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The Shadow Boys Are Breaking (Sherlock)

Title: The Shadow Boys Are Breaking
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: When Sherlock and John broke that morning, Lestrade picked up the pieces. Now who would pick up the pieces of Lestrade?
Historian's Note: This takes place after (and refers to) the Sherlock episode "The Great Game."
Chinese Translation: available here and here by freya_fsc
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Semi-graphic description of injuries

The stairs proved to be too much.

A lifetime ago, last night, he had been bleary-eyed with exhaustion when his head hit the pillow.

He'd left his bed less than an hour later, the moment the call came.

The last of his reserves he'd spent in the early hours of this morning — on his hands and knees in the rubble, perhaps, coughing and spitting out ash and grit and dust, or at the hospital, enduring the excruciating tension of not knowing beside a too-still and too-silent Mycroft Holmes.

He didn't remember any detail of the drive from the hospital to the flat in the grim pre-dawn downpour. He recalled his trembling hand struggling to fit the key in the lock as if it were a particularly uninteresting program on the telly during which he'd nodded off months ago.

Only when he drew the door closed behind him did he remember the stairs. He switched on the stairwell light, and the steps loomed up before him, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Turning his back to them in temporary defeat, he half-sat and half-fell until he could brace himself, elbows on knees and head in hands.

Pull yourself together. Get up. Do something. The chant grew to a roar in his ears. You know how to do it. One foot forward. Then the next.

He sat there.

"Sherlock? Good heavens, is that you?"

By the time he had raised his head and identified the voice, the woman stood before him, wrapped in a dressing gown, hugging herself against the chill.

"Detective Inspector!" she gasped.

"I'm sorry" — Lestrade struggled to pull her name from his sluggish memory — "Mrs Hudson. I didn't mean to wake you."

"I thought that— Oh, you're hurt!" The landlady waved her fingers at him, indicating that he should remain seated. "Wait right there. Don't move, Dear. I'll call an ambulance."

"No, no. Please don’t!”

Pausing, she blinked wide eyes at him. At his chest, more precisely. Both his damp coat and rumpled jacket hung open, displaying a once-white shirt now painted red-brown with gore. Looking down at himself, Lestrade felt his mouth go dry.

"It's not mine," he rasped.

Mrs Hudson retreated haltingly until her back came to rest against the entry door. For a moment her gaze darted back and forth between the detective inspector and the quiet flat upstairs.

She pressed a palm to her mouth. "My boys," she whispered past her fingers.

"They're alive," he hastened to reassure her. "Still alive."

Her sleep-muddled gaze grew overly bright as she nodded toward his torso. "Which one?"

He glanced back down at his shirt, as if he could identify one gruesome stain from another.

Recent memories poured forth without invitation. He recalled Sherlock splayed in long-limbed disarray like an abandoned storefront mannequin, painted white by ash and dust and crushed concrete. He remembered John crumpled into himself like a broken toy, dripping gore. He heard the gurgling-wet sucking sound of John struggling to draw a breath, and the wheezing cough that brought shocking crimson bubbles to Sherlock's lips when he tried to speak.

He felt the weight of Sherlock’s head on his shoulder, the weight of John’s back against his chest. He had tried to be careful, so very careful, with those fragile burdens.

By all rights he shouldn’t have been allowed to lift, to hold, to carry, but the last remnants of the building groaned and shifted above them, preparing to bury them all; it had seemed foolish to insist on emergency medical protocol if this got everyone, including the wounded patients, killed in the bargain. No neck braces, no back-boards, no required credentials, just volunteers and good intentions and frantic prayers.

And blood everywhere.

“Which one?” Mrs Hudson repeated.

The word threatened to stick in his throat, but he forced it out: "Both."

A broken whimper of a sound escaped her. Just when Lestrade had believed that this morning couldn't become any more nightmarish, he'd stumbled headfirst into the very thing that could make it so: being the bearer of bad tidings, and distressing this kind-hearted woman.

"They're still alive," he repeated. "In hospital. I just came from there."

"Will they live?" Her voice remained hushed.

Lestrade swallowed. For several heartbeats, neither spoke.

Then, unfolding from her anguished huddle, Mrs Hudson straightened to her full, if unimpressive, height.

"Don't spare me, Dear. Out with it." No whisper this time.

It didn't occur to him to disobey that tone. "I don't know. According to the doctors, it's too soon to tell." He exhaled, deflating further. "There was an explosion early this morning that collapsed a building. Sherlock and John were present at the blast, then trapped in the wreckage. It was..." He shook his head.

"Very bad, sounds like." Steadiness was returning to her voice, despite her tears.

Nodding, he frowned at the floor in front of him and cleared his throat.

"John should be in surgery a couple more hours yet. Sherlock got out just before I left, but they say he won't wake" — he omitted the qualifying "if he ever does" — "'til afternoon at the earliest. I'm headed back there, as soon as I take a look 'round upstairs. I'm hoping to find something that will help make sense of what happened, or at least show me what to do next."

Almost too late, the thought struck him that he was talking to Sherlock's landlady, the woman who had witnessed the "drugs bust" with which, when all else failed, he had tried to push Sherlock into some semblance of legal and responsible behavior.

"I'm not looking to confiscate anything, mind you. This isn't..." He gestured vaguely with his empty hands. "I don't even know why they were there in that building. I can't protect them or look for those responsible if I don't understand what's going on. And right now, neither of them can tell me."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me, Detective Inspector. I expect Sherlock gave you that key for times just such as these. You watch out for him, one way or another; I know you do." A sad smile reordered the lines on her face. "And it does a body good to do something, doesn't it? Rather than sit and wait?"

"Truer words..." He groped blindly for the energy to stand. After considerable effort, he gained his feet, only to have Mrs Hudson grasp his wrist.

"Just a moment, Dear. Hold still." She had the fixed concentration of someone who badly needed the distraction of devising and implementing a plan.

As her damp eyes mapped the lines of his body, Lestrade blinked in confusion. "Mrs Hudson?"

“I don’t have anything of my late husband’s, I’m afraid. I made a bit of a celebration of it, chucking everything out immediately after the execution.”

Lestrade scrubbed his free hand over his face, quite lost.

"Hmm,” she continued, “I think any shirt of Sherlock's would be too narrow in the shoulders, and any shirt of John's would be too short in the arms."

Releasing him, she made a shooing motion in the direction of Sherlock and John's flat. "There's nothing for it: a jumper, then. They stretch, you know, and some of John's are already a bit long on him."

"I, ah... I'm sorry?"

"You can't go back out like that, Detective Inspector. I'll find you something to wear while you shower." Gentle hands caught him at the elbow and shoulder, turning him around to face the stairs.

"Shower? But I'm not—"

"Are you going home before you go back to the hospital?"

"No, but—"

"Then take a quick shower. Trust me, it'll help: you're nearly done in. Get the blood off. Wake yourself up. Then you can have a look about." Somehow he was moving, climbing the steps, opening the door, the landlady at his heels.

"I recommend John's, the next floor up," she said. "Sherlock treats everything of his like some kind of science lab. It can be rather off-putting."

"Mrs Hudson, I only want a quick look. I can't just—”

"Do you honestly think either of these men would begrudge you anything, after you spent the night digging them out of the rubble?"

This brought him up short. She moved forward and grasped his hands in hers, lifting them up for his examination.

"I'm no Sherlock Holmes," she said in a near-whisper, "but I can deduce some things on my own, Detective Inspector."

His fingers were lacerated, his palms torn. Dried blood stained the tips of his chipped nails. He honestly hadn't noticed.

Fatigue and emotion blurred his vision, and Mrs Hudson offered a gentle squeeze of support before she let him go.

"Off with you now. I'm going to find you a jumper. Be grateful: if I was just twenty-five years younger, I'd be offering to join you and scrub your back."

Lestrade ducked his head and felt himself blush, drawing a teary laugh from the woman, which he returned in kind.


As the hot spray beat against complaining muscles, Lestrade fought a losing battle to clear his mind.

Anger would have been a relief. He wanted to be furious at Sherlock for keeping him in the dark again, for failing to realize an ally was his for the asking, that genius or no the consulting detective didn’t have to pursue everything on his own. God knew Lestrade had enough mysteries to unravel without the ones Sherlock crafted around himself to satisfy his own eccentric taste for the dramatic.

But Lestrade thought back on the expressionless mask of Mycroft Holmes’s face, the tension evident in every long line of the man in the waiting room, and knew this had come as a shock to Sherlock’s reputedly omniscient brother, as well.

Anger eluded him. Grief left it no room.

He recalled his own hoarse voice trying to reassure Sherlock, to answer the man's unasked questions while the medical team worked over his broken body beside the ambulance. (“It’s me, Lestrade; we’ve found John, and he’s alive; your brother’s already waiting at the hospital; easy now, don’t fight them; be still, Sherlock...”)

He remembered calling raggedly to John's limp form where it curled half-buried beneath the debris; he remembered seeking a response from the doctor, any signal of consciousness, and receiving none. (“John Watson? Doctor Watson? We’ve got you; we’ve got Sherlock. Now give us a sign, John, please...")

He relived the drive to the hospital — at Sherlock’s side, as the paramedics requested, in case the consulting detective roused again and required calming. Lestrade barely blinked as he kept dutiful watch, slumped beneath his own shock blanket, breathing behind his own oxygen mask, but Sherlock never opened his eyes.

The taste of ashes on his tongue, and desperation, and bitter hospital coffee...

Pressing his forehead and fist against the tiled wall, Lestrade sagged into its support as the water washed him clean.


Lestrade would deny it to anyone, of course — including himself — but the woolly jumper felt unexpectedly comfortable. Comforting, even.

The weave possessed enough give that he had hope he wouldn’t stretch it out of all proportion and ruin it for John. And it was form-fitting enough on his frame that he easily could wear his jacket, now clumsily brushed and wiped clean of the worst of the mess, over it.

His search yielded little information. Neither man's mobile appeared to be in their home. The firearm Lestrade repeatedly had taken great pains to overlook was nowhere to be found, but he had no way to know whether this meant that John had anticipated trouble and taken it with him or simply hidden the gun well.

John's laptop proved surprisingly easy to access — Lestrade would have to talk to the doctor about proper security measures when, not if, the opportunity presented itself — but the list of emails recently received showed only the same few addresses over and over again. No last-minute message from an unknown sender, then.

There was no point in bothering with Sherlock's computer. Lestrade knew he'd never get past its multiple layers of encryption.

He had his suspicions about what this morning meant, of course, considering all that had happened recently, but as Sherlock was always telling him, it was unwise to theorize before you had data.

As he paced the flat, he thought tactically about the doors and fire escape and still-broken windows. When he had satisfied himself that he could find no other immediate clues, he called the Yard and assigned teams to maintain round-the-clock surveillance on the building from every useful angle.

Perhaps they'd be fortunate and learn something new from the stakeout. If nothing else, he would be certain that both Sherlock and John's home and their landlady were safe. Doing something felt infinitely preferable to doing nothing at all.

His mind already back at the hospital, he descended the stairs to find Mrs Hudson, with red-rimmed eyes and stiff upper lip, setting out tea.

"Right, all done? Then take off your trousers and have some tea, Dear."

Lestrade opened his mouth and then shut it, once more befuddled.

"Your knee is showing through the rip in your trouser leg. I can stitch it up for you. It won’t take five minutes." Hands on hips, she pinned him with a look. "And I have scones."

His stomach chose that moment to rumble audibly, reminding him how long it had been since he’d eaten a bite.

“You see? It will do you good. Go on now, you don’t have anything I haven’t seen before,” she urged him, reaching out a hand for his trousers. Then, in a stage whisper, “Though, granted, yours is no doubt far more attractive.”

Choking back laughter that could all too easily become hysterical, Lestrade did as he was told. She was a force of nature, this one.

Moments later he found himself on her sofa in his boxer shorts and the borrowed jumper, drinking wonderful tea that was neither too strong nor too weak and devouring homemade scones. As Mrs Hudson mended his trousers, he explained the surveillance plans for the building and the ways she could alert his team to anything she noticed out of the ordinary. He added her personal number to his mobile and drew out his card to leave with her.

He struggled against and ultimately surrendered to a monstrous yawn.

“Is there anyone I can ring for you? To let them know you’re all right?” she asked.

“I’ve already contacted the Yard, but I appreciate the thought.”

“I meant anyone... personal?” She looked meaningfully at the ring on his hand.

It could still catch him off guard, the sudden choking sorrow, and his feeble resistance was no match for it this morning. He shook his head, swallowing around it, staring into his teacup. “Not anymore. I buried her a few years ago,” he said at last. With a shrug, he flexed his abused fingers. “Just wasn’t ready to give up being her husband, I suppose. Silly, yeah?”

“No, not silly. Quite beautiful, actually,” she said after a moment. “I'm truly sorry, Dear.”

He took another sip of tea.

Saving him from the need to reply, she gave a gusty sigh. “There, all done. Nothing fancy, but it’ll get you through the day.”

She held up the trousers for his inspection. Try as he might, he could not locate the mended spot.


"Thank you, Mrs Hudson. You’ve been very kind," he said at last, fully dressed, accepting extra scones to take back with him for Mycroft. He felt tired, of course, bloody exhausted, but no longer stumbling drunk with fatigue.

“Don’t mention it, Dear. You’ll ring me when you hear news?”

“Of course.”

“And when they can have visitors?”

“I promise.”

“Thank you.” She put a hand to his cheek and patted it lightly, smiling up at him with obvious fondness. A new wash of tears shone in her bright eyes, but she didn’t allow a single one to fall. “They’re quite strong, you know, each in his own way. They’ve been broken before, and they’ve mended. They’ll fight.”

“They will,” he agreed gruffly.

“And they have very good people watching out for them.”

He dropped his eyes, resisting the urge to point out that those very good people seemed to have failed the two men mere hours earlier.

“You know, you don’t have to wait ’til the next emergency to drop by. It’s always a treat to see you.”

Smiling despite himself, Lestrade said, “I’ll remember that. I haven’t had a better cup of tea in years. Decades, even.”

“Take care of them — yourself, too,” she urged.

“I’ll do my best, Mrs Hudson.”

“I have no doubt of it, Detective Inspector. No doubt whatsoever.”

The weight of her certainty settled on him. He nodded his gratitude and goodbye.

Squaring his shoulders, Lestrade stepped out into the dismal rain of the grey dawn.


Optional Epilogue: Read the Optional Epilogue, "Until the Bandages Came Off."

Vital Stats: Originally written in April 2011.

Originally inspired by gloria_scott's prompt of "Lestrade, Mrs Hudson; tea" at the "Spring into Sherlock" Fest at sherlockmas. Originally written for this prompt on sherlockbbc_fic.

The title is taken from lyrics to the song “Time” by Tom Waits.


( 101 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 27th, 2011 09:03 am (UTC)
Another great moment! I continue to adore(lust after) the humble Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson is amazing. The way you mixed them in this time of stress is so dear. And I love that she is uber-capable and talented in mending, tea making, and mothering. She got Lestrade back on his feet to face another horrible day, but looking professional. Love her. Love Lestrade. Lovely fic!
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:09 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked the way I brought the two of them together.I do see her as uber-capable and uber-practical, and I think Lestrade needing her attention is really her salvation here, because it allows her to do something rather than just worry over her boys. By helping him, she's helping them too. Your comments are always so lovely, and I really appreciate them. Thanks so much!
(no subject) - bk7brokemybrain - Jun. 22nd, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Jun. 22nd, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 27th, 2011 09:42 am (UTC)
Oh, Mrs. Hudson. So cheeky! I'm glad she was there to support Lestrade, and vice versa.
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:12 am (UTC)
LOL! I get the impression she's that way by nature anyway, but that she especially loves being cheeky when she knows it flusters someone (in a good-spirited kind of way). In this case, Lestrade's almost at a laugh-or-cry point, and she wants to tip the scales in favor of a laugh. (Otherwise, they might start crying and never stop.) He definitely needs her, but I think the fact he gives her something to do rather than just worry also helps her tremendously. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I really do appreciate it.
Apr. 27th, 2011 11:06 am (UTC)
That was wonderful and refreshing! While I love reading Sherlock and John's perspectives on TGG aftermath, this alternate POV was a rare treat. Plus it's always nice to see more of Mrs Hudson. (And Lestrade!)
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:14 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm so pleased you think so. I can never get enough Lestrade, but I've been wanting to try Mrs Hudson for a while (and been very nervous about getting her voice right). So your comments make me very happy. Thanks for reading and for your kind feedback.
Apr. 27th, 2011 11:08 am (UTC)
That's lovely - very good to see Mrs Hudson's toughness carrying her through and enabling her to give Lestrade just what he needs to keep going.
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! It struck me that she could support him in a way few others could - and, that by giving her something to focus on, a way to help, he unknowingly was helping her get through the shock of the news, too. I'm so glad this worked for you, especially Mrs Hudson's toughness. I really appreciate your reading and commenting!
(no subject) - kalypso_v - Apr. 28th, 2011 07:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 28th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kalypso_v - Apr. 28th, 2011 09:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Apr. 28th, 2011 09:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 27th, 2011 11:27 am (UTC)
I might love you. It's perfect. And I think this Hands on hips, she pinned him with a look. "And I have scones." about made my day :)
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:18 am (UTC)
Aw, this makes my day! I might love you back. ;) Thank you so much for your kind words. I expect Mrs Hudson thinks "I have scones" is the trump argument that beats all others every time. And I'm not sure she's wrong! I'm so glad her voice seems right to you here. I really appreciate your reading and commenting - thank you!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:20 am (UTC)
Oh, I can't tell you how happy this makes me! I've been wanting to try writing Mrs Hudson for a while, but I was quite nervous about getting her voice right. So you've made my day. I'm so glad you liked it. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback!
Apr. 27th, 2011 11:43 am (UTC)
Love it!

