As they cut along the back, hugging the opposite wall from the theatre, the last person John Watson expected to see was Detective Inspector Lestrade. Yet there he was, standing just under the solitary light of the backstage door where he was shielded by several security guards. They formed a loose barrier in front of him and kept at bay an eager crowd of hopefuls trying to catch a glimpse or get an autograph of someone important.
The sound of his name being called in the crowd caused the man in question to pause. John caught his eye, flashed a brief smile and angled his way through the streaming theatre crowd towards where the detective was standing. He felt Sarah's hand slip through the crook of his arm as he led the way.
“John?” she asked. There was a puzzled frown on her face.
“It's all right,” he said, “There's someone I'd like to you meet. A friend of mine.”
Lestrade had turned to focus his attention on the pair as they made their way towards him. He caught the eye of one of the guards who was about to head them off, giving him the faintest of nods. The guard immediately relaxed and disregarded them as they approached.
For once Lestrade wasn't looking like he'd spent one too many late nights at work, to John's mild surprise. He wore a better suit than his normal attire, including a tie, and a thick dark overcoat was draped over one arm. Standing near the back stage entrance, he had all the appearance of a man who was patiently waiting for the crowd to disappear. His dark intense eyes habitually scanned the crowd before settling on John.
“Doctor,” he greeted formally as he turned towards the pair. He extended his hand and grasped John's firmly, flashing a brief smile. “Good evening.”
“Evening, what brings you here tonight? This is the last place I'd expect to see you.” John frankly admitted.
Lestrade smirked, nodding his head. “Same thing could be said for you. I'm surprised you're not running around after Himself.” Sherlock silently loomed between their conversation.
John chuckled, “He has a new journal on blood spatter analysis occupying his attention, I thought I'd grab my chance and get out of the flat.” He squeezed Sarah's hand. Her smile of comradely acknowledgement caused the Inspector's eyes to shift from John to her. She obviously knew Sherlock.
“Forgive me,” John apologized with a smile to her, “Sarah, this is Detective Inspector Lestrade. Lestrade? Sarah Sawyer, from the practice.”
“Ms. Sawyer,” he offered a hand, which she took with a firm grip, smiling at him.
“Please, too many formalities, call me Sarah.”
“Greg.” Lestrade automatically supplied, liking this acquaintance of the doctor immediately. Years of working for the Yard had honed his ability to assess, and file, a person in split seconds. This was a good one.
“You're not working tonight are you?” John asked, looking curiously at him.
Lestrade shook his head, glanced over the crowd. “Got the night off,” he said vaguely, eyeing the crowd. “For a change.”
“And you came to the ballet?”
“Anything wrong with that?” Lestrade replied, then glanced away, pursing his lips in amusement. Old habits died hard. Responding with a question to a question was second nature.
“No, nothing wrong with that at all.” John ruefully admitted.
“So what brings you here?” Lestrade fired back.
Sarah smothered a slight laugh at their mutual, if humorous, reluctance to admit to it first, “It's my fault, really, I wanted to come. I've loved the ballet since I was a girl.”
“Nonsense,” John replied, glancing her way. “I'm happy to come with you.” He looked back at Lestrade. “You're waiting for someone?”
“Deduce that did you? You've been hanging around Sherlock too long...” Lestrade murmured in amusement. Then he relented. “Only real reason to be hanging around a stage door in an alley is if you're waiting for someone.”
At that moment the back stage door opened, causing a surge in the crowd of autograph seekers. The security guards tensed. A uniformed man appeared in the doorway who looked around before spotting Lestrade. He beckoned to him for his attention as the crowd ebbed back to murmurs of disappointment.
“Inspector,” he said, handing over a dark duffel bag. “She asked me to give this to you. She's on her way.”
“Ah, thanks.” Lestrade replied, taking the pack and slinging it casually around his shoulder. The guard nodded and vanished back inside. As the door clicked shut he glanced at John, seeing the expectant look on his face as he waited for an answer. “I'm waiting for my, uh,” he paused, “for my wife.”
He was expecting the blink of surprise. He wasn't wearing his ring.
“Your wife?” John asked and Lestrade could see the genuine curiosity in his face. “I didn't realize you were mar...” Before he could finish Lestrade cut him off.
“Separated,” Lestrade said. “Been separated for some time. We're trying to work it out.”
“Ah,” John started when the door began to open again. This time the security provided a bit more of a blockade as the crowd moved forward again.
A very small, blonde woman, obviously one of the dancers, was emerging through the door. She was bundled up against the cold, collar flipped up and she glanced up at Lestrade with a slight frown of worry on her face. He had moved from his spot, positioning himself between her and the crowd. His overcoat was in his hands, where he was preparing to drape it over her shoulders.
Sarah, eyes large in surprise, spoke up, “Elena...?” She started to speak in astonishment when she caught herself in her error. The woman looked at Sarah and John and smiled slightly at Sarah's gaffe.
“No, not her...” she said softly, as Lestrade settled his coat around her, his hands dropping protectively into place on her shoulders. “Just her understudy.” She patted one of Lestrade's hands and glanced up at him, an eyebrow raised in curiosity.
“Sarah, John... this is my wife, Anne. Anne, this is John Watson and Sarah Sawyer.” Lestrade made the introduction. Mutual greetings were exchanged.
“Anne?” Sarah, her mind racing started, then blushed. “Forgive me, Leigh-Anne Richardson? One of the company's soloists?”
“You know the company,” Anne smiled at her.
“John, this is one of the first soloists for the Royal Ballet. She was one of the main dancers we watched tonight.” Sarah explained.
“And you're obviously an admirer of the ballet,” Anne said.
“Oh, yes. I thought you were the Principal Soloist!” Sarah replied. “Forgive me for the mistake. You danced beautifully tonight.”
“Thank you. And don't worry about the confusion, it happens a lot. Elena and I look similar. Except for our hair.” She looked up at Lestrade as he began to edge them past the security guards and the crowd.
As a few approached he said, “Not tonight folks,” with enough authority to get his point across. He was silently pleased when John, bless the man's military back ground, fell into place beside him inserting Sarah into the circle. He leaned forward, “Car's round the corner,” he murmured to Anne, guiding the way, his hands still on her shoulders. She flashed a grateful smile.
“Are you up for dinner? I know its late and all...” John started to offer as they approached the alley entrance to the main road. The cacophony of noises from the traffic increased as the four approached several waiting limousines and expensive cars obviously queued up to receive guests and performers alike.
Lestrade glanced at Anne, “It's nice of you, John, but...” he started.
“Forgive me for saying no,” Anne said. “It's me. After a performance, I like nothing more than to go home to a hot soak and a foot massage.”
Sarah laughed. “After the work out you get, I can just bet that that is pure heaven.”
“That's fine,” John conceded with a smile of understanding. “Of course you'd want to call it a night.”
“Another time maybe?” Anne asked, glancing briefly at Lestrade.
“All depends on our schedules,” was his careful response.
“Well you know where I can be reached,” John replied as they headed towards some parked cars.
“Thank you...” Anne smiled at them, “And it was nice meeting you,” she said to Sarah as Lestrade lead the way towards an immaculate dark Bentley limousine. There was an audible click as automatic door locks were disengaged and the chauffeur, already standing outside waiting for them, reached to open the passenger door.
“Likewise!” Sarah replied, watching as Lestrade held the door for his wife.
Saying their farewells, John and Sarah watched the car pulled out then was swept along by the traffic.
“Remarkable,” John murmured.
“What is?” Sarah asked as they turned and began wandering through the late night crowds.
“I never realized Lestrade was married, much less separated.”
“He did say they were working things out. They seem amicable.”
“Got to be tough with their schedules.”
Sarah let out a huff of amusement. “His, or hers? A detective Inspector and a first soloist for a ballet company? That's got to be brutal on a marriage. Still... he seemed rather protective, in a good way.” She slipped her hand back into the crook of John's arm, and smiled at him. He was staring after the Bentley, his mouth a moue of thought.
“What is it?”
“I know roughly what Lestrade would earn at the Yard, where would he get the money to afford a limo? She couldn't afford one as well, could she?”
“Oh come on, special night on the town and you're wife just happens to be performing? No big mystery there.” Sarah laughed. “He hired one.”
