Lestrade never has children. Instead, he has Sherlock.
If he stops and thinks about, which he normally doesn't, Greg supposes that at one point he'd had vague visions of a future that involved children. Then again he'd had visions of a future that involved a happy marriage and look how that had turned out.
He's never minded. His job keeps him busy, more than busy, and he hates the idea of being one of those parents who never has enough time for their children. It's better this way.
Greg's got a sister, Laura, with two little girls. Charlotte and Katherine are absolute joys. Their father left when Katherine was three so he's always made a special point to be in their lives. He has enough time to spend with his nieces and be a good uncle while still working close to sixty hours a week. It perfect. Laura lives an hour away but he tries to call regularly, talking to the girls before bed and then his sister, and they always spend the holidays together.
It's wonderful watching them grow into themselves – Charlotte always begs for gritty police stories much to her mother's dismay and Katherine's adamant about her future as a warrior princess (one of the many joys of being five – warrior princess still feels like a reasonable career goal) – and Greg finds that he doesn't need, or want, more. He's perfectly content listening to Charlotte relate her latest football match, or smiling at nothing in particular in his kitchen as Katherine sings him the alphabet for the very first time.
One year Char's team makes it all the way to the league finals. He drives down for the match and cheers as loud as any of the parents when her team wins. A few days later he frames the picture Laura had given him for his desk at work. In it Katherine's in her princess outfit holding a plastic sword, Char's holding her trophy and covered in grass stains, and Greg's between them, an arm around each girl, pulling them close.
It's easily his favorite picture.
Lestrade is thirty-seven and been a DI for less than four months when he first meets Sherlock. They meet, of course, at a crime scene.
Sherlock is twenty-five, far too skinny, and immediately both an annoyance and a Godsend.
It's mid July and London is sweltering. The victim – male, 19, died from multiple stab wounds to the chest, wallet still on him but ID missing – was killed overnight meaning that by the time anyone reported anything the body had been there for hours. Now, in the midday sun, it's quickly becoming unbearable. The stench is awful and Lestrade does not envy Anderson having to muck about the corpse. Sally's just finishing interviewing the witness who called the body in and Lestrade's ready to head back to the office. They've got nothing to go on yet, they haven't even managed to identify the poor bastard, and he's had more than his liking of bloated corpses for the day.
He's just finished telling Anderson that he's heading back when Sherlock walks by. He stops, which isn't unusual – people do love a crime scene however disgusting – but then he speaks to Lestrade and that's definitely unusual. “You're looking for a family member!” He calls and then turns and starts walking away.
“Donovan,” he's trying to keep an eye on the quickly retreating kid and take care of his team at the same time. “Help Anderson make sure the body gets loaded up all right, and then you two head on back to the Yard. I'll meet you there in a bit.”
By the time she says, “No problem, sir,” Lestrade is already ducking under the yellow tape to go after the man.
He finds him two blocks away smoking a cigarette and leaning against a wall. His shirt sleeves are rolled up part way, a concession, Lestrade assumes, to the heat, but he otherwise looks indifferent to the temperature.
“I'm Detective Inspector Lestrade,” he says, feeling the urge to fish out a cigarette of his own. He told the girls he'll try to quit though so instead he holds out a hand because he was raised with manners.
“Sherlock Holmes,” is the quiet reply. The man isn't even looking at Greg for Christ's sake even as they shake hands. “And, like I said, you're looking for a family member.” He takes a drag, clearly relishing it and Greg is grateful he doesn't have any on him. “Probably a nuclear one but aunts, uncles, and cousins ought to be considered as well.”
“And you know this how exactly?” He tries to refrain from rolling his eyes, he really does.
For the first, but most certainly not last, time Sherlock gives him his must you be so dense? look. God help him but he finds it a bit endearing. “I observed it.” The stress on 'observed' is definitely not meant to be taken as a compliment. Lestrade doesn't care. There's a dead kid being carted off to the morgue right now and Greg is going to find his killer. As soon as he figures out what the hell this bloke's deal is.
“ Okay then, right, of course you did. Do you mind telling me exactly what it is that you observed?” Chances are he's just talking to a very well dressed madman (is he wearing bloody silk? ) and nothing he says will be helpful, but Lestrade pulls his notebook out anyways.
“Well for starters look at how they laid the body out, all folded and gentled as if he were asleep or in a coffin. They even straightened his clothing. Someone stabbed him to death, watched him bleed out in a dirty alleyway, and then arranged the body that way? It's got to be a family member or someone similarly close to him. No one who hated him would have bothered and a mugger who'd let things get out of control simply would have run. And then there's the injuries themselves. He has some defensive wounds but his face is complete untouched, they didn't want to mar it because...”
The next twenty minutes that pass are some of the most confusing he's ever had but Lestrade writes down everything Sherlock says, interrupting every few minutes to have something explained more thoroughly. “So you see,” Sherlock finishes, glaring in a way that suggests Lestrade should keep his mouth shut if he wants any more information, “It was a family member. My guess would be on the mother – men are statistically more likely to murder someone than women are – but this speaks of too personal, too gentle, a lifetime of looking after that can't be stopped. Females are also more likely to kill their offspring than males. Of course if the victim had a stay at home father, statistically unlikely but possible, he's the best guess for the killer. Otherwise, look at the mother. I'm sure you'll check them all to be thorough of course.”
Sherlock takes one final drag on his cigarette (the third one since Lestrade caught up with him) and then grinds it out with his heel. “Here,” he says throwing a folded piece of paper at Lestrade who just catches it. “Text me when you find out I'm right.”
And then he's gone.
He's right. About everything.
Lestrade sits as his desk the day after they make the arrest – and God a mother killing her own son over a bloody box of rare comic books what is the world coming to ? – looking at the scrap of paper. Sherlock Holmes it reads, (and what kind of name is that anyways?) followed by a phone number. He debates with himself for ages before finally sending the text.
It was the mother – Lestrade
Less than a minute later he gets a reply.
Of course it was. Boring. – SH
Boring. The man solved an entire murder from a passing glance and he calls it boring. Who the hell is this guy? Lestrade intends to find out.
How about meeting me tonight? I get off at six and I have some questions.
I suppose – SH
Lestrade texts back the address of a diner that's close to the Yard and then gets on with his day. Unfortunately his day is mostly paperwork. Lots of paperwork.
As he leaves the office that night Greg's aware that it's the first time he's gone home before sundown in weeks. Sally raises her eyebrows but he just nods and tells her to go home as well. She's a good officer but Lestrade doesn't want to see her turning into him and living at the Yard. Not this young at least.
Sherlock's leaning against a wall waiting when Lestrade gets there. He's watching pedestrians with an intensity that Lestrade usually doesn't see outside of an interrogation room. “Sherlock,” he nods, coming to stand next to the younger man.
“Detective Inspector.” Sherlock doesn't take his eyes off of a bald man walking by. “Heart condition,” he mutters seemingly to himself as the man turns the corner out of sight. “Well, you wanted to meet here, I assume we're going inside?”
They're seated and Lestrade takes a good look at the man sitting across the table from him. He's ignoring the menu completely in favor of watching the other costumers. He can't be too old, just out of Uni by the looks of him, all pale skin and wild curls and angles he's almost grown into, and, as Lestrade noticed the first time, he's skinny as a beggar.
“You were wondering how old I am, I'm twenty-five. But I left Oxford at twenty.”
Lestrade's saved by answering when a waitress comes to take their order. Greg's use to the lunch shift and nearly calls the poor girl Emily by mistake. Sherlock originally declines to place an order but Greg is persistent. “You helped us solve a crime in two days that would have taken weeks otherwise, the least I can do is buy you dinner. Christ knows you could stand to eat a bit.” Sherlock glares at him but orders the chicken Alfredo which is enough for him.
“ You eat lunch here often.” It's not a question. Lestrade's surprise must register on his face because Sherlock rolls his eyes and puts his elbows on the table, fingers steepled under his chin and regards him thoughtfully. “You didn't even bother to look at the menu, clearly placing your regular order then. But not at this time of day, no, you come during your lunch break on the days you actually bother to eat lunch instead of working through it. You nearly called our waitress by a different name but you didn't look surprised when you realized it wasn't her, no, you looked like you were shaking yourself mentally, like you should have known it wouldn't be her. Hence, the lunch shift. Simple.”
“How do you do that?” He has to know. Christ if he had a few officers like that. . .
“ I observe . If people would just bother to pay attention instead of staring stupidly like a herd of cows, but no, everyone would rather just gape.” Clearly Lestrade has hit on a long held annoyance.
“What else can you observe then?” He asks as their food arrives, and Christ but he's ravenous.
Sherlock takes a bite of his pasta – for a man who wasn't hungry he certainly looks happy enough to have food in front of him – and studies Greg for a moment. Greg continues to eat refusing to let himself feel intimidated. He's stood face to face with actual serial killers after all.
“ I know that you're trying to quit smoking even though it wasn't your idea.” Lestrade raises an eyebrow. “You can't stop letting your eyes drift whenever you see me smoking but you never ask for one. You don't even carry them on you. You’re tempted but something's stopping you. I'm sure you're on the patch or something similar so you're not aching for a nicotine fix, but your fingers twitch for one constantly.” His eyes flick to Lestrade's fingers wrapped around his coffee cup. “Still have faint nicotine stains on yours fingers, so you've stopped within the past week or so, ten days at most. But why ?”
Lestrade stays silent as Sherlock's eyes flick to his empty left ring finger and back. “A child perhaps? Yes, it's that but not your child, you don't have any. Nieces or nephews then, most likely nieces, on your side of the family. They're quite right to ask Detective Inspector, a man with your job and stress level. You're already at a heightened risk for heart disease and early death, no reason to hurry it along though I suppose the temporary benefits seemed to outweigh the risk when you started.”
“Says the twenty-five year old smoker?”
Sherlock's grin is all sharp edges. “I just don't plan to live that long, Inspector. I doubt I have much to worry about from lung cancer.” Well. Isn't that cheery.
“Is that all then?” Blimey.
He shakes his head, expression going serious again. “I can tell that you just made DI, what, two months ago now? No,” Sherlock tilts his head, looking not unlike a cat and smiles suddenly. “No, it was three months ago. You found out about the affair two months ago, doubtless your wife blamed that on the promotion though it'd been going on for at least six months before you were aware of it.” Lestrade almost chokes on a bite of his sandwich.
“ What did you say?” Lestrade manages once he's no longer in danger of death by club sandwich.
The self-satisfied look on Sherlock's face is itching to be slapped off but he just takes a drink of his coffee instead. “The affair. You found out about it two months ago, but not because she told you.” He studies Greg's face as if the answer is written there. Greg starts to wonder what he's opened himself up to. “Oh.” The younger man says softly, eyes widening. “ Oh , that must have hurt. You tried to surprise her to apologize for having to work such long hours. Waited for her outside of her yoga class and when she never emerged you went looking and found her with the instructor.
“That's not even the worst part though.” His eyes narrows and Lestrade finally lowers his gaze, concentrating instead on his dinner. “You wanted to work things out. I'll give it to you, Lestrade, you do have an impressive guilt complex. So you offered to give her a second chance and she didn't even want it. Not much of a fight to be had, you signed the divorce papers and let yourself be smothered in work even more than usual. I'm sure you keep your ring hidden away at home though.” Sherlock's mouth twists into a look of distaste. “Sentiment.” Then his eyes lit up, “I can also tell you – ”
“Right,” Lestrade interrupts. “That's enough. Christ I'm sorry I asked.” He shakes his head trying to let go of the swell of anger he feels at Sherlock, his ex-wife, and himself. “So,” Greg desperately wants to change the subject, “What exactly do you do all day? Other than trying to persuade the nearest person to punch you.”
“I'm a Consulting Detective.” Sherlock tells him, drawing himself up.
Greg raises an eyebrow. “Never heard of it. What's that?”
“Of course you haven't. I'm the only one in the world, I invented the job myself.” No one should sound that smug about anything Lestrade decides. “As for what it is, I should think it's rather self-evident.”
“A private eye then.”
Sherlock snorts into his dinner. “No, God, how pedestrian. I have private clients occasionally of course, but I'm more interested in assisting the police when they're challenged beyond their abilities.” The look he gives Greg speaks for just how often he thinks that's the case.
“Right, and what if we don't need you?” Which they don't. Greg is proud of his team, they do good work and they help make London safer. God, this kid.
“Oh, you do.” Sherlock stands up, already pulling a cigarette out of his case. “Text me when you realize that too.”
And then he's gone and Lestrade's left staring at the table confused and intrigued all at once. He doesn't know if he wants to find Sherlock and punch him, shake him, or buy him a book of etiquette. Well, at least it was interesting.
It's not even seven thirty, he could probably get some more work done at the office tonight. . .
God help him. Lestrade needs Sherlock's help.
Two weeks later and he's standing around another body, this time in an ice locker. Nothing out of the usual there, he is a homicide detective after all. However his corpses usually have, if not their ID's, their fingers. Or their faces. The bastards even shaved her head and took her kneecaps for some insane reason.
Four days later he's no closer to figuring out what happened then he was standing over that body. Anderson got nothing off the body, no witnesses, the people at the meat packing plant she was found at have no idea who she is or how she got there and they still don't know her name. Not to mention that all the CCTV footage surrounding the building was wiped. As was the footage from inside. He's lost.
I've got a murder that makes no sense. Feel like taking a look?
Lestrade closes his eyes as he hits send . He's going to regret this, there's no other way for this to turn out, but that girl deserves a name at the very least. If Sherlock can help him with that Greg's willing to bite the bullet so to speak.
It would have helped if you had contacted me four days ago when she was murdered. I'll need to see the body. Meet me at the morgue in 20 minutes – SH
Greg bites back a sigh as he leaves his office. You're getting that girl the justice she deserves, he reminds himself as he tells Sally he'll be out of the office for a while.
He solves it of course.
Sherlock sniffs around the body for a few minutes – probably scarring the poor morgue tech, a lovely if somewhat mousey girl named Molly, for life – and determines the victim was the recipient of black market knee replacements. Ones that she apparently couldn't pay for. Christ, what people will do to each other.
Unusual need for a girl so young, but helpful in finding out who she was. Once they put the information Sherlock gives them, along with their own knowledge (mostly just her age), into the NHS search system they narrow the victim's identity down to three young women rather quickly. None of them look like her but that's hardly surprising considering her face and hair are gone, probably forever. Two phone calls later Greg is telling the parents of (a brunette) Nicole Hallow, twenty-two, a recent Cambridge graduate, that their daughter is lying in the morgue at St. Bart's.
Over the next three days Sherlock helps them find and put an end to the largest underground organ transplant smuggling ring Lestrade has ever even heard of.
So it turns out Sherlock has his uses after all. Unfortunately utilizing them means spending three days listening to Donovan, Anderson, and Sherlock act like particularly vicious 9-year-olds whenever they're near each other. Greg gets through it with a lot of aspirin and constant mental reminders that the outcome is worth it. And it is. Even if he knows far more about his officer's personal lives than he ever wanted to.
Two days after they wrap up the smuggling case Greg gets a call from the Powers That Be telling him he's to present himself to Diogenes Club for lunch. The voice on the phone tells him a car will pick him up at the Yard. He'd rather drive himself but Greg has only ever heard of the Diogenes Club and he doesn't fancy asking for directions.
When he gets there he's directed to a small study. The furniture alone probably costs a years worth of Greg's salary but he refuses to be intimidated. Well, he refuses to let it show.
Ten minutes later when a tall well dressed man walks through the door Greg remains seated but he does hold his hand out. He waits as the man settles himself behind the desk and fixes him with a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. “Detective Inspector Lestrade, a pleasure to meet you. I must say you have quite the impressive record.”
“I'd say the same but we haven't been introduced.” He says flatly.
Something flashes in his eyes but the smile is back almost immediately. “Of course, of course,” he opens a file on his desk. Greg has a feeling it's his. Well that's just fine, he's proud of his service record. “My name is Mycroft Holmes, I believe you met my younger brother, Sherlock, recently?” Lestrade just manages to bite back a groan. Of course this crazy man is related to Sherlock. It makes perfect sense.
“Yes,” is what he says instead. “Sherlock's been helping us with some of our cases.”
“I'm aware. It seems like a mutually beneficial arrangement, I do hope it will continue to grow.”
“If we need him.” Lestrade agrees.
“ Oh, I'm sure you'll find some use for him.” Mycroft says with a wave of hand that should probably feel casual but instead seems to Lestrade to say that he'll find a reason for the Yard to use him if he has to. Even if Mycroft has to make one. Christ, as if Greg doesn't have enough on his plate.
“Now, I have a proposition for you. You're a fine officer Detective Inspector, very dedicated to you work. I can appreciate that in a man.” Oh Greg bets he can. “As I'm sure you can imagine, I worry constantly about Sherlock. He does have a tendency to get into trouble, very inquisitive, always has been. Unfortunately brotherly tensions keep up from being as close as I would like and that makes it rather difficult to keep track of Sherlock at times. I'd be happy to put in a good word for you at the Yard, help keep your career moving along so to speak, if you would agree to let me know how Sherlock is doing. I do worry as I said, and it would be such a comfort to know that he's doing well. I wouldn't ask you to pry of course, just let me know how he is when you see him, nothing that would make you feel as if you're going behind his back.”
“Except for the bit where I'd be going behind his back.” Lestrade points out. He doesn't like this at all. And he definitely doesn't need any help with his career thank you very much. Greg gets by on hard work and that's more than enough for him. “I'm happy to have your brother help us out on cases when we need him, but I won't play spy for you. Now, if you'd excuse me, I do need to get back to the office. Murders to catch and all that.”
Mycroft – and God what were their parents thinking when they named their kids? – fixes Lestrade with an unnerving look but he refuses to back down. Greg catches criminals every day he can take a bit of staring. After a few minutes Mycroft simply nods and a young woman with a blackberry walks in to tell Greg the car will take him back to work.
It's not the last time he sees Mycroft by a long shot and, while he quickly realizes they share a common interest in protecting Sherlock, time never manages to make Greg feel completely at ease with him.
They've been working together for a few months when Sherlock disappears.
At first he doesn't worry, Sherlock sometimes ignores Greg's texts if he thinks the case being offered is too boring. But then they get a string of murders where all of the victim's heads are shaved after death and one arm painted gold. Greg has no idea what to make of it and texts Sherlock. He never replies.
Finally Greg gives into his worry and makes the trip to Sherlock's flat. He's only ever been there a few times when he needed Sherlock now but it's much as he remembers. There are papers everywhere, stacks of books, and a map of London crisscrossed with bits of red yarn. There is not, however, a Consulting Detective anywhere to be found. Greg tells himself not to worry and focus on work. He focuses on work, but the worry never leaves.
A week after that Greg's working late one night when he gets a text from Sherlock.
My brother kidnapped me. Next time you're in my flat don't disturb the papers I'll have to reorganize them now – SH
Greg breathes a sigh of relief that he hadn't managed to get himself killed somehow and taps out Glad you're alive. Next time give us a bit of a heads up?
Did you solve that case with the shaved heads? I've got some ideas – SH
He shakes his head and laughs, glad the rest of the team has gone home, and tells Sherlock to come on down. It's going to be a long night, he may as well let the younger man have a crack at it.
A little over a month after Sherlock reappears on the face of the Earth, Christmas comes rolling around. It brings with it a fierce cold front that leaves all of London shivering and turning up their heaters. Greg is not at all surprised to find himself standing in an alley over a dead woman's body three days before Christmas freezing to death.
“ Well, it's obviously a hate crime,” Anderson says pulling his gloves off with a snap as he approaches Greg and Sherlock. “Guess we don't need you, crazy.” He sneers at Sherlock who had been waiting with surprising patience to examine the scene.
Before Greg can formulate any sort of reply Sherlock's tearing Anderson apart. “Oh, brilliant work, I see why the Yard was doing so well before I came along. You looked at two pieces of evidence and based your entire conclusion off of them ignoring anything that didn't fit your theory. Wonderful work.” Anderson starts to splutter but Sherlock ignores him.
“This isn't a hate crime, Anderson, you idiot. Stop speaking, your voice isn't conducive to thinking. Or any sort of higher brain function.” Sherlock pulls his own gloves on and starts circling the body. Within a few seconds he's speaking again.
“The victim was likely gay going by the pride bracelet around her wrist and the dental dams in her purse. However she was not the victim of a hate crime. She was stabbed to death meaning her attacker was close to her and yet there are no defensive wounds. That would indicate that she knew and trusted her attacker.”
He kneels down, fingers hovering over the crude 'DYKE' carved into her abdomen. “This was carved post-mortem, another strike against your brilliant theory, Anderson. If this was a hate crime they would have done it while she was alive – a warning to others, a punishment for her. You'll also notice that she's shirtless which seems an unlikely way for a woman to leave the house considering the high today was negative twelve. Then there's the lack of blood which would suggest she was killed elsewhere. Are you proposing there's some sort of anti-gay torture chamber hidden somewhere nearby, Anderson?
