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Doctor meets doctor (1/8)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 18 (whole fic): slash, mental health issues, vomiting.

Summary: AU body-swap fic, set mainly during "A Study in Pink". Inspired by the Martin Freeman/Rachael Stirling comedy drama Boy meets Girl.

Betaed by kalypso_v, queen of the comma.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Molly Hooper has let Sherlock Holmes do a lot of strange experiments in the morgue over the last few years, but she's pretty sure that this is going to be the one that gets her into serious trouble. If she'd only refused him at an earlier stage. She's not good at saying 'no' to him, but this time she should have done.

She initially assuages her guilt by telling herself it isn't actually in the morgue that he's building this thing, but the room between the morgue and the lab that isn't technically part of any department, because it's so small and grotty that not even Barts can turn it into an office. But she knows that when something goes wrong – as it will – and there is an investigation, she will get the blame. Sherlock can talk his way out of anything, after all. Or his brother will smooth things over for him, as he's done before, buy off Barts with another six figure donation from the Holmes Trust, as the family slush fund is called. It's her that will be made the scapegoat, for allowing Sherlock Frankenstein to play mad scientist in the basement.

If she only knew what he's doing, she'd know who to turn to, but the moment she tells anyone else at Barts that the locked room isn't just full of broken equipment she has already committed herself, blown a whistle into the unknown. She needs someone to talk to who isn't part of the establishment. Someone with medical knowledge, though.

So when Mike brings the stranger in one day, and introduces her to him, she pricks up her ears. He's trained here, and he's impressed by her shiny new morgue, but he's unemployed, she gathers, and hence unaffiliated. Or did Mike say something about him being in the army? Before she can ask, the man – Dr Watson, she thinks – is whisked off by Mike to meet Sherlock. When Mike and Dr Watson emerge from the lab, Sherlock has already taken over half the morgue analysing his flogging results, and Molly sees her chance.

"Would you like to come upstairs and have some coffee, Dr Watson?" she asks. "If that's OK, Mike? I can show you round a bit more and then see you out." Mike accepts slightly too quickly, and she takes Dr Watson off to the lift, because his leg must be killing him. He looks slightly stunned, as well. Sherlock tends to have that effect on people.

"Call me John," Dr Watson says in the lift. "And you're Molly, aren't you?" He's smiling at her even though she hasn't got the lipstick on any more. And if he's Mike's friend, he's probably a nice man; most of Mike's friends are. She thinks she can trust him.

"Is it a long time since you've seen Mike?" she asks, once they get to the canteen.

"Yes," he says, with an attempt at a smile. "Ten years, at least. He says he's got fat, but then I've got shot, so he's probably had the best of the bargain. I...I think he found it a bit hard seeing me like this, it's dawned on him that I'm not the John Watson he knows any more."

Poor man, she thinks, and says hastily, "Can you grab a table while l get the coffees?" John immediately gets that slightly awkward look of a man who thinks he ought to offer to pay for the drinks, but doesn't have much money – she's dated enough students over the years to know that look.

"It's on me," she says. "The least I can do for a war hero," and she winces at that line. But John just looks at her stoically, says "Thanks", and goes and sits down.

She'd been planning to talk to him, get to know him a bit before asking him to help her, but she can't think of anything to say that won't sound either patronising or pathetic. So when she sits down, she simply asks: "What did you think of Sherlock?"

"Is Mr Holmes always like that?" he says. "Coming out with those weird statements about you that happen to be accurate? It's as if he's five minutes further into a conversation you didn't even know you were having."

"He's brilliant," she replies. "Completely mad, but brilliant. Just...amazing." Because he is, even if he is building something deadly next to her morgue.

"The completely mad's a little worrying," John replies, smiling, "given I've just agreed to go and see a flat with him tomorrow evening."

She decides then. Never mind anything else, John has to know what kind of man he's getting involved with. Before Sherlock decides to try the thing in the basement out on him.

"You're an army doctor, aren't you?" she says. "You've seen strange things, haven't you, maybe even bad things?"

"Too many," he says, and she can hear the tension in his voice.

"Do you know anything about weapons?" she asks, "or torture?" His face barely moves, but she can see that one of his hands is shaking. "I'm sorry," she says hastily, "I shouldn't have mentioned that."

"Why are you asking about torture?" John says, and there's a sudden crispness to his voice that sounds military again. "Dr Hooper, Molly, if you're worried about something you've heard or seen, I think you should tell me."

"Sherlock's building something in the basement. I think it's for an experiment. An experiment on living people," she blurts out.

"I see," he says, slowly. "And I presume he hasn't told the ethics committee anything about it?" She shakes her head. "OK, we should go and talk to him. I can understand you not wanting to confront him alone, but that's the obvious starting point."

"No. It might...it might not be anything bad. I don't want to get him into trouble. If we could just work out what he's doing first..."

"In that case, I suggest we wait till he leaves Barts and then investigate," he replies. "And don't worry about telling me. Sherlock did say that potential flatmates should know the worst about one another."

***

By the time Molly gets back to the morgue, Sherlock's already disappeared, though there's a note telling her he'll be back at 5 p.m. So she fetches John from the canteen, because it's a chance for him to see the thing. She's seen it being built, part of her is almost used to it by now, but she realises as she unlocks the tiny room that it must seem particularly bizarre if you're seeing it all at once for the first time. There's a lot of IT equipment, plus enough cables to rewire half of Barts. But in the centre there's also something like a dentist's chair, only with padded metal loops where the wrists and ankles would go. And some of the wires are attached to the chair. A dentist's chair for someone whose teeth need electrocuting. 

"Well it's almost certainly not an electric chair," John says, after inspecting the contraption for a while, "and I don't think it's some kind of BDSM kit."

