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One Man in His Time

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"Oh my - Papa! Oh my God what the hell--"

"I did tell you not to go in the bathroom."

"But it's the bathroom, the bloody bathroom, what the bloody hell is he--"

"Stop swearing and close the door if it's bothering you."

"I hate this! I hate it! Why do you let him do this!? He's mad! He's a bloody terror, no one else's dad--"

"That's enough, young man. I'm not going to listen to you speak about your father that way, you can go to your room if you can't contain yourself."

"He's not my father. He's..."

"What, Calvin Jack? What is he, then?"

"He's...just...never mind. I didn't mean it."

"Didn't you?"

"You know I didn't."

"Do I?"

"Jesus bloody...you sound just like him, sometimes. Both of you. You're both mad. This isn't a proper family. No one else has to live with, with dead things in the bathroom and explosions in the kitchen. This is mad. I'm... I'm off. I'm going out."

----

"Sherlock?"

"Hello, John. I'm in the middle of something, wanted to call and tell you I might not be home for dinner."

"Yeah...probably doesn't matter, doesn't look like there's going to be dinner."

"What? Why not? What do you mean?"

"Calvin's shoved off, gone out somewhere. I'll probably go round Mike's or something, he's--"

"'Shoved off'? What do you mean, 'gone out'?"

"Oh, he threw a fit over the carcasses in the bathroom, stormed off. Big, dramatic scene, you're happy you missed it."

"But where did he go, what you mean he's gone out? Where is he?"

"Oh, for...I don't know, Sherlock. Probably with Pete or something, calling us the most embarrassing parents in history, getting it out of his system."

"You... you let him just... he left, just like that, and didn't tell you where?"

"Calm down, Sherlock. Sherlock? Sherlock!"

---

"Hey it's Cal, leave a message. Especially if you're beautiful."

"Calvin Jack, call me at once."

---

Don't think I can't figure out where you've gone, Calvin. SH

Sod off, old man.

---

Lestrade, where are you, I need you. One of those drugs busts you're so good at arranging. SH

Hey, freak. It's Donovan. Been awhile, yeah? Hey, look, I was just about to call you. Bad news. He's ok, just get down to St Mary's, soon as you can.

---

John looks up when the door opens and stands up in alarm, almost tripping over his feet to get to Sherlock. His husband is deathly-white, eyes glassy, his scarf hanging loosely around his neck and his coat half-undone, as though he had completely forgotten about it in his obvious haste.

"Are you all right? Sherlock, what's wrong?"

Sherlock looked at John, taking the solicitous hands from his face and chest, holding them tight between his own gloved hands, looking down into John's face, silent.

"Oh, God, Sherlock, what is it, is it Cal?"

Sherlock shook his head. He swallowed hard, eyes unblinking. "Lestrade."

"Oh. Oh, God, what...what's..."

"Stroke."

John's stomach bottoms out. His voice is an inhuman croak. "Alive?"

Sherlock nods.

John pulls Sherlock to him roughly, then as abruptly lets him go, turning to grab his jacket, snatching his phone off the end table. "Come on. I'll call Cal. Where is he?"

"I don't know, he's not answering."

"I mean Greg. Where is he, where'd they take him?"

"St Mary's."

"Okay. Okay. We...what should we... no, don't need anything. Let's go. Come on. Come on," he tugs on Sherlock's hand.

----

Lestrade’s face is as ashen as his hair, and it takes several moments for John to detect and register the shallow rise and fall of his chest. Sherlock has pulled up a chair to Lestrade’s left side and, sometime during the course of the evening, latched onto his hand. John doesn’t notice this, either, until a doctor finally comes to talk to them. As Sherlock is Lestrade’s emergency contact, he is the one they want to speak to, but his gaze remains fixed resolutely on the thin, crisp linens that cover Lestrade’s body, hand growing white with the pressure he’s exerting, and John gently steers the doctor’s attention away from his non-responsive husband. He asks the appropriate questions, struggling to keep his mind engaged even as worry over Cal and terror at Lestrade’s condition fight for his attention. Eventually, the man leaves, and they are blessedly left alone.

“Sher,” John says softly, dropping into a chair next to Sherlock and prying Lestrade’s hand from his. He rubs a quick hand over Sherlock’s knuckles and murmurs, “Not so tight.”

“John -”

“I know.” He grazes his lips along Sherlock’s hairline. Sherlock shudders and shuts his eyes, fingers trembling under John’s. “He’s all right. The doctor says there doesn’t appear to be any sign of paralysis, so we might have dodged a bullet there. It was a - a right-hemisphere stroke. He’ll - uh - we’ll have to keep an eye out for behavioural changes, memory loss, spatial problems, vision issues... and he’s going to need some physical therapy, most likely...”

John trails off, swallowing hard, mind reeling as he scrolls through all the long-term issues Lestrade might now be facing. Sherlock has gone unnaturally still under his hands, and John squeezes his wrist.

“I’m sorry. What I mean to say is, this could have been so much worse. He’s alive. We’ll know more when he wakes up again, but he’s still with us, Sherlock. All right?”

Sherlock nods mutely and returns his hand to Lestrade’s.

They stay until midnight; until John’s head grows too heavy to be supported by his neck and he catches Sherlock’s eyes slipping closed every several minutes. Calvin still isn’t answering his mobile, and they return to the flat prepared to spend a sleepless night hunting him down until a curt text from Mycroft comes in at half-one.

Calvin has been located. Anthea will be escorting him to the hospital in the morning.

John falls asleep that night on the sofa and is brutally reminded that he is far, far too old to be doing that when he wakes in the morning with a crick in his neck and his back smarting so badly that it takes him several minutes to work himself into a sitting position. Sherlock is already awake, if indeed he had slept at all, and they make for the hospital as soon as John manages to shower and dress.

Lestrade wakes briefly not long after they arrive, but is able to do little more than offer a lopsided smile and half an apology before medication and sleep claim him once again. John, sensitive to each and every possible change in Lestrade’s demeanor, is instantly on edge at the sight of the odd smile. He takes a calming breath, and tries to tell himself that it could be anything - or nothing. He rearranges the blankets around Lestrade’s form while Sherlock checks his mobile. John wonders if his husband spent the whole night devouring everything the internet could offer him about the aftereffects of strokes. Worry - for Greg, for Sherlock, for Cal - eats away at him and turns every second into a small eternity so that by the time Lestrade next stirs and begins to wake he cannot comprehend that it's only been an hour; surely they've been in this small, sterile room for several lifetimes.

But there is Sherlock, bending over the retired Detective Inspector, brushing long, trembling fingers over his forehead and wrists, taking measurements that would be meaningless to John. Or perhaps they aren’t measurements at all, but reassurances.

"Hullo, lads," Lestrade says wearily. But then he gives a smile, a proper one, and John feels the world begin to right itself. He is surprisingly coherent, though his speech is deliberate, and John allows himself the brief flicker of hope that Lestrade’s mental faculties have been preserved. Sherlock says very little, but his eyes never leave Lestrade’s face. It’s as though he’s afraid Lestrade might disappear should he be so careless as to look away and John feels for him, remembering a decade past when his own father faded and passed before his eyes.

And John doesn't know what Sherlock is feeling, but he can guess; his husband’s desire to rationalise everything often leads him to trivialise the things that are most important to everyone else - connections, love, relationships. John can only imagine how painful this is for Sherlock, because it's not just as simple as seeing Lestrade, his only real paternal figure, lying in a hospital bed. John knows that at the same time he is trying to reason out why it is that this affects him so; trying to understand and control the pain.

Lestrade falls asleep again within the hour, but to John’s eyes it appears natural and easy rather than influenced by the medication. His mind drifts back to Cal - it’s well past mid-morning, and it isn’t like Mycroft to be tardy. But then Sherlock’s mobile goes off and John resists an eyeroll. Only one person on the planet could cause Sherlock to make that pained face, and only one person could possibly know what John had been thinking of at that moment.

“Do you think Cal knows?” John asks in an undertone as he slips from the room on Sherlock’s heels. Sherlock shuts the door behind them softly and then raises an eyebrow at his husband.

“It’s Mycroft,” he says darkly and by way of answer. John gives a tight nod of understanding. Mycroft's power plays extended even to their son and it was next to impossible to imagine that Mycroft would have shown delicacy or discretion in this matter, not when he’d let slip to the young child about Sherlock’s father all those years ago. Calvin, all of thirteen, is as much a player in Mycroft's power game as his parents are.

Which is why, ten minutes later, John is holding a distraught Calvin against his chest while Sherlock paces furiously nearby, mobile pressed to his ear as he delivers a tirade of choice words at his brother. It will do little good, but Sherlock needs the outlet and John is too furious for speech. They are both brought to a halt, however, by a choked sob that slips from Calvin’s throat. Sherlock stops mid-expletive and snaps his mobile shut, eyes going wide.

“Oh, Calvin.” John wraps his arms tighter around their son while Sherlock looks on helplessly. “He’s fine. He’s okay, I promise. He’s just going to have to stay in hospital for a bit while they keep an eye on him. All right?”

Calvin says nothing, continuing to tremble. John placed a hand on the back of his head, stroking the fine hair lightly with his thumb.

“Do you want to go in and see him?”

Calvin shakes his head violently; John shares a glance with Sherlock.

“He...would appreciate seeing you,” Sherlock tries. “I think it would make him happy.”

“I can’t,” Calvin mumbles. It’s the first time anything close to mortality has touched him; the first time he has been brought brutally face-to-face with the fact that his loved ones will not live forever.

“Come on,” John says, squeezing his shoulder. “I’ll go in with you, yeah? He’s fine, he’s just a bit weak. It’s still Uncle Greg; nothing’s changed.”

“Everything’s changed,” Calvin mutters, and John’s heart sputters in his chest.

“He’s still with us.” John drops his head, murmuring into Calvin’s hair. “Let’s focus on that, yeah? Now come on. Let’s go say hi.”

----

Calvin sits by Lestrade's bed. Nearly in his bed - he'd kept himself pressed up against the wall by the door until Lestrade had woken and, smiling broadly, beckoned his godson to him. And then Cal had nearly tripped over himself to get to Lestrade's side, pulling his hard plastic chair so close that his knees were jammed up against the mattress. He's holding Lestrade's hand, and doesn't seem to have noticed he's doing it.

Sherlock watches them closely. It has been several years already since Calvin had last voluntarily displayed physical affection towards any of them. A fact that had alarmed Sherlock but hadn't seemed to surprise John in the least, and Sherlock had let himself be comforted by John's acceptance of the development. Calvin had been an extraordinarily affectionate child, but Sherlock feels now as though he hadn't truly noticed its absence until confronted with its sudden re-emergence.

It had been John who hugged Calvin when he arrived, white-faced, at the hospital, and now it's Lestrade whose hand he's clinging to. Sherlock feels a tightening in his chest - feels himself aching for a show of love from his son. It's he who's borne - taken on voluntarily, really - the brunt of Cal's teenage angst and need to distance himself from his family. His eyes glued to their clasped hands, Sherlock is seized with a violent desire to pull his son away from Lestrade, to reclaim the tiny boy who snuggled so contentedly in his arms, who smiled so joyfully up into his eyes, who loved and accepted him as daddy without a moment's hesitation.

Silence has fallen and Sherlock realises that Calvin is looking at him, and when Sherlock meets his eyes Calvin glances away, looking at John, and then back down to where Lestrade's big hand is clasping his. Sherlock understands.

"John," he steps over to where John is sitting, laying a hand lightly between his shoulder blades. "You're falling asleep in your chair. Let's go for a coffee, hm?"

"No, s'fine, I don't need anything."

