Notes: Short character study of Dr. Watson.
Disclaimer: I do not own BBC's Sherlock, and I make no profit from this work.
Dr. Watson can handle weird.
Weird is fine. He's been handling weird since forever. Harry's weird. She bullied him. What kind of kid gets bullied by his younger sister, for God's sake? And then there was that summer she made a sport out of throwing rocks at trains. Which wouldn't be so weird if, you know, she'd ever picked moving trains. Nope. She threw rocks at the parked ones. (Or whatever the term is for a train that isn't doing anything, or going anywhere, and is blissfully minding its own business until some snotty ten-year-old comes along and starts throwing rocks at it.)
And medical school was weird. He lived with a bunch of history students in his first and second years. They wrote essays; he chopped the head off an old lady on his third day. (It should be noted, for the record, that the old lady was dead before he cut her head off. Very dead. And that status - the being dead one - was nothing to do with John.) Anyway, all his flatmates had stories about the lecturers. He had stories that were about dead people, freezers, and were generally not suitable for the telling when food was around.
And the Officer Training Corps was weird. Wednesday and Saturday nights, he was learning to clean and dismantle a gun. He even got paid for it. His flatmates all worked in bars or shops in the city centre. He dressed in camouflage gear, smeared his face in mud, and went on manoeuvres. Weirder still, he enjoyed it. He loved it. No matter what else was happening, the OTC was always the same: jokes with the lads, obeying orders, somehow forgetting how bloody cold you were once you settled down to light the fire and make crappy instant coffee in the tin mugs that were just a little too small for reasonable drinks. Maybe that made him weird, rather than the OTC, but either way: John's time in the OTC was weird.
So he joined the army. And that was weird. Like the army's weirdness needs explaining. What other career makes a man thing being shouted at by a man with a blood pressure problem and anger management issues (and at obscenely close range) is a pretty average way of getting across instructions? And being a doctor in the army was weird. For one, he was one of the only blokes in his initial unit to have anything close to an education. And then there was the whole being in charge for injuries, but never at any other time. Ever. That thing. (Stopped after the promotions, but he hadn't been promoted for long before he got shot, so he can still write off most of it as a weird time.)
Weird was getting emails from people he'd gone through medical school with, where they moaned about hypochondriac old people and having to perform eight appendectomies in a day. Boring, they always said (just like someone else he'd come to know, but they would probably have never said it with such venom) - and that was weird. Their boring was appendectomies. John's boring was a day without a roadside bomb.
And then he got shot and...and the less said about that, the better.
And then, just when he thought all the weird was gone...Sherlock happened.
And okay, Sherlock's even weirder than medical school or Harry or Afghanistan or that nurse in the ward in Birmingham with the Scottish accent, but...he's still just weird. And John can handle weird. Maybe a head in the fridge is a bit weirder than he's, strictly speaking, used to, but it's still weird.
He gets used to that, too. Gets used to eyeballs in the microwave and heads in the fridge and that night when he went to the kitchen for some orange juice and found a cooling tray of oven-baked feet on the table. He gets used to it. Other people don't - the police, the clients, even Mrs. Hudson - but he does. He's John Watson, and he can handle weird.
And when Sherlock...when he...dies...
Well, John's used to death. Too used to it. He knows he's grieving - he doesn't need a therapist to tell him that - but he's used to death. He's used to silence where there used to be noise, and he's used to being alone, and he's even used to seeing ghosts out of the corner of his eye. After Afghanistan, what's one more ghost? At least Sherlock's shadow doesn't stink of smoke and sand. He can handle death.
It hits him in Tesco, of all places, with the soothing voice of the self-checkout machine gently scolding him for an unexpected item in the bagging area even though there isn't one, and the impatient tutting of some bloke behind him, and the screaming toddler dangling off his mum's hip at the next machine...
It hits him. This is all normal. The Tesco till refusing to have anything to do with him, and wanting to shoot the screaming spawn of somebody else, and wanting to ask if the bloke behind him would kindly bloody well shut up and let him get on with it...it's all normal.
He abandons the shopping, and walks out, the shadows of death waiting by the automatic doors and the memory of his gun hidden in the flat and the smooth, cultured tones of Mycroft Holmes suddenly whispering in the back of his skull with that realisation. "You're not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson. You miss it."
Dr. Watson can't handle normal.