Lestrade isn't sure what exactly he did to deserve Sherlock Holmes. He beat up his little brother a few times as a kid, stole a packet of crisps from a store at 14, and cheated on a girl who said she loved him right after he got out of uni. None of these seem anything close to the colossal misdeed it would take to earn Sherlock Holmes as your karmic retribution. Lestrade couldn't recall committing genocide at any point in his life.
"Look, you cannot just come waltzing in demanding to see the body two days after I - are you high?" Lestrade suddenly notices that the man is shaking.
Sherlock scowls and plunges his hands into his pockets. "I told you, the rate of decomposition is slow enough that I will still be able to gather the necessary information. And it's not important."
"I can't just order the morgue to - hang on, that's not a no!"
Sherlock actually rolls his eyes, like discussing the existence of a drug problem is completely beneath him. "I am functioning perfectly adequately and am more than capable of solving your insultingly simple case. The only way you could prove anything is if you were to drag me off the street and test me right now, which you won't, because if you do then your crime won't get solved and you won't be any nearer to that "D.I." badge you so desperately crave." The man sneers elegantly at him.
Lestrade bites his lip and really looks at Sherlock for the first time since three months ago when the man barged into his office, told him the culprits of a half-dozen cold cases, and earned him an almost immediate promotion. (Lestrade later learned that Sherlock had systematically tried this on every officer above him, working his way down the ranks. Lestrade is the first one who would listen to him. He still isn't sure if this makes him a genius or an idiot.)
Sherlock is very tall and very pale, with light gray eyes and dark curly hair. He has the lanky grace of someone who's been tall and thin their whole life, but even at that, he's too slight to be healthy and it strikes Lestrade now that his pallor might not be entirely natural either.
"Okay, you're right," Lestrade says calmly, trying to think things out. "I'm not going to drag you off to the station right now. But maybe you should..." He bites his lip and tries to think. "Have you thought about - about talking to someone?"
The words feel weak coming out of his mouth, and they sound weak too. Sherlock doesn't even bother to sneer this time, just grimaces and turns his head away.
"Are we done?" Sherlock says, sounding bored. "Can we please move on from futile attempts to rescue me from myself, and get back to the evidence?"
"I... Christ... Yeah, okay," Lestrade says, because he doesn't know what else he could say.
Lestrade has texted Sherlock five times; called him twice. He has yet to get a response, and the worry he's feeling is no longer just because this case could make him or break him. (Which might mean that it's a little unfair for him to be relying on Sherlock Holmes, but if Lestrade ever gave a damn about fairness, he'd squashed that thought down with the undisputable truth that having Sherlock Holmes help will mean that a murderer is no longer running free. Results. That's what matters, right?)
His phone rings at five in the morning. He picks up, expecting to hear the D.I., and instead listens to a woman telling him an address and advising that he go there as soon as possible. Lestrade does, because his gut instincts tell him this isn't a threat and because right at the end, she says the name "Sherlock Holmes".
It turns out that the address is Sherlock Holmes' flat, and the man is inside, busy being sick all over himself. Lestrade drags him into the cramped bathroom, turns him on his side, and spends the next twelve hours alternately being sorry for and hating Sherlock. By the end of it, he's not sure if he's doing this for Sherlock or himself, and he can't remember why it mattered anyway. He drags Sherlock's shaking and semi-sober arse to a cordoned-off crime scene and twenty minutes later has a name and a probable location.
Sherlock thanks Lestrade for including him on the case. He does not thank Lestrade for saving his life.
Sherlock never picks up his phone, and Lestrade doesn't have any other number to call.
Sherlock staggers onto a crime scene, solves the entire thing in under two minutes, and collapses. Lestrade tells everyone it's heat exhaustion, ignoring Sherlock's ultra-dilated pupils and the fact that it's 5 degrees out, and drags Sherlock home with him. Sherlock wakes up a day later in his guest bedroom, eats everything in the fridge, and staggers out the door.
Lestrade lets him go and then feels guilty for days. Sherlock does not respond to his texts.
"You have to stop this," Lestrade says, actually daring to reach out and grab Sherlock's bony arm.
"I'm actually sober right now, if you hadn't noticed," Sherlock says acidly. The effect is somewhat ruined by the hoarseness of his voice and light sheen of sweat coating his face.
"Yeah I know, that's why I'm saying it now. Seriously Sherlock, let me help you. Let somebody help you. You're going to kill yourself if you keep going on like this; it's a miracle you haven't already."
"I'm fine." Sherlock grits his teeth. "Haven't died yet, as you so astutely observed. I know what I'm doing."
Lestrade tightens his grip. "That's what every addict says. You sound exactly the same as the rest of them. You do know that, right?"
Sherlock goes quiet and still. His too-bright eyes dart around, looking from the sky to the street to Lestrade's hand. Lestrade has never seen Sherlock happy before, but he realizes right now that he's never seen Sherlock miserable, either.
Lestrade lets go and looks away. "Anyway, I'm not going to be able to let you into crime scenes anymore if this... Christ, this is a mess. Everyone knows, Sherlock, I'm going to lose my job. I can't... You can't come anymore unless you're clean, okay? I won't - I'm not going to let you in unless you are."
Sherlock gives him a long, considering look and nods once. "Alright."
When Lestrade texts Sherlock and Sherlock not only texts back but actually shows up, Lestrade keeps his word and meets him at the edge of the roped-off crime scene. Sherlock still looks overly thin and jittery, but his pupils are normal sized and there is a hint of color in his cheeks. Lestrade bites back a pleased smile and silently holds up the rope of tape. Sherlock follows him inside.
After the case is solved ("Tedious and trite," Sherlock says) he actually deigns to stick around long enough to explain things properly to Lestrade, so that Lestrade isn't stuck making half the things up in his paperwork. Lestrade assumes this is an unspoken thank you for his efforts to help.
"You seem... happy. A bit," Lestrade says tentatively, not looking up from his desk. It isn't entirely true, but Sherlock does seem more interested, more alive somehow.
"Really?" Sherlock drawls, sounding bored. This is an almost unbelievable amount of encouragement, coming from him.
"Yeah. Have a good weekend?"
Sherlock is quiet for a moment before saying, "I suppose I did."
Lestrade does look up at that. Sherlock is staring off at the wall.
"Did you? So what did you do, then?"
"I..." Sherlock continues to stare with determined focus at the wall. "I went out to distract myself from... I went out to a bar. There was a man I knew there; Mike Stamford."
"So you had a pint with an old mate?" Lestrade suggests, because this is territory he's comfortable with.
Sherlock spares him a disdaining glance. "No, he isn't my 'mate' and I did not have a pint. He's simply someone I am acquainted with from my medical studies. Honestly, Lestrade, how many 'mates' do you suppose I have?" He smiles, half-mocking and half-challenging.
"Um." The honest answer is none, but he can't say that. Even if Sherlock deserves it. "Dunno?"
Sherlock gives him a knowing look and a dry chuckle.
"In any case, he was there with an old friend, someone he knew from university. Stamford waved me over so I said hello, and I was bored, so I deduced a few facts about his friend. And..." Sherlock frowns.
Lestrade's starting to worry that what's perked Sherlock up is a new obsession with bar fights. He's been on the receiving end of Sherlock's deductions - few people who've met him haven't been - and he knows how uncomfortable they are. Sherlock drags out private things about you and makes you feel naked, while he just gives you that cold stare that tells you he doesn't even care what he's found out, he's only doing it for his own amusement. It wouldn't surprise Lestrade if some unsuspecting stranger took a disliking to Sherlock's nose after that.
"And?" he prompts.
"And he said I... he said it was brilliant," Sherlock says, voice a bit hesitant.
Lestrade blinks. That was unexpected. "Well. That's nice, isn't it?" Not wrong, but bloody generous, by his estimation.
Sherlock either didn't hear him or chooses to ignore him, because he continues, "And then he seemed to want to talk more, so I... so I stayed. And talked to him. For several hours, actually, until he had to go." His forehead is furrowed into almost a frown, like he has all the pieces of a puzzle in front of him but can't quite make them line up properly.
"You made a friend." Lestrade smiles. "That's well done, isn't it? You going to see him again soon?" Christ knows that Sherlock could use a friend (for whatever relative value of friend Sherlock is capable of having), though Lestrade feels a bit mean wishing him on some poor unsuspecting drunk who probably doesn't remember half of it.
Sherlock's face abruptly goes cold again. "Of course not. I don't have friends. And anyway, he's in the army. He was only here on leave."
"Oh. Well, maybe you could... see him again next time he's on leave?" That's a bit rich for only meeting the bloke once at a bar, but Lestrade can't help thinking that Sherlock desperately needs something, and maybe this could be it. It's somehow oddly fitting that it's a soldier, too - Sherlock certainly fits into the same category of "death and destruction" as war.
Sherlock just rolls his eyes and leaves.
Sherlock solves four impossible crimes and Lestrade gets another promotion.
Every case that Lestrade texts Sherlock about is deemed "boring", except for one jewelry heist that ends in a particularly spectacular chase and Sherlock scaring the crap out of his team when he bursts out of a manhole like a giant sewer beast.
Sherlock stumbles a bit when he ducks under the caution tape, and his pupils are bigger than they should be. But there's a madman on the loose with a semi-automatic, so Lestrade bites his lip and says nothing. Fifteen hours later the madman is apprehended, with no further injuries than a long knife slash up Sherlock's forearm.
"C'mon, ambulance," Lestrade says, grabbing Sherlock before he can get off the ground and run.
"Have to," Lestrade says briskly, hauling Sherlock to his feet. "If you don't get it treated, it'll get infected and your arm will fall off or something. Who knows what that lunatic had on his knife."
"I can't," Sherlock says in a low voice. Lestrade turns to look at him, desperately wanting to avoid Sherlock's dark eyes and desperate expression.
He shouldn't do this. He can't allow it.
"Fine," Lestrade finally says. "But you're coming to my office so I can look at it. I know first aid, at least. If it's bad, you'll have to go to hospital."
Sherlock gives him a jerky nod and they swiftly move away from the crime scene, away from the ambulances, away from witnesses. Behind the closed door of Lestrade's office, Sherlock peels back his bloodstained sleeve, revealing a very shallow gash and too many track marks that were made much too recently.
Silently Lestrade disinfects the cut and puts plasters over it. Then he takes a deep breath.
"I know," Sherlock says.
Lestrade nods and watches him go.
Sherlock is obviously sober when he arrives on the scene, but he's also obviously in withdrawal. He's sweating and stuttering and twitching, and as soon as he solves the case, Lestrade yanks him behind a squad car.
"Can I do anything for you?" he asks desperately, knowing what the answer will be.
Somehow Sherlock manages to summon up a condescending look, though it looks like a struggle. "You cannot." He tugs his jacket tighter around himself - ignoring the fact that it's an unseasonal 10 degrees and sunny - and starts to turn away.
"Your friend," Lestrade blurts, because he has to say something and this is literally the only thing he knows about Sherlock that doesn't involve crime of one sort or another.
Sherlock stops, looking confused.
"You could..." He has no idea where to go with this. "I bet you could deduce the next time he's on leave, yeah? You could like, get that bloke - what's his name, Samlord? Have a conversation with him and get all the information without him ever knowing what you were doing. Bet you could do that." Lestrade grins, and it's so fake that his dog could see through it. "Or maybe you couldn't. Maybe it'd be too much of a challenge for you." It's an absolutely pathetic attempt to focus Sherlock's attention. But Lestrade knows that sometimes, when you're really desperate, you'll latch onto anything at all. It's the best he's got.
Sherlock blinks once, twice, and walks away, stumbling over the pavement.
"Christmas," Sherlock says, as he watches a struggling murderer be shoved into the backseat of a police car.
"Sorry?" Lestrade really hopes that Sherlock isn't trying to make plans with him, because... no.
"Your idiotic challenge," Sherlock snaps. "He'll be on leave for two weeks over Christmas. I don't know what on earth you expect me to do with that information, but there it is."
Lestrade's mind is reeling, trying to process the fact that holy mother of God, Sherlock Holmes actually listened to him for once, but he does recognize that he's being asked for something. For another challenge. Another excuse. Lestrade really hopes that he isn't initiating Sherlock Holmes into the wonderful world of stalking.
"Well, I bet you couldn't..." Christ, this is immature. It's like backwards psychology with a particularly irritating toddler. "Couldn't find a reason to bump into them again. Or even just the soldier."
Sherlock rolls his eyes so hard it looks like it hurts.
"Pathetic," he says, and stomps off.
On the first day of December, Sherlock shows up at the station even though Lestrade hasn't contacted him. He's high as a kite and muttering to himself. Lestrade is so irrationally (or possibly rationally) angry at this that when Sherlock wakes up, relatively sober and in his guest room, Lestrade yells his head off for fifteen minutes and tells him their deal is over. No more cases, and Lestrade won't accept any more help. Lestrade isn't sure whether he's angrier at Sherlock for being so hellbent on self destruction, or at himself for becoming reliant on this natural disaster of a man.
He keeps his word. Lestrade doesn't message Sherlock asking for help once, even though he needs it. The only time he contacts Sherlock at all is in a moment of weakness on Christmas Eve, when he texts: Happy Xmas. Be safe.
There's no reply.