indubitably, dear watson

In another life, Joan Watson thinks she could have made a good soldier. She can see herself now, prowling around the bloodied sands of whatever country (probably Afghanistan…Western Europe loved to go to war with Afghanistan). Of course, in that life she'd have had the good sense to be born with a penis.

As it stands, she and her uterus chose medicine.

Not, she thinks as she looks down at the open chest in front of her, that there isn't a certain similarity. New York City was not exactly known for its low crime rate.

She puts her hand into the man's chest and pulls out the bullet.

"Gotcha," she says, and reaches for her scalpel.

.x.

"I think you do it for the thrill," her brother John says over dinner, chin on the palm of his hand. His roommate and unofficial boyfriend—because they are all still pretending John is straight, ignoring the hearts in his eyes so hard they're going to sprain something—is flirting with the waiter by the bar. He does that sometimes. It's some weird passive-aggressive thing that they do. Joan doesn't really get it.

"What thrill?" Joan asks, taking a long swig of her beer. She flexes her hand against the glass. "One man rips another man open, I sew him back together. It's actually a little repetitive."

John laughs. "Yeah, because being the sole woman surgeon in New York's best hospital is a regular walk in Park Slope."

"Park Slope?" asks Joan, "Jesus, be a little more of a ho . . ." she clears her throat. "Whole-hearted New Yorker, is where I was going with that."

"And all those free hours you put in moonlighting at the clinic?" John adds, ignoring her. "You do that because . . .?"

"I like helping people."

John snorts. "Liar. You hate people. You're more anti-social than the unibomber."

"Being anti-social and hating people are completely different. I don't hate people; I just don't like spending time with them."

"Which totally explains why you get four hours of sleep a night putting your hands inside of peoples' body cavities," John agrees dryly.

Joan sighs, shrugs. She takes another swig of beer and flexes her hand again. When they were little, she'd fallen off their roof and put her hand through a fence, tearing the nerves. The doctors had said she'd never recover full use of her fingers, but even at ten Joan had said: fuck doctors. It still hurts when she remembers to think about it.

"Right," says Joan. "That's my cue. If I leave now, I can still get three hours."

"You're going to kill yourself," John calls after her as his roommate Benedict—and who names their child Benedict and doesn't expect a raging homosexual, honestly—stumbles back to the table and promptly falls asleep on his shoulder.

"Not if I kill you first," she shouts back.

.x.

Only: she does need more sleep. Joan knows this. But say what you want about gender equality, she is making seventy-seven cents to the dollar of her male colleagues, and she's better than them, damnit. She takes on full hours at the hospital and then finished up at the clinic, digging out bullets and rearranging peoples' insides, so that when she comes in the next day and that douchebucket Darrell says, 'I had the most delicious lobster dinner last night,' she can smile through her teeth and say, 'Really? How nice for you.'

She doesn't tell him that she sewed together fifty-six stab wounds and the victim lived, asshole. She doesn't tell him that she's running on a hundred and twenty minutes of sleep and six coffees. She doesn't tell him because she doesn't have to tell him, because she does these things to prove that she's better. Whether or not he knows it doesn't make a difference—she does.

And anyway, she likes the practice. She likes the panic and the every second counting, she likes that every operation is a fucking emergency. It makes her better. It makes her faster. It makes her stronger.

It makes her a goddamn shoe-in for Chief of Surgery, and she knows it, and the resigning Chief knows it, and that smug shit Darrell knows it.

She goes back to her terrible apartment in Bushwick and kicks her TV until it shows a grainy picture. Thousand-dollar pantsuits hang in the closet, but she can't afford to get herself into Manhattan. Better to dress the part and live next to a pot dealer than dress from Macy's and live closer to work. Nobody sees her apartment, after all.

There's a knock on her wall. "Yo, JW. Turn that shit up. I haven't heard Boston Legal in forever."

Joan rolls her eyes, but leans forward and ups the volume. "Don't call me JW, Mikey," she calls back. She can smell the marijuana smoke from here. "And breathe out the window, Jesus."

Mikey laughs. "Sure thing, JW. Hey, do you think I could use your apartment tomorrow? My folks are coming into town next week, and I got to keep the mushrooms by the window. Shit can't grow without a little sunlight once in a while."

"Alternatively, you could stop growing mushrooms, you fucking hippie," she shouts. "And no. You can't."

"Aw, JW—"

"I said no, Mikey."

"All right, all right. But when the Pops cuts me off and kicks my ass—"

"I'll sew you up."

Mikey sighs loudly from the next room. "You suck, JW."

"Get a job, hobo."

.x.

The Chief's last workday is that Wednesday. Joan wears her most expensive suit and high heels, which is a ridiculous requirement, but hey, that's the price of having a vagina. If she's going to be good at her job, she has to either be fat or perfect, and Joan was born with a hell of a metabolism.

At the reception, her phone rings. It's Mikey.

"Fuck shit fuck, JW," he says into the found, shouting over the sound of sirens, "fuck shit fuck, I am so sorry, fuck," and she asks, "What the hell, Mikey, what's wrong?"

"The apartment, Joan, the apartment," says Mikey, and then, "I know you said I couldn't use yours, but—"

And Joan hangs up the phone.

.x.

She doesn't get the position. Of course she doesn't. How could she, when her apartment building burned down and a dealer's-worth of drugs were found shoved into her closet—the closet with the thousand-dollar suits and Jimmy Choo heels that don't belong in Bushwick?

She explains to the police, Mikey explains to the police, everyone explains to the police, and she is a surgeon, damnit, she doesn't have fucking time to grow mushrooms and sell pot, yes she knows it looks suspicious but—

Either way, it doesn't matter. Lennox Hill Hospital can't afford to have a Chief of Surgery with that sort of stain on their reputation, surely she understands; they're proud to call Darrell fucking Grimmauld their new Chief, they expect great things—

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck," screams Joan, and doesn't hand in a resignation letter, she burns it on their fucking desks.

"So, ummmm," says John, sitting on his counter while she makes up his futon like a bed, "now is maybe not the best time to say—"

"I know you fucking told me so," she snarls, and he pours himself another glass of wine.

.x.

Joan isn't exactly one to mope, but she spends an entire week on John's futon getting wasted with Benny on rosé and—when they run out of it—shitty tequila that they buy in the Chinese convenience store across the street.

Eventually, John unplugs the TV and says: "First of all, you're buying me eight new bottles of rosé, that shit is expensive, secondly, Benedict, you're an enabler and tell your mother to stop calling me at work, and thirdly, Joanie, I got you a job."

She blinks up at him from underneath her unwashed hair. Yes, she is being childish. No, she does not give a fuck, thank you very much. "A job?" she asks, as if she doesn't know what it is. "A job? Really? Can I make upwards of $100,000 a payday and put peoples' insides back where they belong? No? They don't give those jobs to suspected drug dealers? Well, fuck you, then."

John just looks at her for a long time. She sighs. "All right then, what's the job?"

"Consultant to a crazy person," John says, "did I mention it includes room and board?"

.x.

Joan moves into 221 Baker Street on a Tuesday. Sherlock Holmes is waiting for her in the living room with his fingers steepled and his eyes like a creepy hawk.

"Joan Watson," he says by way of greeting. "Formerly Joan Watson, MD, of Lennox Hill. Suspected of cultivating hallucinogenic fungi and selling marijuana. How's your hand?"

She drops her suitcase by the door. "My hand?" she asks, unamused.

"The right one. It hurts sometimes."

"You've been talking to John."

"Your brother? The homosexual?"

"He's not . . ." Sherlock raises an eyebrow. "All right, fine. But how did you-?"

"The same way I know that I'll be keeping the key for the liquor cabinet in my room, instead of in yours, and that you've filed insurance claims for your clothes but not your apartment. I observe."

"I'm getting around to the apartment, fuck you very much," Joan says defensively, but she peers a little closer. "So what am I doing here, exactly?"

She wants to get him talking. Joan cuts to the heart of people using a scalpel and her fingers; Sherlock Holmes does it with his eyes and sharp tongue. "Apparently, I am a crazy person," he tells her flatly, "but I am also more intelligent than the entire NYPD, and my landlady says that I need to pay rent, so. Here you are. Any more stupid questions?"

Joan grins. She flexes her hand. "Yeah," she says, "where's the bathroom?"

.x.

Between the first day and their first case, Joan almost moves out twice. Sherlock refuses to keep bread in the house, because he finds it annoying; he never opens the shades, because the sunlight dulls his senses; he uses the bathroom when she is in the shower and doesn't knock, ever.

But. But. But.

He also: is really competitive at Connect Four, which, okay, Joan? Kicks fucking ass at, because you don't get through med school without learning how to connect fucking dots. He randomly barges into her room with a dead rat or a dismembered hand and asks her to dissect it. He watches Boston Legal with her and solves all the crimes within the first minute and a half, but afterwards bothers her about what's happening in the autopsies. He's like a brain puzzle she's not allowed to stop playing.

When Detective Lestrade—a short-ish, round-ish man with a constant, dry-humored grin and soft wrinkles around his eyes—finally comes to call, Sherlock looks out of the peephole and then spins around, back flat against the door. He pats his hair down.

"A case!" he cries in a whisper. "Finally." He scowls abruptly. "If this is another boring murder, I swear I'll—"

"Let me in, Holmes," Lestrade calls from the other side of the door. "I know you're interested, stop playing coy."

"Coy?" Holmes mouths at her, affronted, and Joan rolls her eyes from the couch.

"Open the fucking door, Sherlock," she tells him flatly.

"He called me coy," Sherlock hisses.

"He also said he had a case," she reminds him. He scowls, but turns the handle.

Lestrade comes in. "Right," he says cheerfully, "found this guy, dead, no idea how, but his arms were—"

Joan leaps off the couch and snatches the photo from Lestrade's hand. She puts her hand to her mouth and tries not to vomit.

"Who are you, and what's wrong?" Lestrade asks. "Do you know this man?"

Joan hands the photo back and goes to grab her jacket. "It's Mikey," she says, and Sherlock reaches for his scarf.