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The first time Greg Lestrade saw Sherlock bearing the evidence of another's fist, it was the first time that they'd met.

It was in Greg's early days, when he was relegated to picking up junkies and prostitutes and just putting in his time; always wanting more. He showed up to clean up a bar fight, and found a flushed twenty-two year old man-child with bleeding knuckles being accused of instigating the whole thing. A search found cocaine in his pockets, and Sherlock had been high as a kite and with an unrepentant smart mouth to boot, so Greg had taken him in.

"You've got a real shiner there, lad," he said to the rearview mirror, upon stopping at a red light and taking a better look at the scrawny youth slumped in the backseat, all narrow lines and angles and missed meals. He looked homeless, unwell, and one overdose or missed meal away from an early grave. "Are you sure I don't need to swing you by an A&E?"

The last thing Greg's career needed was for someone to die in his custody from an undiagnosed concussion.

The junkie blinked blearily to him, lolling to the window with curls tumbling over one eye, mud scraped around the other. His head bobbed, arms wriggling in the handcuffs as if he was trying to reach out and inspect the swelling lump on the left temple for himself; when that failed, he went cross-eyed trying to look at it.

"Your girlfriend is a lesbian," the man informed.

Greg now understood just how the runt had instigated a bar fight, and no longer had to wonder where the black eye and split lip had come from.

That had been the first punch he'd seen landed on Sherlock Holmes, though at the time he hadn't known that was his name, or anything beyond the fact that he was a smart-mouthed wise arse who'd gotten what was coming to him. The next morning, Greg had seen the second, and the third: bruises that hadn't had the time to form yet the night before, but now his face was pummeled black and blue, and his smirk was against a swollen lip as Greg had to choke down his pride, and grumble, "You're free to go."

Sherlock stood in the entrance to the holding cell, hands in his pockets and frame loose and bright eyes on fire. His gaze darted about the hallway lightning-quick, something lurking behind it there that was more than the glazed disposition of an addict. "Do I get my coke back?"

"You're lucky I don't get your bloody watch to pay for all the trouble you've caused me." Greg grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, hauling him out to spin him about and set him on his way. "All right, who are you? MI6?"

Sherlock laughed once, his gaze cutting like the edge of a knife. "They wish."

"Her Majesty's Secret Service? Undercover? Diplomat's kid?"

"Inspector, you are never going to know where the call came from ordering you to release me; for your sanity, I suggest you stop trying." Sherlock took a lurching step forwards, then back, then forwards again, swiveling about on lithe feet to stand nose to nose with him, entire being flush with a manic fervor befitting a cocaine high instead of a cocaine crash. "You should recommend to your superior that he investigate the sister instead of the aunt. Her alibi is suspiciously transparent, and when people lie to the police, it is very rarely for a law-abiding reason."

"Wh- what-"

"You have a good evening, Graham," Sherlock sang, swiveled off down the hall with a skip and a hop and a flare of his coat, and left Greg behind. 

Utterly and completely baffled. 

(Sherlock did end up being correct, about the sister. Greg still, to this day, had no idea how Sherlock had known about the case to begin with.)


Greg saw Sherlock get knocked around a lot, in the years that followed that fateful first arrest. Bar fights, roughed up by dealers, smacked around by street toughs. Sherlock had become something of a frequent flyer, in NSY's holding cells, attracting trouble stronger than a bloody magnet; almost every officer in Greg's squad had arrested him at some point, and at least half admitted to wanting to smack the mouth right off him. Not one single charge ever stuck, mysterious phone calls from a blocked caller always ordering his release by morning, but Greg kept hauling him in anyway. Sometimes Greg would sit outside the holding cell overnight, if Sherlock was in a particularly talkative mood, noting down any little clues the genius let slip about whatever case he'd read about in the papers. Other times, Greg would just drop off an extra blanket or a spare ice pack, and hope not to get snarled at on his way out.

Half the time, Greg had snapped the cuffs on just to know Sherlock would be safe and warm for the night, and not at risk at getting his brilliant head knocked around so hard he didn't get back up again.

Twice, it was so bad that Sherlock's name was written down as the victim of an assault instead of the junkie with a soon to vanish possession charge, and Greg saw him in a hospital instead of a holding cell.

Greg spent five years, serving as resident arresting officer and occasional keeper of lunatic and junkie Sherlock Holmes. It took him less than a week to realise there was something utterly, maddening brilliant hiding in that head of bloodshot eyes and muddy curls, and just six months to learn how to entice Sherlock with cold cases like a treat to a dog. Two weeks clean and sober, lad, and you get a case file, and I get to look nice and smart for my superiors; win, win, win, yeah?

He didn't get to offer case files often, back then.

And Greg had felt like he was taking advantage, more than once. Looking at this brilliant, amazing kid, tumbling down in his slow self-destruction, and doing nothing to stop it. He watched Sherlock get beaten black and blue, half the time for a punch he'd thrown first, and he watched him get high and he watched him crash, and he used his brilliance when he was sober enough to sit still, but there was nothing Greg could do to stop this suicide. Sherlock had never seemed to give one single solitary fuck, not about being hit, not about being stepped on, not about overdosing in a back alley and vomiting on Greg's shirt as he rolled into a seizure, and at a certain point Greg just hadn't had the energy to care about a junkie's hundredth black eye when Sherlock didn't care about it himself.

He'd honestly believed, then, that someday Sherlock was going to be found dead of an overdose, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Greg could handcuff him in the back of his car, and that mysterious voice on the phone could lock him in rehab, and neither would stop the utter brilliance of Sherlock Holmes from finding another needle to jab in his arm.

It was selfish, he knew.

But back then, he'd really, really hoped that Sherlock would get himself killed in a mugging, his wallet and ID stolen, his fingerprints scrubbed from the system by that mysterious caller, and the body called in to anyone else but him.


Then, five years and then some after Greg had first met Sherlock Holmes, and one year after a tip from Sherlock had garnered him a promotion to the homicide division, he came home after a double shift to find the genius waiting on his couch.

Sherlock had never told him, just what straw it was that had broken the camel's back As far as he knew, he'd never told anyone at all. He never told him why the broken ribs and shattered arm and three weeks in hospital had only seen him back straight into another crackhouse, but this time the faint shadow on his left eye and the boot imprint on his stomach now was the end. But whatever had happened, Sherlock had apparently decided he was done, and he had also decided Greg was going to help him do it.

There were a lot of new marks, then, over the next three weeks.

Sherlock scraped both his wrists raw, shivering and straining against the set of handcuffs until his arms were wet with blood. His lip was permanently split, the genius mauling it raw himself, and whichever hand wasn't restrained had nails bitten to the quick and torn until each and every fingertip bled.

More than once, Greg had been terrified that Sherlock wasn't going to make it. Either his heart would stop in the middle of the night, or Greg would come back from work one day to find the locks picked and the genius gone.

But Sherlock stuck it out. He held on, all the way through to the very end, and choked on his own spit when Greg told him he was proud of him, and scrawny as the day they'd met, eyes duller than the grey paint of the walls, but hands steady for the first time in five years, Sherlock was clean.

A week after that, Greg let Sherlock onto his first crime scene, and gave the junkie his new addiction.


A week after that, Greg rolled his new life expectancy for Sherlock back down another five years, and considered that maybe he could entice the cocaine out of Sherlock's veins, but that didn't mean he could take the trouble magnet out of his head.

He went on mad chases, pelting down sidewalks and over rooftops and bridges without railings like an adrenaline junkie, that bloody long coat billowing in the wind and his eyes nothing short of manic. He mouthed off to serial killers and treated grieving loved ones with such callous insensitivity that half the time, Greg privately thought he deserved the slaps. He got himself kidnapped by drug smugglers and bank robbers and seemed to interpret being strangled as fascinating, having his nails ripped out as an experiment in pain tolerance.

Once a case came along, still early on into Sherlock's fresh start; a brutal rape and murder that had turned even Greg's stomach, while Sherlock had sniffed at the victim's hands and mouth and calmly tuned out Donovan telling him he was disgusting. Sherlock deduced it as a gang initiation within the first thirty seconds, and told them which gang within the first two minutes, but, as Sherlock's deductions tended to go, it was rather sparse on anything they could actually arrest or hold anyone on.

