It's an uncomfortable and telling measure of the depth of Lestrade's parental guilt that he acquires not one, but two kittens.
Amelia, ruthlessly suppressing her 1/16th French drama, had refrained from any particularly traumatic weeping when her father had (again) missed the bulk of her birthday celebrations. Instead, and with a calculating witchery she had to have inherited from her mother, she'd released one delicate tear and stared up at him with a brave smile, amber eyes red-rimmed with her disappointment, and said, "It's okay, Daddy."
Which was how he'd ended up at the Dulwich council's fucking animal rescue, trying to find some kittens.
He explains how his daughter has been asking for a pet for ages, how she's horrifyingly responsible for a young child, and how he would like a kitten, their very cutest one, to ameliorate the obvious psychic damage he's done to her.
It's also how he ends up discovering that it would be easier to adopt another child to give Amelia the God damn younger sibling that's never happening than to get kittens for his daughter. The bootfaced cow at the animal rescue center hands him a stack of documents to fill out and tell him that first they'd have to arrange a home visit, quiz him and anybody else who lives in his household on their experience with animal care, as well as weigh in the fact that Amelia is — after all — a young child who may or may be not be prepared for the grave responsibility of playing with kittens.
He stares at her. "Are you actually serious?" he asks.
Her response, aside from being arctic, is to the affirmative, which leads to the final disaster of the day: his accidental crippling of New Scotland Yard's tactical abilities.
"What's wrong?" Sally asks as soon as he staggers back into the office at half-one, looking bleak and having fantastic visions of his daughter selling drugs or herself and telling every junkie and john she meets and allows to abuse her that the only reason she's like this is because her father — the detective inspector, oh irony of ironies — was shit.
Clutching at his hair, Lestrade says, "I fucked up — I missed half of Millie's birthday."
Dimmock appears out of nowhere. "Didn't you say you were going to get her a cat?"
"Animal rescue won't give me a cat," Lestrade moans.
Making a thoughtful noise, Sally says, "Oh, true. You'd need to have started the paperwork on that ages ago."
Because apparently nobody at the Met has anything to do other than gossip about Lestrade's paternal failings, Anderson chooses that moment to sashay into the major crimes room, at which point Dimmock and Sally give him an unnecessary sit-rep. From there, it's only a hop, skip, and a clusterfuck around Lestrade's desk for them all to be scrolling through gumtree looking for the least morally dubious place to acquire guilt-related pets.
Most of the cats look wretched, or sad, and Lestrade vetoes any listings sans photographs, because he'd rather not show up at a crack den to find a horrific scene of animal abuse, frankly.
"Oh, how about this?" Anderson asks, reading aloud: "Kittens available — gorgeous! One black, one ginger, and both terribly bright. Have all their shots. INSEPARABLE — must be taken as a pair."
"Well," Sally said. "That's perfect, isn't it?"
The cats, when Lestrade sees them, are sort of generically adorable the way all tiny animals are. The black kitten is slender and long like a snake, his spine elongating like a spring and his pink tongue rolling out of his mouth as he yawns. He's utterly fearless and scampers up onto the highest point of the room to inspect Lestrade with ice-blue eyes. His friend, a sweet and much smaller yellowy thing that will grow into a ginger tom, is cocking its head to the side and examining Lestrade in a thoroughly harmless, effortlessly precious way.
"Now," Mrs. Hudson says, fluttering around him, "my grandson did write up the ad correctly? You know they must be taken as a pair?"
"Right, sure," Lestrade says, and reaches for the yellow kitten.
Five minutes later, with Mrs. Hudson patching up the triple-claw mark across the back of his hand, she clucks at him, "Oh, dear, I should have mentioned, dear, that our Sherlock's a bit protective."
The black kitten is delicately licking his claws — probably trying to find every drop of Lestrade's blood for his consumption — and keeping his long tail wound around one of the yellow kitten's paws.
"You'll have to forgive him, though, Mr. Lestrade," Mrs. Hudson continues. "They were both the runts of their litters, you know, and they both never had a friend until the neighbors found them and brought them to me." She however, is allowed to reach down and rub a thumb over the crown of the yellow cat's head, affectionate. "And John is ever so tiny — you can understand why Sherlock would be a bit tetchy."
Lestrade glares at Sherlock, who doesn't bother to glare back, just flicks his tail menacingly. Lestrade doesn't know anything about animal psychology, but honestly, John looks a bit embarrassed about the whole thing, making an apologetic chirruping noise and an effort to pad up to Lestrade — which goes abortive when Sherlock thumps himself in a possessive heap over John's back, purring excessively and pinning the smaller cat under his weight.
"And if I tried to take just one, I imagine I'd never recover from the blood loss?" he asks, mostly joking, but Mrs. Hudson just stares at him very seriously and says:
"It would be terrible, Mr. Lestrade. Tommy's just now starting to get his stitches out."
