A man may drink, and no be drunk;
A man may fight, and no be slain;
A man may kiss a bonie lass,
And aye be welcome back again!
- Robert Burns
Sherlock Holmes fingered the slim, silver pin fastened to the apron of his kilt, brushing over the spikes of the metal leaves to find the purple amethysts inlaid at the top of the thistle. His thumb brushed over the small detail of a bee resting on the thistle and smiled. The pin was a gift from his mother in honor of his coming of age earlier in the month. It had been his great-grandfather's pin and now he wore it with pride. The occasion he wore it, however, caused him to pause and grimace. Never one to flock to social gatherings, this Burns Night ceilidh was a duty from which he wished to be excused. He'd offered to stay in, studying his books, but the idea had been roundly denounced.
"Absolutely not," his mother had said, her voice threaded with its usual steel, "we are a family of high standing and you must go and represent us, now that you are of age."
"But Mycroft's older," Sherlock pointed out, "can't he go for all of us?"
"Whisht, Sherlock. You'll do as I say and I'll have none of your arguments."
He knew, of course, that arguing was pointless. Once his mother had something set in her head, she rarely wavered. And he knew, too, that she longed for him to make friends. Sherlock grimaced again. What use had he for friendship, when he had his books and his thoughts?
His brother, Mycroft, poked his head around the doorway and arched a brow at Sherlock. "Ready?"
Giving himself the once-over, Sherlock determined that he looked as well as he could muster. His kilt and plaid in the Holmes tartan hung well on his slim frame and he'd oiled his dark hair until it fell in lustrous curls around his shoulders. The pin anchoring his kilt glinted in the light and teased a fond smile to Sherlock's lips.
"I suppose I am."
He turned and followed Mycroft. Outside, their father and mother waited with the family's wagon. Several of their closest neighbors were riding with them, including the Hooper clan, whose pretty daughter, Molly, waved at Sherlock and smiled.
Inwardly groaning at his mother's insistence he be polite this evening, Sherlock climbed into the wagon and settled beside Molly, exchanging pleasantries before his father shook the reins and set the horses in motion.
"It's so exciting, isn't it?" Molly said, her cheeks pink - whether from the chill in the air, or from her high mood, Sherlock wasn't sure.
"To be sure," Sherlock answered, "though I dare say I'd rather be in with my books."
"Aren't you always?" Molly laughed, "But surely you wouldn't want to miss Burns Night?"
Sherlock sighed and pressed his lips into a tight smile. "Of course, that would be a travesty."
Molly giggled and then turned her attention to her other seatmate, Sally Donovan, a slightly plump girl who sniffed haughtily at Sherlock before beaming at Molly. The two tittered and whispered animatedly as the wagon bumped along the path.
"You'll need to pretend better than that," Mycroft drawled softly, leaning forward from his seat directly across from Sherlock, "else mummy will despair of your bad manners."
Sherlock scowled at his brother and turned away, watching the scenery pass by. The night hadn't even started and already he felt a dark mood descending.
The Lestrade clan was very old and very wealthy friends of the Holmes family. Their barn was lit up inside and out - small bonfires burned outside, with tight groups of people gathered around, nursing mugs of cider. Their breath came out in white puffs. The low hum of voices thrummed through the crowd, reminding Sherlock of the bees that buzzed in their hives at home in their gardens. During the winter, he would often calm himself by listening to the low thrum of the hive and the worker bees fluttered their wings to keep the queen warm during the coldest months.
A jovial looking man caught up with their wagon, holding out a hand for the reins. Mr. Holmes handed them over and climbed down to greet the man - one of the Lestrade's workmen, who were helping with the many wagons, carts, and vans that arrived for the ceilidh.
Sherlock waited while the rest of the occupants climbed out of the wagon before climbing out and plodding, desultory, towards the barn. As he approached, he could hear the faint sounds of fiddles and bagpipes warming up as well as the murmur of voices that swelled even more as he drew up to the barn door.
He thought every man, woman, and child from every nearby - and not so nearby - town must have come to Burns Night. The Lestrades' barn was full to bursting with people; Sherlock counted no less than fifteen different tartan patterns. Long tables lined the walls, laden with food brought by all the guests. In the far corner, a band readied to play. The center of the barn had been kept clear for dancing. At the thought of dancing, Sherlock felt a tug of longing in his heart. How he loved music and, moreover, how he loved dancing. But he didn't know any proper dance steps, only the ones he made up in his mind, and he was too embarrassed to attempt dancing in front of such a crowd. Looking around, Sherlock tried to find an unobtrusive spot to hide himself for the rest of the evening. He edged towards the food table, thinking he might abscond with a mug of cock-a-leekie soup and a bit of bannock.
