before, with us deciding that last night was just alcohol and stress, or is there going to be more?"
I answered him a kiss that made us lose a good four minutes.
"Does that answer your question?" I asked.
Dimmock smiled brightly.
"Yeah, actually, I think it does."
"Good, because we've got to get going. I've got to be at work in three hours, and in four hours you've got to be there."
Dimmock yawned and stretched before wrapping his arms around me, pulling me close enough so that he was clutching my face to his chest, his elbows on my shoulder blades and his hands tangled in my hair. He then pushed his nose by my ear, rubbing it against the sensitive skin there. I could feel his breath against me as his cold flesh slowly began to warm up, and I could hear the way his breath hitched and came quickly. It was incredibly comfortable, and any thoughts of going to work flew away in the face of Dimmock's determined nuzzling.
"Mmm," came his voice, quiet but slightly forced, as if he had had to work to get the sound out. "Don't go. Stay."
"Dimmock..." I said, struggling to get up.
"Please? I'll make it worth your while," he replied, his voice halfway between tempting and pleading. I knew better than to listen to him, because I knew that he would have me wrapped around his finger faster than I could see what he was doing.
And for a critical moment, I didn't really care.
He wasn't an idiot, Dimmock, and the moment I hesitated, and he took advantage of it. His face moved from my ear and came to stop in front of my own. Time stopped for a moment, and for an eternity, we stared at each other, sizing one another up. That moment was broken, though, by a sudden pressure on my lips, followed by a few hesitant strokes of a soft tongue. He started to nip at me and suck on my lips, his tongue pushing at me, demanding and insistent, the difference in our characters becoming obvious.
Dimmock was young and wanted things immediately, and if he didn't want to wait, he wasn't going to. I wasn't moving as quickly as he wanted, so he started to whine, moaning and pushing himself against me. If I hadn't been as aroused, I might've laughed; he was rutting against my leg and clawing at my shirt like a rabid animal, and I couldn't help but respond the same way.
Again, I missed a lot of what happened, but I was very aware of what was going on when I was pushed onto my back, shirtless and with my trousers unzipped and caught on my ankles, Dimmock's face suddenly invading my vision. His pupils were wide, and he was already panting, clearly quite lost to his desire. I reached up, finished unbuttoning his shirt and pushed it off him, my hands refusing to leave his skin after discovering how warm he was; he shuddered each time my hands got close to his waistband, his breathing getting heavier with every pass of my hands. I got closer and closer, my fingertips just brushing against the top of his trousers, and he finally had had enough. He batted my hands away impatiently and tugged the expensive garment down, not bothering to get it more than halfway down his thighs.
His voice was desperate when he called my name, soft and pleading, and the moment his trousers were down and his body was pressed against me from toe to head, he couldn't stop saying it. Or perhaps he did, but I couldn't know because the feeling of him had set me on fire, had brought color to my world again.
When I managed to bring myself from that near-blinding moment, I looked up and smiled. Dimmock smiled, too, momentarily calm rather than half-crazed with lust.
I don't think that there's a higher compliment than that: looking up at someone and seeing his face full of adoration, as well as unabashed desire.
Given the states of our pants, though, the moment wasn't going to last, and it didn't. Almost before I'd seen it, his look of happiness disappeared and was replaced by a look of determined concentration, and my body was the center of his attention. It wasn't something I was used to knowing, but the thought was knocked from my head when he suddenly collapsed, falling onto me heavily. That was the moment I decided that it would be all right for me to grab him by the arse and pull him close, as close as he could be.
He gasped in surprise, but it only took him a moment to recover and begin to rub himself against me. His hips moved in small circles and back and forth like a pendulum; there was more pressure this time, less desperation but more need. I didn't just lie there and let him do as he pleased. I pushed against him and pulled him as close as I could; my back arched, trying to get more friction, more contact, more of his body above my own.
I have no idea how long we did that, and I don't want to know. All that's important is that after one particularly rough pass, Dimmock threw his head back and moaned, his voice high and full of unsatisfied desire. I felt his body tremble, as well as a convulsion in his pants. He fell forward and panted, his body still trembling, and I stopped trying to reach my own release, preferring to reach up and hold his head, brushing his hair away from his face and wiping the sweat off his brow with my thumbs.
Dimmock sighed, and I couldn't help but mentally compare him to a dog after it's had its stomach rubbed.
"Mmm... You're very comfortable, si- Lestrade." When he spoke, he sounded as if he were on the edge of sleep, or had just woken up.
I laughed, placing a kiss on the end of his nose.
"Someone's a quick learner. I don't think I've got the kink necessary to appreciate you calling me sir when we're doing this. Unless, of course, you'd like that...?"
His body shook with silent laughter.
"No, I don't think that I've got it either."
We lay there in silence, him in contentment and me trying to ignore the throbbing in my groin. I was busily thinking about absolutely anything else when he disrupted my thoughts.
"Are we... going to go to work, then? It'll look suspicious, though. Or do you not want this to be a secret? It's not that I mind, but I've never... done this before."
"I haven't either, and I don't want to hide."
"I see... I don't want to hide either." He was silent for a few moments, contemplating the next thing he wanted to ask. "So... What about work?"
"Do you want to go? I'd be content to stay here."
He took a few moments to process that.
"Then I guess we'll stay here, won't we?"
We did stay there, and it wasn't until our bodies demanded to be relieved that we got up. I made breakfast, which we ate in silence before starting to make our way back to the living room. As I stood in the doorway, though, I really didn't want to go back there. The sofa was comfortable enough, but it wasn't anywhere I wanted to spend an extended amount of time. So I suggested that we go to my bedroom.
Dimmock looked at me strangely for a moment, as though I'd just said something in Farsi, rather than English, but he did nod after a bit and followed me to my bedroom. He wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his head beneath my chin, and I kissed the top of his head.
The thing about Dimmock was that he was incredibly comfortable; he fit with me perfectly well and just seemed to slip in. There was a lingering smell of hormones and sweat in his hair that complimented the way he normally smelled. Tired as I was, standing there and holding him wasn't uncomfortable or difficult; even though my body was ready to crawl over to the bed, it was also content to wait- so long as the man in my arms stayed where he was.
As we stood just inside the room, he started to sway back and forth. It didn't take me too long to figure out what he was doing; he was nearly pushing me onto the bed a few moments later. We tumbled onto it, a tangled mess of arms and legs, and Dimmock landed on top, leaning over me with a suddenly predatory look.
It's too bad I was too caught up in the pleasant renewal of feeling thrumming through me to notice it. Maybe if I had, I might've been able to... No, even if I had, nothing would have changed; it would have come to the same end. That's what I'd been telling myself, at least; if I had to admit that it was my fault, I would fall apart.
His face cleared before I could see it, though, and the next half hour was spent in comfort; he found his second release and I my first. We lay together, me on my back and he on top of me, basking in the rush of post-coital bliss, and I was so far from numb that I was able to, for that moment, forget about the pain and the feelings of futility, as well as Mycroft. All that there was on earth was Dimmock and me- and the bed, of course.
Finally, there was a moment in my life that wasn't destroyed or overshadowed by unhappiness.
We lay together in warmth and comfort, occasionally talking about ourselves. Dimmock told me about his younger brother whom he was afraid had gotten into drugs, dealing and taking, as well as whispering in my ear about the mess that had happened when he had told his parents that he wasn't exclusively heterosexual- heteroflexible is the word he used, I believe. His family hadn't understood at first and laughed it off, then grown furious with him- going so far as to tell him that they were not longer going to pay for his tuition at university. After a few months, though, his father had called him and requested that he come home; once he arrived, he had been greeted with apology after apology, as well as the promise that he would not have to pay for his education.
In return, I told him about Mycroft- how I had done everything he had ever asked of me and more, the way I had found myself under his command, why I no longer worked for the police as I had wished. I told him about my ruined marriage and the toll that it had taken on me. His story of his family was greeted with mine about how I hadn't seen mine since I had had to quit the Met but that one of my sisters was going to come live with me.
"Won't that make our boss angry?" he whispered, face wrinkled in concern.
"Maybe. I don't really know, or care. I can't-... I just can't keep doing everything for him, hoping that one day he'll see how much I've done and praise me, not after how much of my life I've spent working for him without any."
He nodded against my cheek, his stubble brushing against mine, and as I lay within his warm embrace, he encouraged me to tell him everything, to get rid of the bitterness I'd been holding inside myself. With his arms around me, the lights off and the sunlight barely leaking into the room, I did as he asked me- recounted every incident I had been wounded but Mycroft's orders had kept me isolated, grated out the way he had demanded that I ignore my family, the way I could not visit my father when he'd had a stroke and that I was no longer allowed in the field because I was "too valuable" as someone who summarized reports and sent e-mails. I even told him about entering his office and coming across him bending Anthea over his desk and having his entire body pressed around her.
I was an idiot that morning, thinking that I had found someone good; that goodness would be gone in two weeks.
Chapter 7: Exploding
"Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes!"- Theophile Gautier
The first time I saw Mycroft, he was a lost child. The first time I saw Dimmock, he was a lost young man. The first time I truly saw myself, I was a dying man. That's what standing in front of a mirror with death in your head does; it lets you see the things you usually try to ignore. My face looked even older than my father's- covered in more wrinkles, wearing scars I wished I'd never gotten and the skin drawn against the bone. And as I looked at my reflection, I couldn't think of a time when I looked so at ease, so calm and... not happy, but content.
My sisters used to say that I had a woman's eyes. According to them, my eyes were too expressive for a man, too easily read. There wasn't anything I could do about that, though. They were what I'd had when I was born, and they were the only pair I'd have for the rest of my life- no matter how short it might wind up being. So as I looked at myself one last time, I figured I'd at least see how they looked, if they were as worn as the rest of me.
True to form, they weren't worn at all. If anything, they were bright, brighter than I'd ever seen them before, even when I was really young. I caught myself wondering if they really did belong to me, those strange things in my face, but when my fingers touched them and probed them, I could feel every touch, could see changes in my vision when I moved different parts of my eyes.
It was fitting, then, that the windows to my soul were just as wrong as the rest of me.
When we woke up again, my watch claimed that it was ten o'clock at night.
I told Dimmock, and he smiled, stretching out and yawning like a dog, before inching closer.
"You've got to get up at some point, you know. We can't just stay here, after all; we've got jobs to do."
He groaned in response, and I could relate.
"Really, Lestrade, it's almost as though you were trying to get rid of me," he said slyly, but I could see the smile on his lips. before he hid his face in my chest.
I leaned over him and tried to pull his face away, laughing as he only pushed harder into me, and when I tried again, this time putting some force into it, he wrapped his arms around my neck and scooted up, his face coming to rest in the crook of my neck. His laughter was making his whole body shake, and I could feel the way his lips were smiling against my skin.
"Come on, then, Dimmock," I said, trying to speak with something close to authority. "I'll call a cab for you."
The look on his face proved that my tone had fallen far from authoritative, but he did get up. As he did, he stretched, causing the muscles on his slender figure to stretch taught. I closed my eyes pressed my face against them, heaving a heavy sigh. I smiled when I felt Dimmock squirm; my breath must have blown against him. That was one of the first things I'd learned about the man in my arms. He was incredibly ticklish.
Just as I was beginning to wonder if I could have another hour or two with him, his hands took hold of my head and gently pushed me away.
"Christ, how am I supposed to get dressed and go if you're still clinging to me?"
"Mmm... you'll think of something..."
He chuckled but continued to push me away. I went reluctantly; his body was warm and welcoming compared to the suddenly cold room. If he didn't leave quickly, I was going to change my mind. In fact, I was already regretting my decision and opened my eyes, wanting to see the look on his face when I told him that he should stay-
-but he'd already left the room, his bare feet silent on the carpeted floor while I was contemplating how much more I'd like my bed if I weren't alone in it...
In the end, I called him a cab, and he left, promising to see me at work in a few hours.
And just like that, I was alone again. My small flat felt suddenly too large, too much for me. The walls were miles away, the ceiling far away in space; or perhaps I was too small for it. I felt the same way as I had when I was small and my family and I'd gone to visit some distant relatives in France who lived on a massive estate; the house had been so large that I'd gotten lost within a few minutes of being there and become so distraught that a servant had had to carry me back to my parents.
Without Dimmock, I felt the same way I had as a child in that too-big house; I felt that I did not belong.
Trying to shake the feeling, I took a slow, hot shower, taking care to wash every part of my body, prolonging the amount of time I could spend in it. It was not a luxury I usually allowed myself, but I felt that this time, I could make an exception. It wasn't as relaxing as I'd hoped it would be, but it certainly wasn't bad. It was just that I wished that I weren't alone, that someone else could be with me. Instead, I was a middle-aged man with no children to be seen, a failed marriage and a missionary complex constantly reminding me of my mistakes.
To say that I slept poorly the rest of that night would be suggesting that I slept at all.
Work was no different the next morning. I arrived on time, immediately sat down to work and made an impressive dent in the pile of reports on my desk. Dimmock and I saw each other a few times; we simply nodded to each other, as it would have been unprofessional to do anything more.
As my day came to an end, however, he came to my desk and placed an envelop in my hands. I was about to turn it over and open it when my desk phone went off; the name on the screen was blank, so I knew that it was from Mycroft's office.
"Hello?" I asked, curious about why I would be called on the phone rather than texted, the usual way of giving me information or asking for it.
"Inspector Lestrade," came Anthea's voice. "Mr. Holmes would like to see you in his office as soon as possible."
"All right, well I only have to do a few more reports today, so-"
Of course I couldn't finish my work first. Then again, Mycroft hadn't been sending me on missions or making me do anything more intriguing than sorting through staff e-mails (some surprisingly salacious ones from one of the shy women in the Forensic Accounting department that I wish I hadn't needed to read, though most were entirely innocent) so I was sure that I'd be returning to it soon.
The stairs were locked- unsurprising, as an ex-employee had returned and tried to off Mycroft there- so I was forced to endure the lift. The ride was uneventful, as most lift rides tend to be, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched, which was a foolish feeling. Of course I was being watched; my boss was the leading source of intelligence in the world. And someone had just tried to kill him. Still, I've never liked being watched, and having to stand still in a lift while being watched was incredibly uncomfortable.
I barely managed to stop myself from sighing with relief when the doors opened and I was allowed to stand in the room.
Mycroft was sitting behind his desk, a file in his hands and a grave look on his face, but, strangely enough, Anthea was nowhere to be found, a fact that made me happier than it should have. When he looked up though, his blue eyes narrowing as they looked me over, any trace of happiness disappeared.
That was an effect he tended to have: killing things.
"Well? Sit down, Lestrade," he said coolly, an inauspicious beginning.
I did as he bade me, not wanting to be troublesome, but I had an idea of where this was going to go, and if it went there- or the other place I was thinking- then I'd be as big a pain in the arse as I felt necessary, so it might have been more of a move to reserve my energy.
He didn't start speaking right away. Instead, he studied me, his gaze honing in on every part of me. But if he'd wanted to make me uncomfortable, that wasn't the way. He'd been looking at me like that for years, and one time wouldn't mean anything to me. I returned his slightly annoyed look with one of my own.
"It has come to my attention that one of your sisters is coming to stay with you."
Not a question.
"This concerns me, Lestrade, because I remember telling you that you were to stop communicating with your family on any level beyond need-to-know and checking in. You were doing fine for years, yet for some reason, you suddenly decided to ignore what I asked- no, commanded- you to do."
His voice was getting sharper, his hold on the anger that was always bubbling beneath the surface becoming looser. Still, he did not ask me anything, so I stayed quiet, knowing that that would make him angrier. If I wanted to walk out the office with any shred of dignity, then he would have to make the first mistake.
"And- and now you've become involved with someone." Stuttering, the first sign that he was getting close. "I told you not to do that, Lestrade, but not only did you disobey me, you decided that you should pick another member of your team? How do you expect to go on missions, now? Do you honestly think that I will be able to trust your judgement when I know that you have these... incorrect priorities?"
Well damn. He went there, and I went immediately to Plan H: offensive explosion.
"Are you done?"
"No, I am not, so sit back down, Lestrade, and-"
"Good, because I'm ready to begin. One," I said, raising a finger, "I don't care about things that you 'told' me to do years ago. Things have changed, Mycroft, and I'm one of them. Two," another finger, "if a member of my family needs me, then I'm going to do what I can to help. You know why?" Silence. "I'll tell you why- because that's what a family does; that's what an older brother does. He stands up and cares for his siblings. I thought you understood that. You were good to Sherlock- beyond good to him- but now you're going to tell me that I can't help my own sister?"
"I was not trying to-"
"Not done yet, thanks, because now I'm at the other problem. If I'm involved with anyone, then that's my business. You gave up the right to have any say at all the day you called me in and demanded that I 'do something' about the state of disarray I'd gone into after work but sent away the one person who'd become my friend." His face paled, and I knew that he hadn't thought that I knew that he was behind Carrie's sudden 'vacation'. "And now that I've found someone who happens to- to- I don't know... have meaning to me, you've decided that it's unethical somehow? Open your eyes, Mycroft. You haven't let me do something serious or dangerous in the field in years, and it doesn't seem like you're planning to change that strategy. So you know what? You and your ideas about my priorities can kindly piss off, because I'm done. I'm done being your lap dop, and I'm done trying to be your friend."
I'd forgotten how nearly euphoric it feels to yell, and as I made my way back to the elevator, my legs began to shake.
"Lestrade," Mycroft called, his voice hesitant and soft. I hated that voice. "Lestrade, you are my friend, just-"
"What does the G stand for?"
"The G in my name. What's my first name, Mycroft?"
"Why, it's short for Greg, of cour-"
I was calm, too calm for someone whose world was falling apart all over again.
He was getting desperate, and we both knew it.
"Not even close."
"I don't think you've ever-"
I cut him off, getting to my feet and leaning over his desk. I had had enough.
"Ever told you? I've told you four times, Mycroft. Once when I had a fever in school and was telling you everything I knew. The second time was after you'd broken your arm and said that you didn't think that anyone cared, that you didn't matter. I wanted you to know that you were wrong. The third time I told you, you asked me what it was. It hurt then that you hadn't listened, but I thought that you were listening." I paused, suddenly out of breath, even though I hadn't shouted or even spoken harshly. "The fourth time, though, Mycroft... The fourth time, was when you swore me in."
And just like that, I was done. I'd thought that I was done pandering to him, that I was my own man. I was a fool.
Like a guilty child beneath an adult's gaze, I couldn't stand to be in front of him any longer and fled, not caring where I went or how much it would hurt the next day; all that mattered was that I be gone from his presence.
But is blue eyes just followed me, watching every move I made, all emotion drained from them. They were like the eyes of a man who's just died- suddenly flat but still looking out, taking in the world around him without feeling anything at all. Or maybe they were the eyes of a god who demanded blood from his people and couldn't understand why his disciple did not want to worship him anymore.
They were still the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen.
Chapter 8: Sophism
Note: Sorry, I have no idea about how the English legal system works, so I decided that it would be best to write this in a ridiculously vague way...
Oh, and this isn't beta-ed yet, as life has interfered with my lovely beta. I couldn't wait to post this, though, so the beta-ed version will be up at a later date.
W. Somerset Maugham had it right: "It is cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late."
I wonder if he somehow knew about me, even though he died when I was two. I'd like to think that when he wrote that, he was seeing me, that those words hold some sort of meaning beyond just their obvious implication.
It's a useless thought, though, and even in my state of intoxicated overdose, I can see that. And it's overly proud, thinking that I could in some way influence a great man, when I myself am just a weak-willed shell of a human. What in me could have possibly inspired him?
Nothing, of course.
We never met. He never knew of me, and I didn't know about him until I was older, until I had been through school and university and finally settled into a life of futility with Kathleen. Thoughts like those, the ones that say that I was something to someone, that I had done something great... They're all just ways of trying to avoid the real idea, the disappointment of knowing that I was a failure.
Mycroft never needed me, could fend for himself even when we were little; it was just folly and an over-eager sense of duty that lead me to him. And even though he didn't need me, I still failed him. Until then, I'd seen myself as a man like my father- a strong man who everyone could trust and on whose shoulders people would lean. I was nothing like my father, and I never will be like him.
I'm an idiot- a foolish man who couldn't see what was right in front of his face.
The envelope fell to the floor heavily, and the paper weighed more than my hands could bear. Still, the black words on the legal paper were all that my head could comprehend.
To Mr. G. Lestrade:
You have been named as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of one Mycroft Holmes .
Case number: 70846632- England v Diogenes
The accused faces penalties for alleged acts involving the charges of impropriety of behavior, conduct unbecoming of a person of his station, abuse of power and treason. The trial is already underway, but your presence has not been deemed necessary until this moment.
Be at the courthouse at six thirty in the morning, dressed appropriately and fully prepared to spend the day on the stand- or, rather, at the head of the table, as this is a private trial. These are serious charges, as I am sure you are aware, and it is of the utmost importance that there are no leaks of information and that time has been taken to be certain of the accused's guilt- or innocence, should we fail to convince the judge that he is, indeed, guilty of these crimes. And he is guilty, Mr. Lestrade; of that, you must be sure to convince the judge, as you are the most important element of this case. You, the man whose loyalty and dedication to the country are undeniable, are the prosecution's key witness.
With all respect,
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
After Note: Dimmock informed me of your knowledge and assured me that you would be willing to do the right thing. Do not disappoint him; do not disappoint your country.
My fingers were still trembling after reading it through the fourth time. It didn't make any sense.
Mycroft... trial... treason... abuse... guilt... impropriety... Those words just did not belong together. And why was I a part of it, especially as a key witness? I'd never said anything against Mycroft before, and there was no reason for me to start. He did his job well, and he took it seriously.
But still, a small part of me did remember how he had treated everyone, with the exception of Anthea, of course. We were never anything more than faceless workers, objects that could be replaced or moved without thought or care. How many times had I wondered whether it was all just something of a game to him, as if our lives meant nothing? I remembered his refusal to let me do my job; he had forced me to stay inside and shuffle papers around. This had left my team without a leader, yet he had continued to send them on missions. And then there was his relationship with Anthea, which was anything but professional. Kissing in his office, a place that was the exact opposite of secluded and private? Both were too smart to even
try to delude themselves into thinking that they wouldn't get caught if they did anything there.
Then again, what did he mean that Dimmock had told him about how I felt? It was too much for me to think about all at once.
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out with a sigh but did a double-take when I saw that the sender was Anthea (Technically, it was unregistered, but unregistered numbers tended to belong to Mycroft and were messages he had instructed his... aide to send). It was, as usual, too short to find anything but instructions.
Your sister will be picked up and brought to the flat by an agent. She will be guarded.
I would have paid more attention to that-
should have paid more attention to that- but the news about the trial had already left me too numb to notice other things. Even if it hadn't, I don't think I would have paid the message much more attention; it wasn't unusual for my boss to order arrangements to be made for someone on my behalf. That had always been one of the more confusing signals... one I had allowed myself to take to mean that he did feel something for me. But after our earlier fight, I wasn't in the mood to notice him being charitable; I felt sick and unclean, as if I'd somehow been violated.
Maybe it was because of Dimmock's role? We hadn't become particularly close, our relationship only just beginning, yet I had told him things that I felt he ought to know, things that were part of what had made me into the wreck I was becoming. He had told a barrister those things, had decided to use them as evidence against Mycroft, and he hadn't even been bothered enough to give me warning. I've never thought I was the most intelligent person, particularly since I grew up with the Holmeses, but there was enough of Dad's gut instinct in me to let me know when something wasn't right.
I spent that evening on my laptop, the one Anthea had given to me after explaining that Mycroft insisted that I have it. There was an important decision that needed to be made: Mycroft or Dimmock.
The morning dawned cold, the sunrise a mess of murky smears of color the shades of old blood and sludge. It brought to mind the old seamen's adage:
Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Perhaps I wasn't really as disconnected as Kathleen had accused me of being.
With a final glance in the mirror, I straightened my tie. I wasn't particularly worried about my appearance. Though I had many work suits, they were all cheap and relatively ill-fitting, so Mycroft had started a tradition of sending me a new suit every year, or two or three if that one got ruined. They were always perfectly made and fit me as though I had gone to the in person- though, when it came to gifts from Mycroft, I didn't expect anything less than perfect-fitting. At first, I had protested, telling him that I didn't want him to spend so much money on me when I so rarely required such fine suits, but he had waved me aside with a glance. Since then, it had been a guilty pleasure of mine to wear them around the house, reveling in my own image and harboring more than a little hope that they were somehow Mycroft's way of telling me that he cared. I thought of them as a secret lover's token and kept them hidden in the deepest corner of my closet.
This was the first time I'd be wearing this particular suit, and the irony of the situation wasn't lost on me. I was going to a trial about my boss' misuse of his place in the government, and I was going to wear a suit he'd bought me, most likely with the government's money. And I was wearing it despite the fact that I was going to testify against him. I would condemn him while dressed in clothes that I'd never have been able to even think about wearing if he hadn't given them to me.
I shook my head, knowing that if I kept thinking like that, I'd wind up talking myself down, and I couldn't do that- not when I had somehow become an important part of this trial, even if there was something strange about it...
Thankfully, my thoughts were derailed by my pager vibrating in my pocket. I'd set it to go off at five forty five, leaving me plenty of time to hail a taxi and get to the courthouse. Six thirty was a long time away.
Still, I went down the stairs two and three at a time, something tugging at my gut that I wanted to leave behind.
There was a taxi waiting outside my flat, which made sense. Mycroft obviously knew that I was going to testify today, and he was not the type to attempt to delay things- whether they were good or bad. It was always his prerogative to take them head on and get them out the way.
It wasn't until I was inside and had just buckled my safety belt that I realized that there were two people in the front, and as I recognized them.
"Hello, Lestrade," came a soft voice from behind the wheel.
I felt my stomach drop.
Sherlock was strangely silent as John pulled away from the curb and into traffic. One of his hands was resting on John's knee, though, and I could see that his knuckles were white. Nothing in John's demeanor suggested that he even noticed that Sherlock was touching him, but that was to be expected. He was a soldier and had been tortured in the past- a suspicion that I had had to dig for months to confirm- so Sherlock's rather possessive grip probably didn't even register to him.
The silence in the cab was strained and heavy, and I longed for someone to break it.
Surprisingly enough, it was Sherlock who spoke.
"Lestrade," he said, his voice strained. "You have known Mycroft even longer than I have. You know that these charges are ridiculous. So why are you-"
"Are they?" I asked, angry for a reason I didn't understand.
"Of course they are!" came John's voice, much louder and sterner than usual. "There's no way-
no Christ forsaken way!- that Mycroft's done any of those things, and you know that, Lestrade! You aren't an idiot-"
"-so don't act like one! I haven't known Sherlock's brother for as long as you have, but I do know that someone who spends four years of his life watching over his near-dead brother and hiding him from their family isn't careless. If Mycroft actually
had done what he's accused of doing, do you really think that they'd catch him?"
Dammit, but John wasn't an idiot. But there were things that he didn't know.
"Stop it! Stop, stop stop." My vision was suddenly filled with Sherlock's unhappy face. "Stop thinking, Lestrade. You don't do it well. That's why Mycroft has always been the one in charge, the one who leads; you're a simpleton who can't even see what's in front of his own face. Worse, you can't see that Mycroft has been-"
"Enough, Sherlock." This time, it was John's voice that sounded tired. He looked up and caught my eye in the rear view mirror. "Look, Lestrade. There's obviously something going on here that you're missing, and whatever it is, it involves Mycroft. Sherlock and I noticed some... discrepancies in some of the things that a few of your boss' people have told, as well in things that they've been doing. So we- Sherlock and I- thought that you at least were loyal enough to hear us out and hold off on judging the man." A pale, slightly trembling hand moved from the steering wheel to John's face, running through his hair and pulling at it slightly. In response, Sherlock's hand moved from the doctor's knee to his waist, long fingers inserting themselves between skin and trousers.
When he spoke again, John's voice had its usual strength. "I owe a lot to Mycroft, okay? So just... don't abandon him until you've heard a little more, all right?"
I nodded, knowing that he'd see the movement in the mirror, and retreated into my head to run through the facts again.
The rest of the cab ride flew by, because the next thing I knew, Sherlock was saying, "We've arrived."
I took a moment to mentally slip back into the present, before sliding out the cab, not bothering to say anything to the two men in the front. They already knew what I would say, and I already knew what they thought.
There was a pretty young woman waiting at the front desk, and she guided me to the conference room where we would be holding the trial. I managed a small smile in return for the bright one she gave me as she indicated the room. She blushed, then walked away slightly quicker than she had earlier, and there was a slight bounce to each step. I couldn't help but feel my smile become more genuine; even if there wasn't going to be any follow-through, it was still nice to know that I hadn't lost all my appeal.
As I looked at the door knob, that rush of joy was cut short. I had come to do something serious, and it was time to do that.
It was time for me to say goodbye to myself.
The time from the moment I entered the room to the moment I stepped outside the building became a blur of insignificance even as it passed. The questions were almost all standard, and I can't remember them exactly, though they seemed to follow a theme of puffing up my importance and glorifying what I'd done. My attention was on Mycroft throughout, and neither of us looked away, except when I felt the other men- the judge, two barristers and Dimmock- begin to shift uncomfortably.
When Doyle began to lean forward, though, I got the impression that he was done talking about things that didn't matter. It was time for him to go in for the kill.
And then he spoke, his voice low and soft, a killer's voice if I'd ever heard one; it put me on my guard. Whatever he asked me, I don't remember, but I know that my response caused Mycroft's brow to wrinkle and that he shifted in his seat- a habit he usually disdained and refused to allow himself to pick up. I raised an eyebrow at him, but instead of returning the challenge, he stared past me, the look on his face the same as the one he'd worn when he had accidentally broken my arm. It was fleeting, his gaze quickly returning to mine, but I'd caught him out. There was definitely something going on that I hadn't noticed.
That rankled, and I mentally kicked myself. Of course he would have multiple things going on. Why hadn't I remembered that?
The next thing I knew, I was outside the building and walking towards a taxi, my suit getting wet as rain began to fall. The driver was alone, and thankfully he wasn't anyone I knew. I looked out the window and watched the grey cityscape blur around the car as it rolled across the streets, finally coming to a halt in front of my flat.
I paid the cabbie without thinking about it, and from the size of his smile, I would guess that my tip was satisfactory.
The familiar numbness was beginning to creep up on me as I walked through the doorway, but it was blown away by what I saw in my living room. Pierette, my sweet little sister, was sitting on the sofa, and she wasn't alone, far from it. Anthea was on her lap, and the two had their lips contentedly slotted together. All I could do was stand in the middle of the room, my body frozen and my mind racing. Everything was a black and white, Anthea kissing my sister, who was suddenly starting to look a lot like Mycroft, reminding me of that day I had gone into his office-
Anthea noticed me after a few moments, just as she had when she was with Mycroft, but the look on her face was completely different. There was embarrassment written all over her features, even a little bit of shame.
The change in her body didn't go unnoticed by my sister, whose face was marked with confusion, her hands and fingers flying, signing words that I didn't bother to try to decode.
"Ah, welcome home, Mr. Lestrade..." There was an unasked question at the end of Anthea's greeting.
Pierette's face lit up, but as she moved to stand up, I stopped her.
"No, don't... It's fine." As much as I wanted to be angry, to scream and shout, I couldn't. I never could, not with Pierette. I loved my little sister too much, and there was no way for her to know that I wasn't really angry at her, that my anger was aimed at myself. Instead, I sighed and let the creeping numbness wash over me; it wasn't all bad, after all. "I had a long day, okay? We can talk tomorrow, but I really need to go to bed. You two just... continue..."
I turned to go, but Anthea's voice stopped me.
"We could-" It was too loud, and she knew it. "No, we should go to my house. I just didn't think that you were going to be home so early and-"
Her excuses were cut off by the sound of my feet on the stairs.
Chapter 9: Faithful
My mother was always a religious woman, born and raised to a family full of nuns and priests, and her time in the Catholic church wasn't something she abandoned, particularly not since the woman she admired most was Catholic: Mother Teresa. I can remember a hundred thousand things that she read to me: quotations, stories, my mother's desire to be as strong as her hero, but one thing in particular has always stood out to me, ever since I first heard it.
"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."
Hell, that old woman was on to something. Even as a child, I could see how right she was. I mean, food... You can force someone to give that to you, but love? You've got to be given love; it isn't something that you can just take. And when you don't have it, it crushes you. It makes you resist the idea of food. All you want is something, anything, to fill that hole where you know something's supposed to be.
But when you are loved, damned if everything isn't somehow better. Food's good. The telly's good (except when that prat Jeremy Kyle's on). Somehow, it doesn't matter if your football team loses (if you ignore the fact that it does). Cricket even gets interesting, but that's only if the person who loves you gave you LSD or something along those lines.
At the moment when I held the bottle to my lips, imagining the feeling of the pills sliding through me and ignoring the pounding on the door, I could have sworn that I saw Mother Teresa's face in the bathroom light reflecting on the bottle. It was probably just a hallucination or some desire that I wanted to express but didn't know how, but I'd like to think that she was somehow my own, personal patron saint for that moment.
People get a bit ridiculous when they're drowning in self-disgust.
I wonder if Mum'll forgive me?
I lay in bed for half an hour before my mind was able to wrap itself around the events of the last two days. To make up for its previous failings, it even categorized everything and put them into one of two lists: The Strange and The Frightful
1. Out of nowhere I was a "key witness" in an internal investigation against my boss. The little (or complete lack of) effort put into preparing me smacked of something unsavory. I'm no stranger to court cases; as a police officer and as a... Guardsman as Mycroft had once called me, I had been in court a number of times. Key witnesses were not simply notified the day before, then told to just arrive and look pretty. Something else was going on that I hadn't noticed.
2. John and Sherlock picked me up and drove me to the courthouse.
3. Sherlock spoke in defense of Mycroft.
Actually, that ought to go in twice, because that's just ridiculous.
Sherlock Holmes told me that there was something more to Mycroft, and that I should look around.
4. I'm not really listening to Sherlock, or John. Usually I'd take what they're saying and at least give it a good roll around in my brain, but today... I'm just not up to it.
5. The trial itself, not that I was paying much attention to it. Still, there was something that I was missing, and it was something obvious. Well, obvious enough that I'd noticed that it was wrong but not enough that I could see it.
6. My sister and Anthea... I really don't even want to think about it, actually. Pierette was smiling, and that should be enough.
7. Dimmock. Hell, but there was something there that wasn't right, and it was somehow related to the trial.
1. The numbness that I'd thought had taken over everything hadn't done anything of the sort. Oh no, as I was sitting in that room, answering questions that I couldn't understand and saying things that were probably wrong, I wasn't feeling anything like numbness. I sat there completely transfixed and electrified by the man across from me. However much I wish it weren't true, it is. I am still in love with Mycroft. Damn.
2. No part of me has the strength to keep doing this, whatever this is, so I'm going to do what the men in my family have always done when unhappy: drink until there's no logic left and see how many pills that can be swallowed in one go.
When I was fourteen, my father told me that his father had gotten up to twenty three. I didn't think that I could get up to that, or if I even had that many pills in the house, but I figured that it was time to find my limit.
Luckily, Pierette and Anthea had left right after I'd gone up the stairs; I wasn't up to being reasonable about asking them to leave. It seemed that the world was prepared to let me do what I had to do, and I was thankful.
The flat was empty but for me, my hidden stash of pills and the bottle of alcohol, but that was sufficient.
The pounding began innocently enough, just two soft knocks on the door, almost hesitant. I ignored them. Then they got a bit louder, sharper. Still, my mind had conjured up stranger things. Once, it had had me convinced that Mycroft was sitting next to me in the hospital while I recovered from getting shot in the chest; that had been a strange dream, especially since I had remembered, even with morphine still in me, that he was in Alexandra, trying to stop some terrorists from getting important places in the Egyptian government. That had been forever ago, back when Mycroft and his father still got along, so it had been Donovan who assured me that Mycroft had never been out of her sight and definitely never left the embassy, let alone the country.
And really, whoever my mind was imagining at the door really should take a few social hints. When you're on one side of a door, and no one on the other side even responds, you're supposed to leave, not knock louder. Admittedly, I was probably trembling too much to actually respond, but I didn't want to, so it didn't really matter. Or, if I were completely honest, I was tired and just wanted to sleep. If this imaginary person actually had a body and had something important to say, he could shout it through the door or say it at my funeral. If Mycroft let my family have one for me.
Right then, though, all I wanted to do was sleep.
When I woke up (Wasn't that wrong? Somehow that was wrong) I had wires in my arms, at least two needles in my left arm and Christ knows how many things sticking to my chest. The thing that caught my attention first- weak as it was- though, was the pressure on my hand. Something... No, someone was holding it. It wasn't a tight grip- could hardly be called a grip at all- and that made some part of my brain click.
As my eyes opened, everything was morphed- some things were too large, others too small, as though I were looking through a hundred fish eye lenses at once- and nothing had definition. It was hard to tell how far away things were, or what they were.
That was when I noticed it- or the lack of it, to be more truthful. I could only see half the room, even as I could feel both eyes blinking.
Something- the someone, actually- shifted, quickly diverting my attention from the coming torrent of... emotion, most likely.
"Lestrade?" The question was soft and spoken slowly, as though the man were talking to someone young or not very intelligent.
I gave a grunt in reply and ignored how the sound made my throat scream and my stomach churn.
"Thank Christ you're all right! When I got to your flat but you didn't open the door, I got worried. Then I had to get someone to break it down and fight to ride in the ambulance with you..."
Dimmock. He was talking about finding me, what he had done to save my life, and all I was in the mood to do was demand why the hell he had decided to do that. Did he have any idea of the sheer stupidity of what he'd done? Of course he didn't. How could he? He was too young, too blind, too... bright.
He was still talking, oblivious to the fact that I'd missed everything he'd said.
"...and it's been three weeks that you've been in the coma, even though they said you'd be fully awake in twelve to twenty four hours..."
The rest of Dimmock's narration, as well as my new realizations, faded away before I had the chance to voice what I thought. My body wanted sleep, and it was going to force me to get it, important discussions or no.
My final moments of barely lucid thought were occupied by the mental image of the words Hand. WRONG. sweeping across the backs of my eyelids.
The second time I woke up, I was alone in the hospital room. That was good, because I was unhappy and restless; if any people'd been there, I just would have snapped at them (tried to at least) and waved them away (perhaps twitched them away).
In the lucky solitude, though, I was able to sit still and look around, adjusting to the unpleasant blackness on the left. A few pushes and careful prods proved that I still had my own eye, but it was taking a moment to relax at that moment. Being heavily sedated made getting to that point difficult, but in return, it also made accepting the discovery that I was half blind munch easier. In fact, it was almost unnerving how quickly I came to grips with the reality. I didn't even have time to become distraught; I was too busy wondering if I could get something to keep me awake.
That time, I was awake for an hour and a half, but it felt like a year.
When I woke to the feeling of a hand holding mine, I had to try not to jump in surprise. Someone was turning one of my hands around, examining the places where the glass from the bottle I'd shattered had cut me, tracing old scars and pressing against calluses with gentle fingertips. I wanted to open my eyes, to see who the owner of the unfamiliar hands was, but a part of me said that that was a bad idea. So instead of looking over at the person, I settled back in the bed and let the hands move over mine without interruption.
I fell back asleep that way, my hand being examined in that strangely intimate way, caught up in a slightly too-tight-to-be-comfortable grip.
The sound of shoes squeaking on the floor brought me back to wakefulness, but what I saw made me question whether I really was awake. Making his way towards me, coat and shoes wet from the rain I could hear falling down outside, was Dimmock, his face an uncomfortable mask. He came to rest in the chair next to my bed, crossing his legs at the knee while he looked me over. I didn't have time to question him before he cut across me.
"I've spent the last twelve and a half years of my life chasing him," he said, his voice hoarse.
"Mycroft Holmes. Your boss. My former boss. M. Ever since I finished my training, I've been after him. It was obvious that he was doing something wrong; even someone as new as I could see it. But no one did anything. They brushed me off or chastised me; sometimes they even grew angry and yelled at me. It went on for three years, and then, out of nowhere, Mycroft himself summoned me, commending me on my 'expert handling' of my assignments. He said that I had stood out as someone who had the potential to do things, great things, and that that potential needed to be fostered, so he was going to transfer me from my spot in the paperwork department and put me under you."
The room lapsed into silence.
I couldn't understand why he was telling me that, and Dimmock seemed to be done talking, at least for the moment. There was something in his expression, a flicker of anger, that trickled down into his mouth, twisting it and making his words come out sourly, that was strange. It didn't fit with the image I had of him; this man was much crueler, much older than the way I had seen him before.
I was about to question him when he spoke again.
"And I enjoyed working with you, Lestrade; really, I did. You were a good leader. I've got to hand it to Mycroft; he does have a good eye for people's strengths." Dimmock paused for a moment, his mask slipping off to make room for curiosity. "And an even better one for rooting out people who were going after him, which I'm assuming that you don't. After all, you never questioned us, never wondered how we got information that we shouldn't have been able to get. When things got close to your boss, though, you'd suddenly be very interested in what we had learned and how we'd found things out. Always so hungry, Lestrade, just like a dog. It's too bad, really; maybe if your master had bothered to throw you a bone now and then we wouldn't be here." He leaned close, then, scooting closer until his face was inches from mine. "You see, Lestrade, Mycroft realized that we- your entire squad, actually- were working for his father, so he pulled you out- essentially making sure that you couldn't be implicated or forced into taking a side. Oh yes, every time he refused to let you take an active role, he was being sure to keep your record clean."
Dimmock moved away and sat back in the chair. His brow was furrowed, almost troubled.
"That was really annoying, you know. In the end I had to become intimately involved with you, just so I could make a smudge on your record. And how well timed was I? You were- are- so broken, so easy to manipulate. All I had to do was be there, and you just opened your mouth and said the most wonderful things! That was how I managed to get enough evidence to convince Doyle to prosecute, you know, but once I'd told him what you'd said- that nasty bit about Mycroft and his assistant's after hours play- he changed his ideas. So thank you for that!"
My mind was reeling, trying to piece together everything Dimmock had told me, but the only thing that I could understand was that he hadn't been working for Mycroft. He was Raeburn's man.
"Why?" I asked him, absently recognizing that if I didn't say it then, he'd talk over me again. "Why would you keep going after Mycroft even after Raeburn was gone?"
It was a ridiculous question. I knew exactly why he would continue what he'd been assigned to do; it was the same reason why if Mycroft were ever to... die, I would finish whatever he'd left for me to do.
"Come now, Lestrade. You and I both know the answer to that, and we both know that you know why. It was the last thing my boss had told me to do, and I'd be damned to hell before I gave up on it. 'Make a ruin of Mycroft Holmes,' that was the last thing that he told me. So that's what I tried to do." He heaved heavy sigh, changing from being caught up in a memory to rueful. "Unfortunately for me, you made a right mess of it." Dimmock shook his head, obviously disappointed in me. "I gave you what you wanted- what you needed!- yet when it came time for you to say again what you'd told me, you denied it all, claimed you'd never seen or heard any of it. You said that you'd mentioned anything of the sort." He chuckled darkly. "And the entire time, you were looking at him, watching him like a dog whose master had just hit him- expecting another blow but hoping for praise. Well, let me tell you something, Lestrade. You did a good job. I'd worn a wire, but you managed to strip me of it quite quickly. That was the only way I could have proved that you had, but since I'd thought that you knew a good thing when you saw it, I hadn't worried about it. So, yes, good job, Lestrade. It's just a shame that I'm the one telling you this, instead of your master, but let me assure you: Raeburn Holmes was much more giving with praise, always sure to make his men... feel his appreciation."
