Warning: Slash, Swearing, AU
Notes: This is loosely based on the film, "Strictly Ballroom", and was written for the ReelSGA challenge. One need not have seen that film to enjoy this story.
"All right, everyone pair off and give that a try," the instructor said, twirling away from her partner as she passed through the throng of students.
Rodney tried to look… well, if not enthused, if not even pleasant, at least non-threatening as the others in his class found partners. When the few other men had been gobbled up by fast-moving females, the women started pairing off with each other, and only then – only then did one of the women approach him, a wary expression in her eyes.
With an apologetic wince, he slid into position wordlessly, one hand holding hers, the other at her lower back. The music started – a slow waltz, thank God – and they began moving across the wood floor, the Christmas lights strung along the ceiling giving the dimly lit room an almost magical glow. Rodney felt far from magical.
He'd learned not to take offence at the fact that, despite being one of the few men in the beginning class, he was often one of the last chosen. He knew it wasn't his personality, although he'd not be surprised if some found his forthrightness off-putting. But in this particular case, it was not that. Nor was it his appearance. Sure, he was maybe a bit overweight, maybe a bit out of shape, and maybe he was losing his hair. But again, that wasn't it. Other men in the class were far less appealing, looks-wise.
"Rhumba," the teacher called out, and the music changed, horns surging into a Latin rhythm. Rodney shifted gears, trying to get his feet and hips moving in time to the music.
He'd only taken this damn class because, since he'd started teaching at U of T, he'd been gaining weight. He'd tried aerobics and swimming, but found them both deathly boring and entirely pointless. Of course the actual point of it all was to get fit, lose weight, but that type of exercise for exercise's sake didn't work for him. You didn't learn anything doing such exercises. There was no progression in the sport, no goal. It's not like you could test up to aerobics level 2 or something, or use your dashing aerobics skills in real life. So he'd done it for a while, became bored, and quit. But when they'd opened this dance studio directly on his commute home, he'd decided to give it a try. He'd figured, at least with dance you were always progressing. There were new skills to learn, new dances, each with an increasing level of complexity, and that, he supposed, appealed to the academic side of him. And he'd figured the skills learnt would be useful for getting girls. Maybe. Girls had to like a man who could dance, right?
"Ouch", his partner said sharply as he trod on her toe.
"Sorry," he said, resigned to the routine by this point. He'd thought taking this class would be fun; instead, it was depressing. He'd stop coming if he hadn't already paid for the series. The reality was that he was both too stubborn and too cheap to quit.
"Ouch," his partner said again, pulling away from him this time.
Rodney's shoulders slumped as his hands fell to his side. Sure, women liked men who could dance, but he was quite clearly useless at this. "Sorry," he murmured again. He held up his hands, and she slid into position with a frown.
Yeah, sure, maybe girls, women, whatever, liked men who could dance, but they hardly seemed to like dancing with him. Maybe they could sense he was nervous around women. He hadn't had a date in over two years; hadn't had a "successful" date in longer.
"Ouch, damn it."
Or maybe it was simply the fact that he kept stomping on their damn feet.
"I'm sorry," he said as they stuttered to a stop, the other couples moving around them. "I think I'm a little distracted."
"Well, un-distract yourself," she said bitingly, hands on her hips, brown eyes blazing.
"Sarah, if you would join Leon," their teacher said from beside them, and with a hand on Rodney's arm, she turned him to face her. He looked up, and up – damn, but she was tall – into her dark eyes, and she raised one blonde brow as she guided him back into the steps. "I'd like to speak to you after class," she said quietly.
"All right," he said uncertainly. Damn and double damn, he thought, feeling as if he'd just been called into the pricipal's office. He broke his gaze, staring past her as she let him lead her through the steps – although it was really her doing the actual leading. He caught sight of their reflection in the mirrors that covered one wall of the room, and then his eyes caught movement at the door.
