Author's note: And here it is, a scene taken from the first chapter of a story I am working on exclusively for my own fan-fiction website, the address for which you can find in my profile. I hope you enjoy it.
The house was quiet when Lestrade got there. Too quiet.
"How was your day?" Lizzie appeared as if from nowhere, startling him. "Dinner's ready-you're late!" She scolded fondly. "Go clean up and hurry."
He changed his shoes and headed for the washroom. He was done quickly; he had come home cleaner today than he could remember coming home in years.
He headed back toward the kitchen but his wife intercepted him and propelled him willfully toward the front room.
"Lizzie?" He asked, but there was a determined glint in her eyes.
"Just remember, love," she whispered in his ear, "that the only thing I had to do with this was getting you in there, and that only under duress."
He was about to ask what she was talking about when she all but shoved him through the door.
He stared around him stupidly, his mind unable or unwilling to comprehend what he was seeing.
He suddenly felt very light headed, but the room started to lose its focus and for some reason he could not remember how to reach out to steady himself on the door frame.
Somebody cursed. "Catch him!"
Watson was greatly relieved when the Inspector opened his eyes. Confusion glimmered in those dark eyes, but Lestrade did not speak just yet.
Watson was slightly gratified to realize that Lestrade was mentally checking for injury or illness before he tried to sit up. He was slightly concerned with the revelation that the man was not quite certain why he was lying on the couch in his sitting room.
Lestrade started to sit up. A frown tugged at the corner of Doctor Watson's mouth, but he did not protest. Some of the color was beginning to return to the man's face.
Watson had never seen the color drain from anyone's face that quickly. He had never seen Lestrade's skin take on such a deathly pallor.
Every muscle in the Inspector's body had gone rigid. Lestrade looked as if he had forgotten how to speak.
Watson had realized a second too late what was happening.
Jacques, a gentleman who had been introduced as Lestrade's brother, had not. Even as Watson had shouted out a warning, the tall man had crossed the room and reached out to catch Lestrade as he dropped.
The man had held a muted argument with their sister as she stepped forward and helped him wrestle the senseless Inspector to the couch.
Elisabeth Lestrade had watched them with fire in her eyes.
"Are you all right?" Watson asked, his eyes sweeping over Lestrade's face. Satisfied that Lestrade was quickly recovering, he stood with only a slight grimace at the stiffness in his leg.
"Fine," Lestrade said it before the Doctor finished standing. Before his view of the room was no longer obscured.
His eyes found his wife's, and an understanding passed between them.
"Kristina!" He was up and across the room before Watson realized he was going to stand.
He stopped, his face mere inches from hers. His face now red, his eyes pools of utter darkness. She glared back, her fists every bit as clenched as his, her face darkening as well.
"Mon dieu," Jacques breathed almost reverently, as if he were already aware of the storm to come.
"What the devil is this?" Lestrade demanded-bellowed, and it was worse than any of the most experienced of the Yarders present had heard.
"You know full well what it is, you great loon!" Kristina demanded, just as loudly, with just as much emotion. Side by side and in perfect position to watch the two, Olivia and Jackie Lestrade watched in awe.
"If I did, I bloody well wouldn't be asking, now would I?" He snarled back, and Watson and every Yarder present wondered if they should interfere.
"Even you can't be that daft, Giles!" Kristina's words were tinged with exasperation.
"Can't I?" Lestrade's voice raised in pitch to a level it had not since childhood. "Can't I? When am I not that daft? When have I ever been anything but daft? Kristina, if I were any slower, I'd be dead!"
Kristina slapped him. "Stop speaking nonsense and let your perfectly good brain work for once." She snapped.
Lestrade blinked and stared at her. For the second time that night, he paled. Doctor Watson was not the only person bracing himself, just in case.
"You didn't." Lestrade accused, his voice low. It was frightening, especially after the previous outburst.
"Of course I did." She retorted, lowering her voice as well.
He glared at her. She glared back. "There had better not be cake." He grumbled.
She reached forward with both hands and shook him. "Of course there's cake, Giles! A birthday party without cake?" She demanded. She fixed her brother with a glare that far rivaled any he had ever given in his life. "We are celebrating your birthday, and you are going to enjoy it, hear me?"
The look on Lestrade's face suggested that he might be forced to celebrate his birthday, but he certainly was not going to enjoy it.
"Sit down," his sister ordered imperiously, "and let people wish you 'happy birthday'."
Lestrade sat down, silently daring anyone to wish him anything.
Joey, Kristina's husband, approached Lestrade with an air of ignorance that impressed even Gregson. Nobody who had been in the room just now should have looked so innocent.
"Happy birthday, Giles." He did not seem to notice the frosty glare he was receiving.
Jackie and Olivia were next; the two had never feared their father a day in their lives.
Jacques shuffled over to Kristina and asked if they were allowed to get their brother drunk. The small woman laughed, her visage of doom dispelled.
Lestrade was a lot more relaxed once his brother had succeeded in getting him drunk, but Watson doubted it was by choice.
He wondered if this idea of having a birthday celebration for Lestrade had been a good idea. Lestrade had reacted badly to it. The Yarders who had come were still ill at ease over that. Lestrade's family was acting as if the man himself should have no say over the matter, or most of them were.
Elisabeth Lestrade still had daggers in her eyes.
Lestrade was now benevolently introducing his children to their uncle as if unaware that they had already met.
"This is Jackie. My oldest."
"Jackie, as in Jacques?" Jacques inquired mischievously.
"J-A-C-K." Lestrade replied tolerantly. He was the steadiest drunk Watson had ever seen. "But yes, he was named after you."
"Really?" Jackie was curious now. He looked his uncle over. "Why would you name me after a Frenchman, Da?"
Jacques laughed. Lestrade was deadly serious. "You saved my life." He said to his brother. "We'd never have gotten away if not for you."
Jacques shifted uncomfortably and changed the subject. "And who's this pretty lady?" He asked.
Olivia played along. "Olivia. I'm the youngest." Watson smiled, wondering why the young lady still felt the need to point that out now and again.
Elisabeth appeared out of nowhere, either rescuing her husband from his brother or the other way around; Watson was not sure which.
She ushered him towards Watson. "Don't drink anything else tonight, love." She admonished without scolding.
He looked at her. "It's my birthday party." He pointed out reasonably. "If I have to be here than I should at least be allowed to drink."
"Of course, dear." Elisabeth replied fondly. "But I don't want to have to carry you up the stairs tonight."
"You could leave me at the bottom." Lestrade pointed out. "I've slept there before."
"Not since you've married me." Elisabeth responded defiantly. She looked over at Watson just before he could commit to feeling guilty for eavesdropping. She had known full well how close he was. "John, can I leave him with you? You won't let him forget not to drink anything else, will you?"
"Forget?" Lestrade pondered this. "Why would I forget? Lizzie, if you don't want me to drink any more I won't drink any more. You don't have to ask the Doctor to watch over me."
She smiled sweetly at her husband. "Then don't drink any more tonight, please, Giles." She paused and stifled a laugh when he smiled goofily back at her. "And stay with John, please, Giles, so I can keep an eye on the guests."
"No one has to keep an eye on me." He said indignantly, but his resolve softened. "I promise?" He offered. He leaned forward and Elisabeth sidestepped him neatly.
Watson reddened as he realized what had almost just happened. Lestrade shot him a reproachful look.
"Why is it," he wondered aloud, "that society insists that a husband and wife act like they don't love each other when there's anyone else around?
"Because the rules of society are decided by our betters." Bradstreet had ambled over. He did not appear taken aback by Lestrade's condition, but then again, Bradstreet was Bradstreet. He had been accused of being easygoing to a fault more than once in his career. "They're jealous, Lestrade."
Lestrade considered this. "You think so?"
Bradstreet chuckled. "How many of them marry for love, Lestrade?" He asked.
His eyes sought out Lestrade's, and he waited until he was certain that the other man was paying attention. "Do you want us to leave?" He asked.
Lestrade's eyebrow twitched. "Why would I want you to leave?" He demanded. "The cake hasn't been served yet. Somebody has to eat it." He grumbled.
Again, Bradstreet waited for him to refocus. "If you aren't comfortable having us here, Lestrade, we can go. No one's feelings are going to be hurt."
Lestrade stared at him as if he had never seen the man before. "What are you talking about?" He demanded. "Did someone tell you you weren't welcome? I won't have that, not in my house." A thought struck him. "Unless it was Lizzie." He amended.
Bradstreet was slightly thrown by Lestrade's reaction. "No one said we weren't welcome." He assured the other Inspector. "Although Mrs. Lestrade doesn't seem immensely pleased with the situation, forgive me for saying so."
"Lizzie likes you all." Lestrade said dismissively. "She's upset with Kristina, that's all." He frowned. "Who is it that wouldn't want you here, then?" He asked, genuinely puzzled.
Bradstreet was uncertain how to point out the obvious. "We-that is-we, uh, we weren't sure you wanted us here? You didn't seem comfortable with the idea earlier."
"Oh," Lestrade shrugged. "No, I don't mind. Might as well be, as long as it has to happen." He bit his lip in thought. "You should be here, in fact. I'd like for you to stay. Please, unless you'd rather not."
It was a confession they would never had heard from him sober.
Bradstreet smiled reassuringly. "We'll stay, so long as nothing comes up. You know how that is."
Lestrade nodded. "If something comes up, take me with you?"
Bradstreet laughed. "Sorry, Lestrade. You can't go on duty like that."
"You're right." Lestrade agreed, and he sounded faintly surprised.
He and Watson watched Bradstreet rejoin the other Yarders, who seemed to relax as he spoke. Watson wondered, however, how long it would take them to start mingling.
"Good man." Lestrade declared. "Bradstreet." He paused. "They all are. All of them. Good men."
Watson had to agree.
"Holmes couldn't come?" Lestrade asked, and Watson thought he sounded hurt. "No reason he would, I guess." His eyes widened as a thought struck him. "Maybe nobody invited him." The man, bless him, actually looked horrified at the thought.
Watson forced back a smile and excused himself.
It did not take him long to find Hopkins, who had found it easiest to step forward into the circus that was Lestrade's family and was speaking freely with Detective Conner, Jack Lestrade's partner from the States. Watson had been a bit surprised to see the two men here in London.
Hopkins was quick to excuse himself. Five minutes explained the situation, and Hopkins agreed and slipped off to talk to Kristina.
The whole affair had not taken ten minutes.
It had still taken too long.
Lestrade had disappeared.
Watson fought down a rising sense of panic and turned to carefully study the room. His eyes searched every body, every face. Lestrade was not here.
Elisabeth was going to kill him.
Watson slipped out into the hall, listening. He slipped down to the washroom, and could not decide whether to be relieved or disappointed not to find Lestrade there.
He debated checking the kitchen. Elisabeth was in there. If her husband were also in there-
Then he was safe, and the woman already knew Watson was remiss in his duties. If he were not, then she would want to know where her husband was. Either way, there was no sense in showing up in there
He paused at the bottom of the stairs, hoping Lestrade had not tried them. He had looked steady enough, true, but that had been standing on a level plane, not climbing stairs in the semi-darkness.
He looked up them anyway, and started. Someone was sitting at the top of the stairs, watching him.
He hesitated, then made his way up the stairs to take a seat at the top next to Lestrade.
"S too loud in there." Lestrade slurred slightly. "Minds me of a brawl." He frowned lightly and added, "Swear Jacques' tryin' t' ge' me t' pass out cold."
Watson laughed softly. "Brothers will do that sort of thing, you know." He offered.
"Half." Lestrade corrected.
"Half. 'S my half-brother. Diff'ren' mother."
"Oh," Was all Watson said.
"Do I have to go back in there?" Lestrade said slowly and deliberately. Perhaps he had just become aware of how drunk he sounded.
"I don't see why." Watson replied. "I was told to watch you, not keep you in the room."
They sat there in companionable silence for a while.
"Why don't you like birthdays, Lestrade?" Watson asked curiously.
"S not my birthday." A pause. "Maybe it is. I dunno. Never celebrated it." Lestrade studied Watson as intently as was possible under the current circumstances. "In London, we were too busy trying to survive. In France nobody cared."
Watson started. "France?" He asked.
"Da was English, but his wife was French. They lived in France. When Ma died, Kristina and me-I-sorry-went to live with him. Jacques looks like Da." Lestrade sounded thoughtful.
"Kristina looks like Ma-Da loved her for it." He said after a minute. Left unspoken was that the reverse had been true for him. His father had not loved him for his resemblance to their mother, he had hated him for it.
Lestrade looked at him. "I've never told anyone that before." Another pause. "I'm going to regret it tomorrow." He decided. Then, as if to assure Watson that it was not a failing on the Doctor's part, he added. "I'm too reserved, you know. Too withdrawn. I don't like to give anyone anything they could use against me."
Watson belatedly realized the other reason Elisabeth had left her husband in his care. She would not have to worry about the Doctor bringing something like this up around him, nor would she have to worry that Watson would think anything less of Lestrade while he was this loose-tongued.
"We probably should go back in, Lestrade. For a little while, at least." Watson suggested after a moment.
Somehow Hopkins had found Holmes. Somehow he had convinced the man to show up. Somehow he had kept Holmes from leaving before Lestrade had found him.
Holmes did not wish the Inspector a happy birthday. Lestrade looked thrilled anyway.
"I must apologize for being late, Lestrade. The case I was working took a little longer to wrap up than I expected."
Lestrade actually smiled. "Doesn't matter. 'Sides, a case is a case. Much more important than this. In your case, at any rate. In my case, a case would not be enough to save me from the wrath of the women." He said, and Holmes' eyes flickered to Watson's.
Watson nodded imperturbably and Holmes let it go. He saw nothing wrong with Lestrade being more than a bit tipsy while celebrating. The man's manners were still better than some men after only one glass. If Lestrade were a bit freer with his words he and a bit distracted he also seemed more relaxed.
"I was afraid someone hadn't thought to invite you." Lestrade admitted, surprising Holmes.
A knock sounded downstairs.
A few minutes later Elisabeth entered the room, fire still in her eyes but fading fast. Her lips were pressed tightly together as she led a white faced, trembling Constable into the room.
He barely seemed to notice his surroundings, leading Watson to wonder if he were in shock. He began scanning for signs of injury. His eyes rested on the man's hands. He had not been successful in getting all the blood off them.
Lestrade darted forward and took over for his wife, guiding the man to the couch and easing him into it. "Deep breaths, Evans. Are you hurt?" His voice was low, barely audible, and completely controlled.
Evans shook his head, but could not manage any words yet. Lestrade's brother floated by long enough to press a drink into the Constable's hands. Evans waited for Lestrade's nod of permission before he would even look at it.
Lestrade waited, frozen on one knee, for the man to recover himself enough to speak. His eyes were over bright, but that was the only sign that remained to suggest that he had been even slightly inebriated.
"What happened, Evans?"
"They sent me home." Evans said weakly, a note of hysteria in the words. "Said to go home, to get cleaned up, but I couldn't. I couldn't go home, I couldn't look into her eyes, not after that. Not after that, Lestrade."
It was a slip. Most Constables identified the man as simply Lestrade in their minds and among themselves, but would never dare leave off 'Inspector' in the presence of his peers, not in his presence, and certainly not when speaking directly to the man.
Lestrade never noticed. "Jones was at the scene," a quick glance around the room confirmed that Jones had gone, "even he looked upset."
He was rambling. Lestrade let him. Yarders were slowly congregating in a corner, waiting in case they were needed. Watson was also close by and with him, Holmes.
Evans shuddered. "I never seen anything like it, Lestrade. How could anyone do that? How could someone do that? I can't look at her Lestrade, not without thinking about it. How am I supposed to explain that to her mother?"
He raised his eyes to meet Lestrade's. Dark eyes caught and held agonized lighter brown. Lestrade was utterly still, utterly silent, the deep pools in his eyes drawing the younger man in.
Evans blinked, and shivered.
"Sorry, sir." The words themselves would never have been enough. The knowledge that it was the most the man was capable of right now more than made up for it.
"You were asking about cases involving infants." Evans said softly, so softly that Lestrade almost did not hear him.