“And look,” Lestrade leans closer and sees what Sherlock's pointing at. The victim's jeans are buttoned but not zipped. Sherlock undoes the button and starts pulling them down ignoring Anderson's snort of disgust. Lestrade just refrains from telling his own officer to stuff it. After a moment Sherlock stands up, seemingly satisfied. “Judging by the state of her underwear and the flakes of skin under her nails the victim likely had sex recently with her girlfriend who she was cheating on. She calls out her lover's name instead of her girlfriend, which sends her girlfriend into a rage. She's killed and then her body dumped.” He checks his watch. “If you hurry you'll probably find murderer cleaning her blood off the walls still.”
“Get on it,” Lestrade tells him team giving Sally a curt nod. Behind him Sherlock sighs. Apparently the case wasn't as interesting as he had hoped.
“You got any plans for Christmas?” He asks amicably as his team gets moving.
Sherlock shoots him a look but answers, “Mycroft wants me to come back to Mummy's but surprisingly I don't feel like attending another family Christmas dinner.” Greg gives a low whistle, the mental images are truly awful. “Crime will be predictably low as usual for the holidays so I'll be running a few experiments.”
Lestrade blinks. That sounds bloody lonely if you ask him. Laura and the girls are coming up for Christmas (he's got plenty of room in the flat now) and he can't even imagine Sherlock around a child but all the same he hears himself say, “You should come to my place.” Sherlock blinks at him looking genuinely surprised.
“Really,” he urges, suddenly taken with the idea. “My sister and her daughters are coming up, but there's plenty of room. Come for dinner Christmas Eve, stay the night. Better than sitting on your own the whole bloody time. I'm sure thing will stay quiet for a day or two after Boxing Day, plenty of time to do your experiments then.”
“I – that's – yes,” Sherlock says, looking surprised with himself. “Alright. What time?”
“Well, we're going to the church service at five and then dinner around seven. You're welcome to just come to dinner if you like.”
“We'll see,” is all Sherlock says before he turns and walks away. Watching him turn a corner, Lestrade realizes this means he needs to find Sherlock a gift. Shit. More shopping.
Surprised would be an understatement to describe how he feels when he opens his door at a quarter to five on Christmas Eve and sees Sherlock standing there. “What?” Sherlock says raising his eyebrows. “Hymnal music can be quite beautiful even if the ideas it describes and support are frankly ludicrous at best.”
“Right.” Is all Greg manages in response. “Come in,” he says a second later, shaking his head. “We're just about ready to go. Laura's just putting Katherine's hair in order and then we'll be on our way.” Sherlock steps into the hall just as Char comes running up, her Christmas dress swinging at her tight-clad knees.
“Char, this is Mr. Sherlock Holmes, he works with me. Sherlock, this is my niece Charlotte. She's eight.” Sherlock shoots him a look that says quite clearly he can deduce the ages of children for himself thank you.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Holmes.” Charlotte says politely, beaming when Greg gives her a proud nod.
“You can call me Sherlock,” he corrects, with rather less bite than usual. “You play football then?”
Charlotte eyes grow wide as saucers. “How did you know? Did Uncle Greg tell you?”
“No,” Sherlock says. “I can see a bruise on your shin through your tights and you have very strong legs for a girl your age.” He flicks a glance at Lestrade. “Your Uncle also has a picture of you in a uniform on his desk.”
Before Charlotte can ask any more questions Laura comes into the hall with Katherine, already bundled up, on her hip. “Charlotte dear, put your coat on so we can leave. Oh,” she smiles, seeing Sherlock standing by the door. “Hello! You must be Sherlock, I'm Laura. Greg said you'd be joining us.” Greg hasn't told his sister much about Sherlock other than that he sometimes assists the Yard mostly because Sherlock is impossible to describe. He watches Sherlock look at her empty ring finger and is beyond relieved when he stays quiet.
“Lestrade was kind enough to extend an invitation a few days ago,” is all Sherlock says and then they're in the car (Sherlock plopped between the girls) and on their way to church.
Greg would be lying if he said he hadn't been a little worried about how Sherlock would handle his nieces. He seems fine however, a little wary at most, and the girls are obviously taken with him.
Sherlock sits quietly through the entire service, singing during the hymns, and keeping blessedly silent when they recount the story of Christmas. He even lets Katherine climb into his lap when she gets restless and bored of sitting with her mother halfway through the service. He covers her with his coat when she complains of being cold in the closest thing to a whisper a five-year-old can manage. If they weren't in church Greg would take a picture of the serious expression on Sherlock's face as he carefully tucks the coat in around her as if she's in danger of freezing to death.
At dinner the girls, especially Charlotte, are full of questions for him. “Are you a police officer like Uncle Greg?” She asks, flushing with excitement.
“No,” Sherlock tells her without his customary scorn. “I'm a Consulting Detective. I assist the police when they need help solving crimes.”
“Awesome,” she breathes with the awe only an eight-year-old can put into the word. “I'm going to be a police officer when I grow up!” She declares proudly.
“ Well, I hope you're very smart.” Sherlock says, “God knows Scotland Yard needs intelligent people,” he shoots Lestrade a look that couldn't scream Unlike Anderson any more if it tried. Greg tries not to laugh.
“I am!” She says without a trace of modesty. “How did you get good at solving crimes?”
Sherlock takes one look at the horrified look on Laura's face and changes whatever he was about to say to, “I studied a lot of science and ready books on criminology. Just do well in your science classes, especially chemistry. Though I suppose you're never too young to start reading about famous criminals...” he trails off and Greg swallows a sigh. Really, could he ask for any more? Sherlock's being surprisingly well behaved.
“What did you ask Santa to bring you for Christmas?” Katherine asks tugging on Sherlock's sleeve. Greg pauses, silently praying Sherlock doesn't ruin Father Christmas for his nieces.
“I didn't ask for anything.” Sherlock says evasively.
Katherine all but goggles at him. “Don't you want anything for Christmas?” She demands, aghast.
“A chemistry set.” Sherlock answers grinning. More like some human remains from Molly. “But I daresay I may get it anyways.”
They manage to get the kids to bed without anyone ending up in hysterics and it's honestly more than Greg had dared to hope for.
Christmas morning starts early, as it always does with children under ten, and by six-thirty they're all gathered around the tree. The girls are all but bouncing in their excitement, Greg and Laura are sipping their tea gratefully, and he's pretty sure Sherlock didn't actually go to sleep last night.
When both the girls are busy opening presents and Laura's taking pictures, Greg slips a wrapped box into Sherlock's lap. “Merry Christmas,” he says with a grin and then busies himself with getting more tea.
By the time he sits back down Sherlock is holding his scarf, now unwrapped, in his hands. “I'd hate for you to freeze to death in that drafty old flat of yours,” he says as Sherlock continues to inspect his gift.
“Thank you.” Sherlock says in an odd, quiet, sort of voice. It occurs quite suddenly to Greg that he hadn't been expecting any gift at all.
“Of course,” he says just as quietly.
It isn't until later, when everyone has left, that Greg goes into his bedroom. Sitting on his bed is a watch. The exact replica of the one that had broken a few weeks back when a criminal he and Sherlock were chasing threw a rock at Lestrade's head. Bringing his hand up had saved his face but ruined his watch.
Vaguely he recalls Sherlock claiming he needed to use the loo soon after they finished opening presents.
He never formally says thank you, but he catches Sherlock grinning at the sight of it on his wrist the next time he's called to a crime scene.
Sherlock refuses to tell Lestrade where exactly his brother took him, but over the next few months he figures it out on his own.
The first time Sherlock shows up to a crime scene high they've been working together for nearly a year and Lestrade bites his tongue. He solves their case in fifteen minutes and leaves before Lestrade can corner him.
The second time Greg manages to confront him only to be blown off and insulted.
The third time even Anderson can sense something's off and Greg has visions of the mess he'll find himself in if anyone realizes the truth.
The fourth time, he puts his foot down.
“Listen, I don't know what the hell you think you’re doing but this has got to stop.” Lestrade hisses, pinning Sherlock to a wall. He's sent everyone back to the Yard hoping to avoid a bigger scene than necessary. “Do you have any idea what would happen if someone else figured out that you were coming to crime scenes high? Do you?”
Sherlock struggles against Lestrade's grip but it's all a bit pathetic really. He's lost weight and the bags around his eyes suggest he's given up on sleep completely. He's sweating more than the early September day calls for and looks like he may pass out or be sick at any moment. Watching such an incredible mind tear itself apart is making Greg feel physically ill and he's going to put a stop to it.
“Oh and you'd hate that wouldn't you, Lestrade?” Sherlock spits out narrowing his eyes. Greg takes a deep breath and refuses to let himself be baited in the coming moments. Sherlock needs help and Lestrade isn't going to give up on him just because he acts like a prick most of the time. “What would you do if I wasn't here to bump up your case closed record for you? It's amazing they even gave you a warrant card. You're useless without me and your team's even worse.”
“I did manage to make DI without you.” Lestrade says mildly.
“Yes at the expense of any personal happiness. You must love this job if it's worth being completely alone, no wonder your wife let you, you were an even worse husband than you are DI and that's saying something.” Greg takes another deep breath and reminds himself of the promise he made with himself months ago not to hit Sherlock. That promise, along with the whole host moral issues that come with punching a man whose high off his mind, are the only things that keep Greg from doing something he'll definitely end up regretting.
“I'm still solving all of your cases.” Sherlock sneers. “What I do with the rest of my life is none of your damn business so get away from me.”
“Right. No. You're coming with me.”
Sherlock laughs. “Really Lestrade? You're going to arrest me? I won't even be in a cell overnight, you've met my brother.”
“I'm not arresting you, you giant arsehole,” and God the havoc he can imagine Sherlock causing in temporary holding doesn't bear thinking, “I'm taking you back to mine. Well,” Lestrade amends, “First we're going to your flat and I'm going to get rid of every drug in there. Then you're coming home with me and drying out. Get ready for an unpleasant few weeks.”
“ What do you care ?” Sherlock demands starting to struggle again. “I'm solving your bloody crimes so just leave me the fuck alone!”
“I care because I'm not about to watch the most brilliant kid I've ever met throw his life away on cocaine! Christ, lad, is it that hard to imagine that I might be interested in you as more than a crime solving machine? I haven't bloody well spent more than a fucking year letting you abuse my team and dredge up every unpleasant aspect of my personal life just for work. You need this to keep you busy just as much as I need your help to put people behind bars. But there's a good person somewhere inside that fucked up head of yours and I'd like you to live long enough to find him for yourself.”