Sherlock, sniffing haughtily, said, "Oh, I'll get you your evidence." Then, vanished right out the door, before Greg could beg him not to do anything stupid.

It wasn't until the CCTV footage came in the next morning of the genius getting whacked over the head with a tire iron, deep in the gang's territory, that the vanishing act became literal.

Greg spent ten days swearing to any god that had ever existed that he'd never Sherlock let onto a single crime scene again, not if they could just please god find him alive and Greg hadn't gotten that wonderful, horrible, brilliant, reckless idiot of a kid killed.

The tenth day, Mycroft himself met him at an abandoned warehouse in Brixton (the mysterious caller, at last introduced), and there, they arrested six of the gang members in question, and found Sherlock, handcuffed and bleeding in the basement.

Mycroft waved his brother off to the paramedics without a second look, turning instead for the men responsible, and, all right, the look in his eyes was fucking terrifying, and Greg had just instantly known to let him be. No desire to stick around and witness another murder, Greg jogged after the stretcher that Mycroft had carelessly ignored, tailing Sherlock into the back of the waiting ambulance. The detective was in bad shape, entire right side of his face red and purple with the eye swollen shut, ear looking as if someone had tried to rip it straight off, but worse was the babbling, the struggling as he shoved paramedics off and away, and at first, Greg thought he was scared.

"Hey- hey, no, no, Sherlock-" Greg caught one of the flailing hands in his, squeezing it hard. Trying not to see red at the deep furrow of restraint marks about his wrist."Sherlock, it's okay, you're safe, now-"

"Good god, Lestrade, finally!"

"You've got to calm down, you need to let us help you-"

"-what? No, you moron, I'm fine- stop that, Lestrade, it's distracting-" Sherlock, his bruised, swollen face mangling through something that just might've been a scowl, ripped his hand free, then grabbed Greg by the collar, forcing him down and in place. "You have the evidence you need, now, yes?"

"Evidence?" It took him a moment to catch up with his train of thought, but when he did, fuck, Greg was floored God, Sherlock could not still be thinking about the case. Not after what he'd just been through! "No, no, don't worry about that, now-" Gently disentangling the hand snagged at his collar, he tried to guide Sherlock back down, still speaking to him. "You're safe, lad, it's over now, okay? Let's just-"

"Of course I'm safe. Obviously!" Growling, Sherlock smacked an approaching penlight away, his focus still all and only for Greg. "The evidence, Inspector. You can hold them now, collect the forensics you need to prove conclusively which one was responsible? It's Thomas Gainsworth, by the way, surgical scar on his abdomen, two cats at home- what rubbish, of course he's a cat person- and broke his left arm as a child. He's your killer."

By this point, Greg was more than a little concerned that Sherlock had a concussion, and was babbling nonsense. But his eye, the one that was not swollen shut, was frighteningly clear, and even mentally incapacitated, Sherlock had shown a capacity for brilliance before... "Sherlock," he pressed gently, "slow down for me, okay? Come on, talk me through what's going on in that head of yours."

Sherlock stared at him with a mixture of such scathing disappointment and impatience that Greg abruptly felt to be about five years old.

"The ev-i-dence," he repeated, slow, sing-song, mocking. "You should be able to hold them all on kidnapping and assault charges now. Er. False imprisonment? I apologise; I'm smart, which is why I didn't go to law school." He grinned once through swollen lips, eye as bright as the truth that was dawning on Greg from the bottom up. "It shouldn't count as entrapment, at least, since I'm not an officer or agent of the police."

When it finally hit Greg, all at once, ice-cold and horrifying, the weight of ten terrorstricken days spun on its head all right in that careless, glib smile, he suddenly found himself battling the urge to add a strangulation to Sherlock's already copious list of injuries.

Sherlock would just never, ever care. It was that simple. The adrenaline and excitement was a more glorious high than the pain would ever be a crushing low, and it was at that moment, sitting in the back of an ambulance for a beaming and proud genius who had willfully put himself there, that for the second time, Greg had to stop caring, too.

He could not afford to keep investing so much of himself in a star that was apparently determined as all fucking hell to burn himself out.

And then, Sherlock met John Watson.


In other words, Sherlock finally met his match, and in grappling with someone just as bloody stubborn and insane as he was and knew when he was lying about his own health, (which was bloody always), finally had to grow a god damn sense of sanity and stop trying to get himself killed.

Greg bumped his life expectancy for Sherlock up another ten years, and silently thanked god for the miracle that was John Watson.

One day, Greg got a call out: shots fired in Belgravia. It wasn't even remotely Greg's division, but the call came to his office in what he had come to recognise as the invisible hand of Mycroft, so he spent a good five seconds lamenting the day he'd ever first arrested Sherlock Holmes, and then, he headed out.

He found Sherlock curled up on the floor, bleary-eyed and shivering, a frazzled John knelt by his side to hold him in the recovery position, and all he could think was well, here we go again.

"Good God," Greg groaned, tugging a hand through his hair. "What's he done to himself this time?"

"Believe it or not, this time I don't think it's his fault." John gave him a strained smile, both hands still bracing Sherlock up on his side, then leaned over a bit to try and meet the detective's eyes. "Hey, Sherlock." He patted his face firmly, giving one narrow shoulder another shake. "We're going to try sitting up again, now, got it? Try two."

Greg couldn't see his face, from his position by the door, but he did hear Sherlock say, clear as day, "Vatican."

John snorted. "Nope, that's Greg. He's not going to shoot us. I hope, at least." He jostled the detective again, giving Greg the time to crouch down to join the odd pair on the floor. "Come on, Sherlock; either you make it upright now, or you're taking a ride with some nice paramedics and a stretcher."

That did seem to rouse Sherlock, at least, as much as he could currently be roused. One look at his vacant face and glazed eyes told Greg everything he needed to know, and one look at the concern creasing John's eyes and the lack of frustration or disappointment in his hands told him that whatever Sherlock was dosed with, the detective hadn't taken it willingly.

It took John's support, and after the second near collapse of an armful of boneless detective, Greg pushed at his other side, guiding Sherlock upright to sit, listing back and forth, on the floor. He blinked once at John, then rolled his head about to blink fuzzily at Greg, and Christ, his pupils were blown so badly it was a miracle he could see at all.

"Boomerang!" Sherlock cried.

Greg's eyebrows rose past his hairline.

"Oh, don't mind him," John sighed; by the sound of it, he was just barely restraining himself from holding back laughter. "He's just got himself high as a kite and whipped by a dominatrix. Not like that," he said, smirking at Greg's new shock. "He'll be fine, I think; just need to sleep it off. It wouldn't hurt to have a paramedic take a look at him, though."

"Dead man walking," Sherlock informed him, with all manner of the most grave seriousness and gravity imaginable. "Pink. Déshabille-toi."

Greg now, officially, had no idea what was going on here, but John didn't seem worried, and Sherlock looked like he felt utterly marvelous, so he supposed he had no reason to be worried, either. "Sure thing, Sherlock," he agreed mildly, and got a round of trembling giggles in response. Rolling his eyes, Greg looked closer, only to do a double-take at the mark on his cheek. "Did he get whipped in the face?"

"Hm? Oh, no, actually- that one was me. He asked me to."

"Asked-?"

"Punch me," Sherlock said helpfully- at least, he seemed to think it was helpful. "Punch me, in the face."

"You know, Sherlock, I already did that. And I've never seen a grown man cry so much." John glanced back at Greg with another disarming grin, reassuring him it really was just teasing, but then his attention was back on Sherlock as the doctor shifted about to start taking enough of his weight to just maybe try and stand. "For the record, Greg, he did ask me, but he also hit me first."

"Quite frankly, John, after everything he's put you through, I'm pretty sure you're more than entitled to a punch or two."

"Köpfchen ist der neue interessant," Sherlock piped up. He sniffed again, scowl creasing deeper.

Then, promptly dissolved right into giggles all over John's shoulder.

It had been one of the more pleasant mornings of Greg's career, and the picture of Sherlock dropped bonelessly over John's good shoulder like a sack of potatoes had lived on one of the whiteboards in the main office for four months.

The next time Sherlock's injuries dragged themselves onto Greg's radar, it was three months after that. It also was no longer funny.


Broken neck.

Spine, fractured in three places.

Eight broken ribs.

