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Doctor meets doctor (2/8)

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

As Molly tries to escape from Sherlock's machine, there is retina-searing brightness and then darkness and she waits for the pain to come. But though she abruptly feels like she's a rubber band being snapped, it's only for a moment, and then the lights come back on. The hospital's backup generators are working and she's alive. The problem is she is looking down at Molly, who is still lying there in the chair.

A near-death experience, her mind reasons with odd clarity. Or possibly a death experience. Isn't she supposed to cling to life? But she's not sure she wants to. She looks round to see if there are angels or bright lights, or a skeleton talking in CAPITALS, and decides just to float away from Molly's body, abandon it.

But she isn't floating, she's stumbling, and when she looks down, she has legs, but they're not her legs. She raises someone else's hands to her view – though they look oddly familiar, because she's just watched them cause chaos on a touchscreen. Whatever is going on, it's not an out-of-body experience.

She lurches to the morgue's small toilet to find the mirror. Looks in it to see the bewildered face of Dr Watson staring back and promptly throws up in the sink. She closes her eyes, because clearly while she's mostly OK her visual cortex has been fried. Then she braces herself, and opens them again, because she has to be brave. When she looks up she sees John Watson's shocked grey eyes looking into hers. When she looks down she sees his lunch in the sink.

His lunch, she registers suddenly; she didn't have carrots. And while she knows that the mind can believe many strange things, that she can hallucinate someone else's vomit does seem peculiarly unlikely. It's more plausible that she's now somehow occupying Dr Watson's body.

Not possible, of course, but plausible. It's the best impossible hypothesis she currently has, which is something. So if Sherlock's personality-changing machine has gone haywire and swapped her mind for someone else's, what next? She looks in the mirror again and sees John Watson thinking, which involves rather a lot of frown lines. More than on Molly's face, which is currently missing. Oh, but that's OK, because she knows where she's seen that last.

She walks – not quite staggering – back to where Molly's body is still lying in the chair. Despite a certain amount of charring of the computer equipment, she looks untouched, lying peacefully there. Which probably means she...it...somebody is dead.

But when she touches the body – it only occurs to her afterwards that she could have electrocuted herself via herself – Molly's breathing, and she can feel a pulse. There's even a minute sigh as she presses on one of her nailbeds.  Alive, but deeply unconscious, she needs specialist help quickly.

She hurries across to her office to phone reception – quicker than 999 – but as the phone starts to ring, she abruptly realises just what a mess she's in. There is an experiment gone badly wrong down here, which has probably blown half the power in Barts, there is an unconscious woman who used to be her and she's stuck in someone else's body. She can't easily explain this one away.

So when reception answers, John's voice simply yells: "Medical emergency in the morgue, trauma and suspected brain injury," and slams the phone down on their enquiries about who the caller is and what's happening. Then she grabs her handbag from the locker and heads off. She can get out via the side entrance, then she won't have to pass reception.

She's halfway through punching the security code into the door when she notices she's doing it left-handed. But her left hand feels right, and she's striding along the corridors faster than she normally does; a few extra inches of leg definitely help. When she's outside, she moves her handbag into her left hand, it'll be more secure.

Her handbag.  She is in John Watson's body, carrying a handbag belonging to Molly Hooper, who is lying unconscious in the morgue. That really doesn't look good. She needs to get rid of that, but first she needs to work out what the hell she's doing next. If she can just get back to her own flat, she can leave the bag there, find something less conspicuous. So the first thing is to get back there...

Where she will probably get arrested for breaking and entering. She is not Molly Hooper at the moment, she is John Watson, to all appearances. So where would he go? She finds a hidden corner of the site and digs rapidly into John Watson's pockets. Not much money, but a fancy phone, last year's pocket diary – transferring its data into the fancy phone obviously still beyond him technically – an Oyster card and some house keys. They're no use, unless she can somehow work out where he lives.

She starts going through the diary. Next of kin given as Harry Watson, with a London number, might be worth trying in an emergency. She has the feeling he hasn't been in London for long and when she flicks back through the diary she sees a string of entries for November that look like places he's looked for flats in: Leytonstone, Catford, Kilburn. Several entries scrubbed out, but the last one is underlined several times: 10.30 am, 68A Jackson Rd, N7.

It's a risk, but she can't think of anywhere better to try, and she can't just hang around the hospital. She should ditch her handbag, though, and she can't really carry the contents in his, her, his pockets. Besides, what's it worth hanging onto? Not even the keys to her flat, probably, because there's always the hidden set. And if they – someone - does come after her, she'll be in big trouble if she's found with someone else's keys in her pocket. She daren't take her own phone either, the pink makes it far too conspicuous for a man. What was she thinking of when she got it? In the end, all she fishes out is the spare cash. And then she walks round the building, towards Smokers' Corner and the pariahs of Barts.

