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I Would Understand (Sherlock)

Title: I Would Understand
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Sherlock
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: Is there another jumper on the roof of St Bart's?
Historian's Note: This takes place after events depicted in the second-series Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall."
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Spoilers for "The Reichenbach Fall," discussion of suicide



He paced back and forth under the cloudy evening sky, empty hands in empty pockets, staring at the mute stone under his feet.

This is where it had ended.

His consulting detective's – his friend's – life. Not down below on the pavement, but here, where Sherlock made the choice to jump.

Here, too, had ended Moriarty's great game.

And his own credibility and career, apparently.

Numb under repeated blows, Greg Lestrade faced the fact that questions were all that was left to him.

And what chance did he have of fitting together pieces of the answers now, without access to his notes and files or the Met's databases and resources?

He had all the time in the world to find out, didn't he?

He was no sprinter, Lestrade; he'd turned to Sherlock for short, brilliant bursts of intellectual speed. No, Lestrade was a long-distance runner. Slow sometimes, plodding in pace, but indefatigable. He usually got there in the end.

This time there was no promise of justice at the conclusion of the race, but that made little difference. His grief and bewilderment and stubborn need to make sense of something, anything, that had occurred here: they were quite enough to be going on with.

One foot followed the other. There and back and there and back. Reciting the few facts he knew for certain required a pitifully short span of time.

He willed the stone, that silent witness, to give up its secrets. To speak to him.

"Greg?"

He blinked at the tentative sound and turned. John Watson's sudden presence on the roof was one mystery too many on a day far too long. It did not compute.

"John." He scrubbed a hand over his face, but the mental fog refused to lift. "Didn't expect to see you here."

There was nothing casual about the studied neutrality of John's voice or features. Feet set apart, arms open at his sides, he was as pale as the building beneath them and just as unmoving.

"It's the very last place in the world I want to be, actually." John's soft words nearly failed to carry. His fingers twitched.

"Right," Lestrade said, attempting to muddle through. "Then why're you…?"

"Good question, that, considering my track record with this sort of thing."

Scanning their surroundings as if it were a hostile alien landscape, John appeared to be fighting both the urge to take cover and the desire to hit something very, very hard.

"But the others said I had the best chance, and I couldn't just..." John swallowed. Replanted his feet. Returned the full weight of his earnest gaze to Lestrade. "So here I am, praying that it's the thought that counts."

Lestrade shook his head, feeling as though he'd been dropped in the middle of someone else's conversation.

"Greg, let's get off this roof." John gave a jerky nod in the direction of the stairwell. "Let me buy you a pint. We can talk. We haven't done since the funeral."

"I don't—"

"I understand. I do, more than you know. But listen. Please." Christ, the man was all squared shoulders and clenched fists now, starting to breathe hard. "You don't have to do this. Not today. Not ever."

John's eyes darted from Lestrade to the ledge and back, judging the distance.

Oh. Oh.

His first instinctive reaction, as rapid as a reflex, was fury. What genius thought it was a good idea to send John up here to the scene of Sherlock's farewell? As if the man hadn't gone through enough. God, it was cruel.

It was for him.

Full understanding followed a second behind, staggering Lestrade. Literally. He retreated a step, shifting his weight to find balance, and John started forward with a strangled "No!"

Then they both froze, gazes locked.

"I wasn't going to..." Lestrade left the whisper hanging in the air between them. "Jesus, John. Why would you think—?"

"They took your warrant card today," John said. "You didn’t go home. Or to the pub. Or anywhere expected. Do you realise how long you've been up here? What were we supposed to think?”

Never mind that Lestrade's suspension from duty was mere hours old and he'd told no one yet. Then again, who was there to tell? He was alone.

Wasn't he?

"We?" His voice sounded small in his own ears.

"Molly stays updated on the comings and goings on the roof these days. She's been desperate with worry since you arrived. It didn't take her long to learn the news from the Yard."

A strained grimace twisted John's expression. "Mycroft's concerned, as well. He hasn't returned my texts for the last six days, but now his messages are one constant distress signal. I'm afraid you're currently the star of his own personal CCTV film festival. He thought... We thought..."

The words left John panting. He bent and braced himself, palms on thighs.

"Sit down, yeah?" Lestrade said, as John struggled for composure.

"I will if you will."

They ended up side by side, backs to the ledge. John's hand shot out and crumpled a handful of Lestrade's shirt into a tight fist, anchoring the older man to the roof, confirming he was safe.

Lestrade held still.

It shocked him, the thought that anyone had followed his own personal drama (or was it farce?) at the Yard. That anyone had cared what followed.

That this fierce but kind doctor-soldier, this good man, had proved willing to wade through a private hell to make sure Lestrade survived another day.

"Some rescuer I am," John said at last, releasing his grip, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. "My mind thinks I'm down there on the street, looking up. My body thinks I'm in Kandahar. And all of me thinks I'm going to be sick, so mind your shoes."

"How can I help?"

"Don't move. Sit there." John forced a deep breath and released it through pursed lips, and then repeated the action. After a beat, he added, "Bastard."

Lestrade couldn't be sure at whom the epithet was aimed. He felt a right bastard, to be sure, for being the catalyst if not the actual cause for John's distress.

"Reckon punching me would make you feel better?" he asked.

"Much," John said. "So don't tempt me."

Lestrade nodded. "Don't worry. I have a healthy respect for your left hook."

John chuckled, a painful, wheezing sound.

"I never was planning to do that, you know," Lestrade murmured, like an apology.

"What? Follow Sherlock's footsteps into thin air? Or off yourself in general?"

"Well... follow Sherlock's footsteps," Lestrade admitted, knowing and hating how that sounded.

Hadn’t thought it through yet, had he? What would come after. When it – all of this – finally hit him, it would knock him off his feet; he knew that much.

He needed answers first. One thing at a time. One foot after the other, for the distance.

"Just trying to wrap my head around it," Lestrade said. "We know Moriarty ate his gun. We know Sherlock told you a mouthful of lies. And we know he jumped." He shrugged. "Got to fill in the rest of the blanks before I bloody well understand what it all means, and what comes next."

"Yeah, I know," John said simply. He lifted his chin, wiped his sweaty brow with an unsteady hand, and glared at something only he could see. "I know, mate."

And he did, Lestrade realised.

John's words were a bandage. A lifeline, even. Perhaps, Lestrade thought, he'd needed rescuing after all.

"You're the detective," John said after a time. "Where do we start?"

Lestrade's throat grew tight. He raked his fingers through his hair.

After several heartbeats, he found his voice. "With that pint, I think. But I'm buying."


THE END

Note: The title is drawn from lyrics to the song "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind, which begins, "I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend."

Vital Stats: Originally written in May 2012.

Originally written for this prompt at sherlockbbc_fic.

Comments

( 73 comments — Leave a comment )
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uwsannajane
May. 31st, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
This is very very good indeed! I felt as breathless (and vertigo-struck) as your protagonists while reading it.
morganstuart
May. 31st, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
I felt as breathless (and vertigo-struck) as your protagonists while reading it.

Oh, this makes me so happy! I'm so tickled to hear it had the proper emotional resonance. I can't thank you enough for your kind words. I appreciate them so much.
cuddles_and_jam
May. 31st, 2012 01:59 am (UTC)
This is intense.

"My mind thinks I'm down there on the street, looking up. My body thinks I'm in Kandahar." Oh, John.
morganstuart
May. 31st, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you. I'm so glad it struck the proper note.

My heart aches for John, it really does.

Thanks again for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it.
drinkingcocoa
May. 31st, 2012 02:07 am (UTC)
Yes, that paragraph about what John's mind and body are doing! Brilliance. Wow...you really do understand.

It floored me when John said, "You're the detective." I never, ever think of Lestrade that way. And John's had someone else's claim to the word "detective" filling up his universe for some time. For him to put that word to Lestrade is such a bridging, such a beginning, a tendering of love.

Oh, John coming up to the roof. Oh, ouch. Lestrade's realization of what it must have cost him. But it would have been that way for John whether he'd been the one to go on the roof or one of the worried ones who stayed behind.

And love the hint of Mystrade even amidst this panic.
eglantine_br
May. 31st, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)
I agree. What they said.
(no subject) - morganstuart - Jun. 1st, 2012 12:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Jun. 1st, 2012 12:08 am (UTC) - Expand
cookiefleck
May. 31st, 2012 02:53 am (UTC)
This was so moving... I was tearing up by the end. Great (vehicle) idea for a story about what they've gone through and their friendship, etc. This story just oozes heartache, with a glimmer of hope/survival. Well done!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this, my dear friend! It means a lot to me that you found this to be properly moving.

This story just oozes heartache, with a glimmer of hope/survival.

Oh, what a lovely thing to say! That really captures the mood I was after, and it does my heart good to know it came through. Thank you so much for reading and for your encouraging words.
shefa
May. 31st, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
"My mind thinks I'm down there on the street, looking up. My body thinks I'm in Kandahar. And all of me thinks I'm going to be sick, so mind your shoes."

Spot on. I love the juxtaposition of John and Lestrade here. It shows them both so clearly -- what they've survived and what lies ahead. Beautifully done.
morganstuart
May. 31st, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Spot on.

Oh, this does my heart good. Thank you for this. I'm so relieved and glad that this struck the right note.

It's also wonderful to hear that the characterizations of and contrast between John and Lestrade worked for you. I'm so grateful for your encouraging comments, my friend. Thank you!
splix
May. 31st, 2012 05:19 am (UTC)
Oh, wow - I could barely breathe, reading this. You built up the tension amazingly. I'm so relieved, gah, SO relieved that they've at least got each other's friendship. My heart's breaking for both of them anyway. Oh, lovely.
morganstuart
May. 31st, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm incredibly relieved and happy to hear the tension worked. I do hope that the friendship between them will grow in the wake of this apparent tragedy, and each can support the other; like you said, though, my heart breaks for both of them anyway.

Your comments are so encouraging and heartening, and I appreciate them - and you! Thanks again.
thesmallhobbit
May. 31st, 2012 07:55 am (UTC)
I've read this through three times now, it's so good. You've captured so much in just a few words. I loved the way it slowly dawned on Lestrade that he wasn't alone as he thought, and then that he did need someone to rescue him. As for John falling apart, that's heartbreaking, not just because it was so hard for him to come up on the roof, but because he truly believed Lestrade was going to jump and he cared for him enough to come up.
morganstuart
May. 31st, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, you have no idea how much you've made my day. Thank you so much for your encouraging feedback.

I loved the way it slowly dawned on Lestrade that he wasn't alone as he thought, and then that he did need someone to rescue him.

I'm so, so glad that this came through, and that it worked for you! I'm also grateful to hear that John's falling apart made sense in this context, and that it proved how much he cared.

I really appreciate your taking time to read and comment. Thank you!
brighteyed_jill
May. 31st, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is heart-rending. I love how brave and loyal both these men are:

His first instinctive reaction, as rapid as a reflex, was fury. What genius thought it was a good idea to send John up here to the scene of Sherlock's farewell? As if the man hadn't gone through enough. God, it was cruel.

It was for him.


Poor Lestrade being surprised that anyone cared about his losing his warrant card. Don't you know you have friends, you daft git?! Also, I think you painted John's PTSD beautifully here. As always, very well done, miss!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:04 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you, my friend! I'm so, so happy and relieved that this worked for you and seemed properly moving.

I'm especially the description of John's PTSD felt appropriate. Poor, brave, amazing John.

Don't you know you have friends, you daft git?!

LOL! You tell 'im! :D I don't think John's display of courage and loyalty here would be something Lestrade could forget anytime soon.

I'm so delighted you liked this. I'm grateful for your lovely and encouraging words!
lawless523
May. 31st, 2012 12:50 pm (UTC)
I always love reading your stories because you convey so much in a few words. Bravo!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
What a lovely thing to say! I really appreciate this. Thank you so much.
labellecreation
May. 31st, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
I never thought Lestrade was there to jump, he's too- sensible to have taken that option but poor John, what he must have thought hurts a lot. I think this would be a huge cartharsis for them both to go to the spot of the action. Excellantly emotional, :-)
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:14 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad this felt properly emotional! Thank you for your kind words. I agree about Lestrade, and I also agree that poor John (and those who were updating him, including Molly and Mycroft) probably weren't seeing through the most objective of lenses at the time. I also agree that the two of them being there, at the very spot where it happened, would be amazingly intense.

I really appreciate your reading and commenting. It's lovely of you!
(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Oh! Oh! I'm so thrilled you think so. Thank you so much, my dear.
equusentric
May. 31st, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
*memories* This is brilliant.
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:16 am (UTC)
I'm so pleased that you think so! Thank you very much for your encouraging words. I really appreciate them.
jennetj
May. 31st, 2012 04:35 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous, as always.
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:17 am (UTC)
I'm thrilled you think so! Thank you very much for this.
dimity_blue
May. 31st, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
Fantastic! I love the idea of Molly keeping tabs on the roof (just in case), and Mycroft panicking a little, and John riding to the rescue, despite what it costs him. I could see Lestrade trying to figure it out, figure out the why, and thinking the best place to do that is *there* and not even thinking what it looked like.

This was really, really good. Thank you for sharing it.
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you for your encouraging words! I'm so glad this take on Molly, Mycroft, and John seemed fitting. And I'm especially pleased that Lestrade's motivation for being there, and lack of awareness of how it might look to others, made sense.

It helps so much to know what worked; I really appreciate your reading and commenting!
mazaher
May. 31st, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
The absolute surprise of finding oneself loved, for no discernible reason. It takes a great heart to do what John does. It takes an equally great one to accept it with gratitude.
Thank you for an unexpected, deep story.
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
As usual, you can articulate beautifully in two sentences what it takes me an entire story to try to say! Thank you so much for your lovely words. I'm thrilled that the message came across, and that it worked for you.
regan_v
May. 31st, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, what a terrific story premise! And poor John---of course he would go there to save Lestrade, and you depict the toll it takes on him very well.

I loved the ending---this is a very well-crafted story. Thank you!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:26 am (UTC)
I'm so happy that you liked this! It's wonderful to hear that both John's choice to go up there and the price he pays for it seemed fitting. I'm especially tickled that the ending worked for you.

I really appreciate your encouraging words. Thank you for reading and commenting!
rusty_armour
May. 31st, 2012 07:30 pm (UTC)
LOVE this! The premise is absolutely brilliant and something I could easily see happening in the show! At first, like Lestrade, I couldn't figure out why John was on the roof either and basically worked it out at the same time he did. That realization was handled brilliantly and really delivered a punch. Poor, poor John. And poor, poor Lestrade for thinking that no one cared about what was going on in his life and that he was alone. I found it so touching when Lestrade realizes that there are people following "his own personal drama". Lastly, I absolutely love the ending. It's perfect:

John's words were a bandage. A lifeline, even. Perhaps, Lestrade thought, he'd needed rescuing after all.

"You're the detective," John said after a time. "Where do we start?"

Lestrade's throat grew tight. He raked his fingers through his hair.

After several heartbeats, he found his voice. "With that pint, I think. But I'm buying."

morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
*flaily hands* I'm so glad that you liked this! I'm overjoyed to hear that it became clear to you why John was there at the same time that it made sense to Lestrade. That does my heart good. I'm so glad it had the proper emotional impact. I'm also happy that Lestrade's slow realization of how much people cared about him felt right.

Thank you for your lovely words about the ending, too! I'm delighted it struck the right note for you. You've once again given me wonderful warm fuzzies; I appreciate your thoughtful comments and feedback so very much, my friend.
kcscribbler
May. 31st, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
You have a stunning way with words that, for lack of a more pleasant-sounding term, is nothing short of verbal evisceration (of rather vital organs, such as the heart). And I mean that in the highest possible complimentary sense. I've taken to hiding in my little bubble because I can't take all the Reichenangst anymore for now, but emerged briefly here because I trust the author's name no matter what it's attached to - and of course, you didn't disappoint.

Well done, you!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
Oh, this means so much to me. Thank you for your amazingly kind and generous words. My own taste is for fiction that leaves me feeling rather gutted, for lack of a better term, and so I definitely take your comment about "verbal evisceration" as a wonderful compliment. It really hits me in the heart, to think something I've written might've touched someone else somehow, and I can't thank you enough.

And thanks also for reading, despite the Reichenangst nature of this piece. I'm somewhat relieved to say that the next couple of projects I hope to tackle have no relationship to that episode whatsoever. ;)

Again, this means a great deal to me, especially coming from a writer of your talent. I'm most grateful.
debriswoman
May. 31st, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
A beautifully penned and thought -provoking scene. Well done.
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Oh, what a lovely thing to say! Thank you so much. I'm very happy that you enjoyed this.
only_po
Jun. 1st, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
I love this. It's achingly beautiful and realistic and *so* IC . . . I can absolutely imagine this happening in Canon. Well done!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 11:13 am (UTC)
Oh, this thoroughly makes my day! Thank you so much. It means a lot that you found this to be in character and realistic. I'm so glad you liked it. I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.
witch_in_winter
Jun. 1st, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
Oh Morgan Stuart, you made me cry. This is just great work. Thank you.....
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
Oh! *hugs you* It means a lot to know it felt properly moving to you. Thank you so much. I appreciate your kindness.
melliyna
Jun. 1st, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
I said other stuff but I have to say as someone with PTSD? You totally nailed that odd dislocationed panicky feeling of being anywhere but where you are.

My heart hurts for both of them here, for Lestrade who genuinely can't see why anyone would care and John, who's facing losing another brother in arms and how, in the end, they come together. Also damn, Moriarty does have an evil long end game (he wanted to destroy more than Sherlock there).
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this! I'm really glad to hear that the PTSD descriptions sounded authentic and realistic.

My heart hurts for both of them here, for Lestrade who genuinely can't see why anyone would care and John, who's facing losing another brother in arms and how, in the end, they come together.

Augh, my heart hurts for them, too. It means a lot to know this came through, especially the part about them coming together in the end.

I agree wholeheartedly about Moriarty's end game. So evil! With so many victims intentionally caught in the fallout. *shudders* I just want to console everyone in that 'verse, you know?
(no subject) - melliyna - Jun. 6th, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
oregeki
Jun. 1st, 2012 10:57 am (UTC)
I've reread this like three times already and I just looked at it 30 minutes ago...This is amazing! Please write more!
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Oh wow - this makes me so happy! I really appreciate your kind words of encouragement. Thank you so much. :D
holyfant
Jun. 1st, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is beautiful. I love the mutual misunderstandings and the very real rush of fear I get from both of them - and your observation about John's mind and body thinking he's in different places is so, so well-spotted and so painful, and so true for someone suffering a trauma.

I really get the sort of shocked numbness from Greg that he's still in, reeling from his dismissal at the Met, and the burst of concern for John. Love them together in this; their friendship and affection are so tangible, yet so understated. I hope they can help each other out. ;_;
morganstuart
Jun. 1st, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so glad the misunderstanding and the fear on both sides made sense. I'm especially pleased that both John's description of feeling as if he's in different places and Greg's sense of numbness felt fitting.

Love them together in this; their friendship and affection are so tangible, yet so understated.

Oh, this absolutely makes my day. I'm so thrilled to hear it. Thank you.

It helps me so much to know what worked, and I'm most grateful to you for this lovely feedback. Like you, I hope John and Greg will be able to help each other as they soldier on through this time. My heart goes out to both of them!
red_chapel
Jun. 1st, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
Excellent! Love the opening, with Lestrade's recognition of where Sherlock's life ended, up on the roof with the decision. Also loved the end and all the bits in between. Particularly John's assessment of where his mind & body were.
morganstuart
Jun. 2nd, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
Thank you for this! It's so helpful to know what parts worked for you, and I'm very happy you enjoyed this.

I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.
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