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A CCS oneshot by Sakura
Standard disclaimers apply.
Misquoting from series is intentional.
Words enclosed in / are italicized.
Slightly edited version up 2002.9.4.
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I will not ask for much.
I will ask for nothing but a dance, hinted at playfully and followed by a meaningfully mischievous grin at the girl seated beside you. "What do you say, Kinomoto-san? Do you believe him when he says he can dance, or do I have to show you how awful his sense of rhythm really is?"
You roll your eyes heavenward. "Forget it, Meiling, she already knows how bad I am."
She laughs then, lightly patting you on the arm. "Oh come on, just one dance won't hurt. Meiling-chan hasn't danced the whole time she's been here, so you might as well give her a chance to show off."
Your scowl deepens. "Now what is that supposed to mean?"
"She means," I say, "that your tripping over your own feet will make me look good."
She laughs again, and you run a hand through your chestnut-brown hair and sigh in frustration. You would be the last person I'd expect to find in this place --- a dimly lit smoke-filled disco, strobe lights whizzing around the cherry red walls. What are you doing here? You hate crowds, you hate dancing, and you don't drink. But now there you are perched on a stool, glass in hand, polo shirt open at the collar and looking absolutely disgruntled. I glance at the girl seated beside you and we burst into laughter, hearty and meaningless.
"Come on," I wheeze, "just one dance and we'll get a move on."
She gently squeezes your hand. "Syaoran-kun."
There comes another sigh, this time one of defeat. "Oh, all right, let's get this stupid thing over with." Under the table your hand squeezes hers back as you stand up, and at seeing that I politely look away.
Xiao-lang, I be your fiancée, okay?
W-What are you saying---
Until you find girl you really like, I be your fiancée!
The lights dim a little as the speakers cough out a ballad. Around us, couples encircle arms around each other tenderly, melting into one, casting solitary shadows on the walls.
Say yes, okay?
I take a step back. "Uh, I think..."
You stare at me. "What?"
"I think we should sit this one out."
Your eyebrow lifts. "You said you wanted to dance."
"I know that, but..." I quickly sneak a glance back at our table, where I spy her pale hand waving me on. Go on, Meiling, her hand seemed to say, I don't mind.
"But?" You ask, impatiently.
"I-I was hoping for a fast one."
"You said you wanted to dance," you say, firmly pulling me by the arm, "so we'll dance."
Fine. Do what you want.
As the music starts your arm tightens around my waist, and although I try to protest, it is too late to pull away.
I look down from the balcony and notice your shadow falling across the lawn. You are standing in the late afternoon sun, hair fiery red in the glow, watching the sun die.
Xiao-lang, I call out in my mind, but you don't stir.
My fingers clasp and unclasp themselves on the balcony railing.
You stand immobile, watching the sun fade away.
Such an aloof child, one of our aunts commented over dinner the previous night. He rarely speaks and smiles and for the life of me I can't even imagine what he thinks about when he stands in the sun like that.
What do you see in the sunset? I ask myself. Only the wind answers, brushing against my ear with a soft hiss.
Later on you will tell me that you think the sun is rather lonely when it sets, dying all alone in that great orange sky. Then I will put a hand over yours, comforting you. But it rises again the next day, remember? It doesn't have to be lonely anymore.
The last golden embers fade in a sea of vermilion and darkening purple, and your shadow stirs as you finally turn to leave.
"The good thing about slow dancing," you remark thoughtfully, "is that you don't really have to be a good dancer to pull it off."
My eyes stray to the wall past your shoulder. "Fine talk from someone who stepped on my feet two times in a row."
I feel you smile against my hair. "So sue me."
For the briefest of moments I allow myself to close my eyes and sink into your warmth. For the briefest of moments I give myself the liberty to think, to believe that yes, this is the way things should be. The way things should've been.
It's been years since I had boldly leaned across that porch table and demanded that we be engaged --- a childish impulse, a ridiculous whimsy --- but to which you gave gruff assent, hastily ducking your flushed face behind a book afterwards--
Fine. Do what you want.
"But you're still good at this," you say, shifting your hold on my waist. "You always were good at dancing."
"Among other things," I joke, and you snort at that. "Hey, didn't Mother teach you traditional dances back then?"
"She did, but I forgot all about them."
"Too bad; you were good at them."
"Good things never last," I say, and gently start to pull away.
Li Yelan, fan in hand, leaning back in her chair. Listen, Meiling. This is a dance for one. If you do this well, I will teach you a dance made for two.
A dance made for two! My eyes sparkled, instantly imagining myself in a gown and being twirled about in a ballroom filled with candles, just like a scene from a movie I had caught a glimpse of.
Li Yelan smiled then, tucking her fan in the pocket of her dress.
A dance made for two is a special dance, so it may not be as easy as you think it is.
How come? I asked.
Dancing alone means you move at your own pace, you follow your own rhythm. But dancing with another means two bodies, two minds have to move as one. If two people move to the same rhythm and follow the same path with their hearts, then so much the better.
But, her voice softened, if two people hear the same music but their hearts yearn for different things, it will be all wrong. There is nothing sadder than being in one's arms and wishing you were in another's. At that her voice slightly trembled and I wondered if she was speaking from experience...
Then she finally stood up and slowly walked over to where I was. In the end, she said, you make the decision. A dance for two is a wonderful thing, but some people are born to dance alone.
I gently pull away and grin at you. "Thanks for the dance."
Your deep brown eyes slightly widen in confusion. "But it's not even halfway through yet."
"I think I got my point across." I grin meaningfully, turning my heel this way and that. "That's two for the record, Xiao-lang." As you scowl I burst into laughter, rousing some nearby couples from their languorously romantic mood and eliciting a few annoyed stares.
Li Yelan's words echo in my mind once more.
In the end, you make the decision.
"Xiao-lang," I softly say, "thanks for the dance. I enjoyed it."
"That's the second time you've said that."
You start to smile in understanding, brown eyes soft in the dim light.
I turn around and search in the darkness for the telltale pink dress, the pale slender neck. "Oh, there she is. Kinomoto-saaan!"
She blinks and looks up from her glass.
I walk up to her and grab her arm, pulling her up to her feet. "Come on, hurry, before the song ends!"
"B-But Meiling-chan," she stammers, "you said you wanted to dance with--"
"No buts!" I gaily speak, gently but firmly leading her to the dance floor where you are left standing. As you catch sight of her, your cheeks slightly redden, and looking at her I notice the same shade of red is coloring her face.
Unbelievable, a little voice inside me scoffs, but instead I smile. "Here we go, Kinomoto-san. Don't worry about Xiao-lang stepping on your feet, he's done enough practice with me."
You start to scowl again and she giggles, shyly reaching out to touch your hand.
I walk back to the table, knowing that behind me the dance is about to begin --- fingers entwining, your arm tightening around her waist, chin lightly brushing against her light brown hair; her arms gently reaching up to pull you closer, touching forehead against shoulder. Two pairs of feet, shy and uncertain at first but slowly, surely, beginning to move to the slow rhythm.
Two, dancing as one.
And I, who never had the right to ask for anything, sit in the darkness and watch you with wistful eyes. Maybe someday I will be danced in that same loving way, held tenderly and gently led to the music. Maybe someday I will find myself seated at the same table alone, watching the others drift by. But for now I content myself with the darkness and smoke, humming along to the music and imagining myself moving through the crowd --- a pale apparition of me weaving gracefully through the couples linked in warm embraces, dipping and soaring to the strains of a song made for two, seemingly happily, blissfully dancing alone.