Entry 1 of 3 for the SoCal Sherlockian Fanfiction Challenge – AU Crossover: Step Up

"No. No, no, no! Wrong! All wrong! Again!"

The whole room went silent, all eyes pointedly not looking at the exhausted, battered form of Sherlock Holmes' new partner, a third year transfer noted for his unbeatable technique and so-called insurmountable perseverance. Sherlock had sought him out at once. Everyone else at the Academy had already been tested, trained, and ultimately considered unworthy. No one spoke, but the truth of it was heavy in the room; the new guy had failed just like the lot of them. And no one even knew his name yet.

"J-Just… One second, I… I need to…" The boy panted, a few eyes glancing over just enough to see him sitting squarely at the center of the room, arms propping himself up from behind as his chest heaved painfully. They'd been at it for hours, one routine after another, pushing the boy to his limit and beyond, and as expected, it seemed Sherlock had finally caused a few cracks in his armor. Just like with everyone else.

"We're done here," Sherlock sniffed, walking past the boy without a second thought, the boy's eyes going wide, the raggedness of his breath only increasing.

"No, wait! I can do this! Just… Give me one… One more chance… Please!"

Sherlock didn't bother turning back to face him completely, simple looking over his shoulder and offering the full force of his icy glare at the quivering mess of a boy at his feet. "You may have been at the top of your class back in grade school, but here, you're nothing but mediocre foot work and a weak left knee. Just because you've been hiding it for years, quite poorly, I might add, doesn't make you unbreakable. I will not be held back by a dancer too stupid to know the difference between misdirected balance and core strength. Your career will be over before you're thirty. If it isn't already." And with that, he left.

"F-Fuck you!" The boy called at his back, but it was a broken, pathetic attempt at best, everyone in the room quietly filing out without word or sympathy. They'd all been there, all felt his wrath, and the ones who hadn't were left in even worse shape. There was no pity, only the acceptance that Sherlock Holmes was the best, that he only worked with the best. And that "the best" didn't include anyone at the Academy.

"We need you, John. You know we need you. Do you want me to beg? I'll beg! This is me begging, John. Please!"

"You know I can't, mate. I'm sorry."

"The doctor cleared you. You said so yourself!"

"I don't feel cleared, Seb. And I don't know if I ever will. So please, just stop asking me, alright?"

"But you-"

"Just. Stop."

Seb's face fell, brow furrowing in frustration, and John didn't blame him. Their crew was practically within arm's reach of breaking out of the small time and into something bigger, something more than just midnight challenges and semi-public dance-offs. John had stumbled into Seb's crew and made it better, made it a name to be reckoned with in the underground dance world. And then he'd had to go and get himself shot.

It hadn't been his fault, poor timing and a bad split decision mostly, but it had cost their crew an important gig, and the tremor in his hand, the limp in his leg, had cost John everything else. There was no point in it anymore if he couldn't be at his best. Every dance would be a reminder of what he'd once had. And every re-choreographed routine because of him would be even more so. So he'd thanked Seb and the crew for everything and quit. Maybe he'd join the army. It was what he'd meant to do before stumbling head first into an unexpected skill. Maybe he'd be able to find another one.

"I'm sorry, Seb," John said for the umpteenth time since he'd quit; for weeks, the guy just wouldn't give up. But for the first time, the look in his eyes as John turned to leave seemed surprisingly and painfully defeated. And more than a little bit angry.

"We'll never find another you, John." He spat. "You give up like this and you've ruined us."

"I'll have ruined you?" John scoffed, spinning back around and tightening his hand around the strap of his bag to keep it from shaking. "That fuck with the gun wasn't looking for me, remember? If anyone ruined anything, it was you and your sorry excuse for a 'manageable gambling habit.' So get over yourself and find somebody else to cover your ass from now on. Because in case you couldn't tell by the fucking scar on my shoulder, I'm already too ruined to care."

"You'll regret it, Watson!" Seb shouted, but John was already walking away, not looking back. Not looking back at any of it.

No. Not likely. Only here because of familial expectation. Wants to dance on a cruise ship. Good god no. Taught incorrect footwork. Barely took up dance a year ago. Secretly wants to be a chef. No, no, no. Absolutely not.

Sherlock glanced over the various new students that passed him with a keen eye, marking each fault, each skill, each supposed talent that the Academy had deemed notable this year. Not one of them stood out. Not a single one.

"Boring…" Sherlock mumbled to himself, turning into a nearby rehearsal studio solely to escape the onslaught of new and disappointing information.

Not for the first time, Sherlock considered leaving the Academy, taking one of the many offers to tour overseas or transfer to the Royal Company, but they were all so dull, so predictable, nothing left to teach him, nothing left for him to gain, nothing, nothing, nothing. Bored.

Sherlock lowered himself gracefully to the floor in front of the mirror and stretched, settling his legs in an effortless split and resting forward on his elbows. He needed a new partner. He needed someone fresh and exciting and not bogged down by the ridiculously preconceived notions of dance, the mediocre delusions of the physical. He'd researched all forms, all styles, all techniques. He knew what to expect, how to manipulate the body to his will to create all manner of art. But where he was perfection, the rest of the world was still barely learning how to point their toes. Sherlock got back to his feet with a huff, stretching his arm across his chest as he walked to the window. He needed someone to mold, someone to recreate from the ground up, someone new. Someone like-


He was hardly anything special, but the way he walked, the way it was obvious he was keeping his body from reacting the way it wanted to, the way it was meant to-Strong and toned but agile, flexible. Self-trained but currently out of practice. Recently been shot, judging by the limp… but no. No, he favors his right arm even though he's left handed so he was shot in the left shoulder. Then the limp is psychosomatic. Was told by physicians that he might never dance again. And yet he could. With the right help, he…-Sherlock placed a hand on the windowsill, practically pressing his nose up to the glass to see the man better. Blond hair, lean build, but with muscles in his arms and legs that only came from athletics. Or breakdancing. A break-dancer. Why hadn't he realized it before?

"Oh, sorry. I didn't realize the room was-" A soft, female voice broke into his thoughts and Sherlock turned to her at once, the owner-pigeon toed, decent flexibility, weak back and below average core strength-frozen in the doorway, her hands still wrapped up in her partially-made bun. She recognized him, of course, and as usual, the blush of her half-intimidation, half-admiration nearly stretched all the way to the neckline of her leotard. The plan unfolded itself in seconds. "Sorry, Mr. Holmes, I didn't-"

"Sherlock, please," Sherlock chimed in abruptly, walking over to her in a rush and grabbing her arm without warning, all but dragging her over to the window. "And your name is?"

"M-Molly…?" She squeaked. Sherlock smirked in amusement at the slight raise to her voice, making it sound like she wasn't even sure of that much.

"Well then, Molly," He sidled her up to the window and put his hands on her shoulders, speaking at a low rumble into her ear. "I need you to help me identify someone."

The letter had been waiting for him in his mailbox the next day, the Academy emblazoned envelope staring at him from the top of the pile of bills and letters from his mother. Inside was a mostly blank Academy letterhead with barely a sentence dotting its center:

John Watson,

If convenient, come to Rehearsal Studio Four tomorrow (April 3rd) at 9:00 am. If inconvenient, come anyway.


He'd passed the Academy multiple times on his way to practice, but he'd never given it much thought. Now, as he walked up the elaborate staircase at the front of the school, traveled the well decorated halls to Rehearsal Room Four, he couldn't help but wonder what on earth they could possibly want with him. He was a decent break-dancer-well used to be-and had considered applying back when he'd first started out, but it had been a pipe dream quickly shattered by the flight of a poorly aimed bullet. They couldn't want anything to do with him now. In fact, he almost hadn't come. But something inside him was curious. And it had been a long time since he'd been curious about anything.

So, without letting himself think on it for much longer, he pushed open the door and offered a half-hearted, "Hello?" into the room. "I'm John Watson. I was told to-" He stopped short, the room filled with a variety of nylon-clad men and women, all stretching and practicing and staring directly at him. "Sorry, I didn't realize… Must have the wrong room. I'm just-"

"Ah, yes," a low, posh sounding voice from just out of his line of sight spoke up, the owner stepping into the center of the studio and giving John a once over, smirking at what he saw, whatever that was. "You're in the right place, John. Please come in. It won't do to simply loiter in the doorway. We have work to do."

"Work?" John hesitated long enough that the man was forced to finally shake his head, sigh in exasperation, and wrench John into the room by force, one of the dancers closing the door behind him. "I think you have the wrong-"

"What on earth are you wearing?" The man blinked at him and frowned, releasing his arm as if stung. "I would have thought it obvious even to someone like you that you were being asked here to dance. Victor!" He shouted suddenly, a man in the corner a few years older than John straightening at once.

"Y-Yes! Yes, Sherlock?"

"Get John some proper dancewear, if you please."

"Right," Victor nodded, excusing himself in a rush. John looked up at Sherlock, the man still gazing at him like he was some sort of math problem, and frowned.

"I'm fine with what I have on, thanks," John crossed his arms. "And what did you mean by someone like me?"

"Oh don't be like that," Sherlock rolled his eyes, snapping his fingers for the new clothes the moment Victor returned, holding them out in front of John like a fashion designer one at a time before slinging them over Victor's outstretched arm. In the end, he seemed to decide on a grey wife-beater and a pair of black slacks in a stretchy material that looked a bit too formfitting for John's tastes. "Your availability for our appointment today says no longer in school but the flat you're currently renting says barely making ends meet, so didn't get into University-no. Didn't bother applying, interesting. And currently between jobs, fired from your last for prioritizing rehearsal over work, and currently unsure what to do now that dancing seems off the table. Which you're wrong about, by the way."

"I don't…" John's frown deepened, if only just to keep his jaw from dropping. "What do you think you're playing at?"

"I never play," Sherlock handed the clothing to John, who didn't take it. "I merely saw. Now, the changing room is in that back corner. You're wasting time."

"You're right. I am," John glared, spinning on his heel, but something kept him still, Sherlock's words running circles in his head. When he couldn't bring himself to ignore it, he turned slowly back around and sighed in defeat. "What did you mean by wrong? About the dancing being over. What makes you think you have any idea what I-?"

"You were shot," Sherlock smirked, throwing the clothes around his neck and lifting a hand to John's shoulder, covering the exact area of the still healing scar with his palm. "Right there," he added, chuckling softly when John yanked himself away with a start. "You have a limp too. Psychosomatic, I'm afraid, which we'll work out of you in due time. But these are hardly reasons to think your career as a dancer is over. No," Sherlock clasped his hands together in front of his face, fingers pressed lightly to his lips and eyes drilling so deeply into John he thought he could feel his skin tingling. "No, you're afraid it won't be enough, afraid of being less than your best. You're afraid that if you manage to get back on that dance floor you'll be a sad, pathetic shadow of your former self, each misstep, each falter a reminder of your own mista-oh. Somebody else's mistake, then. Even better." Sherlock was practically giddy with the new information he was somehow managing to read from John's presence alone, breaking down his entire life while John just watched in mortified anger, trying desperately not to drop his glare as the eyes of the rest of the room raked over him like nails on a chalkboard. Finally, after a painfully long silence, Sherlock stretched out his hand, clothes dandling in his grasp life a lifeline. Or the devil's contract. "You underestimate yourself, John Watson. I'm fully prepared to right that injustice."

This time it was John's turn to look the man up and down, taking in everything from his perfectly toned physique and his ridiculously well tousled black curls to mesmerizing eyes and cupid-bow lips. Bust most especially, to the look of smug confidence on his angular, obnoxiously attractive face. Everything about this Sherlock bloke just pissed John off to no end, which is why he had no idea what possessed him to respond by snagging the clothes out of Sherlock's hand and stomping towards the changing area in a huff.

Maybe he was insane. Or maybe he just liked the idea of a challenge, liked the idea that Sherlock considered his dancing worth all this effort he was putting in, that Sherlock wanted to "fix" him in some way. John glanced at his reflection in the changing room mirror and frowned. Nope. Definitely insane.

John wasn't out of shape by any means. In fact, he was rather proud of his body, his muscles, his stature, despite the lack of what would have been a nice couple of extra inches. He'd been able to run a good five miles in thirty-five minutes before the accident, still managed a decent number of pushups per day, though his left arm tended to give him trouble after a while. And despite his continuous determination that all dancing in the future would be left to his bedroom, he'd done well to keep up a core strengthening regiment in his down time. And if that regiment involved attempting some old breakdancing moves-or for that matter, inventing some new ones-no one had to be the wiser. For all anyone knew, he'd given up. And he'd been well on his way to convincing himself of that too, until this unexpected challenge. Regardless, he'd have considered himself physically ready for anything the pompous git could think to throw at him. This was hardly his first time on a dance floor.

But what Sherlock was asking of him was impossible. Beyond impossible. It was madness. And yet, John kept on, straining himself with form after form of ridiculous instruction John had never been taught, sometimes never even heard of, while Sherlock watched on, calculated, analyzed, and then moved on as if John hadn't been doing this for hours.

"Again," Sherlock walked past him for the umpteenth time, adjusting his balance mid spin and causing him to tumble to the floor in an ungraceful heap, panting and cursing under his breath. "Stop favoring your leg. It's not broken is it?"

"No, but I-" John tried, but Sherlock merely clicked his teeth and continued on.

"Then stop treating it like an ailment. Your balance will be off kilter until you do."

"Unless you weren't… aware, this isn't exactly… my style, Sherlock." John huffed, dragging himself back to his feet and repeating the spin, trying his best not to focus on his leg, but he still felt Sherlock's hands on his waist, straightening him barely a degree to the left, letting him know he was compensating. Again.

"Dance shouldn't be categorized by style. It should be categorized by movement. A jazz dancer should be able to recognize the movement of the ballroom dancer, the contemporary dancer should be able to will the mind and body to mimic the ways of the break-dancer," he paused, lengthening John's arm where it had fallen somewhat slack in exhaustion before giving John a look. "And visa versa."

"People's minds don't work that way," John groaned, dropping his arms completely and letting himself settle off the balls of his feet. "Each dance style requires technique. If I asked you to do a windmill or a headspin right now, you couldn't possibly-"

"Of course not," Sherlock rolled his eyes. "But if I were to study the technique, practice alongside a knowledgeable instructor, then I'm confident I'd have it learned in a short time regardless."

"Well, let's hope you have enough confidence for the rest of us then, yeah?" John ran a hand over his face, grimacing at the amount of seat on his brow. He probably looked disgusting. And pathetic. A laughingstock. John glanced around the room, but the few that had stuck around after what was supposedly the end of "class" were merely looking on in a sort of wonder. John raised a mental eyebrow and returned his focus to Sherlock. "Why are you doing this anyway?"

"You have talent hidden underneath your appalling lack of self-assurance, and as frustrating as that is to witness, it's also equally as fascinating." Sherlock said matter-of-factly. "Now again."

John's groan was probably a tad over-exaggerated, but he raised himself back onto the balls of his feet nonetheless.

It wasn't until the whole of the school had filed out for the day and the sun had dipped well past the horizon before Sherlock finally let John go. Though not, of course, without giving him an extensive list of things to practice before his next rehearsal. When he'd had the time to write down everything, John had no clue, but he folded up the paper and put in his pocket regardless, opting to look at it more thoroughly later.

Before he left, John stopped at the door, fingers just resting on the handle as if unwilling to let him go just yet. John looked over his shoulder to find Sherlock staring outside the window, one hand stretching between his shoulder blades while the other tugged lightly on his elbow. With the streetlights pouring around him from outside, he looked almost ethereal. John swallowed. "Is there a reason for all of this, Sherlock? Do you need me for something?"

Sherlock didn't bother turning around. "I get bored, John. Technique and style and training, it's all so pedantic." He dropped his arms to his sides. "I long for a challenge, for a partner who can teach me something new. Someone who can make me better."

"And you think that's me?" John whispered. Surely he'd misunderstood. Surely his heart wasn't suddenly trying to rip its way out of his chest.

Sherlock did turn around then, eyes catching the light of a passing car and making him look, for an instant, so intoxicating it nearly stopped John's heart altogether. "I don't think, John. I know."

The next few weeks were both torturous and strangely addicting, John arriving earlier and earlier each rehearsal to stretch, and eventually coming from once a week to once every few days to every day, at Sherlock's request, not that he minded. Occasionally he heard a snide remark about his uncultured background, about his lack of training, about Sherlock taking pity on him.

"Why else would he be wasting so much time on him when he barely gave me ten minutes?" He'd heard a girl whisper to her friend once as he passed them on the way to Room Four.

But most of the people who sat to watch them in class, as if his lesson with Sherlock was something to be audited, were openly impressed, asking where he'd learned his breakdancing skills, admiring his resilience, and most specifically his ability to withstand Sherlock's intimidating mood-swings.

"I've dealt with worse," he'd said at the time, but in reality, he'd never met anyone like Sherlock. The man was a genius, not just with dance, but with everything. It wasn't often that they took a break from the training, but when they did, they talked about all manner of things; John's life, what he'd seen himself doing before dance fell in his lap, where he'd planned on going before Sherlock saw him walking outside his window. They talked about Sherlock's love of chemistry and all other sciences, his violin-which John had made him promise to play for him someday-and how he'd come into dancing himself.

"The Nutcracker," Sherlock had mumbled absently, eyes far away, lost to a memory. When John had pried for more information, Sherlock had rolled his eyes at him, though he'd done little to hide the smile that had followed. "It was a production of the Nutcracker. I'd gone mostly to listen to the orchestra-Tchaikovsky's works were a favorite of mine back then-but I'd spent the majority of the time watching the ballet. The way they were in such perfect sync with the music, the way they had such beautiful control over their bodies… I had my brother enroll me in lessons the very next day."

The training was not only near impossible for him to catch onto quickly, but was also some of the hardest workouts he'd ever done. It was a wonderful experience he hadn't realized he'd missed, waking up the next day with sore muscles and bruises from particularly nasty falls. In Seb's crew, he'd been a quick study, teaching others within weeks of his joining, the routines all filled with moves he'd long since mastered, even a few he'd created. But this was completely outside of his comfort zone, and John couldn't get enough of it.

"Wrong!" Sherlock groaned for what had to have been the tenth time in the last five minutes. "You're thinking too hard about your hands, what they look like, where they're going. Just let the motion flow from your body to hers, one solid sweep of energy transferring between the two of you. What's so complicated about that?"

John almost didn't laugh, was so close to holding it in, but the tail end of his scoff escaped him, the girl in his arms-a petit, attractive woman named Sarah-tensed at the sound, alerting him to the fact that Sherlock must have heard it too. And as expected, Sarah was pulled from his arms and pushed rather harshly in the direction of the rest of the bystanders not a second later.

"For God's sake, Sherlock, you don't have to be so-!" John tried, but suddenly, Sherlock was pressed against his back, all manner of muscle and hard flesh touching John's back and thighs and wrapping around him in the way he'd been wrapped around Sarah only seconds ago. John's words died his throat, possibly never to return.

"It's a transference," Sherlock practically rumbled in his ear, breath hot and soft and tickling his neck in a way that shouldn't have sent a shiver down his spine. "My arm, my hand, my body entire," he shifted their positions together, reaching over John and across his chest, dragging feather light fingertips from one shoulder, along the sweat dotted skin of his collarbone, to his other shoulder. Then upper arm to elbow, lower arm to wrist, and eventually placing their hands together, palm to palm. "To yours." It was a slow, delicate movement, truly the embodiment of Sherlock's energy flowing from his body into John's to be shared. It was breathtaking. Awe inspiring. Mesmerizing. So much so that when Sherlock released him, John stumbled forward, unprepared. "This is basic partnering technique, John." Sherlock said suddenly, and surely John was imagining the tightness in his voice. "Learn it or we're through here. Sarah?" The woman as back in his arms at once, and John told himself that if it wasn't quite the same, it was because of the perspective and not because of the lack of warmth and presence and Sherlock behind him.

