Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters mentioned in the movie "Center Stage." I just enjoy using them to my own sick ends.

Rating: PG-13.

"Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!.........."

Jody Sawyer executed pirouette after pirouette, her toes throbbing as she spun with increasing speed on the surface of the stage. The lights were hot and blinding, the applause of the audience intensifying with each turn.

"Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!"

Jody spun faster and faster, growing more out of control with each step. Her ankles began to twist, and she felt herself falling off pointe, though she desperately tried to summon strength into her leg muscles, so as to hold her up.

"No!" she gasped, as she felt her right ankle wrench. "I can't be injured! I'm a dancer! I...." she saw Erik, his good-natured face nearly a blur, trying to get to her, to catch her in time, but his crutches slowed him down. "I'm sorry..." he whispered, his face blurring. Eva was flitting around the stage with Sergei, as though they hadn't heard, and Cooper....where WAS Cooper? She screamed his name out, as she felt her leg give way.

Then all of a sudden she was in Charlie's strong grasp- off her feet, the ankle saved just in time. He looked at her, and smiled.

And then she woke up.

Jody sat up in bed, her slender body covered with a sheen of cold sweat. Quickly she flipped on the switch by her bed, flooding the room with light. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she headed for the small adonjing bathroom, testing her ankles carefully as she walked. Though her feet were sore from the intense night of performing, they were fine. She sucked in her breath, splashing water on her face, and glancing at the clock. Five-fifteen.

"Eva?" she whispered timidly, tiptoeing into the room that now contained only two girls- Maureen, their former roommate, had moved out the night before, after the show. Eva Rodriguez was a monster in the morning, but she was even bitchier if she missed the six-o-clock breakfast, and THAT would last the entire day. "Eva!"

"What the hell, woman........" Eva groaned, rolling over and looking up. "You had BETTER be near death, 'cause that's the ONLY excuse you can have for waking me up in the middle of the damned night...."

"It's almost twenty after five. Breakfast is STILL at six." Jody pulled her nightshirt over her head and took off for the shower, tossing the aforementioned garment on her roommate's head and ignoring the litany of curses that followed her across the room. "Get up. I'll be out in ten minutes."

At exactly six-o-clock, both girls were walking down the hall towards the café, Jody holding Eva up by the arm. "You'd think Jonathan would push classes forward today," mumbled Eva. "I mean, we were all up till, like freakin' four in the morning. The man's a sadist."

Jodie was inclined to agree, but she had bigger things to think about. "I've got to find an apartment by next Friday," she said, half to herself, half to Eva.

"Jonathan isn't letting you stay?"

"No. I'm even lucky I'm being allowed to stay until next week. Now that I'm in Cooper's company..." She paused and shook her head. "I have no business being on campus here."

Eva rolled her eyes, but she had nothing to say- Jonathan WAS being generous in even letting her stay for an extended period of time. Both girls reached the cafeteria and ate a quick breakfast of fruit and bagels. Then they headed to the studio. "You HAVE to say hello to everyone before you go out," Eva said.

"What about Jonathan?"

"Screw Jonathan. We're early, anyway."

Both girls entered the studio to find Erik, Sergei, Charlie, and other newly accepted members of the company warming up at the barre. Instead of the usual silence that was in the room, excited voices were bouncing off the walls, talking about present, past and future plans.

Erik saw them first and greeted them loudly. "What's up, my divas?" he did an awkward little spin on his crutches and attempted to fall at Jody and Eva's feet. "Omigosh, I am, like, your biggest fans," he said in his best 'groupie' voice. "I've been watching you since I was, like, BORN! I mean, you are like, totally awesome!!"

Eva giggled and immediately took up the role, inserting a cigarette from her pocket between her glossy lips. "MOVE. WHERE are my bodyguards?" she pushed them each aside with a slipper-clad foot , and strutted forward. "What's this? The floor isn't swept, the barre isn't gold- I'M ALLERGIC TO WOOD, REMEMBER???, and WHERE are those blue M&Ms I requested???" the other students, most of them laughing, milled around her, pretending to do her bidding.

Jody, who was laughing to hard to move, pushed each of the guys away with a high-heeled white sandal, one that Erik regarded with approval from his position on the floor. "Hey, cute shoes." With his trademark ear-to-ear grin, he pushed himself upward and leaned back on his crutches, beginning to sing in a slightly nasal tenor:

"Hey, pretty baby, with the high heels on...."

"Oh, stop!" embarrassed, Jody tried to make a break for the door, but Erik caught her and spun her out in the middle of the floor. "You give me fever like I've never, ever known..."

Charlie grabbed her around the waist, letting his fingers slide to her hips as he dipped her forward in their dance sequence from the night before. Although he was dancing Cooper's part, his hands were just as strong and sure. Giggling now, Jody tried to escape, but Charlie lifted her over his head, grinning all the while. Eva had joined Erik on the song with a VERY loud but VERY unsuccessful alto part, and they were launching into the chorus.

"...that you're the one for me, the way you make me feel!"

"The way ya make me feel!" The rest of the class echoed the chorus, dancing to the imaginary music, leaping, spinning and dancing all over the room, looking like an out-of-control scene from Fame. Charlie dropped her gently onto her toes and spun her into a pirouette, allowing her to spin directly back into Erik's arms. He dipped her backwards, still grooving to his imaginary beat, and spun her back to Charlie, who caught her up in his arms and catapulted her straight towards the outstretched arms of Sergei, who was standing by the door.

Squealing with laughter, Jody closed her eyes and threw out her arms, feeling Sergei's hands close firmly around her waist, feeling him dipping her backwards. She laughed out loud, not even noticing that the singing had stopped.

"Miss Sawyer."

Startled, Jody looked up, into the eyes of Jonathan Reeves, who had apparently strolled into his classroom at that MOST inappropriate time, and who'd reached out and grabbed her instead of Sergei. The aforementioned Russian was mouthing "sorry!" from behind Jonathan's back.

"Oh, God," she muttered under her breath, face flaming. She caught sight of herself in the mirror and silently groaned. Her hair, which had been smooth and perfect that morning was tangled up, and her previously smooth green sundress was bunched up around her thighs. Her sandals, which she'd lost mid-pirouette, were lying in a corner, and her face was only a couple shades lighter than Jonathan's dark red tee. Erik was furtively trying to hide them (her sandals) behind his pant leg, as if she could get into any more trouble than she already was.

Jonathan set her on her feet, watching without a hint of amusement as she furtively attempted to right both her hair and her dress. "Perhaps you should find something to do, mademoiselle," he said, coolly. "And, Erik," he said, turning suddenly as he was trying to sneak out the back, "unless you wish to warm up on your crutches, you need to escort Miss Sawyer out."

Both of them, heads hanging, blushing profusely, moved as fast as possible. When they were about a quarter of the way down the hall, they froze at the sound of Jonathan's voice. "Ah, Miss Sawyer?"

She turned around, heart pounding.

"You might need these." He placed a pair of white sandals outside the door, and then closed it with a bang.

**************************************************************************** ****************

"I CANNOT believe Jonathan saw me!!!" Jody cried for the fifth time.

She and Erik were sitting in the Hard Rock Café, drowning their sorrows in huge, disproportioned sundaes.

"You were really tearing up the dance floor, though," Erik tried to be consoling. He spooned up another rivulet of butterscotch sauce and peanut- butter ice cream, filling his mouth and licking the resulting dribble off his pinkie.

It didn't help.

"But when he caught me!!" Jody was still hysterical. "I looked like a total idiot, didn't I?"

"That you did."

Jody fired him a freezing look, to which he shrugged. "Look, I'm all about honesty."

Jody stood up and threw three ones down beside her half-eaten sundae. "I'm outta here. I need to find an apartment, like, NOW. Jonathan is probably having all my things thrown out on the sidewalk."

Erik shrugged and grabbed his crutches, swinging to his feet. "Let me hobble along. I need to do something to stay in shape, and sitting around eating sundaes won't help me much. This baby doesn't come off for at least another month," he nodded at the soft cast on his foot.

"Okay. We'll go halves on a cab."

The two grabbed a taxi at the corner and clambered inside, relaxing in the comfortably padded air-conditioned interior. They sat in silence for a while, Jody stealing glances at Erik all the while over the classifieds in the paper. His long, thick lashes were beginning to droop over his eyes. "Not much here," she murmured. " When did apartments become so expensive?"

"Mmhm....that's nice," murmured Erik, eyes still shut.

"I must be something of a bore," she said with a laugh. "I'm definitely not as entertaining as Eva."

Erik started, and then laughed himself. "No, not at all. I guess I'm still tired from last night...hey, isn't that Cooper?" he leaned forward, staring intently at a tall, thin blond dressed in only a pair of paint-spattered jeans, his chest covered with splotches of the same color.

"Yeah...that's him, all right." Jody leaned across him to get a better look. He was directing a group of painters. "I wonder what he's up to. "Hey, stop the cab!"

Both got out at the curb, heading for Cooper. "Coop!"

He turned around, forehead wrinkled, and they hurried across the street to where he was standing.

"What's going on?" he asked, casually, when they reached him.

"We're cool."

"Erik, how's the ankle?"

"As well as can be expected."

They stood in silence for a couple of seconds. Then Jody spoke. "Okay, Cooper, you're standing here covered in paint. What are you up to?"

Cooper grinned and beckoned to the building beside him. "Come and see for yourself."

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