Summary: John Watson had come back from Afghanistan with more than a psychosomatic limp and a tremor in his left hand. Werewolf AU.

Spoilers: Series one.

A/N: A ficlet prequel to Learning Curve. Being that I'm still muddling my way through the sequel, I wanted to get this out there as compensation for how long it's taking me to write, and I thought the anniversary of John and Sherlock meeting (January 29th) was a perfect day to do it. This was originally intended as the opening to Learning Curve, but I think it stands much better on its own. Can be read and understood if you haven't read Learning Curve.

John Watson had come back from Afghanistan with more than a psychosomatic limp and a tremor in his left hand.

"Trust issues," his therapist said. Like she had any bloody idea. If he "trusted" her with this particular secret, it would be a one-way ticket to a mental hospital.

Or a government lab.

Local superstition is what they had said. Fearful gossip of an ignorant populace in a chaotic time.

Of course, it was always easy to look back in retrospect and say, "We should have listened."

The moon had been so bright that night; everything was bathed in a pale glow that threw sharp shadows on the ground.

Peaceful. Calm. Quiet.

John should have known it wouldn't last.

Gunfire, screaming. John was out of bed in an instant, but nothing in the world could have prepared him for what he had to face.

He had seen wolves before, of course. Childhood trips to the zoo, watching them watching him with their sharp, yellow eyes; bigger than any dogs he had ever seen, bigger than Mrs. Johnson's Labrador, certainly.

Only now, there wasn't a fence between them.

He raised his gun and fired, heard the heavy sound of bullets hitting home but still those hard, yellow eyes kept coming; the flash of fangs and a horrible roar.

The next few moments seemed like slow motion. He felt teeth sink into his shoulder, felt his back hit the ground and the jarring impact of the creature on top of him.

Suddenly blood spattered his face, impossibly hot and not his and time snapped back into place.

He stared at the great wolf face now lying lifelessly next to his, eye-socket blown clean-through by a well-aimed bullet.

He couldn't move, not with the blinding pain spreading through his body and the weight of the wolf still on top of him as his vision started to go black around the edges- blood loss, the still-functioning part of his brain offered uselessly- and fade away…

Please God, let me live…

0 0 0

Honourable discharge.

It was the only word running through his head as his fever spiked higher and higher. Half your shoulder ripped out, infection weakening you by the second, what else would happen? He'd be sent back to England with a pension and a pat on the back and it would be over.

If he survived in the first place.

Baking from the inside out, no one was sure if he would.

0 0 0

Three weeks in an army hospital and he was strong enough to make the journey home.

Harry had helped him find a flat to move into when he finally landed back on English soil, a small, drab little place, but at least it was something. Because he couldn't stay with her, of course, not while her and Clara were still having screaming matches and throwing dinner plates.

He should have been relieved, he supposed, to not have to deal with that while his shoulder was in a sling and he had bandages to change every day and a cane to depend on.

And maybe it was better, this way, on his own. Saving Harry from dealing with his nightmares, his leg that had no reason to hurt but did, constantly, a dull echo to the pain in his shoulder.

Of course, when he was doubled over on the floor of his little flat, temperature spiking as his body ripped itself apart, pain blindingly bright as bones and joints shifted and changed in impossible ways, he didn't feel better off. He felt terrified.

He thought maybe it was all a dream. Some exhausted hallucination because his sleep pattern was totally fucked anyway and it just couldn't be real, it's impossible…

But even he didn't think hallucinations could rip your clothes, leave scratch marks on the door, impossibly canine teeth marks on the door handle, and blond bits of fur on the bedspread.

He also didn't think hallucinations could heal the wound on his body, reduce it to nothing but scar tissue. Or change his physiology; make his core body temperature several degrees above any range of normal, and all of this overnight.

A night that happened to be a full moon.

And all this coming from a doctor, supposedly one of the more rational members of society.

Trust issues. Right. How was he supposed to trust her when he couldn't even trust himself?