"Great," Lestrade says, and in another one of those moments where he reconsiders his qualifications for fatherhood, takes home to his daughter a pair of murderous, co-dependent cats.
Amelia, when presented with the cats, shrieks at such an alarming decibel and for such a long time that Lestrade actually thinks she's dying. The cats are similarly unimpressed and remain curled together, cowering in the carrier Mrs. Hudson has pressed on him, and Lestrade's grateful for it when Amelia launches herself at him crying, "Thank you, Daddy! You're the best daddy in the world!" Obviously it's flagrant emotional manipulation and positive reinforcement training him into reflexively buying her things to win the chemical high of her adoration, but that doesn't make it any less effective.
It's a short hit, though, and Lestrade's barely manage to give her a squeeze before she's rocketed away from him and to the carrier, falling to her hands and knees to peer into the dark mouth of the container.
"Do they have names?" she asked. "Can I name them?"
Lestrade goes over to her. "The black one's Sherlock, and the ginger one's John — and be careful with John, Sherlock's mean."
"Excellent," Amelia says, fearlessly sticking her hands into the carrier. "I love mean ones."
Carol is watching him with her fondly amused face, his most favorite of her faces, and one — depressingly — that he sees more now that they're divorced.
"When I said you could buy her a guilt cat, I don't remember allowing for multiples," she tells him, watching Amelia gamboling after Sherlock and John, dashing around the room and discovering all the fascinating and dark new places to claw up and hide.
He leans into her side, murmuring, "Apparently, they are not to be separated."
Carol cocks an eyebrow. "Really."
"Really," Lestrade repeats.
"So you've got our daughter gay cats," Carol says.
"Violent gay cats, Carol," Lestrade corrects. "Violent gay cats."
Carol laughs, and giving him a fond kiss on the cheek, she says, "Good job, then, darling," before breaking away from his side to say, "Now, Millie, are you going to introduce me to your new friends or what?" as she goes after their daughter.
For all that Mrs. Hudson had not been exaggerating about Sherlock and John's unnatural feline attachment to one another, Amelia, too, had not been exaggerating about liking the mean ones. She and Sherlock get on in their own way — in the sense that Sherlock attempts to crush her affection and Amelia obliviously continues to love him despite his obvious revulsion. John, on the other hand, spends most of his time being as lovely and agreeable as he'd seemed at first blush, watching Sherlock's antics — which include everything from property destruction to prodigious disappearing and reappearing acts — with mild amusement and complete calm. At night, John likes to sleep at a window in Amelia's room overlooking the the road from the second floor, and Sherlock doesn't seem to sleep at all, just prowls the halls and the house and takes care to walk all over Lestrade's face every single time he stays over and sleeps on the sofa.
"I was reading a book, Daddy," Millie tells him one morning after a particularly robust night of being bullied by his daughter's pet. "It's about cats who solve mysteries!"
Lestrade, seeking zen and comfort from Carol's shitty-as-usual tea, mumbles, "Cats? Solving crime?"
Amelia leans in. "Yes! Do you think Sherlock and John could?"
Currently, John is lying in a puddle of white-gold sunshine, flicking his tail minutely and purring to himself as Sherlock pounces after it with unfailing interest. So Lestrade amends his views on them to "dumb, violent gay cats."
"No, darling, I think probably Sherlock and John are just ordinary cats," he says.
Amelia looks disappointed, but only for a beat before saying, "Oh, well — maybe the neighbor's new cat will solve mysteries — "
Lestrade gives her a look.
" — or just be friends with John and Sherlock," Amelia amends, grinning cheekily.
"New cat?" Carol asks, brushing past and setting down a platter of eggs and a dish of toast, rubbing at the sleep in the corner of Lestrade's eye. Honestly, sometimes he doesn't know why they ever bothered to get divorce. The only thing that's different is Carol gets less in alimony that she used to take out of their joint checking. "What's its name?"
Amelia, reaching for a piece of toast, says, "Moriarity — isn't that a very pretty name?"
"Of course, sweetheart," Carol says, and looks at the wall clock. "Oh, you'll be late, Gregg."
He swills the rest of his tea, still hot enough to burn the inside of his mouth, and he kisses Carol, first, and then Amelia, next, and as he's out the door. He's already in his car feeling uncomfortably like he's being watched before he realizes he is — by what must be the neighbor's cat: a sleek gray thing with mean eyes perched on the hood staring straight through the windshield.
"Oy," he says to it. "Off, you!"
Lestrade swears the cat grins at him before darting away, round the side of the house and back toward the neighbor's yard, but not before he's drawn the ire of Sherlock — who's plastered himself to the front window, mutely hissing through the glass.
Keenly aware he sounds insane, Lestrade calls to John, perched next to Sherlock at the sill, "If the neighbor's cat ends up dead — you two are the first ones I'm arresting!" and the car must not be terribly soundproof, because as he's pulling out of the drive, it's to the sound of his daughter's furious shouting.