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. LAST CHAPTER
Chapter Rating: M
Chapter Twenty Two
The next month leading up to the Gala was a whirlwind. With a reason to work, and a deadline in mind, Trowa and Quatre spent nearly every spare minute training for the show with a new drive for excellence. Relena volunteered to make their costumes, but Trowa turned her down with a smirk. He was finished letting other people pick out his clothing. Quatre and he decided on their own music, their own costumes, and the lighting. Dimitri had watched Trowa work with a proud grin, and then left them to their own devices.
Petra went into labour after about two weeks of practice, leaving Trowa free reign over his practice time at the rink while she had the baby and Dimitri spent nearly every minute at her bedside. It was perfect timing, because he was able to devote more time to his "special" project. Quatre didn't even know that Trowa was planning something behind his back, since Trowa had the ice time to himself while Quatre kept attending his stretch class—he would always be a dancer who was just doing this skating until he was able to dance again, but Trowa would always be a skater. And that worked for them.
Training with Quatre everyday for the next month had been wonderful for Trowa. He got to see him as much as he wanted, and slowly he began to pick up some skills from the dancer that he could use in skating too. They learned from each other, and worked to create a performance that would highlight both of their strengths. Quatre still couldn't land a lot of his jumps after only a month of training, but Trowa was very good at catching his partner in mid-air, so they choreographed in twist lifts, where Trowa would catch him, side-by-side elements to highlight their harmony, and especially Quatre's favorite elements- spinning lifts and drags.
With July, Heero, Duo, and their friends from dance class supporting them, neither Trowa nor Quatre worried about Jason or Jeff making problems anymore. Plus, Quatre got his revenge on Cathy and Jason at the same time—it was all over the school that Jeff and Jason were caught fooling around at a party, and the rumor mill just kept churning out new theories about the supposed love triangle. Quatre denied having anything to do with starting the rumor, but Trowa could tell he was lying. He always smirked a little when he claimed innocence.
Duo still didn't like Trowa much, but they learned to get along, especially after Trowa agreed to practice being a goalie for Duo so he could practice his scoring. Trowa usually ended up bruised from the soccer ball in new, painful ways, but he did it all out of love for Quatre. When soccer season started and Duo, naturally, made star forward again, he finally let Trowa out of goalie duty and the two of them came to a tentative sort of ceasefire. Neither wanted to admit that they were growing on each other, but they were. Slowly. But a few days before the Gala, Trowa trusted Duo enough to bring him aside and tell him what he had been planning. He would need Duo's help. And he got it.
The night of the Gala was upon them before any of them seemed ready, and the Lowe Rink was decorated with soft star-style lights and plush tapestries to make the ice rink look more like a stage than a sporting arena. The back, though, still looked like locker rooms, but Trowa just loved the sounds of opening-night chaos. It was the creative genius at work. And it was the pinnacle of all their hard work that month. This was opening night and the final performance all rolled up into one. It was everything. And Trowa thrived on the challenge.
People were running around, bumping into each other and cursing as they tried to find their things. Quatre and Trowa had been pushed to the side a little since they were ready, and they watched it with a confident smile. Heero and Relena were already at the entrance to the rink, ready to go on. They went on first, as always. Heero was dressed in a matrix-style costume with Relena comfortable in a matching style that showed off her attributes. Their skate was going to be fantastic. He and Quatre were on next, and they had to line up at the entrance, so they got to watch the skate. Heero and Relena really were seamless, wonderful skaters, and wonderful friends. Relena even had come to be friends with Trowa after having met him again. She was a real classy girl, and when Heero told her how Trowa had helped him out, she gave Trowa a formal apology for her behavior at the party. As soon as they got over their rivalry, they found out how much in common they had, and Relena became as fiercely protective over Trowa as she had been over Heero and Quatre. On the ice she used that fire and passion, and exploded onto the rink. Her and Heero were an incredibly team, and instead of being jealous, he was glad to be able to call them friends.
Duo had the microphone for the night and introduced them as they came on, and the music flared to life as they took the ice. Behind the scenes, though, the tension kicked into high gear as the other performers had to scurry to be ready for their allotted time. Trowa and Quatre, though, were already set up to go on, just waiting for their turn. They held each other's hands for reassurance, Trowa making sure that Quatre was calm and confident, and they peeked out to see the crowd waiting all around.
Trowa could see everyone's eyes watching the pair on the ice, gasping when Heero tossed Relena up and she completed the complicated tripple lutz and then landed with a flourish. Cathy was up there, one crutch still in hand, her leg taking up more room. She was probably taking notes, in hopes of using it 'against' Team Lowe in the future. But she had no idea that there wouldn't be any future for her in skating. Not after all she had done. Trowa wouldn't skate with her again, and unless she found another partner who was willing to put up with her shit, he doubted she would make it in the singles skating world. She was cutthroat enough to survive, yes, but she lacked the passion for the sport that drove skaters through their best performances. He felt sorry for her, really. But he hadn't been able to tell her that; she had effectively stopped speaking to him after he had stood up to her so publically at the merge party, and Trowa thought that she was planning to move in with Jeff. He sincerely hoped not… as much as he didn't want to skate with her again, she was still his sister, and he hoped the best for her. But he was finished letting her walk all over him.
July, though, had shown her drive to skate and her ability to survive in the skating world. And she was good. She had just been bumped up into Petra's advanced figure skating class: She was being trained to compete in the regional championships now, and then the state championships, and then nationals. She would do wonderfully, Trowa knew. And she was going to get a chance to show off her skills before the intermission.
Dimitri and Petra were also in the crowd, with the new baby in her mother's arms. They named her Ilyana, and she had Dimitri wrapped around her little tiny finger already. He was at the baby's beck and call every moment of every day, and instead of being resentful, he loved every minute of it. Trowa wondered if it would stay that way, but, knowing how nurturing the Russian always had been, he had a feeling that he always would be looking after his little princess. And while that meant that Trowa got less of Dimitri's time, he didn't mind so much, now that he had Quatre to support him too. Dimitri hadn't wanted Petra or the baby out of the house so soon after the birth, but Petra wouldn't miss this performance. She seemed to know what Trowa was going to do, even if Dimitri hadn't seemed to figure it out yet.
Heero and Relena finished their routine and the audience roared with applause, tossing down roses and gifts for the star pair. Two of the younger skaters ran out on the ice to collect it all as Duo took the mic again, smiling brightly, "Next up, we have a new pair to this Gala. Most of us have never seen them skate together, unless you happened to be in their gym class," Duo joked, grinning like a fool. A laugh went up in the crowd from the few people who had been there at the beginning of Quatre and Trowa's career; Coach's deep chuckle could be heard loudly over it all. But Duo wasn't finished, "This is a first- that I know of, at least- for skating. A two-male pair. Our very own star-crossed lovers from this very high school! Trowa Barton and Quatre Winner, performing tonight, and probably only tonight. So put your hands together, and let's welcome them to our ice!"
The applause was deafening. Loud and boisterous, echoing off the walls. There were old friends, new friends, teachers, rivals, dancers, skaters, athletes and the non-athletes all there, all clapping for them. Most people had heard that they were performing. The scandal of it all had been the talk of the school for weeks, but because of it, the turn out at the Gala was massive. They had sold nearly every seat, and it became the social event of the month.
Trowa and Quatre went out onto the ice as the lights darkened. Trowa pressed a kiss to Quatre's cheek, holding his hand tight to reassure him, then pushed away, leaving just Quatre in center ice for the beginning of the performance. The crowd died down, and the rink became quiet…
The first chords of their song began to play. Soft, angelic piano played, and the spotlight lit Quatre. He posed in the middle of the rink, wearing all white. There were hints of light blue trimming to give his costume shape, mimicking the flowing patterns of robes on the tight white body suit. He stood straight, feet in perfect fifth position and his arms held aloft, making a perfect halo around his head. He looked like a classical ballerina in a music box… And he always would. He was a dancer through and through. Dancing was what he did. It was in his bones, and in his heart.
The sounds of voices joined the piano, singing higher than most people could reach, melodious and flowing… Quatre slowly dropped one arm, than the other, mimicking a flower in bloom. Half the audience was unsure if he was going to skate or dance… Then he pushed out of his position to make a slow, looping turn around the ice while the voices of the song began to gain enough volume to be understood.
"I saw her today at the reception. A glass of wine in her hand. I knew she was going to meet her connection. At her feet was a footloose man. Now you can't always get what you want, you can't always get what you want… but if you try sometimes, you'll find. You get what you need…"
The guitar started, and a second spotlight turned on. Trowa kicked off from his position, building up speed right from the beginning. He wore tight black breeches and an open, white poet's shirt that flowed and rippled behind him as he moved. He looked part ethereal, part human. He began to give chase to Quatre, speeding up as the song did, the spotlight widening until the whole rink was bathes in a hazy white light. He moved with the music, turning, jumping, and showing off his axels and one-footed tricks as he tried to woo the angel, who kept dancing out of his reach. Quatre was very good at skating along in front of him, matching the pace of the song, flowing along with it as if he were part of it, letting Trowa catch him just long enough to pick him up and complete a stunning lift that made the crowd clap and gasp, then he would dance out of the way again, moving faster, more playful, more rock and roll as the song picked up and the drums came in, filling the arena with the classic Rolling Stones song.
Together, they flew around the rink, moving in harmony with each other and the music, leaning into turns and pulling off complicated step sequences. The song was seven minutes, but the time just flew by. Trowa held onto him and threw him into the air, catching him spectacularly and pushing against the ice faster, always growing faster and faster. It was just like their relationship, slow to warm up, and always growing, getting stronger and stronger as time went on and they learned from each other. Trowa had taught Quatre a lot of the footing, but Quatre had taught Trowa nearly everything about using his arms, making small movements look poetic, and the value of finishing touches. Quatre had taught him so much… And so much more than just skating.
Trowa looked up in the stands and scanned the crowd. He could see Duo, grinning and rocking along to the song. He saw Jason's hair- now neon green instead of purple- and he was flirting with Jeff, even though the guy looked ready to punch him. Dimitri and Petra were further back, but he knew they were watching. He knew they were smiling. Quatre and Trowa really did make poetry on the ice.
Cathy looked livid as she watched Trowa and Quatre move around the ice as if they were one being. Elegant. In tune with each other. Flawless. Sure, Quatre's landings needed work, and Trowa still tended to lift him a touch too early, but they knew each other, and knew their song. They could do anything when they were together.
Before Trowa had met Quatre, he thought that he would be happy if only Cathy would come back… but he had grown so much more since then, because of Quatre. Quatre was what he needed, and Quatre needed him too.
"You can't always get what you want... You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find… You get what you need!"
They sailed together, now, Trowa's hand on the small of Quatre's back as they flicked their hips with attitude and kept moving, teasing, flirting with each other as they danced, the angel-voices striking up louder, working with the guitar and drums as if coaxing each skater for more. And they delivered, kicking up speed before Trowa lifted Quatre up high, over his head, and banked into a tight spin, whirling Quatre around in the air in celebration. The music swelled behind them in crescendo, and Quatre kicked his arms out behind him, giving him the allusion of wings as they spun.
"But if you try some times, you just might find. You just might find! You get what you need!"
The music ended, the lights centered on Quatre and Trowa, posing in the middle of the rink. Quatre jumped down from Trowa's arms and skated beside him, holding his hand and then lifting it high. Together they bowed… and the crowd went wild.
Quatre clutched Trowa's hand tightly and leaned in to give him a kiss, closing his eyes softly, "You are what I need, Trowa." He purred. Trowa tugged Quatre's hand, leading him to the exit of the ice and helping him over the bump, staying as close to him as he could.
Once they were off the stage, Trowa turned to him, smiling, and then he captured a slow, lingering kiss from his lips. But it was short lasting. July and Relena ran over to them, hugging them tightly and jumping in excitement. "You did wonderful!" July exclaimed, hugged them each tightly, and then ran towards the entrance—she was going on next, apparently. But Trowa was happy for her support, no matter how spastic it was.
Heero took her place, giving Trowa and Quatre a warm smile, "You did good, Barton. A little sloppy on the lifts, though…" he teased.
Trowa grinned, teasing back good naturedly, "Yeah, you did good too, Yuy. A little slow on your step-sequences…."
