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Summer of Sherlock 2: Grumpelstiltskin

My second fic is now up at the Summer of Sherlock. Since I mucked up the formatting, rather badly, however, I'll also put it up here:


Prompt(s) used: Lestrade, John; first-name basis
Rating: R
Word count: 3,050
Warnings: Very strong language
Notes/Acknowledgements. Special thanks to my beta Gayalondiel


The first time John met Lestrade, they'd been looking at a dead body: Jennifer Wilson's. The second time was just before the Met ended up with another corpse: Jefferson Hope, the serial-killer cabbie. It was a week or two later, after they'd just undertaken a futile investigation of the Northern Outfall Sewer for clues to a jewel robbery, that Lestrade said: "Call me Greg." Perhaps because it was a bit ridiculous being formal with someone when you were helping them remove their turd-covered waders. Sherlock, of course, was still making snide comments about "Lestrade's abysmal lack of logical thought", but John was pleased he was getting to know the inspector better, even if it wasn't in quite the circumstances he'd have chosen.

It was still hard inviting "Greg" out on a date a few months later, but John hadn't won gallantry medals for nothing.

"You're sure it's me you fancy, not Sherlock?" Greg had asked mock-seriously.

John gave him a hard stare, and said: "Sleeping with Sherlock? It'd be a cross between a laboratory experiment and an army initiative test...or so I imagine." Greg was starting to grin rather ruefully.

"Before you ask," he said, "yes, once, and it was a disaster. I got so pissed off I ended up telling Sherlock to go fuck himself."

John waited, because there would be a punch line. There always was with Greg.

"So he started to," Greg went on, shaking his head. "Well, I believe the technical term is autofellate. I told him that might be a hit in a circus, but not in my bed and left him to it."

"You can't...," John began. "Can he?"

"Yes he can, and no, you don't want to see it. Sherlock's best off having sex with himself, only partner he respects. But you were saying something about a date, were you?"

"If you fancy it."

"Been fancying you rotten for ages, John."

***

Sherlock, of course, outed them at a crime scene two weeks later, but everyone seemed remarkably unfazed by the whole thing: John even got a whispered "Good for you, John" from Sally. And it was great, John decided, that he could go along to the pub with Greg's team and cuddle their boss openly. No need to worry about queer-bashers with so many officers happy to boost their performance indicators via an extra arrest or two.

Come November, it was the celebrations for Anderson's new baby that got them down the pub. Even though they sent Anderson home pretty damn quick, because if the reconciliation with his wife was going to last, he needed to make himself useful and change a few nappies.

"You OK?" John asked Sally, a round or two later.

"Yeah. Like I said, can't think what I saw in the tosser now. Must have gone a bit crazy at that point."

"You're better off with, what's the new bloke's name?" Sally's emotional life was practically a soap opera in itself.

"Ben," said Sally smiling. "Dunno if it'll work out, but he's quite sweet."

"Anderson wanted to call his son Ben," said DC Kath Climpson, her tall figure jammed between Sally and Dimmock. "Then his wife realised that Benjamin Robert Anderson was asking for the kid to be bullied."

John thought for a moment, slightly muzzily."Oh, his initials would be B. R. A., you mean? Yeah, that would be bad." He giggled. "But that's parents for you. I mean, Mycroft and then Sherlock? And do you know what my middle name is?"

"It's Hamish, isn't it?" said Sally.

"No, it's worse than that."

"Hannibal," said Greg.

"Not quite that bad, I suppose. Horatio, as in Horatio Nelson. It's was my mum's idea, I think she'd seen a film about him."

"I," said Greg, ruffling John's hair, "am Greg, as in Gregory Peck, because my mum went for him."

It was the first time John had heard Greg talk about his parents. He was just trying to think of how he could tactfully ask more when Kath broke in:

"But what's the other G?"

"The other G?" John demanded.

"He's G. G. Lestrade and Gregory's your middle name, isn't it, sir? But I don't think even Personnel know what the other G stands for."

"Gordon," said John promptly.

"Gary," Sally said.

"Guillermo," said Dimmock, with a surprisingly good Spanish accent.

"Wrong, wrong, wrong," Greg replied cheerfully. "I'm not telling you, so don't bother asking."

"Grumpelstiltskin," said John, which got him a clip round the ear. "Policemen aren't supposed to do that anymore," he protested.

"Yeah, well civilians aren't supposed to waste police time, are they? Which reminds me, we probably ought to make a move soon. So nothing more for you, Horatio, I don't want you getting blind drunk."

***

"Ah yes," Sherlock said when John remembered to ask him. "There are least 17 horse-related jokes to be made about G. G. Lestrade, and I suspect he's heard them all repeatedly. But no, I don't know his first name, as it happens."

"I'm surprised."

"Lestrade keeps his past very well hidden, and I've never felt the need to go beyond the obvious deduction."

"What do you mean?"

"You'll have to work it out for yourself, John, but I'll give you a hint. Start by working out the swearword that he doesn't like using."

***

It took a bit of listening and thought, but John spotted it eventually, especially after all the extra data points from Greg's latest run-in with HR.

"He doesn't call people cunts," he said to Sherlock, "and he's pretty polite about women generally. Apart from that he uses just about every other swearword I know and some I'd never come across before. But he doesn't call anyone bastard, except when he's talking about "some poor bastard" who's been attacked."

"From which you deduce?"

"Oh, you mean-"

"There is a strong possibility that he is himself illegitimate and had the word used against him as a child."

"It would fit with Greg never mentioning his father," John said, "but there might be other reasons."

"At least six," Sherlock replied, "but it's never seemed sufficiently important to investigate. If it interests you, I'm sure Mycroft could procure his birth certificate."

"No," said John. "If Greg doesn't want to talk about it, I'm not going behind his back."

***

The Christmas card arrived early in December, in a cheap envelope with no more of an address than a blotchy "Dr John Wattson, 221B Baker Street, London", and John wondered for a moment if it was a hoax or a threat. But when he opened it cautiously – too thin to be a letter bomb, but he wore gloves in case there was anything noxious inside – what emerged was a card with a cheery robin on the front and a short message written clumsily inside.

Happy Chrismas, John. I wood like to meet you some time. Pat Lestrade.

"Your mother?" John asked Greg, showing him the card when he came round that evening.

"I finally told her about us, had to explain why I can't go over to see her till Boxing Day. Look, if you are OK to meet her..."

"Of course. Why shouldn't I be?"

"It's just, she's a bit...different."

"Greg, I have a sister who's an alcoholic and a divorce lawyer and I live with Sherlock. Is your mum really unusual in comparison?"

"No, she's a good sort. It's well, you know. She's lived in a village in Somerset all her life, not really been anywhere-"

"Semi-literate," Sherlock announced, appearing behind them and peering over John's head at the card, "but probably in reasonable health apart from a touch of arthritis, judging by the handwriting. And by no means stupid, judging by her son."

"And almost certainly more tactful than you," John retorted. "Stop being a pain, and start thinking about what Christmas present you're going to give your mother. I'd love to come and meet your mum, Greg. Harry's not back till the 29th, so Boxing Day would be fine for me."

***

As they drove down to Somerset Greg barely spoke, concentrating fiercely on the horrendous Boxing Day traffic. It was only when the car was crawling its way through the maze of lanes past Radstock that he said abruptly:

"I'm not ashamed of her, you know."

"Your mother?"

"People always think I don't talk about her because I'm ashamed of her. That she's not educated, that she wasn't married when she had me. I'm not ashamed of who she is, who I am. The thing is...it's not my world anymore. I don't have anything in common with the guys in the village when I come back down here. And I can't properly explain the Met to Mum or Mum to the Met."

"It's not just you," John replied. "I used to have blueys to write, letters home to my parents from Afghanistan, and I'd wonder what on earth I could say. You can't really tell them that a friend of yours got blown to bits the day before. So I'd write some sort of bland crap to them, and then they'd tell me all about what bulbs they were going to plant in the garden in the autumn."

"Well if you get any gardening talk from Mum," Greg said, "it'll be all about vegetables. She said she could never see the point of flowers, and she's never had more than a tiny garden. OK, we're coming into the village now. Don't blink or you'll miss it."

***

Pat Lestrade was tall and bony, with the hands of someone who'd scrubbed floors all her life, and movements that spoke of encroaching arthritis to John's practised gaze. The only real resemblance to Greg was her beautiful brown eyes, and the broad smile as she said: "It's good to meet you, Dr Watson."

"Call me John," he said, smiling back.

"Used to clean for a surgery over Radstock way," she said. "I always had to call them Doctor so-and-so."

"I'm not on duty, I'm here for Christmas. Well, Boxing Day, at least. Sorry about that, I'd booked the restaurant ages ago."

