When people first see Lestrade and John together, they assume that they are a couple. Not just any couple, but one of those sickeningly adorable couples who can spend hours staring into each other's eyes while a string quartet plays in the background and turtledoves flit about their heads.
And no one could blame them for their assumption, what with the way Lestrade grabs John and uses him as his own personal leaning-post. Or how John tends to sprawl all over Lestrade like an over-friendly cat demanding to be petted right this instant. Or how they share their coffees, even though they take them differently (black for John, milk and two sugars for Lestrade), and bring each other breakfast pastries. On particularly cold days, John would shove Lestrade around until he was between John and the wind, then plaster himself to Lestrade's front and try to sneak his hands underneath his shirt.
(Everyone knew when John succeeded because Lestrade would suddenly jump and swear and seriously, was John holding onto a bloody block of ice? John would tell him to shut up, his hands were cold and Lestrade's back was warm. Lestrade would then say that John was a doctor, shouldn't he be worried about his piss-poor circulation? Because there was no way living human hands should be that cold.)
With anyone else, Lestrade is the epitome of the reserved Englishman. A pat on the shoulder from him is comparable to a crushing hug and a smacking kiss on the cheek. John doesn't so much have personal boundaries as three-meter-thick concrete barriers manned by snipers, a pack of rabid hyenas, and an Apache helicopter.
But any concept of personal space is kicked to the curb once they get within sight of each other.
"Do they always do that?" Dimmock asks once as Lestrade pulls John into a hug. He had only nodded briskly to Sherlock in greeting.
"Every time. Not just hello or goodbye, they do the same for birthdays, matches, pub quizzes, arrests, and just for the hell of it." Donovan shrugs. "I don't think either of them was hugged enough as a child."
So yes, anyone who sees them together figures that they are a couple. And they keep on thinking that, right up to the point where they meet Lestrade's wife and their three children. Or until they realize that John's strange, sociopathic flatmate is also his strange, sociopathic boyfriend.
Lestrade's wife is a very successful lawyer and a fierce supporter of rugby union. She and John adore each other. (Lestrade, a stalwart football fan, simply shakes his head in despair and vows to teach his children better.) The kids love their Uncle John and Lestrade pulls him in for babysitting duty when he and the missus want some time alone.
(There was an incident, once, when a man who Lestrade had put away was released from prison. Filled with several years' worth of rage and resentment, the man went straight to Lestrade's house, howling for revenge. Lestrade and the missus had been out to dinner that night. They had frantically raced home and arrived just in time to see the paramedics pour a bloody, whimpering mess into a stretcher. The kids latched onto their parents, talking excitedly over each other, all, "He had a gun so Uncle John broke his wrist," and "He threw the man through a window, mum, it was brilliant," and "When I grow up, I'm going to be a ninja like Uncle John."
John, a bit bruised with a cut on his cheek, was all sheepish grins and, "Yeah, sorry about the window," and "I'm fine, really," and "Good ninjas eat their vegetables and do their homework."
John was declared the official babysitter of the Lestrade household.)
Sherlock says that Lestrade is the least incompetent idiot at New Scotland Yard. Which, from him, was like standing outside Lestrade's window while holding a boombox over his head.
Their partners aren't worried about their relationship, so really, no one else should be. Even if Lestrade cooks John gourmet meals and John goes out wearing one of Lestrade's old football jerseys. When Lestrade and the missus are busy, John takes the kids to school and meets with their teachers.
John reminds Lestrade of anniversaries and birthdays because Lestrade always forgets, panics about forgetting, and then drags John shopping with him. John will mock all of Lestrade's choices and take over, picking out something so thoughtful and perfect that Lestrade mutters something about John's fifty ex-girlfriends and how man-whores would be good at wooing. ("I don't have fifty ex-girlfriends!" "Yeah, tell that to your bloody harem spanning three continents.") John usually tackles him to the ground, which then turns into a full-blown wrestling match, and ends with them leaning against each other in a pub, nursing a pint and throwing peanuts at the telly or Lestrade teaching John how to cheat at cards.
Not to mention Lestrade brings an extra scarf to crime scenes because John always forgets his. And John drops in at the Yard with food when he knows Lestrade is working late.
"Are they dating?" a constable asks. He's new and still learning the nuances of their little madhouse.
Lestrade and John are sitting at Lestrade's desk with cartons of Chinese food. Lestrade is steadfastly picking out all the mushrooms from his plate and putting them on John's. John shakes his head fondly and holds up an egg roll to Lestrade's mouth so he can take a bite without stopping his single-minded campaign.
"Lestrade. Straight. Married with children," Donovan says, with the resigned air of someone who has to explain this so many times. "Watson. Crazy, crazy boyfriend."
There's one pork bun left and they keep nudging it towards each other like that meatball scene from Lady and the Tramp. The constable watches this for a long moment, then slowly looks at Donovan with mute appeal.
Donovan sighs. "Yeah, they do that."
Donovan thinks her life would be much easier if her boss and Dr. Watson were actually together. Or capable of keeping their hands off each other. She's lost count of the times she walked into Lestrade's office to see them sprawled over each other like a pair of indolent lions. Or sitting with their heads bent close, tawny hair mixing with grey, speaking in low, intimate tones.
More than one person has approached Lestrade's wife and carefully broached the subject that her husband seemed strangely close to that doctor of his, and was he having an affair/midlife crisis/gay epiphany? She simply raises a brow and says that they are very happy together, thank you very much, Greg is much more physically affectionate than her, so if he gets some fulfillment from his platonic life partner then she wasn't going to make him stop.
When asked, Sherlock just gives a blank look and says, "John's mine." As if anything to the contrary broke some fundamental law of physics.
"Do you think we're weird?" John asks Lestrade.
"Define 'weird,'" Lestrade says. He shifts so that John is lying more comfortably on top of him. "Weird as in a bit odd or weird as in blowing up a sheep’s brain in the microwave?"
"I thought we decided never to mention that incident again." John rolls over and props his chin on Lestrade's chest so that he could look him in the eyes. "I mean this. Right here. Normal blokes don't cuddle their friends, even if they are best mates."
Lestrade flicks his ear. "Normal blokes also don't run around London solving crimes. Or nearly kill a man using a commemorative Tower of London pen."
"He attacked Sherlock first," John says defensively. "What about you, then?"
Lestrade shrugs, as best he can with a compact little assassin on top of him. "I've been a police officer for most of my life. After a while, you learn that life really is short and you should take what happiness you can get. And this," Lestrade adds, wrapping an arm around John and pulling him tight to his chest, "makes me happy. I don't give a damn what others think."
"Huh." John blinks. "That was unexpectedly deep."
Lestrade cuffs his head. "Shut up and watch the match, Watson."
John chuckles and turns his head, resting his cheek right over Lestrade's sternum. There's a missed goal and two players starting a fight before John speaks again.
"Normalcy is overrated anyways."
"It really is."