Author's Notes: I got a request from a very good friend of mine to write something from when John was still with the army. And since I regularly force him to read pretty much everything I write (up to and including the occasional M-rated male/male pairing) I figure that I probably owe him a request or two (or two dozen).
Technically this is still waiting on being edited, but I'm totally impatient and just had to post it. So it will probably go through a couple of small changes later.
Dr. John Watson: You don't remember, Sherlock, I was a soldier! I killed people!
Sherlock Holmes: You were a doctor!
Dr. John Watson: I had bad days!
A Scandal in Belgravia (BBC's Sherlock, Season 2, Episode 1)
Captain John Hamish Watson – RAMC Medical Officer attached to the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers, currently stationed in the province of Helmand, Afghanistan – was bored.
And feeling guilty about it to boot.
Bored is good. Bored means no one is being shot at or getting blown up at the moment. Bored means temporary relief for military and civilians alike.
Bored means that John is going out of his mind.
So far today he'd treated a sprained ankle (a careless private) and a bad sunburn (a bloody stupid journalist).
And that's alright, as these things go, and John knows that the second he starts to complain about it – even in the privacy of his own head – things are going to go to hell and he's going to be looking back at this moment with longing and cursing his idiocy in not enjoying it more while it lasted.
But it doesn't help with the boredom much.
So he walks, with a crisp, military step, around the camp.
The camp itself is a mix of tents and semi-permanent buildings that give testimony to the fact that they are here for the long haul. Everyone John passes is alert and tense, even the ones who are off duty, the result of near daily altercations with insurgents.
It makes John twitchy and even guiltier about his boredom. But he's never been one for standing still. His superiors had offered him a post in the Kandahar hospital which John had turned down because he'd rather be here, close to Lashkar Gah, where British forces are making inroads into Helmand.
John's wanderings are aimless, and though he could wish for company, he hasn't been on this particular assignment long enough to really make any mates amongst the medical staff. As for the non-medical personnel...
John shakes his head, watching out of the corner of his eye as a group of privates rush to put away a pack of cards as he walks by.
John wants to tell them not to bother hiding it. He wants to sit down and ask them to deal him in. But officers don't play cards with privates. Not unless they want to make said privates extremely nervous.
His wanderings eventually take him to the makeshift shooting range on the edge of camp. It's not exactly military standard, and is there more for keeping skills sharp than for real training purposes, but John's not the only off duty soldier there. (He suspects that keeping them busy is half the point of this unorthodox practice space).
He collects a SA80 and a mag from a harassed looking quartermaster. And promptly ignores the raised eyebrow he's given when the quartermaster sees his RAMC patch.
The SA80, or, more properly, the L85A2, is a British 5.56mm assault rifle. It's standard issue and John is quite comfortable as he quickly checks it over, drops into firing position and snaps in the magazine.
He can feel the attention he's getting, the double result of his rank insignia and the bloody obvious fact that he's a doctor.
He takes a breath, breathing out his boredom and his tension alike, settling into the same mindframe he uses during delicate surgeries.
The target is 400m away, effectively at the end of the SA80's range without a SUSAT. John isn't bothered, lining up with the iron sights, flicking off the safety and pulling the trigger.
He works his way through half of the magazine.
John flicks the safety back on, removes the mag, empties the chamber and straightens. A sort of surprised silence falls among the soldiers watching as they wait for John's results.
"Nice shot, doc!" cries one of the privates when they realize that all of John's bullets hit their target.
John grins at the younger man. "Thank you, Private..."
"Patel, sir," he says, giving John a salute. "Private Robert Patel, 5th Northumberland Fusiliers. Best shooter in my squad, sir, and I'm not sure I could've made that shot with just the irons."
John returns the salute with some amusement. "That so?"
"Yes, sir," he returns.
John opens his mouth to say more when his radio crackles. "We've got incoming casualties, Captain Watson!"
John takes off at a run.
John moves as quickly as he can along the mud brick wall, keeping his head down to avoid being hit by the live fire.
He's trying to get from his current position to the delta fireteam but it's no easy task during a firefight. Yet John's the closest and by the time a different medic could get there it might be too late.
John pauses at a break in the wall, waiting for a round of fire from his side of the fight, under which he can dodge past the gap.
It comes quickly, and, to John's relief, from close by.
It's less than a minute before John finds himself looking at a bloody wound. It looked like the shot had gone straight through the soldier's collar bone. He's in for a lot of pain.
"What happened?" he demands, immediately taking over from the soldier doing first aid.
"Sniper on the roof," she replies, obviously glad to let someone else deal with the wound.
Airways, check. Breathing. Check. Pulse is fast. Going into shock. John abruptly recognizes the private bleeding out underneath his hands and bites back a curse.
"Hey, Robert. It's Captain Watson," John says. "You remember me?"
"... doc?" Patel murmurs weakly.
"Yeah, that's me. You're a bit beat up here, but everything is going to be fine." John's hands move faster than he can think, pulling out a morphine syringe and stabbing it into a vein.
"I need to get him out of here," John snaps at the lance corporal who is leading the team, even as he continues to work.
"No can do, Captain," he replies. "We're pinned down until we can get that sniper."
"He's too far away!" snaps the same private who'd been doing first aid earlier. Her words are followed by the rattling of gunfire from her rifle.
Patel meets John's eyes. "... doc... doc can do it," he murmurs.
Oh hell. John narrows his gaze and makes a quick assessment of the situation.
There are some very specific rules involved in being in the Royal Army Medical Corps. One of them says that John can only fire a weapon in self defense.
He is going to be in a world of shit for what he's about to do.
"You!" John commands, grabbing the attention of the other soldier sharing their cover. "Come here!"
Medical Officers do not do what John's about to. They don't take an offensive shot when they don't have to. And they sure as hell don't leave a patient to do it.
John's going to be lucky if the worst he gets is an official reprimand.
It doesn't stop him from directing his new assistant to put pressure on the wound. Nor does it stop him from finding a firing position next to the now wide eyed lance corporal.
"Where?" John demands.
The NCO tells him, realizes what he's about to do, and begins laying down cover fire to keep John from being shot while he does it.
John lines up his shot, glad to have the optical lens this time, and takes it.
He waits just long enough to confirm that the sniper is down before moving back to his patient.
"Holy fuck," someone whispers.
John ignores them. He has a job to do.
John finds himself in the back of an ambulance with the lance corporal (whose name is apparently Matt O'Connor) and the leader of Patel's squad, a Corporal Edgar Warren.
John focuses on Patel until his attention is caught by a simple question.
"Who got the sniper?"
John meets O'Connor's eyes over an unconscious Patel.
"Don't know, sir," the lance corporal responds. "With that much fire it could've been anyone."
The next time John goes for a walk he finds himself being addressed by three younger soldiers.
Lance Corporal O'Connor is one of them. He introduces the other two as Private Gwen Reilly (the one who'd been providing first aid when John got to them) and Private Toby Maddick (the private that John had grabbed as an assistant.)
"We've heard that Patel is going to be fine thanks to you sir," Reilly is saying.
John nods and waits.
O'Connor shifts his weight. "Look, we wanted to tell you... no one is going to be hearing what happened. Not from us."
John sighs. "You shouldn't have covered for me." And they shouldn't have. Now John himself has to keep it quiet to avoid putting the careers of these three at risk along with his own. "Is that everything then?"
The three exchange glances. It's Maddick who speaks. "Just... what the hell are you doing with the RAMC, sir?"
John laughs. "Believe it or not, I'm a better doctor than I am a marksman."
They go silent, staring at him in shock.
John spots something he should have seen earlier. He reaches forward and easily plucks a deck of cards out of O'Connor's pocket.
"You're going to be short a player for a while," John remarks idly.
"Shall we deal you in then, sir?" Reilly asks.
"Oh god, yes."