Lestrade went home but that was the most ridiculous thing he had ever done, because it wasn’t like he could possibly sleep with his brain as full as it was. He wanted to talk to someone, about any of this, and the only people he could think to talk to were Mrs. Hudson and John Watson. Mrs. Hudson would tell him how nice it was that Mycroft Holmes had started snogging him in dark corners, because Mycroft Holmes was a nice man and very sad and lonely, and Lestrade would be good for him. Lestrade knew this was exactly what Mrs. Hudson would say.
So he decided to go see John instead. Except that he didn’t know where John worked.
He texted Mycroft, which in itself was passive-aggressive because he knew Mycroft hated texting, but he wasn’t about to talk to Mycroft at this moment. Where does John work?
Mycroft texted him back almost immediately with an address, and Lestrade left his flat and went to see John.
John worked at a clinic, and it was crowded with sick people, and when he asked the receptionist for Dr. Watson, the receptionist gave him a harried look and said she couldn’t possibly fit him in that day, so Lestrade waved his badge about and said, “Official police business,” and the frightened receptionist immediately led him to John’s office and shooed the patient John was seeing out of it.
John looked at him in surprise. “You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
There was no ghost, was the problem, but almost worse than that was his other problem. “Mycroft Holmes kissed me,” he said, abruptly, without preamble.
John just looked at him, then said, “I…I’m sorry, I don’t think I…”
“You heard me correctly,” Lestrade told him, brusquely, and tried to find room in John’s tiny examining room to pace.
“He kissed you?”
“Mycroft Holmes kisses people?”
“He’s surprisingly good at it,” confessed Lestrade.
“He’s good at kissing people? But I didn’t think you were…you know…”
“I’m not. But I’m not sure it matters with Holmeses. As if you don’t wish Sherlock had backed you against a wall and kissed you.”
John looked as if he were inclined to try to deny it, then got distracted. “Hang on, he kissed you against a wall?”
“I said he kissed me, didn’t I?”
“I thought you meant, I don’t know, a quick peck on the lips on his way to work.”
Lestrade looked at him. “No. Not that sort of kiss.”
John opened and closed his mouth a couple of times soundlessly. Then he managed, “What are you going to do about it?”
“I have no idea.” Lestrade stopped attempting to pace and leaned against the wall instead. “I was hoping not to behave like a bloody teenager over it, but it appears to be too late for that.”
John stared across at him, then said, dazedly, “This is the most astonishing thing I’ve ever heard.”
Lestrade looked at him and thought of more astonishing things he could tell John than that he’d been kissed by Mycroft Holmes. What if he stood here in this office and just said it? Sherlock is alive. He was never dead. He did it to protect you. He could tell him now, so easily, news he knew John told himself not to even fantasize about because it was unhealthy. He had it in his pocket; he could give it to him in his next breath.
Lestrade thought of how immediately Mycroft had told him where John was. Mycroft had asked him to keep the secret, and he could be here, this minute, betraying it, and Mycroft hadn’t attempted to stop him, in any way, shape, or form. He had sent him the text with the address. And he had left the rest to Lestrade.
Something about the level of trust that had been involved in that act on Mycroft’s part made Lestrade feel suddenly like he couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t a chess move. It was more like taking all of your pieces off the board except for your king and simply waiting, hoping, that the person you were playing against decided not to play as well. His head was a swirl of warring emotions, but somewhere the clear-as-crystal thought emerged that Mycroft Holmes had left him the chess board, to play the pieces as he wished, and Lestrade knew, with unerring instinct, that Mycroft had probably never trusted anyone that much before.
“You really don’t seem well,” John said to him.
His mobile rang, which saved him the effort of trying to explain anything that was happening to him. He looked at it, hoping it wasn’t Mycroft, and it wasn’t. It was Colin. He heaved a huge sigh of relief and said to John, “Let me get this. Lestrade,” he said into the phone.
“Inspector,” said Colin, sounding nervous. “Are you all right?”
Why did everyone keep thinking he wasn’t all right? Lestrade wondered. “I’m fine. Why? What is it?”
“It’s just that you’re not here, sir, and no one had heard from you, and DCI Thomas said he’d spoken to you this morning but then people had seen you go dashing out of here, so, I suppose, I just wanted to make sure…you were all right.”
His job, thought Lestrade. He had forgotten entirely about the fact that he had a job that had expected him to be there. “Yes. I’m fine. Sorry. I got distracted. I’ll be right in.” He hung up the phone and said to John, “I have to go to work.”
“Okay,” said John. His face was still in processing mode. He looked rather the way he’d used to look whenever Sherlock had done something barely comprehensible. “Well. This was a good chat. We should have more of these.”
“I really hope not,” said Lestrade. “Any advice?”
John paused, clearly thinking. And then he said, slowly, “I think, if I’m honest, I’m jealous that you got the Holmes brother inclined to make a move.”