Greg gives him a little shake. “So. You have two options. Either you can do what I tell you and come home with me and get sober, or you can stay the fuck away from my crime scenes. I don't care who your brother is I'll arrest you if I catch you high again. I won't exchange catching criminals for your life. I'm not joking Sherlock. You're so bloody good at reading people, well read me. I'm not going to let you do this to yourself.”
It's painful to see how surprised Sherlock is that someone actually cares about him for more than his brain. Lestrade stays quiet letting him work his way through it and sighs with relief when Sherlock nods his head. “Good. Let's go to your flat then. And don't you dare hide anything from me, I'll get a bloody sniffer dog in there if I have to.”
The next two weeks quickly become a personal hell for Greg and Sherlock.
For the first few days Sherlock is merely unpleasant. Greg quickly resigns himself to being insulted every time he so much as looks in the younger mans direction and instead focuses on trying to convince Sherlock to eat. His always questionable weight seems to be getting dangerously low. It works for a day or two and then the withdrawals really begin to hit and Sherlock can't keep anything but toast and tea down and even those come back up as often as they don't.
Nights are the worst. Sherlock is not only sick, he has terrible nightmares – about what he never says but it doesn't matter, really – and Lestrade desperately wishes there was a way for him to make them stop.
The first night it happens (the third day that Sherlock's been staying with him) Greg has just fallen asleep when he hears the rough cries. He makes his way to the sofa where Sherlock's twitching form is just visible under a mound of blankets. Sherlock wakes up with a snarl, pushing away from Greg's steady hand and into a corner of the couch. “I'm fine .” He spits out looking horribly lost and lonely and all of ten-years-old.
“I know you are, lad.” Greg assures him, resisting the urge to cup his cheek. “I couldn't sleep is all, thought I might have a bit of tea out here, try and relax, you know? Go back to sleep.” It's a pathetically flimsy lie but he commits himself to it anyways. Sherlock watches with wary eyes as Greg pads into the kitchen to make tea. When it's ready Greg's surprised to find that Sherlock has budged down, somehow managing to curl into an even tighter ball, and there's clear a space for Greg right next to his head. Greg plants himself onto the sofa and pretends to read. Sherlock's eyes are closed but the tension in his shoulders betrays him. Eventually though Sherlock relaxes, falling into a fitful doze.
Greg sits a while longer and his heart aches as a sleeping Sherlock curls up against him, his fingers curling around Lestrade's pajama clad knee. Hesitantly he beings to card his fingers through the wild curls. In his sleep, Sherlock sighs deeply and relaxes even more.
It only takes three more nights for Lestrade to train himself to wake at the smallest whimper.
It only take Sherlock one more round of nightmares to decide letting Greg touch and soothe him afterward is a 'mutually beneficial arrangement.' Lestrade doesn't think he's ever met anyone so in need of a hug.
Even wracked with pain it's obvious that Sherlock can't stand having nothing to do. He takes to making wild deductions based off patterns on the ceiling as well as disturbingly accurate assessments about Greg's sexual preferences using his bloody kitchenware as evidence, and so Lestrade, in a desperate bid of self-preservation as well as a plan to keep Sherlock clean and relatively sane, takes to bringing cold cases home with him at the end of the day. He sits on the sofa evening after evening, Sherlock's shivering, miserable form in his lap, and reads the files out loud. Greg isn't all that surprised when Sherlock manages to solve seventy percent of them without asking to look at any of the evidence.
Sometimes though it's just too much and even the lure of a cold case can't distract Sherlock from the pain that seems to be burning through his body, setting his nerves on fire.
The first weekend Sherlock stays with Greg is like that. Sherlock's been awake since Friday afternoon and Greg's been sitting up with him since the early morning hours Saturday, trying to get Sherlock to drink small bits of tea and water. Lestrade manages to get half a biscuit in him before Sherlock turns an awful shade of grey and he relents for the time being. Sherlock lies, head in Greg's lap as is starting to feel normal, and whimpers trying so hard to quiet himself, his mouth buried in his arm. “Shh, lad, it's alright,” he soothes petting Sherlock's hair. He can hear his accent getting stronger, rounding out the vowels until he sounds like his own Da used to, soothing him and Laura back to sleep after a nightmare. “You can make whatever noise you want, Sunshine, I'm not judging you. It hurts, I know, just let it out, Sherlock. I've got you, son.”
Lestrade leaves him long enough to make tea a few times and answer the door when the delivery boy arrives with his dinner. The rest of the day is spent on the couch trying to help Sherlock through the worst of the pain.
By nightfall things are worse. Sherlock's freezing but tore his shirt off hours ago saying the material hurt his skin. The blanket was immediately deemed too itchy as well, and was summarily dismissed to the floor. So now Sherlock is shivering and looking close to tears as Lestrade watches helplessly. He lurches upright suddenly and Greg knows they're about to see the few bites of Lestrade's dinner Sherlock had eaten make a reappearance. When Lestrade gets back from cleaning up (they'd decided early on in the week that keeping a bucket near the couch was a safe bet) he finds Sherlock sitting upright on the sofa, hands tearing desperately at his own hair.
“Easy there, lad, easy.” He says hurrying back to Sherlock. He sits down in his spot on the couch and quickly makes a decision. Greg pulls Sherlock full onto his lap so that the younger man's head is cradled on his shoulder. It's a testament to how poorly Sherlock feels that he doesn't even put up a token protest. “Alright, it's gonna be alright, Sherlock. I promise.” His hand rubs soothing circles on Sherlock's back which is still tense with pain. “In a few weeks you'll be good as new. It's not forever. You'll get through this.” There's a great shuddering breath and Sherlock starts to cry, mumbling how desperately he wants to shoot up. “I'm here, son. I'm not going anywhere and neither are you,” Sherlock's still crying but he begins to relax under Lestrade's gentle touches, his weight settling more firmly against Lestrade's chest. “This isn't the life you want to be living, Sherlock. You made the right choice, getting clean. It's gonna be okay, lad. We'll get through all this together, alright?” He presses a kiss to Sherlock's curls. “Together,” Greg promises again, holding him close.
When Sunday morning dawns Sherlock is asleep for the first time in days, still curled up on Lestrade's chest.
Three weeks later Sherlock's still a little shaky but he's determined to go home. “I will be fine , Lestrade. I have no wish to repeat this experience and my flat is completely clean. Besides, I'm sure Mycroft is aware of little venture and will be going to whatever lengths he can to see that it succeeds.”
“I know, I know.” Lestrade says mildly, leaning against his kitchen counter, a cup of tea abandoned on the worktop. “You can't blame me for worrying about you, lad. Christ knows the trouble you manage to get yourself into.”
“I – that is – you,” Sherlock's balanced on the back of the couch and seems unable to look Greg in the eye for more than a second at a time. “You've been a great help to me. I did not expect this level of – commitment – to my well being on your part.” It's the closest thing to a 'thank you' Sherlock can manage and they both know it.
“Anytime, lad.” Greg says pushing off the counter and pulling the boy into a hug. Sherlock stiffens at first before hesitantly hugging back. Touch is much harder for him to handle when he's not out of his mind with withdrawal and pain. “Now,” Lestrade says pulling back before the other man explodes from too much physical contact, “Get home. Mycroft sent a text saying your rent is all taken care of for the next month,” he smiles at Sherlock's immediate scowl. “I'll stop by next week if I haven't seen you for a case before then. If you so much as think you might get the urge to use, call me. Got it?”
“I doubt that will be necessary.” Sherlock says primly, but the nod he gives is a promise and they both know that too.
The flat feels strangely empty after that.
Without a certain Consulting Detective lurking on all of his furniture, Greg manages to keep the flat clean for more than an hour at a time, and even watch a match without having to hear how boring it is every two minutes. He takes to leaving the telly on for background noise when he's working at home. It feels too quite otherwise, now.
A week after Sherlock leaves he loses his watch. He tears the flat and his office apart trying to find it but it's no use.
Two days later he finds it wedged between his couch cushions – somewhere he's checked at least three times already. He's willing to shrug and give it up to the mystery of how lost things work until he notices the back of the watch face.
What was once plain metal now bears an inscription, Lestrade – Thank you – SH Greg grins like a madman as he puts it back on.
Greg's ridiculously pleased when he comes home from the Yard a few days later to find Sherlock pouring over a cold case file he's been trying to work on. Something about it never sat quite right with him though he could never find anything wrong with it. “It was the girlfriend's brother.” Sherlock informs him without looking up. “You'll need to reexamine the shoes the victim was wearing when he died to get the warrant, but it was definitely the girlfriend's older brother.” Well, at least his hunch was right.
“And hello to you too.” Greg says pulling his stack of take out menus out from the kitchen drawer. “It's a bit rude to break into someone's flat you know. I could give you a key if you want.”
“Boring.” Sherlock mutters making notes on the coroner's report. “And I need to stay on form with my lock picks. You don't mind me being here, what does it matter?”
Greg decides that conversation can wait for another day. And to make Sherlock a key. “I'm guessing eating has been too boring to bother with as well?” Sherlock doesn't answer, which is answer enough. “Right,” Lestrade shifts through the menus. “Chinese or Thai?”
“Chinese, but not the Eternal Dragon, their sweet and sour chicken is rubbish.” Greg shifts that menu to the bottom of the pile, pulling another one, The Golden Coy, out instead.
“Okay, come on lad, arms.” Lestrade's sure Sherlock's still clean but he's not going to risk things spiraling back out of control because he made a bloody assumption. Sherlock sighs but rolls his sleeves up past the elbow, holding both arms out for inspection. He can't help the smile that breaks across his face when he's greeted by two pale, unblemished, arms. “Well done, son.” Greg reaches out and ruffles Sherlock's hair without thinking and is touched when Sherlock lets him.
“I believe you promised me dinner, Lestrade?” He says after a minute, still flipping through case files.
“Yeah, yeah, ungrateful hellion.” The proud smirk that spills onto Sherlock's face at the insult should probably worry him, but Lestrade's never been the sanest bloke to start with.
“ What the hell is wrong with you?” Lestrade bellows, the second Sherlock’s in his sight. Sherlock, God help him, has the audacity to look affronted .
“What on Earth are you talking about?” He asks, clutching his arm, which is dripping blood. “I caught him! He’s under arrest! Shouldn’t you be happy, another murderer off your streets, London a little safer, all that rot?”
One day Greg’s going to strangle Sherlock and no one is going to blame him in the least. “I’m not talking about the bloody suspect, Sherlock!”
“Oh, this?” Sherlock asks following Greg’s pointed gaze to his arm. “It’s fine. Might need a few stitches but I can do those myself once I get back to the flat. Calm down it’s not as if he shot me.”
