as a woman
as a woman
“How well do you know Colonel Sebastian Moran?” The inspector settles into his seat beside her, leaning back.
“Well… yes,” Joan says, eyelashes fluttering from under the weight of her memories.
Lestrade doesn’t say anything – he knows he doesn’t have to.
The good doctor pulls her lips back, trying to find the words in her mouth.
“He was my first friend,” she ventures, looking into a corner of the room. “He was the first person I remember meeting.”
“You grew up together,” Greg surmises with a nod. She answers back with a nod.
Joan takes another breath and tells him of the walks they took in their wellies and coats, of trees climbed, of the years worth of companionable silence stretching between them.
“He would always stick up for me,” she says, happening upon a memory where Seb, in a worn rugby jersey and battered boots, declared that she could play rugby better than the lot of you bastards.
“Did he have a temper then?”
“Of course he did,” Joan replies, a little too quickly, a little too honestly. “He always did. He was always patching holes in the walls or fixing doors or apologising. I used to wrap up his bloodied knuckles sometimes. My Mum was a nurse. I used to say that I’d make a good doctor. He’d tell me I already was one.”
Lestrade watches the former captain, swallowed by her jumper and coat, operating totally without sleep, worn down almost completely.
“We went on holiday when we were small – it was a complete mess, Seb’s father spent the whole time gambling. We ended up sitting on the jetty for a weekend, eating fish and chips. It could’ve been worse, but he wanted it to be better. After my father died, he was the first person to come up to me at school,” the good doctor skips through her memories, tripping over some of them.
“And then he went to Eton?” The inspector doesn’t pretend to hide his surprise, raised eyebrows and all.
“He went on some sort of a sporting scholarship,” Dr. Watson offers, by way of an explanation. “He hated it – he used to call and say that all anyone ever talked about was money. New money, old money, how much money they had. They were just young boys, so they wanted to be accepted, so they talked about money. It made him angry – Seb got into a lot of fights.”
“Then he enlisted right after school, did you ever see him when you were in Afghanistan?”
This interview isn’t formal. Greg’s already been demoted. But she answers his questions anyway.
“Yes. I did see him in Afghanistan.”
The silence after her statement almost swallows her up. They were supposed to enlist together – but she was a woman and she wanted to be a doctor. She’d have to come after him.
“I never saw him when I was in London again until he’d stepped out of a cobbled street and asked me to get into a van with him and put a bag over my head.” Joan wants to cry, but she’s too tired to. She remembers trying to look him in the eye, barely catching his gaze, mouth going dry at the weight of the jacket that stank of explosives.
Joan couldn’t see him, but she knew where he’d set up his kit. One of the best marksmen in the British army and his sightline trembled almost uncontrollably.
“What did Moriarty do to him?” Lestrade keeps an eye on her – she’s barely moved since the interview began, left hand clenched in her lap.
“I wish I knew. I think he thought Moriarty loved him. I think Seb thought he’d… found someone who understood him, who allowed to him to be himself,” she shakes her head in the deepest disbelief.
Joan’s features soften hopelessly. “He came and saw me after the funeral – he was so remorseful. He had no idea that Jim had a plan to shoot himself in the head. He apologised. Sebastian Moran apologised.”
Greg shakes his head, too, thinking he should change over his nicotine patch.
“And then he left,” she shrugs, defeated.
They end the interview, they’re both exhausted and try to go home to sleep and have a feeling they won’t.
Joan packs a bag the next morning and takes an early train out of King’s Cross. The hours melt into tunnels and the long gaps between them. It takes her all day.
He’s sitting at the end of the dock when she finds him. Dr. Watson sits down beside Moran, pulling the huge jacket around her.
“You’re late,” he starts, offering her the soggy, vinegar-soaked fish and chips in his lap. She declines.
“Hello to you, too. I had an appointment with Lestrade.”
“Oh? Is he the salt and pepper one? He’s a bit of alright, isn’t he?” Seb doesn’t quite grin, but he should have. “Was going to propose to you, you know.”
“When? You did a few times,” she replies.
“I was going to do it properly, with a ring ‘n’ all. Before I enlisted.”
She smiles. “Do you still have it?”
“Aye, ‘course I do. Somewhere,” he shrugs, massive, scarred shoulders falling clumsily. “Didn’t do it, though. Thought you deserved better.”
Joan rolls her eyes. “You’re an idiot.”
Sebastian produces a phone from his pocket and holds it out to her. “Press the wee magnifying glass. It’ll show you where he is. Location updates itself every eight minutes. Was supposed to wait for orders, but…”
Joan blinks, and takes the phone from his huge hand. “Berlin,” she breathes.
“Aye. Better get on it. He’ll be somewhere else tomorrow.”
Joan kisses his cheek, resting her face on his shoulder. “I would’ve said yes.”
“You’re too sentimental,” he smiles, his hand on her knee.
“I’ll see you later,” she promises, picking up her bag.
Joan’s long gone before Sebastian allows himself the luxury of crying.
Not much good rose out of my choice to do drugs, not much at all.
Greg’s marriage fell apart, Mycroft no longer spoke to him and John left.
He left for Afghanistan. (Or was it Iraq?)
The only person who came through it all, who stayed in London, was Molly.
Molly thrived. Despite the unrelenting shifts at the hospital, despite the quiet, accepted undercurrent of sexism that saw her ignored, despite the impossibility of passing exams, despite everything.
She cried, and sometimes she broke down, but she picked herself back up again in the figurative sense and she was alright. In her words, she managed.
She’s one of the best in her field now.
I called her a lot. I never had any idea what time it was, only that I was between fixes, or that I needed another fix, or that I was high.
I was high a lot.
Her father died during that time, too. I don’t actually know … when. Must’ve been somewhere between the double treatment centre and the hospital.
Her father passed away. John left. Greg stopped taking calls. Mycroft stopped making calls. And I was virtually homeless, wandering in and out of shelters and chewing on morphine patches during 12-step-meetings.
But Molly was resilient. She churned through cups of coffee and boxes of latex gloves and packs of post-it notes. She fell asleep on the bus, on the tube, at her desk. And all those people milling around her on the train or the bus or in the hospital, totally unaware of the strength of her spirit.
I’m sorry, Molly. I was so unkind to you.
You deserve the best out of all of us. You deserve to be happy.
(But can you help me write a letter to John, please? I don’t know where to start.)
(So this is part of a series and you can find part one right over here.)
“… so, hang on,” Joan starts, biscuit in her mouth and a mug in each hand. She passes one to Sherlock, and it gleams with the sugar. “Clara told me only time lords could fly the TARDIS?”
“… always 1895,” Sherlock mumbles under her breath.
“Sorry, what?” The captain asks, with a slight frown.
“Oh,” Sherlock shrugs dismissively and flicks a few switches. “Nothing.”
“… so, how come you knew all those things about the this ship before we were even in it?”
“Knew a man when I lived in Cardiff. He would keep finding things and bringing them to me. Said he would keep finding things in the rift. Talked about a little blue box that was bigger on the inside,” she looked down at Joan from underneath her lashes. “… didn’t actually believe him.”
“But you don’t know anything about space,” the soldier interjects, taking a mouthful of her tea and trying to find somewhere to sit down.
“Don’t need to. She … flies with the same direction and course as a honey bee. It seems aimless and mindless through this vast area but she’s following an instinct. A signal only she can feel because of the hormones and the chemical structure of her heart.”
“Chemical structure of her heart,” Joan echoes quietly. “Her. So it’s a girl, then.”
“Obviously,” the detective says, almost rolling her eyes.
Joan squares her shoulders and casts a measured eye over everything. “So do I tell you I love you and then you say that you know?” She smiles.
“Oh, nothing,” the doctor takes another mouthful of tea and finds her place beside the detective.
“… can I touch anything?”
“No,” Sherlock replies emphatically, taking large, long strides around the console.
“Not even that big friendly red button over there?” The former captain gestures to one with her mug.
“Especially not that big friendly red button over there,” the taller woman replies. And then, “what happened to Clara?”
“She went to find something and I think she got a bit lost,” Joan says with a loose shrug.
“TARDIS doesn’t like her,” Sherlock explains. “She knows it doesn’t trust her. So they have arguments.”
“Who’d have arguments with a machine?”
“She’s not a machine,” the detective says, with a certain warm bluntness particular to her. It makes Joan pause.
“…right. This is us, though. Finding a doctor. All of time and space, you said.”
And then came the answer, posed as a question.
“Where would you like to start?”
A crack of light slips through the gap in the door as Sherlock Holmes enters his flat.
He tugs at his scarf, and in a flourish of exposed neck and obscenely tight buttons, is entirely at home with his coat hung on the peg near the door. He can smell tea, strong, black, left steeping – no food. Jumper, baggy, not old, earrings left on the counter where she took them off, knee high rugby socks, Kings…This is what she wears when she feels like she’s home. Legs shaved — confidence increase, not to impress. But she’s turned her mug, pushed it away, she’s tired, restless, can’t find the right word.
He would have left her to her work, he’d already seen what was on her laptop – her password was startlingly obvious, but then he saw she was typing. His angular cheekbones slip close to hers as he reads. “Arrogant, imperious, rude? What happened to excellent, amazing, brilliant?” The question in his tone is almost playful, but his baritone is deep and thick like molasses.
Dr. Watson sits up taller when Sherlock returns, even though he brings the cold in with him. It’s an obscene hour — the sun will be up shortly, followed by the alarm set on her phone — but the last thing she feels like doing as he slips over to her is resting.
(So I totally forgot to add the fact that my lovely wife wrote the last paragraph here. She’s brilliant, and an excellent writer and an even better artist. You can find all of her work at artbyval.ca, or you can sift back through all of my posts and read all my stiflingly sweet comments about her. Whichever you prefer.)
Sherlock stands, statuesque in the middle of her flat and watches a police box materialise before her.
Perhaps the Metropolitan Police force or Scotland Yard weren’t as useless as I thought.
Her ears grow accustomed to the singular, dissonant scrape of the little blue box come to land.
A young woman flings open the door to the TARDIS, and sticks her head out of it, dark hair swinging out underneath her earlobes.
“Hi, uh,” she steps out cautiously, wearing a fit-and-flare tartan collared dress with neatly-styled dark stockings underneath. “You haven’t seen a woman come through here have you? Quite tall, very, uh, eccentric, wearing a suit, bow tie, big chin?”
“No,” Sherlock says, tone thick with honesty. “But I’d wager you’ll be needing my help.”
The young woman tilts her head in not-so-quiet consideration. “Uh, yeah. Help might be really good, actually. TARDIS is being a bit stubborn.”
Behind them come the steadily advancing steps of the good Doctor Watson, hauling up bags of shopping.
“Watson,” Sherlock calls over her shoulder, without removing her gaze from the little blue box. “We have a case.”
“Oh yeah?” Joan says, finally looking up, wrists red from the plastic bags.
“… bloody hell,” she breathes, setting the shopping down on the table and wandering over. “S’this, then?”
The former soldier turns her face to Sherlock, as she always does when she’s looking for answers.
“It’s a TARDIS. Stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It’s one of the remaining advanced pieces of Time Lord technology and can transport pilot and passengers to any point of time and space in the universe. It has a chameleon circuit allowing it to blend in with its surroundings and a translation system based on telepathy,” Sherlock takes a few long, leggy strides and opens the door, turning her chin back over her shoulder.
“Oh there’s one more thing,” the detective says.
“It’s bigger on the inside,” the former captain remarks, smiling up at the young girl in front of her.
Hello, yes, I’m Joan Watson and this is my terribly rude colleague Sherlock Holmes. Yeah she’s the only one in the world, yeah. Oh, reminds you a bit of her, does it? Is that…who we’re looking for, then?
“Yes, Clara, what exactly happened? You can tell us on the way. Do close the door, please, Watson.”
“Ah, well, it’s all a bit complicated, but I lost my doctor.”
“Lost your doctor?” Sherlock echoes, raising a delicate, aristocratic eyebrow. “Well, then, that is very careless of you.” The taller woman touches the ship’s controls with alarming familiarity, coat catching the wind as she spins.
“Is there any tea on this space ship?” Joan calls, ever hopeful. Clara, spritely as ever, leaps forward to help but isn’t sure if they won’t get lost on the way.
The question causes Sherlock to smile in the corner of her mouth, in the corner of her mind.
She settles beside the centre console, puts the TARDIS on-course, lets her fingers fall into a pyramid and waits.
(So this is the first part of a series of posts that I’ll be doing over the next few days. I might post something in between, but I will finish them so don’t panic. I’m not sure how long they’ll be, or how many of them there will be. But I’ll put them all together and I hope you like reading them as much as I like to write them.)
(… so part two is done, and you can find it right over here.)
Sherlock approaches the dark figure on the rooftop, her long legs obscured by a long coat.
“So if you’re not with the Met, or MI6, or a spook, does this count as a kink?” Her breath pools across her cheekbones, spilling out into the air.
“Is this what you like?”
Joan ignores her reflexes and relies on her training. Twisting like a falling cat, she hastily stashes all of her gear in jacket pockets and is on her feet within seconds. And the soldier runs, staying low, until she has one hand on the rooftop wall, about to vault over the side of the building.
She only takes seconds to look back at the other woman, breath caught in her shemagh and goggles glinting in the dark, before leaping onto the fire escape below.
Sherlock speaks after a moment.
“… oh, but I do love it when they run.”
(Ah, ah, ah. Bollocks. I … totally had to edit this bit in, actually. The Watson-parts of this evening’s post were in fact, written by my wife. She’s a brilliant author and a beautiful artist and a wonderful human being and I would be entirely lost, a lot more bemused and rather lonely without her.
You can find her work at artbyval.ca. And ta very much to her. Yes. Alright. That’s done.)