Saving John Watson
People have been reblogging my John Watson post recently. And I can see why. I re-read it today and I was most struck by this line:
Sherlock may be an undeniable hurricane-strength force whirling through John’s life but John also chose him.
No, says Sherlock in HLV. John chose Mary. And you can see now why I had an utter meltdown over this, and I may possibly write even more about this at a later point in time, about how Watsons need to love their Holmeses, about how that’s the promise of the AU, about how my John would never *not* choose my Sherlock.
I could write more about how I’ve figured out that I am blatantly biased in favor of Sherlock Holmes, that he is always The Hero in my stories, how I give him John Watson because I love him so much that I can’t deny him. I thought my stories had co-protagonists, but I’ve realized that’s wrong. My stories are Sherlock’s stories. I use them to *save* *Sherlock.* It should be no surprise I can’t forgive Mary for shooting him. Does she not know how much effort I’ve spent saving him?? Just like I can’t forgive her for playing on his adoration of John from Minute 1, basically.
(You have a huge secret and your husband’s best friend is supposed to be notoriously brilliant at reading people? How do you throw him off your scent? YOU GIVE HIM THE THING HE MOST WANTS IN THE WORLD. YOU GIVE HIM BACK HIS JOHN WATSON. Oh, Mary, it was clever, clever, clever to play on Sherlock’s feelings this way. You were the smartest, because you were the first to realize exactly how deep Sherlock’s feelings run. “I’m a high-functioning sociopath,” Sherlock says in every episode this series, clinging to that identity, when, by the end, he’s the least sociopathic character on the canvas.)
(And then, oh, then, Mary, you’re in a bind and you shoot Sherlock Holmes. Do you know what you don’t do to John Watson when you love him? You don’t take away the people he loves. Ask Sherlock Holmes, who just reminded Sholto of this. Who gives up everything in the universe to give John Watson Mary + baby: the people, as far as Sherlock can tell, that John Watson loves most in the world. Bad, selfish decision there, Mary. Sherlock didn’t die, because Sherlock loves your husband so much that he doesn’t fights himself back from *death* in order to protect him. Do not fight Sherlock Holmes on the John Watson love question, Mary. You are going to lose so, so badly. I almost think that’s why Sherlock doesn’t get Mary’s hysteria to hang onto John. He’s like, “What the hell, you love someone, YOU LET THEM GO, isn’t that the deal?”)
I could write more about how being as in love with Sherlock Holmes as I am, that what I end up doing, in my role in every fic, is I *cast myself as John Watson.* That’s why I write John’s POV so heavily. I *am* John Watson. That’s why I was so furious with John all day today. We John Watsons, we are supposed to love our Sherlock Holmeses. They love us so deeply, so vulnerably, they love with such abandon that they do stupid, self-destructive things and we are supposed to save them. And John Watson in HLV felt like he broke that contract with me. Watsons and Holmeses, in all incarnations, they *love* each other. They are endgame. Platonic, romantic, I genuinely don’t care: they are each other’s heartbeats, they save each other, they fix each other.
But what I’m doing now is saving John Watson for me. Because I am a John Watson of a stripe who has spent hundreds of thousands of words writing my Sherlock Holmes. I know him so astonishingly well by now, but there was a time when I didn’t, when I was feeling my way, when his headspace was tricky, and when I didn’t realize the secret that this series so unbelievably beautifully confirmed for me: that Sherlock Holmes’s heart is a precious and amazing thing.
This John Watson, in HLV, he’s a young John Watson, and he didn’t catch up with me, with the rest of us Watsons, until last night. John doesn’t tell Sherlock thank you, or anything emotional at all, in that tarmac scene, because John has finally, finally, *finally* realized that Sherlock Holmes is in love with him. Not just in love with him, but loves him with a brilliant, all-encompassing selflessness that provoked him to kill a man and exile himself just to make sure John Watson could live with the woman he had chosen. Loves him enough to push him back together with that woman even though that woman had *literally* killed him (and also, frankly, in my view, manipulated him for a year, too, by preying on his biggest weakness…a lot like CAM, but I digress). Loves him enough to do all that and never ask for a single thing back, nothing, not even a moment of affection there on that tarmac that Sherlock clearly deserved and doesn’t demand, doesn’t push. Because even on that tarmac, *Sherlock is still loving John Watson to selfless distraction,* *still giving John what he thinks John needs,* which is no emotion, no big scene, no forcing of the question.
And when you realize that somebody loves you like that, and you’ve essentially chosen someone else, you’ve essentially *let him do it,* how can you possibly let yourself acknowledge that out loud? If you did that, how could you ever keep *living*?