Gregory Lestrade has always wondered where he would work if he could no longer work in London. Not that he is unhappy with the version of his life as it is now, he keeps reminding himself, because catching murderers and all that, but sometimes, when he allows it, it’s nice to think outside the M25 circular.
They talk about it regularly, him and DS Donovan. Over coffee and cake, or when there’s a lull in the proceedings. He sometimes questions the whole team when they need a distraction. “It can’t be Oxford, Morse has Oxford,” he says to the whole office one Tuesday morning after a double murder. They’d been up all night and he can tell most of them are exhausted. Many people would think it strange that they’re able to change from one subject to another, but then most people haven’t been dealing with a double murder and an axe all night. Usually he can see the moment when their brains catch up with his train of thought. It’s the split second look of ‘what the fuck’ then the realisation that he isn’t talking about the mess on Cable Street.
“You do know Morse is fictional don’t you Sir?” one of them – a new DC Greg thinks – shouts across the room.
“His car was dope though,” says another.
Greg isn’t going to ask what ‘dope’ means, he’s sure his son would know but keeps that to himself. Instead he throws another location into the mix just to keep the momentum going. “Northumberland. Beautiful scenery and I bet people don’t get their heads caved in with an axe in Northumberland.”
“You’ve not seen Vera then? Happens all the time.”
And so it goes on for the rest of the day. By 2pm the autopsy reports have landed in his in box and confirm what he already knew. Blunt force trauma with an axe or a hammer. It’s not an original way to die, he’s seen it a few times already this year but they’ve got finger prints this time and a hair sample which is a welcome bonus so he reckons they will have it closed by 5pm.
They close it by 4.30pm. Female – 45 – unhappy that her ex-husband had moved on to a younger version of her.
Gregory doesn’t bring up the subject of alternative places to work again that day until later when he and Sal are sat in the pub around the corner from Scotland Yard. He’s sent the rest of the team home; double murder investigations – even easy ones like this – can literally suck the life out of you. There’s so much paperwork that it can consume everything. Not that Greg isn’t used to being surrounded by death and blood, but a full 24 hours of it can get a bit much.
“I do wonder,” Greg says slowly, because he needs to word what he is going to say carefully. “How long I can carry on doing this for.”
“I’m just thinking about those TV detectives, you know the ones we were talking about today, they don’t show the other side of it, or if they do it becomes the characters ‘thing’.” He doesn’t use any example of his own - his own failed marriage, unhealthy relationship (at times) with alcohol or the distant relationship he has with his own 18 year old son because he doesn’t need to. He and Sal have two failed marriages between them.
“Bit different me and you though,” she says eventually. She’s also right too. “You weren’t married to a cop, I was. Should have expected it.”
“They where both shagging others. Same shit, different profession.”
“Thank god they weren’t shagging each other.”
Greg laughs at this. Hindsight is a beautiful thing and he knows it. In hindsight he wouldn’t have married Jenna and he should have seen the clues she was sending that she wasn’t happy – but he didn’t which, is why he now finds himself alone, living in a flat above a laundrette and a 3 day old curry in the fridge.
“I still wonder though, how long…. I’m 54 Sal. I’ve got my years in.” It’s a subject that Greg and Sal have touched on a number of times, him moving on. Promotion, retirement, transfer, whatever. She’s ready to leap to Inspector, yet for some reason she has been holding back from moving on because of him. It’s probably time and they both know it. “There’s a Detective Chef Inspectors job come up - serious crimes division.” He says cautiously. “I’m thinking of going for it.” It’s a better then retirement at the moment. He’s not ready to play golf or wear slippers all day.
“I saw it,” she replies. “Cheshire Constabulary?”
“Saw it. I had wondered. And yeah you should. It’s time, sod the fictional cops.”
The first step is applying. Well actually the first step is to inform his two immediate superiors, he knows they will be supportive, they’ve been pushing him for a while but for some reason he can’t explain – not out loud anyway – why he’s resisted it. He tells them over coffee and shows them the details. Both agree to give him a good reference and send him on his way with a glowing report if he gets it. He suspects they are probably glad to see the back of him because if he goes, Sherlock Holmes will be around less. Not that he’s around as much these days but Greg did give him a lot a leeway.
The second step is the man himself, Sherlock. He combines completing the ‘expression of interest letter’ first and then secondly the online application form with Dr John Watson who in turn will deal with Sherlock. They spend ages pouring over his experience and knowledge. The qualifications part he’s already nailed and the exceptional officer requirement speaks for itself. He had a perfectly respectable completion rate even without Sherlock but it’s nice to see it all written down.
Of course John is outraged, he’s worried and Greg gets that – when isn’t John worried, but when Greg explains how he has been feeling, John gives Greg a look of resignation that he’s only seen a couple of times on the man. “It’s a long way to Cheshire.”
“It is mate.” Greg replies as he hits submit on the online application. “It comes with a good relocation package though, nice benefits. The cost of living is cheaper too.”
“How am I going to tell Sherlock though Greg?”
It’s a question that’s flashed through Greg’s mind numerous times. Sherlock can be difficult, he doesn’t like change, but he has John now and he seems to getting on better with his family too so maybe it’ll be a good thing. “Just tell him, just tell him over a cup of tea, while you are brushing your teeth, I don’t know, just wait till I’ve been successful – or not – then tell him.”
The interviews are the May the day after Greg’s birthday which means he gets a night in a hotel just outside Warrington, a five minute face time with his son who wishes him a forced ‘happy birthday’, a three course evening meal and a complimentary spa treatment if he wants one. The next day the interview goes well he thinks; they seem thrilled he might be fulfilling their diversity quota - something he isn’t going to overthink and he tries not to pour over his answers too much. Instead he has a drive around the area and a look at the small town and apartment complex they have suggested for the relocation package. It’s nice, quiet, there seems to be some classy restaurants there, he thinks he possibly might be in footballers wives territory but he can’t be 100% certain.
They call him as he is half way down the M6 near the toll road.
He tells them three months notice is the norm but he guesses they knew that already.
The next time the phone rings Greg has just joined the M25, and the back of a queue that according to the traffic updates on his phone, is four miles long and is due to a car fire. This time it’s a restricted number but Greg knows who it is, only one person uses a government restricted line and immediately declines the call with a flick of his finger. He’s not ready for that conversation yet, not until he has walked through the front door of his flat and taken his new suit off.
And even then he’s not sure he’ll be ready.
His mobile rings a further six times that evening. Greg busies himself with stripping his suit off, bobbing the Marks and Spencer meal for one he purchased on the way home in the oven and a quick shower to rid himself of the long drive.
There’s no messages left – because of course there isn’t. Gregory knows that Mycroft Holmes does not do voice mail – text, yes – boy can he text – but voice mail no. ‘I’d rather talk than leave a message on one of those infernal machines’ he’d told Greg once. Greg as always wondered if that’s the reason Mycroft text’s so much (or not in this instance) – impersonal and functional - ‘no feelings involved’ he had once told him over dinner. It had made Greg cringe inside – the kisses at the end of messages and the odd emoji he’d added to his messages to Mycroft suddenly turned silly. Now he realised it was just Mycroft pushing him away.
You are not my priority.
He thinks about this as his phone rattles away on the corner of the sink unit a restricted number flashing up on its screen. “Fuck off,” he shouts at it and if by magic the damn thing goes silent.
A month later and Greg is now in the position to tell his team he is leaving them. They take well, most are happy, some aren’t. He suspects that’s because he knows they won’t get an easy ride with Sally. He was pleased as punch when she waltzed through the application and promotion board and he can already see her starting to take more of the lead when they get a shout.
It’s at one of these shouts – dead body, Thames – probably a jumper but Greg wants to make sure so requests an autopsy anyway, that a familiar black Audi pulls up silently.
“It’s only taken him six weeks Sir.” Sal says over his shoulder. Sal knows all about his history with Mycroft. She drank half a bottle of whiskey with him and his broken heart the night the elder Holmes had dumped him. She’d even offered to hold his silver fox hair back (her words) if he’d of gotten sick – a comment that had made Greg laugh for over an hour and then sob uncontrollably for another.
“He’s been ringing.”
“Yeah, just calls, texting someone is impersonal apparently.”
“He’s full of shit.”
Of course Mycroft takes his time getting out of the car. Greg suspects he’s girding his loins for the conversation or something. Greg tries not to give a shit about it and shakes his head when the back door slowly opens. “Such a fucking diva.”
That comment earns him a laugh from Sal as he hears her walk off back towards the body.
The Mycroft Holmes that steps out the car isn’t the Mycroft Holmes that Greg knows well though. For a kick off there’s the hair. Ruffled and looking more it’s natural colour (something that Greg had loved about him) than ever, it blows in the wind leaving a small curl sitting across his forehead. Well okay, Greg thinks and his eyes follow the line of the other man’s body. He’s lost weight too. The suit is sitting a little large on his shoulders (yes Greg took note when watching the new Queer Eye) and it’s hanging completely out of shape. It’s the beard though that catches Greg’s eye the most, not bushy or long fairly neat and very ginger and very not Mycroft.
“Is he okay?” Sal asks, causing Greg to jump. He hadn’t heard her walk back up behind him.
“He’s…” Greg starts to say but he can’t put words where there is none.
“It’s looks good on him, the beard. I like it.”
Greg likes it too he dares to admit to himself. But there’s something else that he can’t put his finger on that’s bothering him.
Of course Mycroft heads directly for him as soon as the car door slams closed. “I’ll deal with him Sal.” Greg says with a sigh. He wonders what it is this time. Diplomat? MP? Cabinet Official? The body had been male, middle aged – looked like a business man. Could be one of Mycroft’s lot.
“Problem?” He asks as Mycroft gets closer. He forgoes the niceties – because they are well fucking beyond that now. Instead he chooses his words carefully and tries not to look at the dark patches under the man eyes. Pale, lack of sleep, shit diet. Three for three – he’s a text book case. “This technically isn’t mine, everything goes through Donovan now.”
Mycroft flinches at that, so he knows, Greg thinks. Good. Saves telling him and having to piss about explaining his reasons.
“No problem Inspector. I was passing and…”
“You thought, you check it out?” Greg interrupts. “Not one of yours is he, possible suicide. Sal’s getting an autopsy done. I can arrange for her to forward you on the report if needed.” It’s easier this way, Greg thinks. Focus on work, the stuff he knows, everything else can piss its way down the Thames.
“No, no need.” Mycroft replies. He swallows deeply before continuing. “It would not be who you would forward it onto anyway.”
Greg feels his eyebrows shoot up in response. “Eh?” He knows it’s not the most dignified of responses he could have made but fuck it. “Who then?”
“Anthea, she will now be your teams liaison.”
For a moment Greg wonders if he has entered a parallel universe because Mycroft Holmes not having his finger in the Met’s pie anymore just feels… well wrong. He takes another hard look at his former lover and tries not to purse his lips hard enough so they bleed. He’s lost, Greg thinks, he can see it more now Mycroft is closer. Gone is the hard edge, the sharp lines have blurred.
“My status is being downgraded.”
“Wow. Okay. That’s not what I expected.” Because it isn’t, not in the slightest – Mycroft’s job is his life. Greg was categorically told numerous times where he stood on the pecking order of things and that was no where near the top. “Have you requested this change or is it being forced?” It’s a personal question and he knows it will rub Mycroft up the wrong way but fuck it, it’s done now.
Before Mycroft can answer though he is disturbed by Sal route marching up the small pier they found the body under muttering something about a gun shot wound.
“Back of the head,” she states with a quick nod to Mycroft. “Physically impossible he did it himself.”
“Right, well. Wonderful.” Greg says pinching the bridge of his nose. By the time he has opened his eyes Mycroft is gone.