She knows she's blushing. "What makes you think that?" she asks, trying to sound like a woman who's happy discussing that sort of thing.

"I'd imagine there would be more, erm, spiky bits or...straps," he replies. "I think straps come into that sort of thing a lot. The restraints don't look right, somehow, if they are restraints. And the other thing is, that piece of kit in the corner, isn't that some kind of capacitor? Your boss isn't trying to reanimate corpses with lightning, is he?"

"He's not my boss," she protests, annoyed that she hadn't recognised that bit of the set-up. "He's not even one of the staff. He just comes in and does things here, and we...let him."

"I see," John says, frowning. "No, actually, I don't. But he could get access to medical equipment elsewhere in Barts if he wanted to, could he? If he had any normal experiments to do?"

"I think so. Why?"

"Most of this – if you ignore the power generating side – looks like some kind of brain imaging system. You see this on the floor?" He picks up something lurking under the chair that resembles a hairnet made of electrodes. "That's what they use for cognitive science studies, isn't it? Some sort of EEG?"

"Dense array electroencephalography," she says. "And that would explain all the computer power required. Why didn't I realise that?"

"I think perhaps you were panicking a bit," he says smiling, and then the smile abruptly vanishes. "And I'm not sure you weren't right to. You don't need restraints for EEG imaging, you don't even need the person to sit still."

"It could be a new variant," she says eagerly. "Perhaps Sherlock's found some way of improving spatial resolution or recording sensitivity more generally." She makes a quick decision. "If we give it a try, we can see what he's doing." She'll know for sure then that what Sherlock's up to is OK. More than that, she'll understand his experiment. She might even be able to make some helpful suggestions to him.

"OK," John replies, "if Sherlock will be all right with that."

"It's my morgue," she says firmly. "There should be some conductive gel around." When she finds it, she smears it hastily on the electrodes of the 'hairnet' and then starts to put it on her head. Really, it should all be done much more slowly and carefully, but for all her bravado, she'd rather not have Sherlock turning up while she's actually playing with his equipment.

"If you like I can be the one getting imaged," John says. "If you don't want to get your hair gunky."

"I'm fine!" she says hastily, because he's a war veteran, and probably quite badly traumatised, from the way his hand shakes, and she doesn't want him freaking out in the chair and hurting himself. "And I don't really understand the IT side," she says, trying to sound helpless.

"OK," John says, as she gets into the chair. "What do you want me to do?"

"Can you turn the thing on, please?"

John's still gazing dubiously at the machine, and she realises it's probably him who's baffled by computers. 

"The on switch is at the bottom right," she tells him, "and I don't think the system is password protected." She's surreptitiously watched Sherlock working on the machine occasionally, and she suspects he won't have bothered with that. Because she's the only other person who knows the machine is there, and he wouldn't expect her to touch his experiments.

As John fumbles with the controls, Molly lies down, slips her arms and legs into the restraining loops, and finally realises what's so odd about them.

"They're quite loose fitting, and there's no way of tightening them that I can see," she says. "That's odd, isn't it?"

"Yes, they wouldn't stop you moving around, would they? So what are they supposed to do?"

"I'm not sure," she says. "What's coming up on the monitors?"

"There's a whole load of fancy touchscreen stuff," John replies, "most of which makes no sense to me. But there's one panel which has a whole series of controls for input voltages. Why would an EEG need that?"

It suddenly fits together with the restraints that don't restrain; she wonders what it would be like to see her brain at that moment, as it solves the problem.

"If...if you were convulsing, the chair would protect you, stop you hurting yourself," she says and adds triumphantly. "You were wrong about it being an EEG. Sherlock's not just trying to observe brains, he's trying to change them."

"What do you mean?"

"The electrodes on my skull, they're intended to produce tiny electric fields. Transcranial stimulation, I think it's called. You can use it to target particular areas of the brain, knock out people's speech centres, for example."

"Seems a bit of a drastic way to get someone to stop talking. But I have vaguely heard of the technique."

Something else is nagging at the back of Molly's mind, and it's not just an electrode. Then she remembers.

"They've used it to treat mental health problems," she said. "Depression, I think, and autism. They've suggested it can temporarily increase empathy, and...oh." She comes to a halt.

"What is it?" John asks sharply.

"Sherlock, he's, he's a bit, I'm sure it's not really sociopathy, but he's...different. Maybe this is intended to modify his personality."

"Or someone else's," John replies grimly. "Right. This is where we put the whole thing down and back away slowly." His hand reaches down towards the controls...

It's at this moment that Molly realises she's made two huge mistakes. One is assuming that Sherlock cares anything about electrical safety. The other is letting a man whose hand is shaking quite badly near a touchscreen. She is somehow not surprised when extra parts of the machine suddenly start humming as John frantically tries and fails to switch everything off. In fact it's so oddly inevitable that Sherlock's machine is going to turn on her that she's slow at pulling her arms out of the restraints, at tearing the clinging hairnet off her head. John has already raced round, has a hand under the web of electrodes, trying to remove it, when the flash comes and overwhelms them both.
 

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
opusnone
Nov. 21st, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
Brilliant and imaginative set-up. Love the 2 dimensions to the AU: the body swap, and that it takes place pre ASIP. Can't wait to see where this goes.
marysutherland
Nov. 22nd, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy writing fics that fit nicely into the cracks in the canon. It gives you a whole new way of thinking about the stories you see on the screen and it's an interesting technical challenge to write.
rabidsamfan
Nov. 21st, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Whoa! What a beginning! This should be fun!
marysutherland
Nov. 22nd, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
It's going to be rather a bumpy ride, particularly for John, I'm afraid. I'll try and get a couple more parts up this week: it's all written, it's just taking a while to beta, because it's so long.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )