He is back in London. He shouldn't be.
His hair reeks of dye, and it is giving him a headache. He wears plain jeans and a hooded sweater that is too large for him. The hood is up, of course. It says CANADA across the sleeve. Today he is a Canadian tourist. He is taking a short vacation; just passing through. Tommorow he will be gone from London, and he will not return.
It has been two years and he is gone from the papers. He doubts if anyone even remembers the man who jumped from the hospital roof. The world has moved on; there has been other news. No one he knows takes the tube from Elephant and Castle. Perhaps he could take his hood down. He doesn't, though. He has grown accustomed to hiding.
The station is not busy. In the lift, it is only he and one woman. She talks to him, though.
"Pardon me." she says. "Are you from Canada?"
He spares her a glance. She was just with her boyfriend.
"Yes." he says, in a voice that is not his own.
"Oh, how interesting!" she says. "My cousin lives in Canada. In Vancouver."
Oh, but they're not happy, her and her boyfriend. Unhappy relationship. Strained.
"How interesting." he says.
She's going to work. She works at a bookshop.
The woman takes a step closer to him. "Are you all right, mate?" she asks. "You look a bit pale."
Cat. She has a cat.
"Fine." he says.
No, it's a dog. A small dog. Stupid.
The lift hits ground, and the doors open. He needs to go. He shouldn't be in London.
"What's your name?" the woman calls after him.
He turns. Name. No, he cannot be Sigerson any longer. That name is dangerous now. Jeremy is a dangerous name as well. Arthur, William, Sherringford, Benedict, all these he can no longer use. A pity. He was getting used to being called Benedict. No, he will need a new name.
"I'm Jones." he says, in a voice that is Canadian. "Holden Jones."
"Holden." she says. "Like Catcher In The Rye."
"Yes." he says.
She tells him her name; he does not remember it. Trivial, useless. She asks him again if he is okay, and he reassures her that he is. This is a lie: he is sick. He knows he is. He is frequently dizzy and his vision blurs at the edges; his head aches and his temperature is higher than normal. Perhaps an infection. The sweatshirt that reads CANADA on the sleeve is hiding a good number of cuts and wounds and any one of these could be infected. Yes, that might be it.
No, not might. It is. He cannot doubt himself. He does not doubt himself. He leaves the lift as quickly as he can. Small dog. Obviously. He hurries along the corridor, head bent. Hurry. He shouldn't be in London. He shouldn't.
His train is not yet at the platform. Good. He needs to sit down. His legs are shaking. A couple pass by him, and he shrinks back against the wall, instinctive. Hide.
And then he sees Lestrade.
Holden Jones is pressed against the tile wall, his face half-obscured by the hood of his sweatshirt. His hands are shaking; he becomes acutely aware of them. Why are they shaking? The DI – is he still? No, he is. Mycroft had promised Lestrade would not lose his job; he had promised – does not see him. Lestrade crosses to the opposite platform, away from him. He peers around the wall. He has to see.
Seeing Lestrade is not the slap in the face he might have imagined; it is not painful, it is not surprising. He feels as though he is watching the DI from the bottom of a well, from a bubble, underwater, somewhere far away. His observations are oddly detached. He doesn't know what he is feeling – feelings, hadn't he got rid of those? Oh, they were so trivial - it is as if he is frozen. Everything is in temporary stasis. How odd.
Lestrade looks all right. A bit thinner, maybe. A bit older. But all right. He looks familiar. He is wearing his blue shirt. Holden Jones recognizes it. He knows that shirt. Cheap shirt. But soft. Soft and smooth. Lestrade looks the same as he has always been, and it is a relief. Dependable Lestrade. Stable Lestrade.
He clutches the rail of the stairs: he does not trust himself not to run to Lestrade. The DI slips his hands in his pockets, waiting for his train. A group of people come down the stairs, chattering loudly, and Lestrade turns round a bit to look. He has to flatten himself against the wall, as not to be seen. His heart is pounding; the hand clutching the rail is trembling.
Stealthy, he peers again around the corner. Lestrade is looking off into the distance, hands still in pockets, shoulders slumped forward. And then, suddenly, a child of (Four? Five? - no, four. Do not doubt yourself - ) darts out of nowhere and collides with Lestrade's legs. The DI starts; surprised. He looks down at the little child clinging onto his trousers. Then Lestrade gently extracts the boy from his leg and crouches down so that they are even with one another.
He has learned from Lestrade the best way to approach children. He speaks to children from high; no, this is a mistake. To speak to a child you must crouch to their level so that you can look them straight in the eye. This strategy yields surprisingly successful results. There are not many situations in which he takes advice from Lestrade. But children are one of them. Strange that Lestrade is not – cannot be - a father and yet his grasp of the concept is so firm, so elegant.
Lestrade is speaking to the child, but what he is saying is inaudible, lost somewhere in the noise of the station. From behind the wall, he watches the scene unfold with a kind of frozen detachment. So odd, this feeling. Stasis of the mind. Suspended animation. Frozen. Lestrade talks to the child for a few moments, kneeling on the floor. The knees of Lestrade's suit will be ruined. And then Lestrade stands, and indeed the knees of his trousers are worn and dirty from kneeling, and Lestrade hoists the child up into his arms so that they are once again at the same level, but higher this time. Lestrade's level. The child points away across the station, to his parents, no doubt, and Lestrade smiles broader – for he is already smiling – and carries him away and out of sight.
His train is approaching: he can hear the low rumble from behind, the screaming of the tracks. And yet he cannot turn and go to it: he is frozen.
He has to go, though.
He shouldn't be in London.
There is no one else on his side of the platform. He is the only one boarding. When the doors open, he forces himself through, into the empty carriage. His eyesight is blurred, and he stumbles, almost catches his foot on the gap. It takes him a moment to realize he is crying.
When he is through the doors, he turns around, and there is Lestrade on the platform again, hands back in pockets, waiting. Steady Lestrade, dependable Lestrade. Waiting for his train. The doors shut in his face, and the train moves away. He closes his eyes. When he loses sight of Lestrade, he wants it to be by his choice.
The train is moving, picking up speed, and still he stands there with eyes closed and tears falling from behind closed lids. When he cannot stand any longer, he falls to his knees, and Holden Jones lays down on the floor and weeps.
When he gets off at Paddington Station his face is dry, and he leaves the sweatshirt that says CANADA behind on the tube. He buys a new sweatshirt in the gift shop, and he buys a ticket for a train.
He shouldn't have been in London anyways.