Sherlock hadn’t meant to attend the New Year’s Eve party. It was simply that he’d become bored waiting for John to get home from his holiday shift at the hospital. To kill time, he’d gone in late to the station to drop off the cold cases John had acquired for him for Christmas, complete with the notes he’d made and his conclusions. Those notes and the new year would give Lestrade some things to do, including an exhumation, an extradition and possibly the excuse to meet Molly for coffee. Those two really did need to make some progress. It was excruciating the way they danced around each other.
That thought led to the further thought that very possibly it was the same thought everyone at the Yard had had about him and John over the years.
Well, he and John had finished their prevaricating dance at last, after pretty much blowing up the dance floor, and… and this metaphor was absurd. Sherlock left Lestrade’s office, nodded briefly at the duty constable and was heading for the lift when Anderson, damn him, made an appearance.
“Oh, you came!” Anderson seemed both genuinely shocked and genuinely pleased. “John’s down there already. He said he was only stopping by to say hello and raise a glass on his way home from his shift, but if you’re here…” He grinned, a bit nervously.
Sherlock was disgruntled there was nothing in Anderson’s speech that he could immediately strip down. That look of polite eagerness was disconcerting as well.
“Where is John?” he asked abruptly.
“We thought it best to have the do in the gym,” said Anderson, summoning the lift. The two men stepped into it together. “It’s on the ground floor. Not so many stairs to fall down after a big night, eh?” His smile appeared, then dropped. “You didn’t come for the party, did you?”
“No,” said Sherlock, “Why is there a party?”
“Ah…New Year’s Eve?”
Sherlock frowned. He thought he and John were going to spend New Year’s Eve at home, ignoring the event. Or at least, marking it by embarking on the next phase of what he was thinking of as the Desire Map Experiment. The start of a new year was irrelevant to Sherlock, as it always had been. The only new starts worthy of note had been the ones from his return that charted his and John’s progress to their current marvellous state.
The lift doors opened and Anderson scurried out, Sherlock striding out behind. Anderson cast him a disgruntled look and walked down the corridor to the Yard’s employee gym to disappear inside. Sherlock stood at the door and surveyed the room, looking for John.
The space, normally used by a range of uniformed and plain-clothed police for fitness and working off stress, had been decorated. Weight stations and cardio machines were festooned in streamers and balloons at one end, while the wooden-floored court, meant for basketball but used mainly for free-standing exercise, was filled with people drinking, talking, dancing.
John was by the refreshment table, sipping at a glass of punch he clearly did not like, and being talked at by a boorish woman in too much make-up and a too-tight blouse whom he also did not like. Well, Sherlock definitely didn’t like her.
John saw Sherlock at the door, grinned like sunshine and waved. “Sherlock!”
Sherlock strode across the floor, ignoring everyone who tried to say hello.
“John.” It was not a friendly syllable.
“Don’t be a numpty,” John murmured as he leaned in to peck Sherlock on the cheek, “You know perfectly well she’s not my type.”
“Pull a jealous snit on me, sweetness,” said John into his ear, tone even and friendly, “And I will have five distinct words to say to you. One of them will be ‘trust’. At least one of the others will be swearing.”
Sherlock sighed. “You are kissing me at work, John.”
“It’s not work, it’s an office party, Sherlock.”
“I’m not jealous.”
“Of course not.”
“I am…” he considered the correct term, “Possessive.”
Sherlock kissed John on the cheek then sighed again. “She wants you to dance with her.”
“I was going to, actually. Just one dance, then home, where I thought you were.”
“I was bored, waiting for you to get home. I brought Lestrade’s cold cases in. Where is he?”
John grinned and nodded to the other side of the room, where Lestrade and Molly Hooper were indeed dancing around each other. Well, not around. Pressed rather tightly together, in fact, slow dancing, even though the song was not slow.
“You weren’t going to dance like that with that woman, were you?”
“There you go, being a plonker again.”
“I don’t like those names, particularly, John.”
“All right then, sugarpuff, if you stop being a possessive ninny, I’ll call you pumpkin instead.”
Sherlock shook his head. “Are you drunk?”
“Not by a long chalk. Here.” John rose on his toes and kissed Sherlock quickly on the lips. Sherlock thought John was right to not like the punch. It tasted awful enough second hand.
“Still kissing me in the workplace,” he murmured.
John grinned. “Parties still don’t count.”
“If that’s the case…” Sherlock wrapped his arms around John and pulled him in for a hug.
“You’re not going to convince me not to dance with Adele,” said John, hugging him back, “And I’m going to call you a plonker again if you don’t desist.”
Sherlock pulled away. “One dance with her, then. The next with me.”
John’s eyebrows rose. “I didn’t know you danced.”
“Of course I can dance, John.”
“I figured you could. I just didn’t think you did.”
“There are not many people I care to dance with. Two, as of last count, and Mrs Hudson is not here.”
John grinned. “Well, after Adele, you’ve got your name on my entire dance card for the night.”
“Nobody knows what a dance card is any more John,” scowled Sherlock, but he seemed slightly mollified. He looked over John’s shoulder at Adele, who had a wistful look on her face. “At the risk of you calling me a numpty or a plonker again, don’t let her get too close.”
“She’s a kleptomaniac. A compulsion related to trauma and loneliness. She’s trying to break the habit, but not succeeding. At least let me hold your wallet for you.”
John rolled his eyes, gave Sherlock a piercing look, and waited for Sherlock to surreptitiously relieve him of both his wallet and house keys before he turned, smiling, to Adele. “How about that dance I promised you?”
Sherlock found a wall to lean against while he watched John and Adele dance, shaking hips and shoulders at each other to some dreadful caterwauling pop music. If he concentrated hard, he could screen out everything but the beat, and how John measured it with his feet, his bending knees, his torso, the thrust of his bum. The wistful Adele only briefly tried to dance more closely, but John, very diplomatically, used her motion as a cue to mirror her and step back. She didn’t try again.
“You got yourself a good dancer, there,” said a voice at his side.
Sherlock looked at Sally Donovan, who was looking at John. He turned away again, to watch John take Adele by the hand, place his other on her waist, and swing her in an arc. Adele laughed and for the first time seemed to be having fun.
“He’s a good man,” said Donovan, but she was still watching the dance floor.
“Do you want something?”
“World peace. An end to hunger. A pony. The usual.”
Sherlock started to smile in spite of himself. He schooled the expression away. “Do we join hands now and sing some maudlin song about wishing Joy to the World?”
“Christ, no. The world wouldn’t know what to do with joy if it stood up and kicked them in the head.”
“You have an intriguing notion of how joy operates.”
Donovan sighed. “I know it when I see it, though.” She nodded at John on the dance floor, now with his arms in the air, hips gyrating captivatingly and singing along, looking at Sherlock and grinning with the light of a thousand suns. Sherlock realised that he was grinning back. Besottedly. He scowled and John laughed at him before returning to the dance.
“Happy New Year, Holmes,” said Donovan. She walked off before Sherlock could respond.
The next thing he knew, Anderson had paused on the way past. “Beverley. The duty Constable. She looked at the stuff you put on the DI’s desk. She says you’ve solved the Chalmers case, from ten years ago.”
Sherlock looked down his nose at Anderson.
“I worked that case,” said Anderson.
“One of my first at the Yard.”
“I bollocksed it, didn’t I?”
Sherlock frowned. “That is your modus operandi.”
“It wasn’t you,” said Sherlock suddenly, “Your own conclusions, while pedestrian, were essentially correct. Prendergast mishandled evidence and failed to question a witness properly. The exhumation will prove it wasn’t Desolto’s first murder.”
Anderson rubbed his nose with his thumb. “I am getting better, you know. After we studied your files, when you were … dead, I picked up a few things.”
“I… had noticed.”
Anderson blinked at him.
“Which is not to say you are any use at all.”
“Of course not.” Anderson sighed. “Happy New Year, you arrogant prick.”
At long and bloody last, the song finished, John thanked that annoying woman for the dance and strode over to Sherlock.
“You’re a handsome fellow,” he said, extending a hand, “Care to dance?”
“You intend to lead,” Sherlock observed.
“Afraid so. You can do anything, I’m well aware, but personally, I have no idea how to dance backwards without falling over.”
Sherlock grinned and shucked off his coat, which he threw over a nearby cross-trainer, before stepping close to John. He did that thing again, dropping his shoulders, subtly altering his stance, his body declaring: this is my partner, my equal, my John.
John’s settled his left hand on Sherlock’s waist, and he took Sherlock’s other hand in his right while Sherlock placed a hand onto John’s shoulder. The next song was slower, more melodic, and even in the right ¾ time, and John pulled Sherlock into a graceful waltz around the floor.
“You learned to dance in the army,” noted Sherlock, feeling the subtle pressure of John’s hands and body guiding him, “I imagine you were popular with the ladies.”
“Some of the men, too,” John admitted, taking them into a quick spin and glide, “Not a lot of call for traditional ballroom dancing out in the field, but god it can get boring at base between patrols, so we’d have dance parties. It’s a bugger waltzing in combat boots, let me tell you.”
“I suppose you cut rather a dash in your dress uniform.”
“I’ll show you pictures if you like. I was a bit of all right.” He danced Sherlock in a wide circle, hand firmly in the small of his back now, and Sherlock was surprised to find he was so content with letting John lead. He could feel the muscles of John’s shoulder moving under his hand, and although their bodies didn’t touch anywhere but where their hands lay, they were so close that he could detect John’s compact, graceful musculature shifting them around the floor.
“I don’t need the pictures,” he said.
John smiled and held him a fraction closer as they danced, around and around.
Sherlock was aware of others on the floor. Naturally. He was the man who noticed everything. Mostly now he noticed that others moved slightly to give them room. Adele, he saw briefly, watched them with envy under the wistfulness, and he thought: Yes. My partner is the best and brightest creature in this room.
When the song ended and the next began, John started to lead them off the floor, intending to head home, but Sherlock held his hand. “You said your dance card was full, with my name.”
John blinked at him and there was that glorious smile again. “From now until forever, sweetheart.”
“I’ll probably need a short break before next Tuesday.”
“I’ll schedule in a foot rub for you.” John took Sherlock’s hands in his. “How are you with the salsa?”
Sherlock began to move his feet, hips, shoulders with the beat and John moved right into the rhythm with him. One of his hands found its way to Sherlock’s hip and they showed the world how it was done, whether or not the world was paying attention.
Sherlock’s eyes stayed avidly on John’s, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel the sway and strength of John’s motion, the elegant bearing of his shoulders, the subtle signals that led Sherlock around the dance floor.
Poised, he thought, and so alive. People have no idea of the power in you, John.
This is how I would like sex to be, for me, was his next thought. Control and contact without so much overwhelming data. So much motion and grace. I would dance with you forever, John.
Or at least, until midnight, six dances later, when Sherlock was disgruntled to find the music had stopped and a hundred voices were chanting a meaningless countdown.
But then he saw John counting the time down too, grinning at him, eyes shining.
Didn’t John understand that every day was a new day, now this second chance was upon them?
New starts were not conveniently timed for the first day of a new year. They happened when one man finally came home from his war.
And when that man at last realised how he’d hurt someone almost beyond forgiveness, and found the courage and the words to apologise.
They happened when the one he loved forgave him after all.
New starts came on an overcast day with boxes and suitcases unexpectedly on the street and John coming back home.
And when dreams became reality, a hazy kiss broke down a misunderstanding, and two men woke up in Manchester to a new way to love each other.
Something fresh and new could happen every single day, when Sherlock could turn his head to see evidence of John in his life, see John himself, in their flat, and wonder what they would do today, what mysteries they would solve, or what they might learn about each other. Like dancing. It wasn’t the first day the year yet, and already there was something new.
Sherlock wondered what new and wonderful thing they might learn tomorrow.
“HAPPY NEW YEEAAAAAAAAAAAAR!!!!” roared dozens of voices.
John threaded his hands through Sherlock’s hair and Sherlock leaned willingly down, capturing John’s mouth with his, and after the first brush of lips, he opened his mouth to seek John’s tongue and they kissed like it was the first time, the first of a thousand first times for so many things.
People cheered, and Sherlock thought that was the most appropriate response ever under the circumstances. John slowly drew back from the deep kiss, but kept pressing their lips together, warm, pliant, glorious. Sherlock held John’s face in his hands, then, and kissed him a half dozen times, quick-and-fast, until John giggled.
The cheering continued, for the new year, Sherlock noted, obviously, oh, and for Lestrade and Molly, who was giggling too, and blushing, and Greg was flushed with happiness.
Sherlock buried his face in John’s shoulder and tugged him close, hiding because he knew that same bright, giddy glow was on him, and he felt suddenly exposed, even though nobody was looking. They were all too busy kissing and hugging and cheering among themselves, and feeling like they, too, could have a fresh start tomorrow.
John buried a hand in Sherlock’s hair, stroking his scalp, and held him there. “Every day a new day, honeybee,” he said quietly, “For all our days.”
From now until forever. “Yes.”
Recovered, Sherlock stood up and looked about for his coat, then suddenly he was leaping across the room to rescue it from the helpful Adele. A swift, unobtrusive check showed that she’d not yet had an opportunity to palm the wallets and keys he’d left in the inside pocket.
“Well, good night then,” she said, looking a little guilty, “Happy New Year.”
“Good night,” said Sherlock, “See a therapist. Your misery and attendant compulsive theft will cost you your job unless you get this sorted.”
She swallowed. “It used to be stationery. Now it’s watches and wallets. Do you really think a therapist will help?”
“It would be a miracle, but you’ll feel you’re making progress. And stop looking at him. John is not the slightest bit tempted.”
“He wouldn’t be,” sighed Adele, “Look at you.”
Sherlock thought the comment too idiotic for response, so he swept back to John, took his hand while John was saying goodnight to Lestrade and Molly and started off.
“Sherlock,” John complained.
“Yes, yes, happy new year, Molly, Greg, congratulations, it’s about time, blah blah, and I think Donovan won the pool.” Lestrade began to protest. “Well, they had to take interest in some other unsuspecting fool’s love life once they got bored with mine. Must go. Goodbye.”
“Take him home, John,” laughed Molly, “I can see he’s got plans.” Then she blushed, which made Greg laugh and kiss her.
Sherlock might have been embarrassed, except for the fact that Molly was correct, and that Sherlock was almost never embarrassed.
“Plans. Yes, John. Let us return home and consider our plans.”
And those plans turned out to be, in order:
- Dance with John to the radio until 3am.
- Breathe in the warmth of John’s skin the whole time, and then stand, sleepily swaying to the rhythm of their heartbeats, in the middle of the living room, wrapped in each other’s arms, breathing, breathing, breathing each other in.
- Undress while John sat on their bed in his pants, dozily singing “If I had a million dollars”. (Not planned, but which happened anyway, was that Sherlock complained about John’s repertoire again. John then began singing “When I’m 64” and only desisted when Sherlock wrestled him onto his back and sat on his legs, whereupon John switched to a laughter-disrupted version of “I’m on top of the world” and Sherlock admitted defeat.)
- Lie side by side, holding hands, falling asleep and letting the new year tip-toe in to Baker Street.
And the rest of the plans could wait until they woke up again, into another of their brand new days.