"Well I hope you've still got room for another Christmas dinner," Pat said. "Made it for you special."

***

Pat's mince pies were the best John had had all winter and he told her so.

"Secret of good pastry is cool hands," she replied. "Always had 'em."

"Cool Hand Pat?"

"You like Paul Newman?" she asked. "I loved him."

"And Gregory Peck as well?"

"Yeah, ever since I saw him in The Big Country when I were a girl. I always liked Westerns best of all. Suppose I fancied myself as an outlaw."

***

Talking about films kept Pat and him going for a while – one of the other advantages of John having been unemployed when he first came to London had been an education in old movies – and then it was natural to move onto Sherlock's cases. They sat around in Pat's tiny, cluttered living room and John told her about some of the most exciting ones, while Greg sat silently, fiddling awkwardly with a crystal swan he'd picked up from the windowsill. Of course it was a bit unfair, John thought. He and Sherlock got to pick and choose cases where a million pounds worth of opals had been stolen, and Greg got stuck with all the teenage junkies shooting people. You couldn't get good holiday stories from that.

"Greg," Pat said at last, "You'll break that if you don't stop playing with it." Greg put the ornament down sulkily.

"He never could sit still when he were a kid," she went on. "A right menace in school, weren't you?"

"He's done very well for himself," John said hastily. "The Met couldn't manage without him." He hesitated and then asked: "Have you got any photos of Greg as a child?"

"Oh God," said Greg. "I'm not staying here if you're going to start showing him those. I'll go for a walk."

"It'll be dark soon," Pat said.

"I'll take a torch then. I just...I just want to get some air."

"I'm sorry," John said when he'd gone. "I think he's tired, that's why he's being a bit grumpy."

"It weren't easy when he were young," Pat said. "I think it brings back bad memories for him. But you do really wanna see what I've got?"

"Of course."

"I don't get to talk about him much. It's nice. Him bringing someone home."

"You don't mind that I'm a bloke?" John said cautiously.

"I had a bit of a shock when Greg were seventeen and told me he fancied boys not girls, but I'm still his mum. And you can't help who you love, can you? I'll get the box. I haven't got that much stuff, really, I couldn't afford to take many pictures."

Greg as a police cadet, proud as hell in his first uniform. Greg as a shaggy-haired teenager, looking worryingly like a pop star. A school report for him, aged 14.

"I kept it for what Mr Andrews said," Pat said. "Here, in the middle."

And there, among the 'disappointing' and 'inadequate' and 'woeful ignorance', a bold hand had written in one space: Gregory has great potential, if he can only find a suitable outlet for his exuberance, energy and latent intelligence. I hope that he discovers such an outlet soon.

"Mr Andrews were the one suggested Greg should be a copper," Pat said. "He laughed at that, said it weren't for him."

"But he changed his mind in the end?" John asked.

"He did other stuff for a bit, worked in factories and the like. Went to London for a while, dunno what he did there. And then he came home and said he were gonna go for the police, and Mr Andrews helped coach him for the entrance tests. Got in second time round."

"That's great," said John.

"Bet you were good at school, not like Greg. Have to be, being a doctor and all."

"It was all so long ago," said John. "It doesn't really matter anymore. Greg's a clever man to have got where he has. A great man, as well."

"He is, ain't he? I'm so proud of him."

More photos of Greg as a child, with the faded 1970s colours and slight blurring that spoke of a cheap camera and not much experience in picture-taking. But there was one of him on the beach aged about seven that had his grin to a T. And then a portrait photo of Pat, holding a miserable looking baby Greg, clearly just about to start howling.

"How old were you?" John asked, looking at the defiant smile in the girl's eyes.

"Sixteen," she said. "There's one more photo I want you to see. Don't show everyone this."

She handed it over: a black-and-white picture of a lean, handsome, dark-haired youth draped sexily over a motorbike, cigarette in his mouth. For a moment he wondered how old Greg had been then, and then it registered.

"Is that Greg's father?" he asked.

"Yeah. Billy Carter. 'Cept his name weren't really Billy, it were George. But he wanted to be Billy the Kid, and I were Calamity Jane. He used to take me on his bike to Weston, and we'd sit under the pier, if we couldn't afford the movies. He said he'd marry me and we'd move to Arizona one day. And then I got pregnant and he buggered off to Taunton and never spoke to me again."

"It must have been hard."