“ No, you’re right, it’s not as if he shot you. It’s as if he tried to kill you with a dirty switchblade. You’re lucky you got out of his way in time. You could bloody well be dead right now, Sherlock! What were you thinking, running off after him alone like that?”
“I was thinking you’d like the person responsible for the murder to be caught, and your team would have missed him. I had the opportunity to catch him, so I did.” Sherlock says coolly. Lestrade refrains from rolling his eyes but only just.
“ How many times do we have to go over this Sherlock? Catching a bad guy is not more important than your life.” Greg ignores the (as always) stunned look on Sherlock’s face, “And you’re bloody well kidding yourself if you think I’m going to let you stitch that up yourself,” he says nodding at the still-bleeding-cut. “There’s an ambulance right here, you’ll let them do it. And you’ll let them give you a tetanus jab too.” Sherlock opens his mouth to protest but Lestrade cuts him off, “If you hadn’t gone after him alone you wouldn’t need any of this so shut it and let the paramedics look at you.”
Sherlock shuts his mouth with a snap and submits to the paramedics ministrations glaring at Lestrade the whole time. Unsurprisingly it’s a compromise Greg can live with.
Lestrade's walking home from the pub on a peaceful June evening when a black car pulls up. Nearly four bloody years since he first met Sherlock and Mycroft still feels the need to send for him like this. Can't he just call? Or text? Or bloody email him? Greg sighs, kisses his evening of watching some footy on telly and kicking around cold cases goodbye, and gets in. “Rachel,” he says settling into his seat.
“Lisa,” she informs him after a pause, not even bothering to look up from her phone.
“Of course.” She looks up for a second, fingers slowing, but Greg has no idea what she's seeing and a second later she's texting even faster than normal. They don't seem to be going very far, and in fact it's only another five minutes or so before the car rolls to a stop.
Lestrade follows Rachel-Lisa-whoever out and is greeted by a surprisingly plain looking building. Mycroft usually brings him to large deserted warehouses with no one around, or grand clubs that make him feel distinctly scruffy and out-classed. Now though, he's on a surprisingly busy, if unfamiliar, London street walking into a building he wouldn't normally look at twice. Which is probably the whole point.
The inside is just as forgettable – though Lestrade does notice that they don't run into anyone else. He's led down a series of hallways and finally they stop in front of a plain-looking door. Without looking up from her phone the PA gestures him inside, still texting with her free hand. Greg bites down a sigh and goes in.
“You know this really isn't necessary every time you want to tell me something,” he says, letting the door fall shut behind him. “And no, before you ask, I have no idea what Sherlock's up to at the moment and yes he was still clean the last time I saw him so – ” Lestrade stops in the middle of his sentence, getting a good look at Mycroft's face for the first time.
His face, normally so carefully polite and blank, is drawn. There's a tightness to his mouth and eyes and a tension in his shoulders that sends a punch of fear straight to Lestrade's gut. He's upset, there's no other word for it, and Greg's mouth goes dry. He can only think of one reason Mycroft would summon him when he's so blatantly upset. “Where is he? What's happened to him?” A thousand scenarios flash through his mind, each worse than the last. Mycroft holds up a hand forestalling any more frenzied questions.
“ Sherlock, though undoubtedly making poor decisions at the moment, is not in any immediate danger, Detective Inspector.” Lestrade can actually feel the tension leave him. “I do however require your assistance.” He raises his eyebrows questioningly. “This afternoon our – that is to say – ” Mycroft stops and closes his eyes briefly. Lestrade's never seen the other man anywhere near this flustered. “Our mother suffered a stroke this afternoon at our family's estate. It proved fatal.”
“Mycroft I – I'm so sorry,” Lestrade says before he has time to wonder if it's welcome. His own parents have both been dead for well over a decade but time has done nothing to dull the memory of the pain from the moment he realized his mother was dead. It's a pain he wouldn't wish on anyone but one that nearly everyone has to face eventually. Sherlock's only twenty-nine and he thinks Mycroft's is in his mid-thirties and he feels a stark pang of sympathy.
He's treated to a poor imitation of Mycroft's polite smile. “Thank you, Detective Inspector. Your sentiment is appreciated.”
“What can I do to help?” Greg asks, because clearly Mycroft needs something from him and he has an idea of what. “Where's he gotten to?”
“Very perceptive, Inspector Lestrade.” Mycroft's hand tightens reflexively on his umbrella handle. “I have, of course, informed Sherlock. He was relatively young when our father passed away. I believe his memories of it are hazy at best. You know his difficulty with emotions. I fear he's having a hard time trying to process this and I am – concerned – about what he may do in his moment of turmoil.” And now, for the first time, Mycroft looks away, “I find myself unable to offer him the help he requires as I must begin making arrangements for Mummy. I was hoping you could...” he trails off delicately.
“Of course.” Lestrade says immediately because there is no where else he could possibly let himself be at this moment than at Sherlock's side. Mycroft inclines his head in silent, but grateful, acknowledgment. “Any idea where he is?” He asks in a wry voice and is gratified to see a corner of Mycroft's mouth lift momentarily, even if he suspects it to largely be for his own benefit.
“ Sherlock has returned to his flat. I must warn you though, Detective Inspector, Sherlock made a few – let us say unfortunate – detours on his way home.” Shit. Lestrade's heart sinks, though really, if anything was going to cause a relapse, this is pretty high up on the list. Mycroft nods clearly having seen Greg's thoughts. “I concur. A car will take you to Montague street.”
Lestrade nods and turns to leave. As he reaches the door though, Mycroft calls out, “Thank you, Inspector.” His voice sounds suspiciously heavy and so Lestrade only nods his head and exits the room.
He follows Lisa back to the car idling at the curb. “Listen,” he says awkwardly as they pull back into traffic. “I know this isn't really my place or anything,” Lisa looks up from her mobile with raised eyebrows, clearly waiting for Greg to go on. “Just don't let him bury himself in funeral planning, yeah? He needs to grieve, even if he is the British Government.”
She smiles suddenly, not even texting, and tells him, “He's on lock down as of midnight. I'll look after my Holmes, Detective Inspector. See that you do the same.” Lestrade nods feeling more connected to this woman then he ever has before or probably ever will again.
Even knowing what he was likely to find, there's nothing easy about entering Sherlock's flat to find him obviously high on his threadbare sofa. “Lestrade,” Sherlock acknowledges quietly.
“Hullo, lad,” he says sitting down next to the younger man. Sherlock's in his pajama bottoms and what looks suspiciously like one of Lestrade' s old t-shirts, the redness of the track mark on his arm shocking against such pale skin.
“How angry are you?” Sherlock isn't looking at him, staring at his own clasped hands instead.
“Not nearly as much as you think. And no,” he says, preemptively cutting Sherlock off, “I'm not overly disappointed either.” Sherlock's head jerks round and it'd be funny if he wasn't staring at Lestrade with his pupil-blown eyes clearly trying to deduce him. Greg takes a deep breath and urges Sherlock to see the truth in his words. This man has solved impossibly complicated murders high, determining if one man is telling the truth shouldn't be difficult.
“I don't understand.” Sherlock spits out after a few moments. “How are you not angry with me? You spent weeks getting me clean.”
“Your mother just died, Sherlock.” Sherlock visibly flinches and sympathy wells in his chest like a physical pain. “You didn't get high out of boredom or spite. You were upset and turned to what you know best. I'm not okay with this,” Sherlock snorts – that much is apparently clear, “but this isn't a full blown relapse. It's one slip-up and I'll help you make sure it doesn't happen again.
“And Sherlock,” Lestrade can't have this conversation to the full extent he wants, not right now, but he wants to at least make one thing abundantly clear, “Whatever happens, you can always call me. Even if I'm going to be angry with you. I'll never be so angry that I won't come.” Sherlock nods with a fleeting glance in his direction. Greg can't help himself. He wraps one hand around the back of Sherlock's head and presses a kiss to his mass of unruly curls. Sherlock makes a small, pained, noise and he let's go.
“ I'm sorry about your mother, Sherlock,” he says sincerely. Lestrade cannot imagine using the term passing away with this man and he can't bring himself to risk another flinch by saying the word 'died' aloud again.
Sherlock shrugs but seems to fold even deeper in on himself. “Death is an inevitable part of life, Lestrade. This had to happen in accordance with the laws of science and the universe. Everyone and everything dies.”
“That's true,” Lestrade nods. “Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. And I know that it hurts, Sherlock.”
It's as if his words give Sherlock permission to be upset. He draws his knees to his chest, putting his head down and fisting his hands in his hair. “It doesn't make sense .” Sherlock forces out, pulling on his own hair. “I keep trying to fit it into my database but it won't go. I don't need her files anymore but I can't delete her and I – I don't want to.” He looks up at Greg, all glittering, pupil-blown eyes, face a mask of pain and frustration, and really there's only one thing to do.
“Come here, lad,” he says and gently pulls Sherlock to him. If Lestrade wasn't already keenly aware of how much Sherlock is hurting it would have become obvious at how easily the other man allows himself to be manhandled. In no time Greg's got him lying on the couch, Sherlock's head in his lap. He runs one hand through tumbled curls while Sherlock grips the other, lost in the doubled pain of his mother's death and the inevitable crash from a high. Soon he feels tears seeping through the fabric of his trousers.
In a few hours he'll confiscate whatever drugs Sherlock has left and do a quick sweep of the flat before taking Sherlock back to his for a few days. Until then Greg knows there's nothing to say so he sings a lullaby his gran used to sing when he was a boy and soothes Sherlock through what is sure to be only the first of many waves of grief, wishing so badly that there was a way for him to take this pain on himself.
Whenever Lestrade hasn’t heard from Sherlock for a week or so he sends him a text. They’re always, obstentialy, about cold cases or new leads or, in one case when Lestrade apparently loses his mind temporarily, football. None of them ever plainly ask, Are you still alive? Are you clean? but it’s clear that to Sherlock they may as well. His responses range from neutral enough for Sherlock (‘Yes Lestrade amazingly I’m still capable of looking after myself without a keeper. Also arrest the sister.’), to downright acerbic (‘Maybe if you had bothered your wife like this you’d still be married’), but he always responds. Always.
The first time Lestrade meets John Watson he's confused and a little suspicious. Something about the way he holds himself screams military and Greg's got some dark ideas about the origin of that cane. In five years of calling Sherlock in on cases he's never brought anyone with him. Hell, Sherlock barely deigns to speak with his team let alone anyone not directly related to the case.
But four people are dead, they have no leads, and Lestrade's getting desperate. So, onto his crime scene goes the doctor, limping after Sherlock.