With that, he got up and leaned over me again, this time pulling a syringe from his pocket. He placed one hand on my face and jammed the needle into the inside of my elbow with the other. His face was almost sad as he did it, his hand gently brushing my cheek.
"If only you'd had your priorities right, we could've been on a beach in Spain right now. Instead, I'm on my way out, and you're on your way out, as well."
He cast a final look at me, this one almost regretful, before walking away and leaving me with a body that was swiftly going numb and thoughts that were slowly becoming a mess tainted with the desire for sleep.
The door closed softly behind him.
The memorial was beautiful, full of praises and tears. The family was absolutely decimated, of course; despite his job, none of them had expected to lose him. He had been too full of vitality, too charming to allow death to take him before he had lived a long life. Old friends, even those who had not seen him for years, came to the tiny church that the family had attended for years.
After his praises had been sung, the family and a few close friends went to the grave to see the headstone. There was no body buried beneath it, though, since it had always been their beloved's will that his organs be donated to any who needed them or that his body be used for science. Still, no one had been comfortable with the idea of not placing some type of remembrance of him in the ground.
It was a simple headstone, flat and rectangular, made of rough granite- a strong rock, much like the man it celebrated. The epitaph was traditional, one that his sisters had insisted be engraved in it.
Beloved son and brother.
The soul that suffers is stronger
than the soul that rejoices.
Each person placed a sprig of lily-of-the-valley in front of the headstone, all bowing their heads as they did so, allowing their tears and grief to flow.
Caught up in their pain, none of them noticed the two men standing off to the side by a long black car. Both were dressed in finely made suits. One, a tall and incredibly thin man, wore a deep navy suit, and his shorter companion wore one that was jet black. They neither moved nor spoke, simply watched the mourning, but after the people finally left, the other two stayed, still silent and immobile.
The taller one eventually broke the spell of stillness.
"Come," he said, walking forward. "I wish to see your grave."
He did not look back, not needing to see the man behind him to know that he was only a few steps behind, just as he did not need to see the black letters tattooed onto a white collarbone to know that they read: Te enim esse fidelem mihi sciebam. Neither did he need to look at his own body to know that his own skin was decorated with curling letters: Plus le visage est sérieux, plus le sourire est beau.
The tattoos' meanings-
Te enim esse fidelem mihi sciebam. : For I knew that you were faithful to me. (Wheelock's Latin Test)
Plus le visage est sérieux, plus le sourire est beau. : The more solemn the face, the more beautiful the smile. (François-René de Chateaubriand)
Chapter 10: Epilogue
Epilogue: Two months later
John Watson sat on the sofa, carefully ignoring the unpleasant clenching in his stomach. Sherlock was stretched out across him, head on John's lap while his legs dangled over the other armrest. Though the ex-murderer looked to be at peace, John could feel the tension in Sherlock's body; he, too, was concerned about their coming guest. Or would it be guests? Both men would prefer the latter, knowing that the former would mean that the elder Holmes had been unsuccessful, and an unsuccessful Mycroft meant a meddling, volatile visit. However much Sherlock enjoyed baiting his brother, there was still a part of him that appreciated the other man's efforts.
It was so quiet that they were able to hear the knock on the door downstairs, which was followed by the sounds of a tearful yet joyous Mrs. Hudson. Still, John and Sherlock were careful not to allow hope to gain any footholds. Experience had taught them better than to get ahead of themselves.
A few eternities - or perhaps a few minutes – later, there was a single, sharp knock on their door.
"Ah, come in!" called John, who made an effort to get up but was kept in place by Sherlock's refusal to move from his lap.
There was a moment of anticipation so thick it got stuck in both their throats, but it was soon broken by the appearance of two familiar faces.
Luckily for Sherlock, he was used to John's outbursts of emotion and knew that if he stayed on John's lap he would wind up on the floor, so before his pillow even began to stand up and shout, "Lestrade!" Sherlock was sitting upright. He looked on with a bemused expression as John and Lestrade exchanged a brief embrace. His main focus, however, was the man who had entered his home first.
"Hello, Mycroft. Everything went well, then?"
A small, wry smile pulled at his brother's mouth.
"Yes, Sherlock, I suppose that that would be a suitably accurate summation, though to say that everything went well would be a cruel exaggeration," Mycroft sent a quick look over his shoulder to take in the doctor and guard who were having an animated conversation that was ostensibly about the newest type of body armor but seemed to have a deeper meaning for the two soldiers, before adding softly, "If only for Lestrade."
The younger Holmes nodded wordlessly. It was frighteningly apparent to him how disturbed Mycroft was over their old friend's condition. For all that he seemed healthy enough at the moment, suicidal tendencies did not simply disappear after one attempt, and the men in Lestrade's family had a long history of offing themselves. What was obvious to Sherlock, though, was that Mycroft had no intentions of allowing Lestrade to contemplate killing himself, let alone being left to try it. That was something that ran in the Holmes family: a resolute selfishness that spurred them on to possessiveness. While they were able to make sacrifices for another person, they were not the type to allow someone important to them to abandon them.
Instead of voicing his agreement on the subject which he usually would have done, Sherlock asked another, more important question.
"How is he?" he asked, voice low.
Mycroft raised one of his thin eyebrows.
"I think that Lestrade himself would be best able to answer that question, as well as the others that I'm sure have been plaguing you." He paused for a moment, again looking over at the men who had wound up sitting on the floor and were drawing odd shapes on the floor with their fingers- primitive sketches of the aforementioned armor, Mycroft later discovered- "And the good doctor, as well."
"John is... fond of Lestrade; he sees in him someone who has a familiarity with the life of a soldier- something neither you nor I have experienced."
With a sharp nod, Mycroft finally turned his whole attention toward the two men on the floor.
"Lestrade," he called, and Sherlock noticed the way his brother trembled when Lestrade immediately rocketed up and came to stand at his side.
One of John's eyebrows rose, but he made no comment as he, too, got up and went to stand next to his own Holmes.
"Perhaps we ought to sit down," suggested Mycroft. "I am sure that you would like to ask some questions, and I would rather not stand for long."
Seeing the look on Sherlock's face, John quickly decided to sit down next to him before the younger man launched into what would definitely be a long-winded discussion (quite a one-sided discussion, though) on why his older brother would prefer sitting to standing. While on most days such an outburst would be met with derision or an over-dramatic sigh, there was too much tension in the room for that to be the case, and John could tell that Lestrade was aware of what had just streaked across Sherlock's mind. For a man who had nearly died twice in the past three months, Lestrade was as keen as ever to watch over the elder Holmes, and John knew that his friendship with Sherlock was not enough to overpower that.
"Excellent idea," he said, being sure to speak as warmly as he could. "Oh. Actually, I should go see if Mrs. Hudson has an extra chair for you, Lestrade. Wouldn't want-"
"The floor will be fine, John," Mycroft interrupted smoothly.
Sherlock and John turned to him with quizzical looks on their faces, which the elder Holmes refused to acknowledge. He simply sat down in the chair John usually occupied and let one arm dangle over the side, his palm open and inviting. Before the men on the sofa could say anything in reply, Lestrade sat down somewhat stiffly and shimmied over to the hand, closing his eyes for a moment as the hand came to rest on his shoulder.