“No, I suppose not. And why not just meet inside? Why wait to go out the back entrance?”
“You have been hanging around Sherlock too long,” Sarah murmured looking at him in amusement.
John snorted softly, smirking. “Dinner invite still stands, especially knowing you don't have to work tomorrow.” John replied, smiling at her.
“A hot soak and a foot massage sounds even better,” she joked, glancing at him.
“Hmmm...” John mused, a look of interest crossing his features.
Sarah laughed, hugging his arm to her as they began walking. “Dinner first, your stomach just growled.”
Anne and Greg were barely settled in the back of the car when his mobile went off. With his face carefully maintaining a neutral expression, he had the phone out and was looking at its screen, his eyes scanning a text. He sensed Anne holding her breath before turning her head away from him, relaxing into the seat, letting out a sigh.
“That was the head of the other security detail. Elena is out of the building and headed home.” He tucked the phone away and looked at Anne. “There's no sign of her stalker.”
“Good,” she said, turning to him. “Then it worked?”
He studied her a moment, a ghost of smirk on his lips, before nodding his head. “Yes,” he said slowly, “it worked.”
Anne said nothing, but the smile that lit her face said plenty.
He heaved a sigh. “It worked for now,” he warned and there was no hiding the reluctance that crept into his voice. “We don't know yet if he's following us.”
“Greg, I know you don't like it, but believe me when I tell you that Elena appreciates it. She's still scared silly about this mess.”
“You should be too,” he said levelly. “Whoever this stalker of hers is could easily mistake you for her.”
“Which is the idea at the moment, right? Let him follow me, give the police some time to figure out who he is and what he wants. Not to mention giving Elena some peace of mind.”
“And what about my peace of mind? I'm not exactly thrilled that someone could be stalking my wife. Besides that, you're still a bit too trusting.”
“Oh Greg, let's not start that again...”
“I just worry, Anne. You know that.” He looked pointedly at her. She knew that his ability to assess people had left a bad feeling in him towards her ballet superior.
“She was so scared when she showed me what he'd left for her. She knows he's been following her around. I just want to help her out. Nobody deserves that kind of stress.”
“And what about the stress of watching you put yourself in the line of someone else's fire?” He countered. “Anything could happen. You know I can't always be around to help like this.”
“At least it's given us an opportunity to be together.” Anne replied quickly. The words had barely left her mouth when she closed her eyes in regret, reaching up to place a hand over her mouth. Lestrade didn't move, but his features suddenly looked etched in stone, a stoic mask falling into place.
“I'm sorry, Greg,” Anne breathed, turning away from him. “That was uncalled for. I'm sorry.” Her shoulders dropped as she stared out the window of the car.
“It's bad enough letting you play decoy,” he said in a low quiet voice. “It's worse when it is the only way we can be together. You know I don't like bringing work home.”
“I said I was sorry.” An uncomfortable silence filled the car.
Several seconds passed before Lestrade heaved a weary sigh, sinking into the car seat as his shoulders relaxed. He studied her for a moment, then reached over, and slipped an arm across her shoulders, tugging her towards him. She struggled to hide her shame, but the hint of trepidation in her eyes caused the little knife of guilt in the pit of his stomach to twist.
“It's okay, Anne, it's okay. We get precious little time as it is, no sense arguing about it.” He murmured, his normally intense eyes glinting with warmth. He smiled softly and before she could turn away he added, “You were lovely tonight.”
She blinked once in surprise utterly unable to hide the look of disbelief. “Were you there?” she asked.
“For the whole performance. I did tell you I have the night off tonight,” he raised his eyebrows in mock reprimand.
Anne stared at him for a moment then dropped her head in chagrin. Sighing, she clutched the lapels of his overcoat still draped around her and settled back into the crook of his arm. “Somehow I thought you were only going to be there for the security switch,” she said quietly. “Plans change so fast for us.”
“Had a slow day today. Donovan can handle anything that may come up. Unless it's too big. So,” he paused, “I thought I would spend it with you since we're already together.” The look of hope far back in her eyes twisted the knife a little more, but Lestrade put a stop to it.
“You mean,” she started, warily.
Lestrade just smiled at her. “My place or yours? I haven't told him yet.” He nodded his head at their chauffeur.
Anne didn't reply, but she reached over to settle a hand on his knee. “You know I'm not good for much of anything after a performance.”
“Does it matter?” he asked. Anne frowned a little, turning her head to look at him. A soft smile tugged at his lips. “Maybe I'd just like to spend some time with my wife?” He murmured. She didn't respond right away, her eyes just searched his face, his hair, his eyes. She reached up, setting the backs of her fingers against his cheek.
Quietly she replied, “Your place, then.”
Lestrade studied her a moment, “You sure?” he asked. When she nodded he reached forward and rapped his knuckle against the glass separating the chauffeur from the passengers. He gave the driver the address then he pulled Anne even closer to him, wrapping his arms around her. Settling his cheek against the side of her head, he relaxed a little more. “I've missed you.”
He sensed rather than saw her smile as she relaxed.
“I've missed you too, Greg,” she said with hint of sadness in her voice. “Very much.”
In appallingly expensive London he lived surprisingly close to New Scotland Yard. Not within walking distance but accessible in minutes by rail and tube. He had found his flat well before ever meeting Anne and had rented it until the owner opted to put it on the market. Creative finagling with his (then) smaller salary and an inheritance from his parents helped to get a mortgage he could withstand.
After marrying Anne her salary helped some, but as time progressed and their schedules kept driving them further apart, Anne eventually rented herself a ridiculously tiny studio flat closer to the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden. Still, Lestrade's sixth floor flat had a nice view of Battersea Park and for being in London, it was also peaceful. Peace that he craved, especially when needing time to unwind from the various horrors of investigating the absolute worst humankind could do to one another. In emergencies, the Yard would often send a car around to pick him up.
Getting out of the limo, he looked around quickly, scanning for anything suspicious before he turned and reached for Anne's duffel bag. Shouldering it, he offered her his hand as she climbed out after him. It was colder and now that she was unwinding from the performance, she was shivering almost the instant she got out of the car.
“Stay close,” he murmured to her. Anne frowned, clutching his coat around her and looking around in dismay.
“Did you see something?”
“No, I'm just being cautious. I'd've had a text if something had come up. Besides, you're freezing and I'm warm.” He reached down to take her hand in his and led the way to the entrance. Anne snickered softly at him and obligingly drew in closer. He glanced around again while opening the door for her, feeling the faintest of itches between his shoulders but he shrugged it off when he saw nothing out of order and followed her inside.
Being so late, there was no one in the main lobby and his neighbours had long ago got used to him coming and going at very odd hours of the day or night. It was here he relaxed a little more, it was home and the place had a fairly good security system. Anne heard his sigh of relief, and glanced up at him as they entered the lift.
“Greg, I'm sorry...” she said to him, “For causing you so much trouble.”
The door swished shut and as they adjusted to the jerk of the lift, he replied. “Nonsense, the Met boys will get things sorted out. At least you have me for protection, should we need it.”
“I do at that,” she grinned as the lift came to a stop and they stepped out onto the silent sixth floor. He had his keys out by the time they reached the door. It swung in and he held it as Anne went ahead of him. She instinctively reached up and flipped the lights on before heading for the lounge. Greg followed setting the duffel on the floor and nudging the door shut with his foot.
He headed for the kitchen. As he entered he heard Anne gasp, a horror filled intake of air, followed by her indignant demand of, “What are you doing?”
Lestrade, feeling his veins turn to ice at the sound of his wife's sudden outburst, moved her way only to be met with someone hitting his jaw hard enough to nearly send him to the floor in a blinding flash of pain and light.
He was up in seconds, barely managing to keep from getting slammed into the fridge as he ducked low and then came up, fighting to keep his head clear. He focused on a man dressed entirely in dark clothes who was preparing to take another swing at him. In the living room he could hear items breaking as Anne shrieked again demanding to know what was going on, then her even more terrified screaming for him.
Galvanized, Lestrade laid into the assailant in front of him, short, hard, furious jabs to the ribs and kidneys as he tried overpowering the man. He knew he was causing damage by the sounds coming from the assailant. He grabbed the balaclava off the man's face. For a brief second they made eye contact, Lestrade's eyes dark with deadly intent, a feral smile flashing across his face. His fist flew and he felt the satisfying crunch of cartilage as he broke the man's nose, rocking his head back, causing him to crash into the kitchen cupboards. He had his hand on the man's throat, trying to pin him to the work surface as he drew his fist back for another swing.
With his attention so wholly focused on taking the man before him out, Lestrade never saw another man come up behind him. The second assailant threw an arm around Greg's neck in a choke hold, wrestling him back off of the man he was beating on. Lestrade grabbed the arm around his throat, aiming a furious kick into the groin of the first assailant before he managed to wrench the second assailant around. He planted both his feet hard on the ground, stooped and shoved with everything he had, trying to throw the second assailant into the first.
“Anne!” he roared, barely catching sight of her being hauled backwards by a third man. She was wildly kicking out at a fourth and putting up a furious struggle in her own right. By the time Lestrade began to realize they had been totally overpowered, he didn't see a fifth man approaching him as the man who he had thrown managed to kick his feet out from underneath him.
Lestrade twisted to land on his hands and knees and was levering himself back up when he felt a knee hit his spine, slamming him back down as his legs were pinned. One of them grabbed him by the arm, jerking it back up and around, forcing his face to the floor. He was raging by then, as someone grabbed him by his hair, strong fingers gripping his skull, pulling his head up. He felt his jacket being jerked back, trapping his arms, causing him to struggle even more furiously. With a sickening feeling, he felt a man's hand under his jacket, running down his shirt, prodding at his ribs, as he was being effectively pinned to his kitchen floor.
He felt the knife being stuck in his back before he consciously registered the 'snick' of the blade being released. He sucked in an involuntary gasp of air, before the pain crashed over his senses, blinding him. Somewhere he heard an animal-like roar of rage, not fully realizing it was himself. Within moments he was beginning to shiver despite still struggling to fight. Lestrade felt his head being jerked toward his living room as one of the assailants ripped the arm off of his jacket to push his shirtsleeve past his elbow.
Horrified, Lestrade couldn't help but see Anne pinned to the living room floor by two men, one of whom was just inserting a hypodermic needle into her arm. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she locked eyes with him. Sound became distorted as Lestrade heard her calling for him, and all he could do was watch in helpless rage. She began to weaken, and was still trying to struggle as Greg watched something suspiciously like an oxygen mask being placed over her face. Distantly he felt something being stabbed into his own arm.
Shivering, he could feel a growing wet, warmth in his side as he continued trying to rid himself of his attackers to no avail, a stream of invectives spewing from his mouth as he raged; helpless to do anything. Whatever drug being injected into his system worked appallingly fast in his violent struggling. Lestrade felt the desperate hold he had on his consciousness begin to slip away.
As his view began to constrict and dim, his last sight was of his wife lying unconscious, followed by the futile realization that he hadn't been able to a thing to protect and save her.
It was quiet, dark and cold when Lestrade began to come around. Befuddled, he realized he was laying face first on his kitchen floor. Nausea washed over him as he tried to get his senses to work together. Shivering, he looked to his left into the living room, barely lit by the night time lights from outside his balcony. It was far too quiet. The living room looked all askew. He knew something was seriously wrong with him, and that it was clouding his judgment. He fumbled at his jacket, barely registering that his shirt was completely unbuttoned, then winced in pain at something constricting his torso. Struggling to keep from passing out, he pulled out his mobile, his thumb automatically hitting a preset speed dial. Within seconds he heard a man's voice but couldn't make out the words of what he said. Lestrade gathered his own strength, trying to roll onto his back, groaning out loud in pain.
“This is Detective Inspector Lestrade!” He managed to gasp. “There's been a B&E, in my home...” When he did manage to roll onto his back, he very nearly passed out. He gripped the phone, his other hand running through something warm and wet on the floor beside him. Feeling his rather tenuous hold on consciousness begin to fail him he managed to add, “I'm injured, I need help, my wife is...” he blinked, listening for sounds in the house while holding the phone to his ear.
As his consciousness began to slip he called out, “Anne? Anne!”