"True, John. A waltz can be difficult."
John is scanning the business section of The Times, and Sherlock has been silent and reclined on the sofa for over an hour, so John thinks hard for a moment before, "Sorry, what?"
"You are correct." Sherlock hasn't moved, his gaze aimed at the ceiling, hands tented beneath his jaw.
"I didn't say anything about a waltz." Back to the paper.
"Well, you should. You should be terrified." Swings his long legs off the sofa and sits up. John huffs and gives up on reading. He's found four potential cases, but Sherlock hasn't asked.
"I can dance perfectly well, thank you."
"And you are some sort of expert, are you?"
Sherlock pinches his lips together and looks away. John feels the stir of frustration in his gut, slaps the paper down on the side table.
"I can dance, Sherlock."
Sherlock is up now, shuffling papers on his desk. "Adagio, so you'll need to feel confident in the rhythm of each step, not too quick." He's opened a folder, looking at sheet music, John sees, peering over from his chair.
"What is that?"
Sherlock slams the cover shut, and looks at John appraisingly, like he can see right through him and know everything. John's skin shivers.
"You're more march and salute, so we can't expect much. Stand up."
"Just stand up." Sherlock walks towards him, and John sits back in his chair. Sherlock comes right up into his space, and his bare toes brush against John's stocking foot. John has to look up to meet his eyes.
Eyebrows raised, face still, Sherlock sets his shoulders and frames both arms around an invisible partner. "I'll lead at first."
"You want me to dance with you?" Heart rate suddenly makes itself known. John schools his face to remain skeptical.
Swallow. "You think this will help me?" Toes still there, touching.
"In seventeen days, everyone you know on this earth will be gathered around a dance floor, eagerly waiting for you to make an utter fool of yourself." Sherlock's arms are creating a space for John to fill, and his eyes are blue and insistent.
"Fine. Fine." John sits up in the chair, forcing Sherlock to release his pose and step back. "But shut the curtains will you?"
"The curtains? Why?" That look, brows drawn together, when he can't understand that people have feelings that vary from his own. John sighs.
"Because I asked, Sherlock." John can feel his pulse in his throat. Sherlock looks at him curiously and then crosses the room to pull the curtains shut, giving John time to rise and regain his composure, tuck in his shirttail and pull down his jumper to lie flat.
The light gets cut in half, then half again as Sherlock yanks the curtains closed. The room is abruptly dim and serious. John hurries to the lamp and switches it on.
Sherlock ruffles up his hair and closes one of the buttons on his shirt where he'd opened it at the neck as he lay around his own flat (not John's flat, not anymore) and then he's approaching John head-on.
"We'll probably need a series of lessons."
"This is absurd, Sherlock."
"You'll thank me when your fifty-seven confirmed guests are staring at you as the music starts. Not to mention me."
"So I'm doing this for you?"
Sherlock's brows rise for a moment, then he offers up his left hand. "Hand placement," he says, and John nods once, sharp, to get himself moving. "Lead's left in follow's right."
John has no choice but to take Sherlock's hand. It is warm and dry and about twice the size of his own, and his fingers are swallowed up inside it.
"Lead's right on the shoulder blade of the follow," and he reaches around and John feels the warmth of his hand finding the sharp line of his bone through his jumper. John is not sure where to look, focuses on a small patch of peeling wallpaper in the far corner of the room.
"Your left arm needs to come up, and rest your hand on my seam…the shoulder seam of my shirt, the shirt of the lead," Sherlock says, his eyes also staring over and away, and John lets his hand barely touch, just the heel of his palm, right on the stitching of Sherlock's white shirt.
"Elbows up." There's an awkward amount of space between their bodies, John is hardly bending his arm to make an elbow they're so far apart, but he tries, and so does Sherlock, and John can feel all the places they are touching.
"Posture, John. Shoulders down, chin up," and that is so ridiculous that John can finally look at Sherlock and snicker, but Sherlock gives him a stern look back, so John bites his lip and takes a tiny step in to reduce the obvious space between them.
"All right. Now what, Baryshnikov?" John asks, and let's his smile return, because hell, he's in this far.
"Baryshnikov was not a ballroom dancer, John."
"I imagine he could get it done if he needed to, though."
Sherlock considers this, let's his head cock to the side. "Likely. Although some skills required for professional ballet are in contrast with the skills required for competitive level ballroom."
John grins. "My wedding is not likely to be a competition, you know."
