I yawned, and rolled out of bed a few seconds after my wife. "Morning,"

"Good morning." She replied. "You slept better last night."

"Good." I said. That meant she had likely slept better as well. I dressed, made the bed, and headed downstairs. I disentangled the leash from its usual spot, and went looking for the dog.

Reggie looked up from where he had been sleeping on the floor as I entered the sitting room. He yawned, and stretched, and came over to stand next to me, ready for his walk.

It was cooler this morning, as we ambled along on our way. A slight breeze was blowing, and there was the smell of rain in the air. Today would probably be wet.

Back inside I went upstairs to rouse Toby, but he was already up and half dressed when I opened the door. He let out a yell when he saw me. "Close the door!" He added, a note of panic in his voice.

I laughed, but closed the door and waited for the boy to call me. He did so a minute later, and I helped him finish dressing. The second I was done he took off out the door. A second later I could hear him thundering down the stairs.

Breakfast was good, as always. Toby rushed through it; apparently he had things to do today. At least he was actually chewing his food properly.

Breakfast finished, I kissed my wife and settled down to read the papers.

Jones had made it into the paper. I grimaced as it covered the fiasco. Jones had arrested the wrong man for committing a murder. The actual murderer had eventually been caught, but in the meantime the innocent man, convinced he would never be released, had killed himself. It had hit Jones pretty hard, though he would never admit it or even act like it bothered him, and this would only make things worse.

The public didn't seem to understand that in spite of everything we were only human, and that we made mistakes too.

They didn't realize, either, that someone would end up making sure Jones made it home Friday night when he finally allowed himself to drink himself into a stupor so he could stop thinking about it after almost a week of putting the job first.

The paper was still on my mind as I started off to work; I nearly didn't see the widow until she was standing right in front of me.

"Is something the matter?" I asked, as a formality. Something was clearly wrong; the old woman was rather distraught.

"Can you help me, young man?" Grace pleaded. "I'm locked out of my house."

I wondered, not for the first time, why this woman was still living by herself. I knew she had a son and two daughters; someone should have been looking after her.

I smiled, trying to reassure her. "Of course." I told her. "We'll have it taken care of shortly." I looked over the house as I approached, and found what I was seeking.

The widow always kept her bedroom window open for some reason or other, and right next to said window was a tree. It was only a couple minute's effort to climb up the tree and along the sturdy branch and drop right in through the window.

A moment later I had unlocked the front door and was letting the woman inside. "Thank you so much, young man." She beamed at me as she shuffled inside. "You're a good boy, to help an old woman so."

I shrugged. "It was nothing, Ma'am." I assured her as I stepped outside. "You have a nice day." I said before continuing on my way.

Lestrade accosted me before I reached the steps leading up to the building. "Let's go." He said shortly.

"Where are we going?" I asked as I followed him. "No one's dead, I hope?"

"Not yet." Lestrade retorted. "But Bradstreet sent Hopkins for back up. Hopkins says Bradstreet's drunk and started a fight, and the lad was bleeding from a nasty cut on the back of his head and looked ready to collapse. He's arguing with Jones over whether or not he needs to be running back to a fight."

"It's always bad when Jones has to be the voice of reason." I commented. "Why is Bradstreet drunk?"

"I didn't get an explanation on that." Lestrade replied. "Hopkins was trying not to pass out and I thought it better not to wait."

I agreed. Bradstreet was the most amiable drunk a person could ever want to meet, but if someone tried to start a fight with him, a physical fight, he turned downright nasty.

Fortunately, people didn't usually pick a fight with him when he was drunk.

We strode into the bar, Lestrade slightly ahead of me as if I were still new to the job and he were still showing me the ropes. He couldn't help it, really; he'd been around long enough that whatever he said, or more likely didn't say, he still thought of even his fellow Inspectors as if they needed watching out for.

It was something that was occasionally annoying, but that I would never complain about because it meant that if you showed up on his front step at three in the morning in the middle of a snowstorm needing help, he'd leave his bed and his wife and do what he could for you, and then claim he was just doing his job.

Not that that made him any less irritating to work with on a regular basis. Nor did it make tormenting him any less enjoyable.

We were recognized quickly enough as we stepped into the chaos that had overtaken the place, and someone called out that the copper had called for back up. Lestrade, in the hopes of settling the brawl quickly, reacted by climbing up onto a chair and placing two fingers in his mouth.

I covered my ears as he let loose a shrill blast that managed to catch the attention of everyone present. "That's enough!" He bellowed, with a volume that he usually reserved for terrorizing Constables. "Now you can settle down now, or everyone can leave and Willie can close down for the day."

I caught sight of Bradstreet in a corner, and two Constables had edged through the crowd to stand near me. All three of them looked to be a complete mess.

As Lestrade finished talking, someone threw an insult at him, and someone else threw a bottle that he barely ducked. The next second the brawl was back in full swing.

"Right." I said to the Constables. "Smith, out by the front door, Adams by the side. Once they're out, they stay out. Got that?"

The Constables nodded bravely, and split up. I turned to Lestrade, and we started near the front door and started dragging people out. It was starting to rain by now, thankfully; very few people cared to continue brawling while getting drenched. Once outside, they would let it go.

The problem was getting them out without being cut up for your trouble, but Lestrade and I had done this sort of thing more than a few times and had gotten pretty good at it. It would've been nice to have Jones here, as Bradstreet was still rather new to the game, but we could manage well enough on our own.

I barely avoided the broken bottle some drunken fool brandished at me before I seized him and dragged him to the door to throw him outside. I heard Lestrade swear and turned; someone had struck him across the back with a chair.

I reached Lestrade's attacker as he stumbled and punched the man in the nose. He was suddenly too busy with the blood gushing from it to worry about us as I hauled Lestrade back up.

Lestrade didn't bother glaring at me. It was faster than waiting until he regained his balance to pull himself back up, and consequently safer. He turned and found that his assailant was making a break for the door.

At last it was just the five of us left to count up our injuries. Lestrade nodded to the Constables and sent them on their way before making his way over to the bar to apologize. It was as Mr. Williams that Lestrade addressed him as now, not Willie, as everyone knew him.

Then he approached Bradstreet.

The first thing Lestrade did was shove the other man into a seat. "Sit down." He said as he did so. Then he took his own seat, and I made my way over to join the two. "Why are you drunk?" Lestrade demanded as I sat down.

Bradstreet shrugged. Lestrade merely raised an eyebrow. "You realize Jones will have been forgotten by tomorrow?" He asked drily, and waited. Bradstreet didn't say anything in response.

"What's wrong with you, man?" I demanded. "You could've been killed. Hopkins could've been killed. You're inebriated while on duty? What were you thinking?"

Another shrug. "Bradstreet…" There was a note of warning in Lestrade's tone.

"It won't happen again." Bradstreet mumbled.

"It had bloody well better not!" Lestrade retorted. "This has to be reported, you realize that." He added, more calmly, after a minute. Bradstreet nodded.

"Are you injured?" I asked. Bradstreet shrugged.

"I don't think so. A few bruises, maybe." He replied.

"A black eye." Lestrade added.

"You always were a mean fighter when drunk." I commented, turning to Lestrade. "Are you dying?" I asked.

"No." He retorted. "I don't plan on dying today."

"Pity." I offered. "We seem to have gotten off rather well, then, fortunately for us." That meant we were a bit bruised, a bit battered, and would feel absolutely miserable in the morning, but we had escaped with no broken bones, or cuts, or scrapes, or stab wounds. Hopkins had gotten the worst of it.

Lestrade eyed Bradstreet. "You should go home. You're in no condition to be wandering around Scotland Yard."

"I'll take him." I offered. "You can check on Hopkins." And consequently Jones. Lestrade rolled his eyes.

"Thanks." He grumbled.

