Seems now the only moments when he's really alive are when he's nervously adjusting his stab vest, slightly dizzy, a bit of white noise in his ears--probably the sound of blood and adrenaline rushing to his brain. On the verge of breaking down a door to find out who or what waits on the other side.
Maybe also . . . maybe he's also alive during those other brief moments. Moments when he's on the verge of sleep, clutching the pillow under his head, letting go of what he should be and should want. Letting his desire for something else, someone else pull him up and out of his waking mind and into the most blissful of dreams.
Nothing wrong with dreaming, is there?
* * * * *
They are absolutely the best of friends. They understand each other's work. Understand the demands; the bloody, fucking endless stress; the way complete strangers depend on you to fix everything, make everything right. In Greg's case: to find the missing child, the kidnapped wife, the lifeless body. And to put the criminal in handcuffs and then into a dark, lonely cell for life. In Alex's case: to mend the crushed limbs, extract the bullet, or just patch up the boys after a drunken brawl and send them home to fight another day.
Just fix it all. Make things right, with as little fuss and as fast as possible.
They'd met when they were both green young twenty-somethings trying to learn the work and not make too many mistakes. They fulfilled each other's most urgent requirements: someone to talk to at the end of the day, someone to share a pint and a plate of food, someone to warm the other side of the bed. It was a blessing, in those days, to have a steady partner, someone safe and easy and good. Someone who'd be around--God willing--for the long haul.
Greg knew how to count his blessings. Knew he was a lucky sod. Alex loved him and told him so every goddamn morning as they brushed their teeth together. Kissed him on the cheek while she poured the coffee. Hugged him tight--too tight--when he came home in the wee hours, with blood stains on the hems of his trousers. On their anniversary, Alex always got a bit soppy. Inscribed cards or books of poetry with little notes about how she couldn't believe she'd found such a perfect mate. How Greg still made her heart stop with the sheer joy of seeing him walk down the street.
Greg always nodded and blushed and hugged her a little too long, so that he didn't have to make eye contact. Kept quiet until he could say clearly and with feeling, "Me too. You're the best person I know, and I can't believe you're still daft enough to be with me. I love you."
For years now--Greg couldn't really remember how many--he could only say "I love you" when he had time to work up to it--time to muster memories and images of those first years together in his mind, then hold Alex close and gaze into the distance over her shoulder. He couldn't say it when he looked into her eyes or when they were naked and sweating and rocking against each other. He could manage it when he recalled how they'd met and felt an instant spark, how at first they'd fucked 'til dawn to stave off the nightmares. They'd made a kind of healing space in the creaking bed, fingers and tongues exploring and soothing each other's wounds.
They forgot the fears that dogged every day: fear of letting someone down or letting someone die. Fear of not knowing what to do when the crisis hit, when there was a man with a gun on the other side of the door or when a car crash brought five victims into the A&E at once, barely clinging to life.
After the passion and need of those first few years faded, Greg used to close his eyes every night determined to bring back the time when her embrace was all he wanted.
But now . . . Now, God help him, it's almost impossible. The strain of trying to remember exhausts him, so he usually gives up and just lets it go.
Tonight Greg is in that black, empty no man's land between cases. He has only caffeine and paperwork to look forward to tomorrow. No adrenaline, no furious activity at the crime scene. Now he opens his eyes in the middle of the night and looks at Alex. And all he feels is numbness in his limbs, his face, his chest. Disconnected. It's as if half of Greg lives somewhere else, somewhere far away from the woman softly breathing next to him, the woman who is still his best friend.
When it comes down to it, at 47, Greg suddenly feels estranged from himself--the copper who is solid and honest and loyal to a fault. The D. I. who would never abandon a victim or betray a member of his team or leave his wife.
He tells himself none of those things will ever happen. Even if Greg Lestrade isn't sure he is actually a good man anymore, he will act as though he is. And the irony isn't lost on him.
He'll be a good man. He will lie.
He can't imagine a future in which he could step off this road he's surveyed and paved for himself. If he did step off--who the hell would he be? He wouldn't exist anymore, would he?
When Alex reaches out, half-asleep, and tries to pull him close, Greg turns away. "Too warm in here tonight," he whispers. "Sorry."
Greg's eyes close, and he reminds himself again that he's a lucky bastard. No right to complain or feel sorry for himself. At least the man who sets his heart racing and makes his mouth dry and his knees buckle is nearby--someone he can see whenever he wants to. Does that make it easier, or harder? He's never really sure.
John thinks of Greg as a friend--a refuge even. So what if that means Greg has to listen to him whine and carry on about the certifiable insanity of the man John so obviously loves. Is so clearly in love with. Better than nothing, isn't it?
Greg can look at John Watson all he wants, but just like with Alex, tries to avoid the eyes. Occasionally Greg can even touch John. A "well done" slap on the back. A handshake. A grip that will never turn into fingers tugging and twisting through short, dirty blond hair, or the feel of a couple of day's growth of stubble against his cheek or a teasing tongue on the salty, hot skin between neck and shoulder.
John belongs to Sherlock.
Greg is not blind. He can see the passion that animates that pair every time they'e together. Hell, the D.I. can feel it sizzling and popping from the other side of the city sometimes. It's good that they have each other. How can he begrudge the sociopath one true friend, one person who loves him enough to kill or be killed for him? Of course he can't. Greg loves Sherlock too, whenever he's not busy wanting to strangle the consulting prick or lock him up and throw away the key. Yeah, he gets it. He understands how good those two are for each other.
Greg will watch over Sherlock and John 'til his dying day. He'll work the leads, and try to keep his distance.
Sometimes he'll just not answer the texts. Let Dimmock or Gregson take the case.
But in his dreams--because dreams are okay, aren't they?-- Greg will imagine some other country, some alternate universe in which the aching, scoured-out emptiness and wanting disappear. The emptiness disappears because he's with John. John's deep inside him, fingers wrapped around his, breath hot on his chest--needing him, fucking him, telling him yes. In Greg's dreams, John is bringing him back from that faraway place, breathing life back into him with every kiss.
Sometimes the dream is just a door that opens wide--just swings open--and John is on the other side grinning.
And after twenty years of being a good man, doing the right thing, fixing everything without making a fuss--now Greg Lestrade is fixing nothing. He imagines himself breaking everything and everyone around him. He's doing the wrong thing, but he's alive again.
When he wakes up, Greg leans into Alex's kiss. Smiles as he nods goodbye. Lying gets easier with practice. He doesn't think she knows, and maybe she never will.
One more day now. More coffee and paperwork. More checking in on Sherlock and John. Maybe a bit of dinner and a pint with Donovan and Dimmock. Best to put off going home a little while longer. She'll be fine on her own.
One more day half-alive.