Greg knows the hug goes on for too long. Sherlock is clearly uncomfortable, of course he is, but Greg can’t make himself let go, afraid Sherlock might disappear in a puff of smoke. Sherlock clears his throat pointedly and Greg manages to unlatch his arms, back of his neck flushing slightly as he pulls away.
“Sorry,” Greg says, rubbing a hand over his hair.
“Yes, well,” Sherlock says, resettling that damn coat with a shrug of his shoulders. “That was not the reaction I was expecting.”
“Does John know?” Greg asks, stuffing his hands into his pockets to stop himself from grabbing at Sherlock again.
“He does,” Sherlock says, nodding sharply. “He didn’t quite react how I expected.”
“Did he punch you?” Greg asks, mouth flicking up into a brief smile. “Always thought he would.”
“His displeasure with my faked death was made painfully clear,” Sherlock says and, yes; Greg can see a shadow of bruising under his eyes, hear the slight nasal tones of a recently popped nose, see the split in his lip.
“Not sure how you convinced yourself he’d react any other way,” Greg says, shaking his head. “That was a shit thing you did.”
“It was necessary,” Sherlock says, looking uncomfortable. “To keep safe those few people I care about.”
“He’ll come round,” Greg says, reaching out and clapping Sherlock on the shoulder. “Though God knows he’d be in the right if he didn’t.”
Sherlock stares at Greg for a long moment, until Greg begins to feel that he might have missed something important, and Greg shifts from side to side, pulls the cigarette between his fingers and slides a thumb over the lighter.
“I thought you’d quit,” Sherlock observes as Greg puts the cigarette to his lips again. Greg looks sideways at him, sees nothing beyond idle curiosity in his eyes.
“Well,” he says, lowering his hand and flipping the cigarette through his fingers. “Didn’t have an interfering consultant bothering me about the habit any more.”
“Would you like one?” Sherlock asks, head tilted slightly down and away, eyes somewhere over Greg’s shoulder.
Greg stares at him; at the vulnerability in the exposed neck, at the way Sherlock can’t meet his eyes, at the stiffness of Sherlock’s arms by his sides. It’s costing him to ask instead of barging in and taking control and Greg wonders just how badly the reunion with John went.
“I’ll let you know if something comes up,” Greg says, dropping the cigarette and crushing it. He can already feel the emptiness of his pocket, where Sherlock has filched the packet, but he doesn’t let on, allowing Sherlock his moment.
Sherlock’s smile is quicksilver and familiar, only perhaps not as smug as it would’ve been the past. Greg kind of desperately wants to know what the hell he’s been up to, wonders if it has anything to do with the disruption of Moriarty’s alleged crime network (of course it does), wants to know if Sherlock’s changed at all.
“I’ll text you my new number,” Sherlock says. Greg doesn’t think he’s imagining the slight relaxation in Sherlock’s shoulders.
“By all means,” Greg says. “It’s not like mine’s changed.”
“You have a new phone though,” Sherlock says and Greg shoots him a look. His phone is in his back pocket.
“I do,” Greg acknowledges. “Present from Donovan, she got tired of my calls dropping.”
“Expensive present,” Sherlock says, raising an eyebrow.
“Not really,” Greg shrugs. It was her ex’s phone, before she took it as remuneration for things she wouldn’t disclose to her boss.
They stand for a moment of silence, the air awkward and heavy between them, and Greg desperately tries to think of something to say that doesn’t involve the feelings he’s trapped in his chest for (two) years. Sherlock shakes himself suddenly, pops the collar of his coat where Greg’s hug had pushed it down, and claps his hands together.
“I have other people to…inform,” Sherlock says, nodding to himself. “I’ll expect your call, Lestrade.”
He turns away, coat swirling about his legs, and Greg watches him walk away with something tight in his throat, unable to shake the feeling that Sherlock’s about to disappear again.
“Sherlock,” he calls after him and Sherlock pauses, half-turns back to him. “I’m glad you’re back.”
“I’m glad to be back,” Sherlock says over his shoulder. “Greg.”
Sherlock’s death had forced Greg to confront a lot of things he’d been ignoring for a long time. The worst time to realise that what you thought was exasperated fondness was actually something a lot deeper was during a phonecall informing you of someone’s death. He’d buried it, of course he had, because John was falling apart and someone had to make sure Moriarty’s bullshit was unravelled.
After Sherlock was buried Greg found himself standing outside the nearest pub. There was a list of SMART meetings in the notepad app on his aging phone. He hadn’t made the list, didn’t even know he had that app, but he had a feeling he knew who had. He turned away.
