Characters: Lestrade, Sherlock, Mycroft
Warnings/Triggers: references to past drug use and current struggles, quite a lot of dental related pain and procedures, some blood, references to a dead parent and how he died, references to past case-related domestic abuse, swearing
Pairings: Lestrade/his wife (background)
Word Count 4,237
Summary: Lestrade always takes in waifs that show up at his door in the middle of the night, even consulting detectives recovering from dental surgery.
Author's notes: As a writer, I take all opportunites to exploit life experiences and, in this case, it is my mother who graciously allowed me to use her recent dental surgery as inspiration. Thankfully, it was not nearly so intense as the one I've given Sherlock.
This is set pre-canon, by about five years, at the beginning of Lestrade and Sherlock's working relationship.
I will warn for a lot of dental stuff going on here. I do this because dental stuff is the one area of medicine I find a bit icky.
A doctor had once told Lestrade that he would sleep better if he didn't drink tea so late at night. Lestrade had tried that for about a week, but all that happened was that he continued to sleep poorly and was grumpy on top of it. So now he drank tea whenever he bloody felt like it, which was currently 12:30AM. Take that.
He was carrying his cup to the living room when the doorbell rang. It was a bit late for visitors, but Mr Sanford next door locked himself out at least once a week when he somehow managed to get his 98-year-old self down to the pub and drink until closing time and crawl back. Lestrade figured at 98, if you wanted to risk your life for a pint or seven, you should be allowed. Take that.
He grabbed Mr Sanford's spare keys from the hook, and put his mug on the stairs before answering the door. It was not Mr Sanford. It was Sherlock Holmes. At least one side of his face was, the other looked as though Sherlock Holmes had mated with a marshmallow. His cheek was swollen to twice its size, and was bruised under his eye. He looked pale and unsteady.
“Christ!” Lestrade said. “Who did that to you?”
“A dentist,” Sherlock said, his mouth a bit mumbly on the swollen side. “I had two teeth extracted.”
“What did he use, a sledgehammer?” Lestrade said.
“They were broken,” Sherlock said. “And one had abscessed. The infection went up into my cheek. He had to open my gums and drain it and debride it. The infection made it nearly impossible to successfully numb me. I spent the last half hour of the procedure entirely without numbing.”
“And you're working?” Lestrade asked. He must be there about a case; that's when he usually came to the door, like a child asking if Lestrade could come out to play.
“No,” Sherlock said. “I'm...” He trailed off.
He looked twitchy. Needing a fix sort of twitchy, like when Lestrade had first met him. He'd only been six months sober at that point, and was still a bit too thin, and only just on the good side of recovery. He had that look to him again, the look he had when he showed up at Lestrade's office, desperate for a case. Desperate for a distraction.
“Did they give you something for the pain?” Lestrade asked.
“I refused it,” Sherlock said.
“That's probably sensible, to not have the temptation,” Lestrade said.
“I can't smoke either,” Sherlock said. “It might dislodge the clots. And I don't have a case. And swallowing the amount of blood I am is rather nauseating. And it's more painful than I had anticipated.”
Lestrade was starting to catch on now. Sherlock needed to vent. Lestrade wasn't sure if it was a good idea to let him in to do it. It granted a sort of permission that he would no doubt exploit. He already acted like a stray puppy Lestrade had mistakenly fed. He'd started showing up at crime scenes six months ago, and Lestrade had found that he knew what he was talking about, even if it sounded mental. He'd made the mistake of asking for his help, and then Sherlock was suddenly everywhere. It was a benefit to Lestrade, and he thought it was a benefit to Sherlock. He was a fucked-up kid, but Lestrade hoped he might get back on his feet. And solving cases was helping. He wasn't half the mess he was at the start.
Lestrade couldn't leave him outside.
“Do you want to come in?” he asked.
“Not particularly,” Sherlock said, and pushed past him into the house.
Lestrade closed the door.
“Do you want a cuppa?” he asked.
“I can't drink hot liquids,” Sherlock said.
“Do you want a beer?” Lestrade tried.
“I'm not permitted alcohol either,” Sherlock said.
All right, now Lestrade was really catching on. He was in pain and couldn't do anything about it, didn't feel well, and trying not to do something stupid. Which was good, Lestrade thought. He was trying. He didn't always.
“Do you want me to kosh you on the head and knock you out?” Lestrade asked.
Sherlock made a small amused noise that usually served as his laugh. “Yes,” he said. “But the long term effects of that might outweigh the short-term ones.” He spun around in the hallway, looking. A new place to learn about Lestrade, probably very exciting. “This is your childhood home.”
“Yeah,” Lestrade said. “Me and the Mrs moved back in after my mum went into care.”
Sherlock ran his fingers along the growth chart etched into the kitchen door-frame. “You're the youngest,” he said, more confirming something he'd already suspected. “Two older sisters.” He looked at the other side of the frame. “You don't have children, so these must be nieces and nephews.”
“My mum kept track of them too,” Lestrade said. “And I do it now, when the sprogs visit.”
“How quaint,” Sherlock said, sarcastically. He wandered into the kitchen. “I see your wife has left you again.”
“She's visiting her mother,” Lestrade corrected, following after him. Just like a bloody toddler, had to watch his every move.
“She's been gone for two weeks, that's hardly a normal visit,” Sherlock said.
“Her mum is sick, she's looking after her,” Lestrade said.
“You're in a better mood when she's not around,” Sherlock said. “Isn't that the opposite of how it's supposed to work?”
Yeah, definitely not a good idea to let him in.
“Sherlock,” Lestrade said. “Do not mess about in my marrital affairs, or you can sod right back out of here.”
“It's the extramarital affairs you should be concerned about,” Sherlock said, with a smirk. He moved onto Lestrade's office, but didn't seem to find anything to comment on in there. Or was wise enough to keep his mouth shut. Then he completed the circle of the ground floor by going into the living room. He sat down at the piano and lifted the lid, pinging a few keys. “This needs tuning.”
“No one plays any more,” Lestrade said. “My mum gave lessons when we were kids, but I never learned. S'just a place to put photos now.”
Sherlock placed his hands over the keys and began to play a song, one of those ones that Lestrade had heard but couldn't name. The sorts of ones they played over jewellery adverts.
“I didn't know you played piano, too,” Lestrade said.
“Mummy forced me to continue my lessons,” Sherlock said. “Even after I informed her I intended to be a concert violinist, not a pianist. She insisted I needed one to be good at the other.”
“You're not a concert violist now,” Lestrade said.
“Good Lord, how do you make such astoundingly astute observations?” Sherlock said. “You must be up all night with a brain that quick.”
Lestrade laughed involuntarily at that. He gave Sherlock a warning look that did no good whatsoever. Sherlock just smirked again, pleased with himself.
“What happened?” Lestrade asked. “That you're here being a pain in my arse and not playing at the Royal Albert?”
“I was distracted,” Sherlock said. “By chemistry. Of various sorts.”
“Ah,” Lestrade said.
Sherlock played skilfully for a few minutes, the song sounding sort of ill because the piano was so out of tune. It sounded like Sherlock looked. It was a bit odd, Lestrade thought, that Sherlock was so analytical and devoid of any emotion except annoyance, but loved music so much. Music was just emotion as sound, wasn't it? Maybe that was the way he processed emotion. Making noise with it. Making people pay attention.
It seemed to relax him, at any rate. His shoulders weren't quite so bunched around his ears.
“Have you iced that at all?” Lestrade asked, gesturing to his face.
“No,” Sherlock said.
“Aren't you supposed to?” Lestrade said.
“Probably,” Sherlock said.
“I'll get some peas,” Lestrade said, feeling very much like his dad by this point.
Sherlock shrugged and continued to play. Lestrade went to the kitchen and got a bag of frozen peas from the freezer and wrapped it up in a dish towel. When he returned, the music was stopped and Sherlock was spitting blood from his mouth.
“It keeps oozing!” he said, frustrated.
“Didn't they give you any gauze for it?” Lestrade asked.
Sherlock fished in his pockets and pulled out a wad. “It doesn't help! I take it off and it starts up again five minutes later!”
He suddenly sounded very much at the end of his rope, and Lestrade could see the heart of the situation, which was that Sherlock was miserable, didn't know what the fuck to do with himself, and didn't have anywhere to go but Lestrade for help. Lestrade tamped down on his annoyance, and tried for some sympathy. It was hard with Sherlock, but he managed to drag up a little.
“Why don't you take it easy?” Lestrade said. “Crash here for tonight. The wife's away, no one to bother you. My sofa is nicer than your rathole bedsit. Stop ranting and roaming my house, and relax. You'll feel better.”
“I'm fine,” Sherlock snapped. He held out his hand for the ice pack.
Lestrade handed it over, and got the sofa in order enough for Sherlock to lie down on it. It had got a bit bachelory without his wife around to nag at him about crumbs and newspapers. Sherlock took his coat off and folded it over the back of the sofa, then sat down as though he might spring up again. Lestrade sat down in the chair opposite him. Sherlock massaged his jaw.
“How did you break your teeth in the first place?” Lestrade asked.
“Experiment,” Sherlock said. “It proved my point, but went slightly awry. Apparently if I had gone in sooner I would have avoided the abscess. At least according to the dentist, who barely passed his exams, and has to work for the NHS because he has children to support and no one good will take him. I doubt he knew what he was talking about.”
“S'worth going private for teeth,” Lestrade said. “If you can afford it, s'worth it.”
“Mycroft offered to pay for private dentistry,” Sherlock said. “But I refused.”
“Why?” Lestrade said.
“I'm making a point,” Sherlock said.
“And what's that?” Lestrade said.
“That I am twenty-seven years old and perfectly capable of being self-sufficient, and he doesn't have to dole out allowance as though I were some sort of—of—” Sherlock said.
“Child?” Lestrade offered.
“Drug addict,” Sherlock said.
“Oh,” Lestrade said. “Well, you're doing a good job tonight. You could have taken the pills, and you didn't. That was a good choice.”
“I did briefly consider getting something stronger,” Sherlock said.
“Is that why you came here?” Lestrade asked, using the gentle, 'tell me more' voice he favoured for witnesses to crimes.
Sherlock didn't answer. “Your father was a police officer,” he said, instead. He pointed to the piano. “He was killed on the job.”
Lestrade looked over his shoulder to the photo of his dad, feeling the sharp stab of pain that accompanied mentions of him. It was a bit like stubbing your toe—unexpected and excruciating, but fading away to a dull throb quickly.
“Yeah,” he said. “How did you know? I mean, he's in uniform there, so that's obvious, but how did you know how he died?”
“Your key fob has a metropolitan police whistle on it,” Sherlock said. “They were phased out in the 1970's, for the most part. You can buy replicas, but that’s a real one. Your father kept it after it was phased out in favour of radios, so that suggests it was sentimental to him. He carried it in his pocket as a good luck charm, but you have it on a key fob, and have had it there for at least twenty years; you can tell by the wearing of it at the loop where it's attached to the fob. I surmise it was given to you at the completion of your PC probation, which would have made you approximately twenty years old.'
“There aren't any photos of him after that one, but there are ones of your mother, so I imagine he was probably killed shortly after that picture was taken. Judging by your father's age in the photo, and the age of the photo itself, I calculate he was approximately thirty years older than you, which would have made him in his late 40's at the time of his death. Could have been natural, but a bit young for that, though cancer or a heart attack is possible. Carrying the whistle is to honour him, not just in memory of him. The most likely scenario is that he was killed on the job.”
The first time Sherlock had done that to Lestrade—the deduction thing—he'd thought his brain was going to explode. It was like an information punch to the face, and Lestrade couldn't understand how it was possible to have that going on in your head constantly. No wonder he did drugs. No wonder he was such a jerk. No wonder he had no social skills. There couldn't possibly be room for anything else in there.
“Am I right?” Sherlock asked.
“Spot on,” Lestrade said. “He was forty-eight when he was killed. Stabbed during a domestic disturbance call, protecting the wife. He made it to hospital, but they couldn't save him. I had just started my probation period. Mum gave me the whistle when I made full constable.”
Sherlock looked satisfied. And a bit sleepy. He was leaning slightly to the left. “Does he have one of those memorial things somewhere?” he asked. “I've never seen it, and I use them as some of the anchor points for my mental map of London.”
“Mum didn't want one,” Lestrade said. “She said it made it about how he died, and not about the work he did. She thought having a plaque just turned him into a name. I think he's listed in the Roll of Honour at the National Police Memorial, but I've never been to look. Don't really see the point to be honest.”
Sherlock nodded. “I've never understood those long, rambling gravestones either,” he said. “Once you're dead, it doesn't matter where you're buried. Might as well donate your body to science and burn the rest. His death didn't deter you?”
“Not really,” Lestrade said. “I always wanted to be a copper. We all know that we're putting ourselves at risk, so...someone has to do it. And I'm not bad at it, which is more than I could say about anything else I'd try to do.”
Sherlock was bored now. His eyes had turned off, a switch from 'listening' to 'disinterested'. And he was very sleepy. He was well on his way to lying down. Lestrade wished he would just give in. As much as Sherlock Holmes was a prick, he was obviously feeling poorly. He just needed to sleep it off.
“Have you taken anything for the pain?” Lestrade asked. “Nothing hard, just ibprofen or aspirin?”
“I should probably take more,” Sherlock said. “It will have worn off by now.”
“I'll grab you some,” Lestrade said.
He got some extra-strength tablets, and a glass of water. He also grabbed the used tea bag from the spoon rest.
“My mum always gave us tea bags for teeth stuff,” he said. “S'worth a try. Just bite down on it.”
Sherlock dry swallowed the tablets, and ignored the water, but accepted the tea bag with curiosity. He pulled the gauze out of his mouth and stuck the tea bag in instead. Lestrade placed the glass of water on the coffee table in front of him.
“Helping?” he asked, after a few minutes.
“Yes,” Sherlock admitted. “I imagine the tannins are astringent enough to soothe swelling.”
“Maybe,” Lestrade said, not sure what tannins were, exactly. “I always figured it was because Mum gave it to us. A...what-do-you-call-it...placebo effect. Just made you feel better because someone was looking after you.”
“Is that better than looking after yourself?” Sherlock asked.
“Depends on who's looking after you, I suppose,” Lestrade said. “But usually, yeah. S'like having a good beat partner to rely on. Someone to have your back, so you can rest easy and feel safe.”
“I prefer to work alone,” Sherlock said.
“You must have someone you rely on,” Lestrade said. “Do you have a sponsor or anything?”
“No,” Sherlock said. “My addictions counsellor didn't think I'd benefit from that sort of relationship. By which he meant he thought I'd cause a relapse in anyone who tried to mentor me.”
“S'probably true. I mean, I want to drink heavily when you're around, and I'm not even an alcoholic,” Lestrade said.
“You will be,” Sherlock said. “Give it another decade.”
“Something to look forward to,” Lestrade said, cheerily.
Sherlock was starting to melt into the sofa, so Lestrade figured the ice, tea, and painkillers were working pretty well. He was bleary-eyed, and looked young all of a sudden. It was easy to forget he was just a kid. He was so self-confident, and world-weary, and know-it-all. He'd packed a lot of crap into his first twenty-seven years.
Eventually, Sherlock was so out of it, Lestrade was able to gently push him by the shoulder and get him lying down properly. Sherlock put his feet up of his own accord, and folded his arms in over his chest.
“Just sleep it off,” Lestrade said. “Stay as long as you need, okay?”
“Mmm,” Sherlock said.
“Good lad,” Lestrade said. “I'm proud of you, for not taking the drugs. I'm glad you came here instead of doing something stupid.”
“I wish I'd done something stupid,” Sherlock muttered.
“I'm still proud of you,” Lestrade said. “Go to sleep.”
Sherlock's eyes closed. Lestrade turned the lamps off, but left the light on in the kitchen in case Sherlock needed to get up in the night. Lestrade headed for the stairs, encountering his now very cold cup of tea as he climbed them. He downed it in a few gulps.
It wouldn't be the caffeine keeping him up tonight. Just Sherlock Holmes.
Lestrade didn't sleep very well, his mind too full of the events from the evening, so that his dreams were tooth-filled and bloody and restless. He awoke to his alarm clock, which he turned off by flailing at it until it stopped making noise. He showered and dressed and went down to see if he had a dead Consulting Detective on his sofa.
Sherlock was still breathing, but the coffee table was pretty grim looking. Wads of bloody gauze, and at least six tea bags, so clearly he'd been up in the night.
Sherlock was out cold, sleeping with his mouth wide open, and a trail of bloody drool running from it, along with the string of a tea bag. The swelling was worse in his face, and the bruising deeper. One of his arms was dangling off the side of the sofa, and his legs were all tangled. His coat had fallen over top of him. Lestrade didn't wake him.
He went to the kitchen to quietly make breakfast. His mobile rang while he was waiting for the kettle to boil for coffee.
“Lestrade,” he answered it.
“Good morning, Inspector,” Mycroft Holmes said.
Sherlock's brother gave Lestrade the creeping horrors. There was something about him that was insidious and dangerous. He'd first met him shortly after Sherlock had begun working with him. He'd appeared in Lestrade's office one evening, after everyone else had gone home, and acted like a Mafia boss, trying to wriggle information out of Lestrade about his brother. Lestrade's swift punch to the jaw at the suggestion of compensation for the information, rather than deterring Holmes, only seemed to earn him some measure of respect.
“What do you want?” Lestrade asked.
“I understand you had a house guest last night,” Holmes said. “Does your wife know you're taking in waifs while she's away?”
“Listen, Holmes,” Lestrade said. “I didn't get much sleep last night. Let's skip over the part where you try and show off about how much you know about my life, and go right to the point where you want gossip. I don't do political games.”
“Yes, Inspector, I am quite aware,” Holmes said. “My apologies. How is he?”
“Unconscious,” Lestrade said. “Considering the state he was in last night, I reckon the fact that he's asleep means he's doing better.”
“I will be very surprised if he doesn't end up with gangrene of the mouth, the dentist he chose has a terrible rating,” Holmes said. “He has no patience to look around for the best service, he simply chooses what can fix the problem with the greatest alacrity. Did he take the pills?”
“No,” Lestrade said.
There was a murmur that sounded like 'good boy', but it was hard to make out. “I see” Holmes said, in his regular voice. “Thank you for taking him in.”
“Why did he come to me for help and not you?” Lestrade asked. “You're his brother.”
“We don't have that sort of relationship,” Holmes said.
“Maybe you would if you eased up on him a little,” Lestrade suggested. “A little less spying.”
“No,” Holmes said. “I'm afraid my lack of supervision is how we ended up in this mess in the first place. I didn't watch him closely enough.”
“There has to be a happy medium,” Lestrade said.
“Perhaps, but I'm not willing to risk it at the moment,” Holmes said. “Do I need to pay for any damages or cleaning?”
“Not unless you want to replace my box of tea,” Lestrade said.
“I'll get someone on it,” Holmes said. “Will you see to his welfare until he's ready to leave?”
“Yeah,” Lestrade said. “He's not gonna go until he decides he wants to, anyway, is he?”
“It's unlikely,” Holmes said. “Good day.”
“Bye,” Lestrade said.
He ended the call, and poured himself a cup of coffee. Sherlock staggered in as he was working on his second cup. Sherlock opened the fridge and perused it, and took out a bowl of leftover Angel Delight. He searched through the drawers until he found a spoon, and then stumbled over to the table and began to eat it.
“Didn't your mother ever tell you not to eat pudding for breakfast?” Lestrade asked.
“My mother was grateful enough that I would eat anything that she put no limits on what could be eaten at what time,” Sherlock replied.
“Then didn't she ever tell you to ask before you take things?” Lestrade said.
“This is several days old, you made it for your nieces and nephews and had no intentions of eating it yourself,” Sherlock replied, sticking a large spoonful in his mouth. “What did my brother want?”
“He was just checking up on you,” Lestrade said. “Making sure you weren't dead.”
“Was he disappointed to find out that I wasn't?” Sherlock asked.
“I can never tell what he's thinking or feeling, he only has one voice,” Lestrade said. “It's stuck on 'evil genius'.”
Sherlock flicked a small smile at that.
“I have to go to work soon,” Lestrade said. “Are you okay? Your face is a bit Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
“The pain is better,” Sherlock said. “And my appearance is irrelevant. I'm fine. I realize I was a bit unsteady last night, I was just...ill. I don't know why I came here. I was probably delirious.”
“No worries,” Lestrade said, because he could see Sherlock needed to minimize it all. “No harm done.”
“Why did you take me in?” Sherlock asked.
“I always take in waifs who show up at my door with their faces bashed in,” Lestrade said. “It's part of my oath as a copper.”
“I am not a waif,” Sherlock objected.
“Well, I take in prats as well,” Lestrade said. “'Total Policing'.”
“It's an extremely ill-advised policy,” Sherlock said. “And your sofa is extremely uncomfortable, and your taste in tea is appalling.”
Lestrade grinned. “You're welcome. Any time.”
Sherlock was insistent that he was fine, and wandered off toward wherever he kept himself when he wasn't bugging Lestrade. He did seem much better, even if he looked worse. He'd started spitting teeth fragments out, which was a lovely addition to the cleaning Lestrade was going to have to do when he got home from work.
There was a package on his desk when he arrived, with a note from DS Nichols helpfully saying 'probably not a bomb' attached. Lestrade unwrapped it carefully. It was a wooden box, with a metal latch. Lestrade wasn't sure what he was going to find when he opened it, but whatever he might have guessed it would be, it certainly wouldn't have been tea. And yet it was. Organic, fairtrade Earl Grey tea, in individual packets, in neat little rows. Presumably Mycroft Holmes's idea of replacing a box of tea. If Lestrade had known how efficient he would be, he would have asked for a new car.
Lestrade had already had three cups of coffee that morning, and the same doctor who recommended he cut off his tea early had also suggested he limit his caffeine intake. But Lestrade reckoned he'd earned a cuppa, what with the taking in of waifs and the Mafia bosses making odd overtures. He took a packet out and went to the kitchen with it.