A man strode past the class, mirror catching his reflection as he skirted the edge of the room. Rodney's eyes, and seemingly those of every woman in the room, locked on him as he moved; although he seemed oblivious to impression he was making. It wasn't that he was tall, although he was a nice enough height. It wasn't that he was all that good looking, although with his dark hair and fair skin, he was handsome enough. It was more the way he moved, with a command, assurance, and posture Rodney's grandma would have killed for him to have. The dark-haired man practically slid across the wooden dance floor, headed for the door to the back.
How that man walked was how Rodney wanted to dance: fluid, graceful, and with assurance. If he could master even one third of what that guy had…
He hadn't realised he'd said that last aloud until his teacher said, "You'd move like that too if you'd been doing this for twenty five years."
"He take private students?" Rodney asked, jokingly.
"John doesn't teach adult beginners." She smiled at him, and squeezed his hand before she broke away. "Okay, people," she called out, moving to the CD player by the wall. "Mambo!"
Rodney couldn't help but groan.
As the rest of the class filed out, the teacher… Suzette he thought her name was, and if that wasn't a dancer's name… waved him over to the CD player. She began filing the various discs they'd used during the class, hands busy and eyes on her work; still, she must have sensed when the last student left, because it was only once they were alone that she asked, "Are you planning on continuing?"
Rodney clenched his hands behind his back. "Why?" he answered, not sure he liked where this was going.
Suzette sent her gaze in his direction. "Because you don't seem particularly interested in what we're doing here."
His eyes widened. "I am, it's not that. It's just that…" His hands flew up in despair, taking in the room around him as he spoke. "I suck at this. I don't normally do things I suck at. I'm usually the best, and here…" His lip quirked downward. "Well, I suck."
She turned to face him fully, the Christmas lights lighting her hair in reds and golds. God, she was beautiful. Every woman he'd seen here in this studio was beautiful. Heck, based on the guy who'd walked through earlier, even the men here were beautiful.
Suzette pursed her lips slightly, the effect pensive. "Listen," she said. "I know you were joking earlier, but if you want to continue, you really should consider private lessons." As Rodney frowned, she went on. "You might be more comfortable. It's more one on one, you're always dancing with a skilled partner, and I think you'd make more progress." She nodded toward the far wall, where the instructor's photos and names were posted. "Several teachers here take adult beginners, and I could recommend some if you'd like."
Rodney could tell that she was being honest with him, and not just trying to sell him on more lessons. "Thank you," he said hesitantly.
"You're welcome." She returned his smile. "Despite what you think, you're not hopeless, Rodney. With practice and hard work, some day you will not 'suck' at this."
Rodney huffed a mirthless laugh. If that's the best he could hope for – not sucking – well, actully, that wouldn't be so bad. "Thank you," he said again, quite sincere this time.
Rodney entered the studio's lobby with two coffees – one for himself, and one for Suzette, which was actually her name in the end, and he'd been duly impressed with himself for remembering it. He'd also brought a box of donuts for the class, deliberately picking something everyone would want, but as dancers, albeit low level dancers, they probably wouldn't eat. Noting that someone had already brought a fruit plate, he slid the donuts and the coffees onto the low table, just in front of the reception desk.
It was the last day of the group class, and he hadn't picked an instructor for private lessons yet. He still wasn't sure he would. He'd grown comfortable with Suzette, but she going to be working as choreographer for a show this summer, somewhere in Quebec. If he was going to do this, he needed to pick someone else; and this summer would be the perfect time, as he'd planned a summer of research rather than teaching, and thus his schedule was about to become far more flexible.
He took a seat in the nearest chair, sliding into his dance shoes, pushing his street shoes and backpack under the chair for the duration. As he was leaning over, someone walked by, and he looked up to see that man – the one who'd walked through his class weeks ago – James? John? pick up a donut, take a bite, and nod a thanks to him as he passed. Rodney's brows flew up and his eyes followed him as he moved through the lobby and into the studio beyond. That had surprised him. In the past, when he'd seen the dancers here confronted with a spread, they always picked fruit if they even had anything at all. This was probably the first time he'd seen an elite level dancer eat a donut.
Finished with his shoes, he entered the classroom to warm up. Suzette was already there, although the man – John, maybe – was nowhere to be seen. "I left you a coffee," he said to her, nodding in the direction of the lobby.
"Thanks," she said from where she was stretching on the floor.
Rodney walked over to where the instructor photos were posted, eyes glossing over the pictures until they settled on John. Soon enough, Suzette was standing beside him. "So who takes adult students?" he asked, voice quiet.
She pointed at three of the women, all shellacked within an inch of their lives – competition photos, obviously. John was also done up for his picture, but even with all that, there was a spark in his eye that belied his stiff appearance. "Who's that?" he asked, pointing at John.
"Oh, a new teacher," she said. "A long time competitor. He's really good dancer." She turned to face Rodney. "Actually, he's taking adult students now, for the first time. His partner blew out her knee, and they're out for the season." She winced. "If you're interested, he could probably use the money."
As other students began entering the studio, bringing a buzz of conversation with them, Suzette moved in their direction.
Rodney remained where he was, staring at the photos.
After class, while the others were eating – everyone noticing but avoiding the donuts, as he'd suspected – God, he was evil when he wanted to be – he'd wandered into the darkened studio again, intending to check the photos one last time. Instead, he saw someone standing shadowed in the near darkness, centre room, in position, poised, tension in his stillness. Rodney froze just inside the doorway, eyes adjusting to the low light, caught between staying and going. The decision was made for him when the man started moving. Rodney watched as he went through an entire series of postures reminiscent of those of a bullfighter – stylized, passionate, sharp and yet flowing, the light from the doorway just enough to show the movement, and its reflection in the mirrors. There was no music – the only sounds were the stomps of the man's feet, the soft susurrations of his arms and legs as they moved, and Rodney's own breathing. Lost in the moment, Rodney stood frozen until the man finished and stepped deliberately into the light being thrown from the doorway, looking at Rodney as if fully aware he'd been there the entire time.
"Hey," John said, breath coming fast.
"Hi, sorry, I…" Rodney hesitated, and took a step further into the room. "Actually, I wanted to ask if you were available for private lessons," he asked nervously, wishing he could take the words back as soon as he'd said them.
John took a step closer, and Rodney could see the sweat at his hairline. He swept a casual hand up through his hair, leaving it standing on end. "You're in the beginner class, right?"
Rodney nodded, nails digging into his palms.
"Why not ask Lori or Angela?" John asked, nodding toward the pictures on the wall.
Rodney shifted uncomfortably. "To be honest, they make me nervous. All of them make me nervous." He waved a hand at the pictures on wall, realising it was true as he said it. "I figure with a guy, there will be less of that…" he made a back and forth motion between them with his hands, "so maybe I can focus on the steps, not on the fact that her…" he made hilly motions at his chest, illustrating breasts, "are like, right there."
John quirked a lip, obviously trying to smother his response.
"I know it's lame, but it's the truth." Rodney could feel the heat in his cheeks. "Is that weird? I know you're a guy and I'm…" He rolled his eyes. "I mean, I don't know if that's okay or anything, or if it'd be weird to…" He trailed off weakly.
John raised one brow. "It's not like I've never danced with a man before."
Rodney raised an eyebrow in return.
It was John's turn to roll his eyes. "That's not what I meant. I have taught dance teams, and it's pretty common for male coaches to teach a male student the man's role." John gave him a quick once over. "Yeah, all right," he said.
"I've got the time," John went on. "And since I won't be competing, I can use all the cash I can get."
Rodney's smile dropped away. That didn't exactly make him feel loved and wanted.
John strode forward, and they shook hands.
"I'd want to see you twice a week, and I charge forty five bucks per half hour, if that's all right."
It wasn't – that was more than he'd expected – but he was committed now. And if it worked, it'd be worth it. They figured out days and times, and Rodney left the studio with a bit of a bounce to his step. Twice per week, Tuesday and Thursday nights, 8:30pm.
Ninety bucks per week. Shit. But that was all right. He'd cut down on coffee or something. Or skip a few meals. Or… hell, probably both of those things. Whatever, he could benefit from eating less anyway, maybe drop some more weight. He'd find the cash.
It'd be worth it; he had to believe it'd be worth it.
Please review and let me know what you think of this so far. Thanks!