There aren't many of them, but there's one she recognises and it's a surprise. She didn't know Ian Scott Paston from Geriatrics was a smoker, but there his vast, craggy figure is, puffing away. She goes up to him and says: "Excuse me."

He looks down at her and she waits, because he's a colleague of long-standing, and he ought to recognise her. But instead he's just looking blankly at John Watson, and saying, rather brusquely: "What do you want?"

"I found this bag," John Watson's voice says, and his hands hold it out. "It was dumped by a door round there, thought it might have been stolen from the building."

Paston bends down and takes the bag from her – it's frustrating that she's still so short – and then rapidly starts examining its contents.

"Very public spirited of you to hand it in, sir," he says. "Yes, it belongs to Dr Molly Hooper, from Pathology. I know her. If you just come with me, we'll get it logged at reception, so she can get it back. Big relief to her, no doubt."

"I, I have to get on, I'll leave it with you," she replies hurriedly, and walks away. Paston doesn't bother to follow her – or rather John Watson. Because now she knows she's John Watson. It's the sheer banality of what's happening that convinces her: a dream, a hallucination would have something more lurid, more meaningful in it than an encounter with an eminent gerontologist who's a secret smoker. She's not crazy, even if her world is. But maybe she is about to do something crazy, she thinks as she heads for the tube, trying to persuade John's phone to tell her the station she needs for Jackson Road.

***

Somewhere between St Paul's and Holloway Road she abruptly stops worrying about being taken for a criminal, and decides to become one. She's been a good girl, Little Miss Perfect, all her life and look where it's got her. Electrocuted in her own morgue. But she's got a second chance and she's going to take it. John Watson is unconscious, possibly even dead, in her body, and she is going to take his life over, because it sounds more interesting than her own.

So what has she got to work with, she thinks, as she stands in the train. No-one's offering her a seat, of course, despite John's bad leg. Oh. She realises she's been missing one thing all this time. She doesn't have his cane and she doesn't seem to need it.

She's pretty sure she has got the rest of Dr Watson's body. She's even flatter-chested than before, and she's fairly certain there's a penis down there somewhere. It's John's voice she hears – allowing for the distorting effect you always get from hearing your own voice – and she seems to be instinctively left-handed now. Her body, his body, also somehow seems firmer, moves slightly more decisively, as if there's some very peculiar muscle memory going on. So why doesn't his body remember to limp? And then she hears Sherlock's voice in her head: Psychosomatic limp.

Maybe she is hallucinating after all, if she's hearing Sherlock's voice. But she's not hearing it, she suddenly realises, she's remembering it. When he came back into the morgue, after he'd been talking to Dr Watson, he was muttering something about psychosomatic limps, and possible treatment for them. So maybe that's it. Maybe the limp's in John's mind, not his body. Bad news for him, good news for her.

***

Molly's pleasure at finding that 68A Jackson Road is where John lives is dampened by the fact that it's a horrible place. The drab brown tidiness of the bedsit is awful. Has she really abandoned her own flat, her own life for this? Still, she wants adventure, and she can always start looking for something better. Though she's not sure how much money he has. Maybe a flatshare...

And then she remembers. John Watson has a possible flatmate already: Sherlock Holmes. He was going to look at a flat with him tomorrow, wasn't he? Well that's that, then, her bubble burst. If she goes to meet Sherlock tomorrow, he'll spot her. If she doesn't go, Sherlock or Mike Stamford will probably come and look for her – for John Watson – and spot her. The joke's on her, after all.

No, she decides, it's not. She can't hope to fool Sherlock for long, but maybe she can do it for a few minutes. Just long enough to make her feel clever, feel his equal for once. Long enough to get his interest. Sherlock isn't interested in Molly Hooper, but maybe he is in John Watson. And how can he not be fascinated by the scientific mystery of Molly Hooper in John Watson? But she wants things to happen on her own terms, to intrigue him first before she reveals exactly what's happened. She’s going to pretend to be John Watson, just for a bit.

***

It's ridiculous, of course, she promptly realises, she can't possibly do it. How can she pass for a male ex-army doctor? She may have John's body, but she doesn't really know the first thing about him, other than he's got a father or brother called Harry. Maybe there are more photos somewhere, she thinks, maybe she could at least see what his life is like before she abandons it, as she must. She opens a drawer in the desk. There's a laptop in there and she starts to pull it out. And then she sees what's hidden beneath the laptop. And as she gazes at the pistol, a voice within her says:  Well, that's one thing we've got in common, at least. We both know our way around a gun.

***

It's seven years now since her stint in the US but it seems more like a lifetime. She still sometimes tells people about her fellowship in North Carolina, talks about Duke University Hospital and how much she learned there, even occasionally admits to a craving for funnel cake with powdered sugar. But she never tells people in England how skilled she used to be with a handgun, or the pleasure she got from shooting.