Collapsed lung.

Shattered hip.

Fractured skull.

The list went on and on. Spilling down the page in soulless black and white, barely even a preliminary report because the full list of all the injuries spelled onwards for a page and a half. In the end, Molly hadn't even been able to determine an exact cause of death. Most likely, she said, it was the pieces of his skull that had cracked and caved in on that magnificent, brilliant brain.

In the end, Greg decided it didn't really matter, the exact injury that had stopped the heart of Sherlock Holmes.

He didn't want to know.

He didn't even know why he was reading this horrible file.

Oh god, oh god, oh god...

"Sherlock," he whispered, and his voice cracked.

The anger would come later, he'd fine. The fierce, stomach-wrenching, nauseating rage at Sherlock fucking Holmes, for doing this to them. For making poor Molly cut through his devastated body on an autopsy table, crack open his broken ribcage, hold the heart that he swore he did not have, take apart what was left of his head. For making Greg have to get that phone call, that the manhunt was over because Sherlock was-. Had-.

For making John have to watch.

It was unforgivable and inexcusable and the worst thing Sherlock had ever done in his entire life. It was so bloody infuriating that it made Greg want to scream.

That scream, and that anger, would come later.

Now, all Greg could do was sit there in his office, disciplinary hearing marked on the calendar, Sherlock's name and death broadcasted as a fraud of international scale on every news channel in the country, and fight down nauseated shock that bled through him from head to toe.

He sat there with Sherlock's autopsy report in his hands, feeling rather as if he'd just been sucker punched in the chest on the worst day of his life, and he thought.

He thought about the look on Sherlock's face when he'd been called to the pool that night, to tell him that John Watson had been the fifth and final pip.

He thought about Sherlock bloody Holmes, so earth-shatteringly brilliant that he'd deduced Greg's then-girlfriend as a lesbian while high as a kite, handcuffed in the back seat of a police car, and with nothing more than a passing glance.

He thought about autopsy report in his hands, and the unassailably great man who he'd so hoped that, someday, would be a good one, too, and in that moment, if he knew nothing else, it was that Sherlock wasn't a fraud. Sherlock was so many, many, many things, and many of them were terrible, but the one thing he wasn't was a fraud.

He thought about that stupid, danger-seeking, reckless, borderline suicidal git-

Oh, fuck-

Greg barely made it to the nearest trash can in time.

It was then, throwing up the lunch he'd barely eaten, the world gone cracked and fuzzy about him, that Greg let himself remember the first time he'd realised that Sherlock was headed for a suicidally early grave. And he hated himself for it, but he couldn't stop it and he wished that he'd listened to his gut instinct then and there, and had cut Sherlock loose to die alone.

That way, he wouldn't have taken them all down with him.


Two years later, Sherlock was back sitting on his couch just like that addict from all that time ago, holding a pint of ice cream to a split lip, and so alive it was as if he had never left in the first place.

Just like the old days. A punch to the face, a sulky genius with an ice pack, and a slump to his shoulders that belied the more achingly honest I don't know what I did wrong.

It would have been best, for Greg's health, peace of mind, sense of safety, and whatever the fuck was left of his sanity, for him to grab Sherlock by the scruff of the neck, lead him out the door, and never let him back in again.

"Sherlock," he said.

The detective paid him no mind. So, he tried again.

"So." He headed forward to drop beside him, sagging downwards with the full, back-breaking weight of a day of press conferences and headlines and phone calls and bloody buggering hell I have never loved someone and wanted to punch them so much as I do right now. He nodded at the pseudo-ice pack, slumping against his battered cushions and wanting nothing more than just to collapse, right then and there. "I'm guessing John didn't take it all that well, then."

Sherlock shook his head once, cold ice cream rolling against a snow-white face. He still did not speak.

Something was off, about Sherlock. He was too quiet, too restrained, his pale eyes still turned away.

He'd never seen him like this before.

But, then, he'd never seen Sherlock resurrected from a suicide two years later, and he hadn't seen Sherlock in two years at all, so what the hell did he know, then, huh?

"If you ask me, John had every right to give you that punch," he snapped. "You have no idea what you put him through, Sherlock. You- destroyed him. You-"

"It wasn't supposed to be like this."

"Sorry?" Greg leaned closer, trying to peer into Sherlock's impassive face got him utterly nothing beyond an inscrutable flicker of his eyes. Like he was half-asleep or worse, like the worst days of his heroin addiction, but his pupils weren't dilated and there was nothing in his face at all. "What, you didn't think he move on? You thought he'd just put his life on hold, sitting around waiting for you to finally get bored and come back to him? Jesus Christ, Sherlock, you killed yourself!"

Silence stretched. Greg panted, his heart racing, in one breath his mind blanked straight to white-hot fury at this indifferent, cold-hearted machine sitting there on his couch, lip split and eyes vacant when John had spent two years in free-fall and it wasn't supposed to be like this. This was wild, this was crazy, this was too much, this-

Sherlock was standing up. Sherlock, wordless, not looking at him even once, was standing up. He rolled stiff shoulders, the wet pint of ice cream dropping from limp fingers to Greg's knee to the floor.

"Good night, George," he mumbled, and turned away.

Sherlock, clearly, had not come here tonight for this.

By the look of his face, he'd already gotten this, all night long.

Greg squeezed his eyes shut, breathing hard through gritted teeth and the deep-seated ache right at the center of his chest. He knew, past all the anger, misery, heartbreak, and despair, that if he didn't stop Sherlock now, then he might never get the chance to again.

He caught Sherlock's hand, just before he made it out of reach.

"Sherlock."

Silence. There was a new scar, on Sherlock's wrist. All the way around, and brutal and angry, like the mark of a restraint.

Recent.

Worry moved in, right next to the confusion and right underneath the anger.

Where the hell have you been, Sherlock?

"How's about you sit down, and I'll get you something that's not food for your face."

Silence again.

In the end, it took a gentle tug at the wrist to get him there, but Sherlock at last did sit down.

I'm sorry, he wanted to say. For yelling. For not listening. For not asking your side. John didn't have the right to hit you. Why did I say that he did? Christ, why did I say that?

"When was the last time you slept?"

Sherlock blinked vacantly once, twice. "Hospital," he said, then scowled and cleared his throat. "Two days ago, about. Time difference."

Greg started. So, Sherlock had been in hospital, then. Had come straight back to London, right out of the hospital- had gone straight to John.

He didn't have to be Sherlock, to see the significance of that.

Gone straight to John, who'd apparently pummeled him in the face. Who of course, Sherlock would not have told he was already unwell, because John never would've hit him if he had. Of course he wouldn't have. Sherlock would've shown up smiling and smug, those marks on his wrists and whatever else covered up, and he would've made jokes, he would've looked brilliantly at John just like he'd looked at Greg in the back of that ambulance, so long ago, and-

Well, fuck.

No wonder John hit him.

Greg, his throat tight, returned back to the couch, and handed Sherlock two ice cubes wrapped in a flannel.

"Well, then, it looks like it's time for you to sleep again." Greg nudged at his shoulder once, trying to tempt his stiff form to go sideways. Sherlock would not be budged, and he sighed again. "Look, it's really late. You obviously didn't come here to talk. I'm... I'm confused and angry, too, but- just get some rest, Sherlock. This, all of this. It can wait." He waited, still nudging, still suggesting with his hand for him to lay down, but Sherlock seemed to have all but shut down, again. Completely and utterly shut down.

Greg knew that look. He knew he wasn't being heard, right now. That some part of Sherlock's brain had decided his words were second priority to whatever problem he was grappling with, and had now just put him on mute and was quietly recording his comments for a playback later. Greg had been blocked out, while one hand held the ice cubes on autopilot and the other dangled limply between his legs. Another, matching scar about the wrist. One fingernail, missing.

Greg got him a spare blanket, somehow wrangled him horizontal, and managed to get his head up on one end of the couch even if he was so tall that meant his feet hung down off the other. He pushed both scarred hands firmly out of sight, but before he let go, he squeezed one, and told him, "Welcome home, Sherlock."

Ten years, now. Ten years of bruises, of broken bones, of stitches done up in the back of an ambulance as Sherlock babbled about a fascinating case with a smile even as the blood poured down his face. He'd watched Sherlock put his body through hell and back and come out standing every time, and now, he'd watched him come utterly and completely undone, underneath just the mark of a small split lip.

