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A Study in Grey (Sherlock)

Title: A Study in Grey
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: Sherlock learns that Moriarty keeps his promises.
Historian's Note: This takes place after (and refers to) the Sherlock episode "The Great Game."
Chinese Translation: available here by stellary
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Semi-graphic depiction of violence; main character death

The text read, "Hello, Sexy. You must learn that I keep my promises. Watch live in 15 minutes."

Sherlock set aside his latest experiment-in-progress and turned his full attention to the summons. He forwarded the attached URL to Lestrade and, after only a second's hesitation, Mycroft, as well. He sent yet another text to John, the third since his flatmate had left for Tesco's. And then he settled himself before his laptop, fingers steepled beneath his chin, nicotine patches on his arm. Suppressing the flare of annoyance when only Mycroft responded to his message. Refreshing the page every few seconds. Waiting.

Exactly on the hour, a video box appeared inviting him to stream live footage. Sherlock clicked on the option and braced himself.

The room was the soulless grey of old concrete. A thickset man in a tailored suit and a dark balaclava stood before the camera. He held a sign lettered in ornate calligraphy that proclaimed "Time to Say Goodbye."

After several moments the man retreated from the frame, leaving Sherlock an unobstructed view of a bruised and disheveled Gregory Lestrade.

The detective inspector sat on the bare floor, legs straightened before him and bound at the knees and ankles. Ropes held him fast at the waist and chest to a wooden support beam. His left arm was tied behind him; his right arm was stretched above his head, secured to the post at the wrist.

The muscles at Lestrade's jaw worked and his brow furrowed as he followed the movements of his captor. Then, as the threatening figure walked forward into Sherlock's field of vision once again, Lestrade looked directly into the camera.

He licked his lips and spoke in a rush, his husky voice low with strain. "Sherlock. This is Moriarty's doing. His fault. Not yours. Remember that."

The unknown man knelt beside him with a blade in his hand. Lestrade rocked against the ropes futilely, outrage flashing in his dark eyes. From somewhere off-screen came muffled exclamations, desperate and panicked.

Sherlock's fingers curled into fists. He did not breathe. He did not blink.

Lestrade gave a shout as the point of the knife burrowed beneath the rope and stabbed deeply into his wrist. As his captor traced a line from wrist to elbow, parting cloth and flesh, muscle and artery down to the white bone, the detective inspector gritted his teeth and growled out his agony and protest.

When the masked figure was done with his gory work, he rose and disappeared without ceremony, leaving his victim alone in the frame. Bright red blood soaked Lestrade's sleeve from his wrist to his shoulder, seeping down to stain his side as Sherlock watched.

The consulting detective hunched toward his monitor and anchored his hands in his hair.

"I don't... I don't know how long..." Lestrade's chest rose and fell rapidly with his gulping breaths. "Listen, Sherlock. John's here." He jerked his chin toward the left, off-screen. "He's bound and gagged but unhurt so far... You've got to find him and get him away... Then stop Moriarty."

Letting his head rock back against the pillar, Lestrade swallowed hard as he scanned his surroundings. After several seconds he cleared his throat and then forced out his words with grim-faced urgency, scarcely louder than rough whispers. "I don't know how far we travelled to get to this place. They drugged us for the drive... It seems to be underground. An unfinished basement. No windows. No outside access... Poured concrete, wood support beams..."

It was obvious to Sherlock that Lestrade understood his situation. Moriarty's henchman had elevated Lestrade's arm to make the ordeal last longer, to prolong this grotesque farewell, but it likely had bought the detective inspector only minutes at most. The stubborn man clearly intended to spend his dying moments assisting Sherlock as best he could.

Hissing through his teeth, Sherlock arranged a split screen view on his laptop, keeping the video feed open while generating search parameters based on the detective inspector's observations. The dimensions of the room. The dampness of the walls. The style of the doorknob on the lone door.

"I counted six men," Lestrade continued. "Thick accents – Czech, I think. Seem like organized crime types... Clear pecking order. Possible family ties."

Sherlock stabbed the keys furiously as he typed.

"Never saw Moriarty. They communicated via mobile... Must not be too far below ground, then. They could get a signal."

