If I was virtuous I'd probably be emailing my students their work for this week. Instead, I found myself killing the time by reading Sherlock fanfic, or in this case meta. shadowfireflame wrote a delightful fan essay on John Watson's sexual orientation, making what I think is a convincing case that John might be sexually attracted to Sherlock at some level parallel to his obvious and genuine love of Mary, but that he's uncomfortable expressing it or having other assume it. She doesn't speculate on the reasons for this arrangement; my money, if you buy this interpretation, would be on a combination of his only sister's sexuality means he's now his parents' only hope for natural grandchildren, combined with society's basic heteronormative tendencies probably driven to new extremes by his army years if the British military is anything like the American military. But at the end of the day, I agree with SFF, that the why is significantly less, well, significant than the effect at some point.
SFF speculates about various possible combinations of Sherlock, John, and Mary, ranging from some kind of polyamorous relationship to John and Mary being their own primary relationship with an occasional J/M/S threesome. If you'll allow a moment of brutal honesty, I don't find that latter possibility to be all that interesting or even that plausible. I've never found Sherlock to be all that sexually driven for sex's sake, and the one reason I find John/Sherlock (including John/Sherlock sex) to be interesting is because of the emotional dynamic I see between those two characters in the BBC series. I just don't see what's gained from Sherlock's or John's --or Mary's, come to it-- perspective, except perhaps letting John wiggle out of what could be a defining and really very interesting choice for him.
At the same time, I've never been very driven by fanfic that gave a fully realized sexual John/Sherlock relationship, in the sense they're not only having sex but building an emotional, romantic connection between sex, but where one or the other is still denying the relationship to others. This is not only twenty-first century London, but they've both admitted since that first dinner at Angelo's that a same-sex romance (in general) would be "fine." It seems to cheapen both characters, and turn them into self-conflicted children rather than the mature giants they are, to have them consciously hide this relationship. Which is different from being conflicted over it, or not able to admit it to each other or themselves for various reasons.
I do like SFF's other option, though I'm not quite sure I'd put it in terms of polyamory. I don't need John to love Sherlock the same way he loves Mary. What I do need, or at least want, is to have Sherlock and John go on building their lives together. Ideally, I'd like them to go on living together, or at least to be so comfortable in each other's flats that it becomes a kind of second home. I want Sherlock to be more than a casual feature in the life of John's child. The closest analogue I can see from other fandoms is the common trope to how Harry, Ron, and Hermione got a place together after the war; in some fics it turned into something romantic between all three, but more commonly (and the more important thing to me), it turned into a continuation of their various friendships formed at Hogwarts and in the horcrux hunting. Or, to give a Tolkien parallel, it's kind of how I imagine the Frodo/Sam/Rose relationship might have developed if Frodo hadn't had one foot on the boat to Valinor, when they were all living in Bag End after the Quest.
There's a common complaint I hear from people who are against John/Sherlock as a romantic relationship, that people who are drawn to that relationship somehow undervalue friendship. Speaking for myself, it's not that I don't think friendships can't be emotionally close. I do think that in society, there's an expectation that while friends may be emotionally close, when it comes to doing things in your daily lives, if you're romantic or even moreso if you're married, it's your romantic partner and not your friend that you will do most of the work of living with, and that you'll plan for your future together with that person. So while a friendship can be incredibly close and incredibly important, I do think that a romantic relationship will seem to displace it or at least force it to take another shape. And that's the one thing I don't want to have happen. I want a friendship that's that tight-knit and permanent, and permanent in the same way.
That doesn't actually have to be sexual, I don't think. It doesn't even have to be romantic. But, particularly with Mary in the picture, it does seem to require something approaching the functional equivalent of polyamory, a full sharing of John's affections and time and activities. There are ways to handle this without going into full-out romance, but I do think you need something more than friends who live in separate flats and occasionally get together to solve crimes together, at least if you're going to leave me emotionally satisfied.
There's a word for that, or at least a genre for it, what I've taken to call Graylock. Stories that make John and Sherlock closer than the word "friendship" often implies, that make them the cornerstone of the other's life but without necessarily throwing them to bed together or even necessarily putting a neat label on the relationship. If it is a friendship story (and it can be), it will go to some length to make clear just how inadequate the modern conception of friendship is to this kind of a relationship. Because whatever word I use to describe John's and Sherlock's relationship in my head, I always seem to want to add a simple qualifier: more. For the record, though, the same seems to be true of soppy romantic slash stories. I really do crave fanworks giving me a relationship that transcends these labels, hits that sweet spot of somewhere in the middle, almost but not quite whatever words we're using to describe it. There are so many interesting ways to get at this sweet spot, coming from both sides of the Johnlock debate, and I think this idea of polyamory, perhaps with emotional intimacy without straight-up romance on the John-Sherlock side of the triangle, seems a promising tack I hadn't quite thought of in the past.
Everything I've seen about Mary's friendship makes me think that she brings John and Sherlock together after St. Bart's rather than driving them apart, which I'm genuinely glad for. And with the final episode about to be shown with every probability that one of the three won't make it through alive, these concerns and thoughts may be already moot. Still, it seemed a worthwhile thing to talk about a bit before everything gets blown to bit.
That, and shadowfireflame's essay is worth a rec on its own. Do read it. Now, the door's about to ring any minute now.