Loud music burst into the garden for a moment before fading once again and Sherlock Holmes appeared on the stone path leading away from the building as a dark silhouette against the purple light coming from the wedding party inside.
Yeah, Greg saw him all right, swinging on his coat over his shoulders like a twat instead of putting it on like a regular person. As he walked up the path, he neared where Greg was sitting on a bench tucked away in the far edge of the garden, smoking his last fag of the night, the very last one, honest. Greg thought if he leaned forward just so, he may manage to hide behind one of the less neatly trimmed hedges and escape the man’s notice as he went past.
“Your cigarette’s lit, you idiot.”
Ah. Greg gave Sherlock a rueful smile and straightened. “I’m trying to give it up…” he said, gesturing with the cigarette. “You making a run for it?”
“Surprised you haven’t,” Sherlock said, standing before him with his hands in his pockets, smirking, “but hiding in the bushes has its charms, I’m sure.”
Greg could only hope that wasn’t meant to be a dogging joke.
“Yeah yeah, give the old man a minute,” he replied, knowing his sad drunken state was quite obvious to the younger man before him. Thankfully, his head was clearing up, though - the cigarette was just what he’d needed. Which is why, Greg supposed, the universe had sent Sherlock Holmes to steal it from him.
Indeed, without so much as a nod of acknowledgement, Sherlock took the cigarette from between Greg’s fingers and sat beside him, leaning back and taking a long drag off Greg’s fucking cigarette, thank you very much. His outraged look got him a raised eyebrow and he sighed, lighting a new one. Two could play this game.
“You did well today, Sherlock. It was a nice wedding - even with the murder mystery in the middle. Fitting, if you think about it.”
“Are we doing this, really?”
“Mary looked lovely. Glowing. And the ceremony…”
Greg gave him an unrepentant grin and Sherlock rolled his eyes, the cigarette dangling between his long elegant fingers. Now that they were seated next to each other on the bench, Greg could see his face properly for the first time since he’d come out. The slightly shell-shocked and vulnerable expression on his face from the wedding had not been smoothed out from his features yet. It left him feeling oddly protective.
“You’ll be all right, Sherlock,” he said, in what he hoped was a reassuring voice, “I’ll grant that it’s difficult at first, when you’ve been everything to someone, to get used to… other people. But it’s a new rhythm to the relationship and it’ll be good, you’ll see. Healthier.”
Of course, Sherlock’s face shuttered instantly and he threw away the cigarette, crushing it under one foot and exhaling a smoky annoyed breath. Greg looked away and steeled himself for the onslaught, ready to fight back. But Sherlock’s words, when he spoke, were quiet and tight, unlike his usual spitting insults.
“I hardly think my friendship with John is comparable to your sad marriage, Lestrade.”
That was not… that was not what Greg had meant and his throat closed and his stomach clenched at Sherlock’s misinterpretation. He rubbed his hands over his face a couple of times, tried to calm the tightness in his chest with a final drag off his cigarette.
“Right.” He dropped the cigarette and straightened his jacket, his right knee creaking as he got up unsteadily. “If that isn’t the sign to call it quits for the night, I don’t know what is.”
“Oh please,” Sherlock spat, “you can’t expect me to accept a comparison between John and your lying cheat of an ex-wife.”
The voice was more familiar now, the audible contempt putting Greg back in a fighting mood and the music drifting from the wedding growing into a dull roar in his ears.
“Fuck you very much, Sherlock,” he snapped back and words were tumbling from his mouth even as his mind raced ahead, telling him to shut up, shut up and walk away. “And just for the record - I wasn’t talking about Jules, for fuck’s sake. I was talking about you - about you and I. Remember? Or is it all deleted, like my bloody first name?”
Jesus, it was like watching a car crash from the inside. He shook his head but the words kept falling away from him, “Unbelievable, I mean -”
Then he heard Sherlock snort in disdain and Greg thought if he was going to fucking lose it like this once and for all, then damned if Sherlock wasn’t going to give him his proper attention. So, Greg strode over to the man, grabbing the lapel of his coat. That fucking coat.
“You forget, you find it insultingly easy to forget - I knew you before this whole swishy coat floppy hair persona came together for John to admire - and you think, what? I’m whinging about my ex-wife to you? Well you can fuck right off,” he shouted, releasing Sherlock with a push.
Sherlock sprawled against the bench and gazed back at him for a while as Greg got his breath back. Finally, sounding bored, he asked, “Are you done?”
Already coming down from the drunken heights of righteous anger, Greg knew he sounded pitiful as he replied, “Never, when it comes to you, to my chagrin.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and straightened the collar of his coat and his posture, declaring, “Yes, well, you’re drunk,” and going for the kill as he continued, “ And you’ll pardon me if I find this scorned old queen act a bit tiresome.”
Greg wiped a hand over his brow, briefly shading his eyes. Fuck. Sherlock had never tolerated weakness on Greg’s part very well. He always avoided Greg whenever he got injured in the line of duty - once, Greg had taken quite a beating and Sherlock had refused to look at him in the eyes for two weeks while they worked the case until the swelling had gone down. And self-pity, Greg knew, was the biggest weakness of it all in Sherlock’s eyes because it was so pointless. Greg knew all this; he knew Sherlock could hone in on vulnerability from a mile away like a shark - and no wonder he was being an arsehole, what with Greg having shown him the jugular right there and then - but knowing it no longer helped as it once might have.
“Jesus Christ,” he muttered, “That certainly answers the question of the night. Knowing you are aware of how much of a prick you can be does make it harder to take.”
With that, Greg turned to leave because for all that Jules and Sally and even his girls liked to tell him he was a glutton for punishment when it came to Sherlock Holmes, Greg knew when to make his retreat to lick his wounds.
But it seemed that Sherlock was not done.
“Come off it, Lestrade,” he barked, getting up and grabbing Greg from his right elbow, “We both know I did you a favour when I stopped coming to you.”
Shit, Greg thought, dangerous territory. For the first time since this bloody encounter began, Greg realised how far in above their heads they both were tonight. They’d instinctively avoided each other since the photographer’s arrest for a reason, for fuck’s sake. Bad, bad idea, this whole thing, they were both too raw - him at his first wedding since the divorce was finalised and Sherlock essentially having to lead the celebrations for the one who got away…
But there was no running and Sherlock was still spitting words in his face, his mouth only inches away.
“I remember the look of disgust on your face, your tedious gay panic each time. You couldn’t wait to go back to your precious wife and kids and play the put-upon family man stuck with the junkie at work.”
Oh hell, really?
“Is that how simple I am to you, Sherlock? Garden variety homophobe, sad middle-aged copper with a fucked up personal life who you once liked to mess with when you got high?”
Sherlock reared his head back, narrowing his eyes, “How oddly detailed.” Head cocked, he added, “Perhaps that’s what you think.”
Breathe in, Greg told himself, and breathe out… The bastard still had Greg’s right arm in a vice-like grip and he felt it throb down his elbow and up his shoulder, which Sherlock had pulled in towards his torso. Greg sighed.
“Yes, well, stick with reading crime scenes and dead people, sunshine, you’re pants at deducing the living ones.”
Sherlock gave him a considering look and for a moment, it was Sherlock Holmes the consulting detective that was stood before him and not his… not Sherlock. And with that momentary shift, it suddenly hit Greg how close they were standing, how they had somehow fallen into an old rhythm, from before Bart’s, before John even, when things were much more volatile between them and much more.. physical. The second Greg processed the realisation, he knew Sherlock saw it too and off he went, rattling deductions, though whether he was running from the thought or towards it, Greg could not tell.
“I’m not wrong, you always couldn’t wait to get away afterwards. I remember because at first I thought it was the drugs but then you were the same even if I were sober - and I was sober several times towards the end. It didn’t come naturally to you either, you were clingy if you fell asleep.”
There was nothing for it - in for a penny, in for a pound, Greg thought resignedly as he grabbed Sherlock’s wrist and pulled the man’s hand off his arm, lingering for a moment before letting go. Running a hand through his grey hair and rolling his shoulders, he realised he didn’t even feel drunk any more.
“Always that last leap you struggle with when it comes to people, isn’t it? Fine, I’ll play along - sure I was disgusted, Sherlock. I know it’s hard to believe now but I did have power and authority over you back then. Wonder boy or not, you were so young and you knew fuck-all about the job in real life. I abused my position, selfishly, each time we fell in together. I fooled myself sometimes thinking it helped you calm down or something but it was destructive to you, I knew it, and you proved it when you stopped coming to me after you cleaned up your act.”
Greg could feel his resolve weakening, having delivered the last half of that speech at a spot on the stone wall behind Sherlock in the corner of the garden where they were tucked away from sight. Fiddling with his cuffs, he forced himself to continue.
“And I am grateful to John for what he was able to do for you. We’re mates, more or less, I wouldn’t have you think otherwise.” Catching Sherlock’s eyes, he stated, “He blamed me at first, hell, I blamed myself, but I tried to be there for him, after - after Bart’s.”
“You make it sound like John and I are, or were, rather, involved.”
“Well, isn’t it true? I mean, you do love him. You said so, back in there.” Greg nodded towards the wedding party, still going strong. What time was it anyway?
“Perhaps, but it’s…” Sherlock stopped, drawing Greg’s attention back from the party to his cool green eyes, glazing over in that familiar way Greg had seen a thousand times right before he solved a case. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuck. “You were in love with me.”
Greg recoiled, stepping back and trying to stop his voice from trembling as he asked, “Look, can we preserve some level of - just leave me a shred of deniability so I can look you in the face after I sober up tomorrow, yeah?”
“Oh, you’ve sobered up,” Sherlock dismissed his words with an elegant swipe of his hand and went on, “You’re right, of course. Things have changed since I’ve met John. I have changed, I suppose. Before, I used to think it was so pointless, talking to people - to you, even. I mean, what was the goal? What was the strategy - what were we trying to solve? I see it better now, I think. The ultimate question, as it were.”
Greg did not have a clue what Sherlock was going on about, of course, but Sherlock wasn’t paying him any attention and kept going before Greg could get a word in.
“Still, this myopia you seem to have about John and I, it’s surprising coming from you who has known me the longest. Then again, it’s clear neither of us has been able to translate that to a better understanding about each other.” Sherlock paused and he eyes snapped back to Greg’s face, his body stilling. “But you were also one of the targets - I told you. I also told you what Moriarty said. You obviously know John has gone ahead with the wedding, despite my return. This is slow, even for you.”
“Oi!” Greg exclaimed, indignant, “Look, John’s a pragmatist and a man of his word. As for the rest, that’s Moriarty for you. Nothing less than total destruction - your home, your work, your ‘heart’ - isn’t that what he said? Three targets, three bullets. The nuclear option.” Greg shrugged, scratching the back of his neck, “You were no less thorough in your own play.”
Sherlock remained preternaturally still, which was beginning to worry Greg. He felt like he was being reeled into a trap but he had no idea what.
“And under that analysis, I presume you are ‘the work’?” Sherlock asked.
Greg nodded, “Sure.”
With a sinking sensation, Greg watched as Sherlock smiled a lazy triumphant grin at that and continued, “You overestimate your necessity to my work, Detective Inspector. I may prefer working with you over the other idiots at Scotland Yard but I would hardly be rendered incapable of figuring out some way to proceed in your absence.”
“What then, Sherlock? I don’t even know what we are talking about anymore!” Greg blurted out in exasperation, wanting to slap the self-satisfied smirk of Sherlock’s face.
“I am talking about our apparently mutual regard for each other, Lestrade, while you are being deliberately obtuse.”
Wait. “Say what now?”
Sherlock took a step towards Greg at that, lightly tapping his shoulder with his fingertips, “You see, Lestrade, you seem to think you were some easy release for me before and an easy access to crime scenes now, to which I would say, I have known and found you to be many things, Greg - but never easy.”
Then Sherlock was crowding into him - what? - leaning towards him with his glittering eyes and cut-glass cheekbones and that absolutely ridiculous cupid’s bow - but wait. Wait. Lestrade leaned back as far as he could without stepping away and put his right hand flat on Sherlock’s chest.
That did not win him a gracious look.
“No, I am broken-hearted over John’s marriage to a woman and intend to drown my sorrows by seducing you because it does not complicate my life at all,” Sherlock bit out impatiently.
“I ask, because I need you to be serious, Sherlock.” Greg could feel his pulse pounding away in his neck, behind his eyes. Greg was used to constantly winning and losing with Sherlock. Having him in his arms and letting him go. Losing him to drugs and helping him claw his way back. Calling him to crime scenes and throwing him out. Sending him home to John, having John protect Sherlock from him, look at him like he was the enemy for god’s sake as if he wouldn’t, he hadn’t always given Sherlock an arm when a hand would do. But then failing him, being failed by him, losing him and being lost in return - this was ridiculous, he was a grown man with two children and responsibilities, how could he trust -
But then it all went strangely quiet in his head when Sherlock grabbed Greg’s hand from his chest and raised it to his lips. As Sherlock lightly kissed his knuckles, Greg could feel something warm and impossibly tender fill his chest and he released the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. Sensing Greg relax, Sherlock grabbed Greg’s neck with his free hand and pulled him into a kiss.
Greg hesitated at first at the feel of Sherlock’s chapped lips against his - back in the day, Sherlock had liked consuming, open-mouthed kisses with teeth that clanged against each other and bit. This light touch felt foreign and new - not a little unsettling. Greg grabbed Sherlock’s face with both hands and deepened the kiss, tasting Sherlock who hummed his approval into his mouth. Greg pulled back for breath.
“I don’t think that was an answer.”
“Honestly, you’re like a dog with a bone, Lestrade.”
Right. “Back to that, are we?”
Greg still held Sherlock’s face between his hands, delicate and complicated between his wide meaty palms and stubby fingers. Sherlock tilted his head back a bit, which caused Greg’s left thumb to slide down under the man’s jaw and settle against the pulse point on the side of his neck. Sherlock gazed at him calmly through his long lashes.
“Fuck me, it’s true,” Greg said, awed.
Sherlock’s answering grin was wide and cocky, his cheeks stretching and crinkling under Greg’s hands.
“Yes, let’s, shall we?” Sherlock drawled.
Well, one of Greg’s greatest virtues had always been knowing when to throw in the towel when it came to Sherlock Holmes, so he had to concede the point.