"Miss Duck, are you sure you wish to audition for the advanced class?"
Mr. Cat looked at her incredulously, and in a moment of doubt, Duck's eyes flicked to a pair of emeralds across the room. Fakir surrendered a small smile that he so seldom gave, and nodded slightly.
So reassured, Duck looked back at her teacher and nodded.
"Very well. Is there anyone who will assist Miss Duck in a pas de deux?" Mr. Cat smiled slightly and closed his eyes, waiting for the silence he was certain would follow the request.
Fakir opened his mouth to offer his "assistance", but before he could get the words out, he heard another voice, unfamiliar, though it seemed to come from the other side of the classroom.
"I would be honored to dance with this charming young lady who is so smitten with me."
Ahiru suppressed a quack and blushed, suddenly terrified. Fakir had made it sound so easy. And he had said, albeit somewhat reluctantly, that he would offer to be her partner when Mr. Cat asked for volunteers. But this...
Mr. Cat grinned. "Ah, Mr. Femio. Thank you for speaking up so quickly. You may proceed."
Fakir found himself seriously contemplating murder. This wasn't going at all according to plan. But… this… Femio… had said that Ahiru was "smitten" with him. Could she really have been in love with this… Femio… all along? Perhaps she wanted to dance with him, and had only been afraid Femio wouldn't offer when she had asked if he, Fakir, would.
For a moment all he could think of was them kissing, of Femio holding Ahiru in his arms, and Fakir swallowed a lump of bitterness and jealousy that settled as a cold stone at the bottom of his stomach, as a clamp closed about his heart and he held back tears.
Why should he care? She had never loved him. Anything more than friendship between them was simply wishful thinking.
But then she caught his eye, as she placed her hand in Femio's, and the desperate fear and conflicting emotions her eyes held told him otherwise.
In one swift movement, before he could even begin to think about the consequences his actions would bring, Fakir was on his feet, hardly registering the feminine gasps from the regular class.
"Mr. Cat," Fakir's voice stopped the soft music that had begun, and he didn't notice the warning growl in his teacher's voice when he said, "Yes, Mr. Fakir?"
Duck's eyes had turned to him, and though the conflicting emotions still resided in her eyes, giving them a melancholy shadow which he longed to shed light on, there was no mistaking the relief in the sapphire orbs, overflowing with emotion and captivating his attention, making him bolder than he would have otherwise been.
"I believe I am better qualified to be Duck's partner, as I am in the advanced class. May I have permission to take over for Mr. Femio?"
Mr. Cat bristled, and replied sharply, "You had your turn, Mr. Fakir. Miss Duck will be fine wi-"
"Thank you," Fakir interrupted smoothly, almost in the same motion holding out a hand for Ahiru to take.
They only saw each other. Not the astonished looks from everyone in the room, the wounded look of Femio, nor even Mr. Cat's hissing tantrum.
And as the music began to play, they moved through the opening steps of the White Swan pas de deux. They looked nowhere but into each other's eyes, and as Duck waltzed away from him and back, she could almost forget who it was she was dancing with, and why she wished that dance would never stop.
Until he deviated from the well-known choreography and pulled her sharply in, through a pretty pirouette. There was another gasp from their audience.
"What are you doing Fakir?" she whispered, lifting her leg in an arabesque in response to his prompting hands, miming directions against her waist and making her shiver.
"Don't you recognize your own method, Princess Tutu?" he breathed in return, his breath sending vapour over her ear he was so close.
She had no time to process what he meant before he dipped her, and her hands moved above her head automatically, and then she was lifted again, and spinning with the help of his guiding hands.
"Go out," he whispered, and Duck obeyed, trusting him though she didn't know what he meant to do.
She turned back to him, awaiting more instruction from her leading partner, and almost dropped out of her stance when she saw what Fakir had meant her to see.
His hands were positioned in the mime of love, the light of truth in his eyes, and it was Duck's turn to rush forward without thinking, only to find herself in the air, supported by Fakir's hands. Her hands mimicked his, suspended in the air as she dipped back at his request, far enough so that Fakir could have seen, had he cared to, the astonished faces of his and Duck's classmates.
But he had eyes only for his dancing partner. They moved through several more improvised dance steps before the music ended with them close together, beaming at one another.
"Never have I seen such passion from either of you! Well done!" Mr. Cat was sweating and red as he started a round of thunderous applause which shortly filled the dance studio with noise, "Ahiru, I'm placing you as Fakir's partner from now on. On a trial basis, you both understand."
"Yessir," Ahiru and Fakir both managed to divert their attention from each other long enough to respond. Then class was adjourned around them and one by one the dancers left the studio until only two were left.
Both were in the regular class, and could not stop staring in astonishment at Fakir and Ahiru, who had not moved through the whole operation, though the sun now sank low and threw shadows across the studio.
They simply gazed at each other in amazement and awe.
"Ahiru…" Pike called half-heartedly, "Are you coming?"
Lilie simply watched, for the moment speechless in her eagerness to see some action. Something. Anything. It could be a fight, or a kiss, or even a heat-filled make-out session. Whatever it was, though, she could tell it was going to be good.
"Come on, Lilie," Pike tugged at her arm when she realized that Ahiru had not even heard her.
The blonde resisted until Pike sighed and added, "Don't you realize they're going to stay like that until we leave?"
Then the blonde willingly allowed herself to be dragged from the scene, and the smiles on the faces of the two dancers in the middle of the now-empty studio widened.
"They're going to talk," Ahiru said into the silence, still beaming and not really caring.
"I know," Fakir answered, a smile to match hers on his face as he pulled her closer to him, closer than he would have dared with anyone else around, "Let them. It's not like they haven't been talking about us since you came back."
Ahiru was finding it very hard to concentrate on anything when she was pressed up against Fakir's body like this, only two thin layers of fabric between them, but she knew he referred to when he had changed her back to a human.
"I—is that why…? I never understood-"
Ahiru couldn't think of anything to say except, "I'm sorry…"
To her surprise he chuckled, "For what?"
"For making you wait… I couldn't… I didn't realize you loved me back…"
Her train of thought was completely wrecked when he tucked a stray piece of her hair behind her ear and slid his hand down her jaw. She looked into his eyes to find them exactly like she imagined hers were. Glassy and unfocused.
"No," he murmured, "It's not your fault. If I hadn't been blinded by my denial of this feeling… I might have seen… Even then, I couldn't tell you…"
Ahiru noticed their faces were getting closer together. They were mere inches apart now. Any moment now their lips would meet…
Yes, Ahiru had only to close her eyes and the moment came. They withdrew after only touching at first, glanced at each other's eyes, then met again, lips unsure and inexperienced, but sweet and quickly gaining confidence.
Pike rolled her eyes and dragged Lilie away from her hiding spot where she stared in at the two of them.
"Yeah yeah. So it's surprising. Get over it."
"It's not that. It's that… have you ever seen either of them so… so steamy?"
Pike turned and looked again despite her better judgement, and she had to admit, in this at least, that Lilie was right. It was almost embarrassing to watch them.
She snorted. "Couldn't they just get a room?"