A Day's Work
Author: Lady Sam Mallory
Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me.
Special Thanks to my Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. For my beautiful friend, Heather, whose incredible command of the English language allows her to provide me with individually needed words at a moment's notice.
Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, Some violence, and usually a bit of colorful language.
Author's Comments: This is the first of a two part series each of which can stand alone.
There is a reference to a timeline in the story that I want to explain. War has changed so extensively over the past 40 years or more. When a soldier was wounded in Korea or Vietnam, the medical corp had what they called "the golden hour" in which to treat the patient. Most patients who died did so within the first hour of being wounded. Unfortunately, the advent of more destructive IED's and other mechanizations for war has cut that number significantly. It is now referred to as "the platinum ten." Ten minutes is the number by which injuries are ruled. This significant drop decreases the likelihood of a wounded soldier surviving if he/she doesn't receive treatment in that first ten minutes.
I would like to thank all the men and women who give of themselves to serve their country-both U.S. and British soldiers as well as the many others that give their lives or a part of themselves to keep this world safe.
The artillery deafens John as he races to pull the wounded soldier from the direct line of fire. "You're okay," he comforts as he extracts the field dressing and gets down to work.
"You!" he shouts, pointing to another soldier crouching nearby, then recognizes the kid as he turns towards him. "Parker, get over here. I need your hands."
Parker crawls over, keeping low to the ground, his gun at the ready, "Yeah, doc. What can I do?"
The soldiers of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers had learned long ago not to mess with Dr. Watson. 'Do what he tells you and you'll make it home' was the first sentence the Major had told him when he first arrived.
"Put pressure here. No…like this. Push really hard. It's going to hurt him, but if you don't do it, he'll die," John instructs the soldier firmly.
"He's fighting me, sir," Parker complains to John while he's pulling out additional pressure bandages. "Yeah, I know he's fighting you. It hurts like hell. Use these. Push harder, kid. He's going to bleed out. "
John turns and rakes through his medic bag again pulling out the saline and morphine.
He gives the kid a jab of morphine, which settles the kicking and screaming injured soldier immediately. "Talk to him, Parker. Name's Jack," John orders rushing to start the I.V. and antibiotics as well as stabilize the kid, hearing Parker's rumbling words.
He lifts the pressure dressing. "Okay, Parker, back off a bit. Give me some room, but don't let go of his hand," he commands then starts rooting around in the wound for the bullet. "Sod it! It's to deep," he tells himself as he talks through procedures he's done too many times.
"Get me a stretcher here! Come on! Move it!" John yells out and is rewarded instantly.
"On my count. Three. Two. One," John counts down and they move the bleeding kid onto the stretcher.
John moves on to the next wounded kid.
God, when will this damned war end?
Suddenly, someone grabs his arm and drags him to another blown apart kid. "You gotta save him, you just gotta," another soldier cries out to him. "He's my best friend."
John sighs and wipes the sweat from his blue grey eyes, "See what I can do, kid, okay?"
He drops exhaustedly to his knees and checks for a pulse. Nothing.
Shit, kid's gone. How many is this today?
He glances left realizing that the kid has stopped talking; stopped begging him to save his best friend. That kid's dead too. His glassy brown eyes look up at him, his mouth stretched in a silent scream.
"Fuck!" He yells at the top of his lungs throwing his medic bag onto the hot, dry sand, falling to his knees with grief. "Why the hell am I here if I can't save these damn kids?"
Parker grabs his shoulder. "Sir?"
John takes a deep breath, "Sorry, kid. Just needed to get that out. You got another one for me?"
"Sorry, sir," Parker apologizes as he leads him to his hopefully last patient before dust off.
John glances at his watch. It feels like he's been here forever, but in actuality hardly any time has passed at all. He's so tired of wading through blood all day. He takes a deep breath and focuses on his next patient.
The kid has a leg wound. He gives him a jab of morphine then settles to take a look at the damage. He should make it, but damn…
"Parker, hold this now!" John yells grabbing the tourniquet and tying it tightly around the kid's thigh. "Shit! Kid's bleeding out. Must have hit the femoral. God, his leg's a mess…"
John blows out a breath and makes the toughest decision of any doctor's life. The deafening sounds of ordinance crash all around them.
"Parker, listen to me. We have to take the leg. Get on the radio. Get me Murray, now!" He demands as he continues to mop up the blood and prep the area where he'll need to cut.
Bill Murray, his nurse and close friend for many years, runs up as he finishes getting himself ready. "Get the Celox ready, Bill. We're gonna have to be quick. Shit, too much blood. Damnit, Bill, clean this up. I can't see what I'm doin'," John orders before his friend's knees even hit the sand.
Bill hurries to comply and readies the rest of the equipment. Parker jumps up and switches positions to lay pressure out on the shoulders and keep him flat. Another soldier takes residence at Parker's shoulder to protect them from fire.
"Sod it! Bennett, get your ass over here and help us. Hold his left leg down. I don't need to take a boot to the head. Come on, move it!" John yells as Bill finishes lying out everything, they'll need.
"Parker, give me a timeline," John barks out at the young man who glances down at his watch without changing positions. "5 minutes, sir," he reports only to have John and Bill cursing simultaneously.
"Let's do this. Everybody, ready?" John asks. "Do not let go of this kid, soldiers. You let him go, he's dead," John reminds them as he ducks against the spray of sand being kicked up by the hail of bullets falling all around them.
"Jesus, that was close," John whispers, then checking on his men to make sure that they are ready, he says a quick prayer and prepares to begin.
Both soldiers blanch and lean harder on the kid they were trying to save.
"Ready, doc," they all agree and reply as one unit, sand flying all around them.
John works quickly and efficiently cutting away the soldier's mangled leg in favor of saving his life. "Got it," he yells tossing the lower right leg to the side. "Celox now."
He starts to wrap it in the specialized gauze designed to stem blood flow. "That got it!" Bill yells as the Chinook lands to take the kid to the field hospital. "Blood pressure is stabilizing. Damn fine job, John," he congratulates the exhausted doctor.
Continuous fire has about frayed their nerves as Parker pulls up his weapon to defend them. He crouches to provide cover as John drops forward to protect his patient.
"Come on, guys. I didn't just cut off this kid's leg so that he could die now," he gasps, his breath wheezing in and out of his lungs.
Several soldiers load the kid onto a stretcher running toward the chopper which takes off as soon as the kid is on board. Parker looks down at John still leaning forward, "Sir, we need to pull back. The insurgents are moving in on this position."
He lowers his hand and pulls John up only to see the doctor's eyes widen with extreme pain.
"Fuck that hurt, Parker!" John cries out.
Parker takes less than half a second to catch up. "Murray, doc's hit," he yells, pulling the doctor's arm across his back and starting to run as the insurgents begin to advance further on their position. Bill braces John from the other side trying to guard his wounded shoulder as much as possible.
They run for what seems like forever to John before they stop and drop into the sand, half dead from the sheer effort it takes to move.
Bill is cursing at him. "John, you stupid son of a bitch. You knew you were hit before that chopper lifted off," he accuses, spitting the words at John as he shoves a pressure dressing down onto the wound making John cry out in mind shattering pain.
"Kid woulda died, Bill," John chokes out. "Couldn't take…more time."
Bill shakes his head practicing a bit of angry medicine; he pushes the dressing down even harder causing John to groan and gasp for breath. "Hope he appreciates it! Collarbone's broken too, John. Shit, I hope we aren't pushing fragments around. John, I swear when you get better, I'm gonna kick your bloody arse."
Parker provides cover while Bill pulls out the morphine. "Not 'til the safe zone," John reminds him through gritting teeth.
"You're seriously pissing me off, John," Bill warns as he ties down the bandages and shoves two paracetamol down John's parched throat. He forces the swallow manually when John doesn't have enough strength to get the job done.
"I'm giving you a shot of antibiotics," Bill announces not waiting for the doctor's permission before cursing, "Shit, we used the last bit on that kid. Damnit! Parker, you gotta a kit?"
"No, sir. It was used up hours ago," Parker informs the nurse tightly.
John groans as they pull him up to move once more.
Parker apologizes, "Sorry, Captain, but we're two klicks from the RV. You hold on!"
John's pain riddled brain automatically translates the RV to Rendezvous Point, then everything becomes muddled as they run up another sand covered hill.
John realizes that he is slowing them down, "Leave…me. Losing…blood. Losing… conscious…"
"Like hell, sir," Parker informs the doctor firmly.
"What he said," Bill parrots. "We gotta stop again. He's bleeding pretty bad."
They lower John gently to the ground, although it doesn't feel like it to him. Bill pushes another pressure bandage onto the one already there. "Hopefully, not removing the bandages will help prevent infection," he announces to the barely conscious doctor.
"Please God, let me live," John prays, his eyes threatening to roll back into his head as he fights the pain and nausea and tries to help them.
"Last bandage. We gotta hit that RV now," Bill informs Parker as they drag the doctor's seemingly lifeless body across the scalding sand.
"We're just about there, sir," Parker assures them, then points out the waiting chopper.
They push themselves harder than they ever thought possible and collapse a few meters from the chopper, brought down by John Watson's complete loss of consciousness.
Sherlock bolts up in the bed when he hears John scream.