He wondered if John Watson was aware, of the power he had over Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock was gone when Greg got up the next morning, blanket unfolded and rumpled, ice cubes melted, drying flannel haphazard on the coffee table. The next time he saw him, it was on TV, eyes bright and manic as ever, the detective hunched into himself as he threaded through a throng of reporters to a crime scene. John was not with him.


Sherlock died a burning star, and came back like a comet: shining just as brilliantly, beaming white and glorious across the night sky, but get close enough, and you'd find a core of ice instead of light.

He still took cases, and he still solved them just as quickly, but it took Greg a little while to realise the discomfort in his gut wasn't just nerves. To realise Sherlock had come back, alive and well, but had come back wrong.

Before, Sherlock took cases to feed an insatiable hunger for interest, for fascination; now, he seemed to accept them just to stave off a crippling boredom. Before he flounced through crime scenes like he was putting on a show; now he railed through the relevant deductions at monotonous lightspeed, and only would have life breathed into him if John was there. Then, it was worse. Then, he'd dance like a trained monkey, his pale eyes flickering to his back every so often, piercing and hungry, as if to gasp look at me, John. I'm doing good, aren't I? I'm brilliant and fascinating and wonderful, I'm going good, aren't you proud? LOOK AT ME!

John wasn't there that often.

Sherlock still investigated with the same vigor as before. Still ran his mouth, got smacked; threw himself into danger, got knocked around. Sherlock, if it was possibly, aggressively cared even less than he had before, his body downgraded from just Transport to irrelevant piece of old furniture I forgot about months ago and spilled coffee on last week. If John was there, if John saw, sometimes, he'd yell at Sherlock, in between checking his eyes and running his fingers through his hair and thumbing his pulse, and it made Greg feel ill to admit that those were the only moments that Sherlock seemed alive.


Greg first visited Sherlock in hospital one week after the gunshot wound that had stopped his heart.

It wasn't until then that Sherlock had been out of intensive care. Barring, oh, right, the heart-stopping moment when John had led him into Sherlock's room to find out holy fucking shit Sherlock has a hole in his chest and just climbed out his window good god why is he like this he's going to get himself killed. It was also the first time in days John had been away from Sherlock's side, and he'd only gone away at all because Greg had promised to sit with him until he came back, and not leave the room no matter who demanded it.

So Greg sat there in the cold, white room with too many flowers and two faceless minions of Mycroft silent at the door, and he stared at the red square of gauze smack dab in the center of that narrow chest, and he tried not to think about how much saner his life would've been, if he'd never arrested Sherlock Holmes.

He was there when Sherlock woke up, too.

He was delirious, at first. His exotic eyes glazed as his breathes hitched and turned shallow, as if it hurt him even to breathe, and the hard twitch of his hands on the bed told Greg the same story that John had. He was hurting, this time. Badly. He wasn't going to be able to get up and duck out the window this time. He wasn't going to be getting up and ducking out of any windows at all for a very long time.

"Sherlock," he said firmly, and leaned forward just enough for the detective to see him without straining.

It took a few heartbeats, for Sherlock's eyes to focus. Greg heard them, measured out in the too-quick pace of the monitors, stuck right there to his chest for all to see. "Ah," he breathed, and his eyes slid away. "Glen. Swhe... 'ere's John?"

"Home," Greg sighed. Sherlock's eyes widened, shallow breaths quickening in what glimmered on his face as alarm, or perhaps something even worse than that, and Greg shook his head, leaning even further into his line of sight. "Just to get a change of clothes. He said he'd be right back."

Sherlock's breaths did not slow, and his face did a strange, spasmodic twitch. Like he was trying to hide the fear, but the drugs had gutted his defenses and no matter how hard he tried, he could not swallow it.

Greg narrowed his eyes.

He added that piece of evidence to the growing pile, lurking, desperate to be acknowledged, locked away at the very back of his head.

John had said Sherlock had been waking up a lot, mumbling just for a few seconds, tumbling back underneath the pull of the drugs. He wouldn't remember it at all later, the memories hushed by the pall of excruciating pain and exquisite morphine. So Greg kept quiet, at first; Sherlock clearly needed his rest, and the last thing he needed was this conversation jeopardizing that.

But, after a few moments, Sherlock's eyes were still half-lidded and open, the set of his jaw tight with barely restrained pain. So this was a more lucid awakening, then. They had a few minutes to talk, not just a few seconds.

Greg shifted closer again; this time, after a brief moment of hesitation, reaching for one limp, ice-cold hand. He'd never have done it, if Sherlock was in a better state, and Sherlock never would've allowed it if he'd had the breath to argue, but hell. This was a shitty day, Sherlock had had the shittiest week of shitty weeks, and fuck it, but Greg was allowed to hold his friend's hand. He gripped it between both of his own, trying to squeeze warmth into it, lifting it up just a little. "Sherlock, you with me? You focusing, right now?"

The detective exhaled through his nose. "You have a date tonight," he croaked, not even looking at him, and it was all Greg could do not to laugh.

"I'm going to take that as a yes. Good to see you're still kicking." He stopped for a breath, licking his lips. Tried to focus on the long, cold fingers, curling limply between both of his, so boneless that Greg wondered if Sherlock could even feel it at all.

Seeing Sherlock this high was not at all a new experience. This was the first time, though, that the detective didn't seem to be enjoying it.

"I know who did this to you, Sherlock."

Sherlock's breaths hitched violently again. He inhaled sharply that rose up into a choke, a jolt of electric pain shocked through him as his face twisted and the hand in Greg's spasmed on a second gasp, vulnerable and sick and so obviously in pain it cut his legs out from under him. "Hey," he said, "hey, take it easy, lad. Breathe. Don't do that-"

"You don't," he gasped, "know..." He gasped again, inhaling sharply between each frail, shattered word. "You... guessed..."

"I deduced, Sherlock. And I like to think I've known you long enough for the science of deduction to have rubbed off on me, at least a little." He frowned, squeezing his hand again, gripping it hard to try and will him to take a breath, to slow down, to try and relax. "Alternatively, I am a cop, Sherlock. I am capable of investigating on my own, once and a while."

Sherlock huffed through his nose, skeptical as if Greg had just announced he could fly. "News to me," he rasped, and the words would cut if they weren't said so brokenly it sounded as if Sherlock was only just hanging off the sheerest edge.

It was the truth, though. Nobody had told Greg anything, and he had no evidence- not enough for an indictment, not enough for an arrest, not enough, even, to sway his most friendly judge into signing a warrant. But Greg was not stupid, and years listening to Sherlock deduce had made him a better detective, had made him better at drawing conclusions, and he'd drawn one now.

He knew that Sherlock knew who had shot him. Despite that, the detective had refused to identify his would-be murderer, passing through John that he didn't remember.

Sherlock remembered what he ate for breakfast seven years, ten months, and fourteen days ago. Greg had not believed, not for one moment, that Sherlock did not remember the person who'd shot him.

He knew that Sherlock had run from the hospital in whatever death-defying stunt he'd pulled to protect someone. There were not many people that Sherlock would lay his own life down to protect. Greg, bewilderingly, had found himself on that list; Mrs. Hudson, too, and, of course, John.

Sherlock had not called him, after breaking out of his hospital bed. He had not called Mrs. Hudson. He had called John.

He knew that John had not known who had shot Sherlock before, just as he knew that John did know who had shot Sherlock after. Greg had known that the moment he'd first seen John, again back at A&E, watching as Sherlock was lifted out of the ambulance and wheeled straight back into the OR. John had been angry and shaken and withdrawn and punched a wall and hadn't left Sherlock's room in days, and he wouldn't say a word, but Greg knew Sherlock had collapsed at Baker Street and Mrs. Hudson had told him the only people who'd been there were John, and Mary.

Mary.

Mary had shown up only once at the hospital, since then. Greg only knew by examining security camera footage, himself- she hadn't made it past Mycroft's guards. Then John had appeared, slamming out the door to Sherlock's room, rounding on her with such vehemence for a moment, Greg had been afraid he was going to see John punch his pregnant wife.

