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Sherlock: Lead And Follow (Fanfiction)

Lead And Follow

Word Count: ~ 3.000
Summary: Sherlock didn't teach John to dance for his wedding. In fact, they learned to dance together much earlier – for a case. Or: The one where Sherlock taught John how to follow and John taught Sherlock how to lead.
Characters: John Watson, Sherlock Holmes
Rating: PG-13
Setting: after A Study In Pink
Warnings: Language
Contains: Pretending to be a gay couple for a case
Beta: tardisjournal, thank you!
Disclaimer: I’m not making money with this fanfic. The tv show Sherlock and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.

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Dancing: The art of moving gracefully together to music.
Friendship: The art of moving gracefully together through life.

John's life had changed. Where – just two months ago – he'd been in Afghanistan and a normal day consisted of getting up at dawn, living side by side with danger and trying to save those who most of the time were beyond saving, he was now living in a cosy flat with a man who gleefully dissected human body parts on their kitchen table and invited John to chase criminals through London.

John had thought it would be harder to adapt to civilian life and it had been incredibly tough ... at least until he'd met Sherlock. No matter what Mycroft Holmes thought, John didn't miss the battlefield, the military discipline or death always waiting close-by for John to fail while he tried to stem the bleeding or remove a bullet or shrapnel. What he missed, though, was the challenge, the unexpected, the way he could become more than the short, unassuming man people tended to see at first glance. That didn't mean that he didn't like dropping into his comfy chair and reading the newspaper in the morning or that he didn't enjoy fish and chips in Hyde Park. Because he did.

With Sherlock, he got the thrill and the comfort.

And more often than not, like right now, more than he bargained for. "When you said we would attend a ball, I was imagining something slightly different," he said wryly.

Sherlock's hand on John's back was firm, curled into the wool of John's jumper. He was scowling. He had been since they'd started this. As if John had somehow personally insulted him by hesitating or drawing the curtains or breathing out of tune. "Back," he said strictly, pulling on the jumper, trying to force John backwards by stepping into his personal space. John swallowed, tried to remember which foot to use, failed to and shrugged helplessly. Annoyed, Sherlock repeated, "Back, John."

"All right already," John replied. "Give me a moment here."

"The steps aren't that difficult."

"Difficult enough for somebody who's never done this before."

Sherlock huffed an irritated breath. The waltz was the only sound that filtered through the room for a moment, ignored by them while Sherlock pushed and pulled to make John move like he was supposed to. John stared down at their feet, trying to justify the complete humiliation in the face of a surprisingly talented dancer by thinking of the case Mycroft wanted them to solve. Someone was blackmailing some of Mycroft's acquaintances, claiming to have proof of their infidelity, tax fraud or - in one case - past drug abuse that could cost them their jobs. The discreet investigations by Mycroft's younger brother had been requested and Sherlock had given in in return for a future favour of his choosing.

Mycroft suspected an inside job and after looking at the blackmailer's letters, so did Sherlock, meaning that someone in upper-class London was getting a kick out of terrorizing other upper-class Londoners. John had only been able to raise his eyebrows at that, muttering something that had had Mycroft look at him condescendingly. And now, John had to learn how to dance within just a few hours, because Sherlock wanted to attend a ball where he would get a fair amount of suspects gathered in one room.

"John, move back!"

"Christ!" John let go and wanted to pull away, but Sherlock's hand fisted in his jumper kept him from stepping away completely.

Sherlock's gaze was determined. "Don't stop now."

"I need a break. We've been at this for hours."

"Half an hour."

John crossed his arms. "Feels like hours. You're not a very good teacher."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "You're an abhorrent pupil."

They stared at each other for a moment, both standing their ground. Then John raised his hands, deciding to be the bigger man before this erupted into another 'kitchen hygiene versus important experiments' stand-off, after which half of his meagre pension had gone into a new microwave. He dropped into his chair and grabbed the newspaper off the side table. "Take someone else then. Don't know what I'm supposed to do there either way. I won't fit in."

Sherlock looked very near to a full-blown strop. Just two months ago, John would have never used that word in relation to an adult but it fit Sherlock not getting what he wanted perfectly. He was staring at John indignantly, scoffed and said, "It's just a few dance moves."

Somehow, that rubbed John the wrong way. To him, his reasons were far too obvious. "It's not just dancing, Sherlock. It's a posh, expensive ball."

Sherlock waved it off. "Don't worry about the money. Mycroft will cover the costs."

"Not my point."

"I know what your point is and it's irrelevant. You'll be with me. They won't ask you to leave because of your lower middle-class upbringing. Besides, I'll make sure nobody will notice."

"Charming," John said. He shook his head. "You should take someone else. Someone more ..." John waved a hand.

Sherlock raised one eyebrow and mimicked John's gesture challengingly. "More ...?"

"Likely," John settled.

"Not male, you mean."

John huffed a breath. He hadn't wanted to say that. Not with Sherlock possibly being ... wasn't he?

If John was completely honest, he had no idea what gender Sherlock preferred. Most of the time, it seemed as if no gender could get him even remotely interested. John wondered about that. Not about Sherlock maybe being asexual, but about Sherlock apparently completely disregarding human connections of any kind. As far as he knew, he was the only one Sherlock might consider a friend. John certainly considered Sherlock one. How could he not? Despite the strops, despite the experiments in the kitchen and the cold arrogance, Sherlock was the most brilliant and interesting person John had ever met.

He lowered the newspaper and folded it again, explaining, "We will draw attention and I think that's not what we want with us trying to find out information subtly."

"More the opposite in this case," Sherlock replied and folded his hands on his back. John had the amusing vision of Sherlock in a tuxedo, making small talk with London's upper class. It made him bite down a grin because the image didn't quite fit. It was more likely that Sherlock would stand in a corner and glare at everyone in annoyance. He knew Sherlock loathed the idea of attending just as much as John but at least, Sherlock seemed to have grown up with this kind of thing. At least, John assumed so because Sherlock certainly didn't have to work for his income.

John, on the other hand, had never even set foot into an event like that. He'd never learned to dance, either. Some of his mates had been to dancing school in his teenage years but he hadn't found it in himself to be bothered, finding his smile having enough of an effect on girls.

Sherlock's words suddenly registered and he frowned. "You want to attract attention?"

"Going to a ball with a woman surely would help me to blend in, but it wouldn't be overly productive in this case. The ball is a yearly major event with over 500 guests attending. It would take me too long to start conversations with enough people to find the blackmailer. It would work much faster if you would accompany me."

"To attract attention?"

"A gay couple at a well-respected ball," Sherlock prompted, sounding mildly frustrated about John's perceived denseness. John had stopped taking it personally days ago, about the same time he'd realized that Sherlock thought pretty much everyone intellectually beneath him – and that bloody prat was right, too. Sherlock looked at him, waiting for the penny to drop.

John sighed and shook his head.

"John, people will want to be seen with us. We live in times where being seen with a homosexual couple gives you a certain amount of credibility. It's hip, so to say, to accept gay couples in the middle of society. Especially the higher-class one. People think themselves tolerant and sophisticated, overlooking the fact that their motives are insulting at best."

“So,” John concluded, ”you think the blackmailer will notice us because we'll be … what? The highlight of the evening? And then the blackmailer will come and talk to us, looking for blackmail material?"



Though Sherlock kept his distance from people, his understanding of them was uncanny.

Now, he held out a hand towards John, palm up. "Would you care to continue practising then? Because dancing will give us the best chance to be noticed by people after we arrive."

John sighed but put his hand in Sherlock's and let Sherlock pull him up. "I still think this is a bad idea." Sherlock held John's hand on shoulder height and put his right hand on John's hip, sliding it up to John's shoulder blade when John stepped closer. John kept more distance between them than necessary, though, wanting to keep an eye on his feet. He settled his free hand on Sherlock's shoulder. "Why do you get to lead anyway?"

