It had been three days since the disastrous meeting with Mycroft. Lestrade had left Sherlock just after Mycroft had stormed out. He couldn't stand those eyes. Couldn't believe he was the same man. What had happened to Sherlock to cause this? He didn't understand it. And Mycroft, acting all stoical. But Lestrade had sensed that the elder Holmes was falling just as hard as Sherlock had, just on the inside.
Since then, all he could think about was the Holmes brothers. He couldn't focus on his work, however thrilling chasing a murderer was. It just made him think of Sherlock. How he was there, in the city. All the people who thought him dead. All his friends. And Lestrade couldn't tell anyone. It was a lie, an illusion on a massive scale; the deception of an entire nation. It was almost too much for Lestrade. Almost.
Now, it was the weekend. Supposedly a time to relax, to catch up with friends. So Lestrade had decided to visit John. He hadn't seen John for a while. He had moved out of Baker Street - too many painful memories. For that reason, Mrs Hudson had not been able to bring herself to rent it out to anyone else, or even move any of Sherlock's stuff.
John had hit rock bottom after Sherlock's 'death'. He lost his job at the surgery, squandered his money on gambling and drink. Anything to leave the hurt and pain behind. As a consequence, his new flat was small and damp, in a rough neighbourhood. John had gone back to leaving his gun on his bedside table, to holding it tightly just before he went to bed, to thoughts of another existence, of Sherlock, alive again. Dreams of blood on the pavement, of wide staring eyes, his fingers grasping a limp wrist with no pulse, took over from dreams of Afghanistan, death still the prevailing feature. He had withdrawn from his few friends, becoming a shell of a once vibrant person. His sister, Harry, had herself sunk into the depths of alcohol addiction, but at least she had a new partner to help her. John had no-one.
Or that's what he thought. Greg Lestrade was one of the few people who still believed he could be saved.
Upon entering John's flat, Greg sighed. His friend was sitting blank faced opposite the TV. A football game was playing, but John was paying no attention to it. Greg moved forwards, trying to ignore the rank smell of beer that pervaded his nostrils. John had been drinking again; Greg could see at least one empty bottle lying around.
John was holding something. As Greg watched, he clenched his fist around the object, his fingers curling tight. Greg knew John would not react well to human contact right now, so he sat down next to him, careful to keep his distance. It was then that he realised what the object in John's grasp was: one of Sherlock's maroon ties.
"Oh John," Greg murmured, a bout of sadness washing over him. He could stop all of John's suffering right now. But he knew that he wouldn't. Mycroft had certainly made sure that Greg was aware of the dangers that faced them. He did not want to put John in that position. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
"I can't move on, Greg. It's been two months, and 26 days, and yes, I have been counting," John's voice was low and full of remorse. "I can't live like this."
"Are you talking about...?" Greg couldn't even finish his sentence, his voice breaking at the thought of what John was implying.
John turned to face him. "No, Greg. No. I could never do that. I could never leave the people who care about me. That would be selfish." His voice turned icy. "He was selfish. How could he have done that to me?"
He stood up, pacing with a ferocity bordering pain and anger.
Greg was used to his mood swings, but the secret he had to keep burnt through him.
"I'm sure he had his reasons. But, in all truth, you need to get out more. Maybe if you started looking at jobs, meet new people, you might..."
"How could you say that?" John cried, cutting him off. His face contorted into something resembling a sneer. "He was my best friend. Nobody can replace him. So I won't even try. You've left him behind already. Forgotten him. You were never a true friend." He strode up to Greg, fury mixing with misery.
Eyes blazing with bitterness met eyes overflowing with anguish and concealed guilt. Something snapped, and grief pushed its way past hostility.
"Help me, Greg," John whispered, a silhouette of a broken man.