Colin followed on his heels into his office, which was only problematic when Lestrade realized he’d left all of Sherlock Holmes’s “death”-related papers scattered all over his desk, and he tried to gather them up into a pile as discreetly as possible.
“DCI Thomas was looking for you, sir,” Colin said.
“Was he?” said Lestrade. That wasn’t an especially good thing to be happening right now, he thought.
And, on cue, his DCI knocked cursorily on his door. “There you are,” he said, jovially. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Sorry,” said Lestrade, automatically. “I was…” He made a vague gesture he hoped would be interpreted as something completely respectable and not as being kissed by the man who is the British government after discovering he’d faked his brother’s death.
“Could I talk to your DI for a moment, Sergeant?” Thomas said to Colin, who, looking extra-terrified now, nodded mutely and hurried out of the office.
Thomas lifted his eyebrows and closed Lestrade’s office door. “He’s terrified of you,” he said.
“Well, I am terrifying,” said Lestrade, still running on automatic while his brain tried to imagine what this was about and how he ought to counter it.
Lestrade paused in his mental acrobatics. “Everyone always laughs when I say that.”
Thomas smiled at him. “The thing you came to talk to me about this morning.”
Just when he wanted time to think about Sherlock Holmes’s death, his DCI had decided it was time to show an interest in Sherlock Holmes’s death. Bloody fantastic. Lestrade ignored the fact that he had brought this on himself and said, merely, “Yes?”
“You made me curious, so I looked into it. Molly Hooper signed the death certificate, and the coroner’s report.”
“Yes,” said Lestrade, because he knew this.
“Did you know she wasn’t even working that day? She pushed the ME on duty out of the way to handle the body. Insisted it go through her. Doesn’t that strike you as strange?”
Lestrade stood behind his desk and thought. If he said, Yes, it is strange, they would bring in Molly Hooper and, despite her adoration of Sherlock and her determination that she save him, Lestrade knew he could crack her, easily. The walls of the conspiracy would end up starting to crumble. They would try to get at Mycroft. Unwarrantable Mycroft, Lestrade suspected. Who probably didn’t even officially exist.
And once before he had gone after a friend. He had done it with doubts, without his heart in it, knowing that he shouldn’t. And he had promised himself he would never do it again.
“Not really, sir,” he heard himself say. “She was close to Sherlock. She didn’t like the idea of anyone else doing it.”
Thomas was watching him closely. “You’ve spoken to her about it?”
“Yes,” he lied.
“And you don’t think there’s anything suspicious there?”
Lestrade smiled easily. “Nothing whatsoever. She was just a girl who loved him. Tragic, but not suspicious.”
“Well.” Thomas shrugged a bit. “So long as you’re satisfied. He was your friend.”
A friend who was theoretically a fraud, but Thomas didn’t seem to think that, and Lestrade wondered if Mycroft had changed Scotland Yard’s thinking on that, even if he hadn’t changed the newspaper stories.
“I’m satisfied,” Lestrade said.
He waited until he saw Thomas go into his office before he picked up the papers he’d printed and casually walked down the hallway and up two flights of stairs. He paused and watched the man who sat nearest to the paper shredder, supposedly to ensure that evidence didn’t go mysteriously missing, that the only things shredded were things that needed to be shredded, things with confidential identifying information. It wasn’t that shredding Sherlock Holmes’s death certificate would make it disappear, because it was there, electronically saved, for anyone to look at. It was just that he didn’t want anyone to know that he had looked at it.
The man sitting next to the paper shredder was flirting with an attractive blonde, which seemed the perfect time for Lestrade to walk by him on his way to the paper shredder.
“Oh,” he said, half-turning away from the blonde.
“No worries,” Lestrade assured him, waving the papers at him. “Just a couple of health records I need to get rid of. I can do it myself.” He winked at him and tipped his head a bit in the blonde’s direction.
The man grinned, grateful for the lack of major interruption, and Lestrade stood and ran every paper he had about Sherlock Holmes through the shredder.
Then he went back upstairs and found Colin. “I have to take the rest of the day off,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” said Colin, and then, hesitantly, “If you don’t mind my asking, is everything all right, sir?”
“Fine,” Lestrade assured him. “Everything’s fine. Just…personal business.” For the first time ever, it became convenient to him that his wife’s adultery was the worst-kept secret in the station, because Colin averted his eyes and mumbled something vaguely well-wishing that Lestrade didn’t catch and didn’t much care to catch.
He drove to Mycroft’s, parked as illegally as he usually did, and knocked on the front door much more calmly than he had earlier that day.
Mycroft’s butler answered, and let him in, and said, “He’s not here.”
“I’ll wait,” said Lestrade, moving confidently into the drawing room. He sat by the dark and empty fireplace and tried to determine exactly what it was he planned to say.