Title: The Long Way Down
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Characters: Greg Lestrade, Sally Donovan, OMC (Lestrade's son, Charlie), John Watson, Molly Hooper, Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes
Warnings: Strong language, alcohol abuse
Summary: Some falls are brief but spectacular; over in minutes but the impact is felt for a long time. Others take years… and if you fall slowly enough, no one will even notice when you hit bottom. (prequel to "Facing the Past")
Notes: For geniusbee, with love and admiration for the gorgeous picture she drew in response to "Facing the Past". These five scenes lead up to the events of that story. To see the five pictures that inspired each scene, click here.
Also available on AO3.
The Long Way Down
Co-ordinating door-to-door statements was necessary but dull work. Sally was almost grateful for the distraction when a short overweight man came puffing over to her and the uniformed PC she was talking to, waving his hands to attract their attention.
"Fight. There's a fight... in the pub," he gasped. He gestured vaguely behind him.
Sally could just make out the sign for a pub on the corner about two hundred yards away.
"Should we go over, ma'am?" the uniform asked.
Sally sighed. She'd thought this kind of thing was well behind her - but she couldn't send the green young constable in on his own.
The 'pub' was more like a wine-bar left over from the Eighties, surprisingly busy for the middle of a Tuesday afternoon - and in a complete uproar. A crowd had formed in one corner and was enthusiastically cheering on what sounded like a fairly small scale fight. Small for now anyway - Sally was all too aware of how quickly these things could escalate.
She pushed her way through the jostling mass until she could get to the front and see what was actually going on - and if any weapons other than fists were involved. She made it just in time to see her former boss taking a nasty right jab to the nose.
He staggered back a few steps and when Sally saw daylight between the two combatants she nodded to the constable and they waded in.
The constable stepped in front of Lestrade while Sally grabbed the other bloke's arm before it could land the next punch and in her official voice yelled. "Alright, break it up! That's enough!"
Thankfully the other bloke had enough sense to recognise authority when he heard it and instantly backed off. The crowd, sensing it was all over, melted back to their tables and bar stools, muttering about the Old Bill ruining all their fun...
Lestrade turned and looked at her as if he'd bumped into her in Tescos and not as a participant in the middle of a bar brawl. "Donovan? What're you doin' here?" he slurred.
"You know him?" asked the uniform.
Sally nodded. "Yeah... What happened?" she asked the general area.
One of the staff, a young barman with a lot of piercings, pointed at Lestrade. "The other bloke said something about that Sherlock Holmes nutter and your mate here decked him."
Sally sighed. "He's not my--"
"Just get him out of here, will you?" the barman pleaded.
Sally put her hand on Lestrade's arm. "Sir?"
"Don' have t' call me that. 'm not your boss any more, Donovan." Lestrade wiped clumsily at his nose with his shirt cuff but only succeeded in smearing blood across his top lip.
You're not wrong there, she thought. "Clark - see if the other bloke is alright. If we can chalk this up as a scuffle without any charges being pressed that would be great."
Sally guided Lestrade outside onto the street. He bounced off the door and then didn't so much lean as fall against the wall, fumbling in his pockets until he found a packet of cigarettes.
"Was that right?" Sally asked. "The other bloke said something about the Freak and you punched him?"
"Pretty much. Didn't get him as good as John Watson got me at the hospital but I think I made my point." He grinned as he jammed a cigarette between his bloodied lips and started patting himself down for his lighter.
"Haven't you got into enough trouble over him already, Sir? Why can't you let it go?"
"Always was a stubborn bastard, Sally, you know that. Ah!" He pulled out his lighter and flicked it open. It took him several attempts to successfully ignite his smoke. He took a long draw on it and loosened his tie - or tried to; the knot had been pulled tight to the size of a grape in the scuffle.
"Bloody thing," he grumbled. "Gimme a regulation clip-on any day."
"Why you wearing it anyway? Thought you hated 'em?"
"Job interview. Got t' look smart, havent' you? They don't let just anybody guard shopping malls and building sites these days y'know..." He laughed bitterly. "As evidenced by them not hiring me as soon as they remembered where they'd heard the name."
Oh, Jesus. He couldn't even get a job as a rent-a-cop?
"Twenty years and they won't even trust me with a fucking tin of beans..." Lestrade slumped a little further down the wall and stared morosely at his shoes.
The uniform re-appeared. "The other bloke and the pub are happy to let it drop, ma'am."
"Thank Christ for that. We better get back to the door to door. I'll catch you up in minute."
The constable took the hint and headed back towards where Sally had left the car.
Lestrade rolled himself upright off the wall, swaying slightly as he looked up and down the street.
"You gonna be alright?" Sally asked.
"Mmm? Oh, yeah. 'm sure you've got far more important things to be doin' than babysitting me, Sergeant."
It was D.I. now but she'd have bitten her own tongue off before telling him that.
"Well, if you're sure... Take it easy, Sir. I mean..."
"Yeah, you too, Sally."
She rejoined the uniform at her car. Another constable had appeared and the two were chatting, presumably about the pub fight.
"So that was 'Loser' Lestrade?" she heard the new constable ask the other.
Sally shoved him back against the side of the car and pinned him there with an index finger to his chest and a steely glare. "I don't care what you hear from others, Clark, but you ever use that nickname around me again and I'll make you wish you'd never been born, much less put on that uniform. Got it?"
"Good." Sally unlocked the car and got in. "We're done here. You two get back to the nick. I'm going home." For a bloody stiff drink...
She remembered the lone figure, weaving away into the distance.
Maybe just a cup of tea...
Daddy looked very sad as he helped Charlie button his coat. He always looked sad when it was time for Charlie to go home but today he was even more sad. So Charlie asked why.
"Charlie, I... I can't have you over to stay again."
"Because I'm not going to live here anymore."
"That's OK. I don't like it here anyway. It smells funny and that man upstairs is always shouting."
"Yeah... The thing is, Charlie....I... I don't have a new house yet and Mummy... Mummy thinks it would be better if I don't see you until I get one."
"Oh... Are you going to stay in a hotel like you used to?"
"Something like that, yeah."
"Are you still coming to my birthday party?"
"No, Charlie, I... I can't. I'm not allowed."
"Why not? Did you do something bad? Mummy didn't let me go to Susan's party when I broke Uncle Stephen's camera. He was really cross."
Daddy smiled but it was one of those smiles grown ups did when they were sad and trying to pretend they weren't. Mummy and Daddy did them all the time. "Yes, Charlie. I did something bad."
"Is that why you're not a policeman any more?"
Daddy nodded but he didn't say anything. His eyes were all red and his nose was runny. Charlie had cried when he couldn't go to Susan's party so he understood.
"Don't cry, Daddy. I bet it was a accident and you didn't mean to be bad. I didn't mean to break Uncle Stephen's camera."
Daddy gave him a big cuddle. "No, you're a very good boy, Charlie. I know you'll be good for Mummy and... and Uncle Stephen."
"Uncle Stephen says he's going to give me a camera of my own for my birthday. I'll take lots of pictures for you."
"Yeah. That'll be nice. You can show me them next time you see me, OK?"
"...I love you very much, Charlie."
"I love you too, Daddy."
No. Not him. Not here and definitely not today.
"You've got a bloody nerve showing up here." John blazed across the graveyard, gravel scattered from the path under his furious pace.
Lestrade instinctively took a step back as John barrelled towards him. He looked haggard and tired... haunted - as he bloody well ought to, John thought.
"What makes you think you have any right to be here? You couldn't even be bothered to come to the funeral! Some fucking friend you turned out to be."
"J-John, I, I'm--"
John was already angry but the slur in Lestrade's voice made him see red. "Are you drunk?" His suspicions were confirmed as he got up into Lestrade's personal space. "Christ, you stink of booze." He recoiled and pushed Lestrade away with a hand to his chest.
Lestrade stumbled and fell backwards, landing in an untidy sprawl on the grass.
John pointed down at him with a trembling left hand. "You're a pathetic mess, Lestrade. Without Sherlock you're nothing, aren't you? Get the fuck out of my sight before I do something I probably won't regret."
Lestrade struggled to his feet. He looked as if he was about to speak but John turned and limped back to Sherlock's grave before he could hear whatever miserable excuse Lestrade was going to come out with.
John stared down at Sherlock's headstone. He was so angry with Lestrade he could barely see straight. When his pulse and breathing had calmed down again and he looked back a few minutes later, he was relieved to see Lestrade had vanished.
Maybe after some more time had passed he could talk to him again, but not now. It might have been a year but it was still too soon. Give it a while longer and next time Lestrade came to speak to him, John might feel like hearing what he had to say.
But not today.
Maybe, not ever...
The Molly of old would never have found the courage to get within ten feet of him, much less speak to him.
But she wasn't the Molly of old - and she hoped to God she was wrong and this wasn't the Lestrade of old. The dishevelled tramp in front of her, hiding from the rain in a public library, was a million miles away from the quietly professional policeman she remembered.
"Umm... Ex-excuse me?"
He looked up from the book he was holding, eyes full of suspicion - and the shock of certainty hit her like a physical blow.
"Oh my God... It is you."
He frowned, struggling to place her. Molly was used to that - and not just from people with drinking problems. She wasn't memorable - thank God, or Sherlock might not have had the chance he took.
"Molly Hooper, "she prompted. "I work in Bart's morgue?"
He closed his book and gave a familiar half-smile which only further confirmed it was definitely him. "Yeah, I remember. You were at Baker Street, that Christmas. You wore a really nice black dress."
"Oh! Yes - I forgot you were there then." Wow - three years and he remembers the dress?
"Yeah - that was the night he told me..." He frowned and then it was as if he suddenly shut a part of himself off from view. He took a breath and asked her, with false cheeriness Molly herself would have been proud of, "You alright? Still at Bart's?"
"Umm, yes, same as ever." Are you...? Have you...? Molly couldn't think of what to ask - or how.
"Well, it was nice seeing you again, Molly. Take care." He put the book back on the shelf and turned away.
He stopped and turned back to face her. The cheeriness had vanished as quickly as it had appeared and it looked like the sheer effort of it had exhausted him.
"Do you need anything? I mean is there anything I can..."
He shook his head. "No, thanks. Probably just better you forget you saw me, eh?"
She watched as he made his way out, walking round the reception desk and into the rain-drenched street. People shrank away from him as he approached and when he had passed, they looked after him with a mixture of pity and disgust.
They had no idea what they owed him. Neither did he, which was worse.
She'd deliberately distanced herself from everything and everybody related to Sherlock after his "death" but she recalled there had been bits and pieces in the news about a major standards inquiry at the Met. Lestrade had been a brilliant policeman though - and he was a good man - surely he hadn't been implicated in anything?
She went to the newspaper section and looked up the archives.
Thirty minutes later she ducked into the Ladies and had a good long cry. She wouldn't tell anybody she'd seen him - but she would never forget it...
There was the briefest of pauses and then, "I don't know."
The words so rarely left Mycroft's lips that Sherlock was momentarily taken aback. "What?"
"You heard me perfectly well, Sherlock. I don't know where he is. I only had occasional checks done on him and he dropped off the radar shortly after he lost his accommodation."
"When was that?"
"A little over eighteen months ago."
"Eighteen months? Did you even try to find him again?"
"You asked me to ensure John and Mrs Hudson's well-being. You said nothing about the former Detective Inspector. I had no reason to keep track of him with you 'dead'. In fact, doing so may only have drawn unnecessary attention."
"Well I'm back now and if I'm going to catch Moran, unnecessary attention is exactly what I want. Find him."
"As you wish - though your so-called 'Homeless Network' may have better luck. Perhaps you should try them?"
"I'm on my way to do that right now... I swear, Mycroft, if he's dead, I'll never forgive you."
"Nor yourself, I assume."
"Fuck off." Sherlock hung up and tried to ignore the burning feeling in his stomach he always got when Mycroft was right...