Hospital security had been called. The only reason John hadn't been forced from the hospital were Mycroft's men blocking the way; by the time the chaos and net of struggling men had cleared, Mary had been gone, and hadn't come back since

Mary, who had been Sherlock's friend.

Greg guessed who the shooter was.

And now, in John's stubborn insistence that Greg not leave Sherlock alone, no matter who asked, and Sherlock's pale-eyed alarm when Greg had told him John's gone home, he knew who the shooter was.

"Listen," he pressed gently, settling Sherlock's cold hand back down on the sheets. He sat forward again, meeting his eyes, watching his face until Sherlock's gaze flicked back to him and he knew that he was being heard. "I don't know why you're not saying her name. I don't know who the hell she really is, and I don't know what the hell is going on, here. And I know that you know this, but I'm going to say it, anyway: all you have to do is say the word, and I'll handle this for you. I'll arrest her, you and John will be safe, and she'll never get near either one of you ever again."

Sherlock breathed harder, the inhales sharp and wheezing in his chest, the exhales shaky and cracked. He said nothing, did nothing, but his eyes narrowed and his bare chest rose and fell in jolted stutters, and the jagged lines of the heart monitor gave away the encroaching panic more than any lie he could try to tell on his tongue.

That was Greg's answer.

He swallowed hard, gaze flickering just once to the devastating injury, bandaged right there in his frail chest for Greg to see, and squeezed his hand again.

"I'm not going to, though. Not if you don't want me to."

Sherlock's rapid breaths hitched violently again- this time, breaking on the edge of a whimper. Greg hardened his resolve to up the man's morphine, right after this was done.

"I trust you, Sherlock. If you tell me you don't remember who shot you, then that's what I'll write down. I won't investigate further, and neither will anyone else at Scotland Yard. You and John can do whatever it is you're planning, and I won't meddle. But-" He leaned forward again, and Sherlock tried to turn away, so Greg caught his face and forced his focus back onto him, the way he'd only ever do when Sherlock was floating on cloud nine and a hard touch at his face was one of the few things that could bring him back. "But you have to tell me, Sherlock, because right now I know the name of the person who almost killed you and whether you care about that or not, I'm not in a goddamn forgiving mood."

Sherlock stared silently back at him, his face twisted and naked but unreadable. The drugs were too strong and Greg understood too little of what was really going on, here, to read anything but the open torment in his eyes. Greg waited in the quiet of the room, his piece having been said; now, all there was left was for Sherlock to say yes or no.

For several moments, still, he said nothing at all.

When the words finally did come, they were so low and hoarse he nearly couldn't hear them at all.

"She makes him happy, Lestrade."

Greg turned up his morphine, after that. Punched the button as high as it would go, and watched as Sherlock's eyes fluttered and his mouth twitched in what just might have been gratitude. He watched as Sherlock fell straight back into sleep, hand even limper than before and, his eyes still flitting in dreams.

"That's not a good reason," he told him, then. "That's not a good reason at all."


Greg didn't see Sherlock, much after that.

No one saw much of him at all, after Mary died.


"Your kitchen looks like a bloody meth lab, Mrs. Hudson is scared out of her mind, and you're a dead man walking, Sherlock. Do you hear me?! I won't arrest you, we know that won't get anywhere, but no more cases, and I will arrest that Wiggins boy, and if you keep this shit up I will call Mycroft and he'll put a stop to it for me. Are you listening, Sherlock?! Stop this, Sherlock, stop it right now! I'm not giving you a single case until you stop!"

"Good," Sherlock said, and slammed the door in his face.


And then, with a hit of deja vu so powerful it made his head hurt, that was how Greg ended up sitting at his desk for the second time, reading the medical record of one walking-trainwreck Sherlock Holmes.

It was better than the last time.

Greg didn't know if he could stand last time again.

It was still bad.

It was still really, really bad.

Two broken ribs. Concussion. Hairline fracture to the jaw. Subconjunctival hemorrhage. Stitches in his face, internal bleeding from the chest.

Maybe... maybe, John had gone a little overboard.

God, Greg could imagine it, though. Sherlock, armed with a scalpel, out of his ever-loving mind. Sherlock, with a good five inches on poor John, waving a blade while John only had his fists to defend himself; ruthless, reckless, fighting like an animal, and running on some dizzying cocktail of cocaine and meth and MDMA and god only knew what else. Maybe John had thrown one punch too many, but to subdue that Sherlock?

They were just lucky John had been there. Anybody else, and Sherlock would've probably gotten his head bashed in as they tried to get him down.

They'd found a video, of what had happened in the mortuary. It had come up a little late in the investigation, what with the focus being on the fact that Sherlock had just revealed the most prolific serial killer in all of the UK to the world on twitter, and Greg just hadn't ever gotten around to watching it. He knew a few of his subordinates had- was pretty sure even Donovan had given it a go, wanting to see Sherlock finally get what was coming to him. Greg, for his part, wasn't so sure he really wanted to see that fist fight. He was tired of seeing Sherlock getting his head knocked around because he couldn't keep his mouth shut or his head clear.

At least, that was what he thought then.

Before he watched it.


John had the scalpel out of Sherlock's hand in the first half second.

He had Sherlock disarmed, subdued, and helpless with one well-practiced, lightning-quick grab to his arm. The slam against the coolers after that could be forgiven; the hard slap across the face, Greg winced at, a little, but accepted, as a desperate means to bring Sherlock back down to himself.

Sherlock, then and there, right in that second, was no longer a threat to himself or any one else. He was no longer armed. He was no longer threatening anyone, and not once- not once- had he even tried to strike back or defend himself against John.

And it wasn't until then, that Sherlock was already disarmed, subdued, and helpless, that John started hitting him.

 

Chapter Text

"Inspector," Sherlock said. He blinked breezily, just the faintest flicker of eyelids to betray his surprise, but there was nothing on his face but bland indifference as he leaned to the wall, the long lines of his body sloping through an easy, careless facade. "I thought this was Molly's shift."

"Yeah, well." Greg shook the file under his arm, halfway proffering it across the room. He knew there was no sense in trying to lie, not to Sherlock, but still found himself unable to help wanting to try, to delay this conversation as much as he could. "I found a few forms that were missing your signature, for the Culverton Smith case, and figured if I was coming over here anyway I might as well let Molly take the night off. Happy birthday, by the way."

"Oh, God. John told you." With a heavy, heavy sigh, one that embodied every last bit of suffering in the whole entirety of the world, Sherlock flounced his way back down, sinking into the depths of his armchair and covering his face as if Greg had just told him he was being arrested for murder. Actually, no, because Greg had already been there, done that, and Sherlock unquestionably looked more distraught now than he had back then. "Giles, if you ever make any sort of affair about the sentimental anniversary of my birth, then I will buy myself a five thousand euro cake and I will do so with your credit card. Best of luck to proving it, even with my confession."

"It's Greg, and your brother will reimburse me. Greg."

Sherlock rolled his eyes with another careless huff, face propped against a hand and gaze drifting away. Greg took the opportunity to hand the file over- there actually were a few forms that needed Sherlock's signature- and it was only then, with the detective sufficiently distracted, that Greg was able to slow down and really, actually look at him.

By Sherlock standards, it really wasn't all that bad. If he'd been a stranger on the street, Greg wouldn't have even looked twice. Three or four stitches over his left brow, and a fading mark on a high cheekbone that had softened to a mottled green and yellow. Soon, it would be gone entirely. His left eye itself was a virulent red, the blood vessels burst and grotesque, but the swelling had gone down completely and despite how terrible the eye looked, Greg knew that it didn't hurt. Greg had seen him in hospital, too, days ago, when they'd needed his statement and Sherlock had needed dialysis and in-patient detox and someone to wake him up every two hours to make sure his brain wasn't bleeding, and he'd looked okay, then, too. The bruises red instead of yellow, his forehead bandaged over the stitches. Greg had seen him look worse after walking face-first into a door at a crime scene.

After having watched that damn footage, Greg knew now that was just because the full extent of the damage had been hidden under blankets and pajamas, just as it was hidden now underneath a button-down and a silk dressing gown.

The real worst of it, though, was right there, for everyone to see.

His knuckles were clean.

