"Hey, Pidge, what'cha up to?"
"Useful things. Unlike you." Pidge smirked at her brother, who was spending a couple weeks on the Castle to help coordinate some operations with the resistance. In theory, anyway. In reality he'd mostly occupied himself with creative ways to entertain, pester, and otherwise distract the team from their work. "You wanna help or are you just here to annoy me?"
"Neither actually." Matt boosted himself up to perch on her workbench. "I was just on the bridge and Allura was talking about that visit you've got coming up to the Obleks. Sounds like you guys'll have to be doing a lot of dancing."
"Apparently that's one of their things. Dancing's real important to them, I guess. Which got me thinking. So, I know Shiro's a terrible dancer. I've seen him at the Garrison dances, and he doesn't just have two left feet, he's got thumbs for feet."
Pidge snickered. "He's really that bad?"
"Oh yeah. He needs some real work before he can be allowed out in public. You got any idea about the others?"
"I'd guess Allura knows how to dance, but Altean dances probably aren't much like ours. Hunk and Keith and Lance, though…" The green paladin wrinkled her nose. "I'm kinda scared to find out."
"Right. Then we should find out now, before you're at some fancy diplomatic event and embarrass yourselves."
"You know the Oblek dances?"
"Nah, if they've got special dances you're on your own. But from the sound of it they just expect you to dance at all, not do something in particular. Not just one dance, though. This is, like, their social activity. So you'll have to do a lot of it. I was thinking waltz, that's a good slow dance, and maybe rumba, and East Coast swing is pretty simple so that's good for faster music, and—"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on!" Pidge held up her hands. "I thought I just told you most of these guys have no idea how to dance. You're planning to teach them all that in a week?"
"Why not? It's not like you guys are doing much else right now." Matt smirked at her. "Unless you want to help me make lasagna. You know, like old times."
"Over your dead body. If I want lasagna I'm asking Hunk."
"That's what I thought. So how 'bout it? I can teach if you'll help me."
"…Fine. But Take it slowly, okay? I don't think we'll be able to pack all that stuff in in just a few days."
"Oh, ye of little faith. Don't underestimate me!" Matt flashed her a mischievous smirk. "I'll go round up the others if you can find us some decent dance music. Although, where should we do this?"
"Might as well use the training deck. I can hook the music into the speaker system."
"Perfect. Meet you there in ten!"
It was actually closer to thirty, because the Castle was big and it took a while to find everyone, but at last all the victims were gathered and Matt launched enthusiastically into his ballroom dance crash course.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I've gathered you here today—"
"Cut to the chase, showoff," Shiro interrupted, grinning at his friend. "You already told us multiple times what we're supposed to be doing."
"Yeah, yeah, but it stands repeating. Though I have to say it appears to be my lucky day, because I've finally got you captive." Matt bestowed a grin on the black paladin that would do the Cheshire Cat proud. "No courses to run off to or paperwork to worry about. So you gonna learn today!"
"You've tried to teach him before?" Lance asked gleefully.
"So many times." Matt threw a dramatic hand to his brow. "I swore an oath that I would teach this moron how to dance, and that day has finally come. So! Let's get started!"
They plunged into the lesson. Pidge had to admit her brother was a good teacher—not that she would ever tell him that. Matt patiently walked the guys through the basic waltz box step over and over again while Pidge showed Allura the proper footwork. The Altean girl picked it up quickly. "I've had some dance lessons before," she explained when the green paladin asked. "Part of my diplomatic training. I didn't have the opportunity to do it much after the war started, though."
"Well, plenty of opportunity now." Pidge grinned at her. "Now we get to help these clods figure out how to partner dance. This'll probably take a while."
It took longer for some than for others. Matt split the guys by height, putting Allura with Shiro and Hunk while Pidge rotated between Keith and Lance. Her brother moved around the group, offering advice and harassing whoever wasn't dancing at any given moment into practicing the basic waltz box step on their own. To Pidge's surprise Lance picked it up almost right away, and she soon moved him on to the progressive step and a basic turn. Keith, however, couldn't seem to figure out the rhythm, and he kept starting over with increasing frustration.
"I just can't get it!" he growled after colliding with her for the fifth or sixth time. "It doesn't feel right at all!"
Pidge decided to be helpful instead of sarcastic and thought the matter over. "Maybe… think of it like a fight? Fighting has a rhythm, right?"
"Well, yeah, but in a fight I've got a weapon."
"Okay, but you also have teammates. And you're moving around. I'm your teammate, so pretend you're trying to help me get through a fight to a safe zone."
Keith looked doubtful, but after that his efforts started to improve. Relatively, anyway. Pidge stifled a sigh and glanced toward the others. Hunk wasn't as quick on the mark as Lance but he was still doing quite well, gliding across the floor with surprising grace. Matt looked ready to have a conniption over Shiro, however, as the sheepish black paladin shuffled through the box step. "Oh, jelly bean and sausage pizza… it's like an elephant doing Irish step dance. Do you even lift? Then lift your feet up! You're tripping yourself!"
"Get off your heels," Pidge called over to Shiro, who looked like he wanted to either melt into a puddle or fall over laughing. "The waltz is on the toes and balls of the feet."
"How do you guys know so much about this?" Hunk asked, breaking off his dance with Allura to give the Holts a curious look. "I thought you guys did, like, science and stuff."
"Well, duh." Pidge shared a grin with her brother. "But Mom's a professional dance instructor. We grew up doing this."
"Wait, seriously?" Lance stared between them. "But you're all—you know, brainy!"
"Since when does that mean we can't dance, too?" Pidge fired back. "And Mom's plenty smart. She helped me get into the academy as Pidge Gunderson. But she's also a great dancer. She and Dad even won prizes for it."
"Hang on, your dad's a dancer, too?" Shiro broke into a huge grin. "He never mentioned it to me before."
Matt laughed. "That's actually how he and Mom met. See, she started teaching to help cover finances during grad school…"
Colleen took a long gulp from her water bottle, grateful for the break. She'd been dancing for over an hour, rotating between students, and while she loved being a ballroom dance instructor it could also be kind of exhausting. And dehydrating. Their building had decent air conditioning, thank goodness, but thirty or forty people out on the floor at once made the room rather warm no matter how hard they tried to cool the place down.
At least the fans are working today.
No kidding. Last month they'd had a torturous few days before a mechanic could make it there, and—
"Hey, Colleen!" One of the other instructors paused in his spin across the dance floor. "Manuel just showed up, and he's got a new guy with him. Could you handle it?"
"Sure thing, Gabe." Colleen took a last sip of water and headed for the door. Newbies didn't usually come to open dance nights, but when they did someone usually gave them individual instruction so they could actually participate. Which meant she was going to have to spend the evening doing the basics over and over again.
Great. And we've got some advanced people here too. I was hoping to have some fun…
She dredged up a professional smile for the newcomers, giving a wave to the one she knew. "Hi, Manuel, it's been a few weeks. Good to have you back."
"Yeah, well, got bogged down with work." The dark-haired man returned her smile and jabbed a thumb at his companion. "But I brought a challenge for you. This is Sam, who's here because he lost a bet. Think you can get him to have some fun tonight?"
Colleen took in Sam's good-natured eye roll, the air of an academic man very much out of his comfort zone. Guess I'm not the only one stuck with the short straw. "I think we can manage."
Manuel grinned. "Good, because I've got five dollars on him actually enjoying himself."
Colleen had to laugh at the wicked twinkle in his eye. "I don't know, that sounds like I would win the money, not you. I'm not going to work if I don't get paid."
"…Are you trying to con me?"
"It's not conning, it's doing business."
Sam coughed on a laugh, adjusting his glasses. "She's got you there, my friend."
"You're the one who's gonna give me the five in the first place!" Manuel protested. "Why are you siding with her?"
"Let's be honest, man, she's way prettier than you are."
"Well, look at you, trying to score points with the teach."
"That's what you say. Ever occur to you, though, that if the money's going to you I'll just say I didn't enjoy myself whatever the case?" Sam grinned wryly at Colleen. "If she's getting it, I actually have motivation to have fun."
"Holtses. Too tricksy, too tricksy!" Manuel thumped his slender friend on the back. "Fine, if you have fun I'll give her the money. But I still get bragging rights. Savvy?"
Sam sighed. "I am well aware that you plan to put 'Sam Holt socialized' on posters all over the physics department if you actually pull this off."
"Hadn't actually thought of that, but that's a great idea."
"I'm brilliant." Manuel gave Colleen a wink. "Well, now that that's settled, I'm going to leave you in this lovely lady's capable hands and go whisk a few damsels off their feet."
Regular Don Juan you are," Colleen shot back. "Just don't drop anyone, okay?"
The dark-haired man laughed and started across the dance floor. "I'll do my best. Good luck with the brainiac!"
"Drop anyone?" Sam looked mildly disconcerted. "People fall doing this?"
Colleen shrugged. "It does happen, but we've never had anyone actually get hurt. Usually there's a mix-up and someone wasn't prepared for a dip is all." She smiled at him. "So, have you ever danced before?"
"Not unless you count the obligatory wedding shuffle." Sam fidgeted with his glasses, looking a bit sheepish. "Um. Sorry, but I didn't catch your name."
"Oh, my bad." Colleen stuck out her hand. "I'm Colleen Marcello, one of the instructors here."
"I'm Sam Holt. So, uh… how does this work?"
"Well, tonight's an open dance night so we're not doing group instruction, but no worries, we get new people in all the time. How about I show you East Coast swing?"
"No idea what that is, but okay."
"All right. You'll be the lead and I'm the follow, so you're going to mirror what I do. You start with the left foot…"
She led him to a relatively quiet corner and began to walk him through the basics of the dance—triple step, triple step, rock step, open and closed position, following the music. Sam took every word seriously, a slight frown over his glasses as he followed her instructions. He didn't seem to have a great sense of rhythm, but gradually he got the hang of the footwork. Colleen gauged his confidence level and finally decided he was ready to move on. "Okay, so, one of the first moves you can do with this is the basic turn. It goes like this—no, keep doing the basic step, you're going to spin me under your arm."
"But if I do that I'll bump into you," Sam protested, frozen to the spot.
"No, you won't, because I'll be moving too. We're pretty much going to end up where the other started."
She was almost positive her student forced down a nervous gulp before he nodded. "Okay, I'll give it a try."
He did try. Multiple times. And with every attempt he did collide with Colleen, or stepped on her foot, or got completely out of rhythm, or dropped her hand halfway through. Colleen could feel his frustration mounting with each failed try, likely made worse by the crowd of more skilled dancers around them. At one point Manuel spun by, grinning gleefully, and Colleen warned off potential ribbing with a ferocious glare.
Preoccupied with the turn, Sam missed it. "What am I doing wrong? You make it look so easy!"
That's because it is easy. Colleen stifled a sigh. "You're thinking too hard about what could go wrong. If that's all you've got in your head, you're going to miss the chance to do it right." She gave him a wry smile. "To be honest, most people have trouble with the first few moves. Once it starts to click into place the more complicated stuff is actually easier."
"But I keep messing it up!"
"Then just keep trying, right?" Colleen shrugged. "It's okay, you'll get it—this isn't rocket science."
Sam gave her a peculiar look over his glasses. "No, this isn't rocket science. That I can do. This is some sadistic step designed specifically to torture rocket scientists."
Colleen blinked. "I'm… sorry?"
Her student's face went red. "Er—ah—that's not what I meant. I mean, I—uh, well…"
"You're a rocket scientist?"
"Well… um… I guess you could say that."
She had to laugh. "That explains so much. How come you're hanging out with Manuel? I thought he was doing communications or something."
"International communications. And we're both with the Galaxy Garrison, which is how we know each other."
"So that's where the rockets come in. It all makes sense now." Colleen guided Sam back into the dance, keeping up the stream of conversation. "You at the University of Michigan, then? How does a Garrison guy wind up doing that?"
"They cover our schooling in exchange for working for them afterward." Sam grinned, the foolish grin of a kid talking about his dream. "Not that I'm complaining. The Garrison's on the cutting edge of space technology, especially now that they've incorporated NASA, and I want in."
"You want to go to space?"
"Well…" The grin got wider. "The opportunity's not exactly a downside."
"Heh, enjoy that. I'm keeping my feet on the ground, thank you. I have enough trouble with airplanes as it is."
"You don't like flying?"
"No sir. I drive or take the train whenever I can get away with it. Helps that most of my family's in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so it's not far to visit."
"Buckeye territory, huh?" Hazel eyes twinkled behind his glasses at the mention of Michigan's archrivals. "What are you doing hanging around the Wolverines, then?"
Colleen grinned back. "I'm working on a masters in biochem. And in getting rocket scientists to dance, apparently. Have you noticed that you've done three perfect spins?"
Sam looked down at his feet in bewilderment, as if he could see his success stamped across the floor. "I did?"
"Yep. See what happens when you stop overthinking?"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I can't help it…"
"I noticed. Now, how about I show you one where you spin instead of me? This is called a belt turn, and you can do some fun things with it…"
She guided him through the turn a couple times, then gave him the reins. This time Sam caught on more quickly, and he began to rotate between his two-shot arsenal with growing enthusiasm. Colleen had to smile. "See what I told you? You're getting the hang of this."
"Definitely need to practice. But this is fun."
"Worth losing a bet?"
"Two bets, but yes." Sam slowed, eying the dance floor, which was starting to clear out as the dance session drew to an end. "Um. I saw some of the other couples doing that sorta…" He made a stiff rotating motion with his arms. "Could you, uh, teach me that? If you have time?"
Colleen sorted through the possibilities of what that charades gesture could mean, and… Oh. Of course. "The dip? Hmm, I think we can do that. It starts from closed position, and you're going to drop your left hand and turn me. I'll put my right arm on your shoulder for balance, and you put yours around my back so I don't drop. And then lean, like this."
Sam watched her mime his part in the move, and nodded. "Okay, that makes sense. But how come you don't just run into me?"
"Well, I actually do a little bit, but that's where my balance comes from so it's not a problem. You ready to give it a try?"
They started into the basic, triple step, triple step, rock step. Sam twitched a couple times, and Colleen could tell he was psyching himself out again. "Relax, don't worry about it too much. Just let go of my hand and turn me."
"Let go and turn. Let go, and turn. Okay, okay, here we go…"
He let go of her hand, and turned her.
Colleen didn't hit the floor hard. She was a dance teacher, after all. She knew how to fall. But she barely had enough time to even realize what had happened before Sam was crouching beside her, babbling a stream of apologies as he tried to help her up. "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry, I didn't—are you okay? Did you get hurt? I am so sorry, I had no idea I—"
"Sam, calm down, I'm fine!" Colleen took his offered hand, trying not to laugh. "This happens all the time. Really, it's not—"
"Lieutenant Holt!" Manuel appeared at Sam's elbow, the mischievous gleam in his eye betraying his attempt at severity. "You dance with the woman and then drop her? What kind of officer are you?"
"I didn't mean to," Sam started, red as a tomato.
"Oh, knock it off, Manuel," Colleen broke in. "I'm fine, it was an accident, and might I add that you're one to talk. Need I remind you of Laura and the aerial incident?"
Manuel snapped his mouth shut.
"That's what I thought. Now shoo. You're in the way."
Sam watched his friend beat a hasty retreat and gave Colleen a curious look. "The aerial incident?"
"Ask him about it later," Colleen advised, "and then I'll tell you my version." She gave him a conspiratorial smirk. "I'm curious to see just how different our notes will be."
Too late she realized that she'd just assumed he'd be coming back. Manuel had insinuated that this was a one time visit, but Sam did seem to be enjoying himself. Not that the instructors ever complained about getting someone new, but he might think presuming like that was rude, and…
I'm actually having fun. Did not see that coming.
I hope he doesn't think I'm giving him an advertisement pitch…
Sam grinned. "I will definitely do that. He sure deserves it. But… are you sure you're okay? I'm so sorry I dropped you—"
"I told you, it's fine." Colleen patted his arm as she steered him back into position. "It happens all the time. You did everything right, except you didn't move your left hand under my back. That helps keep me from falling. Try it again, a little more slowly."
They went back into the basic step. Colleen could feel tension in Sam's grip, but he took a breath and seemed to steady himself. Then he dropped her hand and turned, right arm catching around her waist, and she leaned into the dip with her arm on his shoulder for balance. Sam hesitated for the briefest instant, possibly wondering if she would fall again. Then he grinned and pulled her back to her feet. Colleen spun out with the motion to full arm extension, following the natural tug on her hand back into the basic. "That was perfect!"
"Was it?" But her student was beaming. "It felt okay, but I wasn't sure… Um, can I do it again?"
This time she swept out a graceful arm as he leaned her into the dip, knee up to accentuate the movement. Her partner twitched with surprise, but when he pulled her back up he was grinning even more broadly. "Whoa, that was great!"
"Careful," Colleen teased. "If you say that too loud Manuel will hear and you'll lose that five dollars."
"Hey, that is five dollars I am happy to lose. This has been a lot of fun."
"I'm glad losing that bet was worth it."
"It definitely was."
Colleen hesitated, wondering if should should plug regular lessons. It certainly would be in her interest, because students meant money and money meant eating and rent. And he was nice. But before she could figure out how to get all that into words without seeming pushy Sam beat her to it. "Say, when are you guys open? I don't know if I could be particularly regular, between school and the Garrison and research, but I'd like to come back sometime."
"We've got our information brochures over by the door." Relieved for the opportunity, Colleen headed for their front table. "There are weekly lessons, but we also have regular open dance sessions…"
As she rifled through the papers she saw Manuel sidle up. The dark-haired man gave his friend a kick in the shin, and she was almost positive she heard him hiss, "Ask for her number, you blockhead!"
Colleen stilled. Smiled, and grabbed a pen.
When she turned back around with the brochure in hand, a red-faced Sam was fumbling with his glasses. "Ah, um… This has the school information? With the, uh, times?"
"Yeah, it's got everything. And that."
She pointed. Sam blinked at the handwritten name and number, and his face went from flushed to crimson. "Ah—I—uh—"
"Hey, you can blame him." Colleen jabbed a thumb at Manuel. "He's louder than he thinks."
The other man grinned hugely as his friend turned a glare on him. "Aw, come on, man! I was totally quiet! She's just got good ears!"
"No, this is definitely your fault," Sam ground out. Adjusted his glasses again, and gave Colleen a wry little smile. "I do apologize for his rudeness. That was completely uncalled for. But… um…" He shuffled his feet, blush deepening even more. "Can I keep the number?"
Colleen stifled a laugh. "Why do you think I gave it to you?"
"And speaking of giving…" Manuel elbowed his friend in the ribs. "Where's that five bucks?"
"And proud of it!" The man snapped the surrendered bill a couple times, then handed it to Colleen with a flourish. "For you, ma'am, for making this bookworm actually have fun for once."
Colleen grinned after the pair as Manuel dragged his still-crimson friend out the door. "Pleasure was all mine."
During the wedding reception, Colleen sidled up to Manuel and shoved a piece of paper into his hand. "All things considered, it's only fair I pay up."
The lieutenant raised an eyebrow at the five dollar bill. "What's this for?"
"I won it off you when you introduced us." The bride shrugged, brown eyes dancing with mischief. "The way things have turned out, I didn't think it exactly fair of me to keep it."
"Hey, I'm not going to complain." Manuel stuffed the money into his pocket and flashed her a grin. "And since we're on the subject… Might I have this dance, Mrs. Holt?"
Colleen laughed and held out her hand. "Five dollars and a dance? My word, but you're getting spoiled!"
"Hey, Sam's by far the most spoiled man in this room today. I'll take what I can get."
"I'm flattered. Though I've always wondered…" Colleen gave him a sidelong look as they stepped onto the dance floor. "Did you plan for us to meet back then?"
Manuel's grin broadened. "I plead the Fifth."
"What's this about remaining silent?" Sam appeared at the dark-haired man's elbow. "And since when do you get to dance with my wife at our wedding?"
"Since you wandered off to talk to your crazy cat lady aunt and left her by herself," Manuel shot back. "And she wanted to know if I tried to set you guys up at that first dance session."
"Well, did you?"
"I don't know, did I?"
"You guys sound like kindergarteners," Colleen sighed. "And you're the minds behind the space program? We're doomed."
"It's eccentric genius," Sam returned with a grin. Raised an eyebrow at Manuel. "Go enjoy the dance, but no dropping her. Got it?"
The trio exchanged looks, and burst out laughing.
A/N: The previous chapter has fanart, courtesy of booyakasherlock of Tumblr. Check it out! (put her name, a dot, tumblr, a dot, then) com (slash) post (slash) 178128417051 (slash) i-was-reading-the-latest-chapter-of-my-favorite
Sorry, FF really, really hates URLs.
In recompense for the atrocity of Season 8, I hope you enjoyed this Holt family fluff. All the dances and moves mentioned are real and are loads of fun; if you ever get the opportunity to take ballroom dance lessons, do it. The story was inspired by a post on Tumblr by thejunglenook recounting how a group of dancing instructors discovered that one of their students worked for NASA.
And speaking of Season 8, I am working on a fix-it fic that starts all the way back at Season 1 Episode 1. Since it started out as a writing exercise, novelizing a story on screen, it's written in such a way that someone who's never seen the show could pick it up and not miss anything. I'm already 150K words into it, but as I'm being anal about continuity I won't be posting for a while. Still, if you're at all interested in reading it, please follow me! (And as Space Lions will be the "down time episodes" of said story I will let you know in the notes here when it does go up.)