Bradstreet had the sense not to argue with either of us, but went along with me outside. He didn't protest when I called for a cab and bundled him inside, nor did he comment when I escorted him inside his own house and sat him down on the couch in the sitting room.

"Thank you." He called after me as I made my way back outside. I shook my head. I didn't know what had gotten Bradstreet in such a state, but he was going to be in some serious trouble.

Hopkins turned out to be fine, just a little unsteady, and was trying to explain to Lestrade and Jones how the brawl had started.

"We were looking for a suspect." Hopkins stopped as the door opened, but continued when he realized it was only me. "We went in, and sat down, and Bradstreet was talking to a couple of fellows. I didn't think anything about his behavior, he's easygoing enough even when he hasn't had too much to drink, and he wasn't unsteady, and I didn't smell anything; I didn't suspect anything until the fellow he was talking to shoved him, and he hit the fellow hard enough to knock him down." Hopkins shrugged. "Everything just went south from there."

Lestrade sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. Jones growled. "Did he say anything to you?" Lestrade asked me.

I shook my head. "No explanation. He didn't say more than two words to me the entire trip home."

"There had to be some reason for this." Lestrade insisted. "Bradstreet's not stupid."

"You go talk to him, then." I snapped. "But you know we can't cover it up."

The declaration was met with grim expressions. They knew I was right, but no one wanted to risk being responsible for getting a fellow Inspector suspended, or worse, fired. And here it was entirely possible the man might be.

"Don't fill anything out yet." Lestrade replied wearily. He was going to go talk to Bradstreet, in the hopes that something had happened that the other Inspector would not have wanted to discuss with me.

It was entirely possible; for all that Lestrade was the less personable of the two of us, our colleagues seemed more inclined to take him into their confidence. I couldn't fault them, I supposed; it had never been in my experience that Lestrade was one to abuse such confidences.

"It has to be done today." I reminded him as he headed out the door.

"It will be." Lestrade shot back at me. "Mr. Holmes may stop by."

"I'll take care of it." I assured him.

Holmes did show up, Watson in tow, and if they seemed less than pleased to discover that Lestrade was out and they would have to settle for me, I decided not to take it personally. I wasn't certain how friendly Lestrade and the doctor actually were, or if they even realized that they seemed to be developing some kind of strange friendship, but I didn't envy Lestrade his closer contact with the two men. Holmes was a genius, certainly, but he was never easy to work with.

We ended up down by the docks.

I hate the docks, personally, because if you happen to be a Yarder, and on the job, and there's nasty, dirty, filthy, cold water nearby, chances are you'll end up in it. It's just one of those things: if you have plans, something will happen, if Lestrade misses work he's either nearly been killed or been sent off on undercover work, and if you disagree with Holmes, you'll end up being wrong. If there's water nearby, you'll end up in it.

I wasn't exactly certain who I was arresting; Holmes hadn't bothered to explain. That happened often enough, with Holmes waiting until after you had arrested someone to explain who they were and why you arrested him, so I wasn't particularly bothered by the omission.

I was a bit perturbed that Holmes had forgotten to mention that the man had a gun.

I jerked Watson down as a bullet whizzed by overhead, and made a note to mention that that kind of thing is handy to know before hand. I checked to make sure Watson was out of harm's way before I turned my attention back to our man.

Watson could take all the risks he wanted with Holmes or even Lestrade, but when I was involved he could stay on the sidelines and watch. Worrying about Holmes was bad enough. Amateur detective and retired army surgeon the two may have been, but they were still civilians.

Holmes nearly got himself shot before we managed to subdue the man, and I reminded myself to thank Lestrade for handing this over to me later. Apparently the fellow had murdered his bride on the night they had been wed, then tried to blame the butler. I suppose he thought no one would question the butler's guilt.

Lestrade had returned by the time we made it back to Scotland Yard; he, Jones, and Hopkins were clustered in his office, conspiring over their reports. I steered Holmes and Watson away from the group, took care of their criminal, and sent them on their way.

