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Can you forgive her?

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (swearing)

Spoilers for Series 2

Summary: Lestrade and Sally Donovan have a talk after the events of The Reichenbach Fall.

Many thanks to my very patient betas Zauzat and Kalpyso_V

Lestrade was sitting at home watching a Doctor Who DVD when the knock came on his door. Ten years' worth of TV he'd never seen, of books he'd never read; might at least use his suspension to catch up on them. Lose himself in a world where good always won out in the end. Where the hero could come back to life if he needed to.

He suspected it would be a criminal calling; his reputable visitors had pretty much dried up. But when he glared through the peephole, it was someone even further down the moral scale. That traitor Sally Donovan. He opened the door on the chain, and announced: "Fuck off."

"I need to talk to you, sir."

"There's nothing you could say that I want to hear."

"I got Chief Superintendent Hamilton to drop the assault charges against John Watson."

Oh God, Lestrade thought, he should have sorted that out, shouldn't he? He'd presumed that Hamilton would have had the decency to drop the charges after Sherlock's death, give John a break in the midst of his grief. But he hadn't made sure that had happened; he'd been too busy fighting his own corner, dealing with all the allegations thrown at him.

"I told him if the case came to court, I'd testify in John's favour, explain that Hamilton provoked him," Sally went on hastily into the silence.

Did she think doing that would make things better? She'd dumped them all in the shit going to Hamilton in the first place. Got the whole team suspended, not just him. Destroyed the lives of Sherlock and John. Far too late for her to worry about the consequences.

"Fuck off," he told her again, and closed the door.


He couldn't leave it alone, now he'd seen her again. The questions that had been there ever since that awful night were buzzing around his head once more, hour after hour, day after day. Why had he done it? Why had she done it? No chance to ask Sherlock now why he'd jumped, but why had Sally let him down? Had it just been because of that twat Anderson? Why had she gone over his head like that?

Maybe he should talk to her. You shouldn't condemn a person without hearing their side of the story. That was only fair. Sally hadn't listened to him, had she, but he was better than her. He'd hear her pathetic excuses before he told her what he thought of her. She'd helped drive a man to suicide by spreading ridiculous lies about him; she had Sherlock's blood on her hands almost as much as Kitty Riley did.

OK, so he was looking for a fight. But then so was she: Sally Donovan always was. She wouldn't have come to his flat the previous week otherwise. The anger he'd felt ever since Sherlock had died was burning him up now; why shouldn't she take her fair share of the fallout? His fingers punched out a text to her:

Come and talk then. I suppose you've got nothing better to do either. GL


Sally was in a T-shirt and jeans when she came; it was odd seeing her dressed so informally. Made her look younger, more approachable. Probably why she never wore them on duty. He'd psyched himself up to make some sort of big speech, but he didn't know where to start. She wasn't his sergeant any more – or his friend. He gestured awkwardly at the hideous sofa – his wife had got custody of their old one  – pushed a mound of newspapers and junk mail off another chair and sat down, keeping his gaze fixed on her. Gave her the eyeballing he'd give a difficult suspect, to show her he wasn't to be messed about with. Sally glared back at him defiantly and suddenly said:

"Do you know what Sherlock Holmes did the first day I ever met him?"

"Tell you that you were an idiot?" he replied. "It's what he told most people. And he was right a lot of the time."

"Gave a bloke a heart attack by announcing loudly that he was an escaped prisoner. The Gloria Scott case, that was."

"Yeah. And he was right about that too, wasn't he?"

"I know. And the bloke died a few days later."

"So Sherlock had a big mouth," he said. "That's hardly news. Doesn't justify what you did."

"No," she went on doggedly. "But do you know what John Watson did the first day I ever met him?"


"Shot a man. The cabbie in the Pink Lady case. I heard Sherlock say it when they walked past me afterwards: 'You're the one who shot him.' And John told him to keep his voice down."

It all came back now; Sherlock sitting in an ambulance draped in a shock blanket, clearly lying through his teeth about not knowing who the shooter was. Then wandering off to chat with his first ever friend, as casual as if it was all a bloody game. Knowing that Lestrade wouldn't push him further, would clear up the mess for him as usual.

"Do you know what I did, when I heard that?" Sally said, her voice harsh-edged. "I ignored the evidence. I didn't say: this needs to be investigated. I kept my trap shut because we'd caught the killer. And because I knew you wanted me to keep quiet."

"I never said–"

"You didn't need to," Sally almost yelled. "I knew what you wanted. What you've always wanted. To use Sherlock because, God help us, he has been useful. Even though we all knew he was a damaged, dangerous man, and likely to blow up in our faces. You thought you could make him good and he just brought you down."

"It's not thanks to him I'm in the shit." He was yelling. But the neighbours were probably used to that by now, after several months of Elaine coming round to discuss the divorce. "He's solved cases for us, you know that. All that crap Anderson came out with about him committing all of them is just sour grapes. You know he's not a bloody fake!"

He could feel his body starting to shake, and he fumbled for a cigarette. The old routine to stop yourself losing it: light up, inhale, remind yourself that you have to listen to the tosser you're talking to, not break their legs.

"What I know," Sally said desperately, "is that Sherlock Holmes got off on crimes, that they were fun for him. It was never about justice for him, it was never about right and wrong, it was only ever about proving how clever he was."

"So right from the start, you thought I was wrong in using Sherlock?" He'd known that, of course, but he'd ignored it, thought that Sally would come round eventually.

"No," Sally said and her dark eyes were miserable. "I thought you were right. I thought you could handle Sherlock, keep him under control. So I watched while we lied about what was going on. Told the higher-ups that it was all according to the book. Turned a blind eye, again and again. Because there was always more, wasn't there? The American bloke who fell out of the window at 221B, but that was OK, because he didn't press charges, and he probably was a bad man anyhow. Whatever you were doing down in Devon a few months ago. Supposed to be a holiday, wasn't it, only you'd just had one? Sherlock Holmes and his fucking brother pulled you into something dodgy again."

He couldn't tell Sally anything about what Neilson had done, though if she'd known, she'd have joined the queue to beat him up. The CIA were enough of a menace in their own country, without terrorising Londoners, but the bastard had had diplomatic immunity. And as for Baskerville...

"I can't talk about Devon," he said carefully. "Official Secrets Act. But we did what we had to do. Sherlock solved a murder that the local boys had never been able to. And he stopped the murderer committing even more crimes." They wouldn't have been allowed to prosecute Dr Frankland either. The MoD would just have pensioned him off quietly, left him cooking up nasty things in his own kitchen. And God knows what would have happened then.  As a copper, you had to live with the villains you couldn't get banged up. But the ones you weren't even allowed to question, because they were too important to be touched – well, he didn't much care what Sherlock did to them, to be honest.

Sally just sat there and stared at him, the way you'd look at a witness and try and work out if they should really be a suspect. And then she sighed and shook her head and said quietly: "Sir, I'm not... there are times when we need to break the rules, I know that. But they are there for a reason."

He'd always presumed Sally didn't care much for rules, but maybe he hadn't understood her. Or maybe she'd never understood quite how desperate he'd been for Sherlock's help sometimes, when the clock had been ticking down to disaster and there'd been no-one else he could turn to.

"Do you think we'd have got that banker Alexander Holder back if it hadn't been for him?" he demanded. "Well, maybe we'd have got him back one bit at a time. That was what Peter Ricoletti was threatening to do, after all, if his family didn't pay the ransom."

"I didn't mean–" she began.

"Everyone at the Yard must have known we were using Sherlock, after the Ricoletti case. We gave him a bloody reward for what he did. But why the fuck did you need to raise it officially with Hamilton?"

"I got scared," she said, and he'd never expected to hear Sally Donovan say that. "Because if there was any chance we were wrong, someone innocent might get hurt. Not just all the chancers, all the crooks – I'm not shedding any tears for a serial killer. But ordinary decent people might get hurt because Sherlock fucking Holmes is an egomaniac."

He needed another cigarette. He needed a drink. He needed her to be wrong because the only thing that had kept him going these last few weeks was the knowledge that Sherlock had been what Lestrade thought he was. That he'd been on the side of the angels.

"He's not a fraud," he said angrily. "You know that. For God's sake, Sally, you've seen him. How could he fake all of that? How could he know so many things?"

She looked the way she did sometimes at the end of a really bad case, the skin stretched tight around her cheekbones. The look of a woman who'd cry if she thought coppers were allowed to cry.

"He didn't start off being a fake," she said at last. "You're right, he was good. He was so good. But it wasn't enough. He had to be perfect. He couldn't bear to be wrong, ever. And all the blogging John did made it worse."

"So you're blaming John Watson now, are you?"

"No, but, sir, you know what Sherlock was like when John said anything on the blog about him making a mistake. I mean the times he was baffled by cases, and the time he didn't know about the solar system. That really wound Sherlock up. He didn't want anyone to know about that. Didn't mind if you called him a psychopath, just as long as you thought he was brilliant."


"He didn't get Moriarty. You know, the real one, the crazy pips-bomber.  Sherlock solved most of the puzzles, stopped most of the attacks, but not all of them. The block of flats that got blown up in Glasgow. Sherlock said he'd won, but those people were dead. And he never got the bomber."

Why the fuck did she have to remind him of that? He'd dream about it again tonight – the bloody Greenwich pips and the kid's voice in the art gallery.

"You know what happened," he protested.

"What Sherlock said happened. That this Moriarty captured John and stuck him in a bomb-jacket, and took John and some snipers along to a swimming pool to meet Sherlock. And then Moriarty decided not to kill either of them, and just walked away."

"That's what John says as well. Whoever was doing it was a complete nutter, we know that. Maybe he did just decide that he'd got bored with blowing things up."

"Yeah, but why would he let John and Sherlock live when they knew who he was? It's bull-shit, it has to be!" she burst out. "But I couldn't work out why John would lie. Till I finally realised, after this all came out, that that was when it started. The reason why John would lie, why he does lie: to protect Sherlock."

"So what's your theory?" Sally was talking nonsense, of course, but he'd have to prove it to her. She was so bloody stubborn sometimes.

"That Sherlock ransomed John. That he broke some code for the bomber or stole something and gave it to him in exchange for John. He gave the bomber something that he really, really shouldn't have had. That was what the whole operation was set up to do, wasn't it? Bomber says prove you can solve puzzles; Sherlock does. Bomber says I need some nuclear codes or John Watson cops it, Sherlock nicks them from his brother and hands them over. So he's done something that's completely illegal, and the bomber's beaten him."

The problem was, that made sense, in a way John's story never had. Lestrade could almost see it happening. The Security Service had been tangled up in the case somehow – Mycroft had once let something about that slip – and Sherlock wouldn't have cared what government secrets he handed over if John had been a hostage.

"It's possible, I suppose," he growled at last, "but that still doesn't make Sherlock a fraud." Just someone who Mycroft really ought to have kept a better eye on. Was that why he'd recruited Lestrade as Sherlock's unofficial minder?

"And there were no cases on the blog for a month after the bomber," Sally went on hastily. "Because Sherlock was having some kind of meltdown at being defeated like that."

Lestrade lit another cigarette, had a few puffs. Stared through the smoke and tried to think.

"OK. I admit it's a neat enough theory. But you've got no evidence."

"Not for that bit, no. But it all fits with the stuff in the paper about him hiring Rich Brook to pretend to be a master criminal. He couldn't catch the pips-bomber, it's his biggest failure, so he hires someone to be the fall guy."

Maybe it was just because he was so tired that he couldn't think straight, couldn't work out where the holes in her argument were. But she was wrong, she had to be.

"That's rubbish, and you know it is," he said. "And anyhow, are you gonna trust the Sun now?"

"It needed to be investigated. That was all I wanted; that someone looked at the evidence properly. I know the sort of thing that Sherlock has done. We both do, and we've kept quiet about it. But what about Claudia Bruhl? The kidnapped girl?"

That was what it all came down to in the end, wasn't it? A young girl screaming, and if anything was calculated to drive Sally completely berserk it was that. He pulled the next fag from the packet, and then forced himself to put it away again. Time to cool it, to breathe.

"I don't know about the girl," he said slowly. "There may be some perfectly rational explanation for why she had hysterics when she saw Sherlock."

"So why didn't he give it to us? He's supposed to be such a bloody genius. He's always got seven theories as to why everything happened. Except he didn't this time, did he? Wasn't interested in solving this crime, finding the sick bastard who had done that to a couple of kids. Because he was the sick bastard who had done that."

She was wrong; he knew it, but it was like a hall of mirrors. The way it always got when Sherlock was involved. You thought you knew what was happening and then Sherlock turned it upside down. Black was white and left was right, and it was all just a game to him.

"So much for evidence," he said. "You wanted to believe he was guilty. You hated his guts and you wanted to bring him down. And you did. Four bloody storeys down."

"What else should I have done?" Sally shouted, and then suddenly she stopped, and looked down at her hands, and said very quietly, "You said you'd talk to him. You said you'd get him to come down to the station, explain what the hell was going on. You said you'd go round to 221B and sort it all out."

He had, hadn't he? Thought he'd known how to handle Sherlock, thought he'd recognise he owed Lestrade something after all these years. And instead Sherlock had given him the brush-off, refused to give any explanation of what the fuck was going on. If he hadn't been so bloody stubborn, they could have sorted the whole thing out there and then. They wouldn't have needed to try and arrest him.

"I told you he'd let you down," Sally said, "I always told you he would."

His fingers were curling round the ashtray, itching to throw it at her. To tell her to get out of his damn flat.

"So you went and talked to bloody Hamilton? That self-important idiot? You knew the kind of shit you'd get us all into."

"I didn't know what else to do," she said. "I couldn't leave it. I knew Sherlock was dangerous, and I couldn't live with myself if another kid got hurt because we'd made a mistake. I wanted him where he couldn't harm anyone, till he'd cleared himself. If he could clear himself. I had to make sure he was arrested, whatever else happened."

So she'd gone to someone she knew wouldn't listen to Lestrade; that was what hurt so much.

"And I was right," Sally added angrily, her hands digging into the cushions. "Sherlock went nuts, didn't he?"

Hard to deny it. You'd think when you phoned a man to warn him he was going to be arrested, he'd either decide to come quietly or at least have the sense to scarper before you turned up. Not wait till the coppers came, and then steal a gun from an armed response unit and go on the run. Made it bloody difficult to claim that there was a perfectly innocent excuse for Sherlock's behaviour.

"You drove him nuts," he said instead. "If we'd only trusted him, this wouldn't have happened."

"He didn't trust anyone, not even you, and I didn't trust him. Why should I have done?"

Lestrade opened his mouth and closed it again, because what he wanted to say was: You should have trusted me. He was right about Sherlock and she was wrong; he knew that the way he knew the earth went round the sun. But that wasn't what the evidence had suggested. And if you decided that the evidence didn't matter, just what your gut instincts told you, that wasn't good policing.

"What else was I supposed to do?" Sally asked, and her face was desperate. What the fuck did he say to that?

If she'd only been prepared to wait for a few more days, till Sherlock had solved the Bruhl case, maybe he'd still be alive. If he'd been able to convince Sherlock to go down to the station with him. If John hadn't idiotically got himself arrested along with Sherlock, but had contacted Mycroft instead. If Mycroft had got on the phone to Hamilton's superiors and the editor of the Sun and got the whole thing kept under wraps. If Hamilton hadn't been such a pompous git. If Anderson hadn't butted in and brought up the other cases. If Kitty Riley hadn't been an unscrupulous hack. If Sherlock hadn't fucking jumped, but told people the truth...

Sally was looking at him, and he wondered if her mind was replaying the same events. Did she keep looking back to see where it had gone wrong, how it could have been different? Or did she still have to believe there had been no alternative, that she'd done nothing wrong? Because how could you live with yourself if you made a mistake that huge?

"You'd better go," he said at last.

Sally nodded, as she stood up and picked up her handbag: "If you need me, you know where to find me, sir."

"It'll all come out in the end," he said angrily. "Sherlock's name will be cleared. And you'll have to live with an innocent man being dead."

"He wasn't innocent," Sally replied. "Whatever else you can say about Sherlock Holmes, he was never innocent. I'm sorry about what happened to you, sir. And John and all the rest of the people who got hurt. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe you are. We're just ordinary people. Not fucking geniuses."

"That was what you really couldn't stand, wasn't it?" he yelled. "That he was cleverer than you."

"No," she said, wearily. "What I couldn't stand was that he thought that the rules didn't apply to him. That it didn't matter to him when he broke them, because someone else would always cover up for him. Someone else would be the fall guy. Someone else wouldn't sleep at night worrying over the consequences. Not him. Never him. Not even now. He's at rest and we're left to sort out the mess, the way we always are."

"Goodbye, Donovan," he said. "Close the door as you go out."

"Goodbye, sir," she said, and strode out.


As he heard her head down the corridor to the lift, he suddenly found himself thinking: Maybe if I'd been in her shoes I'd have done the same thing. But no, he told himself hastily, Sally had screwed up big time on this one. And Sherlock was dead as a result.

He couldn't forgive her for that, of course. But right now he wasn't sure he could forgive anyone for what had happened. Particularly not the bastard who had proved that the laws of gravity, at least, did apply to him.