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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.


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."


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.


( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 30th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
This is very very good indeed! I felt as breathless (and vertigo-struck) as your protagonists while reading it.
May. 31st, 2012 07:51 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.
May. 30th, 2012 09:59 pm (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.
May. 31st, 2012 07:52 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.
May. 30th, 2012 10:07 pm (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.
May. 31st, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
I agree. What they said.
(no subject) - morganstuart - May. 31st, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - May. 31st, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 30th, 2012 10:53 pm (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!
May. 31st, 2012 08:11 pm (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.
May. 30th, 2012 10:54 pm (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.
May. 31st, 2012 07:54 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!
May. 31st, 2012 01:19 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.
May. 31st, 2012 07:56 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.
May. 31st, 2012 03:55 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.
May. 31st, 2012 07:59 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!
May. 31st, 2012 08:26 am (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!
May. 31st, 2012 08:04 pm (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!
May. 31st, 2012 08:50 am (UTC)
I always love reading your stories because you convey so much in a few words. Bravo!
May. 31st, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
What a lovely thing to say! I really appreciate this. Thank you so much.
May. 31st, 2012 10:15 am (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, :-)
May. 31st, 2012 08:14 pm (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)
May. 31st, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
Oh! Oh! I'm so thrilled you think so. Thank you so much, my dear.
May. 31st, 2012 11:36 am (UTC)
*memories* This is brilliant.
May. 31st, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
I'm so pleased that you think so! Thank you very much for your encouraging words. I really appreciate them.
May. 31st, 2012 12:35 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous, as always.
May. 31st, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
I'm thrilled you think so! Thank you very much for this.
May. 31st, 2012 12:55 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.
May. 31st, 2012 08:22 pm (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!
May. 31st, 2012 01:23 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.
May. 31st, 2012 08:24 pm (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.
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