(He's a problem drinker, more than anything, likely to spend a crisis at the bottom of a bottle. It's probably a strange form of repayment – the meetings in his phone – for being one of few people willing to help Sherlock out of his own crises.)
My name is Greg, he’d said when he stood on shaking legs. And I just buried the most infuriating, astonishing and brilliant man I’ve ever known. And I loved him.
It was his secret, his and Clara and Michael and Mr Jones and Sarah and Tiny and Shahid’s, and that was the only time he ever said it out loud. He curled the feelings up, tighter and tighter, until they were small enough to fit into the space beneath his heart. And that’s where he left them.
“He looks good, don’t you think,” Greg wonders aloud. Molly drops one of her instruments with a clang.
“Who?” she asks, blinking wide eyes at him. She’s pretty, Molly, always has been and Greg wonders if he might’ve taken a punt if he was a few years younger. And if Sherlock didn’t exist.
“C’mon, Molly,” Greg says, leaning against the wall of the morgue. “You spent a day running around after him.”
“I was helping him,” Molly says shortly and Greg fights a wince back.
“Sorry,” he says, stepping forwards. “That wasn’t fair.”
“No, it wasn’t,” she says, frowning at him. “But I think I know why you said it. I’m over him, you know.”
“I don’t – that wasn’t –” Greg runs a hand over his hair. He sighs. “Am I obvious?”
“Only to people who know the signs,” Molly smiles sympathetically. “Is it new?”
“No,” Greg admits, letting his head fall back against the wall. “That’s the problem.”
“Oh, Inspector,” Molly walks over in her sensible shoes and her quiet gait, leans against the wall next to him. “You never said anything.”
“Never really knew what to say,” Greg shrugs. “I didn’t even realise until he was dead.”
“You’ve known him a long time,” Molly says, bumping her shoulder against his. “I guess nobody’s immune.”
“I was never immune,” Greg says, huffing out a laugh. “Just never realised he was more than something nice to look at. You know. To me.”
“You could just say something?” Molly says, looking up at him. Greg closes his eyes and shakes his head.
“After the way he treated you? No thanks,” Greg says, pauses. “No offence,” he adds.
“None taken,” Molly says and Greg can feel her shrug next to him, their arms rubbing together. “You shouldn’t get stuck on him.”
“I’m an old man, Molly,” Greg says, opening his eyes and looking back down at her. “I know how to deal with a crush.”
His phone rings in his pocket, probably Donovan chasing him up, and he pushes away from the wall. Molly turns back to her corpse and hums tunelessly under her breath as she starts work.
“Inspector,” she says as he reaches the door. He looks back. “He does look good. But so do you.”
Molly’s smile is sweet and a little wicked and Greg feels himself blush.
Every time Greg looks at Sherlock he sees layers – the young man out of his mind on drugs because of boredom, the genius who followed him about solving his crimes but wouldn't join the Met no matter the encouragement, the man who got him to quit smoking, the man who made his first friend many years too late, and so many more.
The feelings that he crushed beneath his heart have changed under the pressure, crystallised into something clear and bright, and Sherlock seamlessly sliding back into his life is making them hum inside his chest.
He fell for Sherlock's mind first and after a while his hazy, long dormant, half-thought-out bisexuality began to raise itself up again and take notice of the way Sherlock looked. Handsome in an odd way, a patchwork of features that shouldn't work together but do, and there's certainly a lot to be said about the way he folds his sharp angles into suits and long, sweeping coats.
He doesn't bother hiding the way his eyes linger, knowing Sherlock would ferret out any attempts, and leaves it up to Sherlock what happens next.
Greg leans up against the wall outside St. James’ station and waits for Sherlock to stop impressing the SO15 lads. John is rolling his eyes behind Sherlock’s back but Greg can tell he’s happy to be there.
Greg’s fingers automatically reach for a cigarette packet that isn’t there and he sighs, pulling his phone out instead – he has multiple messages from Anderson and a handful from Donovan. He’ll deal with Anderson later but he fires a quick response off to Donovan, confirming Sherlock and John are safe.
(She'd felt bad, after Sherlock’s apparent suicide, and had come into his office to apologise. She'd tried to resign, to suggest a transfer, and Greg wouldn’t have it, wouldn’t lose his best sergeant as well as a half-way decent forensic tech.)
Greg hates SO15 a little, flash bastards, but they’re good at what they do and soon Sherlock is debriefed and leaning against the wall beside him. John raises a hand in farewell and raises his phone to his ear, calling Mary, no doubt.
“Jealousy doesn't become you, Lestrade,” Sherlock says, tucking his chin down against his chest as a November breeze whips along the street.
