AN/ Canon references abound for those who like spotting them. Most from His Last Bow; The War Service of Sherlock Holmes (borrowed the title for this scribbling) and faint ones from other stories. Not sure about the ending of this, so any comments, please drop a review =]
Summary: DI Lestrade was there at the inception of the partnership of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. It only make sense that he's there at the end as well. S/J
His Last Bow
The churchyard park is empty of any other life when the blue Toyota finally settles and parks between a Renault Megane and a Mini Cooper, its hubcaps splattered unattractively in a light dusting of the chalk that makes this area of the British Isles relatively unique. The sound of the engine dies with a whine, the crackling of gravel under the tyres cuts off, and for a moment, looking around at the quiet desertion, Gregory Lestrade worries he might be late. Or maybe that he's even too early – he's pretty sure the time said a quarter past two on the invite, but then again Mrs Lestrade, Tracy, bless her soul, always did say he was getting more forgetful every day.
If he's late for this, he complains as the car stops, he'll blame it on the motorways, a pain as per usual on a sunny Saturday during what he suspects might be a half term. He has already made his views on some of the drivers on the way here very clear through his consistent grumblings (there isn't much else to do; he really does hate being a back-seat driver)
Internally though, he also factors in the ineptitude of his son-in-law's driving (really, is it that hard to read the road signs?). The guy is wonderful, don't get him wrong, otherwise Lestrade definitely wouldn't have let him marry his eldest, who is seated in the front passenger seat, but really he has managed to take most of the spectacularly wrong turnings available and has pulled onto the wrong junction lane quite regularly. Meaning that for the most part this two hour journey for the former detective chief inspector from busy central London to the quiet rural West Sussex encroachment of the South Downs has been taken up by Thomas and Georgia arguing in the front seats about each's driving, reducing themselves after a while to generalised opinions of the driving abilities of the other sex before Lestrade points out the sign to the small market town that they should have taken half an hour ago in a voice that is grateful to hear the end of their bickering.
Lestrade gets out of the car slowly, gingerly with unsteady tentative steps that comes with age, grey hair and the knowledge that he is not quite able to jump up like the sprightly forty year old he used to once be anymore. Really, when he's nearing the wrong end of eighty years old, he's pleased enough to still have all his faculties that he doesn't moan as much as his contemporaries when the cold air makes his arthritis flare up and makes getting places take twice as long.
His daughter offers a hand, but he refuses, still adamant that as long as he can walk, he will do so for the most part unaided. Georgia sighs, but knows her father long enough to know that he wont budge; she shouldn't be travelling or overexerting herself at all, not being so heavily pregnant with another grandchild, but she insisted, strongly and with few words but enough to get her point across, saying she wanted to come and pay her respects. And if there was one thing that didn't fade over the years, it was the way his daughters – any of them, really Tracy had been right when she had teasingly called him a pushover – could twist their dad around their little fingers to get what they wanted.
So, with the dragging steps of a pensioner, his stick providing him with something to balance on so every footstep is followed by a sharp metallic tap, and the waddling shuffles of a woman eight months pregnant, ghosted by quick awkward pats following the two from the man who was only here because his wife dragged him along, they make there was across the car park. Push open the black gate to one side bolstered by hedgerow on either side, the catch sticking at first, some of the paint flaking off before it squeaks and pivots on un-oiled hinges, the three tottering across disturbed flattened patches of grass that many feet have trampled down today.
It doesn't take long before they're over a ridge of land and Lestrade sees the congregation gathered around the graveside; the priest in his white robes, the golden braiding of his sleeves that shines with a pious glint from the high sun overhead. There is the faint rumble of conversation, and the ceremony obviously hasn't started yet. The grave that he only saw closed a few months ago has been opened again ready for another coffin, and the gravestone that before only held one name and remembrance now holds two, carved neatly, making its mark on a personal history of a few.
It's strangely fitting, the names together as they were always spoken of in life, never one without the other in the same sentence, but Lestrade only feels a deep sort of sadness that this is the second funeral he's attended in the last two months. Lives are all too fleetingly lost these days. He shouldn't be surprised, he thinks with a resigned knowledge, not really; it's gotten past the stage where the universe gives him things and instead starts to take them all away again. Some of his old friends, colleagues, especially the man whose funeral he is now attending, uncomfortable and itchy in a suit that's too tight around the neck and was made when he was a much younger man, he's saddened to have outlived. He always imagined that they'd be the ones at his funeral, awkwardly avoiding eye contact with the grieving family members left behind, comforting those whose tears flow freely with understanding simple human gestures like a pat on the shoulder or a touch on the arm.
On the other side of the open plot, his eyes squinting at the sunlight, Lestrade catches sight of a familiar face; lined with years, seated in a wheel-chair (and he must have been forced into it by one of his assistants – his legs weren't what they used to be – because by his countenance he definitely is not gracefully accepting of the treatment). The man sees him, must have just noticed his arrival, and the face of Mycroft Holmes offers a faint wrinkly smile at Lestrade as he walks over. It is odd, but it gets to the stage where funerals are almost social events via which Lestrade keeps up with people from the old days, faces that have become more lined and greyer. Some of them don't remember him, Alzheimer's or dementia playing a subtle and cruel card, but most smile at known faces – so few these days – and they talk about families and neighbours and the pros and cons of blood pressure tablets.
He saw Sally Donovan at the last funeral he was at, right in this very graveyard – but then again she had always had a softer spot for the man that they had been burying, a sort of respect which meant she had made the long journey from where she lived in Cornwall with her husband – holding the hand of a small girl with black plaited hair that he assumed was her granddaughter. He was grateful she came, although she didn't stay long, and it was nice seeing someone from the Yard again, being retired for so long.
It felt wrong, talking about what Dimmock and Anderson and Molly were up to these days, where they were now, them and all the others they worked with over the grave of a dead man, but Lestrade knew he wouldn't have minded; would have leaned in and listened in on the gossip with a spark in his blue eyes. That was the sort of person he was.
"Greg" Mycroft greets him with a hoarse voice, whether from age or private mourning Lestrade doesn't ask. "Good you could come" He supplies a nod of his head as Lestrade shuffles to stand next to the man. He remembers Mycroft forty years younger, still sees him like that in his head, receding hair line and suave suits, now still looking as dapper as ever but with no hairline to recede anymore. Lestrade is content to see that some things have not changed so much as Mycroft gives a dismissive wave at the woman holding his wheel-chair, impatiently indicating that she's been mollycoddling him quite enough for one day, and she (it's not Anthea, or whatever her name really was, and with the reminiscent curiosity that comes with losing touch with people, Lestrade wonders what happened to her) tactfully takes her leave, allowing the man who was formerly The British Government to talk in private with the man who was formerly the DCI at Scotland Yard. Lestrade sees too that Thomas and Georgia have hung back for similar reasons, are chatting to what his weak eyes make out as being Ella Hudson, youngest granddaughter of the great women herself, and he is grateful for the consideration.
"Mycroft" Lestrade smiles stiltedly at the man with the self-conscious air of not knowing what to say, wanting to offer some condolences that seem paltry and insufficient even in his head, knowing that the elder Holmes, much like his younger brother, wasn't one to accept anybody's pity even if it was deserved. So instead, he reduces himself to a banal, very British comment about the weather.
"At least the sun is out today. Not a cloud" he ventures and Mycroft inclines his head vaguely, understandably as though the weather is really the last thing on his mind.
"I don't think he would have minded, whatever the weather" he replies slowly after a moment, and Lestrade nods in response, not knowing what else he can say. Over the years and bumping into the mysterious elder Holmes brother, Lestrade has become good friends with the man, what with both of them having a vested interest in the whereabouts and actions of a certain wayward detective, even with the surprisingly calming influence that came along with a quiet ex-army doctor. It's a strong camaraderie, even to this day, and regardless of his respect for Sherlock, Lestrade always found the older brother the easier to get along with. Mycroft told Lestrade straight if he wasn't divulging details to him because it was beyond his pay-grade and into classified, and even if he wasn't happy because it interfered with his case, at least it wasn't like Sherlock, who just neglected to tell him anything he had uncovered until the very end.
Lestrade doesn't get out much these days – all the books and films he never had time to watch when he was in the Yard he has spent his retirement catching up on, that and the spare hours he now has to tend to his rhododendrons in the back garden – but Mycroft visits sometimes, never announced, but Lestrade has never minded, and there has always been a cup of tea on the boil that the two of them sit down to as they catch up on recent events in each others lives. Still, they were never regular visits, once in a blue moon perhaps, and seeing the man twice in recent months for as disheartening a reunion as for a funeral is jarring to say the least.
"I never thought," Mycroft speaks again, the words heavy and his voice is throaty, almost a whisper "That I'd be at his funeral. I always thought I'd go first given the age difference between us"
"I didn't even think he could die" Lestrade offers a modicum of honest humour and in his own reserved way, Mycroft seems grateful for the lift out of more darker thought paths, even though the chuckle that comes out unwilling sounds more like the scraping of a blunted saw than anything actually filled with humour. Grief does that.
"Knew it wouldn't be long though" Mycroft continues, not looking at Lestrade, staring instead at the marble gravestone, the words imprinted there, the names, the memories "Not after John"
Lestrade nods, recalling with a painful tenderness the visage of the ex-army medic before his eyes. The most extraordinary of ordinary men, in his opinion. A decent bloke by every account, who held a record at the Hound of the Baskervilles pub for the fastest time clearing out the pool table, who went for a pint with Lestrade and the Yarders on a Friday if there wasn't a case, and always insisted on buying a round. The man who had ended up settling the most unsettled of characters.
Lestrade had retired the year before them on a good pension, but even he'd been surprised to hear (surprised had been a bit of an understatement, he'd nearly spilt his Earl Grey on the cat) that Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock bloody Holmes, the bane of the Yard, the most brilliant, fascinating, frustrating man that Greg Lestrade had ever had the pleasure of meeting – was retiring. Anderson offered to throw them a party, he was that ecstatic.
But then again, when Lestrade thinks on it in retrospect, the moment had been coming for a long time.
Despite retaining the keen mind of a young man who internally had never got older, Sherlock Holmes had aged like the rest of humanity. The first greys had seeped into his ink black hair. His sharp lines had softened, blurred around the edges, and the hours of sleep he had avoided in his youth crept up in a quick gaining tiredness that he could not put off like he had done.
John being the elder of the two by three or four years had been as dogmatic as Sherlock had been when it came to accepting that he wasn't as young as he had been. For a good few months, he refused to go see an optometrist to get his eyes tested for reading glasses when he could no longer focus on the small print on his computer screen. But with a dawning acceptance he began to realize that he could no longer fling himself off rooftops and not expect his legs to buckle on landing, could no longer do some of the things he used to take for granted. But he did not complain. That wouldn't have been like him. His shoulder began to pain him more often than not, most harshly in the winters so that he could barely move it at all without using painkillers and heat-packs, but he did not complain about that either.
He did not complain when the last of his sandy blonde finally gave up the ghost of having a hint of the shade of his more youthful days; he had laughed and swore he'd been grey ever since the first time Sherlock dragged him across London after a criminal, even though his hair was finer now than it had been then, a silvery lustre and the first urgings towards what would become an eventual salt-and-pepper effect. He did not complain about how the flat often seemed to be colder more as the years went by, and he'd have to turn the heating up (and bless Mrs Hudson, who'd looked after her boys even when she left them by leaving them 221b in her will). But the one thing that seemed to bother him, that fuelled his internal vexation about the hindrances and limitations Time was placing upon him, was the thought that he was slowing Sherlock down.
Sherlock, who still sprinted down alleyways at fifty-two with the same reckless thrill of the chase as he had done when he was twenty-seven, who vaulted fences and hurdled over car bonnets with long legged strides, still shouting at John to keep up like he had done when they were thirty, John swearing back at the detective like years had changed nothing.
Sherlock noticed he wasn't as fast as before. Of course he did. How couldn't he, his observant skills had not become older as the rest of him had. But Sherlock pretended for the sake of John's pride that he didn't notice how drawn-out the gait of the doctor was, how he sometimes limped when his leg pained him (real pain, not the psychosomatic limp that had plagued him when they first met) and every time John became out of breath half way through a sprint through London, down streets and alleys and through ill-advised 'short-cuts', the detective would stop. Wait for the other man to catch up. And for a while John was grateful that neither of them talked about it, never brought it up because he wouldn't know what to say, how to explain it, like he was embarrassed about what was natural.
But these inconvenient truths caught up with them eventually as they were so inclined to do, and one day John stopped chasing Sherlock. His footsteps, steady and strong even with their decrease in pace, faltered, and Sherlock turned around with his eyes wide in blind panic, fear alone adding more greys to his impressive collection when he saw John had dropped to his knees onto hard unforgiving concrete, his hand clutching at his chest, at his heart.
"I'm...just... out of breath" he had lied, and Sherlock had been by his side almost immediately, the chase forgotten completely as he knelt down next to the man, detailing the pain etched into the lines of his face, the faint grasp that John had as he anchored himself to Sherlock by gripping onto his coat lapels, holding onto him like he was going to fall.
Sherlock's hands shook unnaturally as he fumbled for his mobile in his pocket, the tremor making dialling three digits harder than it was, three nines that until today he had never needed to call.
"Ambulance" he had hissed, and had tried to keep the terror out of his voice as he sketchily gave information regarding their location and John's condition as best as he was able (why did they ask so many questions, he just wanted them here, wanted them to hurry) before he ended the call and was left alone with the man he loved panting harshly in his arms as though there just wasn't enough air in his lungs to give him what he needed.
"I can't run anymore Sherlock" John whispered, and it had been painful to hear how ashamed he sounded, like it was his fault, like he was letting his partner down. And Sherlock had smiled through the wetness on his face and pressed a kiss against his hair, calling him an idiot with a soft heartache.
"You don't have to." Sherlock promised "Not anymore"
Three weeks after John's first angina attack at the age of fifty-six – because that's what it had been, Lestrade found out later from the medical report, a product of old age and underlying medical issues – , Sherlock had announced his retirement. And Lestrade had had to visit their simple cottage in the South Downs to see for himself the domesticity that had swayed Sherlock Holmes away from the glamour and the adventure of the crime he had chased so readily.
It shocked him in a way to see how... happy, the man was. Contented. Like this was the fulcrum of everything he had hoped his life would lead to. In his usual smart dress (that hadn't changed), a scarf John had bought him for his last birthday around his neck, Sherlock proudly showed off his newly purchased beehives, white-washed by hand – the hands that once would not lift themselves to touch anything so boringly tedious – and there was still an ever-present shine in the quicksilver of his eyes that had gained more lines around them since Lestrade last spoke to the world's only consulting detective.
Lestrade never expected it to last. Expected to come calling round at the residence and see some spark of boredom on his face, some glimmer of being impatient with the slower pace of life, unhappy with having to accede to the limitations of his transport. But Sherlock had seemingly all he needed in that one little cottage in Sussex, and it was all he ever needed for the next twelve years. He had his bees and made the best honey in the south west of England, had his library, collecting a book from its shelves every afternoon and settling himself on the sofa in the living room, putting his feet up on John's legs and flicking to his last reached page.
He even pottered about with his experiments with the chemistry set that had found itself in a spare guest bedroom, testing chemicals he really should have had a license for (and yes, he still was as inconvenient in his housekeeping as he always had been, age wasn't going to affect that, and John still complained with a smile about the Petri-dishes of mould colonies in the fridge and human bodies parts he kept in the the grill of the oven) and he published a few well-received papers that were lauded over by various Academia.
And John. Most of all, he had John.
It didn't last in the end, but not for the reason Lestrade had expected. Sherlock returned back from his hives one morning to find John on the floor, collapsed, gasping hard, his intake of breath stuttering, grabbing his chest again, and he had murmured Sherlock's name in a whispered faint voice as he slipped into unconsciousness.
John had already self-diagnosed himself before a young and still relatively naïve doctor gave him exactly the same prognosis. His heart was failing. He'd relied on it so much for so long, and now it was giving up on him. Like he'd always known it would one day. John Watson, the man who had dared to love a self-confessed sociopath, the doctor who was the one fixed point through the changing ages, was dying. John Watson with his secret smiles and his sunny laugh that never got old, and his heart, his beautiful, caring, violent heart. Weak heart as it turned out in the end.
The doctor gave him a week at best. John gave himself three days. Sherlock hated the fact that John would be the one proven right.
