Author's note: I've had this written for some time, but been reluctant to actually post it. Put this piece some time after Gregson has retired from Scotland Yard, however many years later you like, and I hope I don't upset to many people.
Thanks to alabaster-demon for the plot bunnies, it was actually one of them that encouraged me to finally post this.
He looked the same, standing there on my doorstep in the afternoon sun, but in spite of his appearance I knew something was wrong.
His hands were shoved in his pockets, which was a little odd for him, and he was staring off down the street. I wondered if he even realized I had opened the door.
"Lestrade?" I asked. He started.
"Oh, hello, Doctor." By this time I had resigned myself to the fact that Lestrade would always call me some variation of the former. "I hope I'm not intruding."
"Not at all." I replied. "Come on in. Holmes isn't here, I'm afraid." It was interesting that the man never actually came out and said that sometimes he simply stopped by to visit. He would ask if he could wait for Holmes either way, and I would gladly invite him in.
"I didn't come to see Mr. Holmes." Lestrade said flatly. I wasn't sure what to say to that. "I actually came to see if you'd like to go out for a drink."
Something was definitely wrong. "Sure." I agreed. "Where?" I asked as we started off down the street. Lestrade shrugged, but was quick to disagree with my first suggestion, which was where the men at the Yard tended to go and consequently where I thought he'd be more comfortable. I quickly made another suggestion; he agreed as if it didn't really matter, and we set off.
We walked in silence. It wasn't unusual for Lestrade to be quiet when it was just the two of us, in fact it was quite common, but today there was something hanging in the air, making the silence tense and heavy.
I was relieved when we reached our destination and went inside. We found two seats at the bar, ordered and received our drinks. Lestrade sat and stared at his.
"How is Elisabeth?" I asked, when it became apparent he wasn't going to offer an explanation for whatever was troubling him.
"Hmm?" Lestrade had been lost in his thoughts again. "Oh, she's fine. She's been onto me to bring you home for dinner again."
So Elisabeth was fine. "And the girls?" I tried.
"Blaming me for the way their boys are acting." Lestrade offered, as if nothing were wrong after all. "As if only the boys in the family had ever been a handful. Amy and Olivia were just as bad as Jackie ever was. And Kristina got into twice as much mischief as I did growing up, she just never got caught." I could almost believe that he had merely invited me out for a drink for my company, but something…
Something just didn't feel right.
We fell into silence again. A couple of young men had settled down not far from us; they were discussing someone's death as if it were a joke, and I found myself both listening to their conversation and quickly growing irritated with them.
One of them laughed. "Yeah, this grey haired old man. I'm serious. Thought he'd play hero when some thug pulled a gun on the cashier. He used to be on the force down at Scotland Yard or something, so he thought he could dodge bullets."
His companions laughed as well. I sighed and shook my head, and turned to see if Lestrade had heard as well.
Lestrade was gone.
A second later I found him; he had dragged the young man who had just been speaking out of his chair and had him by the collar.
"What he thought," Lestrade ground out through clenched teeth, "was that if the thug was going to shoot someone, he'd rather it be him than some innocent bystander. He challenged a man with a gun because he spent his life trying to make the city of London a safer place, and couldn't just turn his back and look the other way.
"What he didn't think was that his actions and the fact that a mother gets to go home to her children tonight because he took that bullet instead of her would be turned into a joke by some ignorant, sorry excuse for man who thinks that murder and death are something to laugh about."
That was what was wrong.
No one was laughing as Lestrade let go of the man; his companions were watching with wide eyes, and he himself was staring at the Inspector as if he had never seen anything like him before.
But a blow had been dealt to the man's pride, and he felt he had to salvage it somehow instead of considering that he might have spoken too hastily.
"Who do you think you are, old man?" He demanded, catching Lestrade by the shoulder when he would have walked away. "Sticking your nose in other people's business!" He said indignantly, as if Lestrade were the one at fault.
Lestrade turned. "I am Chief Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, and I knew and worked with the man you were just ridiculing for a number of years. He deserved better than to be laughed at, as if his life were merely some joke." He told the young man, his voice low. "Now, if you'll excuse me."
He turned and walked away from them. I breathed a sigh of relief as he slipped back into the seat beside me.
I waited for him to sigh and take a sip of his drink before I asked, "What happened, Lestrade? Who was killed?"
Dark eyes met and seemed to bore into mine as if searching for something. "He was next in line at the grocer's, and the man in front of him pulled a gun on the cashier and told her to empty the register." Lestrade spoke slowly, as if it pained him to do so. "So he did what any of us would have done. He got involved, and the thug shot him. Then he panicked and ran. Right into a Constable who had heard the shot and come running."
I hated to ask, but I had to. "Who was it?"
Lestrade went back to staring at his cup. "Gregson." He mumbled. Then he glared at me. "Shot down by someone cowardly enough to pull a gun on a mother of two and shoot a grey haired, retired Police Inspector!" He slammed a fist angrily on the counter. People jumped, but quickly looked away.
He didn't say anything else. He didn't know what to say, or how. He just glared down at the table, jaw clenched.
I didn't know what to say either. Lestrade wasn't an open man; he didn't volunteer personal information or details and had a hard time confiding in even those few he was actually close to. You didn't just put a hand on the man's shoulder or pat him on the arm, not even when he was shaking with the effort to maintain his composure.
"He always said he'd rather die doing his duty than to outlive his usefulness, whatever else he pretended." Lestrade mumbled.
I wondered at that, and at the thought that it was perhaps the man who had been his rival over the years that understood him best of all.
"He said it yesterday." Lestrade continued. "I asked him why he didn't get a move on then and leave the rest of us in peace."
I tried to reassure the man. "He knew you didn't mean it." I said. "He probably laughed."
"And said getting away from me would be an added bonus." Lestrade confirmed, but it didn't help. He continued to stare into his cup, his dark eyes glassy and unseeing.
I hadn't realized Lestrade had cared about the other man that much. It was possible. Lestrade hadn't realized it either.
Tentatively, I placed a hand on his arm. He tensed, but ightning quick his other hand closed over mine and held on, his grip almost painfully tight. The man made no other move than to close his eyes as if to block out reality.
I don't know how long we sat there.
Eventually his eyes opened, and he was once again in control. He released my hand, which was numb by that time, and finished his drink. Then he stood, ran a hand through hair that was finally starting to grey, and looked at me.
I stood as well, and followed the man out and into the street. We walked towards my home in a silence that was unbroken until we reached the front step.
Hesitantly, he reached forward to grip my arm. "Thank you." He said, his voice soft.
I offered a weak smile. "I'm always here if you need anything, Giles." I reminded the man.
Something flickered in those dark eyes. Even after years of knowing the man they could still be difficult to read. "I know." He managed, his voice no longer steady. He cleared his throat and blinked. "Thank you, John."
He withdrew his hand as if he had been burned, and nodded before he started to leave, once again in control of himself. Then he turned.
"The funeral's Monday." He said. "2:00."
"I'll be there." I promised. Lestrade nodded, and turned, and walked away.
Disclaimer: Sherlock and the boys do not belong to me.