"Pass the potatoes, will you dear?" The request was, to my ears, innocent enough.
Elisabeth, however, was apparently not of the same opinion, for she shot her husband a glare as she passed the dish.
"I thought you didn't like my potatoes." Came the accusation as she passed on the bowl. Lestrade took it from her left handed. His right arm was mostly healed by now, but it still bothered him in the evenings if he had been using it extensively during the day, and he could not yet manage anything that was too heavy without difficulty. All things considered, however, his recovery from the injury that had so nearly cost him his arm had been remarkable.
Lestrade's eyebrows went up in protest. "I like your potatoes just fine." He replied quickly. It was not the most convincing statement I had ever heard.
"Oh?" Elisabeth demanded. "And what about when we were first married, did you like them then?"
Lestrade shifted uncomfortably. "They just-caught me off guard." He defended himself. "They weren't what I was used to."
"You wanted to know why they tasted so bland." She reminded her husband. Amy and Olivia paid no notice to the discussion; they were far too used to such picking to let it distract them from either the meal or the contents of the medical text Olivia was insisting on showing her sister.
Lestrade flushed. "I was tired. It slipped out. And they are different from how I used to make them."
Elisabeth favored me with a glance that confided that she thought her husband was crazy. "He puts garlic in them. Garlic!" She scoffed.
"I like garlic in my potatoes." Lestrade retorted. "But I would have given it up long ago if I had known we were going to have this conversation every blooming time you made mashed potatoes!"
"See?" Elisabeth asked me. "Have you ever heard the like?" She shook her head. "Ridiculous lout."
The 'lout' was studying the potatoes intently, trying to decide which would lengthen this conversation the least: getting himself a serving of potatoes or ignoring them. Finally he sighed, and turned to his wife with a mournful expression.
"Dearest, you introduced me to a lot of new things and ideas when we were married, and all of them for the better. Your potatoes are just one example of such improvements in my life. Could you be so kind and generous as to forgive my foolish outburst insulting your potatoes and grant me permission to partake of some?"
I nearly burst out laughing. Anyone who said Lestrade didn't have a sense of humor had obviously never seen him at home, begging his wife for permission to eat her potatoes.
Of course, I had observed over the years that Lestrade was a rather private sort of chap, and that it took a lot to get past that closed, business-like exterior. I was amazed and unsure of just how I had managed to make it past that barrier, but the fact that I was sitting here with his family, having a relaxing, cheerful, fun dinner was proof of it. Idly I wondered just how many people had made it into this same seat.
Elisabeth studied her husband. His eyebrow went up. She pursed her lips, and considered the potatoes. Then she looked back to her husband. "Are you wanting me to serve you as well?" She asked dryly.
"Absolutely not!" Lestrade looked scandalized. "Your mother would never let me hear the end of it." He served himself, and passed the bowl on to me.
"It is not unheard of for women to serve their husbands." Elisabeth pointed out.
Amy looked up. "It's actually expected in a lot of places, Da. Can you believe that?"
Lestrade looked over at his oldest daughter. "In some places the children are expected to remain silent until spoken to as well." He said, his expression almost stern.
Elisabeth laughed. "Not a chance of that, Giles. Not for either of them."
Lestrade regarded his daughters fondly. It was an odd thing to see in the man who could make Constables quiver in fear without so much as raising his voice. "I don't know, Olivia stays pretty quiet; just give her a book." An eyebrow went up. "I thought I mentioned I didn't want you reading the Doctor's books at the table."
Olivia reddened. "Sorry, Da." She rose quickly to return the book to the sitting room, and Lestrade turned his attention to Amy. His own eyes stared back at him, framed by her mother's light hair.
"Now what's this I hear about you seeing a young man?" He asked seriously.
Amy's face was suddenly redder than her sister's had been. "Well, he's nice, and kind, and-"
"Does he have a name?" Lestrade inquired. Elisabeth was trying to hide her amusement behind her hand, for her daughter was suddenly as nervous as a suspect brought in for questioning.
"Thomas. Addison." She replied, forcing herself to meet his eyes.
"Thomas Addison." Lestrade repeated. "And when do we get to meet him?"
Olivia, who had returned by now, giggled, and Amy ducked her head. "We have, dear." Elisabeth explained to her husband. "You were out on a case. He's a very nice young man, and handsome, too."
Both eyebrows went up. Amy fought back a giggle of her own. "I'll try to bring him by sometime when you're off, Da, but…" She trailed off. Everyone in the room was fully aware of how often Lestrade was called in to work even on his off days. It was simply a fact of life in this house, and I was both surprised and impressed that none of his family felt any bitterness or resentment towards that fact.
Amy turned impishly towards me. "Do you want to meet him too, Doctor Watson?" She asked.
I laughed. "You certainly don't need my approval, Amy, if that's what you're suggesting."
"Not at all." She assured me, mischief gleaming in her eyes. "I simply thought that perhaps you might be able to convince him that Da isn't going to clap him in irons for so much as looking at his daughter."
Lestrade scowled. "Who says I'm not?" He demanded. "I reserve the right to throw him in a cell until I've met the man myself."
His daughter shook her head in amusement. "Just try not to come home bleeding all over the place, all right? He might get the idea that it's a regular occurrence around here."
Everyone laughed; Elisabeth and her husband exchanged a glance and murmured a prayer while the daughters glanced heavenward. Such things had happened far too often in this home to be treated with complete frivolity.
"So, how is Mr. Holmes?" Elisabeth asked me, and Lestrade tensed ever so slightly. He had not, I suddenly realized, spoken much of Holmes, or inquired after him, or even as to how I was getting on now that I was back at Baker Street.
At one time I would not have expected him to. Now, however, he would have at least mentioned something in passing. But he was being careful not to refer to Holmes outside of business, and now I found myself wondering why.
"Holmes is himself." I replied easily. "Perhaps a little more easygoing, or perhaps I'm still simply delighted to have him back and the novelty has not yet worn off." I shrugged. "Either way, it is good to have him back."
Lestrade relaxed. He had been worried about me, then. Elisabeth's next words confirmed as much.
"You know, I was surprised that Giles found out before you did, Doctor." She said kindly. "You should have heard him after the arrest. Wanted to know what Mr. Holmes thought he was doing, keeping you in the dark while the entire Yard knew he was alive."
Lestrade flushed, and was suddenly intent on his plate, and I knew what the woman was doing.
Lestrade had been worried how I would take what could easily be perceived as a slight, and about how I was dealing with Holmes' return in general, but had not, for whatever reason, felt comfortable broaching the subject. He had therefore decided to let it rest for the time being.
His wife, however, had had different plans, and had brought the touchy subject up, either for my sake or his, where she could mediate if it turned out to be necessary.
The woman was good at that sort of thing.
I shrugged in reply to her statement. "Holmes is Holmes." I said again. "That's just the way he is, and I learned a long time ago not to try read things into his actions that weren't there. Of course," I admitted ruefully, "in some cases I do it anyway, but as far as the case with Captain Moran, there was nothing to take offense at."
"Glad to hear it." Elisabeth said cheerfully. "So why don't you bring him along with you next time you stop by?" I watched as Lestrade looked distinctly uncomfortable with the idea for all of two seconds, and then the expression was replaced by his usual standby, an expression that said that his wife had spoken and would have want she wanted and he had no further opinion on the matter.
"I will, if he will come." I agreed. Elisabeth smiled.
"I'll leave that to you." She said sweetly.
After dinner Elisabeth put her husband and daughters to work cleaning up the kitchen. It still felt a bit awkward to simply sit there and watch while Amy cleared the table, Elisabeth cleaned off the stove, and Lestrade and his youngest were immersed up to their elbows in dishwater, but it had been unanimously decided that I was not allowed to help clean up.
So I sat at the table while Amy glared at me for trying to help her clear it, and again noted that Elisabeth rarely had anything leftover of the meal when we were finished. I watched as Olivia tried to soak her father with dishwater until Elisabeth threatened to make her do the laundry herself this week, and as Lestrade waited until his wife's back was turned to flick one last splash of water at his daughter.
Once the kitchen was clean we adjourned to the sitting room, and the girls would sit and talk of their day. Sometimes Olivia would recite some story or poem she had read or heard somewhere; she was a natural story teller, and a delight to listen to.
Eventually the girls slipped off to bed, and Elisabeth excused herself and left Lestrade and myself alone in the room. It grew quiet then, for Lestrade might laugh and joke with his family, but when left to himself he reveled in the peace and quiet that was not readily available during the day.
He moved to join me on the couch, and settled back with a contented sigh that released with it all the cares and worries of the day. He relaxed, and crossed his arms over his chest as he stretched his feet out in front of him. We sat in comfortable silence, saying nothing because there was nothing that needed said.
Eventually I stirred, reluctant to keep the man up any later, and decided it was time I was heading home.
"Thank you. Dinner was wonderful." I said as Lestrade escorted me to the door. I always found it fascinating that in the absence of his wife, the man would offer me my coat, hat, and walking stick with the same efficiency as the woman herself.
"The family enjoys having you over." Lestrade replied with a smile. "So do I, for that matter."
My eyebrows went up. "And if I tell the boys at the Yard you said that?"
"I'll deny it as they cart you away for even suggesting it." He retorted cheerfully. "You're going to insist on walking home, I take it?" I nodded. "Be careful, then. Good night, Doctor."
"Good night." I replied, and stepped outside.
It was a bit of a walk from here to Baker Street, but nothing unpleasant, so I set out cheerfully. Lestrade might worry about me walking home in the dark, but in similar situations he had the same tendency.
I wondered what it was that made two men who frequently saw the results of what went on under cover of darkness walk out into so boldly. Perhaps it was an act of defiance. Perhaps it was the thought that we might come across someone who had been wronged before it was too late. I had certainly found my share of those in need of help on my way home.
Holmes was pacing when I got in. "Where have you been?" He demanded irritably.
I had forgotten his tendency to overreact to such jaunts in the night, at least, where I was concerned. As for himself, the man thought nothing of wandering through the worst parts of the city in the dead of night, although he repeatedly warned me against being caught out after dark.
"I was over at the Lestrades' for dinner." I said easily. "I stayed rather late, and decided to walk home."
He looked puzzled for a moment, then annoyed. "You walked here from Lestrade's house?" He asked. "After dark."
I nodded. "It's a bit farther to here than it was to my old lodgings, but still an enjoyable walk." I stifled a yawn. It was late, and I was tired. "Did you need something?" I asked.
"No." Holmes replied. "Not at all. Are you heading up to bed?"
"I think so. It has been a rather long day."
"Good night then, Watson."
"Good night, Holmes." I climbed up the stairs in my room and went to bed. I was asleep in minutes.
Disclaimer: Sherlock and the boys do not belong to me, although I would love to adopt Lestrade as part of the family and bring him home. Oh well.