Sherlock squeezes his shoulder. "Come with me, then, keep an eye on me, I'm gasping for a smoke."

Calvin looks around, eyes going wide, then narrow. John looks up at him in equal surprise, then, with a groan, pushes himself up and out of his chair, grumbling about how much looking after Sherlock needs just to protect him from himself.

"Greg, can we bring you anything? No? Calvin? All right. Come on, John."

----

John isn’t fooled for very long by Sherlock’s claim about the cigarettes, and once they’ve stepped outside Lestrade’s room and closed the door he crosses his arms, shoves his shoulder against the wall, and regards Sherlock with slight amusement. It’s the closest thing to a smile he’s felt since this all started.

“Very perceptive,” he allows.

Sherlock shrugs.  Afternoon sunlight is slanting down on them through the high windows in the hallway, picking out the lines in Sherlock's face, the traces of silver in his hair, making him look worn and weary, but the creases that appear at the corner of his eyes give away his pleasure at having apparently done the right thing. “I thought he might appreciate the time with Lestrade.”

“And Greg with him.” John tips his head against the wall and stares at Sherlock for a moment before saying, “Are you all right? And don’t bother saying yes, because I know you’re not.”

Inexplicably, that brings a smile to Sherlock’s otherwise grave face.

“What?”

Sherlock shakes his head. “Nothing. Just... something Molly once told me. Years ago.”

John doesn’t understand, but he nods anyway. Sherlock’s eyes flick to him and then away, fixing on the far wall. He looks... well, sad is the first word that comes to John’s mind. Lost is the second, and he remembers a decade ago when he was watching his own father suffer and die; when he was faced with the brutal role-reversal no one can prepare for.

“It’s just...” John trails off. He’s never been very good at this, and Sherlock’s not exactly the most receptive audience. “I know... I know how it feels. When my dad got sick... well, you remember. I wasn’t exactly there, yeah? It’s just, you go through all those years, and they’re always there for you. And they’re invincible, you know? They never waver, never falter. And then one day... that’s all gone. You’re making decisions, you’re taking care of them, you’re watching them get weaker and weaker...”

“John -”

“Do you remember when you told me you wanted to move to the country one day?” John asks abruptly.

Sherlock swallows hard but says nothing about the non-sequitur. “I do.”

“I’ve been thinking that, well...” John shrugs. “I think we should honestly consider that. And sometime soon, rather than years down the road.”

“Because of Lestrade?” Sherlock shakes his head, though John can see that the idea tempts him. “No, John, he won’t appreciate that and you know it.”

“I know,” John says because, God, does he ever. He can’t imagine asking Lestrade to give up his independence. He can’t imagine Lestrade as anything other than the long-suffering Detective Inspector with an infinite amount of patience and a capacity for forgiveness that far surpassed anyone else he had ever met, even though it’s been years since Lestrade’s retirement. In John’s mind he’s still the forty-four-year-old, prematurely-grey man who pulled Sherlock back together when no one else would give him a second glance. “But Sherlock... he’d do it if you asked.”

“And why would I ask that of him?” Sherlock snaps, and John knows that he really means, How could I ask that of him?

“Because you need him,” John says softly. Through the wall, he can hear Lestrade and Cal conversing, though he can’t make out the words. He adds, almost to himself, “Because we need him.”

----

Alone with his godfather, Calvin keeps his eyes affixed to the door long after it had swung shut after his parents. Uncle Greg squeezes his hand and Calvin flinches and withdraws it, pulling both hands into his lap, finding himself unable to meet his eyes, head bowed with guilt that he couldn't hide anymore. The exhaustion of keeping it from his dad has worn him out.

"What's up, sport?" Uncle Greg asks after a minute, concern plain in his voice.

And the thought that he's got his godfather worried when he should be resting and recovering, when it's all of them - no, when it's Calvin - who should be there for him instead of the other way around...the guilt wracks him in painful waves and he feels his hands start to shake again, his eyes burning.

"I...I'm...I should have...I should have been here..."

"Oh, Cal, no, c'mon now. Don't be--"

"No, you don't understand. I should have been here last night."

"Cal..." Uncle Greg reaches out and takes his hand again. His hand feels firm and strong and Calvin grips him back, reassured by his steadiness. "You're here, now. You can't always drop everything, you've got your own life. I'm not angry, and neither are your dads."

He shakes his head again, looking up to meet Greg's eyes, but has to look away again as he confesses, "They called me about fifty times last night. They kept on calling and I ignored them cos I thought they just wanted me to come home. And then I turned off my phone cos I was afraid he'd have Uncle Mycroft track it down or something and...and I...was...oh, God, dad's gonna kill me, he's gonna absolutely kill me..."

"Cally," Lestrade says quietly, his voice warm and calm like always,  everything that was safe and good in the world. He only calls him that  when he's asking Cal to do or be his very best, for his own sake, and Calvin's heart sinks to hear it. "What were you doing last night?"

He hunches his shoulders and tucks his chin to his chest, holding tight to his godfather's hand in hopes that he's not about to be thrown away. "I was doing...I was...I was...smoking...with Pete...at his brother's flat."

"Smoking what, marijuana?"

Calvin hangs his head, nodding miserably.

Uncle Greg sighs and squeezes his hand. "You know that's not a good idea, Cally."

"Yeah. I know. Dad would...and papa...bloody hell, they'd kill me."

"Well, yes. But you know, that's not the only reason."

"Yeah. I know. It's illegal and you're a copper."

He sits up, startled, at the sound of Uncle Greg's sudden laugh. The wide grin on his face makes him look less tired, less sick, and Calvin smiles tentatively.

"C'mere then," Greg says, pulling on his hand. Calvin blinks at him, puzzled, as his uncle continues to chuckle. "C'mere and give us a kiss and then you can go back to being thirteen."

Nonplussed, Calvin doesn't argue but pushes himself up to lean across the bed and kiss Uncle Greg's forehead. Greg presses a hand to the back of his head, holding him there for a moment, then just as abruptly lets him go. Cal slides back into his chair and Greg just shakes his head, looking happy. Which makes no sense, seeing as he'd just confessed to using drugs which was, in their family, next to believing in Father Christmas and strapping bombs to innocent civilians on the order of Things Dad Will Kill You For.

"Right, then," Uncle Greg says, putting his serious face back on. "I won't tell your dads, I think that's probably for the best, if you'll promise a sick man that you're not gonna do anything like that again."

Calvin frowns, crossing his arms. "Papa has spent this whole bloody morning telling me you're not that sick. You can't pull that on me, Uncle."

For some reason, this makes Greg start to laugh again. Calvin's ears start to flush. He mutters, "I'm sure you'd do worse if you had to put up with them. They're mad. Especially dad. He's hardly even human, he's--"

"He's the best man I've ever met, and one day if you're very, very lucky, you might begin to comprehend just how fortunate you are, Calvin Jack."

Calvin throws his hands wide, glaring at his godfather. "Why do you all run to his defense all the time?! He's a holy terror, you've seen him! But any time I say one bloody word again him it's all, 'Calvin Jack this' and 'Calvin Jack you're an idiot.' What the hell, Uncle Greg?"

"Well. As I say. One day you may understand. But for now you can settle for believing me and your papa. We're quite a bit smarter than you are, you know."

"Bollocks," Calvin mutters, but lets it go, slumping back in his chair.

Greg lets the silence stretch on for a minute. Then, as though they hadn't just been almost-shouting at each other - one of the things Cal likes best about Uncle Greg; when papa yells afterwards he acts all ashamed and like he has to apologise, or makes Calvin apologise, and dad doesn't let anything get to him and when he does it's like he's honestly forgotten about it five minutes later, like it didn't matter - he asks, "How're things with Samantha?"

Calvin slumps lower in his chair and shrugs.

"Not good, then?"

He shrugs again.

"Didn't ask her out, did you?"

Another shrug.

"What happened? You were so keen."

"Saw her sneaking 'round the gym with Mikey Frasier. He's a right bastard. Don't want any girl who'd go with him."

Greg snorts. "Good man. Reclassifying your disappointment as having high standards. Now whose son do you sound like?"

Calvin ignores him. "And anyway, there was much better girls at Pete's brother's last night."

Greg arches his eyebrow. "'Better'?"

"Y'know," Cal looks away. "Like...just...better."

"You'll want to watch yourself, Cally. Drugs are one thing, but I'll not be covering up a knocked-up girlfriend for you."

Calvin's mouth drops in utter shock and his face goes beet red as he stares at his godfather, halfway expecting him to start laughing, but Greg is perfectly serious.

"One day what you get up to with these 'better' girls will be your business, but for the time being, it's not. I know you, Calvin, and I know that you are intelligent, and I know that you are respectful. I can't think of anything that would be more disappointing than finding out that you've been behaving otherwise. Is that understood?"

Calvin hangs his head, stomach in a knot. "Yes, sir."

Greg touches his cheek briefly, then leans back against his pillows with a soft groan. "God, I'm getting old."

"No you're not," Cal says automatically, then grits his teeth. They're sitting in a hospital, for God's sake. Greg's hooked up to IVs and monitoring equipment. He almost died yesterday. Calvin blinks quickly and looks away, not quite catching the tear that slips down his cheek.

Uncle Greg pretends not to notice and reaches for his empty water glass, handing it to him. Calvin stands without being asked and goes to fill it from the sink in the little bathroom adjoining. When he turns off the tap he hears soft voices in the other room, and when he comes back out his dads have rejoined them, standing with their arms around each other at the bedside.
When he hears Calvin's footsteps behind him, Dad lets go of Uncle Greg's hand and turns to look at him. His eyes are tired, tinged with a faint line of red that Calvin isn’t accustomed to seeing. He hadn’t been able to notice it before, lost as he was in his own guilt, but Dad looks just as lost as he himself felt upon getting Uncle Mycroft’s phone call.

Calvin walks slowly to stand by his dad’s side and hands over the water glass. Uncle Greg's fingers are warm and steady as he takes it from him. Calvin takes a half-step to his left and when their shoulders touch, Dad puts his arm around Cal's shoulders, holding him tight in an unwavering embrace.

Calvin leans his head on Dad's shoulder and says, deadpan, "Greg's just loving all this attention. Probably thinking he should've got himself hospitalized ages ago. F'you were feeling neglected, Uncle Greg, you coulda just phoned up for tea or something. This is a little dramatic, don't you think, dad?"

Dad snorts and Papa gives a bark of a laugh but later, as the small family is making to leave, Dad hangs back while Papa tries to round up their jackets and Cal becomes momentarily distracted by his mobile. He glances back at the bed only at the sound of sudden rustling, and blinks.

Cal can’t remember the last time his dad embraced another adult - even hugs for Papa are few and far between - but here, for a brief moment, it looks as though even a force of nature couldn’t pry him from Uncle Greg’s grip. He’s bent double over Greg’s form, arms wound tightly around the other man and forehead pressed into Greg’s shoulder. Cal swallows and looks away quickly, feeling as though this was something he was never meant to observe.

“If you ever end up here again,” Dad says in a low, rough voice Cal knows he’s not supposed to hear, “I will kill you.”

“Hush,” Uncle Greg scolds him lightly. “Don’t talk like that.”

Papa presses a hand into Cal’s shoulder and nods to the door. They slip out, Dad’s response lost in the shuffle, but when he emerges five minutes later he looks a bit less wild; a bit more grounded. He looks as though someone has set his world right once more.

Calvin hesitates, but Dad had already seen - of course he had - how Calvin had half-reached for him. Dad doesn't say anything, just looks at him, until Cal steps closer, his hand fitting into his dad's almost as easily as when he was a child. Papa smiles, looking a bit less weary as he says softly, "Come on, lads," and leads the way outside.