A new text alerted Sherlock to the fact Mycroft's people were monitoring the transmission and synching their search with his. A second confirmed that they were handling the coordination with Scotland Yard. No, no, of course they couldn't trace the URL. Sherlock spared each message a brief glance before returning his attention to the live footage.

"I know you'd see more... what am I missing?"

Sherlock called up a variety of maps, calculating how far Moriarty's men might have taken their hostages in the length of time since John had left the flat. He superimposed lines marking a series of zones over the satellite images.

Shaking his head weakly, Lestrade frowned and gasped for breath. "Look, Sherlock... I realize you and Sally... you're not exactly best mates... But you want the same thing... Cut her some slack, yeah?"

"Shut up, you stupid man," Sherlock breathed. "Conserve yourself. I understand."

"I've left instructions... top drawer of my desk... Asked her the same... She'll work with you... Please help her, the team... Stop this bastard."

Lestrade's face was all but colourless save for the bruises. Blood ran freely down his side and pooled on the floor at his hip.

Sherlock scrutinized the man's surroundings: the texture of the wall, the grain of the wood. More data. More.

"You knowit, o'course, but you're a marvel, Sherlock... An'John... such a rare one... Togetheryou... youtwo... bloodybrilliant..." Lestrade gathered himself with a visible effort. Pronouncing each word with painstaking care, he said, "It's been a privilege."

"Don't," Sherlock choked. "Don't you dare."

A muffled voice made unintelligible sounds, and Lestrade's head lolled back against the supporting beam. "SaveyourstrengthDoctor," he slurred. "'Sokay."

As precious minutes passed, Lestrade sagged in his bonds, fighting for air. Sherlock received a list of structures to be considered of interest in the geographic zones he had defined, and another of those to be disqualified. He repeated a constant refrain of "No, you cretins, no!" as he edited the descriptions and returned them to the teams.

"'Scold," Lestrade muttered. Sherlock could see that he was shivering.

After several heartbeats, however, the detective inspector roused, turning an unfocused and glassy gaze back toward the camera. "Lights...downhere... oldstylefluorescent... speciallikeforlabs... loudhum... mightbeuse... useful... findJohn."

The effort cost Lestrade. His head fell forward and stayed there, despite several dogged attempts to lift it. "Gottomust... think..."

Sherlock made new notes and revised earlier ones. More clues. Useful indeed. Concentrate. Cross-reference. Mine this data, so dearly bought.

"Ah... Jenny..." Lestrade's breath stuttered, and an impossibly small sound escaped from the back of his throat.

Sherlock bit through his lip and tasted blood. He fired texts like bullets.

Soon Lestrade's mumbled syllables became more infrequent, his shallow panting more uneven. The shivering eased.

The rasp of harsh breathing seemed louder, irregular and laboured and almost broken, even as Lestrade weakened and quieted. Sherlock pressed his fingertips to the monitor. With sudden insight, he realized that he was listening to John, gagged and tied and grieving helplessly as Lestrade bled out in front of him.

The feed at last went dead. Sherlock squeezed his eyes shut, trapping the final image behind his eyelids until it faded to blackness.

"I will burn the heart out of you," Moriarty had said.

But there was no fire in Sherlock. Only the grey of the concrete, the grey of Lestrade's bowed head, the grey of midwinter frost chilling his veins. His heart was ice, an unforgiving weight in his chest, heavy and sharp-edged as a weapon. Frozen.


Note: Read a sequel story written by jane_doe221 and translated into English by stellary here: "And He Lives."

Vital Stats: Originally written in January 2011.


( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 11th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Oh my GOD. That is chilling. Extremely well done.
Jan. 11th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I hated to do it to Lestrade, because I absolutely love him, but it seemed a chance to underscore the particularly dogged and stubborn kind of courage he has. And I liked the idea of both Lestrade and Sherlock, who have a significant history together, each saying goodbye to the other by laboring through these terrible moments to save John.

I really appreciate your reading and commenting. Thanks!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:32 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

I'm sorry for the tears. *hugs* I just adore the writers' (and, of course, Rupert Graves') take on Lestrade, and I wanted to try to do justice to what I felt would be his admirable courage in such horrific circumstances. And I also liked the idea of Lestrade and Sherlock, who have years of history together, being unable to say a proper goodbye: the most Lestrade could do is try to help in the search for John, and the most Sherlock could do is make sure Lestrade's efforts weren't wasted. (I figured Sherlock's "Shut up, you stupid man" was the closest he could come to "Goodbye, my friend" - even though he knew Lestrade couldn't hear it.) I'm so glad that the way Lestrade helped Sherlock seemed right to you.

If you like, we can agree that this was all Sherlock's nightmare, and he'll wake up and find Lestrade and John both safe and well. :)

Thanks again!
(no subject) - noirrosaleen - Feb. 6th, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Feb. 6th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - noirrosaleen - Feb. 27th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Feb. 27th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - noirrosaleen - Mar. 20th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Tiny extra sequelish stuff, super late - noirrosaleen - Mar. 20th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellary - Feb. 8th, 2011 06:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Feb. 8th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - noirrosaleen - Mar. 20th, 2011 03:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Mar. 20th, 2011 09:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2011 09:16 am (UTC)
I love Lestrade being heroic. BUT WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE.

He did in this fic, and you did it beautifully (probably not the right choice of word...) but it's so SAD!
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:41 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

I broke my own heart a little, writing this, because I love Lestrade. But I was taken with the idea of trying to show how noble and courageous he could be in this terrible circumstance (I'm so glad that worked for you!), and how he and Sherlock would say goodbye, in effect, by laboring in concert together through those final minutes to save John. I was also hoping to convey that Sherlock really would be devastated at the prospect of losing Lestrade, but the only way he could show it was by doing what he does best.

Of course, this might all be Sherlock's nightmare, and Lestrade's really alive and well; I rather like that idea. ;)

Thanks again, so much!
Feb. 12th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
You killed Lestrade! Brave. Sad. Brave. So brave. Beautifully done Sherlock's humanity watching the screen and Lestrade's bravery in the face of certain and knowing death. So well done!
Feb. 12th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your lovely feedback.

It's a sign of how masochistic I am that I killed one of my very favorite characters. But I just knew he'd be so noble and courageous in his unsung, tenacious way... *sigh* It broke my heart, though. I'm so glad both his bravery and Sherlock's pain came across in the story, as those were the goals of the whole piece. Thanks again!

Feb. 13th, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC)
I'm always leery of death fics, because I don't like seeing characters I like die. However, I think you did this so well. Yes, you absolutely broke my heart, but you did it with description that was evocative and such genuine emotion (and in character).

However, if you kill John, I will have to find you and hurt you. ;)
Feb. 13th, 2011 03:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your very kind words!

I broke my own heart a bit, because I adore Lestrade, but I imagined this would be an opportunity to underscore his quiet, determined, often unsung courage, as well as to show that Sherlock is indeed affected by the prospect of losing him. (In my own warped imagination, "You'd die beautifully" is a really high compliment for a fictional character. Ha!) It seemed appropriate that the best way Lestrade could say goodbye would be to do everything he could to help John be rescued, and Sherlock would understand and honor that. Tenacious to the last, noble Lestrade.

Fortunately, I also knew that I could resurrect him immediately, thanks to the miracle of fan fiction. ;)

I really appreciate your willingness to read this, even though death fics aren't at the top of your list. I'm so glad it seemed genuine and in character to you. Your feedback has made my day.

(And I consider myself duly warned about John! :D )

Edited at 2011-02-13 06:26 pm (UTC)
Feb. 18th, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
Your Lestrade is, of course, absolutely, positively brilliant. In some ways, your Moriarty is the the most evil and vicious I've ever seen because he's so utterly callous. He's bad enough for murdering Lestrade, but the unimaginable blow he's dealt Sherlock... death is too good for him! Amazing work!
Feb. 19th, 2011 12:39 pm (UTC)
Re: T_T
I am thrilled by your kind words! I'm so glad you thought Lestrade was in character. I hated to do this to him, but I thought it would underscore his unsung, dogged kind of heroism, as well as his relationship with Sherlock. I'm also very gratified to know that this Moriarty seems appropriately evil, too. I definitely agree that death is too good for him!

You've made my day. Thanks for your lovely feedback.
Feb. 25th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Mine this data, so dearly bought.

My heart broke at that. So beautifully done, this.
Feb. 25th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I'm especially glad to know that sentence worked. I was hoping to convey that Sherlock realized both 1) what he was losing as he was losing it and 2) what a heroic effort Lestrade was making in those final moments.

I'm sorry for the heartbreak, though! *offers virtual tea*

Thanks for reading and for leaving such lovely feedback! I appreciate it.

Edited at 2011-02-25 10:37 pm (UTC)
Mar. 1st, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
I'm upset I missed this until now. Best link ever.

God, Lestrade is astounding in this, absolutely refusing to let Moriarty defeat them. Tough as nails and spending his last minutes doing everything he can to help the people he cares about, not only immediately but for the prolonged future.

Not only keeping himself together but reassuring John and Sherlock as best he can at the same time. Phew.

You're absolutely right, though. The best compliment to a character is whether he'd die well. I don't understand why it always upsets everyone. (Well, okay, yes, I do. But that's the entire point!) But everyone dies eventually, and Lestrade is far too bright to sort of fade. Anyway, never mind.

I feel like I broke Lestrade a little too much in I Have Erred. This one is so much more BAMF.

Oh dear, Lestrade, how are you so wonderful?

Anyway. Amazing. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. 8D
Mar. 1st, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
You are so kind! Thank you so much. I've only written a few Sherlock stories thus far, but everything I do write seems to be Lestrade-intensive.

I'm so glad his courage came through in this. I really wanted to show how that bulldog-like tenacity that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about (and I think Moffat-Gatiss and Rupert Graves have harnessed so brilliantly) translates into an often unsung, but very powerful, kind of steel.

The best compliment to a character is whether he'd die well. I don't understand why it always upsets everyone. (Well, okay, yes, I do. But that's the entire point!)

We are most definitely kindred souls, my friend.

By the way, I don't think you broke him too much in "I Have Erred." It seems to me there's a vital difference in the two scenarios. In mine, he's well aware that the whole point is the live video link (and he uses that as best he can). In yours, he doesn't discover the camera's involved until the moment before his death, and even then it's not likely to be a "real time" transmission. Since he's under the impression he's alone with Moriarty up until the last second, I think he defies Moriarty in the only way he can, by denying his murderer the satisfaction of hearing a final statement or witnessing any dramatics. He refuses to give Moriarty anything, which is the only act of defiance he has left to make.

Oh dear, Lestrade, how are you so wonderful?

He is, isn't he?

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your kind words so very much!
Apr. 10th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)

How absolutely chilling. What a tragic setup. My heart aches for all of them, my god. So well done.

Apr. 11th, 2011 06:54 am (UTC)
*hugs you* Thank you! Writing this, I broke my own heart a bit, but I wanted to try to show what I see as Lestrade's unsung, quiet, dogged kind of courage, and this seemed a way for me to do it - and to show that this loss really would be devastating to Sherlock. Also, Moriarty is bad, bad man, and this arrangement seemed a particularly horrible one to me (for Lestrade, obviously, but also for Sherlock and poor John), so I saw it as an opportunity to show that his threats have teeth. I was aiming for chilling, so your kind words meant a lot to me. Thank goodness, with the magic of fanfic, Lestrade can be alive and at work again the next day. :)

Thank you so much for reading it and for commenting. I really appreciate it!
Apr. 26th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
Wow! You know what? This could absolutely be canon, frighteningly enough. With Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat being apparent graduates of the Joss Whedon School of Utter Bastardry, I can absolutely see this happening. Holy cow, you had me twisting my hair and biting my lips, even though I knew what would happen. Another tense, crisp fic.
I would LOVE to see your sequel to this, see ice-cold Sherlock do his worst upon the men who did this. My blood is boiling for Lestrade right now. Awesome.
Apr. 26th, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, I hope not. I've already cried buckets for Shepherd Book and Wash; I think I'd go fetal over Lestrade. ;) The only thing that allowed me to do this was knowing that, thanks to the magic of fanfic, he'd be alive and well the next day. I see him as possessing such an unsung, quiet, determined kind of courage (the origin of that bulldog-like tenacity Doyle wrote about), I thought I could underscore it with this story. But it would break my heart to see this happen in BBC!canon! WOE!!! (Damn you, Rupert Graves, for making me care! *shakes fist* LOL.)

Thanks for your lovely feedback. Apologies for the twisted hair and bitten lips, but since that was what I hoped for, I must admit I'm thrilled by your response. (Thank you!) This was literally painful to write, but wonderful, thoughtful comments like yours make it wholly worth it. I greatly appreciate your kindness in saying the writing is tense and crisp. Thank you so much.

Augh, I'd love to see Sherlock deliver the smackdown in the aftermath of this. I'm not the one to write it, I'm afraid, but it would be brilliant (not to mention cathartic). And I'd like to think that poor, traumatized, badass John Watson, who was forced to watch helplessly when he could've saved the man, would get his licks in, as well. Repeatedly.

You've utterly made my day. I can't thank you enough for your awesomeness!
(no subject) - bk7brokemybrain - Apr. 26th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 27th, 2011 10:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 24th, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
oh god

why did I read this knowing what it would do to my heart. you make it hurt so good.

I need the fluffiest piece of Sherlock/Lestrade or John/Lestrade in the WORLD, STAT.
Jun. 25th, 2011 07:19 am (UTC)
*hugs you* I am sorry, really I am. He was just being so tenacious and brave and selfless, and I wanted to pay tribute to that. Thank you so much for reading, despite the subject matter.

In the comments above, I wrote a tiny "fix" which noirrosaleen then followed (also in the comments) with a gorgeous little mini-sequel: maybe the fluff will help?

Thanks again for reading and commenting. Your feedback means a lot to me.

Edited at 2011-06-25 11:20 am (UTC)
Jul. 31st, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)
Drive by FYI: you've been rec'd today on 221b_recs!
Aug. 1st, 2011 06:34 am (UTC)
*flails* Oh, thank you! I appreciate it so much! :)
Aug. 2nd, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
;_; DUDE. ;______;
Aug. 2nd, 2011 07:18 am (UTC)
*hugs you and the beautiful DI*
Aug. 20th, 2011 07:48 am (UTC)
Re: A Study in Grey
Again - elegant. The minimum action to achieve the maximum effect.

Forcing John while bound and gagged to watch Lestrade bleed out - unable either to save him or offer comfort.

Chilling note, choice of slashing Lestrade's arm as a mortal wound, so that Lestrade will bleed out too quickly to get to in time, without dying so quickly that he (and everyone else) won't have time to think about it.

I love Lestrade in this - his focus on any practical information at *all* that he can pass to Sherlock, coupled with saying what needs to be said personally.

It's actually *believable* in this scenario that the captors wouldn't dare cut the video feed no matter what Lestrade said - Moriarty would have been explicit that he wanted Sherlock to watch, and God knows that anyone who survived working with Moriarty for any length of time would take his orders seriously.

The concluding paragraph - well tied in with the title.

Very well done all over.
Aug. 20th, 2011 01:15 pm (UTC)
Re: A Study in Grey
Thank you so much for this! I'm especially pleased that you liked Lestrade here, focusing on trying to provide any information at all to help Sherlock, both in the short term (saving John) and in the long term (working with his team to get Moriarty). As strange as this sounds, this was meant as a tribute to Lestrade, despite the fact it's a fatal one. I love the way he's written/portrayed in the series, and I hoped to provide a chance for his quiet, dogged kind of persistence to be celebrated. And I also hoped to convey that Sherlock, if faced with losing the DI, would realize he really needs and values the man.

I'm glad the method of the murder - as you say, quick enough to rule out rescue, but slow enough to think about - seemed properly horrible, in a Moriarty-esque way. It's great to hear that it's believable that the henchmen would leave the feed running, no matter what Lestrade said.

I'm also very gratified that you found this to be chilling in its implications for John. Honestly, I can't imagine a situation worse for him that being forced to watch someone - anyone, but especially someone he knows/trusts/respects - dying and be unable to save/comfort/avenge that person. It breaks my heart a little, thinking how awful that would be. If John's rescued, I really wouldn't want to be Moriarty.

You can't imagine how much I appreciate your kind words. Thank you so, so much! I appreciate your reading and leaving such lovely feedback.
Dec. 4th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Dec. 5th, 2011 08:57 am (UTC)
Oh, I really appreciate this. Thank you!
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( 49 comments — Leave a comment )