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Doctor meets doctor (5/8)

BBC 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 4, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

John is collapsed hopelessly in bed on the day – whatever day it is – that Mike comes back to the clinic. Fat, funny old Mike, who looks particularly middle-aged and worn today, but is still the most beautiful sight John has ever seen. He doesn't stop to think before he's hugging Mike, Molly's head resting on his shoulder. Mike is warm and solid and real, the one real thing in the midst of all this mess. He knows he's near tears again.

"Jay," Mike says, hugging him – her – back. "It's OK, Jay. I'm not going anywhere. Just relax, it's OK."

It takes a while to calm himself down, he hadn't realised how much he missed Mike. But Mike just talks gently about the weather and the Underground and the state of his garden and all the things people talk about to avoid painful topics, and John finds himself starting to become coherent again, able to respond, to think.

"It didn't work," John says at last. "I tried to prove to them I was John Watson and they didn't believe me. You were right all along, Mike." A thought suddenly strikes him. "Did you stay away because you were annoyed at me for not listening to you?"

"Of course not, Jay," Mike says. He's slumping in the room's armchair the way he always does, an over-stuffed teddy-bear of a man, and it’s right that he's there; the room seems bare without him now.

"Then why didn't you come?" It sounds pathetic, he knows; Mike has a life of his own, after all. In fact...

"I'm sorry," he says. "I've been expecting you to drop everything and come here, but it's term-time, isn't it? You must be frantically busy."

"I'm on unpaid leave at the moment," Mike says, with a rueful smile. "Twisted arms at Barts a bit and got the term off. So don't worry about that."

"Why would you do that?"

"Because you need help, and I seem to be your best chance of getting it. I'm sorry I had to miss the last few days, but it's all sorted out now." There's a tiny constraint in Mike's normal cheery manner that jars on John. He's hiding something, isn't he? Mike's the only person he can trust and now he's hiding things from him.

"What happened?" he asks.

"It's nothing."

"Tell me, please!" Mike shakes his head, and then John's slow brain finally catches up. Home problems. Mike hasn't said anything about his family, but he knows he's married. He has a sudden memory of seeing it in the alumni magazine a few years ago. Remembers thinking: good old Mike, finally got a girl. She'd been a doctor as well, hadn't she? Or is he getting Mike confused with one of his other medical school friends? His brain is still so foggy from the drugs.

The point is that Mike is spending all his time trying to sort out some crazy ex-army friend from way back. Even taking unpaid time off work. It's not surprising his wife – does he have children as well, why does he know so little about Mike? – is cutting up rough.

"I'm sorry," he says, "I'm so sorry. It's my fault, isn't it? You're in trouble because of me." He can hear the pain in Molly's voice, feel the tension rise in his body.

"Don't blame yourself. You had no way of knowing, Jay," Mike says. "But yes. I've spent the past few days being questioned. First by Barts and then by the police."

"What?" His brain has obviously ceased to function completely. He finds himself looking down at his hands, to check that he hasn't turned into somebody else again.

"Suspicion of identity theft," Mike replies. "You gave the psychiatrists information that Molly Hooper shouldn't have known, couldn't have known."

"And?"

"So they needed an answer as to how you came to know so much about Dr John Watson. An answer that made more sense than that you are him. So they started from the person in London who knew most about John."

"Harry?"

"Yes."

"But Molly's never met Harry, has she?"

"No, but there's a link between them. I'm a friend of Molly's and I used to know Harry."

"But you haven't seen her for years."

"I know, but how do I prove that? As far as I could work it out, the police's theory is as follows. Harry, Molly and I somehow devised a plan to steal John Watson's identity, presumably to get hold of his money. We shared information about him. Harry told me where I was likely to find him, and then I lured him to Barts."

"Why there?"

"So that Molly could put the frighteners on him. The contraption in the basement was going to be used on him in some way: torture him or brainwash him. Or possibly to replicate his iris and fingerprints. I know," Mike says wearily, "it made no sense, and the police eventually realised that. But Barts are still in a state of complete panic about what happened, and they were quite happy for a while to run with an explanation that you getting hurt wasn't anything to do with their negligence, but criminal acts by others."

"But if they looked at the equipment, they'd see it couldn't be for a torture chamber. I mean, I know it's damaged but–" He breaks off, because Mike's face has gone very blank, deliberately so.

"What did they do?" John asks.

"Panicked, as I said. It's all gone, Jay, all Sherlock's stuff. They were so horrified that someone could build something down there, whatever it was, that nearly killed someone. So it all got removed, disposed of. I've got hold of a couple of photos that someone took at the scene and a few vague descriptions, but that's all. I did try and check your story, Jay, but it can't be done."

"I could describe the equipment."

"I'm sure you could, Jay, but what you insist happened does not make sense, and unless you can make it make sense, no-one’s going to pay attention."

"You know I don't know how it worked; it shouldn't have worked," John says, and then a thought strikes him. "You said Sherlock's equipment, didn't you? You think he's involved. You believe me."

"I believe that Sherlock was involved, somehow," Mike says slowly, "You, I mean Molly, just would not have built something like that. She wasn't that sort of a woman."

"What kind of woman was she?" John demands. He's almost forgotten about Molly Hooper's mind, even though he now knows her body so intimately.

"I...can we not talk about her right now?" Mike says. "I think...we've both had a rough few days. Suppose we just go to the lounge and watch some of the sports channel for a bit?"

***

"You think I'm John, don't you?" John says when Mike comes in the next morning. "If you thought I was Molly, you wouldn't suggest going and watching sports programmes, would you?"

Mike just sits there awkwardly, and eventually says: "I don't know who you are. I...I had two friends once, John and Molly. John and I, we were good friends at uni, best mates, you might even say. But he went off to be in the army and we lost touch."

"I'm sorry," John says. He'd been so busy, it had just not been possible...no, he mustn't fool himself. Civilian life had seemed so mundane and boring, and Mike had been the most civilian of civilians, clinging tightly onto Barts. It had seemed easier to leave him behind, along with so much else.

"Anyhow," Mike says, "I met John again and he said himself he wasn't the same man any more. And yes, maybe he has changed, but it's nearly fifteen years, people change in their heads as well as getting fat. The John Watson I see with Sherlock is brave, intelligent, loyal, caring." He paused. "But then so is, so was Molly."

"Tell me about her."

"It's hard to explain about Molly," Mike says slowly. "She seems quite ordinary in many ways, and yet she's not. She's...different."

There's something in his tone that abruptly rings very old bells in John's head. He's heard Mike talk about women like that before.

"You were in love with her, weren't you?" he blurts out, and even as he winces at his tactlessness, he can see the blush spreading on Mike's face, as he stands up and goes to stare out of the window, as if there's something exciting happening in the bare garden below.

Poor Mike, John thinks. He can just imagine it suddenly. Molly trailing after Sherlock, oblivious to everyone but him. And Mike, married to – Miriam, Marguerite, he's almost sure now it's one of those – watching a beautiful young woman making a mess of her life. Of course Mike had fallen for her, wanted to help her, and of course he doesn't want to talk about his marriage. Mike isn't the sort of man to cheat on his wife, but God, why is life such a mess?

"And you're helping me because I remind you of her?" he says. "Because you think I am her?" It makes sense, of course, so he doesn't know why it should hurt him that this is all about Molly.

"You're not Molly any more," Mike says, still staring out of the window. "I don't know if Molly's coming back. You're Jay, and you're in trouble, and whoever you are or were, you're my friend and I want to help you." He draws a deep breath, and turns round to face John. "It's probably not the right time to tell you this, but you really need to understand something."

He's going to tell me he loved Molly and he still loves me, John thinks. No, he's going to tell me he loved Molly but he doesn't love me any more. He's not quite sure which thought is the scarier.

"If you're going to get out of here," Mike says, "you have to stop being John Watson."

No! he thinks, but he doesn't say anything, forces Molly's breathing to stay even, calm.

"You don't have to be Molly," Mike goes on. "You can be Jay, you can be anybody you want, a man, a woman, neither, both, but they will not let you out of here if you're John Watson. And if you stay in here, the isolation, the stress, the drugs will destroy you and you'll end up psychotic even if you're not already." He shakes his head and then goes on slowly:

"This is ridiculous, I know. If you're Molly, if you're delusional, nothing I can say will change your mind. But if there's one small rational part of Molly that's hearing this or if– and I don't know how it could happen – but if you are John and you're sane as I am, you have to realise this. It's time to let John Watson go. Because that’s the only way that they'll let you out of here and you get to have a life again."

It's very quiet, quiet enough to hear Mike's slightly too fast breathing, as John sits up straight on the bed and steadies his own body and mind. It's not the first tight situation he's been in, after all. Time to stop reacting and start thinking.

"Tell me about Molly," he says at last.

 ***

"So how do I pretend to be a woman?" he asks Mike the next day. "How do I pretend to be Molly Hooper?"

"You don't," Mike says. "I was wrong about that. Everybody here already knows that you're Molly Hooper. You just have to pretend to be sane. And that, Jay, is what we all have to do all the time anyhow."

"But I don't behave like Molly. I don't like fluffy kittens or wear high heels."

"Molly likes cats, but she wears sensible shoes and goes round in trousers and not much make-up, at least in the morgue. I'd recommend combing your hair and shaving your armpits, but you don't have to dress up if you don't want to."

"But Molly's tastes?"

"Trauma followed by a psychotic episode, all kinds of personality changes are possible. There are people who start speaking with a foreign accent when they emerge from a coma; a sudden reluctance to coo over pictures of baby animals isn't going to startle anyone."

"And her friends?"

"They're mostly medics too. You can sit around discussing disgusting illnesses and government cuts, like the rest of us. And besides...I don't know how well her friends really know Molly. I mean, I thought I knew what she was like, and now I'm not sure I ever did."

"You mean now she's turned into John Watson? The other John Watson?"

"The one and only John Watson," Mike said quietly. "You need to remember that, Jay."

***

John's shocked by how easy it is to officially regain his sanity once Mike is helping him work the system.

"Did you ever hear about some experiments by a bloke called David Rosenhan?" Mike asks John soon after they've started their campaign. "He had healthy volunteers pretend to have hallucinations in order to be admitted to psychiatric hospitals. It was incredibly easy for them to get admitted, and incredibly hard for them to get discharged, even when they behaved normally. They only got out when they agreed that they were mentally ill."

"You're taken as sane only when you've admitted to being insane?"

"Yes. But remember: the staff want to believe that what they're doing works. So you smile, and you take your drugs, and you tell them that you can't understand now why you ever believed you were anyone but Molly Hooper. And they let you out."

"And then?"

"We worry about that when we get there. The first thing is a bit of practising at being Molly. So now's the time we start to arrange some visits."

***

The amazing thing about Mike, John realises, is how much he knows about Molly. No, how much he knows about everyone: Mike has a phenomenal memory for the details of people's lives. He remembered about Harry, for God's sake, when he hadn't seen John or her for almost fifteen years. Thanks to Mike's preparation, John sweats his way through visits from carefully selected friends and relatives of Molly. At first he worries they'll spot he's an imposter – ironic after several weeks of desperately hoping that someone will believe he's not Molly. But soon, he comes to see that his visitors are expecting a stranger, someone who has passed into the twilight zone of the mentally ill and cannot ever be the same person again. Molly's parents come and John frets through their uneasy fussing over their daughter, only to have Mike say that Molly would probably have had the same reaction.

It's all going so well that the clinic is starting to talk about discharging him, and he feels an odd terror about that. Only a few weeks and he's already in danger of becoming institutionalised.  No, it's more that he has no idea what to do next. No, it's really that the only thing that he wants to do is absolutely out of the question.

"You have to stay away from John Watson," Mike reminds him, as they sit on a bench on the terrace. It's freezing cold, but John's allowed outside now he's given up trying to escape, and it's somewhere else private to talk. "You know you do, Jay. Getting in contact with him, stalking him, anything like that is guaranteed to get you sectioned again."

"So what do I do? I've got no home, no job, no money, not even my army pension any more."

"You're on extended sick leave from Barts at the moment, Molly, so don't worry about that side of it," Mike says. "As for where to live, would you be happy in her flat?"

"What's the alternative?" He feels he's been alone for so long, ever since he got back to London. It's one of the things he misses most from army life, the companionship of barracks and mess-halls.

"One possibility," Mike says slowly, "is that you come and stay with me for a while. Well, as long as you need."

"But won't your wife–" he begins, and then sees the look of shock on Mike's face. "What is it?"

"If you're John, how do you know I got married? If you're Molly, how do you not know I got divorced?"

There's no ring on Mike's plump fingers, John suddenly registers. Why hadn’t he realised that before? Because...because he takes Mike for granted, and he always has done.

"John could have read it in the alumni magazine," he says slowly. "Molly could have forgotten it amid all the trauma."

"True," Mike says, and then he just sits there in silence, regarding the almost-bare flower beds with a surely inappropriate level of concentration.

"When did you get divorced?" John asks at last, and then winces at the baldness of the question.

"A couple of years ago."

"It was Miriam, wasn't it?"

"Lillian," Mike says.

"Sorry."

"It doesn't matter. Not that big a deal. Just under three years together, a couple of years married. Lillian was on the rebound, you see. She had a nasty breakup, looking for stability, I guess. Only after a while, stability started not to be exciting enough, and she found someone who was more fun."

"That's tough."

"These things happen. But she did up the house quite nicely, so it's not going to be complete bachelor squalor if you come. And the primroses in the garden are coming out already. Though as I said, you may be better off in Molly's, your flat. Or we could even try and find you somewhere else to stay."

There's something else that Mike's not saying, but John's brain is still so slow that it takes him forever to think about it. Mike invites John to stay with him. Fine. No, Mike invites John in Molly's body to stay with him. Divorced Mike. People will talk.

"If I come and stay with you is everyone going to think we're moving in together?" he asks.

"Quite possibly, which might be awkward for you, Jay. Maybe you would be better off in Molly's flat. I don't want you worrying about things."

Worrying about what? What does it matter what people think about Molly? She'd have been a damn sight more sensible falling for Mike than for bloody Sherlock Holmes. No, it's not just that. Think, John, think. Mike still believes he's Molly and she'll worry that Mike will do something inappropriate if she comes to stay with him? Or Mike realises that he's John, but thinks he'll worry that Mike will do something inappropriate if he comes to stay with him? If he only knew exactly what Mike thought, it would be easier.

He keeps on asking Mike the same question: Who do you think I am? John or Molly? And Mike keeps on giving the same safe, evasive answer: I think you're Jay. So he asks again, and this time Mike looks at him for a long time, the way he must look at his students, wondering how to get the facts into their thick heads, and says:

"I think you're Molly, because that is the only rational thing I can think. I believe, completely irrationally, that you are John. I know that you are Jay and that I don't want to do anything that would upset you."

There's a warm glow in John's stomach that Mike has finally accepted that he is John. But in that case, why should there be any problem about him staying with Mike? They shared a flat at uni, after all, and he's grown up enough now not to nick Mike's beer from the fridge. Oh, but there's still the problem of Molly's body. One of the things that John finds hardest to remember about being a woman is modesty. Covering himself, herself, up all the time. Mike's probably worried that John's going to catch him staring too hard at Molly's breasts and freak out.

It's easy to say that sort of thing wouldn't bother him, but he knows he's still jittery, gets spooked easily. He's come worryingly near to attacking Mike once already. He has to know what he can cope with, and also let Mike know that he's comfortable about physical contact.

The easiest way to do that, he decides, is probably to kiss Mike. On the scale of rash things he's done, this is nowhere up with invading Afghanistan. Or going off with strange women to inspect even stranger experiments. Besides, the psychiatrists might be watching and Molly is surely the kissing type. The kissing men type.

"Mike," he says softly, "whatever you do, it won't upset me." And then he leans over and kisses Mike's mouth. It's warm and soft – like the rest of Mike – and it feels good, so he decides just to keep going till Mike objects. Gentle pressure from Mike's responsive lips, but it'll be easier if he gets his arm round Mike's neck, pulls him in just a bit closer. He craves this touch, he realises, even if it's another man's. But Mike's body isn't like the hard taut planes of the soldiers' bodies that he's spent years patching up. Mike's skin is smooth, soft, all gentle curves, and though his arms are coming round John now, they're terribly cautious, tracing over Molly's body as if John is breakable. Well he isn't, and now he realises this is what his body needs.

He tightens his grip on Mike, pushing his body into his. There's a slightly odd squashy sensation round his front, which is presumably Molly's breasts, and then lower down he feels something pressing into his thigh, which he realises abruptly is Mike's erection. And there's also a tension building in his own muscles, in his groin, which feels oddly as if he'd be getting an erection if he still had anything to get erect. He wants to keep rubbing his body, Molly's body, against Mike, explore the exciting possibilities of friction, cloth against cloth, skin against skin...But no, he has to stop right now, before he loses control completely. It's been so long, too long...

His mouth comes reluctantly off Mike's and Mike's arms detach themselves immediately from John. Mike's grey eyes are darkened with arousal, and he's panting slightly, and he just sits there not saying anything. John has to say something, doesn't he, but his brain seems scrambled, only now suddenly catching up with what's his body's been doing.

"So what was it like the first time you kissed a man?" John blurts out, and realises that's about the stupidest thing possible to say.

"A lot less pleasant than that," Mike says, in a voice that's trying very hard to sound normal. "His name was Gary and he was extremely drunk."

"Oh God, I remember. Gary Mayhew decided he was going to teach you how to French kiss properly, didn't he, so you could wow the girls at the next disco?" He smiles at the memory of that long-ago night in their flat and then he sees Mike's face go pale.

"John," Mike says, in the hushed, shocked tone of someone who's just been told he's got cancer. "It is...you really are John Watson, aren't you?"

He nods and Mike sits there and looks at him, blinking behind his spectacles. He's never really believed it, has he, and now he does. Now he's heard something that Molly, that Harry, that anyone else couldn't possibly know.

"Mike," John says, "it's OK." It isn't, of course, but he doesn't know what else he can say.

"John," Mike whispers again. "Oh my God, John. What do we do?"

"The same as before," he says. "We can't do anything till I'm out of here."

"Right. Of course," Mike says, and John can see him scramble back to practicalities. "When are they talking about discharging you?"

"Friday, if they're happy with my progress. Three more days, Mike, and I'm a free man! Woman, I mean."

"John, I mean Jay," Mike says. "I think...if it's all right with you, maybe I shouldn't come in and visit for a few days."

"I–"

"I promise I'll be here on Friday to collect you, but I need time to get my head round this. And I'm scared...I'm scared that I'll say the wrong thing and get you into trouble." Mike's almost gabbling now. "I'm really, really sorry, but is that OK, Jay?"

"It's fine," he lies. Three days without Mike is almost unimaginable, but he knows what the shock of finding out about this can do to someone. "I'll be OK, I can handle the shrinks."

"If you're sure," Mike says, scrambling up from the bench. "I'm not running away, I swear it, if you need me I will come, but I...I have to work out what to do next."

He hurries away without so much as a handshake, and John sits on the bench and breathes in the chilly air. And reminds himself that with Mike or without him there's still a battle to be won. A battle to prove he's sane.
 

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
rabidsamfan
Dec. 2nd, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Oh, man, Mike is really in a bind. I love the way you write him, btw.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )