Lestrade would have preferred to spend a quiet Christmas Eve in his own decidedly not festive flat, eating Chinese takeaway, drinking a few too many beers, and watching a spy thriller or just anything that would not remind him of the holiday. Ideally, he would have been at work tonight and also on Christmas Day to make the time pass more quickly and more productively, but for some reason everyone was insisting he take the time off, claiming he looked as if he needed the rest. They all needed to mind their own business.
So much for slovenly relaxation, though. Somehow he had agreed to show up at Baker Street for this little Yuletide gathering John had arranged. Since when was the doctor such a Christmas elf? Well, at least it would be a small group and maybe there would be something good to eat. Mrs. Hudson would be there with her usual brandy-soaked Christmas cake and rum-spiked eggnog. There would be a couple of John's friends too--some woman named Clara and an old friend from Bart's called Mike something who was bringing his wife. Well, fine. Lestrade could put in an appearance, chat about nothing for a half hour, and then maybe get home in time for a date with Jason Bourne. The only date he was likely to have for the foreseeable future, thanks to Dr. Watson's mysterious charms, thought Lestrade ruefully as he stepped out of the cab and walked through the damned irritating snow flurries towards 221B.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Lestrade, he lectured, squaring his shoulders and getting ready to face tipsy laughter and jolly greetings as he knocked on the door. It wasn't that he was heartbroken about the way things had ended so abruptly with Sherlock once John arrived on the scene. To be heartbroken you had to have had some hope that the relationship was going somewhere, and Lestrade was not that daft or naive. He thought he had been careful not to let himself go down that path, knowing full well that this thing--not even worthy of the label "relationship"--with Sherlock wasn't going to last forever. Yes, there had been many days and weeks over the past five years when they'd spent more time with each other than with anyone else and leaned on each other in times of need, but it had never felt like a romance. Despite the genius's frequent protestations to the contrary, Lestrade knew Sherlock liked him. Liked his company and liked the sex--as long as it was all on Sherlock's terms and timetable, of course.
But Lestrade had never got the kind of worshipful looks and sly winks John was getting these days. The possessive touches, the protective hand at the small of his back. Sherlock had usually expressed what could loosely be called affection for Lestrade with either snide insults or passionate kisses stolen during moments when a case was going either very well or very badly. To be fair, Lestrade had done the same.
Yet, in spite of the protective barriers Lestrade had wrapped around himself for five years, he had still sustained some sort of wound as a result of John Watson, and the scab that had begun to form lately was scraped off the instant the D.I. walked into the flat full of festive candles, the scent of a fresh fir tree, and the sound of a string quartet playing "Good King Wenceslas" on the CD player. He saw Sherlock and John sitting close to each other on the sofa, heads together, whispering, silly grins on their faces. Lestrade decided the best thing was to sterilize his wound with alcohol, so he immediately downed the more-rum-than-eggnog concoction Mrs. Hudson offered him with a hello kiss.
After fifteen minutes of small talk about Mrs. Hudson's newest herbal soothers and Mike Stamford's food allergies, Lestrade wanted--no, needed to exit the party. But as the D.I. deposited his mug in the kitchen and prepared to leave, John cornered him, blocking his path with his fuzzy-red-sweater-clad little elf-like--no more hobbit-like--body.
If Lestrade hadn't known full well that Dr. Watson was utterly smitten with Sherlock, he might have taken John's gentle grin and blush as flirtation. His eyes were so fucking gorgeous, thought Lestrade, and the man pretty much radiated warmth--at least Lestrade suddenly felt his own temperature rising. That was either proximity to the doctor or too much eggnog--possibly both. John leaned a little too close to Lestrade's ear and said that he wanted the D.I. to stay and tell him a story.
"Come on, Greg. I need the backstory for my blog, you know. I've almost finished writing up the Chinese hairpin story, but I think I need some context this time. Something about how Sherlock got started. I think readers--what few I have--will want to know that. And I want to know too. You're the only one who has all the details--plus, everyone says you're a great storyteller, so you've got to help me out. Sherlock won't tell me anything about his first case, except that he was brilliant and the police were imbeciles and would have jailed the wrong person if not for him. Where's your pride, mate? Don't you want to set the record straight?"
John didn't wait for an answer, but simply pushed Lestrade over to the sofa, handed him a new mug--hot mulled wine this time--and flipped open the laptop to take notes.
Lestrade hung his head for a moment, feeling trapped, then looked at Sherlock, who was standing in a corner, leaning elegantly against the wall near the modest little Christmas tree, face lit up eerily on one side by white and red lights. He was glowering and almost imperceptibly shaking his head, obviously trying to discourage Lestrade from telling the story.
"Let's go, Greg. I'm ready for the uncensored Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Early Years. If you don't start talking now, we're all going to start singing soppy off-key Christmas carols, and I don't think anyone wants to hear that."
Lestrade took a sip of the hot wine and let Mrs. Hudson snuggle up next to him with her own mug. Maybe he would consider it a Christmas present to himself to try to irritate Sherlock. Try to wind him up a bit. So Lestrade began speaking with a tone of hushed reverence:
"Twas the night before Christmas and down midst the tombs, not a creature was stirring, except Sherlock Holmes."
Mrs. Hudson and Shirley Stamford both giggled, and it seemed that Lestrade had the attention of everyone in the flat--everyone except Sherlock, who narrowed his eyes and stalked into the kitchen with a look of disgust.
Lestrade continued--making sure his voice was loud enough for Sherlock to hear. "Five years ago, a few days before Christmas, I met a madman on the steps in front of my block of flats. He was wafer thin, had thick black curls any girl would envy, and a perpetual scowl on his face. He didn't say good morning or introduce himself. He just started talking at me, telling me that the police had got the wrong person in custody for the murder of Jane Lucerne. We'd just arrested Emma Carlisle, Lucerne's employer, thinking it'd be an easy conviction, 'cause we had a decent pile of evidence. Sherlock insisted I listen to his theory and take him to the site where the victim's body had been discovered a few weeks before and go over the evidence with him. Of course I thought he was just a complete nutter and tried to shake him off by ducking into a cab. It turned out I couldn't get rid of him that easily. Come to think of it, haven't got rid of him even yet." Lestrade grinned and downed another swallow of wine before continuing. "The nutter followed me all the way to work. But, I have to admit, he was right about our having the wrong person in custody."
"How did he get you to listen to him? If I were you I would have never let him in my office--a weirdo out of the blue like that," asked Clara, moving to sit next to Mrs. Hudson so she could hear the story more clearly.
"I felt like that too, and I'd probably have called security to escort him out of the building, never to let him past the front door again, except that as I was heading in--and he was following close behind me, never shutting up, by the way, yammering on and on about the stupidity of the police and the lack of curiosity of the press and the lying friends of the victim and his own ideas of who the real murderer might be--God, it was bloody awful! But anyway, then as I was heading into the building, he shouted at me, "This is exactly like the Jane Buttersworth case, except now the daughter is getting off the hook." Well that got my attention immediately because the same thought had occurred to me the day before when we hauled our suspect in."
"What's the Jane Buttersworth case?" asked John without looking up, typing very quickly on his laptop.
This time, before Lestrade could open his mouth, Sherlock chimed in from the kitchen, "The murder o f a teenage girl named Jane Buttersworth by a mother and daughter team of certifiable sadists, Elizabeth and Betty Branch, occurred in Somerset in 1740 and was one of the most notorious cases of the time. There were several obvious parallels between the Lucerne murder and the Buttersworth murder, including the brutal beating of the teenage girl by her employer, the dousing of the near-dead victim with cold water, and the use of her own shoe to inflict some of the fatal blows." Sherlock walked back into the sitting room smugly and stood behind John to peer over his shoulder as he typed.
Lestrade continued,"As I said, I had seen those parallels myself, being a bit of a crime history buff, and I told Sherlock as much. But he went farther than I had, and suggested that we had to find the witness to the murder. Even though our investigations hadn't turned up any witnesses, he was convinced that--like the Buttersworth murder--there had to be another employee who had seen or heard what happened. His deductions also told him the witness had the shoe that paired with the murder weapon. So that's how Sherlock and I ended up knee-deep in goat manure . . ."
"Ankle deep," sniffed Sherlock.
"That was an exaggeration for dramatic effect, you idiot."
"Ah. I see. Continue."
"The goat manure was located in a large garden-turned-holding pen at the back of a house on the outskirts of the city, and the small barn in which the animals were kept was also the headquarters of our killers' business, which was making pricey luxury soap, candles, and goats' milk cheese. There were just three other employees besides the dead girl: a twenty-something young man who took care of the goats, an older woman who did the bookkeeping, and Anne Chambers, a thirty-year-old childhood friend of Amelia Carlisle, the daughter of the accused Emma Carlisle.
"Well, of course, Sherlock was right. We were able to stake out the home of Anne Chambers, and once Sherlock had gone through her bins and found the match to the murder-weapon shoe, she caved in and admitted to witnessing and helping to cover up the murder, which was actually done by the daughter, Amelia. The mother and the friend were in on the cover-up together. As it turned out, the daughter had committed a lot of other brutal attacks on other people who worked for the family, but everyone had been paid off for years not to talk. Sherlock helped me organize the case and the evidence so it was completely solid, and we ended up getting our convictions. Including the mother and friend as accessories to the crime."
In recounting the rest of the tale to the group, our otherwise reliable narrator left out several key episodes that involved 1) Lestrade falling under the irresistible spell of Sherlock while they trailed after the three potential witnesses; 2) Lestrade kissing Sherlock; 3) Lestrade being soundly humiliated and rejected by Sherlock; 4) Lestrade later being rather aggressively kissed and fondled by Sherlock; and 5) Lestrade ultimately being on both the giving and receiving end of some desperate, sweaty oral sex in an unmarked police car while waiting for the childhood-friend witness to come out of her flat early Christmas morning.]
John grinned and finally stopped tapping. "Great story, Greg. I won't bother you now, but I might want to get you to fill in some little details later, when I'm ready to post it. John seemed to be winking at him again, but Lestrade thought it must just be his own fatigue making him see things that weren't there. Still, he felt a little tickle of satisfaction that John seemed so pleased.
As it approached midnight, Sherlock made a show of taking off his shoes and yawning loudly. John took the cue to gather up coats and say his farewells to the Stamfords and Clara.
Lestrade felt Mrs. Hudson's head drop onto his shoulder as she nodded off and began snoring. With a little nudge from Lestrade, she woke up, and John sent her ambling down the stairs with one more mug of wine for the road.
A wistfulness settled over Lestrade as he took his own coat from the hook near the door, but the blue mood felt less heavy than it had before the party, so that was all to the good. He'd had his run with Sherlock, and it was a good few years. And possibly it wasn't too late to find someone else. Someone who didn't need him in the way Sherlock needed someone--to be the sturdy scaffolding that kept his manic, genius self from falling apart. John looked like he might be able to provide that more consistently and more willingly than Lestrade ever had. Lestrade silently wished the doctor good luck.
As the D.I. waved goodbye, John bounded over to catch his hand before it grasped the doorknob, and said, "No. Please stay, Greg. Sherlock and I both really want you to stay. Stay the night, I mean."
"Oh. What? No, I . . . what?" Lestrade didn't think he could have heard John correctly. "Uh . . . do you need more help tidying up, is that it?" He stood with his head cocked awkwardly, halfway through shrugging on his coat.
John's mouth curved into a half smile, and his eyes crinkled in amusement as he moved quietly beside Lestrade. John grabbed the lapels of Lestrade's soft black wool coat and used them to pull the taller man closer, stopping when their faces were an inch apart.
"Okay if I kiss you, Greg?" he whispered into Lestrade's parted lips, but didn't wait for the answer.
Lestrade felt a wave of dizziness and embarrassment with the first soft brush of the doctor's mouth against his. He tried to swallow, then breathe deeply to regain his composure as he pulled back. But then John's lips pressed harder and his tongue licked over Lestrade's teeth.
This makes no sense, thought Lestrade, as he stepped forward, more to get that elusive balance back than to move into the kiss. John clearly took the movement as assent and wrapped his arms around Lestrade's neck to intensify the pressure of his chest against Lestrade's chest, and the pressure of his soft, wet lips against Lestrade's hesitant--but now more yielding ones. A hissing little sigh of delight from John suddenly excited Lestrade. Much to his surprise, he felt his pulse quickening and a rush of blood into his head and to another location below his waist.
Lestrade opened his eyes as John let go of him, and saw Sherlock looking over at them from across the room, shrugging his shoulders with a half smile. "John's idea. I've no objections. No doubt he's simply overwhelmed by my brilliance in the bedroom, and thinks he'll need assistance to keep up with me."
Lestrade swallowed again and tried to seem as though he wasn't pretty much stunned shitless by this turn of events. "That is the funniest thing I've heard all night. I'm sure it's just that John needs a rational human to talk to when he gets fed up with your childishness in the bedroom and everywhere else."
Lestrade wasn't really sure how he had ended up tossing his coat on the floor and walking back into the sitting room, but he had.
Sherlock stretched himself comfortably along the length of the sofa, adjusting a cushion under his head and unbuttoning his white silk shirt, then folding his almost equally white hands together across his stomach, a picture of feline languor.
Lestrade let John pull him to the cozy chair and push him down into it. The Inspector made himself comfortable now, leaning back, slipping off his shoes, and letting his knees spread wide. John perched on the arm of the chair, one hand at the back of Lestrade's neck, absentmindedly fingering his collar, the other hand more focused on caressing Lestrade's thigh.
John grinned the same impish grin he'd worn for most of the evening. Lestrade closed his eyes lazily for a moment, feeling the gentle twisting of John's fingers in his hair now, and then relaxing into the pressure of those fingers kneading the tension of the past few months from his neck.
"Now, Greg," said John, "It's after midnight, so as a Christmas morning gift to me, why don't you tell me the really uncensored version of your first week with Sherlock. I have a feeling you may have cut out some important details. And don't leave out any of the arguments. I love it when you two fight. Very sexy."
Lestrade looked at Sherlock for permission, but the prat just closed his eyes and smirked.
"This isn't going in your blog, is it?" asked Lestrade.
"No. I promise."
"Okay, then," Lestrade grinned as John's hand moved a little farther up his thigh. "Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the block, nothing was twitching, except . . ."