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Pairing: Sherlock Holmes / Dr. John Watson
Alternative name(s): Sherlock/John, John/Sherlock, Johnlock, SH/JW, Shwatsonlock, Hotson[1], Holmes/Watson
Gender category: m/m slash
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Canonical?: Not currently (see TJLC)
Prevalence: Most popular pairing
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Sherlock/John is the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson from the BBC TV miniseries Sherlock. The pairing is also known as "Johnlock" and is the most popular pairing in the fandom; it is about twice more prevalent than all other Sherlock pairings combined.[note 1] This fandom commonly uses first names for pairings, but the more traditional Holmes/Watson is still in use.


Throughout the series, several hoyay and toys were presented as possibilities for romance between Sherlock and John. Even a garrideb moment was included in the plot, having been confirmed beforehand by the producers to some fans.

Some notable ones are when in the first season they have a dinner conversation where John thinks Sherlock is into men and Sherlock thinks John is coming on to him, so Sherlock gently (!) explains that he is "married to [his] work." A number of other characters assume that the two are a couple, such as the restaurant manager thinking the two are on a date, and Mrs. Hudson thinking that they might share a bedroom.

In the second episode, there is some tension surrounding John going on a date with Sarah, one which Sherlock ends up inviting himself along for.

In the third episode, it is established by Moriarty that John is Sherlock's "heart".

In series two, there are several examples of Sherlock and John's implied status as a couple. Episode one has John deny their status as a couple but Irene Adler insists that they are. As well, when John is speaking with his girlfriend, she tells him "You really are a good boyfriend... Sherlock Holmes is a lucky man," implying that he is devoted to Sherlock instead. There is a lot of speculation on Sherlock's sexuality in this episode as well. We are also given a scene with Mycroft snidely saying "how would you know?" to Sherlock's reply of "sex doesn't alarm me," to be later paired with Jim's nickname of "The Virgin."

Episode two has the inkeepers mistake John and Sherlock for a gay couple, apologizing for not getting them a double room.

Episode three has newspaper articles that say Sherlock has been seen frequently in the company of "confirmed bachelor John Watson" (an old fashioned term for closeted gay man).

Johnlock Fans and TPTB

The showrunners are aware of fans shipping Sherlock/John and have been asked about it in interviews. In fact, Moffat has made it pellucidly clear that he retained Holmes' canonical celibacy[note 2] from Doyle's original stories. "There's no indication in the original stories that he was asexual or gay. He actually says he declines the attention of women because he doesn't want the distraction. What does that tell you about him? Straightforward deduction. He wouldn't be living with a man if he thought men were interesting.... It's the choice of a monk, not the choice of an asexual. If he was asexual, there would be no tension in that, no fun in that – it's someone who abstains who's interesting. There's no guarantee that he'll stay that way in the end – maybe he marries Mrs Hudson. I don't know!"[2]

Some fans feel that the potential of a gay relationship between Sherlock and John is played for laughs and are not amused. They see the show as another in a long line of bromance shows that use "mistaken for gay" humour as a way of explicitly naming the characters as not gay.[note 3] Many people of the fandom see this as damaging to the community and offensive as same-sex relationships and queer characters are rarely represented in mainstream media, however others believe that the writers are planning on making johnlock canon and always have been. TJLC (The Johnlock Conspiracy) says that the show isn't queerbaiting but aiming to portray a same-sex relationship in a natural way (some go as far as saying the show is "heterobaiting") and lots of meta has been created to back this up.

Other fans reportedly sent death threats to the actress cast as John Watson's (canonical!) wife Mary in season three.[3] Many of these fans actually believe that with enough pressure, producer Stephen Moffat would allow Holmes and Watson to become lovers on the show.

Fanwork Tropes

A variety of portrayals of Sherlock and John's sexualities and their relationship are common in fandom.

One very common plot of fanworks is the usually romantic storyline of how Sherlock and John come to discover their romantic and sexual attraction to one another. Some of these stories are framed with Sherlock doing an "experiment" of some sort. The experiment is sometimes either sexual or has a physical element that requires close contact, and John is required to participate or is sometimes annoyed or blackmailed into participating. These frequently lead to a consensual intimate or sexual experience in which they confess their feelings. Romantic fan fiction about Sherlock's anticipated return after Reichenbach also often follow the pattern of Sherlock and John slowing revealing their unacted-upon romantic feelings for one another. In reference to the possible scenario of Sherlock being injured and/or suffering from hypothermia and John providing the necessary body heat to save him by crawling into bed with him unclothed, this is increasingly often called 'naked healing'.

Other fanworks explore Sherlock and John's very close but platonic relationship. Such fics might be labelled 'friendship fic,' 'Pre-slash' or 'bromance' in order to indicate the relationship being explored is neither traditionally romantic or sexual. Common tropes include John and Sherlock platonically sharing the same bed, cuddling, and getting married out of convenience.

John and Sherlock's relationship is often complicated such as when one is unable to reciprocate the other's desired type of relationship (read Sherlock is aromantic and is not able to return John's affection, Sherlock is asexual when John desires a sexual relationship, or John is straight and unattracted to Sherlock). Other stories explore Sherlock's complicated sexuality, fetishes, or Sherlock coming to terms with his attraction to John.

Military Kink is a trope that is notably common in Johnlock fandom. Fanworks featuring this trope typically portray Sherlock as finding John's military background fascinating or sexually appealing. In smutfics, Sherlock and John may engage in military-themed roleplay, with John wearing his army uniform or dominating Sherlock in military-themed dom/sub. Some fanworks also imagine Sherlock participating in the War in Afghanistan with John.

Web Series

It was announced on January 9th, 2013 that the popular fanfiction titled A Finger Slip by Pawtal would be turned into a web series on the producer's Youtube channel. A Kickstarter fundraiser was created to fund the webseries, starting with a goal of 10,000$ on January 22nd, 2013. The fundraiser ran for two months, ending on March 23rd, 2013, having raised more than their goal. 17,386$ was raised in total. Directed and produced by Naomi Javor, the first episode will be released October 19th, 2014 and will be running for two seasons. October 19th was chosen as a date for the first episode as it is the date where John and Sherlock met within the story when John accidentally texted Sherlock. Taking place while both are in their late teens, the story sees them go through many trials without meeting; it is all told through text and phone calls.

A Slip of the Finger by Katzedecimal was released as a sequel/companion piece to A Finger Slip, which documents Sherlock's point of view of the story.









Art Gallery

Doujinshi Examples


See also List of Sherlock Holmes Communities and Forums.

Further Reading/Meta


  1. ^ According to the pairing tags at the SherlockBBC LJ comm: Sherlock/John has 1089 posts, while all the other pairings add up to 547 posts. Sample taken 03 November 2010.
  2. ^ In "The Case of the Mazarin Stone", Holmes says "I am a brain, Watson. The rest of me is a mere appendix." However, speculation that Doyle's Holmes was gay or bisexual has been rampant for 150 years. Thomas Bragg's thesis "A Mere Appendix: The Reclaiming and Desexing of Sherlock Holmes" (Univ. of Florida, 2004) makes an interesting circumstantial case for Doyle's Holmes as an aesthete of ambiguous sexuality, then later as a more "masculine" and unemotional character.
  3. ^ Creator Steven Moffat says, "It’s always definitely a love story. I don’t see why that means that sex has to be involved. What a weirdly sexualized world we live in where you insist they much be having sex as well. Why would they? John isn’t wired that way, whatever Sherlock is." Alyssa Rosenberg, Steven Moffat on Sherlock’s Return, the Holmes-Watson Love Story, and Updating the First Supervillain. May 7, 2012.
  4. ^ As of 1 June 2023, this story had 2131 comments, 18045 kudos, 7409 bookmarks, and 791690 hits. Nature and Nurture by earlgreytea68 had 22892 kudos. A Cure For Boredom by emmagrant01 had 824640 hits.


  1. ^ Hotson is also used to refer to Jude Law's Watson, as well as other Holmes/Watson pairings. See the mixed content under Tumblr's hotson tag.
  2. ^ There is a clue everybody's missed, interview with Moffat in The Guardian, 2012-01-20.
  3. ^ 'Sherlock' fans lash out over sunken 'Johnlock' ship. Daily Dot, April 26, 2013.