A/N I actually wrote this all the way back then TRF aired, but didn't like it all that much. Going over it a bit, I edited here and there and decided that it was good enough to post :3 So, here you are. I couldn't help but wonder what Lestrade's reaction might be to learning about Sherlock's death, hence this. Please review!
Rated T for references to death, meh.
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock or any associated characters, events, etc.
EVEN THE KING
He doesn't want to pick up the phone. Of course, that's a rather common occurrence, considering that the calls he receives as a high-ranking Detective Inspector of Scotland Yard tend to bring with them horrible information, typically heart-wrenching or unsettling at the very least, concerning someone dead—a brutal murder, a torn-apart relative, or, if it happens to be a light day, a piece of stolen property that destroyed the formerly middle-class life of an innocent family. Greg Lestrade has gotten used to these concepts, in the abstract, at least, so that he can separate himself from them in a way—think that they'll never reach him, never affect his cozy family at home, his wife and his four relatively well-behaved children, none of which are truly at a high enough age to realize just what their daddy does for work.
But it's his job to lift the receiver, so he does, sitting back against so that his swivel chair lets out a familiar groaning creak and spinning around to gaze vaguely out the windows of his office, to where Sally Donovan sits at her desk, browsing through what looks like an exceedingly dull file folder.
The instant that the voice sounds, his body starts reacting, even before his mind has processed just why it's doing so. It feels like a block of mushy ice has dropped heavily into the pit of his stomach, permeating his veins with inexplicable chills, and it suddenly occurs to him that he doesn't want to hear what that voice has to say next. Because it's obvious who it is, even veiled as it is in what can only be tears—choking it up, somehow managing to slur the single syllable into an inarticulate mess. It's John, John Watson, and there aren't many things in the world that can upset John Watson—especially considering that not all of them would affect Lestrade.
"John, it's me." He sits up a bit straighter, but has to remind his body to do so, the normally reflexive action broken down into several little steps, bone movements, brain signals, muscle bends. "What's up?" The casual, everyday phrase is instinctive, and he winces internally at how petty it sounds against the rough tapestry of the doctor's static-thick breaths shaking down the line.
"It's…" There's a sort of moaning whimper, and Lestrade realizes that his fingers have somehow become wrapped around the edge of his desk, gripping it, like it can keep him rooted down.
"It's Sherlock, isn't it?" he asks softly. He doesn't want to consider what John's next words might be, doesn't even want to imagine them, would prefer to remain in this ignorant state, where a thousand paths are still open, a million possibilities hanging in limbo. But the next words come like the fall of an axe, severing those desperate threads, blocking the sun and solidifying the liquid nitrogen that runs under every inch of his skin.
"Yeah. He—he's dead."
"No. No way." The denial comes out automatically, because he just can't think of what else to do with his mouth. Nothing seems quite in focus, or even important enough to be so. Not Sherlock. Not Sherlock. Sherlock can't be dead. Sherlock's a constant, he's Sherlock. What would Scotland Yard be without a Sherlock Holmes to drive them absolutely mad with frustration? The idea of him being a fake was torturous enough. There was still a chance of saving him somehow, though, of proving it false, of replacing everything. But this… well, it's not possible. It's just not. Death, Lestrade knows very well, is a very final thing. And he can't stand any sort of finality associated with the concept of Sherlock. The consulting detective is ever-changing, cruel and oddly kind, intriguing and repulsive, desperate for a case and considering them all below his level. He's a phenomenon, a specimen, a man that's unlike any other Lestrade has ever or will ever know. He can't be gone. He just can't be. It's got to be a mistake. John can make mistakes; he's only human. "Listen, something's gone wrong… we can find him. Unless you know where he is? Is he in the hospital?"
"Greg, I… I saw him. I saw the… he…"
That voice. That voice. It's so raw and weak and broken, so utterly shattered, that of a man who doesn't know his place in life any longer. The agony contained in the fragments of sentences is so vivid that it's difficult to focus on the words themselves—and he doesn't want to, because, in a way, they're even worse than the way in which they're delivered.
