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What’s in a Name?

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Lestrade took a long swig of his beer, then dropped his forehead onto the sticky counter. He would regret this later, when he was lucid enough to wonder just what the bar was sticky with, but at that moment he was fine with where he was. Perhaps he was blowing the situation way out of proportion, but John was just so bloody earnest that Lestrade hated that he was going to have to let him down so spectacularly.

It had started out with a small fib, one blurted out without thought and with all good intentions. John had let himself into Lestrade's flat just like always, and had let himself into Lestrade's beer, just like always. Then he had whirled on Lestrade, face grim and determined, which was a bit different.

"I'm ready."

"Good egg," Lestrade had said. "Ah, ready for what?"

"I'm ready, Lestrade. To--you know." He swept his hand through the air, as if this clarified anything. It didn't. Lestrade looked at him blankly.

"To move on."

"Oh," said Lestrade, then cleared his throat, somewhat embarrassed. He had a feeling he should know just what John was going on about, but he just didn't. It made him an awful friend, but he wasn't above admitting that he sometimes took advantage of John's easygoing nature. It was hard not to. John understood what it was like to be busy and did not take it personally when people had too much going on in their own lives to worry about what was going on in his. It was why he and John got on so famously. "From?"

John rolled his eyes, dropping onto Lestrade's couch. "From Mary, Lestrade."

It clicked. Lestrade pushed several books on blood spatter analysis off his recliner and sat across from John, eyeing him thoughtfully. "Sorry, mate. I had thought you had got over Mary months ago."

"I did," John said, dropping his eyes to the beer bottle. "I did get over her. I mean, it's been a year almost. I got over her, but now I'm actually ready to move on."

"Great! That's great!" Lestrade resisted the urge to pat John on the shoulder; John was not a tactile person. "So? Who's the lucky someone?"

"Well, there's no actual 'someone' yet," John admitted, smiling ruefully. "I just meant I'll put myself out there again. Get back in the game. Stop saying 'no, but thanks,' and maybe actually ask someone out myself."

"Male or female?"

John had never hidden from Lestrade that he was bisexual, nor had he ever tried to pick up Lestrade, himself. A vain part of Lestrade had been slightly offended by that, even though he had no romantic or sexual interest in his friend. But Lestrade had recognized just how unfair that was--it wasn't as if people could choose who they were attracted to, after all.

John rolled his eyes. "I don't know. It's not like that plays a huge factor in who the person is."

Only John.

"Well," Lestrade said, his mouth going off before his mind could like it normally did around John. He really was hopeless. There was just something about John that made Lestrade want to help him. "Well, I've got the perfect bloke for you."

John looked dubious. "Lestrade, you don't even like men like that. How do you know he's perfect?"

"I know you."

"All right, what's so great about this bloke?"

"Well," Lestrade wracked his brain for an appropriate descriptor. It was true that he knew John, but he didn't exactly keep track of what John liked in a person. He took a very long drink from his empty bottle to buy time.

Mary had been petite, blonde, and buxom. People flocked to her like birds to a lighthouse. She had been so painfully sweet and outgoing that it almost wasn't a surprise that another man had fallen for her. What did surprise everyone was that she fell for him, back.

Lestrade decided to go for the exact opposite of her.

"Well, he's tall. And has black hair."

"Sounds remarkable," said John, sarcastically.
"Look, just meet him, will you? I promise you'll like him."

"Yeah, all right. Fine, I'll meet this mystery man of yours. What's his name?"

That was a very good question. "Shir--" Lestrade started, then stopped abruptly. What had he been planning on saying? Shirley? And what male name started with 'Shir?'

In desperation, Lestrade looked around the room. Shirbook? Shirdoor? Shirframe? Shirknob?

"Shir--lock. Sherlock. His name is Sherlock."

Even before the name was out of Lestrade's mouth, Lestrade already viciously hated himself. He couldn't have thought of a name like Dave or Sam or James. No, he had to say Sherlock. Who the bloody hell was named Sherlock?

And that was how he ended up where he was today, cheek smushed against the pub's counter and loathing himself more and more by the second. He had managed to stave John off for a week by explaining that this Sherlock had a very pressing job that kept him at odd hours, but that he would be thrilled to meet John. When pressed for details, Lestrade kept it as vague as possible. He's smart. His sense of humour is like yours. He really is very tall.

"You're making this all up," said John, four days ago. "Look, Lestrade, I appreciate that you're trying to help here, but it's not a big deal, really."

"I am not making this up. Have a little more faith in me. In fact, I was just talking to Sherlock the other day, and he wants to meet you."

John raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? When?"

"Sunday." That gave him enough time to find some tall, black haired bloke named Sherlock, right? Oh, but of course he also had to be smart with a good sense of humour.

Of course it wasn't enough time. There would never be enough time to find some tall dark and handsome Sherlock. There was no Sherlock that existed that was tall dark and handsome. He wasn't even sure there was a Sherlock that existed in the first place. Then John would show up at Angelo's and Lestrade would have to explain that it had all been a lie. And bloody John would forgive him because that's what John did.

Somehow, this did not make Lestrade feel any less like an arse.

"'nother drink, guv?"

Lestrade looked blearily up at the bartender, then dropped his head back onto the bar. "No," he groaned. "No more."

"Suit yourself."

"Know any bloke named Sherlock?" Lestrade called to the retreating bartender. He was getting desperate.

"That even a name?"

Suddenly, Lestrade was desperate to get out of there. He threw a handful of crumpled notes onto the counter without even counting them and left the pub, hands deep in his pockets and head bowed. There really was something wrong with him to get his best friend's hopes up like that, only to dash them all down again. But he had wanted John to be happy. Out of anyone Lestrade knew, John deserved to be happy the most.

They had met two years ago at the clinic John worked at, when Lestrade's lungs had mutinied at his long hours at work with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. After much nagging from his soon to be ex-wife, Lestrade had walked into the clinic right as John was about to lock up.

"We're closed," John had said.

Lestrade coughed. "Yeah, no problem. I'll come back tomorrow."

But Lestrade's cough had concerned John, so despite the dark circles around his eyes, he ushered Lestrade into the clinic and gave him an impromptu check up.

"You a smoker?" John asked as he pressed the stethoscope to Lestrade's back. "Breathe in."

"Comes with the job," Lestrade admitted, inhaling deeply.

"Bull shit. Get on nicotine patches if you need to, but stop smoking. If you think this is bad, imagine what it'll be like when you get emphysema. Oh, and you will get it, so don't fool yourself."

"Okay," Lestrade had said, fully intending not to. Then, because he did not want to go back to Susan, not to their cold, unfriendly house, not to the endless stacks of paperwork that did not go away but did nothing to fix his failing marriage, he said, "Let's get a beer."

"You're sick!" John had said reprovingly. Then, "All right, fine."

Things just sort of fell into place after that.

And this was the man Lestrade was about to hurt. This loyal, slightly broken and yet still brilliant bloke who Lestrade wasn't exactly sure he deserved to have as a best friend. He always did feel somewhat like a filler friend--not that John would ever drop him, but that someone other than Lestrade would swirl into John's life and make everything better. It was what John deserved.

Lestrade stopped his aimless wanderings, not really surprised to find himself in the middle of Trafalgar Square. He looked around. He took a deep breath.

"SHERLOCK!"

"Yes?"

"Oh my fuck!"

He hadn't actually expected that to work.

The man who pushed his way through the crowd was really quite tall, and his hair was very black, long curls brushing the top of his collar. He sort of loomed at Lestrade, as if Lestrade were wasting his time by just existing. He wasn't exactly handsome in any conventional sense, but even Lestrade could see that he was bloody gorgeous in the way of super models; slightly otherworldly in their beauty.

Lestrade desperately needed a cigarette.

"I'm drunk," he told this tall dark and handsome Sherlock.

This Sherlock scrunched his nose. "Obvious."

"Is your name really Sherlock?"

"You're the one who called me, Detective Inspector. With some distress, I might add. Clearly it's not a life or death situation, and it's of a personal nature. Since I have never met you before, I can only assume you know who I am through Mycroft."

"How the bloody--no. Never mind. Who's Mycroft? No, no. That's not important." He grabbed Sherlock's wrist and pulled at him, urgently. "Come on, you need to go on a date with John."

Later, after Sherlock had firmly inserted himself as a fixture at Lestrade's crime scenes, Lestrade would relish in the fact that he had, at least once, surprised Sherlock.

"Is that some sort of euphemism?" Sherlock asked, though he followed Lestrade with surprising willingness.

"No, no. You need to go on an actual date with my actual friend John."

"Why?"

"Because I told him you would."

"Ah, I see. In order to help your down-and-out friend, you invented a man eager to sweep your friend 'John' off of his feet. Somehow, you had the misfortune of chancing onto my unusual name." Lestrade glanced over his shoulder at Sherlock, whose eyes were bright. "But then you had the good fortune of chancing on me. You truly are an extraordinarily lucky man."

"I might believe in God, now."

"I assure you," Sherlock chuckled, "I'm no angel."

Lestrade waved his hand desperately at a passing cab, heart hammering in his throat. This was absolutely bloody impossible, but he was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

As they entered the cab, Sherlock reached out one long arm and snatched a single rose from a bouquet held by a passing man, then slammed the door in the face of his protests. The poor sod was too surprised to move, and the cab pulled away before he could gather enough of his bearings to tear into Sherlock. Lestrade raised his eyebrow, wanting to reprimand him for stealing but not willing to scare him away.

"You're supposed to give flowers on a date, right?" Sherlock asked, sounding so strangely innocent that some of Lestrade's high faded. Just what, exactly, was he about to unleash on his best friend?

Lestrade pulled his mobile from his pocket, shooting a quick text to John: Got Sherlock. See you soon.

Then he turned to Sherlock and said, "So, how exactly did you know I was a Detective Inspector?"

Lestrade had intended on detailing the situation to Sherlock during the cab ride, but by the time they reached Angelo's, Lestrade's head was spinning with all of Sherlock's clever deductions. At a glance, Sherlock had been able to tell that Lestrade was divorced ("You had nothing in common with her anymore and spent most of your time hiding at your work"), that he was once a smoker and missed it desperately ("Your nails are still slightly stained yellow and you chew on them because you still have an oral fixation"), and that he valued John like a brother ("You have no romantic interest towards John or else you wouldn't be trying so hard to push another man at him, but you desperately want him to be happy. He doesn't complain about it, but you can tell he's missing something").

He did not even have enough time to tell Sherlock John's last name. As soon as the cab pulled to a stop in front of Angelo's, Sherlock was out the door, striding into the restaurant and right up to a nervous looking John. Lestrade skidded to a halt behind Sherlock, a thousand explanations dying at his lips. He couldn't very well tell Sherlock everything about John in front of John.

But Sherlock smiled beautifully and held the rose out to John. John looked somewhat overwhelmed.

"Ah, Doctor. I've heard so much about you."

No, of course he shouldn't have worried. This was the man who had been able to tell Lestrade's entire life story at a glance.

Alright, perhaps he should be a tad worried.

But a small, honest and wonderful smile was pulling at John's lips, and he took the rose. Lestrade left them to it.

After all, who was he to meddle with fate?