John doesn't know it, but he first encounters Sherlock Holmes when they're both on their Ordeal. They run into each other – literally – at the Crossings, Sherlock fleeing from some very angry-looking furry aliens, and John gaping around at an entire universe he still can't believe exists.
In Afghanistan, everything is death. John can't sleep at night, squeezing his eyes shut and repeating the Oath to himself until he drifts off.
In Life's name, and for Life's sake...
Words lose meaning with too much repetition.
He'd always been good at fixing things - broken toys, cuts and bruises, crumbling cities on distant planets – but his shoulder refuses to heal right. And that's not even touching what's wrong with his leg. John just can't bring himself to talk his body into better shape. He mentions this to one of the Afghan Seniors before he's shipped back home; the woman shakes her head at him.
"I don't think your leg is what needs to be healed," she says.
John limps back to grey London and tries to remember what he used to enjoy about living.
In retrospect, he probably should realize that Sherlock's a wizard much more quickly than he does. It's the skull that tips him off eventually – apparently it tells the future, but only in rather rude limericks. It finds its way back from Mrs. Hudson's flat, and John catches Sherlock arguing with it about a week after the Cabbie Incident. At first, still stuffed from another post-case midnight Chinese food binge and groggy from lack of sleep, he simply shuffles past on his way to the kitchen. A good cup of coffee is much more important than his new flatmate's idiosyncrasies.
"That doesn't rhyme in the Speech." Sherlock is saying accusingly. "That doesn't even rhyme in English."
"What was that?" John rubs his eyes as he tries to remember where he put his mug.
"I wasn't talking to you."
"Sorry," He reaches for a cupboard and then puts his hand down quickly. "Wait- did you say the Speech?"
"Finally caught on, have you?" Sherlock turns his attention to his phone and refuses to say anything more on the matter.
(It's just John's luck that his flatmate's brother turns out to be the Continental Supervisory.)
Sherlock tends to take cases without John, if he thinks he'll disapprove of them. John likes to think that it's perfectly reasonable to worry when your friend doesn't show up for several days, and cannot be found anywhere on the planet.
His flatmate's location always seems to be missing from his entry in the Manual, and John has to go to Mycroft to find out that Sherlock is off on some planet near Alpha Centauri. The world's dominant avian race has entreated him to locate a religious artifact they believe was taken by their longtime enemies the next planet over.
(John wonders to himself which of the Powers That Be thought it was a good idea to send Sherlock to avoid a cultural war, rather than start one.)
It turns out the artifact isn't missing after all, and Sherlock has managed to get himself arrested. On an alien planet. The aliens in question are suspicious of wizards - especially Sherlock, who apparently found it necessary to cause several explosions in the capital and nearly decapitated a princess' pet canine.
John sighs loudly to avoid grinning at the sight of Sherlock pouting cross-legged in his jail cell.
"What took you so long?" Sherlock says.
"Bit of a traffic jam at the Crossings. Not to mention I had to call back to your brother to get our esteemed hosts here to accept me as your character reference."
Sherlock makes a face and pulls out his phone. "Come on, then. I have a meeting with some smugglers on Saturn in about an hour."
"I have a date tonight!"
His friend just stands up and dusts himself off, raising an eyebrow. "Could be dangerous."
(John really needs to stop giving in when Sherlock says that.)
Though Sherlock is the most reckless person John's ever known, he's never once doubted the man's commitment to the Oath.
(Maybe it wasn't his leg that needed to be healed, after all.)
Every once in a while, as they chase down a burglar in Battersea or duck from gunfire galaxies away, Sherlock turns to John and grins wildly. "I'm glad you're here," he always says. (In the Speech, of course, so John knows it's true.)
In Life's name and for Life's sake, I assert that I will employ the Art which is its gift in Life's service alone, rejecting all other usages. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so - till Universe's end.