"Is there a body? John, just tell me if there's a body. Because if there's not, we can manage, we can find a way to—to get him, well… back… we have to." He's not sure how the last three words managed to slip out of his mouth, but they're present now, hanging uncertainly in the crackling silence between them that spans so much more distance than it feels like. Stifled choking noises emanate from the receiver, and he holds it a bit farther away from his ear, all this time still trying to stay aware of his surroundings, to center himself, to not completely be torn away in the torrent of absurd, confused emotions racing around him, most of which don't even make sense. Anger, regret, almost a sort of twisted fondness—what place do any of those have here?
"There's a body." John inhales sharply, and Lestrade takes the opportunity to let the shock run straight through him, simultaneously scorching and freezing every cell in his body, so that he feels oddly electrified, everything feeling much clearer and more in focus than usual. But the doctor isn't done speaking yet—in fact, he plows on now in an oddly steady tone, a determined one, as if he's reciting the death record of someone he doesn't know. "He jumped. Off the roof of St Bart's, he… called me. He talked to me, and then he just… fell, I… saw him, he's… definitely dead. Oh, God…" It's almost a squeaking note that the final word ends on, and then it's a rush of tears with perhaps a word or two mixed in that's pounding through Lestrade's skull, and he's leeching the information away without really thinking about it, cataloguing it for later, for a time when he can actually think about any of this, when no, no, no isn't pounding a staccato rhythm against the inside of his forehead, stabbing with physical aches.
"Greg, he looked so empty. His eyes. His eyes. Have you ever—have you ever noticed how blue they are? … I'm sorry, I—I should get off—"
"No. Don't. Don't, John, keep talking."
"I really should… leave you…"
"Keep talking. Just tell me. Tell me everything."
"Okay." A heavy swallow. "There was blood on his face, so much blood, it was so pale, and… on the pavement… Jesus, it's still there, they… with the rain, it's all… watered down…"
"Are you still there?" Lestrade's past the point of electrification; now he's simply petrified, his lips moving with his chaotic mind entirely disconnected. "Get away from there, John. Go back home. Go to Baker Street."
"I can't. I can't. You realize that, don't you? He's gone, Greg. He's gone and he's never coming back, he's never. Coming back. And I can't do this anymore, I don't want to, I don't want to see it empty, I just… he said goodbye to me. Those were his last words. 'Goodbye, John.'" It's with an almost wondering tone that the quote is given, as though the man speaking the words is only presently realizing their significance.
Lestrade's reassuring himself now, or trying to, in an awful way that truly just makes things worse than they were before, replacing the numb desperation with a bitter, lurching sickness. It doesn't matter, though, because he was never real in the first place. Not truly. He was fake, he faked everything—you do realize that, right? Of course. There wasn't a Sherlock Holmes, not the one you thought you knew. This makes things easier, doesn't it? Makes things easier to know that nothing was ever lost. Not really. Just another city death; you get twenty a day.
He can't figure out why, but this is calming him, bringing him to a steady medium of what can't be called peace—acceptance, perhaps. It was all a lie, after all. Every last bit of it. The man that had been lost today looked like Sherlock Holmes, he shared his name, but he wasn't him. Not really. Sherlock had never existed. There was no more of a Sherlock than there was a Moriarty.
John clearly isn't quite getting that, though, which is to be expected. After all, he lived with him longer, knew him better, probably cared about him more.
"John, listen to me for a moment…"
And that's it. Just like that, it—he—has become nothing more than another name in an obituary, another meaningless specter that nobody cares about, whose face not a single person will even try to picture as they move on to the better, more interesting areas of their lives. Sherlock Holmes was a lie, nothing more.
The only lie present is the one Lestrade's telling to himself, but he denies it anyways.