"You've got questions, haven't you?" Lestrade asked firmly, though his tone was not unkind.
"Indeed," came Sherlock's reply. "The first and least important is about your sight. Will you be using your eye ever again?"
Lestrade shook his head.
"No, the doctors were adamant about that. When I was... out of it, I must have gotten up and stumbled around, because I wound up hitting my head on something- the sink, I think. The force of it, coupled with the bits of ceramic from whatever hit my head, wound up severing a lot of my optic nerve. There're still some bits stuck in there, apparently, and it's too dangerous to operate."
John nodded. Messing around in the brain was nothing less than dangerous, and if operating was not necessary, no doctor would willingly cut into it.
"Speaking of being out of it," he began. "Who found you? It sounded like Dimmock did, but surely he would've just killed you there, or just left you, rather than going through all the trouble of getting you to the hospital, then giving you-"
"Simple," Sherlock interrupted. "It was not Dimmock who found Lestrade, but Sally Donovan, as I'm sure Mycroft was going to say." There was a certain smugness in his tone, something that reminded John of how petty the man next to him could be.
Mycroft merely inclined his head, choosing to ignore his brother's childishness.
"Correct. It seems that Donovan owed a debt to Lestrade, so she was the one who called the ambulance." He paused, then looked down at Lestrade. "You thought Dimmock had found you, yes?" Again, he paused, looking over the side of the chair and into the open face of the man below. "He lied to you, of course, and took the credit for what Sally did. She had no desire to stay once she overheard that you were stable, so Dimmock took that opportunity to sneak into your room, ready to play at being the savior when you woke up."
"What?" cried John. "I thought that... well, since you knew they were working for your father, you would've locked them up or something."
"Sallywas simply acting on orders that night, John. She had no way of knowing that Sherlock was in that ambulance; so far as she knew, it was simply a decoy, some sort of cover to let you escape. Agents Donovan and Anderson were not high up enough to be aware of my brother's continued existence. I'm sure Father simply told them that you and Lestrade were on a mission for me and that he wanted it to be disrupted."
The ex-doctor nodded reluctantly. "Well, that makes sense... but how did you know about Dimmock?"
Again, Sherlock answered before anyone else had the chance.
"Because my brother watches over everyone, John. He has been careful to keep it discreet, of course, but it was painfully obvious when we were younger just how much attention he paid to Lestrade. It was his own twisted version of paying attention him, by doing nearly the opposite, but somehow he always knew exactly where Lestrade was. It was quite odd, really, until I grew old enough to recognize the subtle ways he would use to persuade people to tell him what he wanted to know. I am sure that he knew all along that Dimmock was our father's man and was never his own, just as I am sure that he had people and surveillance all around Lestrade's hospital room. He is, after all, the most meddlesome man on earth."
Mycroft's expression was bemused while he listened to his brother explaining to John. He even allowed his hand to sneak along the man at his side's shoulder until he reached Lestrade's neck. There, he permitted himself a rare moment of indulgence and stroked his thumb along the greying hairline. The delicate shiver that went through Lestrade was worth the hit to Mycroft's well of self-restraint; as much as he loathed to give in to his body's cravings, particularly because of his struggles with his weight, Mycroft found there was something exhilarating in the way that Lestrade responded to him.
It seemed that neither had quite gotten used to the idea of being able to touch. Mycroft was, despite his towering intellect, just beginning to realize that Lestrade was no longer just a figure in his dreams; if he chose to, Mycroft could, at any time, reach out and put his hand on the man. Lestrade himself was much more tentative, only initiating contact with the younger man when he felt absolutely sure that it was all right (a feeling that Mycroft actively cultivated).
A slight twinge inside his head drew Mycroft from his thoughts. He looked up to find that his brother and John were looking at him with amusement plain on their faces. Sherlock was openly smirking, and the doctor was attempting to smother a rebellious smile. The annoyance he felt rising in his gut evaporated, however, when he realized that their eyes were not trained on him; rather, they were looking at the man on the floor.
When he looked down, Mycroft could not resist a small smile either. Lestrade had fallen asleep, his head resting against the chair and a look of complete happiness on his face. It was difficult, at that moment, to remember that Lestrade was a man who had spent his life killing and that he was not just an overgrown child.
The moment was broken, though, by Sherlock.
"What do you have him doing now, then? Surely he cannot still be working for you like he used to?"
Mycroft shook his head. He would push his people to get the most from them, true, but he was not cruel, nor was he foolish. Admittedly, when it came to the man next to him, he was not at his best, but Mycroft had no intention of overworking Lestrade.
"No, well, not as he used to. He teaches people I feel would most benefit from his private tutelage. He is the best instructor I've found; there has yet to be a person he has not been able to make into an outstanding part of the-"
"Mycroft," John suddenly called, his voice low, "You'll take good care of him now, won't you? I know that when you kept him locked up, it was to keep his integrity from being questioned and make sure that no one could fault him for working with Dimmock, but he didn't know that. And he definitely didn't know that you kissing Anthea - yes, Sherlock, your brother kissed a woman. Settle down - I know that that was because you didn't want him getting caught up in the Dimmock mess, even though that's exactly what happened, but he can't look at the relationship as though he isn't part of it. You and Sherlock can do that, taking yourselves emotionally away from things, but Lestrade and I aren't like that. If you want to keep him by your side, and I think that you do, you'll have to stop lurking."
"Yes, John, I am not a fool, despite what you and my brother may think. Is that a threat?" he asked softly, leaning forward in the chair, but being careful not to move his hand on Lestrade's neck.
He was met with a smile from John; one of the few smiles possessed that were anything but pleasant. It was too full of teeth, too quietly murderous to make Mycroft feel anything other than dread.
Impressive, he thought, still proud of himself for what he had done with John.
"Of course it is. You of all people should know that."
The room was full of tension, and it woke Lestrade. "Hmm?" he asked blearily, blinking both eyes.
"Come along, Lestrade. You're tired, and we are beginning to wear out our welcome. No need to get up, John," he said, knowing that the other man was undoubtedly struggling against Sherlock so he could walk their guests to the door, ever the gentleman. "Lestrade and I can see ourselves out."
With that, he stood up and walked over to Lestrade, waiting in front of him patiently as the man fumbled about. Mycroft knew that it was still something of an embarrassment for Lestrade to struggle to get up as easily as he used to be able to, so he let his own body block the other men’s’ views. The relief and thanks were written all over Lestrade's face, and once he was upright, he gave Mycroft one of his soft smiles, the one that made his entire face bright. It was not a look that Mycroft wanted to let other people see (He could be possessive, just like his brother) so he took Lestrade's hand and towed him through the flat, out to the blacked-out limousine waiting for them at the curb.
Once sat inside and wearing their safety belts, their shoulders touching, Mycroft raised his arm with the tattoo and touched it to Lestrade's collarbone, running his fingers over the place on the shirt where he knew that Lestrade's tattoo sat.
The car slowly pulled into traffic, leaving 221B Baker Street and its occupants behind, Mycroft paying no mind to it. No, his mind was happily full of the weight of the strong hand that had timidly slid into his lap and taken hold of his own, its calloused thumb caressing the tender skin on the inside of his wrist.
All my love to akisura12 on FF.net for being my extraordinary beta.
This exists because of her, and it isn't riddled with mistakes because she kept on me.
Goodness, thank you, darling!