So set on getting food and hiding away was he that he missed the short, stocky lad who darted in front of him, also headed for the food table. Sherlock crashed into him, knocking the blonde man to the floor and wrenching a decidedly impolite word from his mouth.
"Oi, watch where you're going," the man exclaimed, "look what you've done!"
Sherlock looked and his face grew red. The man must have caught his kilt against one of the rough barn beams and there was now a ragged tear in the apron.
"I-I'm so sorry," Sherlock stammered, stooping next to the man and offering his hand, "I didn't see you!"
"And it's my fault that you're blind?" The man groused, brushing his sandy hair from his eyes.
Sherlock was about to snap something back at him, when he caught a full look at the man's face and found himself speechless. Though at first he came off as rather ordinary looking, upon closer inspection, Sherlock found an interesting face looking back at him. Tanned, well-lined skin spoke of frequent work outdoors and eyes the color of the sky just before it rained sparkled with a mixture of irritation and mild amusement. The man's mouth was quirked in a half-smile and he gave a sniff in response to Sherlock's gobsmacked reaction.
"You going to help me up, or just stare at me like some gormless fool?"
"Oh! Err... of course," Sherlock found himself stammering again and, rather than prolong his embarrassment, he grasped the man's hand and helped him stand up.
The man brushed dust from his clothes and frowned at the tear in his kilt. "This was my best one, too."
"I really am sorry," Sherlock said, "but you did dart out in front of me."
"You're saying it's my fault?"
"Ye--I mean, no. I---" Sherlock waved his hands around, trying to find the right thing to say.
The man glared at Sherlock for a few moments before his grumpy expression finally broke and he began laughing. "You should see your face! You look terrified that I might punch you right in your gob!"
Sherlock blushed and looked away, muttering, "I wasn't sure you wouldn't."
This caused the man to laugh harder and he stuck his hand out in greeting. "John Watson. I'm new to the area. Here with my mam and sister. We're trying to get to know the locals. We bought the old Stamford farm over the hill."
"Holmes. Sherlock Holmes. I know of that farm," Sherlock said, taking John's hand briefly, "plenty of work there."
"That's no lie," John laughed, and Sherlock found that the sound of his laugh made his stomach feel as though he'd had a warm drink. "But I like the work, and I'm good at it."
"And your father? Did he stay home?"
John pulled a face and shook his head. "My da died last year. It's just us, trying to make a go of things in a new place."
Sherlock flushed again, always seeming to find the one inappropriate question. John chuckled and placed his hand on Sherlock's upper arm.
"It's all right. You weren't to know. "
Sherlock couldn't stop staring at the wide, sturdy hand on his arm, the warmth of John's skin seeping through Sherlock's shirt. The silence stretched a beat too long and John cleared his throat, removing his hand and glancing around nervously.
"Well, I... uh... I suppose I should go find something to fix this, then," John waved at the tear in his kilt, "my mam might have something, if I can find her."
John rose up on his tiptoes, scanning the crowd of people. The band had started to play, softly at first, but the music grew louder as couples started filtering on to the dance floor.
"Oh!" Sherlock had a flash of inspiration. "No, let me help. I caused it, after all."
He bent and, with fumbling fingers, unfastened his kilt pin. Kneeling next to John, he gathered the dangling fabric up and pinned it, adjusting the silver thistle until it sat straight. He stood and backed away, suddenly self-conscious of what that may have looked like to anyone watching them.
John brushed his hands over the thistle pin and glanced up, brow furrowed, "N-no, that's too fine of a pin. I can't take it from you."
"It's only a loan," Sherlock insisted, "you can give it back at the end of the evening."
"Won't you need it?"
Sherlock shook his head. "No. I'm not dancing tonight, so I won't worry about my kilt flying up."
At this, John's brow furrowed even further, his forehead wrinkling in consternation. "Not dancing? Why ever not? The band is a fine one."
"It is," Sherlock agreed, "but I don't know any of these dances and, anyway, there's no one I wish to dance with."
John turned to survey the crowd, eyes catching on the young ladies currently whirling around the dance floor as the band wove together fiddle, bagpipe, and flute; a merry beat tapped out on a bodhran helped keep the rhythm of the dance.
"There are so many lovely young ladies here, tonight," John observed, "surely there's one that would dance with you, even if you don't know the steps?"
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably. "No, there's no one I wish to dance with."
John turned back and scrutinized him. Something in Sherlock's face must have given him some sort of answer, because his forehead smoothed and he only replied with a small "Oh."
Sherlock, knowing he'd outstayed his welcome, stiffened his back and looked at some point over John's head as he said, "I should go. It's a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Watson. I'll find you at the end of the ceilidh to retrieve my pin."
He whirled to continue his course to the food table, but found himself stopped by John Watson's grip on his arm.
"Don't go," John insisted, "let me show you how to have some fun!"
Sherlock allowed John to pull him back, dazzled momentarily by the saucy wink John gave him, and then he found himself being dragged towards the dance floor.
"W-what are you doing?"
"You can't come to a ceilidh and not dance at least once!"
"I told you, I don't know how to dance!"
"It's dead easy. I'll show you."
"I don't want to dance with any of the girls," Sherlock was frantically grasping for excuses.
"Yup, you made that clear. But how about you dance with me?"
Sherlock didn't think he could be more shocked, but he was wrong. His face flamed crimson as he stared, hard at John Watson, who grinned back at him.
"I don't like being teased," Sherlock said, hurt making his voice tight.
John shook his head, his grin widening, "I'm not teasing. Dance with me, Sherlock Holmes?"
"People will talk," Sherlock hissed, already aware at a few curious stares being directed at them.
"They rarely do little else," John said, "and we're just in time for the Gay Gordons! C'mon, take my hand."
Before he could refuse more, Sherlock found himself swept to the dance floor, John's arm around his back to take his right hand. John laced the fingers of his left hand with Sherlock's and he pulled them forward to take several steps. The music swirled around them - a lively march - and Sherlock resigned himself to the dance. Already he could see several people staring, whispering, and giggling at them, but John Watson didn't seem to care. Instead, he nudged Sherlock into a pivot and they turned, taking more steps in the opposite direction. As the music picked up, Sherlock found himself lost in the melody, kicking his feet along with John as they circled the dance floor. His curls bounced against his shoulders and he couldn't stop a wide grin spreading across his face. John tossed his head back and laughed, a sound like liquid gold that made Sherlock want to spend all of his time figuring out how to make him laugh harder. They stopped, John raising his hands above Sherlock's head. He had to stand on tiptoe to reach that high, and they both giggled together as John twirled Sherlock around, his kilt swirling out and threatening to expose far too much of Sherlock, without the kilt pin to weigh it down.
"You see?" John said, as he pulled Sherlock closer and they resumed their dance steps around the floor, "you did need the pin, after all."
"I didn't know a madman was going to take me dancing," Sherlock joked.
"Madman, am I?" John winked again and, as the song - and the dance - came to a close, he pulled Sherlock even closer, "then I suppose I shall have to prove just how mad I am."
John's lips pressed against Sherlock's, warm and soft, as he tangled his hands in Sherlock's curls and cupped the back of his head. Sherlock stiffened and tried to pull back, but became distracted by how amazing those lips felt on his. He relaxed his mouth, kissing back, tasting the faint flavor of whisky on John's lips. John smelled of the farm - a light scent of hay and barnyard animals, but not in way that Sherlock found unpleasant. And somewhere, under the smell of the farm, was a decidedly masculine, musky scent that went straight to Sherlock's groin. His arm had gone around John's back, hand splaying across the small of his back, as John pressed the kiss deeper. His tongue ran across Sherlock's bottom lip and then he pulled away, nipping lightly at Sherlock's lip before he drew back. His smile was gone and he looked at Sherlock seriously, his eyes questioning whether that had been okay.
"Oooh," Sherlock breathed, his hand flying up to his mouth to run his fingers across his lips, "now people really will talk."
"Let them," John murmured, his voice rough and low.
They had, indeed, gathered more stares and whispers, but Sherlock found he no longer cared as much. He let John pull him away from the dance floor and towards one of the quieter corners. Once there, John reached up to caress Sherlock's cheek lightly.
Sherlock nodded, still unable to form a coherent sentence.
"I need to go find my mam, make sure she's doing all right," John smiled, sadly, and turned to go.
"W-wait!" Sherlock said, "What about... what about my pin?"
That wasn't why he wanted John to stay, but it was the first thing he could think to say. John grinned at him, the saucy light in his eye glinting once more.
"I guess you'll just have to find me, Sherlock Holmes."
With that, John Watson turned and was swiftly swallowed up in the crowd. Sherlock watched, the ghost of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He reached up to touch his lips once more, still feeling the buzz of John's kiss, like a swarm of bees beneath the skin.
"Well, John Watson," he murmured, "the game is on."