Greg Lestrade had often said, only half-jokingly, that Sherlock Holmes would one day be the death of him. Turns out, the joke was on him: Sherlock was the one who died.
Greg hurt too damn much to be dead. It was the kind of suffering reserved for mortals whose coils had yet to be shuffled off, a festering wound that refused to heal. It was the phantom pain of an amputated limb, ever-present and raw; a constant reminder of loss.
Phantom pain. Yeah, Sherlock would haunt him, the insufferable bastard.
Served him right, Greg supposed. It was probably just deserts for allowing a sociopathic crime junkie/drug addict with an overblown ego to get under his skin and into his crime scenes. Served him right for thinking he could actually help anyone, much less someone as seriously brilliant and as seriously flawed as Sherlock.
Served him right for getting fucking emotionally involved, for God's sake.
Every Yarder worth his or her salt knew better than to let their emotions interfere with their work. A police detective saw the ugly side of humanity on a daily basis, the complete spectrum of the terrible, incomprehensible things people could do to each other. The ability to distance himself from his personal feelings was important if said detective was going to do his job effectively and keep his sanity in the bargain. Important? Hell, it was essential. At least, that was what all the training manuals said.
But Greg had joined the force because he had feelings: he felt deeply about the victims, about justice; about the spirit of the law, if not precisely the letter. Oh, he could fake detachment well enough, but underneath his façade of jaded indifference, he cared. He'd even harbored a secret conviction that he was a better cop because of it.
So, emotional distance be damned; he'd let himself become attached to, of all people, a man who was totally detached. Someone who lived only for the work, the intellectual puzzle, and didn't give a shit about actual human beings and their messy, irrelevant feelings. Or so Sherlock had claimed. Not that Greg bought into any of that rubbish, not for a second. He saw the potential and allowed himself to become invested, not just in the man Sherlock was, but also in the man Sherlock could be.
Just look what that got him.
Sherlock had been right all along: Greg was an idiot.
Now, there was nothing left for him to care about. His career was basically wrecked, and what else did he have, really? Just this slow, inexorable passage of time as he walked and breathed and lived a hollow life. The thought made Greg ache anew: the endless emptiness of the days ahead.
Not the death of me. The dying of me.
Still, Greg wouldn't.... He couldn't, even if no one would give a damn, one way or the other. His ex wouldn't, certainly. Probably not his colleagues either, most of whom had distanced themselves after his disgrace and kept their distance even after he'd been exonerated of any actionable wrongdoing. Apparently he would never be absolved from the sin of believing in Sherlock Holmes.
No, that wasn't quite true. John would care. John had forgiven him, the closest thing to a miracle Greg had ever witnessed. Though why he rated forgiveness was a mystery destined to remain unsolved. John hadn't even forgiven himself, guilt and regret etched plain in the man's face for all to see. Not that John had anything to feel guilty for, as far as Greg was concerned, but there it was. John Watson was that kind of a man; a good man, through and through. So different from Sherlock, and yet....
You could have been.
John wasn't the only one with regret weighing heavy in his bones.
Molly Hooper would care too, Greg supposed. She was a kind-hearted soul, if a bit flighty and nervous, and Greg had been genuinely touched by her quiet support during the weeks he'd been under fire. Since the... incident, she'd seemed consumed with worry for everyone involved, despite Greg's best efforts to convince her that he was fine, that John was fine, that Mrs Hudson was fine. Not that any of them was actually fine, of course, but he'd tried to get her to see that the worst was over. Molly had nodded and put a good face on, but the mask was brittle and clearly hovering on the precipice. If it fell, Greg feared it would shatter into countless irredeemable fragments.
Yet another failure, one more person he couldn't save.
"Damn you, Sherlock."
He'd said those words many times before, in exasperation or even outright anger, but never like this, with such bitterness that it burned like acid in his throat. Then again, he'd always said them straight to the man's face before. To his living, breathing face.
"Damn you to hell."
But Greg didn't really believe in eternal damnation, or heavenly salvation, for that matter. Sherlock was already dead. He was the one in hell, a hell of his own making: wondering just how it all went so bloody wrong, at the sheer senselessness of it all, and knowing he would never have the answers.
Greg's empty hands were clenched so tightly they ached. With an effort, he held them still at his sides, because slamming his fists into a cold slab of granite was beyond stupid, even if it would give him a reason to finally cry.
Broken knuckles. Broken spirit. Broken heart.
I... I'm sorry, sunshine.
Greg turned and walked away from the grave.