The first thing Sherlock shouted at Mycroft when he saw him was, "Mycroft, how dare you!"

Mycroft rolled his eyes. "Sherlock, can we please cast aside our personal discrepancies for a moment..."

"Myc-... no!" Sherlock glared mightily. "I need Lestrade, Mycroft! As an Inspector! I refuse to wear in another officer! Couldn't you have pulled strings?" he whined petulantly.

Mycroft stopped his younger brother's tirade with a raised hand. "Yes, Sherlock, I could've pulled strings to keep Gregory on the police force. No, I chose not to. Too dangerous, in the circumstances. If he so wishes, I will put him back in his rightful place immediately. Now, will you let me speak without interruption?"

Sherlock glared but nodded. John wisely kept his amusement at Mycroft's 'In his rightful place' comment to himself.

"Good, because a team of Moran's men have been deployed to 'take care' of Gregory. Your little stunt in Baker Street has sent some of Moran's men into a tizzy. Unfortunately for them, Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson have been under watch since your return and Gregory is the next best option. Shall we go?" Mycroft said so very casually.

And yes, the weather is lovely, isn't it? How is your health brother dear? Much of this went blatantly unsaid.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Alright, lets go. But I'm not sharing a car with you, Mycroft."

"Oh, God forbid." Mycroft sighed with half an eye-roll.

Sherlock had been silent for the first half of the trip to Dorset, fingers steepled, occassionally blurting out random things that probably made more sense in his brain than when he said it aloud. John had taken to ignoring them by now.

The consulting detective seemed, in his own unique way, nervous about facing Lestrade.

"I'm fine, John." Said consulting detective growled.

"I wasn't saying anything." John held up his hands in a placating gesture.

"You were thinking it." Sherlock retorted.

"Alright. I might as well ask. What's the deal with you?" John asked him.

"Nothing's wrong with me." Sherlock snapped.

"That's not what I asked." John lobbed back coolly.

Silence. Then Sherlock let out a sigh. "It's..." Sherlock suddenly broke off. "Stop listening, Mycroft." he told the car's interior in general. The headlights of the car behind them blinked twice. Satisfied, Sherlock returned his attention to John.

He seemed lost in thought for a moment before speaking. "You know, John, when I met Lestrade, my first long-lasting impression of him was of his disappointment in me." he told his flatmate.

"What...?" John frowned, a flare of anger growing in him.

Sherlock seemed to read his thoughts and shook his head. "Not the negative sort of disappointment in me, John." he assured him. "I was-... I was a mess when I met him. I did drugs, broke into crime scenes, got into trouble... Mycroft had to bail me out of jail at least once every week."

John snorted, he could imagine that.

"And Lestrade... he was so disappointed, almost angry at me for it. He told me that he believed I was better than all that, that I was wasting a valuable talent. He always had such high expectations of me." Sherlock shook his head with a slight chuckle. John remembered Lestrade's words to him about Sherlock being a good man. "He always naively expected so much, and I always disappointed him. Every single time."

"I lied to his face, did drugs behind his back, insulted him, sometimes I would even attack him in my drugged state." Sherlock blew out a breath. "I guess... I didn't want him around me. I didn't want his help, I hated being dependent on anybody. I did my bloody hardest to chase him off. He'd badger me and annoy me about my bad habits, he irked me to no end."

"I can imagine." John smiled a little.

"I tried so hard to get rid of him, but he's as tenacious as a bulldog with a bone, sometimes." Sherlock shook his head, snorting with amusement. "Me and Mycroft, we threatened him, got him fired from his job, got him kidnapped, nearly killed, gave him no privacy, drove him up the bloody wall sometimes. God, we were so eager to get rid of him."

"But he stayed, always. He got me clearance to the morgue, got me off drugs, gave me cases, ... in a way he saved me, you know." John nodded at Sherlock slowly. "No matter what I did, no matter how much I disappointed him, he always stayed around... if only to make me listen to him complain out of spite." Sherlock huffed out a laugh, remembering something amusing.

"I remember when Mycroft and I told him it was dangerous to be friends with us. We were in the hosptial, Lestrade and I had been kidnapped and separated, Lestrade had been locked into a well that slowly filled with water and drowned him. He very nearly didn't make it. But - um - he did. And we told him that as long as he was with us, there was always the chance of him getting kidnapped again and killed for real. And he just nodded and said 'Okay, thanks for the warning.' We couldn't believe it." Sherlock chewed his bottom lip. "We couldn't believe that someone could be that stupid."

"We started getting used to him being around, being his stupid and annoying self. And then Mycroft, stupid idiot, fell in love with him. I think it was because it was the first time someone normal like Lestrade treated us like friends... like eccentric idiots. Most people usually make an effort to either treat us like freaks or try to pretend that we're 'normal people'. He never did any of that, and he never gave up on us. It was... new." Sherlock pressed his lips shut like he couldn't quite fathom what he just said.

John had the feeling that their talk was still half unfinished but realized that Sherlock wasn't going to speak any more anytime soon. So he let it go and thought about everything Sherlock had told him. It was the most Sherlock had ever spoken about himself, especially of his relation to Lestrade.

They did not speak for the remaining stretch of the journey, which was seven sorts of awkward, but they made it to Dorset eventually.

John practically jumped out of the car Mycroft loaned them to breathe. Sherlock was already out of his seat and obvserving the two-storey house they pulled up in front of.

Mycroft approached John. "Gregory is a friend, Dr. Watson." he said slowly, making certain that Sherlock did not see them conversing. "The only person, besides our own mother, who accepted us as our... eccentric selves. The first person who we could honestly regard as a 'friend'. He always believed in Sherlock, always helped him when he needed it..." Mycroft pursed his lips contemplatively. "I think Sherlock has grown to fear the day when he disappoints Gregory for the final time. I don't think he knows what he'd do if Gregory left us for good."

Mycroft's expression turned grim. "He has subjected Gregory to a good many unforgivable situations, Dr. Watson, but he has never faked his own death. He worries that this time he may have gone too far for Gregory's forgiveness." John nodded grimly in understanding. "Not that he'd ever admit that."

Just then, the house's front door opened and a woman walked out. "Evening." she greeted cautiously.

She was an elegant woman, despite her casually plain attire, her eyes were a sharp blue and her hair a pale blonde. She was tall and thin, but the way she carried herself spoke volumes of a strong and sophisticated woman.

"Excuse me, is this the residence of Gregory Lestrade?" John spoke up politely.

"It is." the woman replied curtly. "And you are...?"

"Um, I'm John Watson, that's Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes." John introduced them all.

The woman cast an appraising look toward the three visitors. "I have heard much about you, Dr. Watson, and Mister Holmes, though I expected the younger Holmes to be in a casket in the earth." she remarked coolly.

Mycroft cleared his throat. "Is Gregory in, ma'am?"

"I'm afraid he's not. He's at work." the woman replied. "I am his mother, you may call me Beatrice, or ma'am, or Mrs. Lestrade, whichever suits your fancy."

A round of meek 'ma'am's came from the men.

Suddenly, there was a thunder of running footsteps and a younger woman with stringy blonde hair dashed out to join Beatrice. "Oh my God!" the woman exclaimed. "You're Sherlock Holmes! I thought you were dead!" She marched up and shook Sherlock's hand firmly. "I'm Maisie, hi." She turned to the two other men. "You must be Dr. Watson, I read your blog!" She grinned, shaking John's hand. Then she moved on to Mycroft. "You must be the mysterious Mycroft Holmes. I've heard alot about you, some good, some bad. I think Greg's still mad at you but he won't confess why." Then she released Mycroft's hand and stood back, expression expectant.

Stunned silence. John randomly thought of the Flash.

Mycroft coughed. "A pleasure to meet you, Maisie." He smiled, just enough to be polite.

"Oh, you must be thinking I'm a weirdo. But it's okay for you to think that, because I am." Maisie smiled brightly at them. "I am, after all, Greg's sister."

"Oh..." A look of understanding. "Well, it's very nice to meet you."

"They're looking for Gregory." Beatrice informed Maisie.

"Of course they are, who else are they going to be looking for!" Maisie enthused. "Come on! I'll take you to him."

"Maisie, darling, Gregory's working." At her daughter's pleading look, Beatrice relented. "Alright, but on your head be it."

"Course, Mum!" Maisie gestured for them to follow her. "But you have to tell me what's going on on the way! Why are you still alive, Sherlock?"

"Greg! You've got visitors!" Maisie hollered over the noise of rumbling engines and sparks as she confidently strode into the local car repair shop with the air of someone who belonged there.

"Who is it?" Lestrade's voice rang out from somewhere out of sight. John did not miss the way the two Holmeses stiffened slightly.

"It's a surprise!" Maisie sing-songed back gleefully.

Then, there was an animalistic growl and the three visitors turned to see the most ferocious-looking German Shepherd baring its canines at them. John noticed that it lacked a limb and hopped along on the other three to get around. Still, at a disadvantage, the dog showed spine.

"Down, boy!" A voice called out sternly. The dog paused as if contemplating not obeying the commanding voice, and finally slipped its lip back over its teeth. It still glared at them, if it was possible for a dog to do so. Well, if a cat can smile, there was no reason for a dog not to glare. "Can you spoil me the surprise?" A young, hairless-faced man attached to the voice asked with a charming smile.

Maisie opened and shut her hands a few times, arms extended, in a childish 'gimme!' gesture and the man humored her by walking over to give her a kiss and a brief squeeze. "Visitors, Peter, my husband. Pete, John, Mycroft, and Sherlock." Maisie introduced everybody.

"Sherlock, John, and Mycroft as in-...?" Peter trailed off inquiringly.

"Yes, and we would really appreciate if you showed us where Lestrade is." Sherlock said impatiently, near bouncing on the balls of his feet. They were, after all, here to prevent a threat on Lestrade's life.

"Oh, Greg's over there." Peter jabbed his thumb over his shoulder.

Maisie gave her husband one last peck on the cheek and led the three Londoners and the vigilant guard dog over to where Peter indicated. "By the way, the dog's name is Mal, short for Mallory. She was-... Holy shit, Greg!" The woman exclaimed when she saw two men lying unconscious on the concrete ground, hands tied together behind them with a wire, one of them was bleeding from what looked like a dog's bite marks. Mal snarled at them, then turned her face away as if they were not worthy of her attention for any moment longer. "Annoying customers?" Maisie ventured sarcastically.

"How rude, Maisie." Lestrade's voice came from somewhere under a raised car, only his legs could be seen sticking out from underneath. "Is it the cops? Because if it is, they've got better response time than before. I haven't even called those men in yet. By the way, did the mutt maul the visitors? She's been a bit edgy since the assault."

"Greg..." John voiced slowly.

All noise of tinkering under the car immediately stilled, Lestrade's lower body went tense. Everybody could imagine him peering at their feet, looking at their shoes...

There was the sound of wheels rolling slowly over a grainy surface and Lestrade's head appeared. His expression was unreadable and his cheek was smudged with grease. His hair, no longer combed down, stood up in nearly every direction giving him a sort of boyish charm. His faded jeans and dirty white tank-top did nothing to hide a rather healthy-looking set of muscles. Mycroft forced himself to look away.

Lestrade looked from Maisie, to John, to Sherlock, to Mycroft... and held for a moment. There was the faintest hint of bitterness in his gaze before he returned it to Sherlock. Sherlock held his breath.

"I see you're back, Sherlock. Hand me that wrench, will you?" Lestrade requested, off hand. Baffled, Sherlock did so. "Ta, mate." And Lestrade rolled himself back under the car.

Tinkering resumed.

Stunned silence. "You knew." Sherlock deduced.

"He did." Mycroft said.

"We all did." John hummed thoughtfully.

"You did?" Both Holmeses exclaimed simultaneously, staring at the doctor.

"Yeah, I forgot to tell you, with all that was going on." John grimaced sheepishly.

"You told him?" Mycroft asked the legs poking out from under the car.

Lestrade rolled back out to glare at him. "Course I did, Mycroft. Just before I moved over here."

Awkward silence. "Well, so much for the element of surprise." Sherlock blurted, uncomfortable.

Lestrade saved the situation by rolling his eyes with an amused smirk. "Right, just let me finish up here and we'll head back to the house for proper introductions, okay?"