Lestrade wasn't exactly sure what to think the first time that Mycroft's assistant approached him at a crime scene and asked him for his credentials. Lestrade, but three weeks before, had had his first encounter with the younger of the Holmes brothers. Because of that, he'd quickly become wary of any territory or people that went along with them. So he held his card out and gave her a once over while she kept her face tucked into her Blackberry. She was certainly attractive, but she was aloof- distant.
She reached out, took his credentials, flashed them in Mycroft's direction then handed them back.
He frowned, pulled his DI card back to his pocket, and flipped his eyes over to the crime scene. At that point the woman lying dead in the drive would be a warmer and more talkative companion than the Blackberry wielding knockout.
Lestrade ran a hand through his close cropped, black hair, and strolled across the lot to the dead woman. He wasn't able to help a furtive glance in the living woman's direction before setting his eyes more permanently on the crime scene. Lestrade pulled out a notebook, scribbling quite intensely to keep up with Anderson's sputtering about cause of death.
The second crime scene with her, Lestrade was more articulate, and more familiar with the Holmes boys. Not to mention he was starting to gray from the stress they brought him. "How's it working for Mycroft, any easier than dealing with Sherlock?"
The woman looked up from her Blackberry, glanced with bright blue eyes into Lestrade's, and gave a soft heaving of her shoulders. "I get along."
Lestrade drew his lips inwards, a pout of confusion at her lack of conversation, and then nodded off the remark as she turned her eyes back to her Blackberry. He stuck his hands into his pockets and turned on his heel. He took to standing where Sherlock and John Watson were perched over a dead man's nearly naked body. The only one able to prove a connection between the two current murders would be Sherlock, of course.
The third time, Lestrade's confidence was much stronger. Sensitivity was something he'd begun to devalue the longer he spent time with Sherlock. At least, in a manner of speaking it was 'devaluing'. He was learning that there were times when sensitivity didn't work.
"I don't think I've gotten your name." Lestrade flipped his notebook shut, and looked up to the woman as he stuck a pen behind his ear.
She clicked a final few taps on her Blackberry and turned her eyes upwards at Lestrade. "I wouldn't know." She looked him up and down, scrutiny blanketing her blue eyes. "Anthea."
Lestrade, naturally, offered her a smile and held out his hand, fingers splayed openly. Her smaller hand, nails painted a bold red, tucked itself into his. He grasped at her warm skin and gave their interlocked hands a brief shake. "Nice to formally meet you."
Anthea's lips turned upwards in a hint of a smile before she retracted her hand, replaced it on the Blackberry, and pecked away at the keys.
The fourth meeting was what turned Lestrade's world around a few degrees. Though Anthea normally attended the 'meetings' Mycroft held with Lestrade she normally spent those typing away studiously, never paying Lestrade any mind. This time though, she stood close by Lestrade while Mycroft relayed some pertinent information about police budgets to him. She'd even offered a comment or two.
Lestrade watched Anthea strolling out of Scotland Yard behind Mycroft and turned away, counting her a lost cause. He should really take up the offer of a fellow Yarder and go out for drinks with her instead. Lestrade just wasn't as attracted to the Yarder as he was to that Blackberry toting, Holmes following, beauty.
He sighed, marking in his internal notebook just how much the Holmes boys could turn his gears in the wrong direction. A trill of beeps from his pocket announced a text message. It was more than likely Sherlock, begging to be let in on something. Lestrade pulled the cell out of his pocket and pushed a key to see a new name and number blinking on his phone. The name read "Anthea" and Lestrade wasn't sure how it had come to rest in his contacts. He cocked an eyebrow and opened the message.
If you're free- 9 o'clock, outside your flat. Dress nicely. –A.
Lestrade re-read the text a few times until Donovan came his way and tried to peer over his shoulder, spouting out, "Freak looking for something new?"
"No, personal." Lestrade flicked his phone to darkness and tucked it safely into his pocket once more. He looked around studiously for somewhere to be that made him look busy without being involved in the group dynamics of the Yard. He dashed off towards his office. With his hand on the doorknob and cell phone in his palm he was greeted from behind with-
"Lestrade, I need you to take a look at this. I think our sociopath somehow tampered with something at the scene." Anderson held out a report with a very unbecoming sneer smeared across his face.
Picking the paper from Anderson's fingers, Lestrade looked at the man for a moment. "And this is why I bring him in on cases." As he turned his eyes quickly over the photos and notes Anderson had made he caught the small detail, a note of an out-turned pocket which wasn't that way in the photo. "Yes well…" His cell trilled in his hand. "I'll take a better look and have a chat with him, then." Lestrade gave his best 'I'm busy, get lost' look and turned his back to disappear into his office.
Shutting the door, Lestrade strolled around and sat in his seat, risking only the little light on the corner of the desk. Perhaps the mostly darkened room would turn unwanted visitors away. He clicked a button on his phone and watched the message pop up, another one from Anthea.
I know you'll be free. I'll pick you up at 9. Be prompt. –A.
Lestrade wasn't sure he wanted to know how she knew he'd be free tonight. Same as he didn't want to know how much control Mycroft had in his government position, or what Sherlock did in his free time, or how close Donovan and Anderson were. There were things in DI Lestrade's life that he learned to just let be. He was actually becoming very good at ignoring what he didn't want to see.
Typing away furiously at the keyboard of his cell, Lestrade hoped that he could send her an answer before Anthea grew bored with him. He hadn't been on a date in a while. In fact, the last one had ended with a sudden outburst from a little Sherlock-strop. He pushed the memory away and typed:
Yes, I am free. 9 o'clock is fine. Where, may I ask, are we going? -DI Lestrade
Lestrade may have given in to the young fad of texting, but he'd be damned if he was going to text out of proper English. Besides, the mess of letters standing for whole words didn't make much sense to him half of the time anyway. He realized, annoyedly, that he was staring at the cell he'd placed on the desk in front of him. Letting out a huff of breath he turned to the examination file that Anderson had presented him with and went over each detail carefully.
A knock sounded at his office door and Lestrade barely swallowed a frustrated sound in his throat. "It's open."
John Watson strode in, an apologetic smile gracing his face. "Uh, Sherlock said you might be needing this…" He held out the missing wallet and Lestrade's DI card.
A tick pulsed in Lestrade's jaw as he got up, went around the desk to meet John halfway, and reached out for the evidence and his possession. He wanted to yell, but John wasn't the person to yell at. John kept some sort of control over Sherlock and, certainly, the younger Holmes was much more amiable with John around. "Thank you, John. I don't know what to do with him half the time. He can't be a terrific flatmate…"
John smiled and shrugged. His pleasant not-a-care attitude made Lestrade ease up immensely and immediately. "He's not too terrible, as long as I keep some milk in the fridge and tea on the stove."
Lestrade allowed a laugh and clapped John on his shoulder. "Well, he did help you out of that limp, now didn't he?" When Lestrade grinned his face tightened into subtle wrinkles that suited his age.
John nodded and stuck his hands into the pockets of the jacket with the leather patches. "Yes he did; even if he was a prat going about it." John shifted his weight, easing into the farewell bit of the conversation. "I'm nearly certain that was all he took and by tonight he'll have some sort of conclusion on the murder."
"Almost certainly," Lestrade agreed. He moved himself back behind the desk. "Thanks again, John." When the door closed, Lestrade's fingers stroked his phone, willing it to light up with some answer. He let his fingers glide over the desk and to a pen, picking that up and tapping it against the folder. He marked the discrepancies as 'taken care of', bagged the wallet John had handed him, and closed the file. The phone went off.
Reaching out quickly for it, Lestrade briefly cursed his sudden intensity. He normally prided himself on the self-control he had gained from working this job and with the people that he did.
You may, but that does not mean I will answer. Or that I know. –A
Lestrade tightened his face into confused lines and put the phone back down. "Well, a surprise then. Something to look forward to, I guess." As if he didn't get enough of those on the job.
Five o'clock could not come quick enough. Seconds after the tick of the clock announced 'five' Lestrade grabbed his jacket, threw a shoulder bag across himself, and ducked out of the office. He kept his eyes trained on the door ahead of him, not giving anyone a single glance, hoping they'd get the hint and leave him be. He made it uneventfully to his car.
Stepping out onto Chancery Lane, Lestrade glanced around. His eyes landed on the camera of the London Silver Vaults just a few steps down the street and he watched it turn towards him. He cocked an eyebrow, gave a half-grin knowing Mycroft had to be behind it, and let himself inside. It was disconcerting, the little things that Lestrade picked up hinting at Mycroft's long arm; and so he tucked the camera movement into the folder in his head labeled "ignore".
Lestrade tossed his shoulder bag onto the couch in the main room. He draped his jacket on the back of a dinning chair. His shoes ended up just inside the doorway to his room. His clothes got lumped in the laundry basket in the bathroom where he was climbing into a steaming shower. The hot water helped relax him a bit, the pounding stream working away at the tight muscles that corded his back, shoulders and neck.
Lestrade, at times, thought he was getting too old for this. The graying at his temples announcing his forty years of life was reminder of experience to others and a marking of time passing too quickly for him. Squeezing out a healthy portion of shampoo he lathered it in his short hair, feeling soap suds spilling from his fingers and down over his shoulders. He scrubbed into his scalp, his fingers picking up the frustrations of life and kneading them through his hair.
Stepping out of the shower, Lestrade wrapped a large, warm, blue towel about his hips and stood in front of a mirror. His arms were well toned, his chest broad and taut with muscle. His stomach had the shadowy crevices of muscle, but it wasn't as flat and tight as it had been a few years ago. The light dusting of hair across his chest was still dark. He figured, despite aging, he was still a good looking man; even, perhaps, better. Lestrade grabbed his toothbrush and tended to the rest of his bathroom duties quickly.
It was only 6:40 and Lestrade wasn't sure what to do with himself. He originally assumed this was a 'date', but the feeling that he had to be wrong kept him second guessing. It seemed so often that Anthea didn't even recognize him upon each return visit. He sighed, paced his living room, made a cup of tea, flipped through the telly- twice, and eventually slumped into his chair. He pulled his home laptop to him and scrolled through "The Science of Deduction" and John's blog. There was nothing up Lestrade didn't already know about, but it was interesting to see John and Sherlock argue in the comments of John's blog. He smirked a few times, read over the anonymous posts, scratching his head at who they could be.
8:36 had Lestrade up and pacing again. He smoothed the white button-down, retucking it to perfection, and glared down at the watch on his left wrist. He wondered briefly if this…thing with Anthea would end up actually being a thing with Mycroft. Not in a sexual way, you see, but a meeting of some sort for Mycroft to warn him, yet one more time, that Sherlock needed looking after. That was obvious enough, but Lestrade had passed some of that responsibility onto John Watson. Surely Mycroft could spend some of his time kidnapping and instructing John now and give Lestrade a few week's peace. In spite of the annoyances of being kidnapped nearly weekly, Lestrade had to admit that Mycroft was a useful person when it came to the law.
Lestrade hoped tonight would be kept between Anthea and himself, even if it was strictly business. It would be nice to go out with a woman.
Lestrade was standing outside of his flat, leaned against the wall behind him with one leg tossed over the other just as nine o'clock struck. He was still in the process of lodging his hands into his jacket's pockets when a black Mercedes pulled up and came to an abrupt stop in front of him. The door swung open but no one emerged. So Lestrade pushed off of the wall, pulled the bottom of his long jacket up and climbed into the backseat.
Anthea was sitting there, Blackberry perched in her rapidly typing fingers, and without Mycroft. That didn't mean too much though. Oftentimes, Mycroft would meet them at where ever they would go, normally a few minutes later for 'dramatic purposes', Lestrade supposed.
"Hullo," Lestrade murmured, directing a smile at Anthea.
"Hi." Her responses to him were always so short and distant. Her blue eyes had remained on the screen of the phone.
Lestrade slumped a little in his perky attitude and looked out of the window as they pulled away from his flat. "Where um, where are we going this time?"
Anthea pushed the 'send' button one last time and tucked her phone into the inside pocket of her black jacket. "This isn't a meeting with Mycroft. Just you and I, Lestrade." She heard him shift in his seat to get a better look at her. Lifting her own eyes, Anthea searched his face for some recognizable feature. She liked the smell of him; crisp, clean scent from his clothes, a subtle, soapy smell from his shower, and a very light dab of some spicy cologne. Anthea liked the sound of his voice, a dusky baritone, sitting deep in his chest, emerging from the back of his throat.
Sometimes she hated her genetic mutation, her prosopagnosia. Anthea liked the idea of Lestrade, which is part of why she kept him at a distance. It had only taken twice to memorize his scent. It had taken three to get his voice down, as a crime scene was a busy place. Anthea wished she could recognize his face when she saw it.
"So what is this exactly, then?" Lestrade's voice drifted over the person's worth of distance between them.
Anthea could read slight confusion on his features. Her mind made out that he was handsome- a strong jaw and soft lines of age. But the moment he was cast into a crowd, or she left him for more than a few minutes, his face would no more recognizable to her than anyone else's. "Mycroft's idea of a date, I suppose." Her face was still turned towards him, trying to pick up what she could from him. While her prosopagnosia was not as severe as it could be, it left her wanting.
"Just Mycroft's idea? Not something you wanted to do?" Lestrade was probing; she could hear it in his voice. There was also a bit of something else, buried beneath his curiosity. Anthea guessed at it being something along the lines of disappointment.
Anthea turned her eyes back down to her lap, resisting pulling out her cell. Her Blackberry was an escape from having to fight to see faces. She did not want to have to fight to see Lestrade's at the moment, not when so many emotions played in his voice alone. "Not exactly; you seem an interesting man, Gregory Lestrade. Mycroft just set it up. You know how he can be."
Lestrade's laugh was a higher note than his speech was, hitting the tenor range and melodic. Anthea marked it down as one more thing that she liked about him. Her ears perked as he spoke up, "Yes, I do know. I guess then you've no idea where he's sending us off to?"
"Not a clue and that is rare." Anthea smiled at her lap, twisting her fingers together as a way to keep them occupied.
The silence that descended was just starting to twist Anthea's mind into discomfort when their car lurched to a stop. She glanced out of her window and took quick calculations of the area. Belgravia, The Talbot. The food was decent but the atmosphere was better. Anthea watched Lestrade climb from the car and start around the back end. She pushed open her door before he could make it even halfway. Anthea had a feeling the man would feel cheated, but she couldn't get too close, too personal, too quickly. She tossed him a sweet upturn of the lips as she moved around to follow him inside though- a trifling replacement for what she'd taken.
Lestrade pulled open the door to The Talbot for her and she held her head up as she walked in. The wait-staff already knew her from the frequenting she did here with Mycroft. Mycroft knew she liked the smooth feel of the shiny black table tops. Lestrade was to her side in moments, keeping close enough that with just the right movement his arm would brush hers, but far enough away that it didn't seem oppressive. A statement, Anthea guessed, of minor possession on his part. Anthea had been told many a time that she a beautiful woman, of course, she wouldn't really know. Even her own face was one she couldn't fully recognize. Mirrors were objects merely for making sure there was nothing on her face that shouldn't be. No chance of narcissism from Anthea.
Anthea smiled when Lestrade pulled her seat out. She was used to men trying to get her attention or being put off at her cold attitude. Lestrade so far wasn't pushy, wasn't put off, he was simple and patient. And so she would test him, push him along and see what would come of them. "I am a little surprised you came."
"Why's that?" Lestrade took his own seat, flipping the napkin out and placing it over one of his knees.
"You're a busy man. A night off must usually be used for taking some personal time." Anthea gently folded her napkin into her own lap and let her fingers run over the engraved lettering on the menu.
She watched as Lestrade drew his lips up into a smile. Funny, she wasn't sure if it was real or faked- emotions were hard for her to read. She waited for him to speak.
"I would consider this personal time. I am not out with Mycroft, a Yarder, or Sherlock."
Anthea poked her tongue out from between her lips, running it over them in a slow thoughtful drag. "Mm, this is true. Are you excited to be out with me in particular, or just to be out with a woman?" Lestrade stayed silent for a few moments. Anthea wondered if she'd upset him. She squinted her eyes slightly, quickly raking them over every inch of his face to try and read what he was thinking. "Lestrade?"
"Anthea." His voice was steady, sitting very deep in his throat. "I only stepped outside at nine o'clock because it was you."
"Hm." Anthea flipped open the menu, unsure of what to say. This was new territory for her, as her personal relationships tended to fail, and very miserably. Her hand instinctively tucked into her jacket and tugged out her phone. Her fingers wrapped around it and brushed over the keys. It was silent, message free. Damn, Mycroft really needed to bugger out of her personal life sometimes.
The interruption of the waiter was welcome to them both. They placed their orders with the man and fell into an unsettling silence. Anthea could feel Lestrade's eyes wandering over her, could feel them boring into her hand tucked around the phone. She couldn't blame him. There was a significant amount of shifting, gropes at phones, and faked coughs that filled the time between drinks and the arrival of their food.
"Is Anthea your real name?" Lestrade spoke up, setting his fork down on the plate.
Anthea turned her eyes from her food to look into his eyes. Her mouth fell open slightly as she thought of what to tell him. If he were to ask John he would be able to find that out easily. "No," she settled on. "Not the one I was born with, in any case."
"Why the change?" Lestrade was leaning forward, obviously taking interest in her. Interesting, most men, aside from him and John, didn't much care about her name.
"Personal. Getting away from…my past." Anthea twirled her fork across her plate, scooping up some food and popping the fork into her mouth. She hoped it was a long enough distraction to pull his interest from this particular topic.
Lestrade grabbed his own fork and followed suit. He managed to slip in, "Got it, dropping it" between bites.
Anthea was thankful for Lestrade's respect and self-control. "You don't seem much a fan of your own name, always going by your last."
"It's a good enough name I suppose, but I've built my reputation on 'Lestrade', not Gregory. A bit to do with habit." Lestrade shrugged his shoulders and turned his brown eyes up to Anthea's.
She shivered with the intensity that sat behind them. God how she loved eyes! She could almost place those, could almost remember those. Anthea leaned in slightly, staring unblinkingly into Lestrade's eyes. Soft brown, slants of a honeyed brown striking through in random splices to the dark center of the pupil. Oh, she could remember these eyes. "Makes sense."
Their food was gone too quickly. Anthea couldn't scramble up more conversation before the waiter was pulling their plates away from them. Her stomach tightened. She'd hoped this would go well, though the voice of her realist mind kept rending that hope. And here it was, that awkward limbo of 'who pays' and 'what's next'.
Anthea knew that as DI, Lestrade made fine money. She also knew that as Mycroft's assistant, she made more money than she could spend in a lifetime. She reached for the bill when it was placed down by Lestrade's arm. He quickly sat his arm atop the bill and his fingers brushed over the back of her hand. "No, let me. Please." His voice was soft and low.
She simply melted, that was the only way she could describe it. Then she shut the silly emotions up immediately and drew her hand back. "Fine, if it pleases you." Anthea carefully folded her napkin and laid it on the table top as she watched him pull out his wallet and drag up a credit card. His hands worked quickly, steadily. In his line of work she supposed he was conditioned to precise movements. His hands were large, there was a scar across his right thumb, and the nails were kept shortly trimmed. They were neat; Anthea liked neat. The waiter took only a few moments to run the card and return it.
