Lestrade was stuck in traffic when Dimmock called him. He growled in annoyance at the red tail lamps of the car in front of him and picked up his phone. "What?"
"Lestrade." Dimmock sounded, for all the world, like someone had died. Lestrade had known Dimmock since their academy years, he knew exactly what his funeral voice sounded like.
"St. Bart's?" Lestrade asked in a hoarse whisper.
Silence. "Lestrade..." Dimmock said again, slower this time.
"He's dead, isn't he?" Lestrade cut him off, he swallowed thickly, warmth already seeping into the corners of his eyes. "Sherlock."
Dimmock didn't even bother asking him how he knew. "I'm so sorry."
Lestrade walked into the morgue a few minutes later, the police on duty hadn't even arrived yet. Anthea was just outside making a few calls, John was sitting numbly in the hallway, a few nurses flitting around him like soothing butterflies.
"John." Lestrade's voice broke in the one syllable.
John looked up, eyes hollow. Then, something hot and angry replaced the emptiness in his eyes and he was lunging at him, arm swinging. Lestrade caught the punch square in the jaw before he could even move to defend himself.
A few of the nurses around them yelped in surprise. "You bastard!" John rasped through his raw throat. A male nurse tried to restrain the ex-military man from behind and tugged the smaller man backward. "You bloody-...!"
"I'm sorry, John." Lestrade said quietly, clutching his thobbing jaw, eyes cast down. "I am... sorry."
John opened his mouth a few times before closing it. Nothing he could think of saying to Lestrade felt quite appropriate. He roughly shook the nurse's hands off himself. "I don't want to look at you." he mumbled under his breath and stalked out of the hospital. He rudely brushed by Anthea on his way out and the woman watched them both concernedly.
Lestrade shook his head at her, rubbed his hand over his face, and let out a shaky breath. A few nurses approached him to treat the injury but he just waved them off.
Feeling the hurt was better than feeling nothing at all.
The Superintendant was furious when he found out Lestrade was already on his way to St. Bart's before the news of Sherlock's death even reached New Scotland Yard's ears. Lestrade witheld evidence on a case. He collaborated with a fraud. He was more than likely an accessory to Sherlock's suspected crimes.
Nobody even batted an eyelash when he was formally dismissed from the force to appease the disturbed public and to set an example to the other officers. But it didn't mean they had to like it.
Dimmock, for one, was pale and angry. He didn't speak to anybody while he helped Lestrade pack away his things into cardboard boxes. Anderson's lips were pinched and he mumbled something under his breath along the lines of 'overreaction' and 'didn't mean to get that far'. Someone punched him. Maybe two people did, Lestrade didn't know for sure.
Donovan... Lestrade didn't care to observe.
He put the last of his personal belongings into the back of his car and shook Dimmock's hand. "Well, that's that." he tried to shrug casually.
"I'm sorry." Dimmock replied mournfully. "For your loss... all of it." Lestrade wanted to hug him, instead, he opted to pat his shoulder. "If there's anything I can do to help..."
Lestrade smiled sadly. "Thanks Dimmock, I appreciate it, but that's a pretty incriminating offer right now." Then, with a last look at the building that had been both home and workplace for nearly his entire life, Lestrade turned away and got into his car.
He paused for a brief second, hands on the steering wheel. It was anti-climatic at best, this ending. He shifted gears and rolled off the curb.
He drove away and didn't look back... well okay, he may have stolen a glance through the rear-view mirror.
He unloaded all his boxes in his sitting room and collapsed on his couch. Sherlock was an idiot. He pulled out his phone and held it in the air above his head and read the saved message.
What would you say is my most infuriating trait? -SH
That he is - was - a stupid, arrogant, superscillious, selfish-... the list could go on forever. Lestrade gripped his phone tight and pressed the back of his hand to his hot forehead as he felt heat prick at his eyes.
He shook his head violently and rolled up to a sitting position, ignoring the spell of dizziness and nausea that caused him. He stumbled into the shower and washed up. Then, dressed in a baggy T-shirt and drawstring sweatpants, he transported his boxes into the guestroom he had turned into an office since Sherlock stopped spending the night after moving into Baker Street.
It was four in the afternoon and he had no idea what to do.
Two hours later, Lestrade had just burned himself on the stove for the second time while trying to make himself dinner when Anthea showed up with Chinese takeaway.
Lestrade stood at the door dumbly for a moment or two before stepping aside and inviting her inside.
"How's Mycroft holding up?" he asked her. "I haven't exactly been in contact with him since Moriarty's trial."
"Mister Holmes was very busy." Anthea sighed. "I'm afraid he hasn't been taking the news about his brother's death very well. He had been working himself to death before it and when he heard the news, he - um - collapsed."
