"I'm not so sure that this is a good idea, Chase. You know how I feel about street dancing." Blake leans forward, his hands interlocked on his desk. "It has no place in our fundraiser. It will disrupt the aesthetic of the entire show, and this fundraiser is at least important to me, if not to you."
"What do you think, Blake; I'm setting out to deliberately wreck the show? MSA is my school too, you know."
"So then why do you persist in trying to sell me on this? It will never work."
Chase clenches his hand into a fist. If he didn't need Blake on his side on this one, he would have punched him in the face already. It was so typical of his brother to refuse to allow anything that couldn't be labelled and set aside under his own category of "Appropriate Dance Forms". Even though they both had a love of dance to tie them, Chase had never understood Blake, and he knew that the feeling was mutual. In fact, when Chase was younger he had always told people he was an only child, because deep down he just couldn't believe that Blake was related to him. After all, how could two people from the same family be so different?
Chase sighs, forcing himself to calm down. He can't mess this one up, not after he had to work so hard to get Andie to agree to it in the first place. He smiles to himself at the memory of their conversation outside the dance studio, and then he realises Blake has started talking again.
"…I simply won't allow it. It would be suicide for the fundraiser! The investors aren't going to want to see people spinning on their heads, or back flipping from walls, or whatever it is you were planning to do."
Blake is silent for a moment, and Chase can tell he's coming to a conclusion about something.
"It's that West girl isn't it? She put this into your head, and now she's exploiting you to get me to let her ruin my fundraiser."
Chase stares at his brother, incredulous. "Blake, that's idiotic. It was my idea, and for your information, I had to convince her to do this with me. She would never intentionally do anything to jeopardise this school. Unlike you, she's actually a decent person."
Blake sighs. "I know you would prefer to think of me as the villain, Chase, but all I'm trying to do is look out for you and this school."
"Then you should let us perform! It would give me and the school great exposure; show the investors that we can do a range of styles."
Blake is unconvinced. "Give me one good reason why I should let you do this."
"Listen, Blake, Andie is one of the best dancers I've ever seen. If you don't let her perform in the fundraiser, you'd be making the biggest mistake of your life. Just give her a break. She deserves it."
Blake closes his eyes, thinking for a few minutes. Behind his back, Chase crosses his fingers.
"Okay, here's what we'll do. I'm going to give you two weeks from today to come up with your dance. Then you two can perform it for me, and I will decide if it is appropriate to put into the show."
Chase grins. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing. "Thanks, Blake." He's all set to get out there and go tell Andie the good news, but Blake motions for him to stay put. He pauses, and his brother looks thoughtfully at him for a moment. "Chase…"
"Don't get too attached to Andie. It's your senior year; you need to focus on your dancing."
Chase pauses at the door. "I know how important this year is. But can't I have a little fun along the way?"
"Just be careful."
Chase walks out into the chaos of the hallway, darting between students and waving hello to those he knows. As he walks to his next class, he shrugs off Blake's absurd warning. After all, he can't remember the last time Blake tried to offer him advice on women, of all things. And he is not about to start discussing his love life with his brother now. Besides, Andie's just a friend, Chase reminds himself. It's not like he wants it to be anything more. Right?
The shock on Moose's face is priceless. "Wait, let me get this straight. Chase Collins, Mr. Popular, personally asked you to be his dance partner for the fundraiser?" His voice rises throughout the sentence until it squeaks on the last word, and two students passing by glance at him askance. Andie pulls him along through the crowd of people making their way home, her face burning.
"Could you be any louder? Geez, they could hear you in Ohio with that voice."
"Okay, okay. But aren't I allowed to be at least a little excited? You've been here less than two weeks, but you're already in with Chase. I'm impressed, dude."
Andie waves him off. "I'm not in with him; I'm just…doing him a favour."
Moose gives her a look, and even from under his shaggy curtain of hair she can feel the disbelief radiating off of him. Andie laughs.
"It's true! All this was his idea. Believe me, if I had any choice, I would not be dancing up there for a bunch of rich snobs trying to get them to spend money on me. The whole concept seems just a little weird, don't you think?"
Moose still looks unconvinced. "Just promise me you won't do something stupid like fall in love with him."
Andie swats at him, catching the bill of his cap as he ducks. "Oh, please. Just because I'm going to be spending some practice time with him does not mean that I'm going to turn into Sophie. Besides, he's not my type."
Moose shrugs and adjusts his hat. "From what I've seen, Chase Collins is everyone's type."
Chase walks out the door, another school day over. He's walking towards his car, parked at the back of the auditorium, when he spies a familiar shape pacing next to the bus stop sign. He jogs over to her.
She turns at the sound of her name. "Hey…what are you doing here?"
"I've been looking all over for you. I talked to my brother, and he said we can do it. We can dance in the fundraiser." Excitement punctuates his sentence, making his words come out fast and slightly unintelligible.
"That's great, Chase."
He glances closer at her, noticing for the first time that her smile is a little forced. "Are you okay?"
She sighs. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's just, I missed my stupid bus, and if I don't get home in time, Sarah's gonna kill me. I was supposed to look after Charlie this afternoon while she goes to her night job." She runs her hand through her hair, a sigh of exasperation escaping her lips. He can't help himself. It's almost an instinct; he wants to help her in whatever way he can.
"Well, I could give you a ride."
She gives him a look. "You'd do that? I'm sure it's completely out of your way…"
He shrugs, giving her a crooked grin. "Yeah, sure. Come on, my car's out back." He jerks his thumb in the direction where he's parked, motioning for her to follow. She hesitates slightly, torn between wanting to be closer to him, and maintaining her distance. Andie doesn't know why, but there's something about him that makes her think that even if she let go, just for a second, she would be falling forever. She can't keep a lid on her emotions when he's around her, and she doesn't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
"I could just wait for the next bus…"
He laughs. "Andie, come on. My car smells better than the bus, and I bet it goes faster, too. Trust me."
She caves. "Okay, okay. I'm coming. Thanks."
"There, was that so hard?" He teases her, and she punches him on the shoulder, lightly. He rubs his shoulder in mock pain, and then he reaches down for her gym bag at the same time she does. Involuntarily, their fingertips brush together for a brief moment and Andie immediately pulls back, blushing. "Sorry."
Don't be, he thinks to himself. But he doesn't say this aloud, because really, how could he? He's surprised he thought it in the first place. He resists the impulse to reach for her hand, which for some reason seems the most natural thing in the world to do right now, shoving both his own into his pockets instead.
"Don't worry about it," He finds himself saying. He falls into step with her, and the two of them make their way to his car, the afternoon sunlight glinting off the windows of MSA, throwing out long shadows behind them as they walk.
He glances behind them, just for a moment, to catch a glimpse of their shadows stretched out behind them, intertwined on the footpath.
I'm so sorry about the delay! I started this fic in the holidays, and then right between the second and third chapters school started up again, so I've had hardly any time to keep going with it. All I can do is apologise profusely for the wait, and thank everyone who commented the last chapter. I hope you enjoyed this one :). You know what to do now...