John had made it very clear, adamant in the face of well-meaning but ultimately bothersome doctors and nurses, that he would not be spending his last days in a hospital. He had gone home, to their house on the house downs, surrounded by cups of tea and books he would never finish and experiments in the fridge he would not be around to see the fruition of.
On the night of the third day, John had finally retired to bed knowing he wouldn't see the morning. Sherlock came up the stairs with him, walking carefully and precisely like the slowness of his steps had any chance of holding off the inevitable.
John had laid on the double bed they had slept in even during the Baker Street years, and entwined his fingers with Sherlock, mussed his hair – the detective still possessed of jealously thick locks whatever colour – as though trying to promise him something they had both stopped using words to describe a long time ago, and told him he loved him. Just like that. Like it was so unalterably true that it did not need any frills or decorations added. Gave that soft bright little smile. Reassuring, filled with every nuance of fondness, of love that it was possible to portray. And Sherlock clenched his hand tight in his own and promised himself that he would not cry, not tonight, and brushed a kiss to John's lips, a kiss that said I love you, and I always have as he lay down next to him, drawing the other man's arm over him.
John fell asleep quickly, breathing softly, soon not to breathe at all, and only then did Sherlock allow the tears that had been building to course silently down his cheeks, hot and salty and filled with a deep broken heartache as though he was listening to the final chorus of a mournful violin piece, music that would never be played or heard again. Without disturbing anyone, Sherlock cried in the dark, knowing there was no-one to comfort him in this, holding tighter onto John's arm as though it might keep him with him.
When morning came, John Watson did not wake up.
And the man Lestrade saw at the funeral two months ago was barely Sherlock Holmes anymore. There was something lost in his presence, something dark and heavy that wasn't there before weighed over his shoulders, making them hunch. He stood and listened to the eulogies given like he wasn't hearing them, and when Mycroft touched his arm briefly, his expression as he came back to reality was enough to make the heart of Greg Lestrade twist and churn and ache, heavy as lead. It was the look of a confused, scared old man who for a moment had forgotten where he was, who searched around him for a fraction of a second in an automatic gesture, looking for clear blue eyes that he would not find no matter how hard he looked.
"I'm surprised he lasted the two months"
Mycroft speaks suddenly, and it shocks Lestrade out of his musings, makes him wonder whether the man is still in the habit of so uncannily reading what other people are thinking. And Lestrade doesn't have to reply, not really, just agrees silently, thinking on how he went to visit that pebble-dashed thatch roof cottage on the South Downs a week after the funeral, pausing before knocking, as though he had no right to intrude into this man's private grief.
Sherlock took longer to open the door than before, fiddling, and fumbling with the key with a hand that quaked faintly before he finally got it in the lock. He glanced at Lestrade for a moment like he didn't know him, trying to put a name to a face with a agonizing process of remembering before he smiled. That smile hurt. Too desperate, too forced to be anything genuine, as though he was trying to pretend things were alright without knowing how they could ever get better.
His eyes were dark underneath, not just the lack of sleep bruising the lower lids a soft purple, but like shadows were actually rooted under his skin, noxiously growing and terminal. He looked ill, a man who wasn't eating, who wasn't sleeping. A man who was just waiting. Lestrade didn't want to think about what he was waiting for.
The meeting did not last long and Lestrade was selfishly glad, not only because of his own lack of words but for the former detective's habit of cutting off half way through a sentence, staring for a second like he was remembering something, before he started speaking again with the pace of someone trying to realign their thoughts to other places. The silences when neither knew what to say dragged and scuffed their feet, and they were the loudest silences Lestrade had felt in a long time. One moment Sherlock caught sight of John's cane, leaning unused against the unlit stove, and paled as though all colour had abandoned his face.
Lestrade left the house feeling like someone had succeeded managing where bombs and threats and arch-enemies had always failed. Like someone finally beat Sherlock Holmes. And it wasn't any man, or plot or conspiracy, it was Time; Time and the fragilities that followed in its footsteps.
Yet when he came back in two months, having hitched a ride with Mycroft from London, Sherlock had flung open the door with a vivacious energy, smiling widely, greeting each of them in turn with as much joy as he could. The shadows were still engrained under his eyes, and Mycroft commented on how tired he looked, but the honest truth of it was that he didn't. His grey eyes sparkled, energized, and for the first time he made them tea (that had always been John's job) and of course knew exactly how they'd like it.
