Keep in Time
Summary: AU 3x4. A suspicious accident leaves Trowa without a skating partner, sentencing him to a year without competition. Quatre is an injured dancer, trying to find a way to live without his joy. Together, they make new rules and find a new path.
Re-posted old chapters with new beta work, new chapters to be added VERY SOON!
Trowa remembered it with sickening clarity. The crowd was clapping after their perfectly landed axle, and Trowa was sailing away, twisting his body in a perfect arch to see the judges clearly. The reverberating THUNK caught his attention, and the crowd gasped. Trowa twisted perfectly, moving on to their step sequence. The backwards turn gave him a perfect view of his partner, and that view he would never forget.
His sister was crumpled against the boards, trying frantically to pull herself up, but her skates were twisted around each other. She staggered and pushed, trying to disentangle her fumbling, sliding legs, but she didn't seem able.
Trowa was speed skating the few meters over to her before it even registered in his mind that her left leg, encased in knee-high skates to match Trowa's cavalier costume, was bent and twisted like no leg should be.
Their music, a soft orchestral lullaby, cut off abruptly, evoking pandemonium. Medics streamed in from all accesses and Trowa held his wailing sister steady so she wouldn't move her God damned broken leg, skating her over to the stretcher and lifting her straight up on it.
That was when he knew there was something seriously wrong. He had lifted her hundreds of times - twirled, moved, and balanced with her since he was strong enough to carry her, but she had never felt so wrong before in his arms. She was crying, screaming about the competition and not wanting to look so bad on camera, but Trowa couldn't care less. He knew Cathy was injured - Badly.
That was two weeks ago. The rumors flew about what caused Catherine Bloom, half of a gold medal pair, to fall so hard and so fast. The media was told a shoelace broke, making the skate unstable. The truth was caught by the cameras. A pivotal failure of the custom skate was to blame; the top leather had spilt straight off the sole, causing her foot to slide right off. Because of the angle they were skating at, she collided straight into the boards at top speed and had no way to slow. They were just transitioning from the successful landing of the dual jump to their step sequence. Commentary said that the only way it could have been worse was if the accident had happened during the landing on the jump.
But Trowa didn't believe that. He knew their jumps. She had broken a lace before, right as she was dropping onto the ice after their lift. Trowa had grabbed her, holding her off the ice and slowing them to see what happened. He knew Cathy. He knew when something went wrong with her. She was his sister, His partner, His life. He had been skating with her since birth. They had been destined for doubles. There was no worse time then those few seconds, while transitioning into a new set, when Trowa would not be within arms' range that her skate could have screwed up. It was the worst possible injury to a pairs skater.
And now, she was out of commission; the doctors had to put in numerous pins to correct the fractures and she had seen various specialists. But still, she was in a cast from thigh to toe for at least 2 months.
The National Championship was out of the question.
Training came to a screeching stop. Cathy couldn't skate. Trowa could keep in shape, sure, but they couldn't practice any lifts, or learn any routines. For someone used to being on the ice and pushing each limit from dawn to well past dusk, Trowa was not adjusting well to suddenly having hours and hours of free time.
Cathy was doing fine with the free time, although, she didn't seem to be able to talk to Trowa anymore. Just looking at him those first few days was enough to make her break into tears, reminding her of what she could not do. She immersed herself in school society. She had always been popular and had yearned to spend more time with her friends, anyway. She was happy.
Trowa, though, didn't have any friends. Suddenly attending classes at the high school regularly was a complete shock to his system. Trowa had been in school before, sure, but he missed more days than attended and had his tutor condense the rest of the work into a few hours between practices. He had never felt the need to interact with others. He was intensely private off the ice. But now Trowa found himself sitting in an unfamiliar desk, watching an unfamiliar teacher drone on about schoolwork he had already read in the textbook, surrounded by classmates he had never met before. The only people in the entire school he knew were his sister, Wufei (who had been his tutor and neighbor for years), and a few of Cathy's friends, whom he couldn't stand.
No one seemed to go out of their way to talk to him; why should they? He wasn't new, or even exotic. He had always been there randomly, but he had never had time to socialize before. Lunch was spent completely alone (Wufei had physics club, Biology club, Student council, and debate team meetings, so he was never there). Trowa didn't even try to find a place in the cafeteria, instead taking his protein shake and sitting in a quiet window sill in the upstairs corridors, brooding.
He missed the ice.
He had even started formulating plans about escaping the school building at lunch to sneak into the school-owned hockey rink at the far, far side of campus just to be on it for a little while...But he would never be allowed.
Because he was an athlete, his coach had downright forbid him to play any other sports because of the risk of injury. He was technically taking gym this semester, (and every previous year) but he had never shown up past the third day. The coaches gave him A+ anyway, since he was better fit and better disciplined than most students. He never felt the need to go before.
But he heard people talking; the halls were a great place to overhear the everyday gossip. Usually he only picked up who was dating who, what last night's Grey's Anatomy was about, snippets about the impending closure of the private academy, or stupid pet tricks. But one day he overheard something important: the Gym class was moving onto the skating part of the curriculum.
Trowa showed up to class.
Already geared up, he was out on the ice and doing circuits within moments of walking into the school-owned rink. Their ice was different from Petra's (his home ice, which was owned by one of his and Cathy's coaches) but it was a thrill to get used to a new place to unwind and just skate, untouched and unfettered.
"Sorry, Barton, but we have a class on the ice today." The gym teacher said in his gruff voice.
Trowa smiled brightly and did a quick turn so he sailed along backwards, keeping his eye on the coach, "But I'm technically in your class. Can't I participate in this section?" He asked, coming to stop with a wave of snow marking the edge his skate blade.
The coach narrowed his eyes. He was going to say no. Then he thought for a moment, and reconsidered, "Since you are already proficient in Skating, I'd make you teach all the really bad skaters. Or you can get off my ice." He said, obviously hoping Trowa would screw off and leave him be.
But Trowa felt his smile brighten, "Thank you." He said sincerely. The coach's gruff demeanor melted just a little, and he shook his head minutely.
"Everyone on the ICE!" He turned around and bellowed, still as prickly as before. The three dozen students scrambled to get skates laced and guards off before they waddled their way to the access doors-- Most of them gripping the edges and wiggling around on their legs like newborn giraffes.
Trowa sailed past them all again, doing another circuit for his own enjoyment, then he turned to take a look at each skater's form, and decided who needed his help the most. The coach quickly set up a few exercises, sending Trowa out to get some chairs for the real newbies to work with, and got the students to skate up and down the ice. It was obvious who had potential after that.
Trowa found himself trailing the pack, doing little twizzles and turns to keep himself occupied until someone fell. He then worked his way over to help steady them... or pick them up. They went back and forth, back and forth, some losing the chairs along the way, others just losing their footing, and a few rolling their eyes as they showed off their superior skill.
All in all, Trowa didn't care, because being on the ice in gym gave him a break between a morning of boring, torturous classes and an afternoon of insufferable, stuffy classes before he could get to Petra's rink after school. Most of the class was eager to get to lunch, but Trowa had no intention of leaving his haven until he absolutely had too. The last fifty minutes had been the least boring minutes of his entire school career.
Finally, the class began to wind down and the coach slid a CD into a player he brought with him. "Free Style," he said, and told the students to use what they knew for the last fifteen minutes. Some of the students simply made their way to the exists and wearily trudged up to the stands to reclaim flat footwear, while others stayed a little longer to do a few more advanced tricks to impress their classmates. Trowa stayed, of course, because he belonged on the ice. He always felt awkward, self-conscious, and lacking of any social graces, but on the ice? On the ice, he soared.
The song changed on the CD, and Trowa stared a circuit of the ice. Everyone else had vacated now, and he had no fear of hitting some stumbling classmate. He closed his eyes, feeling the ice beneath his skates, and began to move to the music, just playing around, doing a few turns and loops in impromptu choreography. The music began to crest, and Trowa opened his eyes, moving into perfect position and pushing into one neat little axel propelling him into up into the air and then down. He quickly twisted into his signature move, dipping down with his torso and arching his back so he could reach out and touch his raised and bent back leg as he continued to fly around the ice. He made a tear-drop shape with his body- almost a perfect circle of flesh balancing on one supporting leg, using ice as his stage and his body as his tool. The familiar move relaxed him, letting his awkwardness melt away.
Continuing around to come closer to the stands now, Trowa slowly let go of his ankle and let his leg drift downward as he straightened himself out, smiling warmly to himself for a job well done.
That's when he saw it. Behind the boards, standing on the concrete and staring at a group of teenagers watching, another boy was disentangling himself from the same position and laughingly saying, "It's not as hard as it looks!" to the group.
He had been copying him? Off the ice? How?!
Trowa locked eyes with the boy. A blonde, with the most mischievous sky-blue eyes was gently laughing and smiling at Trowa from outside the stands.
Trowa's circuit brought him closer again, and Trowa decided to show the blonde something he couldn't do (although Trowa reminded himself that he was not allowed to do any risky moves without his coach's supervision). Trowa turned himself and launched off the ice in a simple in-air split, pushing off his left and landing on his right.
The blonde grinned, seeing the challenge and took a little run. He jumped just as high as Trowa, doing the split easily and landed perfectly. Then the blonde turned gracefully and then posed-- He lifted his back leg and extended his arm and hand into a long perfect arch of the entire body to finish off. "Grand jeté to land in a second Arabesque!" The blonde called merrily. His voice was a bright trilling tenor that had Trowa's hairs standing on end in pleasure just from the sound.
Trowa skated up to him, surprise etched firmly on his face. "I didn't know there were other skaters at this school." Trowa said, finding his voice after a moment. It was true that the region was highly competitive since there were many skaters of high caliber in the same area all fighting and backstabbing to get the only three advancing spots. There were a few teams that Trowa and Cathy had to watch out for and strive to stay ahead of-- but Trowa had never met another skater at the same high school. Most of the other skaters went to the private school!
The blonde laughed merrily again, a smile lighting his entire face, "I can't do that on skates. But if you liked what I could do with sneakers, you'll be impressed with what I can do with Pointe shoes! Only male who can in the state." Trowa didn't follow right away... The blonde grinned, almost manically, and quickly slid his feet gracefully into fifth position and raised himself on the balls of his feet, hands high above his head in a perfect circular arch. Ballet. He was doing ballet.
"Figure skating's only a colder form of ballet," The blonde informed him with a flippant, teasing tone and a grin.
"Ballet's just a slower form of skating," Trowa replied almost automatically. He couldn't remember where he'd heard that before, but it seemed to be the right thing to say, because the blonde grinned happily and laughed.
"Quatre Winner." He held out his hand over the boards to Trowa.
Trowa took the hand and gave it a firm shake, "Trowa Barton," he said back, with a charming smile. He was reluctant to let go of the hand now that he had it.
Coach stepped in, though, before the shake became awkward, "Let's go people. Lunch!" he hollered, causing Quatre to pull his hand back quickly and move to the access door Trowa was sailing towards.
"I'll walk with you to the cafeteria." Quatre said, slowly picking his things up from the seats. Trowa noticed that they were the last ones in the stands. Trowa was alone with Quatre, but he was on familiar ground. He didn't want to leave it. Trowa grabbed his bag on the way up the stairs and sat himself on the same level as the blonde, untying his custom made black figure skates once he got seated. The damn things were expensive, but they offered him the extra strength and stability that he needed to land some jumps, and he needed the very best gear to be able to compete with the richer skaters.
"I don't eat in the cafeteria." Trowa said gently. He pulled out his 'delicious' banana flavored meal substitute for today and gave it a shake for emphasis. Mmm Appetizing.
Quatre giggled merrily and produced a very similar looking strawberry protein shake, "I used to compete. I got used to these things. I can't seem to work up an appetite for other foods three times a day anymore. But they are way better tasting when you have them with friends!" the blonde said with a welcoming smile, "C'mon. It won't hurt you to thaw the ice in your veins!"
Trowa didn't respond, but he followed the intriguing blonde when he stood, "So you were a skater?"
Quatre laughed, his voice ringing merrily, as he turned to look at Trowa. It was almost like in those movies, when everything slowed around the lead to show just how gorgeous that one look was... Quatre looked radiant. And Trowa knew he would follow him anywhere.
"I'm not a skater! My cousin is, but I've always done Ballet up until last year. I competed in ballet competitions, silly." Quatre teased, "Not everyone who competes does it on skates."
Trowa laughed sheepishly, "Take it as a compliment? I think you're good enough to be a skater." He tried.
"Oh, I know I'm good," Quatre replied with that same teasing, sexy, flirting little smile on his face. Then he became serious again, "I was invited to Julliard, but...Well, I injured my toes--and they never healed right," the blonde admitted, his face dimming, "I can't do full Pointe dance anymore, you know, Prima ballet? I sort of... needed a break from the pressure, so I came here last year to live with my sister."
Trowa frowned, opening his mouth to ask a question, but Quatre quickly changed the conversation, "But anyway, I heard that two gold medal skaters went here, but I don't remember seeing you before. Did Coach ask you to help with the class today?"
Trowa took in everything with a slight frown on his face. He could tell Quatre missed Ballet probably as much as Trowa missed doubles now that Cathy was injured. Single training was not the same at all. He had thought about just stopping skating all together just so he wouldn't feel the emptiness. He supposed Quatre was doing the same thing with dance right now… He let the topic change go and just went with it.
"No, I showed up on my own. I've always been in the gym class. But I'm forbidden to play any sports or anything since I could be injured. They usually just get me to attend the first few days, and then I never bother to show for the rest of the year. I just wanted to get on the ice." Trowa said, watching as his own hands started to fidget nervously.
Quatre hit him with another of those dazzling smiles "You are hardcore, aren't you! Eat, Sleep, Skate, right?"
Trowa blinked a minute and then shrugged, joking back "I guess. Although eating and skating don't usually go together." He immediately wanted to take that back after it flew out of his mouth. Quatre was going to think he was anorexic or something! He finally managed to make an almost-friend and he went and said something weird like THAT!
Quatre began to laugh, "AMEN! I always hated having to watch each pound, but the competition is fierce. Five more pounds is like dancing with a bowling ball strapped to your stomach! And there's always someone right behind you waiting to take your rank. It's not right. Not right at all, but it's the world we live in, and it sucks."
Trowa felt a weight lift off his shoulders and his anxiety dropped. "Exactly," he said, feeling a little smile work its way onto his face. He really liked Quatre.
Quatre granted him another one of those dazzling smiles, "You know, most of the time I'm happy that I have my own shake. Have you SEEN what they serve here for lunch?" Quatre began talking, his eyes glinting when he smiled and his whole body expressing his story. Trowa hardly said a word, but it didn't seem to bother Quatre at all. Soon, they were in the lunch room, and people Trowa had never met (although he recognized some from the group Quatre had been talking to in the stands) came up to the blonde and started talking with him. Quatre stuck with him, though, seamlessly integrating Trowa into the conversation between all the friends.
All too soon, the first bell rang, signaling the end of lunch and Quatre and his friends started to pack up. Trowa knew he didn't have classes with the blonde. Hell, he would have to wait until tomorrow's gym class to see him again! Suddenly, that was just not enough.
"Can I walk you to class?" Trowa asked, waiting until Quatre was just about ready to leave, so there were the fewest amount of people around to hear him, in case his voice gave off some of the desperation he was feeling.
Quatre beamed. It looked as if he had been hoping Trowa would ask, "I'm on the third floor, though. Is that okay?" he said, worried that was too far from wherever Trowa's class was.
Trowa nodded eagerly, though, not even comparing that his class was on the first floor and that he'd have to do double time to get there before the second bell, "No problem. Let's go."
Suddenly alone with Quatre, outside of the ice, Trowa felt himself begin to get nervous. His mind told him to say something, just to keep the chatter up, but his mouth just wouldn't say anything! Quatre walked beside him easily, his backpack flung over his shoulder and he moved through the halls with grace. It was no surprise that he was a dancer.
"Do you have practice after school?" Quatre said easily, turning the conversation over to Trowa.
"Yeah," Trowa said, and then he saw Quatre's face fall, just a little. He needed to fix that! He knew that he had doubles practice from four to nine, but maybe… "Wait, maybe not; I usually do doubles practice, but without Cathy then... No. I don't have practice." Trowa said, a little smile pulling at his lips. His coach might be mad, but he could argue that he didn't need to be there. Not without Cathy.
Quatre brightened, "Well, the group of us were planning to go for ice cream after school, over at Hadford's. Wanna come? I think we can find a ride for you?"
Ice Cream? Trowa hadn't had that in ages, and with Quatre's teasing smile dancing on one shoulder and no little angel on the other to tell him no, he didn't think he could resist temptation. And if he was going to break his diet for ice cream, he should do it all the way. He heard that Hadford's had the best ice cream in town. It was only a few blocks from Petra's rink, and when she had three AM pregnancy cravings, she sent her husband out to get Hadford's. Nothing was better than Hadford's. And because of how close it was he could be at the rink as soon as they were done eating the ice cream.
"I don't think I can resist." Trowa said, "But I have my own jeep. Do you need a ride?"
Quatre beamed, "I'd love a ride! We usually try to stuff a dozen teenagers into two sedans! I hate being stuffed in with five other people in a car meant to fit four!"
Trowa felt an ego boost, thinking of getting Quatre, alone, in his car, "I can drive you home afterwards, too, if you'd like?"
He wasn't expecting it, but Quatre launched himself at Trowa, wrapping his arms around him and squeezing briefly. That little impromptu hug filled Trowa with a little bubble of happiness that just kept getting bigger the longer he held on. "Sounds great!" Quatre said, letting go after a few moments. "My locker is in the Drama hall. Meet us there after school, okay?" Quatre said with a smile. By then, they had made it to the third floor, and Quatre's class.
"I'll see you then." Trowa said, watching Quatre walk into class. He flicked his eyes over his shoulder, smiled, and then waved at him to shoo.
The second bell rang.
With a thought of impending doom, Trowa took off down the hall and booked it straight down the stairs, making it to his classroom with enough time to slip into his seat just as the teacher turned to quiet the class.