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Doctor meets doctor (4/8)

BC Sherlock

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

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

John has a horrible surprise...

The first time John wakes up he's in a hospital room and someone blurry with a voice he feels he ought to remember is bending over and saying soothingly: "It's OK, you're safe, don't worry." He sinks back into oblivion reassured. The next time he surfaces, Mike Stamford's there, saying: "Do you want to try and stay with us this time, Molly?" and he can't understand it. Why is Mike in Afghanistan and what's he talking about? And why does his body feel so wrong, not hurting precisely, but as if he's put his skin on back to front? Deal with that first, he decides.

"Water," he croaks, and it doesn’t sound like his voice, but Mike gives him a glass and he gulps it down.

"Steady," Mike says, "You've been out for nearly a day, take things slowly." That makes no sense, but he can worry about that later, and who all the concerned strangers are looking down at him. One thing at a time. His body first. Limbs all vaguely attached, water drunk, next step is check the rest of the internal systems. His bladder feels full, for a start.

"Toilet," he says, in a voice which still doesn't sound right, but Mike's helping him up, so he can't be that badly damaged, not attached to anything. He's back in London, he knows that somehow, even if he doesn't know how he knows, but why isn't he in a military hospital? And how can he have been out for 24 hours? Because if a blast has done that to him, surely he should be full of shrapnel? Something's badly wrong, but he can't work out what, so he concentrates slightly dizzily on walking into the bathroom, putting one foot in front of another.  And then he sees Molly Hooper's face in the mirror, and it's the shock of losing, not just where and when he is, but who he is that starts him screaming.

***

When John looks back at that moment, he knows that his panic wrecked his chances. If he hadn't started screaming, had held his nerve amid the disorientation, things might have been different. But all he can think at that moment is 'captured by the enemy and brainwashed', and that he has to escape. He panics, and he runs, and they catch him, because Molly can't run fast enough, and then John's brain gives the order to fight, only to find that Molly's body lacks the crucial size and expertise. He supposes what happens next is inevitable. An agitated person, an agitated woman, claiming she is a man called John Watson and displaying violent tendencies is always likely to end up in a locked psychiatric ward pumped full of antipsychotic drugs.

He can't remember the next week clearly. Yelling and swearing and fighting and not being sure if he's hallucinating or not: the drugs confuse him, and his nightmares are mixing together Afghanistan and London further in his scrambled brain. He's vaguely aware that he's been transferred to a different unit; probably a private clinic, judging by the extra staff and the tasteful decor of his sparsely furnished room. He tries to escape several times again, in between his encounters with the psychiatrists. When he sees them, he attempts desperately to sound rational, but how do you rationally try and explain that you've been accidentally electrocuted by a mad scientist's machine and as a result had your body swapped with a pathologist? There's a different diagnosis almost every day, though the most common seems to be schizophreniform disorder.

***

And then he wakes up sweating from a nightmare in which Molly and he are Taliban fighters who've just been captured by Sherlock, to find Mike Stamford at his bedside again. Other people have come to see him, people he didn't recognise, who called him Molly and were distraught at him insisting he was John Watson. But now Mike's here and maybe he will believe him. Only he can't think straight with all the pills he's had.

"They're drugging me, Mike," he says in her voice. No, that isn't what he has to say, he has to sound sane. "I'm on antipsychotics. Olanzapine, I think they said."

"I'm going to ask them to cut the dose down," Mike says, "but you have to co-operate."

"How?"

"Don't try and escape, don't fight. I'll ask them to give you a lower dose tonight, and then I'll come back tomorrow morning and we can talk. At least you recognise me, which is a start, Molly."

"Don't call me Molly!" he yells. "I'm not Molly, I'm John!"

"Tomorrow," Mike says soothingly. "Tomorrow we'll work this out."

***

The lower dosage means he doesn't feel quite so wiped out, and he decides he needs to clean himself before Mike comes. Clean her up. It's not a bad body, he finds himself thinking: he, she, Molly, is an attractive woman, if a little thin. Not old and battered and scarred like the real him. He has a shower and washes her hair: inconveniently long, but at least he doesn't have to shave, and he looks quite presentable, apart from the hospital gown.

He can see the better impression he makes on Mike, when he arrives, the subtle relaxing that says: Not as bad as I expected.

"OK," Mike says, "The first thing I've been asked to do, Molly–"

"Don't call me that!" he yells, his nails – her nails, longer than his, still with a few traces of nail varnish – digging into his, her palms. "I'm John Watson!" He's lost everything but that. If he loses that, there's no more of him.

"I have a friend called John Watson," Mike says gently. "He's currently running around London after Sherlock Holmes. I want to help you, M-my friend, but I find it very difficult calling you that. Is there some other name I can use?"

"Call me J," he says at last.

"OK, Jay. First, let me make it clear I'm not here officially, just helping out a friend." Mike's voice has taken on the reassuring warmth he probably keeps for his more sensitive students. "Before we talk about what's happened to you, is it OK if I check your thought processes more generally?"

"You mean have I got signs of mental impairment?" John says, after a moment's consideration. "You think my supposed delusions may be the result of brain damage?"

"You were found amid the wreckage of half a lab's worth of equipment," Mike says, smiling. "I don't know what you were trying to do to yourself, but let's make sure you haven't managed to do it. So start with the really obvious question. Who's the current Prime Minister?"

***

"OK," Mike says, after about half an hour of conversation, "you're not showing obvious signs of cognitive impairment, well at least not that a rank amateur like me can spot."

"You asked me pathology questions that I didn't know the answer to," John replies triumphantly. "Whereas John Watson would get the ordinary medical questions right, but not those."

"You're on drugs, you're under stress; odd gaps in your memory aren't surprising. Or various...other effects."

"Mike, what have they been telling you about what happened to me?"

"Nothing officially, of course," Mike says, looking at him very shrewdly, and then adds quietly. "But anyhow, what would be better, Jay, is if you tell me what you think happened to you."

***

It's hard to get the words in focus, to explain, he finds he's tripping over the story, missing out things and having to go back. But Mike just sits there placidly and listens, a sympathetic smile across his broad face. It's only when John's finished that Mike says:

"Let me get this straight. You went with Molly Hooper to examine a mind-altering machine that Sherlock had secretly built in the basement of Barts. You attempted to operate the machine, it went wrong and your body, or possibly your mind, got swapped with Molly's. Is that what you think happened, Jay?"

"Yes!" he shouts, because someone's finally got it, and then he registers the pained, sympathetic expression in Mike's grey eyes. "You don't believe me, do you?"

"I can't believe you, Jay. You know I can't."

"Because it's not scientifically possible? You can't accept the existence of unknown phenomena?"

"Leave that on one side for a moment," Mike says, and he sounds as if he's trying to help a particularly dim anatomy student. "If your story is correct, then two other people are involved: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson."

"Yes."

"I talked to them, a couple of days ago, to see if they could shed any light on your...beliefs. Both of them had left Barts, weren't around when you had your accident. And Sherlock denies all knowledge of the equipment that was found."

"No!" he screams, anger surging up, and his hands reach out to grab Mike's shoulders, to shake some sense into him. And then he sees the look of fear on Mike's face. Mike isn't running, he's just frozen there, knowing that John – Molly – is going to hurt him, unable or unwilling to fight back.

He whirls round, because he can't, he mustn't hurt Mike, but the pain inside is overwhelming, unendurable.  He wants something to break, to smash, but there is almost nothing in the room, and if he does – if he starts to pound his head against the wall, smash his fists into the furniture – they will hear, they will come in and hold him down, sedate him or put him into restraints. He flings himself down on his bed, but he mustn't curl up in a ball, or he'll end up clawing at himself, his arms, her face. Instead he stretches out, bracing his hands on either side of the headboard so that he can't use them, forcing his shuddering body face down into the mattress. He can survive this. For a few moments there is nothing but the effort of enduring, of not letting himself be washed away by the tide. And then he hears Mike kneeling down clumsily by the bed.

"Jay," Mike's voice is very near, very quiet. "Hang on in there. I know it's bad, but you can get through this. Just keep breathing."

And abruptly John's crying. Not nice gentle tears, but howling, shaking, snotty misery, that he can't seem to stop, that consumes him. He just lies there on the bed and cries endlessly, and at some point Mike comes and sits on the edge of the bed beside him, and offers him tissues, and he curls up around Mike's bulk and cries some more. Maybe Molly's body's built for crying, he thinks vaguely. Or maybe it's just because there's no point in holding the tears in any more.

"Did that help?" Mike says eventually, when he finally stops, all cried out, at least for the moment.

"No," he says, though at least he's too exhausted to be angry now. He finds his right hand, Molly's hand, is wrapped round Mike's large, soft palm. He's not entirely certain how it got there, but it's surprisingly soothing. He wriggles onto his back, thinking he might just close his eyes for a minute.

***

He wakes up alone on the bed, and for a moment he panics, and then he realises that Mike is sitting in a chair beside his bed, reading his way calmly through a pile of old copies of the Lancet.

"Am I still in the loony bin?" John demands, and then realises he's not supposed to say that.

"You're still in the clinic, Jay," Mike replies, as pleasantly as if he enjoys spending his time sitting at a madman's bedside. "But I'm going to do everything possible to get you out."

"If you can get me into the grounds, there's a place I think I can get over the walls."

"Jay," Mike says very softly. "I meant discharged, not escaping."

"But how do I make them believe me?" John asks, and then his mind clears slightly, even though it's still working at half its normal speed. "You know that if Sherlock had built something dodgy at Barts, he'd hardly admit it."

"That's probably true," Mike replies, smiling. "And I'm sure you can come up with some plausible reason as to why Dr Watson is denying things happened as you say."

"So what Molly's...Dr Watson's story?"

"That you...that Molly took him for a coffee and then claimed that Sherlock was playing at being Frankenstein in the morgue. John was frankly alarmed at her manner, refused to go with her and headed off home instead. And that was the last he knew about it, till I told him about the accident."

"And what do you think happened?"

Mike looked deeply unhappy. "I don't know what to believe. There is your version, which is frankly impossible. And there's the psychiatrists' explanation, which is improbable. But, as a friend of mine once said, once you've eliminated the impossible, you're just left with the improbable."

"What's the improbable explanation?" John asks.

"That Dr Molly Hooper is an intelligent, attractive, competent young pathologist who was...extremely attracted to Sherlock Holmes. Possibly too attracted, even a bit obsessive about him. She tried to build some kind of gadget to impress him, show she was a genius as well. In a location to which only she had easy access."

"But that doesn't explain–"

"Wait, hear me out. Molly Hooper, the suggestion is, suffered some kind of acute psychotic episode, triggered by meeting John Watson. Molly loved Sherlock, would do anything for him, but he simply ignored her, exploited her. Yet he invited Dr Watson, whom he'd never met before, to be his flatmate. In some bizarre way, John, to Molly, became her rival. After he'd left, she went down to her equipment, and, well, then the suggestions vary. She was trying to experiment on herself, or she was trying to destroy the equipment, or she was trying to kill herself. Whatever happened, there was some kind of accident, and her brain tried to cope with it in the only way it could. Sherlock wanted John Watson, not Molly Hooper. Therefore Molly Hooper became John Watson, believed she was him."

"But that doesn't make sense!"

"I know, but nor does what you say."

"But how could I know so much about John Watson if I'm really Molly Hooper?"

"Jay," Mike says slowly. "Do you remember learning about delusional disorders back in medical school?"

"Not that much. That the patient appears rational apart from matters relating to the delusion–"

"And that they can provide superficially logical explanations for any inconsistencies in their argument. Jay, whatever you say, they won't believe you."

"But they have to, if I know enough things about John Watson that no-one else could know."

"No," Mike says, shaking his head sadly. "You've been diagnosed, they're not going to undiagnose you. They're not going to listen as long as you keep saying the same thing."

"No!" John insists. "I'll make them see the truth. Don't worry, Mike, I know how to do it."

***

He spends much of the next day writing down details of his – John's – past; he barely speaks to Mike during his visit. But his psychiatrist won't read it, or at least won't take it seriously.

"Read it properly," he demands. "Check the details. Ask yourself how Molly could know all that information."

"I will look it at, Jay," Dr Dravid replies, calm and patient, and John knows he doesn't mean it. And then he realises that he's written too much. Made himself look obsessive, hasn't he? Black mark there.

"I'll prove to you I'm John Watson," he says at his next session. "He had a therapist, her name's Ella Thompson. Get her here, please, and let her talk to me."

***

He's so excited that they agree that he doesn't worry about the fact that Mike hasn't turned up for a visit for two – or is it three? – days. Ella will know who he is, and he'll get himself out of here and go off to Barts and give Mike a surprise.

He's forgotten one thing, of course. That Ella has read all the mental health textbooks as well. That Ella knows that the woman sat in front of her is Dr Molly Hooper, who is delusional. And that she’s distinctly alarmed about someone pretending to be John Watson.

"I think you should know, Molly – no, you prefer Jay, don't you? – that Dr Watson has ceased his sessions with me, so I'm no longer his therapist."

"Well of course Molly's stopped them," he protests, "otherwise you might spot that she wasn't me. And how can I know about the sessions if I'm not Molly?"

"A couple of weeks ago," Ella says, with infinite patience, "there was break-in at my clinic. I think it's possible that someone got
access to John Watson's files then."

"What day was it?"

"Does that matter?"

"Tell me, please."

Ella looks in her diary and says: "The break-in was discovered on the morning of 30th January, but it might have taken place the previous night."

"When I, I mean Molly was already unconscious in this hospital," John says triumphantly, "so I can't have seen your notes. I know what John told you about Afghanistan because I am John."

"John told me almost nothing about his wartime experiences," Ella says, slowly, heavily. "I tried to get through to him, but all I got was resistance, to be honest. It's not unknown as a coping mechanism. John Watson was, is, an extremely reserved man, has severe difficulty in expressing his emotions. You, in contrast, seem emotionally volatile, very agitated and desperate to talk."

"Of course I'm agitated," John protests. "No-one believes me, and I've been sectioned. But I can tell you exactly what we talked about. You wanted me to write a blog, which I've done, we've been discussing my leg and the possibility of the pain being psychosomatic–"

"What limp?" says Ella quietly. "That's one aspect of John Watson's life that you don't seem to have mimicked, which is surprising. Does it perhaps suggest a certain ambivalence towards John as war hero? That you want the glory of being an ex-soldier, but not the pain that might be associated with it, Jay?"

***

He can't remember what he said after that. It doesn't matter what he said. If he can't understand himself what's happening, why Molly's leg doesn't feel the pain, what odd interface between body and mind has shifted, how can he possibly explain it to anyone else? Besides, Ella wouldn't have listened. No-one will ever listen to him. He spends the next few days – two, three, more? – in bed, too weary to move. It's over. This tasteful, blank room, this pretty, helpless body are it for the rest of his life. And he's alone; even Mike Stamford has given up on him. End of the line.
 

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(no subject) - shehasathree - Nov. 26th, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
marysutherland
Dec. 3rd, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if this will go in quite the way you hope/expect - I have deliberately labelled it as AU. But you're right - Sherlock doesn't really know this John.
rabidsamfan
Nov. 26th, 2011 03:05 pm (UTC)
oh no!
marysutherland
Dec. 3rd, 2011 06:57 am (UTC)
This is another of those stories where I should possibly have warned for excessive angst, as I have done before.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )