Captain John Watson woke up with his pillow in a stranglehold.
A moment before, he had been certain that it was an enemy combatant. Certain.
He lay back, a sheen of sweat the only evidence now of the struggle he had just been engaged in. It had been long enough since he came back from Afghanistan – the nightmares should have stopped. The pain in his leg, and the cane that came with it, were reminders enough. He didn't need this constant nighttime warfare, as though he hadn't been set home.
He knew of soldiers that had flashbacks to certain points of real memory. Flashes of light, earsplitting booming, blood running in the streets, the shouts of battle. He had seen those things in his own tour, but those were not the things he dreamt of. He couldn't even admit to his therapist that he woke covered in sweat, panicked and almost frightened, not because of the memories, but because of how primed he was for them. How he invited them at night by trying to recall every detail of his life in Afghanistan. He didn't think there was a term for this. They had written PTSD on his chart, as though that could classify the type of sickness he had. The strange comfort he took in how well-trained he was for battle. He was a doctor; he was supposed to heal the wounded. But he was also a crack shot. He could cause the wound.
His clock radiated red to inform him that it was far too early for a civilian to be up. That might have been the reason that he got up, made his bed, and changed into clothes too professional for the nothingness that occupied his days. His limp made him difficult to hire in all but the most benign practices, and Harry's good graces couldn't last forever. He had to move out soon, before he drove her to drink again.
Dr. John Watson needed to continue on with his life, however that was supposed to work. He flinched as the pain in his leg started for the day. It was a few minutes more delayed than usual – maybe it was healing. The army doctors couldn't find anything wrong with the leg, and his therapist whispered when she thought he couldn't hear that it was likely psychosomatic. If there was one thing that John Watson was sure of, however, it was that he was not crazy. Sick and twisted maybe, but the world came through in painful clarity.
He picked up his cane. He was too young for this. He had just barely finished his residency at St. Bartholomew's when he'd been called up. Combat medicine was a different kind of residency, the sort of medicine that was a stopgap until they could get them back to base, where the more experienced surgeons put their hands on saving limbs and clotting off bleeding veins. A colonel of his has once commented that he was too good in the field to reserve for the surgery.
Capt. John Watson unconsciously tucked his sidearm into place, hidden beneath the fall jacket he wore. He moved slowly down the stairs, not quite ready to face London, but knowing there was nowhere else for him to be. London called to him in some way that he hadn't yet identified. Harry told him to move to the country, be a proper country doctor, and take a load off. John could not picture himself living a life of quiet ease. There were still pillows being strangled in London.
He was supposed to meet this Sherlock Holmes at a flat on Baker Street. It was the second floor, and his leg was already bothering him. It was probably a bad idea. He would look at the flat, politely beg off, and look for a place on his own. That would be the proper thing to do. He picked up the phone that he wasn't quite used to and decided to take the long way. The doctors were all saying to use his leg, and he could use the walk through the city.
That night, as he was packing up his few belongings, he almost laughed at the way that Sherlock had read him. It had been impressive when he had detailed his service, his limp, and his phone. It had been near miraculous when he had cured him just by running. He packed his cane in one suitcase – just in case – then clicked it shut.