The story of John Watson is, for all intents and purposes, split into two halves: before Sherlock Holmes and with Sherlock Holmes. John knows without a shadow of a doubt that he will do anything at all to prevent there from being a third split – he knows he will not survive a time that is after Sherlock Holmes.
For Sherlock Holmes, John will do and has done everything and anything within his power – and more, if at all possible.
He will shoot a stranger in cold blood, he will make endless cups of tea, he will chase criminals across rooftops, he will learn to sleep through early morning concertos. He gives Sherlock Holmes everything he has to give, up to and including his deepest secrets and his greatest fears, and he does not stop to think about the consequences.
He likes to think he is in control of himself – his emotions, his faculties, his magic. It gives him great comfort and it is his most treasured talent, his capacity for self-possession, self-denial, self-control. But even this … even this, his most precious skill, he will relinquish gladly in the face of Sherlock’s curious gaze and questioning fingers and hesitant lips as they form the words: “Show me.”
“Show you what?”
“Show me what you can do. Magic. I want to see.”
“Are you sure?”
“I asked, didn’t I?”
“It’s just that last night you were so thrown by it you vomited into Mrs. Hudson’s umbrella stand.”
“Last night you whipped me across London three times in the space of as many minutes, surely that’s not unsurprising. There was a fair amount of … twisting … involved.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, that’s not usually how people are introduced to Apparition.”
“How does it work? There has to be some mechanism behind it, surely. How does it work?”
“How does it … Magic, Sherlock, it’s magic. It doesn’t have a how, it just is. It just … works.”
“Inadequate answer, John. How do you make it happen?”
“How do I … Huh. I hadn’t thought about that in a while. It’s – in school they call it the three D’s. Destination, Determination, Deliberation. You just – decide where you want to go, determine you’re going to do it, and move towards it deliberately. Usually with a twist, for some reason, I’ve never worked out why.”
“And then, what, you disappear and reappear somewhere else instantly? That’s ludicrous.”
“Magic, Sherlock. It doesn’t have to make sense.”
On the second night after Sherlock tries to jump off the roof of St. Bart's, John takes him to bed and whispers latin in his ear and Sherlock gasps, wide-eyed and shocked as he feels himself slick and warm and ready without a single touch of John’s hand. The air around them is thick with magic, with sex, with the smell of cinnamon and cardamom; it crackles with the heat of the desert and tingles across John’s skin like ice. Sherlock’s eyes are impossibly dark and his lips are searching, begging; he is entranced, he is enthralled, he is baffled, and he is helpless with it all. John smirks above him and kisses him deeply and slides in easily, and then they’re moving together and Sherlock makes sounds that John’s never heard before and clutches at John’s sides as if to beg him to never stop, never leave, never let go.
Afterwards, when John falls back on the bed, exhausted and panting and glowing with pleasure, Sherlock looks over at him with pupils blown wide and says, in a voice that’s not quite as steady as he thinks it is, “So I was right then, he was at boarding school,” and John laughs and shakes his head and presses a kiss to the tip of his nose. The magic that he’d spun around them with words and hands and lips surges warm against his breastbone one last time and then fades away, leaving just the faintest trace of gold and silver in the air. Sherlock hums low and contented in his chest and reaches to pull John impossibly closer and John feels some of his fears, unqualified and unarticulated, fading gently away.
After all, they are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. It would take more than the simple facts of their existence (that Sherlock, at a glance, can learn more about a person than most could in a lifetime of knowing them; that John, on a whim, can manipulate the elements and perform the technically impossible) to break them.
Three days after Sherlock tries to walk off a building, John comes home from work at the surgery and finds him with his nose buried in a very large, leather-bound edition of Grimm’s fairy tales (unsurprisingly, in their original German).
“Research?” John asks over his shoulder, as he sets the kettle on and rummages for some mugs. “Something to do with Moriarty again?”
“How much of this is real?” Sherlock asks, without looking up from the book. The question throws John before he realises that Sherlock is doing what he usually does when approached with a subject he doesn’t know and needs to understand quickly: exhaustive research. Anything and everything he can get his hands on. (Which, in this case, won’t be much.)
“I don’t know, I’ve never read those, actually. And I don’t speak a word of German beyond horrible swear words so don’t even suggest I read them now.”
“What, there’s no spell for translating?” Sherlock sneers, but it lacks edge. John snorts.
“If there is I don’t know it. Never bothered much with that kind of thing.”
“What did you bother with, then?” The book closes in Sherlock’s lap, momentarily forgotten.
“Your favourite subjects at school. What were they?”
“Transfiguration,” John says, without hesitation. “That’s ... turning things into other things. Like … hang on.” He grabs his wand from the table where he’d left it the night before and points it at Sherlock’s favourite armchair. In quick succession, the armchair becomes first a rocking horse, a child’s cradle and an oversized teddy bear before returning to its original state.
“Can you turn anything into anything?” Sherlock asks, eagerly curious, eyes never leaving the chair as if trying to convince himself he hadn’t been seeing things.
“Not easily. There are … principles and laws and … it’s hard to explain.”
The impatient noise Sherlock makes rankles something within John; he narrows his eyes.
“Why are you so keen to know? And don’t – ” He cuts Sherlock off with an abrupt slash of his hand. Sherlock’s jaw slams shut. “Don’t say you’re just curious. It’s more than that. What’s going on?”
Under John’s calculating gaze, Sherlock becomes antsy, scrabbling slightly for purchase on the arm of the sofa. He makes a break for it suddenly, as if expecting John’s reflexes not to kick in. He’s grossly miscalculated; John puts one solid hand to his chest and pushes him back to sitting.
“Sherlock, what’s going on?” he repeats, his voice and his eyes and his entire manner designed to brook no arguments.
Sherlock exhales loudly and then, finally, lets loose.
“You’ve just exposed to me an entire world that’s existed right under my very nose, and I had no idea. Me! It’s infuriating and insulting and there’s literally nothing I can do about it. It’s an entire world that I can’t know, or understand, or even enter, but you can, you, John Watson, ordinary, boring John Watson, the only person to ever cause a blip on my radar and I was clueless, clueless, for months, years as to why. I told you before, John, I want to see inside your skin. I want to live in your head and know what all of your thoughts taste like on my tongue. I want to know everything that makes you tick, all of your memories and your feelings and your emotions. I want to know that I’m holding your life in my hands and I can’t know this, I can’t know anything about this, and it makes me feel sick.”
John puts his tea aside, sits across from Sherlock and catches long, slender hands up in his own. The contrast throws him, momentarily; honey on cream. John shakes his thoughts loose from his head and lets his thumb trace the line of Sherlock’s index finger.
“Sherlock. Hey. Look at me. Come on.”
Pale eyes peer up at him, two full moons shattered by a curtain of dark curls.
“That’s it. Hello. Listen. I’m still the same as I ever was, eh? Only, now you know everything. No more secrets, that was the last of them, and now you have it. There’s literally nothing left of me that you don’t know about.”
Sherlock makes a disgruntled noise, but he lifts his chin gingerly. His eyes are uncharacteristically open and unassuming, and John feels himself drawn even closer.
“I can’t imagine what it must be like for you, with your brilliant scientific brain, having to assimilate all this … magic … stuff.”
A wry laugh wrings itself from Sherlock’s throat; John takes that as affirmation of the fact that Sherlock’s mind is spinning, and ploughs on.
“I gave up magic for a reason, Sherlock, but … if you want, if it helps, I can … I’ll show you. Whatever you want, within reason. It’s not – it’s not just pointing a wooden stick and saying whatever latin words come to mind. There’s a bit of science to it. Don’t scoff like that,” John scolds, cutting Sherlock off mid-snort. “It’s true. A bit. Anyways. Would that help?”
A shaky breath, a twitch of the hand – slowly, Sherlock nods, looking down at their entwined hands again.
“Yes. Yes, I think it would.”
“Well, alright then.”
“All this time, you’ve been nagging me to make you tea when you can accomplish it with the flick of your hand?”
“Well, yes, but really, Sherlock, it’s the thought that counts. I make you tea all the time. And it doesn’t taste the same when you do it by magic.”
“You are unbelievable and I refuse to believe that until it’s been demonstrated in a fair, regular and repeatable trial.”
“Of course you don’t. Fine. We’ll have a taste test. Will that satisfy you, your Laziness?”
“Oh, shut up and make the damned tea.”
“What’s the furthest you’ve ever Apparated?”
“Pay attention, John. The furthest you’ve ever Apparated.”
“Oh. Well, I suppose, when I was shot, I think I managed most of the length of Afghanistan. I’m not sure though. Not entirely sure where I was to start with.”
“Hmmm. Is it possible to Apparate between countries?”
“Yes. I’ve just never needed to. It takes a bit longer, so it’s much more uncomfortable. Better to floo than anything.”
“Eh? Oh. Yes. Right. Well. There’s a thing called the Floo Network. Basically, it’s travel by fire.”
“You heard me. Travel by fire, from fireplace to fireplace. It’s used like telephoning as well, sometimes. There’s a certain powder, you throw it on the flames, stick your head in, say where you want to go, and your head appears in the furnace there. Or the rest of you, if you want to travel.”
“... Show me.”
Nothing changes, of course. Or at least, nothing concrete.
Jim Moriarty is dead and the echo of loss rings far and true throughout the criminal classes of London, but as is so often the case with reptiles and snakes and gutter rats alike, where one falls, another ten spring up in its place. (Though of course, none of the replacements are even half as deadly dangerous as Moriarty’s left pinkie, but at least they provide a bit of sport when the going is slow.)
Sherlock chases criminals across London and John trails behind with a gun pressed to the small of his back. The fridge is full of bits of bodies, both human and otherwise, the toaster is being used to cultivate fungus, and John’s favourite mug has been reappropriated for use as a planter. They bicker and fight and kiss and fuck, and Sherlock bombards him with questions and never listens to his answers, and it is all so brilliantly familiar that John’s stomach sometimes feels too tight in his belly, squeezed into discomfort by pure, simple relief.
And if sometimes Sherlock gets a faraway look on his face when John lets old habits die hard and summons the milk from the fridge, and if sometimes he takes John’s hands in his own and stares at them long and hard as if commanding them to reveal their secrets, and if sometimes he sneaks into John’s bed at night and wraps his arms around him and holds on tight as if John is some sort of fae presence like to float away on the wind – well, John can excuse a few blips on the radar of the mundane in their life.
Require further data to determine range of possible applications of magic in sexual situations. Return home immediately. SH
Sherlock, I’m at work and if this is your attempt at sexting, it’s rubbish.
Already familiar with potential for auto-lubrication and muscle relaxation; curious as to further physiological potential. Could you make me climax using only magic? SH
How? What would the incantation be? Or would you use your wandless, wordless magic instead? SH
Incidentally, I have noticed that the acts you perform wordlessly tend to differ in magnitude and character from those you perform with your wand, indicating they come from two different schools of magical thought. SH
John, this is not an experiment, I want to know. SH
Your patient almost definitely has the flu, given the time of year, the catchment area of your practice and the standard demographic of your patients. Send them away and come home at once. SH
John, I am naked in your bed using your wand in a very questionable manner. I suggest you reply at your earliest convenience lest I come off before you get the chance to indulge in one of your favourite fantasies. SH
<image89.jpg> See? SH.
Take that out of there, CLEAN IT, and stop texting me at work. Christ.
You still haven’t answered my question. SH
Oh, it’ll be wandless and wordless and you won’t have a fucking clue what’s hit you, you’ll be helpless and panting and gasping for relief by the time I’m done with you and I won’t have said a word or lifted a finger to touch you and maybe I’ll hold you there, just teetering on the edge for an hour and get myself off in the meantime, cum all over your stomach and make you watch the whole time, desperate and begging me to let you finish and you won’t know until the very last minute whether or not I intend to give you release, and maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll just let you fall and walk away and it will serve you right, you glorious bastard, because I have told you time and time again NOT to text me at work!
Come home. NOW. SH
Twenty minutes. Don’t you dare move. (Though do, in fact, put my wand back where you found it. I told you not to touch it without me around, it’s not safe.)
The first time Sherlock meets the lynx, he stares and stares and stares at it until John, worried and nervous and excited all at once, shifts back to try and explain. Before he can open his mouth, Sherlock leaps to his feet and drags him bodily into his bedroom and there is no time for explanations.
The owl arrives at six a.m. on a Thursday morning and pecks at the window of Sherlock’s bedroom until John curses and flings an irate hand in its direction.
The window flies open with a bang. Sherlock snuffles in his sleep and slides closer as the bird swoops in and lands right next to John’s head. It seems determined to peck John to death unless he reads the bloody letter, so John, groaning, pulls it from the twine binding it to the owl’s leg and unfurls it with one hand.
Dear Mr. Watson,
It has come to our attention that you are currently cohabiting with a Muggle while also performing a steadily increasing amount of magic on the premises. The Ministry for Magic recognises your right to utilise your magic as you may see fit, but would like very much to draw your attention to the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy of 1692, which states that every precaution should be taken to conceal the presence of the wizarding world from Muggles. Clause 637 of the ISoWS (1895) does state that leniency may be observed in the case of non-magical marriages and, more recently, in Clause 1103 (2005), civil partnerships.
We regret to inform you that as your relationship with Mr. Sherlock Archibald Holmes falls into neither of these categories, should the same level of magical activity continue to persist on your premises, the Ministry will be forced to take disciplinary action.
However, we in the Department for Muggle Relations, in conjunction with our colleagues in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, would like to draw your attention to the recently instated International All-Purpose Visa for Non-Magical Families and Partners of Magical Folk (IAPVfNMFaPoMF), details of which may be found in the enclosed brochure. The IAPVfNMFaPoMF (formal name pending) is a new venture on behalf of our departments and the Magical community as a whole to encourage further friendships between the Magical and Muggle world. Given the particular and peculiar nature of your relationship with Mr. Holmes and your personal track record as a benchmark of magical excellence, we have been authorised by the Minister himself to extend to you this offer to partake in the test-period of the Visa programme.
Please peruse the included document at your leisure and send your answer via return Owl.
“Bloody hell,” John mutters, scrunching his eyes together.
“Mmmf. John? S’happening?”
“Bureaucracy,” John sighs, tossing the letter onto his bedside table to deal with later. “Sleep.”
“Hmmmmm,” Sherlock agrees, and burrows in closer.
“Why a lynx?”
“I’m not really sure. Some people think it’s a representation of your deepest, inner soul, but I’m not entirely sure about that. It certainly came in handy in Afghanistan, but I learnt when I was 16 and had no intention of ending up there.”
“Hmmm. You don’t remind me much of a wild cat.”
“You’re much more like a particularly lazy lap dog.”
“I can turn you into a frog in a moment’s notice, Holmes. Watch it.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
As time passes, John begins to marvel, just a bit, at the man with whom he now shares his life. This man who depends so much on cold science and predictable fact, who looks at John when he thinks he can’t see him with wonder and a tint of fear in his eyes; who is rearranging his brain under John’s very eyes. He doesn’t know what he expected, not really. (Well, he expected to go for the rest of their lives without Sherlock finding out, though that was perhaps ambitious.) Usually, these sorts of reveals are accompanied with disbelief, with horror, with disgust, with panic. Sherlock, after the first initial hours of his discovery, does none of these things. He simply observes, learns, assimilates, absorbs. Sometimes, it is unnerving, to find himself so often the subject of that calculated, hungry gaze, but in the end John is so unspeakably grateful for its continued presence in his life that he endures it without complaint – and sometimes even encourages it, simply for the pure delight of watching confusion bloom into awe across the sharp planes of Sherlock’s face.
Sherlock watches with wide eyes as John grits his teeth, grips his wand tight, and draws a deliberate slash into his leg. The cut goes deep, so deep that as it blossoms open, it reveals muscle and bone – but the blood never comes. Sherlock gasps. His fingers tremble with the effort not to touch. He licks his lips once, twice, three times. The air is heavy around them, thick and full of some sort of hidden meaning.
“John.” Sherlock’s voice is cracked and leaden, as if it’s sitting somewhere in his groin. “John, I can see your bones.”
John, sweating with the effort of keeping his own blood at bay and yet pumping, smiles around his teeth. “You can taste, if you want, only hurry up, I can’t keep this open much longer.”
Sherlock looks like to pass out with joy. John doesn’t feel the tongue against his femur, but he can see the eager, greedy bliss on Sherlock’s face, and that is enough to be getting on with.
The International All-Purpose Visa for Non-Magical Families and Partners of Magical Folk (henceforth ‘the Visa’) has been developed with mind to encourage relationships between Magical and non-Magical partners and families, to provide a guarantee against the previously inevitable feelings of isolation and renouncement of Magical persons by the Magical world, and to encourage the growth and flourishing diversity of our Magical community.
The Visa ensures, amongst other things,
- Access for non-Magical folk to previously all-Magical communities, areas and annexes, when accompanied by their sponsor. Bring your family Christmas shopping on Diagon Alley; take your Valentine to tea at Madame Puddifoots and relive your childhood memories!
- Rudimentary simulation of Magical perception - i.e. near-native ability to see and interact (on a sense-based level) with magical objects, people and places. Enjoy your younger brother’s delight at ice mice and everlasting sugar quills, or rent a magic carpet to celebrate your anniversary!
- Diplomatic magical immunity within a shared premises - the Visa allows Magical individuals to perform unlimited magic in the presence of their families or partners when at home, and even allows for a limited amount when off-premises. Never again must a Magical individual sacrifice their way of life for the sake of a non-Magical partner!
Invest in your future together, apply for the Visa today! Simply return this brochure by Owl and you will receive your application forms within the next twenty-four hours. Some conditions apply.
He finds the notes hidden inside an enormous pair of yellow wellies hidden underneath Sherlock’s bed when he’s down there looking for his favourite tie.
Of course Sherlock has approached the situation of John’s magical abilities as he approaches any other thing: with science, logic and a level of ostensible detachment that seems inhuman.
John, of course, is not ignorant. He knows Sherlock can’t help himself. He knows that Sherlock only manages to keep the tsunami of information that assaults him on a daily basis at bay by imposing upon it a strict set of rules, squeezing it all until it fits neatly into the categories of his mental catalogue. It is hard enough for a child of eleven to understand the dichotomous coexistence of magic and science; he can’t imagine what it must be like for Sherlock, for whom science, logic and reason are, in fact, vital coping mechanisms.
“Oi.” He brandishes the notes in front of Sherlock’s nose. The bastard barely deigns to look up from the tips of his own fingers. “This can’t happen, Sherlock. You can’t leave these lying around. Not to mention our not an experiment talk.”
“Those are observations, not experimental notes,” Sherlock mutters, barely glancing at the papers in John’s hand. “You’re interrupting.”
“Yes, you’re clearly so bloody busy. I mean it, Sherlock, you can’t leave this stuff lying around. In fact, you can’t write anything about it down anywhere. What if Greg decides to have another drugs bust and finds it lying around?”
“What if? As if Lestrade could even begin to comprehend that any of those notes were more than just fairy tales.”
“Sherlock – just … just don’t write stuff down. Or if you absolutely must, at the very least hide it better. Whose wellies are those, anyways, they’re enormous!”
“Hmmmm. Mycroft’s favourites from when he was younger. Blackmail.”
“You – I – no, never mind. I don’t understand and I don’t think I want to.”
“Quite. Are we finished now? I’m busy and this discussion is boring.”
“Oh for–” John grabs his wand from its renewed home in his pocket and hexes an array of colourful insults in tiny, curling script into Sherlock’s skin.
Nonplussed, Sherlock looks up at him and rolls his eyes. “Childish, John, and disappointingly hypocritical. What if Lestrade were to happen upon us now? How would you explain this?” He gestures with one long, dramatic wave of hand to the state of his skin.
“Fine, you bastard. I’ll leave you to your work.” He flicks his wand and the words disappear. “One of these days I’m going to turn you into a bloody frog and it is going to be fantastic,” he mutters under his breath as he stalks up the stairs to his room. “Tosser.”
“Real. I think I met one, once. Sixth year, we snuck out to have a drink in the pub in the village. Can’t be sure, but I’m fairly sure it was him. He started teaching at Hogwarts, a few years after I left.”
“Real again. Not so sparkly as recent Muggle literature would have you believe. Generally a pretty dreary lot, when it comes down to it. Dreadful breath.”
“Real, but rare.”
“A royal pain in the arse and not at all innocent and lovely. Fairy bites hurt.”
“This is still rather unbelievable, you know. Mermaids.”
“Had lunch with some, once. In the lake at school. It was part of one of our lessons. They eat a lot of fish.”
“Understandable, I suppose. Dragons.”
“Absolutely, terrifyingly real.”
“So – when you told me, about your ex-boyfriend fighting dragons in Romania …”
“I told you the truth. You simply chose not to believe it.”
“I wasn’t operating under fair and equal conditions, John. It’s hardly my fault.”
“Apology accepted, even though it wasn’t verbally offered, and that snort is hardly attractive. You’re lucky you’re so fascinating, or I’d toss you out on your arse. Let’s see now. Gnomes?”
“Horrible little buggers that live in the garden and eat all your flowers. Not at all resembling Santa Claus and never in possession of fishing poles.”
“Awfully boring conversationalists. They can’t stop looking at the bloody stars for more than five seconds.”
“I think so. Never seen one, but I’m sure they exist.”
“The Loch Ness Monster.”
“Nessie’s actually a kelpie. That’s a great big carnivorous water-horse, though I’m fairly sure they can shift shapes at will.”
“I’m running out of fictional creatures to list.”
“I told you, most Muggle fairy tale monsters are real, they just choose to ignore it.”
“It baffles me, that we should have ignored so much evidence for so long a time.”
“To be fair, a lot of it you wouldn’t be able to see in the first place.”
“That’s the most frustrating thing of all, John.”
The map is a small piece of paper tucked into John’s front pocket. It unfurls when asked, the streets of London blossoming outwards from the centre, curling around each other like eddies in a river. (He stole the idea from Fred and George Weasley, whose map he’d found lying around the common room in their first, highly eventful year at Hogwarts. He’d given it back to them, of course, but not before figuring out how it worked.)
For now, there is only one name on the map – sometimes, in between patients, John pulls it out of his pocket and spreads it across his desk, following the tiny dot around with watchful eyes. Sherlock Holmes is just as likely to be found unmoving at Baker Street as he is in a dumpster in Brixton, and John can’t quite keep his over-protective tracking impulse at bay.
(As long as the dot is black, John’s fretting is unfounded; when it glows red, however, fear shoots down his veins and he dashes out of the office barely stopping to explain. He ducks into an alley and Disapparates with a crack to find Sherlock poking at a volatile solution of chemicals or being held at knifepoint or, once, halfway up a tree in Regent’s Park with a particularly angry dog snapping at his ankles.)
If Sherlock knows about the map (and John suspects that he must) he never says a thing, and John never mentions the periodic texts he receives when he’s away from the flat (one every hour, at the very least), and they never tell each other about the nervous tension that prickles across their skin when they’re apart for too long, because Sherlock hates stating the obvious and John is a great believer in only saying out loud what needs to be said to be understood.
“Bloody bureaucracy,” John grumbles, shaking the papers in his hands, as if that will convince them to be less annoying. Sherlock spares him a glance over his microscope – and then frowns.
“That paper is … unusual.”
“Parchment,” John mutters, angrily. “They’ve hexed it so I can’t write on it with a pen. Bastards.” He pushes away from the table and stomps up the stairs.
“What are you meant to write on it with?” Sherlock calls after him. John doesn’t answer, just rummages around under the loose floorboard until he finds what he’s looking for. He returns to the kitchen with his old writing kit from school and fishes out the quill and the little knife and sets to sharpening it to a proper point.
“Quill and ink, really?” Sherlock frowns, perplexed. “For a society that can make even the most impossible things happen on a whim that seems–”
“Outdated? Obnoxious? Overly conservative? Yes,” John agrees. “Anything that makes my life more difficult than it needs to be, they’ve got it covered.”
“Couldn’t you have just summoned that kit instead of storming all the way up the stairs?”
“Shut up,” John says, flicking his hand carelessly in his direction. Sherlock’s beaker knocks him upside the head.
“Teach you to annoy a wizard,” John mumbles. He dips his quill into the ink pot and starts to scratch away at the forms. “This is a pain in the arse, Sherlock. I don’t mind living without it.”
“Well I do,” Sherlock informs him brusquely, not looking up from his microscope. “My life has been much better since you lost your inhibitions about using it around the house. Making the dishes wash themselves! Entirely genius. Mrs. Hudson appreciates it, too, though of course she’s none the wiser.”
John sighs. “Fine. We’ll get you a bloody visa. But I’m not taking you anywhere magical, so you can nip that idea right in the bud.”
Sherlock just raises an eyebrow at him. (John should have known then and there that he was scuppered.)
The day he turns Sherlock into a frog is remarkably quick to come and particularly unforgettable. John revisits the memory fondly at any time he feels in need of a quick pick-me-up – which is often.
(Of course Sherlock had refused to be cowed and, upon regaining use of his human vocal chords, had demanded a full range of experiments on the theme loudly and insistently until John had turned him into a gnat just to shut him up. Even then, the bloody bastard hummed and buzzed in John’s ear until he put him back to rights again. Typical.)
The visa comes one Tuesday night as a tiny piece of parchment covered in minuscule runes tucked carefully into a Muggle envelope with several pages of exhaustively detailed instructions. John eyes it warily and flicks his eyes once more over the instructions that came with it.
“If I do this it can’t be undone.”
“Like a tattoo?”
John nods. “It’ll look like a tattoo as well,” he says, kneeling up on the bed. Sherlock has splayed himself across it, naked as the day he was born, and is watching John with a look of boredom that does not even nearly manage to conceal his excitement.
“What are the rules, again?”
“It won’t work unless I’m with you,” John says, scanning the parchment. “You won’t physically be able to talk about it or anything related to magic or the magical world with anyone unless I or the Ministry liaison gives you express permission.”
“Dull,” Sherlock drawls. “Understandable precaution, given their perceived need for privacy, but dull.”
John ignores him and continues. “You cannot attempt to steal or conceal about your person anything with magical properties, again, unless I give you permission. Basically,” he says, looking up from the parchment and smirking, “It means you defer to me in everything. That’ll be novel.”
“Don’t get too used to the feeling,” Sherlock mutters. “Fine. Come on then.”
John sighs. “Sherlock this is … this is a pretty big step,” he finishes, lamely. “People don’t usually do this sort of thing unless they’re married, and even then it’s rare.”
John shrugs. “Muggles usually find it a bit … overwhelming. It’s usually easier for the magical partner to join the Muggle world, rather than the other way around.”
Sherlock’s eyebrow arches imperiously. “If you ever call me a Muggle again … ”
“But you are a Muggle,” John insists. “That’s the point of this entire infuriating endeavour. It’s just … it’s a bit permanent, that’s all.”
“John,” Sherlock says, pitching his voice low in the way that he knows sends shivers up John’s spine. “Do you have any plans to leave me?”
John swallows, hard. “No. Never.”
“Good. I didn’t think so. The feeling is quite mutual, and I find the very idea that there are places you might go that I would not be able to follow abhorrent. Now will you get on with it, because in case you haven’t noticed, I am naked in your bed and you’re not touching me, and that in itself is unacceptable. So hurry up and get it over with because the sooner it’s done, the sooner you can shag me through the mattress.”
“Insufferable,” John mutters. “Alright. Where do you want it then?”
“Hmmm. What will it look like?”
John squints down at the parchment again and shrugs. “I don’t know, exactly. Probably just a bunch of runes.”
Sherlock takes the hand in which John is holding the tiny slip of parchment and guides it to his body, pressing it down over his hipbone. Again, John swallows.
“Yes, John,” Sherlock says. “Please?”
John nods and fishes his wand out of his pocket. As he places the tip of it against Sherlock’s skin and mutters the spell as the instructions dictate, Sherlock’s eyes glaze over and goose-pimples raise across his skin. The little scrap of parchment gleams and glows and then melts into the skin above the razor-sharp hipbone. John gasps a little, watching ink seep into porcelain skin in beautiful, delicate curls as the runes weave together; Sherlock moans a little helplessly as they glow once more and then settle to black.
“Wow,” John says, thumbing the intricate lines that now spread across Sherlock’s perfect, pale skin.
“John,” Sherlock rasps, pulling John’s attention away from his hipbone and towards his lips. “John, if you don’t touch me right now…”
John doesn’t need to be told twice.
“What does it feel like?”
“Magic. What does it feel like?”
“How do you know it feels like anything?”
“Sometimes you get this peculiar look on your face, as if something is brushing against you, something you can’t see and no one else can feel. It doesn’t look like it hurts, though.”
“It’s like – Hmm. It’s like tingling. It’s warm and ticklish and sometimes a little bit seductive. It depends on the magic. In Afghanistan, it had a taste. Like … cinnamon and saffron and cardamom all at once. It was – luxurious. Peaceful. Here it’s more hectic, layered. It changes, sometimes suddenly – catches me off guard. It’s like ... white noise.”
“Is it like that for everyone? Can everyone feel it, all the time?”
“No, not really. Most can feel it if it’s particularly strong, or evil, or if they try very, very hard.”
“You can feel it almost constantly.”
“You’re a wonder, John Watson.”
“Not as much as you are.”
“I can’t believe I agreed to this.”
“What was the point of going through all that paperwork and all those meetings if we weren’t going to use it?”
John eyes the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron warily. Beside him, Sherlock nearly vibrates with anticipation.
“I haven’t been here in almost fifteen years,” John protests, but his objections are feeble and fall on unsympathetic ears.
“All the more reason to go back. And you said you needed … what was it?”
“Powdered Bicorn horn,” John mutters, absently. “And doxy wings.”
“Nothing you say ever makes sense any more,” Sherlock says, but he isn’t complaining – he sounds delighted.
“Welcome to my side of the table,” John retorts. “Fine. But only because we now have a bundimun infestation in our cupboards.”
“You can hardly blame me for the infestation of magical fungi.”
“It doesn’t matter where they came from, if we don’t get rid of them they’ll eat the entire flat out from under us. I don’t much fancy accidentally dropping in on one of Mrs. Hudson’s dates, do you?”
Sherlock makes an uncomfortable face. “It’s bad enough that the walls are so thin.”
“Urgh. Enough about that. Come on then, let’s get it over with. Try not to make it too obvious that you’re an oblivious muggle, will you, this is going to be awkward enough as it is.”
John pushes open the door to the Leaky Cauldron and steps inside, pulling a spluttering, indignant Sherlock along by the hand.
“There must be some rules,” Sherlock says, through a mouthful of curry. “It can’t just be that anything is possible.”
Sherlock shrugs. “Doesn’t make sense. Everything has restrictions.”
“True.” John frowns and picks at his dinner. “There are basic principles. You can’t change time, you can’t bring someone back from the dead, and you can’t force people to fall in love. But even those rules are somewhat … bendy.”
“Bendy is not an adequate descriptor, John. What do you mean, bendy?”
“Well, you can make someone drink a potion that makes them believe they love you, for instance, but it’s not the same thing. You can reanimate a corpse, though that’s pretty black magic and it’s incredibly difficult. They won’t be alive, but they can move about of their own accord. You can use a time-turner to go back or forwards in time, but you won’t be able to change the past or pre-determine the future, though I suppose it’s a bit more complicated than that. Timelines, I mean.”
“So you can approximate the impossible,” Sherlock surmises.
“In a manner of speaking,” John agrees. “It’s … it’s like a science. No, don’t look at me like that, I’m the one that studied it. There are laws and principles and reactions and restrictions. It’s been studied for thousands of years and still no one knows the exact extent of what is possible and what is not.”
“But it goes against all the laws of science and physics and relativity and ...”
“You’re not listening to me,” John interrupts. “It doesn’t go against them. It just – ignores them.”
“That makes no sense at all.”
“Think of it as two worlds, coexisting and interacting as they must, but ultimately unaffected by each other.”
Sherlock huffs. “Dull.”
“Necessary,” John replies. “Finish your curry.”
“Make me,” Sherlock snips.
“I could do that, you know,” John threatens. “It’s pretty illegal, but I think after any judge spent more three minutes in your presence they’d let me off with a warning.”
Sherlock glowers at him, but he finishes his curry all the same, and John doesn’t have to resort to any Unforgiveables after all.
Diagon Alley hasn’t changed. Or, rather, it’s changed in as much as the shops look slightly different and there’s tangible evidence, still scattered about, of the war – from certain shops no longer existing to big, golden commemorative plaques.
Sherlock follows closely behind John, who has an iron grip on his hand, staring around himself with wide eyes.
“John,” he says in wonder, as if in spite of himself, unable to take his eyes off the moving figures on a bright purple poster.
“I know,” John murmurs, remembering how bewildered he’d been the first time he was brought to Diagon Alley. “Come on.”
Sherlock stays silent while John runs his errands, obviously trying to catalogue everything that happens around him but ultimately unable to do so. John watches him watching out of the corner of his eye, half afraid that his brain is going into overload under the assault of new information.
When they’ve acquired everything they need to get rid of the bundimun, in addition to various products to prevent further magical infestation, John tugs Sherlock towards Fortescue’s and plonks him down in a seat with a large cone of strawberry ice cream that fizzes and pops in your mouth.
Sherlock looks lost as he digs into his ice cream; John eyes him warily.
Sherlock just frowns, jumping a little with a tiny explosion in his mouth.
“I can’t read anyone here,” he says, finally, after he swallows down the ice cream. His frown deepens. “No, that’s not true. I can, but I – don’t trust it.”
“It’s a different world,” John says, soothingly. “Different people, different customs, different rules. You just have to find your feet. Here. Tell me about them.”
He nods towards the family sitting across from them. Sherlock stares at them and licks at his cone absentmindedly.
“They’re a young family. Mother and Father married in their twenties. They were – best friends at school.”
Sherlock frowns, tilting his head. “They’re well known in the community, but not celebrities to the point where they’ve lost their right to privacy in the eyes of the masses. People keep staring at them when they think they can’t see, but no one has approached them.”
“And – they went to school with you, but they can’t quite place you. You were several years ahead. Five? Six?”
John grins. “Six. What else?”
“Robes,” John corrects, gently, licking the side of his own cone and resisting the urge to close his eyes in bliss. Butterbeer ice cream. He has definitely missed this, at least. He savours the taste in his mouth, watching Sherlock think so loud he can almost hear it.
“His robes are more formal than most, I think? They’re black with bits of gold, they look imposing.”
“I think he works for the Ministry,” John agrees.
“On lunch break with his wife and children while they shop for school supplies,” Sherlock fills in. He sounds more confident, now, more like the Sherlock that John is used to.
“Probably. There must be a Wizarding primary school now,” John muses. “They had to rebuild Hogwarts after the war, maybe they’ve added that.”
“You didn’t fight in the war,” Sherlock says, rather than asks. He doesn’t ask about the war, because, John assumes, he’s not in the least bit interested, even if it did nearly end this world and his. ‘History,’ he’d said, when John had tried to tell him. ‘Useless.’ Typical.
“No. It was in 1997, 1998. I was in the army already.”
“That man has a lot of siblings,” Sherlock says abruptly, changing the subject back to the family nearby.
John smirks. “Yes, yes he does.”
“You knew one of them.”
“I knew most of them,” John says. “He’s the second youngest, I believe.”
Sherlock eyes him carefully but says no more on the subject. “What flavour did you get?” he asks instead. John lets him have a mouthful of his ice cream and Sherlock pushes it about his tongue, intrigued. “Yum. That’s delicious. What is that?”
“Butterbeer flavour. It’s a drink. I’ll get you a real one before we leave.”
“I could stay here for hours and catalogue, you’ve no idea how fascinating this all is.”
“I’ve some idea,” John says, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. “I was as clueless as you are, the first time I came.” Sherlock bristles at being called ‘clueless’ but lets it slide in favour of staring around himself curiously.
“Don’t you miss it? Everything seems so easy here. People seem – content.”
“Don’t let appearances deceive. It may be better than it was, but this world is just as fraught with crime and deception as yours is. They may be magical, but they’re still people, with the same foibles and weaknesses as Muggles.”
“Hmmm,” Sherlock says, but he doesn’t look convinced. Across from them, Ron Weasley and his family stand to leave. John nods at them politely and Ron returns it with a slight smile. (The impulse to ask after his brothers is easily suppressed when Sherlock makes a loud, surprised noise and points, unabashed, at a brown-haired witch that has just arrived on a broomstick. John hisses at him to stop pointing and finds himself explaining the different means of magical transport for the next half hour.)
The move is gradual – a slow trickle of his things finding their way downstairs, unassuming and accidental – until one day when Sherlock decides he’s had enough.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, John! Either move it all downstairs or none of it at all, your stray socks keep ruining my index!”
John (still smarting from a particularly heated milk-and-bread-fetching argument earlier that day) snaps and flicks his wand particularly viciously towards his bedroom. He takes vindictive pleasure in how quickly Sherlock scrambles onto the coffee table to avoid the stream of John’s things marching from their various hiding places across the flat into Sherlock’s room, and allows a particularly heavy medical volume to bash him in the shins none-so-gently several times for good measure.
“Petty, John. And where, precisely, are you going to put all that rubbish? There’s not enough space in the cupboard.”
“I’ll make space,” John snaps, and turns back to his newspaper, leaving Sherlock stranded on the table.
Later that night, when Sherlock crawls into bed behind him at arse o’clock in the morning, John wakes enough to mutter sleepily, “You could have just asked me to move in, you idiot. I already sleep down here most nights as it is.” Sherlock sniffs impatiently and presses his nose into the base of John’s neck, his long gangly limbs coming around to cling to John like a limpet. “You’re like a bloody grindylow,” John sighs, nuzzling back into Sherlock’s grasp. “Only without the evil fingertips.”
“That makes no discernible sense,” Sherlock says, mouthing the words into John’s skin, his breath hot and slick and ticklish. “Go back to sleep.”
“Hmmm. No, I’ve a better idea.” He pries himself free enough to turn in Sherlock’s arms and greedily presses kisses to his neck, murmuring a few words into his nape that have Sherlock gasping until the inevitable indignant realisation: “John! Those were my favourite trousers.”
“Relax.” John runs his hand down acres of pale skin and grasps Sherlock’s bare arse playfully. “They’re in the closet.”
“Ah,” Sherlock pants, licking up John’s neck and biting at his ear. “Aren’t you going to do the same with yours?”
John smirks. “Nope. You’ll have to take care of that vanishing charm yourself.”
“Insufferable,” Sherlock huffs – but he claws John’s trousers off nonetheless.
“Have you ever killed someone? With magic, I mean.”
“No, never, and I don’t think I ever want to.”
“What’s the difference? You’ve killed men with bullets before.”
“At war, Sherlock, in self-defence – or in your defence, may I remind you.”
“What if you were faced with another wizard who was trying to kill you with magic?”
“That’s not a situation that’s particularly likely to happen.”
“For the sake of argument then. What’s the difference?”
“It’s ... at least when you’re at war, when you’re fighting another army, at least everyone involved has a fair chance and similar weapons of limited effect. Magic doesn’t have those limits. You either have the skills or you don’t. And using your magic to kill someone deliberately ... it does something to you, something irreversible and dark. You have to really want the person to die, you have to want it with all of your heart and soul and mind, and that ... that isn’t a place I want to go. Not ever.”
“I’m not sure I understand the difference. You’ve killed men in cold blood. I’ve seen you do it. I don’t understand why it should be different.”
“Killing men is not something I ever relish doing, Sherlock. It’s a horrible feeling, to know you’ve taken someone’s life. If I were using my magic to do that ... I’d never escape it.”
“So you’d rather risk injury, being on an even playing field with a potentially lethal Muggle enemy, than use your magic to gain the upper hand?”
“Yes, I think so. Depending on the situation, yes.”
“Most men would say the opposite.”
“I am not most men, Sherlock.”
“No, you aren’t, are you?”
“Sherlock, a word?”
The crime scene is bustling; this particular murder has everyone on edge. Sherlock has been prowling the perimeter of the room like a cat, frustrated at every turn by conflicting evidence.
He lets John pull him aside reluctantly. John, aware of Greg’s eyes following their every move, speaks as softly as he can under his breath.
“I know who did it and how,” he says, launching right into it.
Sherlock looks thunderstruck. “How can you possibly know? This crime scene is a mess. I keep telling Greg not to wait so long to call me but ...”
“No, Sherlock, you don’t understand.” John looks swiftly at the body and then back again. “I know because I’ve been told.”
“By her,” John says, gesturing at the body again. “Or, well, rather, her ghost.”
“What?” Sherlock’s voice echoes across the quiet room; John winces and drags him out into the hallway.
“Can we not go into this here? Do you want to know or don’t you? I’d have ignored her and let you carry on the puzzle but if you don’t act quickly you’ll lose out on catching the murderer.”
Sherlock’s eyes dart around the room. He looks torn between solving the puzzle and catching the baddie. (John’s never entirely sure which is his favourite bit.)
“Is there a way I could talk to her directly?” he asks, finally. John nods, pulls him into an empty room on the hallway and locks the door with a flick of his wrist.
“Pull up your shirt, come on,” John instructs, and presses his thumb over the runes on Sherlock’s hipbone as Sherlock scrambles to obey. Suddenly, Sherlock’s eyes widen and he gasps, loudly.
The ghost of the murdered girl looks on impatiently, her arms folded across her chest.
“If you two are quite finished with the foreplay, could we possibly get on with catching the man who killed me?”
“How are we going to explain this to Lestrade,” Sherlock mutters, staring at the ghost with wide eyes.
“We aren’t going to,” John says, firmly. “You are going to make things up so that he has enough evidence to arrest the man. Sorry, Emmaline. If you’d like to tell him what you told me, we’ll get started here.”
Sherlock glares at him over the top of the rich, heavy paper and pouts.
“We said no presents,” he grouses. “It’s not fair to go against that kind of agreement, it makes me look terrible.”
“Oh, shut up and open them, you ungrateful git. It’s Christmas, and I’m being dragged to a Holmes Family Dinner, God save my immortal soul, to appease your mother, might I remind you, so if I want to see you open your damn Christmas presents, Sherlock Holmes, I will!”
Sherlock sighs, pulling his dressing gown further closed across his (gloriously bare) chest. “Fine. Only don’t go expecting any belated presents in return out of guilt or gratefulness.”
“From you?” John scoffs, fighting down his grin as he pulls his own dressing gown tighter against the chill in the room and sinking down in his chair. “I’d never dare. Go on, Sherlock, open them, will you? It’s Christmas.”
Sighing, Sherlock slides a long, slim finger under the Sellotape and lifts the wrapping paper apart. Inwardly, John smirks; he’d always taken Sherlock for an impatient paper-ripper, but here he is, put out for being curious despite himself, carefully and methodically pulling the tape from the paper without causing so much as a wrinkle.
“It’s just paper, love, you can rip it if you want.”
The glare Sherlock shoots him is priceless; John smirks properly, this time, and falls silent. Finally, Sherlock pulls the paper away and John watches eagerly as understanding dawns bright and brilliant across his face, all traces of his scowl obliterated in its wake.
There are seven packages in all, wrapped and surreptitiously spelled to look much smaller on the outside than they are, in fact, on the inside. Seven packages for seven years, lined up next to each other on the couch for Sherlock to find upon waking. As the first one falls open and the books fall out, Sherlock’s gasp is tiny and controlled, but definitely audible. John catches a glimpse of familiar titles (The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1 by Miranda Goshawk; Magical Theory by Albert Waffling; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander) as Sherlock’s fingers ghost over well-worn bindings and blunted corners.
“John … ” He cracks open the cover of Magical Drafts and Potions and runs his thumb across John’s name, written carefully in black ink, surrounded by blots and drops where an eleven-year-old John had fumbled the unfamiliar quill.
“Obviously, I can’t teach you how to do magic,” John says, softly, watching Sherlock’s wide eyes and slightly shaking hands with a small smile on his face, “but I can let you do your research properly. You don’t have to be magical to read about it, and these will be better at explaining the basics than I ever will be.”
“How did you know?” Sherlock says, finally, tearing his eyes away to look at John in wonder. “How did you know I wanted them?”
“Honestly, Sherlock, you’re not that hard to read. I know it frustrates you when I can’t explain the mechanics properly, and I know how you approach problems you don’t understand, and I know how much it annoys you that you can’t apply the same methods here. This is the best I can do, under the circumstances.”
“You know I won’t be much company until I’ve finished these all,” Sherlock mutters absently, casting greedy eyes towards the six remaining packages.
“You’re not great company at the best of times,” John snorts, waving his hand at the kitchen to summon them some tea. “It’s alright, Sherlock, they’re you’re presents. It’s Christmas. You’ll come back to me,” John says, fondly. “You always do, and those books may be fascinating, and some of them might even have personalities of their own, but not one of them can suck a cock like I can.”
Laughing sharply, Sherlock looks back up at him suddenly with eyes blazing. “You are … John, you’re a wonder.”
“I know. Bloody miraculous, I am, putting up with you – encouraging you! Christ, I must be insane.” John grins, though, as Sherlock’s mug of tea taps him insistently on the temple and Sherlock rolls his eyes and plucks it out of thin air. “Go on, open the rest. I’ll see about some breakfast, and then we may as well go face your mother.”
“That harpy,” Sherlock mutters, but John knows his heart isn’t properly in it. “She always spoils my fun.”
“You see her once a year, Sherlock,” John reminds him over his shoulder as he bashes about in the kitchen. “And you hate Christmas anyways.”
“Christmas is looking up this year,” Sherlock says absently, tearing into the second package with gusto.
John smiles to himself and flicks the gas on, fishing around in the fridge for some bacon. He even ignores the small unmarked bag of toes, in the spirit of the holiday, and later settles down to watch awful Christmas morning telly while Sherlock munches happily on bacon, utterly lost in the pages of Magical Theory. He’s so absorbed, he doesn’t even notice the soft whoosh of magic as John surreptitiously conjures strands of cheerfully twinkling lights to hang around the bull’s horns. Christmas is, in fact, looking up, John thinks, and sips his tea happily.
It is, John thinks, heavenly.
He silently thanks Ian McCoughlin for not only committing an exhilaratingly complex, devious and intelligent crime, but also for deciding to give Sherlock a chase across the entirety of London that ended in a long and particularly bloody fist fight in which they had most definitely had the upper hand, because he cannot imagine how he would have otherwise convinced Sherlock to take part in this particular enterprise.
This consists of the two of them traipsing up the stairs, giggling and kissing by turns, and piling into the very small bath/shower combo to wash away the evidence. Blood swirls down the shower drain and adrenaline thrums in Sherlock’s quicksilver eyes and John licks sweat from behind his ear and they stand under the shower and snog until the sleeplessness and adrenaline catches up with them and John’s knees begin to buckle.
The blood has been washed away so Sherlock, wordlessly, flips the switch with his foot and the shower shuts off and the tub begins to fill. John grins and slides down into the water and Sherlock folds himself awkwardly between his legs and they sit there, back to chest, with John’s arms wrapped around Sherlock’s front and Sherlock’s long, gangly legs gathered in front of him, waiting for the bath to fill around them.
“Hmmmmmmm,” John sighs, contentedly. Sherlock’s smirk is almost audible, but his hand comes up to grip John’s wrist.
“We’re going to run out of hot water, soon,” he drawls, lazily tracing patterns with his fingers against John’s skin.
“It’ll be fine,” John says, letting his head fall back against the wall. “This is bliss.”
“It’s not unpleasant,” Sherlock concedes, heaving a great, contented sigh that belies his indifferent tone.
John just snorts into his curls and pulls the long, lean body closer against his chest. The bath fills around them and Sherlock lazily shuts the faucet off with his foot.
“You were fantastic today,” John murmurs. “I would have had you right up against that wheely bin if Lestrade hadn’t come barrelling around the corner.”
“Next time, you should follow your instincts,” Sherlock teases. “I’m sure we could snap a photo of his face and use it against him.”
“Ha! In your dreams, Sherlock.”
They lay there a while, exhausted and unmoving, until the water cools and Sherlock starts to get antsy.
“Oh, for... Hold still, will you, you’re ruining it.”
“It’s gone cold and my legs are cramping,” Sherlock complains. “We’ve outstayed the maximum comfort capacity.”
John rolls his eyes and reaches outside the tub with one arm for his trousers to ferret out his wand. “Sherlock,” he says, unable to keep the condescending tease out of his voice, “you’re sleeping with a wizard.” The water warms instantly around them and and suddenly the tub seems larger. “Now shut up and sit still. I’m enjoying this.”
Sherlock stretches his legs out in front of him and shakes his head, bemused. “So you’ll use your wand to keep me in the bath with you but you won’t to incapacitate a man hell-bent on killing me?”
“Oh honestly, Sherlock, that man couldn’t have fought his way out of a paper bag.”
“He did have a knife though,” Sherlock points out, twisting so he can look up at John. “I’ll have the scars all over my arm to prove it.”
“Will you, though?” John smiles, takes Sherlock’s arm in his hand, presses the tip of his wand to it, and mutters a few words low in Sherlock’s ear. They both watch as the cuts knit themselves together, glow warmly, and then disappear.
Sherlock huffs a laugh and then arches up out of the water to capture John’s lips in a kiss. “That’s unbelievably sexy,” he mutters, shifting backwards into John’s lap none-so-subtly. “You are … literally … unbelievable.”
“So I’ve been told,” John teases. His wand clatters to the floor and he catches Sherlock’s face in his hands. “Shut up now.”
“Hmmmmm. Make me.”
John arches an eyebrow and bites at Sherlock’s lip. “Don’t tempt me, Holmes. You’re playing with fire. I could steal the voice right out of your throat if I wanted. You’re lucky I’m feeling particularly lazy just now.”
“I find you immensely attractive when you threaten me with things that oughtn’t be possible,” Sherlock murmurs, his voice rumbling through his chest and into John’s, sending delightful shivers across his skin. “I’m not sure what to make of that.”
“It means you’re a bit of a kinky bastard,” John tells him, biting down gently on his neck. “Don’t worry about it too much. You’re not alone there.”
“If you say so,” Sherlock says, but his mind is clearly beginning to drift with the warmth and comfort, tumbling slowly but surely into his traditional post-case pliant haze. John smiles against his neck and then leans back against the (now slightly cushioned) tub. They stay there in the perfectly warm water until John’s fingers have gone wrinkled and Sherlock snaps out of his doze enough for John to half-manhandle, half-levitate him into bed.
It happens so gradually, so naturally and organically, that he doesn’t even notice until it’s too late.
When he does notice, he’s sitting at the kitchen table in his dressing gown, waiting for the kettle to boil. An owl pecks insistently at the window and he sends a wave of magic towards it to let it in, fumbling automatically in his pocket for change to slip into its leather pouch in exchange for the Prophet. His tea cup sets itself down on the table in front of him as the owl flutters away, and he summons the toast from the toaster without a second thought. Sherlock chooses that moment to saunter, mostly naked, into the kitchen, the evidence of their experiments last night still visible in the slight red marks from the magical restraints on his wrist, and the intricate runes of the visa glowing slightly over his hipbone as they encounter the residual spells in the kitchen.
“Bloody hell, Sherlock,” he says, and flicks his wand casually at his dishevelled flatmate, who grumbles discontentedly at suddenly finding himself clothed in his dressing gown.
Suddenly, in a rush of realisation that knocks the breath right out of his lungs, John gasps and drops his wand and his newspaper, jostling the table as he scoots away from it briskly.
“What?” Sherlock asks, eyeing him warily. “What’s wrong?”
“Bloody hell,” John curses, looking up from the table to stare helplessly at Sherlock. “I’m a wizard.”
Sherlock returns his look blankly, reaching across the table to snatch his tea. “Yeeeeees,” he drawls, still eyeing John carefully as if he’d lost his mind. “Yes, John, and you have been for most of your life, this isn’t news …”
“No, I mean, oh, shut up,” John snaps, flustered, trying to calm himself down again. “I meant, I’m living like a wizard. I haven’t used magic like this since I was eighteen!”
“Is it a problem?” Sherlock asks, still singularly nonplussed, snatching John’s toast from his plate.
“No,” John says, frowning and rubbing his hand across his forehead. “No it’s just … different.”
Sherlock splutters crumbs at him as he asks “Good different or bad different?” around a mouthful of toast; John scowls and uses his wand to vanish the crumbs off of his face, wincing again when he realises what he’s done.
“Different different,” he surmises, staring at his wand as if it might decide, on a whim, to up and bite him.
“What’s the problem, then?”
John falls silent and thinks about it. He’s avoided it for so long, magic, because he knows how he is – he knows how he was, back then, when it was thrilling and new and glorious, and he couldn’t get enough of it, the pure delight of it running through his veins and across his skin. He remembers the looks he used to get from his classmates, jealous and wary and cruel. He got used to life without it, over the years, but he can’t say he didn’t miss it; he can’t honestly say it didn’t ache, sometimes, or get so pent up somewhere within him that he would have to shift into the lynx and curl up somewhere until waves of desperate frustration broke and ebbed.
Sherlock watches him closely, of course, but he’s never jealous and he’s never, ever scared, even when John has him dangling upside down from the ceiling with nothing but a few words and a flick of his wand. Sherlock always wants more, bigger, better; he wants John to push his limits and test his abilities. He loves it when John snaps and sends the book he’s asked for flying across the room with nothing more than a glare and a pulse of pure, aggravated magic. He listens eagerly when John describes how it feels to reach out beyond himself into the surging currents of white noise magic and manipulate it with nothing but the strength of his will, as he was taught to by the same old woman who gave him the amulet that rests over his heart nine days out of ten. He drinks it all down, every droplet of information John can give him about his magic, his skill, his power, and is still always thirsty for more.
John sits at the breakfast table and watches Sherlock skimming the Daily Prophet and realises, really realises, for the first time in the eight months since Sherlock tried to jump off of St. Bart’s, that he can actually have the best of both worlds.
He can sit here and make the tea make itself, and Sherlock will just watch with hungry fascination for a moment before turning back to the Prophet before tossing it, idly, on the pile with the Times, declaring it boring and trite before launching into the details of the latest double murder-suicide that Lestrade has turned up for their amusement. He can chase after Sherlock across London with a gun against the small of his back and his wand in his pocket, just in case. He can do all these things because Sherlock – in spite of being the brilliant, rational, logical child of science that he is – has spent the past eight months in a state of thorough and perpetual overhaul and reorganisation, and John has only just fully realised the full ramifications.
“What if I gave it up?” he asks; Sherlock looks up at him and tosses the Prophet aside to land soundly on his discard pile. “Magic, I mean. What would you say if I wanted to give it up again?”
A frown creases Sherlock’s face; he rocks back on his chair and steeples his fingers under his chin. “I don’t know that I’d say anything. I’d certainly be disappointed, but I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do – that much has been abundantly clear since the day we met.”
“Why would you be disappointed?” John asks, leaning forward. “Because of your experiments?”
“Well,” Sherlock begins, one eyebrow raised as he seems to consider the problem he’s faced with. “I can’t deny that there are no small number of ideas still waiting to be investigated, but no, I don’t think that’s the main reason I’d be disappointed. There are also infinite numbers of experiments to be conducted without your magical aid. I would probably simply shift my main interest back to those.”
“Because, John, as the past eight months have proved, this is a part of you. It has always been a part of you, and it irks me that you turned your back on yourself and your abilities for reasons that were imposed upon you by your family and your peers. Certainly, we got on just fine before your magic became commonplace, but I see no reason to return to the way things were before. I wouldn’t want you to ever feel you had to rein yourself in, not around me. I certainly don’t check my natural conduct for your sake; why should you? Magic comes almost as naturally to you as breathing, that much is clear – lately you’ve been using it without even thinking, you know. It’s fascinating, just as everything else about you is. But it’s your choice, of course. If you want to suppress your natural instincts, be my guest.”
Warmth blooms large and unexpected in John’s chest; he shakes his head and smiles wanly at Sherlock, who will never cease to surprise and baffle him as long as they both shall live.
“I was just wondering,” he says, finding, to his own surprise, his mind suddenly made up. “I’m not going to give it up.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Sherlock says, idly thumbing the runes on his hipbone; the sight sends a tiny shiver of delight up John’s spine. “Is your crisis over now? Lestrade says there’s been a closed room triple murder slash suicide and that idiot Anderson can’t pin a cause of death on any of them. I want to go investigate.”
“Yes, Sherlock, my crisis is over,” John mutters, but he smiles around his irritation. “Can we finish breakfast first, at least?”
“I don’t see that there’s any urgency yet,” Sherlock concedes, tucking in to another piece of John’s toast, apparently having worked himself up an appetite what with their fervent experimenting last night. Sighing, John picks up his wand and sends several more pieces of bread into the toaster, summoning the Prophet back into his hands for good measure.
It’s been quiet, their little paradigm shift, but no less than devastating for their previous reality. Sherlock has painstakingly expanded his mind, his world, his universe to fit around the peculiar fact of John Watson, and in doing so he has brought John, unwitting, back to life, back to himself.
“Thank you,” John says, apropos to nothing but his own helplessly grateful thoughts; Sherlock offers him a flick of his eyes in recognition, and goes back to scowling at his phone.
To see Sherlock then and now, to look at him as an outsider would, you’d never know it, would never see the change in him; but John has been with him every step of the way – John has seen what others would dismiss as impossible. John has seen the great Sherlock Holmes admit to being fallible – and, in reaction, John has watched him shift.
He scoops his flatmate’s long, pale hand up from the table and brings it to his mouth, kissing it soundly before releasing it and turning back to his paper. Sherlock coughs and rolls his eyes.
“Overly sentimental, John,” he scoffs, but when John looks at him over the top of the Prophet, his pale, grey eyes are twinkling and bright.