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Doctor meets doctor (8/8)

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 5, Part 6, Part 7.


When Molly walks into Mike's office at Barts, the weird part isn't meeting 'Molly Hooper' for the first time; it's meeting John Watson. Because she can spot him immediately inside her body and she wonders how anyone else was ever fooled. There's something in the way the woman sits, the upright, still alertness of the soldier. She can imitate that quite well now, but the posture comes naturally to him. But then, of course, he isn't pretending to be Molly.

"Hello," she says, "you're...Jay, aren't you?" He stands up and shakes her hand. His grip, Molly's grip, is a bit too firm for a woman's; so is hers, now.

"Please sit down, Dr Watson," Jay says, indicating a chair in the cluttered office. "Or would you prefer to be called Molly?" He’s staring hard at her, and she realises that it's only now that he knows that there's been a complete swap, that she's been affected too.

"No," she says. "I'm not Molly any more."

"I suppose not," he says quietly, and then he just sits there. She's been rehearsing what she has to tell him, but she can't think how to start, and in the face of his silence she suddenly finds herself babbling.

"You're looking good, Jay. You've put on a bit of weight, two, three pounds, but you probably needed it. I mean, I was a bit..." She tails off.

"The weight gain's a side-effect of the anti-psychotics," Jay says. "But I'm off them now."

"That's good," she says. "And how have you been getting on, what have you been doing?" It's ridiculous how Mollyish she is sounding once again.

"Oh, you know," he says, "Got electrocuted, woke up in someone else's body, got sectioned. The usual. But you've been having a more exciting time, I gather, Dr Watson."

"It's been amazing!" she says, and launches into a description of the Pink Lady case that includes all the bits she can't put on the blog. Jay listens quietly, till she gets to the chase after the taxi.

"Sherlock had you running across the rooftops, despite the fact that you had a limp? I mean I had a limp. I was walking with a stick, for God's sake."

"Your limp was psychosomatic."

"Yes, I had realised that, thank you."

"But you're not limping now?" she asks.

"No, somewhere along the line that seems to have cleared up. Not my preferred cure, but better than Sherlock Holmes trying to trick my body out of it via parkour. Glad I dodged that one. So what happened after that?"

He's silent again as she carries on with her story, though he looks more and more like someone who thinks that he's not the one in the room with mental health problems. And then Molly tells him about killing the cabbie, and his – her – jaw drops.

"You shot the man at what, fifty, a hundred paces, through two panes of glass, with my Sig?"

"Yes," she says. "Well, we did, I suppose, because it's your body. You're a crack shot, you knew what you were doing."

"I wouldn't have taken a shot like that," Jay says.

"Even to save Sherlock?"

"You might very well have killed him instead. If the bullet deflected even a fraction, or there was an unexpected ricochet. Or the bullet might have gone clean through the cabbie and him."

"He was risking his life anyway," she replies, "with the pill. He does that, sometimes, to prove he's clever."

"Sounds like he's willing to risk your life too."

"Oh, yes," she says, smiling. "He's an idiot, but I guess I am as well."

"I see. That's your idea of fun, is it?"

"Yes," she says. "You know what Mycroft, Sherlock's brother, said the first time I...you...the first time he met John Watson? 'You're not haunted by the war, Dr Watson, you miss it.' And he's right. I'm on the battlefield now–"

"What the fuck are you talking about?" he breaks in, and it's weird to hear that word escape from Molly's prim lips. "What's all this about a war?"

"We're fighting the criminals of London," she says. "Sherlock and me, our own private war."

"You think I miss the war?" Jay, John Watson yells, jumping up, striding across to her, hands coming up as if he's going to grab her by the shoulders, by the throat. "You think it's fun?" And then he stops himself, and very slowly sits back down, and says in the just too high voice of Molly when she's trying not to lose it:

"I don't think, Dr Hooper, you have any idea of what a war is like. It is the most God-awful thing on this earth, believe me." His speech is slowing, the pitch of his voice deepening now, as he forces his emotion down. He doesn't like losing control, does he? She realises again how little she knows him.

"And the worst thing of all," he goes on, "is a war that never ends. In Afghanistan I have seen men, women, children die, my friends, the enemy, poor ordinary buggers of civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I thought when I signed up I could make a difference. But I came to realise that the most I could hope for was not making things worse. We can't win in Afghanistan, we never could do."

"So why did you keep on fighting, if you didn't believe in what you were doing any more?"

He shakes his head. "You don't understand, do you? You really don't get it. Suppose you got disillusioned with Sherlock, fed up about how he behaved. You could walk away from him, couldn't you?”

"I wouldn't," she says. "Why on earth should I?"

"But you could. If I'd walked away from Afghanistan, refused to serve, they'd have put me in prison as a deserter. You're not in a war, Molly Hooper, and don't ever claim you are. You're just playing games."

"I didn't mean..." she breathes, and she sounds like Molly Hooper again, she knows she does. And she cannot bear to return to being pathetic and apologetic. So she straightens up in her chair and gives Jay a John Watson grin.

"Maybe it is a game," she says, "but it's a great game. It's all I ever wanted to do."

"Glad you're happy about it," Jay says. He's back in control of himself again, and she's never heard her own voice sound so dry. "Anything else you wanted to tell me while you're here? Because otherwise, I suggest you head off back to Baker Street."

Beneath the calm, she now realises, the anger is still there. Well, she knows she deserves it; nobody likes a thief.

"I came here," she says, determinedly, "to say it's over. To say that it's time I gave you your body back."

Jay looks across at her, and for a moment there's delight in the brown eyes. And then his head goes down.

"It can't be done," he says, staring at the floor.

"It's been done before."

"The machine's been destroyed."

"It can be rebuilt, Sherlock can rebuild it."

He looks up, scrubbing his hand across his face, Molly's face. "I should have seen that one coming. Sherlock sent you, didn't he, Dr Watson?"

"No. He doesn't know about that. He doesn't know about me."

His brow creases. "How can he not know? The man who knows everything about everybody?"

"It's hard to explain," she says.

***

She can't tell Jay the real answer, because he wouldn't understand; he doesn't know what Sherlock is like. At first, he'd been too obsessively focused on the Pink Lady case to see Dr Watson as more than a handy skull-substitute. Even during the Chinese meal afterwards, Sherlock hadn't been able to stop talking about what had happened. She'd just sat there, as it started to register – Molly Hooper had pulled the trigger on a gun and a man was dead – while Sherlock had talked at her for hours. The possible contents of the pill he'd nearly taken – he was annoyed he hadn't kept it for analysis. The best general strategy to adopt if faced with two bottles, or three or N, only one of which was a bad bottle.  What Moriarty might be, and if there had been some mechanism – unknown to the cabbie – for picking the victims.

"A junior minister among them, what are the odds on that, John? Population of Greater London 7.8 million, a few hundred MPs. Or are there more now? It's not data I've ever bothered to learn. And then you'd have to factor in how many customers he got per day, time of travel – has to be in the evenings, clearly, so the locations he wants are free..."

She'd let his words wash over her and wondered if this was his way of coping with what had happened. Or whether he imagined that John needed the escape of listening to someone else, of losing himself, herself, in Sherlock's world.

She realised, looking back, that the torrent of words had just been the last outpouring before the post-case crash. She was getting used to them now, but at first the sight of Sherlock curled up under a duvet, apparently incapable of doing anything for the best part of two days but drink the cups of tea she brought, had been alarming. She'd have been panicking, if she hadn't been John Watson, who did not panic about anything less than a nuclear holocaust.

It had only been after that episode that Sherlock had once again properly registered her as something more than drink-dispenser and audience. But it was already too late. She could almost see the impossible truth dawn on him, but he couldn't say anything. What could he say? If he said she was Molly and he was wrong, he looked an idiot for suggesting it. If he said she was Molly and he was right, he was an idiot for taking four days to notice. Perhaps it wasn't surprising that he'd taken the path of least resistance, left her to be John Watson, his friend John Watson.

They're never going to talk about it, she knows now. Sherlock can speak at least six different languages, but there are things beyond his vocabulary. She's becoming used to the occasional awkward oblique references to emotions – regret, loneliness, love – that he can never tackle head on. He certainly can't cope with admitting to her that he'd misjudged Molly Hooper, and that she's now become essential to him. But Sherlock is good with gestures as well as words, and the latest one is at once an acknowledgement of her and an apology. He's bought her a cat.

Well, of course, it's not as simple as that. Sherlock has persuaded Mrs Hudson to get a cat, because 221C has suddenly started suffering from a plague of mice. Molly suspects that the plague of mice will mysteriously stop now Toby has arrived, but then that's the point, isn't it? There will be no more mice because Toby is there, it's nothing to do with Sherlock. And similarly, Toby is not their cat, he's Mrs Hudson's. But if Dr Watson wants to play with him, help care for him, that simply proves that he is a nice man who is kind to little old ladies and their pets. If you're an ex-army doctor, you're allowed to be fond of cats without anyone thinking you're girly.

***

Maybe she should explain to Jay about the cat and its significance, but it's just too complicated. And it's her secret, and she's somehow become addicted to secrets, the things she and Sherlock know that no-one else does. So all she says to Jay is:

"Sherlock knows who I am, but he prefers not to know. Because, well, it's impossible, isn't it? And it would be irrational of him to take impossible solutions seriously."

"Then why are we talking about this?" Jay's voice was weary.

"Because if we both went and talked to him, he'd have to believe us. And then he can rebuild the apparatus."

"What happened was an accident. He doesn't know how it happened any more than we do."

"It could be replicated. With a bit of experimentation–"

"Stop right there, Dr Watson!" Jay barks out. "Because the answer's no."

"Sherlock can do it, I know he can."

"You're proposing to let a man who surreptitiously built a mind-altering machine carry out further experiments on us? That's...that's a bit worrying, frankly."

She looks at him in sudden realisation.

"You're scared, aren't you?"

"You're suggesting that a mad scientist should tamper with my brain again. I'm thinking scared is probably the right way to go."

"No, it's not just that, is it? You said you wouldn't have taken the shot. And that you wouldn't have run over the roofs after Sherlock. What's happened to you?"

"You mean other than the shot, electrocuted and drugged bit?"

And then the penny drops. "It's the body, isn't it?" she says. "I'm in your body, so I'm brave. You're in mine, so you're not."

"What the fuck has that got to do with anything?"

"You're not you any more, not a soldier, are you? Just ordinary."

Jay – John – lifts his chin very slightly, and then he says mildly: "Dr Watson, did they tell you I attempted to escape from the clinic several times?"

"Yes," she replies, and the guilt almost overwhelms her. It's her who's broken him, smashed his psyche apart.

"The second time was quite...tricky. My room was on the second floor, and there was a drainpipe just within reach. It was only when I was on the drainpipe that I realised they had anti-climb paint lower down and I couldn't get a grip. So my next plan was to go up, see if I could reach the fourth floor, where the staff slept, break into a room and get out that way."

"You did that?"

"Well, some of it. You're not really designed for drainpipe shinning, are you, Dr Hooper? You haven't got the upper body strength. So it was a bit hairy and by the time I'd got up there, they'd spotted me, so that was that." He pauses and then adds. "I haven't lost my nerve. I did that because I had to get out, but there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity and I try not to cross it too often."

He smiles at her then, and above Molly's sweet smile there's something old in the eyes.

"You're young and excited, and you're think you're invulnerable because you're with Sherlock," Jay says. "Just take care. Especially if you're relying on my old crock of a body."

"It's perfect."

"I must say, I don't often have beautiful young women being quite so enthusiastic about it."

"It's a soldier's body."

"Ex-soldier. God, it feels a bit like being a used car salesman. 38-year-old body offered in part-exchange, one not too careful previous owner, a few more years running possible with suitable maintenance. Seriously, Dr Watson, if you're going to keep the muscles, you need to go to the gym regularly. Which I suspect you're not good at doing."

"I'm...I'm sorry," she says. She's used to criticism of her body, but not from someone who knows it quite so intimately. "I know my mouth's all wrong, and I'm flat-chested and my bum's a bit big..."

"Molly," he says, "You're healthy and you have a lovely body. It just needs a bit of conditioning, build some strength." He folds his arms and looks at her, assessingly. "If there was a button we could press and go back to who we were, you could still chase after Sherlock. I've seen women soldiers your size who can take down a six-foot man, you just have to learn how."

"No," she says. "It wouldn't work. Sherlock wouldn't want me any more."

"He doesn't want a girl taking part in his war?" Jay asks, sardonically.

"It's not that," she says. If Dr Joanna Watson had come back from Afghanistan, would Sherlock have accepted her as his friend? She can't be sure. "It's not because I'm a woman. It's just he doesn't want Molly."

"And you put up with that?" He's almost yelling again. "Is Sherlock so wonderful, is the sex so wonderful that you're prepared to put up with a man who doesn't respect you?"

"You think this is about sex?" For the first time she feels angry as well. Why are people so blind?

"What else can it be about? If he cared for you, really cared, it wouldn't matter what you looked like. I...if I turned back into John Watson today, Mike would still love me, want me. If he got half his face burnt off, it wouldn't change what I felt about him."

She hadn't believed the rumours she's heard, that Molly Hooper and Mike Stamford are actually sleeping together, and it still makes no sense. Maybe John Watson's brain did get scrambled in all of this, because she's very fond of Mike, but she can't imagine wanting to have sex with him. No, it's probably just that John's obsessed with sex. Because why else would he imagine that that was the reason why she was staying with Sherlock?

"I've never slept with Sherlock," she says. "I probably never will. I think he's asexual, just not interested. It doesn't matter, that's not what this is about."

"What it is about then?"

"I love his mind. I thought I loved his body, but I didn't realise it was his mind that I really loved." It's amazing how she doesn't seem to need sex any more, how she's starting to realise how unimportant it is. After all the times she's been to bed with a man just to make him like her. All the energy she's wasted on the pointless pursuit of being 'sexy'.

"So if it's a meeting of minds, what does it matter to Sherlock whose body it is?" Jay asks.

"Because if I was Molly, if I looked like Molly and was his companion, everyone would say he'd been wrong about her. Because Sherlock thought Molly was a joke, a pathetic woman. But you know what? He was right."

"You hate yourself so much that you think that?"

"No," she says. "Yes. Not really. It's just...if I was back in Molly's body, I'd end up back where I was. I'd end up doing the same stupid, girly things I always did. I've changed, Jay, because the way people look at me has changed. And I don't want to give that up."

"You won't have to. This isn't going to happen."

It's so tempting, then, to walk away. To take advantage of John's reluctance to be experimented on. But she is a soldier now, she is brave. She has to be prepared to do it; to lay down her own life to save another's.

"You don't understand," she says. "I didn't just come here to offer you your body back. I came to offer you your life back. I stole your life and I have to repay it."

Molly, John as Molly, just sits there and looks at her, and then she – he – says at last, very quietly:

"What do you mean about stealing my life?"

"I've got a home, I've got a job to do, I've made new friends: police officers, people on Baker Street, Mrs Hudson, who's our landlady. And I've got Sherlock. And all that should be yours. I stole them from you."

"No," he says. "What you stole from me was a broken body stuck in a bedsit and a tiny army pension, that's all."

There's a weariness to Jay's voice that finally, finally gets Molly's brain fully into gear. She's been an idiot, hasn't she?

"So that explains your curious behaviour towards me," she says slowly.

"I've done nothing."

"That's the curious behaviour," she replies. "It's not just me wanting to run away from myself, after all. You didn't really want John Watson back, did you?"

"I did at first," he says. "But then I realised it wasn't possible."

"You're a man who's used to doing the impossible. But not this time. You haven't been in contact with Harry, have you? Or anyone else from your old life, who might possibly recognise you for who you are, be able to help you."

He shakes his head, and something more clicks in her brain, another bit of the puzzle solved, and she says: "You'd had enough of John Watson, even before that, hadn't you? You kept the gun to kill yourself."

"No," he says quietly. "I kept the gun so I had the option to kill myself. Different matter."

"Why not drugs? You're a doctor." They both know it's a suicide-prone profession.

"Couldn't be sure I'd get a job with access to them. Couldn't be sure I'd ever work again, ever be good for anything again."

"You were just going to give up?" She knows she sounds disappointed. This isn't her John Watson.

"No," he says. "I don't give up easily. But do you know how long I was in the army?"

"You got a medical cadetship when you were eighteen, didn't you?"

"Twenty years ago. I spent half in my life in the army and I didn't know I was good for anything else when I was invalided out. I was tired, Dr Hooper, more tired than you would believe possible, and it was so tempting just to put myself to sleep so I didn't have to wake up, didn't have to face another day of nothingness."

She has destroyed him, after all, she realises.

"I didn't steal your life, did I?" she says. "It's worse. I stole your chance. Your chance to get out of that life was Sherlock Holmes and I took it from you."

"And you took that chance," Jay – John – replies slowly. "Molly Hooper managed to impress Sherlock Holmes. I don't think I would have done. I can't imagine being his friend and I wouldn't want to be. You've got the life you wanted because you fought for it, not me."

"But it's your life!"

"I don't want it." Molly's voice is so soft she can barely hear it. "I do have a life of my own, you know."

"How can you compare that?"

"Very easily, Dr Watson. You talked about a home, friends, a job. I've got the first two now and I'm going to have the third."

"But I've got Sherlock!"

"And I've got Mike, and he is a better person – as a friend, as a lover – than Sherlock could possibly be." He stands up, almost marches up to her, and then inspects her, top to toe.  "You've got what you wanted, Molly Hooper, and good luck to you, because you're going to need it." He pauses and then adds, "I didn't know what I wanted, but I've somehow ended up with what I need.  I wouldn't want to go through the last few weeks again, but I'm not going back. I'm sticking with Jay Hooper, she's my future."

He holds out his hand, and she automatically shakes it.

"I expect we'll see each other around," Jay says, "but for now, good luck and goodbye."

How can it be over, just like that, she wonders, and then remembers. They're soldiers, both of them, better at actions than words. Time to get on with life, not dwell on the past. So Dr Watson smiles, and leaves the office, and walks out of Barts to make her way home to Baker Street and Sherlock Holmes.
 

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
rabidsamfan
Dec. 3rd, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
Wow. And, like you said, a happy ending. But I hope Molly listens to the part about exercise! She's going to need it.
marysutherland
Dec. 4th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Maybe now Molly's got the incentive of needing to run after Sherlock (and protect him), she'll be willing to stick with the gym routines! But yes, I'm a sucker for happy endings, and I couldn't see Molly being happy going back to where she was before.
opusnone
Dec. 3rd, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
Intense and moving story.
marysutherland
Dec. 4th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading it - I wasn't sure how people would react to a pairing of Mike/John, but it's one I've wanted to write for a while, and finally figured out how to do.
fengirl88
Dec. 4th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
I wondered how you were going to get a happy ending out of this, but I wasn't expecting that! *applauds*
random_nexus
Dec. 6th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC)
Wow. I'm stunned at how well you've written this; sucked me in proper and didn't let go of me till the end! I still think Sherlock deserves a really really HUGE kick in the arse, but my goodness what an interesting take on it all. Really excellent writing!
marysutherland
Dec. 8th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
Sherlock almost always deserves a huge kick in the arse, but somehow the fates rarely allow it. Though I think Molly may gradually be toughening up enough to try and keep him in check a bit. Amazing what pretending to be a war hero can do for a girl.
innie_darling
Dec. 14th, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)
This is a totally fascinating story.
marysutherland
Dec. 15th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed this - it was mostly fun to write (well, apart from the bits where I made John go through a horrible time yet again).
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )