When we get to the rink, my new partner is already out there on the ice, warming up slowly, moving forwards and backwards with an easy grace. I cast an annoyed glance at Laguna, who brushes it off. Trust him to set me up to dance with one of my more annoying rivals. Seifer fucking Almasy. How he ever thinks I can work with Seifer, I don't know.
Still, he knows I'll do a lot to get a good dancing partner.
"Come on, Squall, he won't be so bad," he babbles, picking up his bag and heading for Almasy's trainer, Kiros, as I check my skates, preparing to head straight out onto the rink. "He's an excellent skater."
I shake my head slightly, heading straight out and leaving the meet and greet business to Laguna. I'll still be able to hear their conversation no matter where I am on the ice, so it doesn't matter if they need me to hear anything. Kiros and Laguna hug and I roll my eyes, moving into some basic warm up exercises. I feel Seifer's eyes on me and ignore them.
"I hope they're not going to end up fighting," I hear Kiros say, and I roll my eyes. Why would I bother fighting with Seifer? I might not be keen on the thought of dancing with him, but I don't see why I should actually fight him. I watch Seifer, keeping half an ear on their conversation as he goes through a series of jumps, looking more graceful than any guy of his size has any right to. He looks strong enough to support me for my lifts, anyway. It's been a while since I had a partner who could.
"They just need to get used to each other," Laguna says, optimistically, and I have to smile slightly at how naïve he can be.
"At least they're both dedicated to what they're doing," Kiros replies, and I start skating closer to him and Laguna, hoping that I'm actually going to get to do some proper dancing. Kiros and Laguna get on far too well, on and off the rink, to just wait for them to call us.
"They'll be great together, just like we said," Laguna says, and gives me a wave and a thumbs up when I glare at him slightly.
"Is he still annoyed with you?"
"He hasn't stopped glaring and sulking since I told him."
"I guess we have to start by making them more willing to work together," Kiros says, frowning as he watches us. Laguna nods, running a hand through his hair and pulling his hairtie out and retying his ponytail, almost nervously.
"Or they'll just keep skating around each other like that."
"Seifer!" Kiros calls, "Get over here."
Seifer does as he's asked, slowly making his way over and picking a path to deliberately disrupt my own pattern. I slow to avoid him, sighing slightly at the childish little thing, and skate towards Kiros and Laguna again as well.
"You two need to learn to work together, you know," Kiros says to Seifer, and Seifer rolls his eyes.
Laguna nods agreement, leaning against the panels surrounding the rink and smiling. "You'll have to know each other well if you want to have a shot at winning anything."
I wonder if it's completely escaped him that we don't like each other.
"I've won awards before without ever speaking more than a few words to my partners," I say, shaking my head slightly at Laguna.
"With the result that as soon as the championship was over, you didn't have a partner anymore."
I sense Seifer's eye roll, but his self satisfaction lasts only until Kiros gives him a look too, crossing his arms in front of him, seeming a little amused. "And Seifer, you're not any better."
Seifer snorts softly and I shake my head, looking up at Laguna and then at Seifer, looking him over briefly. "Fine. I get the point. We're here to dance, so let's get on with it."
He holds a hand out for me, moving back a little. "Fine."
I move out onto the rink with him, letting him lead, feeling his eyes on me, evaluating, closing my eyes to get into the rhythm of him, feel how he moves. We fit together easily, naturally, his every move complementing mine. I open my eyes and raise my eyebrow slightly, wondering if he'll want to try anything, a lift or a spin, something like that. He raises an eyebrow in return and moves closer, placing his hands on my hips and lifting me, seeming to find me heavier than he expected.
I can tell from the strength of the lift that once he's adjusted to my weight, we could at least do a lot of work with the lifts. It's vaguely pleasing to know that finally, I have someone I can really work with. I take a moment to find my rhythm again when Seifer lowers me. We have a lot to work on – but we can do something with this.
I hear Kiros' voice, even though I'm fully focused on Seifer. "You think they'll get over their problems?"
"If they want to."
"They both love to dance; if they work together long enough, I think they'll want to."
Seifer moves closer to me, turning us, smirking at me slightly. I try and block out his smirk, the fact that it's him, and relax into his lead, enjoying the feeling of dancing even if I dislike my partner.
"So, got any plans for their routine?" Kiros asks Laguna, and I hear his response, something about wanting to see us together first. Kiros' response is clearer, letting Seifer hear. "Same here. From that lift earlier, I think Seifer needs to get more practice in lifting Squall, anyway."
"We've had that problem before," Laguna says with a laugh, "Squall's heavier than he looks."
"Seifer is strong enough, he just needs to stop expecting Squall to be light, put more effort in and move more smoothly."
"They're going to make this as difficult as they possibly can, aren't they?" Laguna says, still laughing, as he watches us. I won't make it difficult on purpose, and he should know it. If I'm told to dance with someone, I'll dance. The dancing is the important part, no matter how apathetic my partner.
"Maybe. But they are the two best dancers I've ever seen, so..."
Laguna says something in agreement and then calls out instructions to me. I do as he suggests, keeping with Seifer's rhythm almost perfectly.
"Could you try another lift?" Kiros asks, raising his voice a little more, "Except this time, Seifer, you've felt how much he weighs now, so do it smoothly, no hesitation."
"What kind of lift?" I ask, raising my eyebrow a little. I can do every lift asked of me. The problem is usually that my partner can't lift me properly or expects things to be easier – or more complicated, sometimes – than they really are.
"No need to be showing off, princess," Seifer says with a snort as he speeds up the pace. He lifts me again, and I feel that it's easier than before for him. He's already adjusting to dancing with me, which could be a good thing. He does a simple turn before putting me back down, and I slip back into his rhythm, feeling how cocksure and arrogant he is. I use the momentum to move away from him a little, holding onto just one of his hands and working to build up some more speed.
"They can do well without trying, but if they manage to find some kind of spark between them..." I hear one of our trainers say, and I smile slightly to myself.
"That's going to be the hard part," I hear Laguna reply, "I don't know about Seifer, but Squall can be incredibly stubborn."
"Seifer's probably worse."
I tune them out now, looking up at my partner. He looks almost admiring, and I know that means he's at least enjoying the way we move together. "How well are you going to be able to lift me? Are you going to need me on the ice a lot or can you keep me in the air?"
He snorts softly, taking my hands in his and slowing a little, moving to skate behind me. "Give me a week."
"We can focus on our technique on the ice until you can do it," I say, finding a smile worming its way onto my face whether I want it to or not. "Most of my partners have preferred it when I stay with my blades on the ice."
"Most of your partners were wimps," he says, lifting me again with ease, almost testing my weight.
"True. Do you have any big weaknesses?"
He shrugs slightly, letting me go and moving to skate beside me again. "Three and a half axel. But I'm working on it."
"I have a few things I'm working on, but it's mainly the lifts since I haven't had a partner strong enough in a while."
"So that's for next week," he says, nodding. "Okay."
Somehow, that's the signal for the end, both of us moving away. He goes over to get a drink from Kiros and I move into a practice routine, mostly jumps, before I, too, head off the ice to meet up with Laguna again.