He asked extensively about Lestrade, about the comings-and-goings of his children – he had once met Georgia when she was much younger as part of a case, and as a direct results bed-time stories for a good six months had demanded tales of a tall enigmatic detective (and Lestrade hadn't had the heart to tell her how much of an arse Sherlock could be in real life, because really, he'd mellowed slightly under John's influence, enough to be able to mostly function socially with other human beings anyway) –, teased Mycroft about his hair-line – or lack of – and they'd bickered over small things and held petty arguments in the only half-serious fashion that only brothers could.
Later on, he'd offered them all a glass of Imperial Tokay from his collection, and he'd shown them some of the papers he'd been meaning to finish for a while that he'd finally edited and completed – and while the Practical Handbook of Bee Culture was not the sort of thing that Lestrade was ever going to read, from the approving glances Mycroft was handing it, he could tell that it was good, most likely good enough to win some sort of scientific award – and they'd all talked long and late into the night about things none of them had thought on for many years.
And when Lestrade finally bade the detective goodnight, Sherlock Holmes had shook him warmly by the hand, professed him the best of the bunch at Scotland Yard, and promised to invite him for tea in coming weeks. Mycroft, startlingly, he gave a sort of awkward hug to, which the man accepted with only a raised eyebrow showing his surprise, although the detective immediately returned to his usual self, cheekily remarking to his brother that he was thinking of looking into something to reduce the effects of hair loss, and that would Mycroft be interested in helping him with preliminary trials.
As Lestrade had turned around to glance back as he manoeuvred himself into the back seat of Mycroft's car (really, had the man ever gone anywhere without his black secret service-esque affair?) and had seen Sherlock standing at the doorway, giving a genial wave goodbye, he caught the man's eye, just for a moment. And knew, somehow, whether from the finality of his smile, or the glimmer of something that was deeper than just a simple goodbye, that he would not be seeing Sherlock Holmes again in this life. He just knew.
And apparently the detective caught his line of thought, for he smiled again, with not a hint of sadness, and his smile did not fade even as the car drove away.
Sherlock Holmes passed away that night with that soft smile still on his face.
Standing in the sunshine next to the man's grave, Lestrade is still surprised at the manner in which the detective died. In bed, peaceful, natural. Surprised that man who lived such a life of danger, of risk, of chance that one miscalculation could have seen the situation become fatal, saw the violence of people's hearts and avowed himself to catching the perpetrators because he was bored, saw it a game, had not died a younger man; stopping a criminal, running without stopping, doing what he was born to do with his heart racing and pounding and blood thundering in his veins.
Sherlock should have died at the Pool, in the explosion that if not for the quick thinking of John barrelling them both into the water would have spelled the end of their endeavours, should have died a million and one other times over if not for shear luck, stubbornness and a bloody good doctor on hand. Lestrade had even thought the showdown at Reichenbach that had left John Watson so hollow had been a somewhat fitting end for Sherlock, finally defeating his greatest enemy at the cost of his own life if not for the return of the man after three long years.
Thinking over it, it should seem a let down to some that a man so great should die in such a mundane manner.
But here, now, on a grassy knoll in a small churchyard, Lestrade can see for himself, the evidence of the shear influence of the life Sherlock Holmes lived. The number of people here is more than Lestrade would ever have imagined, some of them vaguely familiar but most complete strangers to Lestrade, dressed in black mourning clothes, hanging back from the front as though not sure whether they are allowed to be here, but all who have come to pay their respects.
In his will, Sherlock had made clear that he didn't want any, to use his words "quite frankly dull and musically strenuous hymns, nor any quoted prayer that wishes me well with over-used prose phrases", and so after the priest has done his small bit with the simplicities of the burial rites as the coffin is lowered into the ground and the space filled up against with soil, the man stands back and allows anyone who wishes to speak to say something about the late detective.
Uncertainly, slowly, strangers make their way out of the mass of people, cough embarrassed, look around as though they think they're interrupting someone else's go, and then after much clumsy starters say something. When they get to it, it's often short and to the point, not ornamented with purple prose or anything over-sentimental; something Lestrade imagines the detective would appreciate. The first to take his place is an old old man shuffling forward, wrinkles built on wrinkles, his face ruddy, his tottering supported by an equally ancient woman who looks to be his wife from the wedding band around her finger that matches his, and the way she walks in sync with him, her guiding tender and unhurried.
He appears as though to not have planned what he's going to say when he gets to the front, muttering a 'sorry, father' to the priest, and there is a sheen of mist over his eyes, glassy and unfocused. But after a moment, it clears as though it was never there, and shrewd sharp dark eyes glint with an inner intelligence and grandeur as he finally speaks to those gathered.
"I'm not one for many words, so I don't have much to say." he says, and there is the faint twang of an American accent in the lilt of his words "I just want to say that Mr Holmes saved my life, and gave my wife Beryl a new one. Neither of us would be here, if it wasn't for him, so I well, just wanted to thank him" He nods to himself, indicating that what he has wanted to say he has said, and then with a shuffling grinding pace he moves off again.
Others take his place readily, and the stories are all the same, lives that Sherlock had touched, lives he has saved, literally or metaphorically. He stopped my brother from running off with my fortune...He saved my business... He rescued me from debt... He saved my father. A dainty blonde woman called Mary, who seems filled with an inner grace even as age makes her walking slower details with a smile her meeting with Sherlock and 'that nice doctor of his'. She laughs at that, and says that Sherlock Holmes was a lucky man. Lestrade notes as he studies those gathered, the figure of a tall proud woman dabbing at kohled eyes with a lace cloth, dressed extravagantly in crimson and black, with an ostentatious hat placed jauntily over hair that was once completely dark, now decorated with long thin mallen streaks of white. The Woman, he realises with remembrance, and wonders whether Irene Adler is still on the country's most wanted list.
Most of the people who are here, who say their piece lost in memory and move aside for others to say their stories are relics from the before days, and Lestrade imagines that should he feel the inclination to know of their backgrounds and names, the reasons in detail why they have made the journey here, he will find the full testaments recorded in John's blog. Yet some of them are new faces here on behalf of relatives who are no longer here or have been unable to make it, and it humbles Lestrade to see that for a man who had so few people he would count as friends, so many people owe him enough respect to attend his funeral.
It is only as the eulogies are drawing to a close, that Lestrade gets the sense that someone is standing behind him, watching him. Unable to help his curiosity, he angles his head, shielding his eyes from the sun that has reached its zenith and is now working down westwards, attempting to see who it is.
There is a tall young man standing behind him. Dark haired whorls of hair that are riotously unkempt cover his head, dip into grey eyes that watch the proceedings with hawk-like vision. He leans against a cherry blossom tree that has just started to bloom with fragile flowers, arms crossed and dressed a smart suit. Lestrade squints against the sunlight, trying to make out the faces in the glare as another man arrives silently behind him, like he's always been there, a constant presence in the background; a shorter man of about thirty, who frowns at first at what he sees, then his expression relaxes as he smiles gently at the other with such a blistering grin that Lestrade feels like he's intruding on something deep and personal.
The two stand like sentinels to one side, at a vantage point to the proceedings, talking quietly with words that Lestrade cannot hear, feels he has little right to. The sandy haired one laughs restfully at something the other says, leans back with his hands in his pockets, totally at ease, and after a moment, the taller one nods, half to himself, half to his companion, pale skin and dark hair reminding Lestrade of a brilliant young man he once knew, and interlaces his hand with the shorter man's, glancing at him, lips curling upwards lazily.
Lestrade smiles softly to himself as well, and turns his gaze away from what no longer concerns him, knowing that everything is as it should be. When he looks back, unable to resist a final glance, the two have gone, like they never have been there, and petals of pink blossom twirl like will-o-wisps as they spiral to the ground. No one else but him has noticed what has been momentary.
Lestrade just casts his eyes over to the marble gravestone, reading the names cut into the face with clear precise lettering, a final testament to two great men. And he is thinking at the same time about the men on the hill, all age worn away, and thinks it's fitting somehow they're getting to set out on another adventure with each by the others side.
The Game is on, he thinks.
And can't help but smile to himself again.