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Little by Little

Chapter Text

Being a police officer, a Detective Inspector at that, was not conducive to the maintenance of healthy long-term relationships. Gregory Lestrade had seen close to a dozen friends from the force destroy marriages and relationships with good, decent people in his first 10 years of policing. It’s not that police officers made bad wives, husbands, boyfriends or girlfriends inherently, rather that a relationship requires a time commitment, routines and traditions that conflict with the rather unpredictable work of a police officer. In the end, it was a choice many of them had to make: take a desk job or resign themselves to a life spent, for the most part, alone. So, basically, it came down to what mattered the most to the individual: personal happiness or a sense of professional fulfilment.

Lestrade had chosen the latter, but it had taken him a while to stop looking for that one person who would understand his commitment to his work and love him anyway. The one person who was perfect for him. He was a little bit of a romantic, although he certainly wouldn’t admit to that.

The idea of creating a family was so tempting that it almost broke his resolve on many occasions, but it took less than a minute to remember how unfair it would be. Missed concerts and football games, forgotten birthdays and lonely nights waiting. As much as he craved the family connection he’d all but lost with the death of his mother, he could not justify making a family of his own. Not when he had made the choice to put his job as his number one priority.

Still, sat in his cold one-bedroom apartment in mid-winter with a broken heater and an empty fridge, it was easy to think 'what if' and daydream about the life he could have had. This self-destructive imagining never lasted long, he would get a call from work or hear the distant sirens of a police car and snap back to a reality in which he was, for the most part, happy with his choices.

He realised that some officers were able to maintain reasonably healthy relationships and remain on the force, but he had tried that. He was too intense, too passionate, to balance his life to the satisfaction of a partner, and when given the choice between a partner and his job he had chosen his job. Every time.

He had been 30 when he finally stopped looking for that illusive one and started the throw himself wholeheartedly into his work. He had made DI five years later.

Ten years on from there and he still sat, alone, in a cold one-bedroom apartment. He had gained six new scars, four broken bones and 1 ½ friends in that time. His hair was far more salt than pepper and his limbs protested more than they had before, but he was more certain than ever that he had made the right decision.

A series of rapes and one murder had been his case for over two weeks in early May and it had not been an easy one. When he had finally got a viable lead it was only to find the freak responsible strung up by his ankles with another sociopath standing next to him, armed with a gun. It was a situation that ranked fairly high up on Lestrade’s personal ‘What the Fuck’ scale, although not as high as one might think. The scale had expanded somewhat after he had met Sherlock Holmes. The resulting showdown had lasted no less than six hours and ended with one injured officer. Not exactly the best outcome, but at least they had arrested the culprit.

After that he cheerfully told his DCI that he would be taking his scheduled holiday, which really meant ‘Go fuck yourself I am NOT working just so you have to do less paperwork, you arse’. That should have made for a good latter half of May but, as usual, a spanner was thrown into the works. A spanner predictably branded as SHERLOCK HOLMES.

He’d arrived at Heathrow airport at 4am after a magical, relaxing week in Spain to a woman in a grey power suit holding a sign with LESTRADE painted on in big, bold lettering. While he’d never had the occasion to meet Sherlock’s illusive older brother, Mycroft, he recognised the distinctive signs of a Holmes kidnapping. The attractive woman, who he called Andrea even though he knew it wasn’t her name, was one he’d met several times, not being important enough for Mycroft’s personal attention. Once had been when he’d first begun utilising Sherlock as a consultant, another when he’d successfully rehabilitated the bastard, twice when he’d been ‘asked’ to take a case away from another detective and contact Sherlock, and one final time after he had met John Watson.

She relayed Mycroft’s messages and never anything else, but even so he rather liked her. While she never strayed from the letter of Mycroft’s instructions, she added facial expressions and sighs that clearly indicated whether or not she agreed with her esteemed boss’ opinions. She had a dry, sarcastic brand of humour that managed to endear her to him, despite their relative positions. He liked her, but he hated that she was there. John had been important enough to receive an actual talk with Mycroft, and Lestrade understood better than John why that was the case, but he was sure that, after more than five years, he was important enough for at least a phone call. Being ignored like that wounded his pride.

He approached, scowling and pulling his plain black suitcase behind him, and she smiled apologetically.

“Morning,” he muttered. While he might not have been happy with the situation, Andrea hardly deserved to be blamed for that and it wouldn’t do to shoot the messenger.

“Good morning, Detective Inspector Lestrade. Mr Holmes would be honoured if you would consent to taking one of his cars to your destination,” she said dryly, rolling her eyes at him.

He wanted to grin, he really did, but he couldn’t see the humour after a two-hour red-eye flight with a toddler sitting behind him kicking his arse, literally, for the entire trip. “And where, exactly, is my destination?” he asked as evenly as he could. He was 45. No matter how tempted he was, he would not throw a tantrum in the middle of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. He was four decades too old for that.

“We are to take you to Dartmoor. Baskerville, to be precise,” she replied in a soft voice. She felt sorry for him, he could tell.

“Ah, I see. I gather I am meeting my friends there?”

“Indeed. The younger Mr Holmes and Dr Watson have already arrived in the area.”

He sighed. “Alright, Andrea. I’ll go.”

