John Watson prides himself on being steady and reliable, so when his shoulder heals enough that he can be released from hospital, he moves smoothly back into civilian life. He finds a bedsit near a good pub and an Asda and gives the address to everybody who needs to know where he lives. He unpacks everything that isn't in storage or with Harry, he goes to the bank and updates his place of residence, he stocks the fridge. Only then does he go to see some old friends about a sidearm, and he finishes up at a magical retailer to buy the best wall-making tech the remnant of his budget allows.
He didn't need to use his magic during recovery, and he isn't a strong enough mage to have been asked to use it in Afghanistan, either. He's out of practice. By the time he's finished using the tech to make force walls that block the door and windows and building a box around his bed with just a hole to slide into and out of, he's panting and sweaty. At least he won't have to do the windows or the bed every day, he thinks, though the force wall guarding the door will have to come down for him to leave.
After that, he's careful to do some magic every day. He won't have men at his back, raising and lowering walls as they make their way through dangerous territory, so he'll need to be able to do it quickly for himself. Unlike his old surgeon's tools, the sleek wall-making box doesn't require much in the way of skill to do its job, no worry that a slip of a finger will destroy flesh and magic both. This isn't tech made for those who'd worked hard to develop true facility with the control systems; it's tech for the lazy or untrained--or nerve damaged. There's no echo of the agony John felt the first time he'd picked up a magical scalpel after his injury and found himself unable to even turn it on.
Odd, to walk through the streets of London and not catch the pale blue flashes of walls going up and down as soldiers and enemies move; odd to see people walking quickly without adding an extra jolt to their speed with magic-driven boosters or jumping into fusion magic/gasoline vehicles. Odd to look at a hastily-constructed force wall surrounding a classroom in a deserted college and know, deep in one's bones, that it's not good enough to stop a bullet.
The danger is exciting again with a partner to watch his back. When he moves in with Sherlock Holmes, he doesn't block the door.
"Here." Sherlock tosses him a bound sheaf of paper that John identifies as a medical journal once he can see the title. "There's an article on page 586 about Ecstasy and beta blockers. I need a summary."
John flips to the article. "It doesn't look that long."
John looks more closely, but no, his first impression was right: Sherlock is sprawled on the couch next to a pile of books and papers, but he's just staring at the ceiling, his neck twisted in a way that makes John ache just to see it. "You don't look busy."
"Looking busy is for people who are never busy," Sherlock says.
John smiles. "I'm not sure that made any sense."
"Just read the article, would you? It's tremendously boring."
"So you're outsourcing your boredom to me."
"It will be less boring for you," Sherlock says.
"Why would it--"
Sherlock sits up and looks at him. "Because it will make you feel connected to the medical profession so even the dullness will hold a kind of"--he waves his hand--"emotional resonance for you. You're happy, I get the information. I don't see why you're resisting."
"I'm worried about setting a precedent," John says.
"The precedent is already set," Sherlock says. "Now be a good boy and read the article." He flops back onto the sofa in an even more arthritis-inducing pose.
He reads the article.
He doesn't know why Sherlock doesn't do magic. Sherlock has the ability--the razor in the bathroom is magic-powered, as John's is, and he easily navigates force walls that would be invisible to those with little magical affinity. There's a framed London license on the wall in his bedroom, too, so he's not being blocked for lack of control. But the license is tucked nearly behind his bureau, hidden, not nearly the pride of place occupied by the judo certificate above the bed. Even the little spells every mage learns in childhood seem to be outside Sherlock's area of interest. John is genuinely unsure if Sherlock doesn't know them, or if he just doesn't care.
After watching Sherlock jump and flail four or five times for a mug from the top of the cupboard, John sings all the cups down with a melody he learned as a five-year-old. He sings the plates up to the top shelf in their place--"not as though you'll be needing these," he says, and Sherlock ignores him in favour of pouring a cup of coffee.
John lived with plenty of nonmages in the army, and this is really no different; he even worked with a few nonmage doctors. But every now and then Mycroft will stop by and John will feel the teakettle lean towards him, or Anderson will get so annoyed that little flashes spark between his fingers and his tech, and John will wonder again why he never, ever sees Sherlock display anything but the purest disinterest.
Eventually he drags Sherlock to Asda to help buy groceries. It's not a particularly difficult task, but he feels like he shouldn't have to do it by himself; also, he's curious if Sherlock can even function during everyday tasks. The answer is more or less as John expects: yes, he can function; no, he can't function like everybody else. He stalks down the aisles, eyes shifting quickly side to side, and picks up everything on the list and only exactly what's on the list without ever doubling back or pausing to make a decision.
"I'm going to make you do this every time," John says. "I've never got out so fast."
"No!" Sherlock says, eyes a little wide. John suppresses a giggle. "Do you know how long it's going to take me to forget the position of every product in that bloody shop?"
"I'll put the food away then, shall I," John says, and Sherlock says "Yes!" almost before John's finished speaking.
John doesn't think he used to think about mages and nonmages so much, but it's like a constant itch, knowing Sherlock could, knowing he doesn't. He settles for oblique ways of asking. So he says, "It's nice that Lestrade could reach such a high position even without, you know," and Sherlock replies, "Lestrade is an accomplished painter-mage," and John is so surprised he feels his teeth click as he closes his jaw.
Painting magic. It's an odd choice, not helpful to police work at all--but the status afforded mages is enough to get him promoted anyway, it seems. John himself had decided to focus on channelling his magic through technology once he had realised he was destined for medicine: a doctor's skills combined with the magic in the tools could perform nearly miraculous feats of healing. He gave up the flexibility of a creative medium for the constrained but assisted magic created by tech. Even the best artistic mage can't do what John could, when he had a surgeon's hands and a magical scalpel. He supposes he could learn artistic magic now--his singing ability is good enough, he hasn't broken a dish through a slip in pitch since before he was in the army, and it might be interesting to do something other than build perfectly rectangular force walls with the blue tint of tech-assisted magic. Then again, Sherlock is more than enough to keep him occupied. He pushes the thought to the back of his head and resolves to ask Lestrade for a demonstration the next time they see each other.
Mrs Hudson leaves a plate of homemade biscuits on the table one day. Sherlock stuffs three in his mouth and picks up his laptop; John nibbles on one as he peruses the newspaper.
A few minutes later, Sherlock flails one arm out for the plate. He misses a few times before his fingers graze the edge, and then he spends another minute inching it closer before he can grab another biscuit. John watches with increasing amusement--he'd have just sung it a little closer. Finally, he can't help himself. "You deleted it, didn't you?"
"Probably," Sherlock agrees, still not looking up from his laptop screen. "What in particular?"
Sherlock huffs. "No, I didn't delete magic. How could I possibly solve cases if I didn't know about it?"
"I mean--well, spells," John says. "Your own magic."
"Those silly melodies you use to do the dishes? Of course I deleted those. How useless."
"Right," John says. Mystery solved. No need to keep obsessing about it.
Laser sights from magical rifles. He'd be disturbed by how much they feel like home, except for the dual distractions of a criminal mastermind and a Semtex vest. The exits aren't blocked with force walls; whether that's incompetence or the knowledge that they'd never make it to the door John doesn't know. It gives him an opening, though, and he jumps on Moriarty, screaming for Sherlock to run.
Sherlock doesn't. Sherlock waits until there's a blue dot on his forehead too, and John feels sick with it, because what feels like home to part of his mind has no business against the dark curling hair of Sherlock's forehead. He steps back and the seconds drag like hours, but the Moriarty is gone. And back again. And gone.
John toes off his shoes because he doesn't trust his hands not to shake if he tries to undo the laces. Sherlock doesn't even take off his scarf, just walks over to the window and picks up his violin. Well, they all deal with stress in different ways. John's riding the adrenaline high, still, angry and scared but grounded.
While Sherlock tunes his violin, John sits down in his favourite chair and runs his hands along the arms, the cushions, his face. They are trembling but not too badly--he wants the sensation on his palms, reminding him where he is: home, not at the pool. He'll want tea in a bit. For now he tells himself that he's here, safe, with Sherlock.
Finally Sherlock puts the violin to his shoulder and lays the bow across the strings. John sighs out with the first note and then tenses hard, because it's not like any music Sherlock has ever played before. The whole room leans in to listen to him as the first notes sing out, and as a solid slab of golden light begins to cover the windows John realises what's happening. Sherlock plays like a man possessed as he builds a set of force walls around the flat, locking them in, locking danger out. He's concentrating, but John thinks he's never seen Sherlock so calm, like all the noise usually kept behind grey-blue eyes has faded as he works his magic. And then the music changes again--if it was beautiful before it's heart-breakingly lovely now, still with that edge of purpose. John can't figure out at first what's happening, but the noise from the street starts to fade just a little and he gets it. The first set of walls is a decoy, a visible protection good for bullets but not explosions; this new one is diamond-strong and clear as glass, probably tough enough to withstand a blast that would turn the outer walls to rubble. John can't see where it goes but he wouldn't be surprised if it's covering Mrs Hudson as well.
Sherlock finishes the song with a kind of artistic flourish and puts the violin down. Then he half-walks, half-falls to John's feet and rests his head against John's knee, breathing hard. John reaches down and grips Sherlock's shoulder.
"I thought you didn't do magic," he says, after a moment. It's inadequate, but he has to say something.
Sherlock shakes his head. "You can't explain anything with magic. Why should waste my energy on constructing a wall, or moving a plate, or making somebody with the affinity a little happier or more frightened? It's not interesting." He turns and stares intently at John; John has the distinct impression that the sentence isn't finished.
"But?" John says. "You just did a lot of magic, Sherlock, so--"
Sherlock puts his fingertips gently, carefully, on John's cheek, and John stops talking. "But you're more important than interesting," Sherlock says.
They sit for a long time in the amber glow of the window, and neither of them speaks another word.