It had been a mistake, taking John into his arms like that. A mistake he hadn't even realized he'd made until he was there, feeling the way the man fit against him like a puzzle piece, the way he moved almost intuitively, subconsciously, naturally and wholly when Sherlock was the one leading him. It made him want to be the only one to dance with him. Ever. Putting Sara back into his arms had been near agony. And that had been a mistake. A heinous mistake that could not be unmade, because John was it, the partner he'd been looking for. But he hadn't been looking for this.

He'd let John go early that day, let him leave with the others, the mindless admirers who still lingered around him eager to learn whatever their poor, neglected minds could absorb. Sherlock had stayed behind to think, to try and make sense of what it was about John that was not only ordinary but brilliant, not only a perfect partner but also, quite possibly, a perfect partner? Sherlock had dismissed the thought at once. He'd convinced himself long ago that he was beyond that, beyond the need for that sort of interaction outside of the dance, the lingering touches of intimate motion to a swell of timeless instrumental. To think that this experiment, this challenge he'd presented himself could be anything more than a secondary body to create the art against, beside, with. It was preposterous. John Watson was nothing more than a dance partner, exactly what he'd planned for him to be all along. And yet, having John in his arms, even for that single, too short moment…

Sherlock wandered down the halls, back to Rehearsal Room Four, the walk he'd forced himself on to hopefully change the perspective of his thoughts only worsening them. And the image that waited for him inside only worsening them further.

It was John, walking across the floor, arms over his head in a stretch as he waited for the music softly playing in the corner to change. The moment it did, Sherlock's breath caught. The shift in focus, in attitude, was one thing, but the shift in body, in mind, in very presence that occurred as John took the rush of beat and tempo and rise and fall of music inside himself, turned it inside out and balanced it on himself like a puppeteer… Sherlock could feel his heart beating in his throat, could hear the blood rushing in his ears. This… This was something beyond him. This wasn't just dance, it was the embodiment of dance. It was what John would look like as dance.

The strength and flexibility and agility he'd deduced of this man from the window what felt like years ago didn't even compare to what he was witnessing, right now, in person. The way John could lift himself up as if weightless, spinning on one hand, arm bent to support him. The way he could contort in on himself one moment, settling all of his balance on his head, and then practically erupt with movement the next, legs spinning about over himself like a-Ah. Like a windmill. Sherlock actually smiled, remembering John's words on day one. Sherlock wasn't so sure he'd have the confidence to reply the same if asked again. Not after seeing what John could do with these movements. In fact, Sherlock was certain no one could.

Suddenly, John was no longer touching the ground, a movement part aerial and part pure momentum of the spin, helping him back to his feet. And facing him towards Sherlock.

"Oh…" John's eyes widened, his chest rising and falling a bit more rapidly as he grabbed a towel off the table and turned off the music. "I didn't… I didn't realize you were…" He panted, smiling nervously. "How long were you standing there?"

"Six pm tomorrow," Sherlock swallowed. "Meet me outside." He didn't bother waiting for a reply, already out the door and trying desperately to pretend that what he'd just witnessed hadn't drastically rearranged his priorities.

John was on the steps of the Academy at 5:55 pm, sitting himself down to wait. Why Sherlock had wanted to switch their usual rehearsal time to later was beyond him, but he'd long since stopped questioning the Great Sherlock Holmes when it came to his teaching method. The man was a nutter sometimes, but a genius always.

He didn't have to wait long, Sherlock walking up to greet him at exactly six o'clock, dressed not in his usual dancewear, but in what looked like a dress shirt and slacks. John raised an eyebrow at him and Sherlock smirked.

"Tonight we're practicing your partnering skills, John," Sherlock explained, already walking towards the street, arm outstretched to hail a cab.

"And we're not doing that here," John continued for him, Sherlock's smirk only growing.

"Your observational skills never cease to amaze. We're going to the only place I know where partnering isn't choreographed but felt." If John's eyebrow raised any higher, he was afraid he might lose it in his hair. Sherlock only chuckled, a cab pulling in before he could explain further, a teasing, "You'll see," lingering in the air as he let Sherlock lead him into the backseat.

He understood the second they pulled up in front.

"A nightclub…" John frowned. Sherlock put an arm around his shoulders, smiling.

"A salsa nightclub, John. It's still early, so there won't be an inordinate amount of people to make a fool of yourself in front of while I teach you the basics." Sherlock led him inside before he could protest. Though he did try.

"Is this really necessary?" John whined, but he refrained from struggling out of Sherlock's grasp. So as not to embarrass the man, of course. Not because he liked the feel of a strong arm pulling him closer, or anything. Not at all. "Couldn't you just teach me salsa back at the Academy? Or is my humiliation a part of the training?"

"Nobody of any legitimate skills shows up here until at least nine. You have hours yet before you'll have to worry about humiliation," Sherlock waved away his concern. "The point of salsa can only be gathered in the proper setting, among fellow dancers, the music flowing through the floor all at once as an atmosphere rather than a catalyst, the motions creating themselves. Understand?" John flushed. He couldn't help it when Sherlock talked like that. Dance wasn't just an art, it was also life, breath, existence. Poetry. John's silent nod was mostly to get Sherlock to stop looking at him so intently, but also because he didn't trust himself to form words properly. "Then let's begin, shall we?" It took Sherlock pulling him towards the dance floor for John to finally remember how to speak.

"Wait, wait," He stopped, Sherlock looking at him curiously. John cleared his throat. "If I do this, then afterwards, you have to let me take you somewhere, deal?"

"Somewhere?" Sherlock raised an eyebrow right back, smirking. John's blush probably could have dyed his face red.

"Another dance club," John corrected quickly, forcing away the thoughts of places Sherlock might have been imagining John had meant. "One a bit more… my style."

Sherlock looked at him for a decently long while, Sherlock's answer seeming more and more like a no, but then suddenly, Sherlock shrugged, uttering a nonchalant, "If we must," before pulling John completely onto the dance floor. "But first, salsa."

John was a quicker study with salsa than he had been with contemporary and jazz, the spontaneous flow of it settling into him in a similar way to breakdancing, his body moving almost of its own accord into the moves Sherlock taught him. And with Sherlock on the leading end, it was almost as if he didn't need to think at all, just let talented, competent hands maneuver him into place, let a perfectly sculpted body press against him, around him. It was a rush. And when Sherlock had him lead, the difficulties of learning the same moves backwards aside, John reveled in the improvisation. It was a bit embarrassing at first, dancing with another man in public in a style that was so blatantly meant to lean towards the romantic, the sexual even, but when that man was Sherlock, it was almost as if nothing else existed. It was just them and their bodies moving together and John understood. Partnering was so much more than two people moving as one. It was two people becoming one.

It was at that moment, at that very unsafe thought, that Sherlock pulled away from him, gave John his first real good look at the man he was dancing with. Sherlock Holmes, a man, John had learned from his time at the Academy, that had a reputation for brilliance and talent and egotism and disrespect. A man that could break you apart beyond repair with the simplest utterance of a hidden truth or strip you bare and rebuild you into something better than yourself. A man who was beyond dance. A man who, for all intents and purposes, was dance. And he had picked John, chosen to dance with John, to teach John. He would be lying if he said he wasn't honored and flattered and more than a little surprised, especially now, when it seemed the teaching had momentarily ceased and that Sherlock was simply there to dance. With him.

Sherlock moved with a sort of grace that seemed impossible, lithe frame-especially accentuated in the tight fitting attire of the ballroom dancer-and toned physique working fluidly with the music, rocking and swaying and spinning with it in a way that took John's breath away. Sherlock was attractive to begin with, but here, now, letting himself escape in the blaring salsa music and the practiced steps, he was downright gorgeous, and John had no problem admitting it. He was the rhythm incarnate, the beat flowing through him like he controlled it, like it was following him instead of the other way around. And when Sherlock grabbed John's hand, spun him around and pulled him close, dropping to his knees before rolling back up to meet him with a look in his eye that was pure sex, John couldn't stop himself from thinking that there were few places right now that he wouldn't follow him too.

John nearly tripped over his own feet at the onslaught of images that train of thought planted in his mind, Sherlock wrapping a hand around his waist when he stumbled. "Tired?" Sherlock panted, a gleam in his eye that John had never seen before. He was smiling, genuine and excited and John couldn't help but smile back, shaking his head.

"Not even slightly," he said once he'd pulled Sherlock to the side of the dance floor. It was already getting crowded, closing in on nine o'clock. "Let's get out of here," he grinned mischievously. Sherlock's brow furrowed, as if stuck between the agreement he'd given earlier and his desire to stay in his own comfort zone. So John placed his hands on Sherlock's shoulders and gave him a long look. "You won't regret it, I promise." Sherlock blushed then, certainly, the warmth of exertion long since faded from their cheeks. It egged John on. "You might even have fun! Just for an hour, how about that?" Sherlock barely had time to nod his head before John was yanking him out of the Salsa club by the hand and hailing another taxi.

John's nightclub of choice was hardly on Sherlock's list of necessary visits. The pounding of whatever bass heavy music they were playing far too loudly inside made his whole body feel like it was vibrating with it, the throngs of sweaty, poorly dressed people John was leading him through bumping and jabbing him as they danced, but the look on John's face was almost worth it, like he thrived here.

Once John had weaved them both through to the main floor, they stopped, the music switching seamlessly from one form of techno to another. The DJ handled the music with a talented hand, he had to admit, despite the obnoxious genre. It was almost easy to get caught up in it, the bass a bit predictable but otherwise tangible and commanding. Sherlock would have said something about it, but suddenly John was dancing in front of him and the world stopped.

It wasn't the sort of dancing Sherlock was familiar with. In fact, it wasn't even the sort of dancing Sherlock would have considered dancing, but on John… Oh, on John it was more than dance. It was like when he'd watched him breakdancing alone in the rehearsal room the night before only more powerful, instinctual, animalistic. Raw. John took a step closer to him, moving hips and arms and body in a way that was borderline sinful, literally gyrating to the bass and thrum and pounding force of the beat. And when he looked at up at him, eyes half lidded but shining, bright with energy and from energy and because of the energy of everything and everyone in the room, Sherlock lost himself.

"Come on!" John laughed, putting his hands on Sherlock's waist and swaying him to the beat. "I saw you moving your hips not thirty minutes ago. Did you forget how?" John had to move in close to be heard, still half yelling into Sherlock's ear, and when he started dancing again, he didn't bother moving back, his whole body grinding against Sherlock's, folding into him and moving around him like a blanket of electricity, heat, and sweat. For the first time in his life, Sherlock had no idea what to do. So he swallowed, took a breath, and followed John's lead.

It was a bit awkward at first, but he picked up a rhythm to John's motions before long, rocking with him and against him all at once, feeling the combination of the music and the vibration of the bass and the feel of John pressing against him in every way that mattered until he was dizzy with it, high with it. At one point, John's arms had wound themselves around his waist, Sherlock's hands clasping behind John's neck. This wasn't just dance. This was sex. Or might as well have been for the reaction he was having with John wrapped around him like a second skin. He only hoped John hadn't noticed what was sure to be a rather prominent bulge in his trousers by now, though with how close they were, it was unlikely. And Sherlock refused to allow himself to believe the occasional rub of hard flesh against his own upper thigh was anything mildly resembling the sudden direction of his thoughts. Well, he said sudden…

At one point, John turned away, chest pressed into John's back as they continued to grind shamelessly against each other, Sherlock thankful for the loud music covering up what was probably a very embarrassing moan. When John reached backwards with one hand-fingers tangling in the curls at the base of his skull-and grabbed Sherlock's wrist with the other-leading Sherlock's arm around his waist-Sherlock was starting to think he was being teased. Not that he was resisting, letting his free hand settle on John's hip, rocking against him to the beat. John could most certainly feel him now, and as the moment lingered on, Sherlock was starting to realize he didn't much care. Especially since John was doing his best to meet each motion of Sherlock's hips with a motion of his own, allowing Sherlock to grind unabashedly against the tempting looking-and feeling, for that matter-swell of his arse. It was sex, plain and simple. Dance, yes, but sex too, and despite public indecency-not that that seemed to matter much here-Sherlock couldn't stop himself from wondering what it would be like if they weren't being separated by two very annoying layers of clothing.

All of a sudden John was looking at him-Good God, when had he turned around…?-gaze trailing down from Sherlock's eyes to his mouth and then back, subconsciously running a tongue along his bottom lip before shifting closer. Slowly, he wrapped a hand around the nape of Sherlock's neck and pulled him lower, closer. Sherlock felt his heart stutter with each inch John drew him in, a small noise of disappointment escaping him as that mouth moved past Sherlock's cheek, lips settling wetly at the shell of his ear.

"Wanna go somewhere?" The words were a new rumble, an added vibration to the ones already running through the room and wracking his body like continuous shivers.

Sherlock nodded, murmuring, "Anywhere," the resulting smile sending jolts of fresh electricity through Sherlock's limbs and propelling him out of the crowd, fingers intertwined tightly with John's.

John had never felt so alive. Seeing Sherlock cut loose like that, dancing not like a professionally trained, technically perfect windup doll but like a human being, letting the music, and maybe even a little bit of John, overwhelm and envelope him… It had let something free inside John's chest. And elsewhere. All he wanted, all he could think about suddenly, was getting that bloody brilliant and infuriating and amazing man into the nearest bed and fucking him senseless.

He glanced up at Sherlock for a moment to find him already looking down, watching John with a look in his eyes that before would have made him nervous, but now just made him eager. Desperate even. So without wasting time on words, John wrapped his arms around the back of Sherlock's neck, raised himself up on his tiptoes-because damn the perfect bastard for being so tall- reveled in the look of shock and hope and lust that flash across Sherlock's face, tilted his head just so and-

"Watson!" A familiar voice broke into the moment like a splash of cold water. John pulled away from Sherlock with a growl he hadn't expected to come out of his mouth, unleashing his most intimidating glare the moment the owner came into full view.

"A little busy here, Seb," John fumed, but the look on Seb's face caught him off guard. His words even more so.

"Feel cleared enough now, do you?" John raised an eyebrow at him, but he was already moving on, fiery glare shifting back and forth between John and Sherlock. "Can't dance for your own crew but you can dance for him? What, did the handsome prince kiss it and make it better?"

"You don't know what you're talking about, Seb," John growled, hard and threatening. "I'd back the fuck off right now or-"

"Or what, John Watson?" A new voice yanked John's attention away from Seb and to a man about John's height dressed in a tailored suit and a rather unnerving sneer. "Don't pretend it isn't true." Sherlock took a step forward at John's side, the tension magnifying tenfold around the four of them, practically suffocating them in it. "Every doctor in the area tells you you're right as rain, free to get back to doing what you love whenever you're ready, but you opt out. You can't fail if you don't try, am I right?" The man rolled his eyes and let out a sigh that sounded almost comical in its theatricality. "But then Sherlock here says you're all cleared to get back on that stage and suddenly…" He clapped his hands together in mock glee. "It's a miracle! Good God almighty, the cripple can dance again!" And just as quickly as it had come, the amusement fell from his face, replaced with a sinister sort of grimace. "If he told you you could fly, would you believe that too? Would you jump off a cliff for him to prove it?"

"Stop it, Moriarty," Sherlock spoke suddenly, the sound of him making John jump. His words were low and tight, laced with a familiar disgust.

"Oh! Well then! Not just a pet project after all, is he, Sherlock?" The man named Moriarty grinned, the look almost malevolent, paired perfectly with the bite in his tone. "And here I thought it was all about reaching perfection for you, using any means to get there, finding one partner after another and wringing them out until they're broken and used up and there's nothing left. Then moving on." When his eyes landed on John again, he could have sworn he felt the air crackle. "Looks like you're not quite used up just yet."

"I said stop it!" Sherlock yelled, taking a step forward as Moriarty took a step back, wrapping an arm around Seb and pulling him close. "Don't act like you're not talking about yourself."

"No need to get pushy," Moriarty smirked. "Sebastian and I just wanted to offer you and your pet a challenge. You know the annual scouting competition is this month. I have the means to get Sebastian's crew into the main slot. If you think you and your crew have what it takes to best Sebby's and mine, than I'd say here's a good place to make a wager."

"We're not interested in your-"

"We don't need a wager," John cut Sherlock off, blue grey eyes turning to John in surprise. "Putting you lot in your place will be consolation enough, thanks."

"So it's settled then?" Moriarty grinned, looking from John to Sherlock and back like he'd just committed a felony and was seconds away from getting away with it. John sniffed, crossing his arms.

"Look, I don't know what sort of relationship you two have, but I don't like it. Our crew wins, you guys leave us the hell alone. That wager enough for you?" John glanced at Seb, the man blatantly avoiding his eyes, a look of practiced stoicism on his face.

"Deal," Morarty held out his hand for John to take, pulling it back at the last minute with an overly dramatic, "Ah ah ah," before holding his hand out for Sherlock. "Deal?"

Sherlock glanced at John, his reluctance obvious, but eventually, with a sight nod, he took Moriarty's hand, shook it once, and let go like he was afraid of catching something if he stayed in contact with the man any longer. Moriarty's laugh was sickening.

"Gooooood! Very good! Well done, you!" He practically crooned, pulling Seb by the collar and practically skipping away, calling, "See you again soon!" over his shoulder just before turning down another street.

It was silent for a while, the moment from inside the club suddenly seeming like a memory from years ago instead of minutes. John felt the emptiness of a possibility lost like a weight on his chest. When Sherlock finally spoke, his voice was uncertain. Hesitant.

"Listen, John… About what Moriarty said-"

"I didn't believe him." John cut him off, well aware of where Sherlock's fabulous mind was going. But just to be safe, he added, "Should I have?"

"No." Without hesitation. John nodded.

"Good. Then let's get home and get some sleep. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we figure out a plan to kick his scrawny, over-compensatingly well-dressed ass."

Sherlock chuckled at that, the easiness they'd been experiencing until Seb and Moriarty had crashed their party slowly settling back into place. "We have one minor problem," he said. John threw him a questioning look and he smirked. "We don't have a crew."

"Ah," John smirked right back. "Well then. I guess we know where to start."

"Look, it'll be fine." John repeated, holding Sherlock at arm's length and offering his best attempt at a comforting smile. Sherlock felt far from comforted. In fact, for the first time he could remember, he actually felt uncertain. Nervous. "As long as we explain the situation, they're bound to-"

"These dancers owe me nothing, John." Sherlock frowned. He seemed to be doing more and more of that as this situation grew. Not that he considered himself at fault by any means-he had merely been presenting the students of the Academy with some much needed facts about their level of skill-but he wasn't so foolish as to believe that prompted any manner of social acceptance. "Why you're so confident that they'll be willing to offer their support in this after the way I treated them is maddening."

"I just have faith in people, Sherlock." John's smile softened, grew kind and maybe even fond. Sherlock felt a warmth blossom at the center of his chest, forcing himself to look away from John's lips. Damn Moriarty and his deliberately hateful timing. "Just," John cleared his throat then, bringing Sherlock back to the present. "How about you let me do the talking, yeah?" Sherlock sighed, nodding in defeat and letting John lead him into Rehearsal Room Four where the usual slew of dancers-and perhaps a few more-were already waiting. John wasted no time.

"Alright, everyone. We need your help." As expected, John's words caused the majority of the room's eyes to fall on Sherlock, some in uncertainty, some in nervousness, and a select few in blatant refusal. Which, it seemed, John had suspected, making his next sentence a resounding, "Don't worry. Sherlock won't be the one giving orders. I will." The shot to his pride was unfortunate, but Sherlock said nothing, straightening his back and looking at no one in particular, waiting for the explanation to be over so they could begin. Somehow recognizing his discomfort, John patting Sherlock on the back once and offered him a playful smirk before continuing to the group at large. "We have a competition that needs winning, and the only way we can do that is with a crew. Now, Sherlock might not be the most cordial of men," he added with a nudge of his elbow into Sherlock's side. The room chuckled. Sherlock tried not to simply walk out of the room in a huff. "But when it comes to dance, hell, when it comes to a lot of things really, he's a bloody genius. And none of you can deny that." Sherlock felt his eyes go a bit wider, his heart do a leap inside his chest. When John smiled at him then, he was certain his face grew hotter. "So, I think. No, I know, that with his choreography, we can not only win this thing, but blow everyone out of the water doing it. And who knows? With as many recruiters there as it sounds like there'll, this could be the beginning of something brilliant for a lot of you too. So?" John's grin was infectious, the whole room passing each other excited glances and nearly exploding to their feet when John asked, "Who's with us?"

Sherlock shook his head, smiling despite himself. John knew how to work a crowd, that was for sure. But there was one thing that needed fixing. "Actually, John," Sherlock interrupted, the room going eerily quiet in surprise at the sound of his voice. John looked up at him, eyebrow raised. "I think you should choreograph our routine." John blanched.

"I don't know the first thing about choreography…"

"You know how to embody the music, feel the rhythm in a way that can't be taught. In a way even I don't know how to explain, let alone teach." A few gasps passed around the room, but Sherlock ignored them, focusing on John. Only on John. "You could come up with something amazing. Something Moriarty's crew won't be able to hold a candle to. If we're going to win, it has to be you."

John's mouth had fallen open adorably, and Sherlock had to consciously hold himself back from finishing what they'd almost, so very nearly started last night. Eventually, John closed his eyes, pinching at the bridge of his nose as he nodded in defeat.

"Alright. Alright, yeah. Okay, I'll do it. But," He looked back at Sherlock with no little amount of fierce determination. "You have to help. As of a few months ago, I'd barely had any amount of proper training, so how about you provide the technique and I provide the style."

Sherlock chuckled, reaching down to grab John's hand, shaking it once before letting go. "Deal."

"Deal," John smirked, looking back to the room. "Alright, so first question. Who here knows even basic hip hop?" Surprisingly, even to Sherlock-though he'd notice a slight change in footwork on a few of them-the majority of the room raised their hands. "Really?" John blinked, laughing in astonishment. "Since when?"

"Well," Sarah spoke up, blushing furiously the longer she looked at John. Sherlock held back his grimace. "You made it look so easy. And fun. So we all just sort of took it upon ourselves to learn a thing or two."

"Wow," John's smile was all encompassing, Sherlock's heart doing that leap again. Really this was just getting ridiculous. And yet, Sherlock found he not only couldn't look away, but didn't want to. "I'm touched, you guys. Really." He looked at Sherlock and that leap became a full on backflip, headspin, Pas de bourree. "Looks like luck is on our side."

The practice ended shortly after nightfall, a few of the dancers lingering afterwards to ask John some last minute questions before filing out, heading home, and leaving John and Sherlock very much alone. In an empty rehearsal room. Alone and sweaty from practice and John swore the tension rose tenfold the moment the door closed behind the last one out. John swallowed, willing himself to turn towards Sherlock, all black curls hanging into his eyes and pale skin looking almost luminescent in the mixture of streetlights and the last remaining lamp still on in the corner.

"Good rehearsal today, then," John whispered, licking his lips. Sherlock watched him in silence, face unreadable in the dim lighting and there was too much space between them, far too much, but Sherlock wasn't moving. And neither was John. And maybe they'd just been imagining the chemistry and sexual tension and practically inhuman magnetism between them from the night before. Dancing, especially that kind of dancing, could make a person believe in all manner of physical attraction, couldn't it? Perhaps John had simply been… hopeful. John cleared his throat, offering a tightlipped smile. "Same time tomorrow then?" He said, voice breaking just so and on the end, and Sherlock was across the floor in an instant, one hand wrapped around John's waist and the other behind his neck, tilting him up just enough for lips to crush hungrily against his own.

John felt the sigh escape him like a weight being lifted off his shoulders, the words, "Thank god," whispering on a hoarse breath into Sherlock's mouth. Sherlock moaned against him in response, leading John across the floor to press his back against the window and lift him enough for John to wrap his legs around Sherlock's waist, the friction hot and sinful and so bloody perfect John swore he saw stars.

While the uniforms of a dancer left little to the imagination, there still wasn't nearly enough skin for John's liking. So before Sherlock could recapture his lips in another mind numbing kiss, John ripped off Sherlock's shirt and his own in a scramble of wandering hands, letting his fingers take a moment to run along, pale, perfectly toned musculature before diving back into Sherlock's mouth, tongue delving deep and hot and wet. Sherlock's nails raked down between his shoulder blades in response before he felt the cold glass of the window against his back again.

Sherlock's chest was pressed firmly against his, his hands traveling from neck to arm to waist to everywhere at once, and it still wasn't enough, but all John could think to do was moan against kiss swollen lips and hope Sherlock understood. Which John assumed he did, a breathy chuckle suddenly pressed into his neck as Sherlock pulled John away from the window and lowered them both rather messily to the floor, John on his back and Sherlock towering over him, arms barred on either side of his face.

"You were supposed to just be my dance partner," Sherlock panted, rocking his hips against John, the feel of hard flesh separated by a thin layer of cotton sending sparks of heat up John's spine.

"Less talk," John gasped. "More…" John couldn't think of the word, opting for shoving a hand between their bodies and cupping the obvious bulge in Sherlock's slacks instead. Sherlock shuddered, bowing his head to suck at the skin over John's pulse.

"I mean," Sherlock kept on, John groaning both in frustration and at the realization that Sherlock was kissing his way down his chest, licking at hard sensitive nipples as he made his way lower. "I didn't expect this." He looked past thick eyelashes back at John, lids half closed and eyes blown wide. "I didn't expect you."

"Some of the best things… are the ones we don't expect," John had no idea when he'd tangled his fingers in black strands, but it was all he could do not to tighten his grip this side of painfully when Sherlock settled himself between John's thighs and placed hot mouth and sharp teeth against his own erection, too tight fabric dulling the sensation into something wonderful.

"I don't know how to do this, John," Sherlock breathed against him, teasing him, and all John could do was arch his back and wait for Sherlock's slowly traveling hands to make their way to his waistband.

"Seem to be doing a pretty good job from my end," John offered on a moan. Sherlock chuckled, pressing his nose against John's thigh as he settled fingertips beneath elastic and pulled, John's cock springing free with a blast of cold air on sensitive skin.

"Not this," Sherlock's lips vibrated against John's thigh with the words, hot breaths of sound against the base of his cock. John's mouth fell open. "No, this I most definitely know how to do." The words were followed by the feel of Sherlock's tongue licking a single stripe from base to head and back, swirling patterns of spit dotted by brief presses of lips. "Being half of a whole, partner to someone off the floor…" He let his teeth scrape lightly against the underside of his shaft, John's whole body twitching in response. "I don't know how to do that."

Not sure exactly when he'd closed them, John opened his eyes, Sherlock watching his every reaction, eyes both analyzing and glazed over with lust as he wrapped a hand around John's cock and stroked. John licked his lips. "I don't think anyone does," he whispered, lowering the hand buried in black curls to Sherlock's cheek, a burst of warmth settling deep in his chest when Sherlock leaned into that touch. "I think it's something you learn along the way… When you're in it." Sherlock hummed against John's hand once, a sort of acknowledgement, before pulling away and taking the head of John's prick into his mouth, sucking lightly. John arched his neck, mouth falling open and eyes fluttering closed. "God, Sherlock," he moaned, hand nestled back in Sherlock's hair and hips bucking up just slightly into Sherlock's mouth, forcing himself not to do no more than that, as much as he may have wanted to. And it was almost enough, almost enough, with Sherlock moaning around his length-an added vibration that made John's toes curl-and pressing his tongue hard against the underside of his shaft, John was so close, on the very brink of ecstasy, and then Sherlock pulled away, a whine of disappointment crawling up his throat that he was sure he'd be embarrassed by later. But right now, right now, all that mattered was that the feel of Sherlock's mouth was suddenly replaced by the feel of his hand and their cocks pressed together, Sherlock rocking against him and panting over him and pulling him back up into a messy, perfect kiss, all teeth and tongue and painfully, wonderfully bruised lips.

"John," Sherlock gasped against his mouth, and John could taste himself on Sherlock's tongue, and didn't that just send an extra rush of heat straight to his cock.

"Fuck, Sherlock…" was all John could offer back, beyond words, beyond thought, just the feel of Sherlock's skin against him, around him, all over him so hot and so close and so very, very nearly there, just a bit more, and "God, fuck, Sherlock, please…" John's hand was suddenly wrapped around them both, fingers intertwined with Sherlock's as they stroked each other faster, squeezed their combined hands just a bit tighter and all at once Sherlock broke away and cried out, the sound muffled against John's neck. The feel of heat and wetness spilling over their hands was all John needed, the last tether that held him to earth snapping without warning, his whole body tensing as he came in long, hard spurts against Sherlock's and his chest, the mess of their combined seed running over their still linked hands.

John didn't want to move, didn't bother to, in fact, content to simply pant against Sherlock's hair for a bit until his heart rate slowed. Sherlock, however, seemed unable to keep himself upright, pulling away from John's wasted and sensitive cock before rolling to John's side and lying flat on his back, eyes closed and chest slowing to a normal rise and fall as John watched him. Admired him. If luck wasn't on everyone's side, John was pretty convinced it was at least on his.

John lay back, resting himself on his elbow and placing his clean hand back against Sherlock's cheek, wondering if the warmth he felt as Sherlock leaned into it would ever go away. He hoped not.

They stayed that way for a moment, Sherlock lying next to John as though he'd fallen asleep, but then abruptly, without warning, Sherlock chuckled. "What?" John felt himself chuckling too, the man's genuine, unprovoked laughter impossibly contagious. Sherlock opened his eyes lazily, looking at John with an expression akin to contentment. Pure, unaffected happiness. John smiled, asking him again.

"I feel like I can do anything right now," Sherlock smirked, as if the very fact that he could feel something so completely illogical astounded him. But then his eyes softened, his lips pressing against John's palm. "You make me feel like I can do anything."

John blinked, leaning in to place a proper kiss against those lips, slow but deep and filled with a longing he hadn't expected of himself, let alone of Sherlock. When they broke away, much too soon, always too soon, John whispered against the corner of his mouth, "Maybe you can," and then leaned in to kiss him again.

Everything was going unexpectedly according to plan, John's routine almost completely sorted out-and with a surprising amount of effort on their crew's part-their attempt to settle themselves in the same slot as Moriarty had gone off without a hitch, and the competition was days away. As much as he continued to chastise himself for it, Sherlock was almost hopeful. Which was, of course, the perfect time for something to go terribly, terribly wrong. He just didn't know what that something was yet.

"You're just being paranoid," John laughed when he asked him to explain his so-called 'odd behavior.' "It's good that you're keeping an eye out for trouble, but don't go around expecting it. You'll just jinx yourself."

"Only a superstitious fool believes in the concept of jinxing one's self with the power of negative thought," Sherlock rolled his eyes. John rolled his own right back. Sherlock couldn't but smirk at that. "I was merely remarking upon what I know. And that is that Moriarty likes to play dirty."

"Then we won't let him," John raised a hand to Sherlock's cheek, thumb trailing his bottom lip like he loved, and Sherlock sighed against him, closing his eyes as he leaned into that touch like John loved. "We'll make sure there's nothing he can do to stop us. Our routine is solid-"

"Thanks to you," Sherlock smirked. John shook his head, smiling.

"Thanks to both of us," he corrected and Sherlock just shrugged. "So unless he goes around murdering our dancers, I'm pretty sure we're solid."

Sherlock frowned, not quite sure if he should voice his concerns with that statement or not, choosing instead to simply add, "It would be unwise to underestimate him, John."

"It would be worse to underestimate us," John wrapped both arms around Sherlock's waist and leaned back, looking up at him playfully. "What happened to feeling like you can do anything?" Sherlock couldn't help the smirk that tugged the corner of his mouth at the thought.

"Perhaps I need a reminder," he purred, placing a hand under John's chin and tiling him up into a kiss, their lips brushing slowly and steadily until John opened his mouth, an invitation. One that was swiftly cut off by the sound of someone clearing their throat. John stepped away, red in the face but grinning widely. Sherlock just shook his head, though his smirk stayed firmly in place as well. John clapped his hands together once and walked to his mark for starting positions.

"Shall we take it again from the top?"

"Sh-Shit…" John threw his head back into the pillow, fingers gripping the bed sheets in a way that looked almost painful. Sherlock paused, halfway buried in tight, all-consuming heat, and one of those hands shot up to grip just as tightly at Sherlock's forearm. "Don't you dare stop," John breathed, and Sherlock nodded, reaching down to sling one of John's knees, then the other, over his shoulders, pressing in slowly as he leaned forward and planted kiss after kiss after kiss along collarbone and neck and jawline and finally mouth, claiming those lips for his own. Eventually Sherlock felt his balls brushing against the curve of John's ass, felt every inch of him surrounded completely and brilliantly by John.

"Exquisite," Sherlock mumbled a panting breath against John's cheek, not sure if the adjective was meant for the sensation or the look of John coming apart beneath him. Probably both. John arched his back, opening his neck for more of Sherlock's attention and his tongue darted out to wet his bottom lip. Definitely both.

"Move…" John groaned, alerting Sherlock to the fact that he hadn't, still buried completely and totally in gripping heat. So, taking a moment to suck some color into John's neck, Sherlock pulled out halfway and then thrust back in.

The noises John could make when touched in just the right way, fucked in just the right way, were like its own sort of music, hypnotizing in its beauty, and each whimper, pant, grunt of pleasure an added spark of desperation in Sherlock. To think that this man, a nameless focus of intrigue outside his window only months ago, had this sort of power over him was awe-inspiring. Addicting. Sherlock picked up the pace of his thrusts, timing each with a kiss or a bite to overheated skin, John's ankles locking behind his neck as he neared his orgasm. Just watching John unravel and come apart beneath him nearly brought Sherlock to the edge of his own, pounding into John's arse with barely a regard for propriety. His neighbors had long ago given up on asking about the strange noises or explosions that came from his flat. And these noises were far more identifiable, especially when Sherlock kissed John's mouth open, a silent way of telling him not to be so silent, and John's cries filled the room.

Sherlock could feel his climax approaching swift and determined and promising the sort of bliss he'd only ever found with John, so before he lost himself to it, he snaked a hand between their crumpled bodies until he found John's cock, a single stroke, and another, all it took for John to tense impossibly around him. A mess of Sherlock's name and a garbled curse clawed its way up John's throat, his back practically off the bed as Sherlock jerked thrice more before burying himself to hilt, trying to get just a bit deeper, pull John just a bit closer, eventually all but collapsing on top of him as the waves of euphoria ebbed away.

"Jesus, Sherlock… That was…" John tried, but all he could do was laugh through the heaving breaths still wracking his body. "Just… Jesus…" He panted throwing an arm over his eyes. Sherlock chuckled, pulling out slowly and settling himself down at John's side, disposing of the condom before snagging his shirt off the lamp where it had been flung and wiping away the mess from John's chest. John peeked out at him from under his arm and whispered a soft, lazy, "Thanks."

Sherlock threw an arm across John's chest in response and nestled his face into John's neck, kissing at the small but noticeable bruises he'd left behind. "I should be the one thanking you," He murmured, more a vibration than actual sound. John shivered.

"What happened between you and Moriarty?" John whispered suddenly, voice hesitant, as if unsure of the reaction he might receive. Sherlock glanced over at him, eyebrow raised, but it was his smirk that seemed to give John some relief.

"Though your timing is utterly horrendous, I can see why you'd be curious," Sherlock shrugged, relaxing further against John and closing his eyes.

"You two just seemed… familiar." John mumbled. "And not so much in a good way."

"No, definitely not," Sherlock chuckled again, sighing to himself at the memory. "We danced for the same company for a while. Before I transferred to the Academy."

"What happened?"

Sherlock frowned. "Moriarty was charming and talented. Very talented. Still is, though he doesn't utilize his skills as much now. But his belief at the time was that a dancer could only reach their full potential at the cost of their partner. That true ability could only be judged by how well one prevailed over those they danced beside." Sherlock paused. "He asked me to perform with him at a company function. I turned him down."

"Still holding a grudge over that one, is he?" Sherlock could feel the rumble of John's laugh, so he joined in, if not more restrained.

"I suppose so," Sherlock murmured mostly to himself. "I transferred to the Academy shortly after he broke the neck of one of his partners." John tensed at his side, so Sherlock did his best to get past the topic. "She was undertrained, he was overconfident. It had always been a terrible learning environment. That was just the last straw."

John was silent for a moment, but eventually he muttered a sharp, "Jesus," Sherlock nodding into the juncture of shoulder and neck in agreement. "I don't blame you… For leaving, I mean."

"I'd been planning on it for a while." Sherlock paused, wondering why he suddenly felt the need to tell John this, why it was suddenly so very important that John be aware of his plans, his thoughts, his dreams for the future. It was absurd to feel as though the thoughts of anyone other than himself could hold such merit, but the fact of it was, Sherlock needed John's opinion. He needed John to tell him he could do it. "I wanted to start my own company."

John shifted towards Sherlock at that, eyes wide with surprise. And a substantial amount of awe, enough to have Sherlock blushing under his gaze in an instant. "You should do it."

"It was a passing thought, John. A pipe dream," Sherlock waved him away, but as he'd expected, John's enthusiasm and confidence in him was like a tangible force in the air, making the idea seem almost possible. John rolled over and on top of Sherlock abruptly, straddling his chest.

"I'm serious, Sherlock! Why haven't you done it before?"

"I'm not exactly what one calls the most personable of teachers."

"You're doing pretty well with our routine for the competition," John gestured at nothing, placing his hands on Sherlock's shoulders.

"That's because-" Sherlock froze. It all made sense now, a smile worming its way onto his face, full and bright and eager. "Do it with me."

The spontaneity of the request was ignorable for the look of surprise on John's face. "I couldn't… Why would you want, I mean… I barely know what I'm doing, Sherlock. I can break dance well enough, but I couldn't teach people the basics."

"So then I'll provide the technique and you'll provide the style." Sherlock grinned, running a hand through John's hair. "I could take care of the logistics, handle the business end of getting started, and you can deal with the boring necessity of interacting with potential recruits. And possibly investors, if need be. Regardless, the people can be your expertise."

"I don't know, Sherlock. This is all very…" John sighed. "I mean, I can barely afford my rent let alone what it might cost to start up an investment like this without another job to-"

"You could move in with me." Sherlock cut in. "I've been toying with the idea of a flatshare for ages."

"Sherlock, this is insane," John frowned, so Sherlock trailed his hand down to John's face, worrying with his thumb at the wrinkles in between his eyebrows, smoothing them back out.

"You're the only one I'd want to do this with, John." Sherlock smiled. "What could possibly be better then, for the rest of your life, getting to do what you love. With the one you love." His previous surprise was nothing compared to the look of stunned shock that flitted across John's face at those words.

"You…" John stammered. "You love me?"

"Of course," Sherlock rolled his eyes, no hesitation. John still looked unconvinced.

"But we've only known each other for-"

"Does it matter?"

John looked at him for a long while, almost too long, a sharp twinge settling uncomfortably in Sherlock's chest, but finally, John shook his head and smiled. "No. I guess it doesn't." When he didn't elaborate, Sherlock bit his lip, face the perfect impression of coy.

"So, does that mean I'm to assume that you-"

"Yeah, yeah," John sighed, feigning over-exasperation, a look which was greatly contrasted by the soft kiss John planted against Sherlock's lips. "You know how I feel, you git. Don't let it get to your head."

John nearly dropped his things twice in his haste to get to the Academy. It was a rare occurrence for Sherlock and John to be sleeping in separate beds since their night in the Rehearsal Room, but John had felt it best to get a good night's sleep the night before the big day. And while Sherlock protested, John had won the debate, arguing that any time spent in the same bed would be hours of sleep lost to sex. Delicious, wonderful, mind blowing sex, but still not sleep. And they needed as much of that as possible.

But for some reason, John's alarm hadn't gone off. So, taking every shortcut he knew, John rushed towards the Academy, sending text after text to Sherlock for him to start practice. It was their last one before the competition and Molly was still half a beat early on the transition and Victor had a tendency to over rotate on the-

"Well someone's in a hurry," a voice, already so familiar after only hearing it once, broke into his train of thought. John came to an abrupt halt, looking to his right to find Moriarty leaning against a lamppost, grin devious and suit pristine. John was instantly reminded of a movie villain. John opened his mouth to tell him off, but Moriarty held up a hand to stop him, walking in front of John and shoving his hands in his pockets. "No need to be rude. I'm here in your best interest."

"Hardly," John scoffed, and Moriarty had the audacity to look hurt. And not even a believable hurt.

"I am! I'm here to offer you a guaranteed future." When John just raised an eyebrow at him, Moriarty took that as intrigue enough and continued on. "If you don't win tonight, what will you do? You don't have a job, you're behind on your rent, you're not actually enrolled in the Academy. So what's the point in all this if you lose? Hell, even if you win."

John narrowed his eyes at the man, fuming. "Have you been spying on me?"

"Only a little," Moriarty shrugged, still grinning. "Enough to see that you could severely benefit from what I have to offer."

"And that is?"

"A place in my company."

John couldn't help the surprise that flitted across his face. "You have a company?"

"Oh yes. And an impressive one, at that. Being a part of it would not only guarantee you a place in dance society, but we'd provide various benefits to help smooth your transition."

"Why are you doing this?" John asked after a moment. He wasn't foolish enough to think this had anything to do with him, but what did Moriarty possibly have to gain?

Moriarty groaned in exasperation. "Oh, don't be dull, John. We're going to beat you either way tonight. I'm just giving you the opportunity to be on the winning side."

John narrowed his eyes at the man. "Thanks, but-"

"John?" Sherlock's voice cut him off, John spinning around to find Sherlock walking towards them, obviously suspicious and more than a little bit concerned about the proceedings.

Before Sherlock could get close enough to chime in further, Moriarty offered John a flourished bow and walked away, waving over his shoulder as he called out in a sing-song voice, "Offer stands till the curtain rises!"

Despite his texts assuring him John was on his way, Sherlock had felt more than slightly unnerved by John's lateness, wandering outside once the texts had stopped coming and in the direction of John's usual trek. Which is when he'd seen them: Moriarty's devilish grin, John's tense back and shoulders. It had taken every ounce of his self-control not to run up to the both of them and block John from Moriarty's attention. Instead, he'd merely called out to John, picking up his pace to John's side just as Moriarty walked away.

"What happened?" Sherlock asked, and if his voice was a tad frantic, he pretended not to notice. "What did he want?"

"It's nothing, Sherlock." John frowned at where Moriarty had been standing for a moment before turning in the direction of the Academy. "We should get to the rehearsal before everyone starts wondering-"

Sherlock grabbed at John's wrist, holding him back. "Did he make you an offer?"

"I told you, Sherlock, it doesn't matter," John tried to pull his hand away, but Sherlock's grip was resilient.

"Are you going to take it?" Sherlock's voice was laced with panic. He hated it. He hated this, this not knowing, this needing to know. Why did John matter so much? Why?

To do what you love. With the one you love.

"I don't know," John ripped his arm out of Sherlock's grasp. "Should I?"

Sherlock blinked, taken aback, his heart practically stopping altogether. Did he want John to take Moriarty's offer? Of course not. But was that just Sherlock being selfish? As usual? Probably. Sherlock swallowed. "Yes."

"Of course not! Why would I-wait. Wait, what?" John blinked, looking at Sherlock in a way that was almost fragile. Hurt.

"I think you should take the offer," Sherlock repeated, slower this time, hating each word as it left his mouth. "His company has already gained nationwide acclaim. We don't know if our attempts will even succeed." Sherlock grabbed John's hands, holding them tightly in his own, but unable to look John in the eye. "This would be the perfect opportunity for you, John. I won't stand in the way of that."

"Do you want me to take it?" John asked, narrowing his eyes at Sherlock, demanding. Not the question Sherlock had expected, and one he was more than slightly afraid to answer. So John asked it again. "Do you want me to take the offer?"

Sherlock straightened, letting go of John's hands and pointedly looking above his head. "Yes, I-"

"Like fuck you do!" John growled, reaching up to wrap a steady grip in Sherlock's collar, dragging his face down to John's level. "I'm going to ask you again, and I want you to be honest with me. Do you. Want me. To take. The offer." Sherlock opened his mouth once, closed it, swallowed, and tried again. Still, nothing. He was at John's mercy. And he couldn't have lied if he tried.

"No." Sherlock whispered. "No, I don't."

"Good," John said, letting go of Sherlock's shirt and smoothing his hands across his chest. "Because I wasn't going to take it."

Now it was Sherlock's turn to blink in surprise. "You weren't-"

"Of course not, Sherlock!" John groaned. "For a genius, you really can be thick, you know that?" John grabbed Sherlock's hand and intertwined their fingers together, kissing each knuckle in turn before pulling him towards the Academy. "So our company might not be successful right away, or we may not make a name for ourselves for a while. But I have faith in this venture so you should too. And even if I had no bloody clue, I'd still choose it, because I choose you. I choose you every time. Understood?"

Sherlock felt something loosen at the center of his chest, a smile on his face he hadn't even consciously put there. "Understood."

No one was there when they got to Rehearsal Room Four, and while John could only stare in confusion at the lack of practicing dancers, Sherlock seemed to understand right away what they were facing.

"He got to them," Sherlock cursed, and even then John was having a hard time catching up.

"Got to them? Who got to them? Moriarty?"

Sherlock frowned, walking over to the lamp at the side of the room and sending it hurtling to the floor with a crash. "I let down my guard. I thought, maybe this once, he wouldn't play dirty. Stupid. Stupid!" He growled, knocking over the table it had been sitting on. John was at his side in and instant, grabbing onto his arms to still him, calm him.

"Sherlock, Sherlock, it's okay. We'll get through this." He rubbed his hands along Sherlock's arms, up to his shoulders, his neck, but the tension there remained persistent. "We can still compete. Just the two of us if we have to. We have the skill, we can make it work. Just a few tweaks and we can-"

"What's the point, John?" Sherlock groaned, letting his head fall back in exasperation. "The comparative performances between a crew and a duo would be unmatched. Why bother competing when it's already swayed exponentially in our opponent's favor?"

"Because it's not about winning. It's about dancing," John said, offering what he hoped was a persuasive smile. "It's about the two of us getting to dance together on that stage in front of hundreds of people and show every single one of them what we're made of. So who cares if it's highly unlikely we'll win against whatever big group number Moriarty has planned? Just being there, showing up despite his attempt at sabotage, that's a win enough for me. That and getting to be there with you." John placed a hand to Sherlock's cheek, thumb rubbing softly against his lower lip. "That's the point. That's why we bother. For us. Let's just do this for us."

Sherlock stared at him for a moment, long enough for John to think his speech had gone in one ear and out the other, but then, without warning, Sherlock pulled John in and kissed him. Moaning against his lips, Sherlock held John close, bodies flush, fitting together like puzzle pieces even after he pulled away.

"For us, then," Sherlock repeated, still smiling even when the Rehearsal Room door opened and Molly, Victor and Sarah walked in. John attempted a step back, out of Sherlock's embrace, but Sherlock was unmoving, arms locked in place, eyeing the interruption with a raised brow.

"Oh, thank God!" Sarah blurted once she noticed their presence, only blushing slightly when she noticed how they were standing. Molly looked ten shades of bright pink. "We've been looking everywhere for you!"

"What happened?" John asked, already decently convinced of Moriarty's involvement but hopeful that Sherlock might be wrong. "Where is everyone?"

"They said they got a better offer, one they couldn't turn down." Molly replied, twiddling her thumbs and looking ashamed. "We're all that's left."

"Well, then," John smirked, finally pulling out of Sherlock's grip, however reluctantly. "Might as well get practicing then. Got quite a bit to revamp before tonight."

"We're still doing this?" Victor blanched, incredulous. John threw him a wink.

"We're already better off than we were two minutes ago. Five should be plenty. So how about we take it from the second transition?"

It was almost too surreal, being on such a massive stage, curtain drawn between him and the audience, what was left of their crew gathered behind them in starting positions, Sherlock at his side, looking straight ahead, focused beyond human capabilities as usual. So John reached over and grabbed his hand, Sherlock softening his posture and glancing at John out of the corner of his eye.

"Whatever happens…" John began, changed his mind, and tried again, smiling. "Just for us, yeah?"

Sherlock ran a thumb over the knuckles of John's hand and smiled back. "Just for us."

"Break a leg?" John whispered, ready for it to start, but more nervous than he'd ever been in his life. Sherlock nodded once before suddenly yanking John into his arms, tilting his head down to claim John's mouth in a quick and passionate kiss.

"You too," he breathed against his lips once he pulled away, releasing John with a last squeeze of his hand.

So their crew had shrunk by more than half, so they'd barely given the revamps a test run before being thrown out into the fire. They could do this. They could win, John knew they could. And even if they didn't, it really, truly wasn't about that. It was about the impossible, wonderful, brilliant, absolutely fucking gorgeous man at his side. It was about their future company. It was about doing what he loved with the one he loved when he'd thought he'd never have that luxury again, let alone with someone as unexpected and unbelievable as Sherlock Holmes. It was about finding the perfect partner. In every sense of the word.

By the time the lights had dimmed, John was more than ready. He was eager.

The music began to filter through the speakers, the curtain began to rise, and John's heart leapt into his throat. This was it, the moment of truth. The first few steps were easy, everyone in unison with each other, pulling apart from the center to create depth in a brilliantly timed display of motion, regardless of forces. But then John was spinning, throwing himself forward where he knew his partner to be and was caught by familiar arms, kept moving by familiar hands, and all at once nothing existed but Sherlock. Each move they made together, each choreographed step, each unconsciously added flourish, was Sherlock and John incarnate, no one else. The rest of the crew danced around them, the movement planned and precise, but somehow all the more awe inspiring for being in front of an audience, getting the chance to show the world not only their talent, but their passion. Anything could happen at this point and it would all be fine, because this, right now, was perfect. No matter the outcome, they all had this moment, this feeling. John and Sherlock had this.

John barely registered the end of the piece, his body all of a sudden still, Sherlock's eyes on his, shining and fiery and beautiful. In fact, it wasn't until the curtain went down that he even heard the applause. A thunderous applause encircling him from all angles, behind the curtain and on stage. Molly, Victor and Sarah ran up to give John and Sherlock their congratulations, Sarah even going so far as to throw her arms around Sherlock in a spontaneous if not awkwardly received hug.

"You two were incredible!" Molly jumped up and down giddily, a wide smile plastered across her face. "I almost wanted to stop and just watch you."

"Glad you didn't," John laughed, giving her a hug. And then, surprising them both, when John released her she wrapped her arms around Sherlock too, squeezing him lightly before letting go.

"It was amazing working with you," She smiled up at him, Sherlock's face almost laughable in his uneasiness. "Everyone else sure missed a fantastic opportunity."

"Your pirouettes are vastly improved," Sherlock tried. Molly laughed, hugging him again before running off, the stage hands alerting them to the next performance's set up. John and Sherlock stayed put for a while longer, smiling at each other in silence.

The rest of the performances went by unnoticed, Sherlock and John not even bothering to watch Moriarty's and Seb's, though they heard that it was quite a spectacle. Instead, they were content to sit backstage, hand in hand, and wait for the results of the competition, talking about what they would do with their company once they got it off the ground, where they might choose for location, who they could see hiring right off the bat.

"Sarah has gorgeous lines and you know it!" John smirked at Sherlock's barely contained grimace.

"There are plenty of other girls with similar technical ability." He argued. John just laughed.

"Jealous, are we?"

Sherlock frowned. "Fine," he diverted, John leaning in to kiss him on the cheek. "The three of them, then. For staying."


Finally, after what could have been hours, could have been minutes, all of the performers were called back onstage, the MC announcing the third place winner-a company John had seen perform a few years back-and then pausing to let the tension build before reading off Second and First.

It wasn't unappreciated-getting a place at all after such a blow was a big enough 'fuck you'-but John couldn't deny the ripple of disappointment that clung to his chest when Sherlock was handed the Second Place trophy and Moriarty the First. The bastard even had the gall to lean in and place a kiss to Sherlock's cheek before literally skipping back to his obnoxiously large crew. John almost tackled him to the ground then and there. A punch to his pompous face would probably do him good. Seb threw John a wink but John ignored it, reeled himself in. They'd still won something, they'd still accomplished something, and not even petty tricks to come out on top would take that away from them.

The moment they were offstage again, Sherlock stopped. "I'm sorry, John…" He grabbed John's wrist with the hand not holding too tightly to the trophy and John could only look at him and smile. Carefully, he worked the trophy out of his grip, turning to Molly and placing it in her hands instead.

"You guys were amazing," John hugged Molly, Victor, and Sarah in turn. "You deserve this."

"Not as much as you guys," Victor grinned. "You killed it out there."

"Next time it'll be First," John winked. "Mind giving us a minute?" The future first three members of their company nodded almost in unison and walked off, raising the Second place trophy over their heads like it was First. John chuckled, turning back to Sherlock with a comforting grin.

"John," Sherlock tried again. He'd never seen the man look so downtrodden. It would have been comical if the lingering disappointment wasn't still tickling resiliently at the back of John's mind.

"Don't, Sherlock," John shook his head and Sherlock froze, looking more than a little taken aback. John chuckled again, louder this time. "You have nothing to apologize for."

"If Moriarty hadn't-"

"I don't give two shits about Moriarty," John rolled his eyes, looping his arms around Sherlock's waist. "You know what happened tonight?"

"We lost?" Sherlock looked at him like he was being an idiot, like he'd gone insane sometime since the winners had been called. John shook his head.

"We put on one hell of a show." John corrected him. "I mean, did you hear that applause, Sherlock? Victor was right. We killed it out there!"

"But we-"

"No buts," John cut him off with a finger to Sherlock's kissable, cupid bow lips. "In my book, we won."

Sherlock was quiet for a moment, not quite convinced. And then abruptly, he whispered, "If you'd taken Moriarty up on his offer, you really would have."

John frowned. "Don't be stupid, Sherlock."

"He's right, though," the disgustingly familiar voice chimed in then, Moriarty and Seb walking up to them with their trophy dangling like so much garbage from Moriarty's fingers. "You could have been holding this," he raised the trophy before shoving it into Seb's chest. "And you could be signing an exclusive and enviable contract with my company right about now. But instead, you chose failure. Guess you're fears had been justified."

"Don't talk to me about failure. We didn't have to bribe away other people's dancers to make it into the top three." John glared. "Even with your attempts at sabotage, we still made a name for ourselves tonight. I'd call that your failure." John had never wanted so badly to spit in someone's face before, but he held himself back, looking up at Sherlock then. The look on Sherlock's face was floored, impressed, maybe even a little awe inspired. And, since he knew where to look, possibly more than a little bit heated. John smirked, looking back at Moriarty with renewed calm.

For a moment, disgust flashed plainly across Moriarty's face, but just as quickly it was gone, replaced with a twistedly jovial grin. "Whatever you say. It's not as if I cheated. I simply convinced a group of talented dancers that they were performing for the wrong team."

"And despite that, we still placed." John shrugged, wrapping an arm around Sherlock's waist.

"But not First," Seb growled out. Moriarty was practically seething, holding it back not particularly well.

Sherlock chuckled then. "Semantics."

"You're telling me you're not even the least bit broken up over your loss?" Moriarty was looking directly at Sherlock now. "To me?" Sherlock just rolled his eyes, still reeling in his breathy chuckles.

"It stopped being disappointing when you stopped competing on talent." Sherlock replied coolly. "If you ever decide to fight fair, my company will be happy to grind yours into the dust the way it deserves."

Moriarty blinked, jaw actually dropping. "Your company? Your company? Since when do you have a company?"

"Since I found the ideal partner to help me run it," Sherlock said matter-of-factly, slipping his arm around John's shoulder and pulling him into his side.

"Oh how quaint," Moriarty sniffed, grabbing Seb's arm and turning away, for some reason seeming particularly eager to get away from the two of them. John thought it made for the icing on the cake of their Second place win. "I wish you the very worst of failures!" Moriarty called out in a terse, singsong voice before disappearing offstage, his new lackey in tow. Moriarty wouldn't give up on them now that they'd planted the seed, and next time, they'd be ready. Next time it would be First.

"Well that was interesting," John laughed softly once he was sure Moriarty was gone. Sherlock squeezed John's shoulders once, kissing him on the head before responding.

"I love you," he whispered into John's hair. John blushed, a warmth blooming in his chest and spreading swiftly through every inch of his being.

"I love you too," John laughed. "Now let's get out of here and celebrate."

The crowds of people gathered in the Reception Hall of the Academy were almost impossible to navigate through, and even more difficult to locate a familiar head of short, blonde hair in. Somewhere along the way in the congratulating and the mingling and the general schmoozing on their way out, Sherlock had misplaced John. Losing to Moriarty had been a blow, but John had somehow managed to make it not only bearable but something to be proud of. It was astonishing. He was astonishing. And he would be screaming Sherlock's name to the heavens if he could ever manage to find the man and get him back to his-soon to be their-bed.

After far, far too much searching, Sherlock finally caught a glimpse of his noticeable stature talking to a man who looked somewhat familiar. Sherlock searched partially deleted sections of his memory until it hit him: the director of the Royal Company. Sherlock brought himself to a halt, just in earshot but not close enough to be seen, and listened.

"We would be honored to have you, Mr. Watson. Truly." The man was saying. "Your mastery of-"

"I really appreciate the offer, sir, thank you," John actually cut him off. Sherlock only just managed to stifle a laugh. "But I've already been made an offer. And it's one I intend to take." Sherlock watched the director raise an eyebrow in curiosity, probably wondering who'd snatched up the unexpected Dark Horse of the competition from under his nose. John just smiled, offered one more word of thanks, and walked off, Sherlock catching up to him quickly and planting a kiss at the hallow below his ear. John looped an arm around Sherlock's waist, the two of them walking towards the exit in unspoken agreement. "You were listening." John said. It wasn't a question, so Sherlock didn't treat it like one.

Instead, he pulled John to a stop and dipped his head in for a chaste but somehow all the more intimate kiss.

"I'd choose you too," he whispered against John's lips. "Every time."