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Name: morganstuart
Type of work: Fic
Category: Gen
Title: The Distance Getting Close
Prompt used: Lestrade, Sherlock; The first time Lestrade hears Sherlock play the violin. (Prompted by gloria_scott.)
Rating: PG
Warnings: Non-explicit allusions to past drug abuse and off-screen original character deaths.
Notes: The events in this story take place approximately four years prior to those in the Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink." This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Acknowledgements: Grateful thanks to _doodle, Britpicker and beta extraordinaire, and the Beta Who Must Not Be Named, a great help in all things. Any remaining errors are my own.
Consider this work for voting?: No

"The Distance Getting Close"

Time brought healing, people said. He had his doubts. Time seemed to offer perspective, at least, but then a week like this past one came along and ripped the bandages from old wounds, proving them to be as gaping and bloody and tender as they were when fresh.

He needed distance – he would gladly give a week, a month, God, a decade of his life to gain it right now, this night – but such relief, if it did exist at all, refused to be rushed.

With a hand that shook from far too much caffeine and nicotine and far too little sleep, he reached for the next best alternative and poured himself a glass.

Tonight he had no team of professionals for whom he needed to remain steady and focused. He might be too dedicated to his work to drown himself in a bottle permanently, but he wasn’t above taking a bloody swim once in a while if he needed it badly enough.

When the muted complaint of metal against metal announced that someone was picking the lock on his door, Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade merely sighed.

"Now’s not a good time, Sherlock," he said to the shadows, half in apology and half in warning.

The trust he showed this eccentric and troubled young man was a risk, he knew, but he took chances every day, putting his life on the line and relying on his instincts. This self-appointed assignment wasn't so different. On the worst days, it felt like a solemn responsibility. On the best, a rare privilege.

Of course, it was a risk he'd never have taken – or, at least, never have brought home quite so literally – if Jenny were still alive. But she wasn't, was she? And perhaps risk itself didn't concern him so much now that his very worst fears already had been realised.

Besides, there was so much to be gained, for Sherlock Holmes as a person and London as a whole, if Lestrade could help the genius finalise his ugly divorce from recreational drugs. Sherlock might have fled the posh grounds of every private rehab facility to which his brother sent him, but he had come willingly – and returned repeatedly – to Lestrade's far humbler door.

Lestrade wished with all his heart, however, that Sherlock hadn't chosen this night for an impromptu visit.

"If I'd wanted you here, I would've given you a key," he said without heat.

"If you hadn't wanted me here, you would've changed the lock."

With a snort, Lestrade took another drink. The exchange was as familiar as the call and response of a liturgy. Comfortable. Mutually fond, he might call it, if this were anyone else but Sherlock.

“Come closer, yeah?” Lestrade motioned toward the lamp by his armchair, currently the only source of illumination in the darkened room.

“I'm still clean.” He heard the petulance of a wronged child in Sherlock's tone.

With a shrug, he said, “I need to go through the motions sometimes to maintain the elaborate self-deception that I have at least a little common sense. Humour me.”

Sherlock moved forward into the light. His pale eyes reflected fierce intelligence, nothing more. They narrowed as he studied Lestrade in turn. “You're drunk,” he accused.

“I'm not, but I am purposefully, willfully headed in that direction.”

Disgust from Sherlock was never unexpected; when it came, Lestrade took it as his due, as another idiot among billions who had the poor taste to be born a lowly human being rather than a brilliant Holmes. It wasn't personal.

Disappointment, however, was something else entirely. It implied expectation. Lestrade dropped his gaze once he recognized the expression playing across the young man's gaunt features.

“This isn't like you," Sherlock said.

“Boring you, am I? I told you, this isn't a good time.”

“On the contrary, boring is very much like you. Pathetic isn't.” Biting. Wounded.

Lestrade held his tongue and closed his eyes. Sherlock wouldn't understand; he'd never had and never needed what Lestrade now missed. Not for the first time that night, Lestrade tried to recall what it was like to have a family to remind him that home could be more than a blank screen on which to replay the horrors he witnessed on the job. He failed.

"Detective Inspector, do I need to remind you that your line of work requires every single one of the undoubtedly few brain cells you possess?

How very well he knew it. "That's rich, coming from you." The parry was half-hearted at best.

"I have them to spare. You don't." The scathing baritone grew soft, almost diffident. "That said, I'm not using now. We had a deal."

The lost note in the normally arrogant voice roused Lestrade. He straightened in his chair and met Sherlock's stare. "We still have a deal. My getting pissed for one night in the so-called privacy of my own home doesn't affect a thing. Not my work. Not yours."

Sherlock raised an eyebrow, eloquent in his wordless scorn.

"Excuse me if I don't model ideal behaviour for you every single moment of my life. I may be pathetic, but I'm not irresponsible. The day I show up drunk at the office or a crime scene, you have my permission to feed me my warrant card."

The flash of relief on Sherlock's face rebounded on Lestrade, who managed to scavenge something of his characteristic humor. "Or try to, anyway. Not going to happen."

"Your showing up drunk, or my feeding you your warrant card?"


Sherlock's smirk was welcome, but it disappeared a heartbeat later as the young man began to pace. Moving jerkily, all elbows and knees and agitated energy, Sherlock reminded Lestrade of the addict who had trembled and thrashed and keened his way through withdrawal scant months ago, often in Lestrade's spare room. A few times, in the very bleakest of hours, in Lestrade's arms.

"I came here to see if you had anything for me. Anything new. Even the rumour of anything new. Or the memories of anything new to me. I'm bored. And you're no help at all."

Lestrade fought the urge to stumble to the nearest wall and beat his head against it. "Look, Sherlock, in the last three days I've slept maybe seven hours combined, and now I'm too exhausted to make it to my bed, much less sleep. Give me one night to lick my wounds, then things'll be back to normal, yeah?"

Sherlock continued his pacing.

Scrubbing his free hand through his hair and over his stubbled face, Lestrade bit back a groan. "You have complete run of the place. Amuse yourself. You know where to find clean sheets for the spare bed. Just leave me a quiet corner and let me be for a bit. All I'm asking is a few hours."

Pausing, Sherlock blinked at him. Thinking, obviously.

"Don't worry: I won't sing maudlin songs or wear the lampshade on my head or put my fist through the wall. I'm just as uninteresting after a few as I am sober."

Sherlock remained still and silent.

"And stop staring at me like I'm under a bloody microscope!"

Lestrade hunched over his glass, wishing he had the energy to locate and light a cigarette. The packet on the table beside him was empty. Tossing back another mouthful of whiskey instead, he did his best to ignore Sherlock as the young man began to move amid the shadows, examining possessions he'd seen countless times before while treating Lestrade's space as his own.

When Sherlock hissed with sudden understanding, Lestrade flinched at the sound.

"Of course! Of course. Why didn't I see it?" Sherlock tangled his fingers in his curls.

"You closed the Skidmore case today. Fine, yes, you close cases routinely. But in this case, the final victim bore more than a passing physical resemblance to your late wife, if the pictures are any indication. Like your wife, this woman too was pregnant when she died. And if you'd made it to the victim's flat only two-and-a-half hours earlier–"

"Yeah, thanks for the historical reenactment, mate," Lestrade mumbled. Failure and whiskey burned together in his belly like acid.

"But surely you don't…" Long strides put a scowling Sherlock directly in front of Lestrade, looming over him, well inside his personal space. "There wasn’t enough data. You couldn't have… After all, you did move in immediately after you intercepted that last call–"

"Sherlock!" Lestrade raised his hand as if to deflect a blow. "I'm not a mystery that needs solving, all right? I didn't ask you to make sense of this." He was fraying. Christ, he needed to hold himself together, at least until he had the luxury of breaking down without an audience.

He drew a deep breath, sighed it back out like a prayer, inhaled again. "The fridge is reasonably full. Get something to eat. Several somethings – God, look at you. Go hack my computer or reorder my bookshelves or do whatever it is you do. Please."

The young man retreated a few steps and then shifted where he stood, his sharp angles suggesting first defensiveness and then frustration.

“Tomorrow, Sherlock." Lestrade softened his words and turned them into a reassurance, summoning the voice of the father he'd never had the chance to be. "I've got nothing now. And I'm not due in 'til late morning. But if something new hasn't turned up by the afternoon, I'll have a look through the cold case files. One way or another, I'll find something for you. Tomorrow."

Sherlock stared down at him, as inscrutable and cold as carved marble. Then he turned on his heel and left without a word.


When Sherlock returned more than an hour later, Lestrade was still peering sightlessly into the darkness, feeling nearly as mangled as the glassy-eyed victim he'd so recently failed to save.

Despite his stated intention to get drunk, Lestrade had nursed his whiskey sparingly since Sherlock's departure. Perhaps this had less to do with his self-control than the fact he scarcely had the energy left to bring the glass to his lips.

"If humans could perish of their own dullness, you'd be long since buried, Lestrade."

Too surprised by Sherlock's reappearance to think of any comeback, Lestrade offered only a shaky two-fingered salute in reply.

This time his visitor appeared to be carrying something, although Lestrade's bleary eyes couldn't make out what it was. Maybe a small piece of luggage? Fair enough, Lestrade thought. At least he'd know that Sherlock had somewhere clean and safe – and, more to the point, free of illicit substances – to stay.

For no reason his weary mind could grasp, however, it looked like Sherlock was unpacking on the far end of the sofa, in the middle of the sitting room, in the dark.

"You can have the spare room, y'know." Then, "What're you doing? And why don't you turn on a light?"

"Shut up, Lestrade."

At last Sherlock presented himself, perching on the nearer arm of the sofa and glowering into the dim lamplight, as though daring Lestrade to mock him.

It had never occurred to Lestrade that Sherlock Holmes might play a musical instrument. Yet the elegant violin now resting against Sherlock's collarbone, balanced between shoulder and hand, seemed to be a natural extension of the young man's body, an integral part of a now-complete whole.

After several seconds and a pretentious sniff, Sherlock purposefully rearranged himself to face the opposite direction, turning his long, narrow back to his audience of one. And then, without preamble, he began to make the most haunting music Lestrade had ever heard.


Sherlock didn't play the violin: he breathed life into it; he communed with it. The instrument sang with all of the feeling he seemed unwilling or unable to express in other ways, by turns demonstrative in rapid, skipping successions of sounds and empathetic in the slow, melancholy pulsation of a single note.

Soon the young man slid off the furniture, his slender limbs swaying like a dancer's as the melody rose and fell. Lestrade set his glass aside and crossed his arms over his chest, as if mere muscle and bone could contain the swell of emotion that the music evoked.

While he watched, the restlessness bled out from Sherlock's frame. In place of the manic former junkie stood a virtuoso, fluid and graceful and consumed by inspiration.

How mad, Lestrade thought, that Sherlock would choose this empty shell of a home as the place to abandon himself to his genius. How incomprehensible, that Sherlock would decide to share this startling and intimate beauty with, of all people, an exhausted and heartsick copper – one who couldn't, despite his damnedest efforts, keep any of the people around him from dropping like flies.

Ah, but Sherlock was alive, wasn't he?

Not a corpse with a needle in its arm, cold in some gutter. No longer curled into a miserable, sweating knot in the tangled sheets of the spare bed, or heaving over Lestrade’s toilet, vomiting up strangled breath.

Sherlock was alive.

The violin beckoned Lestrade from a distance, drawing him in and away, far away, from the shadows encircling him. He had never heard the likes of it. Without asking, he knew that this music had never been composed or published or rehearsed; it simply was happening. Now. Spontaneously.

An offering, meant for him.

He didn't realise he was weeping until he tasted the salt of tears on his lips.

The violin spoke. Lestrade understood its message.

Humbled and overwhelmed, he closed his damp eyes, uncrossed his empty arms, and surrendered himself to the sound.


When Lestrade woke from a sound sleep, stiff and awkward in his armchair, he found a duvet from his airing cupboard draped haphazardly over his body. Sherlock and his violin were nowhere to be seen.

A frozen pizza, an electric can opener, and a half-eaten jar of marmalade appeared to be missing from the kitchen. In the rubbish bin Lestrade found two handwritten pages in what was likely the Tsalagi syllabary (or so a Google search informed him), but might have been an elaborate secret code instead.

A hand-drawn, exceptionally detailed, and extensively labeled cross-section diagram of the bowels of a wharf rat was taped to the refrigerator door, not unlike a child's finger-painting proudly brought home from school for parental display.

All of Lestrade's books had been rearranged in their shelves according to some obscure logic that he couldn't begin to fathom. And his computer sported a new wallpaper: a screen capture of security camera footage from the office, showing one of his fellow Yarders investing great determination and industry in picking his nose as he waited for the lift.

Lestrade chuckled aloud as he discovered Sherlock's parting gifts.

The pain of past loss and recent failure had not disappeared, not even diminished, but after several hours of untroubled sleep he found it to be a weight that he could shoulder once more. His heart felt full now rather than simply heavy.

What Lestrade craved more than anything was his purpose, his work. Maybe, just maybe, he and his team and his new consulting detective might solve a murder this day. The pale grey glow of a rainy morning shone through the window like a promise as he waited for the kettle to boil.

Echoes of remembered music filled the emptiness around him.



( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 25th, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC)
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Apr. 25th, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC)
Very nicely done.
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Apr. 25th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
So, I don't really have much of a headcanon for Lestrade. I have a lot of vague ideas, but can't seem quite to get a handle on him. But I LOVE your interpretation, and it'd definitely feeding into my mentalimage of him. It's believeable, and beautifully written. Thanks for sharing!
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm so pleased that my interpretation of Lestrade works for you. I really appreciate your kind words.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, all of this, twice.
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 25th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 25th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 25th, 2011 01:27 pm (UTC)
This was simply gorgeous.

*holds Gregory close and blesses Sherlock for his gifts and his flaws
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you so much! You've put a huge smile on my face.
Apr. 25th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
I really liked this.
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.
Apr. 25th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
Absolutely gorgeous. Thanks so much.
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
I'm thrilled you think so! Thank you so much for your kind words.
Apr. 25th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, lovely.
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I expect the nose-picking wallpaper was Sherlock's favorite, too. ;) Thanks for reading!
Apr. 25th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
this works as *true* for me. thank you for this.

Because you need me.

I do. God help me.

best explanation yet.
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy this seems right and true to you. That makes my day.

That quote from the series continues to haunt me.

I really appreciate your kind words. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
I've read this three times now. So well done. Thank you for writing it.
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
Oh wow - this really thrills my heart. Thank you for reading it!
(no subject) - lastwordy_mcgee - Apr. 25th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 26th, 2011 07:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
Now that I am able to breathe--thank you. This is an ache that is tinged with hope. Stunning.
Apr. 25th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
This is an ache that is tinged with hope.

Wow, I can't think of higher praise, or a description I'd rather have applied to my story, so I'm humbled and honored. Thank you so very much for your kind words! I truly appreciate it.
Apr. 25th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
Superb!! I love how Sherlock's gift of music was able to soothe Lestrade's terrible ache in recompense for what Lestrade had done for Sherlock. A gift given where none was expected or even deemed likely, and thus all the more to be cherished.
Apr. 26th, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
Thank you SO MUCH! You have a way of saying beautifully in two sentences what I try to say in eight or ten pages. :) It's thrilling to me that this theme came through, though, because you've described just what I was hoping to communicate: the fact this was unlooked for, and generous, but also a first step toward repaying what Sherlock owed Lestrade. Thanks so very much for your lovely feedback! You've made my day.
Apr. 25th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
Nice to see Sherlock able to help Lestrade while staying in character. The combination of warm heart and horrible social skills is really hilarious. And he must reflexively search out the answer to the puzzle of Lestrade's unusual distress before he remembers to try and help! What a wretched kid!

Lestrade's dangerous dance with alcohol adds a lot of tension to this piece. Now that Sherlock knows of this weakness in his friend, he's got something to worry about, something he can't simply solve. May be a first for him.
Apr. 26th, 2011 07:01 am (UTC)
Re: Marvellous!
You're so right: this may indeed be a first for him, at least being on this end of the equation. Lestrade's already seen him at his worst, so now Sherlock can view this from the opposite side. I always love your wonderful comments. Thanks so much for reading and leaving feedback! I'm so glad this seemed in character to you.

Edited at 2011-04-26 02:41 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 26th, 2011 07:18 am (UTC)
Oh wow. I appreciate this more than I can say. Thank you so very much. You can't imagine how happy it makes me to know that the things I was trying to communicate came through, about Sherlock communicating through his music, repaying his debt to Lestrade for quite literally saving his life (both by helping him part with drugs and giving him purpose in his work), and both of them connecting in a way that lets them move on the next day and do what they need to do.

the notion that the relationship is really one of a man who lost the chance to be a father and a man who is--as we know so well--a child in many ways and needs a father figure--I get choked up just thinking about this

Oh, you've absolutely made my day! That was my underlying goal for this piece, and it really means a lot to know it worked and you find it believable.

It's how I saw them in the series, with Sherlock feeling free to be a brat at will, and Lestrade feeling free to "discipline" him ("Drugs bust!") when he went too far, and then both being able to put those moments behind them and collaborate without a second thought. For that matter, it makes a certain sense to me that Sherlock "performs" as he does at crime scenes in part because 1. he wants everyone to believe he doesn't care what they think about him and yet 2. impressing Lestrade, even making him proud, secretly pleases him.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Seriously, your comments put tears in my eyes.

Edited at 2011-04-26 11:23 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 26th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
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