Sometimes John would catch Lestrade looking at Donovan when she wasn’t looking. Not like he was checking her out, more like he was looking for something. Then he’d look away and his expression was almost sad, lost, just for a split second. They were at a crime scene when Sherlock caught John looking at Lestrade looking at Donovan. Donovan was with Anderson by the dead man. Sherlock was examining a mark on the wall just outside the room.
“He won’t talk about it,” said Sherlock loud enough that both Lestrade and John could hear.
Lestrade turned his head to glare darkly at Sherlock. John kept his eyes on Lestrade, Sherlock was still peering at the mark. “What?” asked John.
“He knew Donovan before, when she was a child. Of course, she can’t remember ‘the monster under her bed’, he’s quite maudlin about it,” stated Sherlock sounding bored.
“I am not maudlin,” retorted Lestrade. “And I never hid under children’s beds.”
Sherlock snorted. “Of course not your Lordship. What was it then? A wardrobe?”
“Airing cupboard,” replied Lestrade looking back towards Donovan. “And she saved my life.”
Monsters don’t only show up under your bed.
Sally knew that the noises from the airing cupboard opposite her bedroom were made by the plumbing going into and out of the boiler. One day her Dad had explained it all to her, they’d spent a whole Saturday morning looking at the workings. They’d messed up all of mum’s perfectly folded towels and she’d expected Mum to be cross. But when she found them she’d just smiled and kissed her daughter on the forehead.
“See Lady, nothing to be scared of,” she’d said.
But that was in the daylight. Right now it was night-time; strange noises were coming from the airing cupboard again. Knocks and gurgles and she could swear something is scrabbling against the door. Her room is dark, and the bedroom door is open a little, and there’s light spilling up the stairs from the lounge, and the airing cupboard door is open a crack. Mum always makes a show of locking the cupboard door when she goes to bed, but Mum and Dad aren’t here tonight, they’re at a party and Aunt Janet is watching her. She stares at the door and it starts to move, ever so slowly inching open wider. It’s so dark inside and she can’t move, can barely breathe. She clutches at the duvet wishing she could pull it over her head and disappear. Something fell out onto the floor and she let out a high pitched squeak, mortified she clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle any more involuntary sounds.
The dark shape on the floor outside her room moved, part of it raised up and even though she couldn’t see it’s face she knew he was looking at her.
“Please,” it croaked. “You need to close the door, they’ll come through, they were right behind me…”
She’s so scared, but she forces her legs to move. She swings them over the side of the bed onto the floor. There’s something in the airing cupboard, bright points of red light moving towards the door. She runs across the bedroom floor, slamming the cupboard door shut and leaning all of her slight weight against it. She feels something thump against the door and she can hear growling. She knows she can, it can’t just be the plumbing. She screams and that brings Aunt Janet upstairs.
“Sally! What on earth are you doing? Get back to bed,” calls her Aunt as she climbs the stairs. When she turns the corner she’s confronted with Sally’s tearstained face.
“Please,” sobs Sally. “I saw monsters in the airing cupboard!”
Aunt Janet looks fond, and she kneels next to Sally. Brushing the hair out of her eyes she says, “It was just a bad dream, darling.”
Sally shakes her head. “You have to lock the door, please!”
Aunt Janet realises that there’s no arguing with a terrified six year old, and she retrieves the key from a pot on the window sill where Sally’s mother keeps it. She locks the door and Sally starts to relax. She knows nothing can come through it now, she believes it. Aunt Janet puts her back to bed and she falls asleep happily.
She forgot about the thing that already came through.
Molly Hooper and Jim Moriarty had one thing in common, although neither of them ever knew it. Jim would call it a dream. Molly would say it was a nightmare. Some monsters don’t find their way through cupboards or lie in wait under beds, you find monsters in the places that scare you most. Both Molly and Jim were most scared of their own thoughts.
Molly was scared of never fitting in. Of never finding anyone who would like her. Most scared that maybe there was nothing there to like at all.
Jim was scared of the things he wanted to do. He was scared of how angry the world made him. Stupid sneering faces that never saw anything of importance, how could they stand it? Jim knew he shouldn’t want the world to burn, but he really, really did.
Unknown to either Molly or Jim their dream was always the same. The lady would step out of the fire, they could feel the heat of it, the only bright point of colour in a muted world. She was tall and her arms and legs were impossibly long and thin. Her features were sharp and pointed, shadows from the fire dancing across them. She scared Molly, Jim thought she was beautiful.
Molly always wanted to run away but her feet were stuck in place. Jim always wanted to run towards her but he was equally as stuck.
She talk and sing to them, telling them that it was alright, that there was nothing wrong with them, and all they had to do was listen. The words made Jim feel better that finally someone understood. They made Molly feel worse. This terrifying creature was the only one who cared. Molly saw a hunger in lady’s eyes, something she desperately wanted to hide from, but there was never anywhere to hide.
The lady always asked for their name just before they woke up. Only one of them ever told her.
Molly found a friend when she started secondary school, her name was Sarah and she was funny and clever and she actually liked some of the things Molly liked. The lady stopped appearing in Molly’s dreams and Molly forgot about her.
Jim found he could do all the things he’d thought of doing, if he was careful. Carl Powers died, because Jim Moriarty decided he should. No-one even noticed. Jim stopped being scared of himself and so the lady stopped visiting him, he was sad about that for a while, then he forgot about her too.
Lestrade curled up under the bed. This wasn’t a gateway to home like the underneath of so many children’s beds; he could probably hide here for a few days until he was strong enough to move. He tried to keep quiet, the girl last night had been so scared, scaring children was not something that Lestrade’s family did. Not that he supposed there were many of his family left now. Mummy had made sure of that. He wondered if any of the others had escaped the hounds. He tried to focus past the pain in his wing. The hound’s teeth had torn at the base where wing met shoulder. Lestrade’s skin there was tough, but not strong enough to deflect a hounds razor sharp teeth. It had, at least, stopped bleeding. Lestrade tried not to panic; he’d never really spent more than a few hours at a time Outside before. He knew of people who’d been Outside, Mummy discouraged long visits these days but some of the older ones had spent years Outside. He could survive here, he had to. There was no going back.
The girl had gone; her mother had woken her telling her it was time for ‘school’ whatever that was. Lestrade thought about crawling out from under the bed, but he didn’t know how long the girl would be gone for. He hoped she’d come back soon, he felt a little less alone when she was here. Just then he heard a thumping noise coming up the stairs.
“For god’s sake, lady!” called the girl’s Mother. “You’re like a baby elephant.”
“Sorry, Mum!” called the girl not slowing down at all. The steps came into the bedroom and something landed heavily on the bed. It jolted Lestrade shoulder and he couldn’t help shouting out as the pain flared through his wing. The girl’s face appeared upside down as she leant over the side of the bed, wild curly hair framed by the daylight behind her. Lestrade eased himself as far back as he could, hoping not to scare her, he was in too much pain to shift forms.
“Are you hiding?” asked the girl. “The monsters were chasing you.”
“I don’t hide under beds,” said Lestrade through gritted teeth. Because he didn’t. He was not one of Mummy’s children.
“Come on out then,” said the girl and her head disappeared from his view.
He doesn’t want to scare her but she knows he’s here now. He pulled himself out into the room proper. It was very pink, he hadn’t realised in the dark. There were lots of pictures of women in very impractical dresses. A lot of them were pink too.
“You like pink,” said Lestrade.
The girl is sitting crossed legged on her bed. “Don’t you?” she asked.
“Not really,” said Lestrade. “You’re not scared?”
The girl shrugged. “Nothing’s scary in the daylight. Mum says. Why do you look like that?”
Lestrade stood at just over five foot in this form, he had leathery wings like a bats, they were a greyish colour, a little shiny where the light caught them. If he could stretch them out they’d be nearly six foot across, but his injured wing drooped and he couldn’t pull it up.
“I can change, but my wing is hurt,” said Lestrade. “I can’t concentrate to shift.”
The girl bounced up on to her feet. “Let me see? Nothing is scary if you understand it, Daddy says.”
Lestrade isn’t sure if he can trust her, isn’t sure about humans in general, but he really is out of options. He comes closer and bends a little so she can see. She leans over to look then puts her hand out to touch. Lestrade winces and pulls back.
“Sorry!” said the girl snatching her hand back. “I know!”
Then she’s gone in a rush of air past him and out the room. Lestrade is a little unsure of what to do now. He sits on the edge of the bed careful of the injured wing. The duvet is pink, of course. The girl comes back brandishing a tube. She shows it too him it has writing on it ‘Savlon Cream’.
“Magic cream,” said the girl proudly. “This makes everything better, Mum says.”
She jumps up behind Lestrade on the bed. The cream is cold on his skin but it does feel good, it tingles a little. He wonders if it will help, the girl clearly believes it will and belief is a powerful force. It certainly can’t hurt. He feels something brush against his shoulder, just below his injury.
“Magic cream and kiss it better,” announces the girl sounding like she’s quoting. She jumps back down and turns to face Lestrade, she holds her arm straight out towards him. She frowns when he doesn’t move. “You shake my hand, like this.” She moves Lestrade’s hand so it covers hers and ‘shakes’ it up and down twice. “Pleased to meet you, my name is…”
“Stop,” interrupts Lestrade feeling horrified. “Don’t tell me your name. You never should give anyone your name.”
“Why not?” asked the girl, frowning now.
Lestrade’s not really sure how to explain such old and basic magic. “If you give someone your name they can control you.”
The girls frown is deeper. “But lots of people know my name.”
“It’s okay if someone else tells me, but if you tell me then I get a little bit of you, understand?” he asked gently. He likes this girl, maybe all humans are like this?
The girl frowns at her feet, then her expression brightens and she beams at him. “My Mum calls me lady sometimes, you could call me that?”
Lestrade stands and gives the girl a shallow bow. “It would be my honour Lady.” The girl giggled. “I used to be a Lord, before…” It hit Lestrade properly then, he’d been too busy running before, he could never go home again, he was exiled.
“Don’t be sad,” said the girl hugging him tightly. “You can be a Lord and I’ll be a Lady.”
He stayed with her as long as he could, but he couldn’t stay forever, children have to grow up. He left after a few months, once he got the hang of a more human shape. He left without saying goodbye; for fear that he might not be able to go.
He never expected to see her again, so it was a shock when she walked into the station.
“Here, boss,” called Cooper as he led her in. “It’s the new DS.”
“Cooper,” sighed Lestrade. “Pretend you have some manners and introduce us, yeah?”
Cooper pulled a face but turned to Lestrade and said, “Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade, this is Detective Sergeant Sally Donovan,” he turned to Sally. “Ditto, but backwards.”
Cooper walked away and Lestrade held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you Sally Donavan.” He couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face.
Sally took his hand but there was no recognition in her eyes. “Pleased to meet you too, Sir.”
Sherlock found the killer, of course he did, he always did. Sally and John fell out over comments Sally made that Sherlock utterly ignored. It made Lestrade want to sigh, Sally was still scared of things she couldn’t understand and she didn’t understand Sherlock at all, or John for that matter. Long after John and Sherlock had gone home Sally was still at her desk typing up paperwork. Cases that involved Sherlock always seemed to generate twice as much.
“Come on, Lady,” said Lestrade dropping her coat on her desk. “Home time.”
She looked up at him and smiled, not quite the beaming smile of the six year old Sally but it did make her look younger. It made him wish Sherlock and John could see it. The Lady had grown up so cross, he really wasn’t sure why.
“You know,” said Sally getting up and pulling her coat on. “You remind me of my Mum when you call me that.”