I Will Come Back Twice as Strong, Just Prove Me Wrong
Sherlock Holmes, star dancer of the Royal Ballet, leaned on the barre and stared out at the pale, monotone, and ever-illuminated buildings of Moscow. Three weeks since his plane had made an emergency landing at a Soviet military base, and three weeks since he had been kept prisoner here for vague, unspoken political reasons. He took a deep breath. He was getting out today, one way or another. Whether Mycroft stopped his execution before it could be carried out, or whether he smoked a last cigarette and stared down a firing squad was uncertain, but acceptable either way.
He turned to look at John, who was lying on his back, his eyes peacefully closed. Captain John Watson had been shot in the shoulder and taken as a political prisoner to Moscow to be treated, where they learned of his talent at tap-dance. Lucky for him, you can tap without aggravating a shoulder wound. He'd made a deal, and stayed alive. Those who knew of him at all were told he had defected.
John had been appointed Sherlock's guard dog in the hope that a fellow dancer would be able to convince him to cut a similar deal. Dance for them, and live to dance at all.
At first, Sherlock had almost refused to interact with him. He had been engrossed in his own plans, but every once in a while, John would do something that showed that he still had some fight left in him. Sherlock found himself liking John and wanting to trust him more and more. Eventually, he had given in to the impulse, aware that escape would be impossible without John's help. In whispered conversations and subtle body-language, they planned. They came to rely on each other.
Now, it was for John's sake that Sherlock hoped to survive at all. The only hope he had of getting John out alive was bargaining from the outside. He just hoped John would forgive him for what he was about to do.
Sherlock switched out one cassette for another, more rhythmic beat, rousing John from his doze.
"Oh, come on, Sherlock," he whinged for the cameras that were watching them, "We're not gonna try that again, are we? You will never learn this."
"I need the exercise," Sherlock said, back to those cameras, "and besides, your primitive steps amuse me. Come on, teacher," he taunted. He smiled at John—the genuine smile that was never caught on camera.
"All right," John agreed in pretended exasperation, "but this is the last time I'm doing this." He smirked back a challenge.
Sherlock nodded his agreement, and they took their places, as the music queued up. "Let's show him what we know," Sherlock murmured to him.
John looked back at him, suddenly serious, searching for security in Sherlock's eyes, and nodded.
"Living in the darkness,
Sleeping in the light of day,
Waiting on the bad luck to pass
When there ain't no other way
Some would carry on
While the weak get trampled down
Only way to know yourself is when the hard times come around.
Oh, I maybe down and out but you best not believe.
I could fall down twenty flights and still land on my feet.
Just prove me wrong."
Sherlock wasn't sure exactly when their sessions had changed from mere exercise to dancing together, but somewhere along the way, they had fallen perfectly in sync. Their differences in training were obvious, but neither was superior.
One day, during their warm-up, they had caught each other staring, and they began to show off, pushing themselves to the limits of their own ability.
Sherlock stretched along the barre, his long, muscled body perfectly balanced at every moment.
John worked over every inch of his feet, just hinting at the power that was encased in his more compact, but no less muscled body.
Sherlock, still holding onto the barre, bent in a grand plié on the front of his toes, and stretched first one leg and then the other from this forced arch.
John beat a rapid tattoo with just his heels and toes, before exploding with energy and returning as if nothing had happened.
Sherlock countered by ducking under the barre and placing his leg against the wall in front of him, easing his face onto his knee and watching to see what John would do next.
John pulled in his arms and spun at a dizzying pace, straightening out effortlessly into a fighting stance and executing a series of controlled and concentrated kicks.
Sherlock stood in the middle of the floor, committing feats of balance and control with arabesques and attitudes.
And then Sherlock caught himself holding his breath as John rushed by him, his feet flying but his equilibrium intact. Sherlock watched from a potentially-precarious position as those feet whisked through precise points in their journey, over and over again. When he looked up, he caught the tapper, now stationary, grinning at him with an intensity that seemed to burn.
Sherlock was struck speechless by the impression—he'd read and heard of burning glances, but he had never given much credence to that particular literary metaphor until then. An answering energy surged through him, and he followed John as he began his circuit of the studio again.
He made an aerial maneuver look effortless, and when he looked up from a controlled fall as the song ended, he saw John shoot him an irresistible grin.
Sherlock's heart pounded.
This time, they knew each other well. There was no longer about showing off what one could do that the other couldn't. This dance was about how beautifully different they could make the same steps. It was about supporting each other.
A quick turn and pivot. A glance to the other. Two steps forward. Two more. Another glance.
They turned in opposite directions and walked back to their original positions, then turned to follow a diagonal. They pulled their hands up in a loose fighting position, and did a slow kick to the side.
It was the first move that showed their differences. Their bodies were perfectly aligned, but something in the way that John flicked his foot spoke of power, more than the grace of continual motion that Sherlock projected.
Then came the rapid beat of tap. Sherlock had struggled, at first, to hit the floor quickly enough and with enough power to create a sound, but now John could find no fault in his technique.
Smooth was the only word John could think of for Sherlock's dancing. Every motion was deliberate and elongated past all reckoning. He was beautiful. John could say it in his head, and he thought Sherlock could see it in his eyes. He thought he saw the same praise and desire in Sherlock's eyes. Amazing. Brilliant. Gorgeous.
Even the steps which were purposely off-balance were entirely controlled. It seemed as if Sherlock had movement down to an intuitive science. He knew exactly where his body was at all times, and he used the knowledge to pull stunts that many other dancers found impossible. John saw Sherlock turn chaos into order with his body, and he made it look effortless.
Sherlock was always struck by the amount of energy housed within John's dancing. If Sherlock made his movements look effortless, then John achieved the same illusion, but differently. Instead of giving the impression of ease, John's movements were sharp and wild, though still controlled. It was obvious that each precise movement took effort, but his body held a promise for even more energy. Through the hardest of feats, John looked as though he were bursting to be allowed to exercise his full potential—as if this exhaustive maneuver was, in fact, too easy.
And there were peripheral movements in his arms and hands. They were quite unchoreographed, and they were never identical from one performance to the next, but they obviously helped maintain balance. John's shoulder hindered the range of motion of his injured arm, but his body seemed to compensate so naturally that he never faltered. Sherlock could never predict them, but through each incarnation, those movements maintained a grace that made even foot-centered tap-dancing a celebration of the body as a whole.
"Lead me to the edge of everything that I desire.
Let the passion burn in me,
Like flames of fire.
Throw me in the deepest and try
To hold me down too long.
I will come back twice as strong,
Just prove me wrong."
There was one moment in the dance where they were not in unison. They traded kicks over each other's heads. It was a deceptively simple move, and so quick that it was easy to miss that each kick was blind. That they could so easily share the implicit trust required thrilled both of them. If someone had been watching from the edges of the studio, rather than through grainy security camera footage, they would not have so easily missed the playful, inviting looks the two men gave each other as they chased around the studio, ending face to face exactly where they started.
It had become their habit to catch their breath in place, smiling widely at each other and sharing the moment. These were the most intimate moments they had been able to share. They were too close, but they were simply dancing. Their hearts were pounding, their chests were heaving, and they were smiling, but they had just been dancing. They were safe in these moments to share all the excitement they felt when they danced together, without having to justify their closeness to the cameras.
This time, as every other, John fought the urge to kiss Sherlock. If they ever made it out of here alive, he had promised himself he would make love to Sherlock for the rest of their lives, but now, he fought it.
Sherlock moved closer than usual, this time, and though John's heart rate picked up at the proximity, he didn't move away. It was as close to saying, "I love you," as they could possibly get, and John tried as hard as he could to communicate that thought without moving his lips.
Sherlock put a hand to John's cheek, and John leaned into the caress as subtly as he could, expecting Sherlock to wipe away an imagined eyelash and withdraw.
Instead, his other hand came to the back of John's neck, and Sherlock closed the distance between them.
His lips were heaven, as far as John was concerned, but he pulled away from Sherlock's grasp, all too aware of the two security cameras currently trained on them. His heart-rate rose in panic, now.
"Are you crazy?" he whispered, frowning but letting his hand linger at Sherlock's shoulder in an attempt to communicate how much he really didn't want to pull away.
Sherlock kissed him again, forcefully, pressing John into the windowed wall that looked out on downtown Moscow.
"They'll kill you," John hissed this time, twisting desperately out of the kiss.
"That's the idea," Sherlock told him, caressing his cheek as tenderly as if he were not committing suicide with the act.
But before John could ask what he meant, two men in dark suits had come into the studio and were leading Sherlock away.
John was so stunned, he couldn't move. He couldn't cry. He couldn't scream. He couldn't sink to his knees. He just watched as the last bit of his life was taken away by the Soviet government.