It was high noon when Lestrade barged into the Diogenes Club and nobody even flinched at the noise his stomping footsteps made. Everybody knew Lestrade by sight if not by name. He was a humble legend in himself, everybody knew he was Mycroft's friend. A few saw his dark expression and helpfully pointed Mycroft out.
Lestrade stalked up to Mycroft's seat and grabbed the man's sleeve, pulling him out of the room to the Stranger's Room without any heed to Mycroft's silent protests. Once they were safely inside and Lestrade had closed and locked the door behind them, the ex-copper rounded on him. "Sherlock's alive, isn't he?"
To Mycroft's credit, he did not react except to blink once in a terribly calculated manner. "Excuse me?"
"Don't play dumb." Lestrade snarled.
"Despite my aspirations for omniscience, I am not psychic, Gregory." Mycroft said slowly.
Lestrade had to give it to him, he was a good actor. "Alright, if you're not going to explain to me what's going on, I'm going to find out on my own." he growled and turned to walk off. He stopped halfway out of the Stranger's Room and turned back to look Mycroft in the eye. "But you know, if you actually didn't know what I was talking about, you'd ask me what I meant when I said 'Sherlock's alive', instead of only claiming ignorance." Lestrade raised his eyebrows and sent Mycroft a pointed look before disappearing.
His next stop was St. Bart's. "Molly." he called out when he saw the pathologist.
Molly turned with a weak smile. "Inspector."
"Just Lestrade, I'm not a copper anymore." Lestrade said wryly.
Molly flushed. "Oh! Goodness, I'm sorry! I remember Inspector Dimmock talking about it, but... it's a habit, you know?"
Lestrade allowed himself a small smile. "I know."
They fell into silence for a moment before Molly seemed to shake herself out of a reverie. "Oh, did you need something?"
Lestrade nodded. "Um, I know I'm asking alot from you, Molly, but do you think you can tell me about the day Sherlock... you know."
A pained look flashed behind Molly's eyes and she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Um, okay. I think I can do that." she said. "But, uh, if you don't mind me asking, why?"
Lestrade pressed his lips into a thin line. "I'm just trying to figure out what happened here." he replied vaguely.
Molly nodded slowly. "Okay..."
"So, Sherlock and John showed up the night before?" Lestrade asked and Molly nodded. "You called me the next day, you told me Sherlock said things that worried you. Do you remember what he said?"
Molly sat down on a bench and nodded. "I don't think I can forget." She tucked a nonexistant stray strand behind her ear. It was a nervous habit of hers. "He said... strange things. Things he would never normally say."
"Like?" Lestrade asked encouragingly.
"He said things like 'You've always counted', 'I'm not alright', 'I think I'm going to die', and... 'I need you'." Molly flushed terribly at the last phrase.
"Do you know what he meant when he said those things?" Lestrade asked her gently.
Molly shook her head violently. "No."
Lestrade was a veteran cop and he had grown skilled in the art of finding out lies. "Molly..." Molly looked away. "You know what he meant, don't you?"
"I- I don't-..." She was alot worse at lying than Mycroft was.
"Then, let me tell you my theory, and you can tell me if I'm wrong." Molly looked at him again. "Sherlock asked you to play along with his stunt." Molly blinked and her whole body trembled. "He told you he was going to jump off the roof and he asked you not to let anybody see or touch his body. He asked you not to tell anybody, didn't he?"
Molly let out a shaky breath and nodded miserably. "He was still alive after he fell. I don't know how. He just told me to collect his body from the street and make sure nobody saw or got too close to him. And then, a few hours later, after you and John left, his brother came to pick him up." she confessed. "He told me to act like he was really dead. It wasn't hard to do because he left, and I haven't seen him since."
Lestrade ran a hand over his face. So he was right.
"He told me to call you, before he jumped." Molly continued and Lestrade's head whipped around to stare at her. "He told me to call you, to tell you about the things he said. He told me you'd come." She looked at him. "And here you are."
Lestrade swallowed thickly. So everything had been orchestrated by Sherlock himself. Everything. From jumping, to surviving the fall, to Mycroft, Molly, even himself. But what about John?
"So what now?" he wondered aloud to himself.
"Sherlock left something for you." Molly told him. "He told me to give it to you if you ever found out about what happened." She stood up and skittered away to the staff area and returned with an envelope.
It was plain brown, the lip stuck with glue, and Sherlock's neat handwriting on the back.
Lestrade vaguely wondered if Molly was keeping similar envelopes with John's name, or Mycroft's, or even Mrs. Hudson's name on the backs. "He told me to tell you to open it when you're alone." Molly informed him.
Lestrade nodded. "Thanks, Molly. Take care of yourself." Molly smiled back in relief. The poor girl, it must have been such a burden to be one of the only ones who knew Sherlock was alive. To see what was being written in the papers, to see people close to Sherlock suffer, and not being able to tell them.
Lestrade tucked the envelope under his arm and returned to his car.
When he arrived home, he walked through the house to make sure he had no surprise visitors. Sometimes John, Mrs, Hudson, or Anthea would show up at random just to have a little company or to talk. He had made spare keys and given them all one after the first week.
But nobody was home. Thank God for that. Lestrade was dying to know what clue to the mystery Sherlock left him. He ripped the envelope open and dumped its contents out onto his office desk.
There was a single slip of paper inside. Lestrade picked it up and read it.
Lestrade, if you are reading this then I am already dead... presumably. However, since you've gotten your hands on the envelope, I can safely assume that you've realized that this whole setup is a sham. I cannot tell you how regrettably sorry I am to have made you, John, and Mrs. Hudson believe that I am dead.
If you are reading this then I am no longer in the United Kingdom. Mycroft would have predictably sent me into exile to some godforsaken country to keep me under the radar until the danger has blown over. And knowing myself, it would not be long before I escape him.
You must not look for me, Lestrade, do you understand? Depending on when you recieve this message, you, John, and Mrs. Hudson may still be in danger. It is imperative that you continue to behave like I am dead. Do not speak of this, especially to John. This may be unforgivable of me, but it is necessary.
In the same way that I know John would've never accepted anybody's word that I am dead without seeing my death take place with his own eyes, I know you would not let this case close unless I asked you not to pursue it.
Dead or alive, Moriarty is dangerous. Lestrade, for once, I am asking you to leave a case unresolved. Do not look for me. Under the unique circumstances, I cannot contact you, but I will return as soon as I can. And when I do, you may expect me to explain in full.
And, while I know that I am asking much of you, look after John and Mrs. Hudson for me. In a moment of weakness I may confess that I hope you read this and realize a little of the truth of the situation. I need you to watch John's back. I don't trust anybody else for the job.
Will you do that for me?
Lestrade raked a hand through his silver hair and tossed the paper back onto the desk. So there it was. Sherlock was alive. Alive and well while John killed himself slowly through his grief.
Lestrade dropped his head in his hands.
Lestrade shoved Sherlock's letter into Mycroft's hands the next day at the Diogenes Club.
Mycroft had turned an appalling shade of white, and then an angered red settled on his cheekbones. He stood up violently, causing his armchair to scrape back loudly on the floor.
People glared at them but Mycroft ignored it, never looking away from the page clutched in his hand. He motioned for Lestrade to follow him into the Stranger's Room.
"What is the meaning of this?" Mycroft demanded once they were alone, his eerie calm gave Lestrade shivers.
"What do you think it means?" Lestrade asked back challengingly, unwilling to give an inch. "Why don't you ask Sherlock?"
Mycroft settled on Lestrade with an unreadable gaze for a moment before returning his gaze to the paper in his now fisted hand. Then his gaze softened. "Sherlock was always unpredictable as a rule." he mused thoughtfully.
"Still is." Lestrade grumbled under his breath.
Mycroft's stern gaze snapped up to meet his. "Was. Sherlock Holmes is dead. I promised him he would continue being so until he returned."
"Where is he?" Lestrade demanded.
"I do not know." At Lestrade's dubious look. "I can honestly say that I am not lying to you, Gregory. You know how Sherlock-... was."
"We have to tell John, Mycroft." Lestrade declared firmly.
"We will do no such thing." Mycroft snapped back. "It's too dangerous, Sherlock seemed firmly under the impression that John's life would be in danger if he knew Sherlock was alive."
"Well he's killing himself slowly in thinking Sherlock's dead!" Lestrade exclaimed in frustration. "He can't sleep, can't eat, his limp is coming back, he thinks he sees Sherlock randomly on the streets and goes chasing after strangers... he's going back to his therapist, Mycroft." Lestrade looked Mycroft in the eye. "He's killing himself. And I can't let him do that. I can't lie to him, Mycroft."
"Please." Mycroft said softly. "Gregory, you know I am not one for begging, but I am now."
"Mycroft, no." Lestrade growled desperately. "You can't do that, that's not fair. John needs to know!"
"Please, Gregory." Mycroft said pleadingly.
Lestrade pressed his lips into a thin white line and stormed out before he could give in. Mycroft followed. By now, all the regular patrons of the club were accustomed to Lestrade's visits and his obligatory breaking of silence to say something less than polite to Mycroft, some were even looking forward to it, but they were not expecting that the honour was Mycroft's this time around.
"Gregory, will you please listen to me!" Lestrade was halfway out of the door when Mycroft called out, an edge of desperation in his voice that metaphorically chipped away at his Iceman persona.
It was enough to make the stomaches drop out of every other man in the room because, oh my God, there's actually a person under all that impenatrable armour. It made them wonder who on earth Gregory Lestrade is, to have broken through his defenses.
"He planned for this situation, and I trust his judgement." Mycroft said slowly.
"But at what cost, Mycroft?" Lestrade asked back pointedly. "What if John doesn't forgive him for his deception? Do you think he'd thank you for letting that happen? What if he comes back and John's not here anymore?"
"I'm sure he's analyzed every detail and contingency to perfection." Mycroft said. "He set plans into motion, lined his pieces up for the endgame-..."
"And you were one of them." Lestrade snapped, suddenly realizing. "You were his back-up plan, just in case the letter he left didn't convince me not to tell John. He'd know you're probably the only one who could stop me. Oh, that crafty bastard!"
Mycroft averted his gaze guiltily.
"Alright." Lestrade raised his hands in a forced calm, palms facing upward in a surrendering gesture. "Alright, I won't tell John. For now. Just know that I think you're full of shit, and I hope you're proud of yourself." He huffed and turned to leave. "Figures, Mycroft, it's the one time you decide to be your brother's keeper."
And with that parting remark, he was gone. Mycroft's expression was impassive, but his shoulders fell almost imperceptively.
Everybody else in the room wisely pretended that they did not exist.