This was the first time Mycroft Holmes had asked him to do anything beyond giving Sherlock specific cases and keeping an eye on him, so he was sure it was important. He was considerably less certain whether he would regret going or not, although he strongly suspected the former. Through Andrea, Mycroft had always been commanding and superior. In fact, the first thing she had said on Mycroft’s behalf was, “I do not know why my brother has chosen you, a supremely boring, ordinary and rather dense police officer.” Which was an especially auspicious beginning to a working relationship already doomed to be difficult, based solely on the fact that it revolved around Sherlock, the most difficult man in central London.

“Thank you, Detective Inspector Lestrade,” she said as she led him out to the black car that was idling, illegally, in a disabled spot outside the terminal. He scowled but said nothing.

 

He put his own bag in the boot of the car, ignoring the tall, attractive driver, and slid into the backseat. Andrea got in a minute later and the driver pulled away from the curb. There was a soundproof glass screen between the driver’s compartment and the backseat, presumably so Mycroft could conduct his business freely. After three encounters with Andrea, he knew that she would only speak if he asked the right questions, so he launched right into it.

“What has Sherlock done?”

“He has entered the Baskerville facility using Mr Holmes’ access pass. Anything inside that facility is highly classified and Mr Holmes is concerned that Sherlock may draw the attention of the authorities in Dartmoor.”

“So I am to be his babysitter?” he asked through gritted teeth, trying not to get mad at Andrea. “I am a Detective Inspector at New Scotland Yard, for Christ’s sake! I have better things to be doing!”

She looked sympathetic but said nothing, which was no less than what he had expected. He hadn’t been looking for a response; he only wanted to vent his frustrations to someone who understood. Andrea, as Mycroft’s personal assistant and probable bodyguard, would be one of the only people who would understand. He felt sorry for her; he imagined Mycroft Holmes was a rather demanding boss.

“Maybe I wouldn’t mind so much if Sherlock had more emotional intelligence than a five-year-old,” he bit out angrily. “Or perhaps if the supremely important Mycroft Holmes would deign to ask. Hell, I’d accept an order if he’d bother to deliver it himself. It’s been more than five years and I’ve never even seen the man. He kidnapped John personally after five hours.”

Her answering sigh clearly said ‘I tried,’ so he ran his hand through his hair and continued, “I know you’ve tried. God knows you have more to do than be Mycroft’s messenger. Feel free to get some proper work done, it’s a long drive.”

Her smile was grateful and she wasted no time whipping out her Blackberry. Lestrade pulled out his own phone and dug around in his carry-on for his headphones. The blue glow from the phone’s screen was the only thing illuminating the cab of the car, as it was still a few hours before daylight. He sorted through his musical selection and settled on Radiohead’s OK Computer. It was definitely turning out to be a Karma Police day. He often chose that particular song after a long day dealing with Sherlock, it pretty much perfectly reflected his professional relationship with him.

‘Karma Police, arrest this man
He talks in Maths
He buzzes like a fridge
He’s like a detuned radio’

Although in his head he usually replaced ‘He talks in Maths’ with ‘He talks too much’ because, while either was fitting, the latter was more annoying. Lestrade had often thought about arresting Sherlock, but ‘being a tactless arse’ was hardly reason enough. It stung that the only reason Sherlock ever spoke to him was to get something from him, but Lestrade had long ago swallowed his pride where Sherlock was concerned. Another line that rather resonated with him from that song reminded him of himself:

‘Karma Police
I’ve given all I can
It’s not enough
I’ve given all I can
But we’re still on the payroll’

Having Sherlock as a consultant was detrimental for his ego because, no matter how hard he tried, he would never be as good as Sherlock. Or, in other words, he gave everything he could and it wasn’t enough. The only consolation was that he was always a cop, he always solved cases (or at least tried to) and never thought a murder was ‘too boring’ for his attention. If it was his lot in life to be Sherlock’s minder, then that’s what he would do; but only because that’s what he wanted, not because some posh arse had told him to.

OK Computer may have been a rather odd choice for comfort music, but it worked for him so he’d never tried too hard to change it. In fact, it was not especially… positive music at all. None of the songs were particularly happy. That wasn’t the point of finding them comforting; it had little to do with what the song was about and more to do with how he remembered hearing it. It was the last album his mum had ever given to him, and he’d listened to it on her old CD player while she puttered around and made him biscuits, happy memories of happy things and happy people. It helped that Radiohead was a good band, excellent even.

He lost count of how many times the album repeated, as he was in that vague, half-asleep state with his eyes staring blankly out the window at the moving landscape. He finally snapped back to attention in the middle of No Surprises and laughed at the irony. He was going to meet Sherlock Holmes, ‘no alarms and no surprises’ was a little too much to expect. He paused the music just before the next song began and removed the headphones, turning to Andrea just in time to catch her yawn. He rubbed his eyes and rolled his stiff shoulders when he saw a sign ‘Baskerville – 2 Miles’.

He was pretty sure he was going to want to murder Sherlock by the end of the day and wondered if he could make a case for justifiable homicide but dismissed the thought. If ‘being a colossal twat’ wasn’t a good enough reason for arrest, it certainly wasn’t a good enough reason for murder.

Sure enough, after less than a minute in Sherlock’s company he was ready to throttle him. The bastard didn’t even know his first name, which shouldn’t have been a surprise, but he found that it still hurt. He knew he wasn’t exactly Sherlock’s friend but he was pretty darn close. Frankly, he was getting rather sick of not being important enough for the attention of the Holmes brothers.