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A Great Man is Hard to Find (version 1.0)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 12 (violence, femslash, anti-slash)

Spoilers: none for Series 2 at the moment, may be unexpectedly retconned if necessary.

Summary: AU in which it's Dr Harriet Watson returning from the wars...

Many thanks to my trusty beta Fengirl88


1) A Study in Pink

In the twenty-first century, equal opportunities mean that Dr Harriet Watson can serve in a futile war in Afghanistan just like her great-great-grandfather John H. Watson MD once did. It also means that once she's no longer useful to the British military she gets spat out by them in a completely gender-blind way. She's left to wander round London on her army pension, an invisible woman. Her short hair and taste for baggy jumpers with jeans have always made her liable to be mistaken for a small, nondescript bloke, but now she's got a stick as well, it's as if she doesn't exist for 90% of Londoners, other than as an obstacle on the pavement. Which is fine by her, mostly.

So when she hears a man calling her name in Russell Square, she presumes it must be some other Harry that's meant. It's only when he's yelled "Harry Watson" several times that it registers that it's really someone she knows. And then she turns and finds Mike Stamford. She wouldn't have recognised him if he hadn't told her his name, because he's put on at least three stone in the last fifteen years. Not much left of that sexy body of his, she finds herself thinking, though it hadn't made their few dates back then any less disastrous.

But Mike is still sweet, and pleased to see her, and despite a few tactless remarks about her getting shot, and why John isn't helping her, it's good to have a friendly face around who doesn't want to talk about the war. And Mike even claims he knows someone who might be willing to share a flat with Harry.

"He's looking for someone at the moment and you might be right up his street," he announces cheerily. "And if you can cope with Afghanistan, maybe you can cope with him."

"He'd be OK with a female flatmate?"

"He'd probably take a two-headed alien at this point," Mike says. "He's...a bit tricky to live with, I should imagine, judging by how he is round the lab. But you need to come and meet him, see for yourself."

***    

She is caught up in the whirlwind that is Sherlock, and it's only when they're at 221B and Mrs Hudson says: "There's another bedroom upstairs, if you'll be needing two bedrooms", that she realises that people are going to get the wrong impression. Though she'd not absolutely sure if Sherlock simply hasn't noticed she's a woman, or just decided it's irrelevant. It's refreshing the way he looks at her and says: "You're an army doctor", as if he knows that she's spent her life searching out trouble.

And then they're in the taxi, and he's deducing her life history from her phone. Including about John.

"You're looking for cheap accommodation and you're not going to your brother for help. That says you've got problems with him. Maybe you liked his wife, maybe you don't like his drinking."

It's amazing and she tells him that, and he explains how he's deduced John's alcoholism and him leaving Clara. And then, because she needs to know, she asks: "How did you know what I feel about Clara?"

"A guess, but a good one," he says. "You've kept the phone even though you're short of money, when you could have taken it to Cash Converters and got a cheaper one. You're not sentimental about John, clearly, maybe you are about Clara. And I suspected you were a lesbian when we met at Barts."

"Because I'm ex-army and I have short hair?"

"Because you're an old friend of Mike's, and you're on your own, and you've got psychological problems, and yet he has no worries about you becoming my flatmate. That suggests he knows you're in no danger of falling for me."

"And you presume that a woman who doesn't fall for you for must be a lesbian?"

 "Not necessarily, but when I also noticed you checking out Molly Hooper, that was a pretty big clue. So do you prefer her with or without lipstick?"

"I prefer her," she says firmly, "not holding a torch for you, and you not treating her quite so cruelly."

"You're going to have to get used to that, I'm afraid. Treating people nicely, not really my forte. But if it's any consolation, I'm more or less an equal opportunities offender. I exploit the weaknesses of men as well as women." He gives her a disconcerting smile, as they get out of the taxi and head for Lauriston Gardens.

***

He's right about the brutality, she soon realises. She doesn't enjoy Sally's crack about whether Sherlock had followed her home, but Sherlock is still needlessly foul to her. But then he's foul to Anderson as well. And then ditches Harry herself, to run off somewhere. She's mostly pissed off at him for doing that, though a tiny part of her is vaguely gratified that he thinks she can cope with wandering round Brixton on her own at night.

Sally makes it clear that she reckons Sherlock is dangerous, but interestingly, she doesn't say anything about him being a particular menace to women. Which might possibly fit with her own vague deductions about Sherlock...

It gets stranger after that, if that's possible: a man playing tricks with CCTV cameras, and the next thing she knows, there's a car drawing up alongside her, and a well-dressed, glossy-haired beauty getting out of it.

"My mother told me never to get into strangers' cars," Harry tells her, because there's bravery and then there's stupidity.

"I'm just taking you to see my boss," the brunette replies. "But don't worry, he won't be armed. He doesn't like guns."

"I see," Harry says, as calmly as she can. "But what about his hired thugs?"

"Oh, I'm armed," the woman says, smiling, "but I'm under orders only to fire in self-defence."

She's got a gun, she's several inches taller than Harry, and no passer-by is going to raise the alarm about one woman bundling another into a car this time of night, they'll just assume one or both of them is drunk. Best to go quietly, Harry decides.

"I'm Harry," she says, once the car's moving. "What's your name, then?"

"Er, Anthea."

"Is that your real name?"

Anthea smiles sleekly, all feminine charm. "No," she replies.

"Any chance you could tell me what this is all about?"

"None at all, Harry." Anthea says, looking down at her Blackberry.

***

What it's all about, it turns out, is a meeting with Sherlock's archenemy, a tall, rather camp man with an umbrella. He cracks some stupid comment about Sherlock and her making a "happy announcement" soon, but it's clearly a joke, and she has the definite impression he knows more than he's letting on about Sherlock's personal life. She doesn't enjoy playing games with him, but she does wonder if she might be able to get more out of Anthea, or whatever her name is, on the way home.

No, to be more honest, now she's out of immediate danger, she wants an opportunity to get to know Anthea better. After she's reclaimed her own gun from the bedsit, Harry cheerily asks the other woman if she'd like to come along for some target practice sometime.

"A nice girly night out, if you ever have free time," she says, smiling at Anthea.

"Oh, I have lots of free time," Anthea says, laughing. "Bye."

***

It's Angelo thinking that Sherlock and she are a couple, that makes Harry decide to say something to Sherlock. Probably best to know where everyone stands, or at least who everyone ends up in bed with.

"So you've don't have a girlfriend, I take it?" she says, gazing innocently across the table at Sherlock.

"What makes you say that?" he says, still staring out of the window at the street.

"Because even if she hadn't turned up by now to vet me, Mrs Hudson or Angelo would have said something."

"Girlfriends aren't really my area."

Nice to have that confirmed. She smiles at him winningly.

"Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No."

"So you're unattached, like me."

Sherlock's silent for a few moments, staring at her warily and then says abruptly: "Harry, I think you should know I consider myself married to my work. And while I'm flattered that you want to set me up with one of your friends, I'd rather you didn't. Especially if you have any ideas that involve me seducing your brother, so the field's left clear for you with Clara."

Even as she hastily tells him that, no, she isn't planning anything like that, a voice in her head is saying: This is going to get complicated, isn't it?

***

She realises the limits of Sherlock's ideas of equality very soon. Yes, he's happy to chase across London with her to prove a point about her limp being psychosomatic, but then he deserts her to go off and play games with a serial killer. Still, she follows after him, because she doesn't reckon 'very loyal, very quickly' is something to be ashamed about, and you never leave a comrade alone in danger. And while she may be small, she's not afraid of fighting.

She saves Sherlock's life - someone has to take care of the lanky bastard – but she scarpers as soon as she's done so, because in her experience, some men get shirty about being rescued by a woman. So when she sees Sherlock stride up to her in the aftermath, tossing his shock blanket aside, she puts on her most innocent face. She's good at that.

"Sergeant Donovan's just been explaining everything," she says, looking interested. "Two pills. Dreadful business, isn't it, dreadful."

"Good shot," Sherlock replies. "And you'll be pleased to know that I've just inadvertently mislead Lestrade about the killer."

"Oh?"

"I told him he was looking for a man with a military service record."

"You didn't think a woman could shoot like that?" she snaps back.

"There's always something. Are you all right?" He looks down at her with concern in his pale eyes.

"Yes, of course I'm all right."

"Well you have just killed a man."

"And you expect me to go to pieces? Would it be more womanly to be in floods of tears at this point?"

"Dr Watson," Sherlock replies, smiling enthusiastically. "You're armed, you're a crack shot, with nerves of steel, and you've got a temper. Can we take it as read for the future that I'm not intending to patronise you because you're a woman, only because you're an idiot? I would, overall, prefer you not to stand trial for murdering me."

"If you were murdered it'd baffle the police, as well," she retorts, staring up at him straight-faced. "So many people with motives. As for the guy in there...he wasn't a very nice man. As well as being a bloody awful cabbie." She doesn't mention anything about how he was the secret nightmare of any woman in London. An unknown man you relied on to take you to safety, who might instead turn on you, attack you, kill you. But then, how to explain that fear to Sherlock, who would doubtless retort that the man hadn't targeted women particularly.

She doesn't know if Sherlock's somehow picked up what she's thinking; he just starts laughing at her joke, instead. Then they walk off and go to a Chinese, as if they're mates. Which somehow, they already are.

*** 

2) The Blind Banker

Even after they get more used to one another, she still gets pissed off sometimes by Sherlock's sexist assumptions. Their next big case is typical of that. She's just come back from the shopping – which she's expected to do – and then she's carted off on a case without Sherlock bothering explaining to her pretty little feminine brain what he's up to. Then he describes her as his "friend" to that prat Sebastian, and doesn't let her into Soo Lin's flat. He wouldn't treat a male colleague in that offhand way, she thinks mutinously.

Though she's not quite sure what to make of a man who expects her to come along when he decides to hold an impromptu meeting with Seb in the Gents toilets of a restaurant.

"Can we go to the Ladies next time?" she suggests to Sherlock when Seb has returned to his posh friends. "A lot less smelly."

"Male bonding," he replies. "You get more information from a man like Sebastian somewhere like this. Very...intimate. Brings all sorts of memories back."

"Oh...you mean he's gay too."

"Was gay," Sherlock replies, slightly too emphatically. "Our last meeting was at a degree ceremony in Oxford. An extremely brief encounter in the Sheldonian Theatre. Then he found himself an upmarket girlfriend."

"So when you introduced me as your friend-," she says, looking up at him sternly.

"That was one in the eye for Seb, yes. To make it absolutely clear to him that I was unavailable. Sorry about that."

"I'm basically a beard for you then, am I?"

"Keep up, Harry. I'm normally out of the closet; I only pretend to be straight when it's necessary for a case. And I've already explained that what you really are is a skull substitute."

"Sherlock, is that skull male or female? I mean was it a man or a woman?"

"As it happens, it was a woman, but that's entirely irrelevant-"

"I'm your only female friend, aren't I?" she says, and she can't help giggling slightly. "I'm your proof to yourself you're not a misogynist."

"Mrs Hudson isn't up to chasing taxis across London," Sherlock protests, as they head out of the toilets, getting an extremely dirty look from a waiter as they go. "And anyhow, you're...Harry. A deadly lesbian with a hopeless weakness for straight women. Token female friend doesn't begin to cover it. You're not still pining after Mycroft's PA, by the way, are you? You need to stay away from her, or you'll get yourself rendered."

She ignores that, because she's not taking relationship advice from a man who once slept with Sebastian. But she can't help the question that comes abruptly to her lips during their taxi-ride home.

"Wouldn't you prefer to have my brother along instead of me?"

"I wouldn't want him anywhere near me with a pistol, not the way his hand shakes," he replies immediately. "And I take it he'd be no use at examining a corpse." He smiles sideways at her. "Well, I suppose flatmates should not only know about each other, but also about their embarrassing siblings. You've seen Mycroft; what do you want to tell me about John Watson? I already know about a selection of his character flaws, and he obviously shares your taste in women. Is he also short, blond and pugnacious or haven't the genetics worked that way?"

"Similar hair and taste in jumpers," Harry says, and doesn't know why she's telling him this. Except that she can, that he's willing to listen.  "Two inches taller, two years younger. But the drinking's aged him, and he's put on weight. And he's drinking way too much, because he's stuck in a dead-end sales job with a paper manufacturer in Slough."

"Sweet but hopeless?"

"Not so bloody sweet. Playing stupid jokes on his colleagues and thinking he's clever. And he left Clara for the receptionist at his job, broke up her relationship with her boyfriend. I...he could make something of his life, but he can't be arsed to. Dropped out of university as well. He's just a quitter."

"Can't live up to his older sister?" Sherlock asks sardonically.

"Too scared about what other people might think to live his own life."

"You're right," Sherlock says. "John Watson doesn't sound like my type."

"He's back with Clara," she adds abruptly. "He e-mailed me last night to say they're having a trial reconciliation."

"Let's hope for the worst," Sherlock says, smirking.

***

The problem is, she decides a few days later, that Sherlock might be well-intentioned, but he's still jaw-droppingly clueless sometimes about people. Like when Harry announces that she can't help him with the case, because she's got a girl's night out with Sarah.

"You mean a date," Sherlock says. "When two people who like each other go out and have fun." He manages to make "fun" seem vaguely obscene.

"No," she replies, smiling. "A date is when two people size one another up before deciding whether to have sex. A girl's night out is how you get friendly with a straight woman before breaking it to her that you're interested in her body as well." Sarah had teased Harry about the man at her supposed "book event". Not a good sign, Harry knows. She's going to have to be more subtle than she normally manages. But Sherlock's suggestion of a trip to the circus does actually sound appealing. Offbeat, but unthreatening.

Which just shows, she realises afterwards, how clueless she still is about Sherlock.

***

 What Harry finds frustrating is that Sarah turns out to be just the sort of woman Harry could fall for. Sensitive enough to clutch onto Harry in shock when the circus act gets alarming, but willing to pile in and help rescue Sherlock when he gets attacked. Someone, Harry thinks, needs to teach Sherlock some less spectacular but more effective ways of incapacitating an opponent.

She does worry that Sarah's only agreed to come back to 221B because she's interested in Sherlock. But fortunately, Sherlock is being his usual infuriating self and Sarah's surely too sensible to fall for the beautiful bastard type. When Sherlock finally buggers off, things are looking quite hopeful for a bit of female bonding, at minimum. And then Sarah and she both get kidnapped...

What a cliché, Harry thinks, when she starts to surface woozily from the concussion. The brilliant detective's on our trail, so let's kidnap his female companions, threaten them. Well, if they think they can pressure Sherlock via either her or Sarah, they don't know their man. It's only then, through the haze of pain in her head, that she learns that her captors think she is Sherlock.

There's a certain logic to it, Harry thinks, in the tiny part of her brain that isn't panicking about Sarah getting killed. A female criminal mastermind might well take it for granted that the world's only consulting detective is also female. And you can't expect someone Chinese to recognise "Sherlock" as a man's name. Come to think of, no-one, male or female, is called "Sherlock" anyhow.

Just as she's desperately trying to work out if she can prove Sherlock is a man, he turns up, of course, announces who he is and then proceeds with the most inept rescue of Sarah you could imagine. She'd say he fights like a girl, except that would be an insult to a lot of female soldiers she knows.

Still, at least it distracts the gang enough that she can do what she's being planning in desperation for ages and knock the crossbow out of the way. She even manages to shoot Sherlock's opponent rather than Sherlock, which she's mostly pleased about. And afterwards, as she lies on the floor, bruised and exhausted, she remembers to gasp out to Sarah: "Don't worry. Next girl's night out will be a pamper party."

***

3) The Great Game

She should have guessed, of course, that Sherlock would go out of his way to irritate any woman living with him. But she doesn't think it's particularly feminine to object to recreational gunfire or heads in the fridge. She retreats to Sarah's more to prevent herself showing Sherlock how to strangle someone effectively than to get away from him being macho.

And Sarah is showing distinct signs of interest towards Harry, even if she's not quite sure yet whether she wants Harry nearer  than the sofa. Which almost makes up for the fact that Mycroft also starts smirking at her when she hurries back to 221B after the news report. His creepiness is notched up another inch when he invites Harry to come round to talk to him very soon. Either his files on her have some huge holes in them or he's playing some very devious game.

Meanwhile, Sherlock has a lunatic admirer, people are getting strapped into bomb-jackets (another equal opportunities criminal, she can't help noticing) and Sally Donovan is advising her to take up knitting. But Sherlock needs her, and if he's not a hero, that doesn't stop her trying to be a heroine.

***

She'd have preferred, naturally, not to be the plucky heroine who gets kidnapped. For the second time in a month, damnit; there are disadvantages in being a woman. She wonders, once again, if she's going to be raped. Fortunately, however, even if Moriarty isn't really gay - and she's coming to the conclusion that there's something far more complicated about his sexuality that she really doesn't want to learn about – he doesn't seem to be interested in that. He just straps her up in a bomb-jacket and a really unflattering parka. Well, she'll die, as she's lived, unfashionable.

***

 Afterwards, that night is hazy, fragments of memory in a sea of blackness. Maybe she dreamt half of it. The red dots appearing on Sherlock's forehead as she pulled with all her strength on Moriarty's neck. Some stupid crack of hers about Sherlock ripping off her clothes. The smell of chlorine and burning. And then the ambulance and Sherlock looking down at her, saying fiercely: "You're not allowed to die, Harriet Watson, do you hear me?"

***

She survives, not because Sherlock orders it, but because surviving is what she does. People come and go at her bedside: Lestrade, Sally, Sarah, Mike. Even John and Clara, clutching each other's hand like they're really in love – and if her nearly getting killed has brought them back together, it is not bloody fair. But the one constant is Sherlock, who's practically living at the hospital.

She's too dopy for several weeks to work out what's going on, till the time she wakes and finds Sherlock not there and instinctively starts panicking and pushing the call bell, because maybe Moriarty is back again and had got him.

"It's OK," a nurse says, coming in – the giggly Irish redhead who Harry rather fancies. "Your boyfriend will be back shortly, he's just gone to have a shower."

"My boyfriend?" Harry says with sudden horrified realisation. "You mean Sherlock?"

"I am so envious," says the nurse. Her name's Abby, Harry remembers now. "I mean he's not just gorgeous, but he's so devoted." The implicit question - How on earth did you end up with a man like that? - hangs awkwardly between them. And then Sherlock sweeps into the room and sits down beside the bed.

"Sherlock," Harry begins and then grinds to a halt. Really not a conversation to have when Abby's around. Sherlock somehow picks up on that, and his long fingers come out and wrap round Harry's small, calloused hand. With a lingering glance or two at him, the nurse leaves.

"You've been claiming to be my boyfriend?" Harry demands.

"Easiest way to get round the restrictions on visitors," Sherlock says, smiling down at her. "Don't worry, we can break up spectacularly after you've left hospital. Probably over the fact that you're an idiot who can't even jump into a swimming pool without getting blown up."

"I was trying to push you in with me!" Harry protests. "I hadn't realised you were so damned heavy."

"I am perfectly capable of jumping into a swimming pool myself, without your assistance, Dr Watson."

For the last few weeks, Harry's been feeling too weak to yell at anyone. Suddenly she realises it's time to get on the road to recovery, and that she's had enough of being polite anyhow.

"Well given that you were too stupid to run when I grabbed Moriarty," she says, "I didn't hold out much hope of initiative."

She's managed to reduce Sherlock to incoherence, which is always quite funny.

"I...I wasn't expecting you to do that," he says, sounding oddly choked. "I thought, um, I-"

"You thought I wasn't strong enough to hold him, didn't you?"

"An oversight," Sherlock says. "It's, it's not purely strength, is it? It's also technique, to take on a man bigger than you. Though it didn't work with the Golem."

"Moriarty's not used to fighting," Harry says, feeling the adrenaline seep away. "I am."

"When you're recovered, I, you...I would appreciate some training," Sherlock says. "For next time."

"OK," says Harry. "But next time, no going off without me, just because I'm a woman."

"Fair enough," Sherlock says. "I couldn't do without my blogger-cum-bodyguard. My...friend." He's still holding her hand, Harry realises, and there's something terribly reassuring about the warmth, the strength of that grip. They belong together in so many ways. She swallows, because she's getting dangerously sentimental.

"You do know," she says at last, "that no-one is going to believe I'm a lesbian now. I'm never going to get a date again."

"I'll ask Lestrade if he knows any adventurous police officers," Sherlock says, grinning at her. "You're probably better off with coppers than civilians, Harry. They understand that the case always comes first."

"Why Lestrade?" she asks, wondering if her brain is still a bit scrambled.

"Founder member of the Gay Police Association. He's got contacts, a lot of them."

"Lestrade's gay? Oh God, and he's your boyfriend, isn't he? Ex-boyfriend?"

"It's on and off between us," Sherlock says at last. "Rather more off than on." To Harry's delight he's actually blushing, a faint colour coming to his cheeks.

"So you can't get along with anyone, but you're still planning to sort out my love life?" she demands.

"What else are gay temporary boyfriends for?" Sherlock replies, and then they're both giggling uncontrollably.


Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
dessieoctavia
Jan. 26th, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
Hee, this was very enjoyable. Different from most genderswap fics, in a good way.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )