Beginning at the Beginning
Once upon a time, as most things like these tend to begin, there was a happy little boy named John, who lived with his family in a small town not far from the smog-infested streets of the great city of London. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Watson, and their daughter, Harriet, loved the little boy with all their hearts. But love alone does not a family make, and it would not be nearly enough to forge the strength little John would require in his later years.
So, as is often the way of things in the train wreck of life, a tragedy befell the Watson family on John's tenth birthday. Well, a tragedy in the mind of Mr. and Mrs. Watson, by any rate. John couldn't have really cared much either way, considering he was still too young to understand. You see, Harriet, who was sixteen at the time, had just revealed to everyone at the dinner table that she was a lesbian. Poor Grandmother Watson would never recover from the shock, and Mr. and Mrs. Watson were so appalled they threw the girl out the door like a sack of old, rotted potatoes.
Things were never the same in the Watson household after that. John became ever more quiet and reserved, drifting away from his friends. In his studies, he was more diligent than ever, which was why no one questioned his lack of social contacts. Being small for his age helped him achieve such success at self-effacement, he became nearly invisible, and no one took any notice of how much damage was being done to him.
It was quite by accident that anyone found out at all. If John had been able to button his uniform shirt just a little faster, and had the physical education teacher not chosen that exact moment to pass by the showers, no one might ever have found out anything at all, and I would have no story to tell. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), Mr. Hurst had chosen just the right moment to do a cursory check of the locker rooms, and caught a painful glimpse of the bruises on John's chest.
Word spread through the little town like water through pipes, trickling into every home, until it reached Harry's drink-deadened ears. It was half-past noon on the following Friday, and Harry had just discovered how to open a beer bottle cap with her teeth, when Clara came downstairs to the flat with the news. John, Clara related, had been taken to the hospital to awake a social worker, along with Mrs. Watson who was awaiting a stomach pumping, and Mr. Watson had been incarcerated.
After sucking down her beer in record time, Harry snatched the keys from Clara's hand and bolted out the door. Sure, she and John weren't exactly the best of mates, but he was still her little brother, damn it, and there was no way she would let him be shunted into foster care. She would take him home to the flat in Clara's mother's basement, and keep him safe until their mother was recovered.
John was quietly removed from the hospital and, since Harry was an alcoholic (no matter how she argued to the contrary) with no job, he was placed in the care of Clara's mother, Ms. Baptiste. She was a kind and lovely woman, a widow, and she treated John very well, almost as if he was her own son. Under her watchful eye, and with the support of Harry and her girlfriend, the quiet little boy grew into a steady, patient young man. Broad of shoulder, though still short of stature, John grew up handsome in his own, friendly way, and Ms. Baptiste complimented him often on his figure, bearing, and air of patient confidence. No one (least of all John, Clara, and Harry) ever expected Ms. Baptiste to try to seduce her stepson when he turned seventeen. Personally, John was horrified. Don't get him wrong, she was a wonderful mother, but there was no way he would ever be attracted to her. If pressed, he would answer that she simply wasn't his type. (Just between us, though, he still wasn't really sure what his type was, or if he even had one at all.)
When it finally got to be too much, even for John's immense store of patience, the young man slipped out of the house in the dead of night. Harry and Clara drove him into London, where he booked himself a one-way ticket to Afghanistan via enlistment in the British Army. It was the only way he could think of to safely break away. The Army would give him a purpose, and training, and maybe even a future, provided only that he prove himself capable of soldiering.
Luckily enough, John's temperament was perfect for the job, and his commanding officer found the prefect niche for his steady hands and tireless patience - Surgeon. When a notice was received that the 5th North Umberland Fusiliers had lost a medic, John got shipped out within the day. Finally, he had a chance to make something of himself, to be his own person, and he had never been so content in his life.
Life as a soldier was hard, especially in the beginning. John's confidence, which had been unshakeable during training, took a number of hard, humiliating blows until he stopped playing strictly by the book. Once he started improvising, every man of his unit who landed beneath John's gentle, inventive hands would have sworn a blood oath he was indispensable. With those men at his back, John Watson, MD was in his element as he had never been before.
Once promoted Captain, it seemed there was nothing on Earth that could slow John down. But there are more things in life than those on Earth, and a tiny bit of magic is all it takes to turn a near-miss into a sure-hit. When one a terrorist bullet blew apart the majority of John's left shoulder, he was sure it was the beginning of the end. The pain alone turned his brain into a useless lump, and he passed out on the body of a man he had been trying to save.
He woke in a hospital in Kandahar a week and a half later, his blood so pumped full of painkillers he could barely see straight. The doctors told him he had a terrible infection, and they would have to perform surgery in order to correct the damage done to his tissue. Only one man, another battle medic, had the stomach to tell Captain Watson the worst of the news - he would be sent home, an invalid, as soon as the fever had left him.
Black despair, a feeling so powerful it turned every muscle in his body into little more than dead weight, settled into his very bones. John did not want to return home as another injured veteran, and no amount of touting in regards to his bravery and heroism by his men or his superiors could change his opinion. No matter how many medals his superiors forced upon him, John still pleaded to remain. He wanted to stay in the dusty, blood-soaked sands of the desert, not to be shipped back to the grimy streets of home.
But shipped home he was, back to the damp gray wetness of English weather, and the ignorant, selfish masses of the cement streets of London herself. Not even the sight of his sister could fill the gaping hole where his sense of usefulness had resided. Even Clara's extremely warm welcome was drowned out by the feeling of loss sloshing around in his chest where his heart had once been.
If John thought that was the worst of what would befall him, he was sadly mistaken. After his shoulder had sufficiently healed enough for him to leave the hospital, Ms. Baptiste arrived in his room and locked the door behind her. John harshly turned down her poor attempt at securing him once more as a lover, which she failed to disguise as a simple gesture of succor. In no uncertain terms did he make it very clear that he was angered and appalled at her intrusion into his life, and he warned her that, if she persisted, he would be more than glad to do whatever was legally possible to keep her as far away from his person as was humanly possible.
Fury turned her lovely countenance into that of a twisted hag, and in a loud, piercing voice Ms. Baptiste delivered five unintelligible words into the air. Fire blossomed in John's frame, like tiny vines tearing at the cracks in an old wall, as his skeleton began to twist and crack, collapsing and rearranging to the will of potent, ancient magic. Grabbing him by the scruff of the neck as he continued to transform, she dangled him out the window of the room and hissed in his face. A violent shake, one that knocked his head against the window frame, silenced his gurgling cries of fear, rage, and pain.
These were the last words he heard before darkness claimed his consciousness:
"We could have been the perfect combination of power and strength, but then you ruined it all by running away. I curse you now with the form of a lowly beast, and to a life of humiliation and despair. May you rot inside your shell for the rest of your pitiful life."