“What've I got to be jealous about?” Greg asks, turning his head to look at Sherlock. Sherlock makes a scoffing noise.
“Please,” he says, gesturing to SO15 with a curt jab of his hand. “I could feel you staring a hole into the back of my head.”
“That wasn't what I was staring at,” Greg says, because if Sherlock is going to tease him he might as well be honest about the cause.
Sherlock blinks at him, momentarily startled, and Greg grins. He doesn't startle Sherlock nearly as often as he'd like to. God, he'd like to.
“Cat got your tongue?” Greg asks, letting the grin become something a little more smug.
“No,” Sherlock says, and there's an edge of petulance to his voice. “I had assumed you would never be so forthright about -”
“Fancying you?” Greg asks, shrugging. He presses his fingers into the wall behind him. “I'm old enough to not care what you think.”
“Not that old,” Sherlock says quietly. Greg looks at him sideways and would swear he can see things clicking around in Sherlock's head.
He starts when one of Sherlock's hands slides over his own, pulling his fingers away from the wall and tangling them in amongst Sherlock's.
“Would you like to hear what I think?” Sherlock asks, staring straight ahead. “I'm not always – John tells me I'm not good at this -”
“What, people?” Greg asks, jokes, because he's so far off his stride he doesn't know what else to do. Sherlock shoots him a sharp look, Greg thinks he sees a hint of amusement in his eyes.
“Yes, people,” Sherlock says, nods once. “But you were – you were one of three people Moriarty identified that mattered to me, and he was at least as observant as I am, and I've had two years to think about why.”
Sherlock goes quiet for so long that Greg thinks maybe that's it, that Sherlock isn't ready to finish the thought, and he squeezes Sherlock's hand in his, like that might encourage him. Sherlock steals a glance down at their entwined hands then looks up to meet Greg's eyes.
Sherlock leans in in a hesitant way, like someone unused to making any sort of intimate gesture, and Greg tilts his head enough to invite the movement, desperate not to spook him. Sherlock's eyes flutter closed a moment before his lips meet Greg's and Greg has a moment to wonder at that before the kiss registers, before he's moving his mouth against Sherlock's.
A small noise escapes Sherlock when Greg lifts his free hand and slides his fingers into Sherlock's hair, and his mouth opens for Greg to taste it. The kiss is warm and a little wet, Sherlock wonderfully unsure, but Greg can feel at least a little passion behind it, wonders how much passion Sherlock has trapped behind his ribs.
He presses their foreheads together when Sherlock breaks the kiss and Sherlock seems content to share breath until Greg can find his words again.
“Two years to figure that out?” Greg asks, nudging his nose against Sherlock's.
“Hardly,” Sherlock says, bringing a hand to briefly press his thumb to the crest of Greg's cheekbone. “It took me barely two hours. Unfortunately it was too late and I -”
“You didn't know, did you?” Greg asks, pulling back and trying not to smile. Sherlock's mouth is kiss-reddened and Greg did that.“Didn't know if I felt the same way.”
“Fair enough, I think,” Sherlock says, failing to pull quite all of his mask back on. “From what John's told me you didn't know either.”
Greg shakes his head, should've known John picked up enough of Sherlock's skills to notice way his voice shook over Sherlock's name those first few weeks, and steps back, their hands still linked.
“We're going to do this properly,” Greg says, squeezing Sherlock's hand again. “Dinner, even though you'll probably hate it, and then we'll figure this out. What we want.”
Sherlock steps forwards into his space and brushes their lips together in something chaste and oddly sweet.
“You have my number,” he says, leaning in to whisper warmly against Greg's ear.
Sherlock moves away, releases Greg's hand, and Greg misses the warmth of him instantly. He's been alone for too long not to crave touch.
“I'll call you,” Greg says, tracing the long lines of Sherlock with his eyes.
“I prefer text,” Sherlock says, and when Greg meets his eyes again there's something like pleasure there. “I will – look forward to it. Greg.”
“Me too, Sherlock,” Greg smiles, raises his hand in a vague wave. Sherlock looks at him, like he might be committing the shape of Greg to his memory, and Greg feels his skin flush hot under his clothes.
Sherlock nods and spins on his heel, coat flaring so dramatically that Greg's certain that it's deliberate, and Greg turns in the direction of his own tube station, hands tucked into his pockets. If he curls the one Sherlock had held just so, he can hold the memory of the touch against his palm.
At least he won't forget my name. He wonders if he could find the same meeting again, with the same people, he thinks they'd like to hear about this. How it's not a secret anymore.