Through the Scope
Disclaimer: stares:: ::blinks:: ::stares again:: Yeah. I still don't own anything…but, you knew that from the stares, right?
Summary: Booth thinks about his life as a soldier and a sniper. Set sometime during the middle of season 5. One-shot. Complete.
When people ask me what it was like, all I can do is shake my head and nod and smile as I tell them that it was and is both a pleasure and an honor to be able to serve my country.
I have to tell them that, though, don't I? After all, even if it's true, it's not like I can tell them the truth…even if what I've told them is only part of the truth.
The job I do has never been an easy one. I take comfort and pride from a job and a duty well done―no matter if I'm doing my job as a soldier, a sniper, or an FBI agent.
I say that like my time as a soldier and a sniper are two different, if related things, but they're really not. My life as a solider and as a sniper can never be separated―no, not really.
I do that. I have to. I protect and serve. Twelve years and thirteen days of service. I lasted through a single PR slogan that the Army used when I was recruited…I was all I could be. Since I've left, they've had two more slogans which the recruiting offices and PR guys use…they've already gone from an 'Army of One' to 'Army Strong.' Now that I'm on the outside (at least, as much on the outside as a guy like me can ever be), I can't help but have a bit of curiosity as to how long the new slogan will last―and when it doesn't last as long as everyone thought it would, then what'll come next.
Normally, I don't like to think about these things. They're over and done, in the past, and there's rarely any good reason to look back. I'd be lying if I said I leave each moment of my time in the service wrapped up in these nice and neat pristine white cardboard boxes wrapped up in bright red boxes. No, the boxes are much more dirty and dingy―worn, battered, and often left behind because I abandoned them by sheer necessity…not because I had any choice in the matter. You do that―you have to do that when you've done what I've done, what I had to do. There's no other way to survive…err, at least, to keep your sanity and survive.
You gotta see…when I was in the zone…when I was on a mission, it was like it was another me altogether. During those times, I wasn't an individual. I was simply part of a larger organism. We had a job to do, and we would do it.
It didn't matter where we were. It didn't matter if I was hunkered down in the scratchiness of the burning sands while I was wearing desert camo fatigues with the scorching sun beating down on me…or if I was set up in the swamp wearing mud-splattered woodland camo fatigues with bugs biting some random part of my body as I watched and waited. That was my job, after all―I was supposed to watch, wait, and when the time came, to take aim and pull the trigger.
My riffle almost wasn't a piece of equipment during those moments. No, instead it was like it was a part of me, just a normal extension of my body. Once I was in position, I'd watch and wait, as cool and calm and precise as possible in my stance. My spotter would be next to me, and he's the only thing I was vaguely aware of aside from the target and waiting for the word to be given.
And, once the word was given, it was as if this part of myself that wasn't me―it was just this combination of raw skill, honed instinct, and perfected training―well, that took over. My rational mind disappeared while I did what I had to do, looking through the scope, until the job was done.
The colors were different, depending on when and where I was. Sometimes the colors are the only thing that stick in my mind as I look back…the green of the nightvision goggles…the red of the laser scope…the simultaneous brightness and darkness red of the blood.
There was always blood, you know….
But, it's not like I could think about that then, now, could I?
Instead, I did what I had to do to get to where I needed to go to make certain the job was done even if I had to leave my position to make certain I carried out my orders.
Quiet. Step. Move.
One step forward.
Stealth. I had to move without moving.
Listen, look, point.
I lead with my scope, see with a different set of eyes…eyes that aren't human.
The order was given, and so I do what I have to do―I fire.
I can't stop to think about what happens to the target―because that's all they are when I pull the trigger. They're not people, they don't have lives and families when they're my target. I only fire when I must. When I'm told by those who are smarter and higher up on the food chain than I am to do my job. I trust that…I trust the process. I trust the chain of command. It lets me see people as targets to do what I need to do. That's why, when the target falls, after I've pulled the trigger as I stare intently through the scope, I don't feel a twinge of pain or regret at the loss. I only see the target go down. Sometimes it's quiet when a life is snuffed out―a life under ordinary circumstances that I might feel guilty about if I thought of them as anything but a target to be taken out. They're not even people anymore...not at that point―just things. Just a target. The target is hit―in the head, in the heart. Sometimes they're so quiet but for the small expulsion of breath―probably more surprise than from pain―when they're hit. And, sometimes they're so loud, that if my rational brain was in control of my body, I'd never be able to erase the screams from my mind if I was close enough to hear them, and I stayed long enough after the trigger had been pulled. I rarely could separate the sounds the target made when they were hit from the sound the bullet made once it had left my riffle.
Not a bang, not like when I fire my Glock in the field today. Not a traditional bang, bang, bang―just a single crack.
Usually, at least. If I've got to take more than one shot, I know I'm in deep shit unless there's multiple targets.
The air around us would shatter as I complete the task that had been set in motion by the act of the word having been given.
Splintering wood. Breaking glass. The tiny brass of the spent shells hitting the ground beside me.
The sounds varied, but they were always there―just like the blood.
That's one stereotype, unfortunately, that's true. There's always…always there's blood. Sometimes it's a little, sometimes it's a lot. It just varies from target to target. I don't always get a chance to see which it is―as a matter a fact, I rarely do since I'm usually on the way to my next target as soon as I've confirmed the kill. After all, that's what a sniper does…we kill from a distance. Our kills aren't personal―or, at least, they aren't supposed to be. It's just a job, after all.
The guys I was with―it didn't matter which time, because, in some ways, they were all the same even though we were all so different―each one of us carried something…a piece of home to get us through until we got back home. Everybody carries something. For one staff sergeant that I was with through two tours, it was a braided lock of his wife's hair. Another specialist kept a photo of his baby girl taken on the day of her christening. Some of the more green rookies kept the stereotypical rabbit's foot or a lucky key chain. For me, at first, it was a prayer card that my grandmother gave me before I went off to basic. Later, when I left for my first overseas tour, Pops gave me a saint's coin. My mom had given it to my dad before he left for Vietnam. It's this pewter coin, about the size of a half-dollar piece. Pops told me she choose one with the image of St. Michael on it because St. Michael is not only the most powerful of archangels, but also because he's the patron saint of warriors. When my dad came home―seemingly in one piece―he gave it back to her, and it renewed her faith in its powers. That's why, Pops said, she carried it with her while she did her own battles as the years went by…giving birth first to me and then to Jared. When she died, she kept it with her until the end…that is until she asked Pops to give it to me when 'the time was right' because she knew it would 'keep him safe' just like it had my father before me. I've kept it with me ever since…every morning I wake up, get dressed, and get ready to go to work, and I always make certain I have five things with me before I leave the house―badge, gun, keys, cell phone…and my St. Michael coin in my pocket. I hadn't realized it until Bones asked about it one day…I guess when I fidget, I play with it. I don't know when that started since I've never been the nervous kind―after all, what kind of sniper would I be if I had an itchy trigger finger? I may have that now, but I didn't always. I don't think I started to get nervous and fidget until after I met Bones, because I don't ever remember having anything to be that nervous about…but, that's another story for another time.
Now, well now…things are different. I'm out, not in…but it's not like it's something I can forget. The one thing that I think I remember most is what I thought about the most while I was gone―home.
Every time I went downrange, like most of the guys I was with, I only wanted to know one thing―when I would be coming home. For me, home really only meant one thing―coming home to me my little boy. I have a son. He's just a child now. When he grows up, I don't know what he'll do. Maybe he'll choose to serve his country like I did…like his uncle and grandfather and great-grandfather did. Or, maybe he'll choose to serve it another way―taking a job in law enforcement…or, God forbid, maybe even becoming a squint. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if he chooses something that I haven't even thought of since I'm not really good at thinking about these kinds of things. It doesn't matter what he chooses, really, so long as what he does makes him happy, and he does whatever job he chooses to the best of his ability with pride and honor.
Hopefully, that's the one thing he can take away from everything I've done in the world. I did what I did with pride and honor because it was both a duty and privilege to be able to do what I did. I served my country―I still do.
And, in the end, when all is said and done, even now―I still take some measure of comfort from that fact. At least, on most days, I do because it's not like I have much of a choice in the matter even if I didn't feel that way. I did what I had to do, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But, even still…
Shaking my head, I smile and nod and merely say it was and is both a pleasure and an honor to be able to serve my country.
Author's Note ― No, for those who are wondering…you read the author credit right. I actually did write this piece, all by my widdle-self, no co-author credit applicable. I know this isn't the normal fare that most reader's expect from me. After all, solider!Booth is the well-known specialty of my well-known partner-in-crime… (and, I am by no means horning in on her territory, although hopefully she's pleasantly surprised and not annoyed by my foray into her part of our joint sandbox), but I was recently inspired to write this piece. On a personal note to you know who: you see what happens when flying monkeys leave their partners-in-crime unattended? ::blinks:: Anyway, I'd love to know how everyone felt when they read this since it's a piece that's so far afield from my normal Brennan-y comfort zone. So, if you think it's worth a mention―well, I'd love to know what everyone thinks. Many thanks in advance.~