"Because you can't dance and because I'm taller.”


”Move back.”

John looked down at his feet and obeyed. "So, what kind of topics should I master for small talk?"

"Now that you mention it, not talking would be best in your case."

John stepped on Sherlock's foot … not really accidentally. "Oh," he said when Sherlock hissed in a breath and winced. "So sorry about that."

"Petty," Sherlock replied with a glare and pulled John forwards rather roughly to complete the box step.

John pulled a face, squirming to get Sherlock to loosen the death grip on his jumper. "Whatever do you mean?"

Sherlock tightened his grip around John's hand. "In time to the music now." Which came as close to a reprimand as Sherlock could give John in this situation.

John tried. He really did. There was some pride on his side involved as well. Nevertheless, he could see Sherlock suppress rolling his eyes and wondered if it was a sign of a budding friendship that he tried not to show it. It irritated him either way. "You're not exactly helping," John snapped.

"How should I be helping you? I showed you the steps."

John stopped moving and stepped away, crossing his arms. "Sherlock, dancing isn't just about theory or technique. It's also about moving with somebody."


"Be a bit considerate, yeah?"

The music stopped.

Sherlock huffed a breath and ran a hand through his hair. "How can this be so hard for you? Basically, it's just walking."

"Easy for you to say. Your teacher probably only had to show it to you once before you mastered it.”

”I didn't have a teacher.”

”Your partner then.”

Sherlock shook his head. ”I taught myself.” He shrugged and turned away to re-start the music on his laptop. ”It's what I usually do.”

John stared at him. "Did you ever dance with somebody else? Ever?"

Sherlock fiddled with the volume. "I never needed to."

John swallowed. He thought it was a bit sad, but it only strengthened what he'd learned about Sherlock so far. Implications by Sally, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft and even Sherlock himself had hinted at Sherlock being someone who'd always been alone. John wondered how that could happen. Infuriating habits and arrogant brashness aside, Sherlock was actually a good bloke.

He cleared his throat, hesitated. He knew Sherlock would brush off any sympathetic remark so he just replied, "That's why you're being a bit of a cock then."

Sherlock turned back around to him and tilted his head, a slight smile tugging the corners of his mouth up. He moved closer and back into the classic dancing pose.

John sighed. "Aren't you annoyed enough yet about me stepping on your feet?"

"I'll let you know when I am," Sherlock answered earnestly. "You're too tense," he said then, back in teacher mode. "Relax a bit."

”It's hard with somebody having such high expectations of me.”

”My expectations of you aren't that high.”

John frowned. ”Thank you … I think.”

Sherlock readjusted his hands, pulling him closer. "Let's try it like this. I should be able to lead you better. We can increase the distance between us later."

John sighed. "Can't see my feet like this.”

“You're not supposed to. Don't look down. Look into my eyes.”

”I won't see where I'm going.”

”Just follow me. Don't think about it too much.”

"Says you."

Sherlock smiled. "Trust issues even when dancing?"

John rolled his eyes. "Shut up."


They moved slowly for a while, Sherlock guiding John's steps by keeping him close, and John found it easier to find the moves like this: Sherlock pushing him back gently or pulling him closer, hinting at the next step with his eyes and nodding at John when he did it right. John still felt he was moving to stiffly, but he was only occasionally stepping on Sherlock's feet now and before too long, they were moving in time to the music.

"Much better," Sherlock finally said and increased the distance between them back to the classic style slowly.

John smiled in relief. "There we go, look at us dancing."

Sherlock shook his head. "It's not perfect."

"It doesn't have to be. Good things rarely are.” John shrugged. “Besides, we're still getting used to one another. I never danced with a bloke before. You never danced with anyone."

Sherlock pressed his lips together and moved a little faster, pulling John into a spin effortlessly. John was still marvelling at how well he'd dealt with that, when Sherlock replied, "It's easier alone."

"It doesn't make any sense to do it alone," John said.

Sherlock's hand on his shoulder blade curled into a fist, then relaxed again. "Nobody ever asked me to dance."

"You're kind of unapproachable." John winced when he stepped on Sherlock's foot again. "Sorry. I thought I was over that."

”It's all right.” Sherlock lowered his gaze to their feet. "You're doing well now. Well enough, I should think."

John winked at him. "Do you want to dip me, love?"

Sherlock didn't suppress the annoyed roll of his eyes this time. "Don't be silly."

John smiled teasingly. "We're supposed to be a couple, though."

"And considering how uncomfortable you get when someone questions your sexuality, I should think we should just stick to the basic steps."

John's grin got wider. "It's just for a case, though. We're only pretending. Could be fun."

He was almost looking forward to it now. He'd seen Sherlock slip into roles only a few times. He was really good at it and seemed to get a certain kind of glee out of it, too. John wanted to try it as well. And what better chance than to be someone completely different in a room full of people he would never see again? And what better chance to make Sherlock a bit flustered, maybe by dropping the words 'wedding' or 'adoption'?

Sherlock looked thoughtful now. "Do you think I should dip you?"

John chuckled. ”Maybe not dip me, no.” He stopped moving, got on his toes and pressed a fleeting kiss to Sherlock's lips.

Sherlock didn't react, he just looked at him. ”You kissed me.”

”Brilliant deduction, yes,” John replied.

Sherlock seemed to mull that over for a moment. ”I'm missing something,” he finally said and he looked so utterly confused that John took mercy.

”Just because I'm not gay doesn't mean I can't pretend to be for a case. I don't mind kissing you … for a case.”

Sherlock's face brightened and John could see an idea forming in his eyes.

”Only on the lips, though!” John interrupted before Sherlock could come up with any crazy concepts about making out in a corner to give their roles more credibility.

Sherlock nodded, but he looked a bit disappointed. ”I think you're right. Kissing should … make this more credible.” He paused. “We should also touch every now and again.”

John nodded. "I could take the lead there,” he said. ”I know ...” He paused, not sure if he should say it, but then decided on doing so. ”I know how to be a couple.”

Sherlock gave a tight nod at that and it made John wonder about his romantic life again. Sherlock put his hands on his hips. ”I think you will actually be quite useful, John.”

That git! His compliments always sounded like insults.

John sighed. ”Well, you know theory, I bring practical experience to the table."

"So you do."

"Could help you in the long run," John couldn't resist to add. "I think you need some practice."

"In dancing? I don't think so."

"In dancing with others," John corrected. "Let's go one more time.” He reached out a hand. "Shall we?"

Sherlock fiddled with his laptop, playing the track they'd just danced to again. Then he frowned at John. "I should ask you. I will lead after all."

John smiled. "Then ask."

Sherlock reached out a hand. "Shall we?"

John accepted it. "I thought you'd never ask."


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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 20th, 2014 01:07 pm (UTC)
Well done. I enjoyed it. I can totally see this. Sherlock has all the theory, but not the practical, so he needs John a lot more than he knows. Thanks!
Apr. 21st, 2014 06:47 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Apr. 20th, 2014 01:47 pm (UTC)
That was really sweet. Spot on dialogue too.
Apr. 21st, 2014 06:47 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Apr. 20th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
Adorable! Thank you, this brightened my day:)
Apr. 21st, 2014 06:47 am (UTC)
I'm glad it did. :)
Thank you.
Jul. 30th, 2014 02:57 am (UTC)

This was charming. I really like how John doesn't back down from confrontation with Sherlock, just retreats a little and 'attacks' from a different angle, one that Sherlock isn't expecting - like another dance within the dance :)
Jul. 30th, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
I like the way John does that in the show, the 'attacking' from a different angle bit. Thank you for noticing it.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )