Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Spoilers: for "Reichenbach"
Notes: This is part of a series of related, Lestrade-centric missing scenes from series 2. All can be read alone, however. The previous ones are"Nothing's All Black, But Then Nothing's All White" and "Halfway Through the Wood."
How can you say to a child who's in flight,
"Don't slip away and I won't hold so tight?"
-Stephen Sondheim, "Children Will Listen"
Lestrade bypassed the fridge when he arrived home that night and went instead for the liquor cabinet, where he mixed himself a drink and downed half of it in one go. The liquid burned all the way down his throat, searing the muscles that had gone raw with overuse in recent days, ever since news of Sherlock's suicide had reached him through a shaky phone call from John Watson. It had taken him ten minutes to work out just what exactly that distraught man had been trying to tell him, and a further five for him to find his voice in order to respond.
They had both been unwilling to hang up during that initial phone call, even as their words ran dry and silence reigned over the line. Each was the other's link to Sherlock; only they had any idea of what had been truly lost. They hadn't wanted to break that connection, but eventually they'd had to move on, past the point of shock and into the phase of mourning. One couldn't sit in disbelief forever, waiting for someone to come along and say that it had all been a terrible joke.
And so they'd buried Sherlock, and John had eulogized him, and only five people had bid him farewell when that number should have been in the hundreds. All those cases he'd solved; all the lives he'd saved; all the people he had helped whether he meant to or not - all of them had turned on him without batting an eye. He went to his grave in disgrace, John's worst fears realized.
Lestrade picked up his glass and shut the door to the liquor cabinet. He stirred his drink once, twice, and then made for his customary chair in the living room. And then he paused, because something had caught his eye, and when he turned around he saw that there was a man standing in the shadowy corner next to the refrigerator.
The whimper that escaped Lestrade's throat would have been embarrassing if he gave any thought to his dignity anymore, and the only reason the glass didn't slip from his hands was because he had clenched his fingers tightly around it, squeezing until they turned white. His airflow stuttered to a halt, and he had to shut his eyes in order to remind himself how to breathe again.
Inhale, through the nose, hold it. Exhale. Repeat.
When Lestrade opened his eyes, Sherlock was still there.
"Fuck...shit...goddamn -" he hissed a stream of profanities under his breath, practically gasping them out, and pressed his fist to his mouth as he swept his eyes over Sherlock's unchanged figure. The room was spinning and his head was pounding and fuck it all, he should have known. Lestrade passed a hand over his face, drawing a deep lungful of air as he willed his heart to slow, and finally was able to say, a tad tremulously, "So. Not - not dead, are we?"
"Not quite," Sherlock murmured. He was wearing his customary coat and striped blue scarf - the same outfit he had been wearing when he'd taken the plunge, though now the articles of clothing were remarkably free of blood and tissue. If, indeed, they were even the same ones.
"I see." Lestrade moved on shaking legs over to the counter and leaned against it for support. "John saw you die. You - uh - you called him. Said goodbye and then jumped."
"I know." Sherlock stuck his hands in the pockets of his great coat.
"And yet here you are." Lestrade took a long swallow of his drink, not taking his eyes off Sherlock lest he should up and disappear.
"God, this is the most ridiculous - I mean -" Lestrade broke off. "You're dead."
"I think we have already established this is not the case. Do keep up, Lestrade. I haven't much time."
"But -" Lestrade knew he was gaping now, and couldn't bring himself to care. "I saw your body; I fucking buried you. How can you be here?"
"That's not relevant at this moment."
"Right. Okay," Lestrade said slowly, deciding not to press the issue for fear it might drive Sherlock away. "Well, I assume you're at least here for a reason. You're not one to make social calls."
Sherlock nodded, brisk. "You need to tell them that I was a fraud."
Lestrade snorted and shook his head. "Fuck off, Sherlock. That's not happening. I don't believe it, even though John tried to half-heartedly convince me of it. Was that your idea?"
"Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant at this point," Sherlock snapped. "They need you at the Yard, Lestrade. Best of a bad lot, and all that. If you renounce me, you at least stand a chance at keeping the job. Probably not in your current capacity, but they'd be idiots to truly let you go."
"Then I suppose they're idiots." Lestrade took a careful sip from his drink, watching as a shadow flitted over Sherlock's face while he pieced the cryptic sentence together.
"Oh," he said softly, eyes widening in realization. "I...wasn't aware."
Lestrade shrugged. "I wasn't willing to admit to any wrongdoing. I'm not daft, Sherlock. I know that none of what you did was a trick, and I don't care who knows that."
"Perhaps not, but you cared for the job. It was as much your life as it is -" Sherlock stopped abruptly. "I mean - as it was mine."
"Yeah," Lestrade muttered, sucking an ice cube into his mouth. He waited until it had melted, and then added, "Can't see how they didn't know about you, to be honest. You were getting some pretty heavy press coverage there at the end, and it's not like we ever made a big secret out of calling you in. Just looks better, I s'pose, if they say I managed to keep everyone in the dark about this for six years. No one believes it, but they needed a scapegoat."
"Don't." He held up a hand, sharp. "Don't feel sorry for me, Sherlock, it doesn't suit you."
"I don't understand. Why would you sacrifice your career for my sake?" Sherlock asked, a deep frown cutting through his features. "This is your life, Lestrade."
"Six years ago, that might have been true," Lestrade said softly. "Not so much anymore."
"I don't understand why not," Sherlock said.
"Don't be dense, lad," Lestrade said with a sad smile. "Doesn't suit you. Now, are you going to tell me your real reason for coming here, or shall I guess?"
Sherlock stared at him for a long moment, his blue eyes dark and unreadable.
"Up on that rooftop," he said at length, "I only had the time for one - for one goodbye. And I phoned John."
"As you should have."
"Yes," Sherlock agreed. "But that does not mean that he is the only person I wished I could have called."
"So, what, you're going around telling everyone goodbye? Rather defeats the purpose of faking your own death," Lestrade observed bitterly.
"No," Sherlock said softly. "Only you."
"Why?" Lestrade demanded.
There was a lengthy pause before Sherlock said, "Because all my life I've wanted nothing more than to be left alone. And now that I am, I find it...lacking."
Lestrade felt as though someone had landed a blow to his gut. "Oh, sunshine..."
"It's not only that." Sherlock swallowed hard. "You were there for me six years ago in a way I've - I'd not had before. You've been here ever since. I don't understand why, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it. And I find that John's not the only one I..."
He trailed off and didn't continue, but Lestrade didn't need him to; it'd been all too apparent what he'd been about to say, and the almost-admission made Lestrade ache anew.
"Only you, Sherlock Holmes," Lestrade murmured finally, his throat tight, "would come and say goodbye to me after your funeral. Can't ever do anything in the right order, can you?"
"Dull," Sherlock answered automatically, and they stared at one another for a beat. Lestrade felt the corner of his mouth tug upwards, the first time in days that he had managed something even relatively close to a smile, and found it mirrored hesitantly in Sherlock's face.
But Lestrade instantly sobered with the thought that this was all wrong. Sherlock shouldn't be standing in this flat; he should be standing in another, speaking to a different broken and grieving man, trying to piece him back together. The smile dropped from Sherlock's face at the same time it did Lestrade's, and likely Sherlock knew what he was going to say even before the words were out of Lestrade's mouth.
"Tell him you're alive."
"Sherlock. Tell him you're alive." When Sherlock did nothing but gaze stonily back at him, Lestrade added, "Tell him, Sherlock, or God help me, I will. He's a mess, lad. Hasn't returned to the flat since your funeral. Staying with his sister, I think. He's hurting."
"Yes, I'm aware." Sherlock's face immediately became pinched; his eyes, overly bright. He rubbed a thumb across his sternum absently.
"Been spying on him, too, have you?" Lestrade muttered, and was surprised at how bitter the words sounded. He dropped his gaze to his drink, swirling it in his glass.
"I don't need to spy on him," Sherlock said eventually, his voice cracking, "to know exactly what he's feeling."
Lestrade's head snapped up at Sherlock's unsteady tone, and his jaw dropped.
"Dear God," he whispered, setting the drink aside and crossing the room to Sherlock in three quick strides. Sherlock made a weak sound of protest, but didn't move when Lestrade brought unsteady fingers to his face and brushed away the liquid that threatened to fall from his eye.
He had never seen Sherlock cry before.
The other man gave a weak laugh, apparently reading the thought in Lestrade's face, and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I seem to be full of surprises today."
Lestrade shook his head as he tugged his handkerchief out of his pocket and pressed it into Sherlock's hands. "Stop this, Sherlock. Stop all of it. Come back."
"Why not?" Lestrade demanded. Sherlock raised red-rimmed eyes to his; let out a huff of breath.
"I've said too much already," he muttered, twisting the cloth in his hands. "I just intended to give you the same goodbye that was afforded John. I can't stay. There's work to be done."
"When are you coming back, then?" Silence met his query, and Lestrade felt his pulse leap uncomfortably. "No."
"No, Sherlock, no. You are not doing this to me," Lestrade said desperately, his voice wavering. He reached out and gripped Sherlock by the elbows, squeezing hard enough to bruise even through his coat. "You can't - you can't just reveal that you faked your own death and then tell me that you aren't coming back after all. I won't have it."
"Greg." Sherlock's bloodshot eyes met his, and he wrapped long fingers around Lestrade's forearms. They stood there, holding one another at half an arm's length apart, breathing raggedly into the awful silence.
"Stay here," Lestrade pleaded. "Stay the night. We'll - we'll go see John in the morning and then...and then we work to clear your name. I'll march down to that damn Diogenes Club myself if I have to and drag your brother along, too."
"No," Sherlock whispered. His grip on Lestrade's arms tightened. "Haven't you wondered, Lestrade, why I've not moved from this spot?"
Lestrade blinked at the abrupt topic change. "What?"
"You are being watched," Sherlock said quietly. "You. John. Mrs. Hudson. The only reason any of you are still alive is because - because I am not. And should anyone ever discover that not to actually be the case..." He trailed off. "There are cameras here; at Baker Street; at Harry Watson's. You can't let on that you know, and they are harmless, so long as I remain away from them. This is the only blind spot in your flat, so I'm safe here for the moment."
"He gave you a choice," Lestrade said slowly, horrified as the realization hit him. "Moriarty did. He - he made you choose between our lives, and yours."
"Not quite," Sherlock said darkly. "It was more than my life. It was my reputation; my work."
"And you chose to die in disgrace rather than...rather than live without us," Lestrade continued in wonder.
Sherlock's face darkened. "Hardly. I'm here, am I not? He gave me two choices. I chose neither. I suppose that's what you'd call selfish."
"No. It's what I'd call the actions of a good man," Lestrade said softly. Sherlock's eyebrows lifted, and some of the lines melted from his face in his surprise. "Sherlock, tell me you're coming back."
"Tell me you're coming back." Lestrade's grip tightened. "For God's sake, sunshine, don't do this. Please. Not to me. Not to John."
"Those are two of the reasons why I must remain deceased," Sherlock said vehemently. "Promise me, Lestrade. You can't tell a soul."
"What makes you think I'm going to promise you that?"
"Because I asked," Sherlock said quietly.
Damn him. Lestrade sucked in a breath through his nose, fighting the familiar slow burn mounting behind his eyes, and nodded.
"Yeah," he said thickly. "Damn you, you're right. I'd do it because you asked. What does that make me, then, eh?"
Sherlock leaned forward until his forehead rested against Lestrade's. His eyes slipped closed, and he said in a soft voice, "You trusted me, though I confess that even now I'm unsure as to why that was the case."
"Trust," Lestrade corrected. "I trust in you, Sherlock. Always have. And - and I need you to come back."
"Don't ever think," Sherlock said, pulling back and regarding Lestrade gravely, "for a moment, that I am not fighting to make that true."
Lestrade reached out, impulsively, and was cupping Sherlock's face even before he quite realized what his hands were doing. He stood there with the words Darling boy caught in his throat and ran his thumbs across Sherlock's cheekbones, more prominent now than they had been in years, as though that gesture alone could ease Sherlock's pain.
"Go, then," he said softly. Sherlock wrapped long fingers around his wrists and gently detached himself from Lestrade's grip. "Go, and stay not dead. And know - know that you are missed."
Sherlock whispered, "Greg," again, his voice cracking around the word, and moments later there came the sound of the door whispering shut and the locks being reset. There remained only the faint smell of chemicals and ink and the echo of the last time Lestrade might ever hear Sherlock say his name.