Sherlock fought like a wild animal, always giving as good as he got. He punched and kicked and bit with the violence of someone who'd been trained by a combination of the streets and MI6's best, never failing to defend himself, and more brilliantly than that, almost never failing to win. Greg hated to admit it, but he was pretty sure Sherlock could lay him flat without even trying. All the black eyes and split lips that he'd seen on Sherlock over the years had come along with bleeding scrapes on his knuckles and very often a broken finger or two, because no one could get away with punching Sherlock Holmes without getting punched back.

And now, as Greg watched his long, lithe, musician's fingers spiral out his signature on line after line, his hands were unblemished.

He hadn't raised one hand to defend himself.

If his mind hadn't already been made up, that would've done it for him.

"Well, that's that, then. Isn't it?" Sherlock clicked his pen, letting it slide down into one of his bottomless pockets as he turned back to him with a flicker of a smile. "I already solve all your cases for you; the least of what I ask for you is to take care of the paperwork- please don't tell me that now, you can't even do that."

"No, no, that's all, thanks. Sherlock Holmes: Paperpusher Extraordinaire. Saving Gotham City, one file at a time."

Sherlock gave him a look that just about eviscerated him in half, and it was all Greg could do not to snicker.

Unfortunately, that was also the end of whatever peace there was going to be for this visit.

"So, Detective Inspector." Sherlock steepled his fingers together under his chin, picture perfect from his dress shoes all the way to his steady, calm smirk. Only the angry, jolting twitch in his little finger betrayed the withdrawals that he knew were still raging, just underneath the surface. "Are you going to tell me why you're really here? Or are you going to embarrass us both by continuing to pretend that I don't already know?"

Never let it be said that Sherlock Holmes let anything lie in his entire life.

"Let's see," Sherlock went on, his voice smooth and slick, watching him with narrowed eyes and a twitching finger when Greg did not leap to respond at the first opportunity. "You've been to see John. Rosie was with him; I can smell her from across the room. Now, you might've gone his way to collect the same signatures that you needed to collect from me, but you very clearly have something on your mind, something that you are reluctant to say. It is a very recent development, because Molly didn't mention this yesterday, and you think I'm going to react badly, hence your reluctance. Possibly a hiatus on cases? No," Sherlock said, with a dismissive flick of his hand, "you've already told me, no case files until I'm off the methadone. Which, once again, is patently ridiculous, but you already know my opinion on the matter. Or a problem with the Culverton Smith case? No, no, you'd have told me that already- but it is something to do with John-..."

"Oh, for Christ's sake." Greg sagged backwards to hit the sofa, covering his face with one hand and not even trying to hide his own exasperation. Sherlock was still Sherlock, it seemed, and there was nothing more reassuring than that. "Turn your brain off for one second, would you? It's only- look. I just want you to listen to me for a few minutes, here, Sherlock. After I've said my piece, then I'll shut up, and you can deduce and yell at me as much as you like. Okay?"

Greg had gone into this knowing it was going to be tough. The tense look on Sherlock's face, the way his eyes narrowed and his jaw tensed, his stiff posture curling inwards just a little more, told him the detective's defenses were already raised, which was just great. Really. Fantastic.

If they got out of this without a shouting match, it would be a bloody miracle.

Greg took a deep breath, willed himself to grasp as much patience as he had left, and started.

"I want you to tell me what happened in the mortuary again. In your own words, Sherlock."

"The mortuary?" In a blow that was almost comical, Sherlock's building hostility fizzled away, evaporated away in an instant. He stared back at Greg with slightly wide eyes, shoulders fallen slack. Whatever he had been expecting, it was clearly not this. "So it's related to the Smith case after all? Is he pressing charges?"

"Sherlock," Greg re-iterated quietly.

The detective's frown flickered briefly, but he was still listening, at least, and Greg would take whatever small victories that he could. "I already told you," he said, after several beats of confused silence. Sherlock was a brilliant actor, so possibly it was just a facade, but he really did seem to have no idea what this about. "In fact, I believe I just signed my statement on what happened in the mortuary. I do abhor repeating myself, Lestrade, you know this, so-"

"So don't repeat yourself. Don't repeat your statement. I told you, in your own words- not whatever you knew the investigation into Smith needed to hear. ...What happened in that room, Sherlock?"

Sherlock blinked back at him, evidently nonplussed. More to get away from that gaze than anything else, to turn so Sherlock couldn't read his every last thought plain as day right there on his face, Greg rose to his feet, heading towards the mercifully cleared kitchen for tea. He didn't want Sherlock to read his reaction and adjust what he was saying because of it. He didn't want Sherlock to see the look on his face and abruptly start interjecting just the right amount of discomfort and difficulty into his retelling, spinning it just enough that Greg would wind up second-guessing his every move since he'd seen that tape.

He needed to hear Sherlock's honest account of what he thought had happened in that room.

"It's... as I've said," the detective returned at last, the words slow and unsure. Fishing, for whatever answer Sherlock was guessing he wanted. "I had intentionally overdosed some minutes before hand, and experienced a temporary, drug-induced psychosis. Therefore, my recollection of the events in question is obviously suspect, and should not be considered accurate in the police investigation."

"Okay." Greg set the kettle to boil, his back still carefully turned. "And then?"

"Then what, Lestrade?"

"What do you remember, then? It may not be accurate, got it; thank you. I'll keep that in mind. But what do you remember happened next?"

"I-" Sherlock let out a strained, frustrated sigh, clearly losing his patience. "I must have grabbed a scalpel."

"Must have? You don't remember?"

"No. But, I'm told it's what happened, and you all have no reason to lie. John, thankfully, was available to disarm and- subdue me."

There was another short silence. Greg's skin prickled.

"...And?"

"And- what?" Sherlock asked. By all means, he sounded completely perplexed, with absolutely no idea why this interrogation was even happening. "I lost consciousness after that point, Lestrade; what, are you asking after my fever dreams, too?" He scoffed under his breath, a derisive sort of chuckle, but it wasn't funny.

"He got the scalpel away from you, like you said. He disarmed you." Against his better judgment, Greg nudged himself around just enough to frown at him, watching the confusion flicker in blue and red eyes. "And, yes, at some point, you passed out. What happened in-between?"

Sherlock's mouth thinned. "Clearly, you have something you want for me to say, Lestrade. Given that I have no idea what that is, I recommend that you say it for yourself, and get on with it. Preferably before you waste any more of my time."

So Sherlock was going to make him say it, then. Possibly, by the confused irritation weighing through every syllable, honestly did not understand what was wrong himself.

Yeah, Greg told himself, this stops now.

The kettle whistled, sharp, strident, and Greg glimpsed Sherlock twitch, just out of the corner of his eye. Tea. Plastic cups, until Sherlock's hands had stopped shaking; three sugars, until he stopped needing the sugar high. Avoiding his gaze when he headed back over, because Sherlock was too damn perceptive for his own good and Greg couldn't help but worry that the second their eyes met, Sherlock would know everything and kick him out before he got through a single more word.

"Sherlock," he said again, once the cups were situated, the silence between thick enough to cut with a knife. Sherlock was staring at him openly now, and it wasn't welcoming. Greg, with another steady breath, dropped to his knees in front of him, and finally met his eyes again. "I saw the tape for myself. And what I saw was John assaulting you."

"Assault-" And now Sherlock spat out an actual laugh, derisive and mocking, and he rolled his eyes as if Greg was possibly the stupidest person he'd ever met. "As I recall, I was coming at him with a scalpel. He defended himself-"

"He hit you until you went down and then he kept hitting you, Sherlock. He stopped defending himself the second he got the scalpel away from you. He wasn't hitting you to restrain you, he hit you to hurt you, and he had to be pulled off you because he wouldn't stop." He stopped once, gritting his teeth to forcibly swallow back the anger that wanted to surge through. Not here; not now. "Do you want to know why I watched the tape, Sherlock? Why I finally looked at it myself? Donovan."

"Sergeant Donovan is a sanctimonious-"

"She watched that tape because she wanted to see you get smacked around a bit, and then she came to my office herself because she was concerned- about you, Sherlock! She watched that tape as a police officer and was just as concerned and disturbed as I was, and frankly, I'm even more disturbed now that I'm hearing you defend it." Greg sat back to stare in wordless challenge at the shellshocked look on Sherlock's face, blank and devoid of anything at all but utter disbelief of the words he was hearing. "Self-defense? He could've killed you!"

