Author's Note: This is named after a song Fred Astaire sings in the old musical Easter Parade.
Yes I know, yet another of the million ways my mind can come up with for them to admit their love. Serriously, why is my mind stuck on this? I don't know but it's just so fun! I love sappy revelations like this.
-Obligatory Disclaimer -
These characters belong to the BBC show writers Moffat and Gatiss. This is just fanfiction, no profits made, blah blah blah. And my apologies for any fangirlish butcherings which have no doubt occurred herein.
Steppin' Out: "It's For Sure, Not For Maybe, That I'm All Dressed Up Tonight"
John squared his shoulders and gave himself a curt nod in the mirror, then with one last pull on his lapels, turned round and strode downstairs, anxious anticipation jittering in his limbs. He'd swapped his usual jumper for a tie and suit jacket tonight, and was trying to figure out just how to carry himself straight and tall without seeming too military.
As he entered the living room, he glanced over at Sherlock, pushing back the secret wish that he would notice and comment favorably on John's appearance. It was silly, he knew; Sherlock never complimented anybody. Perhaps that was why John craved his approval so much: if Sherlock said it he would know it was true. But at the moment Sherlock was standing with his back to him by the window, so John found himself eyeing Sherlock's striking figure, seeking inspiration. Somehow Sherlock managed to look both imposing and lazy at the same time; no, that wasn't quite the image John wished to mimic, even if it did make everyone, including himself, a bit awestruck in his presence. John stared at him, the messy black curls, the too-lean form hinted at under the drooping robe, and still beyond all reason he managed to make John feel like a peasant approaching his king. Honestly, even in just a sheet, Sherlock's posture alone could make everyone else feel rather dumpy and underdressed.
Sherlock must have caught sight of his reflection in the window and half turned toward him at last.
"What are you looking so handsome for?" Sherlock glanced John over and swiftly flicked his glare elsewhere. John's heart forgot to beat for a second. Even if the tone was derisive, Sherlock had said 'handsome.' He shook the thought from his mind.
"Date tonight." John announced with a mixture of smugness and apprehension at the irritation he knew this would arouse in Sherlock. "Heading out at six-thirty," he informed him while checking the fridge. "There's leftover chicken if you remember to feed yourself." John added dryly. He could sense Sherlock rolling his eyes at him even though he couldn't see his face.
"So… there was a point to your dawdling while I waited in the cab." Sherlock sighed long-sufferingly.
"What?" John's mind tripped, trying to figure out the path of thought that comment had come from.
"The other day, at the courthouse." Sherlock clarified with his usual poorly hidden impatience.
Right: when John had hung around being civil (okay maybe it was flirting), after Sherlock had dashed out unceremoniously. John grimaced. It was ridiculous how irritable Sherlock was when anyone didn't cater to his every whim. Although when it came to himself in particular, there was a subtle, but distinct, flavor of possessiveness about Sherlock's selfish resent whenever John's attention wasn't riveted on him, absorbing his dissertation or awaiting his command. That possessiveness always flared up whenever John was impudentenough to go out on a date. It was almost funny how moody the man with 'no feelings' could be.
"It's that lawyer, isn't it." Sherlock muttered grimly. "You asked her out?" he scoffed.
"She asked me, actually." John corrected. It was obvious by the slight falter in his tone that he wasn't entirely comfortable with that, but he was eager to impress the point that he was wanted by someone.
"Oh, yes…" Sherlock's slightly nasal tone insinuated John would never have had the temerity to ask her himself, being so far out of his league, and that this woman's dominance was sure to continue throughout any relationship they might have.
John glared at him as Sherlock settled himself languidly on the couch, letting his eyelids droop. "We're out of coffee. You'll want to pick some up for the morning." Sherlock had exchanged his critical tone for one of complete disinterest, but John had learned to read Sherlock's moods and knew his trivializing of John's plans was his way of pouting. Assuming he would be back before shops were closed was also a clear jab at John's ability to please his date.
"Who says I'll be here in the morning?" John argued defensively.
"Of course you will." Sherlock dismissed any other possibility.
"I might be too late for shopping." John countered.
"No, you won't." Sherlock drawled.
"I could be out all night." John retorted firmly.
"You'll be back by Ten." Sherlock asserted, already weary of this debate.
John snorted. "You wish." He muttered, sounding more sullen than he'd intended.
"I don't wish. I know."
John rolled his eyes. "Sherlock, I don't have time for this." John told himself he wanted Sherlock to just leave him to his folly, yet he never actually refused to listen to him.
"You don't have to leave for another half hour. Actually, you don't have to leave at all." Sherlock sat up again fixing John with his keen eyes. John held Sherlock's gaze stonily, refusing to outright ask how Sherlock 'knew' he would be home early, but he waited for the inevitable rundown of his date anyway.
"Casually hidden scars, previously broken nose and fingers, but she's intellectual not an athlete, older than the date her graduation from law school would indicate so she didn't go straight though, there was a gap of several years, obsessively organizes everything, eager to assert herself, photographs reveal a series of boyfriends all shorter and less attractive than herself, and by the body-language never seriously involved, paranoid of taller men standing behind her though you wouldn't have noticed that, flinches when touched, brushes off the attention of powerful men but flirts with people 'beneath' her…all of which indicates she was in an abusive relationship in the past; past because she's not trying too hard to cover the scars and her office doesn't bear the signs of someone who avoids going home. That explains why she feels attracted to less assertive men whom she can control. With your jumpers and…" Sherlock waved his hand about to indicate John's height and appearance while looking slightly embarrassed as he finally muttered, "general adorableness," he cleared his throat and hurried on, "she's marked you as gentle and agreeable, not a threat."
John felt his cheeks burn a bit at that. He prided himself in being gentle and agreeable, although he didn't like the weakness those words often implied. He'd felt flattered when she had flirted with him after brushing off the other lawyer who had dropped in on them while they spoke with her. On top of that, he was rather shocked that Sherlock would even think of calling him 'adorable' let alone utter the word.
"She's determined to prove herself competent and independent in reaction against being seen as a victim, so she projects a commanding presence and cool demeanor, refusing to let others assist her. Her personal desire for revenge is channeled into seeking justice for others through her profession, but underneath her image of classy confidence, she's still paranoid of being taken advantage of and has a tendency to cut things off the moment she feels she's loosing control. No doubt she tells people she takes things slow for the sake of respect and morality, but the fact is she will never be able to let someone that close to her again." Sherlock held John's now resentfully subdued gaze and concluded matter-of-factly, "You will most certainly be home at a decent hour."
John huffed, and scratched the back of his neck with a look of chagrin. He knew better than to distrust Sherlock's observations, and he knew Sherlock meant well, but he was still annoyed. Sherlock always ruined his dates. Every time. And the worst part was he always felt grateful to Sherlock in the end because he was always right about why it wouldn't have worked out. He fought against that gratefulness now, but couldn't muster up any true resent, not even when he glanced back up at Sherlock and saw the hint of smugness just barely tugging at the corner of his mouth. It was almost cute, if such a word could be applied to Sherlock. However did he manage to make insolence so endearing? John sighed and looked at his watch, now feeling a sense of duty rather than anticipation at the prospect of this evening. To his surprise Sherlock continued speaking.
"Furthermore, John, you are intimidated by her and are mistaking the slight thrill of risk for attraction. Your jacket and twitching step say that you're over-thinking how to impress her, therefore I know the lack of compatibility between the two of you is already nagging at the back of your mind. After all, you are not as much of an idiot as you seem determined to make of yourself. You prefer to take a protective, not submissive, role with your lovers but have agreed to go out with her anyway because you thought it would be rude to turn her down, though more importantly because you'd feel sexually pathetic for refusing the offer of a woman who possesses all the socially touted qualities of desirability."
John pursed his lips in reluctant admission. Once again, Sherlock was irritatingly right. He wasn't reallyattracted to her, he just felt he should be. The question of how often that was the case gave him pause, but Sherlock was still rattling on.
"Even more importantly, however, you feel overshadowed by me and ashamed of your invalid status making you determined to prove yourself a desirable, competent person. Having bought into the social nonsense of evaluating people's worth by their associations and possessions you assume dating a dominant woman like her will accomplish this. That, and you feel the need to demonstrate to everyone that you have other interests besides me."
Now John really was glaring at him. Sherlock raised his brow with a look that challenged John to deny his analysis. For a moment John felt defensiveness simmering up inside him, but knew letting it out would only result in him blathering excuses that weren't true. It was silly of him to have ever supposed Sherlock couldn't see straight through him to the inner workings of his mind; even the areas that he was only marginally aware of himself were probably an open book to the man. Then suddenly John's expression shifted to one of revelation, and he studied Sherlock with his head cocked to the side. Sherlock could read everyone else like an open book, but John had every reason to suppose that Sherlock's own feelings remained hidden from him, and what was more, that he was one of the few people who actually could read Sherlock.
Originally, Sherlock had dismissed the idea of a 'relationship' between the two of them, however all the signs were suddenly falling into place in John's mind bringing him to the conclusion that that was exactly what Sherlock wanted but didn't know how to retract his previous assertion. It seemed probable Sherlock wasn't even aware that this desire was his motivation for his obvious possessiveness and jealousy. John was so struck by the certainty of this new perspective on things that he found himself speaking before he'd even stopped to consider what he thought of it himself.
"If you don't want me to go, Sherlock, why don't you just tell me." John fixed him with a piercing gaze of his own.
For a brief second Sherlock looked startled, but he quickly recovered his arrogance with a miniscule lift of his chin and droop of his eyelids. He glanced away from John with a slight shake of his head, "I don't care if you want to waste your time making a fool of yourself."
That did it. John strode over and placed one knee on the couch between Sherlock's legs, shoving him back to glare at him, bare inches from his astonished face. "I may not prefer to be dominated but I like someone to have the guts to tell me when they want me, instead of sulking about it."
Sherlock did his best to glare back at John, but he was obviously flustered. His breath caught and his eyes attempted to flick down to John's mouth, or away past his ear, though he managed to catch them before they actually did.
"So tell me, Sherlock Holmes, what do you want?"
The muscles of Sherlock's jaw twitched as he clenched his teeth and struggled for a biting retort.
John held his gaze steadily, fighting a smirk of triumph. Somehow it seemed his own decision had already been made, though he hadn't actually thought about it, and Sherlock's desire was now so transparent that John already knew the outcome of this little stand-off, whether it came now or in the near future. He stifled the urge to laugh at just how adorable fallen-off-his-high-horse-Sherlock looked. Just for once, though, John was going to drive his point home as mercilessly as Sherlock would have. He lowered his voice to a menacing growl.
"You sabotage my self-worth so I'll come groveling to you for approval and then you withhold it because you're too afraid to let anyone get close enough to find out you're human. Well I already am that close, Sherlock. Don't think you're so clever I can't see inside you. You long for someone to accept who you are inside, but you won't ever let that happen because you push away what you desire rather than admit you need anything. You need someone to protect you from yourself!" John emphasized the word 'protect' knowing Sherlock would catch the connection to his observation about him. Sherlock's eyes escaped his control at that and glanced past John, but John saw the trace of emptiness in that face of stone which was as good as admitting defeat. Sherlock would never openly back down, however, and his determination was once again instantly restored. He continued to stare stubbornly past John at the mantle.
"Your cab is here." Sherlock's lips barely moved, the low menace in his voice equal to that in John's.
John stood back and stared down at Sherlock with a look of disdain that could have rivaled Sherlock's own habitual expression. If Sherlock wanted to draw this out, so be it. John would go on dates and have himself a good time until Sherlock admitted that he wanted John all to himself.
Sherlock 'hmphed' loudly and flung himself around to face the back of the couch, curled into a petulant ball inside his robe.
Without a word John turned and headed for the door. He hesitated a fraction of a second with his hand on the knob, but resisted the urge to glance back at Sherlock. He turned the knob.
"Don't." Sherlock commanded through gritted teeth.
John looked upwards, drawing in a deep breath, both exasperated and overjoyed. He'd had no idea how much he'd been longing to hear him say that each time he was about to go off with someone else.
An instant later he found himself backed up against the door with Sherlock looming over him, his body pressed against him and his breath hot on his face. Sherlock's glare was dangerous, but there was a trace of desperation in his voice, "Don't go on a date with anyone else ever again, John."
"Tell me why, Sherlock." John insisted solemnly.
"You know why." Sherlock muttered stubbornly as he pressed closer, almost brushing John's face but still not quite committing himself to actually kissing John.
"I don't want 'an understanding,' I want to hear you say it to me." The determination in John's voice wavered with Sherlock so close, but he wasn't going to let Sherlock play games off and on with his emotions. If he was to take this step, it had to be certain, so he held his ground.
Sherlock almost looked as though he would punch John, but John knew his rage was because he could never find words for this kind of thing. John needed to hear Sherlock say it before he could admit it himself, but it seemed he had pushed Sherlock too far now. John winced as Sherlock shoved himself away from the wall, red in the face. Before he could turn away, however, John's hands darted out and caught his shirt, dragging Sherlock back, suddenly desperate to keep him close. Sherlock regarded him with a grim and pained expression as John looked up at him nervously and then dropped his gaze to Sherlock's mouth. They both hung there in silence.
"BecauseIloveyouJohn." Sherlock mumbled as John leaned hesitantly closer.
John's hand wrapped round the back of Sherlock's neck and his hips swayed forward to press against Sherlock's as he tilted his head back drawing Sherlock toward him till their lips finally met with awkward urgency. They 'mmmed' and struggled to keep their balance as they gripped each-other in a fumbling battle of hunger and hesitance.
"I love you too." John breathed into Sherlock's lips as he was squished once more against the door. Sherlock was starting to get the hang of kissing already, the quick-learning bastard, and John moaned softly as he felt himself melting into the door while Sherlock's tongue slid into his mouth. Suddenly, he felt Mrs. Hudson rapping tentatively on the other side. The handle turned, but the weight of them both prevented her from opening it.
"Taxi for you John!" She called through door. Sherlock refused to release John's lips to answer, and they could hear her dithering about on the top of the stairs for several minutes. "John?" She called again, sounding a bit suspicious. Sherlock mischievously shoved his hips harder against John's to make the door rattle, causing John to let out a bit of a grunt as well. To John's horror they heard her gasp "oh!" and begin to retreat down the stairs.
John pushed Sherlock back in consternation and Sherlock smirked at him, still grasping John's shoulders, as he called out breathlessly "Won't be needing it, Mrs. Hudson! Tell it to go away."
"No wait!" John cried, wrenching the door open with one hand and grabbing Sherlock roughly with the other, causing them both to stumble through the doorway. He wrapped both arms securely around Sherlock's middle and grinned at him mischievously in his turn. "Go out with me?" He cooed, giving Sherlock his best puppy eyes. "That's what you wanted, isn't it?"
Sherlock turned bright red, glancing awkwardly between his pajamas, John's suit, and Mrs. Hudson who was watching them from halfway down the stairs.
"I-I'm not…" he stammered.
John relished Sherlock's look immensely and determined to make him pay with embarrassment for …well, being him.
"Why bother to dress?" John teased him. "There's no one but me you need to impress tonight, and you already know what I think of you." John glanced him over, his eyes glittering with pride and amusement.
"I'm not even…" Sherlock glanced at his bare feet.
"No." John cut him off and began dragging him down the stairs by the hand.
"John!" Sherlock cried indignantly, ripping his hand away, but only succeeded in pulling John back towards him, in the process causing John to trip on the top step and fall into his arms, pulling Sherlock's robe and shirt awkwardly off one shoulder.
Mrs. Hudson giggled, and Sherlock shot her a glare. John straightened them both up, making a fuss about adjusting Sherlock's robe smartly and tying up the dangling belt in a neat knot. Sherlock glowered down at him.
"Come on." John said cheerily, starting to turn round.
Sherlock stayed rooted to the spot. John sighed and stared up at him.
"Well I suppose you could get your sheet." John allowed with a twinkle in his eye. "It was good enough for Buckingham Palace." He fully expected Sherlock to start down the stairs at that, but instead Sherlock lifted his chin and one eyebrow about as high as they would go and spun on his heel to stamp off toward his bedroom, shedding clothing as he went. John gaped after him. Well there was nothing for it now. He'd asked for it, after all, and Sherlock was obviously determined to make him pay equally.
John blushed deeply as Sherlock reappeared in the doorway swathed in white and looking (yes he'd been right) as regal as roman emperor.
John raised his eyebrows questioningly "Pants?" He had to ask, though he felt himself turn an even deeper shade of red.
"Nno." Came the cool, arrogant reply, which was as much as to say nicely played, John.
"Right." John nodded, bracing himself for the evening to come, and offered Sherlock his arm. Sherlock took it and paraded down the stairs in utmost dignity, though he spared Mrs. Hudson a roguish wink as they passed out the front door and into the waiting cab.