Not even bothering to grab his dressing gown, he vaults from the bed and up the stairs to John's room.
He should have known this would happen tonight. After all, he had seen one of the men he had saved in Afghanistan at the market today.
"John, you're home," he reminds the sweating doctor writhing beneath the bed sheets.
He reaches forward and turns on the light at the bedside. His eyes take in every single fact he sees.
John is not doing well.
Pink furrowed scar
This last startles him because, while he has seen John in so many stressful events over the past 15 months and 12 days, he has never seen him cry.
"John!" He calls loudly, remembering that John has warned him not to touch him when he has nightmares or a PTSD episode.
"Wake up now, John. You are home," Sherlock tries one last time, before deciding to chance it and reaches for the shaking man.
Sherlock steps back as John springs up, his Sig Sauer firm in his hand.
Not realizing that Sherlock is there, John folds in on himself and begins to cry in earnest, the gun rubbing against the side of his head as he rocks back and forth.
Sherlock's eyes widen as he realizes he doesn't know what to do; however, a most likely loaded gun that close to his friend's head is completely unacceptable regardless of who is handling the weapon at the time.
"Nightmare?" he whispers to the devastated man before him, reaching for the weapon slowly.
John startles turning the gun on the unsuspecting detective.
Sherlock holds his hands up in submission, "Hello, John."
John shakes his head, looks at the gun, and carefully places it on the bedside table.
"God, Sherlock. You could have been shot," John recognizes and bringing his knees up, he folds over to rest his head on them, his hands holding tightly to the back of his head. He blows out his breath, then inhales deeply trying to rid himself of the excess adrenaline currently flooding his system.
"I know with absolute conviction that my safety was of the utmost importance to you," Sherlock assures his friend.
John shakes his head disbelievingly. "That makes one of us," John replies on a huff of breath.
"Afghanistan or one of the plethora of other materials to choose from?" Sherlock inquires quietly.
John smiles uncertainly at his friend. "Sorry I woke you up. Was I yelling?" He asks still trying to come down off the adrenaline.
"Undoubtedly because you have lead a disturbingly adventurous life," Sherlock informs John matter of factly.
John barks out laughter and then cannot stop. At first, he is horrified by the turn of events, but eventually realizes that his body requires the cathartic release.
"Afghanistan," he answers when he catches his breath. "I thought I was going to die there."
Sherlock shudders uncontrollably. "I am very pleased that you did not, John. Were you dreaming about the ones you lost this time or your own injury?"
John shivers answering, "Both. It was actually at the end of a day's work that I was shot."
"I had just amputated a kid's leg," he starts quietly, pausing with the remembered horror of those moments when he was forced to do the unthinkable to save a life.
"It was the only way to save his life. The chopper took him and I was hit. We had to hike out several klicks to the next Rendezvous Point, and I had a bullet in my shoulder," John reminisces sadly.
Sherlock pauses to digest the information he has been given, then reaching a decision shares what he has gleaned from his observations.
"More likely, the helicopter took off right after you were hit, I think, to protect the wounded soldier from dying. I also did not realize the depths of your injury. I surmise that the collarbone was broken based on the wound pattern I observed and that you probably suffered an infection secondary to the exigency of immediate movement," Sherlock speculates, quite accurately, to John's surprise.
John nods affirmatively. "You know that's amazing every time I see it. Because of the delay in receiving antibiotics, I caught enteric fever and ended up quite ill for weeks."
Sherlock studies him for a moment, "Why would there be a delay? Ah…yes, of course, you gave the last dose to the soldier with the wounded leg."
John shrugs his shoulders at Sherlock and remains silent.
"Would you like a cuppa?" Sherlock offers the still trembling former soldier.
John nods yes as he takes another deep breath.
Sherlock hands John his dressing gown and leaves him to collect himself before coming downstairs. He starts the kettle on to boil and plucks the tea from its box as he waits for his friend.
John enters the kitchen quietly and sits down in his chair.
Sherlock looks at the doctor and quickly measures every single person he has ever met to John. He finds them all lacking the strength of character and the tenacity of the man before him.
The kettle whistle disturbs his thoughts, and his lips quirk in a quick smile. He turns to make the tea.
John catches the little smile and asks his best friend, "What is it, Sherlock?"
Sherlock brings the teacups to the table.
"I was just thinking your tenacity for survival and how absolutely lacking everyone is compared to you," Sherlock admits without a second thought.
John's jaw drops astounded as he absorbs what Sherlock has told him.
Sherlock misinterprets John's reaction. "Bit not good?" He asks leaning forward in his chair.
"Actually, Sherlock…that was perfectly good," John tells him with a surprised smile.