"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
– Oscar Wilde
Sarah looked up from the paperwork covering her desk to see John Watson shrugging into his jacket, wincing as he eased the left sleeve up over his scarred shoulder. He never said anything about it, but she had noticed that he seemed to struggle with pain from his old war wound in the evenings after a particularly long and grueling shift.
"Fancy a quick pint, John?"
John turned to smile at Sarah. Things had been tense between the two of them at first, following the breakup, but working together had eased the awkwardness, and they had slowly developed an easy friendship. They often stopped in at the nearby pub for a pint after work, taking the opportunity to decompress after a hard day at the clinic. The ex-army doctor was a reserved and quiet man, but had a fierce loyalty to those he considered to be his friends. Sarah was glad that she could count herself among that select number.
"I could murder a Guinness, Doctor Sawyer. Shall we go?"
Settled into a corner in the quiet pub, John and Sarah discussed the cases they had seen that day, laughing over the man who had tried to persuade Sarah to sign a fake doctor's certificate to cover for having slept through his alarm, sighing over John's thirteen-year-old bulimic patient. They both knew how sad her story was likely to be over the coming years. Following that sad discussion, they paused, and sat in silence for a few minutes.
Sarah noticed that John seemed unusually pensive. She asked, "John, is something else on your mind? You've been preoccupied with something for a couple of days now. Care to talk about it?"
For a moment, she wasn't even sure that John had heard her. Finally, he sighed and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Yeah, there's something that's been bothering me. I can't quite figure it out, and I can't exactly talk with Sherlock about it.
"Sarah, why does everyone assume that Sherlock and I are a couple? I'm straight, I've always been straight. Sherlock and I aren't involved. Why does everyone think that we are?"
Sarah shook her head in disbelief. He really didn't understand it, did he? It wasn't just a polite denial – John genuinely didn't know what people were seeing. Well, she'd spared his feelings back at the time of the breakup, and clearly it hadn't done any good. Maybe it was time to tell him a few home truths.
"John, you and Sherlock are involved."
"We're not together, Sarah, you know that. We're just friends!" John's honestly bewildered expression confirmed Sarah's impulse to lay it on the line. It was time.
"Okay. John. Can you listen to me for a couple of minutes? Don't say anything, don't defend or argue. Just listen and then take what I say under advisement. Can you do that?" John nodded, forehead wrinkled in consternation.
"First thing to consider, before we delve into the relationship between you and Sherlock, is your sexual identity…for God's sake, John, stop gaping at me like that. I've seen you naked, and we're still friends. Surely we can discuss this?"
John nodded again, dumbly. Sarah pressed on, determined not to allow embarrassment to stop her, now that she had committed to this course of action.
"You took just as many psychology courses in med school as I did. You know quite well that the vast majority of people aren't a zero or a six on the Kinsey scale. Most people have some attraction, at some point in their lives, to someone of the same gender. You know that thirty-seven percent of men will have a sexual experience with another man during their lifetime. So why on earth would it be such a stretch to think that you might not be a zero on the Kinsey scale? There's a lot of room between zero and six."
John had flushed a faint pink, but he said nothing, keeping his tacit agreement to listen and consider her words.
"Second of all, John, while Sherlock's personality drives me mad, and while he may have all the social skills and charm of a clever toddler, your flatmate is a gorgeous man. Those grey eyes, the razor-sharp cheekbones, his delightful curls, that body that looks so good in that damn swoopy coat – who wouldn't consider the possibilities?"
John goggled at Sarah. "You think Sherlock is…hot?"
Sarah arched an eyebrow at him. "You think Sherlock is…not? I thought we were having an honest discussion here, John. Empirically speaking, you must acknowledge that the man is attractive."
John dropped his gaze to his pint glass, biting his lip. Sarah watched him struggle internally. She decided to continue.
"Do you know why I broke up with you, John?"
John looked up in surprise. "You said you didn't like dating someone whose life was in danger on a regular basis."
Sarah sighed. "That was the reason I gave at the time. I knew you wouldn't hear me if I told you the real reason, and I didn't want you to shrug me off as a jealous nutter. I wanted to keep you as a friend, so that explanation was easier. It's not that it wasn't true, either, it just wasn't complete."
"So, you think that I'm ready to hear the real reason now," said John. He tilted his head slightly to the side, an attentive expression on his face.
"Yes, John," said Sarah. "I think you are ready to cope with this little, inconvenient truth. When we met, I liked you a lot. You were sweet and kind, funny and charming. You always seemed to have this wall up between you and the world, but it wasn't a huge fortress of a wall, just a little barrier. I knew you were a veteran, that you'd been invalided home after a tour in Afghanistan. I assumed the barrier was from that, and I didn't worry about it.
"When you asked me out, I was very glad. I enjoyed your company, thought you were someone I'd like to know better. Then we went to the circus..."
"…And you discovered that my life is always in danger, and suddenly yours was, too." John looked at Sarah sadly. "We've been over this before, Sarah. So far you're covering old territory."
"…Then we went to the circus," growled Sarah, overriding his interruption, "with Sherlock. And I saw you two together." She sighed, signaling for another pint. When the server had delivered fresh pints, she took a bolstering gulp, and continued.
"Seeing you with Sherlock was amazing, John. At first, I thought it was just going to the circus, us being out on a date together, and I was thrilled to see this whole other side to you. You were crackling with energy, you were fun, witty, energetic…twice the man you were in the clinic. I couldn't wait to get closer to you, get to know that side of you. Even the terrible experience of nearly being skewered by deranged circus performers didn't deter me."
"Over the following weeks, though, I realised that the only time I saw you like that, so vibrant and alive, was when you were with him. With Sherlock. You never sparked like that with me, never…" she bit her lip and shook her head. "It was like…it was…like Sleeping Beauty."
John sat up straight in confusion. "Sleeping Beauty?"
"You know how in Sleeping Beauty the princess has been put under a spell, so she's asleep for hundreds of years, and then the prince kisses her and wakes her up?" Sarah felt so ridiculous, but she was going to finish this analogy, awkward as it was, and make her point. "You were…sleepwalking, John. You were half alive, until Sherlock came along, the handsome prince, and woke you up. How could I compete with that?"
Am I the princess in this scenario, Sarah?" asked John, bewildered. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that Sherlock completes you, John. When you're with him, you are twice the man that you are any other time. You are brilliant. And I couldn't handle being in a relationship with someone who was only really, fully himself when he was with someone else, not me. Does that make sense?"
John seemed stunned. He was gaping soundlessly at Sarah, reminding her so much of a goldfish that she started to giggle. The stress of laying it all out for him, telling him how it had made her feel, added to her near-hysteria, and she laughed until tears came to her eyes. John sat motionless throughout this explosion, staring blankly ahead. Finally Sarah sobered, and reached out to pat John's nerveless hand.
"So perhaps, John, you need to take some time to re-examine your life, your heart, and, yes, your sexuality. Because if there were someone who made me feel the way that Sherlock obviously makes you feel, I wouldn't give a tupenny damn what gender they were. I'd never let them get away."