I think the idea that Lestrade is a widower is very sad... but not unbelievable at all.
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so glad.

I agree wholeheartedly. :(

Thanks for reading and commenting!
Apr. 27th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
Wow. Your stories have such a strong sensory pull. I can see and smell and taste and hear everything you describe. Lestrade's anguish is palpable, and Mrs Hudson is such a gem. I adore how you characterize both of them, really. Lestrade's wounded but strong sense of himself, and his reliability is marvelous. Her toughness and gentleness combined is wonderful. I love how she cares for him and through him, her boys.

Gorgeous. :)
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
Your wonderful comments always make me flail around a bit before I can gather myself to reply. Thank you for your kindness. I was quite worried about getting Mrs Hudson right - this is the first time I've tried writing her - so I'm grateful that you like the characterization. I love how you put it, that she's both caring for Lestrade and also, through him, caring for her boys; I think that's exactly the way she'd see it. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback!
Apr. 27th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
OOOF. This story really packs a punch, in the best possible way. I love your characterizations and your use of language and the little glimmers of humor that leaven it just enough. What a treat. :-)
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
What a lovely thing to say! You've put a huge smile on my face. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is lovely. The descriptions of Lestrade's injured hands and torn and bloody clothes are so visceral and you really captured his drive to keep going, to find answers while he waits for Sherlock and John to wake. And I love Mrs. Hudson's flirting!
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:34 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you so much! I'm so glad the descriptions worked. I have a bit of a thing for what ACD called Lestrade's bulldog-like tenacity (now, fortunately, in a much more sympathetic and aesthetically pleasing package, thanks to Rupert Graves!), so I'm pleased his drive to keep going despite fatigue and heartache came through.

This was my first time to write Mrs Hudson, so I'm thrilled she worked for you. I figured she's a flirter by nature (and come on, just look at the man!), but that she especially loves being cheeky when she knows it flusters someone (in a good-spirited kind of way). In this case, I'm guessing she'd understand that Lestrade's almost at the point of either laughing or crying, and she'd want to tip the scales in favor of a laugh, just to shock him out of the space where he is. (Otherwise, they both might start crying and never stop.) I'm really happy it seemed right in this context.

I can't thank you enough for your kind comments! I really appreciate them.
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
This is just lovely. Wonderful to see this particular interaction, and a particularly great job with Mrs. Hudson.
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:35 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I really appreciate it. This was my first try with Mrs Hudson, so I'm especially pleased that she seemed right to you. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
I loved this, and I love fics with Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade, and you wrote them so well! Guh, this broke my heart in all the right ways. I do hope her boys are alright!
Apr. 28th, 2011 07:39 am (UTC)
This makes me so happy - thank you! I do adore Lestrade (and almost all of my stories seem to feature him), but this is my first time to write Mrs Hudson (though I've been wanting to for a while), and I was quite nervous. I appreciate the feedback, and I'm so glad she seemed right to you. I'm relieved that this broke your heart in the right ways and not the wrong ones.

Thanks a million for reading and for commenting! I appreciate it.
Apr. 27th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
Brava! A lovely piece.
Apr. 28th, 2011 08:17 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it.
Apr. 27th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
This is just gorgeous.
Apr. 28th, 2011 08:17 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I really appreciate it. Thanks for reading!
Apr. 27th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
♥ So true, that the boys' support structure needs a support structure!
Apr. 28th, 2011 08:18 am (UTC)
Yes indeed! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.
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( 101 comments — Leave a comment )