John Watson felt fantastic when he woke in the morning.
His body felt lean and young, and impossibly flexible. He must've gotten a perfect night's sleep, his shoulder felt--
His shoulder felt completely intact. His body hair was the wrong color--
wrong, wrong, wrong--
It wasn't his body. It was Sherlock's.
It must be a dream, he thought.
It didn't feel quite like a dream, though, so instead of trying to fly out of the window, he walked to the lavatory, where he attended to the needs of Sherlock's body.
He was washing his hands when he heard Sherlock's voice drifting down the stairs. "Bloody hell, John," he said. "You're old."
"Fuck off," John said, without rancor, and went to make tea.
"It's like your shoulder's been dipped in wax," Sherlock continued obliviously, walking down the stairs. "How do you stand it?"
"I don't exactly have a lot of choice, do I?" John answered.
"And you're short."
"I'm of average height," John rejoined. "I seem short because you’re tall."
"You're six centimetres below average. I suppose we can thank yesterday's artifact for our current state."
The artifact. Of course. It'd flashed as bright as a shattered fluorescent bulb when they'd both touched it, even through the evidence gloves. They'd both been slightly dazed, and Lestrade had dug out a pair of tongs from God only knew where and insisted no one else touch it directly.
"He'll have access to it," Sherlock continued. "And the other materials stolen from the archive. We'll have to talk to him."
"What, Lestrade?" John frowned.
"At least I've retained my mental acuity," Sherlock mused. "Pity you haven't gained any, but I suppose it can't be helped."
John gritted his teeth and put the kettle on. "It's Saturday," he said. "Do you think he'll answer his mobile?"
"We'll go and see him," Sherlock declared arily. "He'll be home."
Lestrade took one look at them and frowned. "Get out," he said.
Sherlock scoffed. "What--"
John arched one of Sherlock's elegant eyebrows. "You don't even--"
"I can tell," Lestrade said, scratching the back of his head. "I watch telly too, you know? You've switched bodies, and the only way to switch back is to get your hands on that bloody artifact that knocked you both out. Nice try."
"But we--" John protested.
"Out," Lestrade repeated. He was wearing what must've been his weekend clothes; a singlet and a pair of jeans worn down to a faint blue. He'd clearly kept himself in good shape over the years.
"How on earth could you even--” John sputtered, and Lestrade rolled his eyes.
"Nice work, 'John,' you've done a lovely job with the body language. It's Saturday, can't I have one day to myself?"
"The first time you saw me," Sherlock said sharply, "I hadn't slept for fourteen hours, and you told me I'd be dead in a year if I kept on like that."
"You could have told him that," Lestrade said flatly. "Out."
"You told me I'd lose my pretty face first."
Lestrade slammed the door in their faces without a further word. John could hear him locking it.
"Lestrade," he said, against the door. "Please."
Sherlock took his arm. His fingers felt thick and square. "Come along."
"You'll have to call in to work for me," John said, Sherlock's long legs taking the pavement like a stallion at full gallop. There was a hideous underlying wrongness to all this, but John couldn't deny the pleasure of having a body as agile and lanky as Sherlock's.
"I could easily--"
"Yes," John said, "I'm sure. But as much as I--" he took a moment to find the right word and infuse it with the correct level of sarcasm-- "relish the idea of the countless names you'd manage to call my patients, I think your energies will be far better spent on researching this -- whatever it is. Tell them I've got a rotovirus, that'll keep me out for a few days. I'm not scheduled until Tuesday after this." He could text Sarah and say his throat was sore from vomiting, so he couldn't talk; just as well they were no longer dating, that would save her coming round to check on him. “We should tell your brother, too, it’ll save him popping over with a case you don’t want anyway.”
Sherlock made a noncommital noise.
Back at the flat, John made more tea and tried not to hover over Sherlock's shoulder.
"Minos," Sherlock said. "Of course, it'd be a civilization whose language we barely comprehend."
"That's Crete, right?" At least he could still serve as a sounding board.
"Mmm," Sherlock said. "Matriarchal religion, worshipped goddesses and bulls, possibly performed human sacrifices. The Minotaur, you'll recall, was inspired by Cretan society. The labyrinth...." He pulled his hands in toward his face in thought. "I can't do this, I need nicotine."
"Don't put a patch on my arm."
"It won't hurt your precious lungs," Sherlock snapped, "don't complain."
"So's alcohol. You certainly--"
Sherlock snorted. "Fine. I'll just sit here not focusing."
"You do that," John said. It'd been months since Sherlock had used any patches, and with no nicotine addiction lying in wait in John's body, the craving was purely psychosomatic.
Sherlock disappeared into research, and John flailed about, trying to find something to do. He washed up the last of the dishes, straightened the flat as best he could, went through his bills and paid them. That killed a few hours, as did getting lunch ready and putting together a stew for the evening.
"Maybe I'll try Lestrade again," he said, when the boredom had completely taken over.
"Blackwell's playing tonight," Sherlock said, turning from the computer for the first time in half an hour. "You'll have to get there before he goes out to the pub." He sighed. "He might listen if you give him--" He got up and went to his desk, rooting around the papers until he found something, which he stuffed in an envelope. "Hang on. And I want you to pick up a few books for me at the library."
'A few' was an understatement, as John had rather expected it to be. His arms were full of books when he arrived at Lestrade's flat, though the tote bag the librarian at the checkout desk had loaned him helped considerably.
Lestrade had changed into a proper shirt, the collar open enough that John could see a hint of his collarbone. "I already told you--"
"The envelope on the top," he said. "It's for you. I don't know what's in it, Sherlock sent it."
"Sherlock," Lestrade said, with heavy sarcasm. He took the envelope, though, and let John in. "I should take both of you and--" He stopped as he saw what was in the envelope; John could tell it was a photograph, though he couldn't see what it was of. Lestrade dropped into a chair by the kitchen table and stared at it.
"You told me that Sherlock Holmes was a great man," John said, putting the books down on Lestrade's kitchen table. "And if we were lucky, he might be a good one someday. You know I wouldn't have told him that."
"No," Lestrade said. "You wouldn't." He tapped the photo on the table. "And he didn't tell you what this was before he gave it to you."
"No." Sherlock had signed over the seal on the envelope.
"Humor me." Lestrade grabbed a slip of paper from the refrigerator, flipped it over, and shoved it at John. "Sign your name."
"Mine, or Sherlock's?"
Lestrade paused for a second. "Sherlock's. Sign it the way he did."
"I'm in trouble either way, aren't I?" John said, digging in Sherlock's pockets for a pen. "I sign it like him, you'll think it's Sherlock. I sign it poorly, you'll think it's Sherlock doing it deliberately."
"Yes," Lestrade said, a bit of amusement at the corners of his mouth, "and he's a good actor, so he'd probably be fishing in the right-hand pocket for a pen, like you are."
John sighed and found a pen in the left-hand pocket. "You enjoying this?" he asked, as he leaned over the counter and signed Sherlock's name. "I can do mine too, if you like. It doesn't look right. Doesn't feel right with either hand."
"He got this," Lestrade said, "the first time he lifted my wallet. Almost didn't speak to him again, after that." John looked up; Lestrade was staring at the photo. "I suppose this is his idea of a peace offering." He picked up the piece of paper John had just signed and glanced at it for a second; John wondered if he’d just wanted to keep John busy while he thought.
John moved closer and Lestrade let him look over his shoulder. The faded image showed a younger Lestrade, a bit thinner, with his arm around a young man with dark hair and a wicked, winning smile. They looked insanely happy and absurdly young. "He looks a bit like that singer," John said. "What's that band, Tokio Hotel?"
"He used to look a bit like Pete Burns," Lestrade said wryly. "But yes. He was handsome." His gaze flickered, just for a moment, to the ring on his left hand.
"How old were you?"
"Nineteen, I think?" Lestrade squinted at it. "Before ... well. I was a kid, anyway. We both were." He took the photo and walked it over to a bookshelf further in the flat, not a long walk, as the rooms were quite small. Lestrade seemed to be a decent housekeeper, and the apartment felt quiet and modest. It was comfortable. John hadn't really had a chance to see it before, what with Lestrade throwing them out. "Had no idea what was coming. Suppose you never do."
When Harry came out of the closet, she'd driven everyone mad by insisting each one of them declare their place on the Kinsey scale. Dad had said he was a solid 0, and Mum had created a minor scandal by declaring herself a 1. John had refused to answer, saying the whole game was ridiculous. At the time he'd fancied himself a 2, though he'd doubted the issue would ever come up.
Lestrade made him feel far closer to a 3.
"I'm sorry," John said, because that seemed like the only thing he could say.
"Yeah," Lestrade said, turning away from the photo. "I am too. Look," he said, rubbing his temples. "Let's say you're not Sherlock. Let's just say that bloody bit of metal switched you. I can't exactly write that down when I sign something out of evidence, can I? And it'll be headed to the museum for study soon enough. I'm sure I can get you photographs. Might even be tomorrow. But I can't promise anything. I'm sorry."
"No, that's all right," John said. "Maybe we'll get lucky and it'll wear off overnight."
"It could," Lestrade said, encouragingly.
It didn't. John woke in the morning feeling that his bed was impossibly small and uncomfortable, and from the look of Sherlock John could tell his flatmate felt the same. "If this continues," Sherlock announced, "I'm sleeping upstairs."
"Fine," John said, trying to inhale the morning’s tea without scalding his tongue. "My bed's too small for your body." Sherlock was all angles, and John couldn't figure out where to put any of them.
"You know, there's no record of Minoan weapons," Sherlock said, rubbing his eyes and heading for the teapot. "There are people who claim they didn't engage in warfare, but that sounds like utter idiocy. I think it's more likely they used non-conventional weapons."
"Like a staff that could switch people's minds?" John asked skeptically. "What good would that do?"
"Well, it stunned us, didn't it," Sherlock said, and it was still uncomfortable and strange to hear Sherlock's accent coming out of John's mouth. "Imagine. You're a Theban ambassador, visiting the island for negotiations. Someone hands you their staff as part of the welcoming ceremony--"
"And you're stunned, briefly, but fine," John continued. "So--"
"Until the next morning--"
John grasped Sherlock's meaning. "The next morning, you're back on your ship, safe at home, but you're not, are you? You're in the wrong body, and some other bloke from Minos is telling your subordinates that no, you don't think battle's necessary. They're armed and dangerous, and wouldn't it be better to sign a nice trade treaty, anyway?"
Sherlock grinned madly. "Exactly. No doubt that staff wasn't the only item in their arsenal, but with weapons of that magnitude they certainly wouldn't need too many, and the rest could be lost to history." He pushed his palms together and thought for a moment more. "Or they could be in that stash of artifacts, and no one knows how to use them. No one would even realize they were dangerous until--"
"Boom," John said softly.
"Yes." Sherlock took a deep breath. "I suppose even if we warned them, they'd be unlikely to believe us, even with the shock we experienced."
"Even Lestrade barely believes us."
"Lestrade, of course--" Sherlock dug into the pocket of his dressing gown (impossibly big on him, like a child playing dress-up) and produced his phone. "They certainly wouldn't be convinced by mystical objects, but--"
"'Possible contamination by biochemical agents,'" Lestrade said. "And Sherlock thought that wouldn't cause a panic."
"More that Sherlock thought it would cause the right sort of panic," John said apologetically.
"Yeah, well, I'm not telling them that," Lestrade said. "Told 'em you gents had a strange rash on your fingers and they'd ought to tread carefully. Leaves it up to their imagination, and I shouldn't have to answer any questions from the Daily Mail."
"That was clever," Sherlock observed from the computer.
"Yeah, well, don't act so surprised. C'mon, John, we'll grab lunch. Had to drive down on a Sunday, might as well make the most of it."
Sherlock looked up long enough to frown. "But--"
"You have a rotovirus," John reminded him.
"And apparently you've also been exposed to a biochemical weapon," Lestrade said, with entirely too much relish. "Come on," he said to John. I suppose I'll have to call you Sherlock in public."
"It'd be wisest."
It was nice to be out of the flat, though John was worried someone might shout in his direction or spit on him in the street. He was getting more used to Sherlock's body, its energy and litheness, and that worried him as well.
"If Sherlock's right about it being a weapon," Lestrade said thoughtfully, "then it's bound to wear off sooner or later. You wouldn't want your ambassador off in Naples for the duration."
"Unless it's for a different kind of spy." John frowned. "Three years from now I'll be walking down the street and someone will say 'there are three flowers in a vase' or show me a playing card and I'll go mad."
"No one speaks Minoan anymore. Stay away from the museum, you'll be safe." Lestrade poked his leg under the table with his foot. "It's not all bad, is it?"
"Yes," John said into his chips. "It's all bad." Pretty girls looked after him in the street, and he couldn't touch them. Lestrade, maddeningly, looked better than he ever had, and he certainly couldn't do anything about that in Sherlock's body. Even if he could, his sex drive felt muffled, like someone had wrapped that part of him in a blanket. (If someone ever asked him 'Is it true that the biggest sexual organ is the brain?' he had his answer: yes, but it's not the only one.)
John's mobile vibrated before he could keep on feeling sorry for himself. Get back here. Have idea. SH
"Sherlock?" Lestrade asked, watching his face.
"Um, yes," John said, and had Lestrade ever looked at him like that when he was in his own body? Would he have noticed if Lestrade had? "He's got an idea."
"It's not something that involves bodily harm?"
"He didn't say."
Lestrade shook his head. "Probably is, then."
“You took forever," Sherlock said. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet. John's feet. Christ, this was confusing.
“We had to finish lunch. What’s your idea?”
"What about it?"
"Might be a trigger. Adrenal glands, you're a physician, you know how they function. We were both startled when the device went off, it might take a shock or another intense stimulation of the adrenal system to return us to our normal states."
"What kind of--" John asked, and then Sherlock hit him. It wasn't as hard a hit as John had expected, and Sherlock's body was remarkably fast, but the fist still grazed his chin, and John reacted without really thinking about it, slamming his own fist (his left fist, the strong one) into Sherlock's weak shoulder.
Sherlock's yelp of pain quickly turned to a battle cry, and the fight was on. Sherlock was well-trained in martial arts, but not used to John's body, and it was impossible to forget the skills John had learned in the military and on the rugby field. Sherlock's body moved like a cat's, smooth and strong, and John had two days' worth of anger bottled up.
Of course, Sherlock did too, and his fists were square and hard. The problem with fighting yourself was that, while you knew all your opponent's physical weaknesses, you no longer knew your own; Sherlock stunned him temporarily with a hard knock to his ear, and followed it up with a gutpunch that left John breathless. John readied himself to punch Sherlock again, but getting winded had slowed him down enough for his brain and common sense to ask for a break. "Enough?" he asked.
"Should be," Sherlock said, catching on immediately and collecting himself. "Unless it has to stun us, but I'd prefer not to risk a head injury until we've seen the results of this test."
"You think it was adrenalin, though." John walked to the couch and slumped in it.
Sherlock sat next to him. "A shock to the system of some sort, certainly. We could also have tried some sort of chemical method, but as I know how you feel about recreational pharmaceuticals, I thought this the best option."
"I guess we don't have that many."
"Sexual contact would've also stimulated the adrenal glands but--"
"God, no," John said with horror.
"We won't know, will we? Whatever happened -- it took hours to affect us."
Sherlock nodded. "And it may require a specific brain activity, such as REM sleep." He leaned forward, putting his fingertips together. "In fact, it might be a requirement. The brain, after all, spends much of its time--" He leaped up from the couch. "Yes, that's it! We need to sleep."
"Now," John said, regarding him dubiously.
"Well, obviously now! The sooner the better, and--"
"Do you know what time it is? And how much tea have you had?"
Sherlock opened his mouth, then closed it again. "I suppose we should let the adrenalin wear off," he said, after a moment.
"I think it would be best, yes."
John bandaged their cuts, and they read until dinnertime, a fairly simple roast cooked with fresh vegetables Mrs. Hudson had brought up (she never thought they were eating properly, and she was usually correct). They hadn’t told her. John was hoping they’d never have to.
After dinner, John switched on the television, and they made it halfway through "Popstar to Operastar" before Sherlock started yawning.
"This is unbearably dull," Sherlock said. "I suspect I can sleep now."
"I'll see you in the morning, then," John said. "One way or another."
John felt terrible when he woke in the morning.
His body felt old and exhausted, and impossibly stiff. He must've gotten a miserable night's sleep, his shoulder felt--
John grinned with delight.
He picked up his phone; Sherlock must have already been awake, as his phone had two texts. The first was at 6:15. Worked. Lestrade knows. SH
The second was at 6:17. Mycroft does not. SH
John looked at Sherlock's clock. 7:02.
There were voices out in the main room; he supposed he'd better get up and see who they were.
Sherlock was sitting at the kitchen table, talking to Mycroft. For a moment, John couldn't understand what Sherlock was doing; why he seemed so quiet, so unlike himself. Then he recognized his own body language.
Suddenly the second text was explained.
That bastard, John thought, shaking the stiffness from his shoulder.
"I really do think that Sherlock-- ah, Sherlock," Sherlock said. "Good morning. Mycroft has come to inform us that we're overreacting."
John raised his eyebrows in his best Sherlock imitation.
"No such thing," Mycroft said imperiously. "I merely came to inform you that you don't need to resort to --" he eyed the bruise on Sherlock's cheek dubiously -- "drastic measures. The artifact clearly displays a symbol for time, indicating that the effects of the mental switch will resolve on its own."
"Well," John said, trying to hold himself up from the shoulders, like Sherlock. "That was terribly thoughtful of you, to take time from your busy schedule to condescend to us."
The corners of Sherlock's mouth twitched with amusement.
"It's always lovely to see you--" Mycroft paused and considered for a moment. "Doctor Watson."
"Likewise, I'm sure," John said.
"Still, you were very close. I'm sure most people would never have realized."
"Don't you have somewhere to go?" Sherlock asked. He'd dropped the mask and was back to his usual insouciance. "A small nation-state to conquer, perhaps?"
"I'll be on my way then," Mycroft said, standing up and taking his umbrella. "I'm glad the situation has resolved itself, at any rate."
"As always, your belated and unnecessary advice brightens our day," Sherlock said. "We’re terribly glad you stopped by..."
John fled to the bathroom. He’d heard this sniping enough times, he wasn’t in the mood for it today.
When he got out, Sherlock was alone, poking at eggs in the frying pan. "Hungry?"
Sherlock cracked another egg into the pan. "How's your shoulder?"
They grinned at each other.
"I've got to call Sarah and tell her I can pick up an extra shift, could use the money. What did you tell Lestrade?"
"Sent him a text that the images were no longer needed. Do we have sausage?"
"I think you put it too close to that woman's fingers and I binned it. I'll check. Did Lestrade text you back?"
"Mm," Sherlock told the eggs. "Are you going to finally shag him?"
John put the kettle on. "Is this when I remind you that asking other people about their intimate lives is rude?"
"Is this when I remind you that I had to tolerate your body's maddening reaction to the man for the past few days? It's like Pavlov's bloody dog." He flipped the eggs. "No sausage?"
"No," John said. "I'll run out and get some later."
Sherlock finished the eggs, muttering all the while that the symbol for 'time' on the artifact could have meant bloody anything, surely even Mycroft could realize that, and John indulged the tantrum. When Sherlock could be bothered, he was a decent cook, and there was no need to interrupt him.
"You know," John said, digging in, "normally when one wants to have sex, two people have to be interested. Not one. Two."
Sherlock shot him a look of withering disgust. "I'm aware, John."
"You're not suggesting--" John looked at Sherlock's face. "You're not suggesting. You're telling me."
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I'm not responsible for your sex life, John."
"You have no idea how much I appreciate that."
"I heard you were back," Lestrade said, when he opened his flat door.
"Yes," John said. "Thank you, again."
"I didn't do much," Lestrade said. His eyes caught the bruise at John's collar. "You all right?"
"Yes," John said. "Yes. We tried stimulating the adrenal glands, and--"
"I don't even want to know," Lestrade said, shaking his head and stepping back so John could come in. "For smart men, you can both be bloody stupid, you know."
"I've been informed," John said wryly, as he watched Lestrade shut the door behind them. "In fact, that's why I'm here."
"Really?" Lestrade might have said more, but John pushed him back against the door then, square shoulders up against the wood, dark eyes widening, his lower lip against his teeth, and didn't that double the list of the things John wanted to do to him?
"Yes," John said.
A flicker of amusement crossed Lestrade's face. "You don't normally ask a bloke to dinner first?"