Lestrade met Sherlock Holmes when he fell into the Thames.
Sherlock, that is, not Lestrade; Lestrade had just been the idiot who fished him out. Sherlock had been so high Lestrade had been shocked he was still conscious. The paramedics had separated them, wrapped them both in blankets, and given Sherlock a shot of something, presumably in the interest of keeping his heart beating.
The young man was rail-thin, his cheeks hollow, his eyes glowing with whatever he was on. He didn't say "Thank you." He didn't seem to notice any of his surroundings at all.
Lestrade didn't think he'd ever see him again, and he swore to himself when he realized his wallet was lost somewhere in the murky water of the river.
His wife turned away from him when he finally came to bed. He was too exhausted to care.
Three days later, the stranger Lestrade had rescued found him getting coffee (not on the way home; he'd be sleeping in a Travelodge that night) and handed him back his wallet. "Sergeant Lestrade," he said. "You're working on the Coltraine murder. Your ID, it doesn't list your Christian name. "'G Lestrade,' that's all."
"Yeah, well, you figure that one out," Lestrade snapped, and shoved it back in his pocket. That just crowned his day, getting pickpocketed by a junkie.
"It upsets you," Sherlock said, narrowing his eyes. He seemed less high than the last time they'd met. "Your first name. That's why you don't use it. What is it?"
"None of your business." Lestrade walked out of the cafe, Sherlock buzzing at his heels.
"Was there a marker beacon?" Sherlock asked. "At the scene? If you tell me that, I can tell you who your suspect is." He stood to block Lestrade's way. "I know you've been blocked on the case for weeks."
Lestrade sighed. "Yes, there was," he said, pushing Sherlock gently out the door. Technically, the red light was classified information, but Sherlock was hardly a suspect, and he'd likely forget the whole business with his next high." Now come on, there are customers here."
"I knew it!" Sherlock's excitement made him sway slightly. As skinny as the man was, he was still heavy, and Lestrade had to brace his feet. "It was a red marker, and that means it was Jenkins, the gardener. The cook's colorblind. I'm Sherlock Holmes," he added. "I can help you."
"Well, thank you, Sherlock," Lestrade said, trying to hide his surprise. "Now go and sleep it off, will you?"
"I still want to know your name," Sherlock muttered. "At least why you don't like it."
"Lots of people don't like their first names," Lestrade said. If you'd spent most of your schooldays getting called Gills, you'd hate your bloody name too, Lestrade thought. It didn't mean anything more than that.
"You shouldn't stay at the Travelodge tonight," Sherlock said. "My contacts have warned me against it."
"And why would you think I'd be staying there?"
To his utter shock, Sherlock told him not only that, but about the fight Lestrade had last had with his wife, the additional reasons why Jenkins was the murderer, and why Lestrade's immediate superior was an idiot, with a level of accuracy and detail that would've done any detective in the Met proud.
"And how do you know all that?" Lestrade asked, as he wondered if the man had been following him all this time. Probably not possible, considering how the ambulance techs had been holding on to him, they'd at least have forced him to dry out.
"I'm a detective," Sherlock said. "I told you. I can help you."
Sherlock remained at the back of his mind as he broke the case open, a smart-arsed, fast-thinking irritant who might possibly be useful if he wasn't so bloody useless. He was clearly brilliant, but just as clearly a junkie, and that meant he was unreliable at best. He'd assumed he'd never see the man again.
But Mycroft Holmes had noticed Lestrade.
When he met Mycroft he'd no idea of any of that. He'd been picking up takeaway for the boys, and Amir had waved away his money. "That gent's got it," he'd said, tipping his dark curls toward a thick-set man with a pale, doughy face and the smell of money.
"Always glad to support our local police," the stranger said, sounding posher with every vowel. Lestrade felt a cold trickle of suspicion at the back of his neck.
"Well, then," he said. "Thank you, it's appreciated."
"Yes, well, I'd also like a moment of your time."
There was always a catch, and it usually wasn't one Lestrade liked. "Well, I've got to get this back to the boys, or--"
"Of course," the man said, smooth as overpriced silk. "You have your responsibilities. We'll be in touch, Sergeant Lestrade."
The trickle turned to solid ice. "Will we," he muttered under his breath, as he went out to the car.
The man reappeared at the station the next day. "Sergeant," he said. "I do hope you'll allow me a moment of your time."
"I have any choice?"
"Well then," he said. "Come over to my desk."
"Let's get coffee," the man suggested. "Detective Inspector Charles knows where you'll be."
"All right," Lestrade said. Money and power; bloody fantastic.
After a silent ride in a nearly silent limo, the stranger led him into the kind of shop where every coffee could be traced back to a five-acre farm somewhere. Lestrade got a cup of the darkest stuff they had. It wasn't bad. The stranger had a delicate china cup of a tea that was probably made from leaves harvested by Tibetan virgins.
"I am sorry to bother you with this matter," he said, "but I'm afraid that I'm faced with very few choices these days. It concerns my brother."
"Gone missing, has he?"
"In a manner of speaking." The stranger arched an eyebrow. "Perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Mycroft Holmes. You've already met my brother."
Indeed Lestrade had, and while he would never have guessed Sherlock and Mycroft were siblings, there were certain commonalities; the sharpness in their features, their 'better than everyone else' attitudes, a certain haughtiness that came from thinking faster and having more cash than anyone else in the room. Not that Sherlock seemed to be in possession of much cash these days, but the habits stuck.
Mycroft took a mobile phone from his pocket and showed the screen to Lestrade.
Did not overdose.
Am insulted by suggestion.
Mycroft pressed a button and the next message appeared.
Fell into Thames. Found by Detective Sergeant. Wasn't dull. SH
"This is the only communication anyone's had from him in weeks."
Lestrade thought this over. "I'm afraid I'm not quite following you."
"I'll make this simple, Sergeant Lestrade," Mycroft said. "You appear to be the only person on Earth Sherlock's willing to talk to who isn't homeless, addicted, or both."
"So I'm special."
"If he's taken an interest in you, Sergeant, you're a good deal more than that."
Lestrade considered this. "That supposed to be a compliment?"
Mycroft watched his face. He put his teacup down. "You've an interesting background, Sergeant Lestrade. Your father was well-known in some circles."
Gilles Lestrade, senior, certainly was, not that Lestrade was likely to admit it to this ponce. "Yeah, well, he left when my youngest sister was still in nappies. We ain't exactly close." There'd been four children to look after, and all that bastard had left was his name.
"Of course. But I'm sure you've been concerned that your history might affect your career. Or, indeed, suspect that it already has."
Suspect? Lestrade knew. Any idiot would, and Lestrade certainly wasn't an idiot.
"I wouldn't offer to help your career, Sergeant. But I can make sure certain factors no longer hurt it."
"I don't work for bribes," Lestrade said carefully.
"It's not a bribe." Mycroft looked insulted by the suggestion. "It would be the removal of an unnecessary, prejudice-based obstacle."
"Then you should do it anyway, shouldn't you."
"I should," Mycroft said, drawing himself up. "I will. But you, as a servant of the Crown, have a duty to help all British citizens. Even the--" His eyes strayed to his phone-- "addicts."
"Fair enough," Lestrade said. "But how exactly am I going to do that?"
"Sherlock is about to enter a rehabilitation program," Mycroft said, in a way that implied the event would come as a surprise to Sherlock. "When he comes out, he will be...vulnerable." He sat his teacup very firmly on its saucer. "He needs a purpose, Sergeant. People to work with, mysteries to chase."
"And you think I'm capable of providing that," Lestrade said dubiously.
"With all respect, I think you're capable of significantly more than that."
It would be flattery if it wasn't so absurd. "With all respect, Mr. Holmes, I'm still not sure we should be having this conversation. Thank you for the coffee, though." He got up. He couldn't end the situation, but he didn't have to continue taking tea with a madman, even if the madman was a toff who might have pull at the Met.
The next time Lestrade saw Sherlock, Lestrade had a new Detective Inspector to answer to. Sherlock seemed washed-out and tired, but sober, and the underlying fire Lestrade had glimpsed was still simmering. "The Margaret case," he said. "If you let me see the cypher, I can break it."
"Of course you can," Lestrade said. Any idiot could break the cypher; Lestrade had seen worse in the Sunday paper.
"No," Sherlock said. "Anyone can break the cypher. I can tell you what it means."
Lestrade stared at him, but Sherlock didn't flinch or alter his gaze. He'd gained some weight. There was potential there, and vulnerability, too. If you looked under the surface, you could see the little brother Mycroft wanted to protect. "I want proof you're clean," he said. "I don't work with junkies."
"Fine," Sherlock said, and handed him a sheaf of papers. They were his discharge papers from the Narconon centre, exactly one day old. "Is that sufficient?"
"For now," Lestrade said, handing them back. "You have to stay clean."
Sherlock nodded, a jerky, nervous gesture. "Fine," he said. "Gilles."
He just smiled when Lestrade glared.
And so it began, and so it continued until six years later, when Dr. John Watson arrived on the scene and started training Sherlock to be human. It was rather amazing, watching Sherlock soften. And John did it, mostly, by simply being good.
By then, Lestrade's marriage had stopped being a struggle and become more of an effort to limit damage. When Alice had suggested a six-month break, he'd taken the offer happily, but hadn't realized how lonely his new apartment would feel.
For a while, he filled the gap with one-night stands; Amir from the kebab shop, the slight, overly friendly receptionist from his lawyer's office, a few girls he picked up at pubs.
And then there had been John Watson.
It had been friendship first, and friendship always, really; they'd added sex, but had never taken it too seriously. It had been simple, uncomplicated. Nice. The only awkwardness had been that first time, when John had insisted on calling him something more than his surname. ("I know you don't care for your given name," he'd said, "but it's too formal, I have to call you something intimate, your hand's in my bloody trousers.") They'd settled on G, and things had gone pleasantly enough after that.
"You could always change it, you know," John said, when he'd caught his breath.
"What, my name?" The scar on John's shoulder was white and jagged; his light hair grew in particularly sparse and fine around it. The muscles on his chest still retained a good deal of definition, for all John had talked about the changes civilian life had made.
John nodded. "Why not?"
"I don't know," Lestrade said, and rolled the idea in his mind.
He got back together with Alice, until Christmas, when Sherlock destroyed several relationships and almost made Molly cry (and yes, Molly had looked utterly fantastic, but that was a terrible idea for many, many reasons). He found his own place, and when the final papers were signed he went on holiday. He needed to be free of things for a bit.
Did what you suggested too, he texted John.
Changed my name.
So much for Gilles, that son of a bitch.
Congratulations, John answered, and Lestrade -- Greg Lestrade -- smiled happily at his phone.
"So how does it feel?" John asked back at Baker Street, when the whole mad business with the dogs was over.
"How does what feel?" Lestrade said. There were, after all, several things to choose from.
"Getting one over on Sherlock Holmes."
"What, my name?" He hadn't thought of it that way at all, but now that John said it.... "I suppose we did, didn't we?"
"He could've asked," John said, matter-of-factly, grinning into his tea.
"Why yes. He certainly could've. I suppose he deleted my old name."
"He hadn't when I met you. Maybe he's learned to be a bit more considerate."
Lestrade chuckled at that. "He probably just needed room for something. Irene Adler's measurements, maybe."
John shook his head ruefully. "Maybe. I do have a question."
"You tried your name out yet?"
Lestrade said, "Well, of course. You called me--"
"No," John said, leaning closer. "In bed."
"Oh," Lestrade said. Oh. "Why, you want a go?"
"Well," John said, putting his cup down. "You know. If you've an interest."
"I suppose I should try, at least the once."
John's smile turned wicked. "I suspect even Sherlock might approve. You know, in the interest of scientific inquiry."
"Let's not ask him," Lestrade said. "We've been his experiment enough for the last few days."
"Agreed," John said. "Now get upstairs, you."