Notes: Another character study of Dr. Watson. Post-Reichenbach Falls, but not really a lot to do with it.
Disclaimer: I do not own BBC's Sherlock, and I make no profit from this work.
A Soldier in Suburbia
"And I said danger, and here you are."
But that's not why he's here. Well. It is - God, but it is - but...it's not everything. Sherlock being Sherlock, he probably knew that. Almost definitely knew that. He was also probably the only one. Everyone else has John wrong, and he likes it (lets him keep his demons to himself; lets him be normal, for a little while, if they can't see through him so easily) but he doesn't (because isn't that what everybody wants, even Sherlock, God damn him, just for someone to understand?) at the same time.
If he wanted danger, he could have it again. He could lie his way past the psychiatrists, get in shape, sign back on. He'd be killed, this time around. One more shot and he's dead, and John knows it, and isn't that the ultimate danger? Wouldn't that be what he was after, if danger was all it was? Mycroft's right. He misses the war.
But it's not quite all.
When they were children, Harry was the bold one. She was the one always slipping away from Mum and Dad. She was the one falling out of trees, jumping into water, dodging through the traffic just to get to the park faster. She ran away when she was twelve, and John remembers her being delivered by home by a bored-looking policeman whose entire job probably consisted of kids like Harry. She was grinning. She did it again the weekend after that. When she came out, she was disappointed that Mum and Dad weren't more upset. She wanted a big argument, doors slamming, an excuse to shave her head and pierce her face with rainbow studs and bring a hundred girls parading through the house.
John wasn't like that.
One of his earliest memories is his mother setting him down in the kitchen, on the floor. He can't have been older than three. She said, "You stay right there," and went out. He can't remember why she did it, but he does remember sitting right there. Harry - or even any other child - would have been exploring in minutes. He sat right there and waited for Mum to come back. He did as he was told.
The story of his life, really. John's always done as he was told. A friend - one he lost to time and disinterest many years ago - was the one to get him into the OTC at uni. And he did as he told there. And when the sergeant said, "You'd be a good asset for the Army, Watson," he did as he was told again and signed on.
And it was hell. War is hell, it's the one thing this bloated populace of people who don't understand have right. But it was John's hell, and Mycroft is right too. He loved it. Even half-mad with pain and infection on the plane back to Birmingham, a good pound of meat missing from his upper body, he didn't regret it.
He regrets this.
Not Sherlock. Not for a moment does he regret that. What he regrets is...is Tesco, is Underground stations, is pigeons crapping on the pavement, is teenagers giggling at street corners, is the Asian bloke in the newsagents huffing that hurhurhur laugh and saying, "Doin' some 'eavy readin', guv'nor?" every time he buys a bloody newspaper. A bloody newspaper covered in headlines about ME-OW: MOMENT MOGGY SEES OFF ALSATIAN INTRUDER and other such irrelevance. It carries this feeling like he's a bloody ghost, a dead man wandering through life, because all the structure's gone.
He regrets this life, where buying a pair of trousers takes two hours because the shops have about six hundred varieties he can't remember existing before he went to Afghanistan. In the army, things were simple. Here's your kit, keep it clean, mend it, bring it back when you can't mend it anymore, and if I find any wank stains in there, Private Watson, you'll be on parade in your underwear, you got me? Didn't change much, even when his rank did. Clean the gun, carry what you're given, do as you're told. Even as a captain, even telling other people what to do, the majority of his days consisted of doing as you're told.
He's always been doing as he's told, and then...
Tesco can't tell him what to do. It offers a million choices, and no instructions. At work, he has a thousand things he can say and do with each patient. In the army, you cleaned the wound, stitched it up, told them to get on with it. Sometimes you called for an evac. That was all. There weren't five hundred drug options, because there weren't five hundred types of drug at all, never mind five hundred for one problem. Some days, he was lucky to have enough morphine to keep a man from wanting to eat a bullet to end the pain.
And that's where people have it wrong. Even Mycroft. Maybe not Sherlock. But people. He misses the horrors of war: the blood, the death, the roadside bombs, learning to fear the sound of loud Pashto or Farsi because it usually meant something shit was about to happen - but more than that, he misses having someone to simply tell him what to do.
So when Sherlock said danger, it wasn't that John went after it. Sherlock was brilliant and utterly mad and kept body parts in the fridge, but there were more dangerous things out there than Sherlock. More dangerous than Moriarty. It was that Sherlock had told John what to do. Not in as many words, but the implication was there. He gave an order, however quiet, and John had grasped for it. Grasped for that...that...
Nothing else here tells him what to do. There's always choices, and there's nobody to make the decisions. His therapist won't. Mrs. Hudson can't. Sherlock can't, not anymore. And John...John's never been capable of it. He can't do it, and that's what he misses.
There's no-one here to tell him what to bloody do.