“Romantic entanglement, while fulfilling for other people—”
“—would complete you as a human being.”
Sherlock had set John’s words aside to revisit later; they’d seemed to mean more than he could capture in the heated exchange. John had veered to his text affair before Sherlock could get the words out: it’s you. You made me want to be the man you already thought I was.
It had escalated: John goading him about Adler, berating himself for failing Mary, collapsing against him in grief and fury. Sherlock couldn’t keep up so he held on, gently stroking John’s neck and once, undetected, pressing his lips into John’s hair.
But after the grief-burst and after the cake, after the awkward but sincere birthday wishes and feigned normalcy—Sherlock comes back to John’s words from before. He plays them over and over, prodding at them until they settle into some kind of sense.
“Romantic entanglement...”—“would complete you as a human being.”
Oh. His racing brain stutters to a stop, empties out. White silence. In that silence John’s voice echoes: would complete you as a human being.
Of course. He hadn’t realised, but it’s obvious, now.
John could never love an incomplete human being. Sherlock can stand on the sidelines of John’s life for as long as he likes and John will never see him, never reach for him. (Why would he? When he has any number of complete human beings to choose from?) It isn’t because Sherlock is a man; it’s because Sherlock is defective.
He feels unsteady. No — he revises — sick. It isn’t enough, then, to love someone unconditionally, to live and die for them. It isn’t enough to wait, and sacrifice, to be brilliant or charismatic, to try to live up to someone’s expectations. To their illusions. There was something missing—there always had been. He was incomplete.
There must be something he can do about it. Some way to fill in the missing pieces, to deserve John and to win him. Somehow he has to become complete, completely human.
Romantic entanglement would do it, John had said, adding that Sherlock isn’t capable of understanding how or why. But it’s John who doesn’t understand that Sherlock’s been entangled, for the last five years. Just not enough to be complete, apparently.
Suddenly very tired, he starts making a list of steps to get to this completeness. He’d thought he’d be able to rest from the terror and frenzy and danger of the past hallucinatory weeks, and instead he has a whole new obstacle course to run.
Getting clean is only the first step, and not even the hardest one.
Sherlock knows all about saying no; now he has to meet someone at least moderately interesting, telegraph an attraction he won’t feel, and say yes.