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Life in the Ruins

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Before the Fall Greg Lestrade's ringtone had been a standard mobile ringtone. Immediately after the Fall he'd changed it (or rather had had Tess help him change it) to "Don't Bring Me Down" by ELO, his standard 'don't let the bastards get you down' tune. He had lasted three days before changing it back to the generic chime. Karen, sneaky little whelp of a thing that she was, later changed it to Eric Clapton's "Everybody Oughta Make A Change" as her attempt at encouragement. He'd resent the implication there but considering that he has thus far spent his suspension (paid- thank God) on the couch watching whatever people who watched telly during the day watched or else spending far too much time playing solitaire or hearts on his laptop he really has no right to. He's tried to avoid the internet as much as he can. The temptation to Google himself, John, or Sherlock is just too high and as much he doesn't like his laptop he doesn't feel like replacing it after he throws it across the room and breaks it in half.

He doesn't have strong feelings one way or the other for this song but he knows for sure that he'll break his mobile if Eric Clapton keeps singing at him for one minute longer. It has been ringing nonstop for the past five minutes. The date and time keep flashing annoyingly at him, reminding him that is the forty fifth day of his sixty day suspension and that it is eleven in the morning and he is still not dressed for the day. Or moved from this couch since last night.

The thing also tells him that the number calling him is blocked, which means it is either the Yard or Mycroft and he has no intention of talking to either of them. Not that whatever crap is on right now is that engrossing - he thinks it's something that even Tess would refuse to watch and Tess's taste was questionable at the best of times - but one of the few things that give Lestrade pleasure these days is sticking to his suspension out of spite. Especially in the aftermath of the truth being known. Part of it is retaliation to his coworkers for not believing in Sherlock or in him; the rest is him punishing himself because he didn't believe in Sherlock enough either. Yeah, Sally would have just gone right over his head anyway but he could have made more noise. Or waylaid her. Done something to stop Sherlock from jumping.

Maybe he would have noticed the fucking mole in his own department who'd had a gun trained on him that day. Maybe he would have seen him before Sally did - would have gotten answers and gotten to John and stopped everything before it even started.

Lestrade huffs and reaches for the cup of tea on the coffee table. He quickly sets it back down when he remembers that was brewed last night and certainly is disgusting by now. He couldn't have stopped it. Nothing could stop Sherlock Holmes when he had a plan in motion and when it was sound.

Stupid bastard. He isn't sure if he's referring to himself or Sherlock.

Eric Clapton keeps fucking singing: Change in the ocean. Change in the sea. Come back baby, you'll find a change in me.

Louise sticks her head in. “Dad?”

“It’s fine.” He turns the volume up on the telly. Karen immediately bellows from the floor above for him to turn it down. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” he bellows up in reply.

“I don’t start ‘til one!”

“So when does Tess start then?”

“Tess's already in Southwark,” Louise tells him. Karen must have shoved some headphones on or something. “She’ll be home ‘round half six.”

There were many times that Lestrade wondered how he managed this house. When the girls were in school it was a lot easier to keep track of them. Granted Louise more or less took care of herself now. To be honest Louise has been taking care of everyone since her mother left and that was nearly twenty years ago. She's been especially dutiful to him over the past forty-five days and Lestrade feels guilty for it. He's not ill and he's not an invalid but he'll take Louise making dinner and worrying about the schedules and the car. It is a mess at the best of times.

The girls were certainly all old enough to manage their own affairs with or without Louise playing Mum. Tess would be more than capable if she were less of a worrier and less dramatic. Karen, the baby of the Lestrade girls at seventeen, was more self sufficient than Tess and only the care that Karen really needed was making sure she got fed. She was the type to get wrapped up in something and forget. Now Karen has her first summer job at a record shop, Tess works for the National Theatre as a stage hand, and Louise is volunteering as a tutor at the university and was also working for another private tutoring company. Between the three of them he really should have a chart on the fridge or in the front hall or something.

It would help him know where everyone was but it didn’t help ease the fact that his girls were off and doing things, whether that was work or otherwise, and he was at home doing nothing. Karen had wanted him to fight the suspension once the truth had been out there. That Sherlock Holmes was real and that Richard Brook (Richen Bach, how had they missed that one?) was a lie. Some of that was thanks to the I Believe in Sherlock Holmes movement, some of it probably thanks to Mycroft Holmes, but most of it was the product of the hard work of John Watson.

Lestrade had heard Sherlock Holmes’s final call to John. He wasn’t supposed to have heard it but Paul Dimmock had slipped it his way because he wanted someone John was friends with to know exactly what he was dealing with. Not that Lestrade had had much of an opportunity to do whatever good Dimmock had been hoping for but if Lestrade was haunted by that call he couldn't begin to imagine how it haunted John. Hearing Sherlock 'admit' to being a fake was enough but then hearing him try and not only ask John to believe it but to spread the lie was too much for anyone to bear.

In response to this directive John had done the complete opposite. It had kept him going for a time as he’d fought the naysayers and presented evidence and, if rumour was to be believed, actively encouraged the I Believe In Sherlock Holmes movement. John, of course, never responded to any accusations on that front. All he ever said to anyone who asked him about Sherlock was the same message he had posted on his final blog entry: "He was my best friend and I’ll always believe in him." There are YouTube mash ups of all the sound bites that existed of John saying that. Lestrade knows because he’s seen them all. As much as he tries to avoid the internet it takes a stronger man than he to resist the siren call of YouTube.

At any rate since the truth was put out there, and John had vanished back into obscurity, the Yard has been trying to reach him. Whether it was them firing him or them begging him to come back Lestrade does not care. He is not answering any calls from anyone not immediate family, Dimmock, or John. Not that John is ever going to ring him. He’s been waiting weeks for him to do it and he very badly wants to do it himself but he knows that he can’t.

About two weeks after Sherlock’s death they had met each other in the hallway while leaving their respective therapists’ offices. Louise and Karen know that Lestrade is seeing somebody but Tess is being kept in the dark for his own sanity. No one else knows and Lestrade much prefers to keep it that way. He’d just shut the door on Lily when John had walked out of the room across and two doors down the hall from him. At first they’d pretended to not notice each other but then John had deliberately altered his path to bump into him. It hadn’t been a sign of aggression or a stumble but a cautious, friendly shoulder bump even if the warmth and affection was missing. “You shouldn’t blame yourself,” he’d whispered, defeated.

He hadn't known John all that long but he knew him enough to know that John had never looked like this. That John should never look or sound like this. Knowing this he'd still bitten back the desire to tell him that he shouldn't blame himself either. John wouldn’t stop because he asked him to and he wouldn’t insult him by trying to give him advice.

“Shouldn’t, perhaps," Lestrade had said instead. "It is what it is though.” He'd looked around awkwardly after this talk of blame. “Think we’ll see Sally or Dave here?” He has no idea why he’d said that. Bumping into them would have been a horror show and that had been his opinion before John’s reaction.

The old John, the John from before the Fall and the John that Sherlock had relied on, would have scoffed at that and said something offhand and sarcastic. This John had instead looked damned near murderous and the tone in which he’d said “we’d better not” made Lestrade’s blood run cold. He’d put men under watch for less than that and he remembers almost stepping away in fear of what the Fall had left behind.

If only he’d listened to Sherlock. If only he’d held his ground. He’d trusted the man when he’d been nothing but a homeless drug addict so what had been stopping him from keeping the faith? If only...

“I told you not to blame yourself. I don’t. Not anymore.”

“And you blame Sally and Dave?”

“ Not really,” John had admitted after a moment. “They were doing their jobs and Sher....well, he would say the same at the end of it all. Probably even compliment Sally for using her head for once.” He'd looked away quickly before going on, hand shaking as it wiped across his face. “I’ve got to put some of the blame somewhere though. Otherwise...” John shrugs and lets the sentence trail off.

Lestrade had quickly offered to do lunch or something at that point. That they should go grab a pint like the old days. John had agreed that they should but that he’d ring him when he was ready to do it. “I just need some time alone.”

Some time alone is the absolute last thing that John needs. It had been bad for him then and it was just as bad for him now. No one has seen him since the official announcement. Lestrade had rang Mrs. Hudson a couple times since then and the way she spoke about him almost matched the way she would speak of Sherlock when he was in a strop. She barely saw him anyway it seemed. He worked and then went straight upstairs. Lestrade wonders what had made him come back to 221b. Initially he’d moved elsewhere and then had come back just before he’d started the fight to clear Sherlock's name.

It doesn’t matter, he supposes. It isn’t healthy perhaps but he is not going to tell John that he can’t live there. People had told him to move after Anne had left him and the girls but here they had stayed. Partly because Lestrade had been hoping for Anne to come back to them, or rather to the girls if not him, but mostly because it was home and wasn’t going to uproot his girls. They'd been aged five, three, and five months at the time. He’d considered moving once he’d received the paperwork for a divorce and a renouncement of Anne’s parental rights but had decided to stay in the end. Now he doesn't even think of Anne except on rare times like these when he brings her up himself. They had redecorated several times since then so it is hard to picture her here now.

John, on the other hand, would leave everything as it was. Lestrade could see it now. They may have only known each other a year and a half but they were mates and he knew John well enough. Not mates the way John and Sherlock were but mates nonetheless.

Were. Lestrade shuts the telly off and ignores yet another blocked number call on his mobile. He's going to change the ringtone again the second this thought finishes, he decides. Such a thing as John and Sherlock could never have a past tense. John and Sherlock are still mates in every sense of the word and that is why John is what he is and suffers to the degree that he does. He will always suffer in one way or another for the rest of his life and for that Lestrade is very, very sorry and very, very scared. He wishes he could do something but he knows there is nothing to be done. For some people there is no going back.

“You stupid bastard,” Lestrade curses a man who can’t hear him. “You stupid, stupid, bastard. You died to save John but you may have killed him anyway.” Lestrade is appropriately grateful for what lengths Sherlock was willing to go to protect them all but he knows, as does Mrs. Hudson, that this was all for John. Had it just been the either of them Sherlock would have thought more, would have managed to think up something mad to save the day and come out looking brilliant. Once John was brought into it Sherlock was a dead man. Sherlock would do anything for John and they’d all known it. Everyone except John it seemed. John had been resigned to things being a bit one sided between them, Lestrade reckons. How wrong had he been and how badly did he wish that he had been told or shown in some other way.

Change in the weather. Change in the sea. Come back, baby, you'll find a change in me.

He ignores it. Maybe he should check on John anyway. Someone should. No one should face this alone. Lestrade has half toyed with the idea of reporting him for the gun, the paperwork from Mycroft be damned. He tells himself that he doesn't because he wants John to keep the protection in case any remnants of Moriarty’s organization come his way but really Lestrade thinks....Lestrade doesn’t want to acknowledge what he thinks.

His mobile and the landline start ringing together. Blocked number still on the mobile and he sighs irritably when he realises the hand set isn't sitting in its cradle. “Louise!” he yells down the hall. “What’s the number?”

Louise reports that the number's blocked as well. It almost feels like the old days but Lestrade gets up to retrieve the handset from across the room instead of answering the mobile. His knees sound like they're splintering and they feel like it too. He pushes the 'talk' button. “How do you do that?”

“Irrelevant. I’ve been calling you for fifteen minutes and you haven’t been answering.”

“There’s a reason for that –“

“ You need to get to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital at once.”

“Why on Earth would I want to go there?” Lestrade never needed to be around there, thankfully, and he has no intention of ever setting foot in the building ever again.

That stance vanishes when Mycroft Holmes tells him that John has been spotted on the roof.