Author's Note: This is an earlier story, set before most of my other stories ever took place. This is a different Scotland Yard, and a good portion of the characters are different characters than are usually featured (for a better idea of when this took place refer to the time-line in my profile). Please note that Gregson and Lestrade are both younger here, and that Inspectors Smith and Adams are not the Constables of the same name you see in later stories.
That being said, thanks for your patience, and enjoy.
"Craddock is going to try to persuade you that you've got no future at the Yard if you decide to side with me." Lestrade announced as Gregson entered his office, though the Inspector did not look up to verify that he was, in fact, speaking to Gregson.
Gregson wondered if there were any point in asking how Lestrade knew it was him without looking up. Probably not, he decided. "Are you sewing yourself up?" He asked instead, closing the office door and locking it behind him.
"Lacey cut my arm open on my way in." Lestrade confirmed. "I think he was aiming for my face."
Gregson wondered how often the man nearly got killed on his way to work, to speak of it so casually. Then again, Gregson himself had foiled an attempt on the man's life on his first day at the Yard. Attempts on the man's life were apparently not a rarity, not surprising given the lack of moral fiber among most of the men at the Yard and Lestrade's lack of tolerance for criminal activity.
"Do you want me to let him persuade me?" He asked, going back to Lestrade's greeting.
Lestrade frowned at his arm. "It's risky." He said, still debating the issue. He had not made up his mind yet. Gregson already did not like the idea, but there was very little he did like about the situations he tended to get into when Lestrade was involved and it was, after all, part of the job.
"Craddock'll probably have his boys rough you up a bit, first." He warned.
"That goes without saying." Gregson agreed. "Do you want me to do it?" He asked again. A chance at Craddock was a godsend. They had been after the man for a while now, but had been unable to actually get anything on him.
Lestrade sighed. "You can't actually do anything." He reminded the other Inspector. "We have to stay clean if we're going to pull this off. They get anything on us, we're history."
"I know," Gregson replied with just a bit of irritation. Lestrade reminded him of this fact almost everyday, as if he thought Gregson might do something stupid if he did not. "So I act cowed and intimidated, get in on their plans, report them, and we've got Craddock and his buddies."
"There'll be no doubt what side you're on if we pull this off. It's dangerous." Lestrade added irritably.
"You think so?" Gregson retorted. "You should have a doctor look at that." He added, nodding toward Lestrade's arm. It was a waste of breath; Lestrade seemed to have some sort of issue with members of the medical profession. Gregson had not seen the man actually go to one yet. He would have better luck with the other conversation they were having. "Do you want me to do it?"
"Craddock's people are going to rough you up anyway, so you might as well." Lestrade finally said. "Don't get killed."
"I'll try not to." Gregson retorted as he unlocked the door. He left Lestrade to finish sewing up his arm and headed across the hall to his own office.
He left his own door open-he could keep an eye on things that way-and settled down at his desk to try to get some work done.
He barely nodded to Inspector Adams as he went by, and Inspector Johnson as he went by. He ignored West as he came in, or pretended to-something about the man sent shivers down Gregson's spine whenever he was near.
Craddock's boys, as Lestrade called them-Gregson wondered idly if Lestrade had started that or if West had-actually caught him as he headed home for the day.
Gregson was not stupid. He never would have been going down that alley alone if he had not been counting on Lestrade's tip that this nasty bunch wanted to turn him. For a brief second he wondered what he would do if Lestrade was wrong-if they simply wanted him out of the way, but pushed that fear aside. He trusted very few people down at the Yard, but Lestrade was one of them, even if it were more out of necessity than anything else.
Gregson was not entirely successful in holding back a groan as he let Paul pull grasp his wrist and pull him up off the ground. "Lestrade. Trouble. Got it." He grunted, trying to decide just how stiff he was going to be in the morning. He considered shooting Inspector Craddock a glare, but resisted the urge. It would probably not do any good. "I never liked him anyway." He added, for good measure.
"You saved his life." Lowell, another of Craddock's toadies, reminded everyone present. Gregson did glare at him.
He spat on the ground before replying. "Before I knew he was an insufferable fool, yes. Before I became aware of the situation at the Yard." He added, pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket and holding it to the cut above his left eye from Paul's ring. "I don't like Lestrade any more than you do." He told Craddock.
Craddock believed him. Gregson had always heard that the most convincing lies held an ounce of truth, and it was certainly true that he did not care for Inspector Lestrade.
Craddock smiled and gave Gregson a time and a place. "Can you slip away from Lestrade, do you think?" Gregson tried to look nervous, then decided, and hoped he had pulled it off. He was certainly not an actor, but then again, West hadn't figured out that Gregson could not stand him yet. Neither had anyone else, for that matter.
"I think so." He answered Craddock's question.
"We can arrange something." Craddock offered nastily. "Keep Lestrade busy."
Gregson made a mental note to warn Lestrade, just in case. "I can get away." He said.
"Then be there." Craddock said, his expression suddenly dark and threatening. "And don't even think about trying to back out."
Gregson did not bother resisting the urge to gulp. It worked in his favor if they thought he was frightened. Whether or not he actually was was of little consequence.
He walked with Lowell to the corner, where he was delighted when they went their separate ways. He was grateful when he finally reached his home and could assess the worst of the damage incurred by the beating he had taken from Craddock's men.
It was not bad; a number of bruises, the cut on his forehead, a black eye and a split lip. It could have been much, much worse. If Craddock found out what he was up to it would be. There were a number of bruises along his back and sides, and a couple on his abdomen. He would be stiff tomorrow, and sore, but he could deal with that.
The one thing nice about those blasted weekly meetings at Lestrade's, Gregson thought as he remembered he had not gone grocery shopping recently, was that the man could cook, and cook well. Friday was, however, still two days away.
He had not forgotten to get groceries. He had had every intention of getting them two days ago when Inspector Smith had dragged him down to the docks just as his shift was supposed to have been ending because Lestrade was busy trying to track down the leak with West.
Someone in their small group was leaking information to the people they were trying to clear out, and after Adams had nearly been shot last week they were desperately trying to find out who.
The end result had been that Gregson had predictably ended up in the river and by the time he had actually made it home had cared about little more than getting dry clothes, a cup of hot tea, and crawling into bed. He had been fully aware, as he huddled under the blanket, that he would regret not getting to the grocer's, but had not been able to bring himself to care.
Nor had he really cared much about it yesterday after having been dragged out of bed (metaphorically rather than literally, thank goodness) by Lestrade at a quarter to three and the two of them had spent most of the day running all over London.
There was really nothing in the cupboard that he could make into a meal. Gregson was merely a passable cook under the best of circumstances, and this was certainly not one of those.
He considered the time, allowed himself a long sigh, and headed back out to do what he should have done two days ago.