"I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Doctor." Bradstreet suggested, folding his arms across his chest and leaning lazily against the wall.
I turned to look at him, surprised. "Why ever not?" I asked.
The Inspector offered me a tight smile. "They're discussing your book." He explained.
A weight settled on my chest. "My book?" I repeated uncertainly.
Bradstreet nodded. "The Hound of the Baskervilles." He replied. "An interesting read. Anyway, Gregson's giving Lestrade a hard time about it, and Lestrade is taking it with less than his usual grace, which is to say that instead of ignoring Gregson or flinging lines from A Study in Scarlet at him, Lestrade told him to shove off. Gregson's in a bad mood today anyway, so it's likely to get pretty nasty before Lestrade finally throws him out of his office."
I frowned; Lestrade had never seemed to have a problem with even those descriptions in my stories that were less than flattering. I had not thought there would be much in this latest story to upset him, but apparently I had been mistaken.
I tried to think, as Bradstreet bid me good day, repeated his warning that it would probably be best to wait, and ambled off, of what in my latest story could have offended the man.
I heard Gregson, then. "Reverential? Reverential. Even for you, Lestrade, that's bad. 'I saw at once from the reverential way in which Lestrade gazed at my companion that he had learned a good deal since the days when they had first worked together.' What is that?"
"Shut up, Gregson." I heard Lestrade retort. "If the Doctor wants to write that I worship the ground Mr. Holmes walks on, that's his business."
"And you're just going to let him?" Gregson demanded. "Lestrade, the man makes you look like a bloody fool at times."
"So does Holmes." Lestrade snapped back. "What's your point?"
"It doesn't bother you for people to think that?" Gregson wanted to know.
"Are you indignant on my behalf?" Lestrade asked, instead of answering the question.
"Something's bothering you." Gregson pressed. "I saw the look on your face when you read the title, Lestrade."
"It wasn't one of my favorite cases." Lestrade grumbled. "Doctor Watson's writings have nothing to do with it, so bugger off."
There was a pause in the conversation before Gregson spoke again. "Writer or not, he shouldn't be taking liberties."
Another pause. "Liberties?" Lestrade sounded puzzled.
"His story has a member of Scotland Yard crying out in terror and throwing himself to the ground at the sight of this hound." Gregson said. He actually seemed to be offended for the other Inspector.
"Get out." Lestrade said flatly. "Now."
"I said get out!" Lestrade bellowed, and I found myself backtracking rather hastily from the door as the sound of footsteps drew nearer.
The door opened, Gregson stepped through. He stormed past without seeming to see me, for which I was grateful. I did not make a habit of eavesdropping, and had not intended to do so now. I also did not want to be thought of as such by the men of Scotland Yard.
I hesitated now, uncertain if it would not be better to just leave, since it appeared that I had finally managed to offend Inspector Lestrade with one of my stories. I doubted he would want to see me right now.
But then, if I had offended him, it had certainly been unintentional, and I owed him an apology and the opportunity to berate me for the offense, should he choose to do so.
I took a deep breath and stepped into the open doorway. Any greeting or apology I had thought to offer died on my lips.
Lestrade was sitting at his desk, his right sleeve rolled up past his elbow, studying the bare skin on his arm. Jagged lines marred the skin, scars from what I suddenly realized was the bite of a rather large animal.
I watched, fascinated, as he traced the lines of the scar almost absently with his fingers. He then turned his attention to the paper Gregson had undoubtedly left on his desk. He picked it up gingerly, as if afraid of what it might say, and found the section he was looking for, and began reading.
I was suddenly keenly aware of the fact that Lestrade had not noticed my arrival, and greatly embarrassed by it. I was, in effect, spying not only on a man I had known and worked with for years, but also on a very private individual.
His expression grew strained as he read, and abruptly he tossed the paper aside and raised a tremulous hand to massage his forehead, his eyes closed and jaw clenched. He took a deep, shaky breath, exhaled slowly, and opened his eyes.
He was out of his seat with a yell in less than a second. Wide eyes locked on mine as if the man did not know me. The Inspector's breathing sped up as he tensed, ready to act.
A second later Lestrade let out an explosive breath and straightened up. Then he swore. A not entirely steady hand combed nervously through his hair as he shook his head.
"Doctor." He managed a less than warm greeting; I was not sure, given what I had just seen, that I could blame him. He attempted the least convincing smile I've ever seen in my life as he sat down. "Have a seat." He offered uneasily.
"I should have told you I was writing up the case." I said apologetically. Lestrade tried to wave the matter off, but was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Inspectors Gregson and Jones.
Lestrade was up out of his chair again as the two men burst into his office. He recovered and started glaring as they tried looked from him to me in confusion.
"Are you alright?" Gregson finally asked. Lestrade scowled at him.
"Why wouldn't I be?" He demanded irritably.
"That wasn't you shouting?" Jones asked, before Gregson could offer an angry reply.
Lestrade shifted uncomfortably. "Doctor Watson startled me. I didn't see him come in."
Jones rolled his eyes and excused himself while Gregson regarded the other Inspector suspiciously. "Since when do you not notice people entering your office?" He wanted to know.
"I was reading your bloody story." Lestrade answered heatedly. "You can have it back, by the way." He said, retrieving it from the floor and brandishing it at Gregson, who was not at all reassured by the man's reply.
"What is wrong with you?" He wanted to know, and for a moment I thought he actually looked concerned.
Lestrade flinched. "Nothing." He snarled. Gregson merely folded his arms across his chest and waited.
Lestrade looked from Gregson to me helplessly. Then his shoulders sank in surrender. "I don't like dogs." He mumbled, moving his gaze to someplace between the two of us.
Gregson stared. "You actually did yell and hit the ground." He realized. Lestrade's shoulders hunched forward at the statement, but the man did not actually comment.
I wasn't sure what to say. I had unwittingly humiliated the Inspector, along with apparently dragging old terrors back up, and all for the sake of a story.
"Lestrade, I-" I faltered, completely lost. Still the man said nothing.
Finally he looked up at me, his eyes haunted. "Demon or not," he said in a low voice, "that thing was enough to affect even Mr. Holmes." He suddenly noticed that his sleeve was still up, and began unrolling it as he continued. "The hound terrified me, Doctor, like nothing else I have ever encountered in my life." He looked back down as he fastened his cuff.
"Can you honestly say," He asked quietly, "that that apparition never once plagued your sleep?"
Our eyes met; I did not have to speak for him to know the answer to that. One of the reasons I wrote was to expel some of the demons that haunted my own dreams.
It was Gregson that broke the spell. "You were attacked by a dog." He nodded towards the man's now covered arm.
"When I was a child." Lestrade replied. I had not expected him to do so. "It was bigger than I was, and knocked me down and sank its teeth into my arm." His voice and eyes were distant as he remembered. "The dogs were raised to be vicious, and they used to entertain themselves by setting the creatures after me."
I did not ask who they were. That Lestrade was sharing any of this with us at all was remarkable, and perhaps an indication of how distressed he was by the memories that had been dredged up through my story.
Gregson did not ask either. Instead he quietly excused himself and left me alone in the office with the other Inspector.
"I'm sorry, Lestrade." I said after a moment. "I didn't know."
Lestrade shrugged, and again found his seat. "What I read of the description seemed to be spot on." He said with feigned lightness in his voice. "Has Mr. Holmes read it yet?"
I took the shrug for the acceptance of my apology that it was and allowed him to direct the conversation away from himself. "He accused me of writing romantic drivel and clouding the facts with fantasies and speculation again." I admitted with a chuckle. Such accusations no longer bothered me as they once had.
Lestrade managed a half smile that was still rather strained. "I hear it makes for better reading. Gregson won't touch any of the articles Mr. Holmes has written."
"Do you know of anyone who has?" I asked, curious.
Lestrade fidgeted. "Hopkins has. He's been trying to hunt them all down." He said, suddenly rather interested in straightening his already perfectly ordered desk. I shot the man a suspicious look.
"Have you read any of them?" I demanded. Lestrade actually reddened, and I couldn't help but laugh.
"Hopkins loaned me one." He mumbled to his desk. "It was rather over my head, I'm afraid. I finally gave up trying to puzzle it out."
"You actually gave up on something?" I teased. Lestrade favored me with a dark look.
"Lizzie said she was tired of not having a husband and made me give it back to Hopkins." He admitted sheepishly. I couldn't help it. I started laughing.
After a few seconds he joined me.
Disclaimer: Sherlock and the boys do not belong to me.