Jo Watson is eight years old the first time she sees a dead body.
She was sitting at the kitchen table in Gran’s house (a homey cottage near Eastbourne that smells like sugar cookies and tea and the lavender soap she makes in the workshop out back). Gran had just given her a plate of her favorite chocolate biscuits. Her teacup was covered in little blue birds and green leaves, and it is full to the brim with warm milk and a tiny splash of tea. Jo liked visiting Gran when Harry has somewhere else to be (today Harry has a dentist appointment). As much as she loves Harry, her older brother is not always pleasant. Gran doesn’t have a quick temper. She is nice even if she insists on calling Jo 'Joanna,' which is a horrible girly name that fits Jo as well as the pink jumper Gran gave her for Christmas. She is kind and plump and smells like bread pudding and laundry detergent when she bends down to ruffle Jo’s shoulder-length hair.
When Jo was done with her “tea” and biscuits, she waited. She was very patient for a girl her age (her mother often said so and it leaves a warm bright feeling in the pit of her stomach) so she waited at the table for nearly an hour before she goes in search of Gran. Gran sat in one of the wicker rocking chairs on the back patio. She was slumped to one side, her eyes and mouth wide and dry. Jo touched her wrist; Gran is warm, but not moving or breathing.
Gran didn’t look like she was sleeping. She looked gone. Dead.
When her mum arrived (Harry in tow, scowling and muttering about cavities and limits on his sugar intake) Jo was still standing on the patio, her short fingers resting on Gran’s wrist. She doesn’t cry, although Mum and Harry both do (clinging to each other as they wait for the coroner). She was calm as they load the Gran that is no longer Gran into a black bag and then into a car and then drive away.
Gran missed Papa. Jo was young enough to believe in Heaven. She was happy Gran wouldn’t be alone anymore.
Jo Watson is twenty-two years old the first time she sees someone murdered.
She had a brief argument with herself about whether Private Turner was actually murdered. Is it called that when it’s a war? It’s not as if someone hunted him down. Jo decided it didn’t matter either way, because Pete is dead and his blood is pooling around them despite the perfectly good tourniquet she jerry-rigged out of a belt with a broken buckle.
Jo decided a long time ago that she didn’t see death quite like other people. She knows there is only so much you can do, and dithering on about it once someone is gone helps exactly no one. That isn’t to say she wasn’t sad, because Jo Watson's empathy is unquestionable and the only reason she’s a doctor and a soldier is because she wanted to help people. But in her mind there is a very clear separation between the possible and the impossible. It’s lined up adjacent to the concrete demarcation between right and wrong. It was impossible to bring sweet Peter Turner (whose boyfriend will cry for four days after he gets the news and is heavily sedated for the funeral) back from the dead. It was possible to shoot back at the man who shot him. It is wrong to kill someone for revenge. It is right to kill someone who still has a rifle trained on you and the swiftly draining body of your first friend in Helmand province.
Jo Watson is twenty-eight the first time she gets shot.
She was disgruntled by her first thought (please, God, let me live) because she was fairly certain she’d stopped believing in any active higher power ten years ago. Then she wasn’t disgruntled because she’s too busy clutching the bullet graze on her thigh and aiming her gun and thinking how much everything fucking hurts. There are still a lot of rules about what women are and aren’t supposed to be doing here, and she’s also a doctor (although she had somehow fallen into the role of overqualified medic with astounding speed when someone ranked highly enough to transfer her realized she was a crack shot). Nobody should be shooting at her, but they do. Jo thought she should be worried at how little this is bothering her (not the bullet graze, that’s bothering her, the being shot at part should be bothering her). It should probably be traumatizing and she should be crying or something. But there are worse things that can happen to a nice girl from Hampshire and most of them have and she didn’t cry about it then either.
Jo Watson is thirty-three years old the second time she gets shot.
The next day was her birthday. She was much closer to crying than she had been in years. If she hadn’t passed out (Bill won’t stop pushing on that shoulder so hard and damn that stings) after a few minutes of bleeding and shaking she might have cried. Jo was aware that the bullet went through and through, which was lucky, because the rehab will be bad enough without the trauma of Murray digging around for a bullet in the field. As it is, Jo washed in and out on waves of consciousness. She was drifting through the pain at various levels of ‘holy shit they’re giving me the good drugs’ for she's never sure how long. She woke up in hospital and for the first time felt relatively human. Harry weeping all over the place lets her know she’s no longer in Afghanistan.
Jo was more irritated by her sobbing, three-days-sober brother than the wound on her left shoulder. This doesn’t last long, as the doctor is blunt and informed her that she’ll never be able to operate again. Nerve damage has permanently altered the functionality of her left hand and it's the first time in her life she has ever longed to switch dominant hands. It's a bit rubbish that she can shoot just as well with her right hand because she is fairly sure that will never be useful again. The plan to come back and go into practice as a proper surgeon when she’s too old to chase after soldiers in the desert is dead. The longer she is in England the more Jo realized that a lot of things are dead. That finally started to bother her.
Jo Watson is thirty-four years and forty-eight days old when she starts having vivid daydreams of strangling her therapist in the midst of their sessions.
What on earth would she possibly write in a blog? She doesn't even like computers. Jo was no longer anyone’s daughter (Da finally finished off his liver and Mum’s breast cancer took her a few years after Jo enlisted). She was no longer a surgeon. Or a soldier. She had no job. She had no friends. She was probably crazy (after all she wasn’t actually shot in that leg for years and yet the damn thing refuses to cooperate like it’s always done before). Nothing ever happened to her. Her therapist was an idiot.
Jo Watson is thirty-four years and fifty days old when she shoots and kills a man for Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes is a complete arse. A genius, but a prick and a prig and he has no right to speak to her or anyone else the way he does. He is a ball of energy and snark with a good coat and frankly ridiculous cheekbones. Jo suspects he enjoys breaking the law almost as much as he enjoys solving puzzles and catching criminals. In less than an hour she decides he used to (possibly still does) have a drug habit and this bothers her really a great deal less than it should. For some reason he seems to almost like her (which is more than she can say for his attitude towards anyone else, excepting Mrs. Hudson, and Sherlock Holmes being almost fond of her really should be cause for a certain amount of alarm) and they’ve known each other less than twenty-four hours before she trusts him implicitly. It’s odd, because she’s never really trusted anyone but herself. Maybe Gran, but that was in another life. When she’s kidnapped by a man who tries bribing her to spy on Sherlock, Jo is a little surprised when she can barely bite back the suggestion that he shove that umbrella somewhere incredibly unpleasant. She thinks that maybe Sherlock Holmes is a dangerous person to know.
Jo finds (to her damn near constant surprise) that she quite likes him. He is coarse and bossy and bright and shiny and assuredly not dead despite the amount of time he spends in the morgue. She enjoys the look of surprise that sometimes flashes through his eyes (which are a strange shifting combination of blue and green and grey) when he looks at her. He keeps trying to put her in some sort of box in that ridiculous head and can’t figure out how she managed to cut through the tape and escape. They develop an elaborate system of communication and cohabitation that involves a lot of eye rolling and tea and shouting about body parts in the fridge and ignoring snide comments from the police. Occasionally they even laugh.
Jo Watson is thirty-five years old.
Despite what her former therapist thinks, there is no danger of her eating her gun any time soon. Jo has stopped living her life by the body count. She lives with a madman (and everyone they meet thinks they’re shagging, but neither of them particularly care). She is no longer a surgeon, but she is still a doctor and she can still help people, heal people. She is no longer a soldier, but when she walks with Sherlock Holmes she can sometimes see the battlefield and she won't pretend it isn't glorious. She somehow has proper friends (Mike and Greg and Molly and Sarah and sometimes Sally, though never ever Mycroft) again. None of it should be possible. She's still pretty fucked up in the head and hasn't cried in twenty-nine years. Jo drinks tea one morning while she eyes one of Sherlock’s experiments (it is starting to smoke and the bubbles are purple which seems odd) and realizes with a start that she feels shockingly and blessedly alive. She might even be happy. It’s very strange. It’s nice.
Jo Watson was never quite normal. But she thinks that just maybe she’ll be fine.