Then I made my way to Lestrade's office. "What's the verdict?" I asked.

Lestrade scowled. "He wasn't drunk." He informed me. "He was grieving."

"That's not an excuse." Jones grumbled.

"His brother died." Lestrade retorted. Something in his voice suggested that they had already had this discussion at least once. "They were close, only about a year apart. His brother got in with the wrong crowd, ended up in trouble. Killed himself. Bradstreet got the news on the way to work."

"So someone shoved him, and he just snapped." I finished. "I suppose that's better than being drunk on the job. But why wouldn't he just say as much? Why would he let us think he'd been drinking?"

Lestrade shrugged in that way of his that says he knows more than he's saying, but when that happens, there is no force on earth that will get more out of him. Someone has taken him into their confidence, and he's not about to abuse that trust.

I sighed. "So he got the news, was possibly in shock, possibly grieving, was trying to do his job, and someone pushed him and he lashed out, struck back. Does that sum it up?"

Hopkins frowned at his report again. "How much trouble will he get in for that?" He worried.

"Less than if he were drunk while on duty." Jones replied shortly.

I wrote up my own report before I left. I managed to catch Lestrade in the hall and walk out with him after our shift had ended. We walked a couple blocks in silence before he stopped, turned to face me, and waited.

"So how much of that was true?" I asked. Lestrade sighed.

"Most of it." He admitted. "He found out a few hours before his shift and needed a drink." He shook his head. "I've told that boy not to drink alone." He grumbled.

I rolled my eyes. "How many times have you told him that?" I demanded.

Lestrade raised an eyebrow. "Twice." He informed me solemnly, but he wasn't going to explain. He didn't need to, either. The look in his eyes was enough. "Some people shouldn't drink alone, Gregson." He said.

I managed a chuckle. "Which is why you meet up with us on Fridays, right? So you have someone to drink with?"

It took him a second to change tracks; this business with Bradstreet was weighing heavily on his mind. I chose not to make a remark about him being slow this time. "It's certainly not because I like your company." He replied after a second or two.

"What a relief." I said as I turned towards home. "I don't think I could bear it otherwise."

I heard him snort as he headed his own way home and wondered, not for the first time, how the man could be irritating, exasperating, even infuriating, and still if I had to pick someone down at the Yard to trust my or anyone else's life to, he would be my first pick.

Probably because he would do his job, even if it meant protecting a child killer because he had offered to share information concerning a counterfeiting operation in exchange for a lighter sentence. And if Lestrade would follow orders and keep a man he so obviously loathed alive, and nearly sacrifice himself to do it, then no one else in his company, especially a fellow Yarder, had anything to worry about.

I still didn't like the man.

I was almost home when something plowed into me, and we got caught in a tangle of arms and legs and both went down. The boy was up again in a second, ready to bolt, when he recognized me and hesitated.

"You alright, Mr. Gregson?" Jimmy asked hurriedly. "Sorry about that, I-"

"Gotcha!" I recognized the triumphant cry of Constable Evans. He had a hold on the boy's collar. "Your partner may have gotten away, but I've got you at least!"

I scrambled to my feet and shot Jimmy a look. "I didn't do anything, Mr. Gregson!" Jimmy protested fearfully. "It was all Pete! I swear!"

Evans scoffed. "A likely-Inspector?" He hesitated, suddenly recognizing me. "He and another boy took off with some lady's purse, sir." He explained quickly.

"Pete Wilson?" I asked Jimmy. "It's alright, Evans, you can let him go, he's not going to run. Are you?"

"No, sir." Jimmy agreed emphatically. Evans released his hold on the boy, albeit with some reluctance. "I didn't know he was going to do it, Mr. Gregson." Jimmy pleaded, his eyes wide. He was absolutely terrified. "I didn't know what he was going to do. He just said, 'watch this,' and then he darted forward, and snatched this lady's purse, and I was trying to tell him to give it back, and he was calling me a coward, when the Constable shouted at us and Pete ran, and I panicked!" The poor boy looked ready to cry.

"I'll handle this Evans, thank you." I told the Constable. Evans opened his mouth to protest, but thought better of it.

"The other boy still has the purse." Was what he did say.

"Lestrade can tell you where Pete Wilson lives." I told him. "He'll probably help you figure out what to do with him, too, if you ask."

Evans nodded. "Very good, sir." He said, and left the two of us standing in the street, Jimmy staring at his feet, and me waiting.

"Well?" I finally said.

Jimmy shrugged, but didn't look at me. "You were right about him, I guess." He mumbled. He glared at me. "And he left me! He didn't care if I got caught or not, and I would been in big trouble if you hadn't come along, and-" He stopped as something occurred to him. "Am I still in big trouble?" He asked, tremulously.

I considered the fourteen year old boy before me. He was a good kid, really, but his friends tended to get him in trouble. This scare would be good for him. It would get him to think about the things his mum was saying about his other friends.

It was also good for him to stand there and squirm while I deliberated.

"You didn't actually steal anything." I said, finally. "You were just with the wrong people at the wrong time." Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief, and I favored him with a withering glance. "You were very lucky this time, Jimmy." I told him.

Jimmy nodded. "Yes, sir." He agreed solemnly.

"Next time you might not be so lucky." I said, and Jimmy looked up at me with wide eyes.

"Next time?" He repeated. "There's not gonna be a next time, Mr. Gregson. Not ever!" I let myself chuckle at his earnest proclamation.

"Good lad." I said. "Now get along home. And stay out of trouble."

Jimmy nodded fervently. "Yes, sir!" He said, before taking off.

I shook my head and finished the walk home. I was glad to finally step through the door and take in the smell of dinner. Dinner, and a quiet evening, would be much appreciated.

"Tobias!" I was greeted, not by my wife, but by a red headed, green eyed fellow who was shaking my hand and slapping me on the back before I even registered that he was there.

"Archie." I returned, realizing that I had forgotten that he and his wife were supposed to be joining us for dinner tonight. "Sorry I'm late."

"Not at all." Archibald Stewart brushed the apology aside. "Though dinner is waiting, and I was drafted to walk the dog. And the child. Your son didn't trust me to do the job properly myself." He laughed, and I joined him.

"How are you?" I asked, as we made our way to the sitting room. "And Theresa, is she well?"

"Better than you, Id' imagine." Archie replied. "You look as if it's been a rough day."

My eyebrows went up. "I wasn't aware it was that obvious." I said, prompting another laugh from Archie.

"Only to your old school fellows." He replied. "Tommy, Bartholomew, we all know you, Tobias."

I chuckled. It was true that the three of them could read me better than most, probably better than all, save for my wife. We had known each other long enough though, and I knew them as well as they knew me.

"So you forgot." He commented. "Again."

"Don't tell Heather." I muttered, half-joking. "Or Theresa."

Archie shrugged. "No worries, Toby." He said with a smile.

"Tobias." I corrected, and Archie rolled his eyes.

"You and Bartholomew just had to grow up on us." Archie complained as we sat down at the table.

"Good evening, Theresa." I greeted Archie's wife before turning my attention back to the man. "Don't tell me you liked being addressed as Tommy, Toby, Barty, and Archie." I demanded.

He grinned. "It was fun." He insisted. "Any time any of us got into trouble, whether it was one of us or all, they always pulled out all four names." His expression grew thoughtful. "Of course, the four of us usually were involved in one way or another." He mused.

I laughed, and Theresa rolled her eyes, while Toby looked put out at not knowing what we were talking about and Heather regarded the two of us with an air of longsuffering.

"How was work?" My wife asked, as we started eating. "Anything interesting happen?"

I shrugged. "Holmes made an appearance." I offered. "Beyond that, it was just another day at the Yard."


Disclaimer:Sherlock and the boys, as always, do not belong to me.