The only thing worse than confronting his fellow Inspectors with the news that he would soon be their superior, Hopkins thought, was having to do it with Doctor Watson present.

Not that Hopkins resented the doctor's presence. The doctor had more than earned the right to a seat at the table; said right would have been quickly defended had any one cared to challenge it, and Hopkins would have defended the man himself. Doctor Watson was well-liked, however, so it was unlikely anyone would have said anything even if it hadn't been Lestrade bringing him along, and that without any cases or any business at all prompting the action.

There was another reason Hopkins did not actually mind Watson being there. For Lestrade to bring anyone along and not be working on a case was previously unheard of. The fact that he had invited Watson along not only assured the doctor that he was still welcome now that that cursed child-killing case was now over, but confirmed once and for all the rumor that Lestrade had become rather friendly with the man over the years. It was nice, if perhaps a bit unsettling, to see the Inspector loosen up a bit, sometimes enough to even joke with the doctor.

Nonetheless, the fact remained that if Watson was here tonight, he would have to announce the result of his earlier meeting with the higher-ups to the doctor as well as a group of older, battle worn Inspectors along side whom Hopkins quite frankly still often felt rather like the young lad they still tended to refer to him as. It made the unavoidable declaration that much more of a thing to be dreaded.

Hopkins sat down and signaled for a drink without uttering a word, content to put off the unpleasant announcement for as long as he could. Bradstreet noticed his arrival and shot him a concerned glance but Hopkins shrugged him off, grateful that Bradstreet, at least, would not be the one to demand an explanation, though perhaps it might be better if it were him.

No one else had noticed his arrival yet. Gregson and Jones were both staring at Doctor Watson, who had a mischievous gleam in his eyes as he set down his drink. Beside the doctor Lestrade had gone red and was mumbling incoherently under his breath. Hopkins had just missed one of those occurrences, once rare but steadily increasing in frequency, when the doctor teased Lestrade about something, apparently a common happening when it was just the two of them, and Lestrade had responded before he had remembered where he was. Such events usually left Lestrade immensely embarrassed, Watson extremely amused, and everyone else a bit speechless.

"Hopkins," Watson greeted the man cheerfully, and Hopkins resisted the urge to swear at the the doctor as every eye was now on him.

"Well?" It was Gregson who spoke with feigned disinterest, having recovered from whatever had so recently caught him off guard. "What did they want?"

Hopkins gulped. "Chief Superintendent Dickens called me into his office." He stalled, still trying to avoid the inevitable. Jones made an impatient noise in his throat. "He asked how Lestrade was settling back in." Hopkins offered, wondering just how the others would react to the news.

"He called you in to ask how I was doing." Lestrade said, his tone plainly indicating that he thought no such thing. His expression told Hopkins to get on with it.

"He said he was looking for Crane's replacement." Hopkins said reluctantly. He noted the sudden increase in tension around the table.

"He's found one, then?" Bradstreet asked, half hopeful, half fearful of what the answer might be. Hopkins nodded.

"Who?" Gregson wanted to know. Hopkins barely managed not to flinch.

"Apparently me." He admitted, and braced himself.

It felt as if the entire tavern had gone silent, and it was all Hopkins could do not to fidget under the stares he was receiving.

Lestrade recovered first, but did not comment. He simply raised his glass to his lips and took a drink.

Bradstreet grinned. "At least we know we're getting someone with half a brain." He said, slapping Hopkins on the shoulder.

"Be careful his head doesn't swell." Jones grumbled at Bradstreet before addressing Hopkins. "Better you than me." He said earnestly.

Gregson chuckled and raised his glass as if in toast to the soon-to-be Superintendent. "Good luck." He said before draining his glass.

Hopkins relaxed. Their reactions had not included cheers or congratulations, but he would hardly have expected as much. It simply wasn't like the men seated around the table. The reaction he had gotten, however, was, and it meant that they at least were not averse to the idea of having him as the new Superintendent.

It was a start.


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