Title: The Art Of Communication

Author: Still Waters

Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)

Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. Just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.

Summary: Lestrade was used to getting odd, non sequitur texts from Sherlock. But when "John went out for milk" was followed by a terse "two hours ago," Lestrade immediately understood three things: John was missing, Sherlock was quietly panicking, and this could all end very, very badly.

Notes: This was one of those "came out of nowhere pieces." I was working on a draft of a story showcasing Lestrade's skill as a listener and how he can hear John's importance in the nuances of Sherlock's tone, took a break to shower, sat back down, and found myself writing this story instead. I do appear to have developed a firm affection for Lestrade POV on Sherlock and John. As I am fascinated with the subtleties of language in all its forms, as well as having recently noticed that John is actually lightly holding onto Sherlock's coat sleeve during part of the handcuff scene in "Reichenbach", I can only guess that my subconscious somehow put all that together and produced this piece. I truly hope I did the characters justice. Thank you for reading.

Out of milk. John went for more. SH

Sadly enough, Lestrade was so accustomed to getting texts that sounded like he was filling in for a conversation he had never been part of to begin with, that it didn't even occur to him to be confused. His brain cycled through a variety of possible responses, from "what kind?" to several sarcastic permutations of "wonderful, now I can get on with my day." But he never once considered not replying. He finally decided on an open-ended acknowledgement: a single syllable that could either state his bewildered disinterest or lead to an explanation of the text's purpose, all depending on Sherlock's intent and mood.


Two hours ago. SH

Bloody fucking…..

Lestrade was already on his feet, mind whirling with nightmare scenarios as his mouth shot gravel-sharp orders to his squad, gesturing emphatically with his left hand, his right gripping the phone in tight anticipation.

Most people couldn't read Sherlock when he was standing right in front of them, let alone through the impersonal distance of computer text.

Lestrade was often baffled, sure. But he wasn't most people.

This was about John.

John missing for two hours.

John missing just three weeks after being grabbed off the street and wrapped in Semtex by Jim Moriarty, the man Sherlock could have been, had his life taken a different path.

This could be very, very bad.

Every personal instinct screamed at Lestrade to call Sherlock and speak with him properly; to get information without the delay of texting (or at least, without a delay on his end, since Sherlock somehow managed to text as fast as he talked), to gather what wasn't said by focusing on breathing patterns, tone of voice, and background noise. But it wasn't about him. It was about those he served. And right now, God help him, that person was Sherlock Holmes. Like he'd seen John put into practice as a doctor, Lestrade knew, as an Inspector, that the best way to help someone in a crisis situation was to meet them where they were most comfortable; to find some thread of stability in the chaos that could be used to open communication. And while Lestrade would prefer to talk to someone directly, Sherlock preferred to text. So, with his squad crowding close behind as he moved to the lift, Lestrade continued to text.

Where are you?

Honestly, Detective Inspector. SH

Lestrade pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut in a vain attempt to suppress a vicious eye roll. Use of his full title. Period rather than ellipsis despite the fact that Lestrade was meant to fill in the space where Sherlock would have huffed dramatically; because an ellipsis would suggest that the thought wasn't finished and God forbid someone got a chance for the last word with Sherlock bloody Holmes. But despite the familiar urge to punch the infuriating bastard, Lestrade understood immediately; well-trained in scornful Sherlock-speak. It was clear "Sherlock" for "you're a bloody detective – where the hell do you think I am?"

And damn it, Sherlock was right. Because Lestrade knew. He shouted the address as they piled into the lift, not wondering, or caring, exactly how he knew which shop John would have gone to; just grabbed Donovan with a curt, "you drive" as the doors opened and everyone rushed for the cars.

Do NOT go in until we get there, Sherlock.

Lestrade could practically feel the condescending sigh as Sherlock replied.

I am not an idiot, Lestrade. SH

You do realize that YOU believing that doesn't mean that I do, right?

The pause before Sherlock's reply spoke volumes.

And if you believe that applying a psychological theory meant for lesser minds will distract me into arguing my superiority, then you are a far greater idiot than I thought. And I have considered you quite idiotic, Inspector. This pathetic attempt at comfort is both unnecessary and an unacceptable waste of time. SH

Lestrade sighed. So much for that, then. Back to the facts.

Donovan's driving, so I can afford the time. And as much as I enjoy setting myself up for your verbal abuse, I wouldn't risk response time to do it. Especially with John. Now this may sound idiotic of me, but I'm going to say it again. If John's still there, if the shop's become a hostage situation, do NOT get involved.

Lestrade couldn't help that little reassertion of his professionalism. Not that Sherlock would care in general, but Lestrade felt it necessary to point out that while his attempt at a Sherlock-compatible brand of comfort may have failed, it was only an addition to the rushed protocols of law enforcement that he was already implementing. Protocols implemented to get to John as quickly as possible.

You're repeating yourself, Lestrade. SH

Ah, back to "Lestrade." Not "Inspector." Message received and noted. Good.

Only because you don't listen.

Lestrade scrolled back to his previous text, brows drawn. What was he doing going on about hostage situations? He'd only intended to remind Sherlock not to go off on his own before they got there. Hostage situation made no sense; the chances were much more likely that John got snatched off the street, or was already dead in a well-laid trap somewhere…..

And yes, it is a hostage situation. SH

What the…..?


Ellipsis intentional. Lestrade-speak for "give me what you've got."

Lights on, windows unobstructed, shoppers lying on the floor while an obviously unbalanced man waves a handgun around in plain sight. For two hours people have walked exactly where I am standing and they have seen nothing. SH

Lestrade could practically hear the low growl of Sherlock's anger; the rage-sharpened disbelief that people could actually be stupid enough to miss something so obvious. The fact that he refrained from continuing to type out such a diatribe spoke volumes of the importance of his focus.

Of John.

What else, Sherlock? Any injuries? There haven't been any demands so far to police or government officials.

One injured. Security guard. John is providing aid. SH

The relief that John was well enough to provide first aid eased the sharp jerk of Donovan stopping the car.

The next sound propelled Lestrade out the door.

Perhaps he was so accustomed to the sounds of sirens that he filtered them out. Or maybe he was so jaded that he knew to listen for how these situations almost always ended.

But he wasn't the only one who heard the gunshot.

Because as he ducked for cover, Lestrade had a clear view of one thing: Sherlock being an idiot.

Running at the door, dark coat billowing behind him as if that mysteriously imposing, impenetrable mantle of fabric could shatter the locked glass doors by panicked will alone.

Forty-five minutes later, the scene was a picture of controlled, post-crisis clean-up, with the injured security guard sent off to hospital, suspect under arrest, and long process of recording witness statements underway. Lestrade tucked his notebook into his coat after documenting yet another shopper's praise at John's level-headedness and eventual disarming of the suspect, tipping a quick nod at Donovan to indicate that he was stepping outside. He took in a deep drag of fresh air, held it for several seconds, then let it out with a long breath; old, familiar actions in lieu of the cigarette he could really use right about now.

No Moriarty. No intricately planned evil plot. Just some poor clueless bastard who had taken one too many hallucinogenics and heard the produce whispering about how everyone in the shop was out to kill him.

Lestrade scrubbed a hand over his face and scanned the edges of the building, finding them in a far corner; a tiny, private island outlying the controlled chaos of the law. John sat with his legs stretched stiffly in front of him, back braced against the cool brick wall. Sherlock was crouched at John's left side, several steps from an empty water bottle lying discarded within the pink-tinged rivulets of its use. As Lestrade stepped in front of them, his shadow dulled the bright smears of blood on John's shock blanket to a muted, rusty echo; smudged handprints of near-death haunting the prescribed warmth of the orange fabric.

"Checked in with the hospital. Security guard's stable, they're taking him to surgery now," he informed John.

"Good," John nodded. "That's…..good. Yeah."

Lestrade returned the nod, then turned away as if to check on his squad's progress when the steadiness of adrenaline fell away and John's body began to shake with the inevitable crash. When John's brain finally refused to be put off any longer, insisting, "I don't care how many times you've gone through this, or how well trained you are, both as a doctor and as a soldier. That was too close, too soon, and I need to fall apart right now."

"'Scuse me one second guys." Lestrade strode over to Donovan as she walked out of the building with the purpose of a man who had noticed something requiring his immediate attention.

He only asked for updates that he really didn't need just now.

When he walked back to John and Sherlock five minutes later, John was steady and still except for a suspected tremor in his left hand. Suspected rather than known, because that hand was currently being blocked from sight by the sleeve of Sherlock's coat; Sherlock's long fingers keeping a light grip on the wrist of John's jacket.

"Impressed a lot of folks back there," Lestrade jerked his head toward the shop, picking right back up on the conversation.

John gave him a tight, lopsided quirk of the lips; a stressed movement under eyes that were clear and grateful with the understanding of what Lestrade had just done for him. "Actually, it was your sirens that did it. Distracted him enough that I could finally move."

"Glad to be of service." Lestrade grinned with the joke, but his eyes conveyed the deeper truth: You kept everything under control, saved the security guard's life, disarmed a hallucinating nutter, and came out in one piece. Brilliant work. Thank you.

John's facial muscles relaxed enough to allow a small, warm smile that smoothed a few of the tight lines around his eyes and mouth. "Good to be useful, isn't it?" he agreed, the words layered. He shared a silent moment with Lestrade – thanks for keeping an eye on Sherlock - before shifting, preparing to stand. "All right," he groaned as he flexed stiff knees, "Suppose it's time for my statement now."

Lestrade felt Sherlock's glare quite clearly, yet still slid a glance over to meet the stormy eyes, before focusing back on John. "It can wait a few hours," he shrugged. "Not like I don't know where to find you."

Some of the tension eased from John's shoulders as he huffed out a breath. "Right," he chuckled, the huff finally coalescing into something recognizable as humor. "Good, thanks. I'll just wash up and change, then. Meet you back at the Yard in an hour or so?"

"Or I could stop by Baker Street this evening. Why don't you ring me later, let me know which is better?"

John's lips quirked, acknowledging the underlying compassion there, before softening back into an easy smile. "Okay, yeah. Maybe you could come 'round for dinner. Sherlock will even join us tonight."

John cut off Sherlock's pre-retort inhalation with a quiet, but commanding voice. "You haven't got a case on, so no excuses. You're eating."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Fine," he sighed, the stark relief in his eyes at John's very presence overpowering the disdainful bite of the response. "However, if you are planning for us to actually be present at Baker Street this evening, I do believe that standing up is required."

John rolled his eyes right back at him as he reached to remove the shock blanket. Sherlock finished the motion swiftly, tossing the bloodied blanket over his shoulder to land on the water bottle, his right hand never leaving its place shielding John's left. Sherlock tilted his head fractionally, glaring up at the DI.

"All right," Lestrade said, his tone of voice substituting for the very real desire to hold his hands up in a placating gesture. Obviously, Sherlock had deemed that his presence was no longer required. "I'll see you later, then."

He began walking back toward the chaos, his peripheral vision catching a glimpse of Sherlock helping John to his feet. His phone beeped loudly, as if in sudden admonishment of his spying. With a resigned sigh Lestrade looked down, only to find the budding exasperation nudged aside by a small, almost fond, smile.

Your response time has improved significantly since our first meeting. SH

Lestrade grinned, recognizing and appreciating a Sherlock "thank you" when he saw one. And with that recognition, not responding, for once, became the right choice. Sure, Lestrade wanted to reply with a sly "you're welcome", translating that rare verbalization of gratitude from the great Sherlock Holmes into regular human speech. But he wouldn't. Because it wouldn't be right. Sherlock knew what he said and why he said it, just as he trusted that Lestrade would understand and respond appropriately. So Lestrade shoved the phone back in his pocket, knowing his "you're welcome" would be accepted by Sherlock in the resulting silence.

He glanced over his shoulder as the two men walked slowly down the street in search of a cab; Sherlock close on John's left side, a ready crutch should it be needed, the dark sleeve of his coat brushing steadily over the sharp knuckles of John's fisted hand.

Lestrade sighed contentedly, allowing the overwhelming sensory rush of vehicle engines, flashing lights, and muddled chatter to wash over him; pretending it was all that he heard.

Because, surely, it was much too loud and chaotic to have made out the fond relief warming the low rumble of Sherlock's voice, or John's huff of agreement as his friend informed him: "I am placing the shopping list under your gun from now on. Don't forget it again."

No, Lestrade hadn't heard a thing.

So when he brought dinner to their flat tonight, there would be no mention of it. Even if it did make him smile.

No mention at all.