The night before the funeral, Greg collects the deerstalker that the force bought for Sherlock. He doesn't intend to do so — he just means to swing by 221B and check on John and Mrs. Hudson — but he finds the good doctor missing and Mrs. Hudson up to her bad hip in tea and one of her so-called herbal soothers. As an officer of the London Police Service, he could arrest her and look for any less-than-legal substances kicking around Sherlock's room and the common living spaces, make an impromptu drugs bust out of this… but Greg simply nods, takes Mrs. Hudson up on her offer of tea, and turns a blind eye to the idea of anything else untoward going on in the flat.
"It's just terrible, what they're saying, isn't it," Mrs. Hudson goes on, refiling her cup. Greg can guess what she means, but still, he asks, just in case there's anything else on her mind. As he expects, she sighs: "Oh, what they're saying about Sherlock, Inspector. That he never was a genius, that he made up all those cases just for the attention. I just can't believe it. That everyone's all gone and fallen for the things that terrible, terrible man made up about him — and for Sergeant Donovan and Anderson to go along with it, just like that… You know, just between you and I, dear? I never liked him, well, he looks like a little weasel, doesn't he? Acts like one too — but Sergeant Donovan, I've been sort of fond of her, always said she was a clever girl."
"Well, she is clever," Greg insists, because it's part of his job to defend his officers, even when they're wrong. Even when they've mucked up so horribly and gotten personally commended for doing so by the Chief Inspector, the way that Sally and Anderson have. Even when he's sorely tempted to deck them both, Greg has to defend his officers — they're his family as much as John and Mrs. Hudson were Sherlock's. "Sally's very clever, Mrs. Hudson, and she's a dedicated officer — that's… well, really, that's sort of the problem…"
Greg trails off, squinting after Mrs. Hudson as she creaks to her feet and wanders out of the sitting room; his fingers are still loosely coiled around the handle of his mug when she returns, carrying that ridiculous hat with her. It's high-quality — they had to pool money for weeks to get it for that idiot. They would've given it to him even if he hadn't gone and solved a new case for them. At least, Greg would've, just to get Sherlock all fussy about how to respond — Greg's tea trembles as his hand starts shaking, and he fixes his eyes there, instead of on the hat…
It's the damnedest thing, probably just his imagination, but when he looks at the thing in Mrs. Hudson's, it's like he can hear Sherlock carrying on in the back of his mind, the way he might've, had Greg actually given him the thing in private. Honestly, what is it with you people and these hats? I wore one once, just to keep the paparazzi out of my face, then it ends up in the papers and splashed all over John's blog — what, do you think I don't like my hair or something? Or are the lot of you just being incredibly stupid?
Greg only glances up at her when Mrs. Hudson sets the thing on his head and starts adjusting it. "I know he said he didn't like it much," she explains, pursing her lips at the job she's done, apparently deep in consideration about it. "But… you know how Sherlock is—" A sigh. For the first time, Mrs. Hudson's face falls and it's like a thunderstorm descended on her face. "Was," she corrects herself.
"I know he said a lot of things like that, Inspector — terrible things, I mean. Things nobody ever wanted to hear. And most of them weren't things anybody needed to hear… but he really did appreciate the gesture. Sort of said you were thinking about him, like. And he liked to know you were thinking about him. …He'd want you to have the hat, darling. I really think he would."
Greg nods, and sighs, and takes that hat back to the hotel room he's been keeping in since he and Edie split up again. He picks out an entirely different suit to wear for the funeral, just so he can wear it without having the hat stick out too sorely.
The funeral of Sherlock Holmes is a quiet, sparsely attended affair — aside from a grimacing vicar who shudders through the service and clearly doesn't want to be there, there's no one Greg doesn't recognize somehow. Greg sits a few seats over from John and Mrs. Hudson, and Molly sits a few seats down from them, covering her face with a black veil and, it seems, burying her face in a handkerchief. Anderson and Sally keep in the back; Greg would bet anything that they're just here to make sure that Sherlock's dead.
Service-family or not, his officers or not, Greg wants to go tell the two of them off for coming if they didn't intend to respect the dead. He wants to shake both of them by the collars of their jackets and ask what in the Hell they were thinking, do they really believe what's been said about Sherlock and what's still being said, just because they didn't like him. He wants to demand if the Chief Inspector's lurking around anywhere, about to make a scene or dock Greg's rank for coming out in support of his late friend — and, yet, in an uncharacteristic show of behaving themselves, of not making it obvious that Sherlock regularly made them feel like first-class idiots, they stay quiet, even bow their heads when the vicar calls for prayer.
Over on one far end of the frontward pews, there's an ex-girlfriend of John's sitting next to a curvy redhead, who Greg knows, from having brought her in on a handful of drunk and disorderliness, is one, Harry Watson. He recognizes that twat from the papers, Kitty Riley. He recognizes her from the picture published next to her "expose" piece and Greg hopes she kicks up some kind of fuss, just enough to arrest her.
There are a few strangers, some probably just gawkers, and a few of the people that Sherlock helped over his detecting career, the ones who apparently refuse to believe that he was anything but their deliverance, their salvation in a time of need. Even Max and Claudette Bruhl — the Ambassador's children, Sherlock's little Hansel and Gretel — have shown up, the girl clinging to her mother's skirts, eyes full of what looks like guilt — Greg can't say that he blames her, for her actions or for feeling awful over them.
Knowing how those freaks work, her kidnapper no doubt pulled out some trick like, do anything other than what I say, exactly what I say, and you'll never see your parents again; I'll kill them and then I'll kill you and your brother. Not that he supposes it makes it any easier, knowing she probably saved herself and her brother by playing along, screaming when Sherlock tried to speak to her. It wouldn't make anything easier for an adult… how on Earth is a child supposed to manage better? Greg ought to shudder over being able to guess all of this so well. Over how much the job can get to a man.
But he can't help it. It's just work. Same reason Edie wouldn't come and join him today, try to work out their latest spat instead of calling up the attorneys, signing the divorce papers once and for all. It's just work — that's what you always say, Lestrade, but it isn't true. You know that, right? It's not just that you can't switch off. It's that you don't want to, that for whatever reason I can't possibly understand, you don't think you're anything if not for work. That you're nothing if you don't work out the case and save the day. You're just like that idiot Holmes fellow, the way you get when there's a case on. You have to see it, don't you, Detective Inspector? The only difference between you and him is that you have a bloody badge.
Everyone sits in dead silence before the service, even that damned reporter, and after the vicar finishes up, invites people onto the pulpit to say anything about the deceased. Mycroft Holmes strolls into the church right at that moment, hard-soled shoes and umbrella clacking up the aisle until he steals a seat in one of the middle pews. And that's enough for Greg. No one else has anything to say — or, like John, they probably do but can't bring themselves to speak up, because it's too hard, weighs too heavily on their hearts — so it might as well be him who goes first. He sighs as he rises to his feet, barely breathes as he stumbles up the pulpit, and shudders, slamming his palms on the lectern and struggling to find the words he wants.
"I don't… I'm not really sure what to say, what I even can say…" Even to Greg, these words sound hollow. He looks up, finds himself staring out at John Watson, who's gone all unreadable, all good soldier and stiff upper-lipped. And true enough, he never managed to learn how to read people that well, certainly not like Britain's greatest detective, not even with someone who wears his heart on his sleeve like John. But Greg can guess what's on John's mind.
Most likely, he's thinking: you fucker. You miserable fucker — he thought of you as a friend, as much as Sherlock thought anybody was a friend, and you doubted him when he needed you on his side the most — and now you're here, wearing that fucking hat like you have a right to it — I clocked your Chief Inspector and I'd gladly clock you, too. I'm a soldier, I've killed people, don't try my patience, Lestrade. And all things considered, Greg can't say that he'd blame the good doctor for it. He deserves a broken nose. That's the least of what he deserves.
"I'm not going to say that Sherlock and I always got on that well," Greg says, tightening his grip on the lectern's sides. "Anybody who knew us knew that's a lie… He could be difficult to work with. Meaning more like, 'faintly Hellish.' …And he never really appreciated just how dashing he looked in one of these…" Greg tips the deerstalker at the crowd — he pauses for a laugh that never comes (aside from a smirk and a titter out of Molly). His attempted grin is wobbly, faint at best, to begin with… but it fades away into even less at how the assembly takes that.
At least John and Molly don't glare at Greg like the rest do. John even nods (ever-so-slightly; Greg would've missed it, if he'd blinked) when Greg says, "…Sherlock would've appreciated that. …He would've told me I'm an idiot for it, but he would've appreciated that."
Suddenly, after all of the times he's had to do a press conference, after all of the times he's had too much to say about Sherlock Holmes — more than anybody ever wanted to hear about him — Greg Lestrade feels his heart racketing around his chest, banging up against the walls like it has some bone to pick with him. His tongue feels fat and thick and stupid, like he's just gone and had a root canal and the Novocaine's not worn off yet. And he's not quite sure what to say.
So he starts with that. Admitting that there's too much history with him and Sherlock, too much of whatever the relationship they had, to accurately condense without keeping everybody here for the rest of the afternoon. "And I'm pretty sure nobody wants that," Greg tries another bit of levity, but he doesn't pause for a laugh because it's for him, not for the rest of them. "I suppose… I think it bears saying that… this is more for us than him, isn't it? …You never really want to think about it like that, but it's obvious with Sherlock — obvious to me, anyway — just on account of how he didn't believe in God. Thought the whole religion thing was superstitious and a bit silly, didn't he?
"Well… Sherlock Holmes, Britain's greatest detective," Greg sighs, and smacks the lectern again. Stares up at the ceiling as though it might have an answer. (It doesn't.) "I don't know who all's right in the end, but… if there is a Heaven, and a God, I guess it's a good thing you never had any expectations of Him. That way, He can't disappoint you when you two meet Upstairs. He probably would, you know. Everybody else certainly did.
"…And I'm sorry, Sherlock. I am. I fell down on my job when you needed me to be your friend, not just your contact in the service. …Here's hoping you're at peace now, Sherlock Holmes. I'm sure you'd hate that, peace and idleness — you'd probably think it's boring, too stagnant for you, I'd bet — but it'd do me some good to think you're better off."
Shaking his head, Greg returns to his seat. He doesn't look anywhere but at his feet. He doesn't hear anyone reacting, and when he skulks back into his seat, Greg bows his head, folds his hands. He doesn't pray, just thinks. Sherlock always used to say that he didn't think nearly enough.
A few more people speak, after Greg's said his piece — Mrs. Hudson, about what a nice boy Sherlock was, really, aside from all of the times when he didn't get that something wasn't quite right for company unless John said something; Molly Hooper, about how Sherlock could be so cruel, but he had such a good heart, and he did care about everyone, in the end, in his way, even when the whole world thought he was some kind of monster…
By the time John's ex comes up to the lectern, it seems like everyone but the good doctor's going to have something to say (and, indeed, neither he nor Mycroft so much as moves in the direction of the lectern) — and Greg only barely manages to sit through the affair quietly. As everyone files out, Greg expects one of the two silent parties to come and deck him one for everything he said, for starting the train of people expressing all sorts of emotions that wouldn't have comforted Sherlock and now don't comfort his brother or his doctor.
But he doesn't get decked. And neither of them approach him. Mycroft slinks away into a private car, all shiny and posh, getting out of here as quickly and quietly as he came; he doesn't even stop to say something John and Mrs. Hudson, the both of whom'd deserve a word more than anybody else, even just a nod of Mycroft's inscrutable head. John, by contrast, stops to see his sister and his ex. Gets a few pats on the shoulder from the people he helped Sherlock save. Then slips into a cab with Mrs. Hudson, the one with the flag upfront that says it's leading the procession to the graveyard.
Greg's standing by his own car when one, Molly Hooper, comes up to him, trying (mostly failing) to smile and clutching a little purse that's a different tone of black than her dress as though the bag's going to protect her from something. She whispers hello, Inspector as she pulls back her veil, tucks a loose clump of hair behind her ear. She says it like she doesn't expect him to remember her.
"I thought it was good, you know," she says, more to her shoes than to Greg. "The way you tried to get people to laugh in there."
Greg shrugs, slouches and slumps onto the hood of his car. "It wasn't anything special," he says, intent on believing it himself. "I just thought… what, with the way he always acted like death was nothing… and with the way he could be sort of funny like that — not like he meant to be, it was… That would've been too sociable for him, really. It was more complicated than that… But I just thought that he wouldn't've wanted some huge, teary production."
Molly nods — and for the first time in days, Greg manages to sigh in relief, instead of exasperation, instead of everything feeling like much too much. "You don't have to tell me he was a funny one, Inspector," she says, voice perking up as she starts to go on, spiritedly chatting the way she does, as though nothing's odd or strange about these circumstances. "He really was, Sherlock — funny, but like I said, he has a good heart… Had, I mean — he had a good heart… Spectacularly good."
Greg nods, manages a weak sort of smile at her. But only barely. He's too busy furrowing his brow, trying to conceal it because there's no call for him to advertise his confusion. Just to keep up the conversation, even if it's awkward. "…So how about that burial, then? You're going?"
Molly sighs and shakes her head, curls her lips up in what might be distaste. (It's hard to tell on her, really. Too many of her facial expressions are too cute to seem that off.) "I don't think so, no? …It'd be respectable — respectful, I mean… Respectful to John and them. But I get enough of corpses at work, you know? It's just awful, ghastly, to think about one of them being one of my friends… I was just thinking I'd go and get coffee, instead…"
Greg nods, and admits that this idea sounds much better than standing in what looks like it might rain, waiting for John to explode, the way he seems to be going… He asks if Molly wouldn't mind the company, and gets a broad, easy smile, like everything's right in the world and they're back on Christmas, and she's just let herself up into the party at Baker Street. As she slinks into his passenger seat, Greg can't help thinking of some of the funny things that Sherlock used to say…
The little things are infinitely the most important. …There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact… And it's always the people who act like nothing happened — the one who act like Molly's doing — they're the ones who're the most suspicious… What if…? he considers, and then shakes it off, just slides behind the steering wheel and starts the car. Sherlock Holmes is dead, and Greg Lestrade is going to take Molly Hooper out for coffee.