Lestrade jumped up, pale. "Christ! Is he going to be alright?" Oh God, please let it not be something serious!
Anthea placed a grounding hand on his forearm. "He's alright. It was just a combination of rest deprivation and shock. He's taking a few days off. I insisted."
Lestrade sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "Okay... that's good. He should get John to take a look at him though, just in case."
Anthea looked at him strangely. "You haven't heard?" Lestrade looked up in confusion. "Dr. Watson and Mister Holmes arn't exactly on speaking terms at the moment."
Lestrade let out a humorless chuckle. "It's not just me, then?"
Anthea sent him a sympathetic look and told him about John and Mycroft's meeting at the Diogenes Club. Lestrade, in turn, told her about him arresting Sherlock and John's understandable anger at both him and Mycroft.
"We're a bunch of screwups." Lestrade sighed, rubbing his throbbing temple.
Anthea placed a cool hand on his warm forehead. "You're both overworked, ill, screwups. You need to go to bed." She got up and rummaged around in Lestrade's bathroom, looking for medicine and a thermometer.
Lestrade braced himself mentally and dragged his feet sluggishly into his bedroom. A few minutes later, Anthea poked her head inside the doorway. "Where did your thermometer go?"
Lestrade took a moment to remember. "It died an honourable death in one of Sherl-..." he clamped his jaw down, paling again. Then he regained his composure. "Sherlock used it for an experiment and it broke. He had promised he'd get me another one." He tried to shrug casually and failed miserably.
Anthea made him take his medicine and made sure he had alot of fluids within close reach of his bed before going away to look after Mycroft.
"Tell him I said 'hi'." Lestrade mumbled, already half-asleep. "And tell him, 'Sorry'. 'Bout Sherl-..." And then Lestrade was asleep.
Anthea brushed his damp, matted hair aside and sadly reminded herself not to call John over to keep the sick man company. She locked up and left the otherwise empty house. She'd visit as soon as she was able.
John was roused from memories of his former flatmate by a knock on the front door a few days later. He heard Mrs. Hudson bustling around downstairs to answer it.
"Oh, Detective Inspector! I was wondering when you'd come about, come in!" John jumped up from his usual armchair and darted out of his and Sherl - no, just his - flat. He marched down the steps, feeling a few tugs of psychosomatic pain in his leg as he walked.
"Oh, it's - um - just Lestrade now, Mrs. Hudson." Lestrade mumbled from the doorway. His voice sounded a little off.
Mrs. Hudson stepped aside to let the man in when John was suddenly there, slamming the door in his face. He could hear Lestrade sigh on the other side of the door and Mrs. Hudson sent him a sad, reproachful look.
"I-..." John croaked. "Sorry, Mrs. Hudson. I can't-... not yet." He rubbed at the burn in his eye and stalked back upstairs and locked himself in his flat.
Mrs. Hudson dropped her face in her hands and sobbed. She pulled out her handkerchief to wipe away her tears and realized that it was the handkerchief Lestrade had given her when she told him about her husband.
That sent her on another bout of heartbroken sobs.
Lestrade pressed his eyes closed after hearing all that while hovering on the front step. Then he turned and walked away.
The next day, Mrs. Hudson found a box of still warm doughnuts for John on the front step. The next day found a bag of groceries for Mrs. Hudson, she remembered telling Lestrade how she was loathe to get out of the house for weeks after the death of her husband.
The third day found flowers from Mycroft with a note of apology both for Sherlock and for not being able to deliver the flowers himself.
The fourth day saw a letter of apology from Lestrade. He did not defend himself, and he did not ask for John's forgiveness, but he did beg that John take care of himself.
And then the gifts from Lestrade stopped showing up.
John huffed and expressed his half-hearted relief at that, but Mrs. Hudson didn't miss the way that he occassionally peeked out of his sitting room window, wondering if he'd see the face of a friend.
Wondering if he was ready to, if he would ever be ready for it.
Nights found him in the presence of nightmares about Afghanistan, of black-haired consulting detectives, and running, near soaring through the streets of London on Sherlock's heels in the great pursuit of a melancholy violin tune not created so much as discovered with The Woman in mind. He ocassionally felt the ghostly touch of warm hands on the sides of his face, 'Concentrate!' or gripping his hand as they dashed through the streets with the sound of police sirens and a hound's growling urging them ever onward, 'Take my hand!'
Many nights found him jerking awake, drenched in sweat, curled up in Sherlock's bed.
He had found, in the recent days, that the only solution for the problem was to bite down on his fist and choke back sobs until the pain in his chest subsided.