Sherlock scoffed again, mouth twisting as if that was the most ludicrous thing he'd heard in the world. He pushed to his feet, and Greg did not miss the angry tap of his hand against his thigh, shuddering against withdrawal, or the protective curl of his other arm about his injured chest as he wrenched stiffly, sorely upright, still in pain. "Given that I was, at the time, dying of an intentional overdose?" He rolled his eyes down to Greg, back already turning with a flourish of his dressing gown. "I'm really not sure what all the fuss is about."

"The fuss, Sherlock, is that if you two were anybody else, John would've been arrested a week ago."

"Oh, please. There was talk of charging me; now I'm supposed to bel-"

Suddenly, Sherlock stopped short. His voice rose through a hitching, manic fervor, arcing higher until it cracked on the turn of a step, and then he just froze, stock still on the spot with a frisson of tension shuddering down all the way through him from head to toe. He vibrated like a violin string plucked at its most taut, stiff and cold as ice.

When he spun back around to face Greg again, the look in his bruised, bloodied eyes was absolutely nothing short of livid.

"You were over to see John, before you were here."

Quiet, so thick and foreboding Greg could've heard a pin drop downstairs in Mrs. Hudsons' flat.

Sherlock's dangerous eyes flashed, and that was it- that was the end.

"What have you done?! What have you done, Lestrade?!" The detective flurried past him at a manic pace, a round of tremors jerked through him all the way as he shoved straight past Greg like he was nothing more than a box to be moved. "What did you do to John?!"

"What do you think I should've done to him?"

"What do I- I think you should've left him alone, Lestrade!" Sherlock pressed his phone to his ear for only a heartbeat, his breaths loud and starting, then tossed it away with such vehemence it was miracle the screen didn't shatter on the sofa. "His phone is off! What the hell is this, Lestrade, you've no idea what you're playing at- what is this; did you think you could, could, could just arrest John, then show up over here and expect- expect what? For me to thank you?!" Sherlock spun about again, pacing about like a caged and feral dog, breathing so hard through gritted teeth Greg knew it was straining cracked ribs, but the detective was several worlds beyond caring. "All a waste of time, anyway- Mycroft will get the charges dropped-"

"Mycroft?" Greg had been planning on sitting silently, letting Sherlock talk himself out and dig himself a grave, but at the mention of the older brother he just couldn't take it lying down. "Sherlock, the only reason John hasn't already disappeared into a sudden opening in, I don't know, bloody outer Mongolia, is because Mycroft knows how upset that would make you!"

"Upset?! No, no, Lestrade, I am not upset- I am livid!" Sherlock laughed shortly once, a harsh bark of incensed rage, and then he was pacing again, all the shakes that he'd finally gotten under control suddenly back full force. "How dare you interfere! How dare you meddle in that which you were not asked to!" He swirled about to scoff again, vibrating as if he might like to tear Greg apart with his bare hands. "No help from brother dear, this time? Doesn't matter; this still won't go anywhere. You're even stupider than I thought if you think you have me as a complainant or cooperating witness, Lestrade."

The look on Sherlock's face still suggested that speaking up right now really was not a great idea, but Greg still just could not stop himself from pushing. He wanted this reaction, to get at what was underneath, and if Sherlock hated him for it, then, well, that was just the consequence that would be dealt with later. "I don't need your cooperation," he pointed out, mildly and neutrally as he could. "That video is all that I need."

Sherlock snorted like an angry dragon, all coiled tension and manic fury. "Then you don't have that video anymore. It's already gone from your servers, or will be by the time you get back to the Yard. Then I'll take to twitter and amass public pressure for you to drop the case. I'll- for god's sake, Lestrade!" Breaths hitched even faster, now, Greg was almost reminded of the Sherlock that he'd seen on that video, a crazed panic tearing him over the edge or perhaps just driving him to willingly jump off. His voice cracked as he spun again, tearing his fingers through his hair. "What were you thinking?! What about Rosie, John's the only parent she has, and after all they've already been through- after everything I've done to him, and this is where you draw the line?! I wrecked his life, he's only just forgiven me and now he's going to think- to think I-..."

"To think what?" Approaching Sherlock would surely be a catastrophically foolish idea, so Greg stayed where he was, safe in John's usual chair and staring his friend down, right in the eye. "Think that it isn't actually okay to beat someone you call your friend black and blue?"

"HE WAS ENTITLED!"

That outburst, at last, robbed Sherlock of whatever bare threads of energy and outrage he'd ran himself off of until now. He let it out with a roar that was soul-deep and animal, his fist cracked against the back of the sofa to finally yield the panic that simmered underneath every last inch of his prickly, furious shell. Sherlock spun to sag against the wall, braced upright only by the strength of one hand and sheer force of will, head hung and shoulders hunched like a beaten dog.

Greg, knowing Sherlock's moods the way he did, knew all there was to do was to bide his time, and wait until Sherlock had calmed down enough to listen.

When the detective's breaths had finally returned to something roughly resembling normality, his back still turned and his shoulders still trembling, he tried again.

"Sherlock?"

"Fuck you," the younger man rasped.

Standing there like that, back sloped and breaths ragged and head down, Greg could only remember back to the last and only time, he'd ever seen Sherlock like this before.

Sitting on his couch in the middle of the night, risen from the dead and with international fame to his name, holding ice to his lip, and devastated.

John had been devastated, then, too. Sherlock had not been alone, in hurting that night. And John's pain had been, almost entirely, Sherlock's fault.

That night, really, was where all of this had come from. It was how things had gotten so out of control, so bad, and why Sherlock had never once acted himself to stop it. It was why Sherlock said John was entitled. It was why Sherlock, even now, thought that John had been hurt again, and in the horrified slump of his shoulders and misery thrumming through him from head to toe, interpreted it as his fault.

Greg waited a few moments more in silence, the edge of his attempt at a smile brittle.

Then, when Sherlock finally heaved out another massive breath of a sigh, his shoulders trembling and his fists white, he went on.

"The reason John didn't answer his phone, Sherlock, is because he's currently at the park with Rosie."

Sherlock went so still, time itself could have frozen.

"...What?"

"He's at the park with Rosie," he repeated calmly. "He didn't want to be called out to the clinic or bothered by anyone else, so he turned his phone off, just before I left."

Another few moments passed in complete, utter stillness. Greg could've sworn he felt the temperature in the room drop ten degrees.

Slowly, inch by inch, Sherlock shifted back around- just enough for one bloody eye to meet his, dangerous and unforgiving every bit of the way through. "He's okay?"

"Yes."

"You're not pressing charges?"

"No, I'm not."

Sherlock blinked. Greg stayed carefully calm and relaxed, unmoving himself, because Sherlock again looked as taut as a bowstring, tied so tightly that one flick of a finger would be enough to shatter him.

When the confusion faded, that same ice-cold, slippery anger, once again, settled in. "Then what, pray tell, Inspector- was the point of all this?"

He still didn't risk standing. But he did meet Sherlock's eye, dangerous as it was, willing to bet that he was more bark than bite at the moment and if he did this carefully, he might just be able to coax him back down. "I went to John's flat to talk to him, Sherlock- that's all. I promise. He's my friend, too, I don't want to hurt him- and I know that you're right. He has been through a lot. He has had the toughest few years imaginable, and right now he is a single parent to a baby girl who really needs him and I would never want to take her away from him." He leaned forwards again, just a little, waiting for the glint of relief in Sherlock's eyes to fade, to know he was still being listened to. "I also told him that I would have him up on charges, if he ever laid a hand on you again."

Sherlock tensed all over again. He inhaled sharply, a crack of air sucked inwards through gritted teeth, the exact same near-hyperventilation as before. His fingers tensed and curled, withdrawal trembling in his hands, cold and clammy in the sweat that sheened on his face, and Greg knew he was having to exert an almost herculean effort not to punch at the sofa or wall again.

"I. Don't. Want. This." Sherlock clenched his jaw and shook, the words a near snarl of unforgiving desperation. He was desperate, about this, even if Sherlock only knew how to express it in spat words and seething anger. "Inspector, I know you are acting out of some misplaced desire to- to protect me, or some other such rot, but I can not possibly be any clearer: I do not want this. It's my life!" he cried. "Mine, not yours, my choices, not yours-"

"And it is your choice, Sherlock. But, need I remind you of how badly it ended last time you got assaulted by a Watson, and you told me to stay out of it?"

