Hello, everyone! Props go to mylia11 for the original idea of John going missing and being declared dead. I am afraid I may have ran with this and I hope I have not butchered your idea! Please read and review! :)

"Sir, they've found another one."

Donovan's voice made Detective Inspector Lestrade sick to his stomach. Another one. Another child murdered, found at a seemingly random dump site. Lestrade and Donovan shared a grim look across his office.

"Sir,…I never thought I'd be saying this but…perhaps it's time to call the freak in on this one." Donovan shook her head and came further into Lestrade's office, sinking down onto one of the chairs and pinching the bridge of her nose. "I don't want to have to see another one."

Lestrade nodded in understanding. He did not want to tell another crying mother that her missing child was now a dead child, see her shocked face as she took in the carnage that had once been her precious offspring, butchered beyond recognition after the serial killer had gotten their hands on them.

"It's always worse when it's a kid." He said quietly. He should know. Lestrade had been a police officer for more than 20 years and he was no stranger to violent deaths, blood, horrific scenes that even years later still gave him nightmares. When such atrocities were done to children though…it made the crime so much more sinister and evil, disgusting and outrageous.

"I know he's not the most stable right now but…"Donovan sighed, her face set. "If Sherlock Holmes can solve this, we need him."

Lestrade pulled up outside 221B Baker Street and sighed heavily, preparing himself before he went in to deal with Sherlock. Things had definitely changed. Dealing with Sherlock had always been a tetchy encounter but now it was almost unbearable. He hated seeing Sherlock this way, would welcome a scathing retort or keen eyes picking up on the fact that his wife was cheating on him again. Anything would be preferable to this.

Lestrade had been given a key by a grim-faced Mycroft two months ago and instructed to use it as he saw fit. Thus far, Lestrade had only used the key a total of 4 times. He disliked the idea of spying on Sherlock but when he became particularly worried, or when Sherlock would not answer his texts, he had been forced to use the key and make sure the genius consulting detective was still alive.

Lestrade entered the flat through the kitchen and took in the sight that met him with shock. It looked as if a lab had exploded, literally. There was a huge black burn mark decorating a large portion of the cabinets, from ceiling to floor. Petri dishes, test tubes, various vials filled with colored liquids, two different microscopes, and organic looking specimens (Lestrade was careful not to get too close) covered the kitchen table. It was obvious that Mrs. Hudson no longer came up here to clean. A faint odor of smoke hung in the air and Lestrade desperately hoped it was not poisonous.

Curious, Lestrade opened the fridge; knowledgeable of what sights might meet him. He sighed in frustration when he saw the array of test subjects and experiments-in-progress: human head, baggie of toes, two whole legs bent grotesquely in order to fit, and what looked like a human heart suspended in frozen liquid. There was not one thing in the fridge that could be considered edible and Lestrade knew, closing the fridge with a shudder, that there would be nothing edible in the cabinets either.

Sherlock was standing in front of one of the large windows, clad in his dressing gown, old shirt, and pajama bottoms, his bare feet peeking out from beneath the hem. He held his violin, bow poised as if about to play, but Lestrade had heard no sounds of music when he pulled up, nor as he was investigating the flat. Not thinking then, Lestrade thought.

"Am I to be subjected to another drugs bust, Detective Inspector?"

Lestrade flinched at the cold voice but refused to feel ashamed. A month ago, he and his team had indeed conducted a drugs bust on 221B Baker Street, a very real drugs bust. They had, much to Lestrade's relief, found nothing. He had been very afraid they would.

Suddenly, Sherlock turned around, his eyes piercing, and began deducing Lestrade. Lestrade felt the familiar eyes sweep about his face, then his person, picking up information from seemingly mundane details. Lestrade would never understand how he did it but the fact that Sherlock was deducing again was something of a relief. Maybe it was a sign he was returning back to his old self.

Sherlock's face was wiped clean of all emotion. "You need me." It was not a question.

"Serial killer, targets children, picks them up on their way home from school. Haven't you read the papers?" Lestrade knew Sherlock had been isolating himself in the flat but he had assumed the young man would have at least heard about this new serial killer. The press was having a field day with him, Lestrade was working more hours than he ever had in his life, and everyone's nerves were frayed. Parents were fearful of letting their children out to walk alone and the entire nation, it seemed, was in uproar. Lestrade found it hard to believe that Sherlock Holmes, who had used to take such perverse pleasure in crimes, could have remained oblivious.

Sherlock merely shrugged and turned back to the window, declining to comment and beginning to play a very melancholy piece, effectively dismissing Lestrade.

Lestrade did not want to do this, did not want to push Sherlock. Mycroft had ordered him not to send Sherlock on any cases for a few months, to give his little brother some space.

"He will work this out on his own, Detective Inspector. Feelings and sentiment have never been my brother's particular forte. They are his weakness. He does not understand them and now he has no one to help him wade through them and he is floundering. He will find his way back, eventually. Do not push him. I will not be responsible for how he reacts if you do."

Now, just past noon, Lestrade could almost visualize some small child, running out of school, large backpack rattling about on their back, full of smiles and laughter and hope. He could see that small child being abducted by some nameless, faceless stranger and then brutally murdered, the child's body dumped somewhere obvious. Lestrade knew, with a sick feeling in his stomach, that unless Sherlock helped on this case, he would be standing above another bloody little body either tonight or tomorrow, still stumbling about with no clues, still trying to figure out who was doing this- and with no leads. Nothing to go on. It was sickening.

"Sherlock, we need you on this case."

There was no reply and Sherlock continued to play, his mind elsewhere, blocking out the Detective Inspector, blocking out Baker Street. Lestrade wondered what he was thinking of and then decided that he really didn't want to know, although he could probably guess. It was torture, watching Sherlock, who had such a brilliant mind, destroy himself like this. He already looked much too skinny. He had not had any weight to lose and now the young man looked very unhealthy. His wildly curling hair was longer than Lestrade had ever seen it, completing obscuring his ears, but at least it was washed and clean.

He never went out anymore, never helped with any cases, and rarely returned texts. Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade knew, was still trying to make him eat but her success varied.

Lestrade looked about the rest of the flat, noting that it seemed attempts had been made to keep this area clean. No doubt Mrs. Hudson was afraid to touch anything in the kitchen but clearly thought nothing truly sinister or gross would be harbored in the living room. Everything seemed the way it had been two months ago…except it just seemed empty. Hollow. Lestrade thought that it was his imagination getting fanciful, but the place just seemed…well, flat. Dark and depressing, even with the curtain open and allowing the summer sun to spill in.

There were still traces of John in the flat. His laptop was still on the table, his jacket hung in the hallway, and Lestrade was beginning to suspect that his bedroom would look just the same as it had been before… He had never known Sherlock to act this way. It was very unlike the cold, "sociopath" Sherlock presented to the world.

Lestrade sighed and rubbed a hand over his tired face. There was no hope for it. He needed Sherlock on this case.

"John would have wanted you to take the case."

The violin made a truly horrible shrieking sound as Sherlock viciously slashed the bow across the strings. He whirled around, throwing his violin and bow away.

"Do not presume to tell me what John would or would not have wanted!" he hissed, his face transported in anger, lips pulled back in a snarl that made Lestrade uneasy. "I knew him better than anyone- don't you think I know what he would have looked like at the exact moment you informed me children were involved? I know precisely what he would have said!"

Lestrade had known Sherlock for years, helped him purge the drugs from his system, given him cases and worked with him, seen him transported by a dead body and the thrill of the game, conversed with him after a man "accidentally" fell out the window, - but he had never seen the man so deranged before. He held out his hands, placating.

"I know that, Sherlock." When Sherlock continued to glare at Lestrade, he tried again. "We all miss him, you know. He was a good man. He wouldn't have wanted you to live…like this." He waved his hand to the flat in general.

Sherlock snorted derisively, turning away from Lestrade, his hands clenched at his sides.

"I won't go in the police car. I'll follow right behind. Text me the address."