"Mum were furious. She and Dad stuck me in a home in Minehead, said I'd have to give the baby away. Have it adopted. But I weren't going to, he were mine."

John had seen a girl like Pat just the other day in the surgery, saying she wasn't going to have an abortion whatever her mother said, and she could look after a baby herself. It was hard enough to be a young single mother now, must have been even tougher back in the Sixties. But then Pat would have been like Greg: nothing could stop her when she put her mind to something.

"What did you do?" he asked.

"A couple of days after Greg were born, I escaped with him. I knew they were going to come to the home, make me sign things, give him up. I weren't gonna do it. So I got on the bus, and came home and went to Nan's, and she helped me. I registered the birth myself and all, and I wouldn't sign anything that let anyone else have him."

"That was amazing," John said. "Very brave."

"It weren't. Just what I had to do. Couldn't of lived without him. I talked dad round after a bit, but it took Mum ages to stop getting at me. Saying I'd ruined my life, I'd never get a husband. Saying it'd of been better for Greg if he'd been brought up by a proper family."

"You did a great job. He couldn't have had someone who loved him more." It must have been tough for Greg though, John thought, all those tensions in his family. No wonder he found it hard to talk about it even now. Still, maybe this trip would help.

Pat had picked up the photo of herself holding Greg again, and was staring at it intently, as if she wanted to tell her younger self something. At last she put it down and said:

"I got things wrong a lot. I'm not clever, never any good at school, even before I started skiving off. Even got it wrong on Greg's birth certificate, see?" She pulled out a creased piece of paper, and unfolded it.

"My little outlaw, he were. I told the man what names to put on, and he said I were wrong, but I insisted. I thought it were like George, that were how you spelled it. I wanted something different, something people would remember, and I just made a muck of it."

John looked at the certificate, and the blank boxes for the father's name and occupation, and Pat's childish signature. And then he reached over and gave her a hug.

"You got the important things right," he told her. Because what better mother than Patricia Jane Lestrade could Gesse Gregory Lestrade have had?

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
fengirl88
Aug. 28th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
I think this is one of my favourites of yours - a really lovely encounter between two people who care about Lestrade and matter to him. very glad you've posted it here as well as at the fest.

*hugs fic and adds to Memories*
marysutherland
Aug. 29th, 2011 07:47 am (UTC)
I'm pleased with how this one turned out, having not written John/Lestrade before. But poor Greg always seems to get landed with a difficult past; I suppose we all presume he's tough enough to survive anything.

Though my back story for him isn't quite so bad as the terrible things that happen to him in your amazing Because the Night. (Are you going to post that on your own journal, BTW?). And at least my Lestrade has John to comfort him, not your sulky if irresistible Sherlock.

fengirl88
Aug. 29th, 2011 10:58 am (UTC)
thank you very much! yes, I've posted it at the journal here.

I'm increasingly fond of John/Lestrade as a pairing, and obviously John would be much better for Lestrade than Sherlock is!
2ndskin
Aug. 28th, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
Yep. Seconding fen's comment. I think I've let you know already how much I love the way you portray the relationships here so tenderly, but with such restraint and sweet humor. The primary J/L relationship and Lestrade and Pat's both are just beautiful--but the gathering of Yarders and their acceptance of John into the fold is quite touching too--without any OOC sentimentality. Couldn't love this one more.
ginbitch
Aug. 28th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely gorgeous. Wonderful, understated writing. I love Pat's quiet dignity.

Memming.

<3
marysutherland
Aug. 31st, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - I know a bit about the treatment of single mothers in the 1960s, since I was adopted then, and the story just seemed to flow from the prompt.
chamekke
Oct. 14th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
This story is now part of my headcanon for Lestrade :-)

Pat's a wonderful creation. A complex and likable character in her own right, and completely believable as Lestrade's mum.

And the 'Gesse'... awww, that's perfect. So sweet and tender.

(BTW much the same thing happened to my great-grandmother in Gloucester in 1902 except that her case 'Billy' buggered off to south Wales.)
marysutherland
Oct. 16th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
Lestrade in canon has obviously come a long way starting from a working-class background, so I wanted to give him a family that made that plausible and explained that drive. And since I'm almost RG's age and was an adopted illegitimate child, I know some of the pressures on single mothers at the time.

One of the most important lessons I learned when looking for childcare for my daughter is that a lack of education and poor spelling can go together with being really good at caring for children, so I wanted to reflect that in Pat's character.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )