For a follow-up to a prompt from the Sherlockbbc_fic kink meme: what about Lestrade's reaction to Sherlock turning up alive?

Companion piece to "Still Two Days Until We Say We're Sorry."

Assassination attempt at 224 Baker Street. 2 am tonight. Bring backup. - SH

It was John Watson's mobile number.

Lestrade looked at the text and felt nostalgia sweep over him. He wasn't a young man anymore. He'd lost his share of friends and loved ones, and he knew his happened sometimes, tripping over little bits and tatters of their lives that hadn't quite got boxed up with everything else. The footprints of the dead, his first DCI had called them; the marks people left on the world to prove that they'd existed. Lestrade thought of them as ghosts, because that was how it felt when he came across traces of his da around the place: junk mail with the wrong name on because those bloody credit card companies couldn't be arsed to keep proper records; tools borrowed and never returned...his now for keeps. The last time he'd pulled his seldom-worn dress suit out of the closet, he'd found a receipt in the pocket from when the old man had insisted on paying for dinner at their last family reunion. He'd put it back, in hopes he'd forget and discover it again.

He thought of them as ghosts, and found them reassuring. It was like getting to hear their voices again, just for a moment. He could hear a lot of voice in an old text from one of Sherlock's cases. A trumpeting, smug baritone voice that had boomed off the walls and ceiling of Lestrade's office in an audible manifestation of the man's overwhelming presence.

He let the memories have their way with him for a moment, then set it aside in favor of ribbing John about his latest lost battle in the perpetual war against technology.

Think you fwded me the wrong text, doc. Having problems?

When his phone beeped again almost immediately, Lestrade grinned. The quicker John replied, the sharper his comeback was bound to be.

Don't be thick. 2 am. Be there. - SH

That was when he felt the cold run down his spine.

They had hours before they needed to be at the rendezvous. Lestrade was glad of it, because it gave him time to lose his rag before he was called upon to act in a professional capacity. He tried to modulate the shouting, but there was a lot of it wanted out and he'd have felt ridiculous going off to howl anonymously in a stairwell. Anyway, hell, what did he care? It was far from the first public fit Sherlock bloody Holmes had driven the officers of Scotland Yard to. Those of his staff who'd known the man were hardly surprised.

They were shocked and dismayed and angry and some of them might even have been a bit moved, but not surprised.

"'Cos it's just the sort of rubbish he'd pull, isn't it?" Donovan snarled rhetorically. "Vanish for three years, fake his own death, sod all consideration for anyone else in the world. Probably set off on a global tour of serial killings."

She refused to give Holmes the benefit of fellow feeling; her empathy and concern vaporized in the heat of her rage. Lestrade could respect that. He wished he could do it. But after that first blush of outrage and relief and hurt feelings—why should he be surprised he hadn't been let in on things? John hadn't known and if Sherlock had a friend on this earth, the post was his (Lestrade had always wanted to believe Sherlock did actually have friends, but maybe not if he could do this to them)—after that, he couldn't stop himself thinking about how long three years could be, and what could become of a man in that time. He couldn't keep from wondering where Sherlock had been and whether he was alright, and why he would come back like this.

He was glad, he decided finally, an hour or so before his team needed to pull themselves together and get moving. Of course he was glad. Someone he'd thought was dead wasn't. That was the kind of victory you seldom got as a cop. He was glad for Sherlock, glad for Sherlock's friends, glad for the sake of justice (assuming he'd come back functional, so much could happen in three years).

But personally he felt rather betrayed. He couldn't quite decide whether he had the right to or not. He'd never sorted whether he'd been Sherlock's friend, liaison, client, or what. But bollocks to that. He'd work it out later.

Right now they had a criminal to catch.

Some part of him, Lestrade discovered in the event, hadn't truly believed it till he saw the man standing there in the flesh.

He turned to look at the seethingly furious world-class hitman kneelilng in handcuffs on the floor. "Get him out of here."

"Watch out for the teeth," Sherlock—Christ it was actually Sherlock—offered blandly. "He bites."

Professional bearing. Lestrade stood erect, stayed focused, managed the crime scene. "You two stay put," he told Sherlock and John. Christ. Sherlock and John. "We'll need statements." Sherlock nodded like a gracious lord. John wasn't meeting anyone's eyes.

For some reason it suddenly struck Lestrade as very important that John meet his eyes. Not right now though. Later. After the crime scene was squared away.

He indulged in one quick glance back, just to take them both in standing there at a crime scene like it was three years ago and all was right with the world, then got on with work.

He wasn't the only one, either. You could see it in a subtle ripple effect. Officers and crew got in a certain radius and paused for a second to look at them. It began to irritate the hell out of Sherlock within minutes.


It wasn't actually much of a crime scene, though. The Great Detective had done everybody's work yet again—from beyond the grave, this time—and most of the action now would move to the forensics labs.

Anderson had come over to indulge in a pause not once, but four times. Lestrade suspected he'd started doing it deliberately once he'd noticed how much it annoyed Sherlock.

Satisfied that nobody else needed ordering, Lestrade finally turned his attention to the two waiting men. They looked a little scuffed but none the worse for wear. He trusted that John would've said something if they needed attention. "So. Well. You're alive."

Sherlock's eyes angled up toward him in slow-motion disbelief. Lestrade grinned. Apparently he'd just blazed new trails in stating the obvious. "I don't mind admitting it's good to see you."

"Yes, I shouldn't wonder, considering what I've heard about your last few cases." John lifted his head to stare straight at Sherlock, who cleared his throat and muttered, "…But your work on the Molesey kidnapping was acceptable. I followed that."

Lestrade felt his mouth fall open. He turned from Sherlock to John, who was looking back now with a tiny, impish smile and eyes that quietly glowed with happiness.

John Watson was happy. Lestrade was, he abruptly realized, also happy. He wondered how Mrs. Hudson felt (probably happy), or that bloke from the Italian restaurant who'd always been so determined that it was Sherlock's preferred romantic venue. The woman with the ice cream parlor who'd awarded him free ice cream for life after he'd saved her from extortion. His brother.

Hell, his brother was omniscient. The bastard had probably never been fooled for a minute.

He wondered if Sherlock's mother was still alive, and if so, whether she knew.

"You left a lot of people behind, you know," Lestrade said quietly.

Sherlock looked—miracle of fucking miracles—chastened. Lestrade found himself bracing for immediate terrorist attacks on the subways or meteorite impact or all of global warming happening at once. "I know." Those pale eyes slid a tick to his side and then squared on Lestrade again. "I did what I thought was necessary. But…I know."

Lestrade nodded. It was an answer, after all, and a better one than he would've expected if he'd given it any thought. Then he looked at John again, who had just turned to implacable steel under that happy glow, and nodded again.

Lestrade stepped forward and slugged Sherlock cleanly right in the diaphragm.

He had a right to feel hurt, goddammit. Him and everyone who Sherlock I'm-so-bloody-smart-I'm-stupid Holmes had left behind. Everyone who had grieved for the loss of one of the world's unique lights. Everyone who would patch over that hole in their hearts and accept him back into their lives and move on like they'd never been wounded because having him here was better than not.

Everyone in the room turned their way at the sound of the explosive wheeze. Lestrade caught Sherlock and pushed him back upright before he could topple to the floor, and then clapped him affectionately on the shoulders with a brilliant, joyous smile. "See that it doesn't happen again. Glad to have you back, mate."

"Yes, I…can tell," Sherlock gasped.

John laughed and slid under one long arm to support his friend. "I hit him in the face," he confessed.

"That's a bruise? Bloody hell." Lestrade ducked to the side to get a better look. "Bad light in here. I thought it was stubble. Well, I suppose you could press for assault charges," he added to Sherlock.

Sherlock tilted his chin up to deliver the full effect of his most supercilious glare. Lestrade chuckled. "Right then. You two idiots, get on home and get some rest. First thing tomorrow morning, I want to see you both down at the Yard, you hear me?"

The stern officiousness of the order was somewhat marred by the broad grin on his face, but he couldn't help it. Those words felt so very, very good to say.