See What I See

John rolled his neck and heard something pop before settling back into the sofa. He'd promised himself that he would get this case written up tonight, while it was fresh. Even the increasingly alarming smell of something bitter and chemical burning in the kitchen wouldn't distract him. Probably. He glanced over once, saw Sherlock's head bent low over the beakers, and returned to his laptop.

Right then. The case.

It started like it usually does, with a middle-of-the-night arrival from our favorite Detective Inspector. Looking more tired than normal, if that's possible. I had a moment, before he started in on the murder and the witness and the symbols, when I wondered if he exists at all outside this stuff. We only see him at work.

John stopped to read that again and shook his head. Too personal, not quite right—he deleted the last two sentences.

Looking more tired than normal, if that's possible.

He could leave it there. But it seemed...well. He didn't really give them much credit in these, Lestrade in particular. There was a niggling guilt in the back of his mind. But what could he...

The burning smell rescinded slightly. John tapped his fingers together, thinking. "Sherlock," he called, thoughtfully. "What do we actually know about Lestrade?"

It was a purposefully open-ended question, partly just to see what answer he got. Sherlock swung around and gave John a long, considering look. Then his head cocked, his arms crossed, and he turned into a lecturing professor in two seconds flat. "Really, John, this should be a simple matter of deduction. I'll start you with the basics." He gestured to his side, as if framing a figure in space. "One G. Lestrade: five foot eleven, average weight, right-handed. Graying hair, not yet receding, with brown eyes and slightly above average intelligence."

John raised his eyebrows at that, but Sherlock continued, hand following the lines of their invisible Lestrade. "Tricky left hip from a football injury in university. Used to ride a motorcycle, was quite fond of it until he had to give it up. Divorced for six years, married for twelve. Not actually his fault, though she made him believe it was. Avoids alcohol for fear of his family's genetic predisposition for addiction. Been on the force for fifteen years, has yet to rise to the coveted office of DCI despite his impressive case solve record. Considerable amounts of tolerance for the utter stupidity of the human race." He settled back in his chair again, arms crossed, and grinned dangerously.

"Alright, John. What have you deduced about our dear inspector? What do you see?"

John looked to the space Sherlock had used to sketch Lestrade into the air, and he thought about it. What had he noticed, really? He was surprised to find that he could recall the careworn lines of Lestrade's face, the ease of his stance, the weight of his steps on the stairs. The man had a way of leaning on doorframes and putting his hands in his pockets. Lestrade was comfortable in his own skin, right down to the bones. John had seen him soaked, exhausted, irritated, angry, but never uncomfortable. Alright. That was something.

What else, though? They didn't really talk about anything outside work. But he'd come to appreciate Lestrade's wicked sense of humor, and the seemingly unending wells of patience he summoned to work with Anderson, Donovan, Sherlock, and the press all at the same time. He usually looked at Lestrade first, after Sherlock ran through a deduction at a scene. The Inspector's facial expression in that moment-amazement, amusement, annoyance, some combination of all three—it was never quite the same thing twice, and John took a certain comfort in that, that even a jaded Detective Inspector who'd known Sherlock for half a decade could still be awed sometimes.

He glanced at Sherlock, still sitting there with his eyes slitted and that smug grin on his face, waiting for John to come up with something. John did his own looking back for a second, still considering Lestrade. That was closer to the heart of it, really. He didn't know Lestrade at all, really, except through Sherlock. And because of that, he'd begun to guess at things he wasn't sure he was supposed to know.

Lestrade had either gotten Sherlock sober or been around enough to see it happen, to help make it happen. John had no idea how that had actually played out. The fact that both men were still standing and speaking to one another was a testament to someone's strength of character—probably Lestrade's. It must have been horrible and complicated and very, very dark, if he knew Sherlock at all. There had been damage done, probably on both sides, that they never talked about. He saw it in the way Lestrade moved towards Sherlock sometimes—just half a step, hand not yet outstretched, like he had some muscle memory that activated when it looked like Sherlock was off-balance. John had it too.

And at the end of the day, after whatever they'd been through, after all the barbed insults and odd complicated looks the two shot at each other, Lestrade was the one that called Sherlock into cases, because he understood exactly why Sherlock needed to be there and he wasn't too proud to ask for help.

…That was it. John knew virtually nothing about Lestrade's life, but he knew the man, knew him like Sherlock did. Lestrade was the one who called when it was worth calling. Sherlock trusted him, and so John did too. It hit him in the chest somewhere and settled in, a warmer, intangible grasp of something he'd already known.

John's vision cleared abruptly to find Sherlock staring at him, brow creased with curiosity. He was still waiting for an answer. "John?"

"Nothing," he said with a smile. Sherlock eyed him, not entirely convinced, before he made a disgusted noise and turned away.

There was no way to say it. He wasn't sure any of them wanted the words spoken anyway. So he shook his head instead, and looked away from the ghostly sketch of Lestrade they'd pinned up, completely incomplete, in the air by their kitchen table. John turned back to his laptop.

He leaned up against our kitchen cupboards with his hands in his pockets, and he gave Sherlock a case. That's what he does, really. Business as usual. Though not so usual, this time, because Sherlock has always liked the odd ones, and the Inspector has always had a knack for bringing him the very oddest of them all. Good thing, too. I can't imagine anyone else Sherlock would tolerate to do it.

Author's Note: This was written for the Happy Birthday meme over in the lj community dilestrade. Happy birthday to Rupert Graves! Feel free to drop a line by, whether to praise or to condemn. As always, your reading time is greatly appreciated. Cheers!