The detective stiffened violently. "That is hardly relevant- and it turned out beautifully, Lestrade, do not twist-"

"It ended with you on a plane to your death because you'll apparently sacrifice anything for John's happiness, far beyond and including your own, but yeah, other than that, beautiful."

Sherlock cursed under his breath, something that sounded foul and German and murderous, and spun away again, hand thrown up in the air. The other he pressed to his chest, back to Greg, his breaths measured and strained, and Greg bit his lip. It was easy to forget, when faced with Sherlock's erratic, manic energy and utter inability to do something as mundane as show weakness, that he was still healing underneath all of that, and it wasn't just what John had done. John had hurt him, yes, that was why Greg was here in the first place- but Sherlock had nearly killed himself.

For the third time in as many years, he had nearly killed himself, for John.

Greg knew it then as surely as he'd known it all the way back when, the first time Sherlock had overdosed.

Either it stopped now, or he just might well end up dead.

This time, after everything Sherlock had done for him- after everything Sherlock had done for John, after all the hard work and effort he'd put into himself- Greg was going to try and stop it.

"Sherlock," he implored quietly. Come on, lad. For once in your life, listen to me. "Let's recap, for a second."

"I had no interest in hearing this the first time, Inspector; what makes you think I have any desire to hear it again?"

"I just told you that I wasn't going to do anything to John. Not unless he did something like this to you again," Greg said, pressing on straight past the sulky grumble of a protest. "And, you apparently think that's such an inevitability, it made you react like this."

Once again, Sherlock went very, very still. He still did not turn back to face him, his back ramrod straight, and fist curled and tapping so tightly against his side, his knuckles had gone white.

This time, Greg was pretty sure what was going on under the surface, in that ridiculously overactive brain. He knew Sherlock wouldn't say it, but he knew exactly what Sherlock was thinking, because he'd already said it.

And it was something that had to be addressed, now.

Greg got warily to his feet, not approaching all the way but lingering back, just in case. "Look," he said, scratching a hand through his hair. "I know you don't have all that much experience with having friends, Sherlock. But, John being your friend does not entitle him to the right to hit you. It gives him the duty not to."

"After all that he's put up with-"

"No. No. Don't say, not one more time, that he's allowed." He almost spat the words out in near-disgust and approached again, heart lurching in his chest. "Christ, you seem to forget, I know all that you've done to each other, I know that you've hurt him, too, and I'm still telling standing here telling you, that doesn't make one lick of a difference. There is nothing that you could've done to him to make what happened in that mortuary okay."

Sherlock still looked away, and Greg swallowed hard, squashing down the rest of that speech. The line that Sherlock had not killed Mary. The line that Sherlock had not thrown himself off that rooftop to hurt John and he had been apologising for it constantly since anyway and that John wasn't the only one of them who'd suffered in those two years, he just seemed to be the only one of the pair to be allowed to acknowledge it.

That speech was going to have to come from John, for Sherlock to sit still enough to hear it.

Time to move on.

"Sherlock, I know you don't want this, and I know you're angry with me for interfering. I'm not asking for a thank you." Greg held both his hands up in a gesture for peace, still making sure to keep his distance. "But this is the second time in two years that John has beaten you bloody, and it's the second time you haven't cared, and it's the second time you've acted like it was just an inevitability of John having to put up with you. Which is not something that friends should say about each other, by the way. I'm not going to wait for a third time."

Sherlock huffed under his breath and did not reply, his back still turned and fist tight. Greg pushed on again. "I want you to promise me something."

"And I want you to stop talking."

"Charming. Sherlock, if this happens again, I want you to promise that you'll fight back. You'll do what you can to stop him, and then, you'll tell someone what happened. Me, Mycroft- whoever, just so long as you tell someone-"

"I do not need your protection," Sherlock snarled.

Greg grinned weakly again. "I know you don't. I know you can stand up for yourself perfectly well, and I know the reason you don't is because you just don't care. It doesn't bother you. Which is actually not good, by the way, so long as it doesn't bother you, well, I think it's just going to have to bother me." He broke off for a few moments, giving Sherlock the chance to argue again. When no violent protest came again,he risked another attempt at a smile. "If it helps at all, Sherlock... John agreed with me."

And that, finally, melted a hole in Sherlock's furious defenses.

"He... what?"

"Yep," Greg reassured easily. "He said that he was glad you had someone looking out for you, and believe it or not, Sherlock, he doesn't feel good about what happened, either."

That was an understatement, actually. A massive understatement, but once again, that was a sentiment that was going to need to come from John himself. Maybe a proper apology from John would force Sherlock to acknowledge that there was something to apologise for, and maybe seeing that John felt horrible about what he'd done and wanted to get help so he'd never do it again would manage the same, but even if not, Greg was not going to do that bit of heavy-lifting for him. John was going to have to make amends himself.

"He misses being friends with you, he said," he prompted again. "He's not happy, right now, Sherlock. I know you did all of this to help John," and as bloody self-sacrificing and dangerous and not-good as THAT is- "and- even if you might not see it right now- this will help him a lot more than you offering yourself as a punching bag."

Sherlock frowned briefly, eyes flickering in a narrow blink. "You've been spending too much time googling," was all he said, the words low and his stitched face, back to perfectly unreadable. He stared at Greg for several moments, clearly unhappy, but the aggression did seem to be gone, and for a heartbeat, Greg thought the genius was actually allowing himself to listen to what had been said.

Then, with nothing more than a mild eye roll and puff of air, hostility bled away into little more than the dust on John's chair, Sherlock pushed ahead, nudging him carelessly aside as if he were nothing more than an inanimate object. Without a single word, the detective tilted backwards to flop against the sofa, eyes shut as his fingers steepled under his chin again, silent and detached in his usual thinking pose. He didn't say anything back to him, didn't acknowledge his presence in any way, and Greg found himself just shaking his head, the own stress tightened his heart melting at long, long last, into relief.

Sherlock didn't have to like it, and he didn't have to welcome it. He didn't even have to agree, that what John had done to him was not okay- a small, uncomfortable knot in Greg's stomach murmured that Sherlock, in fact, still couldn't. Not right now.

But, it seemed, he was at least willing to listen, even if it was only for John's sake, and not his own.

For now, that was going to have to be good enough.

He touched a hand to Sherlock's shoulder briefly, then wordlessly retreated back across the room to John's chair.

Sherlock's flounce to the sofa had been unusually stiff, his motions carefully restrained and slow underneath his usual dramatics, and even now his expression was tight with an element of tension that had not been there before. Greg found himself fingering the blister-pack of pills in his pocket, to be kept there and exchanged between minders until Sherlock could be trusted with his own medication again. "Do you want a methadone?" he asked quietly. It wasn't meant as a painkiller, not really, prescribed to wean him safely off the heroin, but John had told him it was as good as Sherlock was going to get, right now. "Mrs. Hudson said it's been long enough for you to have another."

Sherlock was silent and his face still, for several moments. "I want," he said back, just as quietly, utterly flat again, "for you to get out of my flat, Lestrade."

So, the anger wasn't as gone for as he'd hoped, then.

Having anticipated this possibility as well, Greg just shrugged with a faintly sad smile, not even bothering to protest. To be perfectly honest, if he was in Sherlock's shoes, he'd probably want nothing at all to do with him right now, either. "Mrs. Hudson is still downstairs. I checked, before. She said she'd be okay with staying with you for tonight, too." He paused for a beat, hands twisting nervously in his lap. "Is that what you want?"

Another tense few moments of silence. Wordlessly, almost like a snake, Sherlock slitted his eyes back open to glance straight sideways at Greg's chair.

Then, he shut his eyes again, and murmured, "No."

He rolled to his side a breath later, curling up with his back again to the rest of the room and his head cradled in the crook of his arm. For anyone else, it would've been downright rude. Even for a recovering drug addict who was plainly miserable, in pain, and wanted to be doing anything at all else in the world but this.

For Sherlock, Greg knew it was as close as a thank you, as he was ever going to get.

Greg sagged in silent relief, mentally giving Sherlock's wild life expectancy another solid boost back up- this time, higher than he'd ever, ever had it before- and went back to his tea.