This takes place in 2005, approximately four-and-a-half years prior to the events in the Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink."
This fits in the same universe as my Sherlock story "The Distance Getting Close," but no knowledge of that story is necessary for reading this one.
Father and Farther
"Where've you been, then?" The man's tone conveyed interest, not accusation. His eyes never left the fresh green peppers as he sliced them into long, thin strips.
So it was to be stir-fry tonight.
Not exactly Bodie's favourite – it was healthy, after all – but he could hardly complain when Doyle was doing all the work. To be fair, preparing dinner was an act of self-defence for Doyle, wasn't it? If Bodie cooked, they'd have some greasy fry-up monstrosity that would shorten their life spans with every bite.
Every delicious bite.
Nights like this, when both men were home early enough to share a late meal together, were few and far between, thanks to the demands of their jobs. Bodie wasn't too proud to admit to himself how exceedingly grateful he was that this was one of those rare occasions.
He was, of course, far later than he'd intended to be.
With the hand that wasn't clutching hard-copy files as if he feared they might make an escape attempt, Bodie reached for one of the mushrooms that still awaited Doyle's knife. Doyle rapped his knuckles with the flat side of the blade. This was a ritual of theirs.
Only then did Doyle glance up. At once his fond smirk vanished. "What's happened?"
Bodie shrugged with one shoulder. "Had an unscheduled meeting, didn't I?"
The knife shifted in Doyle's fingers. He was no longer a whipcord-thin young lad who looked like a brawl about to happen – age had mellowed him and made him respectable, comfortable in his dignity and confident in his authority – but his body hadn't forgotten how to meet a threat. It resettled into something like contained, capable menace.
"Who with?" he asked.
"Easy, sunshine." Amusement and affection and gratitude warred within Bodie's chest. Considering recent events, it was a bit more emotion than he could handle at that particular moment. He looked away. "I can take care of myself. Who's the one in charge of black ops here, hmmm?"
"Tell me." Doyle's voice deepened to a rumble.
Bodie swallowed. "You know that posh bastard with the brolly?"
"Jesus, Bodie, he's not Lord Voldemort. We can say his name out loud."
"Wouldn't be too sure." A mirthless chuckle shook him as he perched on one of their breakfast bar stools.
Yeah, best to sit down before he fell down.
"It's been three days since our lads swept for bugs," Bodie continued, eyes roaming the surfaces and angles of their kitchen. "He's probably listening to us right now" – he raised his voice – "from that surprisingly conspicuous black car of his."
Truth be told, he was only half-joking.
"Got a ride, did you?" Doyle asked, wide-eyed. "I'm the head of CI-bloody-5—"
At Bodie's glare, Doyle rethought his wording.
"—well, the public part, the section that's not too covert to mention aloud—"
Mollified, Bodie nodded. This, too, was a ritual of theirs, too meaningful to resist even in the most stressful of hours.
"—and I've never been near that car. Christ, Bodie, why? What've you done?"
Bodie drew an expansive breath, a man preparing to dive into deep waters. The words swelled in his throat, too weighty to rise. Temporarily defeated, he closed his mouth and shook his head. Several heartbeats later a glass tumbler appeared before him.
Single malt scotch. The Cow's favourite. A show of support. An effort to comfort. A reminder of their partnership in this, whatever the hell it was, as in all things.
"Ta, mate." He took a sip, then another, and at last met Doyle's eyes. "What've I done, you ask? I fathered a son."
Doyle stared. It took him a very long time to blink.
"Samantha. Sammie. I told you about her."
Nodding slowly, Doyle said, "You were, what, sixteen? Looked for her later, but you couldn't find her."
"Yeah, that's the one. Big brown eyes that would melt you into a puddle. Kindest person you ever met. Smart, too – 'course she was, she was with me, right?" The joke tasted sour on his lips.
His gaze fell to his own strong forearm braced against the countertop. Doyle's hand came to rest there, just above Bodie's wrist, a slight pressure. The warmth of it seeped through Bodie's sleeve.
"She's dead, Ray," Bodie said. "Been dead most of my life. All this time, and I never thought, never even imagined…"
He surrendered the thought to silence.
With a gentle squeeze, Doyle removed his hand. He turned and packed the vegetables away in the refrigerator. Then, gathering up the bottle of scotch and a second tumbler, he shepherded Bodie over to their table.
"Why now?" Doyle asked when they were seated. "Why Holmes?"
This was a briefing: familiar, grounding.
"Despite all evidence to the contrary, he has a weakness: a younger brother. From what I gathered from everything he didn't say, the kid's mental. Brilliant, but mental. Apparently the man in question saved the brother's life, gave him direction, and now works with him, consults him. It's shaping up to be a long-term collaboration. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named began conducting the mother of all background searches…" He made a vague gesture, inviting Doyle to fill in the blanks.
"Because whoever could get to this man could get to Holmes's brother," Doyle supplied, "and whoever could get to his brother could get to Holmes himself."
"Got it in one," Bodie agreed. "While playing detective, he tracked me down." Arching an eyebrow, he added, "Not an easy feat these days, I needn't tell you."
"Would like to know how…" Doyle muttered, rubbing his chin absently.
"No, you wouldn't," Bodie said with conviction. "And neither would I." After a beat, "Have to figure it out, though, won't I?"
Doyle poured himself a drink. "How can you be sure the man's your son? Without a test?"
"Holmes offered to make one happen. God knows how. Doesn't matter. He's convinced, and…" Another shrug. "I don't need one, Ray. The timing's perfect. Everything fits." He opened the top file. "And there's this."
He withdrew a glossy picture, a candid shot too well focused and precisely framed to be the work of CCTV.
Doyle accepted it with careful fingers. He availed himself of the reading glasses in his pocket and hunched forward to study the photo.
A curly-headed, scarecrow-thin young man was striding off down the pavement as if he owned the street and everything on it. A second, older man stood nearby, arms crossed, observing the dramatic departure. A half-fond, half-exasperated smile twisted one corner of his lips.
"Christ," Doyle said.
"He has Sammie's eyes," Bodie said.
"And your mouth," Doyle said. "That's your grin, you mad berk." With a low whistle, he added, "He's bloody gorgeous."
"You'll love this: he's a copper."
"Seriously?" A delighted expression transformed Doyle's face, casting off more years and responsibilities than Bodie cared to count. "Well, you shouldn't be surprised: all the best men are, or were, you know. 'Course if the blokes at the Met back in my day looked like him, I'd've never left." A wink punctuated the gentle teasing.
Bodie rolled his eyes.
Sobering, Doyle asked, "So what's his story, then?"
"Not an easy one." Bodie's voice went soft even as it resettled into the cadence of a report. "There were complications with the birth. Sammie was very young. The doctors discovered she had a congenital heart condition, as well – too late. "
He stared at his fingers wrapped around the tumbler, not quite squeezing the glass. Calloused. Powerful yet, despite the years. Scarred.
"Her parents grudgingly took Greg – that's his name, Gregory Lestrade – but after a few years the responsibility put too much strain on an already unhappy marriage. After the divorce, Greg lived with the grandmother. She remarried when Greg was still a lad, and the new husband made it clear he had no use for the boy in the house. Greg spent increasingly more time on the streets, and finally moved out at fifteen."
An ache settled in Bodie's empty belly along with the scotch.
"He was a bit of a scrapper. Got into some trouble. Could've gone very wrong, could've become a statistic, but he didn't. He fought to make himself into something, to make a difference. Without help from anyone."
"Not, as I understand it," Doyle said, hushed but steady, "unlike his father."
Bodie frowned at the table. Of course there were reasons he'd left home and school at such an early age, drifted into the Merchant Navy, played the mercenary, joined the SAS. Distant history, irrelevant now.
"It didn't have to be that way for him," Bodie said. "If I'd known—"
"You didn't. No point in asking 'what if.' It worked out all right in the end, yeah? He has a good life?"
"He's a detective inspector now, with commendations and his own team. Of course, he gets up the noses of some of the higher ups—"
"Oh, he's definitely yours, then," Doyle offered.
"—but the way Holmes talked… Well, Greg managed to do what Holmes couldn't for his brother, didn't he? Never thought Mr My-Extra-Brolly-Is-Shoved-Up-My-Arse might respect anyone except his own reflection in a mirror, but he seems to think well of Greg. 'Dogged and tenacious,' he called him.
"Don't know that they've ever met in person, but Holmes has had Greg's life under a microscope for long enough to know him, regardless. And trust him with that mad brother of his."
Doyle peered at the photo again.
"Can't decide what makes me feel older," Bodie continued, hollow and spent at the end of his tale. "The fact my hair's white, the fact my son's is grey, or the fact you need reading glasses to see his picture properly."
An obscene gesture was his reply.
"I owe You-Know-Who a favour now," Bodie said, a confession and an apology. "I expect he's the sort who likes to be owed. And to collect."
"Nothing we can't handle." Doyle said it like a promise.
Eyes still on the photo, Doyle noted, "He's wearing a ring here. Are you a grandfather, too?"
The question struck Bodie physically, a knife between his ribs. "Ah… No. Almost."
He took another swallow of scotch and closed his eyes as he welcomed its fire. "His wife was killed last year. Car accident." How strange it was: mere hours ago he didn't even know of Greg's existence, and now he hurt for the man and all he had suffered. "She was five months pregnant."
Doyle let out a gust of breath. "God."
They'd each lost the chance to be a father, hadn't they? He and his son.
Then again, perhaps not entirely, at least in the broadest sense of the term. The photo of Greg and the younger Holmes suggested otherwise.
Bodie's stomach chose that moment to rumble in hungry complaint, and they both started and then chuckled in awkward surprise. Doyle matter-of-factly pulled out his mobile, ordered Bodie's favourite curry, and informed their security team of the takeaway's imminent delivery.
"Now then," Doyle said, gesturing toward the files with open hands, "why don't you introduce me to your son properly?"
Hours later, as night threatened to became morning, Doyle closed the last file and said simply, "He's a good man, Bodie." He placed the papers on top of the others to form a neat stack between the two of them, a guest at their table. "When are you going to meet him?"
"I'm not. He doesn't know about me, and he's not going to know." With an effort Bodie kept his voice even. The admission felt like another loss, another blow, but he knew in his very marrow that he was right in this. "What would I say? 'Nice to meet you, son. I'd tell you my name, but these days it's a state secret. I'd tell you what I do, but then I'd have to kill you.' Not going to happen."
"You could tell him what's written all over your face right now, and with good reason: you're proud of him."
A shake of the head. "I don't have the right."
"If you don't, who does? And if you won't, who will? Not his mum. Not his wife. Not his child." A sincere plea was etched into every line in Doyle's tired features. "He saved Holmes's brother; maybe Holmes is trying to give him back something in return. Something he needs."
Bodie, however, had thought this through; more to the point, he knew his own strengths and his weaknesses. "What he needs, with the job he has and the company he keeps, is looking after. I can do that best from the shadows, in secret. That's what I do, Ray. I can keep watch over him and try to fight back the danger when it comes."
"It's not an either-or proposition," Doyle said.
"Isn't it?" With a jerk of his chin, Bodie indicated the files. "Tell me that, if word gets out, his connection to me won't make him a target. That someone might not use him to get to me, or to get to you through me. You can't."
Doyle opened his mouth, shut it again, and scowled.
"His job's dangerous enough already – you've seen his record – and working with Holmes's brother can only make it more so," Bodie continued. "From the outside, I can help; from the inside, I can only be another threat."
He liked to think Greg would've understood.
He knew Cowley would've done.
"He's a good man, Bodie," Doyle said at last, repeating himself. "And so are you, you stupid sod."
The weight of Bodie's many what-might-have-beens felt just this side of crushing, but even so, a tightness eased in his chest at those words. He bowed his head.
"Say you'll sleep on it, at least," Doyle said.
Yeah, he could do that.
Doyle rose and touched Bodie's shoulder as he passed. "Don't stay up too late."
From the second file Bodie selected a recent newspaper clipping. Once more he considered the small portrait above the caption "DI Lestrade." He catalogued the traits he could read in that unsmiling face: the compassion and patience came from Sammie, and the frown of worry, the lines of weariness, came from the job. Loss and loneliness had left their traces of melancholy. But there was something else there, a steadfastness and sense of purpose, that was Greg's alone.
Bodie wondered if any of the strength and resolve in those dark eyes might be his own. He needed both right now.
As he replaced the clipping, his vision blurred.
His tumbler wasn't quite empty. He raised it in a silent toast. Only one person had ever been a father to him in any way that mattered. As he swallowed the last drop of scotch, he imagined what that man might say: "On yer bike, laddie."
Bodie nodded, squared his shoulders, and obeyed.
Sequel: The sequel story is "I Wonder As I Wander."
Notes: Lewis Collins, who portrayed Bodie in The Professionals, was born in 1946. Rupert Graves, who portrays Lestrade in Sherlock, was born in 1963.
The title (and the story itself, in part) was inspired by Jim Boyd's song "Father and Farther."
Vital Stats: Originally written in November 2011.
Originally written for the "Professionals/Sherlock crossover" prompt at the Sherlockbbc_fic LiveJournal community.