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Off on the Wrong Foot

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"I need a job." John will go insane otherwise.

Mike Stamford asks, "Locum work?"

"Anything. I need to get out of my flat."

"You still in a hotel?"

The answer is no. John is not in a hotel. Despite the fact that he has heard not a blip from Ministry Intelligence, he has somehow been gifted with a two-bedroom gorgeous flat in Soho. The rent is a pittance of the market rate and affordable even on his paltry pension. It's beautiful. It's lovely. A balcony, even. John wants to shred the walls.

"I need a job," he repeats.

"Well, there's something at Bart’s." Mike rubs his chin. "But it's a nasty business."

"Nastier than war?"

"It's in the morgue," Mike says carefully.

John will take dead bodies over endless ear infections and no, you cannot have antibiotics for a viral infection lectures any day. "Pathology work?"

"I don't know if you've been following the papers, but there's been a massive influx of cadavers, and Bart's has taken the bulk. They need someone to assist with the autopsies."

John has been avoiding the papers, not wanting to see the names of dead friends listed on the rolls. Still, he's not sure that he heard Mike right. "A massive influx of cadavers?"

"Almost all unknown persons. They're having a hell of a time getting them sorted."

“Wait? Where are they finding the bodies? Where are they coming from?”

“Everywhere! Roadsides. Sitting on park benches. Staged in shop windows like mannequins. Some were donated to science. Others were stolen from funeral homes. Grave robbery. There’ve been a few oldies that were missing persons. Some, they suspect are murder victims or accidental drownings. It’s giving the Yard a hell of a time.” Mike chuckles, as if he’s replaying a recent memory in his mind.

“So they need a surgical assist with the autopsies?”

“Yeah, plus the tests for identification and the like.” Mike is watching his face. “You’re interested, then?”

“I am.”

Mike stands. “Come with me. I’ll introduce you to Molly Hooper, Bart’s lead pathologist, and I’ll bet my hat that she’ll be very happy to see you.”

-

John's memory of the incident has all the weight of a rowboat in a hurricane. That is to say, mostly he remembers men charging in through doorways like ocean waves.

7 o'clock.

2 o'clock.

Glass spraying from the upper window.

John pushes Farid to the floor. Farid is the man he's in charge of. The mission: get Farid Shaheen to his meeting and then return him to base. Lives, fortunes, the future of Britain—it all depends on Farid.

Farid will die. The mission will be a failure.

But first, before all is lost, John is fighting back. He fires and takes out three men in four seconds. That's why he was chosen for this op. Because he's as good with a scalpel as he is with a gun.

The attackers fall like flies.

It's not just him that's firing. He's got Colt and Sam at his back. Farid is ducked in the middle of their makeshift triangle behind a couch, a piano, and a desk.

The funny bit is that everything seems okay until it isn't. The copter radios in, and the onslaught slows enough that they decide to break for the hallway. There is a noisy idiot with a knife, sure, but John puts a bullet in his temple before he can extend his elbow to thrust.

Outside, the copter is in position. Bill is hanging out the side, gun ready to give them cover.

It's when he turns back to signal that he sees Farid slumped on the wall. Blood is gushing from his throat. Fatal. Five seconds.

Colt is farther down the wall, a red stain painting over the sand-camo pattern. John blinks once, twice. There's movement from his left, enough that he dodges, but then—there—then the pain rips through his shoulder.

Through the fog of agony, John gazes into blue eyes that flash a smile. His gun slips from his fingers. It clatters to the floor. Like a madman, John stumbles toward the copter.

Around him, gunfire sings with laughter and snaps with death.

He thinks it's his own.

-

Molly Hooper gives him a tremulous smile before fixing her gaze determinedly on Mike Stamford as he explains John’s interest in the position. When she’s focused on Mike and not giving John the unsettling, querulous expression—he thinks she’s a fair-looking girl. But no, the nervousness kills it. If only she had more confidence.

“You’ve done surgery?” she asks finally.

“Loads. Treated bullets wounds on the spot. That sort of thing. Although I haven’t got the same coordination I once did.” He pats his shoulder.

“That’s alright. It’s not like you can kill them.” But then she clamps her hand over her mouth, embarrassed.

John laughs. “I could ask you to handle any tricky procedures.”

“Right.” Molly agrees. Her smile is more relaxed.

Five minutes later, he’s in HR and signing a stack of paperwork tall enough to make his shoulder ache.

-

On his third morning, John sees Molly frantically putting on lipstick. It’s not for him, because she glances up, her compact mirror ever-steady, and says, “Three new ones just arrived. One male. Two female. They’re in the fridge. I’ve already got their dentals running.” She goes back to tracing the line of her lips.

“So, who is he?” John leans forward with his chin on his fist.

This time, the lipstick goes under the table. “Who is who?”

“The bloke.” When Molly only blushes, John rolls his eyes and says, “It’s you, me, and a graveyard in here, Molly. Who is the bloke?”

“Oh, no one.” Molly picks up her lipstick again. “He doesn’t even notice me.”

She sounds so sad, and even if Molly has a few irritating quirks (just like everyone does), she’s been wonderful to John, patiently guiding him through every new procedure, answering his constant questions. This is why he says, “Chin up, doctor. I’m not sure it’s so bad as that. A man would have to be insane not to notice you.”

Molly’s answering smile is both hopeful and disbelieving.

Except that it’s all ruined when the morgue doors bang open and the insane man strides into the room.

Well, for starters, John has to give Molly some credit for having taste. The stranger marches up to the exam tables with long, self-assured paces. His very black posh coat and unruly hair contrasts sharply with his pale complexion and cat’s eye gaze. His focus is on the chart on the counter, not on Molly or John, and he brushes past them without so much as a “Wotcher” or a blink of acknowledgment.

Molly’s lips form a thin smile. “Hi, Sherlock.”

When the man doesn’t answer her (he’s frowning at the chart), Molly says, “We’ve three new bodies in.”

John cringes because hell, that’s not the best pick up line he’s ever heard, but the negative reaction he’s expecting never comes. Instead, Sherlock finally glances over at her. “You’re wearing lipstick.”

Molly’s fingers fly to her rouged mouth. “Just a bit.”

Sherlock jabs his finger at the chart. “The man they fished out of the Hyde Park fountain is Daniel Kher. Give me five minutes and I’ll have the other two.”

Molly nods unquestioningly before squaring her shoulders. “Maybe, you can tell me about them over coffee?”

Sherlock frowns. “No need. It’s obvious it’s him. The body has a wedding ring, including the soft callus on the palm to show that he always wore it. Married men don’t go unreported, so we have our limiting factors: male, British Indian, approximately 40 years old according to the dental records, married, and despite the water damage from the fountain, the body looks to be at least a month old. And since Daniel Kher is a British-Indian business man who went missing four weeks ago after a stint in Mumbai—we have our man.” Sherlock picks up his phone and starts texting. “Call his wife. She’ll be able to identify the body.”

John is impressed until the seriousness of the last line hits him. He doesn't know who this man thinks he is, but this is definitely not how they do things. He steps in front of the tall man, blocking him with a flat palm. “We can’t ask a woman who’s lost her husband to come in on the off chance that we’ve found her husband—not like that. We’ll need to run more tests first.”

Sherlock turns and stares at him for the first time. It’s unnerving to be under the gaze. “Iraq or Afghan—” he starts to ask but then he cuts himself off. “No, both.”

“Excuse me?”

“Molly, call the wife. You can google the phone number. They even have a hotline set up for the man.”

Sighing, Molly walks over to the computer.

“Why are you listening to him?” John feels a bit betrayed.

“Because he’s always right?” She grimaces apologetically.

“Rarely wrong,” Sherlock corrects, marching up to John. “There’s a difference. So what was a doctor doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan? Elsewhere, too, I think.”

He’s close enough that John can speak softly without Molly hearing. “You may have missed it before. Molly asked you out on a date. To drink coffee.”

“Not interested.” Sherlock sniffs and skirts past John. He’s headed for the fridge.

Molly meanwhile has picked up the phone and is saying, “He’s identifying the bodies now. … You told me to call. … Get here before he does it again.”

John suspects she’s talking to the police. He’s about to ask when there’s the unmistakable sound of the surgical saw winding up in the back room. “Is that—?” John asks.

“I hate it when he does this. Especially before lunch.” Molly sighs, and for some reason, doesn’t move or stand up, just stays on the phone.

Force of nature or not. Dismembering bodies is not okay. John races to the back. The door to the surgery opens to reveal Sherlock, wearing lab goggles and a mask, rotary-sawing right above Ms X's ankle. “Stop!” John calls, even as small bits of dead tissue begin flicking through the air.

Sherlock glances up, looks plaintively at John, and goes right back to his task.

Now, when someone’s holding a blade (any kind, whether it’s a flick knife, a cleaver, or as in this case, a surgical saw), the general rule is to never make sudden movements. Except that the military-part of John’s brain takes over. In one second he has the saw‘s cord yanked out of the wall socket, and in the next second, he has Sherlock’s wrist in a twist. When the maniac tries to struggle, John kicks his legs out from underneath of him. Sherlock plunges forward, over the very blue, stinky breasts of Ms X.

Sherlock attempts a back kick but John blocks the move. His training makes the move instinctual. Sherlock's fingers even extend far enough to scratch at John’s arm, but John doesn’t so much as budge.

“You are destroying evidence!” Sherlock snarls.

“Yes, I, the doctor assigned to this lab, was destroying evidence. You were filching her foot!”

Sherlock is quiet for a single, tense second before he demands, “Did my brother send you?”

“Your bro—there are more of you?”

Sherlock takes John’s moment of mental distraction to wiggle an elbow loose and in the general neighbourhood of John’s stomach.

It connects but John moves with the blow, swinging Sherlock off the dead body and slamming him against the wall.

This is when John realizes how tall Sherlock is. Looking down at him, Sherlock snarls. “Shove off.”

“Only if you promise to leave and not come back. Who the bloody hell just saws off a dead lady’s foot?”

“Someone not content with wasting valuable hours on useless tests and procedures!”

Their breathing is intense, and Sherlock is giving him a look that is part scrutiny, part something else. John would say it’s mental calculus, except that when Sherlock tries to slip his hand free, John catches it easily. Sherlock (though he lacks John’s training) has shown a basic knowledge of hand-to-hand, so it seems intentional then, when the move brings John closer to Sherlock. Close enough to feel that Sherlock is hard—as is John.

John doesn’t know what to think, because in part, he feels amazing. Alive. Enjoyment shouldn’t be a part of this, but his blood is singing from their fight. John’s muscles are tense, but he almost feels relaxed, and he hasn’t felt this way since Afghanistan.

That’s the only reason he has a hard-on, he tells himself. And yes, he is all ready to ignore it. Erections happen. But then the sound of hysterical laughter bursts from doorway

Both John and Sherlock turn to see Molly and a silver-haired man looking almost purple from the efforts of trying to hold their breaths.

Sherlock rolls his eyes before dramatically declaring, “Unhand me.”

John wants to. Especially now that they have an audience, but still. “Only if you promise to leave.”

“I require my foot.”

“You have two feet. That’s sufficient for most human beings.”

“There’s a fungal pattern around the toes that’s most typically found in a certain type of north English lake, not to mention the calluses on the heels, which are typical of a woman who wears workman’s shoes given the weight and depth of the rough tissue. The pinkie toe has been broken multiple times, and by the scratches on her leg—likely a poorly trained Border Collie given the height and depth—she’s some type of small rancher, but to be sure of what kind and where, I need to analyze the fungus.”

John can’t do much more than blink at the man.

Sherlock huffs, impatient, and calls to the silver-haired man. “Lestrade, he assaulted me. As that is a crime that even you can solve based on the apparent evidence, arrest him.”

Lestrade snorts. “I was actually kicking myself for having forgotten a camera. As it is now, I’m thinking Sally will probably pin a medal on him.”

Sherlock turns back to John. His pale eyes glare.

“No foot,” John repeats.

“Fine,” Sherlock says.

John’s not sure if he believes him, but he’s also a man who takes another at his word. He steps back, releasing Sherlock. “Now, leave.”

Sherlock, still pressed against the wall, crosses his arms and stares John down. He could not look more petulant as he says, “You are going to be a problem.”

Lestrade marches forward. “Like you aren’t.” He reaches out to shake John’s hand. “DI Gregory Lestrade.”

“Nice to meet you,” Johns says. “John Watson.”

“Military training there, yeah?” Lestrade looks impressed.

“I was in the field for seven years, so yeah.”

Sherlock has picked up a pair or forceps and is flexing them in and out with an aura of tedium. “Oh, pleasantries. There are murders—murders—to be solved, and instead we have to go through this social drivel.”

“He’s Sherlock Holmes,” Lestrade says with perfect patience, “and I’ll get him out of your hair.”

“Don't bother. I was on my way out,” Sherlock says, and before Molly or Lestrade or even John can say a word more, Sherlock sails from the room.

After a moment, John asks, “Is he always like that?”

Molly makes a soft snorting noise, but Lestrade looks contemplative. “Worse, actually. Have to say, it was a bit fun to see him after he’s been taken down a peg. That rarely happens. He actually did what you told him to.”

John frowns. “I don’t understand why you tolerate him.” Because yes, Sherlock Holmes is good looking. Yes, he’s posh and wicked smart, but no, the rest—the cruel disregard to lovely Molly and then Ms X's unlicensed amputation—those were not okay.

Lestrade shoves his hands in his pockets. “Because he is a genius who solves crimes that no one else can. He’s a ruddy blood hound when it comes to solving a mystery.”

“So, by that, you think he’ll be round again?” John leans back against the counter. “Molly, I know you like him alright, but he can’t be hacking off body parts as per his fancy. It’s not on.”

“He’ll be back. Sherlock always comes back.” Molly looks both fatally sad and happy as she says it.

Lestrade frowns. “Oh, fuck. Now that I think about it. John, check your wallet.”

“My wallet?” John reaches into his pocket to feel... nothing. “He stole my wallet!”

Molly and Lestrade turn and exchange a knowing look. In the next second, Lestrade’s phone buzzes. After he reads the message, Lestrade extends his mobile so that John can have a look:

Tell John Watson he lost his wallet in my hand.
Thankfully, it can be retrieved
at 221b Baker Street this evening
after dinner. And John, if you really want it,
you’ll bring me the foot. -SH