Sherlock doesn't smile, just stares at John for a long moment, and John doesn't know what that look is, but it makes his pulse rise again. Finally, Sherlock looks away and clears his throat. "No, of course not," he says to the ground.
"So, what happens next?" John shakes his arms, settles his shoulders, and notices that the space between them has shrunk so that their hips are almost touching. He steps back an inch and swallows.
Sherlock looks up, face clear again, raising his elbows and setting his shoulders as well. "I thought you knew how to dance, John?"
"Shut up and teach me, you arse."
Box step next, and for long minutes John can't think of anything but steps forward and together and diagonal and listening to Sherlock's voice and looking at his feet, until finally they have established a pattern on the rug enough that he can look up for brief moments without trampling toes.
"I see now why you wanted the curtains closed," Sherlock observes.
"Shut it, you bastard. This is bloody difficult."
Another few sets, John is very warm, and the room has become very close.
"Good, John. Now, look into your partner's eyes," Sherlock says, and John follows Sherlock into another box sequence, mindlessly follows the instruction to look up, just another instruction, and then…bollocks.
Bollocks and shite, because blue and ghostly, but not dead, and right there.
John holds the gaze for a few steps, and then can't, he can't, and he steps on Sherlock's toe, and then looks back down. "Damn, sorry."
They get the count back, and start the box again. John lets his breathing slow, tries looking at Sherlock's shoulder.
"Mary's at work?" Sherlock asks.
"Yes, until six."
Silence, and they get into the groove then, John supposes. He counts in his head and doesn't miss a step again. They trod the same square on the rug over and over until his body is just doing it and his eyes can drift up, past the crisp white of Sherlock's shoulder to his throat, ear, stop there for some time. John can feel a small shift, Sherlock has pulled him fractionally closer and is, well, leading, their pattern moving in a very natural way to make a small circle around the rug. To hold on and not lose the rhythm, John feels himself pulling in closer as well, hip touching leg so that he can predict the next move to make, and he can, it's glorious. It only makes sense to try again, and look up.
Eyes meet, and the press of hands and hips and now a bit of belly. Jesus. Sherlock's gaze is steady and true, and John can only hope his is as well as he drifts in the flow and feel, because this is dancing, and Sherlock is bloody great at it.
They circle the room for a moment, gaze never wavering, waltzing together in the quiet.
Sherlock abruptly stops, still holding the stance, the space between them now closed, pressed, and a curious (worried?) expression shadows his face. John licks his lips to speak.
Sherlock starts. "John…"
"Tea, boys!" The door to the stairwell crashes open and Mrs. Hudson backs in, carrying the tea tray. John shifts away from Sherlock in a flash, dropping his hands and folding his arms over his chest. Sherlock, for his part, does the same, hands into pockets and eyes all doe innocence.
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson," John says, too loud. "Perfect timing."
"Well, what's this? Why is it so dark?" she asks as she squints in the dim light and sets the tray on the table by John's chair.
"Experiment," says Sherlock, who has taken two long strides over to wrench the curtains open and let in the afternoon light. "Over now."
"Yes, just an experiment," John adds. He blinks at the brightness, walks to his chair and sits, trying to catch his breath, hoping his flush is not visible. Sherlock darts to the other window and parts the curtains with a dramatic flourish.
Mrs. Hudson, in the middle of the floor, looks back and forth between them, her eyes narrowed. "Oh," she says, or something close to it, almost too quiet for John to hear. "Oh dear."
"Actually, Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock is teaching me to dance." Sherlock looks over, hard stare. John shakes him off. "You know, for my wedding. My wedding to Mary." John inhales hard, looks away from Sherlock, scratches his nose. "It's meant to be a surprise, so if you wouldn't mind."
Mrs. Hudson, eyes still narrowed, looks between them once more. "Don't you fret, John." She walks to the tea tray and pours a cup, then leans close to John's ear. "Your secret is safe with me."
John is frozen in his chair as Mrs. Hudson bustles out. "What a nice idea, Sherlock, teaching John to dance. I didn't know you knew how."
"What you don't know would fill libraries, Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock calls after her, in the tone John used to dread, but now knows is affection. Like he knows so many things now.
She's gone, and it is quiet for a moment too long. Something hangs in the air between them, and John cannot think of a thing to say.
Finally, Sherlock reaches for his violin. "Lesson two will involve turns," he says with his back turned, and then he puts bow to strings. John opens his mouth to speak, but it's too late now. He looks back once, then slips away down the stairs, leaving his tea still hot.
Jesus. Lesson two.