Memories and Possibilities

are ever more hideous than realities.

H.P. Lovecraft, "Herbert West - Re-Animator"

There are several things Lestrade will never speak of.

The first time he said 'Restorationist' in his mother's hearing, she washed his mouth out with soap, and afterwards, like any child who has discovered a word meant for adults, Lestrade had gleefully used the curse any time he could without understanding what it meant. He used it most of all in the middle of the night, like a talisman against the darkness, like spitting defiantly at shadows. Sometimes he still does it, after a bad day, even though he now knows what it means and cannot use ignorance as an excuse.

The boy.

The first time he met one of the Queenkin, that umbrella term in Albion for Her Imperial Majesty's many and varied generations of hybrid offspring. The way he had looked at Donovan with his gleaming opalescent eyes, and the distant buzz to his voice had increased when he took a step towards her, the way his limbs squirmed and reached out and withdrew like a dance. The way, when Lestrade had managed to convince him to leave, Donovan had stood stock still, repeating in a blank, shaking voice, "It is an honour, it is an honour, an honour, an honour-" as if trying to convince herself.

That on bad days, he is convinced that he can hear the voices of the Great Old Ones in the back of his head. It is a constant susurration of noise in his ears, every Great One in London murmuring, whispering, buzzing to each other - London is a vast web of meat and flesh and the voices, the voices are the flies round the carcass and Lestrade cannot bear it, needs everything he has when the Baker Street detective is looking at him that sneering mocking way, teaching his new 'flatmate' to regard him the same way.

The fact that Anderson knows far more about the anatomy and bizarre physiology of the Old Ones than he should, the reason he is always the one to examine the treasonous work of the one who tauntingly called himself Rache and the papers call variously the Dagonite Butcher or the Terror of Albion and such epithets, duelling amongst each other to find the perfect moniker.

He would kill to protect his team.

The boy.

Lestrade knows he is not exactly a genius. He does not have the type of mind the detective on Baker Street has, the type of mind that brings the rulers of Europe to the door. Lestrade, sneers his superior officers, would be at home in the Time Before the Rise of the Great Old Ones. Lestrade likes things to be simple, to make sense, to have matter and order and logic. It is a wonder, a great wonder that Lestrade should have reached his current rank.

But Lestrade is a good cop, a faithful cop, takes his oath seriously - to well and truly serve - keep and preserve the peace - fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality -

Lestrade is not a genius, he doesn't have a mind made of broken glass and impossible angles like Moriarty, but he is a good cop and he knows his duty. He made an oath to serve his Queen and he will keep it.

The attestation was not a meaningless string of words to him.

The boy.

Lestrade had been a cop for about seven years. The words used most often to describe him were 'steady' and 'safe'. He lacked the fire and ambition necessary to succeed, it was said.

The boy had been handsome in a blurred undeveloped way. In a photo Lestrade discovered long after the event, promise was visible in his face like a flower tightly furled, waiting to bloom. The sight of him filled Lestrade's throat with bile, it bore so little resemblance to the thing he had found in that stinking alley.

The boy in the photo had skin the colour of coffee and cream, bright eyes and a wide white smile that wasn't quite arrogant but could turn into it with time, time and circumstance.

The thing in the alleyway was marked all over with patches of skin withered and leached of colour - his shoulders, his back, a sinuous track of tainted flesh marks winding its way from ankle to thigh-

His eyes - Lestrade can't remember the colour of his eyes, only the absence of them, the way blood dripped down his cheeks like a parody of tears from the empty sockets where the boy had curved his fingers and torn away what forced him to look, forced him to see.

The boy should have sneered at Lestrade with the ignorance of youth, called him a pig or filth or something else equally derogatory in the incomprehensible slang Lestrade couldn't keep up with. He shouldn't have whimpered and mewled like a newborn animal in a sack, waiting to be thrown into the river.

Homeless, Moriarty said, unsmiling, though the boy's hands were clean beneath the blood and fluid, no ingrained dirt, and unmarked by any labour harder than a pen or a keyboard. Homeless, even though the shadow of a well-loved and well cared for child was visible wherever those vile sores were absent. Just an unfortunate.

Perhaps a member of one of those rumoured brothels, catering to the highest classes of all, and needs unfit to be spoken of in mixed company. Or ever.

The bland suggestion was met with a dismissive sniff, a warning glance to the one who suggested it, such places an unsubstantiated speculation.

The boy was nothing. Lestrade did not fail him, there was nothing to fail - there was no case.

Lestrade couldn't keep himself from seeing his newest constable in the coffee-cream of his skin, or the forensics officer recently transferred under his command in the darkness of his hair, or the friend that joined the force with him in the white of his bared teeth.

I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality…

…that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.

Lestrade's rise through the ranks afterwards was steady. But nobody outside his team would ever call him safe.

"You are better than this, I think."

Lestrade's office is a mess, no matter how Donovan tries to get him to tidy it. Lestrade busies himself with the papers on his desk and doesn't look up.

(The Queen, it is said, can speak mind to mind, can take images from a man's thoughts as easily as he might blink.)

"Better than what?" he asks.

"This," 'Vernet' says, tapping his fingers against a missing person's file (Violet de Merville, last seen in the company of a European greenskin, distant relative of the Queen Herself. Foolish, foolish girl, entranced by swirling eyes and the many-layered hiss of his voice and never thinking how few women were seen in his company twice).

"I could yell," Lestrade says idly. "I could have half a dozen men in this office before you could blink."

"But you won't," Vernet's companion says amiably, and Lestrade catches a glimpse of him - worryingly ordinary in every way, so easily forgettable, what a talent, what an assassin - watching the entrances and exits - soldier. He catches himself before he can see more.

Sometimes Lestrade thinks he can hear the Great Ones in the back of his head, whispering, murmuring, buzzing - treating his city like trash, like roadkill on which they've come to feast-

do solemnly and sincerely declare-

"I won't."

"Think about it," Vernet says calmly - Lestrade catches a glimpse of his eyes, pale and full of starlight, reptilian cold.

(The Dagonite Butchers, Greenskin Killers, Restorationists, Lestrade could call and have them arrested right now, and if he were a true servant of the Queen - true and faithful -

"It is an honour, an honour, an h-h-honour-"

No. Never.)

He watches their backs as they leave.

There are several things Lestrade will never speak of.

In the dead of night he whispers 'Restorationist' as a talisman against the darkness, like something to comfort and keep him from harm.

The boy.

The second time he met one of the Queenkin, the one who had watched Donovan with gleaming eyes and writhing limbs.

The fact that Anderson knows far more about the Great Old Ones than is strictly necessary for his job.

He had two of Albion's - perhaps even the world's - greatest killers in the same room as him, and he did nothing to keep them from walking back out.

He will kill to protect his team.