"Look at us both."
Those words had struck a chord with John when Irene had first spoken them to him. What did she mean, "look at us both"?
"I'm not actually gay," John had said.
"Well I am," Irene had replied. "But look at us both."
'What in the hell is that supposed to mean?' John remembered wondering. That was then. But things had changed drastically since that moment four years before.
Deny, deny, deny… That was all John had done back then.
"I'm not his date."
"I'm not gay."
The last one still held true for him, however; he was not gay, nor had he ever been.
Back when Irene had spoken with him, John had viewed sexuality as being a static, solid object. There was straight, and there was gay. If a guy loved a guy, he was gay. If a guy loved a girl, he was straight. It was black and white, and it was simple. It was just so easy to put those ideas into neat little boxes and pretend that they were all that were needed to understand the idea of sexuality.
Irene Adler understood (and accepted) that emotions were never so simple. She tried telling him, but he hadn't listened; he kept allowing the societal norms and ideals to take precedence over what his heart was attempting to tell him.
"Look at us both."
It wasn't until after Sherlock's staged suicide that John finally came to understand those words. Irene called herself gay, and she had no reason to doubt such an idea… Until Sherlock. He was an exception; the only exception.
The little black and white boxes that were labeled "gay" and "straight" in John's mind gradually tore apart until they were just tiny box-bits strewn about inside his mind. He kept thinking back to Irene: the woman who had accepted her half of the "both" more than three years before John was even able to comprehendwhat it meant. He had been in the same boat as she was, but he had been too daft to see it or believe it, all because of that defined, black and white idea that had been forced on him his whole life.
While Sherlock was "dead," John had admitted that Irene was correct. Oh yes, he had. The bittersweet revelation had occurred at the pinnacle of his depression, and, needless to say, it had torn him apart.
John Watson had come to realize that he was in love with Sherlock Holmes.
He didn't know when, where, how or why it had happened, but it didn't matter anyway; Sherlock was dead, and there was no way he was ever going to have the chance to tell him.
Two years, five months, and seventeen days later, while John was walking down a street in London, he had been grabbed by the shoulders and yanked into an alleyway. His first instinct had been to fight himself free, but when he felt an arm snake around his waist, he immediately stopped struggling. There was a familiarity in the feeling of the arm around him, and the nostalgia hit him full force. He looked to his attacker slowly.
Sherlock Holmes stood before him, peering at him expectantly.
"Hello, John," Sherlock said slowly.
All of the feelings that John had been attempting to smother for the past three years suddenly resurfaced. He wrapped his right hand around Sherlock's neck and pulled him closer until their torsos were almost touching, and they were mere centimeters apart.
When John finally spoke, his voice cracked. "Sherlock… I-" He broke off and tried again. "I… " The words he wanted to say seemed to escape him. "You were sorely missed, you damn git."
The corner of Sherlock's mouth curled up ever so slightly, and he pulled John into a hug. John's head dropped to Sherlock's shoulder, and he let out a somewhat shakey breath, relaxing completely into the embrace.
Sherlock was the only exception. John was neither gay nor straight; his feelings for Sherlock were one of a kind, and he had learned to accept that he was in love with him for who he was and not for his gender.
He was torn from his thoughts by Sherlock's voice. Sherlock had entered the flat after coming back from a short investigation, only to see John sitting in his armchair with a thoughtful expression on his face.
John watched as Sherlock removed his scarf and coat and sat on the couch across from him, steepling his fingers together. The doctor grinned, stood from the chair and made his way over to Sherlock. He leaned over Sherlock and cupped his jaw, drawing him up a bit to bring his lips to his in a soft kiss.
When they broke apart, Sherlock looked up at John with a slight grin. John smiled back and rested his forehead against Sherlock's.
"I love you, Sherlock."