It was Roy the Redneck who taught her to shoot, though she knows that she shouldn't remember him like that, that anyone who got himself a teaching job at Duke Medical School couldn't be a simple country boy, whatever he pretended. But he'd played up to the Southern stereotypes, and that, she found, included making sure his new English girlfriend knew how to protect herself against 'undesirables'. She felt uncomfortable about his prejudices, but she'd loved learning to shoot: the precision, the concentration of it. Even after she and Roy had broken up, she'd kept the gun he bought her, carried on going to meetings of the Ladies' Handgun League.

And then Miss Molly Hooper, that bizarre amalgam of Scarlett O'Hara and Annie Oakley, had come back to the UK, where pistol shooting was illegal, and no-one but criminals and country landowners owned guns, and it was as if it had all been a dream. A bit of her life locked away inside, like so many other things from that year, once she was back into the groove of Dr Hooper, pathologist and conformist.

***

John's pistol's a Sig, bigger and heavier than the little Glock 19 she used to carry, but it still feels right in her hands, John's hands. He shoots right-handed, she knows that somehow, as she moves the gun between her fingers. Which is unexpected, but convenient, means she doesn't have to alter her stance.  If she could only have a few sessions down at a handy firing range, her mind and John's body would mesh together seamlessly, and she'd be ready to take on the world.

With a handgun that neither of them is supposed to possess. Still, it does at least mean that Dr Watson's probably going to be cautious about running off to the authorities for help with reclaiming his possessions. He's not quite the upright citizen he pretends to be either, is he? So what else might he be hiding? She opens up the laptop and switches it on. Here's hoping he hasn't bothered with password protection either.

Sure enough, she gets into John's e-mail account easily, and the impersonation rapidly becomes the kind of prepping for an exam that she's always been good at. Harry Watson turns out to be John's 'ever-loving sis', not his brother or father, though judging from some of the comments in John's replies, he's not that positive towards her: thinks she drinks too much and is being horrible to her civil partner. There are occasional e-mails to friends in the UK, but no mention of his parents: dead, presumably. No sign of any girlfriend, either, which is helpful.

A quick check through his browser history brings up his blog. It's uninformative about his activities, but confirms her impression of a man who's unhappy and inarticulate. Well, you don't have to say much when Sherlock's around. Indeed the less she says, the longer it'll take him to spot her. It's only if she starts to gush, talk too much, that he'll work out who she is.

She practises saying: "I am an experienced medical doctor recently returned from Afghanistan" until it sounds right. Does it really matter that she's not an army doctor, now she's left the army? She is an experienced medical doctor, after all. And if anyone asks her about Afghanistan, she can always say she'd rather not talk about it. In fact, she realises, male reticence is wonderful. She can refuse to talk about almost anything, from John Watson's heroism to his sexual conquests. She may need to discuss sport, but judging by his bookmarks, he seems to be into rugby rather than football. She's picked up just enough from Tim, the boyfriend before last, to tell a ruck from a scrum, so she can probably get away with that.

Right, she can probably sound like Dr Watson, at least to someone who doesn't know him well. But can she look like him? She wipes the mirror clean in the frankly squalid bathroom down the hall and starts practising expressions. It's not a handsome face, but it's surprisingly pleasant when it smiles, and also good at looking stoical. She practises looking stoical quite a lot, because she's an ex-army doctor with a psychosomatic limp, and stoical goes well with that.

She suspects her body language is all wrong – she has read books about the differences between men and women, but when she tries to swagger it looks and feels wrong, awkward and uncomfortable. She can't really remember John's gestures – she was mostly thinking about Sherlock, as usual. But she vaguely thinks he stood quite upright, in a military sort of way, apart from when he was walking and leaning on the cane. There's a spare cane in the flat, thank goodness, and if she uses that, and remembers to limp, and keeps her other hand in her pocket, than there's automatically a tension in her – his – body that goes with a stoical smile and don't-mention-the-war reticence. And it's easier to remember to sit with legs spread out when there's something vulnerable between them...

Just how vulnerable she finds out accidentally, when she does a slightly overenthusiastic limp, which gets her leg cramping and rams her painfully into the edge of the desk. She's never again going to laugh at someone being kneed in the groin. But when she checks, there doesn't appear to be any serious damage done. All the hydraulics seem to work automatically, and though Dr Watson's penis is unremarkable when flaccid, it does respond surprisingly positively to a bit of manipulation, grows well. This, she decides, is worth exploring a bit more.

She ends up sitting at the desk, looking at some photos on John's laptop, and giving herself – she has to force herself to use the word – a wank. Other than the angle being different, the technique is similar to when she's given handjobs before. It's just that she enjoys it this time, even if she's forgotten how messy everything gets with men. Next time, she'll have to have a towel handy. And she probably also needs to clear the browser history, so no-one can spot that John Watson has been spending too much time looking at pictures of Sherlock Holmes.

That's a point, though, isn't it? Dr Watson might well look up Sherlock Holmes. Not the sites she knows about – with the photos – but he might well find The Science of Deduction. She brings that up and is as usual disappointed by its lack of material. She longs for more case reports or even sarky remarks on the forum. She'd take anything that told her more about Sherlock; she needs to know as much as she can about him for this thing to work.

***

In the morning, she's trying to decide the best way to deal with the erection she's woken up to: aren't men's bodies both weird and strangely enthralling? Then an alarming – indeed, deflating – thought occurs to her. She's supposed to be meeting Sherlock to look at a flat this evening, but she has no idea where or when. She looks hurriedly at John's phone, even sees if he scribbled it down in the old diary, but nothing. What on earth does she do?

She could just phone Sherlock up or e-mail him and say...and say what? He's going to think Dr Watson's a complete idiot if he can't remember that, might well decide at once he wants nothing more to do with him. Is there any other way she can find the information out? Her mind skims through ridiculous plans – phoning up every estate agent in London, is there CCTV footage of their meeting yesterday? – and she's near panic. And then it finally occurs to her. When Sherlock and John were together in the lab, Mike Stamford was there as well, wasn't he? He'll be sure to remember; Mike remembers things like that. He's the one who always gets her birthday and the names of her parents right.

But Mike's not answering his office phone and his mobile is turned off. She leaves messages and e-mails in all the places she can think of, and then goes back to more practising being John Watson. She starts reading his e-mails out loud, even his text messages, till she feels she's beginning to sound like him, getting a trace of his laconic humour in her speech. And there are some photos and even a couple of video clips of him on his hard drive, which she studies intently.

What else does she need to prepare? She finds a video on YouTube that shows her how to field strip and clean the Sig, which gives her a chance to practise with the gun and being left-handed. She also starts to practise John's signature, though the result is a very crude approximation. If Sherlock sees anything she's written, she's done for. But it's probably all irrelevant anyhow, she starts to think, as the hours race on. She still hasn't heard back from Mike, and she's beginning to think she will have to phone Sherlock and make a desperate attempt to bluff him and get the details of the meeting. Then, just after lunch, Mike phones her.

"I'm very sorry I didn't get back to you earlier, when you said it was urgent," he says apologetically, "but it's been a terrible morning."

"What's up?" she asks.

"You met Molly Hooper, didn't you, yesterday? The pathologist from the morgue, a pretty woman with long tawny hair? She took you off for a coffee, I think."

"Yes," she says cautiously, "I remember her."

"She had an accident yesterday afternoon with some electrical equipment."

So they had found her – him. "What happened?" she demanded. "Is she OK?"

"They're not quite sure what happened, whether she electrocuted herself or what, but it might be quite serious. No sign of thermal burns or muscle damage, but they're worried about nervous system effects. She's over at the trauma centre in the Royal London in a coma. I've been there all morning, but there's no change so far."

"God, that's awful. Poor woman."

"Yeah. I've been trying to get hold of her family, they should be over later today. But anyhow, you said you needed to ask me something?"

"Bit embarrassing," she says. "I'm supposed to be meeting Sherlock Holmes this evening, but I can't remember any of the details. My mind must be going, Mike."

"Old age getting to you, as well, is it, John? Let me think. It was 7 p. m., and the address was...221 Baker Street."

"How can you remember that? It's amazing."

"Oh, I always tend to remember what Sherlock says. Partly so I can point it out when he does get things wrong. What was all that about your brother? You don't have one, do you?"

"I've no idea what that was. But thanks for the info, Mike. Take care." She rings off hastily, before she says the wrong thing, betrays herself. Mike's such a sweet man, isn't he? Typical that he's been the one at her...at Molly's bedside, worrying about her. She looks at her watch. Five hours to go then, before she meets Sherlock. And probably five hours and thirty seconds before he spots her as a fake.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
rabidsamfan
Nov. 26th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
*snicker* Oh, this was very nice. I like Molly's determination to do something with her life -- even if it is in a different body. And her deductions are actually very well done.
fengirl88
Dec. 1st, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
I like Molly's unexpected gun history!

looking forward to seeing how all this turns out...
marysutherland
Dec. 3rd, 2011 07:07 am (UTC)
Apart from the shooting, there's really nothing that John did physically in Pink that Molly in John's body and with John's muscle memory couldn't do with no prior experience. But I didn't think even a hyped-up Molly could decide that shooting the cabbie was a good idea unless she'd used a gun before. And having been to North Carolina, which has both one of the best hospitals in the US and a strong gun culture, sending Molly there seemed an obvious way out. Because, despite the many implausibilities in this story, the Ladies' Handgun League of Wake County, NC is genuine.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )