A/N: This one is a little short, but it came up pretty quick to make up for it (speed vs. length, the constant battle, I'm TRYING to be efficient, guys.). As usual, I am very grateful to all my reviewers, PLEASE keep reviewing, To all the readers, both those who review and those who don't, I love that you read my stuff anyway, and to hear from you (if I haven't already) will definitely make my world a better one.
Katey walked into the tiny dancer's room of El Ritmo ten minutes early, expecting to find no one there.
Instead there was very much a blonde head popping out from under a table.
"Jess!" she yelped. "You're not supposed to be here for another two hours!"
He stood up and grinned. "Yeah, I know."
"What were you doing under the table?"
He pulled out a wrench from behind his back. "Loose screw," he said sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "I had to fix it. Manager's job, you know."
"Yeah…" She was suddenly uncomfortable, and unsure of where this conversation was going. "Well, I was going to meet Marc here. We were getting ready to practice for tomorrow..."
"Oh, right! Well, don't let me stand in your way," he said, stepping slightly away from her. "You're working really hard then?"
"Yeah. You know. Getting ready." Since when did Jess treat her like… well, like whatever this was?
"Your family's coming to see you?"
She smiled. "They're coming, yeah." She had yet to tell them of Javier's return and she didn't know how much they'd like it. Susie, of course, knew, but her relationship to Frank had been just her parents' dream. Now Jess's question had startled her into doubt.
"That sounds great, Katey…" He trailed off, walking toward the door. "I guess I'll leave you to your work then?"
Marc stepped into the room. "Hey, Jess."
"Hey, Marc." Jess gave a short wave. "I'm gonna leave you guys alone now. Right? Right. Right."
Jess stumbled out of the room, Marc's gaze following his every step till he met Katey's eyes. "Has Jess suddenly got keen on you, or something?"
"I hope not," Katey said swiftly. "I mean, I like Jess, it's just that…"
"Katey, relax," Marc said with a laugh, sitting on the very table Jess was fixing. "You're involved and in love… It's absolutely understandable." He shook the table. "Does Jess know there's a screw loose here?"
"Yeah, he was fixing it," she replied absently. It dawned on her that she hadn't yet told Marc that Javier would be joining them. Springing it on him at a moment's notice was not something she was sure he would appreciate, but she doubted he would be angry. "Listen, Marc-"
She was interrupted by the door opening and closing. Javier stepped inside.
Marc stood up immediately, looking rather pleased. "Well, hello there."
"Hello," Javier said with a light smile.
"Decided to join us, have you?" Marc shot a pleased look at Katey, who was tempted to roll her eyes. "You're welcome to stay and watch."
"Marc," Katey said suddenly. "Javier used to be a dancer, did you know that?"
"No, I didn't," Marc said, eyeing Javier. "You definitely have the right build."
"Well, he volunteered to help us out before the show tomorrow, and I told him we could use all we can get." Katey pleaded with Marc with her eyes. Please, please, say something. Anything.
But Marc seemed absolutely delighted. Boyfriend forgotten, Marc seemed just about ready to dive into Javier, now eyeing him like a very large piece of cheese to a very small mouse. "You're welcome to help us."
"I'm glad you said that," Javier said, looking as though he could sigh with relief. "I was watching you guys dance the other day and I thought I could help you… I noticed some things."
"Were you a teacher before?" Marc asked hopefully.
"No, but… I did do some amount of teaching. To partners." He glanced at Katey very quickly.
"Ah, yes, of course. Well, it's all part of a dancer's growth. Let's get to work, Katey."
After a few minutes of silent stretching, the couple stood up to Javier's watchful gaze from Jess's broken table. "I'll cue the record," he said. "Let me just watch the first time."
Marc and Katey went through the routine. Practicing was very different from performing, and with Javier in the room Katey was suddenly caught into a bag of nerves. She didn't want to look stupid, she didn't want to mess up. Dancing in front of him was completely different than dancing with him. She was so sure she wasn't nearly as good as she had been two years ago, when they had been partners, and she was even surer that he could see the difference. She also became suddenly conscious of how different Marc was as a partner. Javier had been sure, strong, and insistent, whereas Marc practically needed her to backlead most of the time. It was not a redeeming quality in a partner, though she suspected it had to do with Marc's primary training being in ballet rather than ballroom dancing.
Finishing silently, they turned to Javier, whose expression was both curious and intense.
"Well?" they asked finally.
He turned directly to Marcus. "You don't lead her."
"What?" Marc, who had never been addressed so directly before, looked surprised. "What do you mean?"
"She's doing her job but you're not leading her." He seemed to struggle to find the words. "You have to… take control. Show her where you're going and she'll follow you seamlessly, I promise."
As Javier tried to direct Marc, it became increasingly difficult from his seated position. They tried the combination again several more times but to no avail. Marc simply didn't understand exactly what Javier wanted from him.
Javier was getting frustrated.
"Show me, then!" Marc exclaimed finally. "Just show me. You only have to dance a few bars."
"We'd have to improvise. I don't know the combination." Javier waved his hand, but Katey saw a fuming red begin in his cheeks.
"I'm sure you can remember a couple of steps?" Marc looked helplessly from Javier to Katey. "I thought you came to help us."
Javier glanced at Katey. He was checking with her, asking for her permission.
What else could she do?
Nodding silently from behind Marc, Javier then stood up. "Can you cue the music?" He walked over to Katey as Marc sat down on the table. "Just watch me, okay?"
He met her eyes almost instantly. They only knew one combination. "Can we do this?" he murmured gently.
She nodded, almost breathless.
He took his place beside her, and the music began.
It was as though time had never passed. Katey was suddenly unaware of Marc sitting in a chair, or the studio she was standing in, or of her relationship with Frank. The only thing she could feel was this moment; this, right now, nothing else. Javier's eyes blazed as they danced. There was nothing fake or showy about this. They were having fun. He stepped and she followed, he bent and she kicked, he spun and she dipped. He was affectionate, strong, leading and she could only do her best to keep up. She was breathless from the laughter she felt bubbling inside of her and the passion that mixed so closely with it. His hands at her waist and running up and down her body made her painfully aware of what she'd missed the past two years. But he only smiled at her, and moved with her, flowing to their own beat and living in their own world.
And then the music stopped.
She was caught in his arms and she didn't want to move. Startled, Katey looked up at Javier. He looked just as thrilled as she felt.
She became dimly aware of Marc's clapping. "Yowza!" he cried. "You are some dancer. You just improvised all that?"
Katey looked at Javier.
"Something like that," he mumbled.
"Well, I bow down to the king," he said solemnly, with a slight bow of the waist. "Jesus, Katey. You didn't need a dance school if you were friendly with this guy!"
They laughed sheepishly, avoiding each other's gaze.
"Maybe we should try it again, Marc?"
"Katey, I just can't get over how good Javier is," Marc said, running a towel through his hair.
"Yeah, he used to-" The sentence stopped in her throat. "He used to be really well-known at a club we went to."
"You mean the club you danced together at."
"Yeah." She caught herself at once. "What? No."
"Katey, please. Do you think I'm stupid?" Marc looked her straight in the eye. "It's obvious you two used to dance together. You have… amazing chemistry."
Protests made their way out of her mouth in the form of incoherent sounds.
"If I didn't know better," he continued, "I would've said you two were in love."
"We weren't in love." But Katey had never been good at lying through her teeth.
"He looks at you like you're the world." Marc said it simply, as though that made it fact. "Your dancing chemistry… I think it stretches somewhere else. You can tell me or you don't have to. But I've never seen Frank look at you like that, and I've never seen you smile like you did with him at Frank."
He paused, taking a deep breath. "I told you everything this past year because I wanted us to grow close. I don't want you to feel I'm making comments about your relationship with Frank. But… "
She looked at him. "But?"
"But you and Javier dance the way Gregory and I wish we would."
"Oh, Marc!" She couldn't help it then, throwing her arms around him.
"Geez, Katey," he said, sounding choked. "Let up on the airway a little, 'kay?"
She loosened her grip. "I'm sorry… it's just…"
"You do, don't you?"
She nodded. "Well, no. I mean, yes, we did. We did, oh god, we did. But… it's awfully complicated."
He looked at her in shock. "Katey, why are you crying?"
She looked at him. "It's just… I have so much to tell you."
A short while and three cups of coffee later, Marc was still incredulous.
"So did you ever hear from the Phelps guy again?" He stirred the sugar into his coffee.
"No," Katey said, sighing. "It's like I said. Javier took me home and the rest is history." Rehashing on the fond memories was something she hadn't done in so long.
"That's so romantic. No wonder you never answered when I asked you where you learned to dance." He winked.
"Well," she said, blushing smugly, "what I told you was true. I've really never been to a dance school."
"More like the school of Javier Suarez."
She slapped him playfully. "He is wonderful, though. I mean, he was."
"What makes you think he isn't now?" Marc raised his eyebrows.
"People change, Marc." Javier of course, hadn't changed at all. But she wasn't going to tell him she was thinking about him anymore, because that was absolutely scandalous considering her position with Frank.
"But it's obvious he still feels very strongly about you."
She bit her tongue in the temptation to ask how.
"It's in how he looks at you," he said, answering her unspoken question. "And I don't think it's fair for me to dance this show. I think you and Javier should do it."
"What? No, no, absolutely not." She shuddered into her coffee. "Frank will be there."
"Is Frank a concern?" Marc raised his eyebrows again. "I never liked him. Javier is much better looking as far as I'm concerned."
"I'm just…" she sighed again. "I'm worried that Javier was right. That I'm dating Frank just because I thought enough time had passed for be to be dating again."
"Are you?" Marc sipped his coffee.
It was a question she had worried herself with ever since Javier had returned. Fearing more and more that he was right as she began to see how bland her relationship with Frank was, she knew something had to be done. She just wasn't sure what.
"Anyway, I think you both should do it. Gregory will be there and I'll have fun anyway."
"Just how would you explain it to Jess?" Katey looked at him skeptically. "Javier and I… I don't know where we stand yet, Marc. I just want to feel things out a little. Let's do this tomorrow."
Marc stayed silent.
"Promise me, Marc."
"Okay, I promise."
"You promise what?"
"I promise to dance the show with you." He waved an imaginary white flag. "You got me."
"Good." She nodded her head in triumphant succession. "I'll figure out what to do about… about the situation with Javier. You just keep dancing with me."
Though she wasn't very sure what to do at all.
A/N: I know nothing really important happened in this one, but PLEASE bear with me and stick around. The next one is going to be super fabulous, super long, and super action-packed! I don't want to give too much away but we're talking dance show (who will she dance with?), words from Frank, some interesting happenings with Susie, a LOT of Javier and Katey action, and a mysterious interruption… hmmm… Come back for all that! I'm looking forward to writing it definitely as much as you are to reading it. Love you guys, please review!