To his credit John Watson looks equally confused. When Greg over hears him say something about paying the rent he has to wonder what kind of madman would move in with Sherlock let alone follow him to crime scenes . And yeah, maybe Greg's a little protective of Sherlock. Who can blame him? The idiot lives to throw himself into the path of danger.
Watson gives the medical opinion Sherlock wanted and then falls out of Lestrade's mind completely when Sherlock immediately takes off yelling something about a suitcase.
Sherlock shouldn't be surprised that he comes home to a drugs bust.
This isn't the first time he's withheld evidence and no matter how many times Greg tells him to knock it off, Sherlock keeps going out on his own refusing to let Greg know what the hell he thinks he's doing. Because what he really needs is for the idiot to get himself killed somehow on one of his cases. Usually he just brings whatever new officers are milling around the Yard but four people are dead, and Lestrade needs answers, and yeah, he's a bit annoyed Sherlock's pulling this shit right now, so he brings Donovan and Anderson along to help.
He and Sherlock both know these drugs busts are less about looking for drugs and more about annoying Sherlock into handing over whatever evidence he's currently withholding. But they also both know that Sherlock does have drugs somewhere in this flat even if he's not using (and he's not, Lestrade knows he's not) and that's the push he needs to get Sherlock to cooperate.
The good doctor seems even less amused than Lestrade's been feeling these past few days. He's surprised when Sherlock cuts his new flatmate's indignant sputtering on his behalf off. Sherlock's never cared if anyone knew about his former addiction, never seen it as anything to be ashamed of or keep quiet about. Greg's even more surprised by how defensive he seems over Watson's disbelief. Since when does Sherlock feel the need to justify himself to someone? John takes it in stride though once the initial burst of shock is over.
In fact, he seems to take everything in stride.
After all these years, not understanding why someone would mourn the loss of their child over a decade later comes nowhere near being the worst thing Lestrade's ever heard come out of Sherlock's mouth. John however has only known Sherlock for a day or so but he just says, “Bit not good,” and continues throwing ideas out, apparently unbothered when Sherlock dismisses them. Even stranger is the way Sherlock looks at him for confirmation about the acceptability of his behavior. As if Sherlock has ever bothered to wonder about what was or wasn't acceptable to say before now.
Lestrade notices the cane is gone and wonders at it, but then he hears the quiet, “I don't have to,” in response to Sherlock's question and for one brief second Sherlock actually looks a little ashamed. It's all he can do to keep from gaping. Who is this man, and where has he been for the past five years of Greg's life? Before he can even try and figure out what it all means Sherlock's making deductions, yelling at Anderson, and Lestrade has to put it out of his mind.
Then Sherlock disappears suddenly and one day Lestrade is going to have to arrest himself for murder.
He's got a dead serial killer, another murder on the loose, and Sherlock's acting even more out of it than normal. But, hell, they stopped a serial killer (in a manner of speaking).
The second murder is a complete mystery to Greg but not, it seems, Sherlock. Greg listens to Sherlock, mentally committing as much as he can to memory and is surprised when he stops short. Lestrade looks around, wondering what could have caught Sherlock's attention enough to throw him off in the middle of a deduction, but all he sees in John Watson, waiting for his flatmate at the police line.
Which doesn't strike him as odd until Sherlock hastily says, “You know what, ignore that. Ignore all of that.” Then Greg remembers that Doctor Watson was an army doctor, that he was the one who phoned Lestrade saying he knew where Sherlock had run off to. Sherlock says something about shock that Lestrade doesn't believe a word of but the very fact that Sherlock's protecting Watson gives him pause.
In the end he lets Sherlock go with a long look and the elicit of a promise to come give a statement at the Yard tomorrow.
Nearly a week and a half later he's still turning over what it could mean, Sherlock protecting someone he barely knows – and what he should do.
Greg may slightly misuse his power in order to do a background check on John Watson. It doesn't turn up much. No criminal record to speak of, even as a kid. Graduated from Bart's and joined the army soon after. He served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, the last of which was cut short by a bullet to the shoulder after the convoy he was transferring patients with was attacked. All save one of his patients made it. (This isn't the first time Lestrade notices that his systems seem to give him more information than they really should at times. He suspects Mycroft's been interfering but it's too useful for him to consider raising a fuss over.)
He's still thinking on it when he gets the call to a crime scene.
The victim is male, in his late forties, and almost certainly died from the knife planted in the back of his neck. Which doesn't explain how he got into a storage container. Especially since the body's less than twenty-four hours old when the surveillance footage shows no one's been near the container in the past three days.
Lestrade calls Sherlock, who brings John, who still looks vaguely amused he's been asked along. He spots them crossing the car park twenty minutes later and goes to meet them. They've almost met in the middle when he hears John say, “Why can't he just call me? I know he has a phone Sherlock. I understand why Mycroft would worry – you shouldn't be let out of the bloody house on your own – but he doesn't need to keep kidnapping me. We both have mobiles!” Greg grins immediately.
“I see you've had the pleasure of meeting Mycroft then?” He asks, nodding a hello to Sherlock.
John glances up and smiles. “That's one way of putting it I suppose. Sherlock said something about a knife in somebody's neck?” Before Greg has a prayer of answering Sherlock's storming ahead calling back over his shoulder that Mycroft is useless and they should both just ignore him. Because obviously Mycroft Holmes is a man who settles for being ignored. They exchange glances, both hovering between amused and exasperated, and follow after him.
While on the case John gives his opinion when asked, compliments Sherlock's deductions, and, more than once, suggests he “go through it at a pace the rest of us pedestrian minds can follow, alright?” In short he's a bloody godsend. Lestrade can't remember the last time Sherlock was so manageable on a case.
By the time the case is shut (a kidnapping turned suicide made to look like a murder – the world never gets less crazy, he swears) Greg's decided to let his suspicions about the shooter's identity go. The bullet may have come from an Army-issue Browning but John Watson isn't listed as owning a gun and there's no real proof he has an illegal one. Besides, if Mycroft is convinced John's good for Sherlock to have around, Lestrade's not sure he can disagree – and after watching him manage Sherlock for two days, he's not sure he'd even want to disagree.
And, if Greg's honest with himself, he would have done the same thing were he in John's position that night.
“ So then out of nowhere, as I'm cooking breakfast he yells 'Vatican cameos!' and pelts me in the head with a bloody box of tea!” Lestrade is trying very hard not to laugh but is mostly just succeeding in choking on his beer at the moment. “Fuck you,” John says with a good natured grin, taking a long pull on his own drink.
“ Did he say why he decided to ambush you?” Greg asks sparing a quick glance at the telly – damn it, losing again.
“ Something about needing to be prepared in case one of us ever needs to know to duck without alerting other people.” John says rolling his eyes. “He says we discussed it but I'm fairly sure I wasn't home at the time. I came back from Tesco's last week to find he'd been talking to me the entire time. Never realized I left apparently.
“The worst part is,” John continues, putting his head in his hands, “The bloody bastard is probably right. One day we're probably going to end up in a bank vault or something and 'Vatican cameos' is going to save my life.”
“Do us all a favor,” Greg intones, “And keep that thought to yourself. The last thing Sherlock needs is an ego boost.”
“Christ, no.” John agrees shaking his head. “Christ,” he repeats, with a smile, “Invading Afghanistan almost seems sane now.” He motions for another round from their waitress.
“Welcome to life with Sherlock Holmes.” Greg says. “We can get deer stalkers if you like,” he offers slyly and with that they are both lost to laughter.
These pub nights with John are some of the best parts of Lestrade's week. Other people know Sherlock of course – indeed Sherlock himself seems to know most of the food proprietors in London alone – but very few spend much time around him. Of those who do there's the homeless network, Molly who, bless her soul, is still half-in love with Sherlock, dear Mrs. Hudson, Anderson and Donovan and then finally Greg and John.
And while a great deal of people know Sherlock, Lestrade's always believed that very few see him. Of course Sherlock wants it that way, but everyone, Sherlock included, needs to be seen by someone . Greg's spent six years being one of a handful of people, only one of whom he speaks to regularly, that has any shot at understanding Sherlock. One of, he believes, the only two or three people who actually do understand Sherlock some of the time. Who see him. A companion in arms, especially when it's John Watson, is more than welcome.
Jesus Christ. Jesus bloody Christ.
It seems impossible that less than twenty-four hours ago Lestrade was listening to Sherlock shout about bread crumbs and fairy tails and then, ultimately, finding two kidnapped children.
Now, it what feels like an impossibly short span of time, he's being ordered to go and arrest Sherlock Holmes. As if this isn't the most ridiculous thing he's ever done in his twenty plus years as an officer.
Why couldn't Sherlock have just come down to the Yard with him?
Greg swallows down the urge to snort. He knows why. The same reason that John didn't insist he go. Because the whole thing is bloody insane .
And it is insane. There's no question about it.
Lestrade can understand Donovan and Anderson having their doubts in some distant way. He's worked too many cases with Sherlock to even think that he could be faking, but the animosity between the three of them makes his team want to doubt Sherlock. He can see where they're coming from and he paid their concerns the consideration they were due coming from members of his team. But the facts were there and it wasn't Sherlock. He didn't even wear the same bloody shoe size as the kidnapper. But still, Lestrade can understand why they raised their concerns.
What he can't understand is why they went over his head to the bloody Chief Detective Inspector. Or how the same man who supposedly reads his case reports can have the gall to act as if he's never heard of Sherlock before now. It's not as if he's been writing “and then the evidence magically appeared on my desk” in the reports all the years. Hell, Sherlock's been named more than a few times. And this is where it has landed all of them. Bloody buggering hell.
He trails behind Anderson and Donovan, slowing his pace considerably as he pulls out his phone. “John?” Greg watches the backs of his officers in front of him, keeping his voice low. “We're on our way. I'm sorry mate. Tell him.” What else can he say?
He doesn't realize that he'd expected Sherlock to go to ground until he's confronted with the man himself, putting his coat on and making his arrest surprisingly easy. In fact, of the three people who have a right to be upset about all of this – Sherlock, John, and Mycroft – Sherlock seems to be taking it the best. Greg wishes he could somehow make John understand that he doesn't want to be doing this – how could he? – but the best option for everyone at this point is cooperating. He'll make this as easy for Sherlock as he possibly can and Mycroft can put his bloody connections to use but right now fighting it will help no one. “I'm sorry about this,” Lestrade tells him as they make their way downstairs to where the police car is waiting. (And could someone remind him why they'd needed four of them? This entire thing is getting more and more ridiculous.)
“ This was the best course of action you could have chosen from the choices that were presented to you, Lestrade. Railing against your superiors on my behalf would win you no glory and help neither you nor myself. You've made the correct choice” And it's such a bloody understanding thing to say, Sherlock truly is not judging Greg for this, that he hates himself all the more.