"Come back to mine for a drink?" Lestrade's voice was different. It was hitched with a quick intake of breath- hesitation.
Anthea wondered if he really meant to ask. "No." She stood up from her chair and looked at him, waiting for him to climb to his feet.
He did, looking down at the table and then towards the door. There were enough lines turned upside down on his face for Anthea to read disappointment. As the two of them moved towards the front, a large group stepped in through the doorway and Lestrade broke into their ranks. Anthea froze, watching him blend in with the faceless mass. Her heart restricted and her hand inched for her phone in her pocket. Anthea buried her nose in a text to Mycroft, fingers flying over the keyboard. Her eyes were narrowed on the screen, her vision reduced to nearly nothing. In this manner she made her way gracefully through the crowd.
Spice. She picked up his spicy cologne back at her left side. She didn't look up.
Be a dear and turn the cameras off my flat. –A
"You're welcome to my place." Anthea's gait was even and her feet landed solidly.
Anything you wish, Darling. –Mycroft
"Uh, well I," Lestrade was obviously caught off guard by her quick turn-around of the invitation he'd made- the one she'd rejected. "All right then." He moved up next to her at the curb where the car sat and pulled open her door. After she'd climbed in and settled he shut it behind her and walked around to climb in on the other side.
Anthea inhaled deeply when his weight settled in next to her. Crisp, his clean smell was crisp. "I have a thing about flats that aren't mine."
Lestrade was smiling, she realized. She wondered at it briefly, especially when the smile turned into a small laugh. "It's quite all right. We're both familiar with the quirks of the Holmes boys. A little 'thing' about a man's flat is nothing, I assure you."
"Sound reasoning." Anthea sent off one last text to Mycroft before stuffing her cell back into her pocket.
Thank you, Mycroft. –A
She was getting comfortable already with having eye to eye conversation compared to having her face in her Blackberry. That made her slightly uneasy. The car pulled up to her flat and she led the way in, twisting her keys into the lock and hearing the bolts pull back.
Her flat was smaller, roomy enough for one or two people at least. She had a few bookshelves, packed to the point of threatening to overflow. She had her vast computer system set up in one corner. No television- she'd only use it for the news and her Blackberry received news updates anyway. The guilty pleasure of fashion magazines sat tucked under her coffee table.
"Make yourself comfortable. I'll get us some drinks. Tea, or something stronger?" Anthea asked tossing her bag onto her kitchen table. The low island counter separating the kitchen from the living room that Lestrade was striding into gave her the opportunity to watch him.
"Stronger, if you're offering," Lestrade tucked his hands in his pockets, turned and offered a large smile to her.
Anthea could make that out as happy. Or maybe pleased. Either way, it was nice to read some particular emotion. "I hope brandy is good with you."
"Perfect, in fact." Lestrade glanced at her couch as if gauging the safety of taking a seat. His body was tense though the tone of his voice was relaxed.
It was becoming quickly apparent to Anthea that she was fond of the DI's movements and personality. He didn't waste a single movement; every little shift, breath and turn had a reason. "Ice?" Her hand was paused on the handle of the refrigerator.
"Please." Lestrade turned towards her once more, attention far from couches now.
Pouring them two glasses, Anthea moved around into the main room and held out a glass to Lestrade. He put his hands around it, fingers brushing over her hand. Fire ran through her arm and sent chills down her spine. As he pulled it towards himself, she couldn't help a step forward. His scent washed over her once more and she let her mouth part open in an almost pant. She put the rim of her glass to her lips and sipped at the alcohol.
She could feel Lestrade tense and heard him suck in a sharp breath. Anthea grinned around the rim and let it slowly fall, revealing a closed smile that pulled the edges of her painted lips upwards coyly. Her breath was coming slightly quickly and her stomach was knotting with a feverish tightness. She could see Lestrade's broad chest heaving with forced breath, could see his whole body tense, and watched him close his eyes for a few beats. He was losing that strictly composed self-control.