Quatre rolled his eyes and smacked Trowa's arm playfully, then moved to the benches. He worked his skates off and began to strip out of the uncomfortable costume. He was slow… deliberate… and now that the stress from the performance was lifted from his shoulders it seemed that something heavier was there.
Quatre pulled on his jeans as Heero and Trowa bantered, and tossed a T-shirt on, then sat beside his backpack. He stroked the pink ribbon always adorning it- his mother's dance-shoe ribbon- and then he held the pair of beautiful white skates he had performed in tonight. Holding one skate, he began to unlace it, pulling the lace out carefully. Trowa and Heero noticed, and began to grow alarmed, "Quatre?"
"I'm going to miss skating" He replied carefully, with a hint of nervousness behind his words.
Trowa, Heero, and Relena all looked at him in confusion. Quatre just looked at Trowa… He never wanted to hurt Trowa, and so he waited for the Gala to be finished before he told him. But now he had to say it, or he would chicken out.
Trowa took a seat across from Quatre, looking at him worriedly, near-panicking, "Were you hurt?! I didn't notice anything off!"
Quatre shook his head no, and then he slipped off his socks and extended his foot, resting it in Trowa's lap. He hadn't done that before. He had always been so ashamed of his toes. The breaks had looked terrible, red and crooked.
A little stunned, Trowa looked down, surprise written all over his face. He had been expecting the worst, but when he looked, Quatre's feet looked… Normal. The swelling was gone, the breaks seemed to have finally healed. Trowa carefully brought his hands up, touching his instep and slowly bringing his fingers up to feel his toes. Fine. They felt… Perfectly fine, "You aren't hurt. Your feet are better…"
Quatre nodded slowly, looking sad, "I noticed about a week ago. I told you that the skating was helping me. It didn't strain my feet, but I still got to dance. I've missed a lot of dance classes because of ice time, and before I even realized, the pain was completely gone in my feet. I tried them out a few days ago… I can dance again. No pain. Iria has already called Julliard… they're willing to allow me another audition in June… It's the best dance school in the country… I'm sorry, Trowa… I don't think I'll be able to skate with you anymore, please don't be upset. I just love to dance so much. It's my whole life."
Trowa, though, wasn't upset in the least, he smiled brightly, excitedly, "Oh, QUAT! That's wonderful! You're going to do wonderful at that audition." Trowa said with determination, looking straight into Quatre's eyes, "You deserve it. You're going to do wonderful. You're going to be a headlining dancer, Quatre. Your name up in lights and everything."
Quatre let out a relieved sort of sob, and he moved to wrap his arms around Trowa, hugging him tightly, crying into his neck a little. "I was so worried you would be angry…"
"Never," Trowa said, kissing his neck, holding him tightly, "I knew this wasn't forever for you. Skating is my dream, not yours. I'm not angry at all. I'm so happy for you, baby! You're going to be a globetrotting dancer, performing in the biggest stages all around the world, and I can come see you when we're in the same cities when I tour. It'll be great! Then maybe when our careers stabilize a little, we can pick a city that has their own ballet troupe and a good rink, and we can settle down together."
Quatre began to kiss him, over and over and over, putting all his love, his passion, and his relief into it. Trowa kissed back happily, a smile tugging at his lips.
Around them, chaos of the backstage erupted. It was the intermission, and the new sets of dancers came on, the next round of skaters came inside and the few repeating skaters had to get ready to go on the ice again. And that meant Heero and Relena had to go.
Trowa kissed Quatre tightly, then pulled away, smirking brightly, mischievously. "Change into your clothes and go watch the performances from the stands, Quat." He pulled out a ticket from his bag. It had a green stripe on it, and Quatre frowned. It was a front-row ticket. The seat was printed clearly on the front… a corner seat, right beside the entrance and exit. Why would Trowa purchase a ticket when they were only seeing the last half?
Quatre looked at the ticket again, though. One ticket? Confused, he looked at Trowa, "I don't understand… Where are you going to be?"
That smirk grew on Trowa's face, and he put the ticket firmly into Quatre's hand. "Get out of here. You'll find out. I want you to see it. It's for you." He whispered, leaning in to press a kiss against Quatre's cheek, and shooed him out of the dressing rooms.
Trowa took to the rink without introduction, moving out of the entrance before the crowd's applause totally died down after July's second performance (this one to the Pink Panther song, which she did just to get a grin out of Trowa.) She gave him a thumbs up for good luck, and vacated the ice fast.
People began to wonder what he was doing on the ice, and the noise began to die down.
He was wearing his practice gear, decked out all in tight black from the skates on his feet to the clinging, reflective dance pants that hung teasingly low on his hips. The rest of him was encased in a form-fitting black body suit with a tall collar and sleeves that encased his arms up to his elbows. He looked streamlined, casual, and beautiful. But even though he looked unmistakably like himself, there was something very off about the way Trowa presented himself. Quatre, Cathy, Dimitri and Petra noticed it right away, feeling that something must have been wrong, because they had never seen Trowa do it before.
He was alone.
Trowa took the microphone from Duo with a smile, and skated out just a little onto the ice, commanding attention. The crowd quieted, sensing the change in atmosphere, and whispers began throughout the crowd. It was Trowa. Definitely Trowa. But he was alone. And he didn't look nervous.
"I want to thank everyone who worked to make this night possible for all of us performers, but especially… I want to thank the people who made this night possible for me. Heero and Relena chaired the Gala committee who let me into this event, and they allowed such an unorthodox pair to skate. My Coaches, Dimitri and Petra Anatolov have taught me everything that I know, and encouraged me to train for this night. I want to thank all the people that I've met and become close with this year, and all my years; they have all contributed to where I am right now. These last few months have been a rollercoaster, but I don't ever want to get off of it." Trowa began, his voice clear, confident, ringing through the arena. He skated out just a little more and the spotlight followed him, keeping the rest of the ice in darkness so the only focus was Trowa.
Quatre tried vainly to search the dark for another skater. July maybe? It wasn't Cathy… he could see her from where he was sitting. She had a bag of popcorn in her lap, her crutch laying limply at her side, and she was staring, slack jawed and wide-eyed at her brother on the ice. He turned all the way around in his seat, finding Dimitri and Petra's face a few rows behind him. Dimitri looked a little stunned and confused, but Petra had her eyes glued to Trowa, silently coaxing him on, as if she had been waiting for this moment for far too long.
Trowa continued, "When I began this year, I never thought I could do anything alone. I never thought I could live alone, skate alone, pass math alone!" he joked. A laugh went up in the crowd at that, and Trowa knew he had a few souls who struggled with that subject as much as he did.
"But we all have our struggles. That's what high school is about. At the beginning, I may not have thought that I could do anything alone, but then I met my friends, and they showed me my own strength. They supported me when I didn't think I could support myself. And they let me go, and I learned that I was able to stand up all on my own the whole time. I don't need to live in other people's shadows anymore. I am my own person. My own skater. My own decision maker. So, this Gala will be my official goodbye."
A gasp came from the crowd, and Quatre's head whipped around to stare at the source. Cathy looked FURIOUS! Turning red in the face and holding onto her crutch with a white-knuckled grip. If she could have flung it onto the ice, Quatre really thought that she would have.
But that couldn't be right. He knew Trowa. Trowa wasn't leaving skating. He loved it. No, this was something else…and he began to grin as the idea formed.
He knew what was coming. He knew it deep down, and the excitement began to build up inside him until he could almost feel the butterflies. He couldn't have been more proud of him!
"Tonight was my last skate as one element of a pairs team. But with every end, comes a new beginning." Trowa said, speaking over Cathy's disruption. "Tonight will be the first skate in, I hope, a very long career of solo men's skating. And this performance is dedicated to the man that made all of this possible for me. My role model. My inspiration. My friend, and my lover." Trowa whispered the last bit, flashing that sexy little flirting smirk towards Quatre's seat.
Quatre saw him alright… he just could not stop grinning and had to put his hand over his mouth demurely since he just couldn't STOP. Trowa was really going to do it… he was seriously going to compete in singles! Quatre was beaming! This was going to be wonderful! He always knew Trowa would be a wonderful singles skater.
Trowa skated backwards slowly, bringing the microphone back to Duo's waiting hands, "Quatre, baby?" He purred. The lights died down to a soft, fuzzy brightness, and faint violin music began to play. "You make me Glorious."
The music exploded into an orchestra of instruments as Trowa pushed off the ice, the lights exploding as he pushed his limits, starting the show by kicking off the ice high, higher than Quatre had ever seen him jump, and he spun tightly once, twice, and half way around again in a perfect double axel before he landed into a parallel spin, pushing his body sideways and spinning parallel to the ice, only one leg touching it as he built up speed in rhythm with the music. The voice was haunting, building up to the chorus, exploding into sound over and over as Trowa moved through his single performance with the energy and passion of his free style skates.
Here she comes like a brand new day, belly dancing across the room. In the moonlight I watch her sway, to her rhythm..."
Trowa exploded into another fantastic jump, amazing the crowd with the sheer power he put into each movement, each chord of the music, and each word he sang along, his lips moving with it as he skated seamlessly.
Little flashes of light began to pop from the stands as students pulled out their cell phones and cameras to catch sight of him. He was in complete control of the ice, flying along it as if it were part of him, as if there was nothing there but him and the ice.
But Quatre knew that wasn't true. He knew that for Trowa, there would be more now. He had friends. He had a dream. And he had Quatre.
Trowa's gaze flicked up towards Quatre's seat as he headed that way, and he waited for the music to build. He had it timed perfectly, swinging around in an arch in front of Quatre's place just as the music wound up to its highest.
She's bringing me in. Checking me out. Making me glorious!
She's bringing me in! Turning me on. Making me glorious!
And Trowa tucked in, building up speed as he turned like a top on one skate, with the other pointed outward but tucked close to reduce the drag. Building up the speed in his body, he waited until he could manage it, and then he stood, still spinning, and took Quatre's favorite position: Hands above his head in a circle, like a halo, standing straight and tall.
But he wasn't done. He didn't let it go like Quatre did. No, this was the move that he had saved especially for Quatre… Learned just for Quatre. And since this performance was devoted to Quatre, he saved it until the very end.
He leaned backwards, bending far, letting his arms open and flow downwards like a flower in bloom, arching his back and counter balancing his weight as he did a layback for the first time in public.
Quatre gasped, laughing brightly as he did it. The song slowed, ending only moments later with Trowa sliding out of the layback to open his arms up to the audience, smiling winningly.
He had done it. A perfect skate for Quatre. Alone. In front of the audience… and they loved it. Applause shattered his ear drums as the students cheered, stomped, and wolf whistled. Quatre was crying in delight, grinning proudly at Trowa, and blew him a kiss, mouthing 'I love you' as he stood, clapping vigorously, excitedly, nearly jumping over the railings keeping him in his seat to get to Trowa and congratulate him.
Trowa could see Dimitri standing up, then standing on top of his seat just to be seen, clapping so hard he nearly made himself fall, and beside him Petra grinned excitedly. The only person who seemed upset was Cathy, but she couldn't be seen amongst the standing ovation from the audience around her.
Trowa pushed towards the exit as the applause kept sounding, flowers and gifts flying onto the ice for him in appreciation. As soon as he was on the cement, Quatre hopped the railing. Trowa caught him excitedly, hugging him tightly, grinning in victory, and then he slid his hands in his hair, and kissed him with a hungry, celebratory excitement that just couldn't dim, as he kissed the man that he loved the most in the world.
He would always remember that moment. That was the day that Trowa announced his solo career, and from that day forward, he made his own decisions in life. And once he started, he never wanted to stop.
Trowa still remembered the accident with sickening clarity… The crowd was clapping after his and Cathy's 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, but the backwards turn gave him a perfect view of his partner. That view he would never forget. Cathy was crumpled against the board, her leg twisted and bent like no leg should be. Her career was over. But his was just beginning.
It was the beginning of the year that he learned how to be independent, the beginning to his journey into self-discovery and the beginning of his new solo career. He learned how to be true to himself, and he learned who his real friends were. But most of all, he remembered it as the beginning of the rest of his life. And the beginning of his life with the man that he loved.
If God is a DJ
Life is a dance floor
Love is the rhythm
You are the music
If God is a DJ
Life is a dance floor
You get what you're given
It's all how you use it
Now get your ass on the dance floor, yeah!