So of course, less than two minutes later, he wants to strangle Sherlock to death.
Lestrade isn't stupid, he knows Sherlock would never intentionally shoot any of them. He isn't worried about intentions though. Sherlock has no idea how to handle a gun – he'd heard the lecture John had given him after they escaped that madman at the pool. Of all the stupid things to do, waving a loaded gun around your own fool head – and that alone makes him dangerous. John is the safer choice to be handling a gun by far but he's too busy looking shocked and pretending to be a hostage. What idiot had handcuffed them to each other? “ Everyone do as he says!” Lestrade yells since he seems to be the only one who remembers any of their training about hostage situations. Or anything about Sherlock.
More concerning to Greg than the gun though is the very fact that Sherlock (and apparently John) are choosing now to go on the run from the law. Why even bother waiting for him to show up at the flat? And then he sees it. Oh, God. That idiot's trying to protect him, make it absolutely clear that he didn't help Sherlock get away, and now Greg isn't even going to be able to return the favor.
Sherlock could have left as soon as Greg phoned John and claimed he had no idea there was a warrant for his arrest. They could have never gotten him from Mycroft, especially if he'd made it to the Diogenes Club. He could have allowed himself to quietly be arrested and trust that Mycroft would get him out. That the system would do it's job and reveal the truth. Sherlock could have trusted that Greg would never doubt him and would work his arse off to prove Sherlock's innocence.
Instead he's choosing the third option which is the worst option of all.
Instead he's now stealing a police officer's gun, holding his flatmate 'hostage', and pointing aforementioned gun at at least fifteen members of Scotland Yard including the Chief Detective Inspector. Who seems to have a rather heavily bleeding nose that Lestrade can't bring himself to find any sympathy for.
Now Sherlock is going on the run in the worse way possible which will ensure a manhunt that will only make it harder to convince anyone of his innocence.
Now Sherlock is deliberately stepping out of Greg's reach, of any help he could possibly offer, and it makes him want to sit down and cry.
Instead he starts sending squads out in pairs, purposefully saving Bart's for himself to search. Greg doesn't expect to find Sherlock and John but he sure as hell doesn't want anyone else to find them either. Of all the places they may go Bart's seems most likely.
Greg gets ready for a long few days.
If only he had known.
The next time Greg sees Sherlock he's laid out on Molly's slab in the morgue.
Technically there's no reason for him to be here. Mycroft has already identified the body – John has a concussion and is staying in the hospital overnight under observation because no one has the heart to try and send him back to Baker Street – but he couldn't help himself. As soon as the news broke Lestrade texted Sherlock, over and over, asking where he was. When he didn’t get an answer Greg headed for Bart's flashing his warrant card and demanding to be let downstairs.
Molly's standing next to him, tears silently streaming down her face. He wants to say something, anything, to comfort her but for the life of him he can't think of a single bloody thing. Can't even speak around the lump in his throat. His fingers run back and forth over his watch face as if it can somehow summon Sherlock back from the dead.
For jumping off a seven story building, it's not as bad as it could be. She hasn't had a chance to clean him up yet – he's still in that bloody coat of his, body only just cool by the time Greg got there – but Lestrade's just distantly thankful Sherlock wasn't one of the ones whose head cracked like an egg upon impact.
He can't help himself. Without even having to decide to do it Lestrade cups Sherlock's cheek, gently as if the other man could still feel it. The he bends and presses one final kiss to Sherlock's forehead and his skin feels so unnaturally dry and cool beneath his lips. For all his marble skin and cold looks Greg knows that Sherlock ran hot as a bloody furnace. The one time he'd mentioned it there'd been an off hand comment about people with high metabolisms and then Sherlock had tried to chase down a kidnapper on his own. Overcome with memories he stands perfectly still for a few minutes trying to collect himself.
Eventually Greg nods a thank you to Molly who closes her eyes tightly and nods back. She'll be starting soon, cutting him up into neat lines, measuring and taking notes to confirm what they already know. Cause of death is easy to determine when someone takes a plunge off a rooftop. He wants to tell her that she doesn't have to do the autopsy, it's okay if it's too much, someone else can do it, but he gets the distinct impression that this is her own private goodbye to Sherlock. He'll never steal another body from her, or ruin her budding relationships with good intentions wrapped in acerbic comments, but Molly will make sure she does him this one final honor. She would never let anyone else touch Sherlock's body when it's broken and empty like this. It would be the highest disgrace in her eyes.
And Christ, but Lestrade sees just how much they are all going to hurt in these coming weeks and months.
Greg goes to the nearest bar – he cannot bear the thought of his flat, knows, instinctively, that he would see the shadow of Sherlock perched on every bit of his furniture – arranges for a cab to pick him up at closing time, and then gets spectacularly, and utterly, pissed.
It's not a proper goodbye, but he didn't get one of those anyways.
A week after Sherlock's funeral (a thankfully closed casket, a graveside ceremony, and the most heart wrenching eulogy delivered by none other than the man's best friend himself) Greg goes to find John Watson.
He's not at Baker Street but Mrs. Hudson gives him the address of the bedsit John's currently staying at. It looks dirty and run down on the outside and the inside is no better. Greg resolutely ignores the signs of illegal activities that are everywhere and tracks down John's room. Five C. Six C. Ah. Seven C. He takes a deep breath and knocks.
There's no other way to put it. John looks like shit when he opens the door. He's lost weight, there's a few days of beard growth on his chin, and he hasn't been sleeping much if the bags under his eyes are any indication. His jumper is hanging off of him and it's almost painful to look at the man. “Greg?” John looks like he's forgotten the outside world exists.
“Can I come in?” John doesn't answer, he just steps back and let's him in. Honestly, Lestrade's a bit surprised at how bad off John seems. Then again, Sherlock changed John's life in ways Greg's not entirely sure he can even understand. For the first time since he's known him, John doesn't offer to make tea. He just sits on the threadbare couch and looks at Greg with listless eyes. Right.
“You can hate me if you want, John.” Greg says without preamble. God knows he wouldn't blame the other man. “You can scream and rage and throw things, or we can go for a drink, or watch telly, or visit his grave, or we can get a bite to eat. Whatever you want. But you can't do this. You can't let yourself deteriorate into nothing. Sherlock wouldn't have wanted that. He would have wanted you to look after yourself.” And it's the God honest truth too. Sherlock cared about John in a way he'd never cared about anyone else. He'd found something in John he'd never found anywhere else.
John gives a humorless laugh. “If Sherlock had wanted me to look after myself,” he says in a rough voice, “He shouldn't have made me watch him – ” he falters. “Watch him jump off a bloody building.”
Greg sighs. “John, I can't pretend to know what Sherlock was thinking up on that rooftop. Our own idiot of a Consulting Detective,” a ghost of a smile passes over John's face, “but I know this; Sherlock cared about you in a way he'd never cared about anyone else – in a way he didn't think he was capable of. And you changed that. So please, don't throw all of that away.”
John stares at him for long minutes before giving a defeated sigh. “Let me shower and shave.” He says eventually. “There's a pub around the corner we can go to.”
It's not much, but it's a start.
Two weeks later, after the inspection and the questions, once he's been reinstated as a DI, back in his proper place both at the Yard and in his life, Greg goes to give John the best news he could under the circumstances.
“John,” he says pulling out his phone with the recording transferred onto it by none other than Mycroft Holmes himself. “We found this recording on the rooftop of Bart's, a few feet away from Moriarty's body. You – you should hear it mate.” John is reinstalled in Baker Street and the very air seems heavy with the memory of Sherlock's presence. Lestrade knows it's about to get so much worse but that doesn't stop him from hitting play.
They sit in silence on the sofa, Sherlock's voice filling the sitting room, as Sherlock carefully goads Moriarty into revealing his lies and, ultimately, his plan. John keeps his eyes closed, flinching slightly at the sudden gunshot marking the end of Moriarty's life by his own hand, and then the recording suddenly ends. “He must have stopped it recording so he could call me.” John says in a rough voice. “Oh, God.” and then he buries his face in his hands and Greg moves closer to him on the couch.
“I can talk to Mrs. Hudson if you want,” he offers.
“No,” John protests. “No. I will. I should be the one to do it.” He sucks in a desperate breath.
After a few minutes John shudders and then sits back asking, “So this means we can clear his name, right? You've got proof right there that Sherlock was innocent. Clear his name,” John says desperately.
“We can John, yeah, officially. It's gonna be harder with the public. We need to find a journalist willing to write it, and God knows if anyone will actually listen to them, but yeah.” Greg nods as reassuringly as he can. “Legally Sherlock will be acquitted of any wrongdoing, and I swear I'll get all of his cases re-attributed to him. It's a start, John, if nothing else. The public will come around eventually, especially if they hear that recording.”
John nods looking thoughtful. After a round of tea Lestrade heads back to the Yard to get started on mound of paperwork sure to be awaiting him.
The next day, word goes around the Yard that someone has spray-painted I Believe in Sherlock Holmes onto the side of St. Bart's.
Lestrade never asks, but that night he takes John out for a drink on him, and they share celebratory smiles all night long.
Over the next year, bit by bit, Greg sees the reemergence of the John Watson who used to run around London chasing criminals and patching up Sherlock.
He's not the same and there are times when he goes suddenly quiet, or looks to someone who isn't there, but he's better. He's getting there. And along the way Greg and John become friends, actual friends, and Christ if it isn't nice.
“I got rid of them.” John says one night, at Baker Street, when they're watching reruns of Doctor Who and eating take away.
“Sorry?” Lestrade says, taking a swig of his beer and looking around the sitting room which looks unchanged to him.
John shakes his head, “Sorry, wasn't much of a transition there. The drugs. When Sherlock – when he was still alive,” he says closing his eyes briefly. “Well, I mean, after that first night it's not like I didn't know he used to be an addict. And I knew you still worried about him, so one day when he went to steal fingers or something from Molly I searched the flat.” Greg listens with interest, he'd never managed to find any of Sherlock's stashes at Baker Street.
“It was in the ox skull,” John says with a smile and a nod towards the animal skull in question. “He hid it between the headphones and the skull. I flushed it all of course, threw the needles out too.”
“Did he ever find out?”
“I don't know, not for sure.” John shrugs. “I never told him, figured if he gave into temptation it'd slow him down, give him another chance to think it through. I think he knew though. Sometimes when he'd get in one of his moods he'd look at the skull and then me like he was reminding himself of something. Who knows,” he takes a pull of his beer and then shrugs, “I like to think he did at least.”
“Sherlock was clean when you moved into the flat.” Lestrade feels compelled to point out, knowing how much Sherlock would have hated for either of them to think he was using at the time. “The drugs bust were mostly to piss him off for being a prick. I think he was clean the whole time he knew you actually. He wouldn't have wanted to let you down,” Greg murmurs as, on the television, Rose breaks the number one rule and wanders off alone. “For all his bloody attitude he hated disappointing you. The man was like a bloody puppy.” They exchange sad smiles, clink their beers, and turn up the volume.
Not quite a year and a half after Sherlock's death Lestrade's working late at the Yard one night when he gets a text from John.
Greg. Get over here ASAP. Emergency. - JW
He stops long enough to text John that he's on his way and the flies out of his office and to his car. It's late enough that traffic isn't that bad and Greg makes it to Baker Street in near record time. Mrs. Hudson, he knows, is visiting her sister for the week, so he lets himself in, calling John's name as he clatters up the stairs. Lestrade opens the door and almost falls over.
Sitting huddled on the couch is Sherlock Holmes.
“John,” he says again in a shaky voice clutching the door frame for support.
“He's real,” John says quietly from the kitchen where Greg can hear the clatter of mugs being pulled down for tea.
Greg makes his way across the room on shaky legs. Sherlock stands up looking apprehensive. Distantly he takes in the black hair that was obviously cut brutally close to his head but is now starting to curl again, the scars that are littering Sherlock's hands as well as a smattering across his face like some vulgar form of freckles that are sure to be found on other parts of his body. Sherlock's wearing pajama bottoms, his blue silk dressing gown, and – and Greg's old t-shirt that he stole years ago when he was getting clean still. Suddenly it's all far too much and he's gasping down air trying not to make a bloody fool of himself. “Lestrade – ” Sherlock says, making an aborted grasping motion towards him. “I – Lestrade – it's – I couldn't – Greg,” he just says finally looking so lost and worried that everything become perfectly clear if only for that moment.
“Sherlock.” Just the one word and then Greg pulls him into a hug, one arm squeezing his back tightly while his other hand cradles Sherlock's head. “You're alive. Oh Christ, you're alive, Sherlock.” For the first time in their relationship, Sherlock doesn't scold Lestrade for repeating himself. “I'm going to bloody kill you once I'm done hugging you,” he promises and in return he hears a surprised huff of air – Sherlock's version of a chuckle – near his ear.
“Christ, I don't even know what to say, lad. I – how – are you hurt?” Greg asks looking at Sherlock's too-thin face.
“No, I'm fine.” Sherlock says with a look that suggests this isn't the first time he's answered this question tonight.”
“Yeah you look bloody fantastic,” John says dryly carrying everyone’s tea into the sitting room. “You're letting me give you a once over at the very least,” he continues in a voice that leaves no room for argument. “The sooner the better.”
“For heaven's sake,” Sherlock mutters shrugging his dressing gown off. “I'm fine!” He exclaims, peeling his t-shirt off as well and turning so they can see his back and chest. “See? No open wounds, no bruising or broken ribs. Perfectly. Fine.” Greg sees that. He also sees scars he knows weren't there before, at least two of which look like knife wounds.
“Put your shirt on,” Lestrade says scrubbing a hand over his face still unable to believe Sherlock is really here. “And then explain how you're not dead.” He exchanges a look with John, who has also been hovering, and they both sit on the edge of the coffee table. He's wary of making Sherlock feel penned in, but there's no way in hell he can stand to sit in one of the armchairs while Sherlock's all the way over on the couch. John looks like he's still afraid to blink, lest Sherlock disappear.
“Yes. That.” Sherlock says looking uncharacteristically shy.
“Yes,” Lestrade says gently, recognizing Sherlock's frantic face from long nights spent on his couch. “The tiny matter of you being alive.” After a quick glance at John – he's not actually sure how much the other man knows about the five years he knew Sherlock before John came into the picture – Greg reaches out and lays his hand on Sherlock's knee. “Take us through it, lad.”
“Right,” Sherlock says pulling his shirt back on, making his already unruly hair look like an absolute bird's nest. Lestrade desperately wants to take a picture of Sherlock like this, soft, and at home, and, miraculously, alive. Instead Greg squeezes Sherlock's knee and waits for him to go on. “I don't suppose anyone ever found my phone? I – I had it on the rooftop with me before – well,” he licks his lips, “before.”
“We found it,” Greg tells him quietly, from the corner of his eye he can see John nodding. “And we got into it. Sherlock,” he pauses, waits until blue-gray eyes meet his, “We heard the recording. We know about the snipers.”
“Oh,” Sherlock says looking, for just a second, lost. “Well then, you know why I had to fake my death. He – the guns – there wasn't another option,” he says, pleading just a bit for them to understand.
“It’s been over a year, Sherlock.” John says sounding strained. “Where have you been all this time?”
“He - Moriarty - he had fail safes set up in case of his death. Even without him his network was still functioning. Any indication, from anyone, that I wasn’t actually dead and the snipers would have been made aware. The three of you would have died. I had to make sure the entire network was wiped out before I could come back.”
A strained look crosses Sherlock’s face as he says ‘wiped out’ and Greg’s got dark ideas about what Sherlock’s been forced to do running around on his own. John’s face is tight in a way that suggests he Lestrade are both having the same thought: They should have been there. Someone should have been there to watch Sherlock’s back and help keep him safe. John meets his eyes and the look they share is clear - Sherlock will never be alone like that again. Not so long as they’re both still breathing.
Greg stays for hours, terrified to let Sherlock out of his sight for even a moment. When he finally convinces himself that he should go he’s stopped by Sherlock muttering a very quiet “Stay,” without so much as looking at him. Greg glances at John equally unwilling to intrude as he is to ignore such a request from Sherlock. John just smiles gamely, nodding his head and Greg settles back down.
Surprisingly it’s Sherlock who goes to bed first. Or maybe it’s not so surprising after all. There’s probably not much time for sleeping when one’s taking down a criminal empire and, from the slightly desperate air about him, Greg doubts Sherlock stopped to rest between finishing his mission and finding his way back to London and Baker Street.
John stays perfectly steady as Sherlock goes to his room, but the second the bedroom door shuts he deflates, leaning forward to rest his face in his hands. “Jesus bloody Christ,” he says, the words muffled by his hands. Much like those first few months after Sherlock’s - well not death after all is it - disappearance Greg has no idea what to say. So he goes for the first thing to pop into his mind.
“ Talk about needing a stiff drink. All the alcohol in the world won’t settle me right now.” John gives a wet chuckle before taking a deep breath and sitting back up. He runs his hand over his face looking shell shocked. “All Right there, mate?” Greg asks even though John’s clearly not because how could he be?
“I almost shot him,” John says blankly and apparently now is when the illegal firearm becomes something they actually talk about. “I walked in the flat and when I saw someone in the kitchen I pulled my gun. I could have killed him.”
“But you didn’t,” Greg says in a steady voice. “As if Sherlock isn’t smart enough to dodge a bullet. If you had though,” he continues in a musing voice, “No one would have blamed you.” John giggles somewhat hysterically and Greg goes into the kitchen, locates a beer in the fridge, and presses it into John’s hands. “Drink,” he says firmly.
John drinks and after watching him for a moment Lestrade gets up and retrieves a beer for himself. They sit together, silently, on the couch, marveling at the last few hours.
They’re both starting to doze when Sherlock’s door flies open and he hurries down the hall towards them looking panicked. When he sees them, now awake and staring, he slumps like a puppet with its strings cut. “Why don’t you come sit out here with us?” John suggests after exchanging a careful look with Greg.
“I’m fine,” Sherlock mutters, scrubbing at his face with both hands. “Just a - fine, I’m fine.”
“Yeah, well, who said anything about it being for you?” John asks with the ghost of a smile. Sherlock looks at them, clearly torn, before giving up and heading for the sofa.
“So,” Greg says as Sherlock settles in one corner of the couch, “When do you officially come back from the dead?”
Unsurprisingly it takes a few days to be declared un-dead, even with Mycroft Holmes for a big brother. Greg spends the time at work and nipping over to Baker Street a bit more often than he usually would. He and John are friends after all, nothing suspicious looking about being there. Sherlock complains about being bored and his return is still so new that neither Greg nor John can find it in themselves to complain about his complaining.
Watching the press fall over themselves to paint Sherlock as a hero and conveniently forget that they were the ones who called him a villain in the first place in frustrating to say the least. Sherlock himself doesn’t seem to notice other than to complain about Mycroft’s insistence that he make a statement of some sort. Greg watches the news that night with more than a little amusement as the entire statement reads, “Not dead. Accepting cases. No boring ones,” before John forces him to take a few questions.
Sherlock has quietly showed up at the Yard a few times since his return, looking over cold cases for Greg that went unsolved while he was away. There’s a lot of gawking and whispering, but for the most part everyone just leaves Sherlock alone. Greg’s real amusement comes when the Yard is forced to make its statement about their role in Sherlock’s ‘death’. He watches the Chief Detective Inspector apologize through gritted teeth for not realizing the Sherlock was innocent sooner and for the procedural errors that should have prevented the whole bloody mess. John’s sidled up next to Greg and they both need to bite down on their laughter as the CDI “Proudly announces the instatement of Sherlock Holmes as a contracted Consultant for Scotland Yard.” Greg has to fake a cough as Sherlock smiles and looks smug as he shakes hands. It almost makes thinking the git was dead for a year worth it.
A few weeks later he’s at a crime scene watching Sherlock tap along the far wall, apparently looking for something. He and John are leaning against a wall that apparently requires no tapping, just taking it all in. “It’s good to be back,” Greg says comfortably.
“You don’t know the half of it mate,” John says, not looking away from Sherlock. “I never thought I’d be so happy about my kitchen being unusable for eating, but I swear that damn lab of his is the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
Sherlock straightens up, clearly ready to start sharing his deductions. Greg reaches into his pocket for his notebook and brushes something metal. Frowning, he pulls his own watch out of his pocket, not sure how it got there. It doesn’t feel quite right and when he turns it over he sees the engraving has been extended. How Sherlock got a hold of it, Greg has no bloody idea, but now, below the initials SH , are two more words; For everything.
He looks up just as Sherlock reaches them. Sherlock glances at the watch in his hand and raises a questioning eyebrow. Is there a problem here? Greg clears his throat and outs his watch back on, “Alright then, in your own time. Let’s have it.”
Sherlock’s mouth lifts in a small half smile, and then he’s off, deductions flying, Greg and John obediently following as best they can. Greg